Writing, Reading, and Smiling . . . It's Contagious.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Seanachaí’s News

On the last Sunday of each month, I compile “Seanachaí’s News," a status report that will assess my work during the current month and also formulate my plans for the upcoming month. It will also give you a peek at my works in progress.

My Work During the Current Month

    1. Dead Bird in the Weeds
    • On August 9, Sunflower Footsteps released a preview of my new book, Dead Bird in the Weeds, a work of historical fiction about the 1798 rebellion in Ireland. To download a preview, visit Sunflower Footsteps.
    • Also, this title is now available at Amazon.
    2. Haunted Voices from My Past: True Narratives of an Ohio Family
    • If you follow me on Twitter, you know I have been working like mad to finish this novel which details my family's experiences with the supernatural, macabre, and unexplained.
    • A Sneak Peek Earlier this week, a gloomy day mercifully descended upon my little corner of the world, enabling me to take the picture you see to the right. Expect to read the bridge's chilling tale in my forthcoming book.

My Plans for the Upcoming Months

    1. Haunted Voices from My Past: True Narratives of an Ohio Family
    • I am currently in the final editing stages of my forthcoming book, which leads to the announcement I have been eagerly awaiting to make. 
    This book of foreboding family narratives will be published on October 31, 2009, giving readers the opportunity to experience a firsthand haunting on Halloween.  
    • To kick off the book launch, a host of events are lined up for October, including the unveiling of the book cover and blurb. A sample chapter will be available for download, and one advanced, autographed copy will be given away. For specific dates, check the Sunflower Footsteps calendar of events for October.
I hope you’ll be along for the ride!

For more information on Sunflower Footsteps, authors, and titles, visit:


As always, I love to hear from you. If you’re in the cyber-neighbourhood, drop me a line. In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling. It’s contagious.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Conducting a Tidy Interview

An interview is like a garden. If one tills at regular intervals, weeds are stopped before they can take hold. If the tiller breaks, plan to harvest ragweed at summer’s end.

Throughout my recent project, Haunted Voices from My Past: True Narratives of an Ohio Family, I conducted a series of interviews with family members. While some went exceptionally well, others failed miserably. One night after screeching a plethora of words at Hal (my computer) and frying my keyboard with tears, I renamed a parsed audio file “Nearly Ruined Track,” and set about compiling a list of interviewing tips to prevent further self-inflicted damage upon the computer and my own sanity.

A Tidy Interview

Technical Tips:

  1. Two Writing Devices: Although basic, this is the most important. Seriously, folks, pencil leads break and pens do run out of ink.

    • I prefer the four-ink style pens. This gives me four barrels of ink and allows me to change colors for highlighting different instances.

  1. Spiral Notebook: If a recording device fails, handwritten notes are an important backup.

    • My choice is the steno-type notebook with green-tinted pages and red rule down the center. I can write faster by using only ½ of the page (my wrist is not sliding back and forth over a huge expanse of paper) and the spiral allows me to flip pages quickly. It is also small and fits discreetly on my lap.

    • Notes also provide a written time line for the location of information on recorded audio files.

  1. Recording Device: This piece of equipment is essential for direct quoting and locating information missed during the interview.

    • Always ask interviewee’s permission to record the interview.

    • The recording of an interview is for personal use only. It is to assist in writing.

    • I am the owner of a digital voice recorder, and I cannot imagine conducting an interview without one. Weighing a few ounces, it makes the shoebox-style recorder out-of-date and ridiculous. It dispenses with the annoying hum of background noise and picks up voices within a conference-sized room (while tucked in my pocket). I also do not have the hassle of rewinding and forwarding through ten miles of audio tape in order to find the exact section I want. When I finish recording with my digital recorder, I plug its USB connection into my computer and download the recording. I can then archive it and play it using quality audio programs.

      • I recommend taking along extra batteries, although I have never had an issue with this. As long as my batteries are fully charged, I can record for HOURS. On my current charge I have recorded approximately 7 hrs. and the batteries are at ½ power.

Practical Tips:

  1. Always Thank the Interviewee: The interviewer is potentially wasting the interviewee’s time.

    • If the interview is not essential, do not conduct it.

      • I was once interviewed by a clumsy reporter who did not remember my name after leaving me an urgent message to call her back (she also insisted I had the wrong number). After realizing she did indeed contact me, she was ardent about writing a feature article on my work and asked me a series of questions. The interview lasted about thirty minutes. One month later when I enquired about the article, she replied that she was not able to use it because my residence was too far from her newspaper’s scope (although she knew of my location from the press release I sent her).

        • The lesson: Remembering my annoyance from her wasting my time, I never conduct an interview I do not plan to use. The wasting of the interviewee’s time is bad manners.

  1. Out of Sight, Out of Mind: People often become nervous when around recording devices and note taking.

    • To avoid this, I keep my small notebook on my lap and my digital recorder out of the line of vision (usually in my pocket). Also, make eye contact and smile (nodding also works). This puts your subject at ease.

  1. Have Questions Prepared: Have a list of questions to give the interviewee beforehand.

    • Interviews should flow. Stammering and awkward moments are a result of embarrassing, awkward, or startling questions. Interviews are not pop quizzes or police questionings.

    • Have questions at hand. Paper shuffling is a distraction.

    • If questioning the elderly, do not expect the immediate answer of a question pertaining to their childhood. Giving an elderly person a list of questions before the interview is beneficial. This allows the person time to recall events.

  1. Questions? Save Them for Appropriate Pauses: Questions are best asked when the subject pauses or needs prompting to continue.

    • Also, the end of the interview is a good time to double-check facts and other instances such as web addresses, spellings (proper nouns), etc.

    • The interviewer’s main job is to listen, not to talk.

  1. One-on-One: Never have a third party present

    • At the beginning of this article I mentioned renaming an audio file “Nearly Ruined Track.” This was a direct result of having third parties present. Unfortunately, these parties often became exuberant and talked over the interviewee. This was an unfortunate loss, and it was entirely my fault.

A tidy interview is the interviewer’s responsibility. Without utilizing the correct tools, putting the interviewee at ease, and collecting appropriate, relevant data, an interview becomes a quagmire of weeds. If the maturation of garden debris cannot be avoided and the interview does not turn out as expected, remember that composting for future success is a good idea.



Sunflower Footsteps is hosting a “Back-to-School Book Give Away

For details, visit:

Visit Sunflower Footsteps


Also, be sure to join me next week for “Seanachaí’s News.” In my monthly progress report I will make an important announcement about my forthcoming book,

Haunted Voices from My Past: True Narratives of an Ohio Family


As always, I love to hear from you. If you’re in the cyber-neigbourhood, drop me a line. In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling. It’s contagious.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Exciting Preview of The Mysterious House

Last Sunday hosted an extraordinary event that highlighted the preview of Dead Bird in the Weeds. This Sunday will be no different.

Today, Sunflower Footsteps releases the long-awaited preview of its first mystery series for children. E. Michaels' first Fox Mystery, The Mysterious House, is the adventure story of three fifth graders’ discovery of a mystery surrounding an abandoned house.

Blurb from back cover:

“Oh, no!” whispered Sheila.
“Someone is coming inside.”

The moonlit shadow advanced. In the shadow’s hand was a large flashlight. It flashed over the barn before it fastened on the trap door handle on the floor. The barn door slammed shut and once again the inside of the barn lay in darkness. The sole light came from the flashlight outlining the trap door. As the figure neared the trap door where Jimmy lay hidden, Sheila’s fingers gripped Mary’s shoulder. Mary, hiding the terror she felt, put a reassuring hand over Sheila’s and gave it a squeeze. Mary’s teeth were tightly shut, and her jaws ached as the scream rising in her throat was swallowed. Her thoughts were of Jimmy, trapped in the underground space, who was soon to be exposed by this figure with the light.

To download a preview of this exciting mystery, visit:

Visit Sunflower Footsteps


As always, I love to hear from you. If you’re in the cyber-neighbourhood, drop me a line. In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling. It’s contagious.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Anticipated Preview of Dead Bird in the Weeds

Hello, all.

As always, I'm excited to share my life and work with you each week. This Sunday, however, will be spectacular.

My new novel, Dead Bird in the Weeds, is now available for preview. To participate in this experience, visit Sunflower Footsteps.

Blurb from back cover:

Birds no longer whistle in the trees.
They lie dead in the weeds.

According to ancient Irish tradition, the wren would command the birds and the king would become the pauper for one day. For life to be restored to its natural state, the wren must be hunted and slain.

Dead Bird in the Weeds relates the tale of trodden people rising as wrens to win freedom from the tyranny of England during the 1798 rebellion in Ireland.

This is the story of one such wren named Aisling Doran, a peasant in Wexford, Ireland. Compelled by the murder of her father, the loss of her faith, and the yearning of her being to end the anguish she must endure, this daring young woman joins the revolutionary United Irishmen. Throughout the fields, hills, meadows, and mountains, she and her family wage war for liberty.

During this struggle for independence, Aisling finds the courage to love, to die, and most importantly, to live.

Sunflower Footsteps proudly presents one of its introductory titles,

Dead Bird in the Weeds

Visit Sunflower Footsteps


Be sure to join me next week for a preview of E. Michaels' new children's mystery, The Mysterious House.

As always, I love to hear from you. If you’re in the cyber-neighbourhood, drop me a line. In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling. It’s contagious.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Reading Away the Summer: My Childhood Obsession Foiled

“You have to do something besides READ your summer away!”

Ah, gee, Mom, do I hafta? This book’s really good!”


How many parents have had this conversation with their children? Probably too few and even fewer now since the domination of the Internet and video games. My poor mother had this talk with me at least twice a day from the end of May to the end of August during summer vacation. Though it never did further her cause to promote activities that involved closing a book, it did incite another closely related interest that continues to monopolize most of my time.

My mother was an avid reader and took my brother and me to the library once a week during summer vacation. For this reason she is partly to blame/congratulate for an obsession that has lasted longer than a summer occupied with reading Sherlock Holmes’ adventures beneath the covers by flashlight. Though she was delighted in my reading and did not wish to discourage it altogether, she tried desperately to pull the books from my hands for a few hours a day.

First, she made Dad put screens on the garage doors to make me go outside (I used bugs as an excuse to not leave the house). I took books with me to the makeshift porch and read them in the reclining lawn chair. I had found a way around her ploy.

Next, she bought a subscription to “Kids Kits,” huge white envelopes that came in the mail twice monthly. They were crammed with a plethora of scientific activities to encourage children to do something besides read. I remember one of the activities involved gluing together a model of the solar system. I made the poster with its pop-out planets in record time before racing to the library and checking out several Which Way adventure books that involved space travel. Poor Mom. Foiled again.

Remember Reading Rainbow? She made me turn on the TV, so that’s what I watched.

Despite her many failed attempts, I did eventually stop reading my summer away. One afternoon I was told “clean your room.” I shuffled old papers, dirty clothes, and dusty action figures, hoping she would think I had actually cleaned rather than relocated. As I was stuffing the relocated items into the musty closet, I found an old black leather case greying from age and dust. I pulled it out of the closet and opened it. There before me was an old manual typewriter. I didn’t pick up a book the rest of the summer. Instead, I wrote.

What does a seven-year-old write about? A log of daily activities, fiction about favorite characters from books, and short stories involving the latest escapades of action figures quickly filled all the typing paper I could find. As I grew older, these stories were traded for archaeological adventures with alternate endings and crime dramas filled with murder and mayhem. All were the immature ramblings of a child, but where would one be without childhood imaginings? Those seeds, no matter how insignificant, hone one’s skill and spawn worthy writing when one reaches adulthood.

Now, decades later, I sit here with Hal (my computer) on this cool summer afternoon writing a blog on the Internet. Though I’m not creating words on paper through the aid of chomping keys, dinging bells, and yellowing paper, I’m continuing a legacy that began through my mother’s concern over my welfare. If I listen closely I can hear her words drift into the room, fighting to be heard over a roaring airplane, “You have to do something besides WRITE your summer away!” My answer? “Ah, gee, Mom, do I hafta? This book’s really good!”


My List of Summer Activities

Last summer I was working on Dead Bird in the Weeds, a work of historical fiction about the 1798 rebellion in Ireland. It is now available at Sunflower Footsteps.

This summer I’m writing Haunted Voices from My Past: True Narratives of an Ohio Family. This work of creative nonfiction details my family’s experiences with the macabre.

To learn more about these and other titles, visit:

Visit Sunflower Footsteps


As always, I love to hear from you. If you’re in the cyber-neighbourhood, drop me a line.

In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling. It’s contagious.