Writer of Soul-Searching Snark

Archive for the ‘Alaska’ Category

The One Legitimate Excuse

Seems like I need to introduce myself to everyone again. It has been months since I have blogged. Trust me, the reasons/excuses are many and legitimate, but I can’t help recalling the words of the wise, talented, and divine Mrs Velda Brotherton. Early on, during one of my first meetings with the Northwest Arkansas Writers’ Workshop, someone commented, “I haven’t written this week. Who has time?”

To which Velda replied, “You WRITE. Everything else goes to the wayside.”

Dusty Richards piped up and said, “No husband has ever died from making his own sandwich for dinner.”

Velda added, “And no one has ever been killed by a dust bunny.”

??????????????????????Clearly, Velda has never been to my house. A dust bunny ran out from under the couch the other day and tried to choke the dog.  Then again, house cleaning has NEVER been an excuse for me not to write. Good lord. You should see it now. Hideously disgusting. I keep the kitchen clean since I cook a lot, but the rest of the house is a disaster. Yes, it bothers me. Yes, I do clean, but this past week has been particularly difficult. Instead of sweeping, mopping, slaying dust bunnies and folding laundry, I’ve spent every moment with my cat, Dax.

Prior to this past week with Dax, I’d finally gotten back to my writing schedule. Petty, little things had impeded my creative process such as organizing the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc. Conference, establishing Sunflower Heritage Farms, and assisting in the births of rabbits, lambs and pigs (trust me, you do NOT want to now about that particular experience!)

Finally, back on my writing schedule and Dax gets sick. Some folks don’t get it, but my pets are like my family. I love them. I care for them. I cherish them. Dax moved with me from Alaska along with Leo (who passed in February 2009,) Cedric and Jasmine.  Dax was diagnosed with cancer last week, but was too weak to do a biopsy to determine treatment. Dr. Larsen at The All Cats Clinic in Fayetteville was very kind when she informed me that the blood test results came back and the only thing we could do was keep Dax comfortable until he passed.

So instead of writing, cleaning, cooking, eating, breathing, I held Dax. Mama would come up and sit with him while I fed critters. I didn’t want him to be alone.  Yesterday, my other brother, Darryl and I were supposed to go to Cove, AR to get a load of goats. I refused to go. There was no way I was going to leave Dax. My other brother, Darryl, agreed to meet the goat lady on his own and take notes.

Dax Hugs CedricAbout 4 PM yesterday afternoon, I knew Dax wasn’t going to be with us much longer. I took him into the bedroom and we laid on the bed together, his furry back pressed against my stomach. My hand barely touching his hip, not wanting to hurt him, but needing to touch him. His breathing slowed. My tears increased. For fourteen years, that little guy brought me joy and happiness. There was no way I was going to do anything other than provide him solace as he had for me for so many years.

He passed peacefully in his sleep, in my arms.

Did I write last week? Not a word.  Do I regret it? Not for a second.

This week though, no excuses. The hero from Loch Lonnie (God, he’s hot) has been yelling at me. The heroine in Desert Dreams, Grace, is really, really mad at me because I left her hanging.  Desert Dreams is a Luna Zega story and stopping in the middle of a sex scene is just cruel–or at least Grace keeps telling me that.

So, look out world. Claire Croxton and Luna Zega are back to their writing schedule. Great literature is on its way!!

Thank you to all my friends who have been so very supportive and kind during this trying time.

Giant furry, gray, Dax hugs to you all.

 

 

The Next Big Thing Blogfest

Miss Velda Brotherton, the co-founder of the Northwest Arkansas Writers Workshop and an amazing, multi-published author asked me to participate in The Next Big Thing blog series. Her Next Big Thing blog posting can be found at: :

http://veldabrotherton.wordpress.com

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:

What is your working title of your book?

My latest book is called Ex-Ray. My mom came up with the title. She’s terrible at naming things. She didn’t even name me. Daddy was in the hospital in Tulsa having a kidney removed. She called him to let him know he had a daughter and he named me over the phone. Her cats have all been named “Kitty” or “Fluffy.” I had to name her last two cats—“Betsy” and “Priscilla” So, for my mother to give me a book title is a BIG deal.  My first release was Redneck Ex, so she thought it would be cool for me to have an “Ex” series. Goodness knows I have enough exes to provide material for a 30 volume series! It’s all them, you know? I’m a peach.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Ex-Ray is about a woman who disappears without a trace to escape an abusive marriage. She obtains a new identity and moves to Barrow, Alaska where she becomes a 911 Emergency dispatcher. After I’d finished the edits on Santorini Sunset and I was ready to start a new book, I looked through some old files of mine and discovered a novel I started twenty years ago. I was working as a 911 dispatcher in Barrow, Alaska at the time and the novel included some of the very interesting calls I’d received while I worked there. So, I dusted it off, spruced it up and went to work. It’s darker than my usual work. I’ll admit to days of prevailing indigo moods and nightmares while writing it, but it was worth it. I believe it was extremely cathartic for me.

What genre does your book fall under?

At first, I thought it was contemporary romance, but now I think it’s romantic suspense or possibly women’s fiction. It actually falls into the contemporary romance guidelines, but it’s too dark. I don’t think it’s dark enough for women’s fiction. I absolutely cannot stop the snark. So, even though it’s a dark topic, there are a lot of lighter moments. After talking to a couple of editors, I’m labeling it romantic suspense.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Oh, I love playing this game.  Just love it!

The point of view cmaggiegcharacter is Anne Sutton. I see Maggie Gyllenhaal as Anne.

The antagonist is her husband, Ray Malloy. I see Christian Bale or Toby Keith as the really, really bad guy.

christianbtobyk 

The love interest is Joe Carducci. Joe is simply dreamy. He would be played by Channing Tatum or Orlando Bloom.

channingt   orlandob

Anne’s best friend is Bernadette Brower. I see Gwich’in actress Princess Lucaj playing that role.

princess

What is the synopsis of your book?

The isolation of the Alaska’s Arctic is the perfect place to hide, but you can’t outrun your past. Maggie Shaw flees an abusive husband and assumes a new life as Anne Sutton a 9-1-1 emergency dispatcher. Her husband, Ray Malloy, a meth-dealing, dirty cop with a violent temper and a powerful right hook, is determined to find her and the three million in drug money she stole. Using her computer hacking skills, Anne is able to stay one step ahead of Ray until he goes off the grid. Even though she lives in constant fear of discovery, friendships develop and she falls in love with the new cop in town, Joe Carducci. When her past comes crashing down on her, will she be able to overcome her fears and protect her friends or will she once again become victim to Ray’s evilness?

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Praying that it will be represented by an agency.  Could everyone reading this take a moment and visualize Ex-Ray with a Random House on the spine of the book?  One second, that’s all it takes.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I was editing another book while writing this one, so I’d say about a year.  In addition to being the President of the Oklahoma Writers Federation, farm life keeps getting in the way. If I have the opportunity to actually write every day like I should, I can get a first draft done in a couple of months.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I describe Ex-Ray as Sleeping with the Enemy meets Hope Floats.  I do realize those are movies, but what can I say? I don’t follow rules very well.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Good question.  As I mentioned, I’d started the book twenty years ago. A lot has changed since then. Anne and the love interest Joe were always there, but Anne’s reason for being in Barrow changed. It turned out that the guy I was living with at the time I first started Ex-Ray was abusive. Like everyone in such situations, I discovered the extent of his temper and violence too late. This book took a turn toward the dark underbelly of life when I decided to make Anne a victim of domestic violence. Hence the nightmares and indigo moods while I was writing it. I hope Ex-Ray will be helpful and encouraging for women in similar situations. The book is dedicated to my father because he’s the one that dragged me out of the mess.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Alaska. Barrow. Fall sunset by bowhead whale jaw bones and umiaq frame.Well, the fact that it’s written by the still unnoticed greatness that is Claire Croxton should be enough, right? Just kidding!  It’s set in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost community in North America (300 miles above the Arctic Circle.) I lived there for fourteen years, so folks can get a real taste for life in the Arctic. All of the 911 calls happened in real life. My magical formula for NY Times Bestselling novels is: cats + snark + sex = bestseller. NY seems to be unfamiliar with my magical formula, but they’ll discover it soon enough, right? Especially with everyone visualizing a major publisher on the spine of my hardcover book. So, of course all three elements are in abundance.

So, this is where I’m supposed to list 5 authors who will also be blogging these questions. Unfortunately, all the bloggers I know are already blogging on this topic.  Having the same people post the same interview on the same blogs could get a tad bit tedious. So, Velda Brotherton took pity on me and told me I could explain why I failed to do my homework and get other authors’ participation. Bottom line? I procrastinated (big shocker) and by the time I got around to asking folks to participate, they were already doing it for someone else. My bad. But, don’t you just love Velda?

You should check out these blogs by some brilliant writers!

http://janmorrill.wordpress.com/2012/12/05/next-big-thing-blogfest/

http://lindacapple.wordpress.com/

http://pamelafosterspeakerwriter.wordpress.com/

Sweet Taters

I love autumn.  Just love it.  The crisp morning air, the falling leaves (I’m waxing poetic here, so go with me, okay?  I’m aware that the leaves have been falling for months because of the drought,) harvest moons and hearty stews. I missed autumn when I lived in the Arctic. There were a couple of days when the tundra turned red, but it was quickly covered in snow.

It’s such a joy to work outside on a pretty fall day.  Today, we dug sweet taters.  Personally, I detest sweet potatoes. Can’t stand them. Can’t even eat the marshmallows off the top of the casserole. Bleck! Pops  knew I hated them and when I was a kid, he always made me plant them.  How cruel is that?  When  I lived in Kaktovik, I remember getting a box from Pops in the mail. Pops didn’t mail things.  That was always Ma’s department.  So, getting something from Pops was quite exciting

Life in a tiny Inupiaq village in the middle of the Arctic Ocean can be somewhat dreary to say the least. I lived for the mail. OMG. It soooo was freaking exciting to get a box. Since it was from Pops, I knew it was going to be good. I clutched the package to my chest and ran to to the truck. I couldn’t wait to open it.  It was like Christmas Eve.  Do you open the gifts that night or hold out the suspense until Christmas morning?

It didn’t take me long to tear past the brown paper wrapping and rip into the cardboard. Pops sent me something. Oh boy! Oh boy!

Imagine my surprise when I reached into the package and pulled out a giant sweet potato. Yep. That’s right, my father mailed a sweet potato to the Arctic. After phoning him and giving him a piece of my mind–while laughing, of course, I poked some toothpicks into it and grew the prettiest sweet potato vine in Kaktovik, Alaska.

So, as I savored the beautiful fall afternoon digging potatoes with Ma and my other brother Darryl, I smiled and thought of Pops.  I remember people telling me that he’d always be with me. It was little comfort to hear those words, but now I know what they meant and relish those tiny moments when Pops reminds me that he’ll always love me.

 

Ma and my other brother Darryl hard at work. Hey! Someone had to document the event. That’s work too!

Dig them taters, Bubba!

Yum Yum. Sweet tater pie, anyone?

 

Now, that’s a tater that would make one heck of a vine, don’t you think?

 

 

 

Claire’s Synopsis AKA the Suc-Kop-Sis

What is the purpose of a synopsis? Yeah, I know, it’s a summary of the 400-page manuscript you’ve been slaving over for the past year (or 3 or 5.) I get that. The agent/editor/publisher needs to know what the book is about without having to slog through the entire document–especially if it isn’t their genre. My question is why the hell does it have to be in the format they require?

Why can’t it be an outline or a chapter-by-chapter breakdown? Regardless if your book is written in first person/past tense, the synopsis has to be in third person/present tense.  What the heck is that all about?

Even though, I toiled for hours to get the best paragraph EVER to describe Ex-Ray in my query letter, I can’t use it in my synopsis.  Shoot, I could have written a third of a novel in the time I spent on that paragraph. Now, the synopsis?

So tell me, does this paragraph draw you in or what?

The isolation of Alaska’s arctic is the perfect place to hide. But you can’t outrun your past. Maggie Shaw flees an abusive husband and assumes a new life as Anne Sutton, a 911 emergency dispatcher. Her husband, Ray Malloy, a meth-dealing, dirty cop with a vicious temper and a powerful right hook, is determined to find her and the three million in drug money she stole. Using her computer hacking skills, Anne is able to stay one step ahead of Ray until he goes off the grid. Even though she lives her life with the constant threat of discovery, she’s eventually able to form deep friendships and even falls in love again—with Joe Carducci, the new cop in town. When Ray shows up in Barrow, Anne must overcome her fears to protect her friends from Ray’s violence.

Maybe the agent will be wowed and just ignore the synopsis. Any chance that’ll happen?

Meet Dr. Summer Leigh Johnson

Dr. Summer Leigh Johnson is the main character in Redneck Ex. She’s an anthropologist and the director of the Arctic Research Observation Center in Barrow, Alaska. Laurie at Laurie’s Paranormal Thoughts sat down with Dr. Johnson and had a little chat.

Drop by and check out what she has to say.

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Are You Kidding Me?: The Canceled Easter Egg Hunt

Easter egg hunts in Kaktovik, Alaska were the best. Brightly colored plastic eggs thrown atop snow banks. The best part? Each age group had their own hunt, including the 20-40 year olds. No need to beat up children to get the most eggs.

Jan Morrill Writes

Yesterday, CNN’s Piers Morgan reported on an Easter egg hunt that had been canceled. Care to take a guess why? Bad weather? No. Bad economy? No. Egg shortage? No.

So why was it cancelled?  Bad behavior by . . . the parents!

Are you kidding me?

Now, I believe in parental involvement. But not to the extent the parents are the ones grabbing the eggs, after crossing barricades placed to prevent their involvement, then pushing other children out of the way to get at more, more, more.

I also believe in competition. But parents pushing and shoving, trying to get the most eggs for their little darlings is NOT competition. Whatever happened to the philosophy, “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game?”

This bad behavior by adults–on Easter, no less–makes me sad and mad, and it’s just one more thing that makes me wonder, “What’s this world coming…

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Jack Dalton–the Raven

Several people have asked me why I’m so excited about Jack Dalton  speaking at the Oklahoma Writers Federation conference May 3-5. It has become a standing joke. Like a church liturgy, every time someone says, “Jack Dalton,” I respond with “I love Jack.”

I truly do love Jack and I can’t wait for all my writer friends to meet him. I feel like a second grader during show-and -tell.  “Look. Look, everyone! Here’s my friend, Jack. And guess what?  He tells stories . . .and, um, he’s cute…and um, he’s a . . . he’s a RAVEN!”

God, if only. I think the coolest thing I ever took to show-and-tell was a rock with some kind of fossil in it. Looking back on it, I think it was a rock that had a bug smashed into it when my dad ran over it with a truck.

But, I digress. I do that a lot, along with repressing and stressing.

Jack + OWFI= Greatness

You see, ravens have magical powers.  In many Native American traditions, the raven created earth. Ravens are a creative life force. Each of us has a magician within and a raven can show us how to bring that part of us out of the dark into the light.

Jack Dalton did that for me. I was in a dark, dark place–basement-of-the-abyss dark. I had no hope. No idea what I was going to do with my life. Simply miserable.

We were at lunch one day and I was telling him a story about growing up a redneck in the Ozarks. He laughed and said to me, “Claire, you’re a great storyteller.”

My jaw dropped. THE Jack Dalton, storyteller to the world, told me I was a good storyteller.

Then, he asked, “Have you ever considered writing?”

It was the case of the right person, saying the right thing at the right moment in time. Validation from Jack was the magic  I needed. I quit my job, moved back to the Ozarks and wrote. So far, 2012 has seen the release of 2 novels and a novella. Fingers crossed, I’ll get a third novel scooped up at the OWFI conference. Shoot, Jack will be there.  It’s destiny.  Watch out agents and editors!

Jack will be presenting two sessions at the conference: The Friday lunch workshop (well worth the $25) and a session on cultures on Saturday afternoon.  He’s also emceeing the Famous Author banquet

It is my greatest hope that the Raven will work his magic on all the attendees at the conference (no pressure, Jack.) Wouldn’t it be great if CNN covered the 2013 conference because OWFI holds the world record for having the most NY Times bestselling authors in one organization?

It’s good to have goals.

And,  friends who soar.