Behind the scenes, new release, Women's Fiction Author

Interview with Author Anne Marie Bennett

C_DAngelo_Behind_the_Scenes_Blog_Author_Interview_Anne_Marie_Bennett

I recently read this author’s new release, Feathers in the Sand, and loved every minute. Anne Marie Bennett has such a beautiful talent for storytelling, as well as including one of my favorite shows of all time, Gilmore girls, in her story! I may have dressed up for Halloween as one of the characters a few years ago, just saying. Anyway, her writing routine and how she handles things like her inner critic was so wonderful that I know you will take something out of it to apply in your own lives.

What gives you energy and joy?

I receive SO much energy and joy from the simple act of sitting down at my laptop and letting the stories spin out of my imagination! In fact, when the drafts are finally done and the novel is heading into the production aspect of the process, I find myself longing to be back in the creative mode of letting a story unfold on the page.

Also, joy and energy come to me when I am in nature (especially by the ocean), laughing with my husband, relaxing with a good book and a beloved feline friend on my lap, and when I am in community with my SoulCollage® friends.

Share one meaningful aspect of you that appears in your writing.

There are so many more than one! In Feathers in the Sand (Seahaven Sunrise Book 1), it’s definitely my love of the TV show Gilmore Girls!  I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched the entire series. When I realized I was writing a book about a mother who longs for a Lorelai-Rory relationship with her daughter, it felt natural to give them the names of Tess and Eva Gilmore. There are references to characters and scenes from Gilmore Girls woven throughout the story, because Tess wants Eva to watch the show with her, but Eva is pushing her mother away. And speaking of Gilmore Girls, the setting for most of the book is fictional Seahaven, Maine which in many ways is reminiscent of Stars Hollow—a picturesque small New England town with quirky, interesting characters and shops.

What works best for you with time management?

I learned from both Jennifer Louden and Jessica Brody that big things can be accomplished in tiny steps. When I am ready to start a first draft, I set a goal that is reasonable and attainable, considering the other demands on my time (my online business, KaleidoSoul, plus family time . . .etc.). For Feathers in the Sand, I gave myself from March 1 – June 1, 2021. My commitment to myself was to write for 1-2 hours, 3-4 times a week. I was able to stick to that (and some weeks even more hours!) because it was do-able and because I knew I had a deadline in mind. This might not be a realistic goal for someone else. It’s important to look at your other responsibilities and give yourself a reasonable amount of time.

Another thing I learned from Jessica Brody about time management, especially during the writing of the first draft, is to KEEP GOING.  For example, if I’m writing Chapter 4 and suddenly realize that a character’s last name has to change, I don’t go back through the first three chapters and make those changes. I just make a note of it (on paper or online) and Keep Going. Also, I use brackets [ ] a lot during the first draft. For instance, if I get to a place where a song is playing in the background but it has to be a song from the 70’s, I don’t stop to research that song (which could take me down a very long rabbit hole!) . . . I just use [ ] to hold the place. This was SO helpful to me when writing the first draft of Feathers in the Sand.  There were a lot of brackets for me to go back and fill in in future drafts, but it was okay, being able to use the brackets like this truly enabled me to Keep Going, which helped me manage my time more effectively, which helped me to meet my goal of finishing the first draft in three months!

How do you quiet your inner critic? (the voice of internal negativity)

The best way I can quiet her down is first to become aware that she’s nattering on in the background. It’s been helpful to give her a name and to imagine in my mind what she looks like. I call my inner critic Ethel. When my thoughts turn to “You’re never gonna get this,” “Why bother?”, “Just give up!”, “This is really bad . . .” etc. I know that this inner part of me is trying to get my attention.

Once I become aware of her tugging at my sleeve, I have an inner conversation with her. “I hear you. I see you. What do you need? How can I help you?” She usually calms down as soon as I acknowledge her and try to meet her needs. Sometimes she needs a walk outside, or a nap, or to set the writing aside for a few days. She might need a healthy meal or a piece of chocolate or a glass of water. The bottom line is that when I really pay attention to Ethel and her incriminating comments, it turns out that she’s almost always afraid of something (failure, success, loss of some kind, being laughed at…etc.) If I take the time to listen to her, and to find out what she needs (aka what I need) I can usually reassure her that I’ve got her back and that she is safe.

It’s also helpful to remember that Ethel is really, really good at the editing and revising parts of the writing process!  When she starts criticizing the actual story and characters, I can gently ask her to take a few steps back, and remind her that I’ll really need her help when I have to start cutting out words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters…

What is your next project or goal? If it is a book, tell us about it and when you hope to publish it.

I have already started writing the second book in the Seahaven Sunrise Series!  This one is tentatively called Sea Glass Memories and will include several characters from Feathers in the Sand, but will also work as a stand-alone story. It is also Women’s Fiction with a small-town romance woven in.

A major theme will be how we choose to carry different kinds of grief and loss. One of the main characters is a young widow, Elena Jeffries, who is the new high school English teacher at Seahaven High School. She gets drafted into directing the Drama Club’s senior class play, “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder, and parallel stories and emotions will be woven through Elena’s story as well as the lives of some of the other characters. Fingers crossed, Sea Glass Memories will be found on bookshelves sometime in the autumn of 2023.

I know you want to read this cozy summer story asap, so here’s the info below. Thanks so much, Anne!

Feather_in_the_Sand_Anne_Marie_Bennett

Links to purchase:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Feathers-Sand-Seahaven-Sunrise-Book-ebook/dp/B09ZJBD9G1
Googleplay: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Anne_Marie_Bennett_Feathers_in_the_Sand?id=ECNuEAAAQBAJ
Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/feathers-in-the-sand-anne-marie-bennett/1141427543
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/feathers-in-the-sand
Apple iBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1622515326
Bookshop.org:  https://bookshop.org/books/feathers-in-the-sand/9798986050317
Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/61107714-feathers-in-the-sand

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Copyright © 2022 C. D’Angelo, Author All rights reserved.

Mental Health, short stories, Women's Fiction

Interview with Author Mackenzie Littledale

Interview-with-Mackenzie-Littledale

December’s blog post is another author interview because you need to know about this fabulous person and writer, Mackenzie Littledale, right now! She’s a Women’s Fiction writer with TWO short story collection books out, including Explorations of Freedom and Testing the Ties that Bind. I had the honor of reading the short story The Names that Survived, where she touches on family history and pride, the search for identity, racial privileges, and the beauty that comes from closure. I enjoyed every culturally rich bit of her main character’s journey and found it inspiring. I know you would too!

Not only is Ms. Littledale an author, but she hosts a blog promoting Women’s Fiction writers and mental health advocates (she was kind enough to feature me on her July post). With her upcoming novel, The Darkness is Mine, and her outstanding accomplishments (see her answers!), she’s sure to keep reaching the stars. Read about her writing world thoughts and exciting plans below.

How do you cope with disappointment or setbacks?

I acknowledge that disappointment is a natural and inevitable fact of life, so I don’t circle around the rim for too long in disappointment or any counterproductive emotion. It helps if I have another idea or project to act on, so I can dust my shoulders off and move on to the next thing. It’s like traveling cross-country in a way. If I start off on the east coast, there are mountains and deserts between here and California, as a metaphor for a long-term project. The weather may not be perfect the whole journey. My vehicle may malfunction and need fixing somewhere along the way. By this, I mean, prepare mentally, emotionally, and physically for whatever it is I want to achieve. Even with the best preparation, something may go wrong or stand in the way. As a real example, a friend referred me to a literary journal editor. Their publication wanted 1400 words of creative nonfiction and other categories. I read a couple stories to get a feel for what they like, wrote something, and submitted it. About two months prior, I had also pitched an idea to Psychology Today to host my series of BIPOC mental health advocate interviews. The idea behind that was to build a reading audience and name recognition for when This Darkness is Mine launches. One fine morning, I got an email from Psychology Today saying they loved my idea and wanted to host my interviews. Literally two minutes later, the literary journal emailed to reject my submission. Having something much bigger and closer to my heart in the hopper made the other rejection sting less. I had another route to keep going forward.

What works best for you with time management?

I hope you don’t laugh too hard at my answer. On days I work, I just go to work. On my days off, I have a notebook and write down whatever I need to do. As I do them, I check them off. Sometimes, I have to write down to eat breakfast, because in my mind, that counts as something done. It’s not prioritized or anything formal. If I write a blog post, there are steps, so I write down each step. If I interview a women’s fiction author, there are several steps, so I write those steps down and check them off as I go. I completed a writing class through the Center for Fiction in New York via Zoom on November 2nd, and every assignment went into my notebook. If I feel sleepy, I’ll take a nap for however long my body needs to recuperate. Some things in my week are key so they’re in my electronic calendar with reminders and I never miss them unless something urgent comes up.

What gives you energy and joy?

I feel pure joy and pleasure from checking things off my to do list because every single step I take in the direction of my choosing puts me closer to realizing my dream. It also paces me to accept any level of name recognition that may be part of the author’s life. I can’t guarantee success, but doing nothing is doom. I don’t plan to fail because I don’t fail to plan. Energy and joy combined come with eating great food. Now that I’ve identified that a lot of my body pains come from inflammation, I add ginger and turmeric tea to my routine, as well as ibuprofen. Minimizing or eliminating chronic pain is a game changer. I can feel as young as I look and press on.

How do you quiet your inner critic? (the voice of internal negativity)

The inner critic is hardwired into the human brain, so the only strategies available are to listen and give in and quit; ask the critic to clarify why an idea might fail and then plan to avoid those scenarios and press on; thank the critic for continually looking out for my safety and assure that voice that I’ve got this and press on; ignore the critic and press on; tell the critic to STFU and press on. I think of Jon Acuff’s book START!: Punch Fear in the Face and remember that the inner critic has a script and can’t depart from saying the exact same thing no matter the circumstance. Once I recognize that truth, I can uncover, reveal, explore, and create my own preferred truth. That I can do something I set out to do. We also have a built in coach and cheerleading squad. We get to choose which internal dialogue we want to listen to. If the voice we’d prefer to hear in our head is too soft or is silent or isn’t convincing, then we can turn to motivational speakers on YouTube. Before I sat down to start writing This Darkness is Mine, I woke up early every morning and watched motivational speeches on YouTube until I felt more confident. Confidence is NOT a personality trait. It’s a skill that we can learn and develop.

What is your next project or goal? If it is a book, tell us about it and when you hope to publish it.

Rhodes to Hell is my NaNoWriMo 2021 project. It’s a domestic suspense novel, so it’s a bit of a genre departure for me. But I love reading suspense, so I feel like it’s possible. That will swallow up a decent portion of November. I’m still reworking This Darkness is Mine for my agent at Serendipity, who’s totally working at my pace on the project. I love them! I’m seeking mental health advocates to interview for From Margin to Mainstream, which is my blog on Psychology Today’s website, and that’s exciting. The first interview is live, I’m working on the second, and seeking people doing interesting things going forward. Also, I’m writing new material for a paperback collection of short stories. I’m self-publishing that and hope to have it ready for Christmas shopping time.

This has been delightful, C. Thank you so much for asking these probing questions. Be well.

Thank YOU! I am grateful for our friendship that started on Twitter and has grown over the years. Yay Women’s Fiction writers!

Testing-the-Ties-that-Bind-short-stories
Click on picture to purchase
Explorations-of-Freedom-short-stories
Click on picture to purchase

More ways to connect with Ms. Littledale:

Website – https://www.mackenzielittledaleauthor.com

Psychology Today Blogger – https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/margin-mainstream

Twitter: @mackenzielitt13

Facebook: @mackenzielittledalewriter

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Copyright © 2021 C. D’Angelo, Author All rights reserved.

Author, Debut Author, Italian American Author, Women's Fiction Author

New Roles, New Growth

Lately, I have had to get used to more differences in my daily life than I ever imagined, and I’m sure I’m not alone. This year has brought all of us many shifts in the way we live, work, and play. I feel like I am constantly trying to adapt to the newest change. Have you felt like that too? I think more than a few of you are probably thinking “Yes, yes, my God yes!” And all of this shifting doesn’t necessarily have to do with the world situations occurring, for my author life at least. So, guess what; I’ve realized these adapting times are bringing thrilling changes, which have brought me incredible chances. It’s only one small letter variation between the two words, but one large opportunity.

In reflecting on the first half of 2020, I realize how many roles I have taken on in the most natural manner. Just as I have said before, my artistic expression influences more artistic expression, but I never knew my art would extend to aspects like, say, marketing and promotion. Whoa now, that is pretty business-y, but still inclusive of my art and a way to explore creativity. Oh yeah, it’s also a necessary part of author life. One role has led to another in my journey and I seem to be collecting them as I go along. I know many of you have also taken on new roles this year, often ones we never expected, so you can most likely relate to my surprise and intrigue, as well as the satisfaction that you can accomplish the task at hand.

Ok, what are these roles I speak of? Two began before this year, but I still need to state them. Well, the first, most important, and starting role is obvious; it’s the novelist role. Ta-da! This remains my most important role, no matter what else develops from it. I write because I have stories to tell. I love to express myself in this art form and to have others enjoy my tales as well. I’ve always been fascinated by creating something of beauty from nothing. Words creatively placed into phrases turn into books that remain forever. That carries huge meaning for me.

What came from writing was, of course, the next step of getting myself out there in the world; my website and social media. From here, other roles emerged. When I started engaging in this manner, I never thought this blog would stem from it, for example, but here I am…and loving it. I have the opportunity to write for my behind the scenes lovers and have a more frequent outlet for my writing expression. Plus, you guys get to see more of my writing style. It’s a win-win situation.

Next came my newsletter, earlier this year. When my publisher said I need to think about having one, that was all it took. I want to do anything that will help my name get out there so more people experience The Difference and my future endeavors. See, newsletters help an audience to stay connected. They allow me to send you news and fun info. Being the first to know what’s happening is exciting so I want to share it there first, with my biggest fans. I feel privileged to be able to connect with people in this manner because they are trusting me to provide quality content and they specifically want to hear from me. They took the time to sign up, after all, and I’m flattered. So, there I went with yet another role added on in my life.

Now I started to be a newsletter writer and role carrier of 3 categories, all with a lot of learning on my end. Anxiety, check. Fear, check. Questioning what I am doing, check. Just to have a newsletter I needed to find a site that can provide the service of sending to a list of people, connect it to my website, and create the “campaigns,” or emails to my audience, as they are called. Whew. Who knew all the IT knowledge I would gain just by being an author?! It’s not just the writing, my friends.

My personal and professional growth continued to happen in a burst with my Pitch Party Prosperity program that I released last month; role 4. This is a variety of services for writers who want to pitch their manuscripts in pitch parties on social media, most often on Twitter. During the party time, agents, publishers, and editors can show interest for the writer to send their material to them by liking their post. This is challenging for us writers because the pitch needs to be within the 280 characters Twitter allows, as well as leaving room within that range for the genre and other identifiers. I found that the 2 times I participated last year I had success; the 2nd being how I obtained my publishing contract. So, why not support others with this challenging process, right? I’m a helper by nature, so my intuition told me to move forward with paying my knowledge and experience forward.

I ended up developing a variety of packages for people interested in my help, including an eBook with step by step guidance for writing the pitch and how to manage the party, personalized pitch evaluation, and coaching services for those that want longer term assistance. I also have a free tip sheet for those that sign up for my newsletter. Offering these services included coordination of 3 more programs with my website. Wow, huh? It looks so simple when you view that page on my site, but so much behind the scenes work goes into every decision. Guess what though, it is paying off! I have already helped people in pitch parties and they are having large success. In one party alone someone had interest from a huge agent and another had 24 industry pro likes, including 3 of those from large names. My mouth literally dropped open when I read that news. This is why I do it! I want others to flourish with me. That is what us writers do; we uplift each other.

So, do you think my roles stop there? Nope. Those are the main ones, but you can say I also can add marketer/promoter to my list. Besides using social media and word of mouth so far, I did an interview this month and will have more press type events in the future. I added an Events and Media page on my website to track book signings and many more events that will occur. My roles continue and I continue to learn and grow in my varied skills of being an author.

The changes that have evolved in my writing career have allowed me the chance to grow as a person. Last year at this time, I didn’t even have my publishing contract yet. I had a basic website, a query package, and a publishing dream. I have proven to myself that I can do this! I can write a novel (that others want to read!), I can build a website, I can do a blog and newsletter, I can keep up social media, I can create a supportive business for writers, and I can market and promote myself and my brand. I’m learning as I go, but I. Am. Doing. It. I have even more roles I want to take on in the future, but they will happen when the time is right. My passion for my art and my helping heart drive me, but I think I have enough to keep me occupied, don’t you?

I hope you embrace your chances for change, especially during this unusual year. You never know the wonderful places they will take you and make you. Thanks for coming along for my ride.

***

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Copyright © 2020 C. D’Angelo, Author. All rights reserved.

Author, Italian American Author, Women's Fiction Author

Unexpected Gifts from the Online World

When I began my author social media sites, I never imagined where they would take me. I just knew that they are a must nowadays in the writing world. An author needs to build a platform so readers and industry professionals can see more about them, as well as see what products they are marketing. That’s pretty straightforward, so bam, I started them. I thought how I will post pictures and content related to subjects pertaining to my brand (you know by now that means writing, reading, Italy, and inspirational topics basically) and see what happens. Well, what happened includes a depth and meaning in my life I never expected.

See, I’m an only child. Yes, I am going wayyyy back. I know the phrase “only child” conjures up many stereotypical thoughts for most people, and you are not completely wrong, but I also don’t fit that entire mold. I didn’t grow up wealthy with getting anything and everything I wanted. But the qualities I did gain from this birth situation is that I am independent and a leader (when my shyness doesn’t get the best of me). I had to function on my own, entertain myself, and pave my own path in the world. Nobody was there to show me, including the big feat of going to college because my parents did not. I always had to find my own answers. Entering into the online world for my authorship, why would I think I needed or wanted help from others? Let’s continue.

Don’t get me wrong, before I established my social media and website, I did ask for help from trusted people in my life. I had three outstanding beta readers for my book, The Difference (I know I can’t do everything alone, sheesh). But, I know these people. I didn’t meet them online. They are safe for me and are long-lasting friends, so it wasn’t scary to let them help (beyond being vulnerable about my creation and worried about any and all thoughts, but that’s a given). Also, I obviously looked to other authors or experts in the field who have gone through the stage I was in at the moment, including researching articles, podcasts, and you name it. That’s expected help along the road in this field, as well as doesn’t include any risk of sharing myself. It’s a one-way deal.

Cue the two-way online relationships. I started to have comments on my posts from people I didn’t know in my personal life. So, I dipped my toes in the water of communicating with strangers. Slowly, I conversed with a few followers; mostly at this point fellow authors. Many times, I found their posts and comments helpful, insightful, and inspiring for my own journey. So here I was commenting, responding, and learning. And guess what; some people didn’t remain strangers. How wonderful to feel that someone else feels the same as me about certain topics, wants me to succeed, and is going through, or has gone through, the same things in this crazy business. Hmm, comfort started to build. And hmm, I needed their opinions and experiences sometimes.

I remember one day, shortly after establishing my account on Twitter, a kind soul posted to the “writing community” (people who follow hashtags like #WritingCommunity) how I was new to the platform and to give me a follow. How could someone who didn’t know me want to offer help like that? Just out of the blue! This was the first hint that online relationships can be…relationships. They can be special.

When I did my 1st pitch party on Twitter, my online relationships flourished even more. One person I had gotten closer to was there to answer a question as the party started. She was experienced and knew how to help me. And during that day, I had the privilege of SO many members of the “writing community” help me out by retweeting my pitches (side note, this helps get them seen for industry pros). See, I need other people! And some I still communicate with often.

I stared at the screen in awe and shock that day, feeling a sense of love from…strangers. How could this be? Yes, I would share their pitches also, but the fact that they took the time to help me out filled me with tingles and chills, you know, the good kind. I had felt touches of this camaraderie before this pitch party here and there, but this day sealed the deal. It also brought joy to know they feel the same as me as far as us not being in competition with each other. We can all bloom. If anyone has seen this famous quote in Zen Shin meditation, you know what I mean:

The cheering on of others continued in the grandest way in the next pitch party I participated in (the one where I got my publisher!). A friendly follower decided to not only share my pitch that day but wrote a little about what I told her my book is about, then tried to get her friends/followers to retweet it. This occurred each time I had a new pitch that day (3). She continued to check in on status and offer support. Well, now my mind was blown. How can someone I hardly spoke to, online, spend so much of her own time and effort on little old me?! I’m convinced her efforts contributed to my publisher seeing my tweet.

My heart was filled with gratitude to all of these sweet people, followers, and now…friends. What? How could I use that term with someone I never met in “real life?” I am a Gen X woman, so the idea of meeting people and trusting them when only having met online didn’t come easy for me (not to speak for my entire generation, but you know what I mean). And then the next circumstance shook me up even more, yet led to yet another impactful part of my life.

The person who helped me during the 1st pitch party developed a private group with her closest Twitter friends. One day she messaged all of us and said she felt that we needed to all be connected. Wow, was she right. Of course, my first instinct was to leave immediately due to fear. I only knew her and (ironically) the person who went above and beyond for me in the 2nd pitch party. There were 8 other women in the group who I never even saw on Twitter. But, I trusted my friend at this point. I allowed myself to be open to staying in the group. Thank God.

Months later, I can’t imagine not having these intelligent, beautiful souls who just happen to be writers as well in my DAILY life. We started talking shop, you know, writing stuff, but quickly expanded our topics of conversation. You name it, we talk about it. I check in usually multiple times a day and look forward to chatting with them. We read each other’s work, offer guidance any anything industry related, and give each other heads up for events in the field. We root each other on constantly. So, not only are they there for me no matter what, as I am for them, they continually inspire me, motivate me, help me with my confidence, and best of all, make me laugh hysterically. We help each other get further along in our goals and have a bonus of unconditional love and support that I would have never dreamed of… all online. We have never met in person (yet).

Being an only child (and Italian), my friends are my family. I have heard that many only children feel this way. Once you are a good friend who I can completely trust, I will be loyal to the end. These women in my private message group are in my heart forever. They, along with a few other amazing people I’ve met online, are people I never knew I needed. Not wanted, needed. The writer world can be harsh, so why not get a little help from your friends. It’s a time of people helping people in the world, and the author world is no different. As one of my favorite shows of all time has in their theme song, “I’ll be there for you.” And I am forever grateful for my friends I’ve met over the last year or so. Let’s keep helping each other, building friendships, and remaining open to possibilities. I know I am.

***

Please follow and share my blog if you enjoy reading about my author journey.

  1. Just click on the “Follow” hover button in the bottom right corner. You will be emailed when new posts are created.
  2. Feel free to comment or share (click comment and share buttons appear). I’ll always respond to comments. Thanks!

Copyright © 2020 C. D’Angelo, Author. All rights reserved.