I’ve Emerged From the Fog of Querying

No, I haven’t taken a Digital Sabbatical, but I should. In fact, I’m going to blog about that tomorrow over at ANWA Founder & Friends.

My exciting news is that I’ve begun my third novel and it’s set in Beirut, Lebanon. It’s the story of an American teenager trying to hold her family together as the capital collapses into civil war. Since I graduated from high school there (ACS – the American Community School) at about that time and was, indeed, on hand in 1975 when things began to get dicey, I can draw on my own memories as well as my imagination (because, yes, this is fiction…not my family).

As you know, however, from an earlier posting…my memory is rather unreliable. Thank goodness my mom kept a family log all those years we lived overseas. So what did I just do last week? I took advantage of Allegiant Air’s new direct cheap flight between here and LAX and flew down there for 10 days of fun and research. The day before I left, I gathered my parents, my younger brother, and one of my younger sisters and started shooting questions at them. Every now and then I’d have to interrupt all their cross talk (after all, my dad’s got a hearing problem and he’d usually start telling me something in the middle of one of my brother’s responses). My sister found the whole process hilarious. But at least I came away with some great notes…AND the family logs for 1974-77.

It may have cost me $20 to check an extra suitcase on the return flight (these journals are big, thick, and heavy), but it will prove invaluable in the end. And the time with family? Priceless!

Originally posted 2010-08-05 17:13:52.

A Nugget and My Other Blogs

I did blog yesterday. But I didn’t do it here. You see, I’m on two other blogs, as well, and I realized I’d better let you know about them, because I’m sharing some of my golden nuggets from Thursday’s “webinar” on those sites.

My other personal blog, Seized by Words, is reserved for thoughts on the power of words, as well as book reviews and author interviews. I shared my thoughts there the other day on a phrase used by Rachelle Gardner during her presentation and you might want to check it out.

This past week, I was invited to become a contributing blogger to ANWA Founder & Friends, the official blog of a terrific national group of ladies–American Night Writers Association (ANWA). I blog there every other Friday, so yesterday was my first opportunity and I decided to share a bit more of what I’d learned on Thursday about crucial elements in the crafting of the first few pages of your manuscript. Please give the whole blog a look, not just my posting, and consider becoming a follower. Cindy Williams has a terrific post there today about author branding.

My nugget for today: If you’re having a hard time determining the genre of your story, then try to visualize your audience…the readers who will love your kind of story. Consider the other books they read and that’s your genre.

BIG TIP: Better to come up with a more specific genre than “Mainstream.” Rachelle said, for example, that “Women’s Fiction” would be better than “Mainstream” because it defines the audience better and helps the agent categorize your book more easily.

Originally posted 2010-05-29 09:42:17.

October is for Publishing, Writing, and Recording!

It’s not that I haven’t been writing. I have . . . in between house guests. But there have been so many that my writing time has shrunk. The wonderful thing about moving to St. George, Utah is this: Suddenly, we’re on the way to wherever so many of our acquaintances are going! And sometimes, we’re even the destination. We’re right off I-15 (not so close that we don’t have peace and quiet) and this time we have lots of extra sleeping space too. It’s been wonderful to have friends and family pass through, stay over, or even just meet for lunch. Indeed, those who stay over generally get treated to our New York (German-style) pancakes!

photo

But . . . Now that September has hit, it’s time to buckle down and firm up my routine again. Besides, I’m presenting at two different venues in October: ANWA’s Northwest Writer’s Retreat and the Kanab Writer’s Conference. So, along with my regular writing, I’ve got to prepare my presentation about hooking readers.

Northwest Writers Retreat(ANWA Northwest Writers Retreat)

2014 Kanab Writers Conference

(Kanab Writers Conference)

Also in October, my first novel, THE RECKONING, is being published as part of an e-book box set by Mirror Press. The Triple Treat Romance set is called “Too Deep” and features romantic suspense novels by best-selling authors Julie Coulter Bellon and Christy Barritt, as well as my own. So, if you liked THE RECKONING, this might make a terrific Christmas gift for friends and family.

TTT Too Deep 3-D cover

Not only that, but Liz Adair and I are teaming up to record audio books! She’s making me a portable sound booth and I’m going to handle the equipment and do the recording, beginning with my first novel. After all, I’ve been told I have a fairly good reading voice and style, and I trust myself to put an Arabic accent on the English (and the smattering of Arabic words) used by my Iraqi characters.

Admit it. When you read a book, wouldn’t you want to hear it read by the author, the person who knows the story and its characters best?

After that, I’ll tackle my second novel, A NIGHT ON MOON HILL, and Liz’s COUNTING THE COST. So stay tuned. I’ll be providing more details in the coming weeks.

Originally posted 2014-09-01 13:48:25.

“Wednesday Writer” – Pauline Hansen

If you were happily married but gradually your family became hostage to the growing paranoid schizophrenia of your husband, would you stay married? And would you write about it?

Pauline Hansen chose to do both, telling her story in her memoir, A PATCHWORK REALITY: HAPPILY MARRIED TO A SCHIZOPHRENIC.

Pauline-Hansen-170x255

ME:  You say you grew up in a small town, one to which you’ve now returned, but exactly how tiny is it? Please give us a clear picture of what your childhood and youth was like there (plus a picture or two of you growing up). And is it any different for your own kids, or are they all grown up?

PAULINE:  The town I grew up in and have now returned to is indeed tiny. It has remained, throughout the years, at about 150 people. We like to joke that there are probably more dogs than people : )

Life growing up in my hometown was typical of country life. We weren’t farmers or ranchers, so we didn’t have cattle or fields of hay, but other than that, we did many of the other things well known to country life: in the warm months, we grew a massive garden, played in the ditch as children, ran everywhere barefoot, climbed the surrounding rocks and mountains, went on picnics and went camping, then in the winter, we’d build snowmen, go sledding and snowmobiling, and hunt for a fresh Christmas tree every year.

Pauline age 10(Pauline at 10)

My own children, two of which were still school-aged when we moved here, do some of the same things – mostly the climbing and hiking and such, but they were 13 and 15 years old, so they didn’t have near the country life experience that I did while growing up.

Pauline 1985

(Pauline as a senior)

ME:  How old were you when you first dreamed to one day become an author, and which book exactly prompted that dream?

PAULINE:  I remember when I’d read as a youth, sometimes a book a day, I would be in awe of anyone that could actually write a book. It was something of a miracle to me back then. I remember wishing that maybe someday, I could write a book, but that’s all it was – a fanciful wish.

(So, it sounds as if it was no particular book, just books in general.)

ME:  What kind of book did you imagine yourself writing when you grew up and how did that differ from what you ended up producing?

PAULINE:  As a youth, when I dreamed of writing a book someday, I always wanted to write a romance, and I planned to include every spine-tingling, heart-racing, breath-taking romantic thing I could think of. I have, in fact, written a romance, but as it stands, it needs a lot of work, so when the thought occurred to me that I should write my memoir and publish it, I figured that was the best idea to go with first. I’m still revising the romance, though!

(Great! Then we know what to expect next.)

ME:  Since your book, PATCHWORK REALITY: HAPPILY MARRIED TO A SCHIZOPHRENIC, details your husband’s descent into paranoid schizophrenia in his mid-thirties and its effect on you and the children, please tell us how you met and what your relationship with him was like before those nine years of extreme psychological stress. (I’d love to post a picture of you and the family from those earlier years.)

PAULINE:  Curtis and I met at a dance at Dixie College. My roommate was the girlfriend of Curtis’s best friend, so that helped to bring us together, but once we did meet, there was no turning back. Although I had had numerous boyfriends in the past, I knew my relationship with Curtis was special and lasting, almost from the start. It didn’t take us long to want to date exclusively, then we were engaged after only 4 months, and married 3 months after that.

The book describes what the first fourteen years of our marriage were like, and in a nutshell, we had it all–laughter, babies, vacations, and ball games. Life was good, with your typical ups and downs, arguments over disciplining the kids and the finances, lots of expenses that come with raising five children, and lots of love and good times.

Hansens 1997(Pauline, Curtis, and the kids in the good times)

ME:  How did you come to the decision to write your story?

PAULINE:  One day in February of 2012, I felt the greatest urge to write something. It was a desire I couldn’t shake, but everything I attempted to write just didn’t feel quite right. Then one morning as I lay in bed contemplating, it occurred to me that I had a story to tell, one that would be different than anything anyone had ever read. And maybe, just maybe, someone would gain some insight when they read it, or realize there’s hope amidst difficult trials, or as my husband so eloquently put it, realize that marriage is worth fighting for.

patchwork-reality-happily-married-to-a-schizophrenic-pauline-hansen-9781462113644cover-360x540

ME:  How did your husband and children feel about the book?

PAULINE:  I admit at first I worried that my husband wouldn’t want me to write our story, since it would be so personal and put him in an awkward light. But all he kept repeating whenever I would ask him if he was SURE he was okay with me writing it was, “Of course I’m sure. After what I put you through, I have to let you do what you feel you need to.”

He must have known it would be rather therapeutic for me to write, plus I think he feels, too, that shedding some light on such a mysterious illness would be a good thing in the long run.

As far as the children go, they’ve been immensely supportive throughout the process of having me write and publish our experience. They knew very little of what went on, and yet even when they read the nitty gritty parts, not one of them has judged me or their dad for it.

ME:  What prompted your move back to your tiny hometown, and did it have anything to do with your husband’s condition?

PAULINE:  My husband’s condition had everything to do with moving back to my tiny hometown. He was jobless and did not play to look for a job anytime soon, which was very rare for him. He had always been a very hard worker and very dedicated to his job. We were at our rope’s end and needed a place to go, so we moved in with my parents temporarily until we could decide what our next move was.

We loved it here so much we decided to stay, and it’s a good thing, because the lower stress, slower pace of life, no traffic, and very few people have been a huge factor in my husband’s recovery.

Cannonville UTaerialview(An aerial view of their isolated town in Utah)

ME:  Tell us about the writing process you followed in creating this book, including beta readers and/or critique groups. And did you seek out any experts in schizophrenia?

PAULINE:  I had already been attending writer’s conferences before I even knew of my husband’s condition (and decided to write about it), and once I knew I wanted to write our story, I went to even more conferences with the intention of finding other authors that I could connect with and ask advice of. I only used one beta reader, and her advice was invaluable. (That’s a big YES for beta readers!)

I joined ANWA, American Night Writers Association, where I could post any question I had about the writing or publishing process on their Yahoo group sites. They’ve been a huge help and I’ve made some wonderful friends! (That’s a big YES for ANWA too!)

As far as seeking experts on schizophrenia, my intention was never to write a book as a resource for those seeking help about mental illness. The Internet is a wealth of knowledge for that, and I would just muddy the waters if I attempted to give any advice.

ME:  What are you working on now, or what do you plan to write next, and why?

PAULINE:  I am once again attempting to work on the first novel I wrote, a romance based in my own little hometown. We’ll see if it ends up publish-worthy. :D I also have a rough outline and quite a few pages of ideas for a dramatic romance I would love to write some time, plus I have a children’s book series in mind that begs to be written, but that concept is definitely in its infancy.

I don’t always feel an extreme urge to write, but when that urge hits, I obey. I love to read, and I love the written word, and the stories in my head will, at the right time, break free and land on the page.

ME:  Finally, please describe your writing space—the room or place you used most in writing PATCHWORK REALITY—and tell us what makes it your own. (And I must have a picture.)

PAULINE:  Our home is small, but still, I claim a lot of our overcrowded space as my own when I’m in the middle of a project. When I wrote PATCHWORK REALITY, we only had one computer that the whole family shared, but if I needed it everyone else knew they had to let me use it. It is centrally located, in the living room, so although I was often engrossed in my work, I was still out amongst the family if they needed me.

At the time, my husband rarely got on the computer. He was just learning how to use one back then. Now, though, he’s on the family computer a lot more, so it was a huge blessing when my children gave me a laptop for Christmas last year.

My Writing Space(Pauline’s work space)

family close

(And here’s Pauline, Curtis, and their kids today)

Pauline’s memoir is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at Books & Things. If you want to learn more about the author and her work, check out her website.

On tap for next Wednesday is Rebecca Talley, a former president of LDStorymakers and author of two LDS novels and a children’s picture book.

Rebecca12-profile

Originally posted 2014-03-12 06:00:46.

“Wednesday Writer” – M. Ann Rohrer

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

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

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

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

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

Hated them.

(Can’t blame you.)

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

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

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

Colonia Juárez View

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

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

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

Southern Peru Copper(Southern Peru Copper Corporation site)

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

Toquepala

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Good for you!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pancho Villa(A picture of the Mexican Revolutionary)

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

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

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

(I told you there would be more coming.)

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

Very painful, indeed.

(Agreed.)

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

ANN:

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

(Love it!)

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

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

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

Patty Old West

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

“Wednesday Writer” – Marsha Ward and “Spinster’s Folly”

(Note: Marsha Ward has been writing so long and gave me so much material in my interview that I’ve decided to divide her interview into two parts. This first part will focus more on her newly released book, her writing process, and ANWA.)

Marsha Ward is an award-winning poet, writer and editor whose published work includes four novels in The Owen Family Saga: The Man From Shenandoah, Ride to Raton, Trail of Storms, and Spinster’s Folly. I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed the first three and am now excited to read the fourth. She’s also written over 900 articles, columns, poems and short stories, given numerous writing workshop presentations, and taught writing.

Here is her description of SPINSTER’S FOLLY:

Marie Owen yearns for a loving husband, but Colorado Territory is long on rough characters and short on fitting suitors, so a future of spinsterhood seems more likely than wedded bliss. Her best friend says cowboy Bill Henry is a likely candidate, but Marie knows her class-conscious father would not allow such a pairing. When she challenges her father to find her a suitable husband before she becomes a spinster, he arranges a match with a neighbor’s son. Then Marie discovers Tom Morgan would be an unloving, abusive mate and his mother holds a grudge against the Owen family. Marie’s mounting despair at the prospect of being trapped in such a dismal marriage drives her into the arms of a sweet-talking predator, landing her in unimaginable dangers.

Me:  Is SPINSTER’S FOLLY the conclusion of the Owen Family Saga, or do you foresee more tales? Which of the four books was the most difficult to write, and why?

Marsha:  No, the Owen Family Saga continues, with a fifth book to write that already has a title: Gone for a Soldier. I’ll go back into the Civil War to recount the experiences of the oldest son, Rulon. I’m in the preliminary research phase, getting the overview firmly in mind. Later, as I write, I’ll do research for the smaller details, as needed.

Each of the novels have had their unique difficulties in the writing , but perhaps RIDE TO RATON was the most difficult because of scenes at the end. The original final scene contained a lot of vengeful action, which had a negative energy that enfolded me for several weeks. I was angry all the time. I was treating my husband and children like dirt. I didn’t like myself one little bit. It took me a while, but finally it dawned on me that the cause of my ill temper was the bad spirit with which I had ended the novel. That brought me up short and taught me a lesson. I learned words have power.

If I, the author, was having such a bad time dealing with the aftermath of the book, how was it going to impact my readers?

I decided I didn’t want to be responsible for someone wreaking havoc upon those around him or her due to my book. I changed the ending, and made the book much stronger, I think, and leached out the bad taste in my mouth.

The novel still contains the haunting events that precipitated the prior vengeful action, but now the reader weeps at the end instead of wanting to kill someone. I’m satisfied with that.

(Interesting . . . that has been my favorite one so far.)

Me:  You’ve had to deal with both loss and health challenges in your life. Which took the greater toll on your writing, and what did you do to overcome it?

Marsha:  When my daughter was killed in an auto accident, it sucked the creativity out of me for a number of years. I was so thoroughly immersed in grief and mother-guilt (how had I not kept this from happening to my child?), that I was quite the zombie. I think I finally dealt with the problem when I was invited to join a particular writers’ group and was encouraged to get on with life. Although it came from outside myself, I’m pretty sure those people saved my sanity. 

(I find it’s true that no one understands a writer quite so well as other writers. A group is essential.)

Me:  Please describe your favorite writing space in the vernacular of my favorite Owen brother, James, the protagonist in RIDE TO RATON. (And I must have a picture of your writing area.)

Marsha:  You really want to see my computer desk? AWK! Oh well. Here’s James to describe it:

“This dear lady, who contemplated upon us Owen brothers for several long years before she gave us life, asked my oldest brother Rulon to call her ‘Mom.’ That don’t set right with me, somehow. It rolls brittle off the tongue. There’s precious little affection in the sound. Kind of hollow. I reckon I’ll call her Abuela. That’s akin to the Southern-style Meemah, or Grandma, but spoke in the Spanish lingo of my first wife, Amparo. She’s…gone now.”

I pat James on the shoulder and step back to wait for him to continue.

“Be that as it may, Abuela has this black piece of furniture sittin’ in a room of her house. It’s not wood, yet it’s not the ‘plastic’ I see about, either. She told me it’s a ‘black laminate wrapped around manufactured wood.’ What the tarnation that means, I cannot fathom. The surface of that there laminate is sort of gritty-lookin’, yet it’s smooth enough to the touch. Cool. Not warm like wood can be. There’s a shelf-like slab that pulls out and holds a sure-enough plastic contraption with letters and numbers and other geegaws that she depresses rapidly to make letters appear on a bright-colored picture frame that sits atop what she calls ‘the desk.’ (Love this!)

“Hush! It don’t look like any desk I ever saw, I tell you. This one don’t have the hidey-holes and whatnots that hide behind the rolltop. Instead, it’s got that picture frame that glows. Yep, I’m not lyin’. It glows with light, just as if it had a lamp behind to shine through a pane of obscure glass. Abuela says it’s called a ‘monitor.’

“The only Monitor I ever heard tell of was the ironclad ship the Yanks sent out to do battle against the C.S.S. Virginia in Hampton Roads in ’62. But that’s another story. I’ve been bid to tell about Abuela’s writin’ area, so I’d best continue that task.

“Abuela tend toward bein’ the untidy sort. I don’t hold it against her. She’s quite a woman. However, the top of her desk is piled with the oddest sorts of things you ever did see. There’s a yellow box sort of thing that has a flap hidin’ an assortment of stiff white cards she writes notes on. Somethin’ she calls passwords. And log-ins.

“I know about passwords from serving in the army during the past troubles. If you didn’t know the proper one for that day, you was like to get shot by the sentry. I can’t make out the meaning of “log-ins.” You could burn up the cards, but they wouldn’t last long enough to give heat nor light like a real log would do. (LOL…yes, our modern vernacular would certainly confuse those who lived 150 years ago.)

“I dassen’t touch the papers and folders she has on one side of that monitor, for fear they’ll tumble off onto the floor. On the other side, she has an assortment of pens made of that plastic stuff, a letter opener, scissors with red handles—red handles! And bent wires designed to hold stacks of paper together for safekeepin’. There’s a little plastic cylinder she calls “eyedrops,” but it’s not made of glass, nor does it have an eye dropper inside of it. She says she squeezes it and the liquid soothes her eyes.

“Abuela has a passel of papers hangin’ off the sides of her picture frame with “tape,” which appears to be a sticky sort of clear plastic that comes from a roll tucked inside another…plastic container. Whew! This world sure does cotton to plastic.

“That’s about all I can say about Abuela’s writin’ spot. I hope that does the job for her friend.”

(It certainly did, and here’s the picture to prove it!)

Me:  Along with your novels, you’ve written hundreds of articles for newspapers. Which is harder, journalism or fiction writing? And why?

Marsha:  Interesting question. I suppose I could say one is harder because it takes the other side of the brain, or some such thing, but I don’t think one or the other is a more difficult task. They are merely different. I think a competent writer can accomplish a job of writing in any genre, given the time and training. I know other writers won’t agree, but I think I’ve done enough of both kinds to consider myself a generalist rather than a specialist. Now deadlines. Don’t let me go there! (I hear you. I hate deadlines . . . of the daily variety, that is.) 

(I do believe listenin’ to James’s account above has me typing a tad bit like he sounds.) :D

Me:  What caused you to create ANWA back in 1986? How has it changed over the years and what do you see in its future?

Marsha:  ANWA, or properly, American Night Writers Association (now Inc.), came about because of my need to feel comfortable among other writers. I wanted a place where I could learn the craft without being exposed to crass language or themes, and where I could be nurtured rather than batting my head against protective sorts who viewed me as competition instead of offering to share what they knew. I tried out several groups, but soon outgrew the pat-you-on-the-back-and-say-it’s-wonderful clubs. I needed to be challenged, and I wasn’t finding a place where I could grow.

When I came across five other LDS (Mormon) women in a short period of time, each of whom had writing aspirations, I wrote down their contact information and went on my way. One day I was impressed that I had at hand what I needed. I only had to get us together. I called the other five and set up a meeting, and that was the beginning of ANWA.

The organization has gone through many phases. Lean times, when it almost died. Thrilling times, when we had a member put together a workshop that was the genesis of our writers conferences and another begin a website. Growth exploded because of that. We started chapters outside of Arizona and changed our original name of Arizona Night Writers to American Night Writers Association.

After many years of shepherding ANWA and doing a ton of work in the background to keep it going, I was tired of being jealous at the success of those I had mentored. I wanted time to write the stories swimming around in my head, and I told God so. He had thrust me into this task, and I wondered if the time would ever come for me to have a chance to see if I was a writer of any substance, or only a writing coach. I know I pleaded with him for a long time, but finally he said the time had come that I could step back. This has not been an easy transition, and it’s still on-going. However, with the help of several very hard-working, inspired leaders and workers, the burden is slowly slipping off my shoulders. It’s a huge relief, and I’m becoming used to the idea that I don’t have to “do it all” anymore. ANWA will continue to grow. It is poised for international growth soon, where it can influence thousands, and hundreds of thousands of LDS women. It can school them that they have a place in this world, where they can share their light with others through the written word. (Amen! And thank you, Marsha.)

Me:  Finally, tell us about your writing process and your current (or next) work in progress. Will you continue to self-publish and, if so, why?

Marsha:  As I mentioned in passing, after I succeed in launching my current novel, SPINSTER’S FOLLY, I’ll begin work in earnest on GONE FOR A SOLDIER. My somewhat ambitious goal is to write and publish a novel a year from now on. Self, or indie publishing can enable me to do that, where I wouldn’t be able to control such a schedule through traditional publishing. I don’t have time to dilly-dally around, waiting for the traditional lengthy publishing process. I can accomplish the necessary steps, and make a better income for myself, by being an independently-published author.

And we wish her the best of luck! You can buy Marsha’s novels, including her latest, SPINSTER’S FOLLY, on Smashwords or Amazon. And you can learn more about her from her website, her author blog, her character blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

AND…

You can check in again next Wednesday and learn even more about Martha, including details about her childhood and peeks at several old family photos. Here’s a teaser–a very young Marsha:

Originally posted 2012-11-14 06:00:12.

Contest Author Interview – Janette Rallison

(NOTE: If you haven’t yet heard about the contest I’m running through September 24th, go here to see all the prizes and details 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 another entry!)

I first got to know Janette when she was the keynote speaker at the 2010 ANWA Northwest Writer’s Retreat. Two years ago, she seemed a bit concerned that she might never break out of the mid list as an author. Since then, she has taken on a second identity (C.J. Hill) and seems to be really expanding her reach among YA readers. Not only that, but she is the current president of ANWA (American Night Writers Association). Through it all, she retains that sense of humor we all love about her–author and reader, alike.

Me:  Are you writing these days more as C.J. Hill or as Janette Rallison, and how do you keep it all straight? Do you wear two different, actual hats . . . or play different kinds of music for each kind of writing? In other words, what is the great secret to multi-task writing? (If you haven’t heard that term before, then I made it up.)

Janette:  I never play any sorts of music, as I would concentrate on that instead of writing. The secret to my multi-task writing is that I eat lots of chocolate while I try to get things done. At least that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

(Ah, but then how does she stay so thin? I should have had a follow-up question. Darn it!)

I’ve been writing more as CJ Hill lately (action-adventure with some romance, of course) because I sold two of those books and this year I’ve been writing sequels to both. It’s harder for me to write action than romantic comedies so this has been a challenge for me. I prefer witty banter. In action books, you’ve got to think of creative ways to do fight scenes. It’s hard to come up with a shootout that hasn’t already been done a jillion times. (And yes, there actually have been a jillion shootouts.)

Me:  As a fellow cat person, I’d like to know how you cats influence your writing (beyond blocking the screen, which my cat, Peach, is a pro at? Or does the dog steal the show there?

Janette:  The dog is good (unless I’m driving somewhere in the car, and then she wants to be my co-pilot). I have a cat, though, who thinks her place in life is to sit on my lap. It’s hard to write one-handed while petting a cat, but it can be done.

I have a scene in ALL’S FAIR IN LOVE, WAR, AND HIGH SCHOOL where my main character is in a car with a freaked-out cat. That scene was inspired by a trip to the vet with one of my cats. For some reason, she thought she should spend the ride sitting atop my head. So yeah, I guess you can say my cats have influenced my writing.

Me:  I know you think you are old, but I have it on good authority (your own website and Wikipedia) that I’m a good bit older than you. (And I’m not the one who’s on Wikipedia, by the way.) That being the case, you are obviously young, at least in my eyes. Still, do you foresee writing YA fiction for the rest of your life? Or do you itch to write for a different audience?

Janette:  I actually have no idea. I still have a lot of book ideas that are young adult, but I also have ideas for romances and fantasies. So who knows? That’s one of the nice things about writing. You can reinvent yourself. I never thought I would write four action books in a row (five, if you count the one that’s still with my agent) and that’s what I’ve spent the last couple of years doing.

Me:  Do any of your children aspire to write, and if so, do you encourage it or not?

Janette:  My oldest two daughters both love to read and tinker with the idea of writing a novel someday. I encourage them–but I also tell them they need another career skill. Very few writers can support themselves right off, if ever. One of my sons wants to do a comic strip. He’s the most serious about it. He has a drawer full of comic strips he’s done (while he’s supposed to be paying attention in church) and just started putting some of them up on a blog. You can see them here.

Me:  Which, of all the characters you’ve ever written, was most reflective of you? And which was most reflective of your husband?

Janette:  Hmmm. There’s a little bit of me in all of my characters. Ellie from WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED is pretty much me (well, you know, me if I was younger, thinner, and prettier) and Jessica from FAME, GLORY, AND OTHER THINGS ON MY TO DO LIST was a lot like me as a teen.

I tried to make my husband the male lead in WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED since I’d put myself in as the heroine. It was supposed to be this really sweet gesture on my part. Unfortunately, I had to fire him after about two pages. My husband is really laid back and he would never argue with the heroine.

Notice yet another Nom de Plume?

Ironically, in my paranormal romance HUNTERS AND HUNTED (this is the book that’s still with my agent, because publishers think paranormal romance is dead) the heroine has two love interests. One of them, Jack, is probably the most like my husband of any male lead I’ve ever written. After my husband read the manuscript, I asked him what he thought of Jack.

“He’s a jerk,” my husband said. “He kills people.”

Well, yeah, there is that. Jack isn’t at all like my husband in that way.

(Good thing!)

Me:  What are you working on right now?

Janette:  Revisions for the ERASING TIME sequel (ECHO IN TIME) and then I’ll be working on revising the SLAYERS sequel. But never worry, Janette Rallison fans. I’ll be starting a new fairy godmother book in a couple of months.

(Talk about multi-tasking!!! But while we’re on the subject of ERASING TIME, check out her terrific trailer here.)

Me:  With all the writing you do, I am most curious about your workspace or office. Please describe it in a YA voice.

Janette:  Imagine a teen girl blinking up at you from an office chair. “What do you mean my feet aren’t supposed to go on the desk? Where else am I supposed to put them?” She sighs in exasperation and grabs a half-eaten brownie. “Never mind, I’ll just take my laptop to my bed.” Another dramatic sigh, because that’s what teens are good at. “Now, like, everybody leave me alone. I’ve got stuff to do.”

(I think we get the picture…no space on the floor…half-eaten brownie. Sound familiar, anyone?)

Me:  And finally, could you please describe (in your mother’s voice) your bedroom as a teenager.

Janette:  Imagine an older woman shaking her head with something akin to despair. “Have you ever thought about hanging up your clothes instead of leaving them in piles everywhere? You’re going to step on those books and those records, and whatever else is under that pile of clothes. And will you please take down those posters of Richard Hatch? It’s creepy the way his eyes always watch me when I walk in here.”

A lack of floor space. Some things apparently never change.

Seriously, if you want to know more about Janette, you can try the Wikipedia article (which doesn’t have nearly enough, by the way) or, even better, her website . . . or her other website!

Originally posted 2012-08-31 04:00:34.

“Breaking Beautiful” by Jennifer Shaw Wolf Debuts on Tuesday!

Present word count of WIP:  52, 346

A good friend and fellow writer (and ANWA sister), Jennifer Shaw Wolf, has her first novel launching nationally next Tuesday, April 24th, and I believe I’ll make the drive over to the other side of  Washington for the event. Here’s the trailer for her book, just to whet your appetite:

Even though I haven’t yet read it, I won’t be surprised at all if this is a Whitney Finalist next year! In any case, I promise a review as soon as possible. Check out her website for more details on both the book and the author.

Originally posted 2012-04-18 09:17:47.

Responsibility #3: Supporting Writers

Present word count of WIP:  49,832

(Pitiful progress, I know. I’ll try and make up for it while traveling to Utah this weekend.)

In my earlier post about a writer’s responsibilities, I listed #3 as:

We have to support our fellow writers.

What goes around comes around. That’s probably the main reason most of us who struggle to get our writing out there put effort into supporting each other.

The writing community is pretty tightly knit, in and of itself. After all, writers always seem to be on the bottom of the totem pole–whether we’re talking about movies, plays, or books. The biggest Oscars (for Best Picture) or Tonys (Best Play or Musical) go to moneymen–producers–while the creative individual(s) behind the whole story are generally ignored once the picture goes into production. At least, when it comes to awards, the publishing industry has it right. The writers are the ones recognized, not their publishers. However, too many times writers feel like they get little to no respect even in the publishing industry. So, we have to watch out for each other.

That’s why we’ve got groups like PEN American Center, which is only “one of 144 PEN centers in 101 countries that together compose International PEN.” That’s why we’ve got Romance Writers of America and the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. That’s why we’ve got a group for nearly every genre, not to mention all the online groups that help us navigate the complicated waters of getting published.

Then there are other, more specialized groups like American Night Writers Association and LDStorymakers, which are specialized to fit the needs of LDS writers and/or authors.

Yes, one of the ways we can help support each other is by joining one or more of these groups and being involved to the extent that we gain writing friends who will, hopefully, support us as we support them. There is always power in numbers.

Dave Wolverton (aka Dave Farland)

But there’s an even stronger impetus, I feel, for supporting other writers. It’s not about getting anything back for yourself. It’s about helping to grow literacy in this world. Talents always come with responsibility. If we have a gift for the written word, it’s incumbent on us to not only share it, but to spread it among others. I remember being so impressed with Dave Wolverton and the way he freely provides so much help to other writers on their way up the ladder. He doesn’t seem to see them as his competition. I think he sees them more as his legacy.

Let’s help each other freely and build a legacy of literacy.

Originally posted 2012-03-30 13:49:59.

I Have a Book Deal!

Present word count of WIP:  47,161 (I know…no increase, but I did finish outlining the entire book!)

I am very excited to announce that Walnut Springs Press will be publishing my second novel, Laps (though the title will likely be different), later this year…probably late summer or early fall! I promise more details as they develop.

I believe I have the recent ANWA Conference to thank for helping to seal this deal. While there, I was able to meet with their editor, Linda Mulleneaux, and I’m sure that my winning a couple of awards in their BOB (Beginning of Book) Contest made a favorable impression, as well. Thanks so much, ANWA!

Here’s a taste of the book (taken from my first chapter) to whet your appetite:

Budding writers could be so defensive, Daphne thought, not for the first time. The women she taught in her graduate tutorial bruised like teenagers, pouting and suffering in silence. Most of the men argued with their jaws clenched—none more so than Reuben. She picked up his short story anyway, drew in a breath, and read aloud his opening sentence.

“Merrick languished in the lazy afternoon sun.” She paused and looked up at the clock on the back wall. Five minutes to go. “To be honest, this opening takes the reader nowhere. Yes, it may tell us Merrick is lazy . . . or it may not.”

Reuben raised his hand, the muscles in his face already working, and began to squabble with her assertion. Guy, the only truly talented writer in the class, wasn’t there to take her side. So she chewed on the inside of her cheek as Reuben went on and on about the visual quality of “languished.”

When he finished, she said, “I suppose you don’t care about getting published then,” and dismissed the class. As he passed her desk, she heard him call her “narcissistic” under his breath along with another unflattering term. He was wrong. She hadn’t found the right word for herself yet, but she was definitely not narcissistic.

Still stressed when she pulled into her garage a half hour later, Daphne headed straight for her pool. She checked the desert sky. No moon. She’d swim without a suit, then, shielded by the wall of palms, hibiscus, and oleander surrounding her backyard. Since the death of her parents, she’d used moonless nights to such advantage.

As she started to unbutton her blouse, she noticed that one of the four dark shapes she knew to be her patio chairs had been moved back several inches from the circular glass table with the umbrella. A sense of foreboding crept up the back of her neck like a spindly-legged spider, and she shivered. She never left a chair out of place.

For a moment, Daphne considered changing her routine. But she couldn’t. The swim in total blackness wouldn’t soothe if she varied the pattern, and though she didn’t understand the reason, she knew that patterns smoothed out the wrinkles in her life like lotion applied to rough, cracked skin.

She pushed the chair back in and undressed quickly, leaving her folded slacks and blouse on the deck. After stretching out the kinks in her back and running her fingers through her cropped hair, Daphne took her usual starting place at the far side of the pool and sliced into the dark water. Six quick strokes, and she flipped to push off the wall for the return. Ninety-nine laps to go.

She pulled at the water, deconstructing Reuben’s opening line in her mind with each lap.

Merrick languished in the lazy afternoon sun. Flip turn.

Merrick languished in the lazy afternoon. Flip turn.

Merrick languished in the lazy. Flip turn.

By the tenth lap, the classroom began to recede from her mind. By the fifteenth, the last memory of the evening’s unpleasantness sank below her consciousness. Buoyed by the night-cooled water, Daphne relished the pungency of chlorine and the familiar numbness spreading through her arms and legs.

If Daphne bowed to any god, it was the god of water—the pool his holy sanctuary, the daily swim her prayer. Water freed her, saved her from a society in which she felt ill at ease. In its liquid cold and calm, her oddities were masked or erased.

At age three, when she’d first ballooned her cheeks to slip beneath its glimmering surface, Daphne had opened her eyes underwater and discovered a world of muted sounds, bluish vision and slower motion. Here, no fly could dart around. The yapping of the neighbor’s dog hushed. Her feet and hands, often so clumsy on land, worked together in water and found a rhythm previously unknown. Stroke after stroke. Lap after lap. A coordination so practiced over the decades that now, at forty-one, she slashed through the water without thinking.

Swimming saved her in the dry heat of Phoenix where pools freckled the landscape. No matter Daphne’s schedule at the university, her morning swim came first. It steeled her for a college classroom full of opinionated writing students. And if a day’s teaching drained her, as this had, she swam again in the afternoon or night.

Switching to the breaststroke for her twenty-sixth lap, her right hand brushed against something mid-stroke. She jerked upright, surprised. Had she imagined it? Daphne strained to see in the blackness of the pool, but she could make out nothing. She swept her arm across the dark water. Still not a thing. She inched further and propelled her arm underneath the liquid surface. Contact. Wet cloth over a hard object. When she poked it, it moved away, but only slightly. She reached again. Feathery strands tickled her fingers. She lurched back and gasped. 

 

Originally posted 2012-03-16 13:36:26.