Tuesday, November 17, 2015

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Geetanjali Mukherjee, Author

Geetanjali Mukherjee, Author
Geetanjali Mukherjee writes non-fiction books on a variety of topics--from an overview on Hitler’s “architect,” Albert Speer, to a collection of poems. She produced her latest book, ANYONE CAN GET AN A+: HOW TO BEAT PROCRASTINATION, REDUCE STRESS AND IMPROVE YOUR GRADES, as a result of her educational experiences in India, the UK, and the U.S. She intends for the book to help “empower” students to do well.

Mukherjee, who has written a total of six books, has a law degree from the University of Warwick UK and a Masters' in Public Policy from Cornell University.  When she is not writing, she most enjoys reading (although she confesses that she loves to binge-watch TV and pretend it’s research.) Currently she is living in Singapore, working on a book of essays and one of narrative non-fiction.

Q: How did you come to write your latest book, ANYONE CAN GET AN A+: HOW TO BEAT PROCRASTINATION, REDUCE STRESS AND IMPROVE YOUR GRADES?  Why did you decide to write on this topic?

Geetanjali Mukherjee: Firstly, thanks a lot Joyce for having me on your blog! I actually had the idea for this book many years ago, when I was in school and learning and applying a few of the tips myself. I had always been a good student, but in high school I found myself struggling with the technical subjects, science, mathematics and computer programming. I was barely passing in some of my classes, and had to completely overhaul my study habits, and get some additional help. My efforts paid off, and in the O-level equivalent exams, I received top marks and became class valedictorian. I went through similar experiences during my Masters' program, and I became interested in how to turn around grades and learn to do well in subjects despite struggling initially.

I wrote this book to share my own tips and success strategies, as well as those I picked up from reading some of the most recent research into how our brain works, and how to harness that knowledge to study and learn more effectively. I could see that so many students, especially in competitive societies where a single grade can have a huge impact on their future, are stressed out and overwhelmed by the pressures of schoolwork. I wrote this book in the hope that it could empower students to believe that they could do well in their studies without burning out or giving up.

Q: What age group will most benefit from reading ANYONE CAN GET AN A+? Is it targeted at adult students only?

Geetanjali Mukherjee: Actually the book was written primarily aimed at college or high-school senior students, but the advice can be implemented by younger students in middle school or younger and even those in continuing education, returning to school after a few years gap, or juggling the roles of student and parent or employee simultaneously. Being able to become more effective with the time you spend studying and get more out of it are topics that can benefit any student regardless of age.

I also wrote this book hoping to encourage those students who avoid certain careers believing that they lack the ability to excel in those subjects. It is an accepted fact that most countries are struggling to improve their diversity ratios in the fields of technology, science, and medicine. At the same time, the range of free and low-cost educational resources that are now available to students worldwide are incredible. I believe that anyone, with the knowledge of improved study strategies, can learn to master any subject and follow any career path that they choose.

Q: You have been educated in India, the UK, and the U.S. Do you believe that students from all three countries or anywhere else can benefit from ANYONE CAN GET AN A+?

Geetanjali Mukherjee: Obviously as an author I have drawn on my own student experiences, and therefore the book would resonate more with students with similar experiences. However, the strategies I describe in the book are universally applicable, even if my own personal experience might differ from readers from other countries. In the book, I describe ways to harness our brain's capabilities based on scientific research, much of which I learnt after I stopped formal education; these tips would help any student, no matter what their specific curriculum or school requirements.

Through this book, I wanted to provide an alternative to the brute force school of studying, without advising overly complicated 'hacks' which some authors of study guides prescribe. Anyone can pick up my book and start to apply its principles, without the need to set up elaborate systems and methods. I have tried to break down everything that I learnt into simple tips, and I am sure that every student can find something to apply from this book.

Q: You have written other books that span a wide range of topics from an overview on Hitler’s “architect” Albert Speer to a collection of poems. How do you select your topics? Is there a theme that runs through them?

Geetanjali Mukherjee: Well Joyce, that's actually a question I asked myself recently. I mostly write about topics that interest me. Most of my current books started as research for school or college projects or papers, even the poems were mostly written during my time at university. One theme that runs across all my work (barring the book of poetry) is that they can all be helpful to students, albeit across literature, history and political science / law.

Additionally, although I didn’t notice this at the time of choosing my topics, most of my work has the theme of social justice and human rights running through it, in some form or other. My first book was a critical analysis of some of the late Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney's poems, many of which were influenced by the Northern Ireland conflict and referenced those themes. My books on Albert Speer and the Convention on Cluster Munitions have obvious connections to war and conflict. Finally, in my latest book on study skills, I realized the main driving force behind my writing this book was to encourage students who may not have the environment that allows them to believe in themselves, or are struggling in school and don’t have the support to get the help they need; I want to show these students that everyone has the ability to do well in every subject, and they should never give up on themselves. This is a topic I feel really strongly about. 

In terms of how I decide what to write about – it is whatever I am obsessed about at that moment. Writing a book is hard - they take a long time, and I never really feel that I am getting it right, and sometimes I can be very difficult to live with while I am writing one, but I write because something propels me to. I write all the ideas that occur to me down in an ideas file, and when something just refuses to leave me alone, I decide to pursue it further.

Q: Do you prefer writing poetry or non-fiction? Do you find that you can say something with poetry that you can’t in prose? Have you considered writing fiction?

Geetanjali Mukherjee: I haven’t really written much poetry since I wrote the poems that are part of Illusions. I believe that poetry is the most pure form of writing, and you can convey emotions and thoughts in a completely different way through poetry. I would like to write more poetry, but unlike with non-fiction writing, I have to admit I wait for inspiration to strike to write poetry. And of course that isn’t the most prolific approach towards creating anything.

I am currently writing my first novel actually as part of Nanowrimo. I have tried to write fiction before, but other than a play I wrote that was performed locally, I have never been able to complete any work of fiction that I started. I am hoping that changes with this one, which I am privately calling my "drawer novel" in that I will probably relegate it to a drawer when I am done. I do have a few more ideas, so I hope to write novels for publication at some point in the near future.

Q: Do you try to deliver key messages or to educate your readers? What is your primary goal when you write?

Geetanjali Mukherjee: I remember reading somewhere that even if you have a message to deliver as an author, you should hide it very subtly within the story, and above all, seek to entertain. I am not sure I have achieved that yet, but I definitely keep that advice in mind when I write. Since I write non-fiction I guess it is acceptable to try to educate my readers, but my goal is really for the reader to gain a new perspective on the subject, or to ask more questions and think about the topic even after they have finished reading the book.

I guess my ideal goal would be that my books are read by those who have only a passing interest or even none at all in the subject, and my book kindles a deeper interest in them, or they feel that they have learned something unexpected from it. Personally, I have always had absolutely no interest in astronomy, I don’t even know where most of the major constellations are, but I happened to read this one book on the demotion of Pluto, and it kindled this passion in me for astronomy. Now I am hungry to read more books on the subject, and learn more about it. That’s the power of non-fiction, and that's really what I am aiming for, although probably not quite getting there, yet.

Q: What tips can you offer about “being creative and productive every day?”

Geetanjali Mukherjee: Well this is a pretty vast subject, one that I feel I am only scratching the surface of. I write about being more productive and creative on my blog, to share what works for me and good advice that I come across elsewhere.

The most important advice I guess I could give would be a derivation of a quote from Ira Glass, the radio personality. As creative people, our ability is far less developed than our taste, and so what we create may well be far worse than we would hope for, at least initially. I used to personally get discouraged by this, and give up. What Ira Glass suggests, and I concur, is to keep doing the creative thing, whatever it is, no matter how bad it is. At some point, it stops being bad, and moves to tolerable, and sometimes, it is even good. And then, when you keep at it long enough, suddenly you are really good, and on some lucky days, even great. Believe that that moment will come for you. And my unique take on this advice – find whatever productivity hacks that help you to keep at it, even when it is hard, or when the work feels hard, or when you're sure it is intended for the stink pile. With some rare exceptions, most of the greats in your chosen field got there because they learned how to get through the really bad output, the really bad art, and keep going till they got better.

Q: What do you find to be the most challenging topics to write about? Why?

Geetanjali Mukherjee: I find every book I write challenging. I used to think that meant that I wasn’t really cut out to be a writer, but thankfully I have since come across advice from successful, famous writers who have similar concerns. I suppose each writer has one area or maybe more that they find easy to write about – in my case I found writing  Anyone Can Get An A+ somewhat easier than my previous books. This could be because I was writing partly from my own experience. Now that I am trying my hand at fiction, I find that this is the hardest thing I have ever tried to write.

Come to think of it, I could have answered this question with one sentence: I find that the book I am writing currently is the hardest one to write, and the book I have just written and all the ones before were far easier. And I feel the same way for each new one.

Q: What’s next?

Geetanjali Mukherjee: Well, right now I am focused on completing Nanowrimo. I have also started work on a book of essays and a work of narrative non-fiction. I have plans for a few other books in the pipeline as well, but nothing definite yet.

Q:  Tell us about Geetanjali Mukherjee. What do you like to do for fun when you’re not writing?

Geetanjali Mukherjee: Read. I read even when I am supposed to be writing, and like all writers, I have a longer list of books to read than time to get through them all. I also hold a leadership position in a community Buddhist organization, and we have events and monthly meetings to discuss topics related to peace in society and personal happiness. Through this organization, last December I performed in a choir at a concert to promote friendship and cultural exchange. I've lately taken up yoga and Zumba as well, because although butt-in-chair time is great for my word count, apparently it's terrible for my arteries. My guilty pleasure though, is binge-watching TV shows, pretending it is research!

About Geetanjali Mukherjee:

Geetanjali Mukherjee is the author of 6 books, and her latest book ANYONE CAN GET AN A+: HOW TO BEAT PROCRASTINATION, REDUCE STRESS AND IMPROVE YOUR GRADES was written to help students of all ages improve their study habits and get better grades with techniques based on the latest scientific research. She has a law degree from the University of Warwick UK and a Masters' in Public Policy from Cornell University. Geetanjali currently lives in Singapore. You can connect with her at her blog Creativity@Work, and on Twitter or Facebook

Do you wish you could get better grades? Do you struggle with certain subjects and believe that maybe you're not cut out for them? Do you want to spend less time studying and still get good grades? Maybe you think that some subjects are just not for you. Maybe you don't like to study, because you secretly believe that you just don't have what it takes, so why bother? Maybe you are a parent, worrying about your child's grades, worrying whether they will be able to qualify for the opportunities you want for them. 

Studying for tests and exams can be stressful, not just for students, but also for teachers and parents. Grades in school exams and standardized tests can seem to determine your entire future, and yet many students are not able to get the grades they think they need to succeed.

This book draws on research from the fields of psychology and neuroscience, and gives you practical advice that you can implement right away, to overcome procrastination, make the most of your study time and improve your grades significantly. ANYONE CAN GET AN A+ contains 39 tips on various aspects of studying and preparing for exams. In this book, you will learn:
·       How best to prepare for exams
·       What is the top mistake most students make when doing exam preparation and how to avoid it
·       How to overcome procrastination and use your study time wisely
·       How to break down larger assignments into smaller chunks
·       How to use small segments of time effectively
·       How to get help for understanding difficult material

ANYONE CAN GET AN A+ is available for free on Amazon from Nov 16th – Nov 19th http://hyperurl.co/j4kdc9


Purchase Links

Author Links
Twitter: http://twitter.com/geetumuk

Sunday, November 15, 2015

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Julia Fellner, Author

Julia Fellner, Author
Julia Fellner recently released TO BE A HERO, described by one reviewer as “a fast-paced read that is inspirational, touching, and humorous all at once.” In her story, Fellner says she explores different ideas about heroes because characters define a “hero” in different ways.

Fellner has learned to appreciate the process of publishing and marketing, which led her to write a SELF-PUBLISHING HANDBOOK and to create the concept of “authorpreneurship.” She claims that authors who want to succeed must learn the business of publishing, market their book even if traditionally published, and operate story-production like any other business.

Fellner currently lives in Austria. She is working on another book of short stories and a novella. When she isn’t writing or marketing her own writings, she enjoys going for long walks with friends, traveling, and baking.  Although German is her native language, she enjoys writing in English. She graduated from Vienna University with a Bachelor in English linguistics, literature and cultural studies and completed a Masters degree in Management in the Creative Economy at Kingston University London.

Q: You have written novels that include vampires and heroes. Are your novels directed at young adults? Are they cross-genre?

Julia Fellner: My first two novels are both written in the young adult genre because I was 16 and 19 years old when I started writing them. So it made sense to write for other young adults when I was one myself. However, now I’m looking at exploring different genres. What I do also very much enjoy about the Young Adult genre is that, while there are subgenres, you do not need to stick to certain genre norms necessarily as long as it’s a story about young adults.

Q: You have also written short stories. Do you prefer short stories over longer novels? What is the key difference?

Julia Fellner: Since it is quite a lot of work to develop the world, in which a story is set, I prefer novel-length stories. Novels also allow for more words to explore the world and the characters. However, I do also believe in the art of being concise and leaving certain aspects to the imagination of the reader, so short stories definitely also play an important part in honing my skills and experimenting.

Q: You have written a novel TO BE A HERO. What are characteristics of a hero? Do you need a villain to have a hero? What are the traits of an effective villain?

Julia Fellner: These are questions I also very much explore in the book. Different characters have different ideas but most of them are guilty of either belittling or romanticizing people who are heroes in their opinion. Valerie, the protagonist, struggles with the latter when she tries to be a hero like in the stories she reads and her romanticized image clashes with real life. This is also why I decided to tell the story as a young adult novel. Realizing that you have been romanticizing certain people or ideas, and having to construct new meanings for yourself is, in my experience, part of growing up. To find out how exactly Valerie ends up defining what a hero is, and whether a hero always needs a villain, you’ll have to read the book.

Q:  In addition to writing fiction, you have released an e-book on self-publishing and you also offer consulting services for authors. Can you offer three to five tips for self-publishing authors?

Julia Fellner:
1.     Don’t rush into anything. There are a lot of “publishing” companies that try to make money off of people who are new to the industry. If someone asks you to pay money to publish the book upfront, let alone to read the manuscript, you should research their credibility very thoroughly and seriously consider saying no to the offer.
2.     Find a great editor. Even if you are a Spelling Bee champion, as a writer you reach the point where you’ve read your manuscript so many times you can’t even spot typos anymore. Hence, definitely have someone professional make sure the manuscript is in a mistake-free condition, before publishing it.
3.     Invest in the cover art. People do judge a book by its cover, so your book can have the potential of bestseller but if the cover doesn’t reflect the quality of the writing, customers won’t even bother to read your blurb.
4.     The most time-consuming task is marketing. There is so much to say about this topic I’m currently working on another free eBook called the Writers’ Handbook to Marketing, which should be finished soon.

Q: Can you describe what you mean by “authorpreneurship?”

Julia Fellner: If you want to have a sustainable career as a writer, you also need to be an entrepreneur. You want to know the industry, so you are not dependent on any publishers or agents. You need to do your own marketing, often even if your book is published traditionally. You basically run your own business like any other entrepreneur.

Q: Do you write your fiction strictly to entertain your readers, or do you also try to educate or deliver a message?

Julia Fellner: I think delivering a message in your writing mostly happens unconsciously. I often only know what a book is really about once I’ve finished the first draft. For TO BE A HERO, for example, I realized that how fictional worlds and reality intertwine was one of the big themes, so in successive drafts I worked on making the main themes more prominent. However, ultimately I do agree with Roland Barthes, in that the reader decides, which message the book delivers.

Q: How do you create credibility for your fictional stories, specifically in the world of vampires? Is credibility important to telling the story?

Julia Fellner: Good world building, in my opinion, means that every world you build should be consistent within itself. If the world and its characters are credible, the novel being part of the vampire genre becomes less important. Personally, I actually tried to steer away from using too much of vampire clich├ęs and folklore. As an avid reader of vampire novels at that time, I felt like I had read the same origin stories too often and wanted to give my vampires a different angle, even if, perhaps, this choice makes them less credible in some people’s eyes.

Q: What do you recommend to develop characters that engage readers?

Julia Fellner: Usually, when I start plotting I start with the characters. All my plot outlines begin with who the main characters are, what their family background is. This way I know which formative experiences in their lives have led them to where they enter the first page of my story. Having pages about the character’s history and traits, it feels more natural to develop the plot, knowing exactly who the character is and how they would react in certain situations. I believe that if a writer can achieve letting all these facets of the characters’ personality and back story shine through, without ever having to mention those first few pages in the plot outline explicitly, then readers will be engaged because the character becomes three-dimensional and relatable.

Q: What’s next?

Julia Fellner: Currently, I’m taking part in NaNoWriMo – the National Novel Writing Month, where writers try to write 50,000 words in November. Based on what I write now, another short story collection will be ready for publishing in the coming months. These short stories have been inspired by conversations with my friends and us complaining that there are not enough stories where there are lgtbqia+ characters, whose sexual orientation or gender identity is represented realistically and they are also not reduced to it.

I’m also working on a novella, which is the prequel to the next novel I want to write. It will be my first piece of writing that is set in Vienna, so I’m very excited about getting to play with the city’s history and famous places.

Q: Tell us about Julia Fellner. Is English your first language? What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Julia Fellner: Although German is my first language, I started writing in English very early on, when I was about fourteen. Languages have always fascinated me, and so I studied, like many other writers, English. While this choice has certainly helped to hone my writing skills, I decided I needed to learn more about being an entrepreneur and went to London to study Management in the Creative Economy.

When I’m not working, I’m often working on writing-related authorpreneurship tasks, which mainly means marketing. But I also enjoy going for long walks in parks with my friends, travelling and baking.

About Julia Fellner

“I wrote my debut novel, REVEALED, at the age of sixteen. After this first experience with the publishing industry I wanted to become more entrepreneurial than just writing.

“Therefore, I self-published my second novel, TO BE A HERO; a short story collection, Adventure Stories of Pirates, Robots and Coconuts, also very much enjoying the management side of the process. Based on my experiences as an authorpreneur, I have also released two free eBooks, the SELF-PUBLISHING HANDBOOK and the Writers’ Handbook to Marketing.

“I graduated from Vienna University with a Bachelor in English linguistics, literature and cultural studies and completed a Master degree in Management in the Creative Economy at Kingston University London. Currently, I live in Austria, where I am working on exciting new projects.”

Valerie has loved stories about heroes ever since she was a child. Now it’s her chance to become one herself.

When a masked, self-proclaimed hero called Shadow appears in her hometown, she decides to team up with him and become a hero herself. Valerie is an unlikely adventurer. She can’t run fast and she is a little insecure. But she is passionate about turning her life into an interesting story.

However, soon she has to learn that living a story is not as easy as she had thought. In a small town with no big adventures, the person underneath Shadow’s mask is the only mystery worth exploring. When Shadow’s secrets pile up, she has to learn to face problems without her mask.

In a world that believes it no longer needs heroes, can Valerie and Shadow prove it wrong?


Vampires, secret societies and first love – those are things that Anne Watson missed during her first high school experience.

Panthera Academy is not only a place for eccentric characters, but also the home of two secret societies, the panthers and the rebels. There Anne has to deal with midnight meetings, shocking confessions of dark secrets and mysterious deaths as she experiences falling in love for the first time.

Based on my own experience of self-publishing my second novel TO BE A HERO, I have compiled a Handbook to guide you through the self-publishing process. Originally a blog series, the Handbook starts, by helping you decide whether self-publishing is for you.

In order to produce a quality book, topics from editing, over cover design to typesetting are explained. Next, legal considerations and different distribution channels, as well as financial concerns are addressed. Finally, the biggest section focuses on marketing - the bread and butter of any author, offering advice on how to build up to the release and continue creating impactful marketing afterwards.


Purchase Links
TO BE A HERO eBook (U.S.) 

Author Links

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

CHECK IT OUT: New Release MISTLETOE AT MOONGLOW by Cozy Mystery Author Deborah Garner

Cozy mystery author Deborah Garner has recently released MISTLETOE AT MOONGLOW – in time for the holidays.

A Christmas novella with cookie recipes included!

The Timberton Hotel has always provided a perfect Christmas retreat for regular guests, as well as newcomers. But the small town of Timberton, Montana, hasn't been the same since resident chef and artist, Mist, arrived, bringing a unique new age flavor to the old western town. When guests check in for the holidays, they bring along worries, fears and broken hearts, unaware that Mist has  a way of working magic in people's lives. Old-fashioned time spent together, exquisite food, conversation and a snowball or two offer guests a chance to trade sadness for hope. One thing is certain: no matter how cold winter's grip is on each guest, no one leaves Timberton without a warmer heart. 


Mist lit the kerosene lantern and placed it on the table next to her bed. Though a flip of a switch would have let the marvels of modern electricity light the room, the softer glow of the lantern always fit her evening mood.
Sketchpad in her lap, she curled up on the bed and stared at the blank page, envisioning the scenes that would unfold over the next few days as the guests arrived. A widow, revisiting a favorite lodging, without the husband who’d always been with her. A child, the only one in a hotel full of adults. Two single men, both scholarly, she imagined, based on one’s profession and the other’s reading habits. And a woman from Arizona, who had never seen snow. Each person would bring varied energy to the mix.
Of course, there were the townspeople, as well. She had already expected a larger crowd than Betty and Clive predicted. There weren't any other options for dining, other than staying home. And a few might do that. But more would show up, not just to be fed, but for the camaraderie. Clayton, the fire chief, and his crew, were always guaranteed to be there. The same was true of Marge, who ran the local candy shop, plus a few other regular Timberton folks.
And then there was Hollister, the town’s one homeless person. Mist had kept watch over him since she first arrived in Timberton. He might not sit at a table with others, his reaction to social situations still unpredictable. But she knew he would eat whatever she fixed for him, just as she knew he would be grateful.
She picked up a charcoal pencil, closed her eyes and opened them again, transferring the images of Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas brunch from her imagination to paper. She could see it clearly when she planned a meal – not just the menu or food, but the table setting, the decorations, the contrast of colors and shapes on each plate, artistic arrangements of outstanding cuisine. Every aspect of a meal was part of a whole, not merely an individual component. It all started in her imagination as one picture, later separated into pieces and recreated amidst participants.

…cinnamon…ginger…slivered almonds…

She could taste each ingredient as she planned its role.

…holly…carnations…baby’s breath…eucalyptus…

She could see the colors and textures combining as they came together.


She could feel the emotions hovering in the room.

Sometimes she wondered if she thrived on the anticipation of an event as much as the event itself. She loved weaving the empathic aspects of each occasion, the tender piecing together of carefully selected ingredients – culinary, visual, and spatial – into a tapestry of sensations. An apple was not merely an apple. It was fresh air and crisp autumn leaves, a rich sunset, and a child’s hand reaching for a cinnamon stick. A ribbon of pasta was wheat in the late afternoon light. It was the tie that bound a family together in joy and grief.
She pulled out a metal container of pastels, dented from years of use. How many shades of red were there in a Christmas memory? How many variations of green in the foliage of faith? Of ivory in a gift’s bow? Of blue in the sky of a new year’s first day?
A tap on the door brought Mist out of her contemplation. She set her sketching aside and stood, crossed the room and opened the door, surprised to find Betty in the hallway, a worried look on her face…

About Deborah Garner

Deborah Garner is an accomplished travel writer with a passion for back roads and secret hideaways. Born and raised in California, she studied in France before returning to the U.S. to attend UCLA. After stints in graduate school and teaching, she attempted to clone herself for decades by founding and running a dance and performing arts center, designing and manufacturing clothing and accessories, and tackling both spreadsheets and display racks for corporate retail management. Her passions include photography, hiking and animal rescue. She speaks five languages, some substantially better than others. She now divides her time between California and Wyoming, dragging one human and two canines along whenever possible.


Purchase Link

Author Links