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Mark Hummel

Mark Hummel

Mark Hummel

Today I welcome a very talented and accomplished man who is not only a writer, but an editor and teacher as well. His novel In the Chameleon’s Shadow was honored with a gold medallion award by the Book Readers Appreciation Group. His short fiction, essays, and poetry have appeared in literary magazines for more than two decades, including The Bloomsbury Review, Dogwood, Fugue, perContra, and The Talking River Review. He has taught writing at the university level for much of his career, where he also directed a nationally recognized writers’ conference, a speaker series, and an academic writing program. Please help me to welcome, Mark Hummel.

IDI – Mark, what works for you? Give us a rundown of your ‘writing process’ from beginning to finished product.

MH – I’m a bit of a fanatic about both writing process and writer’s tools. Perhaps I’m just something of a borderline obsessive or maybe it is because I have taught creative writing for ages and ages and have always tried to help students find reliable routines to help them become productive. Lastly, perhaps it is simply because I am old school, as my process will evidence.

I still write first drafts in long hand, only using yellow legal sized pads and only using a designated pen. The drafts rage all over the place and get really bloody, so I could never hire a typist able follow the inky carnage. The first round of revision occurs while I type the manuscript onto the computer. I tend to work in backwards sprawling cycles, overlapping older text both as I write initially and as I type, so a lot of revision happens while the text is still emerging. Once I have a fully typed manuscript, then wholesale revisions begin. I often write scenes and chapters out-of-order, so a large part of revision for me is typically finding where materials belong, and I get a perverse excitement out of seeing how a text changes and how mystery is managed purposefully by the placement of scenes. As I get closer to seeing the whole of the text in its order, I read the entire book aloud to my very patient and insightful wife; the reading and the conversations that ensue typically send me into another round of revisions before I start to share the text for comment from a few trusted readers. Then more revision and rounds of rounds of editing (again with designated pens).

The real key to my peculiar process is in trusting the organic nature of the creative process. I never know the ending to a work until I get closer and closer to writing it and seldom know much about the specifics of its movement towards the ultimate ending. Most of my work starts with an image frozen in my head or a line stuck in my ear, and the writing is an attempt to discover the story behind that moment. Such a lack of control scares many writers but I find it both exhilarating and the only way to discover an authentic story. I actually like handing control over to the characters and the language, and putting trust in those elements is the core of the organic principle that guides my work.

IDI – What are you working on now? Can we get a peek, an excerpt maybe to tickle our tastebuds?

MH – I have recently finished the first draft of a new novel to be titled A Different Breath and am now actively revising it. At this stage it’s a novel that is still a bit difficult to label with shorthand, what, in Jackson Hole, we used to call the “chairlift pitch” as opposed to the elevator pitch, but the essentials are these: set in 1926, primarily in the Midwest and inter-mountain West, the story follows a traveling musician of potentially legendary talent, his lover/manager, and the odd addition to his mini-entourage, a priest, through backroom clubs and speakeasies. The story is actually a purposeful reinvention of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, which focuses much of its interest, like the Rilke poem “Orpheus, Eurydice, and Hermes” on the awakening consciousness of the Eurydice character.

Here’s a tiny taste from the opening readers familiar with the original myth as retold in the Rilke will recognize:

At sunrise on an early October morning under a sky heavy with rain, the trio walked a gravel road. They walked in silence, the scuff of their feet on the gravel muted as if they travelled in fear of something unseen or burdened with humility for some greater power. They had departed in the thick of a night so dark they might have been navigating the tunnels of a vast mine where they were the silver veins gathering the meager moonlight on their exposed skin. Their minds each turned backwards where blood welled in their dark thoughts, bubbling un-summoned as if they would now walk forever among the roots of recent memory. The memory weighed upon them and made them feel so heavy they might as well have waded through a quagmire of emulsified flesh and congealed blood, the night clawing at their ankles.
Despite the unpleasant darkness of the night, sunrise brought no comfort, for it only exposed them, highlighting their presence in the vast landscape. They now saw that the road on which they walked crossed graceful, unresisting meadows before climbing alongside gray cliffs into forests fashioned of mist. Rain-laden clouds were descending, threatening to return the world to twilight, and this sliver of morning sunlight lit the road like a ribbon etched upon the tall, silent grass that would soon bend under the weight of the rain creeping down the mountain slopes. The three appeared as immune to the surrounding beauty as they seemed impervious to the weather. They trod onward, indifferent to the first raindrops and indifferent to the failing light, that slanted, disappearing light that made the world seem turned upon its axis where sunsets accompanied morning. All the remainder of the living world had sought shelter from the arriving storm, emptying the landscape and abandoning the three figures that moved as if intent on entering their own dying shadows.

IDI – Favorite author, and why?

MH – This is the sort of question a lot of writers tend to want to avoid—for a lot of reasons, including the impossibility of narrowing it down to a single writer. I fall in that camp, for there are so many writers I study with care and hold with such high regard. That said, I do have one perennial favorite I like to talk about in large part because he is so seldom known by anyone other than other writers and editors: André Dubus. (He has a son André Dubus III, who is also an extremely talented writer, but my reverence is for his father.)  Dubus defied the marketplace, always writing short stories and novellas, and later, essays, and he always wrote truth, the capital T kind of Truth (as opposed to nonfiction), stories that conveyed how people actually are, with all their dreams and desires, their warts and messy emotions. He always gets the interior of a character spot on, and all of his characters, like actual people, are full of self-contradiction and competing desires. His story collection The Times Are Never So Bad is one of the absolute genius volumes of 20th Century American literature. Other literary writers have always known his work but too few readers do.

IDI – Your novel In the Chameleon’s Shadow features a con-artist as its protagonist, a kind of lothario who, worst of all, doesn’t believe he is deceiving the women he preys upon. The book seems obsessed with the theme of lies. Why this sort of character and this theme?

In the Chameleon's Shadow

In the Chameleon’s Shadow

MH – I am obsessed with this theme because, for me, it is a means to explore the larger terrain of using fiction (essentially an acceptable form of lying, of creation or deception, if you will) to get at truth. I mentioned The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien as my all-time favorite book earlier, and one of the things O’Brien has been exploring in his work throughout his career is this fictional concept. It is a running theme in his collection and in the story “How To Tell a True War Story” he says at one point “All war stories are true” when talking about stories that seem improbable or unimaginable.

I think fiction is a mechanism for taking on the actual world and the actual nature of being human. So my particular obsession within In the Chameleon’s Shadow is our capacity for self-deception. My protagonist, Aaron Lugner, has made his way in the world throughout his 20’s by lying, by living entirely false identities, but my real interest is in the recognition that he is at risk of believing in his own lies. He begins to imagine that the lies he tells have become truth and have taken on their own lives. Therefore I knowingly pair him with a woman for whom he thinks he is willing to change his behavior and who is most notable for her willingness to tell total strangers the truth, even if it causes harm. Yet she is also a character who, while she never lies to Aaron, omits major elements of her life if she is not asked about such elements, which begs the question: “Isn’t omission of truth a kind of lying too?” I’m not just fascinated with such self-deception within people or as a fictional construct but because I think we live in a world where we are surrounded by the purposeful deception of corporations trying to sell us things we don’t really need and political parties willing to spin any fact (or lie) to their own advantage and all too often, we become knowing participants in such deceit.

IDI – They say know the rules and then you may break them. Which ones do you find yourself breaking the most and does it work in your writing?

MH – “They’re not rules, more like guidelines.”—Hector Barbossa, “Pirates of the Caribbean”

I actually love breaking rules. But I have three RULES to apply when it comes to breaking rules: 1) writers must know the rules before they break them, 2) writers must break rules for a conscious effect or purpose, and 3) writers should break rules sparingly or risk ruining the impact of doing so in the first place.

For me, much of this applies to simple grammatical and syntactical elements that defy what really is often the stuff of conventional wisdom more than hard-fast rules, things such as starting a sentence with “And,” or using sentence fragments purposefully, or employing a one sentence paragraph. Like painters using huge objects in the foreground or building up texture on one portion of a painting that otherwise is muted and impressionistic, writers need to learn technique above all else and then be aware of the “rules” they challenge. At the larger extreme of experiment, I was playing with multiple first person narrators years before such work gained acceptance in the popular mainstream because of the genius of writers like Jennifer Egan and Elizabeth Strout (but two generations after Faulkner). But when I say “playing” I am consciously downplaying a central element of the text I was writing that demanded multiple points of vision to tell the entire story.

IDI – What’s the best advice ever given to you, and by whom?

MH – As an undergraduate I had opportunity to study under the Pulitzer winning writer and consummate teacher, Don Murray, a big, burly, Teddy-bear of a man, who said, simply: “Never a day without a line.” He knew many pieces of inspirational advice and had made a study of such advice from other writers his habit, but this was the mantra he lived by. I like how straight-forward and spare such advice is. The old cliché is the true one: “Writers write.”

IDI – How important are your reading habits to your writing habits?

MH – Good reading habits are absolutely essential to creating good writing habits. I encourage young writers to read anything and everything and to find the writers with whom they fall in love. In reading great books we learn the foundations of our craft. Most of us tried writing because we had long ago fallen in love with books. I really do subscribe to the old belief that writers should attempt to write the book(s) they want to read.

IDI – Who is the most supportive of you and your dream to be a writer?

Lost and Found

Lost and Found

MH – While I am blessed to have an incredibly supportive family and circle of friends, my wife, hands down, has been my greatest supporter and ally. She has never wavered in her belief in my work, nor has she once challenged the wisdom of devoting my life to such infrequently acknowledged work. In general, the public tends to accept artists as valid only when they have significant financial success or notoriety, failing to see the work and sacrifice that must occur to then accompany the typical happenchance of public notice. True supporters of artists defy this, and my wife has not only defied the doubters, she has stood by me through the constant rejection and through the confounding periods of trying to solve the puzzle of a book, she’s sacrificed time and leisure to provide me time and space to write. I, quite literally, could not produce the work I do without her beside me.

IDI – Define a great book.

MH – I think we might need a different great book at different points in our lives. Books can be like weather, and we can be in the mood for a different kind of book dependent on what we are going through in our lives at the moment or because of the realizations we are coming to in our own relationship to the universe. Still, great books always share the balance of making us hunger for the next moment to unfold and making us think in ways we have not thought before. Truly great books change something inside of us.

IDI – Hands down, bar none, all-time favorite book.

MH – The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. This book literally changed the way I thought about the construction of a story. We talked about “breaking rules” earlier, and O’Brien does so in all the best ways. If readers know this book, nothing more needs said. If they don’t, they are reading the wrong kind of books.

In the spirit of breaking rules, I’m going to cheat and offer two more that I rank up there as well: the aforementioned The Times Are Never So Bad by André Dubus and the novel that comes close to perfection in language and structure, The Great Gatsby.

IDI – Your collection that is about to be released is titled Lost and Found. What does the title mean to you and can you give us a taste of how it applies to the stories in the book?

MH – The title really is a unifying theme throughout the collection. The stories, like much of fiction, often focus on moments in character’s lives where they are desperately broken or at risk of breaking, moments when the pattern of their lives will be forever changed. With great frequency in the book I also focus on characters who demonstrate the internal courage and stamina to find a way forward, on people who show great dignity in the face of tragedy or change. Not every character finds redemption in these stories, but the vast majority do, so, at risk of sounding trivial or colloquial, characters who have become lost find their way.

A good example of this is the opening story in the collection, a story titled “Sweetwater”. The story features Emily, a woman who finds herself living on the fog-bound Oregon coast and feeling entirely alone. Her live-in boyfriend has abandoned her when she becomes pregnant and she endures a miscarriage while isolated in the cold, stylized home of her employer, where she works as a nanny for two small children. Throughout the story she reflects on the warmth and love of her own childhood in the desert of Sweetwater County, Wyoming, and in particular, on the supportive relationship she had with her now-deceased father. Emily’s interior fortitude and quiet grace demonstrate that the warmth of memory that has cemented her life will also give her the means to survive her losses and move forward by accepting her own strength.

The stories in the collection approach the central theme in a myriad of ways, from comical stories, to one that employs a taste of magical realism, to steadfast, if stylized, realism like “Sweetwater”. Along the way, readers meet an eclectic variety of “lost” characters, including an aging farmer who must confront his past bigotry, a war veteran who thinks he is cat, an Iraqi engineer turned policeman trapped within a culture shifting towards fundamentalism, and a woman who feels she has become isolated by other’s expectations of her beauty.

IDI – Mark, on behalf of myself and my readers, I’d like to thank you for appearing on Ink Drop Interviews today.

If you’d like to learn more about Mark and his works, here are a few of the places you can find him:

Hummel is the editor of the nonfiction magazine bioStories (www.biostories.com). He lives in Northwest Montana. To learn more about him or read some of his work, visit his website at: www.markhummelbooks.com. You can follow him on Facebook (www.facebook.com/markhummelauthor) and on Twitter @markhummelbooks.

Ink Drop Interviews are conducted by Kathy Reinhart, author of 3 novels – ‘Lily White Lies‘, ‘The Red Strokes‘, and ‘Missouri in a Suitcase‘.

 

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An Accidental Affair, by Eric Jerome Dickey

As many authors are, I am often asked to give reviews. I generally shy away from doing so because even though I’ve been asked for my opinion, which is what a review is, there are writers who believe their skin is thick, until it is pricked by a less-than-favorable review, and for the thin-skinned, one prick leads to a life time of animosity.

I, for one, am not deterred by bad reviews and I don’t allow myself to become over-inflated by the positive ones. But, they validate what authors do. Readers think that a bad review is the worst thing an author can receive, but they’d be wrong in their thinking. The worst thing any author can receive is NO feedback at all. Contrary to what many people believe, sometimes, a negative review actually helps an author. That’s right. If you leave a review for an author and find that most of the reviewers left positive reviews and yours is one of the few negatives reviews, many readers are drawn in because those few negative reviews help to develop interest in the book. People want to know why one person out of 50 or 60 felt the need to go against the grain. What did they see that everyone else didn’t. You can equate it to Hollywood. How many times have we seen negative press catapult a celebrities sagging popularity. Britney Spears and her 55-hour marriage. Janet Jackson and her perfectly-timed wardrobe malfunction. Kimye and almost everything either of them does. I don’t have to go on, you’ve all heard about them. Besides, I blog about writers and writing, not singers and actors.

So, I’ve decided to give people what they want and begin blogging my reviews instead of leaving them on Amazon and Goodreads alone. Some of you may agree and some may not. Again, reviews are merely opinions left by readers. Some reviewers have earned the respect of the general public, while others remain fairly anonymous, but either way, they are just the opinions of individual people regarding the same topic.

An Accidental Affair, by Eric Jerome Dickey

An Accidental Affair

The first book I am going to review is ‘An Accidental Affair’, by Eric Jerome Dickey. He is the New York Times bestselling author of ‘Tempted By Trouble’ and almost two dozen other novels.

Overall, I think the author had a good idea for a multi-layered story, but lost the threads among the sex. James Thicke is hurt, angered, and outraged, among other things, when he sees his wife having sex with her onscreen costar. Although I understood his reasons for what he did (moved out, beat the crap out of the other guy, even had sex with other women), I felt the author went into too much detail where sex with other women was concerned. It would have been enough just to know he had the affairs without smelling the sweat of each one. Other than that, they really served no purpose and took up far too many pages.

Something this author does that keeps me from getting into the story: It is told in first person. Fine. But then, out of nowhere, he falls into an omniscient POV. For example, he knows things without having a vantage point. He knows she has a .22 in her housecoat pocket. There are quite a few other examples, but I’ll let you catch them for yourself.

Also, I thought some of the dialogue was clever, but there were other parts where it felt unnatural, scripted, and contrived ( A good example, among others, is page 224) Then, there were parts that were written in passive voice. As far as I can tell, it was done to hurry the action along, or to get back to the action. A great example of that is on page 348 (hardcover), first paragraph: ‘a chicken was taken out. Chicken was cut up. A big pot of water was put on the stove. Potatoes were cut up.’ That takes you out of the action and puts you on autopilot.

I didn’t feel any of the characters were fleshed out well enough to make them memorable. James came as close to a three dimensional character as I would find in this read. A few of the characters were flat, boring, or could have been eliminated without changing the story.

Overall, I enjoyed the storyline, but was pulled back many, many times by errors. I am going to make them a part of the review, not as a self-indulgent act to show that I was able to pick them out, but in the hopes that they can/will be corrected in the kindle edition. If it were one or two, I wouldn’t go to that length, but for a best-selling author with a reputable publishing house, I was disappointed in the less-than-professional editing. I give this 3-stars only because I liked the basic story line. If not for that, I would have given it less.

Page 46, line 6 – ‘Can’ should be ‘Can’t’.
Page 160, line 18 – ‘Washing me hair’ should be ‘Washing my hair’.
Page 254, line 18 – In the same sentence, made and make are used. Should be one or the other in each instance.
Page 264, line 18 – ‘Lose’ should be ‘Loose’.
Page 336, line 15 – ‘Feel’ should be ‘fall’. Horrible dialect.
Page 373, line 8 – ‘Long’ should be ‘Longer’.

If you’re interested in reading An Accidental Affair to judge it for yourself, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Kathy is the award-winning author of ‘Lily White Lies‘, ‘Missouri in a Suitcase‘ & ‘The Red Strokes

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Paul Kestell

As much as I enjoy helping out new Indie authors with connecting their work to readers, occasionally, I have the opportunity to re-interview an author who has gone on to write subsequent books, as is the case today.

Paul Kestell appeared on Ink Drop Interviews back in January of 2012, just about the time his second novel, Wood Point, was released. At the time, he also had a novel called, Viareggio, out and was in the process of releasing, The Fushcia Walk, the first in his Hamilton Row collection. Since then, he has released, The Mad Mary’s of Dunworley (and Other Stories), and is working on the follow-up to that, The West Cork Railway (and Other Stories). Along with his writing, I happen to know that he has also been in the process of moving! Please help me to welcome a very talented and busy man, Paul Kestell…

IDI – It’s nice to talk to you again, Paul.

PK – It’s great to be back.

IDI – First, can you tell us a little about what you’re working on now?

The West Cork Railways

The West Cork Railway

PK – I am working on the follow up to the ‘Mad Marys,’ this is called ‘The West Cork Railway and Other Stories.’    I watch the rain fall in sheets over the fields, cleansing green. It comes from the summit of Cuckoo Hill, all rains and gullies, and my eyes are wells. I long to be there, to stand alone and let it reach me, to cleanse my soul, my sinner soul that has sent me here. Aye, for all its beauty this is a desperate place, with the wind and rain howling in my ear and the strange voices raging in my head. It is easily said that I should rage back, but it is what the gods have sent me, and all the beauty of this landscape can’t change that. No, not the sounds of the birds or the silent rabbit foraging, nor the crow banger or the silence when the wind stops. For I am a woman and I want to scream at this wilderness! Listen to me cry with a whimper. Each morning as you wake you hear me cry faintly, whimper. You hear me cry to you.

[From the ‘Sad Lady of Lislee’.] We are listening to the voice of a young woman with non-verbal autism.

IDI – When did you know that you were born to be a writer?

PK – I always knew even before I could speak I was recording everything through my little eyes—my Dad used ask me if I would write him a play when I was about ten—I think my parents knew also.

IDI – What works for you? Give us a rundown of your writing process.

PK – I don’t have any set routine—I tend to work when I can grab some peace—I often would write through the night but rest till lunchtime the following day. I don’t write things down like notes etc—no I store things in my head and I would use the internet for reference. I am very much a head down merchant and I set my own deadlines—but the main thing I do is I finish my projects once started and I can write long manuscripts and sometimes discard them only to write the story again but this time much shorter. I then send my work away for edit and then read them over and over and often undo the editors work—I think perhaps the last person to see my work before publication should be the editor—but there you go!

IDI – This is what some have said to be a controversial question. What are your thoughts on Amazon and the reviewing process they use. How much trust do you put into the reviews posted for any given book?

PK – I think it is flawed and most people know that, many reviews are posted by friends of the author or even by the author themselves—maybe they should only allow authors post reviews from the established press—but having said that the ‘Mad Marys,’ got a review from some woman I didn’t know—she kept it short and simple but it was really positive.

IDI – How important are your reading habits to your writing habits?

PK – Not important at all save for I totally copied Hemingway’s style to use in my dialogue for my new book—sure he won’t mind it isn’t plagiarism it is borrowing from a master.

IDI – Who is your target audience and why do you feel your writing targets them specifically?

PK – My target audience is the disillusioned disaffected and angry mob who have rejected capitalism as an ideology and who are willing to plot to overthrow it, also all that should feel like that but don’t either through ignorance or blissful apathy—this could explain why I sell so few books as every line I write screams my passion!

IDI – Favorite author, and why?

PK – I don’t read any of the modern Irish authors they tend to be ultra-conservative the published ones that is—no I still like Joyce for his fuck you attitude he grabbed humanity by the throat and squeezed the life out of it.

IDI – There is a lot of commotion about the effect ebooks are having on brick and mortar booksellers. Do you think ebooks have reached their climax or do you believe they still have room to expand in the market?

PK – I think E-books are great and they have unlimited potential I just wish I could make the breakthrough and sell thousands of them—traditional bookstores will have to adapt and get rid of their elitist scholarly image—there is too much snobbery attached to writing—writers are just as human as anyone else there is nothing special about us.

IDI – We all draw from within and I believe there is an element of ‘us’ in everything we write. How much of you will a reader find in any given book?

PK – I put loads of myself in my books—I am usually the hero or perhaps the handsome stranger that makes some telling comment—my characters tend to end up seeing the world as I do whether they like it or not.

IDI – How much time/effort to you give to social media as a means of self-promotion?

PK – Very little—I tweet good reviews and I tweet my Amazon links but it doesn’t work at all—yeah I get noticed but even after a great recent review I didn’t sell one extra copy on Amazon—so hard to say if it is worth it.

IDI – Why do you bring politics to your books?

PK – I believe politics is in everything we do—it surrounds us and dictates not only the kind of house we live in but where we live and why our cities and towns are the way they are. I have just recently moved from a quiet fishing village in rural Ireland back to Dublin—to be greeted by fast food chains and shopping outlets that could be anywhere in the world. I switch on the television news to find that it is biased and pro-government—my world is being eaten alive slowly by neoliberalism so I write about that—and it is an ill wind that is blowing.

IDI – Do you believe that you and your books will become famous?

PK – You would never know because life is full of little twists and turns—what is popular now may not be popular in years to come. I think my stories are very visual and would make very good television or film scripts—but they certainly aren’t popular in the commercial sense. I hope to branch out and write some screenplays in the near future—I have no ambition to be wealthy but I guess I would love to sell enough books to support a modest lifestyle.

IDI – You’re right, Paul. We never know what lies ahead. I wish you all the best with your writing and hope to see you back on Ink Drop Interviews with yet another book in the future. It was very nice to work with you again.

Here is a link to one of Paul’s reviews from ‘The Irish World’ on August 9, 2014 – Paul Kestell Irish World Marys Review

Ink Drop Interviews are conducted by Kathy Reinhart, author of the award-winning LILY WHITE LIES ($3.99), THE RED STROKES ($5.99), & MISSOURI IN A SUITCASE ($.99)

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Lily White Lies

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Martin Hill

I’ve been side-stepping interviews a bit recently in order to bring you articles of interest, but this week, I’m back at it and I have a wonderful guest.

Please help me to welcome Martin Hill, author of ‘Empty Places’, ‘The Killing Depths’, and ‘Duty’.

IDI – Martin, when did you have your Eureka moment? When did know that you were born to be a writer?

Hill Photo SM

Martin Roy Hill

MH – I came to that conclusion in high school. An English teacher enjoyed my essays and encouraged me to write. I joined the school newspaper, started studying journalism, and started writing short stories and sending them out to publishers. It was years — no, decades — before I sold one, though I did sell a Humor in Uniform snippet to Reader’s Digest when I was 19. That was my first professionally published piece.

IDI – Believe it or not, the humor sections of Reader’s Digest have always been my favorite! Tell us, within your writing, what are you the most passionate about? What is it that keeps the fire burning?

MH – I enjoy the act of writing. I feel dread each time I sit down to write, consumed by all those insecurities that every writer probably fears. Can I pull this off? Who am I to think I can write a book? Will anyone buy it? But when I finally get into the act of writing, it’s wonderful. When it’s going really good and the words are following, it’s like a high. That’s what keeps me going.

 IDI – Something every writer is asked to the point of exhaustion – where do you get your ideas?

MH – I get ideas from reading newspapers and magazines, and asking “What if?” The idea for The Killing Depths came about when I read several articles about men and women serving together in the first Gulf War and Bosnia. I started wondering, “What if men and women served together in something as confined as a submarine?” Then I thought, “What if someone didn’t like the idea of men and women serving together?” Finally, I thought, “What if that someone was a serial killer?”

Eden, on the other hand, was conceived after reading an article that said recent satellite imagery may have confirmed the location of the Biblical Eden in Iraq. I started thinking, “What if American GIs stumbled on proof of Eden? What would they find?”

IDI – What are you working on now? Can we get a peek, an excerpt maybe to tickle our taste buds?

MH – My next book is in production and should be out in the fall of this year. It’s a sci-fi novella called Eden, about a group of American soldiers in Iraq who stumble onto an ancient secret about the origins of mankind.

I am also in the process of writing a sequel to my first novel, The Killing Depths, featuring NCIS special agent Linus Schag. Schag made his first debut in a short story published by Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and The Killing Depths has been selling very well. In the sequel, Schag has to try to stop a good friend and fellow agent who has gone rogue.

IDI – When people say ‘why do you write’, I reply ‘I’m either creative, or a pathological liar. I haven’t decided yet’, just for shock value. Actually, I think (in part) that writing is almost like being schizophrenic, but without the personalities coming out verbally. Seriously, we ‘become’ the people we write, at least for a time. We have to feel what they feel, think what they think, and know what they know… so how can we not ‘be’ them? Agree? Disagree? What are your thoughts?

MH – Oh, I definitely agree we become our characters sometimes. And sometimes our characters take on a little of us. I often lie in bed at night and think through scenes and, suddenly, I’m in the story, sort of as if I were dreaming the scene. I think we become our characters even more when writing in the first person narrative. When you write in the first person, you have to sort of get into character the same way an actor would before a play. That happened with me with my latest novel, Empty Places, and my novella, Eden, both of which are first person narratives.

IDI – Everyone has their own dream. What’s yours… best seller, feature film adaption, fame, riches, Oprah, Pulitzer?

MH – To be honest, I’m too old and too cynical to have dreams anymore. I have enough awards from my journalism career to cover three walls in my home, but they don’t mean very much to me anymore. I just want to write books people will buy, read, and enjoy.

IDI – Online cafés or writers groups (aside from social networking). Do you belong to any and if so, help or harm?

MH – I really have no opinion on writers groups or forums. I haven’t belonged to a writers group since college. I know many writers who swear by them, and that’s great. But I have so little time to write that I can’t spare it going to meetings or whatnot. I do, however, have a small knot of author around the world that I keep in touch with, and we provide each other with a mutually supportive network.

IDI – Which is it, a laptop or desktop computer for writing?

MH – I actually do most of my writing on a Kindle Fire HD tablet. I carry it and a small Bluetooth keyboard in my backpack wherever I go. When I get a chance, I bring them out and pound out a few lines.

IDI – I envy  you. I use a 23″ screen for my heavy writing and still have trouble with blurred letters from time to time. Tell me, i your opinion, what are the biggest misconceptions new authors have about the publishing industry?

MH – I think it’s the idea that writers get rich and famous. I recently read David Morrell’s excellent book on writing, The Successful Novelist. He points out that only a handful of novelists can support themselves on their writing alone, let alone get wealthy. It took Morrell decades to get to the point he could support his family on writing alone — and this is the guy whose first novel created the character Rambo (as in Sly Stallone’s movies) and who is considered by many to be the father of the modern thriller.

Morrell also points out that no matter how popular your books may become, most people still have no idea who you are.

IDI – That’s true. There are very few authors with ‘household names’. What’s the best advice ever given to you, and by whom?

MH – The advice came from my late father-in-law Robert Wade. Bob wrote some 40 mysteries under his own name as well as the pen names Wade Miller (with writing partner H. Billy Miller) and Whit Masterson, as well as others. He gave me a great deal of help on my book Empty Places, which I actually wrote before my first published novel, The Killing Depths. In fact, I dedicated Empty Places to him. Among the things he told was this: You’ve got to create characters that the reader will like, even the bad guys, even just a little. He also said in the end, you have to give the reader a little hope for a better world, either for the protagonist or the readers themselves. As originally written, Empty Places had a kind of downer ending. I did a major rewrite of the book after that, changing some of the characters’ motivations and creating a completely different ending.

IDI – Besides writing, what other interests do you have?

MH – I have a background in emergency and disaster response. I served 13 years of active and reserve duty in the U.S. Coast Guard doing small boat search and rescue, or SAR. I was also a medic with the local Sheriff’s wilderness SAR unit as well as with a federal Disaster Medical Assistance Team, and I currently serve on a local county disaster response team. I’m also a medical service corps officer with a small component of the California National Guard called the California State Military Reserve. I hold a national certification as a homeland security specialist, too, with an emphasis on medical response. And, until readers start buying my books by the thousands, I make my living as a Navy analyst in combat medical operations.

IDI – Wow, quite a list of credentials. It just goes to show that you never know who the writing bug will bite. Martin, I’d like to thank you for appearing on Ink Drop Interviews and wish you the very best of luck in all of your writing endeavors!

If you’d like to know more about Martin and his work, or contact him with your questions, he’d love to hear from you!

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Ink Drop Interviews are conducted by Kathy Reinhart, author of the award-winning LILY WHITE LIES, THE RED STROKES, and MISSOURI IN A SUITCASE. Keep up with books, interviews, and upcoming contests in any one of the following places:

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Write. Or your creative ink will dry up.

Write. Or your creative ink will dry up.

 

 


Kristi Ayers

As most of you know…

I have retired my blog, ‘Ink Drop Interviews’ to be able to dedicate more time to my latest novel-in-the-making, THE RED STROKES.

But…

When I receive a request from and up and coming author looking to get their name and work out there, I simply can’t refuse. Although sales for LILY WHITE LIES have been incredible lately, I’m still up and coming, too, so I know how tough it can be.

This week, I am happy to welcome Kristi Ayers, author of ONE PETAL FLOWER.

IDI – Hi Kristi, it’s nice to have you here today. Tell us, your debut novel, ONE PETAL FLOWER, is it plot or character driven?

KA – One Petal Flower is plot driven.  The story developed and the characters followed accordingly.  I really didn’t “get to know” my characters until the story started unfolding.

IDI – When did you have your Eureka moment? When did you know that you were born to write?

KA – I’ve had the dream to become a writer ever since I was 12 or 13.  I read a book by V.C. Andrews called Web of Dreams and decided I had to write a book someday.  At that age I was amazed that a book could make me feel the same emotions that a movie could.  I wanted to do that for other people.

IDI – What are you the most passionate about within your writing? What is it that keeps the fire burning?

KA – The fire has been burning steady for me since I find
myself in a perpetual daydream every day. 
My mind will wander into a scene and I inevitably feel the need to write
it down because it either made me laugh, cry, or swoon.  I love creating characters and plots that evoke candid responses from me, and I hope it does the same to others when they read my writing.

IDI – The question every writer is asked to the point of exhaustion – where do you get your ideas?

KA – One Petal Flower emerged when I heard about a fellow high school classmate that died.  It really hit home for me to realize that someone I grew up with could die…and in essence, I could die too.  Life is fragile.  My other ideas have come from dreams.  The subconscious is a powerful messenger. 

IDI – I believe that on a psychological level we ‘become’ the people we write, at least for a time. We have to feel what they feel, think what they think and know what they know in order to make them believable on paper. Agree? Disagree? What are your thoughts?

KA – Writing is certainly an escape from reality.  You really do become the characters.  I think we all have a “dark” or “secret” side that we let loose when we write; it’s the acceptable way to allow our different emotions to surface.  It’s even therapeutic.  It gives you a time to feel like a hero when normally you wouldn’t have the chance. 

IDI – Who’s your target audience?

KA – Technically, my target audience would be teens and young adults.  I feel the teenage years are a pivotal point in a person’s existence.  I grab onto the charged emotions that come from that age group.  That first infatuation with someone, the scary yet thrilling feelings that come with those first intimate encounters, the close friendships with peers…nothing compares. 

IDI – Everyone has a dream. What’s yours?

KA – I’d be happy if I just had people contact me and tell me that they really enjoyed escaping into my novel.  Sure, being a best seller would be great, and a feature film would be icing on the cake, but I’ll let that be a fantastic surprise if it happens. 

IDI – Do you outline your story before you feel comfortable enough to begin writing or do you just wing it and make the decisions as you go?

KA – I simply start writing.  I only write down the character’s names down beforehand so I have an idea of who I want in it.  The rest just comes to me.  The idea is in my head, but if I take too much time working out the details, I get overwhelmed.  I let the ideas enter my head as I’m writing. 

IDI – We all draw from within and I believe there is an element of ‘us’ in everything we write. How much of you will a reader find in ONE PETAL FLOWER?

KA – Oh, very much!  Only they won’t know it unless they really know me like my friends and family do.  And even some of them won’t see little hints scattered throughout it.  A psychologist could probably piece a puzzle together and it would be a picture of me…and the unseen me: my soul. 

IDI – What advice would you give to new/unpublished authors?

KA – Write, write, write until you finish.  Worry about perfecting it later.  There is always a kind soul who can take you under their wing and help you learn to fly.

IDI – What was the best advice ever given to you?

KA – You can be anything you want to be.  My grandmother told me that. 

IDI – How do you feel about genre crossing? Is it something you’d like to do?

KA – I like the idea of genre crossing.  I have an interest that encompasses: young adult, paranormal, horror, romance, and psychological thriller.

IDI – As a writer, what is the one thing y ou would most like people to know about you?

KA – I try to write what I know.  I will either research it or live it before I write about it.  For One Petal Flower, I researched ghosts while being a member of a paranormal investigations team.  I also researched Native American beliefs by talking to a few gentlemen that were nice enough to offer me information.

IDI – Who is the most supportive of your dream to be a writer?

KA – No one can grasp the blood, sweat, and tears that go into writing a book like another writer can.  Mine is my mentor, Mr. Javier Robayo.  Authors are the best coaches and cheerleaders a new writer can have.

IDI – I have had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Javier and I must admit that he has been quite supportive of my endeavors also.

What is the hardest or most frustrating aspect of writing?

KA – It has to be re-writing.  Perfecting your creation for the public is the most difficult.  It’s like a wild animal you take in and care for.  Before you release it to fly on its own you want it to be the best it can be.

IDI – What type of research did you do for your novel?

KA – I sat in a dark room in a spooky location with an audio recorder, headphones, and flashlight.  I was with my teammates of course, and we were investigating an alleged haunted location.  My novel has a ghost as a character and I wanted to pull everything I learned from investigating and apply it in my novel.  I wanted it to be as real as possible, and I did that by adding little hints such as cold spots, phantom smells, feather-light touches, and mists.  I also added what it was like to get frustrated when other people around you are seeing/hearing things that you are unable to detect.

IDI – And finally, define a great book.

KA – One that makes you either cry or fall in love; or both if it’s an excellent book.  I like reading a book that each sentence is poetically beautiful.   Like a painting, each stroke is a sentence that will comprise a well thought out picture.

IDI – Kristi, thank you for participating in an Ink Drop Interview. I wish you the very best in your writing career.

Interested in reading Kristi’s debut novel, ONE PETAL FLOWER? You can find it here:

www.kristiayersauthor.com – And don’t forget to leave her a note letting her know what you thought!

Ink Drop Interviews are conducted by Kathy Reinhart

author of the award-winning novel,

LILY WHITE LIES

Paperback or Kindle (only $3.99 everyday)

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A special thank you to all who have supported me and my writing, followed my posts or purchased one of my novels. Your interest means the world to me!


Cassia Martins

I have two reasons for today’s post. First, I would like to thank everyone for their downloads, purchases and support of me and LILY WHITE LIES in the last week. I am happy to say that the giveaway was a success, having given away a little more than 13,000 books in one day, followed by over 4000 sold in the following week. Bigger numbers than I dared hope for! (And my friends in England, you’ve made quite a showing) I’ve been hearing wonderful feedback and can only hope that word continues to spread about a great story. Thank you all.

It looks like I’m coming out of ‘retirement’… at least temporarily. A few weeks ago, when I announced that Arthur Levine would be my last interview, I hadn’t taken into consideration that there would be people who were just finishing up their books or who had just heard of Ink Drop Interviews and were sending me their requests just as I was shutting down.

So, taking that into consideration, I will be posting interviews for at least the next couple weeks. Today, I would like you to help me welcome an author I came across not too long ago, Cassia Martins, author of BORN IN RIO.

IDI – Hi Cassia, I’m glad you could be here today.

CM – I’m happy to be here.

IDI – Something every writer is asked to the point of exhaustion – where do you get your ideas?

CMI think from living, from everywhere, really, because I am not sure that there is a specific place where they come from, but I definitely think that “listening to the silence” and nurturing an “open channel” as to when they come plays a big role. What I mean by that is that I have had the most amazing ideas at times where I didn’t expect them to come at all! And yet, when they did, I welcomed them, built on them. That is why I am not sure there is a specific place where I can find them!  

For example, when writing “Born in Rio” I created a schedule and I tried to stick to it: I had a goal of writing at least 700 words a day. But when I reached the end of chapter 39, I couldn’t find the right words to continue! And the more pressure I put on myself, the less writing I would get done. So I learned to respect my time, even though I always kept an “open channel” to be prepared to welcome the words through the silence… and one day, while mindlessly walking in the streets of Rio de Janeiro, I passed in front of a school, and this sentence came to me: “School had started in front of Elizabeth’s building and the sound of children’s laughter slowly broke my deafness.”  After that I kept on writing and I was able to finish the book in one shot!

IDI – On that note, tell us a little about your book, BORN IN RIO. When did the idea come to you?

CM –The idea of writing this book was first in my mind in   2007, as I was writing application essays to graduate school. Over the years, the story matured, and finally, in August of 2010 I began writing.

My book Born in Rio tells the story of a woman who goes back to her homeland after spending most of her life away. In a way my own experiences and living most of my life away from Brazil, the country where I was born, played a big role. I wanted to write a rich story of personal growth, and take readers through this journey, not only through Rita’s discovery of her past and her heritage, but also through Brazil, its culture, its history and its soul.

IDI – I’m interested to know more about the title ‘Born in Rio’. Can you expand on why you chose that title?

CM – The tile “Born in Rio” suits the book in so many ways, and it describes perfectly the experience I had while writing this book as well.

First, the book was literary “born” in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as I also spend exactly 9 months writing it!

Second, Born in Rio is a beautiful story of courage, of life-upheaval and change. The main character goes through a drastic transformation throughout the book, and in a way by being in Rio, the city where she was born, allows her to be able to be born again.

Third, I also really wanted to talk about the culture of Brazil and the soul of Rio de Janeiro; a city that has such a special place in my heart! Brazil will be hosting the 2014 World Cup and Rio de Janeiro will be the next one to host the Summer Olympics in 2016. Additionally, Rio de Janeiro recently has become a home of a World Heritage Site as granted by UNESCO. I wanted to give this gift to the world, and tell readers around the globe why Rio de Janeiro is known to be the “Cidade Maravilhosa”, or “The Marvelous City.”

IDI – Who is your target audience? What aspect of your writing do you feel targets that audience?

CM – Anyone who has a heart, and an interest in Brazil, should read Born in Rio. It’s an engaging and heart-warming story of self-discovery and peace, in Brazil’s most famous city!

I think the plot, the characters and the background in which Born in Rio takes place targets my audience really well. To me it’s fascinating to get to know Rita: a single, driven, 37-year old woman, who had a lucrative career as a banker in Manhattan but no personal relationships – not even with her own mother. Suddenly when faced with unexpected news about her mother, she is thrown off-guard, and is forced to confront the difficult past that closed her off emotionally. You see, Rita had immigrated to the United States with her mom when she was just 10 years old, and she never learned why. Intrigued by the letters she found between her mother and her dear friend Elizabeth in Rio, Rita embarks on this journey, not only back to her foreign motherland, but also to an unchartered territory of her life. The events that soon unfold while Rita is in Rio de Janeiro, will change her life forever.

IDI – We all draw from within and I believe there is an element of ‘us’ in everything we write. How much of you will a reader find in BORN IN RIO?

CM – Everything. Really, I gave my all while conceiving this book! I based the story on experiences I have seen in my life and dedicated myself to carefully crafting this novel to make it ready for the world. I was involved in every single aspect of its creation: I managed the editing, publishing and marketing processes. I paint since I was a child so I painted the cover, posed for the cover photo, shot scenes of the daily life in Rio, created the music, edited the book video and put up the Born in Rio website (www.borninrio.com ) myself. I cared for every facet of this project with much love, as if I were tending to my own child, with my heart and soul.

IDI – What do you do when you’re not writing?

CM – I paint since I was a child (some of my works can be seen at www.artontheheart.com ), a habit I consider therapy, an escape, a way I have learned to deal with life’s many challenges, so that is something that I will always do. I also have been able to reconcile both my pursuits in the arts and in business, I have an Economics degree from Boston University and an MBA from The Wharton School of Business, and I work in finance. I enjoy swimming, dancing (in the moment Salsa dancing!) and spending time with my eight-year old long-haired dachshund Dolce, my loyal buddy.

IDI – Define a great book.

CM – I have always thought of books as a way to live intense in my relatively short life span, through the experiences of others, the minds of others, their existence in other times and parts of this planet… in this extraordinary, yet complicated world in which we live!

So, to me a great book is one that serves exactly this purpose, it is a building block to who I am today, to the human being I am evolving to be every day. Therefore the great books to me are many; like the books that taught me how to master my trade, the books that taught me how to behave, the books that comforted me when I was sad, the books that made me laugh, the books that changed my way of thinking and the books that took my breath away.

But I have to say that Born in Rio has a very special place as an essential “building block” of my being, because I never imagined that I would experience living this intensely… living so much through this one book I conceived to the world.

IDI – It was a pleasure having you with me today. Is there anything you would like to say to the readers in closing?

CM – Yes, thank you to all of the readers for visiting me on Ink Drop Interviews and now that Born in Rio is ready for you to read, I hope you will like this story as much as loved writing it for you!

From my heart to yours,

Cássia Martins

I would like to include a few links where you can find Cassia and her work:

trailler: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgjrMsv40ZI

website: www.borninrio.com

amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Born-Rio-Cássia-Martins/dp/1466441798/

facebook page: www.facebook.com/borninrio

Next week: An interview with Kristi Ayers. Don’t miss it.

*Winner of the Brighid’s National Fiction Manuscript Contest*

LILY WHITE LIES is rated 4.8 by readers like you!

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Ink Drop Interviews are conducted by Kathy Reinhart, author of LILY WHITE LIES. You can reach Kathy where she hides when she’s not writing……….

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Mark your calendars!

Sunday July 22nd, 2012 – One day only and for the first time

The award-winning and 5-star rated and reviewed

LILY WHITE LIES

FREE for Kindle

In anticipation of my upcoming release, THE RED STROKES, I am happy to offer my award-winning novel, LILY WHITE LIES for free on Amazon. I have given away 3000 copies of my first novel, MISSOURI IN A SUITCASE (under the pen name Nova Scott) and hope to surpass that number with this giveaway.

All I ask is that you take a quick minute to either rate it, review it or drop me a quick note to tell me what you thought. As with anything, positive feedback and comments not only help with sales, but more importantly, let authors know if we’re captivating our audience. Your opinions mean more than you know….

But, even if you can’t leave a word or two – I hope you’ll enjoy the book… on me!


Arthur Levine

My guest today appeared on Ink Drop Interviews back in it’s early days. At that time, he was promoting his novel, Johnny Oops. I would like to welcome him back today, with his latest novel, Sequin Boy and Cindy. Please help me to welcome Arthur Levine…

IDI – Hello Arthur, it’s great to have you back.

AL – It’s great to be back.

IDI – Arthur, are your stories plot or character driven?

AL – My stories are definitely character driven. It’s not so much that I get into their skin as it is that they get into mine and sort of take over.

IDI – Who is your favorite author, and why?

AL – I like some of the indie authors I’m reading like Rebecca Forester and her Hostile Witness Series. which in my opinion is the best of legal thrillers and I must add, on a more traditional note J.D. Salinger and his Catcher In The Rye. Reminds me of Johnny Oops, or is that the other way around?.

IDI – Arthur, why do you write?

AL – I think we write what we are and probably don’t know it. Hard to accept that we can do some of the crazy things our characters do or even have these thoughts, but we must, otherwise we couldn’t write them.

IDI – Sequin Boy and Cindy is a different type of novel than Johnny Oops. What made you write it?

AL – This is my first attempt at a paranormal romance, but I hope it is more. It’s about two young people from abused backgrounds who find each other and fall in love. Here is a little excerpt.

 CHAPTER 1 Sequin Boy and Cindy

I never thought anything good was going to happen to me and then I met this girl.

I saw her standing on the other side of the train platform at Jamaica Station, NY fidgeting with the torn buckle on her faded blue backpack, waiting for the 5:35 to take her out to what I later found out was a group home in Blissville, Long Island where she lived. She’s a pretty girl with blond pigtails, big blue eyes and a great smile. And yet I sense there is something sad or withdrawn about her. Guess that makes two of us.

I think she is staring back at me.

Cindy is eighteen and works in Jamaica as a dental assistant, a job I found out she detests because she’s bored. I guess she can’t help staring across the platform at a strange-looking young man in a hooded sweatshirt who appears to have some kind of shiny colored disks on his face, which are half hidden by the hood of his sweatshirt—that’s me. My name is Billy Wolk. I’m half Native American Indian. I have spirit Ancestors.

She must be thinking, what are they, those ornaments on his face? I guess she’s wondering why this strange boy is staring at her.  Probably thinks I look sad and alone. I am. I’m taken by the good looks of this thin girl who occasionally smiles at me. I think she is smiling at me. It’s hard to be sure from this distance. No one ever smiles at me. Sometimes they stare in disbelief. I almost never smile.

Cindy says to herself, “what’s with that kid staring at me? He has some weird shiny stuff hanging from his face. I’m a little scared.”

In my mind I can still feel the sting of his belt buckle hitting me. My Native American blood comes from my mother’s side. I guess that’s where I get my black hair and light olive complexion. My mother died when I was ten years old. My real father disappeared years before. My drunken stepfather kicked me out of his home when I was sixteen after beating me bloody with the brass buckle of his belt and telling me I was a worthless outcast—a social reject. I don’t know why I’m thinking about that now.

“I hate that bastard,” bubbles from my lips whenever the image of the beatings and the hurtful words I got from my stepfather cross my mind.

I found a job working for ten dollars an hour at a pulp romance magazine with offices in Jamaica, NY as an article writer. I was always good at English and writing in high school. Any one could have written for that rag their standards were so low, but I’m digressing.

I live in a one room fourth floor walk up on Eleventh Street and First Avenue in New York City. I guess you could say it’s a dump, and am headed home when I see her. I wish I had the courage to cross the train platform and talk to that girl. I wish I had some faith in myself and wasn’t so shy.

Self-consciously I pull at the sequins on my upper lip.  I have a neat row of four gold-colored sequins sewn on either side of my nose, one long row of nine sequins in red, yellow and blue sewn on my forehead, and a tinier row of six silver sequins above my upper lip. Why did I ever let some tattoo and piercing artist in the Bronx talk me into doing this as an eighteenth birthday present to myself? I guess I wanted to keep people away from me. How anti-social can you get? I must be an idiot. Maybe my stepfather was right about me.

I’ve never been with a girl before, never even kissed one. I haven’t had much interest until now. I’ve been more in a survival mode just wanting to be left alone, but this girl across the platform with the blond pigtails really turns me on. I think she is staring at me. I wonder how much of my face she can see while I’m wearing this hooded sweatshirt? Maybe I should step back into in shadows. Why did I get these damn sequins sewn on my face? Makes me look like a real weirdo. Guess that’s what I wanted.

How do I know what I want? I’m only eighteen years old. Is she smiling at me? I think she’s smiling at me.

For days the two of us stare across the platform at each other, I always make sure to get to my train platform at the same time every day so I can see her. I don’t know what I will do if one day she isn’t there.

Finally, I get my courage up, climb up the stairs and cross down to her side of the platform. “Hello,” I barely whisper with my eyes on the ground.

I mumble in a quiet voice unused to speaking to other people about anything except yes or no or chicken and garlic sauce at the Chinese take out place, “I’m so lonely. I saw you looking at me. Can I ride with you?”

I get a real shock when Cindy gently takes my hand and simultaneously pulls my hoody back,

She hesitates and says, “Yes.” She is thinking what am I doing with this boy. He look so strange with sequins on his face, yet he looks so sad and lonely and under everything really handsome. Dare I talk to him? How can I let him ride with me on the train? Is it safe? Something makes me want to get to know the real person under those horrid shiny metal sequins.

For some reason I guess she feels drawn to me. Makes me feel good.

IDI – Do you outline or do you fly by the seat of your jockey’s?

AL – I fly. Don’t do an outline and go where my characters take me, sometimes to very strange places.

IDI – Where do your ideas come from?

AL – I’ve often wondered about that myself. They just pop into my head. People say I have a vivid imagination and my stories are unique. I just write whatever is swimming around in the back of my head. Before I sit down to write I have no idea that I had such feelings.

IDI – What are you working on now? Can we get a peek?

AL – I’m working on a sequel to Johnny Oops when the principal characters are in transition to heaven in spirit form. A little excerpt would be Johnny Oops 111 – Spirit World

CHAPTER 1

Crossing over can be hard to do. There are different phases. I Johnny Oops 11 am slowly floating down the stream on a light green Lilly Pad watching a Yellow and Blue striped Butterfly take in the blazing midday Sun from the overhanging branch of a tree. Have to be quiet now. Don’t want to disturb the balance of nature. I could never have done this before, but now that I’m in spirit form it’s easy. The sheer beauty of the scene is overwhelming. The smells are wonderful. My friends and I are now spirits in Paradise. I wonder what my family is doing now? Where are they?

IDI – (Some) writers have been known to be eccentric, from keeping rotting apples in a desk drawer to only being able to write while wearing fuzzy pink slippers. Do you have any such quirks or superstitions that are as integral to good writing as plot and character?

AL – I don’t think so. What’s most important to me is writing my thoughts down before I forget them. This can be very disconcerting to my wife who may ask a question and only get a vague What in response. Also I’m dangerous when crossing streets when a thought comes to me.

IDI – One last question, Arthur. What advice would you give to new/unpublished writers?

AL – Write what’s in your heart.

I’m including a blurb on my new novel Sequin Boy and Cindy and a bio on myself. Hi everyone, the White Buffalo is coming. She can make your dreams come true. Sequin Boy and Cindy my new novel has recently been published on kindle. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0085M3BZ6

There is no room for loneliness when two lost souls find each other, fall in love, suffer adversity and go on to enjoy heartwarming success.  The spirits of Billy’s Indian Ancestors and a mythical White Buffalo combine with God’s inspiration to protect our young couple in this paranormal romance plus. You’ll laugh and cry as life and the powers that be take them on a roller coaster ride of highs and lows. Join Billy and Cindy as they learn to love together, raise a family and experience the pure pleasure of giving back to the community. You’ll relate as their wild antics take on special meaning and offer a new dimension to the art of the possible in a love story for the ages.

A little about Arthur:

Arthur J. Levine is a spiritually oriented computer junky and writer who envisions vast social changes taking place as a result of technological innovations on the Internet incorporating the use of artificial intelligence, quantum computing and virtual reality.

He has a background in finance and publishing and is the author of the novel Johnny Oops, Johnny Oops 11 – Timeless, Sequin Boy and Cindy and the how to find faith books The Magic of Faith and The Search For God Stories. He has also written Futures/Past, Homegrown Terrorists, Voyeur Bomb, The Magic Pill and Wasn’t Man. He is a former Director of New Business for Family Circle Magazine and graduated from The Wharton School of Business with a BS in Economics. Mr. Levine is married and has three children and seven grandchildren.

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Missouri in a Suitcase Lily White Lies

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 (Coming Soon) ‘The Red Strokes’

Enjoy an excerpt:

Birth is an empty canvas. Life is the color we apply. Blues and greens, peaceful and unassuming. Pastels for hope. Varied hues of yellow and orange add warmth and contentment while shades of gray mark regrets and change. But it is the red strokes, lies and truths, vibrant and bold, the moments that fill our hearts with joy and bring us to our knees in desperation that place value on our lives. It is the red strokes that shape our integrity and define who we are. Only once a canvas is complete can we appreciate it as a true work of art.

My canvas is now a completed work and as you will learn in the upcoming weeks, many of the strokes of my life were red. I have done things in my life that were both honorable and unconscionable. I have made decisions that were questionable, but have never lent a second to regret. I’ve known shame and pride. I am not going to apologize for the decisions I have made or for the life I have lived. I am not seeking your forgiveness. I am hoping. Hoping that you will understand. And through understanding my red strokes, may you come to recognize and embrace your own.

                               ~ Jake Tallman, in a deathbed letter to his daughters – ‘The Red Strokes’.

Wordle: I Would Like To Thank...


Christine Grote

Two weeks into the New Year… how many of you have bombed on your resolutions already? I’m not pointing fingers or condemning, as I have already failed (miserably, I might add). Resolutions are tough. They are always things we couldn’t bring ourselves to do during the year so it seems kind of silly that we talk ourselves into believing we can get them done simply because the last digit of the date has changed. But, the point I’m trying to make is, we plug along. Every year we go through the same motions, the same self-trickery, and why? Because deep down, we want to succeed.

Well, that is exactly what the authors I feature on Ink Drop Interviews are looking to do. Succeed. Writing is a tough business. There are many writers out there and there are many who write. I won’t go off on a tangent regarding the difference. There are people out there who will do a much better job than I will at teaching you the difference, among many other valuable lessons of writing. (I recommend Kristen Lamb, for one. She knows her stuff and is very generous in sharing what she knows).

The response to Ink Drop Interviews has been great. Even better than I had originally anticipated when I first began this blog. The one thing I would like LOVE, to see improve is the feedback. Many are reading the interviews, but few are leaving feedback. Your feedback is the support, or in some cases, the honesty the featured authors need. After all, we all think our writing is the greatest thing since the invention of the GPS, but when we hear the truth from a stranger (good or bad), someone who took a minute from their day to read about us and our work, that’s when we step into reality.

So, if you read the interview, please take that extra minute to leave your thoughts for the author. They appreciate it more than you know!

And now… let’s chat with Christine M. Grote, author of ‘Dancing in Heaven – a sisters memoir’.

IDI – Christine, I know that ‘Dancing in Heaven’ is about the life and death of your severely disabled sister. Why did you write it?

CG – Having a profoundly disabled sister had a profound effect on me. Annie was born a year after me with severe brain damage, although it wasn’t evident at first.When she got to be the age where she should have been sitting up and crawling, but wasn’t, my parents took her to the doctor. That eventually led to her diagnosis of severe brain damage, or cerebral palsy. She never outgrew the needs of an infant. I always knew I’d write about Annie, some day. When she died, I felt compelled to share her story. I didn’t want her story or the value of her existence to end with her. I wanted to give her a legacy. Annie never worked, never married, and never had children. So she didn’t have access to the ways most people have of making a lasting impression on this planet. But Annie touched a lot of people’s lives. She was like a shining star. I wanted her life to have mattered.

IDI – You’ve said where the idea for ‘Dancing in Heaven’ originated, but where do you get your ideas for other projects?

CG – I primarily write non-fiction, although lately I’ve been tempted to try my hand at fiction. I took a couple of fiction-writing classes in college a few years back, but mostly I still wrote non-fiction with the names and a few details changed. ‘Dancing in Heaven’ originated as a short story I wrote for one of the fiction classes. Because I write non-fiction I get my ideas from everyday life: what I see, read or know from experience. When my ideas come to me, they sometimes arrive in the middle of the night waking me, or while I am behind the steering wheel on an interstate from here to there. They are often compelling and insistent. Sometimes I think it is my ideas that are in control, and not me. When something I witness touches me, or moves me deeply, I often feel compelled to share it through the written word.

IDI – Pen and paper or computer and Word? The bustle of Barnes and Noble or the quiet of your study? Alone or within a writing group? Tell us, what is your most inspiring/productive setting?

CG – It’s interesting that when I first started to write seriously in my forties, I couldn’t write well at the keyboard but needed the feel of the pen in my hand to access my thoughts. Over time, I have found that now I can express myself directly on the computer. As I allude to in the book, I wrote a lot of ‘Dancing in Heaven’ in the early hours of the morning, here at my computer desk in our study where I sit as I type this interview. I don’t believe I could focus or write well in a group or noisy setting, although I have at times written in a coffee shop. I am most productive here at home with a hot pot of tea within easy access. I also like to print things out and edit or revise by hand at times, so being close to my printer is a big plus.

IDI – I’ve heard arguments for each side, but when writing, do you outline or sketch the entire book before you feel comfortable enough to begin your draft or do you prefer to fly by the seat of your pants?

CG – I am a messy writer. I jot ideas down on bits and pieces of paper as they come to me and shove them in my pocket. I write what is foremost on my mind, when it is there. Then I end up doing a lot of physical cutting and pasting and moving things around. This was especially true in ‘Dancing in Heaven’. I wrote each chapter in a journal fashion about the days leading up to Annie’s death. But for the second half of each chapter, I inserted a vignette or an essay about something that would flesh out the story of who Annie was, what she meant to us, and how our lives were affected by her. Then I threw photographs into the mix. So, I had little note cards of the current story line, the vignettes, and the photos, and I played something of a match game shifting things around from time to time.

IDI – What was the best advice ever given to you, and by whom?

CG – When I returned to college in my forties, for a second degree after raising our four children, one of my favorite teachers required that we use two or three resources in everything we wrote for a composition class. It was a nuisance at the time. I remember one time in particular I was writing a little fun essay about taking my dog for a walk in the park, and I threw in all kinds of referenced factual information about things like how leaves change color, the fact that female sparrows are attracted to males who not only sing a lot but know a lot of songs, an agricultural experiment about grasshoppers, and chaos theory in reference to the way leaves fall. I was trying to be obnoxious at the time by throwing all this technical stuff into a pretty little observation of nature and people as I walked my dog in the park. But I ended up really liking the essay. It worked out. And now I see that if I can add something I found in a resource it often gives my non-fiction substance. I used a lot of records in ‘Dancing in Heaven’ from the doctor, the hospital, and Hospice. The records added a lot to the story.

IDI – I know authors sometimes have trouble when writing about family members. Did your family support you while you were writing ‘Dancing in Heaven’?

CG – I think the difficulty that can happen with memoirs is that you can cross the line between public and private information. This line is not the same for all people. When I gave final drafts of my memoir to my siblings and asked them to sign release forms, my oldest sister and younger brother asked to be removed from the memoir for reasons I don’t completely agree with or fully understand. My sister felt my portrayal of her was too negative. I think both siblings were not comfortable with my writing about Annie’s death. I think my sister would have preferred the story be about the happy times, focused on the light that Annie shined. But I wanted to touch people’s hearts. I think that people, who don’t have first-hand experience with someone like Annie, sometimes aren’t able to fully grasp the humanness of someone who is so completely disabled. I thought that sharing my journey as Annie was dying would best illuminate how significant she was to my family and me. I didn’t want readers to just think that Annie was a wonderful person; I wanted them to feel the loss. I believe with some readers, I have accomplished this. So, I made a major revision of the story and removed all references to my two siblings. My parents and one sister supported me the entire way. The story now reads as if I am from a family of five people: two parents with three daughters, when in reality there were five of us children. I lost a couple of excellent vignettes I would have liked to share, but I believe that in the end, Annie’s story still shines through.

IDI – In your opinion, what are the biggest misconceptions new authors have about the publishing industry?

CG – As a novice author, I’m probably not equipped to answer this in general terms. But speaking for myself, I thought it would be easier. I initially wanted to go the route of a traditional publisher, but the more I read and researched, the more I realized how very long that path could be. And I am not a patient person. I also realized that the author loses control of a lot of things about the book when they have an agent and an editor. I just wasn’t willing to give up that control with this particular story about Annie. Maybe if i were writing fiction I would feel differently about this. Either way, traditionally or self-published, the responsibility falls largely on the author to build a platform and promote the book. That was my biggest surprise.

IDI – What do you do when you’re not writing?

CG – Right now I’m promoting my book when I’m not writing. But in addition to that, I love to read. I belong to the Book Addicts group on Goodreads and try to keep up with their reading schedule. I also hope to read a lot of Indies this year to support them, but also to find authors that I may enjoy. I also enjoy photography, travel and gardening, all of which I post about on my blog: http://randomthoughtsfrommidlife.wordpress.com/

IDI – Define a great book.

CG – A great book is one that I can’t put down, one that I miss when I’m finished, and one that adds something to the content of my character. Readers have told me all three things about ‘Dancing in Heaven’, so I feel happy about that.

IDI – As a writer, what is the one thing you would like people to know about you?

CG – I write to touch reader’s hearts. I think the more we feel, the more or the deeper we understand the human condition, the more fully alive we become.

IDI – I think it takes an enormous amount of courage to write a memoir, especially on a subject that has had such a profound effect on your life. I admire you for that. I would also like to thank you for sharing a part of your story with us. Is there anything else you’d like to say to the readers?

CG – I would like to let them know where they can get in touch with me and/or my work….

I’d love to hear from you. You can visit my website at http://www.christinemgrote.com where you will find links to my Facebook page, my Twitter account (cmsmith57), and my WordPress blog. I try to respond to all comments I receive.

You can find excerpts and other reviews about Dancing in Heaven at my blog. (http://randomthoughtsfrommidlife.wordpress.com/dancing-in-heaven/)

Dancing in Heaven is available at:

Amazon.com (Print and Kindle)
Barnes and Noble (Print and Nook)
Createspace (Print)
Smashwords (Multiple eBook formats)

Ink Drop Interviews are conducted by Kathy Reinhart, author of the award-winning novel, Lily White Lies.

Follow on Twitter: @kathyreinhart

‘Like’ on Facebook: www.facebook.com/KathyReinhart.Novelist

Subscribe to Ink Drop Interviews to keep from missing your favorite authors.

If you are a published author and would be interested in participating in an interview, contact me at ladybuggerly at hotmail for a questionnaire.

Beginning this week I am adding something new to my blogs. I come across many interesting, informative and just plain fun blogs during the course of the week and I have decided to include one in each of my blogs. I would like to thank Stephen Hise and Thea Atkinson for this one:

http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2012/01/16/find-the-resonance-in-your-characters-thea-atkinson/


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