The Innovators #11 with…The Innovators (aka Interview with the Blog)

Now that The Innovators has ten interviews under its belt and has grown a small (but loyal) audience, it has started to take on a life of its own and has requested that the writer interview It this week. Never being one to turn down an interview request, the writer has obliged. So here we go….

Introduce yourself.

Hi! I’m The Innovators, a weekly interview series that focuses on indie creatives. I came into existence a few months back and since then I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing ten incredibly talented artists, including musicians Gerry Weaver and Preston Bell, writer/poet Jared Kane and indie authors Julia DeBarrioz, Eme Savage, Darren Edden, Billy Middleton, Lee Vockins, RJ Jacobs and Eric Woods.

What drives you, Innovators Blog? What inspires you to do this work?

I’m inspired by creativity! I have an affinity for artists, for their art. I think creation is a human superpower (next to love, of course). Art is a balm to all the hurts of humanity and those who create art need to be supported and encouraged in their continuing quests to bring their imaginings to life. It takes a unique sort of courage to share one’s art, to share those thoughts, feelings, ideas that often come from the darkest, quietest parts of one’s soul and offer it up to the rest of the world for comment or criticism. I wish to play a postive role (albeit a small one) in helping artists, particularly indie authors, to gain exposure and confidence in their work and perhaps themselves too. I want them to know that they are supported, they are heard, they are seen, they are important.

What’s the hardest part about being a blog?

Finding readers, finding an audience, for sure, that’s the toughest part! I am just a small platform, with a small voice. Hopefully, over time, more and more people will see my posts and will share it on their platforms and my audience will grow from there. I really want to get the artists I feature out in front of as many eyes as I possibly can.

Upcoming interviews?

Well, I’m excited to have my first indie filmmaker interview coming up next week with Leah Solmaz and after that, two more talented indie authors: CK Shakleton and Patrick D. Kaiser! I am hoping to continue the writer streak into the new year. I think interviews with John Meredith, MG Unger, Jason Rogers, Tanis Justice, Slate Raven, Freddie Ahlin and O.S. Williams would be cool.

Where can readers find you?

They can find me every Wednesday right here on this blog (www.melanie-ever-moore.com) and on Melanie Ever Moore’s Instagram @m.ever.moore and on her Facebook writer’s page: Realign My Stars (speaking of which, she should probably change that name soon. I mean really, it should have been changed to “The Innovators” months ago….)

Thanks, Innovators Blog!!

The Innovators #3 with…….

Julia DeBarrioz, author

I’m excited to kick off the indie author interviews with the multi-talented Julia DeBarrioz, author of the fantastic Dakota del Toro series, artist and super supporter of other indies!

Introduce yourself.  When did you start writing and inspired you to keep writing?  Tell me about your books.

 Hi, I’m Julia! ::waves::

 I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I was an only child who lived in a rural area with no other children around, so I entertained myself by telling stories and re-telling stories I knew. I cut my teeth writing fanfiction, and finished my first novel when I was 12-13. (It was horrible, LOL). I have to write. Writing is how I process emotions and understand the world, and if I have a story kicking around my head that I don’t have time to sit down and work on I get twitchy and cranky. At the moment I’m writing the Dakota del Toro series. It’s urban fantasy set in New Mexico featuring a woman who is a bounty hunter for supernatural creatures. She finds missing women who have been taken by the monsters on the side, and she gets mixed up in a vampire revolution, as well as romantically entangled with the comandante. Oops!

Where did Dakota Del Toro come from (who or what inspired you to create her) and why is she the central character of your books? Dakota has been with me since I was a teenager, and maybe I can blame a goth cowgirl stage I haven’t really ever outgrown, LOL. I loved vampire stories with a strong female lead, but I wanted to read a story about a character who could both kick ass and embrace her femininity. Maybe that sounds stupid now, but back then those things were presented as mutually exclusive, and it was frustrating. I set the books in New Mexico because, well, I love it there, and I guess it’s a bit of vicarious living on my part. I’ve always been fascinated by Spanish/Latinx culture. I’ve travelled in Spain and Latin America, and I have a tiny bit of Spanish heritage on both my mother’s and father’s sides. Writing Dakota and her supporting characters has been a fun way of connecting with that.

You deal with some big social issues in the books (marginalization and abuse of women).  Tell me why that theme plays such a big role in the series.  There are two things that really scare me: bears, and the patriarchy. We’ve come a long way as far as women’s rights, but you still don’t have to look far to find stories in the news about abuse that happens in this country, and women with brown skin get the worst of it. Google ICE assault allegations, the results are horrifying, and Native American women face violence at staggeringly disproportionate rates compared to other demographics.  America seems like a safe, happy place to live on its shiny surface, but there is a dark underbelly that frankly, should not exist. It makes me angry, and I guess I don’t know what else to do about it except write my stories, try to raise awareness, and vote for people who I hope will actually give a shit.

Why vampires and werewolves?  Who is your favourite literary vampire?  Favourite actor to play a vampire?  Would they make a good Diego de Gama?  If no, then who would play him best on the big screen?  And Dakota? I think I have to blame my dad, who raised me on campy vampire movies. I’ve just always liked that medium. My favourite literary vampire would have to be Lestat, the Brat Prince. Alexander Skarsgård played a pretty excellent vampire in True Blood. I don’t think he’d really work for Diego, LOL. Even though they’re actually musicians, I think Maluma and Rosalía would make for awesome casting for Diego and Dakota.

How do you use social media as an indie author?  Best advice you can give to new indie?  Best money ever spent on or for your writing (an app, a subscription, a workshop, etc)?

 Like anyone else, I guess, I try to use social media to keep people updated and find new readers. I’m not a huge fan of Facebook and I’m terrible at updating on Twitter, but I do enjoy the community on Instagram.

 My best advice to a new indie author might be to watch your wordcount. When you’re starting out and trying to convince people to give you a chance, don’t hit them over the head with a 700 page tome. No one will wade through that. I feel qualified to say this because I made this mistake years and years ago, and it took a lot of work to remedy. The best money I’ve spent for my writing would have to be on book review services. Getting honest reviews might be the hardest part of being an indie, and having access to a pool of reviewers who are willing to go that extra mile after reading are worth their weight in gold.

Tell me about the process/decision to create your own covers?  What is the inspiration behind the designs/colours / theme?  Do you create or sell other artwork not related to the book covers? 

 I guess I’m double cursed, being a writer and an artist, ha. I’m a printmaker at heart, and I think that’s probably reflected in my covers. I have a degree in fine art, and I guess I always wanted to design my own. I know my covers are very different from other books in my genre, but I wanted to evoke a mix of the Spanish and Indigenous folk art of the Southwest, as well as 1960s revolution art. I do make other art besides book covers. I draw, I paint, and recently I’ve gotten into pyrography (wood burning). I’m not very good at collecting money for my work though, LOL, I seem to always be giving it away. I like to make people happy.

You find yourself stuck in a bomb shelter for an indeterminate time.  What one fictional character do you hope to be there with you?  What two movies will you watch and which three books do you want to have?

 Oh dear. What a 2020 question. I would have Jack Sparrow in the room, because I think he’d be pretty entertaining. We would watch Pirates of the Caribbean and The Mask of Zorro, and I would want to have Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins, and He Shall Thunder by Elizabeth Peters. I never get tired of reading those books.

What’s next for Dakota and Diego?  Any other new projects in the works?

 I have several more books planned for Dakota and Diego, though I do intend to make it a closed series. I am trying to release the next book this winter, and there will probably be 7-8 books when all is said and done. I also have some spin-offs planned. I want to tell Eduardo the bandit’s story in 1860s California, and I’m branching out into contemporary western romance with a new release coming this November. It’s called Evangeline Goes West. Look for it on Amazon. 😀

Julia DeBarrioz
Indie Author
juliadebarrioz.com
Amazon.com
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A season without doubt

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No one doubts my abilities more than me. No one. Every idea that pops into my head gets over-analyzed and shot full of holes, usually to the point of death, before it even gets to see the light of day.

For the past year, one of those thoughts has been about stepping up my indie game and starting to help other independent artists in my own little way through social media promotion.  My doubts about the size of my social media reach and my ability to actually help anyone get noticed (I mean I can bearly help myself in getting my own books sold and my own poems read so what in the world would I have to offer to someone else!?) constantly got in the way.  But then recently, I was interviewed by an indie with her own little social media reach and it made me realize one really important detail that I had been forgetting:  quality is more important than quantity. 

Having one person – just ONE genuine, interested person, offer support to you and your work IS enoughThousands of followers on social media doesn’t necessarily equate to thousands of supporters of your work, it doesn’t necessarily equate to thousands of sales or reviews of your books.  In a world where everything is a numbers game (get more likes, more followers, more comments!) this idea runs contrary to what most people believe, but believe me, it’s true.

For me, that one interview equated to a higher level of support than all the “likes” I had ever received on Instagram. The invitation to be interviewed (someone was interested in me?  In my work? ) was a much-welcomed and, honestly much needed, ego boost that has supported me in a spiritual and emotional sense so much more than in a physical (book sales) sort of way.

Being an indie writer (or musician, or poet or artist in any shape or form) is really hard!  Self-promotion is really hard!  I’ve been doing it for a year and a half now and have often found myself feeling alone and adrift in an ocean of other indies, unable to swim or navigate the waters of self-promotion as well as others seem to be, and sometimes I’ve bearly been able to even keep my head above the water as the thought of quitting the whole indie scene, of giving up my writing, has occurred to me more than once.

So, with all of that said and all of that realized, and with that much-welcomed injection of support and inspiration still running fresh through my veins, I am finally going ahead and doing what I’ve been thinking about doing for the past year now: I’m starting up my own series of indie interviews and social media promotion.

The Innovators will be a bi-weekly series of interviews with indie authors, poets, musicians, and artists and it will start in September via this blog and my Instagram and Facebook pages!

I hope you will join me!

My books are free today!

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To celebrate the one year anniversary of Hope Quest book 1’s release, BOTH books in the series are FREE today on Amazon!  Link to Hope Quest book 1: Blackbird and link to Hope Quest book 2: The Lightning.

This story developed in my head for twenty years before I finally sat down and wrote it (the entire trilogy in an eighteen-month period!). The main character, fourteen-year-old Hope Quest and her coming of age story to find the origins of her strange star-moving talents came to me in a series of dreams when I was fifteen and going through some very dark times in my life.  She was very much like a life-line for me and in writing her story, my hope is that it will be the same for others, particularly teens, although it is meant for all ages.  Just know that book 1 does contain some triggering material in it related to abuse and drug use.

If you read them and like them, please consider leaving me a review on Amazon!  Those reviews are gold to indie authors like me!!

Say the word

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In Buddhism, there is a concept of a restless, unfocused way of thinking called the monkey mind.  It refers to the relentless chatter in our head which needs to be “quieted” or “calmed” if we are to become mindful and focused.

Before the pandemic, I lived a fairly peaceful internal life. Practising yoga, following Buddhism (albeit loosely), having structure, routine and a sense of purpose in my everyday life was key to maintaining that sense of mental peace, but it was somewhat tenuous (the monkeys were caged, but the locks were frail and rusty). The pandemic, it’s subsequent lockdown and abrupt end to all of my routines shook up everything in my life and ultimately, freed those monkeys.

Running amok, tossing bananas here and shit there, my monkey mind would swing wildly from task to task, moment to moment, even book to book in my Kindle, only allowing me to focus on a sample here and a page there, until one day I came across an idea so simple, yet so profound, it stopped all the monkeys in their tracks.

In Design Your Day, Claire Diaz-Ortiz explains how deciding upon a word of the year has become a simple, yet powerful tool in her life.  “Every year, you should choose a word to represent the year you have in front of you.  Think long and hard about one word that will serve as a guidepost for what you want to do and be in the year to come.  And remember that a year needn’t start January 1 – you can start your year at any time!” 

As a lover of words and finding myself mid-way through May, this sounded exactly like what I needed to do. I spent the next day thinking about my word.  The monkeys were a fantastic help in throwing out hundreds of options.

Finally, I decided upon one that felt right. Both positive and representative of what I need to do to (regain focus) and what I want to do (write my memoir), I decided that my word of the year shall be: reflect.

I use it now as a mantra, repeating it to myself whenever the monkeys start swinging around in my head and so far, they seem to like it too, providing me with some much needed calm and quiet so that I can reflect, and ultimately, write again.

 

 

 

 

 

in pursuit of imperfection

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“Can you answer me this?” the dm began.  “Should my poetry have perfect punctuation? Or will the message be missed?”

For the first time ever, I had a young poet reaching out to me for advice.  ME.  It felt weird and somewhat awkward thinking of an appropriate response. Who was I to give advice to anyone?  Most days, especially lately, I barely know the what, never mind the why, of anything I do.

Despite writing poetry on and off for twenty-plus years, having had some pieces published traditionally and putting out two collections independently, I certainly don’t feel as though I have any expertise to lend about what I do.  Mostly, and honestly, I just do it for me.

For nearly my whole life (seriously, since I was five), I’ve written creatively because I’ve felt compelled to do it.  It’s how quiet me communicates best and it makes me feel better to have done it, even if I feel as though my work gets largely overlooked and is mostly misunderstood, I still persist because I’d feel infinitely emptier if I didn’t.

And there is no perfect way of punctuating that.

“Poetry is about expression,” I replied after careful consideration to the young poet.  “And that tends to get emotional and messy at times so forgive yourself if you forget a comma every now and then.”

The message won’t be lost – at least, not on me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What the silence has to say

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I’m still trying to find my footing in this new place.  Having to shut down my photography studio last month, needing to apply for unemployment benefits for the first time ever, adjusting to online / homeschooling with my kids – two of whom would rather do anything else than sit at a computer to do schoolwork with their mom  (and trust me, most days the feeling is mutual) – it’s all wrecked havoc with my emotions, my focus, my motivation, especially when it comes to my writing.

Entering into my second year as an indie author, I had had some very concrete plans in place and up until early March, I was working on them almost daily.

And then….well, we’re all familiar with what happens when we’re busy making other plans – a pandemic  – no sorry,  life happens, or at least some semblance of life as we used to know it.  For me, this new life hit like a mini cyclone, wiping out my job, my income, my schedule, my routine, my drive, my direction, and sense of purpose in just a matter of days.

Gone.  Finito.  Kaput.

One month in and the dust seems to be settling a bit, although I struggle some days with navigating this new normal and other days I still feel plain lost, I have come to appreciate the quiet that has fallen around us.

My calendar is now blank. My schedule is now free of appointments. The pressure to do, to be, to get it all done has lifted and amongst this new quiet, I’ve had time to sit and listen to the silence that it has brought.  It has a lot to say, but mostly it’s message is to listen and to wait for what’s next.

So I will.

My book is FREE today!

The Latest on the Amazon Rainforest Fires(1)

My second novel, Hope Quest book 2: The Lightning, and second installment in my Hope Quest series, is FREE today as an e-book via Amazon!  Find it here!  Cosmic and supernatural, it is a coming of age/fantasy/drama about 14-year-old Hope Quest, an unusual girl who speaks in a whisper but has some strange and powerful abilities to control the stars and birds.  After learning of her origins in book 1: Blackbird and having to deal with unexpected trauma at StarFEST, her group of punk friends helps her navigate her growing abilities, just as a strange, new photography teacher arrives at school with a particularly strong interest in Hope.

Check it out and if you enjoy it, please consider leaving me a review on Amazon. Those reviews are gold for indie authors like me!

Mistakes brought me here

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At fifteen, I ran away from one bad home situation into an even worse one. Within a year, I was introduced to a lifestyle of rampant drug use and went from a straight-A student to a high school drop-out. Sitting by candlelight one night, the electricity having been cut-off due to non-payment again, I sat filling out application forms for dead-end, minimum wage jobs, when a life-changing thought occurred to me like a lightning bolt:

No one is going to save me from this.

I realized in that moment that I had made a mistake – a big one.  My life was falling apart. I was going nowhere very quickly and I knew that no one was going to sweep in and save me.

I had made a mistake, but in accepting that mistake and learning from it – rather than beating myself up emotionally and staying stuck in that situation -I realized that I could change things and, more importantly, I did.

Within a year, I had painfully extricated myself from that life into a better one.  I went back to school, earned a few university degrees and have been on the road to a much better life ever since and I owe all of my success and my happiness to those mistakes I made along the way.

Although painful, I am strangely grateful to them. Without those mistakes, I wouldn’t have worked as hard to get what I want.  Without them, I might not have known what I wanted and I certainly wouldn’t have learned to appreciate all that I have now.

Since becoming an indie author in the past year, I have recently begun to realize that I have been making a whole lot of mistakes along the way.  I have put out four books and have struggled to get them noticed, read, reviewed.  It’s been frustrating and disheartening, but I’ve begun to realize that it’s not because of me or the books, but because of my lack of marketing and distribution channels.  More importantly, I know that I can change that, I can fix it.  And I will.

Mistakes can lead to failure, but viewed in another light – even by dim candlelight- they can also point the way to success and there’s no shame in learning that at any point in our lives.

 

 

 

Redefining “responsible”

“No matter how far you’ve traveled down the wrong path,

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it’s never too late to turn around.”

Memes don’t usually give me pause for thought, but that particular one did.  A few years back, I began to question the path I was taking in my life.  I was happy with most of it – I had a great marriage, happy, healthy kids, a nice house, a decent job.  But there was this constant little voice nagging in the back of my head – what about Hope? what about your stories? 

What about them??

Shortly after the birth of my first, I gave up on my creative writing dreams.  I had had minor success as a teen and in my twenties with publishing my short stories and my poems, but with all the responsibilities of parenthood and a growing family, etc, I figured that writing – particularly all the time spent imagining, daydreaming – was something best left for the carefree (eg: not new parents) and best left out of responsible “adulting.”

Years went by, two more kids arrived and as the responsibilities piled on, my yearning for writing only increased in response. For so long, it had been my outlet, often my only outlet, for dealing with depression – something that has plagued me since adolescence. The writing wasn’t just a hobby, it was my therapy, my coping mechanism.  It was a large part of who I was and how I had handled my depressive thoughts in the past, and without it, I began to realize that not only was I risking falling into it again but I was also denying myself that important outlet of my own self-expression.  I wasn’t allowing myself to be, well, me.

It was just that important and I realized then that I absolutely needed it back in my life.

So, I stopped.  I stopped my journey down that long, arduous (at times, dry and dusty) road of responsible “adulting” and I turned around.  I bought a writing desk, a laptop.  I carved time in my day (sometimes even just 10 – 15 minutes!) and I gave myself permission to write again.  I changed my definition of “responsible parent/adult” to include imagining and daydreaming (and getting more tattoos and listening to new bands and going to concerts again!).

I’ve honestly become a better version of me – even a better parent – for it.  My kids are inspired by it – I’ll never forget my son’s look of amazement when he saw my book on the library bookshelf for the first time. He saw me in a whole new light then, just as I’ve started to see myself in that newer, brighter light too.

This indie author path is a bumpy and uncertain one, for sure, but two years and four books later, I am more than happy to be on it – even if at times I feel completely irresponsible and, not to mention very lost, along the way.

I’m figuring it out as I go.