Friday, February 28, 2020

Fiona Lehn : Writing Warriors United Spotlight Author Interview

Writing Warriors United Spotlight Author Interview with Fiona Lehn


  1. What literary pilgrimages have you gone on? Only one, and it was thrilling. After reading Pushkin’s poem The Bronze Horseman, I became fascinated by the Neva River and felt compelled to go see it. Off I went to St. Petersburg. For hours I sat on the bank of the Neva and at the feet of Peter the Great, and I thought of Pushkin’s tale, re-imagining the visions he’d created--ah, so humbling and very magical! 
  2. What is the first book that made you cry? Christa Wolf’s Cassandra. It’s a rewrite of history, told from a woman’s perspective. It’s a story of women and self-determination. When I read it, I had been writing stories with similar themes for years, but I thought I was the only one. Not only was Wolf’s novel amazing, it was touching, affirming, and inspiring to discover that I was not alone. 
  3. Does writing energize or exhaust you? Writing has always been a meditation for me. It grounds me, satisfies me, and helps me make sense of the world and my life in a way that nothing else can. So, I don’t know that I would say that writing energizes me, but it definitely feeds me. 
  4. What are common traps for aspiring writers? I think each writer is susceptible to her/his own peculiar potholes and pitfalls, which makes it hard for me to offer advice. I’ll share some of mine in hopes they may be helpful. Whenever I get an idea that doesn’t fascinate me but which I think will sell well, that’s usually a trap, and I wind up bored and frustrated until I abandon the project. Whenever I try to mold my writing to fit into a specific market, that’s a trap too. I have to be fascinated by the idea, and I have to write the story how I think it should be told. Persistence is also key. Keep sending stories out, regardless of how many rejections pile up. A lack of persistence is definitely a trap. 
  5. What is your writing Kryptonite? My health. I don’t have writer’s block, I don’t have paralyzing fear that my writing is terrible, but I do have severe cognitive and physical limitations that affect my energy, cause chronic pain, and interfere with my language skills. This restricts my ability to write well, to write a lot, and to read. My health slows me down a lot--like Kryptonite, it’s the only thing that can deprive me of my super writing powers!   
  6. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer? My author friends help make me a better writer by offering me merciless criticism and boundless encouragement. They spot storytelling issues in my drafts that I can’t see, point them out to me, and I go in and fix the problems. This makes for a much better story. I also have editor friends who spot grammar and spelling issues. Without my writer and editor friends, I wouldn’t be publishing anything. 
  7. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing? Getting my first pro publication gave me confidence, most of all. I had been writing for over a decade but hadn’t sent much out to publishers. That first publication set me on the path--I suddenly believed there was a market for my work and I might be good enough to get more published. After that, I sent out more and more stories, stuff I’d been writing for years and never believed was good enough. And then I got my next pro sale. I was on my way...
  8. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? Money spent on novels, novellas, and poetry by great writers. I’ve read those creations over and over and they’ve taught me much about writing, about dreaming and creating, and about me. Best money spent, hands-down. 
  9. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power? I became conscious of the power of language after reading stories such as 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and The Yellow Wallpaper. These books demonstrate how rhetoric can affect people and shape societies, and they clearly illustrated the power of language to young me. 
  10. What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel? It’s difficult to choose just one. Benefits by Zoë Fairbairns (1979) is in my top ten of under-appreciated novels. An exploration of women’s lives in a dystopic future Britain, Benefits illustrates the harsh realities that women face as second-class citizens. It also serves as a call to action. Fairbairns’ novel deserves the acclaim that Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has received, and then some. 
  11. As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? A calico cat: playful yet fierce, creative and relentless in pursuit of her goals. 
  12. What does literary success look like to you? To me, literary success means writing the best I possibly can and making a living from my writing. Though it’s rare for writers to make a living from their writing, I never say never. 
  13. What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? Probably the biggest challenge is making them emotionally real, not stereotypes, but I think if you write well-rounded characters, and you have fully embedded them in their culture/world, then the gender is just another facet of each character and easier to realize that way. 
  14. Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction? It might sound corny, but every time I read a book, whether it be fiction or a nonfiction book about the writing process, I read something that changes my thinking about fiction, about how I write fiction, and about what fiction can do—its transformative power. That’s why I feel it’s so important for writers to read, read everything, because it shapes your thinking, shows you possibilities, and leads you in directions you might not ever have gone on your own. 
  15. How do you select the names of your characters? I usually do research into the meanings of names and select something that is relevant to the character’s journey and/or themes.
  16. Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find? Not usually, but I did so in my latest release, Lift-Off. That novella has several “Easter eggs” that only die-hard science fiction lovers will notice and enjoy. 
  17. What was your hardest scene to write? Nothing specific comes to mind. All the scenes are hard, and painful. They are also easy somehow. That’s writing. It’s like devoting yourself to solving a koan. 
  18. What is your favorite childhood book? When I was little, I read all the Nancy Drew books, over and over. I wanted to be her, until I read Harriet the Spy, and then I wanted to be her...
  19. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process? Probably knowing when the story is done. It’s challenging to know when to stop fiddling with it and send it out into the world. 
  20. When you die – what would you like the universe to say to you as you walk into the next life? I’d love to hear a great “Ahhhhhhhh!” like a huge, heavenly chorus that is both beautiful and bone-rattling. And then a booming, “Welcome! Here you will always be healthy and free to create without having to scramble to get your next meal, your rent, or any other Maslownian deficiencies! And then music will blast all around--something epic, like Queen or Muse, perhaps--and I’ll eat chocolate and macadamia nuts, sip maple vodka, and sit down to write... (Yep, the next life will be an artist’s utopia! :-)

FIONA LEHN'S LINKS : 


BOOK TRAILER


https://www.facebook.com/FiFiHermitage/videos/452527895640755/

BUY LINKS


buy now at Devine Destinies: https://www.devinedestinies.com/fiona-lehn/

buy at Amazon : 
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0838RBKDH/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i2
   
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Friday, February 21, 2020

Writing Warriors United Spotlight Author Interview - D.S. Dehel

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I love to travel and try to incorporate research/pilgrimages into my wandering.My favorite one is to Florence to Dante Alighieri’s house, but I have been plenty of other places: to Glamis Castle (Macbeth), to Kells, all over the sites of Cuhulann, all around where Outlander is set. My most recent one was to Venice where Othello begins, but I inadvertently ended up staying near the birthplace of Casanova. If you haven’t read his memoirs, you should. He is quite modern in his approach to women and their sexuality.

What is the first book that made you cry?
A Summer to Die by Lois Lowery. I wept when I read it at the age of 12. I cried again when I had to read it for Adolescent Lit in college. I’d probably cry if I read it now. The funny thing is, I’m not a crier by nature.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?
The actual creation of a story energizes me. It’s the rest of the process that is exhausting.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?
The biggest one I have seen working with young writers is not understanding the sheer amount of revision that needs to happen to a work. It’s never quite finished. The second is that they don’t understand that writing and revising is just part of the process, next comes the synopsis, blurb, query letter, and so on. It’s a daunting endeavor, and I fear many will quit without guidance and support. The third is understanding that rejection will happen. It’s a part of the game.

What is your writing Kryptonite?
If you mean the one thing that keeps me from writing, it’s self-doubt. I honestly thought that once I was published, I’d feel good enough—whatever that means. I struggle with thinking that everything I create is drivel, pablum, crap, however you want to put it. As a result, I don’t see why I should write. That’s a giant hurdle for me.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
From day one with eXtasy/Devine Destinies, I have been surrounded by supportive people. The ones I most often talk to are Maggie Blackbird, V. J. Allison, Cameron Allie, and Taryn Jameson. They act as sounding boards when I need it and keep me focused on the idea that I need to put words on the page. They have also been cheerleaders when I need them, and they share such remarkable resources.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
At first, I simply vomited words onto the page. (There’s an image for you.) Such a writing process has its merit: it gets drafts done, but I ended up with manuscripts that were verbose, uneven, and too long. Revising these manuscripts is like taking a machete to a jungle of vines. I have to cut much before I can begin to fine tune a work. Now, I am much more cognizant of my evolving style. Most advice is to turn off your internal editor. I’ve had to turn mine back on part way.
On a more practical level, I’ve largely abandoned the use of dialogue tags and deepened my POV.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
On good bourbon.
Just kidding. Sort of.
The best money I have spent has been on creating an office for myself. My family—and I—treat writing as work, a job, not just something Mom does in her spare time. I can be more focused and more serious about my work.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I have always been in love with words, after all, isn’t magic created using them?
I can’t cite one specific instance, but I do remember being first confused, then pleased, with the notion that my older cousin didn’t know one of the words I was using. It gave me power he didn’t have.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
That’s tough because there are way too many of them. I’m going to half-answer the question.
My favorite under-appreciated genre is graphic novels, though they are gaining respectability and gravitas. Too many people think that graphic novels are trash, poorly written penny-dreadfuls, but that’s far from the truth. I have had my mind blown on more than one occasion. Is there awful stuff out there? Of course, but the same is true for any genre.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
A cat. A Ragdoll, to be specific. I own one, and Mr. Darcy might seem all fluffy, cute floppiness, but he’ll suddenly take off on a tear and dash around the house, followed by a good nap. That’s kind of how I write. He also has wicked sharp claws—which he rarely uses—but they’re there. Same for me, metaphorically speaking.

What does literary success look like to you?
Like every author, I’d love to be a NYT Bestseller, but really, having someone connect with my work is enough. The two or three times someone has told me they cried over a scene has made me so happy. I once had a beta reader email me several months after reading a manuscript to tell me she was thinking about my main characters because they felt so real to her. Those incidents give me hope that maybe one day I’ll achieve literary fame.

What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
The hardest part is avoiding falling into clichés and over-used tropes. To be honest, I don’t understand how men think, which is why I never write from their point of view. I can’t stand it when a male writes from a female POV and misses the mark completely. I don’t want to be one of those writers.

Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
No one thing has made me think differently about fiction. Each book I read adds a different texture to how I perceive the world. I think the trick is to read widely and in areas outside of my comfort zone. Read both so-called great writers and not so great. It all becomes a part of me as a person and a writer.

How do you select the names of your characters?
I have lists of names pinned on Pinterest, and I’ll search through them until I find one that feels right. For last names, I frequently looked up and scanned the classroom for one I liked. I guess there are perks to being a teacher.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Yes! I think of them as Easter eggs, like in a video game or movie. In Inferno, there are tons of references to Dante’s work. The more you know Dante, the more you will see in my novel, from names to places to events. In my other novels, I often cross reference other works of mine and sometimes other works of literature. I have even had characters appear in other works.

What was your hardest scene to write?
In God of the Sea, Gareth has to leave Ellie behind. (I’m trying not to put spoilers in here.) It feels like a break-up because on many levels, it is. I cried the entire time I wrote that scene. I didn’t want them to be apart, but that’s what had to happen. I felt gratified when a reader messaged me to say she bawled over that scene, too.

What is your favorite childhood book?
I am a voracious reader and always have been, so this is a terribly difficult question. I suppose I will have to define “favorite” as a book I have returned to time and time again and one I have shared with my children. That would have to be Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. It was the first chapter book I remember reading and the first I read to my kids. Even though it is somewhat dated, it perfectly captures being an older sibling.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Not getting distracted by life and plot bunnies. I have so much I want to do that it is overwhelming some days.

When you die – what would you like the universe to say to you as you walk into the next life?
“You did good.” That can be the universe being grammatically incorrect or completely correct. I’ll take either.

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I love to hear your feedback! Leave a comment and let me know what you think and if the post was helpful! If you want more information, or assistance shoot me an email at writingwarriorsunited@gmail.com or ping me on Twitter @AmyJRomine.


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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Wednesday Words of Wisdom ~ You are a Radio so Tune into Universal Intelligence

You don’t attract into your life what you want. You don’t attract what you think about. You don’t attract what you feel. Desires, thoughts, and feelings are all important, but these are more effects than causes.

You attract what you’re signaling.

Think of yourself as a vibrational transmitter. You’re constantly sending out signals that tell the universe who you are in this moment. Those signals will either attract or repel other vibrational beings, events, and experiences.

You naturally attract that which is in harmony with your state of being, and you’ll repel that which is out of sync with your state.

If your energetic self-radiates wealth and abundance, your physical reality will reflect wealth and abundance for your physical being.

If your energetic transmits anger and frustration, your physical reality will again mirror the transmission.

Since the signals you’re sending out at any given moment tend to be fairly complex, your experience of physical reality will be equally complex.

Once you can accept that your vibrational self attracts compatible patterns, it becomes clear that if you want to experience something different in your life, you must somehow change the signals you’re putting out. ~ Unknown

~

I’ve been listening to and or reading a collection of books over the past few months. I’ve mentioned them before, several times.
You Are a Badass Series by Jen Sincero.

First off, no I am not in the Sincero payroll, although if I was yay! I am repeatedly talking about these books because

A.) They are awesome.
B.) They are helping me create a more awesome life
C.) I want you to have an awesome life too
– No this is not a cult, although admittedly I worship Jen Sincero and have a gratefulness alter dedicated to her in my bedroom – just kidding about the altar, kinda.

Back to the words of wisdom. What these words are talking about is Universal Intelligence. And yes, you do know what this is. You have heard about it a million and one times.

Done unto others as you would have done to do
Reap what you sow
What goes around comes around
Give Love, get Love

You get the idea. If you are full of optimism, joy and gratefulness you will receive the same in return. Being optimistic, joyful and grateful in every moment, to the best of your ability (wait, my credit card just got hacked), opens you up to the possibilities and wonders of the world.

Wait, back up – yes, I heard the little voice in your head saying… oh goodness Amy is drinking the cool-aide.

I am going to try and put this as simply as possible.
We all want love, joy, hope, good fortune and options.
How do we get it?
Project joy, hope, good fortune and options.

Be joyful you have three screaming kids in the back of your mini-van at McDonalds. Because they are screaming, which in turn means they are happy, and comfortable in their world enough to feel free to express themselves. Have very healthy lungs and racing hearts determined they will get the toy surprise in the Happy Meal and brag to all their friends.

Have hope in the pouring rain that while making your car needing a good wash and the floors mopped due to all of the mud, the rain will provide the ground the nourishment it needs to bring about the greenery you love, the animals you watch on Instagram and the beautiful world we live in to thrive.

Be grateful in your good fortune. The generosity of others, the nod and smiles of those you pass. The child who opens the door as you walk into Little Caesars for Friday Pizza.

Think about your options, now and in the future. We live in a world of options – just go to Bath and Body Works, and a plethora of scents you can wear to match your awesomeness will deliciously overwhelm you. The universe is the bath and body works of Life!

You create your reality. Vibrate your power, your gratefulness, your badass awesome self (as Jen would say)

Make it awesome and don’t let anyone make you believe otherwise.  

The Badass Books – I picked up the first Badass Book because simply I have always wanted to be one. Now I am.

Love it.
Live it.

Own it.

Thanks so much, Jen!



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Friday, February 14, 2020

Writing Warriors United Spotlight Author Interview - Seelie Kay

What is the first book that made you cry?
Probably Winnie the Pooh. He and his crew were always getting in trouble. Even as an adult I found meaning in the ultimate resolution of his tales. A.A. Milne created characters that simply touch my heart. He always manages to evoke a tear or two.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?
I am a pantser. I write when inspired and I keep pounding away to empty my head of every last detail. I begin energized. When I finish I am ready to crawl into bed and pass out.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Giving up too easily. Being adverse to change. Failing to embrace your muse. Being married to an outline.

What is your writing Kryptonite?
Lack of sleep. I need a clear head to write. When I toss and turn an entire night, no words flow the next day.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I connect with most of my writer friends on social media and they number in the hundreds. As a group, we share a lot of information and ask a lot of questions. The writing community is very helpful and supportive.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
When you write in a bubble, you think your writing is perfect. When an editor gets his/her hands on your manuscript, it is embarrassing how many mistakes you actually made. Not only am I much more careful with what I submit, but I also welcome the editor’s pen. I want only the best to reach the public.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
(Laughs.) The copyright fee. Seriously. If you are going to spend the time writing, editing, and publishing a book, you need to take steps to protect it.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I started writing at an early age. I have a copy of a crayon-written missive to my mother, complaining about an unfair punishment. My mother told me she laughed so hard that I was quickly forgiven. 

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
The Brethren by Bob Woodward. It was one of the first books that provided a modern-day inside look at the U.S. Supreme Court. That book gave a new appreciation for the judicial system and is probably what pushed me to law school.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
Probably Tigger. Always happy. Always bouncing. Always filled with ideas.

What does literary success look like to you?
Knowing that people appreciate my books, whether that comes in the form of a book sale, reviews, emails, or a positive comment.

What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I have brothers and have always had male friends, so it isn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. You just have to be looking through the right lens when writing.

Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
I have learned that it doesn’t matter how you are published, bad fiction is bad fiction. I have read some truly bad books published by major houses and some incredible books self-published by authors. We have a tendency to think books get publishing deals because they are great books. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

How do you select the names of your characters?
I use an old phone book. I select a first name, then a last name. While I am searching, I try to find a name that fits the character.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
People who know me tend to read more into my books than are actually there. I don’t intentionally hide secrets. I think that’s dishonest and can be misleading.

What was your hardest scene to write?
Scenes that involve violence. I am a peace-loving person. I don’t enjoy confrontation and I try not to provoke people. Similarly, I don’t enjoy witnessing abuse or brutality. In fact, it makes me sick to my stomach. So writing about it is difficult and violent scenes tend to stay with me for days after I get them down on paper.

What is your favorite childhood book?
Winnie the Pooh, followed by Harriet the Spy.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Shaping inspiration. I get inspiration from all sorts of things—people, places, events, objects… The difficulty lies in bridging that inspiration into stories. For me, writing tends to be a lot of “what ifs.” Something catches my attention and my mind automatically goes to, “Is there a story there?” Then the “what ifs” begin. Sometimes, they spin off into a possible story. Sometimes, they don’t.
When you die – what would you like the universe to say to you as you walk into the next life? You loved well. Keep it up!

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I love to hear your feedback! Leave a comment and let me know what you think and if the post was helpful! If you want more information, or assistance shoot me an email at writingwarriorsunited@gmail.com or ping me on Twitter @AmyJRomine.

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Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Wednesday Words of Wisdom - Badass Melinda May & Finding Your Toilet Paper Spring

I was innocently watching Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D with my son last night. The S.H.I.E.L.D  team has a huge problem, nowhere to move forward and no way to solve it. “This is impossible!”

 Agent Melinda May looks to Daisy (aka Quake) and says “Number one rule of combat. Take what you have and use it to your advantage.”

This is a line the show has repeatedly used, but last night, for whatever reason, the words hit me like a ton of bricks. So much so, I grabbed a piece of paper and scribbled it down. I went to bed last night thinking about the concept and this morning I am creating social media posts and blogging my excitement.

Are you asking why?

I hope you are because if not, I'm going to tell you anyway…

My adrenaline-filled typing it fueled by several sources. The first being the reinforcement of the notion of people creating their boundaries. We are so busy creating reasons as to why we cannot accomplish something and how impossible a situation seems we forget to look around and use what we do have to the utmost advantage. I used to do this all the time. Seriously, looking back on it is rather nauseating. The I can’t – it’s impossible attitude I used to have is quick to build the walls and close me off from all other possibilities.

Where if we take what Melinda May suggests and look around. We may not have a solution but at the very least we can take a step forward and move closer.
Last year, I went to lunch at my favorite Ramen house here in Tulsa and upon a short visit to the ladies' room found myself locked in the bathroom. It was a single small bathroom. One you lock until you are finished. Well, there was a problem with the lock and when I went to leave the bathroom the door would not open. Realizing I did not bring my phone, and my daughter was probably still surfing social media, unaware of my extended absence. I tried messing with the lock for a good ten minutes to no avail. I pounded on the door, nothing. I thought, okay, what do I have I can use? I started searching my empty pockets, the cabinet under the sink, looking at the walls, the paper towel roll, the toilet paper roll. What the hell could I use to get someone’s attention and or free myself? Then a crazy yet brilliant Idea popped in my head. The toilet paper roll might have a spring.

I removed the toilet paper, revealing the plastic tension roll holding it and removed the spring. Going to the lock I searched for the screws attaching the knob to the door. I twisted the coil with the notion of using it to remove the screws.

Knocking on the door from the outside made me jump. I hear my daughter’s voice “Mom, are you okay?”

Needless to say, I didn’t have to remove the knob from the door. My daughter simply opened it from the outside and I was freed! We told the waiter about the experience, got a free sushi appetizer and a good laugh. My daughter and I were curious if my plan would have worked and when we returned home, we tried it out in our bathroom. Turns out, it would have worked!


While this is more of a utilitarian story, it still rings true. If you have a challenge you're facing, whether it be a locked door, or an evil genius looking to destroy the world, look around, figure out what you do have and use it to your advantage.

I love to hear your feedback! Leave a comment and let me know what you think and if the post was helpful! If you want more information, or assistance shoot me an email at writingwarriorsunited@gmail.com or ping me on Twitter @AmyJRomine.

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Friday, February 7, 2020

Writing Warriors United Spotlight Author Interview - Nathan Everett

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I am a vagabond author, so I am literally on a pilgrimage at all times. I make it a practice to always spot and check out a location I’ve read about if I am near. I think the closest thing to what you are referring to is a trip I made with my daughter and her best friend after we’d read Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons. We went to Rome and tracked down as many sites mentioned in the book that we could. It was great fun and we learned an incredible amount of actual history as well. In writing, I’ve frequently gone places just for research. When I wrote The Gutenberg Rubric, I visited the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany and got to pull a print on a ‘Gutenberg press.’

What is the first book that made you cry?
Stephen R. Donaldson’s The Wounded Land, book one in “The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever.” At the end of the book, the characters end up in the Giant’s town where all the giants had killed themselves in shame over the corruption of three of their number. Covenant creates a Rite of Camora to purge the giants of their guilt and shame. At the time, I thought it was the most beautifully written prose I had ever encountered and it profoundly influenced my writing for many years.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Yes. In general, writing first thing in the morning is the way I start my day and get ready to face whatever challenges it brings. Sometimes, I can hardly stop writing to do such mundane things as eat. There are times, however, when a scene or passage that I’ve written is emotionally and physically so draining I have to take a nap.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I’d have to say the most common trap is not reading what you have written. To some extent, I blame technology. We write on the computer and depend on little squiggly lines to tell us if something is wrong. We write under ‘the influence of the muse’ and have a natural tendency to believe it is inspired and therefore perfect. I cannot even begin to tell you how many stories I’ve read that I’m sure the author never actually read after it was written. This is not just for proofreading spelling and punctuation. When you actually read your work, you will find confusing sentences, duplicated concepts, redundancy, inconsistency, even gaps in the plot, and many other problems. Read what you’ve written!

What is your writing Kryptonite?
‘Research.’ I frequently have a browser with two or three or a dozen tabs open where I’m looking up things like “Camora” (the rite Covenant performed above) and find that I am reading a plethora of information about an Italian mafia-type crime syndicate. A little interruption just to check a spelling can cause long side-trips into subjects I didn’t know I was interested in. I have never, however, had my writing process interrupted by cleaning house, doing laundry, or washing dishes.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
Although we write in starkly contrasting genres, Jason Black is a great friend and influential author as well as an incredible editor. His young adult and children’s books (Blackpelt, Bread for the Pharaoh, Pebblehoof) are great reads and will soon be out in new editions. But Jason has also taught me to read critically and to understand the process of writing. He has edited several of my books and has significantly changed the way I look at what I’ve written. (www.plottopunctuation.com)
I’ve also had the opportunity to read several of Amy Romine’s romance thrillers, some long before they were published. I particularly remember the margin comments one of her editors made regarding dialog attribution. It profoundly affected how I wrote my upcoming release (June 2020) American Royalty 1: Coming of Age.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
My first published book was For Blood or Money back in 2007.I’d written the entire first draft during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and discovered the joy of writing fast. Of course, writing fast wasn’t enough. You have to go back and read what you’ve written and edit the heck out of it. But I got an entire novel written in 30 days. I’ve maintained the process of writing first drafts fast, even if not during NaNoWriMo, and this past year averaged 3,129 words per day in first drafts. For 365 days!

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

A Sears Electric Typewriter. I spent almost $200 of my student loan in 1968 to buy the typewriter. My first short story was written on it as well as all my college papers. It also contributed to the ability to write 3,129 words or more a day by getting my typing speed up over 100 words per minute.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
That’s a tough one because I don’t like to admit that I ever hurt someone’s feelings. But I actually learned that at a very young age when I lost a dear friend through hurting her feelings by something I said. Sadly, it is a lesson I have had to relearn many times.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
Ryan Sylander’s Opus One. (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32066817-opus-one) This is again one of the most beautiful works of prose I’ve read. It not only has beautiful passages about brilliant musicians, it has an incredible sense of passion, both for music and for people. Ryan and I have often laughed about how our works have influenced each other but I am happy to be second to such a master. (Only available as a serial at StoriesOnline.net.)

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
A few years ago, I was searching for a title for the second of my Erotic Paranormal Romance Western Adventures. I was doing research in Laramie, Wyoming when something Jason said to me finally woke me up. He said the first book’s title, Redtail, was not only a type of bird but was a description of a characteristic. That was when I realized my raven would be called Blackfeather. It seemed like the moment I chose the title, my life was filled with Ravens. I drove south from Laramie to southern New Mexico as I wrote the book and it seemed there was a raven sitting beside the highway like a special guardian every five miles along the journey. I was adopted by this symbol of creativity and now wear a raven medallion around my neck and carry a raven engraved worry stone in my pocket. I’m thinking of a tattoo.

What does literary success look like to you?
Readers. I had to really consider that question when I started publishing and at first, like most new authors, success looked like a six figure advance from a major publisher. But the more I considered the fact that I’d been writing for more than thirty years before my first publication, the more I realized I don’t write for a living. I write to live. And the evidence of that is not in sales but in readership and reader engagement. I answer five to fifty emails from fans each week and my lengthy serial Living Next Door to Heaven was downloaded 1.2 million times. Even though it was free, I consider that success!

What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Not being the opposite sex. Much of what I write is influenced by experience. A character’s viewpoint is either influenced by my own or by an interaction. It is very difficult to let go of my opinion about how ‘she should react’ and accept how ‘she would react.’

Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
You do like difficult questions. I believe everything I’ve read has influenced how I think about fiction. And I suppose that reinforces the cliché that writers read.

How do you select the names of your characters?
My mother, rest her soul, loved to collect names. This was long before baby name websites. I have more than fifty typewritten pages of four columns of names. Many of my early works had names selected from her lists. I’ve used various family names (Serepte Allen) for characters. Of course, now it is easy to pick names from a website of family names and have it at least be reasonable for a person from the culture or area of the country that my character matches. Sometimes I look at meaning as well as origin. And sometimes I just say “John” until something better comes along.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Not really. Still I know that some things are written only for myself. A theatre director in my current WIP has his assistant memorize his coffee order: Cream and double sugar. It will mean nothing to anyone else, but it was how my own director in college ordered his assistants to get him coffee.

What was your hardest scene to write?

In the lengthy saga of Living Next Door to Heaven, Book 8 Becoming the Storm, there was a college shooting. One of my favorite characters was killed and five more were seriously wounded. I couldn’t believe I’d killed that beautiful young woman who had so much potential. I was camped along the Oregon coast when I wrote that. I spent a day throwing rocks and screaming myself hoarse yelling at the waves crashing on the shore. I didn’t write another word for two weeks.

What is your favorite childhood book?
I was an avid member of the Weekly Reader Book Club and the first book that became a favorite was Champion Dog Prince Tom. (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/202070.Champion_Dog) Perhaps it was because my dog Buttercup looked a lot like Prince Tom, even though he was a purebred Cocker Spaniel and mine was a purebred mutt.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
The lull between. I have upwards of thirty-five books in the market and when I finish writing one, it is almost impossible for me to wait before I start writing another. I typically have three or four works in progress at various stages. Posting as a serial, editing, rewriting, or drafting. But it is drafting a story that I am addicted to. Taking time off between stories is almost impossible.

When you die – what would you like the universe to say to you as you walk into the next life?
“Wait! You’re dead? I thought you’d never die!”
“I want to live my life in such a way that when I get out of bed in the morning, the devil says, ‘Aw shit, he’s up!’”
Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

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