Month: June 2014

7QT Interview with Author John McNichol

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Join up with Seven Quick Takes Friday over at Jennifer’s Conversion Diary.

 Today I bring you the first time I’ve let my kids help me interview an author!  One of our favorite middle-grade books we’ve read in recent years is The King’s Gambit by John McNichol. Let’s meet John!

John McNichol and his new book.

 John McNichol was born in Toronto, Canada at the dawn of the swinging 70s…which likely explains why he is such a fan of the Big 80s. He lived the first eighteen years of his life in Toronto, leaving to attend college at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio.
 College agreed with him in more ways than one. He received an excellent level of academic and spiritual formation at FUS, and credits it to this day with his ability to focus a life of faith onto creative pursuits. Most important, it was at FUS that John he met his American wife, and later lived as a legal resident in the United States since his graduation and wedding in 1992. John now lives in Vancouver, Washington, with his wife Jeanna, their seven children and The Dumbest Dog In The State Of Washington. John is a Middle School teacher by trade, and continues to pursue excellence in his vocation while writing steampunk-themed science fiction about his favorite authors and literary characters. He became a proud American citizen on September 19th, 2012. John’s first book, “The Tripods Attack,” was published by Sophia Press in March 2008. Part of a trilogy titled “The Young Chesterton Chronicles,” the second volume, “The Emperor of North America,” is now available from Bezalel Books. His novel for the 9-12 year old Market, “The King’s Gambit”, was published by Hillside in October of 2013. He is currently at work on the final volume of the YCC, “Where the Red Sands Fly.” John loves loaded pizzas, meaty lasagnas, killing 3-5 hours at a stretch at his local Barnes & Noble on the weekend and seeing fan art based on his works. He hates broccoli. Hates it. Still.

So now you know the basics.  Here come some details.  It was really exciting for me, both as a writer and as a mom of voracious readers (well, two out of three of them…) to interviewwith my kids someone whose work we knew before we got to interview him.  I hope you enjoy this interview as much as First Shift and I did!

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Q: This question is from the older member of my First Shift of Kids:  Where did you get the idea for The King’s Gambit? A: Initially, it came from an image that popped into my head during my daily drive to work. And that image, now that I think of it, had at least three or four sources: First: I’ve always loved reading adventures and creating new ones in my mind. [Going] to school in the mornings, I’d often knock around little fantasies in my head of fighting bad guys alongside Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, and later fighting evil Martians who were trying to invade Narnia alongside King Peter and King Edmund, and in the process winning the hand of Queen Susan… Yeah, it was a long walk to school from my apartment building. I had a lot of spare time to think up story after story in my head Moreover, when I was growing up, the North York Public Library in Toronto (which is what I based the Library in The King’s Gambit on) was like a second home to me. If I had reason to believe that the bullies might bother me anywhere on that long walk home, I often found the Library was a safe place to wait them out. Reading books there transported me to different worlds and times. It could have been a dip in the shallow end of the mental pool with a Choose Your Own Adventure book, or something deeper like George McDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin. Walking home, I’d continue the stories and adventures in my head, figuring out Who Killed Harlowe Thrombey, or helping the character of Curdie in doing the bidding of the beautiful spirit princess. Second: I learned to play chess when I was about eleven years old, after I read a comic book in which the heroes of the Justice League of America fought some villain from space who used giant robots based on Chess pieces to do his dirty work. Years later as a teen, one of my favorite video games for the Commodore 64 computer was Archon, a Chess-type game where your chess-like pieces fight each other in a fantasy forest setting, complete with laser blasts, fireballs and a host of other cool special effects. To me, it was a wonderful melding of two things I’d learned to love- battles between fantastical creatures and games based on iron rules of logic and strategy. A third source was a story I heard about, but have not (as of yet) read called Inkheart, in which I’m told characters from books leap out and attack the young heroes. Back to me as an adult: Driving to work down highway 205, I was in-between finishing and editing the first draft of my sequel to The Tripods Attack! and an image jumped into my head: I was a young boy sitting and reading Choose Your Own Adventure book titled Who Killed Harlowe Thrombey in the Children’s Fiction section of the North York Public Library. Suddenly a medieval Black Knight on horseback burst out of the bookcase and began chasing the younger me through the stacks and into the auditorium where we used to watch movies and hear speakers talk. After this thought knocked about in my head for a while, I started asking other questions: Where did the knight come from? Why was it attacking? What did it want? If I was the boy, how could I escape?  Eventually I hit on the idea of another world where these attacking pieces would come from, a world where ideas became real and where actions there could have huge consequences here in our own world. Drawing on my own experiences of school, bullies, Chess, and other things, I had a great time building the world Edward King runs through in order to save his dad, as well as basing the characters on people in my circle of friends and beloved family members. Of course, the funny thing is the whole process took about a five minutes at most from the time I first thought about the black knight to finishing the end of the basic plot of the story, but it took years of built-up thoughts and experiences to come together at just the right time for me to turn them into a book.

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Q: This question is from the second member of my First Shift:  Why did you choose to be a writer? A: That’s a good one! For folks who like to write, that question usually gets a smile. It’s like asking a professional athlete why they chose to play sports instead of be an office worker. Writing is something I’ve always liked to do. Creative writing was my favorite subject as a child in school (sometimes the only subject I liked), and one of the few areas I found any consistent academic success in as a kid. So, to answer your question: I never really chose to be a writer. I just love to write and tell stories. I’m blessed to live in an age when one can share their stories with more people than ever before. If I wasn’t writing, I’d be talking. And if I wasn’t talking…well, I’d be thinking different stories non-stop.  Today, I make my living as a Middle School teacher at a wonderful Catholic school in the Portland, Oregon area. I only write part-time, but that’s probably a good thing for me. Teaching keeps me grounded, since it’s a profession that by its nature ensures you can’t take yourself too seriously.

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Q: Another from the elder of First Shift:  Do you consider TKG fantasy or science fiction? A: That’s a good question! I’d suggest it depends on how you define them. Personally, I define a Fantasy as involving building stories around ideas, events or things that we can now only wish were true in some fashion. Conversely, I say Science Fiction involves building stories around things that are true, or at least are remotely possible from a scientificstandpoint.  Thus, The Chronicles of Narnia is a fantasy series, since it involves magic, dwarves, talking animals, and a host of things that we only can wish could be true. But C.S. Lewis’ Space trilogy would be Science Fiction, since the idea of space-faring vessels, voyages to Mars and alien races are arguably possible.  But to answer your question: Since there’s a less-than-zero chance for a knight to burst out of the local children’s fiction section of your local library, I’d lean towards calling The King’s Gambit a fantasy. But a philosopher named Plato has suggested that our ideas for various things come from another place called the Realm of Ideas. Since our heroes in TKG travel there, you could say it’s a bit of sci-fi as well. Maybe it’s better labeled philosophical fiction?

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Q: AnOTHER from the elder:  Are you good at chess? A: Not really. I have a few strategies and tricks up my sleeve, but my sons beat me most of the time.  I am still fascinated by the game for many reasons, though. I’ve always been intrigued by how the best games mirror and prepare us for real-life. Chess as we know it today is modeled on medieval army combat in many significant ways. The ratio of pawns to knights, for example, was roughly the same in medieval armies, and the goal of medieval warfare was not the obliteration of your opponent’s forces but to corner him and leave him without options, just as when the King is checkmated. As a practicing member of the Catholic faith, I also can appreciate how the medieval world seemed to collectively fall in love with Mary the Mother of God, leading to the increased ability of the Queen in the game of chess, even though the game itself still turns on the fate of the King. Chess is also a game dependent completely on skill instead of luck, with the pieces relying on each other for defense and successful attacks. I try to illustrate that during the final scenes in The King’s Gambit as well.

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Q:Finally!  I get to ask a question!  Idea, research, editing, design…What was your favorite part of working on this project? What was your least favorite? A: My favorite part was and always is giving a voice to the stories that bounce around in my head, and working in people who are important to me as characters in my projects. For me, grades 7 and 8 at D’Arcy McGee Catholic School in Toronto from ’82-’84 were the best years of my school days, which is probably one reason I teach Middle School today. I enjoy revisiting my own school days through my characters, and bringing to life the thoughts and stories of my students. So, technically the mining in my head of all the conversations and experiences I had during this time could maybe be considered research?  Of course, it’s also fun working adults I know into the book as secondary characters. There are a number of folks I based characters on after they have helped me as consultants, such as Dr. DeOna Bridgeman and Mr. David McCarthy. I also was able to base the character of Edward’s mother on my own Mom as well as my wife, Jeanna. I’m going to cheat and write a 2nd part I like- can’t help myself, sorry… I’m from the Atari generation, and back then we saw the birth of ‘easter eggs’ in video games- surprise messages or graphics placed by game designers in video games for players to find. Today in the Internet age, authors do the same with trivia in their novels that the reader can go look up on ask.com or other places.  In my case, I had a lot of fun fitting in chess trivia into all the nooks and crannies of The King’s Gambit. Almost all the characters are named after important people or ideas in the world of chess, and I get feedback from readers surprised that this-or-that person or place was named after a chess grandmaster or a chess move. My least favorite part was and always will be editing. “Writing,” a friend told me a long time back “is easy. Editing is hard.” I’ve always got about a ton of thoughts I can put on paper without difficulty. But if I want anyone to share my vision and plunk money down to read my story, I have to make those thoughts flow well and keep my readers interested. And in the process, I sometimes have to chop out sections of the book I like but that may slow down the story or distract from the main plot.

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Setting, characters, plot, mood, tone… What would you describe as your greatest strength as a writer?  Conversely, if you could change one thing about your writing style, what would it be and why? I’ve been told one of my better strengths as a writer is my ear for dialogue and pacing. It’s reassuring when fans tell me I recreate well the adventure and angst of living in that twilight zone between childhood and adult life so many of us have to navigate. In truth, I remember well what it was like to be in middle school and high school. I still remember many of the conversations in my head from that era of my life, and bring them to my writing when applicable. Teaching teenagers for the past two decades has also taught me that the details of youth life and even slang haven’t changed all that much, really. Acceptance, achievement, finding a place in the world, and avoiding boredom, these and other themes work their way into my fiction because they were the things I and other young people were concerned about then, and still are today. We give different names to the dances and the steps may change, but the music and the beat remains the same for youth always. If I could change one thing about my writing, I’d be more correct on grammar and other language conventions the first time through. I’ll never forget when my editor sent me an email all in capital letters, shouting “BAD, BAD AUTHOR!” because of a particular punctuation-based goof-up I’d repeated dozens, maybe hundreds of times over the course of a 400-page manuscript. Oops.

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Q: Tell us about your other work, how we can find it (a. k. a. Give you our hard-earned cash), and tell us about any other projects we can expect from you in the future. A:  My main projects aside of The King’s Gambit have been books 1 and 2 of The Young Chesterton Chronicles, an adventure series featuring a fictionalized, teenaged version of GK Chesterton. In the first book, The Tripods Attack, young Gil Chesterton fights giant bloodsucking aliens from Mars and a conspiracy bent on world-domination with the help of his mentor, Father Brown, and his best friend, a young HG Wells. In the sequel, The Emperor of North America, Gilbert travels back to America to escape danger and foil the plans of a would-be dictator and con-man, all the while dodging steam-powered cowboys and the dangers of a floating city. I’m currently working on the third novel in the trilogy, Where the Red Sands Fly, in which Gilbert and co. travel to Mars for the final confrontation with the conspirators who wish to rule both worlds.  The first two novels have won the Catholic Writer’s Guild’s Seal of Approval, and can be found by clicking on the on the websites of my publishers: The Young Chesterton Chronicles, Book 1: The Tripods Attack! at Sophia Press, And the sequel, The Young Chesterton Chronicles, Book 2: The Emperor of North America at Bezalel Books. And, of course, The King’s Gambit, over at both Hillside Press and at Chesterton Press …or, if you want to save a few mouse clicks, you can just go to my Amazon page. ….Thank you Erin, for giving me this opportunity! Oh, thank YOU, John!  Tomato Pie readers, do go out and get John’s books and share them with your young’ns!

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Small Success Thursday with CatholicMom.Com

Join the Small Success Thursday link-o-rama over at CatholicMom.com!

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God has been good this week as always.  This week He made His goodness obvious enough even for the likes of me, ungrateful brat that I am.

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My day job has very few immediately tangible perks. One of them is First Raspberry.

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As da Fludufians say, “Dat jawn is MAYAN!”

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In the past week, my family (assisted by my BFF) has picked and processed 30 pounds of strawberries. Some got frozen, some jammed & canned, and some dried and sent to a certain distant gardener.

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We’ve also harvested and dried lavender flowers and a batch of sage. The one pea plant that did not get decimated by our neighborhood bunnies…

… is just about making up for the rest of them. We have frozen gallons of kale, spinach and Swiss chard. Our little lettuce plants have even defied the bunnies and given us much salad.

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I found the ice cream maker paddle attachment for our stand mixer!  Hallelujah!  Bring on the “breakfast ice cream!”

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Relax.  It’s no-sugar-added smoothie processed in the ice cream freezer.  If you have a picky eater who eschews yogurt, the “yogurty taste” gets toned down through the ice creaming process (whatever that’s called).  My one who will barely eat yogurt often has seconds of “breakfast ice cream.”

It’s a harvest of success! How about over at your garden?

 ETA: I can’t believe I’ve never thought of this thing for which to be grateful before.  I had a horrible, out-of-nowhere asthma attack last night that kept me up until at least 3:30am (I had to force myself to stop watching the clock, because I sure didn’t need anxiety on top of wheezing).  Today just about the only thing I’ve been good for is sitting at the computer… which is my work.  Could you imagine if I were a railroad operator, a school bus driver, worked a meat slicer, or any other number of jobs for which I need to be able to be active and alert the day following an asthmatic all-nighter?  I’m grateful that, while I’m in a fallen world, God created a way to use me in spite of all that fallen.  Sweet.

 

WWRW: The Lion’s Heart by Dena Hunt

Join up with Jessica at Housewifespice and all the other coolest bookworms for What We’re Reading Wednesday.

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“I am not afraid that the book will be controversial.  I’m afraid it will not be controversial.”

Flannery O’Connor

Today I’m reviewing one of the best, most powerful, most well-crafted, most heart-challenging books I’ve read in a very long time.  I am not exaggerating.  It’s The Lion’s Heart by Dena Hunt.  

Writers are often told to perfect “the elevator pitch,” a three-sentence summary of one’s book.  If you’re pitching a Catholic novel, I can’t think of a more interest-grabbing elevator pitch than the intro to the Amazon summary for The Lion’s Heart.  

Is love ever wrong?
Paul Meyer has never let anyone get too close.
Until Max.

Spoilers:  Max is not a girl.

Here’s my review as I posted to Amazon:

Whatever side of controversy you call home, this book is a game-changer. Dena Hunt gives us a compassionate story courageously told, depicting the truth in all its dimensions. The characters are clearly drawn as are their passions, conflicts, losses and triumphs. Hunt handles the divergent and convergent points of view of these characters–and their readers–with a hand both light and deft. Readers will never be the same. With The Lion’s Heart, the landscape of faith-based fiction is changed forever.

It’s so hard for me to elaborate on that, because The Lion’s Heart is more art than antagonism, more compassion than controversy.  I dare anyone who thinks the Catholic teaching on this subject matter is based on “hate” to read this book–really read it–and then continue thinking that “hate” is anywhere in the picture.

Double.  Dog.  Dare.

The love–yes, I’m going to use the word love here–between Paul and Max is depicted in every dimension imaginable.  Yes, the more conservative? hard-hearted? among readers may very well be furious that Dena had the guts to depict a romantic relationship between two men that includes elements of selflessness, of sacrifice.  “It can’t be anything like love at all.  Nope. Uh-uh  Never,” they may say.  Well, forgive me for pointing it out, but let’s not discount each other that deeply, shall we?  Dena sure doesn’t.  She gives us the great depths of passion and giving (or what we very well-intenioned-ly may believe is giving) of which all humans are capable of achieving when drawn to share intimately with another human being.

Long story short, nobody is demonized in The Lion’s Heart.  Nobody.   Every character is depicted from many angles for us to study and recognize as simply, beautifully human.  And, unfortunately, in our polarized world, that’s going to piss off a lot of people.  It’s going to piss off both sides of a Marriage March.  It’s going to piss off every single person on my Facebook friends list, half of them for one reason, and half of them for the exact opposite reason.  And isn’t that exactly the kind of thing that literature is supposed to do?

Brava, Dena Hunt, for giving us this book.  Bravo, Full Quiver Publishing, for putting so much on the line to publish it–a task that the Big Catholic Houses were, forgive me, too cowardly to do.  Bravo/a to you, Pride or Respect, if you have the guts to read it.

Triple.  Dog.  Dare.

 

 

Take Heart! Some Quick Thoughts on Editing

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You might have noticed that I’ve been interviewing a lot of fellow authors lately.  I have several more interviews to come.  I’m finding it a great way to connect with other authors while doing them a solid and helping to promote their work.

I’ve also found something interesting about the interviews, diverse as the interviewees may be.  They all seem to dislike the editing process the most out of all the world of writing.

I can’t help but find this intriguing, because for me, corrections and all, the editing is an exciting thrill ride.

Don’t get me wrong.  When I was a fledgling writer going to critique groups, I felt a high level of cringe when it was my turn on the chopping block.  However, the more practice I’ve had sharing my work with others, the more my ear has sharpened.  I now can hear the difference between feedback from people who are trying to tear me down and people who are so excited about my work that they want to help polish it.

Folks doling out the former just get, “Thanks.  I appreciate your time.” Honestly, though, I can only count three times in 15-20 years when that happened (one of those three times was just someone who was more interested in impressing me with how smart he thought he was and wasn’t necessarily dissing my work directly).  So, those of you who fear editing, take heart.

Folks serving out the latter are the gifts more precious than gold.  They appreciate your work and want to be part of making it shine.  These are the people who will cheer you on and promote your book/poem/short story for you.  They give you fresh eyes for what our eyes have probably already glazed over.

I think I got to the point of recognizing valuably excited editors through the practice of letting others read my barely polished work.  In other words, you won’t develop an ear for valuable feedback unless you experience a lot of it and weigh it for yourself.  If you are just starting out, find people of integrity to give you feedback on what you’ve written.  If in their feedback their words are deliberately cutting, shake the dust from your sandals and keep looking.  Keep your eyes out for people who want to destroy their own writing careers.  Then give them a nice, wide berth.

I’m one of the few writers I know who will not advise you to “develop a thick skin.”  I think our sensitivity as writers is the bread and butter of what we do, and to sell that out just so as not to hurt our pwecious widdle feewings kinda misses the point.  Collect people who will talk to you about what you’ve written.  Delve into their feedback.  Feedback is a gold mine–some dirt, mostly crazy value. The best editors are your best fans!  If you feel called to write, don’t hide it under a bushel basket just because editing feels uncomfortable at first.  If God wants to fan the flame of your lamp, there’ll be no stopping Him.  After all, He says:

I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world. –John 16: 33

If you’re writing in His conquering army, relax.  You’ve already won.

THANK YOU!

Last week’s free Kindle promotion of Don’t You Forget About Me  was exhausting… but, I believe, productive!

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It would have been even more exhausting and far less productive if I hadn’t received the generous help of many, many folks online.  Here is a non-exhaustive list of those people.

If I’ve forgotten you, comment below, remonstrating me for my rude ignorance and including the link to how you helped a writer out.  I’ll gladly make amends.

Seven Quick Takes Friday: An Interview with Christina Weigand

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It’s time for another Seven Quick Takes Friday hosted by Jennifer over at Conversion Diary Team Whitaker, who also hold off on bathing freshly baptized babies for as long as possible.  

It’s another Friday where I get someone else to write my 7QT to host another talented author from the world of Catholic Fiction. It’s my pleasure to interview Christina Weigand, author of the Palace of the Twelve Pillars Series. I featured the first book of the series, the book that gives the series its name, in a What We’re Reading Wednesday post not too long ago.     Now that you’ve learned a bit about the book…

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… let’s meet the author.

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Tell us about your most recent work.  How did the idea come to you?  How long did it take you from start to publication?

In February 2014 MuseItUp Publishing released the last book in the Palace of the Twelve Pillars trilogy, Sanctuary of Nine Dragons: Book Three.  It along with the first two books; Palace of the Twelve Pillars: Book One and Palace of the Three Crosses: Book Two follow the lives of two young princes and later kings, Joachim and Brandan. The young men each struggle with their own battles of good and evil. Their faith will be tested as war, death, kidnapping and betrayal along with a few dragons and other creatures both evil and good will stand in their way as they discover their path in life.

The trilogy actually started out as a short story about a young man who wakes up one morning after being kidnapped by an evil wizard and discovers that he is a prince and wizard instead of a farmer’s son. First the story was too much for a short story and once I started to convert it to a novel I realized that there was a whole story happening before he ever woke up in the wizard’s castle. I wanted to know what that story was, then Joachim and Brandan appeared, father and uncle to Airyn. They had a whole lot of baggage with them.

The entire trilogy took about thirteen years from start to publication of the third novel.

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Idea, research, editing, design…What was your favorite part of working on this project? What was your least favorite?

I would have to say my favorite part was writing. Once I let the characters take the lead it was a wild journey and a whole lot of fun trying to figure out where they would take me next.

My least favorite part has been letting go of the characters. They became so ingrained in my life and I had to do things to them that weren’t so pleasant. But overall they became like my own children and while I completed their story, they still have not been so willing to let me move onto the next story.

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Tell us about how this work came to reach us:  did you go the self-publishing route or did you contract with a publisher?  What was that like?

The Palace of the Twelve Pillars trilogy is contracted with MuseItUp Publishing and distributed in eformats. For me it has been a wonderful experience. From the publisher Lea Schizas to the two editors Penny Ehrenkranz and Nancy Bell and the cover artists Marion Sipe and Charlotte Volnek were great to work with.  The editors caught things that as the writer after seeing the ms. so many times, I missed. Lea managed to talk me down in the last weeks before release of the third book, when I went into a panic realizing that a whole chapter was missing. At the last minute we inserted the missing chapter and no one was the wiser.

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What other things in your life do you juggle in order to keep at your writing?  How’s that working out for you?

“Christina Weigand’s a writer, wife, and mother of four. She is also Nana to three granddaughters. She lives with her husband and youngest daughter in Cranberry Twp. Pennsylvania, returning there after a short sabbatical in Washington. Currently, she’s working on fantasy novels and inspirational writing. Through her writing, she strives to share the Word of God and help people young and old to realize the love and mercy He has for everyone.

When she’s not writing, she’s active in her local Church and volunteering at her daughter’s school helping the children develop a love for reading and writing. Jesus fills her home with love as she shares Him through her writing.

Most of the time things work really well. With Ana in school all day it gives me the opportunity to write and market. That being said with summer vacation looming there will be some serious juggling going on to keep her busy and still take time out for myself and writing. But it’s not the first time I’ve been to this game so I’m sure we will find a way through it.”

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Setting, characters, plot, mood, tone… What would you describe as your greatest strength as a writer?

I would have to say based on my previous answers, my strength is characters. When they get into my head and I let them run with the story magic happens.

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Conversely, if you could change one thing about your writing style, what would it be and why?

Writing descriptions. I tend to write the story and forget to throw the descriptions I see in my head onto the paper.

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Lastly, where can we find your work, a. k. a. give you our hard earned cash?

MuseItUp Publishing bookstore

Amazon Kindle Link

Barnes & Nobles Nook Link

Smashwords Link

Thanks so much, Christina!  Congratulations on your accomplishments, and we all wish you much continued success!

THANK YOU! & Don’t you forget about the GIVEAWAY!

Hey, friends!  I’ll be sending out a big, detailed “thank you” post sometime super soon, but in the meantime, a huge thank you to all those who helped promote last week’s free Kindle promotion of Don’t You Forget About Me.  

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I’m still running that “One For A Friend” Giveaway through the end of June 17, and right now only one person has entered, so if you want a free, signed hard copy of DYFAM, go post your review on Amazon then comment on the original giveaway page.

Thanks!

#7QT: An Interview with Author Amy Bennett

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Join Jennifer and all the coolest Catholics for the 7 Quick Takes Friday Linkup.

Well, it’s another 7QT that I’ve gotten somebody else to write for me!  I’m thrilled to host author Amy Bennett, who brought us the hilarious and suspenseful mystery End of the Road, the first book (of many, I hope), in the Black Horse Campground Mysteries series.  Her second, No Lifeguard on Duty, is the second and latest.

Allow me to introduce you to Amy.

“I was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, so that automatically makes me a native Texan… but then I’ve spent most of my life in New Mexico, so I can claim dual citizenship! End of the Road is the first book in the Black Horse Campground series.  The Black Horse and Bonney County exist in my imagination, for the most part, but visit the Ruidoso/Lincoln County region of New Mexico and you’ll see how I happened to find it!  As for Corrie Black and her friends, I hope you enjoy reading about their adventures as much as I enjoyed writing about them… and I hope there are many more to come!  When I’m not writing, I’m a cake decorator at Walmart in Ruidoso Downs, NM;  slinging vino at Noisy Water Winery in mid-town Ruidoso; and being a wife to Paul (since 1988) and mom to Paul Michael (since 1994) as well as enjoying life in general in Bent, NM.”

Now let’s hear from Amy about how she writes, why she writes, and so and so!

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Tell us about your most recent work.  How did the idea come to you?  How long did it take you from start to publication?

My most recent work is No Lifeguard on Duty, the second book in my Black Horse Campground mystery series.

 

 

I actually came up with the idea for the three main characters—Corrie, Rick, and J.D.—first and wanting to tell their stories, and their involvement in a murder mystery grew from my own love of mystery novels, in particular the romantic suspense of Mary Higgins Clark.  And reading novels, particularly mysteries, by other New Mexico authors like Aimee and David Thurlo, Steven F. Havill, Michael Orenduff, and Michael McGarrity, convinced me that my own “stomping grounds” (south central New Mexico) would be a perfect setting for my stories. I started the first draft of No Lifeguard on Duty when I got stuck trying to wrap up the first book in the series, End of the Road… I had no idea how to end it, so I decided to see what the next book was going to bring!

All in all, it probably takes me about a year to draft, write, and edit one of my books.

 

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Idea, research, editing, design…What was your favorite part of working on this project? What was your least favorite?

I love coming up with ideas, letting the characters loose in my mind and seeing what they do and say (really, I’m not that much in control!) and just putting it all together like a puzzle.  I know when I get stuck it’s because I missed something important or else I’m trying to force my characters to do and say things that are completely out of character.  The least favorite part was sometimes just sitting down and getting it on paper.  And let’s not even discuss promo work!

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Tell us about how this work came to reach us:  did you go the self-publishing route or did you contract with a publisher?  What was that like?

My first novel, End of the Road, won the 2012 Dark Oak Mystery contest, sponsored yearly by Oak Tree Press, a small independent publishing company.  First prize was publication and a contract.  Up to that time, I had resisted going the self-publishing route because I knew that I didn’t have a lot of contacts and that getting the word out would be even more difficult than it already was with my busy schedule. Plus, there is a little more credit given to books published with a traditional publishing house, even if it is a indie publisher, and I had hopes of seeing my books in bookstores, not just online.

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What other things in your life do you juggle in order to keep at your writing?  How’s that working out for you?

I’m fortunate to have a husband and son, family, and friends who understand how important it is for me to have time to write.  I try to keep writing materials handy at the other jobs for those times that inspiration strikes or I have a few minutes to jot down ideas.  And I’ve learned to take the writing seriously.  I’ll never forget the day I got to meet fellow mystery author Mike Orenduff in person.  He offered me a lot of encouragement and I mentioned something about finding time to write in the midst of “the real jobs” (full-time cake decorator at Walmart and part-time “vino slinger” at Noisy Water Winery.)  He stopped me right there, pointed his finger directly at me, and said, “The WRITING is the REAL job.”  It was the first time someone, besides my husband, had ever taken my writing with that degree of seriousness and I knew that, no matter how busy the other jobs kept me, the writing would always take priority—it would always be “the REAL job”.  So now I MAKE time to write instead of just trying to FIND time to write.

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That’s so true.  Our writing is only as real a job as we make it.  Now on to setting, characters, plot, mood, tone… What would you describe as your greatest strength as a writer? (I would say your ability to handle gut-busting humor and spine-tingling suspense all in the same paragraph, but that’s just me….).

Well, as I said before, my characters came before the story and most of the good reviews I’ve received have mentioned how much the reader likes my characters and really cares about them.  I find that if I take care of making my characters as interesting and real as possible, then the mystery can be anything from who killed the victim, to how is the love triangle going to work itself out, to a question of who ate the last piece of cake and the story will engage the reader.

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Conversely, if you could change one thing about your writing style, what would it be and why? 

I think I have a tendency to “script” everything my characters do, instead of just letting the story flow.  I’ve tried to learn to let go of controlling my characters’ every move and just let the story flow.  Does it really matter if one character says their line, then gets up and walks across the room, or whether they walk across the room, sit down, then deliver their line?  What really matters is what they’re saying!And I have to learn to not worry about filling in every crevice in the back story. Time and experience are teaching me that I don’t need a gigantic “info dump” at the beginning of the story… the reader will get it just fine as the story unfolds.  I’ve had to learn to trust my readers!

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Lastly, where can we find your work, a. k. a. give you our hard earned cash? 

I would really, really, REALLY appreciate people going to their local bookstores (indie or big box) and asking for End of the Road and No Lifeguard on Duty.  Bookstores will always have a special place in my heart and I really want to see them stay open!  But if your area is light on physical bookstores, there’s always my publisher’s website (www.oaktreebooks.com) and you can find both books on Amazon.

Thank you, Amy, for your work and for visiting us here at Will Write for Tomato Pie!  I’m looking forward to reading more from you!

 

WWRW: Hijacked by Leslie Lynch

Quick reminders:  Don’t You Forget About Me is still FREE FREE FREE on Kindle through tomorrow.  Read it, review it, and throw your hat into the ring for the “ONE FOR A FRIEND” GIVEAWAY.

It’s time to linkup with Jessica at Housewifespice (a blog name that I will never not find hilarious) for What We’re Reading Wednesday.  Get your summer reading list here!

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Today I’d like to feature the rip-roaring, rip-out-your-heart-and-stomp-on-it, powerfully good Hijacked by Leslie Lynch.

From the very first chapter, I was hooked on Hijacked! I don’t think I’ve ever read a stronger first chapter–one that grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let go. Throughout, the characters Lannis and Ben are complex: endearing yet never saccharine. The plot veers from heart-pounding action into tender introspection without missing a beat. In Hijacked, Leslie Lynch shows us how two very imperfect people brought together under perhaps some of the least romantic circumstances one could imagine could in fact find themselves while finding love in each other. I’m greatly looking forward to reading more from Leslie Lynch! Read Hijacked, and you will be, too!

I told Leslie that I usually don’t read romance because of, well, you know, the smut.  Otherwise, romance was one of my guilty pleasures in which I’ve not indulged for ages because I have a hard enough time keeping my thoughts pure without it.  But with Hijacked, romance is a guilty pleasure without the guilt, perfect beach reading that won’t require skipping any pages or a trip to the confessional.  Enjoy, Catholic romance readers!

If you’d like to get to know Leslie, go ahead and check out her Tomato Pie interview!

June Wildcard Wednesday: Happy Birthday, Anne Frank

Note:  Don’t You Forget About Me is still free on Kindle through Thursday, June 12.  Already read it?  Click here for the “One For A Friend” Giveaway.

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The rules are thusly:  

  1. I post a writing prompt on a sort-of randomly selected Wildcard Wednesday.
  2. In 10 minutes or less, you write something based on that prompt.
  3. Post it to your blog.   After you’ve written your response to the prompt, add the link for your blog post to the list by clicking next to the little blue frog face below where it says “Add your link.”
  4. Please make sure that the URL you submit is to your response to the Wildcard Wednesday prompt, not to your main blog URL.
  5. Include a link back here in the post on your blog.
  6. If it’s PG-13 or better and you don’t have a blog of your own, feel free to enter it as a comment on this post, but please note that this is my house, so if I find your post offensive, it’ll be shorter by the head.  I love free speech, though, so take this as your opportunity to get thee to a bloggery.

I invite you to Tweet the link to your prompt with the hashtag #WCW so we participants can find each other on Twitter.  Another fun Twitter tag to try is #improv, which will connect you with anybody on Twitter doing any kind of improv. #amwriting is another goodie.

PROMPT:  Tomorrow, June 12, is Anne Frank’s birthday.  You know, Anne Frank of Anne Frank:  The Diary of a Young Girl.  In remembrance of her, today write a character’s diary entry.    

A note on responding to the prompt:  Use the prompt as a jumping-off point and go from there.  Just write for ten minutes and share it.  Don’t worry about playing by writing rules, because I don’t have any here, and if you’re looking for rules to follow on improv like this, you’re probably looking for an excuse to not write, in which case, try another hobby.  Scrapbooking.  Quilting.  Swimming.  Anything but this, because writing brings new meaning to the term “hot mess.”

Now, here’s hoping the linkup stuff will show up here: