Thursday, November 8, 2018

Straight From the Mouth of Sheila Roberts, Author of 'Winter at the Beach'

USA Today best-selling author Sheila Roberts has seen over fifty books, both fiction and non-fiction in print. Her novels have appeared in many different languages and been made into movies for both the Lifetime and Hallmark Channels. She writes about things near and dear to women’s hearts – love, friendship, family and chocolate.

Her latest book is the women’s fiction, Winter at the Beach.

Thanks for letting us interrogate you!  Can you give us a go-for-the-gut answer as to why you wanted to be an author?
I’d always been making stuff up, even as a kid, writing stories and then torturing my third grade class by making them listen to me read my brilliant creations. I used to put myself to sleep telling me bedtime stories. I thought that was normal!

Tell us (we won’t tell promise!) is it all it’s cracked up to be?  I mean what are the perks and what are the demands?
The perks are the joy of getting to see your tale wrapped up in a pretty book cover, of getting to hang out with readers. The demands? The dreaded deadline. When an author’s on deadline the rest of her life comes to a screeching halt.

Which route did you take – traditional or self-published – and can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what’s that like?
I’m happy being traditionally published, although I’ve put a few things up on my own. The beauty of being with a publisher is having a whole team behind you – editor, copy editor, art department, marketing, sales. I know a lot of authors are doing all this on their own these days, but that’s a lot of work. Instead of having that delegated for you so you can write and enjoy book signings and blog tours, you have to do everything. My hair’s already gray enough, thank you.

What’s the snarkiest thing you can say about the publishing industry?
Want to be traditionally published? Prepare to starve. It can take years to get an agent and then a book deal. We go months in between paychecks. When our money comes it comes in big chunks, which makes getting home loans interesting. (Bankers think we’re either drug lords or that we’re laundering money.)

Tell us for real what your family feels about you spending so much time getting your book written, polished, edited, formatted, published, what have you?

My family is great. My husband is my business partner and handles my (drug lord) money, takes care of travel arrangements, works the camera when I have Facebook live events, and, along with my daughter and her kids, shows up at all my book signings.

What was the craziest or insane thing that happened to you in the book publishing process?
My big brother started coming to my book signings in disguise. One time he came as a little old lady. I totally didn’t recognize him. Another time he was a Mario-styled handyman. Once he showed up at a Barnes and Noble as a deranged heckler. I kept trying to ignore the guy but he wouldn’t go away. The staff almost called the police on him. Happily for him, I finally realized who he was and they heard the laughter and figured out it was a joke. Darn. It would have made an even better story if the cops had showed up.

How about the social networks?  Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid?
I love Facebook. We have fun on my like page (Fun with Sheila – check it out!). And I like keeping up with what everyone’s doing. Twitter? Not so much. I’m a lousy tweeter.

Book sales.  Don’t you just love them (or lack of?)?  How are you making the sales happen for you?

A lot of hard work! I sponsor a lot of on line parties, festivals and contests. Book sales don’t magically happen, believe me. An author has to work hard to earn her readers. And then she has to work hard to keep them by giving them something they’ll enjoy reading. I try hard to make my books worth a reader’s time.

What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about?
How long it takes to get paid. Want a weekly salary? Don’t become an author. J In fact, don’t become an author for money at all. Those of us who write do it because we love it. There’s the bottom line.

Okay, too much sugar for you today!  Here’s a nice cup of Chamomile tea and come on over and sit under the cabana and watch the waves roll in.  Now…can you tell us what you love about being a published author and how all those things above doesn’t matter because it’s all part of the whole scheme of things and you wouldn’t have it any other way?

I think you summed up beautifully. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have a great publisher and work with some fabulous people. I still enjoy spinning a yarn and I sure enjoy hanging out with readers. I’m truly thankful to be able to do what I’m doing. And now, forget the tea. Where’s the chocolate?!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Straight From the Mouth of Alastair Fraser, author of Forestry Flavours of the Month

Publication Date: May 20, 2016
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Formats: Ebook
Pages: 228
Genre: Biography
Tour Dates: September 4 - 15

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Forestry touches on all aspects of human welfare in one way or another, which is why foresters need to play an active role in determining our collective agenda. Alastair Fraser, a lifelong forester and the co-founder of LTS International, a forestry consulting company, explains how forestry changes with political cycles and how foresters can promote healthy forests at all times.

He explores critical issues such as:
• forests and their connection to coal;
• forest's role in combatting floods and climate change;
• illegal logging in Indonesia, Laos, and elsewhere;
• tactics to promote sustainable forestry management;
• plantations as a solution to tropical deforestation.

From pulping in Sweden and Brazil, paper mills in Greece and India, agroforestry in the Philippines, "pink" disease in India and oil bearing trees of Vietnam, no topic is off limits. Based on the author's life as a forester in dozens of countries, this account shows the breadth of forestry and makes a convincing case that forestry management needs to focus on managing change and achieving sustainability. Whether you're preparing to become a forester, already in the field, or involved with conservation, the environment or government, you'll be driven to action with Forestry Flavours of the Month.


Who or what is the inspiration behind the book?

The inspiration for the book was the very rewarding and interesting professional career spanning 55 years and including working in over 40 countries

Is this your first published book and if so, can you tell us your experiences in finding a publisher for it?

I has already published an academic textbook, but I did not find a lot of interest in the genre from mainstream publishers.

Where do you live and if I were coming to town, where would we go to talk books?

I live deep in the Scottish countryside in a very old cottage (but with modern amenities).  The nearest town is Blairgowrie, which among other claims to fame has a Bookmark festival annually, and there are plenty of nice coffe houses where we could discuss books

When you’re not writing, what do you do to relax and have fun?

As I am now retired, I enjoy gardening when the weather is fine, tinkering with my vintage motor car when the weather is not so good and visiting friends or entertaining thos who come to stay with me.

Do you make a living off your books or do you have another job?

No, I don’t expect to make a living from the book, but I have a pension that is adequate to enjoy life

Alastair Fraser is a founder member of the archaeology group No Man s Land. He has worked as researcher and participant in a number of Great War documentaries. Steve Roberts is a retired police officer and an ex-regular soldier. He specialises in researching individuals who served during the war and is also a founder member of No Man s Land. Andrew Robertshaw frequently appears on television as a commentator on battlefield archaeology and the soldier in history, and he has coordinated the work of No Man s Land. His publications include Somme 1 July 1916: Tragedy and Triumph, Digging the Trenches (with David Kenyon) and The Platoon.

Straight from the Mouth of John Ford Clayton, Author of MANIPULATED

"Sometimes Things Don’t Go as Planned"

For close to 20 years I worked on creative teams in churches helping to write full-length dramas as well as 5-minute sketches. That process led to a nagging question that just wouldn’t go away; “I wonder if I could write a novel?” After doubts and procrastination, I finally decided to give it a go in January 2015. I worked full time during the day, so writing would be late in the evening and on weekends. I found writing difficult but rewarding. I was surprised to find that after two months I had written 75 pages.

In late February 2015 a death in the family put the writing on pause for a couple of months, but I resumed the process in May. Another 75 pages seemed to come more smoothly. I was feeling encouraged. The story was starting to take shape. But then my own personal story took an unexpected turn. I got to hear the three words no one wants to hear; “You have cancer.”

The cancer would involve surgery, a six-week recovery, and six months of chemo. After the usual range of emotions that a cancer diagnosis brings, I thought, at least this would give me more time to write. I was wrong. Cancer and chemo are physically and emotionally draining. I was surprised to find how much energy and focus it takes to write. As many times as I tried to sit in front of the keyboard, the words just would not come.

For those dealing with a cancer diagnosis or who have a loved one dealing with cancer, I wrote occasional Facebook posts to friends and family while I was going through the process. If you are interested in reading those posts they are here.

Surgery and chemo filled in the time from June 2015 to January 2016. After a few months of regaining my strength, my wife and I took a trip in April of 2016 to our usual spring destination, Isle of Palms, South Carolina. Although I hadn’t written in close to a year, my unfinished manuscript was always in the back of my mind. I had almost concluded that I was going to put aside what I had written and start something different. During the trip I asked my wife to read the 150 pages just to make sure I wasn’t making a mistake by starting something new. I can always count on my wife for honest feedback. After reading the partial draft she was insistent that I resume this book and finish it. Not only did she think it was a fun read, she wanted to know how it would end. Frankly, so did I. Her encouragement lit the spark to get busy writing again.

I dusted off my manuscript and starting the writing process again in May 2016. Long nights and weekends led to progress, doubt, more progress, and more doubt. I was motivated by a handful of friends who I had asked to read as I was writing. Once a week I’d send out the latest chapters I had finished. I still recall getting a text from a friend after a less-than-productive week. The text simply read “Finish your dang book!” On August 13, 2016 I e-mailed my friends with the subject “The End”. It contained the last few chapters of the book. Although it was the end of the book, it would be far from the end of the process.

I spent the next few weeks re-reading the manuscript and making many edits. I then sent the finished work to professional editors to perform their magic. Wow, did they ever make me wish I had listened more intently in high school and college English classes. When their work was done I could start the process of trying to find a publisher.

For those unfamiliar with the publishing process (I was) here’s a very quick primer. To approach a publisher an author must go through a literary agent. Literary agents screen manuscripts through a process called a query. Queries typically involve a short cover letter and the first one to three chapters of the manuscript. The odds of an unpublished author who’s not already well-known (e.g. an actor, musician, sports star) are lottery-esque. Nevertheless, I would try.

In October 2016 I sent out around 20 queries. I got nothing back…I mean literally NOTHING. Most agents have a response protocol something like, “If you haven’t heard back from us in eight weeks, assume we’re not interested.”

There are many stories about well-known authors who have dealt with literary rejections. A google search of “famous author literary rejections” will turn up names like J. K. Rowling, Ernest Hemmingway, George Orwell, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Stephen King, Dr. Seuss, and John Grisham. Rejections are part of every writer's publishing journey.  

After getting no feedback on my initial queries I was faced with three options; 1) give up, 2) try self-publishing, 3) try another round of queries. All three options were given very serious consideration. In early 2017 option 3 won out. In April-May 2017 I sent out around 25 more queries. I actually got two responses, both “no’s”. I was back to the three options again.

Our family moved in the summer of 2017, so several months were spent packing and unpacking. In September 2017 after we were (somewhat) settled into the new home, I decided to give self-publishing a try. After researching several options, self-publishing through CreateSpace, an Amazon company, won out. With the self-publish option the success of the book comes down to the author/reader relationship. It is up to me to write, market and connect with you, the readers. I look forward to developing that relationship and to hearing your feedback.

About the Author:

John Ford Clayton lives in Harriman, Tennessee with his wife Kara, and canine companions Lucy, Ginger and Clyde. He has two grown sons, Ben and Eli, and a daughter-in-law, Christina. He earned a BS in Finance from Murray State University and an MBA from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He is active in his East Tennessee community having served on the local boards of the Boys and Girls Club and a federal credit union, on church leadership and creative teams, and on a parks and recreation advisory committee. When he’s not writing he works as a project management consultant supporting Federal project teams. John is a huge fan of Disney parks and University of Kentucky basketball.

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