Unqualified Success by Rachel M. Stewart // Book Review, Giveaway

Length: 259 pages
Publisher: Independent Publisher (April 24, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1733692509
Genre: Non fiction, Information
Buy On: Amazon

Rating: 5 out of 5.

SYNOPSIS:

The secret to achieving the life you always wanted is found in this book. No matter who you are or what your circumstances are, Unqualified Success will give you practical and real tools that can be implemented today to achieve your goals. BE AN UNQUALIFIED SUCCESS.

The difference between those who achieve massive success and those who only wish they could is not qualification. Instead, everything you need to live the life of your dreams already exists inside of you and can be harnessed and developed through practice. THE CATALYST TO ACT.

This book teaches the principles and gives you real-life tools to put your own power into action. In doing so, you will have the skills to accomplish anything you want in your life. No matter if you are wanting to take the next massive leap in your career or need the courage to act towards the dream you have been waiting to pursue, this book will help you get there.

“As a business leader, the principles in Unqualified Success resulted in tens of millions in growth, positioned me as a leader in my industry, gave me the courage to launch a technology company, write a book, and more importantly, have fun and confidence doing it.” “Rachel Stewart has absolutely nailed the #1 foible in mind management—how we undermine and discredit ourselves—and teaches specifically what to do about it! So genuine, so accurate, so doable! This is the best, most well-written book on personal success thus far in the 21st century. 100% Unqualified Endorsement.”

Dr. Dennis R Deaton, author The Book on Mind Management http://www.unqualifiedtools.com

AUTOR BIO:

If I could give you the best snapshot of myself, I would tell you that I grew up with six brothers. Why is this so significant? It means I am scrappy. I fight hard for what I want. I am passionate, driven, and don’t give up. If I don’t know something, I will figure it out or find someone who does.

That’s how I ended up writing a book. I attribute every success I have ever had (building a business, founding and growing a software company, running an ultra-marathon, being a parent to four beautiful children…the list goes on) to the principles in Unqualified Success and wanted to share it with anyone and everyone.

All of us who are (or want to be) on a trajectory of growth, are unqualified for the next stage. Unqualified Success is about what it takes to do it anyway. The real-life examples, tools, and exercises are pretty awesome and allow you to make measurable progress daily. You can visit unqualifiedtools.com to find out more.

Seriously, get it! And then write a lovely review.

-Rachel M. Stewart

MY REVIEW:

Unqualified Success progressed in a logical fashion that was easily followed. I did not have any problems following the author’s train of thought. She was very clear and articulate.

The author’s purpose in writing the book was to bridge the gap between where the readers are and where they want to be by changing their mindset. She accomplished just that. She explains that the main sticking point for many people is their own thinking. Their thoughts are what is keeping them from accomplishing great things. As a great author once said, “If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right”.

The author added a story of a man named Mango, who went from basically nothing to a very successful nurse practitioner. She followed along with his story in every chapter. This added a bit of fun relation as the readers could see that if someone from Brazil can go from poverty to success, we have no excuses. Mango’s story proved that one’s level of success is completely based on one’s thinking. Each and every person is only as successful as they want to be.

The target audience for Unqualified Success is PG13 only because an older audience would appreciate and practice the principles more. The book’s greatest value is its simple yet compact content. It was very easy to read and follow, yet it packed a lot of information into such a short book. All of the 259 pages held valuable keys to accomplishing success.

GIVEAWAY:

Rough Way to the High Way by Kelly McCoy // Book Review, Author Interview, Giveaway

ROUGH WAY TO THE HIGH WAY
Kelly Mack McCoy

October 1, 2019


Length: 268 pages
Publisher:  Elm Hill (March 5, 2019)
ISBN-10: 031010372X
Genre: Fiction, Christian fiction
Buy On: Amazon

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Disclaimer: Kelly McCoy provided me with a free copy of Rough Way to the High Way and an additional fee of $5 for the review and $3 for posting on consumer websites in exchange for my review. He did not expect or require me to write a positive review. All thoughts are my own.

SYNOPSIS:

Pastor turned long-haul trucker, Mack, struggles with grief and perceived failures as a minister while he is confronted with a mysterious hitchhiker, smugglers, and a determined killer. After an unbearable tragedy strikes his life, he sells everything he owns and buys a new Peterbilt truck, returning to the trade he learned decades earlier.

Hoping for some windshield therapy and peace of mind behind the wheel of his new rig, Mack gets neither after God nudges him to pick up a hitchhiker near the Jordan State Prison outside Mack’s childhood home of Pampa, Texas.

When his world is ripped apart, he seeks to run away from it all, going as far as to cut off communication with all but a handful of people. But he is pursued by God, who will not let him go. Unbeknownst to Mack, God is equipping His servant with tools to handle events his past education and experience could never have prepared him for.

The story unfolds as the hitchhiker enters Mack’s Peterbilt. The man reminds Mack of his father, a hard living, hard drinking oilfield roughneck who died in prison. God begins to do a work in Mack’s heart while Mack seeks to minister to his new passenger. But Mack soon rues the day he let the hitchhiker into his truck.

His old life in ruins now, Mack learns he has angered a new enemy who threatens to destroy his life on the road as well. Mack suspects he is being followed and is in the sights of a killer who plots a revenge no one could have seen coming.

God works His mysterious way in Mack’s life steamroller-style all the way to an ending that will leave the reader thinking about it long after reading The End at the bottom of the last page.

Rough Way to the High Way is the first of a series of novels about Mack’s adventures on the road as lives are transformed through his new ministry. The first life to be transformed as Rough Way to the High Way develops appears to be that of the hitchhiker. But God is working in Mack’s life all along, preparing him for a new ministry that will transform lives across the country.

MY REVIEW

Although the nature of this book is not a topic I would have chosen on my own, I enjoyed the fast pace and the suspense, as well as the strong characters.

Characters:

More stories need characters like Mack! He is adventurous and spunky, yet wise and mature. He adds just the right amount of spice to the story.

Barb–the spunky, friendly waitress who tries to mentor Mack.

The Hitchhiker. I do not want to say much to give anything away, so I’ll just describe him as a shady character.

Cons:

I felt that the story was weak in the area of names. I mean Mr. Target, Officer Pipe Cleaner, Mr. Bull Header…to me these names told me the author lacked inspiration when coming up with them. I definitely am not an author, but I can come up with more intriguing names right now on the spot.   I would have enjoyed the story more if the names were more creative. This might sound a trifle picky on my part, but to a reader, the names are the first thing they are introduced to in the book. The names introduce them to the characters they will be spending the next few hours, days, weeks, etc. with. And they give the reader a glimpse at the author’s writing style before diving deep into the story. Therefore, I have to say that I was disappointed in this area.

Pros:

The story was especially strong in the area of descriptions and language. All the scenes were written so well as to give the reader a feel of living in Mack’s shoes.

As this was a trucker-themed book, the language is certainly very important in really giving the story the correct feel. Let me just say, the author aced this! He wrote the language so well, that if I were to read it as a read-aloud book, I would not need to make up my own accent because the author already wrote it down for me.

I especially enjoyed/appreciated the authors’ sense of adventure in his characters. Mack sure didn’t lack an adventurous spirit and he was willing to go off the beaten path to add some spice to his life. He also never passed up an opportunity to better someone else–even if it meant risking his own safety and comfort. I really appreciated that in a character.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and would reccomend it to a friend! It was fun to read, kept me glued to the page and wrapped up in the story, and gave me all the surprise twists and turns that I love finding in a story!

Mack’s grip gave way, sending him spiraling into the void. He shot his hand upward as if reaching for a lifeline and looked at the light…

AUTHOR BIO

Kelly Mack McCoy is a semi (pun intended) retired truck driver turned author. He spent most of his career behind the wheel of an eighteen-wheeler traveling extensively through forty-eight states gathering a lifetime of material for his books. Rough Way to the High Way is his first novel and the first in a series of novels about the adventures of trucker turned pastor turned trucker Mack McClain.

INTERVIEW

If you could tell your younger writing self anything what would it be?


Just sit down and write. Tell that inner critic to shut up long enough for you to get your writing done for the day. If I had done that years ago, I would have several books out by now.
After you get the inner critic to shut up, slap your hands over your ears if you have to and don’t listen to the outer critics either. I’m not talking about fellow writers in writers groups you may be blessed to belong to. Receiving honest critique from those who have your best interests at heart is crucial to your success. They can offer invaluable feedback that will make you a much better writer than you could ever be without it.
I’m talking about shutting out the critics who may disparage your writing because they don’t appreciate or understand your style. Writing is an art form. There is no objective standard as to what constitutes good writing.
With a tongue in cheek apology to the literary critics with noses stuck up in rarified air waxing nostalgic for a time of standards in the publishing industry that never existed, get over yourself, it’s all subjective. There have always been some very bad books on the shelves. There are just more of them now. What has changed is the technology.
I’m not talking about putting out books that haven’t been properly edited or formatted. I had top of the line people do that for me. I’m talking about style of writing. The same book may bring tears of joy to one person and tears of boredom to another. Why? Because one person liked it and the other didn’t. Simple as that. The problem comes in when critics get that fact confused with their own high estimate of the value of their opinion.
If I sound a little tough on critics, it’s because I am. They often leave behind a trail of crushed dreams due to their inability to distinguish between something that’s bad because it’s bad and something that’s bad because they don’t like it.
So, you have to just sit down and write with a target audience in mind from the beginning. And then you have to persevere to see your book through to publication, target your audience and never look back.

When did you first start writing?

Writing is something I’ve had in my heart since childhood. I’ve always loved to browse through bookstores, even as a kid. I would thumb through some of the books on the shelves and read parts of them at random. Sometimes I would be so awed by the prose I would think I could never be a writer.
Then I would pick up another book and think, Man, this is really bad writing. Yet the author somehow managed to have that book published and get it into a bookstore. If he could do it with writing that bad, I knew there was hope for me after all.

But kids from my neighborhood didn’t grow up and go to college or become writers or anything of that nature. I had it in my heart, but believed it was unattainable, so therefore it was to me at the time. My main goal as a child was to survive to adulthood. That was enough of a challenge for me at the time. I thought I would be able to do something about my circumstances after I grew up, which I did, sort of. I hit the road in a big rig and drove away from it all – or so I thought.
It may seem that I started late in life, but I really didn’t. I’ve just spent my life on and off the road gathering material. Most books and dreams remain in a dusty drawer so to speak, never to be seen by others. But they are not forgotten, just hidden away. When the dream-bearer dies, only then is the dream forgotten, never to be seen by the rest of us whose lives may well have had been enriched by what he or she had to offer.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

I’ve taken the advice now I wish my younger writing self could have heard then. I know I don’t have to stress about how what I’m writing is going to be published. I hear some writers say they write for the joy of writing and they enjoy the process. And no doubt many of them do. I’ve been around some good writers who never plan on writing for publication. They may be writing a memoir for future generations in their family to cherish. And I can see the joy in that kind of writing.
By writing for publication I mean for publication directed toward the general public. Your family likely will not harshly judge your writing – at least not in your lifetime. Writing for publication to an audience that doesn’t know you or care about how you think or feel about anything is something else altogether.
That’s one reason it’s so important to target your audience. Many people absolutely love my book and my writing style. I’m sure Rough Way to the High Way could easily sell well over a million copies if I could get it in front of the right people.
But not everyone will like it and that’s fine. We’re all different and therefore have different tastes in writing and everything else. I have tried to just let go and be true to myself in my writing style since I have a unique gift to offer.
I have my own tastes. I won’t mention any names of books or authors, but I’ve read some classics that made me wonder how they became classics because the books were flat-out boring in my estimation. But those books have stood the test of time so who am I to judge? Someone likes them. But not the students who are forced to read them in school. People are free to like or dislike Rough Way to the High Way. My job as a writer is to be sure they can’t in all honesty say it’s because the book is poorly written or edited.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

I chose a hybrid method of publishing my novel. Many people in the publishing industry look down their noses at self-published books – often with good reason. The good news for would-be authors is anybody can publish a book these days. The bad news for readers seeking to find a gem of a book in the ocean of new books is anybody can publish a book these days.

My publisher is Elm Hill which is a self-publishing division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing. I worked with Elm Hill during the publishing process and now HarperCollins distributes my book worldwide.
There are a number of advantages in going this route. Many critics say you should never pay anything to publish your book. But these same people will spend much more money than I did going to writers conferences and retreats. Some will chase after agents hoping to be noticed by them and get a chance to pitch their book to them.
I did begin contacting a few agents on the advice of fellow writers who thought my book was good enough to attract the attention of some. But I soon decided I didn’t have the time for that, so I explored other options. I decided to go this route and I’m glad I did.

As a truck driver turned author, I could send out query letters to agents until the cows came home and would likely never get a positive response back from any of them. These guys are more closely related to steely-eyed bean counters than riverboat gamblers. If one of them took too many chances on books like mine, they would be kicked to the curb in front of their Manhattan office. It’s a tough business.

In a way I have the best of both worlds. My book is considered a self-published and a traditionally published book. I can be an indie author one moment and a traditionally published author the next. Yes, I did pay to have my book published. But I had to meet the same standards as any other author to have it done this way and I have the HarperCollins name attached to it.

If you go into a bookstore and pick up my book and then pick up a one hundred percent traditionally published book next to it, you won’t be able to tell the difference. The only way you would know is by looking at the name of the publisher and by being familiar with all the intricacies of the publishing industry.

Potential readers don’t care about any of that, they just want a good book to read. This only matters to those of us in the business who are paying attention to whether a book is traditionally published or self-published. We often pre-judge the book based on our own conception (or misconception) of the quality of a self-published book.

I’ve been around some good writers for quite some time. Some of them have numerous books in print and have always worked with traditional publishing companies. Many have only been self-published. I even know one lady who owns her own publishing company and has published a number of titles under the company’s name and has helped others do the same at a very reasonable price.

Of the self-published authors, some have done their own editing and formatting and spent close to nothing to have their books published. Others have been ripped off big-time and paid way more than was necessary to have a quality book published. Some have gone the hybrid route I’ve chosen.

Many people are surprised to learn how little I spent to partner with a huge publishing house to get a top of the line novel out for distribution to a worldwide audience. It was less than a cup of coffee with one of those New York agents if that cup of coffee includes the cost of flying to New York and staying at a hotel and all the related expenses. A lot less of a gamble too.

The number of books published each year is staggering. It’s quite a challenge getting yours noticed no matter how good it is or the route you choose for publishing. If you plan on going the route I did you have to plan on selling a lot of books to cover the costs involved. This is not for vanity projects.

If you just want a book out there for that reason or feel you need one professionally, go with something like KDP and print on demand. If you are able to land one of those one hundred percent traditional publishing deals, keep in mind they aren’t offering it to you out of the kindness of their hearts. You will pay for it anyway through book sales. The only difference is they’ve thrown in the chips hoping to rake in more chips from the sweat of your writer’s brow. There is no free lunch in this business anyway we go.

What does literary success look like to you?

Great question. We know how John D. Rockefeller answered when he was asked, “How much is enough?”. He said, “One more dollar.”.
I think we can fall into the trap of never being satisfied with where we are in our journey as published authors.

One of the most rewarding things I’ve experienced since the publication of my book is seeing how so many others have been inspired by my story. Many people who have had the own manuscripts hidden away in a dusty drawer somewhere have been moved to take them out and dust them off with a new determination to finish their books and see them through to publication.

I had such a crazy family background I couldn’t see myself as being a published author. My father stayed drunk for about twenty-five years straight and my mother was in and out of insane asylums, as they were then called, when I was a child. As you can imagine I learned a lot and have plenty of stories to tell so I’m as qualified as anyone.

And here I am today as a published author with a book that is doing very well. I don’t know the numbers as far as average sales of books by new authors. But I do know a lot of writers and have been around published authors for some time. I would venture to say my book is doing much better than the vast majority of books released by unknown authors like me.

So, is this trucker-turned-author thrilled with his success? In a word, yes. I’m very grateful for all the people who have given me such awesome feedback after reading Rough Way to the High Way and for those who have been inspired to pick up where they left off on their own journey to being a published author. And for all the many people who have taken time from their busy lives to leave the awesome reviews the book has been getting. Authors live and die by those reviews.

Being a published author was never a vanity project for me. I have goals that have been met in that readers’ lives have been changed for the better in some small way – some in a big way. The journey has just begun. There are many more to be reached. Authors rarely get rich and famous. I’m more famous than rich at this point, but I’ll take the riches when they come, thank you very much.

So, to answer your question, I am happy and grateful for the success of my book thus far. But satisfied? There are more literary worlds to conquer. One more reader is needed all the time. Maybe I’m more like Rockefeller than I realized.

How many hours a day do you write?

To answer that I would need a definition of the word write. I used to sink into a state of despair because what writing I managed to get done during a given day was, as Ernest Hemingway so eloquently put it, “…****”. He was, of course, referring to first drafts which are always bad no matter who you are – even Hemingway.

The fact that the writing I managed to get done that day was bad often kept me from getting any writing done. This is one reason so many writers who may be more talented than they imagine just throw up their hands and quit.

I have learned during this journey that a good book did not become a good book because the author was a great writer but rather was good at rewriting – and rewriting again and again. This is one reason it’s a great idea for a writer to find a good writers group. Not only will he or she receive invaluable critique of his or her own writing but will see that others have the
same struggles.

That’s a roundabout way of answering your question about how much time I spend each day writing. I’m a firm believer in having balance in all areas of life – including your writing life. The problem I’ve had is I’ve never been able to pull it off. My life has always been so crazy I have rarely had anything resembling a set routine so I can schedule writing time. I used to envy writers who did, but I know they have the same struggles no matter what amount of time they have to write. So, to give a definitive answer I’ll have to say, it depends.

Are you a pantser or plotter?

I’m a total, one hundred percent pantser. I couldn’t outline a novel before writing it if you held a gun to my head. I don’t understand how someone can outline or plot out a novel before writing it. I just have to start at the beginning and see where it goes. In seems to me you must have at least a vague ending in mind or you will wander aimlessly getting nowhere with the novel. So, I do have those two things – a beginning and an end in mind and also the message or underlying theme I want to get across along with a few events in between. That’s it. Other than that, you know as much about my next novel as I do.

I was asked recently who was my favorite character to develop in Rough Way to the High Way. I said it was Barb, the waitress introduced early on in the novel. Why? She’s a lovable woman who is obviously smitten with Mack, the protagonist. Even I wasn’t completely sure how their relationship was going to turn out, but I was pulling for her myself.

What is your most unusual writing quirk?

I like that word you used. Quirk. Other people are weird. I have quirks. I don’t think I have any kind of defined writing style, besides being a pantser, but I have a lot of quirks.

By quirk I don’t think you mean my tendency to want to sharpen my writing pencil and fall on it to end it all because I’m sure I can never write anything worth reading again. No, I think that’s probably a pretty common trait writers have – at least novelists, anyway.

To get any productive writing done I have to be alone and not have any distractions. I know that’s not unusual in itself for writers, but one little interruption can pretty much blow a day of writing for me. Wait – I think that’s probably pretty common too.
Come to think of it all fiction writers may be a little weird. Maybe that’s because of all the noise going on inside our heads that has no relation to reality. To talk about a novelist being quirky is a little redundant. I have too many quirks to mention without taking the risk of scaring off potential readers.

Like in a movie, there are a lot of experts behind the scenes. Where did you find yours?

I’m grateful to the awesome group of professionals who helped me along the way in this journey. The stories about how I found them could fill another book.

Here are a few: Brenda Blanchard, and so many of the great writers at the Christian Writers Group of the Greater San Antonio Area https://brendablanchard.com/, Judy Watters http://franklinscribes.com/ and all the other bunch of great writers I’ve been associated with at The Hill Country Christian Writers Group, Al Mendenhall, the creator of that jump-off-the-shelf cover almend2@gmail.com and my world-class editor, Ninfa Castaneda.

My lovely wife Miss Emily has been an enormous help with the book signings we’ve done. She basically does everything in these promotions. I just show up and sign books. You can see Miss Emily and my life-size cutout, Mr. McCool on my Facebook author page.
https://www.facebook.com/kellymackmccoyauthor/

What’s next for you?

As I said earlier, marketing has been my primary focus since the release of Rough Way to the High Way. I have started on the sequel but can’t give you a timeframe for publication. But again, rest assured that the first is a stand-alone novel. The sequel will have some of the characters you will grow to love in the first book and will continue Mack’s adventures on the road. But you’ll be able to pick up any novel in the series and read it alone to understand the development of each story.

There is also a creatively written nonfiction book in the works. I’ve had this one in mind and partially written for some time. I made the mistake as an inexperienced author of working on this one and Rough Way to the High Way at the same time. I put this one aside and concentrated on my novel. I knew I needed a partner for the nonfiction book. The reason will be obvious when the book comes out.

I’ve now found the right partner to co-author the book. The details are still being nailed down on that one so I’m unable to say much more about it for now. I realize in most cases success in one genre does not translate to success in another. But this project will be the exception that proves the rule.

GIVEAWAY

Kelly McCoy is very graciously donating a free, autographed copy of his book Rough Way to the High Way to the winner of this giveaway!! All you need to do if you want to win a copy of this awesome book is either, like, comment, and–only if you haven’t already–subscribe to my blog. Each of these count as an entry and will be entered into the giveaway! The winner will be chosen on October 7 at 10 AM MST and announced October 8 at 10 AM MST.

*Special thanks to the author, Kelly McCoy, requesting a review from me, participating in and giving awesome answers to, the interview, AND donating a copy of his book for the giveaway!

Happy October!

Ani

The Winners of Two Giveaways…?

I am so sorry for such a long delay in getting these winners announced!

The winner of Small Town Kid by Frank Prem is…

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Grace from Gracefully in the Moment

And the winner of They slay me by Holland C. Kirbo is…

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Tara from TaraPanrucker

CONGRAGULATIONS to the winners! And thank you to everyone else who participated! A special thank you to both Frank Prem and Holland Kirbo for donating their books!!

Ani

Small Town Kid by Frank Prem // Review, Interview, Giveaway

SMALL TOWN KID
Frank Prem

AUGUST 26, 2019


Paperback: 104 pages
Publisher:   Wild Arancini Press (November 22, 2018)
ISBN-10:  0975144235
Genre: Biography/Autobiography/Memoir
Buy On: Amazon


SYNOPSIS:

Small Town Kid is the experience of regional life as a child, in an insular town during the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, remote from the more worldly places where life really happens, in a time before the internet and the online existence of social media.

It is a time when a small town boy can walk a mile to school and back every day, and hunt rabbits with his dog in the hours of freedom before sundown. He can hoard crackers for bonfire night and blow up the deputy school master’s mailbox in an act of joyous rebellion.

A time when a small town teenager will ride fourteen miles on a bicycle for his first experience of girls, and of love. A time when migrating from a foreign country to a small town means his family will always feel that they are strangers, while visitors to the town are treated like an invading host.

It is also the remembrance of tragedy for inexperienced friends driving on narrow country roads.

This collection of poems and stories shares the type of childhood that has mostly disappeared in contemporary times. Come and revisit it here, in the pages of a Small Town Kid.

MY REVIEW:

Let me just start by saying, I am not a poetry fan. I read a book to read a story not to try to piece together dry poetry. When I pick out a book to read, it is NEVER poetry. I don’t know why. It must just be because all of the poetry books I have read are very dry, dull, and uninteresting. I just do not like poetry books.

Frank Prem changed that. He has a very unique way of writing poetry. He writes in free verse form and tells the story of his life. He takes the reader from his childhood to adult days, and everything in between. I was quite taken aback by his style.

I must say that before I started reading his book, I was worried that I would “fall asleep” in the first chapter. However, this was definitely not the case. Frank Prem has a way of drawing his readers into his story, and despite the fact that it is poetry, paints a beautiful picture of his life. I am a classic book LOVER–I love the deep and rich language used in the stories. It is something I miss in modern books.

However, I was so happy when I read Small Town Kid, because the author uses such deep language, yet in a modern form. I loved how he used lines like “the cakes of my grandmother were moist with overflowing flavor deep crust filled with rich dark seed…” It made me actually taste the crust in my mouth, and picture it on the plate.

I absolutely adore reading books that I can picture–so Small Town kid was a delight to read. Memoirs are another of my favorite genres to read, and I thought it was so cool to read one with a twist of free verse poetry. I can now add a new accomplishment to my book of records–I read a memoir written in poetic form!

Even if you are not the type of reader–like me–who does not typically enjoy poetry, I recommend this book, because I guarantee you will be surprised. I really enjoyed this book overall! I loved the style, poise, scenes, pictures, and-yes-poetry. It is a book I will add to my “to-be-read-again list”.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Frank Prem has been a storytelling poet for forty years. When not writing or reading his poetry to an audience, he fills his time by working as a psychiatric nurse. He has been published in magazines, e-zines and anthologies, in Australia and in a number of other countries, and has both performed and recorded his work as ‘spoken word’. Frank has published two collections of free verse poetry – Small Town Kid (2018) and Devil In The Wind (2019). He and his wife live in the beautiful township of Beechworth in northeast Victoria (Australia).
Frank Prem Contacts and Social Media:
Author Page (Newsletter sign up): https://FrankPrem.com
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/frankprem2
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvfW2WowqY1euO-Cj76LDKg
Twitter: Frank PremAmazon: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07L61HNZ4
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18679262.Frank_Prem

AUTHOR INTERVIEW:

Do you like audiobooks, eBooks, or paperback books the best?
My personal preference is to hold a book in my hand. Partly I think that’s because of my age – I’m in my 60’s now and have used books all my life, and partly it is because I spend most of my day, every day, in front of an electronic device for my work, and for news and for such a lot of things, these days. When it comes to reading for pleasure, I enjoy something other
than an electronic device. I have enjoyed e-book reading when traveling by plane – it is so convenient when there are luggage constraints to consider.
With audio books, I have used educational audio, but not listening for recreation. I do enjoy reading my work to an audience, so I don’t rule out creating audio books in the future. I do wonder if I would be adequate narrating my own work, and I’d love to get any reader’s thoughts on that, so here is a link to some recorded work I’ve done. Let me know what you think: https://wp.me/PaAqWh-21

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it? If not, why?
I’ve experienced writer’s block in the past, and I believe it was the result of having too many things on my mind to allow me to settle into the kind of meditative state that allows me engage with my thoughts so that I can capture them on paper. That changed when my need to write became greater than my other preoccupations and I felt compelled to pursue my poetry. I am not experiencing writer’s block at present and am truly grateful for that.

What was your favorite childhood book? What made it stand out to you?
When I was a child I loved our school readers, which consisted of selected short stories and poems. A different one each year. They were wonderful primers for reading, I think. I was also very fond of a WW1 bi-plane pilot called ‘Biggles’ – a series written by someone named Captain W. E. Johns. I think those books might be collectors’ items, now. As a young father I enjoyed reading a book of illustrated nonsense rhymes to my children, and also a book called ‘The Oath of Bad Brown Bill’ by Stephen Axelsen (The link to the Author’s page is here: http://www.stephenaxelsen.com.au/the-oath-of-bad-brown-bill). Wonderfully illustrated and very funny.

When you write a book, do you write it in the chronological order that the readers see, or do you write the scenes whenever they come to you, and when finished piece all the parts of the book together to make the finished product?
With my earlier collections such as Small Town Kid and Devil In The Wind, I wrote the poems as they occurred to me, or as events unfolded, and then assembled them into a story arc and book sequence afterwards. They weren’t originally planned as books, but simply as episodes that I wanted to record. In both those collections, I think the order flows well, but is not strictly chronological. With more recent works in progress, I know that it is likely I will want to publish these collections in book form and I am writing with more thought for chronological consistency, to a far greater extent than in the early works.

How many drafts, do your books generally go through before they are published?
I don’t do a lot of revising. My work is largely stream of consciousness, and isn’t affected by any need to rhyme, so, if I’ve captured my thought clearly enough and expressed it well, then it shouldn’t need content revision. If I haven’t caught the idea well, no amount of revision is likely to fix it. I’d rather discard such a piece and move on. I do use an external professional editor and there may be several iterations of the manuscript back and forth between us during the editing process, but by and large, mine is clean copy and the concerns are more about consistent usage of language conventions,
rather than content.

You have a new poetry collection scheduled for release toward the end of 2019. Will that also be a memoir?
Yes, Ani, this collection will be titled: The New Asylum – a memoir of psychiatry, and it will be the memoir of a lifetime spent by myself in psychiatry, extending from when I was a child visiting my parents at the Mental Asylum where they worked, to later training as a Psychiatric Nurse, working in an acute psychiatry service, managing such a service and then
in a hostel for long term rehabilitation and care. I think it will be a unique presentation and expose of public sector psychiatry, which may be
quite confronting for readers, but which needs to be read, and discussed.
There is humor, and the ironies that become so evident in any form of institutional care.

Your three collections (including The New Asylum) are all either memoir or ‘true life’ collections of stories. Do you write to other themes in your poetry?
I do, indeed, Ani. I’ve come to think of what I have been writing in recent times as a form of Speculative Fiction, with a surreal twist. I take a lot of pleasure from imagining what if situations. What if a writer is an ink junkie? What if I could write something so realistically, that the object came to life? What if a man were stuck in a spaceship, doomed to travel in a straight line through space forever?
What if . . .
There is no end to the what if’s that are possible and I delight in exploring them. Here is an example, called ontol-echo: https://wp.me/p7yTr8-54c
I also write in a short form that I call Seventeen Syllable Poetry. Seventeen syllables, like Haiku, but written in my usual way without form. Only the syllable count as a restriction.

What are your sources of inspiration to help you write?
I love to deal in images, Ani. Either by writing in such a way that nan imagery is accessible to the reader to facilitate a deeper reading experience, or by using pictorial images – of clouds or objects as an inspiration and a point of departure for a poetic journey. I love trying to interpret tricky ideas and render them into an accessible form that encourages a reader to comment and discuss. A little while back I walked around a Collectibles Barn – one of those places that is filled with second-hand goods. I was celebrating my first smart phone at the time, and had fallen in love with the ability to take pictures in the way that smart phones allow. When I came
home, I sat down and wrote a series I called Voices in the Trash (and the Treasure) using those pictures as the prompt. Here is one called Voices #19: we do not/ you do not: https://wp.me/p7yTr8-6l9

Do you write in ‘first person’ or ‘third person’?
I very much prefer to write in the third person. My character is generally a ‘he’, although I don’t really have gender in mind. Third person allows me to act as a narrator and observer. In this role, I am just behind the character’s shoulder as he looks at things, just inside his mind, as he thinks. I feel that writing in first person takes away objectivity for myself as a writer, and perhaps a little accessibility for the reader.

What do you hope will be your legacy, as a writer?
Once upon a time I wanted to have a copy of one of my books resident on every bedside table in the land, because I would be (of course) the most famous poet of the times and my work would be irresistible. Now? Well, I hope to be able to have an impact on a few lives through my work and through my live readings, but it has become more important, I think, simply to represent my work in the best way I can. To turn it into books and at least enable folk to find a copy, should they choose to look.

In the end, I have no control over legacy, but right now, I can make another book and let people know that it exists. I can read for them and talk to them about what has been written and what they have heard. Perhaps, that might be enough.

GIVEAWAY:

This giveaway is a bit different than my last giveaway. The way this giveaway works is that you MUST either LIKE this post or COMMENT on it to be entered into the raffle. The people who both like AND comment will be entered twice to win a FREE ebook copy of Small Town Kid (formats are available in .mobi, .epub, and PDF)! The winner will be chosen September 7, 2019 at 12:00 PM MST. (I have an app that randomly picks a name as a winner–there are no favorites :)) I will announce the winner on my blog shortly after. ONLY ONE WINNER WILL BE CHOSEN!

WHO WON?!?!?!?!?

Exactly one week ago, I started a giveaway to celebrate both my one year blogiversary and my achievment of reaching 100 followers (again, I am very grateful to all of you, because it would not even be possible without your faithful support!). I have been excitedly waiting for this giveawy to end so that I could find out the winner of this giveaway, and so I could give him/her the autographed copy of Optimisfits! Well the giveaway has ended and the winner has been chosen! Just to be clear, THE COMPUTER PICKED THE WINNER. I had absolutely NOTHING to do with it!Alright, enough gabbing, now is the moment you’ve all been waiting for! The winner of the giveaway and the lucky recipitent of the autographed copy of my favorite single book is…

Congragulations Penny!!!! Thank you to all the rest of you who participated in the giveaway! Show Penny some love and check out her awesome blog!

Ani

Childish Spirits by Rob Keeley // Book Review and Author Interview AND Giveaway

*Disclaimer: The author of Childish Spirits, Rob Keeley, provided me with a free ebook copy of his book in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts are my own, and I was not required to post a positive review.

The Giveaway has ended!

CHILDISH SPIRITS
Rob Keeley

JULY 28, 2019


*Kindle edition information

Publisher: Matador (May 8, 2019)

ASIN: B07RLDX7Q1

Length: 119 pages

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult

Buy On: Amazon

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis:

When Ellie and her family move into Inchwood Manor, Ellie quickly discovers strange things are happening. Who is the mysterious boy at the window? What secrets lie within the abandoned nursery? Who is the woman who haunts Ellie’s dreams – and why has she returned to the Manor, after more than a century? Ellie finds herself entangled in a Victorian mystery of ghosts and tunnels and secret documents – and discovers that life all those years ago isn’t so different from the world she knows today… Rob Keeley’s first novel for children brings out all the ingredients of the classic ghost story within a recognisable modern world setting. Readers of his short story collections for children will find in Childish Spirits the elements which made his past books such a success – strong and contemporary characters, inventive twists on traditional themes, and a winning combination of action, suspense and humour.


My Review:

Wow–Childish Spirits certainly had it all: fantasy, historical fiction, fiction, young adult, spirits, suspense, friendship, and plot twists. I was surprised at how much content was packed into such a short book. Childish Spirits was not a very long read–only 119 pages–but it had as much plot content as most long novels have.

Don’t let the “mysticisim” scare you off. I was leery of it at first as well, but the author assured me that there was no horror or “halloweenish” twists to it, so I finally decided to read it. I ended up being very pleasently surprised. It was not at all what I was expecting. I did not think it was creepy or horror”ish” at all. I actually REALLY enjoyed the book. I would even read it again. I loved it!

Rob Keeley told me that he had intended Childish Spirits to be for a younger audience–age 8 and up–however, I thought it was so well written that the age range could be from 8 to 80. I that really any type of audience could read and enjoy it.

The book was written from a Ellie’s, a young teenager, point of view. The plot was easy to read and follow and the author’s dialouge was very well written. Edward, the young “ghost” that Ellie befriends, is the other main character in the story but is not told from his point of view. The friendship between Ellie and Edward was very humerous and intriguing, but also very unique. I thought Rob Keeley did an awesome job balancing the human/ghost friendship, and didn’t blure the lines too often.

The author described each and every scene expertly and made me feel like I was in the story the whole time. I could picture each scene in my mind and could picture it almost as good as movie.

I enjoyed each plot and twist in the story, and it definately kept me guessing the whole time, and attached to the book.

Like I said earlier, I would defiantely reccomend this book to all audiences. Even if you are someone like me, who does not typically like “ghostly” or fantasy stories, I suggest you try this book–you will probably be surprised!


Author Interview:

What were your schooldays like?
They were fragmented, sometimes good, sometimes bad, and utterly bananas. I use a wheelchair and was first put into a special school at three years old, which I hated. Then they started to introduce me gradually into mainstream education, but I didn’t get into a mainstream primary school full-time until I was ten. So for a few years I was spending mornings in one school and afternoons in another. At one point my special school was going to another mainstream school – where my mother was Deputy Head – one morning a week for Science lessons. So at that time I was in three schools in one day!
Another time the kids in wheelchairs at my special school formed the Bicycle Reflector Club, with membership depending on acquiring free reflectors for your spokes from cereal packets. I would get all the kids at the afternoon school to save up their reflectors for me, so I soon had more than anyone else without having to eat any cereal! One day I’ll make that into a short story.
And then at eleven I was sent to a high school miles away from home, where I had a very rough time indeed. But in those days it was the only mainstream high school in the entire area that was equipped for disabled kids. Thankfully things have improved a lot. All these experiences gave me plenty of material to draw on for my school stories, published in The Alien in the Garage, The (Fairly) Magic Show and The Dinner Club collections.

Did you have a mentor?
I never had a mentor in the literary sense but did have one at high school. Thanks to my fragmented primary education, my Maths was all over the place when I started secondary. Then in my second year came Mr Moore, a fabulous young teacher and a very nice guy, who was one of very few people who listened to and understood me, alongside helping me with my work. Thanks to him, I was in top set for Maths a year later. I’m pleased to say he’s now Head of a school in London, where he’s invited me to give author workshops at some point.

How did you first get into professional writing?
I was fifteen and having a meal with my parents and then-girlfriend at a fabulous restaurant called the Alacadoo. One of my teachers from special school came in and she was involved with a local magazine for the disabled. She asked me to write an article on life for disabled kids at secondary school. I did it, it was edited without reference to me and I was never paid for it! But little by little I worked my way up via magazine articles, educational journals, and then started to have fiction published. I wrote part-time for about fourteen years and then took the plunge into full-time writing in 2011 when The Alien in the Garage was published and I began my Master’s in Creative Writing, for which the creative work was the book you’ve just reviewed, Childish Spirits.

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I’ve followed in the footsteps of Shakespeare with regular visits to Stratford-upon-Avon, also Wordsworth and Coleridge at Dove Cottage in Grasmere, and Jane Austen in Bath. For my own work I’ve visited lots of stately homes, castles and country estates, which was good material for the various Journeyback houses and castles in the Spirits series.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book Childish Spirits?
I’ve been surprised by the number of media to which the story lends itself. It began life as a rejected idea for a TV series and I then turned the rejected script into the book – the first six chapters are effectively a novelisation of that script. I still have hopes it may appear on TV someday. It’s since been a paperback (longlisted for the Bath Children’s Novel Award and nominated for the People’s Book Prize), an ebook and is now an audiobook, read by the actor Sally Millest. So in a sense we’ve come full circle as it was originally written to be performed and now it has!

What was the most difficult scene to create in Childish Spirits?
Without giving too much away, it’s probably the scene where Ellie finds the old letters and the mystery of what happened at Inchwood Manor finally makes sense to her. I remember my uni tutor was concerned that these were “adults’ letters” and would be boring to a child audience. But I think I overcame that by placing Ellie, then a young child, right at the centre of the scene and showing her awe as the past opens up to her. It’s a pivotal moment and she then realises what she has to do to help Edward, the Victorian boy ghost.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Yes, sometimes – especially in the final Spirits novel, The Coming of the Spirits, which was published earlier this year. There’s a secret word hidden across the very start of each of the opening chapters, and at the time I posted a challenge on my Twitter which stated that the first person who sent me the correct word would receive a free signed copy of the book. But so far, no one has found it! The offer is still open – I’m willing to offer a free signed copy to readers within the UK, or a free download of the Childish Spirits audiobook elsewhere – to the first person who emails or DMs me that word!
There’s also a lot of bonus material on the Extras page of my website. For Childish Spirits there are deleted scenes, a writing activity and a quiz. And there are various Easter Eggs hidden around the site, with rare material and even a bonus short story concealed somewhere! See what you can find.

What do you think of modern children’s literature?
There are some very good authors out there and I particularly like Francesca Simon, David Walliams and Jacqueline Wilson. In some other quarters I’m concerned that ‘dumbing down’ has taken place and there’s a lot of crudeness and toilet humor in books for younger children. I’m a great believer in not talking down or writing down to them and I think they deserve better than jokes about underwear or bodily functions. People who write crudely for children always seem to cite Roald Dahl as their inspiration, not realizing there was so much more to his work than rude jokes – his stories are dark modern fairy tales in the tradition of European folklore. For myself, I will not use lavatorial humor or unsuitable material in anything I write for children.
My other current concern is this idea that’s got around that “children want to see themselves in books”. While it’s important for books to reflect the society we live in, and I try to make mine as inclusive and diverse as possible, I think it’s slightly odd to assume we can only empathize with characters who look exactly like us. This promotes division rather than
inclusivity, by compartmentalizing individuals into categories. There is so much more to people than their gender, race, cultural background or disability, and we need to show children those who are different from ourselves, or may appear to be, but underneath are fellow human beings with hopes, fears, aspirations and personal tragedies just like our own. I’ve a great distrust of the “tickbox” approach to inclusivity, knowing from personal experience that it only scratches the surface and does nothing to eliminate real prejudice and discrimination.

What does literary success look like to you?
Is that what this is?! That’s good to know. Seriously, I feel very fortunate, having first been rejected for the profession I trained for (the law) and then been made redundant three times, that I now have a job I love, which I can do from home, and which has had an unbelievable degree of success and brought pleasure to many children and adults.

What’s next for you?
I’m busy promoting The Coming of the Spirits in paperback and Childish Spirits in its new ebook and audiobook forms. Then after that I have my first standalone novel for older children ready and waiting, which I hope will be published next year. Meanwhile I’m about to start running a Creative Writing course for adults and have a school workshop booked for the autumn term. Visit my website and Twitter to find out all the latest news!


Giveaway:

For those of you who own an APPLE device, this giveaway is open to you! This giveaway is different and unique because it has new rules. The VERY FIRST person to answer this question correctly in the comments below will win a free eBook code emailed to them as well as the instructions on how to activate it.. Note: ONLY APPLE DEVICES WILL BE ABLE TO ACCESS THE CODE! Million-dollar (or more like eBook dollar 😉 ) question: How old was Rob Keeley when he did his first professional work as a writer? Please, only answer this question if you own an Apple device, so as not to spoil it for those who do. The answer to that question is found somewhere in this post. Look hard, and answer quick!

Special thanks to the author, Rob Keeley, requesting a review, being willing to do an interview, taking the time to answer the questions in depth, and for sponsoring this giveaway. Make sure to check out the awesome Childish Spirits, as well as, the rest of his books!

Ani

2 Milestone GIVEAWAY

Hello there! It’s Ani here (duh). As many of you may have already noticed, I HAVE REACHED 100 FOLLOWERS!!!!! It is a very big milestone for me because it was my very first goal I ever made for this blog. For a little over a year now, I have been working hard and trying to reach this goal. (That being said, I have not always been faithful in posting, and I apologize for that.).

However, the very reason I have reached this goal is because of YOU. Each and every one of you who have graciously subscribed to my adventure. You have all been a big support to me and the very reason I keep going. It can get very overwhelming at times to keep reading (okay, this is the easy part!), reviewing, and posting; but every time I begin to feel overwhelemed, I think of you–my faithful followers–and it gives me the motivation to keep going.

Photo by Pineapple Supply Co. on Pexels.com

As a very big thank you–and also as part of a promise I made in my 1 year blogiversary post I am doing a giveaway. And since this is a BOOK blog what better thing to giveaway than a book itself! In addition, since I just recently interviewed one of my favorite authors and reviewed his book, what better book to giveaway than my favorite book…Optimisfits! If you have not had the chance to read my review and author interview with Ben Courson, you can visit that post here.

Hope Generation graciously sponsered this giveaway and are providing a free, paperback copy of Optimisfits, even autographed by the author, Ben Courson himself. Make sure to visit their website and join Ben’s amazing journey of spreading hope!

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Pexels.com

The giveaway starts today (July 27, 2019), and will be open for one week. The winner will be randomly picked by the computer and aunounced exactly one week from now (August 3, 2019) at 6:00 PM Mountain Standered Time (MST). Don’t hesitate to enter this giveaway HERE!

Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com

Ani