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Best Of This Month's Reads

Writing Bloc’s Best of August: Contributors Share their Favorite Book of the Month

Writing Bloc’s Best Reads August Edition. Welcome to the fourth post in our ongoing best of series, in which a few of our Writing Bloc contributors share their favorite read of the month. For the month of August, we hear from Robert, Becca, and Michael.

Robert’s Recommendation – Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Cover art for Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi AdeyemiMy audiobook this month has been Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi and narrated by Bahni Turpin. The novel is a fantasy that draws on African culture to give us a wonderful new world to explore, full of beautifully realized people and places. It tells us the story of Zélie Adebola, a young Diviner whose birthright was to become a powerful magi — until magic inexplicably left the world.

Read the official synopsis:

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for an enemy.

Everything about this novel is captivating. The characters are deep and complex, the world is detailed, and the plot sings. This is further enhanced in the audiobook by Bahni Turpin’s narration, which is flawless. Children of Blood and Bone has already earned a lot of hype, and been optioned for a motion picture, so you’ve likely heard the title before. If you haven’t read it, I recommend picking up a copy.

You can add it on Goodreads here or order it from Amazon here.

Becca’s Recommendation – Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson

My pick this month is Jodi Lynn Anderson’s Midnight at the Electric. This book follows three protagonists, Adri, a young woman who has been selected to colonize Mars in the year 2065, Catherine, who dreams of escaping the Dust Bowl with her ailing sister in 1934, and Lenore, who plans to leave post World-War I England for America.

Anderson’s story navigates between these three women, revealing their connections through letters, stories, and a tortoise named Galapagos.
Midnight at the Electric is a page turner that had me invested in its characters from the first chapter. Anderson somehow manages to seamlessly weave themes of humans’ role in climate change, American and British history, family, and friendship into one epic tale. I found it pretty impressive that she created a story that effectively appeals to fans of sci fi and historical fiction, often blurring the lines between the two.
This book stands alone easily, but I am dreaming of ways Anderson could turn it into a sequel.

Michael’s Recommendation – Calypso by David Sedaris

David Sedaris is a national treasure. I realize that it’s odd to say this, as he usually lives in England. However, Calypso renewed my confidence in his national treasure status, as most of the book follows events surrounding an oceanside home he and his husband bought in Emerald Isle, North Carolina. And in true David Sedaris style, he christened said home the “Sea Section.”

If you’ve read Sedaris’s previous work, then you know what you’re in for. It’s embellished memoir pulled from bits and pieces of his life told in a style that is easy to fall in love with, soothing to read, and laugh out loud hilarious. If you haven’t read any of his work before, then what are you waiting for?

While the “Sea Section” is the thread pulling each story together, Sedaris fills the book with wonderful stories following such topics as adopting a fox, saving a tumor to feed to a sea turtle, how people cuss each other out in traffic in different countries, and oh so much more. Despite the seemingly disjointed and bizarre topics I just listed, Sedaris has a talent for pulling everything together to make you smile on every page. He’s a master of his art; one of those writers who can move from silly laughter to heartache in moments while allowing you to enjoy it all. If anything, this book, like all of David Sedaris’s books, is so amazing simply for its sweet, brutal honesty.

Now go read.

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Author Interview Writing Life

Interview with Novelist and Screenwriter Mike Donald

Mike Donald is a UK-based novelist and screenwriter. His current novel, Louisiana Blood, started out as a multiple award-winning screenplay that earned him some great attention in the Hollywood scene. Mike adapted the screenplay into a novel, and Louisiana Blood was published late last year. The novel is an incredible and thrilling mystery involving alternate history (more specifically, an intense conspiracy involving Jack the Ripper never having existed), and it is a thoroughly enjoyable read. I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike about how his novel came to be and his perspective on writing. Enjoy.

When did the idea for Louisiana Blood first strike you?

Louisiana Blood was really an amalgamation of ideas. I’d been filming in New Orleans and found the whole place really atmospheric, so subliminally this is where the location came from. I went to quite a famous restaurant there called The Court of Two Sisters, which became Crawdaddy’s in the Novel. I’d also loved the film “There will be Blood”, and “All the Kings Men.” Which gave me more atmosphere, and the governor Huey Long as an important figure who believed in doing whatever it took to get the job done…a big picture man, not bothered by the niceties of sticking to the law.

I was working with a couple of producers at the time and from them I knew that a lot of productions were being set up in Louisiana so that gave me a nudge to that location for more practical reasons. I had recently read a book about one of the main Ripper suspects called Tumblety who fled England to the US and wound up in St Louis…so he became the way of linking Victorian London to modern day Louisiana. With all of these components whirling around like some sort of creative tinder, it only took a creative spark to ignite the fire that would end up being my crazy idea. That being…What if Jack the Ripper never really existed? At which point I imagine it was around 2008.

Once I had the general idea in my head I read as many Jack the Ripper books as I could get my hands on. My idea was to absorb all of the theories and suspects and blend perceived reality with fiction to produce a dramatic story, rather than to try and add to the supposed canon of authors claiming to have discovered the Ripper’s true identity.

How long did the process take to get from idea to novel?

Between 2007/2008 I was working on the research and screenplay. My producers were involved with a large Canadian film fund with access to around $600m in funding. As well as setting up a project with Ferrari to do the life story of Enzo, they were also budgeting $10m and $30m for two of my projects. I had written a supernatural cop film called DEADEYE in conjunction with a Jake West a director friend of mine who produced cult hits like Razorblade Smile and Evil Aliens.

Along with Louisiana Blood I had been commissioned to write a screenplay re-imagining Pumpkinhead as a militarised character to relaunch the franchise for producer Brad Krevoy (Dumb and Dumber.) So things were busier than normal. As happens all too often in the screentrade, the Canadian film fund fell out with our co-producers and this coincided with the 2008 financial crash which hit the fund badly. This left the project in hiatus.

In 2010 I took Louisiana Blood the screenplay to Hollywood via many contests and film festivals. It won or placed in about 20 of them and I got invited to L.A to tout my wares. Despite numerous meetings I couldn’t get anybody to option the script and so it went on the backburner. A few years passed and I decided that Louisiana Blood was too good an idea to for it die on the vine, adapted it into a novel. I’d heard about a new publisher called INKSHARES which was a mix of traditional publishing and crowdfunding. You had to demonstrate public enough interest to convince them it was a worthwhile project and they would publish. It took six months to raise the money and I finished off the manuscript in 2016. I had the cover designed to my spec and submitted the whole package to Inkshares. The novel was published in Dec 2017.

I’m hoping the success of the book will help me back-engineer the book into a film and I’ll get a second chance to get it onto the big screen. The feedback so far is amazing, mainly from female readers which is very satisfying as in my experience women are looking for a more emotional experience from a book than men. I think they are surprised that it isn’t as graphic as the word BLOOD in the title might imply. The phrase Louisiana Blood cropped up in my research as a description of the oil business as it was back in the days of the first oil strikes where money was made and lives were lost. One of the most fascinating images I saw during my research was of Huntington Beach…all along the coast oil derricks soared into the sky giving it a sort of demonic feel and bringing to mind the phrase Satanic Mills.

What is it about your characters that inspired you to carry them into a series of stories?

Well, it was part my love of the characters belief their longevity, and part fiscal prudence in wanting them to live on maybe in the small screen arena. Nowadays there is more money spent on Netflix and Amazon than some feature films. The budgets for boxed sets such as Westworld, The Man in the high castle and Game of thrones is huge. Looking forward to the second in the series, Bruges Blood, with Detective Hoog and Katja, I think it’s high time to plunder the ashes of Van der Valk and kick start a Bruges based detective series.

When I started writing Bruges Blood I imagined a series of catacombs beneath the police station where Hoog decimates cardboard cutouts on the firing range to the sound track of Dua Lipa’s “Be the one.” No one was more surprised to discover that there really are catacombs beneath the station! The police were very generous in letting me nose around.

 

And on that note VENICE BLOOD is another series I’d like to spin off. I’ve never heard of a Venice based police series and the place is really atmospheric. Controlling the interaction of all the detectives and countries they live in will be a challenge, but that’s all part of the fun.

Are there bits of yourself in your characters?

Mmmm, difficult to say. I think there’s parts of me reflected in Chandler and maybe the technical side of Roxie. But I generally try to remain omnipotent. I suspect that most writers are under the skin, control freaks.

Give us an idea of what your writing process is like.

I generally try to be down at the gym by 04:00, do some cardio till 05:00. Then back for breakfast, before going to the cabin down by the lake where I’ll write until the sun comes up which is when I do a jog round the lake. Then I’ll usually write straight through until I’ve done my 5000 word total for the day…is what I’d like to say! In reality my day is totally unstructured. I usually have around 2 Hrs a day during the week and longer over the weekend, but that is unfocussed time. I’m marketing Louisiana Blood at the moment and itching to continue with Bruges Blood and research Venice Blood. Once I can dedicate a specific time to write I’m pretty fast. When I was writing Pumpkinhead I was on holiday in Scotland and I was told they needed the script done in 2 weeks…I remember sitting down by the loch which was the only place I could get Wi-Fi at the time and sending stuff back and forwards. Once I’d finished I was told that the project was for the Sci-Fi channel…as a result my epic was way over their budget and they ended up doing a story which was pretty much featured an actor in a rubber suit. Like most writers it’s a constant battle to get momentum on a finished project while getting the next one up and running.

You are a screenwriter as well. What is the greatest difference between writing a screenplay and writing a novel? Do you prefer one over the other?

The greatest difference between a script and a novel for me is the amount of description and backstory you can add into a novel. That and the time scales. By that I mean in a script a man pulls up outside a house and we cut to the gun battle or whatever inside. In a book we follow our character as they head to the house, maybe ruminating about what he thinks he’s heading into. Show what the weather’s like, what the traffic’s like, show him checking his weapon, maybe a bit of internal thought on his choice of gun etc…on the one hand this is great because you can really give an atmosphere to the piece…on the other hand you have to write three or four times as many words as a script. Louisiana Blood was way too long as a script, probably around 130 pages, and I had to cut that down to 100 once I started showing it around L.A. This meant I had to lose a whole sub-plot that I was able to reinstate in the novel. Also because I was writing a book I was able to plot in all sorts of clues and characters that were going to interweave through the next two books in the series. But if I’m blunt the most important difference is that if you write a novel and get it published, that process isn’t governed by budget or an actors availability. It’s also a piece of creativity that is more permanent than a screenplay. A screenplay is like a blueprint to build something. It gives birth to a film and it’s the film that lives on through history. The script that begat it is consigned to the vaults and held in awe by nascent writers who read the work of their peers so they can see the nuts and bolts of the master at work.

Who are some of your influences?

From a screen-writers point of view, I’d say Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.) and Christopher Nolan, (The Prestige, Inception.) From an author’s perspective, I’m going through a Jack Reacher phase, also Michael Connelly and his Bosch series on Amazon. Growing up I devoured everything Sci-Fi, and was a big fan of William Gibson, Asimov and Arthur C Clarke. I’m also dipping into some of the more recent novelists that I’ve been introduced to on Inkshares. Sync City published by Pete Ryan, and another one he has in the works Destiny Imperfect, are both great reads in the hard boiled sci-fi genre.

What are some of the projects you’re currently working on?

I always have a selection of screenplays going out to producers and on top of that there’s obviously the Trilogy of novels Louisiana, Bruges, and Venice Blood.

I’d like to thank Mike Donald for the interview. Please visit the links below to explore more of his work or to purchase the incredible “Louisiana Blood”.

Mike Donald standing by Hollywood sign

Related Links:

Mike Donald’s Websites: www.touchwoodpictures.com www.louisianablood.com

Mike Donald’s blog: www.louisianablog.louisianablood.com

To Purchase “Louisiana Blood”: Via Amazon Via Inkshares


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Author Interview illustrator interview Writing Life

Interview with Phil Rood, “That Illustrator Guy”

Phil Rood is someone you should know.

He is an illustrator out of Florida, and his work is marvelous. He is a master of body language, and each individual illustration of his tells a story. In my adventures as a writer, I’ve stumbled across uncountable talented people. Phil Rood’s talents left an impact on me almost immediately. He was recommended to me by fellow authors Rick Heinz and J.F. Dubeau, and so I started following Phil’s Facebook page. I recommend you do the same.

Not only are Phil’s illustrations carefully detailed and just downright fun, but the man is a study in dedication. He illustrates every single day and posts his work for all to enjoy. Often he will post videos of his illustration process using Facebook’s live feature, putting himself on the spot without hesitation.

He has a website (which I encourage you to access by clicking here) where you can peruse his portfolio, check out his latest creations, and purchase his books as well as individual hand-drawn works. Not only is he talented, but he is also an easy fellow to talk to. And he responds to any fan comments or questions with great efficiency. I had the pleasure of interviewing him. I hope you enjoy the result. A few of his works and a video of his process can be found below.

cowboy and lady standing by piano

When did you first discover your love of illustrating?

Probably around 12 years ago when I finally got around to going to college. I’ve always drawn, but when I went to school and studied graphic design, I started to really see the ability for me to practically apply drawing and illustrating.

Who are some of your greatest influences?

Bill Watterson and Gary Larson influenced me early, both in aesthetic ways and in the way their art carried so much humor. Stylistically, I’m influenced a lot by comic artists Jake Parker and Skottie Young and illustrator Ralph Steadman, who is able to cram so much energy into his drawings that they practically move on their own. That’s the kind of thing I keep looking for. From a career overview, I think comedian Marc Maron has been very influential to me as well. He’s spoken a lot about how he found success by not trying to please everyone, by staying true to his voice, and letting his audience find him. I think there’s a lot to be said about that and I’ve tried to walk that line.

Do you have a favorite illustration or story that you’ve completed?

Generally, my favorite illustrations tend to be whatever is most recent. I’m constantly trying to improve and if I’m doing it right, I’m happiest with the newest thing off my desk. There are some that have stuck with me over time as being favorites, like a drawing of three demons I drew for my “Monster Alphabet” series. They are modeled after my three sons. As for stories, I recently finished a really simple 14-page comic called “Sally” and I’m very proud of a lot of the work I did in that.

judgmental cat illustration

Give us an idea of your process from concept to complete.

I basically do a couple rough sketches of an idea to try to get an idea of composition and how it’s going to be executed. After I’m happy with that, I pencil the drawing on a sheet of Bristol, then I ink right over top of it. That’s it. The entire process is pretty laughably simple, but keeping things simple is pretty key for me. If I’m doing a longer form project, like a comic, it gets a bit more complicated, but that’s just because there’s more things than drawing going on.

Storytelling, pacing, layout, and visual storytelling with clarity all have to be taken into consideration. The entire comic/book gets planned out in sketch form, just like I would do for a single illustration. It’s pretty much the same process on a bigger scale. When the actual drawing is done, I scan it in, usually at a healthy 600dpi, and open the scan in Photoshop where I can clean it up and get a nice, clean high-resolution bitmap version of it.

Do you have a routine or do you wait for inspiration to strike?

I tend to be of the school of thought that thinks if you sit around and wait for inspiration to strike, you’ll be staring at a blank piece of paper for weeks on end. You have to draw something every day, even if it’s a 5-minute sketch. If that’s all the time I have, then I put all the effort I can into that 5-minute sketch, but I do it and it’s something I stress in the classes I teach.

Do your illustrations inspire your stories, or do your stories inspire your illustrations?

There’s no hard and fast rule for me either way, but I’d say the tendency is for a drawing to inspire a story, which in turn spawns more drawings, whether that be a written piece or a comic. The initial drawing may just be a character or vehicle I sketch or scribble, but it’s enough to get the ball rolling. Sometimes it takes and I get a full illustrated story. Sometimes it ends up in a pile of nothing… the ever growing pile of nothing…

cowboy gunslinger illustration

What tools do you use for illustrating?

I’ll start with paper since that’s an easier answer: My go-to is basically just industry-standard Strathmore 300 Series smooth Bristol. It’s heavy and stands up to the abuse I can sometimes put a sheet of paper through. My pens are sort of shifting constantly because I’m a giant pen nerd. At the moment, I’m using Copic Multiliner and Micron tech pens because I’m loving the simple line I get from them, but I also employ various brush pens, markers, and crow quills. I am constantly experimenting with new pens and seeing what kinds of lines and results I can get from them.

What software do you use?

Digitally I just use an old copy of Photoshop Elements for cleanup and color. I’m not much of a colorist, so when I do use it, it’s very simple and Elements meets my needs for it, as does the ProCreate app on my iPad. I have played around with that quite a bit in the last year and colored almost all of my “Ink & Sunshine” illustrations with that. As for straight-up digital line drawing, I don’t do much, but when I do, I use Sketchbook Pro. It’s an older program. Kari Simms and I are developing a video podcast right now that involves live sketching and that is likely going to be our go-to software for that.

Do you have a favorite character out of all the ones you’ve created?

Not really… I have some affinity for a lot of them that I’ve told stories with. Some have just been drawings I’ve made in passing, then put into a folder with the idea “I’ve got to tell a story with this guy”, but as you probably know, the idea file grows fast and we’re forced to pick and choose what we have time for. I like a lot of my characters very much, but it’s tough to pick a favorite. If I keep drawing them, there’s something I love about them, and it’s different in each one.

What kind of story are you working on right now?

I have a couple ideas kicking around in my head, but I’m not really working on a story at the moment. I got into the podcasting world about six months ago and have been working with the crew at Blazing Caribou Studios. I have a few shows coming up with them and have been doing an illustration per episode for their “Varmints!” podcast, which I am finding to be all kinds of fun. It’s nice to take a break and do some stand-alone illustrations for right now.

Do you ever get into slumps or have periods of creator’s block? If so, how do you get out?

Of course I do, the trick is to not let it stop me from getting to the desk. For me the key is to keep showing up, even if no quality is coming out of it. If you want to get over creator’s block, you’ve got to create. You’ve got to draw something. You’ve got to write something. I think for me, a lot of it lies in forgetting that I have creator’s block and being open to ideas, even simple ones. If I see a person who looks interesting to me, I remember them, I go home, and I draw an exaggerated version of them in my sketchbook…I make something out of something I see. I take it the next step away from reality. That’s creating and it helps get the flow moving again.

Any advice for other illustrators or storytellers?

Write or draw every day. Lack of time is not an excuse. If it’s truly important to you, you will find the time.

Related Links:

Phil Rood’s website: http://philrood.com/

Phil Rood’s Facebook page: Phil Rood, That Illustrator Guy

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Best Of This Month's Reads

Writing Bloc’s Best of July: Contributors Share their Favorite Book of the Month

Writing Bloc’s Best Reads July Edition. Welcome to the third post in our ongoing best of series, in which a few of our Writing Bloc contributors share their favorite read of the month. For the month of July, we hear from Becca, Jacqui, and Michael.

 

Becca’s Recommendation – We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

I came across We Are Okay on a list of the best young adult books of 2017. It lives up to the recognition.

 

Most of the book takes place over the course of three days as Marin, a young woman struggling with the passing of her grandfather, is visited over winter break at her college by her best friend Mabel, who Marin has ghosted– left behind without notice, ignoring all her texts.

 

I didn’t know this was the premise when I downloaded the audiobook, and if I had, I would have been even more eager to check it out. My own best friend of over 20 years “ghosted” me, leaving me grasping for music or literature that describes the painful experience. We Are Okay conveys the situation from the point of view of the person ignoring her close friend, which I found strangely comforting. It is not, the book makes clear, about a lack of love for her friend. It is actually the opposite, as Marin loves Mabel so dearly she aches.

 

My only complaint about We Are Okay is that it didn’t explain clearly how Mabel planned her visit to Marin. LaCour makes it seem like Marin has ignored all of Mabel’s attempts at contact and yet they somehow coordinate a cross-country visit. In spite of this, though, LaCour has crafted a lovely, moving novel.

 

We Are Okay explores themes of grief, loss, family, and home, in a touching and realistic way, and for many, these themes will shine most brightly. For someone who is grappling with the loss of a friendship and coming to terms with that relationship ending without answers,  LaCour has created a novel that allowed me to do vicariously what I have imagined so many times– show up on my friend’s doorstep, not to demand an apology, but to tell my friend that I love her.

 

Jacqui’s Recommendation – Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood has been on my to-read list since it hit shelves in 2016. The story delves into some intense and eye-opening subject matter – taking place in South Africa during the fall of apartheid and educating the reader on the complexities of politics of South Africa and race relations during that time. Trevor Noah’s father was Swiss, and his mother Xhosa, and Trevor’s very existence was considered illegal at the time of his birth, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. Noah delivers his story of struggle and navigating a dangerous society with a brilliant mix of comedy and humility, bringing the listener from laughing to crying and back again many times over as he tells tales of kidnapping, abuse, pirated music, and celebrity impersonation.
 
The book is laid out as several personal essays and Noah’s relationship with his mother is a continuous thread throughout the book. It is heartwarming and inspiring what the two of them made it through together, and through many of the events are atrocities that none of us would ever hope to live through, Noah delivers his story without bitterness and instead fills it with strength, comedy, and hope.
 
While I almost always opt for reading a physical book over listening to an audiobook, I generally make it through about one audiobook a month. This is one of those rare stories that I have to recommend experiencing in audiobook format. If you are a fan of Noah, you won’t want to miss him narrating his own story.

 

Michael’s Recommendation – Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan

I first heard about this book from author Peter Ryan, who said that it was one of his favorite science fiction stories. Fast forward about a year later, suddenly I’m having people ask if I’ve seen Altered Carbon on Netflix. Trust me, I’d like to, but I promised myself I’d read the book first. And I just finished it. Wow. This book is no joke.

Hard-hitting, thought-provoking, and thrilling, Altered Carbon delivers. Written in a fast-paced first person from the perspective of ex-U.N. envoy Takeshi Kovacs, Altered Carbon presents a unique and haunting future in which consciousness itself is transferrable between bodies (or sleeves), making death itself something of the past. That is, if you can afford the procedure.

The story takes place in a 25th century San Francisco (now dubbed “Bay City”), where Takeshi Kovacs wakes up in a new sleeve hundreds of light years from his home. He was brought to Bay City by Laurens Bancroft, a wealthy man who has re-sleeved himself enough times to live for hundreds of years. Laurens hires Takeshi to investigate his “suicide,” as he is convinced he was actually murdered. Under circumstances that make it difficult to refuse, Takeshi Kovacs takes on the assignment, and is launched into a dark conspiracy he never could have anticipated.

The story is compelling, violent, and incredible. I enjoyed reading it even more than I anticipated. And now that I’m finished, I can watch the show and see what everyone is talking about. But, probably not before I read the next novel in the series…you know, just in case. I hate spoilers.

 

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Author Interview

Interview with Author Michael Gaudet

Michael Gaudet is not your typical author.

When Mr. Gaudet approached me to talk about his book, I was immediately intrigued. He is a unique author to me, as he is someone who has suffered kidney disease for most of his life, to the point of requiring organ donation. Mr. Gaudet writes frankly and openly about his experiences, and his message is clear and important. Organ donation is a vital need for so many people out there, but it is something that has a strange stigma attached. Mr. Gaudet has taken his time and energy to write about his experiences to help educate the public about his personal journey and health for the betterment of all. Please enjoy the following interview and pick up a copy of his book, “Dancing with Rejection”.

michael gaudet holding book while receiving dialysis

Tell us a little bit about your book, “Dancing with Rejection”.

I particularly admire the review that was written by best-selling author Eldonna Edwards:

“Intriguing story of an enterprising muralist with an appetite for the mystical. Part magical realism, part biography, part how-to guide for the aspiring artist — Dancing With Rejection offers a unique narrative, embellished with spiritual and metaphysical undertones that border on the ethereal. Michael’s saga takes the reader on adventures that include his formative childhood, bohemian lifestyle, a near-death experience with kidney failure and eventual success as a renowned mural artist. This inspirational tale is tenderly painted with brush strokes of resilience and hope that will alter your heart’s canvas long after you put the book down.”

–Eldonna Edwards,  Living Donor Advocate and Author of  Lost In Transplantation: Memoir of an Unconventional Organ Donor.

As I like to say, “If you believe what you are reading, I offer irrefutable proof of ‘life after death’ in my writing. Dancing with Rejection: A Beginner’s Guide to Immortality explores the phenomenon of “After Death Contact” in a visceral, sometimes shocking way, that springs out of seemingly ordinary scenarios. Not for the feint of heart, this book can be very jarring, but always written with a loving nature that pleads for understanding and compassion.

What made you decide to write a book about your experiences with your health?

I have always written about my thoughts and observations since I was a teenager. So, I had a thick raft of long-hand on loose-leaf. I wrote about my “Near-Death Experience” at age 19, and the powerful influence that my deceased father had on my life over the years. Might sound strange, but my personal encounters with his spirit are undeniable, if not inexplicable. My brother Steven donated a life-saving kidney to me in 1979, after I was diagnosed with End Stage Renal Failure. His “Gift of Life” sustained me in excellent health for over 34 years. In May of 2014 I returned to dialysis. I purchased a laptop and began to transcribe all of my hand-written notes into a digital format. I was very determined to make the best of my twelve hours per week tethered to a machine. After all, there is no guarantee that a dialysis patient will survive the rigors of the treatment. In fact, many patients succumb to the precarious life of dialysis. So, the sense of urgency was top of mind, as I toiled away on the project to polish up my manuscript and get my story out to the world. I would not be deterred! Within about eighteen months I had succeeded in publishing my first book. About a year later, I succeeded in publishing my second book, called “A Work in Progress: The Life my Brother Saved”.

What sort of feedback have you had from others in similar circumstances?

Generally speaking, my books have been very well-received by my friends and colleagues that have experienced extreme health challenges, especially my fellow Dialysis Warriors and kidney transplant recipients, and living kidney donors. I think the big appeal is that they see their own stories reflected in a literary setting. I take this whole business very seriously, so treat the fairly delicate themes of “Near Death Experience” and “After Death Contact” with a lot of graphic detail. However, I do not mince my words; but rather, I forge head-long into that rather harrowing subject matter with unflinching honesty.
michael gaudet reading at a podium

Has speaking out about your health changed you or made things easier for you in any way?

I won’t lie. It was not easy to put down in writing all of the sometimes painful memories of my long, slow decline to the point where I came so close to an early demise. I really believe that my readers have appreciated  my candor. Some people have told me that they see themselves in the more “difficult” passages, and also can share my celebratory tones in the chapters that extol the human triumphs of renewed health and vitality. Now, reflecting on these places, times and (extraordinary) people can be a saving grace in and of itself. I am truly blessed that I had the opportunity and determined spirit that enabled me to record all of this for posterity.

Tell us about why it is so hard to receive organ donation.

Probably the most daunting aspect of living organ donation is dispelling the myths around the health challenges involved. Really, once the rigorous testing is completed for the potential living donor, it’s pretty smooth sailing in most instances. The actual surgery is often done “laparoscopically”, which means there are only tiny incisions, assisted by ultrasonic viewing. The recovery time is dramatically reduced, compared to the former, long incision used to harvest a kidney from a living donor. Having said that, it is still major surgery, so the willingness for a person to donate must be tempered by this knowledge. The reality is, once a willing candidate to donate a life-saving kidney to person who is dialysis-dependent is identified, a perfect tissue match is not a prerequisite! There is a protocol called “Paired Match”, where a willing, qualified donor can be paired with the best possible match in a National Recipient Pool. This activates the best possible donor from the pool to be paired to the original recipient. In some instances, the “Paired Match” protocol has brought over a dozen paired matches together!

What is it like having to go through hemodialysis?

Hemodialysis is a life-saving therapy that both cleans the blood of accumulated toxins and also, helps rid the blood of the fluids that add up between treatments. Generally speaking, the duration of treatments are prescribed to alleviate the threat of kidney failure, providing a fairly healthy lifestyle. Having said that, there are times when the dialysis patient feels “off”. Examples of this are “brain-fog”, shortness of breath, general fatigue, elevated blood pressure and of course, swelling of the extremities. In extreme cases, certain toxins such as potassium, urea and sodium accumulate and cause their own world of trouble.
I am one of the rare birds that self-cannulate, or, in other words, insert my own needles in the venus and arterial parts of my “fistula”, which are the sites on my left arm that have been surgically prepped to allow the therapy. Usually the pain involved in initiating the therapy is fairly minimal, mostly due to the fact that I am the one in the driver’s seat. Sometimes, when things go awry, the needles can “blow”, which means they pierce the fistula to allow blood to escape into the surrounding tissue, resulting in a sudden “ballooning” and then, fairly extreme bruising. The only relief is to apply an ice-pack over the site, and then move away from the spot for the next treatment, if at all possible.
My doctor has told me the my fistula is a) my lifeline, and b) the Gold Standard for dialysis. So, any tests, like blood-work or blood-pressure, must NEVER be using my left arm. My Medic-Alert bracelet states that salient fact clearly, in the event that I cannot speak for myself.
michael gaudet in photo session

What do you think is the most important thing you want people to learn from reading your book?

I want my readers to appreciate that a healthy and very productive life can spring from out of the chaos and confusion of a near brush with death. I can only thank my loving brother Steven for insisting that he donate a life-saving kidney in my dire time of need all those years ago.  “Dancing with Rejection” not only describes my own near-fatal experience, but also chronicles the heroic “Gift of Life” from my brother, and goes on to assure my readers that Steven went on to live a full and rich life in the aftermath. It is my (fervent) hope that this story will inspire many others to take the step to become a living donor, and also to reassure the millions of us living with the insidious condition of kidney failure that their day will come, when they are restored to vibrant health and wellness.

What other books have you written/are working on?

I have published my second book called, “A Work in Progress: The Life My Brother Saved”, that tracks some of my significant mural projects, portrays the “love of my life” and introduces the indomitable “Pearl”… who is my daughter. This second book terminates at the moment when I discover, after over thirty-four years of life with my “Gift of Life”, that I must return to thrice-weekly dialysis. Now, I am marinating a third book, that will constitute the complete “trilogy” of my memoirs. The third book, as of yet untitled, will be written in “real time” as I enter the next phase of my life with second “Gift of Life”, that will gain me back my seven days a week, God and all the angels willing.
Please visit me at www.mrgaudet.com to read more.

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Best Of This Month's Reads

Writing Bloc’s Best of June: Contributors Share their Favorite Book of the Month

Writing Bloc’s Best Reads June Edition

Welcome to the second post in our ongoing best of series, in which a few of our Writing Bloc contributors share their favorite read of the month. Robert Batten, Becca Spence Dobias, Michael Haase, Christopher Lee, and Jacqui Castle have a few titles to test the strength of your to-read shelf.

Becca’s Recommendation: Sorcery for Beginners by Matt Harry

I was perusing my local independent bookstore last month, when I saw something that made me literally squeal—the first book from Inkshares, the publisher my own novel is in production with, in the wild. It was Sorcery for Beginners by Matt Harry, and I bought it immediately, gushing to the owner about how excited I was.

Though it clocks in at over 400 pages, I finished the book quickly, partly because of its status as a middle grade novel, but mostly because of how fun and engaging it is. Sorcery introduces itself as a guide to the world of magic, explaining that it provides this introductory lesson through the tale of another young sorcerer.

That tale is heartfelt and believable. At 31, I still wanted to suspend my disbelief so young readers are sure to be even more enthralled. When the book explains that adults can’t learn sorcery, I tried to convince myself that perhaps I still count as a kid. Though it is intended for younger readers, Sorcery does not dumb itself down, and there are several references that adults will appreciate.

At times it is emotional and suspenseful, as the author explores themes like family, friendship, and moral responsibility with compassion. The characters have depth, and several have the potential for growth, which I hope we will see in sequels.

Sorcery for Beginners makes several nods, both direct and indirect, to Harry Potter. It’s clear that Matt Harry is influenced by his love for the series, and his debut book is one he could be proud to show Rowling.

The end of the book sets readers up for the follow-up, Cryptozoology for Beginners. I am looking forward to its release and another adventure with the young sorcerers.

 

Jacqui’s Recommendation: Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration

My recommendation this month is for a collection of essays from prominent YA authors. Hope Nation contains essays from authors such as Atia Abawi, author of The Secret Sky, and Ally Condie, author of Matched. Readers will find a diverse range of voices represented within Hope Nation‘s pages, as each author shares an inspiring story from their own past, or simply a hopeful letter to YA readers. The stories within Hope Nation were compiled by Rose Brock.

So what is Hope Nation? Simply, it’s a collection of unique and personal experiences shared by some of my favorite writers for teens. Stories of resilience, resistance, hardship, loss, love, tenacity, and acceptance – stories that prove that sometimes, hope can be found only on the other side of adversity. I’m so grateful to each of these talented writers for sharing their own paths to hope.

As with any compilation, some essays hit harder than others, and with a collection like this one, readers will certainly find those that reach out and pull them for personal reasons. My favorites included The Kids Who Stick by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely, Don’t Listen to the A**Holes by Atia Abawi, and Baseball Pasta by Christina Diaz Gonzalez.

Michael’s Recommendation: Fool by Christopher Moore

I cannot get enough of Christopher Moore. He is a national treasure, in my humble opinion. He made his great break with the bestseller, Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, and he has been owning the comedic novel scene ever since.

I love Christopher Moore for his comedy, his lack of restriction, and his ability to tell a story. With Fool, he riffs off of the master of storytelling himself, William Shakespeare.

Fool is designed to be a satire of King Lear, but it is oh so much more. The story follows Pocket, King Lear’s fool, as he finds himself in the middle of (and partially responsible for) an impending war between kingdoms. The story is expertly told with such great pacing and appropriate homage to Shakespeare himself, I can’t help but admit that I reread this book at least once every year. It is a great tale with an excellent protagonist (who earned himself a starring role in another one of Moore’s great books, The Serpent of Venice.

I’d go on, but I’ll let the book itself warn you of what you’re in for should you read it:

“This is a bawdy tale. Herein you will find gratuitous shagging, murder, spanking, maiming, treason, and heretofore unexplored heights of vulgarity and profanity, as well as non-traditional grammar, split infinitives, and the odd wank.”

Robert’s Recommendation: The Seclusion by Jacqui Castle

Book Cover: The Seclusion, by Jacqui CastleI’m going to have to call out something in the interests of transparency before I get into my recommendation. The Seclusion is written by Writing Bloc contributor Jacqui Castle, which may mean I approach this with some bias, but I just finished reading my copy and loved it so much I’m going to recommend it anyway.

The Seclusion is the debut novel from journalist Jacqui Castle and it’s a ripper. The story is set in a dystopian future America that has been twisted into an isolationist authoritarian nation, separated from the rest of the world by the enormous Northern and Southern Security Borders. All history predating the walls is banned and information is tightly controlled. In this new America, the people are ruled by a faceless board and mindless patriotism is favored above all else. Into this setting we meet Patricia. As an environmental scientist, she’s one of the few people permitted to roam beyond the city walls. It’s while on one of these research trips she stumbles upon a trove of forbidden information that triggers a harrowing sequence of events.

In the year 2090, America has walled itself off from the rest of the world. When her father is arrested by the totalitarian Board, a young woman sets out to escape the only country she’s ever known.

While on a routine assignment scouting the viability of dwindling natural resources outside the massive urban centers most American citizens call home, Patricia ’Patch’ and her co-worker Rexx discover a relic from the past containing dangerous contraband―unedited books from before The Seclusion. These texts will spark an unquenchable thirst for the truth that sees Patch’s father arrested by the totalitarian Board.

Evading her own arrest, Patch and Rexx set out across a ruined future United States, seeking some way to escape the only home they’ve ever known. Along the way, they learn about how their country came to be this way and fall in love. But their newfound knowledge may lead to their own demise.

There’s no pretending The Seclusion isn’t political. It was written before the election of Trump, but many will see it as prescient, with the world it paints an extreme conclusion to the right-wing populism currently sweeping not just the USA, but many other countries as well. Basically, if you’re a racist, right-wing conservative who doesn’t believe in human rights, you’re probably not going to enjoy The Seclusion. Suck it.

I loved this novel. Patricia is a great protagonist who grows throughout as events spiral out of control. The world, though extreme, is well realized and the journey from present-day to dystopian future all too believable.

Disclaimer: I read an advance review copy of this novel. However, I had already pre-ordered and paid for a retail copy before receiving the version I reviewed. The Seclusion is out September 4th.

Christopher’s Recommendation: Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life by Douglas Wilson

The writer’s life is full of pitfalls and it is important to have an arsenal of strategies and solid framework in which to work. I myself am an obsessive reader of non-fiction, and one of my favorite nonfiction topics is about my craft. There are literally thousands of books on the craft for you to choose from and each one has at least one valuable lesson for writers.  I keep a couple of writing books in my laptop bag at all times for instruction or inspiration, one is Elements of Style, another is the Writers Boot Camp 2, and the third is Wordsmithy by Douglas Wilson my recommendation for this month.

I chose Wordsmithy for this month because it is unique in its approach. Many writing books sugar coat the dirty details of the craft and Douglas Wilson does a fantastic job at not only revealing the truths every writer needs to know, but he also provides thorough, practical advice for how to address the most difficult aspects. I agree with Wilson when he says “Writers do not need another pandering, pat-on-the-back, feel-good writer’s manual.

While other writing manuals offer the same ten tips, Wilson digs deeper. His sage advice penetrates to the deeper matter behind the many points in which a writer can trip themselves up. It is a no-nonsense, practical guide to improving your craft, that I believe every writer needs to have in their toolbox. The best part is it is a very quick read! I suggest reading a chapter every day and installing the advice into your writing repertoire. The extended reading list that Wilson offers also packs a formidable punch!

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Writing Bloc’s Best of May: Contributors Share their Favorite Book of the Month

Writing Bloc’s Best Reads May Edition

This is the first post in what will be an ongoing best reads series in which a few of our Writing Bloc contributors share their favorite read of the month. This month, Robert Batten, Michael Haase, and Jacqui Castle all chimed in with their recommendations. Check out the first three books that made the cut.

Robert’s recommendation: The Fireman by Joe Hill

My book of the month is The Fireman, by Joe Hill. It came to me as a recommendation from one of my editors, which is high praise in itself. The Fireman is an apocalyptic horror by best-selling author Joe Hill. It takes us to a version of our world that is burning. Literally. A mysterious disease, known as dragonscale due to the markings it creates on the body, is causing mass spontaneous combustion. With the sheer number of people catching fire, almost everything else seems to be going up in flames too, including civilization. Into this setting we meet Harper, an uncompromisingly positive nurse with a fondness for Julie Andrews. Harper is amazing. She’s a charming mix of innocence, courage, and intelligence. Experiencing the world through her point of view is a delight.

“Harper put the novel back on his desk, cornering the edges of the manuscript so it stood in a neat, crisp pile. With its clean white title page and clean white edges, it looked as immaculate as a freshly made bed in a luxury hotel. People did all sorts of unspeakable things in hotel beds.”

The story is a slow burn, building the intensity as the disasters mount. The world is well-realized and the dragonscale fascination, but throughout it’s the characters and the prose that shine. The novel telegraphs each of the disasters and betrayals beautifully, letting you stress as the tension builds without spoiling the moment when it finally arrives.

“Almost as an afterthought, she put a box of kitchen matches on top of it as a paperweight. If her Dragonscale started to smoke and itch, she wanted to have them close at hand. If she had to burn, she felt it only fair that the fucking book burn first.”

If you enjoy dystopian / apocalyptic fiction, you should absolutely read The Fireman.

Michael’s Recommendation: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

I enjoy reading and writing humor and satire, first and foremost. Somehow, this book slipped through the cracks. I never had this book recommended to me, so I feel obligated to push it forward. Yes, it’s a little older, as it was published in 1980. But wow, this book is so interesting and unique, a tale woven like no other. I haven’t read anything so clever and unique since Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. 

This is an odd book, admittedly. Ignatius J. Reilly, the protagonist, is almost as antihero as they come. He is fractious, disrespectful, and flatulent. He is a highly educated man who manipulates his environment to appease his fastidious needs. Ultimately, he is a man who is unable to see his own difficulties, constantly diverting his problems onto others while scraping by ina strange, purposeless existence. He is thirty years old, living with his mother in the heart of New Orleans, and his antics inadvertently set in motion events that change the lives of all the other characters around him. His is simultaneously lovable and repulsive, and the balance is held tightly by the magnificent writing. Ignatius might be strange and difficult to visualize as a hero, but he is infinitely quotable. For example:

“I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.”

Ignatius, to me, is some of the most lovably worst parts of us with an unlimited vocabulary. The entire book is filled with oddball characters, each with their flaws and difficulties. But, in the end, you cheer for all. Go into it expecting a book like no other.

Jacqui’s Recommendation: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Okay, so I didn’t actually read this in May. I read it a few months ago. But, I wanted to start this series out by recommending this book because it had such a strong impact on me. The Knife of Never Letting Go is is one of those books that sticks with you, haunts you long after you’ve put it down. There are two other books in this series, and though I know I will love them, I haven’t picked them up yet for fear of what they might contain, whether I’ll be able to handle what comes next for our main character, Todd. I’ll get there…

In the town of Prentisstown, everyone can hear everyone’s thoughts. They refer to this as their ‘noise,’ and though the noise may get louder or softer, it never ceases. Every single person in Prentisstown is constantly surrounded by their own noise, and the noise of others, even the animals. If you think you have heard all the great stories there are to tell about a boy and his dog, think again. And have tissues nearby once you are ready to embark on this journey.

Todd’s world gets thrown upside down when he stumbles upon an area of silence. What is behind the silence, and where will it lead him?

I can hear it.

Well, I can’t hear it, that’s the whole point, but when I run toward it the emptiness of it is touching my chest and the stillness of it pulls at me and there’s so much quiet in it, no, not quiet, silence, so much unbelievable silence that I start to feel really torn up, like I’m about to lose the most valuable thing ever, like there it is, a death…

I hesitate to explain more about this story without delving into spoilers. All I will say is, read this immediately, and be ready to have it f#@k with your head long after the last page.

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Author Interview

Interview with Author Jason Pomerance

(Read through to the bottom, where there is a link to a free novella by Jason Pomerance!)

There’s a novel out now called “Women Like Us,” and it deserves your attention. It is a wonderful tale of a broken family picking up the pieces, trying to find compromise amidst dysfunction. Each character is wonderfully crafted, and the tale itself will move you to laughter as well as tears. The novel first caught my eye on inkshares.com, as its prose is honest, emotional, and flowing. I was caught up in the story immediately, and when I finally received my copy last month, the book did not disappoint.

“Women Like Us” is the debut novel of Jason Pomerance, who is no stranger to storytelling, being an author of screenplays (as well as a filmmaker). He was kind enough to grant me an interview, and I hope you enjoy getting to know this emerging author.

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Jason Pomerance, author CREDITED BY: Steven Murashige

Tell us a little bit about yourself, Jason.

I’m just your typical writer/reader/food-obsessed sometime chef and surfer (although I’m a much better surfer in my head than I am in reality. In reality I sort of suck at catching waves. But I just keep at it!).

What was the inspiration for Women Like Us?

I’m a huge fan of road trip stories. Maybe because there’s such great potential for transformation. There’s just something about being on the road that seems to have meaning in terms of growth and change for characters. So the original inspiration was to do a story about a mother and son on the road. In fact it started out as a screenplay, but the more I wrote an outline version the more it was feeling more like a piece of fiction so I just kept going.

How long did the novel take to write/what is your writing process like?

It’s hard to say exactly how long because I didn’t sit down and write it start to finish all at once. I’d pick it up, but then be pulled onto some other project and I’d go back to it when I’d get the chance. My process is not to outline too much or think too much about it ahead, but just let it flow. In fact I have to say on this book, the characters totally took me by surprise.

Edith Vale, for example, is the character who many people say stands out the most, but she started out as just a minor player. Then she sort of took on a life of her own and the plot diverged from where I thought it was going — so it became not just about mother and son but also about mother and slightly demented mother-in-law! I have to say also Mrs. Vale sort of came to life fully formed — I’m not sure what I was channeling but it was very clear early one who she was and what she was about.

Are there any autobiographical elements to the novel?

I think there’s always a part of us in whatever we write, so I’d say yes, for sure. Susan, for example, is a chef, and although I’ve never worked in a restaurant kitchen, cooking is big part of my life. There’s a little bit of surfing in the book and, like I said, I try to surf as best as I can. Like Edith Vale, I enjoy the occasional Manhattan (well, for her it’s pretty much nightly) and like Edith I can be a little persnickety about the way I think things should be done!

Do you have any advice for other authors and artists?

This might sound a little cliched but just follow your gut and follow your voice. There’s always going to be plenty of people telling you that you can’t do something, or you’re doing it wrong but if you believe in what you’re writing (or whatever you’re working on, if it’s some other art form) it doesn’t matter. The nay-saying is just noise. Also, never quit. Never give up. Just find a way to forge ahead no matter what because in the end it will pay off.

Like with Women Like Us. There were points I never thought this book would see the light of day, but now I can hold the book in my hand, which is such a great thing. I’ve seen it on the shelf in a couple of local bookstores and I see people writing reviews of it on Amazon. It’s all very gratifying but if I’d listened to the doubters it never would have happened.

Do you have any other stories or projects you are currently working on that you’d like us to know about?

Yes. I’m trying to get to the finish line on another novel. CELIA ON THE VERGE might fall more into chick-lit territory (for some that’s a good thing, for some not so much!). It’s about a woman who thought she had her whole future planned out but everything becomes upended when a package arrives in her mailbox 40 years late! When Celia tries to complete the delivery to its rightful recipient, many complications ensue!!

You are a filmmaker as well. Tell us a little more about your work in film.

I’d hesitate to say filmmaker because I’d reserve that for directors and I’ve never really felt the pull to direct. But I’ve been a Writers’ Guild-card carrying member of the movie business for a long time. I’ve sold a couple of pilots on the TV end, and worked and many studio projects. But it’s always tough seeing anything through to its final form — kind of like the book business but maybe even tougher because as a writer you have very little control.

I am a co-producer of a project that’s been a passion — it’s my screen adaptation of Charles Dickinson’s novel THE WIDOWS’ ADVENTURES, which until recently was set up with Diane Keaton and Jane Fonda attached to star. I fell in love with this book from page one, and somehow I am determined that the movie will come together at some point. It’s another crazy road-trip story, which makes sense because as I said I love them, but in this story, the one who does the driving on a cross-country journey is blind while her beer-swilling sister gives direction (they only drive on backroads in the dead of night and very, very slowly!).

The book, by the way, is available on Amazon in both physical and eBook versions — Anybody who likes road trip stories should check it out, or one of Charles’ other novels. He’s an extremely talented writer.

You are donating a portion of your profits to the Beagle Freedom Project. Tell us about the charity and what inspired you to work with them.

I’m not sure how I stumbled onto the Beagle Freedom Project, but we already had one beagle when I heard about the work they do — I had no idea beagles were even used for medical and cosmetics tests, and what The Beagle Freedom Project does is negotiate with the labs to get them released when the labs are done with them. Whether or not you are for or against animal testing, I don’t think anybody could condone what most labs do, which is euthanize the dogs (or other animals — BFP also works to free cats, rabbits, pigs and other animals).

Anyway, we signed up to foster and then adopt one of these dogs. Derric was part of a group called the Midwest 10!! He’d been in a lab for the first five years of his life. These poor guys have spent their lives in cages and don’t know how to do anything (never really even been outdoors) but he’s been a joy to have and I can’t imagine life without him! During the pre-order phase of Women Like Us, I did a couple of contests that were connected to a Beagle Freedom Project donation, so I just decided I’d continue it as a thank you, because there are a lot of supporters of the group, and they were very supportive of Women Like Us. Their link, by the way, is http://bfp.org

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Jason at home with his happy beagle, Derric

 

Related Links:

To view and buy “Women Like Us” on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Women-Like-Us-Jason-Pomerance/dp/1942645104/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1472761204&sr=8-1

The “Women Like Us” page on GoodReads:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30007119-women-like-us

Jason Pomerance’s Website:

http://www.jasonpomerance.com

Jason also has a FREE four-part novella called “Falconer”, which you can read here: 

http://hollywooddementia.com/author/jason-pomerance/

 

Post originally appeared in Renderosity Magazine, 09/13/16

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Author Interview

Interview with Deborah Munro: On writing, science, and merging worlds

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Deborah Munro, author and biomedical engineer. Deborah’s debut novel Apex is currently in production and will likely be released in 2019. Let’s dive right in shall we?

Welcome Deborah! First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your upcoming book, APEX?

I grew up in rural California in the historic gold mining town of Placerville. I spent much of my childhood outdoors, playing, camping, hiking, and fishing, and my parents were land surveyors, a family business I helped out with from a young age. I developed a strong appreciation for nature, and the animals in it. I moved to Portland, Oregon in 2008 to teach biomedical engineering at a local university, and the beauty of this state quickly won my heart. When I decided to write my novel, APEX, I chose rural Oregon, because the setting was similar to my hometown, but remote enough to support the theme of the book—genetic engineering gone horribly wrong.

Your book APEX deals with genetic engineering. Can you tell me about how the plot has been inspired by your real-life work as a biomedical engineer?

I am an avid reader, and I love science, so when I came across an article about walking stick insects and their extraordinary evolutionary history, I was intrigued. Scientists have discovered that walking sticks have had and lost wings at different points in time. As far as I know, this is the first example of a higher life form re-evolving a significant characteristic after losing it. My mind immediately starting thinking, “What if an animal could re-evolve a characteristic?” and APEX was born.

Science, technology, and innovation are all prominent themes in your book. What is the process like for you when you come up against a subject that isn’t in your wheelhouse?

My mind is like a sponge when it comes to learning about science and technology. I am an inventor myself, and I have almost a dozen patents. Whenever I learn about something new, I’m curious to learn more, and I’ll dive into the research with glee. I’ve read countless journal articles and books about the science in my book, and it was fun for me to do.

One of my goals with my writing is to educate people about science in an entertaining and exciting way. Our future on this planet has many challenges, most of them related to finding a balance between the needs of humans and those of other life forms. APEX explores one of those topics, which is right to life. Do all animals have an equal right to life, even if they were genetically created?

Your book is currently in production and expected to hit shelves in late 2018 or 2019. What have you learned during the editing process?

Everything takes longer than anticipated. My book has gone through an extensive rewrite and only partially resembles the manuscript I originally wrote. I just submitted my third draft to my editor, and I have no idea how much more work will be required to make it my best story possible. I think the key is to be patient and trust the process. My book has a birthdate, but I don’t know what that is yet.

What does your writing routine look like, and do you think there will be more novels in your future?

I’m not a fulltime writer, and my day job also requires a lot of critical thinking and writing, so I find I write in spurts. A week may go by where I’m unable to write on my manuscript at all, but I keep my writing brain active by participating in social media writing prompts, creating blogs, and posting newsletters. I find I make the best progress, however, when I work piecemeal. I set a goal of 1000 words per day, and I often break that up into two or more sessions of just fifteen to twenty minutes. That ends up being an impressive 7000 words a week, and it keeps the story fresh in my mind, so I don’t have to back track and reread before beginning again.

I fully intend to keep writing. I’ve set APEX up to have a sequel if I want, but it’s a standalone novel. I also have another partially completed manuscript that is waggling its eyebrows at me, and I’ve done the research for a third novel that will likely be a romance, but with lots of environmental issues thrown in.

I have a technical book coming out in June on DIY microfabrication. It’s a guidebook on how to collaborate with open-use national laboratories to design and build your own microsensors for use in medical devices, etc. I will be hosting a seminar in Chicago in mid-June, so I’m self-publishing my book to be ready in time for that.

What advice would you share with authors out there working on their first book?

The most shocking thing I’ve learned about becoming an author is that it’s not about your book. Yes, you have to write the book, but the key to success is marketing yourself (not your book) on social media and via email blogs. There are thousands of people out there who would love to read your book, but they don’t know you exist unless you advertise yourself. It is so important to invest your time in building a following several months to a year before you start promoting your book. People need time to get to know you as a person, and you want to become a trusted source of content. So post, post, post about topics in which you have a personal interest. If you’re funny, use it! I’m not, but I have a strong science background and a love of nature, and with that, I have gathered more than 5300 Twitter followers and 8000 newsletter subscribers in just six months.

When I finally get word that my book has been passed on to the copy editor, that’s when I’ll start pushing for pre-orders, but not yet. For now, it’s all about audience building, as I know some percentage of my followers, however large that number ends up being, are going to want to buy my book. The larger the number of pre-orders, the larger the pool of potential reviewers to boost my book’s ranking, and I’ve heard as a general rule of thumb that your book will sell double the number of pre-orders once released.

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If you would like to learn more about Deborah, you can follow her through her website – deborahmunroauthor.com. Her novel, Apex, can be pre-ordered here.

Interview first published on JacquiCastleWrites.com

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Author Interview

Interview with Cari Dubiel: On Writing, Libraries, and Podcasts

Cari Dubiel has been a librarian for twelve years, and currently has her first book, How to Remember (a novel billed as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind meets What Alice Forgot) in production for a 2019 release. Cari was kind enough to answer a few questions for us!

First, I want to say congratulations on receiving a publishing contract for your book, How to Remember. Is How to Remember your debut book?

Yes! I’m so excited to have achieved my crowdfunding goal with Inkshares. I met the goal for the Quill imprint before it was sun-downed.

Can you tell us a little bit about the story and where you drew your inspiration?

The story follows Miranda Underwood, a neuroscientist, and Ben Baker, a computer programmer. Both of them set out to solve their personal mysteries one year apart. Miranda searches for the cause of her amnesia in 2017, while Ben fills in the blanks in 2016. He’s investigating his mother’s suspicious death.

Most of my stories spring from my frequent crazy dreams. I woke up with this idea, and I started to wonder what would happen to someone who found herself with this affliction, especially if she was an introvert who didn’t have many friends. Cut off from her job – with a company that’s complicit in the situation – she has to reach within herself to find inner strength.

What does your daily writing routine look like? Do you always write at the same time each day?

I have two little kids and the schedule of a public librarian (a lot of evenings and weekends). Every day is different! I write at least one chapter a week, about 2500 words. I squeeze the time in when I can get it, either in the mornings before my kids get up or when they’re in bed. Then there’s the rare glorious time when my parents take them for the weekend!

In addition to being an author, you are also a librarian. As someone who is surrounded by her pick of books, who are your favorite authors? Any underappreciated gems that you have stumbled upon?

That is a tough one. I read widely – picking favorite authors would be like picking a favorite child! I’ll highlight a few of my recent favorites, though. I just discovered Tom Sweterlitsch (The Gone World, Tomorrow and Tomorrow) – he writes about bleak, dystopian futures, time travel, alternate universes. He explores the dark heart of humanity, which sounds depressing, but both books illuminate the human spirit as well. I also recently finished a preview copy of Ruth Ware’s The Death of Mrs. Westaway, a character-driven mystery in the style of Agatha Christie. I couldn’t stop rooting for the protagonist, Hal – yes, a likeable narrator in a thriller – they still exist!

Being a librarian, have you always known that you also wanted to write? When did you begin?

I’ve been writing since third grade. The two things I love the most in life are reading and writing, so I’ve always known I wanted to be a librarian and a writer. Of course, as a child I did not know that a librarian’s job is not, in fact, reading books all day. But we do get to talk about books, which is exciting!

What should new authors know about getting their books into the various library systems? Is the process different for self-published authors?

The first rule is to treat librarians with courtesy and establish a dialogue – a genuine, authentic conversation. Focus on why readers will like your book – make the librarian want to read it!

If you are traditionally published, the librarian might just buy the book for her collection. But for small press, indie, and self-published authors, you may have another hurdle to jump. It always helps if you are able to donate a copy, but if that’s not possible, make sure she knows where she can purchase it. You can also offer to present a program, but again, come prepared with the “hook” for potential attendees.

Always ask your librarian what you can do for her! Tailor your approach to each library as needed. I suggest starting with local libraries or those you have a personal connection with. Get the book into enough readers’ hands, and if it is a quality product, it might go viral.

Are there ways for authors to help each other out in regards to achieving a library presence?

As more authors make connections with libraries, they can share information about how individual systems operate. Libraries are so different – they have different resources, funding, populations. They offer services and programs based on the needs of their communities. Some writers’ organizations also have library outreach. I was the Library Liaison for Sisters in Crime for five years, and we did a lot of work helping authors connect with their local libraries and vice versa. I know the Horror Writers of America has a similar program.

Is there any additional advice you would give to new authors who wish to have their books in libraries?

Look into electronic distribution! Electronic media in libraries is growing more every year. In my library, the most popular services are OverDrive and hoopla (with the small “h”). Every library has different subscriptions, though, so check to see what your local library offers.

Tell us about the podcast that you are involved in – ABC Book Reviews Podcast.

Our podcast started in 2007, when my coworker, Beth, and I decided we needed an outlet to talk about books we loved. Back then, podcasts were not as sophisticated, though they were popular. The Wall Street Journal described us as “two girls talking on a bus.” We’ve retained that format, although we have revised our website, gone on many tangents, and had four kids between the two of us. We also took a break last year, since Beth got a library director job and I became a department head, but we’re back with new episodes now.

Podcasts are booming. What needs do you think creative podcasts are serving in the literary world?

I have to admit I’m not much of a podcast listener – not surprisingly, I prefer audiobooks! But I love the idea of podcasts as a way for creative people to produce and distribute their own media, amplifying diverse voices that may not otherwise find an audience. I’d like to seek out some writing-related podcasts to help me stay motivated, so I can hear those voices!

Thank you for your time, Cari. Any other parting advice that you would like to pass on as someone who is immersed in literature in both her day job and her personal life?

To stay sharp, I like to play outside with my kids – I hope better weather will come to Northeast Ohio soon! I also play the bassoon, and I love nerdy stuff, especially board games. The literary life is fantastic, but as with any job, breaks are essential.

 

Read more about Cari’s upcoming book How to Remember.

Interview first published on JacquiCastleWrites.com

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