Wednesday, July 31, 2013

To Book Club or Not to Book Club

I’ve never been a fan of the book club for one very good reason – I like to read what I want to read when I want to read it.  I’m kind of stubborn that way.  Perhaps it’s because I was an English major in college and then pursued a master’s in English Education.  The last thing I wanted in life was someone telling me what to read, when it was due, and to have some profound opinions about it justified by textual evidence and the author’s overall thesis.

And there were other reasons…what if everyone hated the book I choose?  Or there was some know-it-all literary blowhard who dominated the conversation?  Or I didn’t like the wine.  Or worse – what if they didn’t serve wine!?!?  

That was it.  After all, reading is a solitary pursuit and if I wanted to read the latest James Patterson in lieu of Pride and Prejudice, then that was my prerogative.  I didn't need to defend my literary choices.  Because frankly, they don’t always deserve defending.  (Secret Alert: I love the occasional detritus diversion as much as the next person!)  Problem solved - I was, am, and always will be anti-book club!  Until recently…

I picked up Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and devoured it.  It was a punch to the gut and I needed to talk to someone about it.  I wanted to pour over the discussion questions.  I wanted to revisit, discuss, and analyze this juicy, twisted marriage.  Nick and Amy were delicious characters that merited conversation.  Help!  I needed a book club and fast!  So after some looking around, I found one.  And I love my book club.  Here’s why…it’s a stress free zone for five simple reasons.

*We meet regularly while allowing enough time to actually finish the book.  Every six weeks is perfect.  Life is complicated and busy so we don’t persecute those who don’t finish.  It happens.  M.W.D.H. (Members Who Don’t Read) can still add to the discussion and stimulate conversation.

*We have enough members to make it interesting yet intimate.  Eight to ten is ideal and demographic diversity allows for richer discussion.  Mix it up with age, sex, experience, marital status, etc.  

*Book Choices – We take turns choosing the books.  It’s democratic and allows members the opportunity to read a variety of authors while being introduced to new ones.

*Hosting duties should be rotated and stress-free.  You don’t need to be Martha Stewart to pull off a successful book club.  Snacks and beverages should be yum but simple.  Note: It’s okay to serve store bought items if baking isn’t your bag.

*Assign/rotate the discussion leader role to those who feel comfortable acting in this capacity.  Some people don’t feel comfortable leading the discussion, and that’s okay.  Book club shouldn’t feel like a graduate course.      

You can’t beat a good read and good friends!  A book club is one of the best ways to converge these two treasures and rekindle your literary spirit.  Whether your book club likes romance, science fiction, or the latest crowd-pleaser – attend regularly, read, and participate with gusto!  After all, books and people who relish them allow our worlds to grow larger and our problems smaller.  A book club can open the door to new friendships and fresh ideas – so proceed with caution.  Remember what Louis May Alcott said, “She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.”

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Barnes & Noble Book Signing

Attention Lit Lovers - Please join me on Saturday, August 3rd from 1-3 p.m. at Barnes & Noble in Hendersonville, TN.  A fun, free, family-friendly event...

Friday, July 5, 2013

Author Interview with Grant Kauffman

Today's interview spotlights author extraordinaire Grant Kauffman and his new novel, PROJECT 14:  THE LEGEND OF BEELZEBUB'S BLUFF.  Check out this amazing author and his latest book now available on Amazon...

Q)  When did you start writing?  What keeps you going?

A)  First of all, thank you so much for allowing me the opportunity to participate in your blog. I’m honored. Also, congratulations to you, Kim, for the successes you’ve had. It’s exciting to see a fellow Lincoln native doing great things and I’m proud of you. Okay, onto the answers.
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. Trying to write as a profession began a few years ago with my first book, 12 Rounds with the Devil, based on my two years of working in professional boxing. (Have not tried to get it published yet.) I have written countless short scripts for videos, songs, poems, screenplays, jokes on bathroom walls, just about everything. In my mid-twenties I discovered that I was a gifted storyteller. I used that skills in the world of video production for many years.  Sadly, I became a statistic in 2008 when the economy crushed my beloved video production company like a tiny goldfish cracker. I began my quest to write as a career not long after, when I discovered that corporate America didn’t have a need for an aging entrepreneur who’d been out of the work force for almost ten years. So, I am doing all I can to earn an honest living for my kids by using the skills I’ve been given.  What keeps me going is an easy one to answer—my kiddos. I have custody of three amazing children and being a single parent with a low-fat bank account and ever increasing financial needs keeps me going day after day.

Q)  What was your most encouraging moment as an author?

A)  There are two moments that stand out for me. Both occurred a few days after we completed the final edits on Project 14. The ebook had just gone live on Amazon and the paperback was being worked on. I shared the manuscript with some people and asked them to pass it on. A woman who I’d never met, who lived in Nevada contacted me to let me know that she sat down on a Saturday to read a couple of chapters. Ten hours later she was done with the book. She told me she hadn’t been that engrossed in a novel since Twilight. That was really a nice moment for me. The other one was when a neighbor told me that she went to read Salem’s Lot and couldn’t continue past the first few chapters because it wasn’t as entertaining as Project 14, which she had just finished reading. Those are the moments that validate the hard work. I especially loved the comments from the woman I didn’t know. A lot of times, as you know Kim, friends, family and neighbors will tell you your work is great even if they don’t think it is. When a stranger tells you, it makes it more real. Again, it serves as validation and it feels great.

Q)  What was your most discouraging moment as an author?

A)  The most discouraging moment is plural. There are many. The biggest theme of discouragement is the time involved in getting a novel written. It is a seemingly never ending process. The editing phase alone is a nightmare if you are a perfectionist like me. I’m so hard to please and Project 14 still has things I want to tweak each time I pick it up, so I had to stop looking at it. When you want to make a living at writing and time is of the essence, it can create a heaping boatload of discouragement that stays with you all day.  The other part that is frustrating is the self-promotion part of it. It is a very unnatural thing for me. I love to promote others but I’m not good at promoting myself. (Insert shameless plug here. Buy Project 14: The Legend of Beelzebub’s Bluff on today)  See? That hurt my fingers to type that. The discouraging part is getting people to read your work. A book is a time commitment and people are not in a huge hurry to read these days. It’s a very frustrating, yet exciting, time to be an author. So many possibilities with social media and all, but people have short attention spans so your work had better grab them from chapter one or else. Even if the work is solid, you still can’t force people to read a book and word of mouth is everything in the book world, so it is very, very discouraging when people who have the ability to help promote the book sit on it and don’t read it. Argh!

Q)  What’s your antidote to writer’s block?

A)  My entire life is writer’s block. Juggling the kiddos schedules with cooking, cleaning and laundry, eh, I got a headache just thinking about it. It’s really quite an extraordinary challenge to raise three kids alone and try to be a writer. Needless to say I get more done during the school year. What I have to do to counteract any form or writer’s block is get out of my house. I need to leave the comfort zone and go sit in the quiet room at a library. Sequester myself for a few hours and force the words out. They may not always be eloquent but at least I get the ideas on paper. I can always go back and flush them out later. The other thing I will do when I’m really at a standstill is go to the first showing of the day of a movie. (Only $5 for the first showing J) I can sit in a theater and just by watching the trailers I get inspired. Half of the time I say, “I can do better than that!” which gets me fired up to write. When the movie is good I just get fired up by solid storytelling. Again, it makes me want to get better. Also, once again, all I have to do is think about my kids and my tiny bank account and I get motivated real quick.

Q)  Describe the typical writing day:

A)  There are two seasons of writing for me. One when the kids are in school, the second is summer (or Christmas) vacation. During the school year, I’m up at 5:45, pack lunches, cook breakfast, get the kids to school then I do an absolutely crucial activity. I exercise. It might be a long walk or an hour at the gym but I have to do this to get my head right. It is during exercise that I begin to organize my writing day. What do I want to accomplish? How can I improve an existing chapter? Do I need to add any new chapters? Once I nestle my cans into my chair for the day, it’s all about focus. I try to write for several hours, stopping only for lunch or the occasional trip up to the school to deliver the thing one of my kids forgot that day. Grrrrrr.  I have a small daily window of seven hours to get my exercising and writing done. I have to be discipline. Once the kids are home from school I usually don’t get any time to write until they go to bed. By that time, I’m usually exhausted. However, I will write at night when I’m in the creative zone. I sure wish I could turn it on and off but I can’t. If the ideas are flowing, I’m pounding away at the keyboard. I do my best to get at least six hours of sleep. Then, the next day I do it all over again.  In the summer, it’s a crapshoot. I’m far less organized. I try to find time to write whenever time presents itself. It’s much more challenging this summer as I’m trying to promote Project 14. I have to be very discipline, which isn’t always easy, and divide my time among the business side of the book process, the creative side, have time for the kids and finally, make time for cleaning, cooking, laundry. Oh, there is that headache again!

Q)  From where do you draw your inspiration?

A)  I draw inspiration from life. For whatever reason my life has been a pretty wild ride. When people hear some of my real-life stories they are amazed. Sadly those experiences haven’t enriched my bank account but they have enriched me as a person which is far more important. (Unless you can’t pay your bills, then the fat bank account comes in handy.) I have been lucky enough to have run with many unusual packs of humans. I used to be a rap artist, I have owned small businesses, I worked in professional boxing for promoter Don King, worked with guys like Mike Tyson. I owned a video production company which allowed me to travel around this great nation of ours and meet a lot of different peeps from all walks of life. I’ve been crushed and smashed and smeared on the sidewalk by life yet here I am.  I find that hard times can serve as an extraordinary inspiration if you can rise above the mental challenges. Sometimes it can be hard to write and be creative in times of struggle. However, hard times help shape us. I figure that if I can rise above hard times and write a novel while raising three kids alone, then I can do about anything. Can’t even explain how I did it but I did. It’s all a blur at this point. When I sit and reflect on things I find it is pretty easy to draw inspiration from my life. I also love to watch people. I often look at someone and try to imagine what their life is like. That helps me stay creative. Great stories are about people. If a writer doesn’t have a grasp on people, they can’t develop strong characters that audiences can relate with. Without good characters, there is no story. So I do a lot of people watching, trying to understand as many ways of life as I can. Not sure that answer is a great one but it’s an honest one.

Q)  Tell us about your latest book:

A)  Project 14: The Legend of Beelzebub’s Bluff is a something I’m really proud of. Not to beat a dead horse, (Wow, that is a brutal saying when you see it on paper. Gross!) but my life has been very hard the past few years. Raising kids alone and not being able to find work has taken a toll on me. I finally just said to myself, “Self, it’s time to write this story you’ve been thinking about for so many years.” So, I sat down in September 2012 and did it.  Project 14 is really a tale of survival and perseverance. It’s a story of five kids who are on their annual camping trip with their respective fathers just outside of the hauntingly sleepy town of Henley, Texas. One early morning the boys sneak out for a fishing excursion on the river. They go downstream a bit too far and wind up in front of an ominous rock formation known to locals as Beelzebub’s Bluff. Soon the two girls show up—they’d been following the boys. All five kids end up getting caught in a devilish river current known as the Raven’s Claw and they are pulled down a small waterfall which drops inside the bluff.  They end up falling into a secret world, a place where two lost tribes of people now reside. They must stick together, figure out who to trust and find a way out amidst a world of strange people and creatures, and an evil dictator who has given the order that the children must not be allowed to leave alive. It’s a pretty exciting adventure story and none of what I just described has anything to do with why the book is called Project 14. People will have to read that on their own.
I guarantee that anyone who enjoy adventure stories will love this. It’s a story that gets better with each new section and stays exciting right up to the very last page. I’d sure be appreciative if people go to and buy the ebook or the paperback. It will be well worth the money. After all, the ebook is cheaper than two Grande lattes from Starbucks with sugar free vanilla and soy milk. The paperback is cheaper than those same two lattes with a slice of lemon pound cake with vanilla icing and a couple of those cake pops that I’ve never seen anyone order. Plus it lasts way longer! J

Q)  What author have you been most influenced by? 

A)  I would say the one author who has influenced me more than anyone over the years is Stephen King. I find him to be utterly brilliant at times, such as with 11/22/63. That has to be one of the best novels I’ve ever read. I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves as being one of the great storytellers of our era, if not the best. He has had tremendous influence on our culture. He is someone I can always look to and say, ‘keep working cuz you’re not as good as that guy’. The other author I love and respect is Jodi Picoult. The Storyteller was one of the great books I’ve read in the past few years. She has such a masterful grasp of the written word and I find myself wanting to get better when I read her work. For me, that is what it is all about. Who makes me want to get better? Who challenges me as a storyteller? There are several others but King and Picoult are the top two for me.

Thank you, Grant!  It's been a pleasure having you - and you still manage to crack me up!  I just received my own autographed copy of Project 14 and can't wait to dive in.  Congratulations!!

Author Bio:
Grant Kauffman is the author of Project 14: The Legend of Beelzebub’s Bluff . Having worked in the television/video/film production industry for over 15 years, Grant possesses a wide range of skill sets, including writing, directing, producing and editing. Always the avid storyteller, Grant not only has a background in creative services, but also in promotions and public relations. He firmly believes in the enduring power of a well-told story to entertain people of all ages. He is currently working on a sequel to Project 14 and also has several other works in progress. He is a proud single father who raises his three children in McKinney, Texas, just north of Dallas.  Grant is an award-winning producer/director who founded a video and film production company in Denver in 2001. Prior to launching his video company, he served as a television producer for Don King Productions, helping produce such telecasts as Tyson-Holyfield I and II, the two most successful pay-per-view events in history for their respective broadcast dates. Grant also has worked as the director of video production for J.D. Edwards Software. He holds a BA in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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