Carolyn J. Rose

Carolyn J. Rose, author

In recent years several best-selling authors announced their retirement from writing. My first reaction was disbelief. These were successful writers. They won prestigious prizes. Their works were rich with theme and message. They had thousands of devoted readers awaiting their next publications.

And maybe that’s one reason they chose to retire. There’s something to be said about knowing when to leave the party, about going out at the top of your game.

I’ve never—to use a baseball analogy for success as an author—hit one out of the park and cleared the bases. If I had, I probably would have 1) wondered how the heck I did it, 2) doubted I could ever do it again, and therefore 3) been afraid and embarrassed to return to the plate.

But I haven’t had that base-clearing slam yet. I haven’t hit the top of my game. Or . . . maybe I have. Maybe I didn’t realize it. Maybe . . . Well, let’s not go there. That leads to self-pity and that leads to the basket of snacks on top of the refrigerator.

In at least one case, a retiring writer used the word “struggle” in connection with the writing process. Now, “struggle” is a word I’ve also been known to apply—but mostly to my attempts to stay at the keyboard and out of the kitchen and away from that basket I mentioned in the last paragraph. The struggles of these successful writers were on a much deeper and/or higher level and probably didn’t involve snacks. And that could be another reason for retiring.

Lurking on a number of chat sites as I’m wont to do when I’m putting off writing, I’ve encountered writers wringing the towel and considering whether to throw it in. Many of them have written just a few books—or perhaps only one—and haven’t had the positive reader response they expected, didn’t make the money they hoped for, or were stung by reviewers. Others stagger under the burden of jobs and obligations, responsibilities and interests that leave them little time to write. They take time out. Often, they return revitalized and with fresh ideas and perspectives. Sometimes, no matter what their intentions, they never return.

I don’t blame them. Writing can be frustrating and discouraging and painful, especially when your expectations don’t mesh with reality. It can give you tunnel vision and put a strain on relationships.

On the other hand, writing can also be rewarding. I’m talking not about financial rewards, but about getting that e-mail from a reader that thanks you for making her laugh, or about someone who drives an hour to a book fair to meet you.

So, I’m not retiring just yet. My husband and I have a collection of short stories called Sucker Punches about to pop up as a digital book and I’m putting the final touches on The Devil’s Tombstone, the 3rd in the Catskill Mountains Mysteries. After I demolish the leftovers from Thanksgiving, I’ll waddle to the keyboard and start on the 4th in the Subbing isn’t for Sissies series.

What about you? Which one of these statements describes when you’ll retire from writing?

When I reach my goals
When I’ve delivered my message
When the thrill is gone
When the idea well runs dry
When the voices in my head stop
When the voices in my head start
When they pry the keyboard from my cold fingers

The Dames and I are looking forward to your comments.

Through a Yellow Wood by Carolyn J. Rose

Through a Yellow Wood by Carolyn J. Rose

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the popular Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries (Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, and soon-to-be-released The Devil’s Tombstone). Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and five novels written with her husband, Mike Nettleton: The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor and Deception at Devil’s Harbor.

She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She’s now a substitute teacher in Vancouver, Washington, and her interests are reading, swimming, walking, gardening, and NOT cooking


Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Denise! Tell us about your latest book.

My most recent release is Bright as Gold, fourth and final novel of The Georgia Gold Series. The series, which begins with Sautee Shadows in the time of the 1830s Georgia Gold Rush, connects the mountains and the coast as readers follow four fictional families through the mid-1800s. One of my main characters is Mahala Franklin, a half-Cherokee girl who grows up trying to find out who killed her father and stole the gold he mined from the Sautee Valley. Eventually, her white innkeeper grandmother brings her to town to raise her as a proper young lady. There she meets Carolyn Calhoun, an unwilling and shy socialite forced to choose a husband between two very different brothers, and Jack Randall, shipping entrepreneur from Savannah. When Jack buys a competing hotel and the two also fight their attraction to each other, sparks fly. The middle two novels include lots of adventure set during The Civil War, and the most recent one is Reconstruction-era. It’s a more introspective and relational look at how the characters overcome during a very difficult period of time.

When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?

I start the momentum with my research, timeline and plot plans, but the characters have been known to take over at times. I think we have to be deniseweimersensitive to what a certain character would or would not do. If it doesn’t feel true to their personality or development, we need to find a little flexibility.

Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?

I started local, doing signings at book stores, gift shops, festivals, book clubs, etc. I crafted a basic news release that could be altered for each. I also contacted clubs and groups in the region which might have interest in an author’s visit. I supported all that with online publicity. Recently my publisher and I have worked to get the word out past the hour-and-a-half radius where I can personally appear. I’ve joined Goodreads and Twitter as well as Facebook and am doing more guest blogging, author networking, requesting reviews, and conducting giveaways. I’m also planning a book signing tour to a wider area.

How long have you been writing?

I began writing at age 11. We don’t have to talk about how long ago that was, do we? I grew up visiting historic sites with my parents. My active imagination would wonder what type of people had lived in the homes or towns and what their lives might have been like. Eventually I bought spiral-bound notebooks and would whip those out and scribble down the stories from right there in the back seat as we traveled. I went straight to writing novels, of course, although I wouldn’t want anyone to read those now!

What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?

I love this advice. It’s great to apply to selecting the setting for our books, for starters. If we create a story set near where we live, we are more apt to accurately capture the local “feel:” the ins and outs of the way people think, their ethnicity and heritage, the hole-in-the-wall places they frequent, their lingo, their history; the sounds, sights and smells of nature there; the area’s secrets and idiosyncrasies. Research is far easier; we run less risk of either error or the expense of visiting our chosen locale. Marketing is far easier; we have a strong natural geographic starting base for events with an instant niche. I believe it’s also good to write what we know in terms of what we have experienced. If we’ve lived through something, there’s a reason. There’s wisdom in finding the meaning in that experience. We can relate it with authentic emotion that will pierce the consciousness of the reader and share life lessons that may encourage others.

How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction? Specific genre such as mystery, short story, paranormal or more general such as women’s fiction, Appalachian, etc.

The Georgia Gold Series is historical fiction or Southern literature (or could be dubbed historical romance). While I will probably write more in that genre in the future, I expect there will be some out-of-genre surprises.

Besides “writer,” what else are you; what is your “day job”?

Wife, mother of two daughters, and keeper of the home. Swim/taxi mom most specifically. I spend a lot of time commuting and sitting in car rider lines. But writing is what has allowed me to be flexible and available for my family. I really feel the flip side of writer is saleswoman. I’ve created a blog article on that shocking conversion as well.

Describe your writing process once you sit down to write—or the preliminaries.

I’m an organized type of person, so I like to do my research first. I put facts in the mental hopper and allow them to percolate. As plot ideas spring forth randomly over time, I overlay those on my timelines. Then I’m free to daydream and let the actual scenes come to me – the fun part! – grab a pen or my laptop, and start composing.

Were books an important part of your household when you were growing up?

In my childhood home, academics and literature were greatly appreciated. My parents encouraged me to read the classics and would read aloud to me from series like Little House on the Prairie and The Chronicles of Narnia. My parents provided great examples of how being well-read made you well-educated and able to interact on a variety of subjects.

Any teachers who influenced you…encouraged you or discouraged?

deniseweimer.brightasgoldWell, I had one who scared me, and sometimes that can be motivational. She was my 8th grade English teacher. We’d do these exercises in class where we had to fill in a blank that had to do with the correct form of a verb or part of speech. But she’d do it in rapid-fire succession. We’d try our best to count ahead to which question might hit us, but she liked to mix things up. Everyone in class would be trembling like they were about to be tied to the execution pole. Because if you got the answer wrong she’d explode with something like, “NO! You ding-dong! That’s a dangling modifier!” Or some such nonsense. This was before calling children in a classroom names was politically incorrect. And she had a startling repertoire of originally insulting but not quite cursing names. We won’t even talk about how hard it was to get an ‘A’ in there. But … when I had to recite the balcony scene from “Romeo & Juliet,” she looked quite entranced. And there was a calendar she kept with literary scenes on it. The last month in her class “The Lady of Shalott” graced the wall. Of course I had a fascination with that poem then because the GPTV “Anne of Green Gables” had just come out. I would stare at the romantic depiction of the lady in the boat and wish it was me, “drifting down to Camelot,” away from English class. At the end of the school year, I asked Mrs. S for that page. Her look of surprised pleasure almost cracked into a warm smile. I walked away with a firm command of sentence structure and a print that now hangs matted and framed in my Victorian-style guest bedroom.

Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?

I do have a Kindle. I hear there are some people who are e-reader-only people and others who are print-only people. I’m sure this is true, but I have found for me (and probably others, too) there’s a place for both. I love to find free and discounted books for the Kindle and take it with me on trips for ease of packing. But for books I want to keep forever because I love them that much or a friend wrote them – or a situation like with my Georgia Gold novels where the covers are one-of-a-kind prints done by a regionally collected artist – I value the physical copy on my shelf.

How do your characters “come” to you? Are they based loosely or closely on people you know?

My characters often come to me in those “loosely constructed” or “unplugged” moments described in the question on writer’s block. But before that happens, I spend time pondering what sort of person I want to represent a certain group of people and how I want them to be shaped from beginning to end by the trials and circumstances of history or what’s going on in the story. Mostly they are their own people, but occasionally a real-life person will bear some influence. An example of this would be Maddy, the hotel cook in my Georgia Gold Series. She was my grandma who has since passed away, who cleaned immaculately and was a wonderful cook but was never satisfied with her own efforts.

Any good suggestions for overcoming writer’s block?

I just read some fascinating research having to do with brainstorming. Basically it stated that we use different parts of our brain at different times in the creative process. And that the best thing to do when you’re stuck is to “unplug” your brain for a while … just take a walk or do another task requiring less concentration. The ideas will start to flow. That’s why we have our best inspiration at odd moments. Check out my blog at for an upcoming article on this!

Why do you write?

I write because when God gives you a gifting and a desire in the same area, you don’t squander it. There are so many talented writers out there, and I have no claims or delusions of fame. But I do believe if you’re a writer, you know it, and God will also give you the story or the manuscript, whether it be meant to entertain, instruct or encourage.

Thank for joining us today, Denise. For more information about Denise:



by Betty Dravis

Susan Alcott Jardine is an amazing woman! Not only is she an author, an artist, former actress and an award-winning screenwriter, she and her equally-amazing husband, Neal, are among the most active animal activists in California, and possibly, the nation.

I met Susan about four years ago, shortly after interviewing her former high-school friend, Actor/Producer Tony Tarantino, for Dream Reachers II, a book I co-authored with Chase Von. Susan’s book, The Channel: Stories from L.A., came out about the same time, so I jumped at the chance to review it. A haunting, well-written book… Needless to say, Susan has a way with words… The Channel is available at many online bookstores, including Barnes & Noble and Amazon:

susan triple pic art book and green door

Susan was born and raised in Los Angeles where she majored in theatre arts at El Camino College and California State University, LA. As mentioned above, she worked as an actress in theatre, television and film before working behind the scenes in music production/publishing, as a writer/editor for entertainer Kenny Rogers’s “Special Friends” newsletter, in entertainment law and broadcast television. She and her writing partner Marc Havoc received the WGA Foundation Award for their screenplay Lullabyeland.

susan in bus stop

ECC Theater Production of “Bus Stop,” directed by Joseph D’Agosta who also played Bo to Susan’s Cherie. — with Neal Jardine at El Camino College, Torance, CA.

While playing a role in a film at Paramount Pictures, Susan not only met Tony Bennett and the late Stephen Boyd, she also became friends with the acclaimed screenwriter Harlan Ellison who wrote the screenplay for The Oscar, among many other acclaimed literary/cinematic successes. Ellison became her mentor, actually critiquing her first published story from The Channel: Stories from L.A.,The Metamorphosis of Nathanial Kronstadt, which was first published in Ellery Queens’s Mystery Magazine back in 1985. She acknowledges Ellison as “a turning point and inspiration” in her life. For more about Harlan Ellison, check Wikipedia:

susan with neal by artThis versatile and talented woman is also a painter, and her artwork is in private collections in the US, San Salvador, and Kenya, East Africa, including the permanent collection of Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center. She lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband Neal and many rescued cats.
Art website:

While most of us writers dream of having movies developed from our books, Susan’s dream is much more altruistic: she and her husband Neal dream of founding a Feral and Stray Cat Foundation.

Since 2006, Susan and Neal have been actively rescuing feral and stray cats from the freeway berm that runs behind their home. Over the years they have been trapping, spaying, neutering and moving mother cats, kittens and new litters into their Green Door Editions (GDE) art studio, as well as using it for a recovery area for sick and injured cats. The Jardines named the studio their “temporary kitty hospital.”

susan's neal with cats on bed

Susan confided, “’Life’ and recent unforeseen events sent us into a tailspin here at GDE, forcing us to regroup and formulate a Plan B. But, from the chaos and re-grouping, New Doors opened up to a new path for us here at GDE. Through a loving gift from my late parents’ Trust, as if by magic, there was a ‘Gift’ to be used to start our animal rescue foundation.”

In 2015, the Jardines plan to open their non-profit foundation: “Alex & Friends’ Foundation” which will benefit ‘Feral & Stray Cat Rescue.’ Neal will be working from the legal aspect to set up a non-profit (501) (c) (3) to comply with Federal and state Regulations, and Susan will utilize her art & writing to create the logo and artwork for small gift items that can be added to a new website for the foundation.

dog with poster“It won’t happen overnight,” Susan said, “but by baby steps, we can slowly set it up and connect with other non-profits in the community. We will keep you posted and let you know when we’re finally up and running. A lot of legal work needs to be done before we can go forward, like setting up our Board of Directors, financial account, etc. The good news is that the non-profit status has already been approved by the IRS. We are moving forward and will keep you posted when it is finally up and running as a non-profit animal rescue foundation.”

I’m excited for Susan and Neal…and for all the animals they are helping. I admire them and others who care enough about animals to devote their lives and resources to them. To learn more about all the animals they help, check Susan’s Facebook page at: Don’t forget to check Susan’s site on a regular basis so you can either rescue a pet yourself or donate to this worthy cause.

ENDNOTE: Not essential to this story is a fact I would like to mention before closing: Neal’s brother is the famous Al Jardine of the Beach Boys. Since we and most of our fans love The Beach Boys, I thought you might enjoy that interesting tidbit.

Susan and Neal with Al Jardine

Neal and Susan celebrated with Al Jardine at his performance and book signing on the Target stage at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at UCLA. After performing his hit song, “Sloop John B,” Al greeted fans and signed copies of his children’s book, “Sloop John B: A Pirate’s Tale,” which also contained a CD of the song.

al jardine with brian wilson at bb concert in indio ca august 30 2014

BEACH BOYS Brian Wilson & Al Jardine still going strong as they prove at a recent concert in Indio, California. Next year they will take the ever-popular songs of the Boys to the UK.


Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Laurie!  Tell us one strange and provocative tidbit from your life that nobody has heard before.

I used to be a stripper. Yes. That was my job title, although it didn’t involve taking off my clothes. I worked in graphic arts before I segued into writing. In the “old-fashioned” way of creating printing plates, negatives for each ink color had to be sandwiched together precisely on a light table, which were then covered with a thick paper mask, and windows cut so the text and images would show through to make the plate. Hence, I was a negative stripper—which meant I complained about my tips. Just kidding. The tips were really good. Especially the ones about not cutting myself with the razor blade or inhaling developer fumes.

Laughing…Tell us about your latest book.

InPlaying Charlie Cool, television producer Charlie Trager’s secret relationship with Adam Joshua Goldberg (Joshua, to Charlie) gets even more laurie boriscomplicated when the mayoral staffer comes out in a very public way, leaves his post, and starts divorcing his wife. All Joshua wants out of the deal is shared custody of his two children, but with politics and the stress of Charlie’s job involved, what begins as a simple, uncontested proceduregets ugly fast—and might end up being more pressure than the two men can bear.

The book continues the storyline begun in novella The Picture of Cool. It’s also the sequel to Don’t Tell Anyone, if you’re keeping score.This novel has pushed my envelope in several ways: it’s my first sequel, it’s the first story I’ve outlined, and my first full-length gay contemporary novel.

Sounds interesting, Laurie. You’re breaking into a hot genre and I know you’ll do well. Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?

I’m working on a romantic suspense story and after that, I think Charlie has more to tell me. The Trager Family Secrets series may expand with a few companion novels and perhaps have a little crossover with characters from one of my other books. I’m not ruling anything out yet!

When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?

They are. At least for the first draft. The biggest problems I’ve had in writing have stemmed from defying their true natures and trying to push them into situations Author Me wants them to be in but they might not be ready or even suited for. Sometimes that’s because I don’t know them well enough yet. So I invite them in, let them get cozy, and listen.

Love that answer. What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?

Connecting with readers. I love that. It’s like completing the communication circle. I sit here alone and write a story, but it doesn’t feel complete until someone reads it and gets something from it: understanding a little better how another person lives, or at least some entertainment value. It’s especially gratifying to hear from readers who have connected with Drawing Breath, a story so close to my heart. I’ve heard from readers with loved ones living with cystic fibrosis, I’ve heard from relatives of the man upon whom I based the protagonist. It’s been quite humbling.

I agree. Interacting with readers is so gratifying. If you could talk for thirty minutes with any author (or person), living or dead, who would it be?

If I could get her to stop writing for thirty minutes, I’d want to talk to Joyce Carol Oates. She’s so prolific and deep and her stories are so gorgeously creepy and heartbreaking. I want to know how she does that. I want to know how she made me feel empathy for a serial killer.

What is your strongest and/or your weakest area in the creative process?

I love, love writing dialogue. I love how people in real life speak when they think no one else is listening, I love how they speak when they’re frustrated and the words can’t come fast enough and they’re sometimes the wrong ones. That’s one of my favorite and strongest areas of the creative process. What I’ve been working on over the last few years is my plotting and storytelling. I’ve been a proud, dedicated “pantser,” but I want to stretch and grow as a writer, so I wondered if some form of outlining could help me. I worried that working off too tight an outline would give me hives and completely bore me. But a looser, modified version called story beats, which author Lynne Cantwell shared with me, feels like a comfortable “halfway” step. I’ve used this process on my last two books and I really feel like it’s helped me focus on character motivation and storytelling.

How interesting. I’ll have to try that. What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?

How long do you have? I get a little passionate about this subject. I think it certainly helps to write about what has settled in your pores. But I don’t discount empathy and imagination for writing about things you’d like to explore and learn about. Or else how would we write science fiction? How would male authors write from a female point of view, and vice versa? Has J.K. Rowlings ever been a boy wizard?

Exactly. How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction?Specific genre such as mystery, short story, paranormal or more general such as women’s fiction, Appalachian, etc.

Oh, that’s hard. I write so many different genres. It’s all fiction—at least currently, because there’s a potential biography that’s been poking at me about one of my unsung baseball role models. One day when I can sit down and do all the research that will be required. Since I write so many different types of fiction—women’s fiction, contemporary, romance, romantic comedy, short stories—I’d boil it down to “realistic-style fiction about realistic characters going through sometimes trying situations with pathos and humor, often with an underlying romantic thread.” Yeah. There’s an Amazon category just waiting for me.

I like that. Describe your writing process once you sit down to write—or the preliminaries.

First I light a candle and sacrifice a goat… oh, wait. Wrong interview. Coffee is usually involved. I sit down and do a little deep breathing to clear my head. Then I just start typing. I’m working on a few different projects at any one time, and I think that flexibility helps me to drop pretty quickly into a project I’ve been away from for a bit. It’s like a muscle you need to keep fit, like any of the others.

Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?

I was given one as a gift a few years ago and I love it. Electronic publishing has brought reading into the lives of many people who had otherwise given it a pass. Although there is nothing like a printed book—I love the feel of them and that smell of ink and paper—e-books are not only here to stay but growing in popularity.

It appears ebooks are the future. I know I love my Kindle. Any good suggestions for overcoming writer’s block?

For me, there is no writer’s block. Other forces are often afoot. When the words don’t come, it’s usually because I’m tired or overwhelmedand try to compensate by thinking too hard. Maybe that’s true for other writers; I don’t know. I’ll take a small break and get some fresh air or go swimming. My favorite advertising professor used to tell me that creative blocks dissolve in water. If we were stuck on something, he’d tell us to go fill our heads with information and then take a bath. But for me, the pool works just as well.

I’ll have to try that. Thanks for joining us today, Laurie, for a fun, interesting interview. For more information about Laurie:


First, let me say that I have nothing against cats. I like them. At least six have “owned” me over the course of my life.

But my heart belongs to dogs—both real and fictional.

Carolyn J. Rose, author

Carolyn J. Rose, author

Right now I share my furniture and take long walks with two ten-pound hairballs, Bubba (a miniature Schnauzer/Yorkie mix) and Max (a purebred Maltese with issues). (Pictures on my website, )

I share my office with a trio of fictional canines, Sebastian, Nelson, and Cheese Puff.

That puts me in good company. Dogs reside in far more than a third of all U.S. households. And a heck of a lot of writers have created canine companions—from Argos to Lassie to White Fang to Old Yeller to Winn-Dixie.

Many fictional dogs work hard, serving as symbols or sounding boards and providing pivot points for plot. Some are loyal companions, faithful and protective. Others supply comic relief, clues, or red herrings. Some are smart. Others are goofballs. Many help ratchet up tension.

Some writers hesitate to write kill off a dog (or cat or other creature) because they believe readers won’t forgive them for it. Others, however, create fictional canines that make the ultimate sacrifice.

Do well-drawn, memorable fictional dogs increase sales? Especially sales to dog lovers?


Did I consider that before I created my fictional dogs?


I created them for their value to plot and characterization.

Through a Yellow Wood by Carolyn J. Rose

Through a Yellow Wood by Carolyn J. Rose

My first fictional dog, Sebastian, makes a brief appearance at the beginning of A Place of Forgetting. He’s old, his muscles are limp and stringy, and his eyes are clouded, but protagonist Liz Roark loves him. To disrupt her life and force her to leave her hometown and get on with life, I sent them up a mountain on a perfect autumn day and let him die a peaceful death. Several readers wrote to tell me they loved Sebastian and were sad to see him go, but understood why I did that.

Nelson, the three-legged dog out for vengeance in Through a Yellow Wood, is the lone survivor of a serial killer’s attempt to hide his crimes. I thought long and hard before allowing that killer to shoot Nelson’s seven kennel mates (before the book begins). I finally took the leap in order to deepen and strengthen his character and will.

I created my third fictional dog, Cheese Puff, to get protagonist Barbara Reed out of the dumps and back into the world after a nasty divorce. He’s a shrimp of an orange mutt she finds in No Substitute for Murder, the first book in the Subbing isn’t for Sissies cozy mystery series. Barb’s neighbors find Cheese Puff endearing, but their pampering undermines her efforts to train him and encourages an excess of small-dog attitude.

Cheese Puff has been a hit with readers—especially those who have small dogs as companions. Several have suggested ideas for what might happen to him in future books. Thanks to some of those readers, he found love in No Substitute for Money and broadened his social and cultural life in No Substitute for Maturity. In the fourth book in the series—a book I hope to write this fall—Cheese Puff will be keeping a diary and tangling with Bigfoot.

It will be interesting to see what readers think about that.

The Dames of Dialogue and I would love to hear about your dogs—both real and fictional—and we’re looking forward to your comments.

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the popular Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity have sold 50,000 electronic copies), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries (Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, and soon-to-be-released The Devil’s Tombstone). Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and five novels written with her husband, Mike Nettleton: The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor and Deception at Devil’s Harbor.

She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She’s now a substitute teacher in Vancouver, Washington, and her interests are reading, swimming, walking, gardening, and NOT cooking.  Website

Meet the Characters.

via Meet the Characters.

Canning: Then and Now.

via Canning: Then and Now.

Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Alberta. What inspires you to write and who are your favorite characters? What is your writing schedule?

I am inspired to write because I love the development of creating and capturing characters and storylines that others can relate to. I am also genuinely inspired by everyday people, their lives and their stories. I wanted to create a platform to share stories that are real and relevant and to stir up people to move forward in life and pursue their dreams.

When did you decide you wanted to write?

During the winter of 1996 I decided I wanted to write a book, but I didn’t actually begin writing it until about five years later. In 1996 my oldest alberta lampkinssister, Agnes passed away, leaving her three year old daughter behind. I thought, my niece will never know her mother’s story – and I wanted to write about not only my sister’s life, but my father who passed and my aunt. Their lives mattered and I wanted to share their stories in a creative format.

Where do you get your inspiration for your stories?

I like to write about very real issues, those that can or have affected everyone at one time or another. I am inspired by what I see happening to others and in many cases what I have experienced personally. In Teach Me How To Fly, I based Jocelyn’s character on parts of my own life and I patterned Angel’s character after a mixture of cases I worked as an Adult Services and Child Protective Service worker.

What made you decide to write a story like Teach Me How To Fly?

I decided to write about faith, friendship and forgiveness with ordinary people because, unfortunately, too many people hold on to things that happened to them in the past and allow those things to hinder them from being happy and moving forward in life. I realize that there are some really great people in this world, but many of those people are consumed with regrets, mistakes and hurt and are unable to see the best in life. The characters are a compilation of many people I know of, but there situations may not be identical to those of some of my characters.

In Teach Me How To Fly, you wrote about domestic violence, is that an issue you feel needs to be addressed in the black and other communities?

Yes, I do feel that domestic violence is not discussed as much as it should be. Especially, since so many women are experiencing it. I think it is very easy for any of us to overlook what is actually going on if we are not in that sort of situation ourselves. But what we really need to do is become more aware and figure out what we can do to help those who are victims.

Why did you choose to self-publish your first novel? What was that experience?

Well, I asked God to teach me how to fly and I set out to learn everything I could about the publishing business. Once I learned how to design a book cover, how to set up files for print and eBook publication and how to market my book, I decided to not only self publish my book, but start my own publishing company, A.L. Savvy Publications. I completed a book project titled, Messages to Our Children, where I enlisted twenty-two others along with myself to write encouraging messages and thoughts to our children. The purpose of that project was to come together as one to help uplift and encourage our children and all children to move towards success in life. I believe we must be the example for the young people following in our footsteps. It was an amazing project – everyday people coming together for a super great purpose. It was thrilled to self publish such a positive body of work. Self-publishing involved a lot of time and a lot of hard work, but it was very well worth it. I look forward to seeing where this venture takes me.

What authors do you admire?

There are, but to name a few, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, James Weldon Johnson, Pearl Cleage, Kimberla Lawson Roby, Terry McMillan, Victoria Christopher Murray, Danielle Steel, Walter Mosley, etc.

Any favorite books?

As a young reader, I would say one of my favorite books was A Sidewalk Story by Sharon Bell Mathis – she told a great story of a young girl who tries to save her best friend’s things from getting wet after the family was evicted from their apartment – it was heart touching and I was able to relate to how much that girl cared about her friend. As an adult reader, I have to say, I Wish I Had a Red Dress by Pearl Cleage is one of my most favorites – in the story the main character is an advocate for young girls and tries to help the young ladies overcome everyday experiences in life. As an advocate for adults and children, I truly enjoyed the human service aspect of the story – it is a great read.

Teach_Me_How_To_Fly_PromotionDid one of them inspire you?

Most certainly, it was Langston Hughes – I believe he was far beyond his years; he was a dreamer and saw a better tomorrow. That is what life is about, seeing a better tomorrow.

Is writing your only passion?

Right now, it is one of my primary passions, but there are also other areas of interest I plan to pursue in the future. Like, building A.L. Savvy Publications and helping to discover amazing new writers.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I would like to continue to work on mini book projects, such as Messages to Our Children and other collective works. I would like to see A.L. Savvy Publication as one of the foremost independent publishing companies in the industry. I’d also like to see my novel Teach Me How To Fly produced as a national stage play and as a movie.

What advice would you give aspiring authors?

Please write at least something every single day. Even if it is only a page or two in your journal or manuscript, make a habit of doing it daily. Also, follow your heart and write the book you would want to read.

What would you like readers to learn from your stories?

That their life is an amazing journey and that they are not alone in dealing with their particular circumstance in life and that obstacles can always be overcome. And that even when we are not able to overcome them completely, we can find a way to live with or deal with them and then move forward in our lives. If we have faith and begin making the right choices, we can still find peace and joy at the end of every road.

What upcoming projects are you working on?

I am working on publishing a book written by my husband, who is a Command Sergeant Major in the Army. He wrote a story about his experience as a leader in war. The book is titled, Suicide in the Mountains of Afghanistan. We are looking towards an October 2014 release date. Additionally, I am working on a book project titled, Mixed Bag: A Cultural Journey around the World – it will feature people of diverse cultures who are now living in America and a book project with teen and young adult expressions titled, Our Voices Matter: Through the Eyes of A Young Adult.

Where can people purchase your books? Do you have a website?

All of the books are and will be available on,, Kindle, Kobo, Nook and Apple iBooks. My web site address is

Alberta’s bio follows. Thanks for joining us today, Alberta!


Alberta is a proud Army wife and has been married to her husband Command Sergeant Major Al Lampkins for over twenty-five years. She is the founder of A.L. Savvy Publications and has been working toward publication for over five years while working as an Adult Services and Child Protective Services Social Worker. In addition, she completed her Master of Arts Degree in Sociology from Fayetteville State University in 2012. Her graduate research project on HIV testing among African American women has been accepted for scholarly publication in the Journal of Research on Women and Gender, Texas State University. All roads have led Alberta to following her dream of writing and publishing her first novel.

Alberta is the Project Coordinator for the book Messages to Our Children and the author of her debut novel, Teach Me How to Fly. She is also the Project Coordinator of the book, Mixed Bag: A Cultural Journey Around the World, which will be released the fall of 2014 by A.L. Savvy Publications.

Alberta founded A.L. Savvy Publications, an independent publishing company, after realizing how much she enjoyed listening and reading stories about everyday people. She wanted to create a platform for others to share their stories in print.

Alberta is a native of Buffalo, New York, however, currently resides in Tennessee with her husband and their son.

Visit Alberta at: or on the web



For some writers—and I’m one of them—writing a synopsis seems more difficult than writing a book.

Author Carolyn J. Rose

Author Carolyn J. Rose

With a book, there’s plenty of “room to roam,” dozens of pages on which to flesh out characters and enlarge themes. There are opportunities to slow the action to provide sequels to follow tense scenes and add description to set the mood and foreshadow action to come.

But a synopsis must be pithy, a neat progression of plot points, thumbnail sketches, tight but evocative description. It must be a distillation of tone, theme, and character arc.

So when writing coach Elizabeth Lyon suggested I write two versions of the synopsis for An Uncertain Refuge, I came as close as I ever have to giving up on my writing dream and getting out that failed knitting project (Who knew a scarf would be so difficult?) from 1970.

To her credit, Elizabeth’s logic was sound. She felt the synopsis I’d labored over for two weeks (Fourteen days! Long days!) didn’t do justice to the emotional journey of the protagonist. She said my synopsis didn’t fully illuminate where Kate Dalton was when the novel began, the challenges she faced, the ways in which she grew, changed, and adjusted her attitudes, and where she was at the end.

Not wanting to break my perfect record of resisting good advice, I fought Elizabeth’s suggestions the way a feral cat fights a bath.

There came a point, however, when I realized I was expending more time and energy avoiding the project than I would if I just did it. So, after kicking over a wastebasket or two, punching out a family-sized bag of corn chips, and downing an adult beverage, I got right to work.

“Easy” is not a word I’d use to describe the process. Neither is “painless.”

“Time-consuming?” Sure. “Frustrating?” You bet. “Worthwhile?” Yes.

When I was finished, I presented both versions to Elizabeth. She reviewed them and gave me a lukewarm “Okay.” Then she dropped the bomb. “Now put them together into one synopsis.”


An Uncertain Refuge by Carolyn J. Rose

An Uncertain Refuge by Carolyn J. Rose

Combining the two meant boiling down 10 pages into 5. That involved tough choices and hard decisions and (Gasp!) deep thought. I punched out a giant-sized sack of pita chips, kicked a footstool, and found a dozen reasons to delay or ditch the project entirely.

But then I got down to it and, after a solid week of work, had a polished product I could send out. Over the next two years, that synopsis went to hundreds of agents and editors. It raked in a few dozen requests to view the first chapters, but no one wanted to take a chance on it. Eventually I published the novel myself. (E-sales to date: 16,000+)

Given all of that frustration and time spent, was the synopsis exercise worthwhile?


I developed more discipline and focus. I learned how to refine my thinking, strengthen description, and capsulate characterization.

Would I do it again?

I don’t know. But one joy of self-publishing is that I don’t have to.


Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries, Hemlock Lake and Through a Yellow Wood. Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and five novels written with her husband, Mike Nettleton: The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor and Deception at Devil’s Harbor.

She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. Her interests are reading, gardening, and NOT cooking.  Website

The Dames welcome author Dylan J. Morgan to the blog. Dylan, tell us about your latest book.

My newest release, coming out on August 1st, is called The Dead Lands, and is a post apocalyptic novel set in mankind’s distant future in a solar system that is not our own. It tells the story of two planets circling the same sun and both are in the habitable zone; but one planet has been ravaged by nuclear war a hundred years previous and its president (who had himself, family, and closest aides cryogenically frozen) wakes from that state and sends an SOS signal to its sister planet. Lane—the main protagonist in the novel—and a squadron of twenty other soldiers are dispatched to the planet to rescue the president and help rebuild his nation.dylanmorgan

Only, the soldiers find a lawless land, a barren wasteland, and they must fight their way into the city where the president’s signal came from. Once inside, they find out that the real horror on this desolate long-forgotten planet is what the nuclear devastation did to the city’s former population. Complete with military gunfights, a cast of both likeable and loathsome characters, a hint of romance, a ton of betrayal, and a hostile apocalyptic world, The Dead Lands is a novel that should appeal to everyone who likes post-apocalyptic fiction.

Sounds great!  I really love the post-apocalyptic genre. You’ve previously written horror stories, your collection Dominio della Morte and Blood War Trilogy of werewolf-vampire books having both been featured here before, so why have you shifted genre slightly to write a post apocalyptic novel?

Honestly, this didn’t start out to be a post apocalyptic novel, but that’s how it turned out. I was thinking horror when I started it, but the world I created to base this novel in was totally apocalyptic so that’s why I’m labeling the book as post apocalyptic. There are horror elements to the story, though: it’s no secret that the squadron encounters deformed mutations inside the city, survivors of the nuclear war that are intent on ripping the soldiers to pieces and devouring them. So the horror is there, and there’re elements of science fiction too. It’s a bit of a hybrid novel, containing many elements.

What was your inspiration for The Dead Lands?

Believe it or not it’s totally inspired by a first person shooter game. I’ve spent many hours playing the game Rage, by Bethesda Softworks, which is set on planet Earth after the asteroid Apophis hits and turns the world into a post apocalyptic wasteland. As with these types of shooter games you get given missions to complete, which often involves shooting people and blowing things up. It’s all good fun.

One mission in particular in the game is to trek into the Dead City to acquire a defibrillator from a hospital. The city is a destroyed wilderness inhabited by mutants that are hard to kill and come at you from all angles, and it’s by far the best mission in the game. It got me thinking that a story such as this, soldiers on a mission in a devastated city with monstrous abominations attacking them would make for a great novel, and the idea for The Dead Lands was born.

Would it be too inconvenient to ask for an excerpt of the book?

Sure, here you go:

Approaching the ladder, Lane released the safety on his Berserker and it hummed to life. The drain vibrated once more as whatever was ahead moved forward. Its breathing echoed again, not as a snort this time but a sniff—three in quick succession. The following grunt, rumbling down the drain like a fast-moving wave, told Lane the thing had detected their scent.

His fingers gripped a rung on the ladder, the PBU’s glove allowing him to detect the metal’s coldness and disfigured rust patches. He looked up the maintenance shaft. The night-vision lenses highlighted the entrance hatch’s outline at the surface. Relief edged into his emotions but mounting apprehension kept it in check.

Johan reached the ladder and grabbed a rung. “Lane, Braeden, Ludger, give cover fire if the need arises. I’ll get up there and see if I can open the hatch. Everyone else, prepare to follow.”

Johan pushed him aside, but Lane didn’t bother looking at how fast the lieutenant clambered up the ladder. Thrown off balance, Lane took a step away from the ladder, squad members filing in behind Johan’s departure, forcing him further from the drain’s wall. Before he knew it, Lane found himself opposite the ladder, furthest from the maintenance shaft. How the hell did that happen? A quick glance to his left told him Ludger stood guard nearest the steps, and that surprised him less than Johan’s eagerness to be the first out of the drainage system. The tunnel filled with the sound of movement: Johan’s harsh breathing as he scaled the ladder, the squadron’s shuffled movements as they prepared to ascend to the surface, and the rumbled growl of something huge approaching through the darkness.

He stared up the pipe, his gut twisting with fear as his visor detected movement and raised the yellow flag of a potential hostile.

The shaded hue of his infrared glares made the creature’s skin appear white. Bipedal, with a distended stomach and muscular arms, it stood at a bend in the pipe, head raised as it sniffed their scent on the air. Something hung limply from one of its hands—it resembled the upper torso of a torn body, one arm dangling to scrape along the drain’s curved base. The creature manipulated what looked like a leg bone with its other hand, as if using the limb to pry stubborn flesh from between its teeth.

Chilling stuff that’s exciting. Having browsed some of the early reviews this book has already received, there are a few expressing a wish for a sequel. Is there any chance of that happening?

Most probably. I didn’t actually finish the book with the intention of revisiting this world but lately a few images have been circling in my head, giving me possible scenes for a second book and already I’m excited about it. I usually do nothing to these ideas at first, and leave them to develop—if they hang around, grow, and take over my mind, then it’s time to exorcise them and get them out in the form of a novel.

If many more readers express an interest in a second installment from the Dead Lands universe then I’m almost certain they’ll be rewarded.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00014]The Dead Lands will be your third full-length novel release, can you tell us a little bit about your previous two novels?

My debut novel, Hosts, tells the story of an isolated skiing community in Canada, cut off by a violent snowstorm as a prehistoric form of deadly parasite is swarming through town, infecting the residents. It’s reminiscent of the old-school horror situations of people stranded under dire situations and unable to contact help while faced with an insurmountable danger. There’s a love story in there too, for anyone who likes that kind of thing. It’s currently my biggest selling book on Kindle, especially in the UK.

My second novel, released in January of this year, Flesh, is a cannibalistic, ancient Indian mythology supernatural thrill-ride set in Wisconsin. An ancient evil stalks out of the woods to feast on the population of Vacant and the town’s police force resort to desperate measure to keep the beast sated and its residents safe. Sheriff Andrew Keller is a drunk with a haunting past that comes back to derail him at the worst possible time, putting everyone in danger.

I believe you may just be the next Dean Koontz! I love these kinds of books. What other books do you have available?

I have a trilogy of novellas; The Blood War Trilogy, which is a series detailing a centuries-old supernatural war between vampires, werewolves, and a hybrid race of the two species combined. The books themselves are entitled Bloodlines, Monsters and Mortals, and The Last Stand, and are available on Kindle and other eBook platforms.

A standalone novella, October Rain, is the story of Steele, a bounty hunter on Mars during the end of mankind’s existence as the human race tries to find new worlds to inhabit as the sun turns in to a Red Giant.

I also have a collection of short stories available, Dominio della Morte, featuring 19 of my best short fiction. The cover of the book, designed by Kari Klawiter, recently won an award for best eBook cover in the horror section.

Congratulations! How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing seriously now for about ten years or so. I started off creating silly short stories at first, just to see if I could actually write anything decent and when I discovered that my stories weren’t completely awful I decided to try and get myself published. That was a long and rocky road but eventually I managed to get my first short story published in an anthology and that gave me such a kick that I decided to go for it and write more.

I wrote only short stories at the start, for the first few years, and got a few good acceptances for my work. But the more ideas that came, the more they began to grow, and before long I couldn’t hold them back any more and the novels needed to be written. I seldom write short fiction anymore, it’s usually all long works and novel-length fiction, but it’s still nice once in a while to go back and create something under 6,000 words—it’s a much bigger challenge.

Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?

Actually, I have a few different projects I’m tinkering with at the moment. I’m re-editing an apocalyptic novel with a difference that I wrote a few years ago; which will then go to proofreaders before I decide whether to actually go ahead and publish. I’ll be working on some short stories and flash fiction that I plan to give away free on my blog during the month of October in celebration of Halloween. And then there’ll be work on another novel, but I’m still unsure of which novel I will focus on first: I have a straight-out horror idea, plus two post apocalyptic ideas, one of which could be the sequel to The Dead Lands.

So there’ll plenty to come from me in the future, and together with my full-time job and family there’s a lot to keep me busy.

They all sound intriguing. Are you in a critique or writing group? If so, how does it work and specifically how do the members help your writing?

No, I’m not in a critique or writing group but I wanted to add that it’s very important to get critiques of your work, and have proof readers go over your manuscript, before sending it to a publisher, or indeed before self publishing yourself. You might think it’s the best piece of fiction ever written but it really isn’t. It’ll take a lot of revisions to get it ready for publication, a lot of other readers pulling it to pieces before you should even get close to being satisfied with what you’ve produced. And the chances are when you do publish your story there’ll still be faults in it. Just get it as good as it can be, and do so with all the help you can get.

I certainly agree with that. How do you unwind?

Being a family man spending time with my two teenage daughters helps me relax—which actually sounds strange, thinking about it. We watch movies together, go hiking, and play video games. It’s a great way to bond with your children. Plus I do all those things on my own as a way to relax and unwind. I love music, so just chilling with a book while listening to songs, or finding new artists on YouTube is a relaxing way to spend an evening. I don’t watch much television, but do enjoy “Game of Thrones”, “Vikings”, and “The Walking Dead”, and watch them every week when they’re running.

I’m a huge fan of “Game of Thrones” and “The Walking Dead”. Can’t get enough of either one! Why do you write?

Because these tortured images and scenarios would plague my waking hours if I didn’t get them out of my head in the form of stories. I write because I want to; because I need to; because I have to.

Great answer. Thanks for joining us today, Dylan. For more information about Dylan:

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