Featured Blogger: D. Wallace Peach

I was too busy this month to schedule a Featured Blogger for June 2018, so I am re-publishing one of my favorite featured bloggers from 2016.

Portrait of D. Wallace Peach
Portrait of Author D. Wallace Peach

My Featured blogger for October is author D. Wallace Peach from Myths of the Mirror.

Before we begin, thank you for accepting my invitation.

Thanks so much for inviting me, Robert. I’m honored to be chatting on your blog.

Tell us a little about yourself, where you’re from and how that affects your point of view?

Great question as I do think our roots inform who we are. I come from a family that spent its free time in the forest. My parents used to drop my younger brothers and me off at a trailhead in the Green Mountains and pick us up 4 days later, 25 miles down the road. Sort of “Hansel and Gretel” except we carried maps. The first time we hiked without adults, I was about 11 years old and my youngest brother would have been 7. We were fearless and adventurous kids. Sometimes the raccoons got into our food or we got stuck in a snowstorm, but we survived. Those are some of the best memories of my life, and they had nothing to do with “things.”

I was also raised by left-wing liberals, and though I labored in business for 18 years, I hated the focus on money. After 9/11, I started working as a volunteer with grieving children, quit my job, and returned to school for a counseling degree, which I loved. Today, as an author, my fantasy books reflect an appreciation for a simple life, nature, and the human pathos that arises from choices: fear, greed, power, compassion, sacrifice, and love.

You mention that your profile that as a child you preferred television to reading until you read the Hobbit by Tolkien. What was it about the Hobbit changed your life?

Reading was b..o..r..i..n..g until I turned 13 and opened The Hobbit. I plowed through it and the LoTR series in about 2 weeks. I was entranced by the characters and the epic story. When the book ended, I had a serious book hangover and cried myself to the library. I’m certain I would never have considered writing if I hadn’t cracked that magical book. Books can change lives.

September 11 was another life-changing event and as a result, you returned to school. What was that like for you?

I wasn’t in New York, and I can’t claim any heroics or personal sacrifice. I still choke up thinking about that day: the fear, the lives lost, the families forever changed, the first responders and hundreds of souls who toiled tirelessly in the rubble, risking their own health. I was working in business and suddenly couldn’t deal with the sales and profits and money-is-king mentality. None of it mattered. What mattered were human beings, love, bravery, compassion, kindness. I quit my executive job and went back to school so I could be poor and happy doing something of value.


You graduated with a Master’s degree in counseling. What kind of counseling did you do?

I became a pastoral counselor – basically mental health with a spiritual (not religious) foundation. I wanted to work with people who were dying and grieving, and an openness to all variations in spiritual faith seemed important. I ended up doing most of my grief work as a volunteer and got a job counseling little kids (0-5) and their families. It was all transformative heart-based growth – especially for me.

What draws you to fantasy?

Oh. I’m a believer in magic – basically that the world is far more complex and interconnected than my pea-brain can possibly imagine. Just because we can’t prove something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Just because we can’t see or measure something doesn’t mean it isn’t real. I know a teeny-weeny tiny fraction of all there is to know, which to me, means anything is possible. I like asking what-if questions about the nature of reality and ushering them down the path of my imagination to see where they go.

What do you find easiest about writing?

I find all of it rewarding but none of it particularly easy. The first draft is the most challenging for me. The story is outlined but unformed, and the characters can’t help but share their opinions about who they are and where they want to go. We’re in a constant state of negotiation and I’m often backtracking. Sometimes the words pour out and sometimes I have to wrench them out with plyers.

 

The cover of the fantasy novel, The Melding of Aeris by D. Wallace Peach
The Melding of Aeris

 

What writers give you inspiration?

I love character-driven stories and beautifully crafted words. I read a lot of fantasy, and like both stand-alone books and big, fat series. My favorite fantasy authors are Mark Lawrence, Scott Lynch, Brandon Sanderson, and Joe Abercrombie to name a few.

I read with a highlighter and mark up my books when I find something wonderful.

When did you start blogging?

I started in 2013, but I was completely clueless for the first 2 years. I didn’t know that social media was supposed to be social (duh) and had 7 likes my first whole year. I was so bad. I started watching what the successful bloggers did, the ones I enjoyed following, and finally the light-bulb flicked on. Now I have lively interactions with a large community on a daily basis. Much, much better.

  1. What advice do you have for writers who want to use their blogs to market their books?

I’m no expert, Robert, but here are my two cents: Go ahead and market, but remember that the most important part of blogging is building relationships – interact and reciprocate. Be yourself, of course, but remember that your blog is also your professional platform; you are sharing yourself as a person and author as well as posting content that represents the quality of your work. Pay it forward by doing for the community what you would like the community to do for you. And most of all, enjoy yourself.

Some Word Press bloggers think of Word Press as a community. Do you think of it as a
community?

Absolutely. I love that aspect of blogging. I love the way the world shrinks, the rich feelings shared by wonderful people all over the globe, the empathy and support of strangers who become good friends. There’s talent and kindness, beauty and compassion everywhere. It gives me hope and makes me smile.

How do you define success?

In all parts of my life: Happiness.

We only get this one life, Robert; there are no second chances, no do-overs. We are each miracles, here through the perfect alignment of billions of years of evolution, choices, and chance. It’s not a gift to be wasted. Happiness means different things to different people, but for me it’s choosing an attitude of kindness, care, and compassion and acting on that choice. Writing is something that brings me joy, no strings attached.

The Cover of fantasy novel, Myths of the Mirror by D. Wallace Peach
Myths of the Mirror

 

Thank you for an enlightening interview.  It was a pleasure.

And thank you for asking! I didn’t talk much about my books (for once, Lol). If anyone is interested, my Amazon author’s page line up (9 books) is here: https://www.amazon.com/D.-Wallace-Peach/e/B00CLKLXP8, and my blog is Myths of the Mirror: http://mythsofthemirror.com. Visitors are always welcome!

 

Rob Goldstein 2016-2018

 

 

 

 

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May’s Featured Blogger: Linda Bethea

My guest blogger this month is Linda Bethea of Nutstrok.

Linda is one of the first bloggers I followed when I started this blog in
2014 and over the years, we have become friends.

Linda’s Mother, who turns 90 today, May 5th, unofficially adopted me in
2015 and became my forever Mom, so in a sense, Linda and I are brother
and sister.

 

A black and white brownie snapshot of Linda Bethea as a child
Snapshot of Linda Bethea as a child

 

Tell us about your place of birth and the cultural forces that 
shaped your childhood.

Being born in rural Northeast Louisiana in 1950 still has a huge influence on me.  Being of a large nuclear family opened so many windows on life.  With three grandparents, almost twenty aunts and uncles, by birth and marriage, and more than forty first cousins, our holidays and weekends were bedlam.  Also, I grew up on a farm where every bit of help was needed, so I learned early to do my part.  I learned to deal with all kinds of personalities, human and animal.  Farm work did motivate me to get an education.  I didn’t want to work that hard the rest of my life.  Also, in the fifties, pressure to behave well was a huge force.  We got it at home, school, and church.  When I got in trouble, the news usually beat me home, even though we didn’t have a phone till 1958.  I never did figure out how that worked.  Our social life revolved around family, church, and school.  It sounds idyllic described that way.  We had good times and bad, but the older I get, the more I realize it was a good way to grow.

What event has had the most influence on your life and work?

When I was fourteen, I shot into a flock of blackbirds, just because.  One fell to the ground mortally injured.  I picked it up and it curled its tiny foot around my finger as the light went out of its eyes.  I realized that little bird’s life was as precious as my own.  I’ve never forgotten the devastation I felt at the bird’s cruel death at my hands.  That changed the way I saw everything.

Picture of Kathleen Swain
Kathleen Swain, Linda’s Mother

When did you start your blog and how has it evolved?

My first post was August 26, 2014.  I was very nervous, thinking no one could be interested in my tales.  Since then, I’ve learned someone is interested in almost anything a writer has to say.  Here is a link to my first post. 

How did you come up with the name, Nutstrok?

I love writing about family.  I celebrate their eccentricities, but never lose touch with the fact that I love them dearly, hence the name, Nuts Are Okay, Nutsrok.

When did you start to write?

I started writing after I retired from thirty years as a registered Nurse.  I cherished my stories and looked forward to having time to get them down for my children.  Incidentally, I don’t think either of them reads my work.  I guess I burned them out on the stories as they were growing up.

 

The cover of Linda Bethea's first book, 'Everything Smells Just Like Poke Salad"
‘Everything Smells Like Poke Salad’


What have you learned about publishing since publishing ‘Everything Smells Just like Poke salad’?

I don’t how to answer the question about what I’ve learned since publishing.  Writing is a lot more satisfying than promoting.

 

Bppk Cover for 'Just Women Getting by'
The Cover of ‘Just Women Getting By’

You published your second book, ‘Just Women Getting By’ in May of 2017, tell us a little about the book.

I was inspired to write Just Women because of  the stories I learned and lived.  When I was a child, I desperately wanted to be a boy.  Girls lived with so restrictions, constantly reminded, “girls don’t do that.”  “Don’t play so rough.”  “Keep your dress tail down!”  It didn’t take a genius to see women stayed home and were drudges while men went off and did interesting things.  There were a lot more Betty Crockers than Annie Oakley’s.

Stories of the exploits of brave or evil men were common.  Women were more likely to win acclaim for their beauty, not their abilities.  Girls could look forward to marrying and having children.  Men could do that and whatever else they aimed for.
Despite the poor press women received, they were major factors in the success of home and community, rarely noticed, unless they failed.  As adult,  I was impressed at how much women quietly accomplish and their major contribution, showing strength in impossible situation.

Please share an excerpt from ‘Just Women Getting By’.

The excerpt is from the story “Hard Time Marrying.”  Two young people find themselves married in a horrific situation with no way out.

Their union had a bleak start. Shivering miserably on the depot platform in the freezing rain, the woman folded and refolded his tattered letter.  Angered, he thought of driving on when he saw her cradling a small child and holding the hand of a grimy toddler, a few tattered bundles at her feet. In her letter, she’d not mentioned the  little ones, though with all fairness, the marriage was only one of need on both parts. He hadn’t promised her anything either, so after hesitating, he was mollified by the thought that the little fellows served as proof she wasn’t barren.  Hurriedly, married minutes later at the preacher’s house, he apologized for the weather as they shivered the two hours home in his open wagon and was surprised to learn the woman didn’t speak or understand English.  Maybe that wasn’t so bad for a man accustomed to his own company.

Burning with fever by the time they got to his homestead, his unknown wife was dead by the next sundown, leaving him with  little ones he had no taste for. Barely reaching his knee, they toddled mutely in perpetual soggy diapers, uttering gibberish only they understood. As soon as he could, he buried his quilt-wrapped wife and headed back to dusty Talphus, Texas to rid himself of burden of her orphaned little ones. The church or the town would have to do for them. Loading them in a snug in a bed of hay, wrapped in a ragged quilt, hay heaped over them. he pitied and grieved for them on the long trip back to town, knowing the hard life they faced. Stopping several times to make sure they were warmly covered, he was relieved to find them pink and warm.
He hardened his heart against them, knowing only too well the life they faced. He’d never known family, just been passed from hand to hand.  He grieved knowing that was their lot, but deception had landed them with him and a lone-farmer could hardly be expected to shoulder the brats of a dead woman he’d never even shared a bed with.

Thank you Linda, and a Happy 90th Birthday to my Forever Mom, Kathleen.
Your gift to me still warms my heart.

A Rose for Kathleen

Photograph of a red and yellow rose against a blue background
A Rose for Kathleen

 

 Rob Goldstein 2018

 

 

 

Ritu Bhathal, My Featured Blogger for March

I’m pleased Ritu Bhathal agreed to be my featured blogger for March.

Ritu: Thank you so much Rob for featuring me on your blog! I was humbled and thrilled to be asked, and I do hope you and your readers enjoy learning a little about me and my blogging career!

Tell us a little about your history, where you were born?

I guess I have quite a colourful background in that I was born here in the UK, in Birmingham, to Indian parents, who were themselves, both born in Kenya. As a result, I grew up learning a mish mash of Punjabi and Swahili alongside English! I lived in Birmingham until I was 18 when I went to University in Kingston-Upon-Thames in Surrey, and stayed there for around seven years, then when I married, I moved to Kent.

I have had many memorable trips back to Kenya as a child, to see where my parents grew up, and post marriage, trips to India to see more of my heritage, and the family and villages of my in-laws.

How long have you been blogging and why did you start?

It’s been nearly three and a half years since I started blogging, and I fell into it quite by accident, to be honest! A friend of mine wrote a very candid post about her mental health state, and posted it to her Facebook page. A brave thing to do.  I read it and wanted to comment my support and had to register with WordPress in order to do so. As I did the site asked me if I wanted to start my very own blog, and after about thirty seconds of pondering, I decided to go for it! Honestly, I didn’t even know what a blog was to be honest! A little rambling from me, and a lot of advice from many other bloggers out there and this is what culminated! A place where I can be me, be creative, and lay my thoughts on the line. I also like to spread positivity around too via my posts.

3. About the Blogger’s Bash?

The Annual Blogger’s Bash is an event that has been set up by Sacha Black.

It is an event where bloggers are celebrated for their hard work and talent, and you can network with many other like-minded individuals. The last two years have also included inspirational talks by some of the bloggers, and special guests, which have been wonderful!

And there are awards which are voted for over the course of the run up to the event by thousands of people.

It started four years ago, with a simple get together and meal out, and I was unable to make the first one. I hadn’t been blogging that long, and I was a little scared to be honest, to go and meet these people, whose online presence I had come to enjoy. But the last two have just got bigger and better, with more international bloggers, flying in for the event, and I have felt like I am meeting family and friends and not relative strangers!

It must have felt good to win the Best Overall Blogger Award 
for 2017, were you surprised?

Surprised is not the word! I was up against some amazing bloggers, powerhouses, I would call them! People I had followed for a long time, those I admired, and aspired to have a blog and following like, so to hear that I had actually WON was just jaw-dropping wonderful!

How often do you post
?

I don’t have a strict schedule as such. There is a regular slot on a Sunday, Spidey’s Serene Sunday, which started when I found my son’s Spiderman figure in a rather contemplative, meditating pose. ‘He’ finds a motivating or inspiring quote which I discuss, and try and leave my Peeps (readers) with something positive to ponder over. Other than that, I post whatever and whenever something pops into my head. As I like to write creatively too, I take part in several challenges over the week, so there is more often than not, a post a day at least with some form of prose or poetry. Last year I gave myself a silent challenge to post EVERY DAY! It was hard work, but I did it!

You published your first book in 2016. How does it feel?

I feel so proud to see my name on the cover of a book, to be honest! Poetry was an easy start for me, but the ultimate is to see my fiction book finally completed, and out there on people’s bookshelves and e-readers!

How did Poetic RITUals evolve?

 

The Cover of Poetic Rituals Ritu Bhathal
The Cover of Poetic Rituals

I have always enjoyed writing poems and little rhyming ditties. Over the course of life I have penned many verses, and I had kept quite a few in a little book. When I started blogging, I got to know many published poets, and thought, “Why not? I could do this too!” The poems I had posted on my blog always tended to get a good response, so I compiled all my work, sorted the poems into sections, and went about editing the book, via Amazon Create Space and KDP Direct. I had always wanted a book to be out there, and my novel was taking so long, that this was a way for me to get my name on the spine of the cover of a real book!

What have you learned about blogging and marketing from the experience of publishing your first book.

If I am honest, I have not used my blog to its fullest potential for marketing my book.  I have promoted it a bit, I have advertised offers on it, and written the odd guest post, mentioning my little book at the end, but that’s as far as I’ve gone.  Looking back, I see that there was so much more I could have done, Blog tours, more guest posts, in your face posts ‘selling’ my book, but that isn’t me to be honest

What is your number 1 piece of advice for new bloggers?

My biggest advice is to not expect overnight fame and success. A blog is a very personal thing and can take a long while to establish. To have a good blog, you need the right community behind you, and by building that, you will automatically find the support you need to make your blog feel like a real haven for you

Will you share one or two of your poem with our readers?

Of course!

 

The first, a humorous take on the infamous Mummy Tummy!

 

“Mummy, thank you for that tum
You know, the one where we came from.
That wobbly, squidgy bit of jelly
A comfy pillow, when we watch telly.
We like to play, to squish, to knead
On this, us kiddies have agreed.
Your tummy really is tum-tastic
So don’t do anything too drastic!”
Thank you kids, I needed that
A reassurance, I’m not fat.
So when I go out, I’ll wear some Spanx
And silently, I’ll whisper “Thanks!”
The children love their cuddly mum!
Now…what do I do about my BUM?

 

And a more serious one, penned during the various terrorist attacks that have hit over the last few years

 

Brown Skinned and British

 

I’m brown skinned and British
That’s what I am
Don’t label me by colour
Just see me, if you can
Don’t question my religion
Beliefs don’t mean a thing
Cos in the grander scheme of life
I’m jus’ a human being
So I may pray quite differently
And eat other types of food
But to label me a terrorist
You know that’s kinda rude
Get to know me, talk to me
And then I guess you’ll see
That there ain’t no difference
Between you an’ me
We need to live in harmony
And celebrate our quirks
Jus’ please don’t judge me
By the deeds of other jerks

(C) 2015 RituBhathal

Portrait of Ritu Bhathal
Author Ritu Bhathal

Social Media Profiles

Website: http://www.butismileanyway.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/PhantomGiggler
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/phantom_giggler/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/butismileanyway/
Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/bhathalpadhaal/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/56854412-ritu-bhathal
Flipboard: https://flipboard.com/@Phantom_Giggler
Stumbleupon: http://www.stumbleupon.com/stumbler/ritubhathal75
Tumblr: https://www.tumblr.com/blog/ritusmiles
Bloglovin: https://www.bloglovin.com/@ritubhathalpadhaal

And by clicking the following link, you get to Ritu’s author profile on Amazon, where you can find the link to her poetry book, Poetic RITUals.

Author.to/RituBhathal

 

February’s Featured Blogger: Author, Mary Smith

February’s featured Blogger is author, Mary Smith.

Mary is the author of No More Mulberries, a novel set in Afghanistan and a collection of short stories, Donkey Boy & Other Stories. Her non-fiction work includes a memoir of her time in Afghanistan, Drunk Chickens, and Burnt Macaroni.

Thank you for being here , Mary.

You write in your biography that you’ve always written, but was there a moment of inspiration?

Hi Rob, thanks so much for choosing me as your blogger of the month. Your first question stumped me because I honestly can’t remember any one single moment of inspiration – I just always wanted to write.

What did you read as a child and what was your favorite story?

I read a lot as a child. One of my favorite (sorry, I can’t do American spelling so you might have to change some words!) books was What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge. I read it over and over again, couldn’t wait to get to the end so I could begin it again. I also read loads of Enid Blyton’s books – The Secret Seven and The Famous Five. As a child, I usually had my head stuck in a book.

You lived in Pakistan and Afghanistan for ten years and worked for a small health organization; what prompted your decision to live and work in Pakistan and Afghanistan and how does your work there inform your writing?

I drank too much whisky one night and under its influence accepted an invitation to visit Pakistan with two sisters who were returning to visit family in Karachi. While there, I visited the headquarters of the Pakistan Leprosy Control Programme. I had an introduction because in the UK I worked for Oxfam which helped fund the leprosy work. I was welcomed and spent three days seeing various aspects of the work and was really impressed. I wrote in my journal at the time that I knew I was coming back to Pakistan although I didn’t know how or when. Anyway, before I left I was asked if I would help set up a health education department. I came home, handed in my notice and returned to Pakistan on a three-year contract. During my time in Karachi, I met a number of Afghan students who were studying to be paramedics before going back to Afghanistan to open clinics. I spent a lot of time with them, teaching English, listening to stories of their mother country which they all loved with a deep passion. By the time my contract ended it was inevitable I’d sign on again to work, this time, in Afghanistan.

My time there has definitely informed my writing. I so wanted to share my experiences with everyone – all the people who will never have the opportunity to go there and see for themselves. I’ve written a memoir (Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni) which covers the latter part of my time in Afghanistan when I was setting up a project to train village women as health volunteers. I’ve also written a novel (No More Mulberries) set in Afghanistan and quite a number of poems.

 

cover of Burnt Macaroni
Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni by Mary Smith

Who are the writers you read for pleasure and study?

I love the novels of Kate Atkinson, Margaret Elphinstone, the late Iain Banks and so many more. And poets, Seamus Heaney, Tom Pow (who was my tutor on a creative writing course), Norman McCaig. I could fill this post with lists.

Why did you take up blogging?

My father had dementia and his wife (my stepmother – or stepmonster as I call her in the blog) left him because she felt she “was entitled to a peaceful life.” I did not want my dad to go into a care home so I moved in with him, which changed my life entirely. I had thought I’d have time to continue as a freelance journalist and doing the PR for a charity as well as work on a book I wanted to write. I soon discovered this was not going to happen. I was exhausted, especially when I first moved in and had very little professional help, and spent much of my time in a zombie-like state. Creativity went out the window. Blogging was a way to ensure I did do some regular writing and way of trying to make sense of the situation.

Who is your audience?

The majority of my audience for the blog (My Dad’s a Goldfish) are people who are caring for or have cared for a family member with dementia. Some are also blogging about it. So many lives are affected by this nowadays and I think many of the people who read my blog do so because it helps them feel they are not alone, others are going through similar situations. Until fairly recently, although dementia was on the increase, little was said about – about how it really is to be care for someone who spends the night wandering around the house looking for things, who needs help going to the toilet, who doesn’t know who you are. Blogging helps me – and my followers – to see the funny side of situations which, at the time, are far from funny. I also have followers who are friends, writers and other bloggers whose blogs I follow

the cover of Donkey Boy and other stories

Do you consider your audience when you publish a post? (Another way to put this is how much does your audience influence your work?)

Yes, I do and I have been careful not to dilute the Goldfish blog with posts on other things. I don’t think my Goldfish audience expect to find re-blogs from other posts unless they’re dementia related or travel pieces or whatever. For this reason, I have recently started a second blog on which I can post all sorts of other things which have nothing to do with dementia.

The cover of No More Mulberries

I admire the way you balance promotional and personal blogging. What advice do you have for other writers who want to use blogging for personal and promotional blogging?

Thank you for saying that. I think it’s mainly because, as I explain above, I try to keep the Goldfish blog about my dad and dementia – though I do sneak in the odd post about my books. I’d advise anyone who thinks starting a blog is going to help them sell shed-loads of books to forget it! I think writing is about our need to communicate with others. We want to share our words, our thoughts, with others but if we only blog about the books we’ve written followers won’t stay around for long. Does that make sense? I feel I’m waffling a bit here – just cut this bit if you want

Tell us about your latest Book.

My latest book is a collection of short stories called Donkey Boy & Other Stories. It came about because I was feeling bad about not having published any fiction for such a long time. I always intended to write a sequel to No More Mulberries but somehow got sidetracked into doing other things – a poetry collection and a couple of local history books. The one day when looking for something on my computer (my filing system is a disgrace) I noticed a folder which contained some short stories. I decided they should be out in the world working for their living – or at least being read by a few people – and put them together. It’s an eclectic mix of stories about a diverse range of characters: a donkey boy (he drives a donkey cart for his father) in Pakistan dreams of buying luxuries for his mother; a mouth artist in rural Scotland longs to leave the circus; a visually impaired man has a problem with his socks; and a woman tries to come to terms with a frightening gift – or curse. I’m delighted by how well received it has been with readers and reviewers. And it’s only 99c – so much cheaper than a cup of coffee.

Book cover for Thousands Pass Here Every Day
Thousands Pass Here Every Day by Mary Smith

Thank you, Mary.

Below are links to Mary’s blogs and books.

Blog links: My Dad’s a Goldfish: https://marysmith57.wordpress.com  New Blog – MarySmithsPlace: https://marysmithsplace.wordpress.com

This is the smart url link for Donkey Boy & Other Stories. It will open at the Amazon site in whichever country the reader is: www.smarturl.it/dbaos

Drunk Chicken and Burnt Macaroni: http://smarturl.it/dcbm

No More Mulberries: http://smarturl.it/nmm

Twitter: https://twitter.com/marysmithwriter

Revised February 26, 2018: Header update