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colbymarshall-headshot1 (2)Confession right up front: I am a reader of paper books.

Don’t get me wrong…if you love e-readers because they help you read more often/easier/in a way that ensures no one on your subway commute can see the cover of your self-help book about how to overcome your intense fear of Slinkies, then have at it.  I just know that for me, printed books are my preference.  Maybe this is because I write my own books on the computer, so electronic books often automatically become “work” in my mind no matter the author or topic.  Maybe it’s because I resist change (I do.  I’m pretty much the only person under the age of thirty who still has an AOL e-mail address, and I will cling to my Blackberry until the day someone tries to steal it so fast and violently that they rip my whole hand off with it.).  But while those things might be true, I think the most likely reason I lean towards printed books is because they happen to be less dangerous.

Let me explain.

Books are not safe in my house.  If I was a book, I would be terrified to live here.  Why, you ask?  Because the mortality rate of books in my home is extremely high, and none of the causes of early demise for literature around here are particularly painless.  Methods of torture for books include being ripped apart by a toddler (who may or may not have inherited my penchant for thrillers, but that’s another post for another time), becoming the hairball-catcher for one of the not-so-naked cats (Yes, there is one naked one), and being buried under a pile of other, heavier books when our makeshift book shelves buckle and send our extensive collection raining to the floor.

But as bad as those fates may be, the worst of them—and the one that accounts for the highest percentage of book deaths in this house—is the very reason I steer clear of the e-reader: the bathtub drop.

I can’t count the number of books we’ve laid to rest due to a dip in the bath bubbles.  I’m a tub-reader (Definition: Person who reads in the bathtub, not a person who reads bathtubs).  I’m a perpetual workaholic, so the only time I let myself “off” long enough to squeeze in a respectable chunk of a book for fun is when I can rationalize it by pairing it with general human hygiene (sounds psychologically healthy, huh?).  This habit benefits my favorite authors immensely; any time a copy meets its watery doom, I shell out several dollars for two more—one to pick up reading where I left off, and another as a backup for when, inevitably, the first of the two new copies makes a splash all its own.  I’m pretty sure Katrina Kittle owes a substantial percentage of her sales of The Kindness of Strangers to my serious bathtub addiction.

ColorBlindCV1 (2)Which brings me back to why I’m still quite solidly in the books in print on paper camp and will likely remain there for the foreseeable future.  If I were to let my e-readers take “swims” as often as my paper books, I’d likely need another job to support my book habit. But this time, I wouldn’t be paying the author a second time for another copy of their book I loved so much—I’d be paying a big company for a new e-reader.  So, the idea of simply replacing the damaged merchandise is not only pricier in this situation, but it doesn’t appeal to my sensibilities as much, either.  After all, who would you be happier to give a few extra dollars to on a given day?  An author whose work has informed, helped, or entertained you, or to a stockholder whose name you don’t even know but who happens to hold a few shares of that e-reader company and has so many dollars in various stock statements that he won’t even notice when the investment you shelled out shows up in his statement numbers, because that amount you spent, while significant to you, didn’t even make a blip on his radar?

Besides…while I don’t think you can be electrocuted by making your e-reader your accidental rubber ducky, I’m just not keen on adding anything into water that contains me that happens to carry a charge of any kind.  If by some off-chance it so much as gave me a little zap, I’d probably need to buy a dozen self-help books about how to overcome extreme fear of bathtub shocks.  And given that I’d be too traumatized to ever buy another e-reader, everyone would be able to see those books’ covers on my subway commute.

 Writer by day, ballroom dancer and choreographer by night, Colby Marshall has a tendency to turn every hobby she has into a job, thus ensuring that she is a perpetual workaholic.  In addition to her 9,502 jobs, she is a proud member of International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime.  She is actively involved in local theatres as a choreographer and occasionally indulges her prima donna side by taking the stage as an actress.  She lives in Georgia with her family, two mutts, and a charming array of cats.

About COLOR BLIND: There is something unusual about Dr. Jenna Ramey’s brain, a rare perceptual quirk that punctuates her experiences with flashes of color. They are hard to explain: red can mean anger, or love, or strength. But she can use these spontaneous mental associations, understand and interpret them enough to help her read people and situations in ways others cannot. As an FBI forensic psychiatrist, she used it to profile and catch criminals. Years ago, she used it to save her own family from her charming, sociopathic mother.   Now, the FBI has detained a mass murderer and called for Jenna’s help. Upon interrogation she learns that, behind bars or not, he holds the power to harm more innocents—and is obsessed with gaining power over Jenna herself. He has a partner still on the loose. And Jenna’s unique mind, with its strange and subtle perceptions, may be all that can prevent a terrifying reality…

Color Blind is Now Available:

On Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/pbs3uts

On Barnes and Noble: http://tinyurl.com/pbs3uts

And other places books are sold!

To learn more about Colby and her books, check out her website at www.colbymarshall.com

 

 

 

 

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 deniseweimerbooks.webs.com 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:

 

 

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:

 

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 amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, Kindle, Kobo, Nook and Apple iBooks. My web site address is http://alsavvypublications.com.

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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: Facebook.com/A.L.SavvyPublications. Twitter.com/ALSavvyPub or on the web http://alsavvypublications.com.

 

 

The Dames would like to welcome author Nicola Furlong to the blog today. Tell us about your latest book, Nicola.

My latest novel HEARTSONG, is the debut in my new contemporary women’s fiction series the Sisterhood of Shepherds.

Some families have hope. Others have faith. The Shepherds of rural Oregon have Faith, Hope and Charly, three quirky sisters whose lives change forever when they reluctantly answer a personal calling to help others make amends.

In HEARTSONG, thirty-something single parent Charly Shepherd is satisfied with her life raising two children and thousands of plants in her family-owned Sweet Shepherd Nursery. Then, tragedy strikes. As she and her siblings struggle nicolafurlongto keep the nursery going, Charly begins to believe her family’s destiny is greater than raising flowers. When the three sisters reluctantly delve into family secrets to help their ailing father fulfil a promise, their lives change forever as they pursue a new inspirational path of discovery, heartache, humor and redemption.

Tagline: Experience friendship, family and forgiveness – Join the Sisterhood of Shepherds.

What great names and what a great idea for a series. Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?

I’m writing the first draft of HOMEFIRES, the next novel in the Sisterhood of Shepherds series. It’s Halloween in rural Oregon and Faith, Hope and Charly Shepherd delve further into their personal calling to help others atone for past misdeeds. The family’s Sweet Shepherd Nursery is also hosting a ‘haunted greenhouse’ event, so everyone is tooling up their ‘thriller zombie’ moves.

Love it! What is a typical writing day like for you?

Wish I could say my life orbits around writing, but it really spins on food, especially chocolate. A typical day depends on the season.

The routine in spring and summer is easy: up early for breakie and in the garden for an hour, write new stuff from 8:30 to noonish, eat, exercise for an hour (bike ride or Nordic pole walking) while pondering my next scene, then take the dogs for a walk, back to being slumped over the computer for an hour or so of marketing and promotion before dinner and then more fun with family, friends or the plants. Fall and winter writing schedule is similar, but revolves around my playing Old-Timer’s hockey three mornings a week and not so much in the gardens.

Sounds like you lead an active life! Dogs and gardening – two of my favorites. Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?

Oh, I really despise promotion, but I shamelessly plug away. I have a blossoming website/blog, dig in and out of Facebook and GoodReads, and am now sprouting on Pinterest, as it really suits my gardening photos. I also teach writing and self-publishing, am an active public speaker, and attend some writing events.

nicolafurlong.teedoffTell us a little bit about where you live.

I’m really lucky to live and garden in a small seaside town on southern Vancouver Island, British Columbia. We boast the best climate in Canada and my gardens are chock a block with plants and blossoms. I’m currently haunted by striking bamboos, Himalayan blue poppies and fairy and vertical gardens.

Sounds beautiful. Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

The Sisterhood of Shepherds bloomed when I decided to dodge out of the mystery genre and plant myself in contemporary fiction. I realized I wanted to write something heart-warming rather than heart-breaking, and two themes naturally occurred to me: family and gardening.

I have five sisters and two brothers and felt it was time to explore the joys, trials and noise of family life. I am also passionate about digging in the dirt and drawn to all the thematic ideas, like life, death and seasons, surrounding gardening. So, putting my family of Shepherds into the plant nursery business seemed an ideal fit.

Love that answer. If you could talk for thirty minutes with any author (or person), living or dead, who would it be?

I would cherish the opportunity to meet Harper Lee. To Kill a Mockingbird is a wonderful novel, focused on family, truth and hope. As a tomboy with an older brother, I identify directly with Scout and her challenges to please her family, her society and yet be herself. I understand that the author had many challenges, some personal, some writing and some societal, in creating the final version. Her perseverance is inspiring.

That’s absolutely my favorite book. Although I understand she’s a bit reclusive, it would be a great coup to talk to her. What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?

This is an appealing question because I’ve recently completely changed my attitude towards this old chestnut. When I was writing mystery and suspense novels, I thought one should write about what interests you, what you don’t know but would like to explore. With this in mind, I dug into many things, including forensics, professional golf, opera singing and being a stigmatic. Now, with the Sisterhood of Shepherd series, I’m using what I know about sibling rows and reconciliations to grow a new fictional family.

What is your VERB? (This is a big poster at a local mall)? If you had to choose ONE verb that describes you and you behavior or attitude, what would it be?

GAME. Suits me to a tee as I’m very athletic and willing to tackle almost anything (and sometimes anyone!).nicolafurlong.heartsong

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

Yes, books and reading played huge roles. Both my parents were highly educated and voracious readers. We all read from an early age and several of my siblings have had books and articles published. My father devoured murder mysteries and introduced me to some terrific writers, like Carter Dickson, Rex Stout, Margery Allingham, Ngaio Marsh, Ellery Queen and Raymond Chandler, not to mention the greats like Christie, Conan Doyle and Collins.

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

I’m into electronic publishing big time. In 2008, when I learned that Japanese readers had downloaded millions of books to their cell phone screens, I realized I could self-publish my backlist and find a new audience. It was a tremendous challenge and a steep-learning curve but within a year, I had several ebooks available for sale online, awake and alive in the world again, rather than snoozing in drawers or on disks. I now regularly teach electronic publishing at a local college and have had many students succeed in publishing their own work and beginning to manage their career as writers. How cool is that?

I think it’s wonderful. Ebooks are definitely the way to go. Any good suggestions for overcoming writer’s block?

Write something, anything, everyday. Don’t edit, don’t second guess, and don’t stop.

Thanks again for joining us today, Nicola. For more information, visit: 

http://www.nicolafurlong.com

http://www.pinterest.com/novelnicola

HEARTSONG is available in paperback and ebook at:

Amazon:

Barnes and Noble:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/heartsong-nicola-furlong/1119125355?ean=9780985961077

TEED OFF! is in trade paperback and ebook available at:

Amazon:

Barnes & Noble:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/teed-off-nicola-furlong/ 1112560059?ean=9781610091091

Laurel-Rain Snow

Laurel-Rain Snow

 

My journey as one of the Dames of Dialogue has been more than four years long, and rich in interesting interactions with other authors.

 
Parting ways does not really mean goodbye, as I’ll be popping in from time to time, to see what the other Dames are doing, and contributing my two-cents worth in comments.

 
During the time I have spent here, I have also kept myself busy blogging, which has turned into something of an obsession, with numbers reaching twenty sites at one point, but now down to eleven.

 
In 2010, I participated in National Novel Writing Month and reached the goal of the challenge with 52,000 words toward a now completed manuscript, Interior Designs.  It continues the story begun in Embrace the Whirlwind, but focuses on one of the supporting characters from that novel.

 

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Interior Designs
Meet Martha Scott Cummings:   an interior designer, an abandoned wife, and a newly single mother to her daughter Meadow.   Now she must begin an interior journey to reexamine the life she had, the choices she made, and to find the strength to begin again.

The manuscript has been through the usual edits, as well as Beta reads.  Now I have to arrange for formatting, book cover design, and publication.  Sometime this next year, I hope!

 
At the same time, I’ve also completed another manuscript I have called Defining Moments.  A story that follows one middle-aged woman through the new life she is forging after her husband’s betrayal.  And his betrayal is not the usual kind.  Not another woman, but a financial skirmish that leaves her reeling.

 

Defining Moments
What moments in our lives define us? Do our choices determine our future?   When unexpected events derail her life, Jillian McAvoy realizes that she now has an opportunity to carve out a whole new beginning.   But something happens to her along the way that threatens everything she hoped and dreamed about.   How can the obsessions and compulsions that seemingly take over her life lead to her newly redesigned world?

 

This story has also been through its edits, readers, etc., as well.  I have enjoyed my journeys with these characters and will definitely share my progress when they are out there in the world.

 
My five published novels are available on Amazon, with the latest one, Web of Tyranny, on Kindle, available there as well.

 
Here’s a blurb about Web of Tyranny:

 

Web of Tyranny by Laurel-Rain Snow is a proud, if poignant tale of Margaret Elaine Graham, a woman entangled in the trenches that epitomized her abusive childhood home only to flee into a stultifying marriage with Bob Williams. Seduced by the hope of achieving her goal of a college education and a life free from domination, she is blinded to Bob’s true qualities—and in a very real sense jumps from the pan into the fire. Oppression begets oppression and as Meg walks a thin line of human betrayal, she learns to stake her own claim to happiness—no matter how high the cost. Her fight leads to politicking during the radical antiwar movement of the 60s and 70s, which manifests as a near-compulsion, which will turn her world on end. Enticed by the possibilities open to her and chafing at the strictures of the marital ties, Meg bolts from the marriage with her toddler son in tow where a whole myriad of troubles await her.

 

 

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To find out more about each of my books, check out my website at http://laurelrainsnowauthor.com/

Other Links:

Author’s Amazon Page

Author’s Blogs

Laurel-Rain Snow on Facebook

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Author Elaine Orr

Author Elaine Orr

 

By Laurel-Rain Snow

 

Welcome, Elaine Orr, and Merry Christmas, too!  Thanks for joining us today to chat about your work.

 

1) What kind of writing do you most enjoy?

Humorous essays or columns. It seems to be my natural voice.  When I started my current mysteries (Jolie Gentil series, set at the Jersey shore), I created a couple of character with a similar senses of humor to mine. I like writing a cozy mystery series in part because the characters can continue (and change) in future books. I describe cozies to guys as murders without maggots. (Women seem to know what they are.)

2) I love reading a series, too, to revisit favorite characters.  Where do you find ideas for your writing?

Buried in my devious mind. My mom used to say things like, “If you got eggs delivered to your house it would be a good way to pass secret messages.” That probably got me started. Most of my ideas start from something in current events, even if that doesn’t end up being what the story is about. One news article talked about a school getting hydroponic growing equipment that police seized in a drug raid. I created a school that received some computers, also confiscated because of a crime, and “my” computers had a secret buried on one of the hard drives.

3) I like that!  What is a typical writing day like for you?
 
If I’m starting a book there is more reading than writing, mostly on the Internet these days. I still wander library shelves, especially when I used Prohibition as a setting for an older murder in Rekindling Motives. I now can write when I want, which is every day, usually late morning and early afternoon. When I held other jobs, I often wrote for half-an-hour or an hour before I went to bed. It was kind of a reward.

4) There is a wonderful freedom in writing when you like.  How do your characters “come” to you? Are they based loosely or closely on people you know, and are they in control, or are you?

I create characters to perform a function in a book.  They are never based on someone I know, though I have occasionally used a phrase someone I know used—especially for the character Lester Argrow in the Jolie Gentil series. I constantly make lists of things my characters need to do, even on the order of service in church.

As I write, characters become more fleshed out and I may use them differently than originally intended. However, I’m not a writer who says, “My sleuth let me know she had to do [whatever] a certain way.”  I don’t see it as a matter of control, because a character only exists in my imagination. That said, if I create a flat character, my imagination is not working well.

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

My brain is muddled with possibilities. Now that the sixth Jolie Gentil book is out (Behind the Walls), I have the idea for a seventh and write notes on things like grocery receipts if I’m not at my desk.  I’m working on a piece of nonfiction that’s a part-humorous, part-serious look at the art of complaining. That idea came from a whiner in Starbucks. I wrote a thriller in the late 1990s and was still revising on September 11th. A publisher was interested, but I decided not to publish it because a couple of the bad guys were Arabs and I didn’t want to promote stereotypes. I want to rework it, because I liked the basic plot and I had a lot of fun with the research.

 

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6) Who are the authors you read when you should be doing something else?

My mind strays to varied interests.  I’ll read anything Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Tyler writes (Accidental Tourist may be the best known), and hers are very character-driven stories. If Harper Lee writes another book I’ll fight folks to be at the front of the line. I’ve recently read through M.C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth series, and a few of Jinx Schwartz’s Hetta Coffey mysteries. Both have humor, with Beaton’s being more understated.

7) Why do they appeal to you?

Somewhat because there is humor in the writing, but also because of what they don’t write. I don’t like sadism or detailed descriptions of mutilated people, and I get bored when a thriller just goes from one tough spot to another. You know the hero always survives, so unless it moves the plot along briskly it does not hold my interest. I would compare this to car chases in a movie. Who cares how many things they wreck? Let’s just finish and get back to the story!

8) Why do you self publish?

Because I can. I shopped around other fiction in the mid-1990s, had some good feedback, took some really busy consulting jobs, and am thrilled some of the work was never published. I spent five years writing the first two Jolie Gentil books, and when they were done I wanted them out. I am sixty-two and healthy, but it’s a fact that any day could be a person’s last. I was just plain lucky that electronic and on-demand publishing were available when I wanted to put my work out there. I’ve published non-fiction with traditional publishers, and will likely go that route again for some historical fiction.

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

a) I send an email about my projects to a large number of friends and acquaintances about every six weeks. There is always one non-writing piece of information; nothing too personal. These are people I know, not names I grabbed from somewhere. In each email I say that anyone who does not want to receive the emails should be sure to say so.

b) I have a Facebook Fan Page in addition to my personal page.  Almost every month I boost a post, which means I write a note about something I’m selling and pay about $20 for FB to distribute this post to people who meet a couple of demographics I pick (usually women who say they like to read, as I have a female sleuth).

c) I tweet to a number of hashtags (#mysteryreaders, #cozymysteries, etc.), though these seem to be less effective than a couple of years ago. There are too many tweets out there. I did not have international sales until I used hashtags such as #kindleuk.  If you do this, make sure the link you provide is to a site where people from that country can purchase your book.  Also make sure you tweet about all web sites that sell your work — #kindle, #nook, #Smashwords, etc.

d) I do some press releases myself and send them to media where I’m known, and I’ve used various (inexpensive) services to send releases to broader media audiences.  I doubt anyone reads the latter, but I don’t want to miss the opportunity to reach a new audience.

e) There are two short talks I do for libraries or service clubs, and I’m developing more. These draw in people to hear the talk, and a few may buy books. Most important, it gets my name in the media.  I’m in a new town now and about to start this again. It should be a good way to meet people.

f) There are lots of other things I do in bits and pieces. I keep photos on Pinterest, a few of which relate to my books.  Guest blog posts are fun, and writers’ workshops or conferences let me learn as I market (there are usually sales tables).  I write occasionally for Yahoo Voices, again just to get my name out there. There is never enough time!

 

 

10) Who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?

My dad wrote stories, and that let me see that writing was an option. Books I liked were the biggest influence. My mom read authors such as Mary Stewart and Phyllis Whitney so they were my first mystery authors. I have learned a huge amount more recently by reading J.K. Rowling’s books. She is a master at foreshadowing.

11) What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?

Finishing something that I created. Writing is obsessive for me, and I like to read the finished products. I also like talking to other writers.

12)  What is an important piece of advice for aspiring writers?

Besides the “just do it” guidance, I’d say putting aside your work for a good while before you begin to revise, and then reviewing it as a reader who has never met your characters. You cannot think of showing a book to anyone besides your best friend or a critique group until you revise (probably a few times). When you have distance from a piece you can see inconsistencies and recognize parts of a story that may be hard for a reader to follow. And pay a copyeditor. I can create more typos in one paragraph than the average fourth-grader. You’ll never see most of your own errors because you know what you meant to write.

Bio:

Elaine L. Orr writes fiction and nonfiction. She began writing plays and novellas and graduated to longer fiction by the mid-1990s. In 2011, Elaine introduced the Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series, which now has seven books, including a prequel. She loves to read mysteries with a bit of humor.
 
Elaine L. Orr
Behind the Walls
Sixth of the Jolie Gentil Series–November 2013
www.elaineorr.com
Phone: (641) 455-3257

I’m happy you could join us today, Elaine.  I hope you’ll stop in and visit regularly.

Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, John. Tell us about your latest book, Sooner Than Gold.

Sooner Than Gold, published in April 2013 by Oak Tree Press, is the second in the Sheriff Tilghman historical mystery series. Set in Pennsylvania in the summer of 1898, Tilghman has a murder victim with too many enemies. He’s also coping with threats to his job, a band of gypsies and other problems while trying once more to convince his longtime girlfriend to jlindermuthmarry him.

In September, Sunbury Press published Digging Dusky Diamond, a local history book about the lives of Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal miners in the 19th and early 20th centuries. More about that below.

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

I’m currently dividing my time between the seventh in my Sticks Hetrick contemporary mystery series (published by Whiskey Creek Press) and a third in the Tilghman series.

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

I like to assume I am, though my characters more often than not hold a different opinion. For instance, in the Hetrick book mentioned above, his protégé is intent on playing a leading role, which wasn’t my original plan. She’s doing alright, so I’m inclined to let her proceed.

How long have you been writing?

I had an early talent for drawing. Eventually I started adding captions to my drawings. At some point in grade school I got the itch to imitate some of my favorite writers and started doing stories without pictures. The Army sent me to journalism school and I spent nearly 40 years in the newspaper business, first as a reporter and then as an editor. Throughout that period I was churning out freelance articles and stories, but I didn’t publish my first novel until after I retired.

What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?

Providing pleasure and/or information to a reader and getting feedback from them.

Tell us a little bit about where you live.

I was born and now live again in Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal region. While that may sound dismal to some, I’d note we’re all nostalgic to some degree about the places where we grew up. My home area is surrounded by mountains and even many of those scarred by mining have been reforested by new growth. There’s beautiful farmland nearby and the Susquehanna River is only a short distance away. There are three universities in the area with all the advantages and culture that has to offer. Knoebels, America’s largest free admission amusement park, is only a few miles away from my home and brings in tourists from all over the eastern seaboard.

Who were your favorite authors as a child? Have they influenced your writing career in any way?

My town didn’t have a library until I was in high school. My dad was a reader, though, and I had access to his books—ranging from the classics to popular novels. My early favorites included Jack London, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, Dumas, Conan Doyle, and others. We’re all influenced to some degree by what we read, but eventually find our own voice.

Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

jlindermuthsoonerthangoldInspiration is all around. In what we hear, what we see, what we read. There’s no end to ideas. Only the lack of time to put them into play.

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

Most of us live boring, restricted lives. If we stuck to that advice, there’d be a lot more dull writing available. Life is a non-stop learning process. A day when we don’t learn something new is a day wasted. Imagination provides the means to make what we don’t know knowable.

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.

I’m not fond of restrictive classifications. I’ve written fiction and non-fiction and hope to continue doing so. I’ve written mysteries, historical fiction, short stories in addition to articles on a variety of subjects. If the right ideas pop up, I may try some other genres.

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

Since retiring from the newspaper, I’ve been librarian of my county historical society where I assist patrons with genealogy and research. I also write a weekly history column for two newspapers (which was the genesis for Digging Dusky Diamonds). And I have four grandsons of varying ages, who provide incentive for other activities.

Did the classics have any effect on you in your formative years? (Shakespeare? Alice in Wonderland? Gulliver’s Travels?)

I’m sure they did. Dad had them all. I still love Shakespeare. While I’d never lay claim to being an actor, I once participated jlindermuthdiggingin a Shakespeare in the Park group in Louisville, Ky. Don Quixote, Moby Dick and Wuthering Heights are among books I’ve read and re-read many times. With every reading I discover something new and inspiring.

Thanks for joining us today, John. For more information about John and his works:

Website: http://www.jrlindermuth.net

Buy link: http://www.amazon.com/author/jrlindermuth

Blog: http://jrlindermuth.blogspot.com

Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Chris. Tell us about your latest book, Which Exit Angel.

It’s about an angel who hasn’t received her wings yet and a preacher who is questioning his faith. Together they have to stop the coming fight between good and evil. It’s set down the Shore.

Well, I’m hooked with just three sentences! What is a typical writing day like for you?

My assistant gently wakes me with breakfast in bed and coffee just the way I like it. Oh wait. That’s my fantasy. My writing has to fit chris reddingaround the rest of my day. I usually write in the morning and then again in the late afternoon. Sometimes even at night, but everything depends on whether I have the energy or not. I have a husband and two sons who need things from me so they need to come first.

LOL. Love your sense of humor. And I agree, family first. When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?

I am a plot-driven writer so I am always in control. I don’t have voices in my head I see movies. I just have to get those movies down on paper.

Movies? That’s interesting and the first time we’ve received an answer like this. How long have you been writing?

I have been writing since I was ten years old. I’ve been writing for publication for about fifteen years.

Tell us a little bit about where you live.

I live in New Jersey. I don’t live in the New Jersey of the Sopranos or Jersey Shore. I actually have woods behind my house and various wild life scampering through my yard including foxes and wild turkeys. My one son is in 4H. You get it. We’re country folk.

I live in the country too and love it. Can’t imagine being an urbanite anymore. Mark Twain said, “Southerners speak music…”  Do you have a favorite southern saying you can share with our readers?

Bless his/her heart. You could say a terrible thing, but add that phrase at the end and it makes it all better.

Gosh, I bet I hear that phrase every day. If you could talk for thirty minutes with any author (or person), living or dead, who would it be?

Julia Child. Remember, she’s a cookbook author. I like to cook and love to bake so I would love to have her show me a few advanced techniques. Besides, she led such an interesting life, she would be so fascinating to talk to.

I loved the movie “Julie and Julia” and the way Julia Child was portrayed. What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “Write what you know”?

I think you can start out writing what you know, but I think you can expand it to write what you want to know. My first book had a serial killer in it. Clearly I’m not one, but I was fascinated by them after seeing “Silence of the Lambs”.

chris redding.weaHow 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.

I write fiction, mainly suspense, though I’ve got some romantic comedies waiting in the wings.

I love romantic comedies – one of my favorites! Were books an important part of your household when you were growing up?

Huge. Both parents were avid readers and we lived a block away from the library. My siblings were so happy when I was old enough to cross the street to get my own stack of books.

One of my favorite memories as a child is walking to the library with my mom and siblings. Any teachers who influenced you…encouraged you or discouraged?

Mrs. Inman was my English teach Senior year of high school. She taught me everything I know about writing. She also had a passion for books. Once day she closed the blinds, turned off the light and had one candle burning on her desk. She read us A Cask of Amontillado. I remember it so vividly even today.

Thanks for joining us today, Chris! For more information about Chris and her works, visit: http://www.chrisreddingauthor.com/

 

Fiction Addiction 59

By Laurel-Rain Snow

Welcome, Kathleen!  Thanks for joining us today to chat about your books and your creative process.  (Website:  http://www.kathleendelaney.net/)

 Tell us about your latest book.  
Murder by Syllabub, the fifth in the Ellen McKenzie mystery series, has been recently released. Ellen lives in a small town on California’s central coast, but in this book her Aunt Mary’s closest friend has inherited a Colonial plantation, or what’s left of it, from her recently deceased husband, and is having a few problems. It seems there is a ghost, dressed as a colonial gentleman, prowling the upstairs hallway and he tried to kill her. Aunt Mary is skeptical;  ghosts, if indeed there was one, don’t usually push crates over on people, but she’s going to help her friend anyway. She’s not going alone, though. Ellen insists she’s going with her. They arrive to find the “ghost” dead on the dining room carpet, an empty glass of syllabub in his hand. The police suspect Elizabeth, Aunt Mary’s friend, who not only has a strong motive but a bowl of syllabub in her refrigerator. If Ellen and Aunt Mary are to prove Elizabeth innocent, they have to solve a murder whose roots lie in the eighteenth century.

cover syllabub jpeg file

Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
Aunt Mary has been a strong character in all of the Ellen books, and it seemed time to give her a series of her own. I am almost finished with what is to be the first in the Mary McGill Helping Hands mysteries. I am not, however, planning on abandoning Ellen McKenzie and her now husband, Dan Dunham. They’re just too much fun.

What is a typical writing day like for you?
There is no such thing as a typical day. The way I’d like it to go is, get up, let the dogs out and turn on the coffee, read over what I wrote the day before while I sip the first cup, feed the dogs while I mull over what I like and don’t like and get started on the day’s project. Afternoons are reserved for promotion, which means internet postings, trying to set up signings or appearances, answering emails, etc.; then the  late afternoons are devoted to running grandkids to soccer, flute lessons, etc. Somewhere in there I catch the news and start dinner. The evenings are mine. Sort of, because it never quite works out that way.

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

I love this question because that is such a fluid thing. To start off, I am. I have the main characters, protagonist, antagonist, some of the “sidekicks” in my mind, and have an idea of where I want the story to go. Once we get going, and the writing starts to flow, people I do not know keep coming in, and my carefully thought out characters turn on me. Once I had the murderer wrong. I person I had set up (I thought) as the murderer kept telling me “I didn’t do it.” It wasn’t until I finally listened and got the right murderer that the book came together.

I hear this answer often, and I think this process is true for many of us.  How long have you been writing?
That depends. If you mean all that stuff I used to write and hide in the cedar chest, a really long time. If we’re talking about the things I wrote after I actually got up the courage to let someone see something I’d written, a little over ten years. The first thing I wrote was an article about my five children’s eventful careers in 4-H. We were a city family and knew nothing about farm animals. We learned. My, how we learned. That article was purchased by Family Fun who actually paid me. I was on my way.

I think we can also count the things you hid.  Who were your favorite authors as a child? Have they influenced your writing career in any way?
I would love to say Nancy Drew, but my mother wouldn’t let me read those books. I’m still not sure why, but I read all of the Pollyanna books, any book I could get my hands on about animals (I still have a copy of Beautiful Joe on my book shelf as well as Lad, a dog) all of the Louisa May Alcott books, and systematically read my way through the library. I’m not sure how they influenced my writing, except  when you read a lot of books that have clearly drawn characters, interesting and intelligent plots, and are well written, it is bound to influence you, even if you don’t realize it at the time. I grew out of those book to read Dorothy Sayers and Josephine Tey.  Also Rex Stout and Agatha Christie.

 Louisa May Alcott was one of my favorites, too.  What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?
Again, it depends on what you mean when you give that advice. I think way too many times people interpret it writing about a place, a job, a sport you have been involved with.  If so, it’s a way to start. But there’s so much more to that statement. Take Walter Mosley. He writes about Easy Rollins, a black man who lives in LA in the 50’s. Mosley takes us through the black districts of LA with a deft hand. He knows that area, but its not the geography that matters. Anyone can tell us what freeway off ramp to take, can describe the houses, the grafitti-covered store fronts, but Mosley knows the people who live in those houses, knows what their lives are like, what their frustrations are, what their dreams are like.  I couldn’t write their story. So I choose not to try. I write about people in small towns, no less tight knit communities, no less frustration, lots of dreams, plenty of drama, but from a different perspective. I think that’s what that statement means.

 Yes, I agree.  Whatever we know that allows us to bring the characters to life…that’s important.  Were books an important part of your household when you were growing up?
They were probably the most important thing in our household. I can remember the day I got my first library card. After that, there was no time I didn’t have a stack of books by my bed, waiting to be read. My father and mother were both avid readers and passed on to my brother and me. My father often read aloud to us and he was a great story teller. Maybe that’s where I got my love of story. Or, it could be the Irish in me.

Love of stories is a familiar theme for us writers.  Any teacher who influenced you…encouraged you or discouraged you?
I’ll tell you about one who discouraged me. I was in the first grade but read at a much higher level, so was put into a first-second combo class. I could read but my hand writing (they had penmanship classes back then) spelling and math skills were still very much at the first grade level. The teacher had a shelf of books for first grade and another for second grade and you had better not deviate. I had already read all of the second grade books. The fiction ones. I’m quite sure I hadn’t read the math. She used to make fun of me, tell the class how smart I thought I was because I could read, but couldn’t do math or write a paper in cursive. What she taught me was to keep my head down, volunteer nothing and make sure I sat in the back of the class where no one could tell that I had a library book tucked into the social studies book I was supposed to be reading. It took many years before I had any confidence in my abilities to speak out in class again. I share this because sometimes it’s easy to forget how fragile a child’s ego can be.

Teachers like that one do all students a disservice.  Thanks for sharing.  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.
Fiction. I grew up on stories, lots of them, stories I read, stories my father told, stories on the radio and later on TV. I love fiction, both writing it and reading it. I write mysteries. Why? I guess a number of reasons. I love the puzzle, but unlike the crossword I like the puzzle that people provide. What happened to that person that made him/her a murderer? What chain of events pulled our hero/heroine into this tragedy? What happens when their two worlds collide? No two people react the same way under the same circumstances, especially highly stressful ones, so I love to see how my characters react as one tries to solve a puzzle and the other tries to make sure the puzzle isn’t solved. For both of them, their lives will never be the same.

I agree that understanding what makes people behave the way they do is central to our characterizations.  How do your people “come” to  you? Are they based loosely or closely on people you know?
First, I don’t consciously base my characters either loosely or closely on people I know. Having said that, I’m sure some characteristics from some creep in, but as my characters take form on the  page, the less they are likely to be to “real” people. Two of my grandkids asked to be in one of my books, so, I put them in the book I’m currently writing. They were to have a walk-on only and I made it clear the children would have their names but they wouldn’t be THEM. They aren’t. Those two kids marched onto the page, refused to leave when they should have and just about took over the book. They are darling kids, so are my grandkids, but they aren’t the same. I have no idea why that happens, but it does all the time. I often have people turn up that I had no inkling were there when I started to write, but in they walk, full blown. Aunt Mary in the Ellen books was one. Where she came from, I don’t know, but she arrived one day, and five books later, she’s still there. She’s changed very little, which is a good thing. She’s a really neat lady.

I like that aspect of how the characters come to us.  Any book on writing you have found most helpful? Or classes you’ve taken?
When I first started to get serious about writing, actually about the time I found out that writing is a craft and like most things you have to learn how to do it, I started looking around for classes. I lived in California then and found that UCLA had extension classes, often on the week-ends. I went to a lot of them and they were wonderful. However, I also went to writers conferences, both big and small, for mystery writers and for general writing skills, and learned a lot from them. I bought, read and re-read many books on writing, some on technique, some on grammar, others on plot construction, dialog, character building, and got something out of each one. But the book that encouraged me the most, that challenged me to think about what I was doing, why, and what I wanted to get out of all this blood sweat and tears that I was expending, was Anne Lamont’s Bird by Bird. I recommend it. I also recommend looking up online classes, conferences, creative writing classes at your community college, and some critic groups. But put your toe in those waters carefully. Some are wonderful, supportive and informative, some are okay but it’s the blind leading the blind, and a few will harm more than help. If you think you’re  involved in one of those,  you’re probably right. Go look some place else.

Thanks for joining us today, Kathleen…I am eager to read your books!

http://www.kathleendelaney.net/

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