Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Interview With Kimberly

I recently had the honor of being reviewed by Kimberly Shursen of the highly regarded Underground Book Reviews website concerning my novel Sarah Of The Moon. The review follows.

When I ask an author if he would like to do an interview, we usually communicate via e-mails. This is when I have the opportunity to get to know the person, not just the writer. When I located Mr. Mixter on Facebook I was able to observe pictures of his ‘real life’ storybook. As I introduce Mr. Mixter to the Underground, there are two words that come to mind: loyal and humble. Mr. Mixter is humble, yet knows he has something important to share, has a deep understanding for what is right for himself, but allows others the same privilege, and is totally dedicated to his wife, family and friends. Welcome Randy Mixter.

Kimberly: Will you tell us a bit about your background?

Mr Mixter: I have been writing since I was a teenager. I have had my poetry and other writings published locally. I have also written articles for a local paper and have won an award for creative writing. My first published book consisted of short stories about growing up in Baltimore City in the 1960s, titledThe Boys of Northwood. My second novel, Sarah Of The Moon, is a fictional love story, with a touch of mystery, that takes place in San Francisco during the 1967 Summer of Love. I recently completed and published Letters From Long Binh: Memoirs of aMilitary Policeman in Vietnam.That book is based on the letters I wrote home to my wife during a 1967 tour of duty in Vietnam. My short story, Eternal, will be published this spring by Sleeping Cat Books in the book anthology, The Storm Is Coming.

Since my retirement from a security position with local government, I have been able to devote more time to my wife, five cats and, of course, my writing.

Kimberly: How did your novel Sarah Of The Moon happen to evolve? Was it inspired by a true story? There are a lot of factual details, so if your novel is not based on what you personally experienced, how did you do your research?

Mr. Mixter: Several years ago I wrote a prologue and a epilogue to a book I called Sarah Of The Moon. The handwritten papers went into a desk drawer. In the autumn of 2010 I was recovering from heart surgery. I had just published my first book, The Boys Of Northwood, and thought this to be the perfect time to revisit Sarah. I began to write without any plot outline. I knew the beginning and the ending, but that was all. Luckily as I developed my characters the story came to me, a chapter at a time. Many readers have asked me if I've ever been to San Francisco. I have not. During the 1967 summer of love, I was military policeman in Vietnam. I researched the time and the place, then allowed my imagination to fill in the blanks.

Kimberly: As I read your novel, the one thing that kept coming back to me was how uninformed people were about the “Hippy” movement. Yes, there were those who were a part of it because they were into drugs more than cause, however the premise of the movement was heartfelt. Do you feel the movement had an impact on the future? How?

Mr. Mixter: I have always been fascinated with the so-called 'Hippie' culture and the music that came from it. I believe that shows throughout the book. I wanted to write a story that focused on their lifestyle and would hopefully depict these free spirits as more than druggies. I personally feel the majority of those young people believed in the tenants of peace and love and were trying to change the world for the better. It was also important to me that my three main characters, Sarah, Alex, and Matt were drug free throughout most of the novel. Although drugs played a significant role in the culture, I wanted my main characters to be enlightened without the use of drugs. In my book, I separated the true hippie from his weekend counterpart. It's significant to note the difference between the two factions in that the first group wanted to make change and the second just wanted to get high.

I would like to think the peace protests of the 1970's, which in some ways helped to end the war in Vietnam, and the protests of today can be traced back to the hippies of the '60s, and, of course, the summer of love. I also believe the movement was instrumental in passing anti-racism laws in the late 1960s and 1970s and undoubtedly was responsible for generating an interest in environmental concerns such as clean air and water, organic farming, and recycling.

Kimberly: Sarah of the Moon was written with honesty and sweetness and all the things we feel when we fall in love for the first time. How did you find those feelings, that purity, that happened a while ago?

Mr. Mixter: First and foremost, I wanted Sarah Of The Moon to be a romantic novel. I initially chose the Haight-Ashbury summer of love setting because I wanted my heroine to be a free spirit. Sarah was a product of her time as was Alex. Although they were from different cultures they became bonded through the love they shared.

I must admit I incorporated the feelings I had for my wife then (and now) into the character of Alex. Our relationship had the same purity about it. She was the free spirit and I was the reckless soldier. Somehow, due to a lot of persuasion and perseverance, it worked. I was able to connect with her when I returned from Vietnam. My wife and I both feel that the war changed me for the better, or maybe we both just matured in that year I was away.

Kimberly: The main character in your book is Alex. Alex’s father served in World War II. Alex’s father not only insisted, but ordered his son to follow in his footsteps. Was this to show that during that time offspring respected our parents’ wishes? That, at that time, many of us didn’t question but did as we were told?

Mr. Mixter: Many of the parents in my age group served in World War II, my father included. Patriotism was in the air in those days as well as the notion of a solid family unit. My father died when I was young, but I think his sentiments would have been similar to Alex's father about the honor of serving your country. In that regard, times have certainly changed between then and now. My father's respect meant everything to me in my youth. Not surprisingly, that came through in my writings.

Kimberly: Hindsight, do you feel serving your country in Vietnam was a mistake?

Mr. Mixter: I spent the year of 1967 in Vietnam and boarded the plane to the war zone at exactly midnight on January 1st. I volunteered for duty in Vietnam. At the time my reasons for this were purely selfish. Nineteen year olds live for the moment and I wanted the 5 day leave between my MP training at Ft. Gordon, Georgia and Vietnam to see my girlfriend. Also, I didn't want to be away from her through the longer tours of duty in Germany and Korea.

Vietnam proved to be a valuable learning experience for me. I still communicate with some of the friends I made over there, and participate in bi-annual reunions. I have no doubts, looking back on it, that I would have done it again. Would I feel differently about it had I been injured or traumatized in some manner? Perhaps. However, I'm glad I went to Vietnam. I'm grateful for what I saw over there and the lessons I learned. I believe it made me a better man.

I should also note that the girl that I saw on leave before I left for war, and the girl I wrote to nearly every day during my year away, is now my wife.

Kimberly: Sarah has premonitions. Her parents were killed when she was very young, yet she still has an ongoing relationship with them and tell her what will happen in the future. They even tell her she will meet Alex. Is Sarah’s character based on someone you know?

Mr. Mixter: No. Sarah’s character just grew in my mind as the story went along. I didn't know why she danced on a hill, or of her parents. I had the blueprint for Sarah in my mind but, much like the flowers she loved, she blossomed on the pages. I sometimes feel like a proud father when I talk of her.

None of my characters throughout the novel were fleshed out until they went on the page. I based my hippie character, Chick, on a free spirit friend I once had of the same name. Matt, the Vietnam war hero, was a composite of several of my veteran friends from Vietnam. The cat, Jezebel, was based on a stray cat with the same appearance that my wife and I befriended while on vacation in San Antonio, Texas. All else, including Oswald the chicken, came to me as I wrote.

Kimberly: What is one thought you wanted to convey in Sarah Of The Moon?

Mr. Mixter: I attempted to make the point that we should be tolerant of cultures different from ours. Each of my three main characters came from different backgrounds and had different philosophies on life, yet they were willing to make compromises and adjust their way of thinking in order to fit in. Of course they took it a step farther and all three fell in love, but then again it was the summer of love.

Kimberly: Can you share with us a bit about getting your book published?

Mr. Mixter: I self-published Sarah Of The Moon with CreateSpace last year. I currently have sent out query letters to several agents and I am optimistically waiting for a response. I am happy that now, with the advent of print-on-demand and e-books, there are more opportunities for aspiring authors to present their books to the reading public.

Kimberly: Tell us about the next project you are working on.

Mr. Mixter: I am currently one-third through writing my latest novel, Swan Loch. Much like Sarah of the Moon, Swan Loch involves two people very much in love. Unlike Sarah, it takes place in today's world. Swan Loch is about love found, lost, then found again. There will be mystery, adventure, tragedy, romance, and a bit of science fiction. Once again, I have a beginning and an end and I'm filling in most of the blanks as I write. Wish me luck!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Gratifying Review

It is something special when an influential website acknowledges your book.
This review of Sarah Of The Moon will be posted on the Underground Book Reviews website starting Monday February 27th.
I can only speak for myself, but, as an author, there is nothing better then when a reader enjoys and understands your book.
Thanks Kimberly!

Name: Sarah Of The Moon
Author: Randy Mixter
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 232

Summary: In the aftermath of the war with Afghanistan, we are taken back in time to the longest war in US history. It is a time when John Lennon’s Yesterday played in juke boxes and two fingers held up in a ‘V’ formation became the official peace sign. Author Randy Mixter paints a vivid picture of the Hippies in the summer of l967 San Francisco.
After graduating from high school, Alex Conley waits for his draft notice while working as a part-time reporter at the Baltimore Sunpapers. Alex’s father sermonizes that his son will, by God, serve his country like he did in World War II. He also needs little prompting to give his less than admirable opinion of the lazy, druggies who call themselves Hippies.
Against his father’s wishes, Alex accepts a temporary assignment in San Francisco to write a weekly column about the Hippies. Alex’s boss hooks him up with his nephew, Chick, who lives in the infamous Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. Men, women and children occupy the small home, their sleeping quarters divided only by sheets draped from the ceiling.
When Alex meets Sarah, the beautiful girl who dresses in white and dances under the moonlight, he knows he has seen her in past dreams. As they begin to fall in love, Sarah tells Alex that her parents speak to her from beyond the grave and tells her of the future. And when Sarah encourages Alex to wear tennis shoes instead of sandals that become key to saving a child’s life, he becomes a believer. Alex’s columns give insight into the thoughts of those committed to world peace.
Alex and Sarah’s love affair is not the fickle flirtatious love of youth, but the kind of deep emotional love, laced with respect and acceptance, that lasts a lifetime.

Quote: “Someone said something to Sarah and she laughed. It was a beautiful sound. He knew then, in that moment, he had found a place where beauty truly existed. A place where a child of the moon danced on a summer hill in a sun washed breeze. A place where the laughter of a girl dressed in white and a windswept song not only shared the same moment, but also had the exact same sound. “

Opinion: Sarah Of The Moon is a beautiful, well-written story that offers much more than just a love story. It is also a fresh, insightful view as to the reasoning of those opposed to the Vietnam War. Randy Mixter gently peels back the layers of the emotional and psychological trauma surrounding the era. Mr. Mixter not only tells the story of those dedicated to saving their own generation, but of those committed to fighting for their country.
With over l9 years of US involvement in the War, and statistics stating that 58,148 American soldiers were killed in Vietnam, 61% younger than 21, even if opposed, the counter-movement is not difficult to understand.
Sarah Of The Moon is a heartfelt premise of those present day Baby Boomers once referred to in their youth as ‘Hippies.’

Recommendation: Mr. Mixter’s ability to communicate in a thought provoking way is a rare find. Not just a novel for Baby Boomer’s, but for anyone who would enjoy an ‘up close and personal’ novel about the hopes and dreams of youth.

Rating: 5 Stars

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ouch! That hurts!

Have you ever been rejected at one time or another in your life. If you said no, you need to get out more. Rejections, whether personal or professional, are a normal part of life.
The game plan should be to keep them to a minimum. Me, I guess I'm a masochist because not too long ago I e-mail over 40 queries to book agents about my book Sarah Of The Moon.
I thought the queries were well written and insightful but I knew I was in trouble when the first rejections hit my inbox within minutes of my mailings. That's right, I was receiving rejection letters on queries sent two minutes previously.
The funny part was that they were saying things like: We've read your query letter, and the attached first 3 chapters of your book, and found that your novel, though it has potential, is not what we're looking for at the present time.
Let's skip right to the obvious. They didn't read my book excerpt and they probably did not read my query. There's a good possibility the agent never even opened my e-mail.
Things didn't get any better after that. After the initial first wave, the rejections began to trickle in one or two at a time. The wording rarely changed. The agents were always apologetic but still the book was not in their best interests.
Here's the bottom line, and the reason I'm not doubting my writing ability and even my manhood, the agents, are far as I can tell never read any of my stuff.
There I said it. I firmly believe that 99% of unsolicited e-mail queries are never read, at least all the way through.
Self-published authors are not top priority with book agents who must be absolutely certain a book has best seller potential before they begin pushing it to publishers.
It's tough out there in the book business today and agents know it.
So if you are trying to beat the odds, and who isn't, then the best of luck to you. But make sure you have a thick skin and a large ego. Both will take a hit in the days that follow.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Word Of Mouth

Okay, I'll admit it. I get frustrated from time to time when I'm writing books. The reason for my frustration is simple. I put a lot of time and energy into my writing and, so far, it has not resulted in significant sales. When I say significant I mean this: I expect all my books to be selling at a rapid clip. Does this make me different from every other author? No, it does not. Like everyone else, I want my creations to be loved as I love them. I want potential readers to look at my Amazon reviews and say, "Wow! That looks like a good book. I think I'll buy it."
The sad truth is that most readers don't necessarily buy a book based on reviews. They purchase books recommended by friends and relatives. This is called word of mouth and it is the best form of advertising.
Generating word of mouth is easy if you are a best selling author. New novels by these authors initially sell on name value. Then, if the book is a good read, word of mouth kicks in and does the rest.
Independent authors do not have the luxury of watching their latest book move on to the New York Times bestseller list within a week or two of its publication. Instead we as independents must get the word out on our own through marketing and promotion.
Then, after we have worn out our welcome on the internet and book signings (more on that later), we can sit back and wait for our readers to do the rest. Of course if they don't like the book, then all bets are off and your destiny as a pauper is secure.
If they like what they read and begin to spread the word through texts, the internet, and, oh yes, the spoken word, then maybe, just maybe, for some of us writing will become profitable. Until then it will continue to be, as it always has been, a lot of fun.