Friday, September 12, 2014

Joan Leotta: No Myth, Hard Work Does Get You Places

Everyone's Story welcomes author Joan Leotta. Joan is a multi-talented woman, an author of fiction, a journalist, and a performer of original shows portraying historic figures. This week Joan shares with us her thoughts of where the real writing magic occurs, as well as an excerpt from her newest release, Book 3 of her Legacy of Honor Series. Check out her Giveaway! Both Joan and I look forward to hearing from you.

Joan is offering Book 1 of the Legacy of Honor Series, GIULIA GOES TO WAR, to one randomly chosen winner who leaves a comment for Joan. The winner will be announced here on Friday, September 19th, between 5-6 PM EST. To be entered in the Giveaway, please leave your contact information within your comment. Thanks!

Excerpt from Book 3, A BOWL OF RICE:

A BOWL OF RICE by Joan Leotta

Pittsburgh, May 7, 1970

"Hell no, we won't go! Hell no, we won't go!" They kept chanting the phrase, repeating it with more ferocity and fist pumping at each shout. Anna Maria snaked her way through the crowd of angry college students, some of whom were standing on the sidewalk. Most were standing and sitting in the middle of Fifth Avenue, blocking traffic. She ducked into the Pitt bookstore just as two mounted policemen rode down to the edge of the crowd and maneuvered their horses to try to move the students out of the street. Even though she had seen a student swipe at a patrolman who was monitoring the crowd on foot, no one seemed willing to possibly hurt a horse and so the crowd began to roll back onto the sidewalk like an ebbing tide.
Anna Maria watched it all for a few minutes through the plate glass windows of the bookstore. Then she sighed and ran down the stairs to the lower level where the nursing books were kept. She had heard that a paperback copy of her favorite nursing reference was now available and wanted to take that lighter version with her to Vietnam, thereby shaving a few ounces of weight from her already overstuffed and heavy suitcase.
When she had descended the steps she looked around for someone to help her find the book. Signs for various disciplines and studies were absent from their usual places at the end of each stack of shelves. "Probably took them for the demonstration," Anna Maria mumbled to herself. She sat down on a stepstool by the first set of shelves.
She decided to rest there for a few moments while she collected herself. Reflecting on the previous week, Anna Maria sank deeper into her thoughts. What a strange and busy week it had been, she mused. Michael had decided to avoid Vietnam by defecting to Canada. Meanwhile, she was studying for finals in the program that would take her to Vietnam as a nurse. The program that, that WILL take me to Vietnam as a nurse, she corrected herself.  I can't let Michael's decision affect me that way.
A salesgirl walked by. She didn't speak to Anna Maria although she frowned at her as she glanced her way. So, she noticed me, Anna Maria thought, as the girl walked around the corner of another stack of books, but did not call out to her. She probably thinks I'm crazy or maybe she thinks I'm just resting here to get away from the demonstrations outside. Maybe I am. After all, I could've bought that book at any time.
Anna Maria looked at her watch. It was only an hour until she was supposed to meet Michael to discuss his plans. She wondered if he would be on time or not. She imagined that he was in the thick of the demonstration and had either burned his draft card already or was running to meet the mounted policemen. Michael was always in the midst of the trouble. Anna Maria smiled ruefully to herself. No, she corrected herself. Michael is always the one instigating the trouble. She had to admit that it was nearly impossible to correct Michael. Even his professors had a hard time denying him. His sparkling blue eyes, coal black curly hair, and lop-sided grin were hard to refuse. That grin of straight, even teeth illuminated the room around him and acted as a magnet, pulling everyone deep into his soul and definitely into his orbit.

Where the Magic Happens by Joan Leotta

A childhood friend came to visit and wanted to see my office—which at the present time I am not even using for my writing but instead, as a sort of a storage area. A messy one. Projects for story performance (my other and complementary career) ring the floor. Books spill out from bookcases. My file cabinets are full and there are stacks of papers on my desk.

I now work in the living room. Although papers surround the little area around my fave place to sit and work on the laptop, the mess is deceptive. However, the important information for each project is carefully tucked into computer folders and or actual folders at my work area. Books that I have to review and books for pleasure reading are also out here. Books I have read and have not yet given away are in the "office."

The printer is in the office. Right now, my WIP is the fourth novel of my series with Desert Breeze Publishing and I am late, thanks to being sick for a lot of days, research difficulties, plot rewrite, and bouts of eye strain as I try to hit a goal of 3k per day just on that project.

But the magic does not occur in either place because the writer's mojo needs to come from within. There is no right (pun intended) style or place to write. Rather, the power that infuses the pen or keyboard runs in a direct line from the mind and heart.

Don’t get hung up on where and how and when you write. Just write!

Be Timely and Write Daily. Being late for a project is anathema to me. Very embarrassing. I'm a journalist and I put out a lot of words on projects that help pay for my other writing—associations, meetings, conferences, etc. If I did not meet those deadlines I would not be a writer.

Fiction can be put on a deadline basis too—as can poetry. It's not as easy for me to block out those, but let me tell you, the "magic" is also something that comes when you exercise it daily. Don’t wait for a muse to ask you to dance. Get out there and boogie along your keyboard daily. Trust lazy little me. It’s the only way. Often I use words with friends to rev up my brain or I edit a piece of short fiction or poetry to jump-start the process.

On days when I am traveling or have houseguests and cannot sit down for a long spell of writing, I try to compose in my head. Or maybe I jot down the first draft of a short poem. Or maybe I simply rewrite something. Or I hunt for future assignments and write query letters. Or look for contests (deadline!) to enter.

Reading for pleasure is not the same as writing. Reading books on writing is not the same as writing, but I do allow that to sometime eat into my writing time.

Marketing my writing also takes time. Sales of books do not happen by themselves. Again, the only "magic" on my part is hard work.

So, does that sound dreary to you? I hope not? Because I find it exhilarating! Yes, I truly enjoy the process of applying word to paper. I like to see my work in print and online. I like to see others do well in their writing.

Why Publish? When I write, I want to share what I've created, hoping it will entertain, educate and encourage someone else. That's why I publish. And when someone reads what I've written or enjoys a performance I offer of my original tales, the positive audience reaction, the interaction of their hearts and minds with my work—that IS magic.

Joan's Ah-hahs To Tweet:
Everyone has a story: Author Joan Leotta shares secret of writing mojo. (Tweet This)

#BookGiveaway of GIULIA GOES TO WAR by Joan Leotta, Legacy of Honor Series. (Tweet This)

Author's Bio:
Joan Leotta has been playing with words with writing and performing since childhood. Her "motto" is "encouraging words through pen and performance." Her award-winning poetry, short stories, books and articles have appeared in many journals, magazines and newspapers. She performs folklore and one-woman shows on historic figures in schools libraries, museums and at festivals. Joan lives in Calabash, NC with husband Joe. 

Places to connect with Joan:

Friday, September 5, 2014

K.B. Schaller: How A Passion Became A Prizewinner

Everyone's Story welcomes back with great pleasure author K.B. Schaller. Although I've known K.B. for a while, it's an honor that she is joining us this week as an award-winning author of the International Book Award. As a Native American Christian, K.B. captures the heart of human rights, whether in her fiction or non-fiction. K.B. shares a lot with us, so let's turn this over to an amazing woman. Both K.B. and I look forward to hearing from you.

K.B. is offering 1 copy of her new release, 100+ NATIVE AMERICAN WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WORLD*, to 1 randomly chosen commenter who includes within his or her comment why it's important to learn more about Indigenous heritage/Native American women. The winner will be announced here on Friday, September 12th, between 5-6 PM EST. To be entered in the Giveaway, please leave your contact information within your comment. Thanks!

Why All Women Can Contribute To This World by 
K.B. Schaller

Thank you, Elaine, for your gracious invitation to be a returning guest on Everyone's Story!   

Deciding what I felt passionate enough to write about came to me on a Saturday night as my family sat on the couch in our TV nook and watched Cherokee actor, Wes Studi, become Geronimo, the Apache resistance fighter. As the Euro American Empire spread across this continent, he and his remnant band of about 35 resistance fighters waged guerilla skirmishes against the United States military to defend their ancestral lands.

We had watched the movie before, but this time, something I had not noticed before clicked in my head: while other chiefs and war leaders of Geronimo's era—Mangas Coloradas, Cochise, Nana, and Victorio—were also portrayed or mentioned, the names of the female fighters, Dahteste and Lozen—as fierce as any of the male warriors—were never mentioned. Furthermore, one has to dig into the history of that era to find that they ever existed at all.

Although it was not the rerun of Geronimo that ignited my passion to research and compile 100+ Native American Women Who Changed the World, it certainly reinforced my belief that, other than Pocahontas and Sacajawea, there has been a suppression and omission of information regarding the accomplishments of Indigenous heritage women. And there is, indeed, a much broader field of them.

Historical and contemporary, they have contributed greatly to their homes and communities, the United States of America, and also the world.

As part of an ethnic group comprising only 0.09 percent of a total population of well over 300 million, their accomplishments are even more amazing when considered within the context of historical marginalization, cultural displacement within the dominant society, and also culture-bound issues within  their own communities and tribal nations.

Even so, I decided to approach 100+ Native American Women based on their accomplishments as proactive, dynamic individuals who have earned their places in history through sacrifice, principles, and hard work: they are activists, educators, and earners of appointments and recognitions by presidents of the United States. They are Olympians. Military servicewomen. Prima ballerinas, Ministers and gospel singers as well as achievers in many other professions and vocations. 

Even though Geronimo did not spark my initial zeal to write 100+, it supported  my final decision to debunk the stereotype of the shy Indian maiden traditionally portrayed by mainstream storytellers, movie makers and poets as a largely invisible myth within both traditional and contemporary societies. 
Nominated from across Indian country, 100+ Native American Women Who Changed the World demonstrates to women and girls of all races, ethnicities and circumstances that they, too, can contribute to their communities, the United States of America and the world while also achieving their personal dreams and goals in the Great Melting Pot we call the United States of America.

*Note: 100+ Native American Women Who Changed the World by KB Schaller, is winner of an International Book Award, Women's Issues category, and a Florida Authors and Publishers Association President's Book Award, Biography category. 

You can view KB's previous guest appearance on Everyone's Story at: Walking In Two Worlds.

Questions For K.B.:
What mindset changes did you make when transitioning from writing novels to penning the non-fiction book 100+ Native American Women Who Changed The World? 

I think my greatest challenge in compiling, editing and adapting the biographies of Native American women as opposed to writing fiction is that there is not the same degree of freedom an author experiences when creating h/h own characters, situations and outcomes.

It isn't creative nonfiction either, where the author's aim is to communicate factual information so that reads like fiction.

What lessons did you learn from these remarkable women that all Americans should think of as part of their heritage? And, was there one particular woman’s history that surprised you?

No group in this nation has a more tragic history than the Native American. When we consider what goes on in many other nations around the world, I think far too many Americans, Indian and non-Indian alike, take for granted the freedoms guaranteed us by the Constitution.

Although Native peoples still remain a conquered and largely marginalized people, as dual citizens of both the United States and tribal and urban communities, we can and should celebrate the same freedoms as any other citizens, even though we must sometimes demand them. And be thankful that we live in a country that guarantees us that right.

As for the responsibilities that come with celebrating these freedoms, Native Americans, who comprise only 0.09 percent of the total population according to the latest census, serve in the U.S. military at a higher per capita rate than any other group.

As for the surprises, there were many. One was that, in 1976,  Amelia "Amy" Cutsack Trice, tribal leader of the Kootenai people, declared "the last Indian war against the United states" to save her tiny tribe that had dwindled to only 67 people.

After a standoff of several weeks, she led a delegation to Washington, D.C., and convinced then-President Gerald Ford to transfer 12.5 acres of federal land that today has expanded to approximately 4,000 acres.

Are you marketing your new release different from your fiction, and why?

Yes, I am approaching the marketing differently from fiction. The major reason is that nonfiction tends to have a wider audience appeal; I find it easier to tie in 100+ Native American Women Who Changed The World with celebrations including Women's History Month (March); American Heritage Month (July); National Native American History Month (November), which is also Thanksgiving. I find it easier to book engagements for speaking and book signings. I also feature the heroines in a column that I write for Indian Life newspaper.

For fun: Which story(ies) most influenced you as a child? 

I would say Aesop's fables. The ones best remembered are The Ant and the Grasshopper, Androcles, and The Goose With the Golden Eggs, so I suppose they were my favorites. 

KB's Ah-hahs To Tweet:
Learn about award-winning author K.B. Schaller’s motivation for writing about Native American women. (Tweet This)

#BookGiveaway of 100+ Native American Women Who Changed the World by an amazing woman, K.B. Schaller. (Tweet This)

Everyone has a story: K.B. Schaller on how women of all races can contribute to their communities. (Tweet This)

Author's Bio:
K.B. Schaller, M.Ed., has taught on the Seminole Indian Reservation and in public schools. Of Cherokee/Seminole heritage, she is a member of the Native American Journalists Association, and is a columnist, illustrator and features writer for Indian Life newspaper. Schaller is a moderator on writers threads on LinkedIn, an international business network, and a blogger on Native American issues. She is a conference speaker and has held book signings at venues including the Broward County Main Library, Nova University, and the  Institute of American Indian Arts (Santa Fe).  
100+ Native American Women Who Changed the World, her first non-fiction title on Native Americans, is winner of a 2014International Book Award in the Women's Issues category and a 2014 Florida Authors and Publishers Association President's Book Award, Biography category.
Also a novelist, Gray Rainbow Journey, Schaller's debut novel, is winner of a National Best Books Award and a Florida Authors and Publishers Association President's Book Award.
She is also author of Journey by the Sackcloth Moon, sequel to Gray Rainbow Journey. Both novels explore the angst of a young Native American beauty who is torn between two faiths, two worlds, two loves.
Places to connect with KB:

Friday, August 29, 2014

Carole Brown: Why Learning New Things Is Well Worth The Trip

Everyone's Story welcomes back now multi-published author Carole Brown. It's been exciting to see Carole growing as a published author, and I'm not surprised by her success since she always makes me think on different levels. I hope you enjoy your visit with Carole. Please check out the blurb on her newest release, HOG INSANE, which she's offering as a lovely Giveaway incentive for you to say a hello in a comment. Both Carole and I look forward to hearing from you.

Carole is offering 1 copy of her new release, HOG INSANE, either a print or e-edition, to 1 randomly chosen commenter. The winner will be announced here on Friday, September 5th, between 5-6 PM EST. To be entered in the Giveaway, please leave your contact information within your comment. Thanks!

            Here's a blurb of HOG INSANE:
A dead body, a missing motorcycle, a strange key, and dope are at the bottom of the trouble Denton and Alex Davies, and Taffy, their Jack Russell Terrier, run into when they head for their first stop in the Smoky Mountains immediately after early retirement.

All Denton wants is to fish and recapture his wife’s love. Instead, they find the body of Anthony Risler. Denton figures Risler’s missing bike has to hide some kind of evidence that incriminates the murderer. None of the campground people, or even the sheriff, pretend to like Denton and his snoopy questions, and everyone seems to be lying.

Denton wrestles with his personal demons of self-blame over his nephew’s death while riding a bike. But if he doesn’t find the young man’s murderer, his marriage may stretch to the breaking point.

On Bikes and All Such Research Stuff . . . By Carole Brown

My husband once sold a motorbike for a nickel and loaned his brother the nickel.

Yeah, that’s how aggravating they can be, and yeah, he and his brothers have loved them way before I met my husband.

When I first wrote Hog Insane it was a short story for some kind of contest. It didn’t win (thank God!) but I let it live on in one of my folders. Two things about the short version:
1.     At the time I emphasized the person’s ability in riding the bike.  
2.     I wanted something to get people’s attention when I titled it (even then) Hog Insane.

Carole's brother, Lloyd
When I chose to develop Hog Insane into a longer story, I kept the title and began the work. I love mysteries, but as I soon learned, writing them is a bit harder than reading them. Suspense is usually my easy cup of tea, but I thought, “Why not delve into mystery writing and see if I can do it?”

The problem with mystery writing, the antagonist must not be revealed until the end. Suspense is different in that most times the reader will know who the bad person is. So hiding the murderer and providing legitimate clues to lead the protagonist (and reader) to the solution/guilty party is WORK. I found that out quickly enough.

So how could I use a motorcycle within this story, besides having the murdered victim riding it? Was there anyway to bring it into the plot of the story? Without giving too much away, I tested several angles of where to hide clues on a bike. Of course, I had my husband as a backup source!

One funny item I’d included in the short story that had to “go out” in the novel: I’d written a small flag with writing on it waving from the back of the bike and Denton Davies seeing it from his RV and being disgusted. Both my son and husband laughed (me to scorn, as the old saying goes) with that one. Their reasoning?

Carole's grandson, Jonathan
You could not read a small flag flopping around in the breeze a bike would create zooming down the road. Who’d ‘ve thought?

Then there’s the problem of suspects. How many do you include? Should everyone look guilty including the amateur sleuths? Can the sheriff be a suspicious guy? And what about the nice lady at the diner? What on earth could she do to make her look guilty as all get out?

Then there’s the amateur sleuth him/herself? Should they be a bumbling ignoramus who falls into the solution? Or better still, a scaredy cat who’s forced into finding the bad guys because of fear, threats or worse? Or can he be another Agatha Christie sleuth who sees far more than he reveals to the secondary characters who act as his/her helpers? Or even worse be one of the female human strong women who conquers all because, after all, that’s what’s expected from today’s women?

My final decisions:
1.  Ditch the flag; only made sense and was totally unnecessary.
2.   Use the bike but find something reasonably able to hide an item
3.   Create the character and his personality that fit with what I wanted him to be. In this case he became a middle-aged man who loves fishing, his wife and his way. Combine those traits with a love of words, a desire to travel and his fear that Alex, his wife, will be harmed, and I think I came up with a amateur sleuth that is a little different, interesting and fun.
4.   Suspects? I hoped I created several that not only fit that category but who acted suspicious and cast several red herons in the way of the solution!

Did I succeed in writing this book? I hope so. Several have enjoyed it, although not all. But it’s a fun attempt and I hope to continue trying. Perhaps by the time I’ve hit the second or third book, I’ll be in full swing with my writing pen for mysteries!

Always remember, that we never stop learning, as many wise men know and state. Every aspect should be enjoyable and learning new things is an adventure well worth the trip. 

What special experience in your writing have you had struggles with and persevered through?

Carole's previous segment on Everyone's Story: Stirring Readers To Act With A Heart

Carole's Ah-hahs To Tweet:
Like #motorcycles? Think they’re easy to write about in fiction? See what author Carole Brown says. (Tweet This)

Everyone’s Story: Author Carole Brown shares lessons on writing mysteries. #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)

Author's Bio:
Carole Brown lives in Southeast Ohio and is always on the lookout for catchy titles and suspenseful plots. She has written her whole life as newspaper reporter, editor of journals and newsletters, and research manuscripts. When not penning her own novels, she enjoys mentoring beginning writers and founded a writer’s group called Circle of Pens where she can mentor to her heart’s content. Her passion for serving continues in her secretarial work and coordinator for the state of Ohio with ACFW.

She and her husband have traveled extensively throughout the United States ministering and counseling. They have particularly enjoyed the western states where they’ve labored with the Native Americans and many other specific places where she gathers fodder for her writings. They continue to enjoy traveling, their grandsons, the country life and city lights, gardens, and good food.

Places to connect with Carole:


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