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Monday, January 31, 2011

Interview with Author W.S. Hagger

When able to ignore Mitch's adventures, W.S. Gager enjoys watching high school sporting events, teaching at a local community college, and spending time at the Gager family home.

Welcome, Wendy!

What was your path to publication?

People often asked me if it was hard to get published. The answer to that is not a simple yes or no. It’s both. The hardest part of getting published is writing a great book. That took a lot more work than I ever dreamed. The publishing part was easier and wasn’t something I really planned, but my path was different than most. Let me explain.

I worked for more than a year on A Case of Infatuation: A Mitch Malone Mystery. I’d edited it, my critique group had read and commented, I’d polished it but I wasn’t sure it was ready yet. I’d never written a mystery before and wanted some feedback. I found a mystery contest and entered literally five minutes before the deadline hoping I would get some comments to make my book better. What I received was even better. I took first place in the Dark Oak Mystery Contest and was offered a publishing contract by its sponsor, Oak Tree Press.

Were there any writing organizations that were useful in promoting your book?

When talking to my publisher, she asked if I had any interest in going to the Public Safety Writers Association Conference in Las Vegas and my book would be officially launched then. I investigated and decided to go.
I met a lot of authors and many who were published by my same publisher. Holli Castillo also had her first book, Gumbo Justice, come out with mine and we’ve forged a great friendship based on that bond. It was a great conference.
The next year I decided to enter my first book, and my second, A Case of Accidental Intersection, in the published and non-published categories. A Case of Infatuation came in second to The Pot Thief by fellow Oak Tree author J. Michael Orenduff. I figured that was pretty good. A Case of Accidental Intersection took first place in the yet-to-be published category and came out for real soon after. Just this month has become available on Kindle and Nook.
Most writers see something of themselves in their main character, but you’ve had a different experience.

I've had friends read my books and ask where Mitch Malone, the crime sleuth, came from. They couldn't find me anywhere in the books or in him. I'm not sure that is a compliment or not.

Mitch is a rough-around-the-edges, crime reporter who is dogged in his pursuit of a story. He's looking for fame and a Pulitzer and doesn't want to share his star with anyone. Mitch doesn't have much of a social life and considers himself a man of mystery. What he finds in each of the books is that in order to get the best story, he has to give as much of himself in order to received the information he needs.

Are there advantages to writing a character who’s nothing like you?

What I love about Mitch is that he is just arrogant enough to be funny and I can put the words I always wanted to say to some people in his mouth and they sound perfectly fine.

Thank you, Wendy!

To learn more about W.S. Gager and her books, visit her website. A Case of Infatuation and A Case of Accidental Intersection are both available in paperback and electronic format through

Indiebound and Amazon.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Interview with author Sylvia L. Ramsey, Who Gives ALL Her Profits To...

Sylvia La Von Ramsey teaches Public Speaking at the Georgia Military Community College in Augusta, GA. She is an Associate professor of Speech Communications and coordinator of the Academic Resource Center on campus.

She was the 2005 White House Communications guest speaker for their observance of Women’s History Month, and was one of the first DJ’s on KWOC in Missouri in the 1970’s.

She was nominated for the 41st. Annual Georgia Author of the Year Award for her book of poetry, Pulse Points of a Woman’s World.

Recently, on the Murder Must Advertise list, Karen Syed of Echelon Press threw down the gauntlet when she said that many writers won't take the time to blog. I mentioned that I interview authors, and that the advantages are many. Three industrious writers contacted me within minutes after I hit the send button on my post.

Some people are rolling their eyes and thinking, "I would never be that pushy." Those people are also not in my blog lineup! I believe in jumping on opportunities right away if for no other reason than my aged mind will forget about them. Really, I think the attitude comes from my years in insurance. Anything I could deal with right away meant one less thing to clutter my desk!

My first author was the quickest to respond. I was intrigued by Sylvia L. Ramsey because ALL of her proceeds go to charity. But I'll let Sylvia tell you in her own words:

Sylvia, tell us first how you got into writing.

Writing has always been a passion of mine. I began writing news and feature articles for a small town newspaper in Southeast Missouri at the age of nine. Because of the nurturing and encouragement by the news editor, I developed a love and a need to write. By the time I was working on my graduate degree, several of my poems, short stories and feature articles had been published. Since that time, over one hundred of my short stories and poems have found their way into literary magazines. I have been a featured poet in several literary journals over the years.

Why give all of your profits away?

Many may wonder why I am so adamant in my support of bladder cancer awareness. I think it is because I remember only, too, well how badly I needed to talk to someone about it, and to find information that would help me understand what was happening to me. However, when I was diagnosed there were none of these things available. I had great medical care, but there was no informative or emotional support. I decided to try to change this if I could. Since that time, things have changed some but not nearly enough. My quest has only just begun. That is why the sales of my books are given to the American Bladder Cancer Society.

Is your charity work what motivates you to write?

It was only natural that my love of writing took on another purpose after I had been diagnosed with Stage T3 bladder cancer. I suddenly realized that there was a big void in information, awareness and support. Somehow, I had to do my share to change this situation because it is ranked as the 5th most prevalent, ranked 4th. in men, and as prevalent in women as cervical cancer, but deadlier.

My books writing and my books became a way for me to make a difference.

You write in several genres. Tell us about your books.

My first book, Pulse Points of a Woman’s World, is a walk through life. It is divided into four sections which are: Pulse Points of Youth, Pulse Points of Love, Pulse Points of Reality and Pulse Points of Wisdom.

My novel, An Underground Jewell is set in a possible near-future, and is about a female sleuth who must clear herself after being accused of espionage by hacking into the national computer system.

And what's your latest book?

My newest book, Merchild Land, was inspired by my first granddaughter who insisted that I tell her numerous stories about mermaids.

Thank you so much for being with us today. You can read more about Sylvia, her books, and her mission on her web site.

You can also visit her at Author's Den.
 
Finally, her books are available at Amazon and as both paperback and Kindle editions and at Barnes and Noble.

Thank you, Sylvia, and good writing!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Teacher's Guide for Your Children's Book

I took a class in writing teacher's guides at the Muse Online Writer's Conference. I'll never start another children's book without one. In fact, I think I'll lay out the teacher's guide first.

A teacher's guide adds value to your book for teachers (obviously), home schooling parents, and plain old parents. Though many authors charge a fee for teacher's guides, I'm offering the Teacher's Guide to Logical Larry on my website at no cost. Why not charge? Because I want people to buy the book, and people are more likely to purchase something if it comes with a bonus. Even if they download the ebook to Kindle for $0.99 instead of purchasing the hard copy, they still get the guide for free.

How do you write a teacher's guide?

First decide what age group your book targets. I aimed Logical Larry at the 4th grade level. The Reading Tub (a site that reviews books for parents) rates it as a read along for ages 7-10 and a read alone for ages 11-13. Fourth Grade is somewhere in the middle.

Next, get your state's educational content standards for that grade. You can probably find them online. I used California because I live here and because I was told they are one of the highest in the country. You can provide standards for more than one state if you like. Maybe you live in California but the book takes place in Illinois. That's two target markets, so I would provide standards for both states.

One thing you'll notice is that educational standards are sometimes vague. Talk to a teacher about how they follow the guidelines. The teachers I spoke to agreed that the standards were sometimes difficult to apply, and teachers in my area are willing to mix different grade standards into their classes. In fact, it was a teacher who recommended my book be used by fifth grade children who are having difficulties reading at the appropriate level. The subject matter will appeal to those above elementary level, but the book is short enough that it won't intimidate slow readers.

If you are writing for elementary and middle grades, it's also helpful if you can includes standards for several subjects. If you have the children write a report about the geography of the book's location, it may meet a Natural Science standard. Many times teachers cross-teach subjects, and the more standards your teacher's guide covers, the more helpful it can be.
Not only will a teacher's guide be appreciated by adults, but it will help you as a writer. I mentioned writing the guide first. Here are the benefits:

  •  If you include a vocabulary test or game, you can ask a teacher for a list of the words they plan to cover this year and include them in your text.
  • Looking at the guidelines will give you ideas to include in your book. The next Logical Larry I write will include more about the geography and wildlife in my fictional town that can transfer into games and essays for the Teacher's Guide.

Some other things to remember when writing your guide:

  • Keep it fun. Teachers especially liked the colorful pages that included pictures and the exercises disguised as games.
  • Test your book and Teacher's Guide on an actual class. Most teachers are happy to have additional materials to go over with their students, and you'll get feedback from your intended audience. I sent the book to a teacher along with a brief questionnaire for the children to complete. Their answers surprised me and I made changes to the book as a result.
  • Make it easy for teachers and parents to get hold of. As I said, my teacher's guide is available as a download, but if your guide is long, it's sometimes cheaper for the teacher to order hard copies than it is to make copies for themselves.
  • Don't forget to include the answer key!

Just remember to enjoy the process. You're helping kids to learn, and learning should be fun!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

So Much Luck and So Little Discipline

I just picked up my Saturday delivery from Abundant Harvest Organics. As I unpacked produce from local farms, I wondered how I was going to use it all, since I haven't even made it through last week's delivery.

This is a big contrast from the homeless shelter I volunteered at this week. The shelter survives on donations and dinners cooked by local churches. No one will starve, but it's not as if they have a huge variety to select from. They eat what's there.

One man, I'm not sure if he followed a Kosher or Halal diet, couldn't eat the ham sandwiches prepared for lunch. There was peanut butter and jelly. He declined. Maybe he had dietary restrictions and was allergic to peanuts, too, but his choices were limited.

There are several reasons I order from Abundant Harvest Organics. I'm supporting local farmers. The produce is all organic. I get more for my dollar. But it's the variety that I look forward to most. I consider it a challenge. So far, I've had to figure out how to cook turnips and beets--two foods I've never eaten. This week, there are parsnips. (I passed on the Daikon radish and gave it away.) It makes me think outside the box when it comes to my dinner menu. I'm not doing well so far, but I'm determined to become a better cook and more imaginative with my meals.

It's the same thing with writing. I am never at a loss for ideas. Right now, I have three active projects, two that are waiting for final touches or rewrites, and more than seven that are at least outlined in my head if not on the computer.

With so much choice, it's difficult to finish anything. Like last week's cauliflower that is waiting for me to come up with a new recipe, these projects don't get very far when I look at them all together. It's overwhelming. My efforts are fragmented. At least the writing won't decay in my refrigerator.

At the shelter, all food is dated as it comes in. They use up the oldest first, and that way nothing gets wasted.

Some of my writing projects have been stagnating for years. Maybe if I took the oldest and just finished it and sent it out, I'd have room for new, fresh projects.

Both dilemmas will get solved. It comes down to choices. Choose one thing and cook it or write it. Decide to be active and cook rather than close the refrigerator door and pick up easy fast food. Settle butt to chair and finish that story rather than start a new one.

I've got to stop getting overwhelmed and instead consider my luck. Look at all I have to work with, both in the kitchen and in my writing! I'm a very blessed woman.

My parish priest says it comes down to discipline. When I said I didn't have a lot of that, he just laughed and said it takes practice.

This week's exercise: Practice Discipline

Monday, January 3, 2011

Before You Write Your 2011 Goals

Birthdays and New Years used to see me writing long lists of things that were going to be different this year. My intended accomplishments would have cowed James Bond. I threw out last year's work as if it were a disposable razor and started fresh at the stroke of midnight.

As I got older, I stopped following a time table endorsed by calendar companies and Time Magazine. Instead, I used the holiday as a reminder to review my goals and make adjustments.

This year, it dawned on me that I couldn't very well adjust my path if I hadn't any idea of where I stood on the journey. Martha Stewart types don't have this problem. Erma Bombeck types do. I'm an Erma, though I can't imagine that that great lady was as disorganized as I am.

So my goal for the first week of January, 2011, is to take inventory.

What projects do I have and at what stage of progress are they? First drafts? Outlines? Do they need a simple grammar check before I send them out? Are they ready to submit but I'm hoarding them like the last Fannie May chocolate in the box?

What markets have I researched? Have I been successful with them in the past? Are they still in business?

Do I have a list of accepted stories and am I utilizing them by listing them on my web page? Have the rights expired so I can submit to markets that accept reprints?

I won't bore you with my household list which includes painting touch ups and reorganizing the bins in the garage. Mind numbing stuff.

Once this stage is complete, I plan to set shorter deadlines. There's nothing like finding a piece of writing that you've been playing with since before your first wrinkle to get you moving.

I also intend to write the START date of each project. At my age, "a couple of weeks ago" usually turns out to have been two years ago, and I'd like to get things off my plate before they develop mold.

We'll see how things stand in a week. I'll either be raring to go on my projects or I'll be curled up in a fetal position surrounded by caramel wrappers. I'm hoping for the former.