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 cowboys, family, fiction, love, novels, readers, romance, small towns, the west, westerns, WFWA, womens fiction, writers, writing

High Cotton Country by Leta McCurry

Leta McCurry           High Cotton Country

It is a pleasure to have Leta McCurry with us today for an Author Interview.  Leta and I have become friends through WFWA, Women’s Fiction Writers Association.  I am still amazed at how technology can bring people together from opposites sides of the country, or even the world.

Leta,  when did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?

I think I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer but I actually started writing at about twelve – from a twelve year old’s perspective obviously. The adventure, companionship, comfort and inspiration I received from being an avid reader is what first inspired me to put on paper the stories that were bouncing around in my head.

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

No. The biggest help to me has been honest and forthright critique readers. Feedback from readers always gives me clarity about y writing and is a big help in my on-going endeavor to become a better writer.

What other work have you done, and how has it impacted your writing career?

Sales. I think sales taught me to take risks and put myself out there. And not to take rejection personally. And, while not work in the strictest sense, I think raising five children.

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

About a year and a half from writing the first chapter through to publication. 

Do you always write in the same genre?

My interest is in general/women’s fiction. I never intended to write non-fiction but at one point Prentice-Hall, New York offered me a contract to write a college textbook which I did and they published. That was just an unexpected side trip. I refer to my genre as women’s fiction but I have been told it is more general fiction. High Cotton Country has actually been read by several men and I’ve had really good geed back from them so I guess it is a cross-over between general and women’s 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?

Women’s fiction.

Do you have any special time or place you like to write?

I have a little cubby hole office hardly big enough to “cuss a cat” as my grandpa would say, but it works for me.  Nice big windows with a view out at the green Oregon trees and foliage and blue sky (when it isn’t raining).

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

Yes. Non Fiction. College Text Book. Publisher Prentice Hall sought me out based on a recommendation from a college professor.

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

I went the self-publishing route almost entirely because of the time factor involved in getting a book on the market via traditional sources. It just seemed that two years was a long time.

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

I like to switch it up because everybody has their own perspective on events and situations. The same incident can and does have a different impact on different people. I have read books written from a one person perspective and they worked for me as a reader. I don’t know that I could make it work that successfully.  To me, the difference is one perspective is like mashed potatoes and multiple perspective is like a baked potato with butter, sour cream, chives and chopped bacon.  Having said that, I’ll probably end up writing a one point of view narrative someday.

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

I think an author’s voice is that life and world point of view that is particular to each of us. That voice is the culmination of our circumstances of birth, the “imprinting” we received as we grew to adulthood, and the experiences that are unique to each one. And, the voice is always changing, growing, expanding, because as long as we are alive we are continually influenced by the world and people around us and our responses to those circumstances.

Do you follow a structure pattern such as staying in chronological order, or alternating points in time or different POV’s

I don’t follow an exact chronological order but I do follow a loose time framework. I do write in order though, each chapter in sequence. I have writer friends who may write chapter 20 then come back to 5 then write chapter 18 then 35 and come back to 6.  That would drive me crazy.

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

Query and synopsis. Lot harder that writing a novel. Now that I am in the midst of the process, writing is the easy part.

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?

Right now, personal networking. Exploring possibilities. Marketing has turned out to be a sharp learning curve for me and I’m still finding my way through the jungle. As I said, writing Cazzie’s story was the easy part.

Are you a pantser or a planner?

About 50/50 I think.

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

Sit down and write. Edit later.

Who are some of the authors whose work you admire the most, and why?

Elin Hildebrand – she entertains me.  Susan Crandall and Robert Morgan because I love their “voice”. They are from my neighborhood. And Ayn Rand – she makes me think. James Clavell and Lincoln and Childs– they transport me to other worlds.

Complete this sentence….. My first ever published piece of writing was….. “A poem.”

Please share a brief synopsis of High Cotton Country.

Secrets. Hidden they can destroy her from within. Revealed they can explode her world.

 Come hell or high water, Cazzie Randle is determined to leave the past behind along with the hardscrabble life of a small hill country town but finds she can’t elude the secret trauma that haunts her – an act of unspeakable horror by her mother and abandonment by her father.

A message that her father is dying sends a reluctant Cazzie to his bedside but not to reconcile a lifelong estrangement. She must make him finally reveal the secrets of the memories that haunt her. He must answer questions of “Why?”

An explosion of truth in a dusty Texas hill country town reveals old secrets and demands choices. But will she be able to choose or will she be paralyzed by all the old hurts, cruelty and betrayals that have driven her all her life? To find the answer, Cazzie must confront the very essence of who she has become and question whether the price was too high.

 

  High Cotton Country is the story of one woman’s journey to self-discovery. It is about the inherent dignity of the human being, of the burning desire to be in command of one’s own destiny, of the will, not only to survive, but to achieve, and to face adversity with courage and honor. This is not only the story of one woman’s fighting spirit, but also of the people who influence her self-esteem, shape her self-image and participate in her destiny.

Where can readers buy High Cotton Country?

Readers can read the first chapter of High Cotton Country at http://www.letamccurry.com/free-read/ and check out my blog at http://www.letamccurry.com/blog

Copies are available https://www.createspace.com/5060373 or

Thanks for having me, Joanne. It’s been fun. Leta

 

Posted in authors, characters, conflict, faces, fiction, Florida, ghosts, mystery, novels, thriller, writers, writing

Bitter Secrets by Patty Brant

Patti Brant

Today we have my friend with us on Author Interview Friday. I first met Patty last year at a book event in Mt. Dora and had the privilege of spending some time getting to know her.  Welcome Patty.  Why don’t you tell the readers how you got started in writing.

I always enjoyed writing but I never did anything about it until I went to work for the Caloosa Belle, local newspaper in LaBelle. That was in 1985 – so I’ve done a lot or writing since then, all with a journalistic approach. There were times when I thought “Wouldn’t it be great to write a book?” That was followed immediately by “You’ve got to know something to write a book!” So that was always the end of it.

A lot of people could relate to that. The hard part is pushing past that.

It wasn’t till about ten years ago that I seriously thought I could do it. That’s when an idea hit me for a story. I was just driving home, nothing on my mind in particular. Then it was like someone opened up my head and dropped the words “I see faces” into my head. I thought, “You could write a story around those three works. Heck, you could write a whole book around just those three words.

So for the next couple weeks I was thinking about who these faces might be; what their circumstances were; Where in time they were as well as place. It became a mental exercise. When I wasn’t thinking about something else, I was building my little framework for these faces. I actually had the first several paragraphs in my head when I thought I should probably get them down in writing, and it all just grew from there.

They say there is a story inside all of us. Did you have any friends or mentors to help you?

I happened to know a very wonderful published writer named Barbara Oehlbeck who had written a book on roses, one on the sabal palm tree and many poems. A couple of years ago she wrote a wonderful memoir called Mama; Root, Hog, or Die. Barbara had always been very complimentary of my writing and even asked me once if I ever thought of writing a book!

I showed her what I had and she was very supportive. Every so often I’d show her what more I’d done and she would encourage me to keep going.

Finally, I had it done – but I finally finished my first book, Bitter Secrets, a mystery about a missing family with an otherworldly twist.  It took me at least three years – probably more.  I write off and on when I have the time. I can write all day, all night and all day again, but I have to be alone and have quiet. That just doesn’t happen.

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

Just with the newspaper – 29 years now. I have an AA degree in liberal arts and did well in writing classes there. Funny, though, I went to Catholic schools for 12 years – starting elementary school in 1955. I can still remember things the nuns said about writing.

What else can you tell us about yourself?

I’m from Canton, Ohio. Lived in Virginia Beach for two years (my husband was in the Navy at the time), moved to Florida (my husband’s home) in 1969. My husband was in law enforcement for 40 years. He’s retired now and keeps wondering when I’m going to retire.

We have two grown daughters, a son-in-law, and three grandchildren.

Do you always write in the same genre?

Not sure how to answer that, but I think so – so far anyway. I’m putting the finishing touches on my second book now – Full Circle – which is a sequel to Bitter Secrets. It’s a little different, though. The mystery of what happened to the Parker Family has been solved, of course, and Full Circle picks up the lives of my protagonist and several other characters from that point. There is another mystery to solve and other threads in this new story as well.

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

Both my books are in first person. I chose that originally because everything I write for the paper is in third person, so I figured it might be a nice change.

I had several publishers try to steer me away from first person. I’ve never understood quite why.

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

My stories alternate in time. The original mystery in Bitter Secrets actually occurs in the 1940s. It isn’t solved until the 1980s, so I kind of straddle those four decades in that story.

There are several story lines in Full Circle, so I do more alternating of the story line in that one. That can be a little tricky because you still need the action to flow.

I also don’t want to get stuck into formula writing, I know that’s what a lot of publishers want, and it might sell, but that’s not my idea of what I want to do.

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?

I guess it would have to be Mystery. Like most things in my life, I find it hard to categorize.

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?

I checked companies out online and sent many, inquiries to traditional publishers. I got a few nice letters, but no takers. Talked to people who said yes, you need an agent; others who say no you don’t After going on this way for several years, I finally took the plunge and decided on iUniverse.

They have been very professional and very helpful. I know you have to be careful about “add on” services that you may not really need from any self publisher. I have used several of these services for my second book Full Circle, They were quite expensive but I also think I have learned a lot from them and I think the developmental editing service has made my book much better than it otherwise would have been.

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

Well, I didn’t do an outline – maybe I should have but I really didn’t know where Bitter Secrets was going. I just kept coming up with scenarios and wrote some more. I was probably about half way through when I knew my ending, so then I could head for the light at the end of the tunnel.

I really hate trying to do a synopsis or query.

I have to laugh at that. “the dreaded synopsis and query.” Every writer’s worst nightmare. What advice would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?

First of all, know your English – grammar and spelling do count to professional writers and to serious readers. The best story in the world can be ruined by lack of attention to basic English rules. It doesn’t have to make your work stuffy.

Beyond that, I think you need a good story to tell. I think my problem for a long time was that I just didn’t have a story I wanted to tell. When I found one, I went with it!

Tell us a little more about your current work in progress.

As I said, it’s a sequel to Bitter Secrets called Full Circle and it takes up my protagonist’s life where Bitter Secrets ends. Actually, in some ways it’s an extension of Bitter Secrets. At the end of Bitter Secrets Molly (my protagonist) was given a job to do by her friend and other main character in Bitter Secrets so she must find a way to carry it out in Full Circle. Full Circle also incorporates a little romance and a good old fashioned cop story.

I’m doing the final rewrite of Full Circle now (wish I had a nickel for every time I said that!). In a week or two I should be sending it back to the publisher and the race will be on.

We must have you back on Author Interview Friday when that book comes out. I loved Bitter Secrets and look forward to the sequel. Can you tell the readers  the premise of  Bitter Secrets,  the  novel we are promoting today?

Bitter Secrets

Molly Martindale came to Oxbow, Florida, (a fictional town in Southwest Florida’s inland area) as a scared and lonely 13-year-old orphan to live with an aunt she barely knew. Sixteen years later she is a reporter for her hometown newspaper when she becomes interested in a family that “moved away” 40 years earlier. She’s never heard of this family before – in a small Southern town that prides itself on its roots, that’s hard for her to understand – and even more perplexing is that no one will talk about them much. She’s also the focus of visits by bone-chilling “faces” that seem to be begging her for  . . . something. So Molly’s reporter instincts are roused and she starts poking around in old matters some folks would rather be left covered with dust.

In her quest for the truth, she gets help from the town drunk, a wheelchair-bound Viet Nam veteran, a savvy old black man and, of course, her faces.

A little bird told me you won an award for Bitter Secrets. Congratulations. Tell us about that.

Yes, quite an exciting surprise. Bitter Secrets was a finalist in the 2013 Indie Excellence Book Awards. 

Please share a few paragraphs from Bitter Secrets.

 

Excerpt from Bitter Secrets by Patty Brant

I see faces.

I can’t quite remember when I first started seeing them. They were so faint, so unobtrusive, like mist gliding above the sand. More like a sigh, really, flitting just at the periphery of vision, or tangled among leaves like low-lying clouds. At some point, they began to register in my consciousness like little feathers gliding across the bottoms of my feet. Almost imperceptible, but not quite.

I had been in this small town since high school, coming as a brokenhearted thirteen-year-old orphan to live with a widowed great aunt I barely knew. Now a reporter with the Oxbow Independent, our local mullet wrapper, I, Molly Martindale, had settled quite comfortably into my life. This town had become my own.

I remember quite clearly the day I could no longer ignore these faces. I had just spent the better part of my day wrestling with an absentee boss—you know, the kind who rarely shows her face and still manages to give you grief. As I finally hung up the phone for the last time and switched off the light, it was just about dusk. When I pulled the key from the front door lock and turned to the darkening street, it must have been bedtime for the birds. They were swishing through the air, calling to each other, making quite a ruckus. At first I hoped the waning light was playing tricks on my strained eyes.

But no, I was certain. There really was something up in the branches of that old orchid tree. All my instincts said there was.

 

Thank you so much for this opportunity to connect with other writers and readers. It’s always encouraging when someone shows an interest in your passion.

My Blog: http://bittersecrets.authorsxpress.com

 My Web site: http://pattybrant.com/

Online sales: http://www.amazon.com/Bitter-Secrets-Patty-Brant/dp/1462071562/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1398340649&sr=1-1&keywords=bitter+secrets

Posted in authors, books, family, food, friends, humor, Indie, readers, real estate, traditions, writers, writing

Recipes and Life: Life is too Short to be Stuck in the Kitchen

It is my great pleasure to introduce Alice Oldsford, author of  Recipes and Life: Life is too Short to be Stuck in the Kitchen.

Alice

Who am I and what do I write?

I wear a variety of hats – wife, mother, grandmother, Realtor, author, herbalist. On reflection I note that those pursuits relate to land use, not as a result of some grand plan, but simply from a conscious connection to the earth we call home.

It is my good fortune to pursue what I love, which is mostly found outdoors, whether walking, gardening or locating the perfect home with a client.

I raised 5 kids in the most self-sustaining environment I could conjure, of home-made and home-grown. My kids remember no one would trade lunches with them because their sandwiches consisted of home-made peanut butter and jelly on home-made whole wheat bread, an adolescent’s version of yucky.

My grandkids look forward to walks in the woods or even the neighborhood seeking traveling gnomes, puzzle rocks and edible wild plants.

And, as for my role as a wife, part of what attracted me to my husband was his love of vegetable gardening.

As a Realtor, I get to help people realize the American dream. Mark Twain said, “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.”

My NJ Trails books:

You Can Get There from Here: Hiking Hunterdon County Trails and the sequel  Hiking NJ Trails – Hunterdon County and Beyond: You Can Get There from Here Too, have been my most fun land use activities yet, sharing my love for the outdoors with folks who want to give it a try.

The NJ trails books are meant to inspire people to enjoy the trails and prepare them for what to expect. It is my contention that knowing what you are likely to encounter enhances the enjoyment. More than maps provide, this book comes from my own perspective and love of the trails.  I have walked each and every trail in all seasons.

When I started to write Recipes and Life: Life is too Short to be Stuck in the Kitchen, I thought “Whoops, how does this book fit in with my love of  nature and the outdoors.” Then I realized it absolutely reflects my passion for home-made and home-grown as well as embracing what Mother Nature has to offer.  In addition, it reflects my desire to get out of the kitchen and embrace the outdoors.

This is my collection of inspirations sprinkled with favorite recipes. My intention is to spark the reader’s imagination and offer practical tips gleaned from a chef and friends/foodies who have shared their recipes and insights. These thoughts confirm for the reader that nutritious and delicious food patterns can be established without dedicating countless hours in the kitchen and outside the fast food forum.  It is a jumping off place for adventures in the kitchen.

Writing Challenges and Finding your Voice

When I was writing my first trail book, which was published in 2009, I found staying on track a bit of a challenge. There are lots of distractions in life, which we all experience.  I remember moaning about “not having time” and one of my sons reminded me we have time to do the things that are priorities for us. I had offered this advice to my children, and now it came back to me. I got back to work and finished the book. If a writer will do something each day, progress is inevitable.

Recipes and Life was about 3 years in the making.  My original vision kept evolving, and I was having trouble finding my voice. Then I moved from NJ to Florida.  Oh my, that literally created some technical difficulties as to gardening in Florida and food mores.  In the end, I decided I needed to tell my readers who I was, where I had come from and how I got into writing this book.  That allowed my voice to come through.

Alice's book

My favorite anecdote/excerpt from Recipes, which actually reveals a lot about me:

Thanksgiving

In the late 60’s when I was a young married woman, we lived in a duplex with a nice backyard and the smallest kitchen I have ever seen – no more than two steps to any appliance or work space. We had a purebred German shepherd named Mingo. I thought it was a good idea to invite the family for Thanksgiving dinner. I think it’s called “Ignorance is bliss.” I was organized and excited to host my first big dinner party.

The day arrived, and the turkey was awaiting the stuffing and roasting. The turkey proved too much of a temptation for Mingo. While I was in a different part of the house, there was quite a commotion in the kitchen. When I arrived, I found Mingo had wrestled the turkey to the floor with the intention of devouring it. I was able to rescue the turkey and banish Mingo to the yard. Now what? With no experience and only my creativity to rely upon, I washed the turkey then took needle and gold thread and sewed up the torn skin. Why gold thread? I reasoned it would blend with the roasted turkey.

The family came and enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner. No one noticed the stitched up skin, and I did not tell the story until sometime later.

Why Self Publishing and Promotion

When I was writing my first trail book, I realized the market was very regional, so publishing options would be limited.  I contacted a couple of small publishers, which were not as prolific in 2009 as they are today.  They were not taking on new titles. I did not feel discouraged, and self-publishing seemed a natural solution. The trail books were never stigmatized as a result of being self-published, and they have done very well in their target market. It helped that I lived in an area where Indie bookstores are embraced.

With “Recipes and Life”, it was just natural to do it my way, so to say. The publishing industry has evolved  since my first book in 2009. Established authors are self-publishing and using small publishers, and that gives credibility to those of us who are newbies, who follow their lead.  Although there are fewer Indie bookstores in this area, Florida does seem to encourage local authors.

When I published my first trail book, a long-time journalist/family newspaper owner in NJ advised me that I would need to rely on myself to get the word out and market my book. His newspaper had done some local publishing, and he disclosed that sales and distribution had less to do with the quality of the book and more to do with the author’s efforts to promote it.  He told me they had boxes of excellent books in the office basement that the author just did not push.

I start with my network, arrange signings and presentations, and ask anyone who might be remotely interested in putting my book on their shelf.  Press releases are often helpful in garnering attention and invitations to present.  I have a website and blog for the trail books.  I am about to create a blog for “Recipes” which will allow followers to share recipes.  I always have books in my car. I ask other authors what they do.  Check out local authors shelves in your favorite book store.

My advice to new writers:  Keep on keeping on!

 “Energy and persistence conquer all things” Benjamin Franklin

My website with links to blogs: http://www.aliceoldford.com/

Thank you Alice. Your humor and zest for life is contagious. This has been fun. Come back to Writing Under Fire sometime soon.

 

Posted in authors, books, characters, children, conflict, family, fiction, gay/lesbian, LGBT, mass murder, parents

Introducing “Town Without Mercy”

My second novel is now available on Amazon, Create Space and Kindle.

CreateSpace eStore: https://www.createspace.com/4441710

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Without-Mercy-Joanne-Simon-Tailele/dp/1494252570/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1389128609&sr=8-1&keywords=Town+Without+mercy

Is it nature or nurture that drives a teenage girl to open fire in a crowd at a 4th of July celebration? Town Without Mercy, is contemporary women’s fiction dealing with current event drama of mass murder and gay marriage. Told through the eyes of the mother, a TV news correspondent, Adele must find the answer, even as it takes her away from Mercedes where she lays in a coma from the police bullet that stopped the carnage. If Adele follows the leads, the price could be her seventeen-year-old marriage to same-sex partner, Jodi Warren. The quiet town of Concord Park want revenge and they blame Adele and Jodi’s lifestyle as the cause of their daughter’s actions. But are they innocent of all blame?

Town Without Mercy by Tailele

Posted in authors, books, family, womens fiction, writers

Louder Than Love by Jessica Topper.

I simply love the title (and the cover) to this book. Please help me welcome Jessica Topper to Author Interview Friday.  Jessica, When did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?

Jessica Topper
Jessica Topper
photo credit to Jay Blaskesberg

Jessica:  I wrote stories all through junior high and high school on an old clunky Underwood typewriter. They were mainly adventures starring my friends, with an evil teacher or a celebrity thrown in for good measure. Some kids excel in sports; other kids are the class clowns. I was the scribe. I entertained my friends with my tales and would custom-fit the stories to their wishes. And I enjoyed doing it in the process!

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

Jessica: I went on to earn my B.A. in English, but I focused on the classics and shied away from most of the creative writing courses. I didn’t think I knew enough at the time to write a book people would take seriously. For graduate school, I surrounded myself with books once again, earning a Master’s in Library and Information Science. I still dreamed of writing a book (or ten) of my very own, and working in libraries was a great motivator.

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

Louder Than Love photo credit Jay Blakesberg
Louder Than Love 

Jessica: It took me about five years to write Louder Than Love, my first full-length novel. I wrote it in fits and starts, and I vow never to take that long on a book again! Ironically, the publication process was rather speedy compared to the writing. I landed my agent the same month I finished the novel, it sold to Penguin within a year of completion and released digitally nine months after that.

Joanne:  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?

Jessica: The book sold as Women’s Fiction, but it is very romantic in nature. Still, I think it would land on the regular Fiction shelves. Many readers commented that they were drawn to the cover and assumed it might be New Adult, but I assure you, it’s not!

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

Jessica:  I’ve been experimenting lately. Louder Than Love was completely first person POV, one character. I’m not as comfortable in deep third person, but I think it’s a good exercise. Currently I am playing around with two alternating first person narrative in a story. It’s a comedy of errors tale so it’s been fun to take those liberties.

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

Jessica: I think author Chuck Wendig said it best: “You will never find your voice. It isn’t a car and you aren’t a dog chasing it. It’s not a pearl in an oyster or an elk in the forest. Your voice is who you are. The way you think. The way you speak when you’re not thinking about how you speak. You are your voice. If anything it’s like a lost key. It’ll turn up just when you stop hunting for it.”

I love the way words sound and I love manipulating them. Music and reading have always been important in my life so marrying both loves to create lyrical fiction speaks to me. It speaks for me. I adore alliteration. The classics I studied were all about imagery. I love stringing readers along a path of pretty words and then dumping them into the brambles with harsher truths. That’s the “me” that has always been there.

Joanne:  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?

Jessica:  I have no idea if it is directly increasing sales, but I have worked hard at creating an online author presence that is genuine and engaging. I’d much rather chat about music, for example, than share my daily word count. I’ve been posting bonus deleted scenes from Louder Than Love on my web site as well, which has been fun. It provides a bit of a cure for readers who were crying “book hangover” while at the same time, might pique the interest of someone who hadn’t yet heard of the book.

Joanne:  I love the idea of the deleted scenes. I think all writers have a lot of them on our cutting room floors. What advice would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?

Jessica:  Write for an audience of one: yourself. Keep reading: for joy, for fun, for inspiration. Trust your process. What works for you may not work for others, and vice versa.

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

Jessica:  Louder Than Love is a love/loss/love again story set in Manhattan and the quirky comfort of a fictional suburb called Lauder Lake. It stars a young, widowed librarian, a charming, recluse rock star and a comically lovable 5-year old girl with a full-blown addiction to PBS. It’s about second chances and opening your heart to the possibility that there are all different kinds of love.

Joanne:  Please share with us where readers can get your book.

Links to buy: website: http://www.jessicatopper.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JessicaTopperAuthor

Twitter: @jesstopper

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/jessicatopper

Amazon: www.amazon.com/Louder-Than-Love-ebook/dp/B00AR49H2Q

Joanne:   Can you share a few paragraphs from your book to whet our appetite?

Jessica:  Sure! I think this one echoes what I shared in the premise.

My life had followed the grid of good grades, decent colleges, and impressive résumés, which landed me professional nine-to-five employment with solid benefits. I had lined up and shelved those accomplishments as deftly as books on a library shelf and stood back with the calm and cool satisfaction of a job well done. Next came Pete and love . . . then Abbey. I watched her streak past after the balloon, shrieking with uncontrolled delight. And then nature’s cruel curveball: the un-navigated fork stabbed in the middle of the road. The sun kink. Whatever you wanted to call it.

Despite all my organizing and arranging, I had never noticed the logical order to it all. The Dewey Decimal System placed Marriage and Family at 306.8. And Death and Dying at 306.9. How very tidy. Grief and love, hand in hand. Yet beside me sat Adrian, and what I felt for him defied classification.

“You look troubled, luv.” Adrian’s brow wrinkled in sympathy.

“I’m trying to figure out where you fit into the order.” Was there a place for reclusive rock stars?  For a heavy metal hero with a heart of gold? “You,” I kissed each temple, then nose tip and chin. “You are glorious chaos.”

Posted in authors, characters, children, conflict, disabilities, family, fiction, writers

Barbara Claypole White talks about the trials of marketing your book.

Barbara-3 (2)

It is my pleasure to have Barbara Claypole White with me today on Author Interview Friday.  Barbara writes and gardens in the forests of North Carolina. English born and educated, she’s married to an internationally-acclaimed academic. Their son, an award-winning poet / musician, attends college in the Midwest. His battles with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have inspired her to write love stories about damaged people. The Unfinished Garden, Barbara’s debut novel, won the 2013 Golden Quill for Best First Book. Her second novel, The In-Between Hour, will be released on December 31.

The Unfinished Garden

You can connect with Barbara on her website www.barbaraclaypolewhite,

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/BarbaraClaypoleWhiter

Twitter https://twitter.com/bclaypolewhite.

Signed copies of The Unfinished Garden are available from: http://www.flyleafbooks.com/book/9780778314127

Amazon for TUG: http://www.amazon.com/Unfinished-Garden-Barbara-Claypole-White/dp/077831412X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1379250026&sr=8-1&keywords=the+unfinished+garden

Pre-order link for The In-Between Hour: http://www.amazon.com/In-Between-Hour-Barbara-Claypole-White/dp/0778314758/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1379604945&sr=8-1&keywords=the+inbetween+hour

Barbara has offered a giveaway for a signed copy of The In-Between Hour and will ship it anywhere in the United States. All you have to do is leave a comment so we can draw a winner.

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

Barbara:  I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. I penned stories and poems as a child, scribbled in diaries as a teenager, then churned out press releases and trade articles when I worked in P.R. (Writing’s still writing!) However, I didn’t realize my childhood dream of becoming a published author until I turned fifty. My motto is never give up.

Joanne: Do you have a background in writing or did you take any courses along the way?

Barbara:  I was a history major who worked in the London fashion industry. (I know, I never take the direct path.) I started messing around with my first—unpublished—novel twenty-five years ago, but I wasn’t terribly focused. After I became a stay-at-home mom and my son entered the school system, I began writing in the mornings and took an evening class at my local arts center. Gradually I developed a writing routine, became more serious about honing my skills, joined writing organizations, went to conferences, found critique partners, and entered competitions for unpublished manuscripts. And I read and read. All those steps helped prepare me to become an author.

Joanne:  Are you published through a traditional publisher? How did you find your agent and editor?

Barbara:  I’m thrilled to be a Harlequin MIRA author. MIRA is the imprint of Harlequin that handles literary commercial or book club fiction, and when they were considering The Unfinished Garden, my agent warned me the acquisitions team is tough. To be honest, I still can’t believe I’m a MIRA author, and I wouldn’t be without my agent, Nalini Akolekar of Spencerhill Associates.

I found Nalini on the Writer’s Digest new agent alert, researched the heck out of her, and spent two weeks creating a personalized query letter. (Yes, one letter, two weeks.) She offered representation a week after I queried her. From the beginning, Nalini made everything easy. She had a plan, I did nothing, and three months later I had a two-book deal. Did I mention that I love my agent? 🙂

Joanne:  Authors and publishers talk about finding your voice. What does that mean to you and how did you find yours?

Barbara:  If you’re on Twitter, read Marian Keyes’ posts. That woman has bucketloads of voice! Your voice is the way you express yourself—your use of language, humor, etc. I think it also reveals your inner core. To find your voice, you have to dig deep; you have to expose the most personal. I guess I found my voice when I stopped trying so hard and subconsciously reverted to my letter writing style. Throughout college I wrote long, unedited letters—filled with voice.

Joanne:  What marketing techniques do you use to increase your sales?

Barbara:  My marketing approach is slow and organic—like my writing. I see connections and follow instincts. For example, I persuaded a local gardening magazine to do a small piece on The Unfinished Garden, even though the editor told me—emphatically—she didn’t review fiction. My angle? The novel has local, rural settings and numerous references to indigenous plants her readers would enjoy.

Marketing is really a giant jigsaw puzzle with some very small pieces. You don’t have to think big, but you do have to connect with others. The half hour you spend answering an email from a reader is still part of your marketing campaign.

Obviously the first step is to write the best book you can, but 90% of everything that happens next revolves around networking. It takes a village to promote a book. Authors helping authors is a huge part of the equation. Be gracious to other authors—post reviews of their books, share their blog posts, and go to their readings. There is a wonderful pay-it-forward subculture amongst authors.

I do believe in blog tours, since most reviewers are online, but the cornerstones of my marketing efforts are always local: booksellers, book clubs, media. I organized readings for The Unfinished Garden at all my local bookstores, publicized them through the local events’ listings, and contacted editors of local papers, newsletters, and magazines for ‘local girl makes good’ stories.

Reaching book clubs has been key for TUG. (Over a year out, I still have book clubs on my calendar.) I started by emailing everyone I knew, and I accosted anyone who made the mistake of mentioning, “I’m in a book club.” Also, one local bookseller became my champion and recommended me to a number of book clubs and literary organizations. That’s a perfect example of the power of connections. (I made a point of introducing myself to her months before the novel came out.)

Marketing is a slow burn, but if you build a solid foundation, it does get easier. And you find yourself happily saying to anyone who asks, “My second novel, The In-Between Hour is the story of two broken families coming together to heal, and you can pre-order it NOW! on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Indiebound.”  Or, you can leave a comment below for a chance to win an advance reader copy. See? I just did a little bit of marketing….

Joanne:  What great advise.  Thank you Barbara.   Now readers,  here is a sneak peek into The In-Between Hour

 The In Between Hour

The In-Between Hour (Harlequin MIRA, December 31, 2013):

 Will imagined silence. The silence of snowfall in the forest. The silence at the top of a crag. But eighty floors below his roof garden, another siren screeched along Central Park West.

Nausea nibbled—a hungry goldfish gumming him to death. Maybe this week’s diet of Zantac and PBR beer was to blame. Or maybe grief was a degenerative disease, destroying him from the inside out. Dissolving his organs. One. By. One.

The screensaver on his MacBook Air, a rainbow of tentacles that had once reminded him to watch for shooting stars, mutated into a kraken: an ancient monster dragging his life beneath the waves. How long since he’d missed his deadline? His agent had been supportive, his editor generous, but patience—even for clients who churned out global bestsellers—expired.

Another day when he’d failed to resuscitate his crap work-in-progress; another day when Agent Dodds continued to dangle from the helicopter; another day without a strategy for his hero of ten years that wasn’t a fatal “Let go, dude. Just let go.”

Posted in authors, children, family, fiction, friends, love, parents, romance, small towns, writers

Author of the Maverick Junction series visits Writing Under Fire

Today I have the honor of having Lynnette Hallberg, writing as Lynnette Austin, with me on Author Interview Friday. Lynnette has six books already in print, two more scheduled for release and a ninth book in progress. All of this beginning in 2000, with the majority in the last three years. This is one busy woman. Lynnette, it is such a pleasure to have you. I know you must have tons of great advice to share with other writers and avid readers.

Lynnette Austin
Lynnette Austin

First, Joanne, I’d like to tell you how wonderful it is to stop by your blog. Thanks so much for having me. I hope everyone will get comfy, pour a cup of coffee or something cold, and enjoy!

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

Lynette:  In 2000, I sold my first book, Enchanted Evening, to Kensington. Before they could buy the second, though, the line closed. I spent the next nine years writing, writing, writing, and receiving rejection letters—even with an agent. But I kept at it—and have a pile of manuscripts in my basement to prove it.

In 2010, I heard about a fairly new small press—The Wild Rose Press—and published three books with them that year—Moonlight, Motorcycles, and Bad Boys; Night Shadows; and Chantilly Lace and a Pretty Face.

In 2011, I sold Just a Little White Lie to Carina Press, an arm of Harlequin.

Then in 2012, my new agent sold my Maverick Junction series to Grand Central Publishing in New York City. Grand Central is under the umbrella of Hachette Book Group. The first, Somebody Like You, came out last December. The second, Nearest Thing to Heaven, releases October 1st. Can’t Stop Lovin’ You will be out in February. I’m working on the fourth, tentatively titled The Heart Won’t Lie.

I guess the important point here is to never, ever give up on your dream.

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

Lynnette:  The first is simply to write. I know. Basic. But in order to be published, you have to keep that butt in the chair, keep that story moving, and get it finished. Then you need to go back and edit, edit, edit. When you send that baby into an agent or editor, it should be looking its Sunday best.

The second piece of advice would be to persevere. It’s so easy to get discouraged and give up. Don’t. If you really want published, hang with it, listen to advice, use what you can, and discard the rest. Always remember that the story, the voice is yours. You will not fail in your quest for publication until YOU quit trying. Perseverance truly is the keystone to getting and staying published.

I’ll share, too, a piece given to me by another writer, one I think is so important. Someone told me early on to keep in mind that the writing community is actually quite small. Editors and agents move around a lot. Don’t burn your bridges—ever. Always remember this is a profession and behave accordingly. Don’t let your emotions rule.

Okay. A couple more things. J Writing is a habit, kind of like exercise. Train yourself to grab spare minutes rather than waiting for those huge blocks of time. When I was still teaching, I’d get up at four-thirty or five in the morning so I could write for an hour or so before getting ready for school. When I came home, I’d write for half an hour before starting dinner. It’s often about making time and setting expectations.

Keep writing—every day—and keep the story moving forward. Don’t worry about getting every word, every scene perfect the first time through. So many new writers work and rework those first few chapters, polishing them until they shine. That won’t get the book completed. Chances are, by the time you do finish, you’ll have to go back and edit those first chapters again anyway because by then you’ll know your characters inside and out. You’ll know what they’d do and how they’d react so much better than you did when you started that manuscript. Don’t waste time striving for perfection on the first draft.

Keep in mind, too, that yes, your manuscript is your baby. Yes, you’ve poured your heart and soul into it. Yes, you’re deathly afraid an agent or editor might say something bad about that baby. If you don’t submit, though, you won’t sell. That’s one of the few guarantees in this business.

Joanne:  What is the biggest mistake you made early in your career?

Lynnette: I think the biggest mistake I made was in not following up when an editor sent a rejection letter asking to see my manuscript again after specific rewrite suggestions. I made the rookie mistake of assuming that was simply her way of letting me down easy, and that’s so not true. If an editor takes the time to give you suggestions and asks to see it again after you’ve made them, he or she is serious. Editors—and agents—have way too much work to do to spend time on a manuscript that doesn’t show promise for their line.

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

Lynnette:  Nearest Thing To Heaven is the second in my Maverick Junction series and, at heart, it’s a story about being given a second chance at love.

Maverick Junction, Texas, is kind of the quintessential small town, full of quirky characters and neighbors who watch out for each other, who take care of each other. I love writing small towns. There’s a flavor to them that can only exist there. Maverick Junction is a blend of every small town I’ve ever been in. I swear, after spending three books, and now working on a fourth, in this Texas town, I know it as well as I do my small hometown in Pennsylvania. Maverick Junction—and its people—have become very real to me.

With the holiday season fast approaching. Sophie London finds herself back in Maverick Junction for her cousin’s wedding to Cash Hardeman and runs headlong into Ty Rawlins, the widowed father of rambunctious triplets. Sophie, owner of Stardust Productions, believes in fairies and magic. Long-horned cattle, wide-open spaces, and four-year-olds with fishing worms dangling from their poles are enough to make any city girl run all the way back to Illinois in her Jimmy Choos. Ty, busy with the day-to-day duties as single daddy and owner of the Burnt Fork Ranch, has no time for romance. He’s had love and lost it. Yet he finds himself thinking of Sophie night and day. Can Ty convince both himself and Sophie that Maverick Junction is where she belongs, right beside him and his boys?

Nearest Thing to Heaven

Nearest Thing To Heaven will be released October 1st. It’s currently available for preorder on both Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Nearest-Heaven-Maverick-Junction-ebook/dp/B00A2DONIU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1377959365&sr=8-1&keywords=nearest+thing+to+heaven

and Barnes and Noble:   http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/nearest-thing-to-heaven-lynnette-austin/1113742241?ean=9781455528387

 Joanne:  Can you share a few paragraphs from your book to wet out appetite?

 

Nearest Thing To Heaven

Ty Rawlins banged around in his kitchen, feeling more than a little frayed along the edges. Things weren’t going well. He glanced at the clock, then did a double take. The thing was practically sideways on the wall. Twelve o’clock settled somewhere around the spot where two o’clock should be. One of the triplets must have whacked it with a sword during last night’s duel to the death.

Guess he’d have to hang it higher.

He should have let one of the hands finish up the horse feeding so he’d have enough time for the kid feeding. Somehow, time was something he never had enough of.

Okay, so he was a single parent. All across America, single moms managed to take care of the kids, the house, and hold down a job. If they could do it, he sure as hell ought to be able to.

And now he had to go to this damn dinner tonight. He dropped a spoon into the far-from-empty sink. It wasn’t that he wasn’t happy for Cash and Annie. He was. But it stirred up memories he didn’t want to visit. Memories of far happier times now gone. Forever.

A crash sounded from somewhere in the vicinity of the living room.

“Uh-oh. Daddy’s going to be mad.”

That would be Jonah, Ty thought. The conscience of the trio.

“It was your fault.”

Jesse, the finger-pointer.

Ty set the pan of over-cooked spaghetti on a hot pad and strode off to the front of the house to check out the latest damage. He took a deep breath and surveyed the mess. Nobody was hurt. No blood anywhere. And Josh was right. Nothing was broken. In the grand scheme of things, this was a minor bump. A mere blip on the uh-oh meter.

Again, thanks so much for having me today! It’s been fun! Please come visit me at http://www.authorlynnetteaustin.com. Nearest Thing to Heaven, along with Somebody Like You, may be purchased through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. My earlier books are published under Lynnette Hallberg.