Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mary Raimes Curtis - One Writer's Journey



How did I get here from there?
One writer’s journey

Hi, Marion. Thanks for inviting me to talk about my writer’s journey. I hope you don’t mind, I brought my huge mug of kick ass cappuccino with me? My day doesn’t start right without a caffeine boost. It wasn’t always this way. Growing up in England tea was a staple—morning, noon and night. My grandma kept a big pot on the stove until it turned to black sludge.

Authors are often asked where their ideas come from. Sometimes it’s a conundrum and unanswerable. Right now, looking back on my journey towards being an author, I know that all that went before this moment, this place, provided endless possibilities for stories. The dark and the light, the laughter and the tears, and the diverse characters I met on the journey have been stored away. Yes, I weave diverse elements into all I write, until the source is unrecognizable. So my answer to the question of where my ideas come from is simple: they come from all I am and all I have lived through.

So here’s how my journey started and some of the stops on the way. I was born in London during the blitz—it was a heck of a time to enter the world. We were bombed out of three homes and huddled in bunkers much of the time. Then we moved to coastal Yorkshire where my mother worked in a munitions factory. Unfortunately the bombs seemed to follow us—a child’s perception, when their actual target was the iron and steel works close by. Yup! It was that long ago. My four siblings were evacuated to farming families in Devon and Cornwall, so when we met up years later we were strangers. Except for JC, I’m not sure that gap was ever fully breached. They were boisterous and I was the quiet one hiding in shadows, reading whatever I could get my hands on, and skipping school—the reasons why were varied. It was an interesting life although it was often fraught with menace and the need to run, hide, pray.

At one point we lived on an abandoned army camp and I ran wild with the other kids. Although bleak, the camp was a treasure trove. In one hut we found an abandoned fencing foil, in another a battered army helmet. Climbing the high chain link fence where empty bomb racks still stood we discovered an underground bunker and dropped stones into the oily black water below. Of course, we were ready to run if a monster rose from the depths.

Through it all I had an impossible dream—to become a war correspondent. Some dreams are never meant to be although, sadly, wars continue. When I turned fifteen, making a living was imperative. So I began, first as a shop assistant, scraping maggots off mangy bacon then selling the rashers to unsuspecting customers. It was definitely not my thing. Then it was on to a factory full of stroppy women and raunchy men where gossip ran rampant. I lasted a full week before scarpering. Even though I was underage, I became an usherette in a local cinema. It was the best job I ever had—all those free movies and scads of guys to flirt with, what’s not to like? Later I moved to London, lived in an East end hostel, close to the haunt of Jack the Ripper. The hostel was full of fascinating characters who could have stepped out of a Dicken’s novel. Close by Trafalgar Square, I found a job as a printer. Okay, I sort of lied and said I knew how to operate their printing presses. I learned fast, mostly after everyone left at six pm. From eight to midnight I pumped petrol at a garage and weekends waited tables. And every Friday night I went dancing. I’m jealous of all the energy I had back then.

After breaking an engagement, I decided to sail away to Canada, the best decision I ever made. Especially when I found a boss who didn’t care that I had little schooling. After running the print section for a while, he decided that because I wanted to be a writer I could take over the association news pages. (Crikey! And I didn’t even lie to get the job.) Years later, as the editor and communications manager of a large organization, I developed a full color magazine for professional engineers and managed the in-house art department. Then I truly lost my mind and hung out my shingle as a freelance writer for a variety of corporate clients. (Have no idea how this happened, didn’t know squat about where to plonk a comma, or parse a whatever. Still don’t.)

So there I was, without a clue, helping to develop specialized newsletters, or writing stuff about laser technology and weight bearing walls, then penning speeches for guys in snazzy suits, and writing brochures to explain to the public how nuclear waste was ‘safely’ stored, (That was alarming and I’m still waiting for the big bang.)

Along the way I wrote travel articles, loved that. Then a friend sent a short story I had written to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. To my utter shock it was broadcast across Canada. Then there was some experimental theatre scripts involving lousy prose and very bad poetry. At night a bunch of us read our scribbles at a jazz club. Thankfully my voice was drowned out by an enthusiastic percussionist.

Then came the time to retire and get serious about my stories. The journey took me to the shore of a tidal river in Nova Scotia. It’s a wonderful place that allowed me to try and write a book worth publishing. My dream became reality when Lea Schizaz, MuseItUp Publisher, contracted Taming the Hawk, a historical romance with a dark edge, and Luscious & Lethal, a contemporary romantic suspense. Lea paid me the greatest compliment when she said that Taming the Hawk reminded her of The Taming of the Shrew. No wonder she is my idol.

Sometimes life interferes with your master plan. The death of a longtime companion and friend blocked me for two years. I finally rallied and began working on The Janus series, set in Victorian London. Then life became bitchy once more. I had a bone-crushing fall on icy steps and couldn’t sleep in my bed for six weeks. Reclining in a lounger, sleeping little, unable to work on my laptop and trying to teach spoiled cats my chest is not a trampoline, was the pits. However, my brain didn’t shut down and an idea for a new blog developed around the theme: A Writer’s Journey.

So here we are, ready for the next step. Marion Sipe created the great covers for both my ebooks and I knew I wanted her to work on developing a banner and layout for A Writer’s Journey. Then, crazy as it seems, I decided to serialize a story in the blog, a la Charles Dickens. For some time a young musician, who had lost her way, kept knocking on my brain trying to tell me her heartbreaking story. She wouldn’t pipe down even when I told her to get lost, I didn’t have time. I’m a sucker for a hard luck story so her tale, Candle Without A Flame, started to take shape. The truly scary part of this is, I’m going to publish the chapters as they come from my keyboard. My thinking: why not let readers see the evolution of my character and her story as it happens. After running the idea past friends and other writers, the support for the idea was fantastic.

The decision made, it was necessary to give Candle Without A Flame a cover. I checked out Marion’s pre-made covers and found one that could have been made especially for my story. After adding my name and title, Marion included a small extra touch—the musical element that is integral to the story. I love this cover. And now it’s show time! I hope you will sign on to follow Erin’s journey in Candle Without A Flame. And understand when I have a meltdown now and then.

Thanks again, Marion, for allowing me the space to ramble on about my journey. Do I hear someone snoring in the back row? Okay, I’m outa here. It’s time to go home and see what mischief the cats have been up to and figure out who keeps leaving the basement door open. It’s not me and the cats haven’t fessed up, so there’s another mystery to solve…I hope a cleaver isn’t involved.  

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Interview Rescheduled

Hello everyone!

Due to real life issues, we've had to reschedule today's interview with the lovely Linda Stein.  She'll be around at a later date, but today we're all on our own.  It'll give us time to catch our breath after all other wonderful interviews from this month!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Marion Webb-De Sisto - Myth and Masks



Hello everyone!  Today we have the fascinating Marion Webb-DeSisto, who is generously giving away a copy of her story Taken to one lucky commentor!  Give her a big welcome!

Marion: So… Er, Marion, tell us a bit about yourself!

Well here we are, two Marions chatting back and forth. I’m very grateful to be given this opportunity for spreading the word about myself and my books.
I was born and grew up in England, but spent many years working and raising my family in the USA. After taking early retirement in 1999, I was finally able to find time to write and began pursuing a life-long dream. At the present time, I live in the Greater London Area of England with my American husband.
I believe my writing career was inspired by my passion for reading from a very early age, and I describe myself as a people watcher. In particular, I’m fascinated by males who appear to be somewhat dark and threatening, but have a core of goodness within them. I use my many years of working and communicating with people as a blueprint for 'fleshing out' my fictional characters.
My Fantasy novels are filled with demons, angels, shifters and mythical creatures. Some are erotic. My non-fiction books offer information on metaphysical subjects. Last year, I was invited to write a short Horror story for an anthology that was released at the beginning of this month. Horror is a new genre for me, but I’ve always been interested in it.

Marion: What was the first book you ever read that really blew your mind, that you couldn’t stop thinking about after you’d finished?

In my early teens I read The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy and was thoroughly intrigued by someone who could present himself to the world as being completely opposite to his actual true character. I re-read the book several times.

Marion: How do you start thinking about a book? Is it the characters that first pop to mind, or the setting, or the plot? Where do you usually start?

When I write Fiction, the hero of the story always seems to ‘appear’ in my mind first, followed soon after by the heroine, and then comes the plot. Chapter by chapter is revealed, almost as though, while writing, the two main characters are telling me their story. As I begin each new chapter I have no real idea what will happen within it. I guess you could say I feel much more like the ghost writer of the tale rather than the author creating the hero’s and heroine’s story.

When I write Non-Fiction, the process is quite different. I take time before I begin writing to set out a detailed plan/draft of what each chapter will contain, as well as an overall view of how the information will progress.

Marion: If you could invite five writers, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be?

Shakespeare, Stephen King, Dennis Wheatley, Jane Austen and Emily Brontë.

Marion: Have you ever tried to shake up your writing routine? Writing at a different time? Writing in new places? Writing nude? *waggles eyebrows*

I usually write in the mornings and early afternoons, the brain seems to be more in gear then. However, on a few occasions, I have written very late at night and was surprised how easily the words flowed. Last year, I spent some time in hospital and decided to begin a new story while there. Again, to my surprise, I was well-able to achieve my goal. As yet, I haven’t tried writing nude. :-)

Marion: What one scene do you think you spent the most time editing? What was it about it that you couldn’t seem to get right?

In my book – Taken – it’s the scene where Dreydon tells Esther about Cymllon, what a mejin is, also what would have happened if he hadn’t rescued her. I didn’t feel I was getting it wrong, but I needed to present these important details to the reader in a manner that revealed more of Dreydon’s character, was interesting and didn’t appear to be little more than a check list of information.

Marion: How do you ‘get into character’? Are their certain characters you find it harder to write than others?

I have more of a problem with heroines than heroes. I try very hard not to have a heroine react to a situation in the same way I would respond. That may sound odd, considering I’m a female, but I don’t want her to be merely a reflection of me dealing with trauma, fear, happiness, etc. In contrast, when ‘fleshing out’ other characters, I try to draw on my observations of people’s reactions to various circumstances. Once in a while, however, a character will behave unexpectedly, reinforcing my thoughts about merely being the ghost writer.

Marion: If you could choose one writing related question you never, ever wanted to hear spoken again, what would it be?

Whenever some people see me sitting and working on my laptop I’m asked, “Are you writing a story?” I might be answering an email, filling out a form, or blogging, but they always presume I’m working on my next book.

Marion: What’s your favorite book title?

May I have two? The Shining and The Stand. I love the way Stephen King can bring many different characters into a story and ‘head hop’ without confusing the reader.

Marion: What project are you currently working on?

It’s another story set in the world of Cymllon – a magical place where demons, angels, lycans, demgels {half demon, half angel}, other mythical creatures and some humans live. A fire daemon, Garr, is placed in the protector role of Beccah, a human woman, who is at risk of being abducted by a demgel who wants to make her his sex slave. A relationship develops between Garr and Beccah, even though they are so different and it would be frowned upon.

Marion: About how long does it take you to get from first draft to polished manuscript? What does that process look like?

As already explained, I don’t write a draft for Fiction. I feel as though I’m the ghost writer, putting down what happens as the characters ‘tell’ me their story. Depending on whether I’m writing a novella or novel, it usually takes about five to nine months.

Marion: What did your “favorite” rejection letter say?

“Don’t tell the story.” Hmm, does that mean “Don’t write.”?

Marion: Is there a writer whose style or talent you envy? What is it about their writing that draws you in?

I’ve always admired Shakespeare’s works, but don’t think I’m envious of him. He knew how to draw in the audience by way of his words and dramatic situations so that they would feel almost a part of each play. In my opinion, that is a tremendous literary gift.

Marion: Any parting words?

Many thanks, Marion, for allowing me to tell others about this Marion. Of course, my ego thoroughly enjoys that. :-) Also, just wanted to take a moment to thank you for the lovely cover you designed for my book – Taken – for which I’ve had compliments. You highlighted the waterfall that is the background for a significant scene within the story; a naughty-but-nice major occurrence.

Marion:  It’s been a pleasure to have you!  And I’m thrilled that you like your cover!  I had a lot of fun working on it!  Readers, you can find Taken at MuseItUp and Amazon, and remember to comment and maybe win a free copy!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Kim Cresswell - Reflection and Lethal Journey



Good morning my friends!  Today we welcome Kim Cresswell to Dreamspring!

Marion: What was the first book you ever read that really blew your mind, that you couldn’t stop thinking about after you’d finished?

I'm kind of old, okay? So that would have to be Sidney Sheldon's, Master of the Game.  In my opinion, Mr. Sheldon was one of the best story-tellers ever. From that point on, I wanted to be a writer, and I knew suspense was my genre. 

Marion: How do you start thinking about a book?  Is it the characters that first pop to mind, or the setting, or the plot?  Where do you usually start?

Since my books are plot-driven, I always start with an idea.  As far as characters, I start with nothing more than a name, and then allow the plot to dictate character development. It's a system that works well for me.

Marion: Have you ever tried to shake up your writing routine? Writing at a different time? Writing in new places? Writing nude? *waggles eyebrows*

I haven't written nude, but might try it sometime! Usually when I get stuck, I walk away from the computer and grab a pen and paper.  Works every time.

Marion: When was the last time you just had to write, and what inspired that feeling?

Since I have chronic pain, I find writing is great therapy. So if it's a bad day, I have to write.

Marion: About how long does it take you to get from first draft to polished manuscript? 

I have an internal editor that doesn't shut off so I'm a slow writer. It takes me about eight months from first draft to polished manuscript. Call me slow-poke.

Marion: If you could invite five writers, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be?

Of course I'd invite Sidney Sheldon, Joan Collins, author of Lucky, Anne Stuart, author of Black Ice, 
Donna Moreau, author of Waiting Wives: The Story of Schilling Manor, Home Front to the Vietnam War and Jonathan Kellerman.  

Marion: What did your “favorite” rejection letter say?

“Thank you so much for sending REFLECTION by Kim Cresswell, for my review. I can definitely see why you are working with Kim. She crafts a very intriguing story with great sexual tension, and lots of action. Unfortunately, however, after many reads and much discussion, the overall consensus was that the story is lacking a big hook to make it stand out on our list.”  (from a “big six” publisher)

Marion: What project are you currently working on?

I'm working on a few projects. Lethal Journey is a thriller, a “short novel”, and will be released this summer. 

Marion: The sequel to my debut award-winning romantic suspense, Reflection, is slated for release late October or early November.

I'm also one of ten authors contributing to the True Crime Serial Killers Anthology due to release in November.  I'm especially thrilled to part of this project. The author roster is a true crime dream-team!  http://www.rjparker.net/2013/04/the-true-crime-serial-killers-anthology.html?spref=fb

Marion: Any parting words?

Thank you for having me, Marion, and if your readers get the chance to read REFLECTION, I hope you enjoy the story as much as I enjoyed writing it. 

REFLECTION

Florida investigative reporter, Whitney Steel, has lived in the shadow of her legendary father long enough. To prove herself she needs to find the “Big” story.

She found it.

Now it may kill her.

After receiving a lead pointing to the world's first cloned human, now a small child, Whitney vows to unravel the truth. However, sifting through the facts proves to have dangerous results, including death threats and murder.

When she's nearly killed, but is saved by undercover FBI Special Agent, Blake Neely, he refuses to let her get in the way of his own objective—at least not right away.

Caught in a lethal game between a billionaire obsessed with genetic perfection, his hit man’s thirst for retribution, and a Colombian drug lord fresh out of prison determined to make Blake pay for his twin brother’s death over a decade ago…

Can they save an innocent child before it’s too late?

Faced with tough choices, with deadly consequences for many—Whitney soon realizes that sometimes a story becomes more than just a story.
 
Available in paperback at Amazon & Createaspace

Marion: And thank you for being here, Kim!  You’ve been a wonderful guest!



Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Annika James - Magic and Mayhem



Hello everyone!  Today we have the fabulous Annika James, author of Wanted!  Give her a big welcome!

Marion: Tell us about yourself, Annika!

Hello! I’m just a small-town girl who likes to read and write about things that don’t exist, so far as we know right now. :) I grew up in and around Chicago, but moved to rural Wisconsin in high school. After college, I moved back and settled here. I live with my husband of 8 years, and our two over-active kiddos. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, and only this year realized my life-long dream of getting published. I absolutely love the cover Marion did for me, and have received many, many compliments on it.

Marion: What was the first book you ever read that really blew your mind, that you couldn’t stop thinking about after you’d finished?

The first one I can remember is Queen of This Realm by Jean Plaidy. I read it in grade school, and it fueled a life-long obsession with Elizabeth I and Tudor England.

Marion: How do you start thinking about a book?  Is it the characters that first pop to mind, or the setting, or the plot?  Where do you usually start?

Most of the time, I start with a situation or scene, then I build the story around that. I’m one of those by-the-seat-of-my-pants writers, and the story comes to me as I write. Often, I’ll jot down ideas for later in the book or other scenes I want, though, so I have some idea where I’m going.

Marion: When was the last time you just had to write, and what inspired that feeling?

After a few friends read WANTED, they demanded a sequel. The more I thought about it, the more my characters demanded one also. So, I sat down and started it. At first, the words just flowed, I had to get it down.

Marion: What one scene do you think you spent the most time editing?  What was it about it that you couldn’t seem to get right?

The scene where Matt and Conor come to Cora’s house to break the news to Ash. I just couldn’t get the dialogue where I wanted it. I have an analogy in there, and I’m still not happy with it. I just couldn’t come up with one that made me happy.

Marion: What’s your worst writing habit?  Something you know you shouldn’t do, but just can’t seem to stop?

I don’t write enough. Is that a habit? I often start a day with the intention of writing, but end up forgoing it for other things. Then, I’m mad at myself for not writing. I really need to buckle down and somehow get myself to write a little every day.

Marion: What’s the one thing you wish you were good at, but just can’t seem to master?
I wish I was better at world building. For some reason, I just can’t relay all the details I see in my head. My brain works faster than my fingers and I get impatient and just end up skipping all the boring detail stuff. I really wish I was better at creating a world the reader could really feel a part of.

Marion: There are a lot of concepts about what writer are like, what’s the one you hate the most?  Like the most?

Many people have assumed that since I have one book published, I’m suddenly going to be rich and famous. I don’t know where people get the idea being an author makes a lot of money. Sure, if you’re on the best seller list many times, you probably can live on just writing, but I’m not there yet. :) I do enjoy the assumption that since I’m a writer, I’m good at writing, though. When something needs to be written, an article or something, people look at me and say, “You’re a writer, you can do it.” That’s a nice stroke to the ego. :)

Marion: What project are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on the sequel to WANTED. Ash, Matt, and Conor really wanted their story told, so I started in on that.

Marion: About how long does it take you to get from first draft to polished manuscript?  What does that process look like?

For WANTED, my only finished and published manuscript, it took about two and a half years. Most of that time, it sat unfinished. I hurried to complete it for the 2011 Muse online conference so I could pitch it. That was October, 2011. I received my contract in June of 2012, my first editor and I worked through it during September and October- that was content editing. Then came line edits, and the book was finally ready in December.

Marion: Is there a writer whose style or talent you envy?  What is it about their writing that draws you in?

Kim Harrison. She has created a world that is fantasy, but seems like it could be so real. It is a world I want to live in. Her books are full of action, romance, heartache, romantic tension, friendship, intrigue, and humor. Her characters are real people - none of them is perfect, they are all flawed in some way, yet the reader has still fallen in love with them. I absolutely love the Hollows books, and wish I could write half as well as she does.

Marion: Any parting words?

I really hope everyone enjoys reading Wanted as much as I enjoyed writing it.  Please let me know what you think on Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere else. 

Marion:  Thanks for dropping by!  You've been a lovely guest!