Author Interview

The Liebster Award: Celebrating noteworthy bloggers

I have been blogging here at Human In Recovery, on and off, since December 2011. During that time I have participated in The Ultimate Blog Challenge, as I am doing this month.

Something which seems to happen during these challenges is bloggers giving each other blogging awards. These awards build community and networks. It boosts traffic and is an opportunity for bloggers to connect to a greater audience. It’s a way build their platform.

I have been nominated for the Liebster Award, both when I participated in my first UBC (read about it here) and again during this cycle, by Vidya Tiru at Lady in Read Writes (read about it here).

The Liebster’s criteria and process has evolved over the past five years. Here’s the details of its current incarnation:

  • Acknowledge the blog(s) that gave it to you and display the award
  • Answer the 11 questions that the blogger gives you
  • Give 11 random facts about yourself
  • Nominate 11 blogs and notify them of their nomination
  • Give the bloggers 11 questions to answer

I will name 11 noteworthy blogs to explore. However, I am not requiring or expecting a Liebster acceptance post.

Noteworthy blogs:
Marc Alan Schelske, “a writer, speaker, hobbyist theologian, recovering fundamentalist, tea drinker & motorcycle rider.”
http://www.marcalanschelske.com/

Sean Paul Mahoney, “a writer, playwright, blogger, tweeter, critic, podcaster and smartass for hire.” https://seanologues.com/

Sarah Fader, “the CEO and Founder of Stigma Fighters, a non-profit organization that encourages individuals with mental illness to share their personal stories. “ http://www.sarahfader.com/

Dan, “Having written his whole life, he blogs because he has to write…he can’t help it.” https://dan4kent.wordpress.com/

Mary, “a music lover who finally got off her duff (or on it, I suppose) and started sharing her opinions about music.” https://myelectronicjukebox.wordpress.com/

Robert Kennedy III, he loves “helping people create hope, generate excitement and belief in their capacity to change lives, starting with their own.” http://www.robertkennedy3.com/

Steve Austin, “focuses on everyday faith, mental wellness, and embracing wonder to encourage, educate, and empower audiences from every walk of life.http://iamsteveaustin.net/

Daniela Pesconi-Arthur, Founder and editor of The Might Women ezine is “a Brazilian who adopted Wales as “home”’
http://www.themightywomen.com/

Martha DeMeo “writes product and book reviews” at http://themarthareview.com/

Sovann Penis a licensed professional counselor, who loves “counseling because it offers healing and freedom” by “helping families with parenting challenges and with the stresses of communication, conflict and disconnection in marriage.”
http://www.sovannpen.com/

Steven Shomler, a Pyrocatalyst, Author, Culinary Storyteller, Consultant, Entrepreneur & Speaker
https://www.stevenshomler.com/

If they choose to participate, here are my questions:

1. Is your blog personal or professional and what is its primary focus and/or topic?

2. Do you have a YouTube channel or podcast? If so, please provide the title or link.

3. Are you a contributing blogger/writer elsewhere?

4. What is the most valuable, free product/app/service you have found as a blogger?

5. What piece of information or advice would you have found invaluable as a beginning blogger?

6. What social media sites do use use for public interaction and how do we connect to you?

7. Are you an introvert, extrovert, or an ambivert (both to varying degrees)?

8. What core value do you try to live by?

9. If you had to choose an anthem song, what would it be? If possible, please provide a YouTube link.

10. If you had to choose, would you consider yourself an advocate or activist?

11. What is your favorite quote?

Now, for those interested, we enter the “All About Me” part.

* If you could take a vacation anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Australia

* What is your favorite food to eat?
Depends on the moment.

* What advice would you give your younger self if you could go back in time ten years?
This line from the song, Dear Younger Me, says it all: “do I go deep and try to change the choices that you’ll make ‘cause they’re choices that made me.” What I want to say would change my life in unimaginable ways. However, it would also cost me my youngest child and my grandchildren. So, I have no advice, just, “you’ll get through this, too.”

* What would be the first thing you’d do if you won the lottery?
Pay off my student loan.

* Night owl or early bird?
There’s a difference?

* What superpower would you like to have?
The ability to clone myself and experience the memories of all the clones while they share each other’s and mine.

* Your favorite way to relax?
Water aerobics or swimming followed by a soak in the hot tub, chatting with the people around me.

* eBook or the printed book or audio book or no books at all?
If conditions allow a book at all, paper.

* What four words would you use to describe yourself?
Survivor, empathetic, committed, wounded

* Who is the most influential person in your life?
Currently it is my youngest daughter, in the sense that pretty much all my decisions and conditions are made with her in mind and affected by her.

* Do you make resolutions? If yes, what is your top resolution for 2018?
Not anymore. However, my personal goal is to transition my eating to be primarily whole food, plant-based by 2019.

11 random facts about me:

1. I am a 48 year old grandmother of three.

2. I have three children ages 31, 24, 9.

3. I am parenting a child who experiences the world through the Autism Spectrum.

4. My 31 year old stopped being legally my child in 2012. He went through an adoption process, as an adult, and legally became another mother’s child. Our estrangement has been reconciled.

5. I earned two diplomas and a GED.

6. I have the debt of one who earned a Bachelors degree.

7. I have no college degrees.

8. I have experienced two major nervous breakdowns.

9. I have a Bipolar brain impacted by PTSD.

10. I am married but have not seen my husband since December 12, 1988.

11. I am half Mexican.

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Stephen L Brayton: Author Interview

Stephen L. BraytonStephen L. Brayton and I came to be acquainted after I published the Author Interviews in December 2012.  He is a member of WANATribe and friends with Athena Brady. He is a thrice published author as well as being a Fifth Degree Black Belt in taekwondo operating his own club in the American Midwestern state of Iowa. He describes himself in this way:

I’m a reader; a writer; an instructor; a graphic designer; a lover of books, movies, wine, women, music, fine food, good humor, sunny summer days spent hiking or fishing; and I’m a catnip drug dealer to my thirteen pound cat, Thomas.

In addition to his other activities and vocations, Stephen operates two blogs:

Brayton’s Book Buzz, where he reviews books of all genres.

Brayton’s Briefs, where he discusses writing and interviews other authors.

Direct links to his own published works can be found on his self-titled site, Stephen L. Brayton. This is where you can discover more about his books, Alpha, Beta, and Night Shadows.

As it seems to happen with all these interviews, this is a more in-depth read and will take a little more time. So, if you haven’t got the time now, please bookmark it to come back later with your favorite seasonal beverage and just sit and hang out with us a while. In the meantime, Alpha, is available on Amazon in either paperback or Kindle.

Q: What genres and authors do you like and what do you like about them?

Mysteries, thrillers, horror. I also enjoy the books relating tales of somebody’s pet, a saved animal or an owl and how that animal brings comfort and joy to the owner or others. I read to escape into adventure, to solve the puzzle, to laugh and be entertained. A good story, for me, has a bit of action, maybe some humor and develops the characters in a way you can watch the progression throughout the story and maybe make a connection, in some small way, to them. I latched onto Ellery Queen, Rex Stout, and Erle Stanley Gardner early. I’m fascinated by the use of language and description from different decades. Compare these with authors like Carter Brown, Day Keene and other pulp fiction writers.

I think what makes these and other authors worthwhile is that they are consistent with their characters. You know Nero Wolfe will always act the same way in every book, or Della Street will always have the same attitude with each Perry Mason novel. This allows the reader to enjoy the novels more. Also, in many cases, the reader will see, especially in spy novels or murder mysteries, that the good guys aren’t all good all the time and the bad guys-with exceptions, of course-aren’t all bad all the time.

Q: Have you always been a writer or known you wanted to be an author? When did you realize you had a book to share with the rest of us?

As a child I’d write skits for my sister and I to perform. I also wrote shorts stories, but I didn’t get serious about writing until after college when I completed a three part introduction to a comic book. Soon after, I wrote the first in what I wanted to evolve into a series concerning my high school classmates (fictionalized, of course). When I moved to Oskaloosa and started martial arts, the writing bug hit me again and I began a new project that I would eventually see to publication.

Q: What inspires you and influences what and how you write?

When I started writing the first draft of Alpha back in the middle 90’s, I thought about using a character I had created for some short stories I wrote in my younger days. However, seeing all of the wonderful and beautiful women involved in martial arts I changed the character to a female. I’ve taken my training and what I’ve learned from those women and put many of those characteristics into her.

Of course, I get a lot of support from my parents. Years ago my dad told me I should do something with my writing as I’d completed several short stories. He still wants me to submit the series of children’s stories I wrote.

Q: Is there a particular place or space you go to for inspiration or writing?

Normally, I write in the middle of the night at work when there is nobody around. It’s quiet and I can write for hours. During the spring and summer I’ll go out to the park. The outside, the fresh air, the sunshine all work wonders. If I could find a way to pack my writing gear and my fishing gear out to a lake or pond, and do it all efficiently with no mess, that would be perfect.

Q: Is writing your only creative outlet or are there other creative endeavors or interests you pursue or practice?

As mentioned earlier, I train in martial arts, specifically, taekwondo. I earned my Fifth Degree Black Belt in 2007 and started getting serious, again, about training and exercising, last year. I’ve worked hard to lose weight, build muscle and stamina. During some of the tough moments in my regimen, I think about what my main character, Mallory Petersen, would do. How she would look at me. What encouragement she would give. Sometimes I train to impress her, to make her proud, if that makes sense. I mentioned fishing earlier which helps me to relax. Sometimes, if I have no responsibilities for the evening, I’ll find either a campsite or drive to the river and spend time building a campfire. Just to relax and not think about anything of importance. I may contemplate a story idea or a scene, but my whole goal is just to be away from everybody and everything and just relax. I love the smell of smoke in my clothes and the fire crackling with the water nearby.

Q: How do you navigate and integrate the various roles and responsibilities in your life?

Sometimes I feel as if I’m rushed because I don’t plan ahead as well as I should. My schedule has me working through the night, sleeping during the day and three nights a week I have classes to instruct or a writers’ group to attend. Somewhere in the mix I have to eat and write and read. My days off aren’t regular so visits with family aren’t as often as I would like. Sometimes during my days off I spend the entire time at home, holed up with the cat playing couch potato. It’s tough, but this year I’ve determined to change things. Try to get rid of the clutter.

Actually, I’ve done a lot better job of developing a strategy for marketing for my books. With the second book I sweated through a blog tour that had me stressed. This time I’ve spread things out a bit, done more personal appearances. I can do that since this latest book is a paperback and not an eBook. I’m actually having fun with this one.

I think that’s the key. Having fun. I have fun instructing kids and adults in taekwondo – and believe me, there are days when I’d rather stay home – and I always feel good at the end of the evening when classes are over. I feel good when I’m done with my workouts because I know I’ve improved my health. I try to have fun in my job, as boring as the hours can be, by working on ways to become more efficient.

Q: How did the journey of writing and publishing this book grow or change you?

When I read the first couple chapters to a critique group back in 2000, I realized I had a lot to learn about writing. However, I had already done many things listed in the how-to books. For instance, I created a character profile for Mallory before I read it in a book that I should have one. It just made sense to me.

I learn from other writers since we’re all going through a similar process. Recently, from my latest critique group, I realized I had become too comfortable with Mallory, and have written her in a way that isn’t believable. I forgot she has failures and worries and does suffer. She’s isn’t superwoman and I can’t write her that way. I have to show she gets hurt and can come back from sometimes horrific events.

Q: How would you describe your life’s journey from a Healing and Recovery perspective?

Trying to find the right path for both. I’ve heard about, read about, and listen to many people’s opinions about the paths to happiness and contentment and though I agree with them I really haven’t found the right path for me. I’m constantly healing and recovering from one situation or another, much of it financially related.

Yes, I have God (although the relationship isn’t as good as it should be), and family, a few friends, but nobody really close to me. It’s difficult to express myself emotionally unless through my writing. Journals entries and stories. I’ve joked in other blogs about hoping pretty girls will knock on my door and invite them to say hello at me at book signings or conferences, but the truth is, I’d like someone special to hang around with, to share experiences with. My cat, as much of a buddy as he is, just doesn’t cut it. My family and friends go only so far. There are many times when I wish to be alone and will even leave town to be alone. I don’t want to be around people. But I remember how happy I was when I was in a relationship.

It’s tough and sometimes I don’t handle it very well. I’m smart enough not to delve into destructive practices (i.e. drug/alcohol) because they won’t solve the problem. But as I mentioned earlier, I’m still looking for the right solution. I’m the only one who can change things, but a little help from a girlfriend might make it easier. I see others with families and couples happy together and I want that.

Or maybe I’m full of crap and don’t know what I’m talking about and should learn to live and be happy with the way things are. I’m making light of the above. I could be right or wrong about the whole thing. See, I’m still looking for the right path.

9) Where did you get your strength and encouragement from when going through the experiences that brought you to where you are today?

A little help from friends and family and God. I’ve also learned not to be too disappointed when people don’t assist after they’ve offered or come through when expected. I’ve probably disappointed many people so I can’t come down on those who fail me. I work around it, try to make things happen by my actions.

I have a friend from high school. I won’t mention his name but I’ve turned to him and poured out my heart on several occasions. The best thing he has done for me is to listen and give it to me straight. Usually, what he tells me are things I already know but reinforcing. Maybe afterward I’ll feel better, and the next I’ll still falter, but the no nonsense words from him always help.

Q: What do you want readers to take away with them from reading your words?

My Mallory Petersen stories are action mysteries. There is some humor in the midst of the serious subject matters. Mallory revels in the highs and goes into a tailspin in the lows. I’ve taken her to some pretty devastating depths physically and emotionally. She suffers physical pain and emotional scars. However, she has a support team of students, instructors, an office manager, cops, and a boyfriend, all who are loyal and honest and will never let her down. She has an inner strength that has gotten her out of some tough scrapes and situations and though she may be affected by them, sometimes long term, she comes out on top.

I envy Mallory and want to be like her. I hope people can see what she endures and can look at their own world and to discover their own support team. Find their own inner strength. You may not win all of the time and may lose loved ones or friends. You may be criticized and shunned by your actions. But if you can come out on top and have a personal victory, that’s what counts. That’s what I teach in my taekwondo classes-a personal victory doesn’t have to shine or get you famous or rich, but it’s a victory nonetheless and you should be proud of it. Mallory faces daily challenges and sometimes she is hurt by what life throws at her. You face them too. Mallory also has a number of victories to celebrate and so should you.

Q: What other projects can we expect to see from you in the future or are already out there?

Well, my next Mallory book takes her down to her lowest level yet. This time, she won’t recover as quickly and probably will have problems for years to come because of what happens.

I’m also in the editing/rewrite stages of a mystery tentatively called New Year Gone, about a world weary PI looking for a missing teenager. This book was a complete change of characters from others I’ve written. Subtle humor, a lot of soul searching by the main character, his insights into the world and the people around him.

Oh, and I mustn’t forget the Mallory Petersen short stories to start in the May issue of Taekwondo Times Magazine.

This concludes this week’s Author Interview with Stephen L Brayton. I hope you all enjoyed reading it and will visit Stephen on his blogs and website. Also, please check out his books, specifically Alpha on Amazon.

ALPHA medium

 

Calling All Authors

Author Interview Questions and Submission Process.

In December 2012 I had the privilege to do Author Interviews with three newly published friends and blogging acquaintances of mine. I found that it was something I really enjoyed and was an opportunity for me to introduce new blogs, new books, and new writers to my readers here.  So, I have decided to make it a regular feature. How regular a feature will depend on how many authors decide to let me interview them.

If you, or anyone you know, is a published author (self or otherwise), with a personal tale of growth, healing, and recovery that you are willing to share, please click the link above or share the link. I would love to hear from you or them and work together to put together a quality interview to be featured here on Human In Recovery.

Blessings,

Kina

Sean Paul Mahoney: Author Interview

27042_1355362812997_3806118_nSean Paul Mahoney is one of the first bloggers I “met” and started “following” (because of his post about Chicago and cheesy 80’s love songs) about the time I began this blog about my own journey of healing and recovery. He is the fabulously creative, funny, and glittery gay best friend every straight, frumpy, and self-stifled woman should have. He has an amazing story to tell and he tells it with grace, humor, and great, big, sparkly, disco balls. He has written something for everyone, but especially for those who are striving to make it through the holidays with humor and sobriety. “A Tough Cookie Christmas” is available at Smashwords.com and it can be downloaded and read on Kindles, iPads, smarthphones and computer desktops. And starting this weekend, shoppers can get it for just 99 cents!

Q: What genres and authors do you like and what do you like about them?

My parents used to own a bookstore and I worked there for years, so I sort of like everything. I’ll go through phases. I read lots of memoirs before starting UrTheInspiration. I thought “Guts” by Kristen Johnston was fabulous and “Queer and Pleasant Danger” by Kate Bornstein was terrific too. Nobody talks about mental illness and addiction with more humor and honesty than Carrie Fisher. She kind of created the humorous recovery memoir genre and I hope to humbly follow in her footsteps. I love fiction too. I don’t know if I will ever read a novel better than Junot Diaz’ “Brief and Wondrous life of Oscar Wao“. It blows my mind how good that book is. I love Raymond Carver. His short stories have saved me over and over again and are the kind of thing I’ll probably re-read until I die.

Q: Have you always been a writer or known you wanted to be an author?

I think so. I grew obsessed with Shel Silverstein, Jim Henson, Russel Hoban, Maurice Sendak and Judy Blume – all storytellers who used different mediums. I think telling stories is just something I always wanted to do, but when I was really young I didn’t know it was writing that would help me achieve that goal. Whether it was creating plays with my stuffed animals or drawing my own comic books, I think I started practicing telling stories at a really young age. When I actually started writing – poems, stories, journals – I knew had found “it”, the thing I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Q: Do you have a favorite place to think or a special space where you think and create?

The shower! Hands down. All my ideas come from a hot shower. I only wish they made waterproof laptops. I also love walking and many of my ideas spring up after a long walk.

Q: What inspires you and influences what and how you write?

I’m a big fan of art, theater, movies, books, and pop culture in general. Those things always inspire me and are always referenced in my work. I grew up watching tons of TV, listening to hours of music, and seeing hundreds of movies. So, it’s part of who I am and I have fun observing that world even in the most remote sense. This is reflected in what I write. Travel inspires me too. Seeing how other people live in different places can only make me a better writer. I try to take any chance I get to be exposed to something other than my own little bubble. Emotional mysteries and transformations are what drive my work. How do people come back from really dark places? How do we live on a crowded planet that can feel so lonely and still find love? What’s the next chapter AFTER we’ve recovered from something awful? These are kind of things I find really interesting and want my work to try and answer.

Q: How would you describe your journey from alcoholism and addiction?

A total blessing. I know that sounds like Pollyanna garbage but it is the truth. All of the hard times-divorce, alcoholism, addiction, HIV- have turned me into a stronger and more compassionate person. Plus for the first time ever, I really like who I am and I sincerely want to use my creative outlets to help other people.

Q: When did you realize you had a book, a story to share with the rest of us?

With “A Tough Cookie Christmas,” it was just one of those inspired things. I hadn’t really planned on it and the whole process from inception to release was about a week. The e-book revolution is awesome like that! It’s so empowering to have an idea and just publish it without going through all the channels and self-doubt. I felt compelled, after hearing so many people I know in recovery talk about dealing with the holidays sober, to write about my own experience.

Q: Where did you get your strength and encouragement from when going through the experiences that helped you give life to this book?

This is going to sound corny or like some hip hop artist at the Grammys but really it all comes from my Higher Power. Without my own version of God, I don’t know how well I’d create things. I tried for many years and just stalled out over and over again. So with faith, an incredible family, a reliable support system, and a truly wonderful husband, I’m able to get through the tough stuff and hopefully share those experiences with others.

Q: How did the journey of writing and getting this book publish change you?

Being an addict and alcoholic, so much of my life has been living in denial or living in lies. So I aim to just tell the truth when I write. Even if it’s a play or fiction, it has to come from a real place. This book, recipes and all, does that. It’s just me and my observations. If it resonates – fantastic! If not? That’s okay, too. I feel like it’s authentic, which is really all you can ask for. As far as the publishing journey goes, I self-published and it was really fun and educational. It takes a lot of patience and work, but it’s super creative in the sense that you have the ultimate say in how it looks and reads. I think it changed me in the fact that now I know what an incredible amount of work it is! I now have a lot of respect for indie authors who’ve built their own little empires.

Q: What do you want readers to take away with them from reading your words?

Oh gosh. I try to keep my goals with readers simple. If they were able to smile or laugh or feel a little hope after reading my stuff, then I’ve done my job.

Q: Do you have other creative avocations that you are passionate about or express yourself through?

I love cooking and baking so I was thrilled to add that element into “A Tough Cookie Christmas“. Cooking is a really meditative and relaxing form of self expression for me. For a long time I wished I could sing or play guitar. Sadly, I’ve come to the realization that I’ll never be Prince or Stevie Nicks. But I’m totally okay with being a writer who can also make an amazing chocolate chip cookie.

Q: Was this a one time project or do we have more to look forward to?

So much more to come! My new play, The Singing Room opens in April. My collection of essays will be out next year too. And I really loved the process of publishing short stories in e-book form that I have a few more I want to publish next year too. My blog UrTheInspiration is nearly a year old and I’ll still be writing over there as well. Plus another play and a pilot for a TV show that I’ve had in my brain for a long time. That should keep me out of trouble for the next year (hopefully)

tough cookie one

Here is a taste of what you will get inside:

Now, any baker worth their parchment paper has one or two cookie recipes they can bust out by memory in a moment’s notice. I, too, have a fail-proof cookie recipe stored in my brain, just in case. But If we’re going to split hairs, my cookie throwdown recipe is actually a bar. I know. An alcoholic who’s memorized a bar. What are the odds? Anyway, here it is:

Your Favorite Bar

Crumb Topping

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup butter, softened

1 egg

Filling

¾ cup of preserves, jam, cooked fruit, melted chocolate, etc.

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a 8- or 9-inch square baking pan.

Combine all crumb mixture ingredients in large bowl and beat at low speed, scraping bowl often, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside 2 cups of the crumb mixture. Press the remaining crumbs in your greased up pan. Spread your filling within ½ of edge. I like these with apricot or raspberry preserves. But go ahead get creative. You want melted caramels and cooked apple slices? Go for it. You like walnuts more than pecans? Get down with your bad self. You have a half of a can of cherry pie filling in your fridge that you need to use? Rock it out. Just keep the proportions the same and you can do whatever your crazy cookie-making ass desires. It’s called ‘Your Favorite Bar’ for a reason, boo. Crumble those remaining crumbs over the filling.Bake 40-50 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely; cut into bars.

Marc Alan Schelske: Author Interview

Marc is someone I’ve known personally for the last 16 years or so. We don’t know each other well, however he has had a huge impact in my life.  I first met him when he was a youth and worship pastor at a large church in a large denomination and I was a single mom, struggling to keep up with two young children running in opposite directions. He baptized my son, had a heart for ministry, and a passion for worship. One of my favorite memories of Christmas was when he and a friend of his, performed “Little Drummer Boy” with their acoustic guitars and vocals only. It is one of the few Christmas memories I have and I treasure it.

I have watched him progress from those early days to become the pastor, husband, father, friend, and teacher he is today. Now he has added published author to his roles and list of accomplishments. He has a special offer for those who are interested in obtaining a copy of “Discovering Your Authentic Core Values,” so head on over to his blog to find out more, after you’ve read the interview, of course.

For those of you who may find it too long to read in one sitting, go check out his blog and book first, then come back, with a cup of your favorite winter beverage and hang out with us for a spell.

Q: What genres and authors do you like and what do you like about them?

I love good writing in whatever form it comes. Presently I’m reading a lot of non-fiction about the brain and emotion. I’ll have seasons where I read fantasy. Other seasons where I read theology. I love a good historical fiction when I can find them. And I probably read too many blogs.

I do tend to go back to fantasy often. I think more than any other genre, fantasy creates a space to deal with the big and universal issues of life. Who are we? What is our purpose? How do our actions impact the world? I think Tad Williams may be a favorite of mine for fantasy. In theology I’ve recently been taken with Tim Keller. His book “Prodigal God” is stunningly good and could be life-changing. In January I re-read “East of Eden,” and was more moved by it than anything I’ve read in a long time. It’s a crazy smorgasbord.

Q: You are a talented musician and I know that music has played an important role in your life and might even be a passion. It seems that writing might be a calling for you. Is there a connection between these two things?

It’s all creating. Taking the bits at hand, and making something new and meaningful out of them. I’m not writing music these days, but I listen to music all the time, and I won’t rule out writing music in the future. For right now, my focus is learning how to shape my words.

Q: What inspires you and influences what and how you write?

I know that creating things is a part of any life that is going to be emotionally and spiritually healthy for me. It’s part self-expression, part therapy, part helping me make sense of my own thoughts. I also want what I create to serve others. I want to prompt new ideas for them, help them experience a better life, maybe even help them see God in a new, more healthy and transformative way.

When these two things come together, you have something really powerful. I learned that years ago when I wrote a worship song called “Just For Today.”  It’s one of the simplest songs I’ve ever written. It was written at first as an expression of prayer, the cry of my own heart. But the melody, quite unintentionally, is ideal for group singing. I’ve gotten more positive feedback from that little song than anything I’ve ever created.

So my self-expression was a part of that song, but the real magic happens when it’s no longer about me at all. I really try to keep this in mind. How can I share out of my authentic story, but at the same time share something that serves other people’s hearts well.

Q: How would you describe your journey from being the Marc who baptized my son, almost 16 years ago, to the Marc who wrote “Discovering Your Authentic Core Values”?

I’ve always cared a great deal about living intentionally. But the shadow side of intentional living is perfectionism. In the past intentionality was a way to try to think about every detail with the goal of making the best choices and avoiding mistakes. I’m still very compelled by the idea of intentionality, but my focus is changing. Being less driven by a need to avoid mistakes or pain or disappointment, for example, and choosing the way I spend my time and resources so that my time can be life-giving for me and those around me.

“Discovering Your Authentic Core Values” came out of that very idea. In therapy my counselor suggested I might want to spend some time reflecting on who I thought I was, and who other people experienced me as. This led to a discussion of core values. I also participated in an executive coaching process that helped me see some of the differences between how I see myself and how others see me. It became very clear that I’m acting according to a number of deeply embedded motivations. Some good, some not so much. Now that I have a handle on that, I can be much more thoughtful in choosing the way I am in my relationships.

Q: How do you navigate and integrate the various roles: Husband, Father, Friend, Brother, Son, Pastor, and Author in order to sustain the creativity and essence of being Marc?

Historically, not very well. I’ve had a pretty strong perfectionist streak in my life. Perfectionists nearly always think of themselves as very organized and efficient, but the truth is that most of them don’t get a lot of big stuff done. Why? Because big stuff takes risks and there are always too many messy edges to manage. I’ve discovered that perfectionism is a mask for fear of failure. I wrote a bit about that here. And of course, if you don’t try, you can’t fail, right?

I’m into a new season of life. I’ve been in counseling for a long while and I’ve been focusing a lot in my own journaling and reading on being aware of my emotional state and how it’s connected to what’s going on around me. I’ve been able to acknowledge and see my perfectionism and how it’s been such a limiting factor for me, and even for the people around me. So a lot of the standards I’ve held in the past just don’t apply anymore. These days I’m not trying to be a good husband, father, friend, brother, son, pastor and author. That’s all too much. I’m trying to be in the present moment I am in, and bring my very best self to whatever that moment contains. (And I’m honestly not very good at this yet.)

I think as a result of this is that I’ve been much more creative lately. I’m certainly thinking a lot more about what I can create!

Q: Have you always been a writer or known you wanted to be an author? When did you realize you had a book to share with the rest of us?

I’ve always been a maker of things as long as I could remember. I’ve drawn and built with Legos. I’ve written music. I’ve written plays. I’m a hobbyist chef. At every point in my life, when I’ve been in a good space, I’ve been making stuff. I think writing is just another expression of that.

I turned a corner a few years ago in thinking about myself as someone who could be a writer, though. I realized one day that as a pastor who speaks most weekends and writes these presentations as manuscripts, that I’m already writing books. In an average year I write nearly 90,000 words. That’s just counting my sermons, and I’ve been doing that for many years. It occurred to me that with some focus, I could take what I’m already doing, what I’ve already learned how to do well, and turn it into something bigger. There have been plenty of false starts and insecurity. Then this past year I started following a blogger and author, Jeff Goins. With his motivation I decided I just needed to start calling myself a writer and get to writing.

As a pastor, I’ve had the opportunity to research deeply into a wide variety of topics, and I’ve found many that I’m excited about and personally connect to. So, my problem isn’t discovering if I “have a book in me.” My problem is crowd-control; telling all the books in my head to get in line and wait their turn!

Q: Where did you get your strength and encouragement from when going through the experiences that helped you give life to this book?

There have been a lot of people who have expressed their belief in me. I think this is one of the things that helps the most. When Christina, my wife, expresses her belief in me, doesn’t begrudge me the time to write, that empowers me. When people respond after a sermon, or comment on a blog post and share how it impacted them, that motivates me. A couple of close friends have made it clear that they love me regardless of how I perform and that has freed me from the shadow of my perfectionist tendencies. I guess we give each other strength, and maybe why it’s so vital for us to express care and support to the people around us. Everyone is just trying to make it through. Maybe it’s your encouragement that will help carry them over the next hurdle.

Q: How did the journey of writing and getting this book publish change you?

I’m in the process of researching and writing a book about the intersection of faith and emotions. It’s a vital topic, especially since there is so much emotional brokenness and immaturity in the Christian church. I suspect this is one of the things that undermines our effectiveness in the world. But this book is a massive project, and while I’ve been plugging away at it, I’ve had a hard time getting my head around it. So, instead I took on a shorter project. “Discovering Your Authentic Core Values” is just a little guide-book. It’s 70 pages, about 15,000 words. The scale was just so much less intimidating for me.

So, I decided to follow this little book all the way through. I wanted to learn the process. All the steps. Manuscript. Editing. Interior design. Cover design. Formatting for eBooks. POD publishing. What parts could I do myself? What parts did I need to hire someone else? What parts did I enjoy? On the technical side, I’ve learned an enormous amount. I feel much more competent and prepared for the larger books that are still standing in line.

More importantly, I’ve crossed an important line in my own heart. Following this little book all the way through from concept to sale means that, in my own heart, I really can call myself a writer. I started a project that I finished. I fought back the pressure of perfectionism, never being ready to “ship” because there’s always one more thing to get right. If I never wrote another thing, that would be a huge lesson for me. But I’ve found that instead my motivation to write has only increased. I’m so excited to have this one book out, and my mind is whirling onto the next one.

Q: What do you want readers to take away with them from reading your words?

I believe our lives matter. I believe God created each of us as an artful expression of God’s own character, and that we have a good and beautiful purpose in the world. The tragedy of last week — the Clackamas Town Center shooting, followed so quickly by the massacre in Newtown, CT — has really underscored for me how much each day matters. We have no guarantee of tomorrow or next month. I want to use this day before me to make the most difference that I can.

I hope that my writing inspires people in that way. I want people to find grace in my words, encouragement and hope. I want to offer tools and resources that will lead to more meaningful and impactful spiritual lives. The more we are each living in that way, the more meaningful our lives will be.

Q: What kinds of projects can we expect to see from you in the future?

There will always be something! I’m continuing to build my blog and the social media platform that supports it. But that’s all to serve the greater purpose of helping people find a more intentional and meaningful spiritual life. I think the next book is going to be a “manifesto” of sorts, focusing on what I’m calling the 210 Life–an understanding of identify and purpose that grows out of Ephesians 2:10, but I’m also working on a collaborative project on perfectionism, developing a book on John 3:16, and I still have the emotions and faith book percolating away in the background. So, who knows!

The more people engage and talk back, the more I’ll learn how I can best serve with my writing. I’m looking forward to seeing what develops.

And that, dear readers, concludes the interview. Thank you so much for reading. Please visit Marc’s blog and check out his book on Amazon.com

Marc's book

Athena Brady: Author Interview

I was recently honored by a friend of mine from the blogosphere. We met in June when I first found out about and joined WANATribe, a social networking site for creatives, especially writers and aspiring authors.

Since I’m “just a blogger,” I wasn’t sure I fit there or belonged (nothing like being a 13 year old girl in the body of a 43 year old woman). Athena was one of the first to engage and interact with me. She was such an inviting, encouraging and nurturing soul. Partially due to her support and acceptance of me I founded a tribe(group) specifically for bloggers.

All along the way she has challenged and mentored me. She was the one who introduced me to the Ultimate Blog Challenge. Her steadfast friendship and discerning nature have enabled her to know what to say at exactly the moment I needed to hear it.

Now, her first book is available on Amazon for Kindle. She has given me the honor of showcasing her work and introducing her to my virtual friends and family of the blogosphere.

We did a little Q & A session, via email, and I got the opportunity to get to know her better. I’m excited to share this wonderful lady with you.

Q: I’m always curious about what other people like to read. What genres and authors do you like and what do you like about them?

I like a wide range of books from many different genres. I like chick lit, romance, sci fi, autobiographies, non-fiction, fiction, yps books, self-help, and spirituality. I have many favourite authors: Martina Cole, she writes gritty crime stories and is particularly good at getting right inside her characters (she will even have you feeling sorry for the bad guys and is a very skilled writer); I read all of Neale Donald Walsch’s books years ago and they stay with me even today; I love Deepak Chopra; one of my special favourites is Paulo Coelho, who writes such amazing stories and weaves such wisdom into them.

Q: Have you always been a writer or known you wanted to be an author?

Yes, I have wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl. However, life got in the way and there never seemed to be time.

I picked my writing up and put it down throughout my life. When I was younger I didn’t have the confidence in myself. As I got older and had a family, I felt it was self-indulgent; I felt selfish for putting my own needs first and gradually I forgot about my writing.

It wasn’t ’til my family were grown, and I moved in the countryside of West Wales UK, that I had the peace and tranquillity to write and think of myself and what I wanted from life. I decided to cut my job down to part-time and use the time to write.

I ambled on like that for a couple of years, joining a writing site and submitting my articles. I got good feedback and earned a very small amount of money. This lifted me and made me think, “Maybe I could be a writer after all.” As I look back, I think I was afraid of failure, of ruining my perfect dream. I wasn’t sure I could take the reality of not making it.

Then I thought, “I have always faced my fears, why not now?” It was, I suppose, because there was so much attached to the outcome for me, emotionally. I decided that I didn’t want to be an old lady who regretted the chance she never took, in later life. One thing I have learnt from older people is that they do not regret the things they did but the things they did not do.

Q: Do you have a favorite or special space where you think and create?

Yes, I live in a log cabin and I love to, when I can, weather permitting, write on the porch. At other times I write in the lounge on the dining room table. When I need to think, I go a beach not far from me. I find it centres and grounds me.

Q: What inspires you and influences what and how you write?

I find my inspiration from life, from what is important to me. This, my first book, “Thoughts on Life” is a collection of short articles, about various issues we all face in life.

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    Excerpt

Hope Speaks

Hope is a precious thing, without it we are lost in a world where no one cares.

Yet with it we can move mountains. It inspires us onto better things and lifts us up where we should be. We have dreams and goals when we have hope in our lives and we can take others with us, as it speaks directly to our souls. It enables us to fulfil our potential and puts joy in our hearts.

What happens to people who do not possess hope? They have nothing to strive for and are lost wandering through the desert of life, parched, lifeless and directionless. How hard that must be for them to cope with this, on a daily basis. Where are these people? Well, they are everywhere around us; they could be the person sitting next to you, your neighbour, friend, or a member of your own family.

One of the greatest gifts we can give each other is hope, for it is love in action. A selfless love, that asks nothing for itself but gives unconditionally. So today, if you can, take a little time to give the gift of hope. As it is when we reach out to each other with genuine love, that miracles occur.

The people who read my work inspired me saying I had helped them, influenced them, and helped them to understand things from a different perspective. Every time someone comments on something I have written, it lifts me and inspires me to reach deeper inside myself and share what I have found.

Q: Where did you get your strength and encouragement from when going through the experiences that helped you give birth to this book?

I have a strong faith in God, the universe, or whatever you prefer to call it. It has helped me through the rough times in my life. I can empathise with a lot of things people struggle with, as I have been through some of them myself.

Q: When did you realize you had a book, a story to share with the rest of us?

I met a woman who opened her soul to me. She told me things she had never told another person. It was a precious gift, for her to give me her trust, as she had been hurt so much in the past. This lady wanted to make a difference, despite what had happened to her. She wanted to turn a negative experience into a positive one. She wanted to help others, who were on the same journey. Out of respect for her family she wants remain anonymous. Susan (the character) was healing and wanted them to heal also.

This book will be out in early 2013 and is called “Broken”. We have put both our heart and souls into this book and have taken many years to write it. It is my gift to her and hers to other people on similar journeys. Here is a short synopsis of Susan’s story.

This is Susan’s story of her journey from despair to healing. Susan begins to experience a feeling that leads to childhood memories of sexual abuse in middle age. Memories she has no recollection of, that begin to haunt her in the present. She embarks on a journey of discovery, which challenges everything she thought about her life previously. There are times she thinks her dark night of the soul will destroy her and all her closest relationships. Once she has opened Pandora’s Box, it cannot be closed until she has come full circle. This book is a gripping, tense and sad narrative that you will not be able to put down, until you have finished it. A must read for those who dare to explore the grey and darker areas of life.

Q: How did the journey of writing and getting this book publish change you?

I have written these two books concurrently. “Thoughts on Life” is really a market tester and I plan to publish a series of three, alongside my third book. This series is a compilation of articles from my blog, put into an e-book.

I want to be able to reach as many readers as possible. I don’t want money to be a barrier to these “Thoughts on Life” books. So I have told people they can see all these articles for free on my website. I have also added that I need funds to survive and those who can afford it to please buy the books.

I believe in human nature and that people do the right thing. Some people feel I am mad for doing this, but I feel my readers will not let me down.

Book three is the book I am writing now; it has a working title of “Prisoner of Love.” It is about a woman who falls in love and her partner has an affair. It is about the emotions these three people go through and what they learn about themselves along the way. It is a book that will really stretch me as a writer as I tell the story from three different perspectives. It also will be released in 2013.

Q: What do you want readers to take away with them from reading your words?

I would like my readers to know that they are not alone, that there are others going through what they are going through. If they find something new to think about or something that assists them in their journey through life, I will have done my job well. There is nothing better for a writer, than for their readers to enjoy their books.

And that, ladies and gentlemen concludes my very first author interview. Please visit Athena’s website, http://www.athenabrady.co.uk/, and get a copy of her inaugural e-book, “Thoughts on Life” on Amazon for Kindle.

Please let me know what you thought of the interview and if you would like to see more in the future.