Sunday, September 30, 2007

Author Interview -- Aleka Nakis

Wow, times flies, and I've been really remiss in blogging the past week. I'll blame it on the day job and being out of town. Not a good excuse, I know. I spent the past week up in chilly North Dakota where the leaves were turning and fall was definitely in the air. It made me really look forward to the changing of the season here. Fall is one of my favorite times of the year, so I'm getting excited about cooler weather coming.

Those of us who are Resplendence authors have also been looking forward to
fall, because October 1 marks the launch of our new publisher! RP has some great books coming out this month and I'm featuring two of October's authors on my blog this month. First, Aleka Nakis and then later in the month, Lyn Armstrong.

So, here's Aleka!

Tell us a little about yourself.

First, let me thank you for inviting me to chat with you. I’m so excited about being in the company of authors like yourself at Resplendence Publishing, and it is an honor to have time together on your blog. Thanks, Maddie.

Now, a little about myself...if you only knew what an oxymoron that statement is. You see, ‘a little’ isn’t in my dictionary and I love to chat. :-)

I was born in Greece and moved to New York when I was a toddler. So think of a movie titled ‘My Big Fat Greek Life’. The mix of the two cultures have molded me into the person I am today. I like to think I have the best of both worlds. A night at the bouzoukia (Greek night clubs) and the day at the ballpark (Shea Stadium).

Today, I call tropical Florida home, and I am raising two teen-agers with my husband.

I love to live and experience each moment to the extreme. Down time is rare and not a favorite thing for me. Travel and storytelling have always been my greatest passions, and I try to incorporate a different setting into each of my books.

Is that what ‘a little’ is about?

You have a new book out. We’d love to hear about it.

I have two books coming out this fall from Resplendence Publishing: Eyes of the Dead (released October 1st) and The Greek Rule(November 6th).

The book coming out today is Eyes of the Dead. I am so proud of it because it pushed me out of my comfort zone. I’ve been to Mexico, but not to the other countries the story may be set in, and I needed to do more research and entwine more imagination into this story.

The people and the culture in the region fascinate me. The history is phenomenal. Just a side note: I never take the tour bus, rather I rent a car and travel way off the beaten path to see the people and small villages.

Eyes of the Dead setting is in the lush, beautiful, and extremely dangerous Mayan Jungle. Tiffany is a work-aholic American looking for the cure to breast cancer, and Antonio is a man familiar with both the American and local cultures. Their objectives clash because she’ll do anything to get into the jungle, and he only wants to get her out.

Needless to say, Tiffany wins, and the couple’s experiences is the book Eyes of the Dead. There are elements of suspense, paranormal, and of course romance in their adventures.

The Greek Rule is a story of my heart. It is a book that came about in my ‘what if’ mind games while I traveled to the beautiful island of Santorini. I’d sit at a cafe, overlooking the caldera and the black volcano jutting out of the very blue sea, and a handsome couple would be at the table beside me. Then I’d start: What if the gorgeous hunk (Alexandros) is a tycoon? What if the beautiful woman (Athena) has sworn off Greeks? What if they are striving for the same goals and don’t know it?

It is so much fun to create stories like that and then experience the things you have your characters do. For example, ride a motorcycle on the cliffs and let the wind take your body high above the land, or party at a local’s home for a special event and join the family in an explosive celebration of emotions.

I enjoyed it enough to write Athena’s brother’s, Demo, story. The Summer Deal is scheduled for release winter of 2008 from Resplendence.

Okay, I’ll stop here...I warned you about ‘a little’. Lol

What does your writing schedule look like? Are you a morning writer? An all day, for the long haul, writer? Or are you a night owl?

Schedule?

Hm, I’d like to say my dainty muse decides when I write and what I say, but that would be misleading and a false romantic notion.

Yes, there are times when I need to write and get the story out. However, I find myself most productive with a schedule. I try to work while the kids are in school and my husband is out of the house. Then in the afternoon, I put on my ‘Mom’ hat and concentrate on the greatest job in the world. The nights are mine, so I return to the computer and answer emails and chat with friends. I do find trying to get some sleep in between helps me be most productive. I’m very lucky that my family understands when I ask for time alone to write and they generally respect my wishes. They eat lots of pizza during those times:-).

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Write and listen.

You have no choice because your life will be incomplete without your writing. Go to conferences and workshops, and listen to anyone who is willing to talk. I learn so much from other authors and people in the industry. Most are willing to share their knowledge and these people are the most valuable resources we’ll come across.

Now, here is the totally off-writing subject question. What’s the coolest, wackiest, most risk-taking thing you’ve ever done?

Not really off subject here. People who know me, know that I like to have a plan to stray from. I need to make exceptions, but the plan has to be in place. Does that make sense?

Deciding to become a published author, with no income to speak of for years, was the wackiest thing I’ve ever done. It is also the coolest thing because I look forward to going to ‘work’ every day. Writing my books puts a smile on my face and a skip in my step. It simply makes me happy. The riskiest is actually having my work read by others. Only the Tums bottle can attest to that.

Maddie, thanks for giving me this opportunity. I loved spending time on your blog, and I wish you the greatest success in your future endeavors and with your very own upcoming releases from Resplendence Publishing: The Curse and Blue.

All the best!

www.AlekaNakis.com
www.myspace.com/AlekaNakis
www.ResplendencePublishing.com

Sunday, September 23, 2007

AWOB

Yes, that's me. I've been AWOB. That is, Absent Without Blog. It's been an entire week and that is sooooooo unlike me. I usually have lots and lots to say. Well, it's not that I don't still have lots and lots to say, but that I've been putting that energy into finishing up the second book in The Legend of Blackbeard's Chalice series, THE CULT.

And of course, these things just take time. Sometimes, they take their own good time. Words, like basset hounds, often cannot be rushed.

Years ago I used to do this workshop called 10 Steps to Writing the Novel. One of the last few steps was a phase I called fermentation. This is when once you have the draft all down on paper, whether you just lay down the pages and move on, or whether you edit as you go, once it is all there from front to back, I believe the book needs to ferment. During fermentation, it has to bubble up and let off a little gas and be stirred around a bit in the brain to really, REALLY know if you've truly writen all that needs to be written. In short, the book needs to get a little age on it.

Last weekend, I typed "the end" (well, not really because I actually never do that, but just imagine) to the book. I let it alone for two days, didn't touch it. On the third went back and read it all the way through, front to back. Made some line edit changes, added a sentence or para or two here and there, and then printed it off. Once on hardcopy, I read it again, front to back, made notes and hard copy edits. Then I let it sit another couple of days.

Clearly, I knew deep in my gut the book really isn't finished but I did not exactly know why yet.

Yesterday morning I decided to drive up to my parents to visit. It's a three hour drive and the alone time in the car on the way up was nice. Cleared my head of some things -- you know, the junk that sometimes clutters it up in there? And while there yesterday and last night, I didn't think much about the book. Then today, driving back, it hit me.

The reason I know THE CULT is not yet finished is because there are two more books in this series coming. Now why, would you say, two more later books would affect the current book? Because of continuity from book to book. All of the books in the series could stand alone, of course, however there are certain elements that must gel from book to book.

That is why this one isn't finished. I need to lay a little more ground work in this one before I can move on. Which means, because I now know there will be a book 4 and a book 5 in this series, I want to make sure I've laid it out perfectly in book 2.

The chatter in my head died down enough today in order for me to figure it out. Now, I just need things to ferment slightly more in order to get things down on paper.

I'll have THE CULT finished by next weekend, I'm certain, now that I've given the book a chance to age and given my brain a chance to relax.

That's a good feeling, you know?

maddie

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Interview with Resplendence Publishing CEOs

Good morning! It's a beautiful Saturday morning here in Kentucky, crisp and cool. I think fall is coming. Yay! My favorite time of the year. Today I'm featuring the CEOs of Resplendence Publishing, Jessica Berry and Leigh Collett, and they've provided all of us with some great insight to their new company. I'm very fortunate to be associated with Resplendence and proud to be one of their authors. I wanted to feature them on my blog because of all the hard work they've done for me and I want to help get the word out about their company because, well, I really believe in the philosophy and their dedication to publishing quality. I also thought that there are many authors and readers out there who would like to know about Resplendence.

Maddie: You ladies have had quite a busy year so far. Tell us about your new publishing venture, Resplendence Publishing.

Jess: First, I want to thank you for giving us this opportunity to talk about our venture on your blog. It is always a pleasure to reach out to authors and fellow readers.

Okay, on to your first question. Resplendence Publishing officially opened for Submissions in January of 2007. Since that time, we have been fortunate enough to sign several wonderful authors, and we are so excited about our launch on October 1st.

We publish several genres of romance in both electronic and print formats. Additional information and submission guidelines can be found on our website.

Maddie: How did this all come about?

Jess: In a nutshell, we saw a void within the publishing industry and knew we could fill it. Our central philosophy is to stay small, selective, and market, market, market.

Maddie: Leigh and Jess, tell us a little about your backgrounds.

Jess: Basically, I have been helping classmates, family members, and friends to pass English since the third grade :) But I think your question pertained to my professional qualifications, so here goes.

I hold a BA in Psychology and spent several years working with emotionally disturbed and learning disabled children. I have spent most of my professional life as a teacher. Even during my time as a Social Worker, I taught Language Arts to teenagers in the Juvenile Justice system, and to children (ages 5-18) in foster care, court ordered and voluntary protective services, and in residential facilities. Afterward, I spent time in the school system teaching advanced primary-level curriculum at a private academy.

I am a bookworm, a grammar nut, and a perfectionist. I love editing because these qualities, which drive me nuts more often than not, are now being put to good use.
Leigh:
I’ve been an avid reader of romance for more than 20 years and have been a published writer for 18 years. I published my first short story in a literary magazine at the age of 17, with several freelance news articles and professional protocol journals published in following years. I have three degrees and am finishing an MBA. I’ve spent 11 years as an Administrative Consultant, but have decided to retire from consulting in order to pursue my dreams within the publishing industry.

Maddie: You've gathered quite the covey of authors. How have they come to you?

Jess: It has really been a mix. We met some at conferences, some (like yourself) through RWA chapters, and others through the submissions process. I can say that we have been incredibly lucky. Sometimes I can't believe we have managed to assemble such a wonderful, cooperative, and incredibly talented group of authors.

Maddie: Are you currently looking for new authors?

Jess: Yes, we will remain open for submissions for as long as we can, since we believe that there are great authors out there who, for whatever reason, can't attend conferences and must submit the old fashioned way. We are, however, incredibly selective. We want to stay small, and that means we only accept the stories that grab us and refuse to let go. Having a properly formatted, clean submission doesn't hurt either.

Maddie: Tell us about your trademark, Read Green.

Jess: Read Green refers to the Eco-friendly environmental policies adopted by the e-book/POD industry, and Resplendence Publishing in particular. Traditional printing practices create a lot of waste. E-books and POD technology allow books to be published without the environmental strain of production, shipping, and returns, which are associated with traditional printing. This technology also greatly reduces landfill waste.

Maddie: What's unique about Resplendence Publishing and the way you do business?

Jess: First and foremost, we believe that readers can't buy books they don't know about. Leigh is our marketing guru, so I'll allow her to go into further detail on that. I also mentioned earlier that we want to stay small, with a philosophy of responsible growth. We think a lot of new publishing companies try to do too much, too fast. This is a pitfall that we are determined to avoid.

In addition, we have a very cooperative, supportive environment here at RP. This is entirely due to the authors we have in-house, and the way they have embraced the RP culture. I'll say it again: we have been very fortunate in our author acquisitions.

Leigh: Our goal when we conceptualized RP was to be unique within the industry. We polled authors to find what was most important to them when searching for a publishing home and we found that unanimously authors wanted their publishing house to participate in their marketing plan.

At Resplendence we have done just that and have taken it a few steps further. Not only do we participate in marketing for our authors, we invest RP funds and a great deal of time into promos and ads for our authors. Initially, when we offered advances to our authors they requested instead that we roll the funds over into additional promotion. We still offer that choice to authors.

Maddie: Where would you like to see RP in five or ten years?

Jess: Quite simply, we want to be the best small publisher in the business. Be it in five years or ten, we want readers to know that if they purchase a book from RP, it will be a quality book. This means great stories that are free of errors, typos, and grammatical mistakes. This is why we have such a low author-to-editor ratio and plan to keep it that way. Our editing process is hands-on, stringent, and focused on presenting the best possible product to our readers.

Leigh: We want to be known for producing quality books and for providing a great publishing experience for authors.

Maddie: Where can an author find out more about your submission process?

Jess: Detailed submission guidelines are available at

Resplendence Publishing

Maddie: As you’ve stated, RP is a small press, featuring electronic and print-on-demand publishing. What do you think makes a good author/publisher fit in small press publishing?

Jess: I can't speak for all small presses, but at RP, we look for authors who are willing to work as part of a team. They must have reasonable expectations (no, a small press will not get your book into every Barnes & Noble in America), be open to editorial advice (even the best writers can learn from an editor who isn't so close to the project), and be willing to aggressively market their books (authors who promote their books sell more books. Period)

In return, the publisher must be honest, responsible in their business practices, and also willing to see their authors as part of a team rather than taking an us vs. them mentality.

_________________________________________

Ladies, thank you so much for your time. I know since the launch of Resplendence Publishing is just around the corner -- October 1 -- you are each extremely busy. Thank you.

Readers, there are some fabulous books up there for the launch in October. I urge you to check them out! See some of the titles, below.

Resplendence Publishing

maddie

Friday, September 07, 2007

International Literacy Day is September 8

Learning to read. A simple thing, right? It happens when we’re very young and most of us don’t even remember how we learned. If you were like me, you just did it. It was natural and felt right. Reading became an every day, ordinary part of my life.

Not so, for all people.

Many young children and adults struggle with learning to read. They may have acquired rudimentary skills and can get along enough to read road signs, figure out how much medicine to take, or follow picture directions to put the entertainment center together. Adults with low-literacy skills learn coping mechanisms to get by “enough” to mask the fact that they can’t read. Reading a note from their child’s teacher is frustrating. Sitting down to leisurely read a novel for pleasure is not an option.

September 8 celebrates International Literacy Day. Today there are almost 4 billion literate people in the world. One might think that here in the U.S., the low literacy issues are few. Not so. In fact, the issues are rather alarming. I could quote you all kinds of statistics but I fear you’d soon turn away from reading on. I could say that American businesses spend of $60 billion a year for remedial reading, writing and math training for their employees. I could add that 40% of all high school graduates lack the literacy skills employees seek. I could also share that only 3% of all eighth grade students read on an advanced level. Suffice it to say that we have a bit of a problem with low literacy with children, and adults, in this country. We’ve not yet won the literacy war.

So why should we, as readers and writers, be concerned? For one, we certainly want all American workers to be literate. Reading is important for all jobs. Whether it’s reading the work schedule for the week, measuring medicine at the pharmacy, or following the directions on how to cook a Big Mac, we want workers to know how to read. So they can be successful in their own right. So we can trust that the workforce knows what they are doing.

But I want more. For everyone.

Imagine the thrill of sitting down and reading a novel for the first time from front to back. To laugh out loud at the phrases or read a deep passage and really, really understand it. To sigh at the happy ending. To race on the back of a flying monkey as it soars through a jungle or to cry alongside Scarlett O’Hara when Rhett tells her he doesn’t give a damn. To hold a book in your hand and see the story unfold in your mind as you read along, conjuring up the images as you see them in your head – your images, no one else’s – your interpretation of what is happening in the story.

That’s different from movies and video. There, we sit back and take in someone else’s view of the story. With a book, you can make that movie in your head work exactly as you would envision it. You are an active participant in the story. Books do that.

How sad that so many people in our country, children and adults, never experience the power and the pleasure of literacy. Truly, books are both powerful and pleasurable. Those of us who write, long to share our words with others and make them feel that power and that pleasure. We ache to make you ache right alongside our characters, to feel, to sigh, to giggle and guffaw, to be sad, to mourn, to die a little right along with them.

How sad. Yes. But what can we do?

Promote literacy. Talk it up. Find a non-profit literacy organization you can support. Give a donation. Give away some of your old paperbacks to a local adult education program. Volunteer to be a tutor or a reader at your local elementary school. Work your hometown library’s book sale. Perhaps even write a book, or a short story, and donate the proceeds to literacy.

Read to your children…and your grandchildren. Buy them books and more books. And talk to them. Talk, talk, talk. Because talking with young children makes them love language. And when they love language, they have an easier time learning to read. Exposure to books and language. Yes. It’s a beginning.

Okay, so I have to confess. I’ve worked in education for a long, long time and currently work for a non-profit literacy organization. I spend a lot of time in some of the poorest and most disadvantaged schools in the nation, with children and their parents who struggle—not only with reading but with the daily tasks of living. Recently, I read a quote from one of our parents, and it was probably the saddest thing I’ve heard in a long time. The parent said, “I never realized the importance of reading a book to my child, because when I was young, no one ever read a book to me.”

That, nearly breaks my heart. So, on International Literacy Day this year, September 8, 2007, I challenge you to read a book to a child. Any child. Find one. And if you can’t find a child, read to your spouse, your neighbor, your postman. Or simply, just read to you.

I guarantee it will make your heart feel good.

Maddie

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Writing Discussion #4: The Trip-ups.

Behold, the English language. Is it not one confusing booger of a language?

To me, there are some things in our language that either trip me up constantly, or make no sense at all. For example, I have a cheat sheet pasted on my desk at work that reminds me of the different between i.e. and e.g. I've seen them both used often and for the longest time, I thought they were rather interchangeable. Not so! When I was corrected on my usage one time, I made sure I would not make that mistake again.

Hence, the cheat sheet:

i.e. = stands simply for "that is," which written out fully in Latin is 'id est'. "i.e." is used in place of "in other words," or "it/that is." It specifies or makes more clear.

e.g. = means "for example" and comes from the Latin expression exempli gratia, "for the sake of an example." "e.g." is used in expressions similar to "including," when you are not intending to list everything that is being discussed.

So, with the cheat sheet, that was an easy one to solve. The other one that always trips me up is the word bi-monthly. Or bi-weekly, bi-annually. I have to stop and think -- does that mean twice a month? Or every two months? Well guess, what? It means BOTH. I mean, now how in the heck can that be? And when you use it, do you have to clarify to the reader what you mean? It makes a difference, you know, whether my paycheck comes bi-monthly (twice a month) or bi-monthly (every two months). What the heck is up with that? Why can't we have a term that just means one or the other?

My solution? Avoid it. (sticking my head in the sand has always worked well for me at times...and other times, well, no....) Okay, to avoid it you simply say, "My paycheck comes twice a month." Just forget bi-monthly all the way around because, like, as long as you know, it's okay, right?

And then, just for the fun of it, there are those words that people misuse sometimes. You know the ones, those boogers that are close in spelling but mean something entirely different, yet you hear someone uses them improperly?

Here are some of my favorites.

"That paperboy is just impotent!" My grandmother. We think she thought to say incompetent.

"He took the blunt of it." Ouch. My former co-worker. I think she meant brunt. Taking the blunt of just about anything, I think, would hurt.

"All right, let's flush out this grant proposal." Hm. There have been many a grant proposal I would like to have flushed, but I really think this co-worker meant to "flesh out" the proposal.

"He thrusted for her." This, I actually read in a post on a romance writer's loop. It was a vampire story and the author, I believe, meant to say "thirsted" however, thrusted brings up all sorts of imagery, as well...

And one of my favorites. Year's ago, my father came home laughing about a man he worked with who had ridden to work with him that day. As my father was driving, the man called out, "Watch out for the medina strip!" Medina strip? my father asked. The man pointed to the median between the roads. "Yes, the medina strip."

To this day, when driving, it's still a family joke. I was a child when it happened but it's been passed down to my own children. We very much watch out for the medina strips when we are driving.

And then, of course, there is the other family joke. Once my mother made a comment while driving that she was tired of spoilers on the rear of cars. "They are just like assholes," she said. "Everybody has one."

To this day my son continues to call a spoiler on a car an asshole.

I'm not sure that last one has anything to do with the English language but hope it made you chuckle, at least.

Until the next time...

maddie

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Putting off something?

It's funny how when there are things weighing on your mind, and you procrastinate taking care of those things, that it is difficult to function and get anything done that needs to be done. At least, sometimes, that is the way it is for me.

I tend to push through being overwhelmed by life in general--for the most part. There are times I can write like mad and ignore the dishes in the sink or the pile of laundry spilling over the hamper. And then there are times, when the going gets really really tough, and there are lots of tasks to be finished, that I just can't write at all until those things get ticked off the list.

Are you like that?

It is kind of like, when the house gets cluttered, the brain gets cluttered up, too, with all of the menial stuff that needs to be done. So, as I'm struggling toward deadline this long weekend, not being nearly as productive as I would like, I simply stopped writing. What did I do instead?

I cleaned my living room carpet. And boy, does it look lovely.

It's surprising how doing one thing like that can change an attitude. The carpet was getting dotted with little drips from my grandkids sippy cups. Now, I don't allow them to run through the house with sippy cups, but with the kitchen and living room combined, sort of, they just sort of "do." Besides, all three of them are under three. Have you ever tried to corral three children under the age of three? By yourself? Not fun.

But I digress.

The carpet is clean. Feels so darned good to get that done. That made me tackle that pile of mail on the kitchen counter. Got that done, too. Then cleaned my bathroom. Did four loads of laundry. Cleaned the spare bedroom. Dusted.

Some clutter is gone out of my brain. I wrote another whole scene last night before going to bed.

Tonight, I'll clean my office. I wonder how much closer to deadline I can get?

maddie