Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Jodi Thomas is visiting!


April 1, 2015! It's not a joke, I really do have Jodi Thomas visiting "Wandering and Wondering with Words"! It is an honor, one that humbles me yet fills me with pride.
 
Most readers will know that Jodi is a multi-published, award winning author and is a constant on the New York Times Bestseller List and at USA Today. Her latest release, ONE TRUE HEART, takes place in small and usually quiet Harmony, Texas where the inhabitants have personalities as diverse as the west Texas winds blowing over the plains and through the canyons. Millanie McAllen returns as a wounded veteran just wanting to start over and figure out what the next steps in her life will be. Drew Cunningham appears to be a nerd but he's hiding from the past. His sister, Kare, is the local fortune teller, compassion is really her stock in trade. That, and a hidden career. Beau Yates returns home for his estranged father's funeral. His music heals his heart. And, Johnny Wheeler wants nothing but to get a divorce behind him and work the family farm. Now, that's all I can say . . .



 
 

The questions I have for Jodi focus on The Writer's Academy at West Texas A and M University (WTAMU) in Canyon, Texas. It is an intense week but well worth the time, money, and fatigue. The faculty members share their knowledge without pretense. Fellow students make friends. Staying in the dorm is a perk for many of us.

Winona Cross: When the Writer's Academy at WTAMU began in the mid-90's did you imagine how successful it would become?

Jodi Thomas: When I accepted Writer in Residence at West Texas A and M University my number one goal was to help beginning writers. It took me a few years to figure out how. When Continuing Education on campus offered to help, I knew we were off to the races. I wanted to help people not only write the best books they could, but learn ways to break into publishing.

We put together a one week class that ran all day. For five days students would live the writer's life. I wanted classes, intense classes--not one hour workshops you can sleep through or skip to go shopping like people do at conventions. I wanted lectures given to the entire group that focused on exact problems and rewards in the industry.

The success was unbelievable. People looking at the Academy sometimes say it is expensive because conferences may be cheaper, but I've never heard a writer who has attended say it wasn't well worth the money.

I believe in the Academy so much I donate my time for the week and usually stay in the dorm so we can have late night critiques. We even study plot structure over popcorn and a movie one night.

WC: I attended the Academy for the first time in 2012. I was in your group and we worked on the first 30 pages of our works-in-progress. After almost three years the book I worked on is being published by The Wild Rose Press. Tell the readers, if you will, how many Academy alumni have moved forward to publication.

JT: I believe ten of my first class have sold. Some have several books out. Check the Hall of Fame page on the www.wtamu.edu/wtwa

WC: You have shared that you go to your home office to write for several hours every evening. Was developing that habit difficult? Were there hurdles you had to overcome?

JT: I think the hardest thing to do as a writer is to get your bottom in the chair and work. After 25 years and 40 books I still fight it, but I've learned a few tricks.
1.  Make yourself sit down for a short time--I usually say I'm going to sit here for one hour no matter what. Three hours later, I realize I'm working overtime.
2.  Start with reading what you wrote yesterday. It pulls you into the story.
3.  Work on a computer that doesn't have e-mail, games, etc..
4.  Set weekly, monthly goals. You may not reach them all but you'll get some.
5.  When you're stuck, change your environment.

WC: You've earned many awards, including the RITA from the Romance Writers of America (RWA), will you share the feeling of being recognized for your knowledge, talent, and hard work?

JT: I won my first RITA in 1993 with my third book. It never occurred to me that I'd win. I just went to the RWA convention so I could wear the ribbon that said Finalist. The second time I was up I read the other books that were up and decided I didn't have a chance, so I didn't go--couldn't afford it anyway. Hawaii? Third time I believed I had a chance, even bought a new dress to wear. I won. Said my thank you when I turned to leave they wouldn't let me off the stage. Nora Roberts took the mic and said in front of 3,000 people, "On the rare occasion a writer wins three RITA's in the same category, she is inducted into the Hall of Fame". I couldn't believe it! That morning I'd bought 150 dollars worth of books on how to write.

Now, awards line the top shelves of my office but what matters most is the letters I get from readers.

WC: Any advice for authors who feel discouraged?

JT: When you stop growing and taking critique you're as good as you're ever going to get.

Thank you, Jodi, for visiting my blog. It does mean more than I have the words to say. I look forward to seeing you on June 8, 2015 in Canyon for my third visit to the Academy. For writers out there who have considered attending the Academy all I can say is "Just Do It". Regardless of whose class you choose to be in you will be rewarded with new knowledge and kindness.  

I look forward to reading your comments. Thank you for reading.

Nona





Wednesday, February 11, 2015

BUILDINGS AS CHARACTERS



BUILDINGS AS CHARACTERS: THE WEEKS MANSION, WICHITA FALLS, TEXAS


Often inanimate objects become prominent characters in our stories. They take on a living role. One that is just as important as the main characters. The historic Weeks Mansion in Wichita Falls, TX is the setting of many scenes in my soon to be released novella, "Dianne's Destiny: Tales of the Scrimshaw Doll" from The Wild Rose Press (Yellow Rose Imprint). I've wondered what the walls of this stunning place would say if they could talk. Haven't we all wondered something like it in our lives? Legend says the mansion is haunted, I believe it just may be.



When construction on the home began in 1924 Fred and Katie Lou Avis Weeks and their daughter lived in the carriage house. They were able to move into the mansion in 1926.

Mr. Weeks was a successful and renowned attorney. He spared no expense building the home. It remains full of architectural details that feel sometimes decadent, often breathtaking, yet comfortable. A few examples of the details include:

*A two story Italian marble fireplace in the living room featuring faces from mythology catches the eye.



*A two story stained glass double glass door that exits to the back yard. The only remaining original light fixture hangs from the ceiling in the living room (seen below).


*One mason from Wichita Falls, Walter McAbee, was contracted to complete all of the brick work on the carriage house and the home, which he completed entirely by himself using red, vitrified bricks from Coffeyville, Kansas. These bricks give the exterior the feel and quality of unbreakable glass. The concrete work is precise, every brick is placed with the same amount of distance between each one giving a uniform appearance.


*Several of the first floor walls and ceilings are made of dark walnut. The main staircase featuring two landings and the bannister blends almost invisibly at first glance.

*Sadly, the family wouldn't live there long. The stock market crash in the early 20th century hit them hard. In 1931 the bank repossessed the 13 acre estate and evicted the Weeks family.

*The home sat empty for seven years before being sold to the Lebus family. They stayed until 1946 when the Featherston family bought it. They stayed until 1949 when it was sold once again. Other inhabitants included:

*The City Club Restaurant that was said to rival the Country Club. It closed in 1953.

*The American Life and Trust Insurance Company took possession and shared the home with The Back Door Players Theater Group and Region IX Education Service until 1973.

*Gatsby's Night Club, a food and drink establishment reminiscent of a Prohibition Era Speakeasy, resided there until 1977.

*Several other restaurants tried their hand at the mansion with limited success.

*The Weeks Mansion was declared an historic site and placed on the Historic Registry in the early 1980's. (See photo above).

*Shortly after that it was The Marketplace featuring fine shops, dining, boutiques, a tea room, and a photographer's studio.

*The mansion served as a local events center throughout the 1990's.

*In 1999 it became a private residence again when the Shellanberger family bought it.

*In 2009 it was purchased by the Wood Group. My dear friend, Mary Wood, moved into the mansion. She has slowly and studiously furnished and decorated the mansion in its original vintage style.

*The Weeks Mansion is 16, 000 square feet. It includes four upstairs bedroom suites with full baths and a mezzanine.

*The main floor, includes the large two story foyer, a side portico entrance, the formal living room, study, kitchen, formal dining room, breakfast room, master bedroom, 21/2 baths, butler's pantry, dumb waiter, sunroom, and extra large laundry and craft room (formerly the kitchen). In addition to the formal stairwell there is a back stairway to both the upstairs and the basement.

*The main basement stairs open on to an area featuring a long walnut bar, three ante-rooms with arched doorways guarded by Italian marble mythological beings. The basement library includes many law books belonging to Mr. Weeks. The maintenance areas are also located down there.

*Every room and many window sills are decorated with original art.

*Mary opens her home to historic groups, tours, parties, weddings, and other community activities. She believes it is her duty to share the history of this stately mansion and restore it to its former beauty.

*Two other residents charm all visitors--an aging black Labradoodle named Toby and a prissy white male Standard Poodle named Kramer.

*During the Christmas season the home is decorated with at least eight themed trees and decorations turning every downstairs corner into a wonderland. (The photo is of the formal tree in the living room. Notice the walnut ceiling and staircase).

 
 

*I invite you to take this cyber blog tour of The Weeks Mansion. It is called The Blankenship Mansion in "Dianne's Destiny". Comments and suggestions are appreciated.




Saturday, November 1, 2014

Liz Tyner--Oklahoma Author Interview

 
 
This month I am happy to feature Liz Tyner on my blog. I have to admit getting this blog together has been a trial because of illness on my part as well as some unfortunate computer issues.

 Having other authors to count among our friends whether we have met or not is one of our greatest gifts as writers. We can call on them for ideas, to complain about this or that, to share good news and bad, and to simply be available. Liz is the author of THE ENGLISH ROGUES and GRECIAN GODDESSES SERIES from Harlequin. Book one SAFE IN THE EARL'S ARMS is available. Book two A CAPTAIN AND A ROGUE will be available in December 2014. An excerpt is below.





Liz can be reached at www.liztyner.com or ltynerwrites@yahoo.com She has a lovely site just waiting for visitors. I asked her a few questions and her answers were interesting, humorous, and filled with wisdom. It is below:



When and why did you start writing? One of my earliest memories is when my mother folded paper into a booklet form and asked me to tell her a story, and said she would print it for me. She took the story we finished and put it “in a safe place”—the cupboard where the important papers were kept. For a child, that was similar to winning a RITA. I was hooked, even though I didn’t know it. During my teen years, I scribbled poems, and started a novel—but disappointed myself greatly because I never made it to Chapter 2.


 

 

Did your first work that you typed 'the end' on sell or did it end up under the bed so to speak? Actually, it might be literally under my bed—at this very moment. I started it when I was 26 years old—easy to remember because my heroine was 26. It is roughly 100,000 words, and I submitted it to publishers. Maybe three total. One editor wrote a personal rejection. This was in the days of white-out, and she covered one of her comments. I removed enough of the white-out to see the original sentence. Basically, it was my first experience with the dreaded sagging middle. I knew she was right. I planned to re-write and re-submit to someone else, but I had no clue how to increase conflict. That ended that. But I started another novel fairly soon.

 

 

Do you have a favorite author, genre, or specific book you'll always love? I particularly like romance and have lots of favorite authors. When I read a novel and fall in love with the hero, I often search out the author’s backlist until I read a half dozen or more of her books. Then another awesome hero comes along and I transfer affections.

 

How do you overcome those moments when the words just won't come? Sometimes I get on the treadmill—which is a drastic measure and a last resort. Fifteen minutes there and I can usually get an idea. Or I even write out my thoughts on the problem. I have also put myself in the chair and said I am not moving until I write another hundred words.

 

Advice for new or first time published authors? Writing is easy. Finishing a story—that can be hard. But I just can’t imagine a surgeon looking into a body cavity and going, “Oh, it’s my lucky day, another ruptured spleen.” It’s about the final product, not the bloody mess you have to go through to get there.


Excerpt from A Captain and a Rogue:

Capt’n. There’s yer mermaid.’

            At his first mate’s words, Benjamin’s head snapped around and his eyes locked on the form slicing through the Aegean Sea.

            Benjamin took two steps closer to the edge of the craggy rocks overlooking the water. The sea air took some of the rotted-egg smell of the island from his lungs and the shape reaching the shoreline took all thoughts from his head.

            He reached to his side and took the spyglass from the hanging sheath, and peered. His movements must have caught her attention, because as soon as her head appeared in his eyepiece—she treaded water. Her eyes locked on his, capturing him.

            Then she turned, long arms finishing the swim quickly. Everything else in the world disappeared but the vision in his spyglass. His breath caught. He’d truly found a mermaid.

            ‘Ah, she saw us,’ Gidley grumbled. ‘Now she’ll go and turn into a reg’lar woman. Blast the luck. Once a mermaid sees a man, she sprouts legs. Happens every time.’

            The woman stepped on to the sand. Benjamin grunted in disappointment, realising he’d been lost in a fantasy.

            He tipped the end of the glass downward to ascertain she did have legs. She wore a chemise, but the thin, wet garment viewed through a strong imagination left little covered. He braced himself, keeping his knees from giving way, while he leaned forward, trapped in his thoughts.

            Gidley nudged Benjamin. ‘Lend me that glass, Capt’n. Want to see if she be sportin’ a tail.’

            Ben pulled air into his lungs, giving himself time to relearn to speak.

I encourage readers of my blog to visit Liz, check out her books and fall in love with historical romance. Please leave comments and include your own links if you wish.

 

 

 

 


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Meeting Janet K. Brown, Author

It is with the greatest pleasure that I am featuring my friend and fellow author, Janet K. Brown, on this post. She is taking off like a rocket in the writing world with her devotional, Divine Dining, as well as her young adult series. 

We met at the Red River Romance Writers of America group meeting in Wichita Falls, Texas early in 2009. It was a great group and full of talent. However, Janet made a positive impression on me the moment she welcomed me when I arrived that first day. I was a newcomer--not just to the group but to the region. Unfortunately, as a small group, the RRRW did not survive. We may no longer have regular meetings but the support for each other remains always available.

Janet has provided me with her story in her words. Let me share . . .

My writing journey began when I was a young mom of three. I wrote short stories and even published a few. When my girls got to be teenagers, I wrote my first novel. I submitted it, got it rejected, and promptly gave up.

Emotional upheavals plagued me all my adult life. I gained and lost weight every year and kept several sized clothes in my closet for my ups and downs, mostly ups. Depression drove me to deeper depths at the same time my job as medical coder and bookkeeper became more stressful and turned into longer hours. Writing came to a stop except for personal journals.

During a Christian weight loss class at my church, I drew closer to God. He healed me emotionally, and the weight started to drop. I retired in October, 2005 to give more time to grandchildren and writing.

I joined Romance Writers of America (RWA) and American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), studied the writing craft, and began to write and submit. I wrote romance and women’s fiction. When I received a rejection, instead of working more on that manuscript, I started a brand new one. At the same time, I submitted short stories again and got a few of them published. One of the teen short stories I wrote featured a ghost legend at a registered Texas ghost town near my home. The publisher of the magazine where I submitted it asked if I’d ever considered making that story chapter one of a novel. I hadn’t, but I did. So, I wrote my first YA.

A few years ago while I was busy submitting, studying, getting rejected, and starting another manuscript, God woke me in the middle of the night with devotions running through my head. The focus was on emotional healing and weight loss. I wrote fourteen devotions before I could go back to sleep. I continued to write devotions sometimes one a week, sometimes one a day for four years. I considered the devotions therapy for me while I WROTE fiction.

 In 2011, a small press out of Oklahoma, 4RV Publishing, offered me a contract not on my romance or women’s fiction but on my one and only YA. I danced, I sang, I didn’t come down to earth for months. In 2012, my debut novel, an inspirational, paranormal YA, Victoria and the Ghost was released. Before its release, God hit me upside the head and told me I hadn’t written 300 devotions just as my therapy, but to minister to others with a similar problem.
 

After three rejections on my weight loss class curriculum based on the devotions I’d written, I pitched a 365 day by day devotion book for overeaters to another small press out of Arkansas that was starting their company with inspirational, self-help books. That was Pen-L Publishing. They offered me a contract and had the book out by December, 2012. This book is titled Divine Dining: 365 Devotions to Guide You to Healthier Weight and Abundant Wellness. This was truly the book of my heart coming straight from my personal journals, critical failures, and testimonies of God’s goodness.

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT: For the month of September, Pen-L is offering a devotion a day from Divine Dining for #FREE. If you like what you read, you may purchase the full 365 devotion book right on the site, but there’s no obligation. All you have to do to receive your #FREE devotions for a month is click on this link:https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/468985
My writing journey marches on.

In 2013, I signed another contract with 4RV Publishing for the sequel to Victoria and the Ghost. (Got to stick with what works, YA and ghosts). The working title of it is A Ghost for Shelley that should be released soon.

In early 2014, I signed a contract with Pen-L to publish (finally) a women’s fiction. We titled it Worth Her Weight. This book releases in November, 2014. Here’s the elevator pitch:

 
Lacey’s addicted to overeating.

Toby’s a controller.

Mom’s anger seeks to destroy everything in its path.

Each must let go before God can heal.


I stay active in ACFW, Faith, Hope and Love (FHL) the inspirational chapter of RWA, and Oklahoma Writers Federated International (OWFI). I take online courses, go to workshops and conferences as finances allow, contract to write short stories, and promote my books with the help of a host of wonderful new friends I’ve made through my writing. One of those new friends is Winona Cross.

Please feel free to connect with and/or follow me at the following links....

Twitter: @JanetKBrownTX
Victoria and the Ghost: Available at http://www.4RVpublishingcatalog.com/Janet-Brown.php
Divine Dining: 365 Devotions to Guide You to Healthier Weight and Abundant Wellness. Available at www.pen-l.com/DivineDining.html


Monday, August 4, 2014

AGING PRINCESSES

August 4, 2014

AGING PRINCESSES
 
 
 
Once upon a time there was a woman, aging by princess standards, who finally had the opportunity to go to a kingdom in a land called Disney World where magic and fairies and princes who rescue princesses really exist. She had three small princesses by her side to help grant her access to those places where her age and size might have raised suspicious eyebrows otherwise. At least that's how she felt.
 
Beneath a magical arch everything changed. How could a place, such a crowded place, be such fun and so exciting at every turn? A twenty foot tall breathtakingly beautiful woman made of vines and branches walked out of the tress circling the crowd with such grace silence overtook them. Colors never imagined by this aging princess blended perfectly with those in a crayon box. Everyone seemed happy and patient with the exception of an occasional ogre. Long lines were the fact of the week but most often they were entertaining or we held special Fast Passes.
 
Of course, she had dinner with the real princesses.  Her reaction and that of the small princesses when Snow White skipped past their table was captured. Every special Disney princess moved through the dining hall talking and acting royal before having a parade including the younger princes and princesses in attendance. The aging princess wanted to be in the parade but, alas, she wasn't able to do so without sustaining the chagrin of the other adults in the group.
 
 
 
 
 
A week of magic, some mayhem, and lots of entertainment left the aging princess feeling very old. As a matter-of-fact I he ended up in the hospital shortly after she returned home. But, she said this-- all the aching muscles and bones, and fatigue was worth it. While she was in the hospital she wrote the scribbles of a "poem". One of the members of the group was her age. She couldn't help but compare herself to the other woman. She don't usually write poetry but she will share this bit with you. It's longer than she would normally post to her blog but it tells a story.
 
Life is uncertain. There will always be times of confusion, sadness, fear, and uncertainty. Just as surely there will be times of wonder, happiness, undisguised joy, certainty, and even magic. Try to smile through the worst times and the laughter during the good times will come straight from the soul. A girl can be a princess at any age. It's true.
 
 
“63”
Winona Bennett Cross
 
I know a woman who makes me laugh yet makes me sad. She’s my age—sixty-three (63). We’re Vietnam era girls, graduates of classes of 1969 and as different as they come. Perhaps because of geography, family, or society.
According to modern society I look, act, and sound like 63. This woman is just the opposite living in a perpetual flower child world.
I’m living, as I have all my life, in a “what will they think of me” world.
Her hair is colorful. It varies like a color wheel spinning in Vegas. Turquoise, hot pink, green, or blue. I wonder if it’s ever been boldly striped? Her style is spiky and funky.
My hair is dirty blonde with graying temples, simply cut, and styled in something easy. No pizzazz. No youthfulness. I do not like growing old.
She wears strapless sundresses and camisoles with short skirts. Her wardrobe is a canvas for the embellishments she adds through the day. Dangly earrings, large hoops, bracelets of gold and silver, fabric, beads, and leather almost to her elbow. Scarves drape her body including a dedazzled belly dancers sarong around her hips. She is comfortable and dances through the streets and stores.
I wear matronly capri pants or jeans and T-shirts with sleeves. My jewelry is gold and classic with a few pieces of appropriately suitable costume pieces added for bling on special occasions. Without my jewelry I feel naked. I try to hide behind “invisible” clothes.
She smokes small dark cigars. They remind me of something Greta Garbo or Katherine Hepburn would have smoked in eras past.
I have never smoked. Anything! I wonder what it feels and tastes like. But, I’ll never try it. My parents smoked and I lost my mother to lung cancer.
This woman, my friend, glides through life just high enough most of the time to make others smile at her antics. Free Bird. Flower Child.
I always do what I think is right. Often feeling stifled. When I do let my feelings soar someone will tell me I’m acting silly. So, I stop and retreat into some  of the shell I have built.
I wonder what happens to her in the night when she falls. Is it a desperate dive? A fully dressed, spread-eagled splat? Or, is it a subtle wilting of the flower as she awaits the morning dew and sunlight to decide what kind of ornamental blossom she will become that day.
I simply crawl beneath the covers, read for a while, then fatigue takes over and I sleep.
How can two women of the same era be so different? I sometimes wish for some of her free spirit but not the problems that accompany it.
I wonder if she ever wishes for some of my so called normal life?
We are different but forever bound by the love of two little blonde, blue-eyed girls. Granddaughters.
 

 




Saturday, February 8, 2014

Cover Reveal, Delay, and Superstition

Several months ago I received my first cover for my first novel! It was very exciting and I did the happy dance and made the phone calls and updated Facebook . . .  But, I just couldn't bring myself to reveal the cover on my blog even though I had revealed it on Facebook. I guess I thought my blog was so much more serious or something. I don't know. But, this morning is the day I've chosen for a specific reason. More on that later.

One reason I must make clear is this--I'm a Registered Nurse. Even though I'm retired I'm still a nurse and we are a very superstitious bunch. I was a Labor and Delivery nurse. That's a high risk specialty and any of the specialties are especially superstitious. Let me relay an example. Every unit has a status board. It's usually a basic white board with sections taped off for pertinent data depending on the specialty. When I was new to the game we had a slow day and we didn't have any patients so I decided I would clean the white board. Damn! One would think I had cut someone's throat! It seems the board must never be blank because it's bad luck. If it's blank it brings in the hoardes and they will be really sick or will have some kind of problem. What did I have to do? Make up a patient's name, assign her to a doctor, give her some fake physical data and move on. Alas, it was too late. The hoardes did arrive. Every bed was soon filled, we had a couple of patients waiting on stretchers in the hall. I remember at least one emergency cesarean section. And, this is the way  the charge nurse looked at me:




The reason I've decided to go ahead and reveal the cover today is because I'm still trudging through edits. My goodness, it's tough. I feel sorry for my wonderful editor, Ally Robertson, from The Wild Rose Press. It's been a long road for us. She sent me this latest round along with some more specific homework which I believe will help me. It narrows things down into small bites rather than having the intimidation of the entire manuscript in front of me. I suppose revealing it on my blog will also help me feel more professional or something. Today I'm feeling down but not defeated. My confidence is flagging but it will rise again.



I hope you've enjoyed a glimpse of my cover. Would you who have successfully published share any tips of getting past the first book edits and blues? I would appreciate it if you could drop off a comment for me as well. Enjoy your writing and your successes.