by Linda Weaver Clarke
This cozy mystery series is unlike any other. Most mysteries are about murder and “who-done-it,” but this series specializes in missing persons. Each of these books has enough twists to stump the reader. It has a nice blend of suspense, romance, and humor. Watch Amelia and Rick as they investigate each case in the Amelia Moore Detective Series.
When Mrs. Brody hires Amelia and Rick to find her missing brother in The Bali Mystery, they find themselves in Bali, Indonesia. They are mystified why her brother quit his job, put his home up for sale, and ran off to this mysterious and exotic island without telling a soul.
“This is a cozy mystery, but there is also suspense, danger and, of course, romance. Throw in two mysterious men in black – complete with black suits and sunglasses and you have all the makings of an exciting novel.” – Library of Clean Reads
When Amelia is hired to search for her client’s grandparents in The Shamrock Case, the case takes them to Ireland. Kate must learn about her heritage. Who are her grandparents, and could they still be alive after all these years? Why did her parents leave Ireland suddenly and move to America? Is there more to this case than meets the eye?
“Amelia and Rick have the makings of being a lasting couple that readers will adore and root for. The Shamrock Case moves along quickly. The author paints a vivid picture of the beauty of Ireland. I could easily see the greenery and magnificence of the country. Clarke knows both her characters and locations well and it shines through each word she writes.” –Socrates Book Review
In The Missing Heir, Dell Murphy has passed on and left a fortune to his nephew. He wants his nephew to continue his work at the orphanage in Mexico, but there is one problem. Neal Woods is missing! If Amelia and Rick can’t find him soon, the fortune will be turned over to Dell’s brother and sister who intend to close down “Uncle Dell’s Orphanage.” If that happens, where will the children go?
“It’s refreshing to me to discover a “cozy mystery”, with two likeable, romantic characters who enjoy each other and are able to solve a mystery together. It is a book I am happy to be able to recommend and share with teens as well as adults of all ages!” - Sherril S. Cannon
In The Mysterious Doll, Pauline Jones is confused why her boyfriend took off without telling a soul where he was going. But that isn’t all. Sam Whitaker is accused of stealing a valuable porcelain doll from the museum. His disappearance makes him look guilty, but Pauline is convinced he is innocent. When Amelia finds Sam, she realizes they need to prove his innocence. Where is the antique doll and who has taken it?
“I've read all of this author's mysteries and this one is my favorite! They're all good, but they just keep getting better and better. I think part of it is getting to know the characters more with each book and watching the way Amelia and her partner, Rick, work together. The mystery element was great! It moved along at a good pace and just when I thought I had it figured out at the end, a few twists were thrown in and I was at a loss once again.” --Katie Watkins, Katies Clean Book Collection
“I love long-lost love stories. So this one grabbed my interest right from the beginning. What I enjoy about this series is that there's always more to each case than they originally think. This case was no different. I love how their personal relationship is progressing and am excited to see what happens next. Rick is so irresistible and romantic and he steps up big time in this book. I'm definitely looking forward to reading more!” --Melanie Valderrama of Mel’s Shelves
Each novel in this mystery series has enough twists to keep the reader guessing. Library of Clean Reads wrote: “This is a fast-paced, creative mystery.”
For more information or to read sample chapters, visit http://www.lindaweaverclarke.com.
Linda Weaver Clarke travels throughout the United States, teaching people to write their family history and autobiography. She is the author of several historical sweet romances, a mystery/adventure series, a children’s book, and a cozy mystery series.
Meet Melissa Foster, who has sold over 300,000 books!
Midwest Book Review
Tell us a little about yourself and your work?
I am a bit of a hippie chick, an admitted chocoholic, and a total family girl. I absolutely LOVE what I do for a living. Everyday holds new inspirations and a chance to take my characters someplace new, or give them a new issue to overcome. I am very lucky to be able to do what I love, and I’m blessed with a very supportive family.
2. Where do you get your inspiration for your books from?
Life is my biggest inspiration. My mind travels down very odd paths, so the simplest of events—like seeing a child walking down a hallway—can lead my mind to wonder what would happen if all the lights went out and the child was suddenly abandoned. Maybe the parents were drug addicts and brought the child with them to buy drugs, then the deal went bad and they were killed. What would happen to that little child? (See? Told you…)
3. How do you develop your characters?
I try to write easily relatable characters. My characters are typically a mixture of the average person, with a bit of quirkiness and a few flaws thrown in. I do a lot of people watching and often take bits and pieces of personalities and mannerisms from those I’ve watched to create my characters.
4. What got you into writing?
A passion that was unavoidable. I could not run from the desire to create stories.
5. What do you hope readers will come away with after reading HAVE NO SHAME?
HAVE NO SHAME is an important story that documents not only how much society has changed over the years, but also the strength of our ancestors. I hope that HAVE NO SHAME gives readers pause, and allows them to become introspective and think about their own motivations in life, how they treat people, how they judge others, and the fairness (or lack thereof) of it all. I hope that those who fought -- and who continue to fight -- for equality will not be forgotten. There are many heros who go unnoticed in this world. Everyday heroes like parents who taught their children how worthy they were at a time when society tried to deem them otherwise. My hope is that Alison and Jackson's story will bring thoughts of those people to the forefront of readers' minds. The sixties was not so long ago, and in many ways, we still have a long way to go until equality is achieved across the board. I would hope that readers might come away with incentive to help that come to fruition.
Meet Katherine Ann Wynne
Author of The Fairy Garden
1) What moved you to become an author? Tell us a little about yourself.
I had a fine art print publishing company that was sinking into bankruptcy with the decline of the print market. I dearly needed an escape from that daily catastrophe. Some months before, on a trip to Salisbury I had met Stephen Tennant and had visited Salisbury Cathedral with it's rather neglected North Canonry garden. Getting back the photos I'd taken on my trip, I found myself saying as I looked at the garden's profusion of wild growth, "If there are fairies anywhere, they're in that garden." Mr.. Tennant had impressed me with his withdrawl into a beautiful world of his own making, so, following his lead, I gave myself permission to create my own happier world by writing a book about fairies. Stephen became something of a model for the hero. The year was 1977, and The Fairy Garden has only now been published.
While Marie explores the material world, flying on her dragonfly, Stephen youthens with wisdom as Vision embroils him in struggles with the darker aspects within himself.
And, through all, both he and the child must function in the two worlds of daily life and of spirit perception -- and rescue the fairies' wild, profuse garden from avid gardeners with historical renovation in mind.
3) How did the story begin to develop in your mind?
On deciding to write, I immediately wrote an outline. Then I granted myself the delightful escape of writing each day. I attempted to do research, but at the time the only books in print on fairies, to my astonishment, were in non-fiction: Conan-Doyle's study of fairy photos taken by two little girls, The Findhorn Garden and a marvelous little journal titled Fairies at Work and Play which was a considerable help regarding such things as landscape divas.
4) What did you find most challenging about this book?
I was determined to deal with those parts of the human psyche that make spirituality hazardous: guilt, rage and fear. The writing of Stephen's encounters with these very personal, insect-like phenomena was the stuff of nightmares.
5) How did you choose your publishing method?
The Fairy Garden had lain dormant in typed manuscript from 1977. Reading it, I felt it a pity to let it continue to languish. As a writer of art books I've had experience with trade publishing for many years and seen the decline of that business. For my last book, the publisher loaded me with every possible expense short of the printing and binding, with the result that the book can never be clear of the charges laid to the author and will never pay a royalty. Rather aggravating. The prospect of actually receiving financial reports and being paid royalties for a change enticed me to self-publish with Amazon's CreateSpace.
6) What is your next work, and beyond that, what do you want to work on.
I wrote some fantasy short stories long ago, and I may publish them as Amazon shorts.
7) Who do you think influenced your writing, this work, and who do you think you write like.
Well, of course Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, and the aforementioned Fairies at Work and Play:as Observed, by Geoffrey Hodson. I couldn't say whom I write like.
8) Who do you read?
The Worm Uroburos by E.R. Eddison, Vathek by Wiliam Beckford, The Fairy Queen by Spencer, The Thousand and One Nights translation by Richard Burton (with astonishing footnotes) and of course Tolkien and Rowling.
9) When writing, what is your routine for the day, for crafting a scene, for the entire cycle of first work to published copy?
My routine for writing The Fairy Garden was to begin in the evening by sharpening my pencils, curling up in my chair with my Yorkie curled up with me and a tablet of lined paper propped on my knee. Then the following day I would type what I had written the night before -- while I still could make sense of my handwriting. Since the manuscript lay ignored for thirty-six years I really cannot say anything about the cycle to publication -- except that I'm glad I discovered the stack of pages in a box in the bottom of a closet and read them.
10) In the current work, is there an excerpt to share?
The Fairy Revel
The festivities were held not in the precinct of the Sundial, but within a fairy ring across the River Avon from the Cathedral Close. There the grass within a perfect disk grew short and mossy, and the air close to the ground was warm as summertime although it was not fully spring.
The light of a half moon reflected glimmers in the dew upon the grass. Tiny banquet tables, their gilded legs the thinnest vine tendrils, their boards slivers of malachite of deepest green, were set with cloths of opalescent gauze. Urns, trays and footed dishes carved of fairy gems of every hue were heaped with fairy foods and foods the fairies thought might please their mortal guest. Garnet coloured pomegranate seeds the size of melons, flown on fairy wings from walled gardens in Palestine. Rich cheeses of local milkweed, ripened in the deepest crevices beneath the fairies’ home. Salads of parsley, marjoram and pungent chervil to refresh the palate, pilfered from a gourmet’s windowsill. Poppy seeds from last spring’s crop, as crisp as caviar. Large goblets filled with cowslip mead. And pearly sweets filled with the honey of the linden tree.
The tables were set out fan like, leaving an empty triangle, open on the side facing the river and the east. At the apex of the angle of the tables was a dais covered with a carpet that shimmered brightest of the glimmerings about the fairy ring. The carpet’s pattern shifted from a thousand tiny blossoms to bright gems, and then again to blossoms, its flux rippling like the surface of a stream.
A slight breeze rose and, sudden as a showering of petals from a wind stirred cherry tree, a cloud of coloured wings appeared. Amid the wings, Marie and Stephen, dressed in flowing cloth of gold bedecked with bee fur and with gems, galloped on their dragonflies. Circling down the luminous moonbeam in a vivid cascade, the fairy throng descended to the mossy ground.
Marie and Stephen, alighting from their insect mounts, were led to the dais to sit upon the breath soft, changing carpet. There they were joined by Filadin and Pipogen, whose wings by moonlight seemed the more ornate for their tatters. The only other evidence of injury was a soft rounding of his spirits to languidness.
The gaudy court of wings settled about the fairy circle. Then a hush fell as the moonlight on the dais gathered to the Presence of Queen Gwathawil.
A baldaquin of perfume drifted above the feasting company, raining a spectrum of floral scents, as emerald gnats, the fairy young, bore dishes from the banquet tables out among the revelers. The foods of the feast were the gifts of the dense fairies. The entertainments were provided by the fairies of the wildflowers.
Each blossom, formed in radiant perfection, danced above the revelers in the moonlit volume of the air. Enchanted mallow blooms weaved a pavan, while comic shepherd’s purse, like a Pierrot, juggled his heart shaped pods. Even the old espaliers locked their upheld arms and swung in country dances till they spun into a blur. Thistles leapt a wild gigue. Then all was still as Thyme beguiled the revelers with a sultry serpentine… till she was chased from the night sky by the joyous rustling corymb of Angelica’s cancan.
Marie was frantic with delight, applauding, flushed with cowslip wine. Stephen laughed as much at her high spirits as at the entertainments. Close, side by side, sat Pipogen and Filadin, sharing a goblet of mead and tender glances.
But as the Morning Star arose beyond the park, the dancers slowed. One by one the wild blooms of insubstantial radiance melted before the cool touch of night’s end. Then spoke Queen Gwathawil to Stephen and Marie.
“All that you have seen and lived has been of Truth. Now, in Our gratitude for what you’ve done, We offer you a further gift, an Indulgence of Fantasy.”
As the Fairy Queen spoke, the first rays of the morning sun were shed upon the Garden and the fairy ring. Through the misty light a rainbow sprang, spanning the River Avon from the Sundial to the mossy revel grounds and falling in a torrent about Stephen and Marie. On the summit of the rainbow’s crest a castle glowed, turreted and pennanted, from which the sweetest music flowed.
Marie and Stephen found themselves upon their dragonflies at full gallop across the rainbow bridge.
But as their swift steeds vanished through the castle door, Stephen called to Pipogen below, “I’ll be back soon. Then we’ll begin the Book!”
11) Where can we find your work?
The Fairy Garden, in paperback and as an e-book, is available on Amazon US and Amazon UK.
Please meet historical fiction author Sandra Byrd:
1) Would you please introduce yourself as Sandra Byrd the person? And what titles have you previously published?
Sandra Byrd the person, eh? I am a wife, a mother of two grown children and the caretaker/mom of a stay-at-home Diva Dog named Brie. I love to cook and bake and therefore, have just joined the Y! I do enjoy aerobic exercise, especially to good music. I love hanging out with my friends and especially doing activities with them. A friend and I are going to a professional cake decorating class soon. More time at the Y!
I also write books, of course, and mentor new and established authors.
I’ve written dozens of books for tweens and teens, and this, The French Twist series, which is contemporary and for adults. Currently I’m writing in the field I most love, historical fiction. My Tudor series, Ladies in Waiting, wraps up this spring.
2) What first led you into writing?
3) What do you find challenging about writing?
Oh, most everything! Building a plot that is strong, with few or no coincidences or historical anachronisms or mistakes, but still peopled by flawed, but ultimately heroic and loveable, people, to start with. :) Keeping to deadline. Marketing when I’d rather be writing!
4) Is there a scene in one of your books that was inspired in an interesting or amusing way?
Yes! My decision to use faux-amis in the French Twist books, that is (according to the Oxford Language Dictionary), "Words that have a common root but which have taken on quite different meanings over the centuries, or words that have no common root and which look alike through pure accident, entirely unrelated to their English look-alikes."
I was an exchange student in France and made the common, and classical, error of refusing another course but saying that “I am full” but translated it word for word which, in French, means “I am pregnant.” My hosts had likely heard it before and did not express shock toward their 17 year old guest!
I used some fun French faux-amis in the books, because they add humor, are down to earth and real life, and show the generosity of the French toward error in language, when people try to speak French.
5) How did your interest develop in your genres?
I started writing for tweens, because I was a tween when I became “addicted” to books, and I wanted to, hopefully, write books that would really start kids on a lifetime of interest in reading. I wrote the French Twist series as a response to some of the tweens who, when they grew up, asked me what was next for them! I loved France, love baking, and it seemed like a great fix.
My own true love in reading, though, is historical novels, especially British set historical novels, and that is where I spent my writing time these days.
6) Tell us about your newest release, and what will follow?
My newest release is Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I. I was thrilled - and a little intimidated - to write a book about Elizabeth but in the end it was so satisfying, and I hope readers find a new angle on her though our heroine, Elin, a true friend to the Queen. My next series will still be an English historical, but set in the Victorian Era. I am delighting in writing that story, too, and hope readers will come along for the ride.
See Sandra's Kindle Freebie!
About the book:
Book One in the French Twist Series.
Lexi Stuart is at a critical crossroads. She’s done with college but still living at home, ready to launch a career but unable to find a job, and solidly stalled between boyfriends.
When a lighthearted conversation in French with the manager of her favorite bakery turns into a job offer, Lexi accepts. But the actual glamour is minimal: the pay is less than generous, her co-workers are skeptical, her bank account remains vertically-challenged, and her parents are perpetually disappointed. Her only comfort comes from the flirtatious baker she has her eye–but even may not be who he seems to be!
So when a handsome young executive dashes into the bakery to pick up his high profile company’s special order for an important meeting–an order Lexi has flubbed–she loses her compulsion to please. Something inside Lexi clicks. Laissez la révolution commencer! Let the revolution begin! Instead of trying to fulfill everyone else’s expectations for her life, Lexi embarks on an adventure in trusting herself and her God with her future–très bon!
After earning her first rejection at the age of thirteen, bestselling author Sandra Byrd has now published more than forty books. Her adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, was a Christy Award finalist, as was her first historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. To Die For was also named by Library Journal as a Best Books Pick for 2011 and The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, was named a Library Journal Best Books Pick for 2012. Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I, will publish in April, 2013.
Sandra has also published dozens of books for tweens and teens.
A former textbook acquisitions editor, Sandra has also published many nonfiction articles and books. She is also passionate about helping new writers develop their talent and their work toward traditional or self publication. As such, she has mentored and coached hundreds of new writers and continues to coach dozens to success each year.
Please visit www.sandrabyrd.com to learn more, or to invite Sandra to your bookclub via Skype.
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Meet fellow historical fiction author, Philippa Jane Keyworth:
Initially I guess it was my fascination with enjoying novels as a reader. In 2nd and 3rd grade, I was so bored chanting trivial arithmetic tenets in unison with the other kids, or sitting there listening to classmates struggle over which word was a sentence's subject and which the predicate…it was all too easy, too mind-numbingly tedious. So I'd hunker down behind Butchie Shapacker's melon-shaped head and crack open "Outlaws of Ravenhurst" or something from Edgar Rice Burroughs, or one of the other fiction novels I'd hoarded from the classroom shelf. Luckily my surname started with a V, which put my desk near the back of the room. And I would read, while others shouted out that the predicate was the word "of."
The teachers would catch me of course, and try to embarrass me or punish me, but they could never break me of reading every time I sat down. That and the classical music wafting through our home from my parents' "Hi Fi " (in my mind I somehow equated instrumental rifts with sentences, because both had a musicality to the ear) led me to love the sound and cadence, the thrilling poetic qualities, of language. I was an action kid when given the chance, but when I had to sit, I was drinking up great fiction like it was water. And because of that mix, experiential material and the art of language just sort of came together.
And my mother sometimes spent hours at her typewriter, mostly composing missives on morality questions she felt the urge to share…so I probably absorbed the notion that writing was a pursuit of which to be proud.
As I grew up, reading naturally steered me toward movies. I must have seen a few thousand of them over the years. As maturity improved I blew through the 2D pop stuff and into more compelling material with real complex characters on which the stories relied, rather than on gratuitous action or formulaic cliches. Recognizing the ways in which characters are painted that were most satisfying to me led me to analyzing why I liked some more than others, and eventually to figuring out how to do it myself. A story needs people we care about, people in whom we see ourselves, and anticipation. Action is a very distant second to anticipation—action is only necessary at all if it's needed to keep readers or viewers relating to a character. Be it humor or drama, you need the character depth and the suspense—the anticipation, dispelled little by little as relevant detail is doled out.
I'll describe my flagship title, ARCHANGEL. Imagine a man who has long since lost faith in himself, and who--although he doesn't recognize the heroism in the choice--has for some years been essentially saving the world from himself, in hidden, quiet servitude to humanity. And imagine he falls into a situation that demands even more moral strength, even more heart, and again he must choose--between continuing his inconsequential existence or protecting people he's grown to love. To do the right thing means sacrificing his own small chance at redemption, his humanity, himself.
The story loosely parallels the ancient, timeless fable of the captain of Heaven's army casting evil from paradise...hence the title. It presents the classic heroic warrior as someone who plays a paradoxical, even sacrificial, role. There's also the subtly tantalizing thread of forbidden love.
ARCHANGEL actually draws from many facets of my own life. The official description is:
The shame of terrible deeds past can drive a man to self-contempt. So it is with Mick Calahan, anonymous, disconsolate, shielding the world from himself in priest's robes. But a disturbing assignment and the desperate trust of a young woman threaten to make him choose between staying buried and unleashing the phantoms that haunt his past.
Drawn into Gabriella's taut, troubled paradise, Mick harbors a dark secret--that his signature quality is not virtue. And the woman knows, and the town will come to see, that their deliverance could compel this mysterious man to oppose evil by becoming it.
3) How did the story begin to develop in your mind?
Actually I have no idea. One evening in 1998 while driving to a karate class, a scene played itself out in my mind. I just kind of experienced it, in my head. It was an ending scene, a resolution, to a story I knew nothing about. Maybe all those movies had had an effect, else why would a riveting scene just happen on its own? And the scene was so incredibly compelling that it was clear there was tremendous depth in the back story, whatever it was, and tremendous power in the characters embroiled in it. It actually choked me up to try to describe it to a friend. I spent months thinking about it, which stretched into a number of years, and finally tried my hand at "making up" the story that led to that scene. Hammering out something plausible and equally compelling didn't quite work, of course, because I was trying to "write" it. I had to learn to let the characters tell me what had happened, and then get it down. It became more of a discovery than a conscious creative effort, in that sense, and as I got to know those characters really well, and came to admire them and love them, they let me see more. It really has to be that way—we have to put in the time. Writing a book every four to six months only results in a four-to-six month book, or so I think. Of course it was my subconscious doing it all (science would say so anyway), but even so I was still discovering people and listening to them, and getting their story down. It turned out to be a very powerful, very taut, very heroic tale, and I learned a lot from the people in it.
4) How did you go about reviewing, editing, and polishing the book?
I'm the...possibly rare, I don't know...author who can self-edit. There's a mechanically linguistic grammatical technician inside me that I can turn on and off at will. Once a work is complete, then over many dozens of successive review/edit passes, I polish it. I can maintain the original vision while performing the critical editorial functions; it's like having an editor who knows exactly what you're trying to do and who can identify how better to get there. I don’t know, maybe it’s just the application of patience.
For me, it is absolutely critical to review my work out loud. That shifts my mind into a place where an uninitiated reader would be. It reveals clumsy wording, thrillingly poetic phrases, and omissions or needless duplications of fact. It goes to the heart of the cadence and tempo--the musical qualities--of language.
Those who say an author cannot self-edit simply don't understand how it can happen--it's like the authors who used to say you cannot write well unless you're using an old Underwood typewriter, so as to prevent yourself re-working sentences as you go. Those opinions are simply wrong; it can indeed be done, but it takes the right--again perhaps unusual—person, and more than a little patience, to pull it off. It also takes an unshakeable drive to produce a masterpiece—we have to be willing to inspect and re-inspect every word, every sentence, dozens of times, cover to cover, and even to scrap whole chapters or entire book flows and start again, all in pursuit of the perfect novel.
And we have to be willing to "kill our darlings," our favorite scenes, as they say...but the beauty of the editor understanding the original vision is that we needn't always kill them if we can really make them work. I have a small group of feedback people who have been very adept at communicating to me areas where they felt "something was wrong" or "something didn't fit" or "something wasn't clear"--folks who can communicate really well that they didn't get something...but who don't try to dictate the solution. I listen to them and often improve the manuscript where I deem it's needed. Sometimes an entire conceptual omission can be resolved with a single line or phrase in the right bit of dialog in the right chapter.
I carefully map out time lines, and also instances in the manuscript where a reference to this or that appears, such as a partial flashback around the 18% point, a recurrence of that with a little more detail at the 40% point...etc. Very important to ensure we give the right amount, not too little and not too much, of critical data to the reader. We must pace it like the best paced works we've ever read. These progression charts morph as the characters reveal more to me, as a story develops.
Ten months (somewhere in the twelfth year from inception) after I published ARCHANGEL, I learned something profound about my own protagonist by reading what I'd written and realizing why he'd done something long before. It had come out of the pen, and was there in the story to be realized, but had not come out of my conscious brain. Spooky...and therein lies the power of fiction. We all learn from it when we read it, even those who think they made it up.
5) What did you find most challenging about this book?
It took incredible tenacity, first of all. All told, it was an 11-year effort. It went through three screenplay versions before a kind and perceptive Hollywood producer named Max Freedman chose to respond to me, of the hundreds of queries from nobodies that he got per day or per week, and to meet with me, and school me on the harsh, mercenary realities of that industry. It became obvious that I had to re-write ARCHANGEL as a novel. And then it took two more years to get the energy together to go back to the drawing board and do that. Max saved me from writing my life away only to donate every idea I had into the Hollywood pot, for junior readers to disparage and paid Hollywood writers to potentially use in their work without even knowing they were plagiarizing. And he helped me see that I had to go to my strong suit; and novel-length prose was most definitely what I was born to do.
6) What do you find most challenging about writing in general?
Writing is a wonderful experience for me. Dozens of hours can go by all day, every day, and I'll sit there and create. The only thing difficult about the effort itself is finding the time to do it. Of course we all agonize over whether the public will realize the work for the masterpiece it is (that's the egotistical artist's way of looking at it!), but that aside, it is absolutely a labor of love.
7) Why would a reader feel your work is a good use of their time? Why might they feel that reading your work sets you apart in their mind?
A reader can either sink into a style of writing, or not. Just like a gifted actor like Anthony Hopkins or George Clooney or Clint Eastwood can make pretty much any script come alive, a gifted writer can make almost any topic capture our attention. So within reason, style rules the day. If the style resonates with a reader, it's a match made in heaven; ideas are shared. I try to make scenes so real that the reader is right there, and yet I make an effort to not do so at the expense of the plot continuing to move. The plot is like a river; it needs to flow. We float the stream, and along the way we see the tips of weeping willow leaves caressing the water's surface, we smell the faint aroma of wood smoke from the cabin to which our little wooden canoe is headed, we hear the tiny gurgle of the solitary ripple made by a rising cutthroat against the near bank to our right, where a lone soggy acorn yet bobs, oblivious to the task that lies ahead…uh…how are we doing? :)
The point is that I try to paint a scene while still allowing the stream to flow, to give the reader a real, worthy, even enchanting experience—tense or beautiful, ominous or out-loud laughable, stiflingly indecisive or bursting with determination. That's what they come for.
8) How did you know when it was time to publish?
Again, independent Hollywood producer Max Freedman helped me see that I had to publish ARCHANGEL as a novel. And I was grateful, because that's what it had wanted to be all along. And so I worked it like it was my life’s lone legacy. Once I knew the manuscript could stand on its own feet, and I felt it could go toe to toe with the works of great established authors I'd read before…once I realized that it could change but could really no longer improve…it was ready.
Then I had to wait a few more months! …because I needed a cover design. And I did that myself, since I knew I had the visual arts ability (and did not have the budget for an outside artist). Deciding from among 22 mock-ups of different concepts was difficult, and involved a lot of opinion-soliciting. In the end I went with my own gut, with an intuitive opinion from my 6-year-old, while still taking the other reactions into account. It was a good decision and I’ve never doubted it since.
9) Tell us a little about yourself.
My back cover bio calls me a blend of rigorous classical education and pastoral countryside origins. That's a brief way to say I grew up in Midwestern farmland among half a dozen siblings, a few ponies, and room to work hard and love life and dream. Our parents were committed to providing a wholesome family experience, and childhood was followed by a top drawer Jesuit high school, before I shipped off to a military academy to serve and study during the tail end of the Viet Nam war. A few civilian universities followed later still, and then several decades of work, world travel, and full immersion into as many incredible experiences as I could pursue that had something to do with the astounding brilliance of nature. All that mountaineering, kayaking, hang gliding, fly fishing, skiing, scuba…and let's not ignore the people pursuits too, the adventures that had a strong social aspect, like baseball and volleyball and the martial arts, and also international exploration like sheep shearing in New Zealand and living and working in a small town south of Rome ... all of it was excellent fodder for the pen. Without realizing it, I was packing a life with material that would some day be shared using the skills my education and parents had instilled. Through it all I maintained a fascination for expression of truth through fiction, and wrote short stories and articles and "memoirs," always looking for that big concept that would really challenge and validate my calling.
The one aspect missing was family—I'd kept in loose touch from afar with parents and siblings, but my role as a husband and dad was still unfulfilled. At some point in my 40's I realized that I'd been a moving target for a very long time, and that to build a life one had to stand one's ground. I had to let others rely on me if I was going to be part of their lives. I chose, and did that, and got married at the tender age of 47; we had our first child when I was 51. She's the biggest adventure I've ever encountered and is the light of our lives. Such a creative artist, bundle of courageous action, goofball and loving companion as you can imagine. She's seven now. My wife and I bask in the warmth of the light coming off her, and life has changed from drinking in adventure to teaching it and passing it on…and life is sweet.
It was while my little one was an infant, sleeping off bottles of milk, that I wrote most of ARCHANGEL. I suppose she inspired me to get on with what I was born to do. I suppose I wrote it for her.
10) What is your next work, and beyond that, what do you want to work on?
I decided not to sequel ARCHANGEL. It's a complete story. And I felt that although I did have the germ of another good plot idea to follow the first, the odds of those characters being embroiled in yet another cataclysmic scenario were as small as they are for any of us. So sequelling it would reduce its believability, would cheapen the work to a "series" for sake of capitalizing on its momentum. Some so-called series can do that very well, as long as they're an "epic" that really does transcend one story—like the "Godfather" film epic did. ARCHANGEL is complete, and beautiful in its message and value and…yes, in its completeness. Maybe eight or ten years down the road I could revisit that decision, but for now it's a good decision.
And I don't want to simply re-use character development I've already done; that almost feels like cheating. Again it would have been fine if the story needed to, wanted to, transcend its initial scenario. But simply avoiding a lot of development effort is a pretty poor reason to sequel something, in and of itself. I should do the work (a huge amount of work) again on the next book.
I'm currently expanding a short story I published in 1996 into the novel it really should be. It's called OPEN DISTANCE. It's quite adventurous, but its heart and soul are in the gut-wrenching emotions, the motivations, the lives, of the characters. This one is told in the first person, by an emotionally tortured retrospective narrator. It's going to be really good…although I also know that ARCHANGEL is a tough act to follow.
11) In the current work, is there an excerpt to share? Your favorite scene, a part of your life that you put into the work and think it came out exceptionally well that you would like to share?
Not until I know what my favorite part is, and I don't know yet because I haven't finished it and re-polished it the requisite 78 times.
Okay, I'll share a single word from the first sentence--the word "of." It's the predicate. :)
12) Who do you think influenced your writing? Who do you think you write like?
Impossible to say, plot-planning-wise, as I've experienced thousands of plots through the years. I do love the linguistic abilities of the Great Masters, like F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the capacity for understatement of people like Hemingway. And I have a friend who published a non-fiction true life adventure (Will Chaffey, SWIMMING WITH CROCODILES), whose ability to say volumes with understatement has really impressed me and helped me see the power of that technique, surgically applied. I really like the way Grisham lays out suspense so skillfully (and I'm absolutely revolted by reviewers who dare to summarize a writer's plot and characters in their reviews--who take a book so carefully planned over years to meter out detail in stages, as it is needed for best effect, and then reduce it to a Cliff-Notes-like synopsis so they can make some kind of name for themselves—it's inexcusable in my book and only serves to prove that the reviewer can't construct a review without filling it with material plagiarized from the author).
I love reading anyone who works the language poetically, like a brush on canvas. Fitzgerald was poetic. Twain and London were poetic. Steinbeck and Hemingway of course. Faulkner in his way. Some contemporaries are in that class, more than others.
This shouldn’t sound egotistical, because if we’re not creating work we love, then something is very much failing to come together: I sometimes love reading excerpts of my own work. It's natural; when a passage is polished to an author's idea of perfection, how it expresses a concept is exactly how the author feels it needs to be expressed...and that's thrilling. As a small example, I wrote and published a short story awhile back that described a person in a situation of despair--everything that could be wrong was wrong. Doom without end; he was locked in and it seemed things could never be as he needed them to be. And then by accident he witnessed the barest glimmer of possibility, and his aching heart reached out to clutch that ethereal bright spot in last-ditch desperation, like a cat reaches to grasp a dot of light drifting along the wall. But how I'd chosen to write that feeling of possibility still thrills me. I'd said, "And from the dungeons of the New World Man's mind echoed a faint bellow, for the condemned creature Hope had stirred against its chains." There will be those who insist it's a corny way to say it, but for me it's as visual and emotion-laden as it can possibly be; it so perfectly described the feeling that I still love to brush my eyes across that line.
I guess we're all like that--we all have our moments. We try to have them often.
As for who I write like, I don't place any stock in that. And I don't go to support groups or writing seminars, who will spout partial truths like "show, don't tell" but who can fail to mention that telling is also what novels do, and sometimes need to do, so well. I have my own style, which may or may not resemble some of the skills of authors who have influenced me. I strive to inject some uniqueness--if I've said the tiniest thing like it's been said before, I try to find a new and better way—a way that’s my own. For example, someone once coined the phrase "reveling in abandon." A very nice phrase, very nice indeed…the first time it was used. But I'll never use it, because it belongs to someone else; it would be plagiarism, and just a cheap rip-off of a great phrase. And I'd rather write "a large brown eagle glared with green eyes" than to use the word "envious" or "jealous." More poetic; I hope more original (although it does leverage the green-eyed allegorical metaphor--one can't make up everything).
Someone once told me my work was "Steinbeck-esque." It was a single comment from a single reader. My optimistic ego is choosing to believe he meant John Steinbeck, not "Booger" Steinbeck the shoe salesman from Shrevesport.
13) When did you know you were a writer?
I'd write "compositions" in school that the other kids liked, and I got the notion that maybe I was good at it. I remember on a fourth grade homework assignment needing to use the word "edge" in a sentence, and I wrote, "The stallion, stumbling at the cliff's edge, plunged to earth." Pretty heavy stuff for a fourth grader. It was the dramatic novels I'd been reading coming out.
In my late twenties I authored an extended hyped up basketball challenge between my group at work and the next department over. It was funny, and went on and on; we had nicknames like "leaping devil" and "in yo face," and the whole thing came to be an event of incredible proportions, in no small way due to my verbal acuity. During that period of creative hype, one of my colleagues said to me one morning, "What are you doing here?" I was confused, and replied, "Huh? Isn't this, uh, Tuesday?" He replied, "No, I mean this job, this career. Why aren't you out there writing? You need to be following your calling." I suddenly realized that I was meant to hone and use the gift of the written word in earnest.
Two years later I began my first book, which didn’t turn out to be publishable but was great training.
14) Do you think of yourself as an artist, or as a craftsman, or a blend of both?
A writer has to be both; nothing is pure creativity. The 90% perspiration rule still applies. Sometimes people say to me that the only thing that stops them from writing a book is the time—that if they had a voice recorder they could speak their novel into it as they went about the task of laying bricks or driving a bus or working check-out at a grocery store. "Then it would be simply a matter of transferring that to text, and sure, I'd have to polish it up a bit, but I could pay someone to do that because the main task would be done." They don't realize that every single phrase of every sentence of the 100,000-word work must be planned, placed, removed, researched, decided, re-worded, considered, reviewed, scrapped, revisited, and re-reviewed. Every fragment has a purpose and must perform it well. And before anything gets even that far, every idea has to go through the same processes. Dictating the seed of a notion on the fly gets you a thousandth of the way there, at best, and if you don’t have to abandon it a dozen times then you’re not working it hard enough. Dictating can really only break the inertia of inactivity; what would come out of a dictation session would itself be almost worthless, except as a "note to self." I have used my phone's audio recorder to say something like, "he has to use the hammer in the first two chapters; fit it in," or something like that. But beyond that, no way around it, we gotta paint the canvas.
Art and craftsmanship are nothing at all without each other. That's why there is no mechanism within copyright law for protecting an idea, or a title; it's only the actual development that’s protected. That's where the work is, and the value; that's what takes a raw idea and makes it worth something to humanity.
15) Where should we look for your work?
ARCHANGEL can be found in the CreateSpace store in paperback form. I've created a special short-term discount code for readers of this interview that results in very substantial savings; just enter the code XSK5JY6U and a nice hefty price cut is automatically applied. I’ve set it to cut it all the way down to cost--just enough to let the ink jockeys get paid. But I’m happy to do it if it means we’ll connect through the pages.
It is of course available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble in both paperback and eBook editions. ARCHANGEL as an eBook is also available through Sony and Kobo bookstores online, the Apple iBookstore online (via iPad or iPhone), and at Books Inc. retail stores in Mountain View and Palo Alto CA. Europeans choose it a fair amount too, through the same channels.
I also have two short stories offered on Amazon and on the iBookstore: STICK RIDERS, and AN AMERICAN SPORTING MAN GOES TO HELL. These are free for readers' enjoyment. Both are humorous; one is a rowdy tongue-in-cheek fictional piece, the other actually a true story about a brief era in my life. Both seem to be well received in the USA, Australia, and Europe.
And by all means send me a direct message at firstname.lastname@example.org; I'd love to hear from you.
Today I interview Dina Santorelli, one of the first authors to invite me to her blog!
Dina has recently released Baby Grand. Let's learn more about Dina and her Baby.
1) Could you tell us about your story, Baby Grand, first and whet our appetites?
Sure! Here’s the official book blurb:
In Albany, New York, the governor’s infant daughter disappears without a trace from her crib at the Executive Mansion. Hours later, newly divorced and down-and-out writer Jamie Carter is abducted from the streets of Manhattan. Jamie is whisked upstate, where she is forced by her captor, Don Bailino, an ex-war hero/successful businessman, to care for the kidnapped child in a plot to delay the execution of mobster Gino Cataldi – the sixth man to be put to death in six years by hardliner Governor Phillip Grand. What prevails is a modern-day thriller about family ties, loyalty, murder, betrayal, and love that’s told in deftly interweaving narratives that follow the police investigation of the missing Baby Grand, the bad guys who took her, and the woman who found the strength to protect her.
2) What moved you to become an author?
I’ve always loved to write. I still have stories that I wrote on colored construction paper when I was 8 or 9 years old. However, I was a math whiz in school. I had always done well in English, Creative Writing and Social Studies/History, but those subjects didn’t come as easily to me as math and science did, and those subjects were my focus until, I think, junior year of high school when I joined the school newspaper, The Beacon. Once I found journalism, I decided that was going to be my career. I think I was drawn to writing because I found it challenging. Throw in the fact that I love writing, I guess I hoped I’d have a formula for success. I haven’t turned back yet.
3) How did the story begin to develop in your mind?
I developed the idea for Baby Grand sometime in my twenties, in the 1990s. At that time, all kinds of story ideas would come to me and I’d jot them down with the intention of writing books about them one day. The one day for Baby Grand came 15 years later.
4) How did you choose your publishing method?
I had originally chosen to seek a traditional publisher. As a professional freelance writer, traditional publishing was all I’d ever known. I was lucky enough to sign with an agent in January 2010. I finished Baby Grand in August of that year, went through several rounds of editing, and then we started sending the manuscript out to traditional publishers last spring. By January of this year, we had heard “no” from about 10 editors, which didn’t really come as a surprise to me. I know that rejection is part of the writing business. But I also know that in order to successfully sell something, either a magazine article or novel, you have to find the right person. That person has to love that article or novel—and believe in it—just as much as you do. When the explosive growth of self-publishing became too difficult to ignore, I decided that I no longer wanted to wait. So, in the end, we self-published.
5) What did you find most challenging about writing this particular novel?
In the beginning, I would have said the police investigation of the disappearance of Baby Grand was the most challenging.
I wrote the first third of the manuscript while I was in graduate school, and there was one point where I had completed Chapters 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6. My professor asked, “Well, what about Chapter 3?” I had skipped it. Chapter 3 was scaring the hell out of me. I had planned it to be the first chapter involving the police investigation where the reader meets the detective assigned to the case. And after YEARS of watching Law & Order, I felt like I knew nothing about police investigations and that there was absolutely no way I could write a convincing scene (in fact, if there had been a way to avoid doing a police investigation at all in this novel, I would have found it). I remember my professor’s confusion, like she didn’t know what I was talking about. “Just write it,” she said, dismissively, and went on to the next student.
That night, I went home and stared at a blank page. Just write it? I thought. I just can’t. I can’t. I can’t. And then I started typing, writing anything that came to me to get some random ideas on paper, and then going over and over that writing (which is the way I write — constant editing) until I sat there and looked at it with amazement. Gosh, it’s not terrible, after all, I thought. And that’s actually how I approach all the challenging parts of writing. I just jump in and see what happens.
6) And now, so we can know more about YOU, tell us about the important things.
I’m a mom of three kids who continue to amaze me every day. I live in the suburbs of Long Island, yet my heart still belongs to New York City (I was raised in Queens). Although I know minivans are the Rodney Dangerfields of the auto industry (they get no respect), I am the proud driver of one and wouldn’t trade it for the world. And I’m a lover of chocolate milk.
7) And how about your:
Favorite Movie: My all-time favorite movie is It’s a Wonderful Life. But in my Top 10 are movies like Pulp Fiction, Gladiator, A Few Good Men and The Shawshank Redemption.
Favorite Actor and Actress: I have a ton of favorites, but Robert De Niro is probably one of my all-time favorites. Baby Grand’s villain was actually inspired by him. And for Favorite Actress I’d have to say Kate Winslet.
Favorite book: My go-to answer in the past has been The Da Vinci Code, but today I’ll say, The Giving Tree.
Favorite way to exercise: Walking. Tennis, too.
Favorite way to spend a three-day weekend: Writing, the theater, good food, good friends, and spending time with my kids. That would be heaven.
Thank you Dina, and may your book do well!
Thank you, Debbie!
And here’s Dina's Author bio:
Dina Santorelli is a freelance writer/editor who has written for many print and online publications, such as Newsday, First for Women and CNNMoney.com. She served as the "with" writer for the nonfiction title, Good Girls Don't Get Fat (Harlequin, 2010), and is the current Executive Editor of Salute and Family magazines for which she has interviewed many celebrities, including James Gandolfini, Tim McGraw, Angela Bassett, Mario Lopez, Gary Sinise and Kevin Bacon. You can follow Dina on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and on her blog. Baby Grand, her first novel, is available on Amazon.
Thank you so much for this opportunity! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Linda Weaver Clarke
Linda Weaver Clarke travels throughout the United States, teaching a Family
Legacy Workshop, encouraging people to write their family history and autobiography.
She is the author of eight novels and two non-fiction e-books. The historical romance series, “A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho,” includes: Melinda and the Wild West- a finalist for the Reviewers Choice Award 2007. She also has a mystery/adventure series, “The Adventures of John and Julia Evans.”
Welcome to the World of "Make Believe": http://www.lindaweaverclarke.com
A Family Friendly Blog
Thoughts About Life and Writing
1) Where did you grow up, and where do you live now?
made my home in Utah among the beautiful red mountains in a place called “Color
2) You have raised six daughters! Do your daughters and grandchildren live near you?
Out of my six daughters, I only have two married and one engaged. So far I have five
grandchildren. One daughter lives in Oregon. Three live in northern Utah and two live in southern Utah near me. One of them, Serena, is a writer, also. She writes fantasy books. I absolutely love them. Her stories are so intriguing to me. She’s the only one that says her sisters are crazy to move to “snow country.” We live in the desert and have beautiful weather in the fall, winter, and spring. But summer can get as hot as 110 or 112 degrees.
3) You returned to college after raising your six daughters. What was behind the decision to do so?
When I was young, I attended college for two years but fell in love and got married. As I watched my three oldest daughters going to college, I had the greatest desire to get a degree and finish what I had begun. I didn’t want to teach school or anything. I just wanted to say that I had graduated from college, that I had accomplished something that I had set out to do years ago. It was difficult at first because I was older and my memory wasn’t what it used to be, but I persevered and was able to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in music and theatre. I learned to sing classical songs, theatre songs from musicals, and songs from operettas. My favorite, though, is Irish and Jazz.
4) You majored in Theater and Music. Are you still active in both fields, or in a blend of the two?
I use to give voice lessons and have given many concerts throughout the years in several different states. I also cut a CD called Romantic Love Songs of Victor Herbert and Sigmund Romberg. In 2005, I retired from giving voice recitals to writing novels. It has become part of my life now.
5) You received the Outstanding Non-Traditional Student Award for the College of
Performing Arts in 2002. Congratulations! Tell us about the contest. Why were you
I was a non-traditional student because I was returning to college in my later years. I suppose they gave me this honor because I had been involved in so many things in college such as trying out for a part in Guys and Dolls. I got the part of General Cartwright. It was so much fun. I also gave several concerts that included some young students who were graduating in theatre. I was surprised when they told me about the award. I wasn’t expecting anything but a graduation certificate.
6) When did you first begin to think about writing a novel, and what motivated your
It all started when I began writing my own ancestor’s stories. After that, I couldn’t stop writing, so I turned to historical “sweet” romance. Since I had just finished writing about my ancestors, I decided to give some of my fictional characters their experiences. For example: In David and the Bear Lake Monster: A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho, my great grandmother was my inspiration, so I patterned my character after her. She lost her hearing as a child. Even though she was deaf, she was known as one of the most graceful dancers in town. She was a beautiful woman with black hair, blue eyes, and she was 5’5” tall. Nothing held her back. She was a spunky woman. One day she had a feeling that an intruder was in her home so she grabbed her broom and searched the house. She found him under her bed. With all the power and strength she had, she swatted him out of the house and down the street, pummeling him as she went. She was an inspiration to me, so I named my character, Sarah, after my great grandmother. And that’s just one experience out of many that I gave to my fictional character.
To read sample stories of my ancestors, you can visit my website.
7) Please tell us about your books.
I have a series of five “sweet” romances (historical romances) called A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho. I can tell you about the inspiration behind the first book and the last one. In my novel, Melinda and the Wild West, I included one of my own experiences as a substitute teacher in which an eight-year-old student had been labeled as a troublemaker by her teacher. The students had listened to the teacher and steered away from her, not wanting to be her friend. This not only made her feel degraded, but she wanted to fight back and she did. She stopped doing schoolwork, refused to be part of the class, and got into a few fights. She seemed angry at the world but after working with her for a while, I soon learned what a sweet and wonderful child she was. She had characteristics that I was impressed with. When she realized that I really cared, she was willing to do her work, just to please me. I’ll never know how this young girl’s life turned out, but in my novel I chose a happily-ever-after ending, just because a new teacher cared and made a difference in the girl’s life.
This novel has “sweet” romance and adventure. What kind of adventure? When Melinda
takes a job as a schoolteacher in the small town of Paris, Idaho, she comes face-to-face with a notorious bank robber, a vicious grizzly bear, and a terrible blizzard that leaves her clinging to her life. But it’s a rugged rancher who challenges Melinda with the one thing for which she was least prepared—love.
Elena, Woman of Courage is the fifth book in this series. My inspiration was
the “Roaring Twenties.” This was a new decade of independent women, when they raised
their hemlines, wore long beads down to the waist, and bobbed their hair. This new
hairstyle brought about a lot of commotion. If a woman bobbed her hair, she was fired from her job. Jazz was the big thing. People sat around the radio and listened to music and comedy shows.
As I wrote my last historical romance, I decided to check out the language spoken during that period. They spoke a language their parents didn’t understand. They used words like: Cat’s pajamas! Ah, horsefeathers! Hotsy-totsy! If you were “all wet,” you were mistaken; and if you were a “sap,” you were a fool. When referring to a woman, they used doll, tomato, and bearcat. A woman’s legs were “gams” and her lovely shape was referred to as a “chassis.” If you were in love, you were “goofy” or “moonstruck.” And when a woman was not in the mood for kissing, she would say, “The bank’s closed.” Many parents were in the dark, wondering what their children were talking about. Thus, my new historical romance was born!
What is it about? When Elena settles into a strict conservative town as the newest doctor, a slew of problems begin to arise. The town is not ready for a female doctor, let alone one so strong and independent. Elena Yeates, the town’s newest doctor, must struggle to prove herself in this western town, while keeping her composure, poise, and femininity. As she fights to prove herself, the town’s most eligible bachelor finds it a challenge to see if he can win her heart. With the 1920’s rise of women’s rights, this novel gives you great insight at the struggles women had to go through, all the while watching a young love blossom!
Here’s the book trailer for this book:
Thank you so much, Linda! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Interview of Joyce DiPastena Mystery, Adventure and "Sweet" Romance in the Middle Ages Joyce rates her books as PG. 1. Is writing what you wanted to do when you were a little girl? Joyce's website Joyce's blog Medieval Research with Joyce Quill to Quill Quill to Quill and Heart to Heart