New Kids on the Blog: An interview with Judy and Keith, authors of Children’s and YA fiction (@JudyandKeith)

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This past week I had the profound pleasure of talking to Judy and Keith, who are not only writing partners, but have also been life-partners for more than forty years (they don’t look old enough for that!). Their story is such a selfless one, but not entirely smooth sailing on the publishing side of things. Read the interview below to find out more about them, their writing and their wonderful books. At the very bottom I will post a link to the article that sparked our conversation, and that can be of great value to anyone who hopes to publish Children’s fiction, or anything that contains graphic content, via Amazon Kindle.

Judy and Keith are also members of the WolfPackAuthors writers’ group. If you haven’t any idea what that is, visit @WolfPackAuthors on Twitter, and be sure to follow them. They’re pretty awesome, just like real wolves.

Keith & Judy

“Judy’s Big-nan told the best bedtime stories with witches, fairies, magic teapots…etc. Judy carried on the tradition with our children, and now we’re reaching a new generation.”

 

  1. Who are you? Tell us a bit about yourself.

Judy and Keith mainly write children’s stories. Each story tries to emphasize a moral and has to pass the acid test: Would we be happy if our own grandchildren read it?

We were born near Tamworth in the UK, met at high school, have been married for over forty years, and are now semi-retired, living in the South Bay, Los Angeles.
Judy initially followed a medical career as a radiographer and ultrasound technician in the UK and in her spare time gave piano lessons.
Keith followed a career first as an electronic engineer and later as a program manager.
In the mid-eighties, we relocated to Los Angeles where Judy switched profession to cosmetologist. We have two sons and two grandsons.

  1. You are both authors, and a couple?! Tell us about your books.

Keith writes, Judy edits—she says ‘why bark when you have a dog!’
Keith’s alter-ego writes adult material. Our grandson heard us discussing a story and wanted to read it. He was only eight. We promised to write a story just for him and asked what he wanted—answer, a wrestling story. Big T was the result. By the time we’d worked through all our grandchildren & god-grandchildren—we were on a roll.

Some of our earlier eBooks are no longer available individually, but we are republishing them as anthologies. The first two collections are available from Amazon, with Bedtime Stories following early in 2019.

Wicked Witch Anthology

Also available in print here.

Children’s Stories Anthology

Also available in print here.

  1. What motivates you to write?

It has to be our grandchildren.

  1. What are your writers’ Achilles Heels?

Some stories don’t resonate with Keith, and he procrastinates. A few glasses of wine in our rooftop garden usually works to break the deadlock.

  1. How do you negotiate plot ideas or differences in opinion about the content of your books? Is it a negotiation?

It’s a negotiation—usually involving a couple of glasses of wine. Judy is the big picture plot…Keith fills in the details.

  1. Your books are aimed at children and young adults. How did you come to work in this genre? What is your personal connection to the characters in your books?

See answer to Question #2
All characters are fictional…although, we do cherry pick the names we use so our grandkids can relate better to the stories.

  1. Of the books you’ve written, which resonates most closely with you as authors? Are there characters that hold a special relationship with your own childhoods?

The Wicked Witch series—Judy’s Big-nan told the best bedtime stories with witches, fairies, magic teapots…etc. Judy carried on the tradition with our children, and now we’re reaching a new generation.

  1. What is your favorite thing to discuss with your readers?

Nothing specific, although we do try and introduce morals and consequences into our stories.

  1. What are some of the life-changing books you’ve read, and why?

Keith fell in love with C. S Lewis’ Narnia series and E. S Nesbit’s stories…especially the blend of reality and fantasy. The idea that you can be living a mundane life…and a second later, a miracle happens…Judy’s the practical one…but, can make up a children’s story at a drop of a hat!

  1. You have had unique challenges with self-publishing children’s books and have overcome them in unique ways. Can you tell us a little bit about that, the illustrations and your process, also about your recently published article in regards to the challenges of publishing books for young readers?

Family and friends told us we’d reach a bigger audience if we had illustrations and the books in print. My son kept plugging away, so when Amazon offered this suite of publishing tools—effectively removing the barrier to play—we had to give them a try. The article goes into more details.
For us, we promised ourselves not to spend family money on what could be viewed as a hobby. The Amazon tools appeared too good to be true. It may be true…and in the future the tools themselves might become a profit-center, but not at the moment. We have a backlog of short stories—more than enough for two additional anthologies. We’ve turned it into a family affair, we all produce illustrations, help with marketing. Judy takes the lead with editing. Keith pulls all the parts together.
At the moment, except for the cover, we’re keeping the illustrations as pen-pencil. If these take off, we’ll consider full color. Our first front cover was home grown using an Amazon template, the second was the result of a competition.

  1. What was the first book you ever wrote?

Children’s stories…was Big T. It still appears on Amazon, but the publisher Devine Destinies has removed it from their website. We will include it in Bedtime Stories 1Q2019. The Mystery of the Broken Vase…still a short-story, but the theme is darker.

Big T

The Mystery of the Broken Vase

  1. What is your greatest passion?

Who knows? We don’t. Music’s a passion…dancing.
We firmly believe communication and doing things together are two of the three legs to keep a relationship fresh and new.

  1. Do you have other talents or hobbies?

Keith’s getting better at drawing illustrations…

  1. What are you currently reading?

Nothing in the YA-children genres.
Keith is a reviewer with TBRpile, so there is plenty of reading material. The last one was an adult detective story by Susan Laine.

  1. Are there any new projects in your future? What’s next for you?

One day at a time…finish the series of children anthologies. That covers 2019!! Bite the bullet with Harry Putter—a YA/NA romantic comedy…we’re stuck at 2000 words…

  1. And the question that everyone gets asked: Recommend one Netflix series I should watch?

Punisher…Keith
Orange is the new black…Judy

To learn more about Judy and Keith’s lovely children’s books, click here, or visit their Amazon Authors’ Page. Download their article on publishing Children’s fiction/graphic content to Amazon Kindle here.

If you are an author, book blogger/vlogger or book reviewer and would like to be featured as one of my New Kids on the Blog, DM me @StinavD on Twitter, or drop me a line at christina (at) christinavandeventer.com (please replace (at) with @).

Have a lit week!

New Kids on the Blog: An interview with Michael DeMarco (@HanlaBooks)

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“I consider Paradise Lost to be the greatest achievement in all of English language literature.” – Michael DeMarco

 

This week I had the wonderful opportunity to get to know a little more about the inspiring Michael DeMarco. Wearing many hats, Michael is an author and Lit-vlogger who wants to revolutionize the way young people experience classic literature. By day, he takes on the world’s wrongdoings, but after hours, he’s a superhero championing the finer persuasions in life (Literature, Music, Art!). His Youtube Vlog is a must-visit for any book lover (see links below) and his commentary on how classic literature can be applied to modern life is a unique take on the power and influence of great books.  Michael isn’t just someone whose videos you’ll want to watch and whose book you’ll want to read, he’s someone you’ll want to get to know on a personal level. And now you can.

Read the interview below.

 

  1. Who are you? Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a civil litigation attorney with my own practice in greater Boston. As of now I will be accepting appointments from the state to represent children and parents when there has been a removal made by the Department of Children and Families.

2. You are an author. Tell us about your book.

My book is a work of historical fiction, in four parts, taking place in England, the Netherlands, Indonesia, and finally Puritan Massachusetts. A Dutch prisoner of war is freed by a precocious young girl in search of her long lost father. While she seems to have freed him out of mutual interest, she makes an obsession out of corrupting him, sabotages the love of his life, while catapulting him up the ranks of the Dutch East India Company.

3. What motivates you to write?

A love of language and a desire to create.

4. What is your writer’s Achilles Heel?

My weakness as a writer is that my taste is very classical, and so my style is more formal and dense than what is found on the shelves these days.

5. Your book, Redemption Lost, is about The Dutch Golden Age, and more specifically the East India Company. What is your personal connection to this historic period/the characters in your book?

I was an Economics major in college and in my senior year I took a seminar level history course on Puritan New England. I am from Massachusetts and the story of European settlement in America fascinates people who live here. Redemption Lost deals with the machinations of the “first modern economy” centered in Amsterdam, the distortions of bear market saboteurs, and that colonial, geographic arbitrage that the Dutch used to acquire high value commodities from Asiatic trade. The climax is in Essex County, Massachusetts, almost too predictably I suppose, ending in a witchcraft trial, the description of which allowed me to draw upon my experience as a trial lawyer.

6. What is your favorite thing to discuss with your readers?

I enjoy hearing their own original opinions that had not occurred to me, sympathies where I had not intended them, or a relation to one of the characters (it is always to Louisa, the main female character).

7. What is the most annoying question you get from your readers?

“Who is your target audience?”

8. What are some of the life-changing books you’ve read, and why?

This would be a long list:

Moliere’s Tartuffe

John Milton’s Paradise Lost

Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther

Montaigne’s Essays

Plutarch’s Lives

Tasso’s Liberation of Jerusalem

I do not know that these books changed my life, but they evolved my thinking, each of them is full of little bits of wisdom for the reader to take away. Moliere in particular mocks everyone who takes things too seriously; arguing in every play, it seems, that to live well is the only true philosophy, and to try too hard to avoid calamity will bring it on you. Tasso is a series of allegorical delights. Plutarch is a tract pertaining to all life on earth. Goethe’s exploration of inner torment is so naked and confessional – and accurate — that it is difficult to wade through.

9. What is the one book you wish you had written, and why?

I hope I will write a comedy some day.

10. You host a Youtube Vlog about Literature. What prompted you to start Vlogging about books?

I’ve come to the determination that academics have ruined literature for young Americans. The purpose of my channel is to try to be entertaining; which is to say, I hope to extract the entertainment value from what is presumed to be dry material and show it to be comedic, meaningful, and even sexual.

11. What was the first book you Vlogged, and why?

I started with a series of podcasts on Paradise Lost because the core themes of that book were incorporated as homage in my own book. To put it simply, I consider Paradise Lost to be the greatest achievement in all of English language literature. It contemplates everything from domestic happiness, to his own theology, to his grapple with the correct relations within a free state. By the time I was done with the vlog, I realized I enjoyed the process. It is very clarifying to sit down and map out what I want to say.

12. What is your greatest passion?

I genuinely enjoy the practice of law and trial work especially. Reading, opera, classical music, the visual arts.

13. Do you have other talents or hobbies?

I get out on the bike for exercise during the summer and I ski during the winter.

14. What are you currently reading?

Maria Callas: The Woman Behind the Legend by Arianna Stassinopoulos.

15. Are there any new projects in your future? What’s next for you?

A Maria Callas video, the rest of Dante’s Inferno, and I must make a vlog on Moliere and Goethe!

16. And the question that everyone gets asked: Recommend one Netflix series I should watch:

Babylon Berlin

 

Follow Michael on Twitter @HanlaBooks or subscribe to his Youtube channel here!

If you are an author, book blogger or book reviewer and would like to be one of the New Kids on the Blog, contact me today!

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Have a bookish weekend!

How to do the Kindle-thing

If you were born in the 90s, this post will probably seem surreal to you. Also, the idea of reading paperbacks instead of ebooks might seem surreal to you, because why, right? Ebooks are eco-friendly, easy to download, easy to access and you can store thousands of them on one device or in the cloud, all at the click of a button. What more could anyone want from a book?

But people do want more from books. They want books that represent time, struggles, memories and, sometimes, even status. I know readers who only buy literary fiction, because to them it’s better than genre fiction. I know those who only buy hardbacks, because anything else should, according to them, never have gotten published in the first place. And then there are those who snob for “real books” vs “fake books” (ie. ebooks), because for some reason if it hasn’t been printed on paper, the writer isn’t a ‘real author’. And though, to some, all of these things matter, they do not matter to me. What matters, truly matters, to me, is that people read. The more they read, the merrier I am. If they happen to read something I wrote, I become ecstatic. I dare say some other writers will agree with me. We don’t write because we want to fill a reader’s prerequisites for their books, or tick a box on a publisher’s want-list. The vast majority of us write because we have something to say, and because we want you, the reader, to find out what that is. All that being said, I commiserate with lovers of traditional books (previously known only as ‘books’), because to them it must sometimes feel like technology is ruining an ancient wonder and making it disappear. Humans are alike in that they don’t take kindly to change. So while I don’t want to convince you, yes you, who were born before the 90s, who had the privilege of living in a world where everything you said or did wasn’t scrutinized on the internet and could still get a book you actually wanted to read at your local library (or still had a local library!), I do want to introduce you to the ebook. This introduction ultimately serves the same purpose an infomercial serves TV-marketing: I want you to read my books.

What is an ebook?

The name ebook or e-book is the shortened version of electronic book, which when looked at from that perspective would be a more adequate name for an e-reader, the device you use to access and read the e-book on. Ebooks come in different formats, which means they have different file-names attached to them that allow for users to read them on specific reading devices. This is, in effect, the same difference between playing Tetris on an iPhone or an Android device. The game is still Tetris. The thing you hold in your hand to play the game on is what differs.

Do you need an e-reader to read ebooks?

The simple answer is no. The lengthy answer has to do with what your reading preferences are. These days you can read most ebook formats on your computer or phone with the download of a simple app or via an online service such as Amazon Kindle, Scribd, Smashwords and many more. But if you want to experience and interact with the ebook in the same way you are used to with traditional books, an e-reader might come in handy. On an e-reader (there are many different kinds out there, such as Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and so forth), you can have your whole library in one place, highlight or underline passages you particularly enjoy and even write notes in the margins. Sort of. Each e-reader comes with its own set of pros and cons, and some with limitations others don’t have. What is unique about e-readers is that they have been developed to enhance the reading experience, not detract from it. Not only do they use a special eye-saving technology called e-ink, but most of them also have font-size adjusters and paper/text colour adjusters for vision impaired individuals. To add to their appeal, some of them come with backlit screens to facilitate reading in the dark and font choices, in case you just can’t read another Times New Roman word! And most importantly, they’re lightweight, so they won’t break your nose if you accidentally fall asleep while reading in bed.
For a similar reading experience (minus the vision saving e-ink experience) your phone or tablet might be a good second choice. What’s great about reading on your phone is that, the way most people use their cellphones these days, you’ll always have a book with you, no matter where you go. Waiting in line at the bank or doctor’s office? Read. Too little fiber in your diet? Get some Kelloggs Allbran flakes. See what I did there? 🙂
Seriously, though, no one at a bookshop ever gave you a book for free, did they? So while you still haven’t decided what you think of the whole ebook-revolution, why not try reading one of thousands of free ebooks to get a feel for it. You don’t have to fully adopt, you can still read paperbacks too! Nothing is stopping you from having your bread buttered on both sides!

So, how to do this Kindle thing:
Great news! If you’re reading this blog, you already have all the tools necessary to attempt reading an ebook!
Step one: Go to www.amazon.com or www.amazon.co.uk and download the Kindle reading app. Similarly, on your phone or tablet, go to your app store and search for ‘Kindle’. Download the app.
Step two: Now that the app has downloaded, you need to create a user account. In order to do this, follow the prompts on the app (it happens automatically), typing in your email address and a password of your choice. Memorize this password!
Step three: Following the prompts, choose the genres/book types you generally enjoy reading.
Step four: Look for the search bar (it has a tiny looking glass picture in it) and type in the words ‘Christina van Deventer’. Some books (by me!) should appear. Some of them are free. Choose your preferred title and click/choose ‘Buy now’ or ‘Buy now for free’!
Step five: Wait one minute while the book of your choice downloads to your device. Start reading!

Repeat.

It has literally never been easier to buy books and start reading them. Easier still is finding any book you want by simply searching for it.

Now, go give it a try. Who knows, maybe you’ll even like it a little.
If you go before the end of August (today is the very last day!), you might even find more than one FREE title by me. Because I’m just that nice!

If you want to get there faster, click here!
And just to prove that I am, in fact, a ‘real’ writer, here’s a picture of some paperback copies of my book, “The Deermaster”. You can order your own copy by clicking here.

PS: If you felt condescended to in this post, it was most likely because it hit a bit close to home for you. Or you don’t like it when people explain perfectly obvious things. Well, it’s not perfectly obvious to EVERYONE, and I want EVERYONE to read my books, so I’m willing to chance being condescending to attain my goal. Don’t take it personally 🙂

Happy reading!

My short stories now available on Scribd!

If you’re a reader, which I sincerely hope you are, then you’ll have heard of Scribd by now. If you haven’t, here’s the low-down: Scribd is a subscription service for all things bookish and a lovely way to pay a little for a lot of reading material. Each month, for only $8.99 you get *unlimited access to their large catalogue of books, magazines, audiobooks and documents, which can be accessed from your phone, tablet or computer at your convenience! And now, to make the deal even sweeter, my short stories are available for Scribd subscribers both in Afrikaans and English! The full “Nuwe Stories” short story series (Afrikaans Edition) is available for your reading pleasure. The series consists of three anthologies: Nuwe Stories, Nuwe Stories 2 and Nuwe Stories 3, each comprising a collection of Afrikaans language short stories from millennial writers such as myself. And of course my own short stories are there too. Look out for “Onder die Brug” (Nuwe Stories), “‘n Kis vir Boel” (Nuwe Stories 2) and “Utopia” (Nuwe Stories 3).

Nuwe Stories, ISBN 9780798156448. Now available on Scribd!

Nuwe Stories 2 – ISBN: 9780798164627. Now available on Scribd!

Nuwe Stories 3, ISBN: 9780798167987. Now available on Scribd!

If Afrikaans isn’t really your thing, I have a special treat for readers of the slightly more widely spoken English language. My latest short story, “Hot Wheels“, is now also available on Scribd.

Hot Wheels: A Short Story. ISBN: 9780463642849.
Now available on Scribd!

So get clicking and start reading, and remember, if you liked what you read, review and recommend!

Get your Scribd subscription here. Click on the book names above to read each book on Scribd.

Happy reading!

Three Short Stories about Johannesburg by Elizabeth Pienaar

I have a confession to make. I love short stories. I love reading them, I love writing them and I love recommending the good ones to my fellow readers. A lot of people tell me they don’t like to read short stories, because they “get to spend so little time with the characters”, or “just when they get into it, the story is done”, or even, and this surprises me, “short stories don’t give authors enough scope to exhibit their abilities”. While you are allowed to have that opinion (if you happen to share in it), allow me the chance to change your mind. I know just the short stories that’ll do it.

I’ve mentioned Elizabeth Pienaar here before, because I adore her writing. The previous time I wrote about her, it was about her book “Bobby”, a beautiful tale about a dog’s life, based in truth and told from the dog’s perspective. But today I want to talk about her new series of short stories, collectively named “Breaking Down The House”, in which Elizabeth takes a very candid look at life on the streets of Johannesburg. The first story, Pius, is about the stark reality that faces every South African today; that no place is really safe anymore, that work is scarce and hard to hold onto and that sometimes life takes you on the roads you’d rather not have travelled. This story won the South African PEN Award, which is a much better endorsement than I could ever make. Nevertheless, I’m telling you, read it!

Get “Pius” on Amazon Kindle by clicking the link below.

The second story, “Breaking Down The House”, placed 2nd in the PEN Award. It takes a whole new look at the interplay between rich and poor and how, by helping someone else, you can sometimes also help yourself. It’s smart, intriguing and, even though it’s a short story, the characters are so well developed that you’d struggle not to identify with them. It’s short enough to read while waiting at the doctor’s office and it will keep you hooked until the end (or when your name gets called, whichever happens first).

Get “Breaking Down The House” on Amazon Kindle by clicking the link below.

The third story, “Rejoice”, was the story that really got to me. I’m a sucker for hero types and flawed characters and I’m an even bigger sucker for stories with heart. This one’s got all of that and more. It’s about the relationship between a worker and employer, and the many facets of the human condition, of relationships founded on uncommon ground. This story was so good that I’m biting my tongue not to tell you any of the details, because it’s something you should experience first hand. And it has all the scope of a full length novel without the time-investment of reading a four hundred page book. If you can only afford to get one, this is the story you should get! But really, you should just get all of them.

Get “Rejoice” on Amazon Kindle by clicking the link below.

Now, if after reading these you still don’t like short stories, there’s probably no ointment for that particular condition. If you did, feel free to scroll down for more recommendations!

Find out more about Elizabeth Pienaar by visiting her website at www.elizabethpienaar.com.

As always, be kind and review. Authors don’t only want to know what you thought, they want others to know what you thought and they depend on your reviews, shares and endorsements to get the word out.

Have a great week!