Monday, August 3, 2015

Author Spotlight: Avril Somerville - A Journey Of Life On Purpose


Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to someone I know both personally and professionally. She is incredibly inspirational, beautiful inside and out, a gifted writer, and a remarkable woman with a huge heart and kind soul. I'm thrilled to have her on my blog today! Please meet Avril Somerville, author of A JOURNEY OF LIFE ON PURPOSE.

Avril Somerville is a graduate of Swarthmore College and Penn State University. She is also a speaker, and teacher of writing for children grades K - 8. In her memoir, A Journey Of Life On Purpose: Creativity, Love, Womanhood, Community, Race, and Identity, Somerville combines the spiritual and literary in ways that are intelligent and thoughtful, yet accessible. She shares her convictions and empathies on heart matters such as romantic and community love, sisterhood, parenting; on more intimate matters such as mother and daughter love, and yearning; and, on largely political and social constructs such as race, perception, and identity, which are woven seamlessly through expositions in essay and poetry, making the total body of work a universal and transcendent one. A Journey Of Life On Purpose is Somerville’s first book of essays and poetry. She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and three children.

Welcome Avril! What inspired you to write this book?

I wrote this book because I know that many women like myself––intellectually curious and multi-dimensional in their gifts, with a strong commitment to family and community ––struggle with finding meaning beyond their roles. This book helps readers, especially women, to reassign and reclaim value in the intentionality of their actions and words in their relationships and communities through candid conversations in prose and poetry. It delves into the primacy of the creative space, insists on the transparency required for real-ationships with others, including ourselves, and communicates a quiet urgency for more empathy as well as a deliberate understanding of what lies beneath race and identity; that is, the very soul and spirit of a being.

I love the term real-ationships and the fact that you include ourselves when talking about insisting on transparency. When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I considered myself a writer shortly after coming to the United States from the Caribbean at the age of ten. I struggled with my own displacement and sense of belonging, and found a safe space in my black and white composition books where I could freely express my thoughts and develop my own sense of self in a newly racialized context.

Is there a writer that you would love to co-write a book with?

I had to really think about that one! There are several authors that I enjoy reading, including Edwidge Danticat, Alice Munro, Toni Morrision, J. California Cooper, James Baldwin, Sue Monk Kidd, Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Kahlil Gibran. Still, there are others, but I think I'd have the most fun with Junot Diaz. I really do believe he's kind of a badly behaved writer. His writing is a welcome departure from some of the stiffer canons that I was forced to read as a student––no quotation marks for dialogue, no sanitizing of language, and certainly little concern for offending the reader. Diaz’s fiction is coupled with truthful insight and historical reference to the origins of that insight into the communities he writes so capably about. In my eyes, he is a liberated writer––writing first for himself and truth, and to a lesser degree, for an audience; I admire that freedom of voice. I read his book, This is How You Lose Her, and was drawn in immediately to familiar places and nuances that I hadn’t yet seen, or since, captured in print.

So based on your description, I bought This Is How You Lose Her over the weekend and couldn't put it down. I so admire his ability to write from a place within where there are no walls. I think the two of you would create something amazing together. What are you working on next?

I am currently working on maximizing the potential of this book through personal and speaking engagements and presentations. My debut novel, How Dare You Say Goodbye? is scheduled for late 2015.

That's a great title. I also love the title of your current book as well as the cover. They say people judge a book by its cover. Do you believe that, and who did yours?

Some people do judge a book by its cover. On the other hand, I have several books on my shelf with very uninspiring covers that are delightful or provocative reads, like The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. I think ultimately, it is what resonates with your spirit or creative appetite at any given moment in your life. Also, if I enjoy a particular writer, I am looking for content and not commercial appeal; In those cases, it matters little to me what is on the cover, so long as all the words are spelled correctly! Eric Hutchison at ArtofHutch.com designed the cover of my book, A Journey Of Life On Purpose after much iteration. Bless him!

Now that your book is published, do you have any advice to aspiring writers?

Write daily even when you don't feel like it. Don't self-censor. Keep writing till the story comes forward. Don't compare yourself to other writers. Your story matters! There are as many voices as there are people. Your story might save someone else's life, or simply entertain. The story will find its way to where it belongs, but first you must release it.

I couldn't agree more with all of that. Thank you so much for those inspiring words. Now for some fun questions that might test our friendship ... no I'm kidding ... not really ... PC or Mac?

Definitely Mac. Once you go Mac, you'll never go back. Why would you want to?

YES, YES, and YES. And ... Coffee or Tea?

That’s easy. Coffee. Twice a day. Strong too. Café Bustelo, preferably. Coffee drinkers have a better time; they're like the “cool kids” if there is really such a thing. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it in order to justify the habit of drinking at least one cup a day.

Us coffee drinkers really are the cool kids! I'm so glad you said that … somebody had to. Looks like we can still be friends :D

Back to your amazing book... anything else to share with my readers:

From this book, I want readers to understand that in their intentionality––that is, in their setting out––they have the power to be transformative in even the smallest of ways, in the lives of others, and achieve the outcomes they claim to value––justice, equity, fairness, empathy, personal fulfillment … purpose.

Thank you so much for joining me today Avril!  For more about Avril Somerville and/or her book, find her online at LifeAs An Art Form. Her book, A Journey Of Life On Purpose can be found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and KoboBooks. Autographed copies (for U.S./domestic customers only, while supplies last) can also be ordered directly from Avril’s website.





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Monday, July 13, 2015

Review: Center of Gravity, Laura McNeill

I've been a fan of Laura McNeill's books for a while now. Her stories are sweet, funny, romantic, and they definitely tug at your heartstrings. So when she told me she'd written a suspense novel, I was kind of surprised … and excited. Even more so when she asked me to review an advanced copy. Of course I said, absolutely! And then I thought, uh-oh - this is a friend. What if I don't like it? Thankfully that wasn't the case at all, although (and this is not a spoiler) I was a bit concerned that the first wife in the story who is dead was a children's author named Karen. Laura claims this was purely coincidental.

In Laura's book, Center of Gravity, Ava thought she had it all- loving and successful husband, beautiful home, and children she adored more than life itself - until her dream life turned into her worst nightmare. From the very first chapter, I was drawn into this story to the point where I wanted to reach into the pages to hug Ava and her children. At times the emotions I felt were so visceral I had to put the book down to absorb what was happening ... But not for long as it was truly a page turner.

Center of Gravity had every element I could ask for in a book, edge of your seat drama, flawed and real characters full of depth and layers, and beautifully written prose filled with emotion. Kudos to Laura McNeill for writing a fabulous and suspenseful novel.






Laura adores hot coffee, good manners, the color pink, and novels that keep her reading past midnight. She believes in the beauty of words, paying it forward, and that nerds rule the world. Laura is a fan of balmy summer nights, fireflies, and pristine mountain lakes. She lives in Mobile, Alabama with her two sons.

You can find Laura Tweeting @Lauramcneillbks and blogging at lauramcneill.com. After July 14th, Laura’s suspense novel, Center of Gravity, can be found wherever fine books are sold.


BUY LINK:  Amazon




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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Problem with Milkshakes


Milkshakes … frosty, sweet, smooth, heavenly, soothing, delicious … Hungry? Yeah, tell me about it. This morning, I finished off the first draft of my newest middle grade manuscript…The Secrets of the Writing Desk: Book One: Mischief, Mysteries, and Milkshakes.  

I've said it before, but I love writing middle grade. After finishing up my four book Whispered Wishes series for adults, I was more than ready to jump back into the head of ten year old. Not that I didn't enjoy writing grown up material, because I definitely did, but I missed writing about and for kids, with all their fun and funny antics.

Mischief, Mysteries, and Milkshakes is based on an antique writing desk that I own. A gift from my Aunt several years ago. I always knew it would be the basis of a story — it's so grand and mysterious with no doubt many stories lurking within it. So as I sat before it with my laptop open to a fresh page, I began to type. As has been the case with all of my middle grade novels, the story took on a life of its own, far away from its original outline, and I suddenly found myself googling milkshake flavors. That's where the problem started.

See here's the thing, I kind of like ice cream. A lot. Especially now that summer has started. And as I started writing about these milkshake concoctions I was was creating, I began craving them. I mean seriously, who can resist the classics like chocolate, vanilla, and cookies 'n cream? And don't even get me started on the ones I thought up for the story: Frosted Moose - a delectable combination of marshmallow fluff, peanut butter, chocolate fudge, and vanilla. Or how about Coconut Custard, Butterscotch Bomber, Mint Explosion, or Freaky Fudge? And forget about Harper's Delight (Yeah, that one you're going to have to wait for the book to see the ingredient list, but it's gooood, trust me).

Anyway, ten pounds later, here I am with a full belly and the beginnings of a new series. I'm thinking book two may have to take place in vegetable garden or something.

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Do I Know How To Keep A Resolution Or What?

Hey everyone, remember me? Yeah it's been a while, and I'm really sorry about that. When I said back in January that I wasn't going to put as much pressure on myself to blog regularly, I didn't think I'd wait 5 (almost 6) months to post something. Those of you who follow me on FB, Twitter, and Instagram (karenpokras_author) ... (you do, right?) know I haven't just been sitting around doing nothing... I've been busy finishing up the last book in the Whispered Wishes series: WOVEN WISHES and am excited to announce that they're all out in print now!

But, I'm not just here to talk about me... me,me,me,me,me,me,me,me ( oh right, sorry). I want to tell you about some of my friends who have exciting news for your middle grade readers:

1. JOSHUA AND THE LIGHTNING ROAD, by DONNA GALANTI 
I.cannot.wait.to.read.this.book. .... Got that? It not only looks fabulous, but the author is a dear friend and amazing person. And she wrote the book for her son Joshua, who is equally amazing. It officially comes out on the 19th, but you can pre-order it now.



Twelve-year-old Joshua Cooper’s grandpa has always warned him about the dangers of lightning. But Joshua never put much stock in his grandpa’s rumblings as anything more than the ravings of an old man with a vast imagination. Then one night, when Joshua and his best friend are home alone during a frightful storm, Joshua learns his grandpa was right. A bolt of lightning strikes his house and whisks away his best friend—possibly forever. To get him back, Joshua must travel the Lightning Road to a dark place that steals children for energy. But getting back home and saving his friend won’t be easy, as Joshua must face the terrifying Child Collector and fend off ferocious and unnatural beasts intent on destroying him. In this world, Joshua possesses powers he never knew he had, and soon, Joshua’s mission becomes more than a search for his friend. He means to send all the stolen children home—and doing so becomes the battle of his life.

2. THE SECRET FILES OF FAIRDAY MORROW by JESSICA HAIGHT and STEPHANIE ROBINSON
This book (in case you haven't noticed) is all over my blog (and Millie's blog). That is because I absolutely ADORE IT (and its authors). And I'm so over the moon excited it is finally available for pre-order!


Fear Not the Unexpected. Eleven-year-old Fairday Morrow is less than thrilled that her family is moving thousands of miles from civilization to the quiet country town of Ashpot, Connecticut, where she’s absolutely certain she’ll die of boredom. As if leaving New York City and her best friend, Lizzy, the only other member of the elite Detective Mystery Squad (DMS), weren’t bad enough, Fairday is stuck living in the infamous Begonia House, a creepy old Victorian with dark passageways, a gigantic dead willow tree, and a mysterious past. Before she can even unpack, strange music coming from behind a padlocked door leads Fairday up a spiral staircase and into a secret room, where an ancient mirror, a brass key, and a strange picture of a red-haired lady are the first in a series of clues that takes the members of the Detective Mystery Squad on an amazing adventure.



You can never have enough books … Happy Reading Everyone!!

Xo
Karen

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Saturday, January 3, 2015

My Annual New Year "What I Maybe Will Accomplish This Year" Post

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

I'm a list person. I always have been. One of the lists I keep is the list of books I want to write and publish each year. So far, I've done a pretty good job with meeting my goals. Maybe it's because this list is on a white board hanging above my desk in my office, but more likely, it's because my muse (thankfully) has been in overdrive. I still can't believe I wrote and published five books in 2014. My 2015 list is just as packed, and if I can squeeze it in, I've got two book ideas for my 2016 list I wouldn't mind getting to early.





However, despite writing and publishing like a fiend this year, I still feel like I did not accomplish enough.  There was not enough time to write blog posts. There was not enough time spent marketing. There was not enough time to read trade publications and craft books. There was not enough time to attend conferences. There was not enough time to work on my website. And believe it or not, I did not have enough writing time (I so wanted to finish that sixth book!)   Can we say Type A personality?

Since no one has figured out a way to add hours into the day yet (WHO IS WORKING ON THIS, AND WHEN CAN I EXPECT IT TO BE FINISHED?) I have begrudgingly decided that my New Year's resolution is to give myself a break. ...

So here is my "maybe I will accomplish this year, but it's okay if I don't" list:

1. Write more blog posts
2. Share more of my colleague's blog posts
3. Attend more conferences
4. Write more press releases
5. Schedule more blog tours
6. Use Facebook less and Twitter and other social media more
7. Put out more newsletters

There ... now that the pressure's off, I feel much better. Oh, who am I kidding. I'm off to go figure out how to fit all this and more in. Have an awesome 2015!!



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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

In My {SPAM} Mailbox

It's a dreary cold rainy day, and I'm stuck home sick. I'm supposed to be resting, but when you work from home and you're a writer, your brain really never shuts down. So I decided to go through some of the emails that had started piling up over the last few days, and then I clicked on my SPAM folder.... (cue the scary music.) I have several general observations:

1.  I AM NOT A MAN. There, I feel better now. Not that there's anything wrong with being a man. I happen to like most men. But, I personally do not have any male anatomy on my body that needs enlarging, so please stop sending me emails suggesting otherwise.

2. As much I would be thrilled to collect/inherit/win millions, we all know I have no long lost uncle who died off the coast of a remote country in Africa and has bloodlines to His Royal Highness, the King of East Scamvilla. DELETE. 

3. No, I really do not want to check out your pictures.

4.  I'd LOVE to retire in Belize, but somehow the website they want me to click on just doesn't look legit: (FYI - I added the xxxx.com so you don't click on it by accident)

http://xxxxx.com/seyJjIjogMjEwMiwgImYiOiAwLCAibSI6IDIzMjMsICJsIjogNCwgInMiOiAwLCAidSI6IDI2MDA5NDYwLCAidCI6IDEsICJzZCI6IDB9

5. WOW! Ray-Ban's at 90% off? I'm sure they're the real deal! They must be right? The internet says so.

6. I think this one is my personal favorite. Apparently I have some "deferred email" at Google. Let's just say for a minute, that I actually believed that. Don't you think, and I'm just speculating here, that someone from GOOGLE with a GMAIL account would be the one to email me about this? Sorry crazy.barbara, I'm on to you & no, I won't be clicking on your link.




I think tomorrow, I'll be returning to "work."


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Monday, November 24, 2014

Cover Reveal: Hunted Heart by Alison DeLuca


My friend Alison DeLuca has a new book coming out and I'm THRILLED to be a part of the cover reveal! Today, I'm turning my blog over to her ... Thanks for joining me today Alison ... Here she is to tell us about Hunted Heart


Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

I met a friend online who gave me a prompt for Hunted Heart. Her idea was to have a strong heroine as the Hunter from Snow White who is given the job of killing the prince. Heartbreak, magic mirrors, and poisoned apples all wound themselves into the plot, and fifty thousand words later I had an adult take on the fairytale.

My publishing group, Myrddin Publishing, does a charity publication each year in December. This year my Myrddin effort is Hunted Heart and all royalties will be donated. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon, and you can add it to your  reading lists on Goodreads.

When Tali is hired to cut out the heart of Prince Kas, the huntress can’t refuse. Tali
realizes there is no escape from the dark magic of the queen’s mirror, even though her own feelings for the prince are far too complex to understand.

As they try to run from their shared destiny, Tali and Kas have to rely on their wits and each other as hunter becomes prey and hearts are won and lost.

A genderbent Snow White for adults (18+ only.) All royalties go to Save the Children.

My illustrator did a lovely job with the book. Here is Lisa Daly’s cover for Hunted Heart:



About the author: Alison DeLuca is the author of several fantasy and steampunk novels.
Currently she lives in New Jersey with her husband and daughter, where she wrestles words and laundry.

You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and
Goodreads.


Thank you, Alison!!


*******
www.karenpokras.com




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