Monday, July 2, 2018

INTERVIEW with CHRISTOPHER D. SEIFERT, author of THE ROCKET RIDERS

I have the pleasure of teaching a class in the children's organization at my church and was pleasantly surprised to learn that the father of a couple of these children is an author! So I'm pleased today to share an interview with Chris Seifert, an attorney and author with degrees in law and journalism. He also has a beautiful family and a great sense of humor. Be sure to check out his website and follow him on Twitter.

When did you first start writing? Do you remember what inspired you?
I think I’ve always been interested in stories, although it’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly what it was that got me writing.  When I was six years old, I wrote and illustrated a series of stories I called “The Adventures of Wally the Walrus.”  I still have a first edition copy of “Wally the Walrus” somewhere with all my old elementary school papers.  Later on, one of my friends and I hatched the idea to write an outer space adventure based on our playground escapades.  We never made it very far with that one, but writing a book was clearly something I was interested in doing all the way back then.  It wasn’t until I got to high school, however, that I started to truly focus some of my storytelling ambitions and develop a few more of the tools in my writer’s toolbox.  I must say I had a fabulous English teacher who gets much of the credit for that. 

Who are your favorite authors? Are there any particular genres you're drawn to?
I consider myself a science fiction fan first and foremost.  As I was growing up, “Star Trek” was something that captured my imagination, and I confess it’s never really let go.  The problem was I always found it difficult to get my hands on books that portrayed that same kind of optimistic “Star Trek” future I was craving (there are an awful lot of dystopias out there), and so I’m probably not as well-read in the science fiction genre as I’d like to be.  I mean, I’ve read some Carl Sagan, some Isaac Asimov, some Arthur C. Clarke, some Orson Scott Card, etc., but the one science fiction writer who really inspires me is Ray Bradbury.  Not that Ray Bradbury always paints a rosy picture of the future.  Often it’s quite the opposite, but he’s somebody who takes you to another world and then just kind of overwhelms you with the force and beauty of his language.  I actually think J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is the book I’d point to that best embodies the kind of wide-eyed optimism I value.  It also occurred to me recently that I’m drawn to stories about friendship and loyalty, which is probably why Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows and A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books are some of my other favorites.  Jerry Spinelli, Kate DiCamillo, and Gary Schmidt are a few contemporary children’s/young adult authors I admire.  Oh, and I love Harry Potter, but then who doesn’t, right?

When you sit down to write a novel, what do you do first? Do you outline? What does your process look like? 
I’m definitely an outliner.  You don’t make it through law school without becoming an outliner.  For me, endings are critical.  A great ending can elevate an otherwise ordinary book in my opinion.  So, I start with the ending.  Where is it these characters are going to end up?  What’s the pinnacle of their adventure?  Once I have that vision in my mind, then I ask myself how they’re going to get there. So, I guess you might say I sort of reverse engineer it.  I also try to pick a topic I’m extremely passionate about.  For example, a number of years ago, I wrote a novel about two teenage brothers who are obsessed with football.  Well, I’m obsessed with football, and so it was fairly easy to channel that excitement and energy into a novel.  As for the process, I’m afraid a big part of writing is just being willing to put in the time and do the grunt work.  When I was writing my football novel, I would close the door to my office at work every day at noon and write for an hour.  Some days, the prose I produced in that hour was absolute garbage.  (I was comforted knowing I could always go back and polish during the revision process.)  Other days, I couldn’t believe how easily the words flowed.  The key was consistency, chipping away at it a little bit at a time.  I’ve found that as I do that, I come to a point where I reach what I consider critical mass.  I look back at what I’ve written, and I realize I’ve made it this far, and I’ve still got enough in the tank to see it through.  Then, once I’ve finished a novel, I’m armed with the knowledge I’m capable of doing it all over again.  That’s been an empowering experience for me.

Do you see any parallels between your career in law and your creative writing? Do these two parts of your life feed each other in any way?
This is a tough question.  I wouldn’t exactly say there are parallels, but, yes, my legal career and my writing career certainly do feed and inform each other.  When I went to law school, I looked around and thought to myself, ‘My goodness, all of these people are brilliant.  I don’t belong here.’  No question many of them were brilliant, but what I soon found was that the writing skills I’d learned as an undergrad (I majored in print journalism) served me well in law school, and I was able to earn much better grades there than I had anticipated.  On the writing side, I’m a believer in the old adage, “Write what you know.”  When I sat down to write my science fiction novel, The Rocket Riders, I had to acknowledge I’ve never been to outer space.  But what I could say is I get excited about outer space.  Then I went about writing a father/son story about a boy who dreams of a future career in outer space and a dad who had those exact same dreams once – but set them aside for the greater good of his family.  The dad became instead – you guessed it! – a lawyer.  So, while I’m writing this over-the-top outer space adventure on the one hand, on the other hand I’m writing something very intimate and autobiographical about the choices I’ve made in my own life and the reasons for them. Don’t get me wrong.  I’m immensely proud of what I do as an attorney.  My job matters, and I get to contribute to society in a meaningful way, but at the same time I gave up something I was excited about (journalism) to, in part at least, provide a better, more stable life for my family.  With Rocket Riders, I was writing what I knew – and touching on some themes I think a lot of people can relate to.  Plus, I sprinkled in a bunch of inside lawyer humor for good measure.

What writing projects are you currently working on? 

Right now I’m working on a young adult fantasy novel with a good friend of mine.  I’ve never tried collaboration before (at least not since elementary school).  I’m such a control freak as a writer that I’m sure I’m a horrible teammate, but it’s been a fun experience so far.  I’m also brainstorming ideas for a couple of sequels to The Rocket Riders.  I’ve always been vehemently opposed to the idea of writing sequels, but as I consider how dear to me these particular characters are, I feel a desire to spend some more time with them, so I’m looking forward to going back to that well soon.

Thanks for the interview, Chris. Readers, be sure to check out some of the musical inspiration behind The Rocket Riders. You can find it here. You can also download a free e-copy of Chris's football novel, Red.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

REVIEW of HEARTWOOD by LEA CARTER

HEARTWOOD (Silver Sagas, Book 7)
Lea Carter
2018

SYNOPSIS (from the Publisher)

In the midst of his struggle to adapt to the fact that he will never fly—let alone walk—again, fairy Prince Isaac of the Wood Fairy Tribe meets a lovely doctor who claims that she can heal him. He would be a fool not to take the chance, but only he can heal the scars on his soul, scars won in a bitter fight against pirates mere months earlier. 

Doctor Cassidy Clark is a skilled surgeon, accustomed to her well-ordered life in the volcanic-glass domed cities of the Water Fairy Tribe. Confident that she could help the wounded Wood Fairy prince, she left her home, risking the secret of her tribe's existence. Now she finds herself stranded for an entire season at the Wood Fairy capital city of Weetu, tucked away in an old sugar maple. 


Will she be sensible enough to keep her distance or will she succumb to Isaac's winning ways?


REVIEW


As we meet the protagonist Isaac, he is recovering in the hospital from serious wounds sustained in battle. While I don’t usually think of fairies as warriors, it works, and I found myself being quickly drawn into the characters, their back stories, and their world of fairy tribes and royalty.

Even though this is the the book in the series, it’s not a problem to jump into this story as a stand-alone. The dialogue is charming, especially between Isaac and Cassidy.

By starting this story at the beginning of Isaac’s rehabilitation, the author has a chance to explore some important themes. Isaac is adjusting to life in a wheelchair, and this, of course, is not easy. He experiences frustration, exhaustion, and a self-consciousness that is new to him. Although we don’t all have experience with physical disability, we all experience losses, and this story helps us to make sense of loss.

Enjoy the camaraderie and good humor of this cast of characters. Kudos to Lea Carter for bringing them to life!

Connect with Lea Carter on Twitter and Facebook, and be sure to check out her entire Silver Saga series.

Monday, April 30, 2018

INTERVIEW with JENNIFER IRWIN, author of A DRESS THE COLOR OF THE SKY


Twitter is a great place for readers and writers to find each other, learn about the latest releases, and chat about their challenges, triumphs, and everyday lives. That's where I ran into Jennifer Irwin, the author we're spotlighting today at the BookPound.

Originally from New York, Jennifer now lives in Los Angeles, and she has a well-rounded writing background. Having written screenplays and short stories in the past, she's now working on novels, and you can get her first novel, A Dress the Color of the Sky, at Amazon. Many thanks to Jennifer for this great interview!

Have you always enjoyed writing? If not, what prompted you to start?
Yes, my passion in school was always writing. I took the craft more seriously in college when I wrote a screenplay. It is only recently that I started writing again because I took quite a bit of time off to focus on raising my three sons.

Do you see any connections between the writing process and teaching pilates? Do you feel that these two parts of your lives intersect in any interesting ways?
When I teach Pilates, I connect with my clients on a much deeper level than just helping their bodies feel and look better. There is an element of personal sharing as well. Much of my character development for, A Dress the Color of the Sky, came from getting to know all kinds of women while teaching Pilates.

Who are some of your favorite authors? Do you get writing inspiration from certain authors or genres?
At the moment, I’m only reading books in the genre I write which is some advice I received from a literary agent. I tend to choose books based on recommendations from bloggers on Instagram or are highly ranked on Amazon so I can see what readers are drawn to. As far as my favorite authors, I have been hugely influenced by various authors during different times in my life. In my pre-teen years I loved Judy Blume. I’d say in high school and college I loved John Steinbeck, Dominick Dunne, and John Irving. Frank McCourt’s book Angela’s Ashes hit me hard and triggered an interest in the strength of the human spirit. I enjoy books where the protagonist is overcoming hardship. I love meaningful, poignant stories like House of Sand and Fog, White Oleaner, The Poisonwood Bible, and The Help. I could go on all day answering this question!

Tell us about the process of turning your novel into a feature film. Have there been any major surprises along the way? 
The only surprise is that it’s been a far slower process than I had imagined. In my mind, the process would move as fast as Reese Witherspoon when she purchases the rights to books. The producer who is making the film based on my book is not in a rush. I have absolutely nothing to update you on regarding the film other than it will happen, I just don’t know when. I am not sure how involved I will in the production process.

What's next for you as a writer?
I’m about to hunker down and write a sequel.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell Book Pound readers?

I am incredibly grateful to readers and bloggers who support indie published authors.

Want to learn more about Jennifer Irwin? Of course you do! Find her at her website or Amazon Author page, or connect with her on social media:



Saturday, January 20, 2018

GUEST POST: MOLLY TERRY, author of 100 WAYS TO BE HAPPY NOW

Today we're pleased to have a guest blog post from Molly Terry, author of 100 Way to Be Happy Now. This workbook is an innovative, interesting resource for people who are interested in self-reflection and self-discovery. I've read it and explored its ideas myself, and I appreciate the new perspective it has given me on how to be calm, self-assured, and positive. Many thanks to Molly for her insights!

Everyone yearns for happiness. My name is Molly Terry, author of 100 Ways to Be Happy Now, an action based workbook that guides readers through simple, happiness-promoting exercises to implement anytime and anywhere. Readers will learn to ground themselves in the present moment and view themselves and others with more compassion. You can find the workbook here and become reacquainted with the simple joys of everyday life.

I write for a blog entitled Go Spread The Good. Through its reach, I hope to inspire people to accept themselves, appreciate others, and do their part to improve the world, wherever that may be. 100 Ways began through a brainstorming session, as the 2 other blog authors (and sisters :)) and I deliberated on our personal statements for the sake of giving direction to the blog. Mine evolved from a simple statement into a philosophy on how to become happier and then into simple steps for helping others to create happy moments in their own lives. From there 100 Ways was born.

In 2011 I began experiencing chronic anxiety - from panic attacks to withdrawing from school, to living back at home with my parents as a newlywed. But the greatest withdrawal had been in the works for many years - a withdrawal from myself. Until then, so much time was spent living for others’ expectations, second-guessing my own nature, and searching for happiness outside of myself. When the chance came to sink or swim, the enormous challenge transformed into a new way of life.  Many truths emerged from these experiences, and one of the greatest is that we overcomplicate happiness. Joy is simplicity. This simplicity echoes through each page of 100 Ways, reminding us that happiness need not be complicated nor situational.

If you want to seize happiness, this book is for you. There truly is something for everyone. As you
Author Molly Terry
experiment with each exercise, you will find that such simple gestures recenter you on what is most important, empower you to take your happiness into your own hands, and change the way you view yourself and others. Some exercises may come easily and others may take focus and diligence. I believe key components of happiness are empowerment, compassion, hope, creativity, and the ability to be still. You will spend time developing each of these characteristics throughout the book. Happiness is not only what you do but also who you are.

The workbook is separated into 4 chapters: Do It, Think About It, Change It Up, and Just Be. Each then contains an introduction, individual exercises, a reflection page, and takeaways pages. The introduction gives focus to your experience, stating the purpose of the consequent exercises. As stated above, the exercises themselves are simple and can be done anywhere. “Do It” focuses on just that - doing - it may be as simple as “write down the first 5 happy things that come to mind”. Conversely “Think About It” requires no action, simply reflection, posing thoughts to shift your paradigm about life, yourself, or those around you. “Change It Up” invites you to break through the mundane in everyday life as you make simple changes. And lastly, “Just Be” contains easy meditations which allow you the freedom to live  connected with your own body and mind. How do such simple things work? Through making happiness intentional and present.

100 Ways is most effective when paired with honest reflection. As you honestly face and reflect on your own hibitions, you can overcome and thrive. The first time you go through the book, do a whole chapter at a time from beginning to end. Start with whichever chapter you’d like to. Go at your own pace and explore yourself as you do so. As you slowly work through each exercise, write down any thoughts, feelings, and inspirations on the “Takeaways” page. When you’ve come to the end of each chapter, spend a generous amount of time on “Reflections”. In my experience, this is where the magic happens - where happiness becomes part of who you are. After you’ve finished the entire book, then use it as a toolkit. I still every few days pull out the book when I need a pick-me-up or when I need to recenter or shift perspective.

The closing page contains a poem I wrote for the book entitled “Each Is A Pilgrim.” Truly we are - we are walking through the peaks and valleys of life searching for joy and connection with those around us. We cling to the peaks through the valleys and make the most of our circumstances. Happiness is not the destination but the very essence of the journey.

As the poem states:

Despite where each traveler has come from,
our journey is measured by who we’ve become.
As the road comes to an end the greatest prize,
is how well we created joy in our lives.

May this book, and journey, enrich your life as much as it has mine!

~Molly Terry

Thursday, January 18, 2018

NEW RELEASE: SERVIE'S SONG by Heidi Tucker

Author Heidi Tucker has just published a new book, Servie's Song. Servie’s Song is the true story of one mother living in Zimbabwe, Africa who encounters a devastating loss leaving her unable to care for six children. In a heart-wrenching sacrifice, she surrenders to a desperate plan to leave her children and find work in the United States to support them. It is a door which feels impossible to walk through. But perhaps, the only door which holds any promise. This book takes you on an emotional journey of tragedy and heartbreak to an inspiring path of hope.

Many thanks to Heidi Tucker for telling us more about her latest book:

What was your inspiration for Servie's Song?
The most common question asked of me is “how did you find this story?” The short answer is – it found me. I felt a strong impression to write Servie’s story after our first meeting when she asked me to help her tell the story. As the details emerged after weeks of interviews, I recognized it as both tragic and triumphant. It is a story of hope. I was inspired to see this book through to its publication because I wanted her family and friends to celebrate and honor this great’s woman’s sacrifice, and I also felt the world could learn so many lessons from her life. It motivated me to not just tell it, but to do my very best in helping the reader feel this story.

What are some of the important themes you explored in this book?
Our life is not a beautiful fairy tale. There are struggles and real trials that happen to all of us. We learn from Servie’s example to not only endure those hardships, but to endure them well. It’s about clinging to your faith and everything you believe, and trusting that you are not forgotten. It is a testament to a woman who endures incredible sacrifice for her children and moves forward in life despite tragedy. Her heart remains soft and she shows us that hope is real.

Tell us about the process of writing Servie's Song.
Heidi Tucker
I spent weeks interviewing Servie to peel back layers of her life. Many memories were so painful it was difficult for both of us, but I knew that I needed to feel this story to write from my heart. After typing up every transcript, I saw a pattern and knew that I not only wanted to tell her story, but to teach important principles that were defined by the way she lives. It’s a story about never giving up or letting go of our faith.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell BookPound readers?
Servie’s Song is the true story of one mother living in Zimbabwe, Africa who encounters a devastating loss leaving her unable to care for six children. In a heart-wrenching sacrifice she surrenders to a desperate plan to leave her children and find work in the United States. It is a door which feels impossible to walk through, But perhaps, the only door which holds any promise.
 
Servie often refers to “the voice within my heart.” She has a tender, open heart and has always trusted it despite outside circumstances. She recognizes this voice as truth, and acted on it when she left her country and many other times. It is amazing to witness this experience time and time again in her story, and it inspires us to consider how we might better tune ourselves to recognize our own “voice within my heart.”

You can find Heidi at her website and on Twitter

Thursday, January 11, 2018

A List of Wintertime Books


The United States has been experiencing an unusually cold winter, and many of us just want to curl up with a book and a nice, warm blanket. Instead of fight the winter, we might as well embrace it. The following books are set in winter, and you can read them indoor while knowing the wind is howling outside.

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
This is a quick read, but it will probably stay with you a long time. It's a haunting story about Ethan Frome, his icy wife Zeena, and Zeena's warm and lovely cousin Mattie (you can see where this is going). 

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
Books set in Russia are perfect for winters such as these. This one is set at the end of the Romanov Dynasty and goes through the Russian Revolution of 1917. Romantic and tragic, this one will keep you turning page after eloquent page.

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
If you haven't revisited the Little House books since your childhood, do yourself a favor and pick one up. Not only will you feel nostalgia, but you'll have a renewed appreciate for your cushy life in the 21st century.

The Coldest March by Susan Solomon
This is a history of Captain Scott's famous expedition to the South Pole. They attempted their
expedition in unseasonably cold weather (even by Arctic standards). The author used diaries of men who survived the trip and a few from men who didn't, making it especially poignant.

The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphrey
The premise of this book is that the Thames has frozen 40 times, and there's a vignette for each of those times. Most of the stories center on an ordinary citizen and the effects of the extreme cold on their lives. This is a good book to read when you want to read slowly, a vignette or two at a time.

The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney
This slow-paced book offers stunning descriptions of the Canadian forests and might be described as a "historical mystery." It's set in a frontier town in the seventeenth century and gives us a peek into a world unknown to most of us: the fur trade, captivity narratives, etc.

Master and Man by Leo Tolstoy
We can't just have one Russian author on this list. It's winter, after all. Master and Man begins at a funeral where Ivan Ilyich finally starts thinking about his own existence after his friend's death sparks new trains of thought. If you're in the mood for philosophical thinking, Tolstoy's your man.

The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier
One more expedition story. In this book, Antarctic researchers lose contact with the outside world, so a few of them set off for help from another research station several days away. But they don't return [ominous music]. It's an interesting and quick-paced read. Make sure your blanket is extra thick.

Friday, January 5, 2018

REVIEW of THE TEENAGE BRAIN by FRANCES E. JENSEN & AMY ELLIS NUTT

THE TEENAGE BRAIN: A NEUROSCIENTIST'S SURVIVAL GUIDE TO RAISING ADOLESCENTS AND YOUNG ADULTS
Frances E. Jensen, Amy Ellis Nutt
Harper Paperbacks
January 2016

SUMMARY (from the publisher)
Dr. Frances E. Jensen is chair of the department of neurology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. As a mother, teacher, researcher, clinician, and frequent lecturer to parents and teens, she is in a unique position to explain to readers the workings of the teen brain. In The Teenage Brain, Dr. Jensen brings to readers the astonishing findings that previously remained buried in academic journals.
The root myth scientists believed for years was that the adolescent brain was essentially an adult one, only with fewer miles on it. Over the last decade, however, the scientific community has learned that the teen years encompass vitally important stages of brain development.  Samples of some of the most recent findings include:
  • Teens are better learners than adults because their brain cells more readily "build" memories. But this heightened adaptability can be hijacked by addiction, and the adolescent brain can become addicted more strongly and for a longer duration than the adult brain.
  • Studies show that girls' brains are a full two years more mature than boys' brains in the mid-teens, possibly explaining differences seen in the classroom and in social behavior.
  • Adolescents may not be as resilient to the effects of drugs as we thought. Recent experimental and human studies show that the occasional use of marijuana, for instance, can cause lingering memory problems even days after smoking, and that long-term use of pot impacts later adulthood IQ.
  • Multi-tasking causes divided attention and has been shown to reduce learning ability in the teenage brain. Multi-tasking also has some addictive qualities, which may result in habitual short attention in teenagers.
  • Emotionally stressful situations may impact the adolescent more than it would affect the adult: stress can have permanent effects on mental health and can to lead to higher risk of developing neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression.
Dr. Jensen gathers what we’ve discovered about adolescent brain function, wiring, and capacity and explains the science in the contexts of everyday learning and multitasking, stress and memory, sleep, addiction, and decision-making.  In this groundbreaking yet accessible book, these findings also yield practical suggestions that will help adults and teenagers negotiate the mysterious world of adolescent development.

REVIEW
I love a good how-to parenting book, but this one offers more than the garden variety, and that's what makes it so compelling and helpful. Jensen raised two boys, and they've successfully lived through their teenage and young adult years, so that makes her a reliable source already. But she's also a brain researchers and clinician, and she has the scientific method in her hip pocket at all times, so this makes her doubly reliable in my book.

What I found to be really helpful is learning about what's going on in teenage brain development. I've watched my kids pick up on new information and remember it ten times better than I can. Now I understand why they learn so well and so quickly. Their brain cells are more adaptable than mine are, so that information integrates and stores away more effectively. Unfortunately, this adaptability also makes them much more subject to addiction. 

The sections about marijuana and alcohol were fascinating as well, and they gave me interesting information and case studies that I can share with my kids and other teenagers in my life. Some of the stories in this section are heart-wrenching, and I'm sure that's why they were chosen. The research shows that real, lifelong damage can be done to teenage brains in a relatively short amount of time.

I also appreciated the section about helping teens to study well. There are so many distractions these days, and studying often takes a backseat to the endless entertainment available on the Internet. Being able to explain the downsides of multitasking and the upsides of sitting down in a predictable, clean place to study are very helpful to me as a parent.

If you have children, I highly recommend this book. But even if you don't, you have a brain. And this is an excellent book for helping you to understand it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

GOODREADS GIVEAWAY: SIX FLOORS FROM SOMEWHERE

Have you signed up for a free copy of Six Floors from Somewhere? No? Well, here's the link.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Six Floors from Somewhere by Rachel Tolman Terry

Six Floors from Somewhere

by Rachel Tolman Terry

Giveaway ends November 23, 2017.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway