THE WAITING HOUSE: A Novel in Stories

 

 

Hello, Friends,

My eleventh book, The Waiting House:  A Novel in Stories, is here. The title is quite appropriate, as I’ve waited a long time to get it out.

Cover art and design by Shykia Bell

Every time I publish a new book, I like to write a blog explaining how it came to be. As a multi-genre author (with leanings toward literary and contemporary fiction), I put a lot of thought (agonizing contemplation) over what to write next.

I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from my themed short-story collection, Hotel Obscure, where the same characters appear in different stories; many readers telling me that the book read to them like a novel. While it’s not a novel, it was my intention to give it that feel. So, when I decided to do a follow-up book, I thought I’d torture myself by raising the bar and this time, write a novel-in-stories / A Novel in Stories.”

In Writer’s Digest (2008), Scott Francis, a former editor and writer at WD Books, explains what a novel-in-stories is:

“A novel-in-stories is a book-length collection of short stories that are interconnected. (One of the very first examples of this genre is The Canterbury Tales; a more recent example is The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing, by Melissa Bank.) A novel-in-stories overcomes two key challenges for writers: the challenge of writing a novel-length work, and the challenge of publishing a book-length work of unrelated short stories. (Few publishers are willing to publish a short-story collection from an unknown writer.) So, the novel-in-stories helps you sell a story collection like you would a novel—as long as the interconnected nature of the stories is strong and acts as a compelling hook. Another advantage to novels-in-stories is that they afford you the opportunity to publish pieces of your novel in a variety of literary magazines, which might attract the attention of an editor or agent. (Editors and agents often troll literary publications looking for new talent to publish or represent.)”

When I began writing this, I asked myself at regular intervals if I was crazy. Would I be able to do this? It was tough to come up with unique stories and tie them to an overall story arc. I’ll admit it … I thought about quitting, but not being a quitter, I kept pushing myself, and then … finally … it all began to come together.

I’d written two novels after Hotel Obscure, so I had a lot of time to think about where to set this next collection. As it turns out, I really needed the time because I wanted a setting that I could see and that I felt passionate about. As I began to write, while I didn’t plan on it, The Waiting House took on a different tone than Hotel Obscure, with a decidedly Twilight Zone theme to it … something I never planned on doing, even though one story in HO fits that bill.

Graphic by Kathleen Harryman

Here’s the blurb:

Once an opulent hotel for lovers of the Hollywood lifestyle, today the imposing building survives, somewhere, as an apartment house for those who wait. Not all know what they’re waiting for, but the residents live in flawed concert with those of undetermined existence, among relics of the past, as they wait for answers, for lost loved ones, and for purpose.

While the stories feature different characters, many of whom are recurring, each tale couples with its own unique reality … and is narrated by Conrad, the “grand master.” There is an overall story arc: part literary fiction, part Twilight Zone … both with a healthy dose of dark humor.

If you step inside, you’ll meet Ava Elisabeth, now in her 80s. After 40 years in Paris, she has returned. But why? Darah, the owner, is tormented by the sudden reappearance of her estranged mother, Millicent.

Kenny finds a way to overcome the despair of his missing wife. Fiona lives in the shadow of her once-famous, movie-star mother. Former Santa, Alejandro, punishes himself with solitude and sadness. A disturbed woman, Carolyn, waits for her TV prince to come. And Lee is tortured by random people who slide down walls near his fourth-floor apartment. Under the same roof, each soul has a different story … but all live in The Waiting House.

I’ll leave you with that as I go off to imagine a possible third collection … one that will also take much thought to develop. In the meantime, I’ll be starting a new novel.

As are all of my books, The Waiting House: A Novel in Stories is available in paperback, Kindle, and is free to read on Kindle Unlimited.

Best wishes,

 

Lisette

You can get buy the #Kindle edition of the book here:  (universal link)

U.S. readers can get the paperback edition here:

(If you’re outside of the U.S., simple do a search on the title in the Books category on Amazon.

 

 

 

 

CHAT WITH MARK SCOTT PIPER

Mark Piper has been writing professionally his entire adult life. He holds a P.D in English from the University of Oregon and has taught literature and writing at the college level for several years. He has published two novels, You Wish, which earned first place gold in the 2019 American Eagle Book Awards, and the recently released, The Old Block. His short stories have appeared in Short Story America, The CWC Literary Review, and several online literary magazines.

Time to chat with Mark!

What is your latest book?

My second novel, The Old Block, was released in October of 2020. It’s a literary novel, that touches several genres, including coming of age, contemporary, mainstream, mystery, and even a bit of romance.

Tag line: What would you do if you discovered your father might not be the person you always thought he was?

Pitch:

Shortly after his father dies, 24-year-old Nick Castle discovers what seems to be a draft of the novel his father had always hoped to write. But a clue at the end causes Nick to fear that this story of a serious federal crime and escape from the U.S. may not be fiction at all. When Nick sets out to find out the truth about his father’s past, he learns more than he ever expected—about his father and about himself.

How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?

I’m not really a genre author, the fiction I write—and read—is eclectic and sometimes difficult to fit into any specific genre. Novels have to be categorized for marketing, though. I wrote my debut novel, You Wish, primarily for adults, despite the fact the protagonist is fourteen years old.

Despite my best efforts, the book is labeled young adult and sometimes even children’s books. At the very least it’s YA Crossover. So far all the reviews I’ve received are from adults, and I doubt any teenagers have even read it.

My most recent novel, The Old Block, is a literary novel, but it features large doses of mystery and romance. My current WIP, Until Proven Innocent, has thriller elements laced with comedy, mystery, and even a bit of horror. But it doesn’t strive to hit all the expected/required tropes of those particular genres.

Even though I don’t usually hold to the boundaries of a specific genre, I have a great deal of respect for any authors who do them well. My academic career focused on American and English literature with a specialization in the Nineteenth-Century novel. I suppose that influence is why my preference is to write literary novels, most of which unabashedly steal bits and pieces from other established genres.

Do your books begin with ideas for characters or plots? Something else?

 The starting point for most of my fiction is a “what if” question, as advocated by Stephen King and several others. So, I usually have an clear enough idea of my main character, his or her goals, and where the story is headed. The rest falls into place as I write it. The story develops almost on its own, while I do my best to keep up with the characters. Always there are surprises, but the core idea usually holds true. Not surprisingly, this method can mean I don’t know for sure the details of how the book will end. I know where I want the plot to go, but sometimes I rewrite the final chapter several times before I get it right.

How much of your own personality goes into your characters?

It’s no surprise that many of my protagonists share my world view, my expectations, and my values. But my characters are never me, and I don’t want them to be. In person, I’m inclined to sarcastic humor, perfectly okay when your audience can see your expressions and know your intent. For some readers, though, sarcasm doesn’t translate so well on the page. Readers who know me thought the early drafts of Until Proven Innocent were hilarious. Some of those who didn’t, hated my MC. I’m in the process of softening the sarcasm as I edit.

On the other hand, most of my protagonists aren’t much like each other or me. For instance, Jake Parker (You Wish) is fourteen years old; Nick Castle (The Old Block) is twenty-four; Mac Faulk (Until Proven Innocent) is sixty-two; and Judith McPherson (in another WIP, Beholder) is thirty-four. I’m older than all of them, and I was when I first met them.

What is the worst writing advice you’ve ever received? The best? Any advice you’d like to offer to readers?

I’ve been told by instructors and other writers, “If you don’t grab the reader on the first page they won’t read any further.” As an avid reader myself, I know that’s not true, but many still hold onto this rule with both hands. It applies well enough for certain genres—mystery, detective, thriller—but not all. Given my background in literary fiction, I have no problem not having to step over a dead body to start the journey.

Like most writers I’ve combed the how-to books, studied the authors I respect, and sought out advice in conferences and critique groups. The problem is, expert advice can be sometimes confusing, sometimes absolute, and sometimes contradictory—e.g., always use “said” for dialogue attribution because it’s an “invisible word” vs. never use “said” because it’s hackneyed and lacks imagination. So, seek out expert writing advice for sure but ferret out what’s most useful to you. Just be wary of absolutes. We’d all be wise to take Pablo Picasso’s advice, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

Yes, you need to have a pretty good idea of how your story is going to end, but in my experience, the ending of a novel always ends up being tweaked considerably. You need a solid grip on where your MCs are going and how they will manage to get there, but I’ve found it best to not hold on to that preconception too tightly. Strong characters soon develop minds of their own and can take your story in directions you don’t expect. And that’s usually a good thing.

Regarding titles, it’s easy enough to come up with a working title and it doesn’t matter much how bad that early title is, but I’ve come up with the final version of the title for each of my books well after the early drafts have been completed. The opportunity to see and experience the whole story from beginning to end gives you a perspective you don’t have early on. My original title for my debut novel was The Final Wish, which seemed okay until someone at a conference told me they assumed I was writing about a dying teenager. The title that went to press is You Wish, a better reflection of my protagonist and the story. Trial and error to the rescue.

What else have you written?

 The first full-length manuscript I wrote was my Ph.D. dissertation on the fiction of Stephen Crane years ago. An academic book, sadly lacking in character arcs, plot twists, or car chases. I worked as a freelance writer for many years, creating corporate marketing materials, internet sites, and video scripts—many or which I also produced and directed. These days I focus almost exclusively on my fiction.

My fist published novel, You Wish, won first-place gold in the 2019 American Eagle Book Awards. More than a dozen of my short stories have appeared in print and online literary journals.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

New writers should take extreme pride in completing a first draft of a novel. It’s a remarkable accomplishment, and it’s definitely exhilarating to type “The End” on your manuscript. But you quickly learn you haven’t reached the end at all. It can take a while for first-time writers to fully understand when their work is “finished”—it certainly did for me. The short answer may well be “it’s never finished.” Most published authors find edits they wish they’d made even years after their book has been published.

That said, editing is where the refinement happens. There’s a palpable sense of pride and accomplishment when you see how much better your narrative has been improved. It’s also important to hire a professional editor and proofreader—and listen to what they tell you—before you start the publishing process or query an agent. Neither excellent grammar or flawless punctuation will save a weak manuscript, but the lack of either can seriously undermine a good one.

While you’re writing, get as much feedback as you can from readers who aren’t friends and family. Join a critique group—in-person, online, or both—it’s a great way to get that feedback. Finding a group of fellow writers that fits you, your book, and your personality may take some searching, but it’s well worth the effort. And the input comes from people who are focused on writing, same as you.

How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?

By far, the most researched of my novels so far is The Old Block. It’s a tale of two journeys. The manuscript written by Nick Castle’s father takes place in the ‘70s during the student anti-Vietnam War protests, and the majority of that narrative takes place in Central America. I experienced the student unrest personally, but I researched the time extensively to make sure I had the details right. The whole time I was working on the first draft, my desk was full of maps of El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico and the U.S. southwest—places I’d never been—to help me show the geographical particulars accurately. I tend to research details while I’m writing. The information is only an online search away.

The rest of the novel covers Nick’s quest through Oregon and Washington. That meant more maps. I lived in Oregon and Washington many years, but having the maps in front of me helped me describe Nick’s routes and to understand driving time between locations. Also, I retraced Nick’s journey in person when I followed Nick’s path through Oregon and Washington on my way to settle my dad’s affairs after he passed away. The novel includes some real locations, real towns and cities, real distances and time frames, and in the end, I hope those details helped make it possible for readers to better experience the journey along with Nick and me.

Do you feel your latest book is your personal favorite or one of your previous novels?

Tough question. Sort of like being asked to pick which one of your children you love most. My first published novel, You Wish, won an award and has received good reviews. The idea behind it has been with me since the ‘80s when I first wrote it as a screenplay. Over time I revisited the concept as a novel, and You Wish is the result. I’m not sure I’m ready to call it my favorite, but my editor loves it best. It’s certainly the novel I’ve spent the most time with, and it still affects me emotionally when I reread it. Plus, did I mention it won an award?

Are you an early bird writer or night owl? And do you have any must haves like coffee, chocolates, wine, music or something else?

I’m definitely an early bird. My alarm goes off each morning at 5:00 a.m., and that means I have a quiet work environment every day for four hours or so, until the rest of the household is awake. I have an office where I do my writing. It’s my creative sanctuary, my work cave. Afternoons are usually full of errands and family, but the mornings are mine. If I’m really on a roll with something new, or I’m editing a manuscript, I sometimes go at it again in the evenings. You have to strike when the iron is hot, as they say. Whoever they are.

I know admitting this may get me kicked out of the writer’s union, but I haven’t had a cup of coffee for more than twenty years. But I’m not completely decaffeinated; my morning ritual though includes a chai latte or two. I’ll stalk the cupboards for a snack every so often while I’m working, but I suspect that may be more avoidance behavior than hunger.

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

Hiring a professional cover designer may be as important as hiring a professional editor and proofreader. Certain genres require specific elements and a particular cover look—historical romance and horror come to mind—but I write literary novels for the most part, so the cover options are greater. When I’m online or in a bookstore, and I come across a book with a weak cover I might pass it by. I’m not a snob about it, but first impressions count, and a lot of people assume that a novel with an amateur-looking cover is also full of amateur writing.

For The Old Block, I searched for a cover designer on Reedsy, by posting my book details and personal cover preferences. A designer named “Nick C.” responded from London with a reasonable estimate, and I liked his work. As it turned out, his full name was Nick Castle—the same name as my novel’s main character. Too much of a coincidence to overlook. I had to hire him. Bonus: the cover looks great. It’s the designer’s unique concept and far from what I had envisioned, but I loved it from the start. It reflects the dilemma at the heart of the novel. This is why you hire a professional.

Do you have complete control over your characters or do they ever control you?

Part if the excitement writing fiction is trying to keep up with my characters as the navigate the plot maze I’ve set up for them. They don’t control me as much as show me a better path or offer me insights into their personalities. So, things change as I get to know my characters better. The more I’m able to “become” each character, the more fleshed-out they become, and the better I’m able to see how they would react, rather than how I thought they should react. This is especially true of antagonists—with whom I usually have less in common, and have to make more of an effort to understand in three-dimensions.

A lot of authors are frustrated by readers who don’t understand how important reviews are? What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?

I didn’t understand why reviews are so important until I published You Wish. Now I know that the sheer number of reviews can be the difference between success and failure, especially for independently published authors. Here’s why reviews are so important. After 20-25 reviews, Amazon may include a book in “You Might Like” and “Also Bought” promotions. After 50-70 reviews, Amazon may highlight the book and include it in its newsletter. Both of these promotional lifts can boost book sales and author recognition. It’s simple common sense really. The wider the exposure for an author or a book, the better chance of a success.

For a playwright, even a stand-up comic, the audience response is immediate. That’s not the case for those of us who write fiction. What we hear is a resounding silence, unless we have a chance for a book signing or an open mic. So, receiving reviews is a crucial way to break that silence. Your review is more than a pat on the back for the author. It provides exposure and some kind words that might just cause another person to pick up the novel. If you’re a shy person who’s afraid of being judged for your grammar and punctuation, don’t worry. That’s not going to happen. Plus you get better the more reviews you do.

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

My partner and I currently live in Santa Rosa, California, about ninety minutes north of San Francisco. Yes, that’s smack dab in the middle of the raging forest fires that regularly devastated the area in recent years. So, I’d love to live somewhere safer, even just an hour south would be better. I grew up in Washington and spent many years in Oregon. Either would be okay, and these days Canada has some appeal, though. For now, we choose to stay close to family.

 Care to brag about your family?

Oh, yeah. I have four adult children—three daughters and a son—two grandsons and one granddaughter (with another on the way), and a great-granddaughter. Nearly all have settled near me in Northern California. One daughter is a pediatric nurse, another is a veterinary nurse, another is an executive recruiter, and my son is Director of Marketing for Autodesk Construction Solutions, and my oldest grandson is a realtor. I’m blessed that my partner is an excellent editor. She plays a key role in the quality of my writing. Plus, she’s a lot of fun to be around.

If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

This is easy. I’ve always wished I had musical talent. I am in awe of people who can play the guitar, piano, harmonica, any instrument actually. Happily, some of my children have those skills, but I don’t. I enjoy listening to good music and talented vocalists as much as I love settling in with a good novel. But at this stage (and age), it’s clear enough that I’m destined to be an enthusiastic, if somewhat jealous, spectator.

What music soothes your soul?

I listen to a wide range of music, but I especially love blues, reggae, classic rock, and folk. That may date me a bit, but the music from your formative years stays with you like an old friend. I remember when my dad was in his nineties, he used his computer almost exclusively to play solitaire and listen to swing bands. He was a fan of Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller. I thought it was quaint, but understandable. Now I guess I’ve become him, only with more sophisticated computer games and John Prine, Bob Marley, and B.B. King in my ears.

What simple pleasure makes you smile?

Spending time with my toddler grandson as he learns words and discovers the world. Enjoying a good laugh and long philosophical discussions with my partner. Watching my adult children succeed in life and overcome their own challenges. Discovering a new five-star review online. Meeting a stranger who loved my novel. Looking at my own novels on my bookshelf sitting there among the masters as if they belong.

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THE SUM OF OUR SORROWS

 

 

Hi, Friends:

I’m happy to announce the publication of my tenth book, a contemporary novel, The Sum of our Sorrows.

People often ask me how I get an idea for a particular book. Sometimes, I’m able to be very precise in my response and at other times, it’s not as easy.

I first got the idea for “this novel” well over a decade ago. I put those words in quotes, because then, it was a very different book, and what swirled about in my brain, I wasn’t ready to put down “on paper.” Not then.

In November of 2019, I finally felt ready to write the story, which has gone through quite a metamorphosis in my head before I wrote the first word. My original idea was to paint an intimate portrait of a relationship between two specific characters.

Years after my initial concept, I decided that the female protagonist would follow the storyline of song lyrics I wrote in another lifetime. My song, “Dear Sweet Melanie” was about a teenager whose mother had died and her entire life was lost because her father forced her to take on the role of mother to her sisters. The song (later recorded by a friend) was only mean​t​ to paint a mini portrait, whereas the story in this book is far more expansive and stars a very different person.

Lily Sheppard, the main character in The Sum of our Sorrows, has a similar story, but Lily is stronger than the tragic character of Melanie. Lily’s story is also more modern than my melodramatic song, which was more akin to Bobby Goldsboro’s “Honey” for those of you who can remember that far back.

As I began to write Lily’s story, it became clear that this book would be​ about the entire Sheppard family, far more complex and nuanced than I had intended. I needed to tell the story of this family, front and center, and that all of the plots and plot twists I’d had for the end of the book had to be gone. They were no longer relevant and no longer mattered. The Sum of our Sorrows had morphed into something very different … good different, and very soon it became a story I was passionate to tell.

In today’s world, where so many of us have lost loved ones and are having trouble moving on, and dragging our grief like heavy chains, The Sum of our Sorrows, as it is now, became a very important one for me to write.

Here’s the blurb:

In an idyllic suburb in Northern California, tragedy strikes the Sheppard family when Abby, the mother of three daughters and wife to Dalton, is killed in a car accident. Charlotte, the middle daughter, is in the car with her mother and survives without physical injury but remains deeply scarred on the inside.

Dalton tells Lily, his eldest daughter, that she must sacrifice long-awaited college plans and put her life on hold to take care of her sisters. Lily is torn between her devotion to family and an increasing need to find her place in the world — but how can she leave, knowing her family may crumble? Will her presence eventually cause more problems than it resolves?

The Sum of our Sorrows reveals how the aftermath of a family tragedy can precipitate sorrows never imagined. It is a tale of grief, hope, healing, coming-of-age, friendship, and survival. It is also a love story of two broken souls living through pain in search of better days and the renewal of one’s spirit.

The Sum of our Sorrows is available in paperback and Kindle editions. It is also free to read in Kindle Unlimited.

The Sum of our Sorrows Amazon page

 

 

 

 

CHAT WITH ROBIN LYONS

Robin Lyons, Author of the School Marshal Series, lives a quiet California life in the foothills of Sierra Nevada Mountains. After twenty-nine year career in public education, Robin’s fiction aims to bring awareness to crimes taking place on school campuses and crimes involving the people connected to schools in the School Marshal Series.

Is your recent book part of a series?

The most recently published book is Mac, a prequel novella in the School Marshal Series. Mac takes the reader back in time, providing a glimpse of the main character’s roots (Cole ‘Mac’ MacKenna) and helps readers better understand the leading man in the series.

What are the special challenges in writing a series?

It’s important to keep the characters’ information and stories straight as they move from book to book. Equally important is keeping the places and settings consistent. In case I need to refresh my memory about someone or something, I keep a few books open and readily accessible while I’m working on a new book.

One aspect I love about writing a series is it’s pretty easy to pick out something mentioned in an earlier book and then twist it into a plot or subplot down the road.

How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?

One time, as I wrote a plotted scene with a character I had planned to also use in a future book, I felt the character needed to go another direction. I remember telling my husband about how it felt like the character made the scene turn differently from what I had intended.

Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?

I outline the entire book using index cards before I begin to write scenes. Once the scenes are plotted, I lay the index cards out to arrange and rearrange until I have them in an order I believe flows. When it’s time to write scenes I have the entire story swirling in my mind. I start out writing in order, but I’m able to bounce around when one scene speaks louder in my head than another.

Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?

It’s so hard for me to ignore and continue writing when I see a squiggly colored line under a word or sentence, so I correct typos and incorrect words as I go. I don’t recommend editing as you write because it brings the creative flow to a screeching halt. But for me to ignore those darn squiggly lines would be the same as not picking up a tissue I’ve dropped.

Have you ever decided on a name and then changed it because it wasn’t right for the character?

Yes and I factor in other things besides whether the name feels right or not. I do an internet search of names, titles, fictional business names, fictional locations, fictional cities, etc. I change the name if something pops up that I wouldn’t want to be associated with me or my stories.

I write in Scrivener and love the name generator tool. If you aren’t familiar with Scrivener, you can select the gender and region the character is from to influence the name choices suggested. It’s pretty cool.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Don’t do what I did. I spent years learning as much as I could about writing, editing and publishing that the publishing world changed as I was learning. I thought I wanted to pursue traditional publishing, then vanity publishing. After six years of learning, researching, writing, and re-writing—in that order, I ended up independently publishing. All of what I did was necessary for me to proceed, but it didn’t need to take six years. The priority should have been writing.

Please, tell us about your experiences with social media. What are your favorite and least-favorite parts of it?

Social media is a challenge for me. Through trial and error, I’ve learned where my comfort zone is.

I’m active on Twitter and enjoy getting know Twitter friends. Direct Messaging (DM) on Twitter can be frustrating. You get inundated with DMs asking you to buy this and like that. Often people send a DM suggesting they’ll like your Facebook page if you do the same for theirs. Assuming the person is genuine, I’ve liked someone’s Facebook page and then replied to their DM letting them know I’ve done so and include a link to my Facebook page so they can do the same. More often than not, I don’t receive the same in return as promised in the DM. Twitter Lesson #1 – Some people are dishonest.

I’m active on Facebook as well. I enjoy Facebook for providing tons of interesting and relevant content but I haven’t mastered Facebook friendships other than in groups. There are some fantastic writer groups on Facebook. I’ve found most people in the groups are super friendly and helpful.

I’m also on Goodreads and LinkedIn but seldom go there; I don’t fully understand how to interact with others on either platform.

My Instagram account is mainly personal for connecting with friends and family.

How much research was involved in writing your book?

I love research! And therefore I do too much research. To accurately write about something I sometimes get bogged down with the tiniest detail. For example, do crickets make noise year-round or only during certain seasons? If I’m going to write about a cricket making noise—the time of year must be accurate.

*Nerd Alert* For the School Marshal Series, after I researched the names of everyone and everything, I created a town map to give me a bird’s eye view of where everything is. When I write about going to a restaurant or the police department or sitting on the back porch enjoying the view, I know exactly where the character is on the map. And with each book written more is added to the map. At some point, I may have the map professionally drawn and include in one of the books.

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

My covers are super important to me. I began saving book cover graphics that appealed to me long before I began to write. For me, the cover has to relate to the story. I like my covers to come alive in the first few chapters so the reader can connect the cover to the story and the story to the cover.

What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?

I’d say it’s the Power of ONE.

ONE dollar donated to a worthy cause.

ONE kind comment said to someone having a bad day.

ONE instance of helping an older or disabled person cross a street or open a door.

ONE time helping a bird with its wing caught on something.

ONE call to a friend or relative you haven’t talked to in a long time, etc.

ONE review has the power to help thousands of people decide what book to purchase.

ONE review also has the power to help boost a book’s ranking.

ONE review does matter.

Have you ever started out to write one book and ended up with something completely different?

Yes, I sure have. As soon as I retired, I went to the small town in South Dakota where my mother grew up because I wanted to write her life story as a fiction novel. After the trip, I did extensive research and then began writing. Not having a clue what I was doing or that there is a structure to novels I struggled to write chapter one. I tried first-person POV, then third-person POV. All of the research was shelved, and I began writing a story about a gigolo. Upon completing the gigolo story, I sent a sample to an editor and was kindly told it was crap.

Unsure what to write next, I began to study the craft. At that time, I was an elected school board member in my hometown. Our community was suddenly thrust into a tailspin when a beloved school principal was gunned down in his office by a co-worker. I’d known him for more than twenty years; he was my children’s middle school principal and my grandson’s elementary principal. The loss felt by the school district and community was tremendous. I knew then I needed to write the School Marshal Series with an imperfect protagonist keeping a watchful eye over the school and all who are connected to the school. The protagonist doesn’t always prevail because there is no such thing as a perfect world, but he sure gives it his all. It comforts me to think if there had been a security guard or a school resource officer or a school marshal on the campus the day of the shooting, maybe the outcome would have been better.

Mom’s story is still in the queue…

What might we be surprised to know about you?

I’ve skydived. Tandem with an instructor, but still an incredible experience.

What makes you angry?

Very little. I’m an easygoing person. I may get frustrated or turned off by someone’s behavior, but I try not to get riled.

What was the most valuable class you ever took in school?

Journalism.

Why?

Those valuable lessons taught so many years ago now help me understand how to format. A necessary skill for an indie-published author.

What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?

Stop judging others based on your opinions.

Say two positive comments or praise for every negative remark.

Praise children for what they do right instead of criticizing what they do wrong.

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CHAT WITH CELIA BONADUCE

CeliaBonaduce

Currently a Field Producer on HGTV’s House Hunters, Celia Bonaduce has covered a lot of ground in TV programming. Her credits include field-producing ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition to writing for many of Nickelodeon’s animated series, including Hey, Arnold and Chalkzone.  An avid reader, entering the world of books has always been a lifelong ambition. Kensington eBooks’s The Merchant of Venice Beach, first in The Venice Beach Romances, was just published on August 1st.

Time to chat with Celia!

What is your latest book and is your recent book part of a series?

I’ve written a series of contemporary romances called The Venice Beach Romance books. The first, The Merchant of Venice Beach, was published by Kensington eBooks on August 1st.  The second, A Comedy of Erinn, will hit cyberspace on September 19th.  A third book is still in the works.

CeliaMerchant

How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected? 

I was raised by writers – my mother and father were both TV comedy writers and they had different opinions about whether a character was allowed to “lead his or her own life.” My mom thought “yes” but my dad was adamant that you had to take control or some rogue character would run off with your storyline. For years, I did it my father’s way, but then realized I was really missing out on where the characters might go if left to their own devices. So, I started giving them some leeway. Mother knows best.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it?

I do think it’s very important to have a solid beginning, middle and end before you start actually writing. That’s not to say that the ending can’t change, but you need to be going somewhere. It’s like driving. If you are going to San Francisco from Los Angeles, you need to at least know you’re going north and about how long it will take. You can make adjustments as you go, but you still hope to end up at the Golden Gate Bridge – unless your trip reveals you might be happier in Seattle.

Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?

I am a compulsive editor.  I edit every morning before I move forward.  By the time I am finished, I have very little rewriting to do…except for THOUSANDS of copy-editing mistakes.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

My road to publication was long. I really wanted to go the traditional route, since many of my self-published friends seem to hit a wall at some point. I knew nobody in the publishing world, so I found a list of agents online and, one by one, sent them my sample pages. It took me three years to get an agent and one year to find a publisher.

How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?

I research as avoidance. Since I write contemporary romance and the books take place in my hometown of Santa Monica and our southern neighbor, Venice Beach, I didn’t really need to do a ton of research. But the books center around a funky teashop – so I did a ton of research on teas. At one point, the teashop gets remodeled, and I researched construction and design. I love to just start poking around the internet.

When I decided to write a book about a woman who falls in love with her no-good dance instructor (The Merchant of Venice Beach), I decided I should take dance lessons since I had no idea what that world was like. I became obsessed with dance and danced four days a week! When I started traveling for House Hunters, I had to cut back and I really miss the rush of Salsa, Swing and Tango!

Do you allow others to read your work in progress, or do you keep it a secret until you’ve finished your first draft? Can you elaborate?

I have a group of trusted readers and I wait until I have a first draft.  Growing up with writing parents, it used to drive me crazy when my dad would tell me page by page what he had written and then he’d present me with the completed script for critique. I already knew the entire plot, so couldn’t really evaluate it. My father passed away many years ago but my mom continues to be my prize “evaluator.” I try hard not to tell her what I’ve written every day.

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

One thing about having a big House publish your book is that they design your covers and they might not have been what you had in mind.  Because my book revolves around a teashop, I pictured a cover sort of like Crooked Moon or Fried Green Tomatoes, so I was shocked when Kensington presented me with this super sexy cover! We discussed it and they said that they were sure their audiences would respond to the cover they designed. They are a very successful company and I figured, “Well, you’re the experts.”

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you get around it?

I imagine all writers suffer from writer’s block at one time or another. I actually went to a hypnotist and it worked! I highly recommend it!

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

I travel for a living, and see a different city every other week on House Hunters. I always try to imagine myself living other places, and while I fancy that I could be happy living in Italy, England or some parts of the USA, when I come home to Santa Monica, California, I know I am where I should be. I love it here.

What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?

I am a very loyal friend and try to stay in touch with people. But my schedule in not conducive to friendship.  I’m on the road a ton, so, the trait I look for in a friend is PATIENCE.

If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

I would love to play the piano and speak Italian fluently.  (I know those are two skills and they are both learnable, so it is maddening that I haven’t done either.)

What might we be surprised to know about you?

I am a very good seamstress and got my first producer-job at HGTV because I could sew, not because I could produce.

If you could add a room onto your current home, what would you put in it?

A sewing room, because I make a HUGE mess when I’m making a full-sized quilt (which I do whenever I can).  Also, since I don’t play the piano, I don’t need a music room.

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