Archive for May, 2007

Picking a genre?

May 30, 2007

 Science fiction conventions are geared for the readers. The weekend is all about fun, and creativity. Readers/attendees are encouraged to dress up in fantasy or science fiction or paranormal costumes. There are also a lot of renfaire outfits, too. Just watching the parades of people is fun. They hold masquerade contests, dances, and sometimes karaoke competitions. The night life is serious party time and the booze flows free. Really free.

The best part is that the conventions are cheap. They stay in a moderately priced hotel, and it’s totally common for people to bunk in together, to save money. The attendees don’t dress up fancy (except for the costuming crowd.) So, you can come as you are, comfy in jeans and t-shirt and you’re among the masses without judgment.

There are usually writing workshops for writers, too, but it is an excellent opportunity for writers to meet their readers. In fact, I think it is the best set-up fan base for a writer. Every weekend there is a science fiction convention somewhere, and usually not too far (within 8 hours driving?) from wherever you live. I’m not kidding.

So, if you’re a writer trying to figure out what will be the best genre to write because the promotion opportunities are easier and more affordable because they are alreaedy set-up–and open and loving to writers–then the sf genre is the one for you. I think  you’ll be seeing a whole lot more in that genre out of me.

At first, I thought 55% of the reading market goes to romance. That is true, give or take a few percentage points. But so does that percentage of writers. So, the competition to get published is a lot tougher there.

But there aren’t a lot of reader conventions. The Romantic Times Convention was originally set up for readers to meet writers, but there tends to be about 400 writers and only 4-500 readers. It IS fun for all. But it’s expensive. (All told, this year’s RT cost me around a couple thousand. The con is $450, then you have travel, meals, and hotel, and they always hold it in places like Hiltons and Hyatts. I stayed up the street in a cheaper place and still had that kind of money out of pocket.) Although, I do have to say that I’ve been twice and thoroughly enjoyed it both times.

Anyhow, if you’re sitting in front of a blank WORD screen trying to think of what to write next, consider going sf. There are quite a few sf/fantasy/horror magazines that publish short stories. And a lot of publishers have asked me for futuristic lately. So, I know there’s a demand.

All I’m saying is think about it. The advertising is cheaper to get your name out if there are cons everywhere. All you have to do is mail your freebie promotions stuff to the con chair and it will go on the table. If you want to speak on a panel, all you have to do is mail the program staff at the con and say you’d like to participate. You get to do readings and signings, too.

There’s a lot of opportunity for budding writers to make their own name popular if they go the sf route.


Who are you writing for?

May 25, 2007

I write for myself, first and foremost. I figure if I entertain myself, then none of the time I spend writing is wasted or lost. It’s one of the ways I justify all the time I put into sitting in front of my keyboard, or hovering over a notepad.

Second, I write for my readership, or fans. I think about who my audience is. Do you?

When I write mystery, I know that I must put in clever details that will get them thinking, “Is this something important?”

When I write romance, I know that I must provide an emotional attachment, reasons to get sucked into the life of my characters. This is really true no matter what genre I write, but I learned it from writing and reading romances. What do you learn when you read? Do you read with an eye to the question of “What is great or awful here? What should I try to take from this and apply to my stories?” OR NOT.

When I write science fiction, I know that I must provide the details of science that are well based in fact. SF fans are brilliant at figuring out the holes in your science fiction theories, equipment, and futuristic toys. But this idea is true no matter what genre you write, too. Make sure you know how a gun works. Or the engine if your hero has to mechanic on something. Or whatever.

When I write historical, I know that I must do my homework. I can’t write about, say, England circa 1600, without having a clue as to who was in the aristocracy of the time, especially the monarchy. And flavor details like terminology are really important.

When I write fantasy, creative details, like description of the world, or paranormal are ultra important. I have to set the scene with interesting bits of info that readers won’t skip over. Huh. Ideally, I would do that in any genre. Huh?

Readers of different genre will keen in on different details and skip over others. A Great American Novel should have such a perfect balance of emotional suction and intrigue, and details so finely put together that anyone who picked up your book, no matter what genre they normally prefer, would fall in love with your characters and story IF THEY ONLY READ A LITTLE BIT. You know, they would get so involved that they couldn’t put it down. Even if it wasn’t really their cup of tea.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all we wrote was so good that any audience would love it? Think about the details of your genre, and the details your audience will want to clue into. That’s all I’m saying.

I ask people all the time to explain to me “Why do YOU think a reader would like this opening or ending?” And “How can you make this appeal to my dad, a plumber, my friend, a hotel night clerk, and me, a housewife?” Is there something that you can add that will draw us ALL in?

Or will you stomp your foot and say, “But I don’t want plumbers and night clerks reading my stuff. I just want housewives who are bored!” Or what? Asking yourself why your stuff would appeal to your targeted readership might help you hone it a little better.

Recently, I wrote an opening for a science fiction story. A novel. My critique group liked it, but said it didn’t snag them as an opening scene. They are not sf readers. It was too tekky. The next week, I brought an opening that had a total romance feel. Too emotional, not enough action, they said. But, the romance readers liked it. Next, I brought an opening with a murder on the first page. Well, an exploding shuttle. The mystery fans liked that best. Last week, I took another opening. It had problems too.

What I learned is:

a) The audience wasn’t really appropriate for measuring the specific genre appeal. It needed work if I wanted it to go into a mainstream audience.

b) I can slant any story to any readership, if I am so inclined.

c) I learned something about my characters and my action by letting a wide scale critique group check out my story pieces.

d) In the end, I am the one that has to decide which way I want to go with my story. I take their suggestions and narrow in on where I want to go with my work, but I can’t let their negative comments affect whether or not I finish something. Take the constructive, eliminate, and let go of the stuff that doesn’t help you. Their opinions are directed by their personal preferences.

In the end, my best advice is:

Write what you want to write. There IS an audience out there for everything. You can’t be the only one in the whole world that likes what you like.

Interview with Beth Wylde

May 24, 2007

Give us the 411 on yourself. You know, the basic information minus address and phone number.

I write under the name Beth Wylde. I currently live out in the boonies of Virginia with my hubby, my three children, my dog and my muse.


How long have you been a word ho for publishing pimps? (Er, a writer?)

I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember. (My imagination is a fun place to visit sometimes when the kids and the hubby have me stressed out) I just decided to pursue getting my work published a little over a year ago. I want to be able to write full time.


Can you give us a brief VIRGIN story? I mean, give us the nitty gritty on your first sale.

I was pregnant with twins when I decided to write seriously and try to get something published. As a result the finished product came out with a strong female lead with a bit of an attitude and a big mouth. (I blame it totally on the hormones!) I did get a few rejections but finally polished up the piece and got it published. Full Moon Madness was the result and I’m still proud of it today. I even have a sequel or two planned.


Everybody’s got a fantasy. What’s your writer’s (wet?) dream?

To be approached by a major agent or publishing house, or both. That would be my big O!


Actors wanna be in pictures. Where do you want to be?

On everyone’s bookshelf in every bookstore in the world. (I know it’s a huge wish but if I’m going to dream I figure I ought to dream BIG! LOL)


Get any bad advice early in your writing career?

Not really. In fact the person the proofreads for me is a godsend and I always try to run new pieces by her for an honest opinion before I submit them. She’s my online beta Goddess! (Pennie r u feeling the luv?)


Word, baby. Get any good directions that you’d like to pass on?

If you really want to get published do your research and your homework and make sure to submit to a reputable company. Don’t give up on the dream.


We need the 420 on where to find you and your stuff. Cough ‘em up!

You can email me at

my website can be found at

check out my yahoo group for hot excerpts and fun author days at

And I finally broke down and joined in on MySpace at

Also I have yahoo IM. Just look for b.wylde


I love to chat online and get emails from readers and other authors. 



Thanks, Beth. It’s always interesting to hear how other writers do things, what’s important to them, and so on. We appreciate you sharing.

-Jennifer DiCamillo



May 23, 2007

My first novel, The Price of Peace, is set in 13th Century Wales. I had read a plethora of novels set in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland of that time period and thought I was “up” on the lingo. Ha!

When I began working on the manuscript, I used a lot of YE and DINNA and some contractions like no’ instead of not. I’d seen those in a ton of stories.

That caused me a lot of work later when I had to go back through and remove the majority of them to make it an easier read. And, really, that is what we want most–for our readers to enjoy the book, which means it has to be smooth. If they have to stop regularly to sound out or figure out what the character is saying because they have a thick brogue, then you’ve taken the out of the story and that’s not good. You want them to inhale your words and take the tale in so fast that they can’t get enough quick enough.

The rule of thumb is “Set the tone then use good English and grammar with occasional references to the brogue, or colloquial.”

And do your research. When I put the first draft of my WELSH manuscript in front of the WELSH historian, the first thing he said was, “Well, lass. You’ve got this entirely too Cornwall.”

He explained that the YE’s were more appropriate to ENGLAND at the time. He also argued the map that is in the book. Not in accuracy, but in relevance. I show the IRISH SEA above the land mass of Wales. It’s really there. But the Welsh (him) were not real fond of the Irish and he didn’t understand why I’d want to mention them at all. Even if the sea is called THE IRISH SEA.

But, I figured my initial readership would be American like me. Therefore, needing a map to get a clue as to where the story took place. To Americans, England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland are pretty close together, like little states. But to the Europeans, they are completely different COUNTRIES. DUH. Are you laughing at me, or with me?

Okay. I knew they were countries. But the way of thinking is different, if you get my drift.

When I lived in Nevada, we used to go 20 miles one way to get our gas tank filled up. Down the road usually referred to many miles. It was a way of life. We didn’t even think twice of going the distance.

Now I live in Missouri, and it’s 2 miles to the gas station. Going 10 seems like we’re visiting a whole other country. That move helped me to “get” the difference in thinking. Distances in that novel of mine became more real to me when I realized they were walking or on horseback. That 20 miles was a long way and 50 was a serious journey.

My second novel, Courting Disaster, had a different publisher and editor. And many of the same sort of things were addressed in the process of bringing that book through edits and into print. Time for travel had to be counted and figured. Contractions discussed. In the end, I just let the editor do it how she wanted and stopped arguing small points. The flavor is there. But she had her own way of seeing contractions and how they spoke (preconceived ideas?), and even the layout of the castle in her head. She didn’t get the concept of alcoves versus rooms. She says she does but she changed wording to put people in rooms with doors open. She saw ante-chambers that I didn’t, and put them in. The logistics of whispering versus speaking loud enough for a voice to carry became a problem.

You have to think things like that through. You can’t build a fire in an ante-chamber of a bedroom and expect it to heat the bed area. Not in an old castle in cold stormy weather. Think of the logistics. Envision the place. And then describe enough to get the reader in the room with your people–but don’t put so much in there that they skip whole paragraphs.

Rule of thumb: Keep descriptions to no more than 5 lines, and preferably down to 3 at a time.

Interview with Adriana Kraft

May 22, 2007
Give us the 411 on yourself. You know, the basic information minus address and phone number.

First off, there are two of us: we’re a married couple writing erotic romance under the pen name of Adriana Kraft. If you think “erotic” and “married” don’t go together, read some of our books! We love to spice things up and we write what we love to read: strong women, men who deserve them, hot sex whether m/f, f/f, ménage or more, and believable characters facing the ups and downs of real life (well, except for our paranormal characters!).

How long have you been a word ho for publishing pimps? (Er, a writer?)
Hmm, writing non-fiction all our careers (we teach college when we’re not writing fiction). Writing erotic romance? Probably three years since we started, but it took us a while to polish and submit, see below!
Would you give us a brief VIRGIN story? I mean, give us the nitty gritty on your first sale.
This won’t hurt, did it? Really, it was kind of a quickie: we submitted the first three chapters of Colors of the Night to Silk’s Vault last May thirtieth. June first the publisher emailed us, said she couldn’t put it down, and offered us a contract! It was released a bare three and a half months later! That (and some good reviews) opened doors and now we’re published at three houses with a contract at a fourth, all since last September!
Everybody's got a fantasy. What's your writer's (wet?) dream?
Not gonna tell! For two reasons, actually ~ what’s fantasy today might be reality tomorrow, and whether it is or isn’t, we’d probably want to put it in a book, so we’ll save it for the published page!
 Actors wanna be in pictures. Where do you want to be? 
Sammiched between a happy couple (of whatever gender) having mind-blowing sex! Seriously, 
some authors are good beach reads ~ we wanna be a good bedroom read! We’ve got two genders contributing to everything that goes onto our pages and we’ve heard from readers that both genders like what we write. We want to send you out into fabulous erotic fantasies and bring you back to this reality for some action, and we love what Frost at Two Lips Reviews wrote about Colors of the Night: “I highly recommend this book, although the reader will no doubt want either a partner or a bucket of toys close at hand.” Yeah. We hope our book can be found tossed aside in the heat of the passion it’s engendered. Even on the bedroom floor would be just fine (tho that might be a little hard on the computer)! Being in pictures would be good, too; we think some of our books would make great screen plays for adult films of the both-genders-enjoy type!
Get any bad advice early in your writing career?
Nope, just not enuf GOOD advice! Nobody told us how much time we’d have to spend promoting and getting our name out there, so we’d done pretty much nothing when our first book was released last September. The down side? We’ve had to be real fast learners! The up side? Getting to meet so many helpful authors and readers who support us!
Word, baby. Get any good directions that you'd like to pass on?
Yup! Keep dreaming, believe in your dreams and invest the time effort and money in them that they deserve. They’ll need that to succeed! 
Specifics? Polish your craft, talk with other writers in your genre, enter contests if your submissions aren’t being picked up, get feedback, join writers groups and on-line groups where you can really talk with readers and writers, and never give up!
We need the 420 on where to find you and your stuff. Cough 'em up!
Finding Adriana:

(1) Our website

(2) Our monthly newsletter ~ to sign up, send us an email at adrianak @adriana (without the spaces) and put newsletter in the subject line, and tell us where you saw our info so we can let Carys know what a great job she’s doing!

(3) Our MySpace:   

 Finding Adriana’s stuff:

Cherry Tune-Up; (Available Now from Silk’s Vault )Colors of the Night (Available Now from Silk’s Vault Diary (Available Now from eXtasy ebooks )  Seducing Cat (Coming May 16 2007 to Twilight Fantasies )Atlantis Woman Found (Coming summer 2007 to eXtasy ebooks in the Atlantis Anthology Woman for Zachary (Coming September 19, 2007 to Twilight Fantasies )The Merry Widow (Coming January 2008 to Whiskey Creek Torrid )

Characterization: Whispering men?

May 20, 2007

My husband is hard of hearing. (No. Really.) He has moderate loss in one ear and severe in the other. What that has taught me is that sometimes a person simply cannot hear the whispers. Seems like a simple concept.

Why is it that we rarely see enough body action in our writing to convey what is being said? I understand that studies have been done. 93% percent of communication is body language, and tone. 7% is based on the words themselves.

So, when writing, remember to give the small physical actions that convey emotion. Remember to make your stories believable. If the guy is ninety, or forty but has worked with heavy equipment his whole life, he probably is gonna have some hearing loss. If you can hear the tv outside the house as you walk up, there’s a good heads up to the reader that the person inside is going deaf.

Why is this so important? It speaks to writing believable characters and making interactions plausible.

Picture this, me whispering sweet things to my husband in bed, and him catching the wind in his ear, but not the words, then turning on me with a loud, “WHAT?”

There goes MY mood. I raise my voice, “I was whispering sweet nothings in your ear!”

“What did you say?”

“Oh. Nothing!”

Or how about this scene?

We’re sitting in the living room. I say something. He gets grumpy. I can see it in his body language and the set of his jaw.

So, I raise my voice and ask, “What did you think I said?”

Turns out, he heard something completely different from what I said, or intended, and took offense. This happens all the time. Now, if he gets angry or hurt, I have to ask that question.

A lot of people misperceive communication. We watch people from across a parking lot and think we know what their mood is by their body language.

When we want to take offense, we let body physical actions tick us off.

Once, my third daughter, who was a finger sucker, climbed off the school bus, her fingers going into her mouth the minute she was off. She turned back to look at the bus driver, who was being mean that day, and yelling at the other kids.

Now, she was a quiet little girl, who would never flip anyone off. But the next day, she had a bus disciplinary referral for doing that to the driver.

We, of course, questioned her about it, and she cried because it broke her heart that anyone would think she would be so rude. (Just not a gesture we do at our house.)

So, we went to the school and had a meeting with the bus driver and school superintendent. As it turns out, the driver had been up to her neck in bad kids. It had hurt HER feelings that Miranda had done that to her.

But Miranda hadn’t flipped her off. She’d simply put her fingers in her mouth, a nervous habit she always had when anyone yelled at someone near her.

We misinterpret many actions like that. We take offense regularly.
In that situation, my husband and I went in looking for a fight. That bus driver was way out of line on a daily basis. Our kids weren’t the ones that got her wrath. So, this was our first reason to address this issue personally.

We took the opportunity to lay out every misdeed the bus driver had committed that OUR FIVE children had witnessed, and said that we didn’t take kindly to her accusing our daughter of something she simply wouldn’t do. Especially when the bus driver deserved that and more.

Which brings me to the relationships of your characters. We all have people who love us, and would defend us, or people who couldn’t care less what happened to us. All that speaks to our character development. Think about your characters like real people. You don’t have to tell their whole backstory, but if you think through it yourself, you’ll end up portraying people that readers can identify with because the characters have depth.

Thoughts on humor in writing.

May 17, 2007

Writing humor into a manuscript is an art. I continually read humorous pieces with an eye to “how I can transmit the concept into my own writing style.”

One thing I’ve come to terms with is, some people have a knack and others really have to work at it. Second, slapstick comes across too contrived for me to enjoy, unless the whole piece is comical on a Three Stooges level. Case in point: Janet Evanovich.

I know she has a great following and comes highly recommended by many of my friends. I do a testing process. When my family travels across the country (when I have a captive audience that can’t escape), I read to the masses. Then I ask questions about what they liked or didn’t.

Considering my husband is older than me, and I have children (male and female) of different ages, all with different reading tastes, I think we are a good cross-section to poll.

While Janet’s Stephanie Plum character was fun to read, we voted the plotting unbelievable hands down. A girl, now bounty hunter, who actually gets all her info from a real man bounty hunter and a detective, goes in and breaks the law by breaking and entering, etc. That annoyed me as a woman, even though I liked the character’s personality.

I know this is arrogant to walk through a national best seller and state that I see holes in plausibility. Fiction IS fiction and anything a writer wants to do can be done. Right?

Stephanie’s grandmother is a comic relief character. In one book, she leans over a corpse on display at a neighborhood funeral home, and breaks a finger off. Supposed to be funny that she continually does stuff like this. First, ya can’t just break a finger off a dead body that easy. Second, that is offensive to me that she’s done that to someone’s loved one. Sorry, I can’t suspend my disbelief enough. If that’s national best selling material, I may never get to that list.

On the other hand, I love Erma Bombeck’s writings. They are based on normal life, and twisting truths to a wry perspective. Put that in your story any day and I’ll read everything you put on paper.

I am open to conversation on this subject. Tell me what you love about humor in writing, especially if you’re an Evanovich fan. Explain to me the appeal you find in her stories. And, understand, I’m not saying we didn’t enjoy her tales. We simply picked them apart afterward. In retrospection, they didn’t work for us.

What works for you?

Interview with Cheryl Hagedorn

May 16, 2007

Disclaimer: When you first asked me to keep this light and funny, my system went into shock. One of the killers in my book, PARK RIDGE, does use a banana as a weapon. And one reviewer wrote that she thought my book was “uproarious,” “delightful,” and “extremely funny.” (Reader Views:, give us the basics. Who are you, personally? Got a family? Any deep dark secrets you’d like to share? Wanna tell us wear you hang your hat or pantyhose or something?

Geez, I’m a senior citizen! You need to slow down and speak up.

My partner and I have aged together over the last 28 years. I practiced the murder by banana on her.

Second, what do you write? And how do you do it? Spill it all. Are you a shower poet? Pet your cat while you type one handed? Get the name of your next character by what appears in your Alphabet soup or cereal?

I feel like I’ve wandered on stage with a stand-up comedienne. Uh, let’s see. I write mysteries. I do it sitting at my computer and lying on my back in bed just before I fall asleep listening to the cat snore. The only time I typed one-handed was when I broke my left hand. I prefer baths to showers so I don’t do poetry. Naming characters is trickier than opening a new can of soup if you don’t like Xandra Zaria.

My first book has four elderly pinochle players who are main characters. I needed to name them and describe them in ways that would help my readers keep them separate. Do it think it was too obvious when I made Jack short and hairy, the Professor tall, thin and handsome, Ellie morbidly obese with long red (from a can) hair and Margaret a tiny vegetarian with earrings?

Two major characters in the second book were named Gina and Joan. The physical descriptions were almost opposite but my critique group found the names confusing (the initial g-sound) so I renamed Gina to Ceci.

Third, how long have you been writing professionally? Any cool stories about how you got started? Or mistakes you’ve made. Feel free to elaborate. Just paragraph in between, but, by all means, ENTERTAIN US.

Actually, after I got my MA in Writing from DePaul University in 2005, the plan was teach at Truman College in Chicago, not write mysteries. (Midwest Book Review called me “a late bloomer”!) ( But as the writing instructor at the Park Ridge Senior Center (yes, it’s a real place!), I had given my class the task of writing a 700-word mystery. That project evolved into a center-wide contest: it had to be murder, had to happen at the Center, could only be 700-1500 words.

I entered the contest – imagine five murders in 969 words! Anyway, I decided to rework it and it kept growing.

I will confess to getting interrupted on a frequent basis by my unconscious. That’s where the banana came from. And the bit about the detective’s mother dating one of the suspects.

Fourth, any cool stories about meeting other writers or industry professionals that have influenced or helped you? We like to hear the silly stuff. Ever stutter at an agent? (I have.) Ever sidestep an editor? Or have a margarita downing contest with one? (Pleading the fifth on that, myself.)


Fifth, tell us about your first published work. What was it? When did it come out? Got any awards to brag about?

PARK RIDGE: A Senior Center Murder is the first of three (maybe more?) It came out in September, 2007. It’s about four elderly pinochle players who finally reach the breaking point with people telling them to get off their butts and do something other than play cards. They form a mini-gang and begin offing the overzealous activity boosters. It’s a WHYdunnit, not a whodunnit.
The second is tentatively titled Senior Games and is at the publishers now. This book, too, is based on something real, the Six County Senior Olympics. The games seniors play with and against each other involve athletics, sex and murder. I really enjoyed killing the victim in this one.

The third will be about Des Plaines. This real-life situation intrigues the heck out of me. The Senior Center currently occupies two facilities as they transition to a renovated strip mall which they’ve purchased. The schizoprhrenic component, the neither-here-nor-there thing provides some phenomenal twists.

Do you have any dreams as a writer? Go ahead, give us your best fantasy.

When I wrote one of my short stories, which was then adapted as a play to be produced by the Senior Center, I thought, “How cool if I could find someone to videotape it!” I really saw it as a short-short movie.

And then, at the tail-end of her review, Shelley Glodowski wrote,PARK RIDGE is an entertaining whodunit that rates with Agatha Christie and could easily convert to an enticing television movie.” (
What are you up to now, writing wise? Got any projects in the works? Please tell us it’s amazing and give us a short excerpt or something to make us HAVE to go and buy it. What makes it so great?

I’ve got four books I keep bumping into when I sit down to write. Des Plaines is a WIP. Another is a biography of a woman that I’ve put a year and a half of research into. Theodora Van Wagenen Ward made a name for herself by helping to date Emily Dickinson’s manuscripts, but very little is known of Teddy herself.

I’m also working on something I refer to as sci-fi but don’t know if it really is. It could be fantasy. The distinction escapes me. The working title is GS, Obs.

Then there’s a novel-length allegory – my writing group really liked this excerpt (draft excerpt: you have any tidbits of help for other writers that you’d like to pass along? Please, by all means, inspire us. Point us in the write direction.

I’ve been following the current buzz about making books available for free – notably ebooks, but also serializations ( I’m involved with the Lobe Library from the State of Illinois in a project to make my book available as a free audio file for the visually-handicapped.

Do you have any suggestions as to what a writer should avoid? Any mistakes you made that you could give us fair warning on?

I’m tempted to say something about agendas. Most writers tell you that if you’ve got an agenda, keep it to yourself. Maggie Abrams didn’t and she’s had great success with her books about murder and the environment (I’ll give you the link to Maggie’s interview as soon as I post it). In the same way, I’ve gotten good feedback from professionals who work with senior citizens.

Give us links to your websites, blogs, etc.?


Emily Dickinson Stuff –


Excerpts: (Chapter Four is the beginning of the romance between the suburban-cowboy detective and the curvaceous Italian center director)

For the first murder (

Book Trailer:

Reviews:Midwest Book Review –

Reader Views – as Ebook ($8.95) or trade paperback ($14.95)

Amazon –

BookLocker –

Thanks for giving us your fifty cent interview. Come back and see what other authors and readers have to say. Send your friends this way, too. K?

Interview with Janet Riehl

May 15, 2007

Janet Riehl is an award-winning writer and artist whose artwork, fiction, and nonfiction have been published in Harvard Review, International Poetry Review, and Lullwater Review, among other prestigious venues. 

An active participant in the community art scene, Janet has served on boards, given outdoor art performances, produced poetry readings, and performed in theatrical productions such as The Vagina Monologues.  Her work has shown in several Women’s Caucus for the Arts exhibitions and she has twice been nominated for poet laureate of
Lake County, California. 

Her recent book, Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary, was written after her sister Julia Ann Thompson’s death. The result is a beautiful tribute to her sister and family in a rich collection of poems and family photos. Her frank portrait documents her family’s coming to terms with grief and celebrates its past and its difficult present.

 Q: Janet, give us the basics. Who are you, personally? 
I’m an all-around creative-type—author, artist, actress, musician, speaker, workshop leader—sort of thing. I’ve found it doesn’t work well to do all of these things at the same time, so usually one area will nag for more attention at any given time. Right now, that’s writing. 
I’m single, in my late 50s, and in transition from Northern California to the  
Midwest, specifically St. Louis and the Illinois site of the river where my 91-year-old father still lives a darn good life. But, I want to be closer to him in his last years, however many of those he has left, so I’m cueing up the cross-country move. It’s a big deal for me to come back home.
Q. What do you write? And how do you do it? 
My stories, poems, and personal essays are published in literary journals and anthologies. My book Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary came out last year. I wrote that mainly sitting up quickly in bed first thing in the morning and just writing straight from the heart after taking notes during the day while I took care of my mother who suffered from stroke-induced dementia.
I almost always write in longhand first. Email and blog entries are the exception. I find ideas and words come to me while walking and dreaming and washing dishes. I also thrive when I have a writing buddy. I do better with one-on-one sharing than in writing groups.
Q. Tell us about people in the industry who helped you.
Two men helped me enormously in writing better and getting my work out. Clive Matson runs Crazy Child workshops and helped me just write without clutching up so much. Hal Zina Bennett supported me in getting my poetry book out; he was always just an email away. He allowed the work to shape itself, and didn’t force himself on it. He kept throwing decisions back to me, with just a few thoughts and guidelines. 
Q: Tell us about your first published work. 
My first book-length publication is “Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary” that came out in 2006. It’s a collection of 90 story-poems—a downhome family love story beyond death—that tells the truth and offers inspiration and quirky humor for aging, caretaking, and grieving. There are five sections for three people and two places I love.
Q: Got any awards to brag about?
“Driving Lessons,” a story of how my father taught me how to double-clutch through sand drifts and ford a river in Africa won an award from Travelers Tales in Best Family Story category.
Q: What are you up to now, writing wise? Got any projects in the works? 
I’m working on a nonfiction book “White Girl Passing as White” about the five years I lived in  
Africa when I was in my twenties. It’s a story about belonging, no matter where in the world you are. Here’s an excerpt from a chapter : “African Women, My Hair Belongs to You” that’s  posted on my blog:

The body speaks words the tongue cannot.The children wanted to get their hands on my hair, its texture under their fingers. The women wanted to get their fingers on my hair. The women wanted to braid my hair. On a slow afternoon, braiding my slick hair provided guaranteed entertainment. Strands of my white woman’s hair slipped out of the line bound by braiding string.“Your hair is too slick, Naledi. It doesn’t braid right.”

“I know; I know,” I joked back. “You can’t do a thing with it.”

My hair knew whose head it grew upon. My hair knew whose genes it sprang froth from. Both braid-er and braid-ee knew how our afternoon’s entertainment would end, but how good it felt to have a woman’s hands wielding a comb to make parts all over my scalp in preparation for the wayward braids to come.

How good it felt for the woman as she stroked my smooth hair plotting a strategy to finally subdue my hair. And, how good it felt to soak in the sounds of stories, even as the words galloped past in the smooth stride of a language not yet mastered. How good it felt to pick a few words, phrases, and names out of this endless narrative stream that stood out with meaning.How good it felt for hands to reach out in punctuation of a juicy story–touching in rhythm my shoulder, arm, or thigh.How good it felt to be part of the circle of woman. No matter that my hair didn’t stay in place. How good it felt to belong.

Q: Do you have any tidbits of help for other writers that you'd like to pass along? 
You know that slogan “Dance as if no one is watching”? Same thing with writing. Write as if only your heart is listening, and in time other hearts will want to hear, too.    

Q. How do we contact you?
Check out my blog “Riehl Life: Village Wisdom for the 21st Century” and website at It’s focused on connections between the arts and across cultures. I often feature my father’s stories, poems, and events as well.

Tie things up!

May 14, 2007

We’ve all heard of loose ends. TIE THINGS UP!

Nothing is more annoying than getting to the end of the book, finding no more pages, and still wondering, “What the heck happened to this other plot line?” (Unless, of course, there is a promise of a sequel.)

In a short story, it is a nice touch to tie the ending to the opening hook. I mean, if the heroine is lonely at the beginning scene, it’s great to have her in the arms of a lover at the end. That’s a no brainer. Right?

The same thing is true in a mystery. If someone is mysteriously killed at the beginning, that murderer better be revealed by the final page of your story.

I, personally, like multi-plotted tales. I love trying to keep up with ten things at once, and bringing them all together at the end, where it comes to a real climax. There should be clues along the way to let us know why these people or their storylines have something to do with the rest of what’s going on. Sometimes, when I write, I have to go back after the story is all done and put in better clues.

Think of your story as a tapestry. I know this is a lame and overused cliche of a metaphor. Sorry. (Do I need to say, don’t use cliche’s?) Back to the tapestry concept…each plot is woven with many threads, some threads are people, others are details, or actions, and more are emotions. If we don’t care about what’s going on, tell me what’s the point…? That’s why getting into a point of view is important.

In tapestry making, the weaver sometimes has to tie threads off. In a mystery, those are red herrings that don’t go anywhere but seem promising at first glance.

The thing is…if you create a dead end, let us know by the end of the story that it is dead. If you leave it open, you darn well better be writing a sequel that gives us closure!