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

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

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

Can you tell how happy I am?

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

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

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

Contest Author Interview – C. David Belt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me:  And what are you working on at present?

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

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

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

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

 

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

Contest Author Interview – Joyce DiPastena

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Okay, so it was almost novelesque.)

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

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

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

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

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

(Here’s a picture of Clio):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contest Author Interview – Lynn D. Parsons

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

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

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

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

(Smart teacher!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contest Author Interview – Heather B. Moore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(She still got a head start on me.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Two Great New Prizes for the Contest!

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

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

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

(Recognize the Evernote Elephant on the cover?)

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

 

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

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

  

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

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

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

Contest Author Interview – Monique Bucheger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me:  What led you to become a foster parent?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monique:  I am too young to remember. :D

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

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

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

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

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

Contest Author Interview – Annette Lyon

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

Besides being a terrific editor, Annette Lyon is an award-winning author and grammarian extraordinaire. After winning Utah’s Best of State award for fiction and being a Whitney finalist in 2007 for SPIRES OF STONE, Annette won the Whitney in 2010 for BAND OF SISTERS. Her book, PAIGE, came out recently as the third volume in the Newport Ladies Book Club series.

Me:  I want to know what you wrote on your mother’s typewriter when you were in second grade and if you still have it. Also, was your mother a writer? Is that why she had a typewriter?

Annette:  My first attempts at writing were inspired by Beverly Cleary’s The Mouse and the Motorcycle, so I typed up things like Mean Marvin the Mouse (second grade) and Raymond’s Runaways (third grade). The latter was about a group of mistreated hamsters trying to escape their horrid owner. Alas, I don’t have either anymore.

Mom has always been an avid scholar of the scriptures, and she used the typewriter to record her studies. (Me: A woman after my own heart!) She had a bookshelf beside the desk, filled with three-ring binders, all with scripture stuff inside. I remember when she upgraded to a fancy typewriter that beeped if you spelled something wrong and even had a mini computer memory so you could type faster than the keys moved. I loved writing a sentence fast then sitting back to watch the keys finish after I did. That was seriously cool.

(I’ll say!)

Me:  In what way is writing therapeutic for you? And in what way is it stressful?

Annette:  Writing has always been a dream and passion of mine, but I didn’t realize how therapeutic it is to me until, during my years with small children at home (and before I got published), I decided I was just too busy to write. I took two months off, and my life pretty much fell apart. Then I took about 20 minutes 2 days in a row to write–less than an episode of “Sesame Street” all together–and the entire cyclone calmed right down. That’s when I realized that I couldn’t wait until my children were grown to write–I had to do it while they were young for their sakes. I’m a more balanced mother and just more me when I’m writing.

The stressful parts come in largely on the business end and in trying to keep it all in balance with family. Among the stresses: rejection (still get those), deadlines (as happy as you are to get a book out, the deadlines can be killer), the constant treadmill of promotion, worry over reviews, and so on. (Me: I hear you there!) My current stress (although it’s a blessing too) is that I do so much freelance editing that I have a hard time finding a chance to work on my own stuff.

A different stress was when I went through two or three years of a personal writer identity crisis, which I never expected to. It was a troubling period–very hard and very dark; I felt I’d lost a part of myself. But I kept trying to walk through it, and eventually, I came out. Or, I think I’m out. (Me: You’re out, Annette! Come on, you won the Whitney! How can you doubt yourself?) The whole writer psyche is a funky thing sometimes.

(True.)

Me:  Tell me about your children. Have you put any of them, or your husband, into your fiction, and, if so, did it bother them?

Annette:  I have four children: a boy followed by three girls. They’re at such fun ages right now–becoming their own people who love to talk and discuss ideas, who have their own dreams and hopes and fears. They’re also starting to understand what Mom does. (NOT just type a lot, but write actual books with stories!) It helps when they have friends who’ve read my books–it’s as if that’s when Mom’s books are suddenly real. (Me: I hear you there!)

I’ve never put any of my children–or my husband–into a book, maybe because my characters usually show up almost fully formed. The one time I attempted to loosely base a character on someone real (not a family member), the character came up with her own identity. She ended up hardly resembling the original model anyway.

Me:  If you had to give up Facebook or Twitter, which would it be and why?

Annette:  I love both, but if I had to give one up, it would be Twitter. Facebook is how I stay connected with a lot of people I care about who aren’t on Twitter and probably never will be. At times, Twitter is more fun–the banter, the hash tags, the news, the industry links–but it’s somewhat more about my professional side. Facebook is where I can see what my nieces and nephews are doing, check in with aunts and uncles, drop notes about things my kids say, and keep in touch with old friends.

Me:  How is the sequel to your award-winning novel, BAND OF SISTERS, coming along? And are you still keeping it in a woman’s point of view or has one of the returning husbands become your main character?

Annette:  The sequel will be on shelves in January. The revisions are done, and I should be getting edits back any day now. It’ll be called BAND OF SISTERS: COMING HOME. I decided to keep the same format I used in the first book, which went between the five different wives’ points of view, because each of them has different challenges to face when the soldiers come home. It worked in the first one, and I hope it works in the sequel!

(I’m sure it will. Loved the first one.)

Me:  Having just released PAIGE in the Newport Ladies Book Club series (with fellow authors Julie Wright, Josi Kilpack, and Heather Moore), what’s next for you in that series?

Annette:  We’re in the process of getting the next set of Newport Ladies books finished up and turned in. These ones will focus on the next four months after the first set ends, and will feature the other four women in the club, who were mostly cameos in the first set: Shannon, Tori, Ruby, and Ilana (which I’m writing). If all goes well, we should see the first one of those come out in the spring.

(Terrific!)

Me:  Tell me what you were like as a teenager at Timpview High, and which teacher there had the most impact on you. (I’d love a picture, but I’ll understand if you refuse.)

(Fortunately, she didn’t . . . Here’s one from her graduation. I’m sure you’ll recognize her in the middle.)

Annette:  The first part of high school, I was really shy and introverted. Then I made some friends who essentially ripped my shell open, something I’m eternally grateful for. I was the straight-laced kid, which means I was probably boring. I never skipped class. I got good grades. The time I stayed out the latest past curfew was with permission, and it was spent watching a video of Hamlet. (SO rebellious!) I was part of the choir, drill team, literary journal staff, Russian club, and honors society. Because even then I was a nerd. (Me: All the best people were.)

I had a fantastic high-school education; several teachers had a profound effect on me. The one who made the biggest impact is easy: Miss Drummond, who I had for English for both my sophomore and senior years. She’s the person who first made grammar and punctuation accessible. She explained it so the rules made sense. She taught me how to write; I had no idea how well she’d prepared me for writing in college until I got there and realized I was way ahead of my peers. On top of all that, she had a great way of looking at literature. The only boring days in her class were when she was forced to have this awful student teacher.

(Doesn’t everyone have an awful student teacher experience?)

Me:  I’ve got to know about your office or writing space. Please describe the best and worst parts about it (and provide a picture). Also, any secret hiding places there for chocolate?

Annette:

Best parts: It’s a devoted spot for my work, and it has a DOOR. Not that either prevents interruption, but it’s a nice thought. I love the built-in shelves my husband made, and the wood floor (okay, fake wood, but it’s so pretty!). I have an extra chair that my kids use all the time. They come in to hang out, talk about their day, or unload whatever is on their minds. No way will I take that chair out.

The worst part is that my office tends to be the kids’ dumping ground. It’s perpetually cluttered with school notes, dishes, homework, toys, bobby pins (can you tell I have teenage girls?), and even clothing they’ve dropped along the way. (Me: Clutter? I don’t see any clutter in this picture. She must have cleaned up.) But I guess that means they’re comfortable there and know they can interrupt Mom whenever they need to. One day, I’ll probably miss their messes.

(Here’s a look at those built-in shelves.)

I used to hide chocolate in the bottom left cupboard of my desk. (Gulp! How weird. I hide mine in the bottom left drawer. Is chocolate a leftist snack?) The kids know me so well that they eventually found it. I still keep treats there sometimes, but I’m under no delusion that it’s hidden. (Alas.) Lately, it’s been healthier snacks.

Me:  Finally, when and why did you help found The Utah Chocolate Show, and where in the world can you get the BEST chocolate, in your opinion?

Annette:  The Utah Chocolate Show was my older sister Mel’s idea. She used to both cater and produce events, but she always enjoyed the production end more than the catering side. Back in 2003 when she was moving up to Utah from Arizona, she pondered what would be the most enjoyable event to produce. By the time she reached Provo, she’d come up with an expo show about all things chocolate. She gathered me and our younger sister, Michelle, around our parents’ kitchen counter and told us the idea. We pulled off the first show the fall of 2004.

(Okay. I’ve finally found a reason to move to Utah.)

At first, my role was supposed to just be the writer–web copy, press releases, and the like. But producing a show of that size was so much bigger than any of us had anticipated–shows are usually created by corporations, not three sisters. Next thing I knew, I was assistant director, working with sales and marketing, making executive decisions, handling contracts, going to a TV station to discuss commercials and air time and so much more. I even did my first TV spots.

After a few years of the show, I was so busy that I knew something in my life had to go. It couldn’t be my family, and it couldn’t be my writing. So I stepped back from the show, and by then others were around to fill in. A year or two later, my sister sold the show to another company, and they promptly dropped the ball. As a result, the show doesn’t exist anymore, which is really sad. (There goes my reason to move to Utah. Oh, well.) It was a fun experience that I learned a ton from.

One fun thing I learned is that Amano is the best chocolate company based in Utah, and one of the few anywhere (the only one west of the Mississippi) that makes chocolate directly from the cacao bean themselves. (Most small companies take chocolate made by another company and use that for their own products.) Amano has won a ton of big-time chocolate awards. Theirs isn’t chocolate you inhale and eat tons of; a savored bite or two is plenty.

But my all-time favorite is Finnish chocolate, specifically the Fazer Blue, which (of course) has a blue wrapper. MMMMmmmmm.

And on that note, I encourage you all to check out Annette’s website and blog, while I go have a bite of . . . what else? . . . CHOCOLATE!

Originally posted 2012-09-14 06:00:31.

Contest Author Interview – Cindy Hogan

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

I’ll have to admit up front that this was my toughest interview. Why? Because Cindy doesn’t have anything about herself on her blog. Either she’s old-fashioned and doesn’t believe in bragging . . . or . . . she’s just too busy. Personally, I think it’s more the latter, topped off with a touch of humility. Anyway, I had to research other interviews to even get an idea of what makes this terrific indie writer tick. She’s definitely into suspense and, as you know, I LOVE suspense! (Why do you think I have a whole article about it in my menu?) Let’s stop the suspense for now and get to know her a little better, shall we?

Me:  You and I have something in common besides writing. As children, we both wanted to be archaeologists. I had to pick up a lot of dried sheep droppings before I found something of value on a tel outside Baghdad. How about you? Did you ever find anything ancient? And has your interest in history carried over into your writing?

Cindy:  I used to dig in my parents’ back yard and found a ton of stuff buried under the old pine trees: bottle caps, bottles, keys, unknown metal objects, bags that used to have the family pet in them (not ours, luckily) and bottle openers. Once I even found some money. I cherished all my treasures and made up stories about the people that lost them. I did find some animal bones a couple of times, but never found out what animal they came from. The hunt for something more is all over in my writing. Discovery always plays a role. One day, I will be writing a suspense novel with archaeology in it for sure.

Me:  I get the idea you’ve traveled a lot. Tell us about your most favorite and least favorite vacations.

Cindy:  You might think I’d say my adventures to Europe, but actually, my favorite vacation ever was in the good old USA. My hubby and I stayed in Tuscon at the Sheraton Conquistador resort. (Me: Nice!) It was more than amazing. I could walk straight out to the pool from our room and order whatever I liked poolside. I read and read and read.

(Heaven!!!)

The worst was a trip to New York. We planned to go for a day (My husband loves to do that), so we caught the red eye. Unfortunately, I can’t sleep on planes. My husband snores away. We went to a fun café, T-bones, for breakfast and then explored the city. I was so tired and beat by the time we flew home that I got totally sick on the plane and barfed all over in the bathroom. That was the worst.

(I can only imagine. Three days in NYC wore me out.)

Me:  You’ve lived in the southeast and the northwest. What are the biggest differences between the two areas, and where do you tend to set your stories?

Cindy:  The south is muggy and hot and outdoor activities are brutal. In the summer it’s too hot and in the winter it’s too cold. It’s a cold and a heat that goes right through you. Not my favorite place because I love the outdoors. There are too many awful bugs there, too.

I loved Oregon but in the end, I need four seasons and Utah is the place for that.

A novel I’m working on right now is set in the south and the first book in my new series is set in Oregon. The second book in this new series is set right here in Utah. I also have plans for one in New York and one in Germany. So many stories to tell and so little time.

(I knew she had the travel bug! Even in fiction. Here’s a look at the first in her “Watched” series, which is being offered as a prize for my contest:)

Me:  What would be the top three books on your Suspense list (besides your own)?

Cindy:  Crud. I hate this question. (Me: Oops, sorry.) I read so many books, it’s hard to pick favorites. I did just listen to THE REMBRANDT AFFAIR by Daniel Silva and really liked that.

(Hmm. I’ll have to check that out.)

Me:  Is your life as fast-paced as your fiction and why or why not?

Cindy:  This past year has been a whirlwind for sure. I’ve always had my hands in multiple things at one time. I don’t slow down often, but sometimes I have to. I like to be busy. I start my day at five and end it around eleven. There’s no time for TV or playing around these days. I’m either writing, reading, or critiquing.

Me:  Please describe your writing space (and provide a picture, if possible).

Cindy:  My writing space is perfect for me. I’m surrounded by windows so there’s no chance of claustrophobia setting in.

(We got lucky. She provided two pictures. The first, I suppose, as her desk looks before she sits down, and the second after she’s turned on her computer. Am I the only one curious about what is in that glass dish to the right of the monitor? It looks like bags of something.)

Me:  What exactly is in your big writing bag and why does your husband hate it? (I’d love a picture of that, too.)

Cindy:  Everything is in my writing bag. You’d be surprised at what I can stuff in there. Feel privileged, not everyone gets a sneak peek. :D 

My husband hates it because it is so darn huge.

Chapstick, pens, pencils, notebooks, loose paper, stapler, tissues, meds, gum, laptop, Nook, ward calling list, 2 calendar books, newsletter sign-up, sunglasses, lotion, sanitizer, bookmarks, sunscreen, iPod, headphones, digital recorder, jump drives, band-aids, mirror, glue stick, sticky notes, cell phone, keys, wallet, pictures, folders, and other miscellaneous spy items that if I disclosed would put us all in danger.

(Okay, then. But glue stick, really?)

Me:  Finally, what are the most important characteristics for writers who want to be successful going the indie route like you?

Cindy:  Hard-working, friendly, curious, and flexible.

And there you have it. The keys to success in indie publishing.

(I should have asked her what kind of daily exercise regimen she goes through to keep strong enough to carry around that bag. No wonder she got sick in NYC! Can you imagine what the TSA people thought of that bag when they screened it at the airport?)

Originally posted 2012-09-12 06:00:28.

Contest Author Interview – Ali Cross

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

The award-winning Ali Cross writes YA and middle grade fiction and is best known for her YA paranormal Desolation series. On top of that, she’s one of the “Indelibles”–a group of indie authors who write middle grade and young adult fiction–not to mention a member of the new LDSIndieAuthors group (to which I also belong). I think you’ll notice her independent streak pretty quickly in my interview. :D

Me:  Okay, a Royal Canadian Mountie I can understand, even a pilot, but you wanted to be Prime Minister of Canada? Seriously? What would be the first law you’d try to pass as PM?

Ali:  You’re assuming I remember anything past last week. Sometimes I feel like I lived my life as different people and their memories are not always my own. Like a dream you only vaguely remember when you wake up but when you try to tell someone about it, you realize you don’t remember anything at all.

I do remember that I was very passionate about Native Canadian rights and probably would have wanted to work on improving their lives and their assimilation into Canadian society and workplaces.

(Good answer! Have you done beauty pageants or something?)

Me:  Tell me about the family you grew up in and how it encouraged (or discouraged) your creative tendencies.

Ali:  I was definitely an “accident” baby, so I was eight, ten, twelve and fifteen years younger than my siblings. My parents divorced when I was four, putting my sister (eight years older) in charge of me. I remember her better than I remember my mom.

There was a lot of ugliness in my childhood. Sexual abuse from both inside and outside the home, violence, poverty.

To escape my world, I read a lot of books (Anne McCaffrey and Lloyd Alexander come to mind) and wrote dark, angsty poetry.

Writing was always just a means of coping for me, never an ambition.

My siblings mostly thought I was a dreamer (which I was) and wouldn’t amount to much (I wanted to prove them wrong), but they’ve all been very supportive of my now that we’re all grown up.

Me:  So what is with the whole Ninja stuff?

Ali:  I have had a thing for the martial arts for as long as I can remember. I’ve watched every martial arts film I could get my hands on (and there are a lot!). For the longest time I wanted to grow up to be just like Cynthia Rothrock (except, maybe a better actress). 

(Okay, this is new territory for me so I had to look her up. She’s an American martial artist and actress, specializing in martial arts films. Here’s what she looks like. Can’t you just see Ali doing this pose?)

But martial arts are hard and it was always too easy to quit. So I always did before I achieved much of anything.

Fast forward to my life as a mom and I find myself married to a guy who loves the martial arts as much as I do. We enrolled our boys in karate as soon as they were old enough, and we also joined.

However, I have Fibromyalgia (Me: Ouch! I know what that is.) and I soon discovered that my body couldn’t handle the sport. I can’t tell you how badly I wanted to earn my black belt, but I was just in too much constant pain.

One night I cried to my husband about how sad I was to have let myself down on the karate thing. I wanted to be a black belt more than anything. *Darn my body!!!* But my husband loves me and is kind and pretty darn brilliant. He talked me through what it meant to me to be a black belt (to be committed, dedicated, to be exceptional at something, to do something hard, to prove to myself that I can be amazing at something).

And then he said, “Sunny (that’s what he calls me), you already are a black belt.”

To which I replied, “Wha???” (I’m a brilliant orator when I want to be.)

Then he talked me through all the things in my life where I have achieved “Black Belt Excellence”–and at the top, was my blogging and writing life.

Simultaneously, I’d been searching for my own “brand,” a way to stand out amongst the sea of blogs, and so . . . the dojo and my ninja alter ego were born!

(What an inspired husband!)

Me:  Did singing opera have an impact on your fiction in any way?

Ali:  Absolutely, 100%! I tend to write my stories very much like operas–a lot of drama, angst, and tragedy.

Opera taught me how to work hard at one thing for a very long time–for instance, I would work on 3 to 6 pieces of music a year. That’s hundreds of hours of practice on just a handful of arias. Long after I thought I had the music “perfect” we were still working on it. That kind of dedication to detail and perfection has taught me how to be persistent and dedicated in my writing.

So from rich and colorful characters to dedication to the details, opera has impacted my fiction writing on every possible level.

(Bravissima!)

Me:  What color is your hair really?

Ali:  LOL! Um, that would be brown.

I’m sad that I had to go back to boring brown when my husband lost his job last April. Not to say that brown is bad, but for me, my hair has come to represent a standard or something. A statement about how I feel about myself and what I hope for myself.

On Monday I’m getting my brown roots touched up, but I’m having her add back in a streak of red–maybe that’ll be enough to help me feel like I’m really me while not breaking the bank. :D (She wanted a smiley face there, but that was the best I could do.)

By the way, I changed my name, too. So between my name and my hair, I’ve created myself just as surely as I’ve created any of my characters.

Me:  Please describe your writing process from the germ of an idea to the finished product.

Ali:  Whoa! You’re not asking for much here, are ya? My heart does this little skip thing and my palms get damp just thinking about answering this! What if I get it wrong? What if I don’t sound intelligent? Because my writing process is kind of visceral and not terribly well thought out. But . . . I’ll give it a go.

Usually I come up with an idea–just a thought or a one-liner. Like, BECOME, was literally, “What if the devil’s daughter wanted to be good?” Then my husband and I will play the What If game . . . until I have a story fleshed out.

I’ll usually write a one- to three-page synopsis based on what we “discovered.”

Usually, I’ll just dive in and start drafting until I get to about fifty pages–then I stop and “beat it out” á la “Save the Cat” by Blake Snyder.

I’ll keep drafting, without stopping to edit or correct, until the book is done. Usually, I can accomplish all of this in four to six weeks.

From there, I begin the revision process–first I start with a basic read through, taking notes as I go with questions I need answered, spots where I need to fill in more, etcetera.

I’ll make those changes, then read through again, this time usually for voice. Do I stay consistent throughout? Can I choose better words? Build better sentences?

Then I’ll do a read-through for setting. I tend to be more emotional in my writing, without paying much attention to the outside details–so I need a revision pass just for that.

Then it’s off to beta readers, back for another revision, then off to my editor!

(Sounds very well thought out to me!)

Me:  Where do you see the future of publishing going and how does indie publishing fit in?

Ali:  Wow, that’s a good question. This will be the first time I’ve actually said what I think in a public forum–I tend to keep my opinions pretty much to myself.

I think we can all agree that publishing is changing. I think indie publishing will continue to grow and will gain more respect as more excellent and well-prepared authors publish that way. I think more authors will be “dually published”–straddling both the traditional and the independent.

I would like to see a publishing world where independent authors are as well respected as the traditionally published, and are judged on the merit of their books alone–not how they came to be.

(Well said.)

Me:  I love writing spaces and can only imagine that yours must be wild. What’s the wildest thing about yours and is it closer to heaven, earth, or hell? (Oh, and I’d love a picture to share with my readers.)

Ali:  My writing space is not wild at all, LOL! I think the only thing that sets me apart from a lot of writers is that I prefer to write during the daytime, and love to see the sun shine in through my window!

And my space is definitely closer to Heaven. :D

(She’s right. It is. And look how organized she is. Boy, was I wrong!)

Me:  Finally, what is the most ninja thing your cat ever did? (I’d love a picture of the cat, too.)

Ali:  Oh my poor cat. She’s a lot like me. You can tell she wants to be an amazing, awesome ninja cat, but the truth is that she’s a big ol’ fraidy-cat!

The most ninja thing she does is move at the speed of a bullet so it’s impossible to catch her in the act of either ninja-awesomeness or fraidy-cat glory. So, sadly, no pics of her and her mad cat skills.

(Aw, well. I can’t have everything.)

Still, I’d be amazed if you didn’t learn something new about Ali in this interview. In fact, I can tell I’m going to have to interview her again some time because this lady is fascinating! Don’t forget to check out her website and blog for more information.

She’s offering a few copies of both BECOME and DESOLATE as prizes in my contest, so comment here and earn another entry.

Originally posted 2012-09-10 06:00:14.