Featured Post

Driving in Tennessee: Sleeping is the New Texting?

So I get it.  Tennessee has passed a law that as of July 1st, 2019 no one is allowed to have any cellular device in their hand while drivi...

Monday, June 29, 2020

Interview: Yacoob Manjoo

Author name: Yacoob Manjoo
Title of book we’re promoting: Let it Flow
Genre of book: Poetry anthology
Yacoob Manjoo is a South African writer, blogger, and communications professional. His work has appeared in various publications, including The Coinage Book Two: Journal of New South African Writing; ProductiveMuslim.

I met Yacoob through a writer's FaceBook page.  He has several published articles on AboutIslam.net.  Several concern the important holiday of Ramadan.  Here is a link to one on self-care:

Becoming Your Best Self In Ramadan


Here is our interview:

1.     When did you first start writing toward publication?In early 2016, and everything was finished in late 2019. The book is a collection of material I’ve published on my blog, so the content itself ranges from 2006 until 2019. But in between, there were plenty of changes made to the material to get it to the best possible state.

2.     Do you write full-time or around another job? How do you schedule your time to write?My full-time job is in communications, so writing is part of my everyday work. However, the personal and creative writing is done in my spare time. I don’t schedule it, but when I am inspired, I try to take the time out to write. That can be difficult at times, but I do my best.

3.     Where do you get your inspiration, information, and ideas for books?My stuff is mostly poetry, so it’s pretty much everyday life – challenges, joys, reflections…whatever comes, comes.

4.     What advice would you give someone who wants to be a writer?Trust in your own creative process and output – always stay true to your own heart, regardless of what others may be doing. You have a unique voice and a unique offering to give the world, so don’t try to conform to trends. I strongly recommend reading / listening to the work of Seth Godin – who offers plenty of wonderful advice for creatives (and pretty much anyone putting out a product or service).

Also, that common advice about ‘read everything’…I don’t agree. We’re already flooded with content, and you need to leave mental space for your own creativity to flourish. That can be more difficult if your mind and heart is full of the words of others.

5.     Please tell us about your current release.It’s an anthology of my personal writing – poetry and reflections – called “Let it Flow”. The title stems from the ease with which most of the material came to me – almost as if it just came through me, without me actually doing any work.

The blurb reads: "When inspiration strikes, there’s no choice but to write. You become the instrument through which fears and dreams, hopes and frustrations, and thoughts hidden from the world all flow – cathartically – onto pages that reflect snapshots of life. "Let it Flow" captures a journey of poetic self-expression through the author’s twenties and thirties – evolving from an insecure young man, through marriage, fatherhood, and the toils of adult responsibility. Coupled with spiritual reflections on life and the world we live in, this collection hopes to inspire, uplift, and benefit all who browse its pages."

6.     Can you read / provide us with a small exert? (optional – under 200 words)
Wet, winter days have gone,
sun streaming through once more.

Bare branches –
once naked and alone,
now clothed –
in hues marking the season of rebirth,
as the One Who gives life
displays His inimitable power,
bringing life after death,
light after darkness.

Take lessons from these signs:
for, whilst personal winters may dampen your spirit,
rejuvenation is just around the corner.

And all that you struggled with –
trial after trial, weighing down on an already-tired soul,
will, too, come to an end.

Like the caterpillar
that remains within its chrysalis for a period,
transformation was always underway.

And as time brings a new season,
shed the attachments that no longer serve your development,
and emerge
as one more beautiful,
ready to float through life's currents –
the good and the bad,
all part of the journey
to becoming
a better you.




7.     What exciting story are you working on next?
I’ve gathered enough material for a follow-up anthology in similar vein, but I’m not rushing it at all. I’d like this new one to be a more visual experience, with the graphics complementing the text – setting a mood which settles before the reader gets into the crux of the poem or reflection.


8.     Anything additional you want to share with the readers?In today's world, thousands of books exist to teach and entertain readers. There are also the 'practical' ones - about self-help, business, and much more. Then there's politics and news, causes, and a whole lot more.

But poetry - that follows the path of the impractical. Superficially, that kind of material may be of little discernible value in today’s fast-paced, information-dense, politically and economically-obsessed world. But it's immensely important. As humans, we relate to each other through sharing experiences. Sometimes, if we can convey our experiences and ideas well enough – through a story, a poem, or a thoughtful reflection – the one who receives gains far more than just knowledge, or a temporary thrill. As a reader, you are inspired. Encouraged. The words resonate with you on a deeper level. You *feel*. It’s said that what comes from the heart goes to the heart. Poetry comes from the heart, and it hopes to penetrate the reader's heart in a way that other types of books cannot. That’s why you should give it a chance.

For a far more effective explanation, there’s this little book called “How Poetry Can Change Your Heart” – by Andrea Gibson and Megan Falley. It’s a remarkable read I’d recommend to everyone – even those who feel they have no inclination whatsoever towards poetry.


9.     One more time, where can someone go to purchase your book?The e-book is available on all major platforms, and the print edition is available in South Africa via direct order. I can also ship internationally, if readers are willing to cover the exorbitant shipping costs. Info about the book, including a comprehensive free sample, is at: https://dreamlife.wordpress.com/book

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Regina Walker Interview



AUTHOR INTERVIEW: REGINA WALKER

I had the pleasure of asking Regina Walker a few questions (Quarantine style, of course).

Her book, We Go On, is available now. I just bought a copy today for my Kindle. Here are her links:


We Go On? : Contemporary Christian Fiction

Regina's Bio:

Regina Walker was born in the beautiful state of Colorado. She moved to Oklahoma in her late teen years, where she has resided ever since. She likes to curl up on the couch and binge-watch crime shows with her hard-working husband. When she's not wrestling with a writing project, she can be found wrangling their children, riding their horses, or tending the garden. Along with finding horses on their small farm, chickens, dogs, and cats can be found at nearly every turn.
Regina crafts compelling characters facing some of life's hardest challenges. Her heart's desire is to always point toward Jesus through the way her characters face challenges, relationships, and adversity.


And here is our conversation:

When did you first start writing toward publication?

Ten years ago. I was writing three times a week for Yahoo articles and working on finishing a novel for the first time. (I’d started a lot.) I drafted it. But I never could edit it into the story I wanted it to be. I gave up for a time. My debut novel (which was not the novel from ten years ago) released on June 12, 2020.

Do you write full-time or around another job? How do you schedule your time to write?

I write around being a stay at home wife and mom, having a hobby farm, and homeschooling. I get up before everyone and write with the rising of the sun.

Where do you get your inspiration, information, and ideas for books?

Prayer, people watching, living. I find that inspiration isn’t lacking. The discipline to record the inspiration and write as the Spirit leads is a challenge at times.

What advice would you give someone who wants to be a writer? 

To pray first, and then write. Actually write. Not market or social network or search. Actually write. And writing takes a lot of practice. Rarely what we write is permanent and some of it is just for the writer and for practice. Write anyway.


Please tell us about your current release.
First, let me give a warning: This book deals with loss by suicide and the grief a family endures.

Life has been comfortable for the Miller family. Liz and Josh have devoted their lives to raising their two sons. Their oldest son, Colby, reached adulthood and set out on his own. A few hard knocks sent him back to live with Mom and Dad until life got to be too much, that is. 

As Liz and Josh grapple with the hole in their hearts left by Colby’s early departure from this world, they find themselves at odds with one another and with their faith.

Will they remember that Jesus is enough in the middle of this dark storm? Will they see through their own pain and help each other and their teenage son, Tyler, learn to live despite the grief?


Can you read / provide us with a small exert?


“Josh,” she forced out, but her voice was weak.
Tears trickled down her cheeks, first just one, and then another, but more followed.
“Josh,” she mustered with more volume.
He came around the corner with a tuna sandwich in his hand. Mayonnaise dotted the left side of his upper lip.
“What’s wrong honey?”
He offered her his hand, but she shook her head. She lifted her wobbling hand and pointed at the wall of pictures.
“Take it down, Josh. Please.”
He lowered himself to the floor on her right side. He looked up at the pictures and then over at his wife.
“We already talked about this, love. We are keeping the pictures up, to help us remember our son, to help us remember all of the wonderful things we shared with him.”
He took another bite of his sandwich and dabbed at the corners of his mouth with the napkin he held curled up under the sandwich.
“It’s too much though. It reminds me of everything we’ve lost. Every time I come in the door, there is his beautiful, smiling face. He looks so happy and I just—” She started coughing from sobbing.
“That’s how I want to see him, every single day. Happy. These pictures help me do that. Besides, taking them down would be just like trying to forget him, trying to erase him. You cannot erase my son,” Josh said.
“Erase him?” Liz’s voice quivered.
“Isn’t that what you’re trying to do? Forget everything so you don’t have to think about the bad?”
“No, that’s not what I’m trying to do,” Liz said.


That's great! What exciting story are you working on next?

Still With Us is a contemporary Christian fiction as well. This story follows a very broken mother-daughter relationship, the pits of addiction and isolation, and more. It won’t end there, though. This story has a powerful reconciliation and redemptive ending. 

Thank you for tackling difficult topics with a spiritual eye. And I do believe there is real power in fiction. As a former counselor, I know so many people find healing in reading story. Even Jesus tended to tell story more than communicate facts. Is there anything additional you want to share with the readers?

I am so thankful you took the time to stop by today. I hope you have find many good reads in your life and that each book grows you in some way. Happy reading!

One more time, where can someone go to purchase your book?






Monday, June 22, 2020

BookLife Review

Reviewed by BookLife!
BookLife

BookLife Prize - 2020

Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 9 out of 10
Prose: 8 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 9.00 out of 10
Assessment:
Plot: Phillip, the new kid in school in Harwood's coming-of-age novel, faces realistic and relatable student and teen problems. The only thing that's going well for him is his English class, where he reads Ender's Game and discovers an outlet for his frustrations in the teacher's daily "jam sessions," free writing exercises that jump off from a creative prompt. Harwood's novel makes the everyday dramatic and urgent. Here, Phillip's fear of disappointing his mother, or his worry about what will happen when a suspended bully returns to school, prove gripping.
Prose/Style: Harwood's prose is clear and unadorned, offering little in the way of description. Instead, it's highly sensitive to Phillip's feelings as he bumbles through his school days and slowly discovers who his friends are. The kids' dialogue is sometimes flat, lacking the inventive weirdness of actual child-chatter, but the adults' speech is ideal: authority figures who soothingly help point Phillip (and possibly young readers) toward strategies for handling anxiety. Some passages of action falter, and more rigorous proofreading would standardize distractingly inconsistent product names. For most of the book, though, the prose persuasively connects Phillip's feelings to the scenes around him.
Originality: Harwood invests familiar character types with fresh power: spitball-blowing bullies; a fantasy-obsessed band of social outsiders; and a sensitive and observant English teacher. The embarrassments and minor disasters that Philip experiences in Jam Sessions aren't new, but through his eyes they feel fresh. Classroom scenes of Phillip and other students writing and sharing their own creative works based on a teacher's prompt are especially strong, as each kid's writing is unique and revealing of their personas. (That's true, also, of the instructor's sensitive responses.)
Character Development: Phillip, his friends, his teachers, his mother, and even his bullies all feel alive on the page. These seem like real kids, in a convincing world, facing real problems that readers might learn from – but that aspect of the book never interferes with the narrative's momentum or excitement.
Date Submitted: April 18, 2020
You are welcome to use this Critic’s Report as promotional copy or as a blurb to promote your book. Please note: When attributing quotes from this Critic’s Report, you must credit The BookLife Prize.

R L Stine's Camp Red Moon




I picked up recently R L Stine's Camp Red Moon.  The purchase came after my dear wife bought me an annual pass to Master Classes.

https://www.masterclass.com

I have listened to several, including the one on space travel as I watched Space X.  They are all fairly good.  I don't know I would pay the full subscription fee, but I got a discount deal they ran during the pandemic.

The best one so far has been Stine's MasterClass.  He talks through his writing, how he originated ideas (1950's horror movies), his process, and his encouragement to new writers.  In that, he talked about Camp Red Moon.  I had an unused audible credit.  I don't listen to books as often in my car now that I am work-from-home with my full time job!

It has several narrators, including Stine.  I'm about half way through it right now.  In a previous career, I was a camp director.  In fact, I would argue it was and is one of the best regional camps out there.  If you are in the southeast, check it out:



Camp Vesper Point


My association with the camp as director made me particularly interested in how Stine told scary stories to young kids.  We had a few of our own, but always had to be careful.  My favorite from my experience was when one of my counselors told the tale of the "lost campers."


In the 1950's a group of campers went on an evening hike.  The nature trail, which ran along the seldom used back side of camp was their destination.  As the sun went down, they realized they were lost.  Compasses were pulled out and maps consulted.  The maps mysteriously faded to white.  The compasses began to spin.  The stars were then consulted to find true north.  But as they tried to walk out of the woods, they found themselves just walking in circles.  They were lost.  Forever.

My counselor told this story and always ended by telling campers if they listened really hard, they could still hear those lost campers crying out, "Ocho!  Ocho!  Ocho!"

Little did my counselor know that cabin #1 was having a last night dance party.  They had a boom box playing some popular pop song.  I think one by Taylor Swift or the Jonas Brothers.  They jumped up and down, becoming a group of sweaty, male tweens.  Being on the guy side of camp, they took shirts off to keep cool in the unairconditioned cabin.  Someone then threw up a bottle of gold bond.  The white baby powder drifted down.  It stuck to the sweaty dancers.

It was then they realized that they were missing their friends down the hill in cabin eight.  They rushed outside in their now ghostly white appearance.  Somewhere down the hill the radio was turned off in favor of their chant.  "Ocho!  Ocho!  We want Ocho!"

Needless to say, my counselor in cabin eight stayed up all night with some scared kids.  And never told that story again... at night... without making sure he wouldn't have dance party visitors.

We work through a lot of fears with sci-fi, horror, worlds of fantasy and magic.  These stories are important.  And while they need to be age appropriate, I appreciate RL Stine for reminding me in Camp Red Moon that children can enjoy these tales also.  Just maybe read them in the daytime!













Tuesday, June 16, 2020

I've Been Interviewed!









Sunday, June 14, 2020

Promo Codes for Audible!




I have several free copies of my book for promotion purposes on Audible.




The gentleman who did the audio is well known (he even wrote a Hallmark movie with Kenny Rogers!) and does an excellent job.

If you are interested in a free listen, let me know through the email link or comment section.  Or message me on facebook:  First come, first serve.

Message me on FB

 All I ask in return is an honest review on Audible (and if willing on Amazon also!)