Writer of Soul-Searching Snark

Archive for the ‘OWFI’ Category

Tip Toe into Technology

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re thirteen years into the 21st Century.  I kind of miss rotary dial phones and party lines.  Goodness, what a great way to gather gossip on the neighbors. Now, you have to use those high-dollar, CIA microphones and sit in your car in the dark with night vision goggles to get dirt on them.

Only having four television stations was kind of cool too.  Because let’s be honest, even with three thousand channels to choose from there still isn’t anything worth watching on TV.  At least when there were fewer options you gave up quicker and moved on to more productive tasks. Now, carpal tunnel sets in as you keep the remote control buzzing from channel to channel. Okay, I do have to admit that I love remote controls. I was always relegated to the front of the living room to change channels and adjust the volume.

The good old days: bubble gum cost a penny (green apple was my fave!) radio stations played all genres and album covers were works of art. There was no such thing as a PG-13 movie and a G-rated movie actually meant you could watch it with your grandmother without dying of embarrassment.  Remember the days when dropping the f-bomb at school or work would result in immediate dismissal?

Times change. Sometimes for the better. Sometimes for the worse. Personally, I think our children would be better off without all those dadgum video games and such. Then again, I don’t have kids. I can still distract my cats with a shiny ball of foil on the floor so what do I know?  One of the changes I do appreciate, and am admittedly addicted to, is the internet.

I remember submitting my first manuscript to an agent. I printed out four-hundred pages of pure brilliance, bond them with a rubber band and went to the post office. Trying to explain to the postal worker that I needed to include a SASE was AWFUL. The poor guy was so befuddled. He couldn’t for the love of God or country figure out why the heck I had a bunch of papers to send to some chick in New York and why in God’s name she would send them back to me.  That hassle lessened the thrill of submitting my novel, not to mention the fact that it cost me $45! Of course, finding the SASE in my mailbox a few months later really sucked.  I had to PAY for rejection?  Come on, really?

These days it is very unusual for anyone in the publishing world to request hard copies of manuscripts, which is one of the reasons OWFI in transitioning to electronic contest submissions.  Heather Davis, TMI Mom and teacher of middle school Language Arts, is presenting a workshop on how to Tip Toe into Technology. She chatted with me a bit and here’s what she has to say about the workshop.

 

Q: “Tip Toe Into Technology” –are special shoes required?

 

A: No special shoes needed, just an open mind ready to learn about electronic submissions, organizing your electronic life and other extra technology tips and tricks for the beginner.

 

 

Q: What skills do attendees need to get the most out of this course?

 

A: I’m going basic, baby! I won’t tell you how to turn on the computer; I’ll give you that much credit, but I will walk even the most reluctant user through the best ways to get the most of his or her computer and other technology as a writer.

 

I’ll share technology vocabulary and give step-by-step instructions on how to submit your writing electronically, how to organize your writing electronically, and how to feel more comfortable with your computer.

 

 

 

Q: You think you’ve got what it takes to teach this workshop?

 

A: Yep, yep, yep! By day, I teach middle school English/Language Arts. I also have two daughters, one husband, two dogs and two cats. That right there demonstrates my patience. I use technology almost every minute of every day and have been known to even tweet in my sleep. Plus, when I was a lifeguard the summer of my senior year in high school, I attempted to teach my own momma how to swim. She did not drown and we didn’t kill each other. That’s the sign of a good teacher.

 

Q: Tweet in your sleep? In what other ways do you use technology?

 

A: I am a blogging queen supreme. I blog at www.Minivan-Momma.com and www.Chick-Wit.com.  I am also an administrator and editor with www.OklahomaWomenBloggers.com. I cruise Facebook like a teenager on Main Street on Friday night (Heather Smith Davis—friend me!), and I tweet in my sleep (@MinivanMomma2).  My husband and I have our calendars synched up on our smart phones (we’re still late to most events). I voice record my story ideas with my iPhone, and I have a total of five email addresses. Five.

 

Q: So, you’ve got quite the presence online—what do you do when you’re not in front of a screen?

 

A: My daughters are active in basketball, golf, softball and horseback riding. I also write a bi-weekly humor column for my local newspaper, Bartlesville Examiner Enterprise. My first book TMI Mom: Oversharing My Life was released in April 2013. My second book, Fooling Around, will be released in fall of 2013. I’m busy writing book number three. I’ve taught a couple of social media classes and blogging classes in my spare time as well. PLUS, I’m associate producer / director of the Listen To Your Mother-OKC show. Of course, I also like read and write.

 

Q: When people leave your session at OWFI 45, what do you want them to say?

 

A: I want them to be excited to get in front of their computers and to feel like they are ready to take their writing to the new levels that technology is affording a 21st century writer.

 

 

 

Woot! Woot! Ron and Rob are in the House!

For some reason, when I typed the title to this blog posting, I heard the voice of Raj Koothrappali from The Big Bang Theory ringing in my head. Probably because Rob M. Davis is an illustrator of graphic novels including a couple of Star Trek editions. Ron Fortier is known for writing the Green Hornet and Terminator comic books.

I can see Raj and Sheldon thumbing through the bins at Stewart’s comic book store and going bonkers when they ran across a copy of Ron and Rob’s collaborative project: Daughter of Dracula. (Isn’t that a great title?) Come on, admit it. You watch TBBT because you can relate to the characters. You probably know all the words to Soft Kitty, don’t you?

But, I digress.  Rob Davis along with Ron Fortier will present at the 45th Annual OWFI Conference May 2-4, 2013. It’s the first time we’ve had graphic novelists/illustrators present. Exciting times, my friends!

Here’s an opportunity to get to know Rob and Ron a little better.

Rob M Davis

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST PUBLISHED WORK?

RON – In 1978 I wrote an eleven page science fiction comic script that was illustrated by artist Gary Kato and appeared in Charlton’s Bullseye # 3.  Six months later they published a comedy super-hero story, again drawn by Gary, that appeared in Scary Tales # 38.  That was the beginning of my comics writing career.

ROB – I started as a letterer on a comicbook titled SYPONS in the mid 1980s. Soon I was inking and then penciling, my real goal in the industry.

WERE YOU A LIFELONG COMICS FAN?

RON – Totally.  My father gave me my first comic, a western, when I was five.  I couldn’t read it but remember be thrilled by all the artwork in the panels on every page. Eventually by seven I was reading them and an avid fan.  I’ve remained so all my life.

ROB – From the time I was about eight years old. I was hooked by the dynamic artwork of an artist named Jack Kirby. He was the first artist whose work I recognized and had a name associated with it. Powerful stuff!

DID YOU HAVE ANY FORMAL TRAINING IN WRITING & DRAWING?

RON – Initially, like most comic fans, I wanted to do it all; write and draw them. By my high schools years I realized my art talents were minimal and so turned my attention to writing and in college took any creative writing class I could find.

ROB – I had formal art training in College, the typical drawing and painting, etc. The “grammar” or storytelling of comics I learned through personal study in books and magazine articles as well as talking to editors and publishers at comics conventions.

WHAT ARE YOU BEST KNOWN FOR IN THE COMIC WORLD?

RON – Most fans remember me for my run on the Green Hornet for Now Comics back in the early 90s.  It was the character’s first reappearance since the 60s TV show with Van Williams & Bruce Lee.  I stayed on the book for two and a half years.  During that tenure I also wrote Now’s Terminator sci-fi title.

ROB – My most recognizable work would be on the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine comics for Malibu in the 1990s as well as the other Star Trek books at DC comics. Likenesses of the actors and actresses was key to those books and I have a knack for that sort of work and a love of research. This helped when rendering backgrounds on the ships and futuristic settings in the “Trek World.”

Ron Fortier

HOW LONG HAVE THE TWO OF YOU BEEN A CREATIVE TEAM?

RON – Well, Rob and I actually entered the business about the same time and through our various published comics became aware of each other.  We began corresponding and had hopes of doing projects together but alas none of these efforts was picked up by the comic companies and over time we lost contact with each other.  I’ll let Rob pick up the story.

ROB – Right. Then Ron ran into me through some mutual comics pals on the internet when I started a weekly webcomic called SPIRIT OF ROUTE 66 that some of them were aware of. Ron contacted me and he talked me into doing a pulp character strip, DOCTOR SATAN, for a startup website called ADVENTURESTRIPS.COM. After that Ron just kept pitching things at me with one particular idea sticking: DAUGHTER OF DRACULA- a graphic novel Ron had done after originally attempting to sell the script as a screenplay. I liked the idea, but I had a pretty busy schedule and figured I couldn’t do the book. So, attempting to let Ron down easy, I told him the best I could do on the 112 page book was one page a week. To my surprise he said he was fine with that! Well, I was stuck with my promise, so two years later, true to my word of one page a week, we had the finished Graphic Novel which we ended up self-publishing. Since then we’ve gone on to found Airship 27 Productions reviving public domain pulp era characters in prose novels and anthologies as well as numerous other comics projects.

RON, WHEN DID YOU START GETTING INTO PROSE?

RON – All the while I was writing comics, I had a day-job.  Ten years ago I retired and decided to try something else; a new challenge.  So I began writing pulp short stories and novels, some for our own line of Airship 27 Production titles.

IS THERE A MAJOR DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PROSE & COMIC SCRIPTING?

RON – Most definitely.  Whereas in prose, the writer is pretty much God into him or herself.  It is a singular process of creation and is all about the use of words.  Whereas in comics, the primary focus is on the artwork as it is a visual storytelling medium.  It is not about the words, it is about the story.  If a writer cannot put aside his or her ego and accept this second-fiddle position, then they should forgo doing comics.

ROB, DO YOU AGREE WITH RON’S ASSESSMENT?

ROB – Ha! As an artist shouldn’t I?  Actually, I’m of the opinion that comics are about the sharing of story and art. If the art isn’t serving the story it’s not doing its job. There’s a saying amongst comics creators that good or great art can carry a bad or mediocre story, and bad art can kill a good or great story. That’s mostly true.

ROB, WHAT DO YOU FEEL A WRITER BRINGS TO THE PROCESS AND AS AN ARTIST WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A SCRIPT?

ROB – What I look for are good visual “hooks” to build a panel or page on. You can have pages and pages of exposition in a novel or short story, but if you’ve got talking heads in a comic page after page you’re going to bore your audience. The characters or scene has to have some action or emotion in it—the characters have to be doing something or feeling something. The best art/story melding has the action of the characters say something about the character visually and/or move the plot forward. That’s where the writer can come in the background, laying out his/her ideas about the characters- giving the artist some personality hooks to hang their depictions on. The writer brings the skeleton, the artist dresses it with flesh and clothing.

RON, HAVING DONE BOTH PROSE AND COMICS SCRIPTING, WHICH DO YOU PREFER?

RON – Well, I mentioned earlier how prose writing is a lonely one man operation.  It does have its rewards and being able to entertain readers is wonderful.  But at the same time learning to work with another, different artistic sensibility, to be able to inspire an artist and watch your ideas turned into gorgeous sequential artwork is like enjoying Christmas morning every single day.  Given one or the other, I’d always choose writing comics.  It keeps the soul young.

ROB, WORKING FOR AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS YOU TOO HAVE TAKEN ON A NEW ROLE AS AN ART DIRECTOR, RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DESIGN AND LAYOUT OF PROSE BOOKS.  HOW HAS THAT CHANGED YOUR ABILITIES AS AN ARTIST?

ROB – Book design is exercising a different set of skills than illustration. You’re still telling a story but you have to be a lot more subtle—picking the right font to give the right feel to drop caps and chapter headings, designing logos that fit the gist and feel of the story… And in all this you can’t inject too much into it design in books should be “invisible” in that it’s not noticed by the reader. If it’s noticed by the average reader then it’s failed, as the design should enhance the reading experience not call attention to itself. At least that’s my theory of book design. Illustrating books is different from comics as you have just one panel to tell a story rather than a series of them. I usually try to pick a scene with some emotional beat to illustrate when I’m working that part of the book. That’s made me concentrate more on subtlety with characters and setting in a scene.

FINALLY, WHAT WILL THE TWO OF YOU BE PRESENTING AT THIS YEAR’S CONFERENCE?

RON – Rob and I will be giving two 90 minute presentations on How To Create a Graphic Novel.  We’ll be breaking this up in three sections with me describing the script writing process followed by Rob demonstrating his process in interpreting that script via art and then together opening the floor to questions and answers.

WILL YOU BE USING VISUAL AIDS IN YOUR PRESENTATIONS?

ROB – The plan is for me to have a Powerpoint presentation built with visuals from our work together- mostly from DAUGHTER OF DRACULA, though there may be some other stuff thrown in there that illustrates a point Ron and I will be trying to make about sequential storytelling. I haven’t even started building that yet when these questions are being posed just before the Christmas holiday, but I should begin work on that right after the holiday. I have a wealth of stuff to draw on (and yes, pun intended) so there will be plenty of visuals.

HAVE EITHER OF YOU EVER GIVEN COURSES IN YOUR RESPECTIVE FIELDS?

RON – Yes, I’ve given both workshops to teachers’ groups on the History of American comics in the past and recently begun offering an eight week course on How To Write Comics at a local comic shop in my hometown.  Both Rob and I are very thrilled and honored to be invited to this year’s conference and hope to offer an informative, fun presentation to the attendees.  Thanks so much for having us.

ROB – I’ve given many presentations on comic book storytelling to Jr. High, High School and College age art classes over the years. It’s my intention to add some inspiration to budding talent out there when I can. This is an opportunity to speak to a bit of a different audience and perhaps spark some creative ideas in the minds of your members! That’s always an exciting and fun prospect.

Meet YA Author Saundra Mitchell


Saundra Mitchell is a screenwriter and author of young adult novels. She agreed to let us get to know her a little better. I was already impressed with her accomplishments, but her 6 word memoir wowed me to say the least. That and the fact that she too was influenced by S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders cinched it for me. I like this lady. I can’t wait to hear her speak out the 45th Annual OWFI Conference!

How did you start your writing career?

On accident. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. All through school, I wrote stories and plays; I participated in the class literary magazine. I even sold some short fiction and non-fiction starting in high school.

Despite all that, I didn’t think that writing would be a career. I joined the military in an attempt to get the GI Bill, but got hurt and got discharged. Then I started a string of random jobs in the hopes that one would stick.

I processed checks for mail-in music clubs that don’t exist anymore. I did typesetting and lay-up for a community newspaper, back when lay-up consisted of cutting the articles into columns, then laying them on giant wax boards to be sent to the printers. Nobody does this anymore, either.

I sold cars (or, more accurately, I was supposed to sell cars and failed miserably.) And, I was a phone psychic for a while—the most depressing job I’ve ever had. No one calling a psychic at 3 in the morning really wants to talk to a psychic. They just want another human being to tell them they’re not alone

While I did these jobs, I wrote. I still submitted. On a lark, I wrote a four minute screenplay because a friend had forwarded me a call for entries. I’d written one screenplay in my entire life; I had no idea what I was doing. Somehow, my script was chosen anyway.

Dreaming Tree Films bought that script, and then another, for a student film project they were producing. Then the other screenwriter on the project bailed, and the producer asked if there was any way I could pound out two more scripts by deadline. I could; I did.

Four years later, after I’d written almost two hundred short films for various Dreaming Tree projects. I was still submitting fiction and non-fiction for publication, and I’d started to think about writing a novel—that’s when I realized this was my career. Nobody ever said I was quick on the uptake!

Has someone been instrumental in inspiring you as a writer?

Every year for my birthday, Susan Bettis gave me books. She was my best friend’s mother, an English professor with a passion for women’s literature and history that she instilled in both of us. Sometimes, the books were fiction. Often, they were folktales and fairytales, like Jane Yolen’s Not One Damsel in Distress (a book I bought for my daughter when she turned ten, so it made a big impression!)

While the books themselves helped shape my sense of self, it was the inscription that made all the difference. Mom Bettis always wrote a note in the front. And she always said, “One day, when you write a book…” Never if. When.

Even though I was growing up in public housing, even though I couldn’t afford college, I always had a destiny. One day, I was going to write a book—Mom Bettis said so. The difference between if and when is monumental. I wouldn’t have a writing career without Mom Bettis’ when.

Has someone helped or mentored you in your writing career?

I have to say that I’ve found that most people who write YA are generous, kind, and eager to help. Top among them is Cynthia Leitich Smith, who wrote Rain Is Not My Indian Name, Tantalize, Eternal and more.

I sold my first book in 2007. The economy was still booming, everybody was excited, and then 2008 came. The market crashed. Then the book market crashed, hundreds of editors laid off, imprints closed, agents disappearing. Digital books clomped onto the scene, and everybody was freaking out. Especially me—my first book was finally due to come out in February 2009, and all I could see was disaster.

Then I read a blog post that mentioned a speech Cynthia gave. She’d talked about her start in writing a decade before, when everyone was convinced that picture books would disappear onto CD-ROMs, that there would be no more fiction for children… basically, the dire predictions of a previous era, none of which came to pass.

So I wrote her and asked if there was a copy of that speech online. I wanted to watch it, because my first book was coming out, and I was afraid of the literpocalypse. The speech isn’t online. But Cynthia asked for my phone number. I was a total stranger, absolutely no one, but she took time out of her day to call and reassure me personally.

Every day, I’m so grateful for her, and I try to follow her example. It’s hard to be a new author when the sky is falling—it’s nice to reassure people that it always has been, and probably always will be.

What books have most influenced your life?

All of them, but there are four in particular. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson was the first time I read a book where bad things happen for no reason. When you grow up in poverty, in a bad neighborhood, lots of terrible things happen. And this book comforted me—it was a relief to have a book say you didn’t do anything wrong. Sometimes bad things just happen.

Then, when I was a little older, it was S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. This was the first book I read where the neighborhood looked like mine. Where crime happened, where kids sometimes crashed on your couch because their dad was too drunk to go home to. Where people jumped you for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was a relief to realize it wasn’t just my neighborhood. Other people lived in these places, too.

Still a little older, I realized while reading Stephen King’s IT, that it was possible to talk about the horrors around you without naming names. With a safe film between you and the real monster, because it was dressed up as a hideous clown, a monster in the sewers, a giant spider: whatever frightened you most. The real story in IT is about kids like I was, confronting the things that poisoned them as children. And yeah, a hideous clown, which completely justified my fear of clowns, mimes, and anyone wearing a giant character head.

Finally, Annette Curtis Klause’s book, The Silver Kiss, told me it was okay to love something and to let it go. It’s hard for a poor kid to get out of the neighborhood. And when your friends and family are all you’ve had, it sometimes feels like you’re betraying them by trying to get out. Yes, The Silver Kiss is about a girl and a vampire, but it’s a love story that ends when they leave each other. And that reassured me that I could love my history, but still leave for something new and hopefully better.

Do you have any suggestions for beginning writers? If so, what are they?

I think it’s important for all writers to remember that there’s a difference between making art, and being published.

If you decide you want to go into business, you should know that, at various points in your career, you’re going to be afraid, demoralized, rejected, angry, frustrated, overlooked, underestimated and underappreciated. There’s never enough money, never enough marketing, never enough of anything. Getting an agent and getting published doesn’t end the struggle, it just changes it.

If you decide you don’t want to go into business, you’re still a writer.. At various points in the practice of your art, you’re going to be afraid, demoralized, rejected, angry, frustrated, overlooked, underestimated and underappreciated. You still have your words and your art. Your stories still matter; your voice is important

Every writer must write, but no writer has to go into business. Knowing that you can walk away from the pursuit of publication helps make you a stronger writer. Remember always, it’s the words that matter.

What are the most important attributes for remaining sane as a writer?

Whatever works, works. There’s no one thing that keeps every writer sane. Some authors refuse to read reviews; others need to study them obsessively. Some write only at night; others only during the day.

Some require a hard word count, some just a period of time. Maybe you have to send 7 query letters every three days; maybe it makes you feel better to touch the oven knobs three times before you start working for the day.

You can drive yourself crazy comparing your methods to other authors’. And there’s enough lunacy in crafting words and trying to sell them anything. SO the most important attribute is flexibility. It’s knowing that what works for you is what works for you.

Your way is the right way. You should never feel small, or like you’re doing it wrong. As long as you’re putting words down (in your head or on the page,) you’re doing it right.

What’s your 6 word memoir?

Afraid, but she kept going anyway.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Saundra Mitchell is a longtime screenwriter and author. Her debut novel was SHADOWED SUMMER– winner of The Society of Midland Authors Book Award for Best Children’s Fiction and was an Edgar Nominee in 2010 for Best YA Mystery.

Harcourt Children’s Books published her next novel for teens, THE VESPERTINE, which was followed by THE SPRINGSWEET in Spring 2012. Next will be THE ELEMENTALS in June 2013 and MISTWALKER, Fall 2013. Also in June 2013, her YA anthology, DEFY THE DARK, will debut from HarperTeen.

Her short story “Ready to Wear” was nominated for a Pushcart in 2008. In her free time, she enjoys ghost hunting, papermaking, and spending time with her husband and her two children. She lives in Indianapolis and welcomes you to visit her on the web at www.saundramitchell.com.

When Life Gets in the Way

This post was originally published in the Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc winter newsletter, The Report

When I quit my job to pursue a writing career and moved back to Arkansas to be near family, I honestly had no idea what I was getting myself into. I could have developed a daily schedule that outlined the number of hours a day I’d spend helping my mother, driving to the nearest town for supplies (an hour away,) feeding critters and writing, but I didn’t. Why? Because I approach life the same way I approach writing—by the seat of my pants.

The pantsing method worked fairly well for a while. I dedicated four hours a day to writing. I’d wake up in the morning, drink something heavily caffeinated and then sit down at the computer. Stories flew out of my mind. My fingers flew over the keyboard as those tales were transcribed into works of literary genius. Anthologies published my short stories. Publishers clamored to buy my novels (okay, maybe not clamored.) My writerly life was on fire.

Then… life happened.smshed

I live on a farm. Not just any anywhere, but in the Ozark Mountains. Why is that different than say one in Kansas? There isn’t a single building on this place that has a new piece of lumber or nail in it.

“Buy a new hose? Are you insane? This one has been in the family for forty-three years.”

“There’s nothing wrong with rust, Claire. Just get a tetanus shot every ten years. You’ll be fine.”

My dad bought the tractor three years before I was born. Fortunately, it’s in better shape than I am, but like me, it has a hard time waking up in the morning and requires a great deal of pampering.

Not only do I live on a ramshackle farm, I live near my family. It took me three hours of quality time with my kin folk to recall my reason for moving five-thousand miles away in the first place. They’re nuts!

Somehow my writing time dwindled. Sure, I still had something heavily caffeinated in the morning, but that is where the writing routine ended. Instead of sitting down to better the world with my prose, I was outside feeding chickens and planting gardens. Farm workers needed to be fed and guess who cooked lunch?

Frustration ruled. I decided to take my writing life back. God knows, the romance world would weep without a new release from Claire Croxton! I’m a project manager by profession. I know how to create spreadsheets and I’m a master of getting jobs done on time and under budget. It was time to apply my skills to my writing life. I made a schedule. Wake up, drink caffeine, ignore e-mails, don’t answer the phone, hang a sign “I’m writing smut, stay out!” lock the door, write.

Then…life happened.

farm life 024It’s impossible to plan life. You can’t predict accidents, injuries, sickness or death. It’s impossible to know that your dad will die five days after being diagnosed with cancer. How do you schedule grieving time with your mother?

When your cousin calls and asks you to meet the ambulance at the hospital because her mother has been in a car accident, do you say “Sorry. I’m writing?” No. You go. Do you deny your mother’s request for a ride to the hospital to sit with her sister? No. You go. Do you refuse to attend your favorite aunt’s funeral because she’s being buried three counties away and you have to finish chapter ten of your latest novel? No. You go.

You forget your projects and you focus on your family.

Needless to say, it’s been a tough couple of years. Seems like every time I get back into the writing groove, something catastrophic occurs.

My mother, my greatest supporter, asked me the other day about my writing schedule. “Sugar dumpling, how’s that story, Loch Lonnie, coming along?”

“Not so well, Ma. I’ve been kind of distracted.”

She looked up from her knitting and said, “Call the Sisters.”

The Arkansas version of the Algonquin Round Table is comprised of brilliant novelists, poets, and inspirational speakers. We call ourselves The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pen. Every writer needs such a group of friends—people who understand your frustration and appreciate your creative process. Folks who will look you square in the eye and say, “That’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever written and you’ve written a lot of really, really bad stuff. I mean really bad stuff! And this takes the cake.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a strong believer in critique groups. I’m eternally grateful to Dusty Richards and Velda Brotherton for the Northwest Arkansas Writers Workshop. I’ll never forget the first time I read a passage at group. The stunned silence afterward wasn’t a good sign. Dusty telling me, “That ain’t bad for a government report, but this is fiction,” will forever ring in my ears. Their patience and guidance led to me becoming a published author. Critique groups are great, but they don’t know you viscerally.

Writers need to surround themselves with people who “get” them. That’s one of the great things about the Oklahoma Writers Federation Inc.  Conference. Writers can meet likeminded individuals who understand what it means to spend hours in your head working out the dialogue to a love scene or devising the perfect way to kill your main character’s abusive boyfriend and disposing of his body.

smsistersSeptMama was right—she always is—I needed the Sisters. One e-mail was all it took. Within minutes, messages of encouragement filled my inbox and our next meeting time was arranged. Over wine and pizza, the girls listened to my tales of woe. After a few minutes of commiseration, all their patience seeped from their bodies and they went into fierce-encouragement mode. It is impossible to ignore, four, strong, intelligent, talented women staring you down and doling out nuggets of wisdom.

I’ll spare you the tears and snark and sum up their advice. It’s nothing new, but something I need to hear on a regular basis. Bottom line: Making your writing a priority is the only way you’re going to be a successful writer. Sure, life gets in the way, but you must always make time for your writing. It’s your job. It’s your outlet. It’s your reason for being on this planet. So, WRITE!

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/

Love, Betrayal, and a Female Assassin—Room 1515, A New Political Thriller by Bill Wetterman

Claire Croxton here, the creator of soul-searching snark. Today, I’m interviewing Donna O’Connor, the anti-heroine from Bill Wetterman’s thriller Room 1515. I’ve never interviewed a female undercover agent before, so this is a first for me.

Donna’s here now. She’s early, and her heels click rapidly on the cement floor, as she walks to her chair. She waves me over to mine.

“Sit,” she commands as if she’s in control of the interview.

“You haven’t touched up your makeup. We’re filming this piece.” I say.

Her head tilts, and she smirks. Gorgeous red hair, seductive blue eyes—even with smudged mascara, the woman shines with confidence. I look over to my crew chief. He mouths, “Go with it.”

I reach out my hand. “Nice to meet you, Donna.”

Her smile warms the room. “Please, call me Peacock. Donna O’Connor died years ago. What would you like to know?”

“You get right down to business,” I say.

“I’m on a tight schedule.”

“Okay, so Peacock, why did you join the CIA?”

She moistens her lips. “I didn’t join the CIA. I tested for a job in hospitality with them. They analyzed my personality profile and saw what a psycho I am. They recruited me for Hercules, the ultimate unit of warriors. We’re not CIA.”

“Interesting.” I’m curious as to what she might reveal about this organization, “Can you tell me about the training, special routines or rituals that make you unique?”

A grin forms. Peacock relaxes. “If I tell you the truth, I have to kill you. It’s cliché, but it’s a fact.”

Acid hits my esophagus. Both of us laugh.

“Have you ever been water boarded, Claire?” she asks.

“Only once while doing research for a Luna project.”

“Not any fun, is it?”

“Well, it had potential.” I cock a smile, catching the trained assassin off guard.

“I’m an expert in all martial arts. I can endure being tortured to death without cracking. The how and why, I’ll leave to your imagination.” She leans forward. “I’ve never lost in one-on-one combat—not to a man, woman, or beast.”

“What was the scariest moment of your life?” I ask, figuring she’d go deeper into her past as a spy.

Peacock turns pale. Her jaw quivers. She raises her voice. “You know my whole family died in a car crash. I’m the only survivor. Even then, I wasn’t afraid. I’m angry with God. Why did they die, while I live? Explain this to me.”

“I can’t.”

“Then change the subject.”

“Forgive me, but it’s my job to ask tough questions.” I glance at the neatly typed questions on my note card and ignore them. “If you could apologize to someone in your past, who would it be?”

“My husband, Arthur.”

“Arthur Pendleton, the leader of the World Financial Corporation.”

“Yes.” She looks at her feet. “He’s raising our son by himself. Hercules forbids me to see little George. I would apologize for not being the wife he deserves.”

Obviously, I’m too close to some hidden pain. I change the subject. “What books have influenced your life?”

The smile returns, and I detect a flash of pride cross her face.

The Kama Sutra and Son Tzu’s The Art of War.

“Two good ones. I’ve always thought a combination of the two would make for some interesting reading.”

She laughs.  There’s something chilling about watching a trained killer grin. “Why these two books?”

“I’ve got an IQ over 150. I can read and understand just about anything.” She inhales and taps her foot. “I’m all about my job. My job is to seduce, betray, and kill if necessary. Every assignment is a battle. What better books to absorb than these. I’m very good at what I do.”

“Is there a piece of advice you received that sticks with you? If so, can you share it?”

“Yes,” she says. “I once asked my handler, ‘Do you ever question what we’re doing?’ He answered ‘Yes, and, it does no good. If you’re looking for a black or white world, there is no such thing, only win or lose. Pick your side and win.’”

“What’s next in your future?”

Peacock stands. She reaches out and shakes my hand. Before I can pull myself up, she turns and heads to the door. Looking back she says, “I’m assigned to protect the President of the United States with my life. He’s headed to London, and I’m accompanying him.”

With that, I admire her Christian Louboutin platform heels as she exits. The fact that she’s an elite operative with the Hercules Project is admirable, but that she can protect the President while wearing 5” heels makes me hate her just a little.

More about the author: Bill Wetterman

While hard at work writing thrillers, Bill Wetterman finds time to give back to the community by speaking to groups interested in understanding the mind of a writer. Bill’s shares his experience on how he constructs novels and short stories. He can speak on a variety of topics, including:

*Writing thrillers

*Character development

*Self-publishing—the pros and cons

*And, the steps to becoming a published author

Bill Wetterman is a freelance writer and published author. Bill’s interest in international politics and world spheres of influence helps him weave stories of intrigue and espionage in international settings. The stories he writes not only could happen, but also may be happening right now. Room 1515, his international, political thriller is one.

Bill’s short stories are published in Chicken Soup for the Soul and the Writer’s Digest 2011 Short Story Anthology. Bill is a member of the Oklahoma Writer’s Federation Inc. and the Tulsa Nightwriters. Room 1515 won the thriller competition at OWFI in 2011. His short story, The Family Tree, placed eighth in the Writer’s Digest Short Story Contest for genre fiction in 2011 out of 11,800 entries.

To learn more about Bill and his writing, check out his blog at www.bwetterman.wordpress.com. or, go to his Facebook page.

To contact Bill to schedule speaking engagements, Email him at bwetterman@cox.net.
Check out the book trailer!

And most importantly–Buy the book!!!

Room 1515 on Amazon

Room 1515 on Barnes and Noble

Room 1515 on Sony, Apple, Book Country

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.