Friday, August 28, 2015

Summer on the Water - Carol Sojka, Season 2, Episode 17

Today, this last August summer day, I'm pleased to welcome mystery author  Carol Sojka to my blog. Welcome Carol, tell us about yourself and your newest novel. 

A Reason to Kill is a mystery novel. Nine strangers meet on a Florida beach to observe and protect endangered loggerhead turtles laying their eggs. One of the observers dies of poison and another is killed soon after. It's up to Andi Battaglia, a rookie detective in a small Florida town, to find out who among the remaining observers has a reason to kill.

That sounds extremely intriguing, Carol! Since this is the Summer on the Water blog, how does water fit into the story?

I visit the Treasure Coast, Florida's Atlantic coast north of West Palm Beach, at least once a year. I became interested in the area, and several points of interest are in my book. The group observing and protecting loggerhead turtles meets at Hobe Sound, a beach where such excursions take place. The Gilbert's Bar House of Refuge is the last remaining one of the refuges established by the U.S. government in the nineteenth century to provide havens for shipwrecked sailors on the barrier islands, which had no inhabitants, no food and no fresh water. Bathtub Beach is where I set the final confrontation between the murderer and Andi during a violent thunderstorm, although the novel's beach configuration is different from the real beach. Still, I love the name.

I love the water: oceans, lakes, and pools. When I was younger, I was a great swimmer, both in the Atlantic Ocean and in lakes. I grew up on the east coast and spent summers at the beaches near New York and at a lake in a rural area north of the city. In my twenties, my husband and I moved to Southern California where we spent time at the beaches of the Pacific and in our pool. My husband was a diver, and although I never did very much of that, I did dive in Baja California and Hawaii as well as in the Indian Ocean when we were Peace Corps volunteers.

How has being an Indie author worked for you, Carol?

After I had written three novels, I found that my efforts to find an agent didn't have much success and an interested publisher ultimately didn't work out. I am on the board of Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles, and several members are self-published. I talked with one who had self-published her books with Create Space and was happy with the result. I decided to try it. I'm pleased with the books. They are professional looking, the process was simple and the Create Space team was helpful. I have had to learn--and am still learning--about marketing, but I don't think there there is much advantage in having a publisher, for all the authors I know, with publishers and self-published, do most of the marketing work themselves through Facebook, GoodReads, Amazon and a variety of other social networks.

Now for the fun question. You are asked to give a Ted Talk, what would you talk about?
My Ted Talk would be aimed at those who say they want to write but don't seem to be able to find the time or the energy or the ideas. Even fifiteen minutes a day is a start. When I read Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, I got up at 4:30 a.m. to write three pages every day for years. Ultimately, they weren't worth much, but they freed me to sit down and start writing.

Yes, a long time ago, The Artist's Way was my bible as well! Thanks for reminding us of that great and motivational book. Where can readers find you and your books?




Friday, August 21, 2015

Summer on the Water, Will Overby - Season 2, Episode 16

Today, in these Dog Days of Summer, I welcome thriller author Will Overby who has a very special guest post. Not only does  he tell us all about his new book, Moon Shadow, he also tells us all about his adventures in Indie publishing. Thanks Will, for joining us today.

My horror novel Moon Shadow follows three high school friends who accidentally kill a drunk man during Christmas break and proceed to hide the crime. The victim returns once each decade on the anniversary of the murder for supernatural vengeance against each of the conspirators until only one remains.

Moon Shadow is set in the fictional resort village of Harper’s Lake during the winter off-season. Although the setting is imaginary, I based it on the real area of Harveys Lake, Pennsylvania. I visited the resort during my senior year of high school in late 1983 and was immediately struck by the eeriness of the lake and surrounding town without the summer bustle of tourists. I could only imagine how the sense of isolation would grow during the snows of winter, but I knew I had to write about it and began the story immediately when I returned home to Kentucky. Thirty years later I dusted off the novel and proceeded to rewrite it, this time from a more mature point of view and with the added asset of three decades of history to enhance the story.

I admit to having a bit of a water phobia, and lakes, rivers and oceans have always felt ominous to me, so as a horror writer they have often made the best settings for my stories. One thing I have definitely observed is the way the mood of a place can change with the seasons, or even the time of day, and I’ve tried to use that to my advantage in the settings of my fiction. The fictional Harper’s Lake has made appearances in several subsequent novels, and I expect it to be a staple of my literary landscape as all of my work is interconnected.

I began self-publishing for Kindle back in 2008 while still trying to land an agent for my children’s book series, Brock Ford Adventures. After several nibbles but no bites I decided to completely chuck the traditional route in 2012 and go all in on indie publishing. I haven’t looked back. Indie publishing has given me complete control of the finished product and allowed me to make my own marketing and artistic decisions. Plus, I don’t have to share any of my hard-earned money with agents or publishers. If you are thinking of taking the plunge into self-publishing, be sure to learn all you can about the process. There are many blogs and websites to guide you, but take them all with a grain of salt. No one source has all the answers, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution for every writer. Arm yourself with knowledge and become educated on copyright, printing, distribution, taxes, and accounting. It can sound like a daunting task, but the rewards are well worth the effort. In the end, however, you are the only person who can make the decision on whether to go indie or pursue the traditional route.

Finally, if I were asked to give a TED talk, it would have to be on independent publishing – both its rewards and disadvantages. After seven years I’ve become well-versed on the various aspects of the journey, and I enjoy passing along to others the knowledge I’ve gained through the process. It’s been a wild ride.

This is fascinating, Will. How can readers find you?

Twitter:  @will_overby

 And one more question, where can readers purchase a copy of Moon Shadow?

Friday, August 14, 2015

Summer on the Water, Josa Young - Season 2, Episode 15

It give me great pleasure on this mid-point of summer to welcome Josa Young to my blog. I'm anxious for you to meet her and read her great and well-written book, Sail Upon the Land.

Now, let's meet Josa.

Josa, what is your novel about? Give the readers a brief elevator pitch.

The mysterious death of a new mother damages the protective bonds of family love.

Since this is a ‘Summer on the Water blog’, I want to know why did you choose the theme of water for your story? Is your body of water real or fictitious?  

‘Sail Upon the Land’ is a quotation from Titania’s speech in Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which she talks about her status as a goddess in India (she is a mere fairy in England). There she sits in the most beautifully informal way with a ‘votaress of my order’ (priestess), gossiping by the sea and watching the ships. As women friends do, they joke about sex. The priestess is pregnant with the little Indian boy who unwittingly acts as catalyst for the play’s plot:

‘… we have laughed to see the sails conceive

And grow big-bellied with the wanton wind;

Which she, with pretty and with swimming gait

Following—her womb then rich with my young squire—

Would imitate, and sail upon the land

To fetch me trifles and return again

As from a voyage, rich with merchandise.

But she, being mortal, of that boy did die.

And for her sake do I rear up her boy,

And for her sake I will not part with him.’

Suffused with water imagery, this speech is one of my favourite in the whole of Shakespeare. The phrase Sail Upon the Land – a poignant metaphor for pregnancy – stayed in my mind, while the story I wanted to tell grew up around it like barnacles. The paradoxical fragility and strength of childbearing women is the underlying theme. And water, both real and metaphorical, runs through the whole novel, symbolic of risk as well as actively dangerous to the whole fragile structure of the Heyes family. It may be safer to ‘sail upon the land’ – do something paradoxical to get the best results – as well as to have the courage to change your life – be an altered person at different times and in different places.

Does water, and specifically the body of water you set your story beside, have any special meaning for you personally? What is it?

I am fascinated by archaeology, and that ancient human ways of living and being are still writ large on our English landscape. I know houses where an old pond or small lake is the last remaining part of what was once a defensive moat, the need for it left behind in distant history. The lake at Castle Hey is one such body of water.

Why are you choosing to self-publish?  What is one piece of advice would you give to authors who are thinking of self-publishing for the first time?

I chose to self-publish after the novel was turned down by the major publishers in the UK, even though it had attracted the attention of a top agent and I had a previously trad published novel (One Apple Tasted) that did reasonably well in 2009. I was encouraged to do so by other authors who read Sail Upon the Land and were baffled by its non-acceptance, including Rachel Hore, who very generously and unexpectedly offered a cover quote. I was also recently offered a cover quote by bestseller Katie Fforde too.

I was very frightened to begin with that I was exposing work that was substandard, and that the big publishers knew best what the public wanted and I was wrong. I thought there was some glaring flaw that hubris was blinding me to, even that I was deluded in thinking that anyone would be interested in my writing. Publication day was fraught with emotion as a result.

That evening I went to a women’s literary salon, stuffed with ‘real’ authors of all types, and when they heard it was my publication day they all clapped and cheered. I nearly cried as there is still a stigma around self-publishing, that it is a ‘vanity’. The leader of the salon is acclaimed novelist and critic Amanda Craig, who read and reviewed Sail very positively on Amazon shortly afterwards as ‘unusually well written’.

She compared me to novelists I have always been inspired by too: ‘In many ways, Sail Upon the Land resembles a Mary Wesley novel (and perhaps also an Elizabeth Goudge one) both in its upper class social setting, its understanding of and dislike for snobbery, and its sympathetic yet flawed characters. The period feeling … is excellent, with many little jokes about caste.’

But please don’t think that because I knew a lot of people in publishing from my days as an journalist that I got anything like any easy ride. Amanda was in touch because she had reviewed my first novel, which also suffered years and years of painful rejection that left me with writer’s block. My experience with One Apple Tasted was that people I already knew were even more determined to reject and discourage me than strangers. After it was published I made many writing friends through Twitter, people I had admired for years and been inspired by like Marika Cobbold and Elizabeth Buchan, and learned that there is a whole world out there of mutually supportive writers – so different from my earlier experiences!

I had believed my copy editor (you will need one of these) had disliked Sail as he had made no comments other than professional ones throughout the process. After it was published, he emailed me to say: ‘The trouble with enjoying a book during the copy-edit is that one can be distracted from the nuts and bolts of editing and start reading it for its own sake, which is one reason why I try to retain a certain detachment….I'm sure that review will be the first of many, and well deserved. I did thoroughly enjoy the book.’

The wider reception of Sail Upon the Land, both in the UK and in the US has convinced me I did the right thing in getting it out into the world. There have been over 100 positive reviews in the first four months – only one negative one which went into no detail, but does add spice to the mix!

My self-publishing advice is: Join the Alliance of Independent Authors for all kinds of technical hints and tips, both on avoiding wasting money and on getting it out there to be reviewed, that I found invaluable to my publication experience. A very supportive, various and interesting group of people. And edit, edit, edit, edit – get beta readers to help too, and professionals for both content and cover. The self-publishing game is very different from when I first wrote about it in 2005, when the sharks were already circling, smelling the blood of writers desperate to be published and profiting from their thwarted desires.

I totally agree with you. I love The Alliance of Independent Authors. I've received such good advice and help there, plus I think that's where I met you. Okay, final question:
You are asked to give a Ted Talk. What will it be about?

How biology and evolution shaped women’s position in the world in relation to men’s – that our large brains, which have so many advantages, mean that giving birth to human babies is fraught with danger and has to take place in the foetal stage of pregnancy. The resulting baby needs its mother’s loving care for years to grow up healthy and strong emotionally and physically. And without contraception that cycle was and is repeated over and over again, to the detriment both of women’s health and that of their offspring, effectively leaving women no time or creative energy for anything else.

This has led to women, of course equally as intelligent and able as men, moving out of public spaces and power over millennia – where success was for most of human history judged by battles won. A woman with children was not really available for sword-wielding except in a few remarkable cases such as the virgin Joan of Arc. It is notable that childless women, or women with few children like Margaret of Beaufort (one birth at 13 damaged her so badly she never had another, but that child was Henry VII) became hugely powerful.

Only recently, with advanced healthcare and contraception, are we stepping up into the world beside men, and only really in the Western world. There is a backlash to be endured, no animal likes its long-held territory to be invaded. But with accelerating communication, and different measures of success that don’t involve weapons, I see a healthier future for the planet where women and men have equal choice as to how they live their lives as responsible independent adults. Obviously some people long for a simpler past where gender roles were clear-cut and male dominance was a given, and some fight for that in deeply unpleasant ways. Educating women is the best contraceptive too.

I will continue to use fiction to express these ideas which deeply interest me but I will never bang a polemical drum – that bores me and I imagine readers too. To tell stories about women’s lives does all the work for me. It has taken me until recently to understand why I felt so uncomfortable growing up, and it was this: the assumption that I was inferior solely because of my gender when I didn’t feel inferior at all!

Where can people find you and purchase Sail Upon the Land?


Twitter: @JosaYoung

Instagram:  @youngjosa


To purchase Sail Upon the Land: