“Wednesday Writer” – Daron Fraley

Daron has so many interests that it’s hard to know where to begin. While he says his favorite things are teaching and writing (besides his family), he also loves computers, cooking, fishing, camping, music, art, the sciences, and especially religion.

However, I must say that the most impressive thing I read in his bio was that he once fixed a gas clothes dryer using photocopier parts! Talk about a handy, “Renaissance Man.” Let’s delve a bit deeper into this Wyoming-born writer.

Daron Fraley author

ME:  You say you don’t consider yourself a cowboy even though you grew up in Wyoming. Why not? What is a cowboy, anyway, and how are you not that kind of person? (Must have a picture of you as a small boy, with or without cowboy gear.)

DARON:  I’ve known some great cowboys in my time. And most of them are admirable people… good hard-working people. Some of my following descriptions are stereotypes, but true stereotypes nonetheless from my experience growing up in Wyoming.

Cowboys may have:

Boots. Sometimes plain leather work boots, and sometimes the fancy ones made of alligator skin or snake-skin.

A farmer’s tan.

A piece of straw in their teeth that they continually chew on.

A worn-out ring in their back pocket from carrying a can of snuff or chew.

Country music blaring in the cab of their rusted out pickup truck that’s been dented from hitting fence posts and farm equipment.

A bow-legged swagger from spending too many hours herding.

I’ve got none of that. Therefore, I’m not a true cowboy.

Daron_as_a_little_boy(And here’s the little boy picture to prove it. No trace of boots or snuff. Not even a tan.)

ME:  Okay, I’ll buy that. So which came first for you–writing, cooking, or computers? And how old were you when you tried your hand at each? (I’d really like a picture of you engaged in each of these activities…please.)

DARON:  Writing and cooking and computers happened at about the same time. I had my first computer programming class in high school, at the same time that I had creative writing. I discovered that I loved to write. I entered a contest at a community college young authors day, and took 2nd place in my genre. Every summer I worked at the Irma Hotel, there in Cody, Wyoming. First year as a bus-boy, second and third washing dishes, and then I spent my Senior year, spring and summer months as a line-cook. I really enjoyed that!

(You mentioned that you wanted pictures of me writing, cooking, or working on computers. How about one of me fishing! In my hat! In the Henry’s Fork wilderness area below Kings Peak?)

(That will do nicely.)

Daron_fishing

(Hmm…kind of has that cowboy tan, doesn’t he? Too bad we can’t see his back pocket.)

ME:  Did your two years as a missionary in France do more for your writing or your cooking, and how? (I’d love a picture from your mission.)

DARON:  I didn’t do much writing as a missionary. But my fellow Elders loved the fact that I could cook. :D (I’ll bet!)

Daron_missionary(Il était beau, n’est ce pas?)

ME:  Okay, I hate to keep harping about cowboys, but it seems to me that they’re simply rugged independent loner types, and doesn’t that fit with you since you’re taking the independent route to publishing?

DARON:  Sure. You can call me a cowboy author if you want. Not the kind that writes cowboy stories or poetry, but the kind that goes out and does his own thing out of pure stubbornness.

(Ornery, ain’t he?)

ME:  Let’s talk about LDS Indie Authors, a group you had a hand in getting going. What is its purpose and why is it needed? (Full disclosure: I’m a kind of lurking member, afraid to chime in because of my relative inexperience, but grateful for all the tips.)

DARON:  Authors have been excited about all the great opportunities available to them through the many venues of self-publishing for quite a few years now. I’m a member of LDStorymakers, and I started a discussion one day about how best to serve those who would choose to self-publish. The focus of Storymakers as an authors guild has been to assist writers on their path to publication with either publishing agents or directly with the editors of publishing houses, and then help them with all things pertaining to traditional publishing, including understanding contracts.

As a group, they felt there are enough differences between the publishing methods that a new group would better serve the need of self-publishing authors. Rachel Nunes was part of that discussion, and so when Liz Adair suggested we just do a new group, Rachel took the bull by the horns (note the cowboy motif) (Atta boy!), and started the list. I joined right away.

Why is it needed? Self-publishing is here to stay. And having been published both traditionally, and by self-publishing, I can attest to the fact that in many ways the processes are very different.

Authors want to produce a quality product. If you don’t have a publishing house with content editors, line editors, typesetters, cover designers, marketing professionals, etc., then you have to do all of that work on your own… preferably by acting more as a general contractor, and hiring experienced free-lancers to help you in the areas where you either don’t have the skills, or where it wouldn’t be wise to do it on your own. EVERYBODY needs an editor.

(AMEN! My dad didn’t believe it and asked me to do a post-publication edit of his latest self-published book. After he saw all the marks in the first five chapters, he saw the light.)

LDS Indie Authors provides a forum for authors to help each other to produce the best self-published product possible.

(And it’s well worth it!)

ME:  What changes do you think the Publishing Industry will go through in the next five years?

DARON:  Traditional publishing will probably shrink and consolidate, but it won’t disappear. They will start to offer other ways to publish with them… in fact, some already have made that change. And it’s looking like self-publishing is the new slush-pile. Great stories that make a splash with readers are getting noticed by traditional publishing houses. I look for that trend to increase.

Other than that, I really wish that ebook formats would become more standardized. It would be great if we could produce just one format and have every ebook reader be able to use it. But it probably won’t happen. Besides, a little competition between device manufacturers is a good thing. It keeps them at the top of their game.

ME:  What led you to become an author and why do you write religious science fiction and fantasy? What are you working on now?

DARON:  I felt driven to write. I don’t know how else to explain it. And as far as why I write religious speculative fiction… it’s because I want to write stories that have the ability to inspire. Many genres can do that, but I have the flexibility to talk about God and miracles if I wish.

To be very frank, I believe the stories in the scriptures. Even the fantastic stories from the Old Testament. I believe they really happened. I believe we live in a day when we will see those kinds of miracles again. I hope my stories will help readers to see that the scriptures are full of truth.

(Uh-oh…He forgot to tell us what he’s working on now. Or maybe it’s a secret.)

ME:  Tell us about your writing space (and please provide a picture) in the voice of Pekah from your first book, THE THORN: Book 1 of The Chronicles of Gan.

Thorn_front-cover_medium-200x300DARON: (as Pekah)

My desk is simple, and far too cluttered for my tastes. But I have other pressing matters to attend to, so the cleaning will have to wait for another day. I do have a second sheet of… I will call it light-paper… that is similar to my glow-stone, except that it has words written upon it. Like the light-paper which allows me to write my stories, the second larger one permits me to research the histories of ancient peoples so that I might use their legends to bring my tales to life. Course’ I also got me some Jack Link’s Beef Jerky right handy, in case I get a hungered. (Sorry… Cowboy Joe slipped in there.)

(LOVE IT!)

Daron_workdesk

(Ah, the light-paper…in two sizes! I spy the jerky, too.)

ME:  Tell us about your writing journey so far and what it’s taught you about the world and about yourself.

DARON:  My writing journey has been hard at times. My first publishing experience was not a very pleasant one. But I made some great friends, and gained some ardent supporters. They kept me going when I wanted to throw in the towel. That experience was invaluable in showing me the ropes of what editing, typesetting, design, printing, distribution, marketing, etc. was all about.

Over the past several years I have come to realize that the world needs books. Stories are powerful. They change lives. They educate. They cause people to have hope, to have their own dreams, and to work hard for things they believe in. I have also discovered that the scriptures are stories. Beautiful stories of how a loving God interacts with his children. Stories of people overcoming huge obstacles and finding happiness in this life.

I want my story to be like that. I hope the same for everyone.

One last thing… I included a bonus picture. And I’m not telling you what this is… You’ll have to read THIRTY-SIX. :D

(The mark of a true independent writer…always marketing! I’ve got your book, Daron, and promise to read it after I’m done with prior commitments. After all, I need to understand all the pictures I post here.)

Thirty-Six_bonus_picture(Curious bonus picture…click on pic for larger view.)

Okay, now that he’s hooked us all, you might want to check out Daron’s official website, or, better yet, his Thirty-Six website for more information on the series. Here’s a quick synopsis of the story in book 1:

When Aaron Cohen buys a souvenir from an antiques store in Lyon, France, and then sees the police raid the store right after he leaves, he has no idea that this is only the beginning of his troubles.

Back home in Chicago, Aaron is stalked by an old man from the antiques store. Mandie, a single mother in his apartment complex, has asked that they just be friends, but Aaron can’t help developing strong feelings for her, especially now that she is being harassed by her abusive ex-husband. And in the midst of all his emotional turmoil, the souvenir he purchased turns out to be an ancient holy relic that triggers shared dreams and prophetic visions.

A mysterious dream shared with a jewel smuggler whose arrest makes the nightly news. A nightmare of horrifying tornadoes shared with Ethan, Mandie’s eight-year-old son. A dream shared with Mandie that shows Aaron her true feelings for him.

And visions . . .

Visions of historical events, centuries in the past. Visions of the Lamed Vovniks. Visions of dangerous possibilities to come.

And if Aaron doesn’t get to her in time, Mandie will die.

Intriguing, eh?

Come back next week for my interview with C. Michelle Jefferies!

C Michelle Jefferies author pic2

Originally posted 2013-01-02 06:00:12.

“Wednesday Writer” – David Farland

I’m interviewing David Farland this week as part of a blog tour featuring his new YA fantasy novel, NIGHTINGALE.

First, a bit about the book and its author:

The multi-award winning novel, NIGHTINGALE, by best-selling author, David Farland, is available in hardback, ebook, and now in a special iPad enhanced version. This young-adult fantasy novel has already been turning heads.

Grand Prize Winner of the Hollywood Book Festival, placed first in all genres, all categories. 

Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Best Young Adult Novel of the Year!

Finalist in the Global Ebook Awards.

Some people sing at night to drive back the darkness.  Others sing to summon it. . . .

Bron Jones was abandoned at birth. Thrown into foster care, he was rejected by one family after another, until he met Olivia, a gifted and devoted high-school teacher who recognized him for what he really was–what her people call a “nightingale.”

But Bron isn’t ready to learn the truth. There are secrets that have been hidden from mankind for hundreds of thousands of years, secrets that should remain hidden. Some things are too dangerous to know.  Bron’s secret may be the most dangerous of all.

In his remarkable young adult fantasy debut, David Farland shows why critics have called his work “compelling,” “engrossing,” “powerful,” “profound,” and “ultimately life-changing.”

“Superb worldbuilding, strong characters, and Dave’s characteristic excellent prose.” – (Brandon Sanderson, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author)

“A wonderful tale of a young man trying to find his humanity, even though he’s not quite human.  One of Farland’s very best!” – (#1 International Bestseller, Kevin J. Anderson)

The enhanced version creates an amazing reading experience complete with illustrations from several talented artists and a sample of a soundtrack that coincides with the story. Published by East India Press, a publishing company that takes e-books in a whole new direction with enhanced multimedia–soundtracks, movie clips, author interviews and more.

Farland has plans for three more books in the series: Dream Assassin, Draghoul, and Shadow Lord.

Now, let’s get to know the author a little better.

Me:  Do you recall any details about the first story you ever wrote, or at least the earliest one you can remember?

Dave:  Of course. It was called The Island of the Lost Dinosaur. I wrote it when I was five. I even drew a picture of the island and the dinosaur. I think that just about every child will do that. I also think that a disproportionate number of those stories are about lost dinosaurs. In my case, the entire title was inappropriate, since it wasn’t the dinosaur that was lost, but the island. Although, one could maintain that if the island is lost, then the dinosaur is, too. (True.) My mother just couldn’t quite understand my logic on that one.

Here is a picture of the budding author at age five, in his larvael pre-sentient state (Doesn’t that sound just like a science fiction/fantasy writer? :D), shortly before attempting his first story, a literary flop that even a mother couldn’t love.

(See those cheekbones? He hasn’t changed a bit.)

Me:  Where did you grow up and what was it about your childhood that most affected your fiction?

Dave:  I grew up in Oregon, in a little town called Monroe, population about 300 (each sign on different ends of the town had varying numbers). We had a nice river that ran near our home, 32 acres of fields and streams, and if you wanted, you could take off hiking up the creek and not cross a road for days as you traveled into forests of Douglas fir. We had lots of wildlife near our farm–deer, pheasants, ducks, cougars, beaver, and so on.

So I fell in love with nature when I was young. If you read my fiction looking for big, beautiful cities, you won’t find them.

(Okay, does anyone else feel like camping now? I do, and I don’t usually like to camp!)

Me:  Science fiction, as opposed to fantasy, generally requires a rudimentary understanding of the way the universe works, and it certainly requires a visionary kind of mindset. What kind of background, in terms of both education and books read, gave you the wherewithal to attempt science fiction from the outset?

Dave:  As a child, I only read science texts. I ran through all of our local libraries by the time  that I was about twelve. I didn’t read fiction at all, until I was forced to at about the age of thirteen.

As a teen, I wrote my first book–a text on the mustiledae family of mammals (weasels, minks, and so on). I followed it that same year with a book on the history of the development of nuclear weaponry in the United States. I also studied oceanography and forestry. That naturally led to a love for the biological sciences, including medicine, and most of my stories revolve around ideas that deal with biology in one way or another.

The first science fiction novel that I read felt rather like an Aesop’s fable–a little heavy on the moralization. From it, though, I recognized that fiction could have some intellectual value, and I began to read a little of it. I didn’t really learn to love science fiction, though, until I read Dune(Hear, hear!) Between that, Star Wars and a few other choice novels, I began really getting interested in science fiction.

But as I said, when I was young, I loved science. Once, when I was a child of about eight or nine, a neighbor asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I knew that our genome designated what kind of organism we would be, and I knew that I loved paleontology, so I said, “I want to be a paleo . . . genetic . . . engineer!”

(Talk about precocious!)

“Oh,” she said, “those are very big words. And what do those people do?”

“Build dinosaurs,” I told her. “Of course we can’t do it now, but someday we will.” (You see? He had that visionary thing going even then.)

So I went to college initially and majored in premedical microbiology, with an eye toward research in genetic engineering.

But I kept finding that I wanted to write, and paint. I imagined that I would be a doctor who wrote on the side. Then one day I realized that the desire to write was too strong–so I decided to be a writer who doctored on the side.

Me:  Which is harder? Science fiction or fantasy?

Dave:  They’re the same. Let me put it this way: you learn to write best what you love best. If you love both equally, you’ll write both with the same enthusiasm.

Never convince yourself that writing in an unfamiliar genre is easy. A couple of years ago, I thought that I would “dash off” a historical novel in a few weeks. After all, since it was based on historical accounts, it would be easy, right? That book, In the Company of Angels, was the hardest thing I’ve ever written. (And it’s great! You can take my word for it.) I won an award for it (Whitney Award: Best Novel of the Year), and it did well in sales, but it taught me a lesson. Writing anything well is hard work.

Me:  Where did you set the Guinness Record for the world’s largest book signing and for what book? And how surprised were you at the turnout? (If you happen to have a picture from that event, I’d love to post it.)

Dave:  I wrote a comic science fiction novel called A Very Strange Trip back in 1999. It was based on a screenplay by L. Ron Hubbard, and involved a moonshiner from West Virginia who has to carry a time machine across the country. The problem is, every time his truck hits a bump, the machine goes off. On his first stop, he goes back in time and meets up with a beautiful Cherokee squaw, and they keep moving further back with each trip.

Since my grandfather was a moonshiner from West Virginia, and since my grandmother was Cherokee, and since I loved paleontology, I thought it would be a hoot write. (And it sounds like a hoot to read, too.)

In any case, my publisher held a huge party down in Hollywood, with movie stars, a band, and free root beer floats. There are a lot of Scientologists in the area, so I wasn’t at all surprised that we drew a nice crowd. 

I’m thinking that next time, we’ll just use beer in the floats. That will bring in the crowds!

(Dave is the little bald guy in the center, slaving under the hot lights while thousands line up for the book signing on July 3, 1999. Note: His description, not mine. If you click on the picture, you can see a slightly larger version and make out Dave in the middle.)

Me:  Do you have plans to try any more historical fiction like IN THE COMPANY OF ANGELS?

Dave:  I don’t know. I’m fascinated by history, and I think I’d like to write another. I have an ancestor, a German boy of 12 named George Johann Wunderlicht, who was sold into slavery back in the 1700s. I’ve often thought that his family saga was worth a novel. George worked for a ship’s captain, and there is speculation that the captain became a privateer for a while, and then went to Africa to transport slaves. Though, as a Quaker, George was committed to a life of nonviolence, it’s said that he went to battle in the Civil War, even though he was in his 80s, and got shot something like three days after enlistment. So he died to help put an end to slavery. (You’re right. That would make for a fascinating story.)

I’ve often felt that a book about his life would be a great memorial, but there’s so little that I know, it would have to be more fiction than fact. (And, speaking for readers, I think we’d be okay with that.)

Me:  Tell us about your new publishing company and your current novel, NIGHTINGALE.

Dave:  East India Press is a company that I started with Miles Romney, a cousin to Mitt Romney. We hope to publish novels in multiple formats: as hardcovers, audiobooks, e-books, and most importantly as enhanced novels.

So we’ve put out NIGHTINGALE in each of those formats. Back in 1989, I was hired by IBM to work for a think-tank that would develop novels for reading on the computer. We were too far ahead of our time.

But I’ve been thinking about the possibilities for decades, and with NIGHTINGALE, we wanted to make it an experience. With the enhanced novel, we combined graphics, text, animations, and our own soundtrack with a few other features–such as author interviews.

I think that we’re closing in on what I’d like, but it can be so much better. For example, our soundtrack is really great, but it deserves to be heard in high-fidelity, and most people who read it aren’t going to bother putting on headphones when they’re reading from their iPad.

Still, I think that we created a much more immersive experience for the book.

In any case, NIGHTINGALE is a young adult novel about a young man, Bron Jones, who is abandoned at birth. He’s raised in foster care and kicked from home to home because his families find him to be “too strange.” Finally, at the age of sixteen, he meets a teacher who recognizes that he’s not even human. He’s what she calls a “nightingale,” a member of an ancient species that only looks human.

So Bron begins a remarkable journey to discover where he came from, what he is, and who he is.

(Excuse me a moment while I go order something on my iPad.)

The novel has won four awards so far this year, including the Hollywood Book Festival for Best Book of the Year, and the International Book Award for Best Young Adult Novel of the Year.

(I thought I’d post the cover again in case you’ve forgotten what it looks like.)

Me:  What prompted this particular story? Did this book start with a dream like your first work, On My Way to Paradise, or was it something else?

Dave:  Something else. When I was young, I was well aware that humans and Neanderthals had existed together for hundreds of thousands of years before the Neanderthals became extinct. I used to imagine how cool it would be if we found a tribe of them living in Siberia or the mountains of Tibet.

So that was one idea for a novel. But of course we know now that even a hundred thousand years ago, there were at least four humanoid species living together, and I’ve wondered about some of our lesser-known cousins.

Then there is a strange thing in the New Testament. It tells us that “Wise Men” came to visit Jesus at his birth and that they showered gifts on him. The word used for “wise men” or “wizards” (chakam) probably denoted a caste of court magicians similar to the ones that Moses battled with in Pharaoh’s Court. Most likely, these wise men came searching for the new “King of the Jews” because they were looking for jobs. (Okay, I’ll have to admit I haven’t heard that assumption before. Interesting.)

In any case, one day I got to fantasizing about what they might be. Could it be that they were something more than astrologers and soothsayers? Could they be something outside of humanity, creatures with real super intelligence? And so the ideas for NIGHTINGALE were born.

A couple of years later, I was talking to one of my writing students about how to approach a contemporary fantasy, and realized that I really did want to put this one on the front burner. But I had so many novels to write for the Runelords series, I had to put it on the back. The student–Stephenie Meyer–went on to do well, and I kept thinking, “I really need to get that novel out.” It’s taken a while.

Me:  I have a thing for writer’s spaces or work areas. How would you describe yours and could you provide a picture?

Dave:  My top-secret writing space (Oh, well . . . I guess that means no picture) is an over-stuffed recliner that we keep in a quiet corner of our master bedroom. My advice to writers is: make yourself as comfortable as possible. It makes it easy to write for 14 hours a day if you’re comfortable. So avoid dirty, cramped, uncomfortable, unhealthy, and nasty spaces. Also avoid places with evil vibes, war zones, or places cursed by ancient shamans. (Gotcha! And my office is in my master bedroom, too. Now I just need to talk to my husband about a nice, comfy recliner. :D)

I sometimes go to write in Mexico. I like to greet the dawn on the beach down in Baja, sitting out while the sun rises in shades of pink over the sand. (Hmmm…something else to discuss with my husband.)

Me:  Finally, how on earth do you manage to produce “David Farland’s Daily Kick in the Pants” every day and STILL have time for your own writing?

Dave:  I did it every day, mostly, for the first couple of years. Now I only write the advice column a couple of times a week. Originally, I thought that the column might run for a year or so, and that I would use the ideas for my book on writing. That hasn’t worked out very well. My book, Storytelling as a Fine Art, could probably be finished in a month if I pulled all of my material together. Right now, I have thousands of pages of Daily Kicks.

But the truth is, I enjoy writing the articles, and every so often I look at my ideas for new articles and realize that there is just more that needs to be said.

Well, as you’ve read here, Dave is a veritable fountain of knowledge and I love that he’s so good about sharing all he knows, whether it’s here on blogs like mine or at writers conferences like the one put on each spring by LDStorymakers, or at his own Writer’s Death Camp (which I am bound and determined to attend next year). If the Death Camp isn’t your style, he offers plenty of other workshops, as well.

Besides buying his latest book, I urge you to check out his website where you, too, can sign up to receive his Daily Kick! 

Originally posted 2012-10-24 06:00:11.

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.

Contest Author Interview – Danyelle Ferguson

(NOTE: If you haven’t yet heard about the contest I’m running through September 24th, go here to see the 50 different prizes and entry 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 yet another entry!)

Not only is Danyelle a talented writer, but she’s a brave organizer. Along with her husband, she founded a non-profit organization (more about that later) and is helping the LDStorymakers group better serve more of its members by taking the lead in instituting a second conference in a week and a half, located in the Midwest in a place called Olathe, Kansas (a place I’ve just finished reading about in one of my thrillers–Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood…as it turns out one of the two real-life killers in the book holed up in Olathe before they committed their crimes). But I’ll give my review of that story in a few weeks once my contest is over. Now, on with my interview!

Me:  Tell us about the first article you had published when you were in 6th grade. Do you still have a copy of it?

Danyelle:  I do have a copy of it! My mom saved it in a manila envelope along with other articles about me from the time I was young until I graduated high school.

I was lucky enough to have an incredible 6th grade teacher–Mrs. Seasholtz–who encouraged my love of reading. One book was about a boy named Charlie, the poor crime-filled neighborhood he grew up in, and his relationship with the city sheriff. Rather than write a book report, my teacher suggested I invite our city sheriff to visit our class. I met with the sheriff, then he came to talk to my class about our city, crime, and how we could help with crime prevention. Afterwards, Mrs. Seasholtz sat me down at her computer and had me write my very first newspaper article. She included a picture of me and the sheriff. It was the neatest thing ever to see my article appear in our city newspaper. It made an even bigger impression on me when lots of people started calling, stopped me at the store or in the school hallways to congratulate me and ask more questions about the book or presentation. It definitely hooked me into not only writing, but being brave enough to share what I wrote with others.

(Now that’s the kind of teacher we all want our kids to have, isn’t it?)

Me:  I see that you’ve written everything from poems to short stories, not to mention your nonfiction. Which form of creative writing do you enjoy the most and why? On the other hand, which is the most challenging?

Danyelle:  Short stories are definitely the most challenging. It’s hard to fit in a beginning, middle, and end, as well as character development, in a small limited amount of words! I admire writers who specialize in short stories.

My poetry is very special to me. I only write poems when I’m dealing with really emotional situations. I started writing them when my mom was first diagnosed with cancer then continued through two more diagnoses. When she passed away just after my high school graduation, I wrote one final poem for her and tucked it into her casket. I’m honestly not the best poet – not even a really good one – but it’s the creative expression that fills my mind when life is swirling around me.

Me:  As my book includes a young boy with Asperger’s syndrome, I’m particularly interested in hearing about your oldest son who is autistic. Could you share briefly the journey you and your husband had in discovering and coming to terms with his autism?

Danyelle:  Oh wow. I don’t know how to briefly describe that. =) Actually, we thought our son just had speech delay. Looking back now, we had a rather typical experience. From birth, our son always tested early in all of his childhood developments. He started walking and talking at seven months old. He laughed, played with our friends’ kids. All the normal things you expect from a baby. Then somewhere between 12-18 months, he gradually stopped talking. We talked to our doctor about it, but he said that just happened sometimes and to wait until he was two years old. We took him back when he turned two – at which time he didn’t speak at all. The doctor said to wait another six months and we said no way. So he referred us to the local early intervention center. The center sent out someone to evaluate our son for speech delay. A few days later, they called to ask if they could come back for another visit with one of their specialists. This time after the observation, the specialist asked us if we had ever heard of autism. Neither my husband nor I knew anything about it. Little did we know that question would lead to a life-changing journey for our whole family. We made an appointment for our son to be evaluated at our local Children’s Hospital. He was diagnosed with PDD-NOS. (Me: That stands for Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified…which really doesn’t tell you much.) All of his results came back in the severe range, except for his motor skills, which were incredibly advanced.

During the first four to six months after our son was diagnosed, I couldn’t handle reading anything about autism. I was so overwhelmed, wondering what kind of future my son would have. Instead, I dived into training sessions with our Early Intervention therapist. I attended a parent/child group therapy class twice a week. The parents in the class were incredible, helped me through those rough beginning months, and are still some of my closest friends today. Meeting families who had older kids with special needs, seeing the progress they made, helped me to have hope for my son, as well. In my opinion, coming to terms with autism–or any other special needs–is a lifelong process. We never know what challenges we will need to face as our kids become older, teens, and eventually adults. It takes patience, a commitment to learning new techniques, a sense of humor, and lots of prayer.

(Amen to all of that!)

Me:  How did that journey help to bring about your recent book, (dis)Abilities and the Gospel, co-written with Lynn Parsons?

Danyelle:  During my son’s preschool years, my husband and I were the head of the school’s parent support group. Families often asked me to help them figure out how to help their child attend church or help their church leaders understand and love their child. As I researched on the Internet, I realized there were very few resources available about disabilities and church. Over the following four years, I spent quite a lot of time working with a variety of individuals, families, specialists, and church leaders to create the resources and information found in (dis)Abilities and the Gospel. Four years is a long time to work on just one project. But my son, my friends’ children, and people I met at conferences were a constant reminder of why the book was needed. It was truly an inspiring project to work on.

Me:  Tell us about the non-profit organization you and your husband founded in relation to autism and how my readers might contribute, if they so choose?

Danyelle:  Our son attended a private autism preschool called GIANT Steps. During our time there, my husband, myself and Karen Fairchild (one of the original founders of the school) created a Friends of GIANT Steps (501c3) to raise funds to supplement the school and its curriculum. We have put on sensory-friendly Christmas concerts, benefit concerts, held auctions, and a variety of other fundraisers. Thus far, we’ve been able to add a Kindermusik program (teacher training, equipment and materials) to help the kids with sensory issues and motor skills, bought playground equipment, sent teachers and paras to specialized trainings, and brought in speakers to help parents learn tips for raising their children and developing strong family relationships. Our goal is for the kids to have the best learning experience available and for families to have the resources they need. You can learn more about FOGS or donate through their website.

Me:  My son has Asperger’s and I know it was difficult, at first, for his older sister to deal with the social ramifications. How have your other children responded to your son’s autism?

Danyelle:  My son is our oldest child. So for a long time, our younger kids didn’t think anything about him being different. Even now, for the most part, they just think of him as Isaac and that’s the way he is. But as they have gotten older (3rd grade and above), they have asked more and more questions. We are very open about Isaac’s abilities and quirks. I’ve talked to the munchkins about how sensory issues or comprehension difficulties can frustrate Isaac and signs to look for so they know when to back off and let him decompress. One thing I want my kids to understand is that it’s okay to sometimes feel embarrassed or frustrated by things their brother says or does. It’s a natural human feeling, but I ask them that when they feel that way to remember he’s their brother and they are his best friends. So it’s okay to need a break, but they should always remember that they love him too.

My oldest daughter is especially empathetic to kids who are different from their peers (no matter if it’s a disability, language difference, etc.). She’s also in our school’s gifted program and pretty analytical–a trait she completely gets from her dad. last year for her big project, she chose to write a book about various disabilities, their causes, and spotlight examples of how people who have those disabilities made an impact on their community (whether through work, service, or challenges they overcame). I was impressed with how she took a personal challenge and turned it into a way to learn, grow, and find positive uplifting outcomes too.

(Sounds like her mother too, right?)

Me:  As I’ve noted before, I’m curious about authors’ writing spaces. How would you describe yours at present as if you were putting it into a novel?

Danyelle:

Danyelle scooted her wooden chair up to her desk, enjoying the warmth of the sunshine streaming through the bay windows. She sighed as she looked over at the pile of dishes that needed to be washed. Should she do them first? She calculated how many plates she needed for dinner that night before finally deciding she could safely ignore the ones in the sink. This was definitely one of the drawbacks of having her writing space in a nook off the kitchen. She quickly stacked her kids’ school papers into a pile and set them off to the side of her desk.

As she waited for the computer to boot up, she looked around at her little office space. She loved the trendy dark green walls with lime and white accents. Her favorite part was the white wall shelves filled with girly stuff – glass purses, Raine designer decorative shoes, and funky picture frames. She pulled out a sticky note and wrote a reminder to re-hang one of the shelves that came loose when the roof was repaired last fall. Maybe she’d actually get it done some time in the next year. She replaced her sticky note and pen back in the sparkly crystal crown that held her business cards, stamps and other office supply odds and ends that only writers loved and obsessed about. A variety of colored paper clips, cute binder clips, and multi-colored pens.

The computer chimed, signaling that it was ready for her to login and begin work. Danyelle nabbed a piece of chocolate out of her clear glass candy dish, popped the delicious treat into her mouth, then got ready to dive back into her current work-in-progress.

(And here’s the picture to show how well she described it!)

Me:  What are you working on at present?

Danyelle:  Right now, I’m working on one of the awesomest projects ever. The very first Storymakers Midwest Writers Conference! It’s Saturday, September 15th and in my backyard (well, almost)–Olathe, KS. Of course, that’s because I’m the one organizing it. We have an incredible line-up of authors coming to present. I’m honored to have Lisa Mangum (Deseret Book Editor & best-selling YA author), as well as Josi Kilpack (award-winning culinary mystery author) as our Keynote Speakers.

Along with the conference, we’re having a huge Authorpalooza. So if you’re in the Kansas City area, please stop by!

Friday, September 14th; 7-9 pm 

Authorpalooza Book Signing (Oak Park Mall Barnes & Noble, 11323 W. 95th Street, Overland Park, KS)

Authors include:  Lisa Mangum, Josi Kilpack, Heather Justesen, Don Carey, Karen Hoover, Traci Hunter Abramson, L.C. Lewis, STeve Westover, Danyelle Ferguson, Lynn Parsons, Tamara Hart Heiner, and more!

Me:  Finally, what are some of your favorite songs to sing while in the kitchen and how do your children react when you start belting them out?

Danyelle:  I have very eclectic musical tastes. I love everything from Natalie Cole to Bon Jovi to Katy Perry, with a healthy mix of my kids’ favorites–Justin Beiber, Hannah Montana, and Taylor Swift. I have a Kitchen Music playlist and sing along with whatever comes on. My favorite moment is when my big band music comes on and my hubby and I teach the kids our favorite swing dancing moves.

What do my kids think? They’re just as nutty as me. They dance around in the nook where my office desk is (also where the music is streaming from) and sing right along with me.

If you want to know more about Danyelle and her writing, take a moment to check out her website or her blog. Right now, she’s donating $5 from every sale of her disabilities book from her website to one of two worthy disability-related causes.

Originally posted 2012-09-05 06:00:35.

Contest Author Interview – Julie Coulter Bellon

(NOTE: If you haven’t yet heard about the contest I’m running through September 24th, go here to see the 50 different prizes and entry 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 yet another entry!)

I came to know Julie while working under her on the board of directors of LDStorymakers. She was chair that first year I was a member of the group and very open and supportive of  my ideas for the new website. Both of us share an expatriate kind of background and appreciation, therefore, for international thrillers. All of her novels are now available as ebooks.

Me:  Let’s see . . . Eight books, eight children. Which was harder? And do you get any rewrites on your parenting?

Julie:  Well, since my children are so unpredictable and my characters generally do what I tell them to, I’d say that raising children is harder. Parenting is so rewarding, though, and I get to laugh a lot, so I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I wish you all could be at our dinner table each night. It’s so fun to have a big family. As for rewrites on my parenting, thankfully my children are pretty forgiving and give me lots of chances when I mess up.

Me:  Personally, I have a thing for the number 9, but why do you prefer 8? Does it have any significance beyond your children and books?

Julie:  Eight has been my lucky number my entire life. Good things always happen to me when I’m having an “8” birthday like 8, 18, 28, etc. I can always count on my lucky number eight.

(Hmmm. As it just so happens, I only prepared eight questions to ask you, so I guess this is your lucky interview!)

Me:  What is the biggest difference between a Canadian and an American? Please tell us about where you grew up and whether you return to Canada often to visit.

Julie:  For me, there’s subtle differences between being Canadian and American. My critique group tells me all the time that my Canadian comes through in my writing because I’m too polite. Canadians are pretty laid-back, but that’s probably because they have the best food in the world to eat. Canadian chocolate and cereal are to die-for. Thankfully my mom sends me care packages in the mail so I don’t have to go too long without them. Our family also gets to have two Thanksgivings because I celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving with them in October and we also celebrate American Thanksgiving with my husband and his family. I’d say we’re pretty lucky!

I grew up in Alberta and I don’t get home as often as I’d like. My entire family still lives there and I miss them terribly.

(Now I’ve heard of–and tasted–Swiss chocolate, and I’ve even heard of the wonders of New Zealand chocolate…but Canadian chocolate? Who knew?)

Me:  Are you still practicing the bagpipes and why?

Julie:  Sadly, I haven’t practiced them recently. I only know one song (Amazing Grace) and so I obviously need to expand my repertoire and practice a little more. I plan to start up again as soon as the baby’s a little older and I can explain to him why he needs to wear earplugs. Ha!

Me:  How did you get acquainted with Ms. Shreditor? Please tell my readers what they can do to avail themselves of her services.

Julie:  I have this wonderful feature on my blog called First Page Friday where I have my national editor friends, Ms. Shreditor and Angela Eschler (president of Eschler Editing), critique aspiring authors/published authors’ first pages. Two years ago when I was listening to a panel of agents and editors talk about the fact that if the first page doesn’t grab them, they usually reject it, I thought I would use editing contacts I had to help authors polish those important first pages. It has been such a learning experience both for me and my readers. I’m so grateful for Ms. Shreditor and to Angela who put in so much work to give back to the writing community.

(Here’s an example of what she’s talking about.)

Me:  What exotic locale are you planning on taking your readers to next, and what’s the basic storyline (if you’re that far into it)?

Julie:  Well, I have a book coming out in a few weeks, ALL FALL DOWN, that is set in Connecticut and Afghanistan. It’s about a hostage negotiator, Claire Michaels, who ends up in the middle of an international incident with a Navy SEAL and his brother. I loved writing this story!

(Let’s interrupt the interview for a moment to share the cover of Julie’s new novel, as well as the back cover copy. After all, it comes out at the end of September!)

Ring around the rosy, a pocket full of posies,

ashes, ashes we all fall down . . .

That simple rhyme turns negotiator Claire Michaels’ current hostage situation into an international incident. Claire just wants to help get everyone out safely, but as the crisis escalates she realizes she’s dealing with an al-Qaeda operative who has the means to become another bin Laden–with the potential to attack America. Claire has her own personal reasons for wanting to stop al-Qaeda, but time is slipping away as negotiations break down. Can she overcome her scars of the past in order to get the hostage out alive and possibly stop an assault on U.S. national security?

Navy SEAL Rafe Kelly is on leave to recover from a knee injury he suffered during his tour in Afghanistan and he doesn’t expect to be fighting terrorists on his home turf. But when he is taken hostage and his brother is kidnapped, Rafe teams up with a hostage negotiator in order to stay alive and get his brother back. The terrorist is always one step ahead of them, however, and the situation quickly turns from desperate to deadly. Will Rafe be able to save himself and his country without anyone he loves getting caught in the crossfire?

(Okay, back to the interview)

I’m working on a sequel to my novel, RIBBON OF DARKNESS, and it will be set in Greece. I loved visiting Athens and the island of Crete and I can’t wait to make the setting come alive for my readers. Basically, it’s Kennedy’s story (from RIBBON OF DARKNESS), and she’s still trying to solve her sister’s murder, but as an international journalist, she’s also covering some of the chaos going on in Greece. She gets caught up in a volatile situation with a Greek terrorist group and it will take everything she has to come out of it alive. That one should be released next spring.

Me:  As a former chair of LDStorymakers, can you tell us how that position impacted your writing, if at all?

Julie:  Being the chairman of LDStorymakers gave me the opportunity to work closely with a committee of incredible authors I admire and I loved getting to know them better. I’m glad we have organizations that support writers and help inspire us to become better at out craft. It was a lot of hard work because in addition to my responsibilities to the board, I also had a baby during my tenure, and released a book. But it was an experience that I wouldn’t trade because of the friendships I made.

Me:  Finally, would you please describe your office or workspace in the point of view of a spy who has broken into your home to find an important document.

Julie:  Well, my workspace is in between my family room and kitchen, so if they were looking for a document, they could expect to find it fairly easily (well, they’d have to go through my pile of permission slips, emergency contact forms, and disclosure documents from the schools that I got this week). Since I have so many kids it would probably have a food stain of some sort or be wrinkly from a drink spilled on it, though. (Okay, okay, it’s not all the kids’ fault. I do like to eat at my desk. So, the spy would probably be able to see some clues as to what I ate for lunch.)

Thank you so much for interviewing me. This was one of the most fun interviews I’ve ever done.

Me:  My pleasure. (Blush)

You can find out more about Julie and her books on her blog or her website, and you can follow her on Twitter (@juliebellon). Feel free to “like” her on Facebook, as well.

Originally posted 2012-09-03 02:05:36.

Contest Author Interview – Liz Adair

(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!)

Full disclosure: Liz and I have become very good friends since we got together to form a small critique group a couple of years ago, so if I come off as a bit irreverent during this interview, please understand that I can’t help myself. That’s why I’m grateful to have Liz in my life. She is always a lady and sets the example I try to follow. She has led a varied and interesting life, as you will learn below.

Liz has been writing seriously since 1989–mostly mysteries and romantic suspense–but we’re all grateful that she heeded the inner call to pursue a story from her own family history and penned COUNTING THE COST (more about that later). Not only did it win her the 2009 Whitney Award for Romance, but it was a finalist for the Willa Award and Arizona Publisher Association’s Glyph Award! She recently became chair of the board of directors for LDStorymakers. Her latest novel, COLD RIVER, is on our prize list.

Me:  Of all the places you’ve lived–New Mexico, Wyoming, Alaska, Utah, Arizona, Washington, etc.–which do you return to most in your dreams? Or are your dreams in entirely different places? Or do you even remember your dreams?

Liz:  I don’t remember my dreams, much. I dream in narrative, though, and sometimes I’ll wake up after a particularly riveting story and think, “Dang, I’m good.”

Me:  I happen to know you’ve held a variety of jobs throughout your life. Could you give us a quick rundown? And which provided the best fodder for your writing?

Liz:  My first job was in Alaska when I was 14. I worked at the Knik Drive In, Home of the Huskyburger. Later, I did the clerk-typist thing for the Bureau of Reclamation and kept books at an auto parts store during college, and then taught school for several years. I had a small wholesale bakery that the kids and I ran, and I’ve worked in construction management for the last fifteen years. It’s all fodder. I used my teaching experience for COLD RIVER, but my construction experience informed Spider Latham’s character. He was a man who worked with his hands.

Me:  Tell us about your writing process in the voice of either Heck Benham, the handsome cowhand, or Ruth Reynolds, beautiful city girl, in your Whitney Award-winning novel COUNTING THE COST. (I’m just trying to help you along in your current writing…consider this a writing prompt.)

Liz:  Well, my writin’ process is kinda like punchin’ cows. You gotta stick in that saddle, and rope and hog tie those phrases that come trottin’ outa your imagination. It’s long, lonely, dusty work, and sometimes at the end of the day you’ve just got a hole in your jeans where your backside hit the chair to show for your work. But you keep on, ’cause that’s what you do.

(Well done, Heck!)

Me:  Tell us which moniker you prefer privately–Just Liz, Mother Earth, Business Mogul, or Literary Lady–and why. (I’m not making this easy for you, am I? But hey, I left out Storymakers Queen Bee, so you should feel fortunate.)

Liz:  I guess ‘Just Tudy’ would suit me fine. It’s a nickname, the name I grew up with and preferred. (Elizabeth was soooo stuffy.) But in college we had 2 Judys in our apartment, and adding a Tudy made for more confusion. My roommates declared that I MUST become Liz. So I did. I have to admit that once I finally grew up, I kinda liked my given name.

Me:  Of all the characters in your books, which most closely resembles the love of your life, your husband, Derrill? Details please. (You may never want to do an interview with me again. LOL.)

Liz:  Oh, I freely admit that Spider Latham is Derrill. I’ve had men that read the book wonder how I could write so convincingly from the male point of view, and I can’t count the women who have said to me, “I just love Spider latham.” I had one say so just the other night. How are they alike? Hmmm. Derrill is a problem solver. So is Spider. Spider’s a deep thinker–so is Derrill, but both can poke fun at themselves. Growing up in a small town where generations of family have been reared has grounded them both. They know who they are, and it gives them an inner strength.

Me:  I’d ask about your writing space, but that wouldn’t be fair since you’ve only just moved into a new house in Southern Utah. So, instead, please describe your car and how well it might serve (or not) as a temporary office. (Also, please provide a picture, because if you don’t, I’ll post the one of you on the ATV.)

Liz:  My car is hugely impractical, I know. I drive a Mazda Miata and love it. It keeps my life interesting and helps on the budget because my Costco trips are limited to what I can carry home. As far as using it as an office–I do carry my Alphasmart with me in my purse in case I find time to write.

Liz, or “Tudy,” in her bright red Miata

Me:  What are you working on now in terms of your writing (whether in the house, your car, an internet café, or on the ATV)?

Liz:  I’m rewriting COUNTING THE COST. Christine Thackeray worked with me on a screenplay for it and said that it wasn’t really Heck’s story, it was Ruth’s, and it needed to start with Ruth, before she came to New Mexico. So that’s what I’ve been doing lately. I’m also working on a romantic suspense that has illegal aliens, flying cars, dynamite, and a terrific car chase.

(Hmmm. No doubt she’s conducting some actual research on the car chase in her Miata. I wonder how tough the cops are there in Kanab?)

Me:  Finally, as the new chair of LDStorymakers, how would you describe the organization and your vision for its future?

Liz:  I am so excited about LDStorymakers and what is happening there. The organization is peopled with writers dedicated to helping those who have a literary bent learn the craft. I believe that as we help good writers become better, more and more LDS writers will find themselves in the national–and world–market. My vision is that LDS writers will tip the scales towards good in the eternal ‘good vs evil’ scenario.

I tend to agree. If you want to learn more about Liz and her books, please check out her blog. And if you’re down around Kanab, Utah, watch out for a bright red Mazda Miata. ZOOM, ZOOM!

Originally posted 2012-08-27 06:00:29.

Reading, Reading, and More Reading

Present word count of WIP:  54,620

Sorry for slacking off here. I know I missed posting last Friday and this past Monday, but I was in the middle of a terrific writer’s conference (LDS Storymakers)…and then I was still recovering from it.

(A ten-hour drive in one day is not easy, despite M&Ms and other caffeinated products, particularly after you’re coming off of five nights of only 3-5 hours of sleep on average. But an audio book leant to me by my writing/conference buddy, Liz Adair, certainly helped!)

Anyway, it was a great conference. The best thing was that I had another excuse to see my daughter. I won’t have too many more opportunities like that before she leaves on her mission. And she even came to the Whitney Awards Banquet with me (that’s become a custom…I’ll definitely miss her next year).

Liz and I were roommates again and we also kept each other company during the massive book signing (and I got to pick up a lot of tips on how to do a signing by watching our neighbor, Janette Rallison, respond to the lines and lines of fans queued up for her signature or picture).

Liz and I at the Book Signing

Me with Janette Rallison and Rachelle Christensen

I took part in one of the critique sessions held during the Publication Primer the day before the conference and met some terrific writers there, including David King, Rebekah Wells, and Becky Tueller and her sister, Cheryl. Our group was led by Natalie Hickman, almost due to have her baby and just out of the hospital that morning. Talk about dedication to your craft!

Me with David and Rebekah

I pitched my WIP to Holly Root of the Waxman Literary Agency and she wants to see the first three chapters when it’s ready. YAY!!! She also said she’d have no problem taking on a client that wanted to write both Women’s Fiction and Middle Grade…all under my own name. Hmmm. Maybe I won’t need a pen name after all.

Also, I met with my editor, Linda Mullineaux, and they’re now looking at sending my book (which will be called something other than Laps) to press in August! I gave them a new suggestion for the title and I think they may go with it. But I’m not announcing it here until it’s finally approved. Anyway, I’m firmly a part of the Walnut Springs Press family, as shown by this picture of several of their authors taken after the Whitney Awards Banquet.

Walnut Springs Authors (Me, Angie Lofthouse, Liz Adair, Jenni James, Betsy Love, Theresa Sneed, and the injured Tristi Pinkston)

Besides the fact that I desperately need a makeover, I learned lots of great things at the LDS Storymakers Conference, as usual (particularly loved Jennifer Nielsen’s class on Middle Grade Fiction and Jeff Savage’s on Podcasts), though I didn’t get to attend nearly as many workshops or classes. That was because:

1) My body crashed after my Friday afternoon pitch . . . it’s a little too old now for these midnight film premieres (but “The Avengers” was terrific!)

and . . .

2) I volunteered to help do timekeeping for pitch sessions on Saturday morning. I can’t tell you how nice it was to be the one watching the clock rather than the one racing through my pitch over and over in my mind while waiting for the signal to go in and face the agent.

While I didn’t spend much in the bookstore, I came away with two more books to review this month. I was already set to review Jolene Perry’s Night Sky on May 14th (I just finished reading it today and have the review all written), but now I’m due to read Heather Moore’s Daughters of Jared and Tristi Pinkston’s Women of Strength, as well, before the end of the month.

Not to mention all the Whitney Award finalists and winners I’ve got downloaded. As I put in my title, it looks like all I’ll be doing the rest of this month is reading, reading, and more reading!

Originally posted 2012-05-11 13:23:28.

The Artist and Humility

Present word count of WIP:  54,620

Be prepared for the above word count to remain fairly static for the rest of this week. Why? Because I’m en route to a writers conference–the 2012 LDStorymakers Writer’s Conference to be precise–and if there’s one thing that I have difficulty doing while at such a conference, it’s writing.

Oh, I’ll take plenty of notes…and even perhaps work on my pitch, but my WIP? Realistically, probably not (even though I have it with me). You see, it’s such a rare treat for writers to come out of their caves and gather together, that there’s a whole lot of talking about writing and celebrating about writing, but not much writing.

That’s what a retreat is for. (Hint, hint, Liz.)

Anyway, I decided to make it easy on myself this year and split the 10-hour drive down to Utah in half. So, I only had to drive as far as Boise today.

I was prepared for a mostly silent drive because usually NPR devolves into static about an hour outside the Tri-Cities (and I always forget to set the CDs I like to listen to within arms reach). For some reason today, however, I was able to keep listening long past Pendleton.

Long enough to hear a fascinating interview with Wayne Wright. I’d never heard of him before, but he was the artistic genius behind all the puppets, etc. in that 80’s TV show, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse (which I’d heard of but never watched). Anyway, someone has made a documentary about him entitled, “Beauty is Embarrassing.”

At the end of the interview, he was asked to explain the idea behind the title. He spoke about how people can be so overcome by beauty, whether in nature (created by God, if you will) or in works created by man, that they are moved to tears and that’s embarrassing. He said it’s humbling or embarrassing to be made to feel that vulnerable. I loved that idea, because it’s so true.

Then another thought occurred to me, as I was reflecting on how this manifested itself in great writing. That’s how I feel, too, when I create something–a phrase, a sentence, or perhaps a paragraph–and someone in my critique group (or, if it occurred in a talk or a poem or a song or book I’ve written, one of my listeners or readers) compliments me about it. I’m embarrassed.

How do you say “Thank you” when you feel like it was a gift from the true Creator?

So, yes, beauty is embarrassing.

Originally posted 2012-05-01 21:01:01.

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.

Think of your books as souvenirs

Present word count:  25,290 (I know, I know…not enough…I promise much more next time)

Seth Godin’s Advice for Authors:

4. Understand that a non-fiction book is a souvenir, just a vessel for the ideas themselves. You don’t want the ideas to get stuck in the book… you want them to spread. Which means that you shouldn’t hoard the idea! The more you give away, the better you will do.

I think this applies equally well to fiction. We definitely want the characters, issues, and themes in our stories to spread. More than that, we want our fan base to spread out and grow. Godin is all about giving ideas away for free because he knows that, in the end, you reap what you sow.

That’s what I love about author communities like LDStorymakers and ANWA. The more we give to our fellow writers (whether it’s the benefit of our experience, or helpful critiques, or simply our attention), the more we grow and are enriched as writers. I’ve felt badly that I haven’t given more lately in either group, but my time has been crunched by both the Storymaker website and reading for the Whitneys. Still, I know that once my schedule frees up, I can make up for lost time. I don’t know if it’s the fact that 99% of us are still struggling for the audience we want… or the fact that one hit today doesn’t guarantee a lifetime of success, but for some reason, our hearts can’t help but go out to each other. Writers, as a whole, are some of the most unselfish people I know in business.

And our books truly are souvenirs for both us and our readers. They help us remember what our own lives were like as we wrote them. Depending on the content, they can help us remember people, places, or events in our lives. And they speak to our readers in similar ways, though the reading experience is unique for each person who reads our words. They meld their own memories, experiences, and ideas with ours as they read.

Sometimes, book marketing is not about sales so much as spreading your words. Think of your books as souvenirs and give some away.

Originally posted 2012-01-27 13:19:24.