Monday, May 30, 2011

Mondays With Mike: Sci-fi author Valerie Gaumont

MEMORAL DAY WEEKEND is a day to reflect and remember, thus I thought it would be a great time to look up an old friend, Valerie Gaumont.  Valerie was a member of the first writing group I belonged to in Des Moines.  All things change, however, and our little group lost a talented writer when she moved on to bigger and better things.  Valerie is now the author of two contemporary sci-fi novels – I’ll let her explain what that all means.

Mike:  Valerie, thank you for joining us today.  You have two books, Pilot and Storm Chaser.  I believe Storm Chaser is the latest; can you give us a short synopsis of it?

Valerie:  Storm Chaser is Book Two in the Channel Rider Series, Book One is Pilot. Both books fall into the category of Contemporary Sci-Fi which means they take place in today’s world with one or two changes.

M:  Okay, let’s start with the first book, Pilot.

V:  Pilot is the story of Elena Calabrese. She was once a Pilot of the Guild of Families which means she was born with the special ability to take sailing ships from earth’s oceans into space. The Guild of Families has, over the centuries, developed an intergalactic merchant network. One of their rules is that no one is to ever find out who they are and what they do. Elena left the Guild because she developed the affliction that seems to ground all of the best pilots in the guild called The Calling. In Pilot the law of secrecy is broken and Elena is brought back into the world of the Pilots and forced to walk a very thin line between the Guild of Families, with their Mafia-like tendencies, and the military. Along the way she also discovers that The Calling is not the affliction everyone seems to believe it to be but rather an evolution of abilities.

M:  And your latest, Storm Chaser?

V:  Storm Chaser is the second book in the Channel Rider Series. In this book Elena is still navigating between worlds and establishing a trading base on earth. She and her team are re-packaging out of this world (literally) goods and selling them on earth. The military has begun to develop their own ships but are still having issues with navigation. Elena also discovers that her new found abilities can lead her to open new channels; something no one thought could be done. Now formerly afflicted pilots are flocking to her to learn to control the calling and the council’s scariest leaders are starting to pay more attention to her than is comfortable.
Both books initially came out with Brown Street Press. Pilot is now an e-book on Smashwords and in a few weeks Storm Chaser will be out as an e-book as well. The third book in the Series, Alliance will only come out as an e-book in July. The reason being that the publishers of Brown Street were a very small indie publisher and with the current economy have decided to temporarily shut down. So I am now kind of on my own with this.

M:  What was your road to publication?

V: Pilot initially started out as a blog. It was a bit of a writing exercise, to be honest. It was designed so that each post would be a chapter and that each chapter would be short enough that someone could read it over their lunch break, which is why Pilot’s chapters are rather short. Charles of Brown Street contacted me and asked if I would be interested in doing a book with Pilot. I was and I did. Storm Chaser was also published as a bog in the beginning, but as I was already thinking of a book at that point, the chapters became a little bit longer.

M:  As a writer, what do you think is more important: Plot or Character?

V:  I know everyone asks that and I have to say I always find it a little bit of a strange question. I suppose I am character driven.

Usually when I write it begins with the thought “Oh I wonder what would happen if someone developed this ability” or “How would you dispose of a dead body if you were a serial killer?” or I’ll see something and ask the why questions. “Why would a 50 year old woman go to an ATM on a Sunday afternoon wearing a pink prom dress?” That sort of thing, and the story will evolve from there. Magically people will appear and move through the scenario I’ve just created and then all of a sudden I’ll be thinking, okay to get the character from point A to point B they need to go into a hospital. So I’ll get the character to the hospital doors and then all of a sudden they will refuse to go into the hospital claiming that they are germaphobic, which will throw me for a loop and sometimes cause me to yell at the page (which is why it is best if I write alone).
All of a sudden I will start seeing the bottles of Purell and the super sized box of Ivory Soap in the linen closet and this will subtly change the scene and the plot. My germaphobic serial killer will react differently to the situations he is in and that will affect the plot.

Other times I will start with a character and try to see how they would react in certain situations. From this a plot will develop. Usually it is a what would happen if, or why would you do that situation and then the characters show up and make a mockery of all of my carefully laid plans. I actually had one character in a story who was just supposed to pass through and make a comment suddenly decide to hide something behind a false brick in a fireplace. It completely changed the plot. So I guess it is character driven. I have the plot like a framework and it gets adjusted as I go. It is a bit like building a car and then having someone buy it and take it to a detail shop for alterations.

I know that is a bit rambling and sounds a little nuts but no matter how interesting I find the plot until my characters wake up, it stays sort of flat.

M: What started you writing?

V: I suppose it was a combination of things. Partially it was that I have always had very vivid dreams. Sometimes I would wake up in the middle of the dream and want to know how it would turn out and so a story would start. Pilot actually came from a dream. In the dream I was standing on a ship in the middle of the ocean and slide from the ocean into the sky. Then of course I woke up and had to figure out the rest.

Other times it was because I would see something and want an explanation when there was none available, such as seeing the 50 year old woman at an ATM dressed in a pink prom dress on a Sunday morning. I did actually see her, but I didn’t know her and by the time I got near the ATM she was gone. I still wanted to know the story so I went home and wrote it.

M: What are your writing habits? In other words, do you write each day, morning, evening, etc.?

V: I try to write every day. Sometimes I will wake up with a bit of dream still lodged in my brain and I will jot it down along with some thoughts. Sometimes it stays there and other times I will start seeing bits of story around it and go into it there. When I am working on a story I will sit down with the idea of getting from point A to point B in my timeline. I usually will get from A to B but it is rarely a straight line. If it is a complex story then I will sometimes list out some of the things I want to actually cover between point A and point B. Kind of like road signs. Sometimes during the day I’ll see something that will spark an idea and I’ll jot it down and then work on it later that day.
M:  Do you have anything upcoming?

V:  Well Pilot and Storm Chaser are being released as e-books as a prelude to the third book Alliance, being released in July. I am currently writing on my blog the story Keeper of the Crossroads. That story is going to be winding down in the next few weeks and then I will sit down, edit, revise and possibly have that out hopefully in October.

M: You have an interesting job with the Louisiana Division of Historic Preservation. Can you tell us a little about what you do?

V: Actually I am no longer with them. I need to update actually. I was with the Main Street and Certified Local Government programs there and I worked with small communities to help preserve and put back into productive use their historic buildings. The job was amazing. I got to meet some wonderful people and do some amazing things. I left Louisiana in January of 2010 and took a job with the WY Main Street program. I did not stay there long however and decided to take some time off from working a regular job to just write. As wonderful as working with Main Street was it kept me on the road a lot and after years of writing in hotel rooms and between meetings I wanted to see what would happen if I just concentrated on writing for a while.

M: What sparked your interest in history?

V:  Architecture actually. Most people don’t think about it but the buildings all around us tell the story of what people were thinking when the buildings were being built. They are physical reminders of different mindsets. We shape the buildings and then the buildings shape us. Also working with Main Street let me go inside some of these buildings in a different way. For example I visited a building that had been continually occupied since it was built in 1912; however, as time went on, less and less of the building was used. The upper floors were once a thriving office space with retail below. In the 1930s the company occupying the upper floors went belly up and the offices were just locked up. The retail spaces downstairs remained in use but the upper floors were blocked off. I was invited to tour the building as the new owner wanted to look at a new use for the upper floors. We went inside and it was as though that in the 1930s the office workers had just walked out taking only the important files with them. Desks were still in place, pencil holders still held pencils. It was an odd glimpse into one of the hidden spaces that we pass every day and pay no attention to. And of course, being me, I wanted to know more.

M:  Besides your writing, do you have any hobbies, or any spare time activities?

V:  I enjoy gardening and cooking. I of course do a lot of reading. Actually for the longest time work and writing took up most of my time. When I wasn’t doing one I was doing the other. I used to do black and white photography and would love to get back into that.

M:  Thank you for being with us today.  One final question, how can readers contact you?

V: Oh let me count the ways: There is Facebook (under my name of course or on the Page Pilot and the Channel Rider’s Series), Twitter (@valeriegaumont) or on my blog. And thank you!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Congratulations to Indy 500 Champ Dan Wheldon

THREE YEARS AGO when Iowa was suffering from the effects of flooding, Dan Wheldon won the Iowa Indy 250 in Newton and donated his winner’s purse to Iowa flood relief.  Today, Dan won the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.  Congratulations, Dan, and thanks again for what you did for us back in the summer of 2008.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mondays With Mike: Robert Bennett and the Blind Protagonist

ROBERT BENNETT WRITES from a unique perspective; he has Spina Bifida, and writes books about a blind protagonist from his wheelchair.  He describes himself as a social worker turned writer who lives in the house he grew up in with his mother, one of his brothers, two dogs and a turtle.  Since I live with two dogs and a turtle, I liked him immediately!
He has a degree in criminal justice and masters in social work.  “My lifelong focus has been a concern for the needs of society’s disenfranchised,” he says.  He has written numerous articles on topics from sports to technology and from politics to social justice.
Mike:  Welcome Robert.  First, let’s start with Spina Bifida, most people don’t know much about it, can you describe the disease and what some of the limitations are? And how did you end up in a wheelchair?

Robert: Spina Bifida occurs when the fetus is growing in the womb and its spine doesn't form correctly (a neural tube defect). Some of the vertebrae (bones in the spine) don't close to make their normal ring shapes around the spinal cord. The opening that results causes one of three types of spina bifida: occulta: a tiny opening, usually causes mild or no symptoms; meningocele: a big enough opening so that some of the membrane surrounding the spinal cord sticks out through the opening; myelomeningocele: the most serious kind, in which some of the spinal cord itself sticks out through the opening in the spine.
I was born with the third form, though I was extremely fortunate that, up until my car accident in 1988, I suffered from very few symptoms. You see, the type of symptoms the person has depends on where along the spine the opening occurred, since that is where the spinal cord was injured. My lesion is very low down my spine, at my tailbone. The accident, though, exacerbated a previously unknown symptom, a tethered spinal cord. Before then, unbeknownst to anyone, the cord itself had been connected to the vertebrae by scar tissue. The jarring action of the accident caused the entire system to yank and eventually start dying.
I was in and out of the hospital a lot when I was quite young, but rarely since then and never related to this condition. I had trouble learning to walk and ride a bike as a child, but I did walk without aids (until the car accident) and I did ride a bike. My walking balance was never wonderful, but I managed it well. I never suffered from any mental challenges, though many others do. 

M: How did that disability affect your writing?
R:  While the Spina Bifida itself does not affect my writing, the loss of use of my legs as a result of my accident has helped me to understand not only disability but the process of grieving, loss, and adjustment associated with disability. Disability in general is what my writing has always been about. From the beginning of my writing career, 17 years ago, I’ve been trying to provide information, help, and encouragement to the disabled community. And, I’ve tried to help the able-bodied community to understand disabilities and the fact that the two groups are not as distinct or diverse as some would espouse. 
M:  Let me turn to your blind protagonist I referred to above; what have you learned and how difficult is it to write about a blind person?
R: Blind Traveler is/will be a series of novels. Individually, each of the first set of stories will explore the four remaining physical senses of the protagonist, a blind man. Contrary to what many people believe, those who lose the function of one sense do not somehow become “super” in the other senses. Instead, they learn how to become more reliant on the remaining senses.  I learned a lot about the ways in which blind people live their lives by interviewing a large group of them. I paid attention to how they move through the world, how they define what they feel, taste and smell. I asked a lot of questions. To me, the job of an author isn’t writing what I know, but rather writing about what I can find out.
M: Can you give me a sentence or two about each of the books?
R: My first Blind Traveler book, Blind Traveler Down a Dark River, introduces my protagonist and shows that a person with a “disability” can not only function in the world, but thrive in it, achieving all of life’s goals and then some. Unfortunately, one day the GPS/virtual sound device he uses to navigate through his world falters. He becomes confused. He believes he is in one location. His device tells him he is in another. Attempting to orient himself, he literally stumbles onto the scene of a murder. The second book, Blind Traveler’s Blues, continues the life story of my protagonist. He meets a woman he thinks he might like to have a relationship with, but finds himself faced with a familiar, and deadly, challenge.
M:  In addition to your books, I notice you have a long list of publication credits. Can you give me the highlights?
R: It’s hard to highlight anything in particular because I’ve been writing professionally for many years. I’ve been a freelance writer for all of that time. I’ve been a stringer for several disability-related magazines as well as one publication devoted to virtual reality technology. Though I’ve written on a wide variety of topics, my favorite is technology. I love fiddling with new devices and telling people how those devices can improve the quality of life. When asked, I don’t refer to myself as an advocate for disability-related issues, but through my writing I do intend to help improve lives. In that sense I’ve always considered that I still do social work, though on a much larger scale than when I was actually working in the field.
M:  And about your blogs?
R: I do a fair bit of guest blogging, though I know I should be doing a lot more. I also have my own blog, The BlindTraveler’s Blog. I use it to flesh out ideas for my writing, and invite others to give me feedback.
M:  I always like to ask this of my guest writers: How did you get started writing?
R:  I got angry, seriously. I started writing shortly after my car accident in 1988. Within three years after that horrific event I lost the use of my legs, and started to notice how people treated me, and others with disabilities, differently. Now sitting in a wheelchair, I was literally seeing the world from a different angle, and didn’t like what I saw. Attitudinal bigotry. Paternalism. Architectural inaccessibility. My first publication was a series of articles applying Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s stages of death and dying to the early effects on someone with a new disability.  After that I started writing articles for a wide spectrum of mainstream magazines, trying to show readers that people with disabilities can do pretty much the same things as able-bodied folk.
M: How did you get your first book published?
R: Like all of us, I struggled to find a publisher for my first book. I scoured the internet for names and addresses of publishers.  I talked to several people who I knew were writers and had things published.  I went to a writer’s conference where I met with several publishers.  I eventually bought a computer program which had an Agent and Publisher section with a list of names and addresses.  The program allowed users to narrow their searches based on things like genre, word count and location.  Eventually I went with a POD company (fortunately I did not have to shell out any cash for).
M: How do you market your books?
R: Much of it is through word of mouth. I talk to as many people as seem interested in either disability or mystery novels.  I do guest blogs (like this one) where I either answer interview questions or write articles about some aspect of my work. I’ve done radio interviews as well as a local cable TV show. I also leave business cards with a description of my first book, all over the place, like on tables when I go out for dinner.
M:  Where can we find your books and are any available in e-book format?
R: Blind Traveler Down a Dark River is available on paper through my publisher, Publish America, and in both paper and ebook on Amazon. The second book in the series, Blind Traveler’s Blues, is coming out, in ebook only, through Echelon Press. No exact publication date has been set.
M: What are your writing habits? In other words, do you write each day, morning, evening, etc.?
R: I don’t follow any particular rules. Generally speaking I’m not an outliner, though I have been known to jot down ideas, or record them into an app on my I-pod. I’m not someone who writes every day, or at a specific time of day, though I am thinking about my writing most of the time. I don’t like to start the actual writing until I have a pretty solid idea of the characters and plot in my head. Then I write like gangbusters! Before then, though, I scour the news and the newspaper for interesting locations and subjects. And, when I travel I take copious notes about the scenery and architecture to use in one of my stories.
M:  Anything upcoming?
R: Without going into too much detail, my second novel is coming out, as well as a short story, about the early days of my protagonist. I’m also beginning to collect research material for my third Blind Traveler story.   
M:  Do you have any hobbies, or any spare time activities?
R:  I read A LOT (currently a book about Obama, and an H.G Wells short story). I go to writing and photography seminars. I’m trying to learn to play my harmonica. I go to the movies. I play video games.
M: How can readers contact you?
R: Through my website,, email at, or on Facebook.
M: Thank you very much for your time today.
R: Thank you for giving me this opportunity, Mike.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mondays With Mike: YA Author Jan Blazanin

A COUPLE OF years ago I was called by a writer friend and asked to join a group of traditionally published authors, which I did.  One of the members of that group was Jan Blazanin, who has just had her second young adult novel, A & L Do Summer, released last week.  Jan is a former middle school teacher who grew up in a converted railroad depot near Des Moines, Iowa. Her first YA novel, Fairest of Them All, about a beauty queen who develops alopecia, debuted in April 2009.
She has degrees from Grand View University, Iowa State, and Drake University. She studied writing at the Institute of Children's Literature and the Iowa Summer Writing Festival and teaches creative writing for adults and teens. She currently lives on 11 acres in Waukee, Iowa, with her life partner Mike, her dogs and cat, and a flock of guinea fowl. When she’s not writing, you’ll find Jan reading, running, pulling weeds, walking the dogs, or chasing uninvited wildlife out of the house.  

Mike:  Welcome Jan and congratulations on your new release, A & L Do Summer, can you give us a short synopsis of it?

Jan: There’s not much to do in Cottonwood Creek, Iowa, but sixteen-year-old Aspen and her friend Laurel plan to do something spectacular the summer before their senior year. Things take a hilarious turn when the town bullies set their sights on making Laurel and Aspen miserable, and the two girls find themselves in a heap of trouble, including a few run-ins with the police. Will the girls be able to survive the summer without a criminal record, and will they be able to pick up boyfriends along the way?

M:  Sounds interesting, but I won’t ask you to give away the ending here.  Besides A & L, can you give us a short synopsis of Fairest of Them All?

J: Oribella Bettencourt is living a teenage girl’s dream. At fifteen, she’s a beauty queen, a model, and a breath away from her life-long goal of acting in a major motion picture. She and her mother are more than partners; they’re best friends. When Oribella is diagnosed with alopecia, she believes that losing her hair means the end of her career. While she struggles to cope with that loss, the strain shatters the special bond she and her mother have always shared. Without friends, family, or a direction in life, Ori feels like a discarded doll. As she struggles to put her life back together, Ori wonders if she can build a future worth living for.

M:  Would it be fair to say that your books are aimed at teen aged girls?

J:  Honestly, I don’t picture many teen boys being drawn to Fairest of Them All. The beauty pageant, modeling, and acting aspects of the plot probably put them off. That’s not to say that guys haven’t read and enjoyed it, but I had a female audience in mind when I wrote it.
Even though the two main characters in A & L Do Summer are girls, the story has a lot to offer male readers. First, it’s funny, and humor has a universal appeal. A & L also prominently features several male characters in critical roles—Aspen’s brother Manny, his best friend Clay, rookie policeman Miguel Sierra, and Buttferk, the trio of bad guys. And the story is loaded with action, which makes it a fast, guy-friendly read.    

M: I’m always interested in how writers got started writing so let me pose the question to you:  What started you writing? And in particular, what started you writing Young Adult?

J: I began writing while I was teaching reading to sixth graders in the 1990s. I made it a habit to preview all the middle grade and young adult novels before I put them into our class library. Soon I was reading the books for entertainment rather than out of a sense of obligation. I’ve loved writing since elementary school, and finding all those wonderful stories rekindled my interest. I wrote my first middle grade manuscript in 1993.

M:  I should point out that my First Monday columnist, Robyn Gioia also writes YA and is a Fifth grade teacher.  Anyway, can you tell me what your writing habits are? In other words, do you write each day, morning, evening, etc.?

J: My goal is to write every day, and I come close to doing that. My preferred time to write is in the morning after I finish running and working out at the gym. Some of my best ideas come when I’m exercising, and I like to get them on paper before they slip away. I figure all the oxygen and endorphins swimming around in my brain can’t hurt, either.
If for some reason I can’t write in the morning, I try to squeeze in an hour or two in the afternoon. I prefer to have a large block of writing time, but sometimes I focus better when I know I have to condense my creativity into a short period of time.

M: I notice you work with a small writing group, how does that help your writing?

The group: Eileen, Jan, Rebecca & Sharelle
J:  I am lucky to have the best writing group in the galaxy. Without their support, I doubt that I’d be published now. When Fairest of Them All was in its earliest incarnation Sharelle Byars Moranville (Over the River, A Higher Geometry, The Purple Ribbon, The Snows) and Eileen Boggess (The Mia Fullerton Series) lovingly bullied me into submitting the first page at a writing conference. That page caught the interest of Rosemary Stimola who later became my agent. Shortly after that conference, talented picture book author Rebecca Janni (Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse, Every Cowgirl Needs Dancin’ Boots) joined our group.
Although nearly three decades separate our youngest and oldest members (I’m not going to tell you who’s who!), we have terrific personal and writing chemistry. Each of us brings unique perspectives and insights to the group. I can count on Sharelle, Eileen, and Becky for honest feedback and wholehearted support. To me they’re indispensible. 

M: As we all know, writing is a very competitive business. How did you first get published?

J: I worked on my craft for about fifteen years before I was published. During that time I wrote six middle grade and young adult novel manuscripts and collected stacks of rejections. I attended SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conferences and writing workshops, completed three courses from the Institute of Children’s Literature, and read dozens of how-to books.
My break came at a 2005 SCBWI writing conference in Des Moines when agent Rosemary Stimola saw the first page of Fairest of Them All. She’d never heard of alopecia, and she expressed an interest in the premise of the story. When I finished the manuscript two years later I queried her. She asked to see the manuscript, signed me as a client, and I was finally on my way.

M: Any hobbies, etc. for spare time?

J: I love running and working out in general, and I’ve just taken up biking again after more than twenty years. Last Saturday was my first ride. Riding in a straight line was challenging; turning corners was a disaster. But it will come back to me—I hope!
Watching wildlife and being outdoors are important parts of my life. We have five bird feeders on our deck that attract a wide variety of birds. The guinea fowl running around our acreage eat the bugs and provide constant entertainment. I enjoy digging in my flower gardens. And I can’t imagine life without my dogs and cat to keep me company.

M: How can readers contact you? Webpage – Facebook, links, etc.?

J: My website is You can find me on Facebook and Twitter, and I’m a Goodreads and Shelfari author. Both Fairest of Them All and A&L Do Summer are available in paperback Kindle editions. You can buy them at, Barnes & Noble, and Readers who live in the Des Moines area can also find both books at Beaverdale Books.

M:  Jan, thank you for your time today, and best of luck with A& L.

J:  Thank you.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mondays With Mike: First Crime Novel Competition

EVERY YEAR THE Mystery Writers of America (MWA) and St. Martin’s Minotaur sponsor a mystery novel competition and the winner receives a book contract from St. Martin’s Minotaur.  Here is an edited version of the rules for the 2012 contest:

1. The Competition is open to any writer, regardless of nationality, aged 18 or older, who has never been the author of any Published Novel (in any genre). Only one manuscript entry (the "Manuscript") is permitted per writer. To enter, you must first request an entry form by sending an e-mail to: and include the following information:

Name of Entrant, Manuscript Title, Address, Phone.

 All requests for entry forms must be received by Minotaur Books by email by November 15, 2011.

Each entrant will receive an entry form by email containing the address of the judge to whom he or she will send (by regular mail or next-business-day delivery service) his or her manuscript. Entries must be postmarked no later than November 30, 2011 and received by judges no later than December 15, 2011 and must include:

a) A double-spaced and neatly typed copy of the manuscript (photocopies are acceptable), with pages numbered consecutively from beginning to end.

b) A letter or cover sheet containing the name, address, email address and telephone number of the entrant and the entrant's previous writing credits, if any.

c) The application form, printed from their email, duly completed, and a self-addressed letter-sized envelope for our response.

 d) A digital copy of the manuscript burned to a CD or saved to a USB stick as a Microsoft Word document. All CDs and USB sticks should be marked with the author's name and the title of the manuscript.

3.  Entrants must have a valid e-mail address.

4. All Manuscripts submitted: a) must be original works of book length (no less than 220 typewritten pages or approximately 60,000 words) written in the English language; b) must be written solely by the entrant, who may not be the author of any previously Published Novel; c) must not violate any right of any third party or be libelous, and must generally follow the Guidelines below.


 a. Murder or another serious crime or crimes is at the heart of the story.

b. WHAT CONSTITUTES  A PUBLISHED NOVEL: For the purpose of this Competition, a "Published Novel" means a work of fiction of at least 40,000 words in length that has been published or distributed, in part or whole, in paper or electronic format or in any other medium, excluding, however, self-published works. This does not include a chapter excerpt on an author's website, subject to the conditions that: (i) the excerpt is the only text that exists for public viewing; (ii) the excerpt is not for sale to the public, and (iii) the number of words in the excerpt does not exceed 10% of the total number of words in the work as a whole.

5. If a winner is selected, Minotaur Books will offer to enter into its standard form author's agreement with the entrant for publication of the winning Manuscript. After execution of the standard form author's agreement by both parties, the winner will receive an advance against future royalties of $10,000. 

The full set of rules can be found on the MWA website by following this link.

Good luck!

Monday, May 2, 2011

First Monday With Robyn: The Ebook Journey Lives

By Robyn Gioia
I’m sure when the television, telephone, and computer first debuted, there was the usual skepticism and scoffing. Unless you were a visionary, you couldn’t see into the future where these things would eventually morph into world changing milestones. I heard someone say yesterday that eBook readers were gadgets and the fascination would die off. I’m still stunned. This was someone in the book industry!
When I started this conversation on eBooks several months ago, it wasn’t my intent to champion eBooks, but to merely discuss current events in publishing. Since I am a teacher, an author, and a book reviewer for School Library Journal, I think it’s just wise to keep up on what drives the industry. But when I heard a professional in the book business dismiss the advent of eBooks, I had to gasp. This person’s love for the paper book has blinded them to the metamorphosis taking place.
EBooks are here to stay. Not only will they hang around, I predict they will become the wave of the future. The educational world from elementary school to college is already looking at eBooks as a way to save on the cost of expense curriculum. Think about it. EBook curriculum is cheaper, our forests will be spared, updates to material can happen instantaneously, and eBooks can be integrated to the internet. Plus, eTextbooks can be delivered directly to the eReader and deleted just like library eBooks. So basically, students rent their eTextbooks. When time is up, they disappear off the eReader.  
Of course, the convenience for the student is unmatched. Imagine a small lightweight eReader that holds all of your books and more. No more heavy books to break your back. No more 60 pound backpacks to lug back and forth. Will that also signal the demise of the backpack?
One of the biggest advantages to eBooks over paper books is the convenience. They are as versatile as email. I wonder how many people scoffed at email over hand written letters way back then. Want to read a Fodor’s Travel Guide on Italy? Download it on the spot. Want the next book in a series? Schedule it to be downloaded the second it’s available. Want to read those huge tomes like Gone with the Wind but don’t have the time? Download it as an eBook. That’s what I did. It’s not so formidable in size, and you can read it anywhere you take your eReader. I’ve read an eBook at the doctor’s office, in the car, on a plane, at school, in line at the grocery store, the beach, and the mall.  
And because I have a Kindle, I am able to download loaned books from fellow Kindle users on the Amazon booklending website. The website sends out occasional notices on FB and when one of the books really piqued my interest, I decided to find out what borrowing a loaner was all about. This is what I learned. It’s very easy to do. I registered with the website which gave me access to the library. I chose my book. It put me in a queue. I learned books are loaned out one at a time, just like a paper book. The book I choose was not instantly available, so I had to wait for an email from Amazon telling me when it was ready. Four days later, I received an email with a link. The link took me to Amazon where the book was available with a special loaner link. I had the book within moments.
As an author, I have decided to put my middle school, fantasy, mystery book out as an eBook. When I saw agents placing their clients with eBook publishers, I knew the time had come. I contacted two of those eBook publishers that the agents were using and submitted my book directly to them. Both publishers were interested. That told me the story was ready.
I am posting the first chapter while I finish polishing. Please take look. I am venturing into a new arena and would love to have company along the way. Until next time, happy reading. 
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Click here to read the first chapter of Robyn's book, The Ghost, The Rat, And Me.  Then feel free to leave a comment.  Read Robyn's column here every first Monday.  Robyn's website is: