Sunday, October 28, 2012

Author Interview Featuring Carol Marvell

Q)  When did you start writing?  What keeps you going?
A)  I started writing about twenty-five years ago. Slave Trader of course was my first novel and then I wrote a series of stories after it, all of which follow on from each other. My stories are based around the same main characters, where I’ve incorporated them into different and dangerous adventures.  For many years, my stories lived in the bottom drawer. I wrote purely for pleasure and had no intention of publishing. It wasn’t until I bought my first computer that I dug some of them out and expanded them from note form into manuscripts. When I look back on them now, I laugh. I am not kidding when I say notes. I seemed to have put down a mere portion of my thoughts on paper. They are very basic with no details and only cover the bare skeleton of my stories.  To this day my love for writing hasn’t dwindled. I think having a number of manuscripts on the go at once has its advantages. I’ll edit one and then go on to the next. By the time I get back to the first one, it’s like reading a new story. By using this method, my stories don’t become stale or bog me down. And now, having Slave Trader published has spurred my confidence on in leaps and bounds.

Q)  What was your most encouraging moment as an author?
A)  Having my daughter love Slave Trader. She was my first ever reader and I couldn’t believe how enthralled she was by it. She’d read a few chapters and then race in to discuss what my characters had done and the twists the story had taken. I remember picking her up from a three day music camp and the first thing she said to me was, ‘I couldn’t stop thinking about your book.’ If it wasn’t for her, I probably wouldn’t have published it.

Q)  What was your most discouraging moment as an author?
A)  Probably the most obvious – rejections from publishers. I feel this is the hardest and highest hurdle – actually finding a publisher to take you on. In a way, every rejection made me more determined. I knew there had to be someone out there who would like my story and be prepared to publish it. Thankfully my perseverance paid off and Wild Child Publishing gave me the chance.

     Q)  What’s your antidote to writer’s block?
       A)  I can’t say I’ve actually had a writer’s block. When I wrote my stories all those years ago, they just seemed to flow. Writing became my passion, and when I wasn’t writing, I was always thinking - plotting ideas and developing schemes and strategies to either strengthen my existing work or to create new ones. I couldn’t get my characters out of my head which I guess is why I had no trouble creating storylines. I never actually followed a plan so I never knew what was going to happen or how or where the story would turn, or end for that matter. If I did get to a point where I wasn’t sure which way to take the story, or if I found I’d led my characters into a tight situation, leaving it for a day or two always cleared my head and refreshed my ideas to find a solution.

Q)   Describe the typical writing day:
A)  I try and write every spare minute I can. Unfortunately with my day job, it can be hard to find the time, or at least the time I would like. I find writing early in the mornings is my best time, when my mind is clear. Most days I write a little before I head off to work. I might write for an hour or so after work and then again after dinner. The beauty of having a laptop is, I can still be with my family while I’m working.  If I’m not too busy on weekends, I try and squeeze in an hour or two, or more, and maybe a little bit more. The social side of publicizing my book now takes up a lot of my writing time so it’s a balancing game, but I feel it is necessary to promote, promote, promote. I guess I’m lucky I did all the leg work for my books back when I seemed to have more time. Now it’s a matter of polishing them ready for publication.

Q)  From where do you draw your inspiration?
A)  When I started writing, I was inspired by the idea to create a heroine. Back then, there weren’t too many around, either in books or movies. Though there were plenty of tough front men heroes, not that I didn’t enjoy reading about them or watching them on the big screen, I thought it would be good to have a heroine take the lead for a change. I wanted someone who wouldn’t crumble at the first sign of trouble, someone strong in character and genuine in personality, and someone able to look after herself …hence Detective Billie McCoy stepped into my world.  Still my love for fast moving plots and plenty of action feeds my inspiration.  The aspect of unique friendships also adds its appeal. I have friendships which grow with each book. It is this unity that I feel shape my stories, encouraging my ideas and plots to work around a special camaraderie.  I’ve also based my stories around issues in society we don’t tend to hear about, although now they seemed to becoming more accurate than I ever envisaged, an example being the real life slavery stories spreading across the globe. When I wrote slave trader, I was writing pure fiction…or so I thought. Now there are more people in slavery than at any other time in history, and the industry makes $32 billion a year. It’s frightening.

Q)  Tell us about your latest book:
A)  Slave Trader – In the Name of Freedom was released in May this year with Wild Child Publishing. It is a fast paced action adventure based on a modern day slavery racket run by a crooked cop, Captain Bates, the chief of Missing Persons. For the past three years, he has secretly abducted young attractive prostitutes and destitute women, choosing only those who hold a prison record and won’t be missed from society. With the help of his sidekick, Mrs Bland, a cruel burly woman whose job it is to keep the prisoners in line, he transports his victims from Sydney to the far north of Queensland along the edge of the desert to sell as sex slaves to overseas buyers.  The main character Detective Billie McCoy, a member of an elite undercover squad, is on assignment when she stumbles across one of Bates’ abductions. Taking the risk of jeopardising her own mission, she goes to the aid of the misfortunate girl, Jane Walker. Well trained in self-defence and experienced in many different styles of combat, Billie has no trouble overpowering Jane’s two assailants. Before she can get her out safely, Bates and reinforcements arrive. Here are two cops - both well respected throughout the force - now in opposite circumstances, now forced to turn on the other.  Plunged into a web of corruption and evil, not only does Billie have to contend with the slave traders, but her fellow prisoners – all who hate cops. Entrapped in the back of a truck with six women already on edge due to the distressing situation, they make it clear they want nothing to do with Billie after learning her status. The detective is forced to defend herself both verbally and physically against them, as well as Mrs Bland on their trek north.

Q)  What author have you been most influenced by? 
A)  Two authors stand out in my mind, and both during my teenage years. I loved Peter O’Donnell with the Modesty Blaise series, and J. T. Edson with his many westerns and the Bunduki series. I still have every book. J  More recently would be Matthew Reilly. I love the way he thinks big when it comes to plots and action, pitting his main characters against not one enemy but usually a whole army. His stories are well out of the square, leading the reader far beyond imagination.

Author Bio:    Carol lives on a small property in Queensland, Australia. She works in a local primary school as a School Officer / Librarian / Community Development Officer. Born in Childers, she grew up on a cane farm. Carol has been married for twenty-six years and has three children, two girls and a boy. She has travelled extensively throughout the world, visiting the US, UK, Europe, China, Japan, Thailand, New Zealand and of course, Australia. Her other passion is music. She plays bass guitar in a country rock band with her husband and two other guys, and is also a member of a symphony orchestra. With over fifty members, the orchestra is voluntary and visits retirement villages and small towns.

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Get Your Fear On...

It's time for everyone to get their fear on with an excerpt from the award-winning Cheerage Fearage (Wild Child Publishing, 2012):

            The silver moon threw light on the two girls as they eagerly peeled off their clothes, tossing them in heaps on the wooden dock.  They jumped off into the vast lake, giggling and squealing at the shock of its coldness as the dark water swallowed up their tanned, limber bodies.
            Although fierce competitors on the school’s most exclusive faction, the two girls were the best of friends with much in common.  They ran with the same elite crowd, dated the same square-jawed jocks, and chose the same stylish trends to be mindlessly imitated by featureless masses.  Quite simply, they were perfection personified coupled with a “rules-don’t apply-to-us” attitude that even the teachers chose not to challenge - the outcome resulting in unequivocal classroom suicide. 
            “Nervous about tomorrow?” asked the sandy blonde with an I-know-better grin.
            “Yeah, right,” shot back the redhead.  “It’s in the bag, sister.  Fly high or die.”
            “You know I love you best, right?
            “Of course.  It’s you and me forever.”
            They traded playful splashes and squeals until without warning, the blonde gripped the redhead’s neck taking her under.  She held down the thrashing body, welcoming the newfound power and control that had evaded her for so long.  Vindication was only moments away….
Responding to a startling kick to the shin, she released the girl without delay playing it off with a full-bodied laugh.  “What are you doing?” the redhead yelled, spastically choking.  “You trying to kill me?”
“Relax,” said the blonde.  “You’re my best friend.  I would never hurt you.  You know that, right?”
But the redhead didn’t answer – at least not with words.  Her shrill scream was cut short by the blonde thrusting her under again, this time with even more force.  She yanked tufts of the covetous red hair everyone always spoke about, the crowning feature that solidified her title of reigning school beauty.  Brutally jerking her head to the left and wrenching it to the right, she forced the girl to swallow massive amounts of water. 
The redhead’s adrenaline now metastasized into rank primal fear.  She kicked and scratched for dear life causing the blonde to tighten her grip.  Overcome with sheer panic followed by pure helplessness, the redhead relaxed into an inevitable surrender. 
With the determined patience of a professional assassin, the blonde counted slowly to fifty, waiting for the shapely, agile form that had cruelly beat her out of every competition to go still and flaccid forever.  She delighted in feeling the strong steady pulse slow to a mere fleeting throb and then finally to complete nothingness.  When the time came, the blonde released the body into the dark water without pause or sentiment, and gracefully swam back to the dock, crawling up the ladder with a smooth, athletic gait. 
            Mission accomplished. 
            Giddily content, the blonde patted away streaming lines of lake water with her tank top, tossing it back on along with her vintage cutoffs.  She left the other’s clothes balled up below the “NO DIVING” sign and never looked back.  The long-suffering second-in-command was now the captain of the Valentine Cheerleading Squad.

            It was official.  The queen bee had be dethroned and destroyed.

Now available from Wild Child Publishing:

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Teaching Our Tweens to be Cyber Citizens

As a veteran teacher of The Tween, people will often ask how middle school has changed over the years.  The answer comes down to one word – technology. 

Back in the day if you wanted to spread a bit of gossip, you wrote it out on a piece of spiral notebook paper in big loopy letters with a purple grape smelly maker, signed it G/G (Gotta Go), folded it using an elaborate origami technique, and wrote DO NOT OPEN lest someone else usurped it as you surreptitiously scooted it across the floor in class with the toe of your Nike.  

Today – you text it, at which time the receiver forwards it, at which time the next receiver posts it on Facebook, at which time someone Tweets it, at which time someone Google Plus’s it and voila – Viral Gossip with the guaranteed promise of a YouTube video coming soon. 

Yes, technology, and in particular social media, has radically changed the childhood experience of tweens.  Middle school tweens are growing up faster than ever and it wouldn’t be outlandish to accept that middle school has become the new high school.  The fact is tweens spend more time with their iPhones, iPads, and iTouches than their friends, families, and teachers.  The result = iWorry! 

The negative aspects of having access to technology 24/7 are pretty clear, and as serious as they are, I only wish they were confined to cheating or plagiarism.  Events and feelings that were once private are now public for all to see, and in cyberspace they are written in permanent ink.  The mental health risks of friending, cyberbullying and sexting, have profound psychological repercussions on the fragile tween-work-in-progress persona.  They include but are not limited to anxiety, isolation, and even suicide.

Not to say there are no positive effects of tweens employing technology.  I have seen social media sites help the shyest of tweens come out of their unbreakable social shell.  The comfort of expressing oneself through the safety confines of a keyboard and screen can help develop a timid tween’s social skills and boost their overall sense of self.  For this reason alone, I applaud Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube for giving kids a way to connect and self-express.

So as parents and teachers of the tween, what is our call to action?  We can view social media technology as the bane of our tweens’ existence, take away all of their gadgets, and lock them in the bedroom until they are eighteen…but I’m afraid that’s not the answer.  At the same time, we can’t afford to squander this ultimate teachable moment that ensures kids a balanced media diet that’s fun, educational, and safe.  Our charge is simple.  It is absolutely necessary that parents and teachers team up to help tweens understand what it means to be responsible digital citizens. 

In short, it can come down to a few guidelines:

  •   Self-reflect before self-revealing in words or pictures.  A digital footprint lasts a lifetime. 
  •  Never share names, schools, ages, phone numbers, or addresses.
  •  Never send pictures of strangers or view pictures that strangers send to you.
  •  Keep passwords private.
  •  Report all cyberbullying to an adult immediately. 
  •  Limit social networking to 1-2 hours a day, after homework is complete.

Along with teaching algebra and the five-paragraph essay, we do our students a disservice if we don’t discuss how social media can help empower tweens to find their voice, find their purpose, and become their best educated selves.  We owe tweens the safe, healthy adolescence they deserve as opposed to the alternative - as so uncannily perceived by Albert Einstein: “It has become appalling clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity.”  Technology and humanity.  They need not be mutually exclusive. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Author Interview Featuring Robert Siegel

Q)  When did you start writing?  What keeps you going?
        A)  Back in the summer of 2010.  Actually seeing a published work along with the enjoyment of putting my thoughts into words in the hope that someone somewhere will enjoy reading the material.

Q)  What was your most encouraging moment as an author?
        A)  When my first work was submitted to the Library of Congress and I received the notification that it was placed on file.

Q)  What was your most discouraging moment as an author?
        A)  The rejections received and in some case the lack of response from the publishers where I had submitted my work.

Q)  What’s your antidote to writer’s block?
        A)  I don’t write for days sometimes weeks but I always think about what I would like to write about or how to approach my writing and eventually I overcome the block.

Q)  Describe the typical writing day:
        A)  I walk a lot so I walk in the morning and late afternoon.  In between the walking I sit at my computer and write.  Sometimes I don’t get anything written but at least I have tried.  I carry a portable recorder with me and when I have a thought I go off on my own and record it to be used in my writing. 

Q)  From where do you draw your inspiration?
        A)  Most of my inspiration comes from my wife.  I have found that the walks I take sometimes supply me with ideas of what to write about. 

Q)  Tell us about your latest book:
        A)  I am currently working on a mystery.  I have only published one book to date and it is a novelty.  The book is about the life of a golf ball but what makes it unique is the fact that the golf ball is telling the story.  I wrote it manly for the younger generation but believe all age groups can enjoy it.  Most golfers would probably relate well to the situations that Jerry gets into.

Q)  What author have you been most influenced by? 
        A)  I don’t know of any that have had a special influence on me.  However, I enjoy reading John Steinbeck’s books and admire the imaginative mind of Steven King.

Thanks for visiting.  Please enjoy and comment. 

Author Bio:  I have been married for 20 years to a wonderful woman named Elizabeth.  My family consists of four children – Connie, Donna, Jennifer, and Nicholas – there was a dog named Mr. Smiley, a terrier mixture between a Westie and a Wheaton who recently passed away after being with us for 17 years.  We now have a Westie named Cody.
I received my degree in Economics from Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania and my Master of Business Education from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  I spent a number of years in the finance department of a large manufacturing firm and 10 years teaching high school business subjects and also was an adjunct instructor teaching accounting and microelectronics at a local university.

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