Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Interview with poet Mary McCormack Deka

My special guest today is poet Mary McCormack Deka. We’re chatting about her new collection of poems, Away from Shore.

Mary McCormack Deka has always wanted to be a writer. When she was little, she invented stories about living in a tree in the forest and making friends with all the animals. She made up stories whenever she was alone—when she walked to school, before she fell asleep. 

Nothing makes her feel more alive than imagination. She’s inspired by everything—oceans and forests, stained glass and kizomba dancing, books and the people who write them.

She released her first book of poetry, Away from Shore, in November of 2016. 

Welcome, Mary. What do you enjoy most about writing poems?
I love the creative, playful state of mind that writing poetry puts me in. I’ll look at a lemon and see how I can turn it into a bell, or I’ll see a potted plant of red chili peppers and think, What if you could transform those into tiny red flowers for a bouquet for a friend? That’s what my poetry’s all about—transformation and imagination. My favorite thing about writing poems is that it puts me into a meditative state where I can draw connections between seemingly unrelated things.

Can you give us a little insight into a few of your poems – perhaps a couple of your favorites?
One of my favorite poems is Fire, and I especially like this last stanza:

“I took him with me,
like a lantern,
into the forest of my heart.
And I forgot
that he was made of fire,
that his touch
could make things burn.”

When I wrote that, I was thinking about how hearts are unknowable and mysterious and vast, like forests, with all their twisting paths and rivers and creatures. There’s so much we might not even discover about our own hearts. When you meet someone, that person introduces you to aspects of yourself that might have been hidden before. That’s how I got the image of a significant other carrying a lantern into a heart that is also a forest. But the thing is, everything else in the forest in meant to be there; it’s all natural. The lantern is the only thing from the outside, and while it brings illumination, it also brings danger. The forest/heart is, suddenly, vulnerable.

Another poem I wrote, Over, talks about a break up through horse imagery, which was fun to write. It’s a sad poem though:

Things trotted along
until that day
when the hours and minutes
reared up around us
and his words—carefully
thought over—
struck me, flung me
from my senses,
dazed, wondering
what had happened,
if there was anything
I could have done.

I was inspired to write about this poem when thinking about how utterly jarring and unexpected it is when someone breaks up with you. Physically, you might not be bruised, but emotionally I think the experience is akin to being thrown from a horse. I used words/phrases like “trotting,” “reared up,” and “flung me” to draw those comparisons. It’s as if time has been going along smoothly—you’re out on a nice horseback ride—and then the next thing you know, time is going wild. You want to just get back on the horse, to go back to how things were, but you can’t. Everything is different. Time might continue, but everything is changed because now you’ve seen that nothing is predictable, that there’s no way to prepare yourself for every eventuality.

One of my poems, How Remarkable It Is, has unusual spacing. (Most of my poems are left-aligned.) I chose to spread the words out on the page to capture how dazed the narrator is, and to give words at the end of a line or on their own line even more emphasis than usual. An example of this is the extra spacing between the second-to-last and last line: “…as if we still feel/ the flesh on our bones.” I wanted readers to linger on “feel,” because after a breakup you’re likely to be numbed, and the very last line drives that thought home—the narrator is so numb she barely registers her own body.

What form are you inspired to write in the most? Why?
I’m most inspired to write free verse poetry because it allows me to focus on the writing rather than the format. When I start working with rhyming and structure, it’s easy to get bogged down. That said, I often create my own forms—such as a poem with stanzas that each consist of three lines. I also pay attention to line breaks, so what I’m trying to say is that there can be rules and structure when it comes to free verse writing, too.

What type of project are you working on next?
I’m working on a fantasy novel right now, which is taking up the majority of my time. I typically have a few projects going on at once, so I also have a book of travel stories and advice that I’m putting together as well as another poetry book—this one with more of a focus on nature, whimsy, and (fulfilled) love.

When did you first consider yourself a writer / poet?
I’ve considered myself a writer ever since I was a small child. I used to make up stories all the time, and then I started putting some of them onto the page. I think you’re a writer if you’ve ever tried your hand at putting your thoughts into words. The difference between good/successful writer and writer, though, that’s a different story.

How do you research markets for your work, perhaps as some advice for not-yet-published poets?
To be honest, I haven’t done much research in terms of markets, not yet. I’m still very new to the publishing world, so I have a lot to learn (advice welcome!). I’ve used word of mouth and social media to start getting information about my book out into the world. I’ve also started exploring Goodreads poetry groups, ad campaigns, and giveaway options. I’ve gone into libraries and asked if they’d be interested in shelving my books. I’ve started writing to books reviewers.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Hmm. I almost always tie my hair back when I’m writing.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a writer, especially a fantasy novel writer. I also thought it would be really cool to know how to live in the woods on my own. So, maybe a forest ranger?

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I’d love to hear from you if you have any more questions for me or want advice or if you read my book and have comments about it!


Thanks for being here today, Mary!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Interview with fantasy author Ebony Olson

Author Ebony Olson is with me today and we’re chatting about her new fantasy, Spectra.

Ebony has always been different. Born a high functioning Aspie, and one of a small percent of the world’s population that is center brained, she could never be considered ‘normal’. Ebony holds a combined Education / Arts degree, with a major in languages and minor in drama, a Medical Science degree, and a post-grad in Forensic Anthropology. She has lived and travelled throughout Europe. Managed various science research laboratories and been in the army, but her favorite job by far included dissecting bodies at a university morgue.

After a devastating car accident wiped out her plans for the future, Ebony refused to give up and turned to her overactive imagination to escape her pain and reality whilst she built a new future for herself.

Ebony thinks outside the box. Her fictional worlds reflect her ability to take facts, interpret them, and expand on the ideas to create something new and unusual.

After years of keeping stories in her head and only sharing them with her closest friends, Ebony was encouraged to write those stories down. It took Ebony a month to complete her first draft novel Succumb. Succumb was dark and twisted and is available for reading on her Inkitt.

Within a year, she had drafted three more novels of the Hierarch Series and several independent novels. Including Best Man, which was published in September 2013.

Ebony enjoys making book covers and trailers for her works in progress as part of her creative outlet. She also makes videos of her cats playing which you can find on her YouTube Channel.

Ebony has a wicked imagination and a dark sense of humour. Her writing is full of witty one liners, characters, and storylines that will stay with you long after you’ve put her book down. She writes for the joy of writing and hopes you enjoy it as much as she does.

Welcome, Ebony. Please tell us about your current release.
Spectra is a book written from dual points of view set to in a paranormal fantasy with a romance backstory. Spectra is a female descendant of an angel, and one of very few people who can absorb a sorcerer’s power or shield against it. When the book starts, she is untrained in her powers. She hates predators due to her personal history, but when she meets Bay, a sorcerer who has been turned into a predator de Sang, she sees the chance to get the training she needs.

Bay is one of the oldest and most powerful sorcerers alive. He has spent years building his business and trying to have the different types of predators live and work together in harmony, overcoming centuries of hate for each other. His arch nemesis are a group of de Sang elitists called Essence. Essence wants to rid the world of any other predator and believe Bay holds the secret to doing this. Bay seeks out Spectra just to get forged documents for a business deal. However, once they touch, he realizes she is more than human, but he can’t work out what she is. He becomes fascinated with her and is determined to get to know her and reveal all her secrets. Secrets that make her a person of interest to Essence.

What inspired you to write this book?
The majority of my books are inspired by very vivid dreams I have. Spectra was one of those dreams. I woke up and started writing already knowing about Spectra, Bay, and Alexander. Mercury just turned up on the scene one day. I really liked him, so I let him stay.

Excerpt from Spectra:
The suit emerged from the crowd a few meters away, though he was tall enough that I'd been able to track his naturally dark hair through the crowd. He was pale enough, that if he ditched the suit, slipped into some black jeans and a heavy metal shirt he could have blended. He looked to be in his late twenties, early thirties at the most, but that meant nothing when it came to his kind.
"Thank you for agreeing to meet me," his accent was aged, Welsh. "I'm sorry I wasn't aware there was a standard protocol to engaging your services. I've heard you're the best."
"You should have also heard I don't work for your kind."
"I did, but I need someone good, and quick, and you come highly recommended."
"By who?" I lifted a brow wondering who was whispering my name in the wrong circles.
His ice blue eyes focused in on me a moment, weighing his response options. "I'll pay whatever price you ask."
"Your first born." I didn't smile with the sarcasm.
"Died centuries ago." His face stayed emotionally blank.
"Then I guess you're out of luck." I held his business card out in front and ripped it in half before dropping it on the floor. "Forget my name, forget we met, and whoever is using my name in your circles needs their neck broken. I don't work for predators."
I took two steps towards the crowded dancefloor. He grabbed my arm firmly but not aggressively. I met his eyes and noticed the strain around the edges. "Miss..." he looked puzzled for a second.
"Michaels," I answered for him. "Spectra Michaels. And you are?"
"Mr. Bay Ryder. I need a full set of documents in two days."
I closed my eyes in annoyance. "Damn it!"
I took the two steps back to the wall grabbing Mr. Ryder by his expensive looking suit jacket and pulling him hard against the front of me. He was surprised, but his eyes nearly left his head when I started pulling his shirt out of his waistband. He opened his mouth to object, and I gave him my best death stare.
"Shut it. You come here asking for me by name, with no formal introduction, and then proceed to state your business openly, even after I politely turn you down. You're not a cop, so I'd say you're NSIO." The Nachtwelt Security and Intelligence Office is the law in the Nachtwelt. It keeps the supernatural hidden from humans. Forging identification documents definitely impinged on human Federal law, but for obvious reasons, was a service the Nachtwelt utilized regularly. However, helping citizens of the Nachtwelt change their identity and disappear entirely, may just infringe on Nachtwelt law enough to get me in trouble. I had no intention of being busted by them.
I slid my hands in against his bare abdomen, caressing up with splayed hands to his upper torso, before circling around and searching his back. As I bought my arms back to the front, I started unbuckling his belt. Mr. Ryder grasped my wrists, his eyes fierce on me. While the search of his upper body seemed to bore him, this more invasive search angered him.
"I don't believe this is the place for a strip search, Miss Michaels."
I smiled, "See that girl over there." I tilted my head and watched as he turned to look. He found the man with his back to the room, his hips moving back and forth. I saw his pupils dilating when he realized there was a girl kneeling in front of the man, her face hidden by his body. "I don't think she's searching for a wire, so trust me, no one is going to think for a second what we're about."
I unzipped his fly as his angry eyes met mine. I maintained eye contact as I slipped my hand in smoothing down to the base of his flaccid member, circling around, feeling around his sacs, and down his inner thighs. I was impressed when the most he reacted was a slight pulse against my forearm. I slipped my hands around to check for anything at the back. When I was sure he was clean of any listening device, I withdrew my hands from his pants. He stepped back a small step to right his clothing. I took out the small bottle of hand sanitizer I kept in my bag and cleaned my hands till I could access the bathroom.
"You look disappointed I didn't get hard for you." Even his voice was tight.
"Relieved actually," I responded honestly. "Admittedly though you are the first of your kind who I've let get this close to me. So, I'm not sure if that's just a physiological thing for you, that you prefer men, or that you're so old you need pharmaceutical intervention."

What exciting story are you working on next?
I work on multiple books at the same time. When I wrote Spectra, I wrote it in a month at the same time I wrote another fantasy novel, and a romance novel. I tend to jump around between stories when I get stuck or the book doesn’t suit my mood. So I currently have around thirty seven books that I’m working on at different times, but I keep a writing schedule to work on set books that I want to finish.

The next book I’d like to publish is Dioltas. It’s a thriller / romance about assassins and spies. It’s probably my favorite book out of everything I’ve written and I really want to get it out there and share it with everyone.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Possibly in 2013 when I published my first independent novel Best Man. Even when I started writing, it wasn’t with the goal of becoming an author. Writing was my escapism and it became something I could share with my closest friends. My friends were the ones who pushed me to try publishing, I would never have done it otherwise. So if you enjoy my books, you can thank Ari and Luka. If you hate my books, you can blame Ari and Luka.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I work at a university in the school of Medicine. I write at night when I should be sleeping and on the weekends in my spare time. I’ve had insomnia since I was a child and never sleep more than six hours if I do sleep at all. So I’ve put that quiet time to good use.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I have so many quirks it’s hard to decide. I never write at my desk or on a computer. I am usually situated with my iPad somewhere with a cat curled up asleep beside me whilst I tap away.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Ooh, this was a toss-up between a teacher or an assassin. I tried the teacher thing, but it turned out to not be my cup of tea. I write about strong females, some of whom are deadly, so I guess you could say I went the assassin line.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I’m a friendly antisocial girl who lives in a comedy, but tends to write the darker side of human nature. I’m a mother, a wife, a crazy cat lady, and a walking contradiction (it’s all my rising signs fault). I’m on twitter, Facebook and Instagram. If you want to read more of my insane dreams world, you can find me on Inkitt or read me raw on Wattpad.


Thank you for asking me to interview and showing an interest in Spectra.

Very happy to have you here today, Ebony! Happy writing.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Interview with Diane Keyes about her memoir To Wendy's with Love

Writer Diane Keyes wraps up this week with me. We’re chatting about her memoir, To Wendy’s With Love: The 22-Year Lunch.

Welcome, Diane. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’ve owned a staging business for more than twenty-five years—since before the name staging. I also have an eclectic background working as a book reviewer, editor, retreat director, grief group facilitator, and commercial floral designer, and I often speak at real estate functions and make appearances on local TV and radio programs.

As a child, I always told people that I wanted to be a race car driver and a writer. I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 30 years old and I didn’t start writing till I was in my 40’s so I guess I’m a late bloomer. And even then I began writing only because every word of my first book, Spirit of the Snowpeople, came to me at a stop light between the red and the green. I couldn’t have even thought every idea in the book, much less composed it, in that short space of time. I believed then, and still do, that it was sent to me and I had an obligation to get it to print. It took twelve years before it was published but it was published exactly as it was given to me. It sold out its first printing three weeks after publication and I’m thrilled to say the book had the largest presale in the 60-plus-year history of DownEast Books. My second book, This Sold House, received two Best Book Awards, in the business and how-to categories, from the Midwest Independent Publishers’ Association (a twelve state region) and is endorsed by Joan Steffens, host of HGTV’s, Decorating Cents. It will be going into its 3rd edition later this year.

Please tell us about your current release.
To Wendy’s With Love: The 22-Year Lunch is the story of my weekly lunches with my mother, which I started in an attempt to heal my relationship with her. I needed a low energy way to spend time with Mom. I was carrying around a lot of baggage I’d had since childhood after a brain hemorrhage left me with painful memories, unanswered questions, and crippling depression. I found my healing in an unlikely place—Wendy’s fast food restaurant. Once we met in “the neutral zone,” she wasn’t doing the Mom thing and I wasn’t doing the kid thing and we were able to see each other outside of our accustomed roles. Along the way I discovered the power of gratitude, relationships, and family meals. The lessons I learned have changed my life as well as those of the family and friends who have joined mom and me each week around the Wendy’s table. Still going strong after 22 years, it now includes four generations of our family and some weeks we have as many as 15-20 people show up for lunch.

To Wendy’s With Love is just that—a love letter to Wendy’s for creating a congenial space in which to heal, along with good food and warm and welcoming staff who have become like family to us.

What inspired you to write this book?
Over the years, I’d occasionally think “I should write a book about our Wendy’s experience.” But I never felt compelled until one day when the local Wendy’s PR person came to take photos of our family. They’d finally noticed we’d been there every week for more than 15 years. (If you go to our Wendy’s in Roseville, Minnesota, you’ll find photos of us all over the walls). Anyway, my mom was bragging about me and telling the photographer that I was a writer. He asked me if I’d considered writing a book about Wendy’s and I said I had. He told me, “I think it would be a very good idea.” I started the book that week.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m working on a juvenile fiction novel tentatively called The Legend of Bella Vie, about the woman behind Santa Claus. Unfortunately I’ve been stuck for a while, so if anyone has any ideas, let me know. I also have the first draft done of Sound Bytes of Relationship Advice. I’ve been married to the same wonderful guy for decades and I’ve learned some things it would be helpful to know right out of the gate.

I’m also toying with the idea of writing the back story of getting To Wendy’s With Love published—because a lot of interesting things happened in the 7 years between writing the bones of the book and getting it in print.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think that I probably didn’t really consider myself a writer until I wrote the Wendy’s manuscript. The children’s book was sent to me—I’m very proud that I stayed with Spirit of the Snowpeople until it was published 12 years later, but I did not write it. And the staging book, This Sold House, had more to do with my business than with my writing so I don’t really count that book either. But in the last 7-8 years, I’ve been doing a lot of editing and I’ve been told I’m a good writer; the trouble is I want to be someone grand and lyrical, not just good. Oh well, I do what I can with what I’ve got.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I do not write full time. I belong to a writers’ group for women; we started with 10 people and now have 300 members, and they often speak about their writing practices. I can’t relate to any of them. If I’m not in the middle of a book, I don’t write. When I do have something to write, I start and don’t stop, working 14-16 hours a day until I’m finished, I guess I’m a feast or famine writer. I love my writing process. It’s the same if I’m editing.

The rest of the time I’m a stager, which I also love. I love helping people get as much money for their homes as they can. It’s amazing what a little purging, painting and cleaning can do for the bottom line.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I think my interesting writing quirk is that I LOVE writing but I am not obsessed by it. From my experience, many, if not most, writers hate writing but feel compelled to do it. If I have something to write, I’m on it but the rest of the time I’m busy with other things.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
My grandpa told me I could either be a teacher, a nurse or a secretary, and I knew I was not cut out for any of those things, which is probably where I came up with the idea of being race car driver or a writer. If I was going to go off the grid, I guess I wanted to go WAY OFF.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Don’t EVER let fear stop you. Everything good that comes your way begins with saying “Yes.” Don’t let other people’s notion of what is impossible keep you from reaching for your dreams. Nike’s right when they say “just do it.” There is not a single desire in your heart that wasn’t put there by the Universe/God/Spirit. If you have the desire you also have the means, but you first must believe it.


Thanks for being here today, Diane.