IA: Initiate Blog Tour stop

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Welcome to my first participation in a Blog Tour, so far I’ve been enjoying it very much.  I was lucky enough to be today’s tour stop for “IA: Initiate” by John Darryl Winston. The Blog Tour is running this week (March 21-25) and you can find the participating bloggers and schedule here.

You can find “IA: Initiate” at Amazon. 

Initiate

IA: Initiate is origin story and a hero’s journey that follows thirteen-year-old orphan Naz Andersen and his nine-year-old sister, Meri. They live in a present day alternate Detroit/Chicago-like city known as the Exclave where they are surrounded by poverty, gang violence threatens every corner, and drug dealers rule the streets. Naz thinks he is ordinary except that he hears voices, has nightmares, and walks in his sleep.

The most important thing in the world to Naz is protecting Meri and getting her out of the Exclave and into the prestigious International Academy. But Naz has a secret, one that he is oblivious to, and only Meri knows. When Naz becomes the target of a notorious street gang he begins to discover the voices in his head, the nightmares, and sleepwalking are actually telekinesis and telepathy at play, a gift from his father of whom he has no memory.

Interview with the Author

John Darryl Winston was kind enough to answer some of my questions. Enjoy the responses of this very talented author:

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Tell us a bit about yourself. For instance, how did you start writing?

Writing can mean so many different things, but I’ll try to put them all in a nutshell as one. I started creating stories and telling them to people (parents, siblings, and friends) as far back as I can remember, but never wrote anything down. I hated reading and writing in general. Once I realized writing things down came with telling stories, I decided I wanted to write screenplays, as film is my first true love. When I became a parent and teacher I started writing stage plays for my kids and students. But I only started writing in the novel form about 4 or 5 years ago.

How did you come up with the idea for “IA Initiate”?

There are several things that I can point to that led me to the IA series. First there was “Superman the Movie” with Christopher Reeve. I was never into Superman before that. It was the origin part that sucked me in. Then it was “Batman Begins,” again the origin part. I began to toy with an origin story of my own with the premise, how believable it could be, thinking again about the tagline to the Christopher Reeve movie “You’ll believe a man can fly.” I wanted to write an origin story that brought the imagination into play but felt truly possible. Hence my tagline, read it and believe.

What do you like most about your character Naz? Is there some trait in him that you identify with?

What I like most about Naz is he’s so flawed, and I’m never quite sure what he will do next. He wants to do the right thing, but like us, he’s not always sure what the right thing is. So we get to go along with him on his journey and ask ourselves, what if?

Do you think the Exclave anticipates what may come in our future?

I think the Exclave like Gotham or Metropolis is the here and now, more or less. I had one publisher who was reading my manuscript call into question the authenticity of the Exclave setting. He felt that a middle school in such a downtrodden place would never have a basketball team much less a chess club. Of course he’s probably never been to Marcus Garvey Academy in Detroit. Welcome to my world.

What is your ideal place for writing?

My ideal place to write is some place unfamiliar that’s not too quiet and not too loud, a place where I can sit back and silently observe, or not, life in motion. I’m a people-watcher and much of my inspiration comes from that pastime.

Do you have a special process to get inspired or get in the writing mood?

I don’t have a goto process but there are some things I’ve done in the past and may or may not try in the future. I like to take extremely hot baths in complete darkness with a tape recorder running and talk to my characters. Sometimes when I’m exercising the muse approaches me. Then there’s the old glass of wine or two to get the juices flowing, but I avoid that when I can, afraid of developing a vice or bad habit. And then there’s trusty meditation.

What are your next projects? 

Three projects: The first is “IA: Union,” the final book in the IA trilogy which has me frustrated right now. The second is a sci-fi called “Ultima Humana,” about the last human along time from now on a planet not too far away, lol. The third is a sci-fi called “Patriarch” about a scientist who has found a way to endow his son with supernatural powers in a natural way. Sound familiar?

What would you recommend aspiring writers?

I would recommend aspiring writers to read, Read, and READ some more: books by great authors, not-so-great authors, and everyone in between. Read in and out of the genre you intend to write, and read critically and analytically, always having a highlighter around to mark that book up until it’s unrecognizable.

Any tips or writing recommendations?

Get some craft books. “On Writing” by Stephen King and “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White is a good place to start. Develop a thick skin and find people you can trust to be critical of your writing. That’s all for now.

More about the author…

John Darryl Winston is a recording artist, turned educator, turned author. He dates his love of storytelling back to reading the bible with his father and sisters and later when he first saw Superman The Movie as an 11th grader in his high school auditorium. He got the idea for his debut series while piloted a Boys’ Read program as a Detroit Public School teacher. He is the founder of the Adopt an Author program, which has as its mission to create an atmosphere where boys and girls learn to love reading and writing.

He has written songs with and for Grammy winner David Foster and record mogul Clive Davis. He has been a recording artist on Arista and Polygram records, and has written and/or produced songs for Gerald Levert, Jordan Hill, Gerald Alston, and many others.

He’s a graduate of the Recording Institute of Detroit, The Motion Picture Institute of Michigan, and Wayne State University. He has his MA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University and will be graduating, June 2016 with his MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes. He lives in Detroit with daughter, Marquette and plans to buy an African Grey Parrot when he conquers his irrational fear of birds and name him or her Tony or Toni.

You can find more information about John at:

Website / Facebook / Twitter

My Review

Those who know me are aware I’m a slow reader. Few books grab me well enough to finish in a couple of days, the norm is usually a couple of weeks, but “IA: Initiate” was one of those exceptions. I finished the book in a couple of days because it had the flow and pace that allowed me to devour the book without noticing.

Naz, a thirteen-year-old boy, lives in the Exclave along with his nine-year-old sister, both are orphans and live in a foster home. Sleepwalking might not be the only problem Naz is facing, he lives in a dangerous part of the city, and he can’t remember much of his early past. But he’s convinced of one sole objective: to protect his little sister from anything and to take her away from the decadent Exclave.

As the story develops, we learn Naz’s untrusty and insecure nature might be a result of his past and of the deaths of his parents. The story develops in parallels between fragments of Nobel Prize winner Dr. Cornelius Andersen and his achievements in the fields of neuroscience. Usually, when novels display two parallel stories at the same time in different time settings, one tends to distract from the other without intertwining properly. This was not the case. The author manages to increase the mystery and flow of the story as he narrates both of them. As we get to know the past of Naz and his sister, we also start to realize the implications of their world, the Exclave, and some possible explanations for Naz’s behavior.

I enjoyed reading the book. The characters were compelling, likable, and complex enough to want to know more about them. The story offers so many possibilities that I felt it was natural to have a series of books derived from this first part. I’m certainly eager to continue with the next books. Winston is very talented, and in his writing not only, I was able to understand the Exclave and the rest of their world around it; but  also I delved into the story with eagerness to know as much as possible from the potential turn of events.

Giveaway

John is offering e-copies of “IA: Initiate” to the 5 winners of the following Rafflecopter. Click here to enter it.

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Guest Interview: Stuart J. Whitmore

There are few short stories that I wish had been turned into a novel; No Fanfare by Stuart J. Whitmore is one of those short stories that I wish had been longer. This fantastic well-told story  presents us a topic with so many questions that leaves readers wondering about the endless possibilities. But Stuart not only writes short stories, he’s also written novels and non-fiction. I was lucky enough to interview this talented author and I’m certain his answers will inspire many aspiring writers.

– Tell us a bit about yourself. For instance, how did you start writing?

My interest in writing was mostly sparked by winning first prize in a classroom writing contest when I was about eight years old. The prize was $2.00 in cash, which (adjusted for inflation) would be about $10 in today’s dollars. I’m not sure whether the prize or the teacher’s praise mattered more at the time, but I see that as the start of my writing. I wrote my first full-length novel (first draft) when I was 14-15 years old, and another when I was 16-17 years old. I put my writing on hold for awhile to pursue a non-writing career and start a family, but NaNoWriMo helped bring me back to it.

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– How did you come up with the story idea for “No Fanfare”? Would you consider writing more about this topic and even turning it into a novel?

I like to play around with “what if” questions and see what stories I can generate from various answers. Just this morning I wondered, “what if cats could smell memories?” I give full credit for that strange question to the strange behavior of our cat! While I don’t remember the specifics, I’m fairly sure No Fanfare started in a similar way. What if someone was sent on a secret mission to another planet, and then everybody forgot he was there? (Or, what if someone thought that had happened to them, even if it hadn’t?) I also have a long-term interest in Mars exploration and colonization, which previously inspired my children’s book (Two Boys, Two Planets).

I haven’t given any thought to writing more to the story. It was always intended as a vignette focused on the initial “homecoming” experience. I tried to offer enough uncertainty that the reader might wonder what to believe. On the other hand, I realize that some readers prefer a more concrete resolution, so I might someday write a follow-up to No Fanfare.

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– What do you enjoy most, writing short stories or novels? Do you write short stories with the idea they’ll become short stories or do you usually decide this during the writing process?

Short stories are fun to write, but I love writing long, complex novels. I love all of the world- and character-building that I can do with longer works. Usually when I write a short story I intend for it to be short, although sometimes I’ll start a story without a particular goal for how long it will turn out. With short stories I often want to get a reader to start imagining things about the story I’ve started, with the hope they’ll enjoy filling out their own ending, but sometimes I get in trouble for leaving things unanswered!

– What is you ideal place for writing? Do you have a special process to get inspired or get in the writing mood?

I’m very flexible about my writing. I’ve written on public transit, in doctor and dentist waiting rooms, on a bench in a busy shopping mall, as well as quietly at my desk at home. Some writers develop a process to get in the mood for writing, and I often tell myself I should try that, but I never seem to get around to it.

– Besides the Dan Starney series, are you looking to work on another novel?

With luck, I’ll be releasing several more novels this year, as well as some novellas. I have four fantasy novels that are shaping up nicely, plus I have a detailed outline (rare for me) for a novel in a different genre, and a concept for a novella series in yet another genre. This year I’m exploring the use of pen names to keep the different genre works separated, although my fantasy novels will still be under my own name. I also plan to write a third book in the Dan Starney series to wrap up that storyline, although I don’t have a timeframe for when that will be released.

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– You also write non-fiction, what topics do you most enjoy writing about? What differences do you find between writing fiction and non-fiction?

So far my non-fiction writings have been fairly short dabblings in topics, and I haven’t found one where I feel comfortable yet. I like to be able to share information and ideas with people, things that can be useful in the real world, which is the appeal for me in non-fiction. I finder greater joy in writing fiction, but that is perhaps because it is a lot like daydreaming for me, and I am an incorrigible dreamer.

– What would you recommend aspiring writers? Any tips or writing recommendations?

One of the biggest obstacles that I see in aspiring writers is getting past the “I’m going to” stage and actually doing. While I enjoy talking about writing as much as anyone, being a writer means actually doing the writing too. There are many ways for people to start writing, whether it is fiction or non-fiction, and I would encourage aspiring writers to seek out those opportunities — contests, anthologies, sites like Wattpad, etc. — and start producing words. This is especially useful if it is done in a way where complete strangers can read those writings. Reactions from people outside of family and close friends can help highlight what works and what doesn’t. To develop as a writer, it is important to learn about writing and read what others have written, but it is even more important to just write, write, write!

For more information about Stuart J. Whitmore:

Website: http://www.stuartwhitmoreauthor.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5623681.Stuart_J_Whitmore
Google + https://plus.google.com/+StuartWhitmore
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Crenel
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StuartWhitmoreAuthor
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/stuart_whitmore_author/
Snapchat: stuart_whitmore

10 Questions with TBG Member: Eleanna Giannopoulou of Foodaki.gr

A great interview from a lovely friend who’s turned her life to be guided by her artistic side much like me. She’s from Greece and I met her while studying in Glasgow. She’s now in the pursuit of her passions!

Travel Bloggers Greece

prof_originalI was born in Athens in a family of the Greek diaspora. Only my mother and I were born in Greece in general and Athens in particular, for some generations. My father is of Greek origin but both he and his parents (and some grandparents) were born in Romania. They were part of the Greek community there until after the Second World War, when the emigrated to New Zealand. On my mother’s side, my grandfather was born in Istanbul, in the old aristocratic Greek neighborhood of Fanari, his family having been there since, well, forever. My grandmother was born in Odessa, Ukraine, to a Greek (Cretan) mother and Russian father (from Moscow). This lovely cultural and ethnic mix resulted in my growing up speaking several languages simultaneously. It was fun.

I loved cooking, photography and painting since I was a child. But instead of going to Art School, I decided…

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Guest Post: Juni Desireé – fellow blogger and writer

When you enter the blogging world, not only you start communicating with the people that follow your blog, but also you start following other blogs you start connecting with. In my blogger journey I had the chance to meet many wonderful people whose blogs I love to read, one of those persons is Juni Desireé, a wonderful blogger and writer who has always struck me with her honest words and her openness to the world. She writes from her heart and she’s very passionate for everything she sets her mind into. I totally recommend following her blogs and checking out this interview for her future projects.
Could you introduce yourself?
My name is Juni Desireé (aka JD). My blog is called JD on a Page (http://jdonapage.wordpress.com). It’s a blog where I share my stories and the lessons I learn, in the hope that it offers something good to people. I also have a writing blog called Write to Wrestle (https://awrestlingwriter.wordpress.com).
I’m currently studying a Master of Writing and Literature and I’m working on a book about what I’ve learnt this year when I moved from Victoria to Queensland.
I love dogs! Everyone should have a dog; they make life better. And my favourite food is fish and chips with tartare sauce.
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How did you start writing?
My first memory of writing is when I was in my first year of primary school. We had to write a diary each week. I loved it and have been writing ever since. I started journal writing when I was eleven when my mum bought me a journal.

Guest Post: Scarlett Van Dijk – A Writing Journey: Past, Present, and Future –

Hello everyone. Carla Doria kindly asked me to hop over to her blog and let you know a little about myself and my writing. So, to start off, my name is Scarlett Van Dijk and I am a young Australian writer who writes mostly novels but also dabbles in short stories and poetry. I like to dance, train in martial arts, read, go to the movies, and play some multiplayer online games occasionally. My novel genre is Young Adult (YA) Fantasy with my first novel, ‘Sky Stone’, published and on sale at Amazon. I am currently working on the sequel to ‘Sky Stone’, which will be called ‘Guardian Core’.

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How Did You Start Writing?

I started writing novels at the age of fourteen, beginning the journey that would become ‘Sky Stone’ at the age of fifteen. Writing, especially during these early years, gave me a release. Every teen knows the hardships of dealing with school politics and writing allowed me to escape to live in my own world.

Continue reading “Guest Post: Scarlett Van Dijk – A Writing Journey: Past, Present, and Future –”