A Day in the Life of… Lynda McKinney Lambert #Uniqueauthors #Visualartist #Wordsarepower

Meet Author and Visual Artist:

Lynda McKinney Lambert lives and works in the Village of Wurtemburg, in rural western Pennsylvania.

Lynda Lambert

  1. Please give us a brief outline of who you are. 

I wear a variety of different hats. I use this word, hats, to describe an actual object, as well as a metaphor that portrays myself.  It is a little thing – but important.

Today, I am working on P.R.  for my latest poetry book, Star Signs: New and Selected Poems, just published on July 15.

Star Signs: New and Selected Poems showcases my professional career as a poet from the mid-80s and takes readers to the latest poems, written just before the book was published.

I  give readers 54 poems in this collection.

2. You’re a writer and artist – how is this reflected in your typical day?

Now that I am retired from my international teaching career, my days are more flexible, even, unpredictable. I love it because I embrace randomness and chance in my life.

In my Writing Life:

 I am often writing during the nights because I’ve never been one who sleeps much. I sleep in short periods of a couple of hours at a time. Typically, I am up working in my office between 2 and 5 am. 

My days begin early because I have 2 dogs to take out – they like to be out by 6 or 7 am.  It gets me moving, so that’s a good thing.

I do very little work after 5 pm. Evenings are my downtimes when I might watch some TV, or just listen to a book or relax. I like to sit and think – thinking takes a lot of time. You have to intend to think, and then set the time aside so you can actually do it.

 In my Artist Life:

I make art only during the daytime.  Because I have profound sight loss, I use an Acrobat CCTV – which is an electronic device that greatly enlarges my working area – it is a closed-circuit TV. My eyes are only able to work at this intensity in the mornings or afternoons.  After that, they are too tired to work any longer. So, you won’t find me making art in the evening or night.

On the days I am making art, I like to focus only on that.  I go to a place of “timelessness” in my studio and I am always unaware of the passing of the day while I am working.

Either way, my writing or art day begins after I’ve taken care of the dogs and cats. Bob will get up around 10 am, and he can take care of his own breakfast or whatever else he wants to do.   We often begin to work outside in the summer months, or inside the house in cooler weather.  In summertime, I tend my flower gardens.  My husband takes care of the yard work.

Like everyone else, we have appointments and essential trips to different places for groceries or exercise or social communications. Typically, we go to the gym 3 mornings a week for weight resistance training or cardio workouts.

My THEMES:

Nature is a predominant theme in my writing and my mixed-media fiber art.

I observe the day, the season, and watch for changes. I listen to the sounds of life, changing weather, and all the little details and nuances that we experience at any given day or night. I am so conscious of changing seasons, the quick turning from one to the other almost like magic.

In my writing, I describe the natural elements in my world, and in my art, I use the natural elements such as water-worn river stones; gemstones & crystals from different locations in the entire world; fabrics, and found objects.  I use the objects in the art, and in my writing, I also use them as metaphors or subject matter.

Other themes in my work:

*The passing of time

*Memory as in collective memory or place

*History – searching out the historical context of ideas

*Passage or Journey; a sacred Pilgrimage from one place to another

*No separation between sacred and secular

 

3. Do you work at another job?

My job is to be at work when the Muse arrives.

My responsibility is to arrive at work on time each day.

When I was working as a professor of fine arts and humanities, I had to fit my writing and art-making in-between my responsibilities at the college.  I wrote my first book, Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage, from my journal jottings, drawings, and research that I did each summer. I taught a month-long course, “Drawing and Writing in Salzburg.”   Whatever the students were working on that day, I was working right alongside them in the classroom or in the field.  We met each morning at 8 am to begin our day. By 9 am we were often on a bus on our way to a location for that morning’s creative work.  Our class ended at noon (Monday through Thursday), so this gave me afternoons and weekends that were free for me to pursue my personal work.  I usually travelled to a different country each weekend, where I wrote in my journals and did photography and drawings.

As a professor, I had to squeeze my personal work in-between my heavy workload during the semesters.  Not only was I working on my own art and writing projects, I was also actively exhibiting my art in galleries and museums all over the world. It took a great deal of discipline to be able to do this intensive work.  So, I’ve always been a person who is focused and willing to put in the hours that it takes to be successful in what I am doing.  Retirement just opened up the door wider for me to create even more work because it eliminated the rigid teaching schedule I lived with for many years.

 

4. How did you fit in a family or ‘real life’?

I married my husband Bob, when I was seventeen years old. He was twenty.

We celebrated our 58th wedding anniversary this year.

We have 5 children and my life was completely occupied with cooking meals, doing laundry daily; managing our home and the children’s activities and needs.  We were active in their school and church life. My children were the center of my life and it was important that I was there to take care of our home, and all of them.  My first commitment was to my family.

My heart’s desire, was that I wanted to go to college, and I wanted to be a teacher.  That part of my life would not begin until I was forty-two years old, and the children were all in high school.

My academic career began at age forty-two, and I had a single focus. I intended to “go all the way” with education.  I intended to earn not only a BFA in Painting, but I would pursue the terminal degree in fine art, which is an MFA. I intended to be a college professor. I actually earned the MA in English along the way, too.  I had a passion for writing and making art – so this seemed like a good idea for me. From the beginning, I worked across disciplines.  And, this eventually led me to my teaching position at Geneva College, a Reformed Presbyterian college in western Pennsylvania. Because of my dual degrees in fine art and English, I was hired to use my expertise in the Humanities at the college. This work is both challenging and educational as a life-long learner. I loved doing research in my fields.

I advised students:

“Don’t give yourself permission to do less than what you have a passion for doing.

 Follow your passion and your abilities – you want to do work that makes you happy to get up each morning.

You want to do what you dreamed of doing.

Never make a plan for your life out of fear. Go for your highest purpose and you will get there.”

 I also believe in excellence. This does not mean I think that perfectionism is to be admired. It is not an admirable trait but perfectionism is a liability.  By the word, “Excellence,” I mean to be your best.   Perform at the highest level you can, and do the best job you can possibly do. That is not perfectionism.  It is holding on to your highest potential and working hard to make your dream, Plan A, your reality.

In 1976, I took my first class in painting.  Soon, painting was at the heart of my creative life. It was pure magic.

With 5 children and a husband to take care of.  I realized from the beginning that I had to be time conscious in order to live a creative life that was separate from family obligations. We have to have our personal identity, something that is ours alone to pursue.  Our “do” is not our “who,”  and I’ve always believed in my purpose in life – to create beauty and to keep memories alive for others.

5. Are you very organized?

This is a tricky question to answer.

At first, I thought, yes, I am very organized.

Then upon further reflection, I thought about how we live surrounded by chaos.  It is our normal condition of being a human creation.  We are finite creatures; we are flawed.

How we think about chaos matters –

I think it is better if we begin to think of mastering the chaos.

 

A plaque in my office reads:

“Nur kleine Geister  brauchen Ordnung,

ein Genie  beherrscht

Das Chaos.”

 

Translation:

“Only little spirits need order,

a genius mastered

The chaos.”

Links/samples/etc.

An Introduction to Lynda McKinney Lambert:  https://www.lyndalambert.com/

My Books:  https://llambert363.blog/lyndaslinks/

Lynda’s Media Kit:  https://www.lyndalambert.com/media-kit/

“My Books” on my blog:  https://www.lyndalambert.com/lyndas-books/

Listen to my poem, “To the Curator of Small Things,” in the Summer 2016 issue of Wordgathering. read by Melissa Cotter:

http://www.wordgathering.com/past_issues/issue43/poetry/lambert.html

LINK_ to my poem and voice recording of “Star Signs: in the December 2016 issue of Wordgathering – Read by Melissa Cotter:

http://www.wordgathering.com/past_issues/issue40/poetry/lambert.html

Lynda’s Authors Page- Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/author/lyndalambert

Lynda’s Official Authors Page: http://www.dldbooks.com/lyndalambert/

 Smashwords – get my ebook:  https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/lyndalambert

Link to Lynda’s author Site at DLD Books:

http://www.dldbooks.com/lyndalambert/

 

My Blogs:

Website & Blog:  Lynda McKinney Lambert  – Official Author’s Website

Scan-A-Blog – A quiet Place of Inspiration, Art, Nature, Literature

Below – Photo: “Lynda with Tamukeyama,” by Bob Lambert

Lynda Lambert

Photo of Lynda – wearing one of her original hand-knit jackets in ombre shades of blues and aqua.

She is also wearing a one-of-a-kind necklace of Swarovski crystals and gem stones. She designs knit clothing, talismans, jewelry, and wall works.

Lynda is seated in front of her Tamukeyama Tree in her Zen Mediation Garden. Photo by Bob Lambert.

 

 

 

 

Dirty Dozen Author Interview – Phyllis Staton Campbell #Uniqueauthors #Meetanauthor

Author name: Phyllis Staton Campbell

Please tell us a little about yourself. What makes you a #Uniqueauthor (or artist)?

I was born blind in Amherst County Virginia, the youngest of two sisters and a brother. We moved to Staunton, Virginia, when I was seven, where my sister and I attended the Virginia School for the blind. Reading has been an important part of my life, since I can remember. I sold my first short piece in the sixties, and have been writing professionally ever since. I have published six books, both in the traditional market place and self-published. In addition, I did a true-crime book, under contract to the family of the victim. My latest book is “Where Sheep May Safely Graze” inspirational. I’m currently working on a sequel.

 Please answer 12 of the questions/discussion points below.

What first prompted you to publish your work? Writing is, hard work, if enjoyable. I felt that that effort should be put into something to share with others, and perhaps bring some tangible reward to me.

As a disabled author how do you overcome the extra challenges involved with producing your work? I faced many challenges in the beginning. There were no computers, no braille aware devices, permitting ease in proofreading. The first piece I sold was written with the slate and stylus, meaning that the braille dots had to be punched individually by hand. I lacked the money for a proofreader, meaning that I had to work very hard, first doing the work in braille, and then painstakingly typing it to send out for consideration. Today, I feel I have few challenges after that.

What have you found the most challenging part of the process? Do you think the publishing world is disability-friendly? Like most things that can be answered with both “yes” and “no”. Some publishers are friendly, some not. The real challenge there, is knowing which. Some will claim interest and then say they’ve taken on their quota for the year. Have they? Others such as Barbara Brett of Brett, will go beyond the last mile for the disabled writer.

What piece of advice do you wish you’d had when you started your publishing journey? The public taste in books varies greatly. Study the market carefully before submitting to be sure that you’re meeting the needs of that publication.

If you could have dinner with any literary character who would you choose, and what would you eat. Harry Potter, and we’d have pumpkin pasties.

How much research do you do for your work? What’s the wildest subject you’ve looked at? I write three columns, so I do a lot of research. Years ago I wrote a piece on vampires, not the interesting ones in popular literature, but the real thing. Well, those who believed themselves to be real, and acted accordingly.

How influential is storytelling to our culture? It has been influential to all cultures, but I feel it is perhaps less today, because of TV.

What’s the best advice you’ve received about writing/publishing? Study your market and be persistent.

If you could be any fantasy/mythical or legendary person/creature what would you be and why? A sphinx I like cats!

Which authors have influenced you the most? For my current series, Jan Karon, and Janice Holt Giles. For my early stumbling efforts, Lucy Montgomery, Gene Straton Porter. In other words, they’re tied to what I’m doing, and where I am in my writing journey.

What is your writing space like? My writing space was once a dining room with a door to the kitchen, and French doors on either side of the chimney, leading to the living room. My house is quite old, and when I sit quietly, I can feel the echo of all of those who have lived and died here.

Tell us about your latest piece? “Where sheep May Safely Graze” is the story of Pastor Jim, who was blinded serving in Iraq, and his wife, Amy. It tells of his struggle to adjust to his blindness, her struggle to adjust to her new role as his wife, and their struggle against the prejudice of the wealthy church where they both serve. They are further challenged when they go to serve in a rural town.

What’s your next writing adventure? I’m working on “Goin’ Home, a sequel to “Where Sheep May Safely Graze.

Is this the age of the e-book? Are bricks and mortar bookshops in decline? Brick and Mortar shops are definitely on the decline, witnessed by how many large chains have closed.

Are indie/self-published authors viewed with scepticism or wariness by readers? Why is this? Some people will always be wary of self-published authors, but this has changed drastically. One reason is those self-styled writers, who pay little attention to proofing and editing, and who, in many cases, have no real story to begin with.

What is your greatest success? To this point, my greatest writing success has been “Friendships in the Dark” published in hard cover, paperback, large-print in the US, and translated into Chinese, as well as publication in the British Isles, all by a traditional publisher.

How important is writing/art to you? Writing is a large part of my life.

 

Guest Post – Self Publishing Platforms and Accessibility – by Victoria Zigler

Victoria Zigler is a prolific author, mostly of books for children and poetry. She has an impressive catalogue. She is also blind – and has visited the Library Of Erana in the past to discuss the accessibility (or otherwise) of publishing, reading and enjoying books. I’m pleased to welcome Tori back, where she discusses the issues of self-publishing on Amazon vs Smashwords.

Tori – over to you

“Which platform is best for self-publishing?”

It’s a question you’ve likely heard many, many times – one especially popular with people comparing Smashwords to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) – and one that will have a different answer, depending on who you ask, and what experiences they’ve had using one platform or the other.

Here’s another question for you though:

“Which platform is more accessible for visually impaired authors who rely on screen readers?”

This one may also come with different answers, depending on who you ask, and their personal experiences.  The screen reader and browser you use may make a difference too.  In fact, I’m pretty sure it does.

I’ve only ever used JAWS (Java Access With Speach) so can’t compare screen readers for you.  But I’m going to give you my opinion on which platform is more accessible if you use JAWS and Firefox, which is what I use.

Although, I can only answer it using a comparison of Smashwords and KDP, because I actually haven’t dealt directly with the other platforms.  My books may be on other retailers, such as Barnes & Noble and Kobo, but it’s because of distribution.  Something I’m very grateful exists, since it makes my life easier.  Actually, it makes things easier for a lot of people, and not just screen reader users.  But this post isn’t about distribution.  This post is about which publishing platform is more accessible for screen reader users using JAWS and Firefox.

So, what’s the answer?

The short answer is Smashwords.  They’re easier to navigate, having a less cluttered page.

Although, in all fairness to them, KDP do appear to have improved their accessibility a little.  So at least they aren’t as much of a headache to use as they were when I first started publishing, which was almost seven years ago now.  Navigation is still a little more difficult on KDP than it is on Smashwords though.  Still, any improvement helps.

Of course, there’s room for improvement on both.  There’s always room for improvement, no matter what we’re talking about.  Especially since whoever invented drop-down menus obviously hasn’t had to use a screen reader.  Then there’s how graphics happy everyone is these days…

You know, I think we should make it essential for every company’s technical department to have a team of visually impaired people whose jobs are just to check the accessibility of websites using different screen readers and browsers.  It would create more jobs, and improve accessibility for screen reader users at the same time.  It’s a win- win situation!

But, in the meantime, if I had to recommend either Smashwords or Amazon to someone, based on accessibility alone, I’d recommend Smashwords.

Unfortunately, a lot of people still prefer to go directly to Amazon for their eBooks, and you have to sell a lot of books to have your Smashwords books distributed to Amazon.  Something very few authors actually achieve.  That means your best chance of having your books listed on Amazon is to put them on there yourself.  So, as I’ve recently realized and accepted, you’re going to want to deal with both platforms.  At least, you are if you want all those people with Kindles to buy copies of your books.

***~~~***

About the author:

Victoria Zigler is a blind poet and children’s author who was born and raised in the Black Mountains of Wales, UK, and is now living on the South-East coast of England, UK, with her hubby and furkids.  Victoria – or Tori, if you prefer – has been writing since she knew how, and describes herself as a combination of Hermione Granger and Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter books: Hermione’s thirst for knowledge and love of books, combined with Luna’s wandering mind and alternative way of looking at the world.  She has a wide variety of interests, designed to exercise both the creative and logical sides of her brain, and dabbles in them at random depending on what she feels like doing at any given time.

To date, Tori has published nine poetry books and more than 40 children’s books, with more planned for the future.  She makes her books available in multiple eBook formats, as well as in both paperback and audio.  She’s also contributed a story to the sci-fi and fantasy anthology Wyrd Worlds II, which is available in eBook only.

Links:

Website: http://www.zigler.co.uk

Blog: https://ziglernews.blogspot.co.uk

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/toriz

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Victoria-Zigler/424999294215717

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/victoriazigler

Google+: https://plus.google.com/106139346484856942827

 

Find Tori’s books on…

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/toriz

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Victoria-Zigler/e/B00BHS9DQ6/

…Along with a variety of other online retailers.

 

The Challenges of a Blind Author Follow-Up – Laurel

As a follow up to my earlier post regarding the challenges facing readers and authors with limited vision I am delighted to post another interview with a writer of low vision. Blindness is a complex problem with no one cause or solution, but about which there is often poor understanding. People with restricted sight often suffer discrimination including the false assumption that they cannot enjoy books, cannot write or be creative and must live “a disabled life” but as these interviews show, that does not have to be the case.

Hello and thanks for joining us. Please tell us a little about yourself.

Hello everyone!  My name is Laurel A. Rockefeller.  I am author of the medieval science fiction series, The Peers of Beinan.

I am an amateur medieval historian and amateur scientist originally
from Lincoln, Nebraska.  In 1995 I received my bachelor of arts from
the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in writing (stage, film focus),
psychology (pre-counseling), and medieval history.

In 1985 while in the eighth grade, I was hit in the left temple by a
distracted driver, creating a truly traumatic brain injury that
shattered my skull in several places (I cannot sleep on my back
because of the way the bones in my skull healed together).

In that accident, I lost my mathematics ability along with nearly all
of my eye sight.  Across 1986, my brain was able to heal somewhat, but
it left me with permanent tunnel vision, little to no reception from
the rods (receptors for black/white/grey) in my retina, and severe
distortions, particular with low frequency (red/orange) light.

As a natural singer-songwriter, the first thing I remember noticing
different about my sight was that I could no longer read music,
forcing me to play by touch and sound.  But with complete amnesia, I
otherwise did not know I lost my sight; to know you have to remember
what it was before which I could not do.

Please tell us a little about your books and other writing. 

I am the world-building author behind the medieval science fiction series, “The Peers of Beinan.”  Peers of Beinan is really the convergence of my life-long passion for science and for history.

Planet Beinan is a rich and vibrant world with its own units of time
and distance, planetary details, bio-chemistry, ecology, cuisine,
religions, cultures, history, music, dancing, and heraldry.

For all of these science fiction elements, the books are equally
rooted in medieval history.  Not only do I have a BA in history, I’ve
been a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (the world’s
largest medieval history organization) since my freshman year in
university.  That gives the books a richness in detail that you rarely
see.

Through all of these comes rich and compelling stories.  Book one,
The Great Succession Crisis, tells the coming-of-age story of
Princess Anlei, the irreverent adolescent daughter of Queen Isabelle
and maternal granddaughter of High Priestess Wehe.  Just like many
medieval European noble and royal women, Princess Anlei knows that her
fate is largely dictated by the constraints of her feudal world, a
world not quite ready to fully embrace female leadership.  So Anlei
begins close-hearted; love is for commoners, NOT royalty!

It takes a sexist ruling by the Beinarian parliament (called The Great
Council) to force Anlei to grow as a person until she finally learns
to embrace her heritage and become the leader she was born to be.

Book two, The Ghosts of the Past, explores the consequences of
Anlei’s choices three generations later.  Ghosts is a murder-mystery
spanning four generations.

Ghosts begins with the mysterious death of Lord Healer Devon of house
Ten-Ar in a terrorist bombing in a major city located close to
Beinan’s largest argun mines.  Argun ore refines to argene (thorium
232) which powers everything on the planet thanks to Beinan’s advanced
nuclear power technology (science note:  thorium 232 is used here on
Earth in our nuclear power plants as well).

But argene is toxic; exposure to it blinds Beinarians by destroying
two of the cones in their retinas.  As you might guess, this “brown
eye syndrome” (named for its darkening effects on the iris) is rooted
in my sight loss.

As Ghosts progresses, music swells through the text, including the
song “I Shall Always Find You” which is about re-incarnation, and
“Here Lays My Father and My Lord,” which Princess Constance sings upon
finding her father slain with five crossbow quarrels.

The Peers of Beinan series is therefore this beautiful symphony of
stories and interweaving genres.  There’s even a Beinarian version of
English country dancing.

Do you have any works in progress? 

Yes!  I am working on book three, Princess Anyu Returns which focuses (finally!) on Princess Anyu, the “Anlei’s Legacy” arc narrator, and her exile on D425E25 Tertius, then return to planet Beinan. I hope to release it by Christmas, 2014.

In what forms are your books available?  I believe you have an interactive version of your books, what inspired you to try this unusual approach? 

As a low vision person, I care about accessibility.  So my books are in digital, paperback, QR Interactive paperback, and large print paperback formats.

That means I have seventeen titles/editions in the span of just under one year:

The Great Succession Crisis Revised Edition
digital, paperback, QR interactive, large print

The Great Succession Crisis Extended Edition
digital, paperback, QR interactive, large print

The Ghosts of the Past
digital, paperback, QR interactive, large print

The Great Succession Crisis Data Files
(companion book to just book one) in digital and paperback

Anlei’s Legacy:  the Complete Data Files
(companion book to all three Anlei’s Legacy arc books) in digital and paperback.

The QR Interactive editions are brand new.  They contain QR codes for
smart phones, each linked to enhanced content like glossary entries,
photos, and videos.  Smart phone users therefore can use their phones
to access information from the data files (appendices) instead of
flipping to the back of the book for the same information.  This also
means your smartphone accesses audio/video recordings of the music
contained in the books.

Digital users will find the books are hypertext linked to the same
multi-media content.  Simply tap/click on the hyperlinks to be taken
to that interactive content without losing your place in the book.

When did you start to write? What made you choose this genre? 

My “writing” began before I could read/write, actually.  I grew up in an ultra-conservative, evangelical christian home where my father ruled our family with an iron fist and everyone else pretended not to notice, not even when there were obvious physical injuries.

I coped with all that by making up songs and singing, then throwing myself into my studies once I was old enough to go to school.  With Hyde Observatory (one of the few astronomical observatories open to the public) less than a mile from my home, I caught the astronomy and science bug really early — which was unheard of for a girl growing up at the time.  This melded with my natural gift for music and language and helped me when, in 1985 I lost most of my sight in the car accident I mentioned earlier.

One important consequence of that traumatic brain injury was
destruction of my non-spatial, non-musical math skills which
eliminated the possibility of a career in physics/astronomy.  So my
focus had to re-shift to social science and the humanities which I
enjoy just as much.

As my brain gradually healed, I was able to explore English literature
in school which I really fell in love with.  As a senior in high
school, I took a course called “grammar/vocabulary” in which Dr.
Patrick Hunter-Pirtle empowered and encouraged my writing by giving me
the language tools I still use today.  His influence and lessons are
why I can use words like “vexed” (a favorite of Jane Austen) in my
dialogue.

After high school, I attended the University of Nebraska where I
majored in screen and stage writing through the university’s
integrated studies program, adding my second major of psychology and
third major of history later on.  When I was 21, I planned on pursuing
more of a stage and film career.  But that training is wonderful for a
fiction writer, even though the format on the page is different.
Script writing teaches you what is important to put on the page and
especially how to handle dialogue in a dynamic, clear, and concise
manner.

Yet for all of that, in my twenties, I remained essentially a poet;
all or nearly all of my publications from the 1990s are actually
poetry.

In 2000, I moved to first New Jersey, then Brooklyn, New York and had
a near miss on 9/11; if not for remembering I had forgotten to call my
boss regarding my pre-work plans to run some errands in Manhattan, my
train into World Trade Center station would have arrived around 8:55
that morning!

This was a time where I shifted from poetry to non-fiction thanks to a
very nice lady in charge of a New Jersey-based newsletter for history
hobbyists. In 2008, Bird Talk magazine published my work twice, none
of it paid, further increasing my journalistic pursuits.  Yahoo
Voices, for which I still write, soon picked up this freelance
journalism work.

But it would take re-discovery of a favorite childhood science fiction
television program (via Netflix) to bring the novelist out in me in
late 2010 when I started up a fan site to that television show
(www.princeyubifan.com for those interested).  Creating that massive
site stimulated my imagination.  In March, 2011 I commenced a series
of dialogues with an engineer/amateur astronomer which became the
scientific foundation for planet Beinan (which went through a dozen
different names before publication of “The Great Succession Crisis in
August, 2012).

From there, the characters took me where they wanted to go; both “The
Great Succession Crisis” and “Ghosts of the Pasts” are radically
different from what I imagined in those first few months of writing.

The genres all evolved organically.  That is to say, I did not intend
to write a medieval science fiction coming of age story.  Princess
Anlei decided that for us!  Likewise, while Ghosts had a core outline
from the onset (as all middle chapters in trilogies must), the
overwhelming majority of what is there evolved on its own — including
the genres it belongs to.

Writing “Ghosts” forced me to tap into parts of my memory that are
very dark and difficult to deal with.  Ghosts literally gave me
nightmares to write.  But as I flip through the book I am happy with
the results, even though I’m still paying a certain personal price for
doing it.

Your series is based on European medieval history and people, please tell us a little more about the research involved.

History has always been a part of my life.  The men in my family are
major American Civil War and WWII enthusiasts (if that is the right
word), so I was always around history, especially American history.
When I was a child, the loosely bio-pic series “Black Sheep Squadron”
aired on NBC.  While I enjoyed the show, my heart was drawn towards
Arthurian legends and other medieval stories — like Robin Hood and
Joan of Arc — then Shakespeare and medieval music.

That all grew with time over the years.  In 1990, I joined the Society
for Creative Anachronism where I initially pursued my love of medieval
music.  Majoring in mostly medieval history (European, Asian, Jewish)
added to the medieval history environment and knowledge that saturates
the SCA.

I do have to credit the SCA for teaching me a lot of the history and
medieval culture that infuses these books.  The SCA also encourages
academic study.

So by the time I was ready to begin work on The Peers of Beinan, I
already amassed a rich and tangible knowledge of medieval life.

From there it became simply researching specific details unfamiliar to
me — like fencing terminology or the parts of a crossbow.

Probably the most difficult, yet also most fun for me, was researching
the science for “Ghosts of the Past.”  I spent several days
researching chemistry and bio-chemistry using different sites on the
elements for a single paragraph where Elendir takes readings with his
computer on the ruins of the healing center where his father worked
and died.  Likewise, when I introduced Lord Engineer Kian, I had to
spend a fair amount of time learning how nuclear power works so I
could describe the star craft he designed.

What are the challenges you face as a visually limited author and how do
you overcome them?

Nothing will overcome the double/triple vision I experience,
especially when dealing with black/white text.  But there are some
things I do to try to adapt.

Probably the first and most basic one is learning not to push my
sight.  I don’t read many books because it hurts too badly inside my
eyes to try.  Instead I rely on audio books or, more commonly, watch
television and film adaptations of whatever I’m interested in.

So I watch the BBC productions of, for example, Dr. David Starkey’s
books (Starkey is one of the foremost Tudor historians in the world —
and British, of course!) instead of trying to read them.

I also have a device that looks like a smart phone which is a special
kind of camera magnifier.  That device lets me change text/backgrounds
to one of about six combinations.  It’s not perfect and I cannot use
it for hours on end.  But it can be very helpful.

I also use such tricks as a simple highlighter pen, a colored
transparency filter which I overlay something I need to read, and
using large print resources.  On the computer, I zoom my text larger.
Constant shifts by google, facebook, etc. keep over-riding it, but I
do try to set my computer settings to display text in blue.

In MS word, I cannot set my text to display blue yet be black to
everyone else.  So I have to just zoom as big as I can — and stop
working when my body tells me to.

Finally, I also help myself by hydrating my eyes with artificial tears
and by taking omega 3 supplements when I am unable to eat fish in a
given week. Believe it or not, these make a difference — not just on
my sight but for everyone.  So if you feel pain in your eyes, start
there!

What are your thoughts on the choice of e-readers and apps, or lack thereof, which cater for readers with limited sight? If you own an e-reader which do you use and why? 

At this time, I don’t even try to use an e-reader.  I won’t consider one until I have complete control over text and background color in addition to size.  The current readers are black/white centric which is the worst combination for my sight.  Add in the price of these devices, and they just don’t make sense for me.

What can other authors do to provide their books in a blind-friendly
format? 

Glad you asked this one:  first and foremost, authors need to offer their books in large print.  The number of titles in large print is tiny fraction of the total. People assume that every low vision person can just use the text size option in e-readers and therefore they don’t need to accommodate sight loss directly.  That is completely wrong. 

As, as a point of principle, I won’t patronize an author who doesn’t offer paperback and large print paperback.  If you are not willing to offer your book in a format compatible with the adaptive strategies mentioned before, then I see no reason to patronize you!

Audio books is another area where we need to see improvements.  That
said, I do not offer my books in audio format yet — mostly over
technical issues.  I do not know how to produce such a book — but if
someone reading this has experience with audio book production, she or
he is absolutely welcome to contact me and teach me how to make this
happen.

When reading for pleasure what format of books do you use?
(Braille/audio/etc.) 

I rarely read for pleasure, I’m sorry to say.  It is so taxing for me to read what I have to read for work that I just don’t have the strength physically to read for fun that much.  Usually if I want to read for fun, I download an audio book from my library for the blind.

I think the last book I read completely for fun was “The Pluto Files”
by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson of Hayden Planetarium at the American
Museum of Natural History in Manhattan.  I also listened to the BBC
radio version of “The Lord of the Rings.”  That’s not exactly an
“audio book” but it is a brilliant rendering of the books.  I just
wish I had access to more from the BBC; the best adaptions usually
come from them.

Do you think the choice of books for low vision readers is limited? Has the choice increased in recent years especially with the rise of e-readers and audio books? 

Oh absolutely.  Most low vision and blind folks use large print and audio editions.  I estimate that fewer than 25% of all books are available in either of these.  No clue about the actual numbers, but that is my perception, especially after interviewing authors for my own blog.

What would you suggest publishing companies (such as Amazon and Smashwords) do to increase their choice and marketing of such books/devices?

First, Amazon needs to list the large print options with the regular editions.  Type in any of my book titles and you WON’T see there is a large print version available on Amazon, even though my books ARE in large print.  Instead, you have to type in “large print” in your search inquiry on Amazon; mine are not even listed on my author page! The only way to get to them, believe it or not, is to use the direct link on my website!

This is obscene!  It is as if Amazon does not want to sell large print
books, especially by indie authors.  So if you are an indie author
with a large print version, BE SURE to link to your book on your home
page.

On the digital level they need to offer the ability for everyone to
choose their reading color scheme.  The more display options for
people, the better.  And quite honestly, there needs to be the option
of button, not touch, navigation.  I find touch anything really hard
to deal with — another reason I do not have a smart phone!

What other advice can you offer to readers and authors with restricted
vision? 

Number one:  listen to your body when it comes to how you feel.  If something feels wrong, even just fatigue, DON’T PUSH IT!  If you are not healthy, any remaining sight you have diminishes.  That really goes for everyone.  Your visual system is very complex and sometimes fragile, so be mindful and be a good steward to yourself.

Second, use the accessibility features built into windows.  There are
more than you think there are — but don’t be limited to them either.
The most effective adaptive strategies I have are also the cheapest!

Third, I think we need to raise these issues with providers like
Amazon, google, etc. more.  If I tell windows to display web text in
Georgia font size 16 in blue and websites over-ride that and display
Ariel 10 in black, then I’m hurting myself trying to use that content.
The problem is these companies don’t think about accessibility with
their designs. Our smart phone, touch screen world is rather hostile to
vision loss — even though every single person who lives past a
certain age WILL lose eyesight one way or another!

We have to work together, everyone, to put our foot down and demand
fairness here.

There is a certain economics to this:  if we as consumers don’t insist
on accessibility, then why should providers offer it?  We as a society
can do a lot more about it than I as an individual can alone.

It starts with being mindful.

If you are a low vision author or reader, realize that your challenges
are shared by many, even though the specifics of what you see
and why (if at all) are completely individual.  Usually adaptive
strategies are shared across many people.

Finally, I think we can encourage more accessible content by
patronizing those authors and providers who make accessibility a
priority.  If blind/low vision authors sell more books through
accessible options, you know others will follow in hopes of increasing
their sales too.  So whether you are sighted, low vision, or blind,
you can make a difference here by your choices in books and devices.

Where to find Laurel’s books find links to the songs, the unique heraldry and other features and the rich history of the characters, plus author interviews etc.

http://www.peersofbeinan.com

E-books  

Kindle

The Great Succession Crisis http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008YKSKYQ

The Great Succession Crisis Extended http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B9IBFCY

Ghosts of the past. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BVBHNDO

For the data files please visit the book site.

Smashwords

The Great Succession Crisis https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/211181?ref=ALB123

The Great Succession Crisis Extended https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/311557?ref=ALB123

Ghosts of the Past https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/296320?ref=ALB123

The data files https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/224017?ref=ALB123

Princess Anlei’s Legacy Data Files https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/300546?ref=ALB123

Paperbacks

The Great Succession Crisis Extended Edition https://www.createspace.com/4156679

The Great Succession Crisis Revised QR Edition https://www.createspace.com/4363043

The Great Succession Crisis Extended QR Edition https://www.createspace.com/4367566

The Great Succession Crisis Large Print https://www.createspace.com/3971580

The Great Succession Crisis Extended Large Print https://www.createspace.com/4163300

Ghosts of the Past https://www.createspace.com/4211143

Ghosts of the Past QR Edition http://www.amazon.com/Ghosts-Past-Interactive-Peers-Beinan/dp/1491085363

Ghosts of the Past Large Print http://www.amazon.com/Ghosts-Large-Edition-Beinan-Volume/dp/1482797372

There is currently a $5 off voucher for the QR interactive version of Ghosts of the Past – voucher code VKUBKEP9

https://www.createspace.com/4375671 Ghosts of the Past QR interactive.

Please do check the website for details of all the links as this is just a selection http://www.peersofbeinan.com/Where.html

Great Succession Crisis digital extended webGhosts of the Past cover web (1)Princess Anyu Returns Cover web

http://voices.yahoo.com/ten-myths-blindness-sight-loss-11939996.html?cat=70