DIY Amends + A. Bailey’s Book Sites + Pod43: L. Akiyama Published

Award-winning contemporary romance writer Andrya Bailey scouts a site in Athens.
Award-winning contemporary romance writer Andrya Bailey scouts a site in Athens.

How I Got Published (Big Time) by Lance Akiyama Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Books #Publishing #Learning #Crafts Have you published a book? Lance Akiyama got a big publishing house to put out four of his. Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Intro to today’s topic and guest 1:05 How I Got Published (Big Time) by Lance Akiyama My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About my own novels in progress. Lance Akiyama Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Lance Akiyama. Cover of one of his books, “Duct Tape Engineer.” — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Apologies in advance to you, dear reader, if this post’s intro is choppy with the rawness of my jangled nerves. The writing that follows (by the way, here’s about my novels-in-progress) won’t involve names or pertinent exposing facts — it’s just me trying to eek some good out of something upsetting. Scant hours ago, right after I’d taken a shower, someone apologized for a terrible thing they did to me a long ago. Now I could use another shower.

How to give an apology in 3 easy steps:

  1. Don’t phone your victim… er hem person… to do it unless there’s plenty of time to converse.  Don’t ask if they’ve got time to talk and if they only have ten minutes, just sob and blow through it. Not if you’re sincere about wanting to help the other person rather than merely unburden yourself.
  2. Stay humble and on-topic. Don’t tell them how terrible you feel for all the bad turns you assume resulted in their life from the bad thing you did. Neither inflate your importance, nor imply the person is living a messed up life — that’s not apologizing, it’s condescending.
  3. Remember you’re apologizing to help (or should be) the person you wronged. Don’t bother if your mind is on simply assuaging your own guilt.

7 more steps can show you mean it:

  1. Heed #1 above by listening to their response with an open heart and mind.
  2. Get to the point without the person having to dig for what you are referring to.
  3. You can ask them if there’s something they’d like from you.
  4. Better yet, say you wish you’d never done it and you’ll never (I hope) do it again to them or anyone else.
  5. Don’t get angry back if they get angry.
  6. Don’t later contradict your apology in any way, shape, or form.

I get that apologies are difficult and messy. Of course, I accepted this one and am grateful for it. Still, now I feel bad for feeling bad…

How have apologies made you feel?…

Today’s guest is award-winning contemporary romance writer Andrya Bailey. Since childhood, she yearned for the writing life. Years of writing later, she entered a manuscript contest. No, she didn’t win the actual competition. However, she won by having a novel she later self-published! A poetry book followed, and so did short stories, anthologies, journals, more contests, and a romance trilogy. Today she’s published by one of the 5th best publishing houses in Houston, and a press in Greece!

Researching Location for Contemporary Fiction Books by Andrya Bailey

When I started writing a romance trilogy, I knew that, since one character was Greek, the couple would eventually end up in Greece. I hadn’t been to Greece yet, even though it was a place I’d always dreamed of.

Poseidon Temple in Cape Sounion, Greece, another location I researched for Olympian Heartbreak: Book 2. Photo by Andrya Bailey.
Poseidon Temple in Cape Sounion, Greece, another location I researched for Olympian Heartbreak: Book 2. Photo by Andrya Bailey.

I knew I’d have to resort to internet research to describe the locations for the contemporary tale.

The primary location of the first book was Houston, TX, where I live.

San Antonio, TX, where novelist Andrya Bailey lives, features prominently in Olympian Passion: Book 1.
San Antonio, TX, where novelist Andrya Bailey lives, features prominently in Olympian Passion: Book 1.

As the book progressed, I recognized that being onsite gave me an advantage on how to describe the places. Instead of doing research on the internet, visiting a place you’re writing about brings forth senses you otherwise wouldn’t notice. For example: smells, sounds, sights and the total atmosphere which you can’t fully capture if you’re just looking at pictures. It also brings forth the emotions you feel and can instill in your characters. Thus, more “show” rather than “tell” in your story.

The primary location of the second book was Athens. When I took a trip to Greece, I had already finished the manuscript but it wasn’t published yet. It was a great opportunity to test the research I did online. I wanted to see if what I described was up to par with the actual places.

The research had been great. But seeing the places in person – it’s a cliché here – “it was priceless”. Did I change anything after the trip? Yes. Once I experienced firsthand the colors, sounds, tastes, the culture and personalities, it was easier to edit the story to reflect those senses. Not only that, but some details that may not be observable while researching online. For example, in one chapter, our Greek hero takes his beloved to a specific restaurant. She’s presented with a menu in Greek and, not being able to read Greek, she asks him to order whatever he thinks she’d like. When I went to that same restaurant, though, I noticed the menu was both in English and Greek. This is the case for most of the restaurants in big cities, such as Athens. So, I changed the narrative to reflect that. Since the choices on the menu overwhelmed her, she asked her hero to choose whatever he thought she’d like. The outcome was the same, but the detail was important enough to ensure she could read the menu in English. It all came to accuracy.

Andrya researched Koulos Fort in Crete her Olympian Love: Book 3.
Andrya researched Koulos Fort in Crete her Olympian Love: Book 3.

Here’s an excerpt of when the heroine arrives at the airport in Athens, according to my experience (from Olympian Heartbreak):

“As we stepped out of the airport terminal into the passenger pickup area to wait for our transportation to the hotel, smog and fumes from the hectic Athens’ traffic assaulted me. A hot, humid breeze carried along the sounds of car horns, police whistles, sirens, blasting radios, and tumultuous voices speaking a language I didn’t understand. Compact cars in the convoluted traffic and harried pedestrians smoking and talking on their cells completed this assault on my senses. Not what I had expected Athens to be like. It was overwhelming in an exotic way. I inhaled and took in the myriad of colors, sounds, and smells as a welcome change which would only enrich my life. And I hoped to have my god waiting for me at the other side of this archaeologically modern rainbow.”

I was fortunate to travel before the book publication. According to my travel experience, I edited the location details to make them more accurate. And I’m thankful we can resort to online research and books to find out more about the subject we’re writing about when traveling is not possible. 

There’s another valuable and important resource to ensure accuracy while describing places we haven’t been to or can’t travel to. You can ask a person from the country for their feedback when in doubt about the cultural and local traditions. Finding a reliable local source can be of utmost importance to understand how their behavior can be exhibited in certain settings. I looked for local Greek teachers and historians to proofread the manuscripts. It ensured an accurate portrayal not only of their country and culture but also of their people. As a result, a Greek publisher accepted the trilogy for publication. Their editors were very pleased with the way I represented their country and culture in the story.

Although it can be costly and time-consuming, onsite and in person research can greatly enhance your perception of the place you’re writing about, and you’ll also have wonderful memories of a great vacation (and an excuse to travel more!).

Do you have a fave locale for fiction? And how have apologies made you feel?…

Oldest Blogger + Aithal’s Survival + Pod39: Vet Trip by B Christopher

This post's title over Image of Morrie Markoff, then 99, and his wife, Betty, then 97, at their home in 2013. Photo by Gary Friedman for the Los Angeles Times.

Critter Vids + A Vet Trip by Brendan Christopher Happiness Between Tails

#Animals #Cats #Writing #Vets Are you wild for animals? Brendan Christoper, an animal educator and blogger out of Derbyshire, United Kingdom tells the tale of taking his cat to the vet. Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Intro to today’s topic and guest 1:05 A Vet Trip by Brendan Christopher My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About my own novels in progress. include guest’s Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Brendan and a couple of his pets. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s show is the audio version of Critter Vids + A Vet Trip by Brendan Christopher.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. Check out the full list of 50+ places.

“When you reach the age of 100, suddenly, even if you did nothing notable, you are a celebrity. Friends, even longtime ones, neighbors and strangers look at you differently. You see and feel it. When perfect strangers find out, they shake your hand, as if, by osmosis, you can transfer the secrets of long life to them.” Quote from Keep Breathing: Recollections from a 103-year-old, by Morrie Markoff (born January 1914), published five years ago.

Fine art galleries sell Morrie’s metal sculptures, an art form he took up in his 90s. Then there’s the aforementioned book at 103. Today 108, he’s still blogging strong!

His secret? According to one of his many Los Angeles Times interviews, the key is to stay curious! 

Aithal has self-published six novels! He and Morrie embody “never give up.” That’s the kind of motivation I want to soak up as I plot my next steps for the novel I just finished writing.

Originally from India and now residing in Orange County, California, Aithal generously shared his publishing know-how last week. His book titles and links are India Was OneBeyond The Milky WayReturn to EarthDivided States of America2120The Man From Afghanistan.

“Survival of the Fittest,” by Aithal  

Man to Shopkeeper: Please give me ten guns, 100 bullets + 1 antibiotic azithromycin tablet.

Shopkeeper: Sorry, Sir, we can’t sell you the antibiotic without a prescription…

This may be a joke, but it’s a fact of life in America.

America is no longer a land of opportunity — at least not for all. It seems to have turned into a lawless country held hostage by few. Over time it has desensitized its citizens in many walks of life, the latest being the mass shooting in Texas. It has become a standard playbook for the Right. Send thoughts and prayers, show outrage, blame mental illness, and then wait it out. They know it has worked in the past: Sandy Hook, Parkland, Columbine, and so many more. We have collectively lost our way, and not just our minds. We have become the laughingstock of the world. We no longer are respected…but feared.

How many of us know on February 19 of this year, there was a mass shooting in Portland, Oregon, at Normandale Park that left one dead and five injured. We tend to absorb the news with mild curiosity, thinking, “oh, just one dead. Not a very big deal.” Actually, it is. However, little do we realize that the Right has succeeded in desensitizing us so much that our brains take one death for granted. It shouldn’t be. We must retrain our brains to think that even one human loss is unacceptable. We must not fall for the Right’s trope of ‘mental illness’ excuse. It is offensive to all those who have an actual mental illness. They never think of taking a gun and committing mass murder. So, in conclusion, them saying an individual was mentally deranged is nothing but an excuse. Making a lethal weapon easily accessible to them is not a Second Amendment Right.

Years from now, when the current politicians are dead and gone, the future generation will have to endure their political stances. Slowly but steadily, America will experience a brain drain. The unending supply of the immigrants, who have been infusing vibrant new blood into this country’s soul, will taper down to a trickle. The American dream will turn into an American nightmare.

Think about the rules and regulations for a car. When you want to buy a vehicle, you must have a title and tags. A driver training before you can operate one on the road, a written and a practical test before getting a license, health requirements, and insurance. You can obtain this at DMV, a government body, and not just a car fair. Why can’t it be the same for guns? 90% of Americans want change in the current gun laws. 10% and fifty Republican senators are defying the will of three-hundred million Americans.

And we are proud to call America a leader in democracy.

How old do you plan to be when you quit writing, blogging, or dreaming?…

Self-Publishing Tips by Aithal + My Abortion Story Podcast

Blog post title and covers of some of the novels by Aithal.
Some of the novels by Aithal.

My Abortion Story by da-AL Happiness Between Tails

#ReproductiveFreedom #Abortion #HumanRights #Women #ProChoice How much control over your body do you want to give to lawmakers? Roe v Wade is the 1973 landmark United States Supreme Court decision that ensures all women have the right to obtain legal and safe abortions. Tragically, it’s on the verge of becoming history. Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Intro to today’s topic 1:05 My Abortion by da-AL My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About my own novels in progress. Wiki page on Roe v Wade Margaret Atwood, author and her iconic novel and TV series, “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Guest blogger Infidel753 Wiki page on feminist Gloria Steinem About the infamous 40-year Tuskegee Study Planned Parenthood site Wiki page on Planned Parenthood & Nixon Wiki page on abortion in Poland — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s show is the audio version of My Abortion Story.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. Check out the full list of 50+ places.

The right to safe legal abortions and to wield guns — given how the first is crumbling and the second is more out of control than ever — a fellow Meetup writer mused, “Guns will be used freely to hunt down anyone remotely associated with abortion. Just like in The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel and TV series).”

My heart is heavy with all that’s happening. Today’s post is brief, though it took a long time to write. Meantime, I’ve been researching whether it’s a good idea to add a podcast version of my novel, Flamenco & the Sitting Cat, to PRX’s roster (they act as intermediaries for producers and public radio stations). This week’s podcast is My Abortion Story, which you can also read as a blog post.

Tangled Locks Journal (thanks, blogger par excellence KE Garland, for the heads up) seeks personal abortion stories. The literary site featured mine. Their latest post offers an up-to-date overview.

Keep current on how to obtain safe abortions and avoid legal repercussions at Infidel753’s site. Readers of Happiness Between Tails know him from when he wrote about helping women at Planned Parenthood and being vegan. Among the many links on his Sunday round ups, he includes safety nets for abortion.

This week’s guest, Aithal, was born and raised in Mumbai, India. He immigrated to New York in 1989 and now lives with his wife and two kids in Orange County, California. He’s self-published a shelf-worth of far-ranging novels, his stories often interleaved with analogies to these increasingly frightening times.

In his own words, he explains, “I’ve written six books so far. The first book is on India. It’s called India Was One and the next four are part of a science fiction series, called The Galaxy Series. They are: Beyond The Milky Way (#1), Return To Earth (#2), Divided States of America (#3) and 2120 (#4). My last book (released very recently) is called The Man From Afghanistan. I dub it as an international adventure as the story starts at Newport Beach in Orange County and ends in Rajasthan, India. All my books are available on Amazon in Kindle as well as paperback format.”

They feature gorgeous artwork by Darshini. Check out her website and her Instagram page.

To compliment them, Aithal produced a video for the artwork of India Was One. His Beyond the Milky Way illustrations move one way to music, and then another way. He’s also been interviewed by David Pakman.

Here are his self-publishing insights…

DIY Publishing by Aithal

Being an indie can be hard. Very hard. Take it from me; I’m one. Here are some of my experiences that I want to share:

Back when I wrote my first book, I was new to the game. Now that I have put a few years doing this, I can say that I know a bit more. In no way do I consider myself an authority, but I’m sure lots of you have experienced something similar, if not the same. I’m merely sharing this so that the newbies don’t have to go through my horrible experiences.

As all indies know, there is a very limited budget to spend. So, the best, and the most economical, way to do things are free. Fortunately, almost all the tools available are free (or inexpensive). If you are serious about getting your work seen by many, and by many I mean many strangers and not friends and family members, here are a few “musts.”

  1. Website: You have to have a website showcasing your work. There are many free website builders available in the market. They will help you get started for free.
  2. Facebook: Creating a Facebook Page for your book is an excellent way to spread the word, and it’s very easy to setup one. After setting up the page, you can invite your friends to like the page (and hope & pray that they invite their friends and so on)
  3. Twitter: Create a Twitter account to tell the world about your work and then use free services like Hootsuite to automate your tweets.

These three are the minimum “musts.” And the good news is that they all are free. You don’t have to spend a dime on creating these. There are other few you should think of having. However, they can be secondary, depending on the type of book you are writing. All of them are free.

  • YouTube: There are excellent resources to produce a book trailer. Search “free book trailer,” and you’ll find many free to use. 
  • Pinterest: Even if your book doesn’t have any artwork, you should create an account here and upload your work.

Apart from these free resources, there are many free resources available that you could (and should) take advantage of.

Have you considered writing a book?

Norooz + Twinkl + Cats Fable Vid + Pod26: Ashley’s Easier Publishing

Khashayar with me at our Persian New Year haft-seen table.
Khashayar with me at our Persian New Year haft-seen table.

Self-Publishing: It Gets Easier by Ashley L. Peterson Happiness Between Tails

#MentalHealth #Books #Authors #Publishing #SelfPublishing #GuineaPigs Mental health nurse and author Ashley L. Peterson of Mental Health At Home dot org blogs out of Vancouver, Canada, and writes from both a personal perspective as well as that of a medical professional. She’s written a host of books on the subject. Have you considered self-publishing, and what's your experience with publishing and building a platform? Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:05 Self-Publishing: It Gets Easier by Ashley L. Peterson 2:00 My question for you 3:30 HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Here’s the original blog version of this podcast episode. Ashley’s website Photos available at the HBT posts for this show: Ashley and her hard working guinea pigs. Covers of her books. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s show is the audio version of this blog post of “Self-Publishing It Gets Easier by Ashley L. Peterson.”

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is H-E-R-E.

Persian New Year partying is a two-week affair, so we’re still in the midst of it! Here’s the haft-seen table that Khashayar arranged. In another video, I explain the history and the items.

More to celebrate: given that I’m writing soon-to-be-published novels, Twinkl (a resource by teachers, for teachers and homeschoolers in early childhood and elementary settings that featured me before) listed me among authors and bloggers on their To Be Read List 2022: Top Book Picks From Authors and Bloggers!

Now for a story with a moral. The lives of Lucy and Mooshie are Grimm-inspired reminders of how smarts are better to have than good looks (more about Mooshie here)

 

What’s your fave book or fable?

Co-Authors: J.L. Harland + 4 Bloomers + Pod24: Peterson’s Pub’g Inspo

Blog title over photo of “J. L. Harland,” the writing duo Janet Laugharne and Jacqueline Harrett.
“J. L. Harland” is writing duo Janet Laugharne (left) and Jacqueline Harrett (right).

Self-Publishing and Thera-Piggies by Ashley L. Peterson Happiness Between Tails

#MentalHealth #Books #Authors #Publishing #Guinea Pigs Mental health nurse and author Ashley L. Peterson of Mental Health At Home dot org blogs out of Vancouver, Canada, and writes from both a personal perspective as well as that of a medical professional. Here she talks about how her pets help her to relieve stress. What's your best stress reliever? Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:00 Self-Publishing and Thera – Piggies: Ashley L. Peterson 2:00 My question for you 4:00 HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Here’s the original blog version of this podcast episode. Ashley’s website Photos available at the HBT posts for this show: Ashley and her guinea pigs. Covers of her books. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s episode is the audio version of this blog post of “Self-Publishing and Thera-Piggies: Ashley L. Peterson.”

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. Here’s the full LinkTree list of 50+ places.

Note: click here to listen to the audio/podcast of the post below.

Fearful of getting old? Wonder what it would be like to collaborate on a novel (working on my novels can be lonely)? Read on to meet four late-bloomers who reinvented themselves, some better categorized as “re-bloomers” with several life success! Numbers 3 and 4 describe in their own words what it’s like to be co-authors…

In the interest of learning to blog at any age, have you read WordPress’s ebook/pdf, “The Ultimate Traffic Guide”? A few chapters in, there are already some broken and rather old “additional info” links, and I’m unsure it’s worth a full $17. However, it’s got me updating posts to total no more than 15 categories plus tags each to ensure (fingers crossed) they show up on searches at the WordPress Reader. Given how important WP says they are and how our success as bloggers can only help WP, wouldn’t it be great if there were category/tag counters on editing pages and the post list pages? An alert when we go over would be all the better!

Between updating categories and tags, I clicked over to try another (here’s the first one I tried) super easy near-immediate gratification Jenny Can Cook no-knead bread recipe, this one for whole wheat. After 10 minutes of measuring and mixing, a 3-hour rise, a 40-minute bake, and an hour to cool and slice — yum!!!!…

Whole Whole wheat bread ala Jenny Can Cook's no-knead recipe.  bread ala Jenny Can Cook recipe.
Whole wheat bread ala Jenny Can Cook’s no-knead recipe.

Now meet late bloomer/re-bloomer #1: Grandma Moses…

Grandma Moses, circa 1950 by Clara Sipprell.
Grandma Moses, circa 1950 by Clara Sipprell, 31 Oct 1885 – 27 Dec 1975 – https://npg.si.edu/object/npg_NPG.81.8, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=110147052

American folk artist of worldwide fame, Grandma Moses (Anna Mary Robertson Moses, September 7, 1860 – December 13, 1961) grew up humbly; farming as a child, at twelve leaving home to work, and later giving birth to ten children, only five of who lived past infancy. She’d always loved creating beauty out of nothing, but it wasn’t until she turned 78 that arthritis forced her to take up painting. When one hand tired, she’d switch to the other.

U.S. postage stamp with art by Grandma Moses.
This U.S. postage stamp is only one of Grandma Moses’s many honors. By Bureau of Engraving and Printing – U.S. Post Office; Smithsonian National Postal Museum; Image enlarged and rendered for tone, clarity by Gwillhickers, Public Domain.

As practical as she was prolific, she told journalism giant William R. Murrow that painters should be self-taught, otherwise, “You’ll paint as the teacher paints.” When he asked her if it was hard to part with her work, she answered, “Oh, no. I’d rather see the money.”

Late bloomer/re-bloomer #1: Colonel Sanders…

Kentucky Colonel Harland Sanders circa 1974. A showman and businessman, his trademark “colonel” string tie along with bleached hair and mustache was his costume to market chicken. By Edgy01 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0.
Kentucky Colonel Harland Sanders circa 1974. A showman and businessman, his trademark “colonel” string tie along with bleached hair and mustache was his costume to market chicken. By Edgy01 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Heard of a little fast-food chain called Kentucky Fried Chicken? Harlan David Sanders (September 9, 1890 – December 16, 1980) started it when he was 65. Prior to that, he worked as everything from a streetcar conductor and an army wagoner, to a blacksmith’s helper and a fireman. After he sold KFC for boo-coo bucks, he badmouthed the new owners for cutting so many corners they ruined the food.

In 1962, Sanders taught Tennessee Ernie Ford and Minnie Pearl how to cook their own KFC chicken…

Today’s Guests: Late bloomers/re-bloomers #3 and #4…

J. L. Harland is a duo of authors, both who “turned new pages” after retirement; Janet Laugharne and Jacqueline Harrett. Check out each of the aforementioned three links, because they also write independently. Residents of Cardiff, South Wales, UK, they met as colleagues and ended up friends for thirty years.

Jan, originally from North Wales, speaks Welsh and worked as a professor of languages in education. She writes poetry and short fiction.

Jacqui says, “Writing together has been an unexpected joy as we share much laughter in the process. Plus, it’s an excuse to meet and eat cake!”

She grew up in Northern Ireland, was a teacher and an academic before she became a multi-genre author. Her writing includes an award-winning non-fiction book for teachers and recently published crime novel, The Nesting Place.

Authors Janet Laugharne (right) and Jacqueline Harrett (left), 2 halves of J.L. Harland
Authors Janet Laugharne (right) and Jacqueline Harrett (left), 2 halves of J.L. Harland

The Joy of Co-authoring by J. L. Harland (Janet Laugharne and Jacqueline Harrett)

We are J. L. Harland: two writers with one voice and co-authors of What Lies Between Them, published by Dixi Books. The name is a combination of Janet Laugharne and Jacqueline Harrett, both former academics and flourishing in retirement.

Many people see retirement as the end of a meaningful life, especially if they have left a job which has occupied every waking moment. Retirement should be seen as an opportunity to do all those things you dreamt of doing when you were a youngster, before the need to earn a living became a reality.

As academics our working lives were busy, demanding, intellectually stimulating and often stressful so when we retired, around 2014, we threw ourselves into exploring the opportunities our new freedom afforded. Academic life consists of many different aspects and requires people skills as well as writing ability. We both published academic papers, chapters in books, modules for degrees and helped students to edit their work and expand their knowledge. It was inevitable that we should both want to do something more creative. We discussed the art of creative writing and which areas we felt we had weaknesses, set targets and then edited each other’s work. Tentative beginnings. We also took classes in creative writing. 

The first class we attended was across the city, so the journey entailed two buses to get to the venue. We met in the city centre and had a coffee and a chat before heading to class. It was during one of these chats that writing together was mooted. And so, our journey began.

What shall we write about? Where shall we set it? Who are the characters? Those were our questions and starting point. Every week when we met, we talked and planned. Our recent experiences of Higher Education gave us the setting, a fictional university in a familiar city, Cardiff, South Wales.

We each had a notebook and spent hours working out the characters first. Physical, personality, backstory, friends, relatives and what dilemma our main character had to face to ensure conflict. It was so much fun, and Elin Fiorelli was created. It should be noted that we both believe so much in this fictional character that we think we’ve seen her. Elin Fiorelli is a Welsh/Italian academic, a career woman whose life starts to unravel when she returns from a research trip abroad to find her former lover is now her boss. Can she keep the secret from her past while dealing with present day problems? You need to read it to find out.

Once we had a vague plot – we knew where it started and ended, the story arc, but the middle was more muddled – we started writing. Taking a chapter each, in turn, we wrote four chapters at a time. It was very exciting as, to keep the storyline intact, we each waited for a chapter before continuing to write. Opening the computer to find that your writing partner has completed the next stage in the story was stimulating and motivating. We are both guilty of going ‘off piste’ and creating scenes and minor characters not in the planning but that adds to the thrill of the writing process.

Cover of "What Lies Between Them," by J. L. Harland.

The story was in a very rough almost first draft when it was longlisted for a debut novel prize. That gave us encouragement and hope that it would be published. We sought editorial advice from a couple of sources, tweaked, adjusted and polished the manuscript before sending it into the world. It has been edited so many times and our writing voice so blended even we do not know who wrote which bits. 

As any writer is aware, rejection is part of the journey. Our previous experiences as academics had made rejection something to be expected so it didn’t deter us. Every so often, we’d send the novel out while continuing to write other things. 

During lockdown, when we couldn’t met in person, we Facetimed and managed, after the initial panic, to write a novella, a novelette and several pieces of short fiction. We kept a record of where What Lies Between Them had been submitted and put it on the back burner while we carried on creating. A second novel was nearing completion when we found our publisher. A couple of publishers had previously shown an interest but not the right fit, for various reasons.

For both of us having a novel published is a dream we held as teenagers. Now it’s a dream realised. The fun and laughter, as well as tears of frustration, we have shared on this journey has been a joy and we have many ideas and plans for future co-authoring projects.

Although many of the skills we learnt in our working lives have been of benefit on this journey we are still learning. Some of the learning curves have been vertical and we are busy marketing in the local area, doing talks and signings at all sorts of venues. For writers who have no public speaking experience this aspect, the need to be seen and engage with people, must be agonising. For both of us it almost feels like a return to work. 

We also pursue our individual writing and are happy to support each other in these endeavours. As well as long form writing, Janet enjoys writing short stories, flash fiction and poetry, with work published in national magazines, literary journals and online. Jacqui’s debut crime novel, The Nesting Place, was published by Diamond Books UK in 2021 and she’s busy working on the next in the series.

Retirement? What’s that? We’ve found a new career in retirement, and we are relishing all the opportunities offered to carry on living purposeful and enjoyable lives.

How many times do you hope to bloom?

Vid + Squat 4 Health/Politics + Pod16: J. Diamond Published 100+ Books

Photo of 3 men smiling and doing full squats.
Can you do this and smile? Image by edwindoms610 from Pixabay.

Novelist Jacqueline Diamond Published 100+ Books! Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #NovelWriting #Reading #Animals #Books #Fiction #Romance Award-winning author Jacqueline Diamond has published over a hundred books: mystery, non-fiction, romance for all ages, historical, and modern. What fiction are you reading at the moment? Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT The original Happiness Between Tails blog post (H-E-R-E) that goes with this episode includes all the links below and photos: Original blog post. Jacqueline’s site with more about her, her blog, tips on writing, and a list of her books purchase info. This video interview where Jacqueline discusses how to develop interesting characters. This video where she describes the storytelling ins and outs of point-of-view. Time Stamps (where segments begin): 1) HBT introduction 2) da-AL discusses today’s topic and tells a bit about today’s guest 1:07 3) Jacqueline Diamond discusses how animals figure into her novels 2:30 4) This episode’s question with info on how to comment and learn more 4:41 — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my new podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s episode is the audio version of “Novelist Jacqueline Diamond Published 100+ Books!” that you can read the text version of H-E-R-E.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotifyand Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is at LinkTree.

Picture me sitting on my haunches atop a conference table, assigned to perform an entertaining Toastmasters speech titled, “Benefits and Politics of Squatting”…

The subject first piqued my interest years ago, when my mom moved in with us. To make things extra comfy for all (including for when I’ working on my novels H-E-R-E), we had some construction done on our snug home.

Each morning, a crew of men assembled under our backyard gazebo. Aged from early twenties to eighties, they all immigrated to here in the United States from Cambodia.

The way they waited for each other to show up amazed me! In totally relaxed full-squats, the gentlemen sipped coffees, munched pastries, chatted, and smoked. Once all arrived, they stood; none of them groaned or complained of creaky bones.

Lunch involved more of the same. They full-squatted as they passed around freshly steamed rice with fragrant grilled meat and veggies. Afterward, still squatting, they finished with smokes and maybe a bit of candy.

Fast forward to some time later, when I broke my knee twice in the same year. Torn cartilage, fractured bone, stretched tendon, blah, blah, blah. Ouch!!!! and Ohno!!! don’t begin to cover it.

Screenshot from video of da-AL's speech on the benefits of doing full squats.
Squatting for my speech.

Enter, Francisco Rufino, a gifted yoga instructor who pointed out that squatting keeps people in India free of knee, back, and digestive problems.

Thanks to his suggestion that I squat for thirty seconds, five times a day, as I watched TV, my knee is so restored that I never needed the surgery that two doctors beforehand prescribed! Yesterday I went for a long jog and experienced no problems whatsoever!

Full squats align muscles and organs from toes to neck. The aid in…

  • Getting rid of hemorrhoids, diverticulosis, and hernias.
  • Preventing heart attacks caused by straining on European-style toilets.
  • Alleviating incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
  • Making pregnancy easier.
  • Guarding reproductive organs, including protecting against prostate cancer.

So why don’t we do it more? When I gave the speech, at least one audience member expressed disgust. My h-a-unch is that we believe we’re too good for it — and that includes politically. This Korean woman, married to an Anglo man, explains his chagrin when she and her family squat while socializing.

Would people you know feel embarrassed if you squatted while you relaxed?

Xme + Publish: Barrow’s Trad + Podcast 3 Cotticollan’s India Self-Pub

Writing & Self-Publishing in South India: Nadira Cotticollan Happiness Between Tails

#NovelWriting #SelfPublishing #Authors #India What’s your experience with buying or publishing self-published novels? Got questions, thoughts, and/or experiences to share about writing and publishing? Record them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me and buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Extended version of this episode, including photos and links, at: HappinessBetweenTails.com Time Stamps (these are approximations due to whether ads play during show): Happiness Between Tails introduction da-AL discusses today’s topic and tells a bit about today’s guest 1:07 Nadira Cotticollan shares her experience 2:06 This episode’s question with info on how to comment, and learn more about Nadira and da-AL 7:07 — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E & you’ll find my brand new podcast page! It’s on AnchorFM, where the most recent show is the audio rendition of my blog post (the blog version is H-E-R-E), “Self-Publishing in S. India: A Guest Blog Post by Nadira Cotticollan.”

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotifyand Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is H-E-R-E.

Photo of author Judith Barrow.
Photo of author Judith Barrow.

This third week of “real podcasting,” I’m still too overwhelmed with learning audio stuff to hardly work on writing my novels. Nonetheless, it’s heartening to learn new pod things. (See more about Podcast #1 h-e-r-e and Podcast #2 h-e-r-e.) This whole endeavor brings me closer to accomplishing my writing goal of eventually making audio show episodes out of my books. Plus, a few days ago I was invited to be a guest on someone else’s podcast!

Now that I’m officially a “podcaster,” I recently entered a Spotify competition that promised training, financial support, travel, publicity, and meetings with movers and shakers. Contests generally aren’t my thing, but this one didn’t charge a fee, and since they didn’t advertise it for long, I though I might have a chance at winning.

How do you feel about labels? Do you have one? Or more?

The competition was for “LatinX” podcasters, a term that’s expansive. If I understand it correctly, “LatinX” goes beyond gender, sexuality, and which country one’s parents are from. I’m ambivalent about labels, worried that they separate and compartmentalize us. On the other hand, there’s strength to be found in labeling when it comes to banding together for social justice.

Here’s how I filled in Spotify’s contest form:

Contest Question #1 was: “What does being LatinX living in the US mean to you?”

I grew up as a Latin/Spanish-speaking X/outsider in all of fifteen homes and schools— the “Latin” and the “X” tamped into one fair-skinned LatinX girl who was bullied for the sin of chubbiness, and who couldn’t fathom why she and her mom were treated so very differently from the family males.

My father was a charismatic Spaniard who doomed me to find a husband from Spain, bear children, stay home, look sexy, and turn a blind eye when my inevitable husband would inevitably stray. Sissy work was off-limits for the boys. Dad groomed them for machismo, to become bullfighters or flamenco guitarists or tennis pros.

At four-years-old, already I pondered nature vs. nurture vs. culture. Males had enough respect to create an ache in child-me, one I was sure I wouldn’t have if I were a boy. If I could have regressed clear to before my father’s spermatozoon collided with the ovum inside my Argentine mom’s womb, I would have switched genders.

When it came to speaking Spanish, as a green-eyed auburn-haired kid, I found it hard to be taken seriously because I didn’t fit what adults thought Latinos ought to look like. At the same time, I wondered lines on maps mattered so much. The politicians the grownups would discuss argued a lot about lines on sand and dirt and blood and gender, but none actually fought in the wars they made.

Contest Question #2 requested an “elevator pitch,” which should be a 50-word proposal for the kind of show I wanted to produce.

Right before I clicked “send,” I read Spotify’s “Terms and Conditions.” If I proposed to do a show based on my novels, would I sign over control to my books? After a night of having decided to not participate, the next morning I offered them a different proposed show. Here’s my revamped “elevator pitch”:

My podcast would fill the crevices where nitty gritty day-to-day exists. Stories un-beribboned with pat answers. Characters who go beyond the archetypical, and are more akin to annoying diverse friends who are there when we need them — or maybe they aren’t, but are later.

For Contest Question #3, I needed to go into more depth regarding that proposed show. I answered by saying:

My serialized fiction podcast intends to bring forth characters as unique and complex as life, who’ll help us exist more harmoniously. So much of what we hear, read, and watch is populated by the symmetrical and the able-bodied, the fertile and the virile. All of them are one-dimensional people who are invariably destined for parenthood and partnering.Where are the “X’s,” LatinX included?

My shows will glory in our convoluted humanity. It’s fine to not be a heroine or a hero, neither a goddess nor a god. It’s ok when we misunderstand ourselves. Even mirrors lie, and even selfies are no more than seized flashes of light, color, and shadow.

Listeners will be enticed to take a second eyeful, at each other. Whereas the self-help industry encourages us to change ourselves, this show would spotlight what’s uniquely wonderful about us.

Fiction nourishes our souls. Fiction is the treasure map “X marks the spot” of celebrating our nuances.

Our veins of gold aren’t found by pretending we’re smarter than we are. Platinum manifests when we voice our vulnerabilities. Revealing “This is me, from the inside out,” gets everyone closer to, “This is us.”

Photo of author Judith Barrow.
Photo of author Judith Barrow.

It’s time, readers, to meet Judith Barrow…

Judith has published eight novels, and writes much more than books. She blogs from her home in West Wales, England. H-e-r-e you can find out about her. Read on for her experience and thoughts on writing (you can also listen to a podcast of it h-e-r-e, and watch a video of it h-e-r-e

Cover of "Heart Stone," a novel by Judith Barrow.

Judith Barrow on How She Publishes and Writes

(For an audio version of this post, click H-E-R-E.)

I wrote for years before letting anyone read my work. If I was self-deluded; if it was rubbish, I didn’t want to be told. I enjoyed my “little hobby” (as it was once described by a family member). But then I began to enter my short stories into competitions. Sometimes I was placed, once or twice I even won. Encouraged, I moved on to sending to magazines  I had some luck, was published – once! But I hadn’t dared to send out cny of the fourc full length book manuscripts I’d written (and actually never did, they were awful!) That changed after a long battle with brcast cancer in my forties and, finally finishing a book that I thought might possibly…possibly, be cood enough for someone else to see, other than me, I took a chance.

I grew resigned (well almost) to those A4 self-addressed envelopes plopping through the letterbox. (Yes, it was that long ago!) The weekly wail of ‘I’ve been rejected again,’ was a ritual that my long-suffering husband also (almost) grew resigned to.

There were many snorts of exasperation at my gullibility and stubbornness from the writing group I was a member of at the time. They all had an opinion  I was doing it all wrong. Instead of sending my work to publishers I should have been approaching agents.

‘You’ll get nowhere without an agent,’ one of the members said. She was very smug. Of course, she was already signed up with an agent whose list, she informed me, was full.

‘How could you even think of trying to do it on your own?’ was another horrified response when told what I’d done, ‘With the sharks that are out there, you’ll be eaten alive.’

‘Or sink without a trace.’ Helpful prediction from another so-called friend.

So, after trawling my way through the Writers & Artists Yearbook (an invaluable tome) I bundled up two more copies of my manuscript and sent them out to different agents

Six months later I was approached by one of the agents who, on the strength of my writing, agreed to take me. The praise from her assistant was effusive, the promises gratifying. It was arranged that I meet with the two of them in London to discuss the contract they would send in the post, there would be no difficulty in placing my novel with one of the big publishers; they would make my name into a brand.

There was some editing to do, of course. Even though the manuscript was in its fifth draft, I knew there would be. After all, the agent, a big fish in a big pond, knew what she was doing. Okay, she was a little abrasive (on hindsight I would say rude) but she was a busy person, I was a first-time author.

But I was on my way. Or so I thought.

A week before the meeting I received an email; the agent’s assistant had left the agency and they no longer thought they could act for me. They had misplaced my manuscript but would try to locate it. In the meantime, would I send an SAE for its return when/if ‘it turned up’?

So  back to square one.

For a month I hibernated (my family and friends called it sulking, but I preferred to think of it as re-grouping). I had a brilliant manuscript that no one wanted (at this point, I think it’s important to say that, as an author, if you don’t have self-belief ,how can you persuade anyone else to believe your work is good?) But still, no agent, no publisher.

There were moments, well weeks (okay, if I’m honest  months), of despair, before I took a deep breath and resolved to try again. I printed out a new copy of the novel. In the meantime, I trawled through my list of possible agents. Again.

Then, out of the blue, a phone call from the editorial assistant who’d resigned from that first agency to tell me she’d set up her own, was still interested in my novel and could we meet in London in a week’s time? Could we? Try and stop me, I thought.

 We met. Carried away with her enthusiasm for my writing, her promises to make me into a ‘brand name’ and her assurance that she had many contacts in the publishing world that would ‘snap her hand off for my novel’, I signed on the dotted line.

Six months later. So far, four rejections from publishers. Couched, mind you, in encouraging remarks:

“Believable characters … strong and powerful writing … gripping story … Judith has an exciting flair for plot … evocative descriptions.”

And then the death knell on my hopes.

“Unfortunately … our lists are full … we’ve just accepted a similar book … we are only a small company … I’m sure you’ll find a platform for Judith’s work … etc. etc.”

The self-doubt, the frustration, flooded back.

Then the call from the agent; ‘I think it’s time to re-evaluate the comments we’ve had so far. Parts of the storyline need tweaking. I’ve negotiated a deal with a commercial editor. When she mentioned the sum I had to pay (yes, I had to pay, and yes, I was that naïve) I gasped.’ It’s a realistic charge by today’s standards,’ she said. ’Think about it. In the end we’ll have a book that will take you to the top of your field.’

 I thought about it. Rejected the idea. Listened to advice from my various acquaintances. Thought about it some more. And then I rang the agent. ‘Okay,’ I said, ‘I’ll do it.’ I felt I had no choice; after all she was the expert. Wasn’t she? What did I know?

 When the manuscript came back from the commercial editor, I didn’t recognise the story at all. ‘This isn’t what I wrote. It’s not my book,’ I told the agent. ‘It’s nothing like it.’ The plot, the characters had been completely changed.

‘You know nothing of the publishing world. If you want me to represent you, you have to listen to me,’ she insisted. ‘Do as I say.’

‘But …’

‘Take it or leave it.’

I consulted our daughter, luckily she’s a lawyer qualified in Intellectual Property.

‘You can cancel the contract within the year. After that, you have problems. There will be all manner of complications…’

I moved quickly. The agent and I parted company.

I took a chance and contacted Honno, the publisher who’d previously accepted two of my short stories for their anthologies. Would they have a look at the manuscript? They would. They did. Yes, it needed more work but…

I’m proud to say I’ve now been with Honno, the longest standing independent women’s press in the UK, for fourteen years, and have had six books published by them. I love their motto “Great writing, great stories, great women “, and I love the friends I’ve made amongst the other women whose work they publish, and the support amongst us for our writing and our books. In normal times we often meet up. I’m hoping those “normal times” will return before too long.

Of course, there has been much editing and discussion with every manuscript. But at least, in the end, the stories are told in my words. With my voice.

Judith’s Writing Process

da-AL asked me to talk about my process of writing and, to be honest, it’s not something I’ve actually thought about before. But I’ve realised, with each of my books, it’s been slightly different. Not the time I write, I’m an early morning writer, always have been. I think waking around five in the morning is something I’ve done since childhood. Then I used to read, now I use the time to write. Usually until around eight or nine o’clock.

The pandemic and lockdowns have altered the pattern somewhat. The last few months have seen me at my desk more or less all day; I’ve managed to write two books. But I still start at five in the morning.

But back to the actual process; the usual question asked of authors is are they a plotter or a pantser. In other words, do they plot the whole book from start to finish, or do they just begin to write, and hope something happens to make an idea into a story  to have a plot in the end. I think I’ve been both in my novels.

Judith Barrow's series of novels.

My Haworth trilogy begins with a place I discovered  Glen Mill. It was the inspiration for the first of my trilogy: Pattern of Shadows. Glen Mill was one of the first two POW camps to be opened in Britain. A disused cotton mill in the North of England, built in 1903 it ceased production in 1938. At a time when all-purpose built camps were being used by the armed forces and there was no money available for POW build, Glen Mill was chosen for various reasons: it wasn’t near any military installations or seaports and it was far from the south and east of Britain, it was large and it was enclosed by a road and two mill reservoirs and, soon after it opened, by a railway line.

My parents worked in the local cotton mill. My mother was a winder (working on a machine that transferred the cotton off large cones onto small reels  bobbins — in order for the weavers to use to make the cloth). Well before the days of Health and Safety I would often go to wait for her to finish work on my way home from school. I remember the muffled boom of noise as I walked across the yard and the sudden clatter of so many different machines as I stepped through a small door cut into a great wooden door. I remember the women singing and shouting above the noise, the colours of the cotton and cloth — so bright and intricate. But above all I remember the smell: of oil, grease — and in the storage area — the lovely smell of the new material stored in bales and the feel of the cloth against my legs when I sat on them in the warehouse, reading until the siren hooted, announcing the end of the shift.

When I was reading about Glen Mill I wondered what kind of signal would have been used to separate parts of the day for all those men imprisoned there during WW2. I realised how different their days must have been from my memories of a mill. I wanted to write a story.

In Pattern of Shadows, and the subsequent two books, Glen mill (or Granville mill, as I renamed it) became the focus, the hub, and the memory of the place, around which the characters lived. The prequel, A Hundred Tint Threads, which I actually wrote after the series, was in answer to the many questions asked to me by readers; what were the parents of the protagonist, Mary Haworth, in the trilogy, like in their youth. With all four of these historical family sagas, I had a fair idea of the endings.

Cover of "The Memory," a novel by Judith Barrow.

Unlike my previous books, The Memory, is more contemporary, and evolved as I wrote. The background stems from a journal I kept at a time when I was carer for my aunt, who lived with us. She developed dementia. Her illness haunted me long after she died, and the idea of the book was a slow burner that took me a long time to write, and I had no idea which way it would take me. It’s been described as a poignant story threaded with humour. I was thrilled when it was shortlisted for The Wales Book of the Year 2021 (The Rhys Davies Trust Fiction Award).

My latest book, The Heart Stone, was also a story that, in a way, wandered towards a denouement. Written during lockdown I allowed it to meander whichever way the characters took me. I was quite surprised by the ending.

All this being said, I realised that I do actually have a process of working. It comes automatically for me, so I haven’t actually thought it was a method. With every book I write, I research the era: what was happening in the world, what was on the newspapers, what work was there? What were the living/working conditions in the UK: the houses, the contents, the fashions, the music, films, radio or television, the toys, and books?

I always graph a family tree, with birthdays and dates of special occasions for each character. And, for each character I write a list: appearance, relationship to other characters, clothes, work, hobbies, habits, personality.  Then I pin them to the noticeboard in front of my desk, so I am able to see everything at a glance.

So, I say to myself now, I do have a process… of sorts. I just don’t know if I’m going to plot an ending, or let things evolve until I begin writing. But I thank da-AL for giving me the chance to reflect on how I work. And I’d love to know what methods other writers use.

What method do you use to write? And do you have labels you like to go by?

Grammar and Books and Toes + “I am a Tulpamancer” by Dr. Bob Newport

Grammar Matters:

“He told him that he loved him.” (Add “only” between the different words in that sentence to see how the meaning changes.)

“We never said I should kill him.” (One at a time, italicize each word to read how the emphasis changes.)

Photo of K-D doggie and da-AL's newly red-painted toes.

Courtesy of the COVID-19 quarantine, I’ve discovered the joy of working on my novels in the virtual company of others. MeetUp is a site that hosts free Shut Up & Write meetings (among other groups, including in-person ones). The sessions provide accountability and camaraderie. Shut Up & Write has many types of challenges and events. I prefer the basic virtuals; authors chat, write, chat some more, then maybe continue writing.

Before you read the essay below by fellow writer Dr. Bob, who I met on MeetUp, here are some new reviews I just wrote for Amazon and Goodreads:

Cover of the novel, "A Spark of Light," by Jodi Picoult.“A Spark of Light” by Jodi Picoult

When I blogged about anti-choice here, this novel was recommended by JoycesMysteryandFictionBookReviews.blog. Some reviewers at Amazon complain that it’s too pro-choice, to which I argue au contraire. Picoult’s story actually afforded me more compassion for those who are anti-choice.

Cover of the autobiographical book, "The Soul of a Woman," by Isabel Allende.“The Soul of a Woman” by Isabel Allende

Much as I adore some of Allende’s books and enjoy others, this was meh in places. The autobiographical parts were good. However, more vivid recounting could have “shown” rather than “told” and lent needed “soul” to her political musings that sometimes were wasted as preaching to the choir. Overall, though, it was worthwhile.

Cover of the novel, "Antiquities," by Cynthia Oziak.“Antiquities” by Cynthia Ozick

Since when do I try out an author based on their age alone? Since they’re over 90 and after a long career of accomplished publishing, they’re still at it! This finely nuanced book depicts how we can be wonderful and awful and sentimental and crude all rolled up into one.

Cover of "The Comfort Book," by Matt Haig.“The Comfort Book” by Matt Haig

His first book, “The Humans,” is sublime, so I’m amazed when he produces new novels even half as good. This book is altogether different, a non-fiction filled with bits about what comforts him. Thank you, Haig, for continually reminding us to hang on.

Cover of the novel, "Libertie," by Kaitlyn Greenwood.“Libertie” by Kaitlyn Greenridge

What would it be like to be black and live in a black community post-Civil War era, to be a girl whose mom is a black female doctor? Freedom, identity, gender, caste, and plain ole’ relationships stitch together the canvas of this well constructed tale.

Cover of "The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People," by Stephen R. Covey.“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change,” by Stephen R. Covey

My fave nugget from this was his advice that we, “instead of using a map, use a compass,” when it comes to prioritizing. Unfortunate that right-wing religiousness and politics are deeply factored in.

Oh, and last time I mentioned my hair. I didn’t mean to appear vain, rather I meant to point out that it finally seems like life is sort of really kinda post-COVID19. In the photo at the start of this post, I’ve even painted my toes (thought K-D doggies isn’t that impressed), another first in two years!

Now onto our guest, Dr. Bob Newport. He blogs out of Los Angeles, and his self-published novel is available here for sale.

I don’t know whether I’ve got a magical side. Dr. Bob’s courage to seek his out and speak of her openly is truly admirable!…

Photo of author Dr. Bob Newport.
Photo of author Dr. Bob Newport.

“I am a Tulpamancer,” by Dr. Bob Newport

Don’t know what that is. Well you are in the vast majority of folks. We are a tiny group, who only have existence because of the internet. Prior to it’s existence, the very concept of tulpa, was known to only a few Tibetan Monks and a French woman, Alexandria David Neel. Ms. Neel lived at the turn of the twentieth century. She was an anthropologist who spent a dozen years in Tibet studying the culture. She became enthralled and took up meditation after becoming acquainted with a number of the luminaries at the time. She (as far as we know) was the first westerner to create a tulpa (a sprul-pa in the Tibetan language). She reports this in her book, Magic and Mysticism in Tibet. I got my copy from the L.A. Public Library. Published in 1919, it didn’t get to the U.S. until the 1940’s and didn’t get read until the internet came around and folks began to be intrigued by the possibility of creating their own magical creatures.

And, now you know what a tulpa is; a magical creature intentionally created by the tulpamancer, also known as a ‘thought-form’. Ms. Neel’s tulpa became so real, that he became a nuisance to her neighbors, and she had to terminate him.

Mine has appeared once in physical reality and only for a few seconds. As no one else was around, I can’t say whether or not, she would have been seen by anyone but me.  But I don’t care. She is real to me when we are able to connect . That is not often. I am not able to hold my concentration steady enough to maintain the contact. That takes practice. I have been at it since Dec. of 2018.

She, her name is Flora, first appeared in everyday consensual reality in March of 2019. She had been appearing in my dreams for some time. However, it was after her March debut that I really became excited by her, and she began to appear during my daily meditations. It was hard to hold my concentration because I became so excited, my heart would pound in my chest. I have worked on this and while I still become excited, I don’t let it distract me.

Shortly after Flora first appeared, I created N’sonowa (her full name; Katlego Kalisha N’sonowa, Il’oi-bonokoh of the black sisterhood) to fill out my desire for coming into direct contact with my ‘feminine current’, that part of my male psyche that in my life became encrusted with childhood traumas.

Cover of novel by Dr. Bob Newport, "Tulpa Tales."

This was my main reason for starting the practice. After discovering what it was about I realized that it could become a tool for repairing the damage I suffered at the hands of my mentally ill mother. I am not there yet. Not fully recovered, though I have made a great deal of improvement, more than decades of psychotherapy. But the difficulties I am having contacting her, suggest that I have more to do. It’s okay though, I have never shied from doing hard work and while I am not happy about having to do this ( neither is she and she lets me know when we do have a little time) I am going to do what it takes to give her a complete life. In the meantime, I do the practice daily and have enough contact to let me know she is still around and shares my goals for her.

Photo of author Dr. Bob Newport.
Photo of author Dr. Bob Newport.

She also has taken to writing. I have given her a page on my blog “Flora’s Own”  and this is currently the main way I have of knowing what she is up to. That and through my own writing, I have published one book, Tulpa Tales: Confessions of an Elder Tulpamancer and have two more in development. It might not surprise you to find that many tulpamancers are authors who find that their characters take on lives of their own and become tulpas. I was writing before tulpamancy, but the practice and the fact of my tulpas, have passionately motivated me to put them out in the world.  If this essay has at all interested you in finding out more, I keep a blog with my journal and the people at the Tulpa Community are very helpful.

About Publishing

In a nutshell self-publishing is easy if you can read instructions. Or, rather the instructions are easy to read, executing them is quite another story. I will hire someone to do the formatting in the future. As for the money. Kindle Direct Publishing (this is Amazon) pays about 30 cents of the dollar, for eBooks and the same less the printing cost on paperbacks. As the printing cost is proportional to the length of the book, my 184 page book selling at 9.99 yields about three dollars per sale.

In contrast, my wife gets $0.05 per sale of a $20 book. To be fair, her co-author, gets a nickel too. It costs me nothing to get mine out there, whereas she spent over 3k to have hers produced professionally. (There is something to be said for that  though; she has won awards and has been published in three languages.)

What are you reading? And have you discovered a magical side to you?

COVID Hair n Writing Life by da-AL + Pamela S. Wight’s Memoir

K-D doggie with da-AL, who just tried to dye her hair turquoise.
Was nature set on whimsey when she fashioned dog noses?

“What do writers do when they’re not writing?” That question flabbergasted me when I saw it on Quora, an interactive “ask and answer site.” In my case as a novelist, I wish I was outside-the-box enough to warrant such an inquiry. When I’m not writing, I’m fretting about not writing.

(For an audio version of this post, click H-E-R-E.)

When I’m not fretting, I’m reading or listening to audiobooks, spending time with loved friends and family, walking my doggie, eating, sleeping, gardening, and ruminating way too much on my hair, as you’ll read later.

Note regarding Happiness Between Tails podcast: Apple Podcasts is taking longer than usual to process submissions, so I will continue to keep you posted.

Regarding friends, look at the cool pen my dear pal, Patricia, gave me! (Btw, here’s a letter she wrote to you and me about her United States Marines recruit daughter, Rebekah Hyde, who’d love to get our postcards.) Patricia planned to gift me a mega-bling pen, but I snatched this instead. She appeared somewhat crestfallen, so I asked if she wanted it back, but she answered that she’d hoped to give me something pretty. Ah, I told her, thank you very much. However, how often do you come across a USMC Marine band pen? With a  revolving clicker that displays their website, phone number, and such?

The "President's Own" is the Marine band that accompanies the president everywhere.
The “President’s Own” is the Marine band that accompanies the president everywhere.

As for gardening, figs are coming in, kumquats are winding down, and so are tomatoes (here’s one of several posts they’ve figured into). “Wildlife” devoured the grapes. Despite K-D doggie’s best attempts, she has yet to de-populate our modest back yard of possums, rats, birds, and the figeater beetles who work their tiny gossamer wings very hard to fling their enormous green bodies into the soft fruits of our labors. (Btw, have you read “Miss Benson’s Beetle” by Rachel Joyce? So fun and so girl-power that it’s changed how I see beetles forever. Check out other books I like at my Goodreads page.)

It's fun to grow food.
It’s fun to grow food.

“Mirror, mirror on the wall,” here’s my hair short, before the COVID-19 quarantine hit. Sheesh, back then I had no inkling what the future would bring…

BC: Before COVID-19.
BC: Before COVID-19.

No one I know is happy about COVID-19, though my husband likes my newly long hair that resulted from not being able to get it cut during quarantine. It took a while to learn how to condition my hair to where it’s not a dried-out snarl. The photo at the very start of this post is an unveiling of sorts. It’s my hair yesterday, the day after I marinated it in temporary turquoise coloring. Admittedly, it now only looks a little darker.

All the aforementioned distractions and more are why I am especially impressed with writers who actually produce, and boy, does Pamela Wight produce! She’s an inspiration to me and I hope she’ll be one for you too. Here she was a Happiness Between Tails guest before. As you’ll read below, she’s a blogger (find all her social media links here, including for her books) who posts from Boston (though she’s from San Francisco), teaches, gives presentations, and publishes books for kids as well as adults. Also, she loves animals and values life’s simple moments. Read to the very end of her guest blog post to learn of her publishing journey…

Author Pamela Wight with her furry family, Charlie and Charlotte.
Author Pamela Wight with her furry family, Charlie and Charlotte.

“Memoir in a Flash” by Pamela S. Wight

As a writer of several genres — romantic suspense and children’s books — I thought that memoir was one genre I would never attempt.

Memoir is the stuff of hardship and life challenges. Memoirs often follow an individual who battles abuse/addiction/racial and sexual inequities/tribulations that eventually lead to triumph.

But ordinary me? What would I ever write about that made for an interesting “me” book?

But then, several of my blog followers began to suggest that I use my blog posts to create a fun memoir.

What? When I think of memoir, I don’t think of fun. I think of tragedy and hopelessness until the denouement, when hope and love are reestablished.

Cover of "Flashes of Life," by Pamela S. Wight.

Whoever heard of a light and easy memoir? A memoir of ordinary snippets about ordinary life? So I continued posting my fun everyday stories of a dog who barks longingly for pumpkin in his kibble, of an “elderly” grandmother who rollerblades with her eyes closed, of a fear of pedicures and of a scam gone wrong. Readers seem to delight in my honest discovery of the joys — and horrors — of babysitting grandbabies and of being horribly late for a brother’s wedding.

More blog readers and friends/strangers suggested I should compile these stories — those posted and those still filed away — into a book. 

Silly, I decided. Until I mentioned the silly idea to my publisher who immediately exclaimed: “A FLASH memoir! Perfect idea.”

I thought she had made up this genre on-the-spot — a flash memoir? But then my research revealed this new genre called micro-writing, which is also called the short short story. In his preface to In Short: A Collection of Brief Creative Nonfiction (edited by Judith Kitchen and Mary Paumier Jones), Bernard Cooper writes in the Preface: “To write short nonfiction requires an alertness to detail, a quickening of the senses, a focusing of the literary lens, so to speak, until one has magnified some small aspect of what it means to be human.”

Well, yes, that’s exactly what I try to do in my flash stories. To show how extraordinary the ordinary is. To show how the amazing lightness of being can be available from one day to the next. The flash in “flash memoir” indicates brevity, yes, but even more importantly, it suggests a “flash” of insight into the human experience.

So, I listened to my publisher and to the beta readers who read my compilation of fun fast stories of everyday life. I hired an editor who wrote: “this is a really sweet, funny, readable, heartwarming collection of anecdotes from your life. I smile when I think about parts I’ve just read, and I’m sure readers will feel like that when they put the book down just for a short time before they find themselves smiling and picking it up again! Even the sad parts of the book are well done, drawing the reader in with empathy for your characters. The humility and humor are what make this a beautiful book. I love it.” (Thank you, Anneli Purchase.)

So yes, there are a few sad parts in here. This is about life, after all. But the sad is infused with joy.

I include eight sections in my flash memoir, with headings like “Fun Family Drama,” “For the Dogs,” and “Relationships.”  I wanted to keep this light memoir light, literally as well as metaphorically. So the page count is a modest 140. My publisher designed it brilliantly as a square book with black and white waterlogued photos of real people in my life — photos from the 1940s to current day.

I must admit, I’m glad I’m now a triple-genre author. And one of the genres is memoir.

On Publishing…

The first book I wrote was Twin Desires with co-author, Ashley Brandt. My co-writer and I were a great team. Ashley had been a student for several years in my creative writing classes, and at some courageous point we decided to write a romantic suspense novel together. We had a great time, because we set aside our egos, outlined a plot after writing about 1,000 words individually, sharing these pages, and then delegating chapters. Then we switched and edited each other’s chapters. After hiring an editor and making a few changes, we got an agent within a month of “putting it out there.” This is rather miraculous, as most writers know. The agent was marvelous and shopped the book to many publishing companies, and we got terrific feedback (all positive). That said, no one wanted to buy the book. We received comments like: “already published too many books with twins,” “don’t want a book with a bomb in it,” “well-written and page-turner but doesn’t fit in with our needs now.”

That’s when I decided to research Indie publishing. After doing so, I’ve never looked back. Both of my novels are self-published (Twin Desires and The Right Wrong Man). For my two children’s books (Birds of Paradise and Molly Finds Her Purr) and my “flash memoir,” I decided to go with hybrid publishing. For a fee, the publisher (Borgo Publishing) designed the books and organized the printing and getting them into Amazon and Barnes & Noble.. I receive 100% of the royalties. Each of these books needed specialized designs, and Borgo did an incredible job with all three.

Visit Pam’s blog for more about her.

How long did your hair get during the quarantine?…

Self-Publishing in S. India by Nadira Cotticollan

Traditional publishing, the kind that engages literary agents and monolithic publishing companies, has always been a challenge for writers. In my quest to find either for my soon-to-be-released novels, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” and “Tango & the Sitting Cat,” it feels akin to winning the lottery. Fortunately, self-publishing is rapidly becoming a mainstream empowering alternative. What’s your experience with either buying or publishing self-published novels?

A blogger/novelist from India, Nadira Cotticollan, shares about her venture into releasing fiction on her own (and check out the blog version of this h-e-r-e)…

When she’s not writing novels, Nadira Cotticollon loves being a grandmother.

“The Winnowing Waves” and Self-Publishing by Nadira Cotticollan

(For an audio version of this post, click H-E-R-E.)

I belong to a  Muslim community from the coastal state of Kerala in South India. We are said to have been winnowed out from the rest of the Kerala populace by the inter-marriages that took place between the Arab traders and the local women. Most of the cultural aspects continued to be picked up from the customs prevalent in Kerala, with some changes to create a distinct identity.  But there was a marked Arab influence as well.

During the years I grew up, there were many changes that were happening which were, in fact, slowly erasing the differences in dress and lingo and the social mores of confining women indoors, etc. A female like me, therefore, got the benefit of education, which was a rare thing during my mother’s generation and almost non-existent before that.

Then, there was a  turn towards more strict observance of the religious customs although there was no going back on the education, fortunately.  In part, this had to do with the political changes that saw an upsurge of right-wing sentiments and the political events that they ushered in, as also with the influx of the Wahabian influence brought in by those who had found a livelihood in the Gulf countries. These attempts at aggressively establishing religious, political, and cultural identities between the Hindus and the Muslims, is now gradually bringing in a subtle divide and disturbing the harmony that had existed for thousands of years.

My novel has been woven through this backdrop, but it is in no way discourse on any of those aspects. It creeps in through the different characters, of course, but not stridently so.

The story is told from a woman’s perspective for the most part.

I am sixty-two now, and I have always cherished the idea of getting something that I wrote published. After finishing this novel, I did tentatively explore the regular publishing route. I realized that it would take a very long time and that there was no certainty of any of the established publishers taking it up. So I decided to look for self-publishing platforms. My children offered to bear the cost.

Notionpress, who I approached, came across as very professional, with a good team who managed the different aspects of the publication process. I chose the minimum package which would take care of the formatting, the cover design, the copyrights, and the online listing on their online store as well as on Flipkart and Amazon India. The editing is a facility available with a higher package. So I did the editing myself. They did allow for post-publication correction of the grammatical and spelling errors and a couple of errors in the names, etc. The whole process was completed in two weeks.

They do not do any promotion with this package, nor will the books be available in the bookshops.

But I’m happy.

My friends were the ones who read the book first and gave me feedback. They have liked it and assure me that they can relate to it, that the flow is smooth, that it speaks to them of what I had wanted to convey and so on.

With the money I earned in the last two months, I decided to upgrade the package, which would make the book available outside India on Amazon.com

The pricing they suggested appeared to be almost the same as that of many well-established authors, and I expressed my doubts to them about that. I was told that my book would be printed only as per demand, which would hike up the production costs, as compared to the mass production of the books of established authors.

The royalty I get on the sale of one copy after they deduct the production costs and half of the profits (that was the agreement) is only about 2/5th of the MRP if purchased through the Notionpress store and much less (about 1/8th) if sold through Amazon and Flipkart.

But what’s more important to me is that more people get to read the book.

da-AL’s kind offer to let me put up a blog post here about it is therefore very much appreciated.

I do hope some of you will pick it up from Amazon.com and give me your feedback after you’ve read it. Go to Notionpress here. Go to Amazon here.

Thank you all very much for reading this ☺

What’s your experience with buying or publishing self-published novels?