Author Interview: Cat Winters

Author Interview

Meet Cat Winters.

CatWinters2018_1.jpg

Social media links:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/catwinters
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/catwintersbooks/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/catwintersbooks
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/catwinters/

The Interview.

Hi Cat! Thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little about yourself.

Thank you so much for hosting me! I’m the author of five novels for teens: In the Shadow of Blackbirds, The Cure for Dreaming, The Steep and Thorny Way, Odd & True, and a new novel about Edgar Allan Poe’s teenage years, The Raven’s Tale, which debuted this past April. I’m also the author of two novels for adults, The Uninvited and Yesternight, and I contributed to the young adult horror anthology Slasher Girls & Monster Boys. My work is heavily influenced by classic Gothic literature and strange, dark, and haunting history. I’m known for blending historical fiction with the supernatural.

What first attracted you to dark fiction? Is there a certain element that you enjoy more so than others?

In the second grade, when I was browsing the shelves of my elementary school’s library, I found a book about real-life houses that were purported to be haunted. The horrific accounts of hauntings and creepy photographs in those pages both terrified and fascinated me. Shortly afterward, I started believing that my own bedroom was haunted, and I became drawn to all sorts of stories about ghosts, including novels and short story collections I discovered through my school’s Scholastic book orders. Eventually, I started writing my own eerie stories and poems.

I’m not entirely sure why, but I love the rush of terror that accompanies a good, atmospheric ghost tale, even though I’m terribly afraid of being alone in the dark and would never sleep in a room reputed to be haunted. Psychological horror and suspenseful tales of haunted people and places are my preference for dark fiction. I’m not always a fan of gory horror, unless it’s done cleverly, like in Poe’s short stories.

Did any of your books (whether it was a certain character or plot point) surprise you after you had turned in your last round of edits prior to publishing?

Odd & True probably surprised me the most. It originally started as an adult novel that was very much historical fiction without any fantasy elements involved, beyond a main character’s belief in monster legends. Then it seemed to want to be a supernatural YA novel about monster-hunting sisters that also paid tribute to the power of storytelling. By the time I turned in the last edits, the novel had turned into a book about the pain of letting go of childhood magic and innocence, which I hadn’t initially realized would be a major element of the characters’ journeys. It’s actually one of my darkest and most personal works of fiction.

YA vs. Adult fiction. To you, how are they similar and different? Do you enjoy writing for one age group more than the other?

To me, the main difference between writing YA and writing adult fiction is the fact that protagonists in YA novels typically range in age from 15 to 18 years old, and protagonists in adult novels are usually older than 18. There are some books that blur the lines between YA and adult fiction, but truly the ages of the main characters are the key distinction. If the author is writing from the point of view of a character who currently is or recently was a teenager, then the book likely gets shelved as YA.

I don’t water anything down for my books for teens, and I certainly don’t hold back on exploring darker subjects. I honestly don’t prefer writing for one age group over the other. The stories themselves determine whether the novel should be YA or adult fiction, and I set out to write the strongest book that I can, no matter the target audience.

What was your first author event (be it a convention, signing, or school visit) like?

My first event as a debut author was the 2013 American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Seattle, WA. While there, I quickly discovered the wonderful, infectious enthusiasm librarians bestow upon authors. My publisher, Abrams, invited me to sign free galleys for my debut novel, In the Shadow of Blackbirds, and when I showed up at the Abrams booth, I was stunned to find a long line of excited librarians waiting to meet me. They made me feel like a rock star! I’m extremely grateful for the support of librarians, teachers, bloggers, booksellers, and anyone else who spreads their passion for reading to others.

Do you have a favorite place to write?

Once a week I meet up with local author friends to write in an indie coffeehouse. It’s one of my favorite parts of the week.

Do you have a writing schedule or just find yourself writing when inspiration strikes?

During my entire career as a published writer, I’ve been the parent of two kids, so writing has always been very much been based around their school schedules. When they’re in school, I write as much as possible. When they’re home, finding the time to fully immerse myself in my fictional worlds gets more challenging. Thankfully, I have a home office with a door I can close and a helpful husband who likes to cook. To help pay the bills, I take on freelance work and teach workshops, so even when the kids are away, I can’t always write whenever inspiration strikes. Like most writers, I’ve had to develop the skill and the discipline to sit down and write productively when time permits, and when I’m working to meet deadlines, I’m often writing deep into the night.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers today?

I’d like to invite readers to visit my website, http://www.catwinters.com. I’ve posted special links and bonus material for all my books over there, and schools and libraries can find information about my author visits and downloadable teaching guides.

 

 

Thank you Cat for stopping by Bookish Looks!

Guest Post: “Critique Partners: What They Are, Where to Find Them, and How to Make the Best” by Elysia Strife

Guest Post

About Elysia Strife.

img_6493.jpgElysia Lumen Strife has self-published three adult fiction novels and one children’s book. Strife keeps herself busy writing, critique-swapping, doing book reviews, and designing covers as she and her husband travel the country for work. She is a veteran, a fitness buff, and holds two Bachelor’s Degrees: Interior Design and Exercise Sport Science. With five books on the table for 2019, she’s hard at work. Strife writes in the following genres: Science Fiction Fantasy, Fantasy, Holiday Romance, Women’s Fiction, Romantic Suspense, and Children’s.

Website: elstrife.com
Amazon: Elysia Lumen Strife
Twitter: @ElysiaLStrife
Pinterest: Elysia Lumen
Instagram: Elysia Strife
Goodreads: Elysia Lumen Strife

 

A secret tip: Strife always publishes Advanced Review Copies of her books on Prolific Works prior to publication. Her next book, A Promise in Ash, will arrive in July. You can watch her page here: Prolific Works. If you like free reads, this site has a ton. Enjoy!

 

The Guest Post:

Critique Partners:

What They Are, Where to Find Them, and How to Make the Best

CPs can help you stay on target if you have trouble motivating yourself.

It’s like self-imposed homework. The concept might bring back bad memories, but it helps you achieve a goal you set out to reach.

We need to challenge our fellow creative-types in a supportive way.

This is one way we can do just that.

Stay tuned for a CP Question Cheat Sheet below!

 

What They Are:

A Critique Partner is someone with whom you swap written work in an effort to gain a crucial, fresh perspective on your story. Yes, this is necessary. I say this firmly from experience. You want other writers (people that study the craft and like to read) to let you know what they see. We all do our best to convey the message/themes/characters/scenes we see in our minds. But are we doing this effectively? How do we know? This is where Critique Partners lift the veil of uncertainty and help us pinpoint areas for improvement.

I’ve encountered some confusion between Critique Partners (CPs) and Beta Readers (Betas). Technically, a CP is someone with which you share a chapter or a few at a time as they are written—an ongoing process. You’re not co-writing; you’re sharing impressions to tune the work. These are writers that work with one another through the process of writing the book, offering tips and feedback as the story unfolds. Betas are people that read the book when it is one complete unit, providing overall feedback to check for consistency, plot holes, character arcs, etc.

 

Where to Find Them:

  1. Local Writing Groups – This one is a fantastic option if you can get into a group in your area. You’ll be able to meet face-to-face with others and talk about your ideas and concerns as you write. Some groups will have requirements for participation (like waiting for your turn/week to swap and bringing enough paper copies of your work for the entire group). That’s just one example. Sometimes, they’ll want you to hang out with the group for a few weeks or months before submitting work for the group to review (so they don’t get flighty drifters). I’ve seen a few that require you to earn points by critiquing other works before you can submit your work.

I use the MeetUp app to find local groups and take a look at their rules. Often, the public library will have postings if any groups have a schedule to meet there. Some of the bookstores may have writers events or rent out rooms for meetings as well.

  1. Online Writing Groups – Most of these are free, and you can find ones specific to genres.

Absolutewrite.com is a fairly large writing forum where you can connect with other writers and authors. There is a section where you can post a request for feedback partners, but you have to register to post. And in order to start your own thread, they require you’ve made 50 posts first.

Agentqueryconnect.com is similar to the above. It is a thread site but aimed at those more interested in traditional publishing and being in contact with agents.

Inkedvoices.com has a network of engaged people where you become part of a like-minded team and swap critiques. It is a paid membership, $85 annually, but offers a more constructive and timely environment. They also have online versions of NaNoWriMo camps.

Scribophile.com is a free website (with paid upgrades). You do have to earn points to post if you want critiques. They have free writing contests, a writing blog, and a forum for educational information. You can only post 3,000 words at a time for critique, and it requires 5 points to post that. It’s a great process with a high expectation of positive/constructive feedback. But it is definitely a time consuming process.

Examples of genre specific options:

Mystery Writers: mwf.ravensbeak.com

Science Fiction Fantasy: sff.onlinewritingworkshop.com

Literary: http://www.cuebon.com/ewriters

Christian: Kingdom Writers – angelfire.com/ks/kingwrit/

Sorry Romance and Children’s peeps. I searched but couldn’t find any genre-specific online groups for you. Try social media and the non-genre specifics listed above.

  1. Social Media – I have found the best crew on Twitter via Megan Lally’s #CPMatch hashtag. I love it because it’s FREE, and I’ve made a ton of connections with other authors this way. She runs events every month to month-and-a-half where people storm the hashtag with their short synopses and occasionally a mood board or book cover. Posting the genre of the writing helps find compatible works to swap with.

You can also use #critiquepartner, #cpmatchmaking, #betabustle and #betareader on Twitter, but I haven’t found a more loyal and excited group than the one listed above.

Facebook has a lot of writer’s groups as well. I’m not even going to delve into this one. But I will say this: many are tired of spammers – I mean the self-pubbed gurus that just want to drop their links and leave. (This isn’t effective, and it isn’t nice) Become an active member. You will make friends. Friends make a network. A network is how you will succeed.

Wattpad is a fantastic place to meet a lot of work-in-progress folks. It’s a place where you can post your upcoming works one chapter at a time and get feedback from your followers for free. That said, it counts as publication. So… if you want to maintain copyright, make sure you include a notice at the beginning of your book on Wattpad. And when you do officially publish for sale, you need to be aware of this when filing on copyright.gov. They will ask you if it has been published previously. But if you’re looking for a fast turnaround with feedback, this is a great way to do it. Wattpad is heavier on the YA and Fan Fiction side, so the crowd there tends to be younger. They give great advice on how something reads, plot, characterization, etc. But not always the nitty-gritty voice, line, and copyediting advice.

Goodreads is a good place to connect with readers. You can also find groups where you can post your work for review or beta reads. This is only as successful as you make it. If you want to be noticed here, you have to interact with lots of other people. There are numerous posts made every day to many of the groups.

Here are a few examples:

The Circle: for readers/beta readers/critiques/reviews/free reads size: 1,681

Goodreads Reviewers’ Group size: 5,846

Support for Indie Authors size: 14,401

Making Connections size: 11,932

Goodreads Authors/Readers size: 29,859

  1. Writing Associations and Organizations

Local organizations, like the Writers’ League of Texas can offer you a host of options for a decent membership price. Texas, of course, isn’t the only location. I’m just using this one as an example because I was a member when I lived there. The great thing about WLT was online classes. Yes, you can take courses online and not have to live in the state. Members get a discount on courses. If you plan to take several a year, it’s worth it. They also have a website where you can get counseling and one-on-one attention with your work. I met other authors at classes they had at St. Edwards University. This is one way to grow your living, breathing, human network.

There are quite a few online organizations, several of which you might be familiar with. This list is not all-inclusive. There are many more.

American Christian Fiction Writers

Erotica Readers and Writers

Historical Novel Society

Military Writers Society of America

Mystery Writers of America

Nonfiction Authors Association

Poetry Society of America

Romance Writers of America

Sisters in Crime

Small Publishers, Artists, And Writers Network

Society of Children’s Book Writers And Illustrators

Western Writers of America

Writers Guild of America

  1. There is always the Fiverr option if you’re looking for timely feedback and haven’t made many other connections yet. If you haven’t heard of it, Fiverr is a massive website where people can post their work-for-hire ads. Be very careful. Always read reviews. This site does not filter quality of work. However, there is a lot of talent to be found here from editing to cover design. Let me just stress this again: be picky.
  2. Some freelance editors will also work with you, but this depends on the editor. A lot of editors will provide an initial, free, ten page or first chapter critique as a display of their skills (and a way to find out if you’d be a good match for future editing). This critique is a little different. They’re expecting your work to be as refined as you can make it before they get it. The term implies different things depending on who you ask. So an editor is less likely to walk with you through the construction of the book. Maybe later, after you’ve sold tons of books and you and your editor are best friend. Then they probably would.

Keep at it. You’ll get there. I believe in you!

 

How to Make the Best:

There are benefits and downsides to both online and in-person critiques. Online is great (through certain methods) for quick turnaround and removing any personal bias a family member or friend might have. You can send digital feedback, collect all of the responses in one file or folder and look at it simultaneously. Google Drive and Docs is awesome for collecting group feedback. Just upload your book and share the link to whoever you want via their email address. Seriously, it’s awesome.

It’s difficult to gauge the level of importance an avatar/icon puts on the feedback they give you. It can lack the depth you may be searching for. The comments may also come across heartless and hard to read. Some might respond with something too vague like, “Great read, just move the ending to here.” Or they might never get to it and you find yourself waiting indefinitely. They could also redline your work to shreds and leave you feeling like giving up. With a personal contact, you can meet them face-to-face, get a feel for them as a person, and decide if you’re comfortable swapping. The human element is hard for a lot of introverts, but it can be a powerful tool in the long run.

A tip for people with unpredictable writing habits… isn’t that a vast majority of us? Finish your book first. Or at least be close to ready before you search for CPs. The reason I say this is because we often have life events that get in the way of completing our weekly or monthly goals. Instead of making your betas wait (This still happens to me because of lack of internet) you will be prepared to send the next chapter. You can still swap one chapter at a time and critique it, but you don’t have the pressure of having to finish writing each unit while you’re critiquing their recent work and holding down a job, dealing with family, fixing the car, etc.

The key to online critiques: SWAP A SAMPLE. Yes, I guess, I’m yelling. Never send your book in its entirety right off the bat. (This is a security measure.) Send one chapter or five pages, whatever you agree upon. Critique it the way you would normally. Then exchange your feedback. This way, you can see if they give you what you’re looking for in responses and also, if their writing is of content and a reading level you’re comfortable with critiquing. That said, people are ready at different stages, so I tend to prepare myself to work with wherever they’re at.

Giving feedback can seem like an easy thing to do. Anyone can say, “I like this,” or “This sucks.” But that doesn’t tell the other writer what’s wrong or missing. I’ve included a list below of possible questions to ask when critiquing work. I hope it helps tune your mind as you read so you can offer the best experience you can to your CP. If they enjoy working with you, they may stick around to swap with you in the future.

Try to keep it a mixture of what you like and what you think could use improvement. Every writer needs to know what works just as much as what doesn’t. We need to know our strengths to be able to build on them like we need to know our weaknesses so we can fix them. The ABA approach (good, bad, good) doesn’t always align with things as they happen in the story. Just aim for balance. And be kind with your words.

Example:

Don’t say – You picked a terrible character name. Change it.

Say – This character’s name reminds me of (…). This way the other writer can see what you see. If it’s not the imagery they were hoping for with the name, then they can see* why they should change it.

Offer suggestions and observations. Keep personal opinions out of feedback. Maintain professionalism.

Never criticize the other writer as a person because of something they wrote. If its fiction, they’re constructing a story, not living it. And if it’s nonfiction, then it actually happened so it’s a fact that needs to be accepted. Be mindful of your emotions and comments. We’re here to build one another up and help each other reach our goals.

On the flip side, it isn’t easy receiving feedback either. We all send it off knowing it isn’t perfect, but hoping the other person will find some things they enjoy. This is the biggest reason for swapping a sample. You want to make sure they are going to give you what you need and want and not too much of what you don’t. Keep in mind, not everyone is going to present ideas to you in an objective and impartial manner. Some people can be downright mean. (Which is why we have to be the mature ones and lead by example.)

Their critiques are only theirs. They do not represent the mass majority. They are one person. Don’t judge your work’s value based on one person’s opinion. You’re not being fair to yourself. This is why you need to get feedback from at least three different people. You will have critique partners back out from time to time. It seems to happen in waves. We all have a lot on our plates. Few of us are full-time writers.

Always ask more people if they’d like to swap than the number you think you need. Maybe you’ll get lucky and snag them all! Just be prepared to work through that number of stories if they do. Play fair, and it will work out in your favor.

Be encouraged by the feedback. It’s better to chop your manuscript up and rework it now, than let your readers do it for you on public websites. I know it can seem overwhelming sometimes. That’s okay. Cry it out. Get some extra strong coffee. Hug whatever or whoever is close to you.

Deep breath.

Take the news in stages if you have to. Look at the notes one at a time. If there is a consensus among your returned critiques, then you know what needs work. It can be a bit more ambiguous when it comes to the individual comments that don’t line up with the others. Filter them for anything confusing and ask for clarification on the comment if needed.

Sort the opinions from the facts. Opinions are subjective statements that contain assumptions, judgments, and beliefs. Facts are objective statements and are backed by evidence and reason. Some writers are very good at hiding their opinions in a factual statement. Fact checking is crucial in non-fiction but can be a component of many fiction genres. But, in truth, CPs are only able to give you their best observations of your work as it coincides with what they’ve been taught or researched is “correct.”

There is a level of differentiation to consider as you read their comments. If they explain why a concept/scene/character action doesn’t fit, you’ll want to consider delving into this. If someone is providing you an opinion on something menial, let it go. So they don’t like it, big whoop. It’s not worth getting upset over.

Critiques are recommendations. Be open-minded about what they’re suggesting, but don’t change everything just because others think you should. Instead, take their notes as help in deciphering what messages or concepts may not be coming across clearly.

Sometimes, we want them confused and misled. Maybe because of a Red Herring we carefully wove in, or we’re trying to make our readers think. Confusion would be a good thing in those cases. Otherwise, it may mean there is a deficit in showing of a component in your writing.

On the flip side, if critiquers feel bored, it may be a sign you’ve shown too much, and they’re not actively engaged. A little mystery is the key to a good hook.

Swapping critiques can lead to insecurity among writers. I hope you’re one of the lucky few that hasn’t had this issue. It’s been my experience that new CPs need a gentler approach. Find out the stage they’re at and see how it compares with yours. Swap the samples. Find out if they want a full critique or a traditional one, in chapter segments as they write. Make sure you’re on the same page.

I love ending with terrible puns.

Remember, when we write, we’re in our comfort zone. When we send off our work for its first critiques, we enter the zone of fear, doubt, and insecurity. Getting our feedback is when we are offered the chance to learn about our skills and how we can make our writing better. It is when we accept it and work on improving our craft and our stories that they shine, and so do we.

 

Framework for critiquing:

 

General things to discuss upon swapping samples of writing

Is this a finished book or a work in progress?

Is this the genre you like to read?

Is this the genre you write in?

Have you done critiques before?

How long have you been writing?

Who is the target audience?

What are you looking for in feedback? General (plot/scene setting/characterization) or more detailed (voice/structure, line edits/copyedits)?

 

Notes

If you’re doing a group critique, don’t read others notes while critiquing. You run the risk of bias.

Remember to provide professional and polite feedback

Point out what you liked as well as what you found problematic

Read through these questions before you begin the critique to help you hunt down critical issues and answer them as thoughts come to mind

Leaving in-text notes can help you with a final (overall) assessment and also point out specific problem areas to the writer

 

The Questions!!

First Chapter/Opening

Do the first few lines hook the reader with the main character and their problem/conflict?

Can you visualize the environment, the main character, and the problem?

Is the manuscript starting where you think it should?

Is there enough tension and emotion to draw the reader in?

Does it start with a cliché, or is it a unique and intriguing beginning?

 

Conflict/Tension

Was there a major resolution to the main conflict? Or did you feel something was missing at the end?

Were the stakes enough?

Did the tension ebb and flow in a way that made you want to keep reading?

Were there tense hooks at the end of each chapter?

Did the beginning of each chapter give you the premise with a subtle hook as well?

If this is a series, is there a bit of conflict left unresolved for the next book?

Could you understand the internal/emotional battles the characters were fighting? Did they contribute to the progress of the plot and the character’s overall change (arc)?

Did any details or events seem convenient/contrived?

 

Characters

Were the chosen names, dress, and ages appropriate for the genre and setting?

Could you follow along with the emotional journey of the character? Or did it feel glossed over or forced?

Did the characters encounter enough struggles, including between characters, to complete a transformation at the end?

Do you understand why the villain/antagonist is a protagonist in their own mind?

Does each characters’ behavior seem believable?

Are the characters three-dimensional in personality?

Do they experience all emotions?

Do they improve the story?

Do they have flaws/limitations?

Are their goals, morals, and desires understandable?

Are they relatable to a level that fits the genre?

Are their back-stories compelling and well-rounded?

Did you find the characters’ changes satisfying at the end?

Were the social relationships among the characters genuine and supportive to the story?

If any, was the hierarchy presented believable and beneficial?

If this was a character-driven piece, do you feel the work was appropriately saturated with detail?

Did you find the characters motivating, compelling, or inspirational in any way?

In general, were the emotions, actions, and dialogue shown effectively?

 

Plot

If this was a plot-driven piece, do you feel the work effectively tackled this as a priority?

Do you know what the main plot is/was? Was it consistent from beginning to end?

Is the sequence of events consistent and believable?

Were there too many dreams or flashbacks that detracted from the clarity of the plot?

Were any aspects predictable?

Were any events dwelled in for too long or not long enough?

If there was more than one plotline or any subplots, were they constructive to the storyline or the character arcs?

Is the influence of any “daily life” in the work helpful?

Are the twists realistic? Surprising?

 

Setting/Worldbuilding

Can you clearly visualize where and when the story takes place?

Do you understand the cultural norms?

Is each change of scene distinguishable?

Were there any environmental descriptions that were overwhelming?

Does the setting/world frame the plotline effectively?

Is the history/back-story of the landscape fitting and believable? (Why are we here?)

Was every scene necessary to the plot?

 

Dialogue/Language

Are the colloquialisms effective or overwhelming?

Did the language seem to fit each character?

Was the dialogue constructive in moving the story forward?

Were there too many formalities? Hi/Bye, Thank you/You didn’t have to

Any dialogue dumps?

Any moments that needed more?

Did it evoke emotions or thoughts in you as a reader?

Did the dialogue reflect the displayed emotions of the characters?

 

Point of View – Format of narration for the book

Is the point of view effective for the story?

First person – “I am telling you.”

Second person (rare in novels) – Narrator tells story *to* another (the reader). The “you” perspective.

Third person (limited) – Narrator is outside of character minds. “He read it to her.”

Third person (omniscient) – Narrator is in characters’ heads. “Josh hated the concept. This sucks, he thought. But he read the book to his little sister anyway.”

Was the point of view consistent? (Especially between third person limited and omniscient?)

 

Perspective – Comes from all characters telling the story as we meet them throughout it. This is their view on situations because of their pasts, prejudices, attitudes, and personalities.

For works with multiple perspectives, do the changes from character to character seem fitting or does the story head-hop too quickly?

Are there too many perspectives?

Is there a character whose perspective you’d like to see?

 

Craft

 

Pacing

Did the writing carry you along smoothly?

Were there any problematic slow/fast areas?

Did any sections of backstory/info/descriptions slow the story?

Are the transitions helpful in moving from one scene to the next?

Does the pace fit the genre? (ie: Action Adventure vs. Historical Romance)

 

Show vs. Tell

Any clichés used? Once upon a time…

Does the work show things where it is needed?

Are the moments of telling appropriate?

 

Format

Are the chapters broken up appropriately by scene/perspective/time changes?

If there are breaks within chapters, do they seem fitting? Or could pieces be joined?

Were any sentences or paragraphs too long or short?

 

Voice/Tone

Did the voice flow along with the story or did it seem choppy in calm moments and too calm during action?

Is the tone fitting for the genre? (ex: Humorous, dark, melodramatic, literary, mechanical)

 

Grammar

Was punctuation used correctly? (comma splices, run-on sentences, not too many ; or !)

Any misplaced modifiers?

Are there too many adverbs?

Are the sentences sticky with too many conjunctions?

If there are curses, were there too many?

Are there vague filler words?

Is the writing concise?

 

At the End

Did the beginning fit now that you know the ending?

Did you notice any inconsistencies in plot/character/scene?

Does the author have any redundancies, catchphrases, or go-to words?

What was your personal take on the story? (Keep this separate)

 

Author Interview: Laurell Galindo

Author Interview, Misc.

Meet Laurell Galindo.

Laurell GalindoSocial media links
Website: www.laurellgalindo.com
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/laurellgalindo  
Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurellgalindo
Instragram: https://www.instagram.com/laurellgalindo
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLaurellGalindo

 

The Interview.

Hi Laurell! Thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little about yourself.

I was raised in Meridian, Texas, and graduated from Meridian I.S.D. in 2003. In 2004, I enlisted in the United States Army Reserve to serve as a Public Affairs Broadcast Specialist. I was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2005 to 2006. There, I completed multiple missions to create broadcast news stories and anchored the Baghdad based program, Freedom Journal Iraq for the American Forces Network. I separated honorably in 2012. I was prompted to write VET-ONATION because of a personal goal I’d set for myself. In May 2016, I began writing. I wrote several chapters but had to put the book on hold due to my late husband’s illness. He passed away on April 1, 2017. Afterward, I took some time to re-evaluate my life moving forward as a widow and single mother of three. Then I took a deep breath and recommenced writing. I did not want to write a book about war. It has been done. I’ve read several. In my opinion, war should never be glorified. In many of these types of novels, it is. War is a misogynistic and challenging endeavor. War changes a person dramatically. I wanted to address the internal aspect of war, but more specifically, military sexual trauma. I wanted to provide a narrative women could relate to in VET-ONATION.

 

How did you feel while writing your first broadcast?

One of my first broadcast stories was about the Iraqi referendum which took place on October 15, 2005. The threat of terrorist attacks did not phase the Iraqi people. They took advantage of the historic political process by voting in record numbers. At that time, approximately 15.6 million of Iraq’s 26 million people were eligible to vote. On that day, election officials confirmed as many as 65% of those people made their way to polling stations throughout Iraq, surpassing the 58% recorded in the previous January elections. The high voter turnout caused several polling stations to run out of ballots. Iraqi police and election officials rushed to re-supply these stations so voting could continue. It was an amazing day to witness and document. The Iraqi people made a great stride toward democracy. Their determination to vote showed they were open to a new way of combating violence and political problems in Iraq. It truly was an honor to be able to cover this historic event.

 

Was there a story at any point in your life that really struck you; that then you needed to tell people about?

A story that I was fortunate to be a part of and like to share is that of the Ibn Sina Hospital in Baghdad, Iraq. This hospital took Yugoslavian architects and Iraqi engineers nearly two years to build.  In 1964 the hospital opened, meeting Iraq’s need for a medical facility in Baghdad. The aim of the founders was to provide a hospital giving the highest standards of medical care and attention to its patients.

During his reign, Saddam Hussein took over the hospital using it as his own private medical facility for his family and the Baath Party elite shutting it off to the Iraqi people. After the U.S. invasion, the hospital became the referral hospital providing medical care to the majority of U.S. Troops, Coalition Forces, and resuming care of the Iraqi people.

Dr. Kadhim Shubber was one of the founders of this facility. I was able to document the day his children, Anisah Shubber and Dr. Jawad Shubber, toured the hospital for the first time in many years. Their visit brought back many memories which they shared as they posed to take pictures in front of their father’s old office. It was touching to see how proud they were to see their father’s hospital. Dr. Jawad Shubber shared that he was very proud of his father’s legacy and added it was a privilege to tour the hospital and to see the work of the U.S. forces in its mission to restore the facility. He added that he felt his father’s hospital was in good hands. I was privileged to be a part of many different stories. While some were happy occasions, others were somber ones. I feel blessed every day to have gotten to experience as many stories as I did.

 

Are there any characters or scenes in VET-ONATION that are influenced by real life experiences?

A scene that is influenced by a real-life experience is that of the sexual assault in chapter seven. I am a survivor of a military sexual trauma (M.S.T.) which took place in Baghdad, Iraq. I chose to remain a silent survivor for many years due to shame much to the dismay of my sanity. That choice almost destroyed me. Even after I disclosed the event through the proper channels, this information was on a need to know basis as far as I was concerned. I then wrote a book which discussed sexual assault. Unfortunately, I erroneously thought I would be able to skirt the issue and not address my own experience with inquiring minds. I was wrong. It’s difficult to talk about something you’ve kept a secret for so long.

Since VET-ONATION’s release, I have had a lot of tough, anxiety-inducing, emotionally exhausting conversations. I’m still working through the lasting effects of M.S.T. within myself. I hope others who have been affected by sexual assault will read VET-ONATION and be inspired to continue working on their recovery as well.

 

What is your writing process?

My writing process isn’t too technical. I start by contemplating the topic I’d like to write about. Then I work on a general outline. I try to have at least five main points I’d like to cover within each chapter but keep these general as to allow the characters to grow and change through a natural progression. I don’t give myself deadlines because I don’t want my writing to read like it’s forced. The most important thing is to start writing. The first draft is not going to be great, but at least it’s out of your head and on paper. I never write hungry. I don’t beat myself up over writer’s block. I am patient with my characters and myself. In all honesty, I wasn’t sure how VET-ONATION would end until the morning I sat down and wrote the last chapter. It had been two months since I’d written anything. I needed to give myself and my character, Lauren, time to decide what was best for her. It came to me unexpectedly, and I knew without a doubt it was exactly how the book should end. When I read the ending now, I’m so glad I gave myself time.

 

From VET-ONATION, what is the main thing you want readers to take away from the novel?

Although the protagonist, Lauren Mayer, is a veteran, she’s still just an average woman struggling with her journey. She faces many tests along the way. While she doesn’t navigate them all well, she’s determined to confront her failures and overcome her obstacles. Her life is a tangled mess of romance, sweet memories, painful moments, and regrets. Lauren’s strength demonstrates what’s possible when we shine a light on our demons and embrace the changes in ourselves.

VET-ONATION is a fictional story. I wrote it with the hope that the protagonist would resonate with any woman who has struggled with a life-changing event and difficult circumstances. It is a book that is close to my heart.

 

What to you makes a strong storyline?

A strong storyline is made through storytelling and creating believable characters whom the reader truly cares for.

 

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers today?

VET-ONATION, which is derived from Veteran’s Detonation, talks about relationships, service in Iraq, military sexual trauma, mental health, and recovery from a female veteran’s perspective. VET-ONATION is an excellent book for female Veterans or any women who has struggled with aspects of service and life following this type of traumatic event, including addressing sexual assault and mental health.

Blog Tour: The Essence of Ruin

Blog Tour

BM Griffin Essence of Ruin

essence of ruin cover ebook

Blurb 2

Something was stolen from Zamirah. Something she had wanted to save for her first love. The thieves got away with it, while she was painted with all the blame by those she loved most. That was when the ruin began to set in. She was broken, and certain she would never trust anyone again. Ambrose did not get the memo. Ambrose was hard headed, and he was not going anywhere. He knows Zamirah is strong, but even superheroes need someone to lean on. If he keeps showing up, maybe he can help her learn that even the darkest parts of her are worthy of love. It won’t be easy, but nothing worth having comes without hard work. Zamirah believes she is ruined, but to Ambrose she is perfectly imperfect and he couldn’t love her more.

Book Links

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44419275-the-essence-of-ruin

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2WwlJRK

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-essence-of-ruin/id1456993578?mt=11&ign-mpt=uo%3D4

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1130968504;jsessionid=898C81FB9D736296D9965B3F84A14501.prodny_store02-atgap07?ean=2940156448876&st=AFF&2sid=Draft2Digital_7968444_NA&sourceId=AFFDraft2Digital

Teaser

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Author Bio

Me

Though successful in her day job, Bonnie Griffin found that her creative soul was not being fed. She longed to fulfill her dream of becoming an author, and decided to make that dream a reality. Tapping into her own inner darkness, she took a deep breath and a leap of faith, and Author B.M. Griffin was born, giving a new perspective on paranormal romance and urban fantasy. Because of her difficult childhood, reading became an outlet and a sanctuary for Ms. Griffin.

Through her avid imagination, Ms. Griffin loves creating new worlds, creatures, species, and bringing them together through action and most of all, LOVE.

When asked why she writes, she said, “Writing gives me solace. It gives me the chance to leave the world behind and lay everything out through my words. It’s the best kind of therapy.”

Ms. Griffin lives in the small town of Richlands, North Carolina with her husband and two daughters. Her works include Loving Her Scars, Aurora, & her latest release, Her Hidden Scars.

Author Links

Facebook: www.facebook.com/bmgriffinauthor

Facebook Group: B.M. Griffin’s Badass Booknerds: http://bit.ly/BADASSBOOKNERDS

Amazon: www.amazon.com/author/b.m.griffin

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AuthorBMGriffin

Blog: www.authorbmgriffin.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authorbmgriffin/

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/b-m-griffin

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16813324.B_M_Griffin

 

 

 

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Blitz: Shadow’s Voice

Blog Blitz

 

Shadow’s Voice
Natalie Johanson
Publication date: January 2nd 2019
Genres: Adult, Fantasy

Rose Trewin is on the run. Pursued by memories of her father, she runs from city to city, seeking normalcy. But Rose can’t escape her past, or the magic running through her veins, the magic that allows her to slip through the shadows unnoticed. The magic her father once used to mold her into a mercenary sent to destroy his enemies.

Now her magic is growing and changing, becoming something new and untamable. Rose is unable to rest. Wolves wrapped in fog follow her relentlessly along the countryside. Desperate, she uses her magic to escape, but the shadows are pushing her towards the center of a conspiracy.

Now, her country teeters on the brink of a civil war as a Lord Governor gathers power against the king. An enemy, with magic similar to her own, emerges in the chaos of political intrigue.

Faced with a country at war and a king brought to his knees, Rose must accept who she is and harness her powers in order to save her country and herself.

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT:

Rose stretched her neck and sighed. the low setting sun was hot on her neck and sweat trickled down her back. She groaned and pushed away from the spinning wheel, dropping the bundle of wool back into the pile at her feet.

“Miss Trewin, you haven’t finished.”

She rolled her stiff shoulders and turned to the older, white haired woman. “No, ma’am. But the sun is setting and I’m hungry.” She dusted her lose skirts free from the wool fibers. “I’ll make it up tomorrow.”

The shopkeeper glowered at her but relented with a wave of her hand. “Fine then. Business has been slow anyway.”

“Thank you, Marg.”

Rose smiled softly and slipped past the gruff woman—the first to offer

Rose a job in this small town. She wasn’t a great seamstress or spinner, but she worked hard, and Marg wasn’t a cruel shop owner.

“Are you still staying at the inn?” Marg asked as she passed.

She tucked stray hair behind her ear. “Yes. It’s clean and not too expensive.”

Marg snorted softly at her. “You should look for a room somewhere else. There are plenty of people who would rent you a room. I even know of a small cottage or two near the woods.”

“Perhaps,” she said as she dusted off her skirts.

Rose looked up when her boss cackled at her. “You’ve been here nearly six weeks. Living in an inn can’t be enjoyable.”

“No, it is not but . . .” She trailed off. “Thank you again.”

Slipping outside, she wandered down the uneven cobblestone street toward the pub and inn. It was a small building, dingy and worn. The ceiling had a haze of smoke clinging to it, but it had decent food, mostly, and clean beds. It was a small town, smaller than she liked, but it seemed to suit her. The buildings were a ramshackle collection of stone and wood, many wedged next to each other as if the city grew too quickly.

Rose settled herself at a small table in the corner. “Dinner ma’am?”

She looked up at the tired barmaid and nodded. “Some ale as well, please.”

The barmaid quickly returned with a bowl of stew and a mug of ale. Rose sipped at the thin broth and poked at the chewy chunks of meat. She wrinkled her nose at it and pulled the mug of ale closer. Leaning back in her creaky chair, she watched the room.

Her view was interrupted by a man stopping in front of her table. “Yes?” Rose drawled and slowly dropped her hand closer to the dagger sheathed in her boot.

The thin man gestured to the empty chair across from her. “Might I join you for some conversation and a meal?”

She glanced at the stranger and looked him quickly up and down.

Worn and cracked boots, old but nice clothes, dirty face but clear eyes. Before she could shake her head no, he was dragging the chair around and sitting next to her, his back to the wall.

Rose raised an eyebrow at him as he settled in the chair and waved over the barmaid. “Yes, of course . . . help yourself,” she drawled and shifted so she could face him.

He snorted. “A horse makes for stale company after so long.” He turned to the woman. “Some stew and ale, please.”

She sipped her ale and watched him. “I’m Nico.”

“Rose.”

Nico gulped down half of his ale before stopping for air. “Have you lived here long?”

She clucked her tongue and finished off her ale. “Born and raised.” She stood from the rickety table. “Now, I must be off. Enjoy your stew.” Rose walked steadily and calmly toward the narrow stairway in the corner without looking back. She didn’t care for strangers and cared for questions even less, no matter where they came from. Let that traveler think she was born in this rotting little town and forget all about the strange girl he met in the tavern when he left.

Rose unlocked the door to her small room and slipped inside, locking it behind her. She walked to her narrow bed and pulled the dagger from each boot, dropping them onto the small table next to it. She slipped off the simple skirt of browns and reds and yanked off the constricting bodice. Rose climbed into bed, ignored the sounds of a tavern below her, and tried to sleep.

The night was restless, with the wind howling outside all night. Dreams of her father and life before made for a long night. When morning came, it was gray and cold. Rose looked at the sky from her small window and thought grimly how it fit her mood. She dressed quickly in more reds and browns before heading out of the inn for another day of tedious work. She liked the flashy bright colors of turquoise or green, but those stood out. She paused as she passed the small mirror hanging on the wall. Her hazel eyes and straight brown hair were simple. Too young to have wrinkles, but life didn’t care that she was barely in her second decade and there were small lines at the corners of her eyes. Rose loved bright colors when she was young. Now, reds and browns were her col- ors. They don’t stand out. She snorted at her reflection and left her room.

Rose pulled her long jacket closed against the wind. The walk from the inn to the shop was short but the wind was cold and hard. By the time she reached the shop door, she was half running. The bell dinged softly as Rose tried to smooth her hair back into place.

“Oh, hello dear.”

She gave up pulling her hair out of her face with a huff. “Nasty wind picking up, there better not be a storm coming.”

Marg snorted and turned the page in her ledger. “Oh, someone came looking for you after you left yesterday.”

She snapped her head up. “What?” Alarm made her insides twist. No one should be looking for her. No one should know to come here. Marg licked her thumb and turned another page. She spoke without bothering to look up, “Yes, tall man. Had quite a lot of black hair. He said he was an old friend of yours.”

Rose tried to swallow but her mouth had gone dry from fear. “What did you tell him?”

Marg finally looked up. “That you’d gone for the day.”

“Anything else?”

Marg frowned at her. “No, dear. What’s gotten into you?”

She rubbed her lips with her shaking fingers. “I need to run an errand. I’ll be back later. I’ll make up the missed work tonight.”

Marg frowned at her. “You only just got here, girl. What am I paying you for?”

“I’ll be back.” Rose turned on her heel and went back out into the wind. Her hair whipped around her face as she turned down the narrow alley between the drapery next door. Her light skirt wrapped around her legs in the wind. She took another turn and headed along the back of the buildings toward the inn.

“Morning, Flower.”

Rose jerked to a stop. She turned faced the speaker. “You know I hate that name.”

A tall man leaned against the wall, his dark hair hiding most of his face. She could never tell if it was to be sensual, to hide his face, or if he simply couldn’t control his messy locks.

“I thought I’d wait around for you.”

“Why are you here, Gavin? Have you finally found someone who will hire you?”

He leaned against the shop wall, trying to look relaxed, but Rose could see the strain in his neck and the clench of his jaw.

“I’m looking for better employ, if you must know. You, however, are a long way from home. Your father must be so worried.”

Rose pulled her hands out of her pockets and kept her arms lose at her sides. The wind pulled her hair from the loose braid and it whipped around her face. “I’m sure,” she drawled. “Is that what you’re going to do, Gavin? Rush back to him with news of my whereabouts, hope that lets you back into his fold? Do you think presenting me as a gift will get you work?”

He jerked away from the wall and grabbed her hard by the arm. “He’ll be mighty pleased to know your location. Might even pay me good coin for the information. And if he won’t, others will. You know they will.”

A quick, hard whirl freed her arm from Gavin’s grip. Before he could say more, she turned away. He shouted after her but she ignored him; keeping her back straight. She slipped in through the servant’s door near the stables and used their hallways to get up to her room. She locked the door behind her and let out a deep breath.

Her little room was barren: a small bed against one wall, a short rick- ety desk along the other. She had no decorations and her few personal items were still packed in her bag. If she were to leave, no one would remember she’d been here. Her spot at the small spinner shop would be easily filled.

Rose slumped onto her small bed. This was the farthest west she’d been, had even crossed the province borders into Amora and still her past found her. She’d been here too long already, and Gavin couldn’t be allowed to sell his news of her. She curled onto the bed, tucked the scratchy wool blanket around her, and set in to wait for the night.


Author Bio:

Natalie Johanson has been interested in writing and reading since she first held a pencil. What first began a short story for her own reading turned into a world with a story to tell the world. When her time isn’t being monopolized by her ferret, work as a police officer, running Dirty Dash races or reading she is writing.

Check out Natalie’s website, nataliejohanson.com, for news, updates and more.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook

 

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Interview With Author J.N. Chaney

Author Interview, Misc.

Meet J.N. Chaney.

Welcome! Thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little about yourself.

J.N. Chaney has a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and fancies himself quite the Super Mario Bros. fan. He migrates often, but was last seen in Avon Park, FL. Any sightings should be reported, as they are rare.

Social media links:
My facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/jnchaney
My website: http://www.jnchaney.com
My Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/JN-Chaney/e/B00W2ZAK7E

The Interview.

An invasion of fifth dimensional creatures has begun. You can pick only one weapon and one other object to take with you as you fight or flee. What do you pick?

That’s a tough one. How do you fight something like that? I’d probably assume I was doomed and just take off running with a bag of food and some water in the microscopic hope that I could live long enough to survive this new Hell that has befallen us. Either that, or I’d bring my Nintendo Switch and just kick back and have some fun while I wait to die.

Genetic engineering and dystopia seem to go hand in hand as a current trend. What do you like and dislike about each topic?

Genetic engineering is something I try to include in most of my books, but it was especially prevalent in my dystopian series, The Variant Saga. I view genetic engineering the same way I do most scientific advances. It can be used for both good and evil, depending on the person who wields it. The same is true of something like atomic energy. On the one hand, you have a bomb capable of wiping out New York City. On the other, one of the most plentiful sources of energy ever conceived. With genetic engineering, you could create the perfect human, cure all diseases and disabilities, and even bring humanity into a new era of happiness. At the same time, you could create an army of superhumans or develop a biological weapon. I think that’s why people find it so fascinating. Not only is it so open to possibilities, but most of them could actually happen.

Did you ever find yourself struggling with your main characters – such as they just wouldn’t do what you wanted or expected?

That happens sometimes, but it’s never a struggle. More of a journey of discovery. By the 50% mark of the first book, I know exactly who my character is and what he would do in a situation. After that, the trick is to simply throw some problems at your hero and see what happens. If they’re worth writing about, chances are they’ll find a way to overcome it and naturally create an interesting and fun story along the way.

Anthologies. Series. You’ve done it all. Do you prefer one over the rest or do you have an equal enjoyment of all three?

This really depends on the type of story you want to tell. For me, I’ve mostly done series, but every once in a while I’ll get an idea for a short story or a novella. When that happens, you have to write it out the way it demands. If you try to stretch an idea into a 4 book series when it should only be a short story, you’re probably asking for trouble. The reverse is equally true. I have several ideas for both series as well as standalones, and I’m equally excited to dive into all of them.

What is your favorite part of being a writer and creating your writing identity?

For me, there are several highlights to writing and releasing a book. The first is the beginning. Just sitting down and writing the opening chapter is a thrill, because you’re creating something brand new and it’s all still fresh. That’s probably my absolute favorite part of the writing process. The next would be the ending, because that’s when the stakes are at their highest and everything is on the line—it’s all coming together and you’re the first person to see it happen. The last highlight is the release—the moment you get to share your story with the world and learn if everyone else feels the same way you do about it. Writing isn’t just about you sitting alone in your room anymore. It’s about getting online and seeing readers talk about the book afterwards. They make posts, leave reviews, tweet, and blog about your story, giving their take on what you just poured your heart and soul into. If you’re lucky, they’ll see the same beauty you saw in it. Good or bad, that part is always a nail biter.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers today?

There’s no greater magic in the world than reading. It allows us to experience other worlds and perspectives we never would have in our day-to-day lives. For that reason, I hope you’ll keep on reading for as long as you can, no matter how life treats you or tries to get in the way. Pick up a book and play pretend, if only for a little while. If that book happens to be one of mine, then I hope it treats you well and gives you a tale worthy of your time.