Hyphened America! Why not just ‘American’ when born and bred but black? #AfrianAmerican @HyphenedNation

It’d never occurred to me before but why are those with obvious ‘outside’ American ancestry referred to with an hyphen i.e Italian-America, African-American? Even native-American people—those who are entitled to the ‘proper’ title—have the hyphen.   I interviewed Nicole Draffen the author … Continue reading

Energise your life! by @drdelmillers #nonfiction

The 7 Pillars of Positive Energy  Ignite Your Passions…Fuel Your Purpose Passion energizes.  Purpose motivates. Accelerate Your Personal Evolution Self-awareness leads to emotional maturity, which frees us to respond differently. Cultivate Physical Vitality Physical vitality expands our energy capacity. Become … Continue reading

‘Nearly everyone is subconsciously taking direction from previous life influences.’ #reincarnation #nonfic

A spiritual book from Kelly Wallace PAST LIFE EXPLORATION Nearly everyone on this planet is subconsciously making decisions and taking direction from previous life influences. Past life exploration can be helpful in discovering who you are as a soul. You … Continue reading

Revisit #WWII with Steve Snyder for a harrowing retelling of a true event from our #history @ShotDownB17

Set within the framework of World War II in Europe, Shot Down is about the dramatic experiences of each member of a B-17 crew after their plane, piloted by the author’s father, was knocked out of the sky by German … Continue reading

Hollywood Stories about the Stars and Legends of the Movies!

Just when you thought you’ve heard everything about Hollywood comes a totally original new book — a special blend of biography, history and lore.
Buy NOW!
Barnes and Noble
 Hollywood Stories is packed with wild, wonderful short tales about famous stars, movies, directors and many others who have been a part of the world’s most fascinating, unpredictable industry!

What makes the book unique is that the reader can go to any page and find a completely engaging and illuminating yarn. Sometimes people won’t realize that they are reading about The Three Stooges or Popeye the Sailor until they come to the end of the story. The Midwest Book Review says Hollywood Stories is, “packed from cover to cover with fascinating tales.”

A professional tour guide in Hollywood, Stephen Schochet has researched and told thousands of entertaining anecdotes for over twenty years. He is also the author and narrator of two audiobooks Tales of Hollywood and Fascinating Walt Disney. Tim Sika, host of the radio show Celluloid Dreams on KSJS in San Jose has called Stephen,” The best storyteller about Hollywood we have ever heard.”

  Hollywood Stories features an amazing, all-star cast of legendary Hollywood characters and icons, past and present, that will keep you totally entertained! Full of funny moments and twist endings.
Kindle Countdown Deal reduced price 99 cents reduced from $4.99 from 4/26 ending 5/3.

Winner of the 2012 Global Ebook Awards for Entertainment and Performing Arts (Music/Dance/Film) Non-Fiction
For more information head to:

Join the movement to dream bigger and win prizes to help you make your dream a reality.

Parents Have Dreams Too
by Julie Wise
Life and Relationship Coach and Author of Dream Bigger: Reclaiming A Life of Joy and Ease
When your children are born, you imagine a wonderful future for them. Perhaps they’ll be the next Einstein or Michelangelo, or the scientist who finds a cure for cancer. You encourage your children to explore the world, develop their imaginations, and dream big dreams. And you do whatever you can to help them reach those dreams.

What happens to your dreams along the way? If you’re like most parents, you probably set them aside a long time ago, dismissing them as impractical or unrealistic. Perhaps you tried to reach your dream once, only to hit a roadblock and you gave up. Maybe you figure it’s more important to focus on your children now, and you’ll go back to your dream later, once the kids are older, or when you retire.

Children learn from watching and listening to us. If we really want to encourage our children to be all they can be, then we need to walk our talk.

Yes, it is possible to enjoy some of your dreams, raise your children and pay your bills all at the same time. In fact, it’s not as hard as you might think. That’s why I wrote Dream Bigger: Reclaiming a Life of Joy and Ease – to give you the skills and tools you need to make your dreams a reality.

Look at all the skills you’ve already developed to support your children in exploring their dreams:
• patience with the process;
• absolute faith that everything is possible;
• encouragement during the moments of doubt and fear;
• a helping hand;
• a listening ear;
• words of wisdom.
How can you apply some of these strengths to your own dreams?

Give yourself permission to do a little daydreaming this week. Let your imagination run wild. Imagining is easy for children them, so spend time with them. Let them show you how to dream again.

While you’re at it, why not work on some family dreams too? Dreams don’t have to cost a lot of money or be complex and difficult. In fact, they’re about bringing more joy and ease into our lives. And we can all use more of that, can’t we?

To boost your motivation, check out the “Dream Bigger Reinvention Challenge” at http://www.dreambiggercontest.com/ and find out how people across North America are reinventing themselves and their lives. Join the movement to dream bigger and win prizes to help you make your dream a reality.

Wise’s goal is to help 100,000 people dream bigger. To do this, and to celebrate the release of Dream BIGGER: Reclaiming a Life of Joy and Ease, she invites the public to share their life dream in an online challenge.

The 60-day “Dream BIGGER Reinvention Challenge” runs from October 1 to November 29, 2010 and offers contestants the chance to post a video about their dream, get votes and become eligible for an amazing grand prize. “By sharing our dreams, we’ll inspire each other to ever greater heights,” she explains.

Go to http://www.dreambiggercontest.com/  and enter today!

“I believe life is meant to be enjoyed. I love to work with people, listen to their stories, and learn from their experiences.

My training is in Organizational and Relationship Systems Coaching through the Centre for Right Relationship. I am currently completing a Certificate in Conflict Management and Mediation from Conrad Grebel University College, University of Waterloo, Ontario, and I have also completed a one-year healership mentoring program in Advanced Energy Healing and Awareness. I am a Celtic Reiki Master as well.

In addition to managing my practice as a life consultant and relationship coach, I volunteer as a mediator at Community Justice Initiatives.

When I’m not busy with clients, you might find me dancing flamenco… or wandering a beach somewhere in the world, with the wind in my face and the sun on my back!”

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=wiswor0a-21&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=1450253180&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrSynopsis: When life’s challenges get you down, and you feel like giving up on your heartfelt desires, it’s not time to quit. It’s time to dream even bigger! This book is filled with inspiring true stories, simple tools and exercises, and plenty of motivation. Learn how to re-chart your course and bring more joy and ease into your life as you pursue your dreams.

Blurb: Most people have a dream. For some, it’s something they’ve wanted since childhood but have never told a soul. For others, it may be something they tried once, and it didn’t work out so they gave up on it. Perhaps you have a dream that you keep dismissing because it seems risky or impractical. Our dreams make difficult times more bearable. They also bring joy into our lives, and inspire those around us.
However, it takes more than a good imagination to make those dreams come true. It’s also about taking action and staying motivated. First, you need a clear idea of what you want. If you’re not sure, spend some time remembering your childhood and what you imagined you’d do with your life. The seeds to your dream are often found there. Once you know what your dream is, get to know it in detail. What does it feel like to be there? Who are you with, how are you dressed, what’s happening around you? Get familiar with it so that it’s easy to connect to that feeling whenever you need motivation.
What’s stopping you from having that in your life right now? Make a list of any challenges or obstacles. The list is intended to give you ideas for actions, not to discourage you from moving forward, so don’t get too bogged down by it.
Now take a look at the items on your list. What skills and resources do you have to meet those challenges? Who else can you call on for additional assistance?
Talk to supportive friends and family members about your dream and see what ideas they have to help you move forward.
Take all of these ideas and resources and put them together into an action plan. This is a list of the steps you can take to make your dream a reality. Every day, check your list and pick one action you can take. Each time you take a step, celebrate, knowing that you’re that much closer to the life of your dreams.

Five Steps to Your Dream

1. Identify your dream

2. Make a list of your challenges

3. Develop a list of skills and resources

to meet those challenges

4. Create an action plan

5. Take one action each day toward the life of your dreams

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Dream-BIGGER-Reclaiming-Life-Ease/dp/1450253180/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1285424479&sr=1-1

Websites: http://www.juliewiseconsulting.com/

(Book Blog) http://www.wise1coaching.wordpress.com/

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Wise Words and Witty Expressions

“Youth is wasted on the young.” Ain’t that the truth! With age comes experience, and with experience comes knowledge, so what a better way than a book full of expressions from two wise old people to guide you through the perils of life?

Renee Gatz says, “The book is a collection of all the wisdom my parents imparted on me through the use of expression to help me navigate life’s ups and downs. The expressions found in my book are profound, funny and even sarcastic and they have all come back to me at the appropriate moments in my life to help me understand, laugh and survive.”Is this your debut novel, how’s it doing?
Yes, it came out in September 2009 and considering I have a full time job and I am doing this without additional staff, I would say, yes, it is doing very well. 

What kind of things have you been doing to promote it?
I have done multiple speaking engagements garnered press and a review from Irish America magazine, which has a national audience. I am now also writing a monthly article for the Irish American Cultural Institute’s monthly member newsletter about the power of Irish Wisdom.The newsletter I am writing for is a members only newsletter so there is no link unfortunately. 

Ah, Irish wisdom. Did your grandparents emigrate to America from Ireland?
My grandmother came from County Mayo and met my grandfather in New York.  Not sure if he immigrated or was already in the U.S.

Have you ever been to Ireland?
I have been to Ireland and to an Irish wedding while there.  The country is beautiful and the people are warm and welcoming. 

I saw a beautiful picture of you and your mother in the book, I bet she’s very proud of you. What does she think about the book?
My mother is a humble person. She credits my grandmother with these expressions and just feels as if she is passing on to me what she learned from her mother. Very Irish response.

Can you tell us a little about it?
It is a collection of all the expressions my parents said to me growing up to help me navigate my way through life’s ups and downs. I have always been amazed at their way of coming back to me at the right moment to help me laugh, understand or just survive.

How does it compare with other novels?
My book is not a novel but a collection expressions that help you keep life in perspective. What is different about my book is that is not a book you set aside after reading it but rather a book you keep on hand to refer to when life gets to big or too small.

What audience is the book intended?
My book would be appropriate for all audiences from the junior high school age up.

How long did it take you to write it, and how many drafts?
About a year to write the manuscript and too many drafts to count. I began writing down the expressions to see how many I could get. Initially, I got a large number of them but knew there were more. In order to remember them, I needed a reminder to recall them. For example, something in a movie, TV show event at the office or just as I was going about my day would trigger a memory of an expression.

It’s a lovely way to remember your parents. Will you be writing another book?

Yes, I have another idea for a book and kids version for my existing book. I would like to look at the expressions I have in my current book and adapt them for children. I have not started the draft of the book as yet so I have not gotten to the point of considering how to get this book published as yet.
Do you have an agent?

I have not bothered to look for one yet. I attended the Book Expo in New York and spoke with a few with no progress. Given my limited amount of time, that would be a time consuming task and I am doing well myself in getting the word out.

Who are you published with, and what are they like to work with?
Woodpecker Press. I found them through my NJ Chapter of the Assoc for Women in Communications. I was their first client but did not feel it was risky since we were both members of the same organization. They weren’t too expressive and did a great job getting the printer, the artist, formatting the book, getting the ISBN number and introducing me to the media company that helped me with my website.

So, you’re not a full time writer. What is your “real life” job, and how do you fit in all your writing?
I have a full time job working as a marketing communications manager for a financial technology company. I write around it, in the evening and weekends.

Do you have any writing experience?
I do writing in my full time role as a marketing communications manager. I have a degree in business management and have worked in this role for 15 plus years. I have outlined one book and given thought to do a child’s version of my existing book.

And that’s what you’re working on now?
Only that’s it’s non-fiction. I am not ready to reveal the nature of the book as yet. 

For a “look inside” snippet of Wise Words and Witty Expressions, click on this link: Here.

Renee Gatz is the author of a newly released self-published book, Wise Words and Witty Expressions. The book is a collection of all the wisdom her parents imparted on her through the use of expression to help her navigate life’s ups and downs.
The expressions found in the book are profound, funny and even sarcastic and they have all come back at appropriate moments in her life to help her understand, laugh and survive.

 A fun book focused on keeping life in perspective by inspiring peace in you and others.
Twitter @reneegatz

Read all about it: Stefanie Newell’s The Buzz

The Buzz
Stefanie Newell
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=wiswor0a-21&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0982148402&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrEbony Jenkins has exactly what most women are seeking – a good looking devoted boyfriend, a flourishing business and a beautiful little girl. But what people don’t know is how she mixed hard work and deception to maintain the celebrity lifestyle she tries to emulate.
Endless taunts by classmates for wearing hand me downs echoes in her mind and motivates Ebony to provide for herself and her daughter. But at what cost?
She dreams big and refuses to be content with what would be considered a fulfilling life for most. Things are going great for Ebony until she suspects her up and coming rapper boyfriend Buzz could be dating the newest R&B phenomenon Arika.
Ebony’s obsession with celebrity gossip and dislike of all things popular in the media fuels her hatred for Arika and sends her on an all out Internet mission to ruin Arika’s blossoming career. As she’s swept up in exposing Arika’s flaws and maintaining her faux celebrity lifestyle, Ebony uncovers some skeletons of her own. This novel shows that attaining fame and riches is not always what it’s cracked up to be!
Stefanie Newell is the author of two books: The Buzz and the non-fiction Marketing and Publicity for the Author. Born and raised in Chicago, IL, she gathered valuable experience and business skills that contributes to her success as CEO of Write One Publications, Inc.
Her debut novel, The Buzz, has been described as a humorous yet introspective look at the entertainment industry and its allure. The idea for The Buzz came while Newell was freelance writing for Unrated Magazine and her entertainment blog The Music Hot Spot. After observing the entertainment industry and lurking on various message boards and blogs over the years, Stefanie put pen to paper and brought to life the gossipping, Internet diva Ebony Jenkins. 
Published by her company Write One Publications, Inc., The Buzz has created a buzz amongst book readers and fans of celebrity gossip. Newell has been featured by media outlets such as Rolling Out, CollegeNews.com, and the Chicago Fox television show Raw TV.
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=wiswor0a-21&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0982148410&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrNewell’s company also published the self-help book Pull Your Pants Up and be a man! by author Bernice Harris. Actor Malik Yoba (New York Undercover, Girlfriends, Why Did I Get Married?) dispenses practical knowledge and wisdom in the riveting foreword. The self-help book geared towards young men between the ages of thirteen and eighteen provides a nine-step approach to a goal-oriented life. Pull Your Pants Up was featured at the Father and Son’s Madison Square Garden event last year.
While promoting the book, there became a demand by parents of boys and girls for Newell to speak with students at schools and youth organisations. The Youth Empowerment Workshop was born. Newell is currently working on her second novel, Rules of the Game.

Interview with Stefanie Newell

What came first your publishing company or your book?
The book came first. I had absolutely no intention on starting a publishing company. In fact, I told my family that I was so not the type to market my own book. A few months later, after doing a ton of research and learning whether I was signed to a major publishing house or if I chose to self publish, marketing for the most part would be my responsibility, I had a change of heart. I chose to not only publish my own book, but form a publishing company. It’s quite interesting how things turned out when I think about it…

Who’s involved in the company? Are you open for submissions? What kind of work do you take?

I have a team of people who help with the back-end stuff like editing, graphic design, etc. But the day to day things like managing the blog, Twitter and Facebook are handled by me. I currently have one person signed to my company, author Bernice Harris, but I’m not currently taking submissions. The submissions page on my website WriteOnePublications.com has all of the submission requirements and your readers can check to see when I will be accepting submissions again.

This is your debut (published) novel, but is it your first novel you have actually written? Any ms under the bed?
I started a manuscript I believe it was around 1996 and I don’t have a clue where it is. However, the key word is started. It was only a few pages so I really consider The Buzz to be my first manuscript.

How does it compare with books in that genre/what makes it different?
The Buzz is focused around the entertainment industry and follows the lives of three people all searching for “buzz.” Each chapter is written from their different perspectives. I take the readers into the mind of a celebrity, someone trying to become a celebrity and someone who despises celebrities.

The main character is a young lady named Ebony who by all accounts has it all. She has a successful career and a great boyfriend but she’s an Internet addict who’s obsessed with celebrities. While she is obsessed with celebrities she despises them too. So a chance encounter with an up and coming singer provides Ebony the perfect opportunity to ruin the singer’s career by spreading a vicious Internet rumor. The moment the book opens you are smack dab in the middle of Ebony’s Internet drama.

So what makes my book different?
 I would say the use of the Internet and including modern technology in the story and the fact that each of their characters are able to tell the story from their own perspectives. I freelanced for many years in the entertainment industry prior to writing The Buzz and my experience is definitely reflected in the book.

What audience is the book intended?
It is definitely geared towards adults but here’s something interesting… I originally thought the demographic for my book would be women between the ages of 18 and 35 because of the subject matter. But I have had men and readers 35 all the way up to their 70’s tell me they loved my book and have recommended it to people they know. This really shocked me, but I am so happy to know it has been well received by such a vast audience.

How long did it take you to write it, and how many drafts?
The Buzz took me two years to write. I was working a full-time job, blogging, freelancing, being a mom and so much more. So I wrote when I was able to and I didn’t put any real pressure on myself until the end, when I got really close to finishing. After two drafts, it was complete.

Have you dabbled with other genres?
I have. Fiction definitely feels like the genre I was meant to write. It allows me to use my imagination and I believe that’s where my strong point is. At the same time, I’ve always been the person who shares what I’ve learned. So I recently released a non-fiction eBook Marketing and Publicity for the author. I also run a blog TheWriteOneBlog.com which chronicles my life as a writer and I provide tips and advice for aspiring and established writers.

Do you have a favourite scene in the book?

Yes, actually I do. My book is very plot driven, so once the characters have been fully introduced the story is really fast paced and full of action and drama. There is a scene in the book where two of the characters meet up and confront each other over a dispute and what happens is shocking. I have had many people tell me that this was one of their favorite chapters. It definitely was one of my favorites to write.

Are you agented?
No, not at this time.

Are you a full time writer?

I am proud to say writing and running my publishing company is my full-time job. It has taken me many years to get this point, but it feels like home. *laughs*

What are you working on now?
Well, I guess technically, book three because I just released an eBook Marketing and Publicity for the Author. But Rules of the Game is fiction and I am half way through the first draft. It’s a coming of age story about a young lady who thinks she has life all figured out. She doesn’t like the rules that her family provides for her, so she moves out and tries to make it on her own, without the help of her family, and boy is she in for a rude awakening.
Do you have a critique partner or an editor?
My editor usually reads the first draft and includes her critiques. I then review her critiques and make any changes I agree with and then submit the second draft for another edit.

Do you handle your own marketing? And what sort of things have you been doing to promote yourself/book?

Yes, I definitely do. I think its important to note that I market both online and offline. While I do focus most of my efforts on the Internet, I also market offline because having a local fan base is just as important. When I first released my book, I was doing book signings in different cities to get my name out there. Now that some time has passed, I don’t do as many book signings, but I continue to seek publicity through different media channels. I solicit local and online book clubs for book reviews. I do blog tours and of course I use social media daily.

Marketing And Publicity For The Author (eBook)Tell us a little about your ebook, Marketing and Publicity for the Author.
I am very proud of this eBook because it was totally unexpected and born out of need. In June, I was asked to do a workshop entitled Marketing and Publicity for the new author at a college here in Chicago and it was very well received. I decided that I wanted to offer the workshop online as a webinar so that writers in other cities could benefit from the information I was sharing. After a while I started receiving emails from people asking if it was available in any other format and I decided to instead offer the webinar as an eBook and that’s how the idea came about.

Marketing and Publicity for the author chronicles my early days as a published author and journals my successes and my challenges. It’s concise, yet packed full of marketing and publicity tips that will assist writers on their journey. I share how I used the tips learned from my many years freelancing in the music industry to gain publicity for my debut novel The Buzz: When celebrity gossip goes wrong… as well as the steps I took to create a “buzz” around my book. This eBook is for every writer, no matter where they are in their process. Haven’t started your manuscript? This book is definitely for you. If your book is self-published, traditionally published, fiction, or non-fiction, this book is for you! And the tips are executable the day you read it!

How many rejections have you experienced in the past?
I really didn’t have an opportunity to experience any rejections. Soon after sending off a few letters to agents, I made the decision to publish The Buzz myself and form my own publishing company. So the process that most writers go through in the beginning I didn’t experience.

Any message for the struggling writer?
How much time do you have? *laughs* The reason why I wrote the eBook Marketing and Publicity for the author was to share all of what I have learned since publishing my novel. I had so many people share with me in private their marketing challenges, yet no one was talking openly about them. My eBook discusses those challenges and provides solutions for them.

Because self publishing has opened the door for so many writers, we are now seeing an influx of writers. And I think sometimes, it makes it appear as if it is easy to write the book, publish the book, and lastly create a fan base to market to. When in reality there is a lot of hard work and long hours that go into it.

I want writers to know that you should begin marketing when your book is just an idea. I want writers to know that the second most challenging part will be the marketing. And if you want your book to be a success, whether you are signed to a traditional publishing house or you choose to publish the book yourself, you need to completely understand the marketing component.

Where can my readers find your books or more information about you?
I blog daily on TheWriteOneBlog.com. I encourage writers or those who want to learn what goes on in the life of a writer to check out my blog, to comment and become a part of my community. If you are interested in my eBook Marketing and Publicity for the author, my novel The Buzz or my author’s book Pull Your Pants Up and be a man, please visit my website WriteOnePublications.com.


Ashley Stokes
Cult writer and cultural refusenik

Ashley Stokes
Ashley Stokes’s comic masterpiece, TOUCHING THE STARFISH stars Nathan Flack, a writer exiled in a backwater teaching creative writing to a group of high-maintenance cranksand fantasists. When a very literary ghost by the name of James O’Mailer starts to haunt Flack, he has to ask himself: is he sinking into a netherworld of delusion, or is he actually O’Mailer’sinstrument? TOUCHING THE STARFISH has already been compared to Lucky Jim, TristramShandy and the novels of Tom Sharpe.

The Author: Ashley Stokes’s fiction has appeared in over twenty anthologies and journals,including London Magazine and Staple and he won a 2002 Bridport Short Story prize.

Touching the Starfish
You say Starfish is hard to define as a genre, is that like all your work?
Touching the Starfish was definitely a departure for me and I certainly felt let off the leash when I was writing it. My other work was, or can be, a bit more straightforward. This was the first time Id tried to write a comic novel and the first time Id mucked about with the form quite so much.

Was it hard to hook an agent/publisher for Starfish because of the difficulty of knowing the genre?
Actually no, but I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time when Unthank Books was founded. LINK TO UNTHANK

You worked as a copywriter, what is that exactly?
For a short while I worked for the Enid Blyton Company, just after the ‘brand was relaunched in the mid-nineties and all the licenses were up for grabs. I basically wrote promotional brochures for series, like The Secret Seven and The Famous Five. We also had to update the characters as well, which once involved a whole morning deliberating what to call the imp in the Folk of the Faraway Tree because Enid had called him Chinky.

Oh, that’s so funny! Dear old Enid Blyton wasn’t very politically correct, was she?
What was even funnier about the Chinky business was that everyone was so blocked about the name that we dragged up from the stack another Enid book called The Christmas Imp, thinking we could nick that imp’s name and retitle Chinky but his name turned out to be Prick-Ears.

I bet you had some giggles! Have you always worked in the “writing field”? Is this because you’ve always held a long-time belief that you would eventually become published, or has your work made you want to become a writer?
I did always want to be a writer when I was a child but then again I probably wanted to be a Warlord of Atlantis as well. I wrote a lot in my teens, then forgot about it. It nagged, though. Things didn’t seem settled without it. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I had the confidence to start. But I suppose I have always worked in related fields. I’d wanted to work with books and worked in bookshops for about two years after I left university. Then I worked in publishing trade sales and international rights. This was before I started to write fiction, something that really got going when I had a year off on the dole. After the subsequent Enid Period I took an MA, mainly to buy some time, and it was after that that I started teaching and editing as a way to support myself and work on my writing. The writing for me is the priority though the teaching and editing do feed into it: write better, teach better, write better, teach better. I wouldn’t teach creative writing if I wasn’t getting my hands dirty myself and I’d  be suspicious of any teacher who wasn’t a writer, too.

You have studied creative writing at university and obviously this will help, but do you think others who haven’t studied/been to university have less chance of being published?
It shouldn’t be that way, should it? Being a writer shouldn’t need a professional qualification like becoming a doctor or a loss adjuster. The best writers write because they need to and what they write is so distinct no one could teach it them how to do it. I suppose it depends on what type of market we’re talking about, too. A glace at the hardback fiction chart suggests that the writers who really shift copies probably didn’t study creative writing at university level, nor produce the sort of writing encouraged by such courses. If the work is strong, then not having an MA can be a positive advantage, I think. Publishers often want to sell an idea of an author before the novel, so “Jack Bratt has an MA in Creative Writing from UEA” may have less allure than “Jackie Bratby used to herd goats on Mount Ararat”. Then again, schooled writers often gain by osmosis a better idea of how the industry works and may make more professional approaches to publishers. They may also have better editing skills, too. Creative Writing course, if they’re any good, only really teach you how to edit.

As an editor, how frustrating is it to see authors’ potential yet know they will be turned down with a standard rejection letter? Have you not wanted to contact them and say, look if only you’d do this, this and this you would have a greater potential?
It can be frustrating, yes, and it has become harder and harder for a first book to find a publisher unless it’s obvious that it will sell very quickly in great quantity at discounted prices. In my work as a creative writing tutor and as an editor for the Literary Consultancy (I’ve appraised over eight hundred novels and only three of the authors have been published) I am always making suggestions about how a book can be materially and stylistically enhanced. I’m doing some editing for Unthank at the moment and have annotated some pieces and asked for them to be resubmitted. Editors in publishing houses used to do this. It’s because they don’t anymore that we have so many creative writing courses and literary consultancies.

Let’s talk about your current novel: Touching the Starfish is a fictional account about a writer, Nathan Flack who thinks he is haunted by a ghost called James O’Mailer. Is your character bonkers, or is he really haunted?
To answer that candidly would give away the end of the story! All I should say is confirm that, yes, that’s the premise. You need to read the last two parts of Starfish for a proper answer.
Starfish opens like a non-fiction how-to-write-a-novel book. Can you talk us through this process?
My basic idea for Touching the Starfish was for it to be a sort of Book Group style light comedy in which Nathan is forced to teach a group of eccentric students. It was easy then to structure the story around a course and give each part the name of the study topic, like Plot or Point of View. In each of these parts, Nathan would give some sort of (hapless) lecture on the topic at hand and in some places more emphasis would be given to the device, i.e. lots of talking in the Dialogue chapter. It’s really an organizing tool but it does mean you get a free textbook with your novel. If I could have wedged in a travel guide or car manual as well it could have been the perfect 3-for-2-table book. Why didn’t I think of that earlier? I’d be rolling in it.

The book is funny. Did you mean it to be, or did it change its direction half way through?
It was intended to be funny. I’ve always found it hard to relax when I write or when I give readings unless I get a laugh. Here, I did want there to be four or five funny lines or phrases per page. What did change the novel during the process was the more or less spontaneous inclusion of footnotes and a ghost character. These just occurred when I was writing the opening chapter and I ran with them. I didn’t really want to write a novel about teaching creative writing to start with and did it to amuse some friends initially. I suppose I was subverting the whole idea of a Book Group-style light comedy and I started to think of it as the least commercial novel imaginable. I didn’t quite anticipate that people were going to find it quite so funny, though I’m relieved that they do.
How many drafts?
There were two. It took quite a while to write the first draft, three years, but I write very methodically, going over and over each page until it reads like publishable prose. It then took me about three months to do the second. draft I diidn’t cut too many scenes and found myself only really making the first chapter better ground what happens later. This hasn’t always been my experience with drafting.

Did you self edit/self proof read considering your baskground, or did you get it professionally checked over?
Actually, we did it ourselves. It’s quite a steep learning curve because when it’s your own work and you know that you can spell the easy words correctly you forget that you can still mistype. The first edition of Starfish has a ‘shorts’ car where there should be a ‘sports’ car. Given that, if it’s your own work I would suggest getting a fresh pair of eyes to proof it.

This is your debut novel, but do you have other unpublished books tucked away somewhere?
Oh yes, there are four earlier novels. I wrote two in my twenties that received very enthusiastic rejection letters from editors.: “Potentially prize-winning author, writes like Donna Tartt but less good, show me what the does next bla bla bla”. My third novel got through this obstacle with a couple of big publishers but if the editors liked the book the sales people said it wasn’t ‘big’ enough to launch a season. My next book was by far the most mature, commercial and likeable, I think (it made some girls cry but in a good way, if you know what I mean), but I couldn’t even get anyone to read it. If this hadn’t happened, I probably wouldn’t have written Touching the Starfish. It was a strange fifteen years getting here but I think I pulled something out of the fire towards the end.
How many “real life” incidents did you put into Starfish?
None really. The incidents are gross exaggerations of things that might have happened. What is drawn from real life is the atmosphere that Nathan lives in. His flat, for example, is pretty much the semi-uninhabitable frost bucket I was living in when I started to write the book. The spine of the book concerns Nathan’s attempts not to be the Chosen One in a supernatural conspiracy story that he doesn’t approve of. That’s not autobiographical, I’m afraid. I did make that bit up.

Do you write straight onto the computer, or do you research first, get the idea perfect in your head and then type away?
I do write directly into the computer, though strangely once I finished Starfish I started writing longhand in pencil again (though this was in winter and it was too cold to stay in the house so I wrote in cafes, something I’d never done before). Usually, when the sun is shining, I spend quite a long time making notes and busking ideas before I turn the computer on. I usually describe to myself what I am going to write, then type it up. The next day I’ll edit this passage before I write anything new. It builds up slowly. I do plan a lot. Even my paragraphs have plans
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a series of twelve stories called The Syllabus of Errors. They’re loosely connected or overlap but not in a Cloud Atlas way. I am also writing a sequel to Starfish called SubGrubStreet as a blog. Nathan can’t ignore the internet forever.

Is it in the same vein as Starfish?
SubGrubStreet obviously is in the same vein but the short stories are mixed. There are some historical stories set before World War Two and some contemporary ones that are more hard-edged than Starfish. Then again, the sort of too-well-read, windmill-tilting male character that I used in Starfish does crop up a lot. There’s also one story that uses footnotes to tell itself which is pretty much in the same vein as the novel. If I concentrated on only one form or tone I’d get bored. Some days I’m happy to gaze out of the window. Some days I want to put a brick through it.
Will you use Unthank Books again? How did you find them?
I certainly will. I was very lucky, really. I knew Robin Jones, Unthank’s founder, because he had been my agent in the past. It was very serendipitous.
When will the next novel be finished?
Well, The Syllabus will be finished this year. Ive just written the penultimate story so theres only one to go. Next year Im intending to start another novel. Ive got some plans. I am likely to muck about again and follow in the same vein as Starfish.

Any last words/anything else you want to share?

Writing fiction is a state of mind rather than a career. I think this is what a lot of beginners forget and it

Is there a link for your Literary Consultancy?
Yes, there is. TLC, the original and the best: http://www.literaryconsultancy.co.uk/

Read the Eastern Daily Press review: http://bit.ly/ddcTgo of Touching the Starfish.

Touching the Starfish is mostly described as a comic novel and metafiction. Check out Amazon for reviews and others on Stokes’ website. There is also a blogged sort-of-sequel, SubGrubStreet to promote Starfish. 

Non-fiction writer Jacqui Murray

Jacqui Murray

Meet techno non-fiction writer, Jacqui Murray, born in Berkley California to Irish-German parents. After receiving a BA in Economics, another in Russian and an MBA, she spent twenty years in a variety of industries while raising two children and teaching evening classes at community colleges. Now, she lives with her husband, adult son and two beautiful Labradors. She writes how-books, five blogs on everything from the Naval Academy to tech to science, as well as a column for the Examiner on tech tips. She’s one busy lady…

Tell us about your current book?

I have written a how-to book for high schoolers on getting into the Naval Academy. When my daughter wanted a book on how to get into USNA, all she could find were books that told her how hard it was, how selective they were, how very few could achieve it. My daughter brushed them off, but I wondered how many kids would be discouraged by that approach and decided to write a book explaining how to achieve the goal, not why kids couldn’t. I stressed how teens can solve the problems that stood in their way rather than why they couldn’t, how they could get where they wanted to go rather than why they couldn’t get there. That worked for my daughter and I had no doubt it would work for others. From what I hear from readers, it’s true.

My eight tech workbooks for K-8 are the same. When I went back to teaching a decade ago, I could find no workbooks for teaching technology. There were how-tos, but not geared for younger students. So I decided to write them. I geared the books for parents with nominal computer skills, homeschoolers and lab specialists. It outlines the method I use in my classes that gets kids from the most basics of computer skills in kindergarten to Photoshop by fifth grade. I’m not surprised that the method works, and is now being used in school districts all over the country.

Why that genre?

If we are to belief that old saw, Write what you know, that is my answer. I love computers, love shining a bright light on them for kids, so here I am. Writing books about them. In fiction, my genre is techno-thrillers. What a surprise, hunh? I love the sizzle of technology.

What gives you the motivation to write this particular genre?

I think the more kids understand technology and realize it isn’t complicated, pretty intuitive actually, the more they’ll embrace it throughout their education. Like reading, it makes learning so much easier than the lack of it.

Have you tried to write in another field?

You mean like chick lit? No, just not me. The people who write chick lit, or literary fiction are probably called to it, as I am to techno-thrillers.

Is your book a stand-alone or part of a series?

My tech books are designed as a guideline for learning from Kindergarten through fifth grade. You start with the first and work through to the end. You can start in the middle, but it’s not as effective. Skills are missed or become more difficult because the student doesn’t have the background.

What are you working on now?

Right now, I’m working on a fiction novel, To Hunt a Sub. PhD candidate and single mom Kali Delamagente has something in common with Albert Einstein: They both regret their inventions. His changed the world and hers is on a train-wreck course to destroy it. It starts when her brainchild, a supercomputer named Otto, accidentally uncovers a foolproof way to steal military secrets. Kali’s brilliant friend, Cat, persuades her to enter Otto in a contest, the same one where Cat will unveil her undetectable DNA-based computer virus. It’s no surprise both inventions catch the attention of America’s enemies. Their goal: hijack America’s Trident subs, the most advanced military platforms in the world.

Enter Zeke Rowe, ex-SEAL-turned-anthropology professor. Though he doesn’t believe Otto can find the Tridents’ covert hiding places or that Cat’s virus can hijack them, he soon learns how wrong he is. When Kali’s son is kidnapped, the threat becomes all too real. Now she faces a moral dilemma: Is one life worth that of a nation? Because no answer is acceptable, Kali, Cat and Zeke band together to regain control of America’s most clandestine secrets.

What is your favourite scene in your book? Can we have a snippet?

I have an excerpt available on Scribd.com Please—log it and check it out. I’ve had over 3600 reads since I posted it a few months ago.

What is the very first novel, or partial you have written?
My first fiction novel was about a band of early men (I have an excerpt on Scribd), circa two million years ago. I have great respect for man’s roots and wanted to share early man’s life style, mostly how he survived those feral times. To keep it from being a narrative treatise, I couched the biography in the traits of fiction—characterization, plot line, story arc, etc. I’ve grown from there.
What came first, fiction or non-fiction?
Non-fiction came first. Building a Midshipman was from a passion to share my daughter’s experience in her successful USNA application process. My technology workbooks were necessity—I couldn’t find any textbooks for my tech classes! No file drawer of unfinished stories. I have several finished novels which I will edit at some point in the future, but that’s it.

Do you have an agent, or have you gone alone? (If agented please give names, if not please tell us a little about your journey into SP.

No agent, but some definite interest in the book. I have a short list of people who have expressed an interest, so I will send it to them first when I’m finished. I hope they enjoy it!

Who is your publisher, or who do you SP with?

My non-fiction books are published by Structured Learning.

Where can you be contacted?
Anyone interested in reaching me, the best way is through my publisher, Structured Learning or email me at AskATechTeacher@structuredlearning.net My Twitter handle is twitter@askatechteacher. My writing tips blog is WordDreams. I also write a column for Examiner.com. I invite everyone to read that, add comments, follow me!

And where can we find your books?
  • My six technology workbooks are available on Amazon.com and the publisher’s website. The ebooks are available on Scribd.com. 
  • My two computer lab toolkits are available on Amazon.com and the publisher’s website. The ebooks are available on Scribd.com. 
  • Building a Midshipman is available on Amazon.com and the publisher’s website. The ebooks are available on Scribd.com. 
  • If you’re interested in To Hunt a Cruiser, leave a comment on my WordDreams blog and I’ll let you know when it’s out.
  • My Building a Midshipman site is USNA or Bust. 
  • My Computer Lab Toolkit and Technology Workbooks site is Ask a Tech Teacher

Lastly, can you leave us with a summary of two of your books?

There are lots of how-to books on getting in the Naval Academy, but they’re quite dry and impersonal. Mine is from the perspective of a woman who did it (my daughter!) and how she accomplished such a lofty goal. It’s very down-to earth and should give confidence to any teen, male or female, considering a military academy as their college of choice. Here’s the blurb I have on Amazon:

You don’t have to be a miracle-worker to the 10% of applicants accepted to a military academy, but you do need a plan. For the thousands of students who apply every year–and slog through the numbing concatenation of decisions preceding a nomination–there is no greater discouragement than the likely event that they will fail. This, though, is the Board’s peek into an applicant’s moral fiber and an important ingredient to the go/no go decision. In the words of James Stockdale, USNA ’46 and Medal of Honor Winner: “The test of character is not ‘hanging in there’ when you expect a light at the end of the tunnel, but performance of duty and persistence of example when you know that no light is coming.” This is the true story of Maggie Schmidt, an All-American kid who dreamt of attending the Naval Academy when her research into the typical Midshipman uncovered a profile alarmingly like herself. This book describes her background and academic interests, her focus, as well as her struggle to put together a winning admissions package. Along the way, you gain insight into the moral fiber that grounds everything she does and the decisions she must make that some consider impossible for an adolescent, but are achievable for thousands of like-minded teens. This workbook walks you through the long process, provides check lists of everything required, decision making matrices, goal-setting exercises to determine if USNA is a good fit for you, and a mix of motivation and academic advice to balance a decision that rightfully might be the biggest one most teens have ever made. See the publisher’s website at structuredlearning.net for more details.

The all-in-one K-8 toolkit for the lab specialist, classroom teacher and homeschooler, with a years-worth of simple-to-follow projects. Integrate technology into language arts, geography, history, problem solving, research skills, and science lesson plans and units of inquiry using teacher resources that meet NETS-S national guidelines and many state standards. The fifty-five projects are categorized by subject, program (software), and skill (grade) level. Each project includes standards met in three areas (higher-order thinking, technology-specific, and NETS-S), software required, time involved, suggested experience level, subject area supported, tech jargon, step-by-step lessons, extensions for deeper exploration, troubleshooting tips and project examples including reproducibles. Tech programs used are KidPix, all MS productivity software, Google Earth, typing software and online sites, email, Web 2.0 tools (blogs, wikis, internet start pages, social bookmarking and photo storage), Photoshop and Celestia. Also included is an Appendix of over 200 age-appropriate child-friendly websites. Skills taught include collaboration, communication, critical thinking, problem solving, decision making, creativity, digital citizenship, information fluency, presentation, and technology concepts. In short, it’s everything you’d need to successfully integrate technology into the twenty-first century classroom. See the publisher’s website at structuredlearning.net for free downloads and more details.