Friday, December 31, 2010

Resolutions and the New Year

Goals:

Keep querying or re-writing until I get a literary agent.

Write four more books (one every three months).

Attend a few writers’ conferences.

Pitch live to agents.

Interview more authors, artist, readers, agents and publishers on my blog.

(If you are an author, reader etc that would like an interview email me at guidedhope@gmail.com and I will get the interview ready and send it over to you.)

Stay alive!



Thursday, December 30, 2010

Interview with Author Lynn Gardner

Lynn Gardner traveled the United States for twenty-five years with her career Air Force husband and developed a love of exploring this beautiful country, discovering fascinating places to set a story, and weaving local history into intriguing mysteries. When her husband retired, they began traveling to foreign countries where she found more exciting venues for her suspense stories. They served a mission to Armenia and Lynn used the ancient monasteries and post-Russian politics as a backdrop for a book.
"There's a story and a mystery around every corner!"

Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

Lynn: When I was a child, I made up stories all the time, then as I got older, I made up stories as I baby-sat my siblings and other children. I started writing in grade school and won $7 in two different essay contests, and was hooked! In my senior class year book, I said I would one day write a novel. I didn’t even remember that until after my first book was published and a classmate reminded me. (Who goes back and reads year books to see what we wrote??)


Deirdra: What is your writing and educational background?

Lynn: I wrote a lot of essays for others in high school (mostly football players who didn’t want to do it for English class) and just kept writing. One of the assignments I turned in for English had a “To Be Continued” ending which my English teacher didn’t grade well but gave me a verbal appreciation for creativity. I attended BYU but with emphasis on Business and Home Economics instead of on writing. I always wrote the road show plays and Relief Society skits, and special programs for Sacrament for Easter and Christmas, but didn’t begin writing novels until my kids were all leaving the nest and I had more time.


Deirdra: What makes you passionate about writing?

Lynn: Having a story to tell! I have a vivid imagination and I can overhear a conversation in a restaurant and envision some mysterious background for it. I love books, I love history, I love to travel, and I just love life so when you combine those elements of my life, it is no wonder stories come out of me. Plus, I was disappointed when my favorite authors started peppering their books with offensive words, graphic violence and sex scenes and I figured there had to be plenty of people just like me that loved a good story without all the garbage!


Deirdra: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?
Lynn: I took two years writing Emeralds and Espionage while I played golf with my husband on this incredible golf course that had all the features described in the book on the estate in Santa Barbara (except the course was actually in Tehachapi. I moved it to Santa Barbara in the book.) When the book was finished, my daughter and I and a friend attended a writer’s conference at BYU Hawaii (that’s another story – a miracle we were able to afford the airfare and conference fee!) I connected with Darla Hanks (now Isaacson) who was an editor at Covenant. She asked to see the ms. so I sent it to her. In the meantime, I attended another writer’s conference and discovered I really didn’t know how to write a book. I could tell a good story – but there is a huge difference. So while waiting for Covenant to get back to me, I totally rewrote Emeralds. I think I rewrote it about three or four more times before it was good enough to be published – but it happened!


Deirdra: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?
Lynn: Actually, the most discouraged I ever was – well – I have to break that into two parts. The first discouragement came when, after working so very hard to get all the words just right, I had to condense each book for audio. Do you know what it is like to have to take 80,000 words out of a 120,000 word manuscript? It is excruciating! Then the second discouragement came with my 12th book. I totally rewrote it four or five times. I was given an editor – they would suggest changes which I’d make, then I’d be given a different editor and they’d want different changes. Very difficult – very discouraging. But you just keep editing and rewriting until you get it right.


Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like? How do you manage your time with church duties and all those beautiful grandchildren of yours?

Lynn: I’m an early riser. When I taught seminary, I got in the habit of getting up at 4:00 and my body clock got stuck there. So I get up early and write before anyone else is up to disturb me. My husband leaves early to go golfing (even in the winter!) so I’m alone in the house. I do have a terrible time ignoring the phone because I’m always afraid it is one of my kids needing something, or one of the sisters in the ward. When I’m intensely into the book, I have to put a sign on my door so my husband won’t stick his head in and tell me something he’s just discovered, or ask where something is, or want to know if he can get me anything. When that happens, I have to go back and read a couple of pages to get back into the story. Sometimes it’s easier to write when I’m traveling and I can hole up in a hotel and be uninterrupted that way. But that doesn’t happen often. It takes great self-discipline to make myself sit at the computer and write when I would much rather be doing something else like playing with grandchildren, playing golf with my husband, or making Shutterfly books with my thousands of pictures!


Deirdra: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?

Lynn: Amethysts and Arson came into being when I read a little ten line filler in the newspaper about an amethyst altar cross found in a stash of loot stolen from churches in the south. Robbers would steal the valuable altar objects, then burn the church to hide the robbery. Pearls and Peril was born when I went to Hawaii to that writer’s conference. By the way, the volcano scene in that book – where Allison falls into the volcano is not unreal. The Reader’s Digest featured an article in Drama in Real Life where a helicopter crew crashed into the volcano while filming it, so I just used their “sights, sounds, smells and experiences” for my character to experience. An idea for a book is just the germ – then the rest of it grows from that – with help from a fertile imagination.


Deirdra: What do you hope readers will get from your books?

Lynn: I want my readers to be entertained, educated and edified. I think we should all learn something when we read or it is a waste of time so I hope to educate my readers in something they may not have known before. I want them to be entertained because we all need to be refreshed from time to time. And I want them to come away from my books feeling good.


Deirdra: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?

Lynn: I put my characters in a situation where they have to act immediately, they have to get out of their normal everyday life and react to the crisis. Then I just watch the story unfold and write down what my characters do – sort of like watching a movie and writing it down. I don’t outline, as such. I do know where my story should be heading and what the outcome should be, but sometimes my characters surprise me and take me down a different road than I’d planned. When someone asks me what is going to happen next or how the story ends, I can’t really tell them until I get there. Two great ways to propel the story are to ask “What if?” at every turn and I have even clustered to see what options were open for my characters. But the location of the story always plays a big part in it and frequently guides what is happening because of the locale and the history of the place.


Deirdra: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?
Lynn: As I said, I ask “What if?” and come up with dozens of crazy scenarios and choose one or more. I know my characters so well (I do extensive character sketches before I start a book so I know how they will react when put in a situation) and frequently I simply have to ask – “What would she do in this situation, knowing her as I do?” and my block is gone.


Deirdra: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?
Lynn: I prefer absolute solitude and quiet and no, I don’t write to music. I know the words to too many songs and it is distracting, and if I’m listening to classical music, I tend to be distracted by the instruments or melody. I multitask all day long, but not when I’m writing – then I become single-minded.


Deirdra: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?
Lynn: I envision the location of the story, review the history and all the photographs I’ve taken, think about what kind of trouble I can throw at my characters, and go from there.


Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?
Lynn: Valerie Holladay. She was an editor at Covenant and she walked me through my first books, guiding and editing to show me how to write. The dozens of writer’s workshops I attended were extremely helpful in learning the craft, for it is a craft to fashion a good story into a book.


Deirdra: What’s your secret to making the characters in your books come to life?

Lynn: They need to have some interesting quirks and foibles – they can’t be perfect - and they need to want something in the worst way so they can overcome whatever they are up against.


Deirdra: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?

Lynn: Raw almonds and black licorice.


Deirdra: Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?

Lynn: I love walking on the beach with my husband and beachcombing with my grandchildren. I’ve been making Shutterfly books to showcase our trips, family, life and history. I love to travel and take pictures. We spent 27 days in China, Cambodia Thailand and Singapore and I took 7000 pictures! I play the organ at church, although some in the congregation wouldn’t call it a talent. J More like a desperation calling, but I’ve been doing it for 12 years so hopefully I’m getting better. I enjoy playing golf with my husband and every year we attend the Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City and Tuacahn to see the incredible shows they have. And I am into Family History.


Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?

Lynn: Write, rewrite, rewrite some more, then edit, edit, edit! Make your manuscript as perfect as possible. If you don’t have a critique group to read it to and help you edit it, pass the manuscript to knowledgeable friends who will be honest in their evaluation and not tell you it is wonderful when it may not be yet.


Deirdra: What are you working on now?

Lynn: In 1995 when Emeralds and Espionage had just been published and before I started writing Pearls and Peril, I started writing a ghost story. I put it away when I started Pearls, then pulled it out about five years later and worked on it a bit, then put it away to continue the gem series. I dabbled with it again – probably in another five years – and put it away. I decided after Pursued: A Maggie McKenzie Mystery was published that I was through writing. I had 12 grandchildren and 12 books in print. That sounded pretty good to me. But I kept thinking of this story. In May we drove to Louisiana to the graduation of one of our granddaughters, and we went so many neat places that fit perfectly into the story that I decided I just had to write it and get it out of my system so it would quit haunting me. An interesting side note: I booked us into an antebellum mansion in Vicksburg, Mississippi which just happened to have four ghosts, and I had unknowingly chosen the room with the Confederate soldier who keeps looking for his amputated leg. Unfortunately, we saw none of the ghosts.


Deirdra: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?

Lynn: Seagull, Deseret Books, Beehive Books, and Ensign Books all carry them and they can be ordered on line from Amazon.com as well.


Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?
Lynn: I think being a writer is kin to having a calling to entice people to read, to explore new worlds, to broaden their horizons and awaken imaginations. There is no greater compliment I can receive than to have someone tell me they simply were not a reader until someone turned them on to my books and now they love to read. That is the ultimate compliment.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Interview with Author Julie Wright


http://juliewright.com/blog/

Julie Wright (1972-still breathing) was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. She's lived in LA, Boston, and the literal middle of nowhere (don't ask). She wrote her first book when she was fifteen and actually got the thing published. Eleven novels later, she thinks she's finally getting the hang of this writing gig.

She has one husband, three kids, two dogs, and a varying amount of fish (depending on attrition).

She loves writing, reading, traveling, hiking, playing with her kids, and watching her husband make dinner.

She used to speak fluent Swedish, but now speaks only well enough to cuss out her children in public.

She hates mayonnaise.




Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

Julie: Most authors will tell you that they ALWAYS knew they wanted to be an author. And while that’s not exactly true for me, it’s sort of true. I’ve always wanted to be something that had had something to do with writing, but I wasn’t always sure about the author thing. I wanted to be a song writer, a poet, a screenplay writer, an advertising executive, and finally decided I wanted to be an author when Mr. Cowden in tenth grade told me that was the one thing I never would be. I hate people telling me what to do.


Deirdra: What is your writing and educational background?

Julie: I’ve written eleven novels and one picture book. I’ve written an entire book full of simpering, absurd poetry which will never come to public view, and I’ve written several articles. I only made it through two years of college. But education doesn’t always stem from a campus. I’ve read books on writing, attended conferences on writing, made friends in the writing community, and basically done everything I can possibly do to improve on my craft and continue my education on a personal level.


Deirdra: What makes you passionate about writing?

Julie: I believe it begins with my passion for reading. I have always loved reading. And once I realized I could join those people who made up those stories I loved so much, there was no stopping me. I love the idea of taking nothing and filling it full of emotions, and lives, andsomething. It’s twenty shades of awesome!


Deirdra: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?
Julie: I started my first book when I was fifteen (after the whole Mr. Cowden-telling-me-I-can’t-write debacle) and finished it when I was 24. Then it sat on my computer for years with me melting down at my husband every time he reconfigured a hard drive because I just knew he was going to lose my book. He finally took me to the bookstore and found books like mine. He flipped them all open, wrote down the publishing information inside the cover of each one, and starting submitting to those publishers. He told me if my book was on a book shelf instead of his computer, we’d be a lot happier. I doubt I would have ever dared attempt publishing on my own. My husband is my absolute hero.


Deirdra: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?
Julie: HILARIOUS QUESTION! James Dashner and Jeff Savage actually named writer depression after me. They call it Julie Wrightus. There have been lots of discouraging moments. Moments where I ate too much, cursed too much, cried too much. I have declared several times that I will never write again, but it isn’t ever true. The stories come. The sentences and characters form in my head, whether I invite them in or not. Jeff once told me that if you succeed at everything you try, then you aren’t trying hard enough things. I dealt with it by never giving up, by continuing to try the hard things. And it helps a lot to keep perspective, and to remember to write for your own enjoyment first. I’ve learned a lot from the discouragement, and though I’m not exactly grateful for it, I’m grateful for who I am because of it.


Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like?

Julie: Schedule? People have schedules? I must do research on this alien topic. I write in snatches, wherever two moments rub together. I can write to children fighting, dogs barking, husband asking what’s for dinner, I don’t keep a “regular” schedule, but I do make it a goal to write 1000 words a day when I’m working on a new novel. Sometimes I only get eleven words, sometimes I get eleven thousand (okay that only happened once, but it was a GREAT DAY).



Deirdra: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?
Julie: I think any idea is good enough to write about if it’s interesting to the writer. Ideas come from everything. Just this morning while getting my kids ready for school, my son mentioned a game he played yesterday. I took a couple of the phrases he’d used and combined them—then twirled a story around it. After about five minutes, I gave him the basic outline of a book. Slack-jawed, he said, “Did you just barely make that all up?” Yep. “Well you’d better write it all down fast, so you don’t forget, because that would be awesome!” I’ve had ideas while closing my trunk, while taking a bath, while sitting in a timeshare presentation, while driving down the road. Ideas are everywhere!


Deirdra: Will you tell us about your newest book Cross My Heart.

Julie: It is so much fun! The two books I’d written before this one were a little emotionally draining to write and I really needed an emotional break. So I wrote this which is a light-hearted romantic comedy. I love the characters, love the story, and laughed pretty much the whole time I wrote it. I hope my readers do the same J


Deirdra: What do you hope readers will get from your books?

Julie: It depends on the book. With Cross My Heart, I hope the readers laugh, and feel a sense of fun and new love. For my children’s books, I hope the reader feels a sense of wonder. I guess I really hope the reader feels *hope* in whatever they’re reading. Hope in love, hope in life, hope in people.



Deirdra: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?
Julie: I’m a wait and see what happens next kind of girl. I sit down and write. At the very beginning, I might write a very loose outline, just so I remember what my first intentions were—then I write until I get to the end. Sometimes, this method requires extensive rewriting. J


Deirdra: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?
Julie: Sometimes, and I get out of it by giving myself to write garbage. Garbage can be revised. A blank page cannot.


Deirdra: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?
Julie: I wouldn’t know what to do with myself in absolute quiet. I don’t write to most music because I can’t keep myself from singing along. But there is a focus music CD that helps me when I have to really concentrate. I pretty much write to the beat of my family’s activities.

Deirdra: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?
Julie: Discovery channel, History channel, Discover magazine


Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?
Julie: There are lots of people who’ve made a difference, people I couldn’t do this without, but the person who’s made the greatest difference would be my husband. He balances me when I get too out of control. He keeps me grounded when things are going great, holds me when I feel worthless, yet never lets me give up when it gets too hard. He listens while I read my manuscripts to him, and he laughs and cries at all the right places.


Deirdra: What’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life?

Julie: I believe they’re real. I care about them and that makes them breathe for me.



Deirdra: What authors do you admire, and why?
Julie: I admire Janette Rallison for her tenacity, her sheer skill, her humor in writing, her moral standard, her ability to treat everyone with respect. Her ability to laugh when others would cry—or throw things. Janette is solid. She’s amazing, and I am so grateful to know her. I admire many others, but can’t list them without taking several hours and getting typer’s cramp.


Deirdra: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?

Julie: Dr. Pepper and Grape Nuts-no milk


Deirdra: Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?

Julie: I have no other talents that I’m aware of. It’s sort of sad really. If I fail at this, there is no fall-back plan.


Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?


Julie: Don’t give up, and do everything in your power to produce the best writing possible.

Deirdra: What are you working on now?



Julie: The second book in the Hazzardous Universe series.



Deirdra: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?
Julie: http://juliewright.com/bibliography.html


Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?
Julie: LIVE with all your heart, and write as you live.



Monday, December 27, 2010

Interview with Author Joyce DiPastena



Picture of Deirdra and Joyce

Joyce DiPastena moved from Utah to Arizona at the age of 2, and grew up to be a died-in-the-fur Desert Rat. She first fell in love with the Middle Ages when she read Thomas B. Costain's The Conquering Family in high school. She attended the University of Arizona, where she graduated with a degree specializing in medieval history.

Joyce has taught piano lessons to children and adults of all ages for over 20 years. She loves to play the piano and sing for her own amusement, and sings in her church choir. Other interests include reading, spending time with her sister, trying out new restaurants, and unfortunately, buying new clothes. The highlight of her year is attending the Arizona Renaissance Festival, which she has not missed once in its 23 years of existence.

Joyce has been owned and loved by many cats, the most recent being Clio (who helps her with her website), and Glinka Rimsky-Korsokov (that's all one cat).

You can learn more about Joyce by visiting her website at http://www.joyce-dipastena.com or her JDP NEWS blog at http://jdp-news.blogspot.com. Contact her at jdipastena@yahoo.com.

Deirdra: When did you start writing?

Joyce: I started dabbling around with writing in junior high school. I didn’t think of it as “writing”, just as kind of playing around. I wrote an extremely silly story combining two of my favorite TV shows at the time…Star Trek and Dark Shadows! I even illustrated it. Well, sort of. I traced pictures of Francie—Barbie’s cousin—out of a coloring book and drew my own dresses and hair styles for her and put props in her hands, like a knife to defend herself, along with dialogue bubbles from the “manuscript”. It was all great fun! LOL! The manuscript has become lost to history, I’m afraid (that’s probably for the best), but I recently found a few of the “illustrations” tucked away in my house.

By the time I reached high school, I was dabbling in original historical fiction (i.e., not fan fiction anymore), but I never actually completed a full-length manuscript until I was in college. That one was a medieval romantic novel—I was majoring in history at the time. To this day, those remain my two loves, history and writing.

Deirdra: What genre(s) do you write?

Joyce: I write medieval romantic novels.

Deirdra: Is there anyone who has inspired or influenced you in your career?

Joyce: Stylistically, originally I was greatly influenced by Regency author Georgette Heyer, even though I’ve never tried to write a Regency or desired to do so. My sister said my first full-length novel read like a “medieval Regency”, though, so the influence was definitely there.

The historian and author Thomas B. Costain first captured my love for the Middle Ages with his series of books on the Plantagenet kings of England. I read them all in high school and particularly fell in love with the character and age of King Henry II of England. That love was later nourished and brought to full bloom by Dr. Thomas Parker, one of my history professors at the University of Arizona. When I started my college novel, the Middle Ages just seemed the natural place to set my story.

Deirdra: What is the most exciting thing that has happened in your career?

Joyce: I was about to say “actually publishing my novels,” but I think what has been even more exciting than that is how positively they have been received by readers.

Deirdra: For you, is writing a full time job, part time job, or a hobby?

Joyce: Right now it’s still part time. I still dream of making it full time someday, though.

Deirdra: Writing a novel is time consuming. What is the most effect method you have found for managing your time?

Joyce: What has always worked the best for me is sitting down and setting a timer and telling myself I can’t get out of my chair until that timer goes off. I tell myself I don’t have to actually write anything, but I can’t do anything else—watch TV, play a game, check my email or internet—until the timer goes off. My only choices are: stare at the blank screen for an hour (minimum) or write something during that time. Usually sheer boredom will drive me to type at least a few words before the timer goes off. I have tried other methods of motivating or disciplining myself, but in the end, the timer method has consistently worked best for me.

Deirdra: What is the most difficult thing about being an author?

Joyce: Finding the self-discipline to sit down and write when you don’t feel like writing.

Deirdra: What is the best thing about being an author?

Joyce: Falling in love with your characters and being surprised at where they take you.

Deirdra: What are your goals as an author for the next three years?

Joyce: I have this historical timeline in my head that I’d like to follow through in my writing. I don’t know if it’ll take me three years or ten or twenty, but that’s sort of my overarching goal.

Deirdra: Is there anything that gives your writer’s block? How do you solve that problem?

Joyce: I have found that stress gives me writers block. I don’t think well under stress, and it’s hard to write when you can’t think clearly. I’m still struggling to find an effective way to deal with stress in my life. So far, the only way I have found to deal with it in my writing remains to try to plow through it by sitting down and setting that timer and putting in time with my computer, whether I actually write anything every time or not.

Deirdra: Do you have a favorite writing snack food?

Joyce: I don’t usually snack when I’m writing. Very, very occasionally I’ll eat a couple of Hershey Kisses, or if I’m trying to be healthy, a cheese stick. (Don’t get me wrong. I eat more than my fair share of Hershey Kisses overall! Just not usually when I’m writing.)

Deirdra: Where is your favorite place to write?

Joyce: Any comfortable position I can get in with my laptop. And someplace quiet. I write best in total silence. (Just me and my thoughts.)

Deirdra: How do you come up with your character’s names?

Joyce: I’ve been collecting medieval names for years. I’ve compiled a fairly extensive list of male and female names that were in use during the Middle Ages. When it’s time to choose names for my characters, I pull out my lists and read through them over and over and over again. I can literally spend hours trying to settle on just the right name for a character. “This is a blonde character’s name. This one would be a brunette. This one’s a redhead. That sounds like a servant’s name. This name sounds spunky. That name sounds timid.” I have this internal monologue going on in my head the entire time I’m running down the lists. Each name summons a certain kind of image in my mind, and I just keep going over and over them all until I finally settle on the “perfect” name. Once the name is chosen, it becomes locked into the character. Changing the name, or even the spelling of the name, causes a subtle shifting of the character in my mind once I’ve started the story.

Deirdra: What is the best complement you could receive from a reader?

Joyce: I’ve had a reader tell me she’s read my book so many times, the cover is falling off. That just floored me. Because that’s what I have done all my life with books that have become more than just books to me, they have become my friends. That anyone, even just one person, should ever treasure a book I have written as much as I have treasured a handful of dearly loved books in my life is amazing and very touching to me.

Deirdra: Where can readers find your books?

Joyce: Loyalty’s Web can be ordered through Deseret Book or Amazon.com. Illuminations of the Heart is available from Deseret Book, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, and pretty much any online bookseller.


Loyalty’s Web

In twelfth-century France, King Henry II of England has just finished crushing a rebellion by his power-hungry sons and now seeks to tame the lawless barons who supported them in this corner of his “Angevin empire.” To this end, the king has sent the Earl of Gunthar as his royal representative to ensure that Prince Richard and his former cohorts faithfully adhere to the terms of the peace treaty.

Far from being welcomed with open arms, Gunthar no sooner steps foot in the county of Poitou than he is greeted by a series of assassination attempts. All appear to be linked to the former rebellious prince through the agents of the family and friends of young Heléne de Laurant. A clever, intrepid young woman, Heléne realizes that the only way to prove her loved ones’ innocence is by exposing the true assassin. Heléne races against time—and dark secrets of the past—to unmask the killer before the kingdom plunges back into war.

Fierce determination gives way to mutual attraction as Heléne and Gunthar spar over the identity of the traitor. But their blinding magnetism almost causes them to overlook an even deadlier threat from an entirely unexpected direction.




Illuminations of the Heart

“Clothilde.”

He spoke the name on a breath like a prayer. Then he lowered his head and kissed her.

Her heart is lost in that first embrace, her world shaken to its foundations. There is just one problem: her name is not Clothilde. It is Siriol de Calendri.

Trained in the art of illumination in the far-off city of Venice, Siri is directed by her late brother’s will to the county of Poitou in France, where she enters the guardianship of her brother’s friend, Sir Triston de Brielle. Once in Poitou, Siri hopes to find employment in an illuminator’s shop—until Triston unexpectedly snatches her heart away with a kiss.

Triston is a man of quiet honor and courage, but the guilt he carries for the death of his late wife, Clothilde, has left him numb and hesitant to love again. Worse yet, Siri bears an uncanny resemblance to his lost love. Or does she? Her merry laughter and twinkling eyes are very different from his late wife’s shy smiles and quiet ways. Yet when he gazes into Siri’s face, all he sees is Clothilde.

Then Triston’s past returns to threaten them both. Will his tragic life with Clothilde be repeated with Siri? Trapped between the rivalry of the king’s sons on the one hand and a neighbor out for vengeance on the other, Triston realizes it would be safer to send Siri away. But how can he bear to lose her again?

Siri is determined not to be cast off and not to live in another woman’s shadow. She has illuminated many a priceless book with pen and paint. But can her own vibrant spirit illuminate the darkness in Triston’s soul and make his heart beat for her alone?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Will start interview posts again on the 27th. I have a ton of awesome authors, publishers and other literary professionals lined up.

Please become a follower and get an intimate look into the real lives of authors and how they triumphed over struggles to break into the literary world.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Things to do while listening to books on tape

Here are a few ideas Elizabeth Mueller and I came up with of things to do while listening to books on tape:

Paint

Fold laundry

Scrapbook

Cook

Clean

Quilt

Exercise

Iron

Paint your nails

Stretch

Sew

Eat

Bubble bath

Drive

Decorate

Crochet

Snuggle with baby or husband

Color hair

Make cards

Draw

Arts and crafts

Make jewelry


Feel free to add to this list by posting a comment. I would love to hear your ideas.

Friday, December 17, 2010

What do you put into your character bible?


A character bible is not just for characters but can also be used to keep track of historical events, locations and items.

In the “Lord of the Rings” series some data that would need to be kept track of was Middle Earth itself, the geography, weather etc. The ring and its power and history could also have its own bible.

For my “Character Bible” I have a brief history of the world, legends, religious belief of societies, wars and disputes between clans, mythology, prophecies and anything else that my character or the reader will discover throughout the book.

When I’m keeping track of a specific character I usually draw or find a picture of someone who looks like how I imagine they would be and paste it into my CB.

Other common things I add are:

Powers

Fears

Weaknesses

Quirks

Accents

Pets

Physical characteristics: hair color, race, body type, scars, tattoos, human vs. non-human)

Natural reactions when they are nervous, mad, in love, happy, scared.

Enemies

Destinies, missions or quests

Significant trinkets (a sword, ring or necklace)

History: past, parents, trauma, discoveries.

What motivates him or her?

Special friends

Special teachers

Goals for the future

Beliefs about the world

Beliefs about themselves

Energy level

What kind of person would this character fall in love with?

What makes them angry?

These are just a few ideas.

Get to know your characters.
I spend about two weeks getting to know my characters before I start writing. The better you know your characters the more they will help you write the story. Create a character bible. Figure out their strengths, weaknesses, past history, nervous habits, favorite foods, their dreams and hopes, character flaws, and special skills. Get to know them so well that if you sat down with them in a restaurant you would know what they would be wearing, what they would order, and how they would tip the waitress. Also figure out the geography you are working with and any significant items, like magic swords or priceless family heirlooms. Objects can have their own history, weaknesses, or special powers.

The more you get to know your character the easier it will be to write your story and you will make fewer character mistakes.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Interview with Author Traci Abramson


Originally from Arizona, Traci Hunter Abramson graduated from BYU in finance and international business. She spent six years working for the Central Intelligence Agency before taking on a really demanding job: full-time mom. Always looking for new challenges, Traci also began coaching her local high school swim team and indulging in her love of writing. Since leaving the CIA, she has written numerous novels including the Undercurrents trilogy, Royal Target, and the Saint Squad series.
Contact info:
Twitter: @traciabramson



Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

Traci: Being an author was something I’ve dreamed about since I learned to read. I’ve always been an avid reader and have admired those who are able to create something from their imagination. Of course, I also had plans to become a veterinarian, a jockey, an Olympic swimmer, and any other number of things.

Deirdra: What is your writing and educational background?

Traci: Believe it or not, I’ve never taken a creative writing class in school. I graduated from Brigham Young University with degrees in finance and international business.

Deirdra: What makes you passionate about writing?

Traci: Probably the same thing that makes me passionate about reading. I love being able to do anything, go anywhere when I’m reading or writing a novel. So many adventures are waiting for us simply by turning a page.

Deirdra: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?

Traci: The basic idea for my first novel, Undercurrents, had been rattling around in my head since my senior year in college. I didn’t really do anything with it for the next several years while I was working full time. Then when I resigned from the Central Intelligence Agency, I started writing and finally managed to complete a manuscript. I finished three novels, each one helping me to learn the craft of writing. My sister-in-law, Rebecca Cummings, helped tutor me along the path of improving my writing skills.

Around the time I finished writing Undercurrents I realized that there was quite a gap in the market for older young adults. Girls who had outgrown the young adult novels really didn’t have a lot of options, especially for books that didn’t contain material that they and their parents might find objectionable. That was when I decided to put the time and effort into editing Undercurrents so I could try to get it published.

I checked out various books at a local bookstore to research which publisher would be the best match for me and I was really impressed with Covenant Communications. They produced a lot of fiction and held to standards that were similar to my own. I submitted my manuscript to them and waited for what seemed like an eternity. When I finally spoke to the managing editor, Valerie Holladay, she told me that the plot line kept her interested but that the characterization needed work. Basically, she likened it to digging a ditch that was ten feet deep. I had only made it down the first two feet and I had more work to do.

I spent the next year polishing and revising, finally convinced that my manuscript was the best I was capable of. A month after I mailed the revised manuscript, I received a phone call from the new managing editor, Shauna Humphreys at Covenant to congratulate me on my book being accepted for publication.

Deirdra: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?

Traci: I think all authors get discouraged at some point, especially when dealing with trying to live up to the expectation of writing another book, one that will be as good or better than something you’ve done before. Usually my best course of action to get past that is to read one of my previous novels. I always wonder a bit that the book I’m holding in my hands is a reality, that it was born from my imagination and whatever inspiration the Lord provided me with.

Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like?

Traci: In a perfect world, I get up at six and write for about an hour until I start getting my younger two children off to school. Then I try to write for several hours during the school day. In reality, once a novel is working through my brain, I try to steal any time I can at the computer, especially when I get into the last week or two of writing a novel. I also take a couple of breaks from writing during the year. I don’t try to create during the winter when I’m busy coaching my local high school swim team. I usually take summers off as well to spend with my children.

Deirdra: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?

Traci: Ideas can come from everywhere, often just something I happen to see during the day that causes me to ask the question “What if?” I draw on my past life experiences, tidbits I hear throughout the day, news headlines and anything else that catches my attention. As for whether my ideas are good enough to write a book from them, I usually just start writing and see where it goes. If I get past fifty pages or so, I know I have a novel in the making. Otherwise, I go onto something new.

Deirdra: Can you tell us about your latest book Backlash.

Traci: Backlash is part of the Saint Squad series, a loosely connected series of novels about a squad of US Navy SEALs. In Backlash, the squad’s commander, Kel Bennett, is injured and has to face the possibility that his career could be over. He also struggles with the reality that his wife, Marilyn, wants nothing more than to have him home and out of harm’s way. When a threat emerges from one of Kel’s past missions, Marilyn discovers exactly what Kel really does on his secret missions but it takes her husband and all of his squad to stand up to the impending danger threatening them all.

Deirdra: What do you hope readers will get from your books?

Traci: Mostly I just want people to be able to escape from reality for a while and live an adventure in their imaginations.

Deirdra: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?

Traci: I just sit down and write. As my husband says, I often sit and stare at my computer for an extended period of time and then all of a sudden my fingers start flying over the keyboard. When inspiration strikes I can barely keep up with the ideas pouring through my mind. Typically, I have a general idea of where the story is going to go, but my characters sometimes take me in a different direction and I am compelled to follow along.

Deirdra: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?

Traci: Absolutely. I think that’s a challenge that all writers face. As for dealing with it, my methods vary. Sometimes I’ll walk away and try to read something else while my characters and I try to get back onto the same page. Other times I’ll skip ahead in the book I’m writing and then go back to fill in the gaps. Once I know where the story is going, I can usually smooth out those rough patches. And then, of course, there’s always the occasional game of solitaire on the computer that desperately needs to be played while I’m pretending to think about my work-in-progress.

Deirdra: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?

Traci: I prefer to write when it’s quiet, but with my family that isn’t always possible. Usually the only music I listen to comes from the Disney channel playing in my family room when my kids are watching TV.

Deirdra: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?

Traci: I will sometimes read a few pages of a book I’ve read before simply to get into the reading/writing mode, and I often read whatever I wrote the day before to help me get back into the minds of my characters. Other than that, I just sit down at my computer, ignore everything around me and write.

Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?

Traci: Definitely my sister-in-law, Rebecca Cummings. When I first started writing, I knew how to tell a story, but my writing skills needed some serious improvement. She gently guided me through more rewrites than I can count as I developed as a writer. Even to this day, she always reads through my manuscripts before I submit them to my publisher.

Deirdra: What’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life?

Traci: I think the biggest secret is discovering the characters’ hopes and dreams. If I can figure that out and somehow convey my characters’ innermost desires to the reader, then I know I’m on the right track.

Deirdra: What authors do you admire, and why?

Traci: I am definitely a fan of classics, but I think my favorite author is Jane Austen. She did an incredible job of developing both memorable characters and conflicts that are continually recreated by modern day writers. I also really admire Brandon Sanderson. I admit that I only read his shorter, comedy based works, but I love his wit and humor. I also appreciate how approachable he is for his fans, especially since my daughter is always anxiously awaiting his next publication.

Deirdra: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?

Traci: Almonds and M&Ms. I try to pretend that the almonds are healthy enough to counteract any negative effects from the chocolate.

Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?

Traci: I will pass on the advice given to me by author Lynn Gardner: Edit, edit, edit! And I will add my own suggestion that all authors should find someone they trust to give them honest, useful feedback. The competition to publish with a traditional publisher is stiff and writers need to take the time to make sure that anything they submit is truly the best work they are capable of producing.

Deirdra: What are you working on now?

Traci: I recently finished writing Obsession, a novel about a famous singer who goes into hiding when a threat emerges only to find out that she may be the target of a serial killer. People who have read my previous novels will recognize the FBI agent assigned to protect her. Charlie Whitmore is the younger brother of Matt Whitmore from the Undercurrents trilogy and the older brother of Amy Whitmore from Freefall.

I am also anxiously awaiting the release of my next novel, Smokescreen, which comes out the first week of January 2011.

Deirdra: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?

Traci: The following websites have a selection of my novels: www.deseretbook.com, www.seagullbook.com,www.amazon.com, and www.bn.com.

Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?

Traci: Thank you for having me. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season!








Backlash

In the five years she’s been married to Navy SEAL Kel Bennett, Marilyn has lived with fear as a near-constant companion. But the morning she sees two men in naval uniforms approaching her doorway with solemn faces, her fear turns to terror. This is what she signed up for when she exchanged wedding vows with that stunning man in military dress whites: a husband who leaves home whenever the phone rings and who might not ever come back. Turns out Marilyn is lucky this time: Kel is still alive, although gravely injured from the Saint Squad op that thwarted a terrorist attack in the southwestern US. While his wife is relieved to have him stationary in a hospital bed, Kel’s necessary lack of openness about his work puts a strain on their already troubled marriage. As the distance between the couple widens, Marilyn turns to the book she’s secretly writing to express her unspeakable emotions.

Meanwhile, the backlash from the foiled terrorist mission brings Halim Karel to the States in search of Seth, the undercover agent who’d infiltrated his organization and spearheaded the abduction of his boss’s niece. As danger mounts and the SEAL team springs into action, Marilyn is shocked by her first glance into the grisly realities of her husband’s profession: violence, deception, even killing. And when she becomes a central ploy in Halim’s revenge plan, she struggles to find needed trust and confidence in this military man she loves — not just to save their marriage but to save their lives.





Smokescreen
Taylor Palmetta has spent the past year in Europe building her art career and hiding from Navy SEAL Quinn Lambert, the man who broke her heart. But Taylor can’t seem to hide from trouble. When Taylor seeks safety with her family in Virginia Beach, a series of threats puts her on high alert — and puts Quinn into protective mode. Despite the private loss that continues to haunt him, Quinn can’t deny his renewed attraction to Taylor. But just as the romance heats up, a plot against the very foundation of the American way of life surfaces, and Taylor’s paintings may hold the key. The Saint Squad is back in action as the team frantically tries to protect their nation’s security — and Taylor and Quinn search for courage to unlock the troubled past.