Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z - Interview with Author Afton Zapata

Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

Afton: When I was 12 years old my older sister, Wendi and I would spend time every night before bed writing in our journals. I didn’t have a lot to say then but I discovered the satisfaction of writing. As I continued to write through the years, especially in my teens, I discovered I wanted to share my voice through writing stories.

Deirdra: What is your writing and educational background?

Afton: I’ve written a variety of genres from children’s fairytales to adult fiction and memoirs. My published work consists of newsletters and my personal memoir, Enduring Miracles. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Education from ASU and a Master of Education from NAU. I’m a licensed registered contractor and licensed resident manager for assisted living.

Deirdra: What makes you passionate about writing?

Afton: Real life communication and connections give me passion about writing. Many people don’t know how to express their thoughts and feelings written or verbal. I enjoy expressing thoughts through characters and dialogue.

Deirdra: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?
Afton: Difficult. I have submitted several stories that have come back with “we like what you’ve written but don’t think it’s marketable.” I know a book must sell well but I don’t like to put a price on creativity, especially stories. It took me approximately 3 years to write and edit my book and then work with a self-publisher to pull it all together. I don’t advise self-publishing because you’re basically on your own with selling and marketing.

Deirdra: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?
Afton: I’m still discouraged along the way with new written material. However, I still believe that what I’m writing can inspire or bring enjoyment to readers so I continue to revise and edit to make my stories better. Knowing it is my gift to write and I enjoy it helps me to deal with discouragement.

Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like?

Afton: Mostly late in the evening from 10pm to 12 or 1 am.

Deirdra: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?
Afton: Real life experiences. Most of the ideas I experience myself or see other people experience are a great story in itself so I take real life and make it colorful. But honestly, real life is better than fiction.

Deirdra: Can you tell us about your book Enduring Miracles.

Afton: Enduring Miracles is a book written about my late husband, Juan’s battle with cocci meningitis or better known as valley fever. Our family lived through an unbelievable nine year journey with the physical affects of a life threatening illness that changed each of our lives. I carry my readers through the normal life of a young family and then pull them into my journey as a 30 year old wife and mother of 3 young children with a husband who has lived beyond doctor’s expectations or explanation. We learned to rely on God, faith, and the power of enduring miracles. I published the book three years before my husband Juan lost his life to the affects of the horrific disease. I’m working on a sequel to conclude his journey in my book Enduring the End.

Deirdra: What is Valley Fever? Is it something people in the southwest should be worried about even if we aren't farm workers or construction workers?
Afton: Yes. Valley Fever is a fungus in the soil from Texas to California. Arizona has a high concentration of valley fever spores in the soil that typically become airborne through monsoon storms or construction. Most people fight off the illness like pneumonia while others may need anti-fungal antibiotics to get well. The unfortunate ones that don’t get treated in a timely manner discover that the spores disseminate to other parts of the body such as in my book, it settled in the brain causing fungal meningitis. At that time it became an epidemic because of the new housing developments stirring untouched soil outside the Phoenix Metropolitan area.

Deirdra: How many beta readers do you have review your manuscript before you send it to your editor?

Afton: Typically 10 readers review my manuscripts. Most readers don’t edit it with a fine tooth comb as needed. That’s when you need to pay an editor to work it over a time or two. I still find errors in my published manuscript that need a little work.

Deirdra: What do you hope readers will get from your books?

Afton: I hope my readers gain inspiration to continue to live life to the fullest. Life is hard. Life is beautiful. Life is a wonderful journey to share. I hope that through my writing, I will give my readers a new outlook on life and carry a positive spirit about their own.

Deirdra: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?
Afton: I’ve done both sit down and write as well as start with an outline. My most prized work is when I just sit down and let my mind flow out my fingertips and into the keyboard.

Deirdra: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?
Afton: Definitely. I often have writer’s block when a character is being stubborn and won’t do what my mind wants it to do and say. The problem with writing and waiting to see what happens next is that a character gets out of sorts and what I have them say and do doesn’t fit their personality. I read other books to help me deal with writer’s block or I start an entirely different story.

Deirdra: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?
Afton: I can’t write during the day when there are distractions. I listen to a lot of music which inspires me to write so I carry a small notepad in my purse so when I think of dialogue or a story line and jot down my ideas for later. The still of the night is best for me to write.

Deirdra: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?
Afton: Music is inspiring. Yoga and meditation give me a flood of creativity.

Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?
Afton: My mother. She’s read everything I’ve ever written and her feedback is priceless.

Deirdra: What’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life?

Afton: Dialogue. Several conversations between characters bring them to life.

Deirdra: What authors do you admire, and why?
Afton: When I was younger, I admired Danielle Steele. In these past years, I admire Nicholas Sparks and even Dr. Laura Schlessinger gives me inspiration.

Deirdra: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?

Afton: I don’t eat when I write. Usually a glass of water is my only culinary companion.

Deirdra: Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?

Afton: I love to teach in the classroom. I substitute teach public school and LDS seminary. I enjoy business. I own a few businesses in window coverings and assisted living. I enjoy walking and exercising as well.

Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?

Afton: Keep trying. Don’t lose sight of your dream.

Deirdra: What are you working on now?

Afton: A memoir entitled Enduring the End. I’m working on getting a fairy-tale published entitled The Rescue.

Deirdra: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?
Afton: or or

Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?
Afton: I encourage journal writing for anyone and everyone. There’s a lot of pain in the world. Everyone will experience trials and hardships at one point or another. Writing is an important tool to get unsettled feelings out of the heart and mind. Writing may also give someone focus and clarity of goals and dreams needed to continue living the journey we were meant to carry on. And Deirdra thank you for inviting me to share my thoughts about writing.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Y - interview with author Michael Young

Michael is a graduate of Brigham Young University with a degree in German Teaching and a minor in Music. He puts his German to good use by working to build online German courses for High School students. Though he grew up traveling the world with his military father, he now lives in Utah with his wife, Jen, and his two sons. Michael enjoys acting in community theater, playing and writing music and spend­ing time with his family. He played for several years with the handbell choir Bells on Temple Square and is now a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

His first book, The Canticle Kingdom, was released in Feb 2010 through Bonneville Books. Is is also the author of the inspiration short story "Portrait of a Mother". He has also had work featured in various online and print magazines such as Mindflights, The New Era, Allegory, and Ensign.



Synopsis: When a young blacksmith s apprentice named Johann discovers that his homeland is contained entirely within a small music box, it s up to him to protect the only home he s ever known. With the help of an impossibly ancient knight, his best friend, Brigitta, and his trusty homemade sword, Johann races to find the only people who can who can stop the dark power that threatens to destroy the Canticle Kingdom an unsuspecting family and an old woodcarver from the outside world. Enter a world full of magic, danger, loyalty and bravery in this exciting debut from Michael Young, and discover that even the most ordinary objects and people might be hiding something truly wonderful inside.


Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

Michael: In high school. I had a really great writing teacher, who was also named Mr. Young, and I thought I would try my hand at writing a novel. I finished that one and thought that I should just keep going.

Deirdra: What is your writing and educational background?

Michael: I do not have any formal writing education outside of the many writer’s workshops that I attend, but plenty with my YA audience. I got my teaching license and a degree in German and Music teaching.

Deirdra: What makes you passionate about writing?

Michael: The thrill of taking something from an idea to a physical creation that can be shared with others. It almost feels like a magical process.

Deirdra: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?
Michael: I wrote “The Canticle Kingdom” during my second year of college, and while I was there, the college had a publisher’s fair where students could come and talk with local publishers. I found my future publisher there when I was able to pitch the story to them face to face.

Deirdra: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?
Michael: Quite a bit. Writing is a long and often thankless process, measured in months and years. One way that I overcome discouragement is to go enjoy some other wonderful creative work that someone else has done, whether it is a book, a movie, or a piece of music and help that motivate me to continue and do the best that I can.

Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like?

Michael: Writing is something that I do all the time to fill in the cracks. I bring writing material everywhere and write wherever I can. I also try to get in some good time at night after the kids go to bed.

Deirdra: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?
Michael: Ideas R Us. No, I wish it were that simple. Usually some little thing that someone will say or do sparks an idea that I have to go write down immediately. The only way to figure out if the idea has legs, as they say, is to try to turn it from an idea to an outline. If I manage to pull off an entire outline, then it could be worth doing.

Deirdra: Can you tell us a little about your book The Canticle Kingdom.

Michael: This is my debut novel and is a YA Fantasy. It is about a kingdom of people who live inside a music box, but do not know it yet. The box gets passed around in our world during the 1940s and some people who hear the music coming from the box are taken in and become part of the kingdom inside.

I’m working on making it into a series, probably a trilogy.

Deirdra: I noticed a button on your blog called "Man Cave Writers". What is that about?

Michael: The Man Cave is a blog by me and four other male authors where we blog about the life of being an author, especially coming from a male perspective. It’s relatively new, but we’ve got some great contributors, including Frank Cole, Dan Harrington, J. Lloyd Morgan, and David West.

Deirdra: How many beta readers do you have review your manuscript before you send it to your editor?

Michael: I usually try to have seven or eight. I get a pool of more than that, because I realize some people might not see it through. I would highly recommend it though to anyone who is preparing their manuscript.

Deirdra: What do you hope readers will get from your books?

Michael: Above all, I hope that my books will stimulate the reader's imagination, and provide them an escape from the normal world and its constraints. That's what a good book does for me.

Deirdra: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?
Michael: I've gradually become an outliner. I don't like to hash out every single detail, because I like there to be some element of discovery in writing, but I do like to have what I call "fence posts". I usually sit down before I ever read a chapter and go to the book chapter by chapter and decide what major events need to happen. I find this way that I'm able to write much more quickly and with far greater confidence.

Deirdra: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?
Michael: you know, I find that as long as I outline my story first, I don't run into much writer’s block. However, for the times that I do experience it, I just shift gears and work on a different project. I always have a handful of projects I'm working on at the same time, so that I can go back and forth if one is starting to feel stale. After working on something else, I could usually go back to the original one with fresh eyes.

Deirdra: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?
Michael: absolute quiet is not something that happens a lot around me. Luckily, I don't need it. I grew up in a household with 10 people, and I can just filter out background noise. I do also like listing to music when I write, especially something like a movie soundtrack that evokes particular feeling so that I can incorporate that feeling into what I'm writing.

Deirdra: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?
Michael: A lot of music, especially music without words. It's more about the feelings and the images I get when listening to a specific kind of music. I also find my inspiration in the little quirks I observe in other people and the strange things that happen in day-to-day life. I find that it is easy to borrow from life without exactly copying it.

Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?
Michael: I'd have to say my wife. She's been very supportive of my writing pursuits, and has more than anyone to help me find the time to write. She also reads every one of my books and gives such great commentary. It would be so much harder to be motivated to write if I didn't have her support.

Deirdra: What’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life?

Michael: Drawing from things you see in real people without cloning them. Take a funny habit from someone, give them the speech pattern of someone else, the interesting physical marker of another person, or any combination of those things. That way you have details that make characters memorable because they feel real, but nobody gets offended because you put them in your book and got them wrong.

Deirdra: What authors do you admire, and why?
Michael: I have great respect for LDS fantasy authors who have made it big in the national markets, such as Brandon Sanderson and James Dashner. They give me hope for the future. They also become popular without including inappropriate content in their books, which proves to me that it can be done, despite what some people say.

Deirdra: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?

Michael: I actually try not to eat when writing because it gets crumbs in the keyboard. On occasion when I do, popcorn is the name of the game.

Deirdra: Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?

Michael: I’m big into music and theater. I play the piano and organ, have been in several English handbell choirs and now sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I like to try to do one theater production every year, especially musical theater.

Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?

Michael: Be patient. Don’t rush things and get as much feedback as you can before submitting. Make big goals and break them up into smaller, achievable goals that you can stick to daily.

Deirdra: What are you working on now?

Michael: I have a few manuscripts in the revision phase and am working on finding an agent. I’m especially excited about a YA manuscript about a boy who swallows a magical stone that falls from the sky when his is two and as he is growing up, he can’t control which dreams stay in his head and which leak out into reality. I’ve entered it into the Amazon Breakout Novel contest and it just passed the first round from 5,000 down to 1,000, so I’m excited about that.

Deirdra: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?
Michael: Check out my blog at They are also all on,, and Here’s what I have now:

“The Canticle Kingdom” – YA Fantasy

“Portrait of a Mother” – Inspirational Fiction

“The Last Archangel” – YA Urban Fantasy (Coming July 2011 – Available soon for preorder)

Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?
Michael: I’m always looking for ways to help others learn to better. I’m a teacher by profession, and love to visit schools, libraries, conferences, whatever the venue. I also have a program for aspiring writers on my blog to help them get pointed in the right direction. Feel free to write to me at with anything I can help with. It only makes sense to try to pay it forward for all the help I’ve been given.

And for all you writers out there: stick with it! You've only failed as a writer if you cease to write.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X - Xanthous, Xanadu, and Other Exciting Names For Colors (Colour)

Xanthous, Xanadu, and Other Exciting Names For Colors (Colour):

Black: anthracite, black pearl, blue-black, coal, ebony, inky, jet, licorice, midnight, obsidian onyx, pitch, raven, shadow, soot/sooty, tar

Blue: aqua, aquamarine, azure, baby, blue-gray, blue-green, cadet, Caribbean, cerulean, cobalt, cornflower, delft, denim, electric, federal, indigo, jay, lapis, marine, midnight, navy, neon, ocean, peacock, periwinkle, powder, robin’s egg, royal , sapphire, sky, soldier, teal, turquoise, ultramarine, Wedgewood, cyan, glaucous, iceberg, iris steel blue

Blown/Beige: almond, amber, bay, bronze, brunette, buckskin, cafe au lait, caramel, chestnut, chocolate, cinnamon, cocoa, coffee, copper, dirt, earth, ecru, espresso, fawn, ginger, khaki, London tan, mahogany, maple, mocha, mud, mushroom, nut, nutmeg, oatmeal, peanut butter pecan, raisin, roan, rosewood, sable, saddle, sandy, sepia, sienna, sorrel, tan/tanned, taupe, tawny, toffee, tortoise shell, tumbleweed, umber, walnut, burnt umber, auburn, buff, fawn, wheat

Gray (US) or Grey (UK): ash, charcoal, chrome, dove, pearl, silver, gunmetal, smoky, soot, steel, Arsenic, storm, mist Platinum, Xanadu

Green: apple, asparagus, avocado, celadon, hazel, celery chartreuse, emerald, forest, grass, hunter, jade, Kelly, leaf, lettuce, lime malachite, mint, mist, moss, olive, Palmolive, pea, peridot, pine, pistachio, puce, sage, sea foam, seaweed shamrock, spring, verdant, pear, camouflage, clover, fern, honey dew, myrtle, tea, teal, pine, spruce, spring

Orange: apricot, auburn, burnt orange, carrot, copper, coral, goldfish, mandarin, nectarine, peach, persimmon, rust(y), salmon, shrimp, tangerine, terra cotta, amber, champagne, coral, flaming, gamboge, gold, pumpkin, papaya, tangerine

Pink: almond pink, blush, bubblegum, carnation, cotton candy, electric, flamingo, fuchsia, hot, neon, petal, rose, rubescent, shocking, amaranth, amaranth, cherry blossom, coral, fandango, hot magenta, puce, tea rose, thulian

Purple: amethyst, grape, heliotrope, lavender, lilac, mauve, plum, royal tyrian, violet, wisteria, wood violet, periwinkle, eggplant, indigo, orchid, thistle

Red: apple, beat, blood, brick, burgundy, candy apple, cardinal, carmine, cerise, cherry, cinnabar, claret, cochineal, cranberry, crimson, currant, fire engine, flame, garret, henna, lobster, maroon, ox-blood, poppy, radish, raspberry, rose, rubicund, ruby, russet, scarlet, siam, strawberry, titian tomato, vermillion, wine, amaranth, auburn, cerise, coquelicot, coral red, lava, persimmon, redwood, rosewood, rust

White: alabaster, argent, bleached, bone, buff, cadminum, chalk, china, cream ecru, eggshell, ivory, lily, linen, magnolia, marble, milky mist, moonstone, Navajo, off-white, opal, oyster, parchment, pearl, porcelain, quartz, snow, vanilla, white jade, beige, ghost white, old lace, seashell

Yellow: ash blond, blond, brassy, burnished, butter, buttercup, daffodil, fool’s gold, gold(en), goldenrod, honey, jonquil, lemon, ochre, palomino, platinum, primrose, dun, tawny, flaxen, sandy, straw, hay, citron, canary, topaz, ochre, sulfur, mustard, butterscotch, yellow-green, dandelion, wheat, amber, sunglow, maize, citrine, aureolin, xanthous


For more fun color names visit:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W -- Interview with Literary Agent Cherry Weiner

Deirdra: What made you decide a career as a literary agent?
Cherry: I didn't decide. It was decided for me. I had been working for a literary agent and he fired me. Some of his big name authors thought enough of me to keep hounding me to open my own agency. I wouldn't because I felt I didn't have enough experience. Then, two years later, I came home to five manuscripts on my front porch by new authors... and five letters from those same big name authors who hounded me, telling me they had told new authors to send me work. Hence five manuscripts, five authors and thus I was pushed into it.

Deirdra: When you are not wading through massive amounts of query letters what do you like to do in your spare time?
Cherry: What spare time. There are the authors, the manuscripts, the workshops I travel to and do... and then there is my family... a husband, two daughters - one of whom is getting married in November - and two granddaughters. There are spare hours.... Well, I dl sleep about 3 - 4 hours a night... does that count ?

Deirdra: How does one become an agent?
Cherry: I guess like I did .. either get kicked into it... or intern and then work for an agent. Either stay and become an agent at that firm, or, after a time, go out and open your own.

Deirdra: What do interns usually do at a literary agency?
Cherry: Having never been one... or had one, I am assuming but like any intern at any job, start off with doing all the scutt work, and as more experience comes... more responsibility comes.

Deirdra: What is the most challenging obstacle agents encounter when working with authors?
Cherry: Having the authors realize that although they write well, sometimes even fabulously they will not, in today's economy especially, get that muliti or even one million dollar deal they think they are worth..

Deirdra: What is the most challenging obstacle agents encounter when working with publishers?
Cherry: Getting the manuscript read in a timely fashion.. and when an editor reads something and truly likes it.... but the committee doesn't and the manuscript does not get bought.

Deirdra: What kinds of books are currently in demand?
Cherry: Wow.... it's a matter of taste... Urban Fantasy is still wanted.. though the editors are being a lot more picky. Steampunk is starting to really be a force. Romance always. Erotica is starting to be a major force in the romance field. Cozy mysteries are always wanted. So what's that... something in every genre....?

Deirdra: Are there any genres that publishers in general shy away from?
Cherry: I don't think they shy away from genres... they may shy away from topics. It depends on what has been used and used and used to the point of enough already. Drugs and terrorists are what I shy away from.... Remember this is subjective and each editor has his/her own likes and dislikes.

Deirdra: Do you prefer to find your authors through query letters, live pitches or as references from other authors or agents?
Cherry: At this point I am only taking on authors that I meet and talk to at conferences and workshops. But I do have to spend time talking to them about their writing, and if it is a topic or story that interests me I will ask to see it. And yes, I will look at authors' work that comes with a recommendation from authors I know and who know me and the way I work. Some author that I don't know recommending someone really does not work for me. And of course if an editor recommends... no problem looking there either..

Deirdra: What is the worst mistake authors make on a query letter?
Cherry: Talking about their FABULOUS / BEST SELLER / GREAT./ All the readers love it... or *better written than................. * and pick a famous author....

Deirdra: What is the best time of year to query an agent?
Cherry: I don't know if there is a good time of year. The best time to query is when you have a finished manuscript and it has been gone over and polished and it is the best you can possibly make it.

Deirdra: What’s the best part of your job?
Cherry: Calling an author to tell him / her of the sale.

Deirdra: What’s the hardest part of your job?
Cherry: Trying to explain that while the editor really did like the book... she /he is not buying it.

Deirdra: Would you ever consider representing a new client who previously self-published? Why or why not?
Cherry: Possibly I would. It depends on the book and on the writing.

Deirdra: What is a realistic time frame to sell a manuscript?
Cherry: I don't agree that there is one. It once took me six years to sell a manuscript... then I sold the other 5 books in the series relatively quickly. In the meantime, I was selling another genre for the author.... so I keep plugging away. Pulling the manuscript for a while, and resubmitting when there were new editors....

Deirdra: What is a realistic price range a new author’s manuscript will sell for?
Cherry: Again this depends on the writing and on the story and now... on the economy. But a general first time author with a genre manuscript.... anywhere between $3,500 - $10,000.00

Deirdra: How do you think the growing popularity of e-books will impact the literary market?
Cherry: It will. For how long I don't know, but I do know they are here to stay. Publishers are jumping in on that so they will get a cut of the action also. Me personally, I will always hold a 400 page manuscript or a real book in my hand. My husband keeps looking at the kindles, nooks and all those things and wanting to buy one for me. My answer is no. I am a dinosaur and will always hold manuscript pages and real books in my hands. Doesn't matter that I now have arthritis and bursitis in my shoulders from carrying around a 100 lbs of manuscripts... I will always continue to do it until I can't carry anything heavier than a paperback book..

Deirdra: On average, how many query letters do you receive each year?
Cherry: A year... it would terrify me to count. I know I just came back from a workshop and not having accessed my email in 4 days - including the weekend - I had 27 email queries and there were 10 snail mail queries waiting for me via regular mail, on my desk. That's about usual. Maybe 10 give or take a day.

Deirdra: On average how many new authors do you take on as clients each year?
Cherry: Again... I haven't counted by the year, but let me work that out. If I am lucky, I might find one client at a workshop,every so often. and I do one workshop every month or two. So there aren't that many that I actually take on... maybe about 3 and maybe 4 if I am really lucky.

Deirdra: On average, how many manuscripts does your agency sell each year?
Cherry: Again I don't stop to count... but I think about three or so a month. More if, included in that, is an on going series where I sell two or three just of the books within that series.

Deirdra: What advice would you have for someone aspiring to become an author?
Cherry: Write. Write constantly... every day. Set a schedule and write either x number of hours per day or x number of pages per day. And research. Doesn't matter if it is fiction, and takes place in a fictitious town, research enough of other towns to make that town believable. So write and research... and have the perseverance and guts to take rejection and keep on sending work out. But finish it first.

Deirdra: What advice would you have for someone aspiring to become an agent?
Cherry: My first reaction would be - DON'T. But if you do want to become an agent... get the experience at an agency first. And stay there long enough so you have made the contacts and friends and have the experience. It can be a rough business to be in.

Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?
Cherry: I think you covered anything I might want to say in your questions, but If you have to write you have to have, as I said, the perseverance and guts to take the rejections and the criticisms that will be given to you and still hang in there.

Deirdra: BTW If you cant a chance to pitch to an agent go here:

W- Interview with Author Amanda Washington

Deirdra: What made you decide to become an author?

Amanda: I never really decided to become an author. I’m an avid reader. No, that’s an understatement. I’m a devourer of books. But in January of 2009 I started having these really insane apocalyptic dreams. I told my sister-in-law about them and she encouraged me to write them down. Well, I kept having the dreams until I finally took her advice. Once I got the dreams out of my head and on to paper they were edited vigorously and transformed into Rescuing Liberty – my first book that I self-published in December of 2009.

Deirdra: When did you start writing?

Amanda: February 2009

Deirdra: What genre(s) do you write?

Amanda:Rescuing Liberty was post-apocalyptic, faith based (crazy combo, eh?). Chronicles of the Broken is a young adult series.

Deirdra: Is there anyone who has inspired or influenced you in your career?

Amanda: I’m constantly being sent inspiration. Probably the biggest influence has been Krista Darrach because she always tells me like it is and never pulls her punches when I’ve written complete and utter slop. She’s become a great friend and an invaluable writing buddy. I’ve met so many others who are always there to inspire, nudge and literarily slap me across the face when I need it. I couldn’t write without any of them.

Deirdra: What is the most exciting thing that has happened in your career?

Amanda: Every day is filled with new and exciting experiences. When Leeway Artisans offered me a publishing contract, that was the most exciting moment of my career. Then they sent me edits that felt like the perfect piece to my manuscript puzzle and that was the most exciting moment of my career. Then came a marketing plan and a release date and then came the cover … and … I guess since I never thought this would happen it’s all amazing. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Deirdra: For you, is writing a full time job, part time job, or a hobby?

Amanda: By day, I’m the junior vice president of a non-profit trade association, so it’s not my full-time gig, but I’d be hesitant to call it a job or a hobby. It’s more like an obsession.

Deirdra: Writing a novel is time consuming. What is the most effect method you have found for managing your time?

Amanda: I duct tape my children to the wall and throw food into their mouths on break. Okay not really. Time management is always a challenge, but when something is important to you, you just get it done. Writing is beyond important to me. It’s like breathing. I can’t just decide not to breathe any more than I can decide not to write. I probably don’t sleep enough, but that’s okay. It’s worth it.

Deirdra: What is the most difficult thing about being an author?

Amanda: In learning to write, some sort of bizarre internal switch was flipped, and now every book that I read seems to be a learning experience. I can no longer sit back and just enjoy a book without appreciating what the author did well and visualizing what I’d do differently.

Deirdra: What is the best thing about being an author?

Amanda: For a long time I struggled with writing faith-based books, because I’m not a pastor or a really religious person. I’m just me. One day when I was feeling especially self-conscious I found the perfect scripture – John 15:16, “You did not choose me but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” The scripture just felt right—like God was telling me to get over human inadequacies and buck up because we had work to do. So writing makes me feel … obedient and closer to God.

Deirdra: What are your goals as an author for the next three years?

Amanda: At least two more books on the Chronicles of the Broken series, and my Rescuing Liberty readers are probably going to tar and feather me if I don’t finish that sequel as well.

Is there anything that gives your writer’s block? How do you solve that problem?

Amanda: I go to the gym and crank up the tunes on my Zune while I see how fast I get the stair machine going. It’s amazing how much your brain starts when your teetering on the border of cardiac arrest and adrenaline bliss.

Deirdra: Do you have a favorite writing snack food?

Amanda: Dark chocolate. I’m quite certain it enhances creativity.

Deirdra: Where is your favorite place to write?

Amanda: I write on my laptop, so I tend to go wherever the family is.

Deirdra: How do you come up with your character’s names?

Amanda: My kids are a huge help for that. I usually describe the character and they all give their input.

Deirdra: What is the best complement you could receive from a reader?

Amanda: More than anything, my books are about hope. I pray that they find people in the dark, impossible places and bring them a better understanding of God and therefore hope for the future. I try to do this without being preachy or condemning, but by using the characters to relate to the readers and show how no one is beyond redemption.

Deirdra: If you have any books published what are they and where can readers find them?

Amanda: Rescuing Liberty can be found on or at Chronicles of the Broken will have a brief special holiday release and can be purchased between December 14th and December 31st at The real release date will be in March.

This is the publisher’s website with my latest book: My website Chronicles of the Broken is now available for pre-order, and will be released for a “special holiday release” from December 14th to December 31st. This special, holiday edition will have an bonus Christmas chapter that will only be available in this edition. After December 31st, sales will be put on hold until the official versionreleases in March. The pre-order price is a discounted $9.00 (no shipping and handling charge

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V - Interview with Author G.G. Vandagriff

I realize that I am one of those rare people in the world who gets to live a life full of passion, suspense, angst, fulfillment, humor, and mystery. I am a writer. Everyday when I sit down to my computer, I enter into world of my own making. I am in the head of a panoply of characters ranging from a nineteen year-old Austrian debutante (The Last Waltz) to a raging psychopath (The Arthurian Omen).

How did this come about? I think I was wired to be a writer when I was born. Even though my formal career was in finance, writing was all I really wanted to do. I started at the age of nine by winning a contest for "The Ballerina Who Couldn't Dance," my first short story. There were a lot of things about my surroundings that I couldn't control during my growing up years, so I retreated to whatever alternate existence I was creating.

I studied writing in an advanced workshop when I was at Stanford, but was discouraged because everyone but me wanted to be J.D. Salinger. I hadn't yet found my writing voice. But with my study abroad in Austria, I finally found the story I wanted to tell—the decline of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its collapse into fascism. (I never for a moment thought that this might be a bit ambitious.) I eventually began this project while commuting to and from my job in Los Angeles as an International Banker. I had an outline. My studies abroad had given me the historical background. Using that, I created characters as prototypes of the ideas that existed in Austria in 1913. Then, while teaching economics and waiting for my first child to be born, I read all of Churchill's books on World War One, and everything I could get my hands on that would give me the zeitgeist (literally "time spirit") of the age.

By the time my three children were born, I had a draft, but I knew it wasn't going anywhere. It was too superficial. I didn't understand the European mind. I couldn't convey the degree of suffering they had endured, nor the trauma the Austrians experienced at the collapse of their empire.

I turned to writing a more modern story that was semi-autobiographical at that point. I was living in the Ozarks, full of conflicted feelings that I worked out over the course of five years in the novel that has now becomePieces of Paris. However, I knew also that that project had not yet lived up to its potential. Discouraged, I turned to writing what I read—light mysteries. For color I imparted to my heroines another passion of mine—genealogy. Finally, I felt significantly secure to submit something and I was published.

However, for fifteen years, I had been the victim of bi-polar disorder (a common ailment among writers), and after publishing three books, I became too ill to write. During that ten year struggle to survive, I learned enough about overcoming pain, and about life and love to be able to complete my Austrian project. That became The Last Waltz. After two more mysteries, I was able to completePieces of Paris. I am, at this writing, 62 years old. Though I was "born to write," my apprenticeship has been long. However, any endeavor that enables us to further understand ourselves, our world, and our loved ones is never wasted. I have found my Savior during this journey, and that alone makes it worthwhile.

Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
G.G.: When I was a little girl. I wrote before I could read. I did crayon drawings in nickel scrapbooks that told a story. My home was dysfunctional and I escaped through my "writing"

Deirdra: What is your writing and educational background?
G.G.:I went to Stanford Undergrad and George Washington U. for my master's. I have written eleven books, two of them non-fiction. Seven are mysteries or suspense which is easy for me to write. My two serious books, The Last Waltz (Whitney Winner) and Pieces of Paris took 40 and 25 years respectively to write.

Deirdra: What makes you passionate about writing?
G.G. I think I was wired to write. I have had stories in my mind and led alternate existences in my head ever since I can remember. Writing makes me really happy and relaxed. I worked out my PTSD in my writing (even though I didn't know that's what it was). I love developing characters and seeing who they become. I guess one life just isn't enough for me. I have to get into the skin of lots of other people and see what life is like for them.

Deirdra: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?
G.G. I had a great piece of luck there. I took a class in Kansas City from an editor. She loved the proposal I had to write for the class, and asked me to send it to her. They accepted it. Then I got an agent in New York for my mystery, but she didn't put enough time into trying to sell it, so I sold it myself to DB and have been writing for them ever since.

Deirdra: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?
GG: I get very discouraged about how little publicity my Shadow Mountain books get. I rage and storm around the house, and then try to calm down and write a rational e-mail. They try their best and have funded some expensive marketing programs, but nothing seems to work. I am currently exploring other publishing avenues for my non-LDS books.

Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like?
G.G.: I get up at 6:30, have a devotional with my husband and then get right to work. The morning hours are the very best and creative for me. I force myself to get up and exercise for half an hour halfway through the morning, and then go back to work until about half-way through the afternoon when I do more exercise. Sometimes I write until 5, but I mostly do marketing projects in the afternoon.

Deirdra: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?
G.G.: Book ideas abound in my head. I will never get them all written. Life is so rich and offers so many opportunities for stories. Place is really important to me. I get very stimulated intellectually by travel. I have never written a book about a place I was living in at the time. My imagination would seem to be exceptionally fertile.

Deirdra: What do you hope readers will get from your books?
G.G. My books are all about the same thing: The redemptive power of love. Sometimes you have to look closely, but it's always there. Love makes us better people. Love solves life's hardest problems. Love makes pain endurable.

Deirdra: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?
G.G. Sometimes I have a vague idea. I do a lot of brainstorming with my husband. I did outline The Last Waltz, but that is the only book I ever outlined. I prefer to get to know my characters really well before I write. I do extensive character sketches—down to things like what they wanted for Christmas when they were little. These facts don't show up in the book, but they show in the character, because the people are as real as I can get them. When they are that real, they are ready to tell their own story. On the one book I outlined, I had to go back years and years later and write character sketches which changed the book a lot and very much for the better. Of course, now I would have done that first thing.

Deirdra: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?
G.G.: I have never experienced writer's block. If I get to the point where something needs to happen and I don't know what, I just go deeper into my characters and they always come up with something entirely unexpected, which sometimes results in massive rewriting. I am not a fast writer. I layer my books.

Deirdra: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?
G.G. I love to listen to music while I write. The music of the Romantic period, or Tenor Opera Arias are my favorite. Their passion spills into my writing.

Deirdra: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?
G.G.: Travel. I always visit the places I write about and use the locale almost as another character. My stories almost always arise out of place.

Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?
G.G.: John Gardner and his book: On Moral Fiction. His quotations about Tolstoy's values have really planted the idea in my heart that characters should be so real that the reader identifies with them to the extent that they would follow the path that character would take when posed with a moral problem. I also was greatly inspired, technique-wise, by Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones.

Deirdra: What’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life?
G.G. Characters are always flawed, just as we are. The trick is to make that flaw something we can understand, sympathize with, and hopefully work mentally with the character to overcome. Characters need to engage our minds, not just our imaginations. The deeper we go into our characters, the more real they are. We should write pages and pages of backstory about them (not in the book) until we have reached the point where we meet that character in our own heart and head. Then they are "real" to us.

Deirdra: What authors do you admire, and why?
G.G. My absolute favorite all-time writer is Tolstoy. His characters breathe. He demonstrates their emotions and choices in such human ways. I also love A.S. Byatt for the same reason. Chaim Potok's writing is genius, because he is so minimalist, he leaves almost everything up to the reader to fill in. And when you uncover his theme it is like discovering a gold mine. It has layers and layers and layers. I guess all these writers do, now that I think of it. To me, that is what makes a good read.

Deirdra: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?
G.G. Ummmm. Yumm. I love Greek yogurt mixed with granola. (And pray that nothing lands on the keyboard!

Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?
G.G.: Don’t forget that writing is an apprenticeship. You wouldn't expect a beginning pianist to give a Chopin concert. Why do you expect to write a brilliant novel right away? Give yourself a break. Don't think about publishing. Think about your writing. Enjoy the journey. One of the best things I ever did to improve my writing was to work with a free-lance editor who really knew what she was doing. She was like a gem-cutter. The next best thing, was to meet with a brilliant friend once a week and do writing exercises with her. She was so strong where I was weak. Eventually I was able to learn to have that strength. One of my writing exercises developed into my first published fiction.

Deirdra: What are you working on now?
G.G.: For the last year and a half I have been writing about the Crazy Ladies of Oakwood—and ensemble novel about four women in a therapy group who decide to go to Florence with the aim of solving their problems. It is the most fun I've ever had, but ensemble writing is extremely challenging!

Deirdra: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?
G.G: Voices in Your Blood (my first non-fiction) can usually be found on Amazon, Alibris, or E-bay as a used book. We are working on an e-book right now. All the others can be found on Amazon, some on Barnes & Noble. Seagull and Deseret Book carry them. If they're out of stock, you can order (and save yourself shipping). Barnes& Nobles in the Wasatch Front and Wal-Mart also carry them. They can all be ordered through my website:

Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?
GG: Writing is not a profession, but a way of life. Everything is grist for your mill. You should respect your talent. Don't be hard on yourself. Take the time to develop your writing until you absolutely KNOW it is the very best you can do. Do daily writing exercises just as a violinist practices his scales. Being a writer is a difficult life in some ways, because once you are published, that is just the beginning. Marketing actually takes more time than writing. It is good to realize this at the outset. .:

Deirdra: Thank you so much, G.G. It is a real honor to get your insights.

GG: Thank you. It is always fun to talk/write about writing. I do a lot of it on my blogs and websites:; (I'm running a contest right now for those who subscribe!)

Picture of Deirdra and G. G.

Monday, April 25, 2011

U - Unicorn

I'm on vacation today, so please enjoy this picture of a Unicorn
and leave a message nominating your favorite blog for an award.
Don't forget to include the link or I'll never find it.
The awards can be found on the "Awards" page of this blog.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

T- Interview with Author Rebecca Talley

Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

Rebecca: When I was a kid I made a “Velt Book” out of felt. In sixth grade, I started a novel similar to the Encyclopedia Brown series, I even illustrated it.

Deirdra: What is your writing and educational background?

Rebecca: I graduated from BYU with a degree in Communications—my oldest son believes I over-communicate J. I’ve taken classes from the Institute of Children’s Literature and Writer’s Digest. I’ve written numerous children’s magazine stories and articles, some of which have appeared online and in the Friend. I am the author of a children’s picture book, Grasshopper Pie, as well as three novels, Heaven Scent, Altared Plans, and my newest release, The Upside of Down.

Deirdra: What makes you passionate about writing?

Rebecca: I have to get the stories in my head out on paper or they won’t leave me alone. I hear my characters talking to each other and, some days, they drive me nuts. I have to write their stories so they can stop talking in my head. I also love to create worlds and people, especially if I can include a theme that’s important to me. I can’t imagine not writing.

Deirdra: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?

Rebecca: I worked on my first novel on and off for years while I read how-to books, attended conferences, took classes, and met other writers. Before the internet (yes, I’m that old—I remember life before the internet) I was pretty isolated, but as soon as I was able to connect with writers online, I learned so much. It took me about 10 years from the time I decided I wanted to be serious about writing until I had my picture book published. A few years later, my first novel, Heaven Scent, was published by CFI.

Deirdra: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?

Rebecca: Discouraged? Absolutely. The Ensign rejected my first official submission and I was crushed. I cried and was sure I’d never write again. My picture book was rejected before it found a publisher as well and I often considered throwing in the towel. After my first novel was published and I received some negative reviews, I considered quitting again, but I just couldn’t do it. I love to write, it’s my outlet and even if I never have another book published, I will continue to write. I write because I love it and that’s what keeps me motivated and helps me through the discouraging times.

Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like?

Rebecca: Hahahahahaha. I try to write every day M-F. Some days it might be for an hour and other days it might be for 10 minutes. I’m a list person so I keep lists each day with my goals and I include writing in that. I try to get other things done like taking care of kids, housework, laundry, etc., so I can have time to write but that doesn’t always work. I have found that if I trust in the Lord and do my best to serve Him by taking care of my family and doing my calling He will help me find the time to write.

Deirdra: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?
Rebecca: My ideas come from my life. Grasshopper Pie was based on an experience when my kids tried to feed me a live grasshopper. Heaven Scent was inspired by my mother who died when I was a little girl. Altared Plans is based loosely on my courtship with my husband. The Upside of Down is about an LDS woman who is raising a large family and includes experiences I’ve had with my kids (they say write what you know J). I play with an idea and plot it out to see if it can sustain a book. If not, I toss it out.

Deirdra: I was really touched by the premise of your book The Up Side of Down. Can you tell us more about it.

Rebecca: The main character, Natalie, thinks she’s spiritually invincible. She’s endured years of her mother’s rude remarks about being LDS and thinks her faith is secure until a series of events pushes her faith to its limits. She learns that she has to fight to reclaim her faith as well as trust in a plan that’s different than she imagined. She also learns that even in trials Heavenly Father sends blessings and that everything is not always as it seems.

Deirdra: It seems like being close to nature, from the ocean to the country, has played a big role in your life. Can you tell us about how your environment shaped you as an author.

Rebecca: I love the ocean. I love the peace that comes from sitting on the shore and listening to the waves lap against the shore. I also love the mountains, especially when the sun rises and paints the snow-capped peaks in shades of pink. We’ve been so blessed with such a beautiful world and I think in nature, away from the city stresses, we can feel Heavenly Father’s presence and bask in His creations. Being in nature has helped me to appreciate my blessings.

Deirdra: What do you hope readers will get from your books?

Rebecca: I have included themes in each of my books and I hope readers will take something from those themes and see how they apply to their own lives. My themes have included eternal families, learning to trust in Heavenly Father’s plan, and seeing beyond someone’s physical limitations.

Deirdra: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?

Rebecca: I outline. I’m a planner. I’m not a pantser at all. I sit down and come up with scenes, a narrative of the whole story, character goals, descriptions—I put all those together before I start writing the story, but I leave enough room to adapt my outline as I write.

Deirdra: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?

Rebecca: I have such little time to write, I don’t really get writer’s block. I “write” while I’m driving, washing dishes, taking a shower, vacuuming. When I actually sit down at my computer, I already have ideas going.

Deirdra: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?

Rebecca: Absolute quiet? What’s that? My house always has noise. I write while Sesame Street is playing, while my kids are practicing piano, while they’re running around playing games, or when my teens are listening to what they call music.

Deirdra: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?

Rebecca: I find photos on the internet to help me “see” my characters. I write letters as the characters. I interview my characters. I also talk to my older kids to get ideas for characterization. I also watch movies and read books to get ideas for characterization and plot.

Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?

Rebecca: After my mother died, a woman became my “second Mom.” Her name was Jeannie and she always encouraged me to write as a teenager. She believed in me. Unfortunately, she died when I was a senior in high school. Since then my husband has been a huge support as well as the rest of my family. They all believe in me and lift me up when I am down. Without my family’s support, I couldn’t accomplish much of anything.

Deirdra: What’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life?

Rebecca: I try to base them on real people I know and think about how that person might react. I also think about how I, or my kids, would react in certain situations. I will also ask others if a character’s reaction seems realistic.

Deirdra: What authors do you admire, and why?

Rebecca: I love that JK Rowling inspired reading again in so many kids. What an incredible imagination. I also admire Suzanne Collins’ ability to pull you right into the story.

Deirdra: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?

Rebecca: Nuts—almonds, peanuts— and water.

Deirdra: Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?

Rebecca: Ummmm. I used to play piano and knit but I gave those up. Does changing diapers, doing mountains of laundry, and swishing toilets count? I’ve recently started making jewelry and flower barrettes to spend more time with my kids.

Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?

Rebecca: Write, write, write. Read, read, read. Attend conferences, network with other writers, take classes. Above all, though, never give up. Keep writing.

Deirdra: What are you working on now?

Rebecca: A YA paranormal for the national market. I’m still in the rough draft/working out the plot kinks stage.
Deirdra: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?

Rebecca: Amazon, Barnes and Noble online, LDS Bookstores, eBay.

Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?

Rebecca: Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog. I’m just grateful for the opportunity to write and have my books published. I feel very blessed and hope I can serve the Lord through my writing. I love to write and I am so happy to be able to share my writing with others. Thank you again!

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