“Joy Smith, Author – Tell Me a Story, I’ll Bake You a Cake” Interview by Joan Y. Edwards
Thank you for allowing me to interview you, Joy. It’s exciting that in October, 2016 you published “Tell Me a Story, I’ll Bake You a Cake.”
Joan, you are welcome.
My readers are looking forward to learning more about you and the self-publishing path you chose, so let’s get started.
1. Where were you born? Richmond, Virginia
2. Did you have a favorite place to read a book as a child? Where and why? Under the covers at night reading with a flashlight. It was after my bedtime and my parents wouldn’t know I was still awake.
3. What’s your favorite book that you’ve ever read? Why?
Horton Hatches The Egg, by Dr. Seuss. It was my first book. I kept renewing it at the library so many times that my parents finally bought it for me. I met Dr. Seuss at a book signing in New York in 1986. I took my beat up, crayon marked Horton book with me and when he signed it he smiled and said, “Do you know this is a first edition?” Now I have a SIGNED first edition. It’s one of my most prized possessions.
4. Why did you decide to write your cook book? How did you decide to tell a story with each recipe?
I wrote a cooking column, “Cooking With Joy,” for the Fort Mill Times for ten years. My readers urged me to put these columns in a book, which I did.
5. Why do you write?
I started writing as a kid and I’ve never outgrown it. I just enjoy it.
After speaking to several publishers I chose AuthorHouse because they were better suited to meet my needs. I wanted a hardback book with glossy pages and color pictures in it. Some didn’t give me this option.
8. Did you pay for editing services before you submitted your book to AuthorHouse?
I hired Beth Crosby to edit it for me before I submitted it to them.
9. Who designed your cover?
Kim Hajas, a friend and well-known graphic designer designed the cover of my book. Her company Hajas Design is in Fort Mill, SC.
10. In which formats is your book available?
It is available in paperback, hardback, and eBook.
11. Did you pay separately for ISBNs or were these included in a your package?
The ISBNs were included in the package by AuthorHouse.
12. Does AuthorHouse offer a book return agreement with book stores? Or do book stores take your books on consignment?
AuthorHouse has a book return agreement with book sellers.
13. How does AuthorHouse market your book?
They created a website for me, provided a variety of marketing tools such as business cards, postcards, bookmarks, and sent a detailed step-by-step guide to help me join social media.
14. How are you marketing your book?
I am marketing my book by:
Press releases, book signings, media coverage in newspapers and magazines
Group emails to high school class, college class, clubs I belong to, and a long list of friends.
Contacting book stores, gourmet kitchen stores, and gift stores.
Being a guest speaker at several venues in the Charlotte area
Word of mouth
15. Did you get to choose the retail price for your book?
16. Is the cost of the book to you as the author low enough that you can make a profit from your sales?
Joy Smith lives in Fort Mill, South Carolina, with her husband and a quirky cat. She loves cooking, entertaining, traveling, playing tennis and bridge, riding horses, gardening when it’s not too hot (which is almost never in South Carolina), and enjoying good wine. Her sense of adventure has taken her to Antarctica on a National Geographic expedition, skydiving, climbing mountains, and searching for the perfect roller coaster.
Joy participated as a sous-chef on the Food Network show “Ready . . . Set . . . Cook”; was a guest chef on the NBC show Charlotte Today; taught a class, “From the Garden to the Table”; and wrote a popular cooking column, “Cooking With Joy,” for ten years. Readers have enjoyed her stories and recipes featured in several magazines and newspapers. Her stories will entertain you as you read Tell Me a Story, I’ll Bake You a Cake.
“Interview with Becoming Hero’s Author, Jen Finelli” (Giveaway details below)
Today, I am delighted to interview Jen Finelli, author of soon to be released Becoming Hero.
Hi, Jen. So good to have you as our honored guest today. I know our readers are going to enjoy learning about you. You are clever and fun. I’ve rolled out the red carpet for you.
Thank you, Joan for having me here. Let’s get going.
Where were you born? Washington, DC!
Where was your favorite place to live as a child? Why? Germany was wonderful, but my heart’s in Paraguay. You know how some folks have that Grandma’s house out in the country or something they went to over the summer? My “summer” place was Paraguay…the verdant home to thousands of undiscovered bird species, the largest waterfall in the world, and people who will offer you tea and next thing you know is that you’re part of their family. That’s where I’m going to live when I grow up: I’m spending the next ten years saving up money to build a clinic in the jungle there.
Did you have a favorite place to read a book as a child? Where and why? What’s comfier than a bed, am I right?
Where is your favorite place to read now? Why? Ha, I don’t grow up. That’s why on Twitter they call me Petr3Pan! I’m still in the same place.
How do you keep yourself physically fit? I cry a lot, and that doesn’t seem to be working. It’s great, I stay the same size all the time! I’m big enough for my husband to write words on and hide them in the folds. In all seriousness, there are some awesome apps people should check out if they want to get fit. I’m trying to do this 100 push-ups app, and learn Bellydancing. Zombies Run looks awesome. I used to be a black belt who ran three miles every morning, taught martial arts classes, AND swam competitively, so I do like exercise. It just doesn’t like me.
If you go to an amusement park, which ride do you go to first? Which ride do you ignore at all costs? Not a huge fan of spinning things. Love the Apollo’s Chariot at Bush Gardens, Williamsburg, Va. I want to fly, so anything that makes me feel like I’m flying is a go.
What is your favorite genre? Why? Sci-Fi! Because it’s the best one! You can say anything about the future, the past, the now, and you can explore the edges of human innovation and maybe even influence some real scientists. Nothing’s better than that!
What’s your favorite book that you’ve ever read? Why? Either Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie or The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis. The Space Trilogy is a great example of anthropological philosophy, and he spends a lot of time thinking about what cultures might be like on other planets in a very mystical, beautiful way. Much more lit than his Narnia trilogy.
Where is your favorite place to visit? Why? Wherever my husband is.
When did you decide to become a writer? Six year old me: grubby, shower-less little kid who exclusively spoke in words she’d read in the dictionary. Hated writing, but I wrote an essay about a salmon that included the sentence “she swam far far far far far far far far far far far far” and it won an award, so my fate was sealed. I might still hate writing, who knows.
But the fact is I’m good at written storytelling, and as my writing career began to build (despite my attempts to do other things like medicine) I realized I was born for this. I quit a pharmacy tech position and began writing full-time. I—no joke—heard God telling me it’s my calling to write.
*Ding ding ding crazy!* I know you’re all thinking it, so it’s okay, I’ll go ahead and say it. But you know, I’m a multiple published Codex member now with over a hundred pieces over my belt, so I don’t think I’m one of these people who says God told them to write and then sends you the scary manifesto they wrote in blood on toilet paper.
Who or what has inspired you the most to write? I have no idea! When I was nine I loved something by Lynne Reid Banks so much I decided to write my own magical world about an Easter Egg. I always wanted to be the next C.S. Lewis. If I can learn to be the best me, that would be a good start.
What has been the most exhilarating moment as a writer? When I stopped thinking I knew how to write, and started taking advice. That’s when my career took off. I threw away a 500,000 word novel, people.
What are your top ten tips for writers to help them in writing a best seller?
Don’t be lazy.
Realize your work isn’t perfect, that’s not a personal flaw, and you can take steps to get better. You don’t have to kill all your Darlings, but you do have to kill your ego.
These three things will help you deal with rejection and improve your writing more than anything else will. You also need to avoid the use of “was,” use strong words instead of adverbs, stop being pretentious and writerly (stop saying utilize instead of use), and read both Grammar Girl and Strunk and White. (I need to do those things, too) Ten tips is more than I’m qualified to give in one post, but I do have a place on my site where I drop writing tips I’ve learned from others. I believe you’ll think it’s worth checking out.
How did you find the illustrator for your comic book? That’s a bit of a secret, since we have a big reveal coming up, but suffice it to say: online! People who are looking for artists should follow them on Twitter, go to ComicCons, hang out on DeviantArt, and generally try to think like artists.
Paying money helps, which is why I ran this awesome campaign to pay my artist AND give my fans cool inexpensive pre-orders! At the $1 level peeps get a $17 audiobook!
What are three things that you do to entice readers to read to the very last page of your book? Pray. Eat. Love. Or something like that. No, for real! Prayer helps get my mind focused, I need to eat or I can’t write, and if you don’t love your readers they can feel it.That’s something Dale Carnegie said once.
On a more practical note, keep secrets (but don’t lie to your readers, they hate that)—every character should have one secret trait you never tell your readers, and one secret that affects the book in some way. CockChekhov’s gun: let readers see the rifle lying in the room before it becomes important. Just kind of mention it, and then later when it’s important they’re like OH SNAP I REMEMBER THAT THERE WAS A GUN IN THE ROOM!
And finally, have an outline that flows.
As I understand it, when you were writing a cartoon, you had one of your characters rebel against the situations you put him in? How do you feel about this? Well it’s not actually me that Skye’s shooting—he’s inside a comic book INSIDE the novel, so his author lives in the novel, and I’m his author’s author. Like his grand-author. Thankfully, he doesn’t know I exist.
In all seriousness, writing something this meta can mess with your head a little bit. I’m writing about tropes I think comic authors should stop using, and about how ridiculous it gets when major franchises get dragged on and on and on…and I’m employing the same tropes I’m talking about because otherwise it’s tell not show. So like…if Skye were real somewhere…am I a huge jerk, or am I doing this because I’m trying to make a hero out of him? Would he hate me, or thank me for bringing him to become the person he’s meant to be?
I try to write all my characters, even the bad guys, as if I love them very much. I want to see them shine, so each one needs to have his moment, and each one needs a deep reason for why he does what he does. But who knows…Skye might still find me worthy of a bullet in the brain.
This question is for Skye, the main character in your new book, Becoming Hero. Hello, Skye from Becoming Hero. Why are you so upset?
“To quote Batman: how many girlfriends died in your hands?
You know what’s really sad about it? They’re fading in my head, ’til they’re almost not people anymore—just plot points, meant to drive me on, and I can feel that drive, that spiked wheel turning in my rib cage and churning all the meat in there like a blender, I feel how it’s supposed to warp me and turn me in to a dark and cool mysterious brooding guy with a past, and I don’t want it, I don’t, that’s not who I am.
Before you know it, well, here I am. Dark and brooding guy with a past. I even use guns now. I’ve got nothing but Natasha’s name on my lips and her ring around my neck, because her personality, her well-rounded human self disappeared every time she stepped into a panel and became “the girlfriend.” Because I’m the main character, everyone exists around me. Which means everyone around me has to suffer, but I can never, never die.
This is what the SAT calls egomania. This is what the author in the comic is doing to me.
You know it’s the worst thing ever when you know what’s happening to you, and you can’t stop it?
If there were one person in your life who was responsible for all the suffering of everyone you loved—your parents, your best friend, that special person who makes you blush like a dummy—would you take it lying down?
For more information about me, Skye from Jen Finelli’s new book, Becoming Hero, check out the website: http://becominghero.ninja
Thanks for taking the time to answer my question, Skye.
Jen Finelli’s Short Bio
If you’re looking for sentient cockroaches, angry superheroes, zombies or fairies, offensive gods, and anything else just plain different, Jen Finelli probably writes what you want. She’s a world-traveling sci-fi writer with a knack for making people feel things. (Rage, mostly, but that’s a feeling, right?) So far she’s gotten locked in a German nunnery, fired by a secret news organization, lost in an underground tunnel network, and wind-whipped in a tropical monsoon while riding a motorcycle, so she thinks she’s doing something right. Her comic book character wants to kill his author in Becoming Hero, coming in 2017.
Jen invites you to go here to get a $17 audiobook for $1, watch a silly movie (cool video with Jen telling about her book), and get an early Valentine’s Day gift for you loved one!
Thank you for reading my blog. I am very blessed to see you here.
Winner of the Giveaway Contest. I appreciate the three people who were kind enough to leave a comment on this blog post between January 19th and midnight, January 28, 2017.
I had random.org choose the winner. The lucky winner of Jen Finelli’s short story, Minnie: The Curse of Sentience is Linda Andersen. Congratulations, Linda. I hope you enjoy it. I’ll send it to you by email.
To leave a comment please click below and scroll down to the bottom:
Flip Flap Floodle: A New “Classic” Nursery Tale Review by Petre Pan
Reblogged from Petre Pan’s blog “…and then, I shall write a book, about my adventures.”
Hey guys! I just got finished reading Flip Flap Floodle by Joan Y. Edwards, a sweet little children’s story for reading aloud to preschool/nursery age kids. It features a little duck who plays a flute, which is a pretty cute idea for a protagonist. The little duck meets many different kinds of people along his journey to musical greatness: those who are too busy with their own song to pay attention to him, those who recognize his talent and encourage him–and those who eat him.
I am honored that Carol Baldwin, author of Teaching the Story, invited me to be a guest on her blog! Thank you, Carol.
I’m giving away a free 1000 word manuscript, pitch, and query letter critique there. Details are in Carol’s blog!
Reblog of Carol Baldwin’s post: “Joan’s Elder Care Guide: Empowering You and Your Elder”
Although I normally feature middle grade or young adult books and authors, every once in a while I find another author whose work I want to share with you. Joan Y. Edwards is a NC author who recently published Joan’s Elder Care Guidedrawing from her own life experience caring for her mother, Ethel D. Meyer. It is my privilege to have her answer some questions about her new book.
How did you get the idea for writing the Elder Guide?
“Lynn Harris, Intriguing Young Adult and Adult Fiction Writer” by Joan Y. Edwards
Thank you for being a guest on my blog, Lynn. My readers will benefit greatly from your Writing Tips.
I am excited to be here. Let’s get started.
Okay. Here we go with my questions:
Where were you born? Greensboro, NC where I now live. I took a timeout from Greensboro for almost nine years while I worked for the Department of Defense in Washington, DC.
Where was your favorite place to live as a child? Why? I lived in the same house from the time I was three until I left for college, so I guess that house was my favorite place to live.
Did you have a favorite place to read a book as a child? Where and why? I loved to read so much I would do it anywhere. My mother used to punish me by sending me to my room. Please don’t throw me in that briar patch—that’s where my books were.
How do you keep yourself physically fit? Writing is a sedentary process—butt in chair, fingers on keyboard. I have to make an effort to get exercise. I work out six days a week first thing in the morning. I walk on three and do yoga on three. I’ve reached an age where if I don’t keep moving, stuff starts to hurt, so I keep moving.
What do you do when you think about giving up? If you’re referring to writing, I’ve only had that happen once. I had a hard drive crash (the dreaded “blue screen of death”) and, of course, did not have my most recent work backed up. Writing the first draft of my first novel was so hard that losing any of it, much less a lot of it, was devastating. I cried for a week. But at the risk of sounding crazy, my two main characters would not leave me alone. Talked at me the whole week. Begged me to tell their story. I finally gave in just to get some peace.
Do you set goals for yourself as a writer? I absolutely have goals. I have a Monday morning writing class where we can read up to ten pages of our work for critique. My goal is ten new pages every week. Sometimes, if I bomb a week (my pages don’t fare so well in critique), I’ll revise them and take them back. But mostly it’s ten new pages.
Do you reward yourself when you reach them? I go to class and hopefully people like them. That’s my reward—and the best feeling ever.
Do you set new goals when you reach the first goals? I’m writing a trilogy—to finish it will take goal after goal after goal.
Do you consider yourself a risk taker? Why? An interesting question. Yes and no. Do I bungee jump, jump out of airplanes, or drive 200 miles an hour? No. Do I take ten pages of my heart and soul and read it aloud every Monday? Yes. My life falls somewhere in the “ordinary level of risk” category.
If you go to an amusement park, what is your favorite ride? Roller coaster, as long as it doesn’t have curlicue twists in it. Then I pass. Motion sick is never a good look.
What is your favorite genre? Why? I read across genres—YA and adult; contemporary and historical; fantasy, sci fi, romance, adventure, paranormal, dystopian (although those last two I’ve had enough of for now). I like to mix it up.
What’s your favorite book? Why? Hands down and forever: Gone with the Wind. I read it when I was twelve and fell in love. I don’t question “why” when it comes to love.
Where is your favorite place to visit? Why? I’ve traveled many places in my life. I love it. But my favorite places tend to have water near them. If I had to choose one, it would be Inverness, Scotland (near Loch Ness). Magically beautiful. I watched the Outlander series on TV recently, and it reminded me of just how beautiful. I hope to return in two years.
How did you do in English in high school? I did well in English and hated every minute. I was truly insulted that someone would tell me what to read (which is my favorite pastime, don’t mess it up), and then add insult to injury by telling me what it meant. Sorry, all you English grads out there, but that ruins a book for me.
When did you decide to become an author? About six years ago, I had a lull in my life. A timeout, if you will. It gave me a chance to listen to what my inspiration was—to tell a story. I decided I’d give it a try. I had no idea how difficult it would be. Learning to write is hard. Learning to write well is taking me a long time, but I’m pretty determined and focused.
Who or what has been the most help and inspiration to you as a writer? I have to separate those two things – help and inspiration. Inspiration for me is a spiritual experience. To me, to be inspired is a gift from the Universe, so I meditate and do yoga. Help, that’s another story and one easy to answer. On Monday mornings I attend a writing class with Nancy Peacock. Nancy has been a godsend. She, along with the women in the class who critique my work, has done more to enhance my writing than I ever imagined possible. They have my eternal thanks.
Where do you get your ideas for your stories? I am a cross-pollinator. I watch TV, read books (fiction and non-fiction), see movies, watch the world around me. I have notepads everywhere to write down the ideas when they comes. Sadly, I don’t get anything from dreams (like Stephenie Meyer did with Twilight). I dream about stupid things, like cleaning my garage.
What are you writing now? My first novel is a YA fantasy (the old fashioned, sword-and-sorcery kind). It has all of the things I love most about the genre—castles, witches, and pixies.
What has been the most exhilarating moment as a writer, so far? It may sound silly, but it was in writing class. We read our pages aloud, and I was getting to a particular tense moment one Monday, only lines away from revealing who was arrested by the castle guard, and I heard my writing teacher gasp. I smiled because I knew she was reading ahead (a sign of interest), and her gasp let me know I surprised her. What a great moment! Another time in class, I had been given lots of “constructive criticism” on a scene I had read, so I revised and brought it back. Um, several times. The exhilarating moment was when, after the third or fourth re-write, at the end of my read, I got a small cheer. I’d finally nailed it. Hard won, that one.
Do you outline and plan your plot first or do you just write and let the characters develop their own plot as you write? I plot. I outline. I plot some more. My outlines come in the form of long discourses of dialog (because I think in dialog) or a single sentence like “He ruminates by the lake.” I go scene by scene and put down what I have. Sometimes a whole chapter might be “They cross the desert.” Other times, it’s down to each intake of a character’s breath.
Does research help you write? How? Absolutely. If I’m researching details, say castle defenses, then I probably already have the plot and scene in my head. But I’m plotting the second of my trilogy, and it takes place in the desert. When I’m reading about the desert, I start to see scenes in my mind—what the buildings look like, how the characters dress, but mostly, what happens to them. I already know the major plots points of the story (I took Rebecca Petruck’s plotting class and recommend it), but the research helps me figure out how to move from one scene to the next.
What is your website? Blog? I don’t have either. A website is on my to-do list, but at the lower end. A published author at last year’s Charlotte conference said that, realistically, I have two years after I sell my story before it’s released, so there’s time to create an internet presence. For me, social media is just not natural. I’m a private person and don’t share my life on Facebook. And, frankly, I don’t have time to blog. I have too much to learn about craft and so much writing to do. If I don’t focus on that, all the social media in the world won’t sell a crappy book.
What are writing tips you’ve found helpful for writing? All rules can be broken and are on a regular basis, so nothing I say is sacrosanct. But I’ll start with all of the things I did wrong in the beginning:
Ten Tips from Lynn Harris
1) Don’t start with a dream (ditto)
2) Don’t start with a prologue (been there, done that)
3) Don’t start with getting out of bed and dressing (heavens, did that too)
4) Write every day. I don’t but come close. I write five days a week and have class a sixth day. On the seventh I feed my spirit.
5) Read your genre. I do that a lot. I love YA and I love fantasy, so it’s not difficult.
6) Read a lot. I do that too. I read outside my genre (historicals, romance, sci fi, contemporary) for the fun of it. I also find that they bleed into my work in ways I don’t expect.
7) Read like a writer. That’s tough for me because I get caught up in a good book. Sometimes I’ll read a particularly good one twice so I can focus on craft the second time through.
8) Build a writing community. Writing is an introverted experience – we do it alone. And that can lead to an insular experience that hurts the writing in the end. Join a critique group, a writing class, a writing organization like SCBWI. It was through SCBWI-C that I found my writing class (thank you, Monica!). Go to conferences if you can afford to if for no other reason than to have an excuse to talk about writing. People who aren’t writers will never understand what it’s like. Those who are get your feelings in a flash.
9)Don’t be afraid to cut things from your manuscript, even if the passages are your favorites, but NEVER delete them permanently. In this digital age, it’s easy to save something in a file. You may never put them back, but they’re there for another story one day.
10)And this last one is the most difficult. Stay in the present moment and pay attention to everything. You never know when something in everyday life will inspire exactly what you need to complete a scene, create a new character, or launch a completely new story. The only place of power is right now.
What are 5 things a writer should check in revising a manuscript? I’m in that process now. I won’t mention the obvious ones, like grammar and format. That goes without saying. These are the ones I look at the hardest:
1) POV – I write in first person, so it’s a narrow POV. I have to make sure that everything I write about, my character can actually experience firsthand.
2) Physical world – by this I mean grounding the reader in my world. Am I giving enough detail so that the reader knows where I’m taking them without so much that it bogs the writing down? But I also make sure I don’t lose characters (which I often do). Is every character that’s present in the scene actually seen by the reader?
3) That I don’t let my POV character become a camera. What I mean by that is they observe stuff happening but don’t interact with anything or have an emotional reaction to what they’re seeing . I’m bad about that in a first draft. It usually gets rooted out by my writing class, but I try to be mindful in my revision process as well.
4) Using all of the senses – I’m a visual person, so my first instinct is to describe how things look. But life is much richer than that and my writing needs to be as well.
5) Tracking the details – as my story unfolds in books 2 and 3, I’m finding that certain details, like items that are symbolic or important later, need to be focused on more intensely earlier in the story so the reader will remember them. One of my symbols is a necklace a main character wears. It’s placed around his neck in the first scene, mentioned once later, then I drop it till an important moment in the last scene. Oops. I’ve got to go back and weave in subtle reminders about this necklace so the reader doesn’t forget it in the 300 and some pages in between.
How will you know your manuscript is ready for submission to an editor or agent? It’s not yet, but how will I know when it is? By putting it out with beta readers, critique groups, my writing class, agents/editors at writing conferences. Feedback is key. I don’t know what “yes, it’s ready” looks like yet, but I have lots of experience with “no, it’s not.” I no longer take that personally (that’s another Writing Tip 11—take nothing personally when it comes to feedback on your writing. Get ego out of the way—your are not your writing. When ego gets involved, one gets defensive. When defensive, one can no longer hear.)
How do you plan to find a publisher or agent for your manuscript? Copious amounts of research and hopefully some synchronicity. I see querying as similar to going on tons of first dates. The chemistry has to be there or you/the agent moves on. On my part, I need to query agents who are open to repping YA fantasy. Not everyone is. I need to be prepared with a great hook, compelling query, and know my story inside and out. I can’t be stopped by a rejection (or ten, or twenty, or…).
Lynn Harris grew up in Jamestown, NC, barely a breath from Greensboro where she now resides. After a Bachelor’s in Economics from UNC-CH and a Masters in International Business from the University of South Carolina, she left her beloved southland for Washington, DC. There, Harris was an Intelligence Analyst with the Department of Defense for eight years where she wrote non-fiction. She married an Air Force officer (who has since retired), and convinced him that North Carolina was a great place to raise a family. Returning home was like putting on her most comfortable pair of bedroom shoes after a long day in heels.
Today, Harris is a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, animal lover, vegetarian, world traveler, spiritual seeker, and writer, not necessarily in that order. Priority depends on the day.
Thank you, Lynn Harris, for giving us these great tips for writing and sharing your life and writing experience with us. It was fun. You have a great sense of humor. Good luck with the publication of your young adult and adult fiction manuscripts.
Readers, thank you for reading my blog. Please leave a question or comment for Lynn or for me. We’d love to hear from you.
Here are our three winners: Mary Jo, Linda, and Cindy
Thank you to the many people who read this post and for the following eight people who left comments for us to celebrate 300 subscribers:
1. Linda Andersen
2. Sandra Warren
3. Mary Jo Nickum
5. Kristin Johnson
6. Cindy Bartolotta
7. Barbara Bockman
8. Kathleen Burkinshaw
I asked Random.org to give me 3 winning numbers:
It gave me: 3, 1, and 6.
Number 3 – Mary Jo NIckum receives a free critique of a 1000 word manuscript or an illustration.
Number 1 – Linda Andersen receives a free critique of a pitch and a query letter.
And Number 6, the third winner – Cindy B. wins being a guest on my blog and a chance to share 10 writing or illustrating tips and tell about herself and her creative works in an interview post.
“Interview with Kristina Stanley, Author of DESCENT and BLAZE in the Stone Mountain Mystery Series” by Joan Y. Edwards
Hello, Kristina. Thank you for joining me on my blog today.
You’re welcome, Joan. I can’t wait to meet the readers on your blog and tell them about my new books, Descent and Blaze. I hope they’ll leave comments and ask questions.
I believe they will. Let’s get started.
Where were you born?
Ottawa, but the real question is where did I grow up. By the time I finished high-school, I’d moved several times. Here’s the list: Ottawa, Boston, Kingston, Stockholm, Kingston, Stockholm, Ottawa, Saskatoon, Ottawa, Tokyo, Ottawa, Unteruhldingen, Ottawa, the Caribbean, Panorama, the Bahamas, Panorama. And on it goes, it hope.
Where was your favorite place to live as a child? Why?
The family cottage. Since I moved so often, it was the one constant in my life. This is where I hung with my family and friends and could just be free to play.
Where is your favorite place to live now? Why?
That’s a hard question. We’ve lived so many places and all have beautiful things about them. I’d have to say I like to live where I can be physically active outdoors each day.
How did you do in English in high school?
I’m embarrassed to say, English was not my strong suit. I’m a math woman at heart. I have an honors degree in computer mathematics. Grammar in school used to drive me crazy!
When did you decide to become an author?
Late one night in Unteruhldingen, Germany I was reading MOONLIGHT BECOMES YOU by Mary Higgins Clark. The opening—a woman trapped in a grave. Darkness and silence surround her, and she doesn’t know where she is. I can still see her fingers clawing at the edges of the coffin.
Tucked in my bed, I knew a driver would arrive at 4 a.m. to carry me to the Zurich airport for a flight to London, England. The sensible thing to do was sleep. But I couldn’t. I turned pages until the car arrived. I was exhausted, bleary eyed and excited. At that moment I knew I wanted to write something that forced a person to read and to forget about life for a while.
When I finally started my first novel, I’d been living in a ski resort for five years. Skiing is one of my passions and seemed the obvious topic.
Who or what has been the most help and inspiration to you as a writer?
Joan Barfoot, author of EXIT LINES and many other books, was my mentor through the Humber School for Writers Creative Writing by Correspondence Post Graduate course. She taught me to pay attention to the craft of writing and not just the art.
Her advice: Learn how to use punctuation and grammar! You wouldn’t try to paint without knowing how to create colors by mixing them, would you? Or play the piano without practicing the scales? This advice stayed with me, and I often refer to Joan’s notes on that novel, reminding myself what she taught me.
Tell me about the Series?
DESCENT occurs in winter. BLAZE follows in the spring with arson. AVALANCHE occurs the following winter and is about a theft, and yes, you guessed it, an avalanche.
The fourth in the series, which I haven’t named yet, takes place in the summer and a murder occurs during an ATV adventure. Of course, the who, what, where, when and why of the murder could change by the time I finish the novel. If you happen to have an idea for the title of the fourth novel that fits with the preceding three and is one word, comment below and let me know.
What’s your favorite book? Why?
My answer my sound trite, but it’s usually the book I’m reading. I love reading every day. Mostly I read in the mystery genre, but I like fantasy, sci-fi and the paranormal, too. I like to read books by authors I have connection with and that will take me to any genre.
Did you outline and plan your stories before you wrote them or did these stories develop on their own as you wrote them?
First I created the crime. For DESCENT, I was enjoying the sun at the cottage. Water lapped on the rocks. Wind kept the temperature cool. My mind wandered…How to kill a ski racer? I won’t give the answer, or I’d spoil the story, but I had the how of the crime. Once I know the crime, I like to build my cast of characters and work with them for a while. What would drive a balanced person to murder? How do the characters know each other? How did a relationship change from love to hate? These questions lead me through the plot.
If I knew up front how the story ended, I don’t think I’d be interested in writing it.
How much research did you have to do for writing and/or publishing your books or manuscript in progress? What helped you in doing your research?
I spent almost six years as the director of human resources, guest services and security at an isolated ski resort in British Columbia. Much of my technical knowledge comes from this experience. The job gave me connections with the fire department and the RCMP which were very helpful with my research. The people I worked with at the ski resort still assist me with technical details about snow making, running lifts, etc. I think making the right connections has been the most helpful in my research.
What has been the most exhilarating moment as a writer, so far?
This question made me think. I’ve had so many. I think the answer is when I submitted Avalanche to the Humber School for Writers Correspondence program. This was a big moment because I felt like I’d completed a novel, even though it was in draft form and not ready for public consumption. I think this was the moment I knew I was taking writing seriously.
Did you have trouble saying goodbye to your characters once the book was finished?
This is an easy one. I write the Stone Mountain Mystery series, so I don’t have to say goodbye to a character if I don’t want too. They can live on in the next book.
What is your favorite genre? Why?
Mystery, I love a mystery. I’m not a big fan of too much violence, so I love books where there is a crime, but most of the story is about finding the villain.
What’s your favorite book you’ve written? Why?
Avalanche. I wrote it first, even though it is the third in the series, so it’s my “baby”.
What are 5 things a writer should check when revising a manuscript?
spelling and grammar – without this, you may lose readers.
entry and exit points for each scene. Are you in control of how you get in and out of scenes and do you do this in a variety of way?
what is the point of a scene – this is an important question to ask yourself for each scene. If you don’t know the point, then maybe delete the scene.
empty stage – are your characters just talking and the reader doesn’t know anything about where they are.
point of view – who has the point of view and do you stay consistent throughout a scene.
How did you know your manuscript was ready for submission to an editor or agent?
After finishing the Humber School for Writers correspondence course, I wasn’t ready. After the summer workshop, Mary Gaitskill supported me in a submission to an agent. I think the answer is to get an opinion or two from a professional to help guide you.
Which publisher or agent did you choose for your manuscripts? How did you find your publisher or agent?
I found my publisher, Imajin Books, by reading a novel by Cheryl Kaye Tardif. Her style is similar to mine, so I checked to see who her publisher was. As it turned out, Cheryl is the CEO of Imajin Books. I waited until Imajin Books was open for submissions and sent in my work. I followed the guidelines carefully and had my work submitted seconds after the opening time.
Which blog posts do you have the most fun writing?
Kristina Stanley was the director of security at an isolated resort in the depths of the Purcell Mountains, British Columbia. Her time in that job and her love of skiing led her to write the Stone Mountain Mystery series.
Her books have garnered the attention of prestigious crime writing organizations in Canada and England. Crime Writers of Canada nominated DESCENT (July 2015, Imajin Books) for the Unhanged Arthur award for the best unpublished crime novel. The Crime Writers’ Association nominated BLAZE for the Debut Dagger (to be published fall 2015, Imajin Books).
Purchase DESCENT as an E-book or paperback on Amazon in many countries.
BLAZE, Book 2 in the Stone Mountain Mystery Series
Instead of exchanging vows, Kalin Thompson spends her wedding day running from a forest fire near Stone Mountain Resort, and the pregnant friend trapped with her has just gone into labor. Meanwhile, Kalin’s fiancé, Ben Timlin, hangs from the rafters of a burning building, fighting for his life. Can the situation get any hotter?
When the fire is declared as arson, finding the firebug responsible becomes Kalin’s personal mission. In the course of her investigation as Director of Security, she discovers that some people will go to extreme measures to keep her from exposing their secrets.
“Meet Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Author/Editor, Marketing Guru” by Joan Y. Edwards
Carolyn, it is good to see you here today. Thank you for being a guest on my blog. I appreciate you coming to share your great ideas for writing and giving us a glimpse into your life as a writer.
Thank you for inviting me. I love to talk about writing. I’m anxious to get started.
3-2-1 Let’s go.
1. How did you do in English as a kid?
Loved English. Hated math. Part of that was the times. Gender bigotry was rampant and this was part of it.
2. When did you decide to become an author?
I decided I wanted to write very early on. I got active as a journalist on my high school newspaper and even got a vague idea for a novel. But that’s different from “becoming an author.” That happened very late-when most people are considering retirement.
3. What’s your favorite book? Why?
Anna Karenina. It first helped me see what cultural repression does to people.
4. Are your characters based on real people?
Most of them are. But not on a single person. I believe that there is no such thing as making a character up from scratch. We all operate on what we know through our senses.
5. Did you outline and plan your books before you wrote them?
I haven’t done that yet. But I plan to. I think it will save me several drafts.
6. How much research did you have to do for writing and/or publishing your books or manuscript in progress?
Very little because most of my writing is based on true stories. Though fact checking is still essential even in a case like this. I do get surprised occasionally about how memory doesn’t serve.
7. Did you cry while writing one of your books?
Yes, and I’ve been told that my readers do, too. But the endings tend to be happy—just in a different way.
8. Do you have trouble saying goodbye to your characters when you finish the book?
I don’t think I ever do.
9. What’s your favorite book you’ve written?
The one I just finished and is the hands of my agent—This Land Divided.
10. What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you related to your writing or book tours?
A man wanted to know if I had a Ph.D. to write novels. He said he had been to many signings and most authors had them. I discovered the problem was he had been to signings of authors who write nonfiction and I’m not sure he saw the difference.
11. What is your favorite genre?
Poetry. I love symbol, theme, metaphor.
12. What’s the best way for a writer to improve their writing skills?
The number one thing to improve your writing skills is to READ IN THE GENRE YOU WRITE IN and READ THE BEST WRITERS IN THAT GENRE.
The second thing is to read books about writing in general. I suggest at least one book a month, even if you think you don’t have enough time for writing.
Read about specific areas of writing.
Read about writing dialogue.
Read about structure.
Read Joseph Campbell.
Read about grammar and editing.
13. How can a writer find their distinctive voice for their writing?
All of us have a distinctive voice. It’s a matter of finding it. We do that by knowing what we are passionate about and saying it from the heart.
14. What’s the best way to choose the right narrator for your book – 1st, 2nd, or 3rd?
Oh, I could write a book on this. It’s one reason a synopsis or outline is a good idea. It helps us see what will be required. Example. I love first person because it brings our characters close to the reader. But a character can only be in one place at any given time so the author must carefully contrive (without looking contrived) who he or she can tell the whole story without its being obvious—the contrivance that is. An outline will help us see if we can do that.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to write in one voice and switch to another to see how it feels..
15. How can writers improve their revision process?
I just released the 2nd edition of my book, The Frugal Editor. It is available as a Kindle edition and in paperback. It takes a whole book to answer that question. Yes, it includes: proper formatting, pet words, correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation, varied sentence structure.
16. What does it take to be a great writer?
To be great writers, we must know tons about our entire industry. It makes us better writers but it also prepares us to partner with other experts. No writer is an island, but no writer should put himself or herself at the mercy of another because they don’t understand something about publishing like formatting, marketing –even indexing!
I agree with Joan’s mantra: Never give up. Persistence is the key.
A short bio
Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the author of the multi award-winning series of How To Do It Frugally books for writers including USA Book News winner The Frugal Book Promoter. She has been an instructor for UCLA Extension’s renowned Writers Program for nearly a decade believes in entering (and winning!) contests and anthologies as an excellent way to separate our writing from the hundreds of thousands of books that get published each year. She is a poet and novelist. She loves passing along the tricks of the trade she learned from marketing hard-to-promote genres.
Two of the favorite awards bestowed upon her:
“Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment” given by members of the California Legislature
“Women Who Make Life Happen” given by the Pasadena Weekly newspaper.
Thank you, Carolyn, for being a guest on my blog. I admire you and appreciate you sharing your expertise with us.
Carolyn Johnson-Howard is giving away a free copy of THE FRUGAL EDITOR, SECOND EDITION, Kindle Edition (eBook). To put your name in the hat for the drawing, leave a comment on this blog post before midnight Friday, February 21, 2014. Random.org will choose the winner. I will announce the winner on Saturday, February 22, 2014.
Celebrate you every day.
You are a gift to our world
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards
Subscribe to Joan’s Never Give Up blog by email from the left-hand column and receive a free Never Give Up logo image. You’ll receive her new blog posts filled with inspiration and information in your inbox as soon as they are uploaded.
I believe it’s a good idea to know your main character well.
1. Perhaps you’d know the answer to these questions about your main character:
What kind of schedule does your main character follow?
What are his favorite foods?
What foods does he detest?
Does he eat healthy?
Does he drink alcoholic beverages?
Where did he go to high school?
Did he graduate from college?
What is the relationship with his parents? grandparents?
What is he deathly afraid of?
What is he proud of?
What kind of clothing does he wear to work? for fun? to bed?
What would your parents think of this character?
What does he do really well?
What skill is his very worst?
What are his three worst habits?
Here are three websites with other good interview questions and ideas.
2. Cut out magazine pictures that you believe might look like them.
3. Write out a weekly journal pretending you are the character.
4. Ask the character questions in a letter. Have the character answer the questions in a letter. You can email them to yourself.
5. Give the character 3 props from his past. Ask him to tell you the story behind why they are significant to him.
6. If you see an actor that would fit the description of your character, rent a movie he acts in and pick up a quirky habit or two, or describe how they walk.
It’s fun to create a new character. These are only a few ideas to get you started or to add dimension to a character whose story you’ve already written. Good luck in your ventures to add life and reality to your characters.
Enjoy yourself. Life is a precious gift.
Thanks for reading my blog. Please comment telling me what you believe writers should know about their main character.
We only have 20 more people to go before I have 100 people subscribed to my blog. Then we are going to have a big celebration. Ten free pitch and 1000 word manuscript critiques to 10 lucky winners and 1 free pitch and 5000 word manuscript critique to the overall winner. Thank you for sharing my blog posts with your friends.
Put a Positive Spin on Your Writing Life Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards
Jeff Herman’s Guide is the best jam-packed book of good information for writers I have ever read. It is more than two inches thick and has 1,094 pages. The font size is large enough that I don’t need a magnifying glass to read it. It gives a broad picture of how authors, agents, and publishers work together. It gives vital information about publishers, agents, and book doctors (editors) to help writers achieve the goal of getting their manuscripts published. It has the keys to publication success. It’s sold more than 350,000 copies. I keep it close to my computer and take it with me on vacation. I think if I use the resources inside, I will get my work published. If you can get a copy from the library or purchase a copy, I believe it holds the keys to your publication success, too.
The book has the following ingredients:
1. Big Publisher Multi-National Conglomerates
2. Independent United States Publishers
3. Canadian Book Publishers
4. University Presses
The first four sections of this book are about publishers. It gives you book publishers and the names of their editors when the book went to press. He gives you the big conglomerates, independent book publishers, and Canadian publishers, and university presses. It has picture symbols to denote different genres: religious (cross), romance (heart), children’s books (school bus), and others for adult, poetry, fantasy, etc. By browsing for a certain icon, you can quickly find publishers who are interested in your genre.
Each category lists the snail mail address, phone number, and website. It tells the history of the company. It lists the titles published. It tells you what genres each publisher is looking for and which the publisher does not accept. It gives submission guidelines. It tells whether a publisher accepts only agented material or if they will accept unsolicited manuscripts. Even though Jeff took great care to print the latest publisher guideline information in his book, it is very important to check the website for up-to-date submission guidelines before you submit a manuscript.
Follow a publisher or agent’s latest guidelines. If you don’t read and follow their guidelines, publishers, editors, and agents deem that you are not ready for publication. To get an advantage in being chosen, follow the submission guidelines.
5. Literary Agents – It explains the job of a literary agent. It tells you his hobbies and personal interests, too. It lists the snail mail address, phone number, and website. It tells the history of the agency. It tells if he is a member of the Association of Author Representatives. It’s a good idea for your agent to belong to this association. It lists authors the agent represents, along with the published book titles. It tells subjects and categories that interest him and those he definitely, absolutely, positively does not want.
6. Advice for Writers – Essays about unsolicited manuscripts, query letters, proposals, author-agency contracts, self-publishing, and future of publishing. It contains samples of good query letters and proposals.
7. Independent Editors (Book Doctors) – Information about editors that Jeff Herman trusts. You can choose one according to their experience, reputation, and the authors for whom they edited manuscripts. Sometimes these editors recommend you to an agent or a publisher.
8. Resources for Writers – Lists book titles, websites, and blogs that help writers improve their craft in adult and children’s fiction and non-fiction.
9. Glossary – Contains definitions of important writing terms.
10. Index – Has page numbers for publishers, editors, literary agents, and subjects mentioned in the book.
My Suggestions for using Jeff’s Guide:
1. Borrow the book from the library or a friend or purchase it.
2. Purchase a notebook (spiral or bound) or make a computer file with your favorite word processing software, like Microsoft Word or Microsoft Works.
3. After you read each section, make a list of ten publishers, agents, and book doctor editors who are a good match for you and your book(s). Write the name of your manuscript you plan to send them. Put page number in Jeff’s book, so you can go back to it.
4. Highlight three to send query letters or cover letters with manuscript.
5. Write down the submission guidelines. Put a link to the website. If they accept email submissions, include the email address. Write the name of editor who receives the submission queries. Follow a publisher or agent’s latest guidelines. If you don’t read and follow their guidelines, publishers, editors, and agents may decide that you are not ready for publication. To make sure they choose you, follow their submission guidelines. UsePubSub3rdFri posts to help get your submission(s) ready.
6. Send off three submissions. Get a certificate from PubSub3rdFri to celebrate your submissions. Reward yourself.
Thanks for reading my blog. I hope reading my blog inspires you to Never Give Up on yourself or your writing.
To enter a contest to win a free copy of a book, follow the directions below:
Sign up for an email subscription from the “Sign me up” block from the top of the left hand column. The 50th person to subscribe by email from the left will receive a free paperback copy of Flip Flap Floodle or a 1001 Ways to Market Your Books by John Kremer.
I will enter all email subscribers at midnight (EST) on January 18, 2011 into a random drawing to win a free copy of Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents 2011. Sign up for an email subscription from the “Sign me up” block from the top of the left hand column.
I will enter everyone who leaves a comment on this post by midnight (EST) Tuesday, January 18, 2011 into a random drawing to win a free copy of Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents 2011.
I will enter each person who leaves a comment on My Interview with Jeff Hermanblog post by midnight (EST) Tuesday, January 18, 2011 into a random drawing to win a free copy of Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents 2011.
My sincere thanks to Jeff Herman and his publicist, Beth Pehlke, for donating three free copies of his book for these contests and allowing me to review his book and interview him on my blog. I am very honored that she chose me.
I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to share a link to my blog with others. Use email, Facebook, Twitter, or other means to share.