Wednesday, July 20, 2011

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Interview with Karen Crumley

My wife and I met Karen Crumley at the OWFI banquet. Karen and Pam struck up a conversation about a book they were publishing. The book is a work of fiction. But the reality is: this fiction could turn into fact in a heartbeat. Karen and Jim are nice people. They’ve experienced a different slice of life than most of us city slickers.

I’m pleased to introduce Karen Crumley.

Thank you so much, Bill. I am very happy and honored to be featured on your blog!

Karen, sell our readers on why we should buy Weapon of Jihad. Sell the book to us as if you were pitching to an agent.

As Americans, we are becoming increasingly aware that we have definite enemies who would love to defeat us. Until recently, we were considered to be such a super power that nobody could dare attack. We suffered the folly of this mentality on 9/11. Since then, the world has become even more dangerous for us. We work hard to avoid terrorism and we must constantly do diplomatic posturing to counter a growing threat of nuclear attack.

But what if the weapon of choice was not a bomb? What if it was a postcard….laced with smallpox? What if these postcards were to be sent to one-third of the American families? And what if, after the epidemic has softened us up, a military attack was to be deployed across our southern borders? And what if the goal of that military attack was to bring the United States to her knees?

This is the story told in Weapon of Jihad. You say, “Nobody could ever pull that off!” Unfortunately, that statement would be false. The plot in this book was evaluated by the Air Force and they stated that it was, sadly, entirely too possible. Yes, we have enough vaccine for about half of our population. But it is all in Atlanta. Did you witness the H1N1 vaccine fiasco? How long did it take to get vaccine to your town? With smallpox, you have a four-day window between exposure and it’s just too late. We all know it would be impossible to distribute that vaccine that fast, especially when the entire nation is in the throws of a crippling epidemic. The virus would go through the population like a wildfire.

Weapon of Jihad is the story of such an attack and of the response mounted by a scattered remnant of brave Americans.

Wondering about a pandemic through natural germ evolution is scary enough. Add a planned event by America’s enemies, and the possibilities are eerie. You have a degree in microbiology. That gives you a keen insight as to whether an event like you describe is possible. What other sources did you use to validate your suspicions?

Yes, the questions brought up by this book began while I studied microbiology at Texas Tech University. The university is multicultural and there were many students there who were from other countries. In my classes, I noticed many students from Iran. What I observed was that there were two different types of Iranian students. Some were open and friendly to Americans. They enjoyed our culture and made friends with us. Others, on the other hand, hated Americans. They wanted nothing to do with us. I had a job that required that I work with one such Iranian. He would not even look at me and only spoke when he was forced to do so. I had two strikes against me. I was a woman and I was an American.

Shortly after I finished my studies at Tech, the Ayatollah called all of these microbiology students back home to Iran. These people had sat in my classes. They knew what I knew. What was the Iranian government going to have these people doing?

Then, after I had my first son, I went to start his immunizations. I noticed that smallpox was not on the list. When I asked why this was so, I was told that smallpox had been eradicated. In my mind, I knew that within twenty years or so smallpox would make a great biological weapon because most of our fighting force would be completely unprotected.

Then, when I began to research for the book, I was appalled to find that the possibilities were much worse than I could have imagined. We were wide open for an attack. The delusional opinion that nobody would ever attack us was a major problem. When the USSR was dissolved, the biological weapon research facility they had been running was simply deserted. A former employee of theirs who had become an American went to check on the facility. He found missing stocks of multiple biological weapons and about six guards who had not been paid in a year. Hmmm. So, all of our enemies now have stocks of smallpox, including Iran and North Korea.

The book was based on way too much fact, which is why some of it came true on 9/11. Fiction based on fact has a way of becoming prophecy.

The thought came to me about a situation I experienced. I was researching the differences between Sunni and Shiite views on the web for a novel I’m writing. After a week, I began to receive emails in Arabic from sources I didn’t know. Did this happen to you, and if so, how did you react?

Oh, yes! We had a web site called Weapon of On this site, readers could sign in and leave comments. There must be many people out there who cannot read English very well. They thought we wanted to do a jihad. They asked how they could help. They even invited us to join their group to do a jihad! On 9/11, the comments made me sick! “Good Job!” etc. was all they could say. I had had enough. I called the FBI and handed the web site over to them. I told them it might help to find some of the terrorists. I still have the contact they gave me in case I knew anything else.

Your husband worked for the USDA and ranched along the Texas border, a place that is becoming more dangerous day-by-day. You’ve since moved. Was it because of the hostility there?

Actually, we moved to come help run the family ranch after we retired. But, I do not miss the hostility. We had our house on a ranch broken into three different times. We found loaded automatic clips in the pasture. I never went out without my gun. We bought two very large, black Great Danes and the robberies stopped. We would find pieces of shirts that did not belong to us in the yard.

When we moved, we brought the dogs. They are bored now….nobody to chase. My friends who still live there tell me it has gotten much worse and that most of it’s not covered on the major news outlets.

My wife and I love each other dearly, but we’re not thinking of coauthoring a book. The two of you wrote Weapons of Jihad together. And you’re still married! What part did each of you play in collaborating?

Yes, we are still married….but it was very interesting while we were writing the book. One of the biggest fights we ever had was over the fact that he wanted to kill off my favorite character. After a while, I saw his point and the guy got beheaded.

We often talk about how we are so opposite. The plot is mine. I must be paranoid or something, but I can throw out a plot over anything. Some strange thing will happen and, before you know it, my writer brain will make a lot to do over nothing.

I wrote the book first and then had him read it. He told me that I needed this and that. I did not really want to do this and that with it, so he jumped in and added his wonderful characters. The General is his character and he did all the war scenes. If you think all the gory stuff was his, think again. I was dealing with three teenagers at my house at the time. They would infuriate me over something and I would go kill off a bunch of people.

Tell us why you’ve republished this book after so many years, and what is Purple Sage Publishers?

We republished this book at this time because much has changed in the world since we wrote it the first time. At the time of the first writing, we only had thirty thousand doses of old vaccine available. Now, we have enough to vaccinate half of our population. This is a false security though because it could never be distributed in time to help at all. When we wrote the book, we put in a completely fictional government for Iran and Iraq. At the time, Saddam was in power. We had taken Saddam out and wrote in that Iraq would become a puppet government under Iran. As we watch, this is all forming up the way we wrote it. We really did not mean to write prophecy!

It is my hope to influence the government with this book to at least distribute the vaccine to regional outlets. It is just stupid to leave it where it is. I would love for this story to become a movie or to have enough people to read it so that there could be a public demand for moving the vaccine.

Purple Sage Publishing is our publishing house. We fully intend to publish more books, especially now that we are retired and “not busy”.

At OWFI you attended a workshop on how to put your novel on Kindle. I understand after the workshop you actually went to your room and published on Kindle. That’s amazing. For us technically challenged, how hard was that to do?

I could hardly believe it myself! Of course, most of the credit for this has to go to my friend, Wendy Pausewang. I dragged her along to OWFI. She was interested in beginning to write. But, she just happens to have a degree in computer science. In fact, she was the best student of her class. So, when we went to the workshop, we took notes and she just kept saying, “Oh, this is easy.” We decided to have a lab on it. I had the file for Weapon of Jihad ready, so we just followed the instructions and threw it onto Amazon as an ebook. She did make it look easy! Now, we are putting it into CreateSpace so I can also sell it as a paperback. I will tell you that I could probably have done it myself but it would have taken a bit longer that the eight hours it took us together.

Do you have another novel in process? If so, when will you have it finished?

Well, of course! I’m a writer! Actually, I have two other nonfiction books that are finished and ready to publish. I will be attacking that as soon as I finish with Weapon of Jihad.

One is called Big Brown Box in the Brush-So You Want to Live in the Country. It is my story of being a city girl who is thrown into country life. Did you ever watch Green Acres? Well, I broke into choruses of that song on a regular basis when I lived on the ranch. It has chapters like Snakes, Critters, Bugs, Ranch Kids and it is written in Erma Bombeck style. The truly sad thing is that there is not an ounce of fiction in the book. I actually survived all of the fun events in that book, even being shot by a potato gun. It is why I am who I am.

Another book is called Growing Up Weird- Confessions of a Closet Medium. It is the story of a woman who, through many instances of being surprised by her gift, has become more experienced and wishes to pass on her wisdom to her grandchildren who are also showing the gift.

The book I am presently writing another fiction book called The Hole in the Sky. It is a good vs. evil story. I describe it as a Stephen Kingish Christian thriller. When I wrote the opening chapter, I placed it in a certain place on our ranch. After I wrote it, I could not go to that place at night without being creeped out. So, I scared myself! I guess that is good. Well, Stephen King scared himself too. I don’t know what that says about me. But I really do enjoy writing things that send a chill down a reader’s back.

In conclusion, what advice can you give aspiring authors about marketing and publishing their books in today’s environment?

I have tried finding agents and publishers. It is a game in itself. But, I enjoy writing, not playing games like that. Let me see. I write a query letter. IF the agent or publisher is in a good mood when they read it, they ask for the first fifty pages. Once again, IF the publisher is in a good mood, they will ask for the rest of it. EVEN IF they like it, they want you to change it into something else that they want. When they finally decide it is right, it will still take three years to get it onto the bookshelves. They price it so high that nobody can buy it. I still have to do the promotion. I make 30%.

OR….I can write what I want, be sure it is good and corrected, and put it up on Amazon. I get to write what I want to say and it gets published and for sale within a few days. I can price it low enough to be affordable by many more readers. After all, that is why I wrote it. I want it to be read by many people. I still have to do the promotion, but I get 70%.

Why would I want to do anything but use Amazon? Oh, it would be a feather in my cap of some kind to be published by a big publisher. But, that is not why I write. I just want it to be read. Of course, I realize that this is my own opinion. All writers should pursue their own goals.

You’ve stated the dilemma I’ve struggled with for four years. On one hand, I want to be recognized as a writer of quality fiction. I’ve viewed having an agent and being published by a major house and a symbol of quality. But the new world of publishing has opened up an avenue to place a novel into the hands of readers quickly and efficiently. And I agree with you. You still have to do most of the marketing yourself regardless of which way you go.

Thank you for sharing Weapon of Jihad with us. I’m sure the book will open a lot of eyes.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog. I enjoyed visiting with you about our experiences in writing. I look forward to reading more from you in the future!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

An Interview with Gloria Teague

Interviewing Gloria Teague is a pleasure for me, because I respect her and think she’s one of the most fun-loving people I know. I first met Gloria at the Tulsa Night Writers almost three years ago. She’s one of those people you like being around. She’s also one terrific writer. When I heard she had a new book on the market, I asked her to do an interview, and she agreed.

Congratulations on being asked to do a sequel of Beyond the Surgeons Touch. How did that come about? And tell us about AWOCBooks.

Thanks! I’m enjoying writing Safe in the Heart of a Miracle even though it’s proving a bit more difficult than its predecessor.

The acronym AWOC stands for A Whole Other Country, based out of Texas, which explains where the publisher got the name. It’s a small press operated by Dan Case, a great hands-on publisher, available whenever I need to run something by him, or, poor man, whenever I need to gripe. He’s patient, fair, and shoots straight from the hip. The company publishes books from mysteries to inspirational books.

Gloria, you’ve published several full length novels and short story books. How do you decide what venue you’ll use to take your work to the marketplace? Which has been the most successful for you?

Like most authors, I slid into home plate with Kindle. It just seemed the natural “next step” after already having sold so many books through my publisher. What better venue to reach the entire world? Once I learned how to format my work I went hog crazy. I was amazed I could actually sell short stories and I cleaned out a file folder that I’d filled over the years. I have posted my latest book on Nook but I’m not as comfortable with it yet. I plan on putting my work on Smashwords and any other site I can find.

So, if I understand you correctly, you’ve never had an agent taking your material around the eighty-plus publishing houses on their circuit, rather you’ve chosen to enlist your own associates and creative marketing talents. What venues do you use: blogs, webpage, book store signings, social media?

No, I’ve had two agents which were the stuff nightmares are made of. (Yep, I ended that one with a preposition!) One put together a catalogue of books he represented and just sent the whole thing to publishers. Hello? That wasn’t going to work but he kept dragging it out for six months. The second one was the most prolific liar I’ve ever met, going so far as to tell me that Tom Hanks was reading one of my manuscripts. Can you imagine the hurt and disappointment when I realized everything she said was untrue? So now no agents, just little ol’ me. I read everything, pay attention to any small detail that may lead to getting published. I look at the rack at the check-out stand. That’s where I got the epiphany to submit to Women’s World. When they called, I nearly passed out. I pay attention when another author says, “I just got published in XXX!” Then I start doing research. Do I write the material they want? Can I write the material they want? Sometimes friends will send me a lead about where to submit. And then there are the repeat sales to the same company, some buying my work since 1995. Then I start telling everyone about the sale, via my blog, my Facebook page (I love FB for promoting!), on Twitter, leave a business card with someone that likes to read, tell them about my latest book/story. I schedule speaking engagements always followed with a book signing. I speak to any group that needs a speaker; I contact libraries and tell them I’m available to speak to their Friends of the Library group, etc. I’ve learned that networking is exceedingly important in this field. I also try to help my fellow authors because I think that’s what we should do.

You are a cross genre author, having successfully published in more than one. From the realm of the miraculous in Beyond the Surgeons Touch and Miracles Beyond Medicine, to nostalgia in Saturday Night Cocoa Fudge, to the edgy Innocence Sacrificed and Evil Transgressions, you produce quality work. Is there a method as to what genre you write and when?

How kind of you, Bill! I write in whatever genre fits my mood when I’m sitting at the computer. At the moment I’m currently working on the sequel to the book about miracles to one about a serial killer to yet another paranormal romance. I’ve been told by those who think they know the biz that authors shouldn’t write in so many different genres, that we should focus on one and make a name for ourselves within that genre. Writing across genres has always worked for me and my mind doesn’t grow stale or bored. I started writing because it was fun; why stop enjoying it now?

You publish under Gloria Teague and G.T. Everett. I think you added G.T. Everett sometime in late 2009. Why? And how do you decide which name to use?

GT Everett actually came into existence this year with Evil Transgressions. The reason is simply those different genres you mentioned. GT is all mine, no one has any input into what I write under that pseudonym, and I just let my imagination soar with him/her, another reason to use initials-no one knows the author’s gender. Teague is the kind, funny author; Everett is my “dark side.”

Your newest book is Evil Transgressions. The book is enticingly sinister. Sell us on why we should buy it. What makes it a ‘can’t put down’ read.

Evil Transgressions is about the age-old battle between good versus evil. We all know who the good guy is, we all know who will be victorious, but this book takes you on an unexpected ride to reach the conclusion. I love it when a reader tells me, “Wow, I didn’t see that coming!” Donovan Desmond is the achingly gorgeous devil who falls in love with a mortal, something that shocks even him, and he loves her so much that when she realizes his true nature and wants to escape, he allows her to leave…for awhile. He will grant her time to remember the love he gave her and come back to him. If she refuses to do so, he’ll go after her. You know how that’s going to go but you may be surprised how the encounter unfolds. I dislike predictability and I’ve tried to avoid that with a passion in this book.

Well, I’m sure our readers are sold. Amazon here they come. The publishing world is turned on its head right now. Where once an author had few options, we now have so many it’s becoming confusing. Where do you think the most opportunity for strong sales lies?

Without a doubt, at this moment, eBooks are the big thing and will be, I think, for quite some time. I still hear the old diehards that say, “I still want to hold a book in my hand, dog-ear the pages if I want; I’ll never get an electronic reader.” As a royalty-paid author, I applaud those people because I make more money through the print sales, but I’m a realist. Even libraries will be more electronic-based book loaners than print copies soon.

My wife, a Kindle lover, bought me a new one after having such a good experience with hers. I love my Kindle. What advice can you give an aspiring author, who has been rejected on a hundred queries, has been encouraged and then letdown by a variety of agents, and has been recognized by fellow writers as a quality performer?

I’ve struggled with this for years. Even those of us that make money at our craft suffer with rejection and disappointment. I’ve gotten enough rejection letters to wallpaper my office. If becoming a published author is your dream, you have to believe in yourself. You keep practicing your craft, getting better all the time, and pay attention to why you’re being rejected. If you’ve submitted something fifty times and it’s been rejected fifty times, rethink what you’ve written. Edit it, iron out the wrinkles. If you can’t develop a tough hide, maybe writing isn’t going to work out for you. But if it’s your dream, work toward realizing it.

Thank you, Bill, for the interview. Thank you for offering a hand up to current and future writers!

Thank you, Gloria. I believe authors and lovers of our craft should promote the good writing of others as hard as we promote our own.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Interview with Lela Davidson

An Interview with Lela Davidson

We’re re-running our new author series again in 2011, from the week of July 4th through the week of September 30th. Our first author, Lela Davidson, has her first book coming out on July 12th. There will be a big book launch party at the Aloft Hotel in Rogers, Arkansas, between 7 and 9 p.m.

Lela brings fresh look at the complex roles of women in America today. She also has built a platform for her writing that each of us in Writers, Readers, and Critiques can learn from. Welcome, Lela Davidson

Thank you, Bill

Publishing today is easy. Selling enough to make money is a process. In your answers to the following questions, I’d like you to concentrate on how you built your platform to success.

Before you ventured out with Blacklisted from the PTA, you became a strong net presence with After the Bubbly. Let our readers know about that venue and how it helped build your platform.

After the Bubbly is my personal blog. I play with ideas there that are too long to post on Facebook, but not necessarily something I want to work into a full-length essay. The blog helped me in the beginning to learn about online writing and social media. Now it helps me keep in touch with readers.

Along with, After the Bubby, you’re managing editor of Parenting Squad and associate editor of Peekaboo Magazine, a modern day guide to parenting in Northwest Arkansas. I can see the direction you’re going and the audience you’re playing to. These are free to the public, yet increase your visibility and web presence, tell us how they came about.

One of the owners of Parenting Squad was the Editor at a now defunct website that gave me my very first regular column online – After the Bubbly. We stayed in touch. I started writing for Parenting Squad, and when the Managing Editor position opened up, I applied and got the job. Peekaboo magazine is our local RPP (Regional Parenting Publication). When she started the magazine, the publisher took a chance and gave me space. After the Bubbly graduated to print. After a few months I started writing another column in the magazine. Chasing Date Night provides ideas for local date nights and profiles local couples. Now I represent the magazine on a local morning news show—Wake Up with 5NEWS. I guess you could say I’m a local favorite.

Lela, that’s great exposure, you’re writing an active blog, have magazine exposure, and television with the Fort Smith/Fayetteville, CBS affiliate, whose executive said, “The magazine is a big part of the parenting community in Northwest Arkansas and a great fit for our morning broadcast.” Exposure means sales!
You selected Jupiter Press, and imprint of Wyatt-MacKenzie, to publish After the Bubby. They’re located in Washington State. Isn’t that where you’re from? Did you use personal connection to develop your strategy here, or is your selection of Jupiter Press a coincidence?

Wyatt-MacKenzie is actually located in Oregon, and the connection came through another author I know who had published a similar book of personal essays. I chose the imprint program offered by Wyatt-MacKenzie for a number of reasons, but mostly because it offered me a great deal of control over almost every aspect of the process, and the ability to benefit from the knowledge of an experienced traditional publisher. The imprint program is a self-publishing option, so I put up the capital to produce and market the book. It was a decision I agonized over, but ultimately analyzed it as I would any other business decision and determined that this was the best step at this stage of my career.

Pay attention here readers. Even with a platform and great exposure, the decision you make: self-publish, co-publish, go strictly e-book, etc. is a business decision, and a different one for every writer.

With the advent of Kindle, Nook, and who knows what’s to follow, the conventional path to publishing looks to be flipped upside down. You seem to have developed a great way to hit the new market. Kudos to you, Lela. Now sell us your book. Pitch to us like you would an agent. Why should I go to Amazon and download Blacklisted from the PTA to my Kindle? Or pick it up in paperback?

Well, I hope you’ll buy a paperback and a Kindle edition! Blacklisted from the PTA is a fun read. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s relatable. And it makes people laugh. (Not just my mother and that Mary Kay lady who keeps trying to get me to redeem my free facial.) Just check out the comments on the Facebook page.

Between diapers, play dates, and a never-ending schedule of birthday parties, it’s a wonder parents have time and energy to procreate. Throw in cliquish PTA queens, complex neighborhood politics, and the fine art of lawn maintenance, and you start to understand why suburban parents actually crave quiet desperation—so long as it comes with a nap.

In Blacklisted from the PTA I take you to Mexican bars, the hockey rinks of St. Louis, ski slopes near Santa Fe, shopping in Dallas, and even introduce you to a few strippers—the novices on the playgrounds of New York City, and the pros in Vegas. I reveal my screw-ups, along with fleeting delusional moments when I honestly believe I am the best mom ever.

And did I mention each of the 62 essays can be read in under five minutes? This is proving to be a very popular feature.

My wife thinks you could become the new Erma Bombeck with your sense of humor and your writing style. After reading your Facebook page, I think others feel that way too.

You’re a mom, a wife, a writer, and work the web constantly. Your subject matter is edgy at times, yet with a lighthearted humor that makes your comments fit. How do your husband, your kids, and your parents react to your work?

My husband has surrendered. I’m fairly certain the blog and magazine column boosted his social capital and he recently asked for a copy of the book to give his boss. He’s fine with the writing, but hates when someone introduces him as Mr. Lela. My teenage son has asked me not to write about him anymore, but my 11-year-old daughter still gets excited when I do. Sometimes sibling rivalry kicks in and The Boy gives me the okay, so long as I don’t run his picture. My parents just like to brag. It’s not like I’m tackling Big Topics. I write about the little frustrations of everyday life, of the foibles of my friends and family, but I like to think I’m not mean about it.

Finally, you and I have known each other for awhile. We both work our butts off writing and perfecting our craft. What piece of advice would you give to the unpublished newbie looking awestruck at the huge amount of work this career really takes?

I don’t think the newbie realizes the amount of work it takes. And that there’s a steep curve. It used to take me weeks to craft a readable essay. Now I can probably bust one out in an hour if I really need to. If you’re lucky, after a while you find out what you’re good at and get into a consistent rhythm. Then, if you’re crazy-fortunate, you catch some momentum and things start moving quickly. That’s where I am right now, and I can tell you it takes just as much work to maintain this success as it did to build it. However, it’s a lot more fun interviewing celebrities and booking travel for TV appearances than it was scouring Craigslist for sub-minimum wage gigs.

Thanks Lela for your honesty in sharing your journey with us. I urge our readers to reward Lela by purchasing her new book. And Lela, I hope you don’t mind if I continue to reply to your blog and Facebook comments with a little barb expressing the male point of view when you misunderstand us. Thanks for being our guest author this week.

Thanks for having me, Bill. And that’s – Blacklisted from the PTA. Everyone needs at least three copies