Category Archives: #SundayBlogShare

Meet author Jeffery Martin Botzenhart

Jeff B 1Jeffery Martin Botzenhart is a writer whose genres have included romance, steampunk, historical, science fiction – and more…

What is the title of your latest book? 

The title of my latest book is Daybreak (Book One of the 4 part Nightfall Series).  The story is set in 2035 San Francisco and revolves around Sebastian, a sixteen year old runaway who innocently accesses a sophisticated virtual reality program, which unknowingly leads to revelations of a world-wide robotic conspiracy.

What are the most challenging aspects of being a writer? And the most rewarding?

For me, the writing itself comes pretty easy.  It’s like sitting back in the seat at a movie theatre and watching this incredible film come to life.  The most challenging part of being a writer is finding readers interested in my stories.  I started out as a romance writer, but I don’t write the current popular trends which seem to be focused on billionaires, cowboys, shape-shifters, and aliens. Jeff B 2

My stories are a mixture of contemporary, steampunk, and historical (with settings such as the Vietnam War and the days leading up to the Second World War).  As for my young adult stories being published by Solstice Publishing, they focus on elements of science-fiction.

For me the most rewarding part of being a writer has been the kind comments and reviews left by those who have read and appreciated what I’ve written.  They inspire me to continue on this journey as a writer.

 What is your top tip for an aspiring writer?

Write the story you want to tell.  Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.  Though I am inspired by other writers, I don’t set out to retell their stories.  Make your story unique.

 What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on a family drama set at a lake-side cabin in the Adirondack Mountains.

 What do you like to read?

I’m pretty open to everything.  When I first started reading novels I gravitated toward Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen King.  But later I moved on to stories by C.S. Lewis, S.E. Hinton, and J.D. Salinger.  Although I have been told that I’m a gifted romance writer, this is the genre I least read.

 Jeff B 3

Where can readers find your books?

All my books are available on Amazon Kindle Reads.  I also post weekly on my author page: https://www.facebook.com/jefferymartinbotzenhartwritingjourney/

 

 

 

 

CAST OFF has cast off …

Cast Off, my collection of Shakespeare themed short stories, has just been released by Solstice Publishing. Cast Off

Blurb: Have you ever thought what a Shakespeare character might be thinking or doing when she’s not on stage? Does she like the role that’s been created for her? Would she prefer a different plot? Or love interest? How does she really feel about all that cross dressing? In this light-hearted collection of short stories, the author suggests a few answers to these and other questions.

Links: myBook.to/CastOff

http://www.solsticpublishing.com

Now the hard work begins! As I learnt after the publication of my first novel, writing the book, is only one of the tasks expected of a published author. Each author has a big part to play in the promoting and marketing of their work once it has been released. So, apart from several tweets, posts on Facebook, and the occasional blog, I have just done a stint on the local BBC radio channel  Here’s the link if you are interested:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p056ffyr#play  (I appear approximately one and a quarter hours into the Vic Minett show, at the start of the weekly Book Club).

Other promotistonefest 17onal activity to date has included taking part in a creative arts festival – Stone Fest – where I joined other members of the Coventry Writers’ Group to sell our books in the market square. Later I read an extract from Our Mad Sister, one of the Shakespeare stories, in a wine bar.  Our Mad Sister is based on the character of Cassandra – the one in Greek legends who is always prophesying (correctly) that things are going to turn out badly. She actually only takes a fleeting role in the play, Troilus and Cressida, but most people know more about her than the characters in the title, and she was fun to write about.

 

Here is the excerpt I read – if you like it, why not consider buying the whole collection!

Our Mad Sister.

 It’s crazy, I know, but it can’t be denied that a single woman of a certain age is invisible. Once I was the talk of Troy for my fine bone structure, my flawless skin, and my tall, graceful figure. Oh, I was clever too, but it was my beauty everyone talked about. I was so beautiful, in fact, that the god Apollo singled me out to be his lover. I was tempted of course – who wouldn’t be?

       But I had been cursed from a young age with common sense and wisdom. I may have been King Priam’s daughter, and sister to the mighty Hector and the flighty Paris, but I could sense that for Apollo I would just be a dalliance. I was flattered by his attention, my dreams were full of him. My knees went weak and my heart trembled whenever he was near.

       But, always, something held me back. I could foresee that for him I was just a human plaything he could seduce, before moving on to other paramours. So I held back, resisting his most pressing advances, and eventually he grew bored with me and left Troy. My common sense, that he had once found so seductive, had started to irk him. That didn’t stop him feeling angry and resentful. As he left, he settled a final curse on me.

       “I leave you Cassandra, a frustrated and disappointed god. Your virtue has defeated me. Long may you continue to be sensible,” he said. “And long may you be able to foretell the consequences of your and your compatriot’s actions. But you have defied me, a god, and, as a mere mortal, you must bear the consequences. I have decreed that no matter what sensible words you have to say, no-one will ever believe you. Mark my words: to them you will just be a crazed and embittered old maid.”

       With that he was gone, leaving me bereft, and questioning the wisdom of clinging so tenaciously to my virgin state. Maybe the passing love of a god would not have been so shameful after all? The palace was large, and I had my own quarters. True, my parents were old, set in their ways. But they weren’t unkind, and times change. Certainly, years later, when Paris snatched the beautiful wife of Menelaus, the Greek, my father was very angry with him, but not so angry that he ordered him to send her back. Instead he was willing to let Troy go to war to keep her here. A war I knew was bound to end in our defeat, but no one was listening to me by then.

       Oh the irony! Helen, little more than a pretty tart, arrived in our country, and we were prepared to lose some of our bravest soldiers on her behalf. But then, fathers down the ages have had different standards for their daughters. Paris carrying on with another man’s wife, was easier for him to tolerate than his daughter having a baby with a god. Never mind that it would have been the child of the God of Love, a genuine love–child. Later, when he might have been more understanding, my chance of motherhood had gone.

       So I witnessed my brothers’ lives moving on whilst mine atrophied. Hector married the boring but virtuous Andromache, Paris hooked up with his vacuous mistress, and even little Troilus grew up enough to want a woman of his own. Like Paris, Troilus had an eye for a pretty girl, and his choice – Cressida – was nothing if not pretty. But she was more a Helen than an Andromache. I knew the kind, beautiful, sexy, generous with her favours, pragmatic in how she bestowed them.

       Yes, I foresaw that Cressida would abandon Troilus, and Troy, within days of their conjoining and would join the Greek armies camped outside. To give her some credit, maybe she too had sensed that Troy would soon be overrun. After all, her father had already abandoned the city and joined the Greeks camped all around, the traitor. I could have told my brother all this as I watched him from my balcony making his way stealthily to Cressida’s bed under the cover of a starless night sky. I chose to remain silent. What was the point in running out to stop him – he wouldn’t have believed me. Besides, none of his family was supposed to know about his secret tryst. He would simply have denied what he was up to. And then what was I to do? I was just his mad sister, after all.

        That’s what my brothers called me, “Our mad sister,” they used to say to visitors to the palace. I had become old, too old anyway to be a suitable bargaining chip in a marriage arrangement with neighbouring countries, and too ‘odd,’ with my true, but ultimately gloomy prophesies, to be welcome in their quarters as a visitor in my own right. As I grew older I became less and less important. Even my parents sometimes forgot who I was.

       I was the crazy one, always foretelling doom, pouring cold water on people’s plans, and muttering that it would all turn out badly. Who wants someone like that sitting opposite you over breakfast? Of course I wasn’t completely left out, but I was like the poor relation you had to invite but you hoped would not cause embarrassment and upset the visitors. And if I did make one of my, to them, tactless and doom filled predictions, they would cover the ensuing embarrassed silence with a laugh, a roll of the eyes and, maybe, a finger briefly touching the temple. Later, when things turned out like I said they would, which they did, they denied I’d said anything, or blamed me for it, as if it was my fault. Sometimes they did both!

          It wasn’t long after Apollo abandoned me that my beauty started to fade, and people no longer turned admiring glances on me as I walked round the city. Soon they hardly noticed me at all, and I sometimes had to step off the pavement to let a group of young men through. They never acknowledged this. Why should they? They hadn’t noticed me in the first place.

       I started to neglect myself – let my hair grow long and leave it loose and uncombed around my neck. Sometimes I even left it weeks before I washed it. The same went with my clothes. Why worry if no one was going to notice? Instead I wore my old working smocks for months on end. Soon I found that people noticed me all right then. Not in a good way – they would look in horror at my eccentric appearance and, fearful perhaps that I was none too sweet smelling, they would step into the road to avoid me. At least I got the pavement to myself then. Sometimes I would emit a few cackles, as I drew near to them, and cackle louder whilst they stepped further out into the road to avoid me. Often as not I would shout out too.       

“Cry, Trojans, Cry!” was one of my favourites. Or, “Lend me your ears, and I will fill them with prophetic tears!”  This would get them looking anywhere but at me, and scurrying away as fast as they could go. I was not mad, I told myself, because I knew exactly what I was doing and the effect my behaviour had on others. But maybe only a crazy woman would want to behave like that. Now there’s a thought!

 I have plenty more promotional work planned throughout the summer, whilst still trying to find time to crack on with my next book – 10,000 words already, only another 70,000 to go! solstice logo (1)

CAST OFF – Collection out on Friday.

On Friday 14th July, my new collection of short stories, Cast Off, is published by Solstice Publishing. Below I answer a few questions about the stories that you probably hadn’t thought to ask.

Cast OffWhat are the stories in Cast Off about? Each story is based on a female character in a Shakespeare play. The story takes place whilst the cast is off stage, and speculates what the character might be thinking or doing, sometimes in relation to the playwright himself (Taming of the Shrew), or in relation to other characters (Lear), or even if they are going to go back on stage for the last act (The Winter’s Tale). Some are in the first person, some in the third. A couple are also related by one of the other characters (Twelfth Night), or by a more contemporary figure. None are intended to be taken too seriously!

Why did I choose this as the theme for my collection? I was inspired to write one of the stories by a poem I heard on the radio a few years ago (Hamlet). Another was written following an invitation to write a short story for an anthology based round a recipe (Othello), and a third to tie in with an anthology to be published on midsummer’s day (no prizes for guessing which play that was based on!) Before I knew it, a collection was building up and, with 2016 being the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, I decided to read several more of his plays, write some more stories, and put together a collection. This has taken me a bit longer than originally planned, but I finally felt I had enough by March this year, when I completed my thirteenth story.

How did I choose which plays to base each story on? I ruled out the historical plays as some readers might have wanted historical accuracy, and my stories are more whimsical. I wanted strong female characters to base the story around, though they didn’t necessarily have to be the lead character – Portia’s maid, for example, rather than Portia herself from The Merchant of Venice; the nurse not Juliet from Romeo and Juliet. Most stories almost wrote themselves after I’d read the play, but some plays that are known for their strong female leads (Much Ado About Nothing springs to mind) didn’t immediately throw up an angle for me to work on. Another time perhaps!

What was my writing process? First I read the play straight through. Then I decided on a character to ‘play’ with, and a possible story line. I would re-read the play, making a few notes, and perhaps noting down a couple of quotations. Then I would write the story without further reference to the play. Finally I would read the play again to check that the story line I’d followed could be justified, or that any deviations in characterisation etc. were intentional and consistent. I would also check the accuracy of any quotations used. Then it was time for the usual spell checking and editing, as with any story.

Do I have any taster stories available, preferably for free?  There are no Shakespeare themed stories available until this collection is published on Friday. However I have a short story, Mary’s Christmas, in an anthology called Festive Treats, which is permanently free on Amazon Books. Solstice Publishing has also issued two of my other short stories as stand-alone e-books for about £/$1.00 each. These are called Sleeping Beauty, and Love in Waiting.  All three stories can be found following the links below to my Amazon author pages:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

solstice logo (1)

 

A peep behind the door of a Publishing House.

I have interviewed several authors on this blog in the past year. Most have been published by one or other of the ‘Indie’ publishers. But what is it like to be a publisher? And what is a publisher looking for in authors they choose to take on? Here Kate Collins, who is herself a noted author, describes her work with  the American publisher, Solstice Publishing.

KateMarie CollinsHello Kate, what is your job title?  Chief Operating Officer.

 And what does the job entail? A little bit of everything, to be honest. I upload the books, take care of contract renewals, pull books and send releases when a renewal doesn’t happen/author requests it, do the math for the monthly statements, send out those statements, set up promo days, mediate problems between authors and editors/staff. I’m also the cheerleader and do my best to motivate the authors to get out there and promote!

What is the skill set you need for a job like this? What attracted you to the job?

A high degree of professionalism, excellent writing/communication skills, and the ability to tell someone they’re not going to get what they want without making them mad. Most of the time.

I fell into this job, actually. I started with Solstice as the executive assistant to our CEO, Melissa Miller, and the Editor in Chief for the Shadows line. Approximately a year later, Ms. Miller decided to hire someone else for the EIC job and told me that she’d already changed my title on the website. That’s how I found out I was the Chief Operating Officer.

Does being a publishing executive help or hinder your work as an author? 

It helps, really. I’ve got an understanding of both sides of the coin. I understand as an author what it takes to write a good book. By being COO, I also understand what publishers do and don’t do. It gives me a truly unique perspective on every aspect of what it takes to be a successful author.

What advice can you give to any aspiring writer looking to submit a manuscript for publication?

We want authors who will promote their book, not drag our name into a flame war by association. Posting 3 or 4 memes about politics or faith and then following it up with 1 about your book? Not going to work for us. If you can, keep your personal views out from your public image as an author.

Any advice for someone looking for a job like yours?

Don’t expect it to drop into your lap like mine did. I love my job. I have the best possible job for me. I get excited on Sunday about coming to work on Monday! It’s hard work. There’s days I want to scream at authors. And there’s days I celebrate with them. This is one of the few businesses where the nice guy finishes first. This is true for both author and executive. You want to do high school drama and back-stab people? This isn’t the career for you. It’ll take time, but you’ll get noticed because of your work ethic and how well you interact with people more than not.

I am delighted to report that Kate, who writes under the name KateMarie Collins, has agreed to do an author interview for this blog later in the year. Meanwhile, you can find copies of her work (and mine!) on Amazon books, and on the website for Solstice Publishing.

http://www.solsticepublishing.com

solstice logo (1)

 

The Power of Using the Right Words

Many years ago, Louis Armstrong was asked how come he could play so well. His response was basically that he just let the notes come – they just had to be the right notes!

A similar theme was used by the advertisers of a well know alcoholic beverage a while back. Pretending to be the poet, William Wordsworth, an actor was filmed struggling with the opening line of a poem. He makes a number of false starts, including “I walked daffodils 2about a bit on my own,” but nothing seemed quite right. Then he had a sip of said beverage and was instantly inspired to write:

I wandered lonely as a cloud …” And a world famous poem was born.

Why am I telling you this? Partly because both anecdotes illustrate the enduring power of using the right words (notes) in the right places; something all writers struggle with on a daily basis (with or without recourse to the occasional tipple). And partly because I am off to Wordsworth country (The Lake District, UK) in the next few days. The daffodils will be gone by now, but who knows what inspiration for new work awaits me in the local hostelries?

So, in keeping with my growing holiday spirits, here is Wordsworth’s poem in full.

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the Milky Way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed—and gazed—but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

daffodils 1

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, and would like to read more of my work, please go to one of my Amazon Author pages.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

 You can download Festive Treats for free at any time. This anthology includes one of my short stories, Mary’s Christmas.

Look out for my collection of Shakespeare themed short stories – Cast Off – due out later this year from Solstice Publishing. http://www.solsticepublishing.com

 

 

Summer Solstice Reading

Welcome to another #SundayBlogShare.

It’s not the summer solstice yet – that’s still a couple of days off. But maybe it’s time to think about what to read if the day proves hot and sunny, and no one has any energy for anything more than to take a gentle snooze and read a story in a shady corner of the garden. Or, more likely in the UK, it’s pouring with rain, the barbecue has been cancelled, and you have to stay indoors, possibly with the heating on – so why not read something, and forget about the weather?

During the past few years I have written two short stories specifically for Solstice Publishing summer solstice anthologies. A Midsummer Day’s Dream, based on Shakespeare’s play with not quite the same title, appears in the anthology Let’s Have Fun Volume three. It will also be reproduced in my collection of short, Shakespeare themed stories, Cast Off, which will be published later in the summer. That story takes place on a hot sultry day, in contrast to the torrential rain that is the back drop to my other short story, Love in Waiting.

Love in Waiting appears in the anthology, Summer Thrills Summer Chills. It is also available from Amazon books as a stand-alone e-book for around £/$1.00. Here’s a taster.

Excerpt:

Love in WaitingCaro smiled when she heard the nurse’s voice fade away as she reached the doctors’ office. She turned back to the bed. Soon there would be a large cluster of medics and nurses in the little room but, for a few precious moments, it was just her and Ian.

“I don’t believe in miracles,” she told her husband. “I can’t stand Joyce. I’m sorry the solstice has been a complete wash out for the druids. I’m worried about the blocked drain back home. My hair’s a mess and I look like an anorexic scarecrow. But speaking personally, my love, today has been worth all the worry and waiting. Today is the best day of my life.”

Blurb:

Caro’s husband has been in a coma for months after a road accident. He had always intended to read James Joyce’s Ulysses, but never found the time. In desperation Caro starts reading it aloud at his bedside. But will it be enough to bring him round?

Links:

Love in Waiting: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00ZPJZNJO 

myBook.to/LoveInWaiting

Let’s Have fun 3 anthology

http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01HBU1RQM

myBook.to/LetsHaveFun3

http://www.solsticepublishing.com

solstice logo (1)

 

A short story for a summer day.

Today for my #SundayBlogShare I am sharing my short, unpublished, story for young readers, and knowing adults, called When God Came Calling.  

Blurb: A little girl starts praying for enough money to buy a pony. Only to be sadly disappointed.

When God Came Calling.

       I’ve done with praying. Mummy said God knows where she’d find the money for the rent, let alone buy me a pony, so I prayed every night for three months. Pony

‘Please God … (I said ‘Our Father’ too because Granny said he was a father to me as my own daddy went back up north when I was a baby.) ‘Our Father’ makes him sound more part of my family; someone who’d really want to help me and Mummy. Does that make him Mummy’s father too?

Every night after Mummy put me to bed and closed the door I’d jump out and kneel by the side of the bed, just like I’d seen in a picture at Granny’s house. I’d put my hands together and squeeze my eyes tight shut and pray really, really hard.

‘Please God, Our Father, give Mummy a house of her own with a field and a stable.’ I thought God would like it if I asked for something for Mummy, and didn’t ask for anything for myself, which Granny says is rude. But if he got Mummy sorted, and I saved my pocket-money all year, then I’d be able to buy the pony myself.

I saved for weeks and weeks. Granny gave me a £10.00 note to give to Mummy to help buy new shoes for me when I started in Year 6, and I put it in the box under my side of the bed along with the other money. I told Mummy I’d lost it after Granny had gone home. Mummy was really cross and I couldn’t go out to play for a whole week. But that made it easier to save my pocket-money. So it wasn’t much of a punishment really.

In three months I had nearly £30, including Granny’s shoe money. I didn’t know how much a pony would cost but I thought it couldn’t be more than £100.00. Of course, you have to buy tack and food as well, but I’ve got a birthday coming soon, and then it will be Christmas. I thought I could persuade Granny to give me money instead of knitting me something, so I kept telling her I’d got plenty of jumpers from last year that still fitted.

I saved hard and prayed hard and tried hard to be really good and not answer Mummy back so she wouldn’t stop my pocket-money, and I really, REALLY thought it was all going to work out.

But then God knocked the door one evening just after we’d had our tea. There was a loud ‘Bang! Bang! Bang!’ on the front door and Mummy stopped in the middle of washing up and her hand flew to her face as if a really hot splash had hit her in the mouth. Usually she tells me to answer the door but this time she said: ‘Stay where you are Anna,’ quite sternly and went to answer it herself. Mummy opened the door and I heard her say ‘Dear God, it’s you.’ Then she came back with God behind her, and she said ‘Anna, this is your father.’

He was tall and had a big beard and he said ‘How is my little angel?’ But he didn’t look at me when he said it; he only looked at Mummy in a cross sort of way. I cried and ran out of the room. I hadn’t expected God to look so scruffy and to smell like he’d traveled all the way from Heaven without his wash bag.

I heard Mummy and God talking downstairs. They talked quietly at first, but then they started shouting. I didn’t think it was a very holy way to carry on, but grown – ups often behave strangely – Mummy says ‘bugger’ a lot when she’s mad at someone – so I suppose gods can be funny too.

I crept into the bedroom and got out my secret box as I liked counting the money when I felt upset. I was wondering if I should go down and show it to God. Perhaps he’d be impressed and stop shouting at Mummy and answer my prayers even sooner than I’d hoped. But suddenly Mummy rushed into the room and grabbed her handbag.

‘I’m just popping out to the cash point with your father. Don’t answer the door while I’m out, and if Granny phones – tell her I’m in the bath.’ Then her eyes landed on all the money in my box.

‘Where the Hell did you get that?’

‘It’s mine,’ I tried to hide the box back under the bed but she was too quick for me.

‘Thank Heavens!’ she said. ‘Perhaps he’ll go back where he’s come from and leave us in peace for a bit if I give him this.’ (She used the ‘B’ word too, but I pretended not to notice). She scooped up the money and ran straight back out and gave it all to God. I heard him grunt as he let himself out of the house without even saying thank you to Mummy, though he did say over his shoulder ‘Kiss my little angel for me.’

So God has gone off with all my savings, and Mummy is crying on the sofa downstairs, and somehow I don’t think we’ll be moving to a house with a field and a stable any time soon.

If you have enjoyed this story, and would like to read more of my work, please go to one of my Amazon Book pages: 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO