Lucas A. Dyer

As a US Marine, Lucas A. Dyer engaged in combat with the Taliban in Afghanistan’s heroin capital of Helmand. As a small unit leader and platoon commander leading Marines in battle, he fought terrorists and their allies on their home turf, witnessing unspeakable violence in the process. He and his fellow Marines realized that an eye for an eye would not accomplish their objectives so, relying on counterinsurgency operations, they began shaking hands one at a time and ultimately drove the Taliban away. Day by day and week by week, they proved that a small fighting force could work together with Afghans to become brothers-in-arms.

In his memoir, Lucas recalls the events of his time in Afghanistan, sharing true stories from the front lines of how his company was able to win their battles through handshakes.

Hi Lucas, please  tell everyone a little about yourself.

Lucas croppedLucas: I was born in Randolph, Vermont where I grew up a pretty normal life for being raised by a single mother of two. I was an athlete my whole life and achieved honors earning my way into a private school where I was a star hockey player. I then graduated heading off to college where I made a last minute decision in August of 2000 to join the United States Marine Corps and become an Infantry Marine. I deployed four times and served thirteen years on active duty and transferred to the reserves in the summer of 2013. I started writing professionally in 2012 where I was picked up by Jiu-Jitsu Magazine and wrote monthly articles on nutrition for the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)/Jiu-Jitsu community. My current book, A Battle Won by Handshakes, was a project I started in 2010 after returning from combat in Afghanistan. It was completed and published in June of 2014. It currently is the number 1 best seller iUniverse.

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

Lucas: I first got into writing in early 2010 when I started working on my recently published book A Battle Won by Handshakes. The genre is non-fiction/military/bio. Along the side of working on this book, I wrote weekly blogs on nutrition for athletes and later got picked up by a popular MMA magazine called Jiu-Jitsu Magazine. Jiu-Jitsu Magazine has become the second most sold magazine under UFC for MMA.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

Lucas: When I got the idea to write this book, I wanted to finish it as soon as possible. I felt that that book should come out sooner than later so it would be relevant to the current war in Afghanistan at that time. However I realized that it wasn’t that easy. There were a lot of details and facts to check on. Names of places, people and events that I had to research to make sure I was correct on all accounts. I wanted it to be perfect so not to upset anyone by quoting someone incorrectly. After talking to several other authors, they all shared one final thought in common, to take my time and don’t rush. They told me to write a little, take a break, and to write some more, then take a break. It ended up being the best advice I had received.

Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?

ABattleWonLucas: My recent book is titled A Battle Won by Handshakes and as of now it is a stand-alone. I do have ideas for another one to follow but I will keep them to myself. The book is about my experiences as a United States Marine fighting against the Taliban in Helmand Afghanistan. What was unique about this battle was that after a short period of time we realized that fighting the Taliban with weapons was a very challenging task so we utilized a tactic called counterinsurgency (COIN) operations. The idea was to get the Local Nationals on our side, and gain their trust. In turn they would help provide information free of fear instilled by the Taliban. Our unit was very successful in doing so and it makes for a great story. It gives amazing insight to what goes on in combat for those who have always wondered.

Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?

Lucas: Although I don’t really have characters so-to-speak. There are stories about Marines in this book that I feel have the reader cheering for them to survive. There were some close encounters with death and several of us were lucky at times. On the opposite end there are also some who were not so lucky and did not make it back. One in particular that has grabbed the hearts of many was one of my Marines Lance Corporal Donald Hogan who was killed August 26, 2009 protecting his Marines. His story is remarkable and has earned him the second highest medal under the Medal of Honor for his bravery.

Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?

Lucas: I found it very helpful to write a little bit, then turn away for a week or so to collect my thoughts. It helped me feel more organized to write several pages, and then walk away. This technique was useful.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Lucas: The most influential aspect that helped my writing was being a Marine and having first-hand experience on the subject being written about. My upbringing only added to the drive and determination to be able to say “I am a published author”.

Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.

Lucas: The reviews are amazing. I have been blessed with so many fans. However the ones that really get to me are the ones from fellow Marines that I served with, who have had a hard time dealing with some of the losses on this deployment. When they tell me the book heals, or helps them, I really tear up. Here is a recent one:

So today I decided to open your book and it brought back a lot of emotions that I knew would resurface. It took me many years to accept what happened and I tried to live a better life for Swanson. As the pages started turning, an old life style, and brotherhood I miss so much came to life. I have not finished reading your book yet, and to be honest I don’t want the book to end. Your book has brought back many memories of the brotherhood I miss so much. I still have many memories of good times we have shared. I want to thank you for sharing your story. I hope all is we’ll and I look forward to seeing your book at #1. Semper Fi brother.

What are your current projects?

Lucas: I am currently working on a Sports Nutrition book for the MMA/Jiu-Jitsu athlete. I have a years’ worth of nutritional articles that I am slowly turning them into a nutritional guide.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Lucas: It can be purchased online at iUniverse, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Indigo book stores. I have copied the links in for easier assistance. Also my facebook page keeps everyone in the loop with what’s happening.
Facebook: A Battle Won by Handshakes The Story of Alpha Company
iUniverse: A Battle Won by Handshakes
Amazon: A Battle Won by Handshakes
Barnes and Noble: A Battle Won by Handshakes

Thanks for joining us today, Lucas.

Lucas: Thank you for your time.

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Short Story Revival: True or False?

“… There’s something unsaid, a dread in the air. … And so there it was said, floating up and around in the atmosphere with all the delicious aromas, the superficial chatter and the sounds of cars making their way back into the city for the long work week.” Lori M. Myers Cooking in a Room with Strangers

Fact or fantasy, true or false, is the revival of the short story due in part to the easy access to e-books for reading on a tablet or smartphone? Or is this just a myth? According to Laura Miller, the short story boom is bogus. In response to the New York Times article, Good Fit for Today’s Little Screens: Short Stories, Laura says, “Still, the idea that such programs have led to renewed general interest in reading short stories is, like much of the Times article, speculative and fueled by wishful thinking.” She expands on this here: Sorry the Short Story Boom Is Bogus

The “wishful thinking” comment led me to do some research – it’s what I do, and I didn’t even need to Google; I went straight to Amazon’s bestsellers’ list. I compared Short Stories with the Romance, Fantasy and Science Fiction genres. I also looked at the list of Fiction Classics. You can draw your own conclusions from the results.

Compared to the most popular genre, Romance, short stories are way behind (the #100 bestseller in the Romance genre is ranked higher overall than the #1 bestseller in short stories), but compared with Fantasy and Sci-Fi and, especially, Fiction Classics, short stories do much better as shown in the table below:

Genre

Bestseller List

Overall ranking (Paid in Kindle Store)

Short Stories

#1

#261

Romance

#100

#231

Fantasy

#14

#260

Science Fiction

#12

#259

Fiction Classics

#4, #5

#196,  #531

The #1 bestseller in the Romance genre was overall #1 bestseller on Kindle, and even the #100 bestseller in Romance (#231 overall ranking) ranked higher than the #1 bestseller in the Short Stories category (#261 overall ranking). Romance lived up to its reputation and came out well on top.

However, in the Fantasy bestsellers list, only fourteen books (fourteenth book ranked #260 overall) ranked higher than the top ranked book in Short Stories. Similarly, only twelve books (twelfth book ranked #259 overall) performed better in the Science Fiction genre.

Compared with Fiction Classics, short stories performed well – only four books (fourth book ranked #196 overall, fifth book ranked #531 overall) in the Fiction Classics list ranked higher than the top ranked book in Short Stories.

The evidence suggests that, apart from Romance, short stories in e-book format are now on a par with other popular genres. Readers seem to enjoy the variety that short stories offer interspersed among their favorite authors and books. One reason for this might be that a short story can be read in the space of a bus ride or train journey, especially with all the new forms of electronic reading devices and the increasing number of online e-book retailers.

This revival of the short story in electronic format has created an opportunity for writers that might not have presented itself otherwise. Many new and exciting writers are keen to reach out to readers by providing them with stories that entertain and enthrall. The demand from readers is there and authors are matching it.

FrontThe opening quote above is from the talented writer, Lori Myers. Lori is one of three Pushcart nominees (Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow, Murray Dunlap and Lori M. Myers) who contributed short stories to Forever Families, the third in the Forever series of anthologies – Forever Friends (2008), Forever Travels (2010) and Forever Families (2012).

Lori’s touching story about a sister and brother, who have grown apart, is just one of twenty-seven stories that vary in length from concise to extensive. Every story, whether short or long, offers a unique look at family life. While some are poignant, others raise a smile.

The seven sections that make up the book take the reader through the joys of a happy childhood to the sadness of a death in the family, with fond family memories, faithful family pets, risky family business ventures, eventful family weddings and the ups and downs of family life in between. So, find a comfortable chair, download the book to your e-reader, then sit back and enjoy the diversity of reading experiences in Forever Families.

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A New Language for Life by Dr. Louis Koster

In his new book A New Language for Life: Happy No Matter What!, Dr. Louis Koster shows you how to transform your life from a place of higher awareness, to trust yourself and life, and experience an overall sense of peace and well-being—no matter what.

Why did you feel compelled to write A New Language for Life?

Louis: I was humbled by my experiences. There is no other way of saying it. I felt entrapped by the circumstances of my life and at some point realized that there was nowhere else to go. I knew that the way I viewed the world had to change. This was my defining moment. I realized that if I considered life as fundamentally good, I may as well trust what was occurring in my life as fundamentally good, rather than condemning it. I made then and there a commitment to be happy and content, no matter what the circumstances of my life. This commitment became a passage of awakening and higher awareness that allowed me to transcend the circumstances of my life and reclaim my capacity to manifest my life. I then became willingly compelled to share this message of awakening and inner peace with others.

Why would someone want to read A New Language for Life?

Louis:  Entrapment in our circumstances is the human experience without exception at some point in a person’s life. In A New Language for Life, Happy No Matter What!, readers are invited to dwell in two powerful affirmations–The Choice and The Insight, which by its own unique design, open up a passage of awakening and higher awareness without changing anything about the circumstances of your life. The Choice andThe Insight release being from its entrapment in language and allow readers to experience an authentic freedom to be and be present again to the true joy of life.What makes A New Language for Life, Happy No Matter What! so appealing is the simplicity of its passage. A New Language for Life, Happy No Matter What! is attractive, since the title of the book is attractive and captures people’s immediate attention.

Is there a particular timely nature of the subject area?

Louis: We live in an era of unprecedented change and are trapped in cycles of crises. In depleting the resources of our planet, we may lose the fragile web of life that sustains us on planet earth. There is more at stake in being happy than our individual happiness, since a commitment to being happy brings about a sense of oneness and perspective to our experience of life. Readers learn that our default way of being is insufficient to deal with our current issues and concerns and that true survival of the human race is only possible inside of oneness.

Are there specific benefits from reading your book?

Louis: Dwelling in the affirmations of the book, The Choice and The Insight, the reader experiences an authentic freedom to be in whatever circumstance they find themselves in life. A New Language for Life, Happy No Matter What! shows how you can defeat day-to-day depression, struggle and unhappiness, or any ordinary bad mood.  A New Language for Life shows you how to weather the winds and storms of life from a deep and abiding source of inner peace.  Some of the benefits that workshop participants of A New Language for Life report are less resentment and more peace.  After the workshop, they were less preoccupied with other peoples’ opinion about them and the freedom to just be.  Participants felt less immobilized and consumed by the circumstances in their lives and were able to give attention to what really matters in their lives.

Describe the audience for your book.

Louis: The book is for anyone who is in transition in life and has a sense that there is more to life than what they are currently experiencing. The book is for anyone who is committed to a life beyond struggle and suffering, a life beyond a sense of entrapment by circumstances. The book allows you to empower yourself through the challenges you are facing in life. You are led  to a place where you start to trust your own experience of life and begin listening to your own truth again. The book offers a way to reconnect with the essence of your being and a way to live according to your true nature.

What personal experiences led you to write A New Language for Life, Happy No Matter What!?

Louis: In essence, the idea for the book came to me by making the distinction between being, and the “I,” and by recognizing being as a separate, but invisible reality, the only reality that is in keeping with our true nature, despite what our senses, or the “I” tell us that we are. In hindsight, each event in my life has been an integral part of a journey of trusting myself and life, which allowed me to free myself from my self-imposed limitations, realizing that I am much more than what defines me, and come to an authenticity of being.

How do you see A New Language for Life making a difference for people?

Louis: A New Language for Life is a message of peace and oneness. A New Language for Life is a message of a higher awareness. A New Language for Life  allows you to live a life that is wholesome. A New Language for Life shows you how to defeat day-to-day depression, anger, and unhappiness, or any ordinary bad mood. A New Language for Life, shows you how to weather the winds and storms of life from a deep and abiding source of inner peace.

Where do you see the messages in A New Language for Life going?

Louis: I see A New Language for Life  becoming part of our daily conversations. People may see in A New Language for Life, Happy No Matter What! a simple and elegant design that allows them to release themselves from the entrapment in language and start living their lives in a way that is more wholesome and in an alignment with the true nature of their being.

What do you see is the relevance of A New Language for Life, Happy No Matter What! in today’s society?

Louis: The innate nature of being is kindness. How to get in touch with that and how to maintain that in the face of life’s daily occurrences, is the challenge. A New Language for Life, Happy No Matter What! could aid people who are already participating in some spiritual practice to stay centered in their being. Now is the time. Now there is a window in the experience that people have of our current times, an opening to look beyond the horizon of what they see. Apart from personal enlightment, there is a narrow window in the next couple of years to change the way we view ourselves and each other to sustain our fragile life on planet Earth.

How do you see A New Language for Life, Happy No Matter What! is in keeping with other spiritual teachings?

Louis:  Anyone who has been dwelling in the possibility of A New Language for Life, Happy No Matter What! will recognize similarities with Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Taoism. This book aligns with other spiritual teachings, in fact enriches other spiritual teachings.

What people, philosophers have influenced you in writing this book?

Louis: I was influenced by the philosopher Martin Heidegger, by Albert Einstein, and Krishnamurti, who all from their own unique perspective dwelled inside of oneness. I am inspired by the message of peace by the Dalai Lama. I have a deep respect for the wisdom of the pre-Socratic philosopher Parmenides, who spoke about unveiling the truth of oneness.

How has writing A New Language for Life influenced your personal life?

Louis: It allowed for my wife and I to have an extraordinary relationship. It allowed me to live a peaceful life. It allowed me to be more caring for my patients and be in touch with what really matters for them. It allowed me to step a little outside the classical paradigm of practicing medicine, which is predominantly evidence-based, and return to the art of medicine, where true caring makes a difference. It allowed me to have a great relationship with my brother and appreciate his great wisdom. It allowed me to just be grateful for the privilege of being alive.

Who were your biggest teachers?

Louis: My biggest teachers were my parents, my brother, and my wife and daughter. They kept me straight.

What are your other interests?

Louis: Spending time with my family, traveling, reading and language. I am currently studying Arabic, and welcoming any opportunity to practice speaking Spanish.

Who are you favorite authors?

Louis: My favorite authors are historical novelists like Gabriella Garcia Marquez, John Steinbeck, George Orwell, and Ernest Hemmingway.

To find out more about Dr. Louis Koster, visit his website: http://www.louiskoster.com/

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Baye McNeil

Baye McNeil was born in Brooklyn, New York, but currently lives in Yokohama, Japan. He recently published his first book, Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist.  Baye’s  motto is: … and if the elevator tries to bring you down, go Loco! 

Hi Baye, Please tell everyone a little about yourself.

Baye: My name is Baye McNeil and I’m a freelance writer and blogger from Brooklyn, New York. I currently live in Yokohama, Japan, where I teach Junior High School English.  I’m a fervent connoisseur of Japanese Hot Springs and Ramen and spend my free time taking photos of trains, and life in the subways and stations of Yokohama, Kawasaki and Tokyo.

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

Baye: I think the first bite was in the genre of poetry when I was in elementary and junior high school, as a way to attract girls. By high school, screenplays gave me quite a charge. I wrote a couple including one horror movie that garnered me my first applause. After that it didn’t resurface until university.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

Baye: I wasn’t really aware of any particular message or goal aside from “I’d like to meet you after school and take you for a long walk in the botanical garden holding hands and stealing coins from the wishing pond …” By University, one of my writing professors informed me that I had unsuspected depth and “a voice the reader loves to hear …” Shouldn’t have told me that! Started writing like a mad man. Around that time I came across a writer by the name of James Baldwin and from that point on my unstated goal became to write something he might read and say, “That’s not bad.”

Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?

Baye: It’s a stand alone book called, Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist. It’s about how my bitter responses to the behavior of people here in Japan (whether it is due to their racism, xenophobia, or any other fear-based feeling my presence inspires) informed me in no uncertain terms that I was a racist, and that if I wanted to be rid of this dark social virus — that I believe many of us are afflicted with whether we’re aware of it or not — then I had better locate its source and confront it head on!

Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?

Baye: That title would probably go to Aiko, the woman the book is dedicated to and the inspiration behind its writing. She taught me so much about Japanese people and culture, upon my arrival in Japan, but eventually she became like a mirror that when held up reveals not only the person you are but the person you have the capacity to be. She taught me about love and hate, about the meaning of strength and the proper use of power. She is a mortgage I will gladly pay until the day I pass on, and probably still be in debt once I’ve gone, and this book attempts to pay homage to the woman she was and will forever be in my heart.

Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?

Baye: Since this book is a non-fiction memoir of sorts there isn’t a plot really, but I did need to keep each chapter related to the theme and reveal more not only about myself but about how I viewed and what I was learning from the world around me in digestible nuggets. I also had to modulate my story so as not to overwhelm the reader. This I learned how to do, ironically, through blogging. I’ve kept a blog, www.locoinyokohama.com, for the past three years where I floated a lot of the ideas I intended to include in the book just to see how they would be received and how to present them with just the amount of intensity to engage the reader without inundating them with too much raw emotion (something I had a tendency to do before I learned the extent of the force I write with quite often … it’s a hell of a challenge!)

Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?

Baye: Again, this was something I discovered via my blog. I tend to write first person … but I lacked the confidence at the onset of blogging to stand behind my feelings and thoughts full on. I often write very confrontationally, delving into issues that make people uncomfortable…including me at times. I feel wary and vulnerable to attacks while at the same time I feel like I’m doing the right thing because certainly these issues deserve the light of day and were just waiting for a voice to emerge with the courage and dare I say skill to address them in an honest, direct and provocative way yet keep it entertaining and educational at the same time. I feel my style and voice accomplish this and my blog readers would concur, as do, thus far, the readers of my book

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Baye: Oh man, in every way imaginable, particularly with this book and the issue of racism. Being raised in Brooklyn new York in the 1970s, before New York became the kinder, gentler metropolis it is now, when it was a still a Buppie /Yuppie-free neglected, gang and drug infested ghetto, replete with corrupt racist cops and an angry black populace striving to maintain dignity and gain respect … yeah, I was influenced quite a bit by being brought up amid this. I was basically a child of the Pan African/Black Power Movement, my playground was on the front lines of boycott and demonstrations against the white power structure. My first school was an all-black private school formed by educators fed up with a public school system that set black children up for failure and low self-esteem and taught them to capitulate before the Eurocentric train of thought. I was raised to be a warrior in a war against white indoctrination and brain washing. And this colors the writing in this book and most of the writing I’ve done over the course of my life.

Any advice you’d give to aspiring self-publishers?

Baye: Yeah. Make sure the product is as good as you can make it and then some, because word of mouth will be the kiss of life or death. And before you even think about self-publishing anything, you had better build up some solid relationships founded on mutual respect and admiration. And preferably some that are willing to help out with those above mentioned tasks … or go out and learn about them on your own because they are realer than real. And don’t count on friends to help you out of the kindness of their hearts. Some will of course but plan around that. Whatever they do ought to be gravy. They should not be part of the meal. That includes family, as well. You are the rudder. Give people a good reason to help you, like for example they stand to benefit as well, then you’ll get a more robust response. And learn how to be grateful. How to stay humble and say please and thank you, and SHOW appreciation. We writers are quite often hermits and spend a lot of our time alone with a keyboard and our thoughts and feelings. So, wearing the social hat often takes us out of our comfort zone. Try to learn to be comfortable in that discomfort zone BEFORE you publish! And never make the mistake of believing ten bucks or five bucks is nothing and people will just part with it for your product like it’s nothing. The onus is on you to make them feel that it’s nothing. The value of the product they’re getting for that price is what makes the money easier to part with. And that, my friend, returns us to the product. Make it great!

Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.

Baye: This is from the book’s Amazon page:

I was genuinely caught off guard by this book in so many ways. I didn’t hope to laugh as much as I ended up doing, but I never expected to cry. The book blew me away on three different levels. The first is that Loco completely succeeds at drawing you slowly into his world, talking to me about things I thought I knew about or was familiar with, but learning I was not. Showing me a whole different life experience through his own eyes. The second thing that got me about the book was Loco’s writing style. His narrative is fluorescently vivid. Some of his turns of phrase and sentences really made me actually wish I could stop and mark the page. So many quotables, and so many brilliantly and succinctly put insights. The third thing about the book is the structure of the book – I’ve read his blog before and found it a bit jarring to go straight into, as indeed, I think jumping straight to the third or fourth chapter of this book would be. But the narrative is set up so well, and you are eased into it, and then led through a dance between sadness and joy, geographies and timescales, each contrasting and complementing the last before finally and gently returning the reader to the motif used in the beginning of the empty train seat, and the thought piece at the end. I expected to read a really long blog about Japan made into a book. I got the best damn read I’ve had in the last 10 years by a man who has proven to me beyond any doubt that he is a uniquely talented writer.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Baye: I have a website set up for the book here: www.himynameisloco.com.  There folks can find info about me, about the book, excerpts, reviews, and info on upcoming readings and events. For the time being most will be in Japan, but hopefully they’ll be some in the US and elsewhere in the days to come. I’m currently working on my second book about teaching and living in Japan as an African American from New York, called: Loco Was Here!

Anything else you’d like to say?

Baye: Yes, there is. Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist is essentially a mission statement. I AM a racist. There’s no doubt in my mind of that, but that’s not the end of my story. And I don’t think it needs to be the end of anyone’s story. I think most of us deal with these types of issues at some point in our lives and I believe it’s essential that we face them and not lurk in the shadows like pedophiles or some other kind of degenerate. Demonizing racism only chases it underground. Surrendering to these proclivities, like it’s human nature and thus inescapable, only perpetuates it. We can’t concede victory to this social virus. I’m of the mind that it CAN be beat, and with constant vigilance and conscious abstinence it WILL eventually go into remission. We may even find a cure. That’s my personal mission and I ain’t ashamed to say it out loud.

Thank you for joining us today, Baye.

Baye: Thanks a lot!

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Yvonne Pat Wright

Yvonne Pat Wright returned to live in the United Kingdom from Jamaica in 2006. She fulfilled her desire to write by taking a course in creative writing. From Spice to Eternity is her first book, and she has plans to follow this up with a sophomore book.

Hi Yvonne, Please tell everyone a little about yourself:

Yvonne: I was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and lived there for the first twenty years of my life. By the time I left to go to England, I was married and had two daughters. I matured in the UK and sometimes I feel I am more anglicised than Caribbean, but I cherish my Jamaican roots and will never relinquish them. I’ve worked in real estate, the world of media, radio and advertising.

I seem to shift bases in twenty to twenty-five year cycles. So it was the UK for twenty-five years, Jamaica for twenty years, and now the UK for the remainder of my life, I believe. A devout Christian, I teach Bible Studies and am a Lay Preacher.

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

Yvonne: I have always been a scribbler. In school I did a lot of essays. I remember, in boarding school, a group of us would gather round and I would read. In much later years, I did poems, none of which were published. I  produced church magazines and ended up writing most of the copy when there were not enough submissions. From Spice to Eternity was my first attempt to do substantial writing, and because of the genesis, it had to be non-fiction. I can see myself moving into the biblical saga type novels, which is the plan for my second or third book.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

Yvonne: In whatever sphere, my aim and goal for the reader, the listener, is to come away thinking that there is something better to be had and having a desire to obtain it.

Briefly tell us about your latest book.

Yvonne: From Spice to Eternity is probably part one of two parts. It is a collection of inspirational true life stories drawn from my life and the lives of family and friends. The theme for the story is based on the characteristic of a herb or spice, which is described at the beginning of each chapter. The story is rounded off with a delicious spicy or herby recipe.

Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?

Yvonne: I think I prefer a limited POV, and I rather like to use the ‘show’ rather than the ‘tell’ style of writing.

How does your environment/upbringing colour your wrting?

Yvonne: So far, I have written from my experience and the environments that I am very familiar with. I am likely to always anchor on to a very familiar aspect of my environment or upbringing as I am very comfortable in that zone.

Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve even had.

Yvonne:

The passion for both her cooking and her faith has allowed Yvonne Pat Wright to write a marvelous book that is both a cookbook and a devotional to God. Each of the forty-two recipes for cooking has an accompanying recipe for living a Christian life. The author first gives a description of an ingredient used in a cooking recipe. Not only are the ingredient’s uses given, but also given is a brief history or tradition concerning the ingredient. The author then gives an ingredient that can be used to build your faith. This is cleverly done through relating something about the cooking ingredient to the associated life ingredient. And it is done very effectively.

The very first ingredient listed is vanilla. The author tells us that vanilla is called “the spice of love.” This fact is used to transition the reader into a spiritual thought: “Like the long process of curing vanilla, love affairs – especially those that endure – develop over a long time, the longer the process, the more precious the love that ensues.” Then the reader is drawn into an engaging story that leads to a spiritual truth. For vanilla, the truth is that God loves more than we could ever hope to love. At the end of the vanilla section is a tempting recipe for a “Rainbow Parfait.” This is typical of each section of the book.

The author shows expertise in both cooking and in Christian living. Her book has value in both the recipes that are presented and the life lessons that can be gleaned. It is perfect to use as a devotional. The length of each section is just the right length to glean a daily spiritual thought. These thoughts are as inspiring to the Christian as the recipes are to a cook.The lasting value of this book is found in both aspects that it presents. The recipes will be sure to please and can be used time and time again. Likewise, the nuggets of truth contained in the book’s well-crafted and inspirational stories can be a valued source of devotional truth each time that it is read.

By Walter Mark Author of the Sixth World of Men book series.

What are your current projects?

Yvonne: Vigorous promotion and marketing of From Spice to Eternity, a sequel, and a biblical adventure story.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Yvonne: My website: http://www.spicetoeternity.co.uk

Email: yvonnewright@spicetoeternity.co.uk

Thank you for joining us today, Yvonne!

Yvonne: Thanks so much for the opportunity.  I really appreciate it.

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Erica Nelson

Erica Nelson writes about happiness, and how you can get there. She wrote her first book of poems at the age of twelve and her first self-help book, Prospect When You Are Happy, in 2007. Erica’s latest book, Happiness Quotations, has just been released.

Hi Erica, Welcome to Literature & Fiction. Please tell everyone a little about yourself.

Erica: I was born in Sausalito, California just a hop across the bay from San Francisco. Born to parents who published newspapers, I was writing as soon as I could read. I remember my mom had sandpaper letters that I traced as a child to learn the alphabet. Later we moved a lot, almost every other year, and I spent a lot of time in libraries. As soon as we moved to a new city, I would learn where the library was located, and walk there often, carting books home. Love of reading was born inside me, and has never left. My first book was published in 2007, Prospect When You Are Happy, created for the conscious business person to create prosperity from a happy place inside. This new book Happiness Quotations: Gentle Reminders of Your Preciousness is my first book for a general audience, although many of my readers seem to be women.

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

Erica: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write. I would carry my journal around with me as I rode my bike and walked in elementary school. In middle school and high school, I wrote songs and wrote for the school newspaper and yearbook. Then in college, I wrote concert reviews, dance reviews, and feature stories on dance and music for the college newspaper. Straight out of college, I became a journalist and I still write a weekly column that runs in seven San Francisco Bay Area newspapers in the education section of the papers.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

Erica:  When I started writing, I didn’t have goals. I just wrote. I have boxes and boxes of journals. I have clippings dating back to the 1980s. I interviewed Jay Leno once, before he was famous. That sounds like such a long time ago! I guess I had one goal once, “I want to be able to support myself writing in any city anywhere, wherever I want to live.” Later, as I got in tune with my spirit and soul, I wanted to write about being happy and experiencing happiness in difficult situations. That’s where my new book comes in.

Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?

Erica: The vision for this book is to be one of many, as a series of passages that show up for me and then I share these visions, concepts, situations where you can navigate rough waters with more clarity, more poise, more loving approaches, more joy, more of all that good stuff and less of the drama, less sorrow, less poverty, less spiritual abandonment and more connectivity to source energy.

What’s the hook for the book?

Erica: Everyone needs to be reminded of their own preciousness. Some days it is easier than others.

Do you have a specific writing style or preferred POV?

Erica:  I write as though I know everything, and that’s kind of funny. I write from a place of connectivity to source energy, the all-knowing being within us. I’m not like this 24 hours a day, some parts of the day I am not the “me” that shows up as all-knowing author. When I speak for audiences, they can be surprised at my humility. In my books, I come across as powerful, intense, insightful and wise, or that is the feedback I have been given.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

 Erica: I write every day, and have for about 35 years. I don’t even feel like I am old enough to say that, inside I feel quite young. My upbringing shapes me, in that both my parents wrote all the time. I have early memories of my dad hitting the typewriter keys at 5 a.m. pounding out fictional accounts of his life that never were published, although he has published several textbooks on journalism. My mom was a published novelist before her passing. This environment of “the word” being the main venue of expression is reflected in all that I do, all the time.

Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.

Erica: Happiness Quotations: Gentle Reminders of Your Preciousness

“Happiness Quotations” belongs in every home. Each of its pages carries an uplifting, practical message that is perfect for today’s troubled world. And each message is well-written,to the point, easy for anyone to read and understand, and joyously simple to put into practice. For instance, “Trust Your Gut Instinct”, #43, consists of advice that anyone can use in their daily life. #52 tells the reader to “journal your wins’, a inspired thought, easy for anyone to apply. Author Nelson has created a self-help book that truly will enable the reader get themselves out of sadness and depression in a realistic and do-able way. This book should be at the everyone’s list of presents to give for birthdays and holidays. It is spiritual but will offend no one while helping everyone.

5.0 out of 5 stars
Alice M. Dinizo (Toms River, New Jersey)

What are your current projects?

Erica: Every day, I update my Facebook fan page with a new quotation, so that’s ongoing. My latest and greatest project is a 70-days to happiness course that I am writing. It started out as 21 days, then bumped up to 60 days, and finally is emerging as 70 days. In 10 weeks, the student will take one concept each week and have daily instructions to shift into positivity. I’m thinking of calling it Positivity Training, although it’s really a handbook to happiness. This summer will be all about the book tour for Happiness Quotations.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Erica: At www.HappinessQuotations.com, you can read about upcoming radio interviews, in-person book readings, as well  as news on new classes and course offerings that are always virtual and work internationally. On www. Facebook.com/HappinessQuotations you can always get a daily hit of happiness.

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Helen Wisocki

Hi Helen, Welcome to Literature & Fiction. Please tell everyone a little about yourself.

Helen: I grew up in Dearborn, Michigan and moved to Los Angeles, California, when I was twenty years old.  Moving to Massachusetts in 1977, I opened a clothing and jewelry boutique, which I still own and operate.  I’ve observed many different types of people through my business and how they interact with others, making for excellent character resources for my writing.  I’ve raised two children, who are now living in California, which is where I plan to retire someday.  Travel has always been a love of mine. 

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

Helen: I loved writing fictional stories in high school, and my senior-year English teacher told me that I should submit my stories to magazines.  Never taking his advice, I instead wrote many colorful and detailed letters to family members in my travels around the country, usually starting with the words, “And the saga continues.”  I seemed to put myself in situations that made for good story telling. 

   When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

Helen: I met a guy from high school at our thirtieth high school class reunion who told me about the horrors his family experienced after meeting their new pastor.  His family was torn apart by the pastor who used his clerical power to groom and manipulate his wife.  Their four daughters were horrified when their parents divorced and the pastor married their mother and moved into the family unit.  His story was so compelling that it became the first non-fiction book that I wrote called Innocence Betrayed.  We unfortunately had to change it to fiction after production began, possibly because of threats to the publisher by the church mentioned in the story.  The message in the story was an important one for readers to learn to recognize the grooming techniques that unscrupulous clergy will use to satisfy their narcissistic behavior.   
Briefly tell us about your latest book. Series or stand-alone?

Helen: My latest book, Sins of the Abused is non-fiction.  It tells about the survival of a man who was abused by a priest at the age of ten, becoming hooked on sex, drugs, alcohol, pornography, and becoming an over-achiever.  It will most likely be the last story that I write about clergy abuse.  It is set to go into the editing phase in the spring of 2011 and published by the end of the year.

What’s the hook for the book?

Helen: The story is a timely one regarding the recent discovery of how high up in the Catholic Church the cover-ups of abuse actually were.  Victims were abused first by their trusted priests and again by the Church with lies, cover-ups, denial, and the statute of limitations.  Many of the victims did not survive the torturous life after the abuse, but my co-author was one who overcame the self-loathing, addictions to drugs, alcohol, sex, and pornography, having the courage to come forward to tell his story and detailing what it took for him to get there.  He is brave in opening up to the graphic details of the grooming process and abuse, helping the reader to understand just how a young boy could be torn from an innocent and trusting childhood to a world of addiction and horror from which few survive. 

 How do you develop characters? Setting?

Helen: When I began working with my co-author on Sins of the Abused, he had already written a manuscript telling his story, but it was disjointed and rambling.  I had to read about fifty pages before I found a place to begin.  Since it is based on a true story, the characters were developed from real people, from my experience in already researching and writing about clergy abuse, and from being raised in the Catholic Church.  It was important to pull the needed information from my co-author that I felt was necessary for the reader to get a clear picture of how such a story could actually take place.     

Who is the most unusual/most likeable character?

Helen: I think my co-author, Marco, is the most unusual and likeable character, but he’s also the most hated character when he’s abusing drugs and alcohol, ruining relationships, setting his children up for pain and abuse, and destroying all that is good in his life.  It’s unusual that a person can survive what he endured.  He was a polite and trusting little boy who yearned for the love and attention his younger siblings received.  Little did he know that he was the perfect target for the coolest priest at church.

Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?

Helen: The way I maintained the course of the plot in my first book, Innocence Betrayed, was to use an outline and pages and pages of notes.  But for Sins of the Abused I was working with a manuscript that I had to continually go back and read through, moving chapters around and adding many newly written chapters to make things more clear and maintain the course of the plot.

Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?

Helen: I thoroughly enjoyed writing two short stories based on personal escapades in the anthology, Forever Friends where I wrote a story of surviving hard times with a “Circle of Friends” living together and sharing many combined talents to make ends meet.  In the anthology Forever Travels my story is called “A Most Excellent Adventure” and is based on my travel experiences driving across the United States with my son, who had just graduated from college and wanted to move to Los Angeles from Boston to begin a career in film and media. 

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Being the quiet and shy middle child in a happy two-parent home in Michigan with four sisters, I did a lot of observing.  I feel that this helped me to see both sides of a situation later in life, which helps in developing characters.  My daily journal entries gave me an outlet to express myself through writing.  I saw life as a story that played out in my mind, going wherever my imagination wanted to take it.  Imagination is a wonderful thing for someone who likes to write.

Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.

Helen: There were many great reviews for Innocence Betrayed, but this one from Kate, a survivor, was very special:

The contents of this book amazed me, because they are so similar to my own story. Having been in the place of hurt that the characters found themselves, I was able to really relate to this writing. I connected with the grooming, the manipulation, the Church cover-up, and the painful aftermath that something like this can bring. The story shows just how easily something like this can happen, and is a help to those it’s happened to, in seeing that they are not alone. Heartbreaking truth…and great writing. So glad to see a voice being given to such a painful topic!

5-stars *****

What are your current projects?

Helen: Right now I’m working with another survivor who wants to tell his story.  This young man is a survivor of three kidney transplants beginning at the age of two.   I’m also developing a series of adventure stories based on the many personal escapades I’ve experienced and continue to enjoy through life’s happenings.   

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Helen: I currently have two websites with information on my books and me.  One focuses on being an informational site for those abused by an authority figure at www.innocencebetrayedbyclergy.com and the other website is more general at www.freewebs.com/helenwisocki

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