Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Interview with author Lisette Brodey

Lisette Brodey is our guest today. She is the author of the novel
Squalor, New Mexico. Lisette, would you answer a few questions for us about your novel and your writing career?

1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Hi, Penny. First, thanks so much for this opportunity. I began writing almost as soon as I learned how to print. My earliest recollection of fiddling around with the written word was probably around the age of six when I was crafting short poems. As I got older, I began writing stories, creating little magazines, and eventually writing to pen pals all over the world. Pretty much everything I did involved writing. That said, had you asked me during my childhood what I wanted to do with my life, I would have told you that I wanted to be an actress. When I was in the ninth grade, I wrote a letter to myself (to be read as an adult), begging myself not to give up on acting. I am very sure now that I wrote that letter because I knew in my heart that I would eventually seek out a writing career, and not one in acting.

2. Where do you think your desire to write comes from?

I really believe that most of us, if we are lucky, have the desire within to use the gifts we are given. Writing has always come completely naturally to me, and while I like writing some things better than others, I have always had a passion to paint “word pictures” with my “brush.” Additionally, being able to write one’s feelings out, whether as poetry or prose, is a great way to relieve stress and also to better understand oneself. For me, there is no better way to capture the world around me – to pay homage to what I find beautiful and often to rail against what disturbs me. Writing is a way to bring myself full circle, time and time again.

3. What steps did you take to become a published writer?

Though I have been writing for years, it was not until the late '90s when I actually tried to get published. Prior to then, I was writing plays and screenplays. I had actually begun several novels much earlier in my lifetime, but I was approaching the process entirely wrong and never got very far. I was very good at writing 100+ pages and then stopping dead in my tracks. So, years later, when I finally decided that I wanted to write novels and not plays (which are impossible to get produced), I was able to really give the process my all.

By the year 2000, I had completed two novels, Squalor, New Mexico and Crooked Moon. I spent many years reading guides to literary agents and submitting the two manuscripts. I got a lot of positive feedback from several top agents, but nobody took me on. One of the last agents that I contacted told me that she really wanted to accept my novel, Crooked Moon, but that she was turning me down simply because it was too difficult for her, as an agent, to sell fiction. Trying to get an agent was a very slow, painful process. I often got very depressed and stopped searching for long periods of time.

4. I understand you published Squalor, New Mexico yourself. Why did you choose to self-publish?

Well, it was a combination of two things, Penny: personal readiness and available technology. All of the efforts (to get published) that I explained in #3 were really debilitating to me. In 2007, when I began to learn that I could become my own publisher, I jumped at the chance. At the very least, rather than waiting for agents to respond, I could get my work out there. Not only had technology made self-publishing possible, but the Internet had already opened up amazing networking opportunities that simply had never existed before.

5. How do you come up with your ideas and settings?

The ideas just seem to find me. Sometimes they are just seeds that I water until they grow. Squalor, New Mexico began in just that way. Every time I heard the expression “He or she lives in squalor,” I always thought that it sounded as if squalor were a town or a city. I decided a great first line for a novel would be “My aunt lived in Squalor.” I had absolutely no idea what the story would be, but I wrote the line “My aunt Rebecca lived in Squalor,” and then I constructed a 445-page novel around those six words just because they intrigued me. As for settings, I believe it is important to write about places that you know. Sometimes I will write about a real place; other times I will use a fictitious name but will base it on a real place.

6. What is your writing process? Any rituals? Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I first write a rough outline, jot down massive notes, figure out all of the key elements of the story I think I want to tell, and then begin. There are some writers who will outline down to the tiniest detail. I’m not one of them. I do need to know where I’m going and have some pretty decent maps for getting there. However , whenever I write, my characters will always throw surprises at me that even I don’t see coming. For me, those surprises truly parallel real life.

One thing that I always do, meticulously so, is to keep what I call a time chart. Even if a specified time does not appear in my novel, as the writer, I need to know the day and time that all of the actions occur. This is imperative for me to maintain continuity, and it is also great when I need to review what I have written so far. The time chart helps me to see what I’ve written without rereading hundreds of pages every time I’m away from the book for a while.

And lastly, I start every day, as do most writers, by reviewing what I have done the day before. Doing so warms up the writing muscles and hopefully gets me into the “zone” where I need to go.

7. What have you been doing to market your books?

I try to maintain an active presence on as many networking sites as possible. I truly enjoy meeting people and learning about their lives and pursuits. I never go into a community expecting to simply promote my work and run. While I can’t always spend as much time communicating with people as I would like, I think that developing a personal connection is imperative to people caring about your work.

I also try to read as many blogs and articles about publishing and marketing as I can. Sometimes, there is not enough time in the day. Penny, one of the most difficult things for me is finding the time to market effectively and also have time to work on new projects. I’m pretty sure that is true for most writers.

8. Do you have any marketing tips for other struggling writers?

I think it’s really important for writers to connect with other writers. Being an author is hard work – especially if you are self-published. I never wanted to be a publisher or a publicist. But those are not only jobs I must do, they are jobs that I must strive to get better and better at as time goes on. I have discovered that every author learns something different in his or her travels. When we share what we know, it is a win/win situation for all. Every day, I try to throw more irons in the proverbial fire. No matter how thankless a task book promotion seems to be, I would advise all writers to keep plugging away at it, even when it seems as if we are walking uphill carrying two heavy buckets of water.

9. Tell us about your other work and future plans.

Squalor, New Mexico is my first-written novel. As you mentioned in your review, Penny, it is a book that can be read by young adults or adults. However, I am not a Young Adult author. For this reason (and others), I did not publish Squalor first. I was a bit afraid that readers would then expect all of my books to be YA, which is not the case.

In February 2008, I first published my second-written novel, Crooked Moon. It is the story of friendship, of love and lust, of betrayal and forgiveness, and the revelations of secrets. I enjoy writing strong, flawed, colorful, quirky, and oft-times humorous characters. I like compelling storylines that mirror real life with its twists and turns.

I’m currently 62,000 words into a third novel that is a comedy/drama. I’ve had to step away from it for a while to work on the promotion of my first two novels, so I look forward to returning to the writing and see where it takes me. I keep a journal that is filled with ideas for other books. Each idea is very different, so even I can’t tell you what I might publish the third or fourth time around.

10. Where can fans go to learn more about Lisette Brodey?

Readers are welcome to visit me at www.lisettebrodey.com. I always love to hear from people and hope visitors will sign my guestbook. On my site, there are synopses for both of my novels, an author bio, reviews of my work, and more. I am also on MySpace at www.myspace.com/justlisette, on Twitter @lisettebrodey, on Goodreads.com, AxisAvenue.com, and Facebook.

I would like to let everyone know that Squalor, New Mexico and Crooked Moon are available in both trade paperback and as Kindle versions on Amazon.com. Additionally, I am happy to announce that I will be selling Crooked Moon at a brand-new eBook boutique store called ireadiwrite.com. I'm very happy to be associated with this great new store as it enables readers all over the world to read eBooks in a variety of formats with no dedicated hardware necessary.

Thanks for stopping by and visiting with us today.

Penny, thank you so very much for having me. It was a pleasure speaking with you, and I look forward to reading your eBook, Ghost For Rent.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Review of Lisette Brodey's Squalor New Mexico

Squalor, New Mexico
By Lisette Brodey

Squalor, New Mexico is a coming of age story which can be read by either young adults or adults. It is written as the memoir of a young girl, Darla McKendrick.

Darla's story begins when she is nine years old. Early in the story, she learns about her Aunt Rebecca. She has never met Aunt Rebecca, but this aunt continues to haunt her throughout the story. Darla's mom, Margaret, and her aunt, Didi, are very close, but there is a dark secret the two of them share. It has to do with Aunt Rebecca.

Darla and her three cousins, April, May, and June, decide to unravel the mystery of Aunt Rebecca. Their mothers, however, thwart their efforts at every turn. Yet, every time Darla gets into trouble, she's compared to Aunt Rebecca. As she becomes a teenager, her parents treat her as though she had become Aunt Rebecca. Of course, she rebels. But, Darla is basically a good kid; she's just searching for her own identity. Enter Victoria, an elderly woman who Darla befriends when she visits a nursing home with her cousin May. Victoria doesn't judge Darla and listens to her problems, offering sage advice that Darla soon realizes is worthwhile.

Darla's remarkable journey from childhood to young adulthood is fraught with hurdles, missteps, and poor judgment. Despite all of this, she finds her own path and harmony for her struggling family.

This is a sensitive story told with compassion and understanding. Be sure to read it through to the end. You'll be as surprised as I was.

You can purchase Squalor, New Mexico at the following site:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What Should You Do?

Recently, there was a thread on a forum which I follow. The question was how many things should a writer become involved with? There is, of course, blogging like this. Then there are social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. There's Twitter, LinkedIn, and Ning. There's also Goodreads and a wealth of other sites where one can spend time, conceivably marketing their work.

When I first started this blog, I had every intention of posting every day. Soon, I felt like every three days would be good. Now, once again, life gets in the way and here it is a week later and I'm now posting.

Of course, I have a good excuse. I'm away from home and helping with child care for granddaughter. But is that a good excuse? There are certainly plenty of stay at home writing parents who somehow manage to get their work done despite changing diapers, playing with, reading to, and monitoring their children.

It is somewhat different since I don't have my own computer and my work is sitting there at home waiting for editing. I can keep up with email, but that's about all. I can, obviously blog and I did access Facebook. Was this really marketing? Not this time. It was a way to pass a few free minutes while my granddaughter napped.

Many writers on the forum feel like all this is too much and there are times I agree. It becomes personal choice and what you feel is good for you. Some writers feel blogging is part of their writing jobs. The other ways to network may not be as "work," but can be a way to have a little down time. If you're not sure about your own writing time, take a look at how much available time you do have. Are you getting your writing goals accomplished? If not, re-evaluate how much time you spend blogging or social networking.

I know I need to do what one of my writing friends does. Before she checks email or Facebook or any of her other social sites, she works for an hour on whatever writing project is current. By doing this, she knows she's accomplished her goal for the day. If she works for more than an hour, that's even better. Don't be a social networking junkie. Work first, then reward yourself with play time. Make your writing a job, not a pastime and you, too, will reap the rewards of completing your goals.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

So Slow

As I mentioned the other day, I've been working on editing a collection of short stories. It's going much slower than I had hoped. Even though the collection has previously been published, I've decided to change some of the stories. The new publisher specializes in fantasy, sci fi, and horror. The original collection while containing some of those types of stories, also had some which were purely romance.

While going through the stories, I have found errors, both typos and grammatical. Many of these stories were written at the beginning of my "professional" career. I'm pleased to see that I've improved some since then, and I'm able to catch and change things. Still, the process is tedious. No one likes to edit.

A while back I read a post about how important it is to let your story sit for a few days before final edits. I can see the truth in this now as I reread my stories before sending off to the publisher. After sitting for several years, I can detach myself more readily than I can from a fresh story.

This has reinforced my belief that not hitting that send button as soon as you've finished your story is an excellent practice. Get in the habit of setting your story aside. The longer the story, the longer you should let it sit. A short story might sit a week, a novel should sit at least a month. When you read it after a period of time, you are more likely to catch those small errors that slip through at the early stages.

Happy editing.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Where Does the Time Go

Yikes, it's been almost a week since I posted anything here on the blog. Honestly, my friends, I'm alive and well, just swamped. I spent the weekend babysitting my delightful granddaughter. Let's face it, watching a 16 month old doesn't leave too much time for writing. I have to applaud those writing parents who juggle their craft with family. I tried doing that for a while when my children were small, but I still have guilty feelings for all those times I'd tell the kids I'd play with them later because I was "working." When later came, they were either in bed or had found something else to do that didn't require Mom.

I am currently reviewing and editing a collection of my short stories which I plan to submit for consideration to a small publishing house. The anthology actually was an eBook some years ago and sold a few copies before the publisher suddenly went out of business. She sold to another person, who promptly shut everything down. I've thought about sending it off from time to time, but not too many publishers are interested in publishing short story collections - especially from those of us who aren't "famous." Now if my name was Stephen King, I might have a better chance. However, I've worked with this publisher before and I trust them to do a good job. I won't get rich, but it is always nice to have your work in print. The added bonus is this time around the collection will be in a trade paperback. Very nice. Of course, the publisher hasn't accepted the collection yet, but we do have a good working relationship and I'm hoping for the best.

Once this project is sent off, I'll get back to my sequel Ghost for Dinner. I'm finding writing a sequel is not as easy as I thought. The first few chapters went quite quickly, then I got bogged down and now it's a real effort to write the words. Reviewing my short story collection has been a good thing because it's reinforced, in my mind anyway, the fact that I really can tell a pretty darn good story.

So, again, where has all the time gone? If I'm not writing, what am I doing??? Darned if I know. . .

Friday, June 5, 2009

More Blog Stops

This month, I'll be continuing my blog tour for my middle grade novel, Ghost for Rent. Today, I'm being interviewed by Deb Hockenberry at http://thebumpyroadtopublishing.blogspot.com/ She has also done a review of Ghost for Rent at http://debsbookreviews.blogspot.com/

On June 9th, Jo Linsdell will be doing an interview at her blog Writers and Authors at http://writersandauthors.blogspot.com Coming up later in the month will be reviews by Barbara Ehrentreu, Jan Verhoeff, Cheryl Melandrinos, Carol Amato and Lisette Brodey. Karina Fabian will be reviewing and interviewing in July.

This has been an interesting experience for me. I've gotten to know the reviewers better and they've gotten to know me. More importantly, I've gotten encouragement to continue writing novels. Having other people review my work and say that I've done a good job is positive reinforcement. You always wonder, even if your book is published, if other people will like it. I'm just sorry that I didn't know how to do this a few years ago when Ghost for Rent was first published. I do know that seeing these reviews and getting to know these other authors has helped me refocus on the sequel which has been in the planning stages far too long.

In exchange for the help I've received, I plan to do the same for other writers. We, as a community, should stick together and help each other as we can, offering support, encouragement and marketing assistance.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Interview with author Christina Barber

Christina Barber is an award winning author of speculative fiction. She writes both fiction and non-fiction and novels as well as short stories. Her novel, Greystone, a paranormal thriller was awarded Best Seller status and the Dream Realm Award by eTreasures Publishing. Her web site can be found at www.christinabarber.net

Welcome Christina. Would you answer a few questions for us about your work?

1. Seeley's Pond is described as a dark urban fantasy. Tell us a little about the book, please?

My style of writing borders mystery, so giving too much away could spoil the plot. I will tell you that the Tayte family moves into a new home at Seely's Pond. Strange things start to occur, and Julia Tayte learns that there is an ancient Chinese curse upon the land.

2. Can you define dark urban fantasy for us?

Urban fantasy is basically 'magic in a modern setting'. Dark urban fantasy contains strong horror elements as well, thus making it a 'dark' read.

3. Spirits of Georgia's Southern Crescent is a non-fiction book. Tell us about the book.

Spirits of Georgia's Southern Crescent is a non-fiction ghost book, a collection of true stories from the area in which I live. It contains stories told to me by the person who experienced the haunting or event.

3. Tell us why you chose this as a topic?

I'd always loved ghosts. For my first novel, Greystone, I needed accurate information about ghosts and ghost hunting. So I contacted a local group, spoke with a few of the members, and even went on a hunt with them - all in the name of research for my book.

4. Please describe your approach to research for fiction and non-fiction?

I love research. I also love mythology, and typically incorporate it into my fiction when possible. Research for fiction and non-fiction is very different. For fiction, I go out on a limb, find some obscure myth, monster or situation and then craft it to be my own. With non-fiction, I try and stay as close to the truth or event as possible.

5. Greystone is your award winning paranormal thriller. Please tell us about it.

Alecia Raeham's father is brutally murdered when leaving the Greystone Psychiatric Facility on the day it closed. His death remained shrouded in mystery, until Alecia begins to uncover information. And something is haunting her. Again, giving anymore will spoil the mystery aspects to the story.

6. What makes a paranormal thriller?

A thriller is a book that keeps the reader turning pages, it is part mystery, part action. Toss some paranormal elements into it - in this case, ghosts - and you have a paranormal thriller.

7. The Best Seller status award is fairly obvious, what is the Dream Realm Award?

The Dream Realm Award is an annual award for the best in small press fiction (and I believe non-fiction as well). It is based on blind judging, which means the judges are handed the books from the nominees, but the names of the authors have been removed. From there finalists are chosen, number of finalists are based on number of entries per category. From there the judges choose a category winner. The Award is given out at a Science Fiction Convention, Armadillo Con. Greystone won for Best Speculative Romance.

8. Since you have published both novels and short stories, which do you prefer to write and why?

I prefer novels. Short stories happen when I have an idea, but it is just a glimpse, not rounded out enough for a longer work of fiction.

9. When did you start writing and why?

I'd always loved to write. As a matter of fact, my fourth grade teacher told my mother that I'd be a writer (I'd really enjoyed several writing assignments we'd had in class, and used page after page to write the stories). Anyway, from there I kept a notebook of handwritten stories, I was a closet writer. It wasn't until after my daughter was born that I decided to try and get something published. I started by finding a local critique group. Wow, did I have a lot to learn, and they taught me everything from formatting a manuscript to editing. My first acceptance was a short story for a magazine, though the story never did get published because the magazine closed.

10. Why did you choose the speculative fiction genre?

I think it chose me. My favorite author growing up was Edgar Allan Poe. When I started writing, my first attempt was an action-adventure with romance. It was terrible! I was writing what I thought sold - romance. But it wasn't where my heart was, romance wasn't me. So, I tried writing from the inside, my soul. The second attempt was much better. . . that novel was Greystone.

11. Most of your stories have real places as the setting. Why do you choose real place names?

I love adding in a link to realism. For me, it takes the novel to the next level, where the reader could actually walk on that sidewalk, or visit that coffee shop from my book.

12. Tell us a little about yourself. I know you have a web site where people can visit you. Where can they purchase your books?

Yes, I keep my website up to date, so that is usually the best place to get the latest information. I'm out on Facebook and MySpace as well.
Purchasing my books is easy - you can find my books at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, Borders and all independent bookstores as well.

13. What plans do you have for future works?

I'm always writing something. Currently I'm working with a vampire series. Hopefully, with any luck, we'll see that out in 2010.

14. Your short stories have appeared both in anthologies and magazines. Which do you prefer and why?

I prefer anthologies. It really is great to be in a book with a group of authors since we all have different styles and yet we manage to work together to bring a comprehensive work of fiction.

15. Anything else you'd like to share about yourself or your writing?

I'd like to thank my readers and fans. The most gratifying part of being an author isn't the paycheck (they don't call us starving artists for nothing), but rather meeting a reader in person, or getting an email from a fan. It really makes my day. So, thank you to all my readers, and those who will join the list - You ROCK!

And for aspiring writers - keep writing. If one story or novel doesn't seem to work, try something else. Find your voice and what calls to you, write from the heart.

Christina, thank you for visiting with us.