Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fantasy & Mystery Author A.J. Walker - Roots Run Deep

Fantasy and mystery author A.J. Walker joins us today at Writers in Business. He is a new voice in genre fiction. An archaeologist and medievalist by trade, his first fantasy novel, Roots Run Deep, was recently released by Double Dragon. LL-Publications will release his mystery novella, Murder at McMurdo, in June. You can check him out at his blog, where he writes his popular Medieval Mondays posts.

Welcome! Tell us a bit about your latest book, Roots Run Deep.

It’s heroic fantasy with a new twist. The tale follows the adventures of Kip Itxaron, a goblin living in a human-dominated kingdom that treats her people as second-class citizens. Kip isn’t very heroic: she’s a semi-reformed thief, an unlucky gambler, and a mediocre sorceress. Unlike a lot of heroic fantasy, her quest doesn’t magically transform her into some superhuman (or should I say supergoblin). It makes her deal with her limitations and try to work beyond them. There’s a romantic element too. As the blurb says:

She fought her way up from a shanty town to a palace in order to change the world, but her hardest challenge was to change herself.

When a small-time goblin gambler falls in love with a deposed human king, the least of her worries is his vengeful usurper. Kip Itxaron has to follow religious visions despite having lost her faith, unite her squabbling people, find the fabled Lost Tribe of Goblinkin, overcome her fear of battle, and somehow be a leader to a people who have never had one.

But that’s nothing compared with loving someone who reminds her of every man she’s ever hated. Human men can barely be called male. Pasty skin, weak bodies. . .they don’t even have tusks! Not to mention that when he was in power he treated her people just as badly as the rest of them. Kip can see he’s changed, but has he changed enough? Can she change enough?

I've been contemplating the ebook format for several of my books. Has it been a positive experience for you?

It’s been a crazy ride. Double Dragon is a great publisher to work with. They’re very professional and helpful during every stage of the editing and publishing process. They made it easy.

The hard part comes now, when I have to promote the book. In these days of the Great Recession nobody is going to promote your book for you. Writers need to interact with their potential readership and earn name recognition. I chose the word “earn” on purpose. Simply spraying the Internet with promotional blather isn’t going to sell any books. You need to entertain and inform people for free before they’ll give you money to do the same. This is why I started the Medieval Mondays series. It’s taken off, getting lots of hits and tweets. Hopefully that will encourage readers to take a chance on my book.

This is my first virtual book tour and it’s a steep learning curve. Any free advice will be highly appreciated!

What have you learned about the business side of writing?

I’m a newcomer in the writing world so I’m not the best person to ask. I think the best advice I can give is to keep your day job. Your first epublished novel is not going to buy you beachfront property in the south of France. What it will do, assuming you promote it enough, is give you a foothold in the publishing world.

I’m amazed by people who write for a living. Sean McLachlan over at Mid-List Writer has his tenth book coming out in October and is a professional blogger as well. He works 50-hour weeks and has to hustle constantly to get contracts. Famous horror writer Brian Keene has published more than 25 novels. He took a hit last year when his regular publisher Dorchester nearly collapsed, but he recovered quickly because he’s become such a name that other publishers scrambled to sign him up. Looking at his hectic tour schedule you can see that this leading writer knows the value of self-promotion and meeting his audience.

The best business strategy for a new writer, or even an experienced one like these guys, is to keep working at your craft and your public profile constantly. It never ends!

Thank you for being with us today. Where can we find your book and how can we learn more about your writing?

Roots Run Deep is available direct from Double Dragon, from the Kindle Store, and from many other outlets that sell ebooks. You can visit me online at AuthorsDen and

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Michelle Dunn's newest book, The Guide to Getting Paid

Michelle Dunn is an award winning author and columnist frequently featured in the Wall Street Journal, CNN and Forbes. She has over 24 years experience in credit and debt collection. Her newest book, "The Guide to Getting Paid, Weed Out Bad Paying Customers, Collect on Past Due Balances and Avoid Bad Debt”, was just released by Wiley Publishing and is now available on Amazon.

How big a problem is debt collection for small businesses, including writers?

Debt collection has always been a problem for small business owners but due to the economy it has become an even bigger problem that is even harder to solve.

Small business owners go into business because they are good at a particular thing, and that is what their business is usually based upon. Most small business owners are not experienced in debt collection and so when it comes up – they have a problem. A problem they don’t know how to avoid, a problem that they don’t realize is preventable and a problem they want to ignore and hope that goes away.

How do you collect the money that is owed to you?

The most effective way to collect any money that is owed to you is to make a personal visit to the person who owes you the money and ask for it. Most business owners do not want to do this – and so I offer the second most effective way to get paid, which is making a phone call.

My advice when someone owes you money:
1. Visit them and ask for it.
2. Start buying your morning coffee where they get theirs – and say good morning.
3. Call them
4. Call them again
5. Keep calling them
6. Send a collection letter
7. Put their account on hold
8. Report the debt to a credit bureau
9. Revoke their credit
10. Send a final notice in a flat rate priority mail envelope
11. Take them to court

What are the most effective/least effective tactics?

Most effective:
Personal visits
Phone calls
Revoking credit
Putting an account on hold
Collection letters sent in non-traditional ways
Offering solutions to continue having a relationship while getting paid
Credit reporting

Least effective:
Ignoring the account and hoping they will pay
Not calling because you don’t want to make them mad
Not having a signed credit application
Not having specific payment terms that the customer is aware of
Not contacting the customer
Accepting their excuses and still not getting paid

These are very helpful suggestions, thank you Michelle. I understand in addition to writing and marketing your books, you are a self syndicated columnist for 10 newspapers and publications as well as an Editorial Advisor for "Collector Mentor" magazine. How can we learn more?

You can reach me online at and

I'm offering a free e-book to your readers for a limited time. It is called "Effective Collections: A Proactive Approach to Credit Management". You can check it out and download a copy here.. You can find my new book on my web site and on Amazon.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Nicole M. Bouchard - Writer, Editor, Instructor

Nicole M. Bouchard is returning to Writers in Business. She is the Editor-in-Chief of The Write Place At the Write Time an online literary magazine which was featured in our April 17th blog. She is also a prolific freelance writer, editor and creative writing instructor. She comes from a mixed background of both journalism and fiction.
Welcome back Nicole. In doing research for our earlier interview, I was inspired by all you do in the literary world and wanted to learn more.

Your published fiction ranges from literary to historical to fantasy. An excerpt of your short story
“Reaching Out to You” won a recent romantic themed writing contest. "One Untruth" a short fiction story, was published in the national literary magazine, Pen Woman. Where do you find your inspiration?

I believe that a story can come about in a myriad of ways; a phrase overheard, a simple everyday gesture, a notion, a dream or impression tugging at your sleeve in want of a form and voice. A fantasy story entitled, “The City of Amaranth” came from a dream I’d had about a golden palace of “gods” who were actually mortal. The story became an unexpected satire touching not only upon deeper spiritual themes but also certain aspects of the publishing world itself and the “gatekeepers” of it, so to speak. “One Untruth", came from a simple 1950s photograph I discovered when moving old boxes to help a friend clean out their basement. I asked about this image of a couple and their children only to find that my impressions about their life together weren’t far from the truth. The story behind the story can be very interesting.

I've seen old photographs like that and often wondered about the stories behind them. How did you get started in your writing career?

I was quite determined and quite young when I chose to be a writer. It was something I’d always wanted to do, a gift I wanted to give myself. I knew it was a ‘difficult’ field yet if not for my own passion for it, I think the field chose me- it was inevitable that we’d meet along the “road less traveled”. I always imagined that it would be good to start young. I remember writing to a male columnist that I’d always admired asking for a few words of advice. Pleasantly enough, he told me that to break into the field at my age couldn’t be done; it was impossible. It would be better if I started in tiny circles and waited. I understood that it wouldn’t be easy, but something about “impossible, can’t, no” has always been oddly motivational for me.

It was about six months later that my first story pitch was accepted and published. I was nineteen doing entertainment journalism a short time later; one of the profiles was of a Broadway actress who I got to meet in person and take a quick back-stage tour of The Phantom of the Opera set with.

To make a long story short, after building my portfolio and taking a turn as a contributing editor, I turned back to my first love of fiction. When those works started being accepted, I was also taking on additional freelance journalism at the time yet wanted more in the literary world. I set myself to thinking about all that I read and experienced in publishing and what kind of a publication I would most want myself. Notebook pages started filling with sketches of what would become The Write Place At the Write Time. Research, consulting with copyright lawyers, design, submission calls and inquiry letters for the first interviews; all were set in motion. To have an incredible team-mate to co-navigate the publication with me as Assistant Editor, I had only to look at my own mentor and creative writing inspiration who’d taught me for so many years- my mother; and so it began as a mother-daughter endeavor to re-imagine the face of online publishing.

At twenty-two, I became one of the youngest members of the NLAPW (National League of American Pen Women).

My heartfelt advice to emerging writers at any age, at any stage is to surround yourself with a support network. Most importantly, believe in yourself and your love of the craft. I was fortunate to have a family that was encouraging me at every step.

Thank you for sharing such wonderful words of encouragement. Writing is such a creative process, it can be challenging to rate the character or quality of one piece over another. That being said, do you have any preferences within your own writing portfolio?

Each piece has its own significance to the writer - closeness to the characters, affinity for theme, etc… Yet if I had to pick out a few pieces that I love most in terms of the entire process of the story, they would be “Fragile Things”, based loosely on a heart-wrenching advice column I kept in a drawer for years, thinking, ‘My God, what happened there?’, "Thief of Shadows" using a fairy tale archetype to delve into the psychology behind a newspaper headline I’d read and "The Age of Victoria" – a historic, emotive piece based on a few first sentences I had written about 9 years ago in a painting class. I hadn’t known much at all about the locale and time period when I first built the outer frame of the story; when I did the research, the elements I’d chosen, such as the protagonist’s vocation, were fittingly accurate. This is where I feel the divine inspiration comes into play.

Thank you for sharing material from your creative writing course, “Passion, Philosophy and Prose: The Power of the Pen". The information is thought-provoking and insightful. Your comments in the first paragraph caught my attention, “One of the foundations upon which I build my continually improved-upon philosophy about the craft of writing, is that often times, the 'rules' are invitations to do something entirely opposite and therefore, utterly original.” Is your goal of the course to help writers explore the inspiration for creative writing or more to learn the mechanics of it?

The first session of the course was this past winter from Feb 23rd - March 23rd. Students are still in contact and it has been such a wonderful experience to see their responses to the different course materials spread out over four sessions (four weeks). The sensory exercises, visualizations were immensely revealing about what they needed or wanted on a deeper level to do with their writing. Each has a unique talent and they rose to all occasions. It’s enlightening to teach because you fall in love with the subject all over again and learn from the perspective of your students. To know that they’ve gotten value out of the course is above and beyond all of the fun we’d had. It's truly about the creative process as opposed to the mechanics- yet it does have some helpful hints and resources for submitting work.

Are there any books you recommend related to the mechanics of writing?

Yes, I do recommend to writers the book “Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript” by Cynthia Laufenberg. It is one of the best for queries, outlines, proposals and nearly any format you would ever need. A book that deals with the mechanics and tools of the craft itself, is "The Portable MFA in Creative Writing" by the New York Writer’s Workshop. They are both, I feel, desk-top essentials in a writer’s office.

Nicole, it’s been a pleasure learning more about your writing. I’m looking forward to following your journey. Readers can learn more by visiting The Write Place at the Write Time. Are there any favorite quotes you would like to share?

Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public. ~ Winston Churchill