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We’ve Lost One of the Great Writers

Dorothea Benton Frank

TS.  By now fans around the world have heard about Dorothea Benton Frank’s passing earlier this month. A rare blood cancer swiftly took her life at age 67. When I interviewed Dorothy Benton Frank back in 2015 it was a large feather in my cap as I had been a fan for decades. I found her warm and friendly, much like her stories. As a tribute to this wonderful story teller, I have resurrected that interview so that we might once again enjoy her humor and inspiration. You and your stories will be sorely missed, Dorothea.

The interview

dottie.lowcountry.5

in her office

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

A. I write in my office in my home in NJ or in my office in my home in SC. My dream work space would be to occupy my little office in SC full time. This cruelty of this past winter’s plummeting temps, deep snow and black ice has cured me of any desire I may have had to remain in NJ. It’s not that I have anything against NJ. I have had many wonderful years here. It’s that I’m trapped indoors for months. But check back with me in a few years when I finally do reside in SC and hurricanes have me screaming for higher ground. Is anyone ever completely happy?

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

New Release 2019

A. Water. Solitude. My work space is neat and tidy in chapter one. By the end of a book it looks like someone dropped a bomb on my desk. Usually I dress for work the same way you would if you reported for work in a very casual corporate environment.

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

A. The nuns who taught me in high school told my parents I wasn’t “college material.” Nice, right? In 1970, parents believed teachers, especially clergy, as though their words were spoken Ex Cathedra.

Q. Do you have a set time each day to write or do you write only when you are feeling creative? 

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The book that started it all….stories about the low country>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

 

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs  September: Alan Foster (sci-fi) and October: Kristina McMorris
 
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Book Review~~Allie and Bea

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 5 out of five quills      A Review

Allie and Bea by Catherine Ryan Hyde is breathtakingly beautiful. Once again the author takes two unlikely characters and puts them together in such a way that the reader doesn’t question how or why it happened. It becomes believable and a delightful read. 

I could especially relate to Bea. Senior citizens are mostly only a social security check away from destitution. One little thing can tip the scales. And since I avoid writing spoilers, at all costs, that’s all I’m going to say. 

The story is crafted by this author, word by word. It had everything for this reviewer. Struggle, pathos, heartbreak, friendship, love, and a surprise ending.
My favorite book in the world is Hyde’s Have You Seen Luis Velez? but Allie and Bea runs a very close second. I loved this story!
A must read!

Did you see my Interview with CRH?
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs  September: Alan Foster (sci-fi) and October: Kristina McMorris
 
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Book Review ~ Oysterville Sewing Circle

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   5 out of 5 quills ~~ A Book Review 

Domestic violence is when a husband or boyfriend physically abuses a mate and only in the privacy of their home. Right? Wrong. Who would have thought that the bigger than life, extraordinarily beautiful models strutting down the runway, would be hiding a dirty little secret? And had the bruises to show for it? You don’t imagine their life filled with anything but exotic locations, Krystal Champaign, fancy yachts and handsome escorts.

In Susan Wiggs’ newest novel, The Oysterville Sewing Circle, she explores the fashion industry and the mental and physical abuse that regularly occurs there. But, oddly, this is not a dark story. It’s filled with love and hope and two of the most adorable children you could ever hope for. 

The characters are well drawn. The reader is rooting for Caroline and the two orphans from page one. Sewn into the fabric of the tale is a wonderful love story. And redemption for the survivors of domestic abuse. 

As my readers know, I don’t write spoilers in my reviews.  For me it’s all about the story and the writing. Susan Wiggs never disappoints. Her latest offering is filled with surprises, twists and turns. I highly recommend this book. 

Did you catch my Interview with Susan?

For more information about domestic violence:
#MeToo
www.thehotline.org
1-800-799-SAFE
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs and September: Alan Foster (Sci-fi)
 
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Interview with Best Selling author, Susan Wiggs

TS. Susan Wiggs’s life is all about family, friends…and fiction. She lives at the water’s edge on an island in Puget Sound, and in good weather, she commutes to her writers’ group in a 21-foot motorboat. She’s been featured in the national media, including NPR, and has given programs for the US Embassies in Buenos Aires and Montevideo. She is a popular speaker locally, nationally, internationally, and on the high seas.

The author is a middle child, a library enthusiast, a former teacher, a Harvard graduate, an avid hiker, an amateur photographer, a good skier and terrible golfer, yet her favorite form of exercise is curling up with a good book. She lives on an island in Puget Sound, where she divides her time between sleeping and waking.

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

SW. I write all over the place and always have. On the patio, on the sofa, on the ferry, on planes and boats…pretty much everywhere. I write when I travel. A good portion of The Oysterville Sewing Circle was written during storm season in Ilwaco, WA, close to the historic town of Oysterville. I learned early on that I can write anywhere. For me, the place is not as important as a good span of time to focus.

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.)

SW. Oh, where do I begin? Clairefontaine grid-ruled notebook—check. Sheaffer fine point fountain pen with peacock blue ink—check. Mariage Freres French blue Earl Grey tea—check. Lenny (spirit animal)—check. After my first handwritten draft, I read the copy into WordPerfect. then edit on screen. And then print off that draft and edit by hand. It’s a messy process, but I’ve been at it for 30+ years and it seems to be working. The actual writing never gets easier, though. Every book is its own unique challenge.

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

SW. I’m left-handed, a middle child, I speak French, I have several art pieces by Dr. Seuss, and I’m working on an unauthorized screenplay about his life.

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

SW. I try to do the “heavy lifting” (composition, revision) first thing in the morning before the internet wakes up to distract me.
Emerging writers often lament that they don’t have time to write. I’m not having it. You make time for what’s important to you. There was a time when I was a full-time teacher with a small child, a house, dogs, etc. And yet I still wrote 2 books per year. My writing session began at 9pm after a full day. I’m grateful that I don’t need to do that these days, but the point is, it can be done. It’s all in the motivation.

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

SW. Do as I say, not as I do! Minimize distractions and set realistic goals for the day. Decide you’ll write a scene, or a minimum number of pages (3 or more is good). Try not to get lost in your own process, “plotting it out” should not take six months.

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

SW. It varies from book to book. In The Oysterville Sewing Circle I discovered Caroline in bed next to me. My husband Jerry is an apparel designer, and I wanted to write about his world. The story took a dark turn, however, as I interviewed women in the industry who dealt with workplace harassment and worse. Their stories fueled one of the most heartfelt novels I’ve written—the explosive issues around domestic violence and the drama and healing that can result when women come together.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

Part 2 of my interview with Susan ~~ August 23rd.
Book Review for The Oysterville Sewing Circle ~ click here

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs and September: Alan Foster (Sci-fi)
 
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NEW Journal…How To Write a Play

My newest Journal created for aspiring and established PLAYWRIGHTS has just been published and can be found in your favorite bookstore. 

245+ lined, blank pages for your writing PLUS Sections with instructions on ‘how to‘. 

Section 1……How to Begin… 
Section 2……How to Write a Play… 
Section 3……Creating Rich Characters…
Section 4……Story Telling 
Section 5…… How to Block… 
Section 6…… Snappy Dialogue… 
Section 7…… Set Design… 
Section 8…… Formatting your Play… 
Section 9…… Terminology..

To Purchase 

Other custom journals for your journaling pleasure: 

Writing Tips: Prequels and Sequels

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Recently I’ve returned to the Fabled Forest  writing a new book for the series of children’s books.   
Emma and the Aardvarks will address endangered species when two sisters, aardvarks, arrive unexpectedly in the Forest. Just when I think a series has run its course another book pops into my head. 

I write fables (not fairy tales) with a lesson in every story. Subjects like bullying, running away, being different, ecology and so on. 

For you new writers:  A sequel, of course, is a new story that continues (almost) where you left off in the last one. It has reoccurring characters and the scene is usually the same as in my forest. 

A prequel is a story of what happened before your current book.  For example: I might write a story about Emma’s life before she entered the fabled forest and met all her mystical friends.

Is there a prequel or sequel to a story you have written? I’ll bet there is. This idea is very popular with readers. If they like a story, they want more of the same.

GIVE IT TO THEM! 

 

Cinderella's stepsister stumbles into the Fabled Forest clearing

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde
 
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Need a Journal for the Creative Writer?

My dear readers and fellow creative writers, don’t forget about the wonderful journals that I have created just for you.

250+ lined, blank pages for your writings, musings, and ideas. Each blank page is embedded with an inspirational quote from a famous author, writer, actor or director.  Some ‘how to’ sections (from me) to help and inspire you to get started; either writing your first short story or beginning that new novel you’ve been prevaricating about.

How To Begin
That All Important First Sentence 

How to Choose the Subject of your Story or Playtest
Formatting your Play
How to write Dialogue
How to Create Rich, Exciting Characters for your Novel
Story Arc

“I wanna write!” “I’ve got a story.” “I’ve always wanted to write.” 
Writers write!  Full stop. Period.

 

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…and for expectant Mommy

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning, April: Poet, Joe Albanese and May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire,  July: Catherine Ryan Hyde
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Book #1 (of 10)

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New Short Play: Drop the Phone

Newest in the collection of ten minute plays for teens and the classroom. 

                        What would happen if you put down your phone for a half an hour and had a real conversation with another human being? Now lets mix it up further; sit down and talk to someone in your class who you don’t really know that well or at all. Are they who you thought they were? Were they surprised about who you are? This one act play, styled for the classroom (no sets, no costumes, no props), has a group of teens who do not tweet, email, Facetime or chat on their mobile devices for one half hour. They must TALK to each other, face to (real) face.  What did you learn about the person? What did you learn about yourself? 

5f. 4m.

To Purchase

Click here to see all 40 short plays

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   February: Film Maker, Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese
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Best Seller

 

Author of The Colonel and the Bee Joins Us, (part 2)

Q. Tell us about writing The Colonel and the Bee. Not so much the cerebral process but more your ‘gut’ instincts, the fairytale (but not quite) fantasy idea of it.

PC: I definitely wanted to straddle the line between fantasy and reality, so that the most extraordinary events in the book are implausible but not impossible (though that’s definitely strained). The idea was to have a whimsical journey you could almost believe is true. I tried to portray a world worth exploring that conceals surprises and treasures for those willing to venture out into it. It is definitely a halcyon view of the time period (though not without its villains and pitfalls), eschewing any too-heavy issues/events because it’s meant to be an adventure viewed through the romantic eyes of explorers. I love historically accurate books and I love fantasy books, this one just happens to trend toward the latter.

Hot air ballooning over Africa

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

PC. If you mean ‘get lost’ in a total-immersion way, not as much as I’d like to. I’m working on that. I do sometimes ‘get lost’ in a plot sense, especially in the middle of stories. When that happens I try to look back to the most core elements of the story for direction. If those aren’t there, then something is really wrong. Never fun to get halfway through a first draft and have no access to your own story.

Q. Do you have a new book coming out soon? If so tell us about it.

PC. I recently finished a sort of cozy mystery set in a 1980’s Midwest neighborhood. It starts with a goat murder and gets weirder from there. I’ve been pitching it was a suburban thriller plot à la Liane Moriarty, set in Ray Bradbury’s halcyon Midwest, with a hint of Neil Gaiman fantasy thrown in for good measure.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

PC. Screenwriting in my early 20’s, novel writing in my mid/late-20’s.

Q. How long after that were you published?

PC. I was 32 (self-pub/indie-pub).

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

PC. Not a chance. Most articles I see these days are about them making a resurgence. I think everyone got a little uneasy when e-readers initially came out, but each format has its own virtues and limitations. I think they’ll continue to find their equilibrium with one another (at least until whatever’s next comes along…)

Q. What makes a writer great?

PC. The cliché of ‘a good story well told’ seems to hold true. For me its also clarity and mastery of craft, creativity in linking previously independent ideas, brave but intentioned prose, portraying simple things elegantly or elegant things simply, and telling the truth in a compelling and memorable way.

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

PC. I accumulate ideas for a long time, usually a few years, constantly adding to a document on my phone/computer (always write ideas down, you will 100% forget some of them otherwise). When the story is ready, I’ll do any required research and translate the document of random ideas into a semi-coherent, narratively chronological outline. Off that, I write a first draft in as short a time as possible (I think inertia is important with first drafts), then take as much time away from it as possible for objectivity before the first revisions. Last, I get feedback/outside editorial input and revise, revise, revise.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

PC. Almost everything seems to find its way in somehow. I think more time lived equals more to draw from, so I’m always up for new experiences.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

PC. I think I’ve watched The Office (US version) about 50 times. I’m always trying to read more too (audiobooks are a godsend in LA traffic).

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre?

PC. So far each book has pretty much been a different genre. That’s not by design, it just kind of happens that way for me. Knowing the genre you’re writing in can be powerful/useful though, so I may be on my way to becoming a ‘master of none’ by switching so often. I think there are strengths/weakness with regard to sticking with one genre and of course it varies by the individual.

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

PC. Living in the moment seems to be a nice idea. Try not to get too many parking tickets but pay them if you do. Garlic and cinnamon make just about any food better (just not together).

Did you miss part I of this wonderful Interview?

Purchase The Colonel and the Bee: click here
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss.  February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese
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Book Review ~~ Marry in Scandal by Anne Gracie

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

 

 

Delicious from the first page to the last. Anne Gracie is one of my favorite authors and it’s always a pleasure to read and review her latest offering. Marry in Scandal was no exception. It’s always a hit for me when Gracie adds old people or young kids as characters in her stories. Lord Galbraith, grandfather to the hero,  is painted with subtlety and quiet humor. Edward has dark secrets from the war, that block him from enjoying his family. Lily has secrets of her own that she must divulge if she is to find and keep love.

The writing is superb as always. The ‘Marry in...’ is an entertaining series and should not be missed. 

Did you miss my Interview with Anne Gracie?

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss.  February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese
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To Purchase