Thursday, February 27, 2014

Interview with L W Rogers - Repost

The opportunity to interview the Avalon Books western novelist, L W Rogers, came after I  had read two of Zane Grey's novels. 

January 11, 2012

Today, I have the pleasure of talking to L W Rogers, author of several Avalon Westerns whose latest novel, Superstition Trail was released just before Christmas 2011. I would like to thank her at the outset for her forthright responses.

Aside from school assignments, what was the first story you ever told/wrote that gave you the idea you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always had an active imagination. I don’t remember having an imaginary friend, but my mother tells people that when I was as young as three years old, she would hear me on the back porch talking. My conversations were so real that she would often check to see who I was talking to. By the time I was in the 4th grade, I was writing and illustrating story books. At that young age, I didn’t really know I wanted to be a writer. Since I love horses, my dream was to own a ranch in Montana and raise Arabian and Morgan horses.

Did you run into any opposition to your decision to become a writer?
I was a teacher for twenty-seven years, and guess what subject I taught? Yep, language arts and social studies to 6th graders, as well as Composition 101 at the local community college. I loved teaching writing. Later, I was assigned to work with Migrant Services and teach English as a Second Language (ESOL). Then I decided to form the first adult ESOL classes. Between day and evening classes, plus working with Migrant Services, my job became all-consuming. Writing was put on hold until I retired at the age of 53.

Did I run into opposition? Well, the biggest obstacle was me, myself and I. Two years after I’d retired, my husband said he was tired of hearing me talk about writing a book. Then my excuse was, “I don’t have a computer.” My husband told me to go get in the car. That same day, he drove me to Radio Shack to buy a computer. After we got home, his comment was, “Well what’s your excuse now?” As you can see—no opposition. Since that first computer, I’ve worn out two and just purchased a new one.
Once you no longer had that excuse, what was your inspiration?
I guess you can say my husband was my inspiration. Had he not insisted we go buy a computer, I’d probably still be talking about writing a novel, and wishing and hoping to someday get published. Of course, I don’t think my hubby knew how many times he’d have to eat grilled cheese sandwiches or hot dogs for supper that day he drove me to Radio Shack. When I’m on deadline cooking goes by the wayside, and the dust bunnies in my house multiply.
Have you always written Western novels?

In my early years of writing, I was told that Westerns was a niche market that they were passé, and no one read them anymore. What did I know? I took the advice literal and tried to write comedy. That’s when I discovered, I didn’t have a funny bone in my body.  I love the old west. Anything about horses, cattle drives, outlaws, Native Americans, rodeos, I soak it up like a sponge. Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong era. Maybe that’s why writing Westerns appeals to me; plus the fact that I grew up sneaking my daddy’s Zane Grey and Louie L’Amour novels out of his sock drawer. Back in those days, the word ‘damn’ was a huge no-no. Children were not to be exposed to such language, that’s why he kept the books hidden. Oh, and I was so in love with John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Audie Murphy, Clint Eastwood, Clint Walker and so many of the great western movie stars. Although, I write Westerns for Avalon Books and Western Romance for The Wild Rose Press, my first non-western, Forbidden Son, published by The Wild Rose Press will release March, 2012.
My father read the same books and we watched all the western TV shows but I was more interested in fairy-tales, but Americans have never lost their connection to the West or the Frontier Spirit. After reading some of the Avalon Western writers’ books, I’m rediscovering my passion for the genre. When you published your first novel, how did you feel?
I wrote my first novel in 2004. It’s collecting dust in a drawer. I can’t believe I had the guts to submit that piece of work to several publishers and agents.  Every so often I pull it out to give myself a good laugh and as a reminder of how far I’ve come. For several years, I wrote short stories for True Confessions and True Romance magazines. My first book was actually a novella, published, in December 2007. Isabelle and the Outlaw is a time-travel western romance. I thought I had won the lottery when the editor contacted me. Shortly after that, I received a contract from Avalon Books for my first full-length novel The Twisted Trail which was published in April of 2008. With almost back-to-back books, I felt as if I’d won the mega-ball million. A funny story about The Twisted Trail; this book is a “Cracker Western,” meaning it is set in1840’s Florida. I submitted to an editor  (who shall remain nameless). I still have the rejection letter which states, “Everyone knows that Florida is all about bikinis, beaches and palm trees and has no cowboy history.” Shame on that editor for not knowing his history, and thanks to Erin Cartwright, my then Avalon editor, for seeing the potential in that book.
It seems once a book is out of your hands, you’re at the mercy of a quite few other people. That editor’s comment is one of the funniest I’ve read. Your new book is Superstition Trail. (This will link to the trailer). Like The Twisted Trail, your hero is a gunman. Tell us more about this new book.
Superstition Trail, my third Western, published by Avalon, released December, 2011. 
Ace Donovan is bent on revenge. For fifteen years he has tracked six men who hanged his father and brother, and left him for dead. With five notches on his gun butt, the last bullet is for a faceless man who has a penchant for spitting on his victims.

Donovan never intended to fall in love with Dulcie Slaughter. His bullet left her a widow. Set in the backdrop of the Superstition Mountains of Arizona, Superstition Trail is filled with action-packed adventure that includes an Apache legend about the Screaming Woman. The Apache believe the Screaming Woman spirit is angry because they didn’t prevent the white man from invading sacred lands. Outlaws use this Apache legend in an attempt to steal the herd. Dulcie’s trust in Donovan is shattered when one of the outlaws recognizes him as the man who killed her husband.

Superstition Trail is a book I’ll want to read with so many elements woven together: action, adventure, history and romance. And now you’re taking on the challenge of another genre. Do your readers comment on the difference between your writing for Avalon and the books you have with other publishers?

At first, I had a separate sets of readers—men who read only my westerns and women who read only my western romance novels.  I’m not sure when the cross-over happened, but now I seem to have as many men who read my The Wild Rose Press western romances as I have women who read my Avalon westerns. When I wrote The Twisted Trail a Marine Lt. Col. stationed in Iraq emailed to say he was surprised a woman could write such convincing fight scenes. Wow, what a great compliment! Yet,  a man who  read Bannon’s Brides, my TWRP western romance, said that reading the book was like having chocolate and sex wrapped up all in one spicy package.  That comment really put a grin on my face. Forbidden Son is my first non-western. I’m not sure how my readers will respond to a vintage romance that is primarily a series of flashbacks to include Rwandan rebels in Africa during the 1950’s and a segment that takes place in LaDrange Valley, Vietnam in the 1970’s. If my readers aren’t happy with the new genre, perhaps I can pacify them with the new western Cowgirl Courage that will release December 2012.

High praise indeed from your readers. When you set out to write a new western, where do you go to research the background of the story?
I have friends who know that I’m a ‘book hound.’ When they find non-fiction books about the old west, they gift me with these gems. In fact, my shelves are running over with books. In return, I give my friends one of my new releases. It’s a win-win for all of us. Sometimes, not often, I use the internet for research. I’m skeptical that some of the sources aren’t reliable. I also use the library’s inner-library loan system, which I can access via computer. I enjoy researching, but have to be careful not to get so caught up in it that it detracts from writing.

Will you try your hand at comedy again?
The reason I don’t tell jokes is because I can never remember the punch-line, no one ever laughs, and I end up with a red face. Nope, absolutely not! If I ever had a funny bone, it is permanently retired and resting peacefully in the drawer with the novel that is collecting dust.

I understand everything you’ve said here! I have a good sense of humor but writing comedy is another art form. If the book that launched your writing career hadn’t been published, where would your career be now?
There’s no denying that my debut novella was the energizing force to my writing career, but had it not been published, I think I might have continued submitting manuscripts until  rejection letters convinced me that I’d probably be better off creating scrap books and watching re-runs of old western movies and eternally dreaming about becoming a published author.
We can all be grateful Isabelle and the Outlaw worked for you. Thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions and all the best for your future endeavors, Loretta.    

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Few of My Favorite (Seasonal) Things - Repost

This article listed some of my favorite films and stories at Christmas. It's never to early to prepare!

December 23, 2011

One of the best things about this holiday season is the chance to indulge in some of the sentimental memories and events of childhood. If you have small children, you have an excuse – a duty – to pass these along to them.
A Christmas Carol is the quintessential story of distance, misunderstanding, alienation and reconciliation. Each time it is retold in film, the special effects strive to awe but they can’t outshine or obliterate the underlying story of the human need to connect.

One of my favorite stories of holiday gathering is A Child’s Christmas in Wales. First recorded for the BBC in 1952, this short piece has been transformed into a prose gift volume as well as a stage play with songs. Dylan Thomas sets a nostalgic scene of warmth and familial love, quirky relations and deep friendships.
Thomas’s short story is as much a part of modern Christmas tradition in Wales as Clement Clarke Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas is for American children. This is arguably the best remembered and most frequently recited poem in American literature (first published anonymously in 1823), yet its creator wanted nothing to do with it. ‘Twas the night before Christmas…’ began all my childhood Christmas Eves when this poem was read while my sister and I sat in front of the tree, eyeing the gingerbread cookies we had left for Santa. 

Christmas always included a televised showing of It’s a Wonderful Life – I cannot watch this film without feeling a deep sense of appreciation for the underlying message of our individual importance in the lives of those we encounter, however briefly. There have been recent, scantily disguised plagiarisms of this film, but not one of them can compare with the 1946 version based on the self-published, 4,100 word story, “The Greatest Gift” by Philip Van Doren Stern.  

One other Christmas film must for my family holiday is Christmas Vacation. This National Lampoon classic also began as a short story, written by John Hughes for National Lampoon Magazine Christmas ‘59. This film was released in 1989 and was the third in the NL’s Vacation series.
The 1947 novel, Miracle on 34th Street, by Valentine Davies, adapted for Hollywood in that year and winning him two Academy Awards for Best Writing and Best Screenplay is another popular film at this time of year. Re-made in 1959, 1973 and 1994, this heartstring-tugging tale was re-written by Davies as a novella published by Harcourt-Brace to coincide with the 1947 release of the film.
Most of these stories are now familiar to people around the world through their Hollywood film version(s). Is it any wonder that film has been the endgame for writers for over 70 years? Of all the Christmas-based stories you’ve written or read, which one will set the benchmark for the next global, blockbuster tradition?
A Visit from St. Nicholas
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danc'd in their heads,
And Mama in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap —
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter....

May all your efforts for the coming year bring you joy and glad tidings.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Interview with Ilsa Mayr: The Widow - Repost

This interview appeared shortly after the publication of Ilsa Mayr's novel, The Widow, a book about one woman's experience of illegal immigration. 

November 23, 2011

Good morning, Ilsa. Thank you for agreeing to this interview. I’d like to start with the inspiration for The Widow. You have chosen a controversial idea for your relationship. How did that occur to you?
The inspiration for THE WIDOW came from a most prosaic incident. I was sitting in my dentist's reception room, waiting to have my teeth cleaned. I picked up a magazine that featured a long article on illegal border crossings in Texas. From that evolved the plot of the novel. I can't remember the name of the magazine, but the article was obviously impressive.

Did you have any second thoughts or misgivings about a marriage of convenience for these two characters?
I am a sucker for the marriage of convenience plot. Since we know that a happy ending is guaranteed in a romance, one of the thornier problems is to come up with a conflict strong enough to keep the hero and heroine apart for some fifty to seventy thousand words. In a marriage of convenience plot, tension and conflict are naturally built in.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sense of Place - Repost

The following article appeared on Avalon Authors while I revised Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls.

October 23, 2011

A few years ago, one of the first comments I received on a manuscript I submitted to an agent was “I don’t know where this takes place.” I thought the descriptions were pretty clear. As far as I was concerned there is only one ‘City’ — San Francisco. The agent thought I was writing about London but she didn’t recognize my evocation.

Both cities are renown for fog and I had plenty of fog but mine was rolling over Twin Peaks. Hers was rolling up the Thames. I had trolley cars and BART. London has the Underground and double-decker buses. She wasn’t seeing any of the landmarks of her City.

I didn’t want to go down the route of actually naming the location – somehow that seemed a bit of a cheat, especially for this particular book. I wanted the physical and sensual details to do the job but they didn’t, at least not for this particular reader who had her own ideas about wharves, wet tram lines and exhaust fumes.
So, how do you evoke a sense of place? If you name the town or street, how do you ensure the person who reads those words has a real sense of where you want them to imagine themselves to be? Is a sense of location that important?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What Does a Writer Need? - Repost

This article was posted a few months before I moved from Wales, where I'd continued my writing and became a founding member and director of a women's co-operative publishing company, Honno.

September 23, 2011

I’m in the process of clearing 30 years of accumulated essentials. Besides all the accumulation related to family and friends, I have acquired books, paper, pens, inkjet cartridges, pencils, notebooks, files and their cabinets, envelopes to send manuscripts, envelopes for the return of manuscripts, floppy disks, external hard drives, thumb drives, cameras and their batteries, photographs on paper and on disks, computer and laptop, printers and scanners, desks, office chairs, briefcases and laptop bags as well as boxes and boxes of manuscripts. All of the above is related to my writing.

With just seven days remaining before I have to condense my life and work into two suitcases and a carry-on bag, what do I really need to keep working for the next three months while I wait for all of the above to arrive at my next hometown? 

My Essential Notebooks
I already know that I have a writing desk waiting for me, as well as a bookcase that will hold approximately 1/4th of the books I am shipping. So, in order of priority, these are my essentials:
  1. Current work with any associated notebooks all scanned to the laptop (see below).
  2. Laptop with all typescripts and scanned material (see above) saved in at least three different places (including cloud storage) in case of loss.
  3. My three favorite writing implements with all the ink cartridges I have in stock.
There is one other most critical something else, but I’m a bit short of that right now.

What are your essential ingredients for your work? Do you have any suggestions that will help me keep working while all around me goes astray? What should I leave behind?

All ideas grateful received.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Prologue & Epilogue: To Write or Not to Write - Repost

From my article for Avalon Authors, on August 23, 2011
I picked up a few books this summer to read on flights, hotel rooms and just to take my mind off hassles at the end of a work day. Four of the five had prologues. I learned my lesson with this particular writing convenience a few years ago when the prologue of a potentially interesting Regency novel by a well known New York Times best-selling author ruined my enjoyment by giving away the only intriguing element of the plot.
Since then, I have stirred clear of reading prologues and I have ceased to write them.
What is the attraction for writers? It is a handy way to present information that the reader needs to discover without having to weave backstory into the plot.

Monday, February 3, 2014

How to Handle A Romance Writer - Repost

Three weeks after the Romance Writers of America national conference in New York, I wrote this article for Avalon Authors, July 23, 2011

The romance genre in commercial, popular fiction has been attracting considerable criticism in recent months. Most of that has been directed at the more risqué end of the romance spectrum but the bad press filters through to all the many and varied categories. The book, Such Stuff as Dreams, sheds some light on how we benefit from fiction of all descriptions – well worth a look for the pundits who rage at romance.
Last month, at a writers association’s national conference, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop on Media Handling. This month, I had an opportunity to use what I had learned. The principle issue discussed in the workshop was how to handle adverse interviews.
This did make me wonder if crime writers, fantasy and science fiction authors, mystery and western storytellers ever have to fend off the attacks that romance authors are currently having to defend themselves against. Maybe some of you can answer that for me.