Monday, 30 December 2013

The Winds of Change

As some of you may remember, awhile ago I was given the position of Executive Editor over at The Corner Club Press. I assisted the founder, Amber Forbes in putting out a few pretty fantastic issues. We then expanded the team and created a pretty awesome paranormal issue. Now the team has grown again and things have changed a bit.

 I gave up my position as Executive Editor. I still work with the magazine, just in a role that I feel I'm better suited for. I took up the position of Poetry Editor and I really couldn't be happier. I'll step back into the executive editor role in a minute if I'm needed, but I feel that the new editor will do a great job, I don't think there will be any problems. I'll still be handing the social media end of things, and doing some website updating and of course, handling the poetry.

I made this change for many reasons, one of which was I felt that Kristina deserved the job more than I did, and I was never really comfortable in it anyway. The other reason is that I have three kids and a life at home to consider. I also have some writing projects I'm working on and I help my author friend Amber Forbes with a lot of her book promotion (and the odd beta read now and then) and I just don't want to keep my plate too full all the time. If there is anything I don't like, it's over committing and then dropping the ball. The new team is going to be a good one because we play off our strengths, and mine is poetry. It just made sense to me to make this change.

So if you're a writer, or a reader, you should go take a look at The Corner Club Press. There's lots of great stories and poetry in there (and it's free)

Saturday, 28 December 2013

2014 Is Just Around The Corner

I've spent the past few days reflecting on 2013  and I've come to the conclusion that it was a good year. I wrote a novel, I wrote a few short stories and I had several poems picked up for publication. I landed a position working on a literary magazine, started a blog and an author page on facebook. I've been trying to think of ways that I can make 2014 even better and more productive and here's what I want for myself in the new year. 

I want to be published more. I want more poetry published, I want more flash fiction and short stories published. I want to rewrite Unbroken. I want to help make The Corner Club Press even more successful. What I want most is to put together a poetry book and have it published. In January a small writers group I run is going to do a Jan-O-WriMo event and I intend to write a ton of poetry so I can put together a manuscript. I have a few presses in mind to submit it to already. My goal is to have the manuscript completed by February 9th (my 31st birthday) If I hit a stroke of luck, hopefully it will get picked up this year. 

I also want to blog more. I know, I've sorely neglected this place for the past month and I'll be shocked if anyone even reads this. I'll be delighted, but shocked nonetheless. I hadn't given up on it, just life has a funny way of stealing time away from you. I also intend to be a little more organized this year. I'll kind of have to be. I have one kid in school and his younger siblings (The Twins) will be following in the fall. I'm already finding myself busy with school activities and this will only increase in the fall, but...on the other side of that coin, it also means more writing time come September. I'm thrilled both for my children and for myself. 

So those are my goals and I think they are good ones. I have more goals for 2014 then I think I've ever made in any other year. What goals do you have for next year? 

Monday, 9 December 2013

It's Been Awhile

Hi everyone! Sorry I've been gone so long. I've been meaning to post, but I've been super busy with a few different things. I've been beta reading for my awesome author friend, Amber Forbes. I've also been helping her promote her novel, When Stars Die.

Don't worry, I haven't been totally negligent to my own projects, in fact since I blogged last I've had a couple things published and received more acceptance letters. My first flash piece will appear in the spring, in fact. I had three poems published over at The Kitchen Poet, one over on Walking is Still Honest and I just got an acceptance letter from a lit mag that is produced by a university. It will be my first time appearing in print! EEP!

I realize that I have gotten behind on my author interviews and I deeply apologize. I swear I will get on them. I'm so terribly sorry that they've gotten pushed to the back burner for the moment. The holidays are a busy time of year for me, but I will get them done, I swear I will.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Spotlight: An Interview With DeeJay Arens

DeeJay Arens resides in north central Minnesota. Besides writing, his creative outlets include theater and filmmaking as part owner of a production company. He also works as a vocational vendor and Member/Owner services manager for a natural food cooperative.

Mariah: Tell me about yourself.

DeeJay: My name is DeeJay Arens and I live in Bemidji, MN. By day, I am marketing coordinator for a natural foods cooperative. By night, I am a writer, co-owner (with my partner Steve) of Saarens Productions which produces film and theatre, and co-owner of a vocational placement firm.

Mariah: Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?

DeeJay: As far as talents go; I am a jack-of-all trades and a master of none. I guess my hobbies are everything I do in the afternoons and evenings. The production company allows me to be engaged with one of my first passions. I get to produce, act, direct, design sets and lighting, and , of course, write. Last year we released our first full-length film, Slip Away, for which I wrote the screenplay and played one of the roles. It was an amazing experience. We’re so lucky to be surrounded by amazingly talented people who share their time and immense talent with us.

Mariah: Tell me about your book, The View From a Rusty Train Car.

DeeJay: “Rusty Train” follows the relationship of Jared and Luke. They become fast friends at a young age and their feelings for each other evolve into something deeper. They are trying to understand and deal with their own feelings for each other in a time when that simply was not acceptable at all; society and their families make that abundantly clear to them. They end up on completely different paths, but what they feel isn’t easily ignored. No matter where they are in life, there is a bond between them that can’t be broken.

Mariah: I've read that this was a hard book for you to write. Tell me why it was important to you, to write this book.

DeeJay: That is true. Knowing, from personal experience, what it is like to be gay, coming out, the differing ways people treat you, and the expectations of society, I had to go back to some dark places. It was for me, like so many, a difficult journey. There are many emotions and experiences that are unpleasant to revisit, but to tell an honest, emotional story it was imperative that I go there. Again, this is not something unique to my personal experience. I wanted to tell it in hopes people struggling with the same issues could hopefully relate and perhaps it would help them through a difficult time knowing they are not alone. My intention was also to help the people

Mariah: The View From a Rusty Train Car has won two awards. Did you ever imagine that would happen? What was it like?

DeeJay: Absolutely not. There are hundreds of thousands of books published every year. The thought that my little book would be recognized never even occurred to me. The nominations alone floored me. Then to win… there aren’t even words to explain the emotions. I feel very honored. Sometimes it doesn’t feel real still. I am lucky to have an amazing team behind me at Writers AMuse Me. It is a testament to their support and work on the book as much as it is to the story.

Mariah: Did writing this book help you in any way?

DeeJay: Absolutely. Like any dark experience in life I think there are always some residual feelings that follow us through life. Writing the book helped me come to terms with those. It was a catharsis in many ways.

Also, this was my first book. Like I mentioned earlier, working on it with Mary (my editor) was like getting a Master’s Degree in creative writing in a very short time. I learned so much and I can’t begin to thank them for all of their time and for sharing their vast knowledge with me. I hope I do them proud in my future endeavors. Hopefully that means they won’t have to put so much work into it!

Mariah: What was the best thing about writing The View From A Rusty Train Car?

DeeJay: The entire experience. I honestly can’t name just one thing. It was a dream realized being published. It deepened my love of writing. Living with the characters through the journey is like nothing else. They become such an important part of your life. They become real. Meeting other authors and watching them work on their craft and supporting each other is inspiring. The awards, which honestly were not anywhere even a thought of the whole process, were truly an amazing experience. Finding a truly amazing team with which to work is the biggest gift of all.

Mariah: What are you working on now?

DeeJay: By far the hardest question! Well, let me see. I am working on a sort of prequel to Rusty Train. It’s a book on the life of Ellen. I wanted to see how she became who she is. I’m also working on a mystery which is really fun and challenging at the same time. I needed something lighter so there are some elements of comedy from the main characters. But don’t be dismayed, it has its moments of drama, suspense, and intrigue for sure! Well, I hope so anyways. I’ve also started a sort of family drama set at their summer cabin where adult siblings are having a reunion. Some long buried family secrets are revealed and some relationships may never be the same again.

I am also working on a play about a chance reunion of old friends and a screenplay that finds the main characters in a fall-out shelter. Yeah. I have no lack of projects at the moment.

I am always glad to hear from people so feel free to connect with me!
Slip Away can be seen on YouTube in 3 parts.
Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:

Monday, 18 November 2013

Spotlight: An Interview With Ben Galley

At 25, Ben Galley is a young self-published author from sunny England. He is the author of the epic and gritty fantasy series - The Emaneska Series. He has published four books to date, and doesn’t intend to stop any time soon. Ben is incredibly zealous about inspiring other authors and writers. He runs the popular advice site Shelf Help, where he offers advice about writing, publishing, and marketing. Ben is also the proud co-founder and director of eBook store Libiro, a store exclusive to indie authors. If you want to know more, Ben can be found being loquacious and attempting to be witty on Twitter (@BenGalley) or at his website -

Mariah: Your website says you've been writing since you could hold a pen. Tell me about the first story you can remember writing.

Ben: Well, the first story I ever wrote is currently hiding deep in my hard-drive, and there’s probably where it will stay. I was about 11 when I wrote it. It was an odd book, I’ll tell you that, and I spent years on the thing. It was called the Kanandapur Gang, and was heavily influenced by Brian Jacques, who wrote a series of books about Redwall, a sandstone abbey populated by anthropomorphised forest creatures - hedgehogs, moles, mice, badgers, hares, all fighting off the evil forces of weasels, rats, ferrets, and stoats, to name a few. My book was much the same, only with Rhesus monkeys and jungle creatures, and set in the depths of a southern Indian jungle. There was fighting. There were feasts. There was lore. There was magic, and mystery, and personal struggles. It was a very innocent book, that’s for sure. Good vs evil unto the very end. Boy-hood romanticism with a handful of blood and guts for good measure, and enough fantasy to keep my imagination happy. I’ll never resurrect it, but I am immensely proud of it. It was over 100,000 words in length, after all! But it’s served its purpose now, and that was to lay the foundation for where I am today.

Mariah: You do everything yourself. You write, edit and even sketch your own maps. You manage tours, do your own marketing, build websites and attend book signings. How do you manage to do all that and run two websites, and have a life, and not go stark raving mad?

Ben: With a careful and balanced frame of mind! I do have a tendency to pile my to-do list high, but I’ve learnt (at my peril) to focus on the tasks that are most important first. Prioritising is key to not dropping the ball, in my opinion. That, and always having a structured to do list and a trusty calendar by your side. It does take a certain attitude and drive however. I’ve always had a bit of tenacity in me, which is lucky, and also a bitter-sweet propensity to obsess, which can be a friend one day and a foe the other. All of these things drive me on, keeping me working hard, but they keep me focused too. There have been difficult times when your heads spins and you feel just that little bit overwhelmed. All it takes is a moment to regroup. The fact is that self-publishing is a job, and a job means work. And if you want to make an impact, it means hard work. But as a wise man once said - nothing is worth having if it hasn’t been earned with hard work. That’s what drives me.

Mariah: You could have easily kept all your knowledge of the industry to yourself, yet in 2012 you launched Shelf Help, a website geared to help authors who want to self publish. Why was it important for you to reach out and help others?

Ben: There were two reasons for launching Shelf Help. The first was to solve a couple of problems. It can be hard to find clear, concise, and honest advice on self-publishing sometimes. It can also be hard to know which companies are trustworthy, and which ones are not. Or in other words, which ones will be good for you, and which ones will hold you back. Unfortunately for us, if we fall foul of one of these companies, or publish without doing a lot of research, it can cost time, money, and even our rights. Too many authors suffer from this, and I wanted to put that right.

Secondly, I wanted to share my method of self-publishing, something I’ve now come to call the Shelf Help Method. It stands for three things: affordability, professionalism, and a technology-driven approach. I found a way of attaining the high standards that are vital to us indies, while at the same time keeping costs very low. It cost me around £400 to publish my debut novel The Written, and I did it by exploiting digital platforms, using today’s technology sell books. It’s a method that is definitely working for me, so I wanted to share it with upcoming authors, to hopefully give them a good chance at reaching their goals.

Mariah: How old were you when you started writing The Written?

Ben: I started in 2008, so 21. I seemed like I had been sucked into a cycle of dead-end jobs, so for me it was a way to escape the mundanity and do something truly productive. 

What is your favorite book in the Emaneska Series?

Ben: Now that’s a hard question! I’m extremely proud of the whole series, especially the two Dead Stars books. But there’s something about Pale Kings - it always pinches the top spot. I think it marked an important milestone for me. It seemed like a step up for both the plot and my own understanding of Emaneska. Whether by design or accident (you can never quite tell with writing), the ideas in Pale Kings were bigger, the world vaster, and its story bolder. That’s why I’m so proud of it - it shaped both the Series and me as a writer.

Mariah: What was the most challenging thing about writing a four volume fantasy series?

Ben: Consistency. The Series was released over a span of three years, so naturally as I moved on from each book, a few extra ideas would pop their little heads up along the way, often distracting me, or in a way tempting me, from the overall plot that I’d already decided on. The trick was selecting the best ideas, while trying to maintain the plot-lines and hints I’d put in The Written. That was hard enough, but when you factor in reader feedback and ideas expressed in reviews and emails, it can be hard to stay focussed on what the best path is.

Mariah: What advice do you have for other young writers?

Ben: I always have three main tips for young and upcoming writers.

Number 1 - be professional, in every thing you do. Every email you send, every book cover you source, every bit of editing you do, needs to be polished to a professional standard. It’s the only way you’ll stand out amongst the crowd and have a shot at making a living.

Number 2 - aim high, but be warned. By all means, aim to be a bestseller. I know I do. But at the same time, don’t assume you can make millions overnight. As I said earlier, writing, publishing and marketing are all hard work, and take a lot of effort. But let me assure you it’s very worthwhile, and there’s never been a better market for entrepreneurial authors.

Number 3 - write a bloody good book. This may be the last tip, but it’s also the most important. The success of any book, as it always has, rests on how good its story is - how much it can move a reader, and how many readers can it move. Your debut needs to be the very best you can make it. If that takes time and practice, then that’s what it takes. Bear this in mind when you’re planning your masterpiece!

And if you need any more tips, you can find them at Shelf Help!

Mariah: What projects are you working on now?

Ben: Right now, I’ve got quite a lot on the go. I’ve recently launched a brand new eBook store, just for indie authors. it’s called Libiro.

I’ve also got two new books on the way, one about self-publishing, and the other a strange standalone fantasy that I have high hopes for.

And lastly I’ve also got a graphic novel on the way! I’m very excited by the thought of it finally climbing onto the shelves. It’s being drawn right now, and we’re hoping to be able to launch it in December of this year. That’s all!

Thursday, 14 November 2013


I planned on spending the month of November slaving away on my latest novel project, Pitbully. However, things haven't turned out that way. Instead of focusing on that, I've taken a step back and decided to spend some time with my poetry. My poetic wings are a bit rusty, but I've managed to write some new material. Some of it is even half way decent. I've even been submitting and got an acceptance in my email last night.

I feel like this is an important step for me. It's not really a break, it's more of a shift in priorities. I feel like I've been pushing myself a lot these past few months, and while a little determination isn't a bad thing, I was starting to feel worn down and burnt out. I wasn't enjoying writing the way I used to, so I decided to take a step back and refocus things.

So far this month I've written about a dozen new poems, one short story and one flash piece. It's not that I didn't enjoy writing, but I was just getting tired of everything feeling so hard. I love writing, and yes, sometimes it's hard, it should be. If it's not hard sometimes that means that you're never pushing yourself. But I'm tired. I'm tired of pushing and grinding and forcing and slogging. It felt like I was going up a mountain, but instead of taking the ski lift, I was opting to walk. It's a long climb, and for a while, I want to be on the ski lift. I spent from April to October working diligently on The Demon In Him and immediately after I started Pitbully. So I'm taking a break. I don't know how much longer it's going to last, because even now I can feel myself wanting to write Pitbully again. I do know, that I'm going to keep writing poetry and short stories. They're heck of a lot of fun for me and let's face it, that's why I really do this, it's fun.

I guess I just needed to remind myself of that.

What do you do when you start to suffer from burn out?

Monday, 11 November 2013

Spotlight: An Interview With Stephen L. Park

Today I am very excited to share this interview with you. Stephen L. Park is the author of Boots: An Unvarnished Memoir of VietnamHe served in the US Army during the height of the Vietnam War. As an Infantry Platoon Leader (Lieutenant), turning back the enemy, while ensuring the safety of his men, was his highest priority. The writing of BOOTS was both therapeutic and a means to provide an accurate account of what it was like to serve in a combat role. Steve is an accomplished artist and lives with Sherry, his wife of 46 years, in Lake Wylie, South Carolina. They share their home with three rescue dogs. BOOTS is his first book.

Mariah: Tell me a bit about yourself.

Stephen: I am no doubt considered old by most people today, but I’m still trying to figure out what I’m going to do when I grow up. Lately, there have not been enough hours in the day for me, and am surprised at how busy I stay - I am retired after all - but I am on some good pills from my shrink at the VA.(Veteran’s Administration). I still enjoy learning new things, more practical than academic in nature - one of the things I am doing is putting down a herringbone pattern hardwood floor, my tribute to Parisian apartments, using some 500-600 pieces of wood and it has taught me mucho bunches. I also drive an old car, a Citroen 2CV named Roseanna, that never lets me down. Am I rambling too much? Probably. Next question.

Mariah: What got you into writing?

Stephen: I got the idea in my head to leave a personal record, for family or whoever might want to read it, about life in war. I literally thought about it for several years, and once started I was so tentative it was all done in secrecy. I would write only when my wife left the house and quickly put it away when she returned. I finally admitted what I was doing, let her read it after swearing to certain conditions to give a critique. She reads several books a month, was a librarian, and book club member. She was as nice as possible, but I had written about fifty pages of crap. Then I found The Writer’s Block, bought an English handbook to relearn passable punctuation and grammar, and learned to write what needed to be said. That is a simplification of the tremendous amount of support and encouragement I received from beginning to end.

Mariah: Writing books seems to be a common way to heal from events in our lives. Was writing Boots part of a healing process for you?

Stephen: It was by far the most unexpected effect of the writing, a complete surprise. Looking for the right word, the act of writing one word at a time slowed down all the thoughts swirling around in my mind for years. It forced me to separate and focus on the minutia that was important, and it would hold it in my mind until I finished writing about it, not allowing me to flash to other times or places. That saturation caused by writing changed so much for me in a positive way.

Mariah: What was the hardest part about writing about your experiences in Vietnam?

Stephen: This is a tough question. On the technical side, I would begin writing in the past tense and without realizing I soon had everything in the present tense because that’s where my mind would go as I wrote. On the mental side, it hit raw nerves at times that intensified certain emotions. In the end, it was about the memories and the emotions that accompanied them, good or bad, and the honesty to write them down.

Mariah: What one thing do you want your readers to get out of reading your book?

Stephen: I simply want them to have a mental reaction to some part of it. It could be how young the soldiers were, the mental and physical stresses, the boredom and monotony, fears, adrenalin spikes, humor, living in the elements, or the importance of contact with friends and family back home.

Mariah: Are you still in touch with any of the people you served with?

Stephen: I went to a company reunion last year, my first after forty-four years, and knew two people there. I served with all of them but they were in other platoons and I just didn’t remember them. I swap emails with one of the two, and the other called me several months ago and we laughed about Boots making him a hometown hero. I evidently said too many good things about him.

Mariah: What unique talents or hobbies do you have?

Stephen: I doubt unique would describe me but I started back drawing last spring and attend a small group weekly where we have a live model, and hope to be back painting within a month. I have a rather dormant degree in studio art. I like to decorate ‘found objects’ or re-purpose something. Last week I bought a small wooden bowl at the thrift shop and made a nesting site for our Wren’s next spring, along with a woven basket for another nest. And I bring home cans of paint from the recycle center - I never know when I may find something to use it on.

Thank you for stopping by Stephen. It was a pleasure, and an honor, to interview you. 

If you'd like to learn more about Boots please feel free to visit his page on the Writers AMuse Me website.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Writing is Hard

I got another rejection the other day, but it was for some of my poetry, so it doesn't really matter. Well, okay, it would have been awesome to have another poem published, but it's not the end of the world for me. See, the thing is, getting poetry rejections doesn't hurt me. At all. I take them with a grain of salt. It's not that my poems don't matter to me, because they do. A lot. But for some reason I take poetry rejections extremely well.

Maybe it's because I'm able to reason that poetry very much depends on personal taste. It's like picking out perfume. One scent isn't going to appeal to everyone. (actually, bad analogy for me because I'm allergic to perfume hahaha but you get my point) I know it should be the same for books, but it's not. Books are bigger. Books are harder.

I wish I could write my stories as freely as I write my poetry. I have a confidence with poetry that I do not yet have with novel writing. It's just not there. I toil and torment every chapter, every word. I feel every falter as if I have plummeted off a cliff. I can get over a bad poem like stepping over a puddle, but if I even feel that I've made a wrong turn in a story it's devastating for me. I think I'm trying too hard, but I don't think I know how to not try too hard.

Pitbully has come to a screeching halt. I'm going to force myself through this. I will. I did it with The Demon in Him and I'll do it with Pibully. I don't know how, but I'm going to do this. I'm going to write this book if it kills me. Then, when I'm done, I'll write another book if it kills me. I'll just keep writing books until they pour out of me as easily as my poems do.

I'll get there.

One timid word at a time.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Spotlight: An Interview With R.M. Clark

This week I got to sit down (virtually, of course) and interview R.M. Clark. R.M. Clark is a writer and dedicated civil servant. He has written several middle grade books, including Dizzy Miss Lizzie. He lives in southeastern Massachusetts with his wife, two sons and crazy critters. Center Point is his debut “grown up” novel.

Mariah: Where did your love of writing come from?

R.M. Clark: I've had voices and stories in my head ever since I was a little kid. I took several creative writing classes at the University of Idaho and loved it. Nothing came of it until I was in my mid-20s and I took a fiction writing course at a local college to see if could really write something of substance. Unfortunately, I was not disciplined enough and I abandoned that endeavor. The voices died down for many years, appearing again in the internet age of the 2000's. I got together with a group of message board friends and wrote, via alternating chapters, a series of really bad but hilarious "group novels” (to use the term loosely). After a while, my contributions became larger and larger and the voices started speaking louder and louder. In early 2007, I decided to write a novel on my own and I did. I was hooked, big time. The voices continued to haunt me, so, what the hell, I wrote eight more novels in the next six years.

Mariah: Your biography on the Writers AMuse Me website says you've written several middle grade novels, tell me about them. 

R.M. Clark: My first was Dizzy Miss Lizzie, published in 2012. It’s the story of a friendship between two girls--one modern-day and one Victorian-era--who can visit each other through a basement portal. I really love the story but, unfortunately, the publisher went AWOL and left all her authors without payment or rights returned. I wrote two follow-ons for Lizzie (Cat Scratch Fever and Running on Empty), but they are currently on hold. Next came Good Golly Miss Molly, about a batgirl who solves a mystery at a minor league park. This one got me an agent and will be published under a different title next summer. In the two years it took to sell Molly, I also wrote The Right Hand Rule, a mystery involving middle school science fair winners (think of it as a cross between The Big Bang Theory and Clue), then The Tock Tock Man, in which a boy finds an Alice In Wonderland-type world whose citizens are mostly clock parts and uncovers a centuries-old feud between neighboring clock villages. This one is currently with the agents. Finally, we have The Night Train, about a young girl who discovers that a model train village in her great-grandfather’s house allows her to journey into the past. This one is on hold while the agents work through the large pile of manuscripts I have given them.

Mariah: Was it hard for you to go from writing middle grade books to grown up novels?

R.M. Clark: Not really, because, as I later found out, I was really a middle grade writer attempting to write in an adult voice. I wrote my first novel (now trunked) as an adult paranormal mystery, then rewrote it as YA after months of rejection. Center Point is my second of nine completed novels and all the others after it are middle grade. The problem I had was rewriting CP four years after I completed the original. By then my work was exclusively middle grade and I no longer had a 25-year-old narrator voice in my head. I found it, fortunately, so I added some swearing and an “implied” sex scene to Center Point.

Mariah: Where did the inspiration for your book, Center Point come from? 

R.M. Clark: First off, it’s not the least bit autobiographical. My parents were married for fifty years and I was never a professional student. Still, I wanted to show how a father could influence a son’s life years even fifteen years after he’s gone. I came up with the Native legend of Komaket and just went from there.

Mariah: Was writing a mystery challenging?

R.M. Clark: Absolutely! To me, the problem with mystery writing is trying to be unique. There are hundreds of novels with hard-boiled detectives, spunky reporters, alcoholic ex-cops and serial killers. These are all fine premises if done correctly, but none of them spoke to me. Guns and gore don't necessarily bother me; I just didn’t want to use them as plot devices. I needed to find angles that hadn't been done (or overdone) many times before. The idea of tying together cemetery patterns and Native American lore and zoning laws and a Revolutionary War battle along with a father's dying wish seemed daunting, but the voices spoke and it all came together eventually. I hope!

Mariah: What was the thing that challenged you the most?

R.M. Clark: Definitely staying the course and resisting the urge to trunk this novel. I'm a notoriously slow writer and the first draft of Center Point took a good ten months to complete (Halloween, 2008). In the original version, Dennis was just 21 and the stakes were not nearly as high. I tried to get an agent, but came up short every time. I started writing middle grade books and eventually landed an agent for the kid stuff, so CP faded into the background until 2012. On the agent's advice, I revised CP to make Dennis 25 years old with a bit more of an edge. So five years after appearing in my head, Dennis finally gets to tell his story. Adios trunk.

Mariah: Was there a scene that was harder to write than the others? 

R.M. Clark: Sure. A major scene near the end takes place underground.  I’m not a fan of tunnels and darkness, so it gave me chills as I went through it. The scene still kind of freaks me out when I read it.

Mariah: What are you working on now? 

R.M. Clark: My tenth novel is a middle grade mystery about Devin, a sixth grader who aspires to be a magician but is really bad at performing magic. Then after a magic trick gone terribly wrong, he finds his body is being shared by a 19th century magician named Erich, who turns out to be a young Harry Houdini. Devin’s magic is better but he has to find a way to get Erich out of his head and back to his time.

Thanks for stopping by! It was a pleasure to interview you! 

Where to find R.M. Clark

Thursday, 31 October 2013

I Don't Want You To Read This

Even as I start writing this post, I don't know how to start writing this post. It occurred to me the other day that even though I blog, twitter and Facebook, that I don't really put myself out there. Other authors let their whole selves hang out. They are raw, they are real, they are honest. They let everyone into their world and into their minds and hearts. It dawned on me, that I am not one of them. I'd like to be, but there's a problem...

I don't know how.

That's right. I don't know how to let everyone see inside. The very thought leaves me quaking in my fuzzy socks. I don't know what people want to know about me, if anything. I sometimes feel like I'm one of those dreadful Mary Sue characters, you know, the painfully average girl with the painfully average life. (I love my painfully average life, it pleases me) Except I won't ever wake up with a mysterious power that I never knew I had. I won't discover that I'm really a fairy princess or an enchanted sorceress.

I could rattle on forever about the basics. I have a husband (almost 10 years married now) and three adorable kids. My oldest, a boy, is 5 1/2 and I have a set of boy/girl twins that just turned 4. I live in a small town that is starting to not feel so small anymore. I keep to myself and my handful of truly wonderful friends. My favorite color is green and I like cats. That's where I choke. I can't seem to go further than that. I want people to know me, I want them to be able to connect with me.

I feel like my voice is but a whisper among a roaring ocean of voices. I want to be one of the ones that are heard, but I can't seem to open up. I want to let it all hang out, but I just can't. I always seem to hold myself back. Hell, there's a gigantic part of me that wants to highlight this entire post and hit 'DELETE' so no one ever has to know that I wrote it in the first place. I don't want anyone to know that some days I feel like the only interesting thing about me is that I'm an Aquarius. I don't want people to know that sometimes I feel like I'm a card board cut out standing against the wall, easily missed. I don't want people to know that I feel completely ridiculous writing this post.

I don't want you to know that I feel naked even admitting this. It freaks me out to even write these words. I see them in black and white on my screen. I know I am frightened to hit PUBLISH, but fully intend to anyway and it scares me.

I don't want people to know that the thought of people knowing me terrifies me.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Are Playwrights Getting A Raw Deal? One Publisher Looks to Change The Industry Standard

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Mary Cote-Walkden, author, editor and publisher with Writers AMuse Me Publishing. We sat down and had a very interesting discussion about her publishing houses recent decision to open their submission boxes for plays. Her publishing house is doing things a bit differently. Are they changing the industry standard?

Your publishing house recently opened its submission box to include Plays. What prompted this decision?

Unlike authors, who have a growing list of options for publishing their books, playwrights don’t have that. There are a handful of big houses, and that’s about it. One of the reasons for this is because publishing plays is a bit more labor-intensive, but the other part of the equation is that you don’t really ‘sell’ the play; it’s more like you rent it out for others to use.

That said, there ARE sales for perusal copies and performing copies of the play. From the current roster of publishing houses that deal in plays, there is not one penny from the sale of those copies of the scripts that goes to the playwright. Let me say that again... the playwright sees no royalty from the sale of their scripts. If your play has ten characters, there are ten ‘book’ sales, plus directors, lighting, etc, who also need copies of the play, so it’s now 15 copies, plus the perusal copies that were bought before the play was even started. It’s wrong that the playwright sees none of that money. The only royalties they get are based on the actual performance rights.

I know a number of excellent playwrights. It’s wrong that they don’t get paid for their written word. Perhaps this is tilting at windmills, but the industry standard is horribly unfair. A writer – any writer – should be paid for his words when they are sold.

Also, there are some ways that plays can be made more affordable to the small groups that want some options for their production clubs and companies. We want to give them more options, and more availability for plays.

Can you explain the difference in how a novelist is paid as opposed to how a playwright is paid?

When a play is ‘sold’, the purchaser – usually a production company, community theater, school or drama club – signs a contract that specifies the dates they will be doing the play, the number of performances and the number of seats in the theater that could potentially be sold. The contract is reviewed to make sure there are no other performances of that play at the same time within a specific radius, then the materials are shipped to the purchaser for them to use for those specified performances only. There is a trust factor involved, to be sure, but with internet now, it’s a lot easier to make sure the play isn’t being performed illegally. The playwright receives a small percentage of the performance rights only. A novelist gets a percentage of each book sold.

How are you looking to change this? 

We’re looking at a number of changes. Obviously the first change is to make sure the playwright gets a royalty based on the sales of his scripts. We’re also going to offer the scripts digitally. Yes, we know that some will argue that to do so opens the play up to being illegally copied or shared. Yes, it does, but in a day and age when we all have scanners, printers and photocopiers sitting on our desks, that is possible with just about anything. We watch for those illegal activities the same way every other play publisher does. Having bundled digital versions makes for an affordable, quick, green way to do the plays.

We’re also looking at, when we open to musicals, changing things up there as well. The industry standard is that musical scores, etc, are ‘rented’ to the production group. That means the publisher packs up boxes full of binders, ships them to the group, then waits for them to come back. When they are returned in proper condition, the group gets a refund of some of their money, but the rental costs and shipping costs are huge. This was done to prevent, again, illegal copying. I again say that with all of us having instant access to copy machines, if they want to copy, they will copy, so why not just streamline the system and sell them the music? It makes doing a musical more affordable for the production company, and a whole lot easier for everyone.

Our contracts ALL allow for video rights for the production company. We know it happens. You cannot stop people from copying a performance on their phones or cameras when again, everyone has that capability right in their pocket. What we do is sell the rights to allow for the production company to film the performance, then make and distribute up to 100 copies. It gives the production company the opportunity to help out with their financial bottom line, it gets the plays seen by more people, and it gives the playwright some money for what we know will happen anyway. There are, of course, limitations on what the production company can do and where they can use the video, but we think that this is a valuable piece of the puzzle.

We also are changing how artwork and posters are handled. They are typically sold optionally with the play, and in most cases, they are not purchased because they are cost-prohibitive. For any small production organization to have to pay the extra for this is a lot to ask, but it is a missed opportunity for the publisher and the playwright to get what is essentially brand name recognition. You see anything with a white face mask and you know it’s the Phantom. In order to make the artwork affordable for the end user, instead of having artists on contract to do the art on our behalf (giving the artist a one-time payment for their work, no matter how many times it gets used), our artists are not on staff, and they provide the artwork on a royalty basis, meaning that for each time the poster or playbill is purchased for a production, the artist gets paid a royalty. This makes it more affordable for the production group, which in turn helps to create that recognition with the end product.

Why do you think these are important changes to make? 

Up to now, the lion’s share of the money generated by a play lands in the publisher’s pocket, to the detriment of the playwright. That’s wrong. The playwright should be given a royalty on the sale of each copy of their work, and plays should be more accessible to everyone. They are a vital part of any community structure. We need to work to maintain that.

Do you think this will catch on at other publishing houses? 

We can hope so, but I doubt the traditional long-standing publishing houses will change their position. They are used to the money going to them – from the video rights, the copy sales, the rentals for music and scores, for artwork. Hopefully there will be a few more options for playwrights, but it won’t be easy. We know that, but we’re a pretty determined bunch. We have some excellent editors and consultants with decades of experience in the theater in many capacities. If we can bring about some change that makes sure the playwrights get what they should be getting, then that’s all the better.

What kind of plays are you looking for? 

Right now we are open to full length plays and to one-act plays. Down the road, we will also open up to musicals. We will not be considering ten-minute plays. They simply don’t work with this business model.

Any final thoughts on the subject? 

We live in a time where money is a bit harder to come by. We are seeing schools and colleges cut back on many programs, and unfortunately art programs seem to be the first thing on the chopping block. We need to make some changes so that we don’t lose access to something so vital to our society as a play production. The value of entertainment is always under rated in these discussions, but we need it. We need to be able to see ourselves as we are, we need to see society as it is, and we need to have that release. Plays have existed almost for as long as society has – longer than television, longer than movies – and I think there is a reason that performers who appear on screen often find their way back to the stage. We can’t lose that. Plays need to be accessible to all ages, to all income levels, and with the current structure for publishing them, it becomes more of a challenge for groups to be able to perform them. There also is NO reason why a playwright is not paid for his written words. To me, that’s inexcusable.

So there you have it folks! Get your playwright friends over to the Writers AMuse Me Publishing website.
If you're a blogger, please feel free to reblog this interview. You can also contact me and I will forward the original email to you. Just remember to link back here, pretty please.

Don't be shy!

Feel free to leave a question or comment for Mary Cote-Walkden!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Big Reveal!

Okay, so it's pretty much been agonizing to keep this to myself. I'm having a lot of fun writing this book and I want to share it with everyone. I'm only six chapters in right now, but my goal is to have the first draft complete by the end of November.

This idea all started because of Cesar Millan. I've been a fan of his show The Dog Whisperer for quite some time and I follow him on various social media sites. I read this quote by him and it sparked something inside my brain. I have never met a dog I couldn't help; however, I have met humans who weren't willing to change. It got me thinking and soon I found myself with the idea that I'd turn a character into a dog to teach him how to be a good person. I put the idea in many different genre's, but it's when I decided to write it in the middle grade that I became really excited about it.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go and write a book.

Oh, and I wanted to mention that you can now follow me on Facebook! 

Monday, 28 October 2013

Spotlight: An Interview With Barbara Townsend

This week I have Barbara Townsend with me. Barbara is the author of the newly released novel, Blood Atonement, an historical mystery set on the pioneer trail. 

From the Writers AMuse Me Publising websiteHer writing credits include a co-authored feature story for the UW newspaper Branding Iron, and two articles in the Holloman Sunburst. She was first a student and then a faculty member of the Wyoming Writing Project. She designed the logo and cover for the 2005 Owen Wister Review, the university's literary and arts magazineThat issue garnered OWR its first Magazine Pacemaker Finalist award by the Associated Collegiate Press. She graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Art. She contributed a chapter for the New Zealand anthology Hamiltons of the World.

Barbara entered the U.S. Air Force at 17 and retired 24 years later. Then, during her days at UW, she chanced upon a gold mining ghost town and was captivated by what had been an early 1900s log hotel. After graduation, she and her husband bought the country inn and labored to revive the ol' place into a flourishing B&B and saloon.

Mariah: You spent 24 years in the Air Force, did you ever see yourself becoming an author? Why or why not?

Barbara: Never. I only wrote reports and a few pieces for the base newspaper. Because of long, stressful hours, writing for the fun of it just didn’t enter my thinking. Not until I retired and enrolled in a university fiction writing class did I become hooked on writing a novel.

Mariah: Would you ever write a book based upon some of your experiences in the Air Force?

Barbara: While I think my experiences could be interesting reading, most of my experiences dealt with sensitive military situations or other airmen’s deeply personal circumstances. Because of that sensitivity, I would never write about it.

Mariah: Do you have any unique talents or abilities?

Barbara: I can cross one eye. And I tat.

Mariah: What was the biggest challenge you had while writing Blood Atonement, your historical mystery novel?

Barbara: The biggest challenge was verifying that the historical facts were correct and from a source I could trust. For example, the pro-polygamists pointed out the women’s public support of the practice, yet those women’s journals reflected the opposite view.

Mariah: Would your write another historical mystery and if you did would it be in the same era?

Barbara: I’d love to write another historical mystery and set it on a pioneer trail. Being from the Midwest USA and now living in the Mountain West, I’ve always been near an Old West trail. It’s a fascinating time period and the personal situations are dramatic.

Mariah: What was the hardest scene to write?

Barbara:  Aveline’s wedding night was the toughest. It’s a simple scene, yet it includes many subtle—but important—elements of their lives. Feedback from a few readers that this scene had the greatest emotional impact was very gratifying.

Mariah: What drew you to write an historical mystery?

Barbara:  I had the incredible good fortune to gain an internship at the University of Wyoming’s Toppan Rare Book Library. Book collections on both sides of the polygamy issue expounded lies, truths, and mythology. My research paper compared these elements to find the reality, and the paper won a research competition. Later, my intent was to write a nonfiction book on women in early Mormon polygamy examining those myths, lies, truths, and reality from all sides. Later, I had fallen in love with writing mysteries and how to make clues and red herrings fit into a plausible story. My accumulated research lent itself to tell a story about a unique and little-known situation in American history.

Mariah: What are you working on now?

Barbara: I’m working on the edits for a second murder mystery, currently titled Clear and Convincing Evidence and set for a 2014 release by Writers AMuse Me Publishing. This is a contemporary story set in Wyoming. The main character is Jennifer, a college journalism student who swears she has uncovered a murder on  campus and a cover-up conspiracy. She just has to live long enough to prove it.

Mariah: What was your favorite thing about writing this book?

Barbara: Oh, there are about three things that vie for favorite things. Developing the story and the mystery’s red herrings and clues to correctly fit the facts of early Mormonism and vice versa. Another favorite thing was the research. I love research. My last favorite thing was experiencing that rare feeling writers get that a character knew more than I did about a situation. That character recommended a different course. I listened to that character and shifted the story-line. The story is the better for it.

That's all folks! Thanks to Barbara for stopping by! Good luck with your career. 

You can visit Barbara on her blog!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

It's Official!


When Stars Die Release and Other News

When Amber Skye Forbes was just fifteen years old she wrote a book. That was before I knew her. Well, today is the day. Her novel, When Stars Die is officially released today! Congrats Amber!

In honor of her book being released we have decided to run another cover art contest over on her blog. So go and vote for your favorite cover! There are some stunning entries, as always. The last contest was a huge hit, raking in nearly one thousand votes. In the end the winner was decided by a margin of just nine votes.

Go to Amber's blog and vote for your favorite!

Now, if you look on the right side of your screen you will see that I now have a Facebook page (you might have to scroll down to see the widget) When I reach 100 likes, author Jaden Wilkes is going to do a random draw to give one of my followers a copy of one of her ebooks. Thank you, Jaden!

Not only that, but when I reach 100 likes, I will reveal the title and plot of my middle grade novel!