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Protostar author Braxton A. Cosby talks books, crop circles and inspiration

Braxton A. Cosby is a dreamer with a vision of continuously evolving and maximizing the untapped potential of the human spirit. Braxton received a lot of his inspiration from watching the accomplishments and exploits of his famous uncle, comedic legend Bill Cosby. A physical therapist by background, Braxton received his Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate from the University of Miami. Braxton’s fascination of science grew into an obsession of Sci-fi and on one unassuming Sunday, this self-proclaimed romantic decided to pursue a “calling” to create a new genre of writing; Sci-Fance-mixing science fiction and romance. Braxton lives in Georgia with his wife and two children. He believes that everyone should pursue joy that surpasses understanding and live each day as if it were the last.

His latest book is the young adult science fiction novel, The Star-Crossed Saga: Protostar.

You can visit his website at www.braxtonacosbygodson.com or connect with him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cosbykid84 or Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000215860223.

About The Star-Crossed Saga: Protostar

It Starts With Choice! What would you choose: love or irrefutable duty?

On the brink of Civil War, the Torrian Alliance continues with its mission to obliterate Star-children across the universe in order to suppress an intergalactic evil. Following the recommendations of his Council, King Gregorio Derry has agreed to send his only son on a mission to restore honor to his family. Bounty Hunter Prince William Derry has crossed thousands of light-years to planet Earth, in order to fulfill this age old prophetic practice. The quiet days of Madisonburg, Tennessee are officially over as Sydney Elaine now knows the full meaning of the phrase Be careful what you wish for when she is confronted by this strange visitor. As an unforeseeable event delays his assassination, William decides to study his target more closely and begins to form a connection with Sydney that challenges his inner being. But this conflict is the least of his problems, as a conspiracy back on his home planet Fabricius threatens the lives of those he loves and his father s royal legacy. Along with that, he must unravel a hidden menace here on Earth that seeks to secure a vested interest that threatens both his and Sydney s safety. Will William be able to complete his mission or will he choose love, sacrificing everything he stands for?

Q: Thank you for this interview, Braxton. Can you tell us what your latest book The Star-Crossed Saga: Protostar is all about?

At the core of Protostar, is a love story and a journey of two young people as they venture into the beginnings of adulthood. The weight of the decisions that they make will produce ripple effects that will not only impact their lives, but those of the ones they love. Inevitably, as we all grow and mature over time, we are given the opportunity to make choices. We must be accountable to those choices; understanding that we must accept their outcomes, whether good or bad. I hope that readers take are able to pull this out of the story and I especially encourage young people to reflect on the importance of being true to you and following the “straight road” and listen to their heart over the pressures of the world.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Braxton!  Your book,   The Star-Crossed Saga: Protostar, sounds absolutely fascinating!  YA is hot, hot, hot right now and I’m curious to find out more about the main and supporting characters.  Can you tell us a little bout them?

Two main characters: William and Sydney.

William Derry is the main character that must make the decision between love and duty. He is the Prince of the Torrian Alliance and also a bounty hunter. He’s a complicated character to write because he has lived this very structured, pristine life with everything he wants at his fingertips. Yet, he decides to venture out on this crusade to salvage his family name. The strength of his character is that he has strong convictions and he is very accountable to his actions. His morale ethics are a big part of the dilemma he must face when ultimately making his decision.

Sydney Elaine is the female of interest. She is a typical, small town teenage girl that dreams of big adventure and love. She is finally given both and she must now learn to understand how to cherish receiving that which she longed for. Her character will develop a lot more over the length of the trilogy, with typical challenges of going to school, peer pressure from friends and understanding the voice in her heart that draws her towards a wayward stranger.

The supporting characters of the book are Sheriff Henry Gladston, Jasmine Carruthers, Sienna and Zelwyn. All of them play a key role in the evolution of Sydney and William’s relationship, with each one of them possessing a valuable element that is key to the outcome of the storyline.      

Q: I know some writers tend to base characters on people around them and yet some rely strictly on imagination.  Which route did you take?

It’s a mix. I like to write out of personal experiences and thus, some of the personalities, if not all, come from people who I know or have come in contact with. I like the authenticity or lack thereof, of people when you meet them for the first time. Some are genuine and some, not so much. Either way, most times you will end up getting a character that you can write from in your story.

Q: When you start writing a book, are you aware of how the plot is going to go or do you discover it as your write?

No. God gives me the storyline up front through inspiration, then I begin to tinker with it and develop it over time (with God’s help). Once the stories come to life all that is left for me to do is to produce the outline so that I can write from it.

Q: I would like to talk about the setting.  Your book is set in Madisonburg, Tennessee.  Tennessee is one of my most favorite places to visit!  Why, in your case, did you choose Madisonburg in particular?

Two words: Crop Circles. Madisonville, Tennessee has one of the highest numbers of Crop Circles sightings in the entire world. I decided to change it to Madisonburg, so that I could have a little more flexibility with writing the geographic and demographic details of the city.

Q: Wow.  In all the times I have been to Tennessee, never did I know that.  I’ll have to check those out the next time I visit.  I would love to see them!  Now, the setting.  Did the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Yes, mainly because of the Crop Circles and because I wanted to pick a setting that reflects the simple laid back personality of Sydney. Big city is way too busy. The action that will take place may have been consumed by it had I picked a place like New York or Los Angeles.

Q: I want to get an inside peek.  Can you open the book to page 69 and tell us what is happening?

William just crash landed on Earth and he is making plans to disembark from his ship the Daedalus. He is speaking with the ship’s artificial intelligence and then the scene flashes to Sydney. She is sitting in her room daydreaming of a day that adventure would come into her “boring” life.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

Yes, here it is. This is a scene that takes place on top of Sydney’s grandmother’s house, where she and William are starting to get closer.

William reached down to the quilt and grabbed his glass of tea and finished it off. Then he took Sydney by the hand and placed a small subtle kiss on it.

“It’s been a pleasure once again, but I really must be getting some much needed rest. See you in the morning?”

“Yes,” Sydney answered, “see you in the morning then.”

William decided a dramatic exit was the only appropriate way to end the evening. He gave a few short hops towards the end of the rooftop, planted his feet along the edge and vaulted upward, floating away from the edge of the house and landing perfectly on the back lawn.

***

Sydney raced towards the edge, making sure William was safe. She shook her head in wonderment as he disappeared behind the barn doors. Then dropped to her knees, staring at the hand William kissed and thinking, “Could this guy really be my Prince Charming?

As the sounds of crickets played in the background of the country night, a cool breeze tumbled in from the West blowing her hair into her face. She brushed it away and glanced upward to the Moon one last time. The sight of the mammoth white circle gave her a promise of hope. She knew that if the Moon could hang effortlessly in the sky without a single hint of losing its composure, surely something as simple as love could befall upon a country girl like her. She walked over and picked up her quilt, making her way back to her bedroom window. Looking back at the ghostly object one last time, she quotes an old nursery rhyme, “I see the Moon, the Moon sees me. Let’s hope God blesses the both of us.”

Thank you so much for this interview, Braxton.  We wish you much success!

 

 

 

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Blog Tour + Interview: Whitney Stewart, author of ‘Give Me a Break: No Fuss Meditation’

* * * * *

Whitney Stewart began writing young adult biographies and meditating after she met and interviewed the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, the subject of two of her books, and lived with a Tibetan family in India. For her next biographies, she trekked with Sir Edmund Hillary in Nepal, interviewed Burma’s Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi in her Rangoon home, and climbed along China’s Great Wall to research the lives of Deng Xiaoping and Mao Zedong. In 2004, Stewart published a picture book about the Buddha, which contains a foreword and a meditation suggestion from the 14th Dalai Lama. In addition to nonfiction books, Stewart has published three middle-grade novels. In August 2005, Stewart was trapped in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and evacuated by helicopter from a rooftop. She returned home and volunteered as a creative writing teacher in the public schools. She discovered that her students suffered from post-Katrina stress. Using meditation, improvisation, and word play, Stewart taught her students to write about their lives.

Her latest book is Give Me a Break: No-Fuss Meditation.

You can find more about Whitney Stewart at her website at http://www.whitneystewart.com.  Follow her at Twitter at www.twitter.com/mindfulneworlns and www.twitter.com/whitneystewart2 and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/New.Orleans.Kids.Author.

About Give Me a Break: No-Fuss Meditation

Whitney Stewart’s straightforward, non-denominational guide makes meditation simple. It covers the basics in a concise thirty-three pages: Why meditation is good for you, how to sit, how to let your mind rest, even what to do if you feel weird or uncomfortable during meditation. Most important, it provides sixteen accessible, useful meditations you can easily learn at home. Age ten to adult.

Stewart’s top reasons to meditate:

*To focus inwardly

*To slow down internally

*To develop awareness

*To understand your mind

*To increase tolerance

*To experience “BIG MIND”

* * * * *

Q: Thank you for this interview, Whitney. Can you tell us what your latest book, Give Me a Break: No-Fuss Meditation, is all about?

My ebook is a simple, nondenominational guide to meditation. I include a short introduction and sixteen meditation practices that will help focus the mind. I also include answers to common questions people have about meditation

I wrote this book to communicate the benefits of meditation to anyone who wants to reduce stress, improve health, develop inner wisdom, lead a happier life, and experience a natural state of mind.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your book?

I have been a meditator for over twenty-five years, and I see how it has changed my life. During Hurricane Katrina, my son and I were trapped in a building in downtown New Orleans. We had to wait five days for helicopters to rescue us. During that time, I used meditation as a means of staying calm, alleviating fear, and being mindful. When I returned to New Orleans, I volunteered as a creative writing teacher in a public school. I discovered that my students were often stressed, unhappy, and frightened every time the weather turned stormy. They could not concentrate on their work. I taught them to meditate before we did our creative writing exercises. Many of them told me how much they loved to meditate at the beginning of class. This gave me the idea of writing a nondenominational meditation guide that was easy enough for children and detailed enough for adults. My guide is meant for beginners.

Q: What kind of research did you do before and during the writing of your book?

I first learned to meditate when I was in high school. And then in 1987, I joined a meditation center and studied with several Tibetan Buddhist teachers. That led me to taking multiple trips to Tibet, Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Japan, and India where I practiced meditation with teachers. I also have a full personal library on Buddhism and meditation.

I have written two children’s books on the 14th Dalai Lama, which were based on interviews with him. In one interview, he suggested a meditation technique that was simple enough to teach children. I included this technique in my picture book Becoming Buddha: The Story of Siddhartha. Readers asked me for more techniques like that one, so I wrote this book, in part, because of their request.

Q: If a reader can come away from reading your book with one valuable message, what would that be?

That meditation is a path to discovering your relaxed, open, natural state of mind.

Q: Can you give us a short excerpt?

Why Meditate?

Let’s face it. Life knocks you around. One minute

you’re happy. The next you want to scream. You don’t get

everything you want, and you don’t want everything you get.

You need a break. Meditation could be the answer.

Meditation calms you down. It helps you find your own

wisdom. It settles your nerves and fills your mind with

space.

 

Lots of people meditate——athletes, actors, dog

trainers, writers, and people like you. They do it wherever

they find a quiet spot——in the living room, in the back

yard, under a tree, in an empty classroom, in the library,

in a tent, on a mountaintop. You don’t have to join a

religious group to meditate. And you don’t have to change

anything about yourself. Meditation is about accepting

yourself with all the bumps and bruises.

 

So go ahead and see for yourself. This book gives you

different meditation exercises. You may not like them all.

That’s fine. Try them and see which ones work for you.

Q: In your own experience, is it hard to get a nonfiction book published today?  How did you do it?

Yes, it is hard to get any book published by a reputable publisher. I started publishing twenty years ago. I researched what publishers wanted and submitted selectively. I also researched my books thoroughly. I started by writing biographies of Nobel laureates and adventurers. If they were still alive, I interviewed them and people who knew them. I tried to find both a narrative hook and a marketing hook; I wanted to give my readers something they had not read before.

Q: What’s a typical day like for you?

I wake up, meditate, and exercise (yoga and cardio) in the early morning, and write for the rest of the day, every day. Sometimes I take short meditation or movement breaks while I am writing, but I don’t answer the phone or chat with friends until my day’s writing is done. I work at home and often have to wear headphones and listen to ambient music to block out the noise of construction and lawn mowers in the neighborhood.

Q: What’s next for you?

I just finished revising a middle-grade novel set in New Orleans and sent it to my agent. It’s the story of a 14-year-old boy who is accused of a crime he didn’t commit. I look forward to the sale and publication of that book. I also have a picture book coming out with Windy Hollow Books in Australia. It’s a companion book to my Becoming Buddha and will be illustrated by the same illustrator, Sally Rippin. Last Spring I started writing an edgy young adult novel, and I hope to return to that manuscript in January.

Thank you so much for this interview, Whitney.  We wish you much success!

 

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Interview with Phyllis Schieber, author of ‘The Manicurist’

The first great irony of Phyllis Schieber’s life was that she was born in a Catholic hospital. Her parents, survivors of the Holocaust, had settled in the South Bronx among other new immigrants.  In the mid-fifties, her family moved to Washington Heights, an enclave for German Jews on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, known as “Frankfurt-on-the-Hudson.”

She graduated from high school at sixteen, earned a B.A. in English from Herbert H. Lehman College, an M.A. in Literature from New York University, and later an M.S. as a Developmental Specialist from Yeshiva University.

She lives in Westchester County where she spends her days creating new stories and teaching writing. She is married and the mother of a grown son, an aspiring opera singer.

The Manicurist was a finalist in the 2011 Inaugural Indie Publishing Contest sponsored by the San Francisco Writer’s Conference.

Phyllis Schieber is the author of three other novels, The Sinner’s Guide to Confession, Willing Spirits, and Strictly Personal.

You can visit her website at www.phyllisschieberauthor.com.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Phyllis. Can you tell us what your latest book, The Manicurist, is all about?

The Manicurist is a story of redemption, but it also pays homage to the forces that are beyond our control. The characters in The Manicurist ultimately embrace those forces that defy explanation, which leads them to deepen their relationships. The characters in The Manicurist may not be like any people my readers necessarily know, but the characters and their struggles will not be unfamiliar. They are ordinary people with some unusual challenges, but ultimately, they all want the same thing—to be loved and understood.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Tessa Emanuel is a manicurist with second sight that she contrives to keep from others, especially since her husband, Walter, does his best to deny it exists. Walter is determined to shelter their teenage daughter Regina from her mother’s complex legacy. At the center of the turbulence is Ursula, the mentally ill mother Tessa believed had abandoned her in childhood. When a disturbing new customer, Fran, comes into the salon where Tessa works as a manicurist, Tessa’s world is turned upside down. Secrets are revealed and revelations come to light as the family searches together for new beginnings.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

 I think it’s a combination. While my characters are mostly from my imagination, aspects of their personalities and quirks can be based on people I’ve know or on people I’ve observed. None of my characters are based on any one specific person. I would find that too distracting.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

I’m never aware of anything before I begin a novel other than the need to tell a story about something.  I typically have a concept that I want to develop, such as, in my other novels, the bond of friendship between women or secrets. In The Manicurist, I began with the idea of a manicurist who has prescience, and the story evolved from there. I have always been drawn to how second-sight manifests itself, simply because I believe that everyone is born with this ability. We simply don’t need to use it because technology has taken over for us, but the predisposition for is present in all of us. When prescience surfaces, there is always the potential for a great story. I just followed that likelihood.

Q: Your book is set in New York. Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

 It is the place I am most familiar with!

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

 No, not in this story.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

On this page, Tessa’s struggle with her mother’s mysterious disappearance and alleged death is reinforced. In addition, Tessa’s mounting sense of urgency about Fran, the enigmatic new client who shows up at the salon, comes to a head when Tessa pays Fran a visit at her home.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

This is an excerpt from Chapter Seven; it’s a flashback to Tessa’s childhood. She wakes to find her mother gone, something that occurs from time-to-time. Dennis, Tessa’s father, makes her breakfast and tries to reassure as they wait for Ursula to return:

“What about Mommy?” she said.

He checked on the bubbling batter, adjusted the flame again and scratched the side of his unshaven face, leaving a streak of raw batter along his right cheek Tessa noticed but said nothing.

“I don’t know about Mommy,” he said. “She gets funny like this once in awhile. You’re too young to remember the last time, but she was gone about three days. She went off to find God.”

The good and bad thing about Dennis was that he spoke the same way to everyone. It made no difference to him that Tessa was a little girl. He answered her question just the same as if she had been ten or twenty, or fifty or ninety.

“Did she find him?” Tessa said.

She held the butter dish in one hand and the bottle of maple syrup in the other and waited for an answer. Dennis frowned at the pancakes, adjusted the flame again and then steered Tessa to the table. He dressed the pancakes with butter and syrup and cut the stack into quarters before speaking.

“I think she found him and lost him again.” He moved the plate toward her and handed her a fork. “Eat, baby. They’re not as good when they’re cold.”

Tessa was surprised at how delicious the pancakes tasted. It did not seem right to enjoy them so much when her mother was gone. But the kitchen was warm, and she had her father all to herself. There was a peacefulness that Ursula’s presence never allowed.

“Good?” he asked.

“Very good,” she said.

He finished at the stove and set a plate of steaming pancakes on the table. He poured them each a glass of milk. Then he pulled up a chair right alongside hers and loaded up his plate,

fixed his pancakes just as he had done for her and ate. They finished their food in silence, wiping their sticky mouths at almost the exact intervals and making Dennis smile.

“Well, I guess you’re my girl after all.”

She smiled back because she did not know what to say, although she knew what to do. Her father’s large hand did not fit inside her two small ones. Dennis did not resist. Tessa sandwiched his hand between hers as if she had caught some odd creature and could not decide what to do next. Another child might have been daunted by the mere weight of the limp hand, but Tessa set it down in her lap and stroked her father’s palm with sure fingertips. They breathed rhythmically for a time until Dennis balled his hand into a fist and spoke.

“Don’t,” he said.

She was just a little girl who wanted her mother. She covered his fist with her own small hands as if she held a crystal ball.

“Mommy will be home soon,” she said.

He kissed her forehead, touched by her need to reassure them both.

“That’s good,” he said.

By the time the dishes were cleared away and Tessa had brushed her teeth and dressed herself, they heard Ursula’s key turn in the door. She looked calm and rested. More beautiful than either of them would ever remember her.

“I was slain in the spirit,” she said.

Ever so slowly and tenderly, Dennis approached her, almost as though he were trying to capture a butterfly. Ursula remained motionless as he drew her against his quivering body and whispered something in her ear that Tessa strained to hear. She knew it had something to do with her because her mother nodded and walked purposefully to her side and kneeled.

“Did you eat?” she said.

“Daddy made pancakes,” Tessa said.

“That’s good.” Ursula kissed her swiftly on the lips. Tessa liked the taste of her mother’s lipstick. “Everything will be all right,” Ursula said. “You’ll see. Everything will be all right.”

She was repeating the words Dennis had told her to say, but they were enough to console Tessa. She was just a little girl, and her mother was home. Nothing else mattered. Not even the feeling of dread she had experienced earlier when she touched her father’s palm. The feeling was almost identical to the one she felt when she held her mother’s hand for too long, like a warning burned into Tessa’s own heart, a scar that would never heal.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Phyllis.  We wish you much success!

 Thank you. Please enjoy the trailer for The Manicurist!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ise5V2QXe8o

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Four Guidelines for Writing Characters with Character: Guest Post by Joseph Garraty

Four Guidelines for Writing Characters with Character

By Joseph Garraty

There are a million writers out there, each with his or her own particular skill. Some authors are plot authors. They can weave dozens of threads seamlessly together into a tight, slick story, propelled by events to a perfectly-executed climax. Most thriller authors fall into this category. Other authors are great at theme and symbolism, weaving hidden layers of meaning into every sentence. Still others excel at description, action, dialogue, or symbolism—everybody’s got their strong points, and readers gravitate to different authors for different reasons.

Me, I’m a character guy. If the characters are believable and interesting, I don’t even care whether they’re sympathetic or not—I want to know about them. I want to know what happens to them, how they react, what choices they make, and why.

The trick for me as a writer, then, has been figuring out how to make my characters believable and interesting, and while there’s always more to learn, I like to think I’ve got a few pieces in place.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1. Characters have to want something.

There is no escaping this. Reading about a character who wants nothing is like reading about a lump of mashed potatoes. It’s kind of bland, sits there and does nothing, and tends to get pushed around by whomever wants to push it around. A character has to have goals. Those goals can be as simple as “I would very much like to survive until tomorrow,” or as bizarre as “I really need a plasmicophic ferangulator for my time machine so I can go back and prevent my great-grandfather from flirting with Ms. Enderlein back in 1927 and thereby save civilization,” but they absolutely must have them.

Why? Because. . .

2. Characters have to do something.

This is associated with #1, but it doesn’t follow by necessity. Big Pete might want Skeezy Al to stop hitting on his sister, but he could just sit back and watch, waiting for the problem to resolve itself. However, if that’s all he ever does, he’s not going to be very believable or interesting. Eventually he’s gotta do something about it. Maybe he blows up Skeezy Al’s car, hires a few thugs to beat him up, or even goes over and nicely asks him to please knock it off—but his motivation has to translate into action. In other words, things don’t just happen to him—he makes some things happen.

3. Characters have to have personalities.

This does not mean you have to draw up a seven-page dossier on your character’s likes and dislikes, make up a dating site profile for them, or make them extreme caricatures. It just means you should have some idea of what they like, how their moral framework is structured, and what aggravates them. These things will color their actions, maybe even drive them. (And look—we’re back at actions again, not sitting around rummaging through somebody’s internal monologue.) I don’t have a clue what Stacy’s favorite color is, but I know she can’t abide the smell of sauerkraut, which will cause her to flee the sinister German grandmother in Chapter Twelve. That’s overly simplistic, but you get the idea.

4. Characters have to be true to their personalities.

I don’t care if you need Loretta to push Cletus off the building to his death in Chapter Six in order for the plot to work—if you’ve painted Loretta as a real sweetheart, harmless as a teddy bear, for the first five chapters, nobody’s going to buy her sudden change of character. The same is true of the half-sloshed dockworker hanging with his buddies late one night—he’s going to drop a few f-bombs, or a few dozen, regardless of whether you think your mom will disapprove when she reads your book. You and your mom are going to have to get over it, unless you’re content to populate your book with washed-out characters that have been robbed of all verisimilitude.

Your characters must act like themselves, not automatons in service to the plot, nor censored versions of themselves in service to the local bluenoses. That’s not their job.

And that’s about it. There’s a lot of room to play within those guidelines, but if you give your characters goals and personalities and have them act consistently with those goals and personalities, you’re already well on your way.

Good luck!

Joseph Garraty is an author of dark fantasy, horror, and science fiction. He has worked as a construction worker, rocket test engineer, environmental consultant, technical writer, and deadbeat musician. He lives in Dallas, Texas.

His latest book is the horror novel, Voice.

You can visit his website at www.josephgarraty.com.

Connect with Joseph at Twitter at www.twitter.com/JosephGarraty.

 

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