What Was Life Like Before An iPhone?

My guest this week is Morgan Mandel, who is on e-tour with her newest novel, Forever Young: Blessing or Curse.

Fresh beginnings turn tragic when Dorrie Donato’s husband, Larry, is killed in a hit and run accident a few months after starting a new job at the Life is for Living Institute. Discouraged and desperate after  suffering countless setbacks, Dorie accepts an offer by  Larry’s boss, the famous Angel Man, to  be the first to test an experimental pill designed to spin its user back to a desired age and hold there, yet still retain all previous memories.  The pill seems too good to be true. Maybe it is.

by Morgan Mandel

I’m very attached to my iPhone.  I hardly go anywhere without it. It’s super-handy for my lifestyle. I can easily fit it in my pocket or purse , and whip it out to check emails, take or send photos, access Facebook or Twitter, add something on the calculator, listen to music or radio, or actually use it as a telephone.  That’s just a start, but you get the idea. It’s hard to recall what my life was like before this handy gadget.

Because an iPhone is such a vital part of my life, it was a natural for me to include one in the plot of Forever Young: Blessing or Curse.  In the opening scene, the last words of Dorrie’s husband, Larry, involve his iPhone. Believing he refers to all the photos and songs they’d shared together, she mistakes what he’s actually trying to convey.

Though her husband’s boss, Roman, asks about its whereabouts, Dorrie pretends not to know. She plans to keep the phone for sentimental reasons, despite the fact her husband used it at work and synced it to the computer there. She has no interest in formulas and chemistry, so if anything from his job is on there, the secrets are safe with her.

Her chance discovery of the explosive evidence contained on that iPhone throws her into danger from all sides, as she flees for her freedom and her life.

This paranormal romantic thriller is available at the Blog Book Tour Price on Kindle for $1.99 – http://tinyurl.com/6tsntn6

See entire list of other available electronic venues at http://morgansbooklinks.blogspot.com

Thanks for inviting me over Heidi, and letting me share about my iPhone and my paranormal romantic thriller, Forever Young: Blessing or Curse.

Thank you, Morgan, for stopping by on your tour!

Maybe the readers here would like to mention if they have an iPhone or smartphone, and if they’re also as dependent on theirs as I am on mine.

Morgan Mandel is a former freelancer for the Daily Herald newspaper, prior president of Chicago-North RWA, prior Library Liaison for Midwest MWA, and belongs to Sisters in Crime and EPIC. She enjoys writing thrillers, mysteries, romances and also enjoys combining them. Her latest paranormal romantic thriller is Forever Young: Blessing or Curse, Book One of the Always Young Series, available on Kindle and Smashwords. Other novels by Morgan Mandel include the romantic suspense, Killer Career, the mystery, Two Wrongs, and the romantic comedy, Girl of My Dreams. Morgan is now working on Book Two of the Always Young Seres, called Blessing or Curse: A Forever Young Anthology, where readers will learn what happens to others who have taken the Forever Young pill.  One more book will follow bringing back the original heroine to close out the series.

Blog: http://morganmandel.blogspot.com

Website: http://www.morganmandel.com

Meet Judy Kirscht and Her Debut Novel, Nowhere Else to Go

My guest this week is Judy Kirscht, Past President of the Skagit Valley Writers League. Her first novel, Nowhere Else To Go, has just debuted.

I recommend this book as a wonderfully engaging coming-of-age story, showing change and growth in her characters, their small town, and American society during the 1960s era of racial unrest. Crossing the bridge from the “poor” side of town to the integrated school on the other side is a powerful metaphor for life, no matter our station in life or skin color.

Synopsis: A quiet Midwestern college town is caught up in the social and political upheavals of the 1960s. Racial tension comes alive in the schools and tears lives apart. An earlier version of this novel, entitled The Delta, won an Avery Hopwood Award from the University of Michigan.

Judy, would you share the story of how this book came about? Where did the idea come from?

During the Sixties and early seventies, when campus protests, riots, and civil rights marches were in full swing, I was raising my family in Ann Arbor. My husband and I had always been involved in politics, and in fact, he was a city councilman during this time, which made us a target. The story itself and its characters are purely fiction but the feeling of being pulled apart—and seeing my children pulled apart– by forces polarizing the nation gave birth to the novel.

Did this novel take a lot of research?

Not really, oddly enough. I knew from my own past the culture of the various communities involved in the book. I’d worked as a caseworker in black inner-city Chicago along with many black colleagues, been a part of academic communities all my life, and lived in a neighborhood like the “Delta.” I chose 1968 as the time setting for the novel because, with the assassination of King and Robert Kennedy, it marks the depths of national turmoil—a time that, for me, didn’t need much research. It was memorable.

Tell us about your background. Were you a college professor? How did this help you in your writing?

Well, let’s start with the fact that I wasn’t a professor. I was a non-tenured lecturer, teaching writing. That made me one of the fringe faculty many professors felt to be unnecessary. If you can’t write you shouldn’t be in college. I was, however, raised in academia and my husband was a professor, though he never felt at home in that culture and was happiest in the basement, working with wood. All of this certainly resulted in a feel for those alienated from their home culture—the sort who ended up in “the delta.” My own experience as a teacher was at the college level, so I don’t know how much that contributed, except that I was well aware of school politics and educational dogmatism. Finally, I was always active in politics. It’s a longstanding love, and so we lived very close to the fire in those days.

What other writing have you had published?

In that long ago time when I was a grad student at the University of Michigan—actually the time when this novel was first conceived—I published one short story. Then, for years I published teacherly non-fiction on academic writing, ending with the publication, with a colleague, of a textbook on writing in the various fields of study. Once I retired from teaching, I turned to fiction in earnest and have published two excerpts from another novel, and two more short stories. I also published the essay that won another Hopwood Award back when I was a U of M student. It’s strange and somehow gratifying that the two works that won awards thirty-five years ago have now seen the light of day.

What project are you working on currently?

Projects, and too many. I’ve just finished the first draft of a novel titled The Camera’s Eye, which sprang from a short story, and while that is cooling I’ve been revising another, earlier novel. I hope to have that finished in a couple of months. In addition, I’m currently marketing a novel I finished soon after retirement and another is waiting on a back burner for revision.

Who/what motivates you to write?

I don’t know, honestly. My mother said I wrote wonderful stories as a child. I don’t remember that. I simply woke up one morning thinking I was going to do something else with my life besides raising children. I was going to write. So I went into the room at the UM where creative writers hung out—the Hopwood Room–and made an appointment to see Robert Haugh, the professor who resided there. Then, as I awaited the day, it occurred to me he surely would want to see some writing! I had none. So I sat down that afternoon and wrote. When I showed him the piece, he said I was a writer. That was it. One of those moments that change your life. He offered to work with me a special student (not enrolled in a program) and I began to write. I wrote two novels under his tutelage, Nowhere Else to Go and another. Fifteen years later, that first piece I’d shown him won the Hopwood essay award.

What authors have inspired you?

My first love was short stories—Flannery O’Conner, Eudora Welty, Dorothy Parker. An Acquaintance recently reminded me of Saki, who I haven’t read in years but loved. As for novelists, Ursula Hegi, Margaret Attwood, Amy Tan, and Nadine Gordimer are favorites, along with some classics like Tolstoy and Steinbeck. Kaled Hossein’s Kite Runner and Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants are recent additions to that list.

What audience are you targeting?

That’s a tough one. Those who like a good read that takes you deep. My critique group says I write literary fiction, but I aim at a mainstream audience. So I guess I’m aiming at something called literary/mainstream or literary/commercial. I believe—or hope—my writing is accessible to anyone who wants a good story.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

 Write. Don’t wait for inspiration. If I hadn’t had to show Robert Haugh a piece of writing that afternoon, I never would have written a word. And I hadn’t a clue what I was going to say when I sat down with that yellow pad on my knees. That sounds strange, and it is, but many if not most authors with confirm that ideas don’t come until your finger are at the keyboard. Then, don’t fall victim to the “I only write for myself” defense. Like all defenses, it is born of fear. Face up and share. That’s what writing’s about—sharing our view of the human condition because in that sharing we deepen our bonds. A critique group is the first and best motivator to love and stay with the craft.

Judy’s book is available from Florida Academic Press (www.floridaacademicpress.com), Amazon, or local independent Washington  bookstores (Snow Goose in Stanwood, Tattered Page in Mount Vernon, Watermark in Anacortes, and the Next Chapter in La Conner, WA).

The Champions Creed

This poem is courtesy of Kaila Mussel, the first woman to qualify to compete with men in the PRCA since 1941. She also is the amazing bronc rider in the Reba McEntire video. See an article about her by Shirley Morris, author of the documentary Oh! You Cowgirl
The Champions Creed
If you think you are beaten, you are;
If you think you dare not, you don’t;
If you’d like to win but
think you can’t
It’s almost a cinch you won’t.
If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost,
For out in the world we find,
Success begins with the fellow’s will,
Its all in the state of the mind.
If you think you’re outclassed,
you are;
You’ve got to think to rise.
you’ve got to be sure of
yourself before
You can ever win a prize.
Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger for faster man;
But sooner or later the man who wins
Is the one who thinks he can.
Published in: on January 23, 2012 at 12:55 am  Comments (3)  
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Meet Award-winning Author Beth Hodder

My guest this week is Beth Hodder, author of the WILLA Literary Award Finalist children’s/young adult novel, Stealing the Wild.

Stealing the Wild is an entertaining, informative story of life at a ranger station. Jessie Scott, 12, hopes to enjoy time with new friends at Jessie’s home in the remote Schafer Meadows Ranger Station within the Great Bear Wilderness in Montana. This sequel to the award-winning novel, The Ghost of Schafer Meadows, finds the three friends and Jessie’s dog, Oriole, unwittingly hunting for whoever is poaching wildlife in the wilderness.

Beth, you have worked for the U.S. Forest Service. Tell us what inspired you to write these books?

Part of my job with the Forest Service included surveying the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex in northwest Montana for rare plants. I also was in charge of the native plant program for the Flathead National Forest, and we did rehab work in backcountry campgrounds. My husband, Al, was the wilderness ranger at the Schafer Meadows Ranger Station, deep in the heart of the Great Bear Wilderness, which is part of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. I had the opportunity to spend lots of time at Schafer Meadows when I was working. I also traveled there on some weekends to visit Al. I love the area. It’s like going back in time to the 1920s or ‘30s. There is no electricity, telephone or cell service, Internet, or TV. To get there, people must hike 14 or more miles, depending on the trail; fly to a grassy airstrip; or ride on horseback. When I began thinking about writing a novel, Schafer Meadows presented itself as a natural place to start. Writers are told to write about what they know, and this was it for me.

Why did you decide to write for young adults?

I have a friend who asked me to edit a manuscript she had written. The protagonist was a 16-year-old girl. To help me understand what writers need to know when writing for younger audiences, I read a Nancy Drew mystery. I loved them as a kid. I found myself drawn to that age group, thinking it would be easier to write novels for young people than for adults (not so). I remembered what it was like being a kid and believed I had the ability to connect with younger readers.

You have been very successful at self-publishing these two novels. Tell us what made you decide to go that route.

When I wrote my first book, there were two things that really drew me to self-publishing. First, I was anxious to get the book into the hands of readers. I knew finding a publisher could take a long time, and I was impatient. Second, I didn’t know if I had a good enough product to be picked up by a publisher. I didn’t have confidence in myself as a writer. I had never taken any writing classes, and I had only attended one two-hour session with a writing group. I sent the manuscript to as many people as I could to get their opinions. In the end, a friend who had self-published suggested that route to me. She had self-published her own book and watched other writers she knew who sat waiting to find a publisher while her book was out making money. She walked me through everything I needed to know, and I decided that was what I should do for my own book. After I published The Ghost of Schafer Meadows and it became successful, I was already on my way to self-publishing my second book, Stealing the Wild.

What kind of marketing, etc., have you done for your series?

I sell most books to individual people. I have attended many festivals, have done book signings, and attend a local farmer’s and artisan’s market weekly in the summer. I am fortunate to have Glacier National Park nearby, so I have a constant supply of new people who learn of my books, rather than local people. I wrote a marketing plan and have Baker & Taylor as a wholesaler, which allows me to get my books into national chains. My books sell well in local bookstores, gift shops, and ma and pa stores. I also visit schools, libraries, and other places, and have put in for book awards. Marketing is the most difficult part of the writing process for me. It takes time and effort and it’s where I feel I’m weakest.

Do you have a third book underway?

Yes. I have the draft completed for a third book in the series. Unofficially titled Out of the Ashes, Jessie and her mother and Oriole go camping in the Bob Marshall Wilderness and get caught in an arson-caused fire. I decided to write the book away from Schafer Meadows this time because I wanted to have airplanes and helicopters in the story and didn’t want to have to have them at Schafer Meadows. The airstrip there is one of a handful in the entire U.S. that’s within a designated wilderness area. Aircraft are monitored closely for use. I didn’t want to intrude on that use. The aircraft in my story can take off and land at the Spotted Bear airstrip, outside of wilderness.

This story also pits Jessie against her mother and makes her mother a strong character in the book. Mom is a writer and spent a lot of time in the first two books as a secondary character, much of the time in the background. I wanted to develop her more in this book.

When did you first start writing?

I tried writing years ago, when I was in my 20s and 30s, but I wasn’t very successful. I guess I actually “became” a writer in 2004, when I started to write The Ghost of Schafer Meadows. That’s when I knuckled down and kept at it.

What motivates you to write?

Friends, readers, and my husband and other family members help keep me on track. I’m not a dedicated writer—one who writes every day or on a set schedule—so I find inspiration in knowing that others like my books.

Are there authors who inspire you?

Ivan Doig, who lives in the Seattle area but who was born and raised in Montana, is one of the writers whom I admire most. I love his style of writing, which creates a strong sense of place with lyrical language. His book, This House of Sky, which was a 1979 National Book Award Finalist, is my favorite of his. I also loved Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men, and being a writer of mysteries, I’m drawn to mystery writers. Recently I’ve been reading the Charlie Moon mysteries by James D. Doss. We lived in New Mexico for 5-1/2 years, and Doss is from Los Alamos and Taos. His books are likened to Tony Hillerman’s stories, although Charlie Moon and characters are Utes, not Navajos. Doss infuses a lot of humor in his books, which I like.

Doig is also one of my inspirational authors.

Where can people go to learn more about your work, or purchase your books?

Please visit my website, Grizzly Ridge Publishing,  to find out how to order my books directly through me. I’ll be glad to personally sign any that are ordered that way if you wish. They’re also available at Amazon.com, both in paperback and on Kindle, through Smashwords.com, and at some retail stores.

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Beth.

Banished Words List

I just read a list of “banished words” from Lake Superior State University http://www.lssu.edu/banished/current.php I’m always interested in these lists and how words become overused to the point of gag-reflex.

Their number one word nominated was “Amazing.” I can see that. Everyone being interviewed on TV seems to be limited to that word. Another word that relates to that is “Awesome.” That’s probably been nominated in the past.

Another was “Shared Sacrifice.” “Usually used by a politician who wants other people to share in the sacrifice so he/she doesn’t have to.” Scott Urbanowski, Kentwood, Michigan. I agree.

“Man Cave.” My husband hates that one. Yes, men need their private space (this goes back to John Grey’s Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus), but enough already!

“Ginormous.” I kind of like that one, but I agree, it’s become overused.

One word that has made its way into the dictionary, but will always remain a banned word in my mind is “snuck.” That word reeks of illiteracy to me and is like fingernails on a blackboard.

What are your overused word pet peeves?

Published in: on January 4, 2012 at 9:28 pm  Comments (3)  
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