Friday, December 16, 2016

Felix Hartmann: Author of Dark Age, on Writing His Debut Novel

Felix Hartmann talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about his book, Dark Age.



“The best way to make somebody think, to expand their paradigm, is by telling them a story and then making them immersed in it, and then they start to question.” ~Felix Hartmann

Felix is an immigrant who came to the United States in 2008, and even before then, in his native Germany, he loved writing stories as a child, recalling that he rewrote J. R. R. Tolkien’s works as a child and had been writing stories since then. He started writing Dark Age in 2012, originally as a video game which he would create in conjunction with his programmer brother, and it was influenced by the Arab Spring that took place in that year. As Felix continued to develop the story, he got more and more involved in it, so much so that his storymaking ran far ahead of his brother’s capacity to develop it. Felix counts Shakespeare, George Orwell, T. A. Barron (who replied to an e-mail Felix sent him) and Mary Shelley as his literary influences.

Felix is attracted to books that make him think, hence is being attracted to the kind of literature that others would call “dark,” as he doesn’t believe in stories where the good guy is all good and where the evil guy is all evil, but are rather complex individuals whose flaws and strengths show why they are who they are. Felix remarks that dark themes enable a more complex and thorough investigation of humans as they are, enabling him to challenge the reader’s paradigms, rather than the somewhat shallow treatment they would get in a sunny kind of storyline, and also points out that, in all his reviews to date, nobody has commented that Dark Age is “just like (this book).”

Where writing the book is concerned, Felix began with a bare outline and then let the story grow based on that outline, giving an interaction with some villagers in his book as an example, as that scene wasn’t included in his original outline. He mentions that the first draft is likely not to be the way the story will finally turn out to be, and that authors should know the beginning, know the end and then think two or three steps ahead. He says that he did at least a dozen rounds of editing and that the edits should revolve around the needs of the story.

Felix doesn’t believe that one should have just one passion, but should have several, and it shows in his life in that, in addition to being passionate about writing, he is also presently in his last year as a college student and is setting up his own company. He also remarks that writing a novel in his second language was a good way to practice English, noting that his first draft had a lot of errors in it, where the English language is concerned. He also notes that English is the best market to write a book in, noting that he has readers in places like Japan and Africa. He encourages writers to go ahead and put their books out in the world and remarks that, had he put out Dark Age two years previously, he would have gotten good feedback that would enable him to bring out a better second book that much sooner. Felix decries the attitude that reading should only be done in school, pointing out that reading books enables the expansion of the mind.

Felix Hartmann’s website for his book, Dark Age, is darkagebook.com.

Purchase from Amazon: Dark Age by Felix Hatrmann


Sunday, December 4, 2016

Kathrine LaFleur on Moonlight Hunting, Book 2 of The Cardonian Chronicles Fantasy Series

Kathrine LaFleur talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about her book, Moonlight Hunting.



“One of the things I love about writing is when the characters take over and all I have to do is sit there and move the pen and they tell the story.” ~Kathrine LaFleur

Kathrine started writing early in life, and she counts, as her influences, Edward Ormondroyd, Edward Eager, Daphne du Maurier and Louise Penny. She dabbled in short stories before writing novels and only began writing with the intention of being an author around ten years ago, writing The Elephant Girl before writing the Cardonian Chronicles series. Kathrine admits that the series had had a lot of false starts, and that the plotline “came out of the characters,” rather than outlining an entire plot prior to writing the stories, which was a point of learning for her. She admits that writing the series required a lot more effort compared to the stories she had written before, because of more plotlines and characters to work on. The first book took a whole year to create, while writing the second book was somewhat easier. She needed to do a lot of research for her upcoming third book, as it takes place in the desert and she didn’t know much about desert environments.

Kathrine admits that she has been curious about telepathy since childhood, and she decided to make these natural in her world of Cardonia. She admits that the characters in the series come from people and characters whom she has known or read about, and her favorite is the protagonist, Moonlight, whom she remarks has her vulnerabilities and faults as well as strengths, just like ordinary people. Kathrine admits that writing about conflicts is somewhat difficult for her. That said, she admits that conflicts are necessary, particularly when she finds herself “writing in circles,” where the story then doesn’t progress.

Kathrine has a daily quota of pages to write, and she takes the time, after her day as a teacher, to go to a coffee shop where she reads for about an hour and then write for an hour or so before going home, preferring not to write at home because of all of the distractions there. Kathrine keeps notecards “around an inch thick” with notes on each character, as well as additional notes in her computer, which include details such as hair type and eye color, inventions they created and the like, to keep any loopholes from showing up. She admits that she’s concerned about maintaining consistency with what goes on amongst the characters rather than focusing on every single detail, and if these don’t correlate to reality, well, it’s not an issue for her since the book’s a work of fiction and the world within is her creation, after all.

With Moonlight Hunting, Kathrine has discovered that she’s capable of writing a fiction series, which seemed impossible for her to do five years ago. She hopes to write a mystery novel once she is done with the Cardonian Chronicles. To would-be authors, she says that it is better to try, (knowing that they might fail), than to not try at all, and that this could also apply to any dream that one has.

Kathrine LaFleur’s website for her book, Moonlight Hunting, is kathrinelafleur.com.

Purchase from Amazon: Moonlight Hunting, 2nd book of the Cardonian Chronicles, by Kathrine LaFleur

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Yuki Oikawa on How The Laws of Justice Can Bring Peace

Yuki Oikawa talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about Master Ryuho Okawa’s book, The Laws of Justice: How We Can Solve World Conflicts & Bring Peace.



“World peace should come from peace within.” ~Yuki Oikawa

Master Ryuho Okawa is a best selling author who writes on various topics, including lifestyle, spiritual and political issues, and is the founder of Happy Science, which is a spiritual movement, based on Buddhist principles but which also includes other religious principles, that was founded thirty years ago, in Japan. The subject of The Laws of Justice is politics, but one which has a uniquely spiritual viewpoint, and Happy Science itself also runs schools in Japan and has recently created a political party, the Happiness Realization Party, likewise also in Japan.

Yuki himself used to work in Merrill Lynch in New York, then joined a financial company in London, both in the capacity of a financial consultant, and it was then that he, as a Protestant, found Master Okawa’s books, became intrigued with the teachings and then joined Happy Science itself. He is presently the international director for the Happiness Realization Party. Although raised as a Christian, he became aware of various other spiritual views.

The Laws of Justice takes note of all the conflicts that are presently ongoing in the world, and Master Okawa wrote it with the thought of getting back to the starting point of what justice is, which should come from God’s will. Although the book covers politics, it is directed more towards ordinary people so they could understand politics from a spiritual context. Yuki points out, as an example, that Christians don’t have enough knowledge about Islam to understand it, and vice versa, that solving the problem of conflict between the two religions requires one to open one’s mind, and that justice is essentially an awareness of what is right and what is wrong from the point of view of God’s will. That said, the book doesn’t specifically state any particular laws of justice but is more of a way for a reader to discover the laws of justice on one’s own, through meditation and similar spiritual practices, as Master Okawa believes that, by finding the answers on one’s own - and Yuki admits that finding such answers isn’t easy - one can achieve peace and, from there, help humanity progress towards international harmony.

Yuki then ventured that there may be no such thing as absolute right or wrong, but that we need to seek better answers to better divine God’s will. He also noted that the human mind is not perfect and is full of negative thoughts, and that we human beings have the tremendous potential hidden within our minds and the ability to develop this, which is where mediation can come into play. He then ventured a bit into the present issues around Asia and the United States, and where the American election of November 8, 2016 is concerned, he ventured that Donald Trump would be a better American president where Asia is concerned, as Hillary Clinton would maintain the status quo, which would be detrimental to Asia particularly where China is concerned, and Japan is presently concerned with North Korea and extremist groups in Asia. He also favors Trump to create a new relationship with Putin, particularly where Japan’s imminent signing of a peace treaty with Russia is concerned, as Putin seems to regard Japan in a friendly light.

To anyone who desires justice, particularly when it comes to redressing a wrong suffered, Yuki would say that God is still alive, and that God loves that person, to remind one of god’s existence.

Master Ryuho Okawa’s website for, The Laws of Justice: How We Can Solve World Conflicts & Bring Peace, is okawabooks.com.

Purchase from Amazon: The Laws of Justice: How We Can Solve World Conflicts & Bring Peace by Ryuho Okawa

Monday, October 31, 2016

Lisa Danylchuk on Recovering from Trauma and Stress

Lisa Danylchuk talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about her book, Embodied Healing: Using Yoga to Recover from Trauma and Extreme Stress.



“The slower you go, the faster you get there.” ~Lisa Danylchuk on Embodied Healing

Lisa is both a licensed marriage and family therapist and a registered and certified yoga teacher who has worked with various people, such as those in low-income areas, on issues related to stress. She wrote the book so she could reach those whom she couldn’t reach directly. It is primarily intended for those people who deal with those suffering from trauma, giving a foundation of treatment and yoga philosophy, as these presently exist, to help those suffering from trauma. There was no single incident that made Lisa think about writing the book; rather, it was a long-time process that arose from her yearning to write a book.

Lisa noted that stress is not necessarily a bad thing, as a certain degree of such is necessary in our daily life and is good for us. Extreme stress and trauma, however, impacts the entire human system - mind, body, energy, spirit - particularly the nervous system, which gets either hyper-aroused (which results in such emotions as anxiety and anger) or hypo-aroused (a parasympathetic reaction which results in such emotions as depression and dissociation, or numbness and “checking out”). She notes that traumas can spring from physical threats (such as physical violence) as well as emotional threats (such as bullying), and that different people respond differently from the same situation - depending on personality, how they were raised and other factors, with one person suffering long-term trauma from one situation while another would just shrug it off.

Lisa stresses that such reactions are a normal human reaction to an abnormal environment or situation, such as physical abuse in the home and chronic violence next door, and the treatment depends on how the person so traumatized reacts, rather than on the situation itself. A proper treatment thus needs to be tailored to the individual concerned, and knowing what questions to ask and what choices to make are thus very important.

Lisa noted that different populations have different percentages of people who suffer from trauma, and she remarked that, while trauma has been a recognized condition ever since it was first labeled as “shell shock” in World War I, the traditional therapies, which included electroshock therapies, weren’t based on a full understanding of trauma, and were thus crude. Lisa noted that, even in the past twenty years, trauma treatment has progressed a great deal, but that there also is more to learn. She also remarked that she has a wide variety of methods she can use and chooses the particular treatment for a particular patient, and that shame is still a major obstacle for people who are seeking help for trauma, which makes a good relationship between the patient and the therapist vital to the process itself.

To someone who is suffering from stress, Lisa would first ask how they want to feel, and that, as instilling hope is very important, she would then tell them that it is possible to heal and recover from trauma, that there is help available out there and that they should get help. Lisa notes that those who have healed from their traumas are happy to share their experience, and that trauma is not about the person involved, since bad things happen to anyone.

Lisa wants to write a book on healing in general in the future.

Lisa Danylchuk’s website for her book, Embodied Healing: Using Yoga to Recover from Trauma and Extreme Stress, is howwecanheal.com.

Purchase from Amazon: Embodied Healing: Using Yoga to Recover from Trauma and Extreme Stress by Lisa Danylchuk


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Kimberly Benjamin on Writing a Novel Even When as Busy as a Lawyer | Attorney by Day, ...

Kimberly Benjamin talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about her book, Attorney by Day, Novelist by Night: Bring Your Book to Light While Still Practicing Law.



“If you have that passion, and you’ve had it for awhile, it’s there for a reason.” ~Kimberly Benjamin

Kim might not be an attorney, but she grew up in a family of attorneys and worked with them before, so she knew a lot of them who felt they had great stories to tell but who never got these stories to print, for whatever reason. She had also worked with her sister, who is a lawyer, for five years on a novel, and that experience helped prod her to write Attorney by Day, Novelist by Night. Although the book might seem to be geared for attorneys, anyone who has a busy job or professional life can pick up the book and get a great deal from it.

Kim remarks that lawyers might read and write a lot as part of their profession, but what they write is so highly regimented, so outside their work hours they want to get into something more creative, with Kim remarking that some of the attorneys she knows are writing poems and country Western music. She notes that how busy attorneys are depends on the kind of practice they have, with litigators being swamped when they’re preparing for cases at particular times and corporate attorneys and those in contract work being freer with their schedule. Kim also remarks that all lawyers need to read a lot, and that deadlines are critical, as making these could make one’s case and missing these could cause one’s case to get thrown out. She also noted that, while attorneys need to tell a story about their case, these need to be presented in a way that is more cut and dried than creative, which is why writing a novel is a freer and more creative process than writing up cases.

Kim remarks that around eighty percent of the attorneys she knows write, or want to write creatively, and that one of the things that keep them from writing a book - being placed in a position of public exposure and vulnerability - is common to all would-be writers; and attorneys in general need to consider how well they need to protect their name and professional reputation. She also notes that passion has to be present in anything one does, and that writing creatively can help attorneys who are somewhat discouraged with their profession reconnect with what they enjoyed about reading and writing in the first place. Kim also knows of two full-time attorneys, with their own law firms, who have written novels which are now poised to be published.

To would-be novelists, Kim says that, if they have a story to tell, then tell it, no matter how long it takes, and to start now, because they have been given a message to share, both for themselves and for their readers.

Kimberly Benjamin’s website for her book, Attorney by Day, Novelist by Night: Bring Your Book to Light While Still Practicing Law, is kimberlybenjamincoaching.com.

Purchase on Amazon: Attorney by Day, Novelist by Night: Bring Your Book to Light While Still Practicing Law by Kimberly Benjamin


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Deborah Shouse and Caring for a Loved One with Dementia | Creative Activiti...

Deborah Shouse and Ron Zoglin talk to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about their book, Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together.



“What we really want in all our relationships is meaningful moments of connection.” ~Deborah Shouse

Deborah got involved with dementia when her mother was diagnosed with the condition, and she wrote a journal to help her get a handle on the situation, while Ron, for his part, got involved when, first, his mother, then his father, became similarly afflicted after Deborah’s mother had passed on.

It was at a literary gathering when Deborah had a reading of one of her pieces on dementia, and when, after that reading, several people came up to her, remarking that their own relatives were going through it. Both Deborah and Ron realized that there was a need to share such stories with the world. This became the basis of Deborah’s first book, Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver's Journey, and it was after that - and after watching the documentary, Alive Inside, when Deborah wrote Connecting in the Land of Dementia with Ron’s help, even though she originally wanted to write a book on Dan Cohen, the doctor featured in Alive Inside.

Deborah and Ron noted that creativity and imagination are still very much intact, and may even be heightened, in a person afflicted with dementia, even if the cognitive parts are no longer intact, and Deborah gathered information not only from people whose relatives had dementia but also from experts in the field, while doing research for this book. It became clear that new methods are presently being developed to enable those looking after people with dementia to connect with them, as the old methods of connection no longer work.

Ron noted that there have been lots of changes done in the field of dementia done in the past few years, and that these center around creative activities by which caregivers can connect with those they look after. Art, music, gardening, movement, poetry and other methods are used to enable such a connection and create something that both can do together, with Ron and Deborah mentioning stories where cooking and food was a way for caregivers and their charges to connect with each other. Deborah then noted that the caregiver has to accept the person they are looking after as they are, and must be the one to journey to where that person is, which takes practice.

Deborah noted that there is a social stigma associated to living with dementia, but that at the end of the day, our basic need to want to be active and engaged doesn’t stop with a cognitive impairment. She noted that “dementia” is actually an umbrella term that applies to different types of cognitive impairment, of which Alzheimer’s is just one type.

As connecting with people afflicted with dementia was something that Deborah and Ron experienced while looking after their own parents, and Ron remarks that the creative techniques presently available were those he wished he could have used while he was looking after his own parents, as these have just been newly brought out. Deborah noted that most people respond at some level to their favorite music, and that food is a common experience to everyone, hence its viability as a method of connecting.

Deborah was surprised by the breadth of ideas and activities that are explorable, and noted that open-ended questions can be used successfully to prompt people with dementia, as such questions don’t create judgment or let those with dementia feel that they’ll be corrected. Deborah remarks that caregivers need to connect with others to get the support they need, rather than feel isolated as they look out for their charges, to take care of themselves, and to appreciate the journey they are on, as it could be a wonderful, spiritual journey, while on the other hand, according to Ron, humor and flexibility are what are important for caregivers.

The website for Deborah Shouse’s and Ron Zoglin’s book, Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together, is dementiajourney.org.

Purchase from Amazon: Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together by Deborah Shouse with Ron Zoglin

Monday, October 10, 2016

Monica Burch on Speedy's Strength, a Children's Book about a Fighting Fish

Monica Burch talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about her book, Speedy's Strength, a children's book about a little Fighting Betta Fish.



“When you have to develop, it takes a little time and effort.” 
                                                                    ~ Monica Burch

The concept for Speedy’s Strength actually began several years ago, when Monica’s oldest son brought home a Betta Fish from his school to look after (“fish sitting,” in Monica’s words). Monica found Betta Fishes to be an interesting species and began writing a story based on that. The story grew as the years went by, with Monica telling her son these so often that her son began to complain about hearing about the fish yet again, and one of the interesting plot elements of the book - changing environments, and the possible changes in personality with this change - came about when her son changed schools. Where the main character is concerned, this change was from the somewhat freewheeling kind of fish, who did things differently before he was captured and put into a fishbowl, back into what he was bred to do, which was fight other fish.

Monica’s target readers are pre-kindergarten to third grade and she also wrote the book essentially for parents to read to their children. She remarked that it was written in such a way that people can pick up different stories or lessons from it, with one of the lessons being that one has to work to get what one wants, and another being that one needs to work on oneself to develop oneself, and yet another being that one can change one’s nature if one really applies oneself to doing so. She admits that she was influenced by her sons’ experiences in making the book, such as when she included a section on Speedy training after reflecting on her son’s training in the sport of fencing.

According to Monica, Betta Fishes are beautiful looking fish that have been bred by humans to fight, and there is a short section at the back of the book that gives more information on the species itself. She found it interesting that only one Betta Fish can be kept in a fishbowl at any one time, because of their aggressiveness, but in the wild they can coexist with other fish species. She admits she made a Betta Fish a protagonist because she liked such fishes a lot, and that she originally intended to write a fun, information-based book on Betta Fishes, remarking that she could have included a lot on technology in it had the book turned out that way.

Monica has two other Speedy stories possibly in the works, with one being a prequel of Speedy while he was with his family, before he was captured, and another where Speedy encounters a Robotix Spider Robot. She also wouldn’t mind seeing Speedy as a cartoon franchise character, remarking that such could teach important lessons to children, and hopes that it can be around for decades due to this.

You can find Monica’s book, Speedy's Strength, on amazon.com, and can contact her at constructu@gmail.com.

Purchase from Amazon: Speedy's Strength, a children's book about a little fighting Betta fish by Monica Burch