Writing the West

by Judith Kirscht

judy informalI am not a Westerner, by birth, so some would say it’s presumptuous to place my stories there. But the West shapes the imagination even for those raised East of the Mississippi. Chicago kids like me dream of the open skies of the Great Plains, the mountains beyond it and the sea—a fairytale land of space and freedom. My husband-to-be was from Oregon, and my first experience with the West was a train trip across the country to visit him, my first adventure, being snowbound (in that same train) in the Blue Mountains. Far from being put off, however, I loved the mountains, the space, the air.

When I began to write, some twenty-five years later, my writing coach said, “You write from place. It shapes your characters and your stories.” Now, some forty years of writing later, he has proved right. My first published novel, Nowhere Else To Go, is set in a fictional Midwest college town, based on Ann Arbor, Michigan where I raised my family. The story—a college town caught up in the turmoil of the Sixties—is clearly born of place and time. The second, The Inheritors takes place in Chicago, where I grew up, and at its core are the sensibilities of those who live in cultural, racial, mix of cities created by the great migrations of the Twentieth Century.

Chicago Street Scene 1By the time I actually moved west to California, my sensitivity to place was well formed. I had spent six years in Berkeley, so I already had a sense of California as the home of all those who escaped seeking a golden life—all of those like me. They were as rootless as the characters of my first two books were rooted. Santa Barbara was similar in that regard, but it was there that the power of nature took dominance. The beauty of that coast is legendary, and for the fifteen years I taught at the university there, I lived beside some forty acres of open meadow leading to cliffs above a mile of wild beach and the sea. I swore I would walk that meadow every day—and I did. And so Home Fires, my third novel takes place there and carries that sense of the almost unreal beauty of that place and the woman who breathes it in.CA Scenery

All of these places reinforced my sense of the power of place to shape story and character, but I think few are as aware of the power of nature as the Northwesterners, where the expanse of water and mountain dwarf all else. I think I was drawn to Washington, some ten years ago, because the combination of water and forest remind me of northern Michigan, Wisconsin,

Hawkins Lane Cover

Hawkins Lane Cover

and Minnesota—vacation country of the Great Lakes states. And here in the Skagit Valley I’ve found people rooted in a way the Californians of my experience weren’t. They are fishermen, hunters, farmers, wedded to the land and sea. And so the protagonists of Hawkins Lane, Ned Hawkins and Erica Romano, are brought together by their love of the mountains. They carry that love of the space and solitude of the wilderness, the escape, the self-reliance that has shaped the national imagination.But in Hawkins Lane the power of mountain and forest becomes a character—a dominant, powerful force to be contended with before all else.

Here are a few snippets.

“As March neared its end, the stream behind the Romero house rushed with melting snow, the crowds of skiers and snowshoers on the streets of McKenzie Crossing began to thin, and eagles passed over the house on their way to the river. Erica recounted every change in her journal, every new bare patch of lawn, every bird, and every change pushed her harder …”

A sheen of white glimmered ahead. A moment later they were staring without breath at the vast expanse of snow where the trail had been. He reached for Bonnie’s hand but it was gripping the pommel of her saddle. … tears running down her cheeks.

‘Bonnie …’

‘He’s in there, isn’t he? Archie.’”

“Over and over, he radioed her. Her line was open, but she didn’t answer. He was overwhelmed by the enormity of the woods, of the lunacy of their illusion that this mountain was their friend. The night belonged to the mountains, the wind, and the rain.”

 And finally, the image of a frightened child looking down a tree-roofed lane that gave birth to the story became this ending.

“   he stood looking down its tree-roofed length. It was stripped and naked, but nature would re-clothe it. In a month, the alders and evergreens would take up everything that had happened and fold it into their branches.”

North Cascades

North Cascades

Read more about Judy in this article from GoAnacortes, and you can purchase her books on Amazon.com. Check her website and blog too for more about her books.

The Longest Trail

By Roni McFadden

Longest Trail I never considered myself a writer. The only experience I had was writing letters to the editor of newspapers when I would get upset about something! My kids would roll their eyes when another letter by their mom would reach the papers.

I organized a reunion to the pack station where I worked in 2003. There were about 30 of us seeing each other for the first time in more than 30 years. As stories were told, someone said there should be a book about the place. All eyes turned to me. I don’t know why. But that was the start.

When I first started to write the book it was really going to be more about the “place”. I did a lot of research on the Native Americans there as well as the man who built the pack station. But, as I started writing, I realized that the story really had to be about my journey AT that “place”. I started writing down different things I remembered and each chapter developed from those memories. Then, I had a bunch of separate stories and needed to figure out a way to tie them together.

That is when telling the grandchildren came to me. Once I figured that out it all just flowed.

I borrowed the term “True Life Novel” from Jeannette Walls’ story about her grandmother, Half Broke Horses. I thought that would let people know that it was a true story, but with creative license to make it flow for the reader. It has won 3 awards for non-fiction (Global eBook Gold, winner EPIC eBook award, and winner USA REBA Awards), but another reviewer told me a year or so ago that the subtitle might cause some people a bit of confusion on whether the book is fiction or non-fiction.

This year after my mentor John Slaughter passed away I decided I wanted to put in an addendum about losing him. So, I thought it would be a perfect time to add all the pictures that would let the reader see what I was writing about.   I made changes and decided to republish it as a second edition. I changed the “True Life Novel” to “A True Story”. I changed the description on the back cover. I added the addendum about John, and added 58 pictures.   (The pictures are in color on the author photoKindle edition.)

The book took 9 years to write. I put it aside for a year or so to write and publish the “Josephine” book in 2009. Josephine: A Tale of Hope and Happy Endings continues to win awards as well, most recently receiving an Honorable Mention in the Purple Dragonfly book awards in two categories: Animals, and Spirituality. It is a book about death, love and hope for children of all ages told by the filly, Josephine, who is a great granddaughter of the legendary Seabiscuit.

Thank you, Roni, for appearing on my blog, and best of luck to you with your second edition of The Longest Trail.

Shanna Hatfield Launches Thimbles and Thistles

Petticoat-Ball-Blog-Tour-graphic

Welcome to the

PB TitleBlog Tour!

A celebration of two new sweet historical romances by Shanna Hatfield

If you ever find yourself driving on I-84 through Eastern Oregon, take a moment to stop in the small town of Baker City.

From the freeway, travelers might notice a handful of restaurants, hotels, and gas stations. Few visitors realize that Baker City was referred to as the “Denver of Oregon” back in the 1800s, when gold mining drew people to the area and the town boasted any number of luxuries.

Baker City’s history goes back to the mid-1800s. The Oregon Trail went through the area (The Oregon Trail Interpretive Center located just a few miles east of town provides a rich and colorful look at life on the trail) and many settlers decided to make Baker County their home.
The city (now the county seat) and Baker County were named in honor of U.S. Senator Edward D. Baker, the only senator to be killed in a military engagement while leading a charge of Union Army soldiers up a ridge at Ball’s Bluff, Virginia, in 1861.
Gold drew settlers to the area. Auburn, a gold mining boom town located five miles southwest of present Baker City, served as the seat of Baker County in 1862.
In 1864, only three cabins stood within the urban boundaries of present day Baker City. A portion of what would become downtown was platted and by 1865, the main street offered a saloon, a few hotels, a livery stable, a variety store that housed the post office, a blacksmith shop, and a handful of other buildings.
By 1868, as placer mines played out, Baker City became both the county seat and commercial center. Auburn soon became little more than a memory.

In 1874, the legislature approved Baker City’s first charter, which set up a board of five trustees. In 1887, Baker City elected blacksmith and farm implement dealer Syrenus B. McCord as the city’s first mayor along with five councilmen.

Beginning in its earliest days, Baker City had a Chinatown that included several businesses, a Chinese temple, private dwellings, opium dens, and prostitution cribs. Today, visitors can see the Chinese cemetery just off the freeway.

Baker City’s buildings were constructed of wood until 1873, when former Sheriff James W. Virtue, who had established the county’s first bank in 1870, built a stone “fire proof” business structure on the southwest corner of Main and Court. Despite his claims, the building burned down in the 1880s.

Several fires ravaged Main Street buildings over the years. The most disastrous was the 1887 fire that destroyed all structures on the east side of the 1700 block of Main. Before the year was out, all those frame buildings were replaced by brick buildings, and some made of native volcanic tuff stone quarried at Pleasant Valley, south of Baker City.

One of the most impressive brick buildings still standing today is the Geiser Grand Hotel, located on Main Street. The Warshauer brothers, Jake and Harry, constructed the hotel in 1889. It went by the name Hotel Warshauer until purchased by the Geiser family about 1900.

http://www.amazon.com/Crumpets-Cowpies-Historical-Western-Romance-ebook/dp/B00QMTZYM2/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1420499308&sr=1-1&keywords=crumpets+and+cowpies

You can read a little about the hotel and life in 1890 Baker City in Crumpets and Cowpies, the first book in the Baker City Brides series.

In the story, Rancher Thane Jordan reluctantly travels to England to settle his brother’s estate only to find he’s inherited much more than he could possibly have imagined. Lady Jemma Bryan has no desire to spend a single minute in Thane Jordan’s insufferable presence much less live under the same roof with the handsome, arrogant American. Forced to choose between poverty or marriage to the man, she finds herself traveling across an ocean and America to reach his ranch in Oregon.

PB-Releases

Thimbles and Thistles CoverThe second book in the Baker City Brides series releases Thursday, April 9!

Thimbles and Thistles takes readers back to Baker City as spring arrives and love is in the air. You can reserve your Kindle copy here: http://amzn.com/B00TCV6BFG

Maggie Dalton has no need for a man in her life. Widowed more than ten years, she’s built a successful business and managed quite well on her own in the bustling town of Baker City, Oregon. Aggravated by her inability to block thoughts of the handsome lumber mill owner from her mind, she renews her determination to resist his attempts at friendship.

Full of Scottish charm and mischief, Ian MacGregor could claim any available woman in Baker City as his own, except the enchanting dress shop owner who continues to ignore him. Not one to give up on what he wants, Ian vows to win Maggie’s heart or leave the town he’s come to love.

flourish thinLacy Lacy, Book 5 in the Pendleton Petticoats series, will be available for pre-orders April 9.

Be among the first to order the long-awaited story of Grant Hill. Talk about losing at love… eligible banker bachelor Grant needs to find the right girl.

Those attending the party will also get a first look at the cover!

“Will the bonds of love be stronger than the bonds of tradition…”

flourish thin

Aundy CoverIt just wouldn’t be a party if there wasn’t a book available for free! Aundy, Book 1 in the Pendleton Petticoats series, will be available for free Kindle downloads April 9. Make sure you grab your copy! If you’ve already read it, tell your friends to download it. If you haven’t met the characters from Pendleton Petticoats, here’s a brief intro:

Aundy (Book 1) – One stubborn mail-order bride finds the courage to carry on when she’s widowed before ever truly becoming a wife, but opening her heart to love again may be more than she can bear.

Caterina (Book 2) – Frantic to escape a man intent on marrying her, Caterina starts a new life in Pendleton, completely unprepared for the passionate feelings stirred by the town’s deputy sheriff.

Ilsa (Book 3) – Tired of relying on others to guide and protect her, Ilsa finally finds the strength and courage to take control of her life. Unfortunately, her independence drives a wedge between her and the man she’s come to love.

Marnie (Book 4) – After giving up on her dreams for a future, Marnie finds her hope rekindled by one caring, compassionate man and the orphans who need her.

PB-Party

Dust off your dancing shoes and choose your formal attire for the Petticoat Ball Party on Facebook April 9, 2015 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Giveaways and games will make for a splendid event as we celebrate the release of Thimbles and Thistles and the debut of Lacy!

The talented and fabulous guest authors joining in the shenanigans include:

10 a.m. – Julie Lence

10:30 – Kathleen Ball

11 – Rachel Rossano

11:30 – Christina Cole

Noon – Peggy Henderson

12:30 – Kristin Holt

1 p.m. – Karen Witemeyer

1:30 – Kayla Thomas

Petticoat-Ball-Facebook-Party-Invitation

Invite your friends to the party, and you could win a $25 Amazon Gift card. Go to the Facebook Party Page, click on the “invite” button, invite your friends, then post how many you invited. One randomly drawn person will win, but you get additional entries for every 25 people you invite! Also, ask your friends when they join the party to share that you invited them on the party wall. Each friend who mentions your name, earns you another entry in the contest! The winner will be announced prior to the start of the party April 9! http://tinyurl.com/petticoatball

PB-Prizes

Prizes

To enter the drawing for a $50 American Express gift card, autographed books, digital books, chocolates, and original western artwork, fill out this form. http://tinyurl.com/petticoatballprizes

PB-Author-BioShanna Hatfield 2A hopeless romantic with a bit of sarcasm thrown in for good measure, Shanna Hatfield is a bestselling author of sweet romantic fiction written with a healthy dose of humor. In addition to blogging and eating too much chocolate, she is completely smitten with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller.

Shanna creates character-driven romances with realistic heroes and heroines. Her historical westerns have been described as “reminiscent of the era captured by Bonanza and The Virginian” while her contemporary works have been called “laugh-out-loud funny, and a little heart-pumping sexy without being explicit in any way.”

She is a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, and Romance Writers of America.

Find Shanna’s books at:

Amazon | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords | Apple

Shanna loves to hear from readers! Follow her online:

ShannaHatfield | Facebook | Pinterest | Goodreads | You Tube | Twitter

March Round Robin: Research

Book shelfThis month we are discussing research as our Round Robin topic. When you’ve finished my post, please check out the other members listed at the bottom.

CowgirlDreams Front CoverBefore I began writing my novels based on my rodeo-cowgirl grandmother, I made a trip to Montana. I found the old homestead house my grandparents lived in when they were first married, I visited museums, libraries, and newspaper archives, and gathered anecdotes from family members and friends.

Grandma had left a scrapbook filled with ranch and rodeo-related clippings, pictures, etc., and she had written a couple of short pieces: one about all the horses she’d owned and one a short-story about moving to Montana from Idaho as a child and then meeting her future cowboy husband.

Dream Cover FinalI also had a couple of journals she had written from the 1940s. While these did not play into my novels, they were fascinating and I got a taste for her spare notations (6 eggs today, weather 78 and sunny, etc.) which I tried to emulate in the journal entries Nettie writes in Follow the Dream.

And, of course I read all the books written about rodeo cowgirls I could find.

Dare Cover FinalAs I wrote I ran into questions that I would then search the internet or try to find experts in the field to provide answers. For example I wanted authentic details for railroad travel in the 1940s for Nettie’s trip to Madison Square Garden in New York for Dare to Dream.

So, the majority of my research was done before I began writing, but I also did more as I went along. Each project is different.

Please check out how my fellow “Rounders” do their research:

Margaret Fieland http://www.margaretfieland.com/blog1/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Skye Taylor  http://www.skye-writer.com/
Rachael Kosnski http://rachaelkosinki.weebly.com
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/
Anne Stenhouse  http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Helena Fairfax  http://helenafairfax.com/
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Kay Sisk http://kaysisk.blogspot.com
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Lynn Crain  http://www.awriterinvienna.blogspot.com
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/

Life Provides Metaphors

Since the last day of 2014 (when it snowed 4 inches in North-Central AZ), I’ve been obsessed with doing jigsaw puzzles. I even got my SIL hooked on them! Some were downright challenging, like this oval of DaVinci’s Last Supper. Last Supper

I thought when the weather turned nicer–and it did almost right away–that I would put the puzzles away and escape to the great outdoors. But I didn’t.  Barn scene

I mentally chastised myself for “wasting” my time, not accomplishing anything. But still the desire, the need, the driving force was there–one more piece, one more puzzle, just one more…Cute Kitten puzzle

I mentioned this obsession to my grief counselor, and she told me something that piqued my writer’s mind. Doing puzzles is a metaphor for picking up the broken pieces and putting something back together.Puzzle pieces

As writers, we all use life experiences to shape our characters and our plots. This is just another example of something we can use in developing a character somewhere down the line.bridge & balloons

Just one more piece… Just one more…

Published in: on February 28, 2015 at 10:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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January Round Robin on Reading and Writing

Our topic from Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/
this month is: What is your favorite time and place to read? How about writing time? Do you have to make time? Do you have a ritual or is your plan helter-skelter? I had a quilting teacher who followed the swiss cheese method to completing tasks: Make a hole here, and sometime later a hole there; keep repeating this until the whole thing is complete. What’s your method?

 ***

IBook pile_reading have to admit I’ve been reluctant to return to a schedule, following the holidays. It is always difficult to carve out time to write or to discipline myself to put my own writing first, ahead of my blogging obligations and editing projects. But after being on “vacation” I don’t want to return to “Reality.”

Reading: I’ve been a voracious reader since I was a kid. I’ve never been able to get enough of books and always have a stack or a list of TBR (To Be Read) books. I read while I eat, during commercials when I watch TV, when I’m in a doctor’s waiting room, and before I go to bed.

Writing: I belong to a great critique group, so that makes me accountable. I know I have to bring at least five pages to the Writing_in_Journalmeeting every week, so even if I wait until the last minute, I’m at least writing. I find I need a deadline to work—probably a learned response from my time as a newspaper reporter. I found I could write under pressure and now I seem to need it.

How about you, fellow readers and writers—what is your preference?

 ***

Check out the rest of our round robin group and see what their responses are:

A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Geeta Kakade http://geetakakade.blogspot.com/
Margaret Fieland http://www.margaretfieland.com/blog1/
Skye Taylor  http://www.skye-writer.com/
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Rita Karnopp  http://www.mizging@blogspot.com
Rachael Kosnski http://the-doodling-booktease.tumblr.com/
Helena Fairfax  http://helenafairfax.com/
Heidi M. Thomas https://heidiwriter.wordpress.com/
Ginger Simpson http://www.cowboykisses.blogspot.com/
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/

Published in: on January 24, 2015 at 6:00 am  Comments (2)  
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Merry Christmas One and All!

Christmas-Tree-Clip-Art-6Wishing all of you a blessed Christmas! Thank you to my friends, my followers, and readers of my books for supporting me so wonderfully this year!

Heidi M. Thomas

Published in: on December 25, 2014 at 7:57 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags:

Silver Sisters Co-Authors Share

Thanks for joining us for part II of this interview with co-authors and sisters Morgan St. James and Phyllice Bradner who are releasing their second Silver Sisters Mystery, Terror in a Teapot. The first novel was award-winning A Corpse in the Soup.

What are you working on now and when/where do you expect it to be available?

PHYLLICE: We are working on the second edition of the third book in the series, Vanishing Act in Vegas. The Silver Sisters PHYLLICE BIO PHOTO W CROW SHIRTMysteries were published by L&L Dreamspell, but the company went out of business after the tragic death of one of the partners. A Corpse in the Soup, and Terror in a Teapot have now been reissued by Marina Publishing Group with new covers and some minor edits. The same will hold true for Vanishing Act in Vegas, targeted for release in early 2015. The plot revolves around Mara the Magnificent, a beautiful female magician that Godiva’s son is in love with. The twins start their sleuthing when Mara asks them to investigate the demise of a stagehand who fell to his death during her performance, and soon escalates into an investigation of Mara’s death, too. There are lots of wrinkles and turns, and, as in the first two novels, there’s a twist at the end. Morgan is also working on several other writing projects, I’ll let her tell you the rest.

MORGAN: In addition to Vanishing Act in Vegas, Phyllice and I are halfway through writing the next escapade, Diamonds in the Dumpster, I’m working on a new book with Dennis N. Griffin and looking forward to publishing an illustrated children’s book, LaRue the Llama Helps His Mama. I actually wrote it back in the late ’70s to amuse my children, and it will finally be available via Amazon Kids Books quite soon. And, I’m forever writing new short stories. They are my relaxation. My instant gratification, unlike the novels that take so long to write, I am a fast writer. I can write and polish a short story in an evening, and I love that.

Writers, especially new writers, are always looking for tips and helpful information. What is the single most important “tip” you can give to a new writer?

PHYLLICE: Learn to let go of the things you love. When you finish your first draft, get out the machete and whack out all the parts that bog the story down–even if they are your very favorite passages. Take out the run-on descriptions that break your reader’s focus or lend nothing to the natural progression of the plot. I still mourn the loss of some of my best, but superfluous, creations–but I know they had to go.

MORGAN Bio pic stripes onlyMORGAN: I have two that I believe are imperative. Number One: Keep an open mind. Listen to what experienced authors, agents, publishers, and editors tell you. Then make an educated decision as to whether you will follow the advice, but don’t stonewall others’ ideas. Number Two: Don’t give up. Phyllice and I kept at it until we made it to publication. As for staying on a project you know has merit, it took me fourteen years to write Betrayed but I didn’t give up. It is fiction inspired by shocking true events that happened in the 1950s when a promising teenage ballerina was kidnapped.

Are you a member of any writer’s organizations? Why? Why not?

PHYLLICE: I’m not much of a “joiner” so I don’t belong to any writer’s groups. Morgan’s a hot pistol when it comes to joining writer’s groups, though.

MORGAN: I’m a joiner and a networker. Whenever I can, I attend meeting of Henderson Writers Group and Las Vegas Writers Group. I’m also on the board of the Writers’ of Southern Nevada, and we have many exciting events coming up in 2015. When I lived in Los Angeles, I also belonged to Sisters in Crime/LA and Greater Los Angeles Writers Group. I still give workshops at conferences for West Coast Writers Conferences.

Do you have any upcoming book signings or appearances? If so, give us all the details.

PHYLLICE: I will be doing a guest appearance on the Writers Tricks of the Trade show on Blog Talk Radio on December 10 at 6:00 pm PST/9:00 EST. The topic is WRITING WITH A PARTNER. The link for information or to listen live when the show is broadcast is http://bit.ly/1stwn5V. It will also be archived for future listening.TRICKS RADIO BANNER LG

 

MORGAN: I’ll be doing several things in 2015, including giving a workshop or two at “The Big Story” writers conference in Van Nuys CA in February, but the schedule is still firming up. One thing for certain. I can be found on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month hosting or co-hosting the Writers Tricks of the Trade show at Blog Talk Radio. Check http://writerstricksofthetrade.blogspot.com for schedules and also for links to the bi-monthly eZine. All shows and issues of the eZine will be archived. I’m constantly adding new appearances, and try to keep them up-to-date on my personal website, www.morganstjames-author.com and my blog http://morgan-stjames.blogspot.com. For more about the Silver Sisters, visit www.silversistersmysteries.com.

FUN QUESTION: What do you like better, Goodwill or Gucci, and why?

PHYLLICE: I shop at Goodwill all the time. Some of my coolest clothes come from there. Just a few weeks ago I found the neatest cotton sweater with a scene on the front of a black cat looking out a window at a bird and on the back you saw the bird’s view looking in at the cat. I would never, ever, buy anything Gucci…but then Morgan wouldn’t be caught dead wearing my cute cat sweater.

 

MORGAN: I love clothes! I always try to be in style and love dressing up. I also enjoy sharp casual clothes. Makeup, hair, nails, it’s all important to me. Hmm. I’m starting to sound like Godiva! When I met my husband, I didn’t own a pair of flat shoes, except for a pair of Reeboks. The first time I visited Phyllice in Alaska, she said to bring boots. Okay, I did. They had three inch heels and really didn’t work that well in the snow! But the did work for a scene in Terror in a Teapot. Okay, okay, I’m really not as selfish as Godiva and although I lived two houses outside of Beverly Hills, it wasn’t on a magnificent estate.

 

What are the addresses of your website(s) and blog(s):

 

http://www.bradnerartstudio.com

http://silversistersmysteries.wordpress.com

http://www.morganstjames-author.com

 

Published in: on December 5, 2014 at 6:35 am  Leave a Comment  
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Meet Co-Authors of ‘Terror in A Teapot’

Teapot cover in workCo-authors and sisters Morgan St. James and Phyllice Bradner are releasing their second Silver Sisters Mystery, Terror in a Teapot. The first one was award-winning A Corpse in the Soup.

How does this process of co-writing work? Do you each have separate duties? Do you alternate chapters? What’s the scoop?

PHYLLICE: We live in different states and when we first started writing together, our interaction was done mostly by phone and fax. Now, things are much easier as we email our chapters back and forth. When we are plotting a book, we have a kind of writer’s retreat when we get together and brainstorm plot ideas and such. After a few days we wear each other out and go back to our own desks to work. Trial and error has taught us that we each have specific strengths. Morgan is the “Type A” personality and can’t wait for me to plod along. She is what I call an automatic writer, she sits down and bangs out a draft of the chapter. I am the consummate editor, so even if I’m not in writing mode, when I get that first draft, I just can’t wait to start editing it. I clean it up, move things around and add the humorous bits–although Morgan throws in lots of humor, too. Then I send it back to her for another go-around. Our characters are patterned roughly after ourselves and the stories take place in locales that we know, so I sometimes write the draft chapter if it involves a place I’m more familiar with.

MORGAN: Almost everyone asks us that question. I guess the task of writing with someone thousands of miles away seems daunting MORGAN Bio pic stripes onlyto most people, but like everything else in both of our lives, we figured out how to make it work. Besides the e-mails, we have marathon telephone conversations to both create and edit. Thank goodness for headsets and unlimited long distance telephone plans. Phyllice always refers to me as her A-Type sister…spurring her on. Sometimes I’m a real task master when she would rather draw whimsical cats and dogs than solve complex crime capers, but I always manage to draw her in. Most people think writing teams alternate chapters, and I’m sure many do, but Phyllice described how we do it quite well.

Now for the real scoop: how much arguing goes on and how do you resolve differences of opinion?

PHYLLICE: Although we do have some lively discussions, we never really argue. We decided early on that we had to put our egos aside when it came to editing. If one of us wants to cut something that the other has written, we don’t take it as a personal attack. If one of us feels strongly enough to do battle when an item is cut, she’s automatically the winner.

MORGAN: That’s true. We really didn’t know each other for so many years, now that we’ve reconnected through our writing, I don’t believe either of us could live with “rocking the boat.” Phyllice is pretty mellow and I’m rather hyper, but we manage to strike the balance so we can make final decisions that are best for the book, not for our personal likes or dislikes. Phyllice held out for not having real time action in any of our books, but rather a telling of the story, and I didn’t fight it after she explained why she felt that way.

Tell us about each of your solo writing endeavors.

PHYLLICE BIO PHOTO W CROW SHIRTPHYLLICE: I studied Journalism and Art in college and spent many years as a copywriter and graphic designer. Most of my published writing has been in the form of informational brochures: annual reports, travel brochures, political flyers, newsletters. I did publish two small books, “Touring Juneau” and “The Juneau Centennial Cookbook”. The Silver Sisters mystery series was my first stab at fiction. I spend about half my time as a fine artist and I helped to found “Currents,” a cooperative art gallery in McMinnville, Oregon, where I now live.

MORGAN: I’m an “accidental writer.” I didn’t study writing or journalism. When I was an interior designer, a slick design magazine approached my partner and me about writing an article for them. We did, and I found I loved writing. They asked for more. My partner wasn’t interested, but I was. Many articles for them and other publications about diverse subjects followed during the next several years. When we conceived the Silver sisters and A Corpse in the Soup, it was my first published stab at fiction. There are now three books in the Silver Sisters Mysteries series, with a fourth in work, but I’ve written eleven books in total, have a book, blog and Blog Radio Show all called Writers’ Tricks of the Trade and have written over 600 published articles about the business and craft of writing. Many of them are archived at www.examiner.com. My short stories appear in several anthologies…Chicken Soup for the Shopper’s Soul, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Celebrating People Who Make a Difference, THE MAFIA FUNERAL and Other Short Stories, and several more. TRICKS RADIO BANNER LG

What is the biggest challenge each of you faces as a writer?

PHYLLICE: Time is my biggest adversary. I never have enough of it. I create art, operate a small guesthouse, and put quite a bit of volunteer time into my art gallery. So sometimes I have to force myself to sit down and work on the next chapter. If Morgan wasn’t so good about getting me those drafts, it would never get done. Also, she is our agent, taskmaster, networker and marketer. I am especially challenged in the area of outreach.

MORGAN: Mine is the same as Phyllice’s…time!! It is really hard to fit 28 hours of work into 24 hours. I’m a workaholic, so one of my challenges is knowing when to rest. When to wrap it up for the night.

What is the title of your most recently published book? Briefly tell us what it’s about and let us know where we can buy it.

PHYLLICE: Our latest book, Terror in a Teapot, is the second in the Silver Sisters Mystery Series. This comical crime caper takes place in Juneau and begins at Goldie Silver’s antique shop. When a shipment of Russian samovars fails to arrive in Alaska, Goldie starts to track it down. The ladies from the Russian Orthodox church have ordered one of the fancy tea urns as a gift for the retiring priest, but before the wayward antiques are located, his young replacement is murdered. That’s just the tip of the iceberg in quiet little Juneau!

After Goldie’s twin, the manipulative Beverly Hills advice columnist, Godiva Olivia DuBois arrives for a visit, the lost crate finally arrives. The samovars sell quickly, and Goldie has only one left when two menacing Russians bumble into her shop claiming that the fancy teapots belong to them and demand their return. She throws them out, but by the next day it seems that the seven beautiful antiques are cursed. Everyone in town who received one of the samovars has been beaten or murdered, and two more customers are likely targets: a lady from Seattle and Godiva’s boyfriend, chef Caesar Romano. Our curvy sleuths, Goldie and Godiva, try to figure out what the thugs are really after. They are hot on their trail as they track the Russians from Alaska to Seattle and Los Angeles. To add to the fun, the twins’ eighty-year-old mother and uncle, Flossie and Sterling Silver, former vaudeville magicians, get into the act!

MORGAN: Our Silver Sisters books can be purchased at most on-line bookstores, or ordered at your favorite local bookstore, available in Kindle, paperback as well as audio books (CD and MP3 download). Our books are also carried by several libraries across the country. The distributor is Ingram.

Thank you, Phyllice and Morgan, for sharing your co-writing secrets. Please tune in again next week for the second half of this interview with with mystery-writing duo.

November Round Robin: Favorite Food

This month’s Round Robin blog topic is a favorite food or meal—appropriate for Thanksgiving! When you’ve finished reading, please visit the other participants to see their favorites.

My favorite food is hands-down…can you guess?…wait for it!…OK, I’ll tell you. It’s CHOCOLATE! No surprise to those of you who know me, of course. I think chocolate covers all the food groups and possibly should be a food group all by itself!chocolate_06

“Chocolate is the greatest gift to women ever created, next to the likes of Paul Newman and Gene Kelly.”—Sandra Bullock

If you weren’t already convinced, here are 10 health benefits of chocolate:

  1. Chocolate decreases stroke risk.
  2. Chocolate boosts heart health with anti-inflammatory properties
  3. Chocolate fills you up because it’s rich in fiber
  4. Chocolate fights diabetes by increasing insulin sensitivity
  5. Dark chocolate’s flavenoids offer protection from UV damage from the sun
  6. Chocolate can help stop coughing with theobromine
  7. Chocolate boosts your mood
  8. Cocoa has anti-clotting, blood-thinning properties
  9. Chocolate may also increase blood flow to your eyes
  10. Chocolate may make you smarter, feeling more awake and alert Chocolate photo

Eating chocolate is a bit more challenging when you are trying to avoid sugar, like I do (mostly). I have recently discovered Lilly’s Chocolate, sweetened with Stevia, in several flavors at my local health food store. Also Trader Joe’s Simply Lite bars are scrumptious (sweetened with sugar alcohols).

Here’s a recipe, shared by actress Tracy Pollan that I would like to experiment with, substituting Stevia, unsweetened carob chips and coconut, and canned coconut cream sweetened with Stevia for the sweetened condensed milk.

Micaela’s Nirvana Bars

6 tbsp (3⁄4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
9 full graham cracker sheets, crushed into coarse crumbs
1⁄4 tsp. coarse salt
1 cup chopped raw walnuts or pecans
1⁄2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1⁄2 cup white chocolate chips
1⁄2 cup bittersweet or dark chocolate chips
1 cup sweetened shredded or flaked coconut
7 ounces sweetened condensed milk

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line bottom of a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine butter, graham cracker crumbs and salt. Stir to mix well. Press crumbs into the bottom of baking pan. Layer on chopped nuts, then semisweet chocolate chips, white chocolate chips and bittersweet chocolate chips. Sprinkle coconut evenly on top. Drizzle on condensed milk, covering everything with a thin layer.
  3. Bake about 25 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool completely in pan, then cut into 1 1⁄2-inch bars. Store in an airtight container. Makes 3 dozen Bars.

—Excerpted from The Pollan Family Table by Corky, Lori, Dana and Tracy Pollan. Copyright © 2014 by Old Harvest Way, LLC. Excerpted with permission by Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Now, grab a piece of chocolate and go visit the following blogs to find out other Round Robin participants’ favorite foods:

Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Skye Taylor  http://www.skye-writer.com/
Ginger Simpson http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.webs.com/
Margaret Fieland http://www.margaretfieland.com/blog1/
Rachael Kosnski http://the-doodling-booktease.tumblr.com/
Anne Stenhouse  http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Heidi M. Thomas https://heidiwriter.wordpress.com/
Helena Fairfax  http://helenafairfax.com/
Kay Sisk http://kaysisk.blogspot.com
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/
 

Published in: on November 22, 2014 at 6:32 am  Comments (5)  
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