Wednesday, November 26, 2014

My Writing Corner goes international today as I greet South African writer, Anita Giraud, author of the new book, "Love in A New Dawn." Welcome, Anita. Did you always want to be a writer?

My earliest ambitions were to be an actress and to be a playwright. I only thought seriously about writing novels when I was doing my post PhD. I got tired of the dry research and wanted to branch out and do something that was more creative and my thing.

When did you first start writing and how did you go about it?

I started by going to the local municipal library about two, three years ago and borrowed Elizabeth George’s “Write away” This started me on my first draft of “Love in a new dawn”, only then it was called “Reckless chase”. After I sent my proposal to various agents and publishers, I decided to go to an online writing school and get some coaching. The one teacher who mentored me the most was writer Rebecca Grace. It was only after that that “Love in a New Dawn” emerged as it is today.

Thanks, Anita. I really enjoyed working with you. How did you come up with the idea for your first book?

Living in South Africa, we’re under the general African influences and the stories of Somali pirates and thug activities going on in the African states are common news. The South African characters especially have a local flavor although the English influence in Durban, where I live, is far stronger than elsewhere in south Africa and this helped me find Lord Somerford’s family.

How do you come up with your story ideas?

There are lots of things happening in the environment where I live and stories of abductions, kidnappings, drugs and crime syndicate activities abound in South Africa and make the background for my work. Of course such activities abound elsewhere in the world as well, so it’s easy to extrapolate. Romance as a genre has always been an interest of mine and having studied literature to doctoral level, I’ve been exposed to lots of different stories over time. However as I said my local environment is the strongest influence as I have a happy marriage and satisfying romantic life.

Tell us about your newest book.

“To Forever Hold” is next on the list. It is the story about the difficult love of an independent art gallery owner, Charlene de Villiers and hotel tycoon Marc Sauzier de la Tour, who, once disappointed in marriage, shuns any further commitment. Their difficulties are exacerbated by the huge Indian Ocean which separates them and how Charlene has to manage with a pregnancy, a crippled father, a nearly bankrupt family business, a spurned admirer who spiked her drink then tried to rape her and her mistrust of Marc whom she disliked heavily in the first place. Marc is at his wits end when he hears that Charlene is pregnant with his child as none of his propositions meet her approval. When both Charlene and Marc realize that they share a deep love that transcends distance, time and all other obstacles it is maybe too late ….

Give us an idea of how you develop your characters?

I use a character sketch list which I fill in but most of all I’m inspired by the many people I see, around me and on television, even passersby whom I catch a glimpse of when I go walking in public places. With the mass media, there’s plenty to go on to have a base for a character. I also socialize quite a lot and come across a wide variety of people.

How do you research your stories?

I have visited the settings in “Love in a New Dawn” and know the local South African sites well. However, I’m also quite used to doing research from my previous job as a researcher and will also research in books as there are lots of libraries available, I use the internet and discuss with the relevant people and so on.

Do you always know how your story is going to end?

I generally have a pretty good idea of what my story is going to be before I start writing it. Following the advice of Elizabeth George, I do quite a lot of preparatory work before I actually start writing the manuscript. Of course, the story has a life of its own and I allow certain steps to develop on their own along the way if those new steps are going to work in favor of the general idea.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a follow up to “Love in a New Dawn” named “Raindrops in the sea” and have also started preparations for a new trilogy. The first of the trilogy, “To Forever Hold”, will hopefully be published in 2015. I’m also keen to have “Love in a New Dawn” turned into a film if I can find a buyer with a decent price and might consider doing the screen writing myself.

What would you tell writers who are just starting out that you wish you had known?

I would suggest having a solid idea to jot down and then look for a mentor to coach you a bit. Join writing circles and writing groups to have some support and be very disciplined and persistent in your work and in looking for a publisher.

What do you read when you are not writing?

I read a wide variety of English and French literature ranging from the classics to contemporary authors in multi genres. I’m very sorry that Mary Stewart hasn’t written any more novels as I love her work but then I also love a host of other writers as well. Tell us a little about your writing day – how do you make time? Since I had to be very disciplined with my studies and my research, I find it easy to be disciplined about everything else. When I’m writing, I prefer to write from about 8.30 a.m. until my inspiration runs dry. As I like to keep my writing fresh and inspired, I don’t believe in working like an automaton. However, due to the preparatory work I’ve done, I’m never intimidated by a blank page, because I always have something to fall back on. I generally aim to do one or two chapters a day.

How can readers reach you or find you online?

I can be found on twitter, facebook, reddit, LinkedIn, Goodreads, on my web site

  Please give us a blurb for your new book.

“Love in a New Dawn” is a contemporary romantic suspense ablaze with the flaming passion that encapsulates the clash of wills of two proud people: Lise Le Thierry the cloistered, idealistic, stubborn, beauty shrouded in mystery whose sense of moral rectitude can never be crushed –until she meets the one man whose sheltering arms made her reason fly. And Morne Louwe, the gorgeous, worldly, tall and muscular CEO of the family Louwe Diamond Mines, who rescues her, is repelled by her time and again, but who can never forget the night his soul was marked by the memory of a body ripe for love…

Where can readers buy it?
Available soon:

Thanks, Anita, and good luck with Love in A New Dawn.  Any questions or comments for Anita?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Conversation with Two Legends

Normally every week I get the opportunity to chat with fellow writers to ask about their latest books, and this week I will be doing the same, but in a different way. What if you had a couple of minutes to spend with two giants of the writing world? What questions would you ask them?

Recently I had the opportunity to listen to best selling thriller authors, David Morrell and John Sandford discuss their approaches to writing at the annual Tony Hillerman Conference in Santa Fe. It is a small conference, no more than 200 people and those who attend get the opportunity to spend three days in workshops with some great writers. This year was no exception. It was my second year attending and it won’t be my last. I’m already making plans to go back next year.

The best part of attending a small conference like this one is that it provides aspiring writers the opportunity every so often for some one-on-one discussions. Imagine my surprise when I went over and approached David Morrell to tell him that I often use a conversation I had with him last year about short stories in my various classes and to thank him for his words of wisdom. Instead of simply accepting the thanks and moving on, he stopped to ask, “What did I say?”

I mentioned that he had told me and another attendee who happened to be one of my students that short stories were a great learning tool because they helped writers work on the basics of storytelling. He also said they helped teach how to be more focused because every words counts so the writing becomes sharper. He nodded and then began to expand on that old discussion, telling me how important it is to study the basics and to constantly study writing techniques. We should always be in the learning process as writers, he said. Then we began discussing first books and his beginnings as a writer. Another woman joined us and asked him about how he got the idea for his signature character, Rambo. It's a questions he's probably had many times, but instead of excusing himself and rushing off to breakfast, he took the time to stop and talk to us about how he had come up with that iconic figure.

Morrell told us he was at Penn State in the 60s, a hotbed for student unrest, and he kept seeing men coming back from the Viet Nam war with psychological problems. He recalled actor Audi Murphy who became a popular movie star after being a war hero in World War II, but Murphy had a lot of problems with rage and was always being arrested. Morrell said he began studying the problems (in those days no one had heard of PTSD) and found himself writing a story based on that. The result was Rambo.
Later that day I got a chance to pose the same sort of question to thriller author, John Sandford. I’ve been a great fan  of his and of his signature character, Detective Lucas Davenport, since I picked up Rules of Prey in the supermarket back when it first came out. I mentioned that to him and asked how he had gotten started. He was a newspaper reporter known as John Camp working in Minneapolis at the time and had just won a Pulitzer Prize. But all it got him was a minor raise. He had written two nonfiction books and dabbled in fiction and was looking for a way to increase his earnings. He had a family to raise and was looking at fiction writing as a possible way to get extra cash. Like so many writers he had always wanted to write fiction--ever since he was in junior high. He told me he spent months walking the inside walkways of downtown Minneapolis in the winter and working out the first Davenport book in his head.

What an inspirational thrill it was to hear those stories directly from both mega-successful authors. They struggled, just like the rest of us. They came up with an idea and they didn’t just sit down and bestsellers sprang from them like magic. They both stressed that they had to work at their writing and their stories. Endless hours of research and writing and re-writing were all part of the package.
Later the two sat down for a chat together for the whole group and their comments were much the same. But I got to hear it directly (and first!) But the one thing that I came away with from their main discussion was the importance of writing every day and continuing to study the craft. As a newspaper reporter, Sandford/Camp says he would write stories of at least 750 words a day. He said if you write that much every day, you should be able to get a novel done in just a few months. That struck a chord with me as a journalist. I was writing every day when I worked in television newsrooms. It might not be fiction, but it was steady writing and it had to get done. Both men agreed that is how to look at your writing. If we want to be writers, we need to constantly work at it. Bosses don't accept the excuse of not feeling like you don't want to write. As a writer you're the boss and shouldn't accept that excuse either.

Wise words from some wise men with a history of 100 books and short stories between them. It certainly made me think, and even as I finish this up, I see I have 750 words written. Now to write another 750 on my next book.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Five Things You Should Know about Emily Darling

Historical Western Romance author Andrea Downing is joining us
today in My Writing Corner. I had the pleasure of meeting Andi in person recently at the Women Writing the West Conference in Golden,  Colorado.

She likes to say that when she decided to do a Masters Degree, she made the mistake of turning left out of New York, where she was born,  instead of right to the west, and ended up in the UK.   She eventually got married there and raised a daughter.  She taught, edited a poetry magazine, and wrote travel articles and spent a short time in Nigeria before returning to New York in 2008. 

She now divides her time between the city and the shore, and often trades the canyons of New York for the wide open spaces of Wyoming.  She and her family often vacation in the West and, so far, she and her daughter have visited some 20 ranches. Her first book, Loveland,  was a finalist for Best American Historical at the 2013 RONE Awards. Lawless Love, a short story, was part of The Wild Rose Press ‘Lawmen and Outlaws’ series, was a finalist for Best Historical Novella at the RONE Awards. 

Dearest Darling, a novella, is part of The Wild Rose Press Love Letters series, and came out in October, and Dances of the Heart, another full length novel, comes out in the next few months.

Here is a blurb:

Daniel Saunders has carved out a life for himself in Wyoming—a life missing one thing: a wife. Having scrimped and saved to bring his mail-order bride from New York, he is outraged to find in her stead a runaway fraud. Even worse, the impostor is the sister of his old enemy.
But people are not always as they seem, and sometimes the heart knows more than the head.
I was already a big fan of Andrea's because of her great characters, and Emily is another strong, memorable woman. Here are five things you should know about her:

                                                 Emily Darling, Heroine of Dearest Darling
1.      Born in the city, she wants to live in the country.

2.      She’s small of stature but big of heart.
3.      She was raised as a debutante, but is willing to work as a housekeeper.
4.      Destined for an arranged marriage, she is holding out for a man of her choosing.

5.      She is strong-willed and adventurous and wants to experience EVERYTHING (and I do mean everything!)

 Dearest Darling is already getting good reviews. Here are the buy links:

Thanks, Andrea, for being today's guest, and good luck with Dearest Darling!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

On the Writing Road

The whole month of November is poised to be one mighty writing challenge, but it is also offering some great opportunities an author shouldn’t pass up.

This morning I am off for a long and I'm certain fun filled weekend in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A trip to New Mexico is always great for research purposes, since I have set several books there and I am working on several others, including one that is set back in the 1870s. Some people dread the long stretches of road. They consider them empty and boring. But those wide open spaces make me think of the pioneers crossing the grasslands looking for a better place to live. I always keep an eye out for deer, antelope and sometimes buffalo. (Yes, real buffalo!)

But the real draw is the Tony Hillerman Conference and all that it has to offer for a writer. I attended for the first time last year and what a great experience it was. From meeting with one of my former students to spending time listening to such greats as Craig Johnson discuss characters in his Longmire series to a personal conversation with the great David Morrell about short stories, I enjoyed the conference immensely. What an outstanding experience! Talking with others about writing methods, hearing from Margaret Coel about her experiences in writing about Native Americans, I felt like every minute was worth the time. 

I also enjoyed the fact that the conference was not overwhelming. It's designed as a smaller conference, and I've always been an advocate for smaller gatherings. Look around for those types of  opportunities in your area. They often don't cost as much as the big conventions and are well worth the effort. There were only 200 or so people attending the Hillerman Conference last year. The sessions were all held in one big room so we all got an opportunity to hear from every one of the guest speakers. It also gave us the chance to pick each other’s brains at breaks, during lunch, and in the social hours. And what a great bookstore!  I went out laden with two big bags of books and there were more I wanted to get. At the time the cashier said I set the record for the biggest sale of the day. But it was early. I'm certain others beat it later.
This year should be every bit as great. Mystery author John Sandford is one of the guests and he has two new novels out in the past couple of months with two of his greatest characters, Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers. I’ve been hooked on both series since each started and I am looking forward to hearing what he has to say about the latest books. (I've been holding off getting them so I can buy them at the conference and ask him to sign them.) He’s presenting a keynote address with David Morrell and is part of a panel discussion on outlining.

I’ll be participating in the new author/new book breakfast on Friday and signing my book Dead Man’s Rules. That should be fun because it’s always great to meet new readers and the book is set in New Mexico.
But in addition to the conference, I’ll also be doing more research for my follow up to Dead Man with a second story called Dead Man’s Treasure. And it’s just what it sounds like. I am taking readers on a treasure hunt and believe me there are plenty of treasure tales in northern New Mexico. This trip gives me a prime opportunity to examine some of those tales first hand.

When I come back from the conference, I’ll be digging in as I have been for the past week on my writing. This year I am again participating in NaNoWriMo, the quest to write 50,000 words in one month. I’ve managed to do it for the past few years. This year I will be focusing on a cozy mystery, a follow up to my novella, Shadows from the Past, set in the mysterious Redfern Manor which was the setting of that story. I'll have more on my NaNoWriMo writing journey later this month.
 So in essence, while this is a vacation, it is also a great time to work on my writing through learning and to get more of those words onto the computer for NaNoWriMo. In the meantime, happy writing!

A Writing Quest

With the cold days of winter in the rearview mirror and spring taking a firm hold, it's time to look forward to all the reading we want ...