“Wednesday Writer” – Fay Klingler

While I normally interview fiction writers, today’s guest, Fay Klingler, writes primarily non-fiction. In fact, I like to think of her work as women’s non-fiction because almost all of it applies to the challenges of women, mothers, and grandmothers.

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ME:  I know you were reared in Mesa, Arizona, but where in the mountains did your father build that summer home for your family? And what kind of an effect did that kind of childhood have on you in terms of your writing later on? (I’d love a picture of you as a child up in the mountains.)

FAY:  Our home in the mountains was the highlight of my entire childhood. It was built in Strawberry, Arizona. My brother and I roamed those mountains and explored all summer, every summer. Back then, there were few fences and a small population. We rode roundup for a neighboring cattle rancher. We discovered an amazing chalk mine. In the night, we heard the loud screams of a nearby mountain lion. We slept out under the stars with apples situated on top of us to feed the skunks who frequented at night. (Okay, I’m visualizing young Fay with an apple on her forehead…or would she have put it on her tummy?) On the pond, we rode the wooden raft my brother made, and we collected snakes, frogs, and Indian corn grinders.

At one point, I started to draft a manuscript that included some of the colorful events I happily experienced there. But then my use of time migrated to caring for family and the necessary chores of life. (Well, I hope you can get back to that unfinished manuscript, and I’m sure your children do, too.)

You asked for a picture. I came across this one. My greatest love was riding horses in the mountains. This was taken in Pine, Arizona, on the 24th of July 1960—me and my Great Uncle Jody. He was a true cowboy. I was a would-be true cowgirl :)

24-July-1960,-Pine,-Arizona,-Fay-and-Uncle-Jody

(She looks pretty authentic to me)

ME:  I loved the lesson you described that your creative writing teacher in junior high provided when she came to class, all plain, and then proceeded to put on all her makeup in front of the whole lot of you, asking you to describe the process afterward. If you had to give a similar lesson, what would you demonstrate and why?

FAY:  I would show how to make bread or cinnamon rolls. Then I would share the results with my students! (Sign me up for your class!) My mother was a marvelous baker. When I was in college at Brigham Young University, I tried to make bread like hers. I thought it should just come naturally. You read a recipe. You follow what it tells you to do, and walla you have a delicious-smelling, perfect textured loaf of bread, right? Not mine! It was as hard as a brick. No kidding! (On second thought…)

My mother came to my rescue by giving me lessons on bread-making. I have loved making bread ever sense and do so often for my family. (Okay, I’m all signed up again. :D)

ME:  Where did you pursue your degree in Advertising and Commercial Art, and did you end up working in either of those fields?

FAY:  As a young mother, I took classes through a correspondence school. It was a well-known school with a good reputation—Art Instruction Schools. It took me several years to complete the course.

I worked as a professional illustrator for a number of years. My work was featured by greeting card companies, “Highlights for Children” magazine, “Cricket” magazine (That’s two weeks in a row that Cricket has been mentioned), and others. For a period of time when I had to provide for my family alone, I used my skills to teach commercial art in the public school system. With the curriculum I wrote, my students won state art awards for the first time in that school’s history. (Brava!)

ME:  If you had to choose between your two loves–art and writing–which would it be and why?

FAY:  I did have to choose. As a single mom, I could not earn as much money with my art as I could with my writing. But that writing was not creative work. It was technical writing. I wrote safety manuals for oil refineries, railroad procedures, bank operation manuals, and communication style guides. (I’ll bet none of your current readers would have guessed that.)

ME:  Which illustrated book are you most proud of and why? (And please provide a cover photo.)

FAY:  I think I’m most proud of my illustrating for Highlights for Children magazine (I won their Science Corner of the Year award twice) and my greeting card work (I illustrated for the third largest greeting card company in the world, Recycled Paper Products). This is an illustration I did for one of their greeting cards.

Recycled-Paper-Products-art-1(Beautiful, isn’t it? You can tell she’s gearing up for her future books.)

ME:  You seem to specialize now in women’s non-fiction. Could you please tell us about your latest publication and what prompted you to write it? And are there any subjects concerning women and families that you are thinking about addressing in the future?

FAY:  I have two books coming out in 2014. They are actually tied together. I wrote a children’s fiction piece I AM STRONG! I AM SMART! (for ages 8 to 12). I’m not prone to writing fiction, but I love this story. Its heartfelt message unites and bonds generations. Grandma May and young Lu offer each other and women of all ages the tremendous gift of “girl power”! (Good for you! You’re branching out.)

Initially, it was suggested by my publisher that I use that title to also write a non-fiction book. It evolved into WE ARE STRONG! MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS STAND TOGETHER.

This book provides the why and how of teaching strong Christian values, with true stories communicating the purpose of those values. This inspiring work helps women strengthen their relationship with their daughters as they learn how powerful a faithful mother’s example can be. (Sounds terrific for me and my daughter.)

ME:  How have your own experiences impacted your ability to write about women, marriage, and raising children and grandchildren? Does your family ever feel like they’re being exposed, or do you avoid using personal examples in your writing? (And I’d really appreciate a picture of your large, blended family, if you don’t mind.)

FAY:  My experiences have greatly impacted my writing. Like far too many women, I lived in an abusive marriage for many years. After my divorce, as a single mother I struggled to protect and provide for my family alone. When I remarried (a saint of a man), I found blending a large family to be one of the most challenging experiences of my life. (I’ll bet! But that’s also what gave you such expertise.)

Over the past 30 years, I’ve shared the wisdom I gained from my life’s experiences, and I am grateful my Heavenly Father has helped me in that writing so the words impact others in positive, life-changing ways.

Family2-jpg

This is a picture of a portion of our family. (Hint: Click on it for a larger view.) We have members living around the world. Several of our children and grandchildren could not attend this gathering. We have twelve children in our blended family, and thirty-five grandchildren. (That’s a lot of bread baking!)

ME:  As a non-fiction writer, could you describe your writing process and how you approach publishing?

FAY:  I try to follow the promptings I receive from the Spirit. I feel driven to write or I really wouldn’t do it. Creative writing is a very difficult career. (Yes, but it’s too fun to give up…)

With an outline of my work in place, I make digital file folders and paper file folders. As the weeks of research and gathering pass, I collect materials that fit the various chapter subjects. It’s amazing to me how I meet just the right person or am exposed to the perfect story that fits the chapter I am working on. (Yep, something tells me that, fiction or non-fiction, the real Author’s putting his hand in.) I am consistently thrilled by our Heavenly Father’s choreography. (Great way to put it!)

ME:  Finally, where do you do your best writing? (And please provide a picture.)

FAY:  My husband and I share an office. My corner looks out on our front yard flower garden, making my spot a peaceful, quiet location to write.

My husband even made a label for under my computer screen. The label reads, “Fay’s Work Spot”! (Now that’s supportive!)

My-office-corner(See the label? Either she’s very organized, or she cleaned up for the photo. I have a feeling it’s the former since this is a lady who successfully raised 12 children.)

You can always find out more about Fay and her creative work on her website. She blogs right on her home page like I do.

Be sure and come back next week when I talk to YA Romance author, Rebecca Belliston, about her well-known parents and much more!

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Originally posted 2013-07-03 06:00:05.

“Wednesday Writer” – Dene Low

In terms of a career, there are two sides to Laura Dene Low Card–the professorial side, Dr. Laura Card, who teaches English at BYU . . . and the authorial side, Dene Low, who has won multiple awards for her fiction:

  • Edgar Award finalist (Mystery Writers of America) 2010
  • Editor’s Choice of the Historical Novel Society, fall 2009
  • Best of 2009, the Children’s Hour
  • And a few more best of 2009 lists.

Not to discount her teaching, but we will be talking to Dene today.

picture_15ME:  You say that where you were born is irrelevant, but I find that most authors’ backgrounds have an effect on their writing in one way or another . . . so please tell us where you were born and raised–all the countries and states–and what your early childhood was like. (And I’d love a picture of you when you were young.)

DENE:  You are so right. Where I’ve lived plays a huge part in my writing. I’ve lived in 6 states and 2 other countries: Utah, Minnesota, California, Kentucky, Texas, and Colorado plus Germany and Austria. I use scenes and memories from those places—so far, mostly Colorado and California, but the others are definitely there to supply material for my writing.

(I knew it. And had I known in advance, I might have asked to see your kids in lederhosen.)

Low Family 035(Dene in the striped dress…I think…with her sister and parents)

ME:  Generally, all of that travel, both within and without the country, indicates a military background, but was it your father or your husband that took you to all those places, or both? (And a picture of you and your family abroad would be nice.)

DENE:  My husband was an Army officer, so many of those places were lived in because of his career. However, my father was getting his education and Ph.D. and then got a job in California and then Utah, so he’s responsible for several moves.

Low Family 033(Dene with her father and sister by the Mississippi River)

4-1cardfam

(Her three oldest children at home in Germany in 1978)

ME:  I want to hear more about that mermaid book you tried to write in fourth grade. What was the basic plot and what stalled you in the first chapter?

DENE:  That’s a funny one. There wasn’t much of a plot, which is why when I got to the end of the first chapter, I kind of gave up and decided to move on to loftier things, like taking swimming lessons (no doubt pretending to be a mermaid) and roaming the hills of California with the poison oak and blue belly lizards and my dog.

(Now I’m feeling a bit itchy.)

ME:  Other than your sixth grade class newspaper, what do you consider your first success in publishing?

DENE:  I remember the day I got the check from Cricket magazine for a short story I had revised and revised and then been told I had revised the good part out of and I probably couldn’t fix it. I had let it sit for months before deciding that they couldn’t tell me I couldn’t fix it, so I did. The note with the check just said, “Persistence pays.” I was ecstatic.

(Let that be a lesson to us all!)

ME:  Where did you get your B.A., your M.A., and your Ph.D., and what is the greatest value of a master’s degree in creative writing, in your opinion? Also, how has being published affected your role as Dr. Card, the English professor?

DENE:  BA—Brigham Young University. MA—Brigham Young University, PhD—University of Utah.

The value of a master’s degree in creative writing is that it makes you write to a deadline and then you get feedback. I remember taking the first 50 pages of my thesis in to a class and getting the response, “That’s very good.” I was shocked. I thought they ought to be jumping for joy and they didn’t. So, I threw away all 50 pages and started over. (I sense a perfectionist here.) The next time I brought it in, they were wowed and I was happy. I don’t think a creative writing master’s is necessary to be a good writer, but it is worthwhile if you want to develop discipline and to push yourself and to get feedback with your tuition.

ME:  Please describe one of the most “unbelievable” experiences you’ve had in life.

DENE:  OK, it’s a cliché, but having my babies was the most unbelievable—all six of them.

After that, I’d have to say the awards ceremony for the Edgar Award that I was a finalist for with PETRONELLA SAVES NEARLY EVERYONE. It was like the Academy Awards, just like you see on TV. Lots of fun and my agent treated me like I was gold that he didn’t want to let out of his sight. (I can imagine…he’d probably lost a client or two before by not keeping close enough tabs at such events.)

042910_edgars-106MattPeytonPhotography(Dene on the far right at the Edgar Awards…if you look really closely, you can see her agent peeking through the bars behind her)

ME:  Which book did you read as a child that cemented your goal of becoming an author one day, and why do you think it had that effect on you?

DENE:  Probably King of the Wind, Little Women, Little Men, or Black Beauty or any of the many Nancy Drew mysteries…or any of the hundreds of other books that I read. (Okay, that’s really narrowing it down.)

I read nearly every book in our city library. They only let me take 5 at a time, which was discouraging, because I would finish them in a couple of days and not be able to get any more for another week. (Oh, so you’re the one that always had the book I wanted checked out…just kidding, I doubt we ever went to the same library.)

ME:  Please tell us in detail about how your book, THE ENTOMOLOGICAL TALES OF AUGUSTUS T. PERCIVAL: PETRONELLA SAVES NEARLY EVERYONE, came to be published by Houghton Mifflin in 2009.

UnknownDENE:  The first time I sold the book was to an editor at a conference for one of the big New York publishers. (You see? Conferences work!)

We did two or three revisions and then she quit and disappeared and my book was an orphan. (But sometimes editors don’t.) 

I was devastated and told Rick Walton about it and he told me to resubmit and gave me the names of 15 publishers and editors. (Okay, I want Rick Walton for my friend.)

I only had one respond. (But one is all you need if it’s the right one.)

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt editor Kate O’Sullivan had an assistant ask me for the full manuscript. (Yay!) I did another couple of revisions and then the assistant told me I could talk to Kate in person over the phone. (Even bigger “Yay!”) We worked on more revisions until the final copy. (Yes!) 

Unfortunately, another book came out from HMH just a couple of months before mine with a protagonist with the same last name and time frame and setting and subplot (Okay, a minor setback), so I had to do some major rewriting and change all those things. It worked, but it was a lot of work.

(You see? Just like the guys at Cricket magazine said all those years ago, “Persistence pays.”)

ME:  Why do you write in so many different genres (YA, Romance, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, and Non-fiction), and do you plan on using pen names to avoid confusing your readers? What other books have you published and what stories do you have in the works? And how would you describe your writing process?

DENE:  My brain clickety-clicks along with the speed of a bullet and I come up with all kinds of stories. I try to write a chapter for each idea so I have the idea cemented and then I put it away in a file on my computer to work on later. (Hmm…that’s an interesting approach. Might have to try that one.)

I’ve actually finished a few of those and they are now books. (By my count, which could be off, she has had about 15 books published now for both young and older readers. You can see the whole list on her website. I’ll post a few covers.)

crimson_blues_finalwrite_like_your_brain_works_coverGrandparentingCover

On a daily basis, I get up very early, write for a few hours, take a nap, and then go to work as a writing professor. I try to gather material and do research later in the day when my brain isn’t as active so I have something to work on the next morning. To start writing in the morning, I read what I wrote or researched the previous day and that starts the juices flowing. I use a pen name now to separate my publishing career from my professorial career. I write my scholarly material using my first name and married name. The pen name is really my middle name and maiden name, which is fine, because my oldest friends don’t think of me as anything but Dene, pronounced deenee. So, my pen name is really my real name. Are you confused yet? (No, because I’ve had a week or so to wrap my head around it, but my readers might be. Just remember–Laura Card, professor…Dene Low, author.)

ME:  Finally, while I know you love flying planes and riding your motorcycle (and I’d love a picture of that, please), I want to know where you really do most of your writing. Please describe your writing space in the voice of Petronella. (And I must have a picture.)

denelowbyKevinWinzeler(First, Dene on her bike)

DENE:  It is well known that some people are nest builders, while others are compulsively organized. I fall into the category of nest builder; in which category it is important to gather as much extraneous and useless stuff about one as possible in order to be comfortable. Also of importance is having said stuff within arm’s reach in case one should find a possible use for anything that might come to mind, be it a bit that has recently been added to the pile or something more anciently placed there. Extraneous and useless stuff in the form of a nest is necessary for creativity to take place as well as to keep unwanted visitors from finding their way into the place of writing and to discourage them from settling in and staying an unwelcome amount of time. In other words, mess is safety and privacy as well as comfort.

(And that is no doubt why she didn’t send me a picture of her nest…I mean, writing space. I think she gave us all a pretty clear visual, however.)

If you want to know more about Dene and her writing, check out her website and her blog.

Next Wednesday, I’ll be talking with Fay Klingler, author of several works of what I like to call “Women’s Non-fiction.”

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Originally posted 2013-06-26 15:10:51.

Special Deal on Mystery E-books

For those of you who have read my interviews with French authors published by Le French Book, you might want to grab up their terrific titles today while they’re still being offered on Kindle for just ninety-nine cents! The offer ends at midnight.

Here’s the link to buy.

This is a great deal for great books by great authors, including one I haven’t yet interviewed: David Khara, who wrote THE BLEIBERG PROJECT (A CONSORTIUM THRILLER), winner of the Blue Moon Award for Best Thriller.

The Bleiberg Project

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

An adrenaline-packed ride to save the world from a horrific conspiracy straight out of the darkest hours of history. 

Are Hitler’s atrocities really over? For depressive Wall Street trader Jeremy Corbin, absolute truths become undeniable lies overnight. He finds out his long-lost father is dead, he discovers his boss’s real identity, and he ends up boarding a plane to Zurich. He has a Nazi medallion in his pocket, a hot CIA bodyguard next to him, and a clearly dangerous Mossad agent on his tail. What was his father investigating? Why was his mother assassinated? Why are unknown sides fighting over him with automatic weapons? Can the conspiracy be stopped? This fast-paced thriller full of humor and humanity was an instant sensation in France. Think a dash of Robin Cook, a splash of John Grisham, and pinch of Clive Cussler with a very distinctive voice all it’s own.

Originally posted 2013-06-21 11:27:40.

“Wednesday Writer” – Margot Hovley

It’s hard to catch up with an author on tour, particularly when her writing isn’t the reason she’s on tour. You see, Margot Hovley is currently accompanying her husband on tour with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. As a result, I’ve got her responses, but there aren’t so many pictures. (And I particularly wanted a picture of her with the pigs! Oh, well.)

Margot HovleyME:  Since I live in Washington State, I wondered exactly where in the rural part of this state you were raised, and how that has affected you? (And I’d love a picture of you as a little girl.)

MARGOT:  My parents were some of the last “homesteaders” in central Washington when I was a baby (outside of George), breaking hundreds of acres for the first time, and then we moved just north of Pasco. (YAY! That’s just across the river from me.)

I love and miss my rural roots. Just like everyone says, there’s no better childhood.

Untitled1(She does look happy, doesn’t she?)

ME:  What’s harder–herding pigs or making produce boxes, and how hard is it to put a pig in a box?

MARGOT:  Pigs are hilarious! Our pigs were lemming-like, so if one escaped the pen, they’d all try to follow, braving the electric fences and squealing like mad. Herding them is exactly as weird as it sounds. Box-making: well, it’s tedious when you have to fold them together for hours, so we’d do anything to make it less boring. That meant holding double-elimination tournaments with all my siblings and cousins who worked on our farm. I was pretty much unstoppable. (Margot, the Unstoppable Pig-herding, Box-making Champion!)

(For a picture, try this link. It’s how I imagine Margot was as a pig-herder.)

ME:  How did you come to be a storyteller, and what was your first story about?

MARGOT:  While working on our farm I told stories to myself to pass the time. Most of the stories were about a little slave girl. Now that makes me giggle. I thought I was working so hard, slaving away. When I had the chance I’d write down and illustrate my stories, and always dreamed of seeing my name on a book cover. It was truly a great moment when I saw that dream come true last October.

(I know the feeling!)

ME:  Tell us about your “firstborn” novel, THE SOWER, what made you write it, and your hopes for getting it published along with its sequel, BLOOD OF KINGS.

MARGOT:  I love a good hero story, and I love classic fantasy, so my first writing project follows that idea. I also wanted to see if I could write a story that was inspiring and spiritual without being preachy or religious. It’s harder than it sounds, I discovered. I am still tweaking that project and hope to sell it to the national market. The sequel is a NANOWRIMO project that was absolutely a blast to write. I learned a lot by drafting quickly. I also learned how to completely annoy my family that month.

(Hmm…is that why your husband whisked you away on tour? To get you away from your family?)

ME:  Your first “published” novel, SUDDEN DARKNESS, came out last year, and as I understand it, you’re now finishing the sequel, GLIMMER OF LIGHT. Can you describe the basic story premise for each?

Sudden DarknessMARGOT:  SUDDEN DARKNESS begins in rural Washington (surprise!) when an EMP (That’s short for electromagnetic pulse, in case you’re not up on Newt Gingrich’s latest warnings) attack occurs, taking out the national electrical grid. The entire LDS stake in the area is counseled to travel to Utah for safety. The story is their journey as two thousand modern folks have to walk 700 miles. (Hmm…I’ve gotten to enjoy the 10-hour drive, but walking? Ouch!)

Have you heard that tradition that we will have to walk back to Missouri some day? Have you ever wondered why we would have to walk when we have cars and so on? Have you thought about how difficult that would be for us, when we are so unused to that sort of thing? Here’s one possible scenario why and what it might be like. The sequel takes the characters from Salt Lake to Missouri in another even longer trek. (Intriguing…but double ouch!)

ME:  Tell us about your identity as The Damsel, please. (And please include an image of your alter ego.)

MARGOT:  That’s the name I use on my self-reliance blog: The Damsel in Dis Dress. There I discuss how to do things the old-fashioned way, with a modern twist. I love old things–antiques, handmade items, and so on, and I feel sad that so many of the skills our grandparents knew are being forgotten. And, as the folks in my book discover, it’s possible we will wish we still had those skills someday. 

(Yet another reason to buy your books…that is, if you go into detail in describing those kinds of skills. At least, I hope there’s at least one character in your book who’s got the know-how.)

Untitled2(And there she is…The Damsel, herself)

ME:  I would think that, given your self-reliance blog, Old School, your YA fiction should veer toward dystopian. Does it and, if not, why not?

MARGOT:  SUDDEN DARKNESS is sort of dystopian, since the characters have to deal with a world where technology doesn’t work anymore, and they have to learn to get along without it when they’ve become completely dependent on it. It’s just the sort of scenario the Old School blog might help prepare people for. (Hint, hint. Check out her blog already!)

ME:  Please describe your writing process and the place you do it best in the voice of The Damsel. (And I must have a photo of your writing space.)

MARGOT:  The Damsel writes her blog posts in 3rd person. She knows it’s kind of ridiculous and causes funny passive-voice problems, but she does it nonetheless. As far as a writing space goes, she longs to write on her hammock in the sunshine. Someone please invent a screen she can see in the sun! This would make her life complete. In the meantime she writes wherever: on her bed propped on her Mt. Everest of down pillows (don’t judge!), hunched over the kitchen counter while stirring the soup, or like right now, a bus while traveling with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. (The Damsel’s husband is a 2nd bass.)

IMAG0416(Her laptop on the bus–a MacBook Air, which she loves! I love mine too. :D)

ME:  Exactly what “techy gadgets” do you fool around with, and have some form of them made their way into any of your fiction?

MARGOT:  I love computers and adore my MacBook Air way more than is appropriate. I can’t go anywhere without my cell, either. New technology fascinates me. I suppose this love has found its way into my fiction in SUDDEN DARKNESS, as I imagine a world where the characters suddenly have to do without those things.

ME:  Finally, when will you know you’ve arrived as a writer?

MARGOT:  I feel like a poser when I call myself a “writer” or an “author,” but I’m working on my attitude. If the criteria is the sheer amount of time spent writing or thinking about writing, then I’m so there.

(I like that criteria; that works for me.)

Once more, if you haven’t yet checked out her self-reliance blog, here’s the link. And you can find out more about Margot and her thoughts about writing at Inklings.

Next week, I’ll be interviewing nationally published author and Edgar Award Finalist Dene Low.

Lauras-BYU-ID-photo-150x150

Originally posted 2013-06-19 17:59:14.

“Wednesday Writer” – Mikey Brooks

It’s hard enough to write a book. Imagine having to illustrate it, too! I think the last time I tried illustrating my own story book was in kindergarten or first grade . . . and the result was not pretty. A little Picasso-esque . . . but not pretty.

Not anything like the efforts of Mikey Brooks, who has a brand new book out, THE DREAM KEEPER. He has authored and illustrated several books now. Indeed, his art has been seen in many forms from picture books to murals for community art productions. He creates full-room murals and loves to doodle on almost anything. He also works full-time as a cake artist and decorator at a bakery.

profile picME:  Did you ever draw on the walls as a child growing up, and, if so, what did you draw? How did your mom punish you, or could she tell you had talent even at that young age?

MIKEY:  I didn’t draw on the walls but I did have a pretty naughty imaginary friend who did. He was constantly getting me into trouble. Cleaning the walls was my mom’s form of punishment. I don’t know why my imaginary friend always disappeared whenever there was work to be done…hmm…

Mikey age 5(Mikey at age 5 . . . see that imaginary friend he’s leaning his arm on?)

(Oh, those imaginary friends and the things they made us do…)

ME:  Tell us about the first picture book you ever attempted, and how old were you at the time? (Also, I’d love a picture of you at that age.) What was the story about?

MIKEY:  When I was eight my grandpa told me a wild tale about how half his family saw an alien space ship one night at a big family gathering. (Maybe they’d had a little too much you know…) (Those must have been some gatherings!)

He described the ship to me and I drew it for him. That was the first time I’d ever been told I had some talent with drawing. My grandma, however, thought the picture was rubbish and then decided to teach me how to draw real stuff. My grandma was my first art teacher.

Mikey age 8(Mikey at 8 . . . he looks like he’s seen a space ship, doesn’t he?)

ME:  If you had to choose one over the other, what would it be–writing or illustrating? And why?

MIKEY:  I think I’d choose writing. Although I love doing both, I made that decision a long time ago when I decided to get my degree in writing and not illustrating. I believe it’s because writing is a form of art that can only be pictured in the minds of others. It’s an ever changing form of art because one person will see a story differently than another. It’s so dynamic. (Good answer! Of course, everyone perceives art a bit differently too, but still, I like the thought behind your response.)

ME:  You say you’re always doodling on things. What is the strangest object or medium you’ve ever doodled on?

MIKEY:  I’ve doodled on anything from sidewalks to cakes. Once I did a doodle on some toilet paper—yes, you can even get inspired while in the bathroom. (That’s true, which is why they sell illustrated toilet paper nowadays. Someone else took your idea and ran with it.) 

When I was in grade school I used to doodle all over my sneakers which in the end turned out pretty cool. They were a mixture of black, blue, and red ink of all sorts of things. I wish I still had those shoes.

(And I wish I had a picture of them.)

ME:  Who was most instrumental in your youth in terms of helping you see yourself as an illustrator and writer?

MIKEY:  My grandma was the biggest instrumental force. She had worked for a short time as an artist for the Walt Disney Company before she had my mom. (Cool! My son would be so jealous.) She taught me how to draw and paint in oils and water color. Unfortunately, she now has a nervous disorder which doesn’t enable her to paint. As for writing, I was moved by stories by L. Frank Baum and C.S. Lewis. They became the foundation for my love of reading, which helped me become a good writer.

(All good influences!)

ME:  Since you work full-time as a cake artist and decorator, I was wondering what your most challenging cake decorating job has been so far. Also, have any of your jobs given you ideas for picture books or novels? (And we must have a picture of a couple of your decorated cakes. While you’re at it, I’d love a couple of photos of your full-room murals, as well.)

MIKEY:  Unfortunately, I don’t work full-time as a cake artist anymore. And I really miss it sometimes. Now I work as a freelance illustrator and do most of my writing in my free time. The most challenging cake for me was probably my own wedding cake. I did not want to let the expectations of my future bride down. In the end it turned out pretty good.

cake(I’ll say! Or is it this one…)

cake2

(Either way, I’m sure she was satisfied.)

My favorite time to make cakes was Halloween. I was able to incorporate my illustrating into cake. You can see lots of those cakes on my Pinterest board.

(I’ll be sure and check it . . . after dinner.)

Ark Painting(And here’s his Noah’s Ark wall mural…)

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(…and a castle scene on two walls!)

ME:  Tell us about the books you’ve authored and what you’re working on next.

MIKEY:  I have several picture books out including the bestselling ABC ADVENTURES: MAGICAL CREATURES and BEAN’S DRAGONS.

promo2(The covers of his illustrated picture books)

And my newest book, an upper-middle-grade fantasy adventure novel, THE DREAM KEEPER, just came out on June 1st. It has already hit the top bestsellers on Amazon and is getting great reviews.

case5.500x8.500.inddThis is my first novel so I am very proud of it. It’s about a nightmare trying to take over our world and two kids have to stop him. It deals with all sorts of things from bullying in schools to standing up for who you are in a social environment that doesn’t encourage such things.

I have just finished the sequel and another middle-grade standalone, THE STONE OF VALHALLA. Currently, I am working on a super fun series about 5th grade witch hunters. It’s very exciting!

(Great stuff! I’ll have to check all these out.)

ME:  Please describe your process in creating a picture book and how it differs from your writing process when it comes to middle grade and YA fiction.

MIKEY:  I sometimes feel there is a lot more work that goes into writing a picture book than there is with a middle-grade or YA book. One thing is you are trying to entertain more than one reader (a child and the adult reading to the child). I get most of my of my ideas for picture books from my kids. They have wild imaginations and I try to play make believe with them as often as I can. It’s there that I find the great stories to tell. Once I have the basic idea of the picture book I’ll create storyboard and try to see how I want to tell the story. Do I want this part shown or told?—stuff like that.

When I write for older readers I start with an outline and work from there. I find I can write a lot faster when I know where the story is going. Sometimes it changes along the way, but then I just adjust the outline and continue.

ME:  And what about where you write? Could you describe your writing and illustrating space in the voice of one of your favorite original characters? (And provide a picture or two.)

MIKEY:  That nut-ball, Mikey, asked me to write a few words about his work space. Like I have time for that! I am trying to make sure my boss isn’t running into any snags with those brats that somehow found a way into Dreams. Oh, let me see. Mikey’s got two places he works. A small desk up against a black wall—I don’t know maybe the guy is morbid or something? And the other place down in what he calls “his studio”. Fancy word for a desk covered with papers with a bunch of random sketches. So that’s about it. How else you want me to describe a desk? Sheesh! Until I see you in your nightmares, this is Cato, fire pixie and loyal follower of Fyren and Mab as seen in THE DREAM KEEPER.

(Terrific, Cato, but where are the pictures? Boo-hoo.)

ME:  Finally, how did you come to be involved with the Author’s Think Tank Podcast, and what is its purpose?

MIKEY:  I was approached by Jennifer Bennett, my friend and the founder of the Authors’ Think Tank Facebook group about doing the Podcast. It started out as just a group of us shooting ideas back and forth. We decided we also wanted a blog to accompany the show and divvied out who would do what.

The podcast itself has been awesome! It’s a show by writers for writers. So I and the other hosts get top authors, agents, and editors on the show to answer some of the things writers might have concerns with. If you are a writer you will LOVE the content we have to share. Visit: www.foreverwriters.com to read the blog and listen to the show.

(Thanks! I think I’ll do just that.)

If you want to know anything more about Mikey, check out his website, blog, Amazon Author page, and a profile of his new book on Goodreads. Or you can follow him on Twitter @MIKEYBROOKS or Facebook. (And if those aren’t enough, he’s also on WattPad.)

See you back here next week when I interview YA author Margot Hovley.

Margot Hovley

 

Originally posted 2013-06-12 06:00:29.

“Wednesday Writer” – Cindy C. Bennett

I woke up at 4 am for some odd reason this morning, so I’m about ready to keel over right about now (it being 3 in the afternoon). But I cannot give in to a nap, not when that was brought up in my very first question to YA author, Cindy C. Bennett, who has written and published 8 novels, among doing many other things.

Author Photo 2012 smallME:  I have to say that, having read your bio on your blog, I am now completely worn out and need a nap. With all that you have going on (several writing projects, critique partners, a new writing business venture, a podcast here and there, etc.), do you ever have time for a nap? Or are you not the napping kind?

CINDY:  Nap? What’s that? LOL. I do work a lot, so it’s a good thing I love what I do so much. I usually sleep from around 4-6 am until noon or 1 pm. (Talk about a night owl!) So depending on what time I go to bed I might get my full eight, or I might only get five or six hours of sleep. So far it seems to work for me, though.

(I sense an Energizer Bunny…)

ME:  In fact, did you nap as a kid? Please tell us what your childhood was like and the kinds of activities you enjoyed most. Did anything hint of a writing future? (I’d love a picture of you as a child.)

Cindy Bennett age 7(Cindy at 7…Is that a dragon claw she’s sculpting at the beach?)

CINDY:  When I was a kid, I played Barbie’s almost obsessively. Looking back now, I can see that it was nothing more than a precursor for writing fiction, as I was making up fictional stories using my dolls. It was my favorite activity until I was deemed “too old” and then I switched my passion to reading. I could read a book a day, especially during the summer when I was out of school. 

Cindy Bennett age 9

(And here she is at 9…with a teddy bear instead of a Barbie)

ME:  You’ve written about how much your high school English teacher, Mr. Bickmore, influenced you with his 10-minute writing assignments. Can you give us the gist of your most memorable piece created from one of those assignments? (Also, I’d love a picture of you in high school, preferably a shot that includes Mr. Bickmore.)

CINDY:  I wish I had kept those writing assignments. I didn’t keep any of my schoolwork, other than a story my mom found recently that I wrote when I was 12. It’s so horrible; there’s nothing in it that would indicate any talent for writing, so maybe it’s good I no longer have any of those assignments. I wish I had a picture of me with him as well. I was extremely shy in high school, so it would never have occurred to me to ask him to be in a picture with me. That would be too far outside my comfort zone of the time. He now is a professor at LSU and an editor for The ALAN Review, and I’m in contact with him through the wonderful world of Facebook.

steven_bickmore-78_600(I used my researching skills to find Mr. Bickmore as he looks today.)

Cindy Bennett age 16(And here’s Cindy at 16 with a Mountain Man for a date…who ended up marrying her.)

The one of me at age 16 is with my then-boyfriend-now-husband at one of those horrible old fashioned photo places that, I admit, I love. In fact, I made my kids do those almost yearly when they were younger, and which they absolutely hated. Not sure why I like them because, let’s face it, they’re never a good photo.

(Not sure I agree. I think she looks pretty good!)

ME:  Did you go to college or go straight into marriage? And since you’re into YA and romance, just exactly how did you meet and fall in love with your husband? Make us swoon, please. :D (Also, a wedding photo would be greatly appreciated.)

CINDY:  My husband is my high school sweetheart. We met when I was a freshman and he a sophomore. He’d been dating one of my friends, and she hooked us up because she wanted to date his friend. Sounds like a soap opera, huh? It’s amazing he liked me since I was so severely shy and didn’t talk much. He played football and wrestled and wasn’t at all like the kind of guy I thought I’d fall in love with. But he was sweet, and funny, and fun to be around—and had great arms and a really nice chest (remember, football and wrestling). (It must have been all that bear rasslin’.) We dated all through high school and married a year after I graduated, and we’re still together all these years later.

Cindy Bennett wedding photo(The promised wedding photo, which she claims reveals a hideous 80s hairdo and a “ragged” look from crying…Say what? Anyway, here’s her preferred engagement photo.)

Cindy Bennett engagement photo

Because I was so silly-in-love with him, I couldn’t wait to be his wife, so rather than go to college, I attended tech school to become a medical assistant. That’s a career pretty distant from writing, other than I did gather a lot of character ideas. I chose that because I’d had major surgery right after high school, and nearly died because of a pulmonary embolism. It was a nurse paying attention to her instincts that saved my life. I wanted to give back the same kind of care, so chose the medical field. I no longer work in the medical field but I miss taking care of patients on a regular basis. There’s something very satisfying in that.

(Okay, the high drama made up for the missing romantic details.)

ME:  Please tell us about what impelled you to write your first novel (and provide a cover photo).

Cover New Final smallCINDY:  There was a girl who lived near our house who was always outside on her swing set. It didn’t matter if it was 100°F outside, or 5°F with a blizzard, she’d be out swinging. In fact, anytime any of us came home we’d report on whether or not she was out. I’d been thinking about her a lot, and wondering what drove her to that swing set. My teen daughter had apparently been thinking along the same lines, so we decided to write a book together. I didn’t admit, even then, that it was my lifelong heart’s desire to be an author. I’d always been afraid of admitting it—and to this day, I don’t know why. Maybe just because it was something I wanted so bad I was afraid if I admitted it I’d have to do something about it and face possible rejection. Anyway, this was a safe way for me to actually complete a manuscript (I’d secretly begun many but never finished one). I wrote the first chapter then handed it off to my daughter to write the second. She liked the first so much she told me to write the second, which I did then gave it back to her. This same pattern continued until she told me just to write the whole thing, which I did. It became HEART ON A CHAIN, which to this day is my bestselling novel.

(I hope you dedicated the book to her!)

ME:  What is your writing process and where do you write? (I must have a photo of your writing space.)

CINDY:  It’s odd, I know, but I like to write in my family room, in the middle of life happening around me. That way I don’t feel as guilty spending so much time working because I’m still part of conversations that are happening, still part of the family. I bought a lap desk, and my husband converted it to make it work better for my laptop. I work from the time I get up until I go to bed if I don’t have anything else going on (and my house shows it! I wish I had some mice and/or birds to clean it up for me like Cinderella and Snow White). I do most of my marketing during the day, and then write at night until somewhere between 4-6 am as I mentioned above.

Cindy Bennett workspace(Her lapdesk…and you’re not going to believe this, but…)

IMG_1977

(I have practically the same sofa set in our family room. Comfy, isn’t it, Cindy?)

ME:  You have tried both self-publishing and traditional publishing. Which do you prefer and why?

CINDY:  There’s something to be said about having an editor who books signings and other events for you, and who can get your book onto shelves at book stores. There’s also something to be said about having complete creative control over your work, and making much higher profits by doing it yourself. I suppose overall I prefer self-publishing because I’m a bit of a control freak, so I do like keeping control over the cover, the book layout, and how and where I can give my books away. And, let’s face it; earning 70% on an eBook is always going to trump 15%. Since you do the same amount of marketing whether you’re traditionally or self-published, it makes the higher profits that much nicer.

ME:  What other books have you either published or have waiting in the wings? (I’ll want those cover photos, as well.)

CINDY:  After HEART ON A CHAIN came GEEK GIRL, then IMMORTAL MINE. Then I wrote a short vampire story for Noble YA, and they published it as RELUCTANCE.

Geek Girl CoverImmortal Mine Cover Final 1200 x 1800RELUCTANCE_200x300I then published short stories for a couple of anthologies through my company, Prose by Design. Those are IN THE BEGINNING and WATCHED.

Find Me smallerwatched smaller(That cover’s scary!)

While writing RAPUNZEL UNTANGLED, which is a modern-day retelling of the story, I published five novellas that are fairytale retellings that now make up ENCHANTED FAIRYTALES, which I recently released. (She’s obviously making up for all those years she shied away from writing.)

Rapunzel UntangledEnchanted Fairytales Cover smallerI have upcoming a book I wrote with Jeffery Moore, as yet untitled, but the working title is RAZARI. It’s a sic-fi, which is outside my usual genre, though it’s still a YA. It should be released within the next month. I’m also writing a book, again with Jeffrey Moore and also Sherry Gammon, which we call THE COLLABORATIVE, though that may change as well.

(Are you as impressed reading this as I am just writing it all down?)

It’s kind of cool. The story is about triplets born illegally into a world that only allows a single child per family, so their parents abscond with them to a planet called Senca One, which is where the overpopulated earth has started a new colonization. There, their parents are kidnapped and the triplets search for them, discovering along the way they have hidden abilities.

We are each taking a chapter and writing it from one of the triplets’ POV, so we each have one character to move the story forward. It’s been interesting and fun to write, requiring a lot of talking about how we want things to be and where the story should go.

(I’ll have to keep this in mind for a future posting about writing a series.)

I’m also over halfway finished with another contemporary YA book that’s more like my first few novels. It doesn’t have a title either—I’m really bad at titles so my books usually get them last minute. (Hey, I’d be happy just to match half of your annual output!)

ME:  Finally, tell us more about your new writing business and what you offer.

CINDY:  Prose by Design is a company I started with Sherry Gammon about a year-and-a-half ago. We’ve recently changed the way we do things. Our intent when we began was to help those who have no idea how to self-publish and market because we were spending so much time helping others anyway. We wanted to do some of the things they might not have the ability to do, such as editing, covers, formatting and layout, and show them the best ways we know how to market.

As it turned out, we were really sort of crippling those authors because we weren’t showing them how to do anything, just doing it for them. So we decided rather than publishing their books and keeping a chunk of the profits, we will instead offer individual services such as those mentioned above. If they want to have to lay out less money in the beginning, we’ll still publish their book and keep a portion of the profits until they’ve paid off their purchased services, at which time ALL rights revert back to them.

We’re also writing a detailed, cohesive book with step-by-step help from writing, to publishing (both self and traditional), including formatting, editing, layout, where to sell your books, how to have a book signing, how to do giveaways, etc. We also have an entire section on marketing which is detailed and will be updatable to those who purchase the book and have signed up for updates. That way, as we discover more marketing strategies, or as things change (as they constantly do), we can keep our readers updated. We’re hoping to have this published by the end of the summer. We’ll also continue to hold writing contests and publish the winners in anthologies. Currently we have a contest for stories for a Christmas themed anthology.

If you haven’t yet checked out Prose by Design, you might want to click on the link. Also, if you want to learn still more about Cindy, check out her website. There, you can find her bio, social media links, and purchasing links for all her books.

Now, I think I’ll take that nap! I need to rest up for next week’s interview with Childrens’ Books author and illustrator, Mikey Brooks.

Mikey Pic 1

Originally posted 2013-06-05 06:00:59.

“Wednesday Writer” – Susan Dayley

I’m back in the chair for another interview after a two-month hiatus and I’m already booked up into August with some great writers. Today, I’m talking with Susan Dayley, author of REDEMPTION: THE STORY OF JONAH and the soon-to-be-published COLD PURSUIT. One highlight of her new novel is its interactiveness. So we decided to try to make this interview as equally interactive as possible. Click on the links for a few extras, revealing some of Susan’s favorite things. Hope you enjoy it!

Susan DayleyLet’s get right to it, shall we?

ME:  What was your most formative childhood memory in terms of where you are now as a writer, and how old were you?

SUSAN:

Growing up, the second of nine children, life seemed meant to be fun. We lived outdoors in the summer and when the tried and true games wore through, we improvised new ones. One time when I was about 12, I invented a game that had a fairly long run. It was based on a witch capturing people when they left the safety of their “homes” (corners of the back yard). The captives were placed in her “dungeon” (usually the front steps). The object of the game was to free others while not getting caught; however, to do so, a “spell” would have to be broken. The captive was told what was needed (such as a pinecone, a smooth stone and a leaf), and they relayed the information to their rescuers. In the meantime, those in the backyard, who were not out freeing someone, carried on, making berry soups or visiting each other. It was a combination of playing house, tag, and scavenger hunt. When I use my imagination, I’m rarely content with simplicity, and I like to try innovative ways of doing things. Like my latest book. Chips and Hummus.

(Sorry we don’t have a cover to share yet, but these are recipes I’m going to have to try, since I grew up with hummus. Yummy!)

ME:  Describe the circumstances that led to your first piece of creative writing, and, if you can recall, the gist of the story or poem.

SUSAN:  I began writing simple verses early. My third grade teacher, years later, recalled the social studies report I did set to rhyme. But it was in Junior High that I received the confidence to pursue writing. The highlight came one day at a school assembly that featured 5-6 students reading papers they had written on the theme of America. Mine was about George Washington. All of the other students were chosen from the advanced creative writing class. I was the only one from the introduction class. Sitting in a chair on the stage, blinded by the spot light, I realized that someone besides my mom thought I could write. The Piano Guys.

(Okay, whether you’re a LOTR fan or not, this is great.)

ME:  How has your family background affected your writing, if it has? (And I’d love a picture of you with the family you grew up in.)

SUSAN: My grandparents often gave us books as gifts. One child at a time, one birthday at a time, a library of classic children’s literature was built. I read them all from Joe’s Boys to Robin Hood. My tomboy tendencies were reflected in my preferences (I also read all of my brothers’ Hardy Boys Mysteries). (Me too! Hardy Boys and Tom Swift.) Later my granddad introduced me to Last of the Mohicans and other classic works. I was a copious reader. Because our little house was bursting with children, I had few places to read. My standbys were at night under the covers with a flashlight, and up the backyard willow tree, where I’d climb with my book in my teeth. Spudnuts(I imagine they played a large part in her growing up years.)

Hatch_Family(Susan’s the tall one in back to the right.)

ME:  Okay, what gave you the nerve to attempt your first novel, and can you describe it?

Redemption

SUSAN: I was teaching kindergarten at a private school and one of the literary selections was the story of Jonah from the Bible. After researching it (far beyond what the children would receive—including Ships of Tarshish, trade routes, Nineveh, other ancient cities along the way, Jewish traditions, etc.), I recognized there was a story there that hadn’t been told. It was my first novel and far more narrative in style than I now do, but the ancient details and legends are fascinating. (Did you know that in the Mishnah, Jonah is presented as the son of the widow of Zerephath, the one Elijah raised from the dead?) My working title had been: The Terrible City, the Reluctant Prophet, and a Second Chance. Obviously, too long. It ended up as, RedemptionThe Lord of the Rings

(Hmmm…I think she’s a LOTR fan.)

ME:  Can you describe the process it took for you to get published? Also, if you’ve published any others since, please tell us about them.

SUSAN: Submit, submit, submit. Pace and drum fingers. Finally, an acceptance! wahoo! Since I’m late to this process, this is only my second published book. [I don’t mind if we skip this question. Lol] (Sorry, no skips. All writers have to struggle. It’s part of the process.) Bugs—they make my nose itch.

(How can they be a favorite if they make her nose itch? Also, I can’t help wondering if she’s comparing publishers to bugs.)

ME:  Please describe your writing process and where you do your best work. (I must have a photo of your writing space.)

SUSAN: For lack of a sturdy willow tree, I’ve had to retreat to practical.  My desk is in the kitchen. When I need a break, I can quickly unload the dishwasher or fold a batch of clothes etc. Since we’re empty nesters, I have the luxury of writing in the center of where I spend most of my time.

where I write

There I begin with outlining. With Cold Pursuit and the sequel this was the most difficult part. Not only is it a mystery, with clues popping through and events accumulating, but with four different endings, I had to keep track of what was being developed for which option. Victor, Idaho where my great-great grandpa homesteaded.

(I forgot to ask if this is the area she lives in today. Or maybe she just likes visiting.)

ME:  As I understand it, you are about to publish a novel in a genre entirely different from historical fiction. Why the change, and what else will be different about this novel?

SUSAN: I still love historical fiction. I have the story of Hezekiah sitting on the cyber shelf and “yoohooing” at me once in a while. I’ve invested a year in that project, and I absolutely am in love with his story. Someday I’m going to pull him out again, but I’m turning it into a history—he’s too epic to be a simple novel.

Cold Pursuit was the result of accepting that the eBook industry was striding forward, and asking how I could embrace the new technology. I decided to create an interactive eBook—or my take on one. Not just the multiple endings, but links to online resources are throughout the book. Now how cool is that? (Remember, I don’t do “simple”.)

Plus I like romance. I admit, to my husband’s delight, I’m a great fan of kissing and such.

Mark & Susan wedding(Susan’s romantic interest, Mark, THEN…)

Mark

(And NOW)

Summer thunderstorms from the front porch.

(Let’s see. We’ve gone from recipes to LOTR to bugs to Grandpa’s homestead and now a drenching thunderstorm. I guess it’s a feast for our senses.)

ME:  Please give us a brief rundown of the plot of COLD PURSUIT.

SUSAN: How often, when you read a book, or watch a movie, do you feel like the story is predictable? Or you don’t like the way it ended? With Cold Pursuit, you can’t be sure where it’s going and if you aren’t happy with the ending, you can try a different one. Cold Pursuit is a multiple ending story: the reader can choose which direction the story goes at two different junctions. Kennady and Atticus team up to figure out what is missing from the lab of Dr. Takishida. In one option it is the professor himself, in another it is his files. Both of those options divide into two endings for a total of 4 different mysteries and romantic twists. And one of them leads to Hot Pursuit. (INTRIGUING!) Tree houses.

(I love tree houses! Except for the bugs. But these are some great ones!)

ME:  Are there any other ambitions you’d care to share with us?

SUSAN:  Traveling to amazing places, reading timeless stories, gathering in dozens of grandchildren (I may have to start adopting some), and never serving deviled eggs again. (Why not? I love deviled eggs and bless the hands that take the time to prepare them.) Chuck Mangione. (Yes!!!)

ME:  Finally, why have you been taking math classes at this point in your life?

SUSAN:  Because when I raise my hand, someone calls on me. Seriously, I’m finishing a long-lost degree, and since my transferred credits are counting mostly as electives after 30 years, I still have some generals to knock out. That means, though I’m an English major, I take algebra. Arrgh! (However, I’m rather proud of my “A” I got last semester).

(You should be!)

And her last favorite thing was this picture of her and her mom standing in the South China Sea at sunset:

192529_1752197058872_5243451_o

It looks like she’s already begun some of her traveling adventures. Once you stop feeling a little jealous, check out Susan’s blog or her books on Amazon.

Next Wednesday I’ll be chatting with YA author, Cindy C. Bennett.

Cindy C. Bennett

Originally posted 2013-05-29 13:51:41.

Reorientation

More than the Whitneys and a writing conference took me off course over the past two months. But now that all of that is over and family difficulties seem to have eased, I feel ready to plunge back in, renewed and reoriented.

First, some thoughts about the Whitney Awards Gala. I loved it. I was honored to have been a finalist this year in a category that was particularly strong. The presenters did a marvelous job and were often quite creative. Sarah Eden was an inspiration! So, in the end, I didn’t mind eating the traditional “Losers Cheesecake.”

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IMG_1737And here I am with my editor, Linda Prince

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And two from my writer’s group–Liz Adair and Christine Thackeray

The conference was as terrific as ever, but I must admit that I took things easy (after Publication Primer, that is . . . and I had a great group) this year because, given the situation with my daughter, it was hard to keep my focus.

IMG_1732The 3 “L”adies — Liz Adair, Linda Adams, and Laurie Lewis

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Me and the brilliant Michelle Wilson

Still, I came away with some valuable insights from Traci Hunter Abramson on writing a series, Michael Young on recording audio books (yes, I do have plans in that direction), and most of all, our keynote speaker, the NYT bestselling novelist, Anne Perry, put juice back into my writer’s veins. (Liz and I lucked out Friday morning and got to eat breakfast with her.)

Anne Perry

I had begun to despair that my daughter’s difficulties had sapped all my inspiration. But Perry made it very clear that, regardless of genre, theme is all important. If we overlook it and take the easy path, our writing will wilt. I suppose you could say she gave me the courage to pick my brain up again and begin to prod at my view of life for its obvious and not-so-obvious truths. Whether I’m writing for youth or adults, and no matter the genre, the message is key.

The best part of the conference was getting a request for the full manuscript of my middle grade fantasy from Dystel & Goderich Literary Agent Michael Bourret. That gave me the energy to drive on down to Kanab, Utah with fellow “Writeminded” author, Christine Thackeray, and take full advantage of a writing retreat in Liz Adair’s guest bunkhouse for four days and five nights to do a final revision of THE ACADEMY OF THE ANCIENTS: THE HEYMAN LEGACY.

IMG_1740The bunkhouse sleeps 8 — here’s one half

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And there’s shelves and closet space too!

Tip #1: If Liz happens to extend such an invitation to you, do not pass it up! You’ll get clean air, quiet, a beautiful setting, homemade whole wheat blueberry pancakes with sausage or bacon each morning, and an ATV outing or two to work the kinks out. If everything were just right at this moment in our family’s life, I’d move down there in a second.

IMG_1878The ATV I rode up to the top of Antennae Mountain

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Liz pointing to her neighborhood in Kanab

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I’m following Christine into Peekaboo Canyon–Gorgeous!

Tip #2: Liz is putting on the Kanab Writer’s Conference at the end of October (evening of Oct. 25th and all day the 26th), so I’ll be returning to make a couple of presentations. And one of the keynote speakers is Janette Rallison. It only costs $40 (including lunch) for 20 breakout classes in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. (I foresee another great time in the bunkhouse.)

Mark your calendars now and go ahead and register.

In the meantime, I’ve got some writing to get back to. I’m all reoriented and raring to go.

Originally posted 2013-05-20 21:37:41.

“Wednesday Writer” – Carole Thayne Warburton

(NOTE:  I’m afraid my postings may be a bit sparse for the next couple of months since I’m in the throes of reading Whitney Finalists, but if you’re a writer and would like to be interviewed as part of my “Wednesday Writer” series, please let me know in a comment below.)

I’ve wanted to get to know Carole better for some time now because I could sense she was a kindred spirit through some of her blog posts and comments in the LDStorymakers email loop. The fact that she has a new book out–POACHING DAISIES–gave me the perfect opportunity. I’m happy to say she provided me with lots of great pictures, too!

Carole Thayne WarburtonME:  What were some of the most formative events from your childhood, the ones that made you the person and writer you are today? (And I’d love a picture of you as a child to share with readers.)

CAROLE:  It’s easy for me to look back and see the turning points that sparked my interest in writing. My mother took a creative writing course through the mail and I remember her typing her stories and reading them to us. She also was a reporter for the Orem Geneva Times. She was a member of the League of Utah Writers and attended Round-up several times. She took me with her to hear Louis L’Amour when I was in junior high (What a wonderful opportunity!) and I took third place in the youth division for fiction.

hp_scanDS_811261412028(That’s Carole with her mother and brother. She says that for most of her childhood, she thought the table arrangement behind her was her hair. :D)

Several of my teachers through the years told me I was a good writer. I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a writer. It wasn’t until I was in high school that the creative dream expanded to include pottery. I was the youngest of five and the only girl in our family. Life at our house was chaotic. I would often seek a quiet spot in the house or my room to read or to write. My imagination was always huge and when I played with my friends, I was the one who was constantly coming up with the pretend scenarios.  In college, I took creative writing classes along with my art classes. I never could choose one over the other, so years after graduating in art, I went back to college and got a degree in English. (Congratulations and good for you!)

ME:  If you had to choose between pottery and writing, which would you choose and why?

CAROLE:  That is a really hard question. (Sorry…) I honestly can’t imagine having to give up either one. I used to tell people that giving up pottery would be like cutting off my arm. It’s so much fun. Writing is a different kind of outlet and a different kind of energy. I go through phases where one has to take over and become more important. In the summer, it’s all pottery. But when I’m editing and re-writing, I have little time for pottery.

Since you insist on choosing, I will go with pottery, mainly because it never lets me down. There is rejection in the process of getting in shows and things, but the rejection doesn’t feel as personal or as painful as getting a rejection on a book. Writing is a great way to work through problems, but it often leaves me feeling raw and sometimes drained of energy when I write about a difficult situation in my life. The pottery energizes my soul and doesn’t leave me feeling depleted. I feel happier when I’m making pottery. On the other hand, I only have a couple of good potter friends, but I’ve made dozens of friends through my writing. I would never want to give up the friendships I’ve made. So what a hard choice!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(And we can understand why when we see the fruits of her gift…I’d love a dinner set!)

ME:  Why do you write? What are you striving for with each book or story, and what are you hoping the reader comes away with?

CAROLE:  So far, my books have been for fun. I like to tell stories. I like to listen to stories. I like to read stories. I’m the one who is listening in on conversations in restaurants hoping to glean a nugget I can use in a story. (So that was you the other night, eh?) I am a great observer.. So what I hope is that I’m successful in getting the reader to escape, to laugh, and to think.

A recurring theme (hopefully not too overt) in all my novels is that people aren’t always what they seem. The kindest person in town may not be the most successful. I love small towns and I think that’s reflected in all my stories too. Other than my novels, I do write a lot of personal reflection essays. Some of these have made their way to blogs, but some are too personal even for that. That kind of writing is the way I deal with the more difficult aspects of life and religion. I used to be a great “letter to the editor” writer, but ever since blogging came along, I’ve found I can get most of what I need to say out and only contribute to the newspaper occasionally.

ME:  What are the similarities and differences between creating a good ceramic piece and creating a good story? (And I’d love a picture of you at work doing each.)

CAROLE:  Creating something that wasn’t there before. Always doing your best, whether or not you are creating an essay, blog post, novel, bowl, mug, or vase. The first idea that comes is often cliché, so take that idea and make it better. The ideas come similarly. For writing, an idea will come and it develops in the process. In pottery, the ideas come more quickly because the process is so much faster from start to finish–unless it’s a short writing piece.

at work on potphoto

There is art and crafting in each skill. There is something about continuing to learn and develop. Both arts need a consumer for the process to be complete. Writing can be just for the person, but it’s so much better if the writing can be shared and experienced by many.

vase on potters wheel

The differences are in the product and function. I can sell a book to someone I will never see and often never hear from. But usually when I sell pottery, I will have some personal contact with the person. I often can see them hold my pottery and I can imagine them using it. I get to see how my work affects them. But each piece is usually only enjoyed by one person or family. With writing, it may be enjoyed by thousands of people, but I only occasionally get feedback from the reader. My writing can convey ideas. My pottery is meant for function and beauty.

(Very well put.)

ME:  Okay, this next line of questioning is a little out there so let’s see if I can phrase it well enough to get my meaning across. As one “liberal” to another, how much of a struggle is it to keep politics and social views out of your fiction, or do you throw caution to the wind and risk alienating half of your readers by letting it all in? Do you even feel that tension as you write, and how does it affect what you write and the way you write?

CAROLE:  I don’t know how much people notice the liberal themes in my books. No one has complained to me personally yet. I don’t like anything that is hard sell myself, so I try to be subtle. There are always liberal characters in my books; environmentalists, being the easiest to write about comfortably, are generally the main characters. I like to pair this character with one who makes a living doing something counter to the more liberal person’s point of view. Usually these two opposing characters find a way to compromise and get along. (If only our Congress could follow suit!)

I try to show the humor in extreme views. I did have one reader/writer take offense to Iris, an extreme environmentalist, in POACHING DAISIES. I said, you are supposed to think she’s over-the-top. Once she knew that, she was okay with Iris’s view. Another character is a gun-toting conservative and the two of them have some pretty humorous arguments. In other words, I don’t keep politics out of it, but I want people to lighten up and try to work together.

There are other social views I have that I haven’t included in my fiction. Someday! I do worry about alienating my readers, but also realize that some of the best fiction is not always comfortable. (True.) Think of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. That story creeped me out. (Good example.)

ME:  Tell us more about your recently released novel, POACHING DAISIES, and what led you to write it.

Poaching Daisies CAROLE:  I write about places where I have a very strong connection. The setting is very important in each of my novels. POACHING DAISIES was set in the small tourist town of Silver Gate where my grandma and grandpa built a cabin in 1960. The town is one mile outside of Yellowstone.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(Here’s a picture of the town)

Several years ago, when we were visiting, they had a town meeting about eradicating the oxeye daisy, an invasive species. At the time, it was very popular to plant this flower in your summer yard. The problem is the problem-free flower would take over native grasses. The “environmentalists” took the task of eradicating it very seriously. A story began to brew in my mind. Then I brought in another problem that had been in the news and that was poaching bears and harvesting certain organs for “medicinal” purposes. I found the two a pretty fun match for a suspense novel set in the park. (It does sound fun!)

ME:  I have to be honest and say that I’ve been struck by the seriousness of some of your blog postings of late. It makes me wonder if you might have a deeper, more serious novel working its way up in you–something beyond genre fiction. How do you respond to that?

CAROLE:  I wondered if anyone noticed the seriousness of my posts. I’ve had a difficult year emotionally. Just when we start to feel comfortable, things shift–beliefs shift–leaving us feeling wobbly at times. Issues and difficulties in life literally keep me awake at night. I’ve found that if I can write about it, I can go to sleep. For me, writing in a journal doesn’t work. I like the idea that someone else might benefit, relate, or think about something I have to say.

I was raised in a home of strongly opinionated people. We didn’t discuss, we argued. (Me too!) As I grew up and developed my own beliefs, I found those clashing with my family and with many of my friends and neighbors in Utah. Something I’ve grown to feel passionate about is that, as a society and as a church, we’ve left some people without options. Four years ago I witnessed the tragic death of a young man. Since that time, my heart has felt more deeply than it ever had before. I never stop thinking about the fragility of life. I ache with the thought of the mother and father whose son never came home again. And yet I’ve heard of some parents turning their backs on a child because he or she is gay or because they left their faith. I don’t know how anyone recovers from losing a child, but choosing to lose a child because they aren’t what you think they should be breaks my heart.

I do know that, as writers, we take all of the stuff around us and it will come out in some way in our writing. But letting ourselves feel, really feel what’s happening or could happen is painful. I’ve been helping a friend to write her story. She came out as a Lesbian to her husband of sixteen years and that is one of the biggest reasons her marriage ended. She has a story to tell and I’d like to help her get it out. The seriousness of the subject is something that requires a lot of skill and grace. I hope to be up to the challenge. Creative non-fiction is my favorite kind of writing.

ME:  I know you’re a hiker. Looking back on all the hiking/camping trips you’ve taken, which has been your favorite and why? (And please provide pictures, if possible.) Also, have you ever gotten a good idea for a novel out of one of your hikes?

CAROLE:  Choosing a favorite hike might be as hard as choosing a favorite novel or child. When I was in high school I had a good friend who lived up Provo Canyon. She really got me into hiking. We hiked lots of trails in the canyon and hiked to the top of Mount Timpanogas several times every summer. It’s about a 15-mile roundtrip hike and has a lot of wildflowers. I was lucky enough to marry a man who loves to hike as much as I do. Together we hike all the trails in Logan canyon and around us. One of our favorites is to Jardine Juniper, a barely alive gnarly tree that is 3200 years old.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(Carole with her husband above on a hike near Silver Gate–setting of POACHING DAISIES…and with her daughter below on the Crimson Trail in Logan Canyon)

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(With members of her writing group at Jardine Juniper for a birthday hike)

In Yellowstone, we like to do several hikes each trip and always try to find one we haven’t done yet. Our children and grandchildren all hike. It’s part of being in our family. Everyone knows I do an annual birthday hike. Anyone can come and it’s a way I’ve learned to deal with growing older. (Sounds like a terrific tradition, as long as you stay in shape.)

I haven’t gotten a specific idea for a novel, but Poaching Daisies includes several of the hikes I’ve done in the Yellowstone area. The opening scene with a dead bear and gunshot takes place on a hike that I have done several times.

ME:  Please describe your writing space and what makes it uniquely fit with you.

CAROLE:  My friend, whose story I want to write, gave me a lovely desk to thank me for the efforts I’d made in helping her. The desk fits perfectly in our new upstairs. I take turns writing at the desk with the spectacular view behind me, or I sit on a recliner and write on my laptop and look out at another mountain view.

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(Riding her bike near her home in Avon, Utah)

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(Springtime in Avon)

I love to write outside on our wrap-around porch, but can’t deal with the glare, so I usually end up coming inside. I wrote most of my novels in the house we lived in in Paradise at the kitchen table. I love the flexibility of a laptop and honestly don’t think I would enjoy writing a novel on a desktop again.

ME:  Finally, what are you working on now both in pottery and writing, and how would you describe your writing process?

CAROLE:  I’m not actively writing anything right now. I’ve started my memoirs, which are mostly just for fun, although I hope, at some point, some part of it can become marketable. I am trying to get back with my friend and help her write her story. I keep thinking about novel ideas and love some of my characters that I would like to meet up with again. I keep thinking about how Sunny Day from my book FALSE PRETENSES of a decade ago would love to meet Iris MacAfee from POACHING DAISIES. I hear new stories from friends in Grouse Creek, and that makes me want to write another novel set there. The town is down to only about 70 people and the school has only about seven students. That is a lot smaller than when my husband and I taught there twenty years ago. It’s such a unique setting that the story ideas are easily mined.

As far as my pottery, I love functional pottery. I love that small pieces of art are gracing the homes of typical families. Because it’s such an affordable art to own, so many more people can enjoy it. I’m working at building and marketing my business. And of course ideas are always coming to change designs and styles.

If you’d like to read more from Carole or see more examples of her pottery, check out her blog. POACHING DAISIES is currently available on Amazon.

Originally posted 2013-03-13 06:00:33.

“Wednesday Writer” – Marlene Bateman Sullivan

MarleneBateman_238x287

An author of both fiction and nonfiction, Marlene Bateman Sullivan has recently had yet another book published. GAZE INTO HEAVEN is a compilation of fifty documented near-death experiences of life beyond the veil, drawn from the early history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As part of her two-week blog tour for the book, I’m interviewing her here today.

Banner for Blog Tour

ME:  What made you always want to be a writer, and what was the plot of the first story you ever wrote?

MARLENE:  Part of my wanting to be a writer had to do with reading so much. I was a voracious reader as a child and have remained so. For three years in a row in elementary school, I won the award for reading the most books. And the prize was: A book! I was delighted, of course and still have those books. 

I almost wonder if writers are born, because I always wanted to write. I don’t remember the plot of the first story I wrote, but I do remember one day when I stayed home from school.  There was a storm, and I watched the amazing clouds and wrote page after page about the clouds. I guess it would be boring to read, but it was exciting for me to write about! I also remember writing a little story about my brother’s blue car, which he parked in the back yard when he went on his mission. I was about ten, and wrote about how sad the car was to be alone, and how birds came and sat on it, and so on. My mother read it and thought it was so “precious” that she shared it with other people, which embarrassed me to death.

ME:  Tell me about the junior high teacher who encouraged you in your writing. And was there also a particular teacher in high school who influenced you?

MARLENE:  I feel bad I can’t remember her name, but she was a student teacher and was so encouraging. She was so supportive of me that when I had written a story, I asked her to read it. She praised me and said my writing style was like John Steinbeck, which thrilled me to death. There wasn’t a particular teacher in high school that helped me, but some teacher asked us all to write down a goal a year for the next ten years. I put down to go to college, write and publish a book, get married, write another book, have children, write another book, etc.  Didn’t happen—I didn’t foresee how much time raising children would take. So I wrote for magazines instead while my children were small. When the kids were older, I was able to start writing books. (But it all started with those goals!)

ME:  What was Sandy, Utah like when you were growing up there, and how has it changed?

MARLENE:  Sandy was the boondocks back then, although 700 East had started to become a very busy street. My parents had 1 ½  acres and I loved the country feel of it all.  My father raised mink, gladiolus, and later, large pumpkins. We had fruit trees, raspberry bushes, and when I was little, chickens.  Now, Sandy is mostly an intermittent strip mall! (Not unlike most of the I-15 corridor from SLC down through Utah County) The house I grew up in was torn down and now a large office building sits where we used to light sparklers, irrigate the crops, weed the corn, and have barbecues.

(That kind of makes me sad.)

ME:  How would you, as the former owner of a floral shop, compare writing to making floral arrangements?

MARLENE:  I think arranging flowers and writing are both very creative endeavors. I’m very thankful to have this talent and have tried to use it to please customers and my readers. I loved working with flowers. Each arrangement was different and you got to pick whether to put snapdragons in, or carnations, or alstroemeria. It was just fun to create something beautiful. I especially loved school dances and helping the boys pick out colors and flowers. But then I gave it up and turned to writing full time, another creative endeavor that is very fulfilling and satisfying, just in a different way!

ME:  What made you finally sell the shop and pursue writing full time?

MARLENE:  I had a health scare. I went in for a routine mammogram and was told to return another day for another one. During that one, a doctor said I would probably need a biopsy for a lump they had found. I had a few days to think. At times like that, you look back on your life, and I asked myself, “If I had something to do differently with my life, what would it be?”

I could only think of one thing—that I had always wanted to be a writer. And while I had written numerous magazine and newspaper articles, and one book—I had hoped to do so much more. When the test results came back that the lump was just a massive cyst and all was well, I was relieved but determined to live my live without regrets. I talked with my husband and we decided to close the shop so that I could have more time to write. My husband, Kelly, has always been extremely supportive and I would not have gotten to where I am without him.

(I think spouses of writers are born that way, too.)

ME:  You began by writing nonfiction–LATTER-DAY SAINT HEROES AND HEROINES (VOLUMES ONE AND TWO), followed by a 3-book series about true angelic experiences, and then BRIGHAM’S BOYS. What made you turn to fiction?

MARLENE:  I wrote nonfiction because I was afraid I couldn’t write fiction. I longed to write fiction, but didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t realize that nonfiction writers must also write well. I didn’t believe in myself. Writing fiction was something I really wanted to do and so I decided to try. It was hard, but I kept working and re-writing it until I felt I had a great book, Light on Fire Island and it turned out to be a bestseller. Yay! (I’ll say. Congratulations!)

LightOnFireIsland_249x360

ME:  Now you’re back to nonfiction with GAZE INTO HEAVEN, your latest. Please tell us about it and how you decided which stories to include and which to leave out?

A Gaze Into HeavenMARLENE:  I was amazed when I started researching to find out there were so many near-death experiences! I snapped up each one, but soon had to set some parameters. First, I decided to use only experiences in early church history. Plenty of people had written about modern-day experiences but I wanted to provide something new and different.

Second, I came across a lot of experiences where people had visited the spirit world, but had seen it through a vision or dream. Their experiences were almost identical to those who had near-death experiences, but I had to leave them out of this book. In the future, I hope to do a sequel so people can read the rest of these amazing experiences about visiting the spirit world.

ME:  Are you working on any more fiction and, if so, what? Also, which do you find more difficult–fiction or nonfiction? And why?

MARLENE:  Right now, I’m working on a light-hearted, romance novel that is set at Christmas time. It’s been quite a change for me, since I’ve been writing mysteries for a while. My second novel, Motive for Murder, will be out this June. It’s a great mystery with a quirky private eye, Erica Coleman, who has OCD. It has a very surprising twist at the end!

I also have another non-fiction book, Heroes of Faith, coming out in July. This is a collection of stories about people in early Church history who actually risked their life in defense of the gospel.

As for which is easier to write, I would say nonfiction.  However, nonfiction does require a lot of researching, and you have to be extremely accurate. But I love to research.

With fiction, I like to write mysteries and it’s a lot of work to plot them. Plot is everything in a mystery and you have to have a good, solid foundation, or else the book is not going to work. I love it, but I find it is harder to write than non-fiction.

ME:  Finally, please describe your writing space (and provide a picture or two) and your process.

MARLENE:  I dearly love my writing space. We remodeled our house four years ago and my writing area is perfect now. I’ve included a couple of pictures. About ten years ago, I splurged and bought a really nice L-shaped desk that came in three pieces. The left part of my desk is about 4’ long and it has 3 cupboards and two shelves. My two monitors sit on the middle piece, which is about 2 1/2 feet across in front. Years ago, my dear son, Ryan, a computer genius, insisted that I get a second monitor, and now, I could not live without it.

Desk view 1Desk view 2(Check out the comfy chair, too…and that looks like some kind of plotting board)

To my right, is another section that is about 4’ long, and holds my computer, router, print server, etc. plus printer.  Behind it is another small table for a second, color printer. I have a beautiful bay window where I can look out across my lovely yard and my two dogs huddle under my desk by my feet to keep me company. I’ve included a picture of them, too.

My friends(Too cute!)

Outside, is my second ‘office’—my gazebo. It’s my writing oasis in the late spring, summer, and early fall. We have half an acre, with bushes, trees, gardens, and lawn so I’m surrounded by nature. I love it! I had my husband put up blinds on two sides of the gazebo to cut down on the glare on my laptop. I put a little fountain in one corner, and have a cushioned swing to sit on. My two dogs and one cat come out and lounge around, keeping me company as I write. (Okay, is someone spoiled here or not?)

Gazebo

I’ve written so much; I’d best leave out my writing process, which could go on for another full page. But I will say that my daily schedule is to do housework, yard work, grocery shopping, visiting teaching, etc. etc. until 10:30. (Although it’s often past that time when I begin writing.) I write until 12:30, then take an hour break to eat lunch and to read. I also take a 15-minute power nap.  I then resume writing until 7:00 p.m. when I stop to make dinner. Most afternoons, I take a short break and go for a walk with my dogs.

If you want to learn more about Marlene, check out her website. Her newest book, GAZE INTO HEAVEN, is available on the shelves at Deseret and Seagull Bookstores, or you can order a copy right now on Amazon, Deseret Book, and Seagull Book.

Next Wednesday I’ll be interviewing a fellow free thinking writer, Carole Thayne Warburton.

Carole Thayne Warburton

Originally posted 2013-03-06 06:00:41.