Friday, April 28, 2017

An Interview with Author Kelsey C. Lewandowski

Welcome to Up Around the Corner, Kelsey. Could you tell us a little about yourself and what inspired you to become a writer?

Well, I am currently a high school student in the process of finishing up my junior year. I published my debut novel, Abyss, in March of my freshman year (2015) and published my second novel, Elders, this past November.

As a kid, I loved reading and was reading chapter books by first grade. I think it was around that time (so, very early on) that I found a passion for storytelling. I loved hearing about stories and reading them, and actually began to understand the immense amount of thought that went into them. When I was still in elementary school, I decided that someday I would write a book and have it published.

Please share with us, one book that you recently read that you think readers of this blog might enjoy.

I recently revisited Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I had read a few of his short stories before reading this book and decided to check it out. In this book, some of the fears of the Red Scare (which was occurring during the time Bradbury wrote the novel) are reflected in a ‘backwards’ futuristic society where firemen start fires and literature is not meant to be read. This idea of controlling thought and emotion to the point where freedom is just an illusion plays a huge role in this storyline. The thoughts of the characters who do decide to break the mold are truly engaging as well as thought-provoking.

Tell us a little about your most recent book, Elders.

Elders is a story about two characters living in a futuristic society in which youth can be bought. This defining factor shapes their society by creating extreme social and political divisions between those who can and cannot afford to buy their youth. My writing in this story follows the specific impact of this society’s structure on the characters Cassius and Evangeline. The two are on opposite sides of this society, but still cross paths. By switching viewpoints, I hope that the reader is able to understand their vast differences in background, but ultimately the similarities that tie them together.

Stepping away from writing and books for a moment, what is one of the most interesting and/or exciting places you’ve had the opportunity to visit?

I enjoy traveling very much and am very grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to many different places. By far, my favorite trip was to the Hawaiian island of Maui. The nature there is stunning and the roads that wind up the mountains show incredible views.

A View of the Honokalani Black Sand Beach

What events might you have coming up?

On April 29th, I will be attending a local book signing hosted by the Gathering Volumes bookstore (located by the shops at South Boundary in Perrsyburg) in support of Independent Bookstore Day. Many local authors will be attending this event in order to sign copies of their books, discuss their writing, and share their work with the community.  However, this event is not solely dedicated to authors, so anyone that would like to come show their support can also check out local musicians and artists, as well as various other activities planned throughout the day. (See for more information!)
[There is a scheduled rain date of April 30th.]

As we’re closing in on the end of the interview, Kelsey, is there anything else you’d like to add or share?

I would just like to thank you for taking the time to interview me and include me in your blog!

Thank you, Kelsey, for taking the time to answer the questions for the readers here!


Where Kelsey's books can be obtained:
Abyss on Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Elders on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Where you can find out more about Kelsey and her writing:


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Interview with Denise Phillips, Owner of Gathering Volumes

Welcome to Up Around the Corner, Denise. Could you tell us a little about yourself and what inspired you to open a bookstore?

Thank you very much for having me. I am a wife, mother, and former IT professional. My husband grew up in Perrysburg, and we moved to Perrysburg in 2011. Growing up, my parents were avid readers, especially my father who was generally not without a book. After moving here, I was surprised to learn that there weren’t any independent bookstores nearby. My family and I would drive up to Ann Arbor and there we could walk to multiple independent bookstores. After my father passed away in 2013 I decided that it was time for a change in my career. I wanted to do something that would make a positive impact in the community, a place to gather that wasn’t a bar or restaurant and a place that was family friendly. I decided that for my family an independent bookstore would be an improvement to the community. It took me two years to put together a business plan and find the courage to move forward with Gathering Volumes.  

What, as a bookstore owner, have you found to be your biggest challenge and what has been one of your most satisfying successes?

By far the biggest challenge for me has been learning about marketing. I am still learning about this aspect of business ownership and I seek out all the advice and help that I can get. The challenge is determining the best way to reach out to like-minded individuals, those interested in a brick and mortar bookstore and who want to shop local as well as how to convince individuals to stop in and give it a shot. Making mistakes is part of learning and I have made mistakes, but I am gaining experience from the mistakes that I have made. I am most proud when a customer returns for a second visit and has loved the book we helped them find previously and is excited to find another.

If there was one book you could have those customers who enter Gathering Volumes read, what would it be, and why would you recommend it?

Wow, that is a difficult question. My goal is always to help customers find a book that will give them what they need at that time. Whether they need peace, excitement, intrigue, or knowledge I strive to recommend a book that addresses that need. I often recommend “The Alchemist” to customers, particularly if they feel that they need a change in their life. Although it is already one of the bestselling books in history, there are still plenty of people that haven’t read “The Alchemist” and for a fairly short book, it packs a lot of life lessons into less than 200 pages.

A common question(s) you probably get: How do you compete with Amazon? Why should readers choose to shop with you as opposed to the online behemoth?

I get that question quite often. There are a few reasons that I choose to shop at local brick and mortar stores. Local stores give back to the community in ways Amazon does not and cannot. Gathering Volumes has been open for less than 9 months and in that time, we have hosted 6 fundraising events for local schools, where a percentage of sales goes back to the schools, a food drive for a local food pantry, and a book drive. We host story times 3 times a week, author events nearly every week, book clubs for all ages, as well as activities for local organizations. We also showcase and sell local artists works in store. Our biggest event to date will be on April 29, Independent Bookstore Day, we will be hosting over 30 local authors, a local homebrew club, and providing children’s activities.

Of course, there is also the experience of being in a book showroom versus the online shopping experience. We give customers the opportunity to see, touch, and smell the book prior to purchase. They can sit in a comfortable chair, open the book up to any page, and read some of the book. They also can discuss books, get recommendations, and spend time with other people that love books. This isn’t just from me by the way; many customers offer suggestions to other customers. Of course, it is cheaper for Amazon to operate a book warehouse than to operate a book showroom and because of their size they can push for and get greater discounts and concessions. That is where we get into a discussion of price. It is impossible for Gathering Volumes to compete with Amazon solely in price and I don’t delude myself into thinking otherwise. However, I believe that many of us are starting to realize that we can’t make all our decisions based on price. Without getting too political I will say that there is a growing population that is discovering that they would prefer to keep their money local to sustain local culture, jobs, and taxes as well as to promote businesses that they can feel confident are doing the right thing.

You mentioned the Shop Local Movement, have you seen it in action at Gathering Volumes?

I have many customers come in and express that they prefer to shop locally. I also have customers come in asking me how I think I can compete with Amazon and the big box stores. I do not think that the Shop-Local Movement has caught on as strongly as is needed to keep Perrysburg real estate full and thriving with unique, local businesses. A number have closed recently and there are several open store fronts in town. I think as a theory most people understand and agree with the concept of shopping local, but I am not sure that the number of people that act on it throughout the year is high enough yet to save cities like Perrysburg from becoming full of generic real estate where we find the exact same stores and restaurants with no local flavor. I have heard of campaigns where people pledge to spend a certain amount or percentage of their monthly budget locally to ensure that they keep that money local and to “put their money where their mouth is.” I am interested to see if this campaign takes off or not.

What events do you have coming up over the spring and summer at Gathering Volumes?

Right now, we are focused on our Independent Bookstore Day event. 450 Independent Bookstores nationwide will be participating in Independent Bookstore day on April 29, 2017 and Gathering Volumes is one of them. Gathering Volumes will host multiple authors both inside and outside of the store, children's activities such as make your own Little Golden Book, The Glass City Mashers will be offering samples of beer brewed locally, and Mom's Mobile Mission will be collecting non-perishable food. We will open an hour early, at 10 am, for a special Elephant & Piggie story time, coffee, tea, and doughnuts. The store will also stay open late for Harry Potter Trivia and snacks from 7 to 9 pm. Finally, the store will have special deals and giveaways all day long including a signed short story by Michael Chabon, a signed short story by Rainbow Rowell, an Elephant & Piggie onesie, A Literary Cocktail book that has authors favorite drink recipes and more.

In May we will be hosting Tracey Hecht, the author of the Nocturnals series for Middle Grade Readers for a virtual visit and will also be hosting a Nocturnals party where the kids will participate in games such as Free the Fox and Flashlight Reading as well as dinner and a treat. We will also be hosting Kim Dinan, author of the inspirational book “The Yellow Envelope” on May 20th. On May 6th, we will be hosting 40 young authors from Woodland Elementary School as well as Children’s Book Author Holly L. Niner with her latest “The Day I Ran Away.”

As we are approaching summer break we will also be bringing back our popular STEM classes for kids. Last year our Build Your Own Super Soaker class was extremely popular.

As we’re closing in on the end of the interview, Denise, is there anything else you’d like to share or add?

I would like to thank you for the opportunity to share what we are all about at Gathering Volumes and to thank you for sharing your talent with us by allowing us to stock your books.

You're most welcome, Denise and thank you as well.

Where you can learn more about Denise and Gathering Volumes:

Twitter or other online connections:
Facebook: @GatheringVolumes

Twitter: @GVBooks

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

April 29: Independent Bookstore Day Signing Event

On Saturday I, along with about 30 other authors, will be at Gathering Volumes, celebrating the Independent Bookstore Day on April 29th (rain date: April 30th). I will be located inside the bookstore (many authors will be outside), where we will be talking about writing, books and signing copies of our works.

The event runs from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm, with many other events and activities scheduled, especially for children. (Check out the bookstore's website for details).

Gathering Volumes Bookstore
196 E. South Boundary
Perrysburg, Ohio  43551

Friday, April 21, 2017

Interview with Author Theresa Konwinski

Welcome to Up Around the Corner, Theresa. Could you tell us a little about yourself and what inspired you to become a writer?

I’ve always enjoyed writing, focusing on poetry as a kid. I took some writing classes in college, but those were mostly geared toward my profession – nursing. A few years back, I wrote a couple of the chapters for this first book but never had time to fully develop the novel, coming back to it once I retired. I love connecting with people through the written word, allowing peoples to envision the story using their own imaginations.

Please share with us, one book that you recently read that you think readers of this blog might enjoy.

I recently read “The Glass Castle,” a memoir by Jeannette Walls. I picked it up based on the recommendation of a friend who knew about my own book. It’s a book that’s hard to enjoy, exactly, because of the very, very difficult (almost impossibly difficult!) life that young Jeannette and her siblings had to endure. However, the writing is beautiful, and I think Jeannette tries to help the reader understand that no matter how hard her life was, her life turned out to be exactly what it was supposed to be. I recommend it without reservation, but it may not be for the tender-hearted because of what the children are subjected to.

Tell us a little about your book, An Extraordinary Year.

Though it is a book largely about kids, it is not really for kids. I would say An Extraordinary Year is a light-hearted book for “kids of a certain age,” and Baby Boomers will get all the references. It’s a highly-fictionalized memory of my own life and my brothers’ lives in 1963.

John Reed is a ten-year-old who lives in a small northwest Ohio town with his mother, father, and younger brother. John begins 1963 with a revelation that the year will be quite extraordinary, and indeed, each new month brings significant events that John must cope with, learn from, and assimilate into his understanding of life.  John learns that not everything that happens in life is good, but that life unfolds as it will.

Through various trials and tribulations of others he cares about, John learns the importance of human dignity, human connection, and respect, not just for people, but also for the natural world. The story is told plainly from his ten-year-old perspective. John’s year, from beginning to end, is full of important events and small moments that deepen his love of his family, as well as his town and its inhabitants. For John, the miraculous and the mundane have equal impact on his experience of 1963.

If you could share lunch with any two authors, who would you choose, where would you dine, and what would you hope to discuss?

You didn’t specify dead or alive, so first, I’d invite Ray Bradbury. My favorite book in the world is Dandelion Wine, and anyone who knows me is aware that An Extraordinary Year is a bit of an homage to Bradbury’s beautiful book. My writing style is completely different from Bradbury’s, but I like to think he would understand his influence on my own story telling. I’d love to ask him about how he develops the lovely, lyrical descriptions he writes in Dandelion Wine.

I think the second author I would invite to lunch might be John Irving. I’m a long-time fan and have read almost every one of his works. He tells stories within stories, a skill that is amazing to me. He understands the human condition and sees irony and humor in all the goofy things we human beings get ourselves cooked into. I don’t know that I’d have any particular questions for Irving, but I sure think he’d be a fun guy to share a meal with.

I’d probably ask both of these great writers to join me at Mancy’s, a family-owned steakhouse that is renowned throughout the Toledo area.

Do you have any other books in process right now?

Yes. I just finished a second book called Ragged Road. It is the story of a wealthy, dysfunctional family in North Carolina in 1968, and what happens when their teenage daughter becomes pregnant by a middle-class teenage boy. Prior to the 1970s, young women and young men had fewer options than they do now. Family secrets lead to tragedy in this tale. It’s a far cry from An Extraordinary Year - there’s nothing light-hearted about this one. I’m also starting to develop the ideas I have for three additional books. I have a lot of work ahead of me, but when it’s fun, it’s not really work, I guess.

What events might you have coming up?

One small book signing at a local hospital happens on April 26…I’ll be in the Gift Shop at St. Luke’s Hospital in Maumee, Ohio from 11:30 – 1:30 signing copies of An Extraordinary Year.

I’m happy to share that I’ll be participating in Independent Bookstore Day on April 29 from 10 a.m. till 4 p.m. This is taking place at Gathering VolumesBookstore, which is located at 196 East South Boundary in Perrysburg, Ohio. The owner of Gathering Volumes, Denise Phillips, is dedicated to bringing out the best local talent – and not just authors! It’s very exciting to be involved with people who are supportive of local writers, musicians, dancers and artists. I have now met many other local authors because of this event, a real serendipity for me. We’re all very different from each other, but we all share the same passion for writing.

Finally, on July 20, 2017, I’ll be appearing with other local authors at the Findlay-Hancock County Library located at 206 Broadway in Findlay, Ohio. We’ll be at the library from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. I must admit, this is particularly exciting to me because this is my home turf – the area where An Extraordinary Year was lived out. I’m hoping to see lots of old friends that night.

As we’re closing in on the end of the interview, Theresa, is there anything else you’d like to add or share?

Only that I appreciate the opportunity to tell your readers a bit about myself and what I’m doing because they are the very people who help keep local talent alive through their interest and support.

Where Theresa’s Book can be Obtained:

On Amazon Print and Kindle
At Barnes & Noble

Where you can find out more about Theresa and her Writing:

On Twitter - @TLKonwinski

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Relic Tech on Sale for 99 Cents!

Hey Folks,

Gryphonwood Press has placed Relic Tech on sale for a short time, available in ebook through all regular vendors for 99 cents.

If you haven't obtained a copy, or you've picked up a print version or audiobook version, then why not get another format?

Also, if you pick up the Kindle version, you can obtain the audiobook through Audible for $1.99!

Either check out the blog's feed on the left-hand side, or follow the link below for where Relic Tech is available.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Ohioana Book Festival Follow Up

I had a great time at the Ohioana Book Festival, meeting new readers and authors, and had the chance to tour the State House during the reception that followed.

Setup for Event
As an author guest, I was offered 1/2 of a six-foot table, and allowed to provide a maximum of five titles to readers, so it sort of limited my setup, display and offerings to readers. That's okay, I was able to discuss all of my titles with interested readers :)

Me hanging out with the Library Mouse

View during the State House Tour

Monday, April 3, 2017

Ohioana Book Festival (April 8): Hope to See You There!

Hey Folks,

Just a notification that have been invited and will be participating in the Ohioana Book Festival this Saturday (April 8).

The Sheraton Columbus Hotel at Capital Square
75 E. State Street
Columbus, Ohio 43215

10:30 am to 5:00 pm

Special Information:
I will be participating in the panel: Submitted for Your Approval: Sci Fi, Fantasy and Horror
Time: 2:30  pm to 3:15 pm.

There will be over 100 authors attending.

Hope to see you there, to talk about reading, SF and Fantasy, and sign come copies of my books, if you're interested!

Link for more Details: 2017 Ohioana Book Festival