Wednesday, November 29, 2017

7 Questions For: Author Marina Weber

Marina Weber has been a passionate activist since she was six. Marina plays herself in the story of her debut children’s book – The Global Warming Express. She believes in righting wrongs and in helping others to be heard, seen, and assisted. She is also fearless and single-minded when it comes to completing her quest, and was instrumental in establishing The Global Warming Express nonprofit organization.

Listen to a recent interview with Marina for Radio Café.

Find The Global Warming Express on: Goodreads, IndieBound, Amazon

Click here to read my review of The Global Warming Express.

And now Marina Weber faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

1. Harry Potter series - I totally fell in love with it when I first read it and I now own all the movies and books and know most of the dialogue by heart. I still love the series and I read it over and over again.

2. Percy Jackson taught me everything I know about Roman and Greek mythology in a really great way and it is helping me so much now.

3. Little Women - this is such a classic book which I love because it is sort of old fashioned but it is a classic and it's something that always reminds me to be grateful for what I have.

Question Six: How much time do you spend each week writing? Reading?

I write every day either in a journal or typing on my phone just putting down my thoughts for the day like a diary. I find that this helps me so that my mind is less cluttered. Currently I am not reading anything as I have just started high school and haven’t had the time. However, I absolutely love reading. This past summer I went through two books a week and I would read a lot more if I had the time. For me, writing is a huge part of my life even when it isn't for a purpose. I just love writing in general.

Question Five: What was the path that led you to publication?

It all started when I was in third grade when my best friend, Joanna Whysner, and I decided to write a children's book from the animal's perspective on climate change. I did most of the writing and she did the illustrations. Through elementary school we worked on it, and then the summer before we both went into 7th grade we finished it. At that point we were so involved in school and extracurriculars that our parents took it upon themselves to find us a good editor, and then spent their time finding a publisher. It wasn't by any means easy, but over the course of almost six years we got it done. It was a life accomplishment.

Question Four: Do you believe writers are born, taught or both? Which was true for you?

I believe both. I believe that if you have the passion to write then you can become amazing at it. If you really want to do something, then you can do it with practice. I personally have always loved writing and even writing essays is fun for me. I feel like I was born to write even though through the years I have become interested in other things as well. I feel that I have a talent when it comes to writing and writing has helped me through some of the hardest times in my life and I’m so happy I found a writing path.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about writing? What is your least favorite thing?

My favorite thing is being able to express my feeling without anyone judging me as well as just uncluttering my mind. For me writing is like dancing. Like all my problems can go away when I am writing. Writing also really helps me when I am going through a hard time and somehow putting down my thoughts makes me feel better.

But sometimes it's hard. Writing isn't easy all the time and sometimes finding the right words can be the hardest thing and it's not always terribly fun, but it's worth it to see the end result.

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

I would want to tell them that it's not going to be easy when you start but once you find your passion and what you want to write about it all just comes together. I think that writers, after a while, see the world differently than other people and (this is true for me) when a certain situation comes up or I am looking at a beautiful landscape I feel that I narrate it and make a story out of it while it's happening. Being a writer is so great and if you really want to be a writer then you can do it.

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

J. K Rowling. She is such an inspiration to me and she wrote seven of my favorite books. I think that she is such an incredible person and she stands up for what she believes in. She persevered writing her books even when it was hard and I admire her so much for that. Writing a bestselling book, let alone seven of the most well-known books in the world is huge. She is such an amazing writer and I adore her so much.

“A memorable book. A modern-day fable sounding the alarm about the very real challenge of climate change.”
—Tom Udall, U.S. Senator for New Mexico

“Marina is an incredibly talented author. I admire her and Joanna’s passion for combatting climate change. Great writing comes from great thinking, and these girls have a great future ahead. We must all get onboard the Global Warming Express!” —Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader, U.S. House of Representatives

The Global Warming Express
Story by Marina Weber // Pictures by Joanna Whysner
Foreword by U.S. Senator Tom Udall
Terra Nova Books (
Ages 8+ // $14.95-Paperback 

Monday, November 27, 2017

Book of the Week: THE GLOBAL WARMING EXPRESS by Marina Weber

First Paragraph(s): On a warm, sunny spring afternoon at the Penguin Burial Ground on the shore of Queen Maud Land, Antarctica, a young emperor penguin named The Fluff wept for his mother. She had died after swallowing a piece of plastic floating in the ocean
After the funeral, his colony offered their sympathies and departed, leaving The Fluff alone, sitting on a rock and gazing out to sea. He remembered sitting on this same rock when he was much younger, on a cold, sunny spring day when they had buried his grandfather. Now the rock was underwater, and the sun felt hot on his back.

Make sure you find your way back here on Wednesday, Esteemed Reader, as Marina Weber will become the second youngest author in the history of this blog to face the 7 Questions, provided she's not too put off by some of the potentially offensive things I'm about to say (many of them quoted directly from her book).

Also, be warned, there will be some necessary politics involved in this review. Unavoidable. But it won't be all doom and gloom.  I promise to get cheerier before the end of the post.

Did you have yourself a good Thanksgiving, Esteemed Reader? Did you get yourself some delicious turkey, or at least some pumpkin pie? The ninja is now old enough to be considered one of the adults (when the heck did that happen!?!) and so was put in charge of cooking a ham. It was a big responsibility and I'm happy to report all 12 pounds of it were slow cooked over half a day to tender perfection and eaten by happy family members, which was enormously gratifying.

Did you sit around munching a bajillion calories and discussing politics?

Did your crazy uncle go off about how the red team is the best because although he himself is absolutely not a racist or a misogynist (how could you even think that!?!), he was happy to vote for one and wear that stupid MAGA hat that might as well be a white hood and now he's tired of winning?

Did your sloshed aunt counter with how the blue team is the best because a rigged primary process in a supposedly democratic system isn't actually that big a deal and outraged Bernie Bros should just shut up about it already (to heck with the will of the people!)?

Did anyone fret about that infamous joint study by professors from Princeton and Northwestern University, which demonstrated that from 1981 to 2002, congressional votes cast over those 20 years aligned with the popular opinion of average Americans less than eighteen percent of the time, ultimately concluding that "the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy?"

Me, I'm happy to report no politics were discussed over my succulent ham. In fact, I've been trying to read the news no more than once a day as recent politics make me so angry I shake with rage before I fall into despair that this is what's happened to the country I love.

Thankfully, Esteemed Reader, this blog is focused on the reading and writing of middle grade fiction. If there's anyplace where we can get a respite from politics, it's here. And today we're discussing a lovely story written and illustrated by two girls at the age of nine about some animals riding a magic train. Surely there could be nothing political about so innocuous a story. 

Except, the last thing The Global Warming Express intends to be is innocuous.

Alas, there is no way to discuss The Global Warming Express without discussing politics at least a little. After all, the book has a forward by Senator Tom Udall (I'd be curious to know how many non political middle grade books he's written a forward for). And there's a blurb on the back from Nancy Pelosi. And one of the most prominent locations in the story is the White House.

Make no mistake, Esteemed Reader, The Global Warming Express is a political book and it absolutely has an agenda. Not that that's a bad thing. Despite the adorable characters of a penguin and a harp seal, this is a story about a very urgent matter:

"I remember you!" Creamy cried loudly. "You had feathers sticking out all over you!"
"Yeah, that's why my dad named me The Fluff." then he said, "Can you help me? I need help. My land needs help. You need help!"

These characters make no bones about the fact that they are absolutely on a political mission, as are the book's author and illustrator (literally):

"We are going to Washington, D.C., to tell the president he needs to do something about global warming. At least, I think that's where we're heading. This train seems to have a mind of its own!"

The Global Warming Express is a fun and charming book that I absolutely recommend, even to readers who believe global warming is a hoax. Actually, I especially recommend it to those sorts of readers as they most need to hear Marina Weber's and Joanna Whysner's urgent message.

In an ideal world, global warming wouldn't be a political issue. The science is in and it is conclusive. This is an issue that must be addressed whether you prefer to be lied to on other issues by the politicians on the red side of the aisle or the blue one.

Unfortunately, the kind of broad sweeping changes necessary to combat global warming require actions be taken by our officials. Individual citizens can only do so much, but we must demand a better response to global warming from those in charge. The Global Warming Express is about citizens (and animals) doing just that. 

In that way, The Global Warming Express is in part a political pamphlet. That's not to say it's an entirely political book, which is why I'm going to make one more observation and then we're going to leave politics behind to focus on other aspects of the novel.

The president our heroes are voyaging to see is never directly named, nor is that president's face shown in the one illustration of him. But his hand is shown and it's clearly an African American's hand, which narrows down the options of which of our presidents is represented to exactly one (at the time of this review, anyway). In my own middle grade book, Banneker Bones receives a phone call from a president, who is also not named, but who I always thought of as an Obama type.

If I wrote Banneker Bones and the Giant Robot Bees today, I don't know that I'd feature a president character as the office has so recently been sullied and my perception of that office has forever changed. The Global Warming Express was published in March of last year and written well before that. There is a captivating innocence to this tale of two girls and a bunch of animals earnestly believing that if they can just get their message to be heard by the leader of the country, cooler heads and obvious truths will prevail and action will be taken to stop global warming.

And so, the inevitable question I found myself asking as I read this book that was not intended by its creators, but which is forced to forefront all the same: would two nine-year-old girls writing a similar book today have such faith that reaching the current madman occupying the White House would result in a positive change? I don't know, can't know, but it's a depressing and troubling thought.

All right then, let's pivot away from the roaring Trumpster fire that is our present government and talk more about this book. It's not all doom and gloom. I did tell you there's a magic train, right:

Peering through the grimy window panes of the shed, they saw the train shake and shiver. They watched decades of dust and rust fall off its body until the old steam engine seemed to sparkle. Then the shed itself began to shake and rattle. The Fluff and Creamy were shaking and rattling too as they watched the train double in size before their eyes! Beautiful rainbow bubbles and fluttering butterflies filled the shed, and with a crash! the big doors flew open and the train moved into the clear moonlit night, stopping in front of the two friends.

Even more fun, the author and the illustrator are characters in this book, sort of like Kurt Vonnegut and Kilgore Trout meeting up in Breakfast of Champions (thanks Vonneguys!) to personally discuss some of the novels' themes, but way more fun and middle grade appropriate:

"Oh," Marina said, "it's smoke from a forest fire. We've always had fires in the summer; but in recent years, there have been more. Joanna, it smells like your dad is cooking breakfast!"

Joanna smiled. "It's because global warming is causing terrible droughts in this area," she said, serious again. "New Mexico has been in a drought for years."

The girls are extremely concerned about what's happening to their own environment and the environment of all the animals. And where are the icecaps going?

Much of the meat of The Global Warming Express is a dialogue between the girls and the many other passengers about the environmental impacts of mankind's actions. The book is very well researched and keeps its story moving while deftly weaving in the information readers need to know to appreciate our precarious situation:

"That's true," Marina replied. "The Earth has already warmed by about 0.8 degrees in the past century, and that causes a lot of damage."
"It doesn't sound like very much," interrupted Sally. "Isn't 0.8 even less that 1?"
"Well, that's in Celsius measurement; it's 1.5 degrees in Fahrenheit, the temperatures we're used to," Marina said.
"But 1.5. Isn't that less than 2, but for the Earth, even one degree is a big deal! It's like if my body's temperature went up two degrees...."
"Your mom would take you to the doctor!" Joanna said.
"That's called a fever," Marina added, "and right now, the Earth has a fever. If it keeps getting sicker like this, most of the animals and plants that live on it are going to die."

Learning about global warming is certainly not the only reason to read this book. You regular Esteemed Readers who want to write fiction for a middle grade audience should absolutely pick up a copy of The Global Warming Express to see what sort of story your target reader wants to tell when they're the ones doing the telling.

Something I at first found off putting about this book, and then found endearing, is the fact that most of the characters are Batman, by which I mean no one has any parents left alive. You'll remember that very first paragraph before I brought up all that political stuff finds our hero, The Fluff, weeping for his mother who died choking on a piece of plastic. Well, he's far from the only one who's lost his parents:

Creamy was a harp seal. Like all harp seals, Creamy had been left on the ice where she was born off eastern Greenland when she was only twelve days old. She wasn't ready to swim yet when, because of global warming, the ice she was on melted too early. She would have drowned if two kind-hearted wildlife biologists hadn't found her in the water and rescued her. They sent her to the zoo in San Diego, California, and now she would never see her parents again.

"Well, I'm not sure. I'm Flora. Um, can I join you?" she asked. "I don't have any family left." She hung her head. "And I'm really hungry!"
"Oh my!" The Fluff said. "Of course you can! None of us has any family left."

The purpose, I suspect, is to demonstrate the catastrophic effects of global warming in a way that's deeply personal to our heroes. And in this, it is effective. The reason I find it endearing is that I'm sort of touched by the thought that the worst possible things two nine-year-old girls could think of happening was the loss of family. And I can't say as how they're wrong. I'm a lot older and that's certainly one of the worst things I can think of happening as well.

And despite my distaste for any political news that isn't politicians in handcuffs (go Mueller, go!), I'm going to have to pay attention to politics. You too, Esteemed Reader. There's too much at stake not to.

And the great thing about The Global Warming Express is that's it not just a book. It's a movement among young people:

The Global Warming Express
isn't nearly as cynical as the ninja. This is a tool to motivate young people (and adults) to get political. We don't have a choice. As distasteful as our present politics may be, we all have to live here and we need a here to live.

Despair is exactly how the worst of our current elites is would prefer we react to a system so clearly corrupt and broken, because despair promotes inaction. But remember, this is a country where slavery was once legal and gay marriage was not. Political change can and must come. So have a good cry if you must, but then get active. For as The Fluff says,  "I need help. My land needs help. You need help!"

And that's where we'll leave it for now. As always, I'll leave you with some of my favorite passages from The Global Warming Express:

As he neared the shore, he knew he was a long way from home but a lot closer to his dear Creamy. Hungry, worried, and suddenly feeling very warm, The Fluff tied up his boat and went looking for air conditioning and a cold shower.

Inside the house, Marina woke her friend Joanna. "I think there's something outside," she whispered.
"Uuuhhh... lee me lone," yawned Joanna.

"Now, energy companies are looking for other, more difficult ways to get at fossil fuels, like drilling deep in the ocean and in remote natural preserves."
"I know what preserves are. Yum!" Joanna said.
With a deep sigh, Inoah corrected her: "Not that kind! We're talking about land that is preserved, kept safe, and treasured. Get it?"

"And some people still don't agree that all this human activity is causing this fast warming!" Joanna said.
"Well, it certainly isn't animal activity," squeaked Sally.

STANDARD DISCLAIMER: Book of the Week is simply the best book I happened to read in a given week. There are likely other books as good or better that I just didn’t happen to read that week. Also, all reviews here will be written to highlight a book’s positive qualities. It is my policy that if I don’t have something nice to say online, I won’t say anything at all (usually). I’ll leave you to discover the negative qualities of each week’s book on your own. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

GUEST POST: "Objects with Secrets, Settings that Excite, Cultures that Expand" by Donald Willerton

I was in an antique store and found an old camel-backed trunk. It was a well-made trunk and in good condition, but it was locked. I could not get it open. I asked the owner of the store if he had a key and he said no. I asked if he had ever opened the trunk and he said no. Did he know what was inside? No. 
I almost bought the trunk. Not because I needed a trunk or wanted a trunk, but because it was locked. That missing key spoke of mystery, intrigue, and a barrier between what I knew and what I wanted to know.
I was helping remodel an old Victorian house once, repairing a ceiling that required me to cut away some of the original plaster. Having opened a medium-sized hole, I could see along the floor joists of the room above. In between two of those joists, using my flashlight, I found a cigar box. Now, I knew that in the late 1890s, the third floor room above me had been the poker room where the Judge (the owner of the house) had held his Friday night poker sessions with some other dignitaries in the town.
So, there’s a cigar box that’s been hidden for a hundred years or so. It made sense that it had gotten there through a loose floorboard that the Judge had probably hid under a rug. I was betting that he stored his winnings in that box; or maybe a matched set of Derringers; or even a title to land that he had won from the local lawyer.
I tore down half the ceiling getting to that cigar box.
It was empty.
That’s the power of curiosity (augmented with too much imagination).

I am also curious about empty or abandoned houses. If the doors are locked, I have to look in the windows.
If I’m in a house with an attic, I start looking for the stairway.
If I find a box that’s taped up, I have to look in it.
If I find a jar with a lid and the lid is not only screwed on, but has tape over it, I really want to know what’s in the jar.
If I was to find an abandoned, closed coffin (I haven’t found one, yet, but considering if I did), I would want to open it and look inside. Every fiber of my being would tell me not to mess with an abandoned, closed coffin, but I would still want to open it and look inside. I wouldn’t do damage or anything, but if it had a ziplock top, or was wrapped in bungy cords, or something easy to undo, I’d take a deep breath and look inside.
Okay, so my point here is that I am curious about things that pose mystery or intrigue or, in the broad sense, that hide from me something that I might want to know. 
I am naturally curious and believe that lots of people are also naturally curious. I at least hope they are.
Which means that if you write a book and there's an interesting object in it – a hidden cigar box, a treasure map with cryptic markings, a coded message in a bottle, an unmarked path leading through a deeply wooded forest, a locomotive that’s heard passing in the night but can’t be found the next day, someone who’s murdered in a room where all the windows and doors are locked from the inside, a cave or a tunnel or an empty sewer pipe (I have a problem with tight spaces, so I ain’t goin’ in there, but I will still be curious), an old man’s cane that contains a sword, a drawing that shows a strange creature, but whose description is half missing, a deserted island where you find footprints – then you have an advantage over me.
I will read your book just because I’m curious about that object or that situation and will want to find out the resolution of my curiosity.
Well, I shouldn’t be overly gracious – I’ll start your book because I’m curious. You need to hurry up and take advantage of my curiosity, though; I’m not waiting forever.
The same thing happens for me with settings that involve vast landscapes, but it’s not so much that I am naturally curious about landscapes as it is that I am naturally drawn in by unique landscapes and the inherent feelings that they bring out: a sense of awe and wonder, a realization of beauty, a longing to absorb something vast, the natural admiration of those who venture into those landscapes. If the setting of a book involves a place that kindles my imagination, I will naturally want to read the book. I’ll want to experience that setting and involve myself in it.

Adventuring in wilderness is like that. I’ve been on the tops of high mountains, in deep valleys, down rushing rivers, in and on oceans, on islands, deep in barren canyon lands, and have fished in remote lakes that I had to hike to - places that made me feel alone and solitary, places that made me feel isolated and vulnerable and at risk. There’s intrigue in being alone and being at risk, and I like intrigue. It means that I’m about to learn something that I didn’t know. Or maybe learn that I want something that I didn’t know I wanted.
Being in wilderness places, or being read into wilderness places that readers have likely never been, brings imagination and expectation and mental experimentalism (stick with me, here). If the place brings out those dimensions of emotion – the awe, the wonder, the feeling-of-being-overwhelmed, then something happens inside that reader that’s even more impressive – delight in the surroundings, joy in feeling treated to something special, humility at something so big.
A writer who draws a reader into a setting that elicits those emotions has a built-in advantage in dealing with the reader.
Let me go back to mental experimentalism. A different word is dreams. You wouldn’t guess it, but I was right behind Jack London when he was trying to get that fire going. I was in the sled behind those hard-charging dogs and felt the sharp edge of life in the bitter cold. I pondered the three-pipe problem with Holmes, and I sat in the chair next to the fire trying to figure out who the murderer was on the island that held only ten of us.
I loved what I read so much that I dreamed of being there.
That’s the power of objects that entice, the power of settings, the power of good writing, and the power of stories that are, if nothing else, interesting
Let me throw in another: the power of an unfamiliar culture. That’s a harder thing to quantify with regard to giving a writer an advantage, but if expressed in terms of identity, it gets more manageable.
Everyone has a sense of place. Where we grew up is typically what we mean, though adoptions also work. We grow up seeing a certain landscape, dealing with certain types of people who behave in certain ways. We are schooled in certain values with expectations that reflect those values. History also usually plays a part: we are told about our ancestors, about our village, about belonging not to just our local environment, but about being invested with a lineage that makes us part of them.
That sense of place is our culture. It is our identity – it is who we are.
Now, if that is our culture, then understanding unfamiliar cultures includes understanding their place, their ancestors, their values, etc. That’s hard to do, but if a story is told that reflects that culture – that describes the place, people, times, values, etc. – then the reader is drawn naturally into that different culture without suffering under a command that they should do because “you’ll learn something”.
You want to see a great job at this, read Eudora Welty’s The Optimist’s Daughter.

Again, the writer can gain advantage by portraying a culture in such a way that the reader naturally gravitates to internalizing and comparing that culture to their own. They see an identity that is not theirs, but that cultural divide becomes interesting in its own right. You might say that the reader is allowed to be naturally curious about different cultures without having it forced on them.
I’m a sucker for cooking shows that take place in other countries and other cultures. I love to eat, but it is clear entertainment to watch people eat with their fingers. My kingdom for a napkin! Were these people raised in a barn? Well, not any more than I was, but their culture is a mix of things that are far beyond what little towns in north Texas typically had. And, who would have thought, they also eat goats and snakes and iguanas and bugs and all sorts of stuff that I never imagined on a menu, and they love it like crazy. Seeing them enlarges me and my acceptance of what they do. It’s interesting enough that I don’t even change channels during commercials.
Okay, I’m wandering a little, so let me get back to my point: If a writer uses interesting objects that have naturally secretive overtones, unique settings that reflect naturally emotional dimensions that brings out passion in the reader, and different cultures in opposition to our own that naturally produce interest, that writer gains a natural leverage in writing his story; it will draw in readers more easily, make the reader more ready to listen, and create an environment that the reader will be more naturally attuned to believe in.
Why do I think about things like this and why would I write a blog about them? Because I write books that use these elements and I need affirmation that my principles are good. My principles don’t ride roughshod over good plots, good characters, good pace, good grammar, etcetera, but I want my stories to be powerfully grounded because I want the effect of my stories to be powerfully won.
I write middle-grade mysteries that take place in different locations in the Southwest (Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona), involve my characters in adventures that happen in some pretty fantastic landscapes (remote desert canyons, wilderness rivers, high mountain peaks, hundred thousand acre cattle ranches, Georgia O’Keefe’s backyard), with mysteries based on secretive objects (a mysterious key, a trunk with a hidden bottom, stolen strongboxes of gold, a quilt with a secret code, a missing volcano), and involving cultures as diverse as the Navajo Nation, Native American Pueblos, Hispanics, Comanche Indians, Russians during the Cold War, and Californians.

I want to write stories that are not just mysteries, but are interesting stories, in interesting places, with interesting people. That approach gives me leverage in writing and I want as much leverage as possible in getting middle-grade boys and girlsto love reading my books.

Donald Willerton is the author of The Mogi Franklin Mysteries middle-grade series. After earning a degree in physics from Midwestern State University in Texas and a master’s in computer science and electrical engineering from the University of New Mexico, he worked for Los Alamos National Laboratory for almost three decades. During his career there, Willerton was a supercomputer programmer for a number of years and a manager after that for “way too long,” and also worked on information policy and cyber-security. Donald Willerton lives in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

The Mogi Franklin Mystery series is a collection of middle-grade mysteries set in locations throughout the Southwest. Bold and clever in their design, young people will find themselves caught up in the country, the history, and the characters as Mogi battles the legends of the past to solve the mysteries of today. 

Three new books in the series are releasing from Terra Nova Books in November 2017:
Book 3: The Secret of La Rosa (ISBN: 978-1-938288-87-6)
Book 4: The Hidden River (ISBN: 978-1-938288-80-7)
Book 5: The Lake of Fire (ISBN: 978-1-938288-89-0)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

7 Questions For: Public Relations Expert Fauzia Burke

Fauzia Burke is the founder and president of FSB Associates, an online publicity and marketing firm specializing in creating awareness for books and authors. She's the author of Online Marketing for Busy Authors (Berrett-Koehler Publishers). Fauzia has promoted the books of authors such as Alan Alda, Arianna Huffington, Deepak Chopra, Melissa Francis, S. C. Gwynne, Mika Brzezinski, Charles Spencer and many more. A nationally recognized speaker and online branding expert, she has contributed to Fast Company, Huffington Post, MindBodyGreen and more.

For online marketing, book publishing and social media advice, follow Fauzia on Twitter (@FauziaBurke) and Facebook (Fauzia S. Burke). For more information on the book, please visit:

And Now Fauzia Burke faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

The entire Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
The Alchemist by Paolo Coehlo

Question Six: Could you give us your take on a strategy to market one of your three favorite books if it were being published this year?

I would have loved working on Wonder, one of my favorite books and one that is getting a nice bump with the upcoming release of the movie starring Julia Roberts. FSB specializes in online marketing and publicity, so I would work to target blogs/websites for reviews and features, specifically in the middle grade, parenting, and education communities. I’d ask author R.J. Palacio to write several guest posts we could shop around for coverage, and I’d also pitch her to podcasts for increased reach.

Question Five: What are the typical services you provide and what results can an author reasonably expect?

My company, FSB Associates, is a digital marketing firm specializing in creating online visibility for books and authors. Leveraging over 20 years of experience, we provide a complete solution for our clients, from executing organic and customized online publicity campaigns, to designing websites, to developing social media engagement strategies. I also do consulting work with authors to help them build their online platforms.

My hope is that any author working with my team sees an increase in their online exposure. And that this exposure leads to more sales!

Question Four: What sort of author and/or project(s) would you most like to work with?

I love working with authors who are motivated and want to be a partner.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about what you do? What is your least favorite thing?

I am so lucky to say that I truly love my job! I get to work with smart, interesting people on a daily basis and help bring their great ideas and words to a large audience. There is really nothing better.

My least favorite thing is delivering bad news—when a less than stellar review comes in for a book, it breaks my heart.

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to a writer marketing their book? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

Start early! Many authors come to me seeking advice a few weeks before publication, but I recommend authors begin building their online platforms (social media, blogging, website, etc.) at least 18-24 months before their book releases. It sounds like a long time, but you need that time to build your audience and cull your superfans.

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

George R. R. Martin because I want all the spoilers and I have so many questions :) Can you tell I’m a Game of Thrones fan?

Friday, November 10, 2017

NINJA STUFF: Indy Author Fair 2017 Genre Writing Panel

Do you like a great podcast, Esteemed Reader? Me too. Especially the Kurt Vonneguys.

I've been wanting to start my own podcast, but there are only so many hours in a day. Still, it's something I may revisit when Little Ninja is older and no longer chattering and yelling in the background of every phone conversation I have:) Wouldn't it be nice to hear me chat with writers and publishing professionals through the magic of the interwebs? I think it would. One day, Esteemed Reader, one day...

Until then, you can fulfill your biggest bucket list item of hearing my melodic voice as I chat with authors during the Genre Writing Panel from Saturday, October 14, 2017 at Central Library in Indianapolis. The video didn't quite work out, but I think the audio is lovely and deserves to be shared with the world.

So if you've got to do the dishes or some other chore, why not listen to this video and hear me chat with fellow genre writers Maurice Broaddus, Sandy James, and Tony Perona, in an event sponsored by the Indiana Writers Center. It's a great discussion and if you hear me being quiet for long stretches, its because I too wanted to hear what advice such talented authors had to share.

My sincere thanks to everyone who helped to put this event together as it was a lot of fun and I learned a lot. The Indiana Writers Center will be putting on more events and I hope to see you at the next one.

Maurice Broaddus is the author of the Knights of Breton Court trilogy, and has published dozens of short stories, essays, novellas and articles. He founded the Phoenix Arts Initiative, which encourages use of the arts for at-risk youth to express themselves. He teaches at the Indiana Writers Center

Sandy James has published numerous romance novels with Forever Yours and Carina Press, and is the recipient of two HOLT Medallions for excellence in that genre. Her indie-published romance novels have been Amazon #1 Bestsellers. She lives in suburban Indianapolis.

Tony Perona is the author of the Nick Bertetto mystery series (SECOND ADVENT, ANGELS WHISPER, and SAINTLY REMAINS), the standalone thriller THE FINAL MAYAN PROPHECY, and co-editor and contributor to the anthologies RACING CAN BE MURDER and HOOSIER HOOPS & HIJINKS. Tony is a member of Mystery Writers of America and has served the organization as a member of the Board of Directors and as Treasurer. He is also a member of Sisters-in-Crime.

Robert Kent is the author of numerous horror novels and stories for young people, including ALL TOGETHER NOW: A ZOMBIE STORY and BANNEKER BONES AND THE GIANT ROBOT BEES. His newest is the serial horror novel, THE BOOK OF DAVID. You're at his website right now. If you really want to know more about him, why not check out his bio page:)

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

GUEST POST: "Building a Writing Career with Freelancing" by Danica Davidson

My first official writing job was working for the local paper when I was in twelfth grade. For years I’d tried submitting my novels for publication, but the powers that be weren’t interested in young, unknown writers. Knowing I needed to make some money and hoping I could build a platform, I started sending short stories to literary magazines like the New Yorker. Cue the rejection slips. So I called up the local paper and they were willing to take a chance on me as a freelancer.

            I wrote about whatever they sent me to cover, which, in a rural community, was usually pretty low-key, like covering tractor pulls. I found a newspaper distributed around the state that was a little more artsy and reached out to them. They were in need of writers and saw I’d already done professional work. While freelancing for them, I asked if I could interview anime voice over actors, and they said yes.

            At this time I was working two other part-time jobs, trying to make ends meet. I took the anime voice actor interviews I did and sent them to Anime Insider, a glossy anime magazine. The head editor there liked my writing and I began freelancing for them as well.

            As the years went on, I freelanced more and more until it got to the point I could stop working my part-time jobs. The best luck I had was taking something I’d already written and sending it to another magazine (or website, or whatever) that wrote something similar. Most places never wrote back. A few did after I sent a couple polite reminder emails, asking if they’d gotten my previous email. My emails would be short, respectful and to the point; I would include a few sample articles and a link to the website I had created for myself.

Here's a sample email:

Dear Ms. [Name]

I'm a writer at MTV who has a special niche in writing about and reviewing graphic novels. In addition to MTV, I've written about this subject for CNN, Publishers WeeklyBooklist and other places. All told, I've sold more than a thousand articles to more than fifty publications. I was wondering if I could contribute any freelance articles or reviews on graphic novels to [Name].
You can see some samples of my published work here:

Thank you for your time, and please let me know if you have any questions.


            Writing about anime led to jobs covering manga at Graphic Novel Reporter, Booklist and Publishers Weekly. I tried to get into MTV for a few years because of my interest in writing YA books, and no one ever got back to me. Then I saw an MTV editor who covered comic books had mutual friends on Facebook. I sent him a polite message, not expecting to hear back . . . and was shocked when he wrote back and was willing to take a look at my stuff and give me a chance. MTV turned out to be the only place where I got hired on-staff as a writer.

            None of this stopped my freelancing. The more I freelanced, the more places were willing to give me a chance (though I want to stress that most places either didn’t respond or said they had their full roster of writers and to check back later). A PR person in comic books I met suggested I reach out to someone at the A.V. Club (The Onion) after reading my articles and gave me the contact information, though I still had to pitch on my own. A recommendation through a mutual acquaintance got me into CNN. However, recommendations only got me into a few places; most of the time, it was figuratively knocking on the door myself that did it.

            Writing all these articles helped pay my bills and build me a platform. All my work on manga ended up getting me to sign my first book contract for Manga Art for Beginners, a how-to-draw guide on manga-style drawing with more steps than your average how-to-draw book. 

            After that, I sold my first Minecrafter series (adventure novels for kids that take place as if Minecraft is real): Escape from the OverworldAttack on the OverworldThe Rise of HerobrineDown into the NetherThe Armies of Herobrine and Battle with the Wither. I wrote a Barbie graphic novel called Barbie: Puppy Party, and a Tales from the Crypt comic called “Picture Perfect.” Manga Art for Intermediates comes out next year, and my Minecrafter spinoff series (same main characters, different villains and adventures) starts coming out today with the book Adventure Against the Endermen

             Freelancing isn’t easy, but I kept at it because I knew what I wanted to do and I knew it wouldn’t be simple. I’ve sold thousands of articles, and this led me to where I am today as a writer.

Danica Davidson is a novelist and journalist. She's published thousands of articles at such places as MTV, The Onion, CNN, Publishers Weekly, the Los Angeles Times and Ms. Her work at MTV earned her a Webby honor with a small group of writers for Best Youth Writing. She is represented by the James Fitzgerald Agency.

She is the author of the Overworld Adventures book series for Minecrafters, with the books Escape from the OverworldAttack on the OverworldThe Rise of HerobrineDown into the Nether, a The Armies of Herobrine and the newly released Battle with the Wither. She is also the author of Manga Art for Beginners and  Barbie: Puppy Party

Please check out her websiteher Amazon page, or follow her on Twitter @DanicaDavidson.

After discovering a portal to Earth and battling the evil Herobrine and his army of vicious mobs, Steve and his friends are known throughout the Overworld as heroes. Stevie’s enjoying the attention—that is, until he tries to show off and instead falls down a mineshaft. At the bottom of the mineshaft, Stevie finds an Ender crystal with mysterious powers.

Soon the Overworld is in danger once again, this time from vicious Endermen! Mayor Alexandra summons Stevie, Alex, Maison, Yancy, and Destiny to try and stop the attacks. When the friends investigate, they quickly realize that the Endermen are looking for something. Could it be Stevie’s Ender crystal?

Soon the group of friends—now an Overworld task force—are caught up in a battle larger than any they could have imagined. Can they protect the world of Minecraft from Endermen—and the larger threat of the crystal?

Fans of Minecraft will race to the end of this first installment in the Unofficial Overworld Heroes Adventure series by Danica Davidson!