J.T. Evans

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J.T. Evans stopped by to chat with us about his writing life and how he gets it all done.

KJ ~~ Tell us a little bit about yourself.
J.T. ~~ My Day Job is working as a lead software engineer on a set of international web sites that facilitate the purchase of training courses for other technical people. The nitty-gritty details are somewhat boring, so I’ll leave it up to your imagination as to what “exciting” things I get to do. The upside is that work takes me to Paris for meetings every so often. I live just outside Monument, Colorado with my wife of 16 years and my seven-year-old son. I do my best to treat writing as a profession, so I rarely (if ever) list it under “hobbies” anymore. This means my hobbies are Cub Scouts with my son, playing card/board/role-playing games, and watching hockey (I used to play).

KJ ~~ What are you working on right now?
J.T. ~~ I’m currently working on writing an urban fantasy novel while submitting some short stories to various markets. The novel is about an immortal Roman Centurion living in modern San Antonio, Texas. He works for The Ancients as a bounty hunter while searching for clues into his father’s mysterious disappearance almost two-thousand years ago. I’m hoping to make it into a series, but I’m just now starting chapter 4 of the first book. I hope to be somewhere in the late-teens in chapter count by the end of the month, done with the book by the start of February, and edit it in time for the 2015 Pikes Peak Writers Conference. It’s a hectic schedule, but I think I can pull it off.

KJ ~~ I see on your website that you have published a number of flash fiction pieces along with several short stories. For you, how does this differ than writing a novel (besides the fact that a novel probably takes a boatload more time)?
J.T. ~~ Besides the time commitment, it’s a matter of accuracy with words. Basically, it goes like this. Novels are words. Short stories are the right words. Flash fiction (and poetry) pieces are the right words in the right place. This is all probably gross oversimplification, but that’s how I approach things. If I have a powerful word with depth of meaning, I’ll use it once in a flash piece, maybe twice in a short story, and no more than once per chapter in a novel. In flash fiction, I try to use as many “kick in the gut” words as possible to amp up the pressure of the story in such a short time, but I can’t repeat those words. I also only try to explore one character, one concept, and one setting. No more than one of each of those. In short stories, I’m allowed a few more characters, but no more than two (maybe three) main characters. I also try to keep my short stories down to one setting, and around two concepts. This keeps my word count down. With novels, I let it all fly! I love world building, so that’s where my novels come into play. I get to explore (in depth and breadth) many aspects of the world through the characters’ explorations of the world.

KJ ~~You are a father, a husband, a technoguru, President of Pikes Peak writers, and a writer. How do you squeeze it all in?
J.T. ~~ There are a few factors going into play here. I have a great amount of personal discipline. It’s rare for me to waste a minute while I’m awake on something that’s not productive, but I do still schedule downtime. This prevents me from burning out. My downtime usually involves a quick TV show, reading while eating lunch, or playing with my son. Another thing that works well for me is that my corpus callosum (the bridge between the two halves of the brain) did not form properly in utero. This doesn’t impair my ability to think or act, and it has gifted with ambidexterity, and the ability to quickly shift from logical thinking (my Day Job and running Pikes Peak Writers) to creative thinking (writing). Lastly, I’ve been diagnosed with a rare mental oddity called “hyperfocus.” It’s basically the opposite of ADHD. It’s incredibly useful to be able to focus solely on my work despite being in chaotic surroundings (like at a loud coffee shop). There are some downsides to the hyperfocus, though. When I’m on a strong roll of writing, it’ll last long enough that I’ll forget to eat or take care of my body.

KJ ~~ What does a typical writing day look like for you?
J.T. ~~ For me, writing tends to happen on weekends or late in the evening. I’ll tend to wait until my son goes down for the night. At that point, I’ll stay up late and crank out some words. My peak “brain activity” hours are generally from 8PM until about 4AM. I wish I could stay up until 4AM every day, but that pesky Day Job requires me to be out the door by around 8AM each day to make it on time. On the weekends, I tend to write quite a bit on Saturdays since that is “my day” to be kid-free and do as I please. My family is generally gone Sunday mornings as well, so I’ll continue my work on that day until they get home. At that point, my wife will run about town on “her day,” and I’ll spend some good time with my son.

KJ ~~ Do you have strategies for getting past those days that are hard to write?
J.T. ~~ I’ve never had “writer’s block.” I have had scenes that I didn’t want to tackle because they made me uncomfortable to write. It could be a tender moment, something incredibly emotional, something complex in the physical realm, and so on. At this point, I’ll flip from the creative side of things to the logical and look at it from the new viewpoint. I’ll ask, “Why am I uncomfortable with this?” Once I’ve dissected the problem, I find the nugget of truth in there somewhere. Then I approach the scene from that angle and it works out well.

KJ ~~ What books or authors have influenced you the most and why?
J.T. ~~ The list is lengthy, but I’ll stick to the high points. Terry Brooks, Dennis L. McKiernan, Raymond E. Feist, Lawrence Watt-Evans, and Anne McCaffrey are high on my list because of their incredible world-building skills. However, they manage to drag out wonderful character moments from the world regardless of what is going on. This fine balance is why they make my list. I also love building new worlds in my own way, so learning lessons from these fine masters is something I strive to do.

Carol Berg, Jim Butcher, C.S. Lewis, Ursula K. Le Guin, Brent Weeks, Roger Zelazny, Saladin Ahmed, Jane Yolen, and Robert Asprin also hit the high spots on my list because of the true, raw, emotional, powerful, and exciting characters they create. However, these characters do not exist in a vacuum, so there is some world building in there as well. I aspire to create fictional people that give the reader an emotional roller coaster ride, so these are always on my shelf.

KJ ~~What are your favorite books that you have read simply for pleasure?
J.T. ~~ Interestingly, the author of my favorite book didn’t make the above list. It could be that he has not produced as much as the others. My #1 book of all time is The Long Run by Daniel Keys Moran. The characters in this futuristic, broken world are true. Not only true to themselves, but true to the world. It’s just an amazing piece of fiction. The things I tend to read for pleasure fall firmly in the fantasy and urban fantasy realms. I do branch out and read a bit of science fiction and horror, though. I rarely pick up anything else because my time is so precious to me. I just don’t know if I’d enjoy other things. I might, but I don’t know. This leads me to stick to the things I know.

KJ ~~ If you took a two-week vacation in any book or story, where would you go and who would you be?
J.T. ~~ Most of the places I read about in fiction are horrific places! Marauding orcs, horrible demons, power-hungry fae, and constant warfare tend to be the fare of what I read. I don’t want to visit any of those places at all. If I had to pick a place, it would be the multiverse that Skeeve and Aahz (and their troupe of friends) live in in the “Myth” series by Robert Asprin. There’s plenty of zany antics going on, and it all seems like so much fun.

Website: http://jtevans.net/
Twitter: @jtevans
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jtevans.writer

Chelsea Brown

Chelsea Brown

Chelsea Brown

Welcome Chelsea Brown!
Chelsea is an aspiring author. She is absorbing all the knowledge she can that revolves around writing and the publishing industry, and working on her latest project.

K.J. ~~ What are you working on right now?
CHELSEA ~~ I am currently in the midst of a first draft for a Young Adult novel titled Dreamer. The novel revolves around a girl who’s on the brink of adulthood, and is doing everything she can to create a better life/future for herself, through the route of a college acceptance letter. While, at the same time, trying to survive the rest of the year living with her parents; who both suffer from drug addictions.

K.J. ~~ Where did your inspiration for this book come from?
CHELSEA ~~ I think I had multiple inspirations for this book. The first came from a pile of setbacks with another book that I was working on. The second came from the passing on of my grandmother earlier this year. The third I think being that Dreamer was something new and different than any other story I’ve written in the past. I’ve also had my own personal experiences; where I’ve encountered or have known different people, who have had their own struggles with addiction. So it was the combination of those different instances that have inspired me for this book.

K.J. ~~ You have a blog where you chronicle your writing path (The Jenny Mac Book Blog). What was your inspiration for starting this blog and how has it helped you through your writing process?
CHELSEA ~~ In the beginning I used the blog as more of a platform for my books and to help me build up an audience; however through the years it’s become more than just a platform. It’s become a place of learning, inspiration, and discovery for me. Therefore having the blog at this time in my life has not only bettered my writing process, but it’s also helped me find my voice as a writer.

K.J. ~~ Do you have strategies for getting past those days that are hard to write?
CHELSEA ~~ I usually just grit my teeth and push through it but, if I’m still feeling drained and not up for another day of writing, coffee will do in a pinch.

K.J. ~~What books or authors have influenced you the most and why?
CHELSEA ~~ The Harry Potter series, Holes, and The Casual Vacancy have been the most influential for me. I started writing at an early age, and when I was a child Harry Potter and Holes just blew me away. It literally reached a point where I said “I want to create stories like that.” So shortly after reading Holes I picked up a pen. The Casual Vacancy is a huge influence for me right now because it inspires me as I work on Dreamer.

K.J. ~~What are your favorite books that you have read simply for pleasure?
CHELSEA ~~ Inherit the Wind, Dear John, and Harry Potter.

K.J. ~~ If you took a two-week vacation in any book or story, where would you go and who would you be?
CHELSEA ~~ Okay the child in me is coming out. If I were to vacation in a book for two weeks it would have to be the Harry Potter series and the character I would be is Harry. I love the first book especially when Harry discovers this magical world that he’s apart of, and I would want to explore Diagon Alley so that I could take in all of the magic.
Contact info: http://thejennymacbookblog.wordpress.com/

Donnell Ann Bell

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Donnell Ann Bell, author of the award winning book: Deadly Recall,  is here to talk about her newest novel from Bell Bridge Books, Buried Agendas, coming out Fall of 2014.

KJ ~Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Donnell ~ Hi, Kathie, thanks for inviting me to your wonderful blog. I have lived in Colorado Springs, the second time going on 30 years, but I was born in Texas and grew up in New Mexico. I’m the author of novels, Betrayed, Deadly Recall and The Past Came Hunting. I write romantic suspense and mystery.

KJ ~Of the books you have written, which one would you like to tell us about?
Donnell ~Gosh, how about the one that is coming up in Fall of 2014. It’s my fourth book from Bell Bridge Books, and the working title is Buried Agendas. The log line is: A devastating secret drove her from her lover’s arms. Will a secret equally as deadly lead her back to him?

KJ ~What was the hardest part about getting this book from the first ideas to publication?
Donnell ~ Buried Agendas is one of the first books I’ve ever wrote and it’s one I was passionate about because I was learning a great deal as I wrote it. But after so many years of having it in my files or drawer, so to speak, I found I’ve changed in style and writing knowledge, and I had a ton of updating to do. I think I’d rather start from scratch from now on because I ended up rewriting most of the book anyway. Amazingly, though, the events that happened during the time that I wrote are coming full circle in today’s economic and political climate.

KJ ~Where did you get your inspiration for this book?
Donnell ~ I definitely got this inspiration from my husband. He’s a chemical engineer and the story involves a chemical plant. He didn’t help me with it, however. When I asked him questions about processes and more, he said the last thing he wanted to do after working forty plus hours in that business was to talk to his wife about it. He wanted to come home and talk about other things. That didn’t stop me, though. I know most of his contacts, and they gladly helped me 😉

KJ ~ What books or authors have influenced you the most and why?
Donnell ~ This is a really hard question because the list is long and I leave off so many great, great authors when I answer this. Lawrence Sanders is the reason I write today. His First, Second, Third and Fourth Deadly Sin series made me fall in love with police procedurals and thriller writing. I love Sandra Brown, Daniel Silva and Robert Crais. I’ve added many more writers to this list but feel I do a disservice to them by not mentioning them. However, the ones I listed inspired me.

KJ ~What are your favorite books that you have read simply for pleasure?
Donnell ~ I love to read Mike Befeler’s Geezerlit series. He makes me laugh, and he’s a pleasure to read. Annette Dashofy is always intriguing. I love their characters and storylines. I just read a book by Eve Gaddy that hasn’t been released yet called Last Shot. I read it simply as a beta reader. I also beta read for Lois Winston and am always impressed with her work.

KJ ~What does a typical writing day look like for you?
Donnell ~ Sporadic, unfortunately. I’m trying to exercise. I’m acting as my mother’s foreman on a bathroom remodel and it’s summer and everyone seems to be coming to visit—not that I’m complaining. Life is short, come visit 😉 Last night I had ten people over for dinner. And I still managed to get a chapter in. Love the new book that I’m writing—finally now that my antagonist and I are speaking.

KJ ~Do you have strategies for getting past those days that are hard to write?
Donnell ~ Usually when I get blocked it’s because I haven’t got the plot, character or direction in a chapter figured out. I’m a linear writer. Sometimes I can’t wrap my head around a particular problem. When I figure it out, no amount of company, construction projects or whatever can stop me. I have to get the words down. This is why I don’t do Nanowrimo. I write junk when I participate. I may not be writing literally, but I am always brainstorming and working out a plot problem.

KJ ~If you took a two-week vacation in any book or story, where would you go and who would you be?
Donnell ~ Hmmm, a vacation – when I generally read mystery/thrillers? Usually when I’m reading one, something bad is happening. Perhaps I should pick up a vacation pamphlet and read one and let you know. I was in Monterey California this year and Key West Florida the year before. Do actual places count?

 

Karen Emanuelson

Sword fighting at Viking Festival

Karen demonstrates her sword fighting skills at a Viking festival.

KJ~~ Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Karen~~ I’m a Viking re-enactor and do era correct sword-fighting.  My bird, Xanadu, a Peach-faced African Lovebird, is my oldest animal at 15 1/2.  She detests my cats and is happiest if she can get them in trouble.  I have two Pugs, Jera and her brother, Lahi, three cats, Li Po, my oldest boy at nine and the “kittens” Isaz and her brother, Wunjo.  I also have three horses, the mares Misty (Queen of the Universe!) who is a registered Spotted Saddle Horse (a gaited breed) plus my APHA registered Paints, Denver, my big dressage horse, as well as my filly, Fehu.  I used to be a horse breeder and trainer.  Sometimes I give riding lessons in dressage.  I’m a musician and although I play a variety of instruments:  Irish Bouzouki, Mountain Dulcimer, Ukulele, NAF (Native American Flute) and Bodhran (the Celtic frame drum) I have studied the recorder for the past 2 1/2 years so I can play Renaissance & Baroque music as well as Celtic music on that instrument.  Water is my element and I love to swim–almost as much as I love horseback riding.  I was a high adventure sports specialist, taught rock-climbing and cross-country skiing and worked as a whitewater raft guide all summer.  I’m a veteran and was in the Army for 9 1/2 years.
KJ~~ I understand that you are a Beowulf Scholar. Would you tell us more about this?
Karen~~  I present on Beowulf at academic conferences.  I always show up in period garb and often with a collection of weapons.  One year I did a sword-fighting demonstration as part of my talk which is not something most academics do I suppose, so I’ve attracted a bit of a following.
KJ~~ You are presently working on a series of books. What are they about?
Karen~~  They are all a look at Beowulf’s world which was early 6th century Scandinavia.  We know that Beowulf’s uncle, King Hygelac was killed in 521 CE during an act of piracy against his neighbors the Frisians.  Due to that documentation we can date the other events that happen during the Beowulf saga.  The poem that we are all familiar with was written down by a couple of monks over in England more than 200 years after the events occurred.  The stories had to get past the church censors, so the writers layered on a heavy Christian gloss that would not have existed in Scandinavian society during the saga’s time.  I have removed that Christian gloss and re-situated the story back into the proper culture.  Although Beowulf himself is an important character in my books, the thrust of the narrative focuses upon women of his world.  Norse women had a lot of power until the Scandinavian lands were Christianized at the end of the much later Viking era and their professions were quite diverse.  They were traders, farmers, healers, ship captains, warriors and leaders, among other things.
KJ~~ Where did you get your inspiration?
Karen~~ When I was going to college over in Germany–my last duty station while in the Army–I wound up being an English major by default.  At the time I wanted to be an Ethologist (animal behavior scientist) but the University of Maryland, European Division, Frankfurt, didn’t have much of a program in natural science, although of course I took all the classes they did offer as electives.  As I finished up my course work for my degree we had a “drive by class” that covered both “Beowulf” and “Gilgamesh” in one evening.  Something like, “These are both heroic epics.  The End.”  I studied “Beowulf” on my own.  Instead of anything Germanic in university, we spent loads of time–entire courses in fact–on the Greeks.  I asked one of my professors if anyone had ever written a novel based upon “Beowulf” that was empowering to women & she said not as far as she knew.  Years later I decided to present on Grendel’s mother at an academic conference.  As I did my research, I was amazed by what I learned–several key words in the original manuscript had been mistranslated because of the Christian attitude toward women in the late 19th century.  Rather than a monster, I learned that Grendel’s mother was a noblewoman and a mighty warrior.  I read about the graves of Norse women warriors who were mislabeled “men” because of the warrior artifacts buried with the remains until scientists were able to extract DNA to prove otherwise just recently.  Approximately 10% of the warriors were women.  My novels follow the life of one of them, a woman who starts life as a wife, mother and simple farmer until catastrophe strikes her farmstead.  As she travels in her quest of retribution, she meets many characters from the “Beowulf” saga.
KJ~~ What does a typical writing day look like for you?
Karen~~ The last thing I do every night before I go drain my brain into the idiot box and cuddle with my pets is write.  I write absolutely every single night, no excuses.
KJ~~ Do you have strategies for getting past those days that are hard to write?
Karen~~ My rule is that I write every night–even if it’s only one line.  Some nights I have indeed, only written one line.  Other nights I write pages.  It’s all a matter of discipline.
KJ~~ Is there a lesson you have learned in your writing that you would like to share with us?
Karen~~ Force yourself to write.  No excuses, no blaming “the muse” or whining about writers block.  If you plan to write something long, you must write every day regardless of what is going on in your life or you will never ever finish.
KJ~~ What books or authors have influenced you the most and why?
Karen~~ I’ve read many translations of “Beowulf” and although the late Seamus Heaney’s version is the most celebrated, I enjoy the beauty of the language in the Howell D, Chickering, Jr’s version the most.  Tolkien is a huge hero of mine and I can’t wait to get my hands on his “Beowulf” translation and hope the book includes his essays.  He was a famous Oxford professor and his scholarship is admirable.  His LOTR series of books was his way of giving the English people back their own mythology–instead of all the Greeks and Romans.  All Germanic mythology is related, so it’s relevant to me.  Plus, he was the first serious “Beowulf” scholar.  When I went to England with the university to finish up my thesis in graduate school, I walked to Tolkien’s favorite hang-out, “The Eagle & Child” to enjoy a pint, soak up his energy and write.  That night and the day I visited Stonehenge were the only times it rained–and it poured both times.  I love what Diana Galbaldon has done with Scottish history.  Any time an author does his or her research and is accurate without winding up with a novel that reads like a history text book and tells a good story, it makes me happy.  I plan to be to Beowulf’s time/place what Phillipa Gregory is to her era of British history.  Although I don’t find JK Rowling’s writing style to be especially “clean” I absolutely adore her Harry Potter books.  I believe that being a great storyteller is more important than anything else when one writes novels.
KJ~~ If you took a two-week vacation in any book or story, where would you go and who would you be?
Karen~~ I often dream about what it might have felt like to have a good childhood, so I think it would be awesome to be someone like Fern in “Charlotte’s Web.”  When I was a kid, authors didn’t tend to write books with interesting female protagonists.  I wanted to be Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn in Twain’s books–the female characters were a bore to me.  Of course most of the books I read were about horses or dogs.  I read all of Walter Farley’s “Black Stallion” novels and all of Marguerite Henry’s books.  She was a Wisconsinite like me, so I really admired her when I was a kid.  But again, both of these favorite authors had boys as the protagonists.  Girls were dull.
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Coming September 1st: Award winning author Donnell Bell.

Anthonette Klinkerman

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Anthonette Klinkerman receives two 2013 Reader’s Choice Awards

Anthonette Klinkerman, winner of the 2013 Reader’s Choice Award (Bronze and Silver Star), stopped in to tell us about her award winning book.

KJ ~ Tell us a little bit about yourself.
ANTHONETTE ~ I was born in San Diego and transplanted in Colorado. Among the many hats I wear, I am a public speaker, an author, and a public school English teacher. My husband and I have been married for fifteen years now, and our daughter is ten years old. I enjoy golfing, reading, and writing.

KJ ~ What are you working on right now?
ANTHONETTE ~ Currently, I am working on my blogging efforts, and enjoy writing about etiquette and manners, or lack thereof, in my WordPress blog, http://courtesybootcamp.wordpress.com/. I do have another children’s book rolling around in my head, and though I started writing it, I did not like the initial beginning so I tabled it for a while. It is going to be a seasonal book, a Christmas-time story, and I find it a little difficult to be disciplined about writing when it is so beautiful outside!

KJ ~ Battle of the Grandmas is your first children’s book (and winner of the 2013 Reader’s Choice Award), what is it about?
ANTHONETTE ~ It is a story about a little girl with three grandmas, and when the three grandmas accidentally buy her all the same present, they launch into a gift-buying battle for supremacy. The little girl emerges as the voice of reason and wisdom at the end, telling the grandmothers that she can’t play with all the stuff, or wear all the clothes. It is far more important to spend time creating memories with each grandma.

KJ ~ What was the hardest part about getting this book/story from the first ideas to publication?
ANTHONETTE ~ Rejection letters from the better-known publishers! Those were the worst, but the problem has been solved with self-publishing. (You can print your book idea in a matter of days with digital and print-on-demand printing.) It used to be called “vanity press”, but now it has become so respected, bigger publishers are now searching for new up and coming authors in the self-publishing realm.

KJ ~ Beside self-publishing this book you also found an illustrator. What advice would you give someone seeking this for his or her own book?
ANTHONETTE ~ Be very very careful when selecting your publisher. I am currently at odds with my publisher as once you turn over all of your files to them, it is extremely difficult and EXPENSIVE to get them back. You want to maintain as much control as you can over your book, so I would strongly advise anyone to get their own ISBN and to use publishing centers such as CreateSpace to keep as much control, and as much of your profits, as possible.
Marketing the book yourself is also a bit of a challenge, too, as you can’t possibly visit every book fair and book sale. It makes sense to then invest more money into a company that can do it all for you, as long as they are reputable. I found out after the fact that checking the Better Business Bureau is a terrific place to start when checking out a publisher.
As for illustrators, they are very expensive, and as one put it, you are creating a life-long relationship with them for as long as your book is on the shelves. I had a rather brilliant idea to hire a student artist to give him experience, and a great piece for his portfolio. There is a lot of hidden talent in school districts and art schools, so I would look there first.

KJ ~ Where did you get your inspiration for Battle of the Grandmas?
ANTHONETTE ~ It is a near-true story! When my daughter was very small, she received a personalized book in the mail from a grandmother. The very next day, the same size package arrived, and I opened it to find the identical personalized book from another relative. I thought, “What are the odds of that happening?”, so I sat down that afternoon and wrote the poem that is the story.

KJ ~ What does a typical writing day look like for you?
ANTHONETTE ~ As I mentioned before, I am not as disciplined as some about making an appointment with myself to have undisturbed writing time. The upside is I just listened to a webinar stating that writing the same time every day, posting thirty times a week, etc. is not the way to do it. I felt so much better after hearing that! Although, when I am struck by the desire to write, I am not to be disturbed! I close my office doors, stream some music on the computer, usually jazz, and let my fingers fly.

KJ ~ Do you have strategies for getting past those days that are hard to write?
ANTHONETTE ~ That is a tough one. I like reading to inspire my own writing, and sometimes social media, though a huge time-waste in some cases, trips some notion to write about something. Responding to people’s posts or links gets some ideas moving. Getting out and people-watching works even better for me as it is always interesting to watch a population that believes it is invisible behind their little screens. A coffee shop is a gold-mine for speculating as to what people are really doing when they are trying to look busy.

KJ ~ What are a few of your favorite books that you have read for pleasure?
ANTHONETTE ~ I recently completed The Book Thief and loved it. I hesitate to see the movie as the prose in the book was so lovely I am afraid the movie experience may ruin it for me! It was set in Hitler’s Germany, and is about a girl who takes to stealing books as the narrator, Death himself, is watching.
I really enjoyed The Earth’s Children series by Jean M. Auel in the past. It included The Clan of the Cave Bear, and several others. I waited over 14 years for her final book to come out just two years ago!
I also recently read The City of Thieves. Ironically, it is the same setting and time period as The Book Thief. While I did complete it, I wouldn’t rate it among my highest as there were instances where I thought the author was being gross just to be gross.
Truly, teachers don’t pleasure read until summer so I am looking forward to getting into a few books right now!

KJ ~ If you took a two-week vacation in any book or story, where would you go and who would you be?
ANTHONETTE ~ Another great question! I would have to go back to my all-time favorite story, Where The Red Fern Grows. I must have read that book as a Fifth grader, but I loved the simpler times of the 1920s; Billy, the boy running around the Ozark mountains in overalls and barefoot, the grandpa’s general store and its candy jars, the two red-bone coon hounds… I would be Billy. The end never fails to bring tears, though. I think I read it probably seven times through so the visuals are burned in my mind. It sounded like Heaven compared to the stress and strain of our daily lives in 2014 so this would definitely be my choice.

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Coming August 15th: Karen Emanuelson, Beowulf Scholar and author who is working on her new series of books based in 6th century Scandinavia.

Chris Mandeville

Chris Mandeville

Author Chris Mandeville joins us today for a quick chat.

KJ ~Tell us a little bit about yourself.
CHRIS ~ I’m a UC Berkeley grad, wife of a retired Air Force officer, and mom of three boys. I grew up in California, moved around a bit with the military (including a stint in Canada), then settled in Colorado where I’m more than happy to stay. Once upon a time I worked in advertising (most notably on the Lexus launch and Iams Pet Food) and also taught preschool. Since leaving the paid workforce to raise my children, I’ve always kept busy doing some kind of volunteer work or other, including working with the Red Cross, Project Sanctuary (www.projectsanctuary.org), and Pikes Peak Writers (www.pikespeakwriters.com) where I served for more than ten years on their Board of Directors. Now I’m a full-time writer and president of Delve Writing, an online community providing boot camps for writers (www.delvewriting.com). I love to teach writing and spend time with other writers, so look for me at writing events in Colorado and online, or contact me if you’d like me to present a writing workshop for your group: Chris@delvewriting.com

KJ ~ What are you working on right now?
CHRIS ~ I write New Adult speculative fiction and currently have a post-apocalyptic under consideration at several publishers and literary agencies. While that manuscript is making the rounds, I’m trying my hand at something new: this week I began working on a mystery novel. I love reading mysteries but this is my first time writing one. I’m also putting together an ebook for writers: 52 Ways to Name a Character which is due out later this year.

KJ ~Of the books you have written, which one would you like to tell us about?
CHRIS ~ 52 Ways to Get Unstuck: Exercises to Break Through Writer’s Block
http://www.amazon.com/author/chrismandeville
This is a comprehensive guide to overcoming writer’s block, including suggestions for how to prevent it from occurring. It includes innovative exercises, anecdotes, and advice from dozens of authors.

KJ ~ What was the hardest part about getting this book from the first ideas to publication?
CHRIS ~ There was nothing hard about the project itself—it was a dream to write. The only slight difficulty was that occasionally during the writing process I missed working on fiction because the nonfiction process keeps me in my own life rather than transporting me to “somewhere else.”

KJ ~Where did you get your inspiration for this book?
CHRIS ~ Several years ago the Pikes Peak Writers Conference was in need of a workshop on writer’s block and asked if I could put together something on that topic. I did and “52 Ways to Get Unstuck” was born. The workshop was so well received, I immediately began making plans to put it into book form, but it took me awhile to wrap up some fiction projects before turning my focus to nonfiction.

KJ ~ What books or authors have influenced you the most and why?
CHRIS ~ In terms of nonfiction books for writers, several have been very influential in both my fiction and nonfiction writing. In particular, GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon and Writing the Fiction Synopsis by Pam McCutcheon have been invaluable. As far as fiction, I’ve been influenced, inspired, and instructed (as well as entertained) in countless ways by hundreds of books over the course of my life. If I had to choose just one, I’d say Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman stands out as being the most influential because it was only in reading this book that I learned to embrace my own voice as a writer.

KJ ~What are your favorite books that you have read simply for pleasure?
CHRIS ~ Iron House by John Hart, The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, Midwives by Chris Bohjalian, Diane Mott Davidson’s Goldie the Caterer series, Faye Kellerman’s Decker series, everything by Jeffery Deaver, and I just finished –and loved– The Breakup Doctor by Phoebe Fox.

KJ ~What does a typical writing day look like for you?
CHRIS ~ I like to write in “binges” rather than for a set amount each day, so a typical writing day for me is to tank up on coffee at breakfast, then write all day until something forces me to stop (sometimes that’s making dinner or sometimes I’ll write into the evening). It’s not uncommon for me to put in 8-10 hours on a good writing day. If I’m on a deadline I’ll sneak an hour or two of writing into a busy non-writing day, but I usually plan my week so that I have the opportunity for a couple of binges. The only essentials—besides time—are coffee and my laptop. I can write anywhere, but my usual spot is in a comfy leather chair in the pub at my house. There I have a great view of the woods, it’s quiet except for the wind in the trees, and I have an espresso maker within reach. Heaven.

KJ ~Do you have strategies for getting past those days that are hard to write?
CHRIS ~ Yes! The specific strategy depends on the type of difficulty I’m having. Often when it’s “hard to write” that simply means I’m having trouble getting my butt in the chair and I need to clear the decks and put my nose to the grindstone. I seldom have difficulty being productive once my butt is in the chair and my hands are on the keyboard. If I’m stuck on something related to story/character, or if I’m having difficulty turning my focus away from my non-writing life, I turn to one of the strategies in my book, 52 Ways to Get Unstuck. My top strategies are to take a shower or take a drive.

KJ ~If you took a two-week vacation in any book or story, where would you go and who would you be?
CHRIS ~ Most of what I read is mystery/suspense/thriller, and I don’t want to take a vacation amidst killers, corpses, and danger! So I think I’d choose to go to C.S. Lewis’ Narnia, and I’d want to be myself. I’ve already seen how the characters in the Narnia stories interact with their world; I’d want to experience that magical place for myself as myself.

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Coming July 31: Anthonette Klinkerman (2 time winner of the Reader’s Choice Award) is the author of “Battle of the Grandmas” and she shares some of her thoughts about writing this children’s book.

Phoebe Fox

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KJ~~Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Phoebe~~ I grew up in Georgia, moved to New York City to pursue an acting career, “retired” from showbiz to Florida to work as a journalist, and seven years ago moved to Austin, Texas, with my husband and our terribly spoiled dogs, where I plan to stay for a while. I’ve worked as a film producer/director, a theater critic, a health columnist, a game-show host, a casting assistant for Broadway shows, an intern for Paramount Pictures, and the voice of the heroine in a video game. Kind of a fun and eclectic background to draw on when you’re a writer.

KJ~~What are you working on right now?
Phoebe~~ At the moment I’m putting the final touches on the Breakup Doctor sequel—Bedside Manners, out in March of 2015—and then doing a final edit on a manuscript currently called Falling Together (soon to be retitled, thanks to one of my favorite writers, Marisa de los Santos, who used that working title for her last book). That one’s a bit of a departure from the Breakup Doctor series—a deeper story about a woman who leaves her seemingly happy marriage and literally starts a new life from scratch in an unfamiliar, washed-up beach town after a tragedy she cannot overcome. It’s about forgiveness, really—of the ones we love who hurt us, whether they mean to or not (and often so much more deeply because we love them), and even more important, forgiveness of ourselves for doing the things we once imagined were unthinkable.

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KJ~~Of the books/stories you have written, which one would you like to tell us about?
Phoebe~~ The first in my Breakup series—cleverly titled The Breakup Doctor—is about a therapist who, when she loses her practice, reinvents herself as a relationship columnist and counselor, on call to help you shape up after a breakup. But when her own relationship falls apart, she finds herself spectacularly breaking every one of her own rules. It’s a fun, funny read, but I hope also says something real about how we handle the tough parts of love—not just in our romantic relationships, but with friends and family too. And how to forgive yourself when you fall short of your own expectations. Which seems to be a theme in my writing.
There are a variety of buy links on my publisher’s page

KJ~~What was the hardest part about getting this book/story from the first ideas to publication?
Phoebe~~ A couple of years ago my agent, the tireless Courtney Miller-Callihan at Sanford J. Greenburger, submitted Breakup Doctor all over, and we got some of the nicest, most positive rejection letters you’ve ever seen—but not a single offer. I figured the story was just a no-go, so I put it away and worked on two other manuscripts I’ve since completed.
After that I revisited Breakup Doctor and still liked it and thought it had a story to tell, so I did a heavy rewrite of it and told Courtney that I was going to self-publish, and she said, “Give me one more crack at it first.” (Every author wants a Courtney Miller-Callihan in her corner.) And so she shopped it around one more time, and this time we found the perfect home for it—Henery Press, an intimate house that has impressed me at every turn with their enthusiasm for the book and for me, as well as their industry knowledge and fast growth as a company.
In a way I think this is how it had to happen—Breakup Doctor is a much better book than it was the first go-around; I needed time to “season” the story. And Henery is the exact right publisher for it, and I found them at the exact right time (when they branched out form their usual comedic mysteries to include my genre, chick lit). It makes me think of the story of Breakup Doctor itself—something really, really good came out of what at the time felt like nothing but rejection and heartbreak.
KJ~~Where did you get your inspiration for this book?
Phoebe~~ Breakup Doctor started years ago as an almost entirely different book, generally based around a woman who bought a fixer-upper house to flip it in the hot Florida market, just before the mortgage crisis hit. At the time I was living in Fort Myers, Florida—the epicenter of the mortgage collapse, nicknamed “Foreclosure Myers” in the press. And yes, I had just bought a house.
In the process of writing it, however, I supported several friends through tough breakups (and vice versa), as well as writing a recurring series for my paper about happily married couples and what made them work. I spent loads of time observing, researching, and talking about relationships—why they succeeded, why they failed, and how to handle the latter when it happened—and the book started to take on a new path, though I still wasn’t quite finding its spine.
And then I met the man who is now my husband, and we hit it off fast and hard, followed very quickly by what I like to call “the Great Disappearance” (and my husband likes to call “a figment of my imagination”). After a month of steady contact—dates, phone calls, e-mails, a full-court press—he told me he was going away for a week’s vacation, and I stopped hearing from him. Completely.
I immediately decided he was there with another woman, and that all the great connection I’d thought we’d had was in my own head. I beat myself up mercilessly—how could I have misjudged everything so thoroughly? And in his absence the book finally found its heart: Why can love make us a little crazy, even when we think we have it all together?
Oh—and it turns out my husband was at a weeklong yoga retreat. Where they discouraged computer and cell phone use. 

KJ~~What books or authors have influenced you the most and why?
Phoebe~~ He’s Just Not That Into You, by Liz Tuccillo and Greg Behrendt, literally changed my dating life, and is probably a good large part of the reason I’m happily married today. It was a big inspiration for Breakup Doctor as well. For craft books, Sol Stein’s Stein on Writing is like a master class in writing fiction, and Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write is the greatest treatise on and exhortation to creativity that I know of. In the fiction field, I have to say that my childhood reads were among the most influential—they’re simple stories, but books like Harriet the Spy and Encyclopedia Brown and the Judy Blume books and Why Me? and Lisa Bright and Dark gave me an appreciation for storytelling that’s probably a huge part of the reason I love to do it today.

KJ~~What does a typical writing day look like for you?
Phoebe~~ Like a lot of writers, I still work a full-time job, although I’ve had the luxury for the last twenty-plus years of working from home. So generally I get up, walk the dogs, and then write for a couple of hours in the morning, and then work my “regular job” for the rest of the day. Lately I write weekends too, though I didn’t used to—since the first Breakup Doc came out, I learned that getting the word out about your book is also a full-time job. So I’m still working to find the balance between my writing career and my other career, book promotion, and family. I keep assuring my neglected husband and family and dogs and friends that that balance is coming soon….
KJ~~What are your favorite books that you have read simply for pleasure?
Phoebe~~ I’m a big fan of authors like Hester Browne, Lolly Winston, Emily Giffin, Jennifer Weiner, Liz Tuccillo, Marisa de los Santos, Sarah Pekkanen, and Sarah Bird, more or less in my genre. But I also read a lot of nonfiction—I love history, sociological subjects, and biographies (especially if A. Scott Berg wrote them)—some self-help (like any writer worth her salt who focuses on relationships), and recently have been reading more mystery. And Jenny Lawson and the Oatmeal make me snicker like a twelve-year-old boy.

KJ~~Do you have strategies for getting past those days that are hard to write?
Phoebe~~ Usually avoidance and denial, and then more coffee and gritted teeth—the mental equivalent of a cattle prod. My husband and I just saw Eddie Izzard, one of my favorite comedians, and in a Q&A after the show he was asked about what led to his success. I loved his answer: “Determination.” He said that someone once asked him, when he began pursuing acting, why he wanted to be a so-so actor when he was such a brilliant comedian. And his answer was, “Once I was just a so-so comedian.” That struck me so viscerally—the idea that being successful is much less about some kind of innate talent, and more about determination, persistence—just doing and doing and doing that thing you love until you become good at it. That’s what I remind myself of on the days writing feels like a slog.

KJ~~If you took a two-week vacation in any book or story, where would you go and who would you be?
Phoebe~~ I think I would like to visit the worlds of Grimms’ Fairy Tales. I grew up reading these stories, and they were the magic portal for me to my imagination. All things were possible—frogs could talk, a mermaid could trade her tail for legs, a childless couple could wish a minuscule son into existence. Good triumphed over evil, virtue was rewarded, and true love conquered all. They were magnificent and magical and occasionally terrifying, and they opened worlds to me beyond the one I knew.