Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Meet Margaret Mendel

Today we are thrilled to be interviewing 
Margaret Mendel, author of:

Who are some of your favorite authors?
Graham Green, M.F.K. Fisher, Adam Hochschild, Amy Tam, Isabel Allende, Michael Crichton, Ruth Rendell, Patricia Highsmith
What motivated you to become a writer and at what age?
I do not remember a time when I was not creating stories, sometimes little fibs to keep from getting in trouble for a mischievous deed. But I always wanted to know how situations were going to turn out, or why a person did this or that. I think I’ve always wanted to understand the story behind what made people do what they do. It is quite likely that this curiosity, that peeking under the curtains of people’s private lives, brought me to writing.  

What 3 words describe you as a person?

What 3 words describe you as a writer?

When not writing, how do you spend your time? Hobbies?
I love photography and grab every chance I can to take my camera out for a walk. I’m a great baker, fruit pies are my specialty, and I do a great deal of sewing and making jewellery.

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I do not remember stories being read to me as a small child. Though there are two reading occasions that stick out in my mind. It was when I could read that books became important. Reading the biography of Abe Lincoln in grade school was the first book that left an impression on me. I was amazed at how someone could go back in history to reconstruct someone’s life. That curious thought remained with me and then many years later that interesting concept was rekindled when I read Willa Cather’s “O Pioneers”. It was then that I knew I wanted to build lives with words. I wanted tell stories. I did not realize then that I stood at the precipice of a love affair with words.

Describe your desk.
Hopelessly busy looking with paper and pens strewn about on a very small workspace. I am a pen and paper freak and though I try hard to keep a tidy writing space, I do need my comfort items around me. Don’t get me started about my stash of old journals.

Who is the main character in Pushing Water?
Sarah, an American, living and working in Hanoi, Vietnam, works as an archivist during the French Colonial rule in the Orient.

What is her story?
Sarah has taken a job in the farthest region of the World that she could find, in an attempt to seek relief from a profound sadness.

Where/when does the story take place?
Vietnam in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

How did the story come to you?

There was always so much about the American Vietnam War that I did not understand. It was like a puzzle with pieces missing. I was never a history buff, and quite frankly paid little attention to past events. But my curiosity brought me to an interesting place, and I began to do research. Initially all this digging into the past was just for my own interest. Well, it didn’t take long for a story to bubble up. Soon I was off and running with a plotline, a cast of characters and a commitment to a rather large project.

Who is your target audience?
The first target group would be someone interested in historical fiction. Readers who enjoy strong and interesting female protagonists would find this a good read.
This novel has a definite exotic flavour that would titillate the armchair traveler.

What makes your book different from other similar ones?
This novel has a great deal of unusual information about Vietnam before WWII.
The novel tells a complex story of Colonialism and a people struggling to free them selves from the governance of another country.
This story has a unique perspective of an American woman in a foreign country watching as the world around her vibrates with discontent and revolution.
It is also an interesting vantage point of seeing an Asian country just prior to WWII.

What do your fans mean to you?
Though I write for my own personal satisfaction, it makes me feel like I am part of a larger picture when someone talks to me about the stories that I’ve written. Fans have become an extension of my writing. They bring another level of reasoning for the long hours I sit and write. Fans are like a kaleidoscopic view of a writers work. They often see things in an author’s work that had gone undetected during the construction of a story and frequently their comments bring a new understanding to what the author had initially intended. They are absolutely a necessary aspect of why I do what I do.

Where do you get the inspirations for your book(s)?
Reading has given me many of my ideas. It’s an interesting experience to read a book and have questions pop into my head, or have a character slip into my thoughts as I drift off to sleep. Inspiration comes often when I least expect it; perhaps while I’m taking a walk or watching people pass by as I sip a cup of coffee at an outdoor cafĂ©. There are times when someone mentions an interesting thing that they have seen and it give me an idea for a story. Then there are times that I simply have to write and rewrite and then write again until an entire mess of words fall into a meaningful order. During those times, inspiration is the result of hard work.

Any advice for new writers just beginning this trek down the wonderful world of publishing?
Just keep at the writing. Don’t give up. Always write your best. Rest your shoulders when they ache, but don’t let fatigue be a reason not to write. Learn from those that have come before you and never stop writing just because you hit a rough patch. Always try to write your best. 

For more details and to read excerpts from Margaret Mendel's books, please visit here.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sunday Musings: Do you have a prompt?

Hey there, Musing Friends

We've reached the end of January. Starting a new month reminds me of starting a new page which sometimes means looking at something to prompt an idea. Now, I've posted photo and sentence prompts on my own blog, but today we're asking...

Do you have a writing prompt to kickstart your writing.  What if.... Mood... Time of day the story starts... A picture or catch phrase that keys a story start.

 Usually begin with a real event, from my own life or that of family members, or some event in history. Two examples:

1) My mother was evacuated, aged 17, some 200 miles from home when her office was relocated to a northern seaside town. My DNA history indicates I had a European Jewish great-grandparent. So I created a heroine born on the same day as my mother, with a Jewish grandfather, sent across the Atlantic to a safe haven with a relative in America and what befell her (The Girl Back Home).

2) Research into the Boer War (1899-1902) led me to the papers of Lucy Deane who acted as secretary to a committee of women who voyaged to South Africa to inspect the camps set up to house Boer women and children after the British Army burnt their homesteads. That spawned several ideas, amongst them a priveleged young woman getting caught up in the conflict and how she is changed by what she sees (The Baronet’s Daughter)

I draw inspiration from so many things that it's hard to say if there's anything in particular that kickstarts my writing. However, I like the writing prompts that are given out at my writers' group and have written lots of stories based on those. But other ideas come from overheard conversations, news stories, history etc.

MJ LABEFF, New Mainstream author

I think as writers most of us have characters and stories floating around our subconscious. There's that seed of an idea, waiting to blossom. For me, it's often something small but persistent that keeps reoccurring in my thoughts, and I'm forced to figure out why? When this happens I play the "what if" game to see if there’s some sort of emerging plot. If a character is coming to life and trying to tell me something I love using, The Psychology of Creating Characters by author Laurie Schnebly Campbell. One of my favorite tools is her character enneagrams. It's a great way to learn your character's back story, goals, motivations and conflicts. Once I’ve worked through the characters enneagrams, I’m ready to explore the plot more and play the “What if…” game again.

It depends on the story. For the Raymond Jaye series, a modern take on the hard-boiled PI style, I’ve got a playlist of modern songs done in styles from the 40’s to get me in the right mood to brainstorm. Because it’s a series, and because the overall arc is planned out well ahead of where I am, I know a few things going it. In many ways the “prompt” is the previous story.

The prompt for the fourth in the series, which was the first written, was one line that popped into my head. The rest of the story came about through asking why he was driving in the rain.

The third in the series, the one about to be released, started with a minor character in another story who left a secret message in her CD rack. The order of the disks spelled out the message, which would be seen by her brother, and destroyed by anyone looking for a message when they removed the disks. That led to other means of hiding messages in plain sight, and I ended up with quite a list, a few of which made it into the story.

I have done a few of the “Flash Fiction Challenges” from Chuck Wendig’s blog. They usually come out on Friday, and will include either a specific idea or a couple of random things from a list. (Roll a 20-sided die twice to end up with one of 400 mashups.) It’s an active site, with lots of advice and interviews, but the language is definitely not for everyone. One short story I really liked came from using the names of colors of paint.

Dear reader, thank you again for joining us and we’d love to hear from you. Keep smiling and have a fun week. Never stop believing. See you next Sunday…nothing better than being cozy in bed with some Musings.

If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at MuseChrisChat@gmail.com

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Meet Jami Gray

We're thrilled to be interviewing 
multi-published Paranormal Romance author, 
Jami Gray, today. 

Jami Gray is the award winning, multi-published author of the Urban Fantasy series, The Kyn Kronicles, and the Paranormal Romantic Suspense series, PSY-IV Teams. She can be soothed with coffee and chocolate. Surrounded by Star Wars obsessed males and two female labs moonlighting as the Fur Minxes, she escapes by playing with the voices in her head.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
I could fill pages, but will stick with: Piers Anthony, Patricia Briggs, Christine Feehan, Ilona Andrews, Jim Butcher, Lloyd Alexander, Terry Brooks, Douglas Adams, Cynthia Eden, Stephanie Tyler, Maya Banks, and many, many more.

What motivated you to become a writer and at what age?
Living in my head has been my go-to escape for as long as I can remember. The first time I saw Star Wars (yeah, it dates me) I wrote in a role for a female version of Han Solo because Princess Leia drove me nuts. It was all over after that…

What 3 words describe you as a person?
Stubborn, forthright, quiet (I know, seems like those don’t fit, but swear it works)

What 3 words describe you as a writer?
Edgy, dark, and unexpected

When not writing, how do you spend your time? Hobbies?
I have two teenage sons who keep me running non-stop. When I get a chance to catch my breath, I’m then attached to the end of a double leash at the mercy of my two labs. On rare occasions I can hide in a closet with a good book.

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
It wouldn’t’ be the first story I read, but one of the first that left a lasting impression: The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. The mix of Arthurian legend and magic set against a modern background just did it for me. I couldn’t get enough of her series, and it started my love affair with Urban Fantasy and the paranormal.

Picture of Jami's desk where all of her creative energy flows onto paper and computer.
 Who is the main character?
We switch between Wolf Kincaid and Meli Dwyer

What is their story?
Wolf is a highly skilled telepath and part of the covert psychic quasi-military group, PSY-IV Teams. When you can read the minds of those around you, finding someone like Meli is more addictive than the rush of adrenaline.

Meli Dwyer is 100% normal without a speck of psychic ability, but her best friend is a seer and part of group straight out of an urban legend. Her life is pretty normal, until her friend introduces her to Wolf and now her life is spinning out of control.

Where/when does the story take place?
Las Vegas, off the main strip, modern times.

How did the story come to you?  

My early years BA (before adoption) were spent as a military brat, and my love for the armed forces follows me into my writing. Those who risk their lives for others already stand apart

Who is your target audience?
Anyone who enjoys a fast paced, adrenaline laced read with heart.

What makes your book different from other similar ones?
I decided to do the PSY-IV Teams series from a first person POV (point of view) something not normally done in romantic suspense, but I wanted my readers to be sucked into the journey from the start, maybe see bits of themselves in the characters.

What do your fans mean to you?
Everything. Being able to share the stories crowding my head with others is what keeps me writing and keeps my fictional worlds real. It’s no fun telling stories to an empty room.

Where do you get the inspirations for your book(s)?
I read/watch a lot of historical and what-if stories, everything from fact to fiction, and they trigger a series of “what-if” questions that tend to lead to story ideas.

Any advice for new writers just beginning this trek down the wonderful world of publishing?
Write the stories you love, not what you think everyone wants to hear. Be courageous and stay true to your voice and heart.