Welcome to Jo Elizabeth Pinto
I was born in Chicago in 1971 and grew up in Brighton, Colorado. I was part of the first generation of disabled students who integrated the public schools in the late 1970’s. In 1992, I graduated from the University of Northern Colorado at Greeley with a degree in Human Services. While helping disabled students learn how to use adaptive computer technology, I earned a second degree in 2004 from the Metropolitan State College of Denver in Nonprofit Organization Management. Blind since birth, I am currently self-employed as a braille textbook proofreader.
As an author, I know the importance of entertaining my readers while also giving them food for thought. Whether I write fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, I draw inspiration from my own experiences with the ultimate intention of showing my audience that hope is always just an action away.
I live in Colorado with my husband and my daughter, my yellow Labrador guide dog Anlyn, two cats named Sam-I-Am and Andy, and a parakeet called Rocket. In my free time, I enjoy baking, growing flowers, and listening to music.
I’m an author, as I’ve wanted to be since I first figured out as a little girl that words could be written down in books and enjoyed over and over again. But I’m also a freelance braille proofreader, mostly for clients across the country who produce textbooks that will be used by blind children in kindergarten through high school, and a few random college students and library patrons now and then. I’m a wife and mother, a daughter, a friend.
What that means in practical terms is, I write in bits and pieces. Sometimes I get up and write in the dead of night when the house is quiet. Sometimes I write for ten minutes while the spaghetti bubbles on the stove and my daughter works out a long division problem at the kitchen table. Sometimes I shove work aside, switch off my conscience, and write for an entire morning with undone dishes piled up in the sink because I’ll explode if the characters don’t get themselves out of my head and into the world.
My writing space is a beat-up old computer desk in the corner of my dining room. When my daughter was little, she plastered the lower drawers and cupboards of the desk with colorful stickers. The upper cabinets are hung with bead necklaces, old track meet ribbons, and other childhood trinkets. When I lived alone, I was organized to a fault. But having a family has taken care of that problem. My desk is always cluttered, often with random items that, for the most part, don’t even belong to me.
My computer is fitted with text-to-speech (screen-reading) software that repeats the words I type and allows me to listen to emails and navigate the Internet. Using that software, I’ve written and self-published two books. The first, “The Bright Side of Darkness,” is a novel about a group of kids from the projects and how their lives change because of mentoring. The second, released this last July, is a nonfiction book about my adventures as the blind mom of a sighted daughter.
My daughter is delighted to have been featured in a book, but she isn’t quite old enough to understand the point the stories about the two of us are trying to make. Her dad is a staunch supporter of my writing. He owns a watch and clock repair shop, and I’ve sold many books locally out of his store.
Working from home, writing and running a business, raising a child—it can all be overwhelming at times. The lifestyle works for me, especially because I found a sustainable way to make money as a freelance proofreader and be home when my daughter is. I would recommend my chosen crafts, with a caveat or two. First, a person has to be a self-starter. When you take up writing or work from home, there won’t be anyone standing over your shoulder, nagging you to improve. There will be a million things waiting to take up your time, and writing takes hours, weeks, and years of practice. Those who persist, prevail. And second, join a group of like-minded people—real live people are best, but online is okay if necessary. Writers need other writers to support them, challenge them, and keep them writing.
Please check out my author Website, where you can find many relevant links:
“The Bright Side of Darkness” is my award-winning novel, Available in Kindle, audio, and paperback formats.
The paperback version of my novel is available at Barnes & Noble here:
Please see my author page on Facebook here:
Please see my author blog, “Looking on the Bright Side,” on Goodreads here:
Please see my Bookbub profile here:
To read guest posts about parenting in the dark, please click here:
To read guest posts on a variety of topics, please click here:
Dark Tales and Twisted Verses
A Fire-Side Tales Collection
Available in e-book, coming soon in print.
Dark tales of ghosts of war, blood from the Autumn of Terror, the wrath of nature, an unusual murder and a cynical vampire. Twisted poetry of loss and mayhem.
Some adult themes and language.
The Secret of Blossom Rise – A Ghost Story
The Watcher – A Tale of Jack the Ripper
The Last Forest – A Tale of the Wrath of Nature
The Last Dance – An Autumnal Flash Fiction
The Sleeper – A Yoyo Murder
So Many Nights, So Many Sins – A Vampire’s Tale
We Must Remember
Giving It All
End of Days
The Glass-Eyed Monster
Author name: L. L. Thomsen
*Please tell us about your publications.
I write character-led high medieval fantasy with a good slash of epic. I am working on a series titled, The Missing Shield – originally one large book that has been split into 11 episodes in order to make the workload more manageable. The 8th book (titled: All in a Day’s Work) is out now, and I am currently working on book 9. What you get in my books is lots of flawed characters that you may not feel quite sure about in the beginning. There’s magic, mystery, darkness, crime, plots, romance, backstabbing, manoeuvring, different races, and an end-of-the-world kinda deadline & quest. I enjoy painting an immersive picture of the world I write about, so expect lots of depth and world-building. I try not to hold back and I try to write as close to real life as I can get. I also wanted to write something a little different from the mainstream so the story has quite the lyrical slant, but it is written with an adult/mature market in mind. This is not YA.
What first prompted you to publish your work? To begin with I wasn’t really sure that I would publish. I started writing my high fantasy book as I somehow got inspired – but it was always just something I considered a pastime whilst the kids were babies and I was at home anyway. Then I realised that I was getting more and more passionate about the job and I felt that I ought to publish at the end of the day because I wanted to share my work with an audience and I wanted to award myself by proving that I could complete the process.
What have you found the most challenging part of the process? Going it alone. Everything was a learning curve. Particularly when it came to figuring out the Amazon instructions and uploading my manuscript. Formatting is not as straight forward as I always imagined it to be. Furthermore, once you’re on the other side, and have successfully published your book, I cannot believe how difficult it is to get anyone to even look your way. I guess I never really got the ‘build yourself a social media following’ – I’m a little too private and old school.
What piece of advice do you wish you’d had when you started your publishing journey? Be tenacious! I knew it would not be easy, but I gave up on finding myself an agent way too soon and in return, it left me literally on my own with the whole load. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a freedom in being your own boss and maybe that’s partly why I went my own way so soon, but having said that, I think there’s lots to be said for getting yourself aligned with someone who’s on your side, has your best interest at heart and who knows the business: where to go, how to do it, and when.
If you could have dinner with any literary character who would you choose, and what would you eat. I’d love to treat my character Solancei to a meal – she’s in for a bumpy ride and I think she deserves some TLC. I’d also love to quiz her about everything that happens and the world she lives in. I know a lot (wink – of course) but there are always secrets! I think we’d have pizza and wine, and I’d try and stop her from killing me for writing her such a hard, complicated destiny.
Sort these into order of importance:
For me there is no question of ranking these in order. They are each an integral part of the book you write and I feel that the author should pay equal attention to each. Since I write fantasy – and epic at that – I’m very much for world building because that’s a must for the genre, but that in itself is nothing if it’s not backed by the other three. What’s a good plot with flat/un-inspiring characters and vice versa? A technically perfect book is what we all strive for (as in a professional end-product) but I do believe that the interpretation of ‘perfection’ may vary depending on who you ask. Also, it may be technically perfect, but what good is that if the readers cannot engage with the story or the characters. It’s the snake that bites its own tail. It must come full circle.
How much research do you do for your work? What’s the wildest subject you’ve looked at? I research as and when. It may be just a small thing like the components of a saddle or the belief system of various ethnic groups. I try and keep it factually correct even though I write fantasy – this means that even if the herb is made up, I’ll still look up how to brew tinctures for headaches, for example – or I might watch a YouTube video on sword fights. The most extreme I’ve looked up will probably be stuff to do with injuries and the effects of various weapons/conditions.
How influential is storytelling to our culture? I think it’s hugely influential but maybe not through the original media anymore. I do feel that we love a good tale, whether it be a story is reported in the papers, or how TV channels adapt historical events to create entertainment. We are always looking for something to catch and hold our interest – particularly after the rise of social media – and stories speak to us. They help us feel part of society and may sometimes even give us a sense of belonging too.
What’s the best advice you’ve received about writing/publishing? Keep at it. Keep growing and developing.
What’s the worst piece best advice you’ve received about writing/publishing? Don’t write your story like that – write it like this.
If you could be any fantasy/mythical or legendary person/creature what would you be and why? Maybe a phoenix. I like the idea that you can rise from the ashes and be reborn. That you can try again.
Tell us about your latest piece? Around 6 weeks ago I released my 8th book in The Missing Shield series. It carries on from number 7, where one of my main characters – the rather naive and slightly annoying Princess Iambre – has decided to try and locate her missing friend and bodyguard despite her security chief and beau having told her that she must take heed and leave it to them. In book 8 she finds herself alone and lost after a string of unfortunate events almost killed her and worse – but as luck would have it, she finds the very place she’d been looking for. She wants to attend a clandestine meeting that might shed light upon her missing friend and now follows a series on incidents that has the Princess quaking in her boots. Nevertheless she is reunited with certain other characters only to learn some devastating news. However, before she can process this, she and her group are betrayed and they must flee or fall into the very hands of the enemy they are investigating and fear.
Are indie/self-published authors viewed with scepticism or wariness by readers? Why is this?
I’ve found that indies are very much considered ‘the second-hand citizen’ of the author world. It’s unfair but I guess that the indie route has given rise to many poorly executed books – and unfortunately people remember the bad ones far longer than the good ones. I’ve talked to readers who do not consider indie books ‘real’ works of writing. Fortunately, there are also those who have delved into the fray and have found gold, so swings and roundabouts. The common reason that readers list for not wanting indie works are: poorly formatted, bad grammar, no edits or badly edited, homemade, cheap covers, poor storylines, rip off storylines, over-priced, they should be free…
I think it worth mentioning that it’s not always because the indie books are not worthy that they have not been traditionally published. Agents are very fickle with what they are looking for (and rightly so). In 9:10 times you need an agent to approach a publishing house, so it does mean that some decent manuscripts may be overlooked because the agent may feel that they are in the market for ‘something else’. It cannot be helped, but readers rarely see that side of the industry.
Armed with a love of fantasy, a slightly geeky mindset, and an unleashed wild muse, L. L. began the new journey into writing relatively late in life but was inspired by her long-repressed urges to write ‘something’ – and once she began, she never looked back.
“I regret I took so long to find my ‘calling’. The truth is that when you have an idea it just has to be set free,” she says, adding, “My somewhat unorthodox approach to style and flow has been a way for me to test my personal, individual voice. It’s a fluid thing, however. In the future, it might alter to match the shape of new projects.”
Linda currently lives in the UK, Nottinghamshire, with her husband, two kids, a cats and one dog. As with her writing, she approaches life with a nod to the saying: ‘fear nothing, respect everything’. She enjoys horse riding, sci-fi movies, travelling, reading fantasy (but not exclusively), Pilates, and has a strange fascination with swords.
Her first published fantasy novel, ‘A Change of Rules’, kick-starts the 11 ‘episodes’ of The Missing Shield – a new adult high fantasy series, with a touch of mystery, intrigue, romance and darkness. ‘The Missing Shield’ is the forerunner to ‘The Veil Keepers Quest’ series.
Calling all readers! Fill your library with N. N. Light’s Book Heaven Snuggle Up With These Books Readathon picks. 56 books from multiple genres featured plus a chance to win one of the following:
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I’m thrilled to be a part of this event. My book, The Shining Citadel, will be featured on 14th November. I even talk about what I’m thankful for this year. You won’t want to miss it.
Bookmark this bookish party and tell your friends:
Brothels and Prostitutes by Jane Fenwick @jane_fenwick60 #neverthetwain #historicalcrimenovels #romance #victorianwhitby
Brothels and prostitution feature in the opening of my new book Never the Twain. Men have used prostitutes since time began. There is even one mentioned in that very famous book The Bible!
Prostitution has always been a way for women to support themselves when all other means of earning a living have been exhausted. Very few women would have chosen this path had another option been open to them. In Never the Twain identical twins April and May find themselves in the unenviable predicament of being sold into prostitution.
Never the Twain is set in 1890 a time when it is easy to forget that women had very few rights. Women were considered chattel and on marriage were passed from their father’s care to that of their husband. Women like April and May, the protagonists in Never the Twain, had no male protectors and so had to make their own way in the world. April and May, through no fault of their own, are sold into prostitution so their actress mother can be rid of them. The acting profession in Victorian times was regarded as only a step away from prostitution and so it is easy to see why the twins’ mother would place them in the care of a Madam.
Educated women were still rare and middle class educated women rarer still. Had they been impoverished vicars’ daughters they would have found it relatively easy to get positions as governesses or companions. However, without a letter of reference they would have struggled to gain respectable employment. The twins could have taken work in domestic service or shop work but April and May would have found such work low paid and demeaning. Without means or protection their options would have been limited and falling into the poverty trap was a risk to avoid at all costs; once you lost the roof over your head there was no social security to fall back on. Once their “mother” died April and May were very much on their own.
Each twin had a different solution to their dilemma but ultimately the solution they agreed upon led to dire consequences. April knew that although they were educated it would be difficult to find respectable positions though she was willing to try. However, she allowed her twin to convince her to enter the brothel as a way of buying time – they were assured they would be untouched until their eighteenth birthday. It was a decision they would both come to regret.
Every port and harbour had their fair share of prostitutes. In seafaring towns prostitution was especially rife. Men who had been at sea for months had needs and a range of options were available for them to choose from when they were back ashore depending on their tastes and budget. From tuppeny streetwalkers to those who worked the inns, taverns and bawdy houses. And then there were the higher class brothels such as the one in Never the Twain, Mrs Jansen’s establishment where the higher ranks of the seafaring community, as well as the local gentry, were catered for.
In Victorian times gentlemen of rank often married for reasons other than love. The aristocracy, and increasingly the newly emerging merchant classes, often married to improve their finances and position in society. They married to join two influential families together or to gain the dowry of an heiress. Couples often married to unite two prominent families where one provided a title and the other party supplied the money. These misalliances often resulted in some gentlemen seeking their pleasures elsewhere especially once their wives had produced an “heir and a spare”.
For some, using “high class” brothels as opposed to regular bawdy houses offered ‘respectability’ as the brothels were often well-appointed almost like a gentlemen’s club. The girls were also thought to be cleaner and accomplished in the art of seduction. However, I found from my research, that some gentlemen liked “a bit of rough” too on occasions and would purposely seek out women of the lower orders as something different, a thrill!
The Victorian period saw the rise of a new class; the middle or mercantile class. “New Money” was made from newly emerging industries and manufacturing. The industrial revolution made enterprising men rich. My male protagonists Edward and Alistair Driscoll would have been part of this growth of the Nouveau Riche. Their fortunes had been made in the past from the slave trade and from importing tobacco from the New World – in this instance from Virginia. Now they were dealing in imports and exports and were adding to their fortunes.
Mrs Jansen boasted that her whores were “free from disease” and “practised in the arts of seduction”, something most men of position would appreciate. Men like Captain Edward Driscoll – being from new money – would have been the mainstay of Velda Jansen’s provincial brothel. In a port such as Whitby where a whore could be bought cheaply by any passing sailor, Mrs Jansen’s brothel would have been the epitome of class – if you weren’t from London that is. Anything which could attract her more wealthy clients would have been a boon for the avaricious Madam. So when beautiful, identical twin virgins were offered to her she saw the guinea signs flash before her eyes. She knew a marketable commodity when she saw it and here were two beauties ready for the plucking.
Sometimes prostitutes are portrayed as being happy with their lot or “the tart with a heart” but the reality was seldom so straightforward or agreeable. The girls were effectively slaves and the Madams ruthless. You can probably guess what would happen to one of Mrs Jansen’s “clean girls” if she became infected by a punter or when she lost her looks. Her only choice would be to walk the streets for business. As a result her life span would be considerably shortened. A girl would put up with a lot to keep herself from plying her trade in the dangerous ginnels and inns of Whitby so whatever the punter wanted the punter invariably got. The Madams would turn a blind eye to most things, even if this meant the girls were brutalised. So long as the gentleman did not spoil a girl’s face – the Madams would not be pleased if one of their precious girls were to be disfigured. Very occasionally a girl would get “lucky” and a punter would pay for her sole use or set her up in her own establishment as his mistress. Rarer still was the gentleman who married a whore.
In Never the Twain I wanted to show how devastating it would be for two relatively well brought up, educated young girls like April and May to find themselves in this frightening and dangerous situation. The twins, had they been ‘launched’, would have been sold to the highest bidder and thereafter used and abused day and night until their beauty faded. Such an end for the girls who were only valued for their beauty and bodies would have been shameful. In Never the Twain we see April and May struggle to survive the brothel but their lives soon become marred by jealousy and greed, betrayal and murder.
Never the Twain: A twin tale of jealousy and betrayal, love and murder.
The year is 1890. The port of Whitby is heaving with sailors and where there are sailors there are brothels doing a roaring trade. Beautiful identical twins April and May are in desperate straits. They have been abandoned by their actress mother and are about to have their virginity auctioned off to the highest bidder by a notorious brothel madam.
Their fate is hanging in the balance when Captain Edward Driscoll a handsome, wealthy shipping tycoon from Glasgow saves them before they can be deflowered.
But have they exchanged one form of slavery for another?
April, reluctantly swept up in her twin’s secrets and lies unwittingly becomes embroiled in a murderous conspiracy. Is May’s jealousy stronger than the twin bond which has always connected them?
Never the Twain: A dark blend of Gothic romance and murder.
Jane Fenwick lives in the market town of Settle in Yorkshire, England. She studied education at Sheffield University gaining a B.Ed (Hons) in 1989 and going on to teach primary age range children. Jane decided to try her hand at penning a novel rather than writing school reports as she has always been an avid reader, especially enjoying historical and crime fiction. She decided to combine her love of both genres to write her first historical crime novel Never the Twain. Jane has always been a lover of antiques, particularly art nouveau and art deco ceramics and turned this hobby into a business opening an antiques and collectables shop in Settle. However her time as a dealer was short lived; she spent far too much time in the sale rooms buying items that ended up in her home rather than the shop! Animal welfare is a cause close to Jane’s heart and she has been vegetarian since the age of fourteen. For the last twenty years she has been trustee of an animal charity which rescues and rehomes cats, dogs and all manner of creatures looking for a forever home. Of course several of these have been “adopted” by Jane!
Jane has always loved the sea and although she lives in the Yorkshire Dales she is particularly drawn to the North East coast of Yorkshire and Northumberland. This coastline is where she gets her inspiration for the historical crime and romance novels she writes. She can imagine how the North East ports would have looked long ago with a forest of tall masted ships crammed together in the harbours, the bustling streets congested with sailors, whalers, chandlers and sail makers. These imaginings provide the backdrop and inspire her to create the central characters and themes of her novels. As she has always loved history she finds the research particularly satisfying.
When she isn’t walking on Sandsend beach with her dog Scout, a Patterdale “Terrorist” she is to be found in her favourite coffee shop gazing out to sea and dreaming up her next plot. Jane is currently writing a historical saga series again set on the North East coast beginning in 1765. The first two books are being edited at the moment; My Constant Lady and The Turning Tides. Look out for My Constant Lady in 2020.
Author Name: Judith Starkston
- *Please tell us about your publications.
I’m the author of three books of historical fantasy based on the Bronze Age Hittites—an empire of the ancient Near East nearly buried by the sands of time. My books take “a quarter turn to the fantastic,” to borrow Guy Gavriel Kay’s phrase, and give full expression to the magical religious beliefs of these historical people. My first book, Hand of Fire, is set in the Trojan War and told from a woman’s viewpoint, Briseis, Achilles’ captive. Currently, I’m writing a historical fantasy series based on a Hittite queen. The first book in that series Priestess of Ishana is available FREE Oct 2-6. The second book, Sorcery in Alpara, launches Oct 14.
- What first prompted you to publish your work?
When I was researching my first book and figuring out the Trojans, I made a startling side discovery—a queen I’d never heard of who ruled for decades over an empire I’d barely heard of, despite my training and degrees as a classicist. It was the Hittite empire, of which, it turns out, Troy was a part. The queen was Puduhepa (whom I call Tesha in my fiction–the Hittite word for “dream” because she had visionary dreams). I’m particularly interested in the theme of women as leaders, so I was hooked. The Hittite empire could be called the forgotten empire, but fortunately, recent archaeology and the decipherment and translation of many thousands of clay tablets have filled in parts of the lost history. We now have many Hittite letters, prayers, judicial decrees, treaties, religious rites and a variety of other documents, but overall our knowledge still has huge gaps in it. I use shifted names in my series, such as Hitolia for the Hittite empire, to cue my readers to how much I have to fill in imaginatively from those fragmentary records. It also gives fair warning to the magic that I give free rein to, the rules of which derive from Hittite practices, but I do let the story go where a good story should and that means a lot of fantasy. It was that juicy primary source material, an extraordinary female ruler, and an intriguing ancient world that prompted me to write Priestess of Ishana and Sorcery in Alpara.
- Are you a ‘pantser’ or a ‘plotter’?
I outline my novels in a couple different ways before I start writing, but those outlines are subject to change whenever the story and characters take me into new realms I hadn’t imagined at the start.
I use a couple approaches to outlining and organizing my manuscripts. One is very character/theme/pacing driven, Libbie Hawker’s book Take Your Pants Off. The other, very plot and pacing driven, is a storyboarding technique that means I’ve got each of my books laid out on a three-sided board like we used for our school science projects. It’s explained in Alexandra Sokoloff’s Screenwriting Tricks for Authors. You’ll notice in both the word “pacing.” I found as I learned the craft that pacing was both the hardest part to get right and the most essential. If readers aren’t compulsively drawn through my story, it doesn’t matter how beautiful my writing is and all the rest (though I work hard to get all that nailed). A good story is hard to put down—that’s something we all intuitively know. The corollary is that if a story is hard to get through, it isn’t very good!
- What piece of advice do you wish you’d had when you started your publishing journey?
Write at least a little bit every day and give yourself permission to write “bad words.” What do I mean by that? Just write and don’t worry whether it’s crap or not. Later you can go back and edit or trash if need be. I find that it is often the days when I think I’m writing the worst that I discover on later read, I’ve written some of my best. And you can only fix words that are actually on the page.
- If you could have dinner with any literary character who would you choose, and what would you eat.
I’ve never gotten over my fascination with Achilles in the Iliad. He’s maybe legendary rather than literary, but I’d like to sit down and listen to him (probably admire his physique also…). He’d probably want lamb roasted on spits spiced with garlic and cumin, and I love that also, so I’ll go with that. Some fresh flatbread right off the hot stones to go along with it!
- What are your views on authors offering free books? Do you believe, as some do, that it demeans an author and his or her work?
I’m using this technique—offering free my first book in the series, Priestess of Ishana, from Oct 2-6. I’m doing it right before the second book comes out, so I’ll see buy through and get paid that way. I think it’s a viable marketing strategy. I don’t think reaching new readers is demeaning. It’s what you do as an author, and putting books into people’s hands seems like a good thing overall. If I was expected to give away books for free all the time, that would be silly. But accessing a lot of new readers I wouldn’t have any other way? That sounds smart to me. So do download a copy of Priestess of Ishana, and then if you really enjoy it, buy Sorcery in Alpara.
- What are your views on authors commenting on reviews?
I spread the word when I get a particularly strong review, especially from someone I really respect. When someone writes a bad review, I see no reason to react one way or the other, certainly not comment on it. I let my fiction, my author notes, all the background material on my website speak for itself when someone has a wrongheaded idea in a review. Reality has a way of coming through over time, so I don’t sweat it. If someone points out a perceptive way to improve in a review, I go to work in my next book and make sure I fix that. I’m happy to learn from all sources.
- How much research do you do for your work? What’s the wildest subject you’ve looked at?
I have gone deep into the research, both the book/reading part (years of that) and the travel. I’ve gone to the archaeological sites, landscapes, and museum collections in Turkey that are the source material for my world-building. I contact the dig directors and museum curators so that I can talk with them and learn first-hand from the people who really know. I spent a whole day at the site that we think was Tesha’s hometown that I call Lawaza, but was called Lawazantiya by the Hittites. It’s the archaeological site of Tatarli near the city of Adana in Turkey. The key reason they think it’s her hometown is that the dig mound (with Bronze Age ruins of the right kind) is surrounded by seven springs. The Hittite records from the capital of the empire describe this town as having seven springs. The dig director took me to each of the springs–one of them appears in a key scene in Priestess of Ishana and I could never have gotten the atmospherics of that scene right if I hadn’t been there. One of the wildest subjects I’ve run across is the Hittite magical rite to remove a curse that I use in Priestess of Ishana. It involves chickpeas. Who knew that the way to get the demons out was via garbanzo beans? The Hittites were obsessed with curses and they believed sorcerers caused all kinds of evil with them. If you had to remove a curse from someone, you baked a loaf of bread with chickpea paste in the middle (basically humus) so that when you touched the bread to the cursed body while saying the right spell, the paste would absorb the pollution. I couldn’t make up this stuff in a million years, but the Hittite culture hands it to me. I just have to write it into compelling page-turners.
- If you could be any fantasy/mythical or legendary person/creature what would you be and why?
I’m having a lot of fun writing griffins into my series, so I’ll choose that mythical creature to be. It turned out, much to my surprise as I wrote, that griffins, or at least the ones in my books, have a very dry sense of humor. And they are wickedly good warriors and can soar into the heavens, and yet they have a big soft spot for their cubs who are allowed to climb all over the grownups, so I suspect hanging out as a griffin for a while could be very entertaining.
- What is your writing space like?
I’m very lucky and have a big window in front of my workspace that looks out on my garden. I write on a lovely inlaid wooden writing table with a comfortable armchair. So I’m all set to keep my butt in that seat for a good stretch every day.
- Is there a message in your books?
My fictional Tesha, based on the historic Queen Puduhepa, provides a worthy model for leadership—particularly the value of female leaders, which we’ve been thinking about lately, so this seems timely. She certainly wasn’t perfect, and some of her actions are hotly debated among historians as possibly self-serving or politically motivated rather than ethically driven. She gave me nuanced material to work into my hero’s character. But, despite that human complexity, or perhaps because of it, she had brilliant skills as queen in many areas: diplomatic, judicial, religious and familial. Most famously, she corralled Pharaoh Ramses II of Egypt into a lasting peace treaty. The surviving letters to Ramses reveal a subtle diplomat with a tough but gracious core that made her able to stand up to the arrogant Pharaoh without giving offense. She also took judicial positions that went against her own citizens when the truth wasn’t on their side. Fair justice wasn’t something she was willing to toss overboard when it was politically inconvenient. Her equal partnership with her husband was a much-admired model even in the patriarchal world of the ancient Near East. I’m enjoying working in these themes from a real woman into my historical fantasy series, one book at a time.
- How important is writing to you?
I love the long hours at my desk spent lost in the world that I write and in the company of my characters. I enjoy it every day. It’s my fulltime occupation.
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Priestess of Ishana https://amzn.to/2DXpdXt
Sorcery in Alpara https://amzn.to/319vuIj
Hand of Fire https://amzn.to/2KOb6a0
Judith Starkston has spent too much time reading about and exploring the remains of the ancient worlds of the Greeks and Hittites. Early on she went so far as to get degrees in Classics from the University of California, Santa Cruz and Cornell. She loves myths and telling stories. This has gotten more and more out of hand. Her solution: to write historical fantasy set in the Bronze Age. Hand of Fire was a semi-finalist for the M.M. Bennett’s Award for Historical Fiction. Priestess of Ishana won the San Diego State University Conference Choice Award.
Author name: Abbie Johnson Taylor
Please tell us a little about yourself. What makes you a #Uniqueauthor (or artist)? I’m the author of five books: two novels, two poetry collections, and a memoir. My stories and poems have appeared in various anthologies and journals. I’m visually impaired and live in Sheridan, Wyoming, where for six years, I cared for my totally blind late husband who was partially paralyzed by two strokes three months after we were married. Before that, I was a registered music therapist and worked for fifteen years in nursing homes and other facilities serving senior citizens. I taught braille, facilitated a support group for blind and visually impaired adults, and served on the advisory board to a trust fund that allows the blind and visually impaired to purchase adaptive equipment. To learn more about me, please visit my website at http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com.
Please tell us about your publications/work.
My latest book, The Red Dress, a novel, was published in 2019 by DLD Books. In 2016, my memoir, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, was released, also by DLD Books. In 2014, That’s Life: New and Selected Poems, was published by Finishing Line Press. In 2011, another poetry collection, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver, was published by iUniverse. In 2007, my first book, another novel, We Shall Overcome, was released, also by iUniverse.
As a disabled author, how do you overcome the extra challenges involved with producing your work? Because of my visual impairment, I use text-to-speech software on my computer that reads to me what’s on the screen and tells me what I’m typing. I also use a braille tablet, both as a display with my computer and as a stand-alone device for email, word processing, and other tasks. I read print with the help of a closed-circuit television reading system.
What have you found the most challenging part of the process? Do you think the publishing world is disability-friendly? For me, the most challenging part of being a writer is marketing my work. Because I don’t see well enough to drive, I can’t just hop in my car and drive around my state or country, selling books. I have to rely on others to take me places. So, I’m limited in what I can do to promote my work.
However, I’m fortunate to have discovered Tell It to the World Marketing, a business that promotes authors mostly through social media. I recommend them to any writer or business owner needing help with publicity.
The publishing industry is not friendly toward disabled authors. Many sites like Amazon are a challenge to navigate for a visually impaired person with screen reading computer software. Traditional publishers like Finishing Line Press have proofs in formats that are not accessible and stringent requirements that make publishing a book difficult for a visually impaired writer.
Thank goodness for DLD Books. They help authors with editing and format manuscripts for publication through Amazon, Smashwords, and other online retailers. Their rates are reasonable, and they do great work. What’s more, they contract with Tell It to the World Marketing so you’re not paying extra for those services. I recommend them to all authors.
What piece of advice do you wish you’d had when you started your publishing journey? Too late, I learned that if a piece is published on a website or blog, it’s considered previously published, and most journals and anthologies don’t accept such work. If I’d known that when I first developed an online presence in 2005, I would never have posted so many of my short stories and poems on my website and blog.
What’s your greatest networking tip? Start a blog and post regularly. I post to mine at https://abbiescorner.wordpress.com three days a week. It’s also important to categorize and tag your posts so readers can find topics of interest and search engines can more easily discover you. You’ll be amazed at how much traffic you’ll draw when you do this.
What’s the best advice you’ve received about writing/publishing? I’ve been told to eliminate adverbs and elaborate dialog tags when writing fiction. Although other authors, even bestselling ones, don’t follow this advice, I’ve discovered, over the years, that my writing flows more smoothly as a result.
What’s the worst advice you’ve received about writing/publishing? Get an agent. In the summer of 2005, when I was ready to publish We Shall Overcome, on the advice of my sister-in-law and a writer she knew, I researched agents and sent queries. Most were rejected, and I didn’t even hear back from some of the agents I queried. I also contacted some publishers directly with similar results. A year later, I decided to self-publish the book with iUniverse.
If you really want to be a bestselling author, find an agent or traditional publisher. Good luck. If you just want to get your work out there, don’t bother. Self-publish instead.
Which authors have influenced you the most? Danielle Steel has influenced me but not in a positive way. After reading her work, I’ve figured out how not to write. Although she tells compelling stories, and I’ll continue to enjoy her books, her habit of providing too much description in her narrative drives me up the wall sometimes.
What is your writing space like? My office contains a three-corner desk which holds my computer, printer, closed-circuit television reading system, and other odds and ends. Behind me is a smaller desk I use for labelling and stamping envelopes. In one corner is a stereo I rarely use. I play music on a smart speaker while working. I sometimes write in my recliner or outside when the weather’s nice.
Tell us about your latest piece. The Red Dress is a work of women’s fiction about how such a garment is related to the lives of three generations of women. Here’s the synopsis.
When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.
Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.
What’s your next writing adventure? Several years ago, I started a collection of short stories set in my home state of Wyoming. Reading a similar collection by Ann Beattie inspired me to do this. Her stories are set in Maine.
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Abbie-Johnson-Taylor/e/B00GDM1BWK/#nav-tophttp://
Abbie Johnson Taylor is the author of two novels, two poetry collections, and a memoir. Her work has appeared in various journals and anthologies. She lives in Sheridan, Wyoming. Please visit her website at http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com.
Author name: Joan Myles
Please tell us a little about yourself. What makes you a #Uniqueauthor? I am a poet. But poetry is not just what I do. Poetry is how the world speaks to me–musically, in “pictures” of the heart, in whispers of insight, and throbbings of connection. And if I succeed, the words I configure will do more than relate what I perceive. They will nudge readers to experience these marvels for themselves.
Please tell us about your publications/work. My first book, One With Willows is a collection of what I call “spiritually playful” poetry. You see, childlike wonder is my lens for viewing the world, childlike wonder and a sense of the Divine. And all my writing is meant to be a kind of footpath for readers into that place of delight, to help them awaken their own childlike wonder, perhaps to find Divinity for themselves.
What first prompted you to publish your work? I started publishing by way of my blog, http://jewniquelymyself.com.
At first, however, creative writing was not my focus. My blog was an attempt to spread the word about Yismehu, the nonprofit I founded in 2010 to bring free distance Jewish learning to blind adults nationwide. Until Yismehu closed in 2017, I wrote about being a blind Hebrew teacher of sighted 6th graders, of learning yoga, of life with a guide dog–all meant to highlight the abilities of people like myself, people who live and work and have families even as they deal with issues related to blindness.
As my teaching responsibilities shifted, I used the blog to share other things such as book reviews, and eventually, original poetry.
One With Willows came about because friends read my work, and nudged me to publish.
Do you think the written word (or art) bring power and freedom? Oh, yes. Words have magical power, you know. They create and destroy worlds, inspire and teach, and sometimes even reveal what we already know. The freedom to share words is vital currency between people. Words are the soul’s breath, the expression of the heart’s yearning, the means for bringing people together, or sadly, of dividing them.
As a blind writer, words may take a different, more tangible, shape on the page for me, but they are no less magical. In fact, beneath my fingers, Braille words reinforce the wondrous nature of Creation. I can hold words in my hand, touch them, experience their curves and angles–yet these are the flashes of sound and thought which bubble up and seem to fly away into space! So what is the true nature of reality after all? Is human existence spiritually rich and multi-layered as I perceive, as words demonstrate to me?
As a disabled author, how do you overcome the extra challenges involved with producing your work? Putting words on the page is not a problem for me. When inspiration comes, I gather ideas with my Braillewriter or my ChromeBook. The ChromeBook has a wonderful screen-reading feature, and even stores my writing. When it comes to other matters, like problems with my blog or uploading my book, I am fortunate to have sighted help from family members.
What have you found the most challenging part of the process? Do you think the publishing world is disability-friendly? Navigating the ins and outs of social media is quite challenging to me. But I am not sure whether this is due to the mechanics of social media, or the nature of marketing itself.
I think publishing these days is much easier for writers with disabilities. Computers and the internet provide tools of connection and information which were inaccessible before. Social media has helped connect disabled writers and broadened the discussion to include parents and other family members, even spilling over into more general social circles. The unique perspective of writers and characters with disabilities is being heard, and that is good for everyone.
What’s your greatest networking tip? My best advice is to write. Write something every day and don’t be afraid to have others read what you write. Writers need to share their work, their ideas, their inspirations. They need to find other writers, other readers, anyone who is open to the world of ideas and creativity. But this is not just to sell their work. Writers must keep their creative juices flowing, and immersing oneself in idea-sharing does just that.
If you could have dinner with any literary character who would you choose, and what would you eat? I would love to have dinner with the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. We would dine on a few fresh greens–spinach and broccoli, perhaps–munch on carrots and tomatoes, and delight in berries galore for dessert. And I would remind him to chew slowly, thoroughly, and hopefully, at last, I would nudge him to slow down, to take notice of the world around him, to breathe deeply, consciously, and to experience each moment. And I wonder, what shifts in Alice’s adventures might result from such a dinner?
How much research do you do for your work? My poetry is born of silence, of meditative moments spent in my garden, of breathing in the sweetness and bitterness of Life, of time spent interacting with loved ones and friends.
How influential is storytelling to our culture? Storytelling is vital to bringing people together, and even to self-discovery and development. Human beings constantly “talk” to themselves about what they perceive in the world, about the people they encounter, and what befalls them. And it’s not only the impressions upon our physical senses that build these stories. It’s what we tell ourselves about these impressions, whether we interpret them through the lens of ego and self-centered interests, or with wonder and compassion. Because these interpretations affect everything we say and do, story-telling is important to culture and social progress.
Which authors have influenced you the most? I love discovering new poets, but my absolute favorites are Mary Oliver and Roberto Juarroz. Somehow they manage to find simple, accessible language to relate the mysterious and spiritually intimate aspects of human experience. In fiction, I read those who speak deeply from their hearts and souls such as Pearl Buck, Victor Hugo and Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
What is your writing space like? Naturally, my writing space reflects who I am so books are a prominent feature. Braille books and print books fill my shelves with thoughts on religion and spirituality, as well as works of poetry and biography. The room’s large window looks out on the garden where day lilies and irises sweeten the air, and hummingbirds flitter just outside at one of three feeders. My desk is small to keep things tidy, but on the floor around my chair, I can’t help scattering a volume or two after reading, keeping them close at hand just in case.
Is this the age of the e-book? Are bricks and mortar bookshops in decline? I can’t help believing there will always be actual, tangible books to read. There is something so intimate, so physically, humanly satisfying, in holding a paper book in one’s hands. And, too, there must always be a place for book-lovers to gather, to share ideas with one another, and with writers.
What is your greatest success? Writing is all about speaking heart to heart. So success for me is knowing somone has read my work and benefitted by it somehow. A young man told me recently that he has recommended my book to fellow Veterans because it has brought him such a sense of peacefulness and wonder. And members of a local synagogue have installed two of my poems as part of their annual Holocaust Remembrance service as a statement of hope. I feel so honored, and so humbled.
How important is writing to you? For me, writing is a natural response to what I experience. So just as I must exhale with every breath I take in, I must translate what I perceive into word images. And just as dwelling among other human beings enables me to thrive and grow, so sharing my work expands my poetic vision and deepens my understanding of Life.
BOOK: ONE WITH WILLOWS…
One with Willows is a collection of spiritually playful poems which invites you to step out of the everyday world, to catch your breath, even to catch a glimpse of what really is. There is magic in light that turns hummingbirds into rubies. Wonder and delight wait for you in a garden, bid you to sit beside a young child at the piano, and may even lead you to stumble upon holiness where you least expect to find it.
You will want One with Willows on your bookshelf when you need a friendly reminder that things can get better. It will sit with you on the edge of the bed when you are weary, and revive your sense of hope when you need a boost.
Joan Myles has always been a child of wonder as well as a spiritual seeker. When she lost her sight at the age of 12, these qualities and writing poetry saved her from despair. And what’s more, once blind, her spiritual seeking took on a deeper, richer dimension. No longer was Divinity somewhere out there, hovering just out of reach. She felt God to be with her, a whisper away, a breath, a sigh, a longing inside her, an expression of wonder and delight and most emphatically, Love.
Joan earned a BA in elementary Education, a Master’s in Jewish Studies, and spent 15 years teaching Hebrew and Judaics to third through 6th graders. During that time, she also founded Yismehu, a non-profit organization which provided free Jewish learning to blind students nationwide via distance learning, and served as both textbook developer and instructor for 7 years.
Joan and her husband raised four children together. They currently live in Oregon, where she continues to delight in the wonders of Life Divine, and in the magic of words.
Connect with Joan online at the following link:
My name is Trish Hubschman. I live on Long Island, New York with my husband, Kevin, and the new dog, Henry. I’m deafblind.
Do you work at another job? If so tell us about fitting in the writing/cover design/editing. No, I left my job on Disability in 2006. I was a typist for a New York State agency.
Do you have a family? What do they think of your job? Do they assist you? We don’t have children. My husband proofreads all my writing. He helped with the cover design of my last book, Ratings Game. He also helps me on the computer a lot.
Kevin and my mom are very proud of me and like my writing
Are you organised? In a way, I guess I am. I need to know where things are so I can find them again. That holds true with things on the computer too.
What time do you get up/go to bed? I’m an early bed, early to rise person. 8 pm or so at night, 6 am in the morning.
Do you find it hard to fit everything in? Definitely, there aren’t enough hours in the day.
What is your ideal working environment? I need quiet, no TV or music on. I wear headphones on the computer and I can’t stand distractions for many reasons. The ringing phone drives me nuts.
What do you eat for breakfast? Coffee first, then maybe scrambled eggs or cereal and a second cup of coffee.
Give us a brief rundown of your average day from getting up to going to bed. Coffee first, then I go into my computer room to flip on the PC and put on my shoes, eat breakfast, then the exercise bike for 20 minutes, shower, then check my email and Facebook, I might play with the dog a bit, let me him out, take a nap, but I always go back to my PC to work.
Would you recommend your chosen craft to those interested in doing it? I love to write. It gives me a feeling of wholeness. Yes, I would recommend it.
Find out more here:
About the Author
Trish Hubschman has published three books with America Star Books: a short story collection of time travel and romance stories called Through Time and the first two books in the Tracy Gayle/Danny Tide series: The Fire and Unlucky Break. Trish attended college at Long Island University’s Southampton campus, earning a BA degree in English with an emphasis in writing. She lives on Long Island with her husband and two dogs.
A Romantic Suspense Novel
Stiff Competition (Miss America): A Tracy Gayle Mystery
by Trish Hubschman
In e-book ($2.99) and print ($9.50) on Amazon and other bookselling sites.
227 pages in print.
Cover, free text sample, author bio, direct buying links, and more: https://www.dldbooks.com/hubschman/
About the Book
America’s favorite rock band, Tidalwave, is playing the Miss America pageant. Band leader Danny Tide is emceeing the event. All is going according to schedule. The judges have picked the 10 semi–finalists. Suddenly, everything comes to a halt. Miss New Jersey is missing. Nobody knows what happened to her or where she is. Danny calls his longtime PI friend, Tracy Gayle, and asks her to come down to Atlantic City to help figure things out. In need of her best friend for personal support and eager to get to another case, Tracy agrees. There’s an all–out search of the hotels on the boardwalk. They find Miss New Jersey, but it’s not good. Her kidnapping leads to another assault and murder. The big star and the lady PI work together on this one, so that the Miss America pageant can continue as usual.