Chasing the Muse

Every writer is inspired by different things. The ancient Greeks ascribed various muses to the arts;  Thalia was for comedy and pastoral poetry, Terpsichore was dance, and Erato was for love poetry. Lately, my personal muse seems to be Melpomene, the muse of tragedy, because, tragically, I can’t seem to write, at all.

I am in the midst of unpacking after a household move and, although things are beginning to take shape, I’m one of those unfortunate souls who requires balance and order in my work space before the ideas begin to flow. I’m getting closer to having my writing nook set up to my liking, but as I work, I feel the urgent nudging of the characters in my work-in-progress telling me to stop neglecting them and get the show on the road. Judy Falls is eager to know all about the body she discovered in the ruined chapel in the woods and the rest of the Bannoch First Ladies are anxious to know more about the wife of the new pastor at First Baptist. It’s a lot of pressure added to the stress of a move, believe me, but enough whining.

Next week is the second Saturday of the month and we are in for a treat as we visit with that brilliant and clever writer, Julie Seedorf. It should be a fun time as her irrepressible character from Fuchsia, Granny, has promised to join us.  I’m not sure who the Greek muse of hilarious cozy mysteries is, but Julie must be very familiar with her.

I’m hoping some of her inspiration rubs off on me! See you next week.

 

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Fiction Authors are Different

After publishng my first novel, Hollow, in 2012 in the early days of  print-on-demand and digital publishing, I began reading every bit of advice I could get my hands on about promoting independently published books.

I tried to faithfully follow all the advice about establishing an author blog, newsletter, email lists, giveaways, tweaking keywords and meta-data, setting up pre-orders, using book promotion sites on social media and planning booklaunches, etc., all with mixed success.

It is only in the past year that I’ve seen articles confirming my earlier suspicions that much of the advice I’d been getting up to then actually was meant for non-fiction authors. Webinars, for instance, don’t really suit most fiction authors.

While it was much easier to break into the market when relatively few indie authors were producing quality work, it has become almost impossible with the millions of new books hitting the virtual shelves every day. Indie authors can become frantic and grasp at each new technique. Thankfully, and perhaps surprisingly, the increased competition has not kept indie authors from supporting each other. In fact, many of us sell more books to fellow authors than to the general reading public and we constantly share helpful advice.

To that end, I want to say to new independent authors of fiction, “When you read advice for independent authors, be sure the wisdom being offered is targeted for fiction writers.”

While some successful indie fiction authors have gone on to make careers out of non-fiction books of guidance for other indie authors, most fiction writers are less comfortable with self-promotion and need to use our limited promotion budgets in ways that work for us.

 

 

Character Sketch: Naidenne Grinager Davidson

Naidenne was most requested to be featured as this month’s Character Sketch.

If you want to know more about the background of a character in any of my books, be sure to leave your request in a comment. I will be featuring one character sketch on this blog each month, as long as there is interest.

Character Name:  Born Naidenne Grinager. (Introduced in Seadrift) Married Rev. Scott Davidson (…and Something Blue)

Role in Story: Naidenne is Bunny Elder’s first friend when she moves to Bannoch, OR (Seadrift, Something Blue). She is the main character in The First Ladies Club, the first book of that series.

Occupation: Real estate agent/owner of property management company. Also runs a local crafts boutique in a corner of her real estate office.

dream-of-curlsPhysical Description: Naidenne, in her early forties, is almost six feet tall, slim and attractive, with riotous curly red-gold hair she struggles to tame.  Until meeting Bunny and getting a little help with her style, Naidenne dressed as inconspicuously as possible in a uniform of straight dark skirts and business-like shirts and jackets. She tried to control her frustratingly independent hair by skewering it into a knot on the top of her head. Once Bunny convinced Naidenne of her model-like beauty, she discovered her own sense of style, shook out her glorious hair and left the dowdy wardrobe behind. These changes soon caught the attention of Scott and resulted in their marriage.

Personality: Modest and unassuming. Although capable and assertive in her business life, Naidenne’s childhood left her scarred and emotionally insecure. Meeting and marrying Scott has changed that. She has blossomed into a confident and kind wife and mother.

Habits/Mannerisms: Unusually for such a tall woman, Naidenne has excellent posture. She is invariably kind and compassionate.

Background: Naidenne, an only child, was raised in various small towns in Oklahoma by parents who were both Pentecostal preachers. She enjoyed a life centered on the rousing church services until she was thirteen, when a painful experience with the visiting evangelist during a revival meeting turned her away from the church and made her distrust all clergy. Because of their lack of support at this time, she is now estranged from her parents. Meeting Bunny, and falling in love with Scott, allowed her to get over her earlier trauma and begin to find her way back to God.

Internal Conflicts: She has residual issues of confidence and trust from that early episode. Being the tallest girl in school made her want to disappear in social settings, but she has overcome those feelings, for the most part. It is important to Naidenne to raise her small daughter, Talitha Joy, with a healthy self-image, so she strives to model that.

External Conflicts: Naidenne is kidnapped and assaulted in The First Ladies Club. She must escape from her attacker, an escaped convict. In the other books where she appears she has only normal relationship issues with her sister-in-law, Rosamund, church members, and the other wives in the First Ladies Club, but thanks to her generous nature, these never grow to the level of conflicts.

Second Saturday Author Interview with Angela Carling

Today we are visiting with delightful author, Angela Carling.

Angela Carling was raised in Palm Springs California, but lives in Arizona with her husband, three kids and five felines.  After years of denial she finally admitted that she is a hopeless romantic which led her to write her first Young Adult book, Unbreakable Love. Since then she’s published three more books, Shackled, Becoming Bryn and The Secret Keeper. Shackled won the silver IPGA award in 2012 and has been optioned as a screenplay. Angela always eats the frosting off her cake and leaves the rest, and can be caught singing in public bathrooms for the acoustics.  When she’s not writing YA novels, she’s mentoring teen writers, making pizza with her family or dreaming of taking a nap, not necessarily in that order.

1109_Carling_Headshots_091

Thanks so much for dropping by, Angela.

Although, like me, you are a California girl, you now live in Arizona.  Would you like to tell us a bit about your life in the desert and how you came to live there?

I’ve actually lived in a desert most of my life in Palm Springs, California, except for college, some church service work in North Carolina and a five year stint in Washington State. After 9/11 all my husband’s colleagues were losing their jobs at Boeing. He was offered to transfer to Arizona and even got a raise. We were so grateful; we bought some flip-flops and packed out suitcases. It’s true the desert is warm, but we love it because you can be outside year round and the people are very kind. Plus, we get to have a pool!

That is a plus! When you get stumped on a storyline, a quick dip in the cool blue must recharge your batteries. You are a Young Adult author. What made you decide to focus on the YA audience?

 I haven’t decided if I never grew up or I just enjoy the stories about teens and young college students. I also mentor a group of ten teen writers and think they are a blast….so likely…I never grew up 🙂

Your book Shackled won the silver IPGA award in 2012, and has been optioned as a screenplay. Congratulations!  Has there been any progress towards a movie production?

 The writers of the screenplay are twin brothers and work together on all their projects plus hold day jobs so I know they face heavy challenges timewise and financially!  Last I heard they were still working on funding, but as I’ve learned from my fellow authors, Hollywood moves at a snail’s pace and is finicky. For now, I’m keeping with my fingers crossed!

We will all keep our fingers crossed for you, too. You published your first book yourself and the next ones show Acacia, and Az Publishing, LLC.  Are the Acacia and Az Publishing your own imprints or small publishing houses? If they are your imprints, what are the issues (legal and otherwise) other authors should know about establishing their own imprint when self-publishing? This is a subject of interest and controversy among indie authors, so I’d love your input. If traditional small publishers, do they do much promotion for you?

Actually Acacia published my first three books but the owner passed away quite suddenly. Her husband shut down the business and released all the authors from their contracts. I then had to republish them on my own and learn overnight how to be a self-published author.  I didn’t start an imprint. I published them under my own name. AZ Publishing was also a small publishing house. I did that by choice, so I’ve never established my own imprint (yet 🙂) What I have learned is that there are benefits to a small publisher just like there are to a large publisher. In fact, many bloggers won’t even look at your work without a publisher behind it. However I’ve almost gotten to a point where I’ve learned enough about the industry that a small publisher doesn’t make as much sense for me. No matter how great they are, they do not have the resources to get the kind of visibility that you need and they take a large portion of the profits. So I was doing all my own marketing and making a fraction of the money. As far as legality goes, I haven’t hit that problem yet. If I did start my own publishing company it would likely be to help other authors, not just myself.

I am excited though, the second book in the Secret Keeper series comes out in March. It is called In the Dying Light and I am going completely Indie. I’ll let you know how it goes.SecretKeeperFrontCover

Please do, we are all interested.  You have a degree in Psychology. Do you feel that it helps you with your writing?

I do! People who love psychology enjoy observing and understanding what makes people tick. Characters are simply made up people and if we write them correctly, they’re layered and broken and fascinating. The Secret Keeper is really a study of human behavior and how we handle our mistakes. That’s what makes it so easy to relate to Winter and Liam. We all wish we could take back some mistake that we’ve made 🙂

Do you have a current project you would like to share about?

I do! As I mentioned earlier the second book in the Secret Keeper series comes out mid-March. The second installment of Winter and Liamin-the-dying-light-Amazon’s story is called In The Dying Light and we get to see what happens after Winter’s bargain with the Secret Keeper. Just like the first book you can plan on some heart pounding and heart wrenching moments! Just for you guys I’m going to share the cover, even though the official cover reveal  isn’t quite yet.

Thanks for sharing, Angela. It was super having you here.

Thanks for stopping to read my interview. Come and find me. I love to connect with my readers.

You can connect with Angela:

Website http://www.angelacarling.com/

Blog http://www.angelacarling.blogspot.com/

Twitter https://twitter.com/angelacarling

Facebook https://twitter.com/angelacarling

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/list/5331346.Angela_Carling

Youtube https://www.youtube.com/user/ThePajamWriter/videos?view=0

Instagram   https://www.instagram.com/angelacarling/

To purchase The Secret Keeper

Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Angela-Carling/e/B006P15NOG/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Barnes and Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/angela-carling

Smashwords  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/541474

bookstore http://www.ibookstore.com/products.php?i=1936037920

As a thank you for stopping by, Angela left you this sneak peek excerpt from The Secret Keeper:

Over and over in my head I repeated, “She can make my secret go

away.” I’m not sure if I was trying to convince myself, or trying to keep myself from going nuts, but the phrase calmed me as I drove.

I found Lejo Street and began the steep climb to the top. The houses in this neighborhood were small. Most were weathered if not completely forgotten. Pines grew too close together. Piles of rusted tools and long-forgotten bathroom fixtures littered the landscape, hidden only by overgrown grasses and neglected Quakies. No wonder everyone thought it was creepy.

My heart rate quickened with the ascent, and my palms left sticky sweat on my steering wheel. I wiped them on my jeans only to have the moisture build up again immediately. Soon there was nothing but dense forest; a blur of green, broken only by the ashen skies above. The rain came down in unyielding sheets and I turned up the windshield wipers.

Back and forth they went like a giant metronome, keeping in step with my nervous heartbeat.

I strained to see out the windows until all at once there was nothing in front me but a large rusted metal gate and a cracked wood sign, painted long ago, that declared, “No trespassing.” Beyond the gate, through the trees and the rain, I saw the pale blue house that the girl in the park had described.

One more time I said out loud, “She can make my secret disappear.”

I’d almost convinced myself now. I had to be convinced, what with the dilapidated house in the middle of nowhere and the stormy weather.

Everything screamed “Don’t go in!” but I was driven to try something, anything, not to lose my best friend and boyfriend.

I climbed from the car and ran until I reached the porch, slipping and having to catch myself as I tried to take the stairs too fast. Light spilled out through a crack in the curtains, letting me know someone was there.

I lifted my hand to knock on the old splintered door and froze. I didn’t know the secret keeper’s name. How would I address her? Before I could decide what to do, the heavily scratched door handle turned and the door opened a crack. My mouth fell open. The eyes that peered through the opening were surprisingly young.

My throat felt tight as I swallowed and it sounded loud to me. I could turn and run. Everything in my gut told me to go, but I stood like a marble statue frozen by my anguish.

“Who are you looking for?” she asked.

Her melodic voice made me think of dozens of wind chimes all tinkling at once. Still, I felt uneasy. I made myself spit out the words. “The Secret Keeper.”

An excruciatingly long minute passed and I thought she might tell me that I had the wrong house or that I should get off her property.

Finally, in a voice no louder than a whisper she said, “Come in. I’m The Secret Keeper.”

Distractions

images writerBefore I retired from my day job a few months ago, my weekday hours between eight and five belonged to my employer. I was forced to be organized and focused in order to write in the small amount time belonging to me. I longed for the day when I could retire and devote myself full time to my writing.

When that glorious day came and I cleared out my desk and said good-bye to my coworkers, I gave myself a couple of weeks to relish my newfound freedom, then, when I was through decompressing, I tried to approach my writing desk like I had my old office; sitting down around 8 a.m. with plans to work until noon, break for lunch, then get back to it. I repeat: that was the plan.

I soon succumbed to the seductive idea of unlimited time. I didn’t need that strict organization or laser-like focus, anymore, so I cut myself some slack. While I simply couldn’t afford to be distracted in my former schedule, now I found myself available to socialize, to start household projects, to stand and chat with the plumber while he fixed a faucet, to linger over my lunch, or take an extra walk when the day was fine. My manuscript grew at a snail’s pace, but my burden of guilt doubled by the day.

Most beginning authors, especially indies, struggle to balance time spent networking on social media and doing promotions with producing more and better content. Surprisingly, that balance is even harder to find for the newly retired. At least, it has been for me.

I’ve discovered two things: one, I don’t need to feel guilty when I don’t write. I write for the joy of it. No one but me is making any demands upon me. (Well, blessedly, some of my precious fans occasionally urge me to hurry up and produce the next book. Thank you!)  My second discovery is that there is no such thing as limitless time. I must set priorities and goals and work on them on a regular schedule, blocking out segments of time off along with the daily word counts.

Of course, these rules don’t just apply to writers.

 

 

 

The Character Sketch

When I begin a new work, or whenever a new character pops up in the narrative, I like to complete a brief synopsis of the character’s background and personality.  This adds depth to the people populating my books, as well as providing me with a place to go to compare what I plan for a character to do or say, so it doesn’t appear “out of character” in the finished work.  The writing software I use, Scrivener, has helpful templates providing prompts about the character being created.

Even though only brief glimpses of a complete character may appear in the story, these sketches provide continuity and a firm foundation for the person’s motivations and actions.

I thought it would be fun to share a bit more of the background of some of the people you meet in my stories, so from time to time, beginning with this post, I will be revealing information from the background sketches of my favorite characters.

Do you want to learn more about one of my characters? Leave a comment and I will be happy to schedule that person for my next Character Sketch post.

It seems appropriate to begin with the character who ties all my work together, the indomitable, Bunny Davis Elder Banks:

Character Name:  Born Leveline Davis – preferred nickname “Bunny”

Role in Story: Protagonist in the Bunny Elder Adventures series, she also pops ups for cameo appearances in the First Ladies Club books.

Occupation: Former pastor’s wife and secretary/reporter on a small town newspaper (Hollow), turned free-lance writer (Seadrift), and  currently an aspiring novelist (First Ladies Club)

Physical Description: Bunny is a petite woman in her mid-fifties with a sweet smile, mischievous blue eyes, and soft honey-blond hair sprinkled with silver and gray. She struggles to combat a tendency to chubbiness by eating less than she’d like, doing yoga and taking long walks.

Personality: Bunny is a devout Christian, constantly humbled by her own disobedience and failings. Nevertheless, she is determinedly optimistic, with a penchant for plain speaking.

Habits/Mannerisms: Constantly looking for the best in people and circumstances often gets Bunny into trouble. Without looking for it, she stumbles into some pretty scary situations involving a varied collection of bad guys who want to do her harm.

Background: Bunny is the youngest of three sisters raised in a small mountain town in Northern California. She married her high school sweetheart, Max. Although this early marriage was short-lived, Bunny and Max were never completely out of each other’s heart.  On the rebound, she married Rev. Eustace Elder. The marriage, though lacking joy, lasted until his untimely death (Hollow), when Bunny had to start over as a middle-aged widow. For a short while she lived in southern Idaho with her sister, Linda (Vain Pursuits) before relocating to the Oregon Coast (Seadrift).

Internal Conflicts: Bunny has all the same needs and desires as any woman. Most of her internal conflicts involve reconciling these temptations with her determination to be faithful to God. Her on-again-off-again relationship with Max is just one her issues.

External Conflicts: Bunny must deal with a deranged serial killer (Hollow), smugglers and the Italian mob (Vain Pursuits), human traffickers and a new love interest (Seadrift), Somali pirates (…and Something Blue), and a kidnapped friend (The First Ladies Club). You might say she has an overabundance of external conflicts.

Notes: Bunny steps out of the books and drops in to host my blog from time to time, as well.

[These Character Sketch categories are taken from the Scrivener software Character Sketch template.]

Interview with Author, Krysten Lindsay Hager

Today I am interviewing fellow author, Krysten Lindsay Hager.

Thanks for joining us, Krysten. We are all eager to get to know you and your work.Krysten Lindsay Hager

Your genres are children, teen and YA values and virtues fiction. What led you to focus your writing for young people? 

I loved reading when I was growing up and so many of the middle grade and young adult books I read then shaped me as a person. I remember reading on my bed one day and thinking how amazing it must be to be the author of the book I was reading and how it must feel to touch people’s lives that way. I always wanted to write a book that did that for someone else and I wanted to write teen fiction since it had touched my heart.

Have you found today’s youth to be receptive to the values presented in your work? Perhaps you would like to share what values and virtues you are trying to promote.

I have gotten a lot of messages from young readers who feel like my characters are dealing with the same things that they deal with, such as self-esteem issues, frenemies, social media influences and self-image issues. My characters talk about things like dealing with feeling anxious, feeling like they don’t fit in and having to conform to fit in and those are all things I dealt with growing up. I want to promote that even though we see certain images in the media, that much of that is false—even your best friends Instagram pics can be modified and filtered to look better than they do in reality. I want teens to realize that their value isn’t in their appearance or the things they own or how popular they are, which is something they are really bombarded with in the media. Being a good friend and having your focus on what’s really important and staying true to your values are the things to pay attention to—not who is dating who and what bag everyone is carrying.

You lived in Portugal for a time. What took you there, and what are your strongest impressions of the place and its people?

We moved to a Portuguese island because of my husband’s job. What I first noticed there was the more laid back pace. People will sit and talk over a cup of coffee for hours and enjoy each other’s company. There was less of a focus on schedules and to-do lists and a slower pace of life. I found that when I moved back to the U.S., you could really see a change in me. I drove a few of my family members crazy because they would discuss the “itinerary” of the day while we were eating and I’d say, “Wait, let’s just enjoy our meal and then we can figure out what we want to do or play it by ear.” I really irritated my aunt with that. It was such a foreign concept to her to not have a plan ready to go.  Religion is a big part of their culture, which is something that I was brought up with as well, so it felt familiar to me and I enjoyed going out on Sundays and seeing that the focus was on spending time with family and friends.

Like you, I’ve lived in South Dakota. Coming from California, I noticed the cultural differences. What are the biggest differences you notice between South Dakota and Ohio, where you now live?

I moved from Michigan to South Dakota and I remember people would stare at my clothes and not in a, “Oh I want to buy that,” kind of way! At the time, that Jennifer Lopez urban style was what was in style where I was living and working, which was between Detroit and Flint, Michigan. So when I moved to South Dakota, it seemed like every time I’d meet someone they’d say something like, “Oh you’re not from around here.” It would make me laugh a little bit. There was a lot of Scandinavian culture there, which was interesting to me. I liked learning about that. I was in a couple of writing groups at the time and at one event I was introduced as the “ethnic” writer. I guess it was because I was working on my thesis about Polish-Americans at the time. When I lived before in Michigan, no one batted an eye when I began my thesis on that, but in South Dakota, it stood out more. Ohio is much more like Michigan in some ways, but I live in the southwestern part and you do feel more of the southern pace here than you do in Michigan.

How long have you been writing? Is it your full-time occupation or do you have another job?

I have been writing for as long as I can remember. I started going to writing conferences straight out of high school. I freelanced and have worked as a journalist, so it’s always been about writing for me. Now my focus is on fiction and other types of creative writing and I seemed to have put journalism behind me, but who knows if I’ll ever go back to it.

How many books have you published?

I have three young adult novels published and two coming out next year. My books are: True Colors, Best Friends…Forever? and Next Door to a Star. My other books coming out are, Landry in Like (out January 12, 2016) and Competing with the Star (out March 22).

Can you give us an idea of your writing schedule?

I don’t have a set schedule. I usually do my business admin side of writing first to get it out of the way and off my mind. I write at night and in the early morning. I edit as I go, which is something a lot of writers prefer to do at the very end when they are finished, but I find it helps me to get back into the story easier if I begin with some editing before I begin to write.

Do you have a current project you would like to tell us about?

I am editing Competing with the Star now, which is the sequel to Next Door to a Star. In this book, we see the growth of my teen character Hadley as she and her new boyfriend form a deeper bond as he confides in her about his grandfather being diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia and Parkinson’s. It brings the two closer together, but then we see people interfering with the relationship and Hadley’s insecurities about never having a boyfriend before and looking at his exes (as well as finding out he had a crush on their friend, a former TV star) really messing with her self-esteem. I love the scenes between Nick and Hadley and the way she navigated through friendships, betrayals and handing her insecurities. She also makes an unlikely friend who has her back through all of it.

Sounds like an interesting book. I’m sure your young readers will love it.

Thank you so much for sharing today. Where can we learn more about you and your work?

Website: http://www.krystenlindsay.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KrystenLindsay

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/KrystenLindsayHagerAuthor

Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/krystenlindsay/

Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.com/Krysten-Lindsay-Hager/e/B00L2JC9P2/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Instagram http://instagram.com/krystenlindsay

Readers, please come back 2/13/16, for my next Second Saturday Interview, when we will be meeting another Young Adult author, Angela Carling, whose latest release is The Secret Keeper, a powerful story of human fallibility, sacrifice, and timeless love inspired by a small town in Heber Arizona. Here’s a little blurb:  

       When Seventeen year old Winter Merrill chose to make a bargain with the mysterious Secret Keeper, she knew there were rulSecretKeeperCoveres. The most important one, the next time you have a secret, you will not be able to tell it….even if you try.
What she didn’t know is that her next secret if not told, would destroy her life and the life of Liam, the only boy she ever loved. Can Winter find a way out of the dark bargain that binds her tongue or will her deal with the Secret Keeper bring devastating consequences unimaginable even to her?