About Tanya

Author of award-winning suspense-filled general and women's fiction.

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.

Contest’s Over – I’ll Announce Winners Tomorrow!

If you’re wondering why I need a day in between, it’s because:

1) My books arrived yesterday and I’m having my launch tonight. YAY!!!!

Can you tell how happy I am?

2) I had 117 different individuals enter the contest, with a total of 434 entries, and with 58 different prizes, I’m going to be using Random.org a lot today. What I don’t get done before the launch, I’ll finish after.

So stay tuned…I promise to post results by 10 am tomorrow!

Originally posted 2012-09-25 10:46:20.

Contest Author Interview – C. David Belt

(NOTE: TODAY IS THE LAST DAY OF MY CONTEST TO PROMOTE MY NEW BOOK-A NIGHT ON MOON HILL. If you somehow haven’t yet heard about the contest, go here to see the entry details, as well as the 50+ different prizes, and please think about entering. After all, there’s no limit on number of entries and there are many ways to enter. If you’ve already entered, remember that leaving a comment about this interview earns you one last entry!)

Aye, that lad sporting the kilt (unseen but imagined) and the Tam o’ Shanter, and no doubt well-armed, is none other than C. David Belt, software engineer, Mormon Tabernacle Choir singer, and author of the paranormal vampire series, “The Children of Lilith.” He has offered the first volume of his trilogy, entitled THE UNWILLING, as a prize in my contest.

Me:  First of all, as someone who grew up overseas myself, I’d be interested in knowing more about your childhood in the Far East and what took your family there.

David:  My family moved to the Philippine Islands when I was three.  My father was a high school history teacher in the DOD school system on Clark Air Force Base.  We lived off-base for a year or so and then moved onto the base.  I spent one summer with a Filipino family while my parents were travelling.  While I have vivid memories of that summer (riding in jeepnies, butchering chickens), one of the things that impressed me most was the fact that the family had saved for many, many years to be able to travel to New Zealand to be sealed in the temple.  

My parents and I travelled all over the Philippines—I met head-hunters!—and visited Thailand and Hong Kong.  My most vivid memories of those travels are the elephants, the floating market in Bangkok, feeding bananas to a monkey until he couldn’t eat anymore, and standing on the border of Red China.  The military jets flying over Clark and the naval warships at Subic Bay impressed me greatly.  Perhaps that’s why I grew up to fly bombers in the Air Force.  We returned to the states when I was nine.  We travelled on a cruise ship.  With all that wonderful food that was available, I remember ordering a ham sandwich for lunch every single day!

(Ah, cruise ships were the best way to return to the States. But don’t get me started…)

Me:  Did you write any stories as a child and, if so, can you recall the gist or the subject of your best one?

David:  Yes, I’ve been writing stories most of my life. Many of my early ones revolved around superheroes, particularly the Batman. I was particularly proud (at the time) of a werewolf tale. As a teenager, my focus moved to science fiction, including a story that bore a remarkable resemblance to the movie, “Enemy Mine,” decades before that film ever came out. (Hmm…you were either prescient or robbed!)

Me:  Okay, how did a guy who graduated with a bachelor’s in Computer Science, served as a B-52 pilot in the Air Force, and now sings with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir end up writing vampire novels?

David:  I read Bram Stoker’s Dracula when I was 8 years old. I have read it seven times, almost as many times as I’ve read The Hobbit and The Lord of the RingsDracula remains one of my favorite books. 

Most of my stories start out as an image in my head, a snapshot, if you will, like a screen-capture from a movie. The image will possess me (or at least haunt me) until I turn it into a story, till I fill in all the backstory. This one started as shot of a dark ordination, dozens of vampires surrounding a mortal man, turning him into a vampire against his will. In this snapshot I knew the vampires could not and would not convert anyone without his consent. I knew that vampirism (in the context of the image) had to be a choice. Eternal damnation cannot be forced on someone. You can be seduced into evil, but nobody can take away your salvation. I love a good vampire story, but the idea of forced damnation always bothered me. It took me ten years to get started, because I couldn’t work out how the hero could be forcibly changed if he did not choose it. I was also trying to write it as a main-stream (i.e., non-LDS) story, but it was too tied up in agency and the atonement for me to separate it in a way that made sense, in a way that was honest. When I finally gave in and made Carl LDS, everything snapped into place.

Me:  Another LDS author I know, Michael Young, also sings with the Tabernacle Choir. Do you guys ever talk about writing, maybe swap manuscripts for editing?

David:  Yes! All the time. We have a small MTC-Writers group on Facebook. (Okay, as a missionary mom, you confused me for a minute there . . . MTC . . . Mormon Tabernacle Choir, got it.) We get together and swap stories, manuscripts, etc. We proofread manuscripts, bounce ideas off one another. All our conversations revolve around writing. (And here I thought all they did was sing in their spare time. How many more MTC writers are there?)

Me:  With your day job as a software engineer, when and where do you do most of your writing? Please describe your writing space (and provide a picture).

I jot down ideas or bits of dialogue on the back of Choir announcements during rehearsals (Can you imagine what the custodians must think if David ever leaves any of his notes behind accidentally?) I get some of my best ideas while sitting in the Choir loft between songs, gazing at the vaulted space of the Tabernacle or the Conference Center. 

I DO have an office at home where I do a good portion of my writing (as well as some programming).  There I am surrounded by my sword and armor collection (as well as toy spaceships).

(Check it out. He provided several pictures. Talk about a lot of armor! More about that in a minute.)

Me:  It’s apparent you have quite the collection of medieval weapons and armor (Joyce DiPastena, eat your heart out), with an emphasis on Scottish swords. What do Scottish swords have that others don’t? And have you given any thought to writing in another genre . . . say, historical fiction?

David:  I started collecting swords twelve years ago. Most of the pieces that I acquired happened to be Scottish, but I couldn’t have told you why I was attracted to those pieces, other than I have always been fascinated with history. As I became more and more involved in my own genealogy, however, I discovered that better than 80% of my ancestral lines are Scottish. I like to think that this was the connection, at least on a sub-conscious level.

Swords figure prominently in the vampire trilogy, and I drew inspiration from specific pieces that I own and/or wish I owned.

Me:  I’ve heard of writers with dogs, and writers with cats (like me), but I’ve only met one other writer so far with a parrot (she’s in my writing group). Tell us about Mork, your Eclectus Parrot, and how he helps or inhibits your writing. (And I MUST have a picture of him, preferably jumping on your keyboard as he is wont to do.)

David:  Mork is a sweetie, but he is very demanding. We got him as a mate for our female eclectus (who later died). He was three years old and had never been handled. Taming him was a challenge. (He was convinced I was trying to eat him.) I finally just had to let him bite me repeatedly until he was convinced that I was no threat. Now he is very gentle. He allows me to hold him upside-down in the crook of my arm, as if I were holding a baby, or dangling by his tail feathers.

He frequently hangs upside-down in his cage (like a bat). (Ah, a true muse.) He does talk, but rarely when anyone is in the room. When he can hear you in another room, he can be quite chatty (trying to get your attention). He will sometimes sit on my shoulder when I’m writing, but if I’m not paying enough attention to him, he’ll sidle down my arm, slowly climb onto my hand as I’m typing, look at me quizzically, and then jump onto the keyboard. I pick him up and set him back on my shoulder. He squawks his disapproval and then slowly makes his way back toward the keyboard. So he can be a bit of a distraction, but I love having him around. (Now I understand why you write so much at Choir rehearsals.)

By the way, we DO have two cats. They are terrified of Mork.

(And here are pictures of Mork doing precisely what David described. He’s a beauty, but I’ll never complain about my cat, Peach, again.)

Me:  How would you describe your writing process, that is, when Mork isn’t getting in the way?

David:  I am very much a discovery writer. I never create an outline. I create a document of notes, character sketches, locations, backstory, plot points that I want to cover (not all of which will make it into the manuscript), etc. For The Children of Lilith, I had to write down exactly how vampirism worked in my mythos, what the rules were, how they could be killed, etc. Then I stew over a starting point, an opening scene. Once I’ve got that in my head, I plunge in. I let the characters drive the story. Often, a character, such as Moira, will speak up in my head and say, “That’s nae what I would say, laddie,” or, “I would nae ever do that,” and the story takes a whole new direction that I wasn’t expecting. (That sounds familiar, though not in that accent.) I know the beginning and the desired ending of the story when I start. The rest just happens along the way.

Me:  And what are you working on at present?

David:  The vampire trilogy is done (with book 3 in the final stages of editing). I’m currently working on a standalone science fiction novel with LDS themes and a main character who is LDS. Time’s Plague borrows themes for Shakespeare’s “King Lear” and is set roughly a century or so in the future. It starts out on a penal colony on Callisto (one of the moons of Jupiter). The story centers on Edgar, an innocent man, who has been sentenced for life (there can be no parole and no escape from the Hades penal colony) for a murder he did not commit. He was framed by his ex-wife and his best friend. The prison has no warden and is ruled by the prisoners, all of whom are male. It is literally a hellish place populated by murderers and rapists, the worst of the worst. New prisoners and supplies are dropped from orbit and no ship ever lands on Callisto… that is, until a shuttle crash-lands. There is only one survivor—Edgar’s ex-wife, the one person in the universe he hates more than any other. No woman can survive on Callisto. Edgar has to figure out a way to get her off-world and protect her from the other inmates.

Sounds fascinating, doesn’t it? So he is delving into another genre, after all. (Of course, that one bookshelf in his office kind of gave this other passion away.) If you want to know more about David and his vampire trilogy, check out The Children of Lilith website.

One last note. I’ve enjoyed doing these interviews so much that I’ve decided to try to continue with a weekly “Wednesday Writer” conversation. I’m kicking it off with my son this Wednesday. Granted, he’s not published . . . yet. But he’s a writer in development and, besides, I thought you might be interested in his views on A NIGHT ON MOON HILL. After all, he inspired the story.

If any of you authors out there would like to be featured as a “Wednesday Writer” then please contact me at the email address I give on my Contact page here.

 

Originally posted 2012-09-24 06:00:25.

Contest Author Interview – Joyce DiPastena

(NOTE: If you haven’t yet heard about the contest I’m running through September 24th, go here to see the entry details, as well as the 50+ different prizes, and please think about entering. After all, there’s no limit on number of entries and there are many ways to enter. If you’ve already entered, remember that leaving a comment about this interview earns you yet another entry!)

In case you haven’t already guessed from her attire in this photo, Joyce DiPastena is a full-fledged fan of the Middle Ages, where she sets all of her fiction. She started out self-publishing but is now published, like me, through Walnut Springs Press. Her first and second books, LOYALTY’S WEB and ILLUMINATIONS OF THE HEART, were both Whitney Award finalists. And she has a wonderful medieval research blog to which you can subscribe (but more about that later).

Me:  When you were a little girl, which Disney princess was your favorite and why? Or were you already into more realistic historical fiction even back then?

Joyce:  I’d have to say Sleeping Beauty, (Yay! Me too.) but I confess that even as a child, I was drawn to the “medievalesque” aspects of the artwork. :D

(I know. That Disney cartoon, to this day, remains my favorite because of the way it mimics the style of actual stained glass.)

Me:  How old were you when you wrote your first piece of fiction, and do you still have it?

Joyce:  In Junior High School, I wrote what today would be called a fan fiction crossover novel with characters from the original Star Trek TV show and Dark Shadows soap opera. (Okay, Dark Shadows I can kind of see, but who would have ever pegged Joyce for a Trekkie?) No, I no longer have a copy, which the world should be thankful for.

Me:  As I understand it, you were turned on to the Middle Ages in high school when you read “The Conquering Family” by Thomas B. Costain. What about that novel made the Middle Ages come alive for you?

Joyce:  Actually, it was a non-fiction book (Oops. Didn’t dig deep enough. My bad.) about the first three Plantagenet kings of England: Henry II, Richard I, and John. The historian Thomas B. Costain had a definite narrative flair for storytelling, though, and I simply fell headlong into the world that he drew for me. 

(Okay, so it was almost novelesque.)

Me:  When was your first Renaissance Fair (because I’m naturally assuming you frequent them whenever possible) and, when you go, whom do you go as? (I’d LOVE a picture of you in costume.)

Joyce:  Oh, my, now you’re asking me to count backwards! The first Renaissance Festival I attended was the Arizona Renaissance Festival in their very first year. That will be 25 years ago next spring. I’ve attended it at least once a year every year since then. For the first 21 years, I simply went as 20th (and then 21st) Century Joyce, in comfy jeans and a T-shirt. But when I started doing book signings there, I had to buy a costume. So I suppose now I go as Lady Joyce. (LOL!)

(I’m impressed. I know for a fact that these costumes aren’t cheap.)

Me:  Okay, so I understand why you named one of your cats Clio (the Greek muse of history), but Glinka Rimsky-Korsokov? What’s the story there, and which cat is the better muse? (And I have to have a picture of them . . . after all, I’m a cat person, too.)

Joyce:  Yes, I named my cat Clio for the Greek muse of history, but she hasn’t been very cooperative as a muse. (I suppose I should have expected that from a cat.)

(Here’s a picture of Clio):

As for Glinka Rimsky-Korsokov, well, he’s a Maine Coon and when I adopted him as a kitten, he reminded me of one of those furry Russian muffs or a furry Russian hat like you see in the Nutcracker. So I wanted to give him a Russian name. I was listening to a lot of Russian classical music at the time, so first I named him Rimsky-Korsokov, then I switched it to Glinka, which is what I actually call him, but my sister liked Rimsky-Korsokov best, so I kept it for his middle name. I’m afraid these days both of them are too busy sleeping to be very inspiring muses.

(As Glinka Rimsky-Korsokov demonstrates here. He does kind of resemble a muff, doesn’t he?):

Me:  How many books on the Middle Ages do you have? Which is your favorite and which is the most used for research purposes?

Joyce:  Oh, my gosh, I’ll be up all night if I go and count them! Let’s just say I’ve got somewhere over a hundred. I have a book called Life on the English Manor that I used so much for the first two novels I wrote (neither of which is published), that it has literally fallen apart at least three times and may be beyond reassembling this time. (Me: Now you know what you can give Joyce for Christmas!) For my more recent books, I find I lean heavily on three titles for nearly every project: 900 Years of English Costume by Nancy Bradfield; Pleyn Delit: Medieval Cookery for Modern Cooks by Constance B. Heiatt and Sharon Butler; and The Castle Explorer’s Guide by Frank Bottomley.

(Hmm . . . I wonder if she’s ever cooked up any of those ancient recipes?)

Me:  Please describe your writing area in the language of a knight . . . let’s call him Sir Percival Scrivener. (And I MUST have a picture of this.)

Joyce:  Verily, kind lady, some workings of the scrivener are best left to the imagination. Suffice it to say that parchments and scrolls doth litter the furniture throughout my dwelling place in such manner that it is, at times, difficult to entertain company who desire to be seated. Forsooth, I count myself fortunate that my illuminator has taken ill and is unable to create a painting of my surroundings for you, lest you think me a slovenly ne’er-do-well.

(Very well, Sir Percival. I think I get the picture.)

Me:  Finally, how would you describe your writing process and what are you currently working on?

Joyce:  Some people would call me a pantser, but I don’t really care for that word, because it implies that I have no idea where I’m going when I start a novel (i.e., writing by the seat of my pants), and that’s not really true. I don’t plot my novels out ahead of time, but I do have certain scenes in mind that I’m aiming for when I start. So I’m always aiming at some target or other, even if I don’t know at the beginning exactly how I’m going to get there.

I guess we’ll have to check out her blog or website to figure out what she’s working on now (though I’m pretty sure she’s about to publish a short medieval Christmas novel entitled A CANDLELIGHT COURTING). Also, I highly recommend her medieval research blog if you’re into the Middle Ages like her.

Originally posted 2012-09-21 06:00:09.

Contest Author Interview – Lynn D. Parsons

(NOTE: If you haven’t yet heard about the contest I’m running through September 24th, go here to see the entry details, as well as the 50+ different prizes, and please think about entering. After all, there’s no limit on number of entries and there are many ways to enter. If you’ve already entered, remember that leaving a comment about this interview earns you yet another entry!)

Currently an Educational Diagnostician, Lynn D. Parsons has worked for years as a Special Education teacher and in May of last year she co-authored one of my blog contest prize offerings, (dis)ABILITIES AND THE GOSPEL, with Danyelle Ferguson. She has a master’s degree in Integrating Technology in the Classroom and is currently working on her  PhD. Let’s find out if she has any more books up her sleeve, shall we?

Me:  Growing up, did you know anyone personally with special needs and, if so, what was their situation and how did it affect you?

Lynn:  My sixth grade teacher had our class buddy up with students in the self-contained class. As we shared activities, we learned they were just like us. It really broke down barriers.

(Smart teacher!)

Me:  I see that you graduated from BYU with a bachelor’s degree in Independent Studies. What were your particular areas of emphasis?

Lynn:  My capstone project was on non-drug treatments for ADHD. I chose this topic because my friend had a son with ADHD and I saw her struggles. (Me: Wow, you were being prepared even then for your future career.)

Me:  Tell us about your family, in particular how you came to understand and cope with the special needs of some of your children. (We’d love to see a family photo, if you don’t mind.)

Lynn:  My first experiences as a special needs parent came with one son, who had speech problems and dysgraphia (writing problems). I learned to be an advocate for him to get the services he needed. One daughter also had speech and reading problems, and my previous experiences made it easier to cope. Her first grade teacher thought she would never learn to read. I blamed myself for years for her challenges, until I learned she was born this way. She’s now in her third year at BYU studying to be an occupational therapist.

(Kudos to her and you! Oh, and here’s the promised picture of Lynn’s beautiful family, less one daughter-in-law and a grandchild.)

Me:  How about your other children? Were they ever challenged by the special needs in your home?

Lynn:  My daughter didn’t speak much until she was over the age of three. She would just make noises and point to what she wanted. Her siblings were as much as ten years older, so they often gave her what she wanted without making her speak. It was easier for them that way.

Me:  How did you come to be an Educational Diagnostician and what exactly do you do?

Lynn:  My daughter’s speech language pathologist told me how to teach her to read. I bought some books from the teacher supply store and we did it. Her siblings helped by playing phonics games with her while I made dinner. I thought I was Superteacher, so I finished my bachelor’s degree and tried substitute teaching.

I was a substitute librarian for a year, and that was so much fun, I became certified as a special education teacher. I took a grant-funded elementary school position that ended after a year, and then spent seven years teaching special education English in a high school. I wanted to help more students, so I became certified as an educational diagnostician.

I spent one year at two elementary schools, and have been working at a junior high for four years. I test children for learning disabilities, keep the legal paperwork in order, and take charge of the IEP team meetings.

Me:  In co-authoring (dis)ABILITIES AND THE GOSPEL with Danyelle, how did you split the writing?

Lynn:  We had a spreadsheet with each chapter. I took those that were more “teacher” oriented, and she focused on the parenting and family aspects. We ended up writing half each. We didn’t meet in person, and one difficult challenge was that just before every deadline, someone from our families would end up in the hospital or a computer would crash.

(Well, I, for one, am glad you both persevered!)

Me:  You’ve lived in three different states, I believe–Texas, California, and Utah. Which provides the best support systems and services for those with special needs, in your opinion?

Lynn:  Texas does. California is so strapped for cash, and hamstrung by ridiculous lawsuits that they can’t do the extensive testing we can. Utah also has far more budgetary restraints and isn’t able to offer the services we do here.

Me:  Tell us about “Survivor Bunch” and how you’ve used video to help teach social skills to those with autism and Asperger’s syndrome.

Lynn:  I taught this class after school and during the summer. We did all kinds of social skills. Individuals with an autism spectrum disorder tend to be very visual, so it was a natural way to teach. I started it in summer school as a project for my master’s degree. We acted out difficult teen scenarios and job interview skills. My professor thought it was revolutionary and pushed me to get my paper academically published.

I’ve also used it to teach a five-year-old with autism to sign to communicate rather than head-butting adults.

Me:  What are you working on now in terms of writing?

Lynn:  My biggest project is to finish my dissertation! Hoping to be finished with my PhD by summer of 2014. (Me: We’re rooting for you!)

Danyelle and I are working on a book to help teach religion to those with special needs. I also have an article about reaching out to families with disabilities that will be in the “Liahona” Magazine next year. I’m also planning to work with another author on a book about raising special teens.

Lynn has also posted a number of YouTube videos about working with special needs individuals at church, and she’s created a new website to provide resources. Here’s one of those videos:

You can read more about Lynn and her work on her blog and her website.

Originally posted 2012-09-20 06:00:54.

Contest Author Interview – Heather B. Moore

(NOTE: If you haven’t yet heard about the contest I’m running through September 24th, go here to see the entry details, as well as the 50+ different prizes, and please think about entering. After all, there’s no limit on number of entries and there are many ways to enter. If you’ve already entered, remember that leaving a comment about this interview earns you yet another entry!)

Heather B. Moore (aka H.B. Moore, for those of you more acquainted with her historical fiction) is not only a successful, award-winning author, but is the founder and manager of Precision Editing Group. Only this past weekend, she was awarded the Golden Quill Award from the League of Utah Writers for her latest historical novel, DAUGHTERS OF JARED (a copy of which is being offered as a prize in my contest). She also currently serves on the board of directors for LDStorymakers, as chair of the Whitney Awards.

Me:  What are your favorite memories of the Middle East, and what were your most favorite and least favorite smells there? (If you’ve got a picture of yourself as a child in the Middle East, I’d love to post it.)

Heather:  I was seven years old when we first lived in Israel. I remember collecting wildflowers to press into bookmarks and also living on a kibbutz.  

This is in Egypt where I attended 2nd grade at the Cairo American College. I’m on the back row, in the pink sundress:

(Notice how diplomatic she’s being in not mentioning the smells at all? Hmm. Maybe she should think about entering the Foreign Service. Well, since I’m not diplomatic, I can tell you from my own experience that few things smell as bad as water buffalo dung and a camel’s breath . . . but, for mouth-watering cooking smells, nothing beats the aroma of a full Arabic meal! Hummus, tabbouleh, shish taouk . . . okay, I haven’t had lunch and it’s showing.)

Me:  How on earth did you go from fashion merchandising to writing novels? And have you been tempted to write a novel set in the world of fashion, or is fashion no longer an interest?

Heather:  In high school I thought about majoring in English when I got to college. But I failed the essay portion of the AP college exam, so I decided to major in Fashion Merchandising. I worked at a clothing store, and it was something I was interested in—becoming a manager or retail owner.

I haven’t yet been tempted to write about the world of fashion. I used to follow it quite carefully and had done several research papers on different designers. I also ran the BYU Fashion show one year. But once the kids started coming and the money started disappearing, staying fashion-forward became a much lower priority. (Me: No trips to Mood’s, eh?)

Me:  Tell me about the first story you ever wrote. How old were you, what prompted it, and have you kept a copy?

Heather:  I’m sure I wrote stories in elementary school, etc. for assignments, but I wasn’t necessarily writing stories on my own for fun. I was a huge reader and I’d devour multiple books a week during the summer. My first story I wrote independent of any class or assignment was a novel. I was 30. I had been helping my grandmother write her biography and an idea popped into my head—set during my grandmother’s era of WWII—and that’s when I dove in.

(She still got a head start on me.)

Me:  So much of your fiction up to this point has been historical. What percentage of your time is spent researching as opposed to writing, and which process do you find more enjoyable?

Heather:  The writing part is the most enjoyable, but the research makes it a rich and exciting experience. I love to read historical and learn about anything in history, so that’s what I’ve focused on for the most part. Even when I’ve written contemporary, it’s usually been tied to something about history. In my earlier novels, I spent at least half of the time in research. Now, I probably spend about 10-20% of the time researching versus writing. I have a lot of the research books that I need now and the Internet also saves a lot of time.

Me:  Which parent has influenced you most as a writer and how?

Heather:  That’s a tough one. My mom loves to read fiction and that’s what I write for the most part. She’s even dabbled in some fiction writing, and has had a couple of non-fiction pieces published.

 My dad is a noted writer—of non-fiction—and a professor, so he is very involved in academics. (Me: That’s Professor S. Kent Brown . . . I was fortunate enough to hear one of his lectures in college.) He probably had the most influence on me as far as interest in writing and publishing. He’s also a religious scholar, so that has been a big part of my research—email or call my dad! (Me: Lucky!)

Me:  Tell us how you got Precision Editing Group started, and how on earth you manage to keep writing while you run the company.

Heather:  Precision Editing started in response to two things. First, once I was published and met other aspiring writers, they’d ask if I could read their book. If I said yes, I quickly realized it took 3-4 days out of my schedule to edit their book. That was a tough thing to swallow when I was putting aside my own writing to do so. Second, my husband had been laid off, and we’d gone through enough financial ups and downs, that I thought it would be nice if I had something on the side that could soften the blow for those types of situations.

Another motivation was that I knew several great authors who were great editors as well. This gave me the confidence that I could create a business and contract with other editors depending on the genre that was submitted. 

Time wise, I don’t do a lot of edit jobs. Maybe 3-4 a year, and the rest I assign out to my contract editors. (Me: Smart. A delegator.) That way, I do have time to spend on my writing as well as running the company. I probably devote an average of an hour a day to Precision Editing, handling emails, phone calls, billing, promotion, etc. (Me: And I highly recommend them!)

Me:  What were some of your favorite books as a teenager, and how have your reading tastes changed since then (if they have)?

Heather:  I read everything that was scary, from Stephen King to VC Andrews to John Saul to Mary Higgins Clark. I also read whatever was on the basement shelves, such as Tom Clancy or Louis L’Amour. My grandmother got me started on Victoria Holt books and I read quite a few of those.  Ironically, I didn’t read any YA books as a teen, unless it was a Newbury assigned for school.

Now, I read quite a bit of YA comparatively. Otherwise, I read historicals (Eric Larsen), cultural books (Amy Tan), thrillers (Harlan Coben), contemporary (Jodi Picolt, Maeve Binchy), and plenty of LDS books because I know so many authors and I like to support their work.

Me:  Okay, I have to see a picture of your writing space. I’m guessing you’ve got to have some artifacts from the Middle East or Mesoamerica on your desk or shelves to keep you focused on the time period for your historicals. If not, why not?

Heather:  A couple of years ago, I was demoted, (Me: What? How does an award-winning author get demoted?) and had to move my office into my sewing room. So there are no windows and I frequently sit in other places in the house, or sometimes I go to the library. The best part of my office is a massive Book of Mormon timeline that I had mounted and framed. Otherwise, my office is really a place of stacks of books and paper.

(Okay, if I ever have any questions about what happened in the Book of Mormon and when, I’m calling Heather!)

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

Heather:  This has been a very busy year, writing-wise. I wrote RUBY (Newport Ladies Book Club series) in the winter/spring. Then I worked on a co-authored manuscript with my dad, THE DIVINITY OF WOMEN. In the summer, I wrote a short historical romance novella for the anthology: A Timeless Romance Anthology. In July I found out that a novel I’d turned into my publisher was “not” going to be published, so I was given a September deadline to turn in another historical novel. I wrote QUEEN ESTHER in two months. So now . . . I have two upcoming projects that I’m starting soon, a contemporary romance novella for another anthology, and a historical novel on the history of my 10th great-grandmother, who was accused of witchcraft and hanged in Salem, Massachusetts. (Me: I’m excited to read this one. Heather and I share connections to that piece of history.)

(But Heather, you’re making us all look lazy! All that AND manage the Precision Group? I’m going to suggest you give my presentation on balancing it all at ANWA’s Northwest Writer’s Retreat in November. . . Oh wait, you’re the keynote speaker there and already have several presentations to give. Maybe I should just change my topic.)

Seriously, this is one busy lady, but if you want to know more about her and her writing, check out her website and her blog. And if you need professional editing, take a look at Precision Editing Group.

Remember, there’s only one more week before my contest closes. Leave a comment here for another entry.

 

Originally posted 2012-09-18 14:04:24.

Two Great New Prizes for the Contest!

I know, there should have been another author interview posted today, but I promise I’ll make up for it. I have five authors left and seven days to go before the contest closes.

So why not sweeten the prize pile here before the finish?

Seriously, I couldn’t help myself. When I got this email from Evernote about a brand spanking new Moleskine product called the Evernote Smart Notebook by Moleskine, I had to pre-order two of them–one for me . . . and one for one of you lucky contestants.

(Recognize the Evernote Elephant on the cover?)

Here’s a video explaining how this smart notebook (retailing for under $30.00) works:

 

The winner of this item may have to wait a few weeks, but they’re supposed to become available around October 1st.

And while I’m at it, just for fun, I’m adding a 7″ Sony Digital Photo Frame.

  

Now, here’s the catch. To be eligible to win either of these prizes, you have to have signed up for my newsletter on my home page (look for it in the side bar) AND “liked” my new FB page for A NIGHT ON MOON HILL.

For those of you who have already done both of those things, don’t worry…you’re already entered in the drawing for these two items. For the rest of you, now’s your chance!

Originally posted 2012-09-17 17:19:32.

Contest Author Interview – Monique Bucheger

(NOTE: If you haven’t yet heard about the contest I’m running through September 24th, go here to see the entry details, as well as the 50+ different prizes, and please think about entering. After all, there’s no limit on number of entries and there are many ways to enter. If you’ve already entered, remember that leaving a comment about this interview earns you yet another entry!)

Monique Bucheger is an author best known for her “Ginnie West Adventures,” a middle grade series set out west and aimed particularly at girls (though Ginnie West, the main character, does have a twin brother). She got as far as the top 5% in Amazon’s Break Through Novel Award Contest with an excerpt from one of her books in the series.

Me:  What about your childhood influenced the kind of fiction you write today?

Monique:  Many people feel like misfits within their own families. Dysfunctional families have always existed and are entertaining to watch, but not so fun when you have to live in them. In the 70’s, it seemed that dysfunctional families became the new “normal”–especially in literature. There doesn’t seem to be any turning back. The weirder, the more horrific, or more tragic . . . the better.

And yet, several decades later, I think people want to see families pull together when life gets rough. Life is hard enough when people behave well, but I’ve heard many unhappy, discouraged people wish for a better family life. I think the Wests provide that–even for just a few hours, while people read my books. Who wouldn’t love a cool dad who actually listens to you when you need him or who takes you go-carting when you are trying to set him up on a date? Or an uncle who “gets” you when you are so unlike the rest of your family? (Me: Okay, I think that’s a clue to her childhood there.)

One comment I hear often is readers feel like when they visit the West farm, they are spending time with good friends. The West family has experienced much tragedy, but at the end of the day, each member of the family knows they are welcome to come home. I explore dark themes in my books: child abuse, death, abandonment, peer pressure, overwhelming fears. I also explore what it looks like to have healthy friendships, struggling to find courage to make hard choices, and staying true to who you are or who you want to be.

My goal is to deal with these true life subjects in a way that empowers and uplifts my readers, making them stronger and more able to deal with trials and conflicts in real life.

Me:  Tell me some of your favorite memories from your own middle grade years.

Monique:  I loved recess–making up and acting out stories with my friends. Creating worlds where anything could happen. Where wonder and imagination ruled the day. Think Bridge to Terabithia. I was Leslie, concocting exciting characters and exotic settings out of dirt, trees and grass–worlds out of swing sets–don’t walk on the sand–it’s really made of lava. The top of the slide was a castle, the sandbox: a cave. In high school I took a creative writing class and started writing down my stories.

Me:  When and why did you start believing you could be a writer?

Monique:  My high school creative writing teacher was my first writing cheerleader. At 18 and 1/2, I married my best friend because I wanted to. We are still married 27 years later. My creative writing teacher was the only one to protest, saying: “You’re too smart to get married so young.” When I asked her why, she predicted that if I got married, I would have a bunch of kids and never write my books. Twenty-two years later, I had 12 kids and no books written.

Today, I wouldn’t change having the kids, but I do wish I had written more. (Me: This, I understand . . . I, too, got serious about my writing way later than I should have.) One day, after I watched her astronaut son fly off in a space shuttle, I kept hearing her ask: So when are you going to write those books? For months the question haunted me. Then I remembered what a fun character Ginnie was and started writing her story.

Me:  Please describe your writing process and how Ginnie West would do it differently.

Monique:  I used to figure out a scene in my head and repeat it over and over, memorizing every line each character would say before I wrote the scene. Then I took some plotting classes and learned about character arcs, conflict, and weaving a story together. Now I start a new book with an idea and a rough outline, and try to write a couple query-like paragraphs before I get too far into the book to clarify each character’s arc and go from there. I usually start each chapter with an idea of what I want to happen and then start typing. Sometimes I end where I planned and sometimes Ginnie hijacks my efforts and I end up in a whole different place. Almost always, her way is better. :D

Ginnie doesn’t give many things much forethought. (Me: Of course not. Does any adolescent?) She might ponder the assignment while riding her horse, but after putting off the assignment until the last possible minute, she would come up with some fantastical idea and make it work. Her imagination is limitless. ‘Can’t’ and ‘no’ aren’t words that exist in her personal dictionary.

Me:  Where and how do you manage to write with 12 children running around?

Monique:  I usually write in my room while trying to be available to my kids if they need me. If I have a deadline, sometimes I hide at a restaurant and try not to feel guilty about it. (Me: Hmmm . . . I wonder which restaurant?) Next year will be the first time all of my children will be in school full time. I am looking forward to some guilt-free writing time.

Me:  Have some of them now grown up and gone off to college or on missions?

Monique:  My three oldest daughters live elsewhere. One is married, one has a good job, and the third is in an intense educational program. My oldest son is serving a mission for our church and my second oldest son is preparing for one. My baby turns five in December.

Me:  What led you to become a foster parent?

Monique:  I had an aunt who was a foster mom. As a teen, I loved babies and writing, probably in that order. I always wanted a bunch of kids. Fostering seemed to be a good way to do what I loved and help my corner of the world.

Me:  Have you considered writing any other genre? If so, what and why?

Monique:  Yes. I am taking a lot of writing classes and everyone I know writes fantasy. I used to read a lot of fantasy and like the idea of writing stories with magical or fantastical elements in them. For now, though, I am expanding my ‘slice of life’ stories. I am finishing up a family drama about a 19-year-old who inherits his 3 teenage brothers and kid sister, as well as the family ranch, when his parents come back from their second honeymoon in caskets. It’s called RYDING THROUGH TROUBLED WATERS and should be availabel by Thanksgiving.

Me:  When will you know you’ve truly made it as a writer?

Monique:  When a reader gains courage to do something they didn’t think they could. Ginnie is an impulsive person with her heart in the right place. Ginnie doesn’t care much about policies, but she cares deeply for her friends and family. She never intentionally breaks a rule, but doesn’t mind going around or through them when someone she loves needs help. Her best friend, Tillie, starts out a timid girl who was abused and abandoned by her birth father. Ginnie gives Tillie courage to face her fears and become more than Tillie ever thought she could be. Tillie is also a stabilizing force for Ginnie. The two complement each other nicely, as well as Ginnie’s twin brother, Toran.

Me:  Finally, which was the better ranch–The Ponderosa (“Bonanza”) or the Barkley ranch (“The Big Valley”) and why, or am I just showing my age here?

Monique:  I am too young to remember. :D

(Me:  Okay, I’m officially embarrassed . . . and old.) 

The ranches I remember well are South Fork (“Dallas”) and the Walton Homestead or farm community of Walnut Grove (“Little House on the Prairie”). The ‘family’ feel of the Waltons and the Ingalls comes through in my books. My first contract offer came because Ginnie reminded the publisher of Ramona Quimby from Beverly Cleary’s series. Ginnie has also been described as a hybrid of Pippi Longstocking and Tom Sawyer. She resonates as a modern day Laura Ingalls or Jo March, as well. A more contemporary example would be Merida from Disney’s “Brave”–she has all of the spirit and attitude–minus the flaming red hair.

Ginnie’s adventures will continue to explore tough modern day issues while embracing a strong, loving family. The Wests aren’t perfect, but they are dependable.

Look for the third book of the Ginnie West Adventure series–SIMPLY WEST OF HEAVEN–to be available this fall. If any reader wants signed copies of Monique’s books, she promises to give them a good deal if they simply email her at monique(dot)bucheger(at)gmail.com. You can also read more about Monique on her blog.

Originally posted 2012-09-15 16:37:21.