Getting to know Fred Misurella #Author #Contemporary #WomensFiction #LiteraryFiction #FamilyLife

My guest today is an intriguing character from one of Fred Misurella’s novels. Please help me welcome Jamie Sasso straight from between the covers of A Pontiac in the Woods. First we’ll get a quick look at Fred’s background and then we’ll dive right in with finding our more about Jamie.

A Pontiac in the Woods is the fourth in Fred Misurella’s cycle of novels about the modern American family. The others are Only Sons, a saga of two competing Italian immigrant families in rural Pennsylvania; Arrangement in Black and White, the story of an interracial marriage in Connecticut; and A Summer of Good-Byes, about an American couple’s attempt to restart their marriage on a visit to Provence in the face of past infertility and the wife’s recent extramarital affair. Misurella has also written Lies to Live By: Stories, and Short Time, a novella about the Vietnam War. His literary journalism has appeared in Partisan Review, Salmagundi, Voices in Italian Americana, Italian Americana, The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times Book Review, and other journals. His essays on Primo Levi appear in The Legacy of Primo Levi and Answering Auschwitz. He is the current book review editor for VIA (Voices in Italian Americana), a former Fulbright scholar in France, and a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers Workshop. He lives with his wife and children in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.

Author Social Links: Website * Facebook

Betty: How would you describe your childhood?

Jamie: Miserable, especially at the beginning. I was abandoned as an infant, adopted by an older set of loving parents who died when I was still a young teen. From there it was catch as catch can because I never really knew what I wanted to do, or even what was possible. Then a social worker, Mr. Santa, began helping me.

Betty: What kind of schooling did you have? Did you enjoy it?

Jamie: A pretty good public school full of kids and parents with snotty noses constantly pointing skyward. So, to be truthful, I didn’t enjoy it. In fact I fought a lot because everyone thought I was weird. Maybe I was. But running track with the boys helped, and when I met nerdy Misha I finally found someone I could trust (and dance with).

Betty: When did you have your first kiss and with who? How did it go?

Jamie: Please, that’s really my business, don’t you think? In any case, it went, and it went well enough from there for me to want more. But you know, there’s a lot more important stuff in life than sucking tongues, so let’s get to it.

Betty: What do you think is your greatest achievement? Why?

Jamie:  Achievement? For a fourteen-year-old girl living on her own (yes, in the woods, in a Pontiac) what do you think the answer should be? I survived. In a certain way I thrived, which is even better than survival because it gave me a sense of what path I could take and what I might be able to do if I kept pushing forward.

Betty: What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you?

Jamie: My drug-addled birth parents, who abandoned me. And then my living situation after my adoptive parents died, while a distant, no-brain cousin told me to fuck off because he just wanted money. Who could be proud of that? I kept wondering what I had done, if it was somehow all my fault.

Betty: If you could change one thing from your past, what would it be and why?

Jamie: That’s a no-brainer, believe me. I’d like my adoptive, loving Mum and Dad to have lived many, many years longer. I still miss them and feel cheated I couldn’t see them grow old and content with me and what I might become. I think of them and miss them every single hour of every single day.

Betty: What’s your greatest fear? Who else knows about it?

Jamie: A repeat abandonment, and the whole world either should know and understand that already or is incredibly dense.

Betty: How much of your true self do you share with others?

Jamie: A lot, I think. Read my story. I pretty much let it all hang out, even the sucking tongues parts.

Betty: Are you close to your family? Do you wish your relationship with them was different in any way? If so, how?

Jamie: Sometimes I think Mum and Dad were too good to live. Maybe I jinxed them; maybe I was too bad to have them with me all this time. I just wish I could hug them again and explain the shit that I’ve been doing.

Betty: What characteristics are you looking for in a potential lover/spouse?

Jamie:  Jesus, what a question! Somebody who will love me and stay with me a long, long time without getting bored or disgusted; nice eyes wouldn’t be bad either.

Betty: How do you like to relax? What kind of entertainment do you enjoy?

Jamie: Again, read my story: I love to run; I love to dance. And before the pandemic, New York was perfect for both those things when Misha and I went there.

Betty: If you could change yourself in some way, what change would you make? Why?

Jamie: I’d like to stop feeling abandoned again or threatened by it all the time. Even with Mr. Santa and Misha that shit comes over me still. I cannot stop feeling alone.

Betty: What do you think you’re good at? Bad at?

Jamie: Good at dancing, better at running. I ran with the boys’ cross country team in high school (there was no girls’ team) and was faster than all but the top one or two. Bad? I don’t know. I’m bad at feeling sorry for people who haven’t suffered as I have. Is that selfish? Probably so.

Betty: What items do you carry in your pockets or handbag?

Jamie: Please… I’m a constant runner. I like to keep things light. I don’t carry a handbag; no phone either; just some identification in my pocket and, maybe, a paperback or two in a very tiny backpack.

Betty: What foods and beverages do you routinely have in your refrigerator?

Jamie: Don’t have a refrigerator, so it’s all canned food and boxes. But that may change if things work out the way I want them to. Check out my story for more details.

Jamie Sasso finds herself alone, with no family or home. Cast adrift by a distant cousin in another state, she finds she cannot tolerate her county’s foster care program. But where can she live, how can she feed herself, and in what way can she plan for her future? Will she even have a future? A Pontiac in the Woods explores those issues and raises meaningful questions about them. With the help of a social worker, Mr. Santa, Misha, a young man she meets at a dance, and her school’s track coach she begins to find her way. But the way is never smooth. More important, she cannot find for sure where that way will lead.

Buy Links: Amazon * Bookshop * Website

I hope you find the stability and loving home you’re seeking, Jamie. Best of luck to you! And thanks to Fred for giving you the freedom to come talk with us today. It’s been interesting!

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Getting to know Joel Allegretti #author #poets #poetrylovers #prose #fiction #water #oceans

I’d like to introduce you to an author who is also a poet. Please help me welcome Joel Allegretti! He has quite a background, so let’s glance at his publishing history and then find out more about what makes him tick.

Joel Allegretti is the author of, most recently, Platypus (NYQ Books, 2017), a collection of poems, prose, and performance texts, and Our Dolphin (Thrice Publishing, 2016), a novella. His second book of poems, Father Silicon (The Poet’s Press, 2006), was selected by The Kansas City Star as one of 100 Noteworthy Books of 2006.

He is the editor of Rabbit Ears: TV Poems (NYQ Books, 2015). The Boston Globe called Rabbit Ears “cleverly edited” and “a smart exploration of the many, many meanings of TV.” Rain Taxi said, “With its diversity of content and poetic form, Rabbit Ears feels more rich and eclectic than any other poetry anthology on the market.”

Allegretti has published his poems in The New York Quarterly, Barrow Street, Smartish Pace, PANK,and many other journals.

His short stories have appeared in The MacGuffin, The Adroit Journal,and Pennsylvania Literary Journal, among others. His musical compositions have appeared in Maintenant: A Journal of Contemporary Dada Writing & Art and in anthologies from great weather for MEDIA and Thrice Publishing. His performance texts have been staged at La MaMa, Medicine Show Theatre, the Cornelia Street Café, and the Sidewalk Café, all in New York.

Author Social Links: Website * Facebook

Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?

Joel: Our Dolphin indulges some of my literary interests. Latin American magic realism has had a huge influence on me, particularly the writings of Gabriel García Márquez and Jorge Luis Borges. I wouldn’t have come up with phrases like “a gull of mythological proportions” and “the face that brought her infinite despair” had I not read García Márquez’s novels and short stories, which I read in translation.

The inspiration for the main character, Emilio, a deformed teenager, was my favorite literary character, Erik, better known as the Phantom of the Opera.

The scenes in Tangier were inspired by a day trip I took to the city in 1990 and by the writings of Paul Bowles and William S. Burroughs, who’s my favorite Beat. In fact, one of the key characters in the Tangier section, Moore, is based on Burroughs. While I had recollections of my trip as I wrote the book, the Tangier in Our Dolphin is really a Tangier of my imagination.

Betty: Which character arrived fully or mostly developed?

Joel: I’d have to say Serafino, the talking dolphin. He doesn’t have a history. He just is.

Betty: Which story element sparked the idea for this story: setting, situation, character, or something else?

Joel: It was the idea of a supernatural animal appearing out of nowhere for the benefit of a young outcast. I chose a dolphin because I’ve always liked dolphins. I was a fan of the TV show Flipper when I was growing up.

Betty: Which character(s) were the hardest to get to know? Why do you think?

Joel: Since I created the characters, I didn’t have any trouble getting to know them. Part of my program, however, was to create characters I didn’t want the reader to know well. The primary example is Mr. Charles, the owner of the brothel in Tangier. He’s a horrifying human being. He’s snide, pompous, and sadistic, a flamboyant villain without a redeeming characteristic. I don’t reveal anything about his background. The reader knows his nationality (English), but that’s it. I want the reader to take Mr. Charles at face value and not wonder why he’s so malevolent or how he found his way to his despicable occupation or what he was like when he was ten years old.

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Joel: Even though I had visited Tangier—as I mentioned, it was only a day trip—and had read quite a bit of fiction and non-fiction about both the city and Morocco itself, including Paul Bowles’s translations of books by Moroccan authors Mohamed Choukri and Mohammed Mrabet, I wanted to make sure I got details right. So, I became a fact-checker. I looked at photographs, too. Fortunately, I was familiar with the subject and knew what needed confirmation.

I can’t say for sure, but to put myself in a Tangier state of mind, I probably listened to Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka, a recording of Moroccan trance musicians that Rolling Stones Records released in 1971. I’ve owned a copy of the LP for decades.

Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

Joel: Our Dolphin began its life as a novel called Christ Sang for the Dolphins. I wrote the first draft over the course of a few years as I busied myself with other things, not the least of which was earning an income. I did more work on it from time to time and changed the title to Music for Dolphins. Years later came the high-octane revision. I went through it with mental hedge clippers. “This can go. This can go. This adds nothing.” I reduced it from 46,000 words to 19,000 words. I changed the title yet again, to Our Dolphin, and submitted three chapters to Thrice Publishing, which was launching a novella series. The editor, Bob Spryszak, requested the full manuscript. To my astonishment, he chose Our Dolphin as the introductory title in the series. Bob provided excellent guidance as we worked our way to the book’s publication.

Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?

Joel: I began the first draft in 1993, I believe. I wrote the final draft in 2015. I didn’t work on the book consistently, though. There were years when I didn’t touch it or even think about it.

I seldom work in long forms, so the length of time it took to write Our Dolphin was atypical.

Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

Joel: I write first drafts in longhand. I use Pilot pens with blue ink.

Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?

Joel: I wouldn’t say any particular words or phrases recur in my works, but I seem to gravitate toward water imagery. I’m predominantly a poet. References to bodies of water show up in poem after poem; e.g., “The Sea at Our Door,” “The Sea Serpent,” and “The Moon Reconsidered as the Tide’s Puppeteer.” And then there’s Our Dolphin.

I was at HomeGoods one day this year, and when I was on line to check out, I saw a 5″x7″ wooden sign that read, “MY HEART SLEEPS BY THE SEA.” I thought, If I don’t buy it now, I know I’ll come back for it. It’s on my desk, where it looks to be right at home.

Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?

Joel: The writers who inspired me, starting when I was in my early double-digit years, often show up in my work in some fashion, even if their influence isn’t overt: Jules Verne, Edgar Allan Poe, Ray Bradbury, Leonard Cohen, and the aforementioned García Márquez and Borges, to name the most prominent.

It’s hard to say why this author influenced me, but that one didn’t. I read a lot of Graham Greene and W. Somerset Maugham in the ’80s and a lot of Jack London in the ’80s and ’90s, but they had no impact on my writing.

Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?

Joel: I was born under the sign of Cancer. We crab folks like our homes. I write and revise in my home office or on my dining-room table. My home office is also my reading room.

Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?

Joel: I’m retired now. My last position in the working world was Director of Media Relations for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the national membership organization of CPAs. I counseled the CEO, his senior staff, and other spokespeople for interviews with print, online, and broadcast media. I dealt with the Associated Press, 60 Minutes, The Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg, among many, many, many other outlets.

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Joel: I suppose my answer could change at any time. For the sake of answering it here, I’ll say the publication of my first book. It’s always a special occasion for a writer.

Betty: What other author would you like to sit down over dinner and talk to? Why?

Joel: Maybe not over dinner, but over a cup of coffee or tea I’d like to ask Joyce Carol Oates and Stephen King how they maintain their enthusiasm for writing after so many years and so many books.

Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?

I realized in early 2021 that I had accomplished my literary goals:

  • I wanted to publish a book. My first book, a collection of poetry called The Plague Psalms, came out in 2000.
  • I wanted to publish in some big-name literary journals. Check.
  • I wanted to publish a novel. I published a novella. Close enough.
  • I wanted to edit a poetry anthology. Check.
  • I wanted an affiliation with the poetry press NYQ Books. Rabbit Ears: TV Poems and my latest collection, Platypus, are with NYQ Books.

It wasn’t a goal, but one of my poems, “The Sea at Our Door,” made it into a college textbook, so I’ve sort of elbowed my way into academia.

Another poem, “Epitaph: Edie Sedgwick,” appeared as one of 100 poems by 100 poets in an anthology called Visiting Bob: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Bob Dylan (New Rivers Press, 2018). Bob Dylan has been important to me since I was 16, so making it into the book was a special publication credit, even more so when I discovered that Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, and Patti Smith were among the other contributors.

I grew up reading Jules Verne and go back to him from time to time. In late 2020 I saw a call for submissions from the North American Jules Verne Society, an organization of Verne scholars, for an anthology, Extraordinary Visions: Stories Inspired by Jules Verne. I wrote a short story titled “Gabriel at the Jules Verne Traveling Adventure Show,” revised it I don’t know how many times, submitted it, and crossed my fingers. A few months later, I received an acceptance. After I read the note, I got up from my desk and said, “Yes!”

Emilio Canto, a deformed adolescent, lives with his parents in an unnamed Italian fishing village. While in bed one night he hears a cry coming from the shore. He leaves his bed to investigate and finds that a dolphin has beached itself. With great effort, Emilio helps it back into the water. He watches it swim away, then lies down on the sand and falls asleep.

“Something troubled the water as it headed toward land. A pair of grateful eyes broke the surface and watched the sleeping youth. ‘Thank you, Emilio,’ the dolphin said. ‘We’ll see each other again very soon.’ It spun like an acrobat and pursued the deep.”

Emilio meets the dolphin a second time and discovers its extraordinary ability. He names the creature Serafino.

Because of his deformity, Emilio decides to run away from home. He convinces a Portuguese sailor to take him on his boat. They travel to Tangier, where the sailor gets Emilio intoxicated on a hashish confection and sells him to a male brothel.

Serafino learns of Emilio’s plight and swims to Tangier to rescue him.

For the reader, the conclusion will come as a genuine surprise.

Buy Links: Amazon * B&N * Bookshop

I love going to the beach and would love to meet a dolphin in person one day. Thanks so much, Joel, for telling us about your stories and your poems.

Happy fall!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Getting to know Carrie Dalby #author #historical #southerngothic #YA #novels #novellas

Getting to know Carrie Dalby #author #historical #southerngothic #YA #novels #novellas

Please help me welcome author Carrie Dalby to the interview hot seat! First a glance at her bio and then we’ll dive right in…

Carrie Dalby, a California native, has lived in Mobile, Alabama, since 1996. Carrie has published eight novels (with more on the way), one novella, nine short stories, and several non-fiction articles in national and international magazines. Besides serving two terms as president of Mobile Writers Guild, Carrie worked as the Mobile area Local Liaison for SCBWI from 2012-2017, volunteers with Metro Mobile Literacy Council events whenever possible, and helps coordinate the Mobile Literary Festival. When Carrie’s not reading, writing, browsing bookstores/libraries, or homeschooling, she can often be found knitting or attending concerts.

Author Social Links: Facebook * Instagram * Twitter

Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?

Carrie: The Possession Chronicles started because the editor I worked with on my first two published novels (Fortitude and Corroded) encouraged me to try my hand at horror. Based on my descriptive style, he said I had “serious horror chops.” I went toward the Gothic end of the horror spectrum. While the whole series is “Southern Gothic family saga,” several of the books in the series could be labeled as “Gothic horror”—mainly Murmurs of Evil and Tendrils of Passion, which were written first. After completing those, I wrote what is now the first book in the series Perilous Confessions, which has horrific events like any good Southern Gothic does, playing upon class distinction, religious morals, debauchery, and “madness,” to name a few themes.

Betty: Which character was the hardest to get to know?

Carrie: Alexander Melling, one hundred percent! I had him planned out and wanted to keep him in his little box because I didn’t like him and he needed to fit my plans. Being the entitled man he was, he made his own choices beyond my outline and kept screwing up what I thought was the proper story for the series. He ended up having so many layers to his personality that surprised me and finally won me over—many manuscripts later. What I hear from readers is that they either love him or love to hate him, and I’ve felt both extremes with him.

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Carrie: I thoroughly researched turn-of-the-century Mobile, Alabama, as well as the time period in general to capture the Ragtime/Edwardian Era and beyond. That included reading novels written during that time period (not historicals set then—but the actual authors alive and active in those years), digging through newspapers of those years, and basically spending hours at the local history library going through microfilm, maps, and files for the current events, property size, Mardi Gras happenings, and disasters. I used historic buildings and locations from the Mobile Bay area and based the masquerade gowns on actual dresses from those years.

Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

Carrie: All my books go through at least two dozen drafts and some over fifty. I started the series thinking I was writing a stand-alone novel, but kept adding to it because the characters weren’t settling down. I kept thinking “one more.” Not until I was at the fifth novel did I realize it was going to take several more to complete the full story arc. After finishing the eighth novel, I went back and wrote a novella bridging the first and second novels.

Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

Carrie: I like listening to music while I write and always have water to drink.

Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?

I’ll read and write anywhere, at any time—in the car, waiting rooms, in the kitchen, etc. For editing, I need quiet and as few interruptions as possible.

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Carrie: So far, having Fortitude (my historical Southern Gothic teen novel) listed as a “Best History Book” for Kids by Grateful American Foundation is my greatest achievement. The list only includes about fifty titles, most of which are Newbery Award winners or other classics by authors like Maya Angelou and Harper Lee.

Betty: What other author would you like to sit down over dinner and talk to? Why?

Carrie: Frances Parkinson Keyes. She was excellent with flawed characters and weaving real events into her historic novels. I call her my Southern Gothic soul sister, though she wrote more than just Southern Gothic. She brought so many characters/families to life through different tragedies and triumphs in her novels. And yes, her novels make me cry.

Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?

Carrie: Evoking feelings in readers is my ultimate success. Whether it’s love or loathing, if readers have a connection with the characters, it’s a win for me. The best is hearing that the story made someone cry. It’s all about a human connection.

The Possession Chronicles is a Southern Gothic family saga series with eight main novels, as well as a novella (#1.5), published by Bienvenue Press. The series is set in the Mobile Bay area on the Gulf Coast of Alabama between 1904 and 1929. Fans of period dramas and multi-generational sagas like The Thorn Birds, Peyton Place, Downton Abbey, Poldark, and Wuthering Heights will enjoy the lush historical descriptions, scandals, and characters.

Buy Links: Amazon

Sounds like an interesting read, Carrie! Thanks for sharing your writing process and inspiration with us.

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Getting to know Ellen Prager #author #scientist #books #childrens #fiction #nonfiction  

My guest today brings a very refreshing perspective to her writing. Please help me welcome Ellen Prager to the interview hot seat! Let’s look at her interesting background and then find out more about her writing inspiration and process.

Dr. Ellen Prager is a marine scientist and well published author, widely recognized for her expertise and ability to make science entertaining and understandable for people of all ages. She currently works as a freelance writer, Chief Scientist for StormCenter Communications, and science advisor to Celebrity Cruises in the Galapagos Islands. She was previously the Chief Scientist for the Aquarius Reef Base program in Key Largo, FL, which includes the world’s only undersea research station, and at one time the Assistant Dean at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. She is a frequently requested speaker for public-oriented events and has appeared on-air as an expert for the media, including on The Today Show, NBC NewsGood Morning America, CNN, The Weather Channel, and more. She has published numerous popular science books, including Sex, Drugs, and Sea Slime: The Oceans’ Oddest Creatures and Why They Matter, along with children’s books, including her latest, Escape Greenland, the second book in her series for middle graders that combines fast-paced action, humor and relatable characters with fun learning about science, nature and in this book, climate change.

Author Social Links: Twitter

Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?

Ellen: Several years ago, while giving talks about some of my other popular science books (illustrated books for young children and non-fiction for high school and above), I was asked why I had never written anything for a middle grade audience (8 to 12 years old). The person asking went on to explain that middle grade is a very important and influential period in a person’s life in which he/she/they are exploring their interests, looking for role models and career paths, and have great influence over their peers and parents. So, I did my homework to discover what middle graders like to read. The answer: fiction and in particular adventure fiction with a humorous twist. I was particularly inspired by Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series in which he combines Greek mythology with adventure and especially sarcastic humor. Since then, I’ve published a three-book series entitled Tristan Hunt and the Sea Guardians (The Shark Whisperer, The Shark Rider, and Stingray City) and this book, Escape Greenland, which is the second book in The Wonder List Adventures (following Escape Galapagos). The books combine adventure, humor, and relatable characters with fun learning about the ocean, marine life, nature, science, and environmental issues.

Escape Greenland has an underlying theme of climate change, a topic I am very passionate and concerned about. I also traveled to Ilulissat, Greenland, for research on climate change for a non-fiction book and became mesmerized by the area and the Kangia icefjord, so I wanted to share it in a fun way with my readers. In the front of the Wonder List books are maps and in the back is a section entitled Real vs. Made-Up in which I ask the readers to decide what parts of the stories are based on real science and what is pure fiction. And then provide the answers.

Inspiration also comes from the overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic response to my previous books for middle graders. Reviews indicate that the humor, suspense, and fun characters in the books keep readers engaged while they learn, which is exactly what I was going for.

Betty: Which character arrived fully or mostly developed?

Ellen: Most fully developed was the main character, Ezzy Skylar. As the second book in the Wonder List Adventure series, she was already evolving after dealing with the grief of her mother dying, her younger brother not handling it well, and a phobia about animals in the wild. She had gained confidence and courage in the first book, but still had serious bouts of insecurity, felt like she wasn’t up to her mother’s legacy, and had become quick to judge others.

Betty: Which story element sparked the idea for this story: setting, situation, character, or something else?

Ellen: A combination of setting, the importance of educating readers about climate change in a fun and understandable way, and the characters.

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Ellen: I previously went to Greenland to do research on climate change for a non-fiction book. So, I already had great photos and memories of the area and exploring it. For Escape Greenland however I needed to do more research on Greenland, the culture, local traditions, and the people.

Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

Ellen: I am all about the rewrite. I go through untold number of drafts before I feel it is ready for prime time and other readers.

Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?

Ellen: It probably took me about a year or a little bit less to write the book. I don’t have a typical length of time as it usually depends on what other projects I am working on, if I am traveling and speaking a lot, and how inspired I am.

Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

Ellen: I don’t necessarily have any specific rituals, but in terms of habits for me it is all about getting words on the page and rewriting. My goal is to fill those blank pages and then rewrite the hell out of it. It might not be an ideal method, but it works for me and I enjoy honing the text, adding humorous tidbits or fun character details and working on the dialogue.

Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?

Ellen: Just is a big one for me. I need to delete a lot of “justs”. I often find that short, crisp, and to the point is more powerful than wordy sentences, especially for a younger audience. I also watch out for the use of really, very, and that.

Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?

Ellen: My day job is several all-in-one and I feel extremely fortunate that I love most of them. I am a marine scientist by training and have had some really cool jobs. I taught oceanography to college students (and took them to sea aboard a tall sailing ship), did research in the Florida Keys with the U.S. Geological Survey, was an Assistant Dean at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, ran a marine laboratory in the Bahamas, and was the Chief Scientist for the world’s only operating undersea laboratory (I have lived underwater twice to study coral reefs). Now my main focus is on bringing ocean and earth science to broader audiences while keeping it accurate and entertaining. I am also the science/program advisor for Celebrity Cruises’ three expedition ships in the Galapagos Islands. So, I have to go to the Galapagos several times a year (a fantastic gig). And I work as the Chief Scientist for StormCenter Communications, Inc., where I consult on various projects. I also do a lot of public speaking, sometimes appear on television as an expert and was a consultant on Disney’s Moana (did I write I love my job?).

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Ellen: Inspiration! When a reader is inspired to learn, take positive action, be curious, laugh, or simply want to read more, I am utterly grateful and wonderfully satisfied. And in turn, a reader’s positive response inspires me to keep writing.

Betty: What other author would you like to sit down over dinner and talk to? Why?

Ellen: As I wrote earlier, I am a big fan of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series and his ability to combine mythology, adventure, and wickedly sarcastic and creative humor. I’d like to sit down with him to find out what inspires him, where he gets his ideas, and if he ever gets stuck in a plot. In general, I’d simply like to pick his brain a bit. He also seems like a great guy.

Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?

Ellen: That’s a difficult question for me to answer and one I am still working on. I don’t think I want fame, as I like my privacy outside of public events and sometimes find it difficult to accept praise. Wealth would be nice and offer security and more time to write, explore, and learn, but I think that’s a long shot. So far at least, great satisfaction has come with inspiring my readers and interacting with them. I think for me success is making a positive difference in my readers’ lives and it also brings me joy. Success or maybe satisfaction also comes when I can personally interact with my readers, answer questions, and see how engaged they are.

Ezzy Skylar, her brother Luke, and their father embark on a trip to number two on her deceased mother’s wonder list—Greenland’s Kangia Icefjord. While worrying that she didn’t inherit her mother’s gene for adventure, Ezzy and her family become embroiled in a dangerous plot. A flight across an obstacle course of icebergs, some hungry humpback whales, and a wild kayak ride atop a river inside a glacier will test Ezzy’s bravery and lead to an astonishing discovery.

Buy Links: TumbleHomeBooks * Amazon * IPGBook

What a cool job you have, Ellen! Thanks for sharing the inspiration behind your stories, too.

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Getting to know Radine Trees Nehring #author #fiction #mystery #novels #series 

 Sometimes a certain locale can be inspiring. Please help me welcome my next guest author, Radine Trees Nehring, as she shares her inspiration for her stories. First a glance at her bio and then we’ll get right to the good stuff!

Radine and John Nehring lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when they discovered the rural Arkansas Ozarks on a camping trip there in 1978 and fell in love with the area. They bought their first eleven acres in the Ozarks that same year (later expanded to 23 acres) and, working on weekends, built a weekend cabin. In 1988, they left Tulsa and moved full-time to Arkansas. Radine’s writing career opened when she began selling articles and essays about the Ozarks to regional and national publications. Many were collected in her first book, Dear Earth: A Love Letter from Spring Hollow, published by Brett Books in New York 1995. (That book was later sold to a Chinese publisher.) Radine says that all her writing, including her nine mystery novels, share what she loves about the Ozarks with readers. Her various awards and lively book sales prove that readers do enjoy the stories set in real places. This includes a New York reviewer who, after reviewing several in Radine’s To Die For mystery series, came with her husband to Arkansas on vacation because she wanted to visit all the book locations.

Radine says, “I enjoy writing about places I love, and sharing these with readers everywhere. Both they, and I, can experience famous Arkansas adventure areas as each crime story related to the area unfolds.”

Social links: Website * WordPress * Twitter

Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?

Radine: I did not begin writing for publication until I fell in love with the Ozarks of Arkansas. Then there was so much I wanted to share as I was discovering it for myself and found unique and very interesting. Evidently others did, too. Until that time not many people outside Arkansas and Missouri knew much about the Ozarks. (For example…they are not mountains, but eroded uplift plateaus.)

Betty: Which character arrived fully or mostly developed?

Radine: Carrie McCrite arrived fully developed. I am not sure why, but I am grateful it happened. Seemed like I had always known her and even her parents, who do not appear in any of my writing.

Betty: Which story element sparked the idea for this story: setting, situation, character, or something else?

Radine: All of the thirteen stories in this book are set at or near Spring Hollow (called Blackberry Hollow in all my books). It’s the area around the home John and I developed on our Ozarks land and the surrounding area we became very familiar with. I could walk every bit of the places covered in the stories, including the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs where Carrie and Henry were married and the mall where the baby abduction occurred. The library in one of the stories is very real and accurately described as well. I experienced the stories as I wrote them.

Betty: Which character(s) were the hardest to get to know? Why do you think?

Radine: Each character came “full grown” into his or her part in the story. And Shirley and Roger were already fully developed in several of my full length novels. I often know my book characters better than people I meet several times a week. “Real” people are often hard for me to get to know. Never (thus far) any book people.

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Radine: Since every location in every one of the short stories (as well as all the main locations in my eight full-length mystery novels) was known to me, the only research needed was for details in the novels. I spent time at each of those sites and often worked with staff there. That, fortunately, led to acceptance and usually welcome for the completed novel. I have never had to ask permission to include a real location, but most readers would not know they were real down to the last doorknob. I do think, however, that being “in” the real place myself did help in developing each story.

Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

Radine: Have never made drafts. Yes, I might change details within a story as I edited, but never finished any novel or short story and then did any very extensive re-write. I was member of a critique group at times during the writing process for some novels and short stories and group members would sometimes make suggestions for changes I thought of value, or ask questions that led to a change. But none were ever major. Initially, a St. Kitts Editor suggested that I make Carrie younger than she seemed in A Valley to Die For, but I knew Carrie too well by then to consider a change. One interesting development along that line is that I discovered early on that female readers of any mature age assumed Carrie was their age. Therefore I have never stated her age or answered questions about it. (I just say, “I don’t know, I never asked her.”) Assumed ages have ranged from 50s to 80s.

Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?

Radine: Novels usually take me about a year to write and edit. Several individual short stories were written over probably 6-7 years, and some were published in anthologies at that time though stories were edited again for publishing in Solving Peculiar Crimes. Most of the stories in that collection are new, however, and each took a few days to think through and write. (As to the few that had been previously published, I had always received full return of rights. One example is the baby abduction in the mall, a Christmas story I wrote and donated to an anthology to benefit Toys for Tots.

Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

Radine: Can’t think of any rituals. I just sat down at my computer and took up where I left off the day before.

Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?

Radine: Yes, I have done that, and the “word of the week” has varied so I can’t name a single one though the ones you mention must surely fit. I usually catch it when I do a first edit.

Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?

Radine: Role model. Hmm. It was Carolyn Hart who first encouraged me as a beginning mystery writer. She also charmed me with her Death on Demand series. Same was true of Margaret Maron and the Deborah Knott books somewhat later. Another, still more recently, is Marilyn Meredith. My husband and I also enjoyed spending time with Marilyn and her husband, Hap, at many mystery writers’ conventions we attended. I especially like her Rocky Bluff police procedural books, written as F. M. Meredith.

Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?

Radine: After we built Spring Hollow house in the rural Ozarks I had my own office. I wrote at my computer desk there, and re-read for editing on a love seat in my office. After my husband and I moved to a condo duplex in Fayetteville, AR, I again had my own office and computer desk. I edit sitting on a day bed in my office.

Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?

Radine: I began writing short articles and essays for publications before I retired from a full-time job in Tulsa, but after we moved to Arkansas I could be a full-time writer. I did have one sort of part-time job however. I had my own radio program. “Arkansas Corner Community News” aired weekly on a Northwest Arkansas radio station. I researched and wrote all the news items on that program and delivered the news on the air. (Got pretty tired of nighttime board and committee meetings, truth be told.) I did enjoy doing radio work, however, and the notice and “fame” (😊)  I got around the two counties I covered was fun. Covering the yearly Christmas Parade in the town nearest us was a high point. I usually invited a local “citizen of note” to join me on the air and serve as a commentator about people and organizations we were seeing in the parade.

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Radine: Achievement. Maybe promoting this wonderful area and getting to work with so many people at the various locations I covered. And, the writing I do does give me a sense of accomplishment.

Betty: What other author would you like to sit down over dinner and talk to? Why?

Radine: Talk to over dinner?  No question…none of the “dead British ladies” like Agatha Christie or Dorothy L. Sayers, but any of several mystery authors I have met and enjoyed being with at the writing conferences that used to be held frequently around this country. Several of them are gone now, but they were considered good friends, and I miss them.

Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?

Radine: Success was/is a satisfying degree of recognition for my work, which helps validate it, and the fact I am pleased (and, honestly, still enjoy re-reading) my written work. Don’t know if I will write more to submit for publication but gee, there are the daily emails that keep me in touch with distant friends and family. As soon as COVID clears enough I intend to go back to setting up at one of many stores in an area grocery chain that has welcomed me at their entrances on past weekends to sell books. Lots of nice people to talk with whether they buy books or not. I have really missed that.

Readers familiar with Carrie McCrite and Henry King in Author Radine Trees Nehring’s popular To Die For mystery series will be one step ahead of those of us just beginning the journey into Ozark stories featuring right, wrong, and redemption. Carrie’s eagerness to help people in trouble often draws her into puzzling and dangerous human events. Her friend (and by this time, husband), retired police officer Henry King, provides support and back-up (and caution warnings she usually does not heed). Solving Peculiar Crimes includes thirteen short stories that feature real locations and many varying types of crime, not always murder. Christian readers will be comfortable with Carrie’s tendency to pray when in difficulty and danger.

Buy links:   RadineBooks * Amazon * B&N

Just hearing about your love of the Ozarks makes me want to plan a picnic hike somewhere! With fall here, the weather may cooperate, too. Thanks for swinging by, Radine, and sharing your inspiration with us.

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Getting to know Kitty Felde #author #fiction #childrensmysteries #podcaster #journalist

Please help me welcome my first children’s book author, Kitty Felde. I think you’ll find her very interesting and refreshing, so let’s take a gander at her bio and then get to know her better.

Kitty Felde is an award-winning journalist, podcaster, and writer of children’s mysteries set on Capitol Hill.

She is also host and executive producer of the Book Club for Kids podcast – named one of the top 10 kidcasts in the world by The Times of London. The show has won the DC Mayor’s Award for Excellence in the Humanities and the California Library Association Technology Award.

Her award-winning debut novel Welcome to Washington Fina Mendoza (Chesapeake Press, 2020) is the tale of the 10-year-old daughter of a member of Congress who solves the mystery of the Demon Cat. It’s been adapted to the dramatic podcast The Fina Mendoza Mysteries.

Book 2 in the series State of the Union was released in August. A mysterious bird has pooped on the president’s head during the State of the Union address. Fina must find that bird and learn its secret message.

Kitty is a veteran public radio journalist, named “Radio Journalist of the Year” three times by the LA Press Club and Society of Professional Journalists. She hosted Southern California Public Radio’s daily “Talk of the City” for nearly a decade. She covered Capitol Hill for nearly another decade. Kitty’s also an award-winning playwright.

Author Social Links: Twitter * Facebook * Twitter2

Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?

Kitty: I covered lots of State of the Union addresses over my years as a reporter on Capitol Hill. I loved that night of the year! The Capitol is even more lovely at night. Everyone dresses up special and has dinner and probably lots of wine, so everyone’s in a really good mood. It’s fun to lean over the balcony railing to see generals and Supreme Court Justices and all the Senators smushed into the House Chamber. And something always happens: Justice Bader Ginsburg falls asleep, a congressman yells “you lie!” at the president, there’s always a chance the first lady will stumble down the steep stairs.

I wanted to take everyone with me on one of those nights. To introduce the pomp and circumstance to kids. In this day of bitter partisanship, I want to inspire the next generation to think about public service. To see themselves in the future as a lawmaker. Or at least to show up at the polls and vote!

Betty: Which character arrived fully or mostly developed?

Kitty: Fina’s older sister Gabby just showed up. Her voice was clear and distinct. She’s probably more like me than Fina.

Betty: Which story element sparked the idea for this story: setting, situation, character, or something else?

Kitty: There was a woman who worked in the Capitol snack bar who used to wear a different wig every single day. For months, I thought it was a different person every day. I had been to the Bahamas one time, taken away from the town up into the hills where neighbors would gather in someone’s yard that had been turned into a restaurant. I could imagine a character like my wig lady dreaming of opening such a restaurant of her own. So she became Bahamian. And the Bahamian island of Andros, there’s a myth about a mysterious bird with long legs, the face of an owl, and the tail of a lizard named Chickcharney. That was the beginning of “State of the Union.”

Betty: Which character(s) were the hardest to get to know? Why do you think?

Kitty: I think Papa (Congressman Arturo Mendoza) is a tough one. He dearly loves his girls. And his mama. But he’s also very protective of his inner life. He’s still grieving for his late wife and feeling great responsibility for his constituents back in LA. So it was hard to get inside his head.

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Kitty: I know a lot about Congress and the U.S. Capitol building and all the people who work there. But I keep finding things I DON’T know about. Luckily, people who work for the Architect of the Capitol helped me with statues and construction and such. The House Historian was happy to share back stories. And the House Chaplain’s office was thrilled to take me “behind the altar.” The US Capitol Historical Society has been most helpful with tales of ghosts and scary things in the Capitol. (Aside from insurrectionists…)

Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

Kitty: I’m not sure about the number of drafts. I have a terrific critique group and we tackle a chapter at a time. Maybe four drafts?

Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?

Kitty: “State of the Union” is the second book in the Fina Mendoza Mystery series, so I already knew the characters and the setting and the “format” of the book. Book one took about five years. Book two took about a year. Book one (Welcome to Washington Fina Mendoza) took longer not only because I didn’t know what I was doing (it was my first book!) but also because I didn’t have the confidence to send it out in the world.

I am more confident now. And I have a roadmap for the series. There will be 5 books and a podcast season for each book. I know some of what is coming next, but not everything. But I want to finish the series! So I’m expecting the next books will take less than a year.

Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

Kitty: Tea. Pots and pots of tea. Walks when I’m stuck. And short bursts of writing on a consistent basis.

Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?

Kitty: You know, more than repetitive words, my downfall is punctuation. Where does the period go? Should I use a dash or an ellipse? Why CAN’T I use capital letters to make a point? I’m hopeless.

Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?

Kitty: Years ago, I wrote to an author to gripe about some small thing in one of his books. He wrote back, outraged at my critique. I realized that he was feeling the way I did back when I was an actor and got a bad review. So I wrote back. We were pen pals for year. It was because of Ron Powers that I even imagined that I was good enough to be a writer.

Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?

Kitty: My husband and I have an agreement: he gets the second bedroom for his office and I get the rest of the house. That said, my writing desk (an antique secretary that I’ve had since I was 12) is in the bedroom. It’s where I write first drafts. Then I print out pages and get out of the house. Pre-covid, I’d sit in coffee shops or libraries and work. Now I sit in my car at parks.

For reading, I have a cozy nook in the living room. Or if it’s particularly fine day, I camp out underneath the sycamores in the front yard.

Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?

Kitty: I was a public radio reporter for three decades. I started my first book early in the morning those days.

These days, I produce the Book Club for Kids podcast as my “day job.” But it doesn’t require a 40 hour a week schedule. I edit on Mondays and tape author interviews, conversations with my young reviewers, and collate celebrity readings from the books whenever they come up.

I enjoy talking to young readers about what they love (and hate) to read. It helps me with my own writing. But more than that, the things that resonate with kids is SO different from what I get out of a book. And those conversations about those “left turns” are what inspire me.

For example, a trio of 7th grade girls explained to me that dystopian novels are popular because the protagonist is a girl and the boys treat her with respect. Okay.

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Kitty: I remember one of the first comments I got from a little girl who said she thought the book was going to be scary. She proclaimed it “not too scary.” That was the kind of kid I was: I wanted the kind of book this is, one that’s not too scary and full of family and heart.

I love the opportunity to go into classrooms and not only introduce kids to Chickcharney and the Demon Cat and Fina and the Mendoza family, but also to introduce them to Washington and the way government works, to hopefully inspire them, or at least to introduce basic civics.

Betty: What other author would you like to sit down over dinner and talk to? Why?

Kitty: Ngaio Marsh. She was a theatre maven like me and writes those lovely mystery novels set in Britain and New Zealand (where I spent my honeymoon). She’s not as smarty pants as Dorothy L. Sayers (who I also love, but feel I’m missing a lot because I never went to school in Oxford) with a good sense of humor. I’d love to talk about plotting a mystery. And about how she managed to be SO prolific!

Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?

Kitty: I’d love Fina to get picked up by Netflix or Nickelodeon and turned into a TV series. But success for me is getting my books into the hands of young readers, visiting classrooms, answering questions, and writing more books to spend more time with Fina Mendoza. And maybe someday, I’ll get a letter from an angry fan who will turn into a pen pal and maybe even run for Congress someday.

A mysterious bird poops on the head of the president during the State of the Union address. Can Fina Mendoza, the 10-year-old daughter of a congressman, outsmart the Secret Service, the Capitol Police, and most of Capitol Hill to find that bird…and learn its secret message? Fina is assisted in her investigation by a pair of congressional dogs – a giant orange Briard named Senator Something and a tiny mutt called Saint Sebastian. While Fina’s father is working on immigration reform legislation with his House colleagues inside the Capitol, her grandmother is nearly arrested outside with a group of activists.

Buy Links: Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Bookshop.org

What a fun concept, Kitty! Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your books and your writing process with us.

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Getting to know John Layne #author #western #historical #fiction #novels #books #amreading

My next guest writes in a genre I love to watch, as in old western movies while I’m revising or proofing. I’m happy to introduce to you author John Layne! Let’s take a moment to find out about his background and then delve into his inspiration and process. Here’s his bio:

John is an international, multi-award winning author of Western Fiction and long-time veteran of law enforcement beginning his police career in Houston, Texas, in 1981. He has held numerous positions in his 40 year career, including Detective for the past 26 years. He is currently a Sr. Detective for a state-wide law enforcement agency in North Texas.

​His professional writing career began in the sports industry where he penned articles for national magazines and online publications. He held the position of sports editor for two years where he wrote on professional, collegiate, and amateur athletics. ​

He grew up watching western movies and reading stories of the Old West. His theatrical influences include actors John Wayne, James Stewart, and Clint Eastwood as well as directors John Ford, Henry Hathaway, Howard Hawks, and Andrew McLaglen. He drew literary inspiration from Louis L’Amour, Robert B. Parker, C. J. Box, and Lee Child. His passion for history and the classic western genre inspired him to write short stories and two novels on the Old West along with his first feature file screen play, all classic westerns set in 1877 Texas.​

John is an avid sports fan and horse enthusiast. He is a member of The Authors Guild, Western Writers of America, Western Fictioneers, Wyoming Writers Inc., and the Oklahoma Writers Federation.

Author Social Links: Facebook * Instagram

Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?

John: The Western genre is my favorite and a pure passion of mine. I grew up with the Western and love it today more than ever.

Betty: Which character arrived fully or mostly developed?

John: U.S. Deputy Marshal Luxton Danner. I thought out his character before the writing began.

Betty: Which story element sparked the idea for this story: setting, situation, character, or something else?

John: Actual historical research. The border towns along the Red River were under siege from outlaw bands at the time of the story.

Betty: Which character(s) were the hardest to get to know? Why do you think?

John: The villain Tuff Jenkins. The story didn’t permit enough time and space to expound upon his background.

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

John: Weeks of historical research from both the Texas Historical Society and the Oklahoma Historical Society along with the history of the railroads and the period societal norms. Everything from political positioning to the accurate descriptions and names of clothing the characters wore.

Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

John: This is a tough one. Actual drafts was probably 3, but there were numerous re-writes and editing that followed before my publisher and I was satisfied.

Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?

John: My first book, Gunslingers took nearly 4 years from start to release. Red River Reunion took a solid year from start to release. With most of the research completed and the characters identified and defined, book two went much quicker. I would say that one year is now typical for me as long as I’m writing this series.

Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

John: I always go back and read the prior three chapters before I begin a new writing session. This allows me to immerse myself into the story and re-engage with the characters. I also need it to be quiet. I don’t write with any type of background sound or noise.

Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?

John: During my drafts, I tend to use “than” and “had” within my sentences. When I go back for my re-writes, I usually delete most of those words because they really aren’t needed or I restructure the sentence to sound better.

Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?

John: I have been influenced by a number of people over the years. I always note actors John Wayne, James Stewart, Maureen O’Hara, and Clint Eastwood. Film directors John Ford, Howard Hawks, and Henry Hathaway. Literary models include Louis L’Amour, Robert B. Parker, C. J. Box, and Lee Child.

Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?

John: My home office is my sanctuary. I have it decorated to perfection and I do my best work there.

Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?

John: My day job is currently a police detective and has been for the last 40 years. Let’s just say I’m ready to write full time now.

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

John: Actually just getting one book published. I was fortunate that my first manuscript caught the attention of a publishing company and agent. My first two books have been recognized with a combined 13 literary awards.

Betty: What other author would you like to sit down over dinner and talk to? Why?

John: This is a tough one, but I’ll go with Louis L’Amour. Years after his death, he’s still considered the King of the Western genre.

Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?

John: Well, since I’m still in hot pursuit of wealth and fame, I’ll go with admiration. Not of me, but my work. I hope my readers and fans admire my work. That would define success for me, but I sure would like a best seller also! (Laughing)

In 1877 U.S. Deputy Marshal Luxton Danner and Texas Ranger Wes Payne are dispatched to the Red River border of Texas and the Indian Territory to protect settlements on the Texas side of the river. The settlements were constant victims of outlaw raiders that hid out in the Indian Territory because there was no law enforcement there. Danner and Payne embark on an adventure to rid the area of outlaw superiority and reclaim the town of Range for the settlers.

Buy Links:Website * LabradorPublishing * Amazon * anywhere books are sold.

Thanks for sharing your writing process and resulting story, John. Sounds like a great read and I bet doing the research for it was fascinating.

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Getting to know Laury A Egan #author #mystery #romance #suspense #magicalrealism #literaryfiction #books

My guest today is an accomplished publishing professional who has turned her attention to her first love, writing. Please help me welcome author Laury E. Egan! Let’s take a look at her bio and then find out more about her writing process and her stories.

Laury A. Egan is the author of The Swimmer, The Outcast Oracle, A Bittersweet Tale, Jenny Kidd, The Ungodly Hour, Fabulous! An Opera Buffa, and Fog and Other Stories. Her novels range from psychological suspense, comedy, mystery/romance, young adult, to literary fiction. Four volumes of poetry have been published in limited edition: Snow, Shadows, a Stranger; Beneath the Lion’s Paw; The Sea & Beyond; and Presence & Absence. She lives on the northern coast of New Jersey.

Author Social Links: Website * Facebook * Twitter

Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?

Laury: After reading Death with Interruptions by José Saramago, I wanted to incorporate some magical realism in my writing and also to continue a trend toward more literary fiction. Although the main character, Bess Lynch, is nothing like my wife, who was also a therapist diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer, the subject, and the idea of writing about a psychologist’s struggles, were inspirations. Having been the primary caregiver and witnessing the arc of the disease through its unfortunately inevitable outcome, I also wanted to create a more positive ending, one told from a secular perspective. 

Betty: Which character arrived fully or mostly developed?

Laury: The unconventional mystery in The Swimmer surrounds Stephen, the most enigmatic of the primary characters. He says he’s gay, yet Stephen becomes involved with Bess, and his past and present lives are shadowy. Although Stephen is the embodiment of the story’s magical realism, I could see him clearly from the beginning and knew how he would behave. His dialogue and behavior required almost no revision.

Betty: Which story element sparked the idea for this story: setting, situation, character, or something else?

Laury: The end-of-life situation provided the “what-if” spark, which, in turn, led to the setting—Truro and Provincetown—where I thought a woman who wanted to make major decisions might travel to be alone or, as Bess describes the area, “the farthest I could journey out to sea without leaving land.”

Betty: Which character(s) were the hardest to get to know? Why do you think?

Laury: The protagonist, Bess Lynch, was the most challenging. As a therapist, she is used to being a caretaker, yet at this crucial point in her life, she needs to accept care. Many of Bess’ most valued attributes are suddenly challenged, so she is a character in extremis, one who must reassess her relationships with her husband and son, wrestle with her identity, and make decisions about how she will live and die. Bess is a nuanced, introspective woman, and I needed to follow her through the stages of her awareness as she reacts to the other players. In many ways, she’s a heroic figure—brave and honest—an easy part to write, yet she’s also bombarded with new realizations about her flaws—more difficult to write.

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Laury: Because I had first-hand experience with my wife’s pancreatic cancer and her symptoms, treatments, and surgeries, I consulted my notes and double-checked some medical information online. Every person who has this cancer will respond differently and will be given different protocols, plus I mention in the book that details are accurate for 2013-2015 and new approaches have been developed since then.

Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

Laury: By “drafts,” I include editorial rounds and polishes. So, by my count, there were 54 revisions, which is more than usual (typically I do 25-30 rounds). Because this was my first foray into magical realism and novel-length literary fiction, however, I wanted to make this maiden voyage successful. I also struggled with some of the family dynamics and tended to make Bess, the psychotherapist, too controlled and reserved, both tendencies similar to mine. As one reader said, wouldn’t Bess lose her cool? Yes, she would!

Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?

Laury: I began writing the novel in August 2016 and completed the first draft in November, so this book tumbled out in a very short amount of time. The reasons for the abbreviated writing time were a linear plot, which requires less mental juggling; dealing with a limited cast; and a manuscript that was modest in length. Then I began the revisions, which took far longer and involved integrating suggestions from several readers. I was delayed by another title in production, and finally submitted The Swimmer to publishers in the fall of 2018. The contract with Heliotrope Books was signed in August 2019, but because the publisher was skipping fiction in 2020, the book was postponed until April 2021. As for the typical length of time a novel takes, well, they are all different. Some are good children and enter the world smoothly, whereas others get put in the corner and reexamined much later when I can view the novel objectively and see its merits and failures. An example of this is a psychological suspense which I’ve excavated from 2003. In recent months, I’ve cut over 11,000 words and am doing major revisions.

Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

Laury: Because I started my professional writing late in life (though my career was in publishing), I feel serious pressure to produce now, to make up for “lost” time.  As a result, I usually work seven days a week, mostly starting at eight in the morning and finishing after five. For better or worse, I have few distractions, so this work ethic is easy to maintain. In many ways, I’ve become what I do, or as Andrew Carnegie (my university’s founder) wrote, “my heart is in my work.”

Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?

Laury: Ouch. You put your finger on an issue that drives me berserk: repeated words. I frequently do “find” searches for some specific offenders, but often I do a round of reading looking for unnecessary insertions of “that,” “just,” and indirect softening phrases like “kind of”—oh, my, they get the red pencil busy! Each book tends to have a unique set of repetitive words depending on the genre, setting, and subject. It’s astonishing how impoverished the English language—how many words are there for “kiss,” for example?

Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?

Laury: My mother was a very accomplished artist/painter who worked all day, five days a week. She was disciplined and dedicated and created for the process and not for financial remuneration. She believed in excellence and taking no shortcuts to get there. 

Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?

Laury: I work at a desktop computer in a guest-room office. I could sit facing my ocean view, but this space keeps me focused on what I’m doing. That said, I always have paper at hand wherever I am. When I’m writing the first draft or in the throes of early rounds, I find that quiet time before sleep or while driving can produce epiphanies or reveal plot snags. If I don’t make notes immediately, I’m terrified of forgetting.

Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?

Laury: Although writing was my first passion, I veered into visual arts (graphic design and photography) for college and for the main part of my career. I still do some fine arts photography and teach the subject privately, but I’ve phased out my book design business over the last twenty years. While I enjoyed working with authors, editors, and production staff; creating the design of the entire book from manuscript to jacket and binding; I’m even more pleased being on the opposite side of the publishing desk and passionately believe writing was what I was meant to do. I’m very fortunate to be able to concentrate on my work. I’m also pleased when I have a chance to design my own covers, such as The Swimmer.

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Laury: Whether this is a plus or a minus, I write diverse fiction, from psychological suspense to comedy to literary novels. I also think of myself as a “bridge” writer—one whose readership spans between straight and LGTBQ+ readers, with some titles exclusively falling on one side or the other, or some, like The Swimmer, mixing straight and gay characters. This fluidity feels comfortable and reflects my personality, so when I achieve this quality, I’m happiest. I also enjoy incorporating a poetic or literary style in books that might be deemed genre titles (suspense and mystery) and satisfying my fascination with psychology by creating in-depth characterizations.

Betty: What other author would you like to sit down over dinner and talk to? Why?

Laury: I would love to share a bottle (or two or three) of champagne with Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West. Imagine the conversation between the two women! My next book (late 2021), Wave in D Minor, is about a composer writing an opera featuring these writers, which meant considerable research reading their journals and letters so I could create scenes and short snatches of lyrics. Even if armed with all this information, I would be too intimidated to talk to Woolf and Vita-Sackville West and would only ask questions. I’m sure the conversation would be as sparkling as the champagne.

Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?

Laury: I don’t define success as a writer the same way as I did my career as a book designer, in which I won numerous national awards and earned a decent income. Writing has always been my identity. It is who I am and has now become my life. Being widowed, without family, and dealing with partial disability, writing is my greatest pleasure. That said, reaching a higher level of “discoverability” would be wonderful.

The Swimmer: A fresh twist on a triangular relationship. A novel about compassion, generosity, love, selfishness, grief, bravery, and sacrifice.

Psychotherapist Bess Lynch makes a sojourn to Cape Cod to deal with her impending demise from pancreatic cancer. At the beach, she encounters an incandescently handsome man, who is mourning the loss of his husband to leukemia. They find solace in a tender affair until Bess’ son arrives and detonates the fragile calm. The dynamics between these three characters play out against Bess’ awareness that her cancer is metastasizing and her concerns about dying with independence and grace. With touches of magical realism, the novel rises above the somber subject into a lyrical elegy about kindness, love, and dignity.

“Egan’s story is for anyone contemplating the meaning of death, life, and everything in between: fear, regret, desire, hope, acceptance. A novel written with deep compassion and beautiful storytelling.”

—Lori Ostlund, author of After the Parade

Buy Links: Amazon

Signed copies available from the author: www.lauryaegan.com

Drawing from personal experience to write such a touching story must be satisfying. Thanks for sharing it with us, Laury!

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Nothing but Time: A Pocket Watch Timeskip Story #FracturedCrystals #FuryFallsInn #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

I’m happy to share that book 4 of the Fury Falls Inn historical fantasy series, Fractured Crystals, is now available for pre-order. See below for more about the story and links to order your copy today.

One of the themes in this story is time, specifically Daniel Fairhope’s ability to timeskip using a very special pocket watch. So, I thought I’d share what this antique watch looks like, or at least the images I used while writing Fractured Crystals.

I found the pocket watch online at the 1st Dibs website. I chose it as the model for my story because of its age and unique design. It’s described there as “a rare Georgian Verge pocket watch.” The watch was designed and signed by Abraham Colomby, a Swiss maker and retailer who died in Geneva in 1776. When this jewelry store offered the watch for sale (at $5,950, though it’s no longer available) it was still keeping time despite being crafted in 1760. Imagine that for a moment: it has been working for something like 261 years! Blows me away. The workmanship Mr. Colomby brought to bear on a watch.

I love the design of this fancy watch! The rose cut diamonds surrounding the front crystal face and the enamel portrait of a lady on the back, also surrounded by diamonds. Apparently, there are 142 rose cut diamonds in all. Now I did modify the watch a bit to add a second button for my timeskip purposes, but mostly I left it alone.

Here’s a short excerpt when Daniel first encounters the watch in Fractured Crystals:


Giles chuckled at the slight and Daniel shot him a quelling look. Giles merely shrugged and pulled a pocket watch from his front jeans pocket. The gold case with its ring of gems glinted in the evening light, a long chain securing the timepiece to his brother’s pocket. Everything around Daniel came to a standstill as he stared at the beautiful, captivating, entrancing watch. His brother studied the time and then glanced up at him, his smirk shifting into a puzzled frown.

“What’s the matter?” Giles held the watch on his palm, his gaze on Daniel.

“May I see it?” He needed to hold it. His fingers itched to grasp the gold object with a circle of small diamonds around the crystal. “Please?”

Giles regarded him for a long moment and then nodded. “I don’t know why, but now that you ask I feel like it’s the exact right thing to do.”

Giles released the chain’s clasp and then dropped the pocket watch lightly on Daniel’s outstretched palm. The name Abraham Colomby, the watch’s maker, graced the white face of the watch in a flowing script. The metal case warmed to his touch and a sense of peace and rightness filled him. A truly unique sensation. As if the watch had come home to him. He turned it over to stare into the painted coquettish eyes of a young woman in a fancy pink gown and large purple hat with white feathers arching above it on the back. On one side of the watch a nub of a stem bumped the pad of his thumb.

“Where did you get this?” Daniel asked Giles, meeting his brother’s surprised expression.

“In the trunks in Ma’s attic. At the time, I thought I wanted it for its utility but now I get the impression there was more to it.” Giles folded his arms over his massive chest, his eyes serious as he met Daniel’s gaze. “You look like you’ve found your true love, my brother.”

No, not his true love. Something more. A deeper connection. Daniel inspected the watch, turning it slowly in his hand. “I… It’s mine. I know it is, but I don’t remember ever seeing it before.” He frowned down at the gleaming gold metal and then glanced at his mother. “Do you know?”

“Well of course it’s yours, Daniel. You are a Timeskipper after all. I’ve kept it safe for you until your return. Or rather, Giles has kept it under his protection as Guardian.”


I hope you’ll enjoy meeting Daniel and getting to know more about the secretive Fairhope family as well. I’ve heard from several readers how anxious they are to read this story after reading the first three in the series: The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn, Under Lock and Key, and Desperate Reflections. Fractured Crystals is coming soon!

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

FRACTURED CRYSTALS IS NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER!

RELEASES OCTOBER 12, 2021!

Fury Falls Inn in 1821 Alabama. A place for ghosts, witches, and magic. A place of secrets and hidden dangers. A place where Daniel Fairhope’s family kept life-changing secrets from him.

His sister’s magic is coveted by two powerful, angry witches intent on her willing compliance with their demands. Worse, a witch hunter is on the loose, determined to rid the area of all witches. Struggling to cope with those threats, Daniel discovers his own unique and powerful ability as well as those of his estranged brothers. Abilities they’ll need to unite to protect their sister and the family secrets. But these challenges all pale in comparison to convincing the captivating woman he meets at the inn to trust him before she breaks his heart.

Books2Read    Amazon      Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple

Getting to know Janyce Stefan-Cole #author #womensfiction #mystery #contemporary #thriller #books

How about a little murder mystery to kickstart the weekend? Please help me welcome as my guest author Janyce Stefan-Cole! Let’s take a look at her bio and then find out whodunit…

JANYCE STEFAN-COLE is the author of the novels, HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD (Unbridled Books) and THE DETECTIVE’S GARDEN (Unbridled Books) and is included in: Rattapallax Magazine issue 36, The Broadkill Review, The Laurel Review, and The Open Space. “Conversation with a Tree” won Knock Literary Magazine’s Eco-lit prize and was republished in the anthology, BEING HUMAN; Editions Bibliotekos. Also: Fiction Writers Review, Pank, The Healing Muse, Main Street Rag, American Book Review, WG News + Arts, and the anthology, DICK FOR A DAY; Villard Books. Visiting novelist, Texas University of the Permian Basin.

Author Social Links: Website * Facebook

Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?

Janyce: The Detective came to me first, as does happen but not always. I knew Emil was an atheist, and that atheists are “the most religious in the world”. My husband is an inherited atheist, so perhaps some of him features in protagonist, retired homicide detective, Emil Milosec. Also, I wanted to write in the male voice, and do so convincingly. A mystery presents itself in the form a severed female finger. The garden is Emil’s refuge; his deceased wife Elena, very much alive in Emil’s heart, created the garden in what had been a dump of a backyard at their Brooklyn brownstone. Emil has dug a hole with intentions of planting the apple tree his wife had long wanted in the garden. He discovers the severed finger there and, in an instant, his refuge is spoiled. He must discover who “planted” the finger and why. This takes him, first in memory, then actually to his boyhood home of Slovenia. There is revealed what his mind had refused to accept, and can no longer avoid: Emil Milosec, the law-defending, self-certain detective faces himself and finds a murderer.

Betty: Which character arrived fully or mostly developed?

Janyce: Emil Milosec, and his neighbor, Franco Montoya.

Betty: Which story element sparked the idea for this story: setting, situation, character, or something else?

Janyce: I would say both character and setting. The garden is of course a metaphor for Eden. The irony being an atheist is its inhabitant.

Betty: Which character(s) were the hardest to get to know? Why do you think?

Janyce: Emil is very complex, and he is a male, while I am female. I had to grasp a consistent male voice, and I had to break through a very reticent character. Elena is, of course, deceased from the story’s beginning. I had to bring her alive just enough to let the reader know how deeply she affected, still affects Emil.

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Janyce: Happily, I have been to Slovenia, so was able to project that city believably. I had to research weapons, and certain police procedures. And I had to find certain words in Slovenian—that was tricky. I read the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament because Emil the atheist is at the same time very Old Testament. He argues with The Bible; the deity found in it.

Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

Janyce: I wrote a story in 1999, “The Pepper Patch”. There is a pepper patch in Emil’s garden. His neighbor, Franco Montoya gave the seeds to Emil’s wife Elena, who planted them knowing Emil hated peppers. The story introduced me to Emil and my other main characters. I began to write a novel, Outside Eden, which evolved after perhaps three drafts to, THE DETECTIVE’S GARDEN.

Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?

Janyce: If you exclude the short story that led to the novel, I’d say three years, a bit more. Yes, the length is pretty typical. I average between three and four hundred manuscript pages. I don’t plan the number of pages.

Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

Janyce: Solitude! I must pretend I am utterly alone in the world of my book. That means no phone calls or emails. I try to be at the desk by nine AM where I stay, no matter what, until lunch. Afternoons the world usually steps in, though I try for an afternoon session at the desk.

Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?

Janyce: Nod (he/she nodded) might be one. And then, is another I have to watch out for. Also, starting a sentence with and. For some reason I like to start sentences with and. I carefully rein that in.

Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?

Janyce: Not really living role models but many authors. Lewis Nordan was a wonderful Southern writer I got to know at an art colony. He was the real deal, and I looked up to him but was, happily, too bashful to make a complete annoyance of myself. We became friends. I don’t know that he actually took my writing seriously at the time.

Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?

Janyce: I have a wonderful studio in Brooklyn. Not quite quiet enough but I make it work. It is my lair. My sister gave me an apple green chaise that I read on. My husband, also a writer, works downstairs at the opposite end of the house. So I feel safe and physically isolated when I write.

Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?

Janyce: Thankfully, I haven’t had a day job in years. Last job was as a clerk for Time, Inc. I live modestly.

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Janyce: Greatest achievement is having written three novels, so far. I was told in workshop, at one of the art colonies I attended, that I was writing a novel. Before that I’d not had the nerve or confidence to think I could write a novel. Others convinced me I could.

Betty: What other author would you like to sit down over dinner and talk to? Why?

Janyce: I’d take tea with Charlotte Bronte because she was such a supreme storyteller. Likewise, Louise Erdrich. I’d like to have sat at a Paris café with Mavis Gallant. I’d gladly sit at the knee of Dostoyevsky. James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man had a profound effect on me in my late teens; I’d like to thank him. Alice Munro, Michael Ondaatje, Jean Ryhs of Good Morning Midnight, any Orhan Pamuk book. The list goes on…

Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?

Janyce: Success that I have been able to write well, to find a voice that turned out to be mine.

THE DETECTIVE’S GARDEN: A Love Story and Meditation on Murder

Brooklyn, 1995: hipsters are moving in, developers smell blood, and a housing bubble begins that will turn a sleepy semi-industrial waterfront into towers of glass and steel. Ex-homicide Detective Emil Milosec figures he’s safe in his garden, until a grim discovery in the pepper patch one hot June morning raises the possibility of real estate terrorists. He’d thought he was done detecting iniquity but now he’s back on a case. Originally from Slovenia, he’s the perennial outsider. So was his wife, the beauty from Trieste, Elena Morandi, who has died too young, taking her secrets with her. A cast of locals flavors the story, but it’s the ex-cop’s journey into his own darkness that makes the tale. A heat wave, a gun, a smattering of science: A bit of Shakespeare, tablespoons of the Old Testament, and hints of Sophocles yield a contemplative, noirish brew.

Buy Links: Indibound * Barnes & Noble * Amazon *Apple

Thanks for sharing your story premise and a bit about your writing process, Janyce!

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!