Authors Talk About It

Book Award Contest & Indie Support

Category: non-fiction (Page 1 of 12)

[Author Interview] Mercedes Samudio | Shame-Proof Parenting

Featured Authors Talk About It

Author Interview

Mercedes Samudio

ATAI: Tell us a little about you.

Mercedes Samudio: I am a licensed clinical social worker and parent coach on a mission to end parent shaming. I work primarily with parents (with children of all ages) to help them feel confident on their parenting journey. A lot of the work I know focuses not just on a child’s behavior and the parenting strategies used to help raise healthy children, but also on the journey a human takes while becoming a parent. I have found that while we know that children need love and support to grow, we often forget that parents need the same to grow and become the parent they really want to be. As a writer, my first book expands on the idea of ending parent shame and supporting parents as they develop a healthy parenting identity.

ATAI: How long have you been writing?

Mercedes Samudio: I have been writing for over 20 years in various arenas. I started my professional writing in 2013 with a blog for my business and wrote a short ebook in 2015. But, to be honest, writing has been a huge part of my identity since writing my first poem in junior high school and then my first full length book in 2017.

ATAI: What was your most recent release?

Mercedes Samudio: My most recent release is Shame-Proof Parenting: Find Your Voice, Feel Empowered, and Raise Healthy Children released in April 2017. This book is a culmination of a 2 year campaign to end parent shaming, and introduces the idea that parent’s are humans who need space to develop a healthy parenting identity. I explore the effects of shame on parenting and the parent-child relationship and lay the foundation for parents to manage this shame on their parenting journey.

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ATAI: What do you love most about writing?

Mercedes Samudio: What I’ve always loved about writing is the ability to get all the ideas out of my head and on to paper (or the computer). We all have so much for say and writing has allowed me the space to share my thoughts and explore ideas with others in healthy discussions. I truly believe that writing has the power to change the world.

Along the notion of changing the world, I believe that when we write we can heal people, help them see ideas from new perspectives, and even move them into changing aspects of the identity that need to evolve. Writing has such an ability to move others and to help others not feel alone on their journey.

ATAI: What do you find most challenging?

Mercedes Samudio: I find it the most challenging to bring ideas from inside your head into a cohesive narrative or perspective. While writing my first book, I found that I think a lot. Although that’s a good thing, it can be a hurdle to overcome when trying to share a complete idea or teach a new concept. The struggle for me was being able to keep my voice while also being clear and concise in my writing.

Another challenge has been being disciplined in writing. While writing my first book, I was working with a coach to help me stay focused and hit my word count each week. I didn’t realize the amount of stamina and perseverance needed to not only write but stay invested in the topic you are writing about. After working with a coach, I found some great strategies on writing that can help me organize my ideas and stay focused on my end goals.

ATAI: Where do your ideas come from?

Mercedes Samudio: My ideas come from the work that I do with clients, the current trends in my niche/field, and from ideas that I want to contribute to the niche/field. When I first starting writing blogs, I began to write articles that answered common parenting concerns I was hearing in the field and with my clients. As I got more prolific in my writing, I began to also include my own ideas about supporting parents and commentary on current trends on parenting. Since my aim is to address the shame that surrounds parents and child-rearing, I don’t offer lots of steps nor do I bash other parenting experts who do so. Instead, I focus on sharing my voice in the areas that we are not formally and consistently talking about. I also tend to get ideas from people sharing their parenting stories with me and asking me how they can be more effective in their parenting.

ATAI: What is your writing process?

Mercedes Samudio: Before writing my first book, my writing process consisted of: idea generation, writing blog/article, proofreading, and then publishing online. This was how I became a consistent blogger and was able to produce a lot of content to enhance my branding and my voice. After writing a book, the process has changed a bit: idea generation, free-writing, organizing, planning, writing draft, proofreading, editing, re-wrtiting draft, and then publishing. There may be a period where between planning and writing I let me ideas simmer and/or another bout of free-writing to get more of my actual voice in the piece, but this is not often. I know also think about other publications where my writing can be featured since I have a longer process that includes editing the piece.

ATAI: Do your characters (or message) ever seem to have a life of their own or an agenda of their own?

Mercedes Samudio: I write non-fiction. I feel that one of the best ways that helped me hone my message and voice was blogging. I’ve been writing content for my blog on my professional website for 5 years. In this process, I have learned to be more concise, clear, and honest in how I discuss concepts and opinions. That set a good foundation for writing my first book – and I know it will be a great basis for future books that I write. Now, I don’t feel like my messages gets away from me because I know what I want to say, I have proven writing process that helps me organize my thoughts, and I know how to get support when I need another pair of eyes on my content. I will say that going through several rounds of editing (both developmental and copyediting) taught me a lot about how our ideas are experienced by others. There were times when I really hit the nail on the head in how I presented an idea, and others where I spend too much time explaining that I lost the editor. This editing process made me more aware of the journey you want your reader to go on and where you want them to be by the end of reading your work. That revelation has helped me be more streamlined in how I share non-fiction concepts.

ATAI: What’s your favorite part of your book (or one of your books)?

Mercedes Samudio: If I had to pick just one part of the book that’s my favorite, I’d have to say it’s the discussion on parenting defense mechanisms. In this part of the book I share a concept that had been brewing in my mind for a while, and one that I would bring up in sessions with my clients. However, this was the first time that I wrote about them in a concise and clear way so that others can also learn how parents protect their parenting identity. I have since talked about this idea in trainings and workshops where it has been well received and even used by other colleagues. That’s the best feeling ever: to know that a concept you created is helping others understand aspects of their life and their experiences.

ATAI: What are you working on next?


Mercedes Samudio: Currently I am working on speaking and taking the concepts of my recent book to the masses. I enjoy sharing the book’s concepts with parents and professionals so that we can get to work on ending parent shaming. I am also working on gathering content for the next book I want to write, which will introduce the idea of having a parenting renaissance in our culture.

ATAI: Where can people find you online?

Mercedes Samudio: I’m all over the internet. Hahaha. But, you can get started on my site: http://shameproofparenting.com. From there you can find all my social media links and a contact form to reach out.

ATAI: Thank you for sharing with us and our audience.

Mercedes Samudio: Thanks so much for allowing me to share my process with your audience. If you’re reading this and wondering if your ideas or concepts would make a good book, don’t worry about that yet. Just start writing and let the ideas flow. You never know who might need to hear your ideas with your voice to help them move into a healthier part of their life.


*NOTE: ATAI does not edit the responses of the authors.

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Damn Mind – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Jacqui Letran

Jacqui Letran’s second book in her Words of Wisdom for Teens series is another shining light for young adults. I would but my DAMN MIND won’t let me!: A teen’s guide to controlling their thoughts and feelings is a book written to help teenagers break patterns and gain a better understanding of how their mind works. Coming from the view point of clinical psychology and science, Damn Mind is an excellent secular resource. Letran not only breaks down technical scientific and psychological concepts into understandable chunks of information, but she wraps up the educational chapters with what she calls 60-Second Readers, which are bullet-poined summaries of the content from each chapter. In the last third of the book, she offers case studies. At the end of each of those chapters, she offers a tip and a self-reflection exercise. She also offers “free stuff” including the audiobook through a link on her website. Therefore, she gives readers the opportunity to explore further once they’ve read Damn Mind.

Written in language that is relatable to teens, Damn Mind is a quick and fairly easy read. Occasionally, some of the chapter sections are a bit heavy or complex in their wording, but Jacqui Letran quickly offers simpler language within the text. Throughout the the educational sections of the book she shares interesting information and unique ways of looking at things. For example, Letran shared and pulled out in a highlighted section that the conscious mind can only take in 1% of the information that it is being fed at any given moment. She also compared the importance of thinking in positive terms to doing a Google search – the mind nor Google pays attention to words such as “don’t”. Jacqui Letran asks deep and powerful questions in I would but my DAMN MIND won’t let me! I highly recommend Letran’s Damn Mind for teens everywhere.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Start Winning with Money – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Donnie Masters

Donnie Masters’ Start Winning with Money is a helpful educational guide that teaches readers how to better manage their finances. In it, Masters debunks some popular misconceptions about debt, investment, and money, then sets the record straight. He provides useful tips for budgeting, saving, and spending hard-earned money in productive ways. Masters’ knowledgeable advice will give readers the methods and wisdom they need to start winning with their own money – and keep doing so.

There were some instances in Start Winning with Money where the narration seemed a bit distracted; Donnie Masters seemed to keep going slightly off track before springing back to the subject at hand. Also, perhaps Masters relied a bit too heavily on personal opinion in some places, such as when he discussed Dave Ramsey or public education. This didn’t necessarily harm the book, but sticking solely to more factual evidence would probably have been more effective in these cases.

What makes Start Winning with Money so great, though, is that it’s genuine; this isn’t a book full of fluff by someone who has never lived what they’re preaching to readers. Early in the book, Donnie Masters shares how he, at one point, lost his job, marriage, and house all in the span of three weeks, then had to rebuild his life from the ground up. He learned a lot during his ascent, and passes it on to his readers in this book. So, aside from good advice, there’s an extra layer of real-life experience woven into Start Winning with Money that makes it all the more trustworthy. It’s also written in a casual, friendly tone that makes it easier to absorb and understand the information presented. At its core, though, Start Winning with Money is about the reader taking initiative in their own lives. As Donnie Masters wrote, “It’s up to you, and only you, to choose to live a better financial life.” Start Winning with Money is an invaluable tool to help you do just that.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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[Author Interview] Daniel Hanson | How to Prevent Sexual Assault

Featured Authors Talk About It

Author Interview

Daniel Hanson

ATAI: Tell us a little about you.

Daniel: My experience as a US Airforce Weapons Mechanic introduced me to electronics which I pursued when in college. My interest in how things work included electronic devices that could be used for spying. Never stop learning you may just end up writing a book like me. The more I learned the more I wanted to educate the public.


Of course, it started out about technology. I decided to publish because no one else is discussing the technology which exists that predators can use to stalk their victims. I have been amazed at what technology is readily available to predators while doing research.

ATAI: How long have you been writing?

Daniel: I never set out to become an author but it all started in 1996. I set out to build a Silver Palace based on a couple of scriptures. I began to write my ideas down and pretty soon it developed into a booklet.

I also branched out into other topics to build my writing skills. Having caught my first rapist at the age of 12 I decided to write on how people could protect themselves. Having a technical background, I worked on how that specific knowledge could be used on the general public once I discovered it was not being addressed.

ATAI: What was your most recent release?

Daniel: How to Prevent Sexual Assault/ How to Detect and Defeat Today’s Spy Technology

Click here to get your copy!

ATAI: What do you love most about writing?

Daniel: The fact that my experiences and knowledge can help others lead a safer life.

ATAI: What do you find most challenging?

Daniel: Getting people to realize the benefits of my material. The failure of my petitions on www.whitehouse.gov was a great disappointment. I wanted to do more than just write a book and getting even one law passed would have put me over the moon.

ATAI: Where do your ideas come from?

Daniel: Past experiences and my never-ending thirst for technical knowledge.

ATAI: What is your writing process?

Daniel: Write down my ideas then expand on them later. Over the years I have found this method is best for me.

ATAI: Do your characters (or message) ever seem to have a life of their own or an agenda of their own?

Daniel: No, my message has never seemed to take over but I must admit that I have learned new things. There will never be an end to the need for my work.

ATAI: What’s your favorite part of your book (or one of your books)?

Daniel: My favorite part of my work is the chapter titled “Kiddy Version in God’s Feminist Movement.”

ATAI: What are you working on next?

Daniel: The third edition on my original work “God’s Feminist Movement.”

ATAI: Where can people find you online?

Daniel: https://www.amazon.com/How-Prevent-Sexual-Assault-Technology-ebook/dp/B00USONDZW

Soon to be available in paperback as well as e-book.

I would also like to let any other inde authors know that you can now publish your work in e-book and paperback on Amazon.com for free.

ATAI: Thank you for sharing with us and our audience.

Daniel: Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to make my work known. It is a sad topic but one that is desperately needed by everyone. Except the predators.


*NOTE: ATAI does not edit the responses of the authors.

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[Author Interview] Betina McDonald | Starting on the Path to the Wise

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Author Interview

Betina McDonald

ATAI: Tell us a little about you.

Betina McDonald. I am 47 years old & have just self-published my first book, Starting On The Path To The Wise. I also have a Facebook group called Solitary Eclectic Witch – Magic & Craft, where I share what I have learnt, gain & give insight to others just starting out on their spiritual journeys & aiding others to move forward on their path.

ATAI: How long have you been writing?

Betina McDonald: I have been writing on & off since I was able to, always loving the times in High School English when we were able to go off into our imaginations & write short stories. Now bringing this into seriousness as I share all that I have learnt so far on my journey on paper & into my book.

ATAI: What was your most recent release?

Betina McDonald: My most recent, & first, release is Starting On The Path To The Wise. It was an enjoyable yet sometimes frustrating experience as it goes hand in hand with how I live my daily life & also how I aim to give others the confidence, power & freedom to move forward in their lives.

Click here to get your copy!

ATAI: What do you love most about writing?

Betina McDonald: The thing I love most about writing is, obviously, the end result. A finished book of my hard work. However, I also love how cathartic an experience it can be. Taking me from a small idea all the way to a 78-page book, full of my thoughts, feelings & experiences. Taking not only myself on a journey but also those people who deem my book good enough to read. I find writing to be especially calming for me & a good way to relax.

ATAI: What do you find most challenging?

Betina McDonald: The most challenging part for me came as a complete surprise. I always assumed it would having enough material to fill a book however, the most challenging part turned out to be letting go of the idea of my book once it was finished. I continually looked for reasons why I couldn’t publish it. Finally realising there was enough there to let go of it. Very similar to the feelings I had when my children left home.

ATAI: Where do your ideas come from?

Betina McDonald: My ideas all come from my own spiritual practice. How I live it daily, what I do to enable me to move forward & how others can achieve their own spiritual practice without having to copy someone else’s idea of what they should be doing. Giving people the tools to be able to have their own journey through spirituality & finding out what best suits them.

ATAI: What is your writing process?

Betina McDonald: My writing process is quite unorthodox for most writers I think. I sit on my sofa, with a cushion on my knees, laptop perched on that, tv or radio low in the background & just start typing. I set alarms to remind me to take a break, or stop for the day. I try not to write for more than two hours per day Monday to Friday as I have the tendency to waffle over the same subject otherwise. At weekends I do no writing at all, weekends are family time.

ATAI: Do your characters (or message) ever seem to have a life of their own or an agenda of their own?

Betina McDonald: Very occasionally it will feel like I am not writing at all, that someone else is guiding my hands on the keyboard to make sure I get the right message out there for those who need it. I always feel spirit & my guides aiding me in the process however sometimes it does feel like they ‘take over’ as it were. I love looking back over my work & realising that sometimes the message was actually for me, guiding me on my journey as well as others on theirs.

ATAI: What’s your favorite part of your book (or one of your books)?

Betina McDonald: I think the favourite part of my book is always going to be that first chapter. The chapter that introduces everyone to not only the book but also me, as a person. I give a little of myself to all the chapters but the first one is always going to be favourite. Explaining that life is a continuous journey, one we are all on. We can either take control of that life & be who we are, as opposed to who others think we should be, or we follow someone else’s lead & never know how amazing we could be.

ATAI: What are you working on next?

Betina McDonald: I am currently working on the second On The Path To The Wise book, going more in-depth into a spiritual practice. Giving advice & guidance on the deeper meanings to a spiritual practice while still being able to incorporate it all into daily life. Taking readers on another journey through the beginnings of their interest in spirituality, in whichever form that takes, through to understanding what it is they need from it. We all need something; our journey is finding out what that is.

ATAI: Where can people find you online?

Betina McDonald: People can find me on Facebook, I have my own page Betina McDonald. Also on Instagram, again search for Betina McDonald. Or, if they wish to, they can email me at betina.mcdonald@gmail.com .

ATAI: Thank you for sharing with us and our audience.

Betina McDonald: Many thanks for the opportunity to put myself out there. There are not many opportunities for aspiring authors so finding you all was a true blessing. Thank you & I wish much success to all, both personal & professional.


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Reclaim Your Happiness – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Jacqui Letran

Jacqui Letran’s 5 Simple Questions to Reclaim Your Happiness is a straightforward self-help guide to, well, reclaiming your happiness. In it, Letran prompts the reader to ask themselves these five questions: What am I feeling? Why do I feel this way? Is this emotion useful? How can I see this differently? And, would I rather be right or happy? Letran also includes the accounts of three of her clients to illustrate how effective addressing those five questions can be. Along with a ton of helpful writing prompts for the reader, 5 Simple Questions to Reclaim Your Happiness is a tool with which its readers can get their lives – and happiness – back.

Though they illustrate her point well, the supposedly real-life examples that Jacqui Letran used in this book seemed far too fictionalized; all of them toed the line of believability, sometimes even seeming to cross that line. Whether these characters really were clients of hers – and whether some of the details in their stories have been embellished – remains to be seen. Also, 5 Simple Questions was a bit too short and vague. In some respects, it wasn’t exactly a revolutionary self-help book; some additional detail and fresh ideas would help here.

There were some truly excellent qualities about this book, though – one of them being Jacqui Letran’s straight-to-the-point style of writing. She doesn’t waste time trying to be the reader’s best friend, but rather, lays out her ideas and evidence and lets the reader use them however they see fit. Not only was this an interesting approach, but it was also an effective one. Also, the use of detailed questions and writing prompts is a fantastic way to keep readers interested and actively engaged – in the book and in their own lives. 5 Simple Questions to Reclaim Your Happiness is a short and quick self-help book, but lives up to its genre and gives the reader the tools they need to help themselves – and it certainly pays off.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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The Other Side of Philip K. Dick – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Maer Wilson

Maer Wilson’s The Other Side of Philip K. Dick: A Tale of Two Friends sets the record straight on what the renowned science fiction author was really like in the years before his sudden death. While many write about Philip K. Dick as if he was solely a bizarre, drug-addled oddball, Maer Wilson knew a different side of the man. Her was her friend, and a good one at that, full of compassion, humor, and wit. In this memoir, Maer Wilson shares the fond memories she has of him during their friendship, shedding a new light on the life of one of her dearest friends.

Often, The Other Side of Philip K. Dick strays from discussing, well, Philip K. Dick. Much of this memoir focuses on the author’s life, as well; while it does grant the reader the valuable gift of context in certain scenes, it did seem to stray a bit too much from the intended subject matter at times. Also, there were areas that read far too much like fiction. This blurring of the line between what actually happened and what is embellished can lead to a bit of confusion or uncertainty surrounding some of the Maer Wilson’s stories.

Despite this, there is no denying that The Other Side of Philip K. Dick is insanely entertaining. Even in the seemingly mundane stories, like a trip to a diner for fries and Pepsi, there is a humorous and engaging twist to the tale. Other moments are heartfelt and introspective, balancing the recollections well. Also, you don’t need to have read Philip K. Dick’s work to enjoy this memoir; in fact, Maer Wilson hardly mentions his writing at all. This is simply, as the title suggest, a story of friendship, creativity, and humanity. The Other Side of Philip K. Dick: A Tale of Two Friends is an eccentric, funny, and touching memoir about a quirky author and his band of close friends; their adventures together are sure to delight any reader, fan of his or not.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Ape Mind, Old Mind, New Mind – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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John. V. Wylie MD

In Ape Mind, Old Mind, New Mind: The Evolution of the Human Spirit, John V. Wylie explores the evolution of the human mind and all its fascinating intricacies. According to Wylie, we all have three different minds: an “ape mind” that strives for dominance, an “old mind” that is essentially the human spirit, and a “new mind” that is driven by vanity. A self-proclaimed “hunter of emotional fossils”, Wylie delves into the deepest areas of human consciousness to discover what motivates us, how we respond to our surroundings, and where our path of evolution might take us next.

Ape Mind, Old Mind, New Mind is equal parts science textbook, personal memoir, and philosophical exploration; however, it did not always adequately balance the three. In the science-centric areas of the book, it read a bit too much like a science textbook; a more casual narrative in these areas would have eased the denseness of the material. Meanwhile, in the memoir portions, it was sometimes easy to forget what the main topic of the book was. The pacing and development in this book is a bit too scattered to keep readers wholly interested.

However, that’s not to say that Ape Mind, Old Mind, New Mind isn’t worth reading, because it is. John V. Wylie raises several interesting points, and his personal insight into the matter is fascinating. His style of writing is sophisticated and intricate, full of profound thought and impressive logic. Ape Mind, Old Mind, New Mind: The Evolution of the Human Spirit is an invaluable book because it brings revolutionary new ideas into the spotlight; at the very least, those who read it will begin to see themselves and their fellow humans in a whole new light.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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[Author Interview] J.S. Menefee | The Professional Ghostwriter’s Handbook

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Author Interview


JS Menefee

J.S. (Jeremy Menefee)

ATAI: Tell us a little about you.

Jeremy: I’m originally from Virginia, but spent my adolescence in California. I was writing and editing in the tech industry before I graduated high school. I was just lucky and knew some people who knew people. I joined the Marines after I graduated, but got injured (this was before 9/11, by the way) and was forced out with an honorable discharge. I’ve wandered around quite a bit since then, professionally, before coming back to my real love, writing and editing.

I love elephants. I think they’re about the greatest thing ever, and I have little ellies on my writing desk. I’ve also studied permaculture and sustainable agriculture, intensively, for years. I dream about having a homestead, or a cabin in the woods–so long as I can also have WiFi, of course!

In my mid-20s, I adopted a toddler with Cerebral Palsy, which is probably the best thing I ever did. He’ll be 21 this year! He changed my life as much as I did his. I highly recommend adopting, if possible, because you change both your lives forever.

ATAI: How long have you been writing?

Jeremy: Since I was 16. Earlier, really, but that was when I first got paid to do it. My dad was a journalist and a tech writer, so I grew up reading his articles. He figured that if I understood it at nine, then so would his audience. And he always took my suggestions seriously, which was cool. He’d accept a surprising number of suggestions, or explain why he didn’t.

Even the other careers I’ve had–Public Relations and managing a small private security company–mostly involved content writing, press releases, white papers, case studies… and a boatload of copywriting.

I added fiction ghostwriting in early 2015. I stumbled into fiction almost on accident, but I’ve been doing more and more of it ever since. This year, I started writing under my own name, going as J.S. Menefee.

ATAI: What was your most recent release?

Jeremy: My last book is nonfiction and was published in early July. The Professional Ghostwriter’s Handbook came out on Kindle first, then paperback, and now at the Apple bookstore, Kobo, Google Books, and more.

The subtitle says it all: “Launch your own successful writing career by writing books for others.” It would help anyone to start a writing business, but I had to pick a focus. I decided to help aspiring writers to not only earn an income, but also develop their writing skills. I don’t know of anyone else who has written a similar book. It also has all my secret tools and sites, hyperlinked, and it’s probably worth the price just for that.

I think my favorite line from the Handbook is, Get paid to learn. Learn to write. And write for money—which you can then use to publish your own novels.” It’s the perfect summary of the book.

It was originally going to be published by a small-press publisher, who contacted me and asked me to write a book on ghostwriting, but they went out of business. I decided to self-publish it, instead going through that again.

Click here to get your copy!

ATAI: What do you love most about writing?

Jeremy: It’s hard to pick just one thing! The freedom of being able to work where and when I want is probably the top of the list, but I could make an argument for creative freedom–the ability to write what excites me. Or for having no pointy-haired boss to deal with, and no office politics. Those are pretty high on my list, too.

ATAI: What do you find most challenging?

Jeremy: Even though I work from home and make my own schedule, I still have a hard time balancing work and home life. It really takes discipline to avoid writing from the time I wake up until I pass out from exhaustion. Then there’s the opposite challenge–turning off Facebook and the TV so I can get my daily word counts done. The struggle is real!

There’s also the issue of people who don’t consider writing a “real job.” Sure, some people are excited to meet someone who writes for a living, but a lot of people just don’t get it. That can be frustrating, certainly.

A distant third place for Most Challenging Writing Problems is the isolation. I’m a bit of a homebody by nature, and working from home makes it very easy to isolate myself. I think it’s important to have real interaction with real people. Friends and family need some attention, too, after all. Writers have to make time for other people, for their own well-being.

When it comes to drafting novels, my biggest challenge is romance. I don’t write romance novels, but some do have a romantic subplot. I struggle with those scenes, no kidding. I feel silly writing romantic interactions between characters, developing their relationships on a romantic level. I try not to make such things important to the main plot because I know my weaknesses. As a ghostwriter, that’s not always an option, so I have improved a lot, but I still struggle with it.

ATAI: Where do your ideas come from?

Jeremy: I think a lot of writers have more ideas than time. Watching a TV show, it’ll just hit me–what if the characters were on another planet, instead of another town? What if they were fighting over the last foodbar instead of the last cupcake? And what if there were aliens chasing them while that was going on?

I think most of my ideas jump out at me from a simple “What if?” The plot and details come later, but the core of my stories always seems to come from one of those what-if ideas. Usually out of the blue, and usually when I don’t have a pen handy, hehe.

ATAI: What is your writing process?

Jeremy: My process always seems to start out by asking a simple “what if” question. Ha! Big surprise, right? Then I expand on that by just sitting with the what-if in my mind and waiting for the ideas to come. That’s how I decide whether it’s going to be a fantasy story, science fiction, or modern, and if it wants to be a thriller, a mystery, an action story, etc. That’s my premise. Then, I add a plot. By the time I’m done brainstorming that (or “staring off into space,” as my wife calls it), I have a few sentences that also make a good start on the back blurb, later.

I turn those 4-5 sentences into four paragraphs that neatly encapsulate the beginning, early middle, late middle, and climax.

Next, I make a list of the characters I know I’ll need, starting with the main character. Once I have him or her roughed out, I daydream until I have an antagonist concept that will make sense given the main character’s goals and traits, as well as the plotline. I firmly believe a good antagonist isn’t just in the hero’s way–they have a personal trait that makes them the hero’s enemy. Sometimes that’s complicated and indirect, other times it’s as simple as opposing ideologies, but there’s always a personal conflict on top of the plot conflict.

Once I have all the characters roughed out a bit, I often revise the 4-paragraph summary. From there, I either begin writing, or I outline further. It depends on how complicated it will be. (I’ve gotten a quarter way through the story and then decided I needed to outline the rest, so maybe it’s not a perfect system, hehe.)

ATAI: You write fiction and non-fiction, so this is a two-part question. Do your characters ever seem to have a life of their own or an agenda of their own? With non-fiction, has your message ever seemed to take over and go in a direction you didn’t expect?

Jeremy: Characters often have a life of their own. I can’t tell you how many incidental characters decided they wanted to be main characters, too. I think a lot of that comes from leaving some room for development when creating the character writeup; then, while writing, they aren’t shoe-horned into a certain action/reaction and things get interesting. Many of the times I’ve had to revise an outline, it was because of that more often than because of a great plot idea, because I tend to have the series of main events pretty well in mind before I start writing.

With nonfiction, it doesn’t happen as often. I think that’s because it isn’t a purely creative process–there’s a lot of logic and planning ahead of time. Still, the message can take the book in unexpected directions.

For example, the Ghostwriting Handbook was supposed to be a guidebook for taking a ghostwriter to the next level of their career, shortly after they figured out all the basics.

Early on, however, I realized that it would be a more compelling book if I wrote it for people new to writing fiction. It’s how it worked for me, after all–I took a novel ghostwriting job on a lark and discovered a whole new passion. Ghostwriting has absolutely made a huge difference in my fiction skill level, before I ever wrote something with my own name on it.

The message took over, too, when I was ghostwriting a book on AGILE Program Management. It was supposed to be a book on mastering AGILE, but in working with the client, we realized that book really wanted to be an introduction to it, instead. Fortunately, the client agreed and because of that, it was a much stronger final product. You have to listen to where the book wants to go, in nonfiction almost as much as in fiction.

ATAI: What’s your favorite part of your book (or one of your books)?

Jeremy: I’ve already mentioned my favorite part of the ghostwriting book, but in the novel I’m writing (book 1 of the Rephaim: Bloodlines series), there is a scene that takes place in a restaurant that I really love. Restaurant scenes are usually a sign of laziness. I mean, is that really the best place for the scene? Probably not, but it was necessary in context. I turned that scene on its ear and ended up turning a boring monologue into an exciting, character-developing, world building.

There’s a tip for you–if you’re bored, so will your readers be. Go nuts! That crazy idea you have, which starts out with the same attitude as stomping through your brother’s Lego village like Godzilla, might just be an opportunity for some brilliance to shine through. Run with it.

ATAI: What are you working on next?

Jeremy: I’m still doing ghostwriting and freelance writing/editing, so there are always those projects going on. Under my own byline, however, I’ll be working on Rephaim: Bloodlines II and wrapping up the latest R:B short story. I expect to have at least a dozen shorts, 6-7,o0o words each, published before I release the trilogy.

ATAI: Where can people find you online?

Jeremy: My author site is jsmenefee.wordpress.com.

I’m on Facebook at /AuthorJSMenefee, and I’m on Twitter at @AuthorJSMenefee.

I have a newsletter with some member-only giveaways and so on —

 http://smarturl.it/JSMAuthorNews.

ATAI: Thank you for sharing with us and our audience.

Jeremy: Thanks for having me! I appreciate the chance to talk with you. It has been fun, and an honor.


*NOTE: ATAI does not edit the responses of the authors.

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The Disabled Workforce – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Rachel Shaw

Rachel Shaw’s The Disabled Workforce: What the ADA Never Anticipated is a useful guide aimed at helping readers understand the American Disabilities Act and its implications. On the foundation of a background in Human Resources, Shaw outlines how to determine if and how disabled people can return to or join the workforce, as well as how to regard and manage their accommodation requests later. She shares her own four-step Disability Interactive Process Hallway to help employers fulfill their obligations to their disabled employees. With the inclusion of helpful management techniques and real-life stories from her own experiences, Rachel Shaw has created an invaluable resource for employers and disabled employees alike.

The Disabled Workforce is written in a straightforward, professional manner. While this is not at all detrimental to the book, there were several instances where there was a bit too much of a textbook vibe. Perhaps, it could have been written in a more casual style to be more reader-friendly; however, The Disabled Workforce certainly serves its purpose: sharing information.

Much of this information was certainly as helpful as it intended to be. Many aspects that previously may have been gray areas for employers have been laid out in a clear, precise manner. Rachel Shaw’s description of each concept and technique is profound and clearly based on a wealth of education and personal experience. The Disabled Workforce: What the ADA Never Anticipated may be a bit of a dull read for the average reader, but it is certainly an invaluable resource for employers of all kinds.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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