Celina Mattocks


Plenty of working mothers deal with the same societal expectations and battle the whisperings that working moms can’t have it all. Motivational speaker Celina Mattocks aims to help women with that negative self-talk in her debut novel, 54 Flights. Talking to Celina, we enjoyed learning where 54 Flights derived from and how it helps working women who are looking to start a family.

54 flights
Get your copy here

What inspired you to write a book?
My best friend from 7th grade and I would write stories after school together. I told her that one day I would write a real book. Years later, I was transposing more than a decade’s worth of journals from print to google docs when I realized there was a good story baseline here – one that could be shared with a broader audience.

Was there a book or author that you admired that played a role when developing your book?
I’m really into personal development and personality theory, so. I used the psychology theorists Karen Horney (social unconscious) and William Bridges (transitions) to structure my book!

It is often said that in order to write something, you must believe in what you are writing. Do you agree with that?
Yes!

Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?
I was working full time, so writing was set aside for 8-10pm ET.

Tell us about your writing style, how is it different from other writers?
I am an action-oriented writer that prefers to write in a cause-and-effect manner. This comes from my study in Journalism and my professional writing in the business context. I flesh out my stories, adjectives, and descriptors after the fact.

What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing? What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing?
The hardest part of writing is not being critical of my work. I see new areas for improvement each time I read! The easiest part is telling a story.

Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last? Any tips you would like to share to overcome it?
Yes, my writer’s block lasted approximately 6 months, in between my first and second drafts. I couldn’t even look at the manuscript. One day I forced myself to pick it up and realized it wasn’t so scary. My advice would be similar to Anne Lamott’s ‘Bird by Bird’ – the key message is to take it one day at a time.

Any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?
There is no time like now.

Are you working on something new at the moment?
Yes! I’m publishing my book as a non-fungible token (NFT) and also using my book to speak to groups about banishing your negative self-talk and living your best life.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Yes! My book is not only for women. One book review said it well; “54 Flights is a very engaging, even entertaining book that – quite literally – could change your life. Though seemingly written primarily for women, its main underlying message—transitioning from a focus on what we do to a focus on who we are—is universal, and most men would greatly benefit from reading it, and putting it to practice.”

About Celina Mattocks

Celina MattocksCelina Mattocks is an adventurous Management Consultant for a Global Fortune 500 company focused on enterprise-wide change enablement (people adopting large change).  “54 Flights” is her first literary work, a ‘Coming Of Self’ story where Alexandra struggles to banish Despy (her Despised Self) and live her full potential as a career woman turning mother.  Celina was educated at American University in Washington, DC where she earned her Master of Science degree in Organization Development, and Salisbury University in Maryland where she received a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in Communications and Spanish. Celina has consulted with many companies in the United States and overseas. She is a mother, wife, daughter, sister, and friend. You can follow Celina on her website www.leadlivelearn.com and on social media.

Twitter: @celinaryan1
Instagram: @LeadLiveLearn
Facebook: @54Flights
LinkedIn @CelinaMattocks
LinkedIn Page: Lead, Live, Learn

You can be featured here too! If you’d like to submit an interview or guest post, please fill out our submission form and we’ll get back to you within 7 – 10 days.

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Steven M. Moore


The Book Smuggler’s Den loves authors who reach out for online presence help! Steven M. Moore is the author of six series and many other sci-fi, mystery, and thriller novels, including the “Esther Brookstone Art Detective” mystery/thriller series and “The Last Humans” post-apocalyptic thriller series. We learned a lot from Steven about his writing experience and the advice he has for authors-to-be.

Steven M. Moore
Now available! Celtic Chronicles, “Esther Brookstone” #9 here

What inspired you to write a book?
Books, plural. Reading has always been an inspiration. I read a lot of mysteries, thrillers, and sci-fi as a lad (thrillers were called adventure stories back then). I had the hubris to think I could write them too. I waited a while to do that because life got in the way a bit.

Was there a book or author that you admired that played a role when developing your book?
Books, plural. Christie for mysteries, H. Rider Haggard for thrillers, and Asimov and others for sci-fi (although his Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun are also mysteries). It’s hard to pin down one major influence.

It is often said that to write something, you must believe in what you are writing. Do you agree with that?
No. Many of my characters express opinions I don’t share. The spectrum of human behavior is wide, and I cover a lot of it in my books to make the fiction seem real. My books are as complex as human beings are; I don’t do simple.

Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who writes only when they feel inspired?
Now I spend a lot of time writing, but that includes novels and short fiction; blog posts about reading, writing, and the publishing business; reviews; and interviews. (I also have a separate blog for political articles.)

Tell us about your writing style, how is it different from other writers?
Writing styles are like fingerprints and DNA. I just try to maintain a balance between the various elements that characterize a story. I do believe in minimalist writing, though: I give readers just enough information so they can create their own images of characters and settings. That way they can participate in the creative process.

What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing? What would you say is the most natural aspect of writing?
Storytelling is innately human, but the hardest thing to accomplish with fiction is to make it seem real, even if it’s sci-fi or fantasy. Probably what comes easiest for me in storytelling is dialogue. A person who read my very first novel Full Medical commented on that.

Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last? Any tips you would like to share to overcome it?
Never had it once. I got going after 9/11 because I collected what-ifs, plot ideas, character sketches, ideas for settings, etc. for many years, and still do. You can even jot these down at a coffee bar or restaurant! Reading a lot also gives you new ideas. For example, I always wondered why Dame Agatha didn’t team Miss Marple up with Hercule Poirot. The “Esther Brookstone Art Detective” series in a way is my answer.

Why do you call some of your novels “evergreen”?
While I’m very much into protecting our world’s flora and fauna, many authors’ books are “evergreen,” i.e., as entertaining and current as the day the writers finished their manuscripts. During Covid, I maintained my sanity by binge-reading complete series of British-style mysteries, for example; they were all evergreen! I fear that too many readers look for recent publication dates and ignore these evergreen books. My first novel, Full Medical (2006), is about human cloning; that’s still a hot topic.

Any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?
Read, read, read, and write, write, write. If you’re a born storyteller, the ideas will come. Don’t have expectations that are too high, though. There are a lot of good authors out there writing good books. I know because I’ve read them!

Are you working on something new at the moment?
I just finished publishing the ninth and last novel in the “Esther Brookstone Art Detective” series titled Celtic Chronicles. I have several other WIPs I’ll get back to after a brief respite.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Publishing runs the whole gamut from 100% DIY to the Big Five publishing conglomerates. Please realize that good stories can be found anywhere in that whole spectrum. While I’m a mongrel, having tried both self- and traditional publishing, many self-published novels compete very well with those Big Five ones. Use the blurb and “peek inside,” whether online or at your favorite bookstore; reviews; and websites like Smuggler’s Den to select books you find interesting, not those someone says “you just have to read.”

You can find more about Steven on his website https://stevenmmoore.com and be sure to follow him on social media!
Facebook: @authorStevenMMoore
Twitter: @StevenMMoore4

 

 

 

You can be featured here too! If you’d like to submit an interview or guest post, please fill out our submission form and we’ll get back to you within 7 – 10 days.

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March 2022

Guest Blogging Submissions
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I’m writing this letter from my hometown in California, excited to share with you the books I’ve enjoyed this month. This was my first time traveling with my mustache man and he’s loving getting a break from the cold. And I’m thankful for Nana and Pa watching him while I go to my favorite coffee shop by the beach and relax with a book. Fair warning, these reviews are short because I was enjoying the sand between my toes and didn’t have enough time to finish a lengthy review, on a plane, with a baby in my lap.

I’m sad to say that Submittable raised their rates by over $100 since I set up my submission page there in 2019 and as a small publication, I can’t afford to be there anymore. I have set up a new form on Google Forms where you can submit your pieces to the magazine. Our policies are the same as you can see below. Please note that we ask that you do not send more work until hearing back from us. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond individually to submission status queries.

On a side note, and I must include this, The Book Smuggler’s Den is so sorry to hear the news of the passing of Foo Fighter’s drummer, Taylor Hawkins. I grew up listening to The Foo Fighters’ music and their most recent album was yet another hit. I read Dave Ghrol’s memior, The Storyteller, and highly (HIGHLY) recommend it. Because even musicians start out representing themselves independently and go on to change the entertainment industry. I believe the same goes for writers who self-publish. Rest in beats, Taylor.

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Fiction

Kill the Farm Boy, Delilah S. Dawson and Kevina Hearne
Demons of the Mind: A Psychogenic Thriller, Tamikio Reardon
Point of Direction, Rachel Weaver
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, J.K. Rowling
The Life She Was Given, Ellen Marie Wiseman

Nonfiction

The Accidental Tsundere: Dating for Late Bloomers, Loners, and Misfits, L.M. Bennett

Let’s Chat With Hailey Sawyer

Writing Prompts

Guest Post Opportunities

Guest blogging is a fantastic way to break out of your usual circle and reach an audience that may have never heard of you before. We are ready if you are! Send us your best work and remember to tell us about yourself and give us information as to where readers can reach you or purchase your book/services/goods. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond individually to submission status queries. We will do our best to respond to your submission within 7 – 10 business days.

Blogs to submit to

Need more help marketing your book? Click to find out more information about all of our marketing packages. We look forward to working with you!

February 2022


Click to download your copy

Happy February my lovely writers!

How are we doing on our reading and writing goals? I’m excited about this month’s book reviews. When I started the Book Smuggler’s Den in 2018, I had an idea of what I wanted my blog to be. Having blogged before on epilepsy, I wanted this blog to be more interactive and open to having others contribute. This then became the start of my now thriving business.

My husband is a business-savvy man and encouraged me to continue to make this site a business instead of a hobby. He recommended a few reads regarding business. At first, I thought I was going to be bored to tears with these reads. I do enjoy nonfiction, but I thought once I was out of school, I’d be out of having to read dry material. However, these February reads were upbeat and incredibly helpful for my business and my mental health.

If you’ve been wondering about our submission status, we are still open to having writers of all experience levels submit to our site. I’m sad to say that Submittable raised their rates by over $100 since I set up my submission page there in 2019. As a small publication and a free publication to submit to and read, I can’t afford to be there anymore. I have set up a new form on Google Forms where you can submit your pieces to the magazine. Our policies are the same as you will see when you fill out the submission form.

Being an author is a business and I hope you find these reads as helpful as I did.

Happy writing,

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Fiction

The Great Alone, Kristen Hannah
A Wrinkle In Time, Madeleine L’Engle
Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Doctor Who and the Tomb of the Cybermen by Gerry Davis
The Life She Was Give, Ellen Wiseman
The Wife Between Us, Greer Hendricks & Sarach Pekkanen

Nonfiction

You Are A Bad Ass, Jen Sincero
Peak Performance, by Brad Stulberg, and Steve Magness
The Lean Startup, Eric Ries

Let’s Chat with Hailey Sawyer

Writing Prompts

Guest Post Opportunities

Guest blogging is a fantastic way to break out of your usual circle and reach an audience that may have never heard of you before. We are ready if you are! Send us your best work and remember to tell us about yourself and give us information as to where readers can reach you or purchase your book/services/goods. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond individually to submission status queries. We will do our best to respond to your submission within 7 – 10 business days.

Blogs to submit to

Need more help marketing your book? Click to find out more information about all of our marketing packages. We look forward to working with you!

January 2022

“You get a new year, you get a new start, you get a new opportunity.” – Billy Butler

Submit to blog
Click here to download your copy

Let the 2022 reading challenge begin! 

Last year went by in a blur as I tried to figure out this whole mommy thing. I read some wonderful reads, but not as many as I had planned on. As usual, my reading goal for this year is 52 books in 52 weeks. Now that I have my little mustache man under control (or I like to say so), I can definitely reach my goal and then some.

I’m already off to a great start reading some pieces by indie authors who contacted me over the course of 2021. Believe me. I haven’t forgotten about anyone in my inbox. Again, a little babe who finally figured out how to use his two feet now has me chasing him all over the house and away from my tablet.

If it appears we’re no longer accepting submissions, this is not the case. I’m sad to say that Submittable raised their rates by over $100 since I set up my submission page there in 2019. And, as a small publication, I can’t afford to be there anymore. I have set up a new form on Google Forms where you can submit your pieces to the magazine. Our policies are the same as you can see on our submission query page in the Den. Please note that we ask that you do not send more work until hearing back from us. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond individually to submission status queries.

This final note on submissions is a biggie. Please know that we will not be accepting any pieces regarding the pandemic. This includes fictional pieces. The Den is a place to express yourself freely within reason. We do not accept pieces that are political, erotic, or anything too violent. To me, the pandemic was all of that and then some. All joking aside, we have some great writing prompts in this edition that can also be found in the Den if you are currently experiencing writer’s block.

Join me as we read as many books as possible and support our fellow indie authors!

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Fiction

Of Bees and Mist, Erick Setiawan
The Lying Game, Ruth Ware
Sphere, Michael Crichton
The Pearl Sister, Lucinda Reilly
The Outsider, Stephen King

Nonfiction

The Sacred Disease by Kristin Seaborg MD

Let’s Chat with Lily Iona Mackenzie

Writing Prompts

Guest Post Opportunities

Guest blogging is a fantastic way to break out of your usual circle and reach an audience that may have never heard of you before. We are ready if you are! Send us your best work and remember to tell us about yourself and give us information as to where readers can reach you or purchase your book/services/goods. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond individually to submission status queries. We will do our best to respond to your submission within 7 – 10 business days.

Blogs to submit to

Need more help marketing your book? Click to find out more information about all of our marketing packages. We look forward to working with you!

Special Edition 2021

Sometimes the strength of motherhood is greater than natural laws. – Barbara Kingsolver

blogs to submit toOh Boy!

And I say, “Oh Boy,” because that’s what my husband and I were blessed with on August 30, 2020. 

What a time we live in. A time where I had a baby and had to take a break from the site. Now that my mustache man is more independent, and I have a general idea of what it takes to keep a human alive, The Book Smuggler’s Den is back up and running. I do apologize to anyone who previously submitted to the magazine and never heard back. Please understand that juggling a baby, marketing authors, and creating a monthly ezine took me some time to figure out how to balance my computer in one hand with a baby in another so that neither fall onto the pile of soiled nappies.

Being this busy and needing something to unwind with is why I love reading and writing. It gives you a break from reality, or if you’re nonfiction, a way to release any anxieties about life. In my postpartum state, I have been writing out my feelings, sometimes even deleting what I wrote on purpose because it was too angry. Nobody needs to read too much sass in a short story or essay. Saving some of that sass makes for a great addition to your next young adult novel, right?

The Book Smuggler’s Den has had a flood of book review submissions from the writing community. It makes us so happy to see how many people are giving the world something to enjoy! So many new authors and books to add to your reading challenge as we close out the year. Our featured author, Ron Yates, was a pleasure to speak to and read his new book, Ben Stempton’s Boy. We also spoke with children’s author Inger Brown about her picture book series, The Bobbling.

We invite you to come read about these authors and other book reviews we had a chance to read over the past couple of months. And a massive shout-out to any writing mammas out there. You have one of the most challenging jobs, and I commend you for your writing success.

Remember to support your local authors and bookstores!

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Featured Author Ron Yates

Ben Stempton’s Boy Book Review

Book Reviews

The Machine Murders by CJ Abazis

Access Point by Tom Gabbay

On the Market by Audrey Wick

Whisper of the Lotus by Gabrielle Yetter

Eli and the Mystery of the Hallowshine Dragon by Eve Cabanel

The Surreal Adventures of Anthony Zen by Cameron A. Straughan

Earthrise by Dr. Deborah Fleming

Author Interviews

Inger Brown, The Bobbling Series

Eric D. Goodman and Sally Whitney

Yang Huang, Living Treasures

Need more help marketing your book? Click to find out more information about all of our marketing packages. We look forward to working with you!

Lily Iona MacKenzie, The Ripening: A Canadian Girl Grows Up

Lily MacKenzie is one of the most accomplished people we’ve had the pleasure of connecting with. A Canadian by birth, a high school dropout, and a mother at 17, in her early years, she supported herself as a stock girl in the Hudson’s Bay Company, as a long-distance operator for the former Alberta Government Telephones, and as a secretary (Bechtel Corp sponsored her into the States). She briefly broke into the male-dominated world of the docks as a longshoreman, as the first woman to work on the SF docks, and almost got her legs broken. Lily founded and managed a homeless shelter in Marin County, CA, and eventually earned two Master’s degrees (one in Creative writing and one in the Humanities).

In addition to writing published reviews, interviews, short fiction, poetry, travel pieces, essays, and memoir in over 165 American and Canadian venues, Lily is the author of The Ripening. We’re so excited to learn more about Lily and her experience as a published author.

The Rippening: A Canadian Girl Grows UP
Coming of Age Fiction, Contemporary Women Fiction. Publisher ‏ paperback 267 pages, published by‎ Pen-L Publishing, October 9, 2021 Get your copy here.

What inspires you to write?
Actually, it’s the act of writing itself that inspires me. Once I’m writing, whether it’s poetry or prose, inspiration can easily appear.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I was twenty-five and sharing a commute with a fellow worker, I amazed myself when the words flew out of my mouth, “I want to be a writer someday.” It was in response to her fascination about my stories of leaving home at fifteen, giving birth to my son at seventeen, and being our sole support. She commented that I should write about those experiences. I’d never consciously considered being a writer, though I had kept a secret diary when I was thirteen. But I was so afraid that someone might read its contents, I created a code language. Of course, I’ve totally forgotten it. When I went through a deep depression in my late twenties, I once again turned to keeping a diary to record what I was going through, and I’ve been writing ever since.

Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?
As a junior in college, I enrolled as an English major with an emphasis on creative writing. At that time, my focus was poetry. But I soon realized that poets had a more difficult time publishing than prose writers did, so I expanded my focus to include fiction and nonfiction.

Are you a full-time or part-time writer and how does that affect your writing?
I’ve always had to work, so I guess I’m a part-time writer, never having had the chance to write fulltime. Nor do I think I could! Since my daily writing goal is a minimum of one hour, I’ve trained myself to immediately start writing, and I try not to stop until my time is up, unless it’s a day when I can devote more of myself to my many writing projects. I’ve discovered that by writing one hour a day, in 365 days I can complete the draft of a novel, or a combination of many short stories, poems, and other types of prose.

What are some day jobs you have held?
Since I’ve claimed my writing self, I’ve made my living from teaching, not writing (only five percent of writers can support themselves from writing). And I love teaching. One thing I discovered when I was teaching rhetoric to college students, and it still applies to the creative writing classes I currently teach for older adults, is that my writing of poetry, fiction, or nonfiction is resembles teaching for me. Both give me an opportunity to investigate ideas, fears, interests, and obsessions—to ask and answer questions. The two roles complement each other.

What made you decide to sit down and actually start writing this book? Tell us more about your main character. What inspired you to develop this character?
The Ripening: A Canadian Girl Grows Up! is a sequel to my novel Freefall: A Divine Comedy (published in 2019). It was released on October 15, 2021. Tillie, a zany installation artist, is the main character in Freefall. I so enjoyed interacting with her while I wrote that book that I wanted to better understand her origins. In the follow up, then, I went back to the ‘50s, to a world that flashed green and red lights at women, the era that produced Tillie. Some had begun to challenge the dead ends their futures seemed to hold, and Tillie ends up being one of those girls.

The narrative weaves together the young Tillie with herself as a teenager, moving back and forth in time so we see what shapes her personality. Tillie lives briefly in her version of paradise when May, her mother, marries a farmer, Harold, and they move to his farm, not far from Calgary, Alberta. She has animals to play with, wide-open spaces to explore, and, for the first time, a father. Curious and precocious, Tillie churns butter, gathers and cleans the eggs for market, cleans the barn, cooks, and also washes floors and dishes, all before she is eight years old.

But while the ranch and its many animals seem like heaven to Tillie, she soon discovers that life isn’t predictable or stable. Nor is her new father. While he can be a nice guy, he also harbors a Mr. Hyde who periodically slips out. She learns to be careful around him, never knowing when his anger will surface and explode.

This is her first lesson in survival as well as coping, a word her mother often throws at her. “You must learn to cope,” she says. And so Tillie does. Until it no longer works. The story that follows shows the paths that eventually lead her out of the traps she creates for herself. It includes side trips to Vancouver, Toronto, and then San Francisco. But in her late teens, she ends up back in Calgary where she has a chance for a new beginning.

Tillie’s predicament in the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s isn’t new, even though women have made progress in establishing some equality in the Western world. But her grit and ability to face life’s challenges still are inspiring, the seeds for her later discovery of her artist self.

The novel demonstrates that we have the power to turn our lives around if we’re heading in the wrong direction. But it usually involves a struggle and a certain amount of pain before we can set off on a better path. An artist in the making, Tillie also creates herself in these pages.

What is your next project?
I don’t have another novel that I want to tackle just now, but I’ve recently completed a hybrid memoir entitled Dreaming Myself into Old Age: One Woman’s Search for Meaning. It’s seeking a publisher, as is my most recent poetry collection, California Dreaming. I also am always writing poetry, short fiction, and memoir.

What new authors have grasped your interest and why?
I don’t think I’d consider these authors new, but certain novels have had a profound effect on me at different stages of my life for various reasons. When I was working on my BA in English, I took a Modern American Novel class that did exactly what Lionel Trilling said such books should do: they read me as much as I read them. Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and his Light in August. Dreiser’s Sister Carrie. Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. And many more. Each book made me aware of elements of myself that were also manifested in the characters inhabiting the books.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude found me at a time when I needed a model for the magical realism approach that seems natural to me and inhabits much of my work. I LOVE that book and return to it often for inspiration.

In a similar mode, Roberto Bolano, a Chilean writer, has also inspired me. He diverges from the more familiar magical realist vein and creates his own genre, his own universe! I’ve read most of his books now, and they create a world that seems parallel to ours. He also steps beyond the usual fiction boundaries, violating our expectations of how a novel should unfold or end. I’m always entranced by his work.

And I haven’t mentioned W.G. Sebald yet, another writer who died far too young. He also has invented a new genre, a hybrid novel form. Again, I’ve read all his work, and I’m stunned by it.

I’m sorry that all of these authors are men when there are so many female writers I love as well, including the Irish writer Anne Enright. I’ll read anything she writes because of her sharp wit and illuminations of contemporary life. And, of course, my fellow Canadian, Alice Munro, a master of the short story and a terrific model for any writer.

Lily MackenzieThanks for reading, and please remember that authors appreciate honest reviews, wherever they are posted. You can follow Lily on her blog and social media the links below.

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
LinkedIn

 

 

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Hailey Sawyer, Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale

Get your copy here.

Hello Book Smugglers! We hope the holiday season started off right for you. I love reading all year long, but the best part of this year is when your wallet gets a break from buying books. If you haven’t already sent your 2022’s to-read list to Santa, you’ll want to add Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale to your list. Accomplished author, Hailey Sawyer has published a fantastic read about two women, sixteen-year-old Yuki and seventeen-year-old Kenjiro Furukawa. Both women are dealing with their own struggles and as luck would find them, they meet. They become fast friends through conversations, stories, and outings. The reader can only hope that through these experiences the two women can overcome their own life struggles. I’ll let Hailey, take it from here!

Was there a book or author that you admired that played a role when developing your book?

There were many different things that inspired/influenced the development of Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale that I admired. One of those was The Catcher in The Rye by J.D Salinger. What I particularly enjoy about it is that, despite the fact that the book takes place in the 1940’s, Holden’s voice still sounds authentic even today. If you want to get an idea as to how to write an authentic teenaged character, I think Holden is still a good example.

It is often said that in order to write something, you must believe in what you are writing. Do you agree with that?

Oh absolutely! By believing in what you’re writing, it can make your work feel more genuine and soulful.

What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing? What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing?

For me, the hardest part about writing is coming up with the middle part of a story. When I do it, it’s kind of like I’m traveling through thick fog in order to get to my destination. The easiest aspect would be editing the story. I feel that the editing process allows me to take a step back and really see what works and what doesn’t.

Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last? Any tips you would like to share to overcome it?

Yes, I have. In terms of how long these blocks last, it seems random. Some will be as short as an hour and others will be as long as a couple days. In my experience, I think one of the most helpful pieces of advice in overcoming writer’s block is rule number nine of Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling that involves writing down what would not happen next. By getting those kinds of things out of the way, I feel like it makes it easier for me to figure out what I actually do want to happen next.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

A couple things actually. First, some people will suggest consuming good media as a way to learn how to write good stories. While I do agree with this sentiment, I think people should also consume bad media as well. By consuming both good and bad media, you obtain a much more well-rounded understanding of how to write and how not to write stories. Second, don’t forget to grab a copy of Kenji and Yuki: A Japanese Tale and drop a review of it on Goodreads, Amazon, or whereever else. Whether your review is positive, negative, or neutral, it’ll be greatly appreciated.

You can follow Hailey on her website at https://haileysawyer.wordpress.com. Stay up to date with Hailey via Twitter and Goodreads. and social media accounts.

Thanks for reading, and please remember that authors appreciate honest reviews, wherever they are posted.

 

 

 

 

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Shay Siegel

Shay Siegel, Fractured

This post may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click through and make a purchase, I’ll be compensated at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I love! More info here.

The Book Smuggler’s Den was contacted but yet another fantastic indie author, Shay Siegel.  Siegel is from Long Island, New York, and is the author of Fractured a contemporary young adult fiction.  Fractured is a bold debut novel that I think all can relate to. Inspiring authors, continue reading to see what she had to say about being a writer.

What inspired you to write a book?

I have always loved writing, it’s the way I feel most comfortable expressing myself. Telling stories through writing comes naturally because it’s not always easy for me to express myself clearly when speaking. I can’t necessarily remember if I wanted to write a book since I was young, but given my inclination toward writing, and a lot of time spent with my imagination, it makes less sense for me not to write books!

Was there a book or author that you admired that played a role when developing your book?

I have always admired John Green. I wouldn’t necessarily say his writing or books influenced my own writing as I worked on Fractured, but I often think about the unique way in which he develops his characters and, more specifically, their voices. So, I pay close attention to voice because it has such a huge impact on the way a story turns out, and if the voice isn’t strong then it will be a totally different—and likely not as appealing—story.

It is often said that in order to write something, you must believe in what you are writing. Do you agree with that?

Absolutely. If you don’t believe it no one else will either and there will be a lack of connection to the work. The world and the characters need to be real. They need to have conversations in your head without you even inviting them in. They become living beings that exist inside you and force you to let them out. Creating a believable story is all-consuming and it becomes its own reality through the process.

Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?

I used to have a set schedule when it came to my writing but with other work influencing my writing time, that schedule has changed. I definitely don’t only write when I feel inspired though. I’m not sure I even believe in the idea of inspiration a lot of the time. I think there are inspiring elements in our lives, but I don’t feel that they are enough to spark the work that needs to be done with any sort of consistency. So, if I want to get my writing done and it’s feeling like a struggle, I need to force myself and treat it as any other habit. I’m still working on the schedule part though!

Tell us about your writing style, how is it different from other writers?

I always find this question tricky, and I guess that’s because I’m still figuring out what sets my style apart. I’m not always convinced that all writers have a very specific style. Maybe they have a couple things they do in a unique way but is it enough to know automatically that they wrote the piece you’re reading? I’m not sure. I would say that voice is probably one of the strongest aspects of my writing style and digging into the uncomfortable personal thoughts a character can have in a relatable way, even if we don’t necessarily want to admit that we can relate.

What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing? What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing?

The hardest part is getting started each time you sit down to write. It never gets easier. Some days it just isn’t coming as naturally as others, and there are so many periods of slumps we can find ourselves in along the way. Trusting the process and persevering is definitely the toughest for me.

The easiest part of writing is coming up with ideas, but then making those ideas make sense and translate from my head to the page is not always the easiest.

Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last? Any tips you would like to share to overcome it?

Yes, of course, but writer’s block to me isn’t necessarily what people might think. It’s not a lack of ideas because I constantly have ideas, it’s more the resistance to getting them down because I can’t get them to make sense on paper the way they do in my head. And a lot of the time my “writer’s block” comes from perfectionism or fear of failure instead of simply focusing on the process and the day-to-day progress. I often look ahead and to what the finished product will be, which is terribly constrictive to the creative process. So, my advice would be don’t do that! And also, always consume other types of art to feel inspired and spark ideas in your own creations. If you feel you just can’t write, then read, or listen to music, or watch TV with your mind open and ready to let the ideas flow in.

Any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?

Keep writing and don’t let other people’s opinions of your writing cause you to lose your drive or passion. Remember why you write in the first place and hold onto that tight. In terms of improving writing, keep practicing. Read as much as you can whether it be books in the genre you want to write or craft books about writing to help you learn. Always have an open mind and be ready to absorb. Writing is subjective and it’s something where you can never know everything there is to know about it, so that can be a freeing feeling!

Are you working on something new at the moment?

Yes, I’m working on another young adult coming-of-age novel. This one also has a male narrator but he’s very different than Mason from Fractured! This novel is a story that explores the complexities of friendship, family, identity, and finding your place in the world.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

You’re never alone in what you’re going through even if it feels like it, which I know it does a lot of the time! But there are people out there who understand and accept you even if you haven’t found them yet. If you ever want to reach out to me to talk about writing or anything at all I’d love to connect! My website is http://www.shaysiegel.com.

Thanks for reading, and please remember that authors appreciate honest reviews, wherever they are posted.

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Mike Mattison and Ernest Suarez, Poetic Song Verse

If you are a poet or someone who enjoys blues music, you’ll appreciate Mike Mattison and Ernest Suarez’s book, Poetic Song Verse. As a teen, I took piano lessons from a blues pianist. Up until then, my lessons had been focused on classical music. I grew out of playing those songs and wanted to learn something more my style. I was interested in rock and roll. When I sat down on the bench in my new teacher’s studio, he began talking to me about his band. He revealed to me that he wrote and played blues music. I curled my lip a little. This was not the type of music I wanted to learn. Then he played me a piece, and I lit up with excitement.

When I was contacted about posting an author interview between Mattison and Suarez, I was intrigued to read their book. I’ll have a review posted in the coming months, but for now, let’s see what motivated the two authors to write such a unique book.

Poetic Song Verse
Genre: Poetry Literary Criticism, Literary Criticism & Theory Paperback 254 pages Published by University Press of Mississippi November 1, 2021 Get your copy here

What is poetic song verse, and how has studying and writing about it changed your appreciation of the artists who practice it?

We use the term “poetic” to describe lyrics that have literary intent and that consciously strive for aesthetic impact: linguistically rich compositions that operate on many levels simultaneously, incorporating image, metaphor, narrative, and play in ways that often deliberately correlate to broader cultural conversations. We’re talking about lyrics that seek to transcend the grasp-and-release mechanism of pure entertainment, lyrics that prick our curiosity and invite repeated visits and renewed scrutiny. Poetic song verse isn’t poetry set to music, like the Beats’ poetry with jazz accompaniment, but it sometimes takes a hybrid form in recordings like Gil Scott-Heron’s or Leonard Cohen’s. The distinction we draw rests on the symbiotic relationship that most often occurs when potent lyrics and sonics are developed together. By “sonics” we mean every aural dimension of song, including voice, instrumentation, arrangement, and production. In poetic song verse, sonics combine with verbal techniques often associated with poetry—imagery, line breaks, wordplay, point of view, character, story, tone, and other qualities—to create a semantically and emotionally textured dynamic.

The book argues that artists like Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Jimi Hendrix were transformative in the development of poetic song verse, but there were allusions and poetic phrasing in lyrics long before them. What did they do that wasn’t being done previously?

Songs from many periods and in different styles contain compelling verse, but in the late fifties and the sixties blues-based popular music and the new American poetry—especially the work of the Beats—came into close contact, resulting in a concentration of songwriters who transformed songwriting from entertainment to art-that-entertains.

Poetic song verse sprung from a confluence of the blues and contemporary poetry. Both forms emphasize the sound of the human voice. Poetry’s turn toward more accessible language and the blues’ origins in the sound of the human voice helped rock absorb poetic language and techniques, and provided a catalyst for Dylan and others to change rock into a more lyrically and sonically sophisticated art form. Think about it this way: If you were a reasonably intellectual young musician who had been turned on to the blues, traditional metrical verse, or high modernist poetry such as T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, this might provide an idea of how to use allusions in a song, or provide strategies for intermingling certain types of imagery (as in some of Dylan’s, Van Morrison’s, and Joni Mitchell’s verse). But the language in most traditional and modern poetry tends to be very different from the type of language that characterizes blues-based popular music. However, when that same blues-enthralled young musician heard Howlin’ Wolf or Willie Dixon and read and heard Beat and other contemporary poets, he or she was exposed to rich, sophisticated language based on rhythms of speech (i.e., material that could serve as a powerful source for lyrics). With different twists and turns this essentially was the case for Dylan, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Jim Morrison, and many others. By examining the confluence of blues and poetry in various artists’ work, and by considering the creative practices of various seminal artists and the cultural conditions and landscapes in which they worked, we identify a relatively specific subgenre of song that’s also a form of literature.

What role did the coffee houses of the 50’s play in creating this genre? What does instrumentation add to the artform?

In the late fifties and the sixties Beat coffee houses, bookstores, and nightclubs sprang up across the United States and spread to Western Europe. Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Jimi Hendrix, Van Morrison, Jim Morrison, Joni Mitchell, David Crosby, Neil Young, Stephen Stills, and others embraced the blues and Beat coffeehouse culture, where they encountered contemporary poetry, rural blues, and folk music. After putting rock ’n’ roll of their youth aside for a handful of years, many sixties songwriters returned to the rebellious rhythms of fifties rock ’n’ roll and wedded it with verse inspired by contemporary poetry. In the mid-sixties Dylan’s rock ’n’ roll–Beat poet persona strengthened his already active sense of the possibilities between poetry and music and led to Bringing It All Back Home (1965), Highway 61 Revisited (1965), and Blonde on Blonde (1966), albums that ignited an explosion of poetic song verse. Instead of portraying themselves as the descendants of Woody Guthrie, Bukka White, and Pete Seeger, artists returned to the theatrics of Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Jerry Lee Lewis but retained the cerebral, self-consciously artistic emphasis that characterized songs and poetry in Beat coffeehouses. This combination released Dylan and others from songwriting conventions that ranged from the length of individual songs to how albums were conceptualized, recorded, and produced. In essence, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Doors, the Who, Jimi Hendrix, the Kinks, and others followed Dylan’s lead and expanded fifties rock ’n’ rollers’ sounds and emphasis on performance, assuming often extravagant yet artistically resonant personae that resulted in songs and albums replete with ambitious wordplay and sonic arrangements.

Is poetic song verse a uniquely American invention? How did America’s history of slavery, Jim Crow, war, and sexism affect its creation?

Poetic song verse sprung from a confluence of the blues—a quintessential American art form—and various types of contemporary poetry that developed in the United States. That said, artists around the world quickly started to write songs in this mode, largely due to blues artists’ popularity in England and other countries, and to Dylan’s influence on the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and others.

The history of slavery had a profound influence on the blues, which grew out of nineteenth-century spirituals and work songs, much like those styles grew out of various African musical traditions. Nineteenth century work songs and blues songs written during the era of Jim Crow often contained “coded” lyrics that indirectly commented on topics that would have raised the ire of their oppressors. This practice melded with techniques employed by contemporary poets in the work of songwriters from Dylan to Joni Mitchell to Marvin Gaye to Bruce Springsteen to Grandmaster Flash to Lucinda Williams.

The War in Vietnam also had a strong influence on many songwriters. They often combined surrealistic imagery that they encountered in contemporary poetry with imagery from various African and Western metaphysical traditions. This combination led to songs like the Stones’s “Gimme Shelter.”

What artists do you see as the contemporary and future upholders of this new tradition?

Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, Kendrick Lamar, Norah Jones, Dave Grohl, Fiona Apple, Lorde, Aimee Mann, Fantastic Negrito, Josh Ritter, Lyle Lovett, Luther Dickinson, Jason Isbell

Advanced Praise for Poetic Song Verse: Blues-Based Popular Music and Poetry

“The concept of great songwriting seems to live in between worlds. Is it literature or music? Even with Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize in 2016 there is still an uneasiness with what falls where. Mike and Ernest’s work takes that discussion quite a few steps down the road and makes a strong case for the poetic song form as its own unique genre. From W. C. Handy and Langston Hughes to Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen to Marvin Gaye and beyond, they follow the roots and evolution of this relatively new art form. And like Robert Palmer’s seminal work Deep Blues the exploration of the book’s subjects only enhances your love and interest in it. I’m excited to dig into many of the songs and albums that they discuss with a new-eyed appreciation and understanding. ” —Derek Trucks, Tedeschi Trucks Band

“Poetic Song Verse is a persuasive argument for the existence of a new galaxy of literary and sound expression; a legal brief of facts, purpose, and context; and a riveting narrative that is both enlightened and inspiring. It is a new way of looking at the development and consequences of twentieth-century popular, contemporaneous music just when you thought that ground reraked, overplowed, and consigned to academia. In this book the music lives again and is forever new. ” —John Snyder, five-time Grammy Award winner and founder of Artists House recording company

“Poetic Song Verse by Mike Mattison and Ernest Suarez exposes and critiques how and why time runs the bloodline of American music—blues, folk, rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, pop, funk, rap, and hip-hop—as it travels the world. And race and racism are not sidestepped in this heartfelt query. The authors not only know and show, but also feel the music; they cinch up all connections, detailing the cross-pollination, as well as venture behind the scenes timely, and existentially. Poetic Song Verse reveals the artist reckoning with music in language, whether seeking atonement or praise. ” —Yusef Komunyakaa, Pulitzer Prize–winning poet

“Poetic Song Verse secures the blues and rock ‘n’ roll lyrics’ signature place in history as a literary genre. Mattison and Suarez unravel the threads linking Orpheus, Rimbaud, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Bessie Smith, Robert Johnson, Charlie Parker, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Nina Simone, Bruce Springsteen, Joe Strummer, Lucinda Williams, Grandmaster Flash, and many other artists. During the twentieth century, the United States’ oral history was sung, not spoken; it was written in code and camouflaged by melody and rebellious rhythms that influenced artists around the world. This book translates the people’s story as told by artists. Symbolism in work songs of the enslaved and ties between bebop and beatnik jive; between 1950s rock ‘n’ roll and segregation; between poetry and psychedelic imagery; and between soul, street funk, and rap battles are peeled back and situated in their cultural contexts. The quest for freedom is never-ending—and artists’ efforts to break down barriers and influence the world has never stopped adapting and evolving. ” —Luther Dickinson, the North Mississippi Allstars

“A deep delve into the influence of blues on poetry and songwriters, Poetic Song Verse makes a meaningful contribution to both music and poetry. Mike Mattison and Ernest Suarez explain the roots of poetic song verse and connect the past and future, outlining how poets and songwriters have influenced each other over the years. A must-read. ” —Charlotte Pence, editor of The Poetics of American Song Lyrics

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