Forget about it

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I’ve just spent the last 30 minutes searching for my reporter’s notebook. It’s not the first time this has happened – my keys, cell phone and coffee cups occasionally get lost, too. That’s when I panic and fear that it might reflect some withering brain cells. (In my defense, caring for a mother-in-law with dementia might make me a bit more paranoid than the average person.)
However, a growing body of research indicates forgetting stuff can actually be a by-product of rigorous thinking, smooth decision-making or heightened creativity. Forgetting can help us block out useless or outdated information and it can be driven by the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus, a brain region linked to memory.
It’s a relief to know that my forgetfulness isn’t part of the extensive memory loss linked to dementia or similar health problems. But just to be sure that I don’t miss any deadlines, or draw a mental blank during my next presentation, I’m going to make a few lists.
Now, if I can just find my pen…

 

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers. She’s currently writing a sequel.

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Renee interviews author Patti Brassard Jefferson

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Patti Brassard Jefferson divides her time between Ft. Myers and Islamorada, Florida. In her spare time, she is a sunset expert, crayon sniffer and amateur tiara model who happily admits she doesn’t own a single pair of socks.

 

Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.
I was born in upstate New York, raised in Virginia and now live in Florida. I’m running out of space to move south! I’ve always been involved with artistic endeavors. My degree is Media Arts Advertising and I have owned a graphic design company, a paint-it-yourself pottery studio, art gallery and now a bookstore & my own publishing company. I love working with creative people! What to talk about Game of Thrones? Never saw it. Want to talk about the font that is used for GoT? You are my kind of weirdo! (It’s Trajan Pro, by the way.)

What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
My first two books were children’s books (How Long Will You Love Me and Stu’s Big Party) and book #4, due out in January, is a return to that. My third book, however, was my first foray into non-fiction. 365 Bright Ideas for Marketing Your Indie Books was an idea that I had after being involved with so many independent authors either through my bookstore, PJ Boox, or through my association with the Florida Authors and Publishers Association (I have been on the FAPA Board of Directors since 2014 and am the current President-Elect). The most common challenge that most authors face is marketing. I figured out a way that I felt authors could understand the challenges of branding and marketing and work on it a little bit at a time every day. I even made it so that the author could pick and choose tasks based on the time it took to complete or the costs that may be involved. Overall, it has been very well received and has won a few awards along the way. I love speaking to writers and authors groups and getting such great feedback. I am working on another one in the 365 series which I hope to have done in the summer of 2019.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
Just like so many authors, I think my biggest challenge is the juggle of home life, day job, social obligations, creative life, and continuing education. We need to learn to prioritize and set very realistic goals and schedules. When you have so much going on, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and scattered. I listen to marketing videos on YouTube while on my 20-minute drive to and from work. I try to keep my day job during regular business hours and not take too much work home with me. I make lists and set rewards for my progress. When I’m facing a deadline, I try to go to bed no later than 2:30 and just set an alarm to get up a little earlier to wrap it up. Otherwise my day job suffers. Everyone’s situation is different but the juggle is real!

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
I was at Book Expo America one year and Orna Ross (who is the founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors) was there at the Alli booth. I had been trying to meet her for 2 days. Finally, she was alone and I walked over, said hi, and told her I owned a bookstore for indie authors in Florida. She looked at me and said, “Are you Patti Jefferson?” I was floored. That is the sort of thing that counts as success for me: validation of people I admire or others in the industry, helping a new author get a book out, or receiving a photo of a Mom with her child in her lap reading one of my books and telling me that it’s become a nightly ritual to read that book together. Not that making money or winning awards isn’t a good thing, too! The “aha” moment comes when you realize that profit doesn’t outweigh purpose.

What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
Since I own a bookstore that sells only independently or small-press published authors, I am always discovering new authors! I enjoy mysteries and thrillers when I am reading for pleasure; Patricia Gussin, Bill Powers, and Bill Thomason are some authors I have read lately. As for books that influence my writing? I live for the giggle moments when kids read my children’s books so obviously, Suess and Silverstein are an influence.

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?
Unfortunately, I don’t write every day – it just doesn’t fit into my schedule. I do have a stack of book ideas or half-started manuscripts. When I AM writing, I generally do it late at night or very early morning when my house is quiet. I drink a lot of Chai tea, put on my headphones and listen to a loop of white noise (usually a box fan) from YouTube. I really have to drown out the world or I get too distracted. I’m a “squirrel!” kind of girl so I try to be cognizant of that – my phone has to be in the other room and on vibrate.

What are your interests outside of writing?
In my copious spare time, I like to read (go figure!) and create art. A lump of clay or a pile of broken tile puts me in my happy place. I am also somewhat of a sunset aficionado so I like to travel to places that have great ocean views and gorgeous sunsets.

Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
The one thing I would do differently is to change my branding strategy. I wrote the first book and set up all of my social platforms in the book name rather than my own name. When the second book came out, I had 2 websites, 2 Facebook pages, etc. Ugh! I felt like I lost a bit of traction when I first started promoting ME rather than my titles. The funny thing with writing is that you can’t even begin to know where you are heading. I wrote children’s books and then added a completely different genre. Now it all fits under the “pbjauthor” umbrella but I wish I had thought of that in the beginning!
My advice to aspiring authors is to get started with educating yourself on how the industry works while you are still writing – don’t wait to finish your first book before you try to figure out your publishing strategy. Whether you choose traditional, indie or hybrid publishing, you should learn the jargon, the standards, and the processes involved so you can make the best decisions for your writing business. It will help you treat your book, not as “your baby”, but as a creative, well-produced product that you can get out into the world. Your readers have been waiting for your book and you owe it to them to make it the best that it can be.

 

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers. To suggest an author interview, email her at rgarrison@bestversionmedia.com.

Santa says avoid stress

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Ideally, the holidays should to be a time of thankfulness, reflection, and celebration. Yet the idealistic visions of a perfect holiday are often marred by tensions and stress. Financial pressure, over-commitment and unrealistic expectations are among the culprits. However, I’ve discovered a few adjustments that can bring joy and peace to the season.
-Have realistic expectations. Magazines, The Hallmark Channel, even commercials depict elaborate holiday decorations, spotless homes and amazing meals. All of those images push us toward unrealistic expectations of ourselves and everyone else. Instead, do what is realistic for you without feeling guilty, lazy or inadequate.
-Be flexible. You might have to make concessions about when and where celebrations occur to avoid stress in families. Be willing to get together on a different day before or after the holiday if need be. The actual day isn’t as important as the opportunity to gather in a relaxed, unrushed atmosphere.
-Downgrade décor. Just because neighbors or family members decorate excessively doesn’t mean you can’t opt for a different experience. Simple decorations are just as festive (and perhaps more peaceful) than over-the-top extravagance. Include a few items that are special to you or your children, but don’t feel obligated to go overboard.
-Don’t break the budget. Gifts, parties, decorations and travel create a lot of financial pressure during the holidays. Your budget may require reducing the number of gifts you give or finding other ways to cut costs. Ignore the retail hype that plays on your emotions and avoid the temptation to buy with credit cards. Your stress level will skyrocket in January when the bills arrive.
– Just say no. A full holiday calendar equals exhaustion. Consider the logistics before accepting too many invitations. Leave holes in your calendar for quiet evenings at home or impromptu gatherings. You’ll be glad you did.

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers. 

Renee interviews author Stacey Horan

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Author Stacey Horan

Stacey and I met when we participated in an author panel discussion in Jacksonville. Her Young Adult books involve contemporary settings, with a twist. She believes, “Real life is scary and interesting enough on its own. I don’t think you need to embellish it.”

 
Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.
I grew up in southwest Florida (on the Gulf Coast), but I’ve moved around a lot as an adult. My husband and I have a tendency to pack up and move every 3-6 years. We’ve lived in several cities in Florida, moved overseas to live in the UK and then moved back stateside to live just outside of NYC. Our most recent move took us to Jacksonville, Florida, where we now live with our two dogs – and we are hoping to stay put for a while.
I have degrees from UCF and Duke Law School, and I practiced law for almost twenty years. Now, I write full-time.

What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
I was working full-time as in-house counsel for an international corporation. It was a very fast paced, high-pressure job, but it wasn’t artistically creative. Needing a creative outlet, I began writing stories at night, on weekends and, occasionally, on my lunch break. The first book I started writing took about 12 years to complete, but it wasn’t my first published book. It was actually the third book I published. I’ve been writing for almost 15 years, and I have four books published with another one on the way. I write Young Adult fiction, and I love the genre. My books are, in publication order: Sycamore Lane, Inland, Ortus and Juvenis (the last two are the first two installments in a five-part series called The Elixir Vitae Adventures).

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
The biggest challenge for me is marketing my books. When I first started out as an author, I was surprised by how much time it took to market my books and promote myself as an author. I’m not a natural salesperson, so it’s a skill I’m still developing.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
I consider it my biggest success when people (especially kids!) come up to me and tell me they’ve read and enjoyed my stories. There’s no bigger thrill, or honor, as a writer.

What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you?
I gravitate to thrillers, mysteries and suspense. When I was a kid, my mom (who taught elementary school for many years) introduced me to my very first Nancy Drew book. I read that first one (The Secret in the Old Clock), and I was hooked! I couldn’t get enough. In one summer, I ready every Nancy Drew book my library carried.

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?
I’d like to be able to say “yes,” but that’s not true. I don’t write every day. I find it’s an impossible goal for me to set for myself. Nevertheless, I aspire one day to be able to write everyday. That being said, I do work at my writing job everyday. There is always something that needs to be done. Either I’m writing my stories, editing my stories, researching and planning my stories, trying to market my books and/or handling other administrative tasks that need my attention. Writing is only part of the job – it’s the best part, but it’s still only one part.

What are your interests outside of writing?
I have just recently started a podcast entitled, The Bookshop at the End of the Internet. (I’ve recorded half a dozen interviews so far, and the first episode will go live in early December). The podcast is dedicated to helping book lovers find new authors. I interview authors from all walks of life, who write across all genres and who are published in a variety of ways (indie, small press, large publishing houses). It’s been a lot of fun speaking with the authors about their writing journeys, and I’ve learned something new about the art of writing from each interview.
I also do classroom visits with schools via Skype in the Classroom. It’s been a lot of fun to speak with students about writing and to answer their questions. So far, I’ve spoken with classes in half a dozen different states in the US, as well as classes in Canada, Panama and Australia. It’s been quite an adventure.

Share some tips: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
If I had to do it over again, I would have started writing much earlier. It would have been great to discover the joy of writing in school (by which I mean writing my own stories in my own way) and to have practiced that craft for much longer than I have been doing to date. Nevertheless, I came to writing at a time when I desperately needed a creative outlet, and I’m just pleased to have found it at all.
When I was ready, I took a leap of faith and made writing my full-time job. It was a bumpy start, but now I can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s the best job in the world.

 

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers. To suggest an interview, email her at rgarrison@bestversionmedia.com.

Dignity versus Safety

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We’ve watched Mom lose her memory, hearing, financial prowess and driving skills. But we’ve also tried not to become overly controlling in her life.

Yet there are few options when a 93-year-old parent doesn’t use good judgment, suffers from loneliness, confusion and becomes an easy target for predators. She insists that she “wants to die in my own home,” yet refuses to allow us to hire any assistance.

Like many adult children, we have begun to walk a tightrope between overstepping boundaries and ensuring that she makes it through the day by giving her medications, paying bills and preparing meals. For more than a year there were telltale signs suggesting that we must take more assertive action: When we noticed that Mom could no longer differentiate between advertisements and legitimate bills, we took over her finances.

Occasionally, she has lucid moments and we enjoy them, too. For a brief time, we have our mother back.

Most days, when debating whether we should intervene in her life, we try to give her the benefit of the doubt. All living involves some risk. We can’t rob Mom of her dignity in the name of safety.

 

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers.

Renee interviews author David Edmonds

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David Edmonds is an award-winning author who recently took home the silver for his non-fiction short story at the Royal Palm Literary Awards.

Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.

I’m a Southern boy, raised in rural areas of south Mississippi and Cajun Louisiana. No surprise that I went to LSU where I later became a professor of economics. I also attended Notre Dame, Georgetown, and American University and hold a doctorate in international economics.

I moved from Nicaragua to Florida in the mid 90’s to be with my lovely wife Maria, who recently passed away. I now live on the Anclote River in beautiful Tarpon Springs, Florida.

My work background covers a lot of territory from the days I served as a US Marine, then Peace Corps Volunteer, Fulbright Professor of Economics, academic dean, and US government official or scholar in several foreign countries—Iceland, Norway, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Nicaragua and Brazil. And, yes, there’s a story in each of those experiences.

What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?

My most recent literary award at the Florida Writers Association was for a creative non-fiction short story called “The River of No Return.” It’s the story of my participation in an ill-fated drug raid in the Peruvian jungle in the early 1990s. I wrote a fictionalized version of the same event in Lily of Peru (Peace Corps Writers, 2015) about a professor’s search for his missing girlfriend. Lily was inspired by my participation in the search for a young American woman who threw in with the guerrillas during the dirty little war between the Peruvian government and Shining Path subversives in the early 1990s. It won a number of top literary awards.

My second novel, The Girl of the Glyphs (Peace Corps Writers 2016), is about a young woman’s search for a mysterious “glyph” cave in war torn Nicaragua. The cave was a native holy site in pre-Columbian times and also a hiding place for pirate treasure. Glyphs was inspired by my search along with former Sandinista soldiers for their hiding place in a Mayan jade mine during the war. I co-authored this with my late wife Maria, who encouraged me to write about it. Glyphs also won a number of top literary awards.

A third novel, The Heretic of Granada (Southern Yellow Pine Publishing 2018), is a prequel to Glyphs and also received a number of literary awards. It’s the story of a Jesuit priest who discovered the same cave in 1740s and refused to divulge its location to Inquisition fanatics who wanted to destroy it. He escapes on the day he is to be burned for heresy and is chased across the Spanish Main by soldiers of the crown, agents of the Inquisition, pirates, and even bounty hunters. Heretic also has a strong romance element.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?

I began Lily of Peru many years ago when I was a young Peace Corps Volunteer in a dismally cold Mapuche Indian village in southern Chile. It was supposed to be a romance about my involvement with the girl who got away—a young Peruvian exchange student who had to return home. Graduate school and employment interfered so Lily remained on an old floppy disc until I was back in Peru in the early 1990s with US/AID (Agency for International Development). The story evolved during a period of intense danger and bloodshed, but was not completed until I retired and my late wife encouraged me to submit it for publication. Although the novel is fiction, it’s based on many actual experiences, so I had to change names, locations, and circumstances, hoping the bad guys (and there were many) wouldn’t find me.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?

The success of my first published book, Yankee Autumn in Acadiana (UL/Lafayette, Center for Louisiana Studies 1979) was unexpected. The book was inspired by Civil War events that took place in and around my old family home in Louisiana. The house was constructed in 1790 and was used as a stagecoach stop from New Orleans as well as a meeting place for vigilantes in the 1850s and a Civil War hospital and headquarters during one of the Union invasions of 1863. Yankee Autumn won the top literary award in Louisiana that year and gave a big boost to my literary aspirations. It was also the basis for a couple of stage productions about the Civil War in Louisiana. My second non-fiction book, Vigilante Committees of the Attakapas, was adapted into the movie, Belizaire the Cajun, starring Armand Assante.

What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you?

Favorite dead authors—H. Rider Haggard, Joseph Conrad, W.H. Hudson, Herman Wouk, Robert Louis Stevenson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Michener, Cornelius Ryan, and Hemingway.
Favorite contemporary authors—Ken Follett, Nelson DeMille, Ann Patchett.
Strongest influence—For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms.

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?

I write almost every day, beginning in the morning until about 2-3 pm. As for rituals, I research every subject, every item, every period and location. This slows my progress but I want every detail to be as accurate as possible—the way people spoke or dressed, the issues of the time, what they ate, the cars they drove.

What are your interests outside of writing?

I enjoy international travel, exploring places I’ve read about but never visited. I also love exploring the streets, restaurants and docks of Tarpon Springs. I’m active in my local Rotary club, history society, and serve as moderator for a writers’ group, and am on a museum board. I have seven beautiful grandchildren and try to spend time with them and also time with relatives and friends at my old family home in Louisiana.

Share some tips: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.

I have enjoyed my work and occupation but often wish I’d studied to become a professor of creative writing instead of a professor of economics. I also wish I’d worked harder at being an author when I was younger instead of waiting for summer breaks or retirement. On the other hand, my adventures/experiences in my occupation have been an important resource—sooo I probably wouldn’t have done anything differently.
As for writing tips, I have a few. When I switched from non-fiction to fiction I prepared myself by attending classes on creative writing, by reading dozens of how-to books, by joining writing groups (or creating my own groups) and studying the craft by analyzing every movie I watch and every book I read. I’ve since taught a couple of college level courses on creative writing centered on what I call the elements of best-selling novels (or blockbuster movies).
I believe serious wannabe authors can master the craft by using each book they read (or movie they watch) as a learning process. Focus on the following elements to see how it’s done. The protagonist. The inciting incident that sets the story into motion. The goal. The consequences for failure. The obstacles hindering the character. The supporting cast. The setting. The clashes of the character with the obstacles. The final showdown. The resolution.
Here’s the bottom line for me. In order to keep my attention, a good novel must have certain crucial elements.
1. A character faced with a BIG issue that he/she must resolve. This issue may have been thrust upon the character by circumstances or an issue the character takes upon himself/herself.

2. Serious consequences for failure.

3. Formidable barriers standing between the lead character and the goal.

4. Big clashes with these barriers. Conflict is what keeps the reader turning the pages. Will he/she succeed or fail?
In short—no big issue, no stakes, no barriers, no conflict = no interest.

 

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers. To suggest an author interview, email her: rgarrison@bestversionmedia.com

Renee interviews author Pat Stanford

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Pat wrote about her sister in Fixing Boo Boo: A Story of Traumatic Brain Injury, which won a gold medal in the Florida Authors and Publishers President’s Book Awards. It’s an inspiring story of one family and the struggles they face when a sibling with a brain injury comes to live with them. Sadly, Pat’s experience resonates with nearly 9,000 families in Florida, who devote their lives to caring for brain-injured loved ones every year.

Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.
I was born in Philadelphia, simply because that was the nearest hospital to my father’s farm in New Jersey. When I was a year old, my father and grandfather bought land in south Florida, wanting to farm year-round, so I grew up in the town of Delray Beach, which is now quite the artist’s colony. After two years at Palm Beach Community College, I transferred to Florida State University, where I received my B.S. in Secondary Education, a degree I never used, since I ran off and joined the Air Force.
Most people don’t realize that I cut my teeth, so to speak, on writing poetry which I have been doing pretty much since I could hold a pencil. This came naturally enough since my mother wrote little ditties and sometimes serious poems in a little “write in book” that had blank pages. I will have a collection of mine published by year’s end.

What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
After my sister passed away in 2012, I was left with notes that every caregiver most likely keeps. These are lists of medications, who you spoke to and when, emails back and forth between my husband and me, and between doctors’ offices and both of us. Then there was the saved information for just about anything that could and probably would eventually have to be dealt with. In cleaning out my computer files, I was going to delete them, but then really started looking through them and thought maybe someone else could benefit from them. I started organizing them into a timeline of sorts and thought I’d write a memoir about my experience with brain injury. My critique group wanted dialogue “to move the story along” and after arguing with them that that would make it fiction, my creative non-fiction book was born.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
The biggest challenge was thinking “Why am I doing this? Boy, this is stupid – no one is going to read this thing.” Well, apparently, there are people who were helped because I get comments at festivals and signings, thanking me for writing something they cannot do and that is to let others know they aren’t alone in their struggle. So basically, my biggest challenge was…me!

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
That would have to be when I received the gold medal at the Florida Authors and Publishers Association President’s Book Awards. I thought I would get the bronze, but someone else’s name was announced. I was in shock when the silver medal was announced and it wasn’t me. I looked at a friend at the dinner table with a sort of silent scream because I knew I had the gold. Talk about taking doubts away about writing ability!

What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
I love all books and – both fiction and nonfiction. I try to read at least 60 books a year and track it on Goodreads. Nonfiction include “technique books” for improving writing skills and then I also read biographies. I am currently reading the biographies of all the presidents in order. Being a Civil War nut, I also like almost anything written on that subject.
Fiction I like to read is more of the Action-Adventure type – think Clive Cussler – and that is what I will want to write when I am finished with the follow-up to Fixing Boo Boo.

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?
Ummmm…I write most days. I tend to binge read and then binge write. I don’t have any rituals aside from always having a little notebook with me, just in case a thought strikes me.

What are your interests outside of writing?
I have a rose garden I tend to when it isn’t so blazing hot. My husband and I have a boat that we take out in Apalachee Bay for fishing and sometimes snorkeling for scallops, reading (duh), art museums, which sometimes inspires me to draw and paint, something I used to do a lot more of. I used to be OCD about cleaning, but this writing thing has pretty much cured that.

Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
What I’d do differently – Not waste as much time thinking that what I write isn’t good enough and just write better, using some sort of guideline. While I’m not an outline kind of girl, if I had something more than the timeline in place, it would have helped. Also, I would have studied what to do before the book was published – what marketing works and what doesn’t. Do some advance work like social media marketing, creating a buzz about it and then, what to do after the book was published. I had no idea that I’d be putting myself out there one on one and talking to people. But, I can tell you, having been an insurance agent, I would have to say this is easier and a LOT more fun!
What I’d do the same – I was writing for a specific audience and they are getting the message, but others are also finding out what it was like living with a brain-injured person.
I would also still have a critique group – these people were the reason my manuscript ever got finished. Not only were they expecting me to write, they gave me (mostly) positive criticism about what did and didn’t work.

 

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers. To suggest an author interview, email her: rgarrison@bestversionmedia.com

Renee interviews author Jenny Nazak

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JNprofilepicI met Jenny at an alumnae gathering of our shared women’s fraternity. Her passion for the natural environment impressed me almost as much as artistic flair! Her e-book, “DEEP GREEN, Minimize Your Footprint; Maximize Your Time Wealth and Happiness”  is a how-to manual on green living that was recently published in paperback,too.

 
Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.
Being in a military family (Navy), I grew up moving every couple of years, and pretty much loved every place in its own way. The place that made the deepest impression on me (even though I was only four years old when we were stationed there,) was Japan. We traveled a lot too, driving cross-country several times and camping along the way. I now live in a historic neighborhood near the ocean in Daytona Beach, my adopted hometown.

What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
Growing up in the 1960s and 70s, and visiting national and state parks with my family, I experienced breathtaking natural scenery while at the same time getting the message that the environment was in danger from human excesses. As an adult, I traveled in Europe and lived in Japan, where I observed people living at a much lower footprint than the typical United States resident. It seemed to me not just eco-friendlier, but also an altogether richer, more satisfying, and, not incidentally, more BEAUTIFUL way of life than the harried, car-centric, money-focused lifestyle of my native culture.
I’ve intended to write books since I was a small child. At age 55, I’m just getting started a bit late! My favorite subjects as a kid were art, languages, and English literature. My college major was English with a minor in sociology. Later, I got an associate’s degree in graphic design. And I went on to study a field called permaculture design, which is a nature-based approach to the design of human living environments. Basically, permaculture is nature-based efficiency principles. It’s very powerful stuff, with great potential to not only mitigate environmental damage, but actually IMPROVE the health of ecosystems.
My career path has been a winding one, from magazine editorial staffer when I first got out of college; to English conversation instructor in Japan; to Japanese translator; to permaculture designer/educator; to artist and writer. I also teach a course on consciousness. And I’ve certainly done my share of odd jobs along the way to pay the bills! For simplicity’s sake, the umbrella title I use on my 1040 forms is “Sustainability Educator, Self-Employed.”
It’s taken me a while to figure out that I’m primarily a writer who also happens to make art, rather than an artist who also happens to write. Given my love of the natural environment, and my belief that it’s everyday people, in our many millions, who have the power to make the biggest difference in the world, it was inevitable that my first book would be a practical “how-to” manual on green living. Actually, I wrote a children’s story a couple of years ago, but I never illustrated it (or found an illustrator) and haven’t published it, so I don’t count it (yet). In addition to having other books on sustainable living in the works, I’m also planning to write short stories and a novel.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
Continuing to believe in myself over the years, when my heart and intuition guided me away from a more accepted mainstream path. Also, once I wrote my book, MARKETING was a far bigger challenge than the writing itself had been.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
Realizing that the book is good! Realizing that even longtime environmentalists dedicated to living a low footprint are getting new information and new ideas from my book. And realizing that the book has a very large secondary audience, of people who aren’t necessarily “green” but really want to save themselves money and take back their time, and add more beauty and joy to their lives. A low-footprint lifestyle gives all of these benefits.

What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
I am a devourer of books, fiction and nonfiction alike. My favorite fiction writers I can think of off the top of my head right now are Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Virginia Woolf, and D.H. Lawrence. In nonfiction, A Pattern Language (an incredibly rich, dense book about what makes urban spaces comfortable and functional) rocked my world, as did The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins, and Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands by Brad Lancaster. It’s hard to pick — so many books and writers have influenced me!

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?
I write most days. I let days go by too often without writing. I’m trying to get more consistent. What’s helping me is just having a “current notebook” in which I give myself permission to write ANYTHING that comes to mind, be it fiction fragments, reactions to news items, or whatever emotion is going on in my head.

What are your interests outside of writing?
I love the beach, walking, reading, exploring on foot and by bicycle the forgotten corners of whatever city I’m living in. I’m fascinated with traditional urban design; what makes urban environments functional and beautiful. And when I see something and think it’s “ugly,” I always stop and analyze why. One seemingly unexpected passion I have is decluttering and organizing. I’m kind of obsessed with cleaning fridges; making sure there aren’t two bottles of ketchup that could be consolidated into one.

Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
What would I do differently? Not waste so much time listening to negative voices in my head! We all have a message to share, and we have to trust that there are people who need to hear it. It’s impossible to please everyone, but at least I can stop giving so much weight to my own negative self-talk.
Also, one piece of advice I’ve heard from many sources, and tend to agree with, is, “Only write a book if you can’t NOT write it!” Writing isn’t easy, at least not for most people I know, and sometimes the only thing that keeps you going is your own inner conviction that you CAN’T NOT write this book. Deep Green was a book I literally HAD to write. I couldn’t NOT write it. So, all those negative voices in my head, telling me every day to give up? They lost!
And one final thing I would do differently, and will do differently next time? Override my aversion to self-marketing, and jump in! A big thing I had to learn as a writer was, If I don’t love my book enough to market it, why should anyone else? On that subject, I’ve started a low-footprint lifestyle blog at http://www.jennynazak.com

 

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers. To suggest an author interview, email her: rgarrison@bestversionmedia.com

Renee interviews author Diane Sawyer

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Diane Library

Award-winning author Diane Sawyer is a mystery writer extraordinaire! Published by Thomas and Mercer – the mystery division of Amazon – her novels include The Montauk Mystery, The Montauk Steps, The Tomoka Mystery, The Cinderella Murders, The Treasures of Montauk Cove. Her latest novel, “Trouble in Tikal,” is about to be released by Southern Yellow Pine Publishing. Who says crime doesn’t pay?

Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.
I grew up in Greenport, a tiny resort town located on the eastern tip of Long Island, 100 miles from New York City. I graduated from Greenport High (K-12, salutatorian of the class; SUNY at Albany, cum laude, (New York State Regents Scholarship) Latin major, French minor. Seton Hall University (M.A.) in French. Summer Program in French pronunciation at the Sorbonne, France. PhD in Medieval Studies, areas of specialization: French, Latin, and History, Fordham University, New York City.

What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
I saw a classical musical production featuring the Florida Orchestra two years ago. The solo instrument was the “erhu,” often referred to as a Chinese fiddle. I had never seen nor heard nor heard of an erhu, but the program stated that many people when hearing the erhu for the first time, thought it sounded like a woman…a woman crying. By the time I left the theater, I had an idea for a story, about a musician kidnapped after a local concert. Tons of research and a desire to write a story with two heroines kept me busy creating and writing for many months.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
My biggest challenge was finding motivation for each and every character to complete his or her role in the story. In my opinion, it was worth the effort. I wanted believable characters and an emotional reaction from the readers. And on top of that, smart and capable heroines who could tell their story and win over every reader. I apparently received that and more because the FAPA (Florida Authors and Publishers Association) awarded “The Tell-Tale Treasure” first prize in all three categories: adult mystery, thriller, and suspense.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
My biggest aha moment or success was when I received that FAPA award. I was immediately inspired to do as well on my next novel.

What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
I read across the board, often following the advice of friends. Most of my favorite books have a strong heroine. I once won a writing award (as an adult) for an essay/short story about Anne of Green Gables.

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?
Yes, I write every day. I wouldn’t say I have rituals, but I often find when walking that I think of my characters and what will they do next to get out of the jam I left them in. When I get home and to the computer, I try to advance the story to keep the momentum going. Basically, I answer the age-old question, “What happens next?” However, anything, no matter how unrelated to my story it seems to give me an idea and I try to work it in. An example: While I was writing The Tell-Tale Treasure, a competitive Chinese boat race was held here in St. Petersburg, not far from where I live. That gave me an entire scene, one of my favorites, set near USF and the former Dali Museum.

What are your interests outside of writing?
I enjoy fitness, friends, family, movies, being outdoors, travel (especially alone but with a tour group to find out everything I can about a country.)

Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
If I could recommend one major thing that would help your writing, is to (helpfully) critique another author’s work. When I started writing in Florida, I took a writing class and three of us – Grace, Peggy, and I – critiqued every word the other two wrote. All three of us improved drastically and began to win writing awards. I have a critiquing partner now too. We are both happy with the results.

 
Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers. To suggest an author interview, email her: rgarrison@bestversionmedia.com

Renee interviews author Lee Ann Mancini

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LeeAnn ManciniAward-winning Christian children’s author Lee Ann Mancini writes whimsical stories, with characters who pray to Jesus, giving thanks or asking Him for guidance. She hopes that her books, including A Servant Like Jesus: Adventures of the Sea Kids , I’m Not Afraid!: Adventures of the Sea Kids, What a Bragger!, and Fast Freddy: Adventures of the Sea Kids will help children learn to be loving, kind, and Christ-like.

Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.

I grew up in Aurora, Ohio, a small suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. I now live in Boca Raton, Florida with my husband of 30-years and I have two grown children. I met my husband when I was a rental manager at Kelly Tractor. I rented my husband earth-moving equipment! I started out as a receptionist, and after seven years I was the rental manager. After we were married, I sold real estate for a while until the birth of my son. After that, I was a full-time mom and volunteer for their schools and a few outside organizations. I have an AS degree-paralegal, a BA in Religious Studies, and three Masters in Biblical Studies. I received my BA and Masters in my late 40’s and early 50’s! It’s never too late. I started my publishing company and writing my books in my 50’s as well. A few of my children’s stories I wrote when my children were little, but always had a desire to have them published.

What inspired you to write these books? What is the story behind the story?
I wanted books that helped children see how to be loving and kind to others, and to pray to Jesus asking guidance or giving thanks during a difficult situation. I could not find any of this type of book when my children were little. It is my mission to create products for children under seven that help them to build a strong foundation in Jesus and to learn how to be loving, compassionate and kind to others.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
Learning how to become a successful writer and publisher. I knew nothing about the industry. The biggest obstacle is finding the time to do it all. I am an Adjunct Professor at South Florida Bible College and Theological Seminary, and I volunteer on a few other boards.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
Receiving my first award from IBPA and since then receiving over 25 awards for the series. Also, I sent out a questionnaire to the local Christian elementary school teachers with a galley of my book to get their opinion if they thought this was a book that should be published and/or any suggestions that they may have. It was an excellent conformation that what I was doing was the will of God. They were so kind to make some great suggestions and told me they, and the children loved the book and hoped I would publish it and write more like it!

What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
I love Max Lucado and anything that deals with Christian Theology. I have a vast amount of children’s books in my collection, some from when my children were young and also many from recent authors.

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?
I write every day for many different reasons (blogs, magazine articles, my new book). My ritual is to pray often and always before I write!

What are your interests outside of writing?

Jogging, teaching, going to my lake house and reading. I am currently working on a book for parents that will help them raise little ones to love Jesus like they love Mommy and Daddy.

Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
I think the biggest thing is to know your audience and your competition, but most importantly, write from the heart because you love it. Don’t expect to become wealthy or have your book turned into the next movie. Understand the industry and connect with other organizations like the Florida Authors and Publishers Asso. If you decide to self-publish, educate yourself! Double check everything! Learn the business! And pray often!

 

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers. To suggest an author interview, email her: rgarrison@bestversionmedia.com