Interview, Cover Reveal & Giveaway with Fantasy Author, Melissa McPhail

Welcome to an interview with Melissa McPhail, the author of Cephrael’s Hand. Below that you can see the newly-revealed book cover and check out the info to enter the book giveaway.

Author Interview

1. How important do you think cover art is to selling your books?

I think cover art is essential to book sales. A well-crafted cover will tell the reader in which genre the book is classified, represent in some way the story’s theme, and give an overall impression of the world. Fantasy book covers are vital to presenting a sense and feeling of the world. In many cases, the cover is the only visual representation a reader gets.

And of course, we all know that a book cover done well will catch a potential reader’s attention. It’s your best and sometimes only chance to make that memorable first impression.

2. For self-published and small house published authors, what do think is important to remember when deciding on the final cover for your work?

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Reading: Remembering the Music …

dementia memoir Reading: Remembering the Music ...

One of the books I’ve read most recently is Remembering the Music, Forgetting the Words: Travels with Mom in the Land of Dementia Reading: Remembering the Music ... by Kate Whouley. The book is a memoir of her experience with her aging mother as her mom declines into Alzheimer’s. Although that sounds sad, she manages to put a positive spin on the experience, and one that I found enlightening to read.

About the Book

Whouley isn’t shy about explaining that she had a difficult childhood and a tough time relating to her mother. However, she doesn’t dwell on this aspect and instead just introduces it as background information for a theme that the really resonates throughout the book – the theme that the past and future don’t really matter for the Alzheimer’s patient who is really in touch with the present moment.

Whouley shares how she learns to adapt to her mother’s repetitive questions and cycling thoughts by treating each time that she says something as important right in that moment and that moment only. Of course, people with age-related memory loss do remember some of the past, sometimes getting mired in it, but I still love that Whouley makes this great point that the loved ones can benefit from letting go of their attachment to the story of their relationship with the person and just trying to thrive in the present moment with him or her.

At the same time, Whouley doesn’t sugarcoat the difficulty of this experience. She discusses the challenges – financial, emotional – matter-of-factly but not without emotion. She gives a very balanced, honest, personal perspective about what it’s like to live as the decision-maker for an aging parent.

Whouley is a musician (hence the title of the book) and she weaves stories about her musical life into the story of her mother’s aging. It’s an interesting approach to personalizing a story that in this era is so universal.

Favorite Lines

A few favorite parts:

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Borderlines (Favorite Quotes)

I recently read Borderlines: A Memoir Borderlines (Favorite Quotes) by Caroline Kraus. This moving book tells the true story of the author’s experience of losing her mother in her early teens and how that grief made her ripe and raw for enmeshment in a mostly platonic relationship with a woman with borderline personality disorder. It’s intense and interesting and sometimes funny.

IMG 5555 1024x1024 Borderlines (Favorite Quotes)

I always bookmark my favorite lines that stand out in every book I read. There were a couple from this one:

“Looking back, I see San Francisco as a curious siren. Almost everyone I was about to meet had migrated west for their own vague reasons, following some strange instinct that promised hope. It was a place that seemed ripe with possibility.”

“There is a particular kind of depression of the spirit sometimes associated with the deep introspective stage of transition and change. When this occurs, the Bear is a reminder that there is a prallel between depression and the natural state known as hibernation, when involcvement with the outer world is minimized in order to focus more energy on the inner processes necessary for a successful transition.”

“Memoir is, fundamentally, a literary investigation – a mystery that is cracked by re-creating dialogue and translating settings and action into words. But these are the vehicles to truth and not in themselves the end. There are the facts of this story, and then there is what I make of them. The curved lens of memory adds its angles to the process, shaping every setting, stretch of dialogue, and scene. But the aim of memoir – to transcend personal experience – is a corrective voice to that lens. In the end, the most distilled, captured “truth” is what the author has gleaned, with earnest motivations.”

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Berkeley’s Little Free Library

I was walking down a street in Berkeley recently when I came across this:

IMG 5226 764x1024 Berkeleys Little Free Library

It’s a Little Free Library.

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I’d never heard of these before but I looked it up online and I learned it’s a thing happening all over the place. The idea is that you can take a book, leave a book to share reading in your community.

Little Free Library Story from Beargrass Media on Vimeo.

This project was started in 2009. By 2012 they had met their goal of having 2510 Little Free Libraries out there in the world. There are now more than 15,000.

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USC Bookfest

When we were down in LA for my birthday weekend (to camp on Channel Islands) it was the time for the annual USC Bookfest, one of the largest literary festivals anywhere. We decided to spend a day there, where we listened to an interview and some poetry, visited lots of booths, bought some books on sale, added our hand to some art and ate out of the food trucks.

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Making a Book

We went to a booth where we made our own little book. First we wrote a paragraph based on a prompt. Then several copies were made and added to a pile on a table. Then we were able to pick four other people’s on the table to create our story, which we pinned into a book. I had my boyfriend and sister help me with all the parts. It was fun icon smile USC Bookfest

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What Was Your First Love?

When my mom and I were at the Disney Museum I saw this quote I loved:

IMG 42061 1024x764 What Was Your First Love?

And I thought of it again when we came across this outdoor art display of “first loves” because my eye immediately landed on the Nancy Drew answer (which was one of my favorite childhood reads):

IMG 4409 1024x1024 What Was Your First Love?But of course there were plenty of other answers in this art project as well:

IMG 4366 764x1024 What Was Your First Love? IMG 4365 764x1024 What Was Your First Love? IMG 4364 764x1024 What Was Your First Love? IMG 4363 764x1024 What Was Your First Love?

What was your first love?

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Shining Affliction: Quotes and Memorable Things

Yesterday I shared my current love for Annie Rogers’ books The Unsayable and Shining Affliction. Today I thought I’d preserve some of the things I marked as “to remember” from Shining Affliction.

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What you fear most has already happened.”  This is the first line of a poem that Rogers writes and shares in this book. What a powerful statement. And it is so, so true.

“Tea Bags is “magic” and has a relationship with Ben, but Tea Bags also has a relationship with me – I animate the puppet, but Ben treats the puppet as I have treated him. Tea Bags might also be an extension of Ben’s body; Ben wants to bring him boots after all, though Tea Bags has no feet. In short, Ben has found a way to put himself into Tea Bags’s “skin”, to guess what the puppet might want as an extension of what he wants. In this way, he is able to guess what a little lost bear needs and to make a tender response.” Ah, such complexities of people and our play!

“I feel suddenly wary. Everything within me is about to be named, boxed, contained and controlled. My hands rest on the arms of a green chair, but I feel as if they could life up and life me out of here. But they are still, lifeless. The top of my head lifts off (a strange sensation), and with it my answers to his questions life and float out of me into the street where they mingle with the smoky breaths of passerby. There is no need to explain anything, I realize.” As someone who is always reaching for words, written and spoken, I’m intrigued by elective mutism and I feel like this scene (where a doctor is asking her why she’s in the hospital after a breakdown) gives me a glimpse.

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“I know already how to listen to different silences. There is a silence that lies in hiding, waiting for words, but the words of the speaker are carefully censored, for all but the ones the listener waits for go unheeded, denied, into this silence. This silence leaches confidence and vision from the speaker, so that the telling itself becomes unnatural, estranging, annihilating. This silence is a bog, thick. There is no breathing space within it. But there is also a silence that opens out, as a simple wood door opens out on a clean white field, cold, its long slope strewn with stars. This silence breathes and expands. This silence waits for words, too, and it welcomes the unexpected ones, the uncanny, disturbing, and surprising ones.” Another thing that I’m reading for school is Barbara Stevens Sullivan’s book on Bion and Jung, so I’m learning about Bion’s K, the concept of being totally open to what is true in this present moment, and I feel like this latter type of silence expresses that K.

“The philosopher Heidegger writes, “What withdraws from us, draws us along by its very withdrawal, whether or not we become aware of it,” in What is Called Thinking. He goes on to explain how drawing towards withdrawal can shape who we are: “Once we are drawn into the withdrawal, we are drawing towards what attracts us by its withdrawal. And once we, being so attracted, are drawing towards what withdraws, our essential nature alread bears the stamp of ‘drawing toward’.” Another way of saying this is that the gaps in memory draw us into memory, whether we know it or not.”

“In each moment in every life, there is a gesture hovering, to move toward or away from a truth.”

“I see suddenly, very clearly, that her trust in me changed as she acquired more and more clinical training and experience, until I felt, in the last year we met, that what I said to her hardly mattered. She had her interpretations all ready, and my words were fitted to them. Anything that did not fit could be attributed to my ‘denial’ or ‘resistance’.” This is at the heart of Rogers’ troubles with her therapist and it really strikes me to the core. I think it is the risk all therapists run of getting wrapped up in the academic side of things and forgetting to see the person in front of them. It’s a risk I’m afraid of if I move into this work myself. It’s an area I never want to stop being vigilant about.

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Shining Affliction, Unsayable, Annie Rogers and Lacan

One of the book assigned for my Clinical Relationship class this semester was The Unsayable: The Hidden Language of Trauma Shining Affliction, Unsayable, Annie Rogers and Lacan by Annie Rogers, PhD. I fell in love with the book, reading it in one day and then reading a big chunk of it for a second time. After that I went back and checked out Rogers’ first book A Shining Affliction: A Story of Harm and Healing in Psychotherapy Shining Affliction, Unsayable, Annie Rogers and Lacan.

About Annie Rogers

Annie Rogers is a psychotherapist who shares case studies of some of her work with us in each of these books. She also has her own history of mental illness, including hallucinations and hospitalizations. A major focus area of her work has been studying French psychoanalyst Lacan and applying her interpretations of his theory to her work. She is inspiring in her work and it was fascinating to read each of her books for different reasons.

A Shining Affliction

IMG 3915 1024x1024 Shining Affliction, Unsayable, Annie Rogers and Lacan

This first book is a book of two different stories.

The first is the story of one of her earliest patients, a young boy that she worked with during her practicum year. His is a devastating story of neglect and abuse and the acting out that occurred as he tried to cope with the world around him. It’s also a powerful story of transformative healing through the therapeutic relationship. His story reminded me of so many of the kids I worked with in my group home work and her work with him is inspiring.

But her work is imperfect. And for a time she has to take a break from him. That’s because this book is also her story – her story of her own breakdown, triggered by her work with young clients and complicated by a negative relationship with her own therapist. We see her work with another therapist as well as some psychology mentors and heal.

These are human stories and so they are stories without endings, without perfect resolutions. But they are powerful. And it’s inspiring to have read this book after reading The Unsayable because I was already familiar with how inspiring Rogers’ work went on to become and it was even more inspiring after realizing the difficulties she surmounted to get there.

Unsayable

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