And the Winner is . . .

Kelly Nelson!

You’ve won an autographed copy of A NIGHT ON MOON HILL. I’ll get it off in the mail to you by Monday. (And I hope you’ll give it a review on Amazon and Goodreads when you’ve finished it.) :D

Don’t forget. Next Wednesday I’m interviewing suspense author, Rachelle Christensen.

Originally posted 2012-10-12 16:47:37.

Starting Down the Pathway to College

Last night marked Jason’s fourth week in the Pathway Program and I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen thus far. After a somewhat shaky start (more about that in a minute), he’s buckled down and begun to get used to a whole new routine.

First, some background on the program. Offered by BYU-Idaho, the program is designed for three different groups of aspiring college students–those who are academically challenged and need a little boost to get them ready for college work; those who need to put their lives in order to be ready to abide by BYU’s strict moral code; and those, like Jason, who may have difficulties or learning disorders that prevent them from being at ease leaving home for college.

The program is simple. Jason takes two courses a semester (an online course that provides reading materials, study guides, writing prompts and weekly quizzes . . . and a second course on Thursday nights in a classroom at the local LDS Institute). Following the second course, he gathers with the Pathway Director and the other classmates to discuss what they’ve learned online that week. All told, Thursday nights are pretty long–about 3 hours in class. But the rest of the week, the load is really quite light. This semester, Jason is taking a religion class and a course entitled “Pathway Life Skills.” Perfect for someone like my son.

I say that because it’s teaching him the true value of a college education and how it will affect his life and prepare him to serve himself, his family, and his community. In other words, it’s drawing him out to engage with the world he lives in. Exactly what he needs!

As I alluded to above, Jason’s first Thursday night class didn’t go so well back in September. But that was because there wasn’t clear communication about the schedule for the evening. After one and a half hours of the religion class, he was maxed out and rushed out of there before they even announced that a Pathway class would directly follow. Jason doesn’t drive yet, so my husband was waiting in the parking lot. When he got in the car and insisted the class was over, Michael thought it a bit strange but began to bring him home. Not ten minutes later, I got a call from the Pathway teacher’s wife (fortunately, a couple runs the program) asking where Jason had gone. After a quick call to my husband, they turned around and Jason, rather humiliated, slumped back into the classroom and hid in a corner for the rest of the evening. Needless to say, he didn’t get much out of that first class.

I thought we might have a problem getting him to agree to return the next week, but after a bit of coaxing and helping him with that first week of assignments, he went. Now, after three weeks, the routine is set. He checks his email regularly. He logs in for his assignments, does his reading, goes through the study guides, completes his Learning and Attendance Reports, takes his quiz, and prepares for the next Thursday evening class.

Dare I say he’s beginning to resemble a college student? It’s exciting to watch.

Once he completes three semesters of the Pathway Program satisfactorily, he’ll be admitted to BYU-Idaho as a full-fledged online student and be able to pursue one of nine different Bachelor’s degrees or five different Associate’s degrees (and those are only the degrees they’re currently offering . . . by the time he’s accepted, I imagine they’ll have more).

I can almost see my son’s future opening up! Now if we can only get him to take Driver’s Ed. Patience, I remind myself. At least he’s begun to be open to the idea of driving.

By the way, all my postings about Jason are now being shared over at Madison House Autism Foundation. It’s a terrific organization designed for autistic individuals (and their families) who are trying to find their way into and through adulthood. They’ve agreed to follow Jason’s Journey with me.

Originally posted 2012-10-12 03:00:23.

“Wednesday Writer” – Gregg Luke

(Note: A comment on this post earns you a shot at winning an autographed copy of my new book, A NIGHT ON MOON HILL.)

Having now penned six medical thrillers, Gregg Luke has definitely created his own niche among LDS authors, and all while dispensing drugs (legally) by day as a pharmacist. When I first met him at an LDStorymakers Conference, he struck me more as a blond-haired version of Tom Selleck (the mustache, of course) and so I wasn’t at all surprised to learn he wrote mystery thrillers. I should have suspected he’d be involved with movies, too.

Me:  Tell me about the story you wrote in 4th grade that prompted your teacher to write “Wonderful imagination” on the paper? What was it about and do you still have it?

Gregg:  Yes, I still have it. The story is about a village whose well had run dry. One day it rained so much that the well filled up. The mayor said each villager should only take enough water to survive. But someone came back that night and took even more. In the morning all his water was spoiled. No one could figure out the mystery until the guy finally confessed to having taken more. The mayor concluded that the water had been a gift from heaven and that the well would always remain full as long as no one else got greedy.

Yeah, I know it’s not very original, but hey, that was back in 4th grade! In retrospect, it sounds just like the Old Testament story of manna from heaven. I probably stole the story idea from a primary lesson. (Hmmm…he was into crime even back then.)

Me:  When and why did you actually begin to consider writing a book that would be published? And what did you imagine your first book would be about at that time?

Gregg:  I’ve always loved telling stories. Growing up I devoured the Willard Price adventure series. I decided right then that I wanted to write a bunch of novels filled with excitement, adventure, and cool facts.

I wrote numerous short stories for creative writing classes, but it wasn’t until I’d finished college that I thought I had the ability (or time!) to write a full novel.

My first novel was actually a Book of Mormon adventure that garnered an inch-thick stack of rejection letters.

(I think several of us have experienced that. It’s a rite of passage for any author . . . well, any author but Stephenie Meyer, perhaps.)

Me:  Growing up in Santa Barbara, CA, I imagine you must have tried your hand (actually, your hands and feet) at surfing. You just strike me as the surfing type. If so, what did you like and what did you dislike about it? If not, why not? (And even if you weren’t a surfer, I must have a picture of you from your high school years.)

Gregg:  Ha! I was definitely a beach bum, but I’ve actually never tried surfing. I was pretty good at boggie boarding (yes, it’s spelled that way) and volleyball, but my real passion was snorkeling and scuba diving. I think the best way to describe scuba diving is that it’s kind of like flying. You basically fly above the seabed, hovering, going up or down, and interacting with the marine life without ever having to touch the ground.

From boggie boarding…

to scuba diving. What will he try next?

 

Me:  In high school, what did you like more, writing or making movies? And why? Also, so many writers I know were into theater at some point in their lives. Were you involved with theater at all in high school?

Gregg:  I think writing and movie making (and even song writing) are simply different means of storytelling. I’ve done all three, because (as I said earlier) I love storytelling. Each form has its own challenges, advantages and disadvantages, and appeal. I don’t necessarily like one over the other, but I think you can learn something from each that will strengthen your craft in the others. But back then I was definitely more into filmmaking. I love everything about the craft!

Yes, I was involved in theater and choral performance in high school. I was in a few choral groups and small plays, but I never went hardcore into the drama scene. I didn’t like the emphases prevalent in those days. You gotta remember that I grew up in the 70’s where the moral attitude was “if it feels good, do it.” I didn’t want to get involved with productions which promoted that viewpoint. (I guess my high school drama group was a little more tolerant of a strict Mormon. Sure, that attitude was around, but they didn’t push it on you.)

Me:  I know you got a scholarship to BYU in Cinematography, so what made you change your major to Biologic Sciences? And did your mission to Wisconsin have anything to do with it? (Also, if you happen to still have one of your short films from those days, I’d love to feature it here. Hint, hint.)

Gregg:  I got that scholarship because I had shown a short, special effects film I made to one of the department heads at the insistence of my mom. The summer before my mission, we were on a family vacation and I’d brought a few super8 movies with me to show my cousins. We stopped by BYU so my mom could see old friends (she’s an alum), she mentioned my material to one of her friends who had a friend in the film department, and before I knew it I was showing my work to a couple department heads. I didn’t think anything of it until my mission president suggested I apply to BYU because he’d heard they had a good film department. Next thing I knew I had a scholarship because one of the department heads remembered my material.

How did that transition to science? I’ve always been fascinated with the sciences. I love everything about discovering the world around us. I love learning how it ticks. I also love watching documentaries on nature. Some are painfully boring, others are riveting. The reason why? The good ones don’t simply disseminate facts, they tell a story. I guess my love of both disciplines melded into a single passion. 

Me:  Which has had more of an influence on your writing: biology (and your current occupation as a Pharmacist) or cinematography? And please explain how.

Gregg:  Oh my career as a pharmacist has had a far greater influence on my writing. I can take just about any drug from my pharmacy shelves and with a few “what ifs” can create a story around it. Plus, I have an almost limitless cast of characters to choose from in the patients I encounter. (Some have even asked to be included in a novel. It’s a little disconcerting how many of those want to be villains instead of heroes!) (Okay, I’m not a patient, but can I be a heroine?)

Me:  Please describe your writing space as if a killer is sneaking in and trying to learn clues about the occupant in order to murder him. (And provide a picture, as well . . . not of the murder, but of your writing space. :D)

Gregg:  Really? Um, okay. Remember, you asked for it.

The small house was quiet, unassuming. Entering it had been child’s play. The intruder knew the occupants were simply empty-nesters with no real assets or valuables worthy of theft. But that’s not why she was there.

No one was home. The only living creature was an overweight, yellow cat that spent ninety percent of its life asleep. The cat was nowhere in sight. No matter. The moment was now. She’d done just enough research to know her timing was perfect.

Just inside the front door, the intruder passed a display case of archaic pharmacy paraphernalia. Glancing at the ancient medicines, she allowed herself a rare smile, imagining with a morbid sense of irony which one might complete her nefarious task with the maximum amount of suffering.

She shook her head and continued down the hallway. The first room had been converted into a small library. Such arrogance; such temerity. Even without going in she knew the shelves would be lined with his twisted taste in literature. Dean Koontz. Steven King. Stephanie Black. They were all there. All the sickos. And more. There was probably an entire shelf devoted purely to his own macabre writing. She harrumphed, knowing she could write circles around him with one hand tied behind her back . . . in her sleep . . . having gone weeks without food or water . . . or brushing her teeth.

The next room was his office. Two L-shaped desks; one for him, the other for his wife. She wrote YA fantasy: Marvelous, uplifting material that had real substance. He wrote repugnant, implausible drivel; predictable hogwash rife with blood, guts, gore, and big words that nobody knew how to pronounce, much less what they meant. The left side of his desk held his HP laptop; the right side a large blotter on which he scrawled seemingly important notes, trivial appointments, and upcoming deadlines.

Dead-lines, she snickered inwardly. Oh, there would be some very “dead” lines on that desktop real soon. The hutch above the blotter was ideal for her plans. Two sliding doors hid an assortment of reference books and teaching materials. But there was room for a bomb, too.

The rare smile returned as she removed a high yield, thermal nuclear warhead with a nominal aspect of thirty kilotons of enriched uranium, all cleverly disguised in her Mary Kay compact. Oh yes. Yes! Finally, this would be the end to Gregg Luke’s sophomoric authorship. Never again would she be drawn into his macabre tales of disease and death, which kept her up at night with really, really yucky dreams.

Setting the trigger to detonate in precisely forty minutes, the time at which he’d return from home teaching, she slid open one of the hutch doors—and gasped. Sitting inside the cubby, with a look of smug superiority and imminent doom, the yellow cat crouched poised for attack. Obviously overlooked in her shoddy research, she did not realize that the cat was a seventh-level Ninja. In a blinding flash the cat lunged, subdued the intruder, deactivated the bomb, and returned to the foot of his master’s bed to continue his nap.

The rest is history.

(Nicely done, but drat! You made me the villain. Ha! I flatter myself.)

Me:  After giving scriptural fiction a couple of tries, you seem to have found your stride by becoming the Michael Crichton of LDS medical thriller writers with such hits as BLINK OF AN EYE, ALTERED STATE, BLOODBORNE and the recent DEADLY UNDERTAKINGS. Any plans on following him further down the science fiction path and creating something “Jurassic Park”-like?

Gregg:  Wow, I’ll take that compliment! Thanks! My hero is the late Michael Crichton. He graduated from Harvard Medical School, but never really practiced medicine because he had more fun writing novels and making movies.

Michael Crichton

I’ve never written any sci-fi to speak of. I suppose I could try but I really like writing copy that has its foundation in real science. I believe that adds to its creepability (new word?). It’s one thing to say a mutation-causing element was discovered in a galaxy far, far away; it’s another to say this virus is REAL and it CAN cause the horrible things I describe. Jurassic Park the novel was infinitely better than the movie(s) because Crichton used actual science (with a little speculative license) to recreate the dinosaurs. I think I came close to that in Altered State. SPAAM is a chemical of my own making, derived from existing chemicals that function as I described in the book. Whether they actually allow for mind control is another matter; but the chemistry behind it is real. (Having a very unscientific mind, I’ll just have to take your word for that.)

Me:  Given your background in film, do you storyboard your novels, or how would you describe your writing process? And what are you working on now?

Gregg:  Believe it or not, I’m more of a discovery writer. (Me too!) I have blocks of information and disclosure that are arranged in a specific order, but I have no idea how I’m going to get from point A to point B until my characters take me there. However, in writing any scene I always “watch the movie in my head” before I begin typing. I’ve had several readers say my novels read like watching a movie, and that’s why. I use many of the elements of good filmmaking in my storytelling.

I’m currently working on about four projects. One is nearly complete, one is well under way, and two are still in their infancy. I just completed a collection of scary stories for Halloween 2013. I was asked to co-author the collection with Stephanie Black and Traci Abramson. We each wrote a Halloween-themed novella to be compiled by Covenant into one book. I’m very excited about it. I’m also dabbling in adapting Do No Harm into a screenplay. Time will tell if that pans out (pun intended). :D

Me:  Finally, is it true that you used to fence, and, if so, how did you become introduced to the sport? (I’d love a picture of you in fencing attire, preferably in the middle of a match or a practice session.)

Gregg:  Okay, now you’re scaring me. How the heck did you know that?

I like doing things out of the norm (big shock, I know). When required to take a foreign language in college, instead of taking Spanish like everyone else, I took Japanese. Instead of taking a basic gym class, I took fencing. I loved it. My coach was a former coach of the Russian Olympic team. I fought epée. But I wasn’t very good. My size was a mixed-blessing. I had a three-meter lunge, but I also presented a pretty large target to skewer.

Gregg getting skewered! (Just kidding . . . this is what he gets for not providing any pics) 

Wow, Tanya, this was fun. Talk about walking down memory lane! Thanks for your interest in my less-than-average life. It’s been fun, and I certainly hope it continues. I feel very, very blessed (and I hope that continues too).

Seriously, it was fun for me too. I wish you had your website up and working so I could point our readers to it, but you can check out all of Gregg’s books here and maybe even buy one!

Originally posted 2012-10-10 06:00:41.

And the Winner is…

RACHELLE CHRISTENSEN! (Thank you, Random.org.)

While there were only 8 commenters (not counting myself and GG), I really appreciated the feedback and dialogue about writers’ ways of thinking and their neurological makeup. Thanks again!

Rachelle, please contact GG at ggvan1(at)gmail(dot)com to let her know which of her books of those mentioned–THE TAMING OF LADY KATE, THE DUKE’S UNDOING, THE LAST WALTZ, or THE ONLY WAY TO PARADISE–you’d like to receive as an e-book as your prize. Also, make certain to stipulate the format, Kindle or Nook.

And don’t forget to check in next Wednesday for my interview with Gregg Luke!

Originally posted 2012-10-05 14:21:06.

“Wednesday Writer” – GG Vandagriff

GG has long fascinated me. First, there are those initials (which, believe it or not, I forgot to ask about). She writes a range of fiction–from romance to historical (and sometimes both)–but she always chooses an interesting, evocative setting. And, more likely than not, it’s a place she’s visited and spent time getting to know well. Let’s get on with the interview, and be sure to read through to the end because GG’s offering to give away one of her books in either Kindle or Nook format to one of those of you who leave a comment! (I’ll let Random.org decide.)

Me:  Tell me about the first story you ever remember writing.

GG:  I was in fourth grade. My story, “The Ballerina Who Couldn’t Dance,” (about a doll) won the elementary school contest. I remember how wondrous the process of writing seemed to me as the story came alive in my mind.

Me:  You say on your website that you were “wired to be a writer.” How so? And why did you ever get mixed up with finance as a career?

GG:  The reason I feel I was “wired” to be a writer is because from a very early age I was seeking and creating alternative realities. I came from a severely dysfunctional family, and this was my escape. Also, writing is in my genes–my great grandfather had his own newspaper and came from a long line of newspaper editors. (Okay, that proves it!) Another factor is my bi-polar disorder which is a very frequent malady among novelists. It causes me to take a more in-depth look at the world and my emotional responses to it. Also, the disorder causes creative tension, which is only resolved by creation itself.

(Ah, so writing heals you in a way.)

As for finance, that was a fluke. I was living in Boston looking for a job after college. I gave my resumé to Harvard and they had me interview for the job of Assistant to the Treasurer! (That must have been some resumé!) I got it. I learned about bonds and investing there. I went on to work at Fidelity Investments, and with that background, after I obtained my master’s degree, I was hired by Continental Bank of Chicago to be the first woman International Banking executive. I put my husband through law school with that job, but hated it intensely! Thereafter, I taught economics in college.

(Liz, if you’re reading this, you might want to consider GG for a future Treasurer on the LDStorymakers board of directors.)

Me:  What kinds of things happened during your childhood and adolescence that influence your writing today?

GG:  One of the really good things that happened was that my father sent me to England all alone when I was 16 to stay with a client’s family. That visit changed my life. I saw the “greater world” for the first time, made friends with people far older than me, developed a passion for history, and realized that real life could be more exciting than reading.

Also, my aunt, who also struggled with bi-polar disorder, had great faith in me and my childish scribblings. She told me I was destined to be an “authoress,” planting that idea in my mind very early. (Good for her!)

The negative influences of my home caused me to seek safety and escape, driving me to incessant reading and all my earliest writing attempts. Reading the “greats” always pays off for a writer.

Me:  In all your travels, which countries have been your most and least favorite and why? (And I’d love a picture or two of you in each, if possible.)

GG:  I love Italy the most, because Florence, the seat of the Renaissance, absolutely sparkles with possibilities. When you see the art of Michelangelo, Brunelleschi, Raphael, and all the great artists of the age, it makes you realize that artistic miracles are possible. Something in the air of Florence completed a creative circle inside me. I was able to take my writing to a new level.

A view of the famous Duomo in Florence, Italy. The air does sparkle, doesn’t it?

Living in Austria for six months was a life-changer for me, as well. I was only 20. Learning the history of that nation caused me to concentrate on studying its politics, art, and economics with such dedication, that my studies grew into THE LAST WALTZ, my Whitney Award-winning epic of the First World War and the Interwar Years.

I don’t have any least favorite place. I have found something to love in all the places I’ve visited. (Well said and indicative of a natural traveler.)

Me:  How did you come to live in the Ozarks after graduating from Stanford and working as an International Banker in Los Angeles? And how much of an adjustment was it, if any?

GG:  Because of our concerns that our children would grow up with the same convoluted values as my family, we wanted to move as far away from L.A. as possible. We made the mistake of visiting the Ozarks in the spring. It was simply breathtaking. We longed for the simplicity of life there. But as anyone who reads PIECES OF PARIS will find out, life was far from simple! We were the targets of bigots the entire 16 years we lived there. It was a huge adjustment for me. However, because I had literally NO distractions (there wasn’t even a bookstore), that is where I learned to write after years of studying and practicing the discipline. All my early novels had their beginnings in the Ozarks. It was also absolutely the right place to raise our children. They had an ideal childhood with the gospel as its center and formed strong, non-materialistic values, as we hoped they would.

Me:  Having served a mission in Italy, I get what you say about how Italians seem to be born with a tendency to love unconditionally. How long were you there researching THE ONLY WAY TO PARADISE and how did that characteristic affect your novel?

GG:  I visited Florence on three different occasions while I wrote that book. The first time was for two weeks, the second time for four days, both with my photographer husband. The third time was on my own for almost a month. That last time was when I finally realized that the magic thing about Florence for me was the people. I had many unbelievable experiences during that visit, proving to me the “agape” of the Florentines, and I used all of them in my book. The title of the book implies that the only way to paradise is to learn to love with Christlike love (agape).

Me:  Let’s have a look at your writing space. Please describe it in the voice of Lady Kate from your novel, THE TAMING OF LADY KATE. (I’d also love a picture.)

GG:  This writing space is dreadfully untidy. There are at least six-months-worth of important  papers lying on the floor waiting to be filed! This woman must have a very selective brain to be able to create in the midst of such chaos! Even her files are not in alphabetical order. I do need to take her on as a project, I think. How much more productive she could be under my influence. Over her desk she has an interesting assortment of talismans, including a Grecian rag doll of all things. And she is very behind on framing her covers–she lacks the last four books! But I do like the cranberry colored walls, the leaded glass book cases, and of course the view! From this author’s window it is possible to see a lovely valley, beyond which lies a lake and beyond that a range of mountains. If I just organize it a bit, even I might find this an inspiring place to work. Though, of course, I would never be anything as frivolous as a novelist.

(Very well done. Unfortunately, GG was away from her computer–traveling–when she sent these responses and so she couldn’t send an actual photo, but I think we get the picture!)

Me:  You say that bi-polar disorder is a common ailment among writers. Why do you think this is so?

GG:  It is a documented fact. Psychiatrist Kay Redfield Jamieson has written a book called “Touched by Fire,” about it. I think it is so because sufferers with this ailment go to depths and heights of emotional experience that other people do not. This enables us to draw scenes that are “larger than life.” It also carves deep into our souls, creating a void that must be filled by some kind of higher understanding of life. If this void is not filled, then suicide is inevitable. Because I am lucky enough to have the understanding of the Gospel in my life, it is possible to fill that void with the love of God. Two of my favorite novelists are Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy. Both of them struggled with this problem, and both arrived at the conclusion that the void could only be filled by living a Christ-centered life.

(Actually, from what I’ve read, Dostoyevsky suffered more from temporal lobe epilepsy–a condition I have–but the two conditions may be related, according to scientists.)

Me:  Tell us how and why you and your husband (Passive Guy) got involved in independent publishing. And why does he use that moniker?

GG:  David uses that moniker for irony. He started his blog and began recording a pastiche of experiences documenting the technological disruption in the publishing industry caused by the e-book and self-publishing. We became convinced that this is the ultimate destiny of the publishing industry, and that we wanted to get in on the action.

I decided to try publishing Regency romances because they sell so well in this format. I have been thrilled at the response. I have been self-published since April of 2012, and during that time my sales have far exceeded my sales as a DB author. However, that is only for e-books, and only for Regencies. My other books are still nowhere near my Regencies in sales. However, they are also doing very well. (I have the rights back to all my DB books except the two most recent.)

Me:  Finally, please explain your writing process and tell us what you’re working on now.

GG:  I am a pantser (fly by the seat of my pants). I start with character. When I’m really into the head of my characters, they tell the story. However, I am also learning that I must be in the heads of my readers. I need to be smart about what they want to read and what makes a satisfying story for them. I can’t be totally self-indulgent about this process. If I were a famous author, I could write whatever I wanted to write. But while I am still seeking to be more widely read, I need to be conscious during my writing of what readers in today’s world want to read. A lot of my books have too much angst. I think in today’s unsettled world people are looking for happiness. I know that when I am under stress, I read Regencies. The clean ones have strict values, admirable characters, and are driven to the happy ending, which is always marriage. This soothes the soul. And that is why Regencies sell. So now I am writing Regencies.

Specifically, I am 2/3 finished with “Miss Braithwaite’s Secret,” my third Regency, incorporating characters from my first two books. It will be slightly more serious in tone with better developed characters. It will be interesting to see how its sales do in comparison with my lighter fare.

Thanks for the thought-provoking questions!

My pleasure. :D

If you want to know more about GG, check out her website or blog. And if you want to win a free Kindle or Nook copy of THE TAMING OF LADY KATE, THE DUKE’S UNDOING, THE LAST WALTZ, or THE ONLY WAY TO PARADISE (your choice), please leave a comment.

What do you think about the connection between writers and bi-polar or other neurological disorders? Or what do you think about the future of self-publishing?

Next Wednesday, I’m interviewing Gregg Luke, author of medical thrillers.

(If you’re an author and would like to be featured in my “Wednesday Writer” series, just drop me an email at tanyaparkermills(at)mac(dot)com.)

Originally posted 2012-10-03 06:00:13.

Successful Launch at the Library

I don’t live in the biggest city, so when it came to selecting a venue for my book launch for A NIGHT ON MOON HILL, I only had a few options. I knew my book wouldn’t be in Barnes & Noble (yet) and, besides, that just seemed to go against one of my protagonist’s rules–encouraging the independent bookstore. Well, there were only three from which to choose and none of them quite fit what I had in mind.

Then I recalled that my main character, Daphne, and Eric, the boy with Asperger’s, spent a lot of time together in their local library. Fortunately, our local library had moved into a brand new building last year and they had a large room called the Gallery that was perfect for special events. So I called, told them I was counting on about 50 guests, and they offered to co-host the launch with me.

They had a sound system all set up, complete with a hands-free lavalier microphone, (and, if I’d needed it, a projection system), and plenty of tables and chairs–all in a lovely, glassed in setting. My friend, Billie Grimmett, a professional photographer, was kind enough to be on hand to take lots of wonderful pictures.

We began at 6:30 with about 15 or so having already arrived (including my sister, who had driven two and a half hours to surprise me . . . and Terry Deighton from my writer’s group, who, along with her husband, had driven six hours to help me out).

Me and my sister, Leslie

With classical music playing in the background (mostly Adagios by Albinoni and others–Daphne would have approved), I did my best to explain how I had come to write this particular story and then read an excerpt from the beginning, trying hard not to give anything away plot-wise.

By that point, more had arrived and we were ready for the first prize drawing. I had carefully selected prizes that somehow fit with my novel and divided them into three different drawings, with three in each group. In the first group, there was a simple pocket watch, a Kindle gift card (after all Daphne is a writer), and a home digital weather station. (Daphne also has a thing about weather . . . or, at least, she used to.)

But I didn’t want to simply draw a name and hand over a prize. Instead, I had my son, Jason, draw three names and then we had the three fish against each other for the prize they wanted. Using these little toy fishing poles (you see, in my novel, one of Eric’s obsessions is fishing), they tried to magnetically pick up as many fish as they could. The person who got the biggest catch got first pick among the three prizes. It made for some fun, competitive fishing!

Sharon won the weather station

Then while I began to sign books, those in attendance (and more were coming and going throughout the evening) either waited in line or helped themselves to some wonderful treats in back, including an “angelic” chocolate cake made by my good friend, Rebecca Elsberry, and lemon bars and cookies made by another good friend, Christy Berrett.

Rebecca slicing up her “angel” cake

After another prize drawing (for a wooden carved angel, a surprise wrapped book, and an Extra-Small Classic Ruled Moleskine notebook), I did another reading and then signed more books for those who had come later.

Terry signing in my friend, Mara

Finally, as night fell and 8:30 drew nigh, we had the final drawing, which included the biggest prize–a Nook Color gift basket–or a Moleskine Writer’s Gift Set, or a silver double dust-cover pocket watch. Afterward, I answered final questions before thanking everyone for coming.

Julie won the Nook!

And even if you didn’t win a prize, you could walk away with a bag of M&Ms (Daphne’s favorite) and a snack cup of Pringles (Eric’s favorite) . . . not to mention my book :D

I had invited 100 and slightly more than 50 came. I sold 36 books, gave 2 free copies to the library, and one each to my sister and Jason. I’m not sure what usually happens at book launches, but I felt like this was a real success. I can’t wait to do it again!

Oh, and for those of you who couldn’t make it, I’m doing a signing for “Ladies Night Out” at Far West Books in Kennewick this Saturday from 5 to 7 pm. Hope to see you there!

Originally posted 2012-10-01 06:00:02.

Contest Author Interview – Patricia G. Stevenson

Yes, I know the contest ended on Monday. Still, I had one more author who donated prizes that I didn’t manage to squeeze in before the deadline. So I’m posting her interview now.

Patricia G. Stevenson didn’t start out to be a writer (I think). But as she worked her way up to become vice president of Gastronomy, Inc. (that restaurant group in Salt Lake City that includes Market Street Grill and the New Yorker), the writing bug infected her and she began to churn out murder mysteries. She had seven written before she even began to think about publishing. And all of them revolve around Professor Del Channing, who travels the world (much like Patricia) solving mysteries.

Me:  I want to know when you wrote your first fiction piece and the circumstances surrounding it. Was it as a child or as an adult?

Patricia:  At the age of 12, I wrote a musical comedy, music, lyrics, set design, costumes, etc. And no, it will not be published. (Drat! I’d love to see it.)

Me:  Where did you grow up precisely, and did that have any effect on your writing? (I’d love to post a picture of you as a child.)

Patricia:  Yes and no. I lived in various places in the West. I have always been a people watcher, and seeing so many places gave me a lot to store in my memory.

(Hmm. No picture. I get the feeling she’s pretty private and that’s okay.)

Me:  How did you get involved with Gastronomy, Inc.?

Patricia:  Gastronomy is the parent company for the Market Street Grill restaurants. Our flag ship restaurant is the New Yorker. We also own buildings and parking lots. Their owner asked me to join them shortly after they organized in 1978.

(Now here’s a picture I can share.)

 Me:  Was your position with that company what led you to travel so widely or was it something else?

Patricia:  No. I just enjoy far-away places and the people you meet there. (I’ll say. She’s been to such exotic locales as Bangkok, Bali, Istanbul, and the rain forests of New Zealand.)

Me:  Why murder mysteries?

Patricia:  It’s my favorite reading material.

(Okay. That makes sense. Short and to the point, too.)

Me:  Given your background with Gastronomy, how important a role does food play in your mysteries, and, if it doesn’t, why not?

Patricia:  Food plays a great part only because it is a way for the reader to relate to and become a part of the story.

Me:  How did your main character, Professor Del Channing, evolve in your head? And please describe him for us.

Patricia:  Six foot 2, blond hair, charming manner, Del Channing is a professor of global history, seated at UMass in Amherst, Massachusetts. When asked “What did you learn from history?” he always answers, “That it repeats itself.” As clues come to him he remembers certain facts in history and is able to solve the mystery.

Me:  Could you describe your work space in the voice of Del Channing, as if he were searching your desk for clues? What might he find there? (And I’d really appreciate a picture of your office or the area you use to write in.)

Patricia:  As I write on my lunch hour, eating delicious food in one of our restaurants, he would probably say, “This smells like my mother’s kitchen. The food is marvelous.”

(Okay, here’s a picture of the interior of the New Yorker . . . and then a sampling of their food.)

Can’t you just see her eating here and typing away?

Yummy! I’d like to write like her…fueled by that kind of meal.

Me:  Give us an idea of your writing process fro the first idea to “The End.”

Patricia:  I get an idea and begin writing. I develop the characters and eventually they take over and write the book for me. Believe me or not, I do not know “who done it” (and Professor Channing would correct me to say “who did it”) until a couple of chapters from the end. Now that’s exciting. (I’ll say!)

Me:  Finally, what is Del dealing with next, or are you moving on to another series or genre?

Patricia:  There are another four books already written. The fourth book in the series, set in a ski resort north of Vancouver, is at the editor’s being worked on as we speak. Each and every book takes place in a different location.

If you’d like to travel, eat well, and have an adventure, I’d say your best bet would be to pick up one of Patricia G. Stevenson’s murder mysteries. Check out her website for more details about the three books that have already been published, as well as those that are coming.

Originally posted 2012-09-28 13:14:00.

I Promise Book Launch Details on Monday

I know I said I’d blog about my launch today, but I’d prefer waiting until I can show pictures and I’m not getting the pictures until Sunday . . . so please be patient. Until then, all I have are these:

It was a blast and included a fishing game, so stay tuned.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting the last of my Contest Author Interviews, even though the contest is over. Due to a mix-up on my part, I didn’t get Patricia Stevenson squeezed in before the deadline. So check back tomorrow for a look at this mystery writer!

Originally posted 2012-09-27 18:01:58.

“Wednesday Writer” – Jason Eric Mills

I’m kicking off my weekly “Wednesday Writer” series by interviewing not a published author, but a writer (perhaps) in embryo–my eighteen-year-old son.

Given that he was the inspiration behind A NIGHT ON MOON HILL, this won’t be like all my other author interviews (though I will ask him about his own writing at the end). Instead, I thought it would be interesting to get his take on the story he inspired. You see, he was about the age of Eric, the ten-year-old boy in my novel, when I had my first ideas for this tale. At the time, we were finally getting a handle on his Asperger’s in terms of helping him make friends at school. This interview was also my first opportunity to see what he thought about me being a writer.

Me:  Do you remember how old you were when you first became aware that I was writing on a regular basis? And what did you think of that?

Jason:  I’m sorry to say that I don’t exactly remember how old I was when I first became aware that you were writing on a regular basis. I do, however, vaguely remember you being on the computer all the time back in Riverside. (We used to live in Southern California.) But I think I truly became aware when we moved to Richland and you actually let us know that you were writing a novel. As for what I thought, I think I was like, “That sounds pretty cool. Maybe she got inspired by J. K. Rowling.”

(Not really. Don’t misunderstand. I love the Harry Potter series, but Barbara Kingsolver is more my style.) 

Me:  What was your first reaction when you learned I was writing a novel in which there would be a young boy with Asperger’s? Did it make you nervous at all? If so, why? If not, why not?

Jason:  To tell the truth, I was excited that you were writing a novel based on me. I thought it was only natural for you to write about that particular subject matter since you’ve done so much research on Asperger’s. The more I thought about it, I realized that it would be really important for you to write A NIGHT ON MOON HILL because it explains many things about AS, and I think tons of mothers with children who have AS will learn a lot from it. So, to answer your question, no, I wasn’t nervous in the least. (In fact, I was rather flattered!)

Me:  I offered to let you read the finished manuscript more than once but you always refused. Why did you want to wait for the actual physical copy of the book to arrive before reading it? What made you give in and read the Kindle version?

Jason:  I guess I wanted to wait for a physical book because I’m a freak like that. I just think it’s so much more satisfying to actually open a book, turn the pages, and be transported to another world. When you’re reading from an electronic device, I think it’s a little less satisfying because you can’t turn any pages, you don’t physically open anything, etc.

As for the second question, after Dad read it and practically raved about it, I thought to myself, “Well, if Dad really liked it, maybe I should just read it on Mom’s Kindle.” And boy, am I glad I did; otherwise, I wouldn’t have noticed that little mistake in Chapter 18. In fact, I’m surprised Dad didn’t catch it! (A mistake, by the way, which the publisher has thankfully rectified . . . so, unless you read a very early Kindle version, you will never see it!)

Jason finally getting his hands on a physical copy of the book

Me:  What did you think of Daphne, the main character, at first?

Jason:  I definitely noticed some similarities between me and her (e.g., love of swimming, neat freak, slight outdoors hater, etc.), and I also loved how brave she could become if someone she cared about was in danger. She’s practically the textbook definition of an “unlikely heroine.”

Me:  What was it like to read about Eric and the way he interacted with Daphne and others? Did it feel at all familiar or were there enough differences to set him apart from you?

Jason:  I fell in love with Eric the instant he was introduced. The conversations between him and Daphne were brilliant, and I could tell she was impressed with this boy who knew so much about angels and other things. I think there are some differences between us, like how he loves being outside while I don’t like being outside for too long. Some of his quirks felt very familiar (like how he prefers his food done “the right way” and his high soprano voice), and I thought you did a great job on his character. (Aw, thanks. Jason, by the way, had a lovely high soprano voice when he was Eric’s age…now he sings bass beautifully but has a wide range.)

Jason and I when he was about ten or eleven

Me:  Without giving anything away, what did you think of the book? What did you like most and what did you like least?

Jason:  I thought A NIGHT ON MOON HILL was very well-written and the characters were enjoyable, particularly Daphne’s agent, Judy (I thought she was the most hilarious character in the novel). I liked the whole conflict with Morgan and you did a really good job making him . . . (Okay, I don’t think I should include the rest of that sentence . . . spoiler.) I, of course, loved the relationship between Eric and Daphne, but I wish there were more descriptions of Eric’s activities with . . . (Sorry. I can’t print the rest of that sentence either. If you read the book, you’ll probably be able to guess what Jason was about to say.) But, on the whole, A NIGHT ON MOON HILL is, in my very honest opinion, your best novel yet.

(Now that I can print!)

Me:  Finally, I’m aware you’ve written a story or two . . . mainly of the fan fiction variety. Did reading my novel increase your desire to write fiction? If so, what would you like to write a story about next?

Jason:  It’s true I’ve written stories–a Lion King/Alice in Wonderland crossover fanfic, 2 “Gargoyles” fanfics, and a Wile E. Coyote fanfic–but writing an entirely original novel is pretty daunting. I don’t know that I ever could because all the good ideas seem to be taken. I am tempted to take one of my Language Arts assignments back in my freshman year in high school (about “Wicked”) and expand it. So if I do any writing in the near future, that’s probably what I’d focus on.

I’ll be certain to let you know if Jason follows through on that. In the meantime, if you’re interested, beginning next week I’m posting every other Friday about my son’s progress post-high school as he journeys toward independence.

And next week I’ll be featuring an interview with author GG Vandagriff with many of the usual and some not so usual questions.

Originally posted 2012-09-26 22:12:53.

“Moleskine Monday” Contest Results

First of all, thank you to all the authors who donated prizes and put up with my nosy questions.

And a great big thank you to all who entered, whether you answered questions, “liked” my FB page for A NIGHT ON MOON HILL, tweeted, blogged, shared on FB, subscribed to my newsletter, or made comments!!! I was indeed overwhelmed with the response.

Some of you really took this seriously. I think the Queen of entrants had to be Marla Buttars with a whopping 33 entries (yes, it was possible to enter that many times), and even though I used Random.org to draw numbers, it was pretty apparent that those who entered multiple times had a better shot. Still, there were a few winners who entered only once.

So . . . here are the results!

1 Evernote Smart Notebook by Moleskine . . . CHERYL LARSON

1 Sony Digital Photo Frame . . . ANNETTE LYON

1 Moleskine Writing Gift Set . . . CATHY MARSHALL

1 Moleskine Rechargeable USB Book Light . . . MARSHA HANSON

3 Moleskine Passions Book Journals (1 each) . . . LORY HUFFMAN RENDA, MARLA BUTTARS, and JENEPHER ROBERTS

4 Moleskine Classic Ruled Extra-Small Notebooks (1 each) . . . CATHY JEPPSEN, CECILY MARKLAND, EMILY FAWCETT, VALERIE IPSON

1 Paperback of Margaret Turley’s SAVE THE CHILD . . . CATHY JEPPSEN

1 PDF of Tristi Pinkston’s SECRET SISTERS . . . VALERIE IPSON

1 Paperback of Liz Adair’s COLD RIVER . . . PEGGY GOODALE TEW

1 Paperback of Liz Adair’s COUNTING THE COST . . . DANIELLA PARKER

1 Paperback set of Liz Adair’s SPIDER LATHAM mysteries . . . SUSAN DAYLEY

1 Ebook bundle of 7 Romances from Jewel Adams . . . CATIA NUNES

2 Paperbacks of Tanya Parker Mills’s THE RECKONING . . . CECILY MARKLAND, ELIZABETH HALL

3 Ebooks of Tanya Parker Mills’s THE RECKONING . . . JONATHAN NELSON, MARLA BUTTARS, TERRY DEIGHTON

1 Paperback of Julie Coulter Bellon’s ALL FALL DOWN (as soon as it’s out) . . . DANIELLA PARKER

3 Ebooks of Monique Bucheger’s THE SECRET SISTERS CLUB . . . WENDY JONES, TRISTI PINKSTON, VALERIE STEIMLE

3 Paperbacks of Janette Rallison’s MY FAIR GODMOTHER . . . DANIELLA PARKER, WENDY JONES, MARY L. WALLING

3 Paperbacks of Janette Rallison’s MY DOUBLE LIFE . . . MARLA BUTTARS, MARGIE BELDIN, SHELLI PROFFIT HOWELLS

3 Paperbacks of Janette Rallison’s HOW TO TAKE THE EX OUT OF EX-BOYFRIEND . . . CATHERINE FISHBACK, SHANON BROWN, MONIQUE BUCHEGER

1 Paperback of H.B. Moore’s DAUGHTERS OF JARED . . . MARLA BUTTARS

1 Ebook of Joyce DiPastena’s LOYALTY’S WEB . . . TERRY DEIGHTON

1 Ebook of Joyce DiPastena’s ILLUMINATIONS OF THE HEART . . . ANIKA ARRINGTON

1 Ebook of Joyce DiPastena’s DANGEROUS FAVOR . . . SHELLI PROFFIT HOWELLS

1 Paperback of Cindy Hogan’s WATCHED . . . LEE ANDERSON

2 Ebooks of Cindy Hogan’s WATCHED . . . DEBRA ERFERT, MARLA BUTTARS

1 Paperback of Adam Sidwell’s EVERTASTER . . . TERRY DEIGHTON

1 Paperback of Ali Cross’s BECOME . . . LORY HUFFMAN RENDA

3 Ebooks of Ali Cross’s BECOME . . . SHELLI PROFFIT HOWELLS, CHERYL LARSON, MARGIE BELDIN

1 Paperback of Ali Cross’s DESOLATE . . . LAURIE L.C. LEWIS

3 Ebooks of Ali Cross’s DESOLATE . . . REBECCA SHELLEY, VALERIE STEIMLE, ANIKA ARRINGTON

1 copy (Paperback or Ebook) of Danyelle Ferguson’s and Lynn Parson’s (dis)ABILITIES AND THE GOSPEL . . . VALERIE STEIMLE

1 Paperback of Patricia Stevenson’s THE DILAPIDATED MAN . . . LEE ANDERSON

1 Paperback of Patricia Stevenson’s THE JEZEBEL BRIDE . . . SHELLI PROFFIT HOWELLS

1 Paperback of Patricia Stevenson’s THE SHAMROCK CONSPIRACY . . . BECKY HUMMEL

1 Paperback of C. David Belt’s THE UNWILLING . . . DARON FRALEY

1 Ebook of Annette Lyon’s LOST WITHOUT YOU . . . MARLA BUTTARS

and finally…

1 Ebook of Annette Lyon’s AT THE WATER’S EDGE . . . TERRY DEIGHTON

 

Whew! That was a lot of typing. And I’m already exhausted from my successful book launch tonight. (I’ll post about that tomorrow, but here’s a sneak peek at one picture.)

I will get the Moleskine prizes and digital frame sent off to those winners in the next day or two. As for the books (other than my own, which I’ll also send off), I’ll contact the other authors to let them know who won and provide them the winners’ email addresses. (They will then get in touch with you to arrange delivery.)

Thanks again for a wonderful contest. My book, A NIGHT ON MOON HILL, is now up on Amazon as well as the Kindle Store. I hope you’ll give it a look! Thanks for helping me spread the word.

Originally posted 2012-09-26 09:58:41.