Mother Son Writing Team Hits the Big Time!

When Wendy Siefken and her son, Charles first sat down to pen the story of “Kai’s Journey” they had no idea it would lead to an opportunity to be entered into the hottest new contest for author’s titled “Writer’s Got Talent” Sponsored by Bruce Goldwell.

To see more about this contest and if you think you have what it takes to participate in the next season of “Writer’s Got Talent” starting in March please go to this site;  The contest site will explain how to vote for your favorite author on Pinterest as well.

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This week there is a special treat for all the readers! The first chapters of the remaining contestant’s books are up for your judgment! Here is the readers chance to judge for yourselves whether or not you would like to read more of the story each contestant has submitted. The remaining authors are listed as follows;

Wendy Siefken   –

Aoife Sheridan –

Vanessa Castillo Kimball –

Shannon L. Dearing –

Dawn Gray –

Dominique Goodall –

Jim Henry –

Clarence Bonner –

You can check out the first chapter posts on Pinterest at this site where you can like, re-pin, share, tweet and like for Facebook to show your support for the authors!

As Bruce Goldwell says, “Vote for your favorite author, watch book trailers and order a good book by an Independent Author!”

Our interview with Thomas Smith and James Darrell Williams


Their book can be found at the link below!

It was with great pleasure that I received an email from Thomas asking if I would write a blog about his and Darrell’s story. I was thrilled to be asked and it is with great pleasure that I get to share their story here. I was intrigued by their story of self-discovery and how they had started their journey and what they discovered along the way. So without further delay, please give a very warm welcome to Thomas and Darrell!


After spending more than 20 years as a journalist, publicist and educator, something told me it was time for a change. Though I searched for something to keep me busy in my middle years, it seemed like doors in the professional world were closed to me. In 2008, when I met Darrell in a Long Beach bar, I immediately knew this kind and thoughtful man would have an effect on my personal life. There was no way of knowing that he would change my professional life as well. He wanted someone to tell his life story. Of course, I knew from dating him that he had multiple personalities. That didn’t faze me, having become used to people changing personalities immediately after they left the stage. As we came to better know each other, I knew what he had experienced growing up with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) was a story the rest of the world needed to hear.


1. What prompted you to write Darrell’s story?

As a journalist, I’m always looking to find out why something happened. Most if not all of the DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) literature tells what happened, but never why. I thought for sure there would be an interest in a memoir that went a step further than most. Of course, doing so also made it what some call a difficult read, though I prefer to think of it as interesting.

Darrell had his own reason. He wants parents to be aware that when their child is acting out, there is a reason behind these actions. The parent needs to investigate. His never did.

Over all we just wanted Darrell to get his story out. So did all the kids inside him. Obviously this turned into a bigger exploration than either of us planned for the minute we learned that the man he had always believed was his father was probably not.



2.    Has the telling of this story changed you and Darrell?  If so in what way?

Not much has changed in the telling of it, though I did learn quite a few things from Darrell and the people inside him that I hadn’t known before and suspect there’s even more the kids inside are keeping hidden away.

Though we were warned when we started that this journey might have an impact on our personal lives, that effect has been positive. We have always been a close couple, but we are even closer now that we have had this experience.

The biggest change has probably been with Darrell. All his life he was searching for his family and for answers about why he was treated so differently and why he felt so unloved. He now knows that those who love him are the family he has today.



3.  Your search for answers took you from California to Covington, TN. Do you feel it helped you and Darrell or not?

Traveling to Tennessee really did help us quite a bit. Remember that this entire journey was a search for family. We did meet the Jacksons, his Aunt Bertha’s family, though they weren’t as welcoming as they might have been. You might say they weren’t the family we were expecting, but neither were we the people they expected to disembark from the plane at Memphis International.

The biggest plus for us was getting to meet his Aunt Betty Roland. She recognized Darrell immediately even though she had never seen him. Among other things, she gave us James Darrell (Monkey) Jackson’s original birth and death certificates as well as the photo take of him when he won the money to buy his beloved pickup truck. That photo of Monkey, reproduced in the book, certainly looks a whole lot like Darrell.

Being abandoned by Bertha Merriman in Memphis, nine or so days short of our return trip to California, also proved a blessing in disguise. We had no money, lodging, food or transportation. Desperate, I phoned Mary Barnick, who I had only spoken to once before. She and her husband Bo Kirgis drove three hours down to Memphis, giving us a place to stay, feeding us and generally acting like the family we had expected to find in the Jacksons.



4.   You mentioned you prefer a book to the new e-books, what are Darrell and your favorite books to read?

Darrell tends to like romantic adventures set during the time of King Arthur. Since he was illiterate until his 20s, I think that it’s really good that he finds pleasure in whatever genre appeals to him.

I’m more of a history and sociology buff. I will tend to re-read my Joan Didion collection when I’m not going through the bookstores. I find any book that has received some sort of writing award is a good choice. Anything that has made the New York Times Bestseller list is best avoided. In order to be popular, a book has to be simple especially since most Americans only read an at 8th grade level.



5.    Was there any part of the writing of this story that you didn’t like?

The parts about the functioning of the human brain were a challenge because science simply isn’t among my strengths. I had to do a lot of research comparing and contrasting the various findings before I finally realized that there was simply no research about what I was trying to explain.



6.   Since the writing of this book, do you feel it has it changed your lives?

Not yet but we’re aiming at just that. Darrell has gotten lots better at the whole marketing aspect, something he’d never done before. On my side, everything remains the same. My family is still after me to find “something to fall back on” and a job where I can “work my way up.” Not bloody likely at age 55 but I just let them talk.


7.  Was it hard to write the story about yourself or did you find it therapeutic and liberating?

Writing about me was among the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Because the book had required Darrell to dig so deeply into his own psyche, I felt I had to do the same. Imagine my surprise when it dawned on me there in the Arkansas studio with Bo Kirgis and Mary Barnick that I hadn’t been myself any more than Darrell had ever been himself. It wasn’t about how I was feeling or what I was seeing but rather who I was being. As a result after more than 30 years of portraying the Tom Kidd character who recorded albums, wrote for magazines and taught writing classes, I decided it was time to put him away. That’s not because I dislike him but because I no longer have either the energy or initiative to be him. Therefore “Which One Am I?” is written under my given name.



8.   Your books have been published with Amazon, Does this mean you see the publishing industry headed this way?

The publishing world is absolutely headed to the Internet. There are fewer and fewer book stores out there and, even if they stock a writer’s work, the writer and his company have to deal with returns charged against profits. It’s a silly game but one that was set up long ago and which the powers-that-be will not change.



9.    Do you have any online sites where others can read more of your writings?

We are on a rather extensive blog tour and there will be bits and pieces of the book up at various sites. Right now, the first part of the first chapter is up at Readers can also get a taste of the book at our site



10.   Do you have any plans for any more personal biographies or any other books?


“Which One Am I?” is about Darrell. The next book will be about me. I’ve found that while there are plenty of research publications available about gifted students, there are virtually no resources for gifted adults. My next book, tentatively titled “Whatever Happened to the Gifted Kids?” will use my own class as a starting point to find out how those with higher intellectual levels coped with life in the ordinary world. This one is in the very early stages of research so it will be awhile before I really get into writing it. Besides, promoting “Which One Am I?” has to come first.



11.   If your book were to be turned into a movie, who would you like to play your part?

We have been talking with documentary film makers even before the book was written. As for a fictionalized account, neither one of us has really given much thought to who would play us. I can say that I think Leonardo DiCaprio is a natural choice to play Darrell. DiCaprio was supposed to play Billy Milligan in a big budget film based on the book about his case. I know the actor was already in training for the part so he’d likely have little problem tweaking that training to play Darrell.



12.   If you could meet anyone from any time who would it be and what would be your first question?

To Jesus: “How do you feel towards all these people who call themselves Christians spreading so much hatred in your name?”


We have entered the America’s Next Author contest!

America’s Next Author

I have entered the contest with a story called “Hiding in Plain Sight.” Its sort of a thriller mystery type story. I found out all you have to do to vote is share it in linkedIn, facebook or twitter. Read the story and write a review if you are so inclined. I was tickled pink when we were accepted into the contest. I don’t know if I have a chance of winning or not, but I am trying. I feel like I have been spamming everyone for this trying to garner votes and shares. I kind of feel bad for doing it, but then again, if no one knows how will they find out about it? Once again I am in the quandry of to promote or not to promote! that is the question! but I think I will be promoting because even though I wouldn’t be crushed if I didn’t win, I am getting that feeling, like I want to win. I want to be competitive. Keeping it at a normal level of course. I don’t want to get all crazy or anything. ha ha ha. So I have entered and now I check it to see how its coming. How many tweets, shares and reviews. I work on Kai’s Journey the edits that are coming in now. I rewrote Hiding in plain sight a bit to tighten it up and fix some errors I had found. I am going to work on a powerpoint to help someone learn how to take tags off her amazon page tomorrow. do edits, add some ideas we had for book 2 of Kai’s Journey. Tomorrow will be a busy day! yay! like busy days. So I guess I had better get off of here and get to sleep so I can be bright eyed and bushy tailed for tomorrow. I have a lot to do and not a lot of time to get it done in. If you haven’t voted for me yet, would you please give it a peruse and vote? thank you very much in advance! Hope everyone’s day is a true blessing tomorrow!

Formatting your e-book!

I wanted to post this blog today in response to a bad review we had recently received. Did I want to lash out and act just as badly to the person who wrote the review? Yes, I did. In the end though I decided to take a negative and try and turn it into a positive in some way.

 Recently I received a bad review regarding our book. It states we were sloppy in the formatting department and also in the punctuation area as well. I have read this bad review over and over until I pretty much know it by heart. First of all, let me say in my own defense, I did put in what I thought was the proper formatting in my paragraphs and indents in the word doc. When I read a book, I do not want to see a big one paragraph chapter. I noticed when I was able to look at the preview that it took out all indents and spacing between my paragraphs. Had I formatted this correctly for e-book? The sad and unfortunate answer is no. It was correct for CreateSpace’s paperback books, but not for e-books.

The review kept bugging me and bugging me. So I started to ask questions. I talked to a  friend Raymond Frazee, who has been instrumental in helping me learn some new tricks with Word 2010. There are others on Facebook pages such as MasterKoda and Buggie 4 Books that are very proficient with word 2007 and 2003. I wanted to learn how to do it properly and since I have gotten that bad review I am learning the proper way to put them in so they will stay.I have been informed though that some Kindle and e-book formatters will take out all spacing’s and indents no matter how much you want them in there. I discovered if your Kindle is on your desk top it will more than likely take them out.

One thing I learned is that if someone tells you it was formatted badly, maybe you should find out what you can do to make it better. Ask around in the chat rooms. If you have uploaded it to Kindle Direct Publishing or Smashwords, they have community boards where a lot of answers can be found.  Technology is changing all the time and with it we must change too. We must learn the newer ways an adapt.  I learned that if you go to paragraph in Word you can set up your paragraphs to have indents on the first line and you can set it up to have spacing between your paragraphs too.

As for the poor punctuation in the first chapter, the only thing I can say about that is this. We have Microsoft office word for this very reason. It helps you catch bad punctuation or lagging sentences. Is it perfect? No. It is much better at catching things of this nature then I am. We still go through it and read it over and over. We hired someone to edit the story also. I feel very confident in the punctuation part in the first 70 some pages.  That is where we had to stop with her helping on the editing due to conflicting writing styles. The rest is Microsoft office and what we were able to find and correct between 3 people.

The reviewer also said the book was dull. I think that is a personal opinion and not one I can help her with. I have found books that were exceedingly boring for me to read, while other people raved about them. The book is geared towards Young Adult Fantasy, preferably grades 5ththrough 8th grade. We have had a lot of good compliments on our book.  I like books of this age group as do many other “grown adults.”

You may ask how did I take a bad review and turn it into something positive. I worked on what I could. I learned that there are ways to properly insert indents and spacing for paragraphs. I learned that while this works on most e-book readers, it doesn’t work on all of them. Some will still take out all of your indents and spacing between paragraphs.

So if you get a bad review, as long as there are specifics as to what is wrong such as bad grammar, bad punctuation, no spacing or indents in your paragraphs. Listen to what they are saying. Research and find out if you have done it wrong. Make sure you can back up what you have done with the correct information.  These are our books, our babies that we are putting out there for others to judge. Even though it will hurt to have them judged harshly, learn from it and improve it. The nice thing about e-books is they can be changed and updated so they will read better and look nicer.

 As for reviewers who have a personal dislike for indie authors. The only thing I can say to that is this. Don’t give them a bad book!

Writing from the heart.

A friend of mine recently told me I should write a blog and write from the heart. I have always been a very private person, not letting anyone get too close to me. I have kept people at arms length if  not more. I can relate to a lot of people’s pain whether it be from abuse or a painful past or even surgeries. I don’t talk about my own much but am willing to talk to others and help them with theirs. I let them know that I have been there too so can understand. I used to talk when I was young but found no one really cared. One person even said, “the further in time you get from the incident the less people care.” So I stopped talking about it.
Now flash forward a life time with kids and getting them raised and again I find myself talking about something I never figured anyone would want to hear about. My son, Charlie who has learning difficulties while in school, people want to know about! Charlie has dyslexia and cross modalities. Together we have written a book called “Kai’s Journey”. We are indie authors and have come a long way. I found that people wanted to know more about Charlie’s struggles and how he overcame them and still graduated high school. When we were querying agents I was told by an ISU professor to not share too much. Less is more. So I stopped telling the agents about Charlie and his struggles to become an author. Now that we have joined the MasterKoda site on facebook and gone onto a few of their parties and talked, People want to know about him!
The local school has contacted us asking if we would talk to a student about how to become an author. The AEA is wanting to talk to us also to maybe help set up a new way of teaching for kids who don’t learn in the “normal” way. As the principal Mr. Kozak stated, “teach outside the box” by incorporating their pasion with the lessons needed to be taught. To go along with that, I have also contacted the guidance councelor to talk about doing presentations to schools concerning some of the perils to watch out for when walking the road to getting published. I have found that here in Iowa,even authors who have been published for a long time really dont’ want to impart much information as for the ways of getting published. I want to let those kids know that while it is something to strive for to be careful out there and question everything!
I am by far an expert on any one thing in regards to getting published, but I am learning everyday new things and new ideas. I hope to pass that knowledge on to new and upcoming authors from Iowa. We may not have Chicago, or New York here but I am here and all it takes is one snow flake to start an avalance! I am quoting a friend there. Just because we are out in the boonies doesn’t mean we can’t help others find their way. While we don’t know how this will all come about we are pro actively reaching out to others to possibly help out aspiring authors and poets to realize their dreams. I realized long ago, no one is going to come knocking on my door asking for my knowledge or to ask us to speak. I am taking the initiative and going out to our local school and using them as a pilot to see how it goes and how we could improve if needed. We are still working on stories but also trying to start other venues in our area too.
Our journey to getting published wasnt’ just us writing a story, it was a group effort. Our local school helped us, friends helped us. Our local newspaper took an interest in us and helped us. Our local library was a great resource for information we were looking for. No matter how outlandish it sounded. Even our local vet helped us too! We hope to repay all those people who have helped us by paying it forward and helping others who are also looking to reach their dreams. So to sum all this up. You never know who does want to hear your life’s story, good or bad. You never know who you can help until you try. Most important of all, if you have a dream, never give up!