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Dec
18

Midnight In Orlando Cover

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I’m wrapping up all the final little details on my romance novella. Fingers crossed that I can get it out before 2013! One big hurdle has been jumped though and that is the cover. Endless thanks to Alexandra for doing such a wonderful job on this!

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Dec
12

Blog Hop 2012: Caren Werlinger Edition

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I am happy to give the writer, Caren Werlinger, some space here on my blog. Welcome, Caren! Your new novel sounds just riveting — I hope loads of readers get a chance to check it out.

An ENORMOUS thank-you to Amy for tagging me and hosting me, since I don’t have a blog of my own at this point.

What is the working title of your book?

Miserere.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

When I was about nine, my dad got transferred and we were having to move. One of the houses we looked at was this dilapidated old farm house with peeling paint, broken windows and an old barn – a perfect place for me finally have a horse! For some reason, my parents weren’t as keen on the house. But of all the houses we looked at, that one, for some reason, has always stayed in my memory. So, I placed it in West Virginia instead of Ohio, and let my imagination go with the stories it could have told.

What genre does your book fall under?

General dramatic fiction, or perhaps historical fiction.

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

I’m honestly not sure. I describe the characters in the book, but they’re not based on anyone I know or can picture, so I have no idea.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When her father goes MIA in the summer of 1968, ten-year-old Connemara moves with her mother and brother to her mother’s family home where she discovers that her family is living under a curse only she can break.

What is the longer synopsis of your book?

Here’s the back cover blurb:

1968 – a year of upheaval for the nation and for the Mitchell family. When her father goes MIA in Vietnam, ten-year-old Connemara and her family move to West Virginia and into her mother’s ancestral home – a neglected house whose walls hold old secrets of forbidden love and knowledge of things best forgotten.

For reasons she does not yet understand, Conn is chosen as the one who must unravel the mystery surrounding her ancestor, Caitríona Ní Faolain, who disappeared soon after the Civil War – a mystery that has condemned her family to a curse for over a hundred years.

Set during two of the most turbulent periods of American history, this story takes the reader on an epic journey through time as Conn delves deeper and deeper into her family’s past in order to end the curse before it is passed on to a new generation. Along the way, she teaches the adults around her something of the enduring power of love and hatred – and the terrible price of redemption.

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

Miserere is my first self-published release under my new imprint, Corgyn Publishing.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Probably about three years. I stopped work on this story when another captured my attention, and then came back and finished it in May of 2011.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

I’m of Irish descent myself, and I’ve always been fascinated by the circumstances that forced so many from their homes to a new country – like the two teenage sisters in my story, sold by their father to be servants in America. I’ve lived in West Virginia and now Virginia where Civil War history is still very much a part of the geography and the mindset of the people who live here. This story was a way of combining those elements.

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

There are so many elements blended together in this story – history, adventure, mystery, romance, family connections, the struggle for freedom. It’s also a coming of age story, something that happened entirely by accident. If I’d had a story like this to read when I was twelve or thirteen, it would have made a powerful impact on me. This book really is a bit of a roller coaster, and I hope readers enjoy the ride!

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Dec
05

The Next Best Thing Blog Hop 2012

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Thanks to Barrett for tagging me! My new work is a novella. It will probably weigh in at about 35000 words. I hope to have it out by the end of December or early January.

What is the working title of your book?

Midnight In Orlando.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I was riding the train from New York to DC. Being alone on a train is very conducive to developing writing ideas. Something about it just kickstarts the brain. I wrote the first chapter or so of what would become Midnight in Orlando on that trip. I think we had just passed Trenton and I imagined a woman taking the train from Trenton to Baltimore and just went with it.

What genre does your book fall under?

Romance.

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

I have no idea. I try not to imagine such things since it would be distracting to have an actor’s face in my head as I am thinking about character.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

You just never know what will happen in Orlando.

What is the longer synopsis of your book?

Ugh, I hate this part. This is completely off the cuff…

Susan Voight needs a vacation. A work-a-holic lawyer from Baltimore whose career just took a step in the right direction, Susan discovers there is an entire online world devoted to her favorite diversion — lesfic. Throwing caution to the wind, she buys a ticket to the annual lesfic conference in Orlando. All she wants is to eat, drink and sleep books. But somewhere in the back of her mind she has a tiny hope that she just might meet someone.

Nic Green has been writing lesfic for a decade. She has used it to both combat her (mostly invented) neuroses and avoid real life. She decides it is high time she met some of her readers. But at her first lesfic conference, she might not be as ready for the life the of the public author as she thinks she is. But then she meets Susan…

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

Self-published.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I don’t remember but I would say a couple of months. I keep meaning to keep track of how many actual hours I work on something.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

I attended the GCLS conference three times in Orlando. It is such a great environment for writers and readers to get together. I thought, What could be a better place for a romance than a romance conference?

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

This is much lighter fiction than I have ever attempted. For me, not going heavy can be difficult. There was a paragraph in the first draft of this manuscript that I knew I had to strike when my first reader laughed out loud when she read it. Not because it was funny but because I had a character go to a very dark place in what is really a light romance. I think I have succeeded in excising the heaviness. I hope readers will find this romance fun and amusing.

Caren Werlinger, you’re it! She will be answering questions here at my site next week. I’m very excited to hear about Caren’s new novel!

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Aug
22

New Rules

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One of the great things about writing novels is that you as the writer get to decide what goes. You determine who your characters are, what they think, where they live and ultimately, yes, whether they live or pass on to the great hereafter, a torturous nether world or nothing at all.

In a similar way, I have decided that from this moment forward this blog is no longer a blog (which requires lots of regular posting) but a website. Yes, I will still post occasionally and there will still be a date glowering in the corner but since it is a website and not a blog, no one, i.e. me, has to feel guilty.

So here is what I’ve been up to since March. (March!!)

I have been to a bunch of opera in HD. That means I have been watching opera in a movie theater instead of an opera house. It doesn’t mean that I don’t become impossibly sleepy at some point during the production. But it does mean that I can smuggle in a quart of coffee and a bag of PopChips (BBQ only, please) which makes the opera much more endurable. Sleeping at the opera is a time-honored tradition so I have decided not to feel guilty about that either.

I had a trip to the Eastern Shore for my friend Amy G’s birthday. I couldn’t find my camera but other people were snapping pictures and here is one of the 2 Amys:

It was a great weekend full of celebration and fun and it was so nice to get away for a few days to beautiful Oxford, Maryland which is totally gorgeous and adorable. This is the great house we stayed in:


There’s been loads and loads of other things too — reunions and Passover and graduations and graduation parties and babies and beer-making and visits from friends and triathlon completion celebrations (not mine though!) and a great trip to New Orleans. So, sum total, it has been a very busy year. But, the novella I keep mentioning is very nearly done. And I really mean it this time!

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I was so excited when Bev Prescott agreed to virtually sit down with me and have a chat. I met Bev a couple of years ago at the GCLS conference in Orlando and we hit it off right away. She’s published a wonderful new novel and everyone who reads it just loves it!

ADR: Your first novel, My Soldier Too, has been very well received. How long had you been writing and how did you go about learning the tricks of the trade?

BP: Legal writing is something that I’ve done for years. In my work as an attorney, it’s a major part of my day. Notwithstanding, l had a lot to learn about how different legal and fiction writing are from each other. With legal writing, the goal is to take a set of facts, the relevant law and analysis and package it into a compelling story that convinces the reader that my side should prevail. I very much play the role of “omniscient narrator” when engaged in legal writing, and the facts are things that have always happened in the past. Unfortunately, omniscient narration and telling instead of showing run against the grain of fiction writing. The first draft of My Soldier Too was riddled with it.

The first thing that I did to learn the “tricks of the trade” was to listen to the experts who were gracious enough to give me advice about how to move forward. Jane Vollbrecht, who eventually became my editor, and Karin Kallmaker both recommended Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King. I also read several other great books about the process for writing fiction. I tried to pay attention to how some of my favorite authors wrote by re-reading their books with process in mind. Armed with this new information, I went back and rewrote My Soldier Too. The good news is that the story was always there, and I felt passionately about doing what was necessary to make it the best that I was capable of. I was more than happy to put the work in. It made My Soldier Too a better book and me a better writer.

Staying on the subject of writing process, your first book, Miles to Go was unique in that there were long stretches with no dialogue. Miles to Go is one of my favorite books for that reason. You took us into Rennie’s head and were able to effectively show us what she was thinking and feeling without dialogue. Very few books that I’ve read have accomplished the same as successfully. How did you go about developing your writing style, and did you set out wanting to write “outside of the box” by not using a lot of dialogue in Miles To Go?

ADR: I love the way you analyze the POV of legal writing — I’d never thought of it that way.

As I mentioned in my interview with Barrett, I think the old rule about show don’t tell can be taken too far. I’m not sure how that advice was originally imparted but I if I had to guess I would think it meant that some things must be told and that it can be a hallmark of an inexperienced writer to not have developed the instinct for when to show and when to tell.

I think it’s very smart of you to read with an eye to process. I almost always try to do that as well — I often find myself surprised by the way established authors approach technique. It’s always interesting when you begin to look behind the curtain.

I did not intentionally set out to have that long stretch in Miles To Go that was mostly narrative. Writing that book was in some way like rolling down a hill or maybe falling down a set of stairs. I just went with it, making it up as I went along.

Tell me a bit about your process. You’re a busy lawyer — how do you find the time to write? Do you require specific conditions?

BP: Well, you fell down the stairs with much grace and landed a perfect 10. As I mentioned, Miles To Go is one of my favorites. I agree that it takes instinct to know when to show and when to tell. Frankly, sometimes narration is the only process that makes sense when trying to go deep inside a characters head. Most of us keep our secret intimate thoughts tucked safely away and rarely discuss them. I’m usually a bit suspicious of a character who spills her soul in a stream of dialogue.

I didn’t have a process with My Soldier Too, because I had such a big learning curve to overcome. For my latest manuscript, however, I do. For this one, I sketched out the main themes and a very rough two page outline. Basically, I know the beginning, middle and end. From there, I let the characters show me how to get there. I get bogged down if I try to do too much in the way of outlining. What I’ve discovered is that it takes a while to really get to know my characters. So, I avoid putting them in a box from the outset.

Because my schedule is so busy, I have to be rigid about when I write. I try to write every morning during my train ride into Boston for work. I’m lucky enough to have Fridays off so I always put in at least two to three hours. As for the weekends, my spouse is a late riser so I get up at 5am and write until around 8am when she gets up. In order to be in the mood to write, I need as much quiet as possible otherwise I’m easily distracted. When I find myself experiencing a bad case of writer’s block, the trick for me is to either go for a long run or box. Exercise quiets my mind and lets me relax into place where I can hear what my characters are trying to say.

Speaking of characters, in your latest novel Scapegoat, you created a particularly frightening fellow, Cainkiller. I remember thinking to myself how talented you are to come up this guy. You’re one of the nicest people I know, yet he is one of the scariest characters in any novel that I’ve read. How did you go about coming up with him and was he easy to write?

ADR: I’m very impressed by your discipline in your writing schedule. I am not as disciplined by half. But I think it’s so important to have the kind of continuity you get when you write every day. It allows you to really live inside the story in a way that I think is the best way to alleviate some of the anxieties that inevitably come with writing.

I like the way you’ve approached the process of your new novel. It allows you flexibility but enough structure that hopefully you don’t often find yourself at sea. I’d be interested to hear how you approach editing. Do you feel tempted to do it as you go or wait until you have a draft. Regardless, tell me a bit how you go about it.

Regarding Cainkiller. I’m very glad you think I’m nice and I generally don’t think of myself as having much of a dark side but I found Cainkiller very easy to write. Another common piece of advice you hear from well established writers is that honesty is essential. But along with honesty, they also mean bravery, in that if you are willing to tap into to painful parts of your experience, cowardly parts of your experience, etc. Essentially those parts of your experience that make you afraid or that you aren’t proud of or that you can’t bear to think about, those are the parts that will draw your best and most honest writing out of you. I believe this to be true for all the arts. I don’t think I’ve tapped that vein very much at all but in at least a very limited way, Cainkiller opened me up to places I hadn’t gone before.

In addition to talking about your editing process, I’m curious if you require special materials? Do you every write longhand — do you edit on paper or on the computer for that matter? Do you have particular pens, paper, notebooks and such.

BP: I’ve definitely found myself at sea a time or two. Staying with the sailing metaphor, not only was I lost at sea, I was in irons. But, as you mentioned, writing frequently is key to navigating for home successfully with a good wind at your back. My editing process is to edit as I go. I’ll usually get two or three chapters down on paper, and then go back and edit before moving forward. For me, the first draft is only an outside layer. By editing immediately, I can tap deeper into the story such that knowing the best place to go from there is easier. When I’m finished with the entire draft, I’ll edit one last time.

There are three main tools in my writing arsenal. I have a stripped down netbook that only has Word loaded on it, a laptop and a paper notebook. I carry the notebook and netbook with me during the week when I’m traveling on the train to work. I use my laptop at home to write and edit. Once I have the entire draft finished, I’ll print out the document and edit on paper. I always carry a paper notebook wherever I go so that I can capture any ideas that pop into my head. In circumstances when I’m away from home and only have my notebook, I’ll write in long hand if necessary.

BP: What is your editing process? Speaking of process, was your process for writing Scapegoat different from Miles To Go and if so, do you have a preference for one over the other? Finally, what inspired you to write in the first place?

ADR: Your writing arsenal sounds very practical. I think your idea of having a netbook with only Word on it is a great one. Every time I’m in the middle of a project I always swear I will improve my Word skills before starting something new. I always wonder if my bad formatting (it looks fine but the coding is a mess) drives the copy editors crazy or if they just strip it and format fresh.

Unfortunately my editing style uses a lot of paper. I haven’t found myself able to edit on the computer. With my first novel I had all the time in the world since I wasn’t on deadline so I went through it many, many times, tweaking the language, looking for anything clunky, looking for inconsistencies in logic or continuity. I’m always floored by how many things you need to keep in mind at the same time which really isn’t my forte and makes me drawn to short stories.

My writing process changed somewhat between my first and second novel. As I mentioned before, I didn’t do much advance preparation for the first novel other than research. I didn’t outline or really have any idea where I might go with it. I feel lucky it turned out as well as it did, that people find it engaging. For Scapegoat, I had written a chunk of it back in 2006 so it was weird coming back to it after so long of a break. I just pushed ahead with it until I realized it was becoming complex enough in its plot that I needed an outline so that I didn’t wind up with gaping plot holes in the end. When I write another thriller, I will absolutely outline thoroughly — I’ve become a believer.

What inspired me to write? I don’t know really. I remember wanting to ever since I was a teenager. I know it seemed romantic at the time — Hemingway clacking away at the typewriter with a cigarette in a rumpled white shirt, that sort of thing. Unfortunately, it has never seemed romantic in the least when actually put into practice. Now that I do write, I guess I find it addictive, words come into my head and it seems a shame not to write them down.

My Soldier Too seems to me to be a very successful first novel. It is a great read and I’m glad people have responded so well and have been moved by it. You took on an issue that we haven’t seen much of in the genre — what a soldier goes through after coming back from war. From your perspective, what impact do you want your work to have on your readers? What responsibilities do you feel you have as an author?

BP: Great answers and questions! I agree writing is addictive. Thanks a million for the kind words about My Soldier Too. One of the best compliments that I received goes to the impact that I hope to have on readers. My Soldier Too was described as gritty and hard hitting. Ultimately, I want to be able to tap into as many emotions of the readers as possible over the course of a story.

The first responsibility that I think I have to readers is to be true to myself. My best writing comes from a place of authenticity. Next is to do the research necessary to get the facts correct and finally, listen to my editor. Since readers are spending their hard earned money and precious time to read my work, they deserve the best that I’m capable of all the way from the writing to editing and publishing.

Your last two books were thrillers. What motivates you to write thrillers? Will your next book be as well, or do you have something else up your sleeve? Finally, you mentioned that you are drawn to writing short stories. Is there a place where readers have access to the short stories that you’ve written?

ADR: I fully agree with you that readers deserve the best we can offer them. Which is why it is so gratifying when you get positive feedback and so disappointing when a reader feels like you’ve let them down. I find it really interesting reading Amazon reviews after I’ve read a book. It’s striking how opinions can differ or maybe even more fundamentally how many different ways a reader can come to a book, how reading functions on so many different levels for different people. Regardless, I always try to put my ego on the shelf and really listen to reader suggestions, to see where I might improve next time.

Thrillers? I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what form of fiction I ultimately want to spend my time on. I’ve enjoyed writing the thrillers a great deal but they may not be the best fit for me. I’m working on a short romance now just to see how that feels and I’m really enjoying it.

After that there’s a mystery plot I’ve had in my brain for years that I really want to try. I’m hoping that the pacing of the mystery (or at least the kind I have in mind) will allow me to do some of the work I really enjoy — delving deeply into character. I’m drawn to short stories for the same reason, the opportunity to really examine character. And in theory you have fewer balls in the air which allows you to focus more on character than plot. I haven’t published any of my stories at this point — hopefully someday!

I feel as though you and I are in a similar place, very early in our writing careers. Do you feel you’ve found your style? Are there other types of fiction you’re drawn to?

BP: I would love to read a mystery written by you. You’d be fantastic at it.

Do I have a style? I don’t think that I’ve been writing long enough to have one yet. I’m still learning the basics, and getting used to the sound of my own voice, so to speak. I do want to continue to write romance. However, it will likely remain a more secondary theme in my writing. I definitely want to continue to write about difficult subjects that, as you pointed out, we don’t often see in the genre such as the impacts of war on our soldiers.

At some point in the future, I’d love to try fantasy or science fiction. I’m a huge fan of things like Battlestar Galactica, and I absolutely loved the Hunger Games series of books. I’ll probably be first in line when the movie comes out this month.

You mentioned that you were under a deadline to write Scapegoat. Given your busy schedule, how would you characterize the way reading fits into your life now that you are writing? Do you read with a different eye? Do you read more widely or more narrowly in terms of non-fiction or literary fiction or genre fiction?

ADR: I appreciate your confidence!

Science fiction — that’s one genre I might be scared to try though I could be tempted by dystopian fiction which I find myself continually drawn to.

I feel like I don’t get to read nearly as much as I used to now that writing is a big part of my life. I read a lot more genre fiction now, trying to unravel how the masters do it. And a certain portion of my reading is for research for the current book I’m working on. That is particularly enjoyable because I can read and actually feel like I am getting work done. How about you? How does reading fit into your schedule?

And for a final question: Is there something about you that your readers don’t know, but would find interesting?

BP: I’m definitely in the same boat as you when it comes to finding time to read. It’s really tough. I mostly try to fit it in during the evening time when I’m ready to finally wind down from the day.

Something interesting, I get as much joy from music as I do reading and writing. A day doesn’t pass that I don’t listen to music of some kind. As for playing music myself, I played the trumpet and French horn in high school and was the base bugler when I was in the Air Force. I can play taps in my sleep, and I’m learning how to play the ukulele. I love to relax with music and a glass of wine or beer. Speaking of which, I make my own beer, and if I can get the two grape vines that I planted a couple of years ago to produce enough grapes, I’m going to try to make my own wine.

How about you, tell us something about you that we don’t know, but would find interesting?

ADR: That’s so cool! Maybe you could offer us a little video performance when you’re feeling confident in your ukelele playing.

I’m not sure if it’s interesting, but something that people might not know about me is that I listen to an extraordinary amount of both talk radio and, like you, music. I have heard nearly every episode of This American Life and have a wee geeky crush on Terry Gross of Fresh Air. I went through a period when I listened to the Chris Moyles show on the BBC produced Radio 1. And because I subscribe to Rhapsody (similar to but much older than Spotify) I listen to a lot of music that I would never take a chance on buying — I love the freedom of that and it’s opened me up to things that I never could have imagined I liked. For instance, I’ve found I like instrumental turntablism which is this great mix of beats and samples (here’s an example if you’re curious). Hopefully one of these days we can sit down in person and drink homemade beer and listen to some music. This has been great fun, Bev — thanks for playing!

BP: Cut Chemist, I like it. It would be great music to listen to while doing something like staining the porch. Which, by the way, I love to do. Mostly because I get to be lost in my thoughts and snappy music for hours on end in the sun while accomplishing something at the same time.

I have a long way to go before I’m ready for a video debut playing the ukulele. But, I’d love to be able to play “Hey Soul Sister” by Train someday.

Thanks so much for letting me share blog space with you. It’s been a pleasure having this opportunity to chat with one of my favorite authors. Let’s definitely plan on having home brewed beer together while listening to some great music in the not too distant future.

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