Monday, September 24, 2012

Amazing Bette, Amazing Matilda

Today I have with me an author who is a fellow New Englander.  I am from New England; she now lives in New England.  Bette A. Stevens is retired and lives with her husband in Hartland, Maine.

Welcome, Bette!  Tell me a little about your life in Maine.  Sure.  My husband and I spend our time writing, gardening, drawing and painting.  We're restoring an old farmstead, building trails throughout our 30+ acres of woodland and take occasional day trips to the coast to kick back and relax.  We have two grown daughters and five fantastic grandkids, with our first ‘greatgrand ‘on the way!

How long have you been writing and what type of writing do you normally do?  It seems like I've been writing forever. Business writing, editing a corporate newsletter, desktop publishing, journaling, photo captioning for scrapbooks, and capturing nature and human nature in poetic quips have been on my completed to-do checklist for decades. After a successful business career as assistant to the CEO of one of New England’s largest construction companies, I embarked on a new career path in search of attaining one of my own dreams: Teaching. With a B.S. in Elementary Education from University of Maine Orono in hand, I was privileged to teach a wonderfully diverse assortment of students in grades 4, 6, 7 and 8 in California and in grades 4 and 5 in Virginia. While completing my undergraduate courses, I stepped out of my comfort zone and took a creative writing course.

Tell us about your book,  AMAZING MATILDA: A Monarch’s Tale. Can you give us a brief synopsis?  MATILDA becomes discouraged when she is unable to fly during the early stages as a larva. But, this Amazing Monarch never gives up on her dream. Unlike her meadowland friends, Matilda doesn’t want to leap onto ledges or bound across fields, she only wants to fly. At first, Matilda’s friends laugh at her because she doesn’t have wings. They wonder: How can a creature without wings ever hope to fly? While Matilda progresses through the various stages of her metamorphosis from egg to butterfly, her friends recall how they felt before they were able to do all of the things they had dreamed of doing and how hard they had to keep trying to do all of those things. Encouraged by her meadowland friends, MATILDA learns that if she tries hard enough and long enough, she can do anything she really wants to do.

What prompted you to write this book?  As a prolific reader, and with some creative writing experiences in my new 'teacher toolbox,' I was hooked right from the start.  Meld that love of literature with a desire to inspire students to be all they can be and you’ve got a brand new children’s bookwriter: me, the author of AMAZING MATILDA: A Monarch’s Tale, my second children’s book. The teacher me wanted to integrate a story with core curriculum elements. A Monarch would be the perfect main character: as an indicator species and with Monarch habitat (milkweed) rapidly disappearing, it would be a great way for children to learn life science and environmental science concepts, all while enjoying an inspiring story. Monarch research was my first step. I thought the fit would be perfect because the challenges to be met in the natural world paralleled the challenges to be met in the lives of the children. And so, I started to write and rewrite and rewrite… All of the tweaking was on the literary side of the story. I wanted it to be used to teach (model) the use of repetition, alliteration, metaphor and simile in writing stories. It was lots of fun and the first year I placed Matilda’s story in a storybook format in a binder (no illustrations yet). I read it aloud and my fourth graders wanted to read it during their free time and make their own illustrations. We were raising silkworms in the classroom at the time. I continued to read the story aloud to my students (4th, 5th and 6th graders) over the years. During that time, I continued to make revisions and used those as models as a teaching tool as well. As a retired teacher, I’ve had time this year to create the illustrations (pencil sketches and watercolor). My background in desktop publishing gave me the incentive to check the internet to find out about self-publishing. Voila! After more than a decade: AMAZING MATILDA, is now written, illustrated and published.

Do you have a favorite line from the book? “What Matilda needed now was a nap. First, she found a sturdy stem and attached her bottom to it. Then, as expertly as a circus acrobat, Matilda lowered herself headfirst and began to spin.”

Is it published? If so, when and by whom? Publisher: (self-published by author using CreateSpace) July 2, 2012

How can my readers get a copy of the book?   They can go to my Webpage, where you’ll find both of my children’s books, and links directly to Amazon:

What’s next for you?  I recently started a blog and have been writing some poetry and short articles. Also, I have a short story (unpublished) that I want to expand into a YA fiction (coming of age in the 1950s and ‘60s) novel. When I read the short story to my fellow students in a creative writing class at college, they wanted to hear more. That’s my next big project. I’ve already asked some Web friends if they thought this type of book would have an audience and I’m waiting for some feedback. 

What is your advice to would be writers? NEVER GIVE UP: You can do anything you really want to do if you try long enough and hard enough, especially with help and encouragement from your friends. (The theme of AMAZING MATILDA) The internet is such a great resource for connecting with other writers, readers, marketers, publishers.  Join groups that fit into your niche. Then, connect with other writers and find out what they’re doing. Read them, follow them, leave comments and ask questions. There is a wonderful world of encouragers on the Web.

What did you wish you knew when you started your writing career? I wanted to know EVERYTHING. I wish I had known enough to join writers’ organizations and become actively involved with other writers. Today, it’s so simple. Support and friendship is only a click or a Google away! Here are a few links of resources that have been invaluable in helping me get started: CreateSpace self-publishing:  Sandra Beckwith  Where Writers Win  Goodreads  Laura Pepper Wu Connections 

Thank you, Bette, for taking time out to do an interview with me.  I would encourage all of my readers who have children or grandchildren to purchase your book.  I'll think of you walking through your thirty acres of woodland, birds singing and leaves crunching underfoot, while you compose stories in your mind.

Quote for the day:  The healthiest response to life is joy. Deepak Chopra

Friday, September 14, 2012

By Dammit, We're Marines!

Today I have the extreme pleasure of meeting with award-winning author, Gail Chatfield.  I met Gail last month at the Veterans‘ Writing Group.  At the end of a presentation given by Shirley Clukey (editing) and me (publishing), Gail handed us each an autographed copy of her book, By Dammit, We’re Marines! This book won the Silver Medal Award from the Military Writers Society of America.

I confess I didn’t get too excited about a book on war, until I started reading it and then I was totally hooked!  I enjoy the stories, the conversational style of writing by each Marine, the human touch added to a horrible war. I now know more about Iwo Jima than I ever thought possible and the flag raising on Mt. Suribachi will forever be more than just a static photograph.

To give you a feel of the book, here’s one part of one man’s story, as he talks about landing on Iwo Jima.  I didn’t hit the beach until 2:30 in the afternoon.  It was a very interesting experience going in on the landing craft.  We weren’t tense at all, it seemed like everything was just going like it had always gone in training.  And then a couple of explosions occurred near the landing craft and everyone realized that by golly somebody is trying to kill us.  In all of our training nobody had tried to kill us.  

Or this from another Marine:  I was lying on the beach and a mortar shell exploded between my legs.  It raised me off the deck and exploded, but because of where it landed, the explosion caused the shrapnel to go up and out over my legs.  It hit a good friend of mine in the neck.  He was bleeding quite a bit so they got him to the aid station on the beach and he was evacuated.  His total time on the island was probably about 15 minutes…..Upon reaching the top of the mountain, we joined E and F Companies, E Company brought a small flag, 54 x 28 inches, and they found some 1½ inch iron pipe, secured the flag to it and hoisted it up around 10:30 a.m.  The troops below shouted and the ships at sea blew their horns…..I saw them raise the first and the second flags, from about ten feet away.  It was a very, very exciting moment, very thrilling, seeing the stars and stripes flying over the piece of land the Japanese owned.  We had taken it this far and the feeling was almost indescribable.

Gail, how long have you been writing? I’ve always enjoyed writing but I was not able to devote a lot of time to it until about 10 years ago. I began writing for our local paper and doing freelance stories. Then I got the idea for the book and that really got me writing!

Give a brief synopsis of By Dammit, We're Marines! Culled from interviews with 52 ‘greatest generation’ veterans, the book offers eye-witness accounts of combat on the Pacific Front during World War II. Facing an entrenched, well-equipped enemy, flesh shredding coral reefs, malarial and dengue fever-ridden jungles, mosquito and crocodile-infested swamps and a noxious moonscape sulfur island, these invincible American teenagers destroyed the powerful Japanese war machine. Told in their own words, their recollections offer a foxhole view of ordinary young men in battle—raw and uncensored with all the innocence, fear, loneliness, bravado, humor, death, and patriotism that is the universal human experience of combat. Chaplains, corpsmen, sailors and aviators who served with the Marines also share their personal accounts.  I want the readers to feel as if they are sitting there listening to the veterans personally telling their stories to them as they did to me.

What prompted you to write this book? My dad was a Marine in the Pacific but sadly he died when I was 15. He never spoke about his time in service and I never asked. He was in some very important battles like Iwo Jima and I longed to know more about what he would have experienced as a young man in war. I attended a reunion of Iwo Jima veterans at Camp Pendleton and met so many interesting men who told great tales of heroism, horror and the humor that got them through the whole thing. I thought that if I enjoyed the stories, others might as well. As these veterans die, their stories go with them. Most never spoke about it because many were not asked. I can't imagine understanding any battle, war, etc without listening to those who were there. History is painted in broad brushstrokes by generals, presidents, and politicians, but it is the ordinary man (or woman) who paint the small details to tell the complete story.

How long did it take to write the book? A lot longer than I thought it would! I had to search out the veterans, interview them on tape, transcribe their words, edit to make their story flow better, send it back for their approval, make any corrections, and do this some 50 times. I attended reunions in Atlanta and throughout Southern California to meet veterans. All in all I guess it was about two years… housework suffered and I lost weight, which was not such a bad thing, I guess.

Do you have a favorite line from the book? One line I find myself using quite a bit comes from a veteran describing what he told his squad when they hit the beaches under heavy bombardment on this hell hole of Iwo Jima. He hollered for them to keep moving so he says: “if you lay on the beach, they are going to kill you; if you move inland, they have a chance to kill you.” You can see how that is a perfect life lesson for charging ahead even under difficult circumstances….. taking a chance is preferable to being dead on a beach, so to speak.

Is it published and, if so, when and by whom? Yes, it was published by Methvin Publishing in November 2008.

How can my readers get a copy of the book? It’s available in hardcover and ebook on and at military related museums.

How long have you been involved in the Veterans' Writing Group?   We started the group about two years ago. I had led writing classes at the local VA and heard about the Veterans Writing Workshop put on by Writers Guild Foundation in Los Angeles. I wanted to duplicate it here in San Diego, perhaps giving veterans a chance not only to write but also pursue possible careers in the entertainment industry. The Writers Guild Foundation supports us with great award winning screenwriters, playwrights and novelists who come to San Diego to mentor the group on the fundamentals of great writing.

What’s next for you? I would love to put together a book of stories being written by the veterans in the writing group. We have all branches of service, all wars, all types of writing styles, all types of stories.

What is your advice to would be writers? Three things: buy a thesaurus—you will use it a lot; when you’re limited by word count, make sure the words your choose count; and submit, submit, submit---you need to develop a thick skin sometimes but remember that everyone has an opinion….what one person rejects may just be what another is looking for.

What do you wish you knew when you started your writing career? That the more you write the better you get. …no one cares what draft you are on and that 15th one might just be perfection. It’s true!

Thank you, Gail!  I would encourage everyone to order this book and listen to these men tell us what it was like to have mortars flying over their heads, to take salt water showers, or to hit the beach at 9:03 a.m. with 250 officers and men and by 2:00 be down to 75.  Most former military men will joke about the fun times they had in the service but they won't talk about the gruesome events they experienced.  Read this book, you'll find out what they really went through!

Quote for the Day:  Here is a test to find out whether your mission in life is complete.  If you're alive, it isn't.  Richard Bach

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Truly CONvincing Author

Today I'm talking with Gael McCarte, an author from Georgia.  Gael is married and has three children, ages 18, 22, and 23.

Gael, what do you do besides write?

Gael:  I work in our family business and I volunteer at least 2 days a week at the Red Cross where I'm the Manager for Social Media.  Also, I speak at various functions on any topics, more lately on "Social Media, a Writer's Best Friend."  I also blog and write for an e-zine.

How long have you been writing?   I've been writing since I was a child.  I'm involved with a local and international writer's group and an international Women's Speaker's Association.  

Tell me about your book, The Con.  Gladly.  This book is fiction based on fact. It is a crime novel for those who love the psychology of the criminal mind. The Con offers a twisted tale of cons, bikers, life in Australia and crushing Justice Department politics.  The reader gets a unique glimpse into the mind of the offender, bikers, cons, and family life in Western Australia.  They visit the cities, the famed bush, and the ocean, without needing a passport.  Anna, the psychologist in the story, proposes a solution to the offender assessment quandry, "...test the offenders to weed out, as it were, the truly psycopathic criminals, and treat the different categories of offenders differently."   The question is, will her suggestions be taken seriously or will the corrupt politics of the department neutralize them?

Can you give us a favorite line from The Con?  I love this exchange between Lachlan (Lachie) and his mother:

"Mum, why do they pronounce ninth as 'neye-nth' when there is no 'e' in it?"
If he could engage her in meaningful conversation, she might not notice he was still in bed.

You are right lovee, now pop up."

"Mum, shouldn't third be three-th?

"Why lovee?"

"Well you have fourth and fifth, why not three-th?"

"Why indeed?"

Why Australia and have you had personal interaction with prisoners?  Australia is where I was working at the time.  Since many people are interested in Australia, I wanted to offer my readers a virtual trip to that continent and to have them experience family life as it actually is rather than as they imagine it to be.  As to your second question, I've had literally thousands of contacts with prisoners.  My characters are based on real psychological concepts though, not on actual people.

What prompted you to write this book?  I would have to say that the book wrote itself since the characters would not leave me alone.  I was doing a lot of speaking within Justice and lecturing to adult and juvenile probation officers.  I presented composites of actual psychological variables seen in various offending behavior and these composites became my characters.  Colleagues begged me to tell them my "stories."  They were encouraged by them and learned there was hope.  I decided to write The Con so that a wider audience could benefit, enjoy my stories, and feel supported. 

Did you know how it was going to end when you started writing The Con?  No.  I always write to surprise the reader.  I want the reader to say, "Aaahhh she got me," but to be laughing when they say it.

Gael, is this book published and, if so, by whom and where can my readers buy the book?  This book was published by GlobalEd Advance Press in Tennessee.  It can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and GEA. I invite those who are interested, to visit my pinterest board as I have collected photographs depicting areas and cultural practices portrayed in the book. The web site for that is:

Thank you, Gael.  It's been a great pleasure.  I also enjoy following you on Facebook and seeing the uplifting messages you leave!

Today's Quote:  “Long patience and application saturated with your heart’s blood—you will either write or you will not—and the only way to find out whether you will or not is to try.”  Jim Tully, October 1923