“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.

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.

“Moleskine Monday” – A Contest!

Since this is my “N” for “Networking” day, let’s test the power of social networking in a contest to spread the word on my soon-to-be-released novel, A NIGHT ON MOON HILL.

Back Cover Copy:

Swimming is Daphne’s one refuge–until the night she finds a body in her pool.

University professor and renowned author Daphne Lessing has never felt at ease in society. But a disturbing occurrence in her once calm and controlled existence suddenly unearths events from her past and thrusts an unusual child into her life.

Ten-year-old Eric has Asperger’s syndrome and is obsessed with fishing and angels. Soon, Daphne finds herself attached to him–and faced with a choice: Does she leave him and return to her solitary, ordered life, trusting others to do right by him, or does she allow this bright child to draw her into the world she has tried to shun? And what about the man that came into Daphne’s life with Eric? Will she be able to shut him out as well?

Details: (Note: Entry details are at the bottom of the post)

The contest will run from August 20th to September 24th (the day before my launch party). This being “Moleskine Monday,” prizes have to include Moleskine products, right? What writer doesn’t love Moleskine notebooks? What reader doesn’t love Moleskine journals in which to jot their favorite passages? And what artist doesn’t love Moleskine sketch notebooks?

Also, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I will feature an interview with an author who has donated his/her own fiction as a prize.

Prizes Include:

  •  1 Sony 7″ Digital Photo Frame (Again, only those who’ve subscribed to my newsletter AND “liked” my new FB page for A NIGHT ON MOON HILL are eligible for this prize)
  • 1 Moleskine Writing Gift Set

  • 1 Moleskine Rechargeable USB Book Light

  • 3 Moleskine Passions Book Journals (I have one…they’re great!)

  • 4 Moleskine Classic Ruled Extra-Small Notebooks (like the kind Daphne has in the story…only hers is black…these are green, violet, orange yellow, and magenta)

And books…lots of books!

  • A free copy of Margaret Turley’s SAVE THE CHILD, a fictional story of one family’s struggle to save a child from cancer

  • A free PDF of Tristi Pinkston’s amusing mystery, SECRET SISTERS
  • A free copy of Liz Adair’s latest mystery, COLD RIVER, her Whitney Winner, COUNTING THE COST, or a set of her SPIDER LATHAM mysteries

  •  An ebook bundle of romances from Jewel Adams including: BEAUTIFUL IN MY EYES, AGAINST THE ODDS, STILL HIS WOMAN – AN AGAINST THE ODDS NOVELETTE, THE LEGACY, THAT KIND OF LOVE – A LEGACY NOVELETTE, THE WISHING HOUR, and GUARDIAN OF MY HEART – A CHALLISSIAN NOVELETTE

  • 2 paperback copies and 3 ebooks of my first book, THE RECKONING

  • A copy of Julie Coulter Bellon’s soon-to-be released (in September) novel, ALL FALL DOWN

  • 3 ebooks of THE SECRET SISTERS CLUB: A GINNIE WEST ADVENTURE by Monique Bucheger
  • 3 copies each of Janette Rallison’s MY FAIR GODMOTHER, MY DOUBLE LIFE, and HOW TO TAKE THE EX OUT OF EX-BOYFRIEND
  • A paperback copy of H.B. Moore’s DAUGHTERS OF JARED
  • Three different ebooks from medieval romance author Joyce DiPastena: LOYALTY’S WEB (for Kindle), ILLUMINATIONS OF THE HEART (for Kindle), and DANGEROUS FAVOR (for Kindle or Nook)
  • One paperback (U.S. only) and 2 ebooks of Cindy M. Hogan’s suspense thriller, WATCHED

  • One copy of Adam Glendon Sidwell’s popular MG novel, EVERTASTER

  • Two of Ali Cross’s YA Paranormals, BECOME (3 ebooks and 1 print) and DESOLATE (3 ebooks and 1 print)
  • One copy (either print or ebook) of Danyelle Ferguson’s and Lynn Parson’s award-winning (dis)ABILITIES AND THE GOSPEL
  • One copy each of Patricia G. Stevenson’s Professor Del Channing’s murder mystery series: THE DILAPIDATED MAN, THE JEZEBEL BRIDE, and THE SHAMROCK CONSPIRACY

  • One copy of THE UNWILLING, the first volume in C. David Belt’s “The Children of Lilith” trilogy

  • And last, but not least, 2 ebooks from Annette Lyon: LOST WITHOUT YOU and AT THE WATER’S EDGE

Other Details:

  • No limit on number of entries
  • No limit on how many prizes can be won by any one person
  • Winners will be drawn using Random.org on September 26th
  • Prizes will be shipped (or emailed) anywhere in the U.S. and Canada (where possible, books will be signed)

 

How to Enter:

  • Join my new newsletter list here on my home page (look for it in the sidebar on the home page) for three entries and a shot at the top two prizes (as long as you also “like” my new book’s FB page)
  • Leave a comment here for another entry (be sure and include your full name) and you get an entry for each comment you make on my author interviews during the contest period (one per author)
  • Blog about the contest and coming book release, including the book cover image and back cover copy posted above in italics (email tanyascontest@gmail.com with the blog link) for two more entries
  • Read the First Chapter here and tell me what clued Daphne in to the body’s identity (email tanyascontest@gmail.com) for three entries
  • “Like” my new Facebook page for A NIGHT ON MOON HILL for another entry and a shot at the top two prizes (as long as you also subscribe to the newsletter)
  • Facebook about the contest and release (email tanyascontest@gmail.com–one FB entry per person)
  • Tweet about the contest and release (email tanyascontest@gmail.com–one Twitter entry per person)

I hope all of this is clear, but if you have any questions, please ask.

Originally posted 2012-08-20 05:00:04.

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.

What a Trip! What a Conference!

I’m ready for human cloning (on a temporary basis, that is). I think writers need to have clones so that their writer self can remain at the keyboard creating while their marketing and student selves go off to conferences to learn, network, and pitch to agents and editors. (If you’re a writer, I know you agree with this.) The only drawback to the 2011 LDStorymakers Conference was that I couldn’t be in several places at the same time.

But first, the trip. Actually, it wasn’t too bad. Sure, I could have used a clone or two to help me drive for 9.5 hours straight (other than gas, food and potty stops). Still, it was great weather and at the end of the day I got to meet up with three old friends from my junior high days and compare notes over dinner. I hadn’t seen one of them since 10th grade. It was amazing to see how our lives had turned out thus far. Good fodder for a novel…but not right away or they’d get mad.

I roomed with the fabulous Liz Adair and Thursday morning was spent assembling folders and binders for the conference. Then, while everyone spent much of the day in Boot Camp, I got to drive down to Provo and have lunch with my beautiful daughter, Allison. Afterward, we lucked out and got into the Carl Bloch exhibit at BYU’s Museum of Art. He could tell an entire story with one painting or even one etching. I think my favorite altar pieces were those of Christ with the child and Christ at the Pool of Bethesda (particularly since it relates to my newest novel that I’m pitching). I arrived back in SLC that evening in time for a quick dinner and then a fun “Meet and Greet” with fellow Storymakers. The interviews conducted by Tristi Pinkston, Frank Cole, and Terri Ferran had me wiping tears from my eyes because I was laughing so much and I can’t wait to upload them to the new website. (I’ll keep you posted on that.) Stephanie Fowers and her sister were invaluable in taping the interviews. Warning: they’re in high def, so don’t be too judgmental on appearances. After all, some of these interviews were done at 10 pm after a full day of Boot Camp!

Friday and Saturday were a blur. This is when I really could have used a few clones. In between helping Liz with door prize giveaways several times each day and grabbing meals here and there, I attended great presentations by Becca Stumpf (on pitching), Marion Jensen (on Social Media…but I missed the last half because I was scheduled to pitch to Sara Megibow, a terrific agent–I don’t know how she did it, but I wasn’t nervous at all; I felt so at ease talking with her and she expressed interest in Laps), Sara Crowe (on synopsis writing, which turned out to be the pitch portion of your query letter rather than a full synopsis…not what I was expecting but still helpful), Josi Kilpack (on launching your book), Dave Wolverton twice (on habits of successful writers and on using resonance to make your writing sell), Bob Conder (on Screenwriting), and the energetic and funny Sara Megibow (on acquiring a literary agent). I also attended a speculative fiction panel featuring James Dashner, Rob Wells, Dave Wolverton, Julie Wright, and Howard Taylor. You might wonder why since my fiction thus far has been solidly grounded in reality, but about two weeks ago three fascinating ideas for novels hit me–all speculative (one YA semi-historical, and two dystopian). I know. I should have attended Rob’s on Dystopian Fiction, but hey–that would have required clones.

Anyway, the Whitney Awards Gala Dinner was terrific as always and some of my favorite people won, besides. I’d invited my daughter and a guy she’s dating, Bryan Beus, to join me since he’s an illustrator (he did the covers and illustrations for James Dashner’s first two installments in the 13th Reality series) and a soon-to-be-published author. He ended up knowing as many people there as I did!

My last comment on cloning: it might help de-stress your pet cats. Every time I go away for a short trip and then return, Peach and Anastasia have to get re-introduced to me. It’s as if they can’t believe it’s really me walking in the door. Of course, if they were to encounter more than one of me at a time, they’d probably go nuts, so that alternative won’t work…for them, anyway.

If we can’t have cloning at next year’s conference, maybe we can at least have an option to buy DVDs or CDs of the presentations we missed. What do you think?

Originally posted 2011-05-09 12:47:24.

One Last Bit About the Retreat

For those of you who are still not sure it’s worth your while or money to head up to the far northwest corner of Washington for a two-day writing retreat, here’s a list of all the classes and presentations packed in to those two days:

Thursday Evening:

“Joy in the Journey: The Road to Publication (Or Overcoming the Agony of Rejection)” by Janette Rallison

Friday:

“First Movies, Then Records, Now Books: Publishing’s Paradigm Shift and What It Means for Writers” by yours truly

“Finding Your Inner Matroyshka: The Six Stages of a Writer” by Liz Adair

“Cutting Off Your Baby’s Toes: Tips on Self-Editing” by Linda P. Adams

“Query Letters–Your Next Big Challenge” by Terry Deighton

“If I Can Do It, So Can You: My Experience in Self-Publishing” by Victoria Boothe

“The View From the Checkout Stand, A Bookstore Owner’s POV” by Chrisy Cope

“Ho-hum to Hilarious, How to Put Humor Into Your Writing” by Jane Still

“The Why and How of Blogging” by Monique Leutkemeyer

“Noah’s Story Arc: Building a Watertight Plot” by Christine Thackeray

“Fabulous Free Verse: Unleash Your Poetic Self” by Lara Niedermeyer

“Writing in Spite of Family and the Universe: Organize Yourself to Write” by Kersten Campbell

“See It/Hear It: Writing Believable Dialogue” by yours truly

“Careening Down the Road to Publication: What I’ve Learned on My Journey” by Ann Acton

“Screenwriting 101: Basics for Beginners” by Christine Thackeray

“How Can We Serve? Devising Literacy Programs for Presentation to Local Relief Societies” by Liz Adair

“How to Relive High School Forever: Writing for the YA Audience” by Janette Rallison

Saturday AM:

“Escaping From the Slush Pile” by Janette Rallison

Now, obviously, everyone couldn’t attend every class, so you had to pick and choose…but there was definitely something for everyone. And I haven’t even mentioned Terry’s Grammar Quickies, the terrific Get Acquainted activities by Marylou Bailey, the morning and evening yoga stretches led by Lara Nedermeyer, the singing led by Bonnie Harris (who’s due to give birth in about a week, by the way), the Critique Group led by Wendy Jones (who also took the awesome group photo below), the plotting and writing exercises, and the concluding meeting where we got to share how we felt about the whole experience.

It really was like Girls Camp…only for writers! Think about coming next year.

Originally posted 2010-10-15 10:04:47.

The Great Northwest (Writers Retreat)

I’m still re-acclimating to regular life five days after returning home from a terrific, writerly get-away up near Deception Pass in the northwest corner of our beautiful state. I wish I had taken more pictures but, truthfully, I was too uptight to take in the scenery much until the last day when I no longer had to worry about presentations. Still, here’s a view from the main lodge’s balcony:

I was the first to arrive out of 32 women–all LDS writers who belong (or may soon belong) to ANWA (American Night Writers Association). We feasted on two days worth of classes, workshops, and presentations–particularly those of visiting YA author, Janette Rallison–arranged by Liz Adair and her local Round Tuit ANWA chapter…and some terrific food arranged by Ann Acton.

A big thanks goes out to Terry Deighton for the location (Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory). It seemed more like a first-class lodging facility than a science lab. I believe everyone was in agreement–we want to come back next year! Everything–the accommodations, the food, the presentations, even the spirit of the event–was like Girl’s Camp for Writers…only with nice comfortable beds and showers! And the facility can accommodate many more. So if you’re an LDS woman who writes, mark your calendars now for the weekend after General Conference in October, 2011.

As for my presentations, I plan on sharing bits and pieces of “Publishing’s Paradigm Shift” here on my website over the next several days. I’m going to post my other presentation (“See It/Hear It: Writing Believable Dialogue”) in several parts over on my blog.

Originally posted 2010-10-14 12:57:46.

October is for Publishing, Writing, and Recording!

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

photo

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

Northwest Writers Retreat(ANWA Northwest Writers Retreat)

2014 Kanab Writers Conference

(Kanab Writers Conference)

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

TTT Too Deep 3-D cover

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

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

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

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

“Wednesday Writer” – Marie Higgins

If you’re into romance, Marie Higgins is your author. She has a clean romance for everyone! If you like heroic rogues, she has a series for you. Victorian Romance, Regency Romance? Covered. She even has Time Travel Romance! But enough of all her sub genres. Let’s get to the heart of Marie! (I know, don’t groan. That was a bad pun.)

Marie HigginsME:  Where did you grow up, and who or what were your earliest influences in terms of your writing?

MARIE:  I grew up between Salt Lake City and Clearfield, Utah. The reason I say ‘between’ is because I was born in SLC, then we moved to Clearfield, and then moved back to SLC, then finally came to plant our feet in Clearfield.

Little Marie age 18 months(Cute little Marie at 18 months)

As for my earliest influences… I really don’t know who influenced me in terms of my writing. I remember as a child in school that I hated to read the books the English teachers made us read for a grade. They were boring! Yet somewhere in my junior and senior year in high school, I started playing with poetry. (Go figure!) I created poems…yet the poems were always in story format.

Marie's Seminary Graduation 1984 (2)(And here she is as a senior in high school)

It wasn’t until my senior year when I started writing skits for my community and church. These skits were performed and judged and I received awards of “Funniest” and “Best Written”. This was what gave me the drive to write after I was married and my daughters were in grade school. I haven’t stopped yet. So maybe my influences were those books I had to read in school that were boring. They influenced me to write fun stories with sweet romance, action and adventure, and suspense.

(A little reverse psychology, eh?)

ME:  Can you share the gist of the first story you ever remember writing?

MARIE:  Oh dear…you’re going to make me strain my brain, aren’t you? (You bet! I dig deep. :D)

I remember having a dream of a ballerina (I don’t know why because I was never really fascinated with ballet), but I remember there was some kind of mystery to the plot. I think the hero was a detective or cop. I had started writing the story to the way my dream had shown me. I don’t think I finished the story, but soon after I started writing, my muse kicked into action and gave me ideas for other stories. The rest, they say, is history…

(That’s all it usually takes, all you writers in embryo–a good dream…that you can remember, anyway.)

ME:  Which romance authors have influenced you the most and how?

MARIE:  The very first romance I read was titled A Rose in Winter, written by Kathleen E Woodiwiss. I was amazed that this author could get me into the story so quickly and make me feel like I was one of the characters. And the plots….woo-wee, what a ride!

Kathleen E. Woodiwiss(Kathleen E. Woodiwiss)

A Rose in Winter

(Woo-wee, indeed!)

From there, I read Judith McNaught, LaVryle Spencer, Jude Deveraux, and Johanna Lindsey.

Judith McNaught(Judith McNaught)

LaVyrle Spencer

(LaVyrle Spencer)

Jude Deveraux

(Jude Deveraux)

Johanna Lindsey

(Johanna Lindsey)

After sweeping through them at record speed, I realized there were other romances out there written by Christian authors. I was very happy to start reading more.

Anita Stansfield(Anita Stansfield)

The two authors that influenced my writing the most at this time were Anita Stansfield and Rachel Ann Nunes. Anita wrote some very emotional stories, while I absolutely loved Rachel’s suspense! (Amen!)

Rachel Ann Nunes(Rachel Ann Nunes)

ME:  I know romance sells best in our country (and perhaps worldwide, for all I know), but besides the money, why do you choose romance over other genres?

MARIE:  Because I enjoy falling in love—over and over again. And I enjoy my readers telling me how much they enjoyed falling in love—over and over again, too.

(Ah, so you’re a true romance novelist. Money has nothing to do with it.)

ME:  You’ve written over 30 novels. Has the content and style changed over the years, and if so, how? Please compare your first novel to your latest. Also, are covers changing in any way?

MARIE:  Yes, the style of romance writing has changed over the years. Back when I first started writing romance, my writing/critique groups drilled into me the need for descriptions…TONS of description. If you’ve never read a Kathleen E Woodiwiss story, she is the queen of description. She could describe one countryside in three pages.

But now…it’s short, sweet, and to the point. Flowery words and phrases are not that popular any longer, and although I still wish I could write that way, now it’s all right if I don’t. As long you can pull the readers into your story and never let them go until the very end, you’re doing great.

Another thing that has changed is pages per chapter. When I first started writing, our chapters had to be at least 20 pages long. Now ten pages for a chapter are appropriate.

(Personally, I think this is because we live in a “fast food”, ADD-type world. Too many interruptions and too often. It’s definitely had an effect on fiction of all genres.)

It’s funny you’d ask me to compare my first to my latest. They are nothing alike. With each story I write, the plots get more complicated, and there is more suspense.

As for covers, I think they are changing. With the first books that I had read (see A Rose in Winter above), some of the book covers looked like paintings or drawings. Some covers just had one or two objects. Now covers have models in period costumes. Personally, I like the covers with models dressed to look like my characters. Of course with today’s technology, it’s easier to find pictures for book covers. There are tons of websites for this now.

(And, by the way, if you want to learn more about making your own covers, among many other things, you should come to the Indie Author Hub Writing & Publishing Conference this Saturday, June 7th, in Provo, Utah at the Courtyard Marriott! I believe Marie is going to be there, along with other fabulous authors like Rachel Ann Nunes, Heather Moore, Liz Adair, and Julie Wright. And there’s a mass book signing at the end.)

ME:  You’re what I would call a fast writer. You’ve said it takes you about 6 weeks to produce an 80,000-word novel. Is that before publication or including the publishing process? How do you account for your speed?

MARIE:  I wish six weeks included the publication process. The six weeks is an average of what it takes me to write a story. If there is stress in my life, the time frame gets stretched. Six weeks is from beginning chapter one to writing THE END.

Once I’ve finished my story, I let it sit a few days, maybe a week while my mind clears. Then I’ll get started on second-round edits. This is reading back through the story looking for mistakes and plot holes.

Once this is completed, I send the story to some of my critique partners, between 3 and 5. They go through and check for errors and plot holes. When they are finished, I add in their suggestions and read through it one more time before sending the story to 3 beta readers. After they give me their feedback, then I go through my story one last time to add in their suggestions and any others I might find.

FINALLY it’s time to publish. This process could take a month, or if I’m lucky, only a couple of weeks.

(Thanks for reviewing the whole process!)

In some of my stories, my characters are very excited to tell me their stories and they can’t stop talking in my head. That’s when my fingers fly across the keyboard so fast, and my fingers can’t keep up with my muse. That’s where the speed comes in.

Another thing I do that’s different than other writers, is that after I’ve written a chapter, I only read through it once before moving to the next chapter. I don’t take the time to go over each sentence, and each paragraph to make them perfect. I wait to do that during my second-edit process.

ME:  What turned you from traditional publishing to indie publishing? And how much more are you earning per month now that you take in 70% of the royalties? Do you miss anything about traditional publishing?

MARIE:  I don’t miss anything about the traditional publishing.

What turned me away was the small amount of royalties we authors get because a portion goes to the cover artist, another portion goes to the editor, and another portion goes to the marketing director, and another portion goes to the publisher themselves. Then…authors get the tiny amount that’s left.

In some publishing companies, they make book covers without the author’s approval, which I think is very wrong. Publishers have a very long release date scheduled for books (some are more than a year).

And my biggest beef with traditional publishers is that no author really knows if they are being cheated. Believe me, I’ve had a few publishers who cheat their authors!

What I love about indie publishing:

  • Finding my own editors
  • Creating my own book covers
  • Choosing my own sale price
  • Seeing my sales every day
  • Writing what I want to write instead of what the publisher thinks I should write.
  • MORE FREEDOM!

ME:  How does your family (meaning your husband and children) feel about you writing all of this romance?

MARIE:  When I first started writing nearly 20 years ago (gads, has it really been that long?), my family didn’t like all the time I spent in the computer room writing my stories. It took quite a while, several years, in fact, before they realized that I would rather create a story than watch TV. All my daughters remember from their childhood is that their mom wrote stories and told everyone about them. Hahaha

Family(Marie with her family)

Anyway, now that my books are published and selling, my husband is very proud of me and encourages me to write more. (Go figure!) My daughters are out on their own now, and they have told me they are proud of me, too…because when people discover their mother is Marie Higgins, it shocks them. :D

(I’ll bet!)

ME:  Tell us about your latest release, and what’s up next?

MARIE:  My latest release is titled AMAZON SUNSET. The setting of this Victorian romance is in the Amazon Rainforest. I had so much fun researching this and trying to figure out what things could go wrong in the jungle.

Amazon Sunset

Here is the blurb:

Katrina Landon’s life is about to change. The wealthy father she has never known wants to meet her, but she has to travel from the slums of Boston through the Amazon rainforest to his plantation. As if that’s not bad enough, her guide is the handsome, self-assured, too confident for his own good, Mr. Knightly, who immediately stirs her temper.

Felix Knightly isn’t looking forward to escorting a spoiled rich girl through the jungle no matter how much her father pays. Yet when he meets her, he finds Katrina’s distracting innocence and charming demeanor unsettling. She makes it nearly impossible to concentrate on his job—a problem he’s never had around women. He’d rather fight off the fire ants, howler monkeys, and crocodiles than risk losing his heart to her, since he’s never met an honest wealthy woman.

As they delve deeper into the shadows of the rainforest, they discover they weren’t just wrong about each other, they were wrong about the dangers of the jungle. Someone wants them dead and they have to find out who and why before it’s too late.

(Yummy…sounds steamy and suspenseful. If you’re interested, here are the links for the Kindle version and the paperback version.)

The book I’m working on next is #2 in this series. This story will be about one of Felix’s sisters. Her story is titled Amazon by Moonlight, and will also take place in Brazil in the jungle. So much fun!!

ME:  Finally, please describe your writing space in the voice of one of your favorite “bad boys.” (And I must have a picture of said space.)

MARIE:  My bad boy, huh? Well…I’ll give it a try… Okay Felix Knightly, take it away!

“Bad boy?

Do you realize how long it’s been since I was called a bad boy? The last time anyone referred to Felix Knightly as a bad boy, I was a lad wearing breeches, and I got caught slipping a toad into my sister’s bed. Needless to say, my parents punished me and I never did it again. That being said, I shall try to describe Marie Higgins’ office space as nicely as I can (because believe me, at one point I might not be able to hold back my disgust).

As I stand at the doorway of the kitchen and look into this small room, the desk is to the right of me, and beyond that is the door leading into her bed chamber. On the left side of me is the door leading to the bath chamber which has an indoor latrine. Very interesting concept, I might add. I wish they had thought of it in my era… This is a very old house and over the years rooms have been added on, but nevertheless, the space used is really quite remarkable with a closet and drawers built right into the wall.

The window nearby the closet is always open, and welcomes in the sunlight. Pictures hang on every wall, three depicting old fashioned hats and white, wicker furniture. The other wall has a glorious picture of Christ which brings serenity while gazing upon it. The third wall has a picture of a pirate ship. My personal favorite. Near the desk (which I’ll describe momentarily), stands a bookcase full of Marie Higgins’ favorite books from over the years. Lining the top of the book case are pictures of her family.

Now I’ll describe her desk, and try my hardest to be polite. Never in my life have I seen such a clutter! How could anyone be organized with such a mess? Forgive me, but, I cannot fathom how she’s able to write with so much distracting her from her stories. On the top of the desk she has a lilac scented candle that she lights quite frequently. She has some awards that were presented to her as well. One is a service award given to her from the Romance Writers of America Chapter in 2008, and another plaque was given to her when she was President of said chapter from 2006-2007. Another plaque—that I personally like the best—reads: “Grandchildren complete the circle of Love”. Papers, phone books, camera, lotion, calculator and other miscellaneous items also complete the disorder.

Regardless of this mess, Marie Higgins finds this environment comfortable and this is where she spends a lot of her time away from her full-time day job. Although I do not agree with such a mess to work around, she seems to do just fine with it, for which I’m grateful or else my story would not have been written and I would have never met the lovely Katrina Landon.

So Marie Higgins…I thank you.

Sincerely, your hero, Felix Knightly”

(Delightful! And here are the pictures:)

DSC00599(The view from the kitchen)

DSC00598

(And from the other direction)

Marie has a blog full of details about her books and writing. You can also watch a trailer there depicting her different series and books. And all of her books are available on Amazon.

For those of you familiar with my son Jason, diagnosed with an autistic spectrum disorder since age six, I’m excited to announce next Wednesday’s writer, Tracy Winegar, historical fiction author of KEEPING KELLER about a boy with autism. Be sure and check back next week!

Tracy Winegar

Originally posted 2014-06-04 06:00:10.

Reorientation

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

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

249152_10151467103714001_1797077147_n

IMG_1737And here I am with my editor, Linda Prince

IMG_1735

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

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

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

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Me and the brilliant Michelle Wilson

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

Anne Perry

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

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

IMG_1740The bunkhouse sleeps 8 — here’s one half

IMG_1742

And there’s shelves and closet space too!

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

IMG_1878The ATV I rode up to the top of Antennae Mountain

IMG_1875

Liz pointing to her neighborhood in Kanab

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I’m following Christine into Peekaboo Canyon–Gorgeous!

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

Mark your calendars now and go ahead and register.

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

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