"It's impossible to discourage the real writers; they don't give a damn what you say." Sinclair Lewis

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Chat With Charm O'Ryan

When did you begin writing?

In high school. I wrote numerous articles for our school newspaper and became co-editor my junior and senior years. I started seriously writing (novel length) when my youngest son went to kindergarten. He was the baby of my four children and I figured I could finally squeeze a few quiet ‘me’ moments into a day with no children around to ask a zillion questions and demand numerous mommy tasks. In a nutshell? This boils down to twenty years ago.

Why do you write?

I have always loved to read, write, and create things. Again, back in the good-old-days of high school, I discovered the passionate world of romance novels through an aunt who loved them and would pass them my way when she was finished. Knights in shining armor, pirates, highwaymen … oh, these dark, mysterious, and always handsome heroes claimed my heart and set my imagination soaring into unbelievable heights. From that moment on, I set a goal to, one day, write my very own romance novel.

What have you written?

I’ve written a variety of different things throughout my life: five romance novels (I am currently working on a sixth); poems, several articles, and a children’s story. I even attempted a screenplay of my first novel, but gave that up after the first scene. With a screenplay, the rule is that if a camera can’t see it and a microphone can’t pick it up, a writer can’t put it in. I love showing my characters’ thoughts and inner feelings. To not be able to do so drove me absolutely nuts!

Which of the novels you’ve written are your favorite and why?

This is a tough question, as I’ve liked them all for different reasons. My first novel, With My Last Breath, was probably the most exciting for the simple reason that it was my first. I wrote it in six months, unaware there were ‘rules’ to writing romance.

My second novel, The Resurrection of Lord Drayton’s Heart, was another dark, yet lighthearted, paranormal historical. And I knew the rules this time … a milestone to be sure! (smile) I had more fun bringing a pushy ghost wife back from the grave to help her handsome husband get over her heath by insisting he find another to love; with her help, of course.

My third novel, a contemporary, The Author and The Cover Model, is the novel I probably had the most fun writing. It’s a parody on the romance genre that enters the world I love … the world of writing romance. I put a lot of my own frustrations, hopes, dreams, and fantasies into this story where the romance reader learns the ins and outs of the genre they love as much as I do.

My fourth entitled, The Table, is the novel of my heart. Though it’s a paranormal time-travel, it is also a fact-based work of fiction based on my family. My mother’s, aunt’s and uncle’s memories are written throughout the pages. I wrote the story to tell the world about a horrendous tragedy that befell my great aunt in 1939. The men who attacked, and murdered, her were never brought to justice and I felt that by telling her story, somehow, someway, it might bring her heavenly soul an earthly peace.

And the last completed manuscript, my fifth, is Lillian of the Valley. This novel ended up being a contemporary murder mystery, something I can assure you, I did not set out to write! It, too, has a lot of lighthearted moments, and was really quite enjoyable to write. It involves a preacher’s daughter and the new owner of a legal house of ill repute set in Nevada, 2014.

I am currently working on my sixth novel, but will keep the title and the premise to myself, as its story is still unfolding.

Who are your favorite authors?

This, too, is a tough question. There are so many wonderful writers out there. Needless to say, Linda Sandifer, Karen Finnigan, and Sherry Roseberry (Blue Sage members) are in the top ten of favorite published romance authors! Some of my old time favorites throughout my life are: Kathleen Woodiwiss, the ‘old’ Jude Deveraux, Johanna Lindsey, and Rosemary Rogers. I also liked Karen Robards, Julie Garwood … man, but the list is endless!

Other than romance, what is your favorite genre to read?

Believe it or not, it is non-fiction. I truly believe ignorance is mankind’s greatest fault. When I talk about things, whether it is politics, religion, medical, whatever, I want to know what I’m talking about. I never believe everything I read, or hear, without researching it first. My favorite non-fiction book of all time is the bible. I try to read it every night before I go to bed, knowing full well any talent I possess is a gift from my precious trio above. Even though I write sensual ‘steamy’ romance, each of my books have an inspirational thread running through them. To some, this combination may sound odd. But to me, it’s beautiful and makes perfect sense.

What is your obligation to your readers?

To touch their hearts with both laughter and tears, and to take them on a memorable journey that they’ve never been on before.

What is your obligation to yourself as a writer?

To be the best storyteller I can be and, to realize I am not the greatest writer in the world, but I’m also not the worst. I tend to be hard on myself as a writer, and I need to lighten up and enjoy the works I create without being so darn critical of them.

Who is your favorite hero?

As far as men who’ve walked this earth, Jesus is my all-time hero. My husband, grandfathers, my stepfather, my real father, my brother, my ‘kissing’ cousin, President Bush, President Reagan, Benjamin Netanyahu, Charleton Heston, King David, and Mel Gibson can be added to that too. As far as fictitious heroes? Why, all of mine, of course! (smile)

Who is your favorite heroine?

My beautiful mama, my grandmothers, my aunt, my cousins, my friends, my daughters and, my precious granddaughters. Again, all of mine win out in the fictitious heroine category.

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Never give up! Perseverance is the key to finishing a novel, realizing your dreams, and living your life as a writer to the fullest of its potential. Believe me when I say us old-time writers need to live by this advice, too, as it is easy to get discouraged during any phase of the novel-writing career.

What was your easiest book to write?

The Author and The Cover Model. The words and scenes flowed like a steady stream from my fingertips to the keyboard.

Which was the hardest?

Hands down, Lillian of the Valley. I wrote my hero and heroine into such a conflict, it took me years to figure out how to get them out!

What is the hardest part of the creative process for you?

Finding the time to write. Even though my children are grown now, with four grandchildren nearby and parents aging and in need of more attention, life just seems to get busier and busier.

Do you write by an outline?

Absolutely not. During all my school years, I absolutely hated writing outlines!

If not, what is your method?

I think up the title, and the title creates my story. After I have the title, I then have an inkling of what I want to have happen in the story … some people call this a plot. (smile) I choose my main characters next and, with the plot in mind, I develop their inner and outer conflict. After that, my characters write the story themselves.

Do you have set hours in the day to write?

When the kids were little, I’d write the moment they left the house until an hour before they came home, at which time I’d bust through the house and clean up. I did this about four days a week, adding some in the wee hours of the morning if need be. Now, I find myself less organized and struggle to find that precious time. My heart wants to write every day; my reality refuses.

Writing is tough. What makes you keep coming back?

Honestly, I don’t really know the answer to this question. I tend to believe it all goes back to an initial desire to ‘create’. Add in my love to write. But there are times, I think I must just be plain insane to return to such a time-consuming, momentous task that can be downright brutal when it comes to trying to publish the final product with the big publishing houses. Reviews are often right there in the brutality department too. Yet, though I’ve been greatly tempted to quit, even taken several years off, I simply can’t seem to do so.

Tell us a little about your venture into the self-publishing market.

In 2004, when it wasn’t as popular as it is today, I self-published my novel, The Author and The Cover Model, doing so as a favor to a friend in my writers’ group, who wanted to become the liaison between an author and a self-publishing company, and wanted to practice on me first. So, I thought what the hell? Surprisingly, it was a blast! I learned a lot, especially patience. I thoroughly enjoyed having complete control over my entire novel, including the cover. And now I hear it’s becoming more affordable to do so.

Would you do so again?

In a heartbeat! I’m actually planning on self-publishing The Table in the near future. I know it’ll be a fun and rewarding experience too. And having the encouragement of my Blue Sage Writers of Idaho helps tremendously. Whether new or seasoned writers, we all need that once in a while, and it is appreciated more than anyone could ever know.

--Charm O'Ryan is currently co-chairman of the Blue Sage Writers of Idaho.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Chat With Author Will Edwinson

Will Edwinson is the author of three novels, and one novella, two of which have been published. He is an award winning novelist winning a first place award in state competition for his book, Buddy…His Trials and Treasures, and a second place in national competition.

Greetings, and welcome to the Blue Sage blog. On your website you're billed as Will Edwinson—Storyteller. Tell us how you came to be a storyteller.

Although I harbored the desire for many years to be a writer, I came to writing rather late in life because I lacked the confidence that I had the necessary skills. It wasn’t until I reached my mid-fifties that I decided to take the plunge. I figured if I was ever going to do it, I’d better get started. I knew I needed help, and after a little searching, I found a Writer’s Digest correspondence short story writing course and signed up for it. I completed the course and received my certificate. I was now a bona fide writer—or so I thought.

Up until that time, I had not been very interested in reading novels. Most of my reading consisted of trade publications related to my profession. One of the recommendations from the Writers Digest course was to read as many short stories and novels as possible. The theory was, I think, that the more one reads of a certain venue, the more skill one will pick up through osmosis. So I began to read.

Then what happened?

I proceeded to write my first novel, which is still gathering dust on the shelf, by the way. It’s a story about an errant preacher who was more of a con artist than a man of the cloth. That one took me about three years to finish, because as I began to read more novels, I realized I was still a pretty bad writer. I realized that writing a short story and writing a novel were not the same. That first novel draft was pretty discombobulated and had little continuity. As a result, I found myself moving whole chapters around in the story from one place to another.

But I persisted, and after several rewrites, I finally decided the book was ready. Then began my search for an agent. This all took place way back in the early 1990s, and my experience with agents has not been all that favorable, either. After a lengthy search and a basket full of rejection slips, I finally found one willing to take me on as a client. He died three weeks after we signed the contract. After another lengthy search I found another one willing accept this new unknown writer. Shortly after we came to an agreement, I learned that agent had just been indicted for some kind of fraud. So much for that agent/client relationship. After that, I decided to try the self-publishing route. I was tired of that novel, so I put it on the shelf and started my second.

Wow, that’s quite a tale in and of itself. Tell us about the second novel. Is that the one you self-published?

Yes, and that was quite an experience also. Had I known what I was in for at the beginning, I question whether I would have gone that route. It was in the days when self-publishing was likened to the red-headed step kid. Self-published authors, and their books, were given little respect. But I decided I was going to do it right, if I could. I purchased and read several “how-to” books on the art of self-publishing.

This was in the days of the old DOS computers; the days before Windows 95 and other menu driven programs came on the scene. I was using a Leading Edge computer which contained its own word processor program, and unlike Microsoft Word, and Word-Perfect, it was not totally compatible with the standard type-setting programs of that era. I had to find a type-setter that could convert my Leading Edge manuscript to one that was compatible with the printers’ systems.

Having jumped that hurdle, the next step was the ISBN numbers and the bar codes. Bookstores would not carry books that didn’t have those. I had to locate the sources, and purchase those before I could proceed with the actual printing of the book. And there was also the matter of finding someone to design a respectable looking cover. I got lucky. The type-setter I used was also able to do the cover for me. There was also registering the book with the copyright office, the Library of Congress, and a string of other tasks that don’t come readily to mind at this point. So after all that, and the expenditure of a few thousand dollars, the book was ready for the printer.

But the story doesn’t end there. Next came the task of setting up a publishing company. After all, we couldn’t risk having this project look like an amateur self-published project, could we? This meant coming up with a professional looking name, an imprint, and registering them as a dba with the state.

It sounds daunting.

Yes, but there’s more to the story. The book finally came off the presses, and 2,000 copies were neatly stacked in my garage. Now it was time to line up a distributor or wholesaler who would handle the book. You see, if you wanted to get your book into chain operated bookstores like Waldenbooks, Borders, Barnes & Noble, B-Dalton, etc., it had to be available through the wholesalers that they normally did business with. They would not order directly from the publishers. I finally succeeded in securing the Western division of Baker & Taylor in Washington State to handle my book.

But having said all that, I did manage to overcome all the hurdles and it sold a respectable enough number of copies to recoup my initial expenditures. It never made my name a household word, nor did it fatten my bank account, but it was a good learning experience. Self-publishing has advanced to the point that it’s much easier for an author today to self-publish. Especially since e-books have arrived on the scene.

Considering the experience you just described, would you self-publish again?

Yes, I think so, but I would do it a bit different this time. As I mentioned, e-books have come on the scene since I did my first book, so I would definitely do an e-book version. For the print version, I would go the way I did with my second book, Buddy…His Trials and Treasures. For that book, I found a POD publisher (Wheatmark) who did all the leg work for me, offered editorial service, cover design, secured the wholesalers, provided the bar codes, ISBN numbers and got the book on amazon.com for me; and for less cash outlay than going the full self-publishing route, because since, it’s POD, I didn’t have money tied up in a pallet full of books sitting in my garage. The book from this publisher looks like it came from one of the big boys in New York as it sits on the shelf. It’s the closest thing to traditional publishing you can get. Another advantage to going this route is a print copy can be on the shelf in as little as 90 days, whereas going through a traditional publisher, if you’re able to find one who will publish your book, takes 18 to 24 months.

Tell us about this book.

It’s a compilation of short story adventures in the life of a young boy growing up in rural America during the 1940s. It’s similar I suppose to Jean Shepherd’s book, In God We Trust, from which the movie A Christmas Story was adapted.

Buddy might be described by some as reminiscent of a twentieth century Tom Sawyer, in that he quite often finds himself in hot water for which he must pay the consequences. Unlike Tom, however, Buddy’s misdeeds are without much forethought. They happen because Buddy is…well…he’s just Buddy.

What’s on the horizon; any new books planned?

I have a couple of things in the hopper currently. First, I’m stepping up my efforts for marketing my second published book Buddy…His Trials and Treasures. I’m contemplating bringing it out in an e-book. I also have two other books I’m thinking of self-publishing. One of those is a revised and updated version with a new title OPERATION ACHILLES—A Shadow Revolution, of the first book I self-published. The other one is a fictional biography of Louisa Houston Earp. Louisa (pronounced with a long i) was the granddaughter of Sam Houston and was married in real life for a short time to Morgan Earp before he was assassinated in Tombstone, Arizona in 1882.

She turned out to be one of the most favorite of all the characters I have created. She was a trained concert pianist who played classical music in Western honky-tonk saloons and won the crusty cowboys over to actually liking it. She was also a crack shot with her modified .38 pistol, and showed no hesitancy toward using it when needed.

Where can we keep up with you and learn more about you, and what you are doing? And where can we find your book?

You can find my website at www.willedwinson.com. All of my current blog posts are located there, as well as a free download of my book. The print version of my book is available at www.amazon.com

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. We will be looking forward to seeing more of your work in the future.

You’re welcome, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to appear on the Blue Sage Blog. I hope all you Blue Sage members have a good and successful year with your writing.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Publishing and Marketing Strategies: An Interview with Atilla Vekony of Wheatmark Publishing

by Bill Corbett, aka Will Edwinson

You grew up in an Eastern Bloc country. Would you like to share a little bit of that with our readers?

Certainly! I grew up in Hungary, behind the Iron Curtain. I know that may sound somewhat intriguing and even dangerous, particularly to an American audience, but growing up at that time as a child was quite uneventful. Looking back though, it is hard to believe today that such a political system and ideology actually existed, and that it did not that long ago.

You are the Vice President of Wheatmark, Inc., a publishing and marketing firm. Tell us about Wheatmark.

Wheatmark was one of the pioneers of the publishing revolution that started at the turn of the century. This revolution has enabled a lot more authors to have their books published by using digital printing technology. The combination of on-demand printing and the emergence of Internet booksellers like Amazon created the perfect condition for writers not only to get published, but also to get their books sold to a wider audience. And all this without the need for the all-powerful middleman, the traditional "New York" publisher.

While there are now hundreds of publishing outfits that can help you get your book published to varying degrees of quality, Wheatmark has always placed an emphasis on working with excellent writers with great manuscripts. Over the last several years we have shifted focus to educating our authors about how to build their author platforms, how they can be better marketers. Because, the truth is, no matter how great your book is and how well it has been edited and produced, if you don't have a platform and a megaphone, it will be a lot harder to reach your audience and sell your book.

You are also a senior faculty member at the Authors Academy, a service of Wheatmark. What are the goals of the Authors Academy?

As I mentioned before, after publishing the books of a thousand or so authors we realized the importance of educating authors about marketing. The truth is, just because a book can be brought to market relatively inexpensively, it does not mean that there is a hungry market waiting for its release.

And so we decided to launch the Authors Academy in 2010. Through monthly webinars, teleseminars, and other resources we teach our members the importance of building a list and engaging with their audience in order to sell more books.

We help our members build their online platform by building them a custom author website, a blog, and connect it with their social media accounts and an email marketing system to maximize their reach. We now regularly explain this method in a free webinar called "The One Way to Market Your Book," which you can sign up for at http://authorsacademy.com.

In your Authors Academy presentations you stress the importance of blogging. Can you expand a little bit about that here and tell us why you think blogging is important?

Blogging equals publishing, to put it simply. It's writing and publishing on a digital platform over a period of time. What you have to say today as a writer, you write it and post it on your blog today. Then tomorrow you write a new post, and so on. Your writing then is available on your blog for anyone to search or browse.

The reason why blogging is important for writers is because your audience is on the internet every day, looking either for the information or the entertainment value that only you can provide to your audience. If you don't put your writing out there, by publishing it online on your blog, the chances of people finding and getting to know you and your writing is significantly less than if you do.

Whereas in the past writers had to publish books and be placed on bookshelves in order to be discovered and to connect with their audience, today all you have to do is blog. Yes, publish books too if you must!

I recently read a blog that said blogs should be short. The author of the blog said that if you have to scroll down, you’ve said too much. What do you think about that?

I disagree with the part that you’re saying too much if your readers have to scroll down. A fascinating writer, a master wordsmith, much like an eminent composer, can go on for long stretches before the audience grows tired.

Yet I can certainly identify with the sentiment that a blog post should not be too long. You regularly see articles from top news organizations spanning several pages, each linked from the other, rather than one long endless scroll.

However, blog posts should be as long as it takes to communicate your message to your audience, so there is no hard and fast rule as to how long a post should be. There are many blogs that feature long, content-rich posts, as well as blogs that are very short. One such example is of a short blog is Seth Godin’s.

If what you have to say is complex, such as articles involving research, don't make it short just because you've heard blogs should be short. It is true that people reading on the internet have much shorter attention spans than people reading magazines or books. However, if your audience is interested in what you have to say, who is to say that they will stop reading before you've made your point?

Additionally, Google loves blogs with rich content that answer questions people might be searching for. That is how you can gain new readers to your blog: write about what your audience is interested in. They will find your blog through a simple Google search. Then, your readers come back to your blog if they liked what they read and if they believe you regularly publish meaningful content. Your blog should also have a mechanism to entice visitors to come back.

How do you think the publishing world and marketing have changed in the last decade, and where do you think it’s headed in the future?

The Internet is the best thing that ever happened to writers, authors, artists, musicians, entertainers, and generally anybody who is in the content creation business. But particularly writers.

It is a great time today to be a writer. For the first time in history, you as the writer have direct access to your audience via your own website, blog, and your own social media connections. Call it your own media company with several broadcast channels. You have the power to create something and with the click of a button publish it for the world to see, for your audience to consume it instantly. You don’t have to knock on doors and convince publishers--those controlling both media production and distribution--that your content is ready for your audience. You can build an audience online and interact with them whenever you want to. Your blog writing does not have to go through months and years of production before it is brought to market. Your writing can be published and brought to market minutes after you’ve completed your last sentence.

You should absolutely make sure that your books and e-books, anything you charge for, are professionally edited, produced, and are without blemish. Your blog posts, on the other hand, while they should not contain misspellings or grammatical mistakes, do not need to be as polished as your printed book.

I said that the Internet has been kind particularly to writers, because even though media such as voice recordings, pictures, and videos are much easier to consume than writing, when someone searches for information on the Internet, they complete that search by writing, by typing in their search query into a search engine. And search engines will always primarily index and serve up written content to these consumers. Therefore writers are the best match for this age of Google and content creation.

How can people get in touch with you if they have more questions?

I highly recommend that you download the "Author’s Guide to Choosing a Publishing Service" from our website at http://www.wheatmark.com if you’re pondering about the myriad of choices when it comes to publishing your book. I'd be also happy to answer any questions about publishing or marketing. To be true to what we teach regarding the importance of building your digital author platform, I'd like to challenge you to ask me any questions you may have either via Twitter (my account is @vekony or http://twitter.com/vekony) or on Google Plus (my account is +AtillaVekony or http://google.com/+AtillaVekony. That way other people will be able to participate in the discussion. But if you're not yet comfortable with these platforms, you can also email me at avekony@wheatmark.com.

You can also check out Bill's blog at the following address:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Book Marketing

by Sandra Lord

Following are my notes from William Hertling’s workshop Every Trick in the Book for Optimizing Sales and Presence on Amazon, presented at the Willamette Writers Conference last August 2013.

Marketing should include cover design, reviews of your book, and exposure. For goals, you should build creditibility, relationships, and momentum - getting your first 100 sales. Some approaches to your goals are: Experiment and observe what sells. Find readers who read books like yours. It’s essential to have a website. The site doesn’t need to be beautiful, but it must be effective.

Post Launch

1. Fans - answer e-mails, give them something personal, e.g., why you wrote the book. This makes a “super fan”. Keep in touch with them.

2. Reach out to communities that would enjoy your book.

Facebook Ads

List your book’s title, a short description, appeal to fans of a genre author. The cost is approximately $.50 per time someone clicks on your ad.

Landing Influences

Go to Google to see how your book is doing. “Google Alerts” tells you when a hit is made. Cultivate relationships.

Pricing Books

$2.99 book - on Kindle you make $2. Above $4.99 a book - not price competitive.
POD - $9.99. You make $2/book. If book is longer than 250 pages, you’ll have to price it higher than $9.99.

For those of you interested in self-publishing (his tactics can apply to traditional publishing also) go to Hertling’s website www.williamhertling.com for more good information. I also recommend his book, Indie & Small Press Book Marketing.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Interview with Idaho Author, Janie Quinn Storck

Tell us a little about yourself, Janie.

First, Linda, thanks so much for requesting this interview and giving me this opportunity. I was born in a small town in Alabama but grew up in Miami, Florida. My husband and I moved to Idaho where we lived for a number of years and then returned to Florida. After retirement, we moved to the mountains of western North Carolina. We have recently moved back to Idaho, our first love. I have had several short stories published in literary magazines, one of which won an award.

Your newest release is COYOTE SUMMER, a children's novel set in Idaho. What's it about?

Shy, small-for-his-age, Gary Ryan, twelve, from Ohio, is sent to spend the summer with his gruff grandmother in Idaho. She owns a sheep ranch and is tending the sheep herself this summer. At first he wishes that he'd never come, but then he meets a mysterious, young Native American man and gets involved with an injured coyote. There is magic and mystery and Native American stories involving coyotes.

What, in particular, motivated you to write this story?

I read a newspaper article about a recent widow in Wyoming who was returning for one last summer to tend her remaining sheep. While her husband was alive, they had spent a couple of summers tending their sheep and looking at the stars through telescopes and fell in love with it. Around the same time, I read about some Basque sheepherders and the story came together from there.

What age group is it for, and what do you think children will learn or take away from it?

It is for the 8-12 age group. I hope they will learn about how all life is connected and enjoy the comical stories about the coyote. I also like to insert magic in my children's books because children get far too much realism nowadays.

In 2011, you released an adult psychic thriller, FROM THE SHADOWS. Will you tell us what it’s about?

Anne Merrill, a reluctant psychic, leaves her home in Bermuda to become an agent for OSS during WWII. She soon finds herself in a psychic battle with her powerful, German-born, psychic father, Albert, as well as with an ancient, secret society, the Chhayas (Shadows) Society, that is attempting to help the Nazis defeat the Allies. During all this, she and fellow OSS agent, half-white/half-Navajo, Paul Bancroft, who is haunted by the shadow of a terrible hereditary disease, fall in love. Anne first plays cat-and-mouse games with a female Nazi spy in Istanbul. She is then sent to Berlin when OSS penetrates the Third Reich. The story is told mostly from Anne's viewpoint but also from Paul and Albert's viewpoint as the story action vaults from Bermuda to London to New York to Spain to Turkey and, lastly, to Berlin.

Did psychic espionage actually play a role in WWII, and was Hitler engaged in this and other aspects of the occult?

From a couple of nonfiction books I read, Hitler was described as being an explorer of the occult mysteries. And, supposedly, Himmler, as well as others around Hitler, was deeply involved in belief in the occult. It was said that the rise of the Third Reich was meticulously contrived and orchestrated. The ceremonies surrounding some of Hitler's banal speeches were said to have been occult-inspired and superbly stage-managed to control the people. And in England, there were psychics who met together to raise their powers to keep the Germans out of England. Also, supposedly, British Intelligence, and probably OSS, put a few psychics and astrologers on the payroll. And there was the wife of a high military official who, purportedly, could 'see' enemy ships and submarines at sea. And, at least in one instance, her information helped the Allies to sink some German submarines. Also, during WWII, a Jew, executed by the Nazis, was reported to have used paranormal powers to help the Polish resistance. In WWI, there were dowsers who were able to locate mines, traps and drinking water with success. And there were a few reports of psychic abilities being used in battles.

You've lived in a number of places. What made you want to return to Idaho?

My husband and I have traveled extensively, including visiting all of the lower 48 states. Early on in our travels, we fell in love with the West. I think, in some strange way, I was always in love with the West from childhood. And for people growing up in a big city, Idaho's remoteness appealed to us, as did its wide-open spaces. There is a spirit about the West that you don't find anywhere else in the country.

What part of writing a novel is the most fun for you? Developing the idea? Doing the research? Or writing that first (or last) draft? Or some other aspect of the process?

I love doing research. In fact, I have to control myself or I could go on researching forever and never start writing. I must insert here that I greatly miss the old card-catalogs in the library, as I would start out looking at one subject and find connected subjects in the card-catalogs that would open up new ideas, new vistas for me.

Writers tend to be quirky when they sit down to write. Some write in their PJs; some have to have a pot of black coffee, or tea. Others get the brain cells flowing with some dark chocolate or a glass of wine. Some like silence; others like music. Some can write anywhere; others only in their offices. What works for you to get the creativity flowing?

The chocolate sounds appealing, as I am a chocolate fiend. Seriously, I need absolute quiet and really write best in my office. And I am not a morning person, so it is most always in the afternoon. But I don't have any other quirks about writing.

Do you believe a writer has to wait for the muse? Or do you believe the best way to get a novel written is to go at it like any other job and apply thy bottom to the chair and thy fingers to the keyboard?

I have always tried to approach writing as a job. Perspiration more than inspiration. If I didn't approach it that way, I don't think I'd get much writing done. The muse can be very fickle.

Besides being a writer, you are also an accomplished artist. As a matter of fact, you did the cover art for COYOTE SUMMER. How do these two forms of creativity complement each other in your life?

For me, drawing and painting is a fun-type activity that I mostly do for relaxation. It is a different way of being creative, a different way of seeing things. I only wish that I had more time for it, but my writing is what is most important to me.

Are you working on a new book?

Yes, I am close to publishing another book. It is a contemporary romantic-suspense, with emphasis on the suspense elements. I am a big fan of Mary Stewart and Barbara Michaels (aka Elizabeth Peters) romantic-suspense books. And I know from a book catalog I get that Mary Stewart books still sell very well. I also have another romantic-suspense novel and another middle-grade children's novel completed and waiting in the wings. I am also now doing research on another novel that at this point I could not categorize.

Thanks again, Linda, for giving me the chance to do this interview.

You’re most welcome, Janie! Thank you for giving us this opportunity to learn about your work.

Review Excerpt from Pam Brewer, book reviewer for the Idaho Statesman:

“FROM THE SHADOWS is a frightening look at what the world could be if psychic powers were used for evil. This is a psychological thriller that keeps you turning the pages until the end. It grabs you from the beginning, taking you through a roller coaster ride of emotion. Storck has done an excellent job of mixing history, espionage, and romance. Recommended.”

You can purchase Janie’s books through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Interview by Linda Sandifer

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Feast in the Elements of Craft

By Karen Finnigan

After a lifetime of reading, you think you know what goes into a story. And, in a generic way, you do. Plot: Check. Conflict: Check. Compelling characters: Check, check. But in today’s publishing world, thousands of other stories also have plot, conflict, and compelling characters. Above average use of these components isn’t good enough anymore. It takes some special forces to lift a story beyond the ordinary if you want to make the cut with agents and publishers these days. The Excellent stories, the Chosen ones, contain specific components that lift them from ho-hum to page turners. Elements you’ve maybe admired in books you’ve read without being able to put your finger on exactly what they are.

This was my state of mind when I arrived, hungry for advanced craft, in Portland, Oregon, and shuttled with Sandy Lord and Richard Rice from the airport to the Sheraton Airport Hotel for the Willamette Writers Conference. I attended workshops on the craft of writing from Aug 2-4. During those three days, I only had short breaks for buffet lunches. I did not bring enough note taking paper and ended up taking notes on the backs of handouts. Condensing what I learned here is like cutting a 120,000 novel to a book jacket!

FYI, the book most commonly referenced by workshop presenters as an example of excellence was The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I had not read it, but I had seen the movie. And I’d heard plenty about it from my granddaughter, who found it so compelling she asked for bow and arrows for her birthday and who named her latest kitten Katniss after the heroine in Hunger Games. (That was before the vet told her the kitten was a boy, but I digress.) When I returned home, I borrowed my granddaughter’s copy of the book and read it so I can also dissect what one workshop presenter called a brilliant plot.

Three days in a row I sat in on the workshops presented by story fixer and author, Larry Brooks. He gave us nearly 5 hours of meaty tips on how to add power, tension, and force to our own stories. He explained how there are three layers to creating a story: conceptual phase or the search for story. We aren’t done with this phase until we know our ending. (I’m pretty sure I’m still in this phase with my current story.) Next phase is the Premise phase where we apply the three-act structure to our concept. You know, have a good idea what’s happening at our first plot point, our mid-point, our dark moment, and in our climax. Last phase is the actual writing. Some writers do all these phases in their head as they go. Others need the formality of organizing it outline style. There is no right way, he said. Whatever works for you is the right way.

But writers who think they are finished once they get that draft committed to computer/paper may be selling their book short. Larry wasn’t talking about technical stuff here as much as intangible forces.

In short, too many stories are technically competent, but still have something missing. Larry’s bottom line: Analyze whether your story is as powerful as it can be. You can find Larry Brooks on Storyfix.com. You can hire him to analyze and add power and force to your story. If you can’t afford that, you can buy his books, Story Engineering, and Story Physics, where the forces are explained in detail.

I also attended intermediate-level workshops by multiple other presenters. The topics ranged from Effective Motivation, Maximizing Tension, Dialogue, Making Your Protagonist Sympathetic. And I visited the Manuscript ER more than once (where I found out from a published author I’ve probably been marketing my novel all wrong).

I also pitched two agents. The first said my story sounded fascinating, but not “edgy” enough for her list. True, I don’t have a bow and arrows in my story nor exploding fireballs. But maybe other elements needed a second look. I refined my pitch over breakfast with encouragement from friends. Then I met with the second agent who does deal in literary fiction. She listened to my pitch and said to send her my opening chapters!

But I did not send off the chapters the day after I arrived home. I had also attended this agent’s workshop on what makes a novel publishable--and, again, taken copious notes. She said she looks in the first two pages for the dramatic hook, the story promise, or if you like, the question that’s going to be answered by the end of the book. I checked for that in my manuscript. She also said the first sentence is crucial for drawing her in. Gave mine another look. I thought about all the other craft stuff I’d learned in relation to my opening chapters and quickly reframed Chapter Two to (I hope) maximize the tension. Only then did I email my chapters.

Now I am sitting back, hopeful, but still digesting all I learned. I was so hungry for writing advice, and boy, am I sated. The Willamette Writers Conference definitely put on a feast for writers. Workshop presenters gave me a lot of the meat and potatoes, but kept it real too. Not once did anyone anywhere say writing a novel was a piece of cake.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


by Maxine McCoy

“SWSWSWSW stands for: Some will, some won't, so what--someone's waiting.” Jack Canfield

We work for months (sometimes years) on a book. We know the characters, care about them deeply, apologetically put them in edge-of-the-seat difficulties, and then save them in the end. We wrap them in a shroud of love and send them off to an agent or publisher, waiting expectantly to hear that they love it as much as we do ... and then one day the rejection slip comes.

If we're going to be successful writers, they tell us, we're going to have to learn to deal with rejection. So exactly how do we do that? How do we get past the disappointment, the damaged self-esteem, the shattered confidence, the loss of hope? I've read a lot about this subject recently and could list pages of rules to overcome rejection, but, it seems to me, it can be narrowed down to two points:

1. Attitude:

“We keep going back, stronger, not weaker, because we know we will not allow rejection to beat us down. It will only strengthen our resolve. To be successful, there is no other way.” Earl G. Graves

Now that is a positive attitude.

We need to decide what attitude will bring us the most success. Then we need to decide what thoughts will create and uphold that attitude. Thoughts are like the water that trickled down solid rocks and eventually, through persistence, created the Grand Canyon. Thoughts are powerful.

They cause emotion. Emotion added to an intention creates reality. We know our thoughts are creating what we want them to by being aware of how we feel. If we're happy and optimistic, our thoughts are working for us. If we're depressed, disappointed, and have feelings of hopelessness, our thoughts are working against us. We can only get rid of an unwanted thought by replacing it with another one that serves us better. This principle is like exercising. It works, but you have to put forth the effort.

2. Perseverance:

“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from the editor is a precious package. Don't consider it rejected. Consider that you've addressed it 'to the editor who can appreciate my work' and it has simply come back stamped, 'not at this address.' Just keep looking for the right address.” Barbara Kingsolver

I love to read about the rejections received by our best-selling authors. It always gives me hope.

Jack Canfield and Mark Hansen's Chicken Soup for the Soul - 130 rejections, sold 125 million copies.

“It's impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.” That was written to George Orwell by a publisher responding to his submission for Animal Farm.

“Nobody will want to read a book about a seagull.” Jonathon Livingston Seagull sold 44 million copies.

“The girl doesn't, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.” That was from the rejection slip for The Diary of Anne Frank.

Stephen King threw his Carrie manuscript into the garbage after countless rejections. Luckily his wife dug it out and sent it on. It sold 4 million copies and we know what happened after that.

“You have no business being a writer. Give up.” Written by a publisher to Zane Grey.

There are probably pages of such rejections, so I'll just end with the story of the man who holds the record. Jack Creasey collected 743 rejection slips before he sold his first book. Over the next 40 years he published 562 full-length books under 28 different pseudonyms.

Now that's perseverance.

When sending out your next manuscript, just remember, “Some will, some won't, so what--someone's waiting.”

Just think about that! There's someone out there waiting for your manuscript.