Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Writer's Block: Week 2 in Review

I would like to express my gratitude to the authors who shared their stories this week on The Writer's Block. In case you missed it, here is a recap.

On Tuesday, we welcomed  children's author Jacquitta A. McManus (

On Wednesday, we visited with children's author and storyteller Dianne de Las Casas (

On Thursday, we met John D. Kenworthy, an author and philanthropist (

And on Friday, we were introduced to YA Fantasy/Paranormal author Alivia Anders (

I encourage you all to take a few minutes to read their interviews and even leave a comment. I think that you will be inspired. I think that you may learn something new. I think that you will broaden your perspective. Hopefully, you will be forever changed for the better as I have.

Many thanks to The Writer's Block contributors! I salute you all.

Keep your pen to the paper! Remember, inspiration is everywhere...

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Alivia Anders

1)      Describe your journey as an author/writer.

I've been all over the place in the writing world. My first days of writing happened by pure accident when I found a link to a RPG-forum board (think Fan-Fiction but instead of you writing the whole thing other people contribute as other characters) and joined on a whim. I loved it so much that I started to keep all my writings in folders like trophies. Senior year of High School is when the writing bug really bit me, and I hit the ground running with it as far as I could go.

2)      Do you specialize in any particular genre(s)?

My friends on WritingForums told me I could really knock into fantasy and YA romance. I read nothing but YA, so it was only natural that I write YA Fantasy/Paranormal and dash in a little Romance for kicks.

3)      Tell us about your most current project, Illumine.  Is this your first published work?

Yes, Illumine is the first of many books I have planned to write. I guess you could say I'm sort of hoarding them and building massive piles in my head. Illumine is the first in the series (The Illumine Series) about Essallie Hanley, your regular run-of-the-mill girl who almost falls victim to a demonic sacrifice ritual! She moves back home with her older brother Jayson to get past the horrors she left home, only to find that they followed her there with a vengeance. It's a bit of a head-turner.

4)      How did you choose your publisher? Describe that process.

I chose to self-publish after many months of looking at all the facts. We're in a moving world where readers don't like to wait a year for a book, and they don't like paying an arm and a leg for it either. I knew deep down self-publishing would be the way to go in this technology-thriving world, where I could control where my book went and the writing inside of it. I'm proud of my decision and wouldn't change it for the world.

5)      Tell us about your blog. What inspired it?

When I started my blog back in May 2011, I really just had the intent of posting my book was out, where to buy it, stuff like that. I never would have imagined just how powerful of a tool it would be. 

6)      How do you promote your work? What strategies have been the most successful?

I promote my work in any way I can without feeling like I'm trying to pawn it off on people on the corner of the street. So far so good! My best strategy that I could tell anyone who is promoting their work is to be genuine. People love when you are you, it stands out! It's like comparing the singer Adele to everyone else on the radio. Most artists use auto-tune and in the end it all sounds the same, but Adele just rocks it with her raw voice, her raw power. Use your raw power! 

7)      What do you plan to accomplish in 2012?

2012 is a HUGE year for myself as a writer this year. The second book to Illumine, called Obumbrate, is scheduled to be released July 7th! That's huge for me to put out a book in six months. I'm already writing like lightning and, not to tease, but if you liked the first you're going to love the second.

8)      What advice would you give to budding writers?

Don't call it a pipe dream. So what if you're not successful overnight, was J.K. Rowling? No! How about Amanda Hocking? Certainly not! Push yourself to the point where you don't think you can go on, and then keep going. 

9)      What is your definition of success as a writer?

Success as a writer is when you can be proud of your work. The minute you hold pride in what you've got, that to me is success.

Author Bio

Alivia Anders was thirteen when she fell headfirst into the world of internet fanfic and RPG-forum board sites that showed her the 'back door' into the world of writing. Four years and many hours spent glued to a computer screen later she found her true calling in writing. 
Alivia currently lives with her family in her hometown of Coopersburg, PA. She frequently admits that if she wasn't so intolerant to dairy she'd live at her local ice cream shop called The Inside Scoop. 

Twitter handle: @aliviaanders
Blog link: (Same as website)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews John D. Kenworthy

1) Describe your journey as an author/writer.
My journey as an author has taken a familiar path to most artists. Early on in my life I knew that I had some things to say, but not necessarily the facility by which I could share them. I learned that writing was a means to express the passion and compassion within myself that I struggled to share through more conventional means. I had severe speech impedimenta as a child but it took me not long to realize that I did not stammer when I wrote. Kurt Vonnegut wrote of it once - or perhaps I merely dreamed that he had - using a metaphor that explained that he was a clumsy kid, but in the water he could swim quite gracefully. Writing is like that to me. Upon the open water of the page, I can swim.

So I nurtured that within myself. I read voraciously and wrote every second I could. I always was a writer - as long as I had consciousness I knew that I was a writer. Some folks would say, "Wow, Kenworthy, you should be a writer!" and I would always respond, "I am." Writing and publishing were two separate entities to me, and still are. I'm not caught up in the ego-massaging world wherein I have to have a best seller or a Pulitzer Prize to validate to myself what I do. It is the process of writing that I love. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to have readers buy my books - no question. Writing solely for yourself is a sort of sad literary masturbation in my eyes, so it must be shared. But the success for me isn't defined by lists or awards though they are indeed wonderful when they occur.

2) Do you specialize in any particular genre(s)?

I have always considered myself to be a genre hack or maybe it's more like an anti-snob. I tend to write in a variety of forms and even styles to fit my eccentric personality. All writing is valid. I have written PRs for my company, screenplays for an animation studio in Denmark, sleazy biker fiction for Easyrider's Magazine; a straightforward biography for Disney (The Hand Behind the Mouse: an intimate biography of Ub Iwerks, Disney Editions 2001, winner of the E.G. Lutz Award for best book about animation). I have written pop-theology, industrial marketing manifestos, poems and proverbs and epistles of every ilk. My work has been for children, for adults, for bad girls and good boys, and yet it shares a thread of something that is uniquely me - and that is my voice. In the best of my work I believe it is that lyrical voice that sustains it, that carries it, that makes it resonate within the reader regardless the subject, style or audience. Or at least that is the hope. For me, The Missionary and the Brute is the culmination of that expression of voice.

3) What was your first published work?

My first published work of any kind was a short story called "Biker's Funeral" which appeared in Easyrider's Magazine back in 1987. It was an incredibly fast paced tale of two bikers stealing the corpse of their deceased friend and taking him to a party across country strapped to the back of one of their bikes. It actually got rejected at first. They sent my manuscript submission back to me with diacritical marks absolutely covering each page. Hundreds of edit marks! It was disappointing at first, but after I thought about it I realized it must have been pretty close for them to take that time to copy edit it. So I accepted all their edits, and then re-wrote some more - trying to think of any objections the editors might have. One thing I knew had to go from the original was that I included the character of Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane in one scene. That probably would have gotten all of us sued! So I took her out and in her place created a fictional songstress. Maybe that did it. When I resubmitted, it got published. That was one of those great moments in life where everything clicked. I was floating on air for months after that. It had some great lines in it as I recall and I got asked to write a series of funny and edgy biker tales for Easyrider's and their sister magazines after that. Lots of fun. I could be as outrageous as I wanted to be.

4) Tell us about your most current project, The Missionary and the Brute.

The Missionary and the Brute is an adult literary novel that imagines what it would be like to be arrested for murder amid the brutal conditions of a far off land. Traveling in Africa is challenging enough without being involved in a serial murder case at the same time. We observe as the Missionary Jadwin Ross discovers the truth behind the killings and realizes that innocence is a relative term. In many ways, the book is about the duality of humankind - that we simultaneously have elements of both the missionary and the brute within us all. One gravitates toward matters of civility and conscience, while the other acts on base animal instinct and intuition. During the novel, they seem to race headlong toward a riveting conclusion that is as unexpected as it is final.

5) How did you choose a publisher?

The Missionary and the Brute is published through CreateSpace, an Amazon company. I know that the writing, subject and style of this gritty, compelling novel are complex and beyond the comfort level of many traditional publishers. It's also not easy to summarize in a pithy tag line with which to query agents. Beyond that, I wanted to have the control to publish it my way. There is no one to blame for either the success or failure of this work other than me. I dig that. Accountability and responsibility are mine.

So if you enjoyed Fight Club, American Pscyho, Out of Africa, or Harry Potter rush out and buy one today! (Okay, it truly has nothing to do with Harry Potter, but I wanted to expand my audience!) Available now at

6) Tell us about Brick by Brick for Tanzania!, Inc.

For as dark as The Missionary and the Brute is in regards to events transpiring in Africa, my work as founder/Executive Director of Brick by Brick for Tanzania!, Inc. is just that much light. Brick by Brick is all about hope. It is our mission to help the children of Tanzania and their families by building preschools. Our schools help in a number of ways - the three primary ways they help are: 1- they provide an academic head start for boys and girls of all walks of life in a safe, nurturing environment, 2- because the students are cared for the mothers can now take work outside of the home to supplement meager family incomes (approximately $370 USD per family, per year), 3- since the mothers are working, older siblings don't have to - only 7% of all secondary school aged children attend school because they are sent off into a harsh and unyielding workforce. As you can imagine the jobs available for a 13 or 14 year old are not pleasant. Often they are harsh and dangerous (sending boys down into mine shafts) or downright deadly (girls turning to prostitution to help their families). Our schools aim to help in each of these areas. They also have a couple of other more subtle outcomes - many of the children are extremely poor and are facing severe hunger situations. Sometimes the porridge they eat in our schools is their only meal of the day. We never anticipated that benefit. We are also told by embassy personnel that our schools serve a strong diplomatic purpose, helping share what is best about the west with the people of Tanzania. That too was unforeseen, but greatly welcomed.

7) How do you promote your work? What strategies have been the most successful?
Begging friends and family has been fairly effective for me thus far. Ha! And I wish that was more of a joke than it in actuality is. It is darned difficult to self-promote, but it is essential. With my first books, I learned that I bore the responsibility for the success or failure of my own sales efforts. I do a lot of social media - Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, GoodReads - all linking to my blog and online store. I am currently doing a direct mail campaign to independent booksellers with an interactive multimedia DVD trying to generate interest in my making appearances for book signings/readings/talks/book clubs. That person to person marketing is the absolute best sales tool and word of mouth is huge - especially for a challenging book such as mine.

8) What advice would you give to budding writers?

Write. It is as simple as that. Too often I hear folks talking about what they are going to write, but never actually doing anything. Often they are great ideas too. Unfortunately, speaking from experience, if you share a story verbally too many times it no longer has that psychic necessity to become a book. You have sated that storytelling gene we all carry within us. (It's the 21st or 22nd one beyond the penultimate turn of that double helix thingy.) The other thing I would tell budding writers is to expect rejection but to learn from it. I have a stack of rejection letters nearly 3 inches thick. I have learned from each one - even the crappy form ones. Put yourself behind an unseen reader's eyes. See the book as they see it. Pull away and give yourself distance so that you can be objective about your own work. That's so tough to do but essential. Once you learn to do that with an unerring editorial touch, you will know not only where you have failed the reader, but where you have achieved that greatness you seek. When that happens - and it will if you are dogged at it - that is the most magical feeling in the world!

9) What is your definition of success as a writer?

I believe every writer has to write their own definition of success. What works for me certainly wouldn't work for everyone. Right now - I just want to get my works out there. A few hundred copies here and there and I am fine with that for now. I think it's all about people finding me. Or me them. For me, I definitely want to sell books, but on my terms. I am independent enough to really want to share my voice more than to reap great sales. I think my writing voice is the most unique aspect of not just my books but my life. So my ultimate success would be being able to write full-time so that I can share that voice more frequently. I'm on the path to that right now, but time as always shall be the great arbiter of those kinds of decisions.

Author Bio

John Kenworthy has written for Easyriders, Biker, V-Twin and Persistence of Vision magazines. He is the co-author (with Leslie Iwerks) of The Hand Behind the Mouse: An Intimate Biography of Ub Iwerks (Disney Editions, 2001) winner of the E.G. Lutz Award for best book about animation, and is author of Bungee Jumping & Cocoons (ISA Press, 2003). The Missionary and the Brute is his first novel.

Website link:

Twitter handle: @John_KENWORTHY

Blog link:

Facebook link:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Dianne de Las Casas

NEW! Watch the trailer for Dianne's latest release, Dinosaur Mardi Gras !

1)   Describe your journey as an author/writer.

I began my career as a professional storyteller in 1996. I was a volunteer storyteller at my local library, doing Saturday story times. The librarian told me that I had talent as a storyteller and should pursue it s a career. I listened to her and began marketing myself as a storyteller!

As a teller of tales, I do extensive school visits, seeing thousands of kids a year. Since I was in second grade, I have always wanted to be a children's book author. I believe my work as a storyteller helped prepare me for my career as a children's book author. I honed my storytelling skills in front of a live audience, which then helped me to translate that into my signature "Tell Along Tales" for the printed page. By performing in front of kids, I learned how to make them laugh and how to engage them. Kids are honest and through their reactions at live performances, I learned how to adjust and tailor my stories for their listening ears. This, in turn, helped me to translate those oral tales into books.

2)   Do you specialize in any particular genre(s)?

Currently, I specialize in picture books. Many of my books are folktale retellings. I also write professional development books for librarians and educators. Those books have storytelling as the foundation, using different oral traditions to connect across the curriculum. I have 18 published books with more on the way. I am working on several middle grade novels as well.

3)   What was your first published work?

Not counting the literary magazine in high school or my college newspaper, my first book, Story Fest: Crafting Story Theater Scripts, came out in 2005.

4)   Tell us about your most current project.

My latest book is Dinosaur Mardi Gras. Since I live in New Orleans, I wanted to celebrate the Mardi Gras culture. What coud be better than dinosaurs and Mardi Gras together?! It's a fun parade of dinosaurs with T-Rex, the King of Canivores, as the star of the party. There are 18 named dinosaurs in the book, chomping and stomping their way through the streets of New Orleans. Between now and Mardi Gras (February 21),  I have lots of book store launch parties scheduled.
I am also the founder of Picture Book Month, an international literacy initiative that went viral around the world. This upcoming November, Picture Book Month will feature amazing picture book authors and illustrators from around the world. The website is

5)   When did you publish your first book? Describe that process.

My first children's book, The Cajun Cornbread Boy, a spicy retelling of "The Gingerbread Man," was published by Pelican Publishing Company in New Orleans in 2009. It is in its third printing. The book first went under contract in 2003. After a couple of illustrators had trouble finalizing the look of The Cajun Cornbread Boy, and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the contract was cancelled. I really believed in the book and when the publisher bounced back from Katrina, I approached them again. The Cajun Cornbread Boy went back under contract and was finally published. Marita Gentry is the illustrator and I love how the book came out. The book almost died but because of my faith and persistence, The Cajun Cornbread Boy is now running across bookshelves everywhere. I now have 8 children's picture books with Pelican Publishing Company.

6)   How are your books illustrated? Do you get to select the illustrator?

I work with a couple of different illustrators: Marita Gentry and Holly Stone-Barker. Normally, the publisher selects the illustrator but, in my case, they asked me if I knew anyone. Both Marita and Holly are professional artists and the publisher loved their work so I was fortunate to be able to work with women whose work I admired.

 7)   What is a professional storyteller? How did you become one?

Simply put, a professional storyteller is someone who gets paid to tell stories. As I said above, my storytelling career began as a volunteer storyteller at my local library. That blossomed into a full-time career that eventually led me to my career as a children's book author. It all works together. I even wrote  a book about how to become a professional storyteller! It's called The Story Biz Handbook: How to Manage Your Storytelling Career from the Desk to the Stage. It's 30 chapters and nearly 400 pages on the business of storytelling. It's a great book for anyone who wants to make a living doing presentations for young people.

 8)   How do you promote your work? What strategies have been the most successful?

I have a comprehensive website with a blog. I send out a monthly email newsletter to over 14,000 subscribers. I also use a variety of social networks to spread the word, most notably Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. I just started using Pinterest. Social networking really allows people to get to know each other and make great connections. It can be very time-consuming but I believe it's worth the effort when you build your platform as an author. I reach thousands of people through my social networking efforts and that word of mouth helps to spread information about my books and my platform of literacy. Facebook and Twitter have been really successful in helping me reach new audiences. When Picture Book Month went viral, it was even featured on Life Lift, the Oprah Blog.

9)   What advice would you give to budding writers?

Marketing and social networking are vital to your career as a writer. Even before you are published, it's a good idea to establish your platform. Be organized and manage your time. Deadlines are your lifelines to success. Carve out time to write every day. After all, without words, you can't be a writer.

10)  What is your definition of success as a writer?

Success as a writer is writing about something you are passionate about and finding an audience who is just as passionate as you are about your subject. After all, writers write because they have a message. Messages are meant to be shared.

Ignore the critics, embrace the praise, and above all, be kind to yourself.

Author Bio

Touring internationally, award-winning author and storyteller Dianne de Las Casas sizzles on stage with “traditional folklore gone fun!” and “revved-up storytelling.” Audiences don’t just listen – they sing, clap, dance, chant, and roar with laughter. De Las Casas adapts traditional folklore, adding fun audience participation, song, and of course, humor. A dramatic storyteller, she does not stay still! Through the use of character voices, creative movement, and animated facial expressions and gestures, she creates a world of fantasy and enchantment. Childhood travels around the world contributed to shaping her future as a storyteller. De Las Casas lived in the Philippines, Hawaii, Spain and traveled across Europe and the United States. A proud Filipina-American, she now resides in the New Orleans area. Her varied cultural experiences nourished her imagination, and she continues to draw on that knowledge, adding depth and richness to her tales. A champion for literacy, she is founder of the international initiative, Picture Book Month, which was featured in Life Lift, The Oprah Blog.

Contact Dianne de Las Casas
Award-Winning Author & Storyteller

Founder of Picture Book Month

The Story Connection
P.O. Box 2656
Harvey, LA 70059

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Jacquitta A. McManus of Worlds to Discover

1) Describe your journey as an author/writer.

I first started my company with the idea of starting a fantasy adventure children’s magazine, called Labyrinth’s Door. But that morphed into a mag book titled Labyrinth’s Door that kept some of the same ideas as the magazine.

The idea for the first Labyrinth’s Door mag book came from working on the back-story of Anyia, who is character in a novel I’m working on.

Once I had the first installment of Labyrinth’s Door published I started thinking about creating my first coloring book adventure, and that’s when the Talee series was born. It is based on a concept I had started earlier for the magazine. It first started off just as a coloring book adventure series but once I had a rough draft of the coloring book I decide to write an earlier reader chapter book of the story, after many requests from friends to do so.
I’m now working on the 2nd installments for Labyrinth’s Door and Talee.

2) Do you specialize in any particular genre(s)

I do! My genre of choice is fantasy adventure stories for children and YA. I love that genre and find it fun to work in.

3) What was your first published work?
My first book published was Labyrinth's Door--Anyia "Dream of a Warrior", a fantasy adventure mag for ages 9-12.

It is about a young girl named Anyia, whose dream of becoming a Nagoran Warrior is infused with adventure and danger. Running from her duties as a Yora, she dares to break tradition to follow her own dream, during a time when Empress Zarina threatens the magic treaty that protects her village. 

This is a story that flows wonderfully and woven into the action are mysteries that make for an exciting teaser that will leave you eager for more of Anyia's adventures. You will not want to wait to find out how her personal journey, the chief and Empress Zarian's war, as well as Amoonda's involvement and the role of the Treelins develop in coming installments. 

4) Tell us about your other books.

 My second book is a fantasy adventure book for children 4-8 titled Talee and the Fallen Object. It’s an early reader chapter book and a coloring adventure book.

Talee is an adventurous eight-year-old girl that loves purple, yellow and big puffy muffins. She lives on the planet Gala, which has two moons, and landmasses that float. It’s a great elementary school-aged children’s book, as it will transport kids to another world through the description given by the protagonist, Talee.

5) Who illustrates your books? Describe that process.
I’ve used a couple of different illustrators over the various projects. For my first book Maurice Novembre worked on the concepts of all the male characters. Toujour Byrd worked on the concepts for all the female characters and she illustrated all the scenes as well as did the entire coloring for the book.
For my second book, Toujour did the concept work on Talee but Brian Hardison did all the illustration work and I did all the inking of the illustration with the help of Brian and Toujour did the coloring of the cover.

I’m very hands on and art direct all of my projects. My process is to send the illustrator a package of the project, which always consists of my ideas, screen shots and any references I might have. Then I talk with them about the needs of the project and they work on rough sketches. Once the rough sketches are good the final illustration work begins.

6) Tell us about Worlds to  Are your books really available free of charge? Why? is the website for Worlds To Discover which is a children's book publishing company that is inspired by fantasy adventure stories that push the imagination. And yes! On you can read both of my books for free. I made the decision one night as I was working on one of my books.

As I was writing I wished I had a fan base of children who were looking forward to the story I was working on and wondering what Anyia, Talee, and Nola were up to next. But that’s not possible if they have never read any of my stories and they don’t know the characters. Some people have told me not to post my books for free on my site. They said I wouldn't make any money while others have told me to do it for a short period of time. But, that didn’t concern me. My mind was made up one night when I was watching one of Oprah’s Life Classes where she posed a question: "Would you be doing what you’re doing even if it didn’t make money?" The answer for me was an easy…YES! I love creating stories, new characters and worlds. Just today, after not writing for weeks, I was working on one of my novels and realized how much I miss working on my stories. Although I do want to get paid for my stories, I also want people to get to know my characters. So for now they will be on my site and people are welcomed to read them for free.

7) How do you promote your work? What strategies have been the most successful?

I have mostly promoted my books on the internet, through interviews and blog tours. But now that I’ve teamed up with Eva’s Bakeshop for the Puffy Muffin I’ve started promoting through flyers and posters in my area. Our local library has been really helpful in helping to promote the Puffy Muffin as well as some daycares and etc.

8) What do you plan to accomplish in 2012?

Well with the launch of the Puffy Muffin, I also hope to publish at least 2 books this year. One of which will be the next book in the Talee series.

9) What advice would you give to budding writers?

Take your time. There is no rush, although it can feel like it is. Get your artwork done by an artist whose work you love. And spend the money and time to get a line edit done by a professional. It will be time and money well spent. 

10) What is your definition of success as a writer?

The individual defines success. Some people are content with just publishing books regardless of sales. Others want to make their living off their books. For me, success is being able to take my stories from books to animation while earning a living.

Author Bio

“All my life, I’ve gravitated to fantasy stories. Stories I felt I could be a part of and completely immerse myself in … in my imagination.” – JMcManus
Jacquitta A. McManus, a little girl from Kentucky and author of two fantasy adventure children’s books, Labyrinth’s Door – Anyia “Dream of a Warrior” and Talee and the Fallen Object, was always drawn to fantasy stories. It was a way for her to immerse herself into exciting adventures in faraway lands that she otherwise wouldn’t experience. As she got older she would find that immersing herself into those fantasy stories, as a little girl, was just the beginning of a journey that would lead her to writing her own fantasy adventure children’s books.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Guess Who is on The Writer's Block This Week?

Join me in welcoming this week's featured authors!
Tuesday, 01/17/2012 Jacquitta A. McManus

Wednesday, 01/18/2012 Dianne de Las Casas

Thursday, 01/19/2012 John D. Kenworthy

Friday, 01/20/2012 Alivia Anders

Are you an author with a story to tell? If so, then The Writer's Block wants to hear from you! Visit the following link to learn how to request your interview today:

Keep your pen to the paper! Remember, inspiration is everywhere...