NaNoWriMo 2014 Mini Series: Who’s In???

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NaNo14 is coming and I am looking for people who are committed to the endeavor to take part in my 2014 NaNoWriMo Blog Mini Series!

To celebrate the 2014 season of NaNoWriMo, I am planning on doing a little bit of Q and A with participants, right here on my Writer’s Block!  I envision the mini-series format this way:  I’ll post once during October, once in early November, and the last in late November/early December.

As a motivator to myself, as well as to help others make it through the fast and furious pace of NaNo season, my goal is to have mini-series participants answer a few questions in each post, ranging from goal setting/pantsing, processes they follow during NaNoWriMo, and reflection at the conclusion of the month.  I love chatting with fellow writers, and this is an excellent opportunity to learn from others.

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Whether you are a NaNo Newbie this year, or a seasoned veteran to the process, if you have already decided that NaNoWriMo 2014 is a definite, I’d love to include you in my mini-series!  Please leave me a comment below, or you can send me a DM on Twitter to express your interest.  If we are not already following each other on Twitter, my handle is @smnystoriak.

I look forward to connecting with you!

Musings…from an Aussie Renaissance Woman

Nik Author Photo

      Today on my Writer’s Block, I am interviewing Nikola Vukoja.  I first encountered Nik on Querytracker, when the two of us were attempting to navigate the world of querying agents, trying to make sense of the process.  Since then, we have beta’d for each other on various projects, as well as become good friends.  Nik is a real go-getter, with many varied life experiences which have shaped her life path.  I know you’ll find her story interesting.

 

     Nik has a book out, entitled Musings – Thoughts & Reflections on Life, Love & Surviving Heartache .  She has been kind enough to allow me to reveal one of the poems and the corresponding artwork from her book (This poem is not to be copied or recreated, either as a whole or any part of, without the permission of the author):

Fruit of Life  Gouche

My Tree, My Forest, My Fears

 

I stand at your gate, fear is what I feel.

I stand a moment in time, memories are what I fear.

I stand within an arms length of freedom & capture.

I stand on the edge of safety or love.

 

You: a tall tree.

Me: a small bird.

Each: alive.

Neither: living.

 

Within the darkened forest, you tunnel my light.

Within humming woods, your heart beats my march.

Within each stride, hope and devastation mix.

Within devastation comes rebirth.

 

You: my tree.

Me: your voice.

Each: living alone.

Neither: desiring loneliness.

 

Among the forest of trees you stand unique.

Among the uniqueness we will thrive.

Among us will solid ground sway to our will.

Among the clouds is where we will live.

 

You: my shelter.

Me: the moss to keep you warm.

Each: working together as one.

Neither: complete without the other.

 

I walk through the gate.

I walk into the sunlight as fear frees its grip.

I walk to where frost cannot touch me.

I walk toward our future.

 

You: reaching for the stars.

Me: your one true star.

Each: at last free.

Neither: alone evermore.

 

Secure in our entwined futures.

Secure in what we share.

Secure in the past on the other side of the gate.

Secure in an endless spring of daffodils and violets.

I Hope you all enjoy what the book has to offer.  Without further ado, I’ll commence with the interview.Nik Chapbook Cover 3

SUSAN:  Hello, Nik, and welcome!  I have known you for quite a while, and love how you are sort of a Renaissance Woman; artist, poet, novelist, statistician, and animal advocate! Tell us about that.

NIK:  Oh my goodness… a Renaissance Woman; wow, can I put that on my CV lol. I don’t know how it all came about; I guess it’s my parents fault, and my grandparents and so on….duplicity runs in the family. Granddad was a Forest Ranger, a Statistician during WWII and a Singer/Musician.

Mum won a Visual Arts University Scholarship & proceeded to major in chemistry and Dad, well he’s a math’s genius, a retired Industrial Engineer and a painter and poet. So I grew up in an environment where everything was open for discussion and consideration. But I also grew up appreciating other beings, human and animal. We always had animals, both pets and for food. I was initiated into animal husbandry the way other people might be initiated into a sport… it was always there. And as a result, I learned the value of life and my duty to all life.

SUSAN:  Your chapbook embodies the Renaissance Woman idea.  It features your writings and personal artwork, with the proceeds going to help a charity.  When I was reading it, I couldn’t help but notice that the artwork and writings seemed to go hand in hand.  Have you always wanted to create a book combining those two disciplines, or did evolve slowly?

NIK:  It’s funny you should ask that, the answer is YES. In fact, I’d won a government grant some years back based on this idea. I submitted combining visual art, the written word and music (my ex was a musician) as an interactive and symbiotic relationship between all medium and genre. Unfortunately my Ex & I broke not long after I’d been awarded the grant and I had to withdraw, however, the idea remained.

SUSAN:  Musings – Thoughts & Reflections on Life, Love & Surviving Heartache is your first book, and is available on Smashwords (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/448444) and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Musings-Thoughts-Reflections-Surviving-Heartache/dp/1499263376/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403731525&sr=8-1&keywords=nikola+Vukoja).  Proceeds from the sale of your book will go to a specific charity, which is amazing. How did you decide on AnimalsAsia?

NIK:  I watched a program on Bear Bile Framing several years ago and it had a lasting impact on me. I could not comprehend why, in this day and age and with all our technology, there was a need and a place for such vile and hideous practices. Now, let it be clearly understood, I support all cultural pursuits, especially those that are dying out, for instance, the Inuit’s right to hunt seals/whales etc. However, in a day and age when we can synthesize DNA, why can not a synthetic Bear Bile be sufficient?

I made contact with the AnimalsAsia Team in Western Australia and pitched the idea to them. Lucky for me they were 100% supportive.

As to why AnimalsAsia? I know the money goes to helping the bears. Just last month (May-2014) the organisation had raised enough funds to buy a Bear bile Farm and convert it into a sanctuary.

SUSAN:  I’m excited to see where this book takes you.  What other creative projects are you currently working on?

NIK:  OK, I’m one of those people tat has at least forty things happening at once. I will be having one of my short stories publishing (2015) in a short story anthology by Fey Publishing. The profits from that anthology will go to a charity in California that looks after stray, abandoned and mistreated animals.

I’m finishing off the last bit of a New Adult Women’s Fiction novel.

I’m working on a really interesting re-tell/dark fantasy novel.

I just came up with an idea for another novel.

I’ve also just started a new BA – Professional Writing & Publishing, as well as doing quite a bit of BETA reading at the moment… and several other things I can’t mention yet, in case they don’t happen!

SUSAN:  Is there anything more that you would like my readers to know about you or your work?

NIK:  I’m a very private person. In fact, you had to ask me for a photo of myself (as you know). I don’t like people knowing much about me; except through my art. I hide nothing when it comes to my art. Whether I’m painting or I’m writing, every word is part of me, even the fantastical or the evil or the supernatural… it’s part of me, and it’s real.

I would also like to remind people of the saying that “no man is an island” – those words are never more true than if you chose to pursue a artistic career… without my wonderful friends within the writing community, people like Susan, I’d be nothing and nowhere.

SUSAN:  Thanks so much, Nik!  I look forward to your updates and blog posts.

Again, a link to purchase Musings can be found here:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/448444 and here:  http://www.amazon.com/Musings-Thoughts-Reflections-Surviving-Heartache/dp/1499263376/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403731525&sr=8-1&keywords=nikola+vukoja

As a special bonus, Nik is offering a 30% off discount code for purchases between June 21 and July 21, 2014. The Smashwords code is:  RL33S, and the 30% discount code for Amazon is 3SBRCWC6.

For any of you who are looking to contact Nik, she can be found here:

@Nik_Vukoja (Twitter)

Nikvukoja.wordpress.com (Blog)

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8330140.Nikola_Vukoja (Goodreads)

Living Dead Lovers: A Postman, A Gypsy, and Clairvoyant Cabbage

It is really an exciting thing for me to have a return guest to my blog! Today on my Writer’s Block, we will be chatting with Author Jonathan Dunne. A year or so ago, I had him on my blog and we discussed his first novel, Balloon Animals, the interview for which can be found here:  http://wp.me/p35Mk4-3c.   Today he is back, talking about Living Dead Lovers, his second book.

LDL photoLDL_book cover

 

Susan: It is a privilege to have you here again. Living Dead Lovers is available now, and I have just read it. I love the cover! Who designs them? Do you design them yourself?

 

Jonathan Dunne:  It’s probably a collaboration between my wife Ruth and I. We decide what we want and the cover artist comes up with something similar to what we’re looking for. Ruth came up with the idea of having the caravan in the fortune teller’s ball.

 

Susan: I love the titles of your books! As a writer myself, one of the most difficult parts for me is coming up with titles.   Did you know right away what the title for Living Dead Lovers would be? Or did evolve over time?

 

Jonathan Dunne:  Normally, the title comes to me within the first few pages. I need a title to hang the story on. In this case, with my second book, I didn’t want to have a hyphen between ‘Living’ and ‘Dead’ because that suggests debasing them to zombies and who needs another zombie story, right? … I wanted to have a little more respect for my characters and decided that one character is very much alive and one is very much dead and there will never be a middle-ground (okay, that’s debatable at the finale of Living Dead Lovers novel)

 

Susan: One of the things I admire about you as a writer is your character development. Your writing manages to capture every quirky essence which becomes the character’s identity. When meeting people in real life, is that what you see?

 

Jonathan Dunne:  I can’t help it! Yes, it’s what I see. I’m an observer and mannerisms is something I find peculiar and characters can be defined by mannerisms and tics. Such a little thing but gives us insight into the character rather than how they react in a situation.

 

Susan: In our last interview together, you described yourself as an outsider. You do not identify yourself as being Irish or Spanish. Does that still ring true? If so, I can’t help but see parallels to both of your books.

 

Jonathan Dunne:  Yes, I’m in Limbo! I never thought about those parallels with my books but now that you mention it… in Living Dead Lovers, the main character is in a Limbo of her own and so is her guardian, Mr. Brick. As matter of fact, every character is in their own private Limbo! Susan, what have you started here? Cabbage’s romantic father Willy is stuck in a Limbo both metaphorically and literally and Cabbage’s mother is in a literal limbo. Keyword: Limbo.

It can also be said for a few major characters in Balloon Animals also… like Jonny Rowe’s grandfather who lives on in a balloon, yes, that could be seen as Limbo. You’re correct, Susan. I suppose every book has the author in them on a subconscious level – curious.

 

Susan: Both of your books, Balloon Animals and Living Dead Lovers, feature main characters on the road during much of the story. Growing up, was there a lot of travel in your own life?

 

Jonathan Dunne:  No, but I did travel around a bit after leaving school, just me and my backpack … Europe… India. I love India. I think I live through my characters and get to do what I’ve always wanted to do. One part of me wants to take to the roads in a caravan or go to the USA with a balloon. My new book, The Nobody Show, will turn all that on its head though, and makes a point of it too. I won’t say too much for now… I’m tempted and have just thought about writing just a line but it’d give too much away so I’ll say nothing. I also have another book planned (very loosely) after The Nobody Show and that won’t be a road-trip either. The very opposite, as matter of fact: it will be based in a hotel. But the thing is that a hotel is a little microcosm of its own, and in a way, that too is travelling. This is getting too deep for me… I’m dizzy. Next question.

 

Susan: Another similarity: both stories feature the dead. Is that a coincidence or is the notion of death/the afterlife something that you have often wondered about?

 

Jonathan Dunne:  I tend to worry about death, yes. More so to the fact that I can do nothing about it. I’ve been trying some experiments lately to see if I can find the trick to eternal life but the experiment ends in an explosion every time. I cannot comprehend how, one day, I will cease to exist, just as before I was born. But I suppose it won’t be too bad because I wont have the option to think too long about it when I’m dead – that would be depressing. Who needs to be depressed AND dead? Yes, the dead and death do interest me and am known to go for an occasional walk in the old cemetery here in Toledo, Spain.

 

Susan: Well put.  When I read Balloon Animals, a family member was in the ICU and your book provided me with a much needed laughter. I recently downloaded Living Dead Lovers during a very busy and stressful time, and once again, your writing delivered! I want to thank you for that! I get the feeling that your personal life must be filled with laughter! Is that a fair theory?

 

Jonathan Dunne:  I think I have as many laughs as anybody else. I’m not a person who goes around laughing all day. Actually, it’s hard enough to get a laugh out of me but some situations just crack me up. I tend to be serious (so my wife says) when in company. I keep telling her that it’s just my face that’s serious but I’m actually rolling around inside. I don’t feel the need to laugh a lot of the time, unlike Cabbage’s father who retires to his bedroom in the caravan for half an hour each day to purposefully laugh his head off because it’s his way of getting back at the world. I live when I’m writing and there are no limits to the world while I’m writing and I’ve decided that, if my books are going to have an element of humour, then make it as good as possible because I feel that if my books are going to gain momentum, it will be for the comedy and the odd situations plus the characters. While I’m writing these people and situations are very real and the characters must act accordingly. This is why, I think, many reviews say the same thing: such an unbelievable story but somehow logical. If you take your characters seriously, the reader will take them seriously.

 

Susan: I found that in Living Dead Lovers, my emotions ran the gamut. I laughed hysterically at the crazy images your writing conjured during those opening few chapters as you introduce the reader to Nicolasia and Willy. And as Cabbage speaks to us from the womb, then as a girl growing up, I felt such compassion for her loneliness. Brilliant. Can you tell us how you see those three characters?

 

Jonathan Dunne:  I see them as the reader sees them.

 

Susan: Another aspect of your writing that I adore is how you take unbelievable irony and make your characters go through it, and come out the other side, somehow. One such scene that comes to mind is the birth of Cabbage. Without getting too graphic, how on earth did that scene come to you?

 

Jonathan Dunne:  That’s a good question. I don’t know, what image lead to another, I suppose. The thoughts of Cabbage’s mother running around a cabbage patch under a full moon was beautiful and wild. Then you’ve heard the expression, maybe, ‘Cabbage-Head’. It was kind of born from that, no pun intended. Susan, I don’t know how to answer the question. The image just came to me and I thought it would be the best place for Cabbage to be born. My writing is organic, as organic as the cabbages that grow in the cabbage patch, and to capture something of the magic is impossible.

 

Susan: A general comment: Your characters have great names.  Great job with that!  Now, next question:  I am almost afraid to ask this, but what would Willy, being a romantic, have on his iPod?

 

Jonathan Dunne:  I think Will would probably listen to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata over and over again because of its haunting, romantic quality.

 

Susan: Do you have a favorite character in Living Dead Lovers? If so, who?

 

Jonathan Dunne:  Can you pick a favourite from your own kids? I can’t.

 

Susan: Great point! Tell us: What writing projects are you currently working on?

 

Jonathan Dunne:  Yipee! I get a chance to introduce my new book (it’s not really a book yet) . The Nobody Show is about a bunch of nobodies who want to be somebodies but sometimes we have to settle for just anybodies.  Did you get that? Good. All I can say is that, if you like what I’m doing, then stay tuned… It should be out at the end of Summer (I said that the last time).

 

Susan: I want to thank you for taking the time to do another interview with me. My Amazon review of Living Dead Lovers is here:  http://www.amazon.com/review/R10F3FSXFTU5LM/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00H881V14.  I look forward to your next effort with great anticipation.

Jonathan Dunne:  Thank you, Susan.

 

Jonathan can be found in the following locations:

Goodreads:

http://www.goodreads.com/JonathanDunne

 

Website:

http://jonathanwdunne.wordpress.com/

 

Twitter:

@WriterJDunne

 

Jonathan’s Amazon Page:

http://www.amazon.com/Jonathan-Dunne/… Jonathan’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jonath…

 

 

The “Bromantic” Comedy of Lauren Baratz Logsted

I am interviewing author Lauren Baratz Logsted today.  If any of you are familiar with her works, you know what a treat this is!  Ms. Baratz Logsted has written some 31 books, ranging from children’s books to teens, to adult novels.  I recently had the joy of reading THE BRO MAGNET, a “bromantic” comedy of epic proportions.  Laugh out loud funny at almost every turn of the page, THE BRO MAGNET is sure to keep you in stitches throughout.  I hope you enjoy this conversation with author Lauren Baratz Logsted.

Lauren Baratz Logsted

S. M. Nystoriak:  Normally I would begin an interview with an author about where they hailed from, what their impetus for becoming a writer was, etc.  But we’ll get to that.  Lauren, your writing in The Bro Magnet had me laughing out loud on just about every page.  I nearly hurt myself laughing so hard at the opera scene.  (Perhaps this book should come with a warning!)  When writing scene after scene of zany mishap, are you cackling along like your readers are?  If so, how do you get through it!  Everything is described so vividly, the reader can almost live the scene along with the character!

Lauren Baratz Logsted:   I know that it’s frowned upon for a comedian to laugh at her own jokes. That said, there were moments while writing certain scenes in The Bro-Magnet when I couldn’t help myself. There was the barn opera scene, of course, plus the discussion about loopholes and the extended scene in which Johnny and Sam go to buy a cat. Having written a few angst-filled books in my time (Vertigo; The Twin’s Daughter), it really is a lot of fun to write a comedy that even occasionally makes me laugh.

S. M. Nystoriak:  So many times, we come across people who then become part of our lives.  Do you know any people like Johnny, Billy, Helen, Big John?  The rest?

Lauren Baratz Logsted: My husband is a bit like Johnny to the extent that he’s a bit of a bro-magnet himself. My husband has had two novels published – he and my daughter also helped me create the nine-book Sisters 8 series for young readers – but during the day, he’s a window washer. Like Johnny, my husband has customers who like him so much, they ask him to go skiing or what-have-you. In fact, it was after one such incident that I got the idea for The Bro-Magnet. But other than that? Those characters are pure invention.

S. M. Nystoriak:  The Bro Magnet is written from the male perspective, from boyhood to adult.  I teach music in a middle high school.  The way you describe the behavior of the middle and high school boys really struck a chord with me!   As a woman, did you find writing in the male perspective a challenge?  Were you able to draw on real life experiences for any of The Bro Magnet scenarios?

Lauren Baratz Logsted: This was not my first time writing from a male perspective. The YA novel Crazy Beautiful is written in alternating he-said/she-said fashion. As it turns out, I’m beginning to think I may be better at writing from male than female POV, since my female main characters are not always likable while readers seem to love Lucius from Crazy Beautiful and Johnny from The Bro-Magnet. Although I have my own secret desire to take my cat to the neighborhood bar, that has yet to happen and very little from The Bro-Magnet comes from real life. The one exception is the chapter in which Johnny talks about things he’s done in the past that guys think are hysterical but that girls tend to hate. I actually dated a guy in college who did every single one of those things.

S. M. Nystoriak:  The premise of this story can be summarized as “Always a groomsman, never a groom.”  What a clever twist on the famous adage!  What made you decide to write about that?

Lauren Baratz Logsted:  I just love taking traditional storylines – like “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” – and finding a different angle that sheds a whole new light on an old story. Years ago I had a book published called A Little Change of Face. It’s not the best book I ever wrote – far from it, so you stand warned! – but it does have a fun premise: a gorgeous librarian decides to sabotage her own looks in order to see what life is like when she’s no longer a swan. I figured, we’ve all read the ugly-duckling-into-a-swan story a million times in fiction, but what about the reverse? That’s the way my mind works.

S. M. Nystoriak:  Tell us a little bit about your publishing experience.  I know that you have had traditionally published books, as well as e-books.  From your own perspective as a writer, what can you tell us about the difference in publishing types?

Lauren Baratz Logsted: In terms of the trad vs. e-book debate, I don’t come down heavily on one side or the other. Each has its merits and weaknesses. I will say that one of the things I do love about the e-book revolution is that it does give the author unprecedented levels of control and it gives books like The Bro-Magnet – the kind of book that New York might find too quirky to publish – a chance to reach readers like you. Another great thing about e-books is that you don’t have to hit it big with a book right away to be a success. With traditional publishing, a few months into a print book’s life, if it’s not selling, it might be gone completely from the stores. But that’s not true with e-books. I have one called Pursuing the Times that came out seven months ago. It’s a comedy about a successful author of female-centric fiction who will do anything to get reviewed by the New York Times. Initially, sales were almost nonexistent. But in recent months, it’s been getting lots of review notice and sales have been picking up nicely. With traditional publishing, this would never happen,

S. M. Nystoriak:  How would you describe your road to being first published?  Did you have an agent?  Do you have any advice for novelists looking for that elusive agent/publishing connection?

Lauren Baratz Logsted: It took me nearly eight years and seven books written before I sold my first book, on my own, as part of a two-book deal. Since 2003, I’ve had 31 books published, 23 of those by major publishers. So to detail my story would probably require a whole book! Over the years, I’ve had several agents and in fact am on my sixth. But she’s wonderful and we’ve been together for almost eight years. The best advice I can give to other writers is to join Backspace: http://bksp.org/. There’s a modest annual fee but it’s an online forum for writers and the best place I know for writers to learn the business and make connections with other writers who are serious about what they do.

S. M. Nystoriak:  Tell us a little bit about your background.  Did your upbringing have a lot to do with your writing career?  Was being a writer something you always saw yourself doing?

Lauren Baratz Logsted: I come from a family of book lovers, so it was in the cards pretty much from the start. When I was 12, I had an English teacher that gave me my first inkling that I might be able to write stories people would want to read, but it wasn’t until 20 years after that that I quit my day job to get serious about writing.

S. M. Nystoriak:  What were some of your favorite books growing up?  What are some of your favorites now?

Lauren Baratz Logsted: Growing up, I was more of a Trixie Belden girl than Nancy Drew. I also loved Lloyd Alexander’s five-book series The Chronicles of Prydain and, when I was older, A Separate Peace by John Knowles was a favorite along with Jane Eyre. My favorite novel by a dead author is The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. My favorite novel by a living author is Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. My favorite novel from 2012 is Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann and so far in 2013 it’s The Antagonist by Lynn Coady.

S. M. Nystoriak:  Wonderful List!  My last question:  If you could create an iPod playlist for The Bro Magnet, what would you include?

Lauren Baratz Logsted:  It’s funny, but I almost never listen to music when I’m writing, so that kind of question is almost impossible to answer. I can tell you what definitely would not be on it: anything by ABBA or the soundtrack from Saturday Night Fever, but you’ll need to read the sequel, Isn’t It Bromantic?, to fully understand why.

S. M. Nystoriak:  Thanks so much, Lauren!  I encourage any and all adult fans of comedic reading to check out THE BRO MAGNET, by Lauren Baratz Logsted.  Her Amazon Author Page can be found here:  http://www.amazon.com/Lauren-Baratz-Logsted/e/B001IYZAH0/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1362863248&sr=1-2-ent

And, for those wishing to learn even more about Ms. Baratz Logsted, her website is here:  http://www.laurenbaratzlogsted.com/