Up Close and Personal With a Few Favorite Authors

We all like to get “up close and personal” with our favorite authors, learning more about them and why they do what they do. This blog is a part of a virtual blog tour that is giving us the opportunity to do just that with people we know, and introducing us to people we might want to know. I was invited to participate in this tour by author and publishing CEO Terri Ann Leidich.

Terri Ann Leidich

Terri Ann Leidich

I met Terri through Shari Stauch of Where Writers Win and was thrilled when her publishing company, BQB Publishing, accepted my manuscript for Ameera Unveiled. We’ve shared our love of words ever since.

Terri isn’t just a publisher, though. She’s the author of three books: From a Grieving Mother’s Heart, For a Grieving Heart, and her debut novel, Family Inheritance, which will release in October, 2014. Terri lives in Christiansburg, Virginia with her husband and foodie, Glenn. I enjoyed sharing a bbq lunch with them after the Pubsmart Conference. I not only count Terri as a highly skilled and talented publisher, but someone that rejoices in my writing triumphs and helps me over speed bumps.

So here are the questions I’m required to answer as part of this unique blog tour, and then I’m going to introduce you to some amazing authors I think you’ll want to read…

a) What am I working on?
Ameera Unveiled
is launched and marketing takes a piece of my time. However, I’m now working to write a novel based on the lives of the adorable men of the Old Navy. My childhood was guided and molded by the global struggles, starting with the Cold War, in which my father(s) were Tin Can Sailors. Beside my own lifetime experiences as a Navy dependent, I’ve been embraced by many military veterans and entrusted with their memories. The confessions of Tin Can Sailors fill note cards scattered around my writing room. Hopefully, I can weave a tale that preserves a period of time with less technology but a complicated simplicity.

But, like Terri said in her post, I need to focus on capturing a second story. I’ll continue to absorb their stories, educate myself on historical facts as I attempt to create characters. Characters that hopefully represent a National Treasure– our Tin Can Sailors.

b) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I don’t feel worthy to compare myself to veteran authors of women’s fiction. My writing perspective tends to remain on challenging my writing style. I love to use humor in the face of personal growth. But, at the same time, I like to untangle facing the unknown with all the complications of being human. And that’s not limited to the genre of women’s fiction. Of course, my voice tends to reflect being part of the Baby Boomer era and personal spirituality. Each phase of my childhood did have a dose of innocence and naivete that is not as common for the past few generations. I tend to promote a moral compass and leave some subjects sacred. So, I guess I may be a bit of a dying romantic?

c) Why do I write what I do?
I love to observe people and the serendipity aspects to reaching one’s destiny. I am a fan of revealing the internal depths of my characters. I grew up surrounded by adults that were resilient in the face of hardships. Hardships that spanned disruptions in our economy to global aggression. I’d like to preserve the pride of generations to work and aspire to accomplish dreams. My childhood was filled with a freedom to roam neighborhoods, play kick ball in the street and explore undeveloped woodlands. I want to preserve the memory and experience from a less technically advanced world. Let’s still talk on the front porch, not from a text on a cell phone!

d) How does my writing process work?
I am blessed to have a writing coach, Shari Stauch, who never lets me get away with being too soft or frozen. However, my personality tends to love spontaneity rather than rigid outlines and schedules. I have a strong sixth sense for personal movement. So, if I’m pushed to research, interview and observe– I know it is going to pay off.

As Terri Leidich says, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Once I leave the starting gate, it seems to flow and develop page by page! Attempting to create Ameera Unveiled, I was encouraged to turn off my editor and just write. So, I did. Little did I know that we would cut and paste so many times when it was accepted by BQB Publishing. I loved my main character for a while– until I had edited with the whole crew that gets you to the finishing line. I was about to ask for a divorce! Or smack her around a bit and demand that she quit whining! But, the joy for me to share the deep and strong bonds of healthy women was worth it.

Thanks for the visit– feel free to ring the door bell and visit on the porch next time! Now, here are my blogger/author, recommendations – Enjoy!

Catherine Underhill Fitzpatrick

going on nine2I had the privilege to meet Catherine at an intimate book reading at a mutual friend’s home in Charleston, SC. She took us behind the scenes of her newest novel, Going on Nine. I resonated with so many of her memories. I purchased and devoured her book.

Catherine Underhill Fitzpatrick grew up in suburban St. Louis, the second of six children who ― like the heroine of Going on Nine― meandered through sultry summers unscheduled and unfettered. After graduating from the University Of Missouri School Of Journalism, she worked as a staff feature writer in Hannibal, St. Louis, and Milwaukee.

In September of 2001, Catherine was in Manhattan to cover New York Fashion Week for Wisconsin’s largest newspaper. At first word of the terrorist attacks, she rushed to Ground Zero and filed award-winning eyewitness reports. An account of her reportage that day is included with accounts of other reporters and photographers in Running Toward Danger (2002, Rowman & Littlefield). A front page of the newspaper edition containing one of her 9/11 dispatches is among those memorialized in Washington D.C.’s Newseum. Her book-length account of her harrowing experiences that week has been accessioned into the State Historical Society of Missouri archives.

going on nineGoing on Nine (Familius, 2014), a coming-of-age story set in 1956, is Catherine’s second novel set in St. Louis. A Matter of Happenstance (Plain View Press, 2010), her debut novel, is a four-generation family saga that explores the power of personal character over coincidence.

Catherine is a board member of the Chicago-area TallGrass Writers Guild. She and her husband, Dennis, have two grown daughters in Chicago. She and her husband live in Glenview, IL, and Bonita Springs, FL.

Deb Mangolt:

deb photoI was introduced to Deb at her book signing at a Charleston Barnes & Noble. Later, we bumped into each other and forged a deeper personal connection at the Pubsmart Writing Conference in Charleston, SC this past spring. She is a delightful and witty woman I look forward to running into or intentionally spending time with. She co-authored a girlfriend oriented platform book called Drink Wine and Giggle. I’m all about wine-ing!

As an Event Planner and Certified Professional Coach, Deb brings her positive attitude and bubbly personality to turn family reunions, corporate team-building drink wine coverevents and women’s retreats into memorable and intoxicating experiences that demonstrate the power of true compassion.

Deb’s former career in corporate finance has taken her across North America from Ohio to Tennessee to Toronto and finally to Charleston, South Carolina where she resides with her husband. A devoted hospice volunteer, member of the Charleston Center for Women, and an avid golfer and runner, Deb completed the Kiawah Island Marathon in less than five hours.

 Jackie Madden Haugh

jackieI met Jackie attending the Faulkner Words and Music Festival in New Orleans, LA in 2010. While in the infant stages of writing Ameera Unveiled, I was extremely moved by a situation while on vacation in Florence, Italy. I felt driven to preserve it and forwarded it to Shari Stauch. She pushed me to polish it and submit in the essay competition– it short listed. Needless to say, she pushed me to attend the conference that Fall… and I met Jackie. What a beautiful and resilient woman! I don’t get as much personal contact with her as I would like, but was thrilled to hug her at the Pubsmart Conference this past Spring.

Jackie Madden Haugh is a true native of California. Born in San Francisco, on December 31, 1952, to the son of Irish, Catholic immigrants, who fled the potato famine in the late 1800′s, and the daughter of silent movie actors, circa 1915 in Hollywood. Sandwiched between three boisterous brothers, life for Jackie in her youth was anything but calm and trying to have a voice amidst the rampant testosterone and alpha-male posturing was an impossible feat for her.

MichelleBookCover3-copyWith the gift of a small six-by-six diary on her tenth birthday, Jackie discovered the joy of journaling. Hiding in her room, pouring her heart and soul out on the blank pages not only gave her solace, but a friend who would listen to her thoughts, dreams and desires without any judgment.For the next forty-five years, she continued writing and in April, 2009, she self-published her first memoir, “My Life in a Tutu.” It started as a simple gift for her children, but instead morphed into something much larger. Word got out about this project in her small suburban town of Los Altos, California and to date she has sold several hundred copies there alone.

 Jackie still resides in the loving home where she raised her four adult children. She continues to work in her career as a real estate agent, but devotes her spare time to her writing and her love of teaching dance to children. Currently, she is working on her next project in her series of memoirs, “Tipsy in a Tutu.” It is the hilarious story of friendship between three single woman in a world of married people.

Spotlight…. please!

My family has always joked that of the four girls in the family, the spotlight was always on Kerry, Kerry, Kerry. (Yes, she is the topless one in the picture) However, while researching dated photos for my next writing project, I ran into this photo taken by my father as he finished his degree at Purdue University. My sister, Kerry, had even tried to trump me by being born exactly one month before from my FIRST year oldest daughter birthday!  Obviously, I hadn’t got the memo that my time in the spotlight was over!spotlight with Kerry

As I struggled to get a story within the cover of Ameera Unveiled based on my own childhood angst without the instruction of formal dance training, I assumed I had always been shy and fearful. Officially be advised… the posing diva is Mu-ah. Continue reading

Dear Pen Pal

The Iconic Mailbox

I grew up in the days of pen pals. Looking back, the closest I got to social media were ads in the back of my comic books or Mad magazine. There were little postage stamp size ads with addresses to find a pen pal in another part of the country. I’d use loose leaf paper and start with “Dear Pen Pal… How are you? I am fine.” I probably asked what was their favorite television show, cartoon or share what book I was reading. I’d give them to my mother and she would show me how to address the envelope. I’d lick my stamp before depositing in the classic blue tin mailboxes. I can still hear the clunk of the door when I released it from tip toes. Ahhhh… the days of snail mail have been left behind by the internet energizer bunny! Continue reading

Green Apple Bookstore appearance

Another serendipity moment. I’m cutting my teeth for a book appearance revealing Ameera Unveiled at an iconic bookstore in San Francisco, CA —– Green Apple Bookstore. I hope when it the clock strikes midnight, I lose my glass slipper and my coach turns back into a pumpkin!

I feel like Cinderella

I feel like Cinderella

“It was never just about the cards… Patricia Sands”

Recently, I was honored to be on Southern Writers Magazine’s must reads list. Gary Fearon graciously alerted me and I hit his link. Penning and marketing a book is still an unexplored territory for me. Seeing my cover beside a blog by Patricia Sands regarding her message in The Bridge Club, put a lump in my throat.

It was never just about the cards... Patricia Sands

It was never just about the cards… Patricia Sands

Three years ago, when I approached my writing coach/editor, Shari Stauch, with my story idea— without hesitation she pushed me to my laptop to learn my character’s voice. Continue reading

Introducing my own Queen…. Ameera

Although this is a work of fiction, I admit it was driven by my own desire to dance—but was told I couldn’t, shouldn’t, or was forbidden. As I pull my main character into facing a long neglected dance zone, I’d ask the reader to be patient with her. hedo 054Her story focuses on the impact of chasing a glittery dance dream and lack of experience in a spotlight. In spite of many off the page life experiences, she’s suffered and victoriously overcome many obstacles—especially as a woman. But, Ameera’s pioneer spirit blazes a trail through the unknown land of Dance.

Palmetto Oasis Middle Eastern Dance Troupe is real. I was given permission to use many of the actual troupe members’ names. They’ve been patient and supportive as I labored to unveil Ameera. I’ve embraced their generosity to take creative license with the unbelievable glittery story. I hope to show the bonding power of resilience, humor, and passion among friends and strangers. The therapy of dance is real—not fiction.

I would not have accomplished this tale if I hadn’t been introduced to Shari Stauch. Her publishing experience and . . . let’s say it like is . . . puts your balls to the walls honesty required me to get mad and tell how unfair life can be. BQB Publishing enthusiastically polished the project with many talented artists. Terri Leidich, Heidi Grauel, and Julie Breedlove offered prompt answers and resources. My editor, Sharon Hecht, untangled my grammar and cut story interruptions without ripping off the band-aid. Even the book cover embodies many of the messages in the story. Kendra Haskins did an amazing job with my website—capturing the ‘pretty’ that makes women and little girls say “wow!” And, thanks to Leroy Mazyck (Pixel Studios) for always easing the stage fright in front of his camera. He did a fabulous job with my author’s headshot. When I doubted my ability to finish the project, it was my family, friends, and community that urged me on.

If you are reading this, I want to thank the readers! I hope you enjoy Ameera’s glittery release from her forbidden zone. From my own experience, once you’ve been bitten by the dance bug, it infects all the senses and perceptions. It reveals old tapes and fears and rewards you with unique memories and bonds.

But, most of all, I thank my soul mate, Steve. He made me his queen and supported my search for the little ballerina that got left behind in my childhood. It takes a special man to stand with his belly dancing wife. They can’t be afraid of a little glitter!

 

Ameera’s Due Date…

I’d never imagined that enrolling in my first dance class in 2007 would provide the concept for a story line. A tale of a woman’s coming of age… her journey to face forbidden zones. And I’d never dreamed it would be under the platform of belly dancing. Dancing_Cat

Something radical occurred when I was bitten by the Shimmy Bug. The glittery injection infected all my senses. My eyes were drawn to things that had jewels, tassels, fringe, glitter, chain mail and tattoos. My ears perked at anything that resonated of shaking coins, little cymbals, doums and teks on stretched hide drums. My nose followed the aroma of patchouli, incense and henna. My hands wanted to undulate and create new costumes. Would this affect my sense of taste? I found myself asking, Do I really want to spend money on eating out… or new costumes?

If there was a billboard that read “This is Your Brain on Bellydancing,” it might have warned me. Listening to the radio caused my brain to think, I bet that I can choreograph a dance to that Led Zepplin tune! If there was a book on “Belly Dancer Intervention 101” in the Self Help section in Barnes and Noble, I’m not sure I’d have wanted the intervention, but I couldn’t speak for my hubby and friends… Help! I see Sparkly People!

On July 25, 2013, please feel free to peek into my character Ameera’s world. The characters forge and sift through tough choices in relationships—past and present. But even through her angst and success the story is laced with a dose of humor.

 

Ameera’s Cover Unveiled

BEA New Title Showcase

Ameera Unveiled (for real!) at Book Expo America last week…

One of the supposed traits of a Virgo is an eye for detail… (Okay… being a perfectionist). I love having that Virgo’s eye for detail but look at a challenge with a safety net that allows me to fail. I’ve substituted “Achiever of Excellence” for perfectionist. When I hit detours or situations that require flexibility, it gives me a little damage control: Plan A was a bust, let’s start over. Or, in the case of my book project, there was a better cover than I originally envisioned.

I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by an incredible writing team. From conception to printing, there’s been guidance of short term and long term goals to tell Ameera’s story. One of my favorite phases was designing the cover. Being the achiever of excellence that I am, I dug in on the concept that when a reader finishes Ameera Unveiled, the cover will be even more significant.

Yes, I want to make someone look twice and ask, “What’s going on in that book?” But I also want the cover to embody the story from start to finish. As we searched the globe for the perfect image, my beautiful non-accommodating belly dancer hit my email box. (Teaser for the reader… and all the way from the UK).

Through my own journey towards embracing dance (specifically, belly dancing), it confirmed and reaffirmed my own little girl’s desire to feel pretty and wear costumes. As a product of the 60s and 70s in a traditional gender role, forbidden zones abounded in my life. Thanks to a wonderful cast of characters as I’ve journeyed through so many phases of my life (both supportive and adversarial) I found the stock and symbolic visual to represent the words to my story.

In summary, I’m thrilled with Ameera’s cover because it demonstrates the inner dancer my main character wants to become… perhaps that we all want to become…

The Birth of a Book…

doula_henna_design_belly_expecting_motherAfter two years of trying, I got the news last October. I’m pregnant!

Well, but, I’m also an empty-nester who has already raised a son and a daughter. I started juggling being a mom, wife (and many other plates) at the age of 20 and I like to think I learned through my mistakes and rejoiced through the milestones of mommy-hood. I wrote on the pages of my children’s hearts and recorded chapters of their experiences in journals.

So, in my late 40s, while they left the nest to pursue their own life goals and dreams, I turned my sights to a late life “baby” goal. It wasn’t that I had an unhappy marriage, or lacked outside interests. My life was thriving. But I’d always wanted to conceive and deliver a new story. The longing and yearning to fulfill my late life golden child pushed me into a relationship with a writing coach. After a one hour consultation, I conceived.

Under the watchful eye of my publisher, BQB Publishing, I’m now anxiously awaiting my due date in July, 2013. The story has survived and improved under multiple edits. And… it’s a Girl! Continue reading