Guest author


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Today I’m talking writing with Sharon Zink at The Book Diner. Check it out.

This week’s Book Diner interviewee is the wonderful Bonnie Dodge. Bonnie is a veteran writer, with a stack of books under her belt. I first became aware of her work since I am friends with her author son, Trevor Dodge, who I interviewed recently. Literary talent clearly is part of the Dodge family gene and Bonnie has such amazing insights from her long experience as an author that I found myself pretty much agreeing with everything she said! Her books also sound right up my alley, so I can’t wait to start reading them all! Enjoy!




Writing a Good Book

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Check out my post on Resources for Independent Authors. Today we are talking about making your manuscript better with self-editing. Lots of interesting information on Kathy Gaudry’s site for writers.

15 Things You May Not Know About Paula Marie Coomer

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bw pub photo 2 jes hi-res cover





Paula Marie Coomer began life in Louisville, Kentucky, and lived most of her childhood in the industrial Ohio River town of New Albany, Indiana. The daughter of over 200 years of south-central Kentuckians, she is a predictable mix of Cherokee, African, Scot, and a dash of English Puritan. Her fiction, poetry, and non-fiction have appeared in many journals, anthologies, and publications, including Spilt Infinitive, Perceptions, Gargoyle, and Knock, to name only a few.

Coomer has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize, was writer-in-residence for Fishtrap, Oregon’s much-loved advocacy program for literature in the West, and has been a visiting scholar for the Idaho Commission for Libraries since 2002. She is a former long-time instructor of English for Washington State University, and was commissioned as an officer of the U.S Public Health Service, achieving the rank of lieutenant commander before she resigned her commission in 1995, ostensibly to be a writer.

I’ve known Paula for several years and am excited to host her here today. She’s a great friend, an awesome teacher, and is always eager to talk about writing. Here are fifteen things you may not know about Paula Marie Coomer.

1) Why did you become a Writer? How did you get started?

My first memories have to do with my awareness of myself as an observer. I wrote my first book at the age of four. No one else could understand what I had written, but I could. I even sewed a sort of binding with needle and thread—which I got in trouble for.

2) What is your writing routine? How do you discipline yourself to keep at it?

    1. If I’m doing research or composing a new draft, I’m usually in an isolated situation. Usually I go to the Inn in the Idaho mountains where I am in writer-in-residence (which is how I got to BE writer-in-residence). I hole myself up for as long as I can—usually at least 4 days. I’m fully focused. I do nothing besides eating (and very sparsely, at that) or getting up and moving occasionally.
    2. If I’m revising, I usually work in my studio at home half a day, beginning almost as soon as I get up. Then half a day on the other things I have to do—the paying job, author gigs, etc. At times during this phase I hire a housekeeper and an assistant to free up my time for the writing hours.
    3. If I’m doing edits, I spend mornings at a local coffee shop working. For some reason at the level of line edits, it helps to have background noise.

3) How many drafts before you feel the book is finished?

That varies completely. My novel Dove Creek took 15 drafts. The 16th draft sold. Blue Moon Vegetarian took 3 drafts. Jagged Edge of the Sky took four. Single poems can take 10-20 drafts. Short stories can take a dozen drafts. I tend to write in layers, rather obviously.

4) What was the best thing that happened with regard to your writing career? The worst?

It broke my heart a little bit when I realized I was never going to be a New York writer, living in Greenwich Village, part of the U.S. “g-literati.” But that turned out to be the best possible thing, because I have a great independent publishing house at my back. They give me infinite freedom as an artist, and they like me enough to give me a job that allows me the time I need to keep writing. I have a decent following, and people love what I write. I’m so busy I can’t even imagine being any busier in my writing career. I really couldn’t ask for anything better.

5) What part of your job do you love the most? Hate or dislike the most?

I love the serendipity. The way, when I’m working on a story or a book, the pieces just come to me, show up in my life in the most random of ways. What I dislike the most is the effect it’s had on my body. Luckily now I have a standing desk, so I rotate between sitting and standing, but writing is really, really hard on the body. We were not designed to sit for long periods of time.

6) What do you like to read? Do you read while working on a novel? Favorite authors?

I mostly read according to whatever I’m researching for the next book. Right now my stack of reading material looks like the course requirements for an herbalism class or a course on mountaineering. I’m preparing to write a follow-up for the Blue Moon food book series focused on the healing nature of plants. This is also research for my next novel, which features a mountain woman who is a healer. Otherwise, I have a few living favorites—Lidia Yuknavitch and Lance Olsen are my literary heroes. I also do presentations at regional libraries so often I have a novel I’m reading for that. Otherwise, I try to read a few poetry books now and again. I don’t read any mainstream books or authors. Most of the books I read are written by women. I prefer the voices of women writers.

7) What was the best advice you received as a writer? The worst?

      1. Best: Don’t give up. If you keep writing, someone will publish you.
      2. Worst: Teaching gives you control of your time. It will give you time to write. The truth is that teaching sucks your life force and your creativity and gives you very little in return; however, to donate yourself to the world in this way is very noble and to some extent a necessary part of mastering your craft.

8) Who has influenced you the most in terms of developing your personal writing style?

Lance Olsen, Ray Federmann, Lidia Yuknavitch.

9) Do you have a good luck charm or superstition?

I have lots. First, I have feathers and rocks everywhere. A feather in your path is a blessing. The always present themselves to me at difficult times. Rocks possess certain energies. If I’m drawn to the energy of a certain rock, I always pick it up. I have certain types of gems and semi-precious stones that are meant to absorb bad energy. Occasionally I soak them in water and sea salt to cleanse them. I regularly smudge the house with sweetgrass, sage, or cedar.

10) If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

A visual artist.

11) What quote or personal saying do you live by?

From the I-Ching: Perseverance furthers.

12) What’s next up for you, writing-wise?

I have a new novel finished. It’s very, very experimental, and I have no idea if anyone will want to publish it. I have a collection of essays and one of short stories that both need final revision. Then I have the 2 final books in the Blue Moon series, Blue Moon Medicine Woman and Blue Moon Folkways in the Kitchen. What is that 5? Five books in process, a book of poems I’m slowly working on, and research for the next novel.

13) If you could do anything over again, would you and what would it be?

I don’t really know. I don’t have much in the way of regrets.

14) What advice would you give beginning writers?

Let writing change your life.

15) Something we don’t know about you?

I spent two summers of my life picking fruit in California and Oregon, living out of the back of a pickup. It was the most horrible work but the people I worked with made it worthwhile. Stories I still haven’t told.

And: What would you like us to know about your latest release?

Jagged Edge of the Sky is the story of two women, one Australian and one American, who both go outside their marriages almost on the same day and with the same handsome, mixed-blood aboriginal man. The situation tears the Australian family apart; the American family keeps it secret. At once a women’s story, an immigrant story, and a family saga, the most important message the book delivers is about the despicable state of mental health services in our country.



Do You Blog?

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The first thing an agent, editor, or publisher asks a writer is, “Do you have a blog?”

Blog, you say. What is a blog? Why do I need a blog?

Social Media and WordPress Consultant Barb Drozdowich wants to tell you. She just released her book The Essential Marketing Tool for Authors: Book Blog Tour, a helpful guide in making sense of all the shoulds, woulds, and coulds.

Barb has taught in colleges, universities, and in the banking industry. More recently, she brings her 15+ years of teaching experience and a deep love of books to help authors develop the social media platform needed to succeed in today’s fast evolving publishing world. She owns Bakerview Consulting and manages the popular blog, Sugarbeat’s Books, where she talks about Romance – mostly Regency.

She is the author of six books and over twenty YouTube videos all focused on helping authors and bloggers. Barb lives in the mountains of British Columbia with her family.

I am so happy to have Barb Drozdowich here today. Please ask her lots of questions about blogging, and just in case you already know Barb, here are some things you may not know.

Fifteen things you may not know about Barb Drozdowich

Why did you become a Writer? How did you get started?

I’ve always been required to write quite a bit in my various jobs. After doing a survey of book bloggers in 2013, I decided I needed to publicize the results – to create a bit of a summary to accompany the results and make it available to anyone who was interested. The best way to do that was by creating something to publish on Amazon. As I created a summary of the results, I decided to make the book so much more. There was and is a lack of understanding of the role book bloggers can play in the promotion of books and I decided to use the book to be a comprehensive guide rather than just survey results. This first book, The Author’s Guide to Working with Book Bloggers started what would become a series of 6 books all aimed at helping authors and bloggers with various technical subjects.


What is your writing routine? How do you discipline yourself to keep at it?

I have a house with young children, so my writing fits into whatever spare time I can find. And sadly, I’m not very disciplined but I respond really well to deadlines. 🙂 I can produce an amazing amount of material just in the nick of time. I think that will be my reality, until the kids are grown.

 How many drafts before you feel the book is finished?

I create a rough draft that is hopefully pretty complete in terms of content and fire it off to some wonderful beta readers. I get them to tell me if the content is complete, and whether or not it is understandable. Usually they have some changes that they feel need to be made. Once I make the changes that my beta readers suggest, I fine-tune the language and grammar and I then send the book to my outstanding editor. She typically does two rounds of editing followed by proofreading and we are good to publish.

What was the best thing that happened with regard to your writing career? The worst?

The best thing that has happened to me because of my writing is getting notes from authors thanking me – helping them to understand the subjects I cover. I haven’t had a worst yet. Even the critical reviews that I’ve gotten have been well balanced and constructive – no trolls yet!

What part of your job do you love the most? Hate or dislike the most?

I LOVE working with authors. My background is as a technical trainer and I can easily break down technical subjects and explain them in a way that non-technical people can understand.

I’m a voracious reader and anything I can do to help authors sell more books, write more books, I’m happy to do! Often authors spend writing time trying to figure out the various technical tasks that they need to do as part of their job. If I can help them understand various tasks or help them do things more efficiently, they have more time to write books – it’s a win-win for us both.

What do you like to read? Do you read while working on a book? Favorite authors?

 I always have a book or two on the go. My genre of preference is Historical Romance and I have many favorite authors! I read a lot of technical information to help me stay on top of my regular work so the escapism of romance helps me shut my brain down at the end of a busy day.

What was the best advice you received as a writer? The worst?

The best advice is to keep writing. I haven’t really gotten any bad advice. I’m often the one that is explaining why advice is bad that authors get from other sources. 🙂

Who has influenced you the most in terms of developing your personal writing style?

My biggest influence is my mom, hands down. She’s now a retired English teacher with a wicked red pen – literally – she’s old school with pen and paper and is militant about proper grammar and sentence structure. She was the first person who saw a lot of my writing and there was a sea of red ink at the beginning. I’m learning. 🙂 Now she has to hunt to find something for her red pen.

Do you have a good luck charm or superstition?

No. I’m not really a superstitious person.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

I think I would still be a technical trainer and a voracious reader!

What quote or personal saying do you live by?

I really like two sayings: “Do onto others as you would have them do unto you” and “It is what it is…”

What’s next up for you, writing-wise?

I currently have a box set (combination of the Book Blog Tour book and my Author Platform book) in proofreading and my Book Blogger Platform book is in formatting and should be available any day now. I have a re-write of my Goodreads for Authors book in the hands of some beta readers and I am currently polishing my new book “Blogging for Authors,” in preparation of submitting it to my editor. There should be quite a bit published in the first half of this year.

If you could do anything over again, would you and what would it be?

I don’t think I would do anything over again. I feel that things happen for a reason and whether it is a good experience or a bad experience, I have learned from everything. The sum of my experiences has made me the person I am today.

 What advice would you give beginning writers?

Everyone else will tell them to keep writing – which is very true. From my point of view, I would encourage them to create a platform – create a community of friends and supporters that will help with the marketing side of writing a book!

Something we don’t know about you?

My favorite job of all time was working at Toronto’s Metro Zoo driving the trains.

And: What would you like us to know about your latest release?

My latest release is me explaining Book Blog Tours from the point of view of an author as well as the point of view of a book blogger. There is a lot of misunderstanding out there about Tours, and I have written this book to cover all aspects of tours and clear up all the misconceptions. This is a second edition book. In this edition, I have added quite a bit on DIY tours as many authors prefer to set up their own tours.

to learn more about Barb go to :

Author Website: http://barbdrozdowich.com

Business Blog: http://bakerviewconsulting.com

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/BarbDrozdowichAuthor

Twitter: http://twitter.com/sugarbeatbc

Google+: https://plus.google.com/110824499539694941768/posts

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/sugarbeatsbooks/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7234554.Barb_Drozdowich

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSgVt36XlVAHWj5dkSd0Zyw

Tech Hints Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/DfCRj

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Barb-Drozdowich/e/B00EN3CIDM/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1437240887&sr=1-2


Barb, thanks for joining us today, and thanks for all you to do help writers!

Things That Go Burp in the Night

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Booktrope Cover Secrets of the Royal Wedding ChapelKathleen Irene Paterka by Anora O'Connor of A13 Studios

I am pleased to have as my guest today Kathleen Irene Paterka and to participate in the blog tour for her new book, Secrets of The Royal Wedding Chapel. Kathleen is an Amazon bestselling author of numerous women’s fiction novels including Fatty Patty, Home Fires, Lotto Lucy, and For I Have Sinned. While her novel The Other Wife is set in Chicago, Secrets of the Royal Wedding Chapel takes place in Las Vegas. Kathleen lives in Northern Michigan with her husband Steve, where she is busy working on her next James Bay novel. Today we are talking about Halloween. Please help me welcome Kathleen.

Things That Go Burp in the Night

Halloween is a great time for ghosts and goblins, freaks and frights, spooks and scares, and things that go burp in the night.

Burp? Wait, was that a typo? Didn’t I mean ‘things that go bump in the night’?

Nope, I meant burp. As in: I spent all of my post-trick-or-treat Halloween nights burping from all the candy I gobbled up. Trick-or-treating door-to-door has been a staple of American tradition for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, the focus on Halloween was all about trick-or-treating. Halloween has since been hijacked by adults, and is now the second most popular holiday of the year (Christmas remains #1). Spooky decorations and adult-themed Halloween parties gain in popularity every year. But kids still love trick-or-treating. FREE CANDY! What’s not to love about free candy?

Kathleen as baby with Halloween pumpkinKathleen dressed for Halloween, Bonnie Dodge Blog 2015





I ate a lot of candy when I was a kid, and Halloween was one of my favorite nights of the year. We used to carry pillow sacks to haul around the candy we collected. Pillow sacks were great; they didn’t break like the regular brown paper sacks from the grocery store. At the end of our trick-or-treating night, my sister and I would dump our pillow sack hauls all over the living room rug and sort through our candy. I usually ignored the candy corn, the wrapped hard candy, the individual Hershey kisses, and went straight for the hard stuff: the little candy bars, especially Butterfingers. I’d devour each and every one of the candy bars before I went to bed. And then the burping began.

Butterfinger Candy Bar for Bonnie DodgeSo did the overeating.

Kathleen as fat teenager eating an ice cream cone, Bonnie Dodge blog





Back then, I wasn’t worried about calories. I was eating the candy as fast as I could. And guess what happened? I gained weight. As in, I was one of the chubby kids. A plump baby, a chubby kid, and a fat teenager. By the time I graduated from high school, I weighed 300 lbs. Granted, when you’re 5’11” like I am, it’s easier to carry the weight… but people still noticed. Most of all, I noticed. And I hated myself for being fat. I swore to myself that someday, once I lost the weight, I’d write a book about what it felt like to live fat in a thin world.

It took some years before I managed to achieve those goals. First I had to lose the weight. Part of it (most of it) happened while I was in college. I met my future husband, we married, and eventually had a daughter. Life was good… if you were on the outside looking in. But from my viewpoint (inside, looking out), I was still messed up. I couldn’t deal with the constant dieting, the yo-yo binge eating. Here’s how bad things got: when our daughter was little and would go trick-or-treating, I’d ‘steal’ her Halloween candy after she went to bed. “Who ate my candy?” she’d ask the next morning when she checked her stash. “You must have done it before you went to sleep,” I’d reply. Do you know what it feels like, lying to your own child? The guilt kept me eating. I couldn’t tell my daughter the truth. I couldn’t even tell myself the truth. I ‘played’ with an extra 35 lbs. And finally, one day, after I grew sick and tired of being ‘sick and tired’, I finally said, “No more.”

That was the day – May 29, 1989 – when I turned my back on sugar. That was the end of my Halloween candy binges. And that was the day I started writing the book that had been in my heart for years.

Fatty Patty was my debut novel. It’s the story of Patty Perreault, an overweight school teacher who’s been looking for love at the bottom of a cookie bag all her life. When one gorgeous hunk of a man takes up residence behind the desk of the adjoining 5th grade classroom, Patty decides it’s time for some serious dieting. Add an overweight accountant with romance on his mind to the mix cooks up a recipe for a dieting and dating disaster. Patty needs to learn to put down the fork and give her heart a try if she ever hopes to become the woman she wants to be …emotionally and physically.

Does Patty figure out how to put down the fork? I’ve included an excerpt from the novel for you to see how she struggles with food. Patty loves her chocolate. Saying ‘no’ isn’t easy. Putting down the fork isn’t easy. It’s simple, but it’s not easy. But for today, I’m here to tell you that putting down the fork made a huge difference in my life. I lost the extra pounds 27 years ago, and they no longer haunt me like ‘candy-ghosts-of-Halloweens-past’. No more burping my way through Halloween (or any other holidays). I’m free of food obsession. I can wheel my cart down the candy aisle of the grocery store without being afraid of what might happen. Not only am I sane and happy, I’ve also written five other novels; my latest book, Secrets of the Royal Wedding Chapel, is an October 2015 Booktrope Editions release. For today, I’m living a life beyond my wildest dreams, and every day is worth it.

Halloween candy tastes good, and gives you a sugar high… but nothing tastes as good as being high on life.

Fatty Patty for Bonnie Dodge blogExcerpt from Fatty Patty:

 I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs. If chocolate is like a drug, I probably qualify for Chocoholics Anonymous. But first, I’d have to be willing to give it up. Which I’m not. I’m not an addict. Besides, everyone deserves a treat now and then. And I’ve been good for so long—how many days now?— and I’ve only lost four pounds.

Tyler offering me that cookie on the playground earlier this morning started the ball rolling. All day long, I couldn’t let go of the thought of chocolate. And instead of hitting the pool on my way home from school, I detoured to an out-of-the-way party store on the other side of town where I grabbed a six-pack of my favorite candy bars. Why? There’s got to be a reason. But at the time, I didn’t want to think about the why. I didn’t want to think, period.

I just wanted the chocolate.

The first candy bar was gone as soon as I hit the car, before I even fastened my seatbelt. I barely tasted it as it slid down my throat and it only whetted my appetite for more. I ripped into the lush caramel and rich dark chocolate of the second one as I nosed the car out of the parking lot. I gnawed through the third wrapper with my teeth as I pulled into traffic.

And now that Priscilla’s finally off to bed, the other three are waiting.

I creep up the stairs, school bag in hand, and slip through my bedroom door. I throw the lock, then flop on the bed in the darkness. Moonlight filtering through the window is my only witness as I peel the wrapper off the fourth candy bar, settle back in the pillows and savor the lush sweetness filling my mouth. I’ve deprived myself far too long. The second gooey bite is even better than the first. Chocolate bliss. I’ve died and gone to heaven.

Polishing off the fifth candy bar takes a little longer. The craving is gone and I force myself to finish. I’m in no rush to unwrap the sixth candy bar. My stomach feels queasy. Maybe it would be better to stash it somewhere and save it for later. But if I don’t eat it now, that one last candy bar will be staring me in the face tomorrow morning… a big gooey reminder of what I’ve done. I rip off the wrapper and stare at the chocolate. Tomorrow, I promise myself. Starting tomorrow, I’ll put myself on a brand new diet. Starting with breakfast.

Food. Ugh. My stomach lurches and I drop the candy bar. My breath reeks of chocolate and I stumble into the tiny bathroom off my bedroom. I use my toothbrush like a weapon, attacking the enemy sugar on my teeth, scrubbing away the contraband. I swish water back and forth under my tongue, around my teeth, spit it in the sink. Somehow I find the courage to face myself in the mirror. It’s not a pretty picture. Hollow, bloodshot eyes; mascara staining my face. I don’t recognize this person.

What is wrong with me? Why in God’s name did I do this? What happened to my resolve? What happened to my dreams of being thin?

What would Nick think if he saw me like this?

No more chocolate. Never again.

I pull off my clothes, drop them in a heap on top of the bathroom scales. Pulling a cotton nightgown over my head, I shuffle back into the bedroom, flop on my bed, and set the alarm. School again tomorrow. If only I didn’t have to go.

If only…

If only I hadn’t given in. Why did I crack? Now I have to start all over again.

What a horrible feeling.

But not as horrible as knowing when tomorrow dawns, there’ll still be that one leftover candy bar taunting me from the bedside table. Suddenly I grab it, crinkle the wrapper around the candy so I won’t smell the chocolate, then toss it in the trash, burying it under some used Kleenex and an old magazine.

I hit the light and try to settle down. Nick’s face dances in the darkness. What is it with him? Why is he being so nice to me? I don’t know anything about men. The three guys I dated in college turned out to be losers. So what do I do now? I’ve never chased a guy in my life. And Nick isn’t just any guy. He’s gorgeous and available—the type who attracts women wherever he goes. Nick is in the big leagues and way beyond my reach.

Isn’t he?

I punch the pillow and flop on my side. If only I looked like Priscilla. If only I could lose ten pounds. If only I had the courage to try.

But I’ll never find it if I don’t get myself back on track.

And back on a diet.

Brand new diet. Brand new beginning. Brand new me.

Starting tomorrow.

I sit up straight in bed. Damned if I want to wake up tomorrow, knowing that last candy bar is hanging around to haunt me.

I fumble through the wastebasket in the darkness. My fingers snag the wrapper, then curl around the candy. I take one bite, force down another. The craving is gone. I’ve already brushed my teeth and the chocolate tastes like chalk. I choke down the last bite, throw away the wrapper, and head back into the bathroom for one more bout with my toothbrush.

This hasn’t been the best day. I’ve broken my diet, upset Priscilla, shamed myself… and all for what? Why did I buy that chocolate in the first place? It’s not like I even wanted it.

What I really wanted was cookies…


Thanks for stopping by, Kathleen. I love the pictures.


to connect with Kathleen:

Kathleen’s website:                             http://www.kathleenirenepaterka.com

Subscribe to Kathleen’s newsletter:    http://kathleenirenepaterka.com/for-readers/

Find her on Facebook:                        https://www.facebook.com/KathleenIrenePaterka/

Find her on Twitter:                             https://twitter.com/KPaterka/

Find her on Pinterest:                          http://www.pinterest.com/kathleenpaterka/

Fatty Patty on Facebook:




Meet Kathleen Irene Paterka

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Kathleen Irene Paterka by Anora O'Connor, 300 dpiKathleenIrenePaterka_TheOtherWife_1400

Kathy and I met years ago on an on-line writers’ group called GIAM. The writers in this group are my go-to pals when I get stumped or need writing advice. It is my pleasure to introduce Kathleen Irene Paterka, a prolific writer, even with a day job.

1) Why did you become a Writer? How did you get started?

I can’t remember a time that I didn’t want to be a writer. My mother got me my own library card when I was six years old. I remember being fascinated with having all those books available to me, and I couldn’t imagine a better world than being surrounded by books. When I was about 8 years old, I fell in love with the Trixie Belden series. I decided then and there that I would grow up and write more Trixie Belden books. My parents got me a typewriter for Christmas, and I was hooked.

2) What is your writing routine? How do you discipline yourself to keep at it?

 I’m up early every morning, at 5 am. By 6:30 am, I’m at the computer and my timer is set. For the next two hours, I concentrate on my current work-in-progress. Marketing and social media also take a considerable amount of time, but I prefer to do that in the evening hours. I do have a day job, just as most writers do (95%, in fact). Mine is rather unique: I’m staff writer at a real American castle where I’m surrounded by romance and royalty. It’s a wonderful life.

3) How many drafts before you feel the book is finished?

My rough draft is where the story magic happens. I am a pantster. When I start writing the rough draft, I’ve done research on my characters, but plot-wise, I usually only know the beginning, the ending, and ‘something-that-happens-in-the-middle’. The rough draft normally takes me 8-12 months (for a 400 page novel), and it’s very complete. I’ll end up with perhaps another 3 drafts, normally done to edit and polish.

4) What was the best thing that happened with regard to your writing career? The worst?

The best AND the worst thing are actually the same thing; it was a rejection letter I received from a well-known editor at a highly respected publishing company. She told me that while she and her assistant editor loved my novel For I Have Sinned, she had to turn me down; the company’s marketing department had informed her that they couldn’t figure out ‘how to sell the book’ because it crossed genres (women’s fiction, inspirational, romance, Christian fiction). When I initially received the rejection letter, I was devastated… but only for a few moments. I realized that the editor had actually given me some very good advice. She told me that many novels which were excellent works had crossed her desk, but ultimately had to be turned down for one reason or another. The editor urged me to find a home for the novel; she felt it was that good, and she suggested that I think seriously about indie-publishing the book. That was the beginning of my career as an indie-author, and I have never looked back. My novel For I Have Sinned went on to final in a few prestigious writing contests, and has received numerous five star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. For I Have Sinned is the book of my heart and I am very proud of it.

5) What part of your job do you love the most? Hate or dislike the most?

I love the rough draft, getting to know the characters, and falling in love with the story line. Being a pantster, I don’t have things plotted on a story board (that would bore me to tears!). So when I’m writing and something exciting or unexpected happens on the page, I’m as thrilled as the reader who’s seeing it for the first time. The thing I hate the most about writing is the editing process. I subscribe to the theory of ‘more is better’, which means I usually end up having to cut lots of words (read: ‘redundant’) from my latest work. I hate seeing words, phrases, paragraphs, and sometimes whole scenes that I worried over eventually end up deleted from the final draft.

6) What do you like to read? Do you read while working on a novel? Favorite authors?

I love a good, emotional read. When searching for a new book, I turn to women’s fiction authors such as Jodi Picoult, Jennifer Weiner, Elizabeth Berg, and Eileen Goudge. All of them are superb storytellers. I also love anything by Stephen King. He is, without doubt, a living literary icon. His masterpiece 11/22/63 is one of my favorite books of all time. When I’m writing a rough draft, I’m careful not to read the type of work that I’m writing (I don’t want to fall under the influence of my favorite writers, and be accused of plagiarism). I often turn to biographies instead.

7) What was the best advice you received as a writer? The worst?

The best advice? “Never, never never quit” (from an author friend, who was quoting Winston Churchill). This is a devastatingly hard business, and you have to find the courage deep inside to keep going, even when those around you are urging you to give it up. The worst advice I ever got came from an editor at a publishing company who told me that I should quit writing… that while I had considerable talent, my voice was ‘scattered’ and unmarketable, and that I should give up and quit wasting my time. Her words served to inspire me to be even more determined to prove her wrong.

8) Who has influenced you the most in terms of developing your personal writing style?

The author Stephen King, because he is not afraid to take chances. He writes for himself; he tells himself a story, and then sets it free in the world for readers to embrace (or not). I like the idea of telling myself a story. I’m writing for myself. If I’m not interested in what’s happening on the page, why should I expect that my readers would be?

9) Do you have a good luck charm or superstition?

The bottom of my computer monitor is lined with scribbled sticky-notes and quotes clipped from inspirational books. They keep me going when my spirits flag. My favorite quote: “Do your work well. Write the stories you were meant to tell.

10) If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

People fascinate me. I always wanted to be a talk show hostess. When I was growing up, I used to practice by interviewing myself.

11) What quote or personal saying do you live by?

“Hope and keep busy.” I don’t think we can do more than that. The quote is from Marme, of Little Women (by Louise May Alcott), which is one of my all-time favorite books.

12) What’s next up for you, writing-wise?

I’m currently researching for my next book, which will be a return to James Bay, the fictional resort community, which is the setting for my first four books (Fatty Patty, Home Fires, Lotto Lucy and For I Have Sinned). The book is about Chuck’s Tavern and Grill, and centers on the restaurant owner, Chuck, who was featured in the other James Bay novels. Each chapter in the new book will feature its own recipe. I’m excited about being able to play with the customers who frequent the restaurant, and involving characters from my earlier James Bay novels.

13) If you could do anything over again, would you and what would it be?

Nothing. I don’t believe in do-overs. I think that we all are given one chance, at each particular moment of our lives, and everything we are, everything we become, hinges on the choices we have made in the past. I am very content with the woman that I am, and the life that I lead. I surround myself with positive people, and I love my life. If I’d had a do-over, I wouldn’t be the same ‘Kathleen Irene Paterka’ that I am today…. But I love who I am. I wouldn’t want it any different.

14) What advice would you give beginning writers?

Don’t give up. Work hard, work smart, work tirelessly. Be tough, be brave and be persistent. All clichés… but when they apply to you and how much you want to realize your dream, they are very appropriate.

15) Something we don’t know about you?

I have a newsletter which hosts a monthly contest (a free giveaway) for subscribers. Sign up for my newsletter (I promise not to flood your In-box with emails!), and you could win a print copy of any of my books.

And: what’d you like us to know about your latest release:

The Other Wife is a women’s fiction novel that deals with issues of death, grief, resentment and revenge. It tells the story of Eleanor and Claire, two women who are horrified to find themselves both married to the same man. The novel begins in Eleanor’s point of view who wakes to find her husband Richard dead in bed beside her. Eleanor, married to Richard for 38 years, is devastated by the discovery. She’s even more horrified to discover, at the end of Chapter One, that Richard was keeping a deep dark secret, and has left all his money to another woman. In Chapter Two, we meet Claire, a 30ish professor of psychology at the University of Chicago. It’s not long into the book before Claire learns that her husband Richard has died… and not only is he dead, he left behind an earlier wife… a valid marriage to another woman. The discovery that her marriage is a sham is a horrible blow to Claire. While Richard has left her all his money, Eleanor is the one who has the title of Richard’s wife, something Claire thought was hers alone. How these two women come to terms with ‘the other wife’ is the basis for the story.

Website:                             http://kathleenirenepaterka.com/

Blog:                                   http://kathleenirenepaterka.com/blog/

Newsletter:                        http://kathleenirenepaterka.com/for-readers/

Facebook:                          https://www.facebook.com/KathleenIrenePaterka

Twitter:                               https://twitter.com/KPaterka

Pinterest:                            https://www.pinterest.com/kathleenpaterka/

Amazon Author Page:      http://www.amazon.com/Kathleen-Irene-Paterka/e/B0081KP1YQ/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Goodreads:                        https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5826393.Kathleen_Irene_Paterka

Find Kathleen’s latest novel here.

Meet Arleen Williams, author of The Alki Trilogy

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I’m delighted to have as a guest today Arleen Williams from Seattle, Washington. Her book, Biking Uphill was released this fall by Booktrope. Please say hello to Arleen.

Fall quarter starts with a bang and I am reminded once again why I write. Or more specifically, why I am writing The Alki Trilogy.

When I’m not writing, I’m an English as Second Language instructor at South Seattle College, a large urban school which is among the most diverse colleges in the country. The average student age is 31.5, 54% are first generation, 41% do not speak English as their first language and there are 35 languages spoken on campus on any given day. (2012 statistics http://www.southseattle.edu/campus-information/student-statistics.aspx)

This is my twenty-eighth year working with refugees and immigrants at this college. I’ve been teaching ESL for almost forty. When I introduce myself, when I tell my students these numbers, they inevitably ask me why. My response is always the same: I love to teach because I learn as much as they do. These are not empty words. The classroom has given me a world-view that does not stem from news stories but from the people who have lived the experiences that fill our headlines.

The Alki Trilogy began with a story about suicide, a topic I wanted to understand more completely. The character of Gemila Kemmal appeared to me unbidden but understandable: I work with African immigrants eager to gain the language skills necessary to enter our college nursing program. I did not plan to write three novels about the immigrant experience in the U.S. In fact, I didn’t plan to write a trilogy at all. But there we go. I fell in love with Gemila in Running Secrets. When I began Biking Uphill, a novel loosely based on a teenager I met years before when I was a lonely college student, I decided to hold tight to Gemila and Carolyn. Now, I’m working on Walking Home, the final novel in the trilogy, where the reader will meet new characters and revisit those who came before.

So I suppose the old adage, write what you know, guides my work just as it shapes the person I am. As I enter the classroom and greet the students before me, I wonder about the experiences they’ve lived, the things they’ve seen, the sacrifices they’ve made to come to class each morning hoping to glean the skills they need to build a new home in America. It is humbling. It is an honor. It scares the crap out of me … even after a lifetime of the same.


Arleen Williams is the author of three books. Running Secrets (Booktrope, 2013), the first novel in The Alki Trilogy, is about the power of friendship in helping overcome the dysfunction of family and life. Biking Uphill (Booktrope, 2014), book two of The Alki Trilogy, invites the reader into a world of undocumented immigration, where parents are deported, and a young girl is abandoned to face life on her own. The Thirty-Ninth Victim (Blue Feather Books, 2008) is a memoir of her family’s journey before and after her sister’s murder.

Arleen teaches English as a Second Language at South Seattle College and has worked with immigrants and refugees for close to three decades. Arleen lives and writes in West Seattle. To learn more, please visit http://www.arleenwilliams.com.

Say Hello to Joanne Pence

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Joanne Pence is an award-winning and USA Today best-selling author of the Angie Amalfi mysteries, the new Rebecca Mayfield mysteries, as well as historical fiction, romance, romantic suspense, a fantasy, and most recently, a supernatural suspense set in the empty, roadless, no-one’s-ever-lived-there “River of No Return” area of Idaho. Born and raised in San Francisco, she has been a journalist, analyst for the Federal government, taught school in Japan, and now makes her home in the foothills north of Boise, Idaho, with her husband, two dogs, four cats, and a peahen (female peacock) who showed up one day and refuses to leave.

I met Joanne several years ago at a writer’s function in Boise. She had just relocated and wanted to connect with other writers. We’ve been good friends since. An active member of Idaho Writers Guild and a true writer’s advocate, Joanne gives willing of her time and knowledge.

15 things you may not know about Joanne Pence

1) Why did you become a Writer? How did you get started?

Growing up, I wanted to become a foreign correspondent and travel the world. I made it as far as Japan. After I got married and had children, I turned to fiction. Fortunately, through journalism (I have a masters degree in it), I learned a lot about writing. With fiction, I enjoy being able to have stories end the way I want them to.

2) What is your writing routine? How do you discipline yourself to keep at it?

I no longer have a “day job,” and my sons are adults, so I only have my husband and pets to contend with around the house. It’s not difficult to fit in time to write. In fact, I’ve been known to become grumpy if I can’t find time to write because too many other things have to be done. (Hard to imagine, isn’t it?)

3) How many drafts before you feel the book is finished?

It depends on the book. I know when I’ve written enough drafts when I stop finding things to change. I write an extremely rough, short, first draft—just doing all I can to get from the beginning of the book to some kind of an ending. I don’t worry about much when I’m putting down that draft. Sometimes I’ll think of something in the middle of the story that needs to go in the beginning, so I’ll write it down. Later, I’ll move it to where it belongs. Also, I write in scenes—each new scene has its own file (I use Scrivener, which is a blessing for people who write the way I do). I’m a person who needs to see things written down, and only after that am I able to fix what needs to be fixed. Because my first drafts are so rough and short, the next few drafts flesh out the plot, and the last few drafts flesh out the characters. I know the book is almost finished when I start to cut out the excess words, scenes, descriptions, and especially explanations that tell instead of show.

4) What was the best thing that happened with regard to your writing career? The worst?

Selling my first novel was definitely the most exciting thing, and then my second (the first in the Angie Amalfi mysteries, Something’s Cooking) was nominated for several big awards and sold extremely well, so that was a huge boost. One of my special memories happened shortly after watching a Woody Allen movie (can’t remember the name) in which he was a writer and in one scene he walked into the HarperCollins building at 10 East 53rd Street in New York City (the front is quite distinctive). A few weeks later, there I was walking into the same building. I went to the Edgar Mystery Awards Ceremony with my editor. It was all quite magical.

Despite all that, I began to feel as if I was on a treadmill, turning out one Angie Amalfi mystery a year. The best thing was when I decided I wanted to write something completely different, and stopped the Angie books.

As far as the worst, there were disappointments—it’s always easy to think one should have been given more support, more publicity, more money, or whatever—but overall, I really can’t complain.

5) What part of your job do you love the most? Hate or dislike the most?

I most dislike writing the first draft of a book. It always seems impossible—that I’ll never be able to think of enough for my characters to do to cover 55,000 or more words. I have to all but force myself to write at that first draft—a necessary evil. I most love late-draft revising, where the plot has been worked out, and I’m tweaking to find the perfect word to make a sentence better, or the perfect few sentences to transform a scene from the mundane to something that comes alive or evokes emotion from the reader. I also love making book covers. That’s something I’ve been learning to do since I set up my own publishing company as an independent author. It’s not easy, but I love the challenge, and hope to someday be really, really good at it.

6) What do you like to read? Do you read while working on a novel? Favorite authors?

I most enjoy mysteries and suspense novels that deal with crime, but that have characters with a romantic storyline of some sort. The Yard was a recent read that’s a good example—a crime story that takes place shortly after the Jack the Ripper murders. The inspectors, their wives, lovers, and so on were great people to read about. As to favorite authors, that’s tough–they change with my mood. Over the years, probably the ones I’ve gone back to and reread are Daphne du Maurier, LaVryle Spencer, and Michael Connelly.

7) What was the best advice you received as a writer? The worst?

The best advice was to give independent publishing a try. I’ve never enjoyed writing as much as I do since I began putting out my own books and writing them the way I want them written. The worst was probably to write what my editor and agent wanted me to write rather than to follow my own muse.

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because agents and editors are “professionals” they know what’s best for you. For example, anyone who is familiar with my biggest, most ambitious book, ANCIENT ECHOES, can understand how dumbfounded I was when an agent suggested I “get rid of all that Lewis and Clark stuff.” I’m thankful I continued with my concept of the book, not someone else’s. (It was chosen as a Top Idaho Fiction Book of 2013.)

8) Who has influenced you the most in terms of developing your personal writing style?

Considering that I’ve been writing since the 1970’s, I have no idea—I write the way I write because it’s the way I think. My “voice” is like a colloquial style that’s clear, simple, wry, and sometimes tongue-in-cheek. I can think of writers who tend to write that way, but I don’t know that they were influences. Susan Isaacs’ Compromising Positions showed me that humor and crime could go together.

9) Do you have a good luck charm or superstition?

I’m afraid not.

10) If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

I’d be unhappy. I’d probably be doing something else creative—making book covers for other people, possibly; or painting; maybe knitting, crochet, and/or needlepoint which are all things I very much enjoy.

11) What quote or personal saying do you live by?

“If you build it, they will come.” In other words, don’t sit around and wish for good things to happen to you—get out there and work to make your own luck and you won’t be disappointed. Things might not turn out the way you expect, or even the way you ever imagined, but whatever the result will be, it’s preferable to doing nothing.

12) What’s next up for you, writing-wise?

Bottom line, I hope to write more, write faster, and write better. Specifically, I hope to quickly put out at least three books in my new Inspector Rebecca Mayfield mystery series. The first book, ONE O’CLOCK HUSTLE, was released in April. The second book, TWO O’CLOCK HEIST, will be released next month, and then I hope to start the third, THREE O’CLOCK I-DON’T-KNOW-WHAT-YET. I also want to complete the trilogy that began with ANCIENT ECHOES. And Angie Amalfi fans keep writing to me asking for another book in that series.

13) If you could do anything over again, would you and what would it be?

I wish I had paid more attention to what was going on with independent publishing earlier than I did. I was hearing rumors, but not until 2011, when I attended a conference in Florida, did it all begin to make sense. There’s a steep learning curve—and things change from one week to the next—so you pretty much need to just jump in and test the waters.

14) What advice would you give beginning writers?

I would tell writers to write what they “love” rather than what they “know” because there’s a world of research at your fingertips. If I had written what I know, I never would have set parts of ANCIENT ECHOES in Mongolia or Jerusalem, and never would have used the “secret” that’s the heart of the story. Writers need to listen to that little voice we all have that tells us when something needs changing or needs more work. And most of all, don’t release a story before you’re completely happy with it.

15) Something we don’t know about you?

Perhaps you don’t know that I studied Mandarin Chinese in college and took calligraphy classes to learn to write Chinese characters using a brush and ink that I was taught how to prepare. Both were among the most difficult things I ever attempted!

And: what’d you like us to know about your latest release?

My latest release is ONE O’CLOCK HUSTLE. Homicide Inspector Rebecca Mayfield and Richie Amalfi were introduced in the Angie Amalfi mysteries, and they now have their own mystery series. This is their first full-length story.

When San Francisco Homicide Inspector Rebecca Mayfield arrives at the scene of a deadly shooting, she’s shocked to find that the witnesses have caught the killer, and that he’s someone she knows. Rebecca’s a by-the-book detective, and she’s always done her job according to the rules, without hesitation … until Richie Amalfi comes back into her life.

Richie knows his way around everything and everyone in his city. When people say they “know a guy who knows a guy,” Richie’s the guy they’re talking about. He can usually help people out of tight situations, but suddenly finds he can’t get himself out of hot water when he’s accused of murder.

Richie’s on the run, and he runs straight to Rebecca to help him prove his innocence. From the nightclubs of North Beach to the scenic heights of Twin Peaks, dangers lurk and more deaths happen. As Rebecca discovers there’s a lot more to Richie than she thought, and a lot more to like than she imagined, she soon fears not only for her life, but also her heart.

Joanne will be signing books this Saturday (June 14) at Rediscovered Bookshop in Boise, Idaho, Saturday 11-1. If you’re nearby, stop in and say hello.

Therese Walsh and The Moon Sisters

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It was 2009. I’d been working endlessly on my novel, pretty sure I was wasting my time. Convinced I’d be more productive in the garden or in the kitchen, I stopped writing. Until I picked up a copy of Therese Walsh’s debut novel, The Last Will of Moira Leahy. I loved the story, but more importantly I loved the writing. Here was a writer I could identify with. Our styles were similar, our word choices almost the same. And our story choices—stories about women and their relationships—were parallel. When I finished reading her book I was excited. If Therese could do it, so could I. 

Well, Therese has done it again. Her fans have been “patiently” waiting for her next book and this year she delivered. Its working title Therese jokes, The Book That Tried to Kill Me, was published this year on my birthday.

Therese Walsh’s second novel, The Moon Sisters, was published in hard cover on March 4th, 2014 by Crown (Random House). Her debut, The Last Will of Moira Leahy, was named one of January Magazine’s Best Books of 2009, was nominated for a RITA award for Best First Book, and was a TARGET Breakout Book. Therese is the co-founder of Writer Unboxed, a site that’s visited daily by thousands of writers interested in the craft and business of fiction. She has a master’s degree in psychology. Aside from writing, Therese’s favorite things include music, art, crab legs, Whose Line is it Anyway?, dark chocolate, photography, unique movies and novels, people watching, strong Irish tea, and spending time with her husband, two kids and their Jack Russell.

15 things you may not know about Therese Walsh

1) Why did you become a Writer? How did you get started?

I started writing plays as a child, but it wasn’t until I had a child that I became intrigued with the idea of writing fiction. It began with writing children’s picture book text and eventually evolved into adult fiction. My first adult fiction manuscript became my debut novel, The Last Will of Moira Leahy.

2) What is your writing routine? How do you discipline yourself to keep at it?

I should have a writing routine, I’m sure, but I tend instead to write when the characters are very present in my mind and I have to write. The trick for me, to stay in that perfect zone, is to keep writing. It’s a little like water skiing, I suppose: Getting upright is the trick. Staying upright is less hard, and makes the whole thing fun.

3) How many drafts before you feel the book is finished?

As many as it takes! Probably three complete reworks, but with many reworkings of scenes and chapters throughout the story.

4) What was the best thing that happened with regard to your writing career? The worst?

The best thing that happened with regard to my writing career was finding my agent, Elisabeth Weed. She is a wonderful advocate, and enthusiastic about my stories and my future.

The worst thing was probably feeling the pressure of a two-book deal. Writing The Moon Sisters was often difficult for me because I was nervous about the deal, but ultimately I’m incredibly happy with the book.

5) What part of your job do you love the most? Hate or dislike the most?

I love it when I write something and feel that perfect balance that I’m looking for in storytelling, depth of meaning, and in the cadence of the sentence. Those moments make me so glad to be a writer.

I dislike the need to be so visible as a writer in this era of social media.

6) What do you like to read? Do you read while working on a novel? Favorite authors?

I like to read books that are unique, that have a great voice, and that really make me think more deeply about my own life.

I do read while writing. Not all of the time, but yes.

I have fewer favorite authors than favorite books, but I will say that I recently finished Brunonia Barry’s The Map of True Places. Between that book and her debut, The Lace Reader, I know I’ve definitely found a favorite author.

7) What was the best advice you received as a writer? The worst?

The best advice I received was to try to keep separate the craft of writing from the business end of things. It’s something I find difficult to do, but it’s important to work at that split.

Like every writer out there, I’ve received advice I didn’t think was right for my novel-in-progress. But it’s hard to say that any advice is bad advice; it’s just advice you decide not to take. I think it really taps into the importance of doing a gut check for everything that you do as a writer. Every bit of advice I receive has to go through my personal filter. If it doesn’t make it through, it wasn’t the advice for me.

8) Who has influenced you the most in terms of developing your personal writing style?

I don’t try to emulate anyone, but reading The Second Coming of Lucy Hatch by Marsha Moyer influenced the way I approach first pages. Marsha chose to begin that book with the following line: “I was thirty-three years old when my husband walked out into the field one morning and never came back and I went in one quick leap from wife to widow.” I loved that line. It made me feel for the protagonist right away. I try to do the same—look for ways to help the reader feel, right off the bat. Empathy is connection. It is my favorite hook.

9) Do you have a good luck charm or superstition?

I knock on wood, literally, every time I say something that might be predicting a good thing for myself or my books.

10) If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

I don’t know. I do have a master’s degree in psychology, so perhaps I would’ve found my way into an occupation that would have been a help to others.

11) What quote or personal saying do you live by?

Write on!

12) What’s next up for you, writing-wise?

I have two story ideas vying for my attention. I’m playing hard to get; I’ve given a little to both but not enough to commit. Let them woo me.

13) If you could do anything over again, would you and what would it be?

I would like to take what I know now and give it to myself back in 2008, right after my debut sold in a two-book deal. The Therese Walsh back didn’t know what was going to happen, and felt unsettled. While I wouldn’t want to necessarily give her a crystal ball, I’d love to give her some words of encouragement and tell her some stories about the publishing industry—what’s normal and what to expect. My former lack of knowledge is part of the reason I like to help pull back the curtain for other writers, and why we spent the month of February focusing on Inside Publishing topics at Writer Unboxed.

14) What advice would you give beginning writers?

Try not to be offended by critique of your work. Criticism is simply someone taking the time to point out where things might be improved. Don’t take it personally. Take it professionally. Lean into it. Hunger for it. Learn from it.

15) Something we don’t know about you?

I once gobbled at a turkey so authentically that it gobbled back at me.

And: what’d you like us to know about your latest release:

The Moon Sisters took five years to write, and is the truest thing I’ve ever written. I am thrilled that Booklist recently awarded it a starred review:

“This magical, moving tale is not to be missed.” –Booklist (STARRED REVIEW)

Here’s a little of what the book is about:

After their mother’s probable suicide, sisters Olivia and Jazz attempt to move on with their lives. Pragmatic Jazz takes a job in the same funeral home that handled her mother’s body, while spirited, strong-willed Olivia—who can see sounds and taste words—wants to travel to the remote setting of their mother’s unfinished novel to see the will-o-the-wisp lights that she’d written about. A reluctant Jazz agrees to go with Olivia, and as they journey toward the wisps, their acceptance of their mother’s death becomes as important as their journey to understand each other and themselves.

Thanks for having me as your guest!

To celebrate her new novel, Therese is holding “A Taste of Hope Contest.” Describe what hope takes like and you just might win some cool prices. You can enter the contest here.


Say Hello to the funny A. K. Turner

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I write a lot ofCORNDOG_Cover_onTemp_220pgsOLF things, but humor isn’t one of them. Writing “funny” is hard work, but A. K. Turner makes it look so easy. Her latest book, Hair of the Corn Dog, releases today. Both members of the Idaho Writers Guild, we love to talk writing. Here’s something about Amanda you may not know:

15 things you may not know about A. K. Turner

 1) Why did you become a Writer? How did you get started?

I don’t feel like I had much choice in the matter. My route may have at times been circuitous, but I think this is where I was always headed. My father is a writer, so I had a sense early on of the realities of the writing life. I still had to come to writing in my own way and in my own time, though, which meant a solid decade of the starving artist gig. I waited tables and cleaned houses for years before I found my genre and really started moving forward in my writing career.

2) What is your writing routine? How do you discipline yourself to keep at it?

I don’t work on a book every day, but when I do, it is regimented. I map out my progress on a calendar and I stick to it. When I’m writing a first draft, I write 5,000 words per work day. I don’t write on weekends. I have kids and they deserve my full attention during that time, though chances are I might write a little something, even if just an email to a friend or idea for a blog post. If it’s a day when I have a word goal, I don’t allow myself to do much else until that goal is met. The fact that I take breaks in between projects and take my weekends off helps me stay disciplined during my work days.

3) How many drafts before you feel the book is finished? 

It varies for each book. I write my first draft very fast, then rewrite two or three times before sending it to my editor. She sends back what is by then a fourth draft. We volley it back and forth. It’s usually on its sixth draft when I send it to my beta readers. I incorporate their comments for an eighth draft that goes back to the editor. Hell, let’s just call it an even ten.

4) What was the best thing that happened with regard to your writing career? The worst?

The best thing for my writing career was impending motherhood. When pregnant with my first child, I felt terrified that I’d missed my chance, that now that I was going to be a mother, I’d never be a writer. That was the kick in the pants that I needed. I’m not sure I can think of the worst thing for my writing career. Even things that seem like they were negative (rejections, disappointments, typos) all help shape the present and future. There is no worst thing.

5) What part of your job do you love the most? Hate or dislike the most?

I love the excitement of beginning a new project, the sense of accomplishment at completing something, the space in the middle when you realize your project has legs. I also love that it no longer costs me money to be a writer, which is how it felt for the longest time. I hate horrible reviews and try not to read them. That’s a learned skill.

6) What do you like to read? Do you read while working on a novel? Favorite authors?

I like to read almost anything I can get my hands on. If you looked at my nightstand (but please, stay out of my bedroom) you’d see a collection of short stories, a book of essays, a nature narrative, an epic historical novel, and a lesson on craft. I recently finished books in sci-fi, mystery/thriller, a few that I’d consider literary fiction, and another book on craft. I hate assigning these labels, because most books fit more than one category. I always read, whether I’m working on a book or not. That said, I don’t usually read another female humorist while working on a humor project of my own. Favorite authors: Flannery O’Connor, John Irving, Wally Lamb, Jeffrey Eugenides. Other books I adore: Stephen King’s On Writing, Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Fall on Your Knees, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, Angela Carter’s The Magic Toyshop.

7) What was the best advice you received as a writer? The worst?

Best advice: “Time is going to march on no matter what. In five years, you’ll be five years older. You can be five years older having written a book, or not having written a book, but you’re going to be five years older, either way.” Sometimes I think of this but play with the number. I make it one year or ten and think of what I want to accomplish in that time. Not that writing should be rushed, but life is short. 

Worst advice: “You must write every day.” People take this too seriously. So what if someone else writes 2,000 words every day of the year? Every writer is different, so it makes no sense to latch on to rules that work for someone else. There are no rules, this isn’t football. Every writer whose habits you try to emulate had major faults of their own. Hemingway shot himself in the head. Instead of trying to be Hemingway, find your own path. It’ll likely be less messy.

8) Who has influenced you the most in terms of developing your personal writing style?

When I realized that there were people who actually made a living writing humor essays, I knew I’d found my genre. I read David Sedaris, Sloane Crosley, Bill Bryson, and Laurie Notaro, among others. In terms of developing my own style, my husband Mike and my editor Elizabeth Day have been and continue to be extremely helpful in identifying the strengths and weaknesses in my writing. Identifying those aspects and using that knowledge going forward is, in my mind, one way a writer develops her personal style.

9) Do you have a good luck charm or superstition?

I’m not superstitious at all, though I do believe I’ve been very lucky in life. Every writer needs talent, tenacity, and a little bit of luck.

10) If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

I’d like to say Federal Agent or Homicide Detective. But if we’re talking about reality, I’d clean houses, something I did a lot of before writing full time. I can clean a toilet like nobody’s business.

11) What quote or personal saying do you live by?

Every day in which I read, write, laugh, and move is a good day.

12) What’s next up for you, writing-wise?

I want to continue writing humor, but replace the element of alcohol with travel. Don’t get me wrong, I still love a drink at the end of the day, but in terms of genre, the drinking mommy thing has been done, and I’m ready to move on to something else. We have a trip planned to Australia later this year and I’m working on some preliminary research. The working title is Tasmania with Children and Other Devils.

13) If you could do anything over again, would you and what would it be?

I’d write more and read more. Other than that, I think dwelling on what I could have done or should have done is a big waste of time. I’m always looking forward.

14) What advice would you give beginning writers?

Everything takes practice. A person practicing the piano doesn’t view that practice time as wasted music notes. Writers need to give themselves permission to write things that never go anywhere, pieces they’ll never show to anyone else. You need that practice and those are not wasted words. We battle this a lot when others ask us about our work. We feel compelled to answer that we’re working on something that is ultimately marketable: a book, magazine article, short story. There’s nothing wrong with working on the writing itself without an end goal in mind. When an athlete exercises, that’s as much a part of their job as playing in the big game. The same is true for writers, whether or not your friends, family, and acquaintances understand that.

15) Something we don’t know about you?

I took flying lessons in a Piper J-3 Cub for about a year when I was a teenager, but never got my license. I worked on two seasons of the television show Survivor. I also worked on a movie, during which I met a shirtless Matthew McConaughey, but who hasn’t?

And: what’d you like us to know about your latest release:

Hair of the Corn Dog is the third book in my “Tales of Imperfection” series. It’s a collection of essays that center on the adventures of family and motherhood, like going to a drag show with your in-laws. But again, who hasn’t? Fans of the first two books, This Little Piggy Went to the Liquor Store and Mommy Had a Little Flask, will enjoy it. Those offended by raw honesty and four-letter words will not. I’ll be reading and signing on Thursday, March 20th at 6:30 pm at Rediscovered Books in Boise.

Meet Melanie Atkins, author of romantic suspense.

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I asked Melanie Atkins to tell us about her latest release.

Against All Odds is a full length romantic suspense set in New Orleans, Louisiana. The book is the third in a trilogy after Blood Bound and Above Suspicion that came out in 2013. To quote Melanie, nothing like darkness, romance, and grit to get your blood pumping. Against All Odds releases February 21, 2014, from Desert Breeze Publishing.

I also asked her to share a little about her writing life.

15 things you may not know about Melanie Atkins

1) Why did you become a Writer? How did you get started?

I’ve always loved to write, even in high school, but never did much about it until I took a community enrichment creative writing class about 15 years ago that re-ignited my interest. I met some local writers, joined a couple of writing groups, and got busy at the computer.

2) What is your writing routine? How do you discipline yourself to keep at it?

Lately I haven’t had much of a writing routine because life got in the way, but normally I write a couple of hours in the morning and then three or four more in the afternoon. Just depends on what else is going on. I sometimes listen to music while I write, but most often have the TV on for visual inspiration. Or when the weather is good, I sit outside.

3) How many drafts before you feel the book is finished?

I don’t write in drafts. Once I’m done, I’m done, except for maybe weaving in a thread here and there and doing some minor tweaking. I write fast and clean.

4) What was the best thing that happened with regard to your writing career? The worst?

The best thing was selling to Desert Breeze Publishing. I’ve been extremely happy with them. The worst would be when my first publisher went bankrupt.

5) What part of your job do you love the most? Hate or dislike the most?

I love the writing itself. I’m not thrilled with book promotion.

6) What do you like to read? Do you read while working on a novel? Favorite authors?

I read suspense and romantic suspense, and yes. I do read while working, but only at the gym or when I take my mom to the doctor. I don’t read much at home. I’d rather write. Some of my favorite authors are Lisa Gardner, Linda Castillo, John Sandford, Linda Howard, Karen Rose, Tess Gerritsen, Joe Hill, Harlan Coban, and Stephen King.

7) What was the best advice you received as a writer? The worst?

The best is “All life is material”, a quote from my first writing mentor. The worst is the advice from a person who swore I had to follow certain rules to be published. Ha.

8) Who has influenced you the most in terms of developing your personal writing style?

My biggest influence was all the books I’ve read. I used to check out stacks at a time as a child. I’ve always read a lot, and that led me to narrowing my taste to certain genres and styles. Helped me to form my voice.

9) Do you have a good luck charm or superstition?

No. I’m not superstitious.

10) If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?


11) What quote or personal saying do you live by?

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In other words, treat people with kindness.

12) What’s next up for you, writing-wise?

Finishing the single title suspense I’m working on, then diving into my next contracted manuscript, the second in my new Bayou Bounty Hunter series coming out at Desert Breeze. The first book comes out in July.

13) If you could do anything over again, would you and what would it be?

I would start writing to sell earlier in my life. Who knows what might have happened?

14) What advice would you give beginning writers?

Write every day.

15) Something we don’t know about you?

I’m terrified of heights.

Okay, everyone out there in blogland, if you didn’t laugh at Melanie’s answer to #10, you don’t have a sense of humor. She made me laugh out loud.

Here is a blurb for Against All Odds: 

Sienna Wright has it all: an exciting career, a handsome husband who is an ADA, and two beautiful step-children… until a vicious murderer takes all away and sends her tumbling into a terrifying black abyss. 

Detective Nate Lincoln’s job is his life, and he jumps at the chance to reclaim his gun and badge once the department reinstates him after a long suspension. His first order of business is to solve the murders of Jeff Wright and his two children, a case that fell through the cracks. 

Still shell-shocked after nearly a year, Sienna at first refuses to help Nate. Then someone tries to kill her, and in order to survive, she is forced to break free of her quagmire of depression and trust the man she once loved. Nate isn’t sure he can solve the case, and yet he has to try. He would do anything for Sienna, even if she refuses to admit she still loves him.

And an excerpt:

“What else did the major say? We caught a case?”

“Yeah, a cold one. The murdered ADA — Jeff Wright. Remember that one?” Nate settled back in his seat and filled Jack in on the blood-soaked crime scene at the Wright’s upscale home as he negotiated the light Sunday traffic. “Our unit apparently hit a brick wall while I was gone, so Solomon handed it off to Cold Case — a colossal mistake, if there ever was one, because those guys sat around with their thumb up their asses, apparently. LeBlanc said Wright’s wife’s been calling headquarters at least twice a week for the past month, raisin’ hell about it.”

“Wait a minute.” Jack scowled. “I know Sienna. Didn’t you two date before she married Jeff?”

“Yeah, I was still seeing her when she met the bastard.” Nate gritted his teeth at the painful memory. He didn’t like to think about that depressing time in his life. He used to drink and party way too much. “She dated both of us for a while and picked him. Said she wanted someone steadier. Swore I was a bad influence.”

“Whoa.” Jack lifted his eyebrows. “That was cruel, man.”

“What can I say? She was right. And it was for the best, ’cause she loved Jeff.” Nate shook his head. “He made her happy. Two kids — a ready-made family — and a big, fancy house. He gave her a comfortable life. More than I could’ve ever given her. I didn’t have a pot to piss in, much less any kids.”

“Still, her choosing him must’ve gutted you.”

“Yeah, but not as much as losing Jeff and those kids did her. LeBlanc said she had a breakdown after the funeral and moved to Birmingham to live with her aunt. She’s still in Alabama, but right now she’s on the warpath with the DA and has threatened to sue the city ’cause we didn’t close the damned case. So the Major Crimes Section Commander turned it back over to us. He wants us to solve it yesterday.”

“You’d better talk to Solomon, find out why he tossed it to Cold Case.”

“Believe me, I will. I want to know why he gave up on it and has since refused to return Sienna’s phone calls.”

“Not a smart move. Give him my regards,” Jack said with a wry smile as he swung the sedan into the parking garage adjacent to the station.

Nate growled in response, but didn’t voice his true feelings about the case or Sienna. She’d broken his heart when she’d blown him off in favor of Wright, but he didn’t want Jack to know. All he needed was the facts. Sienna, a beautiful, headstrong woman, had been a popular reporter for the Times Picayune, yet she’d crumbled the night Jeff and kids had died. So much so, her doctor had hospitalized her after the funeral and kept her there until he’d found a family member willing to take care of her. Two days later, Sienna left Louisiana for Birmingham, Alabama. Nate had no idea how she was doing now but figured he ought to pay her a visit, even though it was the last thing he wanted to do.

“Save me from old girlfriends,” he muttered as he banged out of the car. He hated confrontations with women, thanks to his dealings with his own mother and the crappy way he’d ended his relationship with Sienna. Showing up drunk at her wedding had been the icing on the cake.

The pain of that day still gnawed at his soul.

Jack rounded the hood and clapped him on the back. “Talk to LeBlanc. He’s new, but he can probably unearth a lead or two for you. Something to help break the ice with Sienna.”

“Doesn’t sound like it.” Nate entered the squad room, lowered himself wearily into his chair, and tried to call the Cold Case detective, Alfred Lutz.

No luck. Lutz was out sick and didn’t answer either of his personal phones, home or cell.


 Thanks, Melanie, for stopping by. Happy release day.