Sara Frances

After flirting with careers as an archaeologist, pilot, concert pianist, and diplomat, Sara Frances settled on photographer after just a few month’s residence in Heidelberg, Germany, while studying for her Masters in Comparative Literature. She self-defines as a photojournalist-poet. Always a writer and reader, as well as photographer, her unique hybrid media approach blends image in a sort of illustrated, sculptural time travel. Fragments of Spirit: 60 Years: A Photographer’s Recollections of Taos Pueblo, the Region and its Arts is a sinewy braid of diverse picture stories from her longtime love affair with Northern New Mexico, plus her long-considered philosophy and methodology of making art.

Tell me about your latest book and what inspired you to write/create it?

Fragments of Spirit: 60 Years: A Photographer’s Recollections of Taos Pueblo, the Region and its Arts began as a promise to self and colleagues to publish my photography as art, not as in previous books where I wrote and illustrated professional expertise and techniques. At the time I could not have imagined how far reaching that goal would be, even to creating a second career. Some ten years ago I realized, while organizing my professional archive, that I had a half-century of historic, intrinsically interesting, personal images and portraits of Taos people, the Pueblo itself, the region, and artists I’ve known. At the time I unearthed just one print, but the scope of possibilities came to mind as as a flood. Also over years, I’d collected writings about my experiences, my techniques, and my philosophy of arts. I had the makings of a formal monograph—and my artistic legacy!

Share your personal publishing story. Did you choose self or traditional? How did you go from book manuscript draft to finished book available for purchase?

The obvious publisher would have been a university press or a photo art book house. I quickly discovered that my hybrid image and text work did not suit either option. Note: never mention poetry to any publisher, and the photo art book crowd, who print just a handful of books a year, turns up its nose at text! Further, the process at all these presses is very old-style, including outside vetting of you the author, and editing, deign, cover, etc. from their own staff (and most often your expense). As a many-decades Master Photographer and published author—well, my ego balked right away at “vetting,” and besides I had no intention of allowing other hands on my images or design. This in spite of my first book having been gorgeously designed by the staff of Amphoto imprint of Random House’s!

There remained no other route for me than independent publishing; how hard could it be, I thought, because I had been making hand-made books for decades. It took me seven years (perhaps a Biblical seven?) to learn what I didn’t know I needed to know. Fortunately, I found the Colorado Independent Publishers Association (I’m now a board member), Lighthouse Writers Workshop (I’m a graduate of the Poetry Collective), and Independent Book Publishers Association. I began to soak up the technique, tips, and tricks of finding printers and distribution, book sizing for impact and economy, type faces and manipulation, color space and PDF conversions, cover art and back cover must-have info, forewords, pagination, indexing, back matter, title and contents, paper stock, proof runs, ISBN, Library of Congress, copyright, and, most importantly, the differences between wet and dry offset. Some forty-five iterations later—is a work ever completely finished?—I was ready to go to print under my own mark, Photo Mirage Books.

What is the most difficult part of the book writing process for you? Does it energize or exhaust you?

It took concerted searching in the archive to recover the “lost,” early negatives from the late 1950s. Just forty images, suitable for a small monograph. Husband Karl was doubtful, saying I needed to write something of an ekphrastic nature (he didn’t use that word, and I hardly knew what it meant!) as accompaniment and to bring a layer of experience and emotion into play. Short poems emerged from my pen, yet Karl remained dissatisfied. “How will people know the backstory?” Meantime, the image quantity increased as I thought about the yearly, intervening visits to Northern New Mexico. Faces and places were remembered with honor and delight. At that point the writing took a wrong turn, in my attempt to produce a consolidated text of culture and history. Karl, and others, notably Patty Limerick, were appalled—not because I’m not an expert in the field, but because historical accounts are both plentiful and boring, and, he said, “Because it’s your story, your experience, your evolution that people want to hear.” By then, the collection of images had grown to over two hundred; I scrapped 30,000 words entirely, and started again on the writing the personal, in first person voice. This met with approval, but my “task-master” further demanded that images and stories be organized in chapters and have a novel-like story arc.

How do you come up with your illustrations/images/graphics?

All my work is driven first by image, then by text: poetry, short prose, memoir, philosophy, some magic and suspense that is part of any artist’s life and occupation. As a self-styled Photoshop® “Pixel Surgeon,” my decades of experience optimizing and enhancing imagery, both pre-digital and current capture techniques, are my rock-solid foundation. And yes, I design everything in Photoshop® because this app permits one-stop image and text manipulation, rather than needing to go back and forth from inDesign®. Yes, type can be easily kerned and leaded and pushed around in Photoshop® if you know where to look!

How many unpublished or unfinished books have you written and set aside? What are your plans for them?

While I constantly promote Fragments, my next two books are full steam. I work on them at least half of every day. Unplugged Voices: Tales from the Four Corners, Taos and the West, an anthology, has mushroomed as an illustrated collection of experiences from an eclectic mix of Western people I’ve met. With the current perceived importance of verbal histories, experiential learning, and memoir—well, I’ve found that just about everyone has fascinating, personal stories of the land and the light that simply beg to be heard. I just topped eighty “articles” for the collection, with the goal of one hundred or more.

My capstone project for the year-long Lighthouse Writers Workshop Poetry Collective will be an oversize, four-color coffee table book of some 120 poems and short prose, accompanied by close to 300 highly manipulated iPhoneography images. Working title: What to Wear to Paradise: Wedding Dresses with Hardware Inclusions. Not a collection of poems, the organization is novel-like, with story arc that sets the stage of a protagonist, woman-artist who ruminates on the value of marriage—or not—and the symbolism of the wedding gown. The story proceeds through questioning, ego, denial, reversal, epiphany, determination, twists of events, disaster, forgiveness, decisions, taking up the role of muse, denouement. At times the text is provocative, timely, arrogant, funny, artistic, real, cultural, musing, sentimental, unrequited, role playing, fulfilled.

What next? An imagined series of mystery/suspense featuring a photographer traveling about the world. So many thoughts, so little time! Just get to it!

How do you go about obtaining book reviews? Do you read them? How do you deal with the good and the bad ones?

Book reviews are something perhaps I should spend more effort on, but really it’s a matter of getting Fragments in people’s hands. I find the images and design and obvious content sell themselves. When I hear a good comment, I ask if the person would kindly post it, and I give them the exact link to make it easy. I’m always answering questions, creating bonds over shared experience and need, and also entertaining—here the wealth of illustrations is key. Text and image augment each other. The only negative comments ever came from art photo book purists who see no value in words—fortunately their opinions were never in print, except for one comment in the Denver Post that ended, “…words decrease the photographic value.” BUT just a few months ago the Post featured me in print and online in their Monday series “Faces of the Front Range.” Obviously any publicity is good publicity to some extent.

What do you do for book marketing? Describe your plan, how it is working, and what you want to add or change to that plan, if anything.                                                                           

My best salesman has six feet: my good friend Roberta Chambers and her sweet companion shitzu, Stella, who is a welcome visitor in bookstores and galleries. They live in the Taos area, and keep a stock of my books for immediate, free local delivery. Melissa Serdinsky, Thin Air Collective, in Boulder is my distributor who also keeps stock, does accounting, fulfills orders, and deals with Amazon. I couldn’t do any of these three myself, though of course my personality and appearance creates most of the impetus to buy. Again, getting the beautiful book in people’s hands is where it’s at.

I am currently exploring an independent representative who works with National Parks and another who is big in library sales—places where I have no possible in. I’m well satisfied with selling one or two at a time—my book is timeless, not a quantity mover, and the audience is quite specific. I make sure I do at least two personal appearances each month. I note that a number of author friends state that in their experience, “…virtual book launches don’t result in sales.” A big public appearance boost is my monthly virtual panel for the Millicant Rogers Museum in Taos. I organize and moderate conversations about arts and community interests free to the public and archived on the museum’s Youtube channel.

There are many trends in self-publishing that have come and gone. What do you think is going to change next in the self or traditional publishing landscape?

The most difficult thing about current traditional agencies and publishing is that your work must absolutely fit their niche, or they don’t know what to do with you. That was my problem from the beginning—image and text, not flip-through picture books. I’m an unknown genre and concept. Already traditional publishers are writing all sorts of contracts, mostly where the author is partially supporting the print run. This is surprisingly similar to the newer concept of small, hybrid publishers who offer a menu of charged services, for instance, design, edit, cover, etc., to would-be authors. Hosted “publication” contests are popular, where a winner still has to guarantee to sell a quantity of the run. This is prevalent in the poetry genre. By my unofficial experience, a great deal of current independent book production skimps on unattractive design, paper quality, graceless type, poor editing, and covers without shelf appeal. I’ve learned this through being a content and design judge for award contests that are hosted by independent publishing associations. I’ve learned what not to do.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

The most important thing is to “get the cart before the horse!” I mean, from the start you must discover and write to the audience who wants to hear you; this may not be your originally proposed audience. What problems do people want to solve? What shared experience or relationships do they crave? What entertainment will they pay for? With significant research you’ll get to know if your topic and approach will have legs. And of course, it’s OK if you write just for yourself, or friends and family, or two hundred, or two thousand—but do not have delusions of grandeur. Books are heavy and costly to ship; you don’t have physical space or budget to create books that will not sell. However, just keep writing because art saves lives.

Who is your favorite author, book? The last book you read?

I do go through several books a week; I’ve learned to quit after a chapter or so if my interest in topic or language lags. Too many books, so little time. My favs are frequent rereads of children’s classics: Wind in the Willows, Watership Down, Secret Garden (my husband’s nickname is Dickon from the main character).

Long time favs are from the past: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Sayers, Paul Gallico, Ernest Hemingway, WEB Griffin, Peter Mayle, James Michener, Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf. More recently, Julia Alvarez, Tony Hillerman, Maryanne Robinson, Barbara Hambly, Louise Glück, plus bar-poet Randall McNair and our own Colorado contemporary novelist Peter Heller. All of them have informed my own work.

More about the author and how to find her books.

Sara Frances M.Photog.CR.,EA-ASP, API, MA (Comp Lit), Lighthouse Poetry Collective

Sara designs and moderates virtual panel discussions of art and life for the acclaimed Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos, NM. She conducts workshops in photography and independent publishing, and mentors for the PPA, ASofP, and Osher Lifelong Learning at University of Denver. She serves as book design/content judge for IBPA and other independent publishers’ and writers’ associations.

You can purchase Fragments of Spirit: 60 Years: A Photographer’s Recollections of Taos Pueblo, the Region and its Arts direct from the website and on Amazon or order it from any of these local bookstores:

About the Author

After flirting with careers as an archaeologist, pilot, concert pianist, and diplomat, Sara Frances settled on photographer after just a few month’s residence in Heidelberg, Germany, while studying for her Masters in Comparative Literature. She was captivated with the potential for personal interaction with people of a wide variety of cultural and social environments. Her fiftieth professional year started in the late 1950s with her parents’ obsession with opera, Native American drum music, vinyl recordings, and historic places of the West. Her family of musicians and artists traveled, stopped, listened, and loved the light and land. It was her insider introduction at a young age to Georgia O’Keeffe country. Like Tony Hillerman wrote, New Mexico casts a spell. And even as a kid, young Sara fell for it.

She self-defines as a photojournalist-poet. Regardless of setting, people in that setting are absolutely the life and motivation of her work. She describes her personal, storytelling mission as that of Foto-Griot, a teller of tales of insight, culture, and expression, through the fusion of photography, mixed-media, poetry, and prose. The honorific griot (properly griotte in the feminine) comes from Native West African cultural tradition designating a storyteller, traveller, seer, celebrant, adviser, poet, interpreter, and historian. There is no English word that encompasses the griot’s province.

Always a writer and reader, as well as photographer, her unique hybrid media approach blends image in a sort of illustrated, sculptural time travel. Fragments of Spirit: 60 Years: A Photographer’s Recollections of Taos Pueblo, the Region and its Arts is a sinewy braid of diverse picture stories from her longtime love affair with Northern New Mexico, plus her long-considered philosophy and methodology of making art. Images and words intertwine in textural conversation, enfolding the reader in past and present, in a world both new and familiar to anyone who has experienced the magic and the proverbial “hum,” the spell said to emanate from the region. The book recently won two first place gold EVVY awards for art/photography and for interior book design.

Sara started hand-making art books decades ago, but in the last seven years, publishing her own works became a necessity—and then an avocation, to be of service to other artists. To understand all sides of the publishing industry she took membership, now as board member, in the Colorado Independent Publishers Association (CIPA), the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), and several writers’ associations. Through publication, her vision of dimensionality of voice and image becomes a sculptural production—memory held in the hands.

Human geometry of land and spirit define her current arts and community anthology project. In her quest to articulate her own memories, she realized a separate book, a collective work, was needed add breadth of outlook to the wide New Mexico panorama. As Peter Hassrick wrote in his foreword to Fragments, “Western heritage matters.” She says, “Not in her wildest imagination,” did she picture the depth and exuberance of writing she would receive from the people who have chosen to share their times and memories in the collection—four-color illustrated, of course. Not just anecdotes—soulful revelations—uplifting, historic, funny, courageous, sad, catalytic. Each “voice” is a layer: a blanket, stratum, mother lode, seam, vein, river bed. Step directly into each author’s shoes and mind on diverse roads of the West, of memory that twists, explains, parallels, and then circles back in a happy map to rejoin the others. Working title is Unplugged Voices: Tales from the Four Corners, Taos and the West.

Another, unexpected, side to Sara’s art, lies in iPhoneography. Composited and manipulated in many layers, her recent image creations cannot be recognized as photographs, and therefore must be called a new medium. She questions, “What more can I do with, and to an image, to communicate a sensation?” What more is multiple, often dozens, of steps in the smart phone and computer; she delights in how abstractions can transport us to places of mind and heart that we almost recognize, but not quite. This process informs her new hybrid 200+ image and poetic text project, “Wedding Dresses with Hardware Inclusions,” which is near completion.

Trisha Watson

Trisha Watson holds a deep reverence for nature and compassion for those in need, especially animals. Of course that encompasses pets too, and thus all her dogs and cats over the years have been rescues or strays. Her first book, The Spiritual Adventures of Russell the Dog: A Blend of Truth, Fiction, and Inspiration From the Other Side, takes us on a spiritual adventure that is skillfully crafted. You will laugh, cry and possibly find answers to questions you may have contemplated in your own spiritual adventure. May you be inspired.

Tell me about your latest book and what inspired you to write/create it?

The Spiritual Adventures of Russell the Dog is told by none other than Russell. It is a true adventure of the spiritual kind traversing various lifetimes of a special soul (Russell) who refused his life review in a previous incarnation as a man. The journey of his soul deeply reveals the possible reason from our numerous, frequent lifetimes here on the earth plane, which is evolution of the soul.

The second part of the book’s title is: A Blend of Truth, Fiction, and Inspiration from the Other Side. It wasn’t my intention to write a book, however, I believe anything is possible. The idea began one day about my dog Russell who had made his transition. My intuition, which is sourced from Spirit Guides, angels, or God, depending on your comfort level, kept at me with mental dialogs, tied to crisp memories of my own life, beginning in childhood, and extending to present day. I resisted because the idea was so much bigger than me or my writing abilities. Plus, I didn’t want to take on the huge project of writing a book.

I have decided I am a different type of author. How I feel about writing is expressed best by Richard Bach, author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Illusions and many other books. Here’s how he describes the process:

“I do not enjoy writing at all. If I can turn my back on an idea, out there in the dark, if I can avoid opening the door to it, I won’t even reach for a pencil. But once in a while there’s a great dynamite-burst of flying glass and brick and splinters through the front wall and somebody stalks over the rubble, seizes me by the throat and gently says, “I will not let you go until you set me, in words, on paper.”

And that is what it takes for me to write. I must feel moved by inspiration to the point of not being able to ignore it.

Share your personal publishing story. Did you choose self or traditional? How did you go from book manuscript draft to finished book available for purchase?

Because of the uniqueness of the storyline, I decided I wasn’t willing to give up control over any aspects of my book. It took me four years to go from the manuscript to the finished book, with many anxious moments of love or dread along with every emotion in between.

How do you name your characters (if fiction or names changed for nonfiction)?

Some of the character’s names I automatically knew without any thought. A few are names of people I’ve known. Other names I looked up then went with what hit an intuitive cord.

How many unpublished or unfinished books have you written and set aside? What are your plans for them?

Currently I’m working on The Spiritual Adventures of Maggie the Dog.

How do you go about obtaining book reviews? Do you read them? How do you deal with the good and the bad ones?

This is my first book therefore I found a support team that came together, all with valuable knowledge of the publishing world. Mostly they guided me to do virtual book tours, and Kindle promotions. Each brought a good number of book reviews that I’m grateful to have.

What do you do for book marketing? Describe your plan, how it is working, and what you want to add or change to that plan, if anything.                                                                           

My book came out at end of January 2020. Mid-February I had my book launch and a few book signings, then the pandemic hit shutting everything down. The book signings I had scheduled were cancelled. It wasn’t an easy time for anyone on Earth.

Since the pandemic I lost my momentum, now I’m trying to revive my efforts. Book signings energize me; so it is my intention to schedule at least one a month.

Do you prefer reading print, audio or ebooks? Why?

I like holding a book. The feel of the pages is familiar which brings a warm comfortable feeling.

There are many trends in self-publishing that have come and gone. What do you think is going to change next in the self or traditional publishing landscape?

I have no sense of what that might be. Everything now, changes at light speed without warning, which is stunning and at the same time aimless. Change for the sake of change produces waste.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Do not give up your guidance, or inspiration, or even question if you should or shouldn’t follow it. If it’s there, and it nourishes good then it is a gift; a gift for you to bring forth to share with those you have something to give. There’s a good chance you won’t get rich from writing, but in the end, you are enriched by giving life to discovering your own inner story. As writers, we learn about ourselves on a level that’s hard to describe.

Who is your favorite author, book? The last book you read?

Many authors names crossed my mind as a favorite. The last book I read is, Through It All: Breaking Through the Dark Clouds of Life by Doug Davis. An amazing, one in a billion true story about one man’s life, suffering and healing. Truly inspiring!

One of my all-time favorites that is another true story, and a game changer, Many Lives, Many Masters by Dr. Brian Weiss. An incredible book I love to give as a gift, especially for those going through a hard time.

Currently my favorite author it’s Diana Gabaldon. I just started her latest in the Outlander series, Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone. Even after reading all her other books in the series, I’m still in awe of her gift for writing.

More about the author and how to find her books.

Trisha Watson was raised in Denver, Colorado and lived most of her adult life in Evergreen, a small mountain town outside of Denver.

In 2021 Trisha, her husband Mark, along with their two dogs, Cooper and Sadie, moved to New Smyrna Beach, Florida to be near family. Trisha is working on her second book, The Spiritual Adventures of Maggie the Dog.

You can purchase The Spiritual Adventures of Russell the Dog on Amazon or order it from a local bookstore. You can also visit the book website.

Here’s to living in inspiration.

About the Author

Trisha Watson, holds a reverence for nature and compassion for those in need, including, and especially animals. Of course that encompasses pets too, and thus all her dogs and cats over the years were rescues or strays. One of her passions is to save animals through adoption, so a portion of the proceeds from each book sold will be donated to an animal rescue organization.

Twenty-six years of self-employment helped her develop a can-do attitude, so writing her first book, while intimidating, was something she felt reluctant yet driven to do.  When asked about the process of writing a book she said, “I didn’t want to write a book, but this story wouldn’t leave me alone. Once I got out of the way, much of it flowed easily. Some of it I don’t remember writing, which at first was unsettling, but later made complete sense as the story revealed itself. My wish with the many messages in this book is to hopefully, in some way, touch those who read it.”

At sixteen, Trisha began her spiritual journey. At twenty-six, she had an out-of-body, near death experience, almost dying of pneumonia. She said, “This was the most transformational experience of my life.” Over the years she has delved into many facets of life with an open mind and a dash of healthy skepticism. Always looking forward, she continually seeks to grow, encounter, learn and share with others. Her philosophy says it best, “We are all each other’s students and teachers.”

Trisha was born in Rhode Island. Two years later her family moved to Denver Colorado where she grew up.  As an adult she was drawn to the mountains eventually settling in Evergreen, a small mountain town outside of Denver. In 2021, Trisha, her husband Mark and their two dogs, Sadie and Cooper moved to New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

For a more in depth, fun look at Russell and Trisha Watson visit: TheSpiritualAdventures.com

Martha and Ann Driscoll

Martha and Ann Driscoll are a mother/daughter writing team who most recently lived together near the banks of the Bellamy River in Dover, New Hampshire. Between them, and thanks to the award-winning illustrations and book design of Susan Andra Lion, Martha and Ann have three award-winning books. Other titles are Sammy the Seahorse and Rosa’s Monarch Butterfly. Martha’s professional life was devoted to literacy education, reading education and the preparation of reading teachers. Ann’s professional life was a mix of teaching and leadership in higher education and organizational development consulting. Martha died on November 08, 2021. But there are still stories to write…

Tell me about your latest book and what inspired you to write/create it?

My mother (Martha Driscoll) and I were co-writers (she died this past November). We created three picture books, Nosey’s Wild Ride on the Belle of Louisville, Sammy the Seahorse: Is He a Horse or is He a Fish? and Rosa’s Monarch Butterfly: The Magic of Metamorphosis. At their heart, all three books are an imaginary means for early readers to learn about something that is real – an historically significant steamboat, seahorses and monarch butterflies. My mother and I began working together on picture books around 2012. The idea seed for our latest book, Rosa’s Monarch Butterfly, came from a real-life experience that my mother had seventy years ago as an elementary school teacher. A little girl who was made fun of by her peers brought a monarch chrysalis to school. The teacher turned the moment into an opportunity for the girl and her classmates to get to know one another and to learn about the monarch life cycle. In real life, the teacher was the hero who intervened in the bullying and prompted the girl’s classmates to see her differently. For our story we shook things up. We wanted the girl to be the heroine, for it to be her voice that talked about monarchs and for the book to be a resource for readers to learn about monarchs. The inspiration engine for this particular story was the tremendous satisfaction my mother and I took from writing the first two books together. We both wanted to have that experience again, the act of creating something together from our imaginations.

Share your personal publishing story. Did you choose self or traditional? How did you go from book manuscript draft to finished book available for purchase?

Our first two books were printed by small, local publishing companies who handled the production of the books and provided inventory storage. The illustrator who helped create all three of our books, Susan Andra Lion, is both an award-winning illustrator and talented book designer. As we got ready to do a second edition of Nosey’s Wild Ride, my mother and I realized that we could reduce our costs if Sue worked directly with the printer to get the books produced and if my mother and I took over management of inventory and fulfillment. This lead to Driscoll Publishing. From the second edition of our first book on, we have self-published our books. Because we haven’t yet cracked the marketing nut, for our latest book, Rosa’s Monarch Butterfly, we seriously considered trying the traditional route for production and marketing. However, we opted for self-publishing because:

1) Speed – My mother was in her nineties and we wanted to make sure that she got to hold a finished copy of Rosa in her hands. We wondered if a traditional publishing route might help us get our books on shelves. We knew we had a huge learning curve ahead regarding traditional publishing. We did some homework and everything suggested that it was likely to take a long time to hook up with a traditional publisher and eventually see our books in print. We opted for self-publishing because it gave us a known timeline for when we’d have the books in hand.

2) Illustrator – Self-publishing was the only way to guarantee that we could work with the illustrator of our choice. Sue Lion, my mother and I are an amazing writer/illustrator co-creation team. Over time we’ve built a friendship as well as a terrific working relationship. My mother and I wanted another book that was created by all three of us. That made self-publishing an easy choice.

Persistence and willingness to go out and learn what we needed to know were key ingredients in getting from manuscript draft to finished book.

What is the most difficult part of your creative process?

I wish I knew how my mother might have answered this question. For me, the challenge was learning how to move from being a mother and daughter with a writing project to becoming two writers writing together. We had to forge a new way of being in relationship with one another. Even though we are both adults, to do all the stuff of imagining, writing, editing, and creating together we needed to move beyond parent/child and become creative peers. I treasure our success in this as much as I treasure our books.

What do you do for book marketing? Describe your plan, how it is working, and what you want to add or change to that plan, if anything.                                                                                 

We do almost zilch for marketing. And it shows. We have way too many books gathering dust in our storage unit. Marketing is the next arena of how-to-learning that needs be to tackled. A robust, detailed marketing plan is needed.

How many unpublished or unfinished books have you written and set aside? What are your plans for them?

We’ve got a bunch of stories jammed in file folders in our story box. Some are just a story start but most have a beginning, middle and end. They’re stashed in the box because as a story goes, they’re just o.k. But they weren’t tossed in the trash because they aren’t garbage. They remind us that we’re writers and that we’re writing. They help us see how our writing has improved. We do have a story about a brave girl and her heroic horse. We finished the first draft just before my mother died. It’s got a great story line but to be a book, it still needs a lot of work. I’m not ready yet to finish it without her. It’s set aside, but not forgotten. I wondered whether I would be able to write without her. Inspiration came. I’ve got a picture book of my own in the works about a little bear that learns how to be a good friend. It turns out that carrying on with writing is a very meaningful way to be with grief.

How do you go about obtaining book reviews? Do you read them? How do you deal with the good and the bad ones?

I’m embarrassed to admit that until very recently I haven’t been in the habit of paying any attention to book reviews. But that’s changing fast! The first time we started to seek out book reviews was for our third book. So, our efforts to obtain book reviews began just a few months ago. We knew absolutely nothing so I jumped on line and started googling how to get book reviews for a children’s book. Scoring a couple of reviews was energizing and eye opening. The affirmations were great and I realized these could be really useful for book promotion. But I almost missed out on a great growth opportunity by being dismissive of the reviews I experienced as critical. My first reaction was defensiveness, Did you actually read this book?? Fortunately, a friend who’s a writer suggested a different perspective. I went back and reread and reconsidered the so-called negative comments in reviews. I realized that the constructively critical reviews were also invaluable. The positive reviews let me know what readers like about the book. The constructive ones offer insights that help me continue to improve as a writer and make better books.

Do you prefer reading print, audio or ebooks? Why?

I prefer reading print. I like to feel the weight of the book in my hands. I like being able to highlight lines, make notes in the margin and dog ear pages. When things like maps, photos, glossaries or endnotes are included, I like to be able to flip around between those and the text. If it’s a book that ends up meaning something to me, it becomes a friend and because it’s in print I can keep it on my bookshelf. I love having an audiobook playing when I’m driving. I especially enjoy audiobooks as a means to listen to an author or a poet read their own work.

There are many trends in self-publishing that have come and gone. What do you think is going to change next in the self or traditional publishing landscape?

I think more and more books will continue to be self-published and that those avenues will open up in ways I can’t begin to imagine. There are too many people with stories to tell and traditional publishers don’t have the means to handle all of those stories.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Just write. The only way to get from aspiring to be an author to being an author is to get words down on paper. Find a writing group for collegiality and feedback. Carry a notebook and pen in your pocket so you can capture things that feed your imagination. Don’t fall in love with every single word you write. Be willing to edit and let lots of words go. If you write books for children ask them to read your draft and then tell you what they think.

Who is your favorite author, book? The last book you read?

Right now, my favorite author is Jacqueline Woodson. Because it touched my heart, I especially love her picture book, Each Kindness. The last book I read was also fabulous – Jason Reynold’s graphic novel, Long Way Down.

More about the author and how to find her books.

Website: https://driscollpublishing.com

Where to Purchase Books: https://driscollpublishing.com

Link to Story Monsters Ink Cover Story Featuring Martha & Ann Driscoll

Book Awards & Reviews

Nosey’s Wild Ride on the Belle of Louisville (2014 and 2016)

  • Creative Child Magazine, 2017 Seal of Excellence Award
  • Literary Classics, 2017 Gold Award Finalist
  • Mom’s Choice, 2016 Honoring Excellence Gold Award, Juvenile Books, Ages 5-8
  • Story Monsters, 2016 Books Worth Devouring Seal of Approval

Sammy the Seahorse (2017)

  • Readers’ Favorite Book Review, 2021 5 Star Rating
  • Creative Child Magazine, 2018, Book of the Year, Educational Story Books Category
  • Literary Classics, 2018 Gold Award, Educational Category, Picture Book/Early Readers
  • Story Monsters, 2018 Books Worth Devouring Seal of Approval
  • Story Monsters, 2018 Purple Dragonfly, 1st Place, Picture Books 6 & Older
  • Story Monsters, 2018 Purple Dragonfly, Honorable Mention, Children’s Nonfiction
  • Mom’s Choice, 2017 Honoring Excellence Gold Award

Rosa’s Monarch Butterfly (2021)

  • Mom’s Choice, 2022 Honoring Excellence Gold Award, Ages 6-8
  • Readers’ Favorite Book Review, 2021 5 Star Rating

 

Description for Rosa’s Monarch Butterfly:

Rosa knows a ton about monarch butterflies. And she’s often picked on by classmates because she’s curious about things. One day a classmate hollers, “It’s caterpillar pancake time!” Rosa gulps, “Oh no!” She bravely ignores the bully and steps up to rescue the caterpillar. Rosa then lights up her classmates’ curiosity about monarchs. One of the bullies continues to make fun of Rosa and questions her knowledge. But Rosa persists. As she does, the caterpillar transforms into a butterfly, her classmates are wowed by monarch magic and the bully is transformed by what he learns from Rosa. This journey of discovery and change contains original pen and ink illustrations by an award-winning illustrator, a compelling story by award-winning authors and loads of educational information about monarchs – caterpillar and butterfly anatomy, stages of development (egg, caterpillar, chrysalis and butterfly), habitat, food, flight, migration, threats to survival, transformation, a glossary of terms, and activities including How to Make a Butterfly and a Matching Game.

 

Author Bios:

Martha and Ann Driscoll are a mother/daughter writing team who most recently lived together near the banks of the Bellamy River in Dover, New Hampshire. Martha was born near the Falls of the Ohio River in New Albany, Indiana. After marrying, she and her husband moved across the Ohio to raise their family in Louisville, Kentucky. Ann was born in Louisville and had loads of adventures paddling on that mighty river. The Belle of Louisville plies the Ohio and docks at mile 606, the Port of Louisville. The Belle’s 100th birthday was the inspiration for Nosey’s Wild Ride on the Belle of Louisville. But Martha had actually written the first draft of this story in 1950, set it aside to raise a family and picked it up 62 years later to polish it off. Little did they know but retrieving that document was the start of Martha and Ann’s shared writing life. The last decade of her life Martha had very, very poor vision. So, Ann’s job was to type up the mountains of pages that Martha hand wrote. But they both love words and very quickly they were doing the research, creating the characters, writing the drafts, editing, and creating together. Between them, and thanks to the award-winning illustrations and book design of Susan Andra Lion, Martha and Ann have three award-winning books. Other titles are Sammy the Seahorse and Rosa’s Monarch Butterfly. Martha’s professional life was devoted to literacy education, reading education and the preparation of reading teachers. Ann’s professional life was a mix of teaching and leadership in higher education and organizational development consulting. Martha died on November 08, 2021. But there are still stories to write…

Julie Loar

Julie Loar is a multiple award-winning author of eight books, dozens of articles, and a popular Blog.  She has taught Astrology, Tarot, mythology and symbolism for more than forty years and traveled to sacred sites around the world, researching the material for her books and teachings, and leads sacred journeys to Egypt. She was a featured contributor on John Edward’s web site InfiniteQuest.com where she had her own internet TV show. Her newest book is Symbol & Synchronicity: Learning the Souls Language in Dreams and Waking Life. 

Tell me about your latest book and what inspired you to write/create it?

Symbol & Synchronicity: Learning the Soul’s Language in Dreams and Waking Life is my latest book. The impulse to write the book, which at its heart is about working with dreams as guides on the spiritual path, came as a sort of “call” early in the pandemic lockdown. Over a year of writing, the journey was one of discovery and transformation. The book explores ancient dream traditions, scientific research into sleep and dreaming, cutting edge theories in quantum physics and consciousness, and wise spiritual traditions from different cultures. The book also includes a powerful and practical process for working with dreams that was triggered by an amazing dream I had while writing the book.

Share your personal publishing story. Did you choose self or traditional? How did you go from book manuscript draft to finished book available for purchase?

To date, I have eight published books, 100 plus articles, two full-length courses, and an award-winning board game. My publishing story spans more than three decades and the gamut of publishing from self-publishing to traditional publishers. My latest book is a hybrid contract with a publisher. I worked with a professional designer to achieve the best possible look, and am working on marketing with the publisher. This includes finding as many opportunities to talk about the new book as possible. It is available on my web site, the publisher’s web site, Amazon, and in bookstores.

What do you do for book marketing? Describe your plan, how it is working, and what you want to add or change to that plan, if anything.

My publisher handles most of the marketing/advertising for the current book, which includes entering different award programs. I have an e-mail list and offer Zoom talks/programs and solicit opportunities to speak about my work. I do a monthly full moon program to an expanding audience. I have a blog, which is an opportunity to share facets of my work.

Describe your writing routine. How many hours a day/days a week do you write?

First thing in the morning is my best time and the routine depends on the current project or schedule. I consider everything I write, including e-mails, to be part of my craft and an opportunity to hone my skills. I write every day for some amount of time and 5-6 hours a day if I am working on a book or article.

How many unpublished or unfinished books have you written and set aside? What are your plans for them?

I call them works-in-progress that are plans for future projects. At the moment, I would estimate that I have five books and two courses in this category–the list continues to grow.

How do you go about obtaining book reviews? Do you read them? How do you deal with the good and the bad ones?

I reach out to readers, colleagues, or those who write on similar topics. I believe it’s possible to learn from every comment or review, especially those that seem “negative.” We often have blind spots where our own work is concerned. However, it is important to discern if review comments, whether positive or negative, are valid. If so, then take the feedback to heart as a chance to learn and grow.

Do you prefer reading print, audio or ebooks? Why?

I admit that I prefer print books because after a long day in front of a screen, I want the pleasure of holding a “real” book in my hands and relaxing with a cup of tea. A print book is a reward in the evening after many hours at the keyboard.

There are many trends in self-publishing that have come and gone. What do you think is going to change next in the self or traditional publishing landscape?

We live in a time of transition on every front, and publishing is no different. Because of software and print-on-demand publishing, the ratio and dynamic of self-publishing and traditional publishing is likely to continue to shift. I believe this makes the role of the author in promoting their own book increasingly important. Writing the book is just the first step. An author is also his or her own best spokesperson.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic and take her advice to heart that writing, like other forms of art, is a craft. We must create for the sake of it and learn to polish our craft until it shines. We must be brave and send our words out into the larger field of consciousness unaware what their effect may be. My grandmother used to say, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Van Gogh never sold a painting in his life—now they are worth millions. Few writers or authors actually make their living at their craft, and now thousands of books are published every day. Sometimes with dedication and hard work, fortune smiles on us with recognition, and yes, even sales. Just keep writing.

Who is your favorite author, book? The last book you read?

Fiction – Nora Roberts. I recently read the second book in her new trilogy The Dragon Heart Legacy.

Non-Fiction – Hank Wesselman, PhD, and Joseph Campbell.

Choosing a favorite book is a tough call, but I am still a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The very last book I read (I am a voracious reader) was The Book of Joy: Finding Happiness in a Changing World. This is a dialog between the Dali Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

More about the author and how to find her books

Julie’s books have been translated into several languages. During the pandemic lockdown she turned 80 of the articles she wrote for Atlantis Rising magazine into a two-volume Sky Lore Anthology. Julie was co-creator of the board game Quintangled, which has won three awards. Her books include Goddesses for Every Day:  Exploring the Wisdom & Power of the Divine Feminine Around the World, which has won six national awards; Ancient Sky Watchers & Mythic Themes, As Above, So Below: Sun, Moon & Star; Messengers; The Hidden Power of Everyday Things, and Tarot & Dream Interpretation.  

http://www.SatiamaPublishing.com

Amazon

http://www.JulieLoar.com

Susan Andra Lion

Susan Andra Lion is an award-winning designer, author, and illustrator with a full line of poetry drawings and a variety of decks of affirmation cards, journals, greeting cards, and prints. Sue is also a fine artist and works in colored pencil and pastel. Her work has been displayed in galleries, exclusive shows, and many private collections. 

Tell me about your latest book and what inspired you to write/create it?

Fox Light, Magic Hidden in Plain Sight, was inspired by a comment made in a class I took with an elder member of my writing group way back in the 90s. She urged me to take the class, too. Sign me up, I said. By the way, what kind of class? Writing Your Memoirs, came the answer. Well, I wasn’t to the age of thinking of writing my memoirs, but the teacher was terrific. One woman in the class noted that in America, stories of “the olden days” weren’t valued. We have a history of charging ahead, even to the point of devaluing the wisdom of our older generations because of the false belief that whatever they did “back then” wasn’t productive or economically useful now. Times change. Keep up or get out of the way. All the wisdom, work ethics, problem solving, and experiences were dismissed. That led to a good class discussion about the value of passing down our stories, if only for our children and children’s children.

In the past, stories were passed down from generation to generation by the elders of the communities. The Storytellers were often the Uncles or Grandfathers, Aunts or Grandmothers. They told them over and over again to the little ones, making sure the history of the tribe was embedded deep in their hearts. Those stories became the foundation for future actions, decisions, moral stances, and pride. From oral histories came written accounts, even artwork to accompany the words. A commitment to the weaving of the community came through shared beliefs and an understanding of the earth, the plants and animals, the wind, spirit beings, and all humans.

Well, now years later, I was struck with the notion that recording experiences in my life didn’t have to be dull or outdated. I reflected on the “magical” incidences I’ve had, many of which can’t be explained with math or logic, and I started scribbling notes. One note lead to another, and the pages kept getting a little higher. Each story triggered another, until I realized I had the content for a book. Just for me, just for my children, but created with my professional approach to any job in my list.

Then, because I’m an illustrator, I felt creating drawings to augment the text was a combination of my skills. So, why not! They touched a deeper place in me – I think images do that – but I was surprised at how deep. A piece of me went way back, back to the days of being a little kid sitting at the kitchen table when we lived in North Dakota, and just drawing. I didn’t actually take an official art class until I went to college, but I was lost in bliss when I did art back then.

Fox Light is a collection of short stories based on my experiences of something magical happening in my life. I saw my beloved dog’s blue, ethereal spirit rise from her body. I’ve had Beings hike with me, transparent though they were. I’ve had a connection to the workings of the earth that have lifted me to a different plane. I believe we all have these magical moments, if we are willing to let go of our preconceived notions about how things work. Too often we say, “that can’t be” or “it’s just a figment of your imagination” and the magic that presented itself disappears. I hope my book helps people be more aware of the magical moments in their own lives and revel in their bigger world.

Share your personal publishing story. Did you choose self or traditional? How did you go from book manuscript draft to finished book available for purchase?

I have done a lot of reading and discussing with other experts and authors about the pros and cons of traditional publishing, a hybrid of publishing, and self-publishing. I think all of them have their positive – and negative – points. One thing that suits me is if I’m the publisher, I have full control over the content, process, cover, and marketing. Of course, that means I have to be willing to do all that! I’m a writer, illustrator, and designer – I have the right tools to get the job done. I have the knowledge to get the final files created and print-ready. I can talk to the printer, etc., etc. I have a great sense of satisfaction in being able to accomplish all this. But the marketing part is harder for me. A traditional publisher takes care of that. A hybrid takes care of some of that. But I’ve weighed the task of marketing with the satisfaction I get taking care of all the other details, and what keeps coming up for me is to self-publish.

My process is fairly simple: I write everything by hand first. I’m a short story writer, so scribbling on my paper tablet is a very stimulating and satisfying process. I don’t rush this stage. I don’t keep things all tidy, though – I write and cross out stuff, then, add words in the margins, sometimes spilling over to the next page, but I keep writing. It’s not the time to be a perfectionist. It’s messy. And frustrating. And inspiring and exciting. Once I have the bones written down, I type everything up in Microsoft Word. Of course, as I go along, I make more changes. Then, I print it out and go at it again, this time in pencil on the printed version. Many changes, reconfiguring, rethinking goes on, but each time I see it again, it becomes tighter and more refined. Each time I make edits on my Word document, I become more clear. When I am finally done with each chapter, I send or read my drafts to valued reviewers. I listen to their comments carefully. They are helping me see my own thoughts through a different lens.

As I write, images come to mind. I doodle ideas in the margins or work up some thumbnail sketches on scraps of paper. I found that my own life stories are easier to illustrate than something I’m doing for a freelance client. I’m very clear about what happened when, back then. It’s more a matter of deciding how to construct the image and what style to use. For Fox Light, I did a combination of black ink drawings, then airbrushing the color in Adobe Photoshop.

Once the text is finished and the illustrations are done, I set up the whole book in Adobe InDesign. This is where design comes in, an essential third leg of a three legged stool. Design is the glue that holds everything together. It’s a visual impact, a feeling, that creates memory for the reader. Good design, writing, and illustration carry a reader from one chapter to the next, with the intention of leaving them lighter than before. I find use of fonts and color are subtle impacts, along with how the chapter heads look and how the cover speaks to the content. I love the design stage. I get a charge out of how things come together. And since I’m the author and illustrator, I can change my mind at any time! This isn’t to say it’s all a walk in the park. It can be frustrating and exhausting, just like any work that is important, but it is equally exciting and freeing. Holding the finished printed book in my hands is indeed a joy.

Describe your writing and creative routine. How many hours a day/days a week do you write and illustrate?

I’m a freelance graphic designer, as well as a published author and illustrator. So, I’m in my studio five days a week, with a variety of clients and projects. I work on things like events, brochures, and logos, but I also design and illustrate books for other people, too. I just finished a children’s book, Rosa’s Monarch Butterfly, written by Martha Driscoll and Ann Driscoll, which is a visual science book for kids 4-9 years old. I learned so much about monarch butterflies! That’s part of the fun about working on other people’s jobs. It’s a challenge though to set aside time during the day to work on my own projects. I have three children’s books in process, and I’m starting another book for adults, different from Night Threads and Fox Light. My commitment to myself is actually scheduling time on my calendar for my own books, instead of stuffing them just into the late hours or weekends. A balancing act, for sure, but one that is possible.

How do you name your characters or titles?

Good question – naming my characters is an act of faith sometimes. Same with naming my books. I try to be very inclusive and not just choose names that I grew up with or my kids’ friends. One thing about writing my life stories is I didn’t have to worry about that, other than naming the book. As I was working on Fox Light, I kept writing down titles until I had a list of a hundred. Well, at some point I had to trim it down! One of my chapters is about me being a little introverted girl who found solace in the lilacs in spring. That eventually lead to my understanding of the spiritual meaning of fox energy, and voila, a name was born. The other challenging thing, too, is making sure another book doesn’t have the same title. I did extensive searches on Google to make sure what I was considering wasn’t taken. I crossed out several possibilities because of that. Other authors are good resources for bouncing off ideas. One woman is a miracle worker with headlines and names, and I took her recommendations seriously.

What is the most difficult part of your creative process?

I have discovered that some people think the creative process is easy. Whatever comes to mind somehow gets finished without a struggle. They are surprised, almost astonished, when I go through my process with them. No matter what I’m writing or drawing, there are challenges that go with it. I can’t just turn on a switch when I’ve scheduled myself to be creative. I can’t always phrase things right. I have go back more than once to smooth it out or reconstruct it. I want the beginnings and endings to complement each other, but when I’m in the throes of writing, it’s not always clear how that path will appear. The biggest thing is not to give in. It’s the same with illustration – I’m not successful with every piece of artwork and there are times I crumple the paper and start over. But each time I reconsider, each paragraph that finally comes together, I forget the challenges and am grateful for the end results. It’s worth the effort. What is that saying? “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” Well, there are thousands of steps, sometimes two forward and one back, in each of my journeys.

How do you go about obtaining book reviews? Do you read them? How do you deal with the good and the bad ones?

I have taken a soft approach to book reviews, something that needs to change some. I do read book reviews before I buy a book, so I know there is value in them. For each book I write and/or illustrate, I ask other readers/authors/artists from different walks of life to review my work. It is enlightening to hear what they say and I seriously consider incorporating their comments. It also makes me aware of what I find important enough not to change. But I haven’t submitted my book to organizations that review books and know nothing about me.

Do you prefer reading print, audio or ebooks? Why?

I love reading print books of all kinds – fiction, murder mysteries, children’s books, trade books on illustrators and design, magazines about colored pencil techniques and software tips, you name it. I also listen to audio books, especially when I’m working on an illustration at my light table for hours. I have a traveling buddy, too, and we choose what audio book to listen to before a road trip. But I’m not a champion of ebooks, at least not yet. I spend so much time in front of a computer or on my phone that I relish the time I take to hold a print book in my hands, especially if it has illustrations or photographs. I have to laugh though – both Night Threads and Fox Light are not only in print, but in ebook form and available on Kindle. I think ebooks would be terrific if I was traveling overseas or stuck on a subway for a long commute. But that’s not part of my life right now.

There are many trends in self-publishing that have come and gone. What do you think is going to change next in the self or traditional publishing landscape?

Self-publishing has become such a powerhouse that it has changed the landscape of traditional publishing a lot. In the Olden Days, I think there were many good manuscripts that went unnoticed, mainly because it was impossible for a publishing house to read all of them. Sometimes it was because it didn’t fit the tastes of a reviewer and without further ado, it hit the trash can. Those were the days of complete power over the author, from editing to final print. But I see a good change in many publishers, particularly midsized and small, to be partners in getting a book to market. It takes a lot of effort, from a lot of people, to bring onboard a new author, and there are considerable risks involved, not the least making sure book sales pay for all of that. A publishing house has lots of experience in marketing, editing, and promotion, and can be a tremendous asset in the success of the book.

That said, I believe with the advent of self-publishing, many books have come to market that wouldn’t have before, and we are blessed with a rainbow of possibilities. There is also awful work out there, work that hasn’t been refined or reviewed or edited, and that kind of sloppiness puts a mark on all authors who are bringing their own work to market. Something to consider, too, is there are three parts to any book – writing, images, and design. It’s important for an author to choose carefully the people who can help make the book professional. A traditional publisher takes care of that. A self-publisher makes it all happen on their own. Hiring the editor, designer, book cover designer, and production person to get it to the printer, plus paying for all of that, is on the shoulders of the self-publisher. The nice thing is all those people/companies are out there!

For me, I choose self-publishing. I know the path and relish the process, so it’s very satisfying.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Be clear about what you are working for. Make sure your heart is engaged, not just your head. If you’re just doing it for money, rethink it – it’s a long and winding road. Dedicate time and resources to your creations, and keep going. You don’t have to know everything to start. If you have an idea, if you experience something that has changed you, if you have memories of meaningful events in your life, then write it down. Tuck your scraps of paper in a folder. And don’t let the dust settle too long before you open the folder again.

Who is your favorite author, book? The last book you read?

This is a hard question – there are so many! Children’s picture book authors – Chris Van Allsburg, William Joyce, Pamela Zagarenski, Oliver Jeffers, Sophie Blackall just to start. If you want to slow down, go to your favorite bookstore and sit and read in the children’s book section. There are authors and illustrators speaking to every subject in every way and you will be moved. Adult books? I just finished Midnight Library by Matt Haug. Another one that sticks with me is Erin Morgenstern’s Night Circus, with an amazingly visual plot. Catherine Landry’s series of three small The Way books (the first is The Way of the Simple Soul) are intriguing, and Julie Loar’s new book, Symbol & Synchronicity, is a handbook on dreams and how to remember your dreams. I can also recommend As You Feel, So You Heal, by Donna DeNomme.

One thing I’ve found is if I start a book and it doesn’t grab me, I know there is another one just around the corner that will speak to me better. That’s a wonderful thing about used bookstores, too. You can try something out without spending a lot of money.

Thoughts for applying for awards for your books?

The publisher who brought How the Trees Got Their Voices to market taught me the value of awards. I was hesitant – how could applying for a bunch of awards actually benefit the book? As it turns out, many of the awards programs have a robust marketing impact. They make big announcements to their extensive lists, they send out press releases, they post the book on their websites, etc. I discovered how just having an award sticker on one of my book covers helps sell the book. I’ll use this as an example: I had contacted a small gift / bookstore about having my book on their shelves. The manager was pretty non-committal, until I mentioned the most recent award I had received. She immediately looked online, saw the book and the awards it had received, and ordered books from me to sell in her store.

It doesn’t matter if I have a publisher or I self-publish to apply for an award. Night Threads has received three prestigious awards, all because I filled out the applications and sent them my book for them to read and review. I admit, I learned a lot from the publisher of “Trees,” so I knew about some of the awards programs and the strategy of which category to place the book in. It’s a plus to know how to write a proposal, too. But in the end, as a self-publisher, I did my own research, decided on what categories to submit the book, and applied. Of course, beware – there are awards programs that will take your money and not deliver the goods, but that’s the value of being able to research them online.

More about the author and how to find her books.

She has written, designed and/or illustrated many children’s and adult books, including How the Trees Got Their Voices, published by Satiama Publishing, a service mark of Satiama, LLC, and the winner of 17 national awards for writing, illustration, and design, including the Moonbeam Children’s Literacy Award and the Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award; White Butterfly and Her Wings of Many Colors, winner of a eight prestigious awards, including Winner and 2016 Book of the Year, Creative Child Magazine; and Night Threads, a Weaving of Soul Stories from the Dreamtime, a Nautilus Gold Winner, Inner Prosperity & Right Livelihood category, Independent Press Distinguished Favorite, Inspiration category, and 2019 Next Generation Indie Finalist, New Age category. Night Threads is an illustrated book of short stories for adults using her magical, movie-like dreams as a foundation for expressing universal symbolism and soul connections that all humans have. Her Spontaneous Sacred Spaces, a pocket-sized book of portable Earth altars, has a fold-out altar on each spread, along with a short meditation. It is a two-award COVR recipient, Retailer’s Choice and Winner.

Sue is also a fine artist and works in colored pencil and pastel. Her work has been displayed in galleries, exclusive shows, and many private collections. As a graphic designer, Sue has worked in high end agencies, corporate visual communications, and currently operates her own graphic design studio, Sue Lion :: ink. Her clients include healthcare, environmental, and high tech industries, and also many small, independently-owned businesses and book authors.

www.suelionink.etsy.com

www.suelion.com

 

Tyler Baras

Tyler Baras has a range of urban agricultural experience from homesteading to commercial hydroponics. While completing his B.S. in Horticultural Sciences at the University of Florida, he traveled overseas to study Organic Agriculture in Spain and Protected Agriculture (greenhouse production) in China. After graduation, he worked as a grower for 3 Boys Farm Inc., one of the first certified organic hydroponic farms in the United States. In 2013, Tyler moved to Denver, Colorado where he worked as the hydroponic farm manager at The GrowHaus. He managed a profitable urban farm while creating a successful hydroponic internship program with a 90% job placement rate for graduates. While at The GrowHaus, Tyler started creating educational videos and blog posts about farm tech which are available on his website FarmerTyler.com. In 2015, Tyler moved to Dallas, Texas where he managed the Dallas Grown hydroponic greenhouse and worked as Special Projects Manager for Hort Americas, a commercial hydroponic equipment distributor. While in Dallas, Tyler wrote one of the best-selling hobby hydroponic books, DIY Hydroponic Gardens: How to Design and Build an Inexpensive System for Growing Plants in Water. In 2017, Tyler wrote Roadmap to Growing Leafy Greens and Herbs, an educational book for new growers and investors interested in commercial hydroponic production of leafy greens in greenhouses and indoor farms. In 2018, Tyler moved to San Francisco, California where he worked as the New Product Development Senior Grower at the indoor vertical farming company Plenty. In 2020, Tyler relaunched FarmerTyler.com offering horticultural consulting services and education video content available on Urban Ag News YouTube and Farmer Tyler YouTube. 

Tell me about your latest book and what inspired you to write it?

“Home Hydroponics: Small-space DIY growing systems for the kitchen, dining room, living room, bedroom, and bath” is my third book on hydroponic gardening. Most hydroponic gardens look like a maze of PVC pipes, including many hydroponic garden designs described in my previous books, but in my latest book I detail 14 different DIY hydroponic garden designs that heavily prioritize the aesthetics of the garden while maintaining their functionality.

Did you choose self or traditional publishing?

My first two books were written concurrently with one semi-self published and the other published by Cool Springs Press/Quarto. My latest book was also published by Quarto. I was very fortunate to be recommended to Quarto by fellow garden blogger Shawna Coronado, who I met at a garden blogging event. Shawna has authored many books and when she found out Quarto was looking for a hydroponic expert she recommended me. I had a few calls with Quarto to discuss potential book ideas then I drafted a table of contents for approval. Once approved we got into all of the details like timeline and photography. 

All through high school and college I absolutely hated writing. I never would have imagined writing a book but the fact that my book deals were generated from my expertise in hydroponics and not my writing prowess oddly increased my writing confidence. I knew Quarto would help with proofreading/editing to ensure I met at least a minimum level of ‘readability’ haha and I could focus on the quality of the content. 

Describe your writing routine. How many hours a day/days a week do you write?

I typically write a book over four to six months. The first two months are primarily focused on garden design, construction and maintenance which total around 30 hours per week. Then I transition to writing which starts around 20-30 hours per week for months three and four then jumps up to 30-60 hours per week in the last two months. I set chapter completion benchmarks throughout the writing months to help ensure I’m on pace. I’ve always been a procrastinator and unfortunately, I’m most inspired to write when up against a deadline. I don’t limit my writing to specific days or times of day, sometimes I work best early in the morning and other times I’ll work late into the night. Oddly I find I’m most productive when working in loud busy spaces like bars and restaurants.

How did you come up with your images and graphics?

For images, I primarily rely on hired photographers. I also source some images from stock photo companies and hydroponic equipment manufacturers. For graphics, I rely on the publisher’s art director and graphics team. I do provide some input on images and graphics but I know my expertise is primarily in hydroponics/gardening so I gladly accept assistance with photography and graphics from others.

Do you have any more books that you have written or plan to write and publish? What are your plans for them?

I currently do not have plans to write any additional books. The book writing process is exhausting and each time I’ve finished a book I promise myself that I’ll never write another… so far I’ve had a hard time keeping that promise to myself.

How do you go about obtaining book reviews? Do you read them? How do you deal with the good and the bad ones?

I personally do not actively work towards obtaining book reviews but my publisher does distribute some free copies to get early reviews. Reading book reviews can be difficult but my experience as a YouTuber has helped thicken my skin. People are far harsher in YouTube comments than they are in Amazon book reviews haha. Fortunately, my books have generally been well received with high ratings and positive comments so if I do find myself feeling down after reading a negative review I can simply scroll up to read a positive one haha.

Do you prefer reading print, audio or ebooks? Why?

Audio. I like doing physical tasks like gardening while listening to books. Unfortunately, my books are not well suited for the audio format as they rely on photos for DIY build guides.

There are many trends in self publishing that have come and gone. What do you think is going to change next in the self or traditional publishing landscape?

I don’t have much insight into the publishing landscape so it’s difficult for me to say.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

I wish I had advice but I personally feel like I stumbled into being an author. Perhaps try to make friends with other authors?

Who is your favorite author, book? The last book you read?

I really like Tom Standage’s “A History of the World in 6 Glasses” and “An Edible History of Humanity”. The last book I read was the horticultural textbook “Plant Empowerment”… I primarily read educational books and journal articles.

How do I find you on the Internet?

For more on Tyler Baras please visit www.FarmerTyler.com.

DIY Hydroponic Gardens: How to Design and Build an Inexpensive System for Growing Plants in Water
Publisher | Amazon

Roadmap to Growing Leafy Greens and Herbs
Publisher | Amazon

Home Hydroponics: Small-space DIY growing systems for the kitchen, dining room, living room, bedroom, and bath
Publisher | Amazon

Doreen Berger

The Captain’s Daughters is Doreen D. Berger’s first novel in a series about the adventures of the Marsh sisters, Diane and Robin. Doreen, known to her family and friends as Diane, has based the series on her relationship with her lifelong friend, Robin, and their spirited childhood escapades. Doreen lives on Long Island with her family and pets.

Tell me about your latest book and what inspired you to write it?

The Captain’s Daughters was inspired by my childhood escapades with my best friend Robin. We always seemed to find ourselves in hot water for a silly prank we pulled! We were both astronomy and science-fiction fans and dreamed about living on a starship. The book combines our not-so-good behavior with our dream of outer-space travel.

Did you choose self or traditional publishing?

I tried the traditional route…tried to get an agent and sent manuscripts to publishers who accepted unsolicited manuscripts, but didn’t get any bites. Instead, I got a pile of rejection letters, which can get depressing! Plus, traditional publishing is a long process and I decided I didn’t want to keep trying, so I delved into the self-publishing realm. Once I decided to self-publish, I looked around for an all-in-one publisher like Lulu or BookBaby but I found I didn’t want to give up control of the manuscript, which meant I had to do all the work myself. To tell the truth, it is a very daunting process and at times overwhelming! I got ISBN numbers, an LCCN, a copywrite, and even set up my own publishing company (PolarisPrint) to give the book a professional feel. I hired a professional editor and worked with her for a few months doing the required rewrites. Then I worked with a company that did the cover and inside formatting. I set the book up on KDP as an eBook and paperback, and also set it up on IngramSpark so it can be ordered by bookstores and libraries. I am now starting to do the marketing and I am shocked at how time consuming it is.

Describe your writing routine. How many hours a day/days a week do you write?

When writing the Captain’s Daughters I tried to write every day for a few hours. It’s funny how that works…sometimes I can only write a couple of pages and sometimes I sit down at 9:00 a.m. and the next thing I know it’s dinner time! I have written the second book in the series but it needs some TLC before I can send it to the editor, but because of all the marketing I am trying to do, I don’t have as much time to get to it.

How do you name your characters?

The Captain’s Daughters is based on my lifelong friendship with my childhood friend, Robin, and so the names in the book are Diane (my nickname) and Robin! As for the other names, since it is a science-fiction book, I can make up funny sounding names. And sometimes, I have opened a phone book (yes, I have one of those lying around) and just randomly picked a name!

Do you have any more books that you have written or plan to write and publish? What are your plans for them?

I have the second book in the series already written and waiting for the editor, and I have the first chapter of the third book written. The third book really needs time because I am not sure of the plot yet, but I haven’t had the time to give it the attention it needs.

How do you go about obtaining book reviews? Do you read them? How do you deal with the good and the bad ones?

Oh, book reviews…the bane of my existence! I have spent a lot of time contacting bloggers in my genre (middle-grade) with hopes of them agreeing to read and review the book, but they have so many books to read it is hard for them to commit, and when they do agree, they can’t get to it for months. Very frustrating! Yes, I read the reviews. I am thin-skinned so the not-so-good ones really bother me! The first review I got wasn’t the best and it almost defeated me, but I quickly got a couple of really good reviews and that boosted my spirits.

Do you prefer reading print, audio or ebooks? Why?

I love the feel of a real book, but I usually read eBooks because they are so convenient, especially when on vacation. I’m not good with audio books…my mind starts to wander and I suddenly realize I haven’t heard the last few pages.

There are many trends in self publishing that have come and gone. What do you think is going to change next in the self or traditional publishing landscape?

I would certainly like to see all-in-one (self) publishers do a better job, especially in the area of marketing. But most of all, I’d like to see self-published books taken more seriously as there are so many good ones out there. It is so hard to get a self-published book into a brick and mortar store and I hope that will change in the future. From what I have seen and read, traditional publishers tend to be myopic in the books they choose and they give most of their money to their big money-makers. A lot of the marketing still has to be done by the author.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Keep writing…write the best book you can…have it professionally edited.

Who is your favorite author, book? The last book you read?

I have so many favorite books, but I guess my all-time favorite is Gone With the Wind. Historical Fiction is my favorite genre and I am currently reading Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian. I love a good mystery and thriller and I wait eagerly every July for Daniel Silva to release his new book! I enjoy the Jack Reacher books by Lee Childs, and all of James Patterson books, especially the Alex Cross series. As a teenager, I loved Daphne du Maurier’s books. I could go on and on!

How do I find you on the Internet?

Visit my website.

Peri Heft

Peri Heft is a 360-degree health and wellness coach who educates, encourages, and inspires others to improve their Meals, Movement, and Mindset. As a certified nutritionist, yoga and fitness instructor, personal trainer, and lover of all things health and holistic wellness, her knowledge and experience surrounding food and its effect on the body plays a large role in her success as a leader, educator, trainer, and author. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, working out, creating artwork, enjoying live music, exploring the outdoors, and spending time with friends and family.

Tell me about your latest book and what inspired you to write it?

I’ve always cooked meals and shared recipes, but as my social media accounts grew bigger and bigger, and as I started taking on more clients in the Health and Wellness industry, people just kept asking for my recipes. Anytime I would share a dish on, let’s say Instagram, I would get several comments and messages asking for the recipe. So I figured, why not create a book that I could sell to folks who want “in” on my cooking style, and provide one to my private clients too!?

Did you choose self or traditional publishing?

I chose self publishing because my goal was never to make a bunch of money with this book. I moreso wanted to do it as a JOY in bringing my love for food and macro-based nutrition to others. Self-publishing seems less intimidating, and also more cost-effective, so I figured this was the way to go for my first book. I went from book manuscript to finished versions (e-book and printed spiral-bound book) by simply saving the file and finding a printer to print and spiral-bound my books for those who wanted physical copies.

Describe your writing routine. How many hours a day/days a week do you write?

Honestly… it took me about a year to create and document all 52 recipes, which makes sense given how many weeks there are in a year. I would do the recipes in batches — typically 3-5 recipes at a time (sometimes taking hours), then kept adding to it as the year went on. Editing was the most tedious process, and I ended up outsourcing that just to help with consistencies and catching mistakes.

How did you come up with your images and graphics?

My background is in digital and social marketing, so I’m already a “whiz” in PowerPoint. Since that’s a format I know well, I decided to create my book in PowerPoint, using my logo, color scheme, and a basic design that I felt presented the information well. All the photos are original — the dishes were created by me, and I took the photos and edited them before placing them into the book.

Do you have any more books that you have written or plan to write and publish? What are your plans for them?

I don’t have any other books at the moment, but would love to create a 4-6-week bootcamp workout guide to inspire people to work out consistently (with a plan), and in a format that’s approachable and will show results. I may want to create that in a digital app format as well, so that one is on pause at the moment until I figure out my scalable and cost-efficient options.

How do you go about obtaining book reviews? Do you read them? How do you deal with the good and the bad ones?

I will probably do that manually to add them to my site (ask people to write reviews and share them there). I haven’t decided how I want to tackle Amazon yet… As for the good and bad reviews — I’m all about customer service and account management, and have done a lot of that in my days in marketing and advertising. I think it’s important to respect people’s opinions and use it as constructive feedback for next time.

Do you prefer reading print, audio or ebooks? Why?

I prefer audio books for quick, short topics while I’m cleaning or cooking, and I prefer printed books for non-fiction, as I like to highlight. If it’s a “beach read” or something light, I don’t mind ebooks.

There are many trends in self publishing that have come and gone. What do you think is going to change next in the self or traditional publishing landscape?

I think MANY people are finding ways to “do it themselves” these days– especially with the rise in entrepreneurship and innovative ways of doing business. I can only imagine that it will trickle into the publishing field. More content, more workbooks, more podcasts, more webinars, etc.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Just start writing! It took me an entire year to put this thing together, but now that it’s “a thing,” I couldn’t be more proud of myself for finally deciding to just START.

Who is your favorite author, book? The last book you read?

I love everything self-help. I love books that inspire me to be a better person, and educate me on tactics and ways to do that. I love books that make me think about my habits and who I hang out with and how that affects my life. I love books that make me question if I’m on the right path, and if not, how to redirect the trajectory of my life to make sure I’m living it to my fullest potential.

What was the best and the most challenging part of the process to get your book from idea into readers hands?

THE WORK that goes into it — the hours writing, working on it, editing… etc. It’s work, but if you want it, you’ll make it happen!

How do I find you on the Internet?

Visit my website.

Angela Thompson

Angela Thompson is a writer of children’s books. She holds a degree in Health and Human Services and has worked in this field for numerous years. Her books rhyme to hold the children’s attention while they are learning. She currently has two books on the market, Who Has Seen the Wind, Today? and How We Get From Here to There?

Tell me about your latest book and what inspired you to write it?

It is titled How We Get From Here to There? It’s a rhyming book about transportation. It is written in a humor mode and I wanted it to be fun to read, yet an easy way to learn about transportation. It was inspired by my grandson’s love of big trucks. He was so excited when saw them while traveling and he likes books about big trucks.

Share your personal publishing story. Did you choose self or traditional? How did you go from book manuscript draft to finished book available for purchase?

As a small child I can remember dreaming of becoming a writer. I would re-write children’s books with a different ending and my after-school hours were spent reading. I choose self-publishing because I wanted to see my book in print, but I would like to get published by a traditional company. I web searched different self-publishing companies until I found one I could afford then I sent in a copy of my manuscript. The company sent a list of questions I had to answer, and I also had to send in the pictures that I wanted in my book in the order that I wanted them. Then I had to approve a copy of the book before they published it. From there is was ready for purchase.

Describe your writing routine. How many hours a day/days a week do you write?

This was kind of a hard question to answer because sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and write down ideas or between the hours of 3 and 4 am. I like Dr. Seuss’ books, especially Green Eggs and Ham. I can still remember it almost word for word. I mention this because my ideas about books almost always come in rhymes. Sometimes I will write for a week then put it aside. It took about a year to get this book together.

Who does your illustrations? Did you or someone you know create them or did you hire someone? What was the experience like?

The first book was illustrated by the publishing company, but I always wanted my daughter to do my illustrations. She did in the second one, How We Get From Here to There?  I was sometimes anxious, impatience and a little bossy at time because I thought she was taking too longer, but I also was excited.

How many unpublished or unfinished books have you written and set aside? What are your plans for them?

I have two finished but unpublished ones and five unfinished ones. I plan on finishing them, but I would like to work with a traditional publisher.

How do you go about obtaining book reviews? Do you read them? How do you deal with the good and the bad ones?

I joined an online book club and had them to review my second, but mostly family and friends wrote reviews.

Do you prefer reading print, audio or ebooks? Why?

Personally, I prefer print. I like the idea of sitting somewhere comfortably and reading and just begin able to turn the pages. I think this is because I’m a visual person and plus the bright light from the tablets causes my eyes to burn.

There are many trends in self publishing that have come and gone. What do you think is going to change next in the self or traditional publishing landscape?

I think in the self-publishing landscape it will be the respect level, because it seems to me that books are not held valuable and are [deemed] worse looking at if they are self-published. In traditional publishing, hopefully it will become a little easier to get published by them.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

To keep pursuing your dream. Do not let someone else’s opinion become what you think of yourself or your writing. If you publish with a self-publishing company, know that you will have to be the main one that promotes your book, as they basically just publish what you write.

Who is your favorite author, book? The last book you read?

James Patterson, Double Cross.

How do I find you on the Internet?

I don’t have an author website address but my books can be purchased on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Dr. Sabina Khan, PhD

Dr. Sabina Khan, PhD, is a research scientist, clinical professor and freelance writer of brain health, nutrition and scientific articles in Miami, FL. Dr. Khan’s research falls at the intersection of neuroscience and women’s health and is focused on how our genetics, diet, environment and lifestyle shape the brain.

Tell me about your latest book and what inspired you to write it?

I have been working as a licensed clinician for nearly ten years and seeing the ins and outs of neurodegenerative conditions, working with patients with Alzheimer’s, Dementia, speaking with family members of patients suffering from cognitive deterioration, I was often asked about preventable factors. I wanted to dive into if living a healthier lifestyle, our diet and nutrition could really outweigh genetic predisposition and make a significant difference for individuals with these conditions or at-risk with respect to brain health. Time and time again, I have found brain chemistry is absolutely changed by food, pollutants and lifestyle choices. This lead to my research deeper into neuro-nutrition and inspired me to write “Feeding Your Brain” for those wanting to take control of their brain health.

Did you choose self or traditional publishing?

I consulted with a few publishing companies and decided on teaming up with Fulton Books as they assist with both distribution and marketing. .

Describe your writing routine. How many hours a day/days a week do you write?

As a busy mom of two and a full-time university professor, I write when I find the time and when I feel motivated. Much of my writing is inspired by evidence-based research, wanting to bring health and wellness disparities to light and advocate for women whose brain health is often overlooked. Women’s health has traditionally focused on breast and gynecological health and for years we have turned a blind eye towards this important women’s health issue: women’s brains.

How do you go about obtaining book reviews? Do you read them? How do you deal with the good and the bad ones?

I don’t have as much time lately to read every book review that comes through but when I do, I appreciate both the positive and negative. Constructive feedback fuels motivation to approach revisions and new assignments, it provides a possible vantage point of where work may have fell short and also tells me what is working and what to keep doing.

Do you prefer reading print, audio or ebooks? Why?

Paper is potentially a more satisfying way to experience a book but at times when traveling, paper books may be heavy and cumbersome to carry along. Therefore, I have become accustomed to enjoying audiobooks especially when on the road.

There are many trends in self publishing that have come and gone. What do you think is going to change next in the self or traditional publishing landscape?

Self-publishing certainly gives authors more control over their own work. Authors in 2021 should expect to do things such as hiring a team for editing, marketing and creating business plans around a personal brand or book. A literary agent can help find the perfect editor, coordinate your book launch and guide you through the publishing process as well.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

No one sees the world quite the same way you do, share your unique perspective. The more comfortable you are concentrating intensely for long periods of time the more successful and productive you will be. Start with training your own cognitive fitness before diving into your first big writing project similar to how you would train your cardiovascular fitness prior to running a marathon.

Who is your favorite author, book? The last book you read?

Mark Hyman, M.D, “Food Fix” is a recent favorite.

How do I find you on the Internet?

Visit my website.

Brad Richard

Brad Richard is the Author of the book “Man at 50 – A Journey of Crisis, Revelation and Survival!” His speaking, mentoring and coaching is focused on helping people move forward with their lives through his unique system of going back to move forward! He currently lives in East Texas with his wife. He is a full time security officer, Realtor® and Host of the Podcast “Man at 50!” His goals are simple: help at least one person and leave his story behind for others to learn, benefit and grow by! 

Tell me about your latest book and what inspired you to write it?

Man at 50 – A Journey of Crisis, Revelation and Survival is my Autobiography, my story of a life filled with fear, sexual identity questions and codependency. I lived a life of a child for the 1st 50 years of my life. My life changed dramatically after I decided my life had to change and the time had come for me to step up to Manhood!

Did you choose self or traditional publishing? How did you go from book manuscript draft to finished book? Where is the book available for purchase?

I self published my 1st book with the help of Outskirts Press. I submitted my manuscript to them and they walked me thru the process to bring it to market. It is available for purchase on my website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and thru bookstores everywhere.

How many hours a day/days a week do you write?

When I was writing, about 10 hours a week in between working full time. I wrote on my days off, but did not have a set writing schedule.

How do you name your characters?

I named my character Robert in my book. I gave all other people involved in my life fictitious names and I used a pen name – S. Richard.

How many unpublished or unfinished books have you written and set aside? What are your plans for them?

I have a co-authored book coming out in the Fall of 2020 & I have a manuscript started for my second book, which will be a self help book, hopefully published end of 2020 or early 2021.

How do you go about obtaining book reviews? Do you read them? How do you deal with the good and the bad ones?

Mostly through Twitter & LinkedIn, also through interviews I have given on Podcasts and Radio Shows. I have reviews from Goodreads and from other Authors. Good ones help me stay focused on my mission and so far I have not had any bad ones!

Do you prefer reading print, audio or ebooks? Why?

Audio! So many things to do with my business, full time job, family and life’s challenges, audio is the best way for me to learn and grow from the words of others.

There are many trends in self publishing that have come and gone. What do you think is going to change next in the self or traditional publishing landscape?

I believe that audio/video and online content will explode over the next few years and that people will be consuming content like air, personal growth will expand & learning will become second nature. People crave other people’s stories, they want to hear more, do more and learn more than ever before.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Just empty your mind, heart and soul onto paper, clean it up later and do not let anyone tell you your story isn’t good enough, we all have a story in us! The Saddest Story, Is the One Never Told! Don’t keep it inside, share and know this, there will always be someone who will gain, benefit or be touched by your words, don’t let them down!

Who is your favorite author, book? The last book you read?

I have so many, Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins and my friend Corey Poirier, author of the book: The Book of Why & How!

How do I find you on the Internet?

Visit my website or contact me via email. You can also follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Teresa Pérez

Teresa Pérez is an American expat living in Argentina with her husband, two dogs, myriad cacti and assorted plants, and the errant wild birds that visit her two bird feeders on any given day. Oh yeah, and the daughter of Cuban immigrants.

Tell me about your latest book and what inspired you to write it?

My latest book is the second in a children’s book series. The idea behind the series is to get children (and their parents) interested in geography and other cultures through the adventures of a loveable, yet imperfect dog. The books blend facts about the country featured in each installation presented alongside a fictional storyline with interesting cultural tidbits scattered throughout. I typically highlight things that are less known or something one might not find in typical tourist literature to offer a more unpredictable adventure and engage both adults and children. I have purposely chosen places off the beaten track in each country, not the most famous cities, as touristy places can often have more outside influence and may not truly reflect the local culture. I also include things which link one country to another (in the series) to highlight the fact that we, as humans, have more in common than one might think, no matter how different our cultures may seem.

This second book was inspired by my time in Uganda working for an NGO. Having never visited the African continent before, I had no expectations but was utter overwhelmed at how friendly, curious and lovely Ugandans are. Everywhere I went, I found a kinship with the local people and shared stories and time with people which has left a lasting impact. When I tell people that the Ugandans are the friendliest people I have ever met in my travels, it always surprises them – for preconceived notions really, not based on any actual experience. Some of their traditions, perhaps “ways of thinking” is a better way to express it, are ideas that are simple but profound at the same time and, in my opinion, worth sharing. I truly wanted to impart this experience, especially with young people, who have not been influenced by the world yet. I firmly believe if children are curious at a young age, this will follow them throughout life and hopefully lead to a desire to learn more about the world around them and form opinions based on facts and experience and not just hearsay.

I have been traveling and living abroad for almost 20 years now. I have heard so many notions adults have about different countries without having ever travelled themselves. I was a bit taken aback by this realization and decided I wanted to do my small part in making a positive change, starting with young people. Adults often get caught up in the practical differences about countries – the language, access to services, level of development – and forget that there are people and cultures with long and wonderful traditions which are overlooked in the process. Children don’t have these notions yet and are more likely to engage in a story they like and become curious about where it is in the world; my sincere hope is that they then read more. When I was a kid, I received a “pen-pal” through a service and that contact with the world outside mine was enough to plant the seed of curiosity within me. With the world changing, not always in the best ways, finding commonalities in our fellow man around the world is something we need now more than ever. Hopefully, Joaquin’s adventures will inspire kids to look outside of themselves and their own cultures and find the good in the world that exists outside their realities.

What is your personal publishing story? Self or traditional?

I self-publish. I found the venue Lulu via a friend and ran with it.

After researching how to get a book published, all the literature stated that winning notoriety in competitions is a first step in attracting publishers. There are so many competitions, it left me spinning. There is a cost with each, which can also be rather limiting. Furthermore, it’s daunting to know which competitions are better than others when starting out. Since I live outside the US, it also adds another layer to the difficulty. Self-publishing gave me the freedom to feel the sense of accomplishment of a finished product and not lose motivation. I can appreciate that publishers have a daunting task ahead of them, and the steps are a way to reduce the number of manuscripts that cross their desks, but after attending workshops and speaking directly with editors, the overwhelmingly negative feedback – not of my product, but about actually having my manuscript just read by someone-was enough to almost make me give up. When I learned of the option to self-publish, I decided it was a good place to start. It’s a place where I can hone my craft, get feedback to see where I can make improvements, and know that I have a finished product of value, all the while providing access to traditional publishers.

How many hours a day/days a week do you write?

This a difficult question to answer. My writing style is a process. My background is in photography and cinema, so I visualize concepts long before putting them on paper. I literally see the “movie”- or even “scenes”- in my head and then put words to those images to paper in ink! I often sketch what imagery I would like for each block of text. Only after I have it down on paper do I sit at the computer and type it up. I often make changes at that stage, but usually, I type what I have previously written on paper and then do a read through and start the editing process. I am not sure what that translates to in hours or days, because a lot of the process takes place in my head. It may sound corny, but I actually spend quite a bit of time in my head developing the story.

How do you name your characters?

I generally name characters after people who have positively influenced me in my life or have played the role the character is for Joaquín in my own life.

How many unpublished or unfinished books have you written?

I currently have three unfinished works in progress. Book 2 in Joaquín’s series, a short sci-fi story and a screenplay.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the good and the bad ones?

For now, I read them. I am still learning and feedback can be incredibly helpful. It’s never easy to read criticism of something so dear to you, but I try to weed out “negativity” and stick with the constructive criticism. I often ask children to proofread and give me feedback. Honestly, I have received some excellent observations from them and useful suggestions which have allowed me to improve my work. While professionals are undoubtedly an incredible resource, more and more often it seems that there is a “formula” that one needs to follow for success in the industry that children simply do not have programmed into them yet. I like their unhindered views and since they are the audience, I value their input immensely.

Do you prefer reading print, audio or ebooks? Why?

The digital age is another element I have battled with. I firmly believe that children need to spend less time on digital media if there is another option available. Who knows what the future will bring? But I truly wanted my book read in print format, not digital. I envision parents reading my physical books with their kids – turning the pages and seeing the colorful imagery and sharing in the adventure. I know that I could reach a larger audience by offering an ebook option, but since my target audience is children, I will stick to my convictions for now. In the future, I may have to add a digital version given that my books take place in countries which might not have easy access to shipping or printing as in the US and I want children, wherever they may be, to have access to these stories.

As for myself, having lived on three different continents and all that moving from country to country implies, the ebook can be an incredible space saver! It has also allowed me to venture into literature I might not have purchased in print and give it a shot. That being said, my favorite books always end up in print form in my library – so there is a reverence I have for printed books which ebooks can never replace.

I do have to mention that the audio book was one of the best inventions of our time. I first tried an audio book after injuring an eye and having to bandage both eyes to facilitate healing. This was over 20 years ago. I called the library in desperation and they sent me books on cassette. Yes, they have been around that long! After my eyes healed, I went back to printed books and forgot about the audio book. Then many years later, I worked a job which had me on the road for hours over the course of each day. In an effort to reduce road rage, I began to listen again; I have been hooked ever since. In our multitasking world, focusing on one thing and one thing only is necessary. The audio book helped me learn how easily my mind could get distracted and forced me to focus. Now, I find it a very calming activity. I often think of how unfortunate it is that cultures based on story-telling are dying out and how verbal storytelling, even within families, is becoming a thing of the past. My father was always telling stories of his life growing up in Cuba or hilarious anecdotes of his first years after immigrating to the US. He still loves a good story. It’s one thing we have shared throughout our lives and perhaps one of the reasons I strive to carry on this tradition. The audio book has something of this and the energy and character voices put forth by the readers are phenomenal.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Don’t second guess yourself. Write your story. It makes no difference if you become famous or even do anything with it. If you have what you feel is “a story” brewing within you, it deserves a life of its own.

Who is your favorite author, book?

To be completely honest, I hate this question. I have had different favorites at different times of my life for very different reasons. One book that stands out would be The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Her ability to tell the same story from the different perspectives of five females, incorporating the different ages of the characters, resonated with me. I am sure this has to do with being the youngest of 6 children and how our perception of similar events has been a recurring theme throughout my life.

How do I find you on the Internet?

You can purchase Joaquín the Hairless Dog at my Lulu store

Matt Ingwalson

Matt Ingwalson is an author of genre fiction including mysteries, thrillers and horror stories. He has published multiple books including SHELF UNBOUND’S BEST INDIE NOVEL OF 2015 and the award-winning Western noir Sin Walks Into the Desert. 

Tell me about your latest book and what inspired you to write it?

The Baby Monitor: A Novella of Family Horrors is about how everyday life drives you insane. The bills that won’t stop coming. The alarm clock you forget to turn off on the weekends. The flat tires. The broken washers. Sometimes it almost seems like there’s some evil force tormenting you.

In The Baby Monitor: A Novella of Family Horrors, you meet Richard and Lissa, two young parents who can’t sleep. Every night their infant son wakes them up screaming, crying, gripped by a terror he’s too young to name. But does he simply have nightmares? Is his nursery haunted? Or there is something even darker eating away at the sanity of this new family? It’s a book about secrets, sleeplessness and stress.

What is your personal publishing story? Self or traditional?

All eight of my published works were too short for traditional publishers. So I never considered going the old-fashioned route. I’m very lucky in this regard. I have a career I love, so I can write what I want and not worry about fitting into the traditional mold. That being said, I just finished a full-length novel. And I’m trying to find a traditional publisher for it.

Why the shift?

Mary Monster is a mashup of urban surrealism and gothic horror. Dance Dance Dance meets Penny Dreadful. My first-person protagonist narrates the story in an awkward faux-1976 Manchester slang. And he drops dozens of indie music references, some explained and some that’ll only make sense to the sort of person who obsesses over The Smiths.

This book would be a disaster if I published it myself. Because the type of people who download self-published fiction do it expecting error-free genre fun. That means the first wave of reviews would be terrible. Some jerk would claim my book was riddled with typos. And Amazon’s algorithm would bury Mary Monster before it got a chance to find an audience.

How many hours a day/days a week do you write?

Totally varies. I spend 10 hours a week on unpaid personal projects. That includes my songs, podcasts, poetry and fiction.

How many unpublished or unfinished books have you written?

I’m prolific. Maybe too prolific. I’m actually trying to slow down and spend more time polishing projects before I move on. In my personal Dead Book Files, I have two finished books. (I shared the reason I canned one of them in a blog post named No Damn Character Arcs.) And I have three or four novels that stalled out after 20,000 words or so. I also have a dozen or so short stories just sitting around. Sometimes I share one with my email list as a freebie.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the good and the bad ones?

Of course I do. The good ones encourage me, make me feel like I’m not shouting into a dry well. Usually bad reviews don’t bum me out too much, as long as they are fair. I guess there’ve been a couple that upset me. For instance, one reviewer accepted a free copy of one of the Owl & Raccoon mysteries, and then gave it one star because she “doesn’t like mysteries.”

A review like that can really hurt, because it tanks your average and your algorithm. But there’s nothing you can do about it. You just have to move on.

Do you prefer reading print, audio or ebooks? Why?

Print. I’m glad people are out there reading my books on Kindle. But I spend too much time staring at screens already.

What do you think is going to change next in the self-publishing landscape?

World-building around fictional properties. I published The Baby Monitor: A Novella of Family Horrors as a podcast, a YouTube series, Kindle book, print book and Twitter feed.

There are more than 2,000 books published every day. If you don’t want yours to sink into the abyss, you have to take advantage of your time and passion to make a splash on day one.

On a less optimistic note, it’s insane how many frauds make money through clickfarms and plagiarism. I hope Amazon finds a way to crack down.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Have a goal. If you want to make a living at this, you need to define a genre, follow the conventions, and write compelling, fast-moving stories. If, on the other hand, you want to publish books for your own personal satisfaction, that’s cool too. Follow your vision.

(Of course, if you happen to be the next Thomas Pynchon, another set of rules apply, you know?)

Also, have the second book in a series finished before you publish the first one. Your best chance to get noticed is to give away thousands of free copies of your first release. You need to have your second book published as soon as possible, so all those new readers can go buy it right away. If you wait a year or two between releases, it’s too late. You’ve been forgotten and Amazon has buried your book. And since very few sites and lists will let you advertise the second book in your series, you basically have to start over again, re-advertising your first book.

Who is your favorite author, book?

God, so many. I think the world of Thomas Pynchon, Cormac McCarthy and Mark Helprin. People who can really make you love the language. But I also like hard-boiled stuff by Jim Thompson, Dennis Lehane, Don Winslow and Joe Lansdale. James Ellroy lives somewhere is between – a visionary stylist who writes gritty crime novels. If you want, you can follow my reads and reviews on Goodreads.

How do I find you on the Internet?

This is literally the easiest thing to do in the history of the world. You can start with these links.