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Writing

When, Where, and How I Write

I’m an early morning riser, so that’s the best time for me to write, a cup of coffee by my side and zero interruptions. Yes, I quickly check email and social media, but then it’s down to business for a few hours.

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My latest novel, The Sweet Spot.

I know people who write in coffee shops and libraries. Some go on retreats. My place is a room of my own in our home. I am fortunate to have a desk built by my husband, Hank, from black walnut boards somebody was going toss. He also built me desktop shelving units to store papers, cords and other tools. Then, there’s the view out my large window of the Taos mesa — if I squint I can pretend the sagebrush is the ocean — and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, its peaks still snow-covered in April. I keep my office area neat and uncluttered. I’d like to think my mind is the same way, ha.

When I first began writing fiction, I was an editor at a daily newspaper. I left for that job promptly at 6:10 a.m. So, I wrote at night after dinner, printed whatever I wrote, and marked up the copy at lunch. Ten years ago, after I moved to Taos and worked at a paper here, I got up very early to write before heading to the newsroom.

Of course, there were the weekends.

After leaving my post as a newspaper’s managing editor nearly a year ago, I maintain my early morning writing spree but also gleefully find time during the day when the spirit moves me. (I now have teaching, editing, and book review gigs.) I sit at my laptop whenever and let it fly.

When it comes to writing fiction, I don’t use outlines or notes. It just comes from my head and somewhere else, I often believe. I feel blessed. (Oh, yeah, there’s rewriting, lots of it.)

As I’ve gained confidence in my writing, I do less printing as I go along. I usually wait until my novel has some real heft before I print anything, maybe halfway through.

And, yes, I back it up, back it up, and back it up.

I don’t belong to writing groups. It’s not my thing. I don’t even show people what I write until I feel the novel is ready. However, I made an exception for a mystery I’ve just finished. I let my author friend Teresa read the chapters as I finished them. She gave a great deal of encouragement along the way. I finished that novel in less than five months. Hmm, I might be onto something new.

And here is the link to my latest novel, The Sweet Spot. No aliens, vampires or zombies. Just real people doing real things and getting into trouble for it. And thanks to those who are keeping my five-star streak alive. The Sweet Spot on Amazon

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: This walkway along Paseo del Pueblo Norte in Taos caught my eye the other day.

 

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Wanda Pyle
Author Interview

6Ws with Author Wanda DeHaven Pyle

Wanda DeHaven Pyle, who lives in California, is a member of my BooksGoSocial team. Her latest novel is The Steel Canyon Legacy, “a gritty and poignant reminder of a lost decade.”

Here are Wanda’s responses to my 6Ws — who, what, when, where, how, and why. Steel Canyon C(Yes, how does end with a W.)

Who is author Wanda DeHaven Pyle?

I am a retired educator and grandmother of 10 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren. I grew up on a farm in the Flint Hills of Kansas and was a frequent writer of stories as a child. I always thought that one day I would grow up to become a writer. Unfortunately, life had a way of intervening in best of my plans.

I am descended from a long line of educators going back as far as anyone can remember. It seemed a natural course for me to take at a time when few careers were open to women. Thus, a career in education coincided nicely with marriage and children and allowed me the flexibility to be home when they were little while still pursuing my love of literature.

I received my Bachelor’s Degree from Kansas State Teacher’s College in Emporia, Kansas as did my mother and grandmother before me. I earned a Master’s Degree in Education from Wichita State University and a Doctorate in Education from Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, California. Retiring after 38 years as a teacher and administrator, I decided to reinvent myself as an author and pursue a dream that had been deferred since childhood.

I live in Claremont, California with my husband and spend my retirement years writing, traveling and volunteering my time in support of at-risk children. I author two blogs: one entitled “School Marms and Cowboys” at http://drwandapyle.blogspot.com where I record the personal reflections and insights gleaned through my writing, and another entitled “The Write Stuff” at https://wandadehavenpyle.wordpress.com focusing on the work of indie authors.

What does she write?

It is difficult to categorize my work into just one genre. I am somewhere between Literary Fiction and Historical Fiction/Family Saga. My first book, Windborne, is more of a fictional memoir covering the lives of three extraordinary women against a century of social and political changes. I am currently at work on the final book in my legacy trilogy, which follows one family through three decades during the 60s, 70s and 80s. Although there is certainly a historical backdrop, the stories lean more closely toward literary fiction.

When does she write?

I began writing stories as a youngster to entertain myself on the farm. When we weren’t working in the fields, or had some idle time, I used to spin fantasy stories about magical lands far away. Now I try to write a little every week when I can work it into my schedule. It comes in spurts. Some days, when the ideas are flowing, I can write all day not even stopping to eat. Other days, I do well to write for an hour. I have written three books in the last five years so that gives you an idea as to how often I write.

Where does she write?

My husband and I share an office in our home. I have a little corner where I write. I tend to shut out everything when I write and concentrate only on the story I am trying to tell.

How does she write?

I compose and edit on my laptop. My process begins with a story outline or map. This is followed by a brief description of the characters – what they look like, how they act, what motivates them. Then comes the research into the time and place of the action. I try to keep it as authentic as possible. Once I have this in place, I can begin to fill in the details and tell the story.

Why does she write?

I feel compelled to tell the stories in my head. They are often based on personal experiences or encounters that spark a story. My may catch a glance of someone in a park and that will set me off in an imaginary direction as I invent a story to go with the person or situation. At that point, I feel I must write it all down.

About Steel Canyon Legacy

Something was terribly wrong in the 1970s. In some ways the decade was a continuation of the 1960s. In other ways, however, it was a repudiation of all that gone before. The American character had changed. For Tessa Kingsley and her family it was a decade of tears and triumph.

Finding herself alone and responsible for her two sons and an aging mother, Tessa must navigate her way through a world filled with fragmentation and skepticism. As a woman reentering the workforce, she finds herself facing the same kind of discrimination and lower wages that she and Simon had previously fought so hard against. The way of life she had always dreamed of now seems outdated and out of reach.

Tessa’s children also reflect the dilemma of the decade. Each views the world from a different perspective. Aaron, the youngest, sees the promise and excitement of a world on the brink of change. Christopher, however, manifests his adolescent rebelliousness in a reflexive cynicism toward authority, blaming adults for all the world’s ills.

Tessa’s journey takes her through the glittering nightlife of Miami, Chicago, and Las Vegas. But, ultimately, she is unable to escape the demons from the past that follow her. She soon finds herself drawn into a world of drugs, gambling and mob vengeance before she finally finds the strength to break free. In the process she also discovers her own sensuality and individuality. It’s a legacy she will pass on to her children in the years to come.

The Steel Canyon Legacy is a gritty and poignant reminder of a lost decade. It is filled with passion and intrigue, and the divergent story lines will keep the reader guessing until the very end.

Other Works by Wanda DeHaven Pyle

The Stone House Legacy (The Legacy Trilogy Book 1), Windborne

 More about Wanda DeHaven Pyle

ON AMAZON: Amazon_Wanda_DeHaven_Pyle

TWITTER: @pyle_wanda

FACEBOOK: Facebook_Wanda_DeHaven_Pyle

BLOG: wandadehavenpyle.wordpress.com

BLOG: drwandapyle.blogspot.com

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James Fant
James Fant

6Ws with Author James Fant

James Fant, an author from Charleston, South Carolina, is a member of my BooksGoSocial team. His latest novel is COED, which explores whether a man and woman can be best friends without crossing that line to intimacy. Yes, I read COED eBook Coverand enjoyed his novel very much.

Here are James’ responses to my 6Ws — who, what, when, where, how, and why. (Yes, how does end with a W.)

Who is author James Fant?

James Fant is a creator of fake worlds that make real people ask interesting questions. For example, in my latest novel, COED, the reader will ask: Can a man and a woman be just best friends without at least one of them wanting more than mere friendship? I love to entertain readers; however, I also like to make them think.

What does he write?

I write romance, science fiction, historical, and even mystery. I guess, I’m just a storyteller. I tell stories about everyday people because I want my readers to relate. I write stories about flawed people because aren’t we all striving for perfection and making mistakes along the way. So if I write about a character with a specific flaw, and I show how that character dealt with his/her issue, perhaps readers can identify and say, “Hey, I should approach it this way.” Also, I try to keep it spicy. Keep the prose moving. Give my readers something to look forward to as they turn the page, or swipe the screen.

When does he write? (Alternative question: When did he begin writing fiction?)

I started writing fiction professionally in 2006. I started off with short stories; in fact, my first novel, AN ODE FOR ORCHIDS, was originally a short story called Shawties. I began writing and the characters told me that they had a lot more to say than the confines of a short story could contain. So that story turned into a novel and in doing so, took me completely by surprise. If you would’ve told me that I was going to be writing novels when I graduated from college in 1999, I would’ve laughed at you. Hey! There’s an interesting idea for a novel: a time-traveler going back in time to tell someone that they were going to do X, Y and Z and they were amazed at this because they’re busying doing A, B and C. Hmmm…

Where does he write?

I write wherever I can get to an open document. On the express shuttle while on my phone. In my home office. In the recliner beside my bed. I write while I’m standing in long lines at the grocery store. Wherever! That’s why I am so happy to have cloud computing in my life. Man, where would I be now if I had to lug around a flash drive wherever I roamed. I write it on my phone, it’s saved to the cloud, and I can pull it back up on my laptop. The cloud is where it’s at!

How does he write?

My first draft is always written with my heart. What do I mean by that? Well, one of my favorite movies is FINDING FORESTER, which starred Sean Connery (William) and Rob Brown (Jamal). In the movie, there’s this scene where William and Jamal are writing and Jamal is just sitting there. William asks what’s the matter and Jamal says that he’s thinking about what to write. William admonishes him to just start typing. The first draft is written with the heart, basically whatever your mind tells you to write at that moment. No thought. No pondering. Just write. That’s what I do. Of course, I have a rough outline that I follow. But for the most part, I just start writing without stopping to think about the words I’m typing. Then, the second draft is written with the brain, analyzing what my subconscious mind delivered freely. Keeping things. Deleting things. I love writing in this way because there is essentially no writers’ block. Every day is productive, even if I delete what I wrote.

Why does he write?

I write because I want to make people smile. I write to brighten people’s day. I write to entertain. But above all else, I write to edify.

 Here’s the synopsis of COED.

Can a man and a woman be best friends without somebody catching feelings? Travis Barber and Sade Styles are best friends of the opposite sex. Despite what everyone thinks, they are not getting busy…yet.

Co-owners of a popular barbershop/salon named CoEd, Travis and Sade spend the bulk of their days together. But when Sade’s apartment lease runs out and Travis offers her the spare bedroom of his newly built house, will they end up sharing more than just the utilities?

Best case scenario, nothing happens. Worst case scenario, they get to know each other a little too well and end up hating each other! Are Travis and Sade making the best move for their friendship?

Other works: Simon’s Splinter, Fourteen Pages, An Ode for Orchids, The Mended Fence, The Secret Branch, and Close the Door.

More about James Fant

Website: jamesfantbooks.com

Facebook: Facebook_JamesFantBooks

Twitter: @jamesfantjr

Blog: jamesfantbooks.wordpress.com

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/jamesfant

Goodreads: goodreads.com/James_Fant

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon: Amazon_James_Fant

Barnes and Noble: barnesandnoble_James_Fant

Kobo: Smashwords_James_Fant

 

 

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Writing

The Serial Comma on Trial

The comma became a recent internet sensation when a court in Maine kept a lawsuit alive in which dairy drivers are seeking $10 million in overtime pay. I’m rather proud to say the comma was a key piece of evidence for my suit in small claims court although at a much, much smaller amount.

In the Maine suit, the ruling rested on the lack of the so-called serial comma, which was missing between “packing” and “or” in the phrase “packing for shipment or distribution.”

What’s a serial comma? It’s the one used after the second to the last item in a list of three or more.

David Baron, the circuit judge in Maine handling the case, is quoted as saying, “For want of a comma, we have this case.”

I was amused because I used the humble but meaningful comma to my advantage. I claimed the insurance company that sold us an extended warranty should cover the cost of repairs after the engine block on our Subaru cracked.

Naturally, the company said no. It wasn’t going to dish out the nearly thousand bucks we paid to get the car back on the road.

That was years ago, but I recall blowing up a photocopy of the contract — with the significant comma — as evidence the repair should indeed be covered. Yes, it came down to a serial comma.

The judge at the small claims court agreed with me.

I guess the company saw the error of its ways because it sent someone with a check to the hearing.

(I also brought along the cracked engine block. The mechanics were amused but supportive when I asked for it.)

During my 30-plus years as a journalist, I will admit to having a very casual relationship with commas. They don’t appear in news stories as often as they do in other types of writing.

That includes serial commas, which are not used except when absolutely necessary. My theory is that long ago the guys in the pressroom decided to save on ink by eliminating most commas.

Admittedly, commas have a more important role in my fiction, which has taken over my writing life. It meant I had to study their proper usage. Fortunately, I found numerous online sites. Yes, I have the venerable “The Elements of Style.”

I refer to them when I find myself slipping into my old ways.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: That was a delicious cake Betty at Op. Cit. Books in Taos had at my reading March 25. Yes, she had the bakery put the title of my new novel, The Sweet Spot on the top. How fitting!

And for those wanting a copy of The Sweet Spot here it is on Amazon.

 

 

 

 

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The Sweet Spot

Readying for a Reading

I will be sharing something I love — the written word — at a book event in Taos on Saturday, March 25. Specifically, I will be reading from my recently released novel, The Sweet Spot.

The reading and signing will be held 2 p.m. at Op. Cit. Books in the John Dunn Shops in downtown Taos.

For those who don’t regularly follow my posts on this website, The Sweet Spot is the first of my hilltown novels to be published.

Here’s the two-sentence synopsis: Most in Conwell love Edie St. Claire, the widow of a soldier killed in Vietnam, until her affair with his married brother ends tragically. She tries to survive this small town’s biggest scandal through the help of her rough-sawn family and a badly scarred man who’s arrived for his fresh start.

At readings for other novels, I’ve been interviewed by a fellow author and had a friend play music — The Beatles on the bassoon no less. I’ve served brownies sans pot. Once, I had a slideshow of images taken from a middle grade book. This time, I will be strictly chatting and reading aloud.

Right now I am deciding the passages I want to share Saturday. I want people to get to know Edie St. Claire, the novel’s main character, so I might start with the opening scene.

There are two more crucial characters in The Sweet Spot. One is Edie’s married brother-in-law Walker St. Claire. Their affair ends horribly for both of them. Then there is Harlan Doyle, the scarred stranger who moves next door for his fresh start.

The Sweet Spot has two fun characters: Edie’s father, who is a delightful old coot, and Leona, her no-holds-barred aunt. They offer a humorous counterpoint to the novel’s tragic elements. Plus, they are wonderfully rough-sawn in a hilltown kind of way. I must find a way to share them with listeners.

I am fond of one scene I find hilarious — when Edie’s softball team debates what constitutes a good man. Would listeners be lost because it has so many characters? I will have to figure that one out.

Although there are scenes later in the book I’d love to read aloud, I don’t want to give anything away, so I will stick with those in the first part.

My job for the next few days is to rehearse the selected passages. I want this to be a fun event.

For those who live in Taos, I hope you’ll join me Saturday. Live too far away? Please be there in spirit. I could use your support.

And here’s the link to The Sweet Spot on Amazon

 

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