Fans of Jeffrey F. Meyer may be surprised to know that he was a member of the Franciscan Order and studied to be a priest for seven years. This important time in his life, combined with thirty-five years as a professor of Religious Studies, informs, inspires, and influences his latest novel, Crooked Lines.
Crooked Lines follows Jeffrey's award-winning debut historical fiction novel, A Call to China, heralded by Kirkus Reviews as "An engrossing fictional exploration of family, culture, and what it means to belong in both China and America."
Set in the late 2020s, Jeffrey's latest visionary work of fiction asks the question: Can our hero and his strange band of friends find the courage to restore democracy to an America teetering dangerously on the precipice of authoritarian rule?
When asked about his motivation to write, Jeffrey notes, "Since I retired from UNC Charlotte in 2008, I have spent most of my time writing fiction, a first novel that I could never get right, then A Call to China, now Crooked Lines, and I’m working on another novel, now about half way through the first draft. I consider myself lucky to have this inner urge to write fiction¸ which I suppose was inborn, something in my heart and mind that can’t be fully explained."
And Crooked Lines is no ordinary literary journey. The reader will encounter action, humanity, humor, and serious issues, all wrapped into a framework based upon an abridged translation of the Chinese classic Journey to the West. This pilgrimage story follows a famous Buddhist monk traveling from China to India in order to bring back to his native country all the sacred scriptures that were lacking in China. The monk seems unlikely to succeed.
In Crooked Lines, Bishop Donovan is an ordinary man, neither brilliant nor possessed of heroic virtue. Set in a future where authoritarian governments have taken hold around the world and the planet heads toward a climate disaster, Bishop Donovan and two unlikely companions—an Asian monk and a former pro-football player—risk everything to share a way forward with the world.
Accepting the complexity of all human beings, Crooked Lines also deals with a number of important issues: authoritarian government, the threat of climate change, the intersection of religion and politics, the place of faith in a cynical world, women’s role in traditional religious institutions, and the meaning of success and failure as individuals and institutions strive to realize their ideals.
We chatted with the author about his new novel in advance of it's upcoming release. Crooked Lines is available September 18, 2020 in print and e-Book.
Interview with author Jeffrey F. Meyer
What fact about yourself would surprise your fans?
Readers might be surprised to know that I was a member of the Franciscan Order, studying to be a priest, for seven years. I left the order about a year and a half before ordination, but my time in the Order was very important in my life. I became aware that a number of my colleagues who also left the Order resented the time wasted and years lost. I did not. I felt that I gained a lot by the experience, maybe the most important thing was learning how to live in a community. Another thing was learning of the importance of religion or spirituality in human life, a conviction I have never lost. That conviction is obvious in Crooked Lines, as it is in all my writings, fictional and academic.
Where do you find joy in life?
Exploration and travel. Learning about nature, in the manner of Mary Oliver (for its spiritual meaning), and exploring and foreign lands and peoples. I’ve spent, for example, about three years of my life in Asia, mostly China and Taiwan, amazed and intrigued at times at how different these cultures are from my own, and at other times marveling at how much alike all of us are, from the east or west, as human beings.
Tell us something about Crooked Lines that's not in the summary.
The inspiration for Crooked Lines comes from an Asian source. About three years ago I was reading an abridged translation of the Chinese classic Journey to the West, a sort of pilgrimage story in which a famous Buddhist monk goes from China to India in order to bring back to his native country all the sacred scriptures that were lacking in China. The monk seems unlikely to succeed. He is often diffident, somewhat fussy about his own comfort. How will he be able to make the arduous and dangerous journey across the Silk Road to India? He does it by finding three companions who will accompany and help him, the chief one being Monkey, probably the most popular character in all of Chinese fiction. The three are mischievous, sometimes badly behaved characters as well as “superheroes” so there is a strong element of fantasy in the novel. My aim was to retell this story in a western setting, preserving the serious religious purpose while using elements of fantasy and humor.
What books did you love growing up?
As a kid I remember riding my bicycle to the local library in Cincinnati, where I grew up, and checking out books regularly. I read all the Wizard of Oz series, the Hardy Boys (young detectives) stories, and I recall going through an African period, reading stories about its fascinating animals and terrain. I can remember only one title, Treks Across the Veldt, though I read many. These were books written from the imperialist’s point of view, glorifying the big game hunters and explorers, with the actual people of Africa playing secondary roles as scouts and bearers. But early in my teen age years I began to read adult books that left a permanent mark on my mind, like Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth, about a Chinese farmer and his family. Another was J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. I was also deeply moved by the Anne Frank story.
Why did you pick this particular subject matter to write about?
Besides my love for the original story of Journey to the West, I took up this novel as a way to touch on three issues that I consider crucial at this time in American history, and really, world history. The first is the growth of authoritarian governments around the world and the corresponding weakening of democracy, which can be seen right now in the U.S., China, India, the UK, Poland, Hungary, Brazil and the Philippines. The second is climate change, and the third is the role of women in world religions—name me a single world religion where the patriarchal model does not dominate.
I hope these issues become more tangible as the reader encounters them in real social settings in the novel.
A professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte for thirty-five years, Jeffrey F. Meyer taught Asian religions in the Religious Studies department, with a focus on Buddhism and Daoism. He is married with three grown children and currently living in Davidson, North Carolina.
His first novel, A Call to China, is a Silver winner in the 30th Annual Benjamin Franklin Awards and a finalist in the 13th Annual National Indie Excellence Awards and the 2019 NextGen Indie Book Awards.
Follow the author on Goodreads.
Marsha G. Cook's debut novel, Whispers on the Wind, will transport YA fans into new realms of mystical magic. The author knows a little bit about new realms, too, and shares some insights into her world upon the launch of her book this month.
Growing up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a five-year-old Marsha was known to chat with her maternal grandmother, Nanny Angel. Marsha had plenty of opportunity to witness magical moments raising her own six adopted children. After a career as a YMCA director, Marsha followed her intuition and studied metaphysics and spirituality, leading to her current passion: teaching and co-directing an accredited school of metaphysics and meditation.
These unique experiences inspired Marsha to write her first novel, geared towards helping young people understand their special abilities and insight, and planting the seeds to help them see beyond our three dimensional world.
"Whispers is meant to take you on a journey of discovery," says the author. "As Meems learns there is more to our world than she ever thought, so may the reader discover what's outside the box in their life."
Whispers on the Wind
Now available in print and e-book anywhere books are sold
Mary Elizabeth Emily Mearcham--known to all in her life as Meems--has a gift. She has several actually. She just doesn’t know it. Meems is a psychic. After a frightening experience as a toddler she closed herself off to her gifts. Her Grandmother, who is also quite clairsentient, knows it’s time for Meems to awaken her power. Drawing Meems into the journey of becoming all she is meant to be isn’t going to be easy. Will her fear override her potential? Will darkness stop her from accepting she is no normal girl?
Interview with author Marsha G. Cook
What fact about you would surprise your fans?
At one time, back in high school, I performed in musical theater and was headed to NYC to sing and dance in an off Broadway show.
What makes you the happiest?
Seeing the light shine in another's eyes when the seed I've planted becomes a flower.
What's your favorite scene in 'Whispers'?
I really enjoy the moments in Chapter 21 when Meems meets Emme. How often do people get to chat with a Ghostie?!
What inspired you to write about this particular subject matter?
My gifts as one who sees beyond the three dimensional world we live in began when I was a young child. I've dedicated most of my life to sharing these gifts with others, so that they too will enjoy the enormity and connections that surround us and know how connected to everything in the Universe they truly are and how powerful they may choose to be.
Marsha grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and at the age of five was known to chat with her maternal grandmother; often telling her mother that Nanny Angel was sitting in the corner and all ‘mom’ had to do was talk to her. After raising six adopted children, Marsha returned to the work force as a YMCA director.
Obtaining both a bachelors and master’s degree in holistic nutrition at the age of fifty, she then studied and became ordained as a non-denominational minister with a doctorate in metaphysics and spirituality. This led to a decade-long foray in teaching and co-directing an accredited school of metaphysics and meditation center known as The Nook (Kent Cook Institute). Marsha considers herself a ‘seed planter’, helping people to discover there is more to our world than meets the eye.
Connect with the author on Facebook and Instagram @whispers_on_the_wind.
Instagram is an invaluable tool for authors with a visual model perfect for book covers, and hashtags that focus on the book writer and reader communities, such as #bookstagram #indieauthors #authorsofinstagram and #bookstagrammer. Our guest blogger, Marc Anthony Brown, a writer and comic book editor shares his thoughts on building a community and gaining followers on Instagram.
Building a community on Instagram
By guest contributor Marc Anthony Brown
With each passing year, the online landscape shifts into an entirely different beast that users of all types have to tackle. Algorithm changes can either make or break a creator’s online presence, and a lot of newcomers don’t know where to begin with it all. Hopefully, through my experience, I can help you adapt to this unruly world.
Over the last couple of years, I have operated an Instagram account tailored to Batman/comic book facts. At my peak, I had 142K followers. Nowadays, I currently have around 135k. You may question why the drop? Did I abandon the account or became demotivated? This all goes back to what I mentioned earlier, algorithmic changes. At my peak, I was gaining thousands of followers every week. But suddenly, Instagram decided to update its algorithm, promoting newer accounts on people’s feeds. This negatively impacted my account because while I was posting every day, I was not appearing on my followers’ “Home” feed. This forced many people to unfollow because in their eyes I had not posted in weeks. For any creator, these changes can be discouraging but sometimes the algorithm dictates final law. So what does one do in these scenarios? DON’T STOP! Consistency is key and with the tips, I provided below, you’ll see why.
It is highly unlikely that your account will be like mine and require you to post everyday. Just like your manuscript, some days aren’t going to be filled with exciting updates. That is why I suggest posting sporadically throughout the week. Don’t go several months without posting any content because at that point many of your followers have lost interest in your account. Always find ways to make your post stand out, graphics are a great first step and there are tons of third-party apps that help you add text or stickers to your pictures.
A lot of people assume that spamming down 50+ hashtags makes them garner a lot of engagement with posts. In reality that is the opposite, as it is much more beneficial to find words/tags that are more specific to your story. The hashtag “#author” has over 9.1 Million posts under it, resulting in your chances of appearing in the top/recent tab of that category very minimal. Instead, use a hashtag like #fantasyauthor or #crimenovels. The two tags have 63.6k and 8.3k posts respectively, increasing your chances of popping up on these people’s feeds.
Interacting with Fans/Other Small Accounts:
A large part of my success as a creator over the years is thanks to my interaction with fans. An individual wants to follow you because they enjoy your content but sometimes it can feel impersonal to them. With Instagram, the tools at your disposal for interactions is ever-growing. I encourage you to set aside some extra time in your usual social media posting to talk with your audience or reach out to smaller accounts and ask them to share your page with their audience. You’ll slowly build a community where you can collaborate with one another and share each other’s works. Reply to comments or set up polls with Instagram Stories. The app allows a wide variety of tools that your followers will love to interact with because who doesn’t like pushing a button?
Even with all the tips, I provided for you, this will not be easy. As more people grow accustomed to social media, all this can seem daunting. But consistency is key, just like your writing! As long as you focus on making a welcoming social media environment it will all fall into place.
Bio: Marc Anthony is a student at Ohio University studying English [Creative Writing]. While at school he takes part in different student organizations like Ohio University Odyssey Online as well as the newly formed Puerto Rican club on campus "EL 787". In his spare time, he writes and edits indie comic books hoping to better his craft and runs several comic book social media accounts. Marc Anthony contributes to the publication with writing blogs as well as other behind the scene work! You can follow him @MarcAnthonyCLE on Twitter.
Vince Bailey's second installment in the award-winning Curtis Jefferson series is available August 1st. We thought it was a great time for a conversation with our author about the series and his life as a writer.
Courses of the Cursed
Book 2 Curtis Jefferson series
Available August 1 in print and e-book anywhere books are sold
African American youth Curtis Jefferson is still serving his one-year term at Fort Grant, where a horrific massacre still haunts the inhabitants. In the second book of the Curtis Jefferson series, our hero continues to be challenged by his nemesis, Harvey Huish, while a café owner struggles with a premonition that her nephew will be the victim of a treacherous plot. The parallel stories share a common theme: the curse of Fort Grant.
Vince Bailey’s award-winning Path of the Half Moon—the first book in the Curtis Jefferson series—was the Winner of the Arizona Authors’ Association Literary Award and the Chanticleer International Book Awards for Paranormal and Supernatural Fiction.
Interview with author, Vince Bailey
What fact about yourself would surprise your fans?
I think maybe readers might be surprised to know that I am 70 years old (unless, of course, they've looked at my photo). I say this because the series is given from a teenager's point of view. I believe I can do this quite handily at 70 though, because I'm still 15 in a lot of respects. Just ask my wife.
What brings you joy in your life?
Developments in the lives of my five children gives me my greatest joy. When good kids develop into good people--well, that's the best possible legacy one can leave to this world.
What is your motivation to write?
I think ego is one strong motivator for most authors, and I question the honesty of authors who disagree. People like to do things they are good at and people are usually good at things they like to do. But another thing that motivates me is the feeling I get when I connect on a personal level with complete strangers through my writing. That's electrifying!
What books did you love growing up?
At 10, I loved the Hardy Boys mysteries. At 12, it was Tom Sawyer. At 14, it was A Catcher in the Rye. At 15, it was Lord of the Flies. At 16, it was Lord of the Rings. At 17, it was The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. At 18, it was One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. At 20, it was One Hundred Years of Solitude. Quite the variety! Of course there were many in between--I was a voracious reader. These are just the standouts.
Tell us something about Courses of the Cursed that's not in the book blurbs.
Courses of the Cursed was once a part of a continuous 1200-page work. Being a neophyte novelist and having no knowledge of publishing protocols, I let my characters run away with my "book," paying no heed to its burgeoning size. My agent read it through, loved it, and promptly set me to work breaking it into three manageable stand-alone books. It was a year-long task of recreating, deleting, and weaving chapters together, seeking a good blend of sovereignty and continuity. The result is the Curtis Jefferson/Fort Grant series: Path of the Half Moon, Courses of the Cursed, and the upcoming Merging Paths.
When did you first realize a desire to write?
I recall writing my own comic book versions of Flash Gordon episodes. Not that I plagiarized the story lines--those were mine--but I did steal the characters and the interplanetary settings. I think I was eight at the time. Throughout the years, I've written news stories, magazine articles, opinion pieces and a few short stories. I currently pen a monthly column in a nationally published trade magazine. All the time I wondered when I would find the time to write the Great American Novel (I was and still am a full-time employee of a commercial construction firm).
About 15 years ago, I gave up wondering and started to write Path of the Half Moon, a chapter at a time. It took a good twelve years of piecemeal writing on evenings and during weekends to produce the 1200-page Jeremiad described above. I am still polishing the 3rd book in the series. It never ends.
Vince Bailey grew up in Central Arizona, starting in the late nineteen-fifties. His youthful experiences there contribute significantly to the nostalgic aspect of his fiction writing. Courses of the Cursed is the second book in the award-winning Curtis Jefferson series. His debut novel, Path of the Half Moon, is the Winner of the Arizona Authors’ Association Literary Award and the Chanticleer International Book Awards for Paranormal and Supernatural Fiction.
Vince has also been published in several college and local newspapers, and for the past ten years he has penned a column for a nationally distributed trade periodical. Mr. Bailey currently resides in Peoria, Arizona, with his wife, Rita. He's currently working on the next book in the Curtis Jefferson series. Follow the author at www.vincebaileyauthor.com.
As you celebrate our country's birthday this weekend, take a moment to celebrate yourself! Whether you're a reader or a writer, take a moment to love your self and your work this holiday weekend. For anyone who writes a novel or a blog or even a letter or email pat yourself on the back! Completing any creative work takes dedication and bravery -- to put yourself out there. We appreciate all of our authors and fans and wish you all a happy 4th of July!
And if you're looking for something to look forward to, here it is! New releases coming soon to everywhere you buy books!
Available August 1
Courses of the Cursed
Book two in Vince Bailey’s award-winning Curtis Jefferson series brings back African American youth Curtis Jefferson as he battles the curse of Fort Grant. Winner of the Arizona Authors’ Association Literary Award and the Chanticleer International Book Awards for Paranormal and Supernatural Fiction, the Curtis Jefferson series presents an edgy and thrilling escape from the ordinary.
Connect with the author at VinceBailey.com
Available September 1
Whispers on the Wind
Mary Elizabeth Emily Mearcham, known to all in her life as Meems has a gift. She has several actually. She just doesn’t know it. Meems is a psychic. After a frightening experience as a toddler she closed herself off to her gifts. Her Grandmother, who is also quite clairsentient, knows it’s time for Meems to awaken her power. Drawing Meems into the journey of becoming all she is meant to be isn’t going to be easy. Will her fear override her potential? Will darkness stop her from accepting she is no normal girl?
A new novel by award-winning author, Jeffrey F. Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer's new novel explores the vision of a few brave souls hoping to restore democracy to an America teetering dangerously on the precipice of authoritarian rule.. This visionary work of fiction takes readers into new realms as it follows a man who wants to effect a positive change in the world, but possibly at his own peril. The journey will take him . . . in crooked lines.
Connect with the author on Goodreads
Fireworks Image by Gerd Altmann/Pixabay
As we’ve discussed before, your author brand is crucial to your success as an author. A huge part of this brand is marketing. Your content, social media, and overall marketing strategy are all critical components of you and your book's presence to readers and potential fans. But sometimes it can seem like a lot to manage, right? What if we told you that you didn’t actually have to do it all on your own?
What is a virtual assistant and how can one help me as an author?
Having a virtual marketing assistant is useful on all fronts of the marketing side of your brand. A virtual marketing assistant can do things like reach out to book bloggers and influencers for reviews, create newsletters to go out to your readers, and create content and manage your social media. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t have a hand in the marketing side of things, but it will significantly alleviate the pressure on you to perform all marketing tasks on your own.
Make a list of tasks you want help with
Ideally, once you hire a virtual assistant, you will create a list of tasks for him or her to perform. This list will, of course, vary from author to author. It’s important to know what tasks you want your virtual assistant to accomplish before you even search for one to ensure that you hire exactly who you’re looking for.
Some things to consider putting on the list could be:
A good way to determine what to have your virtual assistant work on is to make a list of things you either dislike or avoid and things that don’t really need your direct input. By doing this, it frees you up to work on the things that do need your direct input – like edits to your manuscripts, important meetings, and speaking engagements. A clear idea of what you want your virtual assistant to do makes it easier on both of you moving forward.
Budget to fit your needs
Virtual assistants typically operate as freelance contractors – similar to graphic designers or marketing specialists. When you hire one, you’ll typically pay somewhere between $10-$25/hour, depending on the virtual assistant’s skill level and experience (some may cost more but if you keep searching, you'll find the right fit). This makes it easy for you to stay within a budget, because a virtual assistant will work within the budget you set. For example, if you have a budget of $150 and you find a virtual assistant who charges $15/hour, you can request 10 hours of specific tasks and know that you will stay within your budget and get done what needs to get done. You can also work with the freelancer to create a monthly budget for a specific number of hours. For example, you can hire someone to manage all your social media platforms by setting a set number of posts per week (say 1-3) across your platforms (say, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter), and agreeing on a package prices with your freelancer (say, $150 per month for no more than 10 hours of time). It often helps to have a discussion with a potential freelancer about how they prefer to work, but the effort is worth it!
How to find a virtual assistant
So now that you have a general idea of what a virtual assistant is and how they can help you with the marketing side of your job, you might be wondering how to find one! There are several different ways to find a virtual assistant, but we’ll give you tips on some of the easiest ways.
Start with a simple Google search. Searching “Virtual Marketing Assistant United States” will yield different companies through which you can hire a virtual assistant. Of course, not every company will be a perfect fit, so you’ll need to set aside some time to look through the list of companies and search by the set of skills you’re looking for to find the perfect virtual assistant for you.
A popular site to hire freelancers through is Upwork. If you visit their website, there is an option on the homepage to find a freelancer in the “Admin Support” field. You can then select the “Virtual/Administrative Assistance” option.
Another great way to find a virtual assistant or social media manager is through LinkedIn. You can search for local people in your network with expertise specifically in social media and marketing, content creation, or managing your schedule, if that's what you need.
Belay services offers website and social media specific support as well. Learn more on their website about how to work with their assistants.
Take the time up front for future success with your VA
Although it may take some extra time up front to sit down and come up with a game plan for hiring a virtual assistant, it will save you time in the long run. Hiring a virtual assistant is a great way to prevent yourself from burning out on the tasks you don’t enjoy as much about your job. If, after reading this, you’re interested but still unsure if a virtual assistant is the best option, remember that you can start small! Try hiring a virtual assistant for just one or two small tasks at first to ease yourself into it, and then go from there. There’s no exact formula for what your virtual assistant needs to do, so you have the freedom and liberty to craft it to what you need specifically. With a little research, patience, and open-mindedness, you may find exactly what you're looking for to help boost and maintain your author platform.
We hope all our readers, authors, followers, and fans are staying safe and finding the light during all the recent darkness - family, friends, community. As you are finding ways to stay connected during COVID, don't forget to spend a little time reading (or writing if you're so inclined!).
We have some great new titles coming soon that we're previewing below. You'll see some new authors and some you already love, but all these new novels are poised to thrill, inspire, and entertain. They'll be on sale soon at your favorite book outlet online!
Author Robin Elno's latest installment in the award-winning Clown William series enjoyed a successful virtual blog tour throughout February. IngramElliott Publishing partnered with Premier Virtual Author Book Tours for several stops at prominent book bloggers around the globe, including reviews, excerpts, and exclusive interviews with author Robin Elno. Thanks to our reviewers and fans everywhere for their tremendous support for Clown William and the Wind of Vengeance!
Enjoy the reviews below as well as two special author interviews hosted by International Book Promotion and Teddy Rose Book Reviews.
Praise for Clown William and the Wind of Vengeance
The story is highly spectacular, with the author taking his time in matters of character development with his writing being so vivid and well researched. Elno paints a vivid landscape that transports the reader. For western fiction literature lovers, Clown Williams is an outstanding masterpiece which is not only worth your time but also deserves a place on your shelf.
-Gud Readers review, Goodreads
Author Robin Elno is on tour! Robin's latest installment in the award-winning Clown William series will be touring review blogs from February 3 - 28. IngramElliott Publishing is very excited to be partnering with Premier Virtual Author Book Tours on several stops at prominent book bloggers around the globe. The tour features reviews, excerpts, and exclusive interviews with Rob
You can follow Robin's Tour Schedule and enter a giveaway at Virtual Author Book Tours.
About the book
.A gunfighter with Tourette’s and a quick draw . . . Book three in the award-winning Clown William series finds William on the run. William blames Jesse Evans for starting this violent life and wants to pay him back, but first he must stop the bounty hunters on his trail and defeat his own internal tornado—before becoming a victim.
About the author
Robin Elno is a retired army colonel, semiretired psychiatrist, and full-time author. He lives in San Antonio, Texas, where he is an active member of the San Antonio Writers' Guild. Elno’s Clown William series was inspired by the work of neurologist Oliver Sacks, who wrote about the unusual speed and accuracy often displayed by people with Tourette’s syndrome. Intrigued by the idea that strengths can rise from differences, Elno created the unique and compelling character of William. Elno’s novels are often set against true historical backdrops like the Wild West.
Holiday Gift Guide 2019