DA Kentner writes the column THE READERS' WRITERS for the (Freeport) Journal-Standard and GateHouse News Service. My alter ego KevaD lives under a stairway of dreams where he writes stories and grumbles about everything. Click the pic to visit KevaD's blog.
Drop me a line at dakentner@yahoo.com

I invite you to read my award-winning short story posted on Calliope Magazine's web site.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Michael Bungay Stanier and "End Malaria"

Years, even months, ago, television imprinted on our minds images of children suffering and dying from malaria, and how something as simple as mosquito netting over their beds could be the difference between life and death. And we donated. But time passes, our attention is yanked to the nonstop barrage of other images and news thrust upon us daily, and we go on about our lives. Meanwhile, mothers continue to helplessly and hopelessly watch their children die from a disease rarely discussed within our own nation.

Sixty-two business leaders and authors came together with one common purpose – to continue the struggle, the fight, to wipe out malaria. As writers read by the business community around the world, these individuals united their literary voices into the book "End Malaria: Bold Innovation, Limitless Generosity, and the Opportunity to Save a Life."

Spearheaded by Michael Bungay Stanier, Senior Partner of Box of Crayons, a company that helps organizations do less Good Work and more Great Work, and published by Seth Godin and the Domino Project (a new outlook in publishing powered by Amazon.com), "End Malaria" isn’t a book about malaria or the tragedies this deadly disease inflicts. The authors are business people, not doctors or scientists. They write and talk about methods to improve our daily lives. So, that's what they did. Only this time, their singular profit is seeing the proceeds from this book go toward helping children live.
End Malaria Day Link

An anthology on self-improvement, the articles in "End Malaria" range from "Dream Backward to Move Forward" to "The Importance of Failure" to "How Can We Do More, Feel Better, Live Longer?" to "Permission to be Funny." They wrote about us, every one of us, and what we can do for ourselves. And by gleaning from their professional insight, we save children's lives.
The Domino Project
Box of Crayons

Q) Mr. Bungay Stanier, considering all the causes and organizations in the world, why was malaria efforts selected as the group's focus?

A) I did quite a bit of research across various global issues - hunger, water, disease. What I found was $10 - the price of a mosquito net - is the cheapest unit of global change. Part of what's wonderful about the 'End Malaria' book is that when you buy a book, $20 - enough for a net and further support for life saving work - goes to the organization Malaria No More.

Q) How difficult, or easy, was it for sixty-two well-respected writers to come together for "End Malaria"?

A) It was remarkably easy to get people to agree to participate - more than 90% of those I asked said yes, and once we had a core of great writers the project had credibility and momentum. Tracking down all the contributions once they'd said yes? That was a little trickier. However, it turns out that I'm an excellent nagger and everyone came through in the end.

Q) The Domino Project utilizes the concept of passing ideas from one person to the next. How effective and/or efficient has the Domino Project been in marketing "End Malaria"?

A) As you say, The Domino Project relies on good ideas spreading, and one of the main channels for that is through social media. We had hundreds of bloggers writing about the book and an amazing twitter stream on the launch day. The book climbed to #2 on Amazon.com with no "traditional media" support.

Q) Any organized effort has an initial goal or benchmark. Have the expectations for "End Malaria" been reached, and, if so, what is the next goal?

A) We raised more than a quarter of a million dollars for Malaria No More in the first two weeks after the book's launch. We're now encouraging people to buy the book for their colleagues, clients, customers and friends - it makes a fabulous holiday gift.

Q) What is it about the articles in "End Malaria" that the average, non-business minded person would find beneficial?

A) Many of the articles have a relevance beyond just life in business. Some favourites of mine are Derek Sivers' "In a perfect world", Brene Brown's "The Strength of Vulnerability" , Jonah Lehrer's "Don't pay attention" and Gwen Bell's "Unplug". They're all about helping figure out how to live a life that's more meaningful and happier - and then actually living it.

Q) Any parting thoughts for your readers?

A) It's not often you get to buy a book and save a life. You do with 'End Malaria'

Friday, November 18, 2011

NYT and USA Today Best-Selling Author Terri DuLong

Occasionally a writer comes along to remind us all that dreams need not be unfulfilled, and passion cannot be denied.

Terri DuLong wasn't raised in literary circles, never obtained a degree in English or literature. Instead, she married young and had three children, only to later divorce, and later still, find love and remarry. To support herself and her children, Terri went to college and eventually became a registered nurse. She didn't write books, she read them, and, as many of us do, wondered what being a writer might be like.

While a critical care RN, Terri's wonder turned curiosity, and she took a creative writing course. When her husband's job transferred the family to Florida, Terri worked part-time and began writing more. She attended writing workshops and conferences, all the while working to improve her craft. Somewhere in this process, curiosity turned passion. Passion within writers fills pages with their stories. It doesn't matter whether those stories are ever published. You see, publication is a reward for a writer's dedication to their skill and craft, being published is not the fuel that feeds the passion.

After years of rejections, Terri's passion for writing was rewarded. "Spinning Forward," with its subtle, gentle prose, captures the reader's interest like a long-missed relative who stopped by for a visit. The first in the Cedar Key series "Spinning Forward" spun the yarn that binds the continuing novels together. Each is the compelling story of a woman at a crossroads, and the decisions that impact their lives.

Be it "Spinning Forward," "Casting About," or Terri's latest, "Sunrise on Cedar Key," readers are sure to enjoy the homespun stories of women linked by a love of knitting and their indomitable spirits.
Ms. DuLong's Web Site

Q) What inspired knitting as the backdrop for your tales?

A) I had to come up with a job for Sydney, my main character in Spinning Forward. Jobs here on Cedar Key aren’t that plentiful. I wanted her work to be realistic for the island and since I’m an avid knitter, having her open a yarn shop seemed appropriate.

Q) Your writing style reminds me of the old storytellers perched atop a barrel in a dry goods store, spinning their tales of quirky characters, though most of the issues your characters must deal with are very contemporary, and very serious. To what do you credit your unique voice?

A) First of all, thank you for such a nice compliment. I’m not quite sure how to answer this, except to say that I write about issues that touch me emotionally. Issues that other women have possibly encountered, such as self-identity, becoming a step-Mom, mother/daughter relationships, etc. I write from my heart with the hope that a good story will evolve.

Q) The road you traveled to becoming a published author wasn't easy, but you never gave up. Is there a person in your life who served as your personal inspiration or mentor?

A) That would be my parents. My mother inspired my love for reading. She was an avid reader and a great story teller. I was an only child and she always made sure I had plenty of books to keep me company. My dad was a lover of words and taught me the use of a dictionary and how powerful the written word could be. They always encouraged me, supported me and instilled the fact that if I worked hard, I could achieve my goals.

Q) I've heard pistachio cake plays a role in your family Christmases. How did that tradition come about?

A) Back in the sixties, it became a popular recipe and it was my mother who decided that since the cake and frosting were green, it would be nice to have it on Christmas Eve. She made it every year until I took over the tradition and now my daughter makes it every holiday for her family.

Q) Certainly, being an NYT and USA Today Best-Selling author is exciting and a dream fulfilled. However, your adopted hometown of Cedar Key makes sure they have your books on the library's shelves. How did that feel the first time you heard that news?

A) It made me feel grateful. Cedar Key is a very special place but it’s the people that make our community what it is. Since I’m a born and raised Yankee, to be told by the locals that I’ve captured the essence of Cedar Key in my novels is the highest compliment I could receive. I may not be southern, but I’m certainly in my element in this quaint fishing village.

Q) Any parting comments for your readers?

A) I want to deeply thank my readers, and I hope they know how much I appreciate their support with Facebook comments, wonderful emails, and word of mouth recommendations for the Cedar Key Series. I’ve always believed that an author pens the words, but it’s the readers that keep a published author fulfilling her passion.

Thank you very much for inviting me to do this Q&A.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Author Joseph Pittman

Fiction and mystery author Joseph Pittman lives literature. As a professional editor he has worked for several publishers, and with renowned authors such as Stephen King, Joan Collins, and General Norman H. Schwarzkopf, to name a few. A native of the Queens borough of New York, Pittman continues to reside in and around NYC.

In the mystery novel "London Frog," Pittman introduced the world to an oddly magnetic character named Todd Gleason. A petty thief, Gleason walks both sides of society's fence, straddling good and evil in order to pursue champagne tastes. He possesses his own idea of morality, and frequently merges right and wrong into acceptable whenever the need arises. Though not who you would ever want dating your daughter, Gleason is the first person you'd call if she was kidnapped, and Gleason is the first one who would catch that same daughter's eye in a crowded room. The sequel "California Scheming" is due out in January.

But Pittman's writing interests extend well beyond the mystery genre.

"Tilting at Windmills," Pittman's first published novel, is a story of love lost, love found, life renewed, and a windmill that stands watch over the residents of tiny Linden Corners. In "Tilting at Windmills," Pittman left the reader wanting more of Linden Corners and the main characters Brian Duncan and his eight-year-old ward Janey Sullivan. "A Christmas Wish" brings back Brian and Janey in a joyous tale of honoring the past while building a future. "A Christmas Wish" is a heartwarming story of love and Christmas magic. Just make sure you have a box or two of tissues nearby.
Mr. Pittman's Web Site

Q) How did the windmill and Linden Corners come to be?

A) The windmill came to me sort of by mistake. Riding on Amtrak along the Hudson River Valley, I ran across the phrase “tilting at windmills” in the book I was reading. I looked out the window at the river and I began imagining what if there was a windmill out of the window? The Hudson River Valley has a strong Dutch influence, so the idea of a windmill in that area was not out of the question. The story began there.

Q) Writing and editing are intrinsically connected, yet worlds apart. Writers write the story. Editors work to improve that story. As an author/editor, how difficult is it for you to see another editor making/suggesting changes in your story?
A) I’m very structured, both in writing and editing. Each compliment the other, at least in terms of my approach. The secret is keeping the material under control—self editing as you write, narrowing your focus when you edit. Keep the words from getting out of hand and you’ll maintain a better sense of pace.

Q) What first instilled the idea in you that you would like to write a novel?

A) As a know-it-all teenager (what teenager isn’t?), I read a book which I found quite simplistic. I thought: “I could do better.” It was a challenge to myself, and so I began. I wrote five manuscript before “Tilting at Windmills,” so I’ve been working at it for years. “Windmills” just happened to be the one that struck a chord, with an agent and with an editor…and now readers.

Q) Todd Gleason in "London Frog" isn't the average hero. What inspired this character?

A) Having a guy who straddles the legal fence is much more fun to write. He doesn’t always have to do the right thing, but he doesn’t want to go too far either. It’s the moral complexity to makes Todd intriguing—not to mention the dimples that make him attractive. Even though he’s not such a good guy, he’s not a bad guy either. Call him a crook and he’ll correct you. “I’m a sneaky opportunist.” Todd has his demons, but he also has his fun side—though not everyone would agree with that second part.

Q) Since your day is filled with words – editing and writing – how much time do you set aside for reading? And, what do you enjoy reading?

A) I don’t write every day. I tend to go away for a week or two to start a novel, so I can just concentrate on getting to know the characters, the plot, and the twists. Then when I’m back home the book is well under way and I can steal time, mostly nights and weekends, to finish it. I also read a lot. My subway ride to work every day finds me with a book—I like mystery and suspense, thrillers. I read Daniel Silva, Dennis Lehane, Robert Crais, Stephen King, Carl Hiaasen. A real mix. When I’m in the mood for something more quirky, I’m a sucker for John Irving.

Q) Any parting comments for your readers?

A) I’m schizophrenic when it comes to my writing. If you enjoy the feel-good stories of Tilting at Windmills, you may wonder where London Frog came from. Writing is all about experimenting. A forthcoming novel will join my two loves—the small town world of Upstate New York and the mystery genre. But there’s other stuff too—another Linden Corners book, another Todd Gleason mystery, and a few other surprises. I’m having a blast and I hope my readers are too.

Friday, November 4, 2011

NYT and USA Today Best-Selling Author Victoria Alexander

Victoria Alexander exemplifies life lived and enjoyed to its fullest. This charismatic lady with a perpetual smile is a former TV news reporter who viewed all the good and bad this world has to offer, including the time her own husband and other journalists were held hostage by a disturbed man.

Since leaving television, she has seen sixteen of her more than two dozen books hit the New York Times, USA Today and/or Publishers Weekly bestseller lists. "The Perfect Wife" was a NYT #1 bestseller. In 2009 she was given a Career Achievement Award from RT Bookclub and named Historical Storyteller of the year in 2003.

Victoria's stories of love, romance, and intrigue in bygone eras contain the wit, charm, and sometimes quick tongue the author herself possesses. Her heroines know what they want and aren't afraid to go after it, and the heroes are all man. In "The Perfect Mistress," released earlier this year, Victoria unveiled a proper lady who discovers passion is her legacy. But she also introduced some new characters who now have their own story to tell in "His Mistress by Christmas." Widowed Lady Veronica Simpson seeks the boudoir benefits of marriage without the tedious restrictions. Rogue and explorer Sir Sebastian Hadley-Attwater needs a wife in order to ingratiate himself to his family. Oh yeah, there's a collision course if ever there was one.

While Victoria has found a successful formula for her writing, it is the characters who make each offering delightfully entertaining and the story unique from all her other works.

Today Victoria resides in Nebraska with her husband and a bearded collie who enjoys kitchen counter surfing.
Victoria's Web Site

Q) What prompted you to set your stories in the 1800s?

A) Overall, I think the 19th century is far enough in the past to provide a lovely veneer of romance without being so far in the past that contemporary readers can't relate to it.

When I first started reading romance, I fell in love with the Regency period in England. For a fiction writer it was a fabulous time. The Napoleonic Wars were raging through much of that period so you have men of great courage and war heroes and all the drama that accompanies countries during wartime. There was a fascinating social system with unmarried women under strict social rules but those who were married (and had provided an heir) were free to behave almost as they wished. Plus the clothes were gorgeous.

From there, I moved into mid and now late Victorian. It was a period full of progress and, while fairly civilized, also had great potential for adventure. I think it was a fascinating time to be alive. And I love true stories of Victorian exploration and invention.

Q) How do you consistently create characters unlike the ones in your previous tales?

A) Good question and I'm not sure I have an answer!

I hate the idea of writing the same story with the same characters over and over so I put a lot of thought into the stories as well as the characters I create. But honestly, there are so many different facets of people to explore. It's fun to create a heroine who is firmly a woman of her time and would never think of doing anything improper in one book and then in the next, a heroine who has the means and determination to do exactly as she pleases. My next book (My Wicked Little Lies) is about two people who are already married to each other so I got to explore how and why they would keep secrets from each other. I'm working on one now where the heroine is from a family of, well, Victorian gold diggers. They were brought up to believe that one married for position and money. At least the first time.

Trying to make my characters and my stories unique from book to book is a challenge. It means each book is harder to write than the last. As much as I wish it would be easier, I think that's a good thing. It means I keep working and stretching to write the best book I can.

Q) What one thing do you believe has kept readers coming back to your books?

A) Honestly, I think it's simple. I write the kind of book I like to read. I read for enjoyment, to be entertained. I want a book that's going to take me away from real life for a bit and, hopefully make me laugh or at least smile.

I don’t like writing a lot of angst. As a reporter, I saw way too much tragedy in real life. I'd much rather make readers smile than cry.

And I think there are a lot of people out there like me. Deep down inside, I'm pretty run-of-the-mill ordinary.

Q) "His Mistress by Christmas" is a bit of a departure for you due to its holiday theme. Will we see more holiday inspired novels from you?

A) Absolutely! I'm already working on one for next year called What Happens at Christmas. I love writing Christmas books and actually I do have a couple of novellas (Promises to Keep and Shakespeare and the Three Kings) and two previous books with Christmas themes—A Visit from Sir Nicholas and the reissue of Believe was rewritten a bit to incorporate a Christmas setting.

I think Christmas is a wonderful time of year to set a story. Aside from the obvious holiday festivities it is an innately magical time when anything can happen, when miracles happen. And what is more miraculous than falling in love?

Q) During my preparation for this interview, I encountered several Internet piracy sites offering your books for free. What is your opinion of book piracy?

A) Well, I think it theft. Writing isn't a hobby for me—it's my job. It's what provides my income. If my books are being pirated, that cuts into my income. If I can't make a living—I can't afford to write. There's a fantasy out there that anyone who is published is fabulously wealthy. Trust me—I'm not.

We're all very used to everything on the internet being free. I think the people who download my books would never dream of walking into a bookstore and taking a book without paying. They would see that as stealing. For some reason, they don’t see piracy as stealing. But piracy is theft, it's just a different format.

Q) Any parting thoughts for your readers?

A) I've started a new family series called Sinful Family Secrets that centers around the Hadley-Attwater family and their friends and connections. His Mistress by Christmas introduces the family and in the notes section of my website (www.victoriaalexander.com) there's a section where the matriarch introduces the family. “Meet the Hadley-Attwaters” is in the Ladies for Tea format I started in the continuing short story at the end of the Last Man Standing books. This is a format in which I invite characters into my living room for tea and a chat. And we have a great time!

I'd also like to thank my readers for liking my work. It's really a thrill to know that there are people who like what you pour your heart and soul into who aren't related to you.

And I should tell them I have a lot more stories left to write!