“Wednesday Writer” – Bernard Besson

Thriller writer Bernard Besson has won multiple awards as he’s crafted stories based on his own experiences working in French intelligence and such modern phenomena as climate change, which he researched for his new American release, THE GREENLAND BREACH. I was happy to have an opportunity to interview him recently.

Besson_240_small-206x300ME:  I see that you were born a few years after the end of World War II. What was your childhood like in Lyon, France, and could you still sense the effects of the war? Also, did those effects have anything to do with your later joining the French intelligence service, and, if so, how?

BERNARD:  I was born in 1949 in Lyon, France. I remember when I was seven or eight walking across a “temporary” metal bridge over the Rhône River. The retreating German Army had bombed all of the city’s bridges. I understood later that the bridge in question had been built by the American army; it was still in use many years later.

In World War I, my grandfather had fought victoriously against the Germans at the battle of Verdun, and at home he reproached my father for having lost. I was raised with both memories of a victory (1918) and unthinkable defeat (1940). That confrontation between generations was a little confusing for a little boy. (I can well imagine.)

These feelings were then strengthened with the wars in Indochina and Algeria, and those defeats. It was these military disasters that, in part, explain why I signed up to work for the state, along with the admiration that I still have for General Charles de Gaulle. So it wasn’t entirely by chance that I chose to work for the police and then later for the intelligence services.

When I was little, I didn’t want to see my country continue to lose on the battlefield. I remember when I was a kid going to see a movie with my parents that had something to do with Waterloo. I cried at the end and wanted “Mister Director” to rewrite the scene.

We spent the summer with my younger brother and my mother in Dun-les-Places, in the Morvan, a rural, wooded region in central France. The little town was one of the only ones in the area to have new houses and streets with right angles. One day, as I came out of church with my two great aunts (my grandfather’s sisters), they told me why that was. On June 26, 1944, German soldiers had shot 27 men in the village church. They made the priest climb up the steeple and shot him in the head because he had blessed fighters in the Resistance. Then they threw fire grenades into the church. All the houses in the village were burned down in retaliation for what the Resistance was doing in that wooded, mountainous region.

My father was arrested by the French gendarmerie in 1942 when he tried to join the resistance. He was delivered to the Germans and deported. He resisted in Germany, and went on strike with others. Then he was sent to the Russian front to build anti-tank trenches, and punished a second time, to be sent to Rhineland to rebuild the roofs of the Messerschmitt factories that the Americans kept bombing. He was finally freed by the American GIs.

(I can see that World War II had a very real impact on your family. Thanks for sharing such details.)

ME:  How old were you when you determined to become a writer and what fueled your desire?

BERNARD:  I was fifty when I published my first novel, the Vierges de Kotelnikovo. When there was a shift in the French government, I found myself in another department, working for the Inspection générale de la police. I had way too much free time and was bored. I had written a few books already about business intelligence, and I thought I knew how to write and it would be easy to write a novel. It turned out to be much more difficult than I imagined.

ME:  What kind of preparation, academic or otherwise, did you have before you entered the intelligence world, and what personal characteristics made you so successful in your field?

BERNARD:  I studied law in Lyon and then in Paris. I wanted to have a Masters degree in law to pass the competitive examination to be a police chief. I did so in 1974. I was the youngest in my class. But I didn’t want a career in the police, because I don’t like firearms and have no taste for dead bodies. So I chose to work in intelligence right after graduating from Saint Cyr National Police Officers School. I never regretted the choice. I met many people who offered me interesting, high-ranking positions. I was able to work with a team of loyal colleagues, some of whom followed me to Paris and are friends. They taught me things I didn’t know. A good leader is one who chooses people who are more competent and more brave than he or she is. (Very wise.) And I had my fair share of them.

ME:  At what point in your career did you decide to write thrillers and what was the impetus behind your decision? Also, please tell us the title of your first novel, published in 1998, and how you conceived its storyline. (I would love to post a cover image, even if there’s no translated English edition.)

BERNARD:  I got inspired to write my first thriller when I was at the DST, which is French counter-espionage, or the equivalent of the FBI. I was very lucky to be working during the fall of communism and the Soviet Union. We were able to understand how networks of Russian, Bulgarian, Polish, Czech and Romanian spies worked with their allies in France.

The Russians from the KGB and the GRU were not in any hurry to return to Moscow. Living in Paris was much more agreeable than a future in Siberia. (I’ll say!) So we gave them an opportunity to explain how their system worked. I was impressed by the people skills these spies had, their extraordinary imagination and their patriotism that had been put to the service of a blind and incompetent dictatorship. The time frame was 1989 and 1993.

That is were I got the idea to write a novel and I began the Vierges de Kotelnikovo in 1985. This book recounts how the GRU, the Red Army’s intelligence branch, had imagined assassinating the president of France an hour before launching a nuclear war.

Bernards first book We discovered how widespread the network of spies was among what we called the “French elite.” I had been prepared for this debriefing work when I was in Lyon in 1985. There I was given the job of finding former French collaborators of Klaus Altman (Barbie), who had headed up the Gestapo, in order to get new elements in view of his trial in 1987.

I got an inside view of how the Gestapo had operated in eight different French départements, including three in the Alps, which was a major area for the Resistance. It was a very interesting experience. (I can only imagine.) My team and I were able to understand what tricks and organization Klaus Altman and his political police had used to manage to destroy the armed resistance in the region around Lyon and in the Alps.

ME:  As the daughter of a former CIA agent, I know that guns and spies do not necessarily go together—that it’s more about making contacts and gathering intelligence—but how large a role do weapons play in your novels? Do you try to follow the style of John Le Carré or tend more toward Robert Ludlum and Clive Cussler?

BERNARD:  Fortunately, I have never in my career used a weapon or killed anyone. I am happy about that. My characters don’t do it much either, or at least not with the usual kind of weapons. In THE GREENLAND BREACH, John Spencer Larivière uses a screwdriver and Victoire Augagneur a broken window in order to get rid of their bothersome adversaries.

I truly appreciate the professionalism of American authors. You don’t need to be a former spy or counter spy to write a good spy novel. It can help, but it can also hinder. I have learned not to explain things to my readers, but to leave my characters to act. Showing and not telling.

I do not try to follow the style of any particular author because I read very few mysteries and thrillers. But I loved Conan Doyle’s talent and the fast-paced action in James Bond.

ME:  Your latest work of fiction, THE GREENLAND BREACH, has been described as an eco-thriller. Have you written this kind of thriller before and what made you decide to do it now? Also, please tell us the main messages, if any, that you were trying to convey through the story.

greenlandbreach_750x1200-187x300BERNARD:  THE GREENLAND BREACH is my first eco-thriller. It was the debate among scientists in France that led me to write this novel. They do not all agree on the causes of global warming. And Greenland itself is a character in the novel.

After a career in intelligence, I continue to work in the field by teaching in the French “competitive intelligence” program. The most prosperous nations are those that are able to understand and anticipate economic changes as well as natural changes. In THE GREENLAND BREACH we have both. It was very tempting to tell a story that recounted this reality. Fiction makes it possible to tell more truth than an academic work filled with numbers and statistics.

(And it’s much more enjoyable to read!)

ME:  You have won several awards, including the Prix de la Chouette de Cristal, the Prix Edmond Locard for Best Science Thriller, and the IEC Prize for Economic Intelligence. Which book was honored for each of these, and which award means the most to you personally?

BERNARD:  I received the Prix Edmond Locard for Best Science Thriller for Chromosomes in 2000. It’s the story of a duel between two pharmaceutical companies—one French and one American. One of the two companies is trying to cure someone on death row and discovers something extraordinary and totally unexpected, as often happens in scientific research. You look for one thing and find something else.

 Chromosomes 1

In 2008, I received the Prix de la Chouette de cristal-IEC for Chien Rouge. “Chien rouge” or “red dog” was the nickname for the head of Japan’s intelligence services, a former director of Toyota. Japan’s prime minister asked him to anticipate a situation where the Americans and the Chinese would agree to split up strategic raw materials “forgetting” Japan all together. Operations are running smoothly until Chien Rouge has to defend Japan in a crisis situation. Part of the action takes place in my hometown of Lyon, where the Chien Dog has a talented female spy working in nanotechnology.

chien rougeME:  I understand that you currently live near the offices of French intelligence in Paris. Do you regularly get together with old colleagues and how helpful are they in terms of research?

BERNARD:  In fact, I live in the same neighborhood as my heroes John Spencer Larivière, Victoire Augagneur and Luc Masseron. They live and work out of 9 Rue Fermat in the fourteenth arrondissement of Paris. (Note: An arrondissement is a municipality or district.) They are former intelligence officers who left the DGSE for personal reasons. John had been wounded in Afghanistan, Victoire was bored and Luc had no skill in an administration. They founded Fermatown, a private intelligence company named after the Rue Fermat, but doesn’t yet earn a lot of money.

They now live (as of the sequel to THE GREENLAND BREACH, which is being released in French on Oct. 31) with a baby and a Persian cat in a house that John inherited from his American aunt, a sculptor. The building is really hard to heat, not very practical, and hugely expensive to maintain. But it is located in a great neighborhood called the Village Daguerre, which is a little bit like the Notting Hill of Paris.

(Hmm…could that Persian cat be anything like your own?)

Bernard Besson at desk with cat(Bernard’s cat editing his work)

I often see my former colleagues and it is always a great pleasure. But I also meet with heads of French companies interested in setting up ethical and legal in-house economic intelligence systems based on open source solutions, which are the most efficient. I help these organizations develop these solutions, which requires a long-term investment in people–a company’s most important resource.

ME:  Please provide a description of your writing process. Also, what are you working on next?

BERNARD:  I go to bed early, I think at night and I write early in the morning. I always come up with an extremely detailed outline for my novels. Certainly to reassure myself. And then, very quickly, my characters destroy my outline, because they have ideas and reactions I had not thought about. (Naturally.) I have learned that they are right, because life comes out on top over theory.

Right now, I am finishing a story inspired by the Cuban crisis between the United States and the USSR in 1962.

And, the sequel to THE GREENLAND BREACH will come out on October 31, 2013 in French. It has the same heroes. In this new thriller, Partage des Terres, thanks to the United States and their allies, including France, China has to share the exploitation and trade in rare earths with other nations. These precious metals are used in medical, military and information technology. The rare earths markets are set up in Paris and Malaysia and run smoothly until a grain of sand throws off the well-oiled international finance machine and obliges the CIA to put its best Asian agent on the trace of a mass crime in France.

(Sounds intriguingly complicated.)

All these stories are reread and corrected, sometimes severely, by Claudine Monteil, my companion for the past twenty-three years. She is a historian and writer herself who has published several books that have been translated into several languages. She provides great inspiration.

ME:  Finally, could you describe five items in your writing space or office that make it uniquely yours? (And I’d love to post a picture of your writing space.)

BERNARD:  My office is in the apartment that Claudine and I share in Paris. I have a normal wooden desk covered in sticky notes, which I use to write down ideas whenever they come to me.

desk with sticky notes(See the sticky notes?)

We have a slightly bizarre painting by Boldy that represents a cat, and a real cat named Caresse, who plays a role in THE GREENLAND BREACH. (Now I really must read it! Cats rule!) We also have a portrait of Simone de Beauvoir, painted by her sister, an artist Claudine and I knew.

cat poster(Bernard with Caresse beneath the painting by Boldy…I think)

You can learn more about Bernard in this interview and from his English publisher, Le French Book. As I noted on Monday, THE GREENLAND BREACH is available on Amazon, iTunes, and Nook.

I’ll be taking a break next Wednesday when I go to a writing retreat, but look for my interview with fantasy author T.M. Franklin on the following Wednesday, November 13th.

T.M.Franklin

 

Originally posted 2013-10-30 06:00:09.

“Monday Mystery” – THE GREENLAND BREACH

We’ve got a new thriller to announce from across the Atlantic, translated by the woman who brought us Les Miserables. Le French Book is releasing Bernard Besson’s cli-fi spy novel, THE GREENLAND BREACH, on October 30th.  It’s available on AmazoniTunes, and Nook, and should be up shortly on Kobo.

Have a look!

greenlandbreach_750x1200-187x300Synopsis

The Arctic ice caps are breaking up. Europe and the East Coast of the United States brace for a tidal wave. Meanwhile, former French intelligence officer John Spencer Larivière, his karate-trained, steamy Eurasian partner, Victoire, and their bisexual computer-genius sidekick, Luc, pick up an ordinary freelance assignment that quickly leads them into the glacial silence of the great north, where a merciless war is being waged for control of discoveries that will change the future of humanity.

Excerpt

(First published in French as The Greenland Breach, ©2011 Odile Jacob. English translation ©2013 Julie Rose. First published in English in 2013 by Le French Book, Inc., New York)

The Greenland Breach by Bernard Besson and Julie Rose (translator)

SUNDAY

Greenland, the north face of Haffner Bjerg, 6:30 a.m.

Lars Jensen felt the ground tremble beneath the snow. He straightened up and abandoned his position, petrified by what he was seeing to the west, toward Canada. The last phase of global warming had begun just as a big red helicopter flew past from the east. It doubtless belonged to Terre Noire, the Franco-Danish oil-and-gas company that was carrying out geological surveys.

From the rocky slopes of Haffner Bjerg, events were taking an unimaginable turn worthy of Dante. With a sound as ominous as the crack of doom, the Lauge Koch Kyst had begun to tear away from Greenland and plummet into Baffin Bay in the North Atlantic Ocean. A colossal breach a mile and a half deep was opening up in the middle of the island continent. The trench ran for miles, as if an invisible ax had just split the ice cap in two.

Terrified, Lars backed away, forgetting what he had come to the top of the world to do. He’d guessed that his presence on the slopes of Haffner Bjerg had something to do with the death of the Arctic. The advance wired from an anonymous account on the island of Jersey was every bit as incredible as the cataclysm under way.

A mist shot through with rainbows rose from the depths of the last ice age. Behind the iridescent wall, thousands of years of packed ice raked the granite surface and crashed into the sea, stirring up a gigantic tsunami. He pressed his hands to his ears to muffle the howling of Greenland as it began to die.

It took Lars awhile to get a grip. His hands were still shaking as the thunderous impact reached him. It was even more frightening than the ear-splitting sound. Greenland was plunging into Baffin Bay. In a few hours, the coasts of Canada and the United States would be flooded. He fell to his knees like a child, overcome by thoughts that had never before crossed his mind. An abyss was opening inside him, and it was just as frightening as the one in front of him. It wasn’t until his fitful breathing slowed and his lungs stopped burning that he was able to get back to the tawdry reality of his own situation.

He lay down again on the hardpacked snow. With his eye glued to the sight of his rifle, he found the trail that the dogsled had taken from the Great Wound of the Wild Dog. That’s where the team would emerge, heading for Josephine and the automated science base that sounded the great island’s sick heart. The Terre Noire geologists were known for their punctuality, but at two thousand euros an hour, he would wait if he had to. Say what you like, the end of the world was good business.

Paris, fourteenth arrondissement, 18 Rue Deparcieux, 11:30 a.m 

John Spencer Larivière put the phone down and shot Victoire a triumphant look. It was an expression she didn’t like.

“What’s got into you?” Victoire asked.

“North Land’s offering me a hundred thousand euros for a mission. I’ve got a meeting tomorrow with Abraham Harper’s wife, Geraldine.”

“Where?”

“She’ll let me know at the last minute.”

“What kind of a job?”

“She didn’t say.”

“She’s obviously going to ask you to investigate their European rivals, Terre Noire, Nicolas Lanier’s outfit. I don’t like it, John. Don’t go looking for trouble. Don’t forget you’re French. Remember where you come from.”

“Still, a hundred thousand euros…”

Victoire moved closer. Ever since John had set up his own business, he had agonized over not being able to measure up. They were in the red. She rarely saw him smile these days. She slipped her hand into his pants and confirmed what she’d already guessed. “That Canadian woman has an effect on you.”

“She does not.”

“Come here, you idiot.”

They had met working in the government intelligence agency Hubert de Méricourt directed. Victoire and John wanted to have a baby, which was why they had quit together to start Fermatown, their own strategic- and criminal-analysis company. As the daughter of a Cambodian Khmer Rouge survivor and a French diplomat, Victoire bore a heavy legacy. After a spectacular nervous breakdown and a period of uncompromising psychoanalysis, getting pregnant had become her obsession. She wanted a son who would look like his father, a good-looking hunk, five feet eleven, with irresistible blue eyes and the blond mane of a movie star. John was a real man with simple ideas, a gentle giant who could massage her feet while getting his Cambodian and Cantonese hopelessly mixed up.

They left the media room and stepped into the space they called the confessional, where they settled into the welcoming arms of the black sofa. Their clothes soon lay where Fermatown’s rare clients sat. John kneaded that supple body yet again and made Victoire’s cheeks glow. She opened her eyes wide and encouraged him with her dancer’s hips. They grabbed pleasure by the handful as though it were the last time. Or the first.

Putting aside their old wounds and disappointments, they made sweaty love, falling off the sofa and onto the teak floor. Now they were nothing more than two balls of rage. Watching as though he were outside himself, John pinned her delicate wrists to the floor and prepared his assault. Wildly, he thrust faster and faster, and, when the moment came, he grunted like an animal, shooting into this flesh that was torn, as he was, between two continents and two histories.

Out of breath, they slid next to each other. And then, holding hands and looking up at the ceiling, they started bickering again.

“With a hundred thousand euros, we could redo the kitchen and get new cars.”

“A hundred thousand euros and a bullet in the head. Don’t go there, John.”

“I’ll send Luc to Le Havre. That’s where Terre Noire has its lab. I saw something on television. They sent one of their ships to inspect the lava that spewed into the ocean the last time Eyjafjallajökull erupted in Iceland. It wouldn’t hurt to find out more.”

“This is way beyond us. Everything about the North Pole reeks of ashes and disaster.”

“I want to go there.”

“You just want to prove to yourself that you can still stick your neck out and act like an idiot. You’re worried about what your former colleagues think—all those people we wanted to get away from.”

“I’m sick of sitting around reading CVs all day. I didn’t start Fermatown to fact-check biographies and trawl through social networks looking for witnesses.”

“Typical man. Too proud to ask the agency to pay us an hourly rate.”

“You’re starting to annoy me!”

John bounded to his feet and ran upstairs to the bathroom. Victoire was right, and that put him in a foul mood. Ever since Afghanistan, he had failed at everything. He couldn’t even get her pregnant. He punched the railing of the staircase to the third floor. He had inherited this rambling four-story duplex and garden from an aunt. The property was situated between the Rue Déparcieux and the Rue Fermat, just outside the village on the Rue Daguerre.

Author

Bernard Besson, who was born in Lyon, France, in 1949, is a former top-level chief of staff of the French intelligence services, an eminent specialist in economic intelligence and Honorary General Controller of the French National Police. He was involved in dismantling Soviet spy rings in France and Western Europe when the USSR fell and has real inside knowledge from his work auditing intelligence services and the police. He has also written a number of prize-winning thrillers, his first in 1998, and several works of nonfiction. He currently lives in the fourteenth arrondissement of Paris, right down the street from his heroes.

Besson_240_small-206x300Come back Wednesday for my interview with Bernard Besson!

Originally posted 2013-10-28 09:47:52.

“Wednesday Writer” – Jeanette Bennett

All I can say is, if Jeanette’s fiction is half as funny as she is, you’re going to want to pick up one of her time travel novels right away. This was a particularly entertaining interview and some of the pictures are laugh out loud funny. :D

Jeanette Bennett(By the way, Jeanette looks a lot like my sister-in-law with this expression)

ME:  Please describe your childhood and the role that books played in your life. (I would love to post a picture of you as a child.) Also, to whom do you owe your sense of humor—your mother or your father (or some aunt or uncle)? (I’d love a picture of you with that person.)

JEANETTE:  I had a rather weird childhood. When I was six I asked my mother what I was. She told me I was Choctaw-Cherokee Indian. When I was eight I discovered that was really two tribes, not one. The other kids never teased me when I told them I was Indian. They just backed away slowly like I was crazy. Maybe because I had blue eyes and blonde hair. Maybe because I’m not that much Indian. Then when I was twelve Mom said “Oh, and you are also Irish.” And yet the whole time I was growing up, she and my grandmother both told me that of all the kids I looked the most like my great-grandmother Domie who was English. So apparently I have the recessive English genes of an Irish-half breed family. It’s hard for me to reject my heritage since I’m kind of confused as to what it is.

Baby pic(And here she is looking very Indian-ish)

I always loved books. My first experience was my first trip to the school library in first grade. The teacher took the class to the library and told us we could all check out a book, so I grabbed one. It was about a little boy getting dressed. It was the most boring book I have ever read. I read it three times. I was just so enthralled with being able to read a book. Then the teacher told me I could check out another one. I was even more excited. I learned that day I loved books. I also learned to look at a book before you check it out. (:D)

The sense of humor comes from my mom’s side of the family. Whenever we gathered for family reunions, before we even said hello, we exchanged jokes. My grandmother and grandfather (Bob and Jewell George) always saw the funny side of life, even when it wasn’t funny. They were dirt poor Okies who had come Out West to find work during the Depression. Life was hard on them, so they got revenge by making fun of it. During a disaster, like a flooded basement, my grandma would say, “Someday we will look back on this and laugh.” And guess what? We never did! But we do laugh at grandma always saying that.

Jewell & Bob George(Grandma looks like she just told a joke and Grandpa looks a bit mischievous…like maybe he’s waiting for you to sit down on that whoopee cushion he planted)

ME:  What about your childhood or adolescence made you fall in love with time travel and history?

JEANETTE:  As a kid I didn’t really like history–at least not the history that they taught in school, which was nothing but dry facts, dates and cardboard characters. What really bothered me as a kid was the way Indians were portrayed in movies and television, because I knew my grandparents weren’t savages.

So I started reading up on Native Americans. Turns out Hollywood lied. Then I wondered if maybe they lied about black history, too, and started reading up on that. If history is written by the winners, I want to read about the losers! I want to find the real history. The more obscure the more I like it.

I like the absurd time paradoxes of time travel, but the real reason I write time travel is an excuse to hop about in history to different places and show what it was really like down to ignored details. That’s what my Temporal Anthropologists are all about. For them recording a special event is secondary to recording the mundane that was never recorded. (By the way, my Temporal Anthropologist Dr. Wendell Howe has a blog about his travels in the Victorian Age and you can see stuff you probably never knew.)

(Now that is something I’m going to have to check out!)

ME:  Please explain the term “Scablander,” so that my readers who are not familiar with the terrain of Eastern Washington will understand why you refer to yourself that way. If you didn’t invent the term itself, where did it come from? (And may I please share the wonderful masthead created by one of your fans for your website, along with its explanation?)

JEANETTE:  When I was a kid growing up in the Columbia Basin, I always heard of the Scablands in whispers and wanted to visit it. Then I discovered I had been living in the Scablands all along.

scablands(The Scablands of Eastern Washington bordering the Columbia River…the uninhabited part, anyway. It does kind of make you think of a scab under a microscope, I suppose.)

Apparently the name came from pioneers passing through here as quickly as they could to get to decent country. Back in the Miocene Age, the area was flooded with lava from volcanoes again and again until the basalt was 6000 feet deep. Over time, topsoil buried it, but then during the Ice Age the Missoula Lake (what is now the Bitterroot Valley in Montana) kept flooding Eastern Washington until it scoured the top soil and dumped it all in the Palouse Hills and Willamette Valley, creating fertile farmland for them and nothing but basalt and blow sand for the Scablands. It’s all sagebrush and tumbleweeds. Is it any wonder we were picked for the Hanford Atomic Works in World War II? If it blew up, who would notice?

This area is so isolated that there are Wanapum Indians living on the river who avoided being sent to reservations because no one noticed them! I use “scablander” for my website name because I spent most of my life in the scablands. And it’s easier to remember than my name. For some reason most people either can’t remember it or spell it.

scablander500_mast(Her hand-drawn masthead. Each letter represents a character or aspect from one of her books. Click on it for a larger view, and go here for an explanation.)

Feel free to share the Masthead. Best birthday gift I ever got. (It’s very impressive!)

ME:  You’ve described yourself as a nerd. How so?

JEANETTE:  Nerd: One who is socially inept, fashion challenged and just a plain misfit.

When I was twelve, I had the epiphany that I was never going to fit in no matter what I did. Rather than feeling sad, I suddenly felt liberated! I march to my own drummer–even if he is offbeat. (Nerds unite! I’ve been called a nerd, too, though indirectly.)

nerd(Jeanette the Nerd…She says she looks like Amy on “Big Bang Theory”)

ME:  What attracts you to the Victorian period, and similarly (or not), what do you like about the genre of Steampunk and how did you come to write a short story in that genre?

JEANETTE:  My character, Dr. Serendipity Brown, is so bold and brash I thought it would be fun to have her meet a repressed, stodgy Victorian. Dr. Wendell Howe is really from the 27th century, but has been trained to fit perfectly into the Victorian Age. I’ve had people tell me he is a “steampunk” character, but since he is pretending to be Victorian, he is really “steambunk.”

(:D)

To be honest I have always been attracted to the Victorian Age. I think because so much was happening. It started with technology that was hardly more than medieval and ended up with the Modern Age. Steampunk just takes that flurry of invention and bumps it up a notch.

steampunk(She says this was her attempt at a bustle for her Victorian tea party in 1974. She was doing “steampunk” before it ever became a trend…because that’s what nerds do.)

As for my steampunk story, Sky Warrior Books was doing a steampunk anthology. My husband bugged me to submit a short story so I wrote one about Wendell meeting the Wild Bunch (the real one and not the Hollywood version.) When I submitted it, I explained it was really steambunk rather than steampunk and waited for the rejection letter. They accepted it! (Smart publisher!)

ME:  Tell us about your on again, off again affair with the written word and which individual(s) played a role in encouraging you to get published? (Please provide a picture of one or more of those individuals.)

JEANETTE:  I never really fell out of love with writing. It’s just I thought it would be best if we parted since I would never be good enough. So when I was thirty-one I bid a tearful goodbye and decided to get on with my life. Then twenty years later my husband decided to take welding classes at night. So rather than sitting around feeling sorry for myself, I decided to write while he was in class. I fell off the wagon and went on a writing binge.

(Good for you . . . and us!)

Rather than being upset with my addiction, my husband Mike seemed delighted. Who knew? He became my sugar daddy and muse. And whenever I say “maybe I should quit this selfish foolishness,” he tells me to keep writing. (Like telling a drunk to keep drinking.)

Mike Farley(Her muse)

ME:  Please share the publishing story of WALKING A FINE TIMELINE.

UnknownJEANETTE:  My husband really liked my story and thought I should publish it. My family and friends liked it, too. I went to panels and heard all the horror stories about publishers, so I never bothered to submit to them. I didn’t want to work with people out to rip me off–I could do that myself. I found out the two things you need to self-publish are an editor and a graphic artist. Guess what I did for twenty-five years? I had already set up books and websites. Even so, it was scary!

I also discovered great software for setting up books that is affordable. Check out Serif PagePlus for under $100. It compares favorably to Adobe InDesign and is much better than the more expensive Microsoft Publisher or CorelDraw. I have worked with them all. (And no I am not getting kickback.)

(Thanks for the tip!)

ME:  Do you outline or are you a “pantser” when it comes to plotting? If you do outline, what method do you follow?

JEANETTE:  “Pantser”–or maybe it’s “quilter.” I get these scenes in my head that I write out before I lose them. I might have a list I make of what order I have them in, then don’t bother to look at it again. I just write, weaving in the scenes or tossing them out. Completely unorganized. That’s what rewriting and editing are for. I don’t know if that’s the best way to write, but it’s best for me.

ME:  What are you working on now?

JEANETTE:  The Fairhaven Home for Wayward Time Travelers. Terrorists from the 27th century decide the best way to protect history from being manipulated is to eliminate all time travelers and then Dr. Serendipity Brown, the woman who invented time travel. So she hides out in a Victorian mansion in 2010 Bellingham, Washington where they will never find her (she hopes) along with her assistant Sherman and her time travel consultant, Dr. Wendell Howe. They also share the house with five other temporal anthropologists she saved in the past from the terrorists and one of her ancestors she decides to bring back.

(Definitely sounds intriguing.)

ME:  Finally, please describe your favorite writing space in the voice of your main character, Dr. Serendipity Brown, as if she had just stumbled upon it in one of her adventures. (I must have a photo of that place, whether it’s out in nature or inside your home.)

JEANETTE:  Okay, you asked for it…

(Uh-oh. Just kidding, she really got creative here, so settle in for a fun read.)

Two crazy willows beside a suburban road begin to sway. A glowing spot appears beside the curb. Slowly four tires appear, starting from the bottom working up, then a U-Haul Truck materializes as though an invisible stage curtain was being raised. The roof appears and it stops shimmering. 

A door swings open from the side of the cargo compartment where no door is showing. Out steps a middle-aged woman with dark brown curly hair bouncing off her shoulders. She is wearing purple pants and a loose blouse. “Come on, guys!” 

A skinny, short teenage boy with horn-rim glasses follows her, wearing a black Def Leppard T-shirt and jeans. Glancing around, he brushes his black hair out of his face. “Are you sure this is the right place, Ser?” 

“Of course, Sherman. Wendell says it is and our Dr. Howe is never wrong.” 

A man of medium height, medium build with medium brown hair steps out of the time machine. He is wearing a brown frockcoat and top hat, staring at an open pocket Bible. “My computer says these are the correct coordinates, Dr. Brown.” He closes his computer and slips into a pocket inside his frockcoat. “Hmm.” He studies the white 1940s house in front of him. “Hardly looks like the home of a writer, wouldn’t you agree, Serendipity dear? Of course all the writers I have ever met were back in the Victorian Age.” 

“So who is this Janet Bernet, anyway?” Sherman asked. 

“Jeanette Bennett.” Wendell corrected him. “She was a little known author who apparently predicted time travel would be invented in 2353 by a woman in Beaverton, Oregon–a woman named Serendipity Brown! Far too much of a coincidence. She could cause history to go awry. At some point she must have traveled forward in time and we must find out how.” 

“Pfft!” Serendipity screws up her face. “You and your stupid ‘time manipulation.’ I just want to meet her. Besides she never made the New York Times Best Sellers List, so how much influence could she have?” 

“I must say, I had a devil of a time finding any information on her.” 

Serendipity marches up the concrete steps and bangs on the mahogany stained door, streaked where water had unstained it. 

“Are you barking mad!” Wendell rushes to her side. 

“Come on. I saw this Janine’s photo. She doesn’t look like anyone who would carry a shotgun.” 

“That’s Jeanette, not Janine.” Wendell corrects her. 

Serendipity knocks again. “I don’t think anyone is home. Maybe we should let ourselves in?” 

Wendell looks about nervously. “Well, I don’t like breaking and entering, but the less contact we have the better. The lock looks like the old tumbler locks. My key should work.” Wendell pulls out a skeleton key and sticks it in the keyhole. He twists the loop on top and it begins to hum as it vibrates. He then tries the door and it swings open. 

“Dear heavens!” He yelps. “The place has been ransacked!” 

Sherman sticks his head in and glances around. “Naw, just a messy housekeeper.” 

“Hmmpt! The sign of a genius!” Serendipity follows her companions inside. “Now we just have to find her office.” 

Sherman points to a small alcove next to the door. Beside the blinds covering the picture window is a large desk. It has ornate scrolling and inlaid wood that is barely visible under the laptop and books. Above the desk proper are small drawers and cubby holes stuffed with notes, CDs and books. At the top is a long shelf with a CD player and over a dozen books. It has to be the nicest piece of furniture in the front room. In front of the desk is the matching chair, the cushion covered with a lavender blanket, which in turn is covered with cat hair. Beside it is a TV-tray-sized movable computer table, set lower than the desk, upon which sits a small netbook computer. 

“That can’t be her office.” Serendipity studies it. “Looks like a desk for writing bills.” 

Wendell shakes his head. “That is a Victorian writing desk, or at least a facsimile of one. Look at the books on the top shelf.” He leans over to read the titles of the books. “Thesaurus, dictionaries, grammar books, The Chicago Manual of Style, How to Write a Damn Good Novel. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to see this desk belongs to a writer!” 

“Or a writer wannabe.” Sherman mutters. 

“Okay.” Serendipity takes charge. “Wendell, you search around for manuscripts while I check the computers. Sherman, you watch out the window to see if anyone shows up.” 

Before anyone could move the front door swings open. A short dumpy woman with long brown hair streaked with silver steps in carrying a paper sack. The sack drops to the floor. “What are you doing in my house?” 

“It’s okay. I’m Dr. Serendipity Brown. You know the woman you wrote about who built the first time machine in 2353? This is Sherman Conrad, my assistant I picked up in 1985 and of course Dr. Wendell Howe, the 27th century temporal anthropologist formerly with Cambridge University who spent most of his life in the Victorian Age. We just came to find out how you found out about us.” 

The mousey looking woman’s blue eyes snap dangerously. “I don’t know who you people are. Get the hell out of my house before I call the cops!” 

“Maybe this is the wrong Janice.” Sherman concludes. “Or maybe the wrong house.” 

“I think you’re right.” Serendipity agrees. “We better get out of here.” 

Wendell tips his top hat. “We do apologize for any…” He stops short as the woman steps past them to grab a broom out of the kitchen closet. Before she can get close enough to make contact, the intruders are out of the house. She steps onto the porch to watch the truck disappear from the top down until it is gone. She drops the broom and stares speechless. 

After a minute she shakes her head, and steps back in, locking the door. Then she chews a finger thoughtfully, and rushes over to her netbook, and begins typing. “Whoa! What a great idea for a novel! Sounds so much better than talking jackrabbits.”

desk(The messy Victorian desk of a genius)

Wasn’t that fun? You can tap into this writer’s mind further on her website or blog. And WALKING A FINE TIMELINE is available on Amazon in either print or e-book form.

Next Wednesday, I’m featuring an interview with prize-winning French thriller writer, Bernard Besson, whose newly translated novel, THE GREENLAND BREACH, is next week’s “Monday Mystery.” Check it out on Monday for an excerpt and then come back Wednesday to learn more about the author.

Besson_240_small-206x300

 

Originally posted 2013-10-23 06:00:38.

“Monday Mystery” – POCKET FULL OF POSIES

PocketPosies_800I have another new release to announce, this time from Julie Coulter Bellon, and it’s available on Amazon. Here’s a quick look:

They say to keep your friends close and your enemies closer . . .

Hostage Negotiation Team member Bart Gutierrez is shocked to find Lucy Aguayo, a girl he knew as a teenager, working for the deadly Castillo drug cartel. This revelation uncovers a secret in Bart’s family so big it forces him to accept a dangerous offer: infiltrate the cartel to keep his family safe. Once inside the cartel’s headquarters he discovers that a large-scale attack on America is imminent and the only way to prevent it is to bring Lucy in on his plans—and hope she doesn’t betray him.

Synopsis

Detective Bart Gutierrez is surprised to see a woman from his past working for a drug cartel.  She isn’t the girl he remembers and he can’t understand what went so wrong that she’d resort to working for such a deadly organization. He ends up going undercover to infiltrate the cartel and hoping for a chance to convince her there’s a better life out there.  Can he do both without getting himself killed?

Lucy Aguayo has suffered the loss of her father at the hands of a cruel cartel leader. She will do anything to bring him down. When Bart enters her life again, he stirs up feelings and memories that make her question her life choices. Can she find justice for her father or should she work toward being free from her past? And where does Bart fit into this equation?

Excerpt

The pre-dawn air was still, as if even nature sensed the tension emanating from the group of agents and officers huddled near a police van. Bart Gutiérrez blew on his hands, the chill seeping through him. He felt keyed up, ready to get going with the high-risk arrest, but instead of doing anything productive, he was standing around impatiently while a bunch of suits took credit for staging the whole thing.

Special Response made sure everyone knew they’d scoped out the mission with high-resolution aerial photos. DEA put it out there that they’d confirmed the subject inside was, in fact, Arturo Pérez, second-in-command of the Castillo cartel. ICE and the Joint Terrorism Task Force piped in that they’d tracked him the minute his private plane had entered American air space. Only the FBI guys were silent. Bart decided he liked them. 

Author

Julie Coulter Bellon is the author of nine international romantic suspense novels and her book All Fall Down won the RONE award for 2012 Best Suspense/Thriller. Julie loves her work partly because she gets to travel to distant lands to research and add an authentic feel to all of her books. Her favorite cities so far are Athens, Paris, Ottawa, and London. She taught journalism at BYU for fourteen years and that kept her on the cutting edge of current events and world news—which is where she gets her story ideas.

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Julie offers writing and publishing tips as well as her take on life on her blog ldswritermom.blogspot.com You can also find out about all her upcoming projects at her website juliebellon.com.

 

Originally posted 2013-10-21 06:00:05.

“Wednesday Writer” – Candi L. Norman

Candi L. Norman, who writes under the pen name C.L. Norman, definitely has a love of books and is fortunate enough to work in our local bookstore. But I wanted to get to know the how and why of her fantasy writing.

Candi L. NormanME:  What was the first book you ever remember reading on your own, and which book gave you the idea of some day writing your own books?

CANDI:  Dr. Seuss’s One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish although my mom always said it was Green Eggs & Ham. I remember being fascinated by the guys who had to get their hair cut every day. (It’s so funny what particular detail in a story will capture a kid’s interest. Haircuts. Who knew?)

The book that gave me the idea of some day writing my own was never published. I loved books but I was intimidated by the idea of writing one. I mean only exotic people with lots of worldly experience can write these wonderful inventions called books, right? (Yes, that’s pretty much how we all regarded authors until we got published ourselves.)

Then my close friend in middle school showed me the rough draft of the first book in a trilogy she’d written. Wow! It was as good as anything I could pick up in the library and it was written by a girl in middle school. A girl like me. She wasn’t “old” or from some far off place where exciting things happened. That was when I knew I could write a book too.

(Now that you’re published, I hope you get her to see her own project through.)

ME:  Have you always lived here in the Tri-Cities? Please describe your childhood and the role that books played in your life. (I would love to post a picture of you as a child.)

CANDI:  I was born and raised here in the Tri-Cities, as were both of my parents. I come from a family described as ‘his, hers, and ours’ by my mother. I have five sisters and two brothers and I am the third oldest. I was also the reader in the family. Everyone made fun of me because I had my nose in a book at family gatherings and vacations. (Sounds familiar.) My uncles made a point of teasing me (and tickling me) just so that I would surface long enough to say hi.

My big brother loved to grab the book I was currently reading and remove the bookmark or close it, hoping I would lose my place in it. I learned to memorize the page number. As I grew older, I found that two of my grandmothers and my dad were readers too.  At that point, I loved to listen to them talk about books. They read different genres than I do but I adore listening to people I love talk about the books they love. It provides a glimpse into their soul that nothing else does. (Very true.)

CandiAge2(Candi at 2 and already looking at books)

ME:  How old were you when you first realized you were good at writing, and which individual(s) in your life provided your strongest encouragement?

CANDI:  I am still waiting to realize I am good at writing. I am still shocked when someone gushes about my stories. I keep working at it and hoping to get better with every word I write. (And that is exactly what will make you better and better.)

My big brother, Brian, was one of the first to encourage me to write. He said, “You should write a book. You read enough books you ought to know how to write a good one.” That might not seem like much but if Brian saw potential in you and pointed it out, you paid attention.

Brian Picture(Candi’s older brother Brian)

All of my friends are very encouraging, in particular my friends Shairylann and Veronica. (Hmm…I wonder if this is the Veronica I know.) They are both so very honest with me that when they admire my writing I can’t help but believe it. They are also very analytical and questioning which helps a ton when it comes to filling in the blanks in my stories.

Finally, the first time I shared my writing professionally was at a writer’s workshop at MisCon in Missoula, MT. I wrote a short story, Dragonslayers Anonymous, and turned it in to be critiqued by professional authors. Patricia Briggs was one of the authors who read my short story and she had a lot of good things to say about it. Since then she has encouraged me in my writing every time she sees me. Her husband even promised to build me a display case for my first print book. (How generous and what a terrific idea!)

ME:  Why fantasy?

CANDI:  Why not fantasy? I look at the fantasy genre as a door to almost every other genre out there. I can set a romance or a mystery or a horror story against a backdrop of the mystical. There are so many things I can do within the fantasy genre that I get excited at the possibilities.

ME:  Have you pursued any degrees having to do with writing? How important is the formal study of literature or writing, in your opinion, in an author’s career?

CANDI:  I have a degree in Social Sciences with an emphasis on English and History. Before I pursued that degree I was a drama major. (Now that’s key, in my opinion. I’ve found that so many great writers have a background in theatre.) While neither are directly for writing both have given me some insight into the process of creating characters and plot. (Agreed!)

In my opinion, a formal study of literature or writing is not necessary. Reading is where it’s at. Reading in your genre, reading other genres, reading non-fiction; this is how one learns about writing. I think that a degree in anything else will give a writer a sandbox to build ideas from. A college education gives you a lot of opportunity to people watch and exposure to new ideas which are also great things for a writer. But reading and reading a lot is where it’s at.

Unknown

ME:  Tell us a bit about the short stories that make up your anthology, IN DREAMS. How do they differ and how are they alike? Is there a common or recurring theme in your writing and, if so, how would you describe it?

CANDI:  Oh no, I’m back in English class. (LOL. I had to include at least one uncomfortable question to keep you on your toes.) I don’t write with a look to theme or mood or any of those words they use in literature classes. I write about characters in bad situations and then I kick them when they are down. IN DREAMS is a collection of the first five short stories I have shared with the world.

Dragonslayers Anonymous is the result of a writing prompt; describe your last day on the job. From that I came up with John St. George, an aging dragonslayer located in the Pacific Northwest, who is ready to retire but when a dragon attacks he can’t turn his back. Survive to Eat is a result of an open call for an anthology. It is my attempt at a gladiator story. It also covers the back story of a major character in a novel I am working on.

(Oh, goody. You are working on a novel. But these stories sound great too!)

Most of the stories in the anthology were inspired by nightmares I’ve had. Wolves in the Mist features a monster from a recurring nightmare I had as a young child. It is also the most horrific of my stories. Off the Path is about a young boy whose only influence is a man of extremely questionable morals and unusual appetites. Finally, Empty is about a character who is so lonely that it begins to affect his sanity.

The one similarity between the short stories in this collection is in the ending. None of them have happy endings with no strings attached. Every one of these endings is costly and the characters are scarred from what has happened.

ME:  Please tell us about your writing process in some detail and describe your favorite place to write. (I must have a picture of that place, whether it’s out in nature or inside your home.)

CANDI:  For me, it starts with a character in a situation. Once I have that, I sit down and start to write from the beginning. As I move through the story, I can see further and further ahead. When I pass the halfway point I begin to get an idea of the end. I keep pushing forward until I reach the end. Once the first draft is done, I make one more quick sweep through and then send it out to my beta readers to read. Once I hear back from them, I fix problems they point out if I strongly agree that it is a problem that needs fixed. Once that pass is done, the story is done.

I write in a recliner in my living room with a laptop. (I believe you’re the second author I’ve interviewed who writes in a recliner.) I frequently have music on or the TV running some background noise while I write. While I like the idea of an office, I hate being cut off from the rest of the family, stuck in a room away from everyone else. I prefer to write where I can listen to the rest of the family as they go about their day.

 photo

(Candi’s recliner in the family room)

ME:  Tell us about your full-length novel. Does this mean you’re leaving short stories behind, or are you sticking to the form and why? Now that Alice Munro has won the Nobel Prize for Literature, do you think the short story will become more popular again?

Unknown(Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro)

CANDI:  I definitely have plans for a full-length novel. I started with short stories to teach myself things about writing and about the business of writing. I will most likely continue to produce short fiction on occasion but I have always aimed to write novels.

I think the short story is already on the rise. Ebooks allow for more variety in the length of stories. I think really cool things are happening in fiction because of that and readers are responding. (I definitely agree.)

ME:  Finally, tell us about Rivers of Ink and how you came to be involved in this annual local writing conference?

CANDI:  Rivers of Ink is a local conference for writers that started off as a means to connect local writers with readers. Over the years, due to feedback from participants, it has become a venue for writers to learn from writers about the craft and business. It has no genre or format boundaries either. Poetry, fiction, and non-fiction of various lengths are all a part of this conference.

Unknown

I became involved by volunteering to set up chairs and show people to their seats. By the time that first conference rolled around, I was scheduled as a panelist and things rolled on from there. Unfortunately, I was unable to participate this year but I hope to again be a part of it in 2014.

(Me too, as long as I’m still living here.)

If you want to know more about Candi and her writing, check out her website and her FB page. Her anthology of short stories, IN DREAMS, is available in ebook form on Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Smashwords.

Next Wednesday I’ll be talking with time travel author, Jeanette Bennett. Let’s hope you’re all on time!

Jeanette Bennett

Originally posted 2013-10-16 06:00:04.

“Wednesday Writer” – Kathleen Ellis

I am an equal opportunity author interviewer. That means that, whether I read the genre or not, I’m interested in the writer and his/her process. I think today’s interview is a first, since Kathi Ellis writes what I would call spiritual self-help books. So she’s breaking new ground for me, but I doubt it will be my last interview in this category.

Kathi EllisME:  As someone who ended up writing a book entitled THE DARKNESS CANNOT KEEP US: CHOOSING A BETTER TOMORROW, how would you characterize or describe your childhood? Where did you grow up and do you have any regrets? (I’d love to post a picture of you as a child.)

KATHI:  Actually, the book begins in the womb of my mother. Although most people would consider this an odd place to begin a story, it seemed fitting to me. I have discovered some amazing things about my own life, and the processes in it. My childhood was incredibly difficult. 

The book describes the life my brother, sister and I had. Our family was being torn apart even as I was developing in the womb, and we were all placed out for adoption. There were six living children. The oldest two had died at birth. We were placed in an alcoholic and abusive home with no love, no nurturing in our family.

Kathi as a child(Kathi as a child…it’s amazing she could smile)

I grew up in South Dakota. My greatest regret about the childhood of my brother, sister and me was that we didn’t know our birth family, including our parents and siblings. I eventually grieved a childhood lost.

(I suspected the roots of your book began in your childhood. You certainly wrote about what you knew.)

ME:  What did you want to be when you grew up and how did that evolve as you got older?

KATHI:  When I was young I always wanted to be a nurse. I wanted to help people. I think it was mostly because of the lack of nurturing I received as a child. I think on some level I knew I was meant to help people as part of my life purpose. Through my book and workshops I am able to do that now. Writing and speaking are passions of mine.

ME:  Did you go to college and, if so, what was your major? When did you realize you had a gift for writing?

KATHI:  I went to college to study nursing, but found after the first year I was too empathic toward my patients and could not deal with their pain on an emotional level.

I have always loved writing as well as reading. In high school, my teachers told me many times I had a gift for writing. I have written many unpublished essays and poetry and did publish one poem in a National Poetry Association anthology, as well as my first book, THE DARKNESS CANNOT KEEP US: CHOOSING A BETTER TOMORROW.

The Darkness Cannot Keep Us

ME:  Part of the description of the book on your website says “the author shares insights that took her from the depths of despair to fulfillment and love in every area in her life.” You’ve already touched on it, but when and why were you in “the depths of despair,” and how did you get there?

KATHI:  I was born into the depths of despair as the reader can experience in the book.  My mother was in the throes of severe post-partum depression, as I was the youngest of eight children, and our family was being torn apart even as I grew in the womb. By the time I was 18, having grown up in an abusive adoptive home, I made a decision to commit suicide. I talk about the miracle that changed that path of my life in the book. 

I felt compelled two years ago to change the direction of the book I had previously written.  As I have grown and changed throughout the years, I finally came to a point that caused me to have meaning and understanding about my early years. What I discovered was a process called cellular memory and how it affects everything we think, say and do on a totally unconscious level. Once I understood what was going on with me, I was able to heal a lot of physical and emotional pain, and correct the direction of my life. 

The depth of despair was a cumulative effect for me all through childhood. Getting to fulfillment and love was a journey that I describe in the book. I encourage others to consider the elements I have found that produce love and fulfillment in our lives.

ME:  What led you to write about your journey from despair to love and fulfillment?

KATHI:  When my youngest brother was dying in 1995, we had just lost our birth mother.  He asked me to promise him that I would make sure our lives made a difference, and would tell our story. I began this book at that time in part as a tribute to him.

When my brother passed away, he left me a book called “Hands Of Light”. It talks about the body’s human energy field. I was fascinated by the material so I decided to take some courses on it. I have studied the human body’s energy field for a long time, and became a Reiki Master over fifteen years ago. That knowledge, together with the study of cellular memory, has helped me to understand more completely how much we are in charge of our own destiny, physically, mentally and emotionally.

ME:  How did you become a motivational speaker and at what point did you develop your workshops? Please describe briefly the kind of workshop you put on and how it relates to your book (if it does).

KATHI:  I have always loved public speaking. It started when I took speech and debate in high school. In my adult life, I was active in political and social activities that called for public speaking. In the late 80’s, I joined a Toastmaster group because I was teaching adult education courses at the local college where I lived and wanted to improve my humor. Public speaking got into my blood as I began competing in Toastmasters. 

In 1994 I had the opportunity to become a Professional Development Consultant through the National Professional Women’s Network, and was trained and certified and began doing seminars. I also had the opportunity to contract with a national speaking circuit to do personal growth workshops. I lost my $50,000 investment, however, when the company was shut down by the Federal government as illegally operating a pyramid scheme. 

Now, I conduct personal growth and goal setting workshops to help people focus forward toward a better tomorrow. I know from my own experiences that what we focus on we will move toward.

ME:  Please describe the writing process you followed to produce your book.

KATHI:  Because of the promise I made my brother, I began by journaling. It was important for me to just start somewhere. The more I wrote in my journal, the more I began healing myself. 

It’s important for people to remember that all of us have a story within us. The most basic concept begins with going inside to find and touch that seed that will grow into our story.  Once we can get that story out on paper, we can move forward in our own lives. It doesn’t matter if you put your story out as fiction or non-fiction; it’s just important that you start somewhere.

(Well said. And I agree–we all have stories in us.)

ME:  Which came first, the workshops or the book? And can we expect other books from you in the near future?

KATHI:  I have to admit the workshops started before the book. However, I realize that since I wrote the book and had it published, the context and tone of the workshops has changed entirely. Writing this book has changed my life. After my youngest brother died in 1995, we had another 12 family losses and 6 of our best friends pass away in eight years.  My two older brothers passed away two years later three months apart as well. It literally sent me to my knees. (I can well imagine!) 

Two years ago, I picked up the book again, and began re-writing. I had an epiphany one morning during meditation that totally changed the direction of the book.

I will be writing more books. As a matter of fact, I have three titles in front of me to work on.  My readers are asking when the next book is coming out, so I guess that means I had better keep my nose to the grindstone and keep working on them. 

I have been really busy with the promotion of this book. Having self-published through Balboa Press, I find that much of the work is my responsibility. I’m sure it would be easier if I had a publisher that took care of all of that work for me, but right now I am arranging my own book signings and speaking engagements, etc. It keeps me pretty busy.

(Actually, unless you get signed with a big publisher, you’re still likely to have to do a lot of your own marketing. Writers rarely catch a break.)

ME:  Finally, please describe your writing space or office, and list the five things in it that make it unique to you. (And I have to have a picture of it.)

KATHI:  I have a beautiful office! My husband hung a chandelier in it because he said every queen has to have a chandelier. It has my favorite colors on the walls, a muted purple and a purplish taupe. I like lots of light in my work place. I want cheerful and warm but serene at the same time! I have light colored plush carpet on the floor. AND I have a cross stitched sign on my desk that says “SHHH – I’m talking to God!” 

I also play beautiful soothing music when I write. It helps me go within to that space where all inspiration is found.

My space is bright and cheerful, and the walls are lined with bookcases filled with books.  Most of my books are spiritual, self-help and motivational works. I have angels, pictures of my kids, grandkids, and friends around me, and a photo of my husband on my desk. He changed my life and is my life!

(And here’s the proof):

Office (3)(A beautiful, well-lit office)

Kathi’s book is available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble. If you’d like to learn more about her workshops or writing, please feel free to check out her website or her author page on Facebook.

Next week I’ll be featuring an interview with fantasy author, Candi L. Norman, who also happens to work at our local Barnes & Noble.

Candi L. Norman

Originally posted 2013-10-09 06:00:30.

“Wednesday Writer” – Jordan Chaney

Jordan Chaney is a force of nature, and a natural for his style of poetry (more about that in a minute). I say he’s a force of nature because of the power of his presence. Also, not ten minutes after he saw that we’d been assigned an area of less traffic in the Barnes & Noble store to do signings, he sought out the manager. While we didn’t get moved, they at least began to send traffic our way. :D

And I’m so excited to have this opportunity to interview a poet on my blog. In my opinion, poetry is the very essence of writing and the very best writers have the souls of poets inside them. Let’s get a peek inside Jordan’s soul, shall we?

Jordan Chaney reciting poetryME:  Tell me about your father and mother and how each has affected your poetry. (And I’d love a picture of you as a child in either Alexandria, Virginia or Kennewick, Washington.)

JORDAN:  My mother was the person that introduced me to poetry when I was 6 years old. I remember her having a binder full of poems that she and her friends had written. I was fascinated by the collection because they were all typed up, laminated and 3 hole punched. It made the poetry seem special and important from my youthful mind. It drew me in. Besides poetry she used to draw pictures with color pencils from time to time, they were really good too. Her creativity made a huge impact on me as a child.

1378372_10151756996388101_1779303804_n(Jordan surrounded by books as a child in Kennewick…a Ninja Turtle fan!)

My father committed suicide when I was 3 years old. I didn’t have the chance to gather many impressions of him, but from stories I’ve heard and old polaroid photographs I’ve learned that he had a great sense of humor and he loved art as well. My dad was a hard worker. He was employed by AT&T and started out collecting change from pay phones and worked his way up to PBX installation which is climbing up the telephone poles and connecting wires to and fro I assume. I am the product of a soft-hearted poet and a hardworking electrician.

(And, believe me, it shows. The soft-heartedness in his poetry, and the work ethic in his drive to market his poetry and make connections.)

ME:  What was the first poem you ever recall reading, and which poem had the greatest influence on your desire to become a poet?

JORDAN:  The first poem that I ever read was when I was 6 years old and it was titled “Mr. H.” The poem was about a woman that was dating a man named Mr. H and it was a very abusive relationship. No matter how badly Mr. H abused the woman, she, to save her own life, could not leave him. At the end of the poem it is revealed that Mr. H is actually the drug heroin and she is losing a battle to her addiction. As you can imagine this is pretty heavy reading for a child. But it taught me personification as far as structure goes and it taught me empathy for real ills that humanity faces.

Later in life I came across a poet named Saul Williams. His poem, Amethyst Rocks, reminded me so much of Mr. H but with power and intensity. Amethyst Rocks was the first spoken word performance piece that I ever witnessed. It is still to this day the only poem that has given me chills. It completely changed my direction with where I wanted to go with poetry.

Saul Williams(Saul Williams in performance)

ME:  What did you think you wanted to become when you were in high school, and how and when did that shift to poetry? (And I’d love to post a high school picture of you.)

JORDAN:  When I was in high school, I knew exactly what I wanted to be–a public speaker and a poet.

1378336_10151756995348101_319406350_n(Jordan in high school)

In 10th grade during Career Week, we were given an assignment to write a career paper based on what we wanted to do for the rest of our life. I spoke to the guidance counselor and told her very confidently that I wanted to be a public speaker and a poet. She immediately shot back in what I know now to be a patronizing tone,  “Oh honey, that is not a real career. You need to choose something more realistic, ok?”

I was crushed. My dream was shot down. I mean here my whole life teachers and other people as well were constantly beating into my head that I could be whatever I wanted to be in life. That was the on-going campaign slogan from kindergarten on up and now all of the sudden it changed to “You can be anything you want, but choose something realistic.”

So I chose to write my career paper on becoming an Astronaut.

My latest book of poetry is titled ROCKET FUEL FOR DREAMERS. (And let me add that it’s been endorsed by local NYT best-selling author Patricia Briggs.) I never became an Astronaut per se but here I am still reaching for the stars as a public speaker and poet with hundreds of speaking engagements and poetry performances under my belt.

381689_10151400816603101_1941005730_n(Jordan proving his guidance counselor wrong in one of his workshops)

Kids, you can be anything you want to be. You just got to always believe that it is possible and that all dreams have the potential to become reality. Don’t let anyone politely guide you away from them. They don’t know about the wild fires dying to climb out of you, only you do.

(Well said!)

ME:  Why verse? Why not fiction or memoir? In other words, in your opinion, what can verse do that other forms of creative writing can’t? And what is the difference between a poet and what you call yourself–a spoken word poet?

JORDAN:  To be honest, fiction and memoirs have always been scary for me to take on as a project simply because of the length, technical aspects, and structure. I didn’t feel ready to write larger stories up till now. I am actually working on a memoir behind the scenes. (Yay! You’ll have to let us know when it’s done.)

There has always been freedom with verse. No punctuation is needed, misspelled words are welcomed phonetically if you want, it can rhyme or not rhyme, it can be long and drawn on or to the point and pithy. Poetry is Vegas for a writer. Anything goes really. (I’ll have to admit, that’s a new way of looking at it.) Though after writing it for years I have found patterns that work better than others when it comes to getting a message across.

I always have considered myself a poet. A spoken word poet to me falls under the umbrella of poet. Spoken word poetry has more of a theatrical aim than poetry that is just written to be read on page alone. When I am speaking at high schools, my talks are a blend of motivational speaking and poetry. Spoken word is a more entertaining medium and an effective way of getting a message across. Message is everything for me.

ME:  Having met you, I know you have charisma and are a real people person. How have you used those skills to enhance your career as a poet?

JORDAN:  I genuinely love people. I love meeting all kinds of people and on the upside of that you never know who somebody knows. I have shaken hands with people who have turned around and introduced me to New York Times Best Selling authors. I have met people whose stories have turned into my most popular poems. Having a genuine love for people has by default created many great opportunities, fans of my work, and most importantly long-lasting, genuine friendships. Some people call it networking, I call it friend collecting.

(And he has a gift for it. You know how moths are drawn to light? Well, he’s a light.)

ME:  Please tell us about the workshop you’ve put together, and where has it proven most effective? (I’d love a picture of you workshopping.)

JORDAN:  The first workshop that I put together is called Speaking From the Pen. It is an interactive workshop equipped with communication and improv games as well as writing prompts, all designed to help a person become a more confident, creative communicator. I have done this workshop for 4th and 5th graders, junior high and high school students, teens in alternative schools and the juvenile justice center, college kids, and even parents.

I have found that it is most effective with people that are looking for something more, for growth, for self-improvement. Because my workshops are not just getting down to the bones of writing and performing. My workshops are about unveiling your dreams and your passions and how confidence, creativity, and communication can help you get there!

481735_10151217085363101_1820929857_n(Jordan, in the rear, with one of his enthusiastic workshop groups)

ME:  Your poetry has begun to take you places. What’s the most exotic destination you’ve visited in pursuit of your art, and where would you like to go next? (I have to have a picture of you in that most exotic location.) Also, when traveling and performing abroad, do you worry about translating your verse, or do you keep it in English?

JORDAN:  The most exotic place my poetry has taken me is Athens, Greece. Earlier this year, a friend of mine posted a link for a unique opportunity to attend the Athens School of Fine Arts. I figured I would give it a shot. Lo and behold, I was 1 of 22 artists from around the world chosen to attend. (You see? His gift for friendship paid off.)

IMG_0594(Jordan in front of the Parthenon)

All that I learned there would take up about 20 pages so, in short, I learned that with art anything is possible and it is important for the world that an artist stands his ground boldly and courageously.

I am going to London next and I am beyond excited about this opportunity. Supreme elation is what I feel. I have had people ask to have my poetry translated into their native tongue and I have been perfectly ok with that. In fact, in my book there is one poem that is written for migrant workers that I had translated into Spanish.

ME:  Despite the likes of J.K. Rowling, novelists are generally classed among the poor, and poets even more so. How do you support yourself financially, or are you able to rely solely on your creative work?

JORDAN:  Gigs. Workshops. T-shirts. Speaking engagements. Performances. Books. Sometimes tips. I believe that a creative person has to also be creative entrepreneurially in order to thrive as an artist. That is the short answer.

The longer answer can be found on page 12 of ROCKET FUEL FOR DREAMERS, which can be downloaded for free from Smashwords.com or purchased at Barnes & Noble.

Rocket Fuel for Dreamers(Way to promote yourself! Who can resist a free download to get the long answer?)

ME:  Please talk about your poetic process, and the differences between your two published works, DOUBLE BARRELED BIBLE–A POET’S QUEST FOR THE ALMIGHTY and ROCKET FUEL FOR DREAMERS: POETRY. Also, what are you working on next?

Double Barreled Bible

JORDAN:  DOUBLE-BARRELED BIBLE is the rawest material I have written so far. It is all of my frustrations with religion and politics, me reconciling coming from poverty and a broken home, and struggling to find a balance between my spirit and my flesh. The tone is very heavy, real and dark with a thread of light inter-mixed throughout its pages.

ROCKET FUEL FOR DREAMERS is the opposite of DBB, it’s about self-love, it’s about going after your passions, it’s about wine, and Ninja Turtles, it’s for my son, the women that I have loved and still love, it’s peppered with Greek mythology and wild imagination. There is even a glossary in the back of the book!

(Now that’s got to be a first–a glossary in the back of a poetry book.)

I am currently putting together a chap book of 10 poems titled Maria, which will be all of the things I never said before, a confessional piece that I have found very hard to talk about in the past, and what my actual thoughts are on life, god, and religion. 

I have also written a children’s book that is being illustrated at the moment. That should be ready sometime next spring. A memoir is also in the works, tentatively titled: The Psychotic Misadventure of a Blossomed Consciousness.

I, like many creative people, keep a journal of endless ideas. I only share the ideas that are in motion.

(Nice way to put it. :D)

ME:  Finally, please share a poem that describes one of your favorite creative spaces–a place where you find it easiest to compose poetry. (And I’d love a picture of that space.)

JORDAN:

ODE TO GRAPE

 

I have a crush on you

you beautiful bulbous

berry of the gods

you galaxy of dark blue stars

you plump and precious

bottle of Pinot Noir

 

I simply adore you

 

you sometimes gorgeous green thing

drooping a thousand times from paintings always nude and next to tulips the Pinot Gris on your two lips puts the kiss in kismet

it’s serendipitous the way

we have come together

 

mighty migrant workers

are up to their shins in mud

are sweating in the sun

are plucking darkened rubies

all for my tongue

getting paid in pesos

to slave away

for my fair love

 

you are endless and without edges

a purple pearled necklace

with a cluster of cleavage

dangling beneath it

a scarlet goddess 

robed in a red dress 

sagging on the vine

marauding my fantasies

every midnight

when the sky light is merlot-like

 

(Note: The poem continues for several stanzas. To read the rest, you’ll have to get a copy of ROCKET FUEL FOR DREAMERS)

 

530546_10151727441713101_76589646_n(A beautiful, inspiring view for Jordan. Needless to say, there are many wineries in this region and I have a feeling he’s familiar with at least some of them.)

If you want to learn more about Jordan, his poetry, and his workshops, check out his website. He’s also on Facebook and Twitter.

Next Wednesday, I’ll be featuring Kathi Ellis, an award-winning motivational speaker who has authored a self-help book.

Kathi Ellis

Originally posted 2013-10-02 06:00:34.

“Wednesday Writer” – Christy Leskovar

Christy Leskovar had a solid career in mechanical engineering when she happened upon some family history that was too intriguing to ignore. As she delved into the truths behind the tale, she knew this was a story waiting to be written and, setting aside her career, she set off to do just that. What resulted was her first published work–ONE NIGHT IN A BAD INN–a true story of “scandal, war, murder, and mayhem.”

Leskovar_HiRezx300x385ME:  You were born in Butte, Montana but grew up in Kennewick, Washington. Do you have any childhood memories of Butte, and, if so, which ones stand out the most? Also, how does the Kennewick of your childhood differ from what it is today? (I’d love to post pictures of you as a child in Montana and in Kennewick.)

CHRISTY:  Memories of childhood in Butte – playing piano by ear at Grandma T’s while she and Mom visited in the front room; the house shaking at 4 pm when they blasted in the mine; Dad pulling my brother and me on the sled when we went out to the forest to chop down a tree for Christmas; getting a ride home from school in the cab of the next door neighbor’s cement truck; the nuns’ formidable long black habits at St. Ann’s (I’ll bet you have some good nun stories…:D); playing kick the can in the alley; the 9 pm curfew siren; snow so high we could barely see the mailbox.

img131(Christy gets a writing desk for Christmas in Butte…signs of things to come)

As for the Kennewick of my childhood differing from today, the Tri-Cities have grown so much since we moved there at the end of 1968. That’s the biggest difference. There are many more wineries too. (Amen!)

OneNightPaperbackCover

ME:  Before you discovered the long-hidden truth about your great-grandmother that led to your writing ONE NIGHT IN A BAD INN, what were some of the most interesting things you had heard about her? (And is there a picture of her with your great-grandfather that you can share?)

CHRISTY: Before hearing that she was arrested for murdering her husband, the most startling thing I had heard about her was that she tried to force her daughter (my grandmother) into prostitution. Grandma T told me that.

(Wow! That was some kind of mother.)

Christy50 024(Sarah with Arthur Hughes before she allegedly killed him…see those cold, hard eyes?)

ME:  Okay, I can kind of tell from your college degrees in both Mechanical Engineering and French that you were somewhat undecided between the Humanities and Math and Sciences. So I wasn’t completely surprised that, after a solid career as an engineer, you decided to put it aside and try your hand at writing. Still, to do something like that, you must have had some early success with the written word. When and how did you know you had it in you to write a book?

CHRISTY:  I didn’t think about it in those terms. I just did it.

(That has to be a record on my blog for the shortest answer to the longest question ever!)

ME:  Some writers seem to have it in them from an early age and stories tumble out of them. Others come to it later in life, particularly when one story, in particular, captures their imagination. Tell us how ONE NIGHT IN A BAD INN came to you and why you were so sure you had to tell this story.

CHRISTY:  I had gone to Butte for a family funeral. While visiting Aunt Aila, she pulled out a box and from it some papers which she passed to us. They were rap sheets from the prison – for my great-uncles Bill and Archie, Grandma T’s brothers. I barely knew she had brothers (no surprise after seeing the rap sheets). Then Auntie Mary told us about the fire on the ranch, and finding the body, and that Great-grandma Sarah was arrested for murdering Arthur. I went home, went back to work at Bechtel, and then one afternoon the idea just popped in my head: I was going to go find out what happened and write a book about it.

ME:  Doing the research for this particular family saga required a lot of travel. Please describe some of the surprising places and events you found you had to investigate to do this story justice. (And I’d love a picture or two from your travels.)

Finding_Cover_203X300

CHRISTY:  It was an unforgettable adventure, chronicled in my second book, FINDING THE BAD INN. One of the biggest surprises was finding out that one of the prisoners escaped. What an escapade that turned out to be.

As for my travels, I went everywhere anything significant happened, which included Montana, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Wales, Northern Ireland, France, and Belgium. I was attacked by a dog on a Welsh farm, had a policeman train his automatic weapon on me in Belfast, and was hospitalized in Belgium. (Can you tell how dedicated she was to uncovering the whole saga?)

Along the way I gathered amazing story after amazing story. One of the most exciting physical finds was discovering the old stone house where Sarah lived in Wales.

Old Stone House in Wales where Sarah Thomas lived as a child(Sarah’s old stone house in Wales)

(And here’s her book trailer for her second book)

ME:  What or who helped you decide to create a second book out of what was essentially your journey of research for the first?

CHRISTY:  After my trip to Wales, Ireland, France, and Belgium, I felt like I was living in a novel. Finding the story became as interesting as the story I was finding. I decided to write down what happened–my search for the story–just to preserve it for myself. Then I realized, there’s a book here.

In light of what has come out about several memoirs, I’m glad I did it, though ONE NIGHT IN A BAD INN isn’t a traditional memoir in that it was assiduously researched.

ME:  Do you have more stories in the pot stemming from your own family history and, if so, what may we expect to see next from you? I know, for example, that after the murder of her father, your grandmother was sent off to an orphanage. Did you cover her story enough in your first book or can you see possibly devoting a third book to your grandmother’s life story? (And I’d love to post a picture of you with your grandmother.)

CHRISTY:  The story of Sarah’s being arrested for killing her husband is just Part One of ONE NIGHT IN A BAD INN, which has six parts. After the mystery of the fire on the ranch is solved, at least in part, the story continues with my grandmother getting out of the orphanage, moving to the raucous mining town of Butte, Montana, (this was in 1915), meeting her handsome, footloose future husband who goes off to the First World War. It’s quite a story. (It certainly sounds like it!)

the old orphanage(Christy with her grandmother in front of the old orphanage)

First World War Trench in France

(Christy in a World War I trench during research)

Originally, I planned to write a book about all four grandparents, but as I got into the research, the story grew by leaps and bounds. There was more than enough story about my maternal grandparents for one book. My paternal grandparents are the protagonists of my next book, which I’m researching now. As with ONE NIGHT IN A BAD INN, it will be nonfiction, researched, and put in historical context.

(We’ll have to keep an eye out for it.)

ME:  What are some of the most important things to remember when writing memoir, or true crime, or family history?

CHRISTY:  Get the facts, and the memories, in context. Corroborate everything you can. You find more story that way, and you get closer to the truth. Even things you read in well-regarded “history books,” if something doesn’t sound right, research it.

ME:  How did you personally keep all of your research materials organized so you could quickly find and refer to them as you were writing?

CHRISTY:  I kept notes in notebooks and transcribed them onto the computer. I kept a timeline and notes by subject. I reviewed them many, many times. I wrote from memory, then went back to my notes and timeline to fact check myself.

(As you can tell, writing history accurately requires a great deal of patience and persistence.)

ME:  Finally, could you describe your personal writing space in the voice of your great-grandmother. (And I’d love to post a picture of your office or writing area.)

CHRISTY:  In the voice of my great-grandmother, my goodness! She was a cross between Auntie Mame and Fagin (What a combination!), so I’ll leave that up to the imagination of the reader. As for my writing space, I have a desk with a bookcase and file drawers in front of window with a lovely view, palm trees in the distance.

photo of Christy's desk(Hmmm…now how would Auntie Mame and Fagin describe this?)

Seriously, readers, if you want to give it a try, please post your best efforts in the Comments section. :D I’ll let Christy be the judge as to who captures her villainous, adventurous great-grandmother the best.

In the meantime, you can learn more about Christy and her writing on her website. And you can buy her book on Amazon.

Note: I apologize for not posting my promised interview with Karen Spears Zacharias last week, but a family situation came up that I had to attend to. I’ll try and catch her again in a couple of months.

Meanwhile, check back here next Wednesday for my interview with the popular and entertaining poet Jordan Chaney.

Jordan Chaney reciting poetry

Originally posted 2013-09-25 06:00:58.

“Wednesday Writer” – Patty Old West

Patty was one of my fellow Pacific Northwest Authors taking part in the recent group signing at Barnes & Noble, and it’s a pleasure to introduce her to you today. She has an infectious smile and I have a feeling that translates to both her children’s fiction and inspirational nonfiction alike.

Patty Old WestME:  I have to admit that when I first read your name, the phrase “The Old West” came to mind and, figuring it was a pen name, I assumed you wrote Western fiction. Of course, once I dug a bit further, I realized that wasn’t so. Please tell us how you came by your name. (And I’d love to post pictures of you with both of your husbands.)

PATTY:  I married Ken Old in 1998 in Kent, England. I had visited him and his wife there in 1993 and 1996 with friends. She died in 1977 and in 1998 I visited on my way to Kenya. I sent him a letter from there saying all my waking thoughts were of him. (Sometimes it pays to be forward, ladies!) Twelve days after he received the letter we were married, and I became Patty Old. In 2007 he died and I moved back to the States.

Reply Patty and Ken(Patty and Ken)

In 2008 I sent a Christmas letter to a man I graduated with in 1949. There was no wife listed with him in our church directory and our sixtieth high school class reunion was coming up.  He replied with his own Christmas card and I let it set until the day before Valentine’s Day when I sent a reply saying if I had mailed it a day earlier I could have asked him to be my valentine. He actually got it on Valentine’s day, and called to invite me to lunch. Five weeks later we were married and I became Patty West. The Little People stories were written by Ken so I used Patty Old West as my author name.

(Aha! Now it’s all clear.)

Reply Patty and Roy(Patty and Roy)

ME:  Where were you born and raised, and how has that affected your view of the world? (I’d love a picture of you as a child.)

PATTY:  Actually, I am from the Old West. (How fitting!) I was born on Halloween, 1931 in Denver, Colorado at my grandmother’s home. My parents moved to Central City 40 miles west of Denver—a small town at 8,000’ elevation with only 200 residents. Everyone knew everyone else in town. It was known as the Richest Square Mile on Earth for its gold mines.  We lived on the side of a hill and climbing up and down the hills gave me a sense of adventure that I never lost.

Reply Patty 18 months(Patty at 18 months…she already has that winning smile)

I attended grade school there, graduating from eighth grade at the top of a class of eight.  In 1945 my folks moved to Richland. (That’s in Washington State for those of you not yet familiar with me and my whereabouts.) The first question students asked at school was, “Where are you from?” For years my answer was always, “Colorado,” even after I had lived here longer than I did in Colorado. I am a Rocky Mountain girl at heart.

ME:  When did you develop an affinity for writing and/or storytelling, and what made you realize you were good at it?

PATTY:  Actually, it was Ken who wrote the Little People stories and I have edited them for publication. (Stop right there. I’ll let you chalk it all up to Ken, if you like, but I know enough to recognize that it takes a good writer to do editing.) He wrote in King James English and some of his sentences were a full paragraph long. He didn’t have the benefit of moving sentences around, so many of the stories were out of sequence.

I have learned a lot about writing in working with the publisher. I have been encouraged by so many positive comments about how fun and exciting the stories are to read that I am going back to re-edit book one.

The Wizard of Wozzle (straight)(Volume 1)

Ken led such an interesting life that I felt his story needed to be told so I did write his biography. I spent three years researching his life before submitting the book to the publisher. They felt it was too long so it was divided into two books.

Good and Faithful ServantOnce Met Never Forgotten

ME:  How has your Christian faith affected your writing?

PATTY:  The Little People only tell the truth so all of those stories have the underlying characteristics of Christian faith without being “in your face” about it. My deep faith means I would never write a book filled with profanity or actions contrary to Christian principles.

ME:  Okay, please tell us who the “Little People” are and how the 12-part series got started. Also, which age group are they aimed at?

PATTY:  These are stories Ken told to missionary children in Pakistan. They were isolated from parents at boarding school for months at a time. He ‘invented’ the Little People—half-a-thumb high—and a wicked wizard who tries to capture them, to encourage the children to let their imaginations soar to new heights.

When he retired, he began putting the stories in writing. He had only written a few chapters when I married him. As he finished a chapter, I would do simple editing, print it out, and we would read them together. With his prolific imagination, the continuing story became twelve books.

(Note: They haven’t all been published yet. See her website for details.)

The stories are geared primarily for 8- to 15-year-olds, but younger children enjoy having them read to them. And the adults who have read them cannot wait until the next book comes out. (That pretty much seems to cover all age groups. Smart marketing. :D)

ME:  In the series, since you’re mixing reality and fantasy, do you ever have to do research in terms of travel? And whether you do or not, what was one of your most memorable places you visited, either alone or with Ken? (Also, I’d love a picture of the site and/or a picture of your home in England.)

PATTY:  The Little People stories are based in England so there was no research regarding travel, but Ken inserted a lot of history into his stories and I have done much research verifying the details of different events in history. Ken and I never travelled together outside of England or the US, but we often visited Cornwall where he spent the early days of his life. It was his favorite place to visit.

Repty Gibbins Brook Farmhouse(Their farmhouse in England)

Reply Farmhouse Living Room(Their farmhouse living room…Isn’t it cozy?)

(*Hint: If you click the picture for a larger view, you’ll be able to see lots of clues to Ken’s far-ranging travels.)

ME:  You’ve been to some pretty exotic locales, yourself. What were some of the most fascinating and which are you most likely to write about in the future? (A picture of you in the setting would be lovely.)

PATTY:  I don’t know that I will be writing about any of the places I have visited except to mention them in my biography. I have been on every continent save one and I am going to Antarctica in February with my son. (Now that’s a biography I’d definitely be interested in reading!)

One of the countries I would enjoy visiting again is New Zealand. It is like a miniature America in its landscape. I went to Peru to view Halley’s comet and enjoyed seeing Machu Picchu. And it was interesting standing on the equator and going on safari in Kenya where I patted the nose of a rhinoceros. I taught English in China for two summers and climbed the Great Wall of China. The time there was eye-opening in more ways than one. The home I stayed in when I went to Estonia took me back to my childhood. It was like stepping back into the thirties. Compared to America, it was almost primitive.

(Patty explained that all her pictures from her trips abroad were of scenery or of the people she went with…so we shall just have to imagine Patty standing here:)

great wall of chinaME:  Please describe your process of taking Ken’s story notes, written in King James English, and turning them into finished books.

PATTY:  First I go through and change all the British spellings to American. (Hmm…my latest work involves British spellings…I might have to consult you for your expertise.) Then I do the formatting—setting margins, removing tabs, formatting titles. Then I do an initial reading and edit the sentences—breaking them up into shorter sentences. As I notice paragraphs out of sequence, I move them where they belong. I also change present progressive tense to present tense at the suggestion of the first editor I had.

(Quick grammar lesson: He walks – present tense; He is walking – present progressive)

Then I read through again, correcting errors as I find them, and change text into dialogue or thought. I also make the dialogue for Jock, the little Scottish leader of the Little People, into a Scottish brogue. The read-through before I have my daughter ‘proof’’ it for me is to check for accuracy of details, insert text to clarify the action, and improve readability.

(Sounds like quite a process!)

ME:  I know you’ve written and published two biographies of Ken. Once you’ve finished the Little People series, what do you think you’ll write next—fiction or nonfiction, and why?

PATTY:  My next project is to write my own biography so my family will have a history of my life.

(Yes!)

ME:  Finally, please describe your office, or the area you use to write, in the voice of the Wicked Wizard. Feel free to use King James English or not. (And I must have a picture of your writing space.)

PATTY:

Miss Patty isn’t as smart as she thinks she is. With my brilliant mind, I would not need two printers to get my work done. And why does she need two oversize screens? Does she think she has limited vision or something? I could do just fine with the laptop screen. And the keyboard? Ridiculous! Can’t she see the buttons on her computer? Of course she has it stuck back against the wall and couldn’t reach the keys anyway. I do rather like the big TV screen that enlarges pictures and printed material. Just look at her with her nose up against the screen peering through a magnifying glass. Doesn’t she ever take a break? Her poor husband sits out in the living room hour after hour waiting for her to join him. What a patient creature he is. I wouldn’t stand for it.

(Wonderful! And here’s the visual proof:)

Patty's OfficeYou can read a lot more about Patty and Ken and their books on her website. And check out the first volume of the Little People series, THE WIZARD OF WOZZLE, on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Kindle.

As far as next week goes, please check in again on Wednesday for my interview with MOTHER OF RAIN author, Karen Spears Zacharias, whose work has been featured in The New York Times and The Huffington Post, as well as on CNN and NPR.

AuthorPhoto.2011-2-427x640-427x429-298x300

Originally posted 2013-09-11 12:28:18.

“Wednesday Writer” – M. Ann Rohrer

I met Ann a little over a month ago, thanks to a friend of mine, and now she’s a member of our local ANWA Chapter, the Columbia River Writers. I wasn’t surprised to find out she belongs to a few other writing groups, as well. And I have Ann to thank for passing along the invitation to take part in the recent Barnes & Noble Pacific Northwest Authors Event. While she has only published one book so far, I expect to see a lot more from her. Once you’ve read about her background, I think you’ll understand why.

ann-rohrer-author-_mattieME:  I heard some stories from the Pratt brothers in my BYU student ward back in the 70s about growing up in Colonia Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, but my memory’s poor. Please describe what it was like for you growing up there and include a picture or two. Also, what took your family there?

ANN:  Think southern Utah about sixty years ago; farming community, wide roads, redbrick homes with tin roofs on an acre or two; add tall cottonwood trees and Maples lining the streets. That is Colonia Juárez. Until relatively recently, most of the roads weren’t paved. One or two still aren’t, like the one that passes the family homestead where my mother now lives. I was born in the front room—the big window on the ground floor.

Colonia Juárez house(Interesting. That is not at all how I pictured it.)

My great grandparents were among the many families who came from Utah about 1886, to colonize and farm the land purchased by the Mormon Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) from the Mexican government. My parents left the Colonies around 1950 and didn’t move back until 1980. But, we spent many summers visiting. My grandparents’ house was built in 1920 and didn’t have an indoor bathroom until the 60’s. We knew about outhouses and chamber pots. Haha.

Hated them.

(Can’t blame you.)

Summers in Colonia Juárez meant horseback riding, sneaking green apples from grandpa’s orchard, and proving our courage on the swinging bridge—a footbridge made of rickety planks held together with cables that would sway with every step. The crazy kids would jump up and down causing the bridge to undulate, scaring the living daylights out of us more cautious types.

Electricity was not consistent, and many a night we depended on coal oil lamps for light. Grandma cooked from a wood-burning stove and we did our wash once a week with a wringer washer (Believe it or not, I remember those! My grandma had one. That’s how old I am) and a big steel tub over a fire for the white clothes. I even remember weekly baths in the kitchen in one of those steel tubs. We all took turns. First one to bathe got the clean water. And it was never me.

(Hmm…too slow or didn’t you like baths?)

Colonia Juárez View

I thank Jeff Romney for permission to use this recent picture of Colonia Juárez. Central, in the background, is a Mormon temple, and bottom left in the foreground is a Catholic church. The building on the far right is the Juarez Stake Academy where students have attended high school since 1897. It is a private school owned by the LDS church with a dual-language program open to everyone for the price of tuition. My sophomore year was at the JSA. My parents lived in Peru, South America by that time, and their employer did not provide education after the ninth grade.

ME:  Why, when you were nine, did your family then move to Peru, and how did your years in Mexico compare to your ten years in Peru? Also, how have each of these places affected your writing? (And I must have a picture or two from your years in Peru, preferably one of them showing your whole family.)

ANN:  By the time I was five, my parents lived in Bisbee, Arizona. Dad worked for Phelps Dodge Copper Mine. About 1952 PD joined with other mines to form Southern Peru Copper Corporation. My father spoke Spanish and was hired in 1956 to help open the mine in Peru eventually becoming Drilling and Blasting foreman for SPCC. The picture below was taken about 1965. I’ll spare you the myriad of pictures of blasts that made it so deep. Dad was proud of his work.

Southern Peru Copper(Southern Peru Copper Corporation site)

Toquepala is a community carved out of the western slopes of central Andes Mountains for SPCC employees.

Toquepala

(You can make out the village in the lower left hand corner)

We lived at 9000 feet, the mine was at 11,000 feet, and the reservoir, where we liked to picnic, was at 12,000-14,000 feet, at the foot of the snowcaps. We could be at sea level in less than two hours. One learned to pop their ears or suffer the pain. Annual rainfall was about ½ inch. The mountainous desert was as barren as a sand dune. Close to the equator, Toquepala daytime temperatures never exceeded 75and nighttime temperatures rarely dropped to freezing.

Naturally, life’s experiences surface in my writing. Anyone reading my books will learn about green apples, weekly baths in steel tubs, wringer washers, the terror of earthquakes, and the expansive beauty and terrible force of the unforgiving Pacific.

Ann with family(Ann, front and center, with her family)

ME:  I’m curious about the reason you returned to Mexico for your sophomore year and why you didn’t stay there to finish high school rather than go back to Peru (where you earned the rest of your high school degree by correspondence).

ANN:  After ninth grade, there were three options:  boarding school in Lima 600 miles away, return home to live with relatives, or correspondence.  My parents chose to send me to Mexico to live with my Dad’s brother and his wife—wonderful people with a large family, who had a daughter my age. I was fifteen—too young, and terribly homesick. Returning to Peru for the summer, I decided to stay, choosing option three to continue my education. Through correspondence, I finished my junior and senior year in twelve months and enrolled at Brigham Young University at age seventeen. . .just.

(Good for you!)

ME:  Have you always wanted to be a writer and, if so, what was the first creative piece that convinced you that you could succeed as a writer? Please share what you remember about it.

ANN:  Haha. You should ask. It’s not glamorous, nor impressive. My mother loved my letters and told me I should be a writer. (Yay for mothers!) She said it often enough, it became a recording in my brain, and when my last child entered high school, I signed up for a creative writing class.

Over a period of fifteen years, I wrote two novels—the first one about eight times. I didn’t know if I was any good; I only knew that writing was my passion second only to chocolate and caramel. Finally, I braved a critique group about four years ago. The others were published authors who validated me as a writer. You would have thought I had won the lottery—or landed a publishing contract—I was that excited. Haha.

(We do have a responsibility, I believe, to validate each other as writers. Yay for critique groups and mothers!)

ME:  What were your earliest memories of Tucson, Arizona where your family ended up in 1965? Whether you remained there for college or went elsewhere, I’m curious if and how much you were affected by culture shock and what you ended up focusing on in college.

ANN:  I don’t remember much culture shock, other than craving bologna sandwiches and Rainbow bread. Shopping was awesome. The young men didn’t whistle or cat call. That was a relief. The biggest shock was seeing snow for the first time. I was seventeen. It quickly lost its charm. I remember one morning, my third semester, middle September, lying in bed groaning because I knew without looking, from the sloshing sounds of the passing cars, that it had snowed. Haha.

Out of money and at loose ends and very homesick, I quit school and joined my parents in Arizona. I planned to work a couple of years and go back to school. Instead, I served a two-year mission for my church in Mexico City and then got married.

(By the way, Ann and her husband are currently serving a local church service mission together here in Kennewick, Washington.)

ME:  I imagine you were (and probably still are) fluent in Spanish. After settling stateside, did you find yourself drawn to the Hispanic community? Where did you find your best friends?

ANN:  Four of my grandchildren are Hispanic. While I speak Spanish, my grandchildren don’t, and their father learned to speak it when he was a missionary in a Spanish speaking country, as did four of my six children. I have great friends of both ethnicities.

MattieME:  How did you come to write MATTIE, and what are the basic themes of the novel?

ANN:  I wrote a short story about an incident during the Mexican Revolution experienced by my grandfather. The professor suggested it would make a good chapter for a novel. It was the only positive feedback I got from him. Haha.

Except for a couple of chapters, MATTIE is set in Mexico. Based on the lives of my maternal grandparents, it is a story of struggle, faith, and courage with a hint of romance and a healthy dollop of history during the Mexico Revolution. Viva Pancho Villa!

Pancho Villa(A picture of the Mexican Revolutionary)

ME:  How would you describe your writing process and what are you working on now? Also, what is the most important principle you feel a writer should always follow?

ANN:  If at first I don’t succeed, then to heck with it. Haha. I agonize over theme, story line, plot, and characters, and get it down from start to finish. Then, I do what I love, checking for consistency and fleshing out the story with description, emotion, and dialogue.

Currently, I am in the what-I-love phase of my second novel and in the agonizing phase of my third novel, a sequel to MATTIE. For now, the sequel is percolating on the back burner at about chapter three while I get book #2 ready to pitch to a publisher.

(I told you there would be more coming.)

The most important principle a writer should follow, you ask? Is there just one? Haha. I expect every writer has a list of what is most important. Let me add just one: don’t get attached to your literary genius. Be willing to slash and burn, even if it’s brilliant.

Very painful, indeed.

(Agreed.)

ME:  Finally, please describe your writing space as the character Enos would describe it from your novel. (And please include a picture of the same space.)

ANN:

“Enos thought he might find her at the kitchen table bent over a pile of papers writing in the flickering shadows cast by the coal oil lamp. Instead, she was comfortable in the family room sitting in a new fandangle chair with a hidden foot prop that whips out so she can put her feet up.  Surrounded by electric lamps, making the room bright as noonday, she opens what appears to be a black notebook without any pages. Placing it on her lap she stares for hours at a little picture-show, her fingers flying over rows of tiny squares with the alphabet painted on them in no particular order not making a lick of sense, but somehow it comes out right, like a printed page from a book.”

(Love it!)

Ann in writing space(And here she is at work!)

If you want to stay abreast of Ann’s work, you can check out her website or blog, or connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. Her historical novel, MATTIE, is available on Amazon, Deseret Book, and Barnes & Noble.

Next Wednesday, I’ll be interviewing another local Pacific Northwest author, Patty Old West, who, together with her husband, writes fanciful tales of the “Little People.”

Patty Old West

Originally posted 2013-09-04 06:00:45.