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Benjamin’s Field Trilogy
By: J.J. Knights

Forward by retired NASA astronaut Jay Apt, PhD, veteran of four space shuttle missions.

BF1Book One: Rescue

Forward by retired NASA astronaut Jay Apt, PhD, veteran of four space shuttle missions.

Benjamin’s Field: Rescue’ has been awarded a five-star review by the literary site ‘Reader’s Favorite’ (readersfavorite.com).

Benjamin’s Field follows a rural farm family over the course of sixty years from the viewpoint of the youngest member, Jeremy Kyner. Beginning with America’s entry into World War I, Jeremy and his family are followed through war, peace, triumph, tragedy, heartbreak, and final happiness as the reader examines the role of family loyalty versus individual need, personal liberty and how it relates to society’s demands, religious prejudice, racism, intolerance, the role of charity, and the overwhelming need for humans to forgive one another. While still in manuscript form, Benjamin’s Field, Book One, Rescue, was advanced to the “Best Sellers Chart” of the peer review website YouWriteOn.com. In Book One, “Rescue,” a widowed farmer suffers an unspeakable loss during World War I. Burdened with grief, he learns from his nemesis, a dogmatic Catholic priest, that his son’s fiance has given birth to their crippled child. Unable to cope with the child’s deformity and confounded by his illegitimate birth, the farmer is battered by those closest to him with accusations of cruelty and intolerance until he finally reveals his true feelings and the reasons underlying his apparent bigotry. Set in a historical context, Benjamin’s Field is a compelling story about human dignity overcoming adversity, prejudice, and hatred. Interwoven with lighter moments, this dramatic and moving tale will take the reader on an emotional and sometimes humorous journey.”

 

BF2Book Two: Ascent

In Book Two, “Ascent,” Jeremy Kyner, now a teenaged boy, becomes the focus of his teacher’s animosity because of his infirmity. With the help of two dedicated school friends and an unconventional Jewish blacksmith, he takes to the sky, defeating his teacher’s plans to institutionalize him and forcing her to divulge her own, dark, secret.

Benjamin’s Field is a historical novel about human dignity overcoming adversity, prejudice, and hatred. Interwoven with lighter moments, this dramatic and moving story will take the reader on a journey of inner exploration.

 

 

 

BF3Book Three: Emancipation

Book Three, “Emancipation,” opens as America is on the cusp of World War II. Jeremy Kyner, now a man, is barred from military service at a time when America is almost defenseless against marauding German submarines. Finally joining a group of volunteer civilian pilots that represents the country’s best hope to counter the Germans, Jeremy confronts a deadly enemy from an unexpected quarter and is offered a chance of achieving final emancipation.

 

Benjamin’s Field is a historical novel about human dignity overcoming adversity, prejudice, and hatred. Interwoven with lighter moments, this dramatic and moving novel will take the reader on a journey of inner exploration.

 

 

 

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Author Infojj


J. Knights is a retired FBI Special Agent. His assignments included violent crimes and fugitives, property crimes, civil rights investigations, and foreign counterintelligence. He was a surveillance pilot, SWAT sniper, media representative, and worked in the FBI’s technical investigations program. Knights also volunteered as a Civil Air Patrol pilot, squadron commander and public information officer. He is an emeritus member of the Imperial Public Relations Committee of Shriners International and Shriners Hospitals for Children. A native of New England, Knights resides in southwestern Pennsylvania with his wife and honeybees. He has authored several published articles on law enforcement recruiting. Benjamin’s Field is his first novel.

 

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook

 

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frontsmallcoverGeorgia native Donald Joiner is a veteran who served during the Korean War era. A retired school superintendent and a lifelong student of history, Joiner has been married for fifty-two years and is a proud father and grandfather. He has taught Sunday school in his church for forty years. Joiner has also authored two previous books about antebellum churches in Georgia. Connect with the author on Facebook.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Antioch Testament. To begin with, can you gives us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?  

A: When the novel begins, it’s 2004 during the height of the insurgency in Iraq. An American army patrol manages to rescue a frightened group of Iraqi Christians fleeing Islamic militants. The refugees’ severely wounded leader, a priest, carries with him a mysterious bundle the group brought with them from an ancient Christian monastery in northern Iraq. Barely clinging to life, the priest insists on handing over the carefully guarded bundle to an American chaplain stationed at the army base.

When the bundle is unwrapped, the chaplain finds a large, scuffed, leather-bound ancient manuscript written in an unknown language. Fearing for the manuscript’s safety in war-torn Iraq, the chaplain arranges to have the manuscript sent back to the states. Eventually, the manuscript winds up in an Eastern Orthodox monastery where internationally-recognized linguists begin the arduous task of translating it.

What the linguists discover is absolutely astonishing; the manuscript is a first century AD testimonial in ancient Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, describing what happened to Jesus’ apostles after his Resurrection. But time is running out. What the linguists do not know is that a fanatical Iraqi insurgent cell is bound and determined to retrieve or destroy the manuscript before its secrets can be revealed.

I’ve always been intrigued by the remarkable transformation that occurred among Jesus’ apostles after his Resurrection. The bible tells us that before that event they had a motley collection of fishermen, laborers, and revolutionaries seeking to drive out the hated Roman occupiers and the restoration of  David’s earthly Jewish kingdom. The New Testament tells us quite a lot about them before the Resurrection, but very little afterward.

What happened to them? Where did they go? What did they accomplish? How did they die? From the fragmentary evidence left to us in early Christian traditions, I decided to tell the rest of the story. The Antioch Testament is a work of historical fiction, but it is based on early church traditions.

Q: What do you think makes a good work of historical fiction? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A: 1. The historical setting is very important. Events that take place in your story must be based on actual events of that particular historical era. If you get these events, dates  or characters out of historical sequence, rest assured some of your readers will point this out and discredit you.

  1. Characters in historical fiction should reflect knowledge available to individuals at that time. You don’t want characters of the first century AD, for example, carrying firearms centuries before firearms were invented or writing on paper centuries before paper was available.
  2. The plot in historical fiction should be based on actual events that took place in that era or surrounded by known historical situations particular to the era.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A: I tried to develop the individual characters of the apostles based on evidence about them available to us through their depiction in the New Testament as well as what ancient church traditions had to say about them.

Ignatius of Antioch. the character responsible for telling the story of the apostles, is believed by Syriac Christians to have been appointed bishop of that city by St. Peter himself and Antioch was in fact a central by way for early Christian disciples on their various missionary journeys in the East. Tradition tells us Ignatius was a companion of several apostles and because most of them traveled through Antioch I decided that Ignatius would be the ideal character to tell the story.

Early traditions guided the plot of the story. If tradition said an apostle carried out missionary activities in Persia, I placed him there in the midst of events going on in that era in that location. Once I placed an apostle in a specific location, actual historical events guided the plotting of the story.

As an example, since tradition said St. Peter was martyred in Rome, I had to get him there and have him arrested while preaching in the catacombs, and taken to prison, then to trial by a magistrate, then to a place said by tradition to be the location of his execution.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A: The army chaplain, the one responsible for sending the ancient manuscript to America, is a composite of several ministers I have known. Though very severely wounded in Iraq, he convinces his unbelieving brother to accompany him on his quest to have the manuscript translated. The character of the brother is based on someone I knew personally.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A: The antagonist character  was easy to create. Osama bin Laden hated the West in general and the US in particular; despised Christians and plotted the events of 9 – 11. I modeled Zaid Al Rifia, the leader of the fanatical Iraqi cell, on what we know of bin Laden.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A: Throughout the book I placed telephone conversations between Zaid and his agent in America telling about the efforts of the insurgent group to track down and get their hands on the manuscript. Something outside the regular storyline can add tension and excitement to the main theme of the story.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A: I utilized a map of the Roman Empire with place names of the first century AD. I also inserted large chunks of historical events such as the Jewish revolt against Roman rule in Judea, the struggle of Queen Boadicea against the Roman legions in Britain, and the war between the Romans and Persians in the East. I also inserted Emperor Nero, Roman General Vespasian, and other historical characters to lend credence to the story.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: My theme all along was to demonstrate the incredible sacrifices made by Jesus’ apostles in order to be obedient to his last command that they carry the Good News to the far corners of the world.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

A: I think writing is hard work. Writing historical fiction can be especially difficult. You better get the historical events in the story right. There are many history buffs out there who pride themselves on knowing intricate details about various historical eras. The author may be writing historical fiction, but he can count on his readers knowledge about the historical events surrounding the characters in the novel. If he gets dates wrong or mishandles historical characters or events, the reader will be sure to share his errors with others and cross him off the ‘must read’ list.

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Title: THE ANTIOCH TESTAMENT

Genre:  Christian Fiction/Historical Fiction/Suspense

Author:  Donald Joiner

Publisher: Seraphina Press

Purchase on Amazon

About the Book:

Donald Joiner, a veteran who served during the Korean War era, is a lifelong student of history.  Joiner’s passion for history shines through in his debut novel, The Antioch Testament, a sweeping, suspenseful novel resplendent with rich historical detail.

When The Antioch Testament opens, it’s 2004 during the insurgency in Iraq.  An American army patrol manages to rescue a frightened group of Iraqi Christians fleeing Islamic militants. The refugees’ severely wounded leader, a priest, carries with him a mysterious bundle the group has brought with them from a northern Iraqi Christian monastery.  As he clings to life, the priest insists on handing over the carefully-guarded package to the American army chaplain. When the bundle is unwrapped, Army chaplain Charles Monroe finds a large, scuffed, leather-bound ancient manuscript written in an unknown language. Fearing for the manuscript’s safety in war-torn Iraq, the chaplain arranges to have the manuscript sent to Augusta, Georgia, his hometown.  Eventually, the manuscript winds up in an Eastern Orthodox monastery where internationally- recognized linguists begin the arduous task of interpreting it. What the linguists discover is absolutely astonishing: the manuscript is a first century AD testimonial in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, describing what happened to Jesus’ apostles after his Resurrection. But time is running out.  Unbeknownst to the interpreters, a fanatical Iraqi insurgent organization is bound and determined to retrieve or destroy the ancient manuscript before its secrets can be revealed.   Some secrets may be worth dying for—but these secrets might even be worth killing for.

Imaginative, inventive, and intriguing, The Antioch Testament explores the lives of the apostles after the resurrection. A thoughtful and thought-provoking page-turner, The Antioch Testament is a carefully-crafted page-turner with a pulse-pounding plot, and engrossing storyline.

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oconnell_author_photo090315S.W. O’Connell is the author of the Yankee Doodle Spies series of action and espionage novels set during the American Revolutionary War. The author is a retired Army officer with over twenty years of experience in a variety of intelligence-related assignments around the world. He is long time student of history and lover of the historical novel genre. So it was no surprise that he turned to that genre when he decided to write back in 2009. He lives in Virginia.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Cavalier Spy. To begin with, can you gives us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?   

A: The Cavalier Spy is an action and adventure story about a young immigrant to the New World (Lieutenant Jeremiah Creed) who gets caught up in the American Revolution. It tells his story while presenting a unique look at the War for Independence through the eyes of those people (on both sides) caught up in the conflict and in espionage. It takes off where the previous novel in the series, The Patriot Spy, leaves off. George Washington has his back to the wall after the British take lower Manhattan. He launches the protagonist, Jeremiah Creed in a series of desperate gambits to save the American cause from crumbling just months after independence was declared.

Q: What do you think makes a good historical fiction work? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A: The history.  And remember, history ends in story. So the historical story should be compelling. This includes the setting and the historical characters (if any). Obviously the fictional plot should move along and entertain. It should also mesh seamlessly with the historic events. Finally, the fictional and historical characters should complement each other. The fictional characters should be true to the story line. The historical characters should be as true as possible to what they really were. The sweet spot is when they become as interesting as the fictional characters.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A: One advantage of doing novels set against a military background is that the known military events can provide a guideline. For example, the main character can’t slip into British occupied territory and meet his significant other if he is 100 miles away fighting for George Washington. SO the historic setting provides a template for the writer, but it also places some restrictions on the writer. In my own writing, scope out the historic timeline first. Then, I settle on the fictional plot and sub plots that I must weave through it. Since this is a series, I can draw on a cast of existing characters, fictional and historic. But I always add new ones too. That’s the fun part. Getting to the second part of your question: I do improvise as I go along. I may take the plot anc characters in a totally different direction while crafting a scene. And I don’t typically decide who is good or bad up front.  I let the scenes I write draw that out. This doesn’t include my core protagonists…. Usually.

TheCavalierSpy_medQ: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A: Well, Creed joined the rebellion to lead soldiers in combat but is unwillingly drawn into intelligence work by General Washington himself. So he is, at first, not very enthusiastic about his situation. However, he determines to make the best of it. I knew I wanted to create someone who was sympathetic and generally good guy. But one who could stand out and lead men into places they wouldn’t, or shouldn’t go. I wanted someone a bit self-deprecating and loyal to his values. He had to be valiant. He had to be upstanding. But he had to have a past. And he is somewhat mysterious – he has a past. Some of his past was revealed in The Patriot Spy. A LOT more is revealed in The Cavalier Spy. I didn’t really do any character interviews or sketches. I had the idea for how he should be pretty clear in my head. I do think he matures into his role in The Cavalier Spy. Just a real people involve when sent into combat and other stressful situations. He won’t be the same.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A:  I need a foil on the other side for Creed. His name is Major Sandy Drummond. I decided up front to not make him a cartoon or stereotype. He, like Creed, gets thrust against his will into espionage work after he gets wounded in battle. He doesn’t know much about the work but grows into it quickly. To make him realistic I drew on what I thought a mid-level officer of the period would be like: professional, demanding, dedicated, etc. Since he is a dragoon officer he is a bit more used to operating on his own. Oh, and he is a Whig. That means he is from the political party in England that seeks reconciliation with the Americans. But, like the other Whig officers, he is committed to suppressing the illegal rebellion.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A: Having a lot of battle scenes helps! But actually, The Cavalier Spy is less of that than The Patriot Spy. However, there is lots of movement as the war turns to the maneuver phase. And this enables my character to engage with the populace along the way. He gets several secret missions. These enable me to craft scenes with suspense, intrigue and action. As for specific writing – I improvise scenes all the time. Although I have the plan, I never know where or when I will divert from it. That keeps it interesting to me, the writer, in the hope that it will be more interesting to the reader.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A: Well, I do lots of research on the war and the general events that provide the background to the story. Then I try to develop the timeline with the venues. The ones that will provide the background, I try and draw out through description or the events (scenes) that take place there. I have four major settings in The Cavalier Spy. Each helped drive the story and the characters. I also researched the weather for this one. As it played a major role in shaping events in two of the settings.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: I’ll answer the second question first. Yes.  Since this is a series, I really just picked up where the first book ended as the saga of Jeremiah Creed, willing patriot soldier but unwilling spy, continues. Theme one is how he molds his men into soldier-spies. Another is his relationship with George Washington and Washington’s fictional chief of intelligence.  The overall them of the story is adversity and courage in the face of overwhelming odds. This goes for Creed, the American army, and the American cause. The story takes place, after all, during the times that tray men’s souls.  Apologies to Thomas Paine.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A: With regard to editing, not thus far. As a staff officer in the Army I learned to lose my sense of pride if I wanted to get my point across. Likewise, the advice of professional editors, particular with regard to the basics of scenes, characters, point of view, etc, seems very helpful to me. So long as they don’t try to inject themselves into it in ways that makes it theirs. I have yet to encounter that. As to where craft ends and art begins, who knows? If the story is good, and the characters are good, that’s what matters. But the sum of it is art-like,  almost like a painting made of words.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A: The dedicated writer must love the stories. I am dedicated to what I write because I love the stories want to get the stories out.  Stories about the American Revolution; about the soldiers and spies who fought it; and about the people who lived it. So, as hard as the writing is, and it is hard, it’s an enjoyable hard. Like running a marathon I suppose.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

A: I disagree. Homework is a drill. A better analogy is doing a term paper. But you get to pick the topic, length, etc. The process of writing is difficult and sometimes tedious. But if you are committed to the tale you want to tell, it’s not homework.

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A: For me it has been hard knocks, trial and error and trying to emulate (but not copy) some of my favorite writers.

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A: Pick something to write that excites YOU. Write often. Write what you love. Love what you write.

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Title: The Cavalier Spy

Genre: Historical

Author: S. W. O’Connell

Website: www.yankeedoodlespies.com

Publisher: Twilight Times Books

Purchase link: http://www.twilighttimesbooks.com/TheCavalierSpy_ch1.html

Amazon / OmniLit 

About the Book:

1776: His army clinging to New York by a thread, a desperate General George Washington sends Lieutenant Jeremiah Creed behind British lines once more. But even the audacity of Creed and his band of spies cannot stop the British juggernaut from driving the Americans from New York, and chasing them across New Jersey in a blitzkrieg fashion. Realizing the imminent loss of one of the new nation’s most important states to the enemy, Washington sends Creed into the war-torn Hackensack Valley. His mission: recruit and train a gang of rogues to work behind British lines.

However, his mission takes a strange twist when the British high command plots to kidnap a senior American officer and a mysterious young woman comes between Creed and his plans. The British drive Washington’s army across the Delaware. The new nation faces its darkest moment. But Washington plans a surprise return led by young Creed, who must strike into hostile land so that Washington can rally his army for an audacious gamble that could win, or lose, the war.

“More than a great spy story… it is about leadership and courage in the face of adversity…The Cavalier Spy is the story of America’s first army and the few… those officers and soldiers who gave their all to a cause that was seemingly lost…”

~ Les Brownlee, former Acting Secretary of the Army and retired Army Colonel

“Secret meetings, skirmishes and scorching battles… The Cavalier Spy takes the reader through America’s darkest times and greatest triumphs thanks to its powerful array of fictional and historical characters… this book shows that courage, leadership and audacity are the key elements in war…”

~ F. William Smullen, Director of National Security Studies at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School and Author of Ways and Means for Managing UP

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florenceFlorence Byham Weinberg, born in Alamogordo, New Mexico, lived on a ranch, on a farm, and traveled with her military family. After earning a PhD, she taught for 36 years in three universities. She published four scholarly books. Since retiring, she has written seven historical novels and one philosophical fantasy/thriller. She lives in San Antonio, loves cats, dogs and horses, and great-souled friends with good conversation. Visit her website and connect with her on Facebook.

About the Book:

Dolet depicts the life and times of Etienne Dolet. Etienne, who told the bald truth to friend and foe alike, angered the city authorities in sixteenth-century Toulouse, fled to Lyon, and became a publisher of innovative works on language, history, and theology. His foes framed him; he was persecuted, imprisoned, and ultimately executed by the Inquisition for daring to publish the Bible in French translation.

What readers are saying:

“[Dolet]  …I read it all with pleasure, and delighted to see names that I have known for some time coming alive as “characters,” albeit fictitious ones. I especially liked the way in which you brought out the sense of community, of being a band of brothers that so many of those amazing people shared.”
~ Kenneth Lloyd-Jones, Professor, Trinity College, Hartford, CT

Read Chapter One

Amazon / B&N  / OmniLit

Dolet_medINTERVIEW

What’s inside the mind of an author of historical fiction?

Two things. Her doctoral dissertation was on François Rabelais, a sixteenth-century comedic and satirical writer. In doing that, she became familiar with the dominant French literary and political figures of the century, their folkways and thought processes. She has written three historical novels, including the current novel, Dolet. The other branch of her historical novels concerns what we now call the Southwest—in other words her home territory, which she loves. She understands the people, knows the landscape, fauna and flora, and the psychology of her people. She has written about the founding of the five old Franciscan missions located in and around San Antonio (Apache Lance, Franciscan Cross), about the second expedition up the Rio Grande from Mexico (New Spain) in 1581 (Seven Cities of Mud), four mysteries starring a Jesuit missionary as detective (a historical person named Ignaz Pfefferkorn, S.J.) two set in the Sonora Desert, one in Spain and one in Germany. The outlier, Anselm, a Metamorphosis, is a fantasy set in upstate New York, where she lived and taught for 28 years. With Dolet, she returns to her beloved field as a scholar and professor, and attempts to reinstate Etienne Dolet among the great thinkers and writers of the 16th century in France.

What is so great about being an author?

The author is the god of his or her universe. This is truer if one is not bound by historical facts, but even if he or she is, the author still gets to imagine what happens in the gaps between those facts. Authorship transports the person—especially if the book is set in a foreign country at a different time—into another environment, with different folkways, politics, expectations, landscape, weather—in short, another universe. If, like author Weinberg, the writer aspires to write accurate historical fiction, it gives the opportunity to do research and to discover hitherto unknown facts. She has sorted through musty old documents in Mexico, in Spain: Madrid, Seville, Ciudad Rodrigo, and in Germany: Cologne, Unkel, Mannheim, Siegburg, Kiel and Düsseldorf. All her historical books (until this one) have appendices in which she clarifies what is fact and what fiction. The greatest thing about being an author is the joy of creation. The sense of elation when words are flowing effortlessly onto the page has no equal. This book calls itself a “nonfiction novel,” and since it endeavors to recreate true facts and situations, thre is no need for a historical appendix.

When do you hate it?

When words do not flow effortlessly onto the page. When the plot doesn’t work; the time sequences don’t match historical fact, but especially when interest in the chosen subject fades, and writing becomes a bore and a chore. This has happened rarely, but it has happened.

What is a regular writing day like for you? 

If I’m lucky, I have long periods when I can devote myself to writing. If I am enjoying what I am working on, those periods are joyful. However, most days are interrupted by phone calls, visiting friends, doctor or other appointments, and other duties. Then, I have to fit my writing in and around an obstacle course. If I am particularly excited about what I’m writing, I will devote my late evening (say 10:30ff) to writing and continue into the wee hours, up to 2:00, rarely to 3:00 AM. I always rise at 8:00 AM and sometimes, when necessary, earlier, so a 2:00 or a 3:00 AM night causes hardship the next day.

Do you think authors have big egos? Do you?  

Some do, some don’t. Egos vary with success, I think. I belong to a literary critique group, and we keep each other informed of our successes and our difficulties. We always help each other if possible, and we know each other quite well. But personalities and egos, obviously, differ. We have one member who has had to drop out of the group and move elsewhere, but who is quite successful, writing middle-school-age books. She has even had a TV film made based on one of them. She is still the same person—no inflated ego. One is writing creative nonfiction with much success. Maybe a flash of ego here and there, but mainly under control. Another is coming out with a new book this fall, her first, and still another has published with a small press about early 20th-century Texas. Two others are self-published with modest success, and I have published quite a bit with modest success. All in all, no inflated egos in sight.

How do you handle negative reviews?

My first reaction is hurt and disappointment. Then, if the reviewer has seen real flaws, I try to learn from it and avoid them in future. If the review was—objectively speaking—unjust, I feel anger. This is especially so if the negative reviewer has clearly not read the book, but publishes the negative review in a prominent journal or paper. I will grouse about it to my friends for a short time, and then let it go. Life’s too short to dwell on little bumps in the road.

What is the usual response when you tell a new acquaintance that you’re an author? 

Usually they express enough interest that I can hand them a bookmark with a tiny reproduction of my cover illustration and a blurb with my URL. Once they have that in hand (or those—I carry bookmarks for all my books in my purse), they are willing to engage in conversation about my books. I have rarely met a person who brushes me off. It happens only very occasionally.

What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break? 

I take a break. I enjoy walking or hiking, and sometimes take day trips to interesting places near San Antonio. This doesn’t happen often, because I do work out for an hour in the Olympic Gym three times a week and walk for an hour on the other days. That normally keeps my writing juices flowing.

Any writing quirks? 

Probably that I am willing to go to great lengths to research my topic before I write. I have delayed starting a novel for up to a year while building a firm foundation for my leap into prose. This has been especially true for the book I am now working on. I have spent weeks reading books on the subject and going through documents in the Alamo Historical Archive. Most authors probably don’t feel the obligation to go to such lengths.

Have you worked on your novel intoxicated? What was the result? 

Yes. Never blind drunk, obviously. The effect is that inhibitions are gone and the imagination is often freed to take flights it might not when sober. On the whole, I found that good ideas and good writing can result. I don’t do this often, however, since I don’t want to tip over into alcoholism!

What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or see it as a hobby? 

I’m in constant fear that the IRS will see my writing career as a hobby! I have had recent experience of a colleague from my days as professor, who spoke slightingly of my pulp fiction. I engaged him in a conversation about the issues raised by some of my books, and by the end of that he apologized for not taking me seriously. I have no idea what he really says behind my back, however.

Some authors seem to have a love-hate relationship to writing. Can you relate?

Not really. If I hated it, I wouldn’t do it. I hear often about the “agony of writing” from authors with sterling reputations, but I have never found it so, and I thank God that my chosen occupation doesn’t make me suffer!

Do you think success as an author must be linked to money? 

No, since writing is a joy in itself for me. On the other hand, a little cash beyond my retirement annuity would be most welcome!

Leave us with some words of wisdom.

Write every day if possible. Set up specific times and a designated place that you can devote entirely to your writing. Know roughly what your plot is, but don’t outline, since your characters need the freedom to tell you where to go next. Edit your writing the morning after, then continue writing. Show your writing to friends and take their suggestions seriously. Join a critique group if possible. Once you are finished, let a couple of friends read your book. You’ll be amazed at the typos, syntactical snarls, and perhaps logical snafus they will find. Then re-edit. Most of all, enjoy what you’re doing, else you won’t carry through to the end.

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Author PhotoA native of Massachusetts, Sophia Bar-Lev divides her time between the Fort Worth, Texas area and Israel.  A former school teacher and adult education lecturer, Bar-Lev now devotes the majority of her time to writing.  Sophia Bar-Lev is also the author of Pasta, Poppy Fields, and Pearls and Pizza and Promises. The Silver Locket is her latest novel.

Connect with the author on the web:

http://www.sophiabarlev.com/

http://www.sophiabarlev.com/#!blog/cnf7

https://www.facebook.com/SophiaBarLevAuthor

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, THE SILVER LOCKET. To begin with, can you gives us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?   

A: This novel is celebrates the triumph of the human spirit over tragedy and heartache.  It chronicles the lives of two women whose lives are linked by a child that belongs to both of them but in different ways.  Their common devotion to motherhood and family ultimately leads to a powerful and fulfilling reunion. The power of a sensitive and difficult decision years earlier is realized as two families join their hearts and lives because of one special daughter they share. My inspiration came from the true story of a friend who wanted her story told and was delighted that I would write it for her.

Q: What do you think makes a good contemporary novel? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A: A novel doesn’t deny reality; it interprets reality.  The novels I appreciate and enjoy reading relates to the contemporary reader in a way that adds value to his/her life. This what I endeavor to do in my writing.  The importance of character development cannot be overstated.  Imagination must blend seamlessly with realism to produce for the reader a sense of connection or identification with the personalities in the book.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A: In the case of THE SILVER LOCKET, I knew the basic story ahead of time so my primary task was to follow the real life plot as told to me by my friend.  However, in my other novels, I start with an idea which morphs into an overview but as I write, very often the characters pull me into directions I didn’t anticipate when I started the project.  Personally, I’ve never outlined a book ahead of time.  I tend to write more spontaneously and, as they say, ‘go with the flow’.

Book Cover - The SIlver LocketQ: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A:  For this novel I invested considerable time in learning everything I could about the two women who are the primary characters throughout the novel.  My friend’s descriptions and insights into her birth mother and adopted mother were very helpful and gave me a solid basis for building the narrative.  Yes, I did write up two character interviews while I was writing the book and later revised them after the book was finished.  I found the practice very helpful not only for this novel but for my other novels as well.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A: This took a bit more imagination than the development of the protagonists.  Actual information about this person was sketchy so I did some research into the general traits of the kind of person he needed to be in the story and received some advice from a local police officer as well, not only regarding the criminal but also about the types of laws applicable at the time.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A: To keep a reader turning the pages requires enough mystery or suspense to create continual curiosity.  As a writer moves through the chapters, unexpected twists to the story act like bait to ‘hook’ the reader to keep going.  In this novel, I inserted events and conversations at strategic intervals to create or increase the suspense and add depth to the story.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A: Descriptions must be written in such a way that the reader can paint a picture in his/her mind of the various settings in the course of the novel.  Carefully chosen words, similies, analogies and references will all contribute to dynamic settings so that – in a manner of speaking – the book becomes a movie in the mind of the reader.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: In this case, yes I knew the theme from the beginning.  In my other novels, I had a general idea but the themes developed as I wrote so that by the time I completed each novel, the theme was clear and distinct.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A: Craft and art – art and craft: which comes first? Hard to say. I think the most successful novel is the result of free-flowing ‘art’ or creativity, which is later reviewed, revised and edited so that the level of the craft enhances the art contained within the novel itself.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A: Persistence, diligence and a passion for excellence are imperative for any writer to become a successful novelist.  Actually, I think these three qualities are essential for success in any area of life but as we’re discussing authors, I would add that every author has to be willing to throw away as much or more than they actually publish.  Writing is a ‘practice’ as well as an art.  I write every day and much of it ends up in the dust bin but it’s not wasted time; it’s practice and practice makes perfect.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

A:  I love writing so if this is homework for the rest of my life, bring it on!  I’m a firm believer in the maxim that if you love what you do, you won’t ‘work’ for the rest of your life.  Your ‘work’ becomes your joy.

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A:  Yes I regularly read postings from Writers’ Digest and subscribe to their magazine as well. I attend writers’ workshops as often as I can and read books about writing.  I found Stephen King’s book, ON WRITING and BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott helpful and inspiring.  I’m also a great fan of the series of books for writers by Julia Cameron.  Her works continue to be a resource I go back to frequently.

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A: I have a small book on my desk which a friend recently sent me.  It’s entitled, YOU’RE A WRITER SO ACT LIKE IT.  I haven’t read the book yet but I love the title.  Anyone who aspires to be a writer needs to put in the time to develop the skills that a creative imagination requires in order to marry ideas to effective expression.  I daresay there are many potential writers who are not lacking in ideas but in the will and persistence to do the work required to turn their imaginations into printed material.  Great ideas are not enough; the mechanical skills for producing a winning manuscript are essential.  And that, my friends, takes work.

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Title:  THE SILVER LOCKET

Genre:  Women’s Fiction

Author:  Sophia Bar-Lev

Website:  www.sophiabarlev.com

Purchase on Amazon

About the Book:

When The Silver Locket opens, it’s July 1941 in Boston, Massachusetts. War is raging in Europe and the Pacific. But for two young women in a small town in New England waging their own personal battles, the struggle is way too close to home.

When extraordinary circumstances bring these two women together, one decision will alter the course of their lives.  And with that one decision, their lives will be forever changed…and forever intertwined.

Were these two women thrust together by happenstance—or fate?   A tragedy. A decision. A pact. Lives irretrievably changed. A baby girl will grow up in the shadow of a secret that must be kept at all costs. But will this secret ever see the light of day?  And what happens when—or if—a promise made must be broken?

Adopting a child is not for the feint of heart—but neither is being adopted…

A sweeping and suspenseful story that unfolds in a different time and a different place, The Silver Locket explores universal themes that ring true even today. Secrets. Unbreakable bonds. The healing power of love.  Deception. Anguish.  Redemption.

In this touching and tender tale, novelist Sophia Bar-Lev weaves a confident, quietly moving story about adoption, finding hope in the face of hopelessness, and how true love can overcome any obstacle. With its brilliant juxtaposition of the wars fought both on the battlefield and internally, The Silver Locket is a poignant novel, resplendent with drama.  Featuring an exceedingly real and relatable plot, and characters that will stay with readers long after the final page is turned, The Silver Locket is a sterling new read.

 

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Graciela LimónGraciela Limón is a Latina Writer, Educator and Activist. She received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Spanish Literature from Marymount College Los Angeles, a Master of Arts Degree in the same field from the University of the Americas Mexico City, followed by a PhD in Latin American Literature from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).  Prior to retirement, Limón was a professor of U.S. Hispanic Literature as well as Chair of the Department of Chicana/o Studies at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, California.  She is now Professor Emeritus of that University.

Limón has written critical work on Mexican, Latin American and Caribbean Literature.  However, she now concentrates her writing efforts on creative fiction that is germane to her areas of interest: feminism, social justice and cultural identity.  Her body of work includes In Search of Bernabé that won The Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award (1994).   Limón also published The Memories of Ana Calderón (1994), Song of the Hummingbird (1996) and The Day of the Moon (1999).   Erased Faces, which was awarded the 2002 Gustavus Myers Book Award, was published in 2001, Left Alive was released in 2005, The River Flows North, 2009, followed by The Madness of Mamá Carlota, 2012.  Her latest book is The Intriguing Life of Ximena Godoy, published by Cafe con Leche Books. Find out more about Graciela at www.gracielalimon.com.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Intriguing Life of Ximena Godoy.  What was your inspiration for it? 

A: There were several inspirations, but above all is the woman of strength, resilience and ambition.  Certain historical events of the first part of the 20th Century worked as well as inspirational in the novel.  These were the Mexican Revolution, the Spanish Influenza, the Repatriation and Prohibition.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist. 

A:  I believe that the most interesting aspect of my protagonist is her fierce independence and courage when faced with adversity.  However, just as interesting is her flawed nature that in the end succumbs to her passions.

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way? 

A:  The creative process for me when writing this novel was different from my other experiences in that my protagonist turned out to be so unpredictable.  Ximena Godoy kept me guessing.  Hence, I experienced times when I needed to stop writing just to reflect on her nature, and try to decipher her motives.  Ximena Godoy is hardly what is expected of the Latina:  she breaks the canon, so to speak.  All of this created bumps and interruptions along the way, but once my Muse pulled me over those bumps, I was able to get going.  How long did it take me to complete Ximena’s story?  I would say that it was completed in about two years.

ximenaQ: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel? 

A:  Good stories, I find, contain enough ‘excitement’ to make the narrative flow.  In The Intriguing Life of Ximena Godoy, there is a strong historical element, such as the Mexican Revolution.  This event was followed by the Spanish Influenza, which, by the way, killed more people than did the Revolution.  There are other critical periods that form a background to my protagonist’s story and animate the novel’s narrative, keeping it going and – I hope – keep it exciting.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it? 

A:  No, I wouldn’t say that I experience anxiety.  What I do feel is a sense of urgency, of wanting to write what I’m feeling before it dilutes or disappears.  It’s really a mysterious feeling, difficult to explain.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time? 

A:  I’m an early bird, meaning that I write early in the day.  By this I mean to say that my schedule puts me at work before daylight when all is still in the house as well as out in the street.  With a cup of coffee to energize me, I usually write between three and five hours.  This isn’t a strict schedule because, as you can imagine, I get tired.  When the time comes to rest I do it by cooking – which I love to do, and by interacting with those around me.

Q: How do you define success? 

A:  Success for me means completing the novel I’ve been writing.  It means everything to me to be part of the mystery of creative writing, and giving it fullness.  Remember, completing a novel takes about two years out of my life.  That’s significant.  Also, success for me is knowing that a story has come to me from out of nowhere, and that I’m a part of the creation of characters that take flesh, who now live among us.  Success for me is being able to give life to that story.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

A:  This is problematic, and I find it difficult to give such an aspiring writer advice except to say to not allow the dream to fade much less disappear.  I’d say to hang in there, to persevere until an understanding can hopefully be reached.

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree? 

A:  No. I regret to disagree, and I do so with all respect since George Orwell is one of our world’s shining literary lights.  How painful it must have been for him to give us such gifts despite so much pain.  In my case, writing a book, although lonely, scary and sometimes bleak, nonetheless is a life-giving experience.  Writing for me is to breathe, to travel to another world, to dwell with people before unknown but now more real than even those that surround me.  Yes, for me writing is life giving.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers? 

A:  I would tell your readers to have faith in his/her work, to be confident, to reject nasty, mean-spirited criticism, to forge ahead and give us all a part of that God-given talent.

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profile-pic (1)Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s life experiences as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her passion for writing. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago a second time. A Decent Woman is her debut novel. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children, and she lives in West Virginia.

About the Book 

Ponce, Puerto Rico, at the turn of the century: Ana Belén Opaku, an Afro-Cuban born into slavery, is a proud midwife with a tempestuous past. After testifying at an infanticide trial, Ana is forced to reveal a dark secret from her past, but continues to hide an even more sinister one. Pitted against the parish priest, Padre Vicénte, and young Doctór Héctor Rivera, Ana must battle to preserve her twenty-five year career as the only midwife in La Playa.

Serafina is a respectable young widow with two small children, who marries an older wealthy merchant from a distinguished family. A crime against Serafina during her last pregnancy forever bonds her to Ana in an ill-conceived plan to avoid a scandal and preserve Serafina’s honor.

Set against the combustive backdrop of a chauvinistic society, where women are treated as possessions, A Decent Woman is the provocative story of these two women as they battle for their dignity and for love against the pain of betrayal and social change.

Find out more on Amazon.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your debut novel, A Decent Woman. What was your inspiration for it? 

A: Thanks so much for your kind words and for the opportunity for this author interview, Mayra. My historical novel, A Decent Woman is my love letter to the island of my birth, Puerto Rico. I was inspired to write the book by my Puerto Rican grandmother’s stories about her Afro-Caribbean midwife, Ana, who caught my mother, two aunts, and my uncle. The lack of information about the history of Puerto Rican women in American history textbooks also inspired me to write this book. I researched non-fiction books written about the complex lives of women in colonial Puerto Rico, and was also inspired by my interviews of daughters of Puerto Rican women born in that era.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist. 

A: Ana is a tenacious, gritty, feisty, Afro-Cuban midwife, born into slavery, who mysteriously arrived on the shores of Puerto Rico in the middle of the night at age twenty. Alongside her positive characteristics, Ana is suspicious of strangers, stubborn, distrustful of men and authority, and she is hiding a secret from her past. She also practices the Yoruba traditions of her Nigerian ancestors, which involves praying to the ancestors and to gods and goddesses.

BOOK COVER SEPT 2014 (2) (1)Q: What was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way? 

A: I wrote A Decent Woman in six months. The words came quickly, but the editing and research took nearly three years! Six months before the book was published, I met my current editor and she was incredibly helpful to me and the story. She challenged me to change the ending and remove male POV—it was a great idea.

Oh yes, I faced many bumps! Before I signed with Booktrope Publishing, I’d queried 100 agents for two years. There were many agents interested in my book, but in the end, they thought an historical novel about an Afro-Cuban midwife would be tough to sell. I wasn’t deterred; I kept at it and finally went the hybrid publisher route, which is between traditional and Indie publishing. I’m very happy where I am, and have several projects lined up with Booktrope—a happy ending for me after quite a journey.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel? 

A: I live in my head, and use all the senses when I describe the sights, smells, texture, and sounds of a scene or a character. There must be momentum in a story, no stagnant places where nothing is happening, to keep the excitement moving forward, and the reader turning the pages.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it? 

A: I didn’t experience any anxiety whatsoever with my debut novel, but I am experiencing a bit now with my second historical novel. I handle it by reminding myself of what I’ve accomplished, how difficult it was to get published, and how fortunate I am to have a great publisher and publishing team. I psyche myself out is what I do; I talk to myself, and calm down with prayer, meditation, and a good night’s sleep. Taking writing breaks to garden and play with my pets also helps me.

Q: What is your writing schedule like, and how do you balance it with your other work and family time? 

A: I am a single lady, and my two wonderful adult kids are out of my nest, doing wonderful things in the world, so I have a lot of free time. In 2010, I left my job and moved to West Virginia to write full time. It was a bit like falling off a cliff, but it was the best thing I’ve done post-kids.

I wake up between 8 and 9 every morning. I write in my journal and tackle social media and answer emails until noon. I take a long lunch break, walk the dog, check in with social media, and begin working on my work in progress around 2 in the afternoon until dinner time. After dinner, I get organized, turn off the phone, select favorite music to write by, and write until I can’t see any more. It’s very common for my best writing to come between 10pm-2 am.

Q: How do you define success?

A: I like this quote by Orison Swett Marden – “When a man feels throbbing within him, the power to do what he undertakes as well as it can possibly be done, this is happiness, this is success.” I feel the same way about success. I feel blessed to do what I’m passionate about—writing, and the opportunity to write full time makes me very happy, every day.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author? 

A: I was a social worker and a counselor for a few years, so my advice would be to have an honest talk with the spouse or partner about personal needs and dreams. If nothing changes, a good look into the marriage or relationship would be necessary, and a realistic look at the writer’s commitment to writing. It’s a long haul for most of us. Every marriage and relationship is different, so I won’t generalize. Personally, I’d have to move on because I was a painter for 25 years and I write novels; I’ve always lived a creative life. Life is too short to live with someone who doesn’t support my dreams.

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing, if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree? 

A: Yes, I agree. Orwell is correct, once you’re in the process of writing a book, it’s an intense, exhausting experience. But highly satisfying at the same time! Writers must be a bit nuts. I am obsessed with writing, and there aren’t many things I love more than writing.

I started out as a painter, and I painted and exhibited for 25 years before discovering a passion for writing books. When the paint brush could no longer express all I had inside, I turned to words.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers? 

A:  A Decent Woman is now available on Amazon.

and I love hearing from my readers, so please visit me at my website http://www.eleanorparkersapia.com and at my writing blog http://www.thewritinglifeeparker.wordpress.com

Thanks so much, Mayra! I’ve enjoyed my time with you today.

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