Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Interview with fascinating fantasy novelist Marsha A. Moore, author of the "Enchanted Bookstore Legend" series...

I’m excited to spend some time with fantasy novelist Marsha A. Moore in the forum today. She is not only talented, she is also quite busy, so before she runs off to a yoga class or to meet her editor, we better get startedJ.

Tim Greaton: Thanks so much for being here with us, Marsha. We’ve talked about doing an interview for a while, and I’m really excited that our schedules finally meshed. I’m willing to bet our readers would be surprised at your journey to become a novelist. Could you tell us a little about that?

Marsha A. Moore: I’ve followed a circuitous path to end up as a fiction writer. I graduated with a degree in Biology, minoring in English. I wanted to pursue Literature and Fine Art, but my parents encouraged me to study Biology, so I might eventually find a reliable job. That was fine, since I liked that subject also. I wrote essays as a fun break from my full load of Science. Yes, weird that I thought writing essays was fun…still do! Then, I headed into grad school studying Dentistry. Four years later, I decided although I was excelling, it just wasn’t my calling. I changed gears and taught high school Biology for seventeen years, getting my Masters in Secondary Education.

Along the way, I picked up a hobby of writing music reviews for record companies. During that time, I was inspired by some of those experiences and tinkered with fiction. Initially, I wrote fiction based on the world of rock music. Through a lucky happenstance, a man who worked for a major book publishing house read my first attempts at fiction, which were posted on a music forum. He repeatedly encouraged me to submit my creative writing. Over time, I came to believe him and did. After that, a new world opened up and it’s been a wonderful time.

Tim Greaton: Quite a few years ago, I read a series of biographies about Teddy Roosevelt, and one of the most memorable things about him was how he seemed to be torn equally and almost obsessively between physical and intellectual interests. You remind me a lot of him in that way. I’ll let you explain what I meanJ

Marsha A. Moore: I have many hobbies and they often shift into part-time careers. I’ve been a yoga addict for thirteen years and just recently registered for a 200-hour year-long yoga teacher certification course. I’m thrilled to embark on learning more about one of my interests that has slowly become a huge part of my life. I’m excited to see what journeys will come from that training.

My other active hobbies include kayaking and cycling, which I do weekly, year round. I live in Tampa, which makes that possible. I love the beach and do my best writing there. I have a host of creative hobbies: drawing, watercolor painting, knitting, jewelry making. I also manage to squeeze in reading time for books on fantasy, magical realism, and spiritual guidance.

 I also make time to study Tibetan Buddhism. I took refuge in that faith many years ago and attend a wonderful local sangha.

Tim Greaton: I understand that meditation is sometimes like plugging into pure creativity but you started tapping a creative vein long before your journey toward Buddhism. What’s that like?

Marsha A. Moore: I get a lot of positive and amazed comments about my imagination, usually, “Where do you get these ideas?” or “You are talented storyteller,” or “How do you drive with all these wild ideas in your head?” I honestly have no idea—it’s just me and how I think. I see odd stuff in nature, like portals and strange creatures.  I’ve been this way as long as I can remember. It does make for some great tales though!

Tim Greaton: I’ve heard rumors that you tap a strong well of reality when you write. Is that true?

Marsha A. Moore: Reality always forms the framework of how my characters interact in my stories. Actually, since my current work in progress is book three of a five-part series, the more I look at this story, the more of myself I see. My heroine, Lyra, is very much connected to me. Even in the first chapter of the first book, the childhood memories brought to her mind by Cullen’s magical tea are actually all mine. How Lyra interacts with her Aunt Jean has been a way for me to work through my own issues with my mother’s failing health. Some scenes intentionally connect to my own experiences, like those, and others surprise me much later when I’m polishing my draft to send to my editor. I shake my head and hope no one other than my crit partners can identify the similarities.

Tim Greaton: I know from experience that writing fantasy can be extremely time-consuming. Could you explain why that is and what your specific writing method is like?

Marsha A. Moore: My process begins with a setting I find interesting, somewhere I’d like to spend some time. In writing fantasy, world-building is everything. Then, I create the main characters, appearance and personality. From there, how they will become involved goes hand-in-hand with developing the plot. I do outline a lot, since there are many interwoven subplots in this series. This series is epic in scope, and details would get lost if I didn’t plan. Outside of the key features on the outline, I do allow the in-between progress in each chapter to flow freely, which I enjoy a lot. Some of the most imaginative bits arise that way.  In terms of evolution, I tend to write more now in extended spurts, immersing myself in the story.  I find that works better for me than routine, short daily sessions. Perhaps because I’m writing a very involved epic tale, I need longer periods to keep the storylines straight. Regardless, it’s more enjoyable for me to feel like I’m in the world for several days, rather than popping in for an hour.

Tim Greaton: Whenever I hear you talk about your critique circle, I remember how much I miss the local groups I used to attend many years ago. What’s your circle like?

Marsha A. Moore: I love my critique group. My crit partners are my best friends. They keep me motivated, cheer with me for my successes, and support me when any hardships come along. My group is local, through the Florida Writers Association. I think it’s extremely important to find a local crit group rather than working only online. We benefit so much from collectively brainstorming how to solve everyone’s writing problems.

Tim Greaton: Though I’d love to talk about your background and methods a lot longer, I know our readers are equally anxious to hear about your latest novel and the series it’s based in. Could you enlighten us?

Marsha A. Moore: The Enchanted Bookstore Legends are about Lyra McCauley, a woman destined to become one of five strong women in her family who possess unique magical abilities and serve as Scribes in Dragonspeir. The Scribes span a long history, dating from 1200 to present day. Each Scribe is expected to journey through Dragonspeir, both the good and evil factions, then draft a written account. Each book contains magic with vast implications.

Lyra was first introduced to Dragonspeir as a young girl, when she met the high sorcerer, Cullen Drake, through a gift of one of those enchanted books. Using its magic, he escorted her into the parallel world of Dragonspeir. Years later, she lost that volume and forgot the world and Cullen. These legends begin where he finds her again—she is thirty-five, standing in his enchanted bookstore, and Dragonspeir needs her. 

When Lyra reopens that enchanted book, she confronts a series of quests where she is expected to save the good Alliance from destruction by the evil Black Dragon. While learning about her role, Lyra and Cullen fall in love. He is 220 years old and kept alive by Dragonspeir magic. Cullen will die if Dragonspeir is taken over by the evil faction…Lyra becomes the Scribe.

In Heritage Avenged: Enchanted Bookstore Legend Two, Lyra McCauley receives an alarming letter from the coroner who evaluated her deceased aunt, originally thought to have died of cancer. The news causes Lyra to take leave from her job and travel from sunny Tampa to the frozen island community in northern Michigan. Questioning whether Dragonspeir magic was responsible for her aunt’s death, she resolves to learn the truth and accepts the Imperial Dragon’s appointment into the Alliance sorcery training.

Additionally, becoming proficient in magic craft is the only way she can bridge the gap between her mortal human world and her lover’s. Cullen, a 220-year-old wizard, is dependent upon his Dragonspeir magic for immortality. He is her only family now; she cannot lose him.
Evil forces block her and try to steal her inherited scribal aura. Riding a stealth dragon, a cloaked rider pursues Lyra. Both the Alliance and Dark Realm alchemists lay tricks and traps. Her aura equals that of the first and most powerful Scribe, but will Lyra’s novice training allow her to discover the truth…and find a life with Cullen? Or will the Dark Realm keep them apart?

Tim Greaton: What led you to tell this particular story?

Marsha A. Moore: The Enchanted Bookstore Legends are basically a fantasy lover’s dream, being able to step into a favorite book as a character. I know my initial inspiration came after watching the recent Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland movie. From that, I wanted to work with parallel worlds and have a heroine who must save the fantasy world from danger. But, I wanted it to be more adult in order to deal with more complex feelings. Beyond that, I just see fantasy stories all around me. It comes naturally.

Tim Greaton: You’ve already mentioned that there will be five books in this series. What else can we expect on the Marsha A. Moore horizonJ?

Marsha A. Moore: I’m currently finishing up writing the third Enchanted Bookstore Legen: Lost Volumes. I’m expecting a September release for that book. I’ve also been planning a new series. I like to think about my plans for a new book or series over several months, fitting the pieces together.

I write epic fantasy with romantic elements and will likely do more in that subgenre.  I also enjoy reading magical realism, mythpunk, and mythic fiction—all subgenres that sit on the border between fantasy and literary fiction. I expect my writing will shift in that direction over time.

I like the complexity of fantasy, the feeling of being transported into another world. However, most fantasy books are written for young adults. In my reading, I longed to find more fantasies written for adults. The element of romance I include is far less about adding sex than about adding deeper connections between the hero and heroine, allowing them to be more three-dimensional and work with more complex issues.

Tim Greaton: Knowing you as the avid reader you are, I wonder which authors have influenced your work and why?

Marsha A. Moore: I loved Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. The symbolism is amazing; the more you read, the more layers you find. Inspired by that, I like to hide things in my stories.

From the present, picking one book is too hard. The Harry Potter series is one of my all-time favorites. Again, the layering of hidden plots, which spin to completion later in the series, really captures my imagination. The last few books that really pulled me in were Natasha Mostert’s Season of the Witch and Erin Morgenstern’s Night Circus. In both of those, magic caused mental effects for both the giver and receiver. I enjoy the complexity of that theme and employ it myself in a very different way. My heroine, Lyra, must learn to mentally control her vast inherited powers as the new Scribe. That is something she struggles to master through the series.

Tim Greaton: For most of us, getting the initial foundation of a story down is the biggest challenge. That hasn’t been quite true for you, though, has it?

Marsha A. Moore: You’re right. I didn’t struggle with the first two books of these Enchanted Bookstore Legends, but had a difficult time finding what internal conflict my heroine needed to deal with in the third book. I actually had to live it, pass through a difficult experience in my own life with the recent passing of my mother, in order to see what the character needed to do. That was a real moment of discovery for me since I’d been too close to the forest to see the trees, so-to-speak.

Tim Greaton: I understand if you could start breeding a certain species from your book series, you would have a very successful pet store. Could you explain to our readers what I meanJ?

Marsha A. Moore: The Enchanted Bookstore Legends make a truly epic tale with a large and wonderful cast of otherworldly characters, including many talking animals. My main characters, Lyra and Cullen, must attempt difficulties that stretch their abilities over numerous quests. But, my secondary characters often bring laughter and lighten their loads, or encourage their strengths to persevere. I’m in the middle of writing the third book, Lost Volumes, so by now the personalities of my secondary animal characters really shine and they feel very real to me. I’m especially fond of my dragons, but one type stands out as a favorite—pseudodragons.

Pseudodragons are not true dragons. They are much smaller, being only three feet long, including their tails. In my legends, we get to know the pseudodragon Cullen keeps as his wizard’s familiar—a typical role for this species. His name is Noba, and he’s a tiny burgundy-colored pseudodragon who has a heart of gold that makes people melt. He always manages to find some mischief. I smile thinking about him. He helped Lyra raise a dragon hatchling. She had no idea what to do with a baby dragon. Noba was great and made every minute fun! Lots of readers tell me they want a pseudodragon of their own now!

Tim Greaton: It would be great if you could share your website/blogsite and links to where our audience could directly communicate with you and purchase your stories.

Marsha A. Moore:

Product Details    Product Details 

Tim Greaton: Thanks, Marsha, for fitting us in your schedule today. I really had a great time.

Marsha A. Moore: Thank you so much for taking time to chat with me about all things writing. It’s fun to share what inspires my creativity, and being here with you and your readers has been wonderful.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Interview with Sheenah Freitas author of two YA fantasy novels and a collection of shorts...



We have a wonderful young author with us in the forum today. Sheenah Freitas is only in her twenties but she has already published two novels and a collection of short stories. Having read “The Chosen,” which is the first book in her Zincian Legend fantasy series, I’ve been anxious to hear about her next release.
Tim Greaton: Sheenah, you and I have a lot of friends in common. I often hear you talking with many of them about cooking and a ton of other fabulous hobbies. Could you tell us about some of them?

Sheenah Freitas: I love the arts and crafty projects. I think they’re fun and oftentimes relaxing. Like when I’m on a writer’s block, I enjoy kicking everyone out of the kitchen and baking up some goodies. Not only am I stepping away to look at my work in progress objectively, but waiting on cookies to finish often gives me enough time to figure out any problems. I’ve also taught myself web design/graphic design and sewing. The former has been a great help in regards to putting together a platform and covers. The latter, however, is more or less so I can modify and make my own clothes and the occasional cosplay (one is never too old to play dress-up, right?).

Tim Greaton: Having read “The Chosen,” which is the first book in your Zincian Legend fantasy series, I can say I was really surprised at the variety of characters and creatures you were able to successfully bring into one story. But you hear another compliment even more often, don’t you?

Sheenah Freitas: People usually say, “Oh, I was so impressed by the quality of your writing and you’re so young!” I’m glad that they enjoy the work and it’s fun to give the readers something they’re not quite expecting. I think if readers stumble upon my pictures (or meet me in person) and then learn I’m an author, they’re a bit leery because they think they’re going to be reading some sort of bubble-gum-Twilight-novel with terrible grammar and lack of story, but that’s hardly the case. I do write the occasional bubble-gum short story, but I’ve yet to write a bubble-gum novel.

Tim Greaton: I know you recently released “Musings from Yesteryear,” a collection of your short stories. Do you have other works waiting to be released or is it more of a stack of stories you will likely never revisit?

Sheenah Freitas: Don’t we all have a drawer full of “not quite there” work and half-finished manuscripts? I don’t have a stack, per-se, but I do have a file of work that need some definite work and I have a notebook full of story ideas. If you would’ve asked me two months ago about my projects never seeing the light of day, I would’ve answered that many of my short stories would never, ever make their way into the hands of readers. And yet now they are in the hands of readers! So, I think with time my old projects will see the light of the day.

Tim Greaton: You have a unique way to prepare for a writing project. Could you tell us about it and maybe talk about how your methods have evolved?

Sheenah Freitas: I’m a very visual person, so often times I need to see a scene or character or place before I can properly describe it. Because of that, my system is similar to an animation storyboard. I make my outline of events and as I start to work on the first draft, I’ll start adding sketches of scenes, characters, and places to help me get a better grasp of what I’m writing. Even though I’m transferring this mental image I have into a sketch, I feel that it really helps me when I write to get all the nitty-gritty details down. I used to have to do constant revisions to get everything down pat, but now I can get it all down in three drafts because I know what I’m looking for now when I make my self-edits.

Tim Greaton: I understand you have one particularly tough first reader. What’s that like?

Sheenah Freitas: I know people are always saying to never ever let your family beta read for you because they’re not going to want to be 100% honest because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. However, I let my dad beta read for me. He’s brutally honest. Maybe a little too brutal, haha. There have been times where I turn into a melodramatic teenager and slam doors and throw myself onto beds or the couch and cry and pout over some changes he’s suggested. And once I’ve come back to my senses (a few hours or after another viewing of Beauty and the Beast) I realize that most of the changes make sense and the ones I don’t agree with, we can usually come up with some sort of compromise.

Tim Greaton: I’ve been anxious to talk about your latest release, which is the second book in your Zincian Legend fantasy series. Could you tell us about it?

Sheenah Freitas: The Number is my most recent novel, and as you mentioned it’s the sequel to The Chosen. The novel starts five years after the events in The Chosen, so the characters are naturally older and wiser. With age, Kaia, the main character, really gains a new maturity of her current situation and finally realizes that she shouldn’t be running away from her destiny. She re-enlists her friends’ help and they continue on their journey where they left off. The tone is quite a bit darker from its predecessor with a world war looming over the horizon.

Tim Greaton: Do you think of yourself as always writing in just one genre, and how do you think that influences the decisions you make about your stories/novels?

Sheenah Freitas: At the moment, I think of myself as a young adult writer. After I finish with my current trilogy, there’s another young adult book that I wish to write. But after that, who knows? I love to read great stories no matter what genre they’re labeled in, so I think eventually I’ll expand on that. Because as much as I love the voice and tone of young adult books, I don’t think I could stick exclusively to that area of books forever. I want to continue writing stories, no matter where they take me.

Tim Greaton: I usually like to toss out a wild and fun “what if” question.  Let’s say you had an unlimited advertising budget, how would you spend it to get your books noticed right now?

Sheenah Freitas: I’ve always thought it would be great to do something like a flashmob. Except I want to do a flash scene, musical style. I’m thinking I go down to Times Square and right in the middle of all the hubbub, I set up a stage and for at least 3 days, nothing will happen. By the time day 4 comes around, most people would have forgotten that there’s a stage there and when they least expect it…BAM! My actors will appear and start performing a scene that I (with the help of a composer and lyricist) musical-ized. There will be confetti and posters of my book exploding out of seemingly nowhere at the end of the climatic song and then we’ll take the stage and move it out amongst the applause. And we can only hope that someone would’ve recorded it and uploaded it to Youtube and it becomes a viral sensation!

Tim Greaton: It would be great if you could share your website/blogsite and links to where our audience could directly communicate with you and purchase your stories.

Sheenah Freitas: You can find me at my website over at: http://sheenahfreitas.com
Twitter: @SheenahFreitas
Facebook: http://on.fb.me/Nhp4J4
Buy the book at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004VFN1WO

             Product Details           Product Details           Product Details

Tim Greaton: Thanks for taking the time with us today, Sheenah. It’s been great getting to know you and your work a little better. I know that a lot of our readers really enjoyed spending time with you as well.

Sheenah Freitas: Thank you so much for having me on your forum, Tim. I’d also like to thank everyone else for reading this far~! I hope you enjoy my work. J

Friday, July 13, 2012

Interview with fascinating and fun children's author, Martha Rodriguez...

Today, in the forum, we have Martha Rodriguez, a wonderful children’s book author, game inventor and international chef…or would that be cook? Anyway, I’m looking forward to learning more about her and her books “A Reel Cool Summer,” and “Smell My Feet! 10 Seriously Silly and Sweet Short Stories for Squirts.”  

Tim Greaton: Martha, it is truly a pleasure to have you here today in the forum. I’m especially looking forward to you sharing a little about your heritage.

Martha Rodriguez: Thanks for having me, Tim.  I'm very excited to be here!  Well, let's see.  I was born in Havana, Cuba, and came to the United States with my family at the age of three.  I know how difficult it was for my parents and grandparents to leave family and friends behind, not to mention the country they loved.  Their goal was simple: to provide a better life for my brother and me.  For that we will always be grateful. 

Tim Greaton: I heard a rumor that you are responsible for helping a lot of friends and families, yours included, spend more time together. Could you tell us about that?

Martha Rodriguez: As a tribute to our family and our Cuban heritage, my brother, sister (born in the US), and I created a board game of Cuban trivia about 15 years ago called ¡Ay mi Cuba!  What were we thinking? Well, we were thinking that if we could get about 10 or 15 Cubans sitting around a table answering questions about Cuba, most likely, laughter, yelling, and fights (all in good fun) would quickly ensue!  We were right!  What a blast!  To our surprise we sold 5,000 copies of that game in two years.  Do we know our Cubans, or what? 

Tim Greaton: We all have important people who help to shape our lives. I know of a particularly wonderful person who makes you smile every time you talk about her. You know who I mean, don’t you?

Martha Rodriguez: Abuela (my maternal grandmother) was someone who had a very special spirit about her.  She was such a happy and loving person that bad stuff couldn't touch her -- not that it didn't try. One of my fondest memories of her is of the time she went to a Julio Iglesias concert at the age of 70.  Although her tickets were toward the back of the concert hall, she walked up to the stage and blew kisses at Julito, as she used to call him, and told him how much she adored him.  She loved to tell that story... oh, yeah, and the story about how she used to jump over barrels on roller skates when she was a kid.  That was my favorite one.  She was an amazing person who taught me to love life, no matter what it brings.  I keep her memory alive by telling my children about what a great gift she was to me.  Maybe, if I'm lucky, someday my kids will speak about me in the same way to their children and grandchildren.  What a blessing that would be.

Tim Greaton: What kinds of books do you read? Are they in the same genres in which you write?

Martha Rodriguez: My favorite genre is non-fiction.  Give me a book about history, politics, religion or a biography and I'm happy.  I will read other genres on occasion but it's very rare.  I don't write non-fiction books but I do incorporate the personalities of some of the people in my life into my writing.  I have many silly family members to inspire me so there is a smidge of truth to my characters and stories.

Tim Greaton: People often say that kids from your stories are so convincing. One reviewer of your picture book said, “"The dialogue is written to sound like children really talk. Parents might cringe but kids will love it." How do you feel about that?

Martha Rodriguez: Success!  I have three children of my own (now grown) and many nieces and nephews.  I know that children do not speak like adults.  They have a unique way of expressing themselves that is very refreshing to me.  I appreciate that my readers understand that as well.  It's great to get that kind of response when it's exactly what you are going for.
Tim Greaton: I’ve been fortunate to meet some of the most talented authors working today, yourself included, Martha, and I’m always fascinated to hear about the many writing systems they use. What is yours like?

Martha Rodriguez: I'm supposed to have a writing system?  Nobody told me that!  It's true, I don't have a system, I just write when ideas come to me.  Sometimes they are brought about by writing prompts and other times by true events or the many "characters" in my life.  When an idea comes to me, I sit down at my computer and type away.  I don't worry about errors or sentence structure or order, I just type what my brain tells me to and then I go back and organize everything.  Hey, I guess I do have a system.  Who knew?    

Tim Greaton: I heard there is a bit of bribery involved in the final stages of your story completionsJ. Can you explain?

Martha Rodriguez: I mostly follow my own instincts and have shelved many stories because of it.  The ones I think can move forward I ask my hubby to read.  He always does so willingly and always with great feedback about tweaks.  I think he enjoys it... or maybe he just does it for the Cuban food.  Either way, I'm glad he's my beta reader (and my biggest fan!).  Gotta keep those fans happy!  Tonight's menu: Picadillo, arroz blanco, frijoles negros y platanitos maduros frito.

Tim Greaton: Even though you do a fabulous job with your books, I once heard you reject the label of “writer.” Why would you do that?

Martha Rodriguez: I haven't gotten to the point where I think of myself as a "writer."  I'm more like a wife and mom who happens to have written a picture book and some stories.  I know how important it is for kids to spend time with their parents and I want to write books that families can enjoy together.  I want my books to be the ones with the creased pages, ketchup stains, and tape (or, these days, the ones toward the top of the Kindle list).  When our kids were little, those were the books that were part of the family, you know, the ones that went through the wringer with us.  I want my books to go through the wringer!   

Tim Greaton: I’m willing to bet a lot of our readers are already familiar with your fabulous picture book “A Reel Cool Summer,” so what I’d like to talk about today is your most recent book “Smell My Feet! 10 Seriously Silly and Sweet Short Stories for Squirts.”  

Martha Rodriguez: Eight of the 10 stories in Smell My Feet!”  were originally published on my blog and two had been hidden away for a while.  They begged me to release them into the wild so I did.  The stories are great for 7- to 10-year-olds to read on their own or are equally nice for families to read together. 

Tim Greaton: What led you to tell these particular stories?

Martha Rodriguez: I started to realize that many of the short stories I was writing were about relationships between family members or friends.  Many were brought about by memories of my own childhood and how important those relationships were to me.  I envisioned children and parents reading the stories together and talking about how Uncle So-and-so might be like one character or how a little brother or a silly friend might be like another.  I liked the idea that they would be able to relate to the characters in that way.

Tim Greaton: How did you decide on the atmosphere for these stories?

Martha Rodriguez: I don't think I chose the tone of the stories as much as they chose me.  They are the warm and fuzzy things that make me feel at ease and the silly and goofy things that make me smile big!

Tim Greaton: Maybe it has something to do with my creeping up on the looming "50" mark, but I tend to be asking more and more about epitaphs lately. I’d hate to leave you out, so maybe you could tell us what your tombstone might say at the end of your very long, very successful journey through life?

Martha Rodriguez: I would like my tombstone to read...

How many characters can I put on this thing? What? That's less than Twitter! #frustrating #cantanoldladygetsomerespectaroundhere

Tim Greaton: I should have known you’d leave everyone smiling even after you’re gone. It would be great if you could share your website/blogsite and links to where our audience could directly communicate with you and purchase your stories.

Martha Rodriguez: More information about my books A Reel Cool Summer and Smell My Feet! can be found on my self-publishing website, http://www.readtomepublishingllc.com.  I'm always happy to hear from fellow authors and readers at martha@readtomepublishingllc.com.  Several other places to keep up with my goings-on are my blog, http://areelcoolsummer.blogspot.com and Twitter, @areelcoolsummer or @smellmyfeetbook.

Tim Greaton: Thanks for taking the time with me today, Martha. You’ve been amazing and fun.

Martha Rodriguez: Again, I want to thank you from the bottom of my smelly feet... er, from the bottom of my heart, Tim, for inviting me to be on your blog.  It's an honor to be here with you, your loyal audience and so many fellow authors whom I've met on-line here and there and everywhere.  I'm truly grateful to you for giving me the opportunity to connect with them!