SittieCates

SittieCates has been writing for more than ten years. She has covered topics about health, travel, recipes, writing, family, children and many more.  The author of Sleepyhead? NOT!, 13th Breath: A Collection of Poetry and Prose and Are You There, God? It’s Me, Kaitlyn Zamorra, Smiling at You,  she is currently working as a freelance writer.

Please tell everyone a little about yourself, Cates.

Cates photo2SittieCates: SittieCates is my virtual pseudonym. My real name is Jacqueline, which I mostly prefer my family, old friends and relatives to use. Most of my friends call me Cates. Online, a lot of people call me Sittie. I prefer having my pseudonym, “SittieCates”, written without a space to denote oneness or balance.

I have worked for traditional publishing firms as a Writer and Editor. I also taught English to Filipinos at a local school. I’ve handled students from Grades 3 up to 4th year High School. I was the Guidance Counselor and the Head of the English Department. Aside from those jobs I had at that school, I was also the adviser for the school publication and was in charge of the Theatre Guild.

After a few years, I became an ESL teacher for Koreans. Then, I had an offer at another publishing firm so I went back to writing and editing.

In between those full-time jobs, I tried to squeeze in time to engage in writing the stories that I love; not the articles that I usually spin at work. I’ve managed to publish a poem, a few short stories for kids and some articles in other local magazines published by other publishing firms. While my aim was to write about topics I really love in snippets of time available, I have to admit that there were lots of times when I was too tired to engage in that because of my hectic work schedules. You see, whenever I came home, all I wanted to do was collapse on my bed and pray that I would have a restful sleep so I could function well the next day.

When did the writing bug bite?

SittieCates: I’ve always wanted to write. My parents and siblings would scold me because I would write everywhere. They particularly hated it when I would write on the walls. It looked really messy, but all those scribbles were, in a way, special, because they held dozens of stories only I could understand.

I wrote my very first “nearly legible and more understandable” story when I was in kindergarten. It was part of an assignment. There was a blank page for that in the book, and we were tasked to write a story. We were encouraged to draw the characters, too.

So, I peppered the page with stick figures, the only drawings I could muster. J And I wrote a very, very short story about three girls who always wanted to sing. And when I say short, I really mean short because I only used a few sentences. The title was written as one word; it included all three names of the little girls in the story.

What particular genre/s do you prefer?

SittieCates: For the genre, I seem to gravitate more towards children’s stories. I published two ebooks for kids. One is Sleepyhead? NOT! and the other is Are You There, God? It’s Me, Kaitlyn Zamorra, Smiling at You. I have a third one that’s already with my illustrator. It’s about learning colors. It’s perfect for kids aged 3 to 5, but younger and older ones up to 8 would also love it.

I also love poetry. I’ve compiled a few of my poems and published them together with some essays in my ebook, 13th Breath: A Collection of Poetry & Prose. The ebook is inspirational and autobiographical. If you read it, you’ll get to know a few things about me. I’ve created an ebook trailer for this at: http://youtu.be/31TfRehsfSU. One of my favorite poetry lines that I’ve written in the ebook includes this one: “In the evenings when the wind speaks softly in my ear… When the stars give out a shine so enchantingly clear… When the soft beams of moonlight leave a trail of shadows in sight… I listen to the sweet, melodious sound of your voice at night.”

What other genre/s are you interested in venturing in?

SittieCates: I have a novel. Currently, I’m polishing that one. It’s my first novel and it’s a romance story, but there’s a little bit of twist there. J I’ll just announce that when it’s ready.

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

SittieCates: That’s a good question, Shelagh. When I started writing, just like most authors, I wanted to share my works with a lot of readers. I wanted my works to be read and, hopefully, bring something helpful, amusing or inspiring to the readers – whether the story is for kids or for grown-ups. I truly wanted to give my readers that experience. Even though they may not always have a smile on their faces after reading what I’ve written, I wanted them to feel satisfied or complete, with nary a nagging and confusing thought bothering them afterwards when they close the book.

How do you develop characters?

SittieCates: I’m a people watcher. I observe people of different ages, professions, etc. I’ve been doing that since I was like 6 or 7 years old. It was just like a game before.

People may think I’m naturally talkative. But I’m only like that online. In person, I’m often what you may refer to as “unusually quiet”, especially when there are so many people around. It’s not that I’m a snob, but I merely prefer to observe people and things around me. That is if my nose isn’t buried in a book.

Often, I listen to how people talk. I take note of how they carry themselves, what clothes they prefer to wear, their mannerisms and other things. I also try to feel the underlying messages that their statements try not to reveal because, as I’ve observed, there are some who would tell you one thing but mean another thing, and I could somehow feel and notice that even if they try really hard to keep that to themselves.

It’s amusing to observe people because I feel that by doing this, I would be able to create the possible lead characters and antagonists of the story, sort of like getting inside their heads and seeing how they think. In real life, I try to capture all that. I try to incorporate these things in my stories so it would adopt a “real” atmosphere, especially in my upcoming novel. (Other character sketches I’ve had are kept in a notebook and I’ll be using those next time.)

What about the setting?

SittieCates: When I created the story setting for my upcoming romance novel, Bookworm, I had to struggle for awhile. I was trying to decide if a serious mood would be best or not. With regards to where and what time the story would take place, I chose what I knew, what I was familiar with, and injected that in the novel. Hopefully, the readers would love it.

Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?

SittieCates: For most of the articles I’ve written, I would say that I’d go for the first-person POV.

But with stories, I try to experiment. I used both the first-person and third-person POV for my stories for kids. Sleepyhead? Not! was written using the third-person POV while Are You There, God? It’s Me, Kaitlyn Zamorra, Smiling at You used the first person.

However, for my upcoming novel, things are totally different. It’s not going to use any of the POVs normally used in writing novels. I wanted to try something else. So, I decided to use a different approach, which you’ll all see when my novel will be published. And I sincerely hope you would all wait for that.

How does your environment or immediate circle of friends, family and colleagues color your writing?

SittieCates: I find that a part of me seems to come out – regardless of whatever I create (poems, songs, articles, stories, etc.). It may be about the people I’ve met, the experiences I’ve had or the experiences that I knew someone had.

Sometimes, I find that helpful. Other times, no, because when I’m faced with a certain character, and I see that character as someone I know, it wouldn’t help the tale at all, especially if something happens in the story. What I mean is that being the real person that that character is, when he or she is faced with a dilemma, obviously, he or she would do the same thing that his or her character’s “real” counterpart would do. When that happens, all creative juices would be blocked, and that wouldn’t contribute well to the story because I wouldn’t know what else to write. As you can see, for me, when that story character thinks, feels and behaves like the real-life counterpart, that’s the end of the story. You can’t move past that because you would say that the real person wouldn’t behave, feel or think as such. So, there’s no more ideas coming in. You’re blocked! I’ve encountered that when I was writing the first few drafts of Bookworm. It was really hard to move beyond that. So, I changed the story a bit, and tried to see a story character as not being totally similar to a real-life counterpart.

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

13th_Breath_Book_Cover_1563x2500SittieCates: Delighted to do so, Shelagh! Some of the links for the book reviews I’ve received for 13th Breath: A Collection of Poetry & Prose” and “Sleepyhead? NOT! are at the tab marked as “Book Reviews Written by Others for My Works” at my two blogs.

I also loved this one that was posted on a retail site. It was for one of my ebooks for kids, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Kaitlyn Zamorra, Smiling at You. It reads:

“A wonderful and delightful story, adorably illustrated, about a little girl’s faith and innocence as she starts understanding about change and learning to love her baby brother. Well done! Five stars all the way (the stars seem to be missing on this review). My child loved it, too!” ~ Patrick Heffernan, Author of Greywalker, a novel

Could you tell us more about your current book bundle promo for kids?

SittieCates: I’d love to, Shelagh!

The Sittie Case Book Bundle_SittieCatesAs I’ve mentioned earlier, I have published two ebooks for kids that are up at Amazon (at http://amzn.to/1dTolwE) and other retailers, priced and sold individually. These two are included in a book bundle at http://flipreads.com/sittie-bundle. The bundle, Sittie CASE, is offered at a very, very low price until January 31, 2014 only.

To give interested readers an idea of the children’s stories included in the bundle, here are the descriptions for both:

Sleepyhead? NOT!
Mabel Robbins is a bright, sweet and cheerful kid who likes to play make-believe. She faces no trouble during the day. But when nighttime comes, her problem begins. She couldn’t sleep easily like the rest of her family. Thinking that she is different, she seeks help to correct her sleeping problem.

But nothing seems to go right!

Will Mabel Robbins be able to find the “right” way to sleep easily? Find out now at Sleepyhead? NOT!

Sleepyhead? NOT! children’s ebook trailer can be seen at YouTube.

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Kaitlyn Zamorra, Smiling at You
When Kaitlyn Zamorra learned to write letters to God from her parents, she started telling Him everything: the things that she likes and what she considers to be “no fun” at all. She also told God about a precious gift that was lots of fun. But then, something happened. Her source of happiness seemed like it was going to be taken away from her.

Will she be able to save something that gave her lots of happiness? Or will Kaitlyn soon realize what’s truly “lots of fun”?

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Kaitlyn Zamorra, Smiling at You Children’s ebook trailer is at YouTube.

While the denomination there is in Philippine Pesos, interested buyers can avail of it in dollars by choosing Paypal as a mode of payment. I would suggest that readers check the FAQ at the site to know more about the file reading formats before they purchase and download the bundle.

Since it’s my first time to have a book bundle, I thought of celebrating it while the promo was running. So, I created a worldwide event on Google Plus. But not everyone could join. So, I transferred the event to Facebook, invited some friends and encouraged them to invite others. The Facebook party, which I named, ♥ The Sittie CASE Book Bundle Party  has already started, and would end by January 31. Others can still join the event if they like, provided that they do so before the last day of January.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

SittieCates: People can follow me in a number of ways:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SittieCates

My Blogs: http://www.myownwritersnook.blogspot.com and http://www.sittiecateslovestories.blogspot.com

Facebook Pages: https://www.facebook.com/TheMusingsofaHopefulPecuniousWordsmith and https://www.facebook.com/SittieCatesLovesStories

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/114470887211929135419

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7415659.SittieCates.

Shelfari: http://www.shelfari.com/sittiecates

Thank you for joining us today, Cates.

SittieCates: Thank you so much, Shelagh! I really enjoyed the interview. All the best to you and your site! And happy holidays to everyone! J

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Patricia Crandall

Patricia Crandall has published numerous articles and short stories in various magazines and newspapers. In July, 2012, she was named an Honorable Mention Honoree in the annual short story competition for her story “The Crazy Jug.”

Please tell everyone a little about yourself, Patricia.

Patricia: I have published a vast number of poetry/haiku, numerous articles and short stories in small press magazines, a variety of newspapers and web sites. I have won poetry awards and have four books in print, Melrose, Then and Now, a historical volume, I Passed This Way, a poetry collection, The Dog Men, a thriller which draws the reader into a tempest of animal abuse, lawlessness, and kidnapping within the confines of small-town happenings, and Tales of an Upstate New York Bottle Miner, – seeking adventure in abandoned dump sites and the challenges of entering flea markets.

I live with my husband, Art, at Babcock Lake in the Grafton Mountains near Petersburgh, New York. My children and grandchildren live nearby. I devote time to my family, writing and community work. I enjoy reading, skiing, golfing, knitting, walking/hiking, swimming, exercising and traveling.

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

Patricia: In the nineteen fifties, my interest was captured by the Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene. Each holiday, I would request the latest Nancy Drew title and upon receiving it, I would curl-up in an over-sized chair and begin reading the fast-paced adventure.

I dabbled at creating my own mystery stories at an early age. My first effort detailed a long, frightening chase by a sinister man. A dark tunnel appeared, leading to (of course) a haunted mansion. The not-so-brilliant ending had me saved by the man of my life at the time – my Dad.

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

Patricia: My latest book is The Dog Men.

The Dog Men is a stand-alone Adult/YA book, although readers have requested I write a series. They bonded with the characters, particularly Lester Cranshaw, and want his adventures to continue. I am writing a new thriller, The Red Gondola, to include Lester Cranshaw.

The Dog Men: Ten-year-old Wyatt and eleven-year-old Hannah uncover the dark world of illegal dog fights when they trespass at a Vermont farm and peep through a barn window. And when crotchety old Lester Cranshaw’s dog, Paddy, turns up missing, there is no holding him back from investigating the situation and the kids join in. In the dead of night, after the trio are captured and held hostage at the Inglis farm, Wyatt will need all of his wits and courage to escape in order to save the lives of his friends. The Dog Men draws the reader into a tempest of animal abuse, lawlessness, and kidnapping within the confines of small-town happenings. A chilling plot and a peerless relationship between kids, adults and pets.

What’s the hook for the book?

Patricia: I have delved into the horrific world of illegal dog fighting. One editor considered my book then titled Missing Children.  He requested a change in subject matter, stating, “I just can’t add to the deluge of fiction about children, kidnapping and sex. Whereby, I researched the sordid sport of dog fighting and the characters that inhabit it. It became The Dog Men.

How do you develop characters? Setting?

Patricia: My characters develop themselves. I create them using a combination of real and imagined people. I’ll admire one person’s hair color, another’s features, still another’s body language and put them together. Any attempt I make at molding a character does not work. If I force a character to act against his/her will, the story is all wrong. I will sit back and think it through, letting the character direct me. I have read other author’s essays confirming this dilemma. It is a fact. A character will lead and the writing flows until the next hurdle due to plot, scene description, etc.

Who is the most unusual/most likeable character?

Patricia: My unusual/most likeable characters are (1) Lester Cranshaw of The Dog Men. See description above. (2) Gert Carver and Nina Westakott are two favorite characters from my bottle mining stories. Gert and Nina, friends for many years, now share a common passion – bottle mining. Nina was a homemaker and a widow. She and her husband raised four daughters and had been active in the community until his death. Gert, a spinster, had spent productive years as a beloved schoolteacher who started her career in a one-room schoolhouse and ended with her retirement at a district high school. These days, the two women have time to nurture their newest hobby, searching for antique bottles in the local dumps.

Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?

Patricia: My writing styles are varied. I write mainstream, mysteries, non-fiction, historical, flash fiction, young/adult and poetry. I work on several stories at once. This pace keeps my thoughts fresh. I continually submit my work for publication and enter contests. My ultimate goal is to write well.

I consistently learn from the unique style of other writers. I pay attention to the voice they use. When a writer captivates me, I do not wish to imitate his/her writing. I want to achieve what they have accomplished by leaving a reader satisfied and anxious to read more of their books.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Patricia: My parents and teachers would often tell me, “Patty, you are a dreamer. You have a vivid imagination. Put it to good use.” It was at that point, in lieu of playing with friends or watching the new small-box-wonder – TV, I sat at an old desk in the kitchen and wrote mystery stories. I also drew stick figures to illustrate the action in the stories. The discovery of boys replaced pen and paper. The telephone became my favorite instrument and I lost interest in reading and writing until a formidable nun taught me English in High School. With a revival of interest, I picked up where I left off, writing salable poetry and a variety of articles, essays, and short stories. Presently, I am taking a writing course and penning novels.

Share the best review that you’ve ever had.

Patricia: Comments for “The Garden of Love,” a flash-fiction story published in Flash-Fiction World, include:

“Awesome piece! The ending adds another whole dimension entirely.”
“Good story”
“I want more!”
“Amazing!”
“Loved it.”
“Clever!”
“Great end.”
“Fantastic.”

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Patricia: Visit my blog at: www.authorpcrandall.blogspot.com. Visit me on facebook and twitter. Visit my Editor and Virtual Assistant Manager’s blog: www.lindabarnett-johnson.blogspot.com. Go to Amazon and for my books, The Dog Men and Tales of an Upstate New York Bottle Miner.

Lastly, my pattern for a writer’s success is Winston Churchill’s famous quote: “Never, never, never give up!”

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Nanette Rayman Rivera

Nanette Rayman Rivera is the author of the new memoir, to live on the wind, published by Scattered Light Publications. She is the author of two poetry books: shana linda ~ pretty pretty, published by Scattered Light Publications and Project: Butterflies published by Foothills Publishing. She is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee and the first winner of the Glass Woman Prize. Her work is included in DZANC’s Best of the Web Anthology 2010 and Best of the Net 2007. She has been published in numerous literary journals including The Berkeley Fiction Review, The Worcester Review, Oranges & Sardines, Dragonfire, Carve Magazine, Gold Wake Press, Carte Blanche, Slant, Dirty Napkin, Wilderness House Literary Review, Wheelhouse, The Sugar House Review, Unmoveable Feast, Up the Staircase, MiPOesias, and Stirring’s Steamiest Six.

Shelagh: Please tell us a little about yourself, Nanette.

Nanette: I studied at The New School University, and studied theatre at Circle in the Square, The New England Shakespeare Festival and with the late Peter Thompson at Michael Howard Studios. I played Rhonda in the award winning New York University student film: Stephan’s Silver Bell and a waitress on All My Children. I have performed in off-off Broadway theatre and black box Boston theatres. I was a runner-up in Miss Massachusetts.

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

Nanette: I started writing little plays when I was very young. My brother was forced to play the guy who had to walk the plank, which was the red corduroy couch in the basement. At first all my plays had a guy walking the plank and then I started writing plays about a woman’s prison that was really my house in suburbia.

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

Nanette: My new memoir, to live on the wind, as far as I can tell, will be a stand-alone book. Of course, if my life changes dramatically, I could write another memoir. I also withheld a part of my life because the book could have ended up being 600 pages instead of 461 pages. Another reason for not including everything in a memoir is so the story of a life doesn’t get weighted down and the arc can be seen by the reader. If you add too many elements or disasters, even in a memoir, it can alter perception or make the reader lose focus on the underlying theme. My book, to live on the wind, shows that a life can be mostly out of the control of the person living that life. This, of course, goes against all Western thinking, which is that free will and determination equal success. My book shows that this is not always the case and there is a real difference between someone who does all the wrong things and ends up badly and someone who does mostly the right thing and ends up in the same bad place.

Shelagh: What’s the hook for the book?

Nanette: I would say the “hook” for the book is a personal, tell-it-plain, name names account of the New York City homeless system. There are many other themes in the book, but I don’t want to give it all away~

Shelagh: Who is the most unusual/most likeable character?

Nanette: I think there are only two likeable characters in the plot. But if tell, the surprise is ruined. One of the characters is a very minor character, but a person most people will recognize. The other character is also secret until you read the book, but not someone anyone would know.

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

Nanette: In this book, the technique to maintain the plot is actually one of the secret characters. As far as my environment and upbringing, those two things meld into my writing style, which I think is poetic and dirty-gritty at once. My upbringing was upper middle class, but completely in the hands of my sociopath mother. So I knew of the “nicer” things in life, how to behave, how to think for myself and to have manners, but she made me angry and depressed. At that time kids didn’t know that you could call the cops or social services on your own mother. Today I don’t live in a nice place, but it’s still better than being around her. I wouldn’t wish either environment on anyone, well…maybe some people…I don’t know if it works, but I like the mixture of poetry and grit in my writing.

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

Nanette: One of my favorite reviews is for my poetry book: shana linda ~ pretty pretty, also published by Scattered Light Publications. This review is from the lovely author, Martha Engber:

I read poetry in the way I view modern art, not with a mind full of rules established by The Poetry Elite, but rather for an eye toward what moves me. Even if I don’t understand the meaning of the poem, I consider it a marvelous success if the words leave me with a unique twist on the world: an image, impression or emotion so strong I can almost taste it.

Such is the case with the poems of Nanette Rayman Rivera in shana linda ~ pretty pretty. Throughout the 31 poems there drifted the scent of flowers, though not in a pretty, wallpaper or commercial bouquet way. Rather, the feel was of wildflowers growing in impossible places: the cracks in sidewalks, the perimeter of warehouses, the beaches of the tourist trade.

This despite the fact Ms. Rivera’s poetry covers the major obstacles in her life; trauma that is, unfortunately, too common and too commonly portrayed in clichéd ways. She writes about an emotionally-distant mother and of being raped and falling into homelessness.

Normally those subjects deter me, not because I’m unsympathetic, but because for many poets and writers, especially those newer to the craft, such crises take precedent over the art of the words. The telling too often takes on a bitter, pitying cast filled with common sensory descriptions, such as the smell of urine and the grime of clothes and the cold stares of passers-by.

Ms. Rivera don’t sink into that mundane, self-indulgent realm. Instead, the words and phrases touch the ground lightly, then leap away, the joy of living always present. Even when devastation looms, the joy — the play and sound and rhythm of the words — shines through a unique prism:

(From I saw him)

around the crook of the cape
thousands of Iceland Poppies, pistil
whipping, fizzing
the brewing water
with bubbly calyx, some matrix
ceremony for the ogler

Shelagh: What are your current projects?

Nanette: I just finished writing to live on the wind, so now I’m taking a couple weeks off from writing. I think my next project will be fiction, perhaps historical fiction, something completely different from my current book. I might go back and write poetry for a little while to get my creativity flowing again.

Shelagh: Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Nanette: All of my books are listed on the website: Goodreads:

http://www.goodreads.com

and on Scattered Light Publications website:
http://scatteredlightpublications.books

and on my blogs:
http://toliveonthewind.blogspot.com
http://confectionerybelle.blogspot.com

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Interview: Shelagh Watkins

Susan Whitfield, author of three published novels, Genesis Beach, Just North of Luck and Hell Swamp, interviewed Shelagh Watkins on her blog on Monday 12th October:

Shelagh Watkins is writer, editor and publisher at Mandinam Press, and author of three books: Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine, Mr. Planemaker’s Diving Machine and The Power of Persuasion. She set up the Children’s Fiction group on LibraryThing,  and the Published Authors Network group on LinkedIn and is administrator of the Published Authors forum. There are over five thousand members in the combined groups and networks. When she is not networking, administrating, publishing or editing, she miraculously finds time to write!

Susan: Welcome to my blog, Shelagh.

Shelagh: Hi Susan, Thank you for inviting me to be your guest.

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

Shelagh: I began writing in 1998 and wrote my first novel, The Power of Persuasion. The book, a work of literary fiction set in Scotland, takes the reader around the world from Europe to the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Singapore, and then back to Scotland. I wrote my second novel, Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine, in 2002. Although a work of children’s fiction, the book is aimed at a wide audience: from nine-year-olds to ninety-year-olds! I wrote the sequel, Mr. Planemaker’s Diving Machine in 2011.

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

Shelagh: The Power of Persuasion, which I submitted to all the major London publishing houses, was well received but failed to attract a single publisher. Along with the rejection slips, the advice from all the publishers was the same: I needed to find an agent. However, finding an agent proved to be as difficult as finding a publisher so I stopped writing. I did not write again until 2002 when my brother died and left two young children, then aged five and eight years old. I began writing again and, this time, I found a publisher. The second book, Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine, was published in 2005. Two years later, the publisher, PublishAmerica, gave me joint print rights and exclusive electronic rights to my novel and I self-published the book through Lulu.com and as an ebook on: Amazon’s kindle.

In 2007, I rewrote The Power of Persuasion, which took twelve months to complete. In January 2008, I set up Mandinam Press to publish the novel. Having learned how to self-publish, I used the experience to publish Forever Friends, an anthology of short stories and poems written by members of the Published Authors forum and network. The book was published in September 2008 and, this month, appeared in Today’s Chicago Woman magazine.

The only message I would pass on to anyone setting out with the idea of becoming a published author is to be realistic about expectations and do not have a preconceived notion about the number of sales a first time author should make. For some new authors, the number of books may be in the thousands but, for the majority of newcomers, the number of books sold is more likely to be in the hundreds. This means that royalties will be small − small enough to be disregarded as an increase in yearly income. It is far more likely that the expenses incurred in selling a few hundred copies of a book will far exceed the amount earned in royalties.

This situation is no different to those facing most talented individuals who pay traveling expenses and teaching/coaching expenses when pursuing their chosen career. It is the same with writers. Everyone has to learn and, as such, new writers should accept that the learning process will involve some costs.

Susan: Briefly tell us about your book(s).

Shelagh: Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine is a story of flight, fantasy, adventure and courage. Although Emmelisa Planemaker is a strong-willed little girl, she misses her dad, who died when she was only five years old.

Emmelisa and her brother Dell have a happy and carefree life until their father becomes ill and is forced to retire at the age of forty-three. After retirement, Mr. Planemaker decides to build a scaled, model airplane because he wants to build something lasting for his children but he dies before completing the task.

Three years later, Emmelisa is being seriously bullied at school by a group led by the notorious school bully, Mayja Troublemaker. When Emmelisa becomes increasingly withdrawn and unhappy, she seeks help and advice through the computer her father had used to locate specialist model aircraft companies in his quest to build a model airplane.

The computer is more than just a computer and full of surprises: Mr. A. Leon Spaceman being one of them! He guides the two children to Hardwareland, where they train to become astronauts and take on an extraordinary mission into space: to follow their father’s TRAIL OF LIGHT.

Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine was a top ten finisher in the Preditors & Editors Readers’ Poll 2005.

The Power of Persuasion is a tongue-in-cheek work of literary fiction set in Scotland. The title is taken from Jane Austen’s Persuasion. The satirical fictional story is about a journalist who stalks a reader (as opposed to a reader who obsessively reads everything written by a particular journalist). The reader, Beth Durban, is aware that she is being followed around and is totally bemused by the unwanted attention:

Beth Durban is persuaded to write a letter to the editor’s page of a national Sunday newspaper in response to a film critic’s prejudice against adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels. When she receives an unexpected visit from the newspaper’s critic, F. William D’Arcy, she is bemused but, after several sightings of the inquisitive journalist, she’s neither pleased nor amused.

Beth is so distracted by the unwelcome interest from such an arrogant man she fails to see that a close work colleague is falling in love with her. As a scientific researcher in a Scottish University, she has led a varied life travelling the world, spending time in New Zealand, Canada, Australia, America, Singapore and Israel. With such a full life, she has had little time to form any serious, romantic attachments that might lead to a permanent relationship.

When she decides to take driving lessons, Beth opens up new opportunities for herself and realises that perhaps she isn’t too old to find love after all.

The Power of Persuasion was a top ten finisher in the Preditors & Editors Readers’ Poll 2008.

Susan: What’s the hook for the books?

Shelagh: There is an underlying philosophy to Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine that is left for readers to figure out for themselves. The opening chapters lay the foundation for the philosophical underpinnings of the book. Mr. Planemaker is dying. He knows this as do his family, friends and work colleagues. They are all trying to help in this last stage of his life.

In his dreams, the Dream House is his final resting place. In his first dream, when the children approach the door, the house disappears because the time is not right for them. They will not be stepping inside the house for quite some time. Bill Dare, who built the house, tells Mr. Planemaker that no one lives inside the house and no one has ever lived inside the house – this is the house of the dead, not the living. The door to the house is missing and cannot be closed or reopened: a one-way passage. Mr. Planemaker asks about the missing door and Mr. Dare explains that the door is actually there and those who can see it won’t be able to walk into the house. In other words, the door is always closed to the living and only open for the dying.

In all his dreams, Mr. Planemaker asks about the children because every waking minute is spent thinking about his son and daughter and what will happen to them when he has gone.

At first, Mr. Planemaker is afraid and he doesn’t want to step inside the house. It is grey and gloomy and unwelcoming. To allay his fears, the people who built the house – the architect, the builder and the workmen – are always cheerful and reassuring. They know the house is bleak and uninviting but the love and care they put into it overshadows the dull, plain appearance of the grey house.

When Mr. Planemaker meets Joy Nair, he is given his first glimpse of light inside the house. The light is warm and soft, and makes the prospect of stepping inside the hallway more attractive. However, he doesn’t step forward because his thoughts are interrupted as he remembers the children. He still wants more time with them.

At the end of chapter five, he finally gives in and his last dream takes him through the door, not into darkness but into light. Before he finally slips away, he asks about the children and is told that they are going to be okay. With that last thought, Mr. Planemaker lets go of his grasp on life and steps into life after death. Now you must read the story to find out what happens to the children.

The hook for The Power of Persuasion is on the first page:

“Do you wake on Sunday mornings feeling bright and cheerful before you step out to buy your favourite Sunday newspapers, and spend the next four hours reading the print off the page? Does this weekly ritual result in a change of temperament – signs of irritability, aggressiveness and a distinctly argumentative frame of mind? I do. To be more accurate, I did. Everyone around me suffered from my inability to avoid the very thing that caused the Jekyll and Hyde mood swings. The news items didn’t affect me much, but the journalists with a point to make were my Achilles’ heel. To a man and a woman, I disagreed with all of them. We were as black and white to each other as the printed page before me. There was no grey area, no common ground and no compromise.

How could there be compromise in a situation where they wrote and I read? In order to see one another’s point of view, I would need to explain mine. To inflict regularly my own half-baked ideas on my family would have been unfair, and yet they probably suffered more from my silent fuming than they did if I succumbed to soap box outbursts.

The more thoughts I kept to myself, the greater the irritation, but at least I did eventually begin to recognise all the symptoms of Sunday paperitis.” If you like the style of writing, you will want to read on …

Susan: How do you develop characters? Setting?

Shelagh: My characters are composites of people I know. I take characteristics of someone I know well and put those characteristics into a completely different character. A teenage girl with a bad attitude might be transfigured into a difficult young boy with a surly disposition. The appearance of the character will be very different to the real person.

Most settings are taken from real life where possible, otherwise I do extensive research to make the setting as real as possible. This was extremely important in the Power of Persuasion where every location had to be accurate whether I had visited the region or not. The reader must not be able to detect the difference.

Susan: Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?

Shelagh: Cosmos, by a mile. He is so bright and all-knowing. He is always there if he is needed but he is never under anyone’s feet. He is the perfect companion. By the way, Cosmos is a cat, but an extremely bright one!

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

Shelagh: No. The plot drives itself. All my brilliant ideas away from the word processor soon lose their brilliance when I begin to type. Writing seems to release a creativity that cannot be evoked any other way.

Susan: Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?

Shelagh: Yes. My style of writing for children is very different to my style of writing for adults. There is a sharpness to my adult writing that is absent in my children’s novels.

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

Shelagh: My best reviews are all for Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine, which appeals to just about anyone. The Power of Persuasion is really aimed at Jane Austen fans and not everyone is a fan! Consequently, I found these few words encouraging:

“I read your book some weeks ago and hope you do not mind, put some thoughts on paper:

I was intrigued the way you set out your book with the link of the mysterious appearances of D’Arcy. My very early and mistaken assumption was that Beth’s letter was equivalent to Elizabeth’s refusal of Darcy’s proposal of marriage by Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. If you saw the production with Colin Firth, he became frustrated at this and was obviously haunted by her.

I was particularly interested in the ‘snapshots’ – I could see where the university scenarios came from and those concerned with human interaction showed your perception of how we mortals behave. You must have done a lot of research on some of the geographical visits – I have been to most places so recognise the authenticity. Many of these could be expanded into short stories and then you could have your own anthology. Well done!”

Susan: What’s the most unexpected thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

Shelagh: I was amazed when a presenter from Preston FM community radio asked if I would be interested in a serialisation of Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine. The book was aired over ten weeks from May-July this year. Daily excerpts and a Sunday Omnibus edition totalled over thirteen hours of air time. It was quite brilliant. The narrator, Mike Gardner, did a superb job.

Susan: What are your current projects?

Shelagh: I am about to ask for submissions for the third anthology in the Forever series.

Susan: Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Shelagh: On my website: http://shelaghwatkins.co.uk

Susan: Shelagh, I wish you the best with all of your many endeavors!

Shelagh: Thank you Susan for allowing me this opportunity to talk to your readers. It has been a real pleasure, and thank you to all the readers who dropped by to read this blog post.

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End of Blog Tour

The blog tour is at an end and it is time for me to sum up the last twenty days of the tour. Thank you to all the blog hosts for taking part and helping to make this a successful tour. I would like to give special thanks to all those following the tour who left comments; your support was very much appreciated! I would also like to thank everyone who joined in the tour and decided to buy a copy of Forever Friends. One of the comments I received during the tour said: Should be getting my book any day now. Can’t wait to read it. A few days later I received this from the same person: I received my copy the other day and I’m astonished by the presentation. You have done such a wonderful job with this anthology. I’ve never seen one so well presented. So, if you are looking for a well-presented anthology full of wonderful stories and poems, order a copy now; you will not be disappointed!

Forever Friends is available now from amazon.com:

Forever Friends

Thanks again for reading this and best wishes for the holiday season!

Shelagh Watkins

Day Twenty of Blog Tour

Thank you for reading this blog entry! This is an extension to the blog tour. If you missed the tour, welcome! If you stayed with us throughout, thank you for following the tour! This extension is very much in keeping with the way contributors submitted their work to the anthology. The last day for submitting was August 31st 2008 but the final submission did not arrive until September 5th! Submissions did not always arrive together. When I received and accepted two short stories from Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow, I received a request from Elynne to consider two more submissions since all four short stories would still be well within the four thousand word maximum. I agreed and accepted two more short stories.

Before I talk about the four stories, here are my answers to some interesting questions posed by Elynne:

1. What is appealing about anthologies for the reading public at large?

The short story has enjoyed something of a revival in recent years with the increased pace of life alongside busy schedules that leave less time for reading. A volume of short stories, therefore, lends itself to those who have little spare time to do all the things in the day they would like to do. The attraction of this particular collection of work lies in its diversity and variety of genres. From romance and mystery to fantasy and science fiction, there is something for everyone. While some are short and pithy, others are thought-provoking and satisfying. All are entertaining.

2. What are the advantages for readers to pick up a good anthology?

The advantages are many; the first one being time, as mentioned in my answer to the first question. Another advantage is variety; readers receive a new vision every few pages. Different writing styles can also be considered an advantage as can diversity and the opportunity to read different points of view. On an academic level, anthologies have a special appeal to teachers for classroom use because they provide examples of different ways of writing in one volume. A good anthology will have all these advantages plus the obvious attraction of a well-compiled volume of work. If, after reading a poem that follows a story, the reader is inspired to read the next short story, then the compiler has worked hard to create a book that flows from beginning to end. Always the sign of a good anthology.

3. How and why is this particular anthology special?

Forever Friends is special because it brings together writers from all over the world. The contributors to the anthology have experienced some of the same things in life but their personal experiences and how they reacted to them are unique. It is this uniqueness that they bring to the anthology. The stories and poems are full of imagination and love; human kindness, thoughtfulness and understanding; humour, wit, honesty and candour. Something for everyone!

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I would like to thank Elynne for inviting me to say more about Forever Friends. As mentioned earlier, Elynne has four stories in the anthology. Three of the short stories are true stories about events in Elynne’s life concerning her family and friends. The first of these stories, The Red Pen, is about her beloved sister Ivy. The fourth story, part of a Wright College Graduation speech Elynne gave as Distinguished Professor, is an insight into life survival skills.

Forever Friends is available now from amazon.com:  Forever Friends

Thanks again for reading this and best wishes for the holiday season!

Shelagh Watkins

December 20 Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow

Day Nineteen of Blog Tour

Thank you for reading this blog entry! This is the last post on the blog tour. If you have only just joined the tour, welcome, you have only just made it! If you have read every post, thank you for following the tour! Two days ago, I talked about the poems in Forever Friends and how some of the poems express feelings of friendship through music and nature. Last week, I mentioned that the poems in the book celebrate friendship in all its facets from loving to detached, giving a few glimpses of the other side of friendship, while others are thankful and show gratitude for the kindness of friendships and the loyalty of true friends.

Dana Rettig’s poem, Gratitude is one of a number of poems in the anthology that focus on the value of friends for their help and support. There are times in everyone’s life when they lose the motivation to continue doing something that seems impossible to achieve. If all hope seems to be gone, encouragement from a friend can make all the difference between success and failure. Dana’s poem is about the special kind of friendships that give us strength and for which we are eternally grateful.

I would like to thank Dana for inviting me to her blog to give me a chance say more about the poems in the anthology. Although this is the last blog on the original tour, I will be visiting Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow’s blog tomorrow when I will be answering some in depth questions about anthologies in general and Forever Friends in particular. Do not miss it!

Forever Friends is available now from amazon.com: Forever Friends

Thanks again for reading this and best wishes for the holiday season!

Shelagh Watkins

December 19 Dana Rettig