Saturday, September 24, 2011

Interview with Fantasy Author Evelyn Uslar-Pietri and Book Giveaway

Evelyn Uslar-Pietri descends from a long line of authors, including her mother, father, and uncle, Arturo Uslar-Pietri. The latter - recognized in Wikipedia as one of Latin America’s foremost intellectuals and writers - declared that Evelyn would follow in his footsteps. Pirates Gold: Treasure to Die For is her first novel.

Hello Evelyn. Please tell us about your new book.

Although primarily targeted at young readers ages twelve and up, I think all thrill seekers will enjoy this action packed adventure. It’s brimming with hideous monsters, evil wizards, ancient curses, enchanting nymphs, unimaginable riches, and of course, pirates! I love crafting tales that keep readers unrelentingly riveted and entertained. But for me, a good book should also impart fundamental life lessons, particularly for young people. In Pirate’s Gold: Treasure to Die For, the main character – Captain Johnny B. Wilde – comes to learn the importance of friendship, selflessness, compassion, and just plain doing the right thing!

This sounds like my kind of book. I love adventures. Where did you get your inspiration for this book?

I am an avid reader, a lover of adventure, and a hopeless daydreamer! I’m very much in my element in Disney, so a book that launches readers into exciting new worlds is right up my alley!

Warning: Pirate’s Gold is not for the faint of heart… It’s a roller coaster of a ride that will plunge you into a world of dizzying adventure.” I love this statement. What kind of adventure are we talking about? I want to know more.

You can read an excerpt at my website:! It’ll give you a taste of the adventure! Also please know that when you buy the book you also help those in need - 20% of my earnings go to Hand of Hope and other charitable organizations.

I love your website. It’s so creative and original. What does your family think about your writing?

Thanks, I also think the website is great fun – particularly the About Us section! My family is my great earthly treasure – I thank God for them daily. They’re also my greatest fan club!

Hey, you can’t ask for a better fan club. Now it’s time to tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

Well, I don’t know that you’ll never forget this (lol), but my love of travel probably stems from my childhood. Due to Dad’s work we left Venezuela when I was three and traveled the world: from Taiwan to Turkey, India to Denmark, Romania to France…and beyond! It was wonderful. In Taiwan we went to restaurants where you could pick the snake you wanted in your stir-fry – much like Red Lobster has their trademark lobster tank in the entrance. (No, I never ate snake!) In India, we barely escaped with our lives when, lost in the countryside, we were pursued by a band of ruthless mercenaries – surely one of the longest, darkest nights of our lives. And in Romania we experienced a devastating earthquake but in the process gained life-long friends. These and many other such experiences have fueled my imagination and shaped my writing; I thank God for them all.

Wow! You have had many adventures. You could write about each one and have your readers on the edge of their seats. Some people claim that snake tastes like chicken. Just the thought of it makes me cringe. I bet your autobiography would be so interesting to read. Thank you so much for this interview, Evelyn. For a real adventure, you should visit "Pirates Gold Treasure" at

Monday, September 19, 2011

Interview with Author Steve Miller

Steve and Cherie Miller love to write, publish, and help fellow authors. Cherie serves as president of the Georgia Writers Association. Steve writes educational resources through his site and has written numerous books and articles.

Whether you’re traditionally published or self-published, the author must do the promotion. This book provides solid guidance and is full of valuable tips.” - Publishing authority Dan Poynter

Welcome back to my blog, Steve. Please tell us about your new book.

Great to be back, Linda! Cherie (my wife) and I love to write, but we often find ourselves battling a publishing industry and “buying public” that worship big names and big platforms. Publishers obviously prefer authors who are well known and already have huge followings, because it almost guarantees sales. But what about the ordinary, not famous authors like us, who love to write, but don't have huge platforms? We live in an obscure cul-de-sac in a little town in Georgia and we care for my 105-year-old grand mom. I can't even get out past the mailbox very often. How can people like us, considered nobodies by the world, publish marketable books and see regular, sustained sales?

We've found some creative solutions that we think can help other low profile authors. Back in 1993, I wrote a book called The Contemporary Christian Music Debate, to help church staff and parents navigate the confusing decisions about new musical styles and the church. Yet, I had no platform to write such a book. I didn't have a degree in music. I wasn't a professional musician. I worked as minister of youth at Flat Creek Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Georgia. That's worse than a platform – that's a hole in the ground! Yet, I snagged a first rate publisher – Tyndale House – and the book has gone through several printings and has been translated into Spanish, Dutch, German, Romanian and Russian. It still sells regularly today, over 17 years later.

We've self-published most of our subsequent books, on diverse subjects such as personal finance and writing and even a word game dictionary called BackWords. We're pleased with the sales. We'd like to help other low-profile authors learn what we've discovered about how to get our books out there in the marketplace, see daily sales, and ultimately see people impacted through our writing.

Is this book only for beginners just starting out or can this book help experienced authors?

It's for all authors who want to learn or update their book marketing skills. There are so many great ways to market books these days! The first part is about how to write a marketable book. We also discuss publishing options and how those can impact your marketing. The second half details how we and other low profile authors are successfully selling our books.

A Reviewer wrote, “…a comprehensive guide to marketing a book… that’s loaded with specific tips. Brimming with creative ideas, Sell More Books! should prove to be a low profile author’s best friend.” What are two “specific tips” for promoting your book?

First, we emphasize that each book and each author are unique. What works for one book may not work for another. So forget the five step formulas. Instead, think about where the audience for your book congregates. For my personal finance book, I found the 200 most popular personal finance blogs and e-mailed each of the blog authors, suggesting a timely post related to the book ("Financially Illiterate Graduates") and offering a free copy for review and another for a giveaway. About 50 (one out of four) requested a free copy and about 20 came through with reviews. Thus, 20 popular bloggers were recommending my book to their faithful followers. No wonder my sales tripled, more than paying for the books I sent out. I have an entire chapter telling specifically how I did this. This strategy can work for novels as well as nonfiction.

Second, we emphasize that the best ways to sell your book are often counterintuitive – not what you'd first expect. For example, when I studied low profile authors who sold a lot of books, I found many of them selling tons of books locally. Most advice today centers on reaching people via the Web and social networking, but we overlook the fact that if we get our book into the hands of our next door neighbor, she can tell the world through her social networks. One first-time novelist sold 200 copies of his book in six months through a locally owned restaurant. What if he got his book into 100 such restaurants? We detail exactly what this author did and how others can take advantage of local sales.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

We kept precise records of each of our own marketing initiatives, to learn what was working for us and, just as important, what wasn't working. For example, I was interviewed about my money book on two of the most popular Atlanta TV stations and as far as I could tell, sold no books at all as a result. I discuss what we learned from this. We kept in touch with other low profile authors (personally and in forums) and we told each other honestly what worked and what didn't. We read many stories of low profile authors who sold tons of books. Additionally, we read about 25 books on book marketing and other general marketing books as well. 

I've often heard that two heads together are better than one. What is it like to write a book together as husband and wife? Are there any interesting experiences you had while writing this book as a team?

Cherie and I think very much alike, so we seldom have a serious disagreement about content. We write together very well. We do have differences, which round us out as a team. I do deep research, question everything, and get into the technical details. But to have time to dig, I never read news. Cherie reads broadly - The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, etc. - so she keeps me up on cutting edge trends. The synergism between us gives us a much better perspective on things.

I was enthralled by contributing regularly to our blogs and Facebook - for about a month. I became doubtful about the value of certain aspects of social networking for the majority of authors. Then Cherie started a blog that took off and got publicity in major news. Also, she tweaked her use of Facebook in ways that I didn't, making it a much more useful tool. So we revised one of our main chapters on social networking several times based largely upon her experiences, to try to help authors see how some use these tools profitably and others waste tons of time.

I think it's wonderful that you two can work together like this. Do you have any closing remarks?

If you're a new or low profile author and your sales are either dismal or nonexistent, don't assume that you're a bad writer. Typically, books don't sell until you figure out how to market them. I challenge you to dedicate some time each day to learn the business side of writing. Cherie and I love checking (multiple times per day!) to see which of our books are selling on multiple platforms. It's both fun and deeply rewarding to see people buying and reading our books. We want more authors to experience this thrill.

Thank you, Steve, for this wonderful interview. I hope everyone learned something new today.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Interview with Fantasy Author Tika Newman

Tika is married, living in upstate New York during winter and on a small lake in Pennsylvania the rest of the year. She and her husband share four children and seven terrific grandchildren. They have two Keeshonds named Tyler and Joey. Tika retired from a twenty-two year career as a Real Estate Broker and owner of Heritage Homes Realty Co. When not writing or editing, you will often find her in the kitchen cooking or out in one of her many gardens.

It's truly a heartwarming story of a young innocent girl coming to terms with an amazing talent and the story of her and her family’s life.” - J. Woodfield

Hello Tika. Please tell us about The Eyes of Innocence.

This popular series depicts the life of an orphaned girl as she grows up displaying an innate way with animals and many surprises for her aunt and uncle. By the age of five, Kalina is showing psychic abilities and the power to heal. The series opens when Kalina is nearly sixteen, and a white horse haunts her dreams. On her birthday, the horse appears. The mare is real, and she is hers.

Kalina's tumultuous life is riddled with unanswered questions. Someone is watching her, and although she is aware of this, she has no fear. When the day arrives that she actually meets these people, she quickly forms a bond with them, much to her aunt and uncle's dismay.

Follow Kalina's escapades, as she matures into a gifted psychic and healer. Her aunt and uncle want her to tone down her abilities, but Kalina is unwilling to do as they ask. If someone needs her, she reacts, especially if a child is involved. People grow suspicious of her extraordinary powers, and try to prove their theories, but haven't been able to uncover the truth....yet. Kalina is unique, as is her story.

Wow! This story does sound unique. Where did you get your inspiration for this book? Do you get any ideas from real life experiences?

My immediate inspiration was from a well known movie that we watched. I didn’t care for it and said I could write a better plot myself. My husband told me to go for it. I started writing The Eyes of Innocence that day.

I would have to say Yes, to getting ideas from real life experiences. The deer in the woods bit is true, the snapping turtle story is true, and as the proud owner of two keeshonds, and past owner of border collies, I know these breeds well.

This is fun learning about how you put this story together. What a coincidence! I, too, got my inspiration for my new mystery/adventure series from a TV show. It was called Hart to Hart. I just loved it. Okay next question. A Reviewer wrote, “The story is compelling... I could NOT put it down. As an avid reader, I found the story unique, definitely not the same old, same old.” Is it hard to make your stories compelling and unique, or do you discuss your plots with a loved one, or does it just come naturally?

My plots come naturally. My mind does not move in a “same old, same old” manner, so creating the stories come pretty easily. The more difficult part is writing them in a coherent fashion and inserting the facts that I research, i.e. when I had to describe the injuries that the little boy suffered when his mother jumped out of a second story window with him in her arms due to a raging fire. He sustained a broken neck and had to be put in a halo vest. What do I know about those two things? Nothing. I very often spend more time researching a scene than I actually do writing it. Many of the scenes and sub-plots are real, such as meeting the deer in the woods, the snapping turtle story, and of course Toby. He is pictured on the back cover of the first book.

I understand what you mean about researching everything so you can make it sound real. You have another book called For the Love of Anne. You have changed genre with this book, moving to historical fiction. Is this a romance? What it is about?

There actually isn’t a lot of romance in For the Love of Anne. There is a lot of information about people from all walks of life and how they immigrated to Chicago in the late 1880’s during the Industrial revolution. The actual history part of the novel is written as part of the story, so readers may not even realize that a lot of what they’re reading is actual U.S. history. For instance, the first serial killer of the United States lived in Chicago during this time and he stumped the Pinkerton Detectives for years. It is believed that the psycho killed over 200 people, mostly women. One of the biggest mysteries was how he got so many people to trust him. It’s really a fascinating story. Oh, and by the way . . . the man was a doctor.

Oooo! A doctor? Oh my gosh! I love historical fiction for the very reason that I always learn something new. Now it’s time to tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

After my family, animals and nature are a huge part of my life.

I grew up all over the U.S. due to my father’s career as one of the first numerical control experts in the country. One year I went to four different schools. Did I like it? No, not at all. I was young and it made me so painfully shy.

During some of my successful years as a Real Estate Broker, I had more money than I thought I needed. For years, I donated food baskets anonymously to local churches for Easter and Thanksgiving. On Christmas Eve I donated breakfast baskets and I loved making those! I bought bacon, sausage, eggs, juice, bread, English muffins, jelly, pancake mix and syrup, butter, Danish, potatoes, etc. They were so much fun to build. I always put something special in them for the kids. The churches knew who I was, but the recipients never did.

I can have a very silly side at times. Two years ago, when I was WAY old enough to know better, I wanted to know if my dog Tyler would follow me up the steps of a tall slide in a playground. He did. When I got to the top, he was behind me when I sat down. I reached around and pulled him onto my lap and went down the slide with him. I landed on my butt and laughed so hard that Bob had to help me up. 

Wow! I sure learned some fun things about you today. I enjoyed this visit with you. And your book sounds fascinating. Thanks, Tika, for a wonderful interview.

Review: The Eyes of Innocence written by Linda Weaver Clarke

Kalina is special. She is not the ordinary 15 year old. Kalina has powers that she hides from the world. She has the ability to make friends with animals… when she talks, they seem to understand. She is sensitive to the needs of others and has visions about those who need help. But that’s not all! Kalina has the power to heal.

This story centers around several miraculous events, one of which is the healing of a three-year-old boy who was seriously injured. No one knows for sure whether he will live. And if he does live, he will be a quadriplegic. His father is beside himself with grief. He has already lost his wife… he cannot lose his son, too. When the boy is miraculously healed, everyone calls it a miracle. Will the nurses figure out that Kalina was involved somehow? Or will her powers remain a secret?

This story is intriguing as you follow the everyday life of a teenager, her family, a dog, and her archenemy, Tarrah. As I read about the events of Kalina’s life and the healing of the young child, questions began filtering through my mind. Where did she get this power? Is it a spiritual gift from God? Was it inherited from her ancestors or is Kalina one of a kind? Does the mystery behind her powers come from her heritage? Read the book and find out. This book is great for teenagers and adults alike who love to use their imagination. I read it to my husband and he absolutely loved it.
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Monday, September 5, 2011

Interview with Historical Fiction Author Heidi M. Thomas

Heidi Thomas teaches Memoir and Beginning Fiction Writing in her community and does freelance editing. She is also a member of the Northwest Independent Editors Guild. Heidi lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with a wonderful, supportive husband and a pesky cat. She is also the author of two historical fiction novels and is working on a third in her “Dare to Dream” series. Follow the Dream has won the National WILLA Literary Award, named for Willa Cather and awarded by the Women Writing the West organization.

Hello, Heidi. Please tell us about your new book.

Follow the Dream is the sequel to Cowgirl Dreams. Both books emphasize a strong, independent western woman who gives her all to pursue her dream of rodeo competition. As Follow the Dream opens, Nettie seems to have achieved this dream. She’s married to her cowboy, Jake, they have plans for a busy rodeo season, and she has a once in a lifetime opportunity to rodeo in London with the Tex Austin Wild West Troupe.

But life during the Great Depression brings unrelenting hardships and unexpected family responsibilities. Nettie must overcome challenges to her lifelong rodeo dreams, cope with personal tragedy, survive drought, and help Jake keep their horse herd from disaster. These challenges are enough to break any woman, but will Nettie persevere?

Where did you get your inspiration for this novel?

Both books are based on my grandmother who rode bucking-stock competitively in Montana during the 1920s and ’30s. She died when I was twelve, so I did get to know her, ride with her, and knew that she preferred the back of a horse to domestic duties any day.

I love the fact that you based your story on your grandmother’s life. A Reviewer wrote, “I enjoyed this bittersweet novel with its accurate depiction of the lives of cowgirls in 1930s Montana and its tender portrait of a marriage.” Tell us your thoughts about this and why she refers to your novel as bittersweet.

Nettie is torn between her rodeo dreams and her love for her family. The hardscrabble years of the ’30s force them to seemingly abandon their rodeo hopes while trying to survive and keep their horses from starving. She has to make some difficult choices about her dreams when things go in a different direction than she had planned. 

Your book sounds intriguing to me. What kind of research did you have to do?

My father told me many anecdotes about growing up with a cowgirl as a mother. I read non-fiction books about the cowgirls of that era, talked to other relatives who remembered my grandmother, and actually found the original homestead where my grandparents lived when they were first married. I also have a scrapbook and photo albums she made. 

Wow! I bet your love and respect for your grandmother grew so much as you discovered all the many things about her. Now it’s time to tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

I grew up in isolated rural eastern Montana during the 1950s and ’60s, living a life that was somewhat similar to the way my grandparents lived, so I could understand first-hand what they experienced. I attended a one-room country school with a total of four students, and when I went to high school, I lived in a dormitory during the week and came home on weekends. This dorm, which closed in the 1990s, was, to my knowledge, the last public high school dormitory in the U.S.

Oh my gosh! Only four students? Now that’s small. You can’t get better education than one on one. Your teacher had very little to distract her with only four students. I’ve heard of dormitories for high school in England, but I hadn’t heard of them in the states. Interesting! I learn so many things when I interview authors. Thanks, Heidi, for a wonderful interview.