Phoebe Fox

phoebe-fox-photo

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.

break-up-cover

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.

Written in My Own Heart’s Blood

Written in My Own Heart's Blood (Outlander, #8)Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Diana Gabaldon has once again not disappointed me. “My Own Heart’s Blood” is a fantastic telling of love and life during the Revolutionary War. Passions of life and death are as thick as the air over the battle fields. What a great read!!

It falls microscopically close to 5 stars only because of the long and slow start to the book. No spoilers here, but anyone who reads it will get what I’m talking about.

I am looking forward to book #9!!

View all my reviews

Word, Word, Word, Word…..

STUCK. Ever have one of those days that you feel so stuck you could scream? Artists of every kind have at one time or another. The painter stares at a blank canvas, a photographer stares at an empty lens, and a writer stares at a blank sheet of paper. Stuck. Nothing. Nada. Ziltch. It is a frustrating experience isn’t it?

How do you go about getting unstuck? A few ideas that may work for you: run,swim, meditate, walk, or jump up and down. Some people find it helpful to do an artistic exercise of a different kind. If you are a writer then scribble a doodle. If you are a painter then write a poem, and if you are a photographer….well, I used to turn the camera upside down just for a new perspective. For writing I like to consult my Delve Writers group who can always come up with a new tip or trick. The latest comes from the top in the unstuckedness class of writers, Chris Mandeville (author of 52 Ways to Get Unstuck). Her advice for today: write the word, ‘word’ over and over again and see what comes out.

I was so inspired by this I ended up with two blog posts. So, in honor of getting unstuck I want you to have some fun too. In the comments please write ‘word’ over and over again and see what comes of it. You can see mine at arbitrarydustbunnies.

….and begin….Word, Word, Word, Word…..

Kristi Lloyd

We are pleased to have Kristi Lloyd join us today to chat.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

First of all, I would like to say thank you, KJ. It’s an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to be featured on your blog.

I am an Army wife and stay-at-home mother of two children. I’m originally from a suburb of Pittsburgh, PA, but I’m currently living in Colorado. I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology and used to work in a psychiatric hospital, which has helped me with my writing. I have a blog at http://www.thumpsbumpsandthrills.blogspot.com. You can also find me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/kristi.l.lloyd or on Twitter @KristiLloyd1926. You may email me at generations1926@gmail.com.

2. What are you working on right now?

I’ve recently completed an urban fantasy novel, FAMILIAR GENERATIONS, the first of a series. I’m getting ready to “send it into the world,” a scary yet exciting sort of feeling! The second book of the series has started to unfold as well.

3. Of the books/stories you have written, which one would you like to tell us about?

Familiar Generations: Victoria Braumwell is a Wiccan with a number of psychic abilities, but her greatest downfall is that she’s terribly attracted to bad boys. When she meets Chaz Paglione, a mob boss-turned vampire, Vicki knows she finally found the real deal. While falling for Chaz, Vicki discovers she’s a partial vampire herself and is offered a position as a manager at a hot new nightclub in classic Mafia fashion. But when spirit activity becomes dangerous in her new place of employment, Vicki will need the help of her friends to ensure the nightclub is safe for its guests.

4. What was the hardest part about getting this book/story from the first ideas to publication?

I began writing this book about a year and a half ago, while my husband was deployed to Afghanistan. However, the idea for it first originated about ten years ago. I never had enough confidence to be able to sit down and write it though. The characters (most of them) were there in my head, but I didn’t think I’d be able to come up with a plot. One night, I put my kids in bed and started typing away. From that night on, I knew I had answered my calling to become a writer.

5. Where did you get your inspiration for this book?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t attracted to the paranormal. At the age of nine, I saw my first vampire movie, The Lost Boys. From that day on, vampires held me enthralled.

As for my characters themselves, Vicki is modeled after me. Since I first started writing, she has taken on a mind and personality that are all her own. Her two BFFs are characterizations of two important people in my life. As for Chaz, I don’t know where the heck he came from, he just showed up one night. I’ve learned to let him have his way.

6. What books or authors have influenced you the most and why?

R.L. Stein’s Fear Street books had me turning the pages.

In my opinion, if you’re writing within the vampire genre, you owe an immense amount of gratitude to Anne Rice. I don’t know that there’s much more to say about that.

Madelyn Alt’s Bewitching Mysteries Series gave me the courage to open up more about my religion.

Laurell K. Hamilton is a master at what she does. Her Anita Blake books are beyond fantastic. Ms. Hamilton was the first author that made me think it might be fun to fall in love with a vampire.

7. What are your favorite books that you have read simply for pleasure?

Most of the books I read, I do so for pleasure, even when I read non-fiction. The most recent fiction books I’ve found completely entertaining have been the Miss. Peregrin books by Ransom Riggs. As for non-fiction, I’m currently reading Young Al Capone: The Untold Story of Scarface in New York, 1899-1925 by William and John Balsamo (although I guess that one doesn’t count because it is part of my research, but it’s very interesting).

8. What does a typical writing day look like for you?

Unfortunately, the writing doesn’t have much space on my daily schedule. As a mom of a four- and a six-year old, I’m quite busy during the day, even when we’re just staying at home. But I do make a point to write every night once my son and daughter are in bed. I usually end up with anywhere between two and four hours of writing time, depending on how long I stay awake.

9. Do you have strategies for getting past those days that are hard to write?

Yes, sometimes I’ll watch a movie to get some creative juices flowing. I’ll often turn to films about gangsters, or sometimes witches. Goodfellas and Practical Magic are two that I particularly like. Otherwise, there are times when I merely sit and stare at the computer screen.

10. If you took a two-week vacation in any book or story, where would you go and who would you be?

I’ve always imagined I’d make a great Mayfair witch. The Witching Hour (Anne Rice) has always been at the top of my favorites list for books. Charlotte, Mary Beth, and Stella are the characters I adore most. And come on, who doesn’t love New Orleans?

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Coming August 15: Chris Mandeville will be chatting with us about her new release, “52 Ways to Get Unstuck”.

The YA Emotional Rollercoaster

Life is a rollercoaster. From youth forward, there is a steady climb to the day we are freed from home and set out on our own. We scream down that first hill into the ups, downs, twists and turns of life. No matter how terrified we are, we can never get off the ride until it is over.

The Emotional Rollercoaster: Plotting the Young Adult Novel was the premise behind a workshop I recently attended at Lighthouse Writers Workshop’s Lit Fest, presented by author Wendy Wunder. Following the graphic below, we discussed the main turning points in the YA novel. The early pages set the stage for our protagonist. It is the who, what, where, why, and when of their situation. Then, in an instant, they make a life altering decision (the inciting incident) that sends them on the ride of their lives filled with heart pounding highs and gut wrenching lows. There are two main high points for the protagonist that are followed by the floor dropping lows, and at the end our protagonist has finally learned something or grown in some way.

Emotional Rollercoaster by Wendy Wunder, handwritten notes added by K.J. Scrim.

When you are writing your next novel (or the one you are working on now) take a look at your protagonist. Do they have the highs that touch the sky and the lows that slam to the ground? Your readers have been waiting in line for a long time for this rollercoaster and they want to feel the twists and turns that you put your characters through. They want to feel the wind as your protagonist flies over the highs and dives down into the lows. Are you taking your readers on an Emotional Rollercoaster? Young adults don’t hang out in the kiddie park anymore; this is the monster rollercoaster so give them the ride of a lifetime!

 

~~~When not spending time with her family, Wendy Wunder teaches yoga around Boston and writing at Grub Street.  Her first story was published in The Gettysburg Review, and is the author of The Probability of Miracles and The Museum of Intangible Things. 

Ashley Bazer

Ashley Hodges Bazer

Ashley Hodges Bazer

Today we are talking with Ashley Hodges Bazer, author of the Heralds of Crown: Poison, and Asylum: The Circeae Tales.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a mom of three. My husband and I met online, and we’re going on our tenth year as a married couple. Right out of college, I worked at Disneyland as a stage manager. Currently, I’m a producer for an international daily radio broadcast. My first book, Asylum, was traditionally published by a self-publisher after winning their annual writing contest. Shortly thereafter, I rebranded my series, of which Asylum is a part, and created The Crown’s Call—a 15 novel sci-fi series. Each book stands alone, centering on a different set of characters in various time frames.

2. What are you working on right now?

I’m making revisions to the second book in my series, Fusion, which is scheduled to release in November. I’m developing the third book, Reconciliation, slated for a May 2015 release. I have two unrelated stories in the works—a sci-fi about a virtual reality system and dark fantasy which has a combination of characters from classic stories. I’m trying to market a fairy tale mash-up I’ve recently completed titled Once Upon a Heist. Think Ocean’s Eleven meets the Disney princesses. And sometime this summer, I will be self-publishing a young adult fantasy titled Checkmate about a human chess match.

3. Heralds of the Crown: Poison is your most recent publication. Would you tell us about it?

Poison is the first in my series that sets the stage for a cosmic war between good (the Logia) and evil (the Strages). The war will eventually lead to a religious holocaust. We meet Gaultier Lassiter, who is enlisted to help the Logia. He encounters a woman beaten and left for dead. She has no memory and no voice. As they discover her identity, Gaultier unlocks a much bigger mystery. His relationship with his brother is strained, and as the story unfolds, it grows more complicated. It’s a story of God’s grace told in a space opera setting.

4. What was the hardest part about getting this book from the first ideas to publication?

The hardest part for me was nailing down the timeline. With this being the first of a trilogy, as well as the first of a total of fifteen books in the entire Crown’s Call saga, I had to make certain the timeline was completely accurate. In my original manuscript, I used days as the time measurement. That was too hard to follow, so I translated it into years. As it neared publication, I went through and verified everything several times.

5. Where did you get your inspiration for this book?

I have two characters whose storylines are drawn from The Little Mermaid and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The inspiration for the story actually came from the first novel I wrote. I’d referenced a legendary character, Kincade the Space Sailor, which I completely made up. As I developed the Crown’s Call saga, I wanted to explore what this legend was all about. I started with the second book, Fusion, and after establishing the characters there, wrote the backstory, which became Poison.

6. What books or authors have influenced you the most and why?

I love reading Kathy Tyers, Lois McMaster Bujold, and C.S. Lewis. I found Tyers’ Firebird trilogy and Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga while working at Barnes & Noble. Firebird and its sequels spoke to my heart. I love how she captured sci-fi and romance together, and included a powerful message with it. I also loved the strong, yet flawed characters Bujold offers. I find C.S. Lewis’s use of allegory rather intriguing, and I try to model that in my books.

7. What are your favorite books that you have read simply for pleasure?

Juliette Marillier’s Sevenwaters trilogy. I loved those books! The series mentioned in the previous question are also favorites I return to time and again.

8. What does a typical writing day look like for you?

Oh, I wish I had a typical writing day! I work full-time, and after work, I spend time with my family. My writing day usually starts after the kids go to bed, giving me a few hours each day. I also write for work, though, which keeps those creative juices flowing.

9. Do you have strategies for getting past those days that are hard to write?

I don’t ever force myself to write if I’m not feeling it. I will usually move onto a different scene or a different manuscript, as I am not a chronological writer. I’ll think through or daydream about where I am stuck, which usually motivates me to get back to what I’m working on. I also like to crochet, which affords me time to think. If I simply cannot find the time to write, I don’t let the guilt get to me. I also carry a notebook with me everywhere I go, just in case inspiration strikes.

10. If you took a two-week vacation in any book or story, where would you go and who would you be?

I would dive into Anne of Green Gables, enjoying Prince Edward Island for a couple of weeks as the wonderful and memorable Anne Shirley—red hair, kindred spirits, puffed sleeves, Gilbert Blythe, and all!

~~Purchase Ashley’s book at:

Amazon: amzn.to/1quzPBn
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1gxXyfP
Smashwords: http://bit.ly/1l7aJ6V
Currently, it’s available in ebook format. A print paperback version will soon be available.

~~Website:  http://www.AshleyBazer.com

~~Contact Information:  ashleybazer@ashleybazer.com

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Coming on June 30th: Kristi Lloyd will be talking about her newly completed urban fantasy.

 

Heralds of the Crown: Poison

Heralds of the Crown: PoisonHeralds of the Crown: Poison by Ashley Hodges Bazer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Heralds of the Crown grabs you from the first chapter and keeps you reading until the last page where you say, “When can I get the next book?” Ashley Hodges Bazer has written a fabulous story of a woman, Marcella, who must choose to stay on evil’s side or go to the side of good. She is faced with choices that are balanced between the two worlds. What a page turner!

View all my reviews

Watch for our interview with Ashley coming June 15th!!

52 Ways to Get Unstuck

52 Ways to Get Unstuck: Exercises to Break Through Writer's Block (52-Ways Book #1)52 Ways to Get Unstuck: Exercises to Break Through Writer’s Block by Chris Mandeville

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a fun, easy, and non-frustrating way to get un-stuck! I purchased Mandeville’s book only a month ago and it has already helped me out of several sticky spots. It is filled with tips and tricks that will help authors through those dry spells. Mandeville utilizes simple exercises that fit the needs of the novice to the seasoned writer. With chapter headings like, “Write Crap”, “Group Dating”, Nick a Name” and “Road Trip!” it is easy to see how fun can be put into a frustrating situation that many writers face. 52 Ways really gets the creative juices flowing again. It is a must for every writer’s toolbox.

View all my reviews

Coming Soon!

I am very excited to announce a new feature on my blog: The Author Interview. Beginning June 15th, I will be interviewing authors from every genre of writing to get insights into their writing experiences and sharing them with you.

If you are a writer and would like to participate please contact me and we will chat.

Please check back on June 15th!

 

PPWC 2014

Over the weekend I was treated to an amazing four days surrounded by writers. For the first time, I attended the Pikes Peak Writers Conference (PPWC) and I don’t think I have learned so much since I was in college. Let me share with you just a few of the highlights, but before I do, did I mention that I was surrounded by writers? Oh, and editors, and agents, and more writers. There were even writers who have books. Yes, plural….BOOKS that are actually published and available on Amazon (or a bookstore near you). I was in writer’s heaven.

I sat in on workshops taught by authors like Becky Clark, Kris Tualla, Linda Rohrbough, Brandy Vallance, Chuck Wedig, Cindi Myers, Jim Hines, and Carol Berg. I was given an opportunity to read a first page of my historical fiction to Beth Phelan (The Bent Agency) who had some great feedback for me. I had lunch with a detective, and dinner with an agent, and after every meal I was back at it again. WHEW!!

The workshops were all amazing. I could take each one and share all the details with you, but that would actually take an entire book and I really only have the space for a blog. So, let me just give you some of the tips (in the form of a bulleted list) that stood out for me.

  • Self-editing is, and must be, painful. Take yourself into “editing triage” and rip that first draft down to your best writing.
  • Do your research when it comes to indie publishing. There are a ton of options to publish that famous novel so check out all the available avenues.
  • Make a good marketing plan. You are your own product (I should say your book is your product) and it needs to be sold. A marketing plan will make that happen.
  • Know your genre. If you have written a horror romance novel, be sure you publicize it as such. Your readers will be upset if they think they have a romance novel when it is more a murder mystery with a bit of romance in it.
  • Create memorable characters that come to life off the pages. Think of them as people who live beyond your book. Who are they? What do they like? What is their favorite color?
  • Your first draft will be crappy and that is a good thing. NO ONE writes beautiful prose right out of the starting gate (well, I should never say no one but you know what I mean). Get your story on paper by any means. Don’t do any research during the first draft. Don’t do any editing during your first draft. Just get it down on paper!
  • Be sure to develop your characters as much as you develop the plot. One gives the other form and color.
  • Real life can be, at times, pretty boring. Leave it out! Your readers already have to live some of that boredom and you, as the writer, do not need to inflict this upon them in your book.
  • If you are writing a book….get Scrivener or some other software dedicated to writing novels. It will save your sanity and prevent balding. OK, you might still go bald, but you won’t rip your hair out while you write.

The four days did come to an end and I fell into what was referred to as post-conference slump. I wanted to continue riding the wave with my fellow writers, but alas, life called me back home. I made new friends and I learned so much about the craft of writing. I am looking forward to applying all the things I learned in my writing. I hope you will consider joining me next year at PPWC and enjoy a piece of writer’s heaven too.

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