Artists and Authors · Hidden Gems · Interviews

Question and Answer with Author Ben Schafer

Hello all!

Today’s post is going to be a little bit different.

I have featured local businesses and amazing creative entrepreneurs but I have not yet featured local authors, artists, or musicians. This I hope to change. These individuals help to make Central Florida a unique and vibrant place to live. Their contributions to our community are vast and their stories are worth telling.

Today’s article is a Q&A with author (and my brother) Ben Schafer!

Ben is an independently published author local to Central Florida and his newest book The Race to Newton’s Moon comes out today on e-book format!

I thought that it would be interesting to have him answer some questions about being an independent author and the opportunities that he faces in the current environment.

I hope you enjoy and I hope to have more stories like this in the future!


What made you go into writing?

Well, the cliche answer (though no less true for the fact) is that I became a writer because I was a reader. However, there is one memory that stands out from an early age. After a short writing assignment in elementary school, my teacher commented that I had a talent for writing and that she believed I should pursue that talent. We often hear platitudes told to children such as “You can be anything,” but I believe this is actually less helpful than treating each child as an individual and telling them that they have a genuine talent for something. If you give a child a vision to strive for, and if you are honest about their ability to pursue it, then they will keep that in their heart for the rest of their lives. It was just that sense of vision that my second grade teacher gave to me that day, and I’ve carried it with me ever since.

In what way has this improved your life? 

I have a natural desire to communicate and discuss ideas. Fiction has provided an outlet where the ever-shifting realities (or perceptions of realities) can fade away, allowing deeper truths to be examined. In short, I can’t see myself not writing, and the innovations that have emerged in independent publishing allow me to produce high-quality work without having to wrestle with the traditional gatekeepers.

Have you had any challenges in this journey?

Of course, no journey is without its setbacks. My original vision was of a more traditional route to publishing by finding an agent and a publishing company who would pick up my work. Yet the choice to take the path of independent publishing has meant the world to me. All this being said, I am only still taking my first steps into this rich and competitive landscape, and it is still a challenge to develop the discipline to write even when inspiration does not seem to be at hand.

Do you like writing in this ensemble format or do you prefer first person like your first novel?

Each point-of-view format has its strengths and weaknesses. My first novel, Son of Syria, takes the audience on a deeply personal journey with the protagonist, Kyle Hoyek. For that reason, I defied the standard action-thriller tradition of third-person POV to get the audience in Kyle’s head and experience the adventure entirely through his eyes. That did mean that certain standard tricks of the trade that could build tension were denied to me, but the emotional strength of the first-person perspective paid off in ways a more detached narrative structure could not have achieved. Every choice is some sort of compromise. For a story as vast in scale as The Newton’s Moon Saga, a third-person perspective was the only logical choice. Even so, the first novel in the series, The Search for Newton’s Moon, kept a tight focus on the ensemble crew, with only rare glimpses at the perspectives of other characters. The sequel, The Race to Newton’s Moon, really opened up the universe in a major way and forced me to grow as an author as I learned to juggle a wider array of characters and viewpoints. But I think the results speak for themselves, and I hope that my audience will agree.

What is something that you wish you knew before you started this journey?

That the idea of “inspiration” as some abstract concept floating around, to fall on someone and then float away on a breeze, is complete nonsense. There are times when inspiration seems to strike out of nowhere, but I find that the most satisfying moments as a writer occur when I am in the thick of a difficult passage, slogging through a portion of description or dialogue that holds no passion for me (at least in the moment) but that I must work through in order to move the story forward. Subtle moments and details occur in those seemingly dreary passages of time, little flashes that would quickly die out if I simply succumbed to the old excuse of “writer’s block.” But, as those flashes build, they can turn into a storm of new ideas that can open the story in bold new directions. To put it more simply, it is the act of writing that generates inspiration, and not mere inspiration that produces good writing.

What does success look like to you?

Success for me, looks like the freedom to pursue my passion for writing full-time. It looks like having fans who hold a genuine interest in the characters and the plots that I present to them, discussing where certain threads will lead with fellow fans around the world. Mostly, though, success looks like an unwillingness to let negative reviews or poor sales stop me from doing the thing I love. It is this passion and this spirit of perseverance that continues to push me to grow and evolve as both a writer and businessman.

What challenges did you face during this year specifically?

Like many people in the central Florida area, I temporarily lost my day job due to the public health lockdowns and subsequent economic downturn. While my writing time was suddenly wide open due to the loss of my job, the sudden loss of structure (coupled with the enduring uncertainty) made this free time feel more like a swamp that threatened to drag me into despair rather than an open ocean to be crossed to new lands. Fortunately, I did not have to endure these times alone, and I am grateful to my friends and family for their support.

Were you surprised by anything that happened?

Truly, I was surprised that the market for e-books did not soar higher than it did given that people were locked down in their homes for so long. However, given the economic uncertainty in these same households, it is understandable that disposable income for entertainment was more limited than it otherwise may have been.

Did you have any opportunities during this time?

The obvious answer is that the lack of regular employment opened up my schedule for more writing. But I was also able to spend more time with a smaller circle of friends, which allowed me to build deeper relationships and foster creative bonds that can serve us all well moving forward.

Do you have any tips for other authors?

First of all, anyone can write, so push any thoughts of unworthiness from your mind. You have a story to tell, and only you can do it justice. Write a draft, sloppy and contrived and disjointed as it may be at first. Stop making excuses and get it down. Give yourself grace to make mistakes in that first draft. However, when it comes time to edit, approach your work with a ruthless and critical eye. No one should be a greater defender or a fiercer critic of your work than you are. Also, as odd as it may seem, remember that the editing process is just as much a creative endeavor as generating the first draft from a blank page. You are not “surrendering your art” or “selling out your vision” by trimming excess characters, dialogue, or plot in the service of greater narrative cohesion. Beyond that, read as many books as you can, both classics and contemporaries, in order to broaden your vocabulary and narrative voice.

Thanks Ben for answering my questions today!

Ben’s book The Race to Newton’s Moon releases on e-book today!

You can click this link to pick up your own copy!

Check out Ben’s Facebook Page for his other works or just to say hi!

Lastly, check out his website at Thebenschafer.com for updates for new works and to read some more exclusive content you won’t find anywhere else!

Thanks for reading! If you would like to be featured on this blog please email me! I would love to hear how you are helping to make Central Florida unique!

Remember to keep supporting local artists and keep finding new stories to tell!

Have an amazing day!

Amy

Interviews · Small Business

Chelles Bakery

Good Morning Readers!

Today’s article is about Chelles Bakery, LLC a home based start up out of Winter Garden, FL.

Chelles Baker Logo

This is run by business owner Darimar M. Velazquez, a self-taught baker and cake decorator.  She specializes in Gluten-Free French Macarons and much more.

Spiral

I found out about this business through the Chelles Bakery Instagram page. She has such a variety of different macarons that all look incredible.

Star Wars

When asked what made her chose this product Darimar responded, “The first time I tried a macaron was at the Bouchon Bakery in Rockefeller Plaza, NY. I became obsessed. I was fascinated by the range of colors and flavors that I instantly knew I had to make this treat. I researched a lot, read a lot, tasted a lot, and even threw a lot of macarons in the bin just to get them right. I chose this product because it has taught me one very important and valuable lesson: to not give up.”

Gold leaf

The decorating component of the business came about after Darimar’s sister-in-law used fondant for a cake for her daughter’s birthday. This experience propelled Darimar on her quest to learn everything she could about cake decorating through Google and YouTube. She became obsessed to learn how to create.

She then gained experience through small time bakeries and just trial and error. After some time, she knew it was time to take the risk and start her own journey. Originally selling her creations through word of mouth orders though her friends and family, she said that she would carry her phone everywhere and show pictures to anyone who was interested pictures of things she had created. Eventually, she made a Facebook and Instagram pages to market her delectable works of art.

Names

She says, “I knew I had to find a niche to be able to stand out from the crowd. That’s when I remembered how much joy I got from eating my very first macaron. I wanted to bring that same joy to others. I soon got to work on these delicate, little pastries that are notorious for enticing the hearts of people and drawing tears to those who want to perfect them. I started selling my macarons on December 2017 at the Winter Garden Farmer’s Market. It’s only been six months into the business but being at the market has brought me so much exposure. Since opening I have been commissioned to three weddings, Sweet 16th parties, and much more.”

Box and Flowers

“Becoming an entrepreneur has enhanced my life completely. It has provided me with a new perspective. You begin to think as a business owner (which makes you feel pretty special, by the way).”

Green

When asked if there have been any challenges she replied, “I wear many hats. From being a stay-home mom of two young girls to running all aspects of the business by myself it’s easy to see that time-management might be one of the biggest challenges I face. What I have learned is to delegate. I consistently ask myself, ‘Is what I’m doing right now the absolute best use of my time?'”

Her tips for others to start their own business are to work hard and find your niche “Do work you care about and truly believe in. This type of business is very saturated and competitive, but it can also be very fun and rewarding.”

Layers

Thank you so much Darimar for taking the time to share your story!

If you would like to learn more about Chelles Bakery, please visit the links below.

Instagram

Facebook Page

Pinterest Page

Due to the extreme heat in Central Florida she will be returning to the Winter Garden Farmer’s Market by the end of September or beginning of October. Follow her social media links to learn more about this and when she will be starting to sell her amazing treats online. While these will not be able to be mailed, she will be able to provide either pick up or delivery within Central Florida.

Thank you all for reading! Have an amazing day and remember to be uniquely you!

All pictures are graciously sent by Darimar M Velazquez and Chelles Bakery and are not my own.

Small Business · Updates

New Post This Wednesday

Hey Guys!

I will be featuring a new business this Wednesday! It is a home based macaron business out of Winter Garden, Florida. Super excited to bring this to you!

As always if you know anyone in the Central Florida area that would like to be featured, please let me know!

Hope you have an amazing day!

Amy