Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Interview with Brandie LaGarde


Today’s interview is with Brandie LaGarde who was a stay-at-home mom who home-schooled her six children. She was happy acting as a teacher and didn’t really consider writing until she was challenged by one of her children.

So let’s get right to the interview and find out how she was inspired.

Where did you get the inspiration for writing Nathaniel Ages?

My twenty-two year old daughter suffers from Bipolar Disorder and hasn't found her niche yet. She decided upon being a writer and showed me her work and I was amazed. She soon lost interest and quit and I tried encouraging her to continue to the point of upsetting her. She told me that I had no idea how hard it was to write a book and to back off.

She was right. I had no idea, so I decided that I would try it. A new passion emerged in me, I loved writing almost as much as reading. I generally read two books a week and had no idea that I would love creating a story that I controlled would be so exciting. So in between home-schooling my other five children, I wrote Nathaniel Ages in four months. I showed it to my daughter and she told me that it was great that I wrote a book, but now I just had an unread manuscript in my laptop. Again, she was correct.

So I let a few people read it and once my husband read it, he insisted we do more with it than let it sit in my computer. We googled “publishing” and that is where I developed phobias for the first time in my life. Phobias to the words, synopsis, query, tag line, social platform....I was done. Deep down, I knew I had to do this publishing thing to show my daughter that I could, so she would know that she could.

Who is your target market for this book?
Christian suspense, but this has a powerful romantic element to it also.

Is this your first book or have you published other books besides this one?

This is my first book, but certainly not my last. I have recently been approached by a screenwriter, who has two scripts that Universal is interested in making into a two-part movie. He asked me to write the novelizations for these scripts. He is writing a script for Nathaniel Ages and he has pitched all to a couple of agents who are interested and are waiting on us to send them some things to look over. He wants to form a corporation and turn out scripts and books from our collective minds.

After much prayer and wise counsel, I have decided that I am going to pass on this offer. I want my books to remain a way to point the reader to Christ's loving salvation plan that He has for our lives and no amount of money is worth going astray from what He has planned for my writing. I have had some pretty amazing letters from readers who have dedicated their lives to Christ after reading this simple story about an angel with a powerful gift that in anger walked away from his Father, a human girl who turned her back on God in the face of tragedy, and a humble human man that obeyed God, no matter the consequences.

Did you contact any other publishers to produce your book?

With my newfound phobias, I settled on self-publishing as the way to go for me. I contacted a local author in my area that someone had told me about and after speaking with her, I decided that I would use I Universe and chose a publishing package and began the ball rolling. It was important to me that the book look really professional and it does; I'm very pleased with their services. I am on every website and my book is downloadable to every EBook format and my printed book is available in hard and soft back. I still own my book and can take it in any direction I choose.

What plans do you have to promote your book?
I actually just used Facebook and recently entered Up Authors best first contest and won, then my husband googled me and saw that I was already on Ron Knight's list of top fifty authors on Facebook. My book has some great discussion questions and seems to be a hit with reading groups. The book seems to have a life of its own and that's how I drew the attention of the scriptwriter. I don't know what's next for me and the agent or a movie from my book. After going to a writer's conference recently, I saw how unhappy several of the traditionally published authors were and discovered sites like Smashwords, I may be thinking of writing EBooks and keeping this writing thing going as fun.

Where are you in the process of publishing your next book, The Myth of Lilith?
I am on my seventh chapter. I stopped for a while as I had actually began work on the novelization, The Shroud, until I have recently decided to pass on doing it altogether. So now I feel happier and am back to work on The Myth of Lilith.

I may self-publish this one because I have some people, who only read printed versions of books, waiting to read this one. Westbow Press has offered me fifty-percent off any publishing package, so it is something to consider. My first job is homeschooling my children and the whole reason I ever wrote, my oldest daughter, has decided to begin writing again. It's all I wanted in the first place.

What advice would you give to other writers for encouragement? To write a good book. Word of mouth sells a book better than anything. It is a tough thing to get an agent and get traditionally published, but it does happen. First, you need to know what direction you want to go in, some people do very well with just EBooks, it all depends on a well written story. Keep writing and continue reading everday and let God lead you in all that you endeavor.

That’s it for today’s interview. If you would like to learn more about Brandie and her books, you can do that by going to her website at :http:/www.BrandieLagarde.com or you can contact her by Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ponchatoula-LA/Brandie-Lagarde/12628467731059

Monday, May 30, 2011

A Fresh Look

I had a yard sale this weekend. It had been a few years since my last one so I had forgotten all the work it takes to set it up, man it and get the money, and then to tear down. In the re-pack I had a total of 16 boxes which I was able to get a Salvation Army truck to pick up the same afternoon.

When all this was down, both my husband and I were exhausted. But we felt good despite the aches from lugging stuff. We had started to de-clutter the house. It is nice to go through the house and find space in cabinets and in the garage. It's amazing how you can get bogged down with unecessary stuff.

I am far from a pack rat but I finally let go of things I've had since I was a kid and clothes that I haven't worn for years. I'm glad the S.A. truck picked them up so quickly before I started to reconsider and pull them back in the house. We did this because we are tentatively planning a move. We will be paying for our own moving costs so the less the better.

I've also always believed in the concept that when you let go of your possessions you give yourself room to be open to new and better things. It's a way to let go and let God take control.

So how does this relate to writing? First off when you start fresh you can open your writer's mind to any new writing story that pops in your brain and then just run with it until you've said what you've needed. Secondly, it is my way of letting you know what our blog chain -- as listed on the right -- will be about for June. The topic is "fresh air." Having a yard sale is one way to let in some fresh air in your life as you let go. Follow the other blogs for their suggestion for fresh air. Then think up some of your own ways to experience some fresh air in your life.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

When Hopes and Dreams Become Reality

Have you often thought of starting your own business? Do you have what it takes to believe in yourself enough to try something new like your own business? Let me introduce you to a mom who started her own business because of an idea she had from her children.

Back in 2006, Britt Menzies had done two small paintings of her children. This led her to getting commissions from friends to do paintings of their children as well. Then Britt decided to do a group of six paintings that all had unique personalities. When she took her paintings to a local children’s store, the manager loved the whimsical looks of the kids and wanted to know if Britt would be willing to sell the rights to her art for a line of T-shirts. Though the idea seemed appealing at first, instead of selling her idea to someone else, she decided to grow the business herself not just as T-shirts but as a brand.

When she and her husband began to brainstorm for a name for the cute tykes, they came up with StinkyKids. This was in honor of their own kids who they had affectionately called, “little stinkers.” The name came from the children, though being sweet they could still get into mischief. They were little stinkers, but still good children who tried to do the right thing.

At this point, Menzies was a stay at home mom who had previously worked as an accountant. When I asked her about her marketing background, she said, “I didn’t have any past small business experience. I never considered myself a risk taker. Yet there was something in my gut that told me I could do this.

With the emotional support of her family she started the business with the family’s personal savings. There wasn’t any formal business plan. In asking her how she got started, she said, “I have always believed in networking and having a list of what all the people I know do for a living, as you never know when you might need their help. This is how I started with my screen printer for the T-shirts.” She also made sure that all the people in her network knew about the clothing line she had developed which helped in her initial sales.

Once she had a collection of T-shirts for children and their moms, she brought them to local stores and sold them at craft shows. What gave her a boost was having a website done by a web designer. Here she told the story of her “Stinky Kids” and how the T-shirts were unique. They were not just shirts but the individual characters on them. Each shirt came with the story of the kid on them and told how they related to the other kids in the group and in their town of Morningside. Their stories told of mischief but also of being a “leader of good.”

In asking Menzies to describe what this means she said, “We teach our children to make the right decisions and not be the follower of bad behavior. Instead they should be leaders of good behavior.” This is what her StinkyKids emulate in their stories.

Doing what is right isn’t just for the StinkyKids characters; it is also part of the mission for the business. The company donates 10% of their profits towards the fight against cancer as well as partnering with different charities and fundraisers to make a difference in the community. Menzies also does one to one counseling with others who want to start a business.

When asking her what advice she could give other new entrepreneurs she said, “You have to remember that each step is a building block. It takes time to grow. Don’t look at your competitors. Listen to your clients and what they want. Do what works for you. Don’t try to expand too quickly.”

Menzies also spoke about the importance of self-promotion, “It’s important to believe in yourself. Have a passion for what you do. I wear one of my T-shirts each day and let people know that this is my clothing line. You can’t be afraid of telling people what you do. You have to eat, sleep and breathe the business.”

Telling people about what she does is part of the story of how she grew the business. She wore one of her T-shirts into Nordstrom’s where a sales clerk asked about it. After telling her about it, the clerk brought her over to her department manager who really liked the idea. That led to a contact with the store’s children’s apparel buyer which resulted in a sale to the store and eventually all the other stores.

Since then the StinkyKids T-shirts have branched out into a line of StinkyKids dolls whose design is now licensed by Madame Alexander Dolls. Story books have also been published as part of a series.

In asking Menzies what she might have done different in growing the business she said, “I wouldn’t have given away so many T-shirts as a way to grow the business. That doesn’t do it. Being part of group of gifts in a celebrity swag bag doesn’t bring in a lot of new business. A celebrity wearing your shirt is not going to expand your business rapidly.” She also stated the importance of the age old concept of keeping it simple. When she tried to do too much all at once it cost her more money than she needed to spend. The extra expense didn’t grow the business as much as her self-promotion and networking with others had done.

When asked what her future plans were for the StinkyKids she said, “I hope I can expand into more books about the town and a plush toy pets to go along with the dolls. We also hope to expand into other activity books for children.”
Menzies hopes that one day it could also evolve into an animated series. That could happen. Just a few short years ago this business was just a sideline of doing commissioned art for friends. Now it is a national brand.

If you would like to learn more about StinkyKids and their line of products, click here

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Create Beauty in your Life and your Works


I just read a post from Tracy Krauss' blog that is part of the monthly blog chain that I participate in each month that truly inspired me.She talked about visiting a school that encourages students to create beautiful work. That didn't mean that everything had to be an iconoclastic work of art but rather something that was the best of what a student could do.

That got me thinking. It's been said that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" but do people really try to create something beautiful to behold? How much do we see on TV, movies, or books that creates something to shock rather than to inspire the thought of beauty?

I used to watch TV soaps but turned them about two years ago because they became more shocking than I cared for. Movies aren't much better. So is it not much of a surprise that the life of those same actors has become just as shocking. And the reality TV shows -- is there any beauty there in the housewives of X city or the atrocious Jersey shore show that glamorizes bad behavior? It is even more shocking when I heard that Princeton University paid Snookie to speak there! Is this how they want to inspire their graduates?

So I hope that my readers and other writers will take the thought of not writing something to shock but rather to create something of beauty to inspire others to be the best of who they can be.

The picture in this post is one of my favorite beautiful sights. I don't claim to be a wonderful photographer, but it is a beautiful memory to me. It is a sunset in Tahiti. I have many other favorite snapshots, some on film some only in my memory that I like to view as things of beauty to me. What is of beauty to you and how are you sharing that beauty and joy of life with others?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Interview with author, Carol Peterson and Writing for the Children's Educational Market


Today's interview is with Carol Peterson who has worn many business hats. She is a licensed real estate broker, has owned and operated her own small business, and is an actively trades in the stock, bond and futures markets. This background led her to write for children and teach them about handling their finances. So let's find out how that writing began.

How did you begin writing for children? Were you a teacher?
Actually, I was never a teacher. I was one of those ever-present moms in the classroom. I was the scout leader and the organizer at charity events. What I learned is that kids learn best when it’s fun and fun usually means “doing” something. My 4 teacher resource books are filled with activities that help kids understand the curriculum by making learning fun.

Your blog says you are a trader in the stock, bond and futures markets. It says that’s what inspired your to create FUN WITH FINANCE. Tell me how that all came about?
I’ve always been interested in financial stewardship. When I looked at my background—stock market, real estate, small business owner—it quickly became my focus to help raise up a generation of financial superheroes. I had a ton of fun writing Fun with Finance. It includes readers theater scripts, activities and board games for each of 12 areas of finance. I don’t have any other books for children in the works; but my mind keeps spinning…

You do “mini events” for students. Tell me about how that started? How do teachers need to plan for it?
Basically the “mini events” are selected activities taken straight from my books. Each of the 4 teacher resource books is filled with activities to make kids’ curriculum interesting by making it fun. Teacher need to do very little to plan. I arrange for supplies and lead the activities and discussions.

I see you’ve also done what looks like a curriculum called Jump Into Science. How did this evolve?
Jump Into Science is another curriculum-based teacher resource. It was a result of my experience in classrooms. I would watch a science fair consist of 7 experiments of begonias grown to music and 14 vinegar and baking soda explosions. I simply took grade-appropriate science experiments and grouped them by type of science, added an introduction to the basic scientific theory and included tips for creating science fair displays.

Now, a teacher can select the single area of science currently being taught (such as ecology or biology) and have a supply of experiments kids can perform and present. The publisher for all of my teacher resource books is Libraries Unlimited/Teacher Ideas Press.

How did you get involved with writing for the education market? How do you find your leads for writing for the education market?
When I began writing for kids, I really, really wanted to write picture books and humorous adventure novels for boys. Meanwhile, I kept reading the standard writing advice: write what you know. And all my experience with kids said I know how to make learning fun.

As for leads? My copy of CWIM (Children’s Writers and Illustrator’s Market) was well worn and dog-eared with red notes in the columns, yellow highlighted pages, and multi-colored post-it fringe. In other words, I did my research on publishers—which publishers were looking for what. That research is one of the hard, but necessary, parts of writing for publishing.

I see you are a member of SCBWI. How has that helped you? Have you attended any of their conferences?
One of the very first things I did when I decided to write for kids was to join SCBWI. SCBWI provides its members with wonderful resources and gets writers and illustrators together in a professional manner so we don’t feel like we’re doing this all alone.

I attend every regional conference I can. Fortunately we have quite a few of them in California. I have not yet attended either the summer LA or the winter NY conference. But it’s a goal.

I understand you are active with a critique group called the Inksters. How did you get involved with that group?
We Inksters have been together since early 2001. All of us write for children but many of us also write for adults. We all began writing picture books, but have expanded into non-fiction, middle grade and young adult novels. The 5 of us “meet” online, sharing information and providing critiques and feedback whenever it’s needed. We also try to get together for a writing weekend once a year. And believe it or not, we even get some work done!

For those who want to break into working in the educational book market, what advice would you give them?
Before attempting a book proposal, I’d pursue magazine articles. Start with articles for local papers and periodicals—both for teachers and parents. Don’t ignore the huge home schooling market. Work up to national magazines that have an educational bent, such as the Cobblestone group.

Then go through your state’s curriculum standards. See what is being taught at each grade level. Talk to teachers and librarians and learn what they could use. Then settle on a topic, give it your unique slant and create an awesome proposal. Research publishers and send the proposal off only to the appropriate ones. Don’t give up.

You seem to cover all the bases in writing. I see you also do reader’s theater. What tips do you have for those who would like to write scripts for children?
I consider readers theatre to be a form of learning activities, so naturally I include it in my books whenever I can! Around the World through Holidays and Fun with Finance both include readers theatre.

Tips for writing readers theatre? Read what’s out there. There are many examples online at teacher sites. Make sure you have written grade appropriate scripts. Make it fun.

What do you do to promote your book?
Not enough. I have a website and until recently was part of a joint marketing website with several other writers. I’m in the process of organizing a speaker’s group with other children’s writers with the goal of coordinating marketing our books from a school visit and conference speaker point of view.

What do you know now about getting published that you wished you had known earlier in your writing career?
One thing I’ve learned is specific to the educational market. It was hard to compare my books to those of my friends who published with traditional publishers. My numbers are nowhere close to theirs because the market is so different. Now I recognize that if I sell 1000 books to teachers and each teacher uses my book one time for a class of 30, I’ve reached 30,000 children. That’s what it’s all about.

That's all for today's interview. If you would like to know more about Carol's books and her writing go to her website at http://www.carolpetersonauthor.com/

Friday, May 13, 2011

You Are Never Too Old [Or Too Young] to Set Another Goal or to Dream a New Dream. - C. S. Lewis


This is my entry for the monthly Christian Writer’s Blog chain whose theme this month is journey. So I thought it best to open with some famous quotes about life’s journeys before I add my own thoughts…

"Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step." Lao Tzu, Chinese Philosopher

“The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.” Don Williams, Jr., Novelist and Poet

“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” Greg Anderson, founder of the American Wellness Project.

“Success is not a place at which one arrives, but rather the spirit with which one undertakes and continues the journey.” Alex Noble, author

"When you have completed 95 percent of your journey, you are only halfway there." Japanese Proverb


I am especially drawn to the last quote as it is quite appropriate for my current life journey. I recently completed one week of intense study followed by 10 days of on-the-job training for a new career. This is a change to a new career from the one I had for 25 years. It wasn’t a change due to job burn-out but rather economic necessity. It’s a bit humbling being in a career for that long and then starting over once again.

However, I know that I am not in a unique position. Several of my friends are in similar situations as their companies are downsizing and letting go of the older, higher paid staff. Some use it as a springboard for trying something new that they always wanted to do. Others are at a loss as to what to do. For those who are not spiritually grounded, this can be a time when they spiral out of control, pretend nothing is wrong, or wreck relationships with misplaced anger.

For me this time of transition in my journey means having faith and moving forward trusting that God will guide me. Like Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.” It also reminds me that I can still be taught new things despite being an “old dog” – though I don’t feel old. It also teaches me what is really essential and what I can let go of as just “things.” I am putting many things up for sale on Craig’s list that have been more taking up space than being of need. In doing so, I am starting to see the security blankets that I am still clutching.

About two years ago I started to try to transitions to a career in writing. The income has not been as forthcoming as I had hoped. I can no longer afford to write and research for extensive hours – thus the training for a new job. I do plan to journal the stages of this new journey as a new form of writing. I hope that it can then be put together in a book to help others with their journey of starting over.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Interview with author, Darren Farrell on the book, Doug-Dennis and the Flyaway Fib

Today's interview is with Darren Farrell is is both an author and illustrator. He definitely has the thought process of a child and the whimsical style of James Thurber in my way of thinking. You might feel that way too, once you start seeing the curious meandering of his answers. So away we go!

A sheep named Doug-Dennis and an elephant named Ben-Bobby are an unlikely pair of friends. What made you create this duo?
Actually, when I first began writing this book, Doug-Dennis was a boy. A boy with crazy hair and a large elephant for a best friend. It just seemed odd that a boy would have an elephant for a best friend. Odd in a cool way. I happen to love elephants. My current bedside table is a large elephant-shaped plant pedestal handed down from my grandmother. Also, my first pet was an Indian Elephant. (I
made that up.)

As my agent and I worked on the art for the book, we decided to think about making Doug-Dennis an animal and I ended up going with another personal favorite – the sheep. I went to the University of North Carolina and our mascot is a ram. So maybe that’s why the sheep holds a special place for me. One day I hope to have a little sheep farm. (I am not making that up.)

Is there any significance to their hyphenated names?
You can blame the hyphenated names on my deep south roots.North Carolina is where I grew up, . I have always been intrigued by the southern Billy-Bob, Bobby-Ray double first name tradition, so I endeavored to pick two alliterative names that really don’t belong together but still somehow managed to have a memorable ring. My goal is to give almost every future character a double name.

Are you planning other books for this duo?
Other books for this duo are penciled in, but there are a number of other books in the pipeline and I will probably have one or two of them published before getting back to a Doug-Dennis book.



Are the poster characters in the front of the book waiting to have their own books as well?
Some of the characters in the circus posters may wend their way into other books I’m working on, in particular a few have made appearances in a chapter book I am toiling away on right now.

This is your first published children’s picture book. Prior to this book what other publishing credits did you have?
Prior to this book, I had written a couple of magazine articles and quite a number of print and television advertisements. I went to journalism school and then moved to New York and started work in advertising. I have created spots for the Library of Congress, the NFL and lots of other folks.

Did you work in graphic arts design before doing this book?
I have always been a writer. Doug-Dennis and the Flyaway Fib is my first experience being paid to create art. Early on, as I showed the initial stages of this book to friends and friends-of-friends, people responded favorably to my sketches and characters, and so I continued developing them. Eventually, with lots of sage guidance from my agent, the art arrived at a place where everyone was extremely happy.

I have always worked around talented art directors and have been friends with a handful of very thoughtful designers. I watch them work. I learn their computer shortcuts. I see what they think of various layout ideas. Also, I soak up New York City. NYC is full design inspiration – the crazy fashion I pass on the street, the odd chocolate wrappers and foreign food packaging, the crazy store window dressings, the art museums - I soak up graphic inspiration all over the place.

What writers or illustrators inspire you in the children’s genre?

I’m a huge fan of Oliver Jeffers. His artwork and craftsmanship is stunning. I want to give Mo Willems a great big hug for being so dang awesome. Dan Yaccarino has a timeless simplicity to his books that resonates with me. I read and re-read and re-re-read Where The Wild Things Are to remind me how powerful boiling writing down to its bare essentials can be.And I buy new books all the time for my 2-year-old son, so I probably have about 500 more author-illustrators I could include here. Shel Silverstein, David Shannon, Etc.

Tell me about the process of getting this book published. How did you go about finding a publisher?
It took me several years to have this book published. Initially, I created 14 little homemade books and gave them out to friends and asked each friend to give me a tough critique. The very first person I handed one of these books to was a friend-of-a-friend who worked at Bloomsbury. She immediately took a shine to the book and to the artwork (which gave me confidence to keep pushing on it) and she worked with me to shape it. I took her feedback and feedback from plenty of others and kept working.

Eventually, a friend from North Carolina named Trip Park, who is a wonderful children’s book illustrator, connected me with Elana Roth, who became my agent. She cracked the whip and worked with me on the art for a solid 8-months. It was eight-months of working on this book like a madman, while also holding down a full-time job. So lots of LATE nights and early mornings. When she was happy, we wrote and illustrated an amusing pitch packet and sent it off. 2 days later, we had a book deal. It happened that fast. Dial loved it and we had a great time making the final tweaks together.

What was the most frustrating part of getting this book published?
Nothing was really frustrating about getting this book published. Of course there were bumps along the way and A LOT of hard work went into creating it, and it did take me a long time to stumble down the right path, but that is just how life works. I have a great working relationship with Dial and have an excellent agent. It’s all good.

What has been the most surprising – in a good way?
The most surprising thing about having this book published is a) I am still a combination of surprised and elated any time someone genuinely relates a story of how much their nephew or daughter or neighbor loves it, b) I was surprised how much work can go into promoting a book – planning readings in bookstores and schools can be another full-time job.

Since you are both author and illustrator which did the publisher want to change more – your writing or the illustrating?
My art changed drastically from concept to publication. As I mentioned earlier, I am a writer by trade and my art is a constant process of discovery and experimentation. I have done several presentations where I show how the book essentially stayed the exact same from spread to spread in concept and in writing – while the art underwent massive changes.

The art started out black and white. The only color was pink for the giant pink eye on each character. I kept it very minimalist. The second color I added was yellow. Then my agent pushed me to really color the entire book and so gradually added a little bit more (blue and red) and a little bit more and a little bit more color until you have the explosion of colors you see in the final. I also worked very hard to add depth to the backgrounds, so initially the backgrounds were flat and more abstract, but in the final book, you’ll see other people and trees and characters from the circus posters.

What’s your favorite way of promoting this book?

I love doing school readings. The creativity and positive energy in a classroom is fun to be around. I love making kids laugh and I have a blast hearing what they have to say.

What do you know now about getting published that you wished you had known earlier in your writing career?
An agent is important. I would have started looking for an agent sooner. But things really worked out perfectly, so I can’t complain.

What advice would you give someone who wants to write or illustrate children’s books?
Work your butt off. Study award winning books. Read and re-read authors and illustrators you love. Give your book to friends and friends-of-friends and tell them to be harsh - seek out harsh criticism and use it to make your book better. Find a great agent who truly believes in you.

Do you have any books in the publishing process right now that you’d like to tell me about?
I am working on my next picture book right now and it is tentatively called ‘Thank You Octopus.’ It’s a funny look at the friendship between a little boy and his pet amigo Octopus, who is well-meaning and innocently annoying at the same time. Should be really funny. I will go to art on this book in a couple of weeks.

I hope this inspires you to go out and buy his book. Here's a direct link. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did. If you'd like to know more about Darren and his upcoming works and appearances, I am including a link to his blog here.

Friday, May 6, 2011

My First Writer's Conference

Last week I attended my first writer's conference which was an hour's drive from where I live. It was on a Saturday morning and the check-in time was 7:45 AM. I am not a morning person, so I wasn't excited about getting up early on a weekend. But I was happy to do it for a writer's conference. Of course, I Googled directions to get there as the directions given with the registration were for more local folk. I am happy to say I arrived without a glick which is a feat for me as I am directionally challenged.

The registration was easy and they even had some free give-a-ways at the front from one of the magazine editors who was at the conference. They went very fast and were not replaced. So key info number #1 take any free stuff right away. I also appreciated that they had danish and bagels. I wasn't up to eating at 6:30AM when I left, but 8:00AM was another story. And they even had hot tea choices other than orange pekoe. It may not seem like anything to you coffee drinkers, but a variety of tea even if it just includes decaf is very much appreciated.

On to the conference...I discovered that three others from my writer's critique group were also attending, which was a nice surprise to see a familiar face. As usual the conference started about 10 minutes late as they were still trying to organize. That's always nice as you don't get frazzled if you arrive a little late.

Then we were ready for setting up consultations. This conference allowed us to make one appointment for a 15 minute chat with one of the speakers. A couple of help points for that. If you have the option, to a get a free consultation (and especially a paid one) make sure you read the person's bio and go to their website or blog so you know as much as you can as to the writing that they cover to see if you are a fit for them. Make sure you have at least 5 back-up choices. Read their bios and blogs also.

The set up for the consults was done by how early you registered. That's a great draw for doing early registration. It wasn't done just by turning up early the day of the conference. I had registered relatively early and my number was 48. Another writer at my table had 131. That means I had a much better shot of getting my choice than she did. We were also able to set up a 2nd consult but the time 131 number showed up there was no more room for second consults.

The way this conference was set up was with numerous one hour break-out sessions with authors, editors and agents. There was always room for anyone who wanted to hear and ask questions of the speakers. The only problem was there were at least 6 choices every break out session. So in some cases, it was a hard decision as to who to choose to hear. Good thing was the fact that most of the speakers repeated with other topics later in the day so that gave you options to see your favorites.

I actually missed my first consultation as I got involved with listening to the speaker in my break out session that I forgot about the consultation that was scheduled during that time. The good news is that he was in the next break-out session and I was able to apologize to him for not being there. I felt I got all I needed in that break-out session that I didn't really miss the consultation.

When I arrived for the lunch session, I scoped out the table that had the speaker I was not able to schedule. I saved a place there before I got my food. That was like another consultation after we all finished eating. So another tip...make the most of the lunch session as a selling point for your writing.

Lastly, a tip on the consultations. I thought the speaker would be taking the time to read the piece I brought with me. It was only a few pages. However, I discovered it was more of a pitch session. I gave the speaker a synopsis of thw work and she gave me some ideas as to why it wasn't getting accepted. It was as simple as knowing in my case that the idea of a child moving to a new place and their fears was done a lot and I had to think of a new hook to it.

So that is my take on my first conference. I now have to follow-up with the speakers and send in my work. I will also be following up with the other writers I met. If you have comments on your experiences at conferences, I would love to hear them1

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Interview with author, Teric Darken and Writing from the Dark Side

The first thing you read about Teric when you open his website is… For twenty-five years, Teric Darken has been bleeding the ink - from his heart onto paper - through his stories, song lyrics, and poetry. If that doesn’t pique your interest, nothing will. So without further ado, let’s get on to the interview!

First off, I’ve got to ask is Teric Darken a pen name or your birth name? It seems to fit with the “dark style” of your writing.
Teric Darken is my pen name, chosen for various reasons. One of those reasons is that it does, indeed, fit with the style in which I predominantly script.

You mention your first published book as A Conversation with Isolation but you don’t say much more about it. Why?
A Conversation with Isolation was a book I had printed independently containing some of my favored song lyrics and poems. Since 1987, I have written twenty-one journals worth of song lyrics, poems, and short stories. I culled through the material, selected what I thought were some of my better offerings, and compiled them into my first independently printed books. There is a very small quantity of them floating out there somewhere.

What prompted you to write the first book, K - I - L - L FM 100?
I was lying in bed at work (the fire station) when I asked myself a question: If I were to script a novel, what would I do to make it different or unique? My answer returned to me: I would craft a storyline in which the first word beginning each chapter would spell out a sentence, relating to the storyline, if plucked out individually and written on a sheet of paper. I not only did that, but actually spelled out two sentences using the first word of each chapter. I strongly hint at this within the actual storyline, showing the reader how it's done. Hopefully everyone has caught on and tried it for themselves.

Could you please give me a specific example for this?... I would craft a storyline in which the first word beginning each chapter would spell out a sentence.
In K - I - L - L FM 100, each of my chapters begins with a song title. Chapter One starts out: "'SOMEBODY to Love,' the Jefferson Airplane classic..." Chapter Two begins as, "'PLEASE Please Me' made its millionth zenith across the airwaves..." Chapter Three opens with, "'HELP!' took no prisoners within earshot..." Chapter Four: "'ME and You and a Dog Named Boo' was the first song..."

So, what's happening is that the first word of each song title, in each opening sentence is in all caps. This continues in such manner through the last chapter of the book. If one were to take the first word in each chapter (set apart by all caps), they would be able to construct two sentences that coincide with the storyline: SOMEBODY, PLEASE, HELP, ME... the sentence continues on.

I disclose this method within the storyline itself, giving the reader a generous clue as to what I'm doing. How many readers actually think to examine this and the words in subsequent chapters is the question. If one were to do so, they would discover two complete sentences pertaining to the script.

I came up with those two, initial, subliminal sentences, then constructed the story around them. I simply had to pick the songs that started with the words I needed to construct those sentences first, then scripted the storyline around them.


Where did the idea for U-TURN KiLLuR emerge?
The idea for this book came to me while scripting K - I - L - L FM 100. There is a valuable life-lesson contained within. Much of my influence for this script revolves around my occupation as a firefighter. Included within this work is the actual first poem I had ever written- the very spark that ignited my flame for writing. That fire still burns twenty-five years later.

U-TURN KiLLuR was very much inspired by my job. That and attempting to balance out my job and writing my first novel when juxtaposed with spending quality time with my family. The whole process inspired the idea for U-TURN KiLLuR. I've always heard, "write what you know so the story will be believable." So my job served as a good background for my central character in my second thriller.

Tell me about your writing background prior to your two thriller books?

I took to writing as a result of an assignment my tenth grade English teacher gave our class, which was to construct an original poem about anything we wanted to write about. I wrote a poem entitled, "Lamb or Lion," which was about God being all-powerful, though He initially came in human form as a Lamb. I was pleased with that poem- as I put a lot of heart and soul into it- and turned it in, expecting to receive a good grade on it.

I was floored when it returned to me, as I had received a "D" at the top of the page and a note, which basically questioned whether the words were my own or not. The teacher suspected me of plagiarism. I choked down my nervousness and then proceeded to her desk, asking her if she would change my grade if I could recite the poem verbatim in front of her. She consented that she would do so, as she would then believe the work was my own. I looked her in the eye and spoke every word to the letter. She smiled at me, then changed my grade to an "A." And that one little assignment- that little spark- ignited a wildfire in me that is still raging to this day.

Incidentally, I gave my aforementioned English teacher a copy of my first book, A Conversation with Isolation. She is mentioned in my scripted "thanks" at the onset of the book. She broke down and cried, and told me that was one of the topmost things that made her tenure as a teacher worthwhile. And that same poem- my very first written offering- can be found at the end of my second thriller, U-TURN KiLLuR, as I have incorporated it into the storyline.

Have you always written about the dark side?

The main subject of my writings isn't always about the dark side; my poems and lyrics have a wide variety of subject matter. But topics of the dark side- the dark potential of human nature, that is- has always been addressed from the onset of my writings. In fact, my very first poem (Lamb or Lion) not only addresses God being all powerful, though He came as the Lamb, but also how vicious man can be, much as a lion.

I noticed on your website that you also write songs. Tell me about your music style.

I was in a band from 1991 till roughly 2003. We were called Narrow Road and, for lack of a better term, we were labeled "Christian Rock." At the time, we were the only known band with that name, but today, there are scores of bands out there with the name- most of them of the Southern Gospel variety. I was the principle songwriter and lyricist of that band, and my subject matter ranged from issues of abuse, to race discrimination, alcoholism, drug usage... all the way to being held in a loving Father's arms, as He desires to love us and has proven that love through His Son, Jesus the Christ.

I’ve heard of actors becoming depressed or having mood swings when they play an especially vial character. How do you not fall into the dark side yourself when you are writing about vicious characters and fleshing them out to be real people?
This is another reason for my pseudonym, Teric Darken! I am a firefighter by profession, a husband, a dad, a motorcycle enthusiast, etc... in other words, I have many "modes" in life. Teric Darken, the author, is simply another "mode" that I slip into. I enter that realm, write about what I feel is necessary to convey a societal or spiritual issue, then exit that mode, getting on with the rest of life.

And as much as I do write about dark aspects of life, it is done in such a manner as to expose our dire need for The Light. The darkness is never glorified; it is presented as a problem we must face and come to terms with. The only thing that extinguishes the darkness is The Light, for God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.

Even your website has a dark feel to it. Did you design it?

My website was created by Marty Hersh from SpiderWebsDesigns. I had asked her to base the site off of the vibe of my book covers, and she did a bang-up job. I highly recommend her. I believe it's very important for an author to establish a solidifying "fingerprint" in all of their offerings. Although I didn't create the book covers to K - I - L - L FM 100 and U-TURN KiLLuR, the cover designs were taken from the concepts I had concocted and submitted to the publisher. I, intentionally, wanted to establish an "identity," a unified vibe for my work, if you will. For this, in essence, is my fingerprint as an author, and the reader will soon recognize that print. All this to say that I strive to place my "fingerprint" on each of my endeavors, whether a book, a website, a blog, etc...

What do you want your readers to take away from your books?

I hope they are entertained: thrilled, horrified, inspired, and that they are left with sensing a need to choose between darkness or Light. I also want them to know how much they are loved by the Father, and that His Son has overcome the darkness of the world.

What authors inspire you to write?
C.S. Lewis, Frank Peretti, G.K. Chesterton, Ted Dekker, Robert Liparulo, and Washington Irving among others.

Your books are self-published which is a great way to quicken the publishing process. Prior to self publishing, did you contact any other publishers to produce your book?
I believe I sent out one e-mail to a publisher. Patience isn't a big virtue of mine, and I'm too afraid to pray for it! So, I opted to self-pub at the onset from a reputable company. That said, I am very pleased to say that TreasureLine Publishing has taken interest in my work and, as a result, my first offering through them- Wickflicker- will be released this summer of 2011. Wickflicker has shaped up into being a creepy, supernatural thriller, where a bit of old school horror meets up with two college freshmen in the modern age- a bit like a warm front when up against a cold front, eventually the event develops into a violent tempest.

What was your process in choosing a company to publish your book?
Reputation- the track record. I looked at such both with the initial self-pubbed company I selected at the onset, and then with the publishing company I am now with. TreasureLine Publishing, in my opinion, sports a wonderful, family-oriented atmosphere. And by that, I mean family-oriented amongst the TreasureLine proprietor and fellow authors. We stay in touch with one another and support one another through varying outlets.

I also looked at the other authors on Treasureline: Who are they? What are they doing? Where are they going? What are they saying in their works and about their satisfaction with the banner they are scripting under? TreasureLine is progressive in nature; I have heard nothing but good things from my fellow TreasureLine authors out there, and they are progressive themselves. It all adds up to a good thing! That said, I am only an author who is happy where he's at in the publishing realm; I am not a spokesman for my publisher!

What do you do to promote your book?
I simply try to stay in the public eye- in short, awareness. Facebook is a valuable tool, and of course, there is my blog and website, as well as varying sites that I participate in. Keeping the public aware of you is the key. Giveaways are important, too. People always enjoy the freebie, and if they also enjoy your work, they will tell their friends about the new author they've discovered. Networking with other authors is also important. Summing it up -- the only way to have a friend is to be one. Be good to your audience/fans/friends, and they'll be good to you.

What frustrated you the most?
Things simply take time with the writing process. Sometimes my eyes go cross- meaning my brain turns to mush- when I've spent hours in front of the computer screen honing away at my storyline. Then nothing seems to make sense. My grandma- a schoolteacher- once told me: "Forget about it- leave your story behind for awhile. Go do something else. Your story will still be there waiting for you, and when you get back to it, you will have a fresh set of eyes and a renewed mind." Of course, she was right. It's a practice that readily helps me.

What do you know now about getting published that you wished you had known sooner?
A million people are out there trying to get published. Try not to get discouraged at being turned down from a publisher at the onset. Keep honing your craft and shaping your stories. Hopefully the author is writing out of a genuine love of the craft itself. There are many more options and opportunities, in this day and age, for getting your offerings out there to others: e-books, self-publishing companies, etc... Just remember that quality counts. If your story is high in quality, they'll come back for more. Keep trying; keep submitting. You ask, you will receive.

That’s the end of today’s interview. If you’d like to get to know him better, go to his either his blog or website as listed here: www.tericdarken.blogspot.com and www.tericdarken.com.