Featured Blogger: Teagan’s Books

This is a re-boot of a monthly feature on Art by Rob Goldstein, the Featured Blogger.

This month I’m honored to feature Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene of
Teagan’s Books.

Marketing Graphic for Thisledown
Thisledow

When did you start writing?

Answer: My seventh-grade teacher gave us an assignment that truly inspired my young mind — Write a story.  However, we only had two options about the story 1) Write it from the point of view (POV) of a cartoon character, or 2) from the POV of the shoes of a famous person.  Well, 12-year-old me watched talk shows after school, not cartoons.  So, I saw plenty of “famous people” and “used to be famous” ones too, on Merv Griffin’s TV show.  I liked the ones who talked about their pets.  So, I wrote my story as a pair of red pumps belonging to actress Doris Day.  (Back then I don’t think she was still making movies, but she was known for all her dogs.)  I had so much fun that I also gave half the class verbal outlines for their stories.

In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I did a few stories on my own.  My teacher wanted to see them.  She said good things about the one for the assignment so (not that I thought I had any choice) I let her have the stories.  They were Twilight Zone-ish stories and one was about child abuse.  They got a lot of attention…

My teacher spoke to my parents. 

My parents told me very sternly to never do that again!

That said, I guess I started writing in my late thirties.  Throughout my life novels were my only escape from the personal difficulties (yes, abuse too) that I faced each day.  I had read a couple of interviews with writers, and decided to write a fantasy novel.  I did a lot of research and work, read more interviews, and then I dove into it.  With that start, I never stopped.

Marketing Graphic for Teagan's Books
Teagan’s books

You started your blog as an adjunct to self-publishing, how do you define your blog now?

Answer: I’m sure you’ve seen the same advice I always see for us IndiesYou must have a blog to promote your work!  Well, I couldn’t bear the thought of droning on about my novel with every post.  Instead, I modified a writing exercise I created for myself long ago.  I brought that exercise to my blog (Teagan’s Books).  I had the readers send me three random things.  I let the random things drive every detail of a serial story, setting, plot, and characters.  That resulted in  The Three Things Serial Story, which gave birth to my current release, a culinary mystery.  However, this time the “things” are food related — or ingredients.  So that one is Murder at the Bijou — Three Ingredients I.  I’ve published both of those serials in book form.

That “pantser” style of writing, combined with engaging my audience (having them send “things” or otherwise promoting them) seems to have defined my blog.

I also mean for my blog to be a sanctuary for everyone.  I keep it free from religion and politics, even though there are issues about which I feel strongly.

Where were you raised and how does that affect your style?

Answer: I’m a southerner by birth, but I was “enchanted” by the desert southwest of the USA when I moved to New Mexico.  Like the old John Denver song, I had come home to a place I’d never been before.  The truth is, I wish every day that I had never left.  However, many things about the southeast – the deep south made an impact that remains with me.  Following the advice, “Write what you know,” many of my stories have a southern setting.

What writers give you inspiration?

Answer: Robert Jordan (the Wheel of Time series) inspired me with his detailed world-building.  Charlaine Harris influenced me with writing in first-person.  That was something I never cared to do until I did my first National Novel Writing Month and created my début novel, Atonement, Tennessee To my surprise, all the serial stories at my blog turned out to be written in first person as well. David Eddings influenced me with the way he showed his sense of humor, particularly in the Belariad series.

What are your top 3 tips for new bloggers?

Reciprocate.  Answer every comment, and try to do so with more than just “Thank you.”

Don’t “act/look like an expert” if you are not.  If you have credentials then say so – and make that information something the reader can find without digging.  If you found useful information, and you just want to share it, then say so.

Make it easy to read.  Light colored (or splotchy, speckled) backgrounds with medium colored text are hard to read, no matter how good your content.  Also, those horrid pop-ups, soliciting subscriptions.  If I’ve barely started reading and one of those things blocks me from that read, I don’t care to continue.

Thank you Teagan! A short section from one of your books would be great way to close the interview.

Marketing Graphic for Teagan's Books on Amazon
Teagan’s Books Header Image

Answer: Since I’ve been promoting the release of Murder at the Bijou — Three Ingredients I,  I want to share a short story.  It is not in the book, but it’s still from that “universe,” and features the heroine of that 1920s series.

Here goes:

Pip’s a Chicken

“Bock, bock-bock.  Bock!  Baaawk!

Of all the nerve!  My mouth dropped open.  I was speechless.  Granny Phanny bocked at me like a chicken.  She bocked.  She put her fists under her armpits and flapped her boney elbows — and she bocked at me!

Then, to make matters worse, she laughed.

Why that banty little old woman.  Of all the self-important, cockalorem…

“Oh Pip, if you could see the look on your face,” she said, still chuckling.  “It’s not like you to chicken out.  Now tie on your apron and we’ll look at this recipe together.

Granny hung an apron around my neck, and then put her hands on my shoulders to forcibly turn me around.  She tied a bow in back that I knew without looking was perfectly symmetrical.

“But Granny, I nearly set the kitchen on fire last time,” I complained, sincerely afraid of what damage I might cause.

“Hush that nonsense right now, Sweetpea.  We’ll not be having any fires.  Just because your fried chicken turned out as tough as an old rooster doesn’t mean you can quit.”

“An old rooster?” I exclaimed, mortified.

I looked at the recipe card.  “Chicken Fricassee…” I read aloud.  “Dredge chicken pieces in the flour mixture; coat well.  Oh Granny, this sounds pos-i-lutely like a repeat of the fried chicken disaster.  Granny?”

Phanny Ilene Peabody was gone.  Her purse was missing from the corner table.  I called out again and she hollered from the living room.

My eyes fell on the calendar that hung on the wall.  Wong’s Chinese Restaurant made one annually for Chinese New Year.  Granny was going to an early dinner with friends.

“No wonder she wasn’t worried about me ruining dinner again,” I grumbled.  “Granny!” I yelled.

“I’ll be back this evening, Pip.  Just keep the stove set to low while you fry that chicken, and follow the instructions for the fricassee.”

I blew a raspberry as the front door closed with a thud.  My hand plopped down on the plump poultry with a smacking sound.

“Old rooster, huh?  I’ll show her,” I muttered and went back to the recipe card.

***

Copyright © 2017 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

The Three Things Serial Story

Amazon USA, Paperback and Kindle

Murder at the Bijou

Amazon USA Paperback  and Kindle

Atonement, Tennessee Amazon Kindle and Paperback

You can also connect with Teagan at:

Amazon:    https://www.amazon.com/Teagan-Riordain-Geneviene/e/B00HHDXHVM
Twitter:     https://twitter.com/teagangeneviene
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/TeagansBooks
Pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/teagangeneviene/
YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoM-z7_iH5t2_7aNpy3vG-Q
LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/teagangeneviene

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

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Featured Blogger: Josh Gross

Photograph of a Jaguar in Brazil
Jaguar-Brazil2010k-4049.jpg by Dagget2. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

My featured Blogger this month is Josh Gross whose blog is The Jaguar
and its Allies.

I admire his passion for conservation and his dedication to saving the jaguar from extinction.

Josh is currently running a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for
research on jaguars in Guyana.

Q.) How long have you been blogging, Josh?

A.) I have blogged since June of 2015, so for about a year and a half.

Q.) What sparked your interest in conservation?

A.) I have always loved animals. As a child, I enjoyed looking for deer in local parks, going to the Cleveland Zoo, and learning everything I could about wild animals. I always wanted to contribute to their conservation, but figured I had the wrong skill set. So at first I settled on Psychology, specifically Mental Health Counseling. However, after carrying out some voluntary work for the Center of Biological Diversity, and after discovering Wild Safari Live, I knew what I had to do. So now, I’m trying to use my social science background to help wild animals.

Q.) Why jaguars in particular?

A.) Many reasons, with the first being where they live. Jaguars inhabit some of the most bio-diverse landscapes on Earth. In order to conserve top predators like jaguars, you have to conserve all the links of the food chain they depend on. They also perform valuable services by keeping the populations of large herbivores and smaller predators in check. By conserving jaguars, then, we can benefit entire tropical ecosystems.

Another reason I focus on jaguars is the social challenges involved in protecting them. These wide-ranging animals occasionally harm livestock, and every now and then humans. As such, it is impossible to conserve them without fostering strong relationships with local people. My training in Counseling, and Psychology more generally, makes me well suited for this task.

But most importantly, jaguars are extraordinary creatures. The more I learn about them, the more fascinating they seem. As Richard Mahler puts it in The Jaguar’s Shadow (2008), they are “miracles of evolution” that have “a right to exist.”

Q.) Why Guyana?

A.) Guyana is like nowhere else on Earth. This small, South American country is home to some of the largest tracts of unbroken rain forest in the world. This makes it a potential stronghold for threatened species like jaguars. However, reports of conflicts with jaguars are on the rise (J. Persaud, January 6, 2017, personal communication), It is therefore vital that I get in there now, in order to help address this conflict before it gets out of hand.

Photograph of a waterfall
Kaieteur Falls by David Stanley. CC BY 2.0.

Q.) Tell us a little about your campaign and research.

A.) For my thesis, I want to spend several weeks living among local communities in Guyana: learning about their beliefs regarding jaguars. Beliefs about large predators have been found to influence their acceptability (Inskip et al., 2016; Carter, Riley, & Liu, 2012; Slagle, Zajac, Bruskotter, Wilson, & Orange, 2013), making this an important topic to study. Communications with conservationists in Guyana have confirmed that it would be helpful to learn more about people’s jaguar-related beliefs. But in order to carry out this research I will need funding.

This is where my GoFundMe campaign comes in. When I was applying to Humboldt State University, all the information about my Master’s program stated that students perform their research during their second year. I assumed this meant I had a whole year to learn about conducting research, make contacts, and plan my thesis. But when classes began, my cohorts and I were strongly encouraged to do our fieldwork this summer. This gives me little time to get everything in order, while simultaneously taking on a full course load: compromising my ability to acquire grants. But I refuse to give up, and have recently launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for my research.

Q.) Will you blog while traveling and conducting research?

A.) I will try my best. I am going to have limited internet access while in Guyana, so I can’t make any promises. But I will take lots of notes and pictures, and will have plenty to write about when I return!

Thank you, Josh!

Photograph of Josh Gross
Josh Gross

The Jaguar and it’s Allies

The Jaguar’s Shadow

All referenced articles and images are cited here.

 

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Honor

A poem from this month’s featured blogger, thefeatheredsleep

Featured Blogger: thefeatheredsleep

This month my featured blogger Candice Louisa Daquin of thefeatheredsleep.

I’ve long admired your poetry. Thank you for agreeing to this interview,

When did you start to write?

As a child. I had a best friend who wrote and we would write poetry together. At the time, I was most influenced by the idea of giving a voice to feelings through the world around us. I liked to combine what I saw with what I felt. It was pretty childish and simplistic because I was a terrible speller, since English is my second language. I have since worked hard to become a more eloquent and careful writer and I do employ a lot of consideration rather than just writing out and posting.

Who are your poetic influences?

My favorite book of prose-poetry is by an author called Elizabeth Smart and it’s called As I Sat Down at Grand Central Station and Wept. That book has influenced my writing more than any other it is an incredible tour du force of emotional landscape and language and unlike anything I have ever read before. Second to that I am drawn to the metaphysical poets. Toni Morrison is not really a poet per say but when I read her work it reads like poetry, I think she has the most magnificent understanding of how to use language of any modern author, she is both phantasmagoric and highly realistic and that blend really stays with me. Nikki Giovanni’s candor and magnification. The erotica of Anais Nin. Maya Angelou’s truth and wisdom. The mythology of Tennyson. Audre Lorde’s history. The impenetrable landscape of William Blake. Gwendolyn Brooks raw honesty. Emily Bronte’s world and sadness. My friend introduced me to Anne Sexton about five years ago her work appeals to me more than Sylvia Plath. Of course e.e. Cummings especially his poem about little hands that was quoted in Hannah and her Sisters (Woody Allen). I admire the preciseness of Mary Oliver and Stevie Smith though they write very differently from myself. My family were forced out of Egypt to France due to being Jewish. I have long been influenced by the wonderful writing of Nawal El Saadawi who campaigns for gender equality in Egypt and Vandana Shiva a Hindi woman who is a huge campaigner for non GMO in India and environmental equality. Neither are poets but they influence me in their courage and thinking as much as any poet. I am drawn to the feminine many times but there are some excellent male poets, though since the world has been so dominated historically by men I do appreciate the voices of women. I could probably produce a list of 100 people who influence me, many are song-writers like Kate Bush and Tori Amos, Supertramp and Bruce Springstein, Dory Previn and Ry Cooder.

Image of a woman and a hawk

Where were you raised and how does that affect your style?

In France. Then I was educated in Britain where I lived a long time before moving to America where I have lived 14 years aside one where I lived in Canada. People often ask me where do I think of as home. I cannot say. I don’t feel particularly influenced by a country so much as varied cultures. My Jewish culture influences me, it’s very different from the most Anglo Jewish culture seen in the USA. Sephardi culture is Spanish maybe that is why living in San Antonio which is predominantly Hispanic is so comfortable for me. Style-wise I speak English as taught to me in England with the influence of my varied cultures behind it (Egyptian, France, and some Americanisms!).

I hear strong politics in your work, Are you politically active?

Perhaps not as much as I used to be or as much as (we all) should be but enough that I cannot believe an armchair approach works or we should hope that others do the work for us. We should be the change we want to see. Most immigrants will confess they have felt helpless in politics, that their voices were not heard, it is up to us as adoptees of new countries to do our part and not expect others to be our representatives. Equally as a woman this is also true. I get disheartened by the lack of support women have for one another, and the continued attack on women politically but that said, we need to ensure all people are heard, rather than merely concentrating on those causes that are our own.

You write on your blog, “Please do not visit if optimism is your single mantra as you’ll be disappointed. This strives to be a judgment free zone. I appreciate critique but ultimately I cannot write with social restriction or fear of offending or being hated for what I choose. It’s my story, I make no apology.”

photo of a book cover

Have you had the feeling that other people expected you to apologize for your life? In what way?

Yes definitely. I come from a very talented family who had very high standards. I always fell short of them. I am not as technically ‘clever’ as some of my relatives and I knew that at an early age. For many years it stymied me (through my own fault) and prevented me from really writing it out. I used to work in publishing then I re-trained in Psychotherapy and worked in Rape Crisis Centers but got very burned out. I was told often I should write, but I couldn’t bring myself to because I knew I would be criticized and having grown up with a heavy dose of criticism it is hard to put yourself out there. Finally when a publisher took a chance on me that gave me the courage and confidence to go forward, the rest has been thanks to the support of my friends of my work. This year I have seen myself grow and I can only attribute this to others who have both influenced and inspired me, and kept me going when I felt I should give up. As for actually apologizing for my life, no not my actual life but what I choose to reflect in my poetry (which is by no means all autobiographical). Equally the purpose of the quote was to rebut the idea that everything we write should be optimistic and happy, I just do not agree with that. I have written uplifting and positive poetry but equal due should be given to realistic, or even sad poetry. I don’t much care for the positive movement that ironically condemns anyone who isn’t, if it were working less people would be depressed. It condemns those who are mentally ill and struggling and ensures they are further alienated, how is this progressive? I’d like to see more inclusion and less exclusion among cliques and minorities. That is what I mean when I wrote that, as well as basically asking people to take me or leave me because as any writer will attest, if you let the opinions of others hold you back you will cease to be authentic and truth to yourself.

My first book published by STPGI I was very proud of a bit like the sentimentality of a first car. I cannot really say what is my ‘best’ work because I don’t relate to the idea of ‘best’ versus whatever the opposite of that is. As Popeye says, I yam what I yam and that’s my philosophy too. For some they will be drawn to one book over the other, they all have valuable work and lesser work I’m sure.

book cover 1

What matters to you most as a writer?

It matters incredibly to give voices to things I feel society cuts down or dismisses. This is what drives me. I am often told aside the language I employ, what people feel drawn to in my work is my honesty and my willingness to ‘go there’ and talk about things others feel may be indelicate. I started a movement on WP called #unsung, it was the idea of writing about an unsung hero and many people took it up and wrote their own version. I feel as a culture we spend too much time on people that we’re told have worth like reality TV stars, and not enough time on those who actually do. It’s neither about fame nor fortune, but the messages ordinary people have that can change the world. I am very positive about the power of change through sharing truths. Truth really is everything. I expose myself not because I’m an exhibitionist (I’m probably the opposite) but in order to shine a light on truth and not be a hypocrite by hiding behind any fear of what that may bring.

What key influences do you have when it comes to subjects and emotions in writing and where do you think they came from?

I am deeply influenced by our varied cultures and the wars that go on between us, as we seek to force our opinion upon others. It angers me that anyone should tell a woman what she should do with her body, because I believe until we have walked in the shoes of someone else, we cannot understand what it is like for them to make the decisions they make. Racially I see a divide in this country like I have seen in no other, though my native France has struggled since I left, with growing divides between Muslim and non-Muslim populations that has really gotten out of control. In America I see a lot of people of color feeling they have no voice, and a lot of anglo people feeling guilty about this but not enough changing. Equally I do not believe it should be a one-way-street, as there is racism from people of color toward anglos in equal measure. The key is being honest, and calling ourselves on our stuff and that includes our hypocrisy and our feelings of entitlement. I do believe things can change and I think all writers are part of that change because we channel it through our expression. In addition I feel strongly about the voices of the mentally ill and the homosexual community, and I have tried to express this alongside equality for all oppressed peoples. I don’t know I stretch myself enough because I think our inherent bias toward certain subjects means as writers that’s going to be the bulk of our work but I try to reach into other subjects as much as possible.

41hdzcvjqsl

What motivates you as a writer and what demotivates you?

I am motivated by other writers who are kind enough to read my work and comment on it. I am motivated by the passion and rawness of other work and the variety from say, a Millennials perspective to someone in their eighties. I love the WP community for that, we come together from everywhere in the world and learn so much from each other. I am particularly enchanted by the rise in Indian poets, they are among my favorite and they can write better in English than most native English speakers which says something about our education system versus theirs! One of my favorite poets on WP is Tetiana Aleksina, she is Ukrainian and her understanding of language is unbelievable, she compels me to always try harder. What demotivates me is pretty obvious, if someone is particularly unkind, I can be defeated, and I am working on not letting that happen. Struggling with some inherited depression can influence my output but I try to work through it. Confidence is a hard thing to keep going, though I’d rather struggle with my confidence than be overly-confident, as our world already has too many narcissists. I admire humility and honesty.

Why do people feel drawn to what you write?

I think I appeal for different reasons. As a gay woman I’m one of the only gay women I know who writes regularly about our specific vantage point. As someone who is multi-cultural and of mixed ethnicity I can tap into that, and the voices of immigrants and displaced people. I try to continually improve my use of language, I am not much of a fan of rules in writing especially the forms of Tanka and Haiku but I admire and learn from those who employ them. I like to write it out without such restraints but often I am told my work has a sound that is very resonant and lyrical, if this is true it shows you can rhyme without rules. I’m working on my first book of prose, a psychological thriller of all things. I’m fortunate to have enough time in between my job to make this happen and I work really, really hard because you have to earn everything you get in life through hard work. Maybe people respect me because they know how hard I work and hopefully sometimes the result is worthy. That’s all we can ever hope for.

 

HYMEN

Too soon

the child menstruates

bleeding away her

need to play

she is captured

behind glass

starched and polished

until catching the eye of a man

old enough to have given her life

she is sold

in so much some marriages are not

choice

and her private parts are laid bare

under a shard of glass standing in for knife

then the girl knows

she is a woman

spreading her wide to ensure

she was not defiled

her hymen reinforced

her clitoris removed

fearing

if she is not sewn tightly enough

her husband will not feel

special nor soak the ritual bed sheet

scarlet

she could die if she does not tear apart

sufficiently for the relatives

who bay for her blood

fearing

if she feels anything but gratitude and pain

she may be tempted by someone else

perhaps the boy her age

who with her in the dirt played

before she had to give up

being a child and become

a woman slain

in shackles of faith

Candice has worked for Rattle poetry magazine and the Northern Review as well as being featured in many publications. She also collaborates with a bundle of talented writers at hijacked amygdala

 

Photograph of Candice Louisa Daquin
Candice Louisa Daquin

 

You can find Candice Louisa’s poetry at the following links:

 

https://www.amazon.fr/Candice-Louisa-Daquin/e/B01CYNNIJU/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1479400549&sr=8-1

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/candice+louisa+daquin?_requestid=474416

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=candice+louisa+daquin

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14034803.Candice_Louisa_Daquin?from_search=true

rg 2016

 

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