How could two books be more different? Lisa Winkler’s success story

lisa author

Lisa Winkler has not one, but TWO books recently out on the market. And they couldn’t be more different. The first is a nonfiction story of one young man’s daring journey, and the second is a collection of essays from women bloggers who share their innermost thoughts and posts with the rest of us.

Here at Books New Haven, we’re always ready to celebrate books by local authors, and Lisa was born and raised in Killingworth, where her father was a poultry farmer and the entire family – Lisa’s mother, two sisters and brother – worked on the farm. After graduating from Vassar College, Lisa wanted to be a journalist. She worked as a reporter for the Hartford Courant and the Danbury News-Times, and then married and moved to London. She’s been a teacher and a writer, and is the mother of three children. And now that she’s also a grandmohter, she writes a blog at

Welcome, Lisa, to Books New Haven.

tangerine tangocowboy book by lisa

Tell us about your new books.

Tangerine Tango: Women Writers Share Slices of Life is an anthology of short essays by women writers. Most of the writers I met through blogging and I invited them to submit essays, without giving them any theme. I received submissions that span the entire citrus spectrum, from sour to sweet. There are colorful slices of life: some sad, some nostalgic, and some humorous, about parents and parenting, childhood, food, farewell, jobs and journeys.

Where did the germ of the story come from? How did you first know you were going to write this story?

After publishing my first book, On the Trail of the Ancestors: A Black Cowboy’s Ride Across America, people asked me what my next book was about. I didn’t have one! Though I was looking for ideas. When I hit my one-year anniversary for my blog, Cyclingrandma, in April 2012, I thought it would be fun to put my favorite posts into a book. But that didn’t seem enough. So I invited several writers, mostly other bloggers I’ve befriended through blogging, to join the project. Along the way, a couple other writers contributed too.

Was the subject matter of the book related somehow to your regular job? Or is it
something quite outside your field that called to you?

My first book, On the Trial of the Ancestors, tells the story of Miles Dean, a New Jersey teacher, who rode his horse from New York to California to celebrate the contributions of African Americans to US history.

I met Miles Dean while working as an educational consultant in Newark and
believed Dean’s mission and message would make a compelling story. It’s a story that speaks to animal lovers, horsemen and horsewomen, armchair travelers, and with educators, parents and young people who are part of the African American community or connected with it. It’s available via my website:, on Amazon, and in other book stores.

What did you most want to get across to readers that they might not have known about before you wrote this book?

As a teacher, I’ve witnessed how young people know little of history. In urban areas,
youth learn about slavery and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a few more facts
during Black History Month in February. Yet they have little if any connection with
these historical figures. When I began my own reading after meeting Miles, I became
fascinated with these people whose contributions to the development of the US are
largely unknown. Most adults haven’t heard of these people. American history needs to
include all races and genders to truly demonstrate who built this nation, their struggles
and sacrifices and stories.  A cross country journey in itself is a story. From my research, I couldn’t find any other story of of other modern-day African Americans who have ridden a horse across the country with this purpose in mind. I loved the idea of this young boy
growing up watching western movies and television shows and dreaming that he too
could become a cowboy.

Did this book come to you easily, or did you have to wrestle it to the ground once or twice? Did you ever give up on it?

On the Trail of the Ancestors went through many drafts. It began as a first person
narrative and then I changed it to third person. After trying to find an agent and not being able to find out, I thought I should let it go. But something made me continue and I decided to self-publish the book. I felt it’s a great story that had to be told.

For Tangerine Tango, I really had a lot of fun collecting the essays and working with the
writers. Some were a bit more resistant to editing than others, but it all worked out.

Do you have a writing process you could share with readers, a way you like to proceed when you’re writing a book?
With any writing, you have to be passionate and committed to the process. With non-
fiction, I think you have to truly become obsessed with the subject to create a book. It’s
not like fiction—you can’t make it up! That said, I also believe it can happen—just don’t give up! It takes tons of patience, fortitude and sometimes luck to get published. With self-publishing there are many options to get your work out, but it’s a very tough (and can be expensive) road. Believing in your story is paramount. If you have passion for it, others will too. Also, there’s no “quick fix.” While an occasional book might sell hundreds of copies the first week, thousands the first month and so on, most don’t. I believe marketing really becomes a personal adventure: why would someone want to read my book? I view it as my journey: one sale, one reader, one book at a time. If you care about the book, you have to put effort into marketing it.

Was the research fairly easy to come by, or did you have trouble finding the sources you needed?

I ordered books from libraries and bookstores and read on the Internet too. I didn’t have
any trouble obtaining the resources. I reached out to several of the people Miles met and
conducted a few telephone interviews that helped my writing.

What has been the most satisfying thing about compiling this information and getting the book written?
For the first book, I truly believed in the story. I was (and still am) mesmerized by the
journey that Miles Dean took, and the history he brought to life in his travels.
With Tangerine Tango, it was just a fun project and has been a lovely gift book. The
proceeds are going to Huntington’s Disease.

What has happened since this book has been published? What kinds of reactions have you gotten?

The books have been well received and of course appeal to very different audiences. I’m
trying to get On the Trail of the Ancestors into schools. I’ve written a cross-disciplinary
Educator’s Guide that is free to download from my website. I taught these lessons to students when I worked in Newark and they were well received by students and staff.

What’s next for you? Will there be a follow-up?

At the moment, I’m not planning anything. I’m always looking for the next idea and
might do another anthology later this year.

Julie Ann Knudsen and her coming-of-age debut novel about healing a broken heart

First, tell us a bit about your book: what it’s about, what genre it’s in, what inspired you to write it.

My Young Adult novel is titled IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE.

And here’s the synopsis:


Butterflies.  Little fluttering butterflies.  That’s what fifteen-year-old Willow Flynn feels in the pit of her stomach every time the mysterious boy is near.  But Willow has other things to contend with as she deals with the tragic loss of her father, as well as her emotionally preoccupied mother, while being uprooted to a new house, a new school, a new life, far away, on an island, in the middle of nowhere.

At the beginning of the school year, the sickly but cute Michael sends Willow the first of many cryptic notes during homeroom.  He stares at Willow and gives her the creeps.  Michael never returns to school after that, but Willow ends up connecting with the poetic boy on-line where they strike up an unusual friendship.

As Willow attempts to fit in and find her niche in the ever-cliquey high school world, she is further confused by Michael who strives to win her over and mend her broken heart.  But will he be able to, especially when his own existence remains so uncertain?”

Julie Ann Knudsen

I was inspired to write the book when my daughter’s friend moved to an island off the coast of Maine and had to rely on a ferryboat to get her to and from school everyday.  This fascinated me and I thought it would make a great setting for a young girl who would start to feel as isolated and remote as the island she now lived on.

Did this book come to you easily, or did you have to wrestle it to the ground once or twice? Did you ever give up on it?

This book came to me relatively easily.   I wanted to write a coming-of-age tale because there are so many kids out there who can relate to the angst we all feel at one time or another as we maneuver through the hallways and heartbreaks of our teenage years.

Do you have a writing process that you can share with readers?

I don’t have a specific writing process.  I start out with general notes and an idea of how the story is going to progress, but find that once I begin to write, the story takes on a life of its own. I can’t explain how it happens, but, even though I am writing the story, it’s as though the characters, themselves, dictate what happens next.  Sounds kinda crazy, huh?

I do need complete quiet, as I’m sure most writers do.  Sometimes, though, when I need inspiration, I will listen to music that I feel would be fitting as a soundtrack for that particular point in the story.

The wild ride to publication is always fraught with drama. Tell us about your journey to self-publishing. Had you tried to go to the traditional route first, or was this always the way you wanted to go?

I had tried the traditional route at first, but got discouraged after receiving over 60 rejection letters.  I struggled with the idea of stopping writing altogether in order to get a “real” job.  Then, one day, I stumbled upon a blog called “A NEWBIE’S GUIDE TO PUBLISHING” by J. A. Konrath.  Joe’s blog inspired me to self-publish.  I decided that no one was more in control of my fate than I, so I chose the self-publishing route instead.

What service did you use? And what help did they provide—editing, design, distribution, marketing? Did you agree with their approach?

Joe Konrath listed names of services that he highly recommended.  I used Diana Cox from Novel Proofreading to proofread my manuscript.  I hired a terrific husband and wife team, Amy and Rob Siders from, to convert my manuscript from a Microsoft Word document into an e-book, which I then uploaded, myself, to Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.

I designed my own book cover by purchasing the photo from a website called  I then had to install Photoshop on my computer in order to alter the photo, as well as add my name and title to it.

I have the best website designer Maddee James, from  She is in the process of finishing my website,, and getting ready to launch it.  When I was debating whether or not to have a website at all, I realized that I don’t have a physical space where people can come to buy my books.  My website is my shop, a virtual storefront for me.

What have been the best and the toughest parts for you?

The best part has been having an idea take seed in my head and blossom into a purchasable book on line.

The toughest part has been trying to figure out how to market my book and get the word about it.

Where is your book available?

My e-book is currently available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.

Would you go this way again, or are you wishing to break into the more traditional kind of publishing?

I have started writing my second book, a women’s fiction novel, and will most likely pursue self-publishing again.  It will definitely be easier the second time around since I learned so much the first time.  I do believe that self-publishing and e-books are the future.  I’m sure traditional publishing will still exist throughout my lifetime, but, at the end of the day, who is going to promote my book better than me, a story for which I am so passionate?  Also, with self-publishing, I own all the rights to my book.  I believe you lose those rights when you sign with a publisher.

Do some genres lend themselves more to self-publishing than others?

That’s a tough question, because even though Young Adult is a very popular genre, I feel that genres appealing to adults, such as women’s fiction or mystery, probably lend themselves more to self-publishing, simply because a person needs the money to buy an e-reader.  Many teens have to depend on parents to buy their books or they must go to a library to borrow them.

How are you getting the word out about your book?

I have a link on Facebook and just paid for a Kirkus review of my book, which I will use when I advertise on certain websites, such as Goodreads.  I have also given away free copies of my book to teens around the world in exchange for an honest review on Goodreads.  The wonderful thing about e-books versus traditional paper books is that they are timeless.  As long as Amazon or Barnes & Noble don’t remove my e-book(s) from their Internet bookshelf, they can remain on sale forever, whereas most traditional books are limited by their “shelf life” in brick and mortar bookstores.

Telling a life story, house by house: Susan Woodall of Madison pens a memoir

My Address Book

Susan Woodall loves houses–and you’ll see why when you read her new memoir, My Address Book: A Way of Remembering. Susan was a Realtor for years, as well as the daughter of an interior designer. When she describes a house, she includes things most of us might not think of.

More poignant, though, is what each house has meant in her life, how each has shaped who she is today.

Visit her website at, or buy her book at

It’ll get you thinking about your own houses, we promise!

Susan Woodall

Tell us about your book.

This book is a memoir of sorts, and a tribute to the homes I’ve lived in over my lifetime.

How did you first know that you wanted to write this story? What were the factors that engaged you from the beginning?

I got the idea for the book in 1992, when it became apparent that I would be moving from the East Coast, where I had spent my entire life, to the Midwest.  I wanted to record the places I’d lived in, as I thought I would never see them again. But life has its own twists and turns, and I am now back in the land of my birth.

Additionally, I have always loved houses and real estate.  My mother was an interior decorator and I spent almost 17 years as a real estate broker. So, I’ve been attuned to houses, décor, and real estate values. I’ve tried to incorporate these values, and a bit of history, into the book.

What was it in particular about this story that made you know it needed to be in a book that you would write?

This is a story (not the story) of my life framed by where I lived and my recollections of those places and what I was doing at the time. I knew that organizing the story by addresses would be a unique and specific way to relate my life.

Were you ever frustrated by having to stick to the facts of the story?

My only frustration was in trying to be as accurate as possible about the facts. I relied on photographs, letters, journal entries, the internet, and other sources to keep the facts as accurate as I could.

 Did this book come to you easily, or did you have to wrestle it to the ground once or twice? Did you ever give up on it?

 The writing of the book came very easily to me. I have always wanted to write and publish, but I’d been inhibited by some haunting words to the effect of, “Who do you think you are and what do you think you have to say that hasn’t already been said?!”  It’s taken me a long time to overcome that emotional and personal obstacle.

Do you have a writing process you could share with readers, a way you like to proceed when you’re writing a book?

For this book, once I had the framework scoped out, I just wrote chapter by chapter. Each chapter is like a little story and each one is linked to the next one.

When did you first know you were a writer?

As a child, I’d always loved writing letters, even thank-you letters! And then when I was a junior in high school, I entered a Scholastic Writing contest, and won third place nationally. I then knew I could write convincingly.

Do you procrastinate? What’s your favorite mode of procrastination when you’re supposed to be writing?

 Do I procrastinate??? Only for about 40 years have I procrastinated.  Once I have the urge to write, I just go and do it. But, in the process of doing a long piece, which I’m now in the middle of, my procrastination takes one of two forms.  The first and most obvious is surfing the internet. I’m already at the computer, and it’s so easy to drift.

But the more insidious form of procrastination is that little voice inside my head that keeps questioning the validity of what I’m writing.  I guess you’d call it mind-fxxxxxg.  That’s the hardest to overcome.

What about being a writer has made you truly happy?

I think better in writing than I do in conversing. My thoughts come out more clearly and I can see issues and solutions much more rationally, so that gives me great pleasure.  But the biggest pleasure comes often when someone has read my work and tells me how they’ve related to it, or enjoyed reading it or best yet, learned something from it.

I once wrote an editorial in a small-town newspaper. It was about a civil rights issue locally that was going to be voted on by the town council the day the column appeared in the paper. I went to the meeting that night, hoping that my point of view would prevail.  Much to my surprise, there were a number of people gathered there, with my column in their hands, declaring that they were there that night because of my column.  My writing had influenced people enough to come out and act on something. I was so gratified that the town council voted as I had hoped.  I then saw first-hand the power of the pen.

What do you tell people who want to be writers, too?

Just do it.

Sydney Sherman sees dead people!

Sometimes the best way to get your book out there is to publish it yourself. That’s what local medium Sydney Sherman did when she wanted to let people know about her unusual ability to talk with people who have passed.

Her book is now available, and she will be reading and signing copies at the Edward Smith Library in Northford, on July 14th from 11am-1p.m.

Here, in her own words, is her story:

My name is Sydney Sherman. I am a medium and a self-published author born and raised in Connecticut.

For many years I have helped many people connect to loved ones who have passed.  I have also spent a good bit of time educating people to recognize what is truly possible and showing how much our views of the Afterlife are manipulated by TV and movies rather than actual, rational experiences.

The idea for my book You Are Not Alone; Our Loved Ones Are Here…You’re Just Not Listening, came from my overwhelming desire to share my experiences and educate the public regarding the Afterlife.

The task of becoming self published was not an easy one. I used one of the many on-line services that provide everyone the opportunity to have their words and thoughts read by many.

My main focus for my book is to reach as many people as I can.  I want to give people hope–hope and an understanding that they too can still have a relationship with their loved ones who have passed. In my book I ask my readers this question: “Is it easier to believe what the mind tells you is true, or, is it easier to see the truth and convince your mind otherwise?”

You Are Not Alone…is a personal account of my life growing up in the ’60’s, being different. I trace my struggles to understand my difference and finally accept my ability.

My book also discusses the different myths and legends about many of the strange occurrences that surround us and how they came to be. I uncover the many “tricks of the trade” the “frauds” of the field use and educate my readers on how not to fall prey to their misconceptions.

For me, the book is my way to share my hard-won understanding of this gift with as many people as possible.

I will be reading and signing books at the Edward Smith Library in Northford, on July 14th from 11am-1p.m.


Future book signings and events will be posted on my website at

Copies of my book are also available on my website.

Guilford author Judith Vance tells about “Crossing Bridges,” a contemporary romance novel

First, tell us a bit about your book: what it’s about, what genre it’s in, what inspired you to write it.

Crossing Bridges is the journey of Abigail Sinclair, a passionate young lawyer, as she navigates her life and searches for happiness.  The novel follows Abby’s life from young adulthood into her late 30s.  When Abby is introduced, she is overworked and single, living in New York City.  She is struggling to find the right balance of career, love and family.  In the second half of the novel, Abby is a divorced mother of two who retreats to a romantic seaside cottage in Guilford, Connecticut, to see if she can sort out the complex calculus of her life.

The book is a contemporary romance.

Did this book come to you easily, or did you have to wrestle it to the ground once or twice? Did you ever give up on it?

The book was written over the course of several years.  In the beginning I was working full-time as the Head of Human Resources for a major financial institution.  Once I formed my own human resources consulting company I had more time to devote to the book.  I never gave up on the book since the main character became so real to me.  I needed to find out what would happen to her and her family.

Do you have a writing process that you can share with readers?

I like to find a quiet time in the morning when I am not disturbed.  A great deal of the book was written looking out over the harbor at Sachem’s Head.  I usually write for two to four hours at a time.  If I get stuck I will walk away from the book for a few days until I feel inspired as to what should happen in Abby’s life next.

The wild ride to publication is always fraught with drama. Tell us about your journey to self-publishing. Had you tried to go to the traditional route first, or was this always the way you wanted to go?

Like most rookie authors I wasn’t too sure how to get a book published.  Once I finished the book I attended the Wesleyan Writer’s Conference.  Reality quickly set in as to how tough it is to get a book published today.  I then attended Writing Workshops with the authors Amy Bloom, Steve Berry, and Matthew Dicks.  Each of these authors reinforced  how many times they had been rejected before they were able to get a book published.  The same message was delivered by the authors at the Savannah Book Festival.   (This is a great event if you ever get a chance to attend.)  Their support and enthusiasm encouraged me to keep plugging away.

What service did you use? And what help did they provide—editing, design, distribution, marketing?

One of my neighbors is a published author.  I asked her for her advice about how to approach the publishing process.  She gave me the name of a great editor. I used two sites – Kindle Direct Publishing and the Barnes and Noble DIY self publishing platform called Pubit!.  You go to the sites and you’ll find tons of rules that you need to follow to transform your word document into a style that they use to publish.  You then submit your book and they review it.  If you have followed all the rules you are good to go.  Needless to say there are just as many rules for the cover photography.  This is a bit of a process so you have to hang in there.

What have been the best and the toughest parts for you?

The editing process was definitely the toughest part for me.  I completely agreed with my editor’s comments but it is tough to delete parts of the book that you really loved.

Where is your book (or books) available?

My book is available as an e-book.  You can order to read on your nook, kindle, or ipad through either or  The book costs just $2.99.  I wanted the largest group of readers to find the book affordable in these tough economic times.

Would you go this way again, or are you wishing to break into the more traditional kind of publishing?

I tried to go the traditional publishing route.  I received many encouraging notes from agents but wasn’t making much progress.  I found it fairly easy to self-publish my book.