Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Interview with R. J. Palmer: How to Saddle Your Imagination and Ride It

Since my blog is about creativity, I'm especially interested in your creative process as a writer and also how you came to develop and believe in your creativity.

Most people might call it a little airheaded when I say that it didn’t hit me until I was in my early twenties that I even had talent and potential as a writer. Really when I finally understood that I wanted to be a writer it was one of those “facepalm” moments and I wanted to berate myself by saying, “Why didn’t you think of that before, you twit? DUH!” I really wasn’t that hard on myself or anything but I wanted to be primarily because, well, I was so OLD when I started writing. Ah well, better late than never I suppose.

Would you describe yourself as a creative child? Did you make up stories or express creativity in other ways?

Looking back on it, yes I can say that I was a very creative child. I could rock a brainstorming session and my parents tried to push me toward drawing but I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler, so that was out. My best drawings were the happy face doodles on my folders when I was bored in school. Other than that, I read a lot and had an insatiable appetite for the written word. Honestly, if someone couldn’t find me, I was curled up somewhere with a book I didn’t want to put down. When I wasn’t reading or drawing horridly lopsided and disfigured cartoons on my school folders, I couldn’t shut up. That probably should’ve been a clue to parents and teachers alike.

Your autobiographical notes are quite intriguing. You describe yourself as having an over-active imagination that finally got channeled into writing. Do you find other useful outlets for your imagination when you're not writing?

Does cooking count? I have several taste testers around the house, just ask the kids and every once in awhile, I’ll experiment with something new. Sometimes it turns out and sometimes it doesn’t but it’s never fun or interesting if you don’t try. If I don’t write or have some kind of creative outlet, I’ve figured out that I can’t sleep so well because I can’t get the rampaging thoughts that are swirling chaotically around in my head to settle down for long enough to fall asleep. It’s horrifying when I’m getting to a really good part in a book I’m writing because I’ll toss and turn until the wee hours of the morning if I don’t either get up and write or concentrate on clearing my mind.

What inspired you to write Birthright?

Sheer unadulterated penniless boredom. I had had the idea for Birthright revolving around in my head for years and just hadn’t acted on it so when I was out of money and totally at loose ends one winter I just sat down and started to write. Birthright came out and I discovered a passion for writing. Writing is now something of an addiction for me. I gotta get my fix!

What methods do you use to enhance your creativity (i.e., certain music, total solitude, etc.)

When I was writing Birthright, it was nothing less than Mozart all the way and it did the trick. Now that I’m writing Sins of the Father, I like total quiet because it helps me focus and center myself. Sometimes I wish someone would tell that to the kids and the dog. I can’t complain too much though because the dog hangs adoringly on my every word and it strokes my inner ego-centric.

How do you get yourself back in motion when you get stuck?

Sometimes when I’m writing something that’s just everyday stuff I have to slog through it and get on with it. I was plagued up until a few months ago with the most horrible case of writer’s block ever though and it took me months to get past it. I tried everything from the advice of others to reading back over my own work to see if there was something there that might spark my creativity and nothing until I sat back and almost gave up to start writing another project. At that point it was like BLAM! Something went off in my head and I’ve been writing every spare moment since pretty much. I guess I just needed to quit beating my head against the figurative brick wall and relax.

How does a mother of six find time to write?

All kids go to school and sleep sometime. I love early in the morning when the kids first go off to school because the house is quiet and I can write. I hate getting up at six a.m. to get them off to school but I guess that little sacrifice is worth it in the end. I do so love school!

Do your children inspire your creativity?

All the time, my dear. I look at the little things the kids do and the funny little ways they act and whether anyone knows it or not, which is something I’m sure no one ever really will know, I incorporate small aspects of my children’s personalities into my writing. It helps to make the characters come alive for me and maybe someday the children will notice this and realize how much I cherish them. Then again, maybe not.

Do you feel that being an indie writer gives you greater scope for your creativity and literary imagination?

I’ve never regretted the decision to go Indie because I have free license to make professional and creative decisions that I wouldn’t otherwise have. I have creative control over my own work and when my work comes out in publication, it looks a lot more like me and my work. It echoes my thoughts and personality more than it would if I had to deal with a publishing house and though I’m not contemptuous of the work and sacrifice that traditionally published authors have had to go through, I can smile and say, “Glad it’s them and not me.” That rocks!

What advice would you give someone who is hesitant to express his/her creative urges?

Disregard everyone else because I’m guessing someone somewhere down the line was very jealous and made a tart or rude comment that turned you off to the idea of being creative. They need to shut up and get real because they’re always going to be the voice inside your head that says you can’t do it when you know you can. It’s far better to be yourself, be creative and fall flat on your face than never to bust out with what could be the next great work whether written or drawn or sung. I can respect having tried and failed because at least you tried and you learned from your failure. Build on that. If you don’t ever try, you can’t fail and that will never garner anyone’s respect, including my own. Wouldn’t you be kicking yourself in the posterior for years if you didn’t and someone else did?

Description of Sins of the Father:

A minister losing touch with his faith…

A severely autistic child with no past, no present and no real future…

An evil older than time itself…

When the boy Lucian is thrown into Aaron’s life with nowhere else to go all hell breaks loose and Aaron confronts things he never actually imagined could really exist in an effort to save one small, tortured child.


Aaron’s dreams, if they could be called such with their nightmarish quality, were dark and angry and brutal. Blood and fire; there was blood and fire everywhere and no matter where he ran, he could not get away. The blood and the fire chased him and no matter where and how fast he ran, he was endlessly pursued. Disembodied laughter and a voice echoed in his consciousness as well and they were filled with undiluted malice. He didn’t know what the voice was saying; the language was not familiar to him. The wealth of loathing and bitter rage that were infused into both the voice and the laughter were though and he shied away from them both even if he could not escape them.

There was also a great infinite black that was his constant albeit unwanted companion. It shadowed and followed him with lethal intent and an unquenchable thirst and that thirst was for blood. He didn’t know how he knew that but he did for there was a constant feeling or portent running through his dreams apace with the blood and the fire. It was as if whatever chased him doggedly in those dreams was whispering something to him that he could not hear with his ears, only with his deepest secret heart.

He tried desperately to ignore it but it would not be ignored. He tried with everything he was to run away and could not escape it. He tried to confront it but there was nothing there to confront. There was an invisible nemesis driving him to the trembling edge of madness from the confines of his dreams that would not be silenced or stilled and he couldn’t get that one idea out of his head.

Vengeance thirsts for blood…

Birthright is available at:



Visit R. J. Palmer's blog.

The Sins of the Fathers will be available in April, 2011.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dreams Come True: Interview with Camelia Miron Skiba

My guest this week is Camelia Miron Skiba. She grew up dreaming that anything is possible as long as you want it badly enough." For a blog about the power of creativity, no statement could be more appropriate. I hope you will be inspired by this interview.

Would you describe yourself as a creative child? Did you make up stories or express creativity in other ways? And how would you say that growing up in Romania, under a Communist regime, affected your creative growth?

Growing up under communism stripped us of many things—pride to be a Romanian, loyalty to a government that was busy fattening up their accounts rather than protecting its citizens, belonging to a nation older than most nations in Europe—but what it didn't take away from us was the freedom to dream and be creative.

Without electricity and food we learned to entertain ourselves making up games and toys. My sisters and I had one doll each. Summer vacations were spent in remote villages where we weren't allowed to take our dolls for fear they might be destroyed. Empty boxes and sticks then became our toy dishes. Corn replaced our dolls, sometimes taking us hours walking between rows of corn to pick the perfect doll. Blond or redhead, the longer the hair (meaning the silk on the corn) the better. Twigs formed the limbs. My mom's aunt used to be a seamstress and her leftover fabrics made for awesome clothing. Dirt and water was the best dessert our dolls had ever tasted. Leaves made for perfect beds where princesses slept until knights came to rescue them...
In looking back, they might've resembled anything, but dolls. But to us they meant as much as to a girl playing with her first Barbie.

I might not have had an abounding childhood, but I definitely grew up creating heavenly worlds, and dreaming that anything is possible as long as you want it badly enough. I should know that—I now live the American dream.

Your creativity as a child was so beautifully expressed. As a child, did you also write stories and/or dream of becoming a writer? If not, when did this dream become compelling? What did it take for you to realize it?

There is no other way to say other than: as a child I sucked at writing. Period. I always looked for ways out to escape going to school (eating chalk to fake fever, tons of ice cubes for sore throat, etc—thank God my mom doesn’t read English, otherwise she'd wrinkle her brows at me for all the lies I've told her).

On the other hand, my older sister Lumi wrote a love story while in high school. I got sucked in from the first page and fell in love with the heroes. I laughed with them, cried with them, felt my heart melt at the sight of them, lived life through their eyes. Unfortunately my sister hid the notebook so well I couldn’t find it again and I often wonder if they had the happily-ever-after ending.

Since then all I've done was to create stories in my head, heroes and heroines looking for love and eventually finding it. Well, fast-forward 20 years later, my son asked me one summer day what were my childhood dreams. I told him about the love story my sister had written and how much I wished I could do it. He said, "Why wouldn't you? You have nothing to be afraid of. Just sit and write." For some reason his trust, his words compelled me to do it.

And here I stand with one book published, a second one to be released end of this year and several other stories outlined. Yes, I can do it.

What a moving story about your son. I can sense how important he is in your life.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems safe to say that the idea of writing romances has drawn you since you read your sister's story. I also imagine that growing up in a very unromantic environment, i.e., Communist Romania, may have heightened your desire to imagine a more emotionally fulfilling world.
Getting down to the basics of writing, how fully do you outline before you are ready to write? What kind of research is necessary for your books? Do you find that the characters sometime or often guide you in the story, dialogue, etc?

My son means the world to me. Without his encouragements each time I doubt myself, without his shoulder to cry on when I can’t find my words, none of my stories would’ve been on paper.

My debut novel “Hidden Heart” took me only three months to write the first draft. That was back in 2009. Then I put it aside, starting another story. In parallel I took several online creative writing classes, read lots of books about the English grammar, sentence structure (English is my third language, so I had a lot of learning to do). Then I went back to my first draft and picked it apart, chapter for chapter. With the help of my amazing critique group (at that time only Cindy C Bennett and Jeffery Moore, now we added a new member, Sherry Gammon) I finished a second draft. I had then found three other people who very graciously agreed to read and edit the book. “Hidden Heart” was ready for publishing and saw the printing light seven months ago, end of March.

Since then I went back to finish the story I started while taking the break from “Hidden Heart.” It’s a contemporary war romance titled “A World Apart”, half of the story set in my native Romania, the other half in Iraq. Let me tell you, this has been an experience beyond anything I have ever imagined. We all know what war means—attacks, explosions, army, wounds, victims, etc—but to have a believable story I had to read lots of military documents, learn the acronyms they use. To make it even harder, both my heroine and my hero are doctors, which means I had to switch gears and learn a lot of medical terms, medical lingo, etc. I watched lots of documentaries portraying the Iraq war as well as war movies. I think I spent more time doing research than actually writing the story.

As for my characters … well, sometime they really misbehave. Not the “Hidden Heart” protagonists. They’ve been so eager to leave the small confinement of my brain, they were happy with their story. But the “A World Apart” ones, oh, boy!, talk about stubbornness at its core and class A negotiators—it’s either their way or they don’t talk to me. I had a secondary character set to die, but I had to change the story, otherwise the main characters were done, as they so (ungraciously) put it. The novel was on standby for a month until I gave up, threw my hands in the air and let them have it. I wrote five chapters in less than a week!

How I know those characters who insist on running the show, and I am very grateful for them. I can only imagine the vast amount of research you had to do.
I'd like to hear your thoughts on choosing the path of an independent author. Do you feel a great freedom in choosing subject matter, for instance?

Absolutely! Since I’m a controlling freak choosing self-publishing route was the best-suited venue for me. I write what I want and how I want. My critique group influences me, but they don’t alter the story. I’m in complete control over book size, format, cover, price, where it’s distributed, marketing, everything. I choose how many books a year I want to write, and determine my own publishing dates. To sum it all, I run my own show.

I've learned so much about you and your writing habits. Thanks for being so forthcoming. Are there any last remarks you'd like to make?

Thanks for having me over, Connie. Really enjoyed it.

For more information about Camelia, please visit her website

Her first novel “Hidden Heart” came out in March 2011. Her second novel “A World Apart” is coming out in December 2011.
Hidden Heart can be found at:

Barnes & Nobles


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Interview with Author Mike Cooley

Mike Cooley, a 9-to-5 engineering consultant, musician, Egypt enthusiast, and husband and father, tells us how these various factors influence his writing.

Since my blog is about creativity, I'm especially interested in your creative process as a writer and also how you came to develop and believe in your creativity.

I consider my creativity and imagination to be my strongest abilities as a writer. My process has evolved over time from just having a basic idea or concept (“What if?”) and building a story around it to being more organized and character-driven. Until last year I was primarily a short story writer. I grew up reading science fiction and fantasy books, which fueled my imagination. I am attracted to writing that is very visual and deals with the nature of existence, so I try to incorporate some of those things in my own writing.

Would you describe yourself as a creative child? Did you make up stories or express creativity in other ways?

I think my parents would say I was off the charts with creativity and curiosity. I was always taking things apart and putting them back together.

My Dad loves to tell the story about when I bought my first computer (Apple II+) and the next day I had it completely apart. He was astonished when I put it back together and it still worked. I read every science fiction and fantasy book in the library while I was in grade school, and took Creative Writing (mostly because I wanted to avoid Speech Class). I wrote short stories and poetry as well. I taught myself electronics and used to build all kinds of circuits.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I started my first novel many years ago. I’ve always had a love for “artifact” stories, so I wanted to write a novel that was about magical artifacts (in this case crystals) that each had unique powers. I am also very fond of strong female characters so I wanted the story to revolve around a female warrior that would be able to use the crystals. I was excited about writing a novel set in a world that had no ties to Earth, so I could make everything up from scratch.

You're a musician as well as an author. Do you find that these creative paths affect each other in distinct ways?

Very much so. My music is all original and I primarily operate as a one-man band. I find music to be inspiring in many ways, and I find that writing lyrics IS storytelling. It’s just a lot more like poetry than novels. I think that writing music has taught me that sometimes the things you don’t say can be as important as the things you do say. You don’t have to say everything and spell everything out. Let the reader (or listener) write some of the story in their own head.

I notice your interest in Egypt. How does this involvement feed into your creative paths?

The trip to Egypt was completely due to my wife’s involvement in Middle Eastern Dance (she’s a belly dancer and instructor). I was not that enthused about going, but it was a rather amazing place. I’m glad I went. I’m writing a non-fiction book about it now called Before The Revolution – 13 Days In Egypt. I have many ties to Egypt even predating the trip.

One of my good friends had a music site called Anubes (spelled differently on purpose) where a small group of us used to hang out and work on our craft. I have worn an Eye of Horus ring for many years (along with a Thor’s Hammer necklace). That’s kind of the way I am. I don’t play by the rules.

I find various mythologies fascinating. And I experienced things in Egypt that I carry with me. It is a powerful place emotionally and intellectually.

What are your literary influences?

I have many influences. And I’ve met many writers at science fiction conventions over the years. To name just a few of my favorites, I would say: Phillip K. Dick, James Tiptree Jr., Roger Zelanzy, Theodore Sturgeon, H.P. Lovecraft, Samuel Delany, Stephen King, and Harlan Ellison. That should give you a flavor for the kind of writing I’m drawn toward.

You work as an engineering consultant during the day and write at night. How do you switch gears?

It’s not easy. The biggest challenge for me is finding time to write. I’m so busy at work and at home that often, by the time I have an hour to write, I’m too tired to concentrate. If I have time to sit down, I can fall right back into the story pretty easy. I also tend to work on three or four writing projects at a time, so I switch around a lot. I’m a terrible single-tasker, but I multi-task well. I used to get upset at not being able to concentrate on one thing at a time, but now I just accept that that is how I am and deal with it.

How does having a child in your life enhance your creativity?

Kieran constantly reminds me of the most important thing about storytelling: capturing the sense of wonder. He is so unlike me in many ways. He’s much more social than I ever was. And he needs that social feedback and support. I was a loner as a kid, and it really didn’t bother me that I didn’t fit in. It was a source of pride for me that I was different.

He is a good example for me and I draw things from his words and actions that sometimes end up in the more playful characters I write.

Do you feel that being an indie writer gives you greater scope for your creativity and literary imagination

I absolutely feel that being an indie is where I was meant to be. My story is my story. I feel very strongly about that.
Other than spelling and grammar editing, I WANT to be on the line for every word I write. I am happy that I’m not locked into deadlines (other than the ones I impose on myself), and I love that I can write in multiple genres if I want to. I cover a lot of my reasoning in my non-fiction rant Traditional Publishing Is My Bitch.

What advice would you give someone who is hesitant to express his/her creative urges?

My advice is: life is short to not do what you love. Don’t be afraid to fail. Somewhere out there are readers that will instantly understand what you are saying. They will hang on every word and make you proud. You are good enough.

And you will get better. Without risk there is no reward. Just do it! Don’t make me come over there!

Now that you've met Mike, get to know his work.

The Crystal Warrior: Legend of the Crystals.

Skin of Giants

Visit him at

and at Twitter: @last_writes

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Interview with Author Dana Taylor

This week I interviewed Dana Taylor, author of several books. Her writing will be of special interest to those reading this blog because she writes stories to uplift the spirit. Her work as an energy healer influences her tales of flawed humans seeking spiritual and emotional healing.

CB: I've noticed that those who become authors often are highly imaginative as children. Some want to create their own stories shortly after they learn to read. Some enjoy solitude. Others have imaginary playmates. Are there events and patterns in your childhood that you can look at and realize that they helped to propel you into your writing journey?

DT: Definitely! I was an only child and enjoyed the company of my many imaginary friends. I also had an old black and white TV in my room for company. I loved to sing and perform the catchy theme songs of the day—“Gilligan’s Island,” “Beverly Hillbillies,” and “I Dream of Jeanne” come to mind. I remember jumping on my bed and pretending I was the “Swamp Fox.” When I was writing the campy Royal Rebel, I channeled a lot of my power-girl fantasies.

My latest release, Hope for the Holidays, is a collection of short stories. This summer I enjoyed writing Patty’s Angels, which is inspired by my childhood in Los Angeles of 1960. My mother drove into downtown LA to work as a choir director. A woman with a checkered past named Geri became my “Sunday mother.” It was fun to imagine how a couple of angels might have influenced people’s lives.

Last week I was with my 3 year old grandson, Will. All week long we made up stories about a turtle named Mack and his dinosaur friend, Ned. I told him his imagination is his best toy! Maybe he’ll be a writer someday like his “Nina.”

CB: Telling him his imagination is his best toy is the best gift you could ever give him.

That brings me to the subject of elements that can short-circuit imagination.You and I share the desire to express what we believe in our fiction. In my first book, Big Dragons Don't Cry, that meant working with the idea that a large percentage of human problems come from their alienation from and disrespect for other life forms.

That's potentially a heavy theme, and I found that I had to take great care not to get pedantic and, frankly, boring. I had several priorities in this regard: not to allow the natural flow of the character development and story line to get derailed by what I thought "should" happen, to make extra efforts to "show," not "tell," and to reread the so-called "spiritual" sections of the story with special care.

As a writer who has a a well-developed belief system, how do you balance these beliefs with the desire to entertain?

DT: Lovin’ this discussion, Connie! There was once a Movie Mogul, Samuel Goldwyn, who was urged to make “messages movies.” He replied something to the effect, “If you want to send a message, use Western Union.” He knew audiences balk at getting a “message” shoved down their throats.

On the other hand, the pen is mightier than the sword. It was the invention of the printing press and the essays of Martin Luther that split Christendom, and ultimately inspired Puritans to settle a New World in pursuit of freedom of thought. Today, the so-called “Arab Spring” is being fueled by social media in a modern pursuit of freedom of thought.

But, I am aware that the average Kindle owner is looking for entertainment for their 99 cents. Compelling characters, good writing, a plot that keeps must be the key ingredients. Any “message” has to be a delicate spice added for flavor. (How’s that for a metaphor?)

CB: Fantastic metaphor. You've given us some ideas about ideas and/or experiences that inspire you to write. Since my blog is about creativity and inspiration, I'd love to hear more, so I'll throw out a few questions.

When you're writing a novel, do you have the plot line down before you begin, or do you discover it as you write (or any variant of these choices)?

DT: I am in awe of people who can plot before the get-go. Alas, there is often a point in my writing process when I feel the story should be subtitled: “Characters in Search of A Plot.” Which leads to your next question.

CB: Which comes first, the plot or the characters?

DT: The characters always come first, even when I’d like a bit of peace. A few years back, I’d finished a long project and was ready for a break, Christmas was coming. But no. Maddie and Phil and that Devil Moon showed up. The opening scene began as a dream—two lonely people, the lake, and the huge, compelling moon bringing them together. I remember stumbling to my computer and pounding out the first draft in the pre-dawn hours.

CB: When/if you come to an impasse, do you use meditation or energy work to get the creative inspiration flowing again?

DT: When I get to “what happens next,” I like to go for a pounding walk. I also open my top chakra and just watch my feet, trying to break through the top level of mundane consciousness to the creative consciousness. If you put stock in the left brain/right brain theory, there’s a knack for stimulating the right brain, which is where all the good stuff comes through.

A little aside—people ask me where I got the idea for “Shiny Green Shoes,” which is part of “Hope for the Holidays.” SGS features an 8 year old black child and an aging actress during the Depression in a small Oklahoma town. I feel like that story was a strange sort of collaboration.

A few weeks before I was trying to come up with a new kind of holiday story, I had gone to receive a Reiki treatment. The treatments really changed my life, as my book Ever-Flowing StreamsEver Flowing Streams relates. On this particular visit, the image of a black woman dressed in a satin, purple dress and hair band came into my mind. I had the impression she was a blues singer from the 1950’s. She seemed very friendly. I left the appointment thinking, “That was interesting.”

When it came time to write the story, I saw a row of fancy theatrical shoes and “heard” the opening lines. A black actress named Mazie June MacDonald reflects back on her life and I think the inspiration came from the woman I met during the Reiki session. It’s my most popular piece—so far!

CB: Your stories about how inspiration arrives truly demonstrate the power of receptivity. So often, people try to stalk creative ideas in a kind of predator-prey relationship, but the prey is always faster.

That brings me to the post-writing phase of a novel: promotion, publicity, etc. It can be very tempting to link sales to external conditions: the economy, people are busy getting their kids back to school, people don't read, and so on.

I try to walk on by when these excuses lure me and look inside. What am I doing, what am I feeling? From that, what am I attracting? Since I launched my first book, I have learned so much about my subconscious thoughts and programming. Being responsible for my book is both confrontational and enlightening.

How has this experience been for you?

DT: The publishing industry as we knew it is dying and then being re-born. There is certainly pain in the process. It’s a challenge to do things that are actually productive and not just big time suckers. Following intuition is essential. Being willing to learn and move on is also important. Consistency is also key. Get the word out every day, somewhere, to a new group of readers. Make the rounds.

One thing I have I enjoyed more about Indie publishing than I did in the Traditional publishing world is the authentic sense of support from other authors. Traditional publishing was more competitive—there were only so many contracts, so many 1st places in contests. The digital world is infinite. Everybody can publish, everybody gets a shot—even if they are terrible writers!

The cream rises to the top. I love finding a new Indie author who is a real gem. It’s like digging through a pile of rocks and finding a diamond. With the free sampling available, it’s great fun to jump from sample to sample on a Sunday afternoon, searching for the diamonds.

As far as finding my audience, a phrase came through in a meditation session yesterday—“As Within, So Without.” If I write competently from the heart, the readers will come. I find it quite stunning, actually, to see that now somewhere, pretty much every day people are downloading one or more of my books.

It’s a great time to be a writer.

BIO: Dana Taylor writes uplifting stories filled with inspiration and humor. Born and raised in California, she graduated from the University of Redlands. She has been published in various magazines, including the Ladies Home Journal. She hosted the Internet radio program Definitely Dana! at and won various contests with the Romance Writers of America, including Best First Book from the Desert Quill Awards. Her published works include ROYAL REBEL, AIN’T LOVE GRAND?, HOPE FOR THE HOLIDAYS, and DEVIL MOON: A MYSTIC ROMANCE. Her non-fiction book is EVER-FLOWING STREAMS OF HEALING ENERGY. Visit her blog site Supernal Living with Dana Taylor at www. She is a founding member of the on-line community and can be reached at