Total Pageviews

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Visiting with Folk Tales Author, Miranda Paul and Learning about Her Newest Book, Tales from China: World Favorite Fables

I am a lot of things, but first and foremost, I am a mother of two young children.  I am also a wife.  Before becoming an author and freelance writer, I worked as an English teacher for a few years and even got the opportunity to teach in the smallest country on the continent of Africa - that is where the name “Sibo” originated.  Some of my books are published under Miranda Sibo Paul instead of just Miranda Paul.  I am a certified scuba diver and I love the outdoors.  I almost became a marine biologist, but switched my major in college as many people do!

Tell us about the genre of your work. Why did you choose this genre? What are some of your books, stories that have been published?

I write for children–mostly picture books right now that are geared toward young children (0-3 or 4-8).  My favorite genre is folk tales, especially wild and wacky retellings or multicultural fables, and I have two out on submission to larger publishers.  When I first taught in The Gambia, and every time I return to West Africa or travel to another place, I am always amazed at cultural stories I hear, some of which only exist in oral history.  I often think, “Someone should be writing this down,” and even adapting them to audiences today so that the wisdom and history in them will not be lost forever.  After thinking that enough times, I began writing folk tales and stories inspired by cultural proverbs, and even trying to make some of them funny.  To do it well, it takes a lot of time, patience, and research!
Tell us more about your books.

I have had more than 20 “I Like” stories published by GrasshopperApps.com, a company that makes iPad digital books for young learners.  What I love about them is that their company hasa global focus, and children/families pictured in my stories are diverse - celebrating differences and bringing to light what makes people anywhere one in the same.  The books can be downloaded in the iTunes App store or through http://www.grasshopperapps.com/apps/i-like/.

I also rewrite old folk tales and have a few educational storybooks published digitally through iStorybooks.   iStorybooks is an App for Android or iPhones and iPads that publishes my stories and those authored by many other writers.  Select stories can also be read individually for those without a reader device at http://istorybooks.getacustomsite.com/free-books.html.

NEWEST BOOK - My first print stories were just released in June.  They are within a book called Tales from China: World Favorite Fables.  I co-adapted and edited fourteen of the fifteen tales in the bilingual book.  It was a real team effort, with international translators and an awesome illustrator William Guo, who made the folk tale characters come to life with modern, cartoon-like drawings.  Tales From China was published by Mankind Mind, LLC and is the first title in their World Favorite Fables series.  It is a hardcover book available at BarnesandNoble.com and other major online booksellers. (http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Tales-from-China/Hui-Cui/e/9780615447537)

My favorite book is probably “I Like My Brother” published by GrasshopperApps.com.  I have yet to watch a kid read it who did not laugh - and I have even seen a few parents with teary eyes.  That is what I was going for!

Do your books have a teaching objective? If so, what is it?

Yes and no.  I usually have a theme or idea, but more than anything, I want to tell a good story.  Great stories often teach, although they do it on their own, in a magical way, I think. 

Some of the publishers I write for make sure that a “moral of the story” is actually inserted at the end of my tales.  When I write on my own, however, I try to include any lesson in the actual story, so it is not as if children feel “hit over the head” with preachy morals.

How do you come up with the names of places and characters in your books?  

Well, for folk tale retellings, sometimes history takes precedence and characters are named what they have been named for centuries.  However, in Tales from China, I worked closely with co-editor Steve Jackson to pick cultural Chinese (Mandarin) names that signified what that character stood for in the story.

What is your favorite thing about your book/s?

I love the fact that some of them link kids to history and culture in a creative way.  Social studies was always my least favorite class as a kid.  I did not like learning about other countries and history through studying wars, memorizing dates, etc.  I feel as though kids these days are getting a much more “global” education, and some my books are a part of that.  I love it!

Is your book illustrated? If so, would you tell us by whom, and if you worked with an illustrator, can you discuss that experience?

William Guo illustrated Tales from China, and the ‘I Like’ Books are set to beautiful photography from around the world.  I have actually never met a single one of the illustrators or photographers for my books (though I would love to)!

How is writing in the genre you write, different than other genre? Are there any problems in getting children’s’ books published?

For Tales from China, and most of my other released publications so far, I can only say I was very lucky.  I had put my writing portfolio out there, and contacted the publishers/clients with a “packet” and writing samples - or was contacted directly and hired by them!  In each case, the publisher assigned me the books based on falling in love with my samples. 

Right now, however, I have just begun the process of shopping some of my works around to bigger, traditional publishing houses.  I do not really want to self-publish books, as I feel the editorial process is top-notch through traditional publishers.  I have nothing to complain about so far...but I am prepared for the ‘rocky roads’ other children’s authors have forewarned me about.  I think the biggest challenge with getting children’s books published is being patient.

Why and when did you begin writing?

I began writing picture books in elementary school, nearly 25 years ago.  Farmer Freddy and The Robbery at Denmark State Bank were my first two attempts at age 8.  Later on, I won a few awards in college, but stopped writing almost completely for several years.  On a whim, I entered a national writing contest in 2010 and when I took 3rd place, decided to pursue writing again full-time.  I actually fleshed out a lot of the story on my blog page recently:  http://mirandapaulbooks.blogspot.com/p/critique-service.html.

What is your writing schedule?

I am a morning person (I road crew every day at 5:30 a.m. in college), so I like to do most of my work before noon.  I cannot say there is a very set schedule, as life with a toddler and a preschooler can be chaotic.  Nevertheless, I write 15-20 hours each week, at least.  Assignments from my editors and clients come first.  The motivation comes from knowing once I finish that work, I get the rest of my free time to write whatever I want!

What kind of advice or tips to you have for someone who wants to write and get published? Are there any other comments, advice or tips that you would give to beginning writers?

If you are a complete newbie, read Harold Underdown’s, Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books.  I hold a degree in English and I have taken courses specifically on writing for children, and I still learned a LOT from the book.

My only piece of advice is to be confident and humble at the same time.  Learn to take criticism and revise your work.  Write a lot, join a critique group, and be patient.  Like any other dream, becoming a children’s author takes both passion and hard work.  Do not be in a rush.  Yes, even a 10-sentence picture book will go through many rounds of revision...its tedious work!

What projects are you working on now, or plan for the future?

I am working on a collection of West African and Gambian folk tales, and some Creole / Caribbean folk tales (my husband translates so our manuscripts are bilingual). 

I have a very close connection with many people, writers, and residents of Africa’s smallest mainland country, The Gambia.  I am afraid some of the stories will be lost if not written down, or translated/adapted for audiences outside the country.  I am working on ways to bring more fun, humorous African stories to children’s markets.  I am a whimsical storyteller in many ways, and while there are many beautiful cultural tales, I feel like a lot of them are very serious.  Some of the best folk tales I have heard are hilarious!  The difficulty is that what is funny in one culture does not always translate well...I have got my work cut out for me.

What do you do when you are not writing?

I am a wife and a mother of two children, so home life keeps me busy all the time!  I also volunteer for several causes, my favorite being a women’s empowerment project in a small Gambian village.

Anything else you would like to add?

I am a huge fan of the Green Bay Packers.  I was dying to get that in somewhere, even though it has nothing to do with my children’s books.  Let us hope the NFL gets their act together so I can enjoy some football this year!

I also hold the mashed-potato record in my family, for eating 12 helpings of mashed potatoes one Easter Sunday (or was it 13, Grandma?)

What “Made It” moments have you experienced in life?

When I had a baby named for me, I consider that my favorite “Made it” moment - Mariama Sibo was born in 2003 and she is named after my given Gambian name.  Her mother was my neighbor at the time I was teaching and living in Brikama.  A few other “Made it” moments were seeing my name at BarnesAndNoble.com, winning my college’s Creative Writing Award, and being inducted into my high school’s Alumni Hall of Fame a couple of years ago.

Other books by Miranda:

Learn more about Miranda Paul and her work at the following websites:

Grasshopper Apps “I Like Books” series:  http://www.grasshopperapps.com/apps/i-like/

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fantasy/Science Fiction Author A.K. Taylor Shares Her Story and Her Writing Adventures

I think you will find  learning about this most unusal author fascinating and a great read as you get to know the author behind the books. 
A.K. Taylor is a YA fantasy/science fiction adventure writer who has been writing since age 16. Taylor also draws her characters and designs her covers and illustrations, which she also began at 16. Taylor has also written a nonfiction piece about self-promotion. She also engages in beekeeping, outdoor sports, marksmanship, and gardening. She and her husband love animals and are amateur herpetologists. Taylor grew up in the remote backwoods of GA where she learned about nature. Taylor also is an amateur artist who draws her characters and designs her illustrations and covers.  She began drawing her characters at 16 as well.
Tell us about the genre of your work. 
My general genre is young adult fantasy/science fiction even though it has pieces of other genres mixed in so it is not so easily described in a basic way. I read multiple genres so I took the best elements of each and squished them together. This book and others have action, adventure, mystery, some real and imaginary mythology, paranormal elements, and some dark fantasy elements. There is humor in the mix too. I always like to have a character or two in an adventure book that is a comedian; that just makes everything more enjoyable. Other books have real places and real historical people in the case of Escape from Ancient Egypt for example.
I have also broken the mold on fantasy as I think of it, and I will include some examples in a moment. Fantasy as I see it is like D&D, LOTR, and the like even though I like the medieval sword and sorcery concept which is present in my work—just not in Hawote because Indians don’t live that way.  The ones I write about do fight with Indian melee tactics and modern ones.  Indians rarely mess with that is not theirs magic because it spooks them, and it is a shaman’s area of expertise. The Indians in my stories live in a modern age not a medieval setting, and there are real and fictional tribes. I have some interest in weapons and armor as well. The Five Lands is a very medieval place but they also use lasers and rocket launchers, so there is science fiction. To add, dinosaurs are alive and well there and are local wildlife for another twist—I personally was a dino nut as a kid. Time travel, a science fiction favorite, is not achieved through the building of a time machine, but rather through a time crystal Francesco created, unbeknownst to Raven, to send Neiko to Egypt back 3000 years which becomes a target of controversy for Neiko and her friends.  Their enemy Francesco; becomes something that must be destroyed by Ramesses as it proposes a threat to his romantic plans for Neiko. This crystal comes from a magic not of Hawote, but of the Five Lands that was passed through a “boundary” that separated the worlds to make the inhabitants of one think that the other was fictional, and only inanimate objects could pass through. I cannot think of any fantasy books that have Native Americans in them especially the protagonist being one.
Why did you choose this genre?
I chose young adult fantasy due to I was a teen at the time and few people wrote to our age group back then; this was fifteen years ago. Fantasy blankets a huge area and other elements of other genres can be mixed in quite easily, not the other way around, or at least for me. In any case, I feel like I have broken the “rules.”  I also like the premise of building a fantastical world, which I was good at as young as age 4. In fantasy just about anything can happen and it has fewer constraints, but this can be hard in making something too unbelievable. In my opinion if something is different than Earth on another world, I make connections or explain why that is by a ‘finding’ or in conversation.
What are some of your books, stories that have been published?
My first two books Neiko’s Five Land Adventure and Escape from Ancient Egypt were first published in 2009, but this experience was very disheartening, and I was unhappy with the results and the way I was treated. I was only 28 years old by the way because the book was finished before my 29th birthday, but it was released after that though. I republished “Neiko” in 2010 which I had a much better experience, and I plan to redo in 2012 where I republished “Neiko.”
Can you tell us more about your books?
Neiko’s Five Land Adventure: This is the first book of the entire series, but two prequels will be written later that go into all the stuff that happened before to where they connect here in this book. Neiko, an 18 year old warrior is known as the Chosen One in the hidden Indian land of Hawote that coexists with the US, Canada, and Mexico. Neiko’s enemies, Raven and Bloodhawk come up with a scheme to take her out of command so they can abduct her. During the unfolding of the plan, the fantasy world that she believed she created is real. Ramses, a villain from Qari, one of the Five Lands, pays her a few visits and traps her in Qari. She must find her way back to Hawote to thwart her enemies and expose the phony chieftain who is a spy.
 I will include my paperback ISBN 10: 1936198851 even though this book is also available for kindle and EPUB. All editions of my book can be found on Goodreads, Librarything, my website http://www.neikos5landadventure.net/, and Amazon.com, and you can Google my book. The book can also be found other book and eBook retailers. I am also on the gaming site Freado.com that I give away kindle editions from time to time and people can also buy from there. I also will do giveaways on Librarything for ebooks. I am also listed on http://www.published.com/
Escape from Ancient Egypt: In the wake of the battle in Neiko’s Five Land Adventure Francesco, the exposed and scorned phony chieftain and traitor, collects on a debt of revenge against Neiko by sending her into the past in ancient Egypt during the reign of Ramesses II the Great. He was also responsible for the mysterious disappearance of four of her friends eleven years ago. Neiko finds three of them but they have to find one more. They journey to Thebes to find him. After a turn of events, Neiko is discovered and pursued by Ramesses. Francesco also comes into the picture and tries his best to push Neiko into Pharaoh’s arms for personal gain. Francesco has a fetish obsession and admiration for Ramesses as well. They must find and capture Francesco and thwart Pharaoh, but the odds are stacked against them severely as they go up against one of greatest military leaders of Egyptian history. There is also an underlining storyline here that also drives the story and is hinted at in conversation and actions and it is the reason why Ramesses and Sito, the friend that is found in Thebes, hate each other. This underlying story is revealed in book 3 Black Hand Vacation but it is kept from Neiko for a long time. This Black Hand has nothing to do with the group that started WWI, but it is an Indian terrorist group and secret society in Hawote.
 The ISBN 10 for the paperback is 144159857X. It is only available at Amazon.com and other book retailers. Presently there is no eBook or website, but as I mentioned earlier, I am going to get this redone and have the same extensive networking as “Neiko” does after it is re-released in 2012. It will be available until I begin the publishing process for the new edition, which will include eBooks.
The newest book I have worked on that may be available this year is called Self Promoting and Survival Tips for Newbie Authors, which is my only nonfiction book at the moment. This is a small eBook about some of my discoveries and ideas of unconventional methods to promote books and the authors themselves. I wrote this during a cooperative project with Mark Levine, the author of The Fine Print of Self Publishing. I hope that it will be available this year sometime and I will be involved in other work too during the course of the project.
I wrote Black Hand Vacation last year and I am working on book 4 Ramses Vs. Hawote, but altogether I have completed 11 more books in the Neiko series and I am working on two more, and one of them is book 4, and yet I’ll still keep writing. I am not sure when these others will be released but I am hoping it will be one after the other someday.
How do you come up with the names of places and characters in your books?
Some names for characters and places just jump in there and if it sounds cool and I like it; I use it, if not, I trash it. Others were made by playing with words. I would do this “word bending” as a kid for fun or mispronounce words on purpose or turn some around backwards. Some mundane words can sound really cool reversed. The pretend Indian language Greyhawk that Neiko’s tribe speaks is really just backward English, but if you try speaking an entire sentence with each word backwards it gets very difficult and it sounds like a foreign language. I have spoken this way since I was about 10 so I can do it very easily. Some Indian names are the “phrase names” used by Indians back in the past like Yellow Arrows or Grey Wolf. Attack Pack names were like some of the toy names for the action figure series but my characters were very much different than the originals. Some names are of real people like Ramesses II for instance. The Qari pharaohs may have the same names as some Egyptian kings but their meanings are much darker and insidious than original meanings, but this is mentioned later in more detail in book 3.

How did you develop the character of your protagonist in this book?
The protagonist Neiko is basically myself. I based her off of my tough side and made her a hard-core tomboy like myself. She does the things I like to do and says things much the same way. I do not put as much of my intellect into her as I do a couple of other characters. I do put in my tendency to explore, which gets her into trouble quite a bit when she snoops and finds something that has been hidden a long time.

What about an antagonist…is there a unique “bad guy” or a recurring nemesis of any kind?
There are a several of them actually, but the biggest one is Ramses, the Dark Pharaoh. Neiko’s Five Land Adventure goes into what that is slightly but more is found out as the saga continues as Neiko makes new discoveries, and it is more than a title; it is an entity. He is the ultimate nemesis, and his kind is much more evil and worse than a demon or a devil. That is the best I can describe it without spoiling too much. Raven and Bloodhawk are reoccurring bad guys and what is different about them is their towering stature, wings, eyes and feet that are like an eagle. This is due to a curse on the Crackedskulls from a long time ago due to their bloodthirsty and conquering nature. There are a few more as well…

What is your favorite thing about your book?
Hmmm, well, I guess my favorite thing—or things—about it are that it is the start of something in many ways than one. It was the start of my book-writing career, and it is the start of a new series, and it is the start of my published author career. This is also the first book that I was able to hold in my hands as a published book and not a word document that has languished on three computers for over a decade.
How is writing in the genre you write, different than other genre?
Writing in fantasy lets you create your own world and others, which I am good at and have done since I was very small. In other genres you can do this to an extent, but certain criteria within some genres rather limit you. For example, if you were going to write a story based on a real town somewhere in the US where something fictional happened, you would have to do a lot of research of that town as opposed to making up everything about a made up town, but it can have some of the customs of the area. Many authors like more structure to their settings, and I do not dock them for that. They do great jobs researching their real places and writing their stories. I am just a bit different though, but I have done that as well. I do write other books in real places that I have researched and liked. Ancient Egypt is one and the Congo River Basin, the Bayous of Louisiana, or Canada’s wilderness are others just to touch a few places I have been already, but I’ll say most of them are remote areas.
Why and when did you begin writing?
I had begun writing small stuff since middle school, but the idea of writing a book came at age 16. I thought that writing a book would be a new challenge for me and I needed a means to come back to my fantasy world that I have had since age 4. My age and society said, “You can’t play with toys anymore” so I had to think of something to be able to return to it so I wrote a book about it on my parents’ decrepit computer that they had in their room. I had to act out the stories in my head instead of with toys or solo RPG. I had to teach myself how to write a book by looking at books I had read and some of the grammar basics I learned in school such as: parts of a story, the writing process, and a brief intro to dialogue. They do not teach you how to write a book per se, and I knew no one to ask since I did not know anyone who wrote a book. Once I started, it was much easier than I thought. The fantasy world had two parts, which was “Hawote” and “The Five Lands,” so I wanted to combine them, so I did. These worlds had their perspective parts out in the woods, in the back yard or inside and outside any house where I would play.  As the book took shape and moved more, more ideas came and the fantasy world grew like never before, and then my imagination inspired a younger cousin where we made more stories and helped grow the world even more. Once this book was born, a new saga was born. When I started writing, I never thought about publishing it; I wrote for fun and as a release because high school was not kind to me socially, so I spent most of my time with family or alone; writing transformed my lonely time to constructive time. I wrote a post on my blog about this not too long ago as I reminisced about it. I was actually socially challenged and I rejected my whole school career except for college.  It was not my choosing, it was chosen for me because I was a different, deep, and brooding child. How many four year olds ask their mothers, “Do fish drink water?” or questions about why words are they way they are like: we have mice and lice, so why don’t we have hice? Or mouses, louses, and houses instead?” just to give you a glimpse of the depth of my thoughts. The question about fish was never answered until college biology and I found out why—in case you’re wondering, the answer is yes. Family and friends started to read the stories over my shoulder as I wrote and they begin insisting I publish. Strangers come into the picture too later on and say the same thing.  I did not know where to begin on that and that is a whole story in itself. My parents could not help but peek because I kept them up at night as I pounded the keyboard into the wee hours of the night until I bought my own computer five years later. I remember back with a giggle about them telling me ten times “Go to bed!” I would always say “Let me get to a stopping point,” or “Let me finish this thought,” or “Let me finish this sentence/paragraph/chapter.” Sometimes that stopping point never came until the next “go to bed” plea.
What is your writing schedule?
My schedule fluctuates. I write posts on Facebook, Twitter, my blog when I want to make a new post, email the people I need to email, or if I am working on a questionnaire like this one, I try to devote the day to it, or I write in my newest book. I write something every day. If I cannot get to my computer because I am doing something else, I am brainstorming instead. I can brainstorm everywhere. I have written so much during and after college that my laptop keys have been worn smooth and shiny—lol.
What projects are you working on now, or plan for the future?
I briefly mentioned book #4 Ramses vs. Hawote, but I am also working on one that occurs later in the saga called Residing Evil. I plan to go back and fill in where I skipped around in the saga and/or make improvements to the other books I want to change before they become published. I am also working in that project with Mark Levine I mentioned earlier that includes an eBook, but at the present, I am in a waiting period, but it will come soon. Once “Egypt” is redone then it is going to be getting each new installment published one by one or whatever I can do since this saga will be at least 30+ books, but that is the future.  Right now I am working for and earning the readership and loyalty of readers as I go, and I may have other surprises that I don’t know about in the future too, so who knows? I am just taking it day by day.
What kind of advice or tips to you have for someone who wants to write and get published?
One of the things I could tell writers is to wherever you are at, take it day by day and do not look at the big picture or the future too much or you will get overwhelmed. When you write there is a big hill to climb that has three big parts that have little parts to them: writing, publishing, and marketing, but take it step-by-step and day-by-day. You will accomplish more that way than looking at it and trying to look at the hill in its entirety and freaking out even before you get to the top. This one is cliché, but it is not unimportant: do not give up; keep writing or keep going in the direction you are going if it is good for you. Thirdly, research, research, research, this goes for anything besides science. You have to research everything from how to write a book, your setting or person you are writing about, who your publisher will be and to make sure they do good business and are trustworthy, how to market your book, or how to conduct yourself in certain settings like book signings. This is one of the many points I hit on in the eBook I wrote for the project with Mark Levine, and it is every important and worth mentioning now. Lastly, read. Reading helps you write better and it is how you do research too, and if you read a bad book, you know what not to do in your own book and recognize why you did not like it. I saw this on a writing blog, it makes sense, and it seems like common sense too.
Are there any other comments, advice or tips that you would give to beginning writers?
One comment I can think of is for younger writers out there: start writing as soon as you can! There is no age bar you have to reach when you can start—writing is actually the easy part, publishing is mediocre, and marketing is brutal and hard. Publish young too to get a good start on your career, if you think you can handle it—I did. I made my first attempt at big houses at 21, but I tried anyway even though I was turned away. I made it 7 years later as an independent author, which was a blessing in disguise even though the first run stunk. You do not have to wait until you are 40 to publish—I didn’t. I did it as soon as I was able even though I made a couple mistakes along the way, but who doesn’t? I can relate my mistakes so others do not make them and that is what author cooperation is all about. Learn all you can from people before doing your own research if you know someone. For me, I had to learn just about everything on my own because people I know knew nothing about writing and publishing and least of all marketing a book. I had to find people later on. Normal marketing strategies businesses use to sell products can work for books too. A book is a product; an author is a business and a brand, so authors are entrepreneurs and you become a business who promotes and sells its product(s). I have seen this mindset spoken of before, but I had already had this mindset before I saw others talk about it. I also mention this in my eBook “Newbie Authors.” This mindset has become very important and is often missed!
What do you do when you are not writing? 
When I am not writing I engage in my other activities, which are plentiful and well rounded. I spend a lot of time outdoors doing things or engaging in outdoor sports.  I go on hunting/fishing trips with my husband. My dad and I are small time beekeepers and we are oftentimes working together on a project of some sort like: hive maintenance, honey harvest and extraction, or removing a hive from a house, catching a swarm, and we have had the privilege to train a novice beekeeper I went to school with and start our own little group. I also am gardening or going for a walk in the woods or canning and preparing homemade foods. I plan to experiment with soap making candle making and other things too. I also like going to do target practice from time to time. My husband and I are also amateur herpetologists (science of reptiles and amphibians). We rescue, read about, and study different species of snakes, lizards, turtles/tortoises, and amphibians and we have all the catching equipment too. We love all animals, and in case you are wondering, I have pet snakes. Some of these things can include brainstorming from time to time. My biology degree has come
in handy in beekeeping and herp culture and apiology (science of honeybees) and explaining/understanding the biology to my husband and father. This has helped me talk about the scientific side of my mother’s home-based nutritional business and the biochemistry and chemistry behind it, which she uses in her presentation.

What “Made It” moments have you experienced in life?
 Some of them include, I made it through school, I made it through college, I made it to a professional lab job, which unfortunately I no longer have due to the recession, and I made it to being a published author. I also made my dream of writing a book happen. I can call that book mine because I “made it.” I can say that one over a dozen times now even though most of them are not published yet. I have several “made its” on other interviews I have been able to do. I even “made it” into a few bookstores to do signings, but now those are slowly tanking out as the industry is changing. All that tells me I have to find other creative means to “make it” and make more “made its” for the future!

What was the place you grew up like and what did you do?
The places I grew up in was extremely rural; if I took you there you would wonder how to get back to civilization and you knew that you in the middle of nowhere. My very young years were in the foothills of the mountains close to South Carolina and we lived near a river. We moved across the state to another rural place close to Alabama. My middle years were in the suburbs, which I hated. I now have returned to the backwoods in middle Georgia where I live today. We had neighbors but we could not see them when we lived out in the backwoods. I had hundreds of acres of woods as a personal playground, and our yard was like five acres itself. When we moved to the suburbs though I had about an acre—oh that was like jail to me.  I never worried about snakes or other wildlife too much when I was out in the woods, but I did look out for them. When we lived on the river we would go into town and buy a bucket of worms and some snacks, go fishing all day and walk up the steep hill home. We would swim in the river with the snakes and all, but we did not care too much. Sometimes the bream would nibble on your toes and you would step on a catfish which hurts, sometimes we would bring home some of the small freshwater clams and keep them for a time. To add when we lived in the foothills I was the only girl in my kindergarten class to hold a king snake and get a certificate of bravery. I believe this is when my fascination with snakes began; I had already been catching big fat toads, frogs, and lizards already.
Where can readers and other authors find you?
Facebook: www.facebook.com/AKTaylorsBooks I have widgets to Bookbuzzr and Goodreads on this fan page on my wall
Blog: http://www.backwoodsauthor.wordpress.com/ I write about my experiences and life in the backwoods. I have widgets for freado and bookbuzzr on my blog and a link to one of the hangman games I created here too. I will try to put one for Goodreads later on.
Other sites:
http://www.bookbuzzr.com/ and http://www.freado.com/ Bookbuzzr hosts the gaming site Freado where readers can win and/or buy books including “Neiko”
Shelfari, Librarything, Goodreads: I am an official author on each of these sites so people should find me.
The Book Marketing Network, http://thebookmarketingnetwork.com/
Local newspaper article: http://waltontribune.com/news/article_03f7399e-2959-11e0-a343-001cc4c002e0.html?mode=story  picture with me holding the book.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Illustrator/Author Patti Gay Sharing a Glimpse of Her Books and Art

After graduating from the Columbus College of Art and Design, I started illustrating for advertising agencies in Columbus Ohio then New York City. Then a move to San Francisco started a career as an art director for greeting cards. A few years later, it was time to get back to doing my own illustration again. I began doing art for licensing, and I have images on a variety of products including; gift bags, cards, garden flags, mugs, prints, 3-d plush, needlepoint, stickers, holiday clings and paper product goods.

Tell us about your art and books.

I have illustrated a children’s book, Cats for Golden Books as well as two educational books for Evan Moore publications. I also have two e-books that I wrote and illustrated, Friends, Amanda and Max and animals, Must Be.

I like working in different media and styles. I do realistic images as well as whimsical, and like working in oils and watercolors. I have a studio in my home in the Santa Cruz Mountains and can be contact via e-mail at pattigay@sbcglobal.net.

Why did you choose to be an illustrator, and tell us about some of your illustrations and books that have been published?

I cannot remember a time when I did not want to be an illustrator. I am very lucky to have known always what I wanted to do. I am especially excited about the e-books that I have done recently. One is Friends, Amanda and Max is about an orange tabby cat and a wee dachshund pup exploring what it means to be a friend. It is available at Barnes and Noble. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/friends-amanda-and-max-patti-gay/1030966799 .
Amanda and Max also have their own blog in their voices with free downloads of paper dolls and coloring pages. http://amandaandmax.blogspot.com/

Would you tell us more about your books and art work?

Must Be is about a menagerie of friendly animals that are playing in the park when they notice the reader) is observing them. What must it be? Each animal tries to discern what is watching them. They each have their own ideas based on the wonderful, individual characteristics they themselves possess. Finally a clever pig declares that it is in fact a child. Upon this discovery, the animals invite the child reader into their play.http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/animals-must-be-patti-gay/1030528593.

Nutty is one of the
 animals in Must Be.

Ronnie Herman currently represents me for books and JMS Art Licensing for licensing. For books, I have never worked directly with an author, but have always worked with the art director. You can see my work on my website; www.pattigay.com, and I also have a blog with updates of what I am doing at http://pattigay.blogspot.com/.  What are some of your illustrations that have been published? My blog also has links to my books and my agent’s sites.

What do you do when you are not writing or illustrating?

When I am not writing or illustrating, I am managing a home teaching program for my son, who is autistic. I train all of his aides and cover for them when they are not here.

Two Can Art
Since my studio is at home, I am also on call for them whenever they need me. I do my illustrating and writing when his aides are here during the day. I also do sketching when we are hanging out together in the evenings. One new exciting project I have recently done is to create a line of art called Two Can Art. My son loves to paint and creates wonderful textures.

I have taken his paintings and scanned them into my computer than fused them with design. I am now working on setting up a blog for signed and numbered giclee prints on demand. It will be at http://twocanart.blogspot.com/ when it is done. Right now, you can see images on my agent’s site. http://www.jmsartlicensing.com/two_can_art/.

Do you usually work directly with authors, or with the publishers?

Characters in a
possible future book.
I have not illustrated book cover for publishers, but have designed a few for my portfolio. I think if an author is thinking about hiring an illustrator the first thing to think about is that they may have a different vision than an illustrator may have. When working with a publisher the illustrator’s job is to put their vision to the words. It may be very different from what the writer may have visualized, but I think it can often enhance what the words say in a way the writer had not thought of.

What “Made It” moments have you experienced?

Patti may have created
this one just for fun,
but I love it.  Don't you think
this would make a great
character in a new book?
I do not really think of things as made it moments. One thing I love about what I do is that I know I can always grow and learn. I do not think there is a goal higher than being better than I am. I think if what I have visualized in my head makes it to my illustrated image I have succeeded with that image. I like pushing myself outside of my comfort zone with my work.

Check out more of Patti's work on her website at:
www.pattigay.com

P.S.  Don't forget to leave her some comments. 
I am sure she would
appreciate the feedback.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Carrie Dow Reveals Miss Moo,The Main Character in Her Children's Book Series is "Not a Cow"!

I have been a writer my whole life, but honestly, it does not pay the bills so I have day job. I am an English teacher by education, but I have spent the last 15 years as a secretary, executive assistant and word processor. Still hope to be professional a writer when I grow up!
Tell us about the genre of your work.
I am actually a travel writer, but our cat, a stray we found as a kitten behind the garage, is such a character that I thought she would make a fun subject for children. I plan to have a series of Miss Moo books.
Why did you choose this genre?
Well, I think it chose me! As I said before my first love is travel writing, but our cat is such a character. She chose us rather than we chose her, and I feel that the book happened the same way. When you see a good thing, you go with it. Speaking of the cat, she is on my desk right now, and as I type, she gently puts her paw on the keyboard. I feel another story coming on…
What are some of your books, stories that have been published?
Outside of the book, I have been published by Islands Magazine, Go World Travel and International Living. I also write weekly articles for Examiner.com. I am the International Pet Examiner, which combines my love of animals and travel. I most recently wrote about an animal shelter in Esslingen, Germany. In addition, just for fun, I am a website blogger for the TV show, Drinking Made Easy with Zane Lamprey (Wednesday nights on HD Net).
What ages do you direct your books?
Miss Moo is for really young children, those just learning to read so preschool to fourth grade. However, I am finding out that many adult cat lovers really seem to enjoy it too.
Tell us more about your book.
Morning, Miss Moo is the story of an ornery cat. She is on a mission to get her breakfast and will do whatever it takes; including slapping her mother’s face…and it actually works.
Morning, Miss Moo (ISBN 978-1-4269-1879-7) is available in hardcopy online from Amazon and Barnes and Noble and is available in store at all three Tattered Cover Book Stores of Denver. Hardcopies can also be purchased directly from me though Miss Moo’s Blog and if you do, they are autographed with Miss Moo’s paw print! So cute! Recently it became available in digital format for the Kindle, Nook and the iPhone and iPad for only $1.99.
Do your books have a teaching objective? If so, what is it?
Yes! The point of my story is that even though our pets, and our kids, may do something naughty, which does not mean we, their parents, love them any less. The idea is that kids will see themselves in Miss Moo or perhaps see their own pets or younger siblings in a different light.
How do you come up with the names of places and characters in your books?

Funny you should ask because Miss Moo is not actually our cat’s name. It is one of a dozen nicknames we have for her.  Miss Moo is the one I chose for the book because when she meows, it sounds more like a high-pitched ‘moo’ instead. She is also black and white like a dairy cow. I thought kids would get a kick out of that. The other name in the book, The Blonde, is what I think she would call me if she could talk. In the next book, she will be wreaking havoc on my husband and his character name is “The Big Guy!”

How did you develop the character/s of your in each of your books?

Everything is based on the cat’s personality so I did not really develop very much. You could say I cheated because it was already there.

What is your favorite thing about your book/s?
Besides my cat - who I think is absolutely adorable - I really like the illustrations that Roxanne Macke created. She was able to use digital photos of my cat and incorporate them into her drawings. I also like the colors she came up with in her artwork. I told her I wanted bright colors, but not primary colors, and she knew exactly what I meant.
Is your book illustrated?  If so, would you tell us by whom, and if you worked with an illustrator, can you discuss that experience?
My illustrator is Roxanne Macke, who is a graphic artist and painter, and we met through a mutual friend. We were both unemployed at the time and working on a children’s book combined both our talents. We both love animals too. 
How is writing in the genre you write, different than other genre?
Children’s lit is a lot harder than people think. I got a lot of advice from my four-year-old nephew. Children’s books are meant to be read aloud and, although they do not necessarily need to rhyme, there should be some sort of cadence to them. Moreover, if they are read by little tongues, they should be easily understood and spoken.
Are there any problems in getting children’s’ books published?
Yes! It is a very competitive area. That is why I self-published, but even that was difficult. Delay after delay after delay.
Why and when did you begin writing?
I have been writing since 4th grade! OK, seriously, about the last six years I have been pursuing it professionally. People forget there is a big difference between being a writer and getting published. I have been a writer for over 20 years. I have been a published author for only six.
What is your writing schedule?
Whenever I have time, however, I do make it a point to have a large chunk of time available for writing, whether it is a Tuesday morning, a Wednesday afternoon or even a Saturday night. I also plan these blocks in advance. To truly get into a groove, you need a large chunk of time. You do not want to be writing something really special and then have to go to the dentist or something. Nothing kills creativity like having to quit in the middle of it.
What projects are you working on now, or plan for the future?
I am planning my second Miss Moo book for spring 2012. I will also have a second travel piece for Go World this summer. Moreover, this is in addition to my weekly work at Examiner and Drinking Made Easy.
What kind of advice or tips to you have for someone who wants to write and get published?
Do not ever stop writing. One of the reasons I write for the internet is the practice. Just like any skill, you have to keep doing it to get better. However, writing is the easy part. Getting published is a whole other story. You have to sell yourself as well as your writing. Do the work! Get names and personalize your pitches to that person as much as possible. Generic submissions will get you nowhere. I spend as much time writing submissions as I do writing articles.
What do you do when you are not writing?
Besides Miss Moo, we have two dogs and I love them spending time with them. My husband and I enjoy hiking in the beautiful Colorado Mountains, playing golf and volleyball and we go bowling on occasion. I also volunteer weekly at Foothills Animal Shelter. My favorite thing to do is travel. They say to write what you love and I love travel and animals. It is a strange combination, but it works for me.
Anything else you would like to add?
 Nothing gets my creativity going like jogging, which is strange because I am not much of a runner. I run a thirteen-minute mile or something like that, which is horrible. However, nothing clears my head like going for a jog on a sunny morning. I do most of my writing on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays and try to go running before just to get my head in that space. I think every writer has that something that gets him or her going. You just have to find what it is.
What “Made It” moments have you experienced in life?
My first was getting that email from Adrienne at Islands, my favorite magazine. That was definitely a ‘woohoo’ moment. However, my latest and greatest thrill was when I gave my first Miss Moo reading to children at an event last February and all the kids loved it! That keeps me going.

Find out more about Carrie on one of her links below: