Friday, September 26, 2014

Janet Sketchley: Making Daydreams Real

Everyone's Story welcomes author Janet Sktechley. I won her novel HEAVEN'S PREY as a giveaway on another blog and devoured the story. It's intense and different from other novels I've read and I had difficulty putting it down. I'm so grateful that Janet is one of the novelists I've had the pleasure of hosting on my blog because the wonderful words she shares here represents the message I try to encourage: Do Not Give Up Your Dreams And Hopes. Janet also offers a Giveaway of the novel, plus an excerpt. And, I must say this as well--Janet is from the enchanting land of Nova Scotia, a place where my husband and I both left our hearts when we visited a few years ago. Both Janet and I look forward to hearing from you.

Janet is offering 1 copy of HEAVEN'S PREY--either print or e-version within US or Canada or e-version elsewhere--to one randomly chosen winner who leaves a comment for Janet. The winner will be announced here on Friday, October 3rd, between 5-6 PM EST. To be entered in the Giveaway, please leave your contact information within your comment. Thanks!

Book excerpt from HEAVEN'S PREY:

Excerpt from HEAVEN’S PREY by Janet Sketchley

Another gust of wind pelted rain against the kitchen window. Ruth Warner sopped up the last of her homemade chili with a thick slice of sourdough bread. Too bad she didn't have time for a little more.
The kitchen lights flickered, and her husband, Tony, groaned. "I hope the power holds. There's a ball game on later." He carried their cutlery and bowls to the sink and rinsed them more carefully than Ruth would have done. She'd wiped hers clean enough with the bread. It could have gone straight into the dishwasher.
Tony turned from the sink, bowl in hand. "Why don't you stay home tonight? It's nasty out there."
Halifax didn't often get storms this bad. If only she could avoid going back out in it. But since Harry Silver had escaped from prison, her weekly prayer meeting was more important than ever. Ruth grinned at her husband. "It's prayer, not baseball—they don't call rain delays. Don't worry, I won't melt." She tucked a pocket-sized Bible and notebook into her purse.
Tony walked away from the sink, dripping water on the floor from the bowl he'd been rinsing. He blocked Ruth's way out of the kitchen, feet wide, other hand planted on his hip. His stare pushed her back a step. "This is about Silver's escape. Isn't it?"
The flat accusation in his voice twisted Ruth's stomach into knots. She looked past him to the front entranceway. "I told Norma I'd pick her up. She's nervous driving when it's windy." She sidestepped around him but he caught her arm and drew her back toward the counter.
"The truth, babe." His frown pulled his eyebrows into one, his mouth a thin line.

[To read the rest of chapter 1, visit the Heaven's Prey page on Janet's site and click the "free download" button.]

Resuscitated Dreams by Janet Sketchley
A young girl wrote stories, swept along by the fictional dream. When she received a portable typewriter (yes, she's that old now) she cleared a space in her closet to make an “office” in which to write. And made herself a badge that said 'Author.'
If she'd show you scraps of those stories now, you'd see childish construction and all the characteristics of bad writing. But she wouldn't show you. The dream meant too much, even though its delivery was clumsy.
Would-be novels started strong but fizzled after a few chapters when the novelty wore off. After all, pushing through the dreaded middle is hard work, and there was other fun to be had.
She met a boy in high school and joined a Star Trek club. Then came university papers, which cured her of wanting to write. She married the boy and they took a few months' adventure in the UK. One short story emerged, the first to include her faith. No, you can't see that one either.

Back in Canada, the young couple found work in cubicle-land. Job stress and general busyness leached away any potential inspirations. Their first baby changed their lives for the better, but with him came things like sleep deprivation and reduced finances. By now the girl, his mother, had forgotten the dream.
With a second baby on the way, the husband wanted to give the at-home mom a creative outlet. "My wife writes," he told a new lady at church who wanted to start a writing group.
The tired, pregnant (need I say overworked and grumpy?) wife saw this as one more demand on her time. She hadn't written in years. But this newcomer was nice and needed encouragement. The wife went to the first meeting, albeit grudgingly.
Hanging around with writers is dangerous. After a while she wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper. She began writing personal experience articles, and received her first rejection (an encouraging one) on her birthday.
She wrote short non-fiction, but she daydreamed novels. Until her imagination seized an idea she didn't want to explore. When it wouldn't go away, she started writing just to get it out of her head. Surely it would fade after a few chapters, like her childhood stories.
Eventually she admitted to her husband and her writer friends that she was writing a novel. Years, another baby, and many revisions later, she finished it. And wrote a sequel.
She's had articles, short stories and reviews published. Including a true-life story in the Canadian bestselling anthology A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider. She blogs three times a week. She's judged contests and critiqued other writers' work, even served on a panel at the Write! Canada conference. She occasionally edits. She has an active leadership role in The Word Guild as prayer team coordinator.
It's fulfilling. It matters. It's making a difference.
But fiction—the rush of discovery, the satisfaction of polishing—that's her heart.
From childhood, she's wanted to see her name in print on a novel. Not to be famous. Not even to be part of the intricate world of publishing. Just to have a story—her own, from her own imagination—made into a book.
In 2013, Choose NOW Publishing took a chance on her first novel, Heaven's Prey. She'd tell you it was a surreal experience. And she loved it.
Choose NOW has closed its fiction line, but she reissued Heaven's Prey as an independent author. The next in the series, Secrets and Lies, releases in November 2014.
Do you have a long-held dream? Even a faded one? If God gives it a nudge, let Him resuscitate it. You'll thank Him later, even if it doesn't turn out like you first imagined.

Janet's Ah-hahs To Tweet:
Everyone’s Story: Meet @JanetSketchley, author of HEAVEN’S PREY. #BookGiveaway. (Tweet This)

Everyone has a story: See what happened when Janet Sketchley didn’t give up hope on publishing. (Tweet This)

Janet Sketchley asks: Do you have a long-held dream? What are you doing about it? (Tweet This)

Author's Bio
Janet Sketchley is the author of Heaven's Prey, a story of suspense and redemption. Her second novel, Secrets and Lies, releases November 2014. You'll find Janet's Christian living articles and book reviews on her website, plus a true-life story in the award-winning anthology, A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider. Janet lives and writes in east coast Canada.

Places to connect with Janet:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Blair Corbett: Offering An Ark Of Hope

Everyone's Story welcomes a very special guest this week, Blair Corbett. His wish is that what you read here will NOT be everyone's story! A man of action behind the fight against the abuse of children, human trafficking, and bullying, Blair shares with us his motivation of what has inspired him to make this his lifelong cause. Blair also has a very passionate urging for writers who want to help. Both Blair and I look forward to hearing from you, especially if you have any questions or would like to offer a word of encouragement.

The Gift Writers Can Offer by Blair Corbett

People ask what led me to start a nonprofit ministry focused on helping young and old survivors of human trafficking and child abuse. The answers lie within the blessings of my wife’s and my difficult childhoods. Between the two of us we have childhood histories of arguably every form of child abuse, neglect, chronic illness, bullying and death of family members. It was the passion for stopping those trends burned into us as individuals by our childhood histories that would draw us together far too many years later.

Those painful moments in my life were enough for me to tell myself as a pre-teen boy that I would never forget the feelings I felt from the emotional pain these caused me even though mine were not as extreme as many. Even as a youth without positive help over the deepest issues, I sensed I could somehow turn it all around for good as long as I would remember how badly the aloneness and emptiness felt.

Courtesy Ark of Hope
As a boy it seemed life was stacked against me due to chronic bronchial asthma fed by a huge list of allergies. The after effects of being a skinny, non-athletic kids made me become the kid picked last for everything and the brunt of seemingly everyone’s ill-fated jokes. Bullying was the norm outside of home, while verbal and emotional abuse fed by parental alcohol abuse was the norm within. Siblings fended for themselves with their own coping mechanisms. So nobody noticed that an opportunist who could sense love starved kids had begun grooming for pre-teen sexual advances.

Although my wife and I never knew each other until our late forties, our childhoods were wrapped in similarities. Both of us were saddled with deaths of a parent at a very young age. In her case it led to extreme neglect and emotional abuse brought on by alcohol abuse by the surviving parent. By our teen years both of us were struggling to fight through our own messes brought on by others.

I realized what was lacking in my life due to the caring of a new step-father who stepped in during my early teens. For the first time I was slowly being encouraged and empowered by an adult male role model. He may have been far from perfect in the eyes of siblings but he is the first that taught me that I was worth being cared about in a truly healthy way. He died when I was eighteen.

Courtesy Ark of Hope
Once that pain ebbed, I chose to dedicate my life to what he did for me. Later a friend led me to faith as a Christian once I moved myself past being angry at God for allowing things to happen to me as a kid.

A burning compassion led me to reach out to possibly-abused young people before the pain of their circumstances caused them to end things all too early. I chose to turn my pain around by teaching myself how to recognize kids who also seemed to be suffering as I had been. I chose to help them find a true light of hope that could burn within them even if I was only in their lives for a short time as my step-dad had been.

I came to learn that there were also adults in pain that thought they could bury the pain of their abusive past. I also came to learn that this was all much too large for me alone. Fortunately my second wife shared my passion to help others before they allowed victimization to destroy their young lives.

As we help others through the rather cutting edge works of our small nonprofit we seek ways to spread the infection of compassion for those victimized as children to adults globally. Why are we all leaning on socialized systems of care when we all probably could interact with these people in some way every week of our lives? We cannot lean on an over-burdened government run system of care when those bent on using young people for their sadistic or sexual pleasure are lurking around every corner, and in arguably every chat room. And these abusers are beating us at every turn because there are too few adults who will step out, step in and try to reach victims even before they become one.

Courtesy Ark of Hope
As an aspiring author yearning to someday pen my many thoughts on the subject of victimized youth I challenge other authors. If you write fiction you have a great opportunity to reach minds that are yearning to escape in a healthy way; through a book. Does their escape always have to come at the hands of a young magician who can battle evil using spells? Does a sense of vindication have to come through stories that teach the message of an eye for an eye, no matter how appealing that may be for a victimized person?

I believe our stories can encourage victimized youth by means of every day person’s like myself. I believe we can empower average older youth and adults to step up and step in for that one person they recognize as being in need in a truly healthy way.

I know other survivors with their own histories of abuse as children are questioning whether they can use their past to change someone else’s future. You can! And let’s mobilize an army of compassion that can work towards beating the abuser to their next victim!

Earlier I spoke of the blessings of my difficult childhood. I have come to more than embrace it, but am thankful for it because without that I never would have become who I am today. I probably would have been the average guy seeking to control the corporate ladder that everyone else had to climb. But with remembering the feelings of the past, without holding on to the pain it caused, I have been able to become an overcomer that leads others to overcome themselves.

We need more stories like that. We need stories of survivors that step up for others without the story having to end up in vengeance, shed blood, or a life filled with over run sexual desire that never heals the survivor. Stories that empower the victim and inspire the older survivor in down to earth achievable ways can make such a difference without them feeling like they can’t do it because they don’t feel like they can be that super person they so often read about. I love to read stories like that!

Blair suggests watching these 2 videos. The first is a very powerful one on human trafficking The second one is about Blair's Removing Chains Survivor Support Site:

Blair's Ah-hahs To Tweet:
Does #ChildAbuse, #HumanTrafficking, & #Bullying turn you sour? See what Blair Corbett is doing. (Tweet This)

Everyone has a story: Blair Corbett shares “the blessings of my difficult childhood.” (Tweet This)

Check out Blair Corbett’s, of ArkOfHope @abusedkids, big request for writers. (Tweet This)

Author's Bio:
Blair Corbett uses his own negative childhood experiences and his faith to transform the lives of victimized children, as well as adults abused as children. His nonprofit, Ark of Hope for Children, is a faith-based human rights organization that provides support and increases awareness for survivors of child trafficking, all forms of child abuse and bullying.

Their live chat survivor support site called Removing Chains focuses on life transformation through impassioned listeners and connecting survivors with local professional support. Fifteen text chat rooms provide group or private support through volunteer Listeners, Mentors and other survivors. The focused chat rooms serve young and adult survivors of child abuse, rooms for female or male survivors, child trafficking, ritual and religious abuse and more.

Through Ark of Hope’s Harbourage Transitional Living Center of north central Florida they provide emergency short-term care for rescued victims of human trafficking. Also in the works on a national scale is their UnChained Project to bring localized support and awareness to child abuse, trafficking and bullying survivors in the communities where they live.

Blair was ordained in 2008 under the non-denominational umbrella of Faith Family Harvest International as a Pastoral missionary to abused children, not as a traditional teaching pastor. He has received a Bachelor of Christian Counseling degree from DaySpring Christian University; and an Honorary Doctorate of Ministry from Trinity Theological Seminary of South Florida. Blair and wife Verna have ten adult children, including five adopted from foster care, most of which are special needs. 

Places to connect with Blair:

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:

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