Wednesday, April 26, 2017

NABE Winter 2017 Pinnacle Book Achievement AWARD WINNERS

NABE Winter 2017

Pinnacle Book Achievement 
Best Book in the
If You Were Me and Lived on Mars
Best Book in the
If You Were Me and Lived in Israel

See the entire list of winners HERE

Friday, April 14, 2017

Author Interview: Meet Nathan Bush

  1. Tell us a little bout your background.
Hello.  Thanks for having me over.  Well, let’s see.  I’ve been married to my wonderful wife, Tammy, since 2003.  Together we have 5 kids.  Only one is still at home.  I’ve lived all over the US, but have been in Alabama for 20 years now.  I’ve done work in fast food, a maintenance shop, flooring installation, carpet cleaning and water damage restoration and a stint in the US Army.

I’ve been writing off and on since middle and high school, where I worked on the school newspaper and literary magazine.

  1. What motivated you to write a book?
I got back into writing after reading a book by Randy Alcorn.  I don’t put myself on the same level as Mr. Alcorn, but I thought, as I finished his book, that I could write something like that.  And it snowballed from there.  I sat down one day, while on an injury-forced vacation, and started putting words into my laptop.  A month later I had 115,000 words put together.  I then spent the next year, off and on, editing and rewriting, until I had a “finished” product.

  1. Thank you for your service. What role has it played, if any, in your books?
It was my pleasure, honor, and duty to serve my country.  In Written in Blood, book one of my Christian crime series, The Foley Chronicles: Files from the 8th District, my main protagonist is a veteran, and I’m sure that he won’t be the only character to have a military background.  The Army had a huge impact on me and it will definitely continue to be reflected in my writing in one way or another.

  1. Religion is very important to you- How does your faith impact your books?
Yes, my faith is very important to me.  Coming to know Jesus is the most important event in my life.  I want that aspect of my life to show in my writing.  I don’t down other authors for their work, we all write what we want to write, but I wanted to write books that others could read without having to worry about profanity and explicit sexual situations.  I also want to use my books, not just to spread the Gospel, as a platform to turn certain situations into a teaching opportunity.  Kind of like how pastors and preachers use illustrations to hammer home a point.  I just do it the other way around.  I use situations my characters are going through to bring up what the Bible says about it.

  1. What do you want the readers to take away from your books?
Hmm.  I want them to be entertained, but I also want them to connect with my characters, whether they like them or hate them.  I also want them to see how the evil in the world will ultimately be overcome by the good.  And that nothing that we do will remain hidden; we will all be held accountable, eventually.

  1. What has been the biggest challenge in writing your books?
I think my biggest challenge is trying to edit and rewrite on one book while plotting and writing the next one.  And the marketing. AHHHHHHHH!!

  1. How did you come up with the plot?
It’s a twist on the Randy Alcorn book I was reading.  Not really the plot, just the idea of how I wanted the book to go.  I knew before I sat down to start writing how it would end, I just had to figure out how to get there.  Lucky for me, the characters wrote it themselves.

  1. What is your next project?
I’m already editing and rewriting book 2.  I have some new characters coming in, so I get to spend some time with introductions.  I hope to have it out by the end of April, but it’s looking pretty iffy at the moment.

  1. What are your favorite books?
I enjoy Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti, along with John Grisham, James Patterson, and Robert Ludlum.  My all-time favorite book is the Hobbit.  I’ve read it so many times that I lost count.  In fact, I still have the same copy I read when I was in the fifth grade.

  1. Where do you see yourself in five years?
I try not to think too far into the future, but I wouldn’t mind making a living with my writing by then.  I am getting older and my body won’t always be able to work like I do now.  Unlike the characters we create, we are finite!


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Trying a Different Genre by Rita Emmett

Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself 
any direction you choose.
       ~~ Dr. Suess

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a writing project where you don’t know what you’re doing and you are not clear how to do the next step … but you know it is what you are supposed to do?
Last year, I found myself in the middle of that type of journey. It was fun but I simply didn’t know where the path would lead and didn’t have a clear map showing the way.

How did I get there? Eight years earlier, after writing a book for adults to help children who procrastinate, I researched if there were books to directly help children break the putting-off habit. I discovered books for every aged child except little ones.

Yet I kept receiving emails asking help for mini-procrastinators.

For years, I prayed someone would write a book for young children. Then ... Did you ever have a smack-yourself-in-the-head-moment where you knew this is the time and you are the person to do something?

I wrote a picture Book.

And quickly learned two things:
1. I’m not good at it.
2. It’s hard. In less than 800 words, you have to create a plot with conflict, resolution, interesting characters plus a beginning, middle and end.
In the past, I was lucky to work with a terrific agent (who, sadly, does not handle picture books.) So I sent to literary agents my picture book about Patty O’Put-Off, a little girl who procrastinates.
No agent picked it up.

I sent it out again … and panic struck. If no luck with agents, I’ll self-publish it but I’ve never self-published anything.
So I wrote a “practice picture book”. That way, if nobody accepts my Patty O’Put-Off, I will already have learned the process.
My “practice book” begins with a favorite quote attributed to Einstein: “Everyone is a genius. But if a fish is judged by how well it climbs a tree, it will live its entire life feeling stupid.”
I had never written anything but self-help for adults. My first practice draft was 2,000 words. Attended a seminar, heard about the 800 word limit and decided to trim it a bit.

Did “power-editing”. Then took a webinar and learned each page must be written to the illustration. Reviewed my text and realized the first 4 pages were the same two fish talking to each other.
So I decided to give my character, Farkle Shark crazy goofy sayings. His big sister Sparkle would mock him and ask can you imagine if that were true. Then a cloud would be over their heads while she imagined whatever it was he said.

This seemed to be a brilliant solution, so I went to, selected an illustrator (who turned out to live in Romania) and put in my first order.
Farkle begins the dialog with a goofy saying: “Holy Mackerel Manhole”. I envisioned a drawing of a mackerel popping out of a manhole in the middle of the street and by-standers looking astonished.
Brilliant, yes?

The day after sending the order, my 11-year-old neighbor who was one of my readers told me that all kids will think that a manhole is a man’s butt hole.

After several awkwardly worded emails, that is exactly what the Romanian artist thought also. We revised it and if you ever read the book, and see the mackerel popping out of a mailbox, you will be one of the few people who know that “Holy Mackerel Mailbox” was not the original quote.
Jumping into a totally new genre meant that every day I discovered something new to learn, but the journey was great fun. I loved every minute of it (even the embarrassing awkward manhole moment of it)

The book is simple and funny.
Farkle Shark is cranky. His big sister Sparkle always criticizes his goofy sayings. But when Big Bully Boy called him stupid because he can’t climb trees, Sparkle jumps to her brother’s defense. Her advice, plus an adventure, changed his attitude … and his life.  
Moral of the story: if you ever feel driven to write something totally out of your comfort zone, but don’t know where to start … if you seriously want to achieve something but don’t know how to do it … first, make the decision that YES, you will do it.

Then do your homework. Learn as much as possible. Get started. Each time you can’t figure out the next step, keep learning. Google it. You might stumble across articles, webinars or Youtube explanations that move you along.
Ask for help, maybe find a mentor. Even if you are a super-capable person who takes pride in being knowledgeable and competent with everything you do, that doesn’t mean you can’t pause to seek help once in a while. You might be surprised at who or what appears to help move you along.

And if you find yourself feeling stupid because you can’t figure out the next step, allow me to recommend a newly-released book where a shark named Farkle will teach you that JUST because you don’t know how to do THIS thing, it doesn’t mean you are stupid.

You're off the Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Author Interview: Meet Becky Benishek

1- Tell us about yourself.

Hello! I'm Becky Benishek, always a writer, finally an author. I live in Wisconsin with my husband, Dave, and our guinea pig, Teddy. I attended Lawrence University for English and Environmental Science, and I've worked at the Crisis Prevention Institute for six years as their social media and community manager. I also have an extensive Lego collection, love doing jigsaw puzzles (Teddy helps), and I stick googly eyes on things. 

2- What prompted you to write these stories?

I actually wrote my second children's book first! I have a date on the manuscript that says 1999, though it could even have been earlier. I grew up with first white rats and then guinea pigs, and have stuck with guinea pigs since then. Oddly, Dr Guinea Pig George isn't based on any particular guinea pig I've known, but he was born fully-fledged in my mind with soft brown fur and determined personality nonetheless, and the story just rolled out. 

What's at the End of Your Nose? happened after I saw a series of photographs about snails that uncovered a whole new world from their perspective. And I thought, what if this were just one snail, and this was that one snail's day? That story just rolled out too, though I tweaked Sidney's final realization a little later. 

I hadn't actually thought about snails much before then, though I'd grown up with Cricket magazine and Trina Schart Hyman's delightful illustrations of the inhabitants. I apologize to all snails I've unwittingly neglected.

3- Has your day job impacted your characters or writing?

Only in the best way! My coworkers are amazingly supportive and excited about my books. 

I do my job has helped influence my story lines. Every day I'm in a whole world of people trying to provide the best care and safest outcomes for children and adults in their care, who often have special needs. This has helped me add subtle perspectives to both my current stories that hopefully speak to everyone.

4- What are the biggest challenges of being an indie author? Biggest rewards?

Having the gumption to stop talking about publishing so you'll start doing it instead! There's a lot of work because nobody is representing you but you. And we all have actual lives outside of making our dream come true. 

Somehow, though, you do make it work. There's a phrase I like to say: "We always make time to sit and watch TV." You can find the time, you just might have to rethink it a bit first. 

I expected to make mistakes along the way and I have not been disappointed in that, but by far the biggest reward is finding such a supportive group of both me and my books. It was a very lucky day when I found the Navigating IndieWorld group on Goodreads! 

5- Which is your favorite book? know, they're pretty much parallel, for there are enough differences to make it hard to compare. I cherish them both for different reasons.

Plus Sidney Snail & What's at the End of Your Nose? has the added distinction of being my debut book, which meant we went through all the ups and downs together of figuring out CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), formatting, pricing. . .I love it to bits, yet oof, that was hard work. When it was Dr. Guinea Pig George's turn, I had way more of a clue about the whole process. 

6- You often write from animal's perspective instead of a human's. Can you explain how you choose and develop your characters?

I anthropomorphize everything. Except for lettuce, because that's Teddy's favorite food, and that would just be too mean. But I've always loved animals, stuffed and otherwise, and grew up in a world peopled with all of these characters. What I hope I'm doing in sharing these characters outside of my own head is not making them too human, because they aren't; they have their own personalities, worries, interests. I'm just building a bridge. Interpreting, if you will!

7- Who are your favorite authors?

I will try to keep this short...

Wilkie Collins
Jane Austen
F. Marion Crawford
John Bellairs
Richard Scarry
Catherine Lowell
Anne McCaffrey
Cordwainer Smith
Mary Stolz
Madeline L'Engle
George MacDonald
Lois Lowry
Robert Peck
Dashiell Hammett
Raymond Chandler
Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman
Marion Zimmer Bradley
Thorne Smith
Howard Pyle

. . .I am stopping here by sheer force of will.

8- What are you working on now?

I'm getting a third children’s story with a more mythical animal ready for a target of Sometime-In-Fall, 2017. I’ve got a fourth story, a true picture book, next in line. I also have a middle-grade story I recently decided to expand past its original scope.

When I get through all of those, I’ll focus on adult short stories, of which I'm slowly building a collection. That's the plan, anyway; I may find myself switching to adult-land sooner.

9- What would you advise a budding indie author?

Stop thinking about writing. Stop thinking about being an author. DO IT. You have to almost trick yourself into forgetting about yourself, about the bills you have to pay, the breakfast you have to make, the laundry you have do, about everything but doing authoring. That's probably a grievous grammatical error but it's still true. I just know that if I'm sitting around thinking about or talking about writing, I'm not actually writing.

10- Sum up your books in three words that tells the prospective reader everything.

For What's at the End of Your Nose?: Snail Finds Adventure
For Dr. Guinea Pig George: Guinea Pig Cures Everything (I used "guinea pig" as a single entity.)


Monday, April 3, 2017

It's Criminal!

Inspecting Crime

Meticulously detailed and realistic, Where There's a Will, is a terrific crime drama. Nate Stone is a dedicated inspector assigned to investigate a robbery at a festival. Could the fleeing robbers be guilty of a hit and run, as well? While questioning people about this crime, the daughter of an important businessman is kidnapped. Stone proves he and his team are up to the task as they are thrown into another investigation. AR Carver creates likable characters, from their habit of teasing a junior officer about his unfortunate name (Christian Gray) to the human side of Stone worrying about his sick grandmother. The book jumps to multiple points of view, but this adds to the kinetic movement of the plot. Police work can be long, boring, and tedious. Carver manages to make his policemen seem real and interesting enough to care about them, while they juggle cases in their busy world.

Hidden Crime

Piper Banion got the short straw in the lottery of life. Stuck with an abusive mother, who can find nothing redeemable in her hard-working, studious daughter, she manages to stay true to her own moral compass. Faced the knowledge her mother has done something horrible, she turns her in and her life changes direction. Piper becomes friends with the daughter of a wealthy couple. This propels her into the lap of luxury and perhaps the arms of her friend's handsome cousin. However, all is not what it seems and Piper will land in the middle of a serial killer's spree, leaving the reader to wonder if she will become the next victim. This is a book about choices and staying true to your sense of values. There are a few twists that make the book both interesting as well as a page turner.
Witness to Crime

My Life As I Knew It is a thriller about a young girl who witnesses the murder of her mother at the hands of her beloved stepfather. Her life spirals out of control with the aftermath of the murder and she decides to move to LA to be with her estranged father. In California, she struggles to build a new life, she meets friends and while she is haunted by her mother's murder, she finds security with her dad and contentment with a new boyfriend. The one thing she can't find is safety. Her stepfather has never been caught and the book is a slow build to a confrontation. The chilling conclusion was rapid as it was menacing. With a deft hand, she was able to distract me enough to wonder about motives of key characters and I wish that would have been played up some more.
Peri June captures Maggie's and her friends' personality's perfectly. She writes with a clear, crisp voice that kept me engaged with her characters.

Infamous Crime

A diary is found one hundred years after it was hidden by a group of four brothers. So begins the well-written and atmospheric mystery involving the infamous Jack the Ripper. The diary reveals the story of a young pathologist who suspects a colleague of being Jack the Ripper. The more he investigates, he realizes things are not what they seem an perhaps part of a much bigger picture he doesn't understand. Chilling and written in the style of the times, My Ripper Hunting Days will transport you to another time and the gripping story will keep you there.

Supernatural Crime
Girls For Spiders

One creepy read. Sisters Schyler and Mia are headed to their parent's isolated cabin to clean it out after the untimely death of their father. Schyler has many secrets. She's broken up with her strange spider-worshipping boyfriend. She has another secret that's eating at her too.
It all comes together in an explosion of horror and magic, nothing will be the same for the sisters.
Chilling and surreal this is a thinking book. What's real and what's fantasy? Is Schyler the real victim or is her sister part of her cunning agenda?

Poetry of Crime

Raw, and filled with pain Angel Chadwick writes from a bruised heart. Her evocative poems are short bursts of anger, a person victimized by things happening around her, the words ever so more meaningful because she is aware what is happening to her. Sometimes full of rage, other times, remorseful, the poems change from a slavish love to the outcry of an abused partner, both reflecting her comprehension that she is stuck, a prisoner to her feeling.
"I am Darkness and so is he
We are one in the same
Don't you see?"
She grows from victim to survivor with the wounds to show for it, with the poignant cry,"Should it hurt to love, to be loved?"
"Devout" is a brilliant observation about rejecting goodness, embracing the violence of darker side, knowing the pain will come rather than thinking things might be better in the light. Light, Chadwick states "Is the creeper It lies Weaves its spells Tells it's tale of healing..." Clearly, she feels safer with the reliability of the pain rather than the promise of peace, the disappointment when it fails to deliver. Darkness is "Faithful to the core I know it will hurt me, make me bleed more It has no qualms or scruples."
"The Quest" is filled with self-loathing, the hatred of being "Lost in the shadows with no place to run." Coupled with the brutal realization, "...I feel like I am obsessed to being in this life"
This was a brilliant collection, honest and pure, a reflection of different stages of life, of passion and pain, the words carefully weaving a spell on the reader, dragging them into the author's world.

Historical Crime
Davenport House

Mary Davenport is her father's favorite. Petted and indulged by him, she is beloved by everybody in the house except her mother and brother. She can't understand why her mother appears to resent her. Together the family lives a privileged lifestyle in their mansion Davenport house, surrounded by trusted servants and secrets.
Servants may seem to be invisible working to keep the great house running, however, they have a keen understanding of the dynamics of the family.
Tragedy strikes when Mary's father dies mysteriously making the upstairs life of the wealthy inhabitants collide with the downstairs servants, driving the family down a twisted path.
Simply written, Marie Silk draws a vivid picture of a different era, patiently recreating the glamor that hides a tarnished past. Mary may start the saga as a child but ends it as a woman. An entertaining read that's easy to spot the heroes from the villains. I read this book voluntarily. It was given to me by the author.

Tongue in Cheek Crime

Entertaining tongue in cheek story with all the elements of a good western, a dried up town, good townspeople, lawmen, s drifter with the ominous name of Bones Jones, a flashy talking con man type, and an army of undead zombies. Put the ingredients together and you have a bloody, bloody mess in the wild, wild west and a whole lotta fun.

Crime Family
The Medici: Power, Money, and Ambition in the Italian Renaissance

In depth book about the Medici's and their impact on the world. Author Paul Strathern demystifies each one of them, writing of each member of the illustrious family. Of Lorenzo her writes, "His sallow features were undeniably ugly, framed by lank centre-parted hair that fell to his shoulders; below his beetled brow his eyes were heavy-lidded, like his father's. He had an over-emphatic chin with a protruding lower lip, while his nose was broad and squashed, so much so that he literary had nor sense of smell-though this may have accounted for the precision with which he used his other senses, in aesthetic judgment and his poetry. HIs movements were clumsy, his figure tall and powerfully built, but ungainly; only his hands were long and delicate." In one paragraph, the author gives an insightful description more powerful than a portrait by a master. This is an insider's look at what made the family great, it's kin groomed and prepared through generations of education and preparation to reach the highest offices of the different kingdoms in the known world changing history forever.

South of the Border Crime

Not your everyday crime drama, Buried Ladies is diverse and thrilling, rich and exciting. Estella and Joan are neighbors and best friends. The action starts when Joan calls the police sure that Estella's been murdered by her husband. After all, there is blood on the rug and the body is missing. Joan knows something is wrong, and all the evidence points to her husband Jaime, an IT technician. Is she the victim of domestic crime, a pawn caught in the middle of the Mexican drug war, or has she become the latest statistic of women who are murdered by a serial killer? Hausman starts the book with a bang and never slows down, taking the reader on a wild zigzagging ride through dangerous territory. Just when you think you have the book figured out, she throws another surprise your way, making you read as quickly as you can to see where she's is going. Some of it is hard to read, there is rape and violence, but this is a crime drama filled with all the nefarious characters one associates with drug cartels, murder, and kidnapping.

Satisfying and different enough to tweak a reader's interests, Buried Ladies is crime drama at it's best.

Happy Reading!
Carole P. Roman