Interview With F. Stone: Conversations with my characters.

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

Fifteen years ago, I experienced an out of body event. Not my first, but that one shook me to my core. I started to write about it hoping the effort would quiet the recurring memory. It didn’t. Ten pages soon became fifty. Then two hundred. Then it occurred to me that I was writing a novel.

  1. How long does it take you to write a book?

Until it’s perfect. That could mean a week, or years.

  1. What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

What? There’s supposed to be a schedule. No one told me about that. The fact is, I can skip meals, sleep, even dental appointments when my creative gene is fired up and on a roll. However, I never miss dress shopping or having lunch with friends.

  1. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I have conversations with my characters – and they answer. When I’m deep in the writing zone, I can feel their presence. Yes, it is odd. I still have control over the story, but it flows so much more smoother if I allow their voice, their passion to blend in with developing the structure of the story. Symbiosis comes to mind.

  1. Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

I’ve spent a lot time wondering the same thing. Sometimes I wonder if God has inspired me to write. Or, maybe the characters are real entities in another dimension who beckon me to tell their story. The one thing I do know. It’s magical.

  1. When did you write your first book and how old were you?

You’d have to swear to secrecy. Too old, LOL.

  1. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

It would be easier to list what I don’t do. I love adventure, to be challenged physically, mentally and spiritually. I study Shamanism. I’ve won awards for my needlework. Watercolor painting has become my latest challenge. I’ve raced snowmobiles and have many trophies. My husband and I travelled the world and rafted down the Shotover River in New Zealand. I’m most at peace when sitting in silence in my Rocky Mountains, Jasper, Alberta

  1. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

I learned that I write better if I shut off my ego and let the characters tell the story.

  1. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I started writing my first, The Guardian’s Wildchild, in 2000. It was not my intent to publish it. Then my dear husband, and very critical reader, said it was good. I took a couple of years off to learn how to write. In 2011, Omnific Publishing bought the rights. I still love that novel. I thought I could get my life back after that. Within two months after TGW was on Amazon, Forbidden became an obsession. It’s my finest work, so far.

  1. Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?

There is no simple answer unless you were born under the ‘writer’s gift’ star. Write as much as possible, even if it’s just to please yourself. It’s like a muscle. The more you use it, then inspirations, visions, wording and phrases will begin to follow you throughout the day and in your dreams. You’ll begin to recognize what pieces add to the story and what is just useless fluff. You may love the fluff, but if it doesn’t move the story forward, it’s garbage.

Be prepared to receive criticism. Take classes in a group setting (it’s amazing how much you learn from each other). Join a writer’s group (on line and in the flesh). The writer’s group I highly recommend is IWSG – Insecure Writers Support Group.

Writing a novel is the hardest work I’ve done. I’ve worked as a paramedic which required me to be brave, strong, controlled, resourceful, intelligent, compassionate, and know when to tell a biker to “F off.” But writing has been ten times harder.

The best advice I can give is this. “Never friggin give up!”

  1. Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

One of the best reviews I received for The Guardian’s Wildchild stated, “You took me to a place I’ve never been before.” I floated about for days. The reviews for Forbidden have been ‘over the moon’ amazing. I’m so thrilled when a reader loves my books. Here is the most recent review of Forbidden.

ByVicki Goodwinon June 8, 2017

Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase

What a thrill a minute ride this book takes you on. The characters are futuristic and totally awesome. I loved that times had allowed for more freedom for women. I kept following the story and each time I would think it was getting to the conclusion I drew, it would slam-bang me into another direction.

The love story part was really well told and I was happy with the relationship of these two different people. I found this to be a creative and unique storyline that kept me intrigued and on pins and needles.

  1. What do you think makes a good story?
Omega, Forbidden

Fascinating characters are a must – all of them. Even unforgettable. You must learn what makes a character breathe down a reader’s neck. They can carry a bad plot, even poor editing. If the reader falls in love with the hero / heroine, you’re half way to a best seller. My advice is to following instructions from Writers Helping Writers.

  1. As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

I wanted to escape the farm. My father worked from sun up to past sun down 365 days a year. He loved it. I didn’t. It’s quite amusing to realize that as an author I work 365 days a year, all hours day and night. Fate has an odd sense of humor.

  1. What would you like my readers to know?

I want you to know that there is a story that hasn’t yet been written – but you must write it. Every one of you. The story? The characters are unique. The plot is full of twists and turns, ranging from glorious moments to struggles that defy belief. And the title on the cover is YOUR NAME.

Yes, it’s your autobiography. And the best part is there will be no muse directing the story and no editor telling you to delete, delete, delete. You are free from any writing rules or expectations.

Let me explain. Many years ago I began to study my ancestor’s history. Thanks to the internet I had access to records dating back hundreds of years. I became a voracious hunter of even the most minute details. Tracking my lineage was relatively easy. Dates of birth, marriage, death, and sometimes addresses and occupations helped define the lives and struggles of my distant relations. But, like an addict, I wanted more.

Then a wedding photograph of my Great Great Great Aunt in England flipped up on my screen. The thrill sent me on an all-consuming search for their story. I found a few letters.

Tears of rapture filled my eyes. My history began to take shape. My lineage, all that brought me to have my amazing life, formed a map outlining my DNA and probably more than I can conceive.

And yet, I wanted more. I wanted to know about their dreams, failures, defeats, passions. What mattered to each of them? Did they have regrets? What were their darkest thoughts? What brought them to their knees?

I suppose, at the time of managing their daily chores, they would not have thought of their life as not interesting. They wouldn’t have known that if their autobiography had surfaced, I would have fallen to my knees and blessed their bones. I would have cried their name and asked God to give them eternal peace. I would have wept.

This is why, my dear readers, you must write your story. Someone in the future will grasp your manuscript and know he/she has a treasure. If you are an author, write your autobiography. If you have not written anything, write your autobiography. Put it in safe keeping.

One more thing. After writing your autobiography you may awaken a passion that has, so far, remained silent. You may become a best-selling author.

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IWSG: My Anal Brain #IWSG

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Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

 

The awesome co-hosts for the February 1 posting of the IWSG are

 

February 1 Question: How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?

 

My experience is mixed. Reading isn’t as much fun as it used to be.

Prior to my life as a writer, I read mostly non-fiction – adventures of explorers, saturated my brain with new age stuff like books on meditation, philosophy, Buddhism, etc. On trips to exotic beaches, I’d read a few titillating romance novels, hoping no one would catch me blushing.

Now, while expanding the range of my preferred reading genres, there are so many novels that I can’t read to the last page. Errors in novels stand out like a glowing neon sign. It interrupts my focus on the plot and characters. If there are too many errors, or poor construction of the plot, or shallow characters, it spoils the reading experience. My critiquing brain does not turn off. Even while reading a very well written novel, part of my brain is on the hunt for spelling errors or a misplaced comma. Yep. Pretty anal!

The good side of having an over-achieving critique brain is I discover what works, and what kills a story. And I’m ever so grateful for my editor.

PS: Thank you to all you wonderful people who participated in my Thunderclap event. I was blessed with 154 supports, with a combined reach of 411,732.

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#IWSG: MasterClass by James Patterson

http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/
http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/

What is IWSG?  Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

The awesome co-hosts for the September 7 posting of the IWSG will be  C. Lee McKenzie,Rachel Pattison, Elizabeth Seckman, Stephanie Faris, Lori L MacLaughlin, and Elsie Amata!

#IWSG: How do you find the time to write in your busy day?  My day is divided up into four time frames. Morning is writing and marketing. Afternoon, I take care of chores, all the while thinking about tag lines, book covers, dialogue. Evenings, I read and review novels, all the while comparing another author’s technique and style with mine. Night time, hoping to be overtaken by exhaustion and sleep, my thoughts churn out more tag line possibilities and mentally edit paragraphs or entire chapters.

How do I find time to write? Often I wish I could turn it off. Where’s that friggin off switch.

jamespatterson-creditsuesoliepattersonMASTERCLASS – James Patterson’s Writing Class

A few weeks ago I signed up for the MasterClass – James Patterson Teaches Writing. Paid my $90 USD and began to download the lesson pdf’s and watch videos of James Patterson’s tip on writing. On the plus side, he was entertaining and shared a lot of his techniques and tips from the idea concept all the way through to marketing.  He clearly states that his way is not the only way. It’s the way that works for him.

In other words, we each need to find our own way.

He stresses the need for practice. Write every day. He’s missed only one day – attended his son’s graduation. Read and write. Practice, practice, practice. He also emphasized doing research on everything. And, when you think a chapter is done, cut out everything that doesn’t need to be there, adds no value, doesn’t move the plot or characters along. Be ruthless.

One point that he stressed as a ‘no option’ for authors’ is the importance of writing out an outline, edit and rewrite until the outline ‘feels’ complete. Even so, his final manuscript is often different from what had been planned in the outline, including the ending.

One of the features that encouraged me to pay for this class was I could ask a question and receive a response via his OFFICE HOURS page. I did ask one question and got a reply that he was too busy to respond to all questions. One of his staff would email a response. I never got that email. Perhaps because I don’t  have a webcam or smartphone, my written query was not noticed.

I’m not sorry that I took the course. It was entertaining. Much of what he suggests, I already do or know. I did get to join the facebook CLOSED James Patterson MasterClass Group.  Perhaps there’ll be members who will become my favorite mentors. Stay positive.

JAMES PATTERSON TEACHES WRITING 2

WEBCAM OR SMARTPHONE

Feather Stone – more stone today than feather.

Record and upload questions and comments for James to his Office Hours page here (link).

Now I feel pretty stupid for  thinking that Mr. Patterson would actually respond to my inquiry – a question about limiting a novel’s word count (< 90,000) to suit the criteria of most publishers.

WEP: Gardens – A Flower Bed of Characters

 

WEP

WRITE, EDIT, PUBLISH

Denise and Yolanda:  Welcome to Write…Edit…Publish (WEP), the home of the permanent bloghop. You are welcome to submit any of the following – flash fiction, poetry, non-fiction or playscripts to a designated word count– artwork and photographs welcome. Open to all genres! Fiction – Adult, YA, MG.

The Gardens prompt is all about creativity. What picture comes to mind when you hear the word ‘garden’ – the spectacular beauty of carefully landscaped tiers – the fresh delights of a new snowfall on frozen branches – or the haunting beauty of shadows and wilted plants at dusk on a fall night.

gardens olga

 

 Feather Stone:  “Welcome to my garden characters.”

Gardens invite more than simply quiet contemplation. Being a writer, I have discovered that I’m very conscious of the ‘character’ of each plant, where it should be placed, ensuring its special qualities add beauty to its companions – and vice versa.

I’ve noted that any plant, even small non-blooming shrubs look spectacular when accompanied by contrasting foliage, bird bath, or interesting rockery – the key is contrast in color, texture, shape, and/or ‘mood.’ The secondary characters in my writing play a vital role in making the main characters glow with unforgettable brilliance. It stands to reason that even ‘also ran’ characters in a scene require special attention to shaping their personality, stature, reputation, etc.

Thank you for visiting my garden. It would be so special if we could physically pop into everyone’s garden for a chat today, and share each other’s wisdom and experiences. Even so, these virtual friendship are wonderful, meeting so many amazing people from places I could never visit. Blessings to all.

 

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 Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are.
–  Alfred Austin

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Gardening is medicine that does not need
a prescription … And with no limit on dosage.
–  Author unknown

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A garden always gives back more than it receives.
–   Mara Beamish

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The most noteworthy thing about gardeners is that they are always optimistic,
always enterprising, and never satisfied.  They always look forward to doing
something better than they have ever done before.
– Vita Sackville-West, 1892 – 1962

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He who cultivates a garden, and brings to perfection flowers and fruits
cultivates and advances at the same time his own nature.
–  Ezra Weston, 1845

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Gardens are not created or made, they unfold, spiraling open
like the silk petals of an evening primrose flower to reveal the
ground plot of the mind and heart of the gardener
and the good earth.
–  Wendy Johnson, Green Gulch Farm Zen Center, 2000

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A garden is the mirror of a mind.  It is a place of life, a mystery of green
moving to the pulse of the year, and pressing on and pausing the whole
to its own inherent rhythms.
–   Henry Beston, 1935, Herbs and the Earth

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One of the most delightful things about a garden
is the anticipation it provides.
–   W. E. Johns

 

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When gardeners garden, it is not just plants that grow,
but the gardeners themselves.
–   Ken Druse

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You’ll enjoy meeting the many other great gardeners participating in this WEP blog hop.

http://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.ca/2016/08/wepff-wep-flash-fiction-gardens.html

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FORBIDDEN: Romance in the Laundry Room

1-mosqueForbidden is packed full of suspense and really bad dudes. Every few chapters, I lighten the mood just a tad. It’s my practice to slip in a scene where the reader can relax. It makes those next ‘run for your life’ scenes so much more tantalizing. But even in the moments when the characters are not in harms way, they need to remain in a high degree of emotional tension. I had fun with Captain Sharif. Being a devout, albeit moderate, Muslim, he is not used to being around an impetuous woman. Eliza MacKay, in spite of being his quasi prisoner, pushes his strict morale code to the breaking point. This excerpt is one such example.

If you’re not familiar with my WIP, Forbidden is a suspense/thriller. The setting is the Middle East in year 2047. The two main characters, police captain Sharif and Habitat survivor Eliza, are trapped in a cover-up. He must keep her out of sight, which means, to his horror, she is to remain in his apartment (located within the police station).

Romance in the Laundry Room

1-iStock_000020518389_Large-001After the end of his shift and morning prayer, Sharif went to bed. After three hours of restless sleep, he lay awake listening to Miss MacKay’s efforts to clean the spotless apartment. Apparently, the windows needed washing today. He could hear the squeak, squeak as she scrubbed. Then she moved on to washing something else and he tried to identify the object of her ministrations. He gave up on the guessing game and with getting back to sleep.

He got up and put on his civvies – a pair of khaki cotton pants, black golf shirt, and sandals. He tore off his bedding, dumped his soiled clothes into the pile, and then went into the bathroom for the towels.

While busy picking out the fresh linen in his hall closet, he ignored Eliza’s trotting around the apartment, doing whatever. Not important, he thought. Just ignore the mouse. He snickered to himself at the sudden analogy of the woman to a mouse – hard to capture and just as hard to ignore its brazen invasion of personal space. And she loved cheese. He turned to discover his pile of laundry had disappeared. He glanced back toward Eliza to see that his sheets were disappearing with her through the doorway.

He raced after her. “Miss MacKay, what do you think you’re doing?” he barked at her as she trotted down the stairs. “You must not; I mean I don’t want you to ….”

She paused on the stairs. “Never mind, captain. I’m quite familiar with washing men’s clothes.” She continued to the exit door.

He followed her to the building equipped with laundry facilities, a vehicle wash bay and utility tub. She sorted through the whites and colored items, including her own laundry.

He stood with his mouth wide open. “Are you intending to wash your clothes with mine?” He tore his gaze away from a black lace bra among his dark clothing. First, the invasion of his privacy, now a woman handling his underwear. In a matter of six days, his life had shifted out of his control. Nothing in the Koran had prepared him for such an impetuous woman.

She glanced at him and smiled. “Relax, captain. Is it not true that Allah, the Most Generous, blesses those who respect the environment? I’m just trying to use less water and electricity.” She stuffed the light colored clothing and sheets into the mouth of the washing machine.

Sharif retreated to his office without another word. His mind hovered over the laundry room. A woman was pawing through his underwear. He Googled the local airlines for the schedule of departing flights. He eagerly flipped through the websites and noted a few possibilities. There was a nonstop flight out of the country to England at noon. However, by then she would have his underwear washed, dried, folded and laid out on his bed. In any case, mayor Aamir had instructed the airport security and immigration staff to arrest her if she showed up at the airport. A cold sweat erupted on his forehead.

An hour later, he returned to the laundry room. She glanced up at him as she pushed an armful of wet clothes into the dryer.

“I’m going to pick up some supplies. Is there anything you need?” he asked.

“Just milk, two percent please. Brown bread, free-range chicken eggs, cheese, not goat cheese, maybe some veggies. Fruit would be nice. Oh, and coffee.” She slammed the dryer door shut and turned to him. “Can I pay for my share of the groceries, captain?”

Sharif winced at the bruising of his pride. “Of course not. What are you doing this afternoon?”

“Follow me, please.” She led him to the police operation’s storage room. When she flipped on the lights, he stood speechless. The room for the police uniforms appeared spotless, the shelves labeled and all the items folded and placed in the shelving unit according to category and size. In the adjacent room, the flashlights, handcuffs, flak jackets, and helmets were arranged on shelves for easy identification and retrieval.

“Sergeant Omar and his squad helped me with the writing on the labels. All I need to do now is to organize the weapons room.” She wore a mischievous grin.

He put on his best scowl. “You’re on a first name basis with my sergeant?”

She shrugged. “My next project is to clean the vehicles. There’s an inch of dust on most of them.”

“You sure you want to do all that? I don’t expect you to work hard. Just keep yourself occupied to help pass the time.”

“I like to keep busy, captain. Have a nice afternoon.”

He watched as she headed to the area of parked vehicles. She swiped her fingers into the grime of an old white van, Sharif’s personal vehicle. He drove it on trips home, once every six or eight weeks. Grit had dulled the paint. He walked up and kicked the new tires. They provided enough safety for travel through the hazardous mountain pass.

He watched her peer through the coating of dust on the back window. If she opened the back door, she’d discover the big teddy bear his daughter Farah used as a pillow for long trips. She walked on to inspect the cab. The windshield had a long crack along its length. Captain Sharif turned to leave.

He took a couple of steps and hesitated. On impulse he turned back. A shaft of light caught the halo of dust swirling above her head. Though she kept her long hair tucked under the police cap, loose strands had escaped. She had smudges of grime on her black uniform and on her nose.

“Miss MacKay, how long would it take you to clean up?”

She swung around, wide-eyed. “Clean up?”

He hesitated to answer. He shuffled his feet a bit and shrugged his shoulders. “Shower, change your clothes. It would be easier if you selected your food at the market.”

She took a few steps toward him. Her delight shone in her eyes and a smile escaped on her lips. She pointed in the direction beyond the compound walls. “Out there?”

He cleared his throat. “That’s where the market is. How long?” he asked again, his voice tinged with impatience. This was nothing more than expediency, he told himself. The last thing he wanted was for her to think he was giving her special treatment. I’m going to regret this. I regret it already.