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Interview with Karen Simpson – Author of Act of Grace

Karen Simpson lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan and holds a Master’s in Historic Preservation. Writing, fabric art, and history are her passions. She’s a quilter and has taught African American quilting for over twenty years. As a historian, Simpson has designed exhibits for museums and other historical institutions that deal with issues of cultural diversity and racial reconciliation. The subjects and themes for her fiction are taken from the stories she discovers while doing research. The 2011 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards recently recognized her novel Act of Grace as the gold medalist in the Young Adult Religion/Spirituality category. The novel also received a nomination for the 2012 Amelia Bloomer Project booklist, an ALA list for books with significant feminist content for young people.

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Karen. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

A: Act of Grace is my first novel.

Q: What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?

A: I am one of those rare writers whose first attempt at a novel was published. It took me ten years but I learned how to write by working on it.

Q: For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?

A: I believe my agent had about 20 rejections from traditional publishers before I was able to place it with a small press.

Q: How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?

A: I was very lucky in that the rejection I received from agents and editor were usually nice or offered constructive criticism, so while I had rejections they didn’t sting as much.

Q: When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?

A: Plenary Publishing published Act of Grace after my agent couldn’t place it with any of the traditional publishers. It has been a wonderful experience working with them.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

A: To be honest I thought my novel was dead in the water so I was shocked when Plenary requested the manuscript. I celebrated by having all of my best writer friends over for dinner. I was the first one of the group to be published. So it was a great party.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

A: I made sure I had a well-planned launch party. I also worked with a book publicist to develop a good marketing plan for the novel.

Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?

A: No I don’t think I would have. Self-publishing was not for me for a variety of reasons. Being published by a small press has been a great experience.

Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?

A: I’m still working on my second novel. Writing Act of Grace taught me how to structure a novel. It also taught me more about the discipline necessary to do quality work.

Q: Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided.

A: To be honest my only regret is that I didn’t start writing when I was in my 20’s or 30’s.

Q: What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?

A: I think my biggest accomplishment so far is that I won the 2012 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards in the Young Adult Religion/Spirituality category. I am also happy that my novel received a nomination for the 2012 Amelia Bloomer Project booklist, an ALA list for books with significant feminist content for young people.

Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?

A: I would be the director of a museum.

Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?

A: No I don’t think I would.

Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?

A: I hope to have at least another three or four books published.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

A: My advice to new writers is if you are serious about getting published, work at writing as you would a career or job. Learn the craft by become a part of critiques groups, go to as many conferences as you can afford. Read all kinds of novels and writing books, but, in addition, read books and blogs about how to conduct the business side of writing. A good book to start with is The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry.

Interview with James R. Bottino – Author of The Canker Death

James R. Bottino is a self-admitted computer geek and a creative writing teacher rolled into one.  He earned a BS in English Education from Illinois State University and taught high school English in a suburb of Chicago for several years.  After teaching all day, he studied creative writing in graduate school at Northern Illinois University.  All the while, though, in the deep corners of the night, when no one was looking, he led a double life hacking and building computers and networks.

Eventually, unbeknownst to him, word of his activities leaked out, and employment offers started coming in.  In the end, he switched his hobby with his profession and became a senior computer / networking administrator for a scientific research laboratory.  Just six months into this position, however, tragedy struck when, at the age of 31, James was diagnosed with cancer.  Given ten to one odds of living out the year and knowing that his infant daughter would never remember him if he died, he began the fight of his life, enduring massive doses of chemotherapy that killed the cancer but nearly killed him as well.

After years of struggle, he survived, but only after enduring systemic nerve damage from the treatments that left him permanently photophobic, phonophobic and with frequent difficulty in using his hands.  These events focused his efforts and helped him to prevail in his dual goals: being a father to his daughter and completing his first novel, The Canker Death.  James currently lives in a suburb of Chicago, with his wife, daughter, two Australian cattle dogs and far, far too many books and abstruse computers.

James R. Bottino can be contacted at: “nokinis(at)thecankerdeath(dot)com”

http://www.thecankerdeath.com

http://www.twitter.com/greyhame

http://www.facebook.com/jim.bottino

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, James.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

A:  I guess that depends.  I’ve been published in the genres of: scholarly essay, short fiction and poetry, but this is my first novel.  So, I’ve been published once each in a number of different genres.

Q: What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?

A:  The Canker Death is my first novel.

Q: For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?

A:  A crazy amount.  I’m not positive, I would say something like seventy or eighty queries before I found my literary agent, and between one and two dozen publishers.

Q: How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?

A:  Well, plainly, they sucked!  :-)  Actually, I found that form rejections were easier to handle, you know?  The message I gleaned from these is that the agent might not even have read anything I wrote, like they were swamped and simply couldn’t look at everything that came in the door.  The rejections with notes and comments were all very positive, like, “I really enjoy this, but I’m not looking for something in this genre right now.  Please try me again.”  The best way I found to deal with the rejections was to always have another query letter circulating, somewhere.  So, whenever, I received a rejection I could think, “the next one that comes back is going to be it.”

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

A: I think the feeling is the same for all sorts of public activities: singing, dancing, racing, playing an instrument, etc.  The feeling is one of acceptance, knowing that other people are enjoying what you love to do.  Certainly, writing is a greatly delayed sort of gratification, for, unlike some of the other forms of public performance, the writer doesn’t get feedback until long after the fact.  As far as celebration, I took my family and a few friends out to dinner.  There’s actually a book party being planned for the release of The Canker Death, but I don’t have any real details about that yet.

Q: What was the first thing you did as far as promotion when you were published for the first time?

A:  Well, first, I told *almost* everyone I know.  Then I moved on to finding ways to reach others that might be interested, people with similar interests with the main character (and the author), people who read some of the genres The Canker Death touches, etc.

Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?

A:  If I could somehow make everything it takes to get published really, really easy, I’d go that way.  Other than that, not every choice is up to the author.  Book selling is a business.

Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?

A:  I haven’t submitted anything else, recently.  I have things in the works, but they are not yet ready to be sent out.  How have I grown?  I think I’m still growing in this respect, but at least I have something I didn’t have when I started writing my first novel – some idea of how to break up that momentous effort into smaller, more manageable tasks.

Q: Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up?  What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?

A:  I honestly don’t know what I could have done differently.  I didn’t go into anything blind.  I read books about the publishing industry and about literary agents.  I read books on how to write a query letter; searched the Internet for agents; bought books that listed publishers and agents by genre; and that’s just what I can think of off the top of my head.  I figured that I was going to have one shot to get it right, so I did my homework and tried hard not to make mistakes.

Q: What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?

A:  I have continued to write in my “off-time,” but haven’t finished my current project, yet, so my greatest accomplishment is related to work where I secured a great job as the head of IT for North America for a mid-sized company.

Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?

A:  I work in the field of IT currently, and I used to be a high school English teacher, so, in some ways, I’ve worked at opposite ends of the spectrum.  I enjoyed both professions for different reasons.  At the moment, though, I enjoy working in IT.

Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?

A:  I have a difficult time imagining what profession would fulfill me so much that I would stop writing.  I work at finding a balance between work and writing, though, I’ll admit it has been difficult to find that balance since I started my new position.  I’ll get there, though, no doubt about it.

Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?

A:  Grayer, possibly a smidgen shorter from the effects of gravity, and with ten years worth of additional life-experience to translate and work-in to some future story.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

A:  Well, I don’t feel like some master writer who can dispense advice to others, so I can only say what helped me.  Keep writing, practice every day.  The only thing can help more than practice is persistence.  Think of the entire endeavor as real work.  Getting published isn’t an afterthought; it’s not something that just might happen one day.  It will not happen unless you work hard at it.  Keep that in mind, and you’ll be on the right track.

Guest Post: Writing What You Don’t Know by Sheila Dalton

If you’re a writer, I’m sure you’ve heard the advice “Write what you know”. As advice goes, it’s not bad, but what do you do when you venture into areas you don’t know? This can easily happen, even if we start with material that draws on our own experiences.

For instance, my novel, The Girl in the Box, originated with a trip I took to Central America back in the seventies. The violent Civil War between the government and the guerrillas was underway, and my girlfriend and I saw things that shocked and disturbed us. For instance, when riding on the second-class buses, we were stopped by government soldiers. The fear in the eyes of the Maya was obvious, and we wondered what was going on. The soldiers took many of the male passengers away, and these men did not return. We learned later they had been killed or taken prisoner.

So we knew something of what was going on, but when I began to write my book, I quickly found  I needed to include scenes I had never personally experienced.  Part of the novel takes place in Guatemala during the Civil War, where a doctor discovers a mute Mayan girl held in captivity in the rainforest.

I was aware that the imagined sections could sound false. What to do? The need for research was obvious. I read everything I could get my hands on about the Civil War and its aftermath; I read up on the Maya.  Then, when I wrote key scenes, I imagined myself into them by recalling times I had felt afraid or threatened, whatever was needed for the work.

From what I understand, this process is similar to what Method Actors are taught. You try to feel your way into a character or situation you have not experienced by using “what you know” in a different way – you draw on your life experience as a human being. Most of us have felt a wide gamut of emotions; we have also seen others in the throes of strong feelings.

Sometimes, I talked out loud to myself, taking on the role of my character.  I found this helped me quite a lot. I just had to be careful I was alone, so my family didn’t question my sanity!

The last step, in some cases, was to have somebody read the scene and tell me if they thought I’d got it right. I tried to find people who had been in situations similar to the ones I was writing, but that wasn’t always possible. However, I did manage to connect with someone who had lived in Guatemala during the strife, and a lawyer who had dealt with refugee applicants to Canada at that time. It all helped.

It was not a perfect solution, but I because I believe writers have strong imaginations, I think it is entirely possible to write credible scenes you have never experienced yourself.

***

Sheila Dalton has written three picture books for children, a YA mystery,  two novels for adults, a collection of adult poetry, and many non-fiction works for children.  You can read more about Sheila and her books at her website:

http://sheila-anne-dalton.com

Natural Treatment Solutions For Hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease Online Book Tour December 2011

Osansky Banner

Join Dr. Eric M. Osansky, author of the nonfiction book Natural Treatment Solutions For Hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease as he virtually tours the blogosphere in December 2011 on his first tour with Pump Up Your Book!

About Dr. Eric M. Osansky

Photo-EricOsansky3HeadshotDr. Eric Osansky is a licensed healthcare professional who personally restored his health back to normal through natural treatment methods after being diagnosed with Graves’ Disease. He has also helped many others with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease restore their health naturally, and is author of the book Natural Treatment Solutions For Hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease.

He also offers a free 42-page guide called “The 6 Steps On How To Treat Hyperthyroidism & Graves’ Disease Through Natural Methods”, which you can get by visiting www.GravesDiseaseBook.com.

You can visit his website at: www.NaturalEndocrineSolutions.com

About Natural Treatment Solutions For Hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease

ThyroidCoverIf you have hyperthyroidism or Graves’ Disease and are looking for a natural treatment solution to get to the underlying cause of your condition, then this book will show you how to restore your health naturally…and avoid radioactive iodine.

In the United States, radioactive iodine is commonly recommended as the first line of treatment for hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease. While radioactive iodine is necessary at times, in most cases it should be the last resort. Antithyroid drugs may be necessary to manage the symptoms, but they of course do nothing for the actual cause of the disorder.

The author of the book, Dr. Eric Osansky, was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease and restored his health back to normal after following a natural treatment protocol. Ever since then he has been helping other people with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease use natural thyroid treatment methods restore their health.

By reading this book you will discover the following:

* How natural treatment methods help with the actual cause of the disorder, rather than temporarily manage the symptoms
* Whether or not natural treatment methods offer a permanent cure
* Why Radioactive Iodine treatment should usually be the LAST resort
* Hyperthyroid diet tips which are essential to your recovery
* Nutritional supplements and herbs which are important for any hyperthyroid condition
* The truth about hyperthyroidism and iodine supplementation
* Why many people who have genetic markers for hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease can still have their health restored naturally
* Are natural treatment methods safe during pregnancy and lactation?
* How to find a holistic doctor who focuses on endocrine disorders

Read an Excerpt

Many people who have hyperthyroidism or Graves’ Disease might wonder why they should consider natural treatment methods. After all, if their endocrinologist or general medical practitioner has recommended antithyroid drugs or radioactive iodine therapy, then why question these conventional treatment methods? Since these doctors have been trained to help people with endocrine disorders it might seem to be foolish to attempt treating such a condition naturally.Plus, most endocrinologists label hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease as being incurable. Let’s not forget we’re talking about specialists who have received many years of training. So shouldn’t they know better than some “wacky” holistic practitioner who claims that someone with a hyperthyroid condition can have their health restored back to normal through a natural treatment protocol?

While it might make complete sense to follow the advice of your medical doctor without considering alternative treatment methods, one needs to keep a few things in mind. First of all, the reason why most endocrinologists advise their patients with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease to take prescription drugs or receive radioactive iodine treatment is because this is how they have been trained. As you might have guessed, there is no holistic training class in medical school, as doctors are taught to treat most conditions through drugs, surgery, and other conventional methods. And the same concept applies with the endocrinologist specialty, as they go through extensive training to obtain these credentials, but they are taught to treat most hyperthyroid conditions with antithyroid medication, radioactive iodine, or thyroid surgery.

Of course there are times when conventional medical treatment is necessary. So I’m not suggesting that everyone with Graves’ Disease or other types of hyperthyroidism shouldn’t take antithyroid drugs, or receive radioactive iodine. Without question some people with hyperthyroid conditions do need to take medication to manage the symptoms, and some also will need to receive RAI. And sometimes even surgery is required. But the reason why I wrote this book is because while some people do need to receive conventional medical treatment, many people with primary hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease can restore their health back to normal through natural treatment methods. And many people who can’t have their health completely restored back to normal can still benefit from following a natural treatment protocol.

There Is No Official “Hyperthyroid Specialist”

While it’s safe to say that many endocrinologists see a fair share of people with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease, they also focus on other endocrine disorders as well. This includes hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, diabetes, and numerous other endocrine disorders. This isn’t to suggest that these doctors aren’t competent with hyperthyroid conditions, but my point is that they have to deal with many different endocrine disorders, and as a result most don’t have the time to look into holistic methods to help their patients. And to be frank, most of these doctors probably don’t have the desire to use natural treatment methods on their patients.

Once again, these doctors simply aren’t trained in medical school to treat any endocrine disorders naturally. So when someone comes into their office with a hyperthyroid condition, or any other endocrine disorder, they don’t think to themselves, “what is the actual cause of this condition?” Instead, they will run their set of tests, and then based on the test results they will put the person on the necessary medical protocol. For diabetes, this frequently involves telling the person they will need to take insulin daily for the rest of their life, although they will also need to inform the person of modifying what they can eat and drink. For hypothyroidism, they will almost always recommend the patient to take synthetic thyroid hormone, rather than trying to find out why the person became hypothyroid to begin with (yes, natural treatment methods can benefit many of these people too!). And with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease, they will either have the patient take prescription drugs to put the condition into a state of remission, which is usually temporary, or they will right off the bat advise the patient to receive radioactive iodine treatment.

Why Not Find The Underlying Cause Of The Disorder?

On the other hand, many holistic doctors take the opposite approach. While they might order the same thyroid blood tests and recommend other similar tests, a good holistic doctor will also try to determine the cause of the condition. Because by looking into the cause of the disorder, many people with a hyperthyroid condition can have their health restored back to normal by addressing that cause. And as I have already mentioned, for those people who can’t have their health restored back to normal, many can still receive some great benefits from natural treatment methods, and at the very least prevent their condition from worsening over time.

For example, it is agreed by numerous healthcare professionals that stress is a potential cause of hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease. And while there is no definitive way to determine whether stress has caused someone’s condition, one can get a good idea of whether stress is a factor by looking at the patient’s history, and also by measuring the health of the patient’s adrenal glands, which is almost never done by most medical doctors. And when they do recommend a test to determine the health of the adrenal glands, it is almost always a one-sample blood test of the morning cortisol levels, which in most cases isn’t sufficient.

In any case, if it was determined that stress was a probable cause of someone’s hyperthyroid condition, or at least a contributing factor, then one can help the patient to better cope with the stress in their life. Doing this alone probably wouldn’t cure their hyperthyroid condition, but without question it is an important factor in restoring someone’s health back to normal. And of course helping them cope with stress better can also prevent their condition from becoming worse over time.

The United States vs. Other Countries

The truth is that when compared to other countries, many medical doctors in the United States use invasive procedures on a more frequent basis. I’m not just talking about hyperthyroid conditions, but many other conditions as well. This would be fine if it led to a better outcome when compared to other countries, but this usually isn’t the case. For example, the most common surgery in the United States is the Caesarean section, which no doubt can save lives in many pregnant women. But the C-Section rate is much higher when compared to some other countries that have a much lower mortality rate. In other words, while some C-sections are without question necessary, many are done unnecessarily.

In fact, according to an article written in the New York Times, “The Caesarean section rate in the United States reached 32 percent in 2007, the country’s highest rate ever”. 1 A rate of around 15 percent would be ideal according to The World Health Organization. The article also states, “When needed, a Caesarean can save the mother and her child from injury or death, but most experts doubt that one in three women need surgery to give birth. Critics say the operation is being performed too often, needlessly exposing women and babies to the risks of major surgery.” 2

The same concept applies with the hysterectomy, as while this type of surgery is also necessary in some women, in many women this procedure is performed unnecessarily. Over 500,000 women receive this procedure each year. Don’t get me wrong, as in the case of uterine cancer or other serious health issues, a hysterectomy may be warranted. But just as is the case with C-sections, many women receive a hysterectomy when there are alternative options.

According to Elizabeth Plourde, author of the book “Your Guide to Hysterectomy, Ovary Removal, & Hormone Replacement”, “Though the first hysterectomies were implemented to save women’s lives, now only 10% are the result of cancer, and less than 1% for obstetrical emergencies. The other, approximately 89%, are classified as “elective” surgery, and are performed for conditions that are not life-threatening. 3

It’s a similar situation with the thyroid gland. And one can argue that the thyroid gland is much more important than the uterus, or any other gland or organ frequently removed (gallbladder, appendix, etc.). While one can live without a uterus, gallbladder, tonsils, appendix, etc., nobody can live without a thyroid gland. So while nobody wants to have any gland or organ removed, one can argue that the thyroid gland is one of the LAST parts of the body you would want removed.

Try To Keep An Open Mind

In order to benefit from this book, it is important for you to keep an open mind. I of course don’t expect you to agree with everything I say. In fact, I expect you to be skeptical. Just keep in mind that my goal isn’t to convince you to choose natural treatment methods and avoid conventional medical treatment protocols. Instead, my goal is to show you the benefits of natural treatment methods, including how such treatment methods helped with my autoimmune hyperthyroid condition, and at the same time discuss the different benefits and risks of all of the different treatment options out there.

While I’m obviously biased towards natural treatment methods, I once again do realize that there is a time and place for conventional medical treatment, and I ultimately want to provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision. If after reading this book you decide to choose a natural treatment protocol then that’s great. On the other hand, if you decide that conventional medical treatment methods are the best option for you, then that’s fine too. But as long as you have explored all of your options and feel comfortable with your decision, then I’ll feel as if I did my job.

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Natural Treatment Solutions For Hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease Tour Schedule

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Monday, December 5th
Interview at Broowaha

Tuesday, December 6th
Guest Post at Books, Products and More

Wednesday, December 7th
Interview at Divine Caroline

Thursday, December 8th
Interview at The Examiner

Friday, December 9th
Review at Country Bookshelf

Monday, December 12th
Guest Post at Book Spark

Tuesday, December 13th
Guest Post at The Book Connection

Wednesday, December 14th
Interview at Paperback Writer

Thursday, December 15th
Review at Bless Their Hearts Mom

Friday, December 16th
Interview at Pump Up Your Book

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