It’s NANO time

NANO logo

It’s November 1st – that means another year of NANOWRIMO. No idea what that means? NAtional  NOvel WRIting MOnth.

Join hundreds of thousands of other authors in the writing challenge to write a complete novel in thirty days. That’s right. Thirty days. Criteria must be a minimum of 50,000 words. That’s it. Any genre, any style of writing.

For those of you already familiar with NANOWRIMO, you have probably been planning and outlining like crazy getting ready for this event. But even if you haven’t, you can still jump into the fun. Can you write 1667 words per day? You’ll never know unless you try.

My first novel, Accident, was a NANO book, squeaking through at 50,000 and a few words. By the time, it was ready to roll off the presses (two and half years later), it had grown into a grown-up novel of 80K.

A few things to keep in mind when you write your NANO book.

  1. You don’t have time to edit. (that comes later)
  2. Write with fearless abandon, whatever crazy thing comes into your head. (you can always cut the crap, and most definitely will)
  3.  Put your characters in perilous predicaments. Up the stakes but putting them through things you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.
  4. Although you will stay up all night thinking of stuff to write, and rush to the PC (or Mac) or reach for a quick pen and paper, pace yourself. You still have a life, and a family that wonders what the heck you are doing. Want time to gobble down that turkey with family? Write double your word count the days before. Need three days? Then crunch the time in ahead of time.
  5. There is no one to judge what you wrote, so just have fun with it.
  6. What will you win? The satisfaction of knowing you have just WRITTEN A NOVEL. How many people can say that?
  7. Log on to the NANO website and get all the scoop. And don’t forget to log your progress. There are others out there helping to cheer you on. nanowrimo.org/

Good Luck and Happy Writing

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Mysterious World of Publication Post 6

G for Goals picture

Pretty simple: Goal = to be traditionally published.

Thanks for all of you sticking with me through my journey. So now comes the good news and the bad. The good . . . no, let me take that back, the GREAT news is that an agent requested a partial on my manuscript.

The not bad, but not great news. That is still a long way away from signing a deal. She didn’t ask for an exclusive, so I am moving forward submitting queries. And yes, I am still on target at seven a week, but in the back of my mind, I keep thinking:

What if it isn’t good enough?

What if it is?

How much will an agent or publisher want me to change?

Will my title go down the drain?

How do I feel about giving up the control I enjoy as a self-published author?

As you can see, I have more questions than I do answers.

But hang in there with me. I am only a few months into my goal of finding an agent within a year.

Have you recently found an agent? How long did it take you? Has your agent found you a publisher? I would love to hear about your journey as well.

Please comment. If you do, I will put your name in the hate for a copy of one of my currently published books; your choice, Accident, Town Without Mercy, What is Family or Within Her Grasp.

#MysteriousWorldOfPublicationPost4

#Loglines,QueriesandSynopsis,OhMy!

Having just completed a fantastic online course through #WFWA by the brilliant and talented Laura Drake and Kathryn Craft. Wow. Talk about eye opening. Perhaps that is why it is now day 32 into my query process and still no requests for partial or fulls.

For me, it was back to the drawing board for all three, plus some re-writes of my story.  I can’t (or won’t) convey the entire class, but I can offer a tip or two along the way that I learned.

Today let’s talk about log lines. Elevator pitches – whatever term you want to use. Why do we need them? Ever have someone actually ask about your book while in an elevator? I have because I live in a high-rise building. Without having to talk like you’re on speed, can you describe your story? On the street talking to someone? You have about thirty seconds to catch their attention for your book.

Wikipedia says “A log line or logline is a brief summary of a television program, film, or motion picture often providing both a synopsis of the program’s  plot and an emotional  hook to stimulate interest.”

The same applies to books. The basics – try to get the plot and the hook down to 25 words or less.

Your log line should show four things. Protagonist, Goal, Motivation, Conflict.

Example: Protagonist wants Goal because Motivation but Conflict gets in the way.

I have a very, very short one for the manuscript I am querying that I have used in the elevator several times. It doesn’t really show the plot, but it gets a conversation going.

“My book is about international adoption that goes all wrong.”  10 words.  Your thoughts? Doesn’t fit the formula, does it?

And I have a too-long one.

“A barren Louisiana woman adopts a Russian child to fill her desire for motherhood, but when the child turns life into a nightmare, she does the unthinkable and gives her away. When the child’s life is in danger, she realizes her mistake and must save her.”    46 words and two sentences.  If I stopped at the end of the 1st sentence, I’d be close to my word count limit of 25, but it did not convey the total plot.

Would either of these log lines want you to know more?

I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions. And send me your log line. Can you do it in 25 words or less?

#Mysterious World of Publication post 2

As this search for and an agent continues, one phrase keeps popping into my head that my Grandmother used to say, “Who ever said life was fair.”

The reason I think of this so often is because we, as authors, must adhere to strict guidelines for our query, synopsis or manuscript. For example, always address the agent by his/her name, put Query in the subject line, no attachments, etc. for the query. Not that I mind these, but they are “industry standards.” Another standard; synopsis must be in present tense, even if your story is in past tense. And of course, don’t forget your manuscript – double spaced, one inch margins, Times anew Roman 12 pt.

That’s all fine and good, but there is NO industry standard for agents. They can ask for a million different combinations. (maybe not a million – but you get the picture). One agent wants a query and first five pages. The next wants a query, a 3-5 page synopsis and the first chapter. Agent number three wants a query, a “short” synopsis (Does that mean a one page or a 3-5 page?) and the first 25 pages. Most now want email with no attachments, but a few still want queries snail-mailed or they Havre an online form. There is absolutely no consistency. And if you get it wrong, it is an automatic into the circular file. book stacks

Thank God for #Query Tracker. Wouldn’t it be nice if they had to adhere to “industry standards” like we, as writers do?  I know. Quit whining. Buck up. #Who ever said like was fair?

As for an update, I am plugging along, adding more agents. Not up to 14 yet, but the week is not over. Still optimistic. Non word from any of the submissions yet.  I’ll keep you posted.

#The Mysterious World of Publication

This week I entered a new phase in my writing career. I would like to take you along on this journey with me. Are you  already one of my fans? Thank You. Your belief in me spurs me on. A fellow writer? Come along on this ride with me. Perhaps we can learn together. Maybe . . . you ran across my blog site by accident or from a previous post. I hope you’ll stick around and follow my progress.

Up until this week, I have been a self-published author. I’ve experienced modest success. I know my writing improves with each book, and finally, I feel like stepping into the mysterious  world of traditional publication.

If your are a reader outside of the industry you may not know the process, but I assure you, this is going to be a fun ride.

First things first. What are my goals?  To find an agent that will sell my book to a reputable publisher. So . . . do I have a marketable book? I believe I do. My target audience is clear and defined – #women book-club readers that like stories that provoke debate, with current issues that they, as a reader could put themselves into and ask, “What would I do in that situation?”

My new book is about international adoption and the process called re-homing. Never heard of it? Well, as much as it is not illegal (except to advertise children for money), unbelievable to me, it is rather covert. Want an eye opener? Google re-homing children.  Enough said.

So what’s my next step? Is it edited (and edited and edited) until it’s the best that it can be.  Check and double check.

Now we are moving into the starting gate.

So with a helpful list from WFWA (Women’s Fiction Writers Association) and the online database, “Query Tracker” I started my search for an agent. Using the parameters of: a)agents accepting Women’s Fiction, b)were currently open to new submissions and c)were in the United States (not that I have anything against agents from other countries, but I thought I’d start local) I narrowed it down to only 122 agents. That’s all, you ask? That’s plenty, trust me.

My#goal is this – research agents every week and choose one a day to submit my query letter to. Seven queries a week until I get representation.  Are you  with me?  This week I met my goal of seven queries. I should make it through the list by Christmas (If I haven’t received representation) I also know it takes 6-8 weeks before I should expect a response. So bear with me.

As my fans, my friends or even my stranger, I will share my struggles and my joys as I go down this new path. You will get an inside seat into the life of a struggling writer. And in the end, I know you will celebrate my victory with me.  So grab your hat and hang on. It’s going to be a fun ride.

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.

FACT BASED FICTION “FACTION”

Per Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia:

Faction is a literary genre, which utilizes fictional characters, and plot lines that must remain within the constraints of current reality. The authors tend to take current and recent-past events, and postulate what is likely or very possible to happen due to these events, utilizing current technology.

In this way faction differs from fiction, which does not have constraints to stay within reality, non-fiction novels, which take actual past persons and events and fictionalize their story….

                              *                        *                        *       

 By Vince D’Angelo

My time with the U.S. Navy in the Pacific provided many interesting experiences.  Since none involved combat or other heroics, I found little reason to share them. A houseguest’s curiosity about my military service compelled me to discuss those experiences. My guest found my anecdotes intriguing and suggested I write about them. After a few hastily constructed chapters, my guest commented, while still engaging, it read too much like a documentary. To me, the events were the facts and I couldn’t change them. Or, could I?

I recalled a book discussion on television where an author said his novel was based on actual events but fictionalized.  Asked if the novel was considered fiction or non-fiction, the author answered, “Faction”.  I heard the term used again in other literary discussions.

Thus, I embarked on writing a novel based on my experiences in the navy. I completed the manuscript; the process was easy since all I needed to do was to recall events. It met with praise…from family and friends and the former houseguest.  I titled it, Tales from the Pacific.

I was inspired to continue writing. So I cannibalized one of the chapters and expanded it into a novella titled, No-Name Island.

I decided to write another novel, this one based on my shore leave in Hong Kong, China; a British Crown Colony at the time. I was very much taken with the exotic Far East city.  It was the most memorable experience of my naval career and the inspiration for the new novel, Out of Hong Kong.

*                          *                          *      

BOOK COVER Vince De'Angleo

No-Name Island: Post World War II, a six-man navy detachment is sent on a highly classified mission to map a remote, uninhabited tropical island. Instead, they find a leper colony manned by a mysterious medical staff. Also, a hidden encampment of men and women survivors of an accidentally sunk Japanese hospital ship, who are not aware the war is over. Unlikely scenarios for romance? Not quite.

Out of Hong Kong Vince D'Angelo

Out of Hong Kong: A young navy officer on shore leave in Hong Kong unintentionally finds himself in a brothel. The girl assigned to him is a ‘first time’ teenaged virgin desperately attempting to earn quick money to free her parents enslaved by mainland communists. His attempt to save her from becoming a prostitute puts both their lives in danger. They fall in love but are forcibly separated. He goes back to his ship not knowing what has happened to her. He returns to Hong Kong numerous times over the years, attempting to find her.

Thanks to Vince D’Angleo for his input on writing “Faction.”

Authors: Do you write faction? How do you market it?  What have been your experiences.

Readers: Do you like reading faction – fact based novels? Why or why not?

We’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment.

Author, James Usavage presents “Footsteps in the Attic”

Usavage author pic

James Usavage has led a life as interesting as the characters he writes about in his books. On his way to a career in medicine, James came to the realization that the life of a doctor was not the one for him, and that understanding set him out on a journey of exploration that spanned the entire United States.

Accompanied by his equally adventurous wife Judy, James spent a number of years criss-crossing the country working odd jobs (everything from car salesman to musician to construction worker to teacher) and experiencing people and situations that would all ultimately lend to the characters, places, and adventures that make up his books.

Influenced by many of the masters of classic modern literature (Wells, Conan Doyle, Dumas, London, Steinbeck, Hemingway, et al), James even writes longhand as many of them did, and although that may have resulted more from an injury involving a broken glass rod severing a nerve in James’s hand in a chemistry class accident, the fact that the feeling has finally come back to his fingers yet James still continues to write instead of type may shed some light on a love for the classic way of creating worlds with nothing more than pen, paper, and imagination.

“Footsteps in the Attic” is James Usavage’s third published novel and his wife Judy’s favorite of the three. More than just a spouse with a loving recommendation, Judy is also the official transcriber of James’s books from print to type. Together, they have brought the worlds that James Usavage has created to life.

James lives with his wife Judy, an artist, in Southwest Florida, and they are the proud parents of two grown sons.

From the author:

– I do a lot of research for each book. I don’t believe in cardboard characters and I make an effort to personalize them. When people that have read my other novels comment about seeing a little piece of themselves in the characters, I greatly appreciate it and know that I’ve done my job as a writer. No matter what, though, I have to say there is no sense of accomplishment and pleasure like having a family.     James P. Usavage

Footsteps in the Attic by Usavage

Joanne:  It is a pleasure having you on Author Interview Friday. How did you get started in writing and why?

James:  I actually started writing when I was in third grade which was also when I read my first novel ( Jack London ), I did some short stories for school and experimented with prose, poetry, rhyme, meter and so on. I enjoyed it. But I went on in school, eventually majoring in science and pre-med ( My Dad wanted me to become a doctor which didn’t happen ) I read many of the classics ( e.g. Steinbeck, Sartre, Camus, Hemingway ). I liked Tennyson, Jules Verne and so on. I have been asked why I started writing seriously so late in life.   I had other things to do, some of which I wouldn’t trade for anything.  One could say ” Life gets in the way “.  I like  the challenge of writing novels. There is the outlining, plotting, characterization and, in my case, much research. I never wanted to write a boring book so I chose novels and, in particular, thrillers. I enjoy writing my books. So, at least one person likes them. But seriously, I would not put them out there if  I thought they were not good enough ( I have waste-basketed a few manuscripts ).

Joanne:  Have you had any formal education or training in writing?

James:  I have never taken any special writing courses. I studied works by some of the best novelists and derived some of my own methods. As far as editing . When I got the galleys back from those who edited my first two books,  my wife and I found that there was very little change done to them.. That said, we decided to do the next novel  ‘ Footsteps in the Attic ‘ on our own. We hired a printing company and did the rest. ,       The results are bearing out that we did a pretty good job.

Joanne: Do you always write in the the genre?

James:  I believe that a well written novel transcends genre. You could say that my first two novels are of a different genre than my third and upcoming fourth novel.  However, the elements of suspense, mystery, adventure, human interaction and mainstream interest are in all of them to some degree. Anybody can read them. There is something for everybody. It’s a lot of work, but readers deserve something good for investing their time. If I didn’t enjoy writing it, why should I expect somebody to enjoy reading it.

Joanne:  Do you write in a particular POV, say first or third person and why?

James:  I like writing in third person. I think it works best with thrillers.

Joanne: A lot of us read to study the structure of books. I know that since I started writing, I see structure that I never paid any attention to as a casual reader. What do you do to improve your craft?

James:. I have studied other novels for structure. Depending on the novel, I’ve probably done all of these things. The thing that might have been trickiest-in my first novel A.C.E. Vanguard, was having 4 fugitives being pursued-with each experiencing diverse circumstances- weaving this into the story without missing a beat where each is concerned-and then interfacing this to meld into the last part of the book.

Joanne:  Do you follow a plan when you write, i.e., always commit to a word count or finishing a scene  or do you write as the “muse” strikes you?

James:  For me there are days when I might do one sentence or 10 pages. I look at novel writing conceptually. One day it might be a particular sentence or action or chronology I’m dealing with which is the foundation for the next chapter or character or a particular twist in the storyline. If I resolve a problem whether it be with one word or one chapter or a dozen, I’ve done a days work and I’m satisfied with that.

Joanne: Can you tell us the premise to the book we are featuring today, Footsteps in the Attic.

James: Briefly, Footsteps in the Attic ” is about the search for a fortune-teller who suddenly vanished. The story follows a young girl who possesses this talent. We follow her as she grows up, goes to college, gets a job, and meets a man whom she starts dating. He invites her to attend the wedding of his niece. They go up to the north woods with a group of friends from work. The marriage and celebration take place and then Rita vanishes. John, the boyfriend along with his brother ( with whom there has to be some healing  ) take off to find her. They pursue her from Arizona to Louisiana to Central Park N.Y. The story is full of twists and turns and —I’ll stop there. I will say one more thing. When I’m asked about the first chapter-it is similar to the neighborhood where I grew up. Here is the first chapter.

Chapter One of Footsteps in the Attic

I. Rita

When she was a girl growing up, Ouija Boards were considered a fun thing, a party thing. At first, Rita and others played with it, but as she became more intrigued by it, Rita moved it from under her bed to the attic to use for her own amusement. The attic was dark. There was a very narrow, curving, tunnel-like staircase which took her there; since there was no light over it, Rita brought a candle with her.  She had lighted candles in her room continually because she liked the atmosphere and the aroma they created. So it wasn’t unusual for her to take one with her when she went to the attic.

There was an old rocking chair in the attic that was covered with a once white sheet which, itself, was covered with dust. It was said that the previous owner of the house had died in the chair and that immediately afterwards, it was covered and put in the attic. When the neighborhood kids came over, they would listen for the chair to rock, especially on a stormy day when it seemed the whole house shook. Some thought they heard it, others pooh-poohed the notion, dismissing the noise as being that of tree branches brushing against the roof. But Rita heard it at night, the creaking noise  made by the rocker’s rails on the wooden floor of the attic. She heard it at night, as she lay in her bed waiting to fall asleep.

After climbing the stairs to the attic, she would lift the trap door, leaving it open, putting the candle on a nearby box and grabbing the drawn handle of a heavy old wooden dresser to brace herself as she took the final step to the top. Then Rita would walk over to the rocking chair and remove the sheet covering it. This she did carefully to prevent too much dust from flying in her face. She would then push a large wooden trunk, which was her table, in front of it. Next, she placed the candle on the trunk and walked toward the mounds of sheet -covered antique treasures.  She lifted one sheet and removed her Ouija Board from under an ornamental serving tray.

Sitting in the rocker, Ouija Board spread flat in front of her, Rita asked it to speak to her. “What do you want to show me, today?”

“E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G   Y-O-U   D-E-S-I-R-E,” it spelled, as she believed the pointer moved her hand to these letters. Some of the kids laughed and said Rita was the one who controlled the pointer. Rita told them it wasn’t so. With the other kids it was a game, but Rita took it seriously. Still, they were fascinated every time they played with it.

One stormy day–it seemed like there were a lot of them in the Midwest where they lived–Rita asked the Ouija Board what she should call it, and it gave her a name.  N-O-M-M.

“Nomm,” she said, repeating it a few times to hear how it sounded. From then in she called it that–Nomm. It became familiar to her, and she considered Nomm her friend and guide. One day, Nomm told her to go stand at one particular spot in the attic where she felt a chill.

“I don’t like this, Nomm,” she said, and Nomm never asked her to stand in that particular place again. Instead, Rita brought a few of the kids up to the attic the next day. Wanting to see what they would do, or if they would be scared, she told them to go to the spot. They stood on the spot and felt a chill, just as she told them they would, and they ran off frightened. After that, she didn’t bring anybody else up to her attic hideout. They wouldn’t have come, anyway. In fact, as word spread that the house was haunted, most of the kids stopped playing with her, let alone coming to the house.

There was a woman in the neighborhood  who was a known fortune teller–one who gazed into crystal balls, read tarot cards and palms. Rita knew that her mother went to this woman’s house, as did Molly, the next door neighbor lady. Mother never mentioned where she was going when she went to the fortune teller’s house, saying only “I’ll be right back.” In fact, she never mentioned ever having gone there; and when Rita asked, she would skirt around the issue. The other women in the neighborhood acted the same way. They all went to the fortune teller’s house, yet they wouldn’t admit it, even to each other. When they got together and talked, it would always be “somebody else” who went over there. “Oh, Irma goes to the fortune teller. Didn’t you know that?” would be a typical comment or gossip. This piqued Rita’s curiosity. One day when she eleven years old, she decided to see for herself what everyone else was doing, so she took a walk down the block, and when she thought no one was looking, she stopped by the old, dark brick house, went to the back stairs and cautiously proceeded to climb them. It was a wooden stairway which needed paint, and Rita held firmly onto the railings as she moved slowly toward the screen door. The stairs creaked with each step she took. The back porch was a screened area. It looked dark inside. Rita peered through the screen and was about to knock when she saw that the door inside the porch was slightly open. She knew somebody was watching her through the crack. The door opened a little more and soon a gaunt figure, dressed in dark clothes, came slowly toward her.

Rita met the woman’s intense gaze with a shy one of her own. Rita looked into the woman’s eyes. They were dark, distant, yet irresistible. The woman was wearing a long, black skirt and a black, long-sleeved blouse, with the sleeves being shear.

“You’re Norma’s daughter,” she said, facing Rita from behind the screen door.

“Yes–yes,” Rita replied, nervously.

The woman unlocked the screen door. “Come in. Would you like some cookies and tea?”

Rita didn’t reply.

“What can I do for you?”

Rita still didn’t reply.

“Oh, I know, Come inside.” Rita slowly followed her into the living room. The drapery was dark, as was the hue of all the old Victorian-style furniture, yet Rita felt drawn toward it and plopped down on a burgundy-colored sofa.

The woman brought in a tray adorned with cookies and a floral-patterned teapot, setting it on the table in front of the sofa. She poured some tea into a cup for Rita. Before she sat down, she took Rita’s hand and gazed at her palm.

“I can see, now, why you are here,” she said, soberly.

“You can?” Rita’s eyes were wide with surprise.

“Oh, yes,” she replied in a slow drawl. “You couldn’t resist coming, could you?”

“Umm,” Rita didn’t answer, but knew what the woman was talking about.

“I was born under a veil. Do you know what that is?”

Rita just shook her head. She had never heard of such a thing.

“You were also born under a veil. Your mother told me.”

Rita looked at her, perplexed.

“It-uh-means you are a very special girl, and you, too, have the gift.” A disturbed look came across the woman’s face, and then, as quickly as it came, it disappeared. “Does your mother know you are here?”

Rita shook her head , as she ate her cookie.

“Maybe you had better get back home before she misses you.”

Rita finished her cookie and got up from the sofa. ”I don’t have any money,” Rita had heard that the neighborhood women would pay five dollars for their readings.

“Oh,” the woman waved her hand and smiled. “You don’t have to pay me. Don’t worry about it.”

As Rita walked through the house, she glanced back to see a strange look coming across the woman’s face like the expression she had when she was talking about the veil, or whatever it was. The woman stood there in her living room, wringing her hands, as Rita took one last look back and scurried down the back stairs.

Rita ran home, thinking how strange the woman was. She had expected a real fortune-telling session with a crystal ball, yet the woman didn’t seem to do much except to look at Rita strangely. Maybe she could ask Nomm about it, later.

When Rita arrived home, her mother was waiting, wondering why Rita’s room had not been cleaned, as it was summertime and Friday–room cleaning day. So Rita quickly began cleaning her room and afterwards, helped her mother grocery shop for the week.

Rita was not unattractive, but she was shy, and as she went through high school and had at least a boyfriend each year, she forgot about her Ouija Board and the other things that had previously occupied her time. She felt, somehow, she was “different” and sometime into her second year of college, she began to evaluate herself in terms of what boyfriends and others had said to her. More than one had called her “odd” or “different”. Rita’s introversion and shyness was often misinterpreted.

So, on a Thanksgiving break from college, Rita returned home and went up the tunnel-like stairway into the attic, carrying a candle, as she used to do. Everything looked the same, and she felt something come over her-a familiarity she experienced as a girl a long time ago. The rocking chair was still in its place. She pulled out the trunk as she performed what seemed a distant, yet comfortable, ritual, and placed the candle upon it. Then she went to the covered pile of old things, reached under the sheet and under the tray and pulled it out. It was still there, the Ouija Board. She opened it on top of the trunk and inquired of it, as she lad many times before. It spelled out “Nomm- y-o-u-r   f-r -i-e-n-d.”

Rita felt like she was home.

Thanks James. Your books sound intriguing. Readers, here are other  books by James Usavage. they include  Miocene II and A.C. E. Vanguard.  You can order his books though his website at

http://authorjames.bigcartel.com/

Miocene II ‘ http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Miocene+II&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3AMiocene+II and ‘ A.C.E. Vanguard ‘  http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=A.CE.+Vanguard 

other book cover by Usavage        A[1].C.E. Vanguard cover by Savage

Local SW Historian brings Florida history to life

I am so pleased to have  Elizabeth “Betsy” Perdichizzi with us today on Author Interview Friday. I first read her book, A Girl Called Tommie when I moved here in 2008. Betsy made Tommie jump off the page and come alive for me. I could see her forging creeks and plodding through swamp land to bring civilization to Marco Island.  Like Betsy, when I moved here, I was craving the history of the island.  It was the best book  I had ever read on the local history of the area.  It is such a joy to say that Betsy and I are now friends and share the joy of writing together.

Betsy Perdichizzi

Betsy, please tell the readers when you first knew that you wanted to be a writer and if there was a particular inspiration to get started?

Our move to Marco Island in 1989 sparked my interest in learning about my new Florida home.  There were no books in the bookstore, only one or two in the library to read about the history of the island.  Most newcomers like myself came just for fishing, boating and leisure.  Doug Waitley, author of the Last Paradise, spoke at a luncheon that I attended. He said that he too had come to the island wanting to read about the history, then decided he had to write it.  He wrote about the Deltona development which we call modern Marco. In my mind, his words helped spark establishment of the Marco Island Historical Society in 1994 the need to capture oral histories of pioneers and their descendents.  I sensed time was running out. Those Old Timers and their descendents were dying off or drifting away. I met Kappy Kirk, Tommie Barfield’s 80 year old niece and legal ward, who introduced me to her friends.  That was a real break through, I wanted to  interview them all and write their stories.  So I became an actress telling the story of Tommie Barfield and her friends, then I became an author, writing about these people and how three communities developed.   I eventually found myself chairing the Capital Campaign to raise $4.5 million dollars to build the Marco Island Historical Museum to tell the story of the Calusa, the Pioneers and the 1960 Deltona history that led to modern Marco Island.

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

I learned the rudimentaries of writing for newspapers in a high school journalism class, but my real training was on the job experience writing as a freelance columnist, writing for the historical society newspaper then spent ten years writing a  newspaper history column “Days Gone By’ in the Suntimes, for which I won the Golden Quill Award.

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

I would say two years. My book was a one-woman play before it was a book. In 1998, I collected information about Tommie Barfield with the Kappy’s help and we formed a company to publish the book “A Girl Called Tommie, Queen of Marco Island” in 1999.

Do you always write in the same genre?

You’ve heard the old saying “truth is stranger than fiction” is true.  I am fascinated by the stories of pioneers and try to make them come alive for people, using their own words where possible. The SW Florida region is captivating, with new information about the past turning up everywhere, all the time. I can’t make it up any better than this, it is more interesting to me fiction.

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?

Florida non-fiction.  For the past six years I have been on a journey with the Olds family, discovering what it was like down here one hundred years ago.  When I was writing “A Girl Called Tommie, Queen of Marco Island” Kappy took me to Miami Beach to meet Tommies’ little sister Hazel.  Walking into Aunt Hazel’s house with pictures of her mother, sisters, the boarding house, made it all come alive for me, I hope I passed it on..

One of my readers, Dr. Robin Brown, a noted author in Fort Myers, wrote, “I just finished reading A Girl Named Tommie. What a very fine piece of work! I am helping write a summary of material pertinent to the presentation of Marco’s history for your new museum and I learned more about Marco during the century from 1850 to 1950 from your book, than from any other source. It needed to be written. And writing readable non-fiction is not easy. Your combination of dry historical fact with poignant human detail is well crafted

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?

Desk-top publishing or Indi-publishing as it is now called, blossomed with advent of the computer offering writers an economical way to publish their work  and become authors of published books.  I loved the writing part of it. Marketing the book and making it profitable thus rests directly on the author and if I do a little bit each day, even that part is getting interesting.

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

Documenting the history of real people and telling their life-stories is of great interest to me. In the non-fiction books my Voice is just the narrator giving some necessary background information.  In the early book I was a character in order to tell the story. 

Do you follow a structure pattern such as staying in chronological order, or alternating points in time or different POV’s? (point of view)

I read contemporary and classic authors and find myself studying how other authors express themselves, handle delicate subject matter, or admire a well-turned a phrase.  Writing for a newspaper helped me write clearly and cleanly, eliminating unnecessary words or flights of phrases. I like beginning at the beginning, but am not adverse to back flashes that explain a point in the story. 

What was the hardest part for you in the writing process; the outline, synopsis, query or building the story itself?

In writing about real people it is sometimes easier to find the beginning and the middle than it is to find the end or conclude the story.  In the “Tommie” book I I searched for a good ending, with what I thought was her vision of the future.  Readers always want to know what happened to your main character and I handled that  in a postscript, just as in a performance, you conclude the presentation in first person, getting out of character in the end to answer questions from the audience. 

Into the Wilderness offered my biggest challenge because I felt that Mary commanded the heart of the story with her very personal and revealing letters.  Mary’s daughter Saloma picked up the legacy with a beautiful letter that made it come full circle.

What marketing techniques do you implement to increase your sales?

One of the lecturers the 2013 Florida Heritage Book Festival remarked that if you do a little marketing everyday, it isn’t so overwhelming.

I found that I had made a good start, was doing some things right, 1. Establish my publishing business with Florida Sales Tax and ID tax number using an on line accounting program such as Quickbooks. 2. Establish website. 3. Contact Barnes & Noble or Amazon.  I acquired a Vendor of Record for companies who do not deal directly with authors or Indiepubs. 4. Actively working to market my books at least 30 minutes every day. 5. Enable myself to take cash, check and credit cards. I acquired a smart phone and Square reader for credit cards. Obtained credit card slips for back up when there is no WIFI or internet. 6. Obtain a banner, posters, and provide a table set up at book fairs that will attract people to my table.

I need to do more on social media, I don’t think it will ever end.

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

It you have the passion, don’t worry too much about details down the road…write it and it will come.

How does this book relate to the issues of today?

Some of the political issues touched upon one hundred years ago are still with us.  It is sometimes good to look over your shoulder and see how far we have come, and see what we can learn from the past. The pioneer had to be hardy, independent, self sufficient, and make do or do without.  You have to ask yourself, when disaster strikes are we prepared to meet and overcome the challenges as they did?

What is the premise of your novel, Into the Florida Wilderness,  we are promoting today?

Into the Florida Wilderness

Into the Florida Wilderness, Pioneer Life and medicine is based on fascinating first-hand accounts of life on the edge of civilization before Florida became a tourist and snowbird haven. The story is told in first person through the lively written diaries, photographs, and letters of three growing daughters of homeopathic doctors Mary and Louis Olds who lived on Marco Island from 1903 to 1920.  Dr. Mary and her family dropped out of Society and wrote about it, just as Al Seely, the hermit, would do 150 years later.  Mary followed her husband, the love of her life, with three little girls into the unknown backward civilization of primitive Florida. How do you survive in a place without roads, electricity, sewage, running water, hospitals, churches, or grocery stores. How do you preserve food without refrigeration? Wealthy and socially prominent northerners were attracted to their modest two-story home on the Marco River, becoming friends and sharing beach picnics and family suppers.  The girls took pictures with their camera and developed the film themselves…when they had ice! Names like Pinchot, Hornaday, Fielding, Dimock and Halderman float through the narratives like next-door neighbors.

 Dr. Mary’s challenge was to create a cultured home, and educate her daughters.

Betsy, I know the readers would love a little sample of your story.  Can you share a few paragraphs from your book to wet our appetite?

Mary writes to her Smith college classmates of 1884. (word count 831)

Marco Island, FL.

Oct. 25th, 1911

Dear Eight-Four: –

What a pleasure it is to hear from you once more! And what interesting letters you do write! It is a great delight to all our family to hear from you – and quite an education to our three country girls to touch so many phases of life through your rich and varied experiences.

Since I wrote you at Reunion in June 1910, the chief event in our history has been the great hurricane of Oct. 17, 1910 and its consequences.  During the whole summer following that June the country here seemed unusually prosperous: crops were most promising, both fruit and vegetables, for the fall and winter; and the tropical fruits of the summer were luxuriant in quantity and variety. We feasted on mangoes, guavas, sapodillas, sugar apples, avocados, etc. and then often felt little need of anything else except a little bread and butter.  Dr. Olds was greatly interested in propagating the finer varieties of mangoes, and had a beautiful nursery of young trees, and some fine specimens beginning to fruit, among them a fine Mulgoba, which proved to be as perfect and wondrous a fruit as it is claimed to be.  For the first time since we came to Florida, Dr. Olds began to feel that reasonably financial comfort was in sight. ‘But alas! Though we did not see winter as an enemy…“rough weather” did come- rougher than we had ever known.

We have often been on the edge of the great storms that have devastated Pensacola, Key West, Cuba, and other places within the sphere of influence of the Caribbean seas: but had always been fortunate in escaping with a gale tide, a high wind, and a day or two of hard rain but last year we were at the very center of the storm’s mischief. Five days it rained and blew-and when finally it seemed that the storm must be over, the very worst of it came on.  The rain did not fall down, it came horizontally, dashing at the house and forcing its way in at every horizontal crack.  Great sheets of salt water were swept up by the wind from the bay and dashed over the house. All day long we worked like Trojans, mopping up the water and trying to save our possessions from ruin. At dusk, the trees began to crash and break, and the rain poured in through the shattered roof in hopeless floods-.  Buckets did not avail to catch it- and it poured down through the second story floor to the ground floor where Dr. Olds bore holes for it to escape. It seemed every moment as if the whole roof must crash in, and we did not dare stay up stairs. Finding one dry corner we dumped the children there to try to sleep-but they could not, exhausted though they were by the day’s labors. Finally they arose, and tried to relieve the strain by playing Parcheesi! Dr. Olds and I were meanwhile going through some of the most anxious hours we had ever known. The tide the day before had gone lower than we had ever seen it before, almost baring the bottom of the bay, and Dr. Olds had known that this presaged an extraordinarily high tide on the return flood, and had felt all the time that we ought to escape to higher ground, than our own place afforded. But the wind was so terrific that none of our little boats could live in the angry waters as they rolled back.  Dr. Olds himself could not stand against the wind, and with trees crashing and timbers whirling through the air it seemed sure death to venture out of the house at all. By midnight our dock was swept away, the launch unroofed and sunk, the skiffs disappeared, palmetto trees torn up by the roots, the large sea grape tree in front of the house (the larger of the two trees in the photo) torn limb from limb until little more than a stump remained. No words can describe the force of those frightful gusts of wind as they beat against the poor little house – like a giant fish beating on a band box, like blows from a colossal club, each one harder than the last, getting worse, worse, incredibly worse, the house trembling and shaking, (flapping its wings: the children said), the kitchen roof rising and falling a foot or more with every gust, and each time it fell the stove pipe knocked against the stove with the weirdest sound!  Meanwhile the tide was rising a foot every five minutes, and we could see the water approaching the house.  The wind changed, and the chances were that storm and waves and wind would knock the house “all to smithereens,” as Dr. Olds said.

Go we must, but how?

Thanks Betsy. Readers, if you are interested in SW Florida history, you will love her books. Betsy’s website is www.CaxambasPublishing.com where you can see all of her books.