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

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

Close_Broken  by Michael Hebert

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

 

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

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

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

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

Michael Hebert photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you a pantser or a planner?

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

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

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

Links:

Website:              www.michaelhiebert.com

Blog:                      www.michaelhiebert.com/blog

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

Twitter:                                @Hiebert_M

Posted in authors, books, poetry, purpose, readers, support, writers, writing

The Life of a Poet – Thomas Noel Smith

Thomas Noel ,

Joanne:  Welcome Tom Noel Smith to Author Interview Friday.  Tell us a little about yourself.

Tom:  I am interested in promoting my book anywhere I can. I am a local Florida writer—Arcadia—I have written three books of poetry.  “’Dust’ and Other Poems,” “Words of the Times,” and “Impressions and Memories.”  “Impressions and Memories” has just recently been published.  I have also written several short stores,  not yet  published.  I am currently working on my fourth book of poetry as  well as two short stories.

Dust  Words of TimesImpressions and Memories

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joanne: It is a pleasure to have you with us today. Do you have a background in writing or did you take any special writing courses that helped you along the way?

Tom:  I have a degree in English and a degree in Theatre.  Speaking strictly as an English major, I found myself fascinated by literary works of all genres.  In poetry I was fascinated by the works of such writers as Andrew Marvel, Matthew Arnold,  Longfellow, Emily Dickinson.  Of course I was enthralled by the master, Shakespeare.  I studied their words and listened to the rhythms of each piece.  It was like a grand symphony—words and rhythm, all working together to weave a wondrous spell on the mind, the heart, and the spirit. Yes, poetry touched me in that way and I wanted to be able to write with command of words and rhythm and music.

In terms of writing I was swept away by such writers as Dickens and Conrad.  I was fascinated by the works of Twain and Cooper, and even contemporary writers such as Pat Conroy fired my imagination.

But my background…I suppose life’s experiences demanded that I listen and hear and feel.  I spent the early years of my childhood in France, Germany, and England.  I lived in a number of states and I guess that the knowledge that we would be moving about every 18 months (or every 3 years, if we were lucky) taught me about the instability of the world around me, and that in itself must have sparked  the creative demon that came to live within me.  I suppose all of that guided my steps toward writing.

Joanne:  I think life’s experience can sometimes be our biggest inspiration.  You know the old saying, that truth is stranger than fiction. What other work have you done and how has it impacted your writing career?

Tom:  I began my experiences as a magician.  I did stage shows, close-up magic, mentalism.  I have worked in professional theatre.  I went to Ringling Brothers Clown College and travelled with a small, one ring circus for two years. I was a professional clown, I also did magic in the show.  I taught Theatre in the public schools, but I gave up teaching and went back to my first love—acting.  I now work as a film actor in Florida.

How has this impacted my writing?  I think that it is rare that any individual gets to experience so many different phases and faces; smiling faces, young faces, old faces, care-worn faces.  How can all these work experiences not impact my writing?  Just being an active part of life and all its experiences—all this must impact the manner in which one writes and the subjects about which he writes.

Joanne:  A magician, that is interesting.  Do you have any special time or place you like to write?

Tom:  Yes. I do have a special time.  I like to write late at night when all the world is sleeping.  The air is still.  There is a quiet that I may not find during the earlier hours.  I go into my office and I write for hours.

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

Tom:  I think that our “voice” is always within us, just begging for the chance to free itself and find its way onto our pages.  Finding a voice, for me, is akin to listening to a melodic sound and then humming what’s within one’s head.  For me, it means casting away one’s inhibitions and allowing the passion that burns inside to have a vent, a way to express itself.  It means to me, that one must give himself permission to be himself.

I went to a poetry conference not too long ago, and there were poets who were telling me that I did not write in the modern style or the style that was accepted by the contemporary world.  At first I felt dejected. I felt as if I didn’t have any talent.  However, there was something within that telling me that if I heeded all those voices, I would not be true to myself. I would not be an individual poet.  I remember they kept asking me rather contemptuously if I just wanted to write for myself.  I took this as a rebuke.  Then I found myself.  Yes, I want to write for myself. If I am not pleased with my words how can I expect any reader to be pleased?  But I am writing with my own voice not someone else’s.  The key to finding one’s voice is to remember the words: “And this above all: to think own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Joanne:  I can’t agree with you more. First, we must write for ourselves, before our voice can be heard by the masses.  What inspires you to write when you’re feeling down or less confident than usual?

Tom:  This is the time the I do my best writing.  I don’t know why but when I close myself off and I begin to write and the words seem to come more easily, and I often surprise myself at what happens in those dark hours when I am down or upset.

Joanne: Why do you write?

Tom:  Why does the sun rise each morning? Why do we pursue dreams that could easily be deemed foolish.  I write because there is that within me that I cannot explain. The words must come out.  They aren’t always intelligent words, sometimes the words weave nonsensical tales, but all those words are a part of me and they beg for release.  I would be miserable if I did not write.  Isn’t acting enough?  Acting is a very concentrated art form, like writing.  But each art form is different, and while acting satisfies one aspect of fulfillment, I also need writing to make me complete.

Joanne:  Spoken like a true poet. Thank you Tom. You are not alone in your feeling. I have heard it said “Writer’s write because we have no other choice.”  We walk around with these characters or thoughts in our heads all the time. We are never really alone.

Readers, if you enjoy poetry, click here to buy Tom’s books on Amazon.

Author Page:  http://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Noel-Smith/e/B004MIE73C/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

 

 

 

Posted in authors, characters, conflict, fiction, mystery, suspense, thrillers, writers, writing

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

Posted in authors, books, characters, editing, education, Indie, non-fiction, writing

Tell Me (How to Write) A Story by E.J. Runyon

E.J. Runyon, author of the story collection, Claiming One, and the writing guide, Tell Me (How to Write) A Story also runs  BridgetoStory.com a creative writing website. Her next book is a novel, A House Of Light And Stone  due Oct 2014, and the upcoming writing guide, Revision for Beginners, is due out in 2015.

Picture of EJ

Welcome E.J. It is a pleasure to have you on Author Interview Friday.  How long did it take you to publish your first manuscript?

About 10 years, I’d say, collecting it all together. My short story collection got picked up the first place I sent it to. But the 17 stories had been written, edited, and polished since about 2001. That work led to Claiming One, being published in 2012 – by the first and only place I tried. They like me well enough that, Tell Me (How to Write) A Story was released next, and a novel will be out soon. Sara Jayne Slack’s baby, Inspired Quill, is a UK Social Enterprise program and that interested me much more than the idea of publication.

Book cover for EJ

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

I may try Indy publishing one day, but so far things are via Inspired Quill. Online I have a few personae, none of which use E.J. Runyon as a screen name. So my first connection with Sara, my publisher, was through one of these forum nom de plumes. She mentioned her new press. I sent off my submission, agentless, without mentioning that we knew each other online. She had no idea what my actual name was anyway. Would I have submitted if Inspired Quill hadn’t been a Social Enterprise concern? I doubt it.

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

(laughs) Read my latest book! No. I think you’ve got to put it all down first. Don’t spend all your energy polishing one scene or chapter. You’ll never get anywhere that way. No matter if you re-read and aren’t happy with it. Save the editing for when it all exists and you have an ending to consider. In Tell Me (How to Write) A Story I talk about highlighting what you want to edit, but holding off on the changes until you can look at a chapter or scene and see all those highlights. Knowing how often you do something– will help you stop doing it that way in the next scene you write. Editing means a writer is stepping back and seeing it all from a small distance; not cleaning up one step at a time.

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

Luckily, no. I’ve got no problem with hearing various voices in my own mind. Maybe there’s a bit of actress inside, willing to take on new roles. And I’ve studied the basic storytelling methods so that’s allowed me to stretch and try lots of different voices in my works.

Author, Jennie Nash was quoted on Writer Unboxed that she reads other novels to study structure. Do you follow a structure pattern such as staying in chronological order, or alternating points in time or different POV’s?

I deconstruct scenes from novels all the time. I’m famous for leading my coaching clients through doing that too. I’ve got whole classes on how to do a syntax deconstruction for bettering your own writing. There’s a section on that in my book too, you can follow how to do it step-by-step. Good strong syntax, when you recognize it, can be the road-signs to better writing. I try stealing as much as I can from writers whose way of saying things I admire.

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

In 1996, it dawned on me that I’d made it to a place where my characters sounded like real people. The Narrator-voice I started with had receded to the background. I wasn’t using my words for telling, or explaining things to the reader. I think it was then that I realized ‘that way of writing’ was the storytelling ‘voice’ that people were talking about finding. Without that stilted sounding, overt describing, things began to sound right on the page for me. I knew I’d found it then.

Thank you for being with us today E.J. I am sure many people will want to log on to your creative writing website and look to your for some pointers. This writing business can be very frustrating and sometimes lonely. It helps to have someone like you in our “corner.”

Readers – here is how you find E. J. and her books

Tell Me (How to Write) A Story” Good, Basic Advice for Novices Ready To Write. By EJ Runyon

US: http://tinyurl.com/kkcfsjz    UK: http://tinyurl.com/kjon5ub

CA: http://tinyurl.com/klq7ls9    IN: http://tinyurl.com/lv8wnwh

Twitter: @TellMeHow2Write

Websites: Author site http://ej-runyon.com    Coaching site http://bridgetostory.com

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

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

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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, characters, children, editing, love, parents, support, writers

Author Marc Simon brings The Leap Year Boy

Marc Simon
Marc Simon

I had the pleasure of meeting Marc Simon last February at Marco Island’s AuthorFest.I have read his story, The Leap Year Boy and highly recommend it. It is with great joy that I have him with us today. We’ll get right to the questions:

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

Marc: I used to be in advertising as a copywriter in creative departments and as a freelancer. I used to write TV and radio commercials, print ads, brochures, web site copy, etc. Writing ad copy gives me a sense of how to be economical with words, as well as be colorful in descriptions of people and places. Also, I used to write and perform comedy. Doing comedy well requires a good sense of timing. I think there’s a carry over to fiction.  But as far as having a degree in creative writing or journalism, no. I did take some workshops at a writing school in Boston called Grub Street. They were quite helpful, and I met a lot of fine writers along the way.

Joanne: Do you always write in the same genre?

Marc: Actually, no. I like to write plays, and last year, my one act play titled Sex After Death was a winner in Naples in the Sugden Reader’s Theater New Play Contest. Also, I don’t write only novels. I’ve written and had published several short stories. But I guess that’s still fiction.

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?

Marc: You would find my novel, The Leap Year Boy on the fiction shelf. It’s literary historical fiction with a touch of magical realism.

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

Marc: My situation is a combination of the two, so let me explain. I do have a literary agent, Joelle Delbourgo, president of Delbourgo Associates in New York. I met her at a writing conference in Miami in 2010. The conference offered attendees an opportunity to have a short story or a chapter of a novel reviewed by an agent, editor or a writer. I had modest expectations, but low and behold, she liked my chapter so much she asked to see the entire novel. I sent it to her and three months later she offered to represent me. After I received about 25 “glowing” rejections from the traditional publishers, she sent my novel to Untreed Reads, a publisher that does eBooks only. They “bought” the novel pretty quickly.

After my novel was published as an ebook, I found that many people wanted a traditional paperback.  Since my publisher doesn’t do paperbacks, I decided to self-publish the print version. I had a graphic designer prepare the cover and the inside pages. I used a company called Lightning Source as my printer. They are a print on demand company that also distributes worldwide, so in my contract with them, they distribute my novel to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. Lightning Source is very professional and I think a step above many self-publishing companies in terms of quality.

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

Marc: I think every story calls for its own voice—unless you are writing a series, like a detective series or maybe a romance series. My novel is in 3rd person, past tense and takes the POV of several characters. My stories in many cases are first person, which makes switching POV in the story a no-no.

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

Marc: For me, the hardest part is sitting my butt down in the chair, shutting off the internet and writing. I don’t do outlines. I let the characters and the setting build the story. I’m always surprised at what happens after I struggle for an hour or so.

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

Marc: In my opinion, a new writer should just sit down and write and crank something out, whether it’s short story, a play or a novel and not look back until a first draft is done. There will be plenty of time to revise. And I recommend getting feedback from only a few people, and people who are not going to pat your on the back and tell you that you’re the next Faulkner, because quite frankly, you’re not. Only then should you go back and revise, revise, revise and rewrite.

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

Marc: The Leap Year Boy is set in Pittsburgh in the early 1900’s. It is the story of a working class family and an extraordinary boy named Alex Miller, born in the family’s home on February 29, 1908. What makes Alex so remarkable is that even though he’s full term, he weighs just two pounds, one ounce and is nine inches long.

Despite his size, Alex is perfectly healthy. However, his body grows at one-fourth the rate of a normal child—so that after one year, he’s the size of a three-month-old—but his mind grows much quicker. Eventually, so do certain parts of his body and his ability to do various and unusual things with them. As Alex’s special abilities become apparent, those around him see him as both a miracle child and a freak of nature—a freak to exploit.

How Alex saves himself from the designs of others—his religious fanatic grandmother, who sees him as the new Messiah; his money-grubbing immigrant doctor, who wants to put him on display; his unstable nanny, who believes Alex is her lost child; and his father and father’s mistress, who are eager to tap Alex’s commercial potential—is at the heart of the novel.

Ultimately, a family that has been fractured by ambition and circumstance rediscovers loyalty and love, thanks to Alex’s courage.

Joanne:  This sounds so interesting. Where can readers get your book?

The Leap Year Boy
The Leap Year Boy

Marc: It is available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Leap-Year-Marc-Simon/dp/0615802907/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1375201891&sr=1-1

Joanne: Thank you Marc. If you may, please share with the readers a sneak peak into your book.

The Leap Year Boy

Chapter 1

Alex Miller was born on February 29, 1908, at 12:01 a.m., precisely nine months and a day after he was conceived. He weighed a mere two pounds, one ounce and measured just nine inches long, yet despite his size, his breathing was relaxed, his heart beat like a metronome and his blue eyes were active and alert.

Alex entered the world headfirst in the home of Abe and Irene Miller at 707 Mellon Street, Pittsburgh, less than 20 minutes after Irene had gone into labor. Ida Murphy, Irene’s mother, was in attendance, not so much out of concern for her daughter or the welfare of her nascent grandchild, whom she hoped would be her first female grandchild; rather, Ida wanted to see firsthand why her daughter had engaged the services of a medical doctor, since she herself had delivered without an attending physician during the births of her own three children, the third stillborn, each more agonizing than the one before it.

Ida felt a pang of jealousy when her daughter delivered so quickly and relatively pain free. Not that she didn’t love her daughter, in her own guarded way, or wish her well, but still, she thought, suffering builds character. If she’d had to go through it, why should her daughter get off so easy?

When she saw the tiny baby, she remarked to the doctor, “That’s it?”

Irene’s physician, Dr. Malkin, shrugged and assured her that it was indeed “it.”

Malkin was a hairy, bear-like Russian/Jewish immigrant with filmy pince-nez glasses he wore on the tip of his pointy nose. The veracity of his medical credentials was somewhat suspect, had anyone cared to investigate, since his professional certificates were printed in Cyrillic type and framed in clouded glass on the walls of his so-called surgery, which happened to be on the second floor of a cold-water walkup. He served the Miller family as general practitioner, pediatrician and dentist.

“But it’s so small. Are you sure there aren’t more babies in there somewhere?” Irene admonished him to keep looking, that there had to be one or two more, look at the size of the thing, it was no bigger than the runt in a litter of pigs. It was all she could do to keep from looking herself. But when Malkin shook his head no, that’s it, Ida put her hands on her wide hips and said, “Well, in that case, doctor, there’s no use me dilly-dallying around here anymore, is there?” She washed her hands with rough soap in the basin on the dresser next to the bed, put on her gloves, quickly kissed her daughter on her damp forehead, harrumphed at the tiny baby boy and went downstairs. As she put on her coat, she told Abe Miller, who was waiting with a cigar in one hand and a beer in the other, that his wife had given him another boy, and that she was fine, and he should go on upstairs but be ready for a surprise—and no thank you, she didn’t care to spend the night at their house, she was perfectly capable of walking home by herself or catching a trolley.

Abe bent down to look at the baby. His cigar fell out of his mouth. The baby blanket quickly smoldered until he tamped it out.

Malkin came by the next morning, expecting to find the teensy baby dead in its crib, but there it was, alive and kicking, nursing and crying and eliminating like any other newborn, albeit in miniscule quantities. He asked after Irene as well, who happily reported that she felt so good, she was ready to go down to Rooney’s for a ham sandwich and a bottle of lager.

Posted in writers

M is for Muse

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Muse

Taken from Wikipedia, (cut and pasted – not entire content)

The nine muses are :Clio, Thalia, Erato, Euterpe, Polyhymnia, Calliope, Terpsichore, Urania, Melpomene

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The Muses in Greek mythology, poetry and literature, are the goddesses of the inspiration of literature, science and the arts. They were considered the source of the knowledge, related orally for centuries in the ancient culture that was contained in poetic lyrics and myths.

The Muses, the personification of knowledge and the arts, especially literature, dance and music, are the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (memory personified). Hesiod’s account and description of the Muses was the one generally followed by the writers of antiquity. It was not until Roman times that the following functions were assigned to them, and even then there was some variation in both their names and their attributes:

Calliope -epic poetry

Clio –history

Euterpe -flutes and lyric poetry

Thalia -comedy and pastoral poetry

Melpomene –tragedy

Terpsichore –dance

Erato -love poetry

Polyhymnia -sacred poetry

Urania -astronomy.

Antiquity set Apollo as their leader, Apollon Mousagetēs (“Apollo Muse-leader”). Not only are the Muses explicitly used in modern English to refer to an artistic inspiration, as when one cites one’s own artistic muse, but they also are implicit in words and phrases such as “amuse”, “museum” (Latinised from mouseion—a place where the muses were worshipped), “music”, and “musing upon”.

The Online Thesaurus had this to say about muse:

  • the source of an artist’s inspiration; “Euterpe was his muse”
  • germ, source, seed – anything that provides inspiration for later work
  • reflect deeply on a subject
  • meditate, mull, mull over, ponder, chew over, think over, excogitate, reflect, ruminate, speculate, contemplate
  • cerebrate, cogitate, think – use or exercise the mind or one’s power of reason in order to make inferences, decisions, or arrive at a solution or judgments; “I’ve been thinking all day and getting nowhere”
  • premeditate – think or reflect beforehand or in advance
  • theologise, theologize – make theoretical speculations about theology or discuss theological subjects
  • introspect – reflect on one’s own thoughts and feelings
  • bethink – consider or ponder something carefully
  • cogitate – consider carefully and deeply; reflect upon; turn over in one’s mind
  • wonder, question – place in doubt or express doubtful speculation
  • puzzle – be uncertain about; think about without fully understanding or being able to decide
  • consider, study – give careful consideration to

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A good writer-friend of mine uses music and videos as his muse to inspire his writing. An entire epic novel is forming from his videos. I find it fascinating how the videos are leading his story, practically without his will. He started with a basic theme, and as he peruses through videos, one leads to the next which leads to the next and so on. Although his novel is not yet complete, he has an entire audio and visual sound track leading his way.

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I am often surprised at the direction my own stories take, even though I am a “planner” and use an outline to write. I recently realized that all my stories include children and the legal system. That was never my intention, but it is a common thread. Perhaps my muse is Melpomene and my theme is children’s rights and protection under the law. Hmm.

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What is your muse? What inspires you to write?

Posted in authors, writers

Subtitled “Writing on Demand”

As a novice writer, I have been afforded the luxury of writing at my leisure, as the muse reveals itself. Making a commitment to have a blog puts the pressure on to write on demand. I believe in commitments and as I elect to take on this task, I must do it with the full expectation of having something of value to offer my readers week after week. So I approach this hesitantly and with trepidation.

To me, the purpose of the blog is simple. I need to create a platform for my work and build followers. In this ever changing industry of publication, the rules change almost daily. Liken it to buying a new computer or the latest big screen TV. By the time you get it home and figure out how to use the thing, something newer and better is already on the scene. But I will head the advise of my peers and follow today’s guideline for success and start a blog.  I will find insightful information to share with my fellow authors.  And I’ll offer my humble opinions, knowing that my experience is lacking of credentials.

Have you ever made a commitment to do something that you were unsure of the direction it would lead?  Share them here. The simple beauty of a blog is the interaction. Without responses, I am simply writing to myself. Your opinions are valued and your time is appreciated. Perhaps together we can delve into this somewhat scary world of literature and publication and come away better for it. We will become AUTHORS.