Author Interview, Awards, Books, Inspiration

A visit with fellow author and pet lover, Barbara Techel

barbtechel
Author and indie publisher Barbara Techel

 

I’ve been privileged to know Barbara Techel since she and I were both relative newbies to indie publishing. I had just published Almost Perfect: Disabled Pets and the People Who Love Them, and Barb was in the process of publishing her first children’s book, Frankie the Walk ‘n Roll Dog through her publishing house, Joyful Paw Prints Press. Also a self-published author, she reached out to ask me some questions about promoting books about disabled pets, and in the ensuing years, she has become one of my favorite people on the planet.

Since completing her Frankie series of children’s books, Barb has gone on to write and publish a couple nonfiction titles. The first was Class Act: Sell More Books Through School and Library Author Appearances, which I had the honor of editing. It’s the only book solely on this subject, and is absolutely stuffed with useful information for any author trying to promote their book.

Barb’s latest nonfiction effort is Through Frankie’s Eyes: One woman’s journey to her authentic self, and the dog on wheels who led the way. It’s a courageous sharing of Barb’s personal story, about how her entire life was transformed by the love of a small red dachshund who lost the use of her back legs. Barb was inspired by her miniature dachshund, Frankie, who ruptured a disk in her lower back when she was 6 years old and was given only a 30% chance of walking again. This led Barb to have Frankie custom-fit for a dog cart to help her walk again. Through Frankie’s Eyes is a moving read she sent me at a time when I was going through some personal struggles of my own, and I found it inspiring and uplifting, at a time when I really needed that. So I’m sharing with you here a recent visit with Barb about this marvelous book, in hopes that perhaps it can do the same for you.

Through Frankie's Eyes book cover

Q. What was your initial reaction when your dog was given only a 30% chance of walking again?

I was devastated. I couldn’t imagine what Frankie’s life would be like if she didn’t walk on her own again. And just as I talk about my book and being honest, I share that I questioned if I even wanted to take care of a handicapped pet. How would my own life change? How would I do this? I was scared.

But I loved Frankie so much and I wanted to give her a chance. It changed me in a way I never saw coming, and I’m so grateful.

Q. Was Frankie’s injury the impetus to help other dogs with disabilities?

Very much so. I never had even heard about dog wheelchairs (also called dog carts) before this happened to Frankie. When I had Frankie custom-fitted for her wheelchair, I was amazed at how she could do pretty much all the same things she did before her paralysis. Her wheelchair was just a tool to help her live a quality life.

When Frankie became paralyzed in 2006, I didn’t really hear of any other dogs such as her who were in wheelchairs. It was part of the reason I wrote a children’s book, Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog about her, to help spread a positive message and educate not only small children, but parents and grandparents who would read the story to their kids/grandkids and they could learn that dogs with disabilities can lead a great life if given a chance.

Q.  Your story, Cassie & Frankie Inspire a Writer, won an honorable mention award in 2007, in a contest sponsored by Linda and Allen Anderson of Angel Animals Network. Who is Cassie, and were you  inspired to help just Frankie when you wrote the book or article, or did it move you to help other disabled dogs, as well?

Cassie was my chocolate Lab, who passed away in 2005 from terminal bone cancer. She inspired me to become a writer. I was in awe of how she continued to be happy even though a tumor in her body was growing and would eventually take her life. It awakened me to go after what it was that would bring me more joy, and to live my own life to the fullest. Though cliché, it hit me over the head how short life really is.

Little did I know that nine months after Cassie’s death, Frankie would then become paralyzed. Though it was painful and tough at the beginning of Frankie’s ordeal, I knew I was being presented with an opportunity to spread a positive message.

FrankieLegacyQ. Has being the owner of a disabled dog made you more sensitive to disabled people?

You know, I’ve always been sensitive to disabled people. But I’d say my empathy and compassion deepened. Even more than that, my respect for them grew, as I realized even more what they are up against in their day-to-day lives.

Q. You are an advocate of the human-animal bond. What can you tell us about animal communication?

I’m very fascinated by the human-animal bond. I honestly believe if not for my dogs, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today. I’ve learned so much from them and feel I’m a better human being because of having them in my life.

One thing that concerns me is that I don’t know that we take the time to really see and tune into our pets. I know it’s not always easy in our very busy, day-to-day lives, and believe me — I’m not perfect at this, either. But I truly believe they are trying to help us mortal human beings to live more consciously, and to awaken to living more fully in the present moment.

Q. What can dogs teach us?

The list is endless! For me, I’ve learned to appreciate nature. I’ve learned to live more in the here and now. I’ve learned to worry less. I’ve learned to be still more often. I’ve learned not to take life too seriously. I’ve learned to be positive and look for blessings in challenges. I’ve learned that it’s okay to take a nap in the middle of the day.

NWRDDlogoQ. I understand you created National Walk ‘n Roll Dog Day, which is observed annually on September 22. How are paralyzed dogs helped because of this day?

Yes, I am the founder of National Walk ‘N Roll Dog Day, which I launched in 2012. This special day is in memory of Frankie, created in honor of all dogs in wheelchairs around the world. Frankie touched the lives of thousands during her six years in a wheelchair, visiting schools in my state of Wisconsin. She even became a dog who visited schools via Skype! Frankie also touched many lives as a therapy dog visiting hospice, hospitals and nursing homes.

I was so inspired by Frankie and all the dogs in wheelchairs that I wanted to have this special day in their honor. It’s my hope to continue to shine a positive light on these dogs, who overcome adversity so beautifully. We can learn so much from their amazing spirits.

Along with this special day, I created The Frankie Wheelchair Fund. This fund grants wheelchairs to paralyzed dogs who may otherwise not have been able to have one, such as when their families are in financial stress, or the dog is in a rescue situation. To date, we have granted 32 wheelchairs to dogs in need.

Author Interview, Benefits of writing, Blog, Inspiration

The Fellowship of Writers

It’s been a busy couple of weeks here at the offices of The Word Forge (my marketing consultancy) and Word Forge Books, my publishing company.

CelebrateTheBookLast weekend, I attended the “Celebrate the Book” Festival in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. I think it’s the fourth time I’ve done this show, and I always enjoy it. Not only does it give me an excuse to travel back toward my old stomping grounds of central PA—beautiful any time of year, but especially in the colorful fall, and even more so when the early morning drive usually provides a stunning vista of rolling farmland with a huge harvest moon hanging overhead (sorry, no photos — I was driving alone)–but it’s always a wonderfully produced show, with great floor staff and good organization. If you’ve ever exhibited at any kind of show like this, you’ll appreciate what I mean. And this year, it was held in a larger, more modern and more well-lighted venue, so that’s always fun to experience a new place.

Then yesterday, I christened my new author/publisher consulting business with its first exhibit table at the First Annual Pocono Writers Conference. That was also fun — got to participate in the day-long, multiple panel discussions with a nice array of professional writers, while introducing my new Indie Navigator consulting service to attendees. And for a first-time event, it was well put together and covered a lot of ground in writing-related topics. Thanks os much to fantasy author Michael Ventrella for organizing the event, and to the Eastern Monroe Public Library for hosting.

All this activity reminds me of one of the things I love best about being a writer: the fellowship. As with any group that develops around a common interest, writers are a varied lot, often with just that one thing in common. But writing is one of those pursuits that’s most often longer on intrinsic personal value than commercial remuneration, so those who heed its calling tend to be a passionate bunch. And I love that.

Writers have something of a reputation as egotists and poseurs, and to be sure, those people definitely have their place among our ranks. But my personal experience when meeting other writers at conferences and author events and book festivals is most often one of cordial give-and-take among a group of uncommonly kind and generous people genuinely interested in supporting each other. I have had the same experience among independent publishers, especially at large industry gathering like Book Expo America. I truly believe there is no more giving trade group than the people in indie publishing.

This may be true in other industries, I don’t know. I never really got that involved in such trade groups when I worked in advertising or graphic design. Or auto mechanics or law enforcement for that matter…but I digress.

My point is that, while writers necessarily spend a great deal of time working in a solitary environment that offers little opportunity for social interplay, writers’ conferences, workshops and author events offer that chance on an intense level. I have learned over the years to take advantage of such opportunities when they present themselves, because it’s not just a matter of catching up on the latest industry trends and other things I should be professionally aware of; it’s also a rare chance to interact on a social and professional level with others who’ve chose this solitary pursuit, as well. And that’s solid gold.

An excellent example is just such an author event I had the good fortune to attend, Local Authors Night hosted by the Barnes & Noble situated between Easton and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I got to gather with 50 of my regional scribbler brethren at the busy venue to sell and sign our books and to visit with those who purchased them. It wasn’t a boffo sales coup, but I didn’t care. I happened to have the good fortune to be seated next to bestselling psycho crime author Katherine Ramsland, whom I’d wanted to meet for years. We had a great time chatting and getting to know each other (she’s a weather freak, too — who knew?), and exchanged our latest books. Then, she graciously invited me to guest post on her fantastic blog!

RamslandBlog

So today, I’m sharing that with you here, with the reminder that all authors, however successful, started somewhere and are people just like you and me. And many — even most — of them remember that, even when they’re busy enjoying their rewards, and reach down to help the rest of us up to their level. Just one of the many reasons I love being a writer.

Author Interview, Books, Characterization, Craft, General Writing, Genres, Promotion, Writing process

Author Interview: Thriller Mistress Amy Shojai – Part II

Trailer for Amy Shojai’s thriller Lost and Found. Check out the advance praise at the end! 

 

In honor of today’s release of her latest book, we’re back this week with Part Two of our interview with bestselling author Amy Shojai. Amy’s brought her enormous knowledge of pets and animal behavior to bear on her first novel, Lost and Found. This thriller has a breathtaking premise:  An autism cure will KILL MILLIONS unless a service dog and his trainer find a missing child…in 24 hours. I’ve already read the free excerpt, and that alone was enough to get me into the story. Now I’m getting ready to read the whole book (Full disclosure: Amy has provided me with an advance reader eCopy for review). Can’t wait to dig into it!

But meanwhile, let’s learn more about the author’s writing process and thoughts about this, her first thriller. We left off Part I talking about the book’s characters:

Author Amy ShojaiMe:  Speaking of characters, which do you consider the protagonist of this story: September? Steven? Shadow?

Amy: The main character is September. Shadow is very much the secondary main character.

Me:  And I have to ask: How did you come up with the September character? Is she your alter-ego, and should we expect to see more of her?

Amy:  LOL! I attended the awesome writers conference Thrillerfest this past year and sat in on some terrific seminars presented by bestselling thriller authors. Lee Child commented that in his experience, most protagonists seem to be written as someone better looking, more athletic, taller, thinner, and smarter. Yes, there are parts of September that are similar to me, such as her love of animals and passion for them. But she’s more athletic, taller, thinner, smarter–and younger than me. Oh, and she doesn’t like bling. Pity.

Yes, I do think you’ll see more of September. There are two more books planned at this time.

Me:  As authors, we all have different hopes for each of our books, aside from wanting them to be successful. In your writer’s heart and mind, what does success look like for Lost and Found?

Amy:  Success would be readers enjoying the book, and saying so. It would be having them better understand their dogs’ behavior, realize that cats CAN be trained. And having readers ask…no, demand…to know what happens next.

Me: Yeah, that’ll always be the most excellent reaction from a reader, won’t it? I understand you have a giveaway for Lost and Found on Goodreads.com. Want to share more about that?

Amy:  Thanks for asking! Yes, here’s the link. I will give away three copies of the paperback, and happily autograph the books to the winners–or paw-tograph to their favorite pets. The giveaway runs from September 1 to November 15. Simply follow the link, click “enter to win” and fill in your mailing address. The book releases today on Kindle for those who can’t wait, and will be available in all eBook formats and print shortly thereafter.

Me:  What other events and appearances do you have scheduled to support “Lost and Found?” Anything else you’d like your readers to know about you, your newest book or your career?

Amy Shojai's new book, "Lost and Found"Amy: I’ll be appearing thither and yon on a variety of blogs between now and the first of the year. A book launch and autograph party happens locally in Sherman, Texas in mid-October – date to be determined, because I’m scheduled around a musical play co-written with a friend, that we’re performing earlier that month. And I’ll be speaking at the 20th Anniversary Cat Writers Association Conference the first weekend of November in Los Angeles, and signing books, as well as in Houston the first weekend of January at the Houston Cat Club Cat Show.

Me: Amy, as an author myself, I know what a thrill it is to see and hold your newest book. It never gets old, does it? But I think sometimes readers believe that once we get published, all our books will be bestsellers. If only, right? In reality, we all depend on our readers to support our books by helping us create the buzz they need to get attention. I understand you’ve created an easy-to-follow list of helpful things readers can do to help promote your books. Can we share that here?

Amy:  Sure thing. I appreciate every little bit of support from my readers, and here are a few tips to make it easy for them to help get the word out if they like my books:

READER-ICITY RULES FOR GETTING BOOKS NOTICED

  1. “Like” it (just click the “like” button on the Amazon or Facebook page, for instance).
  2. “Like” the author page. Here’s mine on Amazon.
  3. “Tag” it. These are descriptive words or phrases that help others find the book when they search for it. (On the book page, type TT to open the tag box, highlight the tags and copy into the box, and save).
  4. Read it. Love it. Hate it. Talk about it. Share with friends. Argue about it. Get hissed-off about it. Wag about it. Say it’s GRREEEAAAT! Say it SSSSSUCKS! And then . . . .
  5. Review it (on Amazon, GoodReads, Barnes & Noble, your blog, etc.) ONLY IF YOU REALLY READ IT!

Me:  Great tips! Thanks, Amy, for the interesting interview. And I understand you’ve got a free eCopy of Lost & Found to give away to one lucky reader of this blog — how generous! So, readers, here’s how to enter our giveaway for a FREE EBOOK of AMY SHOJAI’S NEW THRILLER, LOST and FOUND:

  1. Watch the book trailer at the beginning of this post and LISTEN CAREFULLY to the narrator, September, explain her story.
  2. Go to the Contact Form of my blog.
  3. Send me a message with the Subject line: I want to be Lost and Found!
  4. In the message field, tell me something that New York Times bestselling author James Rollins has to say about Lost & Found — it’s in the book trailer.
  5. Of all the correct entries received by midnight on Sunday, September 30, a random name will be pulled from a hat to receive a FREE eCopy of Lost & Found, directly from author Amy Shojai. (Your entry into this contest constitutes your permission for me to share your contact information with Amy.)

So ENTER NOW, and you’ll be one step closer to the edge of your seat with Amy, September and one really smart dog.