Monday, September 26, 2016

Interview with contemporary romance author Meg Benjamin

I’m a tour stop today for author Meg Benjamin. She’s talking with me about her new contemporary romance story, Running on Empty.

During her virtual book tour, Meg will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card (winner’s choice) to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!

Meg Benjamin is an award-winning author of contemporary romance. Her Konigsburg series for Samhain Publishing is set in the Texas Hill Country and her Ramos Family Trilogy is set in San Antonio’s King William District. Her Salt Box trilogy takes place in her new home the Colorado Rockies. She’s also the author of Going Up in Flames, part of the Sapphire Falls Kindle World series. Meg’s books have won numerous awards, including an EPIC Award, a Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Holt Medallion from Virginia Romance Writers, the Beanpot Award from the New England Romance Writers and the Award of Excellence from Colorado Romance Writers.

Welcome, Meg. Please share a little bit about your current release.
Running On Empty is book three in my Salt Box Trilogy. Here’s the blurb:
She’s running her heart out to stay in the same place.

Ronnie Ventura has every reason to distrust Fairstein Productions: she’s had run-ins with their shows before. But Fairstein’s newest reality show offers Ronnie a chance to redeem herself from looking like a blonde bimbo. All she has to do is win a modified triathlon. Simple, right? Except this is Fairstein, and nothing is ever simple with them.

Ronnie’s boss at the Blarney Stone bar and café, owner Ted Saltzman, is a lot less convinced that another Fairstein show is just what Ronnie needs, particularly when he’s head over heels about Ronnie himself.  But she’s determined, and he’s a man in love.

Ted becomes her running coach, which fans their budding romance to a fever. But can Ronnie’s newfound confidence stand up to the usual Fairstein plots? And can Ted find a way to keep his true love in Salt Box if Hollywood tries to steal her away again?

What inspired you to write this book?
I really wanted to end the trilogy by returning to one of the supporting characters in Book 1 (Finding Mr. Right Now), Ronnie Ventura. Ronnie started off as a naïve and slightly exasperating bachelorette on a reality show, but through the course of the trilogy she develops into a much stronger, much more self-confident woman. I wanted to show what she’d learned and how much she’d grown from book 1.

Excerpt from Running on Empty:
Ted watched Ronnie circle the high school track. It was always a bit easier to train here since the track had quarter-mile markers and he could time her more accurately. Saturdays were the only time they could use it, though, until school was out.

They’d switched to two minutes of running followed by a minute of jogging for the warm-up, rather than the one-minute run, two-minute walk that he’d started with. Ronnie’s stride was really developing.

As he’d watched her over the past few weeks, he’d come to a surprising conclusion. Dick was right—Ronnie was a natural athlete. She loved to run, just like she loved to bike and swim.

He was a little embarrassed about how long it had taken him to realize the extent of her abilities. He was willing to bet that he would have wised up a lot sooner if she hadn’t been, well, Ronnie in all her Ronnieness. He wasn’t sure why the idea that a gorgeous woman could also be an athlete seemed so revolutionary. Probably more evidence of his troglodyte side.

Now she was sprinting down the stretch, knees pumping, arms swinging at her sides. She seemed to be enjoying herself, but lately she always seemed to be enjoying herself. The sight of Ronnie running full-out in shorts and T-shirt did predictable things to his libido.

Of course, the sight of Ronnie doing just about anything did predictable things to his libido these days. Even when he caught a glimpse of her bent over her bike, which was about as unsexy as you could get, he still found himself watching her long legs spin the pedals, her blonde hair steaming behind her helmet.

God she was lovely. And God he was a horny, lust-filled idiot around her.

What exciting story are you working on next?
My next is a trilogy about a family-owned brewery in Colorado: Brew Romance, Love On Tap, and Ale’s Well That Ends Well. It should be out next year.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I wrote for most of my life, since I was expected to publish a lot while I worked as a college English teacher. But I really wanted to try writing fiction. When I discovered romance and found my local chapter of the Romance Writers of America, I started to feel more confident about what I could do. When I finally got my first acceptance from Samhain Publishing (Venus In Blue Jeans), I began to feel like I’d actually made it.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Since I retired from teaching, I write full time. I have a quota for myself—1,000 to 2,000 words a day. I usually write during the afternoon, but when I’m really under the gun, I write whenever I can. I’m lucky because I consider writing my full-time job and I make time for it before I make time for anything else.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I’m an insane plotter. I can’t start writing until I’ve at least done a summary of what the plot’s going to be (and I usually do a lot more than that). I may not stick with the summary because characters will frequently take off in directions I hadn’t thought about, but I have to have it. It’s sort of like a security blanket: it keeps me from coming to a stopping point and having no idea what’s going to happen next.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a college professor. I have no idea why, but it always stuck with me. And that’s what I did!

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I hope you all enjoy Running On Empty. It was a real labor of love for me. Originally, it was supposed to be published by Samhain, but after they started having problems, I got the rights back and taught myself how to publish it on my own. I just didn’t want the Salt Box Trilogy to be incomplete!


Thank you for being a guest on my blog!

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Friday, September 23, 2016

Interview with Jason B. Ladd

I’m wrapping up with the week with Jason B. Ladd. He’s chatting with me about his Christian living apologetics book One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview.

Jason B. Ladd is an award-winning author, US Marine, and Iraq War veteran. He has flown as an instructor pilot in both the F/A-18 and the F-16. He and his wife, Karry, have six children.

Welcome, Jason. Please tell us about your current release.
One of the Few is Christian apologetics wrapped in story. It’s the story of my life and how I went from apathetic atheist to impassioned follower of Christ. As an indie author, I was allowed to color outside the lines a bit. Some of the stories read like a novel. Some of the apologetics has an academic feel. And the vignettes about Marine Corps and fighter pilot training read like a memoir. It was pretty ambitious—maybe too ambitious. But it accomplished its purpose—to preserve the story of my faith journey for my family and for any other seekers out there.

What inspired you to write this book?
I was doing a lot of study on the Christin faith. I was really into apologetics, and at some point, I think I just needed an outlet. I wasn’t a Christian growing up, so when I came to the conclusion that what the Christian faith was true, I didn’t take it for granted. I believe anything worth believing is worth sharing. So I started sharing!

Excerpt from One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview:
It was 10 years since our first kiss on the seawall in Iwakuni, and we would celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary in June. This was one of our first serious conversations about death. When she asked this question one night in our one-bedroom San Diego condo, I was politely dismissive.

“I don’t know. Nothing? Blackness?”

Sitting upright in bed, I set down what I was reading to ponder her question. It might have been a copy of Scientific American. I liked the precision and discovery of science—the rationality of it all. An exchange like this would normally be brief and inconsequential. But something was different that night. Her approach combining concern and patience was by the Book.

“You really believe that?” she gently responded.

Her eyes longed for a husband who would take her Christian faith seriously. I sensed disappointment—even a bit of pity—as she shifted back onto her pillow. She was raised in a Christian family, but I didn’t grow up going to church. With those four words, she made me feel something unusual. It was a feeling she would never intentionally arouse but resulted from my unpreparedness to answer her simple question. I felt…stupid.

I could not tell her what I believed because I had never given it any serious consideration. I thought religion was the opiate of the masses and the cause of most world conflicts. I figured religion was for little old ladies with hymnals and people too dumb to realize Darwin killed God. Virgins don’t have babies, and dead people stay dead.

That night, I realized that I had no justification for my presuppositions other than “someone once said” or “that’s what I was taught in school.” Surely, our country’s public school system must afford equal time to all possible models for understanding the creation of the universe and the appearance of first life, right? If this God stuff is not even allowed to be taught in public school, doesn’t that mean it is heinously flawed and ridiculously naive? That is how I thought back then.

For some reason, instead of the obligatory thirty seconds normally given to these seemingly unanswerable questions, I pondered the fate of my soul. Up to that point, my views were passively atheistic and naturalistic, and the word “soul” would have meant some unknowable thing religious people talk about. I thought of our first-born son, then 15-months-old, and his baby sister who was due in the summer. What would I teach them when they ask what happens after death? “Blackness” was an unsatisfying answer resulting from twenty-six years of spiritual apathy.

I came to a disconcerting realization: I was unprepared to give my children meaningful answers to life’s important questions. This was not my first misgiving of being a father unqualified for the job. There was already a gnawing notion that although I was already a dad, I lacked something fathers should have. The unidentified shortcoming haunted me, as if a Ghost of Future Failure was walking along side, waiting for the tragedy I could neither avoid nor endure. Maybe I haven’t read enough books. I was a good reader but lacked a passion for literature.

My intuition was eventually validated, but the missing ingredient was not the quantity of reading; it was the subject. The day I began asking questions about spiritual things marked the end of an era of apathy, cowardice, and fear.

You really believe that? A single question changed my life forever. It stopped my rising tide of fighter-pilot machismo in its tracks, and I realized that professional trophies cannot shine in a home darkened by the spiritual ineptitude of their champion. I didn’t lack an education. I didn’t lack drive or courage. I was willing to face danger despite the unsettling fear that comes from a worldview whose only guarantee is death. What I lacked, I could not receive from ordinary books or the ordinary people who wrote them.

I lacked wisdom. And to get it, I would have to find God. Strike that; He would have to find me.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’ve written about moving our family to Alaska. It’s a much lighter read and promises to give the reader a few laughs. I have a few other ideas in the works, too. In the process of developing (a service that helps authors decide which book promotions sites are effective), I developed some techniques to effectively get book reviews. I’m considering sharing this knowledge in an e-book or an e-course.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I would have to say when I was about half way through writing the book. I was also writing for my blog FIGHTER FAITH at the time to continue developing my writing skills. But writing One of the Few was when I really developed the habit. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re doing the work, you’re a writer.

I’m past the point in life of looking for permission to claim certain titles. It’s like in the fighter pilot community. When you start flight school, they issue you a leather jacket. But you’re not supposed to wear it. You haven’t really earned it yet. And after jet training, you still don’t really wear the jacket—you haven’t been to combat yet. One day you just start wearing the jacket. The same goes with wearing the title or “writer.”

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

I have a day job as a government contractor in the Defense industry. It’s a pretty cool job, and I like it. But I like writing, too. I literally have a cabin in the woods in Alaska. I’m in it a lot. There’s a wood burning stove.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I like to stand. I like ergonometric setups. I’d prefer to look up at a screen. It’s nice for your shoulders, arms, and hands to be in a natural position when at the keyboard. I know—I’m geeking out;

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
At one point, a veterinarian. At another point, an actor. I think you have to know your purpose before you can find your place. Developing a Christian worldview helped greatly.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Thanks for listening, and if you know anyone searching for answers to the big questions in life, this book might be a good place to start.


Thanks for being here today, Jason. All the best with your writing!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Interview with Linda Naomi Baron-Katz about mental illness

I’m chatting with Linda Naomi Baron-Katz today about two of her books: a memoir, Surviving Mental Illness, My Story and a children’s fiction picture book, Peter and Lisa: A Mental Illness Children’s Story.

Linda Naomi Baron-Katz born on March 21, 1969, by the name of Linda Naomi Baron, raised as a modern orthodox Jew, where mental illness became a factor throughout her life. It had started with her mother when she was in the fifth grade. Her mother suffered a nervous breakdown and was diagnosed with acute depression. This gave Linda and her family a huge amount of stress. As she was growing up into adulthood, her mother's illness affected her in various ways. Linda had difficulties making friends, developing positive relationships, and maintaining employment. After she graduated college, she also suffered from a mental illness and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Through the years, she was faced with challenges that were difficult to overcome, but worked hard to achieve recovery. As part of her recovery from mental illness, she became active and volunteered for a variety of mental health organizations.

Linda became a member of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness or formerly called National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) and published articles about her life in New York City Voices, a newspaper for people with mental illness to share their personal recovery stories. Both of these agencies helped fight against stigma and other issues pertaining to mental illness. Soon after, Linda found employment working for agencies that help others with mental illness reach their goals and dreams.

Today, Linda is happily married, an author who has published two books. One is titled Surviving Mental Illness, My Story which won a Silver Medal Award by Readers Favorite for best non-fiction/autobiography and came in first place and won the Life Journeys Award for best memoir/biography from Readers Views. Through this book she describes all of her challenges that she dealt with while having a mental illness and how she found her way back towards establishing a wellness by staying mentally and physically strong.

The second book, titled Peter and Lisa: A Mental Illness Children’s Story, which she co-authored with her husband Charles Katz, is about two adults who struggle with mental illness and get better with medication and necessary support by family and friends. It is a story that children will love and understand that with help people can recover from mental illness.

Linda wrote these two books to show that mental illness is not something to be afraid of and that anyone can overcome life’s challenges and achieve a happy life.

Welcome, Linda. Please tell us about your books.
My current release is a children’s book titled Peter and Lisa: A Mental Illness Children’s Story. It is about two adults who struggle with depression and mania as they cope with the challenges of life and get better with medication and support by family and friends.

The other book, titled Surviving Mental Illness, My Story, is a memoir of the heartbreaks and challenges I faced growing up with a mental illness and shows the road that I took to find my way back towards mental health, what is known as recovery.

What inspired you to write these books?
I wrote both books to teach adults and children that despite the challenges in life, people with mental illness can get better with treatment and support (family, friends, peer group, employment program) and continue to live a life happily that is full of hope and dreams.

Excerpt from Surviving Mental Illness, My Story:

In 1993, I had my first manic attack. The first time this happened frightened my family, yet in my mind, I was on top of the world. It started with Al, the boy that I had an infatuation with during college. I could not get him out of my mind. I heard a variety of voices in my head, but none of them were as powerful as those I heard about Al. I thought these voices were real, so I listened to them. I told my friends that Al was my boyfriend, when in reality he was not. When I volunteered at Forest Hills Community House, a senior citizen center, I met an elderly woman who I thought was Al’s grandmother, and a young woman who I believed was his sister. Once, when the community house took the senior citizens to Flushing Meadows Corona Park to visit a museum, another racing thought about Al came to my mind. In this thought, I believed I was getting married to him and having his five children. When I told these things to my friend, she told me that Al did not have a sister and that I was not going to be married to him because he did not feel the same way. Can you imagine what my friends thought of me?
During that same time, I went to see the Hillel director at Queens College, and for some reason, told him that Al and I were getting married. I had no idea what was wrong with me. At Hillel, I went from room to room going crazy as I looked for him because I kept hearing him call my name. The director knew that I was not being myself and believed I was on drugs. He called my father and asked him to come right away. My father knew immediately that I was suffering from some type of mental illness, the same way my mother had. He told the Hillel director that I was not on drugs, but was mentally troubled.
At times, I would have hallucinations, as if I were viewing them on a TV screen. One hallucination was that Al and I got married and several of our friends from Queens College were our bridesmaids and ushers. Of course, this was not real, and after a few sessions with Dr. Nass, I began to see the light and realize the reality of my situation. This world I was in was so unreal that when the delusions started to fade away gradually, I began to wake up, as if coming out of a dream. I could not understand where these voices, thoughts and hallucinations were coming from. It is hard to understand how the mind works, but I knew that my mind would not let me do or say such things, unless there was a part inside me that wanted all this to be true.

What exciting story are you working on next?
Right now I am focusing on promoting these two books. I am not sure if I will write a third one because the cost of marketing a book is expensive. However, I think I will write more articles on mental illness and review other books on my blog.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think when I was in high school or college that I knew I could write, but I never dreamed that one day I would write a book and become an author.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I do not write full time but I do work part time as a Certified Peer Specialist in mental health and try to schedule the rest of my days marketing my book and do speaking engagements from time to time.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I never really given it much thought. I am not sure if I have a writing quirk. I just like to write about topics that represent hope and dreams.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a child I wanted to be a teacher but as I grew up I found out that being able to discipline children was very difficult to do.


Buy pages: 

Thanks for being here today, Linda!