Interview, James Braha

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* Interview #73, with Hindu/Vedic and Modern Western Astrologer, James Braha!

* Note from Jess: James Braha is one of the most respected astrologers in America and is the recipient of the Jyotish Kovida award from the Indian Council of Astrological Sciences. I greatly enjoyed a number of his astrology books — so I decided to send a quick Q&A on career and life vision!

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Hi James! Describe yourself in 5 words:

james_braha

Four planets in Tropical Libra.

How did you get into studying astrology?

In 1978, I went for my first astrology reading and was astonished by her accuracy. One of the things she said was that I would have a “retesting of my marriage” in a certain month. When that month arrived, my marriage exploded like a volcano. I then went to Isabel Hickey, a very famous older Boston astrologer, who said my wife would be unhappy with whoever she was with and that I should get her out of my house. Isabel said my wife would return to me in 3 months – all of which happened exactly on schedule. I was so stunned by how someone could my life and my future that I began buying and studying astrology books.

The full story can be found in my autobiographical text ASTRO-LOGOS, REVELATIONS OF A HINDU ASTROLOGER. It is about my early days of learning astrology, and going to India to learn the Hindu system. A rather fun read.

You have written a bunch of informative, insightful, in-depth books on astrology—what a wealth of knowledge! Was there one particular book that was more difficult to complete than the others?

ancient_hindu

Actually, no. They all required about the same intensity. But having been an uninterested student in school (other than Drama – I was an actor), I had to learn how to write on my own after the need arose. The first book (ANCIENT HINDU ASTROLOGY FOR THE MODERN WESTERN ASTROLOGER) felt like a gift from god, in that I was able to write clearly and effectively. My second book, ASTRO-LOGOS, is where I began to realize I had some innate writing talent.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your work (10-100 words):

These days I’m mainly doing horoscope readings for seekers. I took a break from astrology for 4 or 5 years and focused on investments with gold and silver stocks. Also, was teaching non duality (Hindu philosophy of Advaita). Now I am doing 4 or 5 Hindu astrology readings a week and enjoying it. Giving the most thorough and detailed readings I can, trying to help people live their lives in the healthiest, most successful way possible.

Share a few of your favorite quotes (10-100 words):

“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but I do know that the only ones among you who will be happy are those who have sought and found a way to serve.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

“Although all dualities come from the one, do not be attached even to this one.” ~ Seng T’san – Hsin Hsin Ming

“After the final no, there comes a yes. And on that yes, the future of the world depends.” ~ Wallace Stevens

“Let a man live so that at the closing of each day he may say I have not wasted this day.” ~ The Zohar

How would you describe the essential purpose of astrology?

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[Image from Vedic Astrology]

It is a blueprint of a person’s life. It’s not absolute, but it reveals the essential nature, abilities, flaws, challenges and so on. It’s the most wonderful and helpful tool I’ve ever come across to help a person realize the highest potential and point out areas of difficulty.

Please share your #1 tip for aspiring students of astrology:

Only use what works, throw out what doesn’t. Don’t accept anything a book or astrology teacher says without verifying its accuracy. Ignore whatever so called authority say if it doesn’t prove effective in your practice.

Please share your #1 tip for aspiring astrologers:

Once you work professionally, don’t work 50 weeks each year. Leave enough leisure time for yourself — astrology is a very intense and demanding profession. It can be draining without if you’re not careful.

Your websites/blogs/etc:

www.jamesbraha.com

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Much thanks to the gracious and very cool James Braha for taking the time to share his thoughts and insightful advice!

Check out his full bio on his website, along with his catalog of books on Amazon.com

* UPDATE (Aug 2013): 17,000 live viewers tuned into this interview with Mr. Braha!

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Interview, Len Vlahos (BISG)

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[Image from Booksellers NZ]

* Interview #72, with Book Industry Study Group’s (BISG) Executive Director, Len Vlahos!

* Note from Jess: BISG is the leading book trade association for standardized best practices, research and education. I noticed Mr. Vlahos’ “very interesting and unique bio” on GoodReads — so I decided to send a quick Q&A on career and life vision!

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Hi Len! Describe yourself in 5 words:

Vlahos_Len_107

Caffeine free since August 2012.

What do you find most exciting and/or challenging with being the executive director of the Book Industry Study Group (BISG)?

I love BISG because we represent every corner of the supply chain. Our members include Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Google, Random House, Harper Collins, Hachette, the American Library Assn, digital only companies, indie bookstores, small publishers, printers. the Author’s Guild, wholesalers, and on and on and on…

We are at the very center of the book industry. We exist to build consensus, and to help trading partners work more efficiently together. It’s a broad mission, and it provides real value to the entire publishing ecosystem. And it’s fun. :-)

You dropped out of NYU film school in the mid 80s to play guitar for Woofing Cookies (a punk-pop band that had a full-length LP on Midnight Records), before working in the book industry and writing novels — what a unique bio! Do you approach music the same way as you approach writing?

Dang the Internet! My cover is, apparently, blown. The bio is true. I took a circuitous route to this point in my life, not always an easy route, but one I wouldn’t change for anything.

My prose writing is more methodical than my songwriting. With music, I pick up the guitar and futz around until inspiration comes or it doesn’t. With prose, I try to stick to a fairly rigid schedule of writing everyday, which forces a more deliberate, measured approach, if that makes sense.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your debut novel, The Scar Boys (10-100 words):

scar boys

Excerpt: An older and much larger boy stood over me, blotting out the sun. “You weren’t goddam here when we chose up the goddam sides.” He was trying on curse words the way a little girl tries on her mother’s shoes.

Blurb: The Scar Boys is the story of Harbinger “Harry” Jones. His journey from outcast to guitar hero takes center stage in this rock and roll coming of age novel. There’s love (conditional and not), sex (imagined and not), drugs (prescribed and not), and a whole lot of music.

(For the record, I’m not as good at blurbs as I am at fiction.)

Share a short excerpt of one of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

At the far end of town, where the grickle grass grows
And the wind smells slow and sour when it blows
And no birds ever sing, excepting old crows
Is the Street of the Lifted Lorax.

(The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss)

Do you personally prefer print books or eBooks?

When e- first started getting going (2008), I read quite a lot on my iPhone (using a variety of different apps). I would I say 50% of all my reading over the next two + years was on the iPhone.

But over the last 18 months, I’ve migrated back entirely to print. I’m not sure I can explain why, other than I think I suffer from screen fatigue. While I know that e-ink devices are supposed to be the antidote, they still haven’t really replicated the visual experience of ink on paper. Printed books are just easier on the eyes. That said, I have nothing against e-, and wouldn’t be surprised if I wind up reading e- and p more interchangeably in the future.

Please share your #1 tip for balancing work and family life:

Insomnia.

Please share your #1 tip for publishers and writers to keep up with the ever-evolving book publishing industry:

The transformation that has engulfed the book industry is not about technology; it’s about human behavior. People want to access content in myriad ways, and want to consume and share it in ways not previously imagined. Our industry should be focused on the customer and her needs and desires, and shouldn’t obsess over the technology. And don’t be afraid to fail. (That might be more than one tip.)

Your websites/blogs/etc:

Website | Twitter

Email: lenATlenvlahosDOTcom

(Man, that’s a lot of “Len Vlahos” for one paragraph.)

Much thanks to the gracious and very cool Len Vlahos for taking the time to share his thoughts with us!

Check out his bio at GoodReads, along with his bio at Book Industry Study Group (BISG).

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Note to Billy (Age 4) and Kids

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I featured this quotation in the first edition of 1: The Intern, the first book in a YA “seven deadly sins” series.

“When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth.”

It appears in Chapter 13 and is mentioned in conversation by a young girl who appears in just one scene.

Originally, this was a stolen/borrowed quote from an old Internet meme on love quotes by kids.

It was attributed to “Billy — age 4.”

I have since updated the quote so that the text is paraphrased. I also included an attribution to “Billy (age 4)” in the copyright page of my book as that is the right thing to do.

Kids can often be smarter and more perceptive (in their own way) than adults. “Billy” said it way more succinctly than I ever could have, at any age I ever was.

I’ve been thinking of “Billy” on and off since I first absorbed the wisdom of that quote. Who was he? Where was he from? What did he look like?

I ended up writing about a small boy named Billy in Book #1 of The Wilde Trilogy, my first psych thriller series.

I am dedicating that first psych thriller project to:

“Billy (age 4) and The Kids.

Because every child should grow up in a healthy home environment.”

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More Info on The Internhttp://www.jessINK.com/sins07_lust.htm

More Info on The Wilde Trilogyhttp://www.jessINK.com/wilde.htm

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Author Interview, Nathan Daniels

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Interview #71, with writer/survivor, Nathan Daniels!

Describe yourself in 5 words:

Understanding, Respectful, Honest, Strong, Loving.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your work (10-100 words):

fourth

EXCERPT FROM SURVIVING THE FOURTH CYCLE – CHAPTER 32:

“I would fill my torso with long, dripping, lacerations by the dozens. Often, I’d do this while watching the disturbing reflection in my bathroom mirror. I remember Hailey sliding her hand up the front of my shirt one night; only to gasp… shut her eyes… and whisper:

“What did you do?”

On that particular occasion, I had cut myself twenty-eight times. Twice across the throat, and I was aware of myself doing it, even if it was a distant awareness.”

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

EXCERPT FROM STEPHEN KING’S ON WRITING: A MEMOIR OF THE CRAFT:

“Writing fiction, especially a long work of fiction, can be a difficult, lonely job; it’s like crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub. There’s plenty of opportunity for self-doubt.”

Comment on the writing versus publication process, in your experience:

For me, the writing comes very natural. I’ve been doing it most of my life and it’s a great creative outlet, as well as being an excellent form of therapy. The entire publication process is new to me, and understanding all the aspects is a challenge, but I enjoy learning more every day.

What is your definition of “good writing”?

Be it a textbook, memoir, or work of fiction the reader should never have to “push” their way through the text. Instead, you should feel “pulled” along by the words on the page.

Please share your #1 tip for writers:

Read something and write something EVERY day!

Your websites/blogs/etc:

You can visit me at… http://survivingthefourthcycle.com/index.html
Be my friend on Facebook… http://www.facebook.com/Nathan.daniels.56863
Follow me on Twitter… https://twitter.com/NathanDaniels75

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Much thanks to Nathan Daniels for stopping by — do visit Nathan’s Website for more info on him and his projects!

NATHAN’S BIO (in his own words):

My name is Nathan Daniels and I’m a dedicated father, stepfather, partner, and mental health awareness advocate. I’m also a male survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I have recently overcome a twenty-year battle with suicide, and I currently live with psychological disorders like… Agoraphobia, Social Anxiety, PTSD, Borderline Personality Disorder, OCD, and Depression.

I have a website dedicated to my experience with these widely misunderstood issues, and I want to share my story with as many people as possible and do my part in raising awareness as well as reducing the stigma associated with these ailments.

My website has 5 pages where you’ll find articles, interviews, photos, videos, quizzes, movies, poetry, books, blogs, and other websites devoted to mental health in general. I would absolutely love it, if you would just check it out… and perhaps pass it along.

Thank you so much :)

P.S. Check out Nathan’s guest post here! (June 2013: Flashback to Abuse)

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Poem by Babaji, Himalayan Saint

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I came across this poem in an astrology book by James Braha (fantastic writings — check out his books online!).

I have many favorite lines from this poem. Two of my favorite lines can be inferred from this accompanying image.

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Anna Ignatieva – Demon and Angel, 2005]

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A Poem by Babaji, A Himalayan Saint

Love and serve all mankind. Assist everyone.
Be cheerful, be courteous.
Be a dynamo of irrepressible happiness.
See God and good in every face.
There is no saint without a past.
There is no sinner without a future.
Praise every soul.
If you cannot praise someone, let them pass out of your life.
Be original, be inventive.
Dare, dare, and then dare more.
Do not imitate. Stand on your own ground.
Do not lean on the borrowed staff of others.
Think your own thoughts. Be yourself.
All perfection and all virtues of the Deity are hidden inside you — reveal them.
The savior also is already within you – reveal Him.
Let his grace emancipate you. Let your life be that of a rose.
Through silence it speaks in the language of fragrance.

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Author Interview, Charles Muir

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Interview #70, with “compelled misfit” and horror/dark fantasy writer, Charles Muir!

charles_muir

Describe yourself in 5 words:

Compelled. Hungry. Misfit. Persistent. Transmuting.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your work (10-100 words):

hollywood

From my story in Hell Comes to Hollywood, “Alone and Palely Loitering”:

Knight had a friend, a writer, who soared to dazzling descriptive heights when it came to women’s breasts. Ample ones, especially. On paper, they quivered and beckoned as a succulent feast of edibles, their “creamy mounds” and “Hershey’s kisses” in contrast to Knight’s lens-like assessment, all dimensions appreciable in his worldview. The woman before him was more than a feast, she was a gateway to gluttony, her breasts densely spheroid with long, shadowed cleavage lines, mounted over the proud breastbone of a Valkyrie. And hips, high-velocity curves like a wildfire along twin hummocks, hips that blazed their own sexual lights against the bosom’s fearful symmetry. A tigress, Knight thought, like that Amazonian knockout in those cannibal horror films he watched with the sound down when his wife wasn’t around, he forgot the actress’s name just now.

“Um,” was all he said…

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

A bright light, like a hot, flickering, yellow star, burned through the ghostly mesh of his death dreams. He looked over and she was standing sideward to the fireplace, holding a burning brand outthrust toward it in her hand. Yet not a stick or twig; it was a scroll of tightly furled paper. And as the flame slowly slanted upward toward her hand, she deftly reversed it, taking it now by the charred end that had already been consumed and allowing the other to burn.

— Cornell Woolrich

Comment on the writing versus publication process, in your experience:

It took me five years to relearn how to write. I don’t mean writing as a craft, but as an act of putting words on paper without college-grafted perfectionism killing your first thoughts. With my stories I now try to emulate Ray Bradbury’s “seven drafts in seven days” approach (or seven sessions at the computer in my case) allowing my conscious thoughts to take over gradually in the last two or three drafts in a more natural arc. It’s fun and healthy for me, seeing as I’m a solitary doer and prefer to keep my studio closed off until I send out the end-product.

As for publishing, all my work has been in short fiction, which out of long habit I continue to submit individually to the small presses, hoping to find an indie publisher who will be interested in anthologizing my stories someday. This means the usual confetti of rejection letters and the sense of climbing a ladder with only two rungs. But I absolutely see the value of self-publishing these days. The technology is in place, the stigma is (rightly) going away, and emerging writers are becoming increasingly aware of the need to self-promote in a dismal marketplace.

As a side note, the Internet can be terrible for a neurotic person like me. There is a metrical side to seeing your work in print in the form of online feedback and statistics that didn’t exist when all you got was a check and contributor’s copy. Still, the Internet has given me relationships and opportunities I never would have dreamed of otherwise, and is giving artists a chance to get their work out there despite the stagnant commercialism and elitism of big publishing.

What is your definition of “good writing”?

I personally prefer narration that transforms the mundane into the strange, even nightmarish. It wakes you up for a moment. I remember very little about even crucial plot points, but I’ll recall a certain shadow, or a flight of stairs, or the way a character resembles a puppet for just an instant. That transformative vision is what gets me as close to the writer’s mind as I will ever get.

Please share your #1 tip for writers:

You will get better if you love what you do, because you will do it a lot and for as long as it takes to achieve the desired effect.

Your websites/blogs/etc:

My personal website: www.charlesaustinmuir.com

My article on “How to Submit Short Fiction for Publication”: http://tinyurl.com/submittingshortfiction

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Much thanks to Charles Muir for stopping by — do visit Charle’s Website for more info on him and his projects!

CHARLE’S BIO (in his own words):

I’m a writer, primarily in the horror genre. I’ve appeared most recently in the U.K. magazine, Morpheus Tales, and the Stoker-nominated horror anthology, Hell Comes to Hollywood.

I was born on the Oregon Coast but have lived all my life in Portland.

I’ve written psychological horror, splatterpunk, dark fantasy, flash fiction, slipstream, squishy-soft sf, and experimental. Some of my favorite themes include alienation, disease, hunger and metamorphosis.

My aim is to bend reality, skew the mundane, and broadcast my personal horrors. At the same time I don’t take myself too seriously.

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Author Interview, Tony Healey

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Interview #69, with writer and Kindle All-Stars contributor, Tony Healey!

Describe yourself in 5 words:

Blood, Sugar, Sex, Majik, Ha!

OMG I *love* that RHCP album (lol!). Share a short excerpt and blurb of your work (10-100 words):

From my short story ABC featured in the upcoming anthology CARNIVAL OF CRYPTIDS:

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I checked my watch again. “I’m sorry to push you, but I’m really pressed for time. I’ve got to–”

He laid a hand on my wrist. His eyes were fixed on the horizon, on the line of the sea beyond the boats in the harbour. Those little black eyes peered through time as he spoke. “This happened about twenty years ago. There’s a long stretch of woodland lies above the cove, between the farms and the moors.”

“I’ve seen it,” I said, mystified.

“Every man I ever told this story to has just laughed at me. Called me a drunk. Called me a senile old man. But with you I think it’s different. I think you’ll listen and understand what I’m telling you,” he said. “I think you’ll have an open mind.”

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

I think my favorite author is Arthur C Clarke. He’s not the best writer I’ve read, but there’s something about his singular vision of our future I find enlightening and hopeful. This is a quote from his novel THE SONGS OF DISTANT EARTH:

“The lives of men, and all their hopes and fears, were so little against the inconceivable immensities that they dared to challenge.”

Comment on the writing versus publication process, in your experience:

I don’t really have a problem with the publication process. It’s always an interesting and fulfilling experience. To write something, have it edited, polish it and then simply click a button and PUBLISH it is quite mind-blowing when you think about it. It can be frustrating when something of yours doesn’t quite hit a chord with readers, but like a writer friend of mine said: “Forget the haters. If they don’t like your book, write another one. Write ten more.”

I think that as self-publishers we should be working on that next project. We can’t sit on our hands and rest. The BIG 6 sure aren’t going to cut us a break. It’s a battle of the old world versus the new.

Yes to productivity ;) What is your definition of “good writing”?

Writing that isn’t up its own arse. There are writers putting work out, and I won’t mention names, but they seem more concerned with WORDS than telling a story. These people are so filled with their importance as WRITERS that they forget people don’t want to sit through that. I may be punching above my weight in saying this, but I don’t think it’s necessary to spend 100,000 words telling a story you could tell in 60,000 words. I love pulp fiction, and although I know it’s not to everyone’s taste it can teach writers some valuable lessons. The same could be said of reading bestsellers. You know, your Dan Browns and James Pattersons (shudder!). Although they’re not great books, they are fast paced and well-plotted. I love writers like Michael Chabon, John Irving, people like that who can spend 600 pages or more meandering back and forth within their story. Their books are a joy. But not everybody can be the next Chabon or Irving.

Good writing for me, at the moment, means brevity where possible and for the author of the work to remember they’re a storyteller first, and a high and mighty writer second.

Please share your #1 tip for writers:

Get a pair of headphones. And Led Zeppelin.

Your websites/blogs/etc:

http://www.tonyhealey.com

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Much thanks to Tony Healey for stopping by — do visit Tony’s Website for more info on him and his projects! And do check out the Kindle All-Stars FB page too.

Tony has a free eBook on Amazon too that you can check out!

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TONY’S BIO (in his own words):

Tony Healey is a Sussex-based writer and a born-and-bred Brightonian. He is the author of the best-selling Far From Home series.

He was a contributor to the first Kindle All-Stars short story anthology, Resistance Front, along with award-winning authors Alan Dean Foster, Harlan Ellison and 30 others.Tony has also contributed a piece of flash fiction to the anthology 100 Horrors.

As well as his writing, he’s interviewed numerous figures in the publishing world for his site, including Bernard Schaffer, Meg Gardiner, Alan Dean Foster, Debbi Mack, Russell Brooks and many, many more.

Tony can be contacted via tonyleehealeyATgmailDOTcom and at his personal site, http://www.tonyhealey.com