Author Spotlight: Joseph J. Madden

Welcome — or welcome back — to another Author Spotlight! If you’re new and want to know more about how the series got started, go check out the introduction post.

Today the spotlight is on Sci-Fi/Fantasy author of The Starhawk Chronicles, Joseph J. Madden.

JJ Madden Banner

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What’s your most recent/next book, and where can we go to learn more about it and you?

Cover of The Starhawks ChroniclesMy most recent book is actually a re-release. The first book of The Starhawk Chronicles is being re-released by Burning Willow Press in December of this year, with Book II hopefully following not too long after that. I had gone the self-published route for a few years before contacting BWP. To my surprise and delight, they decided they not only wanted the first book, but wanted to keep the entire series in house. I am currently working on the third book, as well as a spin-off/origin story for one of the characters.

I try to keep readers updated on my writing through my Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram.

How well would you fit in in one of your books?

Since I usually see myself as the protagonist, I’d say very well. My main character, Jesse Forster, is very much like me, especially in the earlier drafts I had written. Jesse has my well-defined sense of sarcasm that comes from growing up in a new York Italian family.

Can you read other things when you’re working on a book, or do you have to stick with writing?

I am always reading. I have always been a reader, even very early on. In Kindergarten I was at a second grade reading level. It’s the rare day that I don’t read something. Books, magazine, graphic novels, newspapers. If it’s available to read and in English, I read it. I sometimes read one book at home and have another that I read on breaks at work.

What are you most nostalgic for from your childhood?

I miss trips to Walt Disney World when I was much younger. It was a more pure experience back then, not as commercial, and for an impressionable young future writer whose mind was subject to flights of fantasy, it was an incredible source of inspiration.

What is one question you’ve always wanted to be asked in an interview?

I can honestly say I’ve never thought that far ahead.

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Author of Joseph J MaddenAlright, there you go. You can learn more about Mr. Madden on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and you can find out more about his books on Amazon.

Did you read The Starhawk Chronicles when it was self-published? If not, are you interested in reading it? Have you read any of Mr. Madden’s other books and stories? Leave me a comment and let me know.

I hope you all have a great day!

Author Spotlight: Annette Bentley Smith

Welcome — or welcome back — to another Author Spotlight! If you’re new and want to know more about how the series got started, go check out the introduction post.

In honor of National Bullying Prevention Month, today the spotlight is on children’s book author, Annette Bentley Smith and her anti-bullying book, Nyrah’s Bully.

Annette Smith Banner

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Let’s start with the most important. What’s your most recent/next book, and where can we go to learn more about it and you?

Photo of Annette SmithMy most recent book is called Nyrah’s Bully. It is inspired by a true story. My next book is a multicultural children’s book that will center on skin tones. It is currently being illustrated. You can learn more about me and books at the following links:

Online Press Kit

Website

Facebook Profile

Nyrah’s Bully Facebook Page

Do you have a favorite book/story among the one’s you’ve written? Why is it so special to you?

Out of the six books that are completed, although 13 have been written, three of them are my favorites. When asked this question, it was hard to choose, because although they are fiction children’s books, they were written realistically, because some of them are inspired by real events.

Cover of Divorce Through the Eyes of a ChildIn no particular order, the first book is called Divorce Through the Eyes of a Child; Dear Mama and Dad. It’s a letter written to parents from a child’s heart about divorce and getting along. The second favorite book is called The Miserable Life of Tac; The Aluminum Can. This book is just plain funny! It has made so many people laugh when they found out an aluminum can had issues and had to talk to a Psychologist. This was a special collaborative effort with my youngest son, who was in the sixth grade at the time and is now a high school graduate.

Cover of Nyah's BullyLast but not least is my heart clincher bullying book called Nyrah’s Bully. This book has touched the hearts of many children and has given joy to the special little girl that inspired me to write this book. Writing it also woke up feeling from within, because my sister and I were bullied when we were little.

Do you have any unique or quirky writing habits?

My unique or quirky writing habit is, writing my stories on paper first. Most people now-a-days, go right to their computer or laptop and type away! Me, it’s the good ole #2 pencil and paper, then I type it up. Sometimes I can write a story with a few hours, and at others times it takes a good six months! My chapter book, which started out as the traditional thirty-two page book, is now a chapter book. It is called Bigma and Gigi’s Porch Stories for You! It took me well over a year to write it. It has yet to be published.

If you were an animal in a zoo, what would you be?

If I were an animal in the zoo, I would be a Panda Bear. They come across as loveable, cuddly and huggable. lol

Would you rather be invisible, or able to read minds?

I would rather read minds. I’d like to know what people would honestly say if I asked them questions about me. It would separate the real from the fake, but then I would want the capability of being invisible, in case I couldn’t handle the truth.

What is one question you’ve always wanted to be asked in an interview?

I’ve been interviewed on several occasions. There was never any one particular question I wanted asked. Since the interviewer seemed to have connections, I guess the question would be, “How can I help you become the #1 best seller in the world and get your books in the hands of every child in the world?!” Or perhaps, “So, how does it feel to be America’s favorite children’s book writer and receiving such an honorary award?” One can dream, right?

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Alright, there you go. You can learn more about Ms. Smith and her books on her Amazon page, website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Are you aware of National Bullying Prevention Month? Were you bullied? How has it affected your life? If you have kids, have they suffered from bullying? Leave me a comment and let me know.

I hope you all have a great day!

Good Times at Bertram’s Inkwell

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I like “pimping” companies that I’ve had good experiences with. So far, I’ve discussed Edison Pen Company, Goulet Pens, and Surreal Makeup. This time I’ll be telling you about Bertram’s Inkwell.

Bertram's Inkwell

Shopping Experiences

Photo of a Red Nibbed Platinum Preppy 05Bertram’s holds a special place in my heart as the store where I bought my first fountain pen. It was a red-nibbed Platinum Preppy 05. I don’t have a picture of mine, as it sadly disappeared in my recent move, but I did find this photo from WonderPens. It was my gateway pen, and the experience of purchasing it was so pleasant that Bertram’s was forever fixed in my mind as a top-notch store.

Photo of Lamy Safari Dark LilacThe next time I visited, I picked up a Lamy Safari Dark Lilac, completely oblivious to the fact that I was buying a special edition. I just knew I liked the color and feel of it. I also picked up bottles of Diamine Meadow and Diamine Aqua Lagoon because they were beautiful, bright colors. I’ve since learned that just because a color is pretty doesn’t mean it will make a good writing ink. Meadow hasn’t gotten much use because a full-page of it can be hard on the eyes.

While we were there, Jim bought a Namiki Falcon as a birthday present to himself. I can’t recall if it was Bert or Adam (or both) who helped us out that day — I was too focused on buying my first “nice” pen — but whoever it was was incredibly patient with me as I went through all of the Lamy colors, and let me dip test a few different nib sizes. Jim was also treated very well as he tried to decide if he was actually willing to buy such an expensive pen (oh, how our views have changed).

And now the really fun part. I get to tell you about some of my customer service experiences that I feel went above and beyond what your typical store offers.

Crimson Sunrise & Stipula Nib Exchange

Photo of Edison Pen Co. Pearl in Berries and Cream
My “series pen” – the pen I intend to sign books with – that I’ve dubbed Moon Blood.

When Goulet Pens announced the Pilot Vanishing Point (VP) Crimson Sunrise, I was intrigued. I’d considered buying it as my “series pen” until I found Moon Blood at the DC Pen Show (Read my 2nd DC Pen Show post for that story). But as its release date drew nearer, I wasn’t positive I wanted it. To help me decide, we took a trip to Bertram’s. I figured I could hold and write with a regular VP, and, if I liked it, I’d order a Crimson Sunrise when they were available. I’m not going to lie, I intended to order one from Goulet Pens. I even signed up for the in-stock notification email.

At Bertram’s, I found that I liked the way the VP felt. Bert dipped a nib for me and let me try writing a bit, and I was rather happy with the line quality and flow. I wasn’t positive I loved it, but I knew that if I bought a Crimson Sunrise and decided it wasn’t for me, I could sell it and get my money back very easily. After all, the 2015 special edition is selling for around $500 on eBay.

Most likely seeing my approbation, Bert asked if I’d like to pre-order the Crimson Sunrise. I started to decline, but Bert’s price was a couple bucks less than Goulet Pen’s, and I wouldn’t have to pay shipping. Bertram’s had been good to me thus far, and, honestly, who doesn’t like saving money, even if just a bit. Deciding to give it a go, I said yes, paid, and was informed that they were expecting the pens to ship in a couple of days. Since I couldn’t decide if I’d rather come in and pick up my pen or have it shipped, Bert said he would call me when it came in.

With my business out of the way, Jim brought out his Stipula (You can read the story about it in my 4th DC Pen Show post and a shortened version of this exchange in my Rainbow Pens Update post) with the question, “Do you want to see something I bet you haven’t seen before?”

Jim proceeded to point out the crack in the nib right along the stamped design. It was sheer unlucky coincidence that the nib was bent (to wrap around the feed) precisely at the edge of the design, creating a weak point.

Photo pointing out line where Stipula nib cracked.
This is the replacement nib. I don’t have a photo of the original nib with the crack.

Out came Bert’s loupe, and I was surprised to hear, “You’re right, I haven’t seen this before. It’s a manufacturing defect.” That’s paraphrased, it was long enough ago that I don’t recall precisely what was said anymore.

Now, while I wasn’t in Jim’s brain, I’m as certain as I can be that he just intended to show Bert something different. Neither he, nor I, had any expectation of getting the pen fixed at Bertram’s. However, Bert disappeared behind a wall (I strongly suspect there are various pen parts on the other side, although I’ve never asked) and emerged with a new gold-colored Stipula Titanium nib.

He had the old, broken nib out, the new nib inserted, and was handing the pen back to Jim before either of us had really processed what was happening. I was so flabbergasted that I don’t recall precisely what was said next, but it was basically Jim making his surprise and thanks known, and Bert telling him no thanks were really necessary.

I’m well aware that Stipula stands behind their pens, so you can send a pen in for servicing at any time. Jim had already filled out a form to do just that. But Stipula nibs aren’t exactly cheap, and Bert just handed us a new one. We left that day with a new level of respect for Bert and his store.

I waited impatiently for the week to end, feeling a little disappointed each day that I didn’t receive a call. Another week went by, and again, no phone call, so on Friday, I called the store. The pens hadn’t shipped, but they’d let me know when they did.

Around this time, I started seeing photos on Instagram of the Crimson Sunrise. Patience, never my strong suit, became that much harder as I more and more images appeared.

I didn’t make it another week. On Wednesday, I caved and left a message on Bertram’s Facebook page, asking if there was any status update on the Crimson Sunrise. I got a rather quick reply that the pens would probably be shipped that day.

Sure enough, the next day (Thursday), Bertram’s sent me a Facebook message saying the pens had been shipped, and when they came in, I’d get first pick of the numbers. As if waiting wasn’t hard enough! I allowed myself a brief moment of fantasy and imagined getting another #19 pen, or maybe pen #1988, despite knowing the odds were astronomical.

Come Monday, I decided to check in, as the pens were now available on Bertram’s website, and I wanted to make sure I hadn’t been forgotten. The shipment was out for delivery, but may not arrive until 4pm. Sure enough, around 4:30, I got a message that the pens had arrived. They’d received numbers 1969-1980.

My thoughts were a roller coaster. Disappointment that I wouldn’t get #19 or #1988. Immature silliness imagining having pen #1969. *eyebrow waggle* Confusion, because what pen did I want. Distress at needing to pick a number quickly. Relief at figuring out the perfect number: 1971. I had a 1988 pen for my birth year, and now I’d have a 1971 pen for Jim’s.

I thanked Bert profusely, and worked out details to have my pen shipped. It showed up two days later in all it’s colorful glory.

Photo of Pilot Vanishing Point Crimson Sunrise

I’m well aware that my repeated check-ins were wearisome (some would say nagging), and I can only feel eternally grateful that Bert, or whoever it is that mans the social media post, has the patience of a saint. The responses were always quick, friendly, and helpful, which means a lot to me.

Montegrappa Coffee Brown Ink

And now for the Tale of Montegrappa Coffee Brown. Just imagine a creepy face with a flashlight held underneath. 😉

A while back Jim bought a bottle of Montegrappa Coffee Brown ink. He’s a big coffee drinker, and the color is almost spot on, so of course he had to get it. He loaded up a pen almost immediately, I filled a pen a bit later after seeing the color.

Because Jim put the ink in a wet writer, he didn’t notice a problem at first. I, however, put it in my Jinhao x450, which is a fairly dry writer, and noticed flow issues almost immediately. I had to wet the nib every time I started writing. It annoyed me enough, that I finally decided to put in a different ink.

While cleaning my pen, I decided to just dump what was left in the converter. As I twisted the piston, the ink bubbled at the top, then dripped down slowly, more like syrup than ink. Jim and I have since dubbed it “ink snot”. I’ll let you soak in that lovely mental image for a moment.

Jim decided to clean out his pen almost immediately after I finished explaining my “Ewww!” I did some research online about the ink drying out or coagulating in a pen, with no real results, so I sent out a tweet to see if this was a one-off or a known problem.

The general consensus was to try it in a different pen, because maybe I didn’t get the previous pen clean enough. I think Jim tried it in one other and had the same issue.

So next time we went to Bertram’s, we mentioned the issue and were treated with, “Oh, that was you on Twitter!” It’s always fun to hear that. We explained the problem in more detail to Bert, who reiterated that it wasn’t a problem he’d heard of before. We decided it was probably a bad bottle, maybe there was a contaminant inside when the ink was added, and were satisfied. It happens, right?

But, Bert surprised us. He pulled a new bottle off the shelf and handed it to us. “Give this one a try. And, if you remember, bring in the other bottle the next time you’re here. I’ll send it back to Montegrappa.” I can’t speak for Jim, but I’d never heard of receiving a replacement for something defective without having the original. More kudos to Bertram’s.

Jim tried the new bottle a few days later and had even worse problems with it. As he put it, “I was thwapped with a line of ink snot.” This was while filling a pen from the bottle. Again, eewww.

When we next went to Bertram’s we returned both bottles and got our choice of ink (Diamine Kelly Green) and some change in return, no questions asked.

While writing this, I decided to try looking for a review again and found only one, from Mountain of Ink, who wrote the following:

“When I tried to drop this ink, instead of falling straight to the paper, it hung from the converter a bit, looking more like syrup than a viscous ink. When it did hit the paper, it didn’t spread out much and had short little fingers. This tells me that the ink is pretty thick compared to the average fountain pen ink.”

So maybe others are having troubles with this ink, too, and just don’t want to write negative reviews? I’m not sure. It’s made me a bit wary of other Montegrappa inks. I think I’ll get samples before committing to any of them. But It hasn’t warned me off the brand. I think my next pen will be Montegrappa Fortuna Heartwood Pear.

Final Thoughts

There are certainly other examples of excellent Bertram’s customer service, but seeing as this post has already hit 1900 words, I think I should wrap things up.

We’ve been in multiple times since Jim introduced me to Bertram’s, and each has been a fantastic experience. Adam and Bert are spectacular, as are the various other people who have been in on different days. There’s a sense of camaraderie and inclusion at Bertram’s that makes you want to stay. You feel like a friend as well as a customer.

Ultimately, if you’re local to the DMV area, or visiting, make a point to visit. You won’t regret it. It’s a great place, with fabulous people. Their upcoming Annual Pen Fair on November 11 is a great reason to go check it out. And if you can’t make it into the store, they’ve got a website. *wink* You can also find Bertram’s Inkwell on Facebook, Google +, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

Author Spotlight: Mystkue

Welcome — or welcome back — to another Author Spotlight! If you’re new and want to know more about how the series got started, go check out the introduction post.

Today the spotlight is on Mystkue, author of Honesty Carries Wisdom.

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Let’s start with the most important. What’s your most recent/next book, and where can we go to learn more about it and you?

Photo of MystkueAs a 25 year old Philadelphia native, Alanna has seen it all… Disappointment after disappointment, setback after setback. Life for Alanna has not been the brightest, but despite it all she is determined to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Through this journey she sets out on a quest for success; to discover her purpose in life, define what love truly is, and gain a sense of compassion and forgiveness for people. But before she can take that leap forward, she must face her past without exploiting herself once more and step from behind the shadows of her inner thoughts holding her back. Can Alanna see pass the pain and suffering and rise to a state of peacefulness? Will she fall victim to depression and be silenced in the “Shadows”? Or can she conquer her truth and stand tall to recognize that in all life’s obstacles, Honesty Carries Wisdom

Honesty Carries Wisdom

Has anyone ever made a suggestion for one of your stories that you liked so much, you altered said story to include it?

Yes indeed, I have had so many individuals family and friends that have influenced me and have had ideas that I bounced off of them. I am an observer and I am very much in tune with great ideas that continues to stimulate my creativity. When people share their experiences I use it as a message that takes it own path as its fosters my writing.

Does what you’re writing at any given time ever feature in your dreams?

My writings or ideas tend to come to me in my dreams. Its as if they speak to me and I am able to envision what is on the page. My characters talk to me and tell me what and how to interact with the audience.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?

The best compliment I have ever received was someone telling me how worthy I am. I am the one who never feels that my accomplishments are “enough” or they are just moments that are “all in a days work.” It allowed me to understand that I need to take time really live in the moment and admire the accomplishments I have.

What is one question you’ve always wanted to be asked in an interview?

What do you want your legacy to be and how do you want your successors to uphold it.

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Alright, there you go. You can learn more about

I hope you all have a great day!

Author Spotlight: Josh Matthews

Josh MatthewsWelcome — or welcome back — to another Author Spotlight! If you’re new and want to know more about how the series got started, go check out the introduction post.

Today the spotlight is on author of the Hell Gate saga, Josh Matthews. Be sure to check out his video interview at the end of this post.

Josh Matthews Banner

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Let’s start with the most important. What’s your most recent/next book, and where can we go to learn more about it and you?

Cover of Hell GateMy most recent novel is Hell Gate, my young adult post-apocalypse novel. It tells the story of Jason McCreary and a small group of adventurers who travel to Paris to close a portal between Hell and Earth that was formed during his mother’s failed anti-matter experiment. I purposefully kept the language and gore to a minimum so the novel has a PG-13 rating, but there’s more than enough suspense and action to keep you up late into the night. You can pick up a copy on Amazon.

The sequel is coming out this October. I kick up the plot several notches by sending Jason and his team around the world to close off five other Hell Gates that opened along with the one in Paris. This book introduces new characters and a whole new set of demons, and provides more kick-ass battle scenes then in the first novel.

If you’re interested in me or the Hell Gate saga, please check out my blog, or follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Would you rather your book(s) be filmed for a movie, or a TV series?

The Hell Gate saga needs to be filmed as a series of movies. The emphasis in the books is on the epic battle scenes between humans and demons, and they wouldn’t translate well onto the small screen. When writing the action scenes, I always imagine how it would play out in 70mm IMAX.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in researching your book(s)?

I was surprised at how many variations there are of Hell as a realm, and the back stories behind Lucifer/Satan. From descriptions of Hell in the Bible to Dante and the paintings of Bosch, everyone has their own idea of what the Underworld is like. It’s a benefit for me, though. I’m developing my own unique, terrifying concept of Hell, and the various interpretations are feeding into that.

Can you read other things when you’re working on a book, or do you have to stick with writing?

My reading scans the gambit from horror novels to histories, some of which I read as research for other projects and some I read for pleasure. What I’m reading never distracts from my writing. Sometimes I work on multiple projects at the same time, which can be a problem. I’m currently reading the proofs for the second Hell Gate novel, am preparing the third novel for submission, and am working on the first draft of the fourth book.

How long do you honestly think you’d survive in a zombie apocalypse?

I’d survive for a few months, maybe more. I’m not a hardcore survivalist/prepper who is ready to hunker down for years and fight off hordes of the living dead. I live in the country outside of Concord, not on a fortified compound in Montana. I have enough supplies to last four weeks, which I figure is the normal amount of time we’d have to fend for ourselves during a natural disaster or social unrest. If it’s a full-fledged apocalypse, no amount of preparation is going to be sufficient. Once the supplies are exhausted and we need to forage for food or hit the road, then all bets are off. Depending on how my family handles the situation, I think I could survive for quite a while.

Would you rather be invisible, or able to read minds?

Of the two, I’d rather have the ability to read minds. If you know what the other person is thinking, it gives you the upper hand. However, if I could choose my super power, it would be the ability to control people’s minds. I admit, though, I’d use my powers for nefarious purposes. “You want to buy ten copies of all my books and give them to your friends as gifts.” “You want to sign me on to your publishing house and give me a million-dollar cash advance.”

What’s the first thing you’d do if you won the lottery?

I’m one of those responsible people, so the first thing I would do is pay off my bills, set money aside to buy a house, invest a huge portion of it – the boring adult things. Once I was done adulting, the first things I would do would be to buy more toys for my study and book a two-month-long trip of Europe.

What is one question you’ve always wanted to be asked in an interview?

I can’t think of a question I’ve always wanted to be asked. Over the years, I’ve been asked bizarre question, embarrassing ones, and a few I’ve refused to answer. But there are no questions I wished someone had asked.

Josh took some extra time out of his busy schedule to answer a few follow questions via Skype. Check out his video interview for some very interesting additional information about him.

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Cover of Wasteland in Red SquareAlright, there you go. You can learn more about Mr. Matthews on his blog, Twitter, and Facebook, and you can learn more about his books on the Hell Gate Saga Facebook page.

Have you read Hell Gate? Do you think you’ll read Wasteland in Red Square when it comes out on the 21st? Leave me a comment below with your thoughts.

I hope you all have a great day!

Friday Reads: Crossroads in the Dark III

Cover of Crossroads in the Dark 3Welcome back for another Friday Reads. This edition will be rather different as I can’t truly say, just yet, if Crossroads in the Dark III will have a lasting impact on me. However, what I can say, is that this book already has significant meaning.

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS)

This particular volume of the Crossroads in the Dark (CRITD) anthology series produced by my publisher, Burning Willow Press, is for charity, with 26 authors donating stories (see the list below). The book has been dedicated to Tracey (T.F.) Poist, who suffers from EDS (if you, like many others, don’t know what that is, check out the Ehlers-Danlos Society website), with all proceeds being donated to EDS research in the hopes that better treatments, and hopefully a cure, can be found.

I reached out to Tracey about her experience with EDS, and she had the following to say:

It began with fatigue. I was going to be married soon, so I chalked it up to stress. Then I thought I must’ve contracted mononucleosis. I had tests done for Lyme disease. By every account, I was perfectly fine.

Then I twisted a bit as I yawned and stretched. Instant agony. After a few months of dealing with medical bureaucracy, I had an MRI performed. It showed four herniated discs and two others shredded. Spinal stenosis. Arthritis. All without any cause.

Ordinarily, that’s where this story would end. I’d complain about more and more, but nothing would ever come of it. That’s how it remains for most of the undiagnosed zebras out there. But I got lucky. My doctor had a personal interest in genetics and sent me for genetic testing. Bingo! Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Classical Type, with Marfanoid Features.

Doctors in medical school are taught to look for the most obvious causes first. To hear hoofbeats and think of horses, not zebras. But we medical zebras exist. And we need help.

Ehlers Danlos affects every part of my life. My skin stretches and tears. My heart can’t quite keep up with what I’d like to do. My muscles can’t, either. My autonomic nervous system is heavily impacted. In fact, I live in a daily state of fight-or-flight. It exhausts me physically and mentally.

There are several co-morbidities frequently found with Ehlers Danlos. I live with nearly a dozen. And I’m lucky. It can get so much worse. I lose a zebra friend to sudden death every month. Aortic dissection. Aneurysm. Suicide.

Other than the weight I’ve gained and the stretch marks under my clothes, I don’t look any different than I did ten years ago. I don’t look like a person who has to use her wheelchair, who depends on medications to fight Dysautonomia and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia. I don’t look like I have problems digesting food. You can’t see my insomnia or my constant fatigue.

EDS is an almost entirely invisible illness. It is an umbrella under which you may find joint dislocations, heart problems, digestive issues, depression and anxiety, easy bruising and scarring, and so much more.

Before I woke up and yawned and stretched, I took things for granted. Running. Dancing. Dressing myself. Showering. Walking. Living without pain.

Ehlers Danlos is underdiagnosed and misunderstood. I encourage you to learn about the illness so you don’t take life for granted the way I did, but especially so you might be able to connect the dots for someone currently suffering without answers.

There is no cure, and we can only treat separate issues as they arise, but we are resilient. Warriors. And we thank you for your help. May we find a cure for our children.

CRITD III

If you like horror, even a little bit, go buy yourself a copy of it. It’s well worth the money. I don’t even really like horror, and I give it 5 stars (no, really, you can read my review). It’s horrible in all the right ways, and wonderfully demented. Check out all of the fantastic authors who donated their stories to the anthology.

Stories

Are you a horror fan? Have you read any of the CRITD books? Will you buy CRITD III? Have you ever heard of EDS? Leave me a comment below. Or leave a message for Tracey to help make her day a bit better.

I hope you have a great weekend at the Crossroads.

Author Spotlight: Jennifer Geoghan

Welcome — or welcome back — to another Author Spotlight! If you’re new and want to know more about how the series got started, go check out the introduction post.

Today the spotlight is on Jennifer Geoghan, a specialist of romance with a twist.

Jennifer Geoghan Banner

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Photo of Jennifer Geoghan

Let’s start with the most important. What’s your most recent/next book, and where can we go to learn more about it and you?

My most recent book is The Family History Quick Start Guide: Genealogy Made Easy. Although I’m a novelist at heart, I’m also a long time genealogist. Having helped dozens of friends start their family tree from scratch, I decided to take my wealth of knowledge and write a user friendly how to book for those just starting the journey of tracing their family tree. It’s available on Amazon for $4.99, so check it out. I have two blogs, one about me as an author as well as one where I chronicle my genealogy research.

Do you have a favorite book/story among the one’s you’ve written? Why is it so special to you?

Cover of If Love is a LieI’d have to say my novel, If Love is a Lie: A Partly True Love Story holds a special place in my heart.  It is by far the most personal of my books, and in writing it, I exercised a lot of demons out of my life.  A few years back, I was the victim of an internet dating scam. I was long distance romanced by a man I met on a dating site for three months. It wasn’t until he had to go out of the country for “work” and then asked me to send him money in Malaysia, that I realized he was a scam artist.  Thankfully, I didn’t send him any money, but he stole something even more valuable, my trust. In If Love is a Lie, I used my actual email and text exchanges with “Antonio” to help form the beginning of the book. The first half of the book is pretty much exactly what happened, right up to when I reported him to the FBI for internet fraud. Unfortunately, the FBI never responded to my online complaint and that’s where my story ended.  In the book, my heroine is contacted by the FBI and works with them to bring Antonio and his gang to justice … and, of course, there’s a sexy FBI agent who steals our heroine’s heart … or will Antonio turn out to be the man of her dreams after all?  You’ll have to read the book to find out!

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in researching your book(s)?

I’ll start by saying I was born and raised out east on Long Island.  When I started researching my current project, a Texas cowboy series, I discovered that the first cattle ranch in America was on Long Island!  So the true birth place of the cowboy is New York!

How long do you honestly think you’d survive in a zombie apocalypse?

I think I’d be one of the more prepared folks. All those years of watching The Walking Dead have to come in handy for something! The key to survival is to beware of other people. Find yourself a nice, little cabin up in the wilderness and live like they did in the 1800’s, off the land.  I’d also stockpile a LOT of books to read.

What is one question you’ve always wanted to be asked in an interview?

What do all your heroines have in common? So far all my heroines come from my small town of Wading River, New York.  Wading River is a lovely town, set on the north shore of Long Island.  When I grew up there, it was summers on the beach and falls spent picking pumpkins and apples. Winter was sledding and ice skating on the duck ponds and spring meant the emergence of tulips and chipmunks in the front yard. It was an idyllic setting and one I’ve thankful to have grown up surrounded by.  Sara, Emily, Mandy, Chloe.  These are my heroines and, though my books aren’t sequels, they all share heroines that know each other.  The girls from Wading River.

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Alright, there you go. You can learn more about Ms. Geoghan on her website, Twitter, and Facebook, and you can find her books on Amazon.

Have you read any of Ms. Geoghan’s books? Which one(s)? Are you a fan of genealogy?Leave me a comment below with your thoughts.

I hope you all have a great day!

Author Spotlight: Simon Williams

Photo of Simon WilliamsWelcome — or welcome back — to another Author Spotlight! If you’re new and want to know more about how the series got started, go check out the introduction post.

Today the spotlight is on self proclaimed sarcastic gentleman, Simon Williams, author of the TORN trilogy.

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Let’s start with the most important. What’s your most recent/next book, and where can we go to learn more about it and you?

Cover of TORN 3My most recent book that I published was TORN 3, the final book of my TORN trilogy memoir about my personal dealing with a situation in my life over 5 years that left me depressed and considering suicide. I am just finishing up my next book, 12 vital lessons for every father to teach their son. Then I have a series of books on stories of my travel adventures during the course of my life. Provisionally titled, Stories on how to travel the improper way by Rick Steve’s arch nemesis.

If you want to learn more about me then you will find every juicy morsel of dirty personal laundry inside the TORN books starting with this one.

Do you have a favorite book/story among the one’s you’ve written? Why is it so special to you?

The one I am writing now, 12 vital lessons for every father to teach their son, because if you knew the story of my first three you would see how important it is for me to give my son every opportunity in life by passing on all the things that I have learnt about how the world really works. Good, bad and indifferent. We only get one go around at life, the more you can work out before you have to screw up, the better.

Do you drink coffee/tea? Do you find you drink more coffee/tea when you’re working on a book?

I drink tea when writing because I like to write early in the morning. I love to be calm and relaxed when writing so tea is way more soothing a drink to put me in that frame of mind. Coffee I may have when getting home from work and having to quickly add or make some changes that came to me during the day. But nothing beats a hot cup of tea, the sun coming up over the horizon and everyone in the family still in bed so it is nice and quiet in the house.

What is the hardest scene you’ve ever written?

Cover of TORNThe opening of my first book where I am standing on my balcony wanting to die. I didn’t start off with the book this way, it took me 2 years before I finally had the balls to explain what I was doing writing a book and it was because I could no longer deal with the pain in my life and I wanted to get it all out. So the original beginning was very humorous and light as a way for me to hide behind the words, but as I got stronger and stronger I realized I had to go back and face my demons and so I rewrote the first chapter.

Can you read other things when you’re working on a book, or do you have to stick with writing?

I can do nothing else when writing. I get obsessive about it. Possibly because the topic of my first three books is so intense and personal. But now I am more relaxed about it and finding I can do other things when I first get home before sitting down to do some writing.

Do you write in a linear or non-linear fashion?

I write in such a non-linear stream of consciousness fashion that I can tie my story up in an undecipherable knot. Then I just break out of it and get back to the heart of the story. But it is so much more fun to write this way.

What is one question you’ve always wanted to be asked in an interview?

Who is your favourite member of the Beatles. Answer. Mick Jagger.

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That’s a wrap. You can take a look at Mr. Williams’ books on his Amazon author page and learn a bit more about him on his website.

Have you read any of Mr. Williams’ books? Are you looking forward to his future books? Do you like to read memoirs? Leave me a comment below with your thoughts.

I hope you all have a great day!

Author Spotlight: Jeremy Davies

Welcome — or welcome back — to another Author Spotlight! If you’re new and want to know more about how the series got started, go check out the introduction post.

Today the spotlight is on new author and math teacher, Jeremy Davies.

Jeremy Davies Banner

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Let’s start with the most important. What’s your most recent/next book, and where can we go to learn more about it and you?

Cover of the Advent CalendarThe Advent Calendar.  [My Facebook] page has a lot of information, newspaper cuttings and some interview articles, also a YouTube copy of a BBC interview.

Do you know how all of your characters look and sound?

Yes exactly, I virtually visualised the entire thing as a sort of movie, picturing the amazing landscapes and sets in fine detail, likewise the characters and their characteristics. I did exactly the same whilst reading Tolkien and found it a frustration watching the films.

Can you read other things when you’re working on a book, or do you have to stick with writing?

Absolutely,a change is as good as a rest, I sometimes find taking a break from writing and reading altogether allows you to reflect and perhaps pick up new ideas. I find myself trying to write either in the right location or in the right mood/environment (nearer Christmas helps with my Christmas books)

What are you most nostalgic for from your childhood?

Christmas 100%, it was such a special time at home, I had four siblings and the Christmas period at home was simply magical, I also lived in a close knit village and the school at Christmas was wonderfully festive, a marvelous childhood was gifted to me and I will be eternally grateful to mum and dad, my Christmas books attempts to share this good will and festive feel.

What is one question you’ve always wanted to be asked in an interview?

So how pleased are you with the film adaptation of your novel?

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Alright, there you have it. Christmas will be here before you know it, so go check out The Advent Calendar.

Are you a fan of Christmas stories? Do you still read to or with your kids? Leave me a comment below with your thoughts.

I hope you all have a great day!

Facebook Release Party Lessons

About a month ago, Sonya Jesus invited me to take part in her Facebook release party. I’d heard of them, of course, through open calls to participate on my publisher’s Facebook group. I hadn’t ever participated, though, thinking that they were for people who already had books out. The direct invitation, however, made me curious, and, with a bit of trepidation, I accepted the 5:30 – 6:00 pm time slot.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Facebook release parties, they’re a chance for an author to reach anyone in the world by making a public Facebook event page. On the day of the event, the author, as well as any people they have invited to participate, will post to the page with information about available and upcoming books, giveaways, teasers, videos, etc. The idea being that the more people who are involved, the more fans and readers will check out the event, and, hopefully, the book being released.

Research

Because I’d never been part of a release party before, I wasn’t entirely sure of the protocol. So, I did what I always do: I researched. I asked some other authors about typical post content. I attended a couple of release parties and paid very close attention to the posts and engagement. And I made some unexpected discoveries:

  • You post, at most, once every 3 – 5 minutes.
  • Some people seem to treat release parties as a chance to outrageously pimp their own books. As in, every post is a link to buying their books with a picture of the cover or covers, with no real description of the books at all. I don’t know if this nets them any sales, but I noticed less interaction with those posts.
  • Facebook has polls. Yeah, I had no idea about this, and apparently they’re only available on event and group pages, because I don’t have the option to create one on either my personal Facebook page or my author page.

Preparation

Armed with some new information, I got to work creating posts. Since I don’t have a book available for sale yet (March 3rd, people *wink*), I decided to go for teasers. Hopefully they would entice people to follow me on various sites and buy my book once it’s available.

I hand lettered some book quotes (if this sounds interesting to you, check out my Instagram for #TeaserTuesdays). I also created the first teaser video for *The Most Special Chosen*, as this seemed like a great place to debut it (and hopefully get some views). And, of course, I had to provide a link to Sonya’s Author Spotlight. A poll (for interaction), giveaway (to get people to stick around until the end of my half hour), and links to my social media accounts rounded out my main posts. And let’s not forget an introduction and thank you post. Those are important, too.

I wrote up all of the posts so I could copy and paste them on the day of the party to avoid wasting time, or suffering from writer’s block. I’m very glad I did, as I edited everything a few times to have the best content possible.

Party Time

As the actual release party got closer, I started looking forward to participating. I expected it to be fun, and I hoped that people would be interested in what I had to post. At 5:20, I sat down at my computer, opened up the document with my posts, kept an eye on the event page, and prepared to have fun and be engaging. I think I succeeded at both.

It was fun to read people’s comments (especially the GIFs) and respond to them in return. And I can’t deny it’s exciting to watch the likes, loves, comments, etc. counts go up. My time went quite a bit faster than I expected it to, and I found myself almost sad when it was over.

I will note that I had a hard time keeping track of when to post things as Facebook shows “Just Now” for a few minutes after posting. My solution was to add time labels to the document where I’d written my posts. That way, I just had to ensure that the current time and the time label matched before I pushed “Post”. It made a big difference, and let me focus on interacting with people

Overall, It was a great experience, and I’m very happy, now, that I accepted Sonya’s invitation. I look forward to joining other release parties in the future.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, taking part in a release party is to gain exposure. And part of that is reviewing what you did and seeing what did and didn’t work. I think for a first time, I did pretty well, and gained about 10 new followers/likes on each of my social media accounts, which I don’t find too shabby.

The poll was (surprisingly) my best performing post, when I go by total interactions (comments, reactions, post interaction, shares, etc.). My giveaway post received the most reactions (17), while the introduction post received the most comments (12). So make of all of that what you will.

A couple side notes to interactive posts. I think everyone will agree that GIF comments are big right now. So I think I’ll look into requesting GIF comments in future posts. Perhaps one of those “pick your answer” posts would be good, too. You know, the ones where you piece together an answer based on your name, birthday, color of your shirt, etc.

My main takeaway from it all is that I should have more interactive posts in the future. I should ask even more questions, and encourage discussions and comments.

That said, do you have any questions for me? Leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you. And if you need an additional participant at your Facebook release party, send me a message.