Long Time, No See!


hot chocolate

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything on this website. Now that COVID-19 has struck the world with a vengeance, I thought it was about time I apologized for my long absence and explain why I have been silent. I hope you are all safe and sound, taking care to avoid getting sick and passing it along to others. My family and I have been social distancing, rarely going out unless it’s absolutely necessary, like for groceries or Guild business. I have only seen Grandson (he’s almost 9, now!) from a distance or on Facebook chats, since everything hit the fan.

A lot has happened in my life since my last post, besides a global pandemic. To begin with, in 2014, my hubby developed many many health issues, including severely high blood pressure and a series mini strokes, which greatly affected his memory, eyesight, hearing and balance. As a result, he had to retire early and so did I, to become his primary caregiver. I am fortunate that our adult son is living with us, so I do get some reprieve, but I am Hubby’s chauffeur, laundress, accountant, as well as chief cook and bottle washer, although he is now able to empty and refill the dishwasher when the mood strikes!

His long-term memory, for the most part, has returned, but his short-term memory is still an issue. His eyesight is still not very good, despite new eyeglasses, and he will probably need cataract surgery in the near future. He now has hearing aids and can hear better than he could in years. Over the past year or so, he regained some stamina and is able to walk around the bay to our neighbourhood mailbox (we lost door-to-door service years ago) with the use of his cane. He can now mow the grass and clear the snow, using the mower and snowblower as support. He also has a little more freedom, using his three-wheeled scooter with which he can tootle around town at about 25 km/h. It’s amazing how far he can go before needing a charge!


With my son to keep an eye on Hubby when I left the house, I became more involved with the Manitoba Writers’ Guild, eventually becoming President. A few months into my term, I was informed of all the problems that had occurred that we had to rectify or our provincial funding would be rescinded. We had to take specific steps, which my Board and I attempted to do, but it was not enough. We were forced to lay off our staff as a result. For the past 4 years, the Guild has been relying on volunteers and its membership money to keep it going. To save rent, we had to give up our beautiful classroom space and move the office to one of the writing studios we managed. It is a very tight space, barely enough room for our office supplies and archived material but serviceable, plus we can still rent out the other studio to bring in a little monthly income.

I took on the responsibility of being present in the office three days a week along with my duties as Guild President and Chair of most committees. It was extremely time-consuming and still is, especially as my wonderful new Board and I are embarking on Strategic Planning. I thank Heaven for the energy and knowledge those new Board Members have brought to the table, especially our new Board President, who is much better at administration than I was. I am now relegated to the office of Past President, although my work load doesn’t seem to have lessened!


When the world was hit with a global pandemic, it actually helped the Guild because it forced us to use a technology that we had been afraid of until we had no choice but to embrace it. If we didn’t, the Guild would have folded because how could we attract members if we had no programs to offer them? With social distancing, we could not proceed in the usual manner. Now, with Zoom conferencing, we have been able to hold virtual Board & Committee Meetings. We have been given the opportunity of putting of our programs into the virtual world, such as our Critique Group, Writing Rants and Ramblings (we used to meet in a coffee shop to discuss writing woes and joys), and our newest program, the MWG Book Chats, where a local published author reads and answers questions, followed by an Open Mic where Guild members can read for a few minutes to highlight their own writing. These programs are now accessible to our rural members and shut-ins where, before the Pandemic, they would have to physically meet and often we could not afford to send writers to remote locations, only able to host our programs in free venues in Winnipeg’s downtown area.

Something else that dragged me away from blogging was family issues. My daughter’s husband split, so she and our grandson moved in with us for a couple of years. My office became their bedroom, so I no longer had a designated work space for writing. Using a laptop in the living room or dining room provides way too many distractions!

Then there was the state of my Mother-in-law’s health. Three years ago, she developed Dementia. The family was very concerned with her forgetfulness, mood swings, and paranoia, so we tried to divide our time to spend a portion of it with her. We were forced to take away her car to prevent her from getting lost or getting into an accident. Finally, we were able to move her to a locked-in facility, which seemed to be a catalyst to her memory loss. She was barely in the facility a week before she completely forgot she’d been living in another apartment for years. After being diagnosed with liver cancer, she was moved to a nursing facility. We spent a lot more time with her until she passed away a couple of months later – August of 2019. Then, Hubby’s eldest brother took ill, just after Christmas. First, it was a ruptured colon, then a rapidly growing cancer, so he needed extra care until he passed, which was a little over a week ago.

With all the work I have done for the Guild, along with all those family issues, I’ve had little time and energy for my personal writing, let alone blogging. Now that some things have resolved themselves, I hope I will be able to post more often. I might even have time for a little crafting, which I could share with you. In closing, please stay safe and think of those who are at most risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19. It’s not over, yet, but soon the risks will lessen and we can meet friends and family without a screen between us.



Sunday Interview – Steve Wiegenstein


Happy Sunday, Everyone! Today, I have another interview with Steve Wiegenstein. You may remember the last time we spoke, but if you are a recent follower or would like to read it again to refresh your memory, you can find it here (July 22, 2012). Before we begin, if you’d like to read an excerpt from his first book, Slant of Light, to familiarize yourself with the story,  you can find it here.

Hi, Steve! Thanks for joining me again! Before we talk about your sequel, please tell us how Slant of Light has been received. Of all the reviews you’ve received, which one is your favorite?

The reviews have been so gratifying! Not a negative one in the bunch, and only a couple that I would even describe as lukewarm. I have two favorites. One was from Sarah Johnson, whose work with the Historical Novel Society is something I admire greatly. She’s the book review editor for Historical Novels Review and maintains her own blog, Reading the Past. She wrote, “A thoroughly American story with more than regional appeal, Slant of Light is intellectually involving from the outset, and its flawed characters have a way of latching onto readers’ emotions.” I loved that description. My other favorite was from a historian, Stephen Rockenbach, who reviewed it in Nola Diaspora. He praised the book’s “flawless research and relentless attention to detail.” And coming from a historian, that’s high praise! Here are links to those reviews: http://readingthepast.blogspot.com/2012/05/book-review-slant-of-light-by-steve.html

That’s high praise indeed! Congratulations! 🙂

Slant of Light

How has life changed for you since Slant of Light was published?

Well, I’ve been going to a lot more fairs and festivals! I believe in this book so much that I spend lots of weekends doing speaking appearances and promotional gigs of one sort or another. Thank goodness, my wife has been a trouper and accompanied me on most of them. 

What was your most thrilling moment since having Slant of Light published?

Two moments come to mind. First is the launch event, when we completely packed Subterranean Books in St. Louis and sold the place out. The clerks had to take names and promise to send people books as soon as they got in a new shipment! The second was when I came home one day and found a letter telling me that the book had come in second for the Langum Prize for American Historical Fiction.

Fantastic! 🙂

I noticed a new section on your website –For Teachers’. Please tell us about it.

Some university instructors have started using the book in their English classes and I’ve had comments from secondary school teachers that they’d like to add it as an option to their students’ reading lists. So I asked a friend to create a teachers’ guide to the novel, and she did a marvelous job! It’s freely available for teachers to use in their lesson planning.

I’m glad they are studying it in the schools. 🙂

Do you know, yet, when the sequel to Slant of Light will be coming out in print?

I’m hoping for a fall release. The manuscript is at the publisher’s, now, and I’m waiting to hear if there are any changes requested. I’m eager for people to get their hands on it.

Would you like to tell us a little about it?

The working title is This Old World, from a hymn of the same name. Slant of Light ended with the dispersal of the men of the community with the outbreak of the American Civil War. This Old World begins with the end of that war and the return of the surviving men. In the interim, the women have been running the community for four years, so some tension will be evident. And in actuality, all of American society changed during that period. Pre-war beliefs and attitudes vanished forever, and everyone had to face a new reality of life in a society that was more mechanized, more impersonal, and in many ways harsher. This Old World explores those themes. A lot of readers’ favorite characters are back, but there’s a whole new crew as well.

I love anything historical. This sounds wonderful! 🙂

Are there any links you’d like to share?

You bet! 
My publisher’s website: www.blankslatepress.com
My own website: www.stevewiegenstein.com
Links to some reviews and a radio interview: http://www.stevewiegenstein.com/press_kit
I really enjoyed hearing your radio interview, Steve. I hope my readers pop over to give it a listen, too!
Thanks for joining us, today, and best of luck with This Old World. I hope we’ll hear from you again when it comes out in the fall. 🙂
* * * * *
Book blurb for A Slant of Light:
Set during the brink of the Civil War, this beautifully written novel traces James Turner, a charming, impulsive writer and lecturer; Charlotte, his down-to-earth bride; and Cabot, an idealistic Harvard-educated abolitionist as they are drawn together in a social experiment deep in the Missouri Ozarks. Inspired by utopian dreams of building a new society, Turner is given a tract of land to found the community of Daybreak: but not everyone involved in the project is a willing partner, and being the leader of a remote farming community isn’t the life Turner envisioned. Charlotte, confronted with the hardships of rural life, must mature quickly to deal with the challenges of building the community while facing her husband’s betrayals and her growing attraction to Cabot. In turn, Cabot struggles to reconcile his need to leave Daybreak and join the fight against slavery with his desire to stay near the woman he loves. As the war draws ever closer, the utopians try to remain neutral and friendly to all but soon find neutrality is not an option. Ultimately, each member of Daybreak must take a stand—both in their political and personal lives.
Steve Wiegenstein holds a PhD in English from the University of Missouri and has taught at Centenary College of Louisiana, Culver-Stockton College, Drury University, and Western Kentucky University. He is currently the associate dean for graduate students at Columbia College in Columbia, Missouri, and is a board member of the Missouri Writers’ Guild. He lives in Columbia, Missouri.

Sunday Interview – Kellie Elmore

Kellie Elmore is a poet and author, living in the state of Tennessee. She loves to transform the simplest words into ‘something you can feel’. She finds inspiration in photography, nature and her ‘humble surroundings’. Please welcome her to my blog!

kellie shades

Hi, Kellie!

Hi Susan. Thanks so much for having me.

After dropping by to read your blog, I was quite impressed with your bio, especially reading the part where you made it onto the ‘Famous Tennesseans’ list! Was that because of your book, Magic In The Backyard?

Making the Famous Tennesseans list was definitely a treat. To see my name in between two of my favorite people, Justin Timberlake and Kenny Chesney, was exciting. Because Magic in the Backyard had so much of a southern theme and me being from Tennessee of course, I assume that is what allowed me to be a part of the list. No matter the reason, I am truly ecstatic about it.

Product DetailsYou’ve also had some fabulous reviews for Magic In The Backyard. Which review is your favorite?

Every review I have ever received for any of my work, published or shared on my blog, is always a delight. I favor all of them in fact. Just hearing that people enjoy what I do makes me happy.

In addition to that, you’ve published a book of poetry entitled Jagged Little Pieces. What were some of the inspirations for writing the poems in it?

Product Details

The primary inspiration for Jagged was pain and inner turmoil. I lost two very important people in my life, my grandmother and my uncle, both who raised me. Then of course losing love, or what I thought to be love at the time. The pieces in Jagged were written during those times of heartbreak. But I also decided to include some more personal pieces of myself that I had originally decided would never see the light of day. Pieces written from inside places of depression and anxiety and kept tucked away in a journal. After being online and seeing that so many people out there struggle daily with personal demons, I felt it almost an obligation to them to share my own. Just to say “Hey, you are not alone.” “We have all felt this way at some point”. Or “No you are not weird… you are human.” I had a bad case of the nerves before the release, afraid of what people might think of this ‘darker’ side because everyone who follows my work knows only the pretty, flowery stuff. In order to claim the title ‘writer’ and be completely true to the art…and to my fans, I had to allow myself to open up and be completely honest. In the end, people were very accepting and I have received a multitude of emails where people have opened up and shared their story with me, thanking me for sharing mine. That is all I could ever ask for. To know that my words touched someone on a personal level.

As writers, I think that’s what we all want – to know our words “touched someone on a personal level.” 🙂

What was the publishing process like for you, getting these two books into print?

First was many years of spilling every single thing I have been through onto paper. Learning and finding my own voice. When I decided to take my work public, I was still very intimidated, but I found a great group of poets (at AllPoetry.com) who were so encouraging and supportive. Ultimately, I stepped out and created my blog (originally Magic in the Backyard) and gathered a following which led me to make the acquaintance of some talented published authors (such as Heather Grace Stewart, author of Where the Butterflies Go and Leap) and doors began to open for me. Winter Goose Publishing was a fairly new small press looking to take on and grow a family of poets when the larger presses were not willing to take that chance. They welcomed me with open arms and made the publishing and editing process a breeze, giving me a lot more freedom than one might receive elsewhere. I have published two collections with them and a third coming out in November. My first full length novel is also in the works and I look to publish next year.

That sounds great! Good luck! 🙂

Please tell us a little bit about the book, If The World Were My Classroom, in which your poem, ‘Keys’ is published and the organization for which it raises money.

If the World Were My Classroom is an anthology of poems and narratives collected by She’s the First (dot org) to raise money for girls’ education in developing nations. Tammy Tibbets(Founder) partnered with Studio Alchemy, Zinch.com and the Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria and launched ‘Voice Your Verse’ which resulted in submissions from over 8,000 poets and writers worldwide. One hundred pieces were selected for inclusion, including my poem ‘Keys’. I am honored to have been a part of such an amazing project. All proceeds go to fund girls’ education globally.

That is such a wonderful cause!

There is a segment on your blog where you talk about writing. For all the aspiring, emerging and established writers who may read this, what is the best piece of advice you can give them?

The very best advice I ever read on writing was written by Charles Bukowski who said, “If it doesn’t burst out of you, don’t do it.” In my years of learning and searching my own voice, this statement has rang the most true. So my advice is always, when you feel it, write it. Don’t force your pen. Don’t try to mimic another writer. Write what is pressing on your heart and soul the very best way you know how with your own honest to goodness words no matter how simple they are and your readers will feel it. Writing is like weeping; it’s a beautiful emotional release of something inside that needs set free. You cannot do it wrong. (Find answers to similar questions on my FAQ page on my blog.)

Where can we find your books?

You can purchase both Magic in the Backyard and Jagged Little Pieces in print or ebook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, the Winter Goose Publishing bookstore or at any other book retailer online.

Would you like to tell us a little about your current writing project(s)?

I’d love to! I am really excited about my first novel. It began as a 200 word piece of prose, developed into a 2,000 word short story and now is a 25,000 word novella in which I am pushing to lengthen into a full length novel. It is definitely an experience and much different than poetry, but I have high hopes that it will be filled with emotion just the same. I am documenting my journey on my blog (in my Author Notes series) for my readers. I have found that since I decided to pull them in to the process and allow them to give feedback throughout my ups and downs the milestones and struggles, I am able to stay focused and motivated as well as engage and allow my readers to walk with me on the road to completion. Once I near the end, I plan to give them the opportunity to name characters along with other contests that will make them feel more a part of the book. If it were not for them, and my writing coach Rebecca T. Dickson, it would not have come this far. I want to give back to them in some way.

Of your ten most shared quotes, which is your favorite?

“I don’t want someone to believe my lies, I need someone to accept my truths.” Because ultimately, we all long for love and acceptance.

When you’re not writing or blogging, what might someone find you doing?


Are there any social media links you would like to share with us? 

Yes. And I would love to have you join me!
Facebook: http://facebook.com/authorkellieelmore 
Twitter: http://twitter.com/kellie_elmore 

I appreciate the time you’ve donated to answer my questions, Kellie. I wish you well with all your writing endeavors. 🙂

It was my pleasure. Thank you again for the opportunity. So nice chatting with you, Susan. My best to you as well.

For those who want to learn a little more about Kellie’s books, here are the blurbs:

Magic In The Backyard: Growing up in a small town, Kellie Elmore learned of love and loss within her humble “backyard” surroundings. Weaving stories inspired by these emotions and the vast nature of the East Tennessee foothills has become her passion. You will feel the enchantment at the center of this collection of prose and poetry as you are completely taken in by the allure of Magic in the Backyard. [View trailer here]

 Jagged Little PiecesPoet Kellie Elmore delivers a sharp look inside the human condition with Jagged Little Pieces. Articulately divided into the emotional fragments concerning death, love, depression, and hope, this collection leads the reader through a metamorphosis from a shattered past of heartbreak and loss to a hopeful and inspired present. [View trailer here]

If The World Were Your Classroom: One out of five girls in countries She’s the First operates in don’t get the chance to go to secondary school. This book will help to change that. One hundred percent of proceeds sponsor girls’ education in Ethiopia, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Nepal, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.
**Anthology features the poem titled “Keys” by Kellie Elmore
(It can be purchased here)

The Next Big Thing

Hope all you Halloweeners aren’t still suffering from a sugar high, this morning! Was it a busy night for you? We had maybe a quarter of the number of Trick-Or-Treaters come by last night compared to when my kids were little – just a little over 50. Now, I have tons of candy left over because I’m always afraid we’ll run out like the very first Halloween in our house, before we had kids of our own. We had no idea how many kids would actually come knocking at the door! To be truthful, I knew we’d have candy left-over to satisfy my sweet tooth! lol

Well, Scary October is over. NaNoWriMo is just beginning. For those of you who are attempting it this year, I wish you a lot of luck. I’m still not ready to do a big push and start something new or work on my main WIP, yet – still lots of research to do and many unfinished works I probably should work on. I might challenge myself to a daily writing goal, so I’m at least working to finish SOMETHING!

To that end, I have been tagged by Ravena Guron in ‘The Next Big Thing’, where I get to talk about my WIP. Give me a moment while I decide which one I’ll talk about . . . Okay, I’ll talk about the next book of my Red River Adventure series. Last week, I did the ‘Look Challenge‘ on the same piece and wrote a character interview with the lead character and her mother, so I will continue with that theme and answer the questions.

1. What is the working title of your book?


2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

In keeping with the theme of my previous two books, I wanted my character to meet an important historical figure.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Young Adult Fantasy/Historical Fiction/Time Travel

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Adam Beach as Bear, John Hannah as Ian McNally, Gerard Butler as Duncan MacRae, and Selena Gomez as Kristen

Michelle gives her talisman necklace to her daughter on her 16th birthday.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Kristen Bear attempts the withershins using her mother’s talisman and finds herself immersed in conflict during Louis Riel’s reign as leader of the Provisional Government.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m hoping my current publisher will pick it up when it’s finished.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? May we see an intro?

The first draft is not complete. I’ve only got five chapters written, so far. To see the intro as it stands, check out My Unfinished Work page by clicking the tab above. It will be the first one. I will warn you, if you haven’t read the first two books, the snippet includes info that could be considered spoilers.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Any time travel story will have elements of mine in it, but I just finished reading Mary Harelkin Bishop’s Tunnels of Time, which is a time travel tale set in Moose Jaw, another Canadian city.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Actually, I was the inspiration for the ‘withershins’ part of the story because I tried it as a teen. It came up as a short story idea when my writer’s group and I were brainstorming plots for another chapbook (self-published anthology). Then, when my neighbour started digging into her family tree and uncovered a secret her mom didn’t want her to find, she gave me the plot – the reason Michelle was pulled back in time in the first book. The second book was a continuation with a twist – Owl’s apparent hanging. In the third book, I wanted to showcase Louis Riel. I didn’t want Michelle to try the withershins, but came up with the idea that her daughter should attempt it, instead.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

There will be adventure, of course, as well as a peek at life back in 1869/70, the birth of the province of Manitoba and a candid look at the Métis leader who fought for the rights of his people – Louis Riel. In addition, Kristen will learn more about her heritage and grow to appreciate the times spent with her family.

Instead of naming specific bloggers to nominate, I challenge any of YOU, who have a WIP you’d like to showcase. Simply copy the questions above, answer them on your blog, and send me the link. I will send folks your way by listing those links in upcoming posts. It never hurts to get a little free publicity! 🙂

Sunday Interview #14

This week, I would like to introduce to you a prolific, award-winning Canadian author. Please welcome Elizabeth from Elizabeth Creith’s Scriptorium.

Hi, Elizabeth! I’m glad you could join us, today. Please begin by telling us a little bit about yourself.

Hmm. I’m a lifelong artist who just keeps switching media. I live in rural Northern Ontario with my husband and dog, and surrounded by mixed hardwood bush. In other places it would be called forest. I love the solitude of the rural life, and I’ve found it a wonderful place to work as an artist, both because of the quiet and relative lack of distraction, and also for the inspiration I draw from this piece of the world.

Erik the Viking Sheep

On your blog, you have a very impressive list of articles and stories that you have had published. You also have a children’s book, Eric the Viking Sheep, published by Scholastic, which is very impressive. This leads me to believe you have been writing for quite some time. How long have you been writing and what inspired you to start writing in the first place?

I’m fifty-eight, and have been writing most of my life. I suppose reading was the real inspiration. I can’t remember when I didn’t know how to read or a time when I didn’t draw, and I know that in kindergarten I wanted to grow up to be a writer and artist. I’ve written on and off for years, and wrote my obligatory bad novels when I was a teenager. I also wrote a lot of bad poetry – isn’t that part of being a teenager anyway? I always assumed I wasn’t really a writer, and that I was just fooling around, because almost everything I wrote was bad. I didn’t understand – as I think many people still don’t – that writing is a skill and can be learned and practised. I could understand being a bad painter and improving, but somehow I didn’t translate that to writing. If you could write well, you were a writer. If you couldn’t, you weren’t. I had that attitude until I was thirty-six and ran into my first editor, Alice Korach at Threads magazine. That was when the light went on.

You have written everything from journal articles, children’s fiction and poetry, but in which genre do prefer to write and why?

Pick a favourite, you mean? I suppose I’d have to say fiction, just from the sheer volume of what I’ve written. I love flash, and actually really began to hone my fiction skills on 55-word flash pieces in 2005 or 2006. I write well in the five-hundred-to-one-thousand-word span. Subject matter – fantasy is definitely my favourite, but I’m rigorous about it. I stick to the classic lore about creatures, whether they’re the Good Folk or zombies, and make my stories work within that frame. I like the young adult genre, both to read and to write, because YA requires a plot, and YA novels usually have a sense of justice. This doesn’t mean that good is always rewarded and evil punished, but there is certainly an overriding ethic that says it should be so. Right now I’m engrossed in a novel, on the fifth or sixth draft. A few years ago I wouldn’t have believed I could write something this long, and I’m completely enthralled with the story and the process. I do love to write instructional articles and humour pieces, and currently have three regular humour columns: Strata of Ephemera at Bibliobuffet, North by NorthEast at Pet Product News International, and Over the Ridge in the Sault Star.

Please tell us a little about your writing process. Is there a time of day at which you prefer to write? Are there any items you like to keep handy for inspiration?

I’m not sure what to tell you. Butt in the chair, pen on the paper (or fingers on the keyboard). I like to write in the morning – sometimes nine a.m.and sometimes one a.m. Right now my major fiction writing time is between 1:30 and 2:30 pm because I have a full-time job, afternoon shift, and write in the car while my husband drives. It’s a 75-minute commute. I write columns and articles at home, where I have notes, reference books and an internet connection, however slow (in my part of the country we don’t yet have high-speed or cell service). I write poetry wherever it occurs to me. I don’t have any particular item that I keep for inspiration, but I do have quotes pinned up on my wall, and when I get my new office, I’ll be writing things on the wall that help keep me focused and inspired. One of my favourites is from my friend Lucinda Kempe. “Life is tough, E, but it’s tougher for those poor souls who have no passion, yes?” Definitely yes. I also keep books on myth and folklore handy, and a lot of reference stuff about animals and biology.

What is your strategy with regards to editing? Do you rely on critique partners, beta readers, or writer’s group?

I don’t know what I’d do without my writers’ group! I’m a member of a wonderful, active group in Thessalon, close to where I live. We critique each others’ work for grant application and submission for publication. We’re very effective: four of us have won major provincial grants to support our fiction writing, and five or six of us have won smaller grants on a regular basis. I also have a group of readers whose judgement I trust who are not part of the writers’ group. I’ve been relying on them for critical reading of the YA novel. For a long time I worked on line in Zoetrope in the Flash Factory, which was my on line writers’ group, and that vastly improved my flash fiction. When I get back to full-time writing, the first thing I’m doing is going back to the Flash Factory and more flash stories.

It was so frustrating when I was first looking for critique, many years ago, to have people say, “Oh, this is fantastic!” because I knew it wasn’t, but I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. I felt a little bit like the abstract painter with a portrait, and he wanted to change the nose, but didn’t know where it was. I knew there were problems with my work, and by then I’d realized that they could be fixed, but first I had to be able to pinpoint the trouble, and I didn’t know how. I didn’t even know where to go for help, and was fumbling along, improving almost by accident. When I began writing for radio, the producers I worked with made many very gentle suggestions, and I gradually learned how to edit my own work for that medium. I now read a lot about writing; there’s always something new to learn.

Product Details

You have written a book, Shepherd In Residence. Would you like to tell us a little bit about it?

“Shepherd” is about my time keeping sheep in Wharncliffe, where I live; about the sheep, and the dogs, the fencing and lambing and everything that goes with shepherding. Some of it is humorous, and all of it is true. For about a year I wrote (and taped) a monthly letter about my flock for a CBC radio programme called “Richardson’s Roundup”. When that gig finished, I kept the pieces, with the idea in the back of my mind that it might be possible to make a book of them. That was about 2002. In 2010 I got them out again and decided that I would rewrite the fifteen pieces I had so that they were stories rather than letters and add stories that hadn’t been told on the original series. I applied for a grant through a programme where small publishers read the applications and award the grants. Laurence Steven of Scrivener Press in Sudbury saw my application for “Shepherd” and asked to see the manuscript when it was complete. He ultimately made me an offer to publish. He arranged everything, including an illustrator, and I approached some people about blurbs for the back cover. It happened at light speed – my original application was December 2010, the manuscript was completed in May 2011, and the book came out in April 2012. You can get “Shepherd” from Amazon or Chapters, or from Scrivener Press, or from my site. I autograph, of course.

Your latest project is a story called The Swan Harp. Please tell us a little bit about it, unless you are superstitious about revealing too much about a work in progress.

It’s not superstition so much as a conviction that you should write rather than talk about it. Since the writing is going well, I’ll tell you that I first got the idea for the story about twenty years ago from Loreena McKennitt’s song “The Bonny Swans“. I like story reversal, the idea that some critical facet of the story would change if it were told from another viewpoint, and that’s part of what I’ve done. I was also interested in what happened to the middle daughter, because the song begins “A farmer lived in the North Country. He had daughters, one, two, three,” but after that we hear only about the eldest and youngest daughter. The middle daughter has become my point-of-view character. Because there is a reference to a swan “looking very like a gentlewoman”, I thought of the swanfolk, mostly swan-maidens, who turn up in myth and folklore, and made my protagonist and her sisters the daughters of a human man and a swan woman. This has been absorbing to write – a lot of fun, and a lot of work, and the story has gone way beyond the original idea. I’ve drawn on my knowledge of biology, history, mediaeval combat, farming, shepherding, textiles, medicine and magic to write this story. I love winding all those threads into the original story and making something that reads – at least to me – like a workable, authentic world.

Oooo, that sounds fascinating! 🙂

On your blog, you present a lot of advice to writers. What is the most important thing a new writer should know as they embark on their road to publication?

Publication is an end, but it’s not the end. If you aren’t writing because you actually love the act of storytelling and the stories that you write, you have a recipe for frustration. Anyone who goes into the arts needs to love what they do, because it’s difficult to make a living on it. The odds are probably a little better than becoming a professional hockey player, but the pay isn’t nearly as good. Do it because you love it. That love translates into and shapes the work. I discovered when I was living on my pottery that the things I loved to make also sold well. And learn your technical stuff, because if you love making chairs, it’s easier to make a good chair when you understand things like saws and nails and “measure twice, cut once”. The technical aspects of writing, once mastered, let your story come through.

Good advice! 🙂

Do you have any hobbies that you’d like to share with us?

Most of what I do usually becomes business, because I’ve spent a lot of my life paying my bills with the work of my hands and imagination. At the moment I’d say that bookmaking and pop-ups are pretty much a hobby. I don’t usually sell the books or cards, but I love to make them. You can see some of them at http://northernpopups.wordpress.com. I’ve always loved messing around with paper. I know how to handle it, I understand its grain and what it will do, and I like to play with it. I do origami, too, which gives me a great deal of pleasure for minimal skill. I own five spinning wheels, and when I get the time, I love to spin, knit and weave.

I also love canoeing. We have lots of beaver ponds and things around home, and gliding around on the water, looking at the birds and rocks and plants, is a happy afternoon. I love rocks, and I pick fossils. If I’m driving along a highway and spot a limestone cut, I pull over and poke around. You can get some very cool fossils from pieces that have fallen off the limestone and are just lying on the ground. These are sites no paleontologist is ever going to get to, so I feel all right about fossil-picking there. One of my favourites is a fossilized cycad cone my husband found me in a rock cut.

What a fascinating life you lead – and your pop-ups are amazing! 🙂

Are there any social media to which you belong that you would like to share? (Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc)

I have a Facebook page, which I set up strictly to create part of my author profile. I enjoy it, but I spend minimal time there, mainly because I have little time to spend. I’m on Twitter as well, again with not a lot of time to spend there. It would be very easy to get sucked into it, because I see quite a few interesting tweets that I’d love to follow up on. I’ve just registered on Goodreads; where I think I’ll get the time is a mystery to me.

I know how you feel. There never seems to be enough time for all the connecting through social media that writers need to do these days. We’re too busy writing or researching that next great work! 🙂

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

It’s a surprise and a delight to me to see how many people like my work. I think that art is the best work in the world, and I know I’ve been lucky to be able to spend so much of my life doing it, and earning at least part of a living from it. I really wish that everybody could do work that they love. I love to get people excited about doing art – pottery, bookmaking, pop-ups, printmaking, knitting, spinning,writing. There’s a deep satisfaction to making something, bringing a sock or a story or anything into being that wasn’t there before you did it. I think everyone should have that.

I love that attitude and feel the same way. Thank-you, Elizabeth for taking the time to chat with us. 🙂

You are SO welcome!

I highly recommend dropping by to see what Elizabeth has to offer on her site, as well as her books, etc. All links are in red so you can find them easily. 🙂

I guess that’s it for now. To all my Canadian and American friends, I hope you are enjoying this lovely Labour Day weekend! 🙂

Sunday Interview # 12

Hello, Everyone! Today I’d like to introduce a fellow blogger and writer who loves everything ‘pirate’. He often posts about everyday pirates and is writing a serial-style futuristic story, Red Jenny and the Pirates of Buffalo. Please welcome J. D. Ryan.

Oh, please, call me Jim!  I hear “JD,” I think of either what my brother calls my son, or think of what they used to use ‘JD’ for, short for ‘juvenile delinquent.’  And no, my son does not act that bad…

Okay, hi, Jim! Would you like to start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

Well, I’m a writer based in New York, waiting for his long evening to end so that he can become an ‘overnight sensation.’  It shouldn’t be more than a few years from now for that to happen…  I’ve pursued the craft for a while between bouts where other things have popped up, like being a husband, a father, having a trade, all the stuff that keeps frustrated writers from ending up like a sad pastiche from La Boheme

What got you interested in Pirates? 

I think you could say I’ve always had an interest in those who didn’t “color within the lines;” even as a kid, the rebels and malcontents tended to get my interest in just about any story.  This applied to pirates, but also to revolutionaries, civil justice crusaders, punk rockers, all the folks outside of the whole “rigid law and order” alignment; hell, as a kid I identified a lot more with Han Solo than Captain Kirk…

Beyond just about every kid’s attachment to Treasure Island and Captain Hook in Peter Pan, I can’t claim that every instance when growing up that someone unfurled the jolly roger got my attention, but there were plenty of opportunities to go on the account when they came up.  I remember being one of the few people who really took notice in Watchmen that when superheroes actually showed up that comic books in that universe would turn instead to pirate stories; I thought it was one of the coolest things about the work.  And to my surprise, no one else I knew thought the whole Tales of the Black Freighter subplot was worth paying attention to; it’s finding yourself all alone out there that can keep you from finding your strengths for a while.

Were pirates the inspiration for your writing, or did you like to write before you were interested in pirates?


I’d been writing for years before I found my muse, at the pilot wheel of a brigantine, doing work in other areas.  I had some success out there with some gaming articles and some fiction in print, and it’s an area I’ve never fully left.  For some time, I was doing a lot of stuff in horror and SF, particular alternate history (AltHis) with some degree of success. 

A few years ago, I discovered an interesting book, The Science Fiction Stories of Jack London.  Apparently, early in his career, before Jack London was Jack London, he wanted to be H. G. Wells.  None of the stories collected in the work were all that bad, but it was watching him trying to find his voice that made me look at what I had been doing, and ultimately something clicked. 

It encouraged me to take a good look at what I had been writing at that moment, which was feeling a little stilted, and when I just let go, Abigail Sanders showed up, probably after killing some time in the same room Harry Potter was hanging out in before he introduced himself to Jo Rowling.  I used to think this whole “character springing up and introducing themselves to the author” thing was just bad PR copy, and yet there she was; our eyes met and a half an hour later there were thirty pages of first draft narrative at my feet…

I noticed on your Author Page that you have published work on many on-line sites. Why did you decide to use this format to publish your stories?

I spent a lot of years sending my stuff to anyone who’d be willing to look at it.  When I started out, there were no online opportunities; the concept of an Internet writing outlet was years away from being a reality when I was collecting my first rejection slips from the likes of Analog and Playboy.  One of my online pieces, Tick-a Tick-a, actually got reprinted physically in an English magazine, The Dream Zone.  If an opportunity came to share a work in that way, any opportunity, I would certainly be willing to go that route.  Paper, electrons, smoke signals, synesthesian odors; hey, I will do it all…

Have you ever considered traditional publishing routes? Why or why not?

You know, I’m of two minds on that.  On the one hand, part of me would love to do the traditional thing, get a book done with a publishing house.  It’d be part of an old picture I used to have as to what it meant to be a writer, which included drinks at the Russian Tea Room with my agent and a few minutes during Carson’s third half hour on his couch to discuss the book.  And yeah, I had this image in my mind for a long time…

But part of my going digital is this fear/belief that Publisher’s Row isn’t going to wait around for me to give them a book they want.  I gave it a pretty good try for years, with a lot of encouragement from reading groups and confidants who’d keep me from giving up, then we would all gripe about something that did get published like Fifty Shades of Twilight or some such and wonder, what the hell?  And with the technology and the market forces actually allowing writers to seize the means of production (and yes, I did go there), the whole question of the underlying relationship between writer and publisher can’t help but be challenged.

And truth to tell, when it comes to inspiration on how to decide this, pirates don’t help as much as you might think.  Yes, every pirate out there all found their fortunes by going their own ways as the flew against all flags, but give a sea dog a chance to have a letter of marque to make it all legal and he or she would often take the opportunity.  Henry Morgan, the pirate who terrorized the Spanish, brutally sacked Panama and got a line of rum named after him?  He ended up Deputy Governor of Jamaica, so there you go…

I read your story Rooftop Sessions! From that, I have a feeling you’re a fan of ‘The Beatles’. What is it about their music that you enjoy?

Where to begin?  When you’re young, you get drawn to the hooks in each piece that just draw you in and get the endorphins running, and when you’re older and start studying musical theory and deconstructing songs you realize what complete geniuses they were when they wrote their own pieces. 

I can’t really recall a moment when the Beatles weren’t around me in some fashion.  I just about grew up on the Beatles, playing my poor parents’ first pressing of Magical Mystery Tour to death; we could have found oil in the gouges I left in that disk.  One of things that drew my wife Susan and I together was our interest in the group; she’s gone on to become a recognized authority on the band, its members and their influence, which means for the sake of shalom bayit  that I just cannot change my mind about them this late in life…

There’s another aspect concerning the Beatles and my fiction:  They were and still are great focal points for historical and AltHis pieces.  Because they were some of the best documented people of the 1960s and later, writing about the history of the time and how that history had changed in a piece, using them as foci, relays a lot of information to the reader very quickly.  And they were so interconnected with their times, with everyone wanting to be with them and they with others, that you can write about a large swath of the 1960s in one story.  So for me, doing pieces like One Ring to Rue Them All, Magneto and Titanium Man, and Act Naturally, they were a way to approach a decade loaded with rebels and questioned authorities and delve into themes of challenge and change.

I’ve noticed in your writing a rather wry sense of humor that I find very amusing. When you’re writing, is humor something that just slips in or do you put it in deliberately to create comic relief in your stories?

I’d have to say it is deliberate, essential even.  On the one hand, there’s so much misery and bad news we all get bombarded with every few seconds, and Lord help you if you depress easily and get caught in a big 24 hour news cycle, as none of those are ever happy affairs…

There’s another reason for bringing in humor wherever possible.  In most of my material, I have characters that are in the process of being under threat of assault, threatened with being stabbed, shot at, blown up, raped, tortured, you name it.  And for most of them, given half a chance they’d flip from being victims to perpetrators if they could.  None of these are folks you’d really want to be caught with on the subway between stations for 20 minutes, so something has to be done to keep it light…

Getting back to pirates, would you please describe the premise for Red Jenny, to those who are unfamiliar with the story?

Well, Red Jenny and the Pirates of Buffalo is a tale that takes place a few years after climate change became undeniable as it rendered major changes in the world we knew.  Hardest hit was the United States, bankrupted from failing to save the East Coast cities from being claimed by the sea and unable to get a good crop from a perpetually dry Corn Belt.  Things are so bad that a war they launched with Canada to claim the Great Lakes solely for themselves ended in defeat with a hostile neighbor to the north, with one of the results of the war being the closure of the border.  And on this border over the lakes, smuggling between two former trading partners has flourished, which prompts a rise in piracy, as practiced by our heroine, Red Jenny DiNapoli.  And we follow Jenny through a rough patch in what’s a rough trade to begin with, as trying to celebrate a successful raid as the book opens just spins wildly out of control for her.  Her luck’s like the weather in Buffalo, if you think this is bad, wait an hour…

You’ve painted a rather dim view of the future and with good reason, I think, with everything you’ve posted about the economy and real life pirates these days. What was the inspiration for Red Jenny, the thing that triggered in your writer’s mind, ‘THIS is what I will write about’? 

The main inspiration actually came to me years ago, with the release of the Schwartz-Randall Report to the Department of Defense.  This was written back in October of 2003, but the administration at the time did their best to keep this paper’s profile lower than an SSBN on station.  The thrust of the report was to raise the possibility of radical climate change as a national security issue, and included as one of its suggestions that the Pentagon “(i)dentify no-regrets strategies,” which is a wonderfully euphemistic suggestion that we get ready to do some nasty things to neighbors we can’t really share with anymore.  

Now, I spent a lot of my life in Northern and Western New York.  Both my folks were from Buffalo, I have a lot of family in and around Erie and Franklin County, and I spent a few years living close enough to the border to be able to cross it casually.  I still come back upstate every chance I get.  Most people, when they get word that their government is seriously thinking about invading their neighbor to claim a resource formerly shared in friendship, feel a little uneasy.  I was shocked, like a lot of people who live on a friendly border would be to find that we actually considered how to be anything but a good neighbor. 

Now by the time word of the paper started getting out there, which was inevitable considering what a better Republican president said about “fool(ing) all the people all the time,” there was growing evidence that climate change might not be as slow a process as imagined, and that we might need to consider “no-regrets strategies” sooner rather than later.  At the time, I was working heavily on writing Raging Gail, but I started to keep notes so that I could get things ready to launch once I wrapped the first book.

Why have you chosen to post Jenny in a short serial form instead of larger blocks, or waiting until the whole story was written before posting it?

Well, most of the writing was done before I started posting.  I have the overall story and most of the key plot points written out.  When I do work on the novel now, it’s a matter of polish and flow to get the individual pieces to “crisp up” and to make the flows from scene to scene work better. 

Putting the work online in this format is actually a business decision that I came to when I started work on the first novel.  I noted the work of other online writers and comic creators who were getting their material out there without the constraints and hassles other distribution channels offered.   Because of the nature of the Internet, the fact that users when they get online expect their content to be in manageable bits refreshed regularly dictated the form, while proving that Marshall McLuhan was right yet again

One could argue that the tradition of a novel coming out in short segments harkens back to an earlier time.  Charles Dickens presented his novels in serial form before ultimately being collected in single volumes.  Rather large volumes, too, as he used to get paid by the word on first pub, which explains some of the extended scenes you find in Great Expectations that seem to go on forever…

That’s true! Do you have any other ‘irons in the fire’, so to speak, that you’d like to tell us about as far as your writing goes?

I’m a little superstitious about pitching upcoming works.  I’ve had stuff previewed by me before it was ready to share, then watched it disappear as something comes up and the moment passes.  There’s footage out there of me at an old Beatlefest previewing a work I was halfway through, a piece with John Lennon growing up in a post-Operation Sea Lion Liverpool; I still have problems living that one down…

What I can mention with some comfort is that I’ve finished work on some short pieces that I’m going to try and offer to paying markets, to try and update my collection of rejection letters going back a few decades.  I have some larger works that are very preliminary right now that keep me distracted in a good way that might some day lead somewhere; some older set pieces from things that didn’t get completed found their way into Red Jenny, so there’s no waste of material on this end.

I do have a few notes for how to follow up both Raging Gail and Red Jenny with direct tie-ins.  Whether I move ahead depends on the reaction when I post notice in the future on the soon-to-be-launched KickBriber (TM pending), where my ardor for the work depends on what goodies I’ll be offered for going that way.  Let me say right up front that yes, booze is always a good enticement, but that I am open to any vice that you may wish to seduce me with…

Well, on that note, I encourage you (my readers) to check out Jim’s website, Raging Gailhere and if you want to read what has been posted of Red Jenny and the Pirates of Buffalo, you may do so by clicking here.

Jim, are there any other links you’d like to share with us, places where we can find your writing, websites you enjoy, Facebook, Twitter?

I am fairly regular over at io9.com, where you can watch me make an even bigger fool of myself on a grand scale.  I’m also on Facebook, and maybe a few government watch lists as well...

Is there anything else you’d like to add before we close, today?

Oh Lord, I have always been bad at closing thoughts; there’s a good chance that when my number’s up, the epitaph I come up with is going to be pretty lame.  Which gives me yet one more reason to be careful and not snuff it yet…

Well, let’s hope you don’t ‘snuff it’ any time soon! Thanks, Jim, for taking the time to join us today!

My pleasure; and thank you for hosting me!

Interview Sunday #6

Image of Diane Dickson

Today, I’d like to introduce storywriter Diane Dickson from Diane’s Story Site. Diane has written and published both children’s and adult fiction as well as featuring serial stories on her blog. 

Welcome, Diane! I’m glad you could join us. Would you please tell us a little about yourself.

Thank you so much for asking me, I have really enjoyed your interviews and was flattered that you thought of asking me. 

I was born in Yorkshire a long time ago! and grew up in Lancashire. I’ve been married for over forty years and have two wonderful children, a son and a daughter, a lovely son in law and daughter in law and two gorgeous grandsons.  I am very lucky.  
Ian and I spent over twenty years living and working in the Middle East and, although at times it was difficult, it was also wonderful and we don’t regret a moment of it, even though we had to make sacrifices with regard to family life and so on.  
We now spend much of the year in a house in the middle of a forest in South West France, which is beautiful, and the rest of the time in a flat near to my son’s house in UK and that’s about it.

Such an interesting life you’ve led! 🙂 
What prompted you to begin writing and how long have you been writing?

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write.  I was the only girl in my class at school who loved “composition”, which is what it was called in those days.  I still have a book of my poetry that I started when I was about seven and it has just always been there, part of life.

That poetry book sounds like a treasure! I think it’s great that you still have it.
With your children’s stories, do you have a moral in mind when you start?

3 Things That Might Have HappenedNot exactly a moral, I do believe that we need to uphold good values, honesty, fair play, kindness, all of that, but also I think that it is important that there is magic and wonder.  I think that introducing children to books and reading at the earliest possible opportunity is very important and so, especially with the books for very little ones, the main thing is that they can understand and enjoy the story.  A friend of mine had a little girl and the day that they came home from the hospital her husband sat down and started reading to this tiny baby.  She has grown into an outstanding scientist. I often think of that when I’m writing children’s stories.

How is your process different when you write for adults?

That is difficult to answer.  When I write my adult stories I like to think that I get inside the head of my characters. I do often find myself thinking and even behaving in the way that I think my book’s inhabitants would do, quite unconsciously I hasten to add, and it’s sometimes rather odd.  With the children’s stories it is simpler, just telling tales that I think would entertain young people.

You write mainly short stories and novellas. I usually have a problem keeping my stories contained within the shorter format. What techniques, if any, do you apply to contain your stories?

With the very short micro and flash fiction, I find it helps me to keep the length in mind all the time that I’m writing and so subconsciously I am winding down when I think I’m approaching the maximum word count.  With the novellas I don’t think about it much, they just seem to come with their length predetermined.  I write quite simple stories with very few characters and locations and so they are limited by that, to an extent.  Also, I’m not a very patient writer, I want to know how it’s all going to turn out.

How do you edit your stories in preparation for publication? Do you make use of critique partners or beta readers?

Product DetailsI read them over and over and over. Once I have the story very clear in my mind, I read the chapters randomly. That seems to help me to pick up typos and so on, as I’m not reading the story as much as the words.  The Harper Collins site Authonomy is great for feedback.  With Who Follows, my daughter in law very kindly proof read it for me but I try not to inflict my work on the family too much.  I have never lived the sort of life that has allowed me to join writing groups or anything so, although I would love to share and discuss, I am pretty much on my own.  I am sure that there are nits in some of my published work but I have come to realise that all I can do is my best and hope it gets near to being good enough.

I’m sure there are many people out there who would love to help you in this regard, should you need their help at any time, so you don’t have to ‘inflict’ your work on your family. 🙂
Please tell us a little about the stories you’re most proud of.
Product Details
There are some stories on Shortbread that move me. Sometimes a story will make me cry, either with sadness or simply because of the emotion in the words. I love that.  I have had one or two that have won competitions but strangely they are often the ones that I hadn’t really been that happy with – I’m a terrible judge of my own writing.   

You have some interesting book covers. Please tell us about them.

These were all designed by my daughter

They are lovely! 🙂 
When did you start your blog and what were some of your reasons for starting it?

It was about two years ago.  I did have a website, which I used simply to advertise my books.  The host was changing and I was looking around for a new platform and my daughter was blogging at the time and so I decided to give it a go.  Once I realised what a great resource it was, how very easy it is to do and that it’s possible to have feedback from readers, I was totally hooked.

You mentioned Shortbread, earlier. Would you please tell us what they do there?

I had a computer glitch a couple of years ago and couldn’t access Authonomy and came upon Shortbread almost by chance.  
Shortbread Stories was set up by Robin Pilcher after he attended a writer’s workshop and thought it was a shame that there were so many great stories hidden in drawers and cupboards with no hope of publication.  
They publish every story that is submitted to them.  This does mean that there is a great range of skill and every genre and type of short story that you may imagine.  It is a very friendly site, the members are very supportive of each other.  They run competitions, most usually the prize is simply a teeny little medal next to the story on the site and it is circulated as “The Friday Story” to over 6,000 members, so it is a great place to get some exposure. Now and then, they offer the prize of a book or something but mostly it’s just for fun.   
They choose what they judge to be the most suitable and have them made into audio stories. I have one or two of mine in that process at the moment and am really looking forward to hearing my work read aloud. 
They have published an anthology of work and are working on the next one and they also run writing workshops with Robin Pilcher and other highly experienced creative writing lecturers in attendance.  They are residential courses usually one at a beautiful villa in Spain and one in the flat where Rosamund Pilcher wrote many of her best sellers, so there must be inspiration seeped into the walls there, I think.  I haven’t been able to attend one yet but hope to one day.  I was voted Shortbreader of the Year 2011 and am a total fan of the site.

Wow! Congratulations! That sounds like a marvelous site. If anyone wants to check out Shortbread Stories, you can find it
When you’re not writing, are there any hobbies you like to indulge in?

Yes,when I’m not writing I love my garden. We have about three acres here in France, more than half is forest and I try to cultivate bits. It’s a struggle because the soil is very poor but I do usually manage some fruit and vegetables and a bit of colour.

Do you have any other social networks that you’d like to share, Diane?

I do have Twitter and Facebook accounts and my blog links with them automatically but I don’t seem to have enough time to get on there very often.  I could sit all day at my desk, I think, and still not get everything done that I would like to, so I have to try and be a little disciplined.

That sounds very familiar! lol

To visit Diane’s Story Site click here.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us, Diane. 🙂

Please take the time to check out her stories. Some will send shivers down your spine, others will make you laugh or cry. 🙂

Sunday Interview #4 (a day late)

I apologize for neglecting to post this yesterday. It was all ready to just hit the button, but with everything else going on, I completely forgot. (Sorry, C.B!) Anyway, here is my interview with a fascinating blogger:

Today, I’d like to introduce you all to C.B. Wentworth. You may have seen her name on some of my award posts. I have nominated her for many awards (and I’m not the only one) because she has a beautiful blog and shares her creativity in many ways – through her literary work & poetry, her photography where she gives us a glimpse of her garden & places she has been, as well as her lovely ‘Wreck This Journal’ entries.

Hi, C.B.! Welcome to my blog! Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a writer, artist, crafter, and optimist.  During the day I am a high school teacher, but after the bell rings I immerse myself in creative pursuits.  In particular, I focus my energies on writing novels, short stories, and poetry.

How long have you been blogging?

A little over a year.

What inspired you to start blogging?

When I finished the final draft of my first novel, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands.  The need to write and create was still there despite the completion of my project.  I figured keeping a blog would give me the outlet I needed to express and challenge myself as a writer.

How has your blog evolved from when you first started?

At first, I focused on writing more than anything else, but as time went by I decided not to limit myself.  Writing and creativity go together, so it made sense to let my blog grow to include everything I do to inspire my muse.

Do you have any tips for newbies who want to grow their readership?

Write with a voice that is entirely your own.  I’ve found that the best way to attract readers is to offer a point of view that can’t be found anywhere else.

In addition, find blogs that inspire you and interact with them.  It is so important to surround yourself with a community of writers, readers, and sources of inspiration. Be part of the community with thoughtful comments and visit other blogs often.

I love your artwork whenever you post a Wreck This Journal page. For those people who are unfamiliar with this, please take a moment to explain exactly what ‘Wreck This Journal’ is.

Wreck This Journal

Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith is a journal full of prompts that inspire reckless creativity.  It’s all about letting go and doing things without hesitation.  We’re all inhibited by our inner critics, conscious filters, and fear of imperfection.  Wreck This Journal effectively inspires you to blast through all of those barriers and explore the true depth of your creativity.

The photographs you’ve posted on your blog are beautiful. For any aspiring photographers who may read this, what’s your secret to capturing the perfect image?

Thank you for the kind words regarding my photographs.  I’ll never get over the fact that people enjoy looking at the pictures I take!

The best piece of advice I can give is don’t try to take the perfect shot.  Simply let go and point the camera at what captures your imagination.  Point of view is what makes a photograph beautiful.

Take more than one shot.  For every image I’ve posted, there are at least 15 more of the same thing where I try different settings or a different angle.  Don’t be afraid to experiment to see what works and what doesn’t.

In addition to everything else you do, you’ve mentioned you are also a writer. In which genres do you prefer to write?

I try not box myself into a specific genre, but I tend to wander into literary and mainstream fiction, while dabbling in fantasy and poetry.

Please tell us a little bit about your process.

I wish I had a definitive process, other than making sure I write every day.  I’m a big fan of free-writing and brainstorming, which means I have notebooks full of partial stories, phrases, and lists.  Whenever, I need a dash of inspiration I’ll page through my journals.

When I’m working on a larger project like a novel, I always keep a spiral where I map out character profiles, scenes, and timelines.  I’m a very visual person, so I make collages for each of my characters that include wardrobe, possessions, and elements of their environment.  I blogged about this process on a post entitled, The Notebook That Built My Novel.

Music also plays a big role in anything I write.  My iPod is full of playlists that serve as soundtracks for my novels, short stories, and even blog posts.   This process is outlined in a couple of posts I wrote: How Music Helped Me Write A Novel and Music for a New Novel.

Part of the reason my blogs includes so many posts about art, crafts, and photography has to do with my belief that all forms of creativity are connected.  I consider all of my non-writing projects to be essential components to my writing process because engaging in multiple creative pursuits keeps me inspired and fuels my imagination. When I sit down to write, I am always stimulated and ready to explore all possibilities.

I agree that all forms of art is linked to creativity in some way.

Do you use critique partners or beta readers to help perfect your writing?

Yes!  I’m a big believer in both.  Critiques in particular are incredibly valuable as they help me see the work in a way I hadn’t considered before.  I learned this lesson while participating on Critique Circle.  This is a fantastic writing community that offers a safe environment to learn the art of giving and receiving critiques.

Constructive criticism can push creativity in unexpected ways and it always helps me find a better path for the story or character I’m working on.  If we stay bottled up inside of our own heads, we fail to see other possibilities.  Granted, no one likes to hear something about a story isn’t working, but I thrive on the challenge of figuring out how to solve the problem.

If my readers want to follow your blog, they can find it here. As well, each of the blog posts you’ve mentioned are already linked, so they can just click on them. Are there any other ways readers can reach you?

Facebook: C.B. Wentworth
Twitter: @cbwentworth
Pinterest: cbwentworth

On my blog, I have follow buttons for all social networks along my sidebar.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, C. B. I enjoyed chatting with you, today! 🙂

Interview Sunday #3

Happy Father’s Day, all you Dads, Grandpas & Great-grandfathers!

Today, I have with me a talented young man whose blog I follow faithfully because of the variety of things he posts and because he rarely fails to draw out a chuckle from me. He has a marvelous sense of humour and writes about some pretty awesome stuff.

Welcome to my blog, Matt! Please tell us a little bit about yourself. 

Perhaps the first thing I should tell you is that I am rarely brief. So much so, in fact, that my Dad once said, “Son, you don’t speak in words, you only speak in sentences and paragraphs.” If there was such a thing as “The International Rambling Award” it would already be sitting on my shelf, basking in the warmth of the…see, I’m doing it already.

Right, about me. I was born in England in 1986, a fantastic year for the whole world (mostly due to my birth). A few years later my family migrated to Australia. We moved around a fair amount, but I now currently reside on the Central Coast, about an hour north of Sydney, working as a high school teacher teaching mostly English and History, but also (increasingly) Maths. I am a lifelong writer and reader, drink far too much coffee, tea and wine, have watched Monty Python far too many times (or not enough), still watch cartoons, am an avid music collector (albums number in the thousands), and am also a collection collector (I just like collecting things). One of my long-term goals is to become a published novelist, but my day to day goal is just to make people smile, laugh, and hopefully help people learn, too.


(If you are interested in learning more about Matt, I’ve linked his picture to his post My Personal Timeline. Just click on his picture above)

You recently published your 100th post. What prompted you to begin blogging?

At the start of this year, I set myself a lot of outrageously difficult goals, including getting my health back on track (two months later my health dived to frightening lows), writing 12 novellas in 12 months (more on this in a later question), and, come to think of it, a whole lot of various writing goals. Among them I decided to try blogging, so I would actually be writing for an audience. It was difficult initially though, because I have tried blogging before only to give up after several entries. But by the time I finished the first month, I realised I was really enjoying it this time, and, more shockingly, people were reading the nonsense I was writing.

Would you please describe some of the topics one might expect to read about when they visit your site?

One of Matt’s mugs from his collection. Click on the picture if you want to see more of his coffee cup collection.

My blog mostly revolves around the fact that I’m a nerd, so the topics to be found on my page include books, poetry, writing, music, history, and the occasional posts on art, coffee, tea, and whatever else takes my fancy. For a while I felt a duty to stick to books, but I have found as time goes on I am branching out more and more. I just try to keep my blog honest and true to myself. And sometimes silly.

Some people prefer to write their blog posts ahead of time and some just sit down and write them on the spur of the moment or when a topic moves them. What is your preference?

I briefly tried writing posts ahead of time, but I felt they were either uninspired, or when I finished them I changed my mind and just posted them immediately anyway. So generally I write them on the spur of the moment, although sometimes I let ideas stew for a couple of days too, especially when it comes to reviews. From time to time I like to time travel, writing a post in the future and then publishing it before it was written…I once nearly caused the universe to not exist because of this.

Have you done anything to specifically draw in more followers?

I’ve been trying to figure this one out myself, because I am a little stunned with how many followers I have gathered in only a few months. I know in my first couple of months I spent a lot of time wandering around looking at other blogs, and commenting here and there. I ended up following a lot of these blogs, and a lot of these blogs followed me back. But recently I find myself so busy with the blogs I already follow, and, of course, my own blog, it’s hard to find time to just wander around the blogosphere like that.

Aside from this…I guess I just try to be consistent, and make an effort to respond to every comment and make people feel welcome at my blog, hopefully giving them a reason to return.

Have you learned any secrets to creating a successful blog? If so, would you please share them with other newbies?

As I say, being consistent in both the timing of your posts and in responding to comments is super important to making a blog work. I also think it’s important to be reasonable with yourself about how often you blog – you don’t want it to turn into a chore, because that shows. Blogging should be something you enjoy, and if it feels otherwise maybe give yourself a day or two off, and return when you’re feeling more inspired. Also, this might be stating the obvious, but make sure you proofread – readers can forgive the occasional typo or clumsily worded sentence, as no doubt we are all guilty of it from time to time, but I occasionally stumble across a blog that is just littered with mistakes, and it’s just really off-putting.

But most importantly – be yourself! I love a good blog where you can really see the blogger themself in their writing. So be honest, and write about what you know.

Good advice! 🙂

Of the many categories you have listed in the sidebar of your blog, one of them is ‘12 Novellas in 12 Months’. You referred to this earlier, so I know you like to write stuff other than your blog posts. Please tell us a little about this challenge that you have set for yourself.

Ah yes, that little challenge. About five years ago I found myself suddenly reinspired to write creatively, after a several year absence from crafting stories for fun. In 2009 I found out about NaNoWriMo, the worldwide novel-writing event in which hundreds of thousands of people write a fifty thousand word novel in a single month. I completed this in 2009, 2010, and then in 2011 I completed the sister event, Script Frenzy, as well as challenging myself to write seventy five thousand words for that year’s NaNo (which I managed to pull off courtesy of an eleven thousand word day towards the end of the month – don’t try that at home, please, whatever you do).

So what does all this have to do with 12 Novellas in 12 Months? The problem with NaNoWriMo is that it only inspires me for one month of the year, and then it leaves me feeling burnt out for a while, and I end up not writing much over the remainder of the year. So I devised a plan to write all year round, but under more manageable circumstances – write 12 novellas in 12 months! Why novellas? Because if the average novella is thirty thousand words, this comes out at a thousand words a day, which is quite manageable even around a full time job. Or so I thought…but there’s six months left in this year, and I’m determined to beat this challenge. So far I have one novella finished, and several part of the way through. By the end of this month I should have six finished…uh oh.

I completely understand how real life can interfere with the writing life!

Is there a specific genre you prefer to write or do you enjoy stretching your creativity to try different genres?

As part of my 12 Novellas challenge, I am trying to write in 12 different genres. I think I like to genre hop a little anyway, though I have been more comfortable when writing in historical fiction, fantasy, and humorous or comical fiction. But really I just write whatever I feel like at the time – genres should be places to explore in writing, not restrictions to limit yourself.

That is very true!

What is your approach to writing? Is it similar to the way you prepare your blog posts?

My approach to writing changes from story to story. Out of the three novels I have written in the past three years, two I wrote entirely on the spot, with no planning whatsoever. The novel I wrote in 2010 was my historical novel, and so I actually did plan it (a little), and researched a fair amount before writing it. After finishing the first draft, I realised it was terrible, and I am now slowly researching a lot more before I attempt to rewrite that story.

Most stories for me start with an image, or a quote, or something simple. I just sit down and start writing, squeeze my brain and force the words out, and see what happens and where it goes. As the story progresses, I try and determine the characters in as much detail in my mind as I can, so that they can drive the rest of the story forwards. Normally by about the halfway point, the end begins to form in my mind, at which point I purposely throw twists into the story, twists that surprise even me as the writer (if I can surprise myself, hopefully I can surprise my readers too), so that the real challenge becomes trying to find a way to get to the ending I foresee.

Basically my approach to creative writing is ridiculous.

You sound like a ‘pantser’, like me! 🙂

Do you have anything else to share with us, today?

My advice for anybody wanting to become good at anything – just keep practising! If you want to become a successful writer, I truly believe reading broadly and writing relentlessly is the ultimate key to reaching this goal. The same goes for just about everything in life – don’t ever let somebody tell you you’re no good at something, or you’re never going to be good at it, because when we really apply ourselves fully to the task at hand, humans are capable of incredible things.

Very inspiring, Matt, Thank you!

For those who wish to experience your blog, they can visit you by pressing here. Are there any other ways in which people can enjoy your words of wisdom? 

Absolutely! You can find me on Twitter at @abritishperson, and on Goodreads I am listed as Matt Watson (they’ve been linked so just click on the underlined words).

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Matt.

Thank you for the great questions (and sorry about the rambling).

That’s not a problem. I have a rambling problem, myself. When I write a letter or email to someone, my hubby says it looks like I’m writing a novel – which isn’t all that far from the truth! In conversations, if someone asks me about writing, I’ll talk their ear off! Maybe we should start a group called Ramblers Anonymous! 🙂

Thanks, again, Matt for joining us today. Good luck with your challenges. 🙂

I’m sure you all have enjoyed our little ‘chat’. Please follow the links to learn more about Matt and his blog. 🙂

Second Sunday Interview

Hello, everyone! Welcome to my second Sunday interview. Today, I’m talking with Jenny Keller Ford.

Hi, Jenny! I am thrilled to have you here, today. I’ve been reading your blog since I discovered it a few months ago and have loved reading about your journey to publication. For those who have not been fortunate to catch your beautiful blog, would you please tell them a little about yourself?

Hi Susan.  First let me say how happy I am to be here.  Thank you so much for thinking of me and including me in your new blog endeavor.  It’s a great idea.

As for me, I was born in Neu Ulm, Germany and was adopted by a U.S. military family when I was six weeks old.  I traveled around a lot as a kid, and returned to Germany when I was six years old.  We lived there for two years and during that time, my mom made sure my brother and I were introduced to all the country had to offer…including castles.  As a little girl, I adored fairytales, so seeing these castles up close and personal solidified my love for them and all things fantasy, especially stories of King Arthur, Merlin and Camelot.  I suppose that’s why I read and write stories centered around dragons, faeries and magic.

I’m twenty-one years married, have four children ranging in age from 17 to 27, and I have a granddaughter who will turn 4 in July.  I am a willing slave to an orange tabby, two Australian Shepherds and a speckled mutt, and would probably own every stray and abandoned animal in the world if I had the space and the money to care for them.   

Wow! That’s a fascinating history. I love castles, too, and I long to travel overseas to see them. You’re lucky you got to live there! As for the animals, you sound just like my daughter! 🙂

How long have you been writing?

Ever since I could hold a crayon.  My mom used to have a whole box of my scribbles from when I was a kid.  Sadly, she passed away in 2006 and I have no idea what happened to them all. 

Sorry to hear that!

What inspired you to start writing?

My mom read to me all the time.  I remember snuggling with her on the couch when I was four, maybe five years old.  I’ve always loved to read.  Of course, I always thought I could tell a story better than anyone and I embellished lots of stories.  I called it having an imagination.  My mom called it lying.  I would tell stories about our Fox Terrier rescuing fairies from avalanches (that was one of my favorites), or tell stories about the dinosaur-turned dragon that lived in my room. 

I love that! lol

In which genre do prefer to write?

I primarily write Young Adult fantasy, but I have ventured into other areas.  I like to push myself, step outside my comfort zone.  I don’t think I’ll ever be known as a romance or mystery author, but I enjoy playing around with the genres.   

It IS fun to stretch yourself and I’m sure it has a lot to do with becoming a better writer. 🙂

Please tell us a little about your writing process.

I sit down and write.  I don’t plan anything, however, sometimes I do write down brief outlines of what I’d like to see happen in the novel or story, but I tend to let my brain take me wherever it wants to go.  Most the time I write in sequence, but sometimes I’ll get ideas for later chapters and I have to stop and write them down.  I wrote the last line in the second novel of my Chronicles of Fallhollow saga before I ever wrote one word on the first novel.  In fact, every event in the second novel is written to lead up to that last line, that’s how much I’m married to it.

When I worked full-time, I would write from around 9 pm until 1 or 2 in the morning, wake up at  6 a.m. and write for another 2 hours before I had to go to work.  Then I’d write during my hour lunch break.  After I lost my job in June 2010, I’ve dedicated the majority of my day to writing.  This includes short stories, flash fiction, novels and on my blog.  The writing never stops.  I’m truly blessed that way.  Now if only I could stop fiddling with my novels and get them published.  I also provide editing services to authors, especially those who have written non-fiction and want to self-publish.

That’s good to know. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who would be interested in that service. And I am certain that you WILL get your novels published, one day. 🙂

What is your strategy with regards to editing?

I do a lot of editing myself through multiple reads.  I also read my story out loud to my youngest son.  By reading aloud, I can find the spots where the cadence is off, where dialogue doesn’t work, and misspelled words my eyes skipped over before.  I also rely on beta readers and critique partners a lot!  They are better than any hunk of software out there.  They’re priceless.  I would be lost without them.  There is not enough gold or chocolate in the world to pay them for what they do. 

When I’ve completed a piece and I’m ready to submit, I put out a call for help.  I usually get about 5 or 6 takers, depending on the story.  Being that most of what I write is somehow fantasy related, I tend to call on those who enjoy fantasy and science fiction.  After the beta and critique partners finish their final edits, I put my story/manuscript through a free Autocrit-type software that catches overused words, clichés, incomplete phrases, etc. that my betas didn’t catch.  If I dare, I might ask one or two more betas to re-read it just to make sure I caught everything before sending it out to agents and publishers.

That sounds like a pretty good methodology.

I understand you recently had some exciting news about one of your stories. Would you like to let my readers know about it? Feel free to brag as much as you like! 🙂

Wow, this one really surprised me!  J. Taylor Publishing put out a call for submission this past January for their upcoming Make Believe anthology.  They offered up a visual prompt and asked writers to submit a short story, up to 10,000 words, based on that prompt.  As I always do with publishers, I took a look at what they usually publish, who their authors were and I read some of their books to get a feel of what they liked.  It seemed most of their authors wrote romantic urban fantasy/paranormal type stories.  The fantasy aspect I knew I could do.  The romance?  I was about to step out of my comfort zone but I figured, what the heck?  I convinced one of my friends and beta partners to go along on the ride with me.  We had until mid April to submit our short stories.  For three months my mind remained a blank slate.  Sometime in March the idea, as well as the MC’s name (Elton Fletcher), slapped me in the head, and I ran with it, with only 2 1/2 weeks to go.  My beta partner ran into the same problem and was scurrying to finish hers.  Finally the stories were done and we exchanged as well as called in more reinforcements.  Those last couple of weeks were intense with all the re-writes and beta suggestions.  Finally the day came and I had to hit the submit button.  I have to say my finger hovered over the enter key for a long time before I closed my eyes and did it.  Sometimes you just have to let go.

A few days later I heard from the publisher and they liked my story, but wanted to know if I would be willing to make changes.  After some nervous e-mail exchanges back and forth, they informed me they would get back to me.  About a week later, I received a congratulatory e-mail from the publisher welcoming me to the J. Taylor Publishing family of authors!  It was a remarkable feeling.  Sometimes I still can’t believe it.  My first real, contracted published piece.  There are no words to describe the feeling.  It goes beyond elation.  My story was chosen…my writing was validated.  I was, and still am, on cloud 9.  

After about a month, the publisher gave us permission to announce the great news.  A week or so later, the publisher revealed the cover of the book and the back cover marketing blurbs.  When I saw my name on the cover, I cried.  It was real.  My publishing dream had come true.  If you want, you can read all about the six authors and their stories at http://www.jtaylorpublishing.com/books/17 . Here’s the gorgeous cover.  The anthology releases December 3, 2012 in e-book format only and I can’t wait.  

That certainly IS a beautiful cover!

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Only this:  never, ever give up on your dreams. Don’t be afraid to take chances.  Don’t be afraid of hitting that submit button.  I’m a prime example of what can happen if you go for your dream.  I never thought I could write something outside my ‘norm’, much less get it published, but I did. If I can do it, so can all of you.  All you have to do is believe in yourself and your writing.

Those are very inspiring words, Jenny. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. 🙂

This is so cool. Thanks again for everything!

You’re so welcome, Jenny!

If any of my readers would like to check out her blog, you can do it here. You can check her Facebook page here with her Author Page being this. You can follow her on Twitter @jkellerford. Hope to see you all back here next Sunday for another interview. Enjoy your week! 🙂