Amateur Sleuth Series Starts With Bobby’s Diner

bobbysdiner_4p125x7I recently had the pleasure of reading Susan Wingate’s Bobby’s Diner, the winner of several finalist awards, including the 2010 International Book Awards. The book was first picked up and published by Cambridge Books in Cambridge, Mass., and later, after regaining the rights, Susan released it herself. Book 2 in the amateur sleuth series, Hotter than Helen, was released last week and Book 3, Sacrifice at Sea, will be released later this summer.

Susan, tell us what inspired you to write Bobby’s Diner. Was this your first book?

This was my second novel. It came to me in a dream which started this series. The dream sequence is the one you’ve read where Georgette Carlisle, the main character, hitches a ride with a scoundrel of a trucker to the place where she finds the restaurant Bobby’s Diner and where she ultimately plants her life.

Are the characters or any of the incidents based on real life?

Only the Bobby character but, as you know, when the story begins, Bobby has already died. Bobby was the love of Georgette Carlisle’s life.

What was the insight you gained from writing the book and hope your readers will understand?

That a sense of family can be found with anyone you choose to give love to and from whom you receive love. That’s the greater premise of this book.

HotterThanHelen-FrontOnly-BookCoverWhy did you decide to self-publish?

After being published and realizing how little marketing effort publishers tend to give to their books and being slightly disenchanted by this fact, I went solo. Marketing is the thing that will sell books in a world that is glutted with great books. So, with my business background intact and my living as a writer at stake, I decided to self-publish. And, boy oh boy, am I glad I did. Not only did the book win three separate finalist awards, Bobby’s Diner also reached several Amazon Best Seller spots and has gotten as high in the rankings as number two.

Did you do much rewriting for this reissue?

Of course. Authors are freaky that way. If we get another chance to edit or add or subtract, we will.

How was the process different the second time around?

Well, when your book is with a publishing house, you have little (and sometimes no) control over the finished product. I once had an editor edit out an entire meaning because of “fixing” one word. They destroyed the passage and weakened the story because of their “fix.” But, it’s a trade-off when you get picked up by a publishing house because having someone accept your work adds credibility to you as an author far beyond what a self-publisher will receive. Is the trade-off worth it? Hmm, not sure. When my self-published works sell and I get those royalty checks, I’m pretty darned happy. Conversely, when my work is published by a press I get a sense of approval, readers get a sense of credibility about my work. I suppose that’s good at the outset but if the story isn’t selling because the publisher is not pushing the book, then, is it worth the representation of having a publisher? Ultimately, it’s each writer’s choice.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Well, I’ve written all of my life and my output proliferated around 1995. But late in 1997 is Sacrifice at Seawhen I considered myself a writer, while on my way to my home where I live now. I had to drive nearly 2,000 miles to get here. On that road trip, I developed an outline for my first novel. And, the reason this was the point I considered myself a writer is because I stuck with the story and saw it through to its completion. Only a true writer can finish a novel. Writers who only dabble and don’t finish novels they’ve started are not truly committed to writing. If they were, they would learn how to finish their novel. With any craft an artist must go through the work of learning technique and structure. Writing a short story or a novel means understanding the structure of each.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Well, I actually had a mentor and that was Michael Collins. He’s an international bestselling author and two of his titles are Death of a Writer and Keepers of Truth (which was shortlisted for the 2000 Man-Booker Award).

Your other books include Spider Brains, a quirky Young Adult novel; Drowning, a tale of redemption; and a gritty “Chandleresque” novel, Of the Law. What has motivated you to write in so many different styles?

Isn’t that the million-dollar question! LOL. Stories come to me and not all of them land within one single genre. I love storytelling, therefore I write the story that strikes me most at any given time, one that stays with me, one with a logical flow and the one with a profound ending.

Do you have a favorite genre or book you’ve written?

Not really although I seem to find my list of books falling more toward women’s fiction than other genres. However, my favorite book is always the one I’m currently writing.

What is your current project?

Well, that was a nice segue! The working title of novel number thirteen is called Way of the Wild Wood. This story is about a girl named Meg Nightly whose mother has recently died and who now lives alone with her sad and abusive father. In Meg’s grief she ends up getting lost in the woods near their home. I love this story. I’m also writing to a collaborative novel but for now “Way of the Wild Wood” has me enchanted.

susan-22-cropped-headBio:

SUSAN WINGATE’s poem “The Dance of Wind in Trees” was published in the April 2013 issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review. Susan’s award-winning, Amazon best seller, Drowning, is now available in audio book version. Susan’s three-Book “Susie Speider” YA Fiction Series is available through her publisher Astraea Press, on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. In 2012, two of Susan’s books made it onto the Top 10 Amazon Best Seller list twice. Drowning, (Susan’s contemporary women’s fiction) won 1st place in the 2011 Forward National Literature Award for the category of Drama. Drowning also won a finalist award for the category of Women’s Fiction/Chick Lit in the 2011 International Book Awards and reached #1 on the Amazon’s Best Seller list.

A vibrant public speaker, Susan offers inspiring, motivational talks about the craft of writing, publishing and marketing, and how to survive this extremely volatile ePublishing industry. She presents lectures and workshops at writing conferences, libraries and book stores around the country. She also loves to visit with book clubs for more intimate chats.

Author Interview: Meet Magdalena Ball

My guest this week is Magdalena Ball, novelist, poet, nonfiction writer, and reviewer.  Among the work Magdalena has published is her new novel Black Cow

Black Cow explores the lives of James and Freya Archer, a couple at the ‘top of their game’, earning massive salaries and enjoying exclusive lifestyles with their two beautiful teenage children, but something is rotten under the shining façade of their lives.  A recent survey estimated that close to one quarter of adults worldwide have made a voluntary decision to change their lives in ways that reduce their incomes and spending.

Demographers are predicting up to one million people will downshift during the next three years. Coupled with the worldwide economic downturn, there is clearly an interest in living life in a way that doesn’t involve continually trying to earn, and spend more in an effort to “keep up with the Joneses.” 

Black Cow is a ‘tree-change’ novel that explores these notions in the context of a single ailing Australian family.  Set between New South Wales’ ritzy Double Bay, and a small village outside of Hobart, Tasmania, where the couple decide to radically change their lives and become self-sufficient, the novel follows one family on the brink of collapse, struggling to regain balance and creativity in their lives.  Black Cow explores serious and topical issues, such as the modern dilemma of ever increasing workloads, ‘the rat race’, and the impact of stress on families, and overconsumption on the environment, but it also touches on the psychological development, as the family has to dig deep into both the earth and their selves in order to find out what is ailing them.

Author Lisa Heidke calls the “writing excellent, professional and polished … capturing that claustrophobic feeling of being trapped and not knowing where to turn.  This is a gripping yarn that will appeal to a wide group of readers.”

I asked Magdalena to answer a few questions about her novel.

How did the story come about?

In many ways Black Cow began as a sort of wish fulfillment. My husband and I always had leanings towards self-sufficency — I’d pore through the pages of Earth Garden, Jackie French’s guide to Self Sufficiency and a number of other books, and imagine myself growing all my own fruit and vegetables, making my own fuel, raising chickens, and living simply off the land.  Of course we both knew that dreams were one thing and the reality of self-sufficiency quite another. But the idea stuck with me as one that had rich novelistic pickings.  Also I’ve watched the impact of the Global Financial Crisis and the way in which governments and businesses have encouraged people to work longer hours, spend and consume more, and that has simply struck me as odd and counter-productive.  I wanted to explore that notion more, albeit in fictionalised form.  I do have to say as well that I’ve always been a fan of the BBC show The Good Life, and the idea of picking up a few of those threads was appealing to me.

In addition to your novels, you’ve also published a number of poetry books, and even a non-fiction book.  Why do you choose to work in different genres?

For me the processes of writing poetry and nonfiction are completely different to the processes of writing a novel.  While all of these genres involve analysis and construction, I find that the poetry is more intuitive, symbolic and actually relaxing for me — a way of exploring a notion within the framework of a few stanzas — like a single moment in time.  It’s something I find myself gravitating to it almost as a kind of need. The gratification is usually reasonably fast.

The nonfiction is almost always about teaching, in a purely naturally flowing way that I find reasonably easy and pleasurable.

Fiction on the other hand is always challenging for me. It involves less inspiration and a whole lot more work. There’s world building involved, character development, plotting, stylistics and narrative to map out and keep going over the period of some 90,000 words.  It’s big, slow, and sustained, and yet at the end of it I feel I’ve built something bigger than myself – something reasonably grand.  So I need all three forms in my life I find – working different areas of the brain and producing different types of output.  Of course working in one area feeds the others.  The precision and tightness of thought in poetry and the sheer rhythm and beauty can help write better prose sentences.  The research involved in nonfiction will also feed into fiction.  It’s all connected.

Who are some of your favorite/most inspiring authors?

I get asked this question a lot, and being a big reader, I fear I tend to give different answers each time. I’ve just finished Jane Smiley’s biography of Charles Dickens, and so I’d like to answer, today, Jane Smiley and Charles Dickens (though maybe not all of Dickens – some of his work though is still fresh, even today).  I’d like to say John Steinbeck, because Black Cow, somewhat grandly, has been likened to The Grapes of Wrath (humbling, to say the least).  I almost always say James Joyce, though I have yet to crack Finnegan’s Wake, but Ulysses will keep me inspired for the rest of my life, and I’ve been listening to Frank Delaney’s magnificent ReJoyce podcasts lately which have re-invigorated my love for that great book.  I might stop there, knowing full well, that I’ve left out many of my favourite authors, and that there are new ones I’ve yet to discover as well.

Finally, where can readers get hold of a copy of Black Cow?

Drop by Amazon where the book is available in both the print and Kindle versions.

More information including book club notes (and information on how to score a visit) can be found at Magdalena’s website.

Magdalena Ball is the author of the newly released novel Black Cow. Grab a free mini e-book brochure here:  http://www.bewritebooks.com/mb/BlackCow/BlackCow.html She also runs The Compulsive Reader and is the author of  Repulsion Thrust and Sleep Before Evening.

Thank you for sharing your virtual book tour with us today, Maggie. Best of luck with this new novel!

Her next tour stop will be Tuesday, 20 March: The Dark Phantom

Pirated Blogs II

This is actually the first one of these I encountered. After I posted an interview with Liz Adair, author of  Counting the Cost and Letters from Afghanistan, she sent me this one. Note toward the end where we thank each other and her reply is “we’re kindred liquors” (spirits!) and her workshop “Using Family History in Fiction” ends up to be “Victimisation Home History in Fiction.”

I ‘m happy to welcome Liz Adair to my blog today. Liz is the Pacific Northwest writer of five novels, including her new Western romance, Numbering the Cost , and she is co-editor of her mother ‘s missives in Lucy Shook ‘s Letters from Afghanistan Liz is besides cognized for her Spider Latham enigma series, for The Mist of Target Seaport , and learns shops on “ Victimisation House History in Fiction. ”

Counting the Cost is a marvelous, bittersweet narration that fall out in Land of enchantment in 1935. I take it this is slightly of a going from your usual composition. Say us what exalted this book.

LIZ: This is a leaving. My other books were totally carefully plotted, hold a spot of intrigue in them, are placed in modern-day times, and are lighter menu. Numerating the Cost but welled upwards inside me and coerced itself out my fingertips. I consider it was portion of my bereft procedure after my mother went, for the narrative discharge shadows her brother ‘s life.

I understand that you turned upwardly in Land of enchantment on a ranches. How makes that background influence your authorship?

LIZ: Really, it was my mother who turned au fait a spreads, but she conjoined a man who worked for the Office of Rehabilitation, so we were hydroelectric gipsies. Two of my uncles worked cowses all their lives, and trips back to Nm were full of cowhand narratives and horseback equitation.

How large a office makes placing drama in your books?

LIZ: Putting dramas a major function. One of my readers mentioned that I write on settlement people. I consider that Holds because I ‘m a settlement somebody myself, and it Holds a comfy voice.

You give shops on applying menage history in fiction. Is all of your fiction based on your house history?

LIZ: All my fiction banks heavily on household history. I name it Viridity Fiction. Recycling, you cognise? It may merely be that I make n’t hold any original thoughts. Or that I ‘m lazy. But, it works for me.

How nearly make your characters resemble household members?

LIZ: It depends on the character. Ofttimes I take features from one and add them to features of another so that the resultant complex ca n’t be acknowledged. Stillly, because I ‘ve utilized a physical trait of somebody I cognise welllike wisplike hair, for instanceI cognize how this someone feels about and trades thereupon grooming challenge. Unite that with another home member ‘s aspiration or trustiness, and I ‘ll cognise how they will respond in a nerve-wracking situation. The two united traits, and what I cognize of their original proprietors, work together to make a 3-dimensional loanblend, and I make n’t need to pass hrs on a back tale or character bible to cognise how this individual will respond when the flakes are downwardly.

I ‘m not bent abash anyone or smart any feelings. It Holds simply easier to mine the personalities of people I ‘ve turned upward hearing narratives about all my life. When I get completed, they ‘re not home members any more. Each holds gone his ain soul. Characters run to make that.

What are the pros and cons of write of home members?

LIZ: The pros are that they are easier to cognise and rely as they locomote the tale on. A con would be if you maked a imitation and injury individual ‘s feelings. I conceive you need to be careful.

When maked you firstly commence inditing?

LIZ: Seriously? Likelily in the mid-1980 ‘s. Oh, I e’er stargazed of being a author, but I maked n’t hold the subject earlierly so. I maked n’t hold a hint what it entailed.

What was your first printed book?

LIZ: The first two in the Spider Latham Enigma Series came out at the same clip. That was The Boarder and After Goliath The tertiary in the series, Snakewater Matter , came out a yr subsequently.

Make you experience that your composition holds turned since so?

LIZ: Oh, my, yes! I ‘m a much better author now, and I assign that to being a constituent of an active authors ‘ grouping.

State us about Missives from Afghanistan Were the missives pent to you?

LIZ: Yes. I was a immature mother when my parents attended Afghanistan in 1965. My mother and begetter both worked for the Office for International Development ( Assistance ). Pa was in charge of buying machinery and learning the Afghans how to hold it, and mother ran a little hotel/restaurant that catered to the American contingent and seing diplomatists. She holded fifteen Afghan manpowers working for her, and she got really regarded in their lives. She would indite long missives place about her interactions with them. Some missives were uproarious; some were affecting, but none were dull.

I was a busy ma and instruction school additionally, and I ‘d savor each missive and lay it forth. It was only geezerhood afterward, in 2001, when I attended redact the missives for the menage, that I observed what a treasure these missives were and what a window they were into the psyche of the Afghan provincials.

Hold you traveled thereto state?

LIZ: I hold n’t. By the clip I was able to make that rather travel, it was n’t safe.

On the dorsum of your book is a indorsement telling that constituent of your book sales attend gain Portion Women Across lands ( SWAN ). Say us a trifle about this grouping.

LIZ: SWAN is a humanistic outreach organisation that was started by my two girls, Ruth Lavine and Terry Gifford, and I The intention is to assist women and shavers through microloans, malaria medicine, mosquito nets and school supplies and uniforms. Terry is the motivating force, and it is she who visits Bolivia each year to superintend the microloan plan there, which includes a mini-business class and proceeding didactics as the women take out loans and go enterprisers.

Most of the support for SWAN comes from the “ Pattie Waggon, ” Terry ‘s grant laggard that you may see at ball games or at Sedro Woolley jubilations, and SWAN too patronize a Century Motorcycle Drive that cooccurs with Sedro Woolley ‘s Blast from the Yesteryear. You can chance out more about SWAN by seing www.swanforhumanity.org

Where can we encounter your books?

Likelily the easiest manner is to attend Virago. My secrets are out of print, but can still be chance on line. The Mist of Target Seaport , which is putted in the San Juan Islands was printed by Deseret Book and is sold mostly in their outlets. My newest, Numbering the Cost , was printed by Inglestone Publication, a little company in Phoenix. Any book shop that makes n’t hold them in stock can enjoin them in, but Virago is likelily quicker. Too, check out the book trailer

Thank you for sharing with us, Liz.

Thank you, Heidi. What luck to hold happened you manning your booth at the Sedro Woolley July 4 Jubilation. As I read your book about your gran, Cowgirl Dreams , I see that we hold much in common. We ‘re kindred liquors.

Yes, so. I love doing connexion that mode. Seing new friends is component of the wages in holding a book printed.

Liz will be a presenter on “ Victimisation Home History in Fiction ” at the Skagit Valley Writers League /Pacific Northwest Writers Association “ Connections ” Shop October 17 in Mount Vernon Washington.

Published in: on February 15, 2010 at 9:44 pm  Comments (3)  
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Writers on the Move

ballonsDuring November, VBT – Writers on the Move is having its ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY! For those who don’t know what VBT is, it’s the Virtual Blog Tour gang and do they EVER have a fantastic party lined up.

To celebrate this accomplishment, we are having a STUPENDOUS Blogaversary Tour! I am featured first at Dianne Sagan’s blog.

Daily postings and daily prizes! But, that’s not all, we’re still having our Mystery Site Giveaway: the Anniversary PRIZE is a $25 (US) GIFT CARD.

Visit the VBT – Writers on the Move blogsite for all the details.
http://vbt-writersonthemove.blogspot.com

AND THAT’S NOT ALL:

Don’t forget to check back right here on Wednesday, Nov. 4 for Craig Lancaster’s guest post on “Writing the West Into a Story.”

Mystery Series Takes Place in Battered Womens’ Shelters

My guest blogger today is Christine Duncan, the author of the Kaye Berreano mystery series.  Book two of the series, Safe House has just been released by TrebleHeart Books.  Visit Christine at her website or catch her at Rule of Three.

Safehouse2_cvrThe leaves are falling, Christmas lights are starting to appear, and Thanksgiving is only days away, but Kaye Berreano can’t begin to think about the holidays. In this second book of the cozy mystery series, Kaye, a Colorado battered women’s counselor, is just learning to juggle her two teenagers, her all consuming work, and her relationship with police investigator Pete Farrell, when she finds out that her son, RJ, is the main suspect in a murder investigation.

Why Don’t Battered Women Leave?

Worse yet, Why, Having Left do They Go Back?

By Christine Duncan

When people hear that I set my Kaye Berreano mystery series in a battered women’s shelter, they are curious.  The one thing people want to know is why battered women don’t leave. The answers to that question are more complex than one short blog post can cover but let me give it a try.

But the first thing I need to tell you is that I set the books in a shelter to help make the answer to that question obvious.

Battered women’s shelters are wonderful and I support any effort to have more around the country.  We have a great need for them.

But they are often noisy, and crowded.  Sometimes shelters are so crowded, that when a woman calls up with a need for refuge for her and her children that the shelter has no room to take them in.  They try to refer the women to other places, make sure they are safe.  But there is only so much room.

Sometimes women don’t leave because they have nowhere to go.  He has threatened not only them, but their family or their friends.  And the women believe the threats.  So they don’t go.

Sometimes women leave but go back to the guy.  People find that the most baffling but it isn’t when you think about it.  The answers are there.

Shelters have a time limit too.  Most shelters around the country are emergency type shelters.  The women who go there need to be out in anywhere from two weeks to forty five days on average.  There are longer-term shelters but they may have waiting lists.  They are definitely less prevalent.

So women come to the shelters, often with their children and with whatever stuff they could grab in the little time they had to grab it.  Maybe she decided to leave when he was at work.  Maybe she had the cops come out to protect them while she took their stuff.  Whichever it was, it wasn’t much time to remember their prescriptions, the kids’ birth certificates, her contact lenses and their clothes.  She probably forgot something—maybe just deodorant—maybe the kid’s homework.  She probably doesn’t have any pictures.  But she and the kids are safe.

And they get to the shelter and she realizes that it isn’t over.  The guy is going to try to intercept them in the parking lot at her work or at their son’s school.  Maybe the woman realizes she needs to think about changing the school.  Or get a new job. But she has this time limit and she needs a new apartment and furniture and dishes and more clothes.  How will she come up with the deposit and first and last for an apartment?  It begins to feel a little overwhelming.  Okay, a lot overwhelming.

And money is tight. Some women may get into longer-term shelters.  But other women won’t , and they will hear from their men on their cell phones.  “Come home, honey.  I won’t do it again.”

And their children are whining. “Why can’t we go home?  I miss my own room. I want my X-box, my sooper-soaker.  Why didn’t you bring it?  I miss Dad.  This place sucks.”

And the women see the time ticking away, and they still don’t have the safefront_copymoney for an apartment. They really haven’t figured out the school and work thing either.  He keeps showing up at the daycare, trying to get the baby.  So far, the daycare hasn’t let him.  So far.

So she tries to get him into counseling and goes home, hoping maybe this time it will be different.  But she decides to set some money aside, plan a little better in case it isn’t.  And she fields all the questions.  But it’s too tiring, too complicated to explain it all.

Safe Beginnings, the first book in Christine’s series is available at Treble Heart Books.

Thank you, Christine, for sharing your thoughts and insights with us.

Published in: on September 9, 2009 at 12:15 pm  Comments (6)  
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Author Interview: Norma Tadlock Johnson

NormaMy guest today is multi-published Northwest author Norma Tadlock Johnson. She has had 12 books published over 27 years, in romance, middle-grade novels and a non-fiction about the mountain troops of World War II, Soldiers of the Mountain. Her latest is Donna Rose and the Roots of Evil, released in January of this year, a sequel to Donna Rose and the Slug War. Hazards of the Game, also a Cedar Harbor Mystery, is slated for August, 2010. Book Club editions have been purchased by the Worldwide Mystery Book Club of the two Donna Rose books.

Welcome, Norma. What motivated you to become a writer?

I always figured I’d write “someday.” That day finally came when my husband and I traveled from Canada to Mexico while he had a sabbatical leave from San Francisco State University. I’d think of my next scene while we were in the car and that night in the campground, I’d write it. My multi-published (around 70 books) and award winning daughter (she won the RITA for the best series romance last year), Janice Kay Johnson,  was also starting to write at the same time while they were living in our small cabin on Camano Island and she was commuting to her job as librarian in Bangor. Neither of us sold those first books.

What was your first published book?

Summertime Love by “Kay Kirby,” published in the Adventures in Love Series by Signat (NAL) I’ll never forget the day my husband came down the driveway carrying a Mail-o-gram. He said, “I don’t know, but this looks like it could be something important.” I was unable to reach the editor immediately — my line was busy, then he was out to lunch. What we hadn’t known, was that editors like to sign up an “author,” not one book. I was amazed when, after he said he thought we were “fresh,” when he offered a two-book contract with an option on a third.

In the beginning, you and your daughter collaborated on a number of books. Did you brainstorm together, both write parts, or how did that work?

Yes, we brainstormed during the summer and then my husband and I went back to the San Francisco Bay Area. We alternated chapters and mailed them back and forth. This was, of course, before e-mail. Bob would sneak into the copy center at the University and make copies after I’d changed them. Eventually, our work was enough alike that we couldn’t be sure which of us had written certain sections.

Are mysteries harder than other genres to write? What kind of mind-set does one have to have-devious or more of a puzzle solver?

No –I prefer them. I’ve always been a mystery reader, staring with Nancy Drew as so many of my writer friends did. Even my middle-grade novels were mysteries, with elements of fantasy. I have no idea on your second question.

Is the Cedar Harbor mystery series your first in this genre?

Yes.

How did you come up with the name Donna Rose and the idea Roots.coverof a “senior sleuth” for these books?

My characters always name themselves. Writing about a senior was a natural since I am in that category. Also, my plots take turns of their own. When I first came up with the slugs, I figured Cyrus was going to be the villain, but he had other ideas. Also, Alvin just showed up. I also had no idea why. He, however, obviously had a plan.

Is first-person easier or harder to write than third-person?

I must think it’s easier since that’s what I usually use. The romances, however, had to fit the line.

Do you do a lot of research for your novels?

Very little. I did take advantage of my daughter’s better knowledge of plants. I also bought a book about slugs. You might be interested in how slugs came to be important in my books. We had enormous number of them on Camano Island. But neither of us liked to kill things. My husband had been a Naturalist in the National Park Service. The little black-Slug Warspotted ones clearly suffered when sprayed with ammonia. So — we took to tossing them in the wooded vacant lot across the street.

Your publisher is Five Star/Gale. How much marketing and publicity do they do for you, and how much do you have to do yourself?

Since they aim at libraries (the books are relatively expensive, with durable library covers), they send catalogs all over the country. Otherwise, publicity is up to me. However, this is true these days of almost all publishers unless one is a big name with a big advance. I understand that the amount they spend on publicity is directly related to the amount they’ve paid the author.

What advice do you have for writers who want to be published?

Be stubborn, have faith in yourself, and multiple submit, submit, submit, even though publishers say they don’t want you to. And join a critique group.

Norma, thank you for sharing your story and experience with us. Norma’s books are available through local bookstores. And be sure to check out her website.

Gwyn Ramsey Interview Continues

The last couple of days, I’ve been talking with Gwyn Ramsey, author of the novels Journey to Tracer’s Point and Winds of Change.Winds ChangeFront cover copy

Tell us about the sequel, Winds of Change. Does this continue the story of Caroline and John as they seek a new life in the California gold fields? Winds of Change is the second book in the series which brings part of the Anderson family full circle, including John Anderson. This historical family saga is a continuation like Little House on the Prairie and Lonesome Dove. The book brings to life the story about Sarah Anderson, who, after being kidnapped by Indians, becomes the wife of Running Swift, an Arapaho Indian and a mother to his son, Little Feather. Sarah faces the challenges of Indian life, until disaster again changes her world.

What is your next project? My next project is the third book in the series titled Bound for Texas.  It is a life story of another person in the Anderson family and their survival after the trip west, their personal quest to find the Anderson family, and their destiny.

Do you have a favorite author or someone you’ve modeled your writing after? I read many different genres and enjoy them all. If I had to pick two I would say Elmer Kelton and Tony Hillerman. Also I love reading John Jakes and Dana Ross Fuller. But then again I read Karen Rose, Cheryl L. Wilson, Virginia Henley, Jane Kirkpatrick, Ann Parker, Dorothy Solomon, Cindy Sandell, Fern Hill, and of course Heidi Thomas, just to name a few. I could go on and on with names of writers who I have enjoyed reading their works.

What inspires you to write? My characters inspire me daily, nightly, no matter what time of day or what I am doing.  They bother me until I put the words to paper.  Once I begin to write and research for the one small particular piece of information, I can’t quit until my head begins to nod.  Usually that is around 1 or 2 in the morning.  What I truly hate is when I’m swimming laps, scenes and words spill forth. I’m extremely wet with no paper or pen. It’s exasperating.  Of course by the time I’m out and dried, I can’t remember a thing. Ahhhh!

Do you have a schedule you stick to? My writing schedule is pretty sporadic.  I do have to say that I prefer writing at night from 9 to 1 or 2 in the morning. No phone, no visitors and my husband asleep in bed. That time is mine, peace and quiet.  I spread out my books and papers and dig in.

Gwyn Ramsey 2What advice would you give to beginning writers? Writing is not a hobby, it is a business. Of course when you begin, you will treat it as a hobby. The best advice I can give is to love what you do, never give up, and keep your derriere in the chair. The story can’t get out until you decide you will write it. As Cheryl Ann Porter used to tell us at TARA, you can’t fix a blank page. So write, write, write and then worry about editing.

Tell us about the business of writing. There are three phases of writing.  The first will seem the hardest and that is getting your story written and printed out. Once you write “The End,” most new writers feel they are done.  Not by a long shot.

The second phase is submitting to agents and publishers. This takes courage and developing tough skin, for you will receive many rejections. Hey, you won’t be alone. Steven King first two novels were turned down a multiple of times. It wasn’t until his third book, Carrie, that he was published. I personally have three thick folders of rejections on Journey to Tracer’s Point and I’m very proud of every one of them.

The third phase of writing is promoting and marketing. This is a whole different avenue of business. I do believe this part of writing that scares many authors but it shouldn’t. If you’ve made it this far, you are doing fantastic. Marketing is why you decided to write.  You want people to read your story, to love your characters, to stand waiting for your next book.  One thing though…you must keep writing after phase one. If you don’t, you will never have another phase two or three.  So the key word to everyone is to write, write, write.

To be honest I never thought I would be a writer. It was the farthest occupation from my mind. Now, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve enjoyed every nail-biting word.

Great advice, Gwyn. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. I wish you the best in your future writing and marketing endeavors!

Thank you, Heidi, for having me on your blog.  It’s been a wonderful experience and a pleasure I will always remember.

Journey to Tracer’s Point and Winds of Change are both available from Treble Heart Books.

Author Interview: Gwyn Ramsey

Gwyn Ramsey 2My guest today is Gwyn Ramsey, author of the novels Journey to Tracer’s Point and Winds of Change. Gwyn is a member of Women Writing the West, Western Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, Tampa Area Romance Writers (TARA), Peace Rivers Writers, and EPIC.

Welcome, Gwyn. You have two novels out in your series. Was Tracer’s Point your first novel? Yes, this was my first novel, a story of my heart.  I have several others written, but Tracer’s Point is one I’ve loved from the very beginning and what a challenge.

Tell us what inspired you to write it.  I’ve been asked this plenty of times and to be honest, I never gave it much thought until the question was posed. I would say that after 45 years of genealogy, the idea of writing a historical was born. The thought of going west in a covered wagon always piqued my interest.

Have you always wanted to write or did you come to it later in life? Actually, my writing didn’t develop until 2000.  I’m a late bloomer and have more stories waiting on the sideline than time will allow me to finish.

Did these books require a lot of research? Yes, lots. Research is a skill that all writers develop whether in small amounts or on a larger scale. Journey to Tracer’s point took three Journey coveryears of research and writing. Together, the book took on a life . . . one of love.

What did you do to find the information you needed? I began with interlibrary loans, the Internet and then progressed to the Library of Congress as a researcher.  Also I traveled to many of the areas mentioned in my book. I called people to interview them regarding their pioneering skills and developed my own personal home library. It was an on-going process even after the book was published.

What kind of preparations did the characters have to do before they left? The process of trip preparations was huge. Material had to be woven and two changes of clothes had to be sewn for each person on the trip. Candles had to be made as well as soap for once at their destination many people lived in their prairie schooner for months until a cabin could be built. Food was gathered from the cold cellar or bought, cooked, and packed. The medicine bag had to be put together and herbs collected. Land had to be sold as well as the entire homestead, stock, etc. Personal possessions had to be sold or given away for only the necessary items were required for the trip. During 1849 in the back country of the Virginia mountains people didn’t own a lot, and what they have they was handed down from generation to generation. So selling or giving away personal items had to be a heart-breaking experience.

What a difficult journey this must have been, from Virginia to California by wagon train, especially for the women and children. What kinds of things did they have to endure on this trip? Planning the trip, gathering the necessary provisions, building a wagon and then heading west on trails without a GPS or Atlas to show them the way was just the beginning. But the real difficulty didn’t arrive until the pioneers left from the jumping off place at Independence, Missouri to reach either destination, Oregon or California. There were turbulent rivers to cross and high river banks to climb, prairie fires from lightning challenged them as well as tornadoes, cholera was ever present and claimed many lives, a shortage of money was always a problem, long walking hours in all kinds of weather wore the people down, not to mention wagon crashes or the loss of their animals. These people were hardy pioneers and constantly pushed themselves to reach their destination, their dream. They walked 3,500 miles through some of the nastiest terrain.

Wow, Gwyn, they were indeed brave and hardy souls.

Join us on Monday for the second half of the interview, in which Gwyn talks about her sequel, Winds of Change. Both novels are available from Treble Heart Books.

Blog Talk Radio: On the Road to a Bestseller

Last week I was a featured guest on Christine Rose’s Blog Talk Radio program “On the Road to a Bestseller,” where we talked christine-roseabout the pros and cons of being agented or unagented. I presented the view from having no agent and being published. David Odle on having an agent on the way to being published, and Jane Kennedy Sutton, who had an agent who turned out not to be the right fit. You can listen to the program here.

Christine also discusses “queryfail,” a discussion thread among several agents on Twitter recently, with examples of what makes them reject many queries. Here’s a sampling from Publishers Lunch:

As a taste, we pulled a selection of our favorite lines and stitched them together into something that’s almost a query letter on its own:

Dear________

“Please be advised of my request that you consider reviewing a page- turning novel that I have recently completed.”
“I’M TYPING MY QUERY IN ALL CAPS SO YOU WILL BE SURE TO NOTICE IT.”
“Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be pulled up a waterfall or to be flushed down a toilet?”
“This is my first attempt at writing a fictional novel.”
“…this, the first book in a seven-book series…”
“I’ve been working on this novel for twenty five years.”
“This book is The Notebook meets The Lord of the Rings.”
“It’s a unique combination of memoir and novel.”
“My book is the first in an imagined autobiography of my tragedy.”
“This is groundbreaking work that will change the way we view everything!”
“My book is differentiated from Twilight because the vampires have wings, and are half-breed angels.”
“I’ve been rejected by three other publishers who said my work was interesting.”
“I’ve queried more than 50 agents and have gotten nowhere and now I’m querying you.”
“I don’t think you’re the right agent for me, but could you pass my query along to some of your colleagues?”
“I hope you don’t mind that I found your personal email address…” ‘
“I know you don’t represent children’s literature, but I hope you’ll make an exception in my case.”

For the moment the focus was on author’s query letters rather than agent’s submission though one editor dared to shift the focus
briefly: “The most common #queryfail I get from agents? Alas, I hate to say this, but “a debut collection of lyrical linked stories.”

Published in: on March 14, 2009 at 11:58 pm  Comments (8)  
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Laura Kalpakian, Part II

laura-kToday, we’re continuing the interview with Laura Kalpakian, a multi-awarding-winning novelist from Northwest Washington.

Laura, You’ve used an interesting technique in interspersing a recipe and a “snapshot” vignette between each chapter. Can you explain why you used the snapshots? Is this a way of dealing with backstory?

This book was the most difficult novel I’ve ever written. I was frustrated beyond endurance with the magnitude of what I’d undertaken, what I wanted to achieve, and the sheer impossibility of bringing all these lives and stories under one canopy, the pages of one novel. The whole point was to tell a broad, wide-screen story with well-developed characters. A difficult task in any event, but the book kept getting too long. (As is, it’s 200 pages longer than the editor had hoped for, hence the small print.)

In the course of three years, I cut and re-arranged. Started in different places. Tried different narrative voices. Finally, quite late in the process, I stumbled on the notion of the “snapshot,” the vignette that would pull a character out of the larger story and illuminate him or her, with an accompanying recipe. Even though some of these characters didn’t show up throughout the novel, the “Snapshot” allowed the reader to know them better, and for their story to be plowed back into the whole of the reader’s understanding of the American experience in the West. (It is truly a novel of the West.) Of these, my favorite is Ginny Brothers, the cowgirl and stuntwoman. Researching Ginny was tons of fun.

Late in the book the function of these “snapshots” changes. They allow me to give the reader enough info that I could move the story forward swiftly, that I could develop characters and situations, but not linger. So, for instance, Liza’s “college essay,” that snapshot tells you more about Liza, yes, but it also gives you story, setting, and tension.

Toward the end of the book, when the March family is in Italy, with Liza’s “snapshots,” the narrative can american-cookery-cover1dwell on the important events, and not spend a lot of time saying how they got to Italy, or why. Too, these snapshots show Liza’s adoration of her father, and how that would cast sad, lifelong shadows over her relationship with Eden, her mother. I always intended to end each chapter with a recipe, but once I discovered the “snapshot,” the book came into focus for me. I still cut a lot of material.

What genre would you say your books fit into? Do you consider your writing character-driven or story-driven or a combination?

My books don’t fit into any genre. More’s the pity. I consider myself a character writer. For my work, character, landscape and language are the truly important elements. I like to think that if you put a handful of character into a potful of circumstance, story will assuredly be the result.

Do you have a schedule for your books, for example, months set aside for research, writing and promotion?

I usually do the research while I’m doing the writing. Since my practice is return and revise interminably, usually over the course of some years, this process works. The book grows and expands, and it also keeps the research (sort of ) focused, though I’ve been known to go off on tangents so compelling I sometimes have thought about dropping one book and writing another. I end up knowing a lot more than ever makes it into the book. But my research deepens the book and the characters. I write every day.

When did you start writing?

Seriously when I was in grad school. I’d always wanted to write fiction, but I used to laugh and tell my friends, Oh when I get an electric typewriter, I’ll write the Great American Novel. When I got one, I wrote lots of letters, and a friend wrote back and said: you’ve got the typewriter, now the novel! Too, I was of an age when it was clear to me that if I did not try to write—face the terror of the blank page—I’d never know if I was any good. So I picked up the pen, so to speak, but I wrote for years, testing, learning, expanding, discarding before I published anything. Grad school, needless to say came to take a back seat in my life. I published my first novel rather taking exams for the PhD. in literature.

Did you study writing formally?

In the sense that I read voraciously, wrote, revised, tore things up, sulked and fumed, laughed and wept at the typewriter, yes. That is to say, the way that all writers up until about 1970 when you find the early MFA programs, learned to write. My only formal writing class was high school journalism, and I thank that teacher immensely for giving me a tidy set of rules I still live by: stay away from the passive voice, always look for the active verb, never start a sentence with “It.” I break these rules on occasion, naturally, but they still serve as marks of good prose.

You now teach a memoir writing class through Western Washington University. Did that evolved from your novel, The Memoir Club?

The novel evolved from the class which I originally taught at University of Washington in 2001. They are all faux memoirs, the characters’ stories uniting as the book progresses.

You once said you were inspired by Dickens and how his early life experiences shaped his fiction. Can you elaborate a little on that?

I admire in Dickens the tremendous verve and unbridled energy in his prose, leavened always with an undercurrent of mortality, outrage at injustice, and a wicked sense of mockery. That many of his central figures (Little Nell, Oliver Twist) are not especially interesting goes without saying. They are lightening rods for a cast of lively, even immortal secondary characters. Nell, Oliver and the like stand for attributes of innocence which cannot be sullied, or it isn’t innocence anymore. (Hence Nell dies. Oliver Twist ends, leaving Oliver rewarded for his innocence, which remains unsullied.)

But as Dickens’ work matured his characters grew more interesting, layered, less innocent. (As with Great Expectations.) Still the vibrant cast of lesser characters never diminished. He drew extensively on his childhood and youth and created from them a huge swath of fiction. He never wrote a memoir. As a novelist, he could re-visit his past from many different perspectives as he grew older. To me, that is one of the charms of writing fiction.

Published in: on January 30, 2009 at 7:50 am  Comments (5)  
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