Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Meet Nina Barrett

My guest today in My Writing Corner is Nina Barrett. Nina, we wouldlike to know about your writing journey.  When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
            I don’t remember a time I didn’t know I would be a writer. When I was little, I would write stories for my family and read them to them nightly. (I got good, if bemused feedback.)
            My mother always read to me. I drank in the music of Mother Goose and the stories of Thornton Burgess. I think early exposure to literature gives one the movable feast Hemingway described experiencing Paris as a young man being. Reading was important to my mother. I loved to hear her talk about books.
            As I grew older I loved the look of print on the page. I read the information on typefaces used and noticed pagination and how chapters were divided. Later I found myself analyzing how point of view and transitions were handled and plots structured. I loved the classic romantic suspense novels of Mignon Eberhart, Daphne du Maurier and Mary Stewart.
            I completed my first manuscript in junior high – an Agatha Christie type mystery and continued writing through high school, largely poetry at that time.
How did you get started on the road to publishing? 
           In my twenties I began writing with the objective of being published. I submitted my first manuscript, a gothic romance, on my thirtieth birthday. It was quickly returned with a thank you, but no thank you form letter. I continued to submit while researching agents and publishers and growing increasingly discouraged until I won a scholarship to the Antioch Writers’ Workshop in Yellow Springs, Ohio. My first class was with Sue Grafton and over the years I have been privileged to meet other authors such as Jennifer Crusie, Katrina Kittle and Kathy Hogan Trochek. 
            Re-energized I joined the RWA as well as my local chapter, attended conventions, met with a writers’ group and found a critique partner. One day on my local RWA chapter e-mail loop I found information about a new e-book publisher soliciting manuscripts. I submitted my book Marriage Made in Haven to Musa Publishing and was thrilled to see it published in June 2012. The Wild Rose Press published my second novel Return of the Dixie Deb this spring. Working with Lori Graham was a great experience. Marriage Made in Haven is available as an e-book through Musa Publishing and Return of the Dixie Deb is available in e-book or paperback form through the Wild Rose Press.
Tell us a little about your newest book.
            Return of the Dixie Deb is a light, contemporary romance with a touch of mystery. Set up by her former fiancĂ©, Jan Thimmons is presented with the choice of participating in an undercover FBI operation to solve a cold case or face charges of tax evasion. Paired with Special Agent Mac McKenzie, a man pursuing his own agenda, the two re-enact the exploits of the so-called Dixie Deb. A legend in the Deep South, the Deb and her gentleman accomplice pulled off a series of bank robberies before disappearing years ago. Jan and Mac’s activities end explosively and they must go undercover themselves to clear their names. Sparks ignite flames as working together they expose the real Dixie Deb along with a threat to national security.
Where did you get the idea for this particular story?
            For me it always starts with a picture or a vision in my mind. With Return it was a young woman facing an IRS auditor while an FBI agent watching her fights feelings of sympathy as she wilts trying to explain the situation she’s in. I realize I can write the story when I know the first sentence. For Return it was - She had that “deer in the headlights” look most people would probably have if they were facing an auditor for the Internal Revenue Service.
What do you start with when coming up with a book – characters, the plot or an idea?
            It’s probably a combination of an idea and the characters I see attached to it. Plot is something that happens the more I work with my characters. Of course, since it’s a romance I know my characters are going to find their ways to an HEA!
Give us an idea of how you develop your characters?
           I’m tactile. To me the creative process is like being a sculptor or a potter. I have to get in and work with words. I always write my first draft in longhand. I need the physical connection of pen on paper. As I worked on Return of the Dixie Deb I saw Jan changing from passively reacting to her predicament to growing into an active partner with Mac as a result of her adventures as the Dixie Deb.
Do you always know how your story is going to end when you start?
            No. I have some ideas of complications my characters are going to go through and I have faith they will find their way, but figuring all that out is part of the adventure and thrill of writing. Tony Hillerman once said plotting is like driving through fog with your low beams on. You can’t see far ahead, but you can see far enough to know you won’t drive off a cliff. I’m still safe so far!
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started out? 
           I think my light bulb moment occurred at my first RWA convention. I attended the first timers’ session, looked around and thought – Well, if I’m crazy for wanting to do this, I sure have company.
            So people, you’re not crazy. Network, reach out, don’t keep what you’re doing a secret. Keep going, keep going. Like Sue Grafton once said – Every writer ever published has a suitcase full of unpublished manuscripts under her bed.
What are you working on now? 
           A trilogy about the three McClendon brothers set on their family ranch in Cottonwood, New Mexico. I’ve completed the first book and am now revising the second. 
           In book one, McClendon’s Trust, Connor McClendon, still aching from a divorce, finds himself falling for Cathie Shanahan, a big city attorney representing the other side in a land dispute involving his family’s ranch. Book two, McClendon’s Land, finds Connor’s younger brother, Griffin, taking a break from his doctoral studies to help out on the Lazy M when he surprises a trespasser on their land. Alessa Glendening, a newcomer to Cottonwood, is clearly unhappy at meeting a McClendon and guarded about her interest in what the McClendons’ regard as theirs.
What are your favorite things to do when you are not writing?
            Oh, travel, spending time with family and friends, reading, thinking, plotting, plotting, plotting.
How can readers reach you or find you online?
           Join me as Nina Barrett on Facebook. I’m the little girl at the typewriter – the writer at a gnarly age probably being watched carefully by her mother or e-mail me at nina@ninabarrett.

Thank you, Nina, for your comments and your insight into the writing world.  Any comments or questions for Nina?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Balancing Act

by J. C. McKenzie

When I started writing Shift Happens, my debut novel, I was childless. The only responsibilities my husband and I had were paying the bills and taking care of our fur-baby (a 70 lbs American Staffy). Then our lives changed.
We created this beautiful life.

While I adore everything about my son, it tipped the scales of my “balancing act.” During maternity leave, it wasn’t so bad. My writing occurred during one of my son’s many nap times, but when I went back to work, I found myself struggling to maintain my sanity. I had to go to my day job as a teacher, tutor, coach, take care of my son (basic needs, but also just playing with him and spending time with him), clean, cook, wash bottles, make lunches, and fit in workouts if I wasn’t exhausted. I still wanted to play volleyball and needed to fit that in somehow too.
Luckily, my husband is a modern man and helped out a lot around the house, so not everything was solely on me. But even with the two of us plugging away at the mundane day-to-day stuff, by the time I got to put my feet up, my writing mojo wasn’t just gone, it had fled the scene, assumed an alternate identity, and holed up somewhere deeply recessed.

I needed to find time for my writing.
The ultimate formula still alludes me. Right now, I’m bogged down with promotional work for Shift Happens, editing for Beast Coast and The Shucker’s Booktique (both contracted pieces), editing the third installment of the Carus Series to make it submission worthy and writing the last two books of the Carus series.

Somehow I need to fit that all in. And my current solution fits into two words: Nap Time.
Just like when I was on Maternity leave, I count on these precious few hours to get everything done. I jam Social Media blasts into little breaks here and there throughout the day. I edit hard copy versions of my story during the week, so I can read in the living room and interact with my family. I reserve writing time to the afternoon nap time on the weekends and hope I make some progress. I also write after the little man has gone to bed. Now that the weather is nicer, I try to walk everywhere to fit in the workouts, but this is the area that’s having to compromise for my sanity!

What I’ve found is that my writing is more succinct. Yes, this is probably due to improving with experience, but I also think it’s because I only have a few short hours for my writing. I’ve had to mull over plot points and think about character development. When it comes time for me to sit down for some uninterrupted bliss, the words just fly onto the computer screen.
Less is more, it seems.

What about you? How do you fit everything into your schedule without losing it?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Meet Liz Flaherty

Stopping by My Writing Corner today is Liz Flaherty, author of the new women's fiction book, The Girls of Tonsil Lake. Liz, please tell us a little about your writing journey.  How did you get started?

The way a lot of us did, I think. I read a gazillion or so romances and decided I could do that.  It was, as you might imagine, a little bit harder than that. I “practiced” for 10 years or so before selling my first book. I’m always amazed—and maybe jealous—when people sell their first manuscripts. Mine had a cast of thousands, more points of view than you could shake a stick at (sometimes in the same scene), and at least one –ly word in every paragraph.

Did you always want to be a writer?

I think I always was one. When I was a little kid, my aunt let me play with her typewriter. One finger at a time, I always wrote stories on it. They were awful—just as my first romance manuscripts were—but I was already a writer.

Tell us a little about your new book, The Girls of Tonsil Lake. What gave you the idea for this story?

It’s a girlfriends book, and it’s hard to say what gave me the idea. The Girls came to me fully developed, which was nice, and then I had to dig for their story. The digging part was fun, though they kept surprising me.

Why did you choose this particular genre?

It’s women’s fiction, and I think it chose me. Make no mistake, I still love romance, but the woman’s journey (with or without a man) is the read I like best. It’s my steak-and-baked-potato of reading.

Where do you come up with your story ideas?

Good heavens, I have no idea. I will say, though, that I’m not one of those whose mind teems with ideas. In a good year, I’ll have a couple.

Do you start your writing with research, characters or a plot idea?

Characters. They lead me to research—which I love. I can’t write historical because all I’d want to do is research. However, I can’t plot my way out of a paper bag.

What do you like best about your hero?

My heroes are always nice guys with flaws. They lean toward being beta, but if the situation demands it, they can do the alpha thing. They won’t like it, though.

What about your heroine?

They’re nurturers, even if they don’t realize it. They’re also flawed, usually funny, and have been hurt. The hurt doesn’t define them, but it’s not all that far below the surface.

What are you working on now?

A story I hope Harlequin Heartwarming loves (they don’t know about it yet) about high school sweethearts who come together 16 years after a prom night accident that irrevocably changed who they were and who they became. It’s fun, except for the abundance of corners I keep writing myself into. If I spent as much time dusting corners as I do writing in them, my mother would be so proud of me!

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started writing?

That editors are cool people, not scary ones who sit behind their desks and practice being royalty. When my first book was in production, the late and very lamented Kate Duffy called me at home. I jumped out of my chair, almost saluting in my agitation, and said breathlessly, “Oh, Miss Duffy, really?” (Yes, really, I did.) And she said, “Oh, call me Kate.”

Whenever I get intimidated—and I still do sometimes—I remember this woman who was as close to royalty as it got in those days telling a first-time author to “…call me Kate…” and I’m fine.

How about a blurb?

Don’t mind if I do! Here you go:

Four women whose differences only deepen the friendship forged in a needy childhood…

They were four little girls living in ramshackle trailers beside a lake in rural Indiana. They shared everything from dreams to measles to boyfriends to more dreams. As they grew up, everything in their lives changed—except their friendship. Through weddings and divorces, births and deaths, one terrible secret has kept them close despite all the anger, betrayal, and pain.

Now, forty years later, facing illness, divorce, career challenges, and even addiction, the women come together once again for a bittersweet month on an island in Maine. Staring down their fifties, they must consider the choices life is offering them now and face the pain of what happened long ago.

Secrets are revealed and truths uncovered, but will their time together cement their lifelong friendship—or drive them apart forever?

How can readers reach you or find you online?

LOL. All the usual places! I’ll be so glad to hear from them.

Thank you for being my guest today. I look forward to reading The Girls of Tonsil Lake.  Are there are any questions or comments for Liz?





Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Meet Tina Susedik

Summer is a prime time for reading and this summer I'll be introducing authors with new books out, just in time for summer reading. Joining me today in My Writing Corner is romance author, Tina Susedik, whose new book is Riding For Love. 

Thank you, Rebecca, for having me here today. I enjoy reading about the lives of other authors.
And we would like to know about your life. You say on your website you always wanted to be a writer. How did you get started on the road to publication?
I’ve always had stories running through my head. I can remember laying in the grass on ahot summer days, making up stories about fairies, kings, queens and evil wizards. The Boxcar Children was one of my favorite books, so I made up stories about children living on their own in the woods. Unfortunately, in those days, (I won’t say how low ago), writing wasn’t an emphasis in schools, so I didn’t know I could write those stories down. In college, all of my writing was in the form of papers.
When I was in my thirties, after one of our family’s many moves, I found myself without a job. I was going through a woman’s magazine and came across an ad for the Institute of Children’s Literature. I submitted a story about a tornado my family had gone through when I was a child. I was accepted and the rest is history. So my journey in writing started with children’s books. After another move, I started writing local history and military books. In between, I dabbled in writing romance, but wasn’t very serious about it. I finished a few manuscripts, which I can honestly say weren’t very good, but I persisted, went to conferences, workshops, read books, started a romance writer’s group and improved my craft.

Two years ago, when I entered my sixth decade of life, I decided if I didn’t do anything with my romance, I never would. So I took a deep breath, put on my big-girl panties and pitched a book to one publisher and submitted a short synopsis and the first three chapters to another. A month later, within two weeks of each other, I received a request from both publishers for the full manuscripts.  The following May (2013) “Riding for Love,” a romantic mystery set in small-town Wisconsin, was released in e-book form with Soul Mate Publishing. Three weeks ago, it came out in paperback. The other book, written under a pen name, will be released some time later this year with The Wild Rose Press.

That's a great story and good luck with your next book. Tell us about your writing process. What do you start with – characters, the plot of idea? 
That depends. Sometimes, if I’m in a restaurant or a park, bus, etc. and I see a couple interacting (or not) with each other in a certain way, a story idea will come to me. I guess I’d have to say that most of my stories come to me as ideas, then develop into a plot, then the characters develop based on the plot.

Give us an idea of how you develop your characters.
I use worksheets to develop my characters. You know, their name, age, height, weight, likes, dislikes, any issues they may have that will change during the story. Sometimes, the characters just don’t keep to the sheets, though. In a book I’m editing now, I developed a character that I intended to be, not so much a villain, but not quite a nice guy. In one scene he went ahead and did something so nice, I wasn’t sure how to handle him. Suddenly, I had this bad guy who turned into a good guy and remained that way. It turned out to be a good thing, because I came up with his own story for another book.

Characters have a way of misbehaving like that sometimes. How do you research your stories?
 It depends on the era I’m writing in. I have a time travel set in 1840 that I’ve been working on. That took a lot of research. I needed to find out what books were published, what type of clothing they wore, how on earth they kept diapers on babies, etc. One of the stories I’m working on now, I wrote in the early 1990’s. After re-reading it, I decided it wasn’t too bad, but I wanted to add some mystery elements to put some meat into the plot. It’s been nearly twenty years since I wrote it and had to add cell phones, internet and other current items that changed the way my characters acted.

Do you always know how your story is going to end?
On paper I do, but those darn characters have a way of changing things when you least expect it. In “Riding for Love,” I thought I had the ending written, then the heroine decided the story wasn’t over, so I added a twist, which the readers seem to like.

What are you working on now?
Right now I have several irons in the fire. I’m waiting for the edits from my editor on the book coming out later this year. I have two books I’m editing. I was editing one, while two of my writer friends read the other draft. They both recently gave me the manuscript back, so right now I’m actually editing two books. I've decided I need to focus on one at a time. I keep forgetting my characters' names. I also have two children’s books being released in August. I have the writing part done, but I’m waiting for the illustrators to get their work to me so I can put the book together.

You sound like you're really busy with your writing. What would you tell beginning writers?
There are so many things I would tell a beginning writing, but the first is believe in yourself and your dream of getting published and don’t give up. Hone your craft. Read books about writing. Take workshops. Enter contests. Be professional. Don’t let rejection slips get you down or make you give up. As my writing improved, so did my rejection slips. Those letters are proof you are doing what you love. Don’t let the success of other authors, diminish your desire to write. So many times we hear of the “overnight” success of this author or that author. What we don’t hear is the number of rejections they received or the "practice" manuscripts they probably have in their closets or under their beds. And most of all – never give up.

That is so true. Tell us a little about your writing day – how do you make time?
Making time is the ultimate problem of most writers. If you want it bad enough, you’ll find time. I don’t write every day. My other jobs sometimes get in the way and as I get older, I can’t write into the night like I used to. But – there’s always a but – I’m always writing my work in progress in my head. While I’m driving, doing dishes, waiting to pick up the grandkids, etc. I’m asking myself, “What if the hero/heroine does this? What would happen if I make them do that? How can I make this scene work?” Once while I was getting a massage, instead of relaxing, my mind was going a mile a minute trying to figure out what type of job to give my hero. I had changed the plot and his current job wasn’t working anymore. I started telling my therapist about the plot and my characters. Before I knew it, between the two of us, we’d solved my problem.  I keep a notebook or paper on hand so I can write down ideas.

When I am at home for a full day, I get up early and go for a walk or use the elliptical. I do any chores that need to get done and head to my office my 8:30 or 9:00. I go through e-mails, Tweet, check Facebook, pay bills and handle correspondence. Then I write or edit or re-edit and re-write. In the summer I enjoy writing and editing outside, otherwise it’s in my office.

What are your favorite things to do when you are not writing?
Of course I love to read. I can’t imagine not having a book to read. I never go anywhere without a book. I also love to hike, bike, garden, camp, snowshoe, and spend time with my children and grandchildren.
Where can readers find out more about you?

Readers can reach me at:


Twitter: @tinasusedik

Facebook: Tina Susedik, author

Soul Mate Publishing Author Blog:

Good luck with your new book, Tina, and thank you so much for being my guest today.  Questions or comments for Tina?

Mysterious Doings

As the  summer begins, it is time to start selecting those books we want to take on vacation or for sitting around the pool or at  the beach...