Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Writer's Wish List

Like everyone else, I have a wish list. Actually there's two--a personal one and a writing one.


My personal one might sound a bit grandiose, but then, what are wishes for but the amazing, far-reaching dreams.
  • World Peace--Yes, it's an old chestnut, but that doesn't make it any less true.
  • Understanding for All--It's a corollary to the first. In fact, it made be the method to achieve the first. For when we truly understand the reality of each other, we can find common ground and common steps for achieving peace.
  • Health and Well Being--Since I have some major chronic problems that get in the way of my writing, I'd love to solve them. Like I said in the intro, my wishes are a bit on the grandiose side and this one is no less hard to accomplish than the first two.
And now for the writing ones:
  • A finished semi-polished manuscript--I'm nearing this wish and can see the finish line. 
  • A query letter that shows my manuscript off to its best advantage--This is a bit of a wild wish. Queries are another type of writing that I'll have to learn from the ground up.
  • A series of synopses in varying lengths--Like the query, writing a synopsis is a new step for me, one that is necessary, but daunting. How would you like to tell you book-length story in one, two, three, or five-pages? Let's just say, I'm not looking forward to it. My first attempt showed me that I was trying to cobble two stories into one. What dangers lurk in the next attempt? 
  • An agent who gets my vision for MOTHER'S DAY, and sees the perfect market for it. I have to achieve the queries and synopses to get to this wish.
So, there you have it, my very own wish list. For some reason, I don't think Santa will be packing any of them on his sleigh.

What about you? Do you have a few wild and wonderful wishes? Care to share? ;-)

Next Week: A Merry Christmas Poem! 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

December Tip Week--A Gift for Writers

Here you go! For the writer who has everything except the perfect adjective to describe someone's voice!

Once I saw this list, I realized I had been spinning my wheels trying to get the right word for my characters' voices. So, I'll unveil my character traits here:
  • Dean Talley--taut
  • Emmanuel Nunez--gravelly, gruff
  • Rosemary Talley--brittle, honeyed (yep, same voice!)
  • Samantha Smith--small, thin
I'm still thinking about about some of the others. 

Hey, it's fun to play with and, who knows, some of them might stick. Besides, it's only nine days till Christmas and this writer is ready to celebrate! 

Next Week: My Wish List! ;-)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

December Mini Book Reviews: J. Bourne, D. Gabaldon, M. Gable, K. Lynne

Yes, this is the first week of December, so I thought you might still need some excellent gift suggestions.

ROGUE SPY Joanna Bourne: Historical Romance

As is fitting for a multiple RITA winner, Joanna Bourne adds another wonderful book to the Spymaster Series. Pax and Cami are two the most well drawn characters you'll every meet. Add the intrigue of spying during the French Revolution, Napoleonic Era and Regency England and you have a setting that showcases them in all their glory.

THE FIERY CROSS Diana Gabaldon: Historical Fiction

In Diana Gabaldon's fifth Outlander Series book, she continues to weave history with fiction with her amazing skill. Her spellbinding story of Jamie, Claire and their family will keep you reading late into the night.

A PARIS APARTMENT Michelle Gable: Literary Women's Fiction

A Paris Apartment is compulsive page-turner that blends fiction with history. I promise the history was new to me. This is a wonderful read and the Goodreads Women's Fiction Book Club selection for December.

 NOR GOLD Kerry Lynne: Historical Fiction

Kerry Lynne as served up another rousing tale in her Pirate Captain: Chronicles of a Legend with Nor Gold. Once again Nathan Blackthorne, Cate McKenzie, and their pirate ship sails into trouble and revenge...and good, old fashioned love. Enjoy! Check out my interview with Kerry Lynne on March 12, 2013.


Also check out Normandie Fischer's Sailing Out of Darkness, the November selection for the Women's Fiction Book Club at Goodreads.


December is a busy, busy month and I've got book suggestions and a few different types of posts on tap for you. Be sure and take a break from the hustle and bustle of the season In the Shade of the Cherry Tree. ;-)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

November Mini Book Reviews: A. Mulligan, L. Rosenberg, Lorrie Thompson

Lovely November is here with it's rain, wind, cold. Winter is setting in and I need to read. Don't you? ;-)


CHAPEL SPRINGS REVIVAL Ane Mulligan: Christian Women's Ficiton

Chapel Springs Revival is humorous, charming, and completely Southern fired. Believe me, you will laugh out loud at the antics of Clare and Patsy as they try to revive their Georgia mountain village. The Christian messages of this book are understated and rooted in the faith of the character, not preached to the reader. This is a solid story that will warm your heart.

THE MOONLIGHT PALACE Liz Rosenberg: Historical Fiction

The Moonlight Palace is an enchanting story set in Singapore in the early twentieth century and tells the fascinating coming or age of a remarkable girl.

EQUILIBRIUM Lorrie Thompson: Literary Women's Fiction

Sorrow and its effects are the central theme of Equilibrium. The story is an amazing look at how Laura and her children deal with unthinkable sorrow and find they equilibrium from within and in their relationships with each other and their friends. Equilibrium  was the Goodreads' Women's Fiction Book Club for October.


Next Week: December Mini Book Reviews Part 1. (You know you need those last minute gift ideas. See you In the Shade! ;-)

Advent is nearly here and starts on November 30. Be sure to get ready and take A Christmas Walk. Ebooks are available at Amazon. It makes a great gift for those buddies who read ebooks, too. ;-)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

November Author Interview: RITA Winner Joanna Bourne

I met Joanna Bourne at the Books and Writers Forum when I joined in 2008. Immediately, I was drawn to her as an author, teacher, and friend. Over the years she has written some of the best historical romances ever published and I’m thrilled to get to interview her. Her latest Rogue Spy came out on November 4 and I expect it will be in contention for a RITA just like her award-winning The Black Hawk and My Lord and Spymaster. Be sure to check out her blog (there will be a link here) that’s full of info on writing and various research topics she’s uncovered while working on her wonderful books.


For years he’d lived a lie. It was time to tell the truth . . . even if it cost him the woman he loved.

Ten years ago he was a boy, given the name Thomas Paxton and sent by Revolutionary France to infiltrate the British Intelligence Service. Now his sense of honor brings him back to London, alone and unarmed, to confess. But instead of facing the gallows, he’s given one last impossible assignment to prove his loyalty.

Lovely, lying, former French spy Camille Leyland is dragged from her safe rural obscurity by threats and blackmail. Dusting off her spy skills, she sets out to track down a ruthless French fanatic and rescue the innocent victim he’s holding—only to find an old colleague already on the case. Pax.

Old friendship turns to new love, and as Pax and Camille’s dark secrets loom up from the past, Pax is left with a choice—go rogue from the Service or lose Camille forever…


ZM: I’m so excited to get the chance to interview you for In the Shade of the Cherry Tree! Your historical romances are so much more than just romances. The historical accuracy speaks to my historian’s heart and your characters’ intelligence speaks to my mind. How did you come up with the idea of spies in the French Revolution and Napoleonic era as a setting?

Jo: In this era --  from a bit before the American Revolution to the Battlefield of Waterloo -- most of what we take for granted about how we run governments and how we think about personal freedom was decided.  This was a time of Big Ideas clashing. People were fighting over the right to vote. Freedom of religion. Equality under the law. Fair taxation.

Folks on both sides were passionate. People of Good Will disagreed. What better time and place to spy?

ZM: What draws you to the romance genre? Have you ever written any other genre?

 Jo: I’m Historical Romance all the way, though I wrote nonfiction for years before I started writing fiction.

 I want happy endings. I want heroes and heroines. I want brave, clever, principled characters who behave well under difficult circumstances. So I write Romance. Romance is, by definition, generally optimistic and with an upbeat ending.

 ZM: As I said earlier, your characters are full and three-dimensional. Do you have any certain techniques for discovering them?

 Jo: I think the answer to creating rich characters is to give yourself time.  Sit and think about them. Go for long walks and imagine them. When you’re falling asleep, dream about the scenes of the book.

 And then write the story. When you’re writing the characters will reveal themselves by their actions.

 ZM: Many craft books stress that writers must read and read a lot. Who is your favorite author, or what is your favorite genre? What draws you to a book you read for enjoyment?

 Jo: I don’t actually read much Romance genre. I have no idea why this should be the case. Maybe I’m scared that I’ll find myself picking up ideas from other writers. Maybe when a story is similar to my own it comes to jostle in my head too much.

 So what do I read?  I read strong stylists in any field. They have lots to teach me if I can only be sharp enough to pick it up. Dunnett, Sayers, Peter S. Beagle, Bujold, Douglas Adams ...many others.

 But mostly what I read for fun is nonfiction. A good bit of that is the diaries and journals of people in my era of interest. I also read just off-the-wall stuff about the weird, unusual corners of reality.  I’m re-reading Plagues and People right now, with its somewhat off-beat version of history. And I recently finished Travels With Charley.   I’m a sucker for road books.

 ZM: Are you already working on the next book, or is it time for a break? What do you do after the final rush of publication is over?

 Jo: What do I do to celebrate the completion of a manuscript?

A nice meal at a good restaurant. Out for coffee with my betas and my friends and I buy everybody chocolates. And maybe I raise a glass of wine.

No time for a long break though.

As to the next work ...   I’m frantically plugging away on the next manuscript. This will be the Severine story.

I’m at the stage when it seems impossible to write and nothing is fitting together and I am totally certain I will never be able to get it right. This stage starts when I realize I have another manuscript due and I don’t know what it is.  It continues until I get the galleys of the book and know it is now  Too Late To Change Anything. 

ZM: Finally, what questions do wish interviewers would ask, but they never do?

 Jo: I want interviewers to ask -- Do you have a Writer’s Cat?

And I will say that I have a Writer’s Cat who contributes bushels of fur to my efforts and lies across my keyboard when I am particularly brilliant and filled with ideas.

Everyone should have a Writer’s Cat.

ZM: ;-) My toy poodles are filling that function at the moment. Thank you for a lovely conversation and for such wonderful reads!


Joanna Bourne is the award-winning author of historical romances set in England and France during the Napoleonic Wars, including My Lord and Spymaster and The Spymaster's Lady. Joanna lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge with her family, a medium-sized mutt and a faux Himalayan cat. She writes Historical Romances set in England and France during the Napoleonic Wars. She's fascinated by that time and place - such passionate conviction and burning idealism ... and really sexy clothes.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

November Tip Week: Moving or Manipulating?

In a guest post at Amy Sue Nathan's Women's Fiction Writers, Traci Borum asks a great question: Do Books Move or Manipulate You?

Poor kitty! There's only one way to go. (Source)

I've been thinking about this since I first read it. It's easy to manipulate readers by setting up the emotions we want them to feel. But is it a good idea? I say NO! (How loudly do you want me to yell? ;-) Readers aren't idiots. They can tell when writers take short cuts to emotions and telegraph what they should feel. It makes your stories forgettable and feeble, in my opinion. I don't like being manipulated by writers and usual quit reading because of the manipulation. 

My stories center around deep social and family issues. I could easily fall into the manipulating side of writing, but I truly think the characters of my stories can carry the problems they face and share their trials and triumphs without it. 

Traci Borum suggests several ways to avoid manipulation :
  • Write the story with truth.
  • Stay honest in the moment by being in the moment yourself. 
  • Don't worry about the reader's reaction.
  • Be invested in the characters. Care about them and the readers will too.
  •  Listen to your gut. If it feels like you're trying too hard, dial it back.
What about you? 
Have you read books that manipulated you? 
How did it make you feel? 
Do you have any more suggestions for writers?


Next week: Author Interview! What? You were expecting the mini book review? Well, Thanksgiving made me do it. Really! ;-)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

November Snips Week: NaNo Edition

To NaNo or not to NaNo. That is the question...

Are you participating in the National Novel Writing Month? AKA NaNoWriMo. Though, many novelists shorten that to NaNo.

Trying to make this... (Source)

into this!

The rules are simple:
  • Come up with an idea
  • Aim to write a 50,000 word rough draft in November
  • Track your progress on the NaNoWriMo site
  • Earn badges
And then brag about it in December when you have to take a breather. There's a month dedicated to editing the new manuscript too. The idea is to take the solitary task of writing and create a way to share and challenge each other along.

So, if your writer buddy has all but disappeared from all the usual social media haunts this month, they might be madly scribbling down words or clicking their way through a rapid start on their latest book.

Now for the nitty gritty--Am I aiming for 50,000 new words this month? 

And the answer is: No. My hands would never forgive me. ;-) I did write 28,000 new words in 2010 by playing along with my NaNoing buddies at the Forum.

This year I have another goal in mind. I'm very near a goal that is very dear to every writer's heart--a complete manuscript. It's been said that most writers never finish a first draft. It maybe as high as 95%! I have finished two devotionals and I'd love to add a novel to the list. I'm nearly there and my November will be dedicated to completing MOTHER'S DAY.

Mother's Day Update: October was a very good month. I entered a contest, edited 70 pages, and wrote 2000 new words. To say I'm pleased would be an understatement. ;-) 

Next week is Tip Week. Drop in and share your opinion on whether books move or manipulate you. 

New Book Releases:
Kerry Lynne's second novel in The Pirate Captain Chronicles--NOR GOLD--is out.
Joanna Bourne's newest in the Spymasters Series--ROGUE SPY--comes out today. 
I interviewed Kerry on March 12, 2013 and will have an interview with Joanna on November 18. Be sure to check them both out.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Author Interview: Kathryn Craft

I met Kathryn Craft on the Women’s Fiction Writers Association Yahoo loop prior to the WFWA’s founding in September 2013. Check out her website—Kathryn Craft. Her wit and craft were evident from the start and her debut book—THE ART OF FALLING—was a revelation of what a writer can do with heart, creativity, and the desire to allow her characters to live damaged lives. True to life situations and emotions rule Kathryn’s story. 

One Wrong Step Could Send Her Over the Edge
All Penny has ever wanted to do is dance—and when that chance is taken from her, it pushes her to the brink of despair, from which she might never return. When she wakes up after a traumatic fall, bruised and battered but miraculously alive, Penny must confront the memories that have haunted her for years, using her love of movement to pick up the pieces of her shattered life.

Kathryn Craft's lyrical debut novel is a masterful portrayal of a young woman trying to come to terms with her body and the artistic world that has repeatedly rejected her. The Art of Falling expresses the beauty of movement, the stasis of despair, and the unlimited possibilities that come with a new beginning.


ZM: If I could give THE ART OF FALLING ten stars, it might be enough. This is a spectacular story of one woman's struggle with her body as told through her connection to dance. I have no experience with dance, but I understood every nuance of the story told about movement. Kathryn, how did your experience with dance become the heart of your book and become the metaphor for Penny’s life?

Kathryn: Hi Zan Marie! I can’t tell you how much it means to me to think that my story has given insight into the joy of movement to many non-dancers. Like Penny, I found my “voice” through the wordless medium of dance. I had come to it late, when I was sixteen, so I was old enough to see its challenges as more than training the body. Dance was tilling my soul, and teaching me a new way of moving through the world—a metaphor with enough depth to power a novel, don’t you think? The dance world setting offered me layers of conflict that any reader can relate to, even if unfamiliar with the art form. We all have bodies that have at one point or another disappointed or betrayed us. While the pressures on Penny that affect her career are external; her relationship to movement was elemental. So when she survived her horrific fall, I knew that if she could lean hard enough on her training to remobilize, the dance might be able to save her.

ZM: I’ve classified THE ART OF FALLING as women’s fiction. Would you agree? Do you think women’s fiction is limiting for writers? Do you think book club fiction is a better classification for your books or do these two categories crossover? Do you have a favorite genre to write? 

Kathryn: I think the term “women’s fiction” is useful to the publishing industry. By branding our writing as having female protagonists on an emotional journey, we writers can target our work to the right agents and editors. The designation informs everything from the type of cover to the back cover copy in order to beckon the “right” reader to our work—but in its own sneaky way. Most of my readers have no familiarity with the term “women’s fiction” or any use for it.

“Book club fiction” resonates with me because it’s the only way I have of describing the great big world of disparate books that I love (some of which have male protagonists): lush writing that explores important topics from a variety of viewpoints, in a way that allows us readers to fully examine and embrace the paradoxes life poses. Plus I adore book clubs so much I have led several of them. Exploring important ideas presented in literature is such a great way to get to know other people and yourself. Add wine and snacks, and I’m in heaven!

The only classification that fails to help me is calling THE ART OF FALLING a “dance novel.” Perceptions like this were the main stumbling block to getting it published, since “dance novels” have not historically sold well. Because I agree with you, Zan Marie—this is a woman’s emotional journey, set in the dance world to make use of its high expectations of the female body. The trick was finding an agent and publisher who saw it that way, too.

ZM: Tell us about your next book. Is there a publication date for it yet? 

Kathryn: My next novel is The Far End of Happy, due out in May of 2015. By mid-November I’ll be holding an Advance Reader Copy! If that sounds like the excitement of a debut novelist, it kind of is. While it took me eight years to write THE ART OF FALLING, this novel was seventeen years in the making.

In October 1997 my family got caught up in events that still seem shocking to me, when my husband engaged a massive police presence in a suicide standoff on our idyllic little farm. Our sons were just eight and ten. Already a dance critic, I knew I’d one day write about this tragic day. But what would be its final form—memoir? Fiction? I had several memoir essays published (you can read one here), and wanted to stay close to what I knew to be true—but as my storytelling craft matured I realized that fiction has a way of capturing emotional truths even as details are manipulated. I’d always known that day’s events didn’t happen just to me, and that additional points of view would be the best way to convey this. When the notion of telling the story of the downfall of a family within the tight twelve-hour frame of the standoff came to me, I decided to pitch it to Sourcebooks as my option novel, and they jumped right on it.

ZM: Many craft books stress that writers must read and read a lot. Who is your favorite author, or what is your favorite genre? What draws you to a book you read for enjoyment?

Kathryn: I want important ideas, beautiful language, and deep perspective. A world I can enter into fully, which is a trick for someone who worked as a critic for nineteen years and has been a developmental editor for eight! I sample widely from best-selling literature and fear I have no one favorite author, but I wouldn’t need to even read the back cover copy before plunking down my money for a new book by Ann Patchett, Anna Quindlen, Barbara Kingsolver, Amy Tan, Janet Fitch, Roland Merullo, Wally Lamb, Khaled Hosseini, and Margot Livesey. Among others!

ZM: Finally, what questions do you wish interviewers would ask, but they never do?

Kathryn: What might readers be surprised to hear about your life as a published author?

Books change readers’ lives. We all know this. But I’m not sure readers realize the way they change an author’s life. That might start by purchasing and reading her book. Or by attending virtual or in-person events. Or by sponsoring events, whether a book club Skype visit or hosting a party and inviting friend they might think would like the book. Or by reaching out through email—like the man who picked it up at the library because of the cover and ended up wanting to shout from the rooftops about it because it was “so true,” or the 69-year-old ballroom dancer who gifted ten copies because he loved it so, or the discouraged dancers and artists and writers my story has bolstered. Readers can help build the author’s career by writing a brief review—believe me, I will never forget the woman who wrote, “If I could give The Art of Falling ten stars, it might be enough…” Or by inviting me on her blog—honestly, you just want to hug someone like that.

Authors go a lot of places and meet a lot of people. Sometimes names fade. But the soul of that reader that engages fully with your work, and tells you about it, leaves an imprint that is never, ever forgotten.

ZM: Thank you, Kathryn! 
 Kathryn Craft is the author of THE ART OF FALLING, book club fiction debuted from Sourcebooks in January 2014. Her work as a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, specializing in storytelling structure and writing craft, follows a career as a dance critic (Morning Call, Allentown, PA). Over the past decades she has served on the boards of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group and the Philadelphia Writers Conference, and is now involved with the Women's Fiction Writers Association; she hosts writing retreats for women, and speaks often about writing. She is a monthly guest at Writers in the Storm with her series "Turning Whine into Gold," and a member of the Tall Poppy Writers. She lives with her husband in Bucks County, PA. Representation: Katie Shea Boutillier, Donald Maass Literary Agency. Follow her on social media at Kathryn Craft Author (Facebook) and @kcraftwriter (Twitter).


Next Week: Mini Book Review! Come find a good book. You know you want to. ;-)