In the United States, Independence Day weekend unofficially marks the height of summer. If you’re not traveling, you’re seriously thinking about it. I already started packing my e-reader with some awesome indie reads and (I’ll admit) I also started reading some of the fiction and nonfiction titles available here.
This time we have more than 100 authors and titles represented over both our fiction and nonfiction giveaway pages. And, again, we have a wonderful combination of genres–from thriller and suspense, to mindfulness and self-help. So, click on the below graphics and start downloading some ebooks. And don’t forget to share the goodness with your friends. But, hurry, the Independence Day giveaway closes at midnight on July 4!
Over Independence Day weekend, the first thing I start packing is my ereader!
Now, you can too. You’ll find nearly 90 titles from indie authors whose books you can enjoy by the pool, at the beach or on the patio.
Nonfiction offers up some new reads this Independence Day weekend
Check out essays and commentary, lifestyle and mindfulness ebooks–and even a travel memoir that might inspire your own vacation plans!
More about the Fiction Giveaway
The Independence Day Indie Reads Giveaway is an all-genre extravaganza of ebooks. Get hooked on a new indie author’s words. From epic and swashbuckling fantasy, dystopian and sci-fi, there’s something for everyone.
And if romance is what you’re looking for, you’ll find that in spades and across genres, too! From mail-order bride to billionaire, shape-shifting to goth, this giveaway covers the whole range of romance reads and then some. (There’s even a small section of select erotic reads for mature 18+ audiences only. (Don’t say we didn’t warn you!))
Independence Day giveaway: Thursday, June 29 through Tuesday, July 4
Prime your pointer finger for some serious tapping over these next six days. You can be strategic and download 19 ebooks each day for five days, or you can pick and choose your favorite reads.
Opening day for both giveaways is Thursday, June 29. So, whether you’re into fiction, nonfiction or both, there’ll be something for you.
If you’re anything like me, you are thinking about your summer vacation. (I’m always thinking about my vacation.) Perhaps in reading today’s e-interview with L. Phillips, new author of Houses, History and Humour (A British Estate Agent in France), released in the Fall 2015, your curiosity about things français might be piqued and you might decide on a trip to France, or at least the travel section of your bookstore.
Landing Linda Gray Sexton for this interview was a complete accident. If I hadn’t flubbed, I probably wouldn’t have dared reach out to her. You see, I was careless. I stumbled on her Twitter profile (@LindaGraySexton), noticed that she had recently published a book, Bespotted (read more on that in the interview), and thought, “Voilà! ‘new author’ for my author interview series.” And then I direct-messaged her.
So, yes, I tripped and fell face-first into a goldmine. And, today, you too can enjoy the wealth of knowledge, experience and grace that she brings to lovers of the literary—without getting egg in your mascara!
Before we head to her interview, here are some ways you can get social with Linda Gray Sexton!
Where do you currently reside? What’s your hometown/origin? I live in Redwood City, California, up high in the mountains, just south of San Francisco, on the Peninsula. I grew up on the East Coast, in the Boston suburbs.
Some could say you’ve been “born to write,” but can you remember that first time you absolutely knew that writing was going to be more than a hobby, or an assignment?I do think of myself as being “born to write,” as the daughter of the poet, Anne Sexton. I learned my craft “at my mother’s knee,” spending afternoons in her study showing her my early poetry and short stories, starting when I was in the sixth grade. By my early years in high school, she was showing me her work and asking my opinion, which she took amazingly seriously. She flattered me by calling me her “best critic”(not sure I believe this), as I was honest and (I hope) perceptive about what did–and did not–work for the ordinary reader, in a world where poetry was largely an esoteric mystery to many.
To me, writing never felt like “a hobby or an assignment.” It always came naturally, flowing from the heart, if not from skill in the beginning. In college, I took poetry seminars and wrote my English assignments with great pleasure, and graduated magna cum laude in English and American Language and Literature. I had thought I would go into editing at a publishing house, as commenting on my mother’s work had come so naturally in the later years, but I began my writing career instead by compiling a volume of her letters after her suicide. She died shortly before my graduation from Harvard when I was 21. I am also her literary executor, initially a painful task, but one that has become less so over the years and more filled with the satisfaction of representing her work and making sure it is remembered in the future. By the time I finished editing Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters, I was fully launched and never wanted to do anything else but create with words. I’ve been a writer (in three different genres) ever since 1975.
Was there an occupation you aspired to besides writing? Do you see elements of that “life” in your current life, or do they play out in your literature?Interestingly enough, I dreamed in junior high and high school of becoming a psychiatrist. I now see that urge as a misplaced desire to take care of my mother, who was so very mentally ill, and I’m glad I didn’t follow it. However, a psychiatrist examines the mind, dreams, wishes and thoughts of her patients’ emotional lives, and I like to think I offer my readers similar aspects of my own emotional life via my writing—which in turn offers them the opportunity to identify with me and my situation, and then to examine their own lives. Most of my “fan” mail (as my mother used to call it) centers around how a reader feels attuned to me and what I’ve offered with candor about my own life, be it through my three memoirs, my four novels–or even my newsletter, which isn’t really a newsletter at all, but instead an biweekly meditative essay on the ideas I have about everything we face as we wind our ways through our days. So that introspective, emotional side comes out in my writing. I was never a medical doctor to a patient, but I make myself an example of how one can struggle with and overcome any problem, hoping that each reader can find his or her own way to a little bit of peace through what I offer.
Can you tell us a little bit about Bespotted? This is the third book in what I like to think of as a trilogy of memoirs, being preceded by Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back To My Mother, Anne Sexton (Editor’s note: named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and optioned by Miramax Films) and Half In Love: Surviving The Legacy Of Suicide. The first two memoirs are darker in tone and deal with the pain of loss, suicide and forgiveness—how you can come from a very difficult place in your life to resolution. So they both have an upward swing and a hopeful ending.
The last one, Bespotted: My Family’s Love Affair With Thirty-Eight Dalmatians, describes the pleasure my family has always taken in our dogs, who happen to be Dalmatians, and the ways in which they guided us through the tough times in our lives. It begins with my childhood, and watching my mother turn our Dals into “therapy dogs” who comforted her through her days. It then moves on to my adult life, where Dals reappear as soon as I had a fenced yard available for them to run in.
Later, in the midst of a great depression in my forties, I, too, made a special dog—the dog of my heart—into a therapy dog. He was the one who really pulled me through to the other side of my bipolar illness with his love.
It is an upbeat book, dwelling on the happier aspects of both my childhood and my adulthood and the incredible relationships I have formed with these black and white miracles, as many people form with their own dogs. It really is a “dog book” of literary bent, which happens to be about Dalmatians.
My readers and community are also very much interested in the writing process. It seems there is a strong therapeutic undercurrent motivating your writing. Would you say that’s true? And, if so, do you take a freestyle approach to laying words on a page, or are you methodical? Do you wake up one day already knowing what your book is about?I’ve already talked a bit about how my books are introspective—for me and for others. I don’t think, however, that they are personally cathartic.
For me, to write about an emotional subject requires both knowledge and resolution, because if you were just blurting material onto the page for the sole sake of release, you would be better off keeping a journal. I need to have completed “the catharsis” long before I begin to actually write the book. Otherwise I won’t know what I am going to say, or what I am going to take away from my own experience. Or what I can offer my readers.
I do take an “associative” approach to getting my words down on the page—just following them wherever they may go, a process dictated by the unconscious. I turn off my internal editor, usually write a first draft (that I would never show to anyone) to try and catch the waterfall of words, and then go back and revise. If I sat there worrying about my prose, I would never put down a single word. I revise over and over again.
And yes, before I begin, I try to know “what the book is about,” though sometimes a book surprises me and moves beyond what I had originally planned or divined—or even designed. And I never tell anyone (except my husband maybe) what It’s “about” as that seems to be a jinx for me (yes, I am very superstitious!). I wrote a whole newsletter on the topic called “Killing A Novel Stone Dead,” which a lot of people really liked. You can sign up for my newsletter on lindagraysexton.com, and there is a free giveaway of any one of my books for subscribers every month. (Not to plug my newsletter—but hey, writers have to be self-promoting these days as no one else will do it for you!)
Could you describe a typical day for you? You seem very generous with your time away from actually writing — you even help budding authors with developmental edits, tightening their pitch, and you provide one-on-one consultation. What’s your secret? My days are very regular and self-disciplined. They have to be or I would never get anything done. I usually start writing at 9 a.m. and work till 1 pm, when I break for lunch. If I don’t have anything lyrical to say and the “juice” isn’t flowing, then I write whatever I can manage, which can be rewritten or relegated to the back of my file cabinet, though I don’t ever throw anything away, as you never know when it might come in handy after all. Sometimes important ideas are hiding in material you’ve rejected.
After lunch, I either do more work on the manuscript—if I am feeling incredibly productive—or I read, looking for examples of other writers who have mastered their craft. Or, I work on my newsletter, or write a blog for someone else, or try my hand at some kind of article that will probably never see publication, as the “magazine” market has contracted to the point of non-existence. Whatever it is, I keep on going. There are those days I stall out, but I try to be kind to myself and just get going again the next.
And, as to the last part of your question: well, I’m not sure I have a “secret” for those hours I spend away from my own writing and with others. For me, it’s more of a philosophy: what you give, you get back—in spades. Or, to quote the popular saying, “what goes around, comes around.” I like helping other writers, which is what led me to extend myself by offering consulting services (also detailed on lindagraysexton.com). It’s fun to work with other people’s words, rather than my own—less pressure, I guess—and I suppose it also reminds me, in a happy way, of all those afternoons I spent working with my mother when she asked for my opinion and treated it as something valuable. I like to believe I have something to contribute.
I also find I enjoy writing as a charitable enterprise. I work with a Dalmatian rescue, (Save the Dals), writing the biographies for the dogs who have been abused and are looking for new forever homes. It’s tremendously rewarding. Recently, I wrote a detailed brochure for the Dalmatian Club of America in their effort with the AKC to better educate potential and new owners about the breed, so that they know what they are getting into when they choose a Dal—lots of love and cuddling, but their realistic needs and character flaws, as well.
Do you ever experience writer’s block? What do you recommend to aspiring authors dealing with writer’s block? Every writer must experience writer’s block at some point, or they aren’t putting themselves out on the line and challenging themselves with their projects. For writer’s block I always try to write SOMETHING, no matter how awful it is. It helps just to get one word down on the page, even if it’s an expletive. And sometimes that one word, that one sentence, leads you into the unconscious, which is the wellspring. Sometimes, I recommend writing exercises or journaling. It depends on the stage of the writer and the depth of the block. I believe it can be overcome with diligence and determination. No one’s muse shuts up forever.
Do you have any new projects brewing at the moment?I’m working on a new novel. It’s a lot of fun to be working in the land of the imagination, after spending 21 years dealing with the reality of past and present in the land of “me” and “my life.” Both genres dig for the truth, but each in its own way. I find there are themes that will be central to your writing for your entire life, in many guises, and that we return to them book after book, no matter which genre we are working in. For me, I think that central theme for each book is the characters’ emotional survival when the consequences are dire and the odds are against him or her.
If there was one person (dead or alive) you could spend an afternoon with, who would it be and why? I suppose the answer to this is obvious. The one person with whom I’d choose to spend that time together with would be my mother. I would love to share with her all I have written, get her reactions, tell her how much I value her impact on my life as a writer. She once told me not to be a writer—that she would follow me around “like an old gray ghost.” Of course, this is exactly what has happened, but I’d like to tell her that I don’t mind that any more, that I value her haunting. Yes, an afternoon with Mom. From beginning, to middle, to end. That would be a special afternoon, indeed.
Coffee or Tea?Coffee with LOTS of Fat-Free Half and Half. But I always drank sugared tea with my Mom in the afternoons.
Any questions you wish I’d ask you?Nope. I think I’ll shut up now!
WANT TO BE A PART OF LIVINGINCYN’S E-INTERVIEW SERIES FOR ASPIRING AUTHORS?
If you’re an aspiring author — that is, you are actively working on your debut book, which you plan on publishing — or you recently published your debut work, you qualify for this e-interview series! Enter a comment below or send an email to cynthia [at] livingincyn [dot] com if you wish to participate in an e-interview. This series is slated for the 3rd Wednesday of each month.
Note: There are links on this page that will lead you to Amazon.com. If you decide to make a purchase on Amazon as a result of clicking the link, I receive a small commission from your purchase. Find out more about affiliate links here. Thanks for your support.
Ambition, accomplishment, motivation, strength. These are the words that came to mind as I read through this e-interview with Kerrie Lee Brown mere months before the release of her nonfiction book on heart health (due to launch this Summer 2016).
Not a stranger to health, fitness, writing and reporting, Kerrie Lee Brown was once editor-in-chief of Oxygen Women’s Fitness magazine, has authored a non-fiction book called “A Woman’s Guide to Rapid Weight Loss” (no longer available for sale), has three ebooks in her production pipeline, and also has a vision to publish a memoir in Spring 2017.
If reading that last sentence has left you a little breathless, be prepared to find yourself a lot awestruck by this media maven who survived an ultimatum from within. At 39, Kerrie had a heart attack. Her heart challenged her to create balance in her life and gave her clarity on what her upcoming memoir would really be about.
This e-interview with Kerrie Lee Brown is real, intense and–for lack of a better word–heartfelt, as it engages the intersection between inspiration and ambition, limitation and the anticipation of what’s to come.
For me, the magical thing about reading interviews with writers on the verge of publishing a work is the excitement they leave on the page when they talk about their latest project. Their knowledge and drive motivates other writers and aspiring authors to finish that first draft, polish that manuscript and go forth and get published! Without further preamble, let’s dive into the interview. As usual, Living in Cyn’s questions are in bold, grey text.
Where do you currently reside? What’s your hometown/origin? My family and I moved to Denver, Colorado from Toronto, Canada, in 2014 for my husband’s job. We are proud Canadians living in the United States. What an adventure! Colorado is beautiful and we love the healthy lifestyle. It was a big move for us—especially with two boys, ages 6 and 11. If all goes as planned, we’d like to stay, but there are a lot of hoops we have to jump through (paperwork). But so far so good.
On your blog you describe your past in media and communications with a daily four-hour commute, and how a life event forced you to re-evaluate the pace and manner of living. Can you share a little about this with our readers? Three years ago I was your typical hard-nosed magazine editor at Canada’s largest media company. My commute to the office was two hours each way by train and subway—which I used mostly as time to unwind and sleep, catch up on emails, journal, or just stare out the window. But things took a terrible turn when one day I experienced a panic attack in the cafeteria at work. For weeks after, more and more attacks occurred as well as shortness of breath, inability to concentrate, debilitating heart palpitations and so on. Then one night while I was putting the kids to bed my body basically shut down.
I found out I had an electrical problem with my heart and it was devastating. How could this be? To the outside world I was a successful working mom who had everything in order—great career, family and friends, drive and motivation. But the truth was my body was slowly breaking down from a build up of daily stressors and the pressure I was putting on myself to be everything to everyone.
Finding out I had a heart problem was a huge wake-up call. It never crossed my mind that anything like this would ever happen to me as I was not overweight, not a smoker, and very active. Although my heart-health issue turned out to be something I was born with—it was getting progressively worse (and more obvious) as I got older.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned through all of this was to start listening to my body and take some time to slow down. I am certainly more aware of the power of the heart now—not only as a vital organ but its capacity to gauge when your body is at a tipping point mentally and physically. It became evident that I was unaware of the amount of stress in my life (especially at work) and I’ve since learned to control these situations and say No when necessary. Everyone is different and our bodies are unique, but when our body starts to show signs of shutting down—my advice is to stop and listen and get help.
Could you give our readers a synopsis of your upcoming book? The book I’m on deadline for now, “Surviving Myself” (working title) is dear to my heart, literally and figuratively. The book (due to be released on Amazon, iTunes etc. by Summer 2016) is about my surprising heart-health experiences at age 39 that ultimately led to heart surgery and spiritual self-discovery. I am working hard to finish my manuscript and submit to my editor in a few weeks and then the fun begins with promotion and marketing 101.
Currently, I have four books in the works. Three smaller eBooks (which I’m still deciding whether they will also be available in paperback) to be launched over the next 3-6 months, and my “real” bigger hardcover book to follow in Spring 2017. My upcoming heart-health book for women is the first of all these passion projects I plan to complete.
It seems there is a strong therapeutic undercurrent motivating your writing. At what point did you decide you needed to write a book? Whenever I’m asked about how my heart book came to be I always say it was a unique coming of age story in itself. I started journaling on the train every day during my long, grueling commute to work in Toronto. After a few years of pouring my soul into day-by-day accounts of the trials and tribulations of being a working mom, balancing work-life, adhering to the demands of my career, keeping a marriage together, and dealing with ferocious mom guilt—I just knew one day I wanted to share my experiences with other women going through similar things.
Then my heart event happened and I knew for sure there was a reason I hadn’t completed my “balance” memoir yet. The universe was telling me that I wasn’t done with my own personal learning and that I needed to include my heart-health event in the book to help bring awareness to women about what can happen physically if they don’t take care of themselves. That’s why it’s been four (almost five) years since I started writing my book.
The hard thing about being an editor by trade is that I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to self-editing. I am a long writer by nature (studied magazine writing and editing in journalism school) and I just can’t seem to stop. But God willing, my book will be out in a couple months now that I have a set work-back schedule I’ve created and committed to and a publishing consultant/editor I’m determined to work with out of state. This last month has been spent updating my website in preparation for my book launch. I believe personal branding for journalists is crucial especially given the amount of competition.
How did you go about writing a book? Any rituals you lived by? I guess I could say that my writing ritual varies depending on what I’m writing—whether it’s a magazine article, press release, book or blog. I’ve been a magazine editor-in-chief for several successful titles in the health and fitness industry as well as on editorial mastheads for parenting, beauty and wellness magazines. I’ve contributed to over 150 different publications worldwide and have also worked in corporate and executive communications.
I prefer to plan my books more logically and write from a concrete outline, synopsis and chapter summaries—then attack the table of contents in that order. I admit my latest book was written slightly backwards in that it was transformed from a series of journal entries into chapters, and then table of contents (which I re-wrote multiple times). Right now it’s been a huge job trying to decipher all my scribbling from the journals and turn them into a logical re-tell story about my life. Very time consuming. But it’s almost there.
When it comes to deciding what content goes into the book. That, too, has been difficult. I have so much to say and share with women, which is why I have planned to publish the three eBooks as well as the larger memoir hopefully by Spring 2017.
The format of the smaller books will have tips and tricks and step-by-steps. My larger memoir, which is still off in the future, will recap the best of the smaller books and include a lot more outside expert advice on what can ultimately lead to women’s health issues from a personal and professional perspective.
My readers and community are also very much interested in the writing process. Looking back on your four years writing your book (I’m going through the same situation with my fiction, by the way) could you say you see stages in the evolution of writing the book? Could you say you see stages in your own evolution?
Good question. I see evolution in my writing process for sure. As I mentioned, I had been journaling and basically brainstorming my bigger memoir book for years—writing and re-writing. And then after an intense 12-month period of personal and professional changes and tough decisions, my book has become more of a self-therapy project that has helped me through some very challenging times.
Over the last year and a half, I’ve experienced change like never before. Some of it very bittersweet. From having heart surgery and relocating to a new country; to losing my Mom unexpectedly and then my mother-in-law also passing away. I’ve been dealing with grief and at the same time struggling with not being able to work due to red tape. On the flip side, this time has been a blessing to spend quality time with my boys and experience new things in a place we love. There have been many ups and downs but I have to believe in my heart it’s all meant to happen for a reason. So ultimately, what started out as a series of journal entries from a busy working mom, has become a huge tell-all of overcoming challenge and change. All the while my writing has been the one constant. I’ve learned a lot about why I’m here and what I need to do next to help others going through similar things.
Without everything I’ve gone through, I would not have become as strong as I am today and I want women to believe in that as an example with their own lives too.
Do you have any new projects brewing at the moment? Other than completing the manuscript of my first book by Summer; I am still freelance writing, editing and consulting on the side. I have an article coming out in the beauty magazine GLOW on “Daily Habits for Happiness” in May; and I just finished editing a large hardcover book called “Eliteness” for a chiropractor to the stars in Atlanta, GA. I am also working with a few different clients in the fitness industry on their corporate brand image and online presence. I have always loved the editorial side of my job (writing magazine articles), but I also get a different kind of satisfaction from utilizing my corporate skills in the areas of marketing, communications, public relations and content creation.
If you had the chance to hang out with Kerrie Lee, 12-year-old, today, what would you tell her? I’d tell her that it’s not what you do for a living that makes a difference—it’s how you apply what you’ve learned along the way.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved all my jobs over the years and they’ve made me who I am today, but experiencing a heart-health scare at such a young age is just not worth the four hour commute every day, the mom guilt, and the stress of getting that promotion or not. I would tell her that it’s more important to be aware of the pressure we put on ourselves. Love what you do but love yourself more.
Coffee or Tea? Coffee for sure the last few years, but I’ve switched to decaf for the most part since my heart surgery. However, if I had the chance again, I would most certainly love a cup of tea with my Mom.
Any questions you wish I’d ask you?
You may be able to include a few more questions from all that I’ve written above. Told you I tend to write long ☺ [Editor’s note: the following questions in bold, black text and responses were submitted by Kerrie Lee Brown herself]
How has your varied educational background helped you in becoming a health and fitness expert and inspirational author for women? Before I decided to become a journalist, my plan was to pursue a career in law. However, after spending time studying abroad, I gained a new perspective on what I wanted to do in life. I realized I wanted to reach people in a different way. I wanted to write stories that would have an impact on people and make a difference in their lives. During my time in Moscow, one of the experiences I will never forget was that I was mugged by the militia. It was a turning point in my life. When I got home, I decided to complete a second major in Communication Studies, which led to my interest in Media Studies.
News reporting became my passion because it provided an outlet for me to research unfamiliar topics and bring awareness to the public. After a long, intense application process, I was accepted into a prestigious Journalism school in Toronto. Not only did we get our first “real-life” experience working as junior reporters at radio and television stations and publishing houses, but we also learned about the inevitable perils of working in the media field. It was very exciting and the challenge I was looking for. I decided to specialize in the Magazine Stream, however I did spend ample time studying broadcast, radio and newspaper reporting as well. My portfolio began to flourish and I started offering my services as an assistant editor and features writer at a prominent city magazine—which led me to becoming the entertainment reporter for a national radio show.
All of my experiences working in the media have led me to where I am today and my education has played an integral role. But there has been a lot of change in media over the past few years—especially in regards to online platforms and the demise of print. I am still learning a lot and now creating a platform in the book author arena is very exciting.
What’s your advice for aspiring writers on how they can follow their dreams? I love speaking to aspiring journalists and writers about what it’s really like to work in the media. I always urge them to set realistic goals and expectations of what the media is like behind-the-scenes and the level of competition.
The exciting thing about working in the media is that it can lead to other incredible opportunities. Knowing that I’ve helped someone land a job in the industry, or giving advice on what to expect or what not to expect in a particular role is very satisfying to me. I still have many former staff members come to me for guidance on article queries, book reviews, job interviews and recommendations on advancement. I hope that in some small way I’ve been able to help them achieve their professional goals and encouraged them to make new ones to strive for. My ultimate advice to young journalists is: “Always keep things in perspective—the same can be said for the writing business as in life. Also value the time you have with your mentors. Learn from them and then teach others.”
Keep your eyes peeled for more from Kerrie Lee Brown. You can follow her on social media to learn about her and her upcoming book releases here:
WANT TO BE A PART OF LIVINGINCYN’S E-INTERVIEW SERIES FOR ASPIRING AUTHORS?
If you’re an aspiring author — that is, you are actively working on your debut book, which you plan on publishing — or you recently published yourdebut work, you qualify for this e-interview series! Enter a comment below or send an email to cynthia [at] livingincyn [dot] com if you wish to participate in an e-interview. This series is slated for the 3rd Wednesday of each month.