Monday, June 1, 2020

Interview with novelist Ben Lyle Bedard

My special guest author today is Ben Lyle Bedard. He’s chatting with me about his coming-of-age post-apocalypse book, The World Without Flags.

Bio:
Born in Buckfield, a rural town in Maine, Ben grew up reading Tolkien, Stephen King, and Charles Dickens. When he went to college at the University of Maine at Farmington, he published his first piece of fiction in the local college journal. While in Buffalo, New York, he met his future wife, Fernanda Glaser, a Fulbright scholar from Chile. To meet the requirements of her scholarship, she had to move back to Chile, and Ben followed her. They were married a year later, under crimson bougainvillea. He is currently living by the Pacific Ocean in La Serena while he researches and plans his next book.

Welcome, Ben. Please tell us about your current release.
The World Without Flags is a stand-alone sequel to The World Without Crows. The book takes place ten years after a plague nearly destroys humanity. The story is of a young woman, Birdie, who must protect her father when the plague mysteriously returns.

What inspired you to write this book?
In the first book, Birdie is a little girl, and I wondered what would happen to her in ten years or so. This book is an answer to that question.


Excerpt The World Without Flags:
There’s not much time to think about the revelation that I haven’t forgotten my own father, that he’s still hidden somewhere in my mind. I don’t have the luxury of time. I can’t just sit around the cabin, thinking, hoping I will remember more of the man I thought I had forgotten. I don’t have time to imagine that there might be more memories inside my head waiting to come out. I don’t have time to ask myself why now? Why are these memories coming back now? I don’t have time for any of that. I have to keep moving.
            I have to get Eric far away from the Homestead, and I have to do it tonight.
            But first I have to spend the day at the Homestead, acting like I’ll be here with them for the rest of my life. Norman and Franky come for me pretty damn early in the morning. It’s hardly dawn when they bang on the door. After a quick breakfast of a dried old apple and a fried egg, I have to follow around Franky like his personal pet, or like, well, like his princess, going from house to house, checking on people, solving problems, holding people’s hands as they cry.
            I’ve been too shocked by the whole resurgence of the Worm and Eric’s horrible transformation to think about anyone else. But as I follow Franky, I see that the damage of the Worm to the Homestead was more than a pile of ashes where our friends used to be. People are barely keeping it together. Some people can’t even get out of bed. Others are walking in some kind of stupor, like zombies. Franky tells them what to do and they do it, more like machines than people. Others throw themselves into work, people like Crystal who basically starts doing the work of like four people in the kitchen. She works without break. Pest too is like that. He works by himself in the field, all day long, as if trying to resurrect his friends by doing what they normally would have done. As if they would live again if he could only do all their work. When we visit him, he looks up, gaunt and filthy, his eyes haunted like a child’s should never be. He doesn’t look at me the whole time. He only takes the water that Franky offers him and drinks until he’s full. Franky claps him manfully on the back. Pest picks up his hoe and goes back to the field. I feel sorry for him, but I can’t think of anything to say. Queen is sitting at the edge of the field, watching Pest protectively as if she can sense the danger around us. I watch Pest attack the earth with his hoe, wishing there was something I could do or say. I never thought I’d feel bad for Pest.
            As we move from place to place, I see that Norman and Franky were right. We need each other. The Homestead is just barely hanging on. If it wasn’t for Crystal, I could easily imagine that everyone would just wander away on their own, in some kind of daze, and the place I grew up in would be no more. I used to think that the Homestead was unbreakable, something as unshakeable as a rock, but now I see it as it probably always was—fragile and precarious. It’s another revelation to me. Like most of the others, it’s discomfiting.
            All day Franky is like the old Franky. He’s kind and gentle and helpful. He walks from house to house and person to person with his tool box in his hand, as if it was like the old days, as if he was coming to ask about some broken hinges and not to make sure you weren’t in the process of hanging yourself or guzzling rat poison. I feel most of my rancor toward him dissipate. Most of it. Sometimes, when we are alone, I can see him looking at me with distrust. And maybe something else, something dark and intense. Although I know the Homestead needs him badly, it’s dangerous for me to stay here. I can feel it. I am more certain than ever that if Franky found Eric, it would be the end of Eric’s life. I have no doubt.
            All day I plan out the evening. I think about Eric up in the Land Rover. I know that I have to leave, and I have to leave tonight. If I stay much longer, I may find it too difficult to leave. I know it’s going to hurt people when I vanish. It will be yet another blow to the Homestead. It’s not really that I am necessary here, but that I am, like Franky and Norman said, a reminder of Eric. I’m like a walking memory of more secure times, like a promise it can be that way again. I’m sorry I can’t be that for them, but I won’t let Eric die. If I stay, someone will eventually find him and, “for the good of the community,” they will kill him.
            They will have to find their own hope.
            I will have to find mine.


What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m taking a break from the apocalyptic genre to write a fantasy book about enslaved people needing to tunnel under a wall to escape and save their families. It’s a prison break out story except it takes place in a world with swords and myths.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Good question. Very young, I suppose, when I used to copy about Oz books on my mother’s typewriter.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I live in Chile and teach English, but on my days off, when I write, I usually start by reading what I had written the previous day, making corrections, thinking about the overall structure, and then continue for that day. I usually stop work for lunch, then hit it again for a couple hours before calling it a day.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I don’t know if it’s interesting, but I don’t like to talk about a book I’m planning or writing. Once I’m done, then I can talk about it.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
According to an old report from my 4H Club, I wanted to be a chef.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Yes, let’s all be careful out there and keep each other safe, and we’ll get through the COVID-19. This may be a post-apocalyptic novel, but it’s hopeful.

Links:

Thanks for being here today!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Interview with debut suspense author Douglas Solvie

My special guest today is author Douglas Solvie. He’s chatting with me about his new psychological suspense novel, My Irish Dog.

During his virtual book tour, Doug will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit his other tour stops and enter there, too!

Bio:

My Irish Dog is the debut novel by Douglas Solvie and was motivated by a trip taken to Ireland and the chance discovery of a lost dog there. After spending most of his adult life living and working in Japan, Douglas is currently living in his home state of Montana. He hopes to make a new career out of writing and to travel the world, looking for inspiration for that next book, perhaps another set in beautiful Ireland. My Irish Dog is, after all, a story with a lot of unanswered questions.

Welcome, Douglas. Please share a little bit about your current release.
My Irish Dog is a psychological suspense novel, its plot focused on an emotionally lost soul named Spencer who takes a trip to Ireland, hoping time alone might possibly reveal an answer to what ails him. Near the end of his uneventful trip, in a small Irish village, he chances upon a lost dog that he rescues and then leaves in the care of a young woman living in a nearby farmhouse.

A puzzling episode a few minutes later compels Spencer, even though he’s not exactly sure why, to return to the village the next day. A day or two of changing plans would hardly disrupt his vacation; little does he know that it will mark a new beginning as Spencer dives headfirst into a parallel world that will test his will, sanity, and even physical well-being.

What inspired you to write this book?
My writing of this novel basically evolved by accident. I took a trip to Ireland by myself, because I had always wanted to go there and I thought I might try some fly-fishing. I also needed to just get away.

The trip went as planned until near the end I stumbled upon a stray dog near this small village in the southwest of the country. I spent half a day trying to figure out what to do with her, succeeding at last, but never knowing what really became of her. And a strange thing happened as I left the village that day.

So a few days or weeks or I don't remember how long later, the idea came to me that I could write a story. And I did. Small portions of the book are actual occurrences (greatly embellished mostly), and the rest imagination.

The main character and protagonist, Spencer, isn't necessarily based on me. But we do share some quirks, characteristics, and a few other qualities. Writing for his character was easier that way.


Excerpt from My Irish Dog:
“You should not be here,” said the old man.

“What? What do you mean?”

“You should not be here,” the man repeated without the slightest emotion.

“What are you talking about? The sign over there clearly says that public fishing is allowed here.” Spencer set his fishing rod on the ground and pointed in the direction of village, not remembering exactly where he had read the information.

He studied the odd fellow. The man wore an old woolen trench coat that hung to the top of his thighs, and underneath a tattered brown sweater. Rubber boots extended to his knees, the kind of boots a farmer trudging through the mud would wear. His beard was an unruly mess of gray whiskers that encompassed the lower half of his weather-beaten face, and on his head sat a tweed cap. Everything about him was dirty and unkempt.

His dog didn’t look much better.

The man spoke again. “Everything you say is nothing. Everything you think is nothing. Everything you believe is nothing. You are just a bystander; you are just a voyeur. You do not belong. You must leave.”

Spencer took a quick look around the area, thinking this crazy man’s caretaker surely would soon be coming to the rescue. “What are you talking about, old man? Do you know me? What do you mean I must leave? You mean I must leave this area, this village? Why?”

“Can’t you see that it resides around you? It is there around you and inside you. It is shallow, and ugly, and hollow. You must leave.”


What exciting story are you working on next?
Honestly, I haven’t determined that yet. Logically, I think my present story lends itself to a sequel or the second in a series. I’m not certain that I could include the dog character, Shandy, because she’s been through a lot already, but the protagonist, Spencer, certainly would be included. I’ve got some ideas floating around in my head, but I am busy trying to promote the present book. I imagine I’ll get started on the follow-up within the next six months or so.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I never did, really. I knew that my writing skills were/are likely above average, but that does not make one a writer. I wrote a short story several years ago that got published (and for which I even got paid). Perhaps that gave me the confidence to embark on writing a novel. I simply knew that I wanted to write a novel someday, and so when I had the time I got going on and remarkably finished.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I’m retired now from my professional business career, so when writing My Irish Dog I guess you could say I was a full-time writer, although I certainly didn’t spend eight hours a day on the endeavor. Again, I’m retired for now, but I’m not certain that will last. I’m presently working on a business idea, which may or may not come to fruition, but ideally, for the time being at least, I would like to spend my time writing and traveling.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Perhaps the most interesting thing is that I didn’t work with a story outline at all. I really couldn’t sit back and envision how the entire book would play out; it just didn’t work for me. I had some basic ideas in my head, but the next scene and the next chapter would never come until I got busy writing the present scene or chapter. Then things would flow. It’s a bit unorthodox, but that method works for me.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
No idea. Even when I was in college, I had no idea. I probably changed my major three times before graduating with a degree in something I had essentially no interest. If I could go back in time, I believe I would have concentrated on sports management (or maybe even writing).

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I just hope there will be some interest among your readers in this book. If you’re a dog lover, it’s for you. If you like an inspirational story about someone lost who manages to find himself in the most unlikely of circumstances, this book’s for you. If you have any interest in a book set in an exotic location (perhaps with an affection for things Irish), this is a story you’ll like.

Links:

Thank you for being a guest on my blog!


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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Interview with MG historical novelist Rob Currie

Today’s special author guest is Rob Currie. We’re chatting a bit about his new middle-grade historical, Hunger Winter: A World War II Novel.

During his virtual book tour, Rob will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit his other tour stops and enter there, too!

Bio:
Life conspired to get Rob Currie to write Hunger Winter: A World War II Novel. His father is a World War II veteran and his wife is Dutch. An award-winning author, it was only a matter of time before he would focus his writing on World War II. Research for Hunger Winter included numerous books, interviews with Dutch WWII survivors, and three weeks in the Netherlands. His investigation revealed astonishing details about the Dutch experience of the war, which begged to be turned into a book.

Born and raised in the suburbs of Detroit, he graduated from Cornerstone University and went on to earn a master's degree and doctorate in psychology from St. Louis University. He has taught psychology at Judson University since 1987. His hobbies include playing basketball, cooking, and writing poetry.

Welcome, Rob. Please share a little bit about your current release. What inspired you to write this book?
Life hoodwinked me. When my seventh-grade son showed me a short story he’d written about World War Two, I suggested that he and I could take turns writing the rest of the story. He enthusiastically agreed so I took the first writing turn. My son soon lost interest, but as I did research, my fascination grew as I discovered the poignant hardship and heroism of the Dutch and realized their stories demanded to be shared. It was a fulfilling yet challenging experience because you do not simply write a novel so much as you wring it out of your soul.

Now that the book has been finished, I’m hearing from many kids and in some cases their parents, how much they are enjoying the book. For example, a fourth grader said, “Out of 10 stars I would give it 11.” A sixth grader said, “Tell him to write another book. I’ve recommended Hunger Winter to my friends.”


 Excerpt from Hunger Winter: A World War II Novel:
     As the soldiers let them through a gate, Els’s mind raced. She’d been delivered from death, but what lay ahead? Nothing the enemy had in mind could be good. Her legs trembled as rifle butts and curses herded her and the other prisoners into the back of a Gestapo van. Unseen hands slammed the back door and locked it with a metallic clank.
     The captives collapsed on the floor from physical and mental fatigue, but they soon found their voices. One man said that because his family had hidden Jews, soldiers gave them only twenty minutes to gather a few essentials before being taken into captivity. In addition, the Nazis gave their house away to new residents and ordered the man’s children to arrange bouquets of flowers for the newcomers. A murmur of sympathy rippled through the group.
     A woman said the Gestapo had arrested her for naming her pig Hitler. With voices hoarse due to their emaciated condition, the captives howled with glee, and happy tears flowed. When the merriment ended, someone said, “I bet your pig had better manners than Herr Hitler,” and the laughter exploded again.
     “And I bet the pig had a better mustache, too,” Els added. She laughed so hard her sides hurt.
     Minutes later the van stopped and the door swung open.
     “Where are we?” a woman asked as she peered at a large building.
     “Nowhere we want to be,” Els answered. She lowered her voice. “Stay strong. And don’t tell them anything.”


What exciting story are you working on next?
I am doing research for a sequel. Possibilities include how the Dutch Resistance fought against the Germans’ super weapon which was the V2 rocket. It weighed 14 tons and travelled at over three times the speed of sound so you couldn’t see it in time to shoot it down. Many of these super weapons were launched from the Netherlands, where my story takes place.  

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
God bless Miss Ballard, our high school English teacher, who taught us creative writing. After I completed a few of her creative writing assignments, I was hooked. She knew her stuff and was very encouraging.

If you don’t write full-time, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I teach psychology at the college level so most of my writing time comes in the summer when my life drastically changes. I don my “writing super hero” costume—ordinary shorts and a t-shirt, before biking 40 minutes to the office to get my heart rate up and pump oxygen to my brain. Then I immerse myself in the story, researching, writing, and rewriting. Someone once said the soul of writing is rewriting. That is the bare truth. It’s the hardest and most satisfying aspect of the work to struggle, strain, and finally know you nailed it.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
 I drink one hundred ounces of water per day because water significantly clarifies the thinking.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was the oddball kid in my class who never knew what career he wanted. All my friends in elementary school knew, or thought they knew, that they wanted to be police officers or teachers or whatever.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Hunger Winter is grabbing and holding readers’ interest. Thirteen-year-old Tom read Hunger Winter and a month later when he was assigned to pick another novel, he told his dad “I want another book like Rob Currie’s.” Eleven-year-old Paige read it and said, “I never thought I’d be interested in WWII but now I really am.” Fifty-nine-year old Bob read Hunger Winter and said it is the first book he has read all the way through since he graduated from college.

Links:

Thanks for joining me today, Rob.


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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Interview with writer Alexandra Franzen

Today’s special guest is Alexandra Franzen and we’re chatting about her new book, The Checklist Book: Set Realistic Goals, Celebrate Tiny Wins, Reduce Stress and Overwhelm, and Feel Calmer Every Day.         

Bio:
Alexandra Franzen is a writer, consultant, and entrepreneur based in Hawaii.
She writes about a wide range of topics: life, love, death, grief, unplugging from technology, creativity, focus, productivity, simplicity, time–and how we spend it.

Her sixth book is The Checklist Book: Set Realistic Goals, Celebrate Tiny Wins, Reduce Stress and Overwhelm, and Feel Calmer Every Day. She has written articles for Time, Forbes, Newsweek, The Huffington Post, and Lifehacker. Her work has been mentioned in The New York Times Small Business Blog, The Atlantic, The Los Angeles Times, and Inc.

Alexandra’s newsletter has been called one of the “14 newsletters you need in your inbox” by Brit+Co. Join 13,000 readers and sign up for inspiring stories, checklists, music playlists, and exciting surprises.

Welcome, Alexandra. Please tell us about your current release.
Thanks for having me here today!

My new book is called The Checklist Book: Set Realistic Goals, Celebrate Tiny Wins, Reduce Stress and Overwhelm, and Feel Calmer Every Day.

It’s a book about the power of making a list.

But really, it’s a book about how to clarify what really matters to you—and then simplify your life and design your day accordingly.

If you had 24 hours to live, how would you spend your time? Whatever matters most strongly to your heart, that’s what belongs on your daily checklist.

What inspired you to write this book?
I have a lifelong obsession with checklists. I use checklists for all kinds of things—checklists to plan my day, checklists to prepare for big transitions (like moving into a new house), and I’ve even made checklists for navigating painful situations, like coping with grief, or going through a break-up.

Checklists are powerful. They help us feel a little calmer, more capable, and confident in the face of life’s challenges.

When you make a list, generally, you feel less overwhelmed and more focused. Instead of spinning with overwhelm, you can exhale and go, “Okay, maybe I don’t have all the answers, but at least I know my next 5 steps. I can get things moving in the right direction.” It’s very empowering to make a list, check things off, and celebrate each tiny victory.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m working on a top secret project right now—which hasn’t official been unveiled yet. It’s a new company that’s all about detoxing from technology.

I hope to inspire people to spend way less time sitting in front of a screen (computer, phone, tablet, TV) and way more time out in the non-digital world.

I’ve noticed in my own personal life that too much tech-time makes me feel drained, sluggish, and anxious. I would love to help society create more balance—using tech when it’s needed, but not excessively. Because we’ll all feel healthier and happier if we put turn off our phones once in a while!

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Probably around age eight. That’s when I wrote my first “book”—which was basically a few pages stapled together! It was a story about flying unicorns which I wrote by hand and illustrated myself! Haha.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I do! I’ve been a full time, self-employed writer for the last 10 years.

A typical workday for me including working with clients—companies hire me to write materials for them, like website language, newsletters, podcast and video scripts, educational materials, speeches, all kinds of things. I have “writing deadlines” pretty much every single day of the week—it definitely keeps me on my toes!

And, a typical week for me also includes teaching (I teach classes on writing, creativity, goal setting, checklists, and more) as well as my own personal writing—writing essays, stories, books, and my own weekly e-newsletter.

I’ve been able to build a solid list of clients, and consistent income, as a writer. For that, I feel very blessed and grateful.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
One strange thing about me is that…I never learned how to type “correctly”! I use about 4 out of 10 fingers when I type. But I type extremely fast. I have a bizarre approach but hey, it works for me!

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A shark scientist! I was obsessed with Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, and I’ve always had a deep fascination with the ocean.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Our planet is going through an especially challenging time right now. Many of our usual routines have been disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, now is the time to double-down on your self-care, and do things that clear your mind and lift your spirits.

Making a daily checklist can really help. I recommend keeping your checklist to one page, max, and focusing on very tiny action steps. Keep it simple. Don’t overload yourself.

What are some “tiny wins” that you could realistically accomplish today? Celebrate each victory, no matter how big or small. If you remembered to take a shower, check in with your mom, hug your child, and eat a vegetable today, that’s beautiful and worth celebrating. Keep setting tiny goals and checking them off your list. Take good care of yourself. xo.

Links:



To learn more about Alexandra, visit her other tour stops!
-- Blog Tour Dates

May 11th @ The Muffin
What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Make sure you visit the WOW blog today and read an interview with author Alexandra Franzen and enter to win a copy of the book The Checklist Book.

May 12th @ Karen Brown Tyson
Stop by Karen's blog today and read Alexandra Franzen's inspiring guest post entitled, "You Are Going to Survive."

May 13th @ World of My Imagination
Join Nicole as she reviews Alexandra Franzen's book The Checklist Book.

May 15th @ The Burgeoning Bookshelf 
Visit Veronica's blog today and you can read her review of Alexandra Franzen's book The Checklist Book.

May 16th @ Lapidus International
Stop by the words for wellness organization today and read Alexandra Franzen's guest post about the importance of nature time.

May 18th @ One Sister's Journey: Keeping It Real
Visit Lisa's blog today and read her review of Alexandra Franzen's book The Checklist Book.

May 19th @ Chanel Bevis' Blog
Stop by Chanel's blog today and read her review of Alexandra Franzen's book The Checklist Book.

May 20th @ And So She Thinks
Visit Francesca's blog today and you can read Alexandra Franzen's guest post about what a checklist can do you for you.

May 21st @ Reviews and Interviews
Stop by Lisa's blog where she interviews the author Alexandra Franzen.

May 23rd @ Boots, Shoes, and Fashion
Visit Linda's blog and you can read her interview with Alexandra Franzen. Don't miss it!

May 25th @ The Frugalista Mom
Stop by Rozelyn's blog today and you can read her post about Alexandra Franzen's book The Checklist Book.

May 27th @ Dog-Eared Days of Summer
Visit Courtney's blog today and you can read her review of Alexandra Franzen's book The Checklist Book.

May 28th @ Strength 4 Spouses
Visit Wendi's blog today and read Alexandra Franzen's guest post unplugging more.

May 29th @ Books Beans & Botany
Visit Ashley's blog today where she shares her review of Alexandra Franzen's book The Checklist Book.

May 30th @ Memoir Revolution
Memoir and self-help expert, Jerry Waxler pens an article about the value of a checklist habit for memoir writers, inspired by his reading of The Checklist Book.

May 31st @ Michelle Cornish' Blog
Stop by Michelle's blog today and you can read a guest post by Alexandra Franzen about shifting away from perfection. A post we all need to read today!

June 1st @ Strength 4 Spouses
Visit Wendi's blog today to read her review of Alexandra Franzen's book The Checklist Book.

June 2nd @ Beverley A. Baird's Blog
Visit Bev's blog today and you can read her review of Alexandra Franzen's book The Checklist Book.

June 3rd @ Rachael's Thoughts
Visit Rachael's blog today and you can read her review of Alexandra Franzen's book The Checklist Book.

June 4th @ Michelle Cornish' Blog
Visit Michelle's blog today and read her review of Alexandra Franzen's book The Checklist Book.

June 5th @ Editor 911
Stop by Margo's blog today and you can read her review of Alexandra Franzen's book The Checklist Book.

June 6th @ Megan Writes Everything
Visit Megan's blog today and she reviews Alexandra Franzen's book The Checklist Book.

June 7th @ The New England Book Critic
Visit Victoria's blog today and read her review of Alexandra Franzen's book The Checklist Book.

June 8th @ Dog-Eared Days of Summer
Visit Courtney's blog again and read Alexandra Franzen's guest post about focusing on tiny wins.

June 9th @ Alternative Grace
Stop by Amber's blog today and read her review of Alexandra Franzen's book The Checklist Book.

June 10th @ Beverley A. Baird's Blog
Stop by Bev's blog again and you can read Alexandra Franzen's guest post about putting self-care into your daily checklist. An absolute must-read!

June 11th @ Jill Sheet's Blog
Visit Jill's blog today and you can read Alexandra Franzen's guest post about getting the phone out of your room.