Wednesday, January 16, 2019

How do you start a book?


Lynn Takacs asked this question, via Facebook, regarding a photo of me holding up three of my paperbacks, “How did you start out on each one?”
Well Lynn, that’s a bigger question than it appears. Naturally, I’ve been writing stuff for most of my life, but my first book was Counterpart. Of course each book has its mental launching point. That being said each one is unique.
For Counterpart, I actually had a super intense dream. Maybe another person would call it a nightmare… you decide. I was at the mall. I’d gone to pick up a friend who worked in a jewelry store. It was one of those posh, quiet stores with the whooshing glass doors. While I waited for to get off work a man came in a demanded a “Box.” The owner said no and got shot. Chaos ensued with my friend screaming bloody murder. I bravely crawled over to the owner (amazing how brave we can be in dreams!). He thrust the box into my hands and told me to run. So I did. I dashed across the parking lot amidst a shower of bullets, scrambled over a fence, hurtled obstacles, could hear the chase, and somehow I ended up in a ramshackle rundown neighborhood. Spotting an abandoned house, I dashed through the broken front door and ran up the steps to the top floor—the attic. I can still remember how I could hear the blood pounding in my ears in that dream. Suddenly a little old woman’s voice broke the silence as she simply said, “Hello.” It scared me so bad, I woke up. I got up and went into my office and wrote it all down. That’s the first chapter of Counterpart, more-or-less. It took years for me to finish that book because I was working full time as a physical therapist.
The next book, El Tiburon, was a combination of things. First I ran into a constant question… How’s Sport and Sean doing? Are they having any new adventures? I hadn’t anticipated the popularity of these characters, especially Sport (she’s a feisty, tiny physician—athletic and hypoglycemic—she became a favorite). The second impetus was a visit to Guatemala. This was the first time I’d heard of the Guajeros (the inhabitants living at the garbage dump in Guatemala City). I’m a studier of people, obviously, and I began researching their plight. I became enamored with their bravery. At the same time I fell in love with the ancient city of Antigua. We stayed a month. So this all describes the background, but the starting point was sitting down to the laptop and typing. I had no idea what the story was going to be about… actually didn’t know what the story was about most of the time. I’ve had many readers ask how I create so much suspense? LOL… It’s because I’m in suspense as the author!
In The Crossfire of Revenge was Joe’s idea. He actually wrote the first chapter. I altered it considerably, but in essence it’s his chapter, actually half the chapter. He had great ideas and input for this story about a youth group going on a short-term mission trip. He’s been on several as a chaperone, and he’s been to Colombia a couple of times with a men’s group. I combined his knowledge of Colombia with my knowledge of the jungle in Costa Rica to create the scenes. This story is a coming of age story for the eight teenagers. It starts with an attempted kidnapping of the youth pastor and four of the kids. Then the group escapes into the jungle with the aid of the local church. Sean and Sport McGee are the chaperones. Naturally no one but Sport knows Sean is a CIA agent. With this book I had to research jungle survival, and thanks to Jesse Smith at River City Christian I learned how a large church would typically handle this kind of catastrophe.
Please ask questions using any means you feel like using. I will post your question here.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Do I need an ISBN?


Periodically I get questions from people on social media. I try to answer them immediately. Recently I realized these are good questions and as I get repeatedly asked the same question, I'm guessing they are relevant. So, if you're interested in this crazy world of writing, stay tuned.

Musti asked via Instagram;
“Quick question: I am about to finish my manuscript and wanted to self publish it through Amazon. Do I register somewhere the title? Do I need an ISBN? And how do I get one? Merci.”

Let’s start with the first sentence. Congratulations on your manuscript being almost completed. You’re wise to ask these questions now. I will answer your questions in a brutally honest way because I want a large audience of readers to benefit from it. If I’m reading this correctly, you haven’t actually finished the manuscript (though it’s possible you mean you’re just putting the finishing touches on it). If that’s the case, then you’re a long ways from done. In this new world of indie publishing, the bar is set much higher for the author. We no longer have a publisher to hold our hands, edit and polish our work, or to tell us it won’t sell… no marketability. The manuscript has to be excellent only because that’s what you want. You can publish garbage. That worked ten years ago, but now the readers have caught on. They pay attention to reviews. Now we have to take a good long look at our books first. (I plan to answer the question of ‘How do I get my book ready on my own’ at a later date.)

Do I register somewhere the title?

Art of any sort is protected and doesn’t need to be registered. That includes fiction. However, that being said, I would register your manuscript if it’s a manual, guide, or advice/self help work. The only reason I say that is the titles need to be unique with that type of work. Lots of people can come up with the same guidebook or manual.
Fiction is not the same. Plus you have your computer date imprint on the file. If somebody says, “Hey, that’s the book I wrote!” you have proof on your computer. I periodically email myself the file to establish the date, ownership, and to preserve it in the cloud. Of course I also keep my work on an external hard drive in my safe. All of these have dates that point to you being the owner.

Do I need an ISBN?

Yep! Each and every book out there must have an ISBN, otherwise the powers-that-be wouldn’t be able to track them and their sales, etc.. Actually according to Smashwords, each format should have its own ISBN—e-book, paperback, and audiobook. However, Amazon doesn’t agree. They don’t mind if you use your ISBN from Smashwords… I know because I accidentally did it. I wrote to them in a panic, and they wrote back saying it didn’t matter to them.

And how do I get one?

There are places to purchase an ISBN, but why would you do that? Amazon and Smashwords provide you with a free one. Those two are pretty much the entire market. Amazon sells to all Kindle readers and Amazon customers. Smashwords sells to every reading-device everywhere, including Kindle and distributes to all the large e-book sites like Apple. As you go through the steps to upload your book to KDP Amazon, or to Smashwords, the instructions will ask you if you want their free ISBN. Don’t worry, you won’t miss it. The site won’t move forward until one is provided.


Good luck and keep the questions coming via FB, Instagram, this blog, or Goodreads. I'll post the answers here, but I'll try to answer them specific to your situation privately.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

A Little Background on El Tiburon

Guatemala
El Tiburon (The Shark) was the second of the McGee spy series. The main characters, Sean and Sport, have a knack for getting in trouble. Quite honestly, they are fun to write about… Especially Sport. She is a feisty, athletic, physician, and she can usually take care of herself. She’s extremely independent, but when she is kidnapped by a drug boss and dragged south to Guatemala she must depend on others to survive.
She escapes the drug lord’s compound and hides in a garbage can. On garbage collection day. The garbage collectors toss her into the dump truck and haul her off to the Guatemala City Garbage Dump. She’s rescued by a group of Guajeros.
This is where the research became intense.
Let me give some background. My husband and I have been to Guatemala several times. In fact we’ve had a seven-month long exchange pastor. What’s that? Periodically churches will send a junior pastor to the states to make connections and to learn new things (and teach us new things). We are known for our spare room. I’ve lost count of how many people have lived at our home in the last thirty years. So Marvin came for seven months followed by his sister Karina for four months. We flew to Guatemala for Marvin’s wedding, in which we were the God-parents (a big deal in Guate). Each time we’ve gone we’ve stayed for a month to go to language school, and to loaf around as only Americans can do. As I write this, Karina—my Guatemalan ‘daughter’, is sitting across from me at my kitchen table. She came for a Christmas visit.
So I know Guatemala fairly well. El Tiburon takes place in Antigua, a town I know. The wine bar, Mexican restaurant (not to be confused with Guatemalan food), the textile shops, the rock-n-roll bar, are all real places. So research was easy for Antigua.
The garbage dump is a different story. This is a tremendously sad story of a people group who’ve lived for generations inside the dump, subsiding off the refuse and money from recyclable garbage. Their homes are made of discarded metal sheets and wood sticks.
Last count there were about eleven thousand people living there… six thousand of whom are children. Now the research had to kick into high gear. The Guatemalan government isn’t proud of this community. Many years ago a magazine did a story on these people and there was a general uproar from human rights activists around the world. The result? The government built a wall through the dump to separate the Guajeros from their dump. Now the government can honestly say, “No people live in the dump!” So they crawl through the fence and resume their work. The community is officially called La Limonada. It is extremely difficult to go there and help these people. To visit you must have a guide, which I couldn’t manage.
My story celebrates the strength of the Guajeros. I chose to make them the heroes and characters with integrity. They rescue and protect Sport. In exchange she provides medical attention and education. The little school, Vidas Plenas, is real, but I’ve never been there so its description is a figment of my imagination. Their struggle is real. The harvesting of their youth for gangs is real. Their medical issues are real. I don’t know that I’ve ever enjoyed writing about a group more in my life. It was incredibly challenging to place my main character there.
Currently there are several groups working with the Guajeros. There is much to be done, but it’s almost impossible to help them. The best way is to provide education and continue the fight against drugs. It makes me sad to think of the reality. The only way I could make the situation known was through my story-telling. Let me know what you think after you read El Tiburon.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

COUNTERPART goes Paperback and Audio!

I have good news! COUNTERPART is now available as an audiobook. If you've never signed up with Audible I have even better news... you can get COUNTERPART free when you sign up for the first time. Here's the link Counterpart as audiobook.
Great news #2... COUNTERPART is available as a paperback now. This has been my dream since I published it back in 2011, but I refused to buy 500 copies to sit in my garage. Now thanks to Createspace (now merged with Amazon's KDP) you can buy my book, they print it, and then it's shipped to you. Isn't that crazy?
This is exciting for me on several fronts. COUNTERPART is my first published novel. This is where I introduce the much loved characters; Sean McGee and Sport Warrick. This devilish duo was a blast to write about. They are intense, funny, smart, have anger management issues, and they are stuck together--24/7. The conspiracy unravels as they run for their lives, always one step ahead of their enemies.
The Russian accents are handled masterfully by Voice-Over expert, Jim Foster. His interview can be found here. I interviewed him after he narrated my second novel, EL TIBURON. In that case he nailed the Spanish accent. Foster even gives the meowing felines personality! He's done many audiobooks and you can check those out here: All books narrated by Foster.
If you are interested in reading my second book in the McGee series, EL TIBURON, you can get it at Amazon also as an audiobook, ebook, or paperback.
As for me, you can follow me on Instagram and Facebook, or you can check out my blog: A Dashing Bold Adventure

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Pamela Ackerson Interview


H. Schussman interviews Pamela Ackerson:

Heidi~
First, Pamela, I have to say I am excited about this interview. You are a tremendous help to the writing community. So, tell us a little about yourself.
Pamela~
I'm a wife, mother, bestselling author, and time traveler. Living on the Space Coast of Florida, I follow the areas mantra "Reach for the Stars." I'm also the V.P. Marketing and Advertising director at Affaire de Coeur Magazine.

Heidi~
What genre do you write?
Pamela~
I'm a multi-genre author. I love history, so almost all of my books have historically accurate information. I write sci-fi, time travel, historical fiction, non-fiction, and children's stories.

Heidi~
When did you start writing?
Pamela~
I started writing at a very young age. I entered a short story contest at the age of sixteen. It took first place in my age category and was published in a sci-fi magazine. I took a short break from writing and about twenty years ago I decided I wanted to write books.

Heidi~
What are you working on now?
Pamela~
I'm writing a time travel stand alone which has a small, wet your appetite taste of romance to it. It's a bit of a cozy mystery with the two main characters searching for a serial murderer.

Heidi~
Who is your favorite character in your stories?
Pamela~
My favorite character is from the Wilderness series and is actually a real person, Sitting Bull. The other would be Jennifer Standing Deer from book 5 of the Wilderness series. I still shake my head at her and face-palm. She's a trip. LOL

Heidi~
Do you see yourself in any of your characters?
Pamela~
I think there's a little bit of me in all my characters.

Heidi~
Where do you write? Describe your workspace?
Pamela~
I write best on my screen porch. We're surrounded by trees and have a 3 acre property full of animals. I do have an office that I write in, especially when I need to get lost in the story and seriously concentrate without interruptions.

Heidi~
Who are your all-time favorite authors?
Pamela~
Oh boy, so many... Ms. Rowling. Isaac Asimov, M. Night Shyamalan, Jude Devereaux, Catherine Kean, Kat Martin, Jodi Thomas ( I really could keep going)

Heidi~
Did you find writing a query letter a challenge? If so, how did you overcome it? Do you think there was a key phrase or idea in your query letter?
Pamela~
Oh dear. The dreaded query letter. It's my kryptonite.  Fortunately, I had someone take my query letters that I had been sending to publishers, destroy them, rewrote them for me and tada, I was with a publisher. Now, years later, honestly, I'm still horrible at it.

Heidi~
What advice do you have for a writer aspiring to be published?
Pamela~
Don't give up. Start working on promoting yourself as soon as you decide you want to publish. If you can, attend workshops and small conferences. Get it professionally edited before you send it out. The publisher will still edit it, but as an aspiring author, you need to stand out and look as professional as possible.

Heidi~
Would you like to acknowledge someone for their help/assistance/faith in you/etc?
Pamela~
My husband. He's cheered me on and encouraged me from the very beginning.

Heidi~
How can your readers learn more about you and your books?
Pamela~
There are several places where you can find me. I love hearing from my readers.
home page:  www.PamelaAckerson.com

The magazine: www.AffairedeCoeur.com

Friday, October 6, 2017

Carmela Martino Interview

Carmela Martino
 
Heidi~
First, Carmela, tell us a little about yourself.
Carmela~
I’m a novelist, freelance writer, and writing teacher. I have an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and I’ve taught writing classes at the local community college since 1998. I also teach summer writing camps for ages 9-12, which is great fun. I was born and raised in Chicago and now live in the suburbs. Like the main character in my first novel, Rosa, Sola, I’m the daughter of Italian immigrants.

Heidi~
What genre do you write?
Carmela~
My new novel, Playing by Heart, is a young-adult historical romance that is also inspirational. My middle-grade novel is also historical as far as kids are concerned (it’s set in 1960s Chicago), but I’ve also had contemporary stories and poems for teens and tweens published in anthologies. And I freelance by writing nonfiction articles for adults. For example, I’ll have two in the 2018 edition of the Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market.


Heidi~
When did you start writing?
Carmela~
In sixth or seventh grade. I started out writing poetry and keeping a journal. (Oh, how I wish I'd saved those journals!) I was published for the first time around age sixteen, when my seven-line poem, “My Sanctuary,” appeared in an anthology of creative writing by Chicago public school students. The thrill of seeing my writing—and my name!—in print inspired me to dream of being a professional writer.

Heidi~
You have a new release. Tell us about it.
Carmela~
Playing by Heart is a historical romance inspired by two amazing sisters who lived in 18th-century Milan and who were far ahead of their time—one was a mathematician, the other a composer. Unfortunately, they had a domineering father who put his ambitions ahead of their happiness. The conflict in the novel centers on how the sisters strive to follow the paths they believe God wants them to take while their father tries to use their incredible gifts to advance himself to nobility. The story is from the younger sister’s (the composer’s) point of view. Here’s a summary:

“Emilia Salvini dreams of marrying a man who loves music as she does. But in 18th-century Milan, being the ‘second sister’ means she'll likely be sent to a convent instead. Emilia's only hope is to prove her musical talents crucial to her father's quest for nobility. First, though, she must win over her music tutor, who disdains her simply for being a girl. Too late, Emilia realizes that her success could threaten not only her dreams for her future but her sister's very life.”

I LOVE the tagline the publisher came up with for the cover: “She could compose anything . . . except the life she wanted.”  In fact, I love the whole cover. I’d seen pictures of it early on but when I held the book for the first time, it was even more beautiful than I expected.

The publisher also came up with a great ad that includes excerpts from the Booklist review of the book. You can see it at: https://youtu.be/IVUxM3CwgJs

Heidi~
What are you working on now?
Carmela~
I’d really like to write a companion/sequel to Playing by Heart. Right now, though, I’m working on a short story set in the same time and place as Playing by Heart that I plan to submit to an anthology.

Heidi~
Who is your favorite character in your stories?
Carmela~
Wow! That’s like asking who’s your favorite child. I have to say I love them all, each in their own way. 😊

Heidi~
Do you see yourself in any of your characters?
Carmela~
My first novel, Rosa, Sola, was loosely based on an event from my own childhood, so the main character, Rosa, and I have a lot in common. But when I was working on that story, I made sure there were significant differences between us. I wanted the book to be Rosa’s story, not my story.

Heidi~
Where do you write? Describe your workspace?
Carmela~
I converted a bedroom into an office. I have a desk for my computer, lots of bookshelves, and an old kitchen table that I use for my work surface. The table comes in handy when I’m pouring over books for research. Note: the photo I’ve provided was taken several years ago. I’ve updated my monitor and computer from the big old clunky ones you see.

Heidi~
Who are your all-time favorite authors?
Carmela~
I have too many to list! But one of my all-time favorite books is Pride and Prejudice, so Jane Austen is definitely on the list. When it comes to middle-grade and young-adult fiction, Katherine Paterson is another favorite. She’s probably best known for Bridge to Terabithia, which is an excellent book, but my favorite of hers is The Great Gilly Hopkins. It was recently made into a lovely movie starring Julia Stiles, Glenn Close, Kathy Bates, and Octavia Spencer.

Heidi~
What advice do you have for a writer aspiring to be published?
Carmela~
I tell beginning writers to Read! Read! Read! I think we learn best by studying what others have done. When I was in grad school struggling with how to weave backstory into my novel, my teacher gave me some great advice. She suggested I take a paperback copy of a novel I admired and use a highlighting pen to highlight the backstory. That was a real eye-opener! The book I chose was Katherine Paterson’s The Great Gilly Hopkins. I was amazed to discover she wove backstory throughout the novel, even in one of the last chapters! Before that, I thought you had to provide all the backstory right at the beginning.

Another bit of advice: write what you like to read. Don’t try to write a dystopian novel just because you think that genre sells easily. When you enjoy what you’re writing, it shows. And the reader will enjoy it, too.

Heidi~
Would you like to acknowledge someone for their help/assistance/faith in you/etc?
Carmela~
My husband has been very supportive. He’s an engineer and doesn’t read fiction himself, so he doesn’t really understand my love of writing. Yet, he’s never pushed me to go out and get a “real job,” as some of my friends’ husbands have done. He also happily plays chauffeur and assistant, driving me to speaking engagements when they’re far from home and helping with book sales.

Heidi~
How can your readers learn more about you and your books?
Carmela~ 
First off, I want to thank you for hosting this interview, Heidi, and for kicking off the Playing by Heart Blog Tour, which runs Oct. 6-Oct. 16. The tour includes the opportunity to win a copy of the novel, too! So, I invite your readers to visit this page of my website for the links to all the tour stops and to enter the giveaway:


And for chances to win not only Playing by Heart but seven other great books, they can participate in my virtual Launch Party on Facebook, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 7-9 p.m. Central Time. There will be giveaways every 15 minutes, so readers need not attend the whole 2 hours to win a prize! See details here: www.facebook.com/events/1926037200756000

You can also find more about me and my books at:
I’m also part of a group blog by six authors who are also writing teachers: www.teachingauthors.com

To watch a 45 second trailer for Playing by Heart, see: https://youtu.be/IVUxM3CwgJs

Finally, as my characters in Playing by Heart would say, arrivederci (until we meet again), Everyone!
And mille grazie (thanks very much) to you, Heidi!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

PLAYING BY HEART, by Carmela Martino

Playing by Heart by Carmela Martino
Published by Vinspire Publishing, LLC/Ingram 9/30/17
Genre: Young Adult Romance.
Review by H. Schussman (Author)
5 stars
I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Reader’s Point of View:
Well, I’m certainly not a young adult, but I do enjoy YA novels. I prefer to read old literary classics or YA because I find them unencumbered with the modern twist on romance. This book fulfills both of these to perfection. The historical setting of Milan is secondary compared to the setting within the household of the Salvini’s. Some things are timeless, and Carmela Martino masterfully intertwines the teen angst with the beauty of music and science.

As a young adult, you will be drawn into the seeming hopelessness of Maria and Emilia’s fate. The desires of these brilliant girls are all but ignored. The family is torn by grief, yet they persevere. As you read you will find yourself hurriedly flipping the pages to find out if Emmi gets to marry her true love, and does Maria get to follow her calling to do something her father disdains.

The fashions, the palaces, even the hairdos of the nobility in 1700’s era Italy are fun and interesting. The gossipy nobles keep it light and entertaining. I love Milan, and have friends who are Milanese, so it was fun to read about things I’d seen in museums while visiting.

I highly recommend this book to adults also. It is a lovely read.

Writers POV:
Excellent book. It is geared toward the YA only in that it is about young adults. Otherwise it is written with sophisticated language. The sentence structure varies in length to fit the mood being portrayed. I felt Martino did a good job of making this a suspenseful romance… not because she is dropping sexual innuendos, but because she creates tension within the various couples. The father is well handled. I wanted to hate him, but he somehow seemed too human and conflicted to blame him for his selfish decisions. I’m glad she didn’t follow the real father of this historical family.


Clearly a lot of research went into this novel. The historical details aren’t shouted at the reader, but are delicately interwoven into the fabric of the story. Brava Carmela Martino!