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What To Do with all Your Isolated Time? Journaling

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Journaling. Do you journal already?  Have you ever thought of journaling? 

The freedom journaling allows you is exhilarating. You can write anything!  Your thoughts for the day. Your fears (about this terrible virus) that you don’t want to share with your family. After all, you’re the strong one, right?  You can make up recipes that you want to try. You can make an outline for a story you want to write. You can try your hand at a little poetry. See? Anything. 

If you’re new at writing, begin by writing your thoughts down. Don’t be judgey. No one’s going to see what you write. Write a story based upon a story from your grandmother or dad. If you’re a new writer, it’s probably going to be bad. You’re not alone. My first stage play that I wrote was pretty awful. My first draft of my first novel was way bad. 

But practice truly does make perfect.  Editing and rewriting and the delete key are really what makes your writing good if you are trying your hand at creative writing. 

If you are journaling in the real sense then there is no “bad”.  Everything you write is good because it comes from you. It frequently takes a load off your mind and your heart.  Write a little something every day. It frees you to express yourself in a safe place that no one sees unless you want to share.

Note to self: Don’t leave your journal laying around if you live with other people. Find a nice safe hiding place for the most private book that you own.

This is a series of three posts about your isolated time and how to fill it. Click here

I have created a series of Journals for different kinds of writing. Click here
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer, March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

  

 

What To Do with Isolated Time. Write a Short Story

I hope you and your loved ones are still staying at home; the best way to avoid catching the virus or spreading it unintentionally. I know it’s boring and scary but we must do it to stem the transmission of this horror virus.

Now about writing; you’ve maybe pictured yourself as one of those who will write a novel “when you find the time”. I know many people who have said this to me when they find out I’m a published writer. I believe that every one has at least one story in them. 
The buyer of a book (in the store or online) take three steps to determine to buy or pass.  They see the cover…hmm..this looks interesting. They flip to the back cover where there is most likely a synopsis of the story. Then the buyer flips to the first page of the story. IT BETTER BE GOOD!  Because that’s your last chance to make them buy your book. The first line of your story needs to grab them. Here’s a list of examples, using all genres. 

‘As I crossed the street I didn’t see the bus bearing down on me. I heard someone scream.’

‘I sat in the prison waiting room about to interview a convicted killer. What would he say to me? More importantly what would I say to him. I’d never met a murderer before. 

“Slow down, Al,” Vi screamed and laughed from the back seat. “You’re gonna kill us.”

‘My first audition since I hit Hollywood and what if I fail?’ Cold sweat slid down my spine. My eye twitched. ‘Next!’ A hard voice called out. 

‘The teacher grabbed my math work book and, marching to the front of the room, read my poetry aloud.’

‘As the saloon doors creaked back and forth, the trail weary cowboys backed away when they saw him saunter in.’

“Mother must be spinning in her grave,” Kitty muttered, as her chauffeur drove up the long driveway to the main entrance of the State Prison.

‘A large scaly head rose out of the muck. Dirty algae hung from the mouth, caught in its large teeth. A single cold,  green eye with dirty yellow flecks in it, stared at me.’ 

Excerpt from Winter of Murder  ©  (first page of the new mystery; I think it grabs the reader.)

“What?” Stella gasped.
“Where?” Raul, her husband, demanded.
“Alaska.” R.J., their first born had just informed his parents that he was going to Alaska for six months. Maybe longer.
“It’s a great opportunity, Dad. Not many internships are offered by this company, especially when I’m not going for a major in geology but to study the impact the mining industry has on spawning salmon.”
“My God. Alaska.” Stella whispered. Being a murder cop in New York City she was not shocked by much but this had certainly knocked her back. “So far.”
“How are you going to live? I hear it’s expensive up there.”
“I get a stipend. Meager but it will buy my necessities. Room and board are provided.”
“I guess we could find the money for your airfare.” Raul always supported his sons in everything they did.
“Not a problem, Dad. I’ve been saving and I’ve already purchased my ticket.”
“R.J! You’re going regardless of what we might have said?”
“Mi amor, R.J.’s a young man now, not your little boy. He’s of age and can go anywhere he can afford to go.” Raul kissed his wife’s temple.
“But, Alaska. And to a rough mining camp? I don’t like this.”
“Mom, it’s no rougher than some of the streets right here in Queens. And look what you do. I’ve spent my whole life wondering if you would be coming home each night.”
“Did you? Wonder? Oh R.J., we tried so hard to insulate you boys from the dangers of my job.”
“We weren’t stupid, Mom. Robbie and I both knew some crackhead could kill you.”
Stella eyes filled with tears. Partly for what her son was disclosing but partly because this beautiful, tall, lean young man before her was her son. And he was leaving for Alaska.
“Mi mujer Policía, it will be fine. Now that I think about it, it is a rare opportunity. To study his beloved sea creatures far inland. I hear the scenery is spectacular.
“When do you go?” Stella asked.
“Next week.”
“So soon.”
“Yes. But, I’ll be back before you know it, Mom. It’s only six months. The time will fly.”
“For you maybe.” Stella sighed. 

The same rules apply here, you have to create rich characters, an arch to the story and a resolution. With a short or long story, you have the liberty to write description for pages and pages. That’s not my favorite type of book; I much prefer snappy dialogue. But that’s probably because I write more dialogue than description. A story does not have the ‘time’ limitations that a stage play has. 

I write out of sequence frequently when writing fiction.  I may be in the middle of the book when the concluding chapters come to me. Especially the Epilogue. So I write it. Why not? I can always edit it. 
Example: (The chapter title lets me know that I created this chapter but won’t be certain where it fits in the story, if I use it at all.)

Sample: New Chapter ??? (c)

Gwendolyn Baxter sat at her desk, her chin in her hand. She had been the student counselor at Bayard for the past eight years. She listened attentively to the woes of a fifteen year old teen seated across from her. Her parents were stupid. Her teacher didn’t understand her. She couldn’t get a boyfriend. She knew her lover would love the looks of this girl. Tall, willowy, blond. Olivia.
“I know how it is with parents. Always on your back about something. Right?”
“You don’t know the half of it.” Olivia sneered. “If it isn’t my grades it’s the length of my skirt. Jeez.”
“Do both your parents work, Olivia?”
“Yes. Sometimes my mom doesn’t get home until late. I have to cook my own supper.” She sighed.
“How are your grades?”
“Average of a B minus. But that’s not good enough for them.”
“That’s pretty good. What’s their problem?”
“Who knows?” Another deep sigh.“Listen, a friend of mine and I are having a little afternoon get-together today. Why don’t you come? His house is just blocks from here.
“Oh, I don’t know⸺”Olivia hesitated.
“He’s very rich and always has gifts for his guests. It’s so lit. Grace is coming.”
“Grace Stern?”
“Yes.”
“We’re friends.”
“She always has a good time. Last week Geoff gave her some Gucci sneakers.”
“Really? That’s straight fire.”

Tune in for Thursday’s post, How To Journal
Did you miss part 1 of this series?
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer, March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

Self-Isolated. What Do You Do with All this Time?

First of all…how are you all doing?  I’m thinking of my readers during this terrible, scary time. The safest thing for you all to do is self-isolate. That’s what I’m doing….I’ve been in my house for three weeks, seeing no one, going nowhere. My groceries are delivered…I spray them down before I touch them or put them away. 

FACT: Refrigeration doesn’t kill the virus.  Did you know the coronavirus can live in your freezer for two years?

What can you do with all of this time that you suddenly have?  Maybe start to write that short play or story that you have rattling around in your head. Now you have the time and quiet to begin writing.  Or perhaps you received a journal, as a gift, and never started writing in it. 
Here are some fun (and helpful, I hope) tips on how to BEGIN.

How To Write A Short Play
Picture walking into a room with three to five people. They are talking and you are walking into the middle of that conversation. That’s how you write a ten minute play or a short play.  You should know these people, how they express themselves, what they’re passionate about.  
Example: 

                                                     GWEN (Whispers.)  © 
Here she comes now.

                                                       SUE
 Look at her…she’s so stuck up.

                                                        GWEN
Who does she think she is?

                                                        SUE (Sarcastic.)  
Big shot on campus…just because she was first draft at the cheerleading try-outs.  I heard she was on the competition team at her last school. Took state.

                                                        GWEN
That’s just a rumor.  I personally don’t think she’s all that good.

                         (BRIDGETTE has gotten close enough to the girls to smile.  HER smile dies when SHE realizes that THEY are talking about HER. SHE                                    averts  her head and walks on by. The GIRLS whisper  just loud enough to be heard.) 

                                                           SUE 
Ice Queen! 

                                                         GWEN 
Like, so cold. The blond ice berg.

                                                          SUE
Look at her….she thinks she’s all that.

(Now. For this exercise, you, the writer, are Amanda. You walk into the middle of a conversation.)

                                                         AMANDA (Entering.)
Hi. What’re you talking about?

                                              SUE
That new girl…Bridgette. She’s so stuck-up. 

                                             GWEN
So stuck up, I can’t believe it. She’s not even pretty.

                                              AMANDA
Well, I wouldn’t say…

                                                     SUE (Cutting her off.)
You know, Debbie lost her spot on the team because of that (Aiming the word at Bridgette.)  beee-ach!

                                                             GWEN (Slightly shocked) 
Sue!

                                                               SUE
Well, she did.  And Debbie’s my friend and I don’t appreciate someone nobody even knows, ruining Debbie’s chances to cheer this year. 

                       (BRIDGETTE continues past, and at a  
                         fast walk, exits. The
GIRLS’ voices  follow HER.)

                                                             GWEN
She’s got no friends. 

                                                              SUE
Well, duh, she’s stuck up.  Doesn’t talk to anyone.

                                                        AMANDA
I’ve talked to….

                                                  GWEN (Interrupting.)
Just ‘cause she’s tall and blond and skinny doesn’t give her the right to look down on all of us.

                                                                SUE
Yeah, who does she think she is anyway?
                                                                                                       ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I can almost promise you that your characters and their dialogue will sweep you down the river of words. It happens to me all the time.  Your ten minute play can go over (12-15 minutes) without much complaint from anyone. You must have an arch and a resolution even though it’s very short. If you find you cannot do this you can create a one act play. About 40 pages.  This excerpt is from a best selling (ten minute) play of mine titled Mean Girls. The play is basically about a form of bullying.  The arch occurs when the mean girls allow Bridgette a chance to join them. The resolution (and end) is they find that Bridgette is not stuck up at all but just very, very shy. 

Tune in for more about writing short stories, journaling and being creative during this stressful time.  Tuesday I’ll blog about writing a short story and Thursday I’ll write about journaling.
Note: I apologize. Word Press doesn’t always hold my formatting. I’m looking into it.  
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer, March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

  

 

Interview with Olivia Hawker, Author (conclusion)

Q. What makes a great writer?

OH. Greatness is so subjective, I don’t even know how to begin answering that question! But it is a question worth asking.
For me, I think a writer is great—as in powerful—when they are fearless. It can be really hard to expose our true emotions and our true thoughts. Most humans fear too much criticism; we fear being shamed and we fear doing things that run counter to our culture’s expectations. So it can be really intimidating for a writer to expose an unpopular opinion or even just to write in a really emotive, vulnerable manner.
It’s so much safer and therefore more comfortable to tell stories that don’t challenge the status quo. You’ll never be shamed for going along with what’s expected of you. In fact, you’ll usually be celebrated for it. I certainly don’t think less of any writer who chooses to stick to what feels safe and comfortable, and there are a whole lot of wonderful, beloved, and frankly lucrative stories in that safe/comfortable zone; a writer can make an entire career, and be wildly successful, by being safe.
But in my opinion, you can’t achieve greatness by being safe or by serving the status quo. And certainly, when we continue to uphold the status quo, we’re directly creating a culture that upholds all the things that go along with it—hierarchies, oppressions, homogenization, the stifling of some wise and brilliant voices.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

OH. Sitting at my desk every day and putting in the work! Those initial days when I know I’ve hit on a shiny new idea and I’m so excited about it—they don’t last forever. With almost all my books, ennui sets in and I start to think of that book as a total drag. I still get it done. I’ve got a mortgage to pay; this is my only source of income and, with my lack of a degree, it’s certainly the only well-paying job I’ll ever be able to get. Better get that book done if I want to keep a roof over my head… and then I’d better move on to the next book as quickly as possible.

View from my desk

When you’re a baby writer dreaming about what it’ll be like to write full-time someday, you never imagine that vast swaths of this profession are just you glaring at your manuscript and thinking, “Ugh, I hate this piece of junk so much.” Much of the time, writing is a job like any other, with the same deadlines and grinds and frustrations and outrages. But as I said before, my worst day writing still beats the hell out of my best day doing accounts payable!

Q. How have your life experiences influenced your writing?

At my desk

OH. Oh my gosh, how have they not? For me, for my writing process (and, I suppose, the process of my inspiration, all the pre-actual-writing stuff) I can’t separate my life experiences at all. Which is kind of funny, because I never write about myself directly. This book I’m working on for Lake Union right now is the closest I’ve ever come to writing about myself, and it’s still not very close to actually writing about myself. I don’t do that thing where I make certain characters avatars for Libbie (aka Olivia)—that’s just not how my brain works. Yet I can so clearly identify exactly which bits of this character or that character are parts of me. And there is a part of me—usually a big part—in every single character I write, even the awful ones.
Really, though, I think that’s true for most authors, though some may not be fully aware of it. We may not have direct experience with the specific situations our characters are in, but we have felt all the same emotions they feel.
 I think the writers whose work really resonates with readers—the writers who become memorable instead of forgettable—are always influenced by their life experiences. How else can you write about life if you won’t allow your own life to influence your work—all of your life, the beautiful moments and the terrible ones?

Q. What’s your down time look like?

OH. I love my garden. I’m always working to expand it and I’m always tinkering with it—adding features, moving plants, improving the setup so it’s more resilient. I spend a lot of time outside with my plants and the bugs and the little garter snakes and the voles who live in my grapevine. I’m sure that answer won’t surprise anyone who has read One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow.

My garden

When weather won’t permit me to frolic among the plants (like right now—it’s snowing and it’s miserable outside) I spin yarn and occasionally I get around to knitting or weaving with the yarn I’ve spun.
I live in a pretty isolated place—my island is at least an hour from the mainland by fast boat, and sometimes the trip takes longer; even then, it’s still a couple hours’ drive to the nearest sizable city, which is Seattle. Way out here, you have to make your own fun, so I do a lot of quiet, introspective things—but I really enjoy the isolation and the solitude. Occasionally the isolation does get to me; I’m only human. Writers need those things at least as much as we need garter snakes and flowers.

Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

OH. Trust your gut. Go where your instincts lead you. There is no one else on the planet like you; only you can tell your story and tell it the way it wants to be told. Listen to the story when it speaks to you. Honor its desire to come forth. Be a brave and confident midwife: Bring your story into this world, and damn what anybody else thinks of it.

Did you miss the beginning? Click here.
Review of One for the Blackbird…
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer, March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

  

Book Review ~~ A Woman of True Honor

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing             5 out of 5 quills    ~~ Book Review 

Delicious! For fans of this genre, that is historic romances, A Woman of True Honor is a must read. Book #8 in this series, Emily Pepper is a merchant’s daughter and an heiress. She has narrowly escaped several fortune hunters trying to woo not her, but her money. And try as her family might, she has not entirely escaped ‘the stench of the shop’. 

Enter Valerian Dorning (of the True Gentlemen series) penniless, but charming and industrious, a true gentleman. He doesn’t have many prospects as a younger son of an earl because titled families are not allowed in be involved in ‘commerce’.  His book is probably not going to be a commercial success, much less read by many. 

How can an heiress and a younger son with pockets to let find their way to happily ever after.  And this is exactly where ‘delicious’ comes in. I LOVE Grace Burrowes’ style of writing and her effortless storytelling. This one is not to be missed. 

Did you miss my interview with this author?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   January: David Poyer, March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

  

 

Book Review ~ Red Mountain Burning

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing5 out of  5 quills      ~~  A Review reviews, authors, writing

This trilogy (Red Mountain, Red Mountain Rising) is spectacular! Red Mountain Burning, while touted as the end of the series, really doesn’t tie it all up. Full Stop! End of story. (literally). So I hope this author realizes that and he finds the true ending in a fourth book. But that wish is only from a truly selfish reader and fan. I, like many other fans of Boo Walker, want more of Brooks, Otis, Joan, Jake, Margot, Emilia, , just to name some. 

The trilogy is so well written with deep characters fleshed out into real people that we know or have known.  The vines become a character in themselves in all the books. I as a reader, cared deeply about the vines doing well and the harvest being excellent. When Otis’ barrels are crushed, I was sick with regret for him and his wine. 

A word about the cover (which I rarely mention): I must take issue with it. While dynamic, it gives away too much of the story. After seeing the cover, the reader is distracted waiting for the story to get to the ‘burning’ of Red Mountain. But what a great story!

I highly recommend this book. The writing is superb, the characters well drawn; eccentric, entertaining, frustrating, and charming. Boo has relocated to Florida, in real life, and it will be fascinating to see what (if any) characters from Red Mountain follow him.
A new book is slated to be released in August this year.   

Did you miss my Interview with Boo?
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer, March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

  

 

 

Interview with Author of ‘One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow’

TS. We continue here with part 3 of this fascinating look into Olivia Hawker’s writing process. 

Q. You mentioned, in your bio, that your novels were inspired by ‘true stories from your family tree.’ Can you tell us about that?

OH. I love genealogy (a holdover from my Mormon days) and I’ve gone down some wild rabbit holes while doing genealogical research. You can find the most fascinating stories in old journals and typewritten versions of families’ oral histories. And if you know how to read between the lines of certain kinds of genealogical records, you can uncover a lot of “silent” stories, too—information your family members probably wanted to keep hidden. For example, I’d read during some of my research for a forthcoming novel that there were a few women among the early Mormons who had multiple husbands (men having multiple wives is a well-documented and well-known fact.) By reading between the lines of some interesting church marriage records, I was able to figure out that one of my own ancestors was a woman who was married to four different men at the same time. Get it, girl!
But the two books I’m referencing in particular are The Ragged Edge of Night and One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow. Ragged Edge is about my husband’s grandfather, who was a former Franciscan friar and a music teacher living in a tiny village in rural Germany during World War II. He got involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler… as one does. His real story made for some pretty gripping fiction, so I didn’t have to change much in order to write an interesting book.
Blackbird is much more loosely based on fact, but I did find the core of that story in a family tale of adultery, death, and the forced cooperation of two women who really, really hated each other’s guts, but had no choice but to work together if they wanted to survive out on the Wyoming frontier. I changed a lot to make Blackbird what it is.
It just goes to show that you can write fiction that cleaves very firmly to facts or you can get more creative and free-wheeling with it—there’s room for either approach in the market.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

OH. I typically discover titles before anything else. I’ll just be going about my day, minding my own business, and sometimes a title for a new book will explode into my head and demand my all attention. I keep a little notebook with me at all times, and I jot down all these title ideas in that notebook. Over months or years, one of my many titles will sort of step out of that general fog and say to me, “I’m your next book. Me. This one. It’s my time now to come into the world, so you’d better get to work and start making me.”
After the title tells me it’s ready to become a book, it starts telling me what it wants to be about, thematically—what message it wants to convey to the world. Once I understand the theme and overall tone (or atmosphere or mood) of a book, then I can create characters who will serve the theme and the tone. My characters are all little handmaids and man servants to the story. I make them be whatever I need them to be, in order to carry the book’s message effectively to readers and present it in a way they’ll understand.

My garden

So for example, I’d known for years about this family story of adultery on the Wyoming frontier, and the two women who hated each other but were forced to live together anyway. I didn’t start writing One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow until that title (which had been lurking in my notebook since about 2014) told me it wanted to be about death—how death is a natural and necessary part of life, and how, by disconnecting ourselves from and denying death, humans have made themselves strangers to nature, and that separation from nature has damaged our psyches and sickened our societies. We can only heal ourselves and our world by accepting that our rightful, humble place is within nature, not set apart from it as a conquering and domineering force. And we can’t accept our place within nature until we accept the realities of death.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

OH. Watership Down. I’ve always liked rabbits, so my dear sweet dad—blundering goofball that he was—thought it would be a great idea to show me the film adaptation when I was a little kid. A really little kid. I don’t know how old I was exactly when I first saw it; I must have been about five years old. That’s probably way too young for a kid to be exposed to that film. 

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

OH. I’m not sure. Maybe. I think it depends on what “getting lost” means. I certainly enjoy writing very much. There’s almost nothing I’d rather do on any given day than write, but sadly, I have maybe three or four good hours in me per day before my brain just vapor-locks and everything goes downhill. I usually revel in those few hours, though, and enjoy them. I get very emotionally invested in my work while I’m actively writing it. I cry A LOT while I write. I cry so much; it’s kind of embarrassing. But I figure that’s a good thing, you know? 

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

OH. I’m always working on something! I just wrapped up my longest, most complex historical novel to date. I’d been working on it off and on for seven years, but only recently did that book jump up and tell me to focus on it exclusively until it was finished. Now it’s off to my agent; we’re hoping to sell that book to a major publisher this spring. It’s set in the Burned-Over District of the Northeast United States during the 1830s and 1840s—a fascinating time in American history, both from a political and a cultural perspective, but it’s a setting I don’t see explored often in fiction. And I’m finishing up my next novel for Lake Union Publishing. It’s set in rural Idaho during the 1970s. On the surface, it’s about a family of artists who are struggling to manage their tricky relationships while also struggling to carve out careers, but since I always write to serve an underpinning theme, it’s really about the intense and unique love creative people feel for those who inspire their work. 

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

OH. No; I think paper books will continue to be produced for a long time yet to come. But they have already begun to occupy a new place in the market. I think of them as being analogous to vinyl records now.

Q. What makes a writer great?

Join us next week for the conclusion of this great Interview!
Did you miss the beginning? Click here.
Review of One for the Blackbird…
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer, March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 
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Review of A Silent Death by Peter May

reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing                            4  out  of  5 quills        Book  Review    

 

Peter May weaves a wonderful tapestry of murder in his upcoming offering of The Silent Death.  Set in sunny Spain, the author takes the reader onto the narrow, dusty streets of small towns perched on the cliffs of the Mediterranean. His authentic descriptions are based on his personal experiences. (Did you see my interview with Peter?) The author ‘winters’ in Spain every year. 

This reviewer does not write spoilers. But I will say that May’s story and the spectacular subplots takes the reader into the world of darkness and silence of people afflicted with deafness and blindness. The reader comes to deeply care about the character, Ana and the danger she knows she’s in but cannot hear or see it. And learning about ‘touch sign language’. Something which I had never heard of

The author in Spain

but found extremely fascinating.  

May always delivers, bringing the reader into a complex story of true crime and law enforcement. 
I highly recommend this book to my readers.

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer, March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

  

 

 

Interview with Author, Olivia Hawker (part 2)

TS. ‘Many years ago I began receiving INTERVIEWS with other authors, famous and not so famous. My goal, at the time, was to discover what processes other authors were using when writing. When I started posting these interviews I had no idea the range of methods I would discover. I wanted my interviews to be intimate; to uncover not only the author’s practices but to hopefully have the author share confidences with us. Olivia Hawker is one such author. Not in my wildest dreams would I have believed that the authors would be so generous with me and my readers.’

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

OH. Oh my goodness, that’s a fraught question for me. I won’t tell you why. I’ll just primly state that yes, I do have special rituals for my writing.
Some of the rituals I’ll tell you about include making play lists that suit the mood of whichever book I’m working on. But I can’t listen to any music while I’m writing—that weird sound-processing issue again—so instead I listen before I sit down to write for the day. Sometimes I’ll go for a drive around the island listening to my playlist, and then head back home and go up into the loft and start writing before the day gets away from me.
Another ritual I’m comfortable sharing is to check in frequently with my instincts and then TRUST THEM. I take intentional pauses in my work to really deeply inquire of myself whether this piece feels like it’s headed in the right direction, whether it’s doing the job I want it to do and sharing the specific message I want to share with the world. And whenever I get the slightest idea that this aspect or that isn’t quite right, or when I feel like something needs to be added—even if I don’t know WHY just yet—I trust that instinct and I do what my gut dictates. I don’t use beta readers. In my opinion, they aren’t really necessary for any author—though beta readers certainly can help you learn how to improve your work faster than you might learn on your own, and that’s tremendously valuable. Betas can also teach you how to take a critique and how to apply criticism to your writing: Also an extremely valuable skill. But I’ve seen too many fellow authors get so hung up on their own insecurities that they can’t do anything without the approval of a beta or two. They become so dependent on external feedback that they never learn how to listen to internal feedback—and then, I believe, there’s a real danger of losing that author’s unique, individual voice. So that’s why I trust my gut, why listening to my instincts and trusting myself are actually parts of my writing rituals.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

 OH.  I could tell you just about anything and it would be something people don’t know! I’m not a well-known author yet, though I’m successful in my profession.

 I’m comfortably mid-listing at the moment, about as far as you can get from being the kind of author about whom things are known.  But I’m very happy with that; it’s absolute bliss to get to write full-time and share my stories with the world. I suppose I can tell you that I really love spinning wool and weaving—it’s such a meditative hobby, great for chilling out—so fiber prep, spinning, and weaving usually sneak into my writing one way or another. I also love collecting antique pottery and china, and those are also things that tip-toe into many of my stories. I’m learning how to throw pottery on a wheel at present. I’m not very good at it yet!

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

OH. Most days, I write from about 7 – 11 am. Those are the hours when my brain seems to work best. But when I’m under a tight deadline, anything goes. I’ve pulled 14-hour days in the past. I don’t recommend it.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

View from my desk

OH. Stop procrastinating! Okay, serious answer: Remind yourself that your book isn’t going to write itself. It doesn’t do you any good to sit around dreaming up every single detail of your plot and all the action and every line of dialogue. You’ll forget most of what you dream up, anyway, unless you write it down, and if you’re going to write down notes, you might as well just write the damn story.

And the advice to interview your character or to make lengthy dossiers that include everything about your character’s past and present and future… Bah! It drives me nuts when I see people recommending such things to struggling writers. It won’t help, because most of what you cook up during exercises like these are irrelevant details that will have no bearing whatsoever on the actual story you’re trying to tell. You’re only wasting your time, and odds are good that you don’t have a lot of time to waste—you probably work a day job and/or have kids or other relatives to care for, or myriad other obligations. It’s hard to carve out time to write. Don’t squander it on something that won’t make you a better writer. Ultimately, at the end of all these various procrastinations, you’re still going to be looking at a blank screen. Fill the screen with words. Don’t be afraid of your own words. They’re yours; you’re in control. Usually writers stall this way because they know, either consciously or subconsciously, that what they’re going to write isn’t going to live up to the vision they have in their heads. Their stab at a scene or a chapter or an entire book is going to fall woefully short of what they’re picturing the final product will be. And whatever they produce will certainly not be as good as all the writing out there that they admire so much—the published works they’ve read, written by their favorite authors.
Well, of course your writing is going to suck! That’s fine! If you could see the unfinished works and the rough drafts your most-admired authors produce, you’d faint from shock; they’re terrible. The final products we see when we hold a print book in our hands, or when we open a favorite book on our e-readers or listen to a favorite audio book… those are FINAL products. They have been refined considerably by several rounds of edits with professional editors. There was probably also a whole swath of time where the author didn’t look at that book at all for weeks or months or years, and then came back to it with fresh eyes so they could see where to make improvements. I promise you, the first version is always awful… for everybody. And even if some other author’s first version of a manuscript is, like, ten thousand times better than what you can write at present, I guarantee you, that author looks at their first draft and says, “Yikes. Well… it’s good enough for now.”
My best-selling book so far, The Ragged Edge of Night, hit a couple of bestseller lists and was optioned for film and nominated for a few important awards and has been praised by many generous and lovely readers as a fine piece of writing. If you could have seen the first version I turned into my publisher…! The final two chapters were real pieces of poo, and I knew it. I actually included a little note to my acquisitions editor that said, “Listen, I know the last two chapters are just flat-out terrible. But at least you can see the broad strokes of how the story ends. We can fix those last two chapters in dev edits.”
So believe me, O Ye Procrastinating Writer, what you’re going to write is going to suck, and WELCOME… welcome to the brotherhood/sisterhood of Real Writers. Maybe you think Real Writers never struggle or doubt themselves, and definitely never say “Fudge it” and turn in total garbage. But we do all of those things, all the time. It’s okay that your work isn’t perfect yet. It’s okay that it might take a while and lots more practice for your work to get a little bit closer to perfect. The only way to start moving in that direction is to practice, so type one terrible sentence and then type another terrible sentence, and just keep going until the terrible recedes and you can start to see some good stuff emerging. It will emerge, if you put words on the screen. But it can’t emerge until you actually do the work and WRITE.

Q. You mentioned, in your bio, that your novels were inspired by ‘true stories from your family tree.’ Can you tell us about that?

Don’t miss Olivia’s answer in Part 3 of this insightful interview March 13th.
Read my review of “One for the Blackbird…”.
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer, March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

  

 

Interview with Author, Olivia Hawker

TS. I always ask for a  brief biography by the author as a warm up to my interview. Operative word ‘brief‘. If what I get is too long or contains boring credentials, I can then edit/shorten it. Following is Olivia Hawker’s bio, untouched by me. It reads more like a friendly letter to her fans and her readers. I hope you, my readers, enjoy it as much as I did. 

OH. I live in the Pacific Northwest, in the San Juan Islands, but I grew up partly in the Seattle area and partly in eastern Idaho. After my parents divorced, I spent the school years in Seattle with my mom and the summers out in the middle of nowhere with my dad. Childhood ties to the Rocky Mountain region persist in me, and I often write about the West. It’s one of my favorite and most often-recurring subjects.
My dad’s side of the family is Mormon, and I was raised in the Mormon religion—another theme that comes up frequently in my writing, even though I am no longer Mormon (or religious at all.)
I knew from the time I was a tiny kid that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. Both of my parents encouraged my enthusiasm for the arts, and I was never told I had to have a “backup plan” because a writing career was “impractical.” My dad and my grandpa were both professional artists (painters), so I got to see successful careers in creative fields modeled for me from the time I was a baby. I think I’m incredibly fortunate in that. So many people are told that writing (or any other creative profession) is too impractical to pursue, so they give up before they’ve even begun, or at least they start out with a lot of self-doubt and too much caution. It makes me shudder to think of all the great talents and brilliant voices we’ve missed out on because these creative people were told by their families to pursue something “practical” instead of the art forms that called to their spirits. How many CPAs and dentists out there should have been writers or painters or dancers or musicians instead? Of course, those not-so-creative jobs are critical and important, too, but our culture and our world are hurting right now for understanding and expression. We need more artists, not fewer—and I feel so much gratitude that I was never discouraged in my choice of career, and that I saw with my own eyes that creative fields can lead to stable careers. That empowered me to go for it and pursue my dream of becoming a full-time writer for as long as it took to make it happen… which, as it turned out, was a very long time!
I didn’t go to college for writing or for anything else. I wanted to go very badly, because I value education and knowledge so highly. But my family couldn’t afford to pay for it, and I didn’t think it was wise to take on a lot of student debt just for an MFA or an undergrad degree in creative writing or English lit. I suspected that those degrees wouldn’t get me closer to my goal in any practical sense. Again, I had the benefit of my father’s art career as an example. He was self-taught, so I reasoned that I could become a successful self-taught author, too. I think I made the right decision, given the economic and social options available to me at the time, but now I’m a big advocate for tuition-free college so that no young person will ever have to make the heartbreaking decision to forego that dream ever again.
I always like to make it clear to people that I didn’t go to college and I am self-taught, because I think the arts (writing included) are one of the few professional arenas where those who’ve had the privilege of higher education and those who have been denied that opportunity can truly stand on a level playing field and be real peers. I have built a strong, robust, resilient profession for myself, and I earn a good living from my writing. I think it’s important for young people (and older people!) who are struggling with these difficult financial and educational dilemmas to know that it really is possible to be successful and respected in your field, and to love your life wildly, even if you can’t manage college.

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? (shed, room, closet, barn, houseboat….) Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

OH. A. Nowadays I’m fortunate enough to own a lovely little house with a cool loft over the garage. My office is in that loft. It’s narrow as all heck, but I love working there! My writing desk is right in front of a window that looks out on an incredible view of local meadows with lots of wildlife, Griffin Bay, Lopez and Orcas Islands, and Mt. Baker. I’m really inspired and soothed by nature, so it’s such a benefit to my work, to be able to look up from a screen and see all that incredible natural beauty spread out in front of me. My view really has it all: water, islands, trees, fields, one of the most majestic mountains in North America, and critters passing by. I love to watch the light and weather change over that incredible landscape while I’m working. (More)

Don’t miss Part 2 on March 6th.
Did you see my review of One for the Blackbird…?
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer, March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!