Monday, June 30, 2014

Everyone has a Jesse Alexander in their life. Who's yours?

Good afternoon!

A Coworker of mine recently went to Summerfest, the world's largest music festival.  (If you haven't been, you should go.  It's running this week yet, so get your tickets and GO!)

Anyway, she was at the Luke Bryan concert and Florida Georgia Line was one of the other acts at the show.  (Seriously, how are you not going insane to get to Summerfest? EVERYONE performs there.  I mean EVERYONE!)  She sent me a Face Book message:  "I've Found my Jesse Alexander."

As a friend, I was laughing out loud.  As an author I was very proud. 

See, Jesse Alexander is the hero in my very first novel, Dream in Color.  He's a retired rock star.  He was once the hottest thing in music, the hottest thing everywhere, but the years passed and he retired.  Jesse comes out of retirement for one tour of the Upper Midwest  (because I'm an author and I'm supposed to write what I know...I know the Upper Midwest.) and that's where he meets Ramona, the heroine and slightly fluffy girl from Wisconsin.  And yes, there is a Summerfest moment, because that's how awesome Summerfest is.

Now, everyone who knows me knows that yes, I'm Ramona  (because we should write what we know and I know about being a slightly fluffy girl in her thirties.) and that MY Jesse Alexander is Rick Springfield.  (Who played at Summerfest last week...and I got to see the concert...see how amazing that is?)

This past Friday I was doing a book signing and a couple women came up in the course of the evening and told me they read and reread Dream in Color because they loved it.  I blushed, because that's what I do when people say nice things about my books, and I asked, "Who is your Jesse Alexander?"

One said Bon Jovi, which is the number one answer to that question, in case you wondered, and the other one said Pat Manahan, lead singer from the group Train.  Interesting that these women chose rock stars.  I've found, in the five years since Dream has been out, that most women admit to wild daydreams about rock stars.  If you looked at my list of favorite celebrities, it's silly with rock stars. There's just something about a musician that we women love.  I tell people I think it's because a singer is far more honest in his/her music than an actor is ever going to be acting.  Both are story tellers.  But the singer is telling a story about him/herself.  The actor is usually telling someone else's story.  Probably why so many actors have rock bands on the side.  (Russell Crowe, Kevin Bacon, Keanu Reeves, all have rock bands.)

So you have to ask yourself as a person, "Who is my Jesse Alexander?  Who is that one celebrity I've loved since forever and would probably lose the power of speech if he/she walked into the room?"  (For the record, when Dream came out, I was introduced to Rick Springfield and yes, I lost all power of speech.)

Need some inspiration to find out?  Hey, check out the book!  Just Click HERE!

Friday, June 27, 2014

A social experiment...

Good afternoon!

So about a month ago I released a new novel, A Hero's Spark.  And I put together a cover which I really liked.

Here's the thing:  sales haven't been exactly where I think they should be.  So I'm it the cover?  

I know we're not supposed to judge a book by it's cover, but face it, we do.  So I thought, in putting together the cover, I conveyed the ideas in the book:  Good looking guy with grey eyes...(and to get a model with grey eyes? Are you kidding?)  Musician, ambulance, hot kiss.  Yep, got everything covered.

I'm thinking now that the book's cover is too...busy.  There's too much going on.  After reading some of my reviews, I'm finding out that people DO judge a book by its cover and boy, they are unforgiving.  

So today I sat down after paging through wads of romance novel covers and I created a NEW cover for the Kindle version of the book.

I'm leaving the print cover the same for now, for a couple reasons:  1)  I really do love the original cover and 2)  Sales of print copies and Kindle copies are the same right now.  I'm trying to see if people respond better to the Kindle copy.  Admittedly, Kindle will sell more than print because it's less expensive and because it's instant gratification.

So, stay tuned my friends.  Let's see how this works out!  (It'll be up on Amazon in about 12 hours.)

Thursday, June 19, 2014, 11 questions with Author Jim Landwehr!

Good morning and welcome to post #2 on this blog.  It was supposed to be #400 on "It's a Writer's World" but the hackers ruined it for us.  So, we start fresh!

In case you missed it, yesterday I wrote a review of Author Jim Landwehr's new book:  Dirty Shirt: A Boundary Waters Memoir.  If you haven't read the review, you should.  Go ahead...we'll wait.

(And we'll watch the book trailer while you're reading!)

Okay, well today I wanted you, my readers, to get to know Jim Landwehr a bit better, so I gave him my 10 Questions treatment, and when he answered them, I realized he'd answered 11!  (That's how great an author he is, friends, he answers questions that aren't asked!)

So, without further ado, I give you Jim Landwehr and the 10...11 Questions!

1)  Tell us about the book! What would you like readers to take away from Dirty Shirt: A Boundary Waters Memoir ?

The funny thing is, the book was never really intended to be a book at all. I just started capturing stories of trips we took to the BWCA. It was going to be a simple small collection to pass on to my family. When my writing instructor asked me if I’d given any thought to making it into a book, I said I hadn’t. She said I should. Well, 260 pages later, I had a book!

The book is about adventure, and family and the things you learn about each other and about yourself when you’re thrust into the deep wilderness. I use humorous stories to suck the reader in, then I come at them with tender hearted moments that seal the deal.

What I would like readers to take away is the importance of building adventure into their lives, especially alongside family members. Taking my kids to the BWCA has instilled some great memories of “roughing it” and some amazing times with their
cousins; memories that they will never forget. It’s my hope that they will recognize that and do the same for their children.

2) What book, movie, or character inspired you to write?

I have always liked to write, with my first memory being short, illustrated stories as a fourth grader – stories I still have. It’s funny how all of those stories has a beginning, middle and end, and all of them have a moral of some sort, like I wanted to tell people something they should know even back then. Weird.

Later, after moving to Milwaukee I was really into letter writing. It was through writing letters to my brother in New York that I met, and eventually became pen pals with, my wife. So my writing (and hers) drew us together in ways dating maybe never could have. Again, weird.

But if I had to pin my inspiration it to a book, or a person, I would have to say the two most influential authors were Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse Five) and Richard Brautigan (Trout Fishing in America). Vonnegut for his dark humor and sober perspective on life and death, and Brautigan for his randomness, humor and nonconformity.

And finally if I had to credit people in my life who inspired me to take my writing seriously, I would have to say the supportive holy trinity of my wife Donna, Shannon Jackson-Arnold and Kathie Giorgio. My wife believed in me and has supported me throughout my writing journey. Shannon got the flame started as an instructor during a memoir class, and Kathie took the flame of that new found love for writing and poured gas on it. I would go so far as to say, no Kathie, no Dirty Shirt.

3)  Best/worst movie based on a book :

Best: I thought Hunger Games was a worthy adaptation. I had low expectations and it was better than I expected.

Worst: I loved the book Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller, but the movie was just okay.

4) Do you write with a soundtrack for whatever you're working on, or do you write in complete silence?

A little of both. Sometimes I write in silence. For Dirty Shirt, if I had to say there was a single inspiring song, it was U2’s Another Time, Another Place. There’s a story about the song in the book, so it was my well when I needed to go to the well.

Lately though I have taken to writing to the music of a few bands. Pink Floyd’s LP Division Bell is quiet and meditative enough for me to write to it almost obsessively. Others that never get old for me are Dire Straits’ Communique, and anything by City and Colour. But as I said, sometimes I need quiet, sometimes music helps.

5) When do you find time to write? What's your schedule like?

The best thing I ever did was buy a laptop. In a funny side-story, I bought my first Dell from a woman on Craigslist who was selling all of her ex’s stuff, the laptop being one of them. I kept waiting for him to show up on my doorstep. Ha! Anyhow, a laptop frees me up to write almost every night from the comfort of my living room. I’ve discovered that if you want to write, you have to MAKE TIME. Carve it out of your day, otherwise, you will find every excuse not to.

I have an active blog, that I post to a couple of times a week. I also guest blog for a friend, where I’m writing about growing up with my brother Rob, who was deaf. That blog is at,  Blogging keeps my skills up, builds my readership, and forces me to write at least three times a week. And finally, perhaps my favorite time to write is for two hours on Saturday at one of my local coffee shops. This time is both sacred and therapeutic.

6) I've spent some serious time on this blog talking about the future of publishing and e-publishing. What are your thoughts?

I keep hearing that the publishing world is in the midst of gigantic changes, and I think it is. Not knowing a whole lot about “old school” publishing, I can only speak to what my experience has been. I think the small presses out there, and there are a ton of them, have enabled writers, myself included, to put a whole lot of really good books out there; books that may not be good enough for New York, but are still really good. The trade-off for doing this is the expectation that the authors to do most of the marketing and selling of books, which I’m finding is fairly overwhelming. (Sarah's Comment:  I know that feeling!)

The risk behind some of these small presses is the danger of new authors falling for false claims by some “indie” presses that end up being no more than a front for vanity or self-publishing. The authors in these scenarios end up paying thousands of dollars in services for things a true publisher should be doing. In these cases, the author starts out their marketing efforts in the hole, and in some cases, never recover the investment that they put into the book. So in short, writers need to be smart about their publishing options. 

7) What are you reading right now? .

 I just finished Love Wins by Rob Bell. While I don’t agree with all of his arguments, he presents some interesting, mind bending concepts. Before that I’d finished the second book in a series by a gifted author friend of mine, Summer Hanford. The book is titled “Thrice Born: Hawks of Sorga” and is young adult fantasy.

I love supporting local authors and authors from the AllWriters’ Workplace and Workshop studio where I am a student. In the first half of 2014, the studio already has seven authors with books that were accepted for publishing. Seven! That is an astonishing testament to the importance of workshopping your writing, and having the tutelage of good instructors. So, needless to say, I’m going to be busy reading locally written books for the next while!

8) Starbucks or Caribou coffee?  

Collectivo! And, actually, CafĂ© De Arts in downtown Waukesha has the best coffee on the planet. (Sarah's Comment:  Being from Waukesha myself, I have to disagree and say the BEST coffee in the world is at The Steaming Cup...about four blocks from Cafe De Arts.)

9) Who would play you in a movie about your life?

Well, my sister Pat once said I reminder her of Hank Kimball of Green Acres, but I think I can do better than that. I would have to say maybe Ben Stiller or Tom Hanks. My wife and others might beg to differ, but those are my choices.

 10) What's next for you?

My next goal is to get a collection of my poetry published. People close to me know that I’ve always professed that I’m not a poet. Over the past few years I’ve had a fair amount of success with publishing my poems, and I really enjoy the word play involved with getting a beginning, middle and end into a compact form. I think these two things point to the fact that I’m a poet whether I admit it or not, right? Seriously though, I think as a genre poetry stretches me and makes me a better writer.

Beyond that, I’m currently working on my next nonfiction book Keeping Portland Weird (working title) which will be a book about growing up in a single parent household with my five siblings in St. Paul, Minnesota in the 70’s and 80’s. Lots of good material to draw from, as you might imagine.

Just for fun, in between these larger projects, I’ll keep submitting poems, short nonfiction stories and maybe even some fiction to various magazines and journals. There’s still a great amount of joy in opening an email to see that my work was appreciated and accepted. It’s why I do what I do, I guess.

11.) Anything more?

In closing I just wanted to thank you Sarah for taking the time to read my book, review it and for hosting this interview. If there’s one thing I’ve learned through this book publishing process, it’s the importance of networking and helping other writers succeed. We are a brotherhood/sisterhood, and because writing is such an isolating experience, it’s invaluable to have others who can relate, encourage and help us along. Let me know if there’s any way I can return the favor sometime. 

Jim you've been a delight to work with and your book is just great!  I wish you the BEST!

(Got a book you'd like me to read and review?  Want to answer my ten questions?  Contact me at any one of the places you'd find me online!  (Hint:  All those places are listed conveniently in any one of my books!)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Review you Can Use: Dirty Shirt: A Boundary Waters Memoir

Friends, it's come to my attention that my long beloved blog "It's a Writer's World" was hacked.  So I had to move everything.  In fairness to Jim Landwehr, my author this month, I am reposting his review from earlier today and posting his interview with me tomorrow.  

For the hackers, it took me almost 5 years to build the blog and you destroyed it in a day or two.  Well done.  But my spirit, and the spirit of my readers lives on and you have had your fun.  Ruin this one, and I'll come back again.  

And now, here's Jim!

Hello everyone!

Every once in a while I get to meet and new author and review his/her new book. Thanks to the wonder of my Face book page I met Author Jim Landwehr who is, this very week, releasing his new book:  Dirty Shirt: A Boundary Waters Memoir. 

I was pretty excited to read this because I'm an outdoorsy person who loves, loves, loves being outside in the woods.

Okay, those of you who know me know I can't stand the idea of dirt under my fingernails and while I enjoy a weekend of camping every couple of decades, no, I'm not outdoorsy at all.  But THAT'S what's so great about Jim Landwehr's book!  You don't have to GO TO the Boundary Waters to feel like you're IN the Boundary Waters.

This memoir, which follows brothers and their friends up to the wild beauty that is The Boundary Waters, is full of gentle humor, family history, and plenty of outdoors instruction.  There is an underlying hint of nostalgia that borders on melancholy, but without bringing down the room.  The key to the book is the brothers' father, a figure known only in stories and memory, and in his love of the outdoors.  The brothers take their wild pilgrimage and learn about themselves and about their father.  Then, they turn around two decades later and teach the same love of the wild, the same need for preparation, and the same connection with family history to their own children.

Check out the trailer:

I love reading about real people in places I've never been.  Somehow putting a real person, someone I might run into at the grocery store, draws me into the book even more.  I will probably never paddle a boat anywhere near the Boundary Waters.  But I'm okay with that because I've read Jim Landwehr's memoir and I feel like I was out there with him and his brothers.

This book is a must read for different groups and for different reasons:  The adventurers, those looking for someplace outside to explore will enjoy the detailed description. Those of you who enjoy memoirs are going to love Landwehr's down home voice and obvious fondness for the stories he's telling.  And those of you looking for a new book by a new author who truly has something to say and is able to say it very well.

A really great summer read, and it'll available HERE and NOW!

Check in tomorrow when I have my Ten Questions interview with Jim Landwehr and we find out very important things about him, his new book, and where HE thinks the best coffee on the planet can be located.  (I may have to debate that one!