Friday, August 30, 2013

Author Interview - Carissa Andrews author of "Pendomus" due out October 10th

Carissa Andrews
Carissa Andrews is another author I've had the pleasure of meeting via Twitter. It has been 3 years since the first time we began to tweet back and forth, and now - years later - I have the pleasure to interviewing her for her up coming book release, "Pendomus"

What is your genre of choice, and why? 

Sci-fi/fantasy has turned out to by my pen of choice. I enjoy the freedom to explore pretty much anything I want to, but still dig myself into a world entrenched with technology and science. Two areas I love in real life.

How many books have you published? (self or otherwise) 

I’m publishing my first novel, "Pendomus", this October. "Pendomus" is the first book in a three-book series about a seventeen-year-old girl and her quest to save the planet she lives on.

Tell me about your current project.

Right now, I’m currently wrapping up "Pendomus", reworking the flow based on recommendations from my editor. It’s been a challenging process, but I’ve learned a lot just in these past few months of piecing the puzzle back together.

"Taking place on a tidally-locked planet known as Pendomus, humanity has evolved. Having left Earth long ago, we’ve found a way to survive on what should be a desolate planet. Taking root on the temperate band between light and dark, where it’s is always perpetual dawn, the Helix commands its presence to be known. Operating under the assumption that everyone works in total fulfillment of their higher-calling, no one questions their daily routines.
There is more than meets the eye to this planet, however. It is Runa Cophem’s calling to find out her place in the world, far beyond the confines of the Helix. Destruction and havoc will follow in her wake. The only question is, will it be for the betterment of all?"

Where can I buy copies of your work? 

"Pendomus" will be available October 10th on, or you can visit my Kickstarter project to pledge for an advance copy. The Kickstarter project runs today (August 26th through September 9th)

What are you reading right now? 

For pleasure reading, I’m in the middle of the naughty indulgence of the 50 Shades series. With all I’ve been working on, it’s been hard to get around to all the great books out there. For work purposes, I’m also reading "Story Physics", by Larry Brooks.

What keeps you going on those days when writing gets hard? (e.g., a favorite quote or a personal motto) 

I love Jillian Michael’s quote, “Why choose failure, when success is an option.”

What advice can you give other aspiring writers out there? 

Keep writing. It doesn’t matter what you write, how you write, or where you write. Just make it a goal and keep at it every single day. In the beginning, your words may not be great—but they’re aspiring to be. One day, you’ll look back and realize your writing has grown with you.

What cautions do you have? 

Don’t limit yourself to what you think will sell. There are a lot of other authors out there who will go on the hunt for the “next big thing”. Don’t be one of them… If there’s a story gnawing at your mind, it needs to be told. End of story. ;)

Do you work on more than one project at a time? 

Yes – but not book-wise. I’d like to think I could do so, but my brain would have a meltdown with all those voices. So I limit my extra projects to a different medium. I am a graphic designer by trade, so on the side—and when I get stuck—I will switch gears and dabble with my visual art. In addition to "The Pendomus Chronicles", I am also in the middle of getting Malarkey Publishing and Design up and running.

Do you have a process? (e.g., outlining, character creation, location) 

I go through a series of daydreams first. I write down the basic principle, the concept of the story and expand it from there. I try to write outlines, but they never really stick for me—but I think that’s because my process is evolving. I go deep into backgrounds for characters, trying to come up with reasoning for their behaviors and actions. I love imagining the worlds, the technology, etc. I have so many notes I don’t know what to do with them all!

Where do your ideas come from? What inspires you? 

"Pendomus" sort of just struck me out of nowhere. But as time has gone on (I’ve been working on it for the past three years), I see a lot of influences in it. Particularly influences from my favorite writer, Joss Whedon. But really, writing inspires me. Living life and looking at the world around me and the way we take technology inspires me.

If you could do it all over, is there anything you would change about finding an agent and finally publishing? 

Honestly, I’m glad things turned out the way they have. I have a background in printing, marketing and graphic design, amongst my interest in writing. So really, taking my authorship to the next level myself, was a logical decision. I am, however, glad that I sent off my queries, tried for an agent, because it validated what I knew already anyway. That I wanted to try this myself first.

What has been your toughest criticism? What has been your greatest compliment? 

My toughest criticism was actually from my beta-reader-extraordinaire the very first time I got a chapter back from her. When I first started writing, I was hoping to be a natural. However, her criticism had me spinning. It was detailed and driven. After first prickling at such a brutal criticism, I realized she was totally right. I was able to incorporate her feedback, and ultimately, grow as a writer and make the scene stronger. Since then, any time I get feedback and criticism I know not to take it personally and dive into changes. These people only want to make my work shine as much as I do.

So far, my greatest compliment has been from beta readers who have said my characters are very three-dimensional. As I make all the changes I’ve been introducing, I hope I maintain that same level throughout the final version of Pendomus.

Who is your greatest influence(s) 

My greatest influence is definitely Joss Whedon. I love his style of story telling. But I have many others closer to home—There are many friends I have made in my journey to become an author and their stories always inspire me. People like Pavarti K. Tyler, Cassia Leo, and of course, my husband, Colin Andrews.

Who are your favorite people to follow on Twitter & why? (e.g., authors, non-authors) 

I love following people who will actually respond back and have a conversation. I pay very little attention to the constant blasts of “My book is on sale again – go buy it!” So it really depends on the day and who pulls me into a conversation or responds back to something I’ve said.

Do you have any other passions besides writing? 

If we exclude the obvious ones like hanging out with my gorgeous husband and kids… I love astrophysics and all things space or hell, science-y. Then again, I love neuroscience, too. I’m kind of a big nerd.

When did you know you wanted to write? 

On some level, I would have to say at a very young age. In the 7th grade, I wrote a full length YA novel that was sort of emulating a dream I had. I can still remember the dream like it was yesterday. Who knows, maybe someday I will have to go back in and rewrite it. ;)

Do you have a day job? 

Yes, I do. I work as Marketing and Sales Coordinator for a SaaS (Software as a Service) company. I get to do a lot of the same fun things I do for self-publishing… Social Media, ordering fun trinkets, scheduling and launching events. It’s pretty awesome.

Final question, why do you write? 

If I didn’t, those voices would only get louder and more obnoxious.

About the Author:

Born and raised in central MN, Carissa Andrews has always loved books. She started her career at 15 in a bookstore, just to be able to afford her book fetish. By 19, she worked for a magazine publisher. At 22, she was working for printers to learn their trade. At 27, she went back to school for graphic design, and became an award winning designer. Little did she know all of her experiences would lead her to becoming a self-publishing power house. 

To learn more about Carissa Andrews and "Pendomus"- visit her website. Also check her out on Facebook (Author page), Facebook (Pendoums page) Twitter and Goodreads

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"Found in You" by Laurelin Paige **Cover Reveal**

From Laurelin Paige, author of "Fixed on You", due for release October 1st is, "Found in You".

"Alayna Withers has only had one kind of relationship: the kind that makes her obsessive and stalker-crazy. Now that Hudson Pierce has let her into his heart,  she’s determined to break down the remaining walls between them so they can build a foundation that’s based on more than just amazing sex. Except Hudson’s not the only one with secrets.
With their pasts pulling them into a web of unfounded mistrust, Alayna turns to the one person who knows Hudson the best—Celia, the woman he almost married. Hoping for insight from someone who understands all sides of the story, Alayna forms a bond with Celia that goes too far—revealing things about Hudson that could end their love for good.
This is the first relationship where Alayna hasn’t spiraled out of control. And she might lose Hudson anyway…"

Laurelin Paige is a sucker for a good romance and gets giddy anytime there’s kissing, much to the embarrassment of her three daughters. Her husband doesn’t seem to complain, however. When she isn’t reading or writing sexy stories, she’s probably singing, watching Mad Men and the Walking Dead, or dreaming of Adam Levine. She is represented by the wonderful Bob Diforio of D4EO Literary Agency.

 Head over to Amazon and check out "Fixed on You", and then check out Laureline Paige on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter and Pinterest! And lastly, for updated on everything sexy. :)

AND!! The author is hosting a giveaway!

(1) $25 Gift Certificate
(5) Advanced Reader Copies of Found in You (Fixed, #2)
(5) e-copies of Fixed on You (Fixed, #1)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 26, 2013

Pour Some Vegan on Me: Black Bean Sweet Potato Chili

Today we are making some delicious black bean sweet potato chili (or yam, if you can't find sweet potatoes).

Here are things you will need: 

Sweet Potato, Red Pepper, Yellow Onion, and Garlic

Tomato Sauce, Cinnamon, Chili powder, Cumin, Cayenne,
Salt & Cocoa powder (not shown) 
And it goes a little something like this:

Beautiful Black Beans
  • 1 can vegan black beans – drained and rinsed (or the equivalent of dried beans rehydrated)
  • 1 large sweet potato (or yam) peeled, and diced into small bite sized cubes 
  • 1 red pepper – diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion – diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic – diced
  • 1 Can tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons of Chili powder
  • 1 tspn salt
  • 1 tspn cumin
  • 1 tspn cinnamon
  • 1 tspn coco powder
  • ½ tspn red pepper
  • 1 Cup water (or veggie broth)
  • Olive oil

And to put it all together:
Saut̩ sweet potato in about 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Stir to keep from sticking to the pot (my pot is old Рeverything sticks to it). Add onions and peppers, saut̩ for another 5 minutes and then add garlic. Wait at least 3 Р4 minutes for the garlic to cook a bit, and then add the black beans and stir.

Add can of tomato sauce, Chili Powder, salt, cumin, cinnamon, coco powder, and red pepper. Stir, coating all the potato, onion and pepper bits. Add 1 Cup water, and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Cook rice as instructed on the packaging.  

Sans Avocado

Serve with brown rice and avocado slices.

Happy Eating!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Weekly Adventure Interview! with Mindy McGinnis, author of :Not a Drop to Drink"

Mindy McGinnis

I met Mindy McGinnis on a wonderful online writing group, and she has been kind enough to allow me an interview. An assistant YA librarian who lives in Ohio, who cans her own food. She graduated from Otterbein University magna cum laude with a BA in English Literature and Religion. An in just under a month, her debut novel, "Not a Drop to Drink" will hit the shelves. 

What is your genre of choice, and why? 

I write YA because I'm also a YA librarian in a public school. I'd been writing for adults an getting nowhere for years when one day I realized if I wrote YA I'd be immersed in the market and surrounded by my target audience 40 hours a week. Honestly it's embarrassing I didn't figure that out sooner.

How many books have you published? (self or otherwise)

My debut novel, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, will be published by Katherine Tegen / Harper Collins September 24, 2013. I'm also slated to have YA releases from the same house in 2014, '15, and '16. I have short stories in the seasonal anthologies from Elephant's Bookshelf Press - SPRING FEVERS, THE FALL, and SUMMER'S DOUBLE EDGE.

Tell me about your current project.

I'm doing research - and a lot of it - for a project that I hope becomes my 2015 release.

Where can I buy copies of your work? 

NOT A DROP TO DRINK is available for pre-order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, or any retailer of your choice. If you prefer to support independent booksellers, let your local bookseller know you're interested in my book and I'm sure they can order for you.

What are you reading right now?

THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS by Rae Carson. It's ridiculously awesome.

What keeps you going on those days when writing gets hard? (e.g., a favorite quote or a personal motto)

Honestly, it isn't pretty, but I always say to myself - "Okay Mindy, make some shit happen."

What advice can you give other aspiring writers out there?

Learn how to take criticism. Don't be defensive about your work, even though it's an understandable knee-jerk reaction. Get great crit partners that you trust and consider their opinions.

What cautions do you have?

Don't be too proud. Don't think you know everything.

Do you work on more than one project at a time?

Nope. I'm monogamous. 

Do you have a process? (e.g., outlining, character creation, location)

Oddly, no I have just about zero process. I pretty much pants everything and I write linearly. 

Where do your ideas come from? What inspires you?

Ideas for books can come from a dream, a song, something random I see on the street. Or it can just randomly pop in my head. I don't question inspiration when it volunteers itself.

If you could do it all over, is there anything you would change about finding an agent and finally publishing?

I would seek help from compatriots sooner. I was foolish and thought that I could only learn from people *above* me on the publishing ladder when I first got into the game.

What has been your toughest criticism? What has been your greatest compliment?

I haven't really had any harsh reviews yet, but I know that there are people who won't like my book. It's literary, and some people are going to want it to be a straight-out fun ride. And it's not. Also, I'm mean to my characters. But... you'll see.

Actually my favorite compliment came from a guy at a gym who rushed over to help me lift something and then said, "Oh, never mind, you're stronger than you look." Or wait, did you mean writing compliment?

Who is your greatest influence(s)

I can't say for sure. I read so widely that if I started to try to figure that out you'd end up with an index for this interview.

Who are your favorite people to follow on Twitter & why? (e.g., authors, non-authors)

I like to follow other YA authors so that I can help promote them and their titles to my own audience. 

Do you have any other passions besides writing?

I'm a softball player. I love sports in general, but baseball and its relatives are my heart.

When did you know you wanted to write?

I distinctly remember telling the lady who came to administer our career testing in 8th grade that I was going to be a writer. Then my profile came back and it said I'd make a great cop.

Do you have a day job?

Yep. I'm clocking 40 hours a week as a librarian :)

Final question, why do you write?

I write because the people and voices in my head aren't going to stop simply because I stop writing them down. I think it's more of a question of - why not?

You can follow Mindy on Twitter - @MindyMcginnis, and be sure to check out her Facebook Page, and most of all - her wonderful blog: Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

once upon a time... a poem

[Once upon a time
is over played
we shouldn't say it
or use it
yet still...]

Once upon a time
there was a girl
who thought
too much
she was sure
but the doubt
over turned
the truth
so she hide
in the recesses
of her imaginary world
inside her head
choked the light
ominous music
misheard comments


that if she
did it
the big I-T
the scary thing
if she did...
the world would judge
and she would

Once upon a time
there was a young woman
who moved past
all that
she "helped" anyone
she "helped"everyone
near or far
close enough &out of reach
it distract her
and nothing
shadows morphed
music swelled
voices clamor
growing so LOUD
sleep. never. comes


It's better to
be seen
ever, ever
ever, ever

Once upon a time
she grew older
a woman, I guess
she conquered it all
for that thing
she refused to notice
                                    allow near her
until she was tired
unless she was drunk  

... alone ...

the darkness
the voices
she lay dead
because it is
it is..

the fear...
part of her...

too late.
it is
what it 
always was
how do you 
how do you 
make it

Once upon a time
there was me
and I had to admit
to myself
what was wrong
and I had to 
move out of the
stop listening to 
the voices
and look myself
in the face.

I had to say:


Because the voice 
is my own
and the shadows
I created
and the fear
is unfounded
created by weakness
failure to see

and then I 
once upon a time
hasn't even begun

Monday, August 12, 2013

Pour Some Vegan on Me: Basic (awesome) Avocado Dip

Growing up, I love dairy. Wrap me in it. Dip me in it. I ate it daily. I ate it more than anything else on this planet (including pancakes). When I stopped eating dairy, namely sour cream and sour cream based dips, I also stopped eating potato chips, and other chips too. Why? They were the edible spoon for fantastic french onion ecstasy.

But at that time, I wasn't friends with the Avocado.

Avocados are a fruit - most commonly thought to be a vegetable. But like the tomato - you would be wrong to think that. Some call it "Nature's Butter", I don't have a nickname for it - just an undying love.

If you are doing the "vegan" thing - Avocados are your very best friend. Being vegan means you have a very (very) low fat diet. Now, as you do a silent dance that you don't have that "icky fat" in your life - our bodies actually need fat. Avocados have 25% of the daily fat needed in out diets to be healthy.

Other great things about this lovely fruit:

Hass Avodados can be found year round
High in vitamins C, B-6, and Magnesium
And gosh darn it - they're yummy.

This is the easiest dip you will ever make - and there are two ways to make it.

#1 - with a potato masher
#2 - with a food processor

You need - 

An Avocado - Sliced as seen above. Hit the pit with the blade of your knife, twist and pull it out. Use a spoon to scoop the meat into a bowl, or the bowl of your food processor.

You're favorite salsa - add around 1/4 cup salsa to the avocado and mash the two together (or turn on
the food processor and process until smooth)

This is what I use.

That's it! This recipe is great for football parties, snacking while you write or study, or to use as a condiment - like on top of a black bean burger. 

Let me know what you think!
Happy (vegan) eating. 


Monday, August 5, 2013

Pour Some Vegan on Me - Pancakes (conversion)

Living in a world that would like you to be gluten free can be hard and depressing. (if you ask me) One of my culinary loves are the age old staple known as pancakes. PANCAKES! They make the sun rise and set, and are the perfect backdrop for amazing childhood memories:

Remember how we used to have pancakes every sunday?

Sure do little buddy... sure do!

When I grew up we went out and bought your "pre-made" box of "just add milk and eggs" pancakes mix. And this tradition carried on through my 20s, until I became vegan. Becoming more self aware of what I was (and am) putting into my body - I began the quest for the ultimate pancake recipe.  The quest went on for many years, and, sadly, hundreds of unsavory pancakes had been consumed, when I found... "Fallon's Cucina: Light n' Fluffy Pancakes".  Did I seek out a healthy living website with the intent of finding a healthy "vegan" pancake recipe? No. No, I did not. I googled "Trader Joe's Pancake Recipe" and BOOM this is the top site on the search engine list - so I check it out.

A long time ago I stopped merely searching "Vegan Recipes" because I can't afford to cook/bake as the recipes require. I can't afford a pantry filled with soy flour, almond meal, kamut flour (and I don't even know what that is). Don't get me wrong, I'm not sitting here judging others who have these items on their shelves, I'm only saying that on my budget - the are a no go. So I look for non-vegan recipes, and convert them to vegan, my own way.

And Fallon's Cucina: Light n' Fluffy Pancakes is the perfect example of this!

What you will need: 

-1 1/2 cups AP flour

-3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

-1 teaspoon baking soda

-3/4 teaspoon salt

-*2 tablespoon sugar (Florida Crystals are certified Vegan) [I add extra sugar]

-1 1/4 cups soy milk with half a lemon - This is "vegan" Butter milk. If you don't use soy, use Oat, or some other vegan milk that has fat in it. Rice milk is thin, and will not curdle up when you squeeze the lemon into it. 

-1 1/2 teaspoons egg replacer (don't make the "egg", just put the powder into the mix)

-3 tablespoons vegan butter, melted (I use soy free Earth Balance)

-1 teaspoon vanilla extract

-Pancake griddle, griddle pan, or frying pan used especially for pancakes. (Because nothing tastes worst than an onion and peppered flavored blueberry/strawberry pancake.)

First things first:

Heat griddle or pan. If you're using your stove top, set the flame to low. Any higher and you'll burn the pancakes. 

As it heats:

Make your "butter milk"

You will want to stir this mixture prior to adding it to your batter. Make it first, set it aside, and allow the citric acid to mingle with the creamy soy milk. Thicker is better.


In a bowl, or the bowl of your stand alone mixer - add the Four, Baking Powder, Baking Soda, Sugar, Salt, Egg Replacer  - use the Whisk attachment, and blend it all together. As it blends:

Melt your butter in the microwave - 30 seconds should do it.


With the mixer on, add the Butter Milk mixture, melted butter, and 1 teaspoon of Vanilla. Whip the mixture until smooth. 

As it's "whipping till smooth" - choose what delicious berries you'd like to add to the mix.

Chop up your strawberries into little bit sizes, and rinse them and your blueberries. (Whatever fruit you use, make sure their bit sized. It makes it much easier to eat in the long run. And always rinse them. Even if they're organic.)

Remove Whisk attachment, and add fruit.

Use a wooden spoon, or a plastic spatula to FOLD the fruit into the batter. Don't use the Whisk, or you'll pulverize the fruit. It won't be pretty. 


Using a ladle, or a large serving spoon, pour batter onto preheated griddle. 

When the edges of the pancake appear dry, and bubbles begin to form in the batter - it's time to flip!

Allow to cook on the other side for 45 seconds to a minute. On the second side you can check. Oh, and these are thick, fluffy pancakes, so you may want to smush them down with your spatula to be sure any of the raw batter inside leaks out allowing the pancake to cook all the way through.

And then... REPEAT, until you have a stack that looks like this...

Once you're pancakes are done, feel free to top with more Earth Balance Butter, and some delicious REAL maple syrup. (You can buy organic maple syrup at Target these days. It's a bit up there in price, but worth it in the long run. Seriously, if you're trying to be healthy - Maple Syrup has one ingredients in it - and that other stuff - ten. TEN ingredients. Just stick with the one.)

I would like to take a moment to tip my syrup to Fallon (of Fallon's Cucina) for the best pancake recipe I've had the privilege of veganizing. YUM-tacular. 

Becoming vegan can be hard, but unless you're trying to Veganize Beef Wellington - Veganizing Recipes is rather easy. Find the recipes you like, and mix it up. We're lucky enough to live in a time where subsitutions can be made. So, why not!

Happy eating!!

[if you have a recipe you'd like me to veganize, email it to me with "Veganize this, Please!" in the subject line!]

Friday, August 2, 2013

Author Interview - Steve Piacente

Steve Piacente at BEA 2013
I (virtually) met Mr. Piacente online, Twitter to be precise. A common love of Unicorns allowed us to strike up a conversation. Because let's be honest, who doesn't like Unicorns? That conversation led to reading his books Bella and Bootlicker. Two books I completely recommend (there is a link below - or you can just follow this one.) 

Bella won two awards - National Indie Excellence 2012 Book Award, and the Readers Favorite 2012 Gold Medal for Dramatic Fiction, and Bootlicker touches on a topic that is right in the forefront of the world we live in today. 

Steve was kind enough to grant me a interview, which is posted below! If you have any questions for Steve Piacente, feel free to leave them in the comment area!

WAOG - What is your genre of choice, and why?

SP - I like to think my work falls into the category of literary fiction. Things like fate, communication, relationships, and ethics fascinate me. Much of the action in Bella is driven by hard choices made on the battlefield and in the bedroom. The big themes in Bootlicker are guilt, hope and redemption. In this podcast, I talk about the choices people make when no one is watching:

How many books have you published? (self or otherwise)

Two: Bella, and Bootlicker. Both are self-published, though I began with a traditional Washington, D.C. agent for each novel. I decided to self-publish because the process was so slow, and because technology had simplified the procedure.

In light of this Self Publishing boom, do you feel Self Publishing gets a bad rap? 

Technology has turned the publishing world upside down. There used to be one key to the literary castle – you wrote a book, signed with an agent, and clinked glasses when the agent sold your novel to a publisher. If the chain broke at any point, your story was over, and all you got to write was angry graffiti on a wall beside some dark overpass. Astonishing advances in technology – advances that even 10 years ago seemed unimaginable – have changed everything. But the good news is the same as the bad. That is, technology has made it possible for anyone to publish. And everyone is. That includes a lot who may not quite be ready, or who don’t want to bother having their work professionally edited. The result is a cluttered marketplace and confused readers. Traditional newspapers are so overwhelmed, many have adopted review policies that ban self-published books. This piece on the subject drew more than 80 responses:

All of which means that to have a chance of being taken seriously, a self published author must produce consistently solid work, and then follow with a creative long-term marketing and promotion plan that includes: a website, blog, three to five social media properties, and of course a fresh stream of content.

What are your stories about?

Bella: A striking widow intent on proving the military lied about her husband’s death lures a Washington journalist into the investigation. Working together, they discover the power of temptation, the futility of revenge, and the consequences of yielding to either. 

Bootlicker: is about two unlikely Southern political allies, and the dark secret upon which they have built their careers. The story begins in 1959 in rural South Carolina. Poor, black teenager Ike Washington stumbles on a Klan lynching led by a white judge. Caught, he must choose: join the dead man or begin hustling black support the judge needs to advance. In trade, Ike is handed a life of comfort and power. Decades later, as he is poised to become the first black SC congressman since Reconstruction, guilt-wracked Ike winds up alone in the same forest, a long rope in his fist.

Tell me about your current project.

Bootlicker is a prequel to Bella that features the same investigative reporter as a younger man just beginning his career.  I have an idea for a sequel to Bella that would show readers what happens to the key characters in each story. For now, however, I’m working mostly on marketing and promotion of the first two novels.

Where can I buy copies of your work?

Amazon is easiest. Go to and click either cover to get to the Amazon pages.

What are you reading right now?

I just finished Calico Joe by John Grisham. My favorite authors, however, are John Updike, Annie Proulx, and Philip Roth. In addition to writing, I also review books on Goodreads. Here’s one review:

What keeps you going on those days when writing gets hard? (e.g., a favorite quote or a personal motto)

I kid about my 20-plus years as a daily newspaper reporter, saying I had editors who didn’t permit writer’s block. With fiction, it’s rare that I can’t get something done, but when it happens, I don’t fight it. I will visit famous quote sites, or sometimes photography websites, to get the creative juices flowing again. Sometimes I’ll trade the computer for a pen and pad. Sometimes I’ll just go to the park and shoot baskets. One of my favorite stories about writing comes from Anne Lamott, the author of Bird by Bird. In explaining the title, she says:

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he'd had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” 

What advice can you give other aspiring writers out there?

1 – Have something to say, and make sure to say it as no one has said it before.
2 - Get your work professionally edited before you publish.
3 – If you’re writing to become rich or famous, you’re writing for the wrong reasons. 
4 – Be prepared to switch from creative writing to creative marketing once you’ve published.
5 – Get well acquainted with using social media for marketing purposes, particularly Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest.
6 – Start blogging on a subject related to your novel or non-fiction book.

What cautions do you have?

Make sure you’re writing because you love to write. If the end game is something else, consider a different line of work. Also, don’t try to write what you think will sell. Instead, write about subjects you care about, and know going in that some readers will be on board and others will simply not be interested.

Do you work on more than one project at a time?

Ha. In addition my fiction, I am creative director at a Washington, D.C. firm called The Communication Center; I conduct writing and self-publishing webinars for the Author Learning Center; I blog regularly for my own website, for Jennings Wire, and for my company. I also teach communication classes at my alma mater, American University. The blog sites follow: (reports from the self-publishing trenches) (My “News for Thought” columns look at stories behind the headlines) (Uses current events to deliver tips about communication skills)

What is your favorite memory in your career as a writer?

In 34 years as a professional writer, there are many fond memories – front-page stories that documented scandals, elections, individual achievements and much more – to the day my proof copy of Bella arrived in the mail. But my favorite memory involves a short story called Four Hands, which I wrote during my first class in the Johns Hopkins program. I was working on another piece in our family room downstairs, while upstairs my two daughters, then 14 and 12, were practicing a piano piece for an upcoming recital. Their teacher had given them a duet that required four hands, two for the high notes, two for the lower register. There was more fighting than playing, and I was about to lay down the law when I realized that a better story than the one I was writing was sitting right in front of me on the piano bench. I used the practice sessions to reveal the girls’ characters, made the dad a renowned conductor worried more about his reputation than his children, and the recital, when all goes horribly wrong, as his moment of enlightenment. Four Hands not only got me an A, a small literary magazine also published it – my first published fiction.

If you could do it all over, is there anything you would change about finding an agent and finally publishing?

I had traditional agents with both books, and eventually wound up choosing to go the self-published route. There’s no one way to do this, and I’m content with the way things have worked out so far. One of the things I like is being able to control my own schedule, branding and marketing.

What has been your toughest criticism? What has been your greatest compliment?

I honestly try not to pay too much attention to either.

Who is your greatest influence(s)? 

Mom knew that the most important thing about good writing is that it starts with a love of reading. She taught me by modeling the behavior, not by forcing me to read. She was a voracious reader, and always encouraging as I began showing interest in writing. My mom, unfortunately stricken now with Alzheimer’s, was the embodiment of women’s lib before anyone coined the term. She was a single mom who worked full time, rising to comptroller of a moving company despite not having a college degree. She understood the importance of education and was committed to ensuring that both her children would go to college. Moment of Clarity is a short video about dedicating Bella to my mother.

Do you have any other passions besides writing?

I love sports, particularly basketball, tennis and cycling. I have combined the last with my interest in photography and created a Pinterest board called, “Not the Monuments:

When did you know you wanted to write?

I learned early I couldn’t do the math and science, but I also learned I was able to write about the people who could do the math and science. The correct path seemed obvious. I also learned early that I enjoyed telling stories. Growing up in New York, I was very private, but also filled with a need to share my thoughts, and so writing became my vehicle. Later, as an undergraduate, the only question was how I could make a living as a writer. A friend introduced me to the editor of our college paper, who assigned a feature on the bearded lady at the circus. (A photo documenting this momentous event lives on our AU class blog at: An internship with the Baltimore Sun my senior year honed my appetite for daily reporting. Two weeks after graduation, I landed my first job, covering high school football for the Naples Daily News.

Take a moment to swing by and follow Steve on Twitter! Tell him Aryn sent you. ;)