Interview with Scott Corum star of ‘The Dungeon Masters’

by CHRISTOPHER C. MEEKER

Recently I was fortunate enough to get an interview with Scott Corum, writer, creator, gamer, entrepreneur, and star of the film ‘The Dungeon Masters’. I’ve been a fan of Scott’s for some time so as you can imagine this is quite exciting for me. So, without further delay let’s get to it, shall we?


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Scott Corum writer, gamer, and star of ‘The Dungeon Masters’.

A lot of your fans, myself included, know you from the documentary ‘The Dungeon Masters’, how has that film impacted your life?

Quite a few people have contacted me on social media as a result of the documentary; I have a LOT of Facebook friends as a result. There have been a few professional connections as a result, as well; opportunities to be interviewed for online shows and a couple of writing gigs. Every so often, I get recognized in public, which is both surprising and delightful. I guess, mainly, the impact has been a certain amount of notoriety.

You said in the film that if you had your choice of careers you be a professional paid dungeon master, has that sentiment changed over the years?

It really hasn’t. I’d drop pretty much everything to do that job in an instant, if I had a good lead on it.

A lot of your fans are curious about Uncle Drac’s Magical Clubhouse, were there subsequent episodes filmed and if so is there any place online or elsewhere they might be available for viewing?

The segments that we filmed during the documentary, and which aired on Torrance City Cable, are available to view on YouTube through my channel, Uncle Drak. As a group, we filmed some segments for a second episode in the Torrance City Cable studios, but that footage was unfortunately lost. Some members from that group, and a few new people, are strongly considering producing some new material specifically for YouTube. If (when) that happens, it will be linked to from my existing channel, which also currently has my Vlog.

One of the most interesting portions of ‘The Dungeon Masters’, at least for me, were the segments that focused on your book ‘With a Single Wish Forever’, how did writing that book affect you? Is there a website where our readers can purchase your book?

Before I wrote “With a Single Wish Forever,” I thought I was trying to be a writer. When it was done… edited, re-written, torn apart, put back together, re-edited, and re-written again, I was a writer. When it got shot down by my agent, I was a failed writer. When I sucked it up, gave it one more re-write, and made it available online for purchase, I was really a writer. Doing all of the work of writing was a big part of it, and editing and re-writing is a big part of writing, but so is suffering for the work. If the process did anything, it firmed up my convictions to be a writer, first and foremost, and gave me the assurance to state that I am, in fact, a writer by trade.

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‘With a Single Wish Forever’ by Scott Corum

With a Single Wish Forever” is currently available at Drive-Through Fiction, both as an electronic download and in print.
http://www.drivethrufiction.com/product/97813/With-a-Single-Wish-Forever

What projects are you working on at the moment that you’d like to share with our readers?

I started writing Roleplaying Games and supplements for those games shortly after filming ended on the Dungeon Masters. That’s proven to be fairly rewarding… personally, if not financially. Since 2007, I’ve written, edited, and done art for over two hundred products which are available online through RPGNow.com.

Most recently I revamped some of the older products and produced a roleplaying game called the Victory System. It allows for high-energy cinematic style roleplay in Fantasy, Near-Modern, and Space settings, or in a custom setting of a GM’s design. It has a bunch of supplements as well which allow for customization of equipment, animals, monsters, and other game elements. There are also alternate rules and expanded lists of magic spells, mechanica (Cyberware), martial arts abilities, psionic disciplines, and even super powers. The system as a whole is sort of my magnum opus as far as writing games goes; I’m still working on books that describe default settings for campaigns in all of the main eras of play.

My whole catalog can be found at

http://www.rpgnow.com/browse/pub/751/Dakkar-Unlimited

While the Victory System, specifically, is at

http://www.rpgnow.com/product/104033/The-Victory-System–Core-Rulebook

You have a vlog that you have been doing on your website mattersofdecorum.com, I know you have taken a short hiatus from it; are there any plans to return to doing more episodes?

There are… I’m trying to work up the creative and personal energy to get back to a weekly show. Hopefully, things will look more steady within a month or so, and I’ll be able to devote some proper time and effort to ‘Matters’

Do you have any plans of returning to the field of writing? Specifically books and short stories?

I have a few novellas that I’d like to get out of my system, and there might be a short story anthology in me somewhere. I’m keeping notes on the concepts and ideas that I want to get written; at some point, I’m sure they’ll hit critical mass and I’ll have no choice but to type. When I have the creative energies to do the actual writing, there’s plenty there to work on.

What challenges have you faced recently or in your past that you have conquered or are in the process of conquering?

I suppose the big one is that back in December, I was diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the back of the mouth/throat/base of the tongue… or, in shorter terms, that I have cancer. Since then, I’ve undergone seven weeks of intensive Radiation and Chemotherapy, and I’m waiting on some tests to see what my current prognosis is. When I talk about not having creative or personal energy, that’s pretty much it. I’ve lost about a hundred pounds and all of my teeth. There are still some tubes in my body, pending the findings of the prognosis, so it’s next to impossible to work out or get myself back in shape right now. On the upside, though, I DID need to lose the weight (although I don’t recommend the process), and the Radiation appears to have given me the super-power of being able to rock a goatee. Literally… I can’t grow beard anywhere else on my face.

So, I need to get to a point where I can eat properly and exercise again. Until then, there’s a lot more sleeping in my day than I’m really comfortable with, which takes away most of the time that I’d like to spend on my writing and other pursuits.

Editor’s Note: Speaking from experience, cancer is a tough row to hoe. Scott has set up a GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/typ398nw to help offset the costs of recovering from his bout of cancer. I strongly encourage everyone to visit his page and donate. It’s not potato salad but you’d be helping a fellow human being return to a normal way of life. Thank you for your consideration.

What is one thing that you wish you could travel back in time and change?

Back in my younger and more foolish days, I had a relationship that was very good for me. I destroyed it in a foolish fit of utter selfishness, suffered for that mistake, and have been forced to wonder what could have been if only I hadn’t of been such an idiot. I think I’d definitely travel back and let myself know that it wasn’t going to be worth it… that I would never gain anything close to what I was about to lose.

That, or convince Hitler to stick with the art thing instead of going into politics… although I think that would cause a lot more ripples in the time-stream, ultimately, and I just don’t have the computing power to work out whether or not something worse would have happened as a result. So, yeah, I think I’ll stick with the “undo being an idiot in my twenties” thing.

What do you see in your future? What goals and dreams do you see yourself achieving? What sort of obstacles do you see, both internal and external that may prevent you from achieving those goals and dreams?

In the very near future? Get better and get stronger. I’ve been given a unique opportunity to rebuild my body from the foundations up, basically… losing a hundred pounds and being on a diet of medical formula for a few months has cleaned out a lot of space for “rebuilding.” I have a gym membership that I haven’t used to the best of my ability; when I am able, I’m hitting that gym. I’m going to try and control my eating habits, improving the quality of food that I eat while reducing the quantity. I’m going to avoid the heart attack that was waiting for my father and my brother by the age of fifty, and get back to being an active husband and father.

Past that? I’m going to either expand my own YouTube channel or start another, teaming with some of my Uncle Drac friends to produce shows on gaming, cooking, and perhaps some more “Magical Clubhouse” material with better production quality. I’m going to write some novellas, and produce some more gaming material for my own Victory System and for other systems. I’m going to get back to being a creative individual, and try to make it not only a living, but a good one at that.

The only real thing that can get between me and success in all of this, really, is me. My lack of drive, my poor discipline… if I fail at any of this, I can’t point a finger and say “it wasn’t my fault.” That’s the problem with being my own boss and trying to get along by creating content. If it doesn’t get done, it’s because I didn’t do it.

I’d like to thank Scott for taking the time to do this interview.

Scott can be reached at: https://www.facebook.com/scott.corum.5

‘The Dungeon Masters’ can be found on Amazon.com at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0034CK5Q0

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‘The Dungeon Masters’ starring Scott Corum

‘The Dungeon Masters’ IMDB page can be found HERE.

Interview with Rosemary Hines author of Out of a Dream

by Christopher C. Meeker

I sat down with Rosemary Hines to discuss Out of a Dream, her first book in the Sandy Cove series. Let’s see what she had to say.

Synopsis:

A young woman’s desperate attempts to find answers to a series of disturbing nightmares leads her on a spiritual journey that will change her life.

Rosemary Hines, author of Out of a Dream available on Amazon.com now.
Rosemary Hines, author of Out of a Dream available on Amazon.com now.

How long have you been writing? How long did it take to write your book? And what motivated you to write it?

I began writing Out of a Dream about twenty years ago. It was published in 2011. My own spiritual journey was the most significant motivating factor for writing it.

Is it a stand-alone novel or part of a series? If it’s part of a series, how did you decide to make it a series? How long will the series run?

Out of a Dream is the first book in my Sandy Cove Series. When my son first heard about the story idea, he suggested a series, and I agreed. I thought the series would be a trilogy. But readers have become so attached to the characters that they email me asking how things are going with them. That sparked a fourth book, which is just about to be released. It will be followed by a Christmas novella. After that, I’m not certain whether there will be more Sandy Cove books or not.

What has been the most difficult part of your writing experience? Dealing with publishers, agents, editors getting reviews, query letters, what?

Initially, it was the whole chase-a-publisher routine. But now I’ve taken a different route and am so much happier with the complete control and substantially higher royalties I make as an indie author.

Describe your writing process. Do you outline, create rough synopses, do you do detailed biographies of the characters before starting to write?

Although I do some outlining before I begin a novel, most of it is written from a flow of consciousness as I enter into their world.

Describe where you do your writing.

Most of my writing is done at my kitchen table, which looks out over open space and mountains.

If you had to do the experience of writing your work over, would you still write it? Would you change it? How?

I would definitely do this again, as is evidenced by my continually growing series. The only change I would make would be to go indie sooner. I really believe this is the future of publishing, especially since traditional houses now require their authors to promote the books and maintain sales levels, while they happily take a percentage of their earnings.

How did you choose the title?

A friend in a writer’s group recommended the title to me. It stuck and every title in the series is now a prepositional phrase ~ Out of a Dream, Through the Tears, Into Magnolia, and Around the Bend. The title of the Christmas novella will follow suit with From the Heart.

Can you summarize your book in 140 characters or less (Tweet size)?

Out of a Dream ~ Bestselling inspirational fiction. Captivating characters, suspenseful storyline, and thought-provoking themes.

Who were the authors that influenced you? What about them and their style appeals to you?

My favorite authors in my particular genre of Contemporary Christian Fiction are Francine Rivers and Karen Kingsbury. They have probably influenced me the most.

What did you learn that surprised you while writing your book? What was the most difficult part?

In the early stages of writing Out of a Dream, I thought that I, the author, would determine all the characters actions and reactions. It really surprised me when they began taking on a life of their own, and I found them telling me their story rather than the other way around.
The most difficult part is when I hit a writer’s block and have to walk away for a few days or even weeks.

How much literary license do you take with your stories? Do you create fictional locations? Do you use real locations, with some fictionalizing or do you stick very close to the actual setting? Why?

I use some real and some fictional settings, but I heavily research all medical scenes and even the weather and atmosphere of the broader locations of my settings. My stories are all very realistic, and I think that’s why my readers get so attached to the characters.

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Out of a Dream by Rosemary Hines.

Rosemary can be reached at:

www.rosemaryhines.com
https://www.facebook.com/RosemaryHinesAuthorPage
http://www.amazon.com/Rosemary-Wesley-Hines/e/B005H8D8TU

Her book is available now on amazon.com at:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JJR28M8

Interview with Jessica Albee author of The Daughter of Fate

by Christopher C. Meeker

I recently had the opportunity to interview Jessica Albee and this is what she had to say about her first book The Daughter of Fate.

Synopsis:

It started with Death and Creation. It ended with Death. A young woman’s fate entangled with the fate of the most unlikely of men. Recent college grad Mackenzie Blake finds herself in a unique predicament when her grandfather tells her she bears the power of a fate. Anything she writes will come to past. Learning about her family and her past, she soon finds herself on the run from all sorts of creatures and people, including a handsome charming man by the name of Father Gabriel Vella. What happen when a priest, who fails to kill a heretic, meets a young woman desperate to survive? What happens when the supernatural collides with the real and the two pair up? Can the two of them survive when the rest of the world is against them?

Jessica Albee author of The Daughter of Fate
Jessica Albee author of The Daughter of Fate

How long have you been writing? How long did it take to write your book? And what motivated you to write it?

Officially I started writing when I was in 7th grade. One of my favorite things to write was fan fiction. It took probably almost a year to write my book. A table top role-play game between me and my husband and a good friend inspired this book. This book is loosely based on a particular game session.

Is it a stand-alone novel or part of a series? If it’s part of a series, how did you decide to make it a series? How long will the series run?

This book will be part of a series. I decided to turn this into a series when the first one ended and things were left unexplained. Also that I had more ideas for things to happen. Characters that were connected but whose story was finished. It will be a trilogy. The second will be “the son of time and the third will be ” the child of death”.

Do any of your characters have secrets you can share with our readers?

I suppose I could hint that Elliot and Kendra are not what they seem. I could also tell the readers that Michael is very important but as to why would ruin the book. Otherwise there’s not much I can tell you without giving things away.

If you were to be offered a movie deal, who would you like to see play the main characters? And why?

I had already thought this through actually. I would have Jim Caviezel play Gabriel Vella and Karen Gillan play Mackenzie Blake. Other than the obvious reasons, those are who popped in my head when writing the chars; they work well. Mackenzie is a small red head from Ireland (even though Gillan is Scottish) and Gabriel is a tall lean man with a decent height difference. Also other than I love their acting another big thing is the obvious age difference. Mackenzie is 20 years younger than Gabriel so I want it to be believable.

Describe your writing process. Do you outline, create rough synopses, do you do detailed biographies of the characters before starting to write?

Well I didn’t outline at first, I simply started writing, but not in any order. I wrote whatever scenes came to my head. I had probably fifteen to twenty separate documents with scenes written. After that I wrote detailed bios of each char, I actually have them up on a website but I don’t share it anymore because I don’t want spoilers. I then wrote out each event on a note card and put them in some kind of order. Though it was more trial and error than anything.

What didn’t you mention in the synopsis that you can reveal here?

There’s not much out of the synopsis that I can’t reveal here because it would give some details away that could ruin the book. I wish there was. Let me think. The only thing I can reveal that’s not in the synopsis, is the age difference between Kenzie and Gabriel. There’s a huge one, about twenty years and it is actually rather important.

Describe where you do your writing.

As weird as this sounds I do my writing anywhere. I used to do it on napkins and scrap paper when I worked retail, but not I do it most on my tablet when I’m work .I work a night job 11pm to 7am so I do a lot of writing on my tablet and if I don’t have my tablet again it will go down on scrap paper or if I’m not at my laptop in a notebook. I have a notebook and a half of ideas for this book.

If you had to do the experience of writing your work over, would you still write it? Would you change it? How?

I would not want to start over. I would still love to write it. I would change it a bit as I would make it longer. I made this book shorter than I wanted to, but I think other than that, I would keep it the same. Though maybe add a bit more detail, explain a few more things, but that’s okay. It was my first real finished writing.

How did you choose the title?

The title of the book was actually quite easy to pick. Anyone born to the fates is known as the daughters of fate. Well since Kenzie is the last of the fate’s descendants (though a granddaughter). It made more sense to call her a daughter of fate rather than a granddaughter. Also the main title: The children of fate series will be an indicator that there are more than one child of fate.

Who were the authors that influenced you? What about them and their style appeals to you?

Authors such as Lara Adrian and Stephen King influenced me. Also some writings by Niccolo Machiavelli as weird as it is. I honestly couldn’t tell you what made them so influential to me, just that something about them made me like them. Lara Adrian just knows how to tell a good story, Stephen King knows how to capture an audience and I just admire the sarcasm in Machiavelli’s writing.

How much literary license do you take with your stories? Do you create fictional locations? Do you use real locations, with some fictionalizing or do you stick very close to the actual setting? Why?

I didn’t create fictional locations. It takes place over the course of many different countries, starting in Ireland, Kenzie was born to places such as Italy and France and even Boston at one point. I didn’t change any locations except maybe adding in the names of buildings. I made up a night club, but that was about it. I did not make up names of cities or countries.

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Jessica can be reached at:

Email: jessicaalbee56@gmail.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Jessica-Albee/536328549794852

Susannah’s Mind: An Interview With Susannah Cord

by Nick Wale

Susannah Cord, author, horsewoman, thinker, wife, friend… What does she think about when she writes pages of a book? Why did she even become a writer? How does anyone become a writer? I have questions and Susannah has answers. This is the first interview on her brand new blog tour. I think you will love it!

Who do you have in mind when you write?

This is going to sound really corny, but I don’t really have anyone in mind unless of course I am describing a certain person, but even then, what I really have in mind is not a who but a what – a feeling, a reaching inside for the right words to describe the truth of how a person or thing or situation makes me feel. A desire to tell this in a way that will reach out and grab someone in a beneficial manner. I have said before that I write from the heart first and foremost, and this applies to everything. I write from how something or someone makes me feel, and I want to pass that on as best I can.

Have you always aspired to be a writer? 

~ Not with any real intention, no. I was a prolific dabbler in writing for most of my life. But it was something I did because it helped me, made me feel better, find clarity when I was hurting and confused, and because whatever was bottled up inside came out and became a creative rather than a destructive exercise.

Tell me about how you became a writer—what was the first step for you?

It was a very slow process. It started when I was four and tried to copy my mother’s grocery list which looked like an orderly line of intriguing hieroglyphics. My earnest attempt to reproduce that effect looked like worms tripping on LSD in a puddle of milk, so it was disappointing to say the least, not to mention frustrating, but, to my credit, I persevered.

In time, the worms metamorphosed into words and the words carried meaning and my repertoire expanded as it came to include a lot of essays, poetry and prose, lyrics to songs no one would ever sing, a column for an equestrian magazine, a blog and ultimately, my first book, a fairytale I wrote for my niece Zoe and published to honour the memory of my mother. When I first held that real book in my hands, that was the moment I felt that desire to do more, the moment I thought “Wait a minute. I can do this. I WANT to do this. I have a lot more to say and write.” Then the safari to Kenya came along and the rest, as they say, will one day be history…

Do you have a distinctive “voice” as a writer?

Of course, I like to think I do, and this is where I get to say that several editors have told me I do, but ultimately, like beauty, I think that will be in the mind of the reader. One musician told me once that I phrase musically, and I don’t even know what that means, but apparently he thought it was pretty cool, so there you go. That’s my answer- but of course, I phrase musically, don’t you know?

Do you think anyone can learn to be an effective writer or is it an unnamed spiritual gift?

What an interesting question. It immediately makes me think of horses and riders. Because in the equestrian world we talk about people that are gifted with ‘feel’ and how it simply cannot be taught. You can teach technique, you can teach someone how to ride and how to master exercises and how to be an effective and capable rider, but you cannot teach them how to feel, how to intuit just the right thing to do in that split second moment of decision. You can teach them an approximation of that feel, but to actually have feel, no. You just can’t. And that is what separates a great rider from a good one.

Some will say you can teach it using technology, but I say you can’t – because feel comes from the inside, from spirit. Feel is an intuiting of the information carried in pure energy and we and the horse read this with a sixth sense that you will not find in machines. You are riding the horse and you are both riding a wave of energy between you.  I was gifted with a lot of this ‘feel’ as a rider and I cannot tell someone how I knew to do just that in that moment, I did it because it felt right, not because that was a technique I learned. More often than not, I am not even sure what I did, it might have been as simple as relaxing one body part while tensing another, sending the horse a subtle message only he felt and understood. And it might not work tomorrow but then my ‘feel’ will tell me what to do then.

So I would think the same applies to writing. You can teach good grammar, techniques, rules etc etc and just like riding horses, these are necessary. You have to know the rules in order to break them well, and you have to have good technique to bend them. But knowing just how to build a sentence for maximum effect and beauty, how to bend the rules just so in order to sway the sentence with a touch of magic – that is something that comes from the heart and spirit, woven independently of and yet within the confines of rules and technique. And either you access that or you don’t.

Was there a point at which you felt this would be a career?

Yes and no. First it was just a slow awakening to the idea that this was something I could do and do full time and be effective – that yes, I did have a voice. It had me thinking. Then I had an offer out of the blue to write a book for one of the world’s premier equestrian publishers with one of our most interesting, out of the box, horsemen and that was the moment I realized this could be for real. Ultimately, I had to put that project on the back burner because the riding safari project came along, but it’s still there in the back of my mind, and it was the trigger that made me consider taking myself seriously as a writer.

Is there a book you’re most proud of?

~ Not yet. I am on my third book and so far all three have been so different – Fenella is an illustrated fairytale, Seeds of Change is a book of essays and photography and my new book, Each Wind That Blows is a memoir – so I am proud of each, each in their own way. They all challenged me in different ways, taught me different things.

Writing is so internal, in the head, how do you release the pressure before you begin writing?

~ Exercise, yoga and meditation. Either my morning workout and/or working with my horses which can be like a meditation in movement. I attend yoga classes twice a week and practice at home along with rebounding and using a ski machine. It clears my mind and grounds me for the task ahead. Being with the horses is being in Nature and it connects me with that indefinable sense of spirit that I always try to write from. I often say a little prayer before I write, asking for guidance to find the right words and to be guided to the stories that need to be written.

On average, how long does it take for you to write your ideas down before you start writing a book?

~ A few seconds and minutes here and there, mostly it is all in my head and in the mental fog, waiting to be revealed. So far my writing, except Fenella, has been heavily based upon personal experience so mostly I just open that vault and go. If – and it is a dream of mine – I one day attempt to write a full blown fiction or fantasy saga, then I am sure that will change and some serious planning will have to go into it as well as my usual ‘go with the flow’ rule.

What would you say is the “defining” factor in your writing? What makes it yours?

~ For now, I would say the fact that it is drawn from personal experience to a great degree. But also that I simultaneously consciously invite Spirit in to form my words and tell the story in the best possible way, that will mean something to the reader. It isn’t just about me needing to figure this out on paper, or wanting to share my experiences, thoughts and ideas, it is about what is my experience worth to someone else. I don’t know that, only Spirit has the big picture and I consciously turn it over and surrender my ideas to Spirit, God, Source, call it what you will. And I am often very, very surprised at what comes out.

How do you guard your time to do what’s most important?

I am absolutely terrible at that. If you know how to do that, do let me know. I get so caught up in what I am doing, be it horses, writing or photography that I lose track of time and I have a hell of time switching gears once I get comfortable in one. It is one of the great challenges of my day to day life to balance these many passions of mine. So basically, it’s an exercise in self-discipline that I have yet to master.

What are some of the more common distractions you struggle with and what ways have you found to overcome them?

I don’t have many real distractions because they are all my passions and they fill up my day but there is one that qualifies as outright distraction although it’s also part of where I keep up with conservation efforts worldwide as part of my project, The Katika Nuru Project. It’s embarrassing, but Facebook can be a major distraction. I have liked so many Nature pages, photographers, conservation organizations and so on, and this is mostly what shows up in my feed so it’s great for keeping up with what’s happening. But if I am not careful, an hour goes by with me watching what they caught on camera and the latest, cutest elephant video or rare snow leopard footage or I am signing petitions for conservation and animals all over the world….

What kind of review do you take to heart?

A good one! I try to take any review, the good and the bad, with a grain of salt. Every review will still be through the filter of that human being’s perspective and he/she and I may not be on the same page never mind the same planet at all. If something still sticks with me after a few days, I will take that to heart as a sign of a grain of truth to be considered, something I maybe kind of knew but wasn’t ready to face on my own. Even a compliment can be hard to accept, that is how twisted the human mind can be.

How do you decide what your next book will be about?

I don’t. I am told by my manager upstairs and when I understand those are the marching orders, I go where I’m led. Of course, I make some kind of decision to comply with this and that is when I get that feeling that no matter now frightening the concept is to me, how vulnerable it might make me feel, how overwhelming or not what I thought I’d be doing, I can’t not do it. That is when I decide to do as I am told, so to speak, that is when I say yes, I will follow my nose, my heart.

Was there a link between your childhood and your vocation as a writer?

Only in so far as I have always enjoyed writing, from the time I could only make psychedelic worms appear on paper to the time I wrote my first story at six or seven. But our family was very science oriented, I come from a family of engineers so it was ‘nice’ that I wrote well, but it was never encouraged as a vocation. I was going to be an engineer, or a doctor or a vet or an archaeologist, but a writer was never on the menu. Well, now we know how that turned out.

As a writer, however, you have the opportunity to self-reflect, to revisit experiences. How does that feel?

Mostly, cathartic. Sometimes, disturbing, confusing, challenging. I have spent sleepless nights wondering what really happened, why did I do what I did, say what I said, what was really going on, what was the lesson. That is when I turn it over to Spirit and say, OK, show me, what the hell was that really all about? And Spirit always does. I start writing and understanding begins to dawn as the words pour out.

What motivates you to tackle the issues others may avoid, such as nature and spirituality?

Just an inner drive and conviction, that is my world, it is where I live and am the most content, it is what I am the best equipped to write about. Write what you know. Well, that is what I know. And it seems there is a corresponding need for readers to have that to read about. Fortunately!

When you start a new book do you know how a book will end as you’re writing it?  Or does its direction unfold during the writing, research and/or creative process?

I usually think I know, and I am usually wrong. I am always happy to be wrong. It is very much an unfolding, creative process, as you say, and that to me is part of the fun of writing, not being entirely in control, it being a collaborative process between me and Spirit, because as I said before, Spirit sees the big picture where I get mired in details and can’t see the forest for the trees. So to say, OK, here is what I think I am inspired to write, and how I think I should write it, but what do you think? And then just let it flow and see where it goes, it is just a fantastic ride.

That has never been more true than with Each Wind That Blows. When I started that book, I had no idea it would be about so much more than a riding safari in Kenya. It’s been full of surprises. Several of my first test readers said it needs more about your childhood and mother, and I sat there going, oh shoot. That’s really personal and do I want to go there and where do I start? But I also kind of knew they were right. So before every writing session I’d ask “What do I tell?” and boom, it would pop into my head. It was rarely what I expected but I’d write it and lo and behold, it made beautiful sense in the end.

How do your books speak to people, both inside and outside the reading world?

I think, emphasis on think, because I don’t actually know, I think my writing speaks to people because I write from my place of truth, to be as authentic as I know how, and do my very best to remain absolutely true to that. What I often heard from my readers of my equestrian column was “Thank you for saying that. I always knew that, but didn’t know how to express it.” So me writing from my place of truth excites that truth in them, and off we go.

How do you see your role in impacting and influencing society?

Oh, this is a dangerous question, it invites all kinds of self-aggrandizement! Really, I guess history will tell. But! It’s very tempting to speculate, of course. If I were to be bold, I would say simply I am a messenger. I ask Spirit to help me write in a way that reaches people, and thereby I become a messenger. I don’t have to know what the message is for each individual person, because every person will have their own interpretation of my story and what it means to them, I only have to write in such a way that Spirit gets to speak through me and let’s a little magic loose on the world. If that were to be true in the rear view window of history, I would be very content.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you like to do?

There are many careers that could fascinate me. Archaeologist, marine biologist, conservationist, astronomer, nature photographer, host of a wildlife show, explorer, that kind of thing.

Do you look at yourself as an “envelope pusher” with your writing?

Not really. I just write what comes to me. It can be pushing some personal boundaries, in fact, it should be, but I don’t see myself as that on a larger scale. I wouldn’t mind if others thought that, though! It sounds kind of cool. I’ve never been cool before, that I know of.

What are some pieces of advice that you would give someone on writing well?

Oh, there are so many, but most of all, just start. Just freaking start writing. Like anything, it improves with practice. And don’t cuss. It looks bloody awful on paper and can’t frigging be erased once the crap’s been published.

Young writers often make foolish mistakes. What is a mistake to avoid?

Trying to be something you’re not, falling in love with a writer and trying to be like them. Trying to be Hemingway or Steinbeck or any number of famed authors. Read them, be inspired, be informed, be educated, soak it all up like a sponge and then go distil and be who you are. Write as you, and write your truth as best you can. And don’t believe your own press, good or bad. If they don’t like what you write, let them write their own damn book. If they love you, be grateful, stay humble. Pretentiousness always stinks. Stay honest, especially with yourself and you will have no regrets when you reread your work years later.

What obstacles and opportunities do you see for writers in the years ahead?

Writing for an increasingly technological age, an age of instant gratification, Youtube Videos, high tech games, and I am very afraid, generations of children who are increasingly out of touch with the wonderful fun in the reality of a bucket of dirt and a few earthworms, growing up to be people who need more than words on a page to catch their imagination. Worms are a recurring theme, notice that?

Which is more exciting for you, writing or riding?

Oh no, you don’t! There is no comparison, I won’t even try. Each is a thrilling and fabulous journey in its own way, each is a ton of work, an exercise in self-discipline, self-mastery, a day by day spiritual endeavour, an invitation to collaborate creatively with spirit while just showing up, day after day, good days, bad days, in between days. I will say this, after a day of working horses I look forward to plonking into my chair and resting my body on something that does not move while still being gainfully employed writing something. That is very exciting after twenty years as a professional horse trainer, to ride for fun and write for a living.

Could you talk about one work of creative art that has powerfully impacted you as a person?

Hmm, tough question, as there have been many. Chronicles of Narnia taught me early on about right and wrong, difficult moral choices, the virtues of loyalty and honesty and my love for fantasy and animal. Illusions by Richard Bach reawakened my spiritual self when I was seventeen and had lost touch with that part of myself for a few years. Illusions got me searching for what I had lost.

And at twelve, seeing a photo of a masterful horseman of the twentieth century named Nuno Oliviera imprinted me directly and immediately with what kind of horsewoman I wanted to be, there was some kind of magic in that photo, in the expression of horse and rider, the synergy that flowed between them that told me this was horsemanship as an artform and I knew it was where I belonged. I knew I had to know what he knew, that my ‘feel’ mirrored if not equalled, his. I spent the next thirty years searching until miraculously, I came across one of his long time students who is my beloved teacher today. I will never be as good as Oliveira, but I will die trying. It is a quest of sorts.

What relationship do you see between imagination and creativity, and the real world?

They are all inter-changeable. My real world is someone else’s fantasy, there are those who would find me delusional and I would find them lacking in faith and imagination. Our imagination creates and colours our reality and our creativity defines the how and when and how far, how to. None would exist without the other, they are completely symbiotic. All are inter-related and beholden to the reality we have created as a mass of consciousness. That is the mass reality, but our own, day to day, personal reality is very much affected by our imagination and willingness to give ourselves over to our power of creativity. It’s our secret super powers, creativity and imagination. And ‘the real world’ is our playground.

For a writer, it is easy to become an elitist.  Have you ever, or do you still, struggle with pride as an author?

I struggle with pride as a human, period. I am deeply passionate about whatever I take on, be it training horses, writing something, gardening, photography, being a good friend or pursuing spiritual understanding and growth, and with such passion comes positive  pride as an expression of integrity and virtue, knowing you are giving it your all. But pride, like anything else can have a dark side when it becomes controlling and domineering and self-congratulatory and I do have to keep an eye on that.

With all your success, how do you stay humble?

I remember that I am a child of God, Source, the Universe, but then, so is everyone else. My gifts are not my own really, but a blessed synergy between me and Spirit, an agreement that I entered into to put this gifted brain and body to good use, take good care of myself so I can be available to play my part such as it is. I am here as a cog in a great divine machine, I am not the machine nor do I run the machine alone. And I still muck stalls, do my own laundry, take out the trash and do the dishes. So just how special can I be?

Have you ever considered writing fiction full time?

No. Variety is the spice of life so I think I will always go from one end of the spectrum to another and visit some places in between. I can’t imagine saying I will just write one thing from now on. As for full time, writing will always be just one of the things I do. I also cannot imagine giving up training horses and it is just as demanding and fulfilling an endeavour for me as writing. And better exercise! I have to get out and move every day or I get very grumpy. And that’s bad. Ask anybody.

 

Interview with Ken Farmer and Buck Stienke authors of Legend of Aurora

I had the great honor of interviewing Ken Farmer and Buck Stienke authors of Legend of Aurora earlier this afternoon. Ken is an actor and producer known for Friday Night Lights (2004), Silverado (1985) and RocketMan(1997). Buck is a singer / songwriter and guitarist and lived on the ranch of LBJ during Johnson’s presidency. Here’s what they had to say.

 

Ken Farmer
Ken Farmer
Buck Stienke
Buck Stienke

After proudly serving his country as a US Marine, Ken Farmer attended Stephen F. Austin State University on a full football scholarship, receiving his Bachelors Degree in Business and Speech & Drama. Ken quickly discovered his love for acting when he starred as a cowboy in a Dairy Queen commercial when he was raising registered Beefmaster cattle and Quarter Horses at his ranch in East Texas. Ken has over 41 years as a professional actor, with memorable roles Silverado, Friday Night Lights, The Newton Boys and Uncommon Valor. He was the spokesman for Wolf Brand Chili for eight years. Ken was a professional and celebrity Team Penner for over twenty years—twice penning at the National Finals—and participated in the Ben Johnson Pro-Celebrity Rodeos until Ben’s death in ‘96. Ken now lives near Gainesville, TX, where he continues to write novels.

Ken wrote a screenplay back in the ’80s, The Tumbleweed Wagon. He and his writing partner, Buck Stienke adapted it to a historical fiction western, THE NATIONS—a Finalist for the Elmer Kelton Award. They released the sequel, HAUNTED FALLS—winner of the Laramie Award for Best Action Western, 2013—in June of 2013. HELL HOLE was the third in the Bass Reeves saga written by Ken alone.

Buck and Ken have completed ten novels to date together including the westerns. BLACK EAGLE FORCE: Eye of the Storm, BLACK EAGLE FORCE: Sacred Mountain, Return of the Starfighter, BLACK EAGLE FORCE: Blood Ivory, BLOOD BROTHERS with Doran Ingrham and lastly, BLACK EAGLE FORCE: Fourth Reich, THE NATIONS and HAUNTED FALLS.

Buck Stienke is a native Texan originally from Houston. He spent many of his formative years in the Texas hill country, and lived on the LBJ ranch when Lyndon Johnson was president. His love of almost all things Texan extends to movies, books as well as music. He’s an accomplished guitarist and singer / songwriter. In fact, a country song he wrote inspired this novel. Buck has an extensive knowledge of guns, modern gunsmithing and ballistics.

Buck and his writing partner, Ken Farmer, have published ten novels to date. Six have been from a series of best-selling BLACK EAGLE FORCE Military/Techno novels : Eye of the Storm, Sacred Mountain, Return of the Starfighter, Blood Ivory, Blood Brothers. They also wrote a pair of historical fiction westerns: The Nations and Haunted Falls (Laramie Award winner – 2013). Devil’s Canyon was Buck’s first solo effort.

 

“Legend of Aurora”

1897 – The human race almost falls victim to malevolent alien conquerors…and we never knew. With over six billion inhabitants is it about to happen again?

A gifted, irascible small town detective with a rather warped sense of humor, Darrell Ulysses Bone, known by all as just ‘Bone’, becomes involved in a 100 plus year old mystery surrounding an UFO crash near the north Texas town of Aurora.

Bone befriends a diminutive woman being threatened by the heavy-handed tactics of an unscrupulous oil exploration company trying to grab her land for a gas play. She is also in danger from a malevolent race of aliens known as the Reptoids.

“You have been warned,” the alien said as he pointed a silver tube at Bone. A greenish beam reached out…

Bone’s godfather and shaman, Padrino (an empath), deduces that the diminutive woman is actually a survivor of that legendary 1897 spacecraft crash and is stranded on our planet.

“Lucy is not of this world, Bone…I believe she is indeed the missing Annuna…”

 

How long have you been writing? How long did it take to write your book? And what motivated you to write it?

We started writing about seven years ago…screen plays. Three years ago, a friend of mine (Ken) from the Marine Corps called and said he had written a novel. I said, good for you, John. He asked if Buck and I could adapt it to a screenplay and I said, sure, send it down. He sent a 967 page novel…over 350,000 words. Oboy! Long story short, we finished a 120 page theatrical screenplay in about two months. It’s currently going through the rounds at Disney. But, Buck and I looked at each other and simultaneously said: “Hell, we can write a novel.” Three months later, we finished our first, “Black Eagle Force: Eye of the Storm”. That was forty-four months ago and we are working on #14. We are currently writing in three genre, Military/action, Historical Fiction Western and SciFi.

Is it a stand-alone novel or part of a series? If it’s part of a series, how did you decide to make? it a series? How long will the series run?

This particular novel started out as a TV pilot three years ago and we kept coming up with story lines. We just decided to adapt it to a novel just recently and it’s definitely a part of a series…everything we write is a series. We decided to make this one a series when we came up with over two hundred plot lines. The series will run until it is finished.

What has been the most difficult part of your writing experience? Dealing with publishers, agents, editors getting reviews, query letters, what?

Finding enough time to write all the stuff we have running around our heads.

Do any of your characters have secrets you can share with our readers?

Our main character, D. U. Bone or just “Bone” is impulse controlled challenged. Not even he knows what he’s going to do next.

If you were to be offered a movie deal, who would you like to see play the main characters? And why?

The Rock (Dewayne Johnson) would make a great Bone. It’s obvious.
Lucy (the alien) Linda Hunt (wrote the part for her). Worked with her on “Silverado”.
Padrino – Alex Cord (wrote the part for him)

Describe your writing process. Do you outline, create rough synopses, do you do detailed biographies of the characters before starting to write?

No, we’re pantsers. Have no idea how it’s going to turn out when we start. We see the characters in our minds, come up with a basic story and just start writing. Sometimes we surprise our selves with what happens.

What didn’t you mention in the synopsis that you can reveal here?

If we told you we’d have to kill you… and it wouldn’t be pretty.

Describe where you do your writing

Some at home and some in the office at Buck’s gun shop (Lone Star Shooting Supply) and then blend it all together.

If you had to do the experience of writing your work over, would you still write it? Would you change it? How?

Of course. If the story is there, we got to write it.

How did you choose the story you wrote?

It chose us. We’ve always been fascinated with the story of the UFO crash at Aurora, Texas back on April 17, 1897. There was nobody around to cover it up. Thought it was feasible there could have been a survivor and it just evolved from there. We actually live within fifty miles of Aurora. We just decided to blend the story with a character we patterned after a real person we both knew here in Gainesville…Bone. It just seemed to work. We made Gainesville into the fictional town of Cross. We know the area well.

 

Find out more about “Legend of Aurora” here:

http://www.timbercreekpress.net

timbercreekpress@yahoo.com

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KOZ7F4A

Interview with Cinta García de la Rosa author of The Funny Adventures of Little Nani

Here is a brief interview with Cinta Garcia del la Rosa author of The Funny Adventures of Little Nani that I’d like to share with you.

Cinta Garcia de la Rosa author of The Funny Adventures of Little Nani
Cinta Garcia de la Rosa author of The Funny Adventures of Little Nani

Cinta Garcia de la Rosa is a Spanish writer who has loved the written word since she discovered she was able to read books at age 5. Since then, she has become a bookworm and reads around 100 books every year. She also writes, every day, compulsively, even in the middle of the night. You cannot control when inspiration hits you, can you? She writes in English because she is convinced that in a previous life she was British, so writing in English feels more natural to her than writing in her native language. Yes, she is crazy like that. She now spends her time between Spain and Phoenix, Arizona, with her amazing husband, which is great because the long flights let her catch up with her long list of books to read. Cinta Garcia is the author of “The Funny Adventures of Little Nani”, a collection of short stories for children, “A Foreigner in London”, a short story published on the anthology “Blessings from the Darkness”, and “Never Again”, a chilling short story included in the anthology of scary stories titled “Satan’s Holiday” and written under her pen name, Rosa Storm.

Little Nani is a little girl who likes helping people. However, when she helps people the results can be a bit unexpected. Why is that? Little Nani is a witch! Or at least she wants to be a witch. With her magic wand, she will try to cast different spells to help her friends, but she won’t be successful all the time.
Follow Little Nani in her funny adventures and meet her extraordinary friends. Funny ostriches, horses that love reading, super-fast turtles, grumpy zombies… Little Nani has lots of friends! You can also draw your own characters!
Little Nani is willing to become a good witch. Will she manage to do it? Who knows? Read the stories and discover what happens next!

How long have you been writing? How long did it take to write your book? And what motivated you to write it?
I have been writing since I was a kid. Indeed, I won a literary contest when I was eight; I won with a tale about a rabbit who was concerned about the environment. It didn’t take me long to write my book, because once that the main character decided to live inside my head, it was very easy to write the stories. My main motivation for writing this book was the encouragement of friends and readers of my blog, who, after liking the first Little Nani story I published on my blog, told me to write a book about the naughty little witch.

Is it a stand-alone novel or part of a series? If it’s part of a series, how did you decide to make it a series? How long will the series run?
My book is part of a series of books for kids. The series will run as long as Little Nani stories keep on popping in my head. The second book in the series will be published next winter, together with a cookbook.

What has been the most difficult part of your writing experience? Dealing with publishers, agents, editors getting reviews, query letters, what
Writing is easy. The difficult part comes later. Editing, marketing, and submitting your book to different venues can be very stressful and it is the part of writing that I like the least, basically because I write with my enjoyment in mind, not with a marketing plan. However, it is part of the writing experience, so I just grind my teeth and push forward.

Do any of your characters have secrets you can share with our readers?
My characters don’t really have any secrets because they are very open when sharing everything. However, if I must confess something, I think that Thunder, the turtle, secretly likes Little Nani, although he doesn’t show that in the stories.

If you were to be offered a movie deal, who would you like to see play the main characters? And why?
Well, I see my book more like a cartoon series than like a movie, so I really have no idea.

Describe your writing process. Do you outline, create rough synopses, do you do detailed biographies of the characters before starting to write?
I am pretty much a pantser, so I don’t plan. Every time that I have tried planning, the writing has felt forced and I have gone back to writing without a plan in mind. I just start writing and let the characters choose their path. Most of the times, I get really surprised with the endings of the stories, and I love that feeling.

What didn’t you mention in the synopsis that you can reveal here?
The book includes prompts so that the reader can draw their own illustrations. I wanted to include something original for the kids, so they can make the book more unique with their own drawings.

Describe where you do your writing.
How do you describe everywhere? *giggles* I don’t really have a designated area for writing, but I basically write in any room where I have a TV. I need to have the television on in order to write. If there is only silence, I cannot focus. I know, I’m weird.

If you had to do the experience of writing your work over, would you still write it? Would you change it? How?
I would definitely still write it. I don’t think I would change many things, because I am very thorough and I never publish anything until I am 100% sure that I am happy with it.

How did you choose the story you wrote?
I was kind of accused by a friend of only writing gloomy stories, so I decided to write something humorous to prove him that I could do it too. Little Nani popped in my head, and suddenly I realised that I had created in my head several stories for her adventures in no time. So I had to put those stories down on the paper.

How did you choose the title?
I am very bad at choosing titles, so my title is a very basic one. I had wrote different adventures for Little Nani, and they were funny. There you go, The Funny Adventures of Little Nani. The title for the second book is equally lame: Little Nani and her Friends.

Can you summarize your book in 140 characters or less (Tweet size)?
Unexpected adventures and mischief by a wannabe witch and her crazy friends.

Who were the authors that influenced you? What about them and their style appeals to you?
My main influences for this book are Jane Austen and Beatrix Potter. I like their quirkiness and their wit, so I try to infuse my stories with those two traits.

What did you learn that surprised you while writing your book? What was the most difficult part?
I learnt that being an European can be sometimes a handicap in order to publish your book, especially if you want to publish your book in the States. Getting an EIN number was the most absurd and difficult ordeal that I have had to suffer in all my life. It surprised me that they made it so difficult for me to get the number. And another difficult part was to format the book for the print version; the requirements sometimes are so picky that you spend days trying to upload a version that they accept.

How much literary license do you take with your stories? Do you create fictional locations? Do you use real locations, with some fictionalizing or do you stick very close to the actual setting? Why?
Since my book is made of short stories for kids, I created a fictional world. I don’t use real locations, but I use real people and fictionalize them to be used as characters in my stories. I always tell the real person and it is real fun.

Cinta can be found at:

http://cintascorner.com

and

rosastorm78@gmail.com

Interview with Mrs. D. author of The Trees Have Hearts

Something Special For Your Children And Grandchildren!

I want to share this interview with you all. Mrs. D. is an award-winning children’s author who moved from the Ukraine to the United States of America. She brought with her some wonderful ideas about children’s books and the desire to write them. It’s important that we teach our children to read and I think I’m safe when saying that MRS. D agrees with me when I say that books can be the best friend of a child.

Enjoy this interview and don’t forget to download a copy of her charming book “The Trees Have Hearts.” which is available on Amazon. Every download will make more children aware of the wonders of reading.

How would you describe your books? Do you write in more than one genre? What are they?

When I write, I never think into what genre my story will fit. A good story always finds its place and reader. I often mix realistic fiction with modern fantasies. I think these two styles describe my books best. I twist true events with unrealistic characters, which teach children to conquer problems, build self-esteem, and overcome challenges in their lives. They also show young readers the beauty and power of nature and help them learn about the true meaning of friendship and family. It also helps them better connect to the surrounding world and care for our younger friends, the animals. I do not think that mixing two genres confuses young readers. Children easily connect to imaginary characters and often see themselves or their behavior from a different perspective.

I also like to write short stories for adult readers. I am presently working on my first novel, The Chinese Princess, and a short story, A Taste of Bread. Let’s see where my restless imagination takes me.

How long have you been writing? How long did it take to write your book? And what motivated you to write it?

I have been writing since I learned to hold a pen. I wrote my first poem when I was six. Throughout my school years, I wrote many short stories and poems in both Ukrainian and Russian. I started writing in English in 2011. Since then, I have published five children’s books. Three more are coming this year and a few more will be published in the near future.

I do not have a particular plan or schedule. I write when I feel the story, when I can’t think of anything else—just the words transforming into sentences, filling my brain until I cannot sleep. That’s how I know I have something to share. I write because I love to get lost in the imaginary world full of beautiful characters, words, and phrases.

I write because I want the same experience for the reader. I never treat writing as a job. The story should come from the heart, from the soul, from emotions, and ripen over time. Before I put my story on paper, I must feel it in my whole being. Then I know I can bring it to the reader.

I don’t look for motivation, either. I am a child of the post-WWII generation. I grew up in the Soviet Union. Each day of my life was a story. Sometimes I feel I have already lived a hundred lives. My life is my story. I am not sure if I am lucky or cursed.

Do your books stand alone, or are they part of a series? If they are part of a series, how long will the series run?

We all know that no matter how many children’s books are already written, there will never be enough stories for young readers. Most of my children’s books are published as separate stories, but any of them could be part of a series if I chose to develop them further. The problem is, I have too many stories; and is it unlikely they will all be a series. However, I gave Carlo the Mouse the chance to develop into a series.

In 2012, I published my first book, Carlo the Mouse on Vacation. It is about a hospital mouse who dreams about life outside the hospital. I was quite delighted when children started asking me what Carlo did when he was a baby. I thought about it, and then I wrote six more books about Carlo growing up in the hospital. You must already get the feeling that things did not go well for the restless and always hungry mouse. Last year I published Carlo the Mouse, Book 1: Too Many Rules for One Little Mouse. Carlo the Mouse, Book 2: Now We’re Talking! is coming at the end of 2014. So far we have illustrated six books, which will be published between 2014 and 2016.

Five more books on Carlo the Mouse are already written, edited, and ready to go to the illustration stage. I think we will have 11 books by the end of 2017. I have the feeling this series will go on, because the last letter I received from a little boy was titled: May the Story of Carlo the Mouse Never End.

I have a surprise for older readers, as well. The Little Girl Praying on the Hill will be published this summer. I am already working on the sequel for this book, A Taste of Bread. These are short stories, which I will continue to write as long as I have memories of my life in the Soviet Union.

Describe the main characters of your stories.

Usually I turn for help to nature. It never refuses to give me the inspiration for the characters I am looking for in my stories. I am fascinated by the wonders of nature, especially with the wind, trees, palms, and all kind of animals. They are wonderful characters for children. With the help of these characters, children will learn about how things change and behave in nature, and sometimes how they misbehave.

Is there any symbolism in your books that you’d care to share with potential readers?

I write children’s books that have meaning. My books are not simple; they are intended to make the young reader stop and think about the message that the story is delivering. I am a strong believer in good-quality illustrations—calming, but fun. Nothing drastic or overpowering. My books are colorful and represent the story before a child starts reading it. They are creative and perfect for a child’s growing mind. Parents can easily discuss or explain them to a child who cannot read yet.

Do any of the characters resemble you? How about friends or relatives?

Authors are often advised to write what they know best. That includes family, children, cats, and me. The Trees Have Hearts is based on my younger daughter, who could not speak English when we arrived in the United States. She was five years old, and it was heartbreaking to see her friendless because she did not fit in.

The City Kittens and the Old House Cat is based on my family and Nyda the cat, who plays some role in the Carlo the Mouse series, as well.

Runaway Clothes is a story about a little girl who did not like to take care of her clothes. As you’ve already guessed, this story is based on my children when they were young.

Good Morning, World! is an observation of my first grandson, Baby Thomas, and some people I know. We will keep their names secret.

Carlo the Mouse on Vacation is about a mouse that fell inside our car trunk when we visited our father in a Florida hospital.

The Royal Palm was unfolding in front of my eyes when I witnessed a hurricane. This is a great teaching story about a beautiful but very self-centered royal palm that learned a lesson about the real meaning of friendship when a massive storm struck.

The Little Girl Praying on the Hill has a very close connection to my early childhood in Ukraine. As you can see, I write about what I know best—life.

What is the worst thing reviewers or critics have said about your book?

Appalling! I lost sleep over this review. I felt crushed for weeks! This was my first book, and I worked so hard to bring this story to the readers. I created this book so that it could appeal to children and grown-ups. It is a fun, whimsical story, with a few unusual twists that should make readers smile. The problem is that the person who wrote that review took this story out of context. The funniest part is that whomever wrote this review did not buy the book and did not leave any contact information. I was dying to ask her how she knew so much about this book if she did not buy it. I have my suspicions, but as my grandpa would say, if you are not caught, you are not a thief. Thank God, children felt differently and gave Carlo a chance. This book gave birth to the Carlo the Mouse series. Book 1: Too Many Rules for One Little Mouse, is published and is receiving great reviews. Who knew?

What is the best thing reviewers or critics have said about your books?

I love this question. I submitted Good Morning, World! for editorial review to Readers’ Favorite. This book is about a happy Baby Thomas and his grouchy grandpa. While walking in the park they see the same things, but from a different perspective.

The key message of this book was simple: each of us has a choice, and we can wake up miserable or happy. I also wanted to show the reader how two people seeing the same things could draw very different conclusions. And, of course, I wanted children to have fun with the Grandpa character, whom I exaggerated for a reason: to show them how they may appear to others when they are grumpy.

This story brought so many discussions that I immediately landed on the “Grandpa Hit List,” including my husband, to whom this book was dedicated. Lesson learned … never underestimate the power of grandpas!

Have you tried submitting your book to publishers? Would you still want to work with a traditional publisher now that you have self-published?

No, I did not submit any of my children’s books to traditional publishers. By self-publishing, I have a better grip on my books. I like to break rules. My books are much longer than traditionally published books and they do not fall into the “cool” category.

When I came to the United States, my children were shocked by how short American children’s books were. Many times I had to come up with my own stories to make up for the story that my children found in American books.

I also love good-quality illustrations. With traditional publishers, I would not be able to work with the illustrator. Once I decided to self-publish children’s books, I cut no corners. Good illustrations are not cheap, but they help children envision the story before they read it. If the book is well-illustrated, then much younger children who can’t yet read can also enjoy the book.

What has been the most difficult part of your writing experience? Dealing with publishers, agents, editors, getting reviews, query letters, what?

All of the above! Except for the editor, with whom I have a great working relationship. Nothing comes easy when you self-publish. Self-publishing children’s books is like landing on another planet, or like going back to school. You must learn everything from scratch.

The bad part of this business is that I must learn everything and work through my own mistakes. Luckily, I was always a great student and good businessperson. I believe in high-quality products and take pride in everything I do. I also believe in honest reviews. Sadly, most readers do not leave reviews. It is time-consuming, or they just do not think that leaving a review is that important.

You did not mention marketing. It is not my cup of tea. I would rather write 700 pages of a history novel than spend so much time on social media. The good thing about social media is that it allows me to meet some great people, fellow authors, and get the information I need. But it leaves no time for writing.

Describe your writing process. Do you outline, create rough synopses, do you do detailed biographies of the characters before starting to write?

I usually dig for the story deep inside my heart and memories. I like to write in my head. I have so many untold stories waiting for their time. I write when I feel that the story is ready to escape. Then I kill it, and take a skeleton and feed it with ideas until it gets fat and happy. Sometimes, I get carried away, and I have to trim my stories, but this is an easy task. It’s always easier to destroy than to build.

Describe where you do your writing.

Mostly I write in my sunroom or on my balcony, when I am staying in Florida. I share my table with my unpredictable cat, who has adopted my knees and computer. She has deleted many of my pages, but I forgive her because she is the main character of my future books, and I need her to feed my imagination.

If you had to do the experience of writing your work over, would you still write it? Would you change it? How?

As my grandpa would say, there is no point in swinging fists after the battle is over. Every day brings new ideas, and if we were to change everything we wrote before, it would be a completely different story. I do not know one author who is completely satisfied with their writings. I try to stick to my old versions. I may edit some sentences or change some words or paragraphs, but this is as far as I go.

How did you choose the story you wrote?

I do not choose the story; the story chooses me. Mostly, I relived my stories or observed them somewhere. Stories are everywhere; I just have to use my imagination. I write what I know, not what sells. This may sound like a bad business decision, but this is the only time I do not treat writing like a business. I write my stories from the heart.

How did you choose the title?

Sometimes the title just popped in my head. Sometimes I go through the story and find a few lines which I think describe the story best. Then I send a few samples to my editor, and I ask my husband what he thinks, and then I choose the one I think fits the story. I still do not know why it annoys my husband.

How did you decide on the cover and did you design it or did you use a professional designer?

I work closely with a few illustrators. Usually, we create the illustrations and then we see which illustration fits the cover best. If we did not find the perfect fit for the cover, then we create a new illustration that will reflect the story. I love working with illustrators. I have learned a lot since I published my first book. It is a fun process to bring a story to life. Between my words and their imagination, we are a great team.

Can you summarize your book in 140 characters or less (Tweet size)?

This is a little tricky, because I have more than one book. All of them are dear to my heart, and I find it hard to talk about only one book. So let’s go with Mrs. D’s Books.

Mrs. D.’s books will not only capture a child’s imagination but will also teach children the true meaning of friendship, family, love, and self-acceptance. Brace yourself for an unusual journey!

How is that?

Who were the authors that influenced you? What about them and their style appeals to you?

Growing up in the Soviet Union, I did not have many books to satisfy my hunger for reading. I lived in a small village, lost in the Carpathian Mountains, cut off from the rest of the world and civilization. There were few books available for children when I was growing up. We had a tiny library in the village. As a child, I read adult books in Ukrainian and Russian, hardly understanding the meaning of the words. Most of these books were about WWII or the famous classics from authors like Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, Jack London, Mark Twain, the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and many more.

In my time, children’s books were not heavily illustrated, but they were so well written that I have no problem imagining the stories without the pictures. I reread many children’s books and learned about new writers when I became a mother. It’s impossible to list every great children’s author, but here’s a start: Beatrix Potter, Margret and H.A. Rey, Robert McCloskey, Steven Kellogg, Ruth Krauss Margaret, Wise Brown, and many more who wrote simple teaching stories for children, touching hearts and minds.

There are many more good writers who’ve crafted a whole stream of books based on one character they created: Ian Falconer with Olivia , Russell and Lillian Hoban with Frances , Eric Hill with Spot , and Bernard Waber with Lyle the Crocodile, and many more. I also love good writers who typically write for older children, such as Beverly Cleary, C. S Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, and Laura Ingalls Wilder.

What did you learn that surprised you while writing your book? What was the most difficult part?

English! That I was actually using it, writing in a language I did not grow up with, had never properly learned, and felt very uncomfortable with. That I was able to transform my imagination into English words. I am still amazed that I did not get lost in a foreign language while learning all the aspects of writing, publishing, and marketing. English had scared me since high school. I was so afraid that I would fail. By nature, I am a very determined person and do not give up easily.

What types of hobbies do you have? Do these activities find their way into your books?

Sadly, I have no time for hobbies. My life reminds me of a runaway train, which I am trying to catch and somehow slow down. If the day had 48 hours, then I would collect cats. I love cats. They remind me a little bit of myself. Nobody can own them unless they allow you. But for now, I can hardly manage one cat, which practically takes care of me. If she did not insist on food, I would never remember I have not eaten either. However, I like gardening and flowers, beaches and walks, traveling and art, reading and books. Life is a roller coaster; hold on tight to catch all the moments.

What is your favorite time of the year and why? And did you incorporate that into your story? How?

People say there is beauty in every season, but I love summer with its sun-drenched days and moonlit nights, the glowing dawns and peaceful mornings, the graceful flowers, full of love and poise, the maturing trees bathed in the warm air, the sunlit sky, blue like my mother’s eyes, the gentle butterflies expressing freedom, and short warm rains expanding life. And fiery orange sunsets, reminding me of my first kiss with a village boy. I love summer because I am nature’s child who enjoys it when everything blooms and grows. I did not include this piece in any of my books. I just wrote it.

Have you traveled at all? How has that experience helped in your writing career?

I was born in western Ukraine, on the border of Poland, then Czechoslovakia and Hungary. I did not travel until Gorbachev came to power. Then I traveled to some European countries. Since I immigrated to the United States, I have traveled to England, Spain, Morocco, Italy, France, some Caribbean islands, and many more. I have more trips planned, but sadly, the situation in the world may not allow me to visit my country or other countries I really want to explore.

What do you feel is the best personal quality you bring to your writing career?

My experience and knowledge as a mother and a woman. I write because I know that somewhere in this world someone may need my experience and advice. I write because I have lived my life to the fullest and learned many lessons. I write because I have something to share. If my knowledge helps one child, then it will be worth my effort.

What types of books do you read for entertainment?

I wish I had more time for reading. I try to read as often as I can. My fellow authors often ask me to review their books, and I do. Lately, I read a wonderful new manuscript by one of the great local authors, Joseph Wilkins, who has written two historical novels. You may find his books on Amazon. His new memorial about poverty in America touched me deeply. Sometimes I feel nostalgic for old books, which I often reread. I read in three languages, so I follow new releases in the United States, Ukraine, and Russia.

Where do you see your writing career going? Why do you think that?

I think my career is going in the right direction. Since I typed my first story with two fingers on my daughter’s old computer, I have come a long way. Two of my books won prestigious Mom’s Choice Awards. People started noticing my books, written from the heart of a mother. They write me sweet emails, lovely messages, and great reviews. I am happy that some of my books have made a positive impact and difference in children’s lives. I am moving ahead and am ready to conquer the world! I pray to God and hope that the world is ready for me.

Do you have a special theme, or design that you intend to continue throughout your career as your signature item?

Yes, I do. My books are well known for being colorful, happy, calming, and fun. They are good-quality books, which entertain children and parents. I also have the Mrs. D. Books logo of a tiny mouse, which is placed on each of my books. You may find it on my website: http://www.mrsdbooks.net

What happens next? What are your future writing plans?

Self-publishing children’s books is very different from publishing novels or romances. It involves a lot of work with editors, illustrators, and publishers. It is a costly process and very time-consuming. I have already published five children’s books: Carlo the Mouse on Vacation, The Trees Have Hearts, The City Kittens and The Old House Cat, Good Morning, World!, and Carlo the Mouse, Book 1: Too Many Rules for One Little Mouse.

My new book Runaway Clothes is coming this spring. Three other new books—The Royal Palm, Carlo the Mouse, Book 2: Now We’re Talking! and The Little Girl Praying on the Hill—are coming this year.

I am planning to publish That Is How Things Are, Who Is Most Important In the Fridge?, The Mysterious Life Inside the Closet, and five books in the Carlo the Mouse series in the near future. They are all illustrated and ready to go.

What is your end goal for your writing career?

As you can see, I have no writer’s block, but I may have a financial block.

I am presently working on a new children’s book, The Cat Who Wonders, by Itself, and my second short story, A Taste of Bread. I have also started my first romance, The Chinese Princess. I have many stories in my head, but I am afraid I would not be able to write them down before I get really old. For now, I will concentrate on writing for adult readers, but I will never stop writing for children. If some good story comes to me, I will definitely share it with my little friends. I am still a child at heart. I will love children’s books forever.

Do you use a pen name?

There is no secret to this story. I am known as Mrs. D. because my children’s friends call me Mrs. D. I thought it was a perfect name for children, easy to pronounce and remember. However, my new books for adult readers will be published under my real name, Olga D’Agostino.

The Trees Have Hearts by Mrs. D
The Trees Have Hearts by Mrs. D.