Tuesday, September 17, 2013

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Actor and Author, Stephen Jared

Stephen Jared, Author

Author and actor Stephen Jared writes 1930s/1940s adventures and crime thrillers and also acts in many TV shows and movies, such as "He's Just Not That Into You."  His latest novel, THE ELEPHANTS OF SHANGHAI, set in 1942, features Jack Hunter who uses his skills as a former actor to track down spies.  A reviewer says, “Great writing, intriguing characters, solid historical background, snappy dialogues”

In his spare time, Stephen Jared likes to discover artists he never knew before, especially those from the first half of the 20th century. He has just finished his next novel, a crime fiction book set in 1930s Hollywood. At the same time, he maintains his acting career. His next acting gig is his appearance on a new ABC sitcom called “The Goldbergs,” which is scheduled to premier in a few weeks.

Be sure to check out the excerpt following his interview.

Q: What makes THE ELEPHANTS OF SHANGHAI “pulp action?”

Stephen Jared: That’s simply an effort to categorize the work. To me it serves no purpose aside from marketing. I don’t really think of my work as pulpy, don’t try to generate any kind of pulpy quality to my writing. What I write is, however, hugely influenced by the romantic adventures and noir movies of the 30s and 40s. A lot of those films originated from writers who got their start in the pulps – Dashiell Hammett and Rafael Sabatini, as example. The reason “pulp” gets thrown around is because it’s a particular style of literature, whereas “old Hollywood” doesn’t exist as a style of literature. Where I draw the line between pulp writing and old Hollywood writing is that I don’t write superhero stories.

Q: Your reviewers praise the action in THE ELEPHANTS OF SHANGHAI: “The flip-flops of the action are dizzying.” How do you create such “dizzying” action?

Stephen Jared: I had a lot of visual ideas I wanted to throw into this story – Chicago gangsters, a Chinese Warlord, a bombed and occupied Shanghai, a flying tiger, a sexy nightclub singer (I even managed to sneak Jimmy Stewart in there). You just can’t write a roughly forty-thousand-word story incorporating all of that without it taking a lot of fast twists and turns. The hard part is to keep it sensible and cohesive.   

Q: A reviewer described your protagonist, Jack Hunter, “as a well developed character, imaginative and at the pencils edge of fiction and legend.” (I love that description!) How did you create Jack as a real person in a pulp action novel? How do you make readers care about him and what happens to him?

Stephen Jared: When Jack is first introduced he’s hung-over from drinking too much; the sunshine hurts, and when his butler mocks his acting – the work Jack is beloved for all over the world – Jack’s response is good-humored. So, we learn that he’s a guy with problems, and we learn that despite living like a king, he’s down-to-earth. That’s on page one. I just tried to create a character that had tremendous vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and then drop that character into an impossibly difficult situation where he had to become strong. In a sense, he had to grow up. I think that’s relatable.  

Q: THE ELEPHANTS OF SHANGHAI is set in the 1940s. A reviewer was impressed with your “solid historical background.” What research did you conduct to assure accuracy? How important is this accuracy to create credibility and reader engagement?

Stephen Jared: I seek specificity more than accuracy. Specific detail provides believability; it grounds a story with a perceived reality. I write in settings and time periods I love, so research is fun for me. I did a lot of research on Shanghai – the hard part was deciding what to leave out.

Q: How relevant is the concept of “villain” versus “hero” to your story? What makes a great villain? An interesting hero? Could Jack be a hero without a villain?

Stephen Jared: These are, again, labels – heroes and villains – which don’t serve a hugely significant purpose to me. Look at Bogart in Casablanca; he was presented as a hero. They photographed him as a hero throughout. He was introduced as a hero; in his introductory shot we see him, and then a moment later we see his face. Heroes have been introduced this way for decades in film. Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark was introduced this way. It’s dramatic trick. A brief second of a ‘man of mystery’ and then the big reveal. The whole bit where Bogart intercepts on behalf of the young couple, helping them get visas – Renault calls Bogart a sentimentalist, but the effect is really to tell the audience he’s a hero. It’s foreshadowing, but hardly a literary device without purpose; it lets the audience know this is a guy who may wallow in self-pity, but when he’s backed into a corner he does the right thing. He’s a hero. So, if he’s the hero, who’s the villain? He doesn’t beat the Nazis in the end. So, the villain could be the cynicism caused by heartbreak.

In other words, the villain of a story can be anything. What matters is conflict, and you can label the two sides of your conflict anything you want.

Q: Did you write THE ELEPHANTS OFSHANGHAI to entertain your readers? Or did you want to deliver a message to your readers? Both?

Stephen Jared: Entertainment is the goal, but not just gags; I build my stories around ideas that hopefully register with readers in some emotional way. THE ELEPHANTS OF SHANGHAI revolves around the difficulties associated with feelings of insignificance in life.

Q: In addition to being an author, you are also an accomplished and busy actor.  Why did you decide to write novels? And why pulp action?

Stephen Jared: I wish I was busier as an actor – it’s tough out there. Over time, writing has become something I just get up and do. If I stopped – and I’ve wished to stop a few times – I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. I’m confident constructing stories. I’m momentarily released from all my worries and confusion about life. Maybe it’s a feeling of having control over something. I don’t know. Why pulp action? These 1930s/1940s adventures and crime thrillers are the type of stories where I feel I can offer something worthwhile. Other styles of literature, like vampire stories or Vatican conspiracy thrillers, are the type of stories I just wouldn’t be able to pull off.  

Q: How important is humor to telling your story?

Stephen Jared: I think it depends on how deep into the realm of escapism you want to go. With stories like JACK AND THE JUNGLE LION and THE ELEPHANTS OF SHANGHAI there needs to be some levity, but with other stories the need lessons. 

Q: What’s next?

Stephen Jared: I finished my next novel. It’s a return to crime fiction, this one set in Hollywood in the 1930s. It’s dark, grim, a smaller, more intimate story than anything else I’ve written. I think that’ll come out next year. As an actor, I shot a part on an episode of a new sitcom called The Goldbergs. It’ll be on ABC in a few weeks. The scripts are funny.

Q: Tell us something about Stephen Jared. What do you like to do when you’re not acting or writing?

Stephen Jared: I’m normally a little restless, always climbing the walls, looking for something to work on. I like visiting art museums. I’m a big fan of a lot of the painters of the first half of the last century. It’s fun to discover artists I never knew before. As example, over the summer I became acquainted with the works of Emil Kosa Jr. He painted Los Angeles cityscapes and landscapes back in the 1940s, also worked at 20th Century Fox’s art department. I spend a lot of time exploring the past.

About Stephen Jared
As an actor, Stephen Jared appeared in feature films such as He's Just Not That Into You and on television in popular shows such as iCarly, as well as commercials for both radio and television. His writings have appeared in various publications. In 2010, his first novel, Jack and the Jungle Lion, received much critical praise, including an honorable mention in the 2011 Hollywood Book Festival (it is now a bonus book included in the purchase of The Elephants of Shanghai). Solstice Publishing released his second novel, Ten-A-Week Steale, in 2012. He lives in Pasadena, California, where he continues to work as both an actor and writer.

It’s 1942. With war raging, and millions of lives hanging in the balance, the world faces an urgent need for chin-up heroics. Having barely escaped South American headhunters in his last adventure, Jack Hunter seizes the chance to prove his courage. He uses “skills” picked up as a former actor so he can pretend to be a Chicago gangster and pursue spies collaborating with the mob.

A bold plan, however, is not always a clever plan, and when Jack goes missing hope falls on Maxine Daniels, the great love of his life, to pick up a trail that leads all the way to Shanghai, China. Once there, she finds Jack in a race against time involving priceless jewels, secret weapons, a mysterious Chinese singer, and a fiendish warlord.

It’s been five years since they survived the Amazon. This time Jack and Max set out to save more than each other – and end up facing a greater danger than they ever could have imagined.


Tightening talon-like fingers around his torch, Kyo Mingshu dragged the firelight closer to his bloodless visage, making a big show of his bestial grin. “The Elephants of Shanghai have significant symbolic value. The future belongs to the one who possesses them.” Abruptly walking off, his golden robe shimmering, he continued, “Come. I have treasures better suited for you.”
Jack and Johnny aimed frustrated faces at Summer. She said nothing at all, simply turned and followed the Generalissimo, past the ancient throne and the clutter of antique punishments, through a door.
A firelit hallway extended along several makeshift prison chambers. Armed with Tommy guns, Mongolian guards paced. One was a monster, easily seven feet tall. Corded muscles popped from necks and biceps; the sweaty bulk of all the guards visibly tightened with the presence of their leader.
“The new Russians are not the only ones who honor cruelty,” Kyo Mingshu went on contentedly, his steps slowing with theatrical deliberation. “Imperial Japan. Nazi Germany.”
Where was this going? Jack wondered. What had they walked into? Johnny crinkled his brow and licked dry lips, while Jack mashed the hairs rising on the back of his neck. They had hoped for a fast deal; now they only wanted to get out.
“The future belongs to the wicked, not the weak,” Kyo Mingshu predicted. He stopped walking and took a Tommy gun from one of his henchmen. As if it had not been perfectly clear already, the devilish gaze he then presented to Jack and Johnny read as from a man who delighted in evil games. He seemed more creature than man, relishing an ability to spit poison.
Summer stopped alongside him. Trailing her, Jack and Johnny soon reached the Generalissimo as well, expecting something horrible. Jack fixed his eyes upon the gun, wondering about Kyo’s intentions.
A nod from the Generalissimo directed their attention within one of the prison chambers. Jack had begun to sense that their diversion to this long-ago abandoned factory, now altered into a macabre hideout, had less to do with precious stones and more to do with—who knew what? Unsure and totally unprepared for what they would discover, they each took a short breath and looked.

Battling giant snakes, poison pits and hostile headhunters after a plane crash in the Amazon, movie star Jack Hunter reveals himself to be something altogether different from the macho adventurer he plays in Hollywood. Luckily for him, he's marooned with movie-industry animal trainer Maxine Daniels and her two kids. The lovely "Max" has more than enough high-spirited courage and fiery determination to get them all home. But when terrifying natives capture the feisty heroine, fate calls on the handsome actor to become the hero he always pretended to be in pictures. With such daring demands on the two-fisted matinee hero, will Jack embark on a journey to win the heart of the woman he loves-or perish in the darkest jungles of the Amazon?


Pinterest (Do you like old movie posters?) 
Twitter: @Stephen_Jared

Thursday, September 12, 2013

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Author and Financial Manager Peter Sorrells

Peter Sorrells, Author

Peter Sorrells is an electrical engineer and holder of eight patents who learned about financial management the hard way—by making his own mistakes. His appreciation of the art of writing led him to pen 100 WAYS TO SAVE AND GROW YOUR MONEY: FINANCIAL FITNESS FOR REGULAR PEOPLE—his latest contribution to help us manage our money. Reviewers praise his ability to take complex financial concepts and make them understandable.

The son of a minister and teacher, Mr. Sorrells' religious beliefs help guide him in his writings—and his life. He enjoys spending time with his wife and three boys, riding motorcycles, and playing guitar.

Q: What drove you from a career as an electrical engineer in high-tech to writing books on financial management?

Peter Sorrells: When I was young, I enjoyed reading a lot, mostly fiction. I always loved how words go together to teach, uplift, and wring emotions out of a reader. And ever since college, I've enjoyed writing. Putting just the right words together, gives me the same satisfaction as creating something artistically/visually appealing. I spend too much time writing emails with too many words, and writing/rewriting Powerpoint presentations, for this reason.  I appreciate so much reading other authors' work in books, articles, famous quotes, even song lyrics. I did not set out to be an author; it just sort of turned out that way.

In 1989, after a failed real estate event and other financial challenges, I set out to compile a list of money-saving ideas.  That list grew into a book.  But I didn’t publish it for two decades, though every few years I pulled out the manuscript and did some more editing.

In about 2005, while leading a small church group in my home, I wrote a short course and taught the group during two or three short sessions. That course was based, in part, on my earlier manuscript.  I love teaching and loved seeing the light bulbs go on.  And the epiphany for me, was that nobody knows this stuff coming out of a home and a high school.  They still need to learn some basic concepts that will make a huge difference in their lives.

In 2009, after a much larger failed, giant real estate event which devastated our family finances, I rewrote and updated the draft of 100 Ways to help others avoid and recover from similar painful financial situations.  It is absolute misery to be in financial hardship, with creditors calling all day and wondering how you'll make it to the next paycheck. Wondering if you'll lose your house, your car, your everything. I've been there, and wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. Pressure like that causes stress, medical problems, marital problems, and sometimes spirals into more bad decisions. I put these books together to uplift & help as many people as possible.

Q: You have a background of international negotiation as part of your high-tech career. Can people from other countries apply your principles, or are they U.S.-centric?

Peter Sorrells: Anyone and everyone can apply them. My negotiations are based on treating people right, telling the truth, working toward agreement that satisfies the customer’s needs and protects my employer. I work to understand where the person across the table is coming from, what is needed and why. And I explain our position in terms they can understand, based on their own experience. If I can’t help them, I say so.  I wrote more about this subject in  The Humanity of Marketing Business-to-Business, an ebook published by ExecSense.

Q: Most of your reviewers for 100 WAYS TO SAVE AND GROW YOUR MONEY: FINANCIAL FITNESS FOR REGULAR PEOPLE claim that your methods take complex financial concepts and make them understandable. How do you simplify financial principles for us inept financial managers?

Peter Sorrells: I have been an inept financial manager!  I have made more and larger financial mistakes than most people. Despite my best efforts and investing a lot of money in investment courses, I lost huge amounts of money. Meanwhile some of my friends, who used simple financial principles, kept and grew their money. And my mother and father, an elementary schoolteacher and the pastor of a small church, neither of whom ever earned a lot of money, saved and grew their money carefully. They put three of us kids through college and retired comfortably.

I made 100 Ways simple by breaking it into small pieces, easy steps that anyone can do.  Could you buy brand B instead of Brand A, to save a dollar every few days?  Could you take a lunch to work one day a week instead of eating out?  Could you make a phone call to your credit card company, say a few specific words, to save hundreds of dollars in interest fees? Anyone can.  Do that with a few ideas in the book, invest the savings at rates you can find in Getting 10%, and retire a millionaire.   

Q: Although you hold eight patents and have a BS degree, you don’t seem to have any finance degrees. What makes you a credible author of books on financial management? 

Peter Sorrells: Making lots of large mistakes and learning from them.  And going back to basics, reviewing how my parents did it, learning from friends who did a better job than I did. Reviewing the mistakes I had made, figuring out how I could have done things differently. And using some pretty straightforward math to model the way the world works, to prove to myself that it can really be done. I’ve climbed out of a huge financial hole by using the concepts in this book. It is not really about finance; it’s about making small, specific life changes that drive big results over time. I’m more of an engineer that appreciates how the universe works, than a financial guru.

Q:  Several of your reviewers said that they felt whole again after reading 100 WAYS; however, a few were critical of religious overtones. How important do you think some kind of belief or values system is for financial well-being?

Peter Sorrells: Many, many people have proven that money can be made in the absence of spiritual and mental health. Some very famous ones have ended up miserable, or dead early. They thought being wealthy and/or famous would make them happy, but we can see so many contrary examples. Belief in God, and/or a relationship with Him, is not necessary for making, saving, or growing money – the mathematical principles are sound either way. But the Bible contains a lot of wisdom on money management that is useful either way. And the small amount of life coaching and scripture that I wrote into this book, are there for another purpose: to help the reader into a successful life. For that, I believe we all need a higher power and a savior.

Q: How are your books different than others about personal financial management?

Peter Sorrells: Most finance books are about more general concepts or more complicated concepts – 100 Ways is the opposite.  It is specific and simple.  Sort of the way my brain works.

I’ve read the inch-thick financial books (er, started to – I’m not sure I finished any of them). Great books have been out there for years, but most Americans retire poor and depend on Social Security.  I wanted to make things easy, an everyone’s guide that everyone can understand in a few minutes (hence the subtitle).  And without investing weeks in a course or getting bogged down in complex financial terms or risky strategies.  Then I published a small enough format that it wouldn’t be intimidating. 

Q: What do you think is THE most important tip you can offer us everyday folks?

Peter Sorrells:

1.     Set a goal.
2.     Spend less than you earn, every month. 
3.     Save/invest that money and don’t touch it.

It really is that simple; but you won’t believe me until you read the very real ways to do this.

Q: Who should read your books? Who are your targeted readers?

Peter Sorrells: 100 Ways been helpful to people of all ages, high school to retirement age. Families in their thirties, businessmen in their 40’s and 50’s, seniors living on social security, and it’s been used as curriculum in a high school life skills class with 17- and 18-year olds.

Q: What’s next? Are you planning to write additional books on this topic? Others?

Peter Sorrells: After some reviewers asked about the interest rates used in some of the examples in 100 Ways, I wrote a companion guide showing where and how to get those rates.  That second book Getting 10%: Great Returns of 1%, 5%, 10 and More on Your Money is available as a Kindle ebook.

My next book will be a simple cookbook with a month of meals that can be made for less than a dollar.

After that… the answer to everything is “it depends”. I have a to-do list with dozens of titles that I plan to write, but they always take longer than I expect. I will probably write a few more money-saving books, but also have plans to write outside that genre in business, spiritual, and even fiction.

Q: Tell us about Pete Sorrells. What do you like to do when you’re not writing or working? Who are your favorite authors?

Peter Sorrells: I spend time with my wife and three boys, read, watch movies, exercise, play a variety of guitars onstage at small and large churches, ride motorcycles, and also enjoy shooting sports at two local ranges.

Some of my favorite authors:

1) Rick Warren, because his book The Purpose-Driven Life is such a powerful life changer, and his personal character is such a strong example.

2) Brian Tracy and Steve Chandler, whose practical teaching in books and audio helped me to crawl off dead center, break through the inertia of self pity and desperation, stand up and move forward again after a devastating financial disaster.

3) Todd Burpo, whose true story in Heaven is for Real gave me a fascinating glimpse into heaven.

About Peter Sorrells

Peter Sorrells holds eight patents and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (BSEE) degree from the University of Arizona.He has held successful engineering, marketing, and management positions in a half dozen high-technology companies. His work has taken him to befriend and negotiate with the largest high-technology companies in the world, as far East as Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, and China. And as far West as Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Canada, and every corner of the USA. An entrepreneur and teacher at heart, he speaks to large and small audiences on technical, business, financial, and biblical subjects.

His first Amazon bestseller, 100 WAYS TO SAVE AND GROW YOUR MONEY: FINANCIAL FITNESS FOR REGULAR PEOPLE, was originally written in 1990 - but not published at that time. It was later updated based on new technology and new life experiences, and first published in late 2009. The work grew from Peter's personal education in two disastrous financial events, conquering and recovering from those challenges, and distilling that wisdom in an easy-to-read, practical guide to help others. Peter's love of teaching and helping others is evident in his writing style.

Peter contributed a chapter to Brian Tracy's new book, The Secret to Winning Big, which was released and hit the Amazon bestseller charts in November 2012. He also released his own second Kindle book on finding high investment interest rates. Getting 10%: Great Returns of 1%, 5%, 10% and More on Your Money was released in early December 2012.

Most comfortable in blue jeans and a T-shirt, Peter most loves spending time with his (very patient and understanding) wife and three boys. Self-described as a man with too many hobbies, he can be found coaching others in the financial ministry of his church, facilitating Financial Peace University groups, riding motorcycles, shooting a variety of firearms at the local range, and performing music on stages of some of the largest and smallest churches in Arizona (he plays the electric, acoustic, and bass guitars, writes music charts, and helps to MD the band).

Peter considers himself one of the luckiest and most blessed humans on earth, and meets each day with a list that's too big to finish.

Packed with easy, step-by-step actions anyone can use to save and grow their money. Endorsed by young and old.  Are you frustrated with the month left at the end of your money? Are you starting from zero with no money at all, or worse - starting with a load of debt? There is hope! Do you have a "why"? A goal that absolutely must happen? A dream vacation, new furniture, college tuition, new church building, big medical bill, or well-fed credit card debt that's outgrown all your other bills? This book is for you! Through simple and practical ideas and examples, you'll learn how to put money back into your pocket, purse and bank account regularly and safely. You can watch your debt shrink and your money grow month by month. It's easier than you think.

Downturns in the stock market and real estate in the last few years have made us afraid to invest in anything but an insured savings account or cash in a coffee can. But today's environment has driven bank savings accounts to such low interest rates, they're not much better than cash. Is it possible to get high interest rates in today's environment, when banks are paying 0.1% on savings accounts? Is it possible to find 1% without high minimums and penalties for withdrawal? What about 5% return? 10%? Yes! Even more than 10%. This Kindle book is dedicated to everyone that has ever lived with near-zero savings rates from the bank, while paying high service charges and high interest rates on loans and lines of credit… often to the same bank. And to anyone who's ready to start growing their nest egg at a much faster rate. In this book you'll learn where to look for those high rates, and some new ways of managing your money. Includes links to many resources. Over 6750 words. A companion to the larger book 100 Ways to Save and Grow Your Money: Financial Fitness for Regular People.

About THESECRET TO WINNING BIG (co-authored with Brian Tracy and other leaders)

The first man gets the oyster, the second the shell. ~ Andrew Carnegie Everyone loves to win, each in their own way for their own reasons. Winning means the position at the forefront of any endeavor. Winning Big is a term which expands this concept to define the impact of a 'significant' Win. Winning Big suggests a game-changing experience, a purposeful accomplishment that affects the way we are treated, as well as the outcome. How does anyone 'Win Big'? It usually starts with a determination of our goals. This may be referred to as our mindset, which indicates a measure of purpose. We move through stages of mindset to get to a position from which we can focus our actions to achieve our goals. The Celebrity Experts® in this volume have all done this. They propose to teach you mindset, methods and appropriate actions that can help propel you into the Winning Big circle. The hallmark of these authors is that they have 'been through the fire' themselves. They have endured the 'tempering' of their lives to get to this point of achievement. So you are not hearing from players that merely wish, speculate or plan, but from those who have acted, achieved, and Won Big! We all wish to be taught by the master, not by the apprentice. In this volume, these masters give you the opportunity to benefit from their knowledge. Follow them and they will mentor you from a position of strength. These Celebrity Experts® coach and teach... The Secret To Winning Big. The act of taking the first step is what separates the winners from the losers. ~ Brian Tracy

Humans. We are a strange breed, complex and simple at the same time. Each of us is a bundle of needs, wants, goals, passions, joys, and pains both personal and professional. This is true of every single human being, making us all the same. But with a mix so unique, no two humans are alike. We tend to think of ourselves in these terms, each as an individual, and we work to highlight that individuality, striving for achievement, recognition, success, distinction. At any moment in time, someone around us is having their best day and someone else is having their worst. One just got a promotion, another was given a final warning before termination. One is at the peak of fitness, another is ill and weak. A new marriage, a new divorce. Life is happening to every single one of us, and everyone around us—including our co-workers and our customers.  This book teaches how to treat those humans that work for our customers, negotiating with empathy and integrity while protecting our bottom line.


Twitter: @PeterSorrells

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

CHECK IT OUT: New Romance from Melissa Foster

Melissa Foster, Author

Cross-genre and international beset-selling author Melissa Foster introduces a new series of romance novels with SISTERS IN LOVE, an Amazon and B&N bestseller on the day of its release. Check it out.

JUST RELEASED! Sisters in Love (Snow Sisters, Book One: Love in Bloom series)

Love in Bloom
…a contemporary romance series

Melissa Foster's SISTERS IN LOVE 

“A beautiful story about love and self-growth and finding that balnce to happiness. Powerfully written and riveting from beginning to end.”
National bestelling author, Jane Porter

“Steamy, passionate, and revealing. Perfect for readers of romances and stories about motivations and impulses that lead to emotional transitions.”
Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review

“If you are expecting a series of miscommunications and drama before the big payoff, this is not the story for you, for this is the tale of true grown up love.”
Natasha Jackson, Readers’ Favorite

Danica Snow has always been the smart, practical, and appropriate sister. As a therapist, she prides herself on making reasonable, conservative choices, even if a bit boring, and as part of the Big Sister program, she has little time for anything more in her life.

Blake Carter is a player. He never gets bored of conquering women, and with his sexy good looks and successful lifestyle, he has no trouble finding willing participants. When his friend and business partner dies in a tragic accident, he suddenly, desperately, wants to change his ways. The problem is, he doesn’t know how to stop doing what he does best.

When Blake walks into Danica’s office, the attraction between them is white hot, but Danica isn’t the type to give into the heat and risk her career. Danica’s desire sets her on a path of self-discovery, where she begins to question every decision she’s ever made. Just this once, Danica wants to indulge in the pleasures of life she’s been so willingly ignoring, but with her Little Sister in turmoil and her biological sister’s promiscuousness weighing heavily on her heart, she isn’t sure it’s the right time to set her desires free.

About Melissa Foster

Melissa Foster is an award-winning, International bestselling author. Her books have been recommended by USA Today's book blog, Hagerstown Magazine, The Patriot, and several other print venues. She is the founder of the Women’s Nest, a social and support community for women, the World Literary Café. When she's not writing, Melissa helps authors navigate the publishing industry through her author training programs on  Fostering Success. Melissa has been published in Calgary’s Child Magazine, the Huffington Post, and Women Business Owners magazine. 
Melissa hosts an annual Aspiring Authors contest for children and has painted and donated several murals to The Hospital for Sick Children in Washington, DC. Melissa lives in Maryland with her family.

Click here for more information.
Click here for excerpt.

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Southern Poet and Novelist, Damon Marbut

Damon Marbut, Author
Photo by: Larry Graham

Southern Poet and Novelist Damon Marbut created a book of poems, LITTLE HUMAN ACCIDENTS, driven by events from a period in his life when he and friends deliberately lived to experience “conflict and struggle in order to best learn from it.” You may remember him from a previous guest post (“The ‘Me’ in Our Work” ) when we learned about his novel AWAKE IN THE MAD WORLD. Reviewers praise the qualities of candidness and redemption in LITTLE HUMAN ACCIDENTS.  Mr. Marbut claims that candidness is vital, and redemption a reflection of his evolving “personally, creatively and professionally.” 

In the following interview, Mr. Marbut explains why he writes both poetry and prose, and how each supports his writing. We also learn that he lives in New Orleans, where he enjoys the cuisine.  

Don’t miss an excerpt from one of his poems, following the interview.

Q: Can you explain the title of your new book of poetry LITTLE HUMAN ACCIDENTS: CHAOS POEMS FROM THE BRINK? What are little human accidents and how do they bring us to chaos?

Damon Marbut: The title speaks to decisions and judgment calls I made in my mid-twenties that led to a more solid foundation of being at ease with my life as a developing and evolving writer. I didn’t want to admit to myself then that to stretch out into a professional career as a writer required as much sacrifice, focus and thick skin as it has proven to involve.

During the years these works were written, I was spending very intimate and intense moments with friends and colleagues (poets, novelists, literature scholars, philosophers) where we pushed ourselves and each other to live just enough in the margins of our obligations and responsibilities to be able to create and grow at all costs. It’s a daring notion, was reckless quite often and very emotional because we knew our time together was limited and that we were given the gift of that space in our lives to not have to care about money or major bills or much else beyond writing. We saw our group as a collective resource for growth and inspiration. But we really expanded to the edges of how far we could reach, with destructive drinking for some, excessive drug use for others, sex for others still.

So the book is a documentation of that time in our lives where we knowingly created conflict and struggle in order to best learn from it.

Q: You’ve also written a novel, AWAKE IN THE MAD WORLD. What can you say in poetry better than in prose? Do you prefer one over the other?

Damon Marbut: Poetry allows me to focus on seemingly tiny and/or minor snippets of an experience or moment and write solely about it in a reduced space, which in turn lends itself to a universality of its own that ultimately gives it more size. In prose, at least as far as I see it, I take a huge chunk of existence and character and take bigger license with a story as a more prolonged expression of message. I love them both equally, as they inform one another and my approach to how and when I write either.

Q:  A reviewer sites “redemption” as key to your poetry.  Do you agree? Why?

Damon Marbut: I saw that, and I agree. I was very grateful this was stated in a review, because even though the poems have occasional heavy tones of self-deprecation and alcoholic behaviors, I knew as we were living them and writing them that it was all fleeting. We simply knew we couldn’t and wouldn’t live like that indefinitely. I felt compelled to tell the story truthfully through poems regardless of what they might say of me when read by someone who never lived so torrentially like I did in my mid-twenties. I suppose the redemption discovered in the poems could come from the fact that I’ve continued to evolve personally, creatively and professionally, but at the same time there is evident affection and longing in the book that hopefully leads more readers to seeing that the lifestyle of that era was recognized as more educational than immutable.

Q: Your reviewers praise your candidness. How important is honesty to successful poetry?

Damon Marbut: I think it’s vital. In a smaller collection I’m hoping to have published next year, the display of honesty is written a little more indirectly due to different language choices (and poetry style) I use in them, but the honesty is still there. What strikes me most about poems I dislike is that they’re trying too hard to be poems, if that makes sense. It’s the same notion as being truthful and honest in your personal life. If you don’t lie, although you might have to defend your beliefs and perspectives you’ll nonetheless never have to worry about being called on a fabrication.

I think the candidness people picked up on in LITTLE HUMAN ACCIDENTS comes from, in part, my willingness to be vulnerable enough to come across as self-absorbed in some pieces, crude in others, and loving and inspired by others in different poems. If I wrote all of the same thing I suspect the character delivering the poems would be less believable.

Q: How do you define “successful” poetry? What do you consider the key elements?

Damon Marbut: It depends on what the poet is going for. I’ve written form poems, performance/slam pieces, confessional, narrative, etc. Whenever I committed to a certain style, whether it was for experimentation to determine what I like best for my poems or if it was just to “get out of my head” to grease the wheels a bit, I tried to do it with laser focus. And I guess that ties back in with honesty, too. Even if it’s out of your comfort zone, write it for what you think it is and learn from it. Don’t write “Daddy” as your own. Plath did that already.

Poetry can be successful if it finds its market no matter how tiny it is, as there’s no broad audience that likes all kinds. Some people are going to hate me and the voice of my poems and the poems themselves. Some will love them. Anything I write that helps even a minimal amount of people feel better equipped to express an emotion or write their own works due to having read me, that’s my success. I’m not foolish to look at this as a money game. That would have killed my work at the very beginning.

Q: Why do you write—either poetry or prose?  What started you to write? Do you remember your first story or poem?

Damon Marbut: I was always an imaginative kid and had great encouragement from my librarian godmother, as well as many teachers. Sometimes the encouragement came from them just so I’d sit still in class and quit being a nuisance. “Here, Damon. You can do the lesson later. Why don’t you write me a poem about the zoo?”

The first story I recall writing was about a pair of birds who were competing in an Olympics-style event, and one was cheating and got caught and the good bird won. Maybe it was a fable. I was into having “Moral:…..” at the end of my stories when I was young. So yeah, probably a fable.

Q: From where do you draw your ideas for your writing?

Damon Marbut: It all usually starts with a voice, mine or a created one. Sometimes it’s a line, and that applies to either poetry or fiction (or even nonfiction, like the new collection of memoir/personal essays I’m working on currently). I don’t get in the way of it too often like I once did. Often I’ll write down a line of imagined dialogue or a description and let it alone for weeks or months. When I come back across it there’s a chance it can become anything, especially if my thoughts have stayed wrapped around it. For example, this nonfiction book started as a story I conceived of 6-8 months ago. 30,000 words later and I haven’t written that particular story yet.

Q: What’s next? Will you be writing more poetry or another novel?

Damon Marbut: I’m focusing on the nonfiction book for now. I’ll occasionally take a break from it and write a few poems, but with everything else I’ve got going on, including book reviews for major publishers, I should stick with one thing for a few months. Plus, I’ve a novel I finished 9 months ago that’s under review with a publisher now. And that small collection I mentioned earlier is a project. And I’m editing a coffee table book of photography right now, too. And I’ve been asked to work on an oral biography of a famous bartender in the French Quarter.

Q: Tell us something about Damon Marbut. What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Who are your favorite authors?

Damon Marbut: I live in New Orleans, so I love food. I work part-time in a busy café on Magazine Street and love the people I work with. My social life more or less comes from there, otherwise I stick pretty close to home.

My favorite authors are still some of the big names like Salinger, Baldwin, Morrison, Kerouac in smaller doses than when I was younger. But I like modern poets like Dorianne Laux and Sharon Olds and a new talent who I think is going to do very well for himself, a Canadian poet named Andrew Faulkner, whose collection I just reviewed recently. I may be able to meet him, which would be terrific, as the publisher of LITTLE HUMAN ACCIDENTS is Bareback Press in Canada and we’re going to a few book festivals in the fall once we release on September 1st.

About Damon Marbut

Damon Ferrell Marbut is a Southern novelist and poet who lives in New Orleans, Louisiana. He is author of the novel AWAKE IN THE MAD WORLD and the collection of poems, LITTLE HUMAN ACCIDENTS.

Damon Ferrell Marbut devastates the notion of apology in poetry with a tender recklessness in LITTLE HUMAN ACCIDENTS, poems that examine a personal evolution of sexuality and identity while treating the unavoidable step towards adulthood like a punching bag, especially in his free flowing self reflexive poems like Mornings Like This and So What.


Little Human Accidents

The nightmare keeps you up tonight,
again, one you have each time it storms.
My poetry scatters the floor
all the way to the kitchen,

like a free-spirit sex train blew through—
you leave them there for décor,
love the way my poems smell in the house,
but you can’t sleep.

On guard for me,
are you? Since you found me
beneath the furniture in the hall,
screaming, comatose, not knowing you
were there? Defending me from that?


I can turn the lamplight brighter
and read you Billy Collins,

you’re so gentle,

leave the battling of nightmares to me.


Twitter: @dfmnola