Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Meet Author, Screenwriter, and Filmmaker Lindy Hudis

For the last day of July I have a humongous treat for you. Author, screenwriter, and filmmaker Lindy Hudis joins us to chat about her novel Weekends, which has received rave reviews. A former actress, Lindy is also a wife and mother of two children.


Welcome to the Aspiring Author, Lindy. It’s wonderful to get the chance to speak with you.

Thank you for having me!

Congratulations on the birth of your son, Cameron. I hope everyone is doing well.

Oh, yes. It is going great. Cameron is 4 months now, and starting to sleep through the night. Time sure flies, it is unbelievable. Our little girl is getting used to the idea of having a little brother. He is wonderful, starting to smile and laugh out loud!

Let’s start off with finding out a bit more about you. Where did you grow up? When did you decide to become an actress? How did that lead to you becoming an author, screenwriter, and filmmaker?

I actually grew up in Germantown, Tennessee. Then, I went north, to New York City to go to NYU. I studied acting and theater there, and I aspired to be an actress on Broadway. Well, my singing and dancing was not that great, so I went west to Los Angeles to pursue a film career. I just love drama, I love to create it, just ask my husband, hehe. I decided to quit acting when something strange happened to me during an audition. You can read all about that in CITY OF TOYS, my “Hollywood” book. I have always done some writing, just for fun. I just fell into it. When I get pregnant with my daughter, I just started writing.

As a wife and mother do you find it challenging to make time for your writing?

Yes! Cameron is howling as I write this, and Veronica is screaming for her chicken nuggets, lol. I love a challenge though. It is the Virgo in me. I am a “write when I have time” kind of author.

I love hearing about how writers work. Can you tell us what your writing process is like? Is there a time of day when you’re more productive than others?

Well, being a mom and a writer, I write when I can. I do prefer the morning, because I have more energy, but anytime is good to get the creative juices flowing. I try to write every day, but that is hard to pull off. I just sit at the computer and what comes out is what I work with at that time.

Let’s chat about Weekends. The synopsis had me intrigued.

“An innocent-sounding family reunion at an exclusive California beach resort turns into a weekend of murder, deceit, exposed secrets and unexpected intimate encounters. John Peterson has it all: he is a respected, successful Beverly Hills entertainment lawyer with a loving wife and grown son, the strikingly handsome young film director Joe Peterson. John also has a secret, and he decides to gather his disparate family members at the elegant Hotel Del Moor in picturesque Linda Bella, California for some luxurious fun, togetherness and re-connecting before revealing his secret. Unbeknownst to the family, a brutal serial killer is lurking in the midst of all the wondrous festivities.”

Where did the idea for this story come from? How much time elapsed between forming the idea and finishing the first draft?

I live in, and love, California. Growing up in Tennessee, California was my dream, a magical, mystical place that I used to dream about. It is so beautiful, and it is definitely my inspiration. The beach, the mountains, and all the artistic and creative people...I could not live anywhere else. All of my stories take place here. I guess you could say that was my inspiration. I wanted to give the reader a romantic beach story, and there you go. As far as time goes, I think it was about 8 months.

In the first chapter, the Petersons are on their way to a family reunion. It seems that they have everything—wealth, status, adoration. After reading the excerpt found on Pump Up Your Book Promotion’s Virtual Book Tour blog (http://virtualbooktoursforauthors.blogspot.com/2007/06/weekends-virtual-book-tour-07.html), I both envied and hated them. How did you go about creating these characters? Did your time in Hollywood influence how you developed them?

Yeah, there are plenty of families out here in Los Angeles who seem to have it all. It is easy to become envious, but I just remind myself that everybody has different karma, and we all have different paths that we have to go on. I do aspire to become that, I won’t lie about that. I just try to be as spiritual about that. Fate will bring me what I am destined to have in good time. I do get the inspiration from all of the interesting and successful people that I meet out here.

They often say that you should write what you know. Your descriptions of California display your knowledge of the area in which the story is set. But did you need to perform research of any kind for this novel?

Oh, yes. I did plenty of research for this story. I just love California so much, and the whole beauty of this place was my inspiration. I love the beach, the mountains, the desert, and the urban areas. This place just lends itself to a story. I was just inspired from living here.

In addition to this novel, you wrote an independent film titled The Lesson, which was screened at the 2000 Seattle Underground Film Festival and Cine-nights LA. How is writing a novel and a screenplay similar? In what ways are they different?

Going to NYU, you definitely get bitten my the film bug. I acted in quite a few student films. Also, being in Hollywood, well…it is hard not to want to try your hand at directing. So, I wrote a short film, raised the money, and shot it over one weekend. Both are similar because you are telling a story. You want to move and inspire the audience. You want to entertain and make people think. My husband, who has been working in the film business since he was 12, helped me out. So, I have a little piece of film that is all mine. The difference? Well, you can’t hand a producer a 300 page screenplay, they would faint at the cost to shoot such a thing! You have to tell your story quicker, and get to the meat of the story faster. Each page in one minute of film, and each minute of film is money!

With your varied experience you must have heard lots of advice over the years. What was the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? Did you ever receive any bad advice?

The best advice I have ever received is to follow my own advice. The worst advice? “Don’t move to LA”. That was given to me by a jealous ex-boyfriend,

What’s up next for you? Are there any exciting projects coming up that fans and your fellow writers will want to know about?

I have my screenplay, CRASHERS, that my agent is sending out to producers. It is pretty interesting. It is a gritty, action-packed story about a group of young people who get caught up in the seamy underworld of auto insurance fraud. After losing their "real" jobs, the avaricious trio stages car accidents to collect the insurance blood money. It is an edgy story that chronicles the nightmarish descent of the group as events spiral out of control.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Please visit my website for more information about my work, and me: http://directorbabe.tripod.com. Email me to say hello. I love to hear from readers and fans.

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today, Lindy. I wish you much continued success in your career and with your family.

Thank you for having me.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Karina Fabian Chats about Her Experiences as a Mother, Wife, and Writer.

As part of my goal to refocus this blog to be more about being a wife, mother, and aspiring author, a writing buddy of mine offered to be interviewed on what it is like for her as a wife, mother, freelance writer, author, and editor. Karina Fabian is a homeschooling mother of four children and military wife. In addition to her own published works, she and her husband, Robert, recently edited the award-winning Catholic Science-fiction anthology Infinite Space, Infinite God, which I will chat with Karina about when she stops by The Book Connection (http://thebookconnectionccm.blogspot.com/)on August 9th.

Let's hear what Karina had to say about her life as a wife, mother, and writer.

1. You didn't actually start writing seriously until after you had become a mother. Why the wait?

I've always loved telling stories, and even wrote a novel in college, but something about being an officer in the Air Force drained me emotionally. I could not make myself write more than a few erratic and not especially productive efforts. So when I became pregnant with my first child, Steven, and quit the active duty Air Force for the Reserves, I was very excited about trying my hand again at writing. We were living in Japan at the time, so I wrote a story or two and put together the parish newsletter, but I didn't get serious until we moved back to the United States and I had more opportunities with magazines.

2. So often in our society, work for the sake of income is emphasized, but writing--especially fiction--doesn’t pay well. Have you felt the need to justify your career choice?

I'm pretty blessed in that we haven't really needed the extra income. Rob's income is sufficient for our family. We both came from families who had far less income yet managed to spend responsibly, so we're often surprised at our affluence. As a result, I've never been under pressure to generate extra income from that standpoint.

However, I did go through a stage where I felt the need to establish a paying career. Part of it was that peer pressure--when I wasn't devoting myself to my kids, I should be generating an income. Part of it was a concern that if something happened to Rob, I had no back-up to care for our family. Part of it was that kind of identity crisis I think all moms go through to some degree--am I more than just Mom? So for a couple of years, I worked very hard to write for income--mostly articles about parenting and pregnancy. My clients ranged from Fit Pregnancy to Fredericksburg Parent. Fiction was an aside, and even then, with an eye to sell.

At first, I was energized by the income, but after a while, it became a grind. I tried branching into other venues, becoming a religion and science writer for http://www.acfnewsource.org/index.html, but it was, well WORK.

So I took my concerns to Rob, and God bless that man and may I always be worthy of him, he took out some life insurance so that if he died suddenly, I could have time to get myself together, and told me to write what I love--fiction. That was three years ago, and I haven't looked back.

3. What do your children think of your writing career? Do they like, resent it, are they indifferent to it?

They love my stories and are proud of the work I do, though I suspect they get annoyed that I spend so much time in front of the computer when I make them limit their own computer time!

My oldest son recently had an evaluation where he was asked to make up stories based on some pictures. In one, Steven took what I'm sure was a major left-turn from the expected answer, then explained, "I'm using my mother's universe here. She's a writer, and in her world…" He's already working on his own stories and imagines characters with rich backgrounds. If you'd like to hear his stories to the evaluator, go to my website http://www.fabianspace.com/ and check the blog. I'll tell you this--I had to walk out of the office in order to laugh!

4. What do you want your children to remember about you as a mother and writer?

I want them to remember us laughing. I want them to remember us sharing books and enjoying reading and telling stories. I also want them to remember that even something as fun as writing is work. But most of all, I want them to remember that Mom loved them and valued them above everything.

5. You homeschooled your children for the past five years, but next year, they’re entering public school. Did your growing writing career influence this decision?

Somewhat. This past year, my career has taken off: Infinite Space, Infinite God won the EPPIE Award, and I've gotten heavily into the world of marketing. I've joined several writing groups like the Lost Genre Guild and helped found the Catholic Writers' Guild, of which I'm now president. I've created a fun new universe with a dragon detective, and have written several stories, an award-winning serial and a novel. Plus, I'm a regular at several author chats and host one of my own, FabChat.

However, our entire family situation is changing: We're moving to a more remote area, but living on base, which is an incredible opportunity for the kids. We're financially able to put the older kids in Catholic school. We're discovering there are some things that I'm not teaching well; perhaps someone else will be able to help them understand. It was not an easy decision to stop homeschooling--we fought it for a year--but now that the decision is made, we're all excited (if a little nervous) about the upcoming school year.

6. What has been the biggest challenge in balancing your writing career and your family life?

I'm an "obsessive" personality. If I get into a project, I throw myself in whole-heartedly and can forget the rest of the world. About once a year, I write a novel--and it will take me a month to do because it's all I want to do. The house gets messy, the kids watch too much TV, we all get sick of pizza (yes, it's true! You can get sick of pizza!)… Then I go nuts trying to play catch-up when I finally finish my project and come up for air.

Next year, I plan to discipline myself to office hours while the kids are in school. It will be an interesting experiment. I haven't had a regular work schedule since the Air Force. Ironically, in this case, the challenge will be limiting my writing time, not making myself work the full time.

7. Is there anything you would change in how you approached your decision to become a full-time writer and editor while you are bringing up your children?

Career-wise, I might have joined some useful writers groups earlier on. I was on AOL's writers' chat for a couple of years and while fun, it didn't help me. Catholic Writers' Online really got me started, and I've discovered several more wonderful groups since then. I find I’m not the kind of writer who works well in a vacuum; I need others to bounce ideas off of, to alert me to opportunities, and to inspire me.

For balancing motherhood and work, I'm not sure. Any changes would mean changing my personality, and I don't think that's going to happen. I may have put less emphasis on nonfiction writing for pay; but then again, writing for a paycheck helped me develop some good writing habits.

Overall, I'm very pleased with the way my career is developing. Anything I'd do different--like get an agent or a contract with a major publishing house--are not matters of approach but things I strive for, and have been from the beginning.

8. What is the best piece of advice you can offer to other mothers who are also juggling a career and motherhood?

Love what you do. Remember, however, Priority One is your children. You will have your writing for as long as your mind and fingers work, but you get children for 18 years, then they're gone.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Meet Author and Editor Ayn Hunt

July just keeps getting better. Joining us today is author and editor Ayn Hunt. Intrigued by ghosts and hauntings, Ayn writes gothic novels and teaches Gothic writing online for Coffeehouseforwriters.com - http://www.coffeehouseforwriters.com/index.html. She is also the editor of Haunted Happenings, a free nonfiction newsletter which explores the nature of ghosts and all things related to them.

Welcome to my blog, Ayn. I’m thrilled to get this chance to speak with you.

Thank you. It’s great to be here.

Let’s start off by getting to know you better. When did you first decide to become a writer? What was the first piece you sold? Do you have a mentor or a source of inspiration?

I can’t remember when I didn’t want to become a writer. But I took it slow. I took journalism classes in high school because they didn’t offer creative writing, then I did my journalism internship after the second year of college. When I’d accrued 60 hours of college, I dropped out to get married and became a freelancer for various newspapers and magazines.

The first article I sold was in 1969 about the 60’s music explosion. Back then, we had the Grass Menagerie and The Hut on the beach in Galveston, Texas which had rock bands, plenty of beer, and a huge dance floor. I interviewed kids, the managers of the dance places and a few musicians for it.

It wasn’t until 20 years later when my own daughter was in college, that I bought a computer and decided to tackle writing my true love, novels. But when I was nearly done with my first one, Unwilling Killers, I was sure it wasn’t any good. Only after my daughter came home one week-end and secretly read it and told me to finish it so she could find out the ending, did I send it off. It’s a Gothic Mystery, and was published by PublishAmerica in 2002.

I don’t have a mentor, but I have a great source of inspiration. It’s the huge picture of golden water lilies that my late aunt painted for me which overlooks my desk. She was the only one in the family who believed I had the talent and perseverance to become a published writer. Sometimes I can smell her signature scent of Chantilly when I’m writing, as if her spirit is here, rooting me on.

This is my favorite question to ask because I love to hear about how other writers work. What is your writing process like? Do you write every day? Is there a time of day when you are more productive than others?

I have to write every day. I’ve found out if I don’t, it’s hard to get going again.

I usually get up around 3 or 4 a.m., because that’s when I’m most creative. I grab a cup of coffee and rewrite what I’ve done the day before on my current work in progress. After that, I take a short break, then write anywhere from 7 to 10 new pages. Around 11, I eat lunch then take a nap for an hour or so. During the afternoon, I write emails and promote.

I have to ask, which came first—-your curiosity about ghosts or your desire to write Gothic novels?

My curiosity about ghosts came first when I nearly collapsed when I saw a man I thought was a burglar. But when he walked through the wall in our dining room, I knew he was no ordinary criminal. Talk about being scared, I was petrified! During the ensuing months, I started finding out everything I could about ghosts, especially since the same one kept popping up in various parts of our house, scaring the wits out of me.

Once I realized he wasn’t going to harm me or my daughter or husband, I changed my first novel Unwilling Killers from a straight mystery into a Gothic.

You’ve had three Gothic novels published (Unwilling Killers, Obsessed, and The Haunting). Can you tell us a bit about each of them? Where can readers find them?

Wings ePress, Inc.

The Haunting is about two women who get stranded in an old haunted house along with a psychotic killer and several territorial ghosts.

Publish America - Publishing Writers' and Authors' Manuscripts

Unwilling Killers is about a young woman who stays in a haunted house to find the identity of a murderer, only to find herself the target.

Obsessed is out of print at the moment.

In addition to your novels, you’ve written several articles about Gothic Mysteries, ghosts and hauntings, and how to perform research for stories involving these elements. What kind of feedback have you received on these articles? Have you ever had someone contact you with negative feedback about any of them?

Most of the feedback has been positive. When I’ve done on-line chats, they’ve been filled to capacity and I’ve always been asked back. And the hosts of the radio shows I’ve appeared on have been enthusiastic too. I set a record for a class I did about them for an RWA group. The president said they’d never had as many participants sign up for a class before. So, all in all, it’s been positive.

How did Haunted Happenings—-your free nonfiction newsletter-—come about? What does it offer? How can people subscribe?

There’s a lot of research being conducted about ghosts now too. The field is growing quite advanced with scientists in various fields conducting it. My newsletter features these new discoveries, haunted hotels, and sometimes true ghost stories from readers. For Christmas, I do a special edition featuring ghosts and facts associated with that holiday.

It’s free and comes out 3 to 4 times a year by email. People can subscribe by going into my website at http://www.AuthorsDen.com/aynhunt. There’s a little box to click on.

Let’s switch gears now and chat about your hot and spicy romance novel Contract Bride, which was written under the pseudonym Ayn Amorelli and published by Black Velvet Seductions - http://blackvelvetseductions.com/Contract%20Bride.html
I’ve read the first chapter of this novel and am totally intrigued. Can you tell us more about this story?

Contract Bride is about a confirmed bachelor who stands to inherit $20 million if he gets married and has a baby within the year. Since it’s March, that doesn’t give him much time.

It was a best seller at http://www.Fictionwise.com for six consecutive weeks, shooting up to the top 5 the first day of publication.

I have to tell you that as I read about Bob and his friend, George, I was so happy to have met a guy like my husband. How do you go about creating flawed characters? Also, how do you go about creating a character like Bob who is flawed but who the reader may still sympathize with?

Before I begin a new story, I get to know my characters well. I ask them questions, think about them all the time, dream about them, getting inside them, seeing the world as they do, breathing life into them until I become their psychic twin. Once they become as real to me as my husband and daughter are, I sit down to write their story.

You said in an interview with Writers Manual that you “like sex that’s portrayed realistically.” Can you expand upon this statement? What advice can you give to writers who want to portray realistic sex in their novels?

In romances I read, the sex scenes have to keep me in the world of the story to hold me there. The only way I stay there is when I read exactly what the characters are doing. Nothing shocks me back to reality faster than a euphemism that I’m supposed to guess the meaning of.

Sex is all about the emotions. It’s about feelings. About trust. About giving yourself to another without holding anything back. My advice is to make it as emotional an experience as both you and your characters are capable of.

Censorship can be a touchy issue in the writing industry. It is also something that I am especially interested in. There are groups out there that would censor books such as Contract Bride. How do you feel about this? Do you believe every novel has a place in the world—no matter the content?

A writer’s tools are words. And words make people think, envision, create. Anything that would take the rights away from people to think, envision and create should itself be censored.

If you have had any negative experiences with prejudice against your books, how have you addressed them? Do you have any advice for other writers on how to handle such situations?

One person confused my female character, Kayla with me, thinking she, apparently was a fake name and I was her. After wondering about her mental health, I wasn’t exactly ecstatic. But I ignored her. I think we choose our battles. I choose not to engage in that kind. My advice is not to stoop to the level of those who waste precious energy on something negative.

Now, onto the fun stuff--what’s up next for you? Is there any exciting news you wish to share with the readers here?

I’ve completed a fifth book, The Wayward Governess, an historical romance, a Regency, and am writing my 6th.

I also have a weekly interactive writers chat at AOL, called Hunt’s Corner. It’s on every Sunday evening at 8 p.m. CST. I usually pick a topic, which sometimes we even discuss. I like the give-and-take of chats.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

August 28, 29th, and September 1st, I’m going to be on three panels for Sormag.com’s online conference.

Then in September, I’m giving three workshops for the Romance Galleria.com.

And beginning September 10th, I’m also teaching a Gothic Writing course for CoffeehouseforWriters.com.

Thank you, Ayn for sharing so much about yourself and your work with us today. I wish you continued success.

Thank You for interviewing me. I've really enjoyed it.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Meet writer Dianne Sagan

Today I am pleased to have a writer with us whose talents know no bounds. Dianne Sagan is a ghostwriter, a guest editorialist writing Op-Ed pieces for the Amarillo Globe-News, a writer of short stories and flash fiction, and she is also a book reviewer. She joins us today to talk about her diverse experience in the industry and to give us a glimpse into what she’s working on right now.

Welcome to the Aspiring Author, Dianne. It’s great to have you here!

Thank you, Cheryl. I’m excited to be here!

You have such a wonderfully diverse career it’s hard to know where to start. I guess we’ll start at the beginning. When did you know you wanted to become a writer? What was the first story or article you remember writing?

I always loved reading and hearing stories. You know how it is - every family has at least one storyteller, and I was the one in my family from the time I was about five. I didn’t really think about being a writer until I was in high school. We had great English teachers at my school, and they taught us how to plan and write essays. I loved that. Later, when I was a young mother, I started writing stories for my children. The first one was a Christmas story about a tree too fat to get through the door of the house.

You have a B.A. in History with a minor in Geography and also earned an M.A. in Communications. Has this helped your writing career? And if so, in what way?

I believe it has helped immensely. I have a broad background of American and world history to draw on from my undergraduate work, and I also learned the art of research. That is really valuable to a writer. My Communications degree involved a lot of writing, and my professors encouraged me to write articles and explore other avenues of expression. And as is true with most graduate degrees, I learned a lot about statistics, probabilities, and the scientific method, so when I write I can include a feeling for what constitutes a “likely” event and what doesn’t. The Communications degree I earned also included a lot of behavioral studies, and that gave me important insights into what people really do in real situations.

I love hearing about how other writers approach their craft. What is your writing process like? Do you write every day? Is there a time of day that you are more productive than others?

I’m pretty organic. I do a lot of writing in my head before it ever hits the paper. Then it’s almost like filling a pitcher and needing to pour it out. It just flows. I’m learning how to augment that “unstructured” process with loose outlines and overviews, but even those are only working tools and can change with the message and the deadline. When I’m writing fiction, the story and characters almost take on a life of their own. Whether I’m writing fiction or nonfiction I like to get all my research done first and then start writing.

Yes, I do write every day - except Sundays. That’s my day for church and family. My best time for writing is from about 11:00AM to 3:00PM. But I guess I’m a living example of the idea “writers write because they have to.” It seems I always have something going on in my head, either consciously or subconsciously, that demands expression, and sometimes it pops up “paper-ready” at really odd times - like the middle of the night. Fortunately my husband understands!

Let’s get a bit more specific. Can you tell us about your Op-Ed pieces for the Amarillo Globe-News? What kinds of issues will readers find are dear to your heart?

I started writing Op-Ed pieces in August of 2001 as a member of a group of six local editorial contributors called The Amarillo Voices. We wrote in a weekly rotation, so my column appeared every sixth Thursday. Two years ago the paper discontinued that group and asked if I would continue to write as a guest op/ed contributor. I began submitting pieces periodically throughout the year until just recently. I’ve been so busy with other writing projects that I haven’t submitted anything for the past few months – but I sure have ideas to write about!

The issues that are dearest to my heart are education; abused women and children, their concerns, and the laws that (should) protect them; and maintaining our Constitutional rights, as well as holding politicians accountable for their official actions - whether they are Democrats or Republicans.

Were you ever concerned that your guest editorials for the newspaper would adversely affect other areas of your writing? Did you ever think someone would shy away from hiring you based upon your opinions?

I actually never considered that my editorials would have any effect on my other writing. It was my first step as a published author, and I knew I wanted to do other types of writing.

My husband and I own a consulting firm and work with organizations and businesses in this region. A few times I’ve wondered if my opinions had anything to do with whether we were hired, but most of the time it doesn’t seem to matter. People are quick to recognize me for my editorials, but they seem to separate my editorial opinions from the professional contributions I can make.

You’ve recently sold the rights to one of your stories to Chicken Soup for the Soul. Can you tell us about this experience? Why do you enjoy submitting to anthologies?

I’m a visual and tactile learner. When I’m driving down the highway and I see an old, deserted farmhouse in a state of collapse, a story pops into my head. I begin to imagine who might have lived there, what kind of a life they might have had, and what might have happened to them. Another farmhouse, another story. So short stories are a part of life for me. I had several ideas for stories about my children and personal experiences that I was looking for outlets to send them to. A friend of mine in a writing group suggested I think about anthologies. I went on-line and looked for the ones I knew about and Googled for others.

I looked through the prospective titles and deadlines on the Chicken Soup for the Soul website. I made a list of them and put due dates on my writing calendar. I only choose topics about which I know I have experiences that might entertain or help others. I make a list of those story ideas and work on them between projects or as a break from writing books.

The thing I enjoy most about writing for anthologies is that I can feel accomplishment for a shorter piece of work, and that encourages me to keep going on longer projects.

I have to admit I am really interested in finding out more about your ghostwriting work. How did you get involved in this aspect of writing? What types of subjects do you cover?

A writer-acquaintance of mine who is a member of Panhandle Professional Writers was doing ghostwriting and started getting so much work that she put out a call for freelance editors and ghostwriters. I talked to her about it and decided to give it a try, and I discovered that I not only enjoyed the process but that I also had some talent for it. The books I’m writing at this time are nonfiction “business success and leadership” books concerning issues of human performance, which happens to align neatly with the consulting that my husband and I do. My clients are entrepreneurs, dentists, corporate executives, speakers, men and women in a wide array of professions. I would love to expand into ghostwriting Christian nonfiction.

Do people ever ask you why you have chosen to be a ghostwriter instead of writing your own books?

Yes, I get that question a lot. My goal has been to be a freelance writer and to be able to live well from my work. That isn’t always easy to do when selling my own work. When this opportunity came along, it was a perfect fit. Ghostwriting provides a good income on a steady basis, and although I have less time to work on WIP’s under my own byline, it is well worth it. It also gives me experience and a track record for being able to complete books and make deadlines. It has also helped me prove to myself that, yes, I really can write a first draft of a two hundred page manuscript in four weeks!

Speaking of your own books, you mentioned to me that you have a few works in progress. Is there anything you would like to share with the readers here?

I’ve been shopping a novel of mine with the working title of “Brittany’s Story.” It’s the story of an abused woman who escapes to a shelter with her three children and her experiences trying to stay one step ahead of her violent husband while going through the court system. It is written as a suspense novel and is unlike any other book about spousal abuse. It offers hope and a light at the end of the tunnel even though, throughout the manuscript, the reader is never sure if she will survive. I believe it is unusual, too, because the theme is not so much revenge as redemption, courage and triumph.

You told me that you enjoy going to Writer’s Conferences. Can you tell us about your most memorable experience?

My most memorable experience was pitching my novel to Rodney Morris, who is now at NavPress. At the time, he was the Senior Fiction Acquisitions Editor for Multnomah Publishing in Sisters, Oregon. (Multnomah is one of the big houses for Christian Fiction.) After my fifteen minute pitch he asked me for a book proposal. I sent it to him, and it made it all the way to the Editorial Committee before it was turned down. I got some good feedback and encouragement from them, though, along with the pleasure of seeing my first novel get so far beyond the “slush pile.”

With your diverse experience in the industry you must have loads of good advice for all us aspiring authors out there. But if you could only share one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t put off writing until times are better or less hectic. Don’t wait until your children grow up and leave home. There is no time like the present to write, even if you can do it for only ten minutes a day at first. Take time to make time to write, and don’t let anyone talk you out of it. But right behind that advice I have to say that new writers will go a lot further a lot faster if they join a writer’s group that is honest, blunt, articulate and consistent in giving feedback about how to improve one’s work.

There are still so many questions I would love to ask, but then I wouldn’t have a reason to have you come back and visit again. So, is there anything else you would like to add?

Writers have to develop a thick skin and not take feedback personally. Critiques are not about you, they are about the writing. Learn from them and work to make your writing better.

Thanks for sharing with us today, Dianne. It’s been a pleasure to find out more about you and your work. I wish you continued success.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to be one of the authors in your great interview series, Cheryl. My best to you and your readers.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Fantasy Author Sandy Lender Article

Sandy Lender Doesn't Recommend Quitting Your Day Job
Or...the joy and insanity of being a writer

By Sandy Lender, fantasy author

Northeast Missouri State University, now Truman University, prides itself on offering a liberal arts education to graduates. I got out in four years with a degree in English and a liberal arts education that has garnered me a 15-year career in magazine publishing and public relations/marketing, but my true passion, the "career" I've nurtured since I was about six years old, is writing. And I don't mean journalism. Yes, journalism and editing are what have paid the bills the past 15 years (and will continue to do so), but fiction writing...oh...fiction writing is what has kept me alive.

It's probably going to be the death of me.

Let me explain. If you're visiting this site, you've probably been drawn here by an interest in books or authors or a writer's lifestyle or something along those lines. Let me give it to you straight. All writers have a touch of insanity about us (this is normal). We usually carry a muse around with us, but this is not always by choice. We complain about characters fighting for their rights, refusing to conform to our wishes in a scene. We go on writing binges that keep us up until 3 a.m. before collapsing next to our computers just to get up and start typing again when the sun blazes in to wake us around 7, skipping meals, showers, potty breaks and phone calls until some aspect of reality forces us out of the writing cocoon. We will tear a room to shreds looking for a pen if an idea has just struck us. And woe to the fool who gets between us and a piece of paper when we get hold of that pen...

Because I've experienced the insanity described above, I've been lifted up by hearing stories of people who have enjoyed my first published novel, Choices Meant for Gods. Now I get to read comments on my Amazon.com page of people claiming Nigel Taiman is "by far" their favorite character, or "I want to be just like Chariss when I grow up," and I feel this lump of pride in my darlings rise in my throat.

That's the joy and insanity of being a writer. You pour your heart and soul into the work; and pray that someone out there likes it, too. Now here's the hard part. People have to read it to like it. They have to know it exists to read it. So you have to get it to them.

Enter the marketing and promoting aspect of the new author's job. I attended the ArcheBooks Publishing's Professional Novelist Workshop about two weeks before receiving my contract for Choices Meant for Gods, and had attended the Naples Press Club Writers Workshop the week before that, so I thought I had a pretty good idea of the marketing nightmare new authors faced. I was ready. Lay it on me, I thought.

Now I'm on the last day of a two-month online book tour I organized myself, contemplating repeating a moderately successful instore book signing at the local Barnes & Noble that I organized myself, and managing six blogs (including www.todaythedragonwins.blogspot.com) for the promotion of my fantasy novel that I've organized myself, preparing a spate of press releases I've written myself that I'll spew forth like water from an erupting sprinkler next week, etc. Do you see a trend there?

New authors are on their own. Unless you have the few thousand dollars it takes to hire a publicity firm/PR agency to send out press releases for you, you're on your own. I don't have a few thousand stray dollars and I don't trust people who charge less than professional rates to do a professional job.

I take hope in the fact that even J.K. Rowling was once in the same boat I'm in now. She was down to her last food stamp as the story goes when that fateful call came: Her little story about a boy named Harry Potter had been picked up. I've already had my call. Choices Meant for Gods is published and out there. Now I need my lottery winning event to propel me into J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter status, but, for right now, I'm going to just keep writing deep into the night and reading those fabulous e-mails that praise Nigel and Chariss. Because making a living at this would be nice, but, truly, the writing binges that result in someone singing Chariss's praises are the real joy and insanity of being a writer.

I'd like to thank my host today for posting this guest blog article. And I'd like to thank everyone who made the CMFG Online Book Tour the raging success it's been. You know that paragraph above where I said new authors are on their own? I'd like to correct that. We actually have each other. Without each of you, the name Sandy Lender wouldn't be all over the internet right now, and readers wouldn't be one click away from http://www.amazon.com/Choices-Meant-Gods-Sandy-Lender/dp/1595071652/ref=dp_return_1/104-9089752-5140754?ie=UTF8&n=283155&s=books&qid=1175821346&sr=8-1 to pick up my epic fantasy novel. And new author Sandy Lender is grateful to every one of you.

"Some days, I just want the dragon to win."

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Meet Bestselling Author Jane Green

This is a visit I have been looking forward to all month. Bestselling author, Jane Green joins us today to chat about her latest novel Second Chance, how she juggles a writing career and motherhood, and her upcoming projects.

Welcome to Aspiring Author, Jane. It is wonderful to have you here!

Thank you for having me.

I've been following your virtual book tour and the more I read about you and your work, the more inspired I become as a writer.

How lovely of you to say that – enormously flattering.

Let's start off with the basics. How did you get started along your career path? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

I always thought I'd be an artist of some description, but then realized it was unlikely I'd ever make a living. I fell into journalism by mistake in my early twenties, and then decided to write my first book, Straight Talking, at twenty seven. The only clue perhaps, looking back, was that I always loved to read.

You've had an amazing career so far. You've had nine books published, made The New York Times Best Sellers list, helped launch a new genre of women's fiction (chick lit), and received a fun fearless fiction award from Cosmopolitan. Did you ever anticipate such success?

Not at all. Naïve as it sounds, I always assumed, when I left my job on the Daily Express, that I would get a publishing deal, but I never dreamt I would have the career that I've had. In the twelve years since I've been writing my books I've seen a number of authors drop off the map, and I feel incredibly blessed on a daily basis that I'm able to continue doing what I love.

In addition to your writing career, you're a single mother to four children. How on earth do you juggle it all?

With a huge amount of difficulty. Truthfully, I seem to have a tremendous amount of energy, and somehow manage to do it all. It's also getting easier as the kids are in school for longer and I have more time to get my books written and manage the household stuff.

Let's talk about Second Chance. From what I've read so far, it is the story of best friends from high school who lose touch with one another over the years. After the tragic death of one of the friends (Tom), the rest reunite to celebrate Tom's life and their lives are changed. What can you tell us about these characters? Why will readers care about them?

I hope that as my writing grows and changes, what will always remain a constant is the emotional honesty. I always aim for realism, to write about people that could be you or I, could be our friends. And I write about situations that many of us have experienced, and if we haven't, we probably know someone who has. Ultimately I'm writing about the human condition, and we can all relate.

There were a couple of incidents which inspired this book. Can you tell us what they were?

Firstly I lost a friend in the Tsunami and was utterly blindsided by the grief, and just as I was preparing to write the book, my marriage started unraveling, which took the book into a new direction – a look at mid-life crises and how it's never too late to reclaim happiness.

In an interview with The Book Pedler this month, you referred to the four remaining friends as "brave heroes". What is it about them that will make readers see them this way?

I think each of my protagonists are brave in making large decisions about their lives that inspire change, which is often frightening, even when that fear keeps us in a place that does not serve us well. Saffron is able to finally face her drinking demons, Paul and Anna learn to live without their dream, Olivia finds herself making a decision she never would have dreamed of, and Holly is able to face the fact that she cannot stay married to a man she never loved.

You met with the employees of Google while you were in the process of writing Second Chance and one of your comments really stuck out at me. You mentioned that you were enjoying the writing of this novel and it was going well, which is unusual because you usually hate everything you write. It seems so strange to think of a bestselling author feeling that way about her writing. How do you work through these feelings of self-doubt? Is there any advice you could give your fellow writers on how to deal with self-doubt and anxiety?

My agent swears that each time an author has phoned him and said they've written a masterpiece, his heart sinks and it is invariably the worst thing they've ever written. I think a healthy dose of humility is essential, and part of the creative process – it's what keeps you striving to do better, to grow, to evolve.

Let me end with asking, what's up next for you? What do your fans and fellow writers have to look forward to?

I'm hoping to try my hand at a mystery next. This week was supposed to be my week of plotting, but life, as usual, seems to have got in the way, so fingers crossed for next Monday.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Just that if you've read Second Chance and loved it, tell people! Write a review, write a blog, tell your friends, and thank you so much for asking such incisive questions.

Thank you for sharing so much of yourself and your work with my readers. I wish you continued success in the future and can't wait to get my hands on a copy of Second Chance.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Jamieson Wolf's The Haunted Walk Tour comes to the Aspiring Author

Today I would like to welcome back the multi-faceted and always talented Jamieson Wolf to my blog. Jamieson is touring the blogosphere the entire month of July to chat about one of his new releases, The Ghost Mirror available through eTreasures Publishing - http://www.etreasurespublishing.com/Jamieson-Wolf/ghost-mirror.htm.

Welcome back Jamieson. I’m glad you decided to pay us another visit.

Cheryl, it's always a pleasure to visit with you. I'm honored you'd have me back once more!

Let’s start off with a bit of a refresher. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?

Well, I've been a writer for many years. I mainly write speculative fiction; that seems to be the genre I'm drawn to. Though I do write romantic fiction and non-fiction as well, I keep heading back to the land of fantasy.

I recently had the chance to read The Ghost Mirror. Where did you get the idea for this chilling novel?

I had wanted to write a children's book featuring my cat, Mave. It didn't work out that way though. I was out of work and I wrote what ended up being the Prologue. I didn’t know it at the time I wrote it but it was the beginning of Mave's story. I have to tell you though, Mr. Lavender really freaked me out. He scared the crap out of me. But I knew it was good so, after ignoring the story for two weeks, I started writing and let it flow.

Turns out it was about Mave after all. It's been one of the only times where I can see almost all of the story.

In this story, we are introduced to Mave Mallory, a young girl who is ignored by her parents because of who she is. How did you go about creating Mave? Why will readers care about her?

I certainly hope my readers will care about her. I certainly do! I love Mave like a sister. How did I create her? Well, you know, I'm not sure I did. I think she created herself. I was writing and had to think of an enemy for Mr. Lavender, someone who was strong enough to defeat him.

I thought at first that Mave was too young for the job, but she proved me wrong. I wanted Mave to embody goodness but have darkness in her as well; none of us are truly one or the other and I thought that Mave should represent that.

In the end, she came to me and I told her story. I just hope that readers love her as much as I do.

You’ve made the reader feel sympathetic for Mave and her ability to talk to ghosts because these ghosts are Mave’s only real friends—other than her grandmother. But Mave’s ability also becomes her downfall, because it is her desire to find out what happened to one of her ghost friends that gets her pulled through the ghost mirror. How did you strike this balance between making her ability to talk to ghosts a good thing but also a bit of a problem for Mave?

Well, everything is a balance in life, right?

I knew that Mave would have some special abilities; talking to Ghosts a main one. I needed to mark her as special but not draw a lot of attention to it. I wanted to show that it was normal for her to do this.

But I also needed to show that bad things happen even when something brings you joy. It's hard to explain really. But suffice it to say that I wanted to show the balance of all things in this book.

Think about it: we have Mr. Lavender and Mave. Good Ghosts and bad ones. The Tree Woman and Gabriel. I wanted to show a balance in all things whether they were good or bad for only in learning of the balance can we avoid the darker side of things.

I mentioned Mave’s grandmother (Mona) in my last question. She knows more about Mave and her past than she lets on. What can you tell us about Mona?

Well, Mona is a very secretive woman.

She's also very wise. She cares for Mave as if she is her very own daughter and loves her with all her heart.

Mona is a very powerful woman. She doesn't call herself a Witch, though we don't know quite what she is yet. She tries to guide Mave and tell her what she is without revealing too much.

Mona knows that Mave will understand more if she figures things out on her own. But Mona definitely knows more than she's letting on.

The creepiest character in the entire book to me was the Lavender Man. What kind of inspiration created such a mean and evil being?

I honestly have no idea where he came from.

I wanted to write a children's book that was like the Grimm's Brothers Fairy Tales, only darker. I wanted to see how far I could push the envelope. Mr. Lavender was the result of that.

I started with an idea of a nasty used car salesman (some of the most evil men I know) and went from there. Mr. Lavender popped into my head much like Mave did. I knew he was evil when I first started writing about him. It's one of the reasons I stopped writing the story for a while before I came back to it.

He scared the pants off of me.

The descriptions in this book were phenomenal. I honestly felt like I was right next to Mave as she walked along the Town of Elements. How do you create great descriptions for readers without bogging them down with unnecessary details?

You know, The Ghost Mirror is the first time I used really detailed description and it seems to have worked. I normally work on a less is more approach, letting the reader fill in the blanks. My other works (Hunted, Electric Pink, Garden City) are like this.

With The Ghost Mirror I wanted there to be no guess work because everything that happens, even if it seems insignificant, is important. It was hard to keep writing descriptively when I'm so used to just plowing through.

For me, it was a learning experience, more than any other book I've written, I think. I think it turned out really well. I tried not to focus on too much detail; just enough that the reader would feel as if they were with Mave through every step.

You told me once that this book was a labor of love for you. Care to explain?

It is very much a labor of love for me. I know that The Ghost Mirror is very likely the best book I've written (and I can say this honestly. I think most of the stuff I write is crap). It's also the one I took the most time fleshing out, writing and I took my time with the words because I wanted the book to be as close to perfection as possible.

It's a book that is very close to my heart and I know it will be for some time. It's one of the only times I've been happy with the finished product so that ought to tell you something. LOL

A sequel to The Ghost Mirror is planned. Can you tell us about it?

Sure, though you're getting a good scoop. No one else knows what the sequel is about yet!

The second book in the trilogy is called The Silver Glass. Mave is called upon by the Tree Woman to help the Town of Elements once more. Mr. Lavender has unleashed the Shadows and no one is safe.

But Mave must go through Mr. Lavender's Ghost Mirror, the place where he has stored all of his souls, to get back to Elements. Working her way through what is really an underground labyrinth, Mave confronts the most frightening things imaginable.

All manner of magic is working against her but the most shocking are her parents. Transformed into beings of darkness, all their evil on the inside has been brought out. They are hunting their daughter through the Labyrinth and when they find her, they will kill her.

Mave does have one ally in the maze: young Euwan Opal. When Mave finds him again, she hopes that all hope is not lost. Problems begin to arise, however, when Mave starts having dreams of turning into a Crow. And realizes she isn't dreaming.

Mave Mallory will have to depend on all the Magic she possesses if she is to get through the labyrinth alive.

And face Mr. Lavender once more.

I think that’s all my questions, though you know I could probably ask a dozen more. Anything else you would like to share with us today?

Well, just that if anyone would like to purchase a copy of The Ghost Mirror, you can buy it in ebook or paperback at e Treasures Publishing. You can buy a copy here:


The book will also be available soon on Amazon!

Thanks for popping in Jamieson. I wish you much success with The Haunted Walk Tour and I look forward to chatting with you again next month when we talk about another one of your new releases, HUNTED.

Thank you so much for having me Cheryl! As usual, I've had tons of fun! I can't wait to talk about Hunted with your readers!

Note: This interview will also appear at The Book Connection--my new blog for all author interviews. While you're there, check out my review of Jamieson Wolf's The Ghost Mirror at http://thebookconnectionccm.blogspot.com/2007/07/ghost-mirror-by-jamieson-wolf-book.html

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Getting Back on Topic

When I first started this blog, I had a very different idea of what it should be about than what it has evolved into. I wanted to be able to share with my readers what it was like to be a wife, mother, and aspiring author. What the challenges were, share the things that worked and the things that didn't work out too well, and make it a place where people could learn more about my journey towards publication.

Well, I've gotten more than a little off-topic. I've dedicated more time to the writing of others, than to myself. I have no regrets. I've meet a lot of wonderful people and read lots of great books. Many of these people have become good friends.

While I was vacationing on the Outer Banks of North Carolina this year, I had an epiphany--why not have two blogs (one for author interviews and book reviews and the other one more personal).

So, that's what I've done. I am going to refocus this blog to be about my adventures as a wife, mother, and aspiring author. I'll share more personal stories, talk about my writing career and how I balance--or don't balance--my career and my family life.

A few weeks back, The Book Connection was born. This is my new blog for author interviews and book reviews. I have taken all the inteviews and book reviews from this blog and added them there. As of tomorrow, new author interviews and reviews will begin appearing at The Book Connection.

Follow me over to The Book Connection where I will connect readers and writers. Here's the link: http://thebookconnectionccm.blogspot.com/


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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Meet Dr. Susan Gregg, hypnotherapist and author

This month just keeps getting better and better. Dr. Susan Gregg is a clinical hypnotherapist residing in Hawaii. She has authored many books including Dance of Power, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Spiritual Healing, and the award-winning Mastering the Toltec Way: a Daily Guide to Happiness, Freedom, and Joy. Today, Dr. Gregg joins us to chat about her latest release, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Short Meditations.

Welcome to my blog Dr. Gregg. It’s a pleasure to have you here.

Thanks so much for having me.

Why don’t we start off by finding out more about you. Can you tell us a little bit about the transformation which brought you to where you are today?

Most of my early life I was depressed and miserable. In the 1980s my mother was killed in a car accident. My world was turned upside down. After a steep descent into addictions I realized there had to be a better way to live. I began reading a wide variety of self-help and books on spirituality. After a near death experience I realized happiness wasn't dependent upon the events in my life-- it was dependent upon what I told myself about life. So I began to explore other ways to view life.

According to your website - http://www.susangregg.com/index.html
“Happiness really is just a thought away” and we can learn to be happy no matter what is going on in our lives. Can you explain more about this concept and also why you believe writing is such a powerful tool in helping people learn to be happy?

If we think someone or something is going to make us happy the likelihood of being happy is somewhere between nil and zip. Happiness really is an inside job. At one point in my process I realized if I was waiting for something to occur it was like waiting for tomorrow. Tomorrow never gets here because by the time it does it is today. The gift is I don't have to change my external life, all I have to change is what I tell myself about what is. It takes some practice but it's extremely freeing.

Writing was one of the tools I used to see what it was that I was telling myself. Journaling is a wonderful way to get to know yourself, to see your beliefs and change them. You can only be as happy as you make your mind up to be. And I found writing a wonderful way to change my thoughts so I can be very happy.

What inspired you to write The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Short

To be honest my agent contacted me one day and asked me if I wanted to write the book. I've been meditating since the 1970s and have taught people for over 20 years how to meditate so it seemed like a natural. Whenever I do a group I usually do a guided meditation so writing the book was fun. I really enjoyed writing it and I've been getting wonderful feedback.

Can self-help books really change people’s lives? How can people get the most out of self-help books like yours?

Self-help books alone can't change people's lives. As a matter of fact years ago I had a woman come to me for help. One of the first things she told me was that she had one whole wall filled with self-help books. I asked her if she'd ever done any of the exercises and she said no. Just reading the books may help a little, but fully engaging with the books, doing the exercises, and applying the techniques will assist you in transforming your life.

If you simply modify the way you think a little bit each day you'll be amazed at how much your life will change in a year. Self-help books are a wonderful way to brainwash yourself and if you're not happy your brain does need washing. Washing away the negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones, ones that are loving and expansive will create a life filled with magic and miracles.

If people have never used relaxation techniques or meditated before, will they still be able to take advantage of the exercises in your book?

My book makes meditation simple. I equate guided meditations and relaxation techniques to the game of let's play pretend. I say relax and you pretend to relax. It really is that easy.

If you had to sum up The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Short Meditations in one sentence, what would it be?

If you'd like to be happy, if you'd like to create what you want when you want it, if you'd like to experience more love, joy and ease read this book and use the techniques and it.

You’ve dedicated your life to helping people, but that kindness also extends to our animal friends. Can you tell us about your animal rescue missions?

I don't know if I'd call it animal rescue missions as much as animals who need a new home come to me. I've taken in strays and nursed animals hit by cars back to health. I just love animals and as they come into my life I take care of them. Ever since I was little girl I've been rescuing injured animals and the love they give me in return is so worth it.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers today?

Give yourself the gift of creating the life of your dreams. If you can dream it you can have it. Let yourself dream big and be happy. You deserve it!

Dr. Gregg, thank you for spending some time with us today. I would also like to extend my best wishes for continued success.

Thanks for having me. I am so excited I have just been asked to write a book on Angels, Saints, Deities and Enlightened Masters, so look for it next year. I hope to talk to you again real soon!

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Meet author Marilyn Morris

July really is turning out to be a month of special treats. Today, author and editor Marilyn Celeste Morris joins me to chat about her latest novel The Women of Camp Sobingo, which was released by Mardi Gras Publishing in June http://www.mardigraspublishing.com/womenofcampsobingo.html.

Welcome to my blog Marilyn. I am thrilled to have you here.

It’s my pleasure. I think all writers love to talk about their work, and especially their latest project.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How long have you been writing? Did anyone inspire you to become a writer?

I think I was born with a pencil in my hand. My family was all about reading, and I learned to read before I went to kindergarten. There, it dawned on me that letters made words, and words made sentences, and sentences made stories. I wrote a lot for my own amusement when I was an army brat stationed overseas with my army officer father.

What is your writing process like? Do you write every day? Is there a time of day you are more productive than others?

I try to write something every day. I am more productive during the morning hours; I try to begin at least sitting at my keyboard at 9:00 a.m. but if I don’t make that schedule, I don’t beat myself up. There are plenty of people in the world who would be happy to do that for me!

After reading the synopsis of The Women of Camp Sobingo and an excerpt, I knew this was one book I had to make a part of my reading collection. What inspired you to write this story?

Wow, thanks! I had thought about my days in Korea when I was about 8-9 years old and my mother played bridge – a lot of bridge – with three other women. One of those women chose to end her life there, and although I had very little information about that, I always wondered why she did it. Through my mental health training, I realized her childhood must have had a large part in her decision, so I made up a background for her – and for the other women. From there, it just grew. My characters kind of took over the writing for me.

So, four very different women become friends on the trip to join their Army officer husbands in Korea in 1946. Three women learn to adjust to the situation, but one ends up taking her own life. And when these women reunite twenty-five years later, they discover new things about that time in their lives--including why their friend really decided to kill herself. How did you go about developing these four very different women? Did you use character sketches?

Actually, they are composites of women I have known, or wish I had known, and the main character is definitely one I would have liked to have been in real life! I did a sort of background sketch on each woman, where she came from and what were her strengths, and used those in the writing of the book, so all the plot advances would be consistent to that character. For instance, why did Trudy inherit her father in-law’s publishing empire instead of her husband?

Why will readers care about these women? What is it about these women that will help readers relate to them?

I think they will relate to how these ordinary women faced extraordinary circumstances, and they were strengthened by their backgrounds. Take Nell, for instance. She was a West Texas school girl who hoped she would escape her life of wood-burning stoves, hauling water from a well, etc. and yet she finds herself in a primitive country teaching other women how to cook on a wood-burning stove. Maggie is a rebel from birth and she uses her rebellion to her best advantage as she marries her childhood sweetheart despite her mother’s objections. I believe we all have something in our childhoods that we can draw upon for strength during tough times. Leah, however, had no such strength to lead her through her troubled life and affairs with men other than her hometown husband.

Being a self-proclaimed Military Brat yourself, is it different to reflect upon those memories of your childhood as an adult? Did a new understanding of that time in your life impact how you approached the writing of The Women of Camp Sobingo?

Great question! While I was writing my memoirs of my Military Brat days, Once a Brat, I relived my childhood and the ghost of this woman who ended her life in Korea came up repeatedly and I knew I had to do something about that. I had also watched my mother cope with such a nomadic life, and grew to really admire her and respect her innate strength. I am always finding my childhood traits as a Military Brat that either strengthen me or give me some insight into who I have become because of that life.

Did you rely solely on your past experiences for this novel or did you research certain details?

It’s about half my experiences and half fiction. I could have done some research into Camp Sobingo, but didn’t want the present day Camp to mar my memories of those days right after WWII. As this novel is fiction, I felt I could take some liberties with time and location, and felt that researching the present-day site would take away from the fictional content.

Like I said before, this sounds like a truly amazing story. How can readers get their hands on a copy?

It can be ordered online at the Mardi Gras Publishing site:


What’s up next for you? Is there anything you would like to share with fans and your fellow writers?

I have several more novels in varying states of completion. One is a sequel to my first novel, Sabbath’s Room, which is titled Sabbath’s House, where Joanna and her little family move into a huge old house in the Texas Hill Country that has a sinister secret; a romance novel titled, The Unexplored Heart (my first venture into that genre); a novel about a military jet crashing into a crowded shopping mall during a terrible tornado, titled, Forces of Nature; another murder mystery, The Murders at 5400; and my newest effort will probably be a science fiction story, Fireflies in a Jar. I am having fun playing around with these novels and try to work on them whenever time permits.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I’ve always enjoyed writing; however, marketing my work is somewhat new to me. I may have been born without that gene, but fortunately, I have a couple of publicists who are handling that part for me. They are Dorothy Thompson and Jamieson Wolf, and their new business venture is Pump Up Your Book, found at http://www.pumpupyourbookpromotion.com/
I recommend them highly.

Thank you for sharing so much about yourself and your novel. Good luck with the rest of your virtual book tour and much success in the future.

And thank you for thinking of me and inviting me to do this interview.
Best to you in your writing.

Marilyn and her novel are touring the blogosphere the entire month of July so make sure you check out her tour schedule at http://virtualbooktoursforauthors.blogspot.com/2007/06/women-of-camp-sobingo-virtual-book-tour.html to see where you can find out more about this talented author and her amazing book.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

The Ghost Mirror by Jamieson Wolf - Book Review

When I was younger I would read stories by Stephen King. The thrill of knowing I would be creeped out was always worth the read, no matter how short or long the story was. At some point, I drifted away from all that stuff. Being wigged out didn't tickle my fancy as much as it used to.


Jamieson Wolf sent me a copy of his eBook The Ghost Mirror and I was thrilled to be creeped out all over again.

Mave Mallory is neglected and ignored by her parents, but more than that, they seem to be afraid of their red haired, black eyed daughter. Taking pity on Mave, her grandmother Mona brings her home to live with her.

Living at grandmother's house is much more fun than living with her parents. In the attic Mave can see and play with ghosts to pass the time. And in the attic a mysterious mirror seems to whisper and wink at Mave; a mirror her grandmother warns her never to touch. But when the ghost girl that Mave has befriend disappears into the mirror, Mave reaches out to touch the mirror's surface and is pulled into another world.

In this world, people are afraid of Mave--just like her parents. With the help of her one friend, Euwan, Mave finds out more about her family's past and who she really is--the last witch.

Within this world, is a chilling character, Mr. Lavender, who eats the souls of children. Their souls give him power and if he can gain the soul of the last witch, he will become more powerful than ever.

It is up to Mave to trust the magic inside her, so she can defeat Mr. Lavender and find her way back home.

This is the kind of book you only read with all the lights on. The ghosts are playful enough, but that Mr. Lavender guy could give you nightmares for three weeks after you've fnished reading the book.

Jamieson Wolf shows once again just how talented he is. The descriptions of the town of Element--the world Mave slips into--made me feel like I was walking right alongside her. The careful selection of words as the reader watches Mr. Lavender devour his victims, makes the hair on the back of your neck tingle with fear...as if he could come right out of the book and eat you too.

Wolf wastes no time in plowing right into the story. Whatever backstory is necessary is slipped in so perfectly it doesn't have time to pull the reader away from the action. And while this story is creepy, it isn't gory. There is no spilling of blood, just for the sake of grossing you out.

The Ghost Mirror is a well-written, scary thrill of a read that will leave you begging for the quick release of its sequel.


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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Meet author Jessica Joy

I have a great treat for you today. Joining me is author Jessica Joy. Her romantic suspense novel, Fool Me Once—published by Black Velvet Seductions http://blackvelvetseductions.com/—has received rave reviews. After reading it, I know why. Today Jessica will chat with me about her book, her article on creating believable characters, the challenges of being a Christian author who writes romance novels, and what she’s working on next.

Welcome to my blog Jessica. I am so happy you stopped by!

Hi, Cheryl! Thank you so much for having me! I’m thrilled to be here.

Let’s start by finding out more about you. What can you tell us about yourself? How did you become a writer?

Hm...It’s hard to know where to begin, so I’ll start with a brief overview. I’m a mother of three ‘grown’ children, living in Eastern Canada and have been married to the same great guy for 28 years. WOW! I can’t believe it’s been that long! I guess the old adage is true. Time flies when you are having fun. :o) I love writing, reading and crafting.

When my youngest left for university, I went to college and earned a diploma in Human Resources Management. A great field for a writer because so often you have to deal with the idiosyncrasies of people.

I’ve been scribbling stuff all my life, but it was about ten years ago I made a disciplined effort to put all the story ideas swirling around my head into words and started writing a novel instead of just writing down random ideas. Since then, I’ve taken three writing courses, and I’ve been writing part-time ever since. There were two or three years when I didn’t write much at all because I’d rejoined the work force.

Since I love hearing how other writers work, can you tell us what your writing process is like? Do you write every day? Is there a time of day when you’re more productive than others?

The writing process for me usually begins with an incident and then I ponder it for a while. I call that “simmering”...the story follows me around...every time I work at the mindless household chores like ironing, cleaning, or doing dishes...trust me, no one will interrupt you. I think about the characters and what brought them to the incident and what will happen following the incident. This might go on for a few weeks or months depending on how difficult the characters are being and refuse to tell me their story.

Once I have a feeling for the story, I start making notes. As milestones in the story come to mind, I note them, then let the story continue to simmer until all the major events are in place. Then, I create an outline...usually...five to ten pages. Then, I test for holes in the plot to ensure that there is sufficient motive and also make sure there are past experiences that justify the way the characters behave the way they do. There is nothing that makes a book a ‘wall-banger’ faster than characters acting or reacting without sufficient motive or experiences.

One really important element in my writing is that I have a great critique partner, and we hold each other accountable to our writing goals. We also study a chapter a week in a book on writing each week. It’s important to remember that no matter how much or how long you write, there are still things to learn or learn again.

Now that I’m looking after my MIL during the days and working in the evening, writing time has become scarce, but I’m a believer that you will make time for the things that you really want to accomplish. Since I usually wake up before other people in the family, I try to write in the morning after my morning quiet time and before the family gets up, and I often write after they go to bed. I utilize wasted moments as well like traveling in the car, during coffee and lunch breaks, and waiting for appointments. When you want something badly enough, you will make the time you need to succeed.

Limited time has made me productive whenever I have the chance to write. It’s a necessity. I set writing goals because they make me more productive. It could be a minimum of one or two hours a day, sometimes more, depending on what I have to do for that day. I always try to produce more, the goal is just the minimum that I hope to accomplish.

Fool Me Once is an amazing story! Where did you find the inspiration to write it?

Thank you so much. It’s one of my favourite stories.

For inspiration for this story, I decided to write a story that had all my favourite elements and a story that I would like to read. I love a heroine who is spirited, but not stupid, who will face a threat, but not charge headlong into a dangerous situation. I feel that I found that in Toni. I love a wounded hero who is a man of honour, who needs just the right woman to help him heal. That was Blair.

Another element that I love is mistaken identity...but I won’t go into that because I don’t want to give the plot away. And something that I really love is a murder mystery. I’m a Murder She Wrote, CSI & NCIS junkie.

What qualifies a story as romantic suspense? Has your story attracted both male and female readers?

For me, a story that presents a threat to the hero and heroine who are tumbling into a relationship is a romantic suspense.

I haven’t heard from any male readers...so I’m assuming that it’s more attractive to women.

You’ve put together a complex storyline. Toni Greer (your female lead) wakes up in a hospital room with amnesia and she finds Blair Kierstead (your male lead) and his friend Drew in the room. As the story unfolds, we have the FBI, Toni’s modeling career, Blair’s and Drew’s idea that Toni was responsible for an ambush that left some of their friends dead, and also the character of Farrell Hagen, Toni’s ex-lover, who might be trying to kill her, involved in the plot. How did you keep from getting lost as you wrote this story? Did you outline it? Did you create character sketches?

Because of the ‘simmering’ time, most of the story was in place in my head before I ever put a word on the page, but I still went through my usual process. First, I construct a story binder. In the story binder, I create a detailed character interview for each major character. These usually take about 5 to 6 hours each. I’ve compiled a long character interview over the years, so I know the characters pretty well by the time the interview is through. This character interview uses questions from others character interviews that I have read, and I’ve tossed in a few questions of my own. After the character interviews, I have sections for pictures, maps, story outlines, and chapters.

For Fool Me Once, I composed a long outline of about ten pages, then I did another in two pages. I use them as a reference...but they aren’t written in stone. I’ve been known to take a different route if it suited the story and characters. Now, that I’ve been writing longer, the outlines are a bit shorter usually 3 to 5 pages

While I’m doing the interviews I try to find a picture of each character. As well, I draw maps. In this case, I made a map of Mason’s Cove...the imaginary seaside village where the story took place so that all the buildings would stay in the same place. Also, I go through magazines and find ‘things’ that would help me visualize the story world like clothes, furniture, cars, or anything that might be a part of the character’s world.

For example, Toni’s condo is based on an article I found in an Architectural Digest about a revamped condo overlooking Central Park. It felt like Toni’s home the moment I saw it. The nice thing about a story ‘simmering’ is that it gives me time to collect their ‘homes’, furnishings, cars and ‘toys’. Blair’s home is based on a century old home that I read about in a Coastal Living magazine. I fell in love with the place and knew that it was just the spot Blair would chose to live.

Tell us a little bit about Toni Greer and Blair Kierstead. Why will readers like them? What will they dislike about them? Why will they be rooting for them to get together?

I hope that the readers like the same things about the characters that I like about them. I like Toni because she’s a genuine person. She’s someone who acts and doesn’t just let life happen to her. With Toni there will never be any pretense. What you see is what you get. Another thing I like and I hope that readers like is that Toni is a person who cares about people. She cares about family and friends and wouldn’t intentionally hurt someone. Lastly, Toni is a person of integrity, someone who will do what is right because it’s the right thing to do. Toni is a person you want to have around when your world is crashing around you. She’s sympathetic enough to help put salve on your emotional wounds, but enough of a friend to nudge you toward the road to recovery even though you’d rather wallow in self-pity. She’s also the person who knows how to celebrate all the joyful times with you as well.

Blair is a man I like because, like Toni, basically he’s a man of integrity and someone who you can depend on in a crunch. Something else that I really like about him is that he’s not given to moods. He’s a man who cares about people too although he’s not always direct in his methods. He stays in control of himself and tries to control his environment. He’s a bit of a neat freak, but that’s endearing. I mean who’s not going to love a guy who helps you clean up the house.

Blair is also a man who you want to snuggle on the couch with at the end of a long day, a man who knows you so well he doesn’t have to say anything to make you feel better. He looks over, touches your face or curls his hand around the nape of your neck and draws you forward to touch his lips to your forehead.

I’m hoping the reader won’t dislike anything about the characters, but rather that they will like and appreciate their strengths and overlook their weaknesses. I think there are times when characters frustrate us, but I hope that the reader always likes the basic person inside the character. I feel that if there are things that the reader doesn’t like about the character, then it might dislodge the reader from the fictional world of the story. I know it does for me when I read a story.

I guess what it boils down to is that what I like the characters in my books and in the books that I read is that they are can be people that I admire – that they would be people that I would chose as friends.

Hopefully, the reader will root for them because they’ve been pulled into their story world and love them both, Toni and Blair.

You wrote an article, which can be viewed at your website - http://www.freewebs.com/jessicajoy/, about creating believable characters. Can you tell us a little bit more about this article and how you used the advice found in this article to create the characters for Fool Me Once?

Hm...this article was born the first time I saw a character interview not long after I started my first story, although I didn’t realize it at the time. My first thought was how can you interview a character...they aren’t real...then, I realized if I didn’t believe they were real, I couldn’t make them real to the reader. That’s when I knew I had to find ways to make them real to me, or they would never become real for the reader. Of course, like all newbies, I went to writer sites and read books on writing, it was a long process, which I hope this article will shorten just a bit.

Being a detail oriented person, I found that the binder idea really helped. I could organize the details of the character's life and world. The character interview helps me maintain uniformity...the character doesn’t change eye colour or past events. Being a visual person, the collection of pictures and maps enriches the description in the story. It’s easier to find vivid descriptors when there is a picture in front of me.

The advice in the article helped me with Fool Me Once as it has helped with every story. It made the characters living, breathing people to me, people with a past, a present and a future, characters I love (the heroine and hero) or love to hate (the villains.)

You also wrote a short story titled Incorrigible under the name of Abby Blythe for The Crimson ‘Z’ anthology - http://blackvelvetseductions.com/Crimson%20Z.html. What can you tell us about this story?

Incorrigible is the story of a young woman, Anne, teetering on the verge of a sexual awakening who buys a home haunted by a spirited spirit, Virginia. Together, they solve the mystery of Virginia’s murder and Anne finds the love of her life. Just a caution, it’s steamy.

This story was a real stretch for me because of the ‘heat level’. I tend to read and enjoy Christian romantic fiction and romances that are warm but not steamy. Incorrigible, the novella I wrote for Crimson ‘Z’ is definitely hotter than I’ve ever written before and will probably ever write again once I finish the sequel, Irrepressible. That was the reason I chose a second pen name. I felt that readers who enjoyed Fool Me Once, might be uncomfortable with the heat level in Incorrigible.

What I love about the story, Incorrigible, are the characters and the mystery surrounding the death of the ghost who is haunting the heroine’s home. Virginia, the ghost, kept trying to take over the story, so I ended up writing her story, when she gets a second chance at living.

You and I have chatted about this topic before. It seems Christian authors can be persecuted for writing stories where two characters are romantically involved, especially if the love scenes are very descriptive. Have you experienced this type of prejudice? If so, how do you handle it?

Yes. When I say that I write romantic suspense, I’ve had a couple people say, “Oh, you write pornography.” At first, I tried to explain that romances are not pornographic and that some romances don’t have any love scenes at all. Those people just turned a deaf ear, rolled their eyes, and said, “But really, it is pornography.”

After that, I don’t respond because they don’t want to be educated. They are people who have never read a romance and probably never will. I find it a bit disturbing that they are so closed minded, but they do make interesting fodder for characters in my books.

For me a love scene isn’t offensive it if slips seamlessly into the story, that it feels right and fits that moment. In Incorrigible, Annie has sex with someone that she doesn’t have a relationship with. That was a tough scene, but it was also part of her emotional growth for her at that point in her life. Still, she wasn’t abused or used, which I couldn’t agree with or write.

What advice do you have for someone who has experienced this type of prejudice?

Fight the battles you can win. If someone is completely close-minded and won’t listen, then there isn’t any sense arguing with them. If they are willing, educate them on all the many different types of romances there are, perhaps see if they will read one. Who knows? They might even find something they enjoy.

I’ll wind this interview down with an easy question. What is up next for you? Are there writing projects fans and fellow writers need to know about?

At the moment, I’m up to my eyebrows in a move, so I’m packing boxes and doing all the lovely things that go with a move. As soon as that is behind me, I’m going to dive into edits for another novella, Irrepressible, which is Virginia’s story. Virginia, the ghost in Incorrigible, has a chance at love again with her soul mate, but of course, she has a few obstacles to overcome in her own spirited way.

Something else that I would like to do is work on my website. Once I went back to school, last August, my poor website was pushed on a back burner, way, way back.

Also, I have three writing projects that I’d like to pullout and work on. Two are Christian romances the third is one that I’ve been ‘pecking away at’ for years, a paranormal called “Impractical Magic” which is a book-of-my-heart. It’s the book I work on because I love it so much. It might never get published, but it will definitely bring a great deal of satisfaction in the journey through that story world.

You are probably wondering why I have so many projects on the go. I find that I get ‘stale’ if I work on one without interruption, so I usually do a few chapters in one, switch to another, then switch to another, then back to the first one. I’ve finished five novels, so I know it’s a system that works for me, but it’s not for everyone.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us today?

Hm...I could spend all day answering that question, but I can’t because I have to pack part of the kitchen today. I guess if I had to share anything it’s for newbie and wannabe writers, it’s: write, write, write, & read, read, read. Write anything that comes to your mind and whenever you can, and read fiction, magazines and writing how to books. Never stop learning. Write because you can’t resist the lure of the word.

Thanks for sharing so much of your time with us Jessica. Best wishes for a long and prosperous writing career!

Thank you so much and thank you for having me and for your kind wishes. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you over the course of our correspondence and I hope that the readers have enjoyed this time getting to know me and my books.

Note: My review of Fool Me Once appears below or you can click on this link http://aspiringauthor.blogspot.com/2007/06/book-review-fool-me-once-by-jessica-joy.html

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