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Bookish Banter – Featured Author – Laurel Bill

Published April 26, 2014 by Laura Crean Author

Saturday 26th April 2014

This week’s Bookish Banter is a little different.  My Featured Author, Laurel Bill is such an inspiring person I really wanted to get your attention and let her tell her amazing story, which is a story of her family’s love of history – specifically the history of their home – Alaska!  This truly is a generational story and I just hope that lots of you will see this post and be inspired as I have been.  Please share her story but most of all – enjoy it…

Bookish Banter

Feel free to introduce yourself…
Hi, I’m Laurel Downing Bill.

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Please can you tell us where you are from?
I’m a third-generation Alaskan, on both sides of my family. Great-grandfather John Couch Downing was a sea captain who piloted steamships from the West Coast up to Alaska all through the 1890, early 1900s. Great-grandfather Robert Burns Mathison arrived in 1896 and helped settle the little gold mining community of Hope, about 90 miles south of Anchorage.

I was born in Fairbanks in 1951 when Alaska was a territory of the United States. We moved to the state capital, Juneau, when Alaska became a state in 1959. I married a fisheries biologist in 1973, and he moved me to King Salmon (there were only about 350 people in the settlement and it was only accessible by air). We lived there for 23 years. I raised three children and worked as assistant general manger for the local telephone cooperative. My husband and I retired into Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage, in 1997.

 How long have you been a writer?
I became a writer late in life. When my husband and I moved to Anchorage, my sister gave me my Alaska historian aunt’s body of work. Phyllis Downing Carlson, my father’s older sister, died in 1993 and had spent her life researching and writing about Alaska’s colourful past. Her articles appeared in national publications and she won many national awards for her stories. When I saw what she had compiled, I knew I had to do something with her life’s work.

Laurel Bill headshot Vol 4 Cover

So I went to collect to get the tools I knew I needed to do the job right. I earned my degree in journalism, with a minor in history, in 2003 at the age of 52. Then I began organizing my aunt’s work chronologically. When I spotted holes in the history she had covered, I then researched and wrote stories to fill in those blanks. For instance, she had never written about Juneau and I thought the people of Southeast Alaska might be a bit miffed if their story was not included in Alaska’s history!

As I put the first book together, which features the history from early arrival of the indigenous people up to the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898, I thought that photographs would really enhance the storytelling. I searched through the archives of universities, libraries and museums to find just the right historical photos to go with the stories in that book. I ended up with more than 300 photographs that really help make the history pop!

I continued with the entertaining, short story, narrative style storytelling in my subsequent volumes in the series and each book now features close to 350 historical photographs. So far, the Aunt Phil’s Trunk Alaska history series takes readers up to 1960.

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book?
I currently am writing the fifth, and final, book in the history series. I hope to have it finished by summer 2015.

Where did the inspiration for this book come from?
I could have ended the series with Alaska becoming a state. But then people wouldn’t get “the rest of the story.” For instance, in 1964 the largest earthquake in North American history struck Alaska. I felt the stories of those who went through that disaster really needed to be told – as well as the stories of those who went through discovering the massive oil field in Prudhoe Bay in 1968, building the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline during the 1970s (through 800 miles of wilderness) and the devastating oil spill of the Exxon Valdez in Prince William Sound in1989.

Did you have to do a lot of research for your latest work or is this a field that you are already working in?
Each of my books has taken enormous amounts of time in research. Volume 5 in the series is no exception. In fact, it is taking me much more time because so many people still are alive who lived through this period in Alaska’s history. Each person has a different memory of the same event. And while their recollections help fill in some of the blanks, the actual facts of the various events must be accurate. So I spend a lot of time verifying.

Do you think your writing is improving the more you write?
Absolutely. The more one writes, the better one becomes. Practice, practice, practice!

Did you have any problems during the writing process of your latest work?
My biggest problem is finding time to write. Life just keeps intervening with family medical issues, new grandchildren being born and other life events that take me away from my research and writing. But that’s life. Remember when you were young and thought time seemed to stand still? Remember how your mother told you time would fly when you got older? She was right. Time does fly by faster as we age. And when we hit the 60s, time begins racing past at warp speed. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do all I want to do!

 Why do you feel the need to put your books out there and who do you think will benefit most from them?
I began writing the Aunt Phil’s Trunk Alaska history series as a tribute to my aunt. But as each book builds on the next, I am realizing that I am writing for the people of Alaska. This series, which has been wildly successful with ages 9 to 99, shares our common past and highlights the ups and downs of the people who made/make the Last Frontier their home. But anyone interested in Alaska enjoys these books, as well.

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How much planning goes into a book? Do you spend a long time planning or do you just start writing and see where it leads you?
Ha, ha, ha! I thought I was planning out my work when I began this project back in 2003. But I just kept coming across the most incredible stories and felt compelled to share them. My one book has turned into four, with a fifth on the way. So I guess I’ll have to say that I now just write and see where it takes me!

Do you get ideas from personal experience or from people or events around you?
Well, with the Alaska history series my ideas come from what others have done/experienced and the events of the past. I did write another book, a sourdough cookbook, in which I relied on my own experiences and experiments. Remember that gold-mining great-grandfather I told you about earlier? He may have lost his gold, but he kept his sourdough starter alive and I have it.

After my husband’s triple bypass heart surgery a couple years ago, I began baking with less sodium, sugar and fat and created incredibly tasty sourdough recipes from that starter. Sourdough itself is so healthy for our bodies. I tested my concoctions on about two-dozen folks who lived around us and tweaked the recipes until they were perfect.

The end result was a selection of recipes that include treats like cranberry chocolate cake, white chocolate cherry muffins, breads, pancakes, pizza dough and even dog biscuits. My Sourdough Cookery cookbook debuted in 2012 and comes with a dried starter that began with great-grandfather Mathison in the gold fields of Alaska in 1896.

Once Volume 5 in my series is published, I would like to write a humorous account of my life in rural Alaska based on my experiences. I had a humour column titled A Slice of Life that appeared in some Alaska newspapers a few years ago and people said I was a cross between humourists Erma Bombeck and Tom Bodett. I’m looking forward to developing that idea.

What is your experience of the Publishing industry?
I did a lot of research into publishing when I started down this path. What I found was that if a mainstream publisher decided to take on your book, which is highly unlikely, it would take years before your book went to print. I also learned that writers, in general, don’t get the big cash advances as in the past; only get a few cents off each book sold; and have to market their books themselves (unless you are a famous star or political figure).

So I decided, if I was going to spend a ton of time writing a book and have to market it myself, then I wanted to be the one to benefit financially from that effort. I began my publishing journey with an on-demand publisher. When I got the proof of the first book in December 2005, I hand carried it to all the bookstores and gift shops in Anchorage. When almost each shop pre-ordered several copies, I knew I had done something special.

But I had a problem. My cost for the on-demand book was close to $12 per book. My books would have to retail for close to $30 each to make the project profitable. Authors need to remember that bookstores take a 40- to 50-percent discount and distributors take from 50 to 60% off the retail price to sell the author’s book.

That means a book, which retails for $30, that is sold to a distributor and discounted by 60 percent, earns $12 for the author. If the author paid $12 to make the book, he/she receives nothing as a profit.

As I was driving back home with my head spinning from doing the math and relishing the shopkeepers’ compliments, I passed by a print broker and pulled in to see what that company was all about. I learned they sent out bids to printers to get good deals so authors could publish their own books.

I had the company manager send out bid requests for my book, with the only stipulation that my books had to be printed in America. I didn’t want to be responsible for another American loosing a job. And since my books are all black and white text and photos, the bids between American printers and overseas printers are quite competitive. It’s when books are full colour that there is a substantial savings with using printers from overseas.

The bids came back at such a low cost for a couple thousand, that I jumped in with both feet. I ordered 2,000 copies and was able to lower the retail cost to $19.95, which was in the ballpark for other books in its category in the stores, and I could make a little money as well.

Volume 1 in the series was such a hit, that my initial order sold out within three months. I had to order several thousand more. To date, that volume now is in its fourth printing and has sold more than 20,000 copies.

The drawbacks to becoming my own publisher and ordering large quantities of books is the initial large output of capital and having to find storage space for that many books. I rented a storage unit for a couple years, but recently moved to a house that has a big double garage.

But I have never regretted my decision to become a self-published author. With four Alaska history books, a historical puzzle book and a cookbook published so far, I am happy I chose the self-publishing route and became a publishing company. I have complete control from start to finish, the books are selling like the proverbial hotcakes and I don’t have to share my revenues with another publishing house.

Is this book a part of a series? Where is it going?
Yes, my books are in a series. Aunt Phil’s Trunk Volume 1 goes up to the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898; Volume 2 features stories from 1898 to 1912, including tales of early law and order (or lack thereof), building the Iditarod Trail and the great eruption of Novarupta that created the Valley of 10,000 Smokes; Volume 3, which covers 1912 to 1935, showcases the Alaska Railroad, Anchorage, the Matanuska Valley (where giant vegetables grow) and the fatal airplane crash of famous aviator Wiley Post and humourist Will Rogers near Barrow; and Volume 4, from 1935 to 1960, is filled with stories from World War II, the Cold War and Alaska’s struggle for statehood.

Have you had some good reviews for your book?
The reviews for my series have been amazing. Our local NBC station in Anchorage interviewed me for five hours! The resulting 7-1/2-minute news story was aired in three different time slots. Several newspapers across the state also have interviewed me and many have reviewed the books over the years – they all gave 5-star reviews.

Also, last year, Midwest Review gave my books a thumbs up and Volume 4 received finalist status in the Eric Hoffer Excellence in Independent Publishing contest. That’s a huge honour.

But for me, the best reviews come from my readers. They absolutely love the series. I have a list of several thousand who are patiently awaiting the arrival of Volume 5!

Your favourite Author is…
This is going to date me … my favourite author is Agatha Christie. I love murder mysteries.

What do you do to wind down?

I like to swim, golf and play with my grandchildren.

Do you belong to a friendly writers group and does it help?
Yes, I do belong to a local writers’ group in Anchorage. It’s always a good idea to surround yourself with other authors and bounce ideas off each other.

 What is you experience of editing and polishing your manuscripts?
During my last two years of college (2002-2003), I accepted a position as a copy editor with a newspaper company that printed seven weekly newspapers for villages across Alaska. I got quite good over the five years I spent editing news, feature, business and human-interest stories. I learned what bad and good writing was at that job. However, just like physicians should not treat themselves, a writer should not be his/her own copy editor.

I hire a professional copy editor to go over my manuscripts. It is money well spent.

 Any tips for all our budding authors out there wondering how to get started?
First, I would advise any budding authors to dig deep and discover their motives. If they want fame and fortune, then the writing world is probably not the path to take. If you just can’t help yourself and find you must write to feel whole, then you are on the right path.

It’s been said that there is a book inside each and every person. But while many folks say they want to write a book, few actually do. The prospect of filling a book with thousands of words is daunting.

However if you write a few words a day, pretty soon you will have many pages filled. Start with an idea and flush it out with an outline. Be flexible. Revise and rewrite often. Then share your work. Find a writer’s group. Many bookstores are the meeting place for writing groups. By sharing your work with others you will see how your creation is received – like a test group. And please hire a copy editor – not your mother, spouse or friend. A good copy editor is worth his/her weight in literature gold.

When your manuscript is close to finished, check out forums online to see what others are doing for publishing. There are several groups of published authors out there who are happy to share tricks of the trade and help up-and-coming authors avoid publishing pitfalls. LinkedIn has several groups, including book marketing, book review sharing and more.

Link city – as many as you need to guide us round your historical internet trail…
To learn more about my Aunt Phil’s Trunk Alaska history series, go to http://www.AuntPhilsTrunk.com

To read my Alaska history blog, check http://www.AuntPhilsTrunk/Alaska-history-blog/

To join my fan page on Facebook, where I share cool historical photographs and tidbits about the 49th state, go to http://www.Facebook.com/LaurelBillAuthor and “Like” my page

To follow me on Twitter, my handle is http://www.Twitter.com/LaurelBill

To follow my Pinterest boards, head to http://www.Pinterest.com/LaurelBill

Other connections: http://www.LinkedIn.com/LaurelBill, http://www.plus.google.com/+LaurelBill and you can always email me at auntphilstrunk@gmail.com

Thank you so much  for joining us here on the ‘Bookish Banter’ Laurel and taking time out to give us such an interesting insight into your writing world.  It’s been an absolute pleasure having you guide us around the historical trail of your family’s  and of course Alaska’s very colourful history.  Please come back and keep us updated on your wonderful series of history books.
Xx Laura Crean xX

Powerful Messages via the Magic of Music

Published April 25, 2014 by Laura Crean Author

When you start surfing through You Tube you never quite know where it’s going to take you. This was my journey today – George Harrison, Cat Stevens, Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins. Music is a magic that teaches the soul to sing and can heal a broken spirit…

Join me again for more journeys through music…

Bookish Banter – Featured Author – James McAllister

Published April 19, 2014 by Laura Crean Author

Saturday 19th April 2014

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Bookish Banter is proud to present today’s Featured Author…

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James McAllister

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Welcome to the Bookish Banter James.  Please tell us from which part of the universe you have travelled from? Sector 7?  The Dark rift … just kidding…I hope gulp!

I was born and raised in Syracuse, in Central New York State. I say it that way to avoid the idea that I am from New York City. Syracuse is nothing like New York City. Sometimes that is a good thing, some times not so good.

How long have you been writing about adventures off world?

I started writing in 2011, and published my first novel, THE BEST LAID PLANS Birth of the Starclan, in June of 2012. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. In junior high school I wrote a book for an assignment. It was about a sailor in WWII who survived Pearl Harbour and served through the end of the war. I think some one stole it and made it into a movie around 2001. With extensive re-writing, of course.

HeHeHe I hear you.  I sometimes think famous authors and Movie producers are stalking me and stealing all my best ideas! :O

Are you promoting a particular book at the present time?

I have four books out right now, three novels and one short story compilation.  The novels are THE PAGE, a story about a heroic knight fighting to rid the post-Arthurian world of dragons, THE TURRET Starclan Foundation, the first Starclan Series book, and THE BEST LAID PLANS Birth of the Starclan, the second Starclan Series book.

 

The Starclan books are a multi-generational story about one family’s contribution to the struggle of good vs. evil on a universal scale. There will be at least two more books in the series.

The compilation consists of 17 short stories I wrote as exercises in airports and hotel rooms, trying to tell a story in two pages or less. My inspiration was the wonderful Twilight Zone episodes I watched growing up.

I am reading The Page at the moment and I will definitely have a book review follow up here on the Bookish Banter soon.  I am enjoying it immensely. 🙂 

What genre do you consider you write in – just Sci-fi or do you write other genres as well?

The Page is a Fantasy book, the others are Science Fiction. I have the beginnings of two more that cross into Action/Adventure and Suspense/Mystery and perhaps even Horror. I write first, and then categorize the work when it is done. Sometimes I struggle with that part!

Yes, I agree, it can sometimes be difficult knowing what genre to place your book in for the readers, especially if it crosses into multiple genres.  Best to just go with your gut.

Can you give us the cosmic details of your latest book –  can you give us the feel of it without sucking us all into a black hole?

THE TURRET follows the life of Jock MacAlister from childhood through his service in the United Space Force. Along the way, he battles personal tragedies to graduate top of his class from the USF Academy. His first assignment results in the capture of an alien ship sent to mark advanced systems for attack. Jock also confronts difficult facts about his friends and classmates and his father’s death in a research accident.

Jock plays an important role in preparing the defence of Earth while powerful forces work in the shadows to turn humanity down the path of villainy. As he battles evil from both sides, Jock lays the foundation for something much larger and more powerful than he could ever imagine.

Sounds really intriguing.  Do I sense a James McAllister alter ego hidden in this one?  I wonder if some of you has snuck into this character? 😉

Where did the idea come from?

I’ve had several ideas for stories like this in my head for quite some time. I guess I finally got tired of waiting for some else to tell them!

Did you have to do a lot of research for your latest work?  You know late nights gazing up at the stars… wandering around on board alien spaceships… (shivers)

I’ve always had an interest in science, and a good memory. I was a math-science nerd/jock in school. I also notice small details and retain things a long time. So I know the basics, but yes, I had to research many ethnic names and practices for the Starclan and PAGE books. I also looked into gravity theories, so I could develop my own for the book.

Do you think your writing is improving with each galactic addition to your extra-terrestrial library?

THE TURRET is a better book than THE BEST LAID PLANS, if for no other reason than I learned a lot publishing my first book. Mostly I learned what I didn’t know, which is much more important than most people think.

Did you find yourself lost in an alternate universe at any time in your writing process, trying to find the words that seemed to have been eaten by a post-apocalyptic computer?  Writer’s block’s even harder to cope with when you are floating around in space! 😉

After I finished THE BEST LAID PLANS, I found myself missing many of the characters. That has held true for THE PAGE and THE TURRET as well. Unlike most series, the Starclan books take place generations apart, so I can’t keep the characters around in the latest book. It’s a challenge dictated by the overall story of the series.

Why do you love writing so much?

I hated writing in school. It was a task. Now I know that was because I had to write what some one else wanted. When I went to college for Respiratory Care, I had an English teacher that broke through and showed me how to write for me. It just took 30 years for me to do it!

Never too late to share your stories! 🙂

How much planning goes into a book?  Do you spend a long time planning or do you just start writing and see where it leads you?

I have the story outline and a few scenes in my head. The book then writes itself. Imagine that you are reading a really good book, and you get to decide what happens next! It’s a blast.

That’s pretty much how I work too.  Fun isn’t it?

Do you have a crowd of alien robot followers who read every word and encourage you?

I have a wonderful wife, The Lovely Cindy, who really likes my stories. She wouldn’t tell me that if it wasn’t true. And, she never reads the genres I have written. I have some other friends, fellow authors, who keep me focused and grounded too. Some of my first reviews really gave me encouragement too.

What is your experience of the Publishing industry?

I have only published through Amazon and CreateSpace. They are pretty straight forward. My biggest struggle has been with marketing. Selling has never been my strong point.

Is this book a part of an awesome sci-fi series?  Where is it going?

THE TURRET is the first book in the Starclan Series. I wrote THE BEST LAID PLANS first, because it wanted to get out of my head more, I guess! Really, I needed to build the universe with PLANS before I could fit TURRET into it.

Evil is working behind the scenes, trying to push Humanity down the path of despair and destruction. Many people sit in the big chair, but the evil continues. The Clan MacAlister becomes a force to counter this evil through the way they live their lives. As the story progresses, the main characters begin to see the forces they battle, both alien and domestic. The end of the book is merely the signal to begin the battles anew.

Have you had some good reviews for your book?

THE TURRET has nine five-star reviews and one four-star review out of 14 right now. People seem to enjoy it a lot.

If you couldn’t be a writer what would you do instead?  And no Star ship Captain is not an option!

I have a “real” job! I am a Respiratory Therapist who works in Healthcare Accreditation. I help homecare companies improve what they do, from both a business and a patient care standpoint. I really enjoy it!

Your favourite Author is…

Right now it is Michael R. Hicks. He is very talented, and comes up with unique, original stories. My first favourite author was E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith, author of the Lensmen Series. Then I would say Isaac Asimov, Arthur Clarke, James Bliss, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are there too.

Have you got a book trailer?

No. I have a half dozen illustrations I’ve done for THE BEST LAID PLANS, and two for THE PAGE. That’s all.

What do you do to wind down?

My interests are fishing, gardening, sports, my wife, my sons, and Jordan, The Wonder Cat.

Do you belong to a friendly writers group and does it help?

I belong to several writers’ groups. Yes, it helps me immensely to belong to them. The most helpful is the Authors’ Sharing Network. Really good people there.

What is you experience of editing and polishing your manuscripts?

Good editing is crucial to releasing a quality product. I had no editing for THE BEST LAID PLANS, and early reviews told me that! So my wife took to proofreading my books, and I’ve had some beta-readers that look at the drafts and give me their ideas. I’ve hired two editors, and had mixed results; one good, one so-so.

Any tips for all our budding authors out there wondering how to get started?

Get GOOD proofreaders and editors. When they are done, set your book aside for a month. Just like making biscuits, walk away. Just walk away. Pick it up and read it. Read the words you did write, not the scenes you think you wrote! Then toss your ego out, take into account the suggestions from all sources, and begin your rewrite. Then have it proofread again. Imagine you are carving a statue, and make it perfect. Then realize that you will still find a few mistakes months after publication!

Link city – as many as you need to guide us round your intergalactic internet trail of space/techi goings on…

My website:                              http://fortiterpublishing.com/fortiterpublishing/HOME.html

My FaceBook page:                                https://www.facebook.com/FortiterPublishing

My twitter name:                    @StarclanAdmiral

My Amazon page:                   http://amazon.com/author/jwmcallister

 

Thank you for joining us here on the ‘Bookish Banter’ and taking time out to give us such an interesting insight into your writing world James and keep us updated when you publish more awesome books.

Xx Laura Crean x

My Easter Diary of Celebration and Worship – (WARNING – not for children please – graphic depictions of the crucifixion)

Published April 18, 2014 by Laura Crean Author

Today I am celebrating Easter in my own way. If this is not your way then please feel free not to look at my post. My love of Jesus is a personal thing and of course I understand that my fellow bloggers are of many faiths and beliefs. If you do watch the videos and care to comment, feel free, but I will not tolerate any excuse to get into a religious debate or comment war. My faith is a complicated journey as are all spiritual journeys. I have many beliefs and try and understand this glorious Universe via my own unique understanding. If you are not a Christian I wish you a Happy Springtime and send you all my love at this beautiful time of the year. If you are of another faith I wish you well and I hope you enjoy all the festivities of the season.

The following music videos are some of my personal favourites.

❤ ❤ ❤ Happy Easter ❤ ❤ ❤

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The Easter Story – told by little Hannah

Published April 18, 2014 by Laura Crean Author

So, so Beautiful – this is how simple the Easter Story is. The Holy Spirit comes alive in a little girl’s retelling of how she understands the Easter story and her love of Jesus – I dare you to watch it without at least one little tear in your eye! God Bless little Hannah and ❤ ❤ Happy Easter Everyone ❤ ❤

Rainbow Rune Reading Room

This is a beautiful video that shows how Hannah understands the story of Easter and her love for Jesus. ❤ ❤ ❤ Happy Easter Rainbow Readers ❤ ❤ ❤

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Epic Kids’ Movies to look out for in 2014

Published April 17, 2014 by Laura Crean Author

This one IS for the Kids…

Rainbow Rune Reading Room

OK Rainbow Readers – get ready for some awesome Movie Magic…

The Boxtrolls

The Hero of Colour City

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Rio 2: Migration Vacation

Planes: Fire and Rescue Official “Thunder”

Mr. Peabody and Sherman

The Nut Job

Postman Pat the Movie

Disney’s The Pirate Fairy

The Lego Movie

Paddington

Annie

and for older kiddies…

Maleficent

Earth to Echo

Dolphin Tale 2

And one for the kids AND Mom…
Mom’s Night Out

Have fun at the movies…

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Epic Movies to Look out for in 2014 Part Four – NOT for the kids

Published April 17, 2014 by Laura Crean Author

More Monster Movie Mayhem – they’re coming back to haunt us…

Jurassic Park 4

Avatar 2

The Last Airbender 2

Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Resident Evil 6

Monsters: Dark Continent

and you can’t have monster movies without  Vampires and Werewolves…

Vampire Academy

Wolves

 

Finally – I’d really like to see this one made so let’s all give it a thumbs up…

Land of Giants

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