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.
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.
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
We've talked much in our blog about the importance of social media and building an author platform through an online presence. As the leaves change color, consider changing your approach as well. It can be a challenge to make time to keep up online presences but as the leaves go on falling, the world of social media goes on spinning. We get feedback from partners all the time on how important it is that an author have a strong presence online when searched for. An author's social media platforms are used in marketing programs, book awards programs, blog tours and reviews, and even purchasers can find you if you put yourself out there where you can be found.
This fall, we encourage all authors to take a fresh look at their platforms by following three simple steps.
Even if you are not a pro at this, what matters is that you stay active. It really is about connecting to other people which may include other authors, readers and fans, or groups that you are interested in.
A few pro tips
Lastly, if you don't have the desire, interest, or time in doing all of this, search for and hire a virtual marketing assistant to help you do all these things . . . and it won't break the bank! You can specify marketing assistants or social media assistants and hire someone to help build your brand, keep your sites fresh, and work with you on connecting to followers. Search on LinkedIn or Google for people in your area (if you want someone local) or work with people around the globe offering their services. You can also find students at local colleges that may be interested in the job or just through people you know and already work with. Ask around!
Sometimes our greatest strengths can come from what we view as our greatest weaknesses. Robin Elno says this idea was a huge inspiration for him when he was writing the Clown William series, which is about a young man, William, who suffers from a physical ailment we now know as Tourette's Syndrome. After being kicked out of his house by his father in the first book of the series, a self-defense situation teaches him that he has astounding accuracy with a six-gun.
The book series follows this unexpected hero through Colorado and New Mexico as he defends himself and those around him with this unexpected talent. And now, Elno has the third installment in the series ready for readers.
Picking up where book two left off, Clown William and the Wind of Vengeance finds William still in New Mexico. In the book, he is obsessed with tracking down and finishing his war with the man he blames for his life turning out the way it has – Jesse Evans.
As always, William is a target for many. He battles an inner conflict, as well, deciding to wait until Jesse is out of a compromising position before making his attempt on Jesse’s life. William is in a race against his own inner tornado . . . Will he beat it before it takes him out?
Robin Elno brings his experience as a retired army colonel and semiretired psychiatrist to this book series. He says he was also inspired by neurologist Oliver Sacks’s work about the unusual speed and accuracy often displayed by people with Tourette’s syndrome. The third installment in this series, Clown William and the Wind of Vengeance, is now available for pre-sale at both Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com. And, until then, here’s a little sneak peek . . .
An isolated cabin in the New Mexico wilderness, February 1878
A bullet splintered the wood window casing of the cabin where William waited to kill Jesse Evans. William ducked lower. Things had not gone as planned, though one of Jesse’s men lay dead on the snow-covered ground a few yards in front of the cabin. Jesse hid in the tree line fifty yards away, cracking away with his rifle at William.
“You’re a damn fool, William,” Jesse shouted and fired again. “I know you’re fast, but a six-gun against a rifle?”
“This d-d-day has been coming for three years.” William watched the trees, trying to spot Jesse’s position. “Hoot. Ever since you first put a gun in my hand.”
“Seems more like God’s act than mine,” Jesse bellowed. “He’s the one made you defective with your jerks and mumbles. It was me helped you discover the gift that came with that curse.”
“It is no gift.” William fired at the trees. “I hate being a gunfighter. But you and God made it so I have no other choice. I despise you both for it.”
“Your hatred addled your brain. You let yourself be caught under my gun like this.” A shot, the bullet digging another splinter from the cabin wall, punctuated the statement.
The muzzle flash marked a spot in the trees, creating a perfect target for the next time Jesse fired—provided the outlaw didn’t shift to a new spot. William goaded him into another shot. “Your men killed my friend. You drove away my girl, Emily. Sheek, poot. You ruined my chances for a real home in Lincoln.”
“Well, when it comes to killin’, your Regulator pals ain’t any better. How many of Brady’s men have they killed? And locked Sheriff Brady up in his own jail. This war ain’t personal. Hell, I offered you a job on my side.”
“This is personal. I am not riding with those murdering Regulators now. This is about me f-f-finding a place to settle down, in peace.”
“Why're you gunnin’ for me?”
“Because God is out of my reach.”
“And so am I.” A muzzle flash just where it had been before.
William snap fired. And waited.
The sun climbed the sky, and the branches of the trees shed their white sleeves. Ice crystals glistened in the receding snow banks. The air lay still and cold as the top of a frozen stream. The dead man he’d shot that morning sprawled in front of the cabin. The man’s horse stood in the open, its head down, nuzzling snow aside as it pulled at tufts of dry grass.
The waiting dragged on. Was there some way to draw Jesse out? With one eye on the tree line, William threw a side of bacon onto the griddle of the potbelly stove heating the rough-hewn cabin. A pot of coffee simmered beside it—a nice welcoming scent to torment a cold and hungry man. He hoped it would make Jesse act rashly. Come and get it, William thought, revolver ready in his hand.
The bacon crisped and the coffee boiled. Jesse did not take the bait.
William ate the bacon and drank the coffee.
There had been no more shots. All was quiet. Too quiet.
As any author knows, your job is not finished when you finish writing your book. Marketing is key for sales of your book, and, as social media continues to evolve, there are continually more possibilities for how to do this.
Enter the Influencer.
In recent years, influencers have become quite popular, especially in the world of social media. An influencer is someone who has built a following of people that trust and respect their opinions in an area of expertise. Some influencers specialize in fashion, others in food, others in family life, and still others in blogging – just to name a few areas.
Influencers exist, as you may have guessed by now, in the book world, too. And these influencers can be huge assets to you in marketing your book! But, understandably, it can be a daunting task when considering how to go about reaching out to them.
First and foremost, it’s important to look at this like you would any relationship. It should never be entirely one sided. Yes, you want them to do you a favor and promote your book. But don’t forget that, as with anything, these things work best with a symbiotic relationship.
Nice to meet you!
When it comes time to finally reach out, there are a few things you should be certain you do. If you haven’t formally introduced yourself yet, start with that! Keep it brief and personable. Then, give a quick description of your book and why you feel like it connects with her or his area of expertise. When it comes to your ask for support, be clear and concise. Provide them with all resources they will need – obviously a copy of your book, any hashtags or social media handles you would like them to use, as well as any copy you would like them to use when promoting your book.
Show sincere interest
In other words, be sincere. Consider what you can do to help them, as well. If you have the time margin, focus on building a good relationship with the influencer before you ever reach out asking for anything. Simple things like promoting them on your own social media, writing about them in a blog, and sharing things they are working on all contribute to a positive relationship.
This, of course, is easiest to do when you find influencers that genuinely interest and inspire you. Consider who your target audience is, and go from there. For example, if young adults are your target audience, a simple Google search will let you know some influencers in that sphere. Take some time, look through their profiles on social medias, and find a few that you are intrigued by. Give them a follow and begin building the relationship!
Quid pro quo
When it comes to the specific ask for help, be clear with what you want them to do. Consider where their sphere of influence is, and go from there. Do they have a successful blog? Ask them to read and review your book on their blog. Do they have excellent engagement on social media posts? Ask them to post a message of support and a link to buy your book.
If you haven’t heard back from them within a week, follow up in a brief manner. Check that they received the material and let them know you would be happy to answer any questions they may have regarding the information.
Finally, continue to maintain relationships even after they promote your book and continue to follow their posts and offer to promote their content across your sites. You can both be beneficial to each other in the future and become mutually benficial allies in this new online world.
Images by Free-Photos from Pixabay