Thursday, February 24, 2011

Otherworld Tales Irish the Demon Slayer by C.T. Markee

Hi Charles: This is my first middle grade children's book and it is an exciting read! I see you have written a book that includes Ireland. What are your connections to that country?

My whole life has been embedded in Irish culture. The central character in Otherworld Tales: Irish the Demon Slayer, Peter (Irish) Kehoe, is named after my maternal great-grandfather, Peter Kehoe, who was born in Ireland and immigrated to this country in the midst of the great potato famine, circa 1850. When I was growing up in San Francisco, we lived in an Irish neighborhood. Kehoe relatives, Irish nuns, priests and brothers surrounded me. Our high school motto was and still is “The Fightin’ Irish.” The fascinating Irish poet and IRA rebel, Ella Young, who conversed with animals, trees and even rocks, inspired the talking trees in my story. And finally, in the midst of writing the book, I toured Ireland to see the landscape where the famous Celtic warrior, Cuchulain, fought his battles and I visited Tara, where I placed the castle of Aine, queen of the fairies.

What inspired you to write a middle grade fiction book?

My characters. I wanted to capture the summers I spent in San Geronimo, Marin County, wandering the hills, forests and creeks with my two best friends. They ended up in the story as Streak and Huff. That time is still vivid in my memory. Back then, the area was open countryside We were 12-years-old, so middle-grade was a natural target audience for the story. Some part of me still exists back then.

What was your favorite book when you were that age and how is this one different?

I loved the collies in Albert Payson Terhune’s dog books and London’s “Call of the Wild” thrilled me, but my earliest obsession as soon as I learned to read was L. Frank Baum’s stories set in the fabulous Land of Oz. I read and reread all 14 books and I remember my feeling of disappointment reading the subsequent three books by Ruth Plumly Thompson written after Baum’s death.
There are more similarities than differences between Irish the Demon Slayer and Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz. Both protagonists visit a fantastical place, get help from friends, overcome obstacles, defeat a super-evil adversary and return home victorious, although unclear about what happened to them.

I love the epilogue at the end, which tells us what happened to the characters in the book like they are real people. Any comments on this?

When the editor and I finished the book, I suffered post performance withdrawal anxiety. I had lived with the book for five years and I couldn’t let go of the characters. I also identified with my experience as a child finishing a book and wondering what happened next, so I couldn’t disappoint my young readers. I had some pressure from my writing groups to eliminate it because it might obviate a sequel, but I liked it, so it stayed.

Wow Charles, I can almost relate to that. There is a sense of sadness authors feel when the story is finished.  You get up in the morning and there is a loss of rhythm.
It always amazes me how much research a good author does even if they are writing pure fiction. Tell us about your research.

As soon as Peter Kehoe became “Irish,” I started looking for information and accumulating books on Irish lore. I quickly discovered that a culture of oral history depicts the same event a zillion different ways. I spent about two years concurrent with my writing, digging through books that were mostly about fairies and leprechauns. I wanted the most authentic characters I could find and I hit pay dirt when I discovered a treatise titled “Cuchulain of Muirthemne” by Lady Augusta Gregory, a peer and colleague of Yeats. Her renditions were somewhat convoluted, but I outlined the stories and charted the characters in detail and used this to create my own versions of the Celtic episodes. I was able to verify my work later when Marie Heaney (wife of Seanus Heaney of Beowulf translation fame) published her book of Irish legends.
Irish had to undergo some testing to qualify for his journey to the Otherworld. The answer came from another discovery, Blamires’ book on Celtic tree mysteries. Later, traveling in Ireland to get the feel of the land, I purchased detailed contour maps of Ireland and a wonderful book about Tara by Michael Slavin. I wanted to meet Michael, but unfortunately, he was gone the day we were at Tara.

What was it like to make maps of the Otherworld and Queen's Castle. Is this something you did early on?

The maps were always in my mind, but I didn’t sketch them out until I had reached the battle scenes between Irish and his friends and the three armies. As soon as I did, I realized they needed to be in the book, but I didn’t have the tools to make a professional PDF version of the maps. One of the other students in my XHTML class at SRJC was a graphic artist, so I hired her and presto, I had a map for the book. Later, Jo-Anne Rosen had to make modifications in the map for legibility within the trim size I chose for the book.

It is incredible so many people helped you with this adventure! Have you presented your books in any schools?

I’d love to do this, but I’m significantly hearing impaired. I struggle listening to adults. Children with their small voices and quickness are impossible for me. There may be some way for me to do this, but I haven’t come up with an idea.

Maybe our audience will come up with something. Your web site is excellent and you have done a thorough job of getting your book on every electronic device. Can you share how you did this?

Three semesters of XHTML & CSS at SRJC gave me enough tools to craft a reasonable website. As a young engineer, I wrote microcode, so the concept of coding wasn’t new to me, but I had to turn some very rusty gears. You can check it out at:
The Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform, as well as B&N’s Nook translation tool and Smashword all accept either MS Word or PDF versions of a manuscript with a separate .jpg cover image. For iPhone & iPad I used Unlimited Publishing, a service contracted by CWC that uses an Indian company to do the translation. They preferred MS Word. In some cases, to avoid the complication of converting the maps and the glossary, I stripped them out, added a link in my manuscript text and made them available on my website as a PDF download. I integrated the back cover info into the manuscript front matter. The translation tools are pretty sophisticated and do most of the work. Smashwords calls theirs “The Meat Grinder.”  You just have to follow the guidelines and fill out the forms correctly.

What type of PR have you done to promote your book?

I placed three endorsements by local author/teachers as the first page of the book and I included three endorsements by teens on the back cover. I made the book available from Amazon and Ingram via CreateSpace. I sent email announcements to all my group lists. Then I began a process I call shameless marketing: Showed it to everyone: family, friends, neighbors, other writers – workout club members, doctors, dentists, any workman who provided a service at my house. I sell it at RW meetings, North Bay SCBWI meetings, BAIPA meetings, presented it at the BAIPA bay area booksellers convention, submitted it to contests, to Midwest Book Review, to Publishers Weekly PW Select quarterly guide. On consignment in three Copperfields stores, SOCO and several coffee shops through Jeane Slone. I even sold a copy to our visiting literary agent last October.
This Saturday, I have my first Meet & Greet at the Copperfields in Healdsburg on Feb. 26 from 1:30-3:30 pm. I invite everyone to come and support me!  I have yet to do an official launch party or submit it to a blogger for review.

Charles I wouldn’t call it shameless marketing! When we put years of our life into ONE book it is a sense of pride to want to share it with everyone and you do that very, very well. 
Tell us about the publishing aspect of your book. Would you do it again the same way?

After working every chapter through my writer’s groups and then working it through Jackie Baldwin, a professional children’s book editor, I decided to use Jo-Anne Rosen’s book design service and I was glad I did. I will query out my next book since preliminary feedback from an agent was very positive. But I’m ready to self-publish again if it doesn’t work or takes too long. I would use the same technique.
I also chose to create a fictitious entity, Moonview Press, to market my book without the stigma of self-publishing, call myself a “small press” and establish a separate bank account to track expenses and provide direct routing for royalties.

Who did you self-publish through and what did you like and not like about them?

CreateSpace was incredibly easy to use as a POD publisher, primarily because I did all the prep work with Jo-Anne Rosen in advance and the submitted manuscript was squeaky clean. I am very pleased with the quality of the book. I would definitely recommend them over a subsidy publisher (Lulu, iUniverse, xlibris, etc.). However, my next self-publishing will be with Lightning Source, Inc. (LSI) because of some of the problems listed below and because of flexibility with the discount rate.
CreateSpace provides extended distribution via Ingram, but blocks distribution via Baker & Taylor (libraries buy from them) unless you use their ISBN. I bought my own ISBNs to ensure ownership of the book, so I was locked out of B&T unless I resubmitted the manuscript, selected only B&T and used a CreateSpace ISBN. That’s not an issue with LSI.
CreateSpace provides you with eStore capability, i.e. they give you a link to a web page with the ability to add a cover image and text so it looks like a page on your site. Then, from your website, a buyer can purchase the book from Amazon at list price with a better royalty for you . . . until Amazon slashes their price and undercuts your eStore list price. Amazon does continue to pay you the same royalty amount. They can afford the loss.

What are you cooking up now for a second book?

María's Beads is the story of a Hispanic girl who learns her best friend has a potentially fatal kidney disease and her parents refuse medical intervention for religious reasons. Based on true events, this story, set in Salinas, Calfornia, follows María's dramatic and courageous efforts to save her friend's life while discovering her Huichol Indian roots and a hidden secret of her family's past. The manuscript should be finished by June.

Charles this sounds like a very original story and I'm sure it will be another winner!
The best place to buy Otherworld Tales is from Charles' website:
or support the local coffee shops carrying his book, The Bean Affair, Healdsburg, Geyserville Mud, Barking Dog, Sonoma or Copperfield's.

The winner of by Margaret Murray is Sandy! Congratulations!

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hi Margaret, I am very happy to interview you on my author’s blog. Please tell us how your mystery novel, is unique? By the way I love the title!

In, the mystery exists in another dimension. I started out with the idea that sometimes it takes more than one lifetime. It’s sort of like reincarnation without the usual definition of karma.
Tragic events in one family from the past have a chance to be redeemed in the present In
The old story takes place in the 12th century when the pre-puebloan people populated the Four Corners area (The Navajo named these natives “Anasazi” or “enemy ancestors”). The new story takes place in Silicon Valley, post 9/11.
The title obviously refers to an internet address but also to an actual event that takes place in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. At solstices and equinoxes, sunlight in the shape of a dagger pierces a spiral petroglyph carved at the top of a butte. This phenomena shows how connected the Anasazi were to the sun and the heavens. Likewise, we in hi-tech California have our own sun daggers, connecting via the internet and other electronic networks.

 I see you have a fantastic YouTube video.

Yes,  my video Stones of Chaco Canyon can be viewed at:

The cover design is beautiful, how did that come about?

 I knew I had to have an image of Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon where the sun dagger was first observed and I tried to get permission to use several photos from the internet. When that didn’t work out, I had different friends who were visiting Chaco Canyon take photos. Amy Kuettner took the photo I used. My cover designer, Forge Toro, took Amy’s photo and digitally merged it with other story images, using a layout that had elements of Tony Hillerman’s mysteries. So you see, the process took a few years!

I know you self-published Sundagger. Who did you use and what did you like and not like about them?

I began my own small publishing press, WriteWords Press, mostly with the help of BAIPA (Bay Area Independent Publishers Association), or by talking to other writers. First I had to decide to actually self-publish, rather than hoping to go the traditional publishing route. I’d been submitting my novels for decades to publishers and agents and I had a New York agent in the ‘70s who became famous. But nothing happened. There’s lots not to like in that scenario! What I learned at BAIPA was to take responsibility for my book, rather than hope (or despair as the case might be) that someone else will.
I stayed away from book publishing services, because I wanted to keep all the rights. I didn’t want them to hold the ISBN number or have control. Plus I didn’t really see that they were publishing superior books. I wanted my book to be beautiful, inside and out.
I found that most book professionals in the Bay Area show up at a BAIPA meeting sooner or later. For example, my book designer for Sundagger. net was Desta Garrett, who I found through BAIPA.  My cover designer, Forge Toro, I also recruited through BAIPA.
It turned out that all my years as a tech writer helped me in the long run. My advice is to take your time and ask questions till you are satisfied.

Great advice! Do you have plans for another novel?

In 2011, WriteWords Press is going to bring out two more books, one of which is mine, a very different type of novel from, called Dreamers.

What is this novel about?

Dreamers is an interracial-romance of the ‘60s, set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and New York. With Dreamers, I am doing my own interior book design. The cover design is being done by Charr Crail.

This sounds like a very interesting read!
Tell us about your teaching experience and receiving an arts scholarship and National Endowment grant.

I’ve been teaching for ages—I had an idea at 21, right out of college, that I could support myself as a writer by teaching, something many writers do. But that didn’t really work out too well and I went into tech writing to make a living. However I did continue to teach—most recently, I taught English Composition at Carrington College, Antioch, Ca.   I love to teach writing and English literature.
The writing grants were gifts from the universe that I carelessly made use of! Seriously, I applied and received them when I was much younger and expected instant success as a novelist because I could imagine it in my mind. At the time I thought they fell from heaven as easily as rain. Now I know better.

Yes, our youth is fascinating to look back on that’s for sure! You sell your book packaged with a CD your son produced. That is a great idea. Tell us about this.

 I feel like the luckiest mom in the world to have the opportunity to sell my novel with my oldest son’s CD of original piano music. Chris is the one who came up with the book-CD bundle idea. He is a trained classical pianist who became a rap artist and popular piano composer.
 I used Chris’  “Winter Glass" from Waterfall, original piano music by Chris Goslow, in Stones of Chaco Canyon.  It’s amazing how magical the combination of the book and music can be. After all, is a story of magic realism. People fly. Coyotes lead. Visions erupt.
Even as a small boy, Chris always supported me as a novelist, urging me to publish by insisting, “I don’t want to have a mother who is a failed novelist!”

As a mother, I love hearing that your son said this to you!

And now I feel like I've got to mention my younger son, Jonas Goslow's, great effort on my behalf too--he designed my entire website.
                                       Margaret Murray and Chris Goslow at California State Fair
I love your website! Everyone can see it here
 Many authors read this blog. Please give us the details about all the writer's organizations you belong to.

I’ve mentioned BAIPA.  I also belong to a writing group, the Rich & Famous Writers, that has sustained me over many years. In fact, I dedicated to the group. I belonged to the National Writers Union for a decade and now am a board member of BAIPA. Then there’s all the burgeoning online writers groups! If I had more time, I’d belong to more writers’ groups.
Over the years I’ve showed up at various different writers’ groups. I spent a winter on Cape Cod at the Provincetown Fine Arts writers’ colony and a summer at the Squaw Valley Screenwriters Conference. I always enjoy talking about writing and books at all the events I have. A few weeks ago I had a “Meet and Greet” event at Copperfield’s Books in Sebastopol and really felt inspired by the fascinating people I spoke with. I love hanging out with book lovers and writers; I feel as if together we celebrate the power of words and their caretakers, we authors of stories. It’s like we’re tapping into an open, yet secret, sacred treasure. Book lovers rock!

Thank you Margaret Murray for your inspiring interview!

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Last weeks winner of She Built Ships During WWII is: Colleen! Congratulations.
To Post a Comment: At the bottom of the interview, press blue comments. Got to end of everyone's comments.  Under Post a Comment, write a comment, scroll under select to Name/url, type in your name and email address, no url necessary. Press Post Comment. If it does not post  press preview and do word verification then Press Post comment. Thank You!