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What Does It Look Like?…..From ‘no book’ to ‘finished book’?

write, create, writing, authors, blogRecently a fellow writer and friend asked me this question:  “What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like?”  

My first novel, Women Outside the Walls began as a full length play.  I used my play script my book outline/treatment.  As the scenario was so current (because it was a play), I found that flashbacks were a great way to flesh out each woman’s story and it served me well.

It took me a year and four months to write it, format it and edit it. That equals 72,000 words.

I did not have a deadline and it probably would have really helped. I was my own deadline setter and that didn’t work out so well. On the other hand, I think having a publisher breathing down my neck would have stifled my creative flow.  When life got in the way I wouldn’t work on it for weeks but then I would get inspired and work on it for days, weeks, non-stop, sometimes 10-14 hours a day. So I guess it all evened out.  Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t write for a few days….you’ll make up for it with better, more relaxed creative writing.

Because I inherently ‘rush’, I found that I had to watch-dog myself and be careful not to leave out important roads of the story. I was in early proofing of the final product of my novel and realized (in a countless re-read) that I had never described my female negotiator’s physical appearance. (Yikes!).  Again, (if the writer tends to rush) go back and re-read your work to see where you need to flesh out a chapter or a character.

I am not structured at all. I write a new project in my head for days, weeks and then when my brain is about to burst I begin putting it down on paper. I also write out of sequence and I think that’s okay. My novel’s last chapter was completed months before the middle was written.

Some writers have actually written whole books while blogging; they found it less daunting by writing in segments. At the end they had a book.  If you need a deadline the days that you commit to writing a blog would serve.  For me this wouldn’t work;  I would feel too exposed having my rough draft out there for the world to see as I am a writer who slams it down the first time around and then edit, edit, delete, edit.  Did I mention that the lettering ‘D’ is worn off my ‘delete’ key?

Frequently I will begin a story that has inspired me, not knowing much about the subject. It has sometimes stopped me dead in my tracks while I researched (example: hostage negotiations).   I had 8 pages of a new play, about Winston Churchill, written and  had to stop to do research. I find that it can be done while I am writing and that is what I prefer. It’s more fun and keeps me interested. I don’t think I would do well having my research all done before I put my story down. I find that the research itself inspires my story line.

WRITE WITHOUT FEAR
EDIT WITHOUT MERCY

And then there is that unseen, unheard phenomenon where, with any luck, the characters take over and you become the typist.   This has happened to me time and again, and while I resisted at first (being a control-freak) I now embrace and welcome it.  In Women Outside the Walls my character Alma, at sixteen, is abandoned by her promiscuous mother.  Alma is befriended by the ex-girl friend of the man Alma had a teen crush on.  They end up being room mates.  I could never have dreamed that one up;  but my characters got together and decided that this was what they would to do.

I don’t think that there is a right or wrong way to go through the process. Each writer should be unique in how they work. Instead of thinking of it as a project/deadline ‘thing’; think of it as a work of art, created just for you and by you. Where possible, let the characters lead you. They will never steer you wrong!

well, there you have it…the process such as it is and how it works for me.   

(Originally published January, 2013.)

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!     December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg, May: Jenny Colgan
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The Listening Path ~~ Book Review

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 5 out of 5 quills 

Back in 2006, The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron was published.  I had just begun my journey as a dabbler in watercolors and( since 1998), had been writing stage plays. In that same year, I still considered myself a dabbler in watercolors and a junior level playwright….learning as you go.  I certainly would never have called myself an ‘artist‘ in those early days. This was a workbook that I treasure to this day. 

Now Ms. Cameron has written another lovely, insightful, encouraging book, The Listening Path. A successful communicator’s first skill is LISTENING.  A successful artist and human being should be listening; not just to other people but listening to their surroundings, and even listening to silence. Much can be learned.

This book is not only instructional but filled with tasks to practice your listening and become a better communicator. 
I highly recommend this book to my readers who are interested in furthering their self-awareness and their world around them. 

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!     December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg, May: Jenny Colgan
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A Little Poetry and Where It was Born

ferry landing, poetry, foggy night, blogs, writing,I was sitting, late one night, at a ferry landing, waiting and watching the boats ferry back and forth until it was my turn to board.  Fog horns, misty fog, reflections on the black water, the screech of the gulls, and the silent hunting of the pelicans.

The wet air, the silence, the sound of a lone fog horn warning vessels of danger.  The fog smearing everything I looked at… I was inspired  to write poetry.  But the scene could have inspired a murder mystery writer to write about a body, weighted down, being slipped into the water;  or it could have inspired a romance writer to write about two lovers parting as the boat docked.  Never to be together again.  For me, it was poetry.  Here is an excerpt of what came out of that black night……..

FOGGY NIGHT  © 

The white orb, saturated with tidal flows 

peers through the veil, 

a ghost ship slips up the fog laden channel

 Night gulls’ sing with strident cries 

fog seeps in, the tide rolls out, 

day is gone, the night creeps on

Trees, dressed in ebony, drift by 

water glistens, gold and wet 

Night is soft and tender, edges blurred 

damp seeps into cloth, hair, bone 

Fog casts tents of light over the landing 

Hunters of the sea know not day nor night 

Fishers all, white feathers stark 

against the night shadows 

Palm trees, silhouetted against the ochre gauze,

brushes hardened with black paint……

I raced home as I had nothing to write with in the car.  Opening my front door, I dropped my keys and purse onto a chair, tore off my coat as I sped down the hall to my studio.  Waking up my computer, my fingers flew across the key board, lest I forget the words that were born in the night.

To read more click here for the books, Butterflies and Bullets and Moths and Machetes
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!     December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
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Book Review~~Picnic in Someday Valley

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4 out of 5 quills   

Author, Jodi Thomas, never lets her readers down. This sequel to the Honey Creek series is a satisfying read, re-visiting Someday Valley and the strong characters that Jodi Thomas has drawn. Pecos and Brand being my favorites in this new one.  

The readers get to return to Honey Creek and Someday Valley, two small towns in Texas. While set in current times, there’s still a flavor of the old west and small town closeness and politics that you cannot escape from to this day.  The story is rich in twists and turns with vibrant, quirky characters.

I highly recommend it to my readers. 

Did you miss the wonderful interview we did with this author? 

Coming Soon! (Oct. 2021, Book 3 Honey Creek series)

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!     December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
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  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

How to be Certain a Director will NOT choose your Play

Recently I was invited to read and review a new collection of three plays. There was so much WRONG with the formatting and the lack of knowledge by the playwright that I couldn’t review it without tearing it all down and asking the playwright to begin anew. But there evolved a constructive critique that might help other new writers. 

Example back cover

Back cover should not be blank with a graphic design. Don’t waste this space.
1. Use this space as an opportunity to grab the buyer/director. List titles and short synopses of your plays. Count gender and following synopsis type this: 1m. 4f. (indicating one male and four females.
2. One line tags
3. A short bio of you

Pg1. First page: Title of play/s
Pg.2: Copyright notice
Pg 3:  list of play titles and Pg # they start on.

In the first few pages you should have a Contents (list) with the tile of each play and the page number it begins. Make it as easy as you can for the director to find the play and the list of characters Because this dictates whether the director can use your play or not depending on age of character and gender. Always keep in mind that men are harder to cast.

On whatever page a new play starts it should begin with the title and the list of characters.

Be certain, you as the playwright, understand what constitutes a full length play. a One Act play, and a Ten Minute Play.  If your plays are preachy and  esoteric it will be a hard sell to a director.

The end of a play is indicated with one word, centered: CURTAIN

Black out‘ and ‘End of Scene‘ are no longer used. The director will understand when a new scene begins. The next page demonstrates to the reader that a new scene is beginning. ‘Act’ and ‘Scene’ should be centered.

CHARACTERS names and blocking should be centered on page; NO underline.

If you find yourself writing a soliloquy or a monologue in a scene, break it up by having other characters insert dialogue in your speech. It then becomes less preachy and more dynamic.

Be certain YOU know the difference between a Ten Minute Play, a Full Length play (with two acts) and a One Act Play. The first act in a full length play is longer than the second act. Full length plays are about 100 pages/minutes. And no one ever uses an Act III unless your plays is over two hours or closer to 3 hours long. Also, a no-no. Remember the rule of thumb is one minute per page. This varies based on how ‘busy’ the blocking is as that takes time too. It is permissible that a 10 minute play might go over but never more than 18 to 20 minutes.

The first few pages of the book should be simple and convey the correct information. Keep it simple.  The title of your book  should be on the 1st page of your book. The next page [on the left] should be your copyright page. On the right should be your table of contents (centered)
Title with page numbers. (justified left)

On the page number of the play, the title should be on the 1st page. (odd numbered page, right side) the next page (odd numbered) should be the list of characters. The blocking and description of how the play should be produced does not need to be too detailed. Remember this is the job of the director to interpret the playwright’s Play.

Examples:
Link, How to Format a play: https://www.writeratplay.com/2018/01/15/how-to-format-your-self-published-stage-play/

When the formatting is not industry-standard, I have seen more than one director throw the book/script into the ’round file’.
Look at other scripts on line for guidance.  
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica  March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
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Interview with Lee Matthew Goldberg, Sci-fi author (part 3)

Q. What makes a writer great?

LMG. Talent, obviously, but dedication is really important too. And always striving to get better and build your craft. Be your harshest critic and learn from your rejections. There will be a ton of rejection, but it’s all there to make you better.

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

LMG. It’s all over the place, depending on the book. Some books have taken me a decade to finish, some two months. Orange City, for example, took many years of putting it down and picking it back up. It was originally a short s

Las Vegas with friends

tory I wrote in college, then a screenplay, then a different short story, and finally a novel. Science fiction is the hardest to write, at least for me, because you are creating an entirely new world. It took that many years to build up that world.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

A. Always. You bring reality into your work, but I tend to write really out there things, so a lot is fiction. I try not to put people I know into my work, but sometimes it happens. I’m influenced a lot from other books and films, art and music, so the amount of influences that go into each novel are hard to pinpoint.

Morocco

Q. What’s your down time look like?

LMG. Like I said, I travel, go out to eat, movies, concerts, museums, sports.

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

LMG. Yup. I’m a thriller writer first, but have a Sci-Fi and a YA series out this year so I’m always pushing myself to try something different. But all of my books have some type of thriller elements to them because thrillers are all about moving the plot forward and that’s important in all genres.

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

A. Rejection is necessary and only makes you a better writer. Learn to take in, shrug it off, and not let it get you down. Every great writer has been rejected plenty, it’s par for the course.

Did you miss the first part of this exciting interview? 
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

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

Interview with Lee Matthew Goldberg, author (part 2)

Yankee Stadium with friends….the good old days…packed seats

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

LMG. When I went for my MFA at the New School. It was the first time I really starting thinking of it as a career. I had written a few books before that still needed a lot of work, and even sent one out to a few agents, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. My MFA program really helped shape me as a writer, and then afterwards when I got an agent, he was a great mentor in honing my craft. About a dozen years later, he’s still my agent.

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

LMG. Nope, never. People will always want physical copies, but there will definitely be less. Personally, I’ll read on Kindle but I prefer a book a lot more. I can read e-books on like a plane, that’s about it. Physical books have a smell to them, you carry them with you, you make notes in the margins. I know you can do that with e-books but it’s not the same. I still have my high school copy of The Great Gatsby with all my notes from when I was teenager. It’s a treasure. That wouldn’t be possible with an e-book.

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

LMG.  Depends. Sometimes the character comes first, sometimes the idea. Sometimes I’ll hear a song and that inspires the book like with my last novel The Ancestor. I heard a song called “The Ancestor,” and the first line was “Go on bury me.” It was wintertime and I just pictured a man buried in ice who wakes up from it after a hundred years. The rest of the book began to unravel from that image.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

LMG. I’ve always been a writer since I was a little kid. I used to make up stories about my dog getting into crazy situations, so this was always the career I was meant to have. I think that there are people who are just born writers. When I’m not working on a project, I get a little depressed, so I have to write. It’s a part of me. And it’s always been liked that.

Two Lees at book signing with Charlaine Harris

Lee and……Lee

TS: What are the chances that two gentlemen are named Lee Goldberg, both authors, and I interviewed the first one six years ago. And they, one from L.A. and one from NYC met and became acquainted at a couple of book signings? Too weird and wonderful.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation? 

LMG. Depends. Usually they start to emerge in tandem.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

LMG. That’s when I know I’m really writing something great. I’ll leave my body for a few hours and forget what I’ve written. Then I’ll spiral back down. I’ve heard Stephen King describe a similar thing. I don’t know where I go, but I go somewhere. It’s the same when I’m reading a book I’m really into, I’ll lose time in the best way.

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

LMG. I’m always working on something. I have a YA series coming out, so I’m working on the idea for the third book. The first two have been written. And I have a screenplay project as well based off of my books that I’m working on with a production company. I’m very excited about that, since it’s been about three years in the making. I also have a few ideas for books I want to write. One takes place in the 1950s and would be a Jewish Mad Men. The perspective of a Jewish man breaking into the ad world then and the different kinds of anti-Semitism he faced. I was inspired after watching the HBO show The Plot Against America.

Q. I understand that you are about to release ORANGE CITY, an exciting sci-fi novel. Tell us about it.

LMG. Imagine a secret, hidden City that gives a second chance at life for those selected to come: felons, deformed outcasts, those on the fringe of the Outside World. Everyone gets a job, a place to live; but you are bound to the City forever. You can never leave. Its citizens are ruled by a monstrous figure called the “Man” who resembles a giant demented spider from the lifelike robotic limbs attached to his body. Everyone follows the Man blindly, working hard to make their Promised Land stronger, too scared to defy him and be discarded to the Empty Zones.

Did you miss Part 1 of our interview?

Don’t Miss Part 3 of this Interview ~~ June 19th
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

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Interview with Sci-fi Author, Lee Matthew Goldberg

Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of the novels THE ANCESTOR, THE MENTOR, THE DESIRE CARD and SLOW DOWN. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the Prix du Polar. His first YA series RUNAWAY TRAIN is forthcoming in 2021 along with a sci-fi novel ORANGE CITY. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in many other publications.  He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series and lives in New York City. Follow him at LeeMatthewGoldberg.com

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.

LMG. When the weather is nice, I normally write at a tree in Central Park. I’ve written all my books there. It helps me to be in fresh air and around nature, especially living in NYC. So, usually I’m there from April through November. My dream work space would be having my own backyard or even a terrace to write. If we’re already fantasizing, a terrace overlooking Central Park would be pretty great. I’ll have to sell a lot more books to get that, though.

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.)

LMG. Not really. I try to put away my phone so I won’t be distracted. And I write best when I’m in nature. All I need is my laptop. Sometimes I listen to music, but not as much as I used to. Living in New York, the energy of the city really inspires me, but I also need the quiet of nature. I’ll sit on the grass, take off my socks and shoes, and usually spend most afternoons writing that way.

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

LMG. I love to travel. It helps inspire me. This past year has been difficult without traveling, so I’ve had to find inspiration in other ways. Oftentimes, I work travel into my writing. A book I was working on took place in the jungles of the Amazon so I traveled there once for research. It helped immensely because it would’ve been very hard to write about the jungle without experiencing it firsthand: the sounds, the smells, the feel. It would’ve come off phony to me. Part of another one of my books took place in Morocco, so I went there as well.

Release date: March 16th

Q. What tools do you begin with? Legal pad, spiral notebook, pencils, fountain pen, or do you go right to your keyboard?

LMG. Sometimes I outline first, but usually on the computer too. Once I have a chapter outline set up, I begin. Although, the book has likely marinated in my head for a while by then. It could be in my head for years before I start writing. With very early ideas I used to jot them down in a notepad, or sometimes I would even call my voicemail if I was out and had a great idea. Now I use the Notepad app, which makes it so much easier to jot down ideas.

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

LMG. I’m best in the afternoons, so 1pm – 5pm is my ideal writing time. I’ll edit what I wrote the day before in the mornings and sometimes at night. Again, since I work outside a lot it’s usually the best time to catch the light.

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

LMG. Set a work schedule that works for you. Try to find inspiration. Don’t force it too much if it’s not there. Resist your phone and going online. Find a space that you can be the most productive. Also, it’s important to find people in your life that can give you honest feedback. Early on in my career before I was really published, it meant so much to have friends and other writers give notes. Sometimes people you know who are just good readers can give the best advice. My parents were always very supportive in my writing growing up so I had them read drafts of early works.

Join us for Part II of this insightful Interview
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
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  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

One of those Days…. When There’s nothing to Talk about…

Not me, just thought it was funny. I don’t own pearls.

After eight years of blogging, I find myself with a day (today) that I really don’t have anything to say. It’s too early for March’s author interview. It’s a good one! I’ve run dry on tips for writers ….  except  ….  “Writing isn’t a calling, it’s a doing.”  That hasn’t and will never change.  So get busy. 

Lee Goldberg

I spent my morning running errands on the internet; some book buying, some banking, some talking to authors. Next week we will start with my Interview with Lee Matthew Goldberg, a sci-fi writer.  And, literally, a tree hugger.   >>>>

I’m currently adapting my stage play, Emma and the Aardvarks into a children’s illustrated chapter book.  I have discovered a wonderful illustrator in Brazil and this is the first of his work for the book. Wonderful, huh? 

Jobson Chagas

I’ll sign off for now. If you’re wondering how I feel about this ‘dry spell’; it doesn’t bother me in the least. I see it as a much needed resting period and I know that March will fire up with lots of good things including our chat with Lee.

Bye for now….see you next week!

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

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

“I just always wanted to tell my stories.” Author, sports writer, Mike Lupica Interviews with this Blogger

TS. Mike Lupica is one of the most prominent sports writers in America. His longevity at the top of his field is based on his experience and insider’s knowledge, coupled with a provocative presentation that takes an uncompromising look at the tumultuous world of professional sports. Today he is a syndicated columnist for the New York Daily News; at the same time a prolific author under his own name and writing for Robert B. Parker and James Patterson. 

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

ML. Just start writing. I do it all the time. Just get into it, even if the first few pages might not ever get into your book.

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

ML.  In my imagination? Where else? I get them together and get them talking, and then all of a sudden one of them will say something I didn’t know they were going to say, or do something I had no idea they would do. In moments like that, I feel as if I have the best job in the world.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

ML. I always just wanted to tell my stories. When I was ten, I was writing mystery and adventure stories – longhand of course – with myself as a main character. Old-fashioned, Catholic School blue essay books. It’s all I ever wanted to do. Tell my stories. When I was traveling extensively to talk to kids in schools for my Middle Grade books, I’d always tell them that they had to buy my books, because I had no other skills.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

ML. Characters. Always.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

ML. All the time. At the home we once had in Connecticut, my wife Taylor transformed a shed about fifty yards from our back door into an amazing writing cottage. The first time I walked down the hill, my son Alex turned to his mother and said, “He may never come back.”

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

ML. Well into this September’s Jesse, called Stone’s Throw. And back with Mr. Patterson for a new one. Working with him has been one of the great experiences of my career. Like getting a master class in getting the reader to keep turning pages.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

ML. College. Three school papers. Working nights at the Boston Globe. Writing for the Globe and the old Boston Phoenix. Chasing my dreams as hard as I could. Now here I am, getting to write about characters that Robert B. created. Honor of a writing lifetime.

Q. How long after that were you published?

ML. I was in my early 30s when “Reggie” put me on the Times list for the first time. My first mystery, Dead Air, followed shortly thereafter.

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

ML. Never.

Q. What makes a writer great?

ML. It’s like asking what makes oceans deep. It’s a wonderful mix of talent, imagination, work ethic, and writing stories that make you, the person writing them, keep going to find out what’s going to happen next. And never getting up from the desk until you’ve done your best work that day.

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

ML. There is nothing more exciting than Chapter One for me. Nothing. It’s the beginning of the adventure. And for me, there is no end to the adventure, even with The End. Because my head goes right into the next one.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

ML. I have been blessed. My parents, in their 90s now, still living in their own home, have been a constant blessing. I’ve never met a smarter or better or kinder person than my wife. And we have these four amazing children. They make me smarter every day, by always reminding me that they think the good old days are now.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

ML. Down time? What’s that?

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

ML. I am thrilled to be back in the world of writing mysteries. I feel as if I’ve left my mark writing novels set in the world of sports for young readers. And I am so proud of the work Mr. Patterson and I did on “The Horsewoman,” a great big novel set in show jumping (spoiler alert: My daughter is a champion rider.) I never think genre. Just good stories.

Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)
It’s what I’ve constantly told my younger readers: Once a good idea gets inside your head, it’s impossible to get it out.
And the only thing more powerful than a good idea is a random act of kindness.

Did you miss part 1 of this wonderful Interview?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

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