Remembering a batch of authors

When we use traditional collective nouns for groups of animals, we speak of a congregation of alligators, a colony of ants, a swarm of bees, a herd of buffalo, a clutter of cats, a murder of crows, a pod of dolphins, a flock of geese, a charm of hummingbirds and a pandemonium of parrots.

batchHumorous collective nouns have been suggested for writers, including an absurdity of, an allegory of, a gallery of and scribble of. Some of the funnier suggestions are less than flattering. When I was interviewed for a regional magazine along with other authors from the county, the article was titled “A Truck Load of Authors.” We were all packed into a vintage pickup truck, a picture was taken, and the magazine had a great illustration.

Since I had no viable way of getting all the authors together who have appeared on this blog directly through guests posts and interviews or indirectly through reviews together and posing them on a raft, railcar or a team of wild horses, I’ve settled for the word “batch.”

The Batch at Malcolm’s Round Table

GoldfinchIf this blog has a niche–or a partial niche–it’s books and writers. Since I read a lot, the batch of writers here has included a lot of reviews. Some of those were BIG PUBLISHING BESTSELLERS but most were not.

So yes, I reviewed Dan Brown’s Inferno and talked about Donna Tarrt’s The Goldfinch. I liked The Night Circus, The Tiger’s Wife, and Long Man a lot and you probably heard about those more than once. Of course I talked about my own books but, well, that’s because I can’t help it and I try not to go on and on about them even though I might be going on and on anyway.

But, to move on. . .

However, it was much more fun talking (in reviews or notes) about books by some wonderful authors you weren’t hearing about everywhere else, L. S. Bassen, Seth Mullins and Smoky Zeidel (who has a new edition coming out soon).

Guest Posts and Interviews

Sara Ann grave in PA. Bob Salerni photo.
Sara Ann grave in PA. Bob Salerni photo.

When an author has delved deeply into a subject while researching a book, it’s fun to have them to stop by and do a guest post. The most unusual guest post was author Dianne K. Salerni’s (“We Hear the Dead,” “The Caged Graves”) Mortsafes: Protection FROM the Dead or FOR the Dead? Spooky stuff.

Interviews are something special because even though they are conducted via e-mail, my guests and I try to make they read very much like conversations.

Most recently, Marietta Rodgers stopped by to talk about her debut book The Bill. Laura Cowan has been here twice, most recently to talk about her magical Music of Sacred Lakes. Nora Caron, a Canadian author lured into Mexico and the American southwest has written a wonderful trilogy that includes New Dimensions of Being. Melinda Clayton, a psychologist who’s now focusing her observational skills on fictional characters spoke about her novel Blessed Are the Wholly Broken.  Two audio book narrators, R. Scott Adams and Kelley Hazen stopped by do tell me how they do what they do. Adams brought his talents as a dialects specialist to my novel Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire. Hazen brought her experience as an actress to narrate my three-story set Emily’s Stories.

row1Diane Salerni’s research into Mortsafes made for a wonderful book in Caged Graves. Novelist Robert Hays used his background as a journalist and journalism educator to write the well-received nonfiction book Patton’s Oracle: Gen. Oscar Koch, as I Knew Him. Laura Cowan (“The Little Seer”) contributed a close-to-my-heart guest post Speculative Supernatural Novels and the Growing Fantasy Genre. Novelist Pat Bertram (“Light Bringer,” “Daughter I Am”) also wrote the nonfiction Grief the Great Yearning which brings together her experiences with loss in an guest post called The Messy Spiral of Grief. Beth Sorensen (“Crush at Thomas Hall”) wrote a sparkling thriller/romance in her novel Divorcing a Dead Man.

row2Helen Osterman worked as a nurse for 45 years. During her training, her rotation she witnessed hydrotherapy, Insulin coma therapy and electroshock. Her background served her well when when she turned to fiction writing in  Notes in a Mirror. Vila SpiderHawk’s Forest Song novels are magical. She stopped by to talk about Finding Home. I thoroughly enjoyed Deborah J. Ledford’s Staccato, Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch’s Dance of the Banished and Rhett DeVane’s Suicide Supper Club.

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Memory Lane

As you see, memory lane is a long street. It would be even longer if I kept better records, so I’m sure I didn’t find all of my interviews and guest posts. I’m planning to bring you some more new posts in the coming months. I hope you’ll stay tuned and, from time to time, sample the authors’ stories.

–Malcolm

KIndle cover 200x300(1)Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: ‘Shadow Days’ by Melinda Clayton

Shadow DaysShadow Days by Melinda Clayton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

 

“Shadow Days” is a delightful addition to Melinda Clayton’s popular “Cedar Hollow” series, featuring in this novel protagonist Emily Holt who suddenly leaves her home in Florida and runs away on the anniversary of her husband’s death.

She ends up by chance and destiny in Cedar Hollow. The sheriff wonders if she’s crazy when he finds her and her broken-down car a few miles from town.

After she finds a place to stay, she begins to learn about the town and its people. Readers who’ve been with the series since it began with “Appalachian Justice,” will recognize just about everybody. Those who read “Shadow Days” first will, like Emily Holt, learn who’s who as the plot unfolds.

Emily has to come to terms with her husband’s death, the remnants of her life in Florida, her two sons who are off at college and don’t know where she is, and just who she is now in this off-the-beaten track town in West Virginia.

This is a well-told story with a cast of characters that increases in depth and scope as each new novel in the series is released. There are nice touches in the memories of characters such as collecting calendar towels and saving S&H Green Stamps. Very satisfying and hopefully not the end of the story.

Malcolm

View all my reviews

Indie Authors – The Publicity Dilemma

“Most books, both traditionally published and self-published, don’t sell well.” – Mark Coker, Smashwords founder

Free Kindle Book
Free Kindle Book

Self-publishing has made the world of books more democratic. Authors who never could find an agent or a publisher’s editor to give their books a chance in the traditional publishing world can now publish and distribute their books through such platforms as Smashwords, Kindle, and CreateSpace.

But then what?

While self-published and small press authors are no longer the black sheep who couldn’t get published by a “real publisher,” book marketing for indie authors partly includes re-training the reading public and partly creating a platform that makes the books worth the time and cost to the reader.

Retraining the Public

Free Kindle Book
Free Kindle Book

When I talk to friends who are not authors, they tell me that 99.99% of the books they buy are traditionally published books from widely known publishers and authors that they heard about from friends, feature stories in newspapers and online publications, and from reviews by professional reviewers. While, book bloggers, social media, and reader reviews are making a dent in reader reliance on old-style marketing techniques, people tend to buy and read what they’ve always bought and read unless we show them something better.

I’m a writer and not a marketing expert, so I’m not going to try and compete with advice you can get from books like the two free Kindle books by Smashwords founder Mark Coker. (If you don’t own a Kindle, download the free “Kindle for PC” application from Amazon and read the books on your computer screen.) Otherwise, here are a few thoughts:

  • Yes, we need to show friends and other prospective readers samples of our work so they’ll see that it’s good. But we also need to talk about other self-published and small press books to let people know there’s a lot of stuff to read out there that’s not coming from giant, traditional publishers. Talk about the authors you’ve discovered in the genres you know your friends like.
  • Yes, we need to converse with other people in “real life” and in the social media, but unless (or until) you’re a celebrity, most people other than your closest friends don’t care what you’re having for dinner tonight or how many times a day your cat threw up a hairball. We need to be accessible while maintaining the ability to morph our off-line and online presence into that of a professional writer.

Platform and Presentation

Naturally, we need to begin with the best book we can write and design. While a small press will usually provide professional editing, formatting and cover design, you will either have to learn how to do such things or pay somebody else to do them if you self-publish.

claytonpublishSince the book will be competing with professionally edited and designed books, asking your kids to create the cover artwork with crayons or your spouse to look through the manuscript for typos isn’t going to cut it. Part of your investment in your book may well include hiring a professional cover designer and editor or finding some very talented beginners or students who will provide great work at a lower cost. Maybe you can barter with other professionals: you write their news releases and they copy edit your books.

There’s a learning curve with professional-level self-publishing. I’m wary of many of the online services that offer help. Perhaps  I’m cynical and think that after I pay $500 for somebody to arrange a blogging tour, will I break even when/if the book starts to sell. Novelist Melinda Clayton has done some of our self-publishing homework for us in her recently published Self-publishing Made Simple: A How-to Guide for the Non-tech-savvy Among Us. Here are a few more thoughts:

  • Developing an online persona in blogs, social media sites, and our own websites can easily trap us into an overall approach that appears to be ALL ABOUT ME. While we’re writing the book, we’re focused on the story and how can best tell it. Sure, some people are curious about such things. But, too much of that, and their eyes glaze over.
  • Yes, an author’s fame helps sell books. Some people will buy everything their favorite author writes as long as it’s good. Prospective new readers will, however, read the reviews, the interviews and the feature stories about an author’s new book. When presented with thousands of prospective books a month, most of us are more likely to reject a book than to try it out. Why? We don’t have time to study each book in depth, so we weed them out quickly. . .wrong price, wrong genre, uninteresting story, unattractive cover. In short, there’s nothing in it for us. Take your best shot fast with something interesting that stops that rejection train.
  • This leads to the true focus of our pitch. It’s not ALL ABOUT ME, it’s ALL ABOUT YOU. We need to show prospective readers the book’s features and benefits. Show them in everything you say and do, including the book’s online description and back-cover copy, what’s in it for them.
  • Avoid blog interviews that rely on generic questions unless there’s a wide variety of them and you get to choose which ones to answer. More often than not, generic questions such as When did you first know you wanted to be a writer and Are you a plotter or a pantser make you sound like an amateur. Plus, they focus on you, your issues, and your writer’s journey rather than what’s in the book for the reader to enjoy.
  • Readers were attracted to Rowling's books before they were attracted to her story about writing them. he story in your novel comes before the story of your life.
    Readers were attracted to Rowling’s books before they were attracted to her story about writing them. The story in your novel comes before the story of your life.

    Sorry about this, but saying you’re a work-at-home mom, an avid reader, or a dad who makes up bedtime stories for his kids isn’t going to sell your book. First, there’s nothing unique about any of that. Those are not the prerequisites for becoming a writer no matter how important they are in your own life. Second, focusing on your personal life is still ALL ABOUT ME. Focus on hobbies, avocations, and career information that not only shows the reader you’re deeply involved and knowledgeable about the people, places and themes in your books, but that you share a common ground.

  • Success Breeds Interest. That’s a long-time proverb from management and supervision courses. I think it’s true of writers and how they relate to the public. Even if we’re not selling loads of books, being negative online about one’s lot in life doesn’t make us very attractive. Obviously, lack-of-success probably breeds apathy. So, a positive approach is the basis of a successful platform. Many writers disagree with me, but I think it’s bad form to ask for reviews and for readers to tell their friends about your book. That sounds like lack of success to me for, if people like your book, they’ll spread the word without being asked. If you’re having trouble with your publisher, your editor, your cover designer, with Amazon, or with anyone else, save comments about that to writers’ forums and private messages. There’s a double standard here, I know: if J.K. Rowling sues somebody, it’s news–if indie writers complain, it’s unattractive and unsuccessful sour grapes. Don’t bash your publisher online.
  • You are not a charity case even if you’re broke. When I worked with nonprofit organizations, a lot of executive directors thought that if they simply announced an event, the public would show up in record numbers. Why? Because the charity or museum is a good cause. Well, there are hundreds of good causes out there, so using that as one’s rationale isn’t going to draw people to weekend events. Nonprofits have to sell the event. What wonders will the public experience by attending it? What’s in it for them? We show our lack of professionalism and continue the ALL ABOUT ME mindset if we present ourselves as people who need to be rescued rather than professional writers to be read if we focus our efforts on asking people to help us succeed. This kind of sentimentalism isn’t going to sell books. Count on it. If you say you’re broke, it suggests that you’re not any good.

If you’re a writer, best of luck finding the combination of publicity techniques and approaches that work for you. If you’re a reader, remember that those of us who focus on storytelling don’t always know how to tell you about our stories.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism novels, including “Lena.”

Fall Reading: See anything you like?

Once the barrage of lightweight summer books has come and gone, readers’ thoughts to turn fall reading and holiday gifts. To help us make our choices, the usual flurry of best books of the year articles and lists is showing up all over the Internet and in your favorite book stores. For this, you can always start with the list of 101 best books of the year on Publishers Weekly.  (The feature has site errors in it, but click on OK and get past them.) Or you can look at USA Today’s list of fall books here.

Indie Bound publishes a “Next” list for upcoming books. Here are their favorites for November:

IndieNEXTnov13

Likewise, Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) keeps up with bestsellers for bookstores in the southeast. Here’s the link to their hardbacks PDF. On the download, they’ve highlighted several books, including:

leesmith

When people ask me about fiction and poetry, my answer depends on what (if anything) I know about the person. Do they like romance, fantasy, general fiction, crime? However, my three top picks of the year in fiction are:

fall2013books1

And, for those who like poetry (I think Bryant’s latest book is only on Sams Dot Com):

fall2013poetry

I’m intrigued by these short stories, but they may not work for everyone:

claire

In  the crime category, I liked Robert Galbraith’s (J. K. Rowling) The Cuckoo’s Falling and  Stephen King’s Joyland. In plays, I liked Elizabeth Clark-Sterne’s On the Doorstep of the Castle. Also, Tracy R. Franklin’s strong collection of poetry and essays Looking for the Sun Door is a beautiful book. And, since a short story of mine appears in the anthology, I have to mention Spirits of St. Louis: Missouri Ghost Stories. Of course, I wouldn’t mind if you clicked on the banner below to take a look at my new contemporary fantasy The Betrayed.

I hope you find plenty out there for your to-be-read list and for the lists of your friends and family.

Malcolm

betrayedbanner

Melinda Clayton views her latest protagonist as ‘wholly broken’

ClaytonphotoToday’s guest is author Melinda Clayton (“The Cedar Hollow Series”). Her new novel, a stunning tale about a family in the midst of self-destruction Blessed Are the Wholly Broken, was released October 16.  Clayton, who has published numerous articles and short stories in print and online magazines, is a licensed psychotherapist in the states of Florida and Colorado. She holds an Ed.D. in Special Education Administration. She recently founded Thomas-Jacob Publishing described as a “unique family-owned publishing company.”

Clayton previously visited Malcolm’s Round Table in July of 2012 when her novel Entangled Thorns was released as the third book in “The Cedar Hollow Series.”

Malcolm: Welcome back! In your new novel Blessed Are the Wholly Broken, you move away from the Appalachian Mountain families in “The Cedar Hollow Series” to Phillip and Anna Lewinsky, a modern-day urban couple, living in Memphis. As an author, how difficult was it to shift away from the prospective “comfort zone” of an on-going series with known characters and established settings to a new environment featuring students graduating from college who are ready for careers and family life?

cedarhollowcoverMelinda: Thanks for having me back, Malcolm. It was difficult, but I also felt it was time. There may be other Cedar Hollow stories, but the story of Phillip and Anna Lewinsky had been rattling around in my head for some time. I had also wanted to write a story set in the area of Tennessee in which I grew up, so that was fun. It was also fun to revisit the University of Memphis on Memphis’ rainiest day of 1989. I remember that day well. I was really tired of the rain, of being cold, and of getting soaked on my walks to both class and work.

Malcolm: At the beginning of the book, you quote a line from “In Place of a Curse,” a signature poem by John Ciardi: “They who are wholly broken, and they in whom mercy is understanding, I shall embrace at once and lead to pillows in heaven.” In addition to suggesting a unique title for your novel, how does this sentiment set the stage for the story to come?

Melinda: I think of Phillip as being “wholly broken.” This is a man who in his early twenties felt he had everything he needed to be happy. In his words, “I felt like the luckiest guy in the world. First job, first apartment, first girlfriend, best friend. What more could I have possibly wanted?” But by his mid-forties, when we first meet him in the Prologue, he feels he has nothing at all. “Life imprisonment or death; that is the question. And while the outcome matters immensely to the other players in this drama of my life, it matters not at all to me. I am dead either way.”

I wanted to explore that dynamic, the path one might travel that could lead from euphoria to despair, from hopeful to hopeless.

Malcolm: Asking a therapist why s/he writes about characters with deeply rooted psychological problems probably makes as much sense as asking a composer why s/he writes about characters who are struggling with a symphony. Yet, as I think about both “The Cedar Hollow Series” and Blessed Are the Wholly Broken, I can’t help but see the books’ characters as almost being—as we say in the South—“too broke to fix.” In addition to the page-turning read we all look for, do you think these novels will also help provide closure for readers who know people who seem wholly broken and/or who often feel they might be wholly broken?

BAWB 200 x 300Melinda: Wow, I might have to think about that for a minute! I think the “broken” characters in the Cedar Hollow Series have within them some spark of hope, enough, at least, to compel them to continue moving forward. One reviewer remarked that she loved it that those books all ended on a hopeful note, a type of new beginning for the characters. If there’s a message to those books, it might be something along the lines of each cloud having a silver lining, or there being a light at the end of the tunnel. Never give up; this too shall pass, etc.

I think Blessed Are the Wholly Broken is different in that within the first page, we know Phillip Lewinsky has been found guilty of the murder of his wife. One of the beta-readers called me midway through reading and said, “But he’s going to get out, right?” She found him to be a sympathetic, likable character and wanted a happy ending for him. I suppose a philosophical argument could be made that in a paradoxical sort of way, he was happy with the ending and he did find the closure he was looking for, but the writing of Wholly Broken was more about an examination of the unraveling of a life than it was about reaching closure.

Malcolm:  How do prospective wholly broken people/characters impact the therapist/novelist?

Melinda: In some ways, the impact is the same for both the therapist and the novelist, in that I’ve always been fascinated by trying to discover what makes us all tick. Behavioral theory would say we don’t engage in a behavior unless we’re getting something out of that behavior. Maybe we’re being positively reinforced in some way, or maybe we’re trying to avoid something uncomfortable. That’s overly simplistic, but I think for the most part, it’s true.

As a therapist, part of finding the solution lies in finding the why of the behavior. Once a person recognizes and understands the purpose behind their behavior, they can choose whether or not they want to change it.

As a novelist, it’s fun to work to tie together a character’s motivations, choices, and decisions with their ultimate outcome.

Malcolm: After readers learn on the first page of Blessed Are the Wholly Broken that a crime has been committed, the novel moves about quickly from one time to another and from one place to another rather like a “whodunit.” I felt like I was reading a detective story. How did you approach your research for this, especially that involving medical, police, prison and courtroom procedures?

The dorms at Memphis State University (now U of M) where Phillip and Anna meet.
The dorms at Memphis State University (now U of M) where Phillip and Anna meet.

Melinda: This novel, by far, required more research than all three of my previous novels put together. I spent time both talking with and emailing medical and legal experts as well as making several phone calls to the Lauderdale County Jail to make sure I accurately portrayed not only procedures, but physical components of the building.

I sent hardcopies of the chapters dealing with medical issues to an expert in the field of microbiology, and chapters dealing with legal and courtroom procedures to the founder of a law firm in New York.

I wanted the book to be as true to the regions as possible, so I also researched weather patterns in that area during that time to make sure if it was raining in the novel, it really had rained on that particular day. I pulled up calendars from that time to make sure if court was held on a specific day in the novel, it would have really been held on that day in Ripley, Tennessee.

I think I probably spent more time on research than I did on writing. Everyone was incredibly helpful; if there are mistakes, they’re completely my own.

Malcolm: While Blessed Are the Wholly Broken was still a work in progress, you formed your own publishing company. How did the becoming a publisher change your perspective about what it takes to prepare and format manuscripts, and to publish and market a book? How did it change your viewpoint as a writer? Did becoming a publisher change your writing habits or approach or were you able to keep your publisher’s hat in the closet until the manuscript was done?

TJpublishingMelinda: Becoming a publisher in the middle of the writing process taught me that publishing is a lot of work! In some ways it stifled me as a writer because as I typed, I couldn’t help thinking, “Ugh, once I get done with this manuscript, I have to reformat it three different ways….”  On the flip side, I loved having the ability to review and proof the finalized manuscripts before hitting “publish.” It was nice to have one last chance to check for any typos or formatting errors before going “live.”

Malcolm: Best of luck with Thomas-Jacob Publishing and Blessed Are the Wholly Broken. Where can prospective readers find you your novels on the Internet?

Melinda: Thanks, Malcolm!  And thanks for the wonderful interview.

All of my books can be found through major retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. They’re also available through Smashwords, Apple, Sony, and Kobo.

Briefly Noted: ‘Cedar Hollow,’ by Sam Franklin’s family

“Cedar Hollow,” by  Patty Hayner Franklin, Bill Franklin, Eric Thomas Johnson, Melinda Clayton, Samuel Joseph Franklin, Frankie Johnson, W. Michael Franklin and Tracy R. Franklin, Vanilla Heart Publishing (October 2012), 150 pp, paperback and e-book

While Cedar Hollow is the fictional town in Melinda Clayton’s novels (“Appalachian Justice,” “Return to Crutcher Mountain” “Entangled Thorns”), the Franklin Family is lovingly real as are the flavor, ambiance and wonders in this book.

All author and publisher proceeds from this anthology, created by Sam Franklin’s family, will go to the “Helen R. Tucker Adult Developmental Center, Tipton County Branch [in Tennessee] where Sam currently spends many of his days interacting, learning, growing, and experiencing life. With great honor, Vanilla Heart Publishing is pleased to support this center and the people who make it possible.”

Pushcart Prize Nominee Short Story Erma Puckett’s Moment of Indiscretion by Melinda Clayton is included, along with stories, poems, lyrics and music score, recipes, and more from Sam and his Family, including his father, mother, sisters, and both his eldest brother and his brother-in-law.

Excerpt about Sam from his sister, Melinda Clayton

My brother is funny and sweet. He likes basketball, dancing, and singing. He loves old reruns of shows he watched as a child. He likes to play the keyboard and the drums. He loves foods that aren’t healthy for him, but always follows the doctor’s orders. Most of all, he loves his family.

And, by the way, he has Down Syndrome.

Just one little sentence in the whole of who he is.

There’s a lot of prose and poetry to look forward to in this anthology. Even so, I’m also tempted by the recipes for Darryl Lane’s trout, Peggy Mitchell’s burgers, Kay Lanley’s key lime pie, and Beryl Dickson’s holiday cookies.

Malcolm

P.S. Vanilla Heart is also my publisher, Melinda Clayton is my friend and I was once a unit manager in a developmental center where some residents had Down Syndrome. You might say I am fully biased in favor of this book in every possible way.

Author Melinda Clayton returns to Appalachia for her new novel

I’m pleased to welcome author Melinda Clayton (Appalachian Justice and Return to Crutcher Mountain) to the Round Table today to talk about her new novel Entangled Thorns. Once again, Clayton heads back to Appalachia for a compelling story about hard times and hard memories. Entangled Thorns, which tells the story of Beth Sloan and the “infamous Pritchett family of Cedar Hollow, West Virginia,” was released by Vanilla Heart Publishing June 27, 2012.

Malcolm: Like Appalachian Justice and Return to Crutcher Mountain, your new novel Entangled Thorns has an Appalachian setting. What draws a Florida author away from the orange groves and sunny beaches into the hills of West Virginia for her storytelling?

Melinda:  My mother’s family is from West Virginia, around the Charleston area.  My grandfather was retired from the mines.  Both of my maternal grandparents passed away when I was a teen, but up until that time we visited every summer.  I loved everything about it:  the people, the mountains, the wildlife.  My mother was born in a tiny place called Big Ugly Holler, which served as the inspiration for Cedar Hollow.  It doesn’t exist now, but we once hiked into the mountains to see what was left of it.  There was no road; by that time, there wasn’t even a trail.  When we finally reached our destination all that remained of Big Ugly Holler were a few foundations and chimneys covered in vines.

Malcolm: In Entangled Thorns, your protagonist Beth Sloan has been running from and/or repressing her troubled childhood until circumstances force her to confront it. Your protagonists in Appalachian Justice and Return to Crutcher Mountain were also wounded as children. Does this overarching theme of your work come out of your experience as a psychotherapist or the kinds of stories you’re drawn to on the nightly news?

Melinda:  I love this question, and the answer is, “both.”  I read a book when I was very young – I’d give anything to remember the title of it – but it was about a social worker who worked with troubled kids.  Ever since then I knew I wanted to work with troubled children and families in some capacity.  I’ve also always been drawn to true crime stories, as morbid as that might seem.  There is something about the workings of the human mind that absolutely fascinates me, particularly when it goes off-kilter in some way.

Malcolm: You recently completed a Ed.D. in Special Education Administration program which required a dissertation. How did you manage to jump back and forth between academic writing with its reliance on sources and a formal style to fiction with its emphasis on people, adventure and an accessible style?

Melinda:  That was a little challenging at times.  The act of writing fiction was a great stress reliever, but I had to work to keep the informal language (contractions, slang, etc.) from entering my academic writing.  It was tempting at times to put in something like, “This research will show that there ain’t no correlation…” for the pure fun of seeing my committees’ reaction.

Malcolm: How does the doctoral work fit into your professional goals?

Melinda:  My ultimate goal is to teach at a college level.  My doctorate sort of combined two fields of study, since my M.S. is in Community Agency Counseling, and my doctorate is in Special Education Administration.  I’d love to contribute to the field by demonstrating how the two fields often go hand-in-hand and should support each other and work together, instead of arguing over funding streams and services as so often happens.

Malcolm: For the general public, Appalachia conjures up such themes as isolated, subsistence living, hard-working and persevering people, coal mining and other environmental excesses, and pure, raw music unlike that from any other part of the country. How do your characters and plots mesh with or run counterpoint to these stereotypes? Does the lure of Appalachia for your storytelling ever translate into other areas, say, in tempting you to move there as a teacher or psychotherapist?

Melinda:  It’s a delicate line to walk.  I know from my own family that the manner in which Appalachia is often portrayed can be a sore point.  At the same time, I want the story to reflect what is, in some areas, true to life.  I relied heavily on not only my research, but also my own memories as well as my mother’s experiences.

I also know from my experiences that the poverty associated with Appalachia exists elsewhere.  There’s no need to travel to Appalachia to encounter it.  In the late 1980s, when I was fresh out of college with a B.A. in social work, my first job was as the coordinator of case management services for a rural mental health center in Tennessee.  My case workers and I were responsible for a three county area, working with the most impoverished of families. Many of our clients were without electricity or running water.  Many also lived in the most basic of housing structures, without floors or internal walls.  I think it’s difficult to believe there are still families living in such poverty in the U.S., but there are.

Malcolm: Thomas Wolfe brought the phrase “You Can’t Go Home Again” into general use. “Going home” can be awkward, embarrassing or frightening on so many levels even for those of us who had relatively normal childhoods. But your characters had strong reasons for avoiding home, yet all of them find that they must go home again. Does this theme grow out of the psychologist’s seemingly favorite “well me about your childhood” question or is it more that home is the only place where the issues of home can be fixed?

Melinda:  Again I have to smile, because it’s both.  My writing of home is a very transparent attempt to create the home I miss.  Until I was about twelve, we lived in my father’s hometown in TN surrounded by aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents.  We had fried chicken at Mawmaw’s house every Sunday after church, then spread blankets on the lawn under the pecan tree and visited well into the evening.  A rough couple of years ended all that.  One aunt died tragically in a car accident, another divorced, my grandparents lost their home to a fire, and my family moved away.  I’m sure it wasn’t as idyllic as I remember, but it’s pulled at me ever since.

But I also think it’s necessary to revisit the places that have scarred us, either symbolically (often for safety’s sake only symbolically) or physically.  We have to face our issues before we can resolve them.  Burying them doesn’t work; we have to excise them, examine them, and then choose to heal and move on.

Malcolm: Thank you, Melinda.

Where to Find Melinda on the Internet

Blogs on Xanga and WordPress

Facebook

Twitter

Amazon Author’s Page

This and That, Mostly About Books

While Georgia’s heat wave continues, I’m doing just fine when I’m inside working on short stories. The A/C can hardly keep up with temps over 90, much less over 100. As long as I’m working on my story about a Florida river, I can imagine floating in its cool waters even though “in real life,” the river is a mess due to the recent flooding from Debby.

Lately, I’ve been wondering what’s going on in the world that’s causing so many people to search on the phrase “light conquers all.”  A year-old post here on Malcolm’s Round Table about author Pat Bertram’s novel Light Bringer has been getting dozens of hits per day for about two weeks now. If you’re one of the people searching for that phrase, leave a comment and tell me what’s happening.

After reading author and artist Terri Windling’s recent post about artistic inspiration, I felt inspired to use her words as a springboard and post a few words about where authors get their ideas on my Magic Moments blog. Stop by and tell me what inspires you to write, draw, compose music or make a quilt or create a new sculpture.

Long before I was born, my father’s family lived in Fort Collins, Colorado before moving to the California coast. Because my father loved the Colorado high country, I followed in his footsteps and climbed mountains there one summer before finishing school and being summoned by “my friends” at my local draft board to join the Navy. So it is, that I watch the news about the Colorado fires, the people who have been driven out of their homes and the heroic efforts of the fire fighters with horror and awe mixed together with memories of better times. The news from the fire lines seems better at the moment.

On July 9th, author Melinda Clayton will stop by for a chat about her third novel Entangled Thorns, including why a Florida author is lured to Appalachia again and again for her stories. I enjoyed the interview!

Publisher’s Description

Beth Sloan has spent the majority of her life trying to escape the memories of a difficult childhood. Born into the infamous Pritchett family of Cedar Hollow, West Virginia, she grew up hard, surrounded not only by homemade stills and corn liquor, but by an impoverished family that more often than not preferred life on the wrong side of the law.

After the mysterious death of her brother Luke at the age of thirteen, seventeen year old Beth and her younger sister Naomi ran away from home, never to return. As the years passed, Beth suppressed the painful memories and managed to create a comfortable, if troubled, life with her husband Mark and their two children in an upscale suburb outside of Memphis, Tennessee.

But the arrival of an unwelcome letter threatens to change all that.

Against her better judgment, and at the urging of her sister Naomi, Beth agrees to return to Cedar Hollow, to the memories she’s worked so hard to forget. When old resentments and family secrets are awakened, Beth must risk everything to face the truth about what really happened to Luke that long ago summer night.

With three out of four of my novels partly set in Glacier National Park, Montana, I’m usually distressed when I read about the continued absence of funding, especially for such mundane sounding line items as infrastructure and maintenance. The good news this summer is the Glacier National Park Fund’s plan to begin an adopt-a-trail program to help pay for the upkeep on the remaining 750 miles of trails (down 250 miles since I was first there). As a member of the Fund, I heard about the plan via a letter and a brochure. The details are not yet on the Fund’s web site, but I think they will be soon.

When I write my next Montana novel, I really don’t want to hear that more trails have been abandoned due to Congress’ continued lack of support. Maybe all of us can help pick up the slack.

Otherwise, I know newspapers, websites and magazines often feature the summer’s hot reads every year about this time. What with the heat wave, I’m ready for books about snow and ice.

Malcolm

Only $4.99 on Kindle

Publisher donates to Developmental Center

Vanilla Heart Publishing and author Melinda Clayton are extending their donation period to benefit the Tipton County Adult Developmental Center of Covington, Tennessee. All sales of Clayton’s novel, Return to Crutcher Mountain, print and electronic, will earn a donation to the center, direct from VHP and Clayton. The TCADC fundraiser began in October.

Clayton wrote in her blog that, “TCADC currently serves seventeen adults with physical and/or developmental disabilities.  As in all human service fields, money is a constant concern.  TCADC operates on a shoestring budget, with a payroll of less than $100,000 for a staff of six. As a professional in the field of mental health and developmental disabilities, I hold centers such as TCADC near to my heart.  As Sam’s sister, I am forever indebted to them for the services they provide my brother.”

Return to Crutcher Mountain – Publisher’s Description

Jessie is a success, at least by all outward appearances. She’s helped establish a wilderness retreat for special needs children on top of Crutcher Mountain.  Everything has come together beautifully, until a series of strange events threatens to shut down the operation.  Unsure what to expect, Jessie returns to West Virginia in search of answers and finds more than she bargained for.

You can read more about TCADC in “Contributing to a Good Cause” on Clayton’s blog.

Deltona, Florida Regional Library to host authors book fair in October

The Deltona Regional Library’s second Authors Book Fair Celebrating Writers and Readers will take place Oct. 15, 2011, in the library.  The doors open to the general public from 11:00 to 3:00 preceded by two workshops for authors from 8:45 to 11:00.

The book fair attracted 70 authors its first year and served as an introduction to authors and poets in Florida or those who call Central Florida readers their audience.

“This is an idea that took off,” said Melinda Clayton, author and co-chair of the event. “The Deltona Library is the perfect venue with indoor space for authors and rooms for speakers and workshops.”

“Our library receives many calls every year from authors who would like to do a book signing and this is the perfect opportunity to bring writers and readers together,” said Suzan Howes, regional librarian.

A single table at the book fair is $50 or $25 for a shared table.  “We want to keep our fees really reasonable for this fundraising event sponsored by The Friends of Deltona Library,” said Clayton.

The event is available for additional business sponsors to join those all ready committed: Ruby Tuesday, Holiday Inn Express and the Scrub Jay Café.

Workshops for Authors

 7 Steps for a Wildly Successful Book Tour presented by Sarasota author, Liz Coursen, who will have just completed an 81 city book tour.

Pamela Starr, Regional Development Director for Constant Contact will be conducting a social media workshop entitled:  How (and why) to incorporate
social media into your marketing strategy.

 Both presenters were enthusiastically received in other Deltona Library workshops.

Authors and publishers interested in setting up a table at the fair should call Christy Jefferson at 386.574.9376 for information.

I’m happy to say that my publisher, Vanilla Heart, will be attending the fair with an exciting assortment of books.

–Malcolm

Contemporary Fantasy Adventure