Posted in addiction, children, coming of age, education, education, environment, family

I raised an addict – what could I have done differently?

I don’t usually re=post things of this nature. I prefer to talk about what I love, writing, But this is worth sharing with anyone who will listen, Who knows, maybe it will save a life.

via I raised an addict – what could I have done differently?.

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Posted in authors, books, coming of age, novels, teenager, writer's block, writing

The Writer’s Block Tip#7 by Jason Rekulak

writerw block

Tip# 7  Most Likely to Succeed

Many writers seem to have a rough time in high school – how else can you explain the frustrated teenager protagonists of novels like A Separate Peace or The Catcher in the Rye? The good news is, the most exhilarating – and embarrassing – moments of adolescence can be channeled into great fiction, and you can summon the memories just by opening your Senior Class yearbook.

Imagine what happened to “Most Likely to Succeed” and “Most Popular.” Write about the class clown who defied everyone’s expectations and became a celebrity. Tell us which of your former teachers initiated an affair with one of his or her students. Show us the secret life of the Cafeteria Lunch Lady. Relive the glacial passage of time in a high school detention session, or the petty jealousies involved I the planning of the school musical.

Use as many of your high school memories as you wish, but feel free to embellish or alter “the truth” as you go along. Personal revenge fantasies that involve “Most Popular” are permitted.

By Jason Rekulak

Can you recall a high school incident that you can twist into a storyline in your current WIP? Tell us about it – fully embellished – and please no real names of characters.

Posted in children, coming of age, education, etiquette, family, help

Is Etiquette dead?

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Emily Post

Oct 27, 1872 – Sept. 25, 1960

This post has nothing to do with writing, it has to do with living. With the holidays over, I have been thinking about etiquette. What faux pas did I commit by either not following etiquette or by using out-dated protocol that showed my age worse than the wrinkles on my hand?

Without Emily Post to direct me, how do I know what is still current and what is passé?

Below is a list of etiquette I was raised with. I’m not saying I remember to use them all. What do you think is still proper and what ones should be thrown out with the bath water. (I realize that statement will only make sense to certain people – oops dating myself already.)

  1. Men (and I include boys whenever I say “men”) should open doors (including car doors) for a lady. (i.e. girls)
  2. Men should give up their seat on public transportation to women and the elderly. Note: I think women should also give up their seat for the elderly if they are younger)
  3. Men should walk on the outside (curb side) when walking down the street with a lady. Note: Did you know that before indoor plumbing, the rule was the opposite, so if someone threw dirty water out the window of their apartment, the water would hit the man, not the woman?
  4. Men should either place the hand on the small of her back or gently hold her elbow when walking. (Note: I’d settle for holding hands if appropriate.)
  5. Men never let a lady lift something heavy when they are around.
  6. Men stand up when a lady enters or leaves a room.
  7. Always RSVP to an invitation, even if it does not require one.
  8. Shoes and shirts at the table (No shoes, no shirt, no service applies in peoples’ homes too)
  9. Bring a thank-you gift when invited to dinner.
  10. If given a dish to take home, always return it full, never empty.
  11. Women should sit with their feet crossed at their ankles, not at the knee.
  12. When not eating at the table, hands should be in your lap.
  13. Napkins always placed on the lap.
  14. No elbows on the table.
  15. No slurping your soup.
  16. Children should never interrupt an adult. (Arguing with an adult is never appropriate)
  17. Respect your elders, even if you think they are wrong.
  18. Guests to wait to pick up their utensils to eat until the hostess is seated. She picks up hers first. (this applies to dessert served as well)
  19. Never leave the table, even if you are done eating, until the hostess says you are excused.
  20. Never say “I don’t like that.” Always, “No thank you. I don’t care for any.”
  21. Thank-you notes for gifts. Hand written was protocol, but I would assume an email would work today.
  22. Crude or inappropriate language does not belong at the dinner table.
  23.  This is a new one I made up – No electronics at the table.

This isn’t everything I learned. Mom, I swear there are more. But, this is what came off the top of my head. I’d love to hear what you think of these and if there is any etiquette that I grossly forgot, or perhaps a new etiquette that arose in the last century.

Posted in authors, characters, children, coming of age, conflict, cozy mystery, fiction, forgiveness, humor, innocence, love, mystery, novels, publishing, readers, small towns, writers

“Close to the Broken Hearted” equals heartache, innocence and forgiveness.

Close_Broken  by Michael Hebert

Welcome everyone to Author Interview Friday.  It is my pleasure to have Michael Hiebert with us today. I’d like to change up the order of how my interviews usually begin and go straight to the short synopsis of Michael’s book, Close to the Broken Hearted.

 

At twenty-two, Sylvie Carson has known a lifetime’s worth of trouble. When she was a child, her baby brother was shot to death by a man named Preacher Eli. Orphaned by her teens, Sylvie is now raising her own baby with no partner in sight. For all these reasons, Leah Teal, Alvin, Alabama’s only detective, tries to stay patient when Sylvie calls the station day and night, always with some new false alarm. But now, Preacher Eli is out of prison amd moving back to town.

As far as he law is concerned, the old man has paid his dues; though Leash’s twelve-year-old son, Abe, vehemently disagrees. Between that and his relentless curiosity about the daddy he hardly knew, Abe’s imagination is running in all directions lately. While Leah struggles with how much of the past to reveal to Abe, she/s also concerned about Sylvie’s mounting panic. Something in her gut tells her the girl might be a target after all. For as Leah knows well, there’s danger not just in the secrets others keep from us, but in the lies that corrupt from within. It’s a hunch that will be tested soon enough as tensions mount on both sides.

Evoking the South with depth and grace, Michael Hiebert’s poignant, gripping novel captures the strength wrought by heartache and lost innocence; and the transformative power of forgiveness. Wherever it comes. . .

See folks, I knew that would be an attention grabber. Now, may I introduce Michael Heibert.  Michael comes to us from the wintry land of British Columbia, Canada. He  won the  Surrey International Writer’s Conference Storyteller’s Award twice in a row. He teaches  classes online at Writers’ Village University.  (Did not notice that last week, author was also my friend I met at Writer’s village University. A great place to learn online and chat with terrific author friends you just haven’t met yet.

Michael Hebert photo

Michael, do you have a background in writing or take any special writing courses that helped you along the way?

I was very lucky to meet Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch about ten years ago. They taught me a lot of what I know today. I went to writing workshops down in their house in Oregon where ten writers were sequestered into one space (we all had our own bedroom) and we’d be given eight hours of lecturing a day and expected to write 25,000 words a week. I write a lot. I write fast. I think these two things impacted my writing career more than anything else. Two years in a row I wrote over one million words (I used to keep track). I don’t write so much these days, but I can still do three books a year without breaking a sweat.

How long did it take you to publish your fist manuscript?

Well, I quit my day job and decided to become a real writer twelve years before actually publishing anything. During that time I wrote a LOT. I wrote sixteen novels and probably fifty or so short stories.

Twelve years. And you stuck with it. That is determination. Many of us cross over genres and it is difficult to pinpoint one to fit our books. For the book we are promoting today, what shelf would we find it on if it were in a bricks and mortar bookstore?

It IS in bricks and mortar bookstores and usually found on the mystery shelves, although sometimes it’s just placed under fiction.

Are you published through a traditional publishing house? If yes, how did you find your agent and publisher?

Kensington Books in NYC publish my adult novels. I self-publish my YA books and my short story collections. My agent found my publisher for me (that’s her job), but finding an agent wasn’t easy. It took me ten years. When I finally did find her, I literally ran into her on the sidewalk in New York. See the About Me section of my website for a more thorough description of how this happened. It’s pretty funny.

I did read your About Me section in your website. I LOVED the line “Fiction will always just be more entertaining than real life, so why not stretch things a teensy bit when you’re retelling them.” I’m going to keep that mantra in the back of my end while I am writing from now on.  You’re casual style of writing in that section makes me feel like I know you already, that we’ve just shared a beer in a musky tavern.  (No, readers, I am not sitting face-to-face with my authors at these interviews, but I hope it feels that way to you as you read them.) Readers, do yourself a favor and go to his website. You won’t be disappointed.

Do you always write in the same POV or narrative or do you switch it up in different stories?

My Alvin books (Dream with Little Angels, Close to the Broken Hearted, and the third, which will be released next spring and will be called A Thorn among the Lilies) have mixed POVs. My main character, Abe, always speaks in first person. Everyone else is a close third person. When I write other things I like to play with POV. Even in the Alvin books, each has a prologue written in what I call a “floating third” POV. It’s not quite omniscient, but it doesn’t stay with one character.

Authors and publishers are always talking about finding your “Voice”. Exactly what does that mean to you and how did you find yours?

Write a lot. Your voice will come. Listen to authors who have authorial voices you like being read by good readers. This is the quickest way to developing a good voice, as far as I’m concerned.

Are you a pantser or a planner?

If you want any kind of long term career and actually make money, you have to be a planner. Would you want your house built or your kidneys worked on by a pantser?

What advice would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?

Finish it before starting anything else. Even if it sucks donkey balls, finish it. It is unmarketable until it is finished, and it is probably not as bad as you think. Besides, that’s what first drafts are for. I call them SFDs. Shitty First Drafts. Get them done. Then put it away for two to four weeks before pulling it out and rereading it again. Then fix it.

Links:

Website:              www.michaelhiebert.com

Blog:                      www.michaelhiebert.com/blog

Facebook:           https://www.facebook.com/michael.hiebert67

Twitter:                                @Hiebert_M

Posted in authors, characters, children, Christian, coming of age, fiction, Indie, KIndle, mystery, novels, parents, readers, teaching our children, Young Adult

Cheryl Abney writes Middle-Grade Historical Fiction

cheryl abney

Cheryl Abney is a retired educator with over 30 years’ experience as a teacher and counselor at all levels—college, high school, middle, and elementary. She is a current member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Florida Writers’ Association, Gulf Coast Writers’ Association, and the Society of Children’s Writers and Book Illustrators. Cheryl loves to create historical fiction stories and has written two middle-grade readers set in the Florida Lake Okeechobee area, circa 1918—Belle of the Glades, and its sequel, The Bone Field Mystery. She lives in the Florida Glades area of her story’s setting with her husband, two Jack Russell terriers (Zoey & Ditto), and her tortoise (Theo). She loves her current freelance position of creating short historical fiction stories for www.TheFreedomkids.com, and she hopes you’ll like reading them as much as she has enjoyed writing them.

Cheryl Abney weaves a new adventure in the old frontier as a young city girl meets rustic fish camp in her book Belle of the Glades. When recently orphaned Isabelle Lacy, is sent to live with her uncle on the shores of Lake Okeechobee in 1918, a whole new world is opened to her–a world shared with snakes, alligators, outlaws, and a new Indian friend.

 The Bone Field Mystery is the sequel to Belle of the Glades, and it takes Belle on an adventure to solve whether there is a Bigfoot at the Bone Field. Both Christian oriented middle-grade readers can be purchased online at www.BelleoftheGladesBooks.com as an e-book or softcover through links to Amazon and Barnes & Noble (iUniverse for Belle of the Glades only).

 

 The_Bone_Field_Myste_Cover_for_Kindle Cheryl Abney

Cheryl, do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I think I inherited my note-writing from my father, who would leave these small manila- work-tags scribbled with notes on his desk (the top of the refrigerator). I kept diaries when younger and still journal, was PTA secretary a number of years, and loved English and shorthand classes. My first remembered interest dates back to a fourth grade activity of creating a class poetry book—which I still have. We each had to create three poems for this hard-cover book. I was ecstatic.
What type of writing do you do?

I have written nonfiction articles for magazines, newspapers, websites like The Parenting Network and Kids Faith Garden, but my books and short stories are historical fiction for middle-grade readers. That’s where my heart is.

Why did you choose the self-publishing Indie route? Why did I choose this publisher and would you recommend that same Indie publisher?

I was probably premature to self-publish BOTG, because I’d only submitted it half a dozen times, and was encouraged to hang tough by a writing mentor. I retired in 2011 and I wanted to see it in print…felt I didn’t have the advantage of youth to wait years. I chose iUniverse after speaking with a friend who used them, and I did my homework researching the different Indies. My sequel, TBFM, was published through CreateSpace. It involved more work on my part, but I had more control over the product price…which dictates our profit margin.

I know that feeling of wanting to hold your book in your hands. I don’t think patience is an easy virtue for authors.

Do you always write in the same POV or do you switch it up.

I have always written my books in third person POV. It wasn’t until this year, when hired to write historical-fiction short stories for middle graders in first person, that I attempted this POV. It was definitely a learning curve, but I do feel it more effective in getting your reader into the story—as if they’re experiencing it.

I am also working on my adult historical romance, but keeping it in third person POV; so yes, I’m switching it up. I find I have to edit the short, first-person stories carefully so I don’t slip back into my books’ POV.

Are you a pantser or a planner?

I have done both, but I tend to grab an idea and jot a few notes, then write, write, write. I usually end up stopping at some point and creating a plan. But over all, I’m a pantser. I must admit to trying some excellent planning programs, but don’t follow through with them. However, I think it’s extremely important that you do lengthy character sketches of each main character before starting to write. I clip pictures from magazines for images. I’ve heard it said that you don’t “write what you know, but who you know.” Personalities, I steal from people I know. I heard one author assigned character names starting with the letter of the known person’s name, who she could relate the character’s personality to. Important thing, is to get to know your character well, before writing.

What advice would I give to new writers just started with their first manuscript?

Two notes of advice—join a supportive, productive writers’ group and an editing group; and practice discipline. Set a definite, nonnegotiable time of the day to write, and write most every day. I’m most productive when I treat my writing like the business it is—showing up regularly.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I enjoyed reading Patrick Smith’s A Land Remembered, and Zora Neale Hurston’s There Eyes Were Watching God, both about the everglades; I thought it’d be enjoyable and educational to write about the area I reside in from a young reader’s view.

How did you come up with the title?

When I was a young college student first introducing myself to a class, the professor kiddingly referred to me, that one instance, as “Belle of the Glades.” I’ve never forgotten it, even though I now know the label was referring to Belle Glade (my residence then) by its original name.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

May sound corny, but I like to think it says “home is where the heart is.” Home has nothing to do with money, possessions, popularity, location—but a lot to do with security found in family, faith, and friendship.

How much of the book is realistic?

The dates and locations of the islands and settlements bordering Lake Okeechobee, the Palm Beach Canal, 1918 flu epidemic, and environment are realistic. I’ve created the Glades Runner, Sam’s store, and Hayes’s Fish Camp—but representative of the real things.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Pieces of every author creep into their writings. In BOTG, my youth was more like Belle’s after she came to live at her uncle’s fish camp. I loved wading and catching pollywogs, frogs, and turtles in the pond near home. My friends and I climbed the sand hills and wandered paths in the woods.

What book are you reading now?

I enjoy historical books like BOTG. Right now I’m reading the second in a series that started with an historical time-travel plot—Tomorrow & Always by Barbara Bretton. It’s captivating, as I hope Belle of the Glades is.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

I belong to several writing groups, but Gulf Coast Writers Association (Fort Myers) has definitely been the most interactive and rewarding. They meet the third Saturday of every month. I also meet with three other ladies, Critique Critters, to edit each other’s work once a month.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Francine Rivers is my favorite author. I just finished her current series that starts with Her Mother’s Hope (Marta’s Legacy). It is historical and crosses three generations. This Christian author, whom I’ve heard and met at conference, writes detailed accounts of another time and place, so that the reader is transported to that era.

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)

No, because I’ve lived in the area of my setting, Lake Okeechobee, for 43 years. I have, however, visited many of the museums within driving distance to research the material in BOTG. Have you learned anything from writing your book?

I’ve learned how difficult it is to publish and market a book for profit. I’ve learned to stress less and enjoy the journey. An author needs to enjoy the accomplishment—the fruition of their efforts. Enjoy the kind comments and support from readers, and keep their eyes on the original goal to share knowledge and pleasure. I would advise young writers to follow their dream now—for it’s true that “tomorrow never comes.”

Writing for profit has a long learning curve, so take advantage of writing clubs, online seminars, workshops—and write. Google “young author publishers,” and check out CreateSpace. Parents can encourage their children’s writing by helping them navigate CreateSpace and publish 5 copies of their book for a minimal fee.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

A link to a short-story sample can be found at www.BelleoftheGladesBooks.com, as well as book purchase links. I hope you enjoy Belle’s adventure and will contact me.

Thank you so much for a wonderful interview.  Cheryl’s  books are available through:

Create Space:  The Bone Field Mystery:    http://www.createspace.com/4500669

Her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/cherylabney

iUniverse : http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000603311/Belle-of-the-Glades.aspx

Her website:  www.BelleoftheGladesBooks.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in authors, books, characters, coming of age, editing, fiction, KIndle, novels, proof reading, writers, Young Adult

Young Adult Novelist and Editor, Sarah Towne

Sarah Towne

Sarah walked in to Marco Island Writers and stole everyone’s heart.  She is a breath of fresh air among most of us grey haired (if we were honest – only L’Oreal knows for sure.) To my great surprise, Sarah was anything but a novice.  Tell the readers a little of your background.

Sure. When I was an undergrad, I took several creative writing courses. I took two or three poetry classes, one fiction, and one creative nonfiction course. I majored in English and had a creative writing minor. After undergrad, I earned my Master in Fine Arts in Creative Writing. I took two years of creative writing courses and finished my degree by writing a thesis that was a full-length book. My first book, The Other Summer Girl, was not my thesis but I did get started on it while in grad school.

The Other Summer Girl - no cover

How long did it take you to write The Other Summer Girl?

From first starting the book to pressing Publish on Amazon, it took about a year and a half – I wrote the first 60 or so pages while I’m grad school, took almost exactly a year off from writing The Other Summer Girl, and then finishing writing and editing in six months.

Tell us aboutThe Other Summer Girl.

If I could say which shelf in the bookstore my book would appear, I’d have to say Young Adult. Some might consider this YA Romance, some might say just YA, and others might consider it New Adult (NA) because the protagonist is a freshman in college.

I do think that my book would speak most to a YA audience because I feel like it speaks to the issues a freshman might experience – homesickness, social anxiety, love, being in a new place, growing up and so on. When you’re a freshman in college, you are technically a new adult but I think there’s a blurred line between this YA/NA genre labeling. Melanie Collier, the main character in The Other Summer Girl, is very much a young adult – yes, an older young adult but still a young adult – when she enters college. Her naïveté and social hesitations make her a character that I think a lot of high school students could look to and get an idea of what college is like – I wish there had been a book like mine or like Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl when I was freaking out about leaving home and being in a whole new town. It is my hope that the YA audience will connect with Melanie on some level and be able to go on this college journey with her. I am working on the sequel, The Fall Of Us (working title), that will be out by late summer.

Let’s talk about writing  style. Do you always right in the same POV?

I started writing The Other Summer Girl in 1st person and discovered that I wanted the story to be told with more uninhibited  observation, so I moved it to 3rd person past tense. I felt like 1st person, especially in present tense, didn’t offer the reflective distance I was looking for the main character to have. I also feel like the 3rd person/past tense gives the story the feel that the character can make it through her social struggles in the end and that there is a summer after that first year to regroup and grow and move forward.

I sometimes write poetry in 1st person, and I think I will experiment with 1st person in future novels. But for now I like the 3rd person POV.

Sarah, what makes you tick? In other words, why do you write?

I write for many reasons but if I had to choose I would say because there’s something about it that fulfills me. When write a sentence or paragraph or scene of dialogue that just clicks and reflects exactly what the feeling is for that moment, it makes me happy and I hope that others can gain something from my story if it’s something as simple (and amazing) as just enjoying the story.

My favorite place to write is anywhere that serves fresh coffee and a has large windows. But there are those nights, especially when I was finishing The Other Summer Girl, I wrote on my big comfy couch with my laptop into the early hours of the morning. I also have to play music while I write – there’s something about it that makes the writing flow easier.

I hope you all will check out my debut novel, The Other Summer Girl, available for 99 cents on Amazon. If you want to learn more about the book and read some of my blog posts, head on over to my website: sarahdtowne.com

In addition to writing, I am also an editor. I co-founded E&E Literary Services with my mom; we work with writers on developmental editing, copyediting, and proofreading. We also have been beta readers and can help you with your social media creation and management. If you would like more information, you can visit our website eeliteraryservices.com or email us ateeliteraryservices@gmail.com

Posted in children, coming of age, family, humor, love, writers

In Honor of my Mom, Bernice Hammar Simon

Her Wedding Day Sept. 14, 1940
Her Wedding Day
Sept. 14, 1940

Because I can’t wrap my arms around her and tell her that I love her, I dedicate this day to my Mom, Bernice Hammar Simon.

August 28, 1918 – January 17. 1997.  Rest in peace Mom.

15  Things I remember about Mom  (I could do a hundred more)

1. Seeing my Dad’s face when he came home from work and found my brothers, me and MOM, all lined up in the hall doing a head stand.

2. Mom riding my brother’s mini-bike right up a pine tree – and being madder than a hornet that nobody told her the gas was on the grips of the handlebars.

3. Mom sticking her head, full or rollers  in the oven to dry her hair.

4. Me, sitting on the red stool,at the red Formica counter-top, in the red plaid kitchen, watching my mother cook, dressed in her favorite red sweatshirt, shorts and saddle shoes.

5. Hearing my Dad tell me stories about Mom riding in open cockpit planes when she was a teenager.

6. Her love  for her 1966 Mustang, red, of course.  And how she liked to drive fast.

7. Mom dressing up like a beatnik , all in black with me and my girlfriends when I was a teenager and  driving us around looking for boys. (because I was too young to drive)

8. Her laughing until she cried or peed her pants (or both.)

9. Going to Mother-Daughter luncheons at the Swedish church with Mom and Grandma Hammar the week of Mother’s Day.

10. Her meatloaf – the best ever… and her baked macaroni and cheese  OR  letting me have spaghetti and pumpkin pie for my birthday.

11. Hearing her tell the story of when she sewed my sister-in-law’s bridal nightgowns together and let Pat’s sister take the blame for many years.

12. Her face when she was with the grand-kids – she loved them so much.

13. Her sitting on the floor playing with the grand-kids – or doing board games on the card table.

14. Her love for family genealogy, and her bumper sticker that read “I collect dead relatives.”

15. Her holding me when I had a broken heart /  Me holding her when she struggled to breath.

Okay, so I squeezed a couple favorites together because I could not choose. So shoot me. Mom was a 5 ft. 2 ” fireball most of her life. But she was a smoker, and spent the last decade of her life gasping for air with only one quarter of one lung.  She coughed until she turned blue, and each time we wondered if it would be her last breath. But it wasn’t  until she fell and broke her hip, that she never recovered. Her last words , spoken before going into surgery, after the doctor asked her if she  had dentures out, panties off, etc.  “Yep, I’m as free as a bird.”  Fly free Mom, we miss you.

The earliest photo I have with Mom
The earliest photo I have with Mom
Our family, seated MOm & I standing Dick, Gene, Dad, Don
Our family, seated Mom & I
standing Dick, Gene, Dad, Don
Mom and Dad with their 1st grandchild, my Candy
Mom and Dad with their 1st grandchild, my Candy
Out little family kept growing with baby Dru.
Out little family kept growing with baby Andrew.
Mom in her favorite color
Mom in her favorite color
Mom and brother Don
Mom and brother Don
Mom's "Famous Cake" Every candle with a name "Worlds Best ...."
Mom’s “Famous Cake”

This was just a few of the candles. She had a candle for every member of the family.  The cake was blazing with candles.  Each candle had a different tag. “World’s Greatest ….. ” My son Dru’s , who was 15 said “Andy – World’s Great Break Dancer”.  She had something special for everyone. That is just the kind of person she was.

her happiest time with all her children and grandchildren
her happiest time with all her children and grandchildren
Mom and the grandkids
Mom and the grandkids
Mom. me Candy and first Great Grandchild Chelsea
Mom. me Candy and first Great Grandchild Chelsea
last professional photo
last professional photo
Last photo I have of Mom
Last photo I have of Mom.

Of course,  she was in a red bathrobe.

 

 

Posted in authors, coming of age, family, literary fiction, love, mystery, novels, readers, womens fiction, writers, Young Adult

Judy Hill says inspiration is everywhere.

Judy Hill

Judy,  it is such a pleasure to have you with us today on Author Interview Friday.  Tell us a little about yourself.

Originally from downstate Illinois, I now live in rural Virginia, inspired by the history that surrounds me. I have six grown children, nine grands and great grands, and a growing bunch of furry grandchildren. I have been writing seriously most of my adult life, first as a school administrator in charge of producing newsletters, enrichment class lessons and the flurry of papers all of you parents receive from your child‘s school daily.

Under contract to the Department of Defense in the Pentagon, I wrote proposals and training, testing and technical support materials. Now retired, I write for pleasure alone drawing on a background of many classes, extensive reading, a love of history and the English language, working in the theater and as an historic house docent. These days I can indulge full-time in writing short stories, poetry, and novels.

 

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

Around the age of ten. I wrote a play about a band of gypsies gallivanting around a forest – kind of a cross between Carmen and Robin Hood. My very best 4th grade girl friends and I produced it for our parents to thunderous applause. I was hooked and have been writing ever since.

Where do you get your inspiration? 

I find inspiration everywhere. For instance, the inspiration for my recently published first novel was the book, Born Fighting, How the Scotch Irish Shaped America, by the former Senator from Virginia, James Webb. I also love the story of the founding of America, and my own trip to Scotland where I unexpectedly discovered that my family name, Allen, has Scottish roots.

Primarily, when I sit down to write, I draw on my pool of distilled experience: everything from people I have known to places I have been to achievements and failures, pleasures and pain. The memory bank can be a strange place to visit, but so much of what I dredge up from there often lands on the page – a fit of laughter, a painful affair, the scent of a long desiccated sprig of lavender plucked from a childhood garden, all woven together with fragments of truth and wild sprints of imagination. And that is why I write. It is such an adventure.

Do you have a background in writing or take any special writing courses that helped you along the way?

I like to say I have a PhD in Living – a little conceit of mine, as much like my secretly adopted mentor, John Steinbeck, I have never completed a degree program, but if experience has anything to do with putting words on paper, I’ve probably done it or taken a class in it. But the daily practice of writing to make a living has been the best education. I have written newsletters, white papers, administrative, technical and financial reports, government proposals, user guides and training plans, software test plans, meeting minutes – facts, protocols, standards. All wonderful training for learning how to organize thoughts, write succinctly, and deliver an exact message. My relief from this routine was reading the best fiction I could get my hands on, working evenings in the theater and as a docent at the historic house of James Madison, Montpelier.

 How long did it take you to publish your first manuscript?

From first ‘bee in the bonnet’ to actual publication of my first novel, The Secret Diary of Ewan Macrae, took about eight years of fits and starts, several iterations of the story, and at least two years of rewrites.

Why did you choose to go the self-publishing Indie route in lieu of traditional publication? What were the deciding factors to choosing your publisher? Would you recommend that same Indie publisher to a colleague?

After hearing Kathryn Stockett’s story of having her novel, The Help, rejected by 60 literary agents, I decided I was getting too old to go through that ordeal and chose to self-publish. It has become an accepted and much more respected way to go than in the past.

I investigated several independent publishing houses, but after attending a seminar run by a fellow writer, I published through Amazon’s Create Space. I am a bit of a technical dunce, but after an initial learning curve, found the process easy, and am quite pleased with the final products: a print-on-demand quality paperback and a Kindle version. And I might add – at no cost.

Do you always write in the same POV or narrative or do you switch it up in different stories?

Interestingly enough, The Secret Diary of Ewan Macrae is written in three POV’s – that of the two contemporary main characters living in 1946, and of the 1746 writer of the titular diary.

With part of the story taking place in the 1700’s, I would guess your story would fit under Historical fiction. Did you do a lot of research to make sure the scenes fit the era as far as language, clothes,  mannerisms? How closely do you stick to history to make sure it is correct? What other challenges do you face when writing in a different era?

My novel should probably be listed first as Historical Fiction with sub-genres (if there is such an animal) of mystery, literary fiction, family, love, and with a stretch of the parameters, ‘coming of age’ because the primary character, Margaret is a naïve 21 year old with as much ‘street sense’ as a 12 year old.

However, the background is American History. I wanted to explore life’s experiences during two eras not only very different from today but were, in my opinion, incubation periods for the country we have today: 1746, when waves of immigrants were arriving in America just as it is poised to launch the war from which it grew into a fledgling power; and 1946, when the United States, victorious in World War II, emerged as a world power.

I have tried to make the historical references, locations and culture as authentic as possible by doing extensive research on both eras. It was necessary to verify all of the items you mention as well as current events, laws, economics, antiques, plant life, food – I could go on and on but I think you get the point. Then I began on research of Scottish independence, emigration, indenture, migration, frontier life and finally Cherokee culture. It was great fun.

What does  “finding your Voice” mean to you and how did you find yours?

 My novel is strong on character development and in order to accomplish that I needed to ‘befriend’ my characters. Strange as it may sound, they became as familiar to me as family. I found I could think like each one, talk like each one, and each one is very different. The process started as I wrote back stories for the two main characters, Margaret and Phil. Where were they born, what were their family and childhood experiences, their coming of age, education, conflicts, and the problem or event that brought them to my novel. My “Voice” actually became theirs.

It is not enough to write a book and wait for the money to start rolling in. What marketing techniques do you implement to increase your sales?

Marketing is not my strong point. I know that a good platform is important: social media, website, blogs, etc.  And I am working on these. But as a neophyte, I find my best results to date have come from personal appearances, talks and book fairs.

As my website is in the design stages, please find The Secret Diary of Ewan Macrae  on Amazon at the link below:  http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=diary+ewan+macrae

 DIARY cover  for Judy Hill

Are you a pantser or a planner?

I have a blanket plan and usually an ending. Getting from the beginning to that end, I am a pantser. Also I have experienced the phenomena where my characters dictate what they want to do. When I follow their lead, the results are often better that what I had planned.

 What advice would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?

 Write, write, write. Let the story flow. Get involved in a good critique group that understands your genre and listen to their criticism – it is good food for thought. You can take it or leave it, but do consider it. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.

 What is the premise of your novel we are promoting today?

The Secret Diary of Ewan Macrae is a story of self discovery and America’s early years told through the experiences of Margaret Macrae, a naïve North Carolina small town girl trying to survive on her own and Phil Domin, a jaded New York City writer running from the law. Together they search for the answers to a mystery, uncover a conspiracy, and fall in love. A source of strength and inspiration for them both is the 200 year old diary written by Margaret’s Scottish ancestor who fled to America in 1746. The accounts, spanning two centuries have amazing parallels.

Thank you Judy.  Your book sounds intriguing. I can’t wait to read it.  Can you share a few paragraphs to wet our appetite? 

 Shafts of light leaked from the edges of the drawn shades of Marlin’s Cafe. Thinking these security lights, Margaret piled the cookie tins against the door when, startled – she toppled into a snow drift – Marlin opened the door. “What’s all the racket out here? Well, look who it ain’t. Come on in, gal, ya look like a block o’ ice. What in the world are ya bringin’ me?”

“Cookies,” said Margaret, her teeth chattering, “I made so many, I thought maybe you could use them.”

Marlin pulled the lid from one of the tins. “Lawdy, lawdy, will ya smell that – cinnamon and cloves.” She opened another tin, “Good gracious, these’re chocolate and nuts.” A third tin revealed, “lemon, just like they’re fresh from the tree.” On and on, “Mincemeat, almond, peppermint sprinkles, Christmas trees and stars. Gal, you are really somethin’. You musta used yer entire month’s sugar ration coupons.

“Come on in here. I am gonna fix you a big old cuppa hot cocoa. Take the chill outa your bones. Phil, will you come see what just dropped in.”

Out from the kitchen, wearing a long white apron, wiping his hands on a greasy towel, came Phil Domin. Another surprise.

“I been here all day,” said Marlin. “Gettin’ ready for the big Christmas day crowd. Bakin’ hams and turkeys. Can ya smell ‘em? Phil stopped by for coffee on his way home.

“Say, we got nothing else to do tonight. My money says you’re in the same boat. How ‘bout stayin’ and helpin’ with the cookin’?”

Margaret nodded – an uninvited impulse. The day was full of them. The warmth of the room – perhaps it was the company – melted the cold from her body and the usual shyness from her heart. Cocoa was brewed, three cups poured, a plate of cookies shared, stories of culinary disasters, remembered snowball fights, embarrassing moments, and the pageant chaos that, doubling over in laughter at the telling, they dubbed, the Christmas Riot of ’46.

Marlin rose from the table. “Y’all stay put. Time to check on the turkeys; take out the hams. We can sneak a bit for us to lay on some supper. If one of you knows how, you might throw together a little punch. And put on some music, Maggie, honey. It’s just plain dark outside. You best plan to stay the night with me.”

Margaret didn’t protest, but stacked the player with records and switched it on. Phil swirled together in a big glass snifter, a potent mixture of orange juice and champagne with a shot of Cointreau, a dash of sugar.

“Here, taste this.” He handed Margaret a tiny glass. She sipped the bubbly liquid and her nose began to run. It was her first taste of alcohol, titillating and wonderful.

Marlin returned carrying plates of turkey, ham and crusty bread, spicy apples, brandied pudding, ripened cheese and walnuts. They feasted and drank and laughed some more.

The café was warm and filled with the smells of cooking: cinnamon and nutmeg, pineapple and cloves, rosemary and sage. Marlin lit the strings of tiny white lights that hung round the windows, the red, blue and green ones on the tree that sat in the corner. Phil dimmed the café lights. The strains of White Christmas drifted from the record player. Snow began to fall.

With one hand at her back, Phil lifted Margaret from her chair and drew her close. As his lips brushed her cheek, she warmed with the feeling of falling into white clouds of soft cotton and silk, and smooth as breezes blowing through the trees, they moved as one to the enchantment of the song.

Who knew Christmas could be such a magical time? Who knew a grieving girl could grow into a woman overnight? Who guessed a cynical old New Yorker and a shy naïve mountain girl could fall in love?

“I did,” smiled Marlin. “I did.”