HEIDI ELIASON – Runaway to Adventure

Confessions of a Middle-Aged Runaway is an RV travel adventure about how Heidi sold her house, quit her job, bought a motorhome, and hit the road with her dog for five years. It was a journey that transformed her life.

Heidi Eliason is a freelance writer and an editor for Runaway Publishing. Her past work includes writing for an RV adventure company, producing more than fifty RV travel articles for an online news source, and developing training courses and manuals. Confessions of a Middle-Aged Runaway is her first book. It has been translated into Korean and is selling in six countries. Heidi lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Find out more about Heidi’s travel and writing adventures at www.HeidiEliason.com.

Do you write in more than one genre? I write in multiple genres. Confessions is a memoir, and I’m currently working on a novel, a thriller. Although many readers have asked for a sequel to my memoir, the thriller is clamoring to be written now. I also have some ideas for a cozy mystery series, so that could be next.

What brought you to writing? I was a robust reader from an early age, but when I took a creative writing class in high school, I discovered I loved to write. I just didn’t think I could make a living at it, so I never seriously pursued it. I always figured I’d write on the side for pleasure. Oddly enough, I did end up making a good living as a writer, but I wrote training courses and manuals, not books.

During my motorhome adventure, I kept a blog to keep my family and friends informed about my journey. I also wrote RV travel articles and web content for an RV touring company. After my motorhome adventure ended, I wrote short pieces about my experience in a writing critique group, some of which were based on my blog posts. The members of that group encouraged me to turn the stories into a book. I never wanted to write a memoir, but it was such an incredible and life-changing experience, I just had to write about it.

How long did it take you to write your first book? It took six years of on and off writing to complete my memoir because there were months at a time when I didn’t work on it at all. I tried writing it as a novel for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), but it was awful!

The memoir started in disconnected five-page increments in my writing group, and I organized it into a book at some point along the way. Four years ago, I attended the San Francisco Writers Conference and submitted a chapter to their writing contest. It won runner-up for nonfiction (under my previous name, Heidi Young). That gave me the nudge I needed to complete the book, and it was published in 2019.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Finishing something is the most challenging part for me. I get so many ideas for things I want to write that I’m great at starting things, but I struggle to finish the current project I’m working on. I get distracted or want to give up when the writing gets tough and instead work on the shiny new idea that just occurred to me. I’m a pantser, not a plotter, so I don’t always know how I’m going to get to the end of the story or how I’ll keep the reader’s interest along the way. That can cause my writing to stall out sometimes. Most people call that writer’s block, but to me, it feels like a loss of interest. That tells me something needs fixing.

I decided to try writing an outline with my current book to see if that makes the writing faster and easier. I created a rough outline of about eight chapters, and then I couldn’t stand it any longer and had to start writing. The pantser in me took over. I wanted to see what my characters would do and how they would shape the story. I believe what some authors say about how their characters sometimes lead them in unexpected directions because I’ve experienced that feeling when characters take over. It’s a wonderful thing.

Has an association membership helped you or your writing? The California Writers Club Mt. Diablo Branch has been incredibly helpful to me and my writing. I’ve learned so much from the speakers and writers there, found writing critique partners, and made friendships. I also found out about the San Francisco Writers Conference during one of the meetings, and attending that was incredibly educational and inspiring.

I’m also a member of the Nonfiction Authors Association (NFAA), which provides a ton of helpful resources, some of which also apply to fiction writing. The founder of NFAA, Stephanie Chandler, has written some exceptional books about self-publishing and marketing that guided me through the publication of my book.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I retired from my full-time technical writing job this year, but I’ll continue to do book editing through my company, Runaway Publishing. I hope to finish my current novel in 2022, now that I have more time for writing. After that, I’ll get going on one of the many other book ideas I have waiting in the wings. Since I was born with wanderlust and my husband retired at the beginning of this year, we want to do a lot of traveling. Hopefully, the Covid-19 situation will allow us to do international travel again.

Do you have any advice for new writers? Persistence is one of the most important qualities a writer can have. You need to keep going when the rejection letters come, self-doubt settles in, you wonder what the point of it all is, or you just don’t feel like writing. Keep writing, learning your craft, and reading. If you do those things, your work will improve, and you’ll get something published. Make writing one of your first priorities, and avoid the temptation to let other tasks and responsibilities have more importance than your writing. In other words, don’t do what I did! You’ll get something published much faster.

How do our readers find you and your books?

2 Comments

  1. Heidi Eliason

    Thanks, Michael! Hitting the road in my motorhome for five years was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I highly recommend it! i met the best people and saw some amazing sights. I also read Travels with Charley and loved it. A few years ago I visited the Steinbeck Museum and saw Rocinante, or maybe it was a reproduction. I also had lunch at the Steinbeck House in Salinas, which was really interesting.

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    Wow, you’ve got a lot of pluck to go on the road in an RV like that. My congratulations on the memoir. It sounds reminiscent of John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charlie, which he wrote about traveling around the US with his dog. Best of luck to you with the novel.

    Reply

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DAN HOBBS writing as author BEN LEITER

Daniel Hobbs has been a city manager in seven cities across the country, in Maryland, Texas, Michigan, and California. My career took me overseas as an American local government official to W. Germany, Poland, and Japan.
I have been married to a wonderful, patient woman for 35 years, a beautiful native of Peru, who endures my anxieties and writing distractedness with good humor.

Ben Leiter is the author of four published books, available on Amazon and Kindle:

  • CITY MANAGEMENT SNAPSHOTS: ON THE RUN
  • BABY BOOMERSLOVE-BETRAYAL
  • GODS BETRAYAL: THE CREDO
  • BETRAYAL OF FATHER GARZA

Is there a thread or theme that ties your books together, even though they are of different genres? Yes, very much so. Together, these four books examine the cataclysmic collision between the expectations of the baby boomer generation and the primal forces of politics, religion, and romance.

Why the pen name Ben Leiter?  If you read any of my books, you’ll understand why immediately with the authentic, explosive nature of the material and the controversy of storylines and subplots.

Using a pen name provides me the psychological freedom to write what I want; to explore themes without embarrassing me or my family.

The name Ben Leiter translates “been leader” if you use the German pronunciation of the last name. It describes my previous profession as a city manager in seven cities.

Why do you write? Answer: To find out what I think; to figure out why I think what I think; to investigate “what it’s all about.” And to avoid boring people with my strong opinions in conversations. If I put my views on the written page, I must present them in an intelligent and interesting fashion, or the reader won’t turn the page.

Also, writing fiction allows me to explore my favorite theme of betrayal and its sub-themes involving politics, religion, and romance.

What do you want to achieve? Writing objective? Validation as a good writer who has something to say worth reading.

Favorite authors? Answer: John Le Carré, Len Deighton, Michael Connelly; Gillian Flynn, Andy Weir, Anne Lamott, Dennis Lehane, Tom Wolf, Robert Crais, Martin Cruz Smith, Leon Uris, Don Winslow. I’m reading Winslow’s The Cartel for the third time, as I did Flynn’s Gone Girl.

I’ve met and talked with Andy Weir and Bob Woodward.

Bob Woodward and I shared common associations from decades ago in Rockville, Maryland, outside of Washington, D.C.

Can you describe the impact any books have had on you? I’d rather have lunch—at the risk of being lunch—with Hannibal Lector from Silence of the Lambs than with the female protagonist in Flynn’s Gone Girl. That wife-protagonist is like real-world-scary. She’s out there walking around, for sure. Flynn’s book ranks with Catcher in the Rye; The Spy Who Came in from the Cold; and Exodus.

A Leon Uris book, Trinity, provided insight into what we Irish call The Troubles— the colonization atrocities of the English. (I’m part English too, but the Irish always wins out—so much more colorful.)

Tell me about your protagonist in your most recent book. Why will readers like him? My hero protagonist, Father Gabriel Alphonso Esquivel Garza, is a Hispanic-Schwarzenegger-Rambo-renegade Catholic priest with a Zorro complex. He refuses to let principles keep him from doing what is right. He is merciless in defense of children.

Are you a Pantser (write by the seat of the pants, ad hoc) or a Plotter (outline in detail before writing)? Both—here’s how and why. I rely on The Muse, or inspiration, or whatever has caught my fancy at the moment to fling words on paper. Once I have enough “somethings” on paper, I start organizing and putting them into a table of contents with detailed notes under each chapter, which is the equivalent of an outline. I then keep adding, revising. I move stuff I delete to the end of the working draft, to be probably brought forward at a future time after it has “matured.” Advice: never throw anything away.

I experience difficulty deleting my pet phrases and scenes. Some famous author said that your favorite computer key should be the delete key.

How do you vet your work? Three critique groups; two California Writing Club memberships; past developmental editing by Scott Evans, author and English professor at the University of the Pacific.

Strengths and weaknesses of your manuscripts? From the professional writing feedback I have received over the years, the strengths of my work seem to be the imagination, the creativity of the work, and the character (good and bad) of my protagonists.

My drafts have received deserved hits by critique groups for not always letting the reader know immediately what is going on and where we are at. I accept that criticism because I want to pull the reader in. I want the reader to do a little bit of head work.

I love John LeCarré’s writing with its exceptional use of indirection. I remember becoming frustrated in one of his books because I found myself on page 65 and had no idea what was going on. Then I realized. I was in the same situation as the book’s protagonist, trying to identify the traitor in The Circus, LeCarré’s name for British intelligence. The protagonist reflected the puzzle-palace-nature of the events swirling about him. Well done, John.

I also plead guilty to occasional finger waving and sermonizing, which I detest in an explicit form. I prefer my characters to carry that water for me in a hopefully more subtle fashion.

Any indications of a writing life earlier? Over my city management career, I penned many professional articles on everything from strategic planning to embezzlement, which appeared in nationwide publications. At one point, I even had my own column in a newspaper.

I always tried to make my articles interesting or to have a twist. For example, one article carried the all too true title; SOMEONE IS STEALING THE TAXPAYERSMONEY!

As budget director for a large Texas city, I always wanted to tell “the story” behind the numbers. I saw too many budget staff letting themselves get lost in the numbers or “hiding” in the numbers. I felt it important to be clear to my boss, the city manager, his bosses, the city council, and the public about exactly what the budget meant for them for the following year.

I continually rewrote the 20-page budget message at the beginning of the 500-page budget document to get the message right. One of my senior staff, exasperated at my numerous revisions, said, “You’re just a frustrated novelist.” I demurred at the time, but she was correct.

Two of my favorite quotes from that same government staff, one from a very talented colleague, “Numbers are our friends.”

Late in my career, in a job interview with a city council, I was asked why I had published so many articles. The unexpected question triggered a response that I did not know I possessed, “I guess it’s a way to leave a legacy.”

What is your educational background? I am a Case Western Reserve University Ph.D.-in-political-science-drop-out. But, I did secure a Master of Public Administration and a Master of Urban Affairs, an interdisciplinary planning degree.

My B.A. held a major in political science, with minors in English, Philosophy, and Theology.

Other writing observations? I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of people who share my love of books, reading, ideas, and writing.

I relish the open-endedness of the mental challenge of writing. I will never be able to exhaust it. It will wear me down first, I fear.

I respect the work ethic required to become a successful writer, whether commercially published or not.

I admire the creativity of the process and the final product.

I have had Stephen King’s experience, where I get into the story or one of the characters, and it takes on a life of its own and goes places I had not planned.

Since I developed my “rule” years ago never to go back and read a book the second time, this writing occupation gives me the justification and permission to revisit old book-friends.

I should be able to handle the rejection. In my past career, along with the public accolades and good salary, I experienced an enormous amount of criticism—it came with the job territory—on an almost weekly basis. I’m used to it; maybe I miss it and need it.

While my brother has become an accomplished amateur oil painter, I paint with words.

I want to be as accomplished as he in my own artistic genre. But better than oil painting, I can constantly revise my work.

Another reason for writing—it keeps the mind sharp. My family shows too much history of Alzheimer’s. Maybe writing will delay or forestall some of the mental ravages of old age.

Then there is the possibility that I might have something to say. Having been around for decades, I would expect myself to paint some life pictures accurately, if not brilliantly, perhaps with some insight, too, especially if I have been paying attention. Have I? Perhaps I can say something memorable about this thing we all share called the human condition. If I can, then what becomes fascinating are all the ways there are to describe this common experience: short stories, poems; essays; novels.

I like the sound of “I am a writer.”

I have always been a bookworm, loved to read. The mid-westerner in me must justify all those academic credentials and insists on looking for a practical application—writing is it.

I have been energized by writing.

Any final reflection? In my case, the most important contributor to writing was my reading at an early age and continuing non-stop the rest of my life. I was that ten-year-old kid continuing to read under the sheets after my father told me to turn the light off and go to sleep.

My website is http://benleiter.com.

3 Comments

  1. Madeline Gornell

    Great “meeting” you, really like your “painting with words,” and agree on so important to becoming a writer I think. is having been a reader at an early age! Much success!

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    Your Father Garza character sounds like quite an interesting fellow. Good luck with your writing.

    Reply
  3. Michael DeGuire

    I wonder if he should have started out as a writer versus trying to work in public service. Or did the public service help craft his skills. Probably the latter

    Reply

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JONI KEIM – Technical, Spiritual, Memoir Writer

 Joni Keim writes technical (alternative health and wellness), spiritual (her father’s influence), and memoirs (matters of the heart)—for 40 years and counting.

Do you write in more than one genre? Yes. I write technical, spiritual, and memoirs.

I first started writing technical in 1979 for natural health magazines. At the time, I worked at the Wholistic Health and Nutrition Institute in Mill Valley, CA, and learned a lot about alternative health. I was a licensed aesthetician, so I began writing articles and teaching classes on a healthy approach to skin care and using non-toxic skin care products. Some years later, I became the technical director for a natural product company that had a skin care line and an essential oil line. I wrote about both for websites, labels, newsletters, and training manuals. I continued to write for magazines. This was my career for over 30 years.

In addition to what I wrote professionally, I also had personal projects. From 2000 to 2008, a colleague, Ruah, and I wrote three books together. The books were based on using essential oils (aromatic plant extracts) in a spiritual context. We both had studied subtle energy healing, and she was a Spiritual Director. Aromatherapy & Subtle Energy Techniques, Aromatherapy Anointing Oils, and Daily Aromatherapy were published by North Atlantic Books in Berkeley. Foreign rights were purchased by Brazil. Many years later, the rights to these books were returned to us, and since that time, 2nd editions have been written and published for all of them. In addition to the books that Ruah and I wrote, I penned two books about angels.

Now in my seventy-plus years, I have written memoirs. The memoir books are a part of what I call my Tribute series—honoring that which has been so dear to me. There are now five books in that series. A book was written for each of two special men in my life that unexpectantly passed away. The books were composed in a simple, child-like style and illustrated with cartoons. However, they were for grown-ups (and the child in all adults). Writing these books was profoundly helpful for me to deal with the grief of losing those dear friends.

What brought you to writing?  I did not major in English or literature in school. Still, I enjoyed the writing assignments and found researching and organizing information rewarding. I was also an avid letter writer—back in the days before email and texting.

When I began writing for natural health magazines, my children were young. The writing process provided intellectual stimulation amidst the diapers and carpooling.

In retrospect, I realize the foundation for the desire and pleasure of writing was probably set when I was a child. I was basically an introvert, and I was the youngest. The rest of the family was gregarious and extroverted, so I never really felt like I fit in. (But I knew I was loved.) My mother used to joke about how sending me to my room was not a punishment, and she would eventually have to get me to re-join the family.

So, in this setting—being an introvert and the youngest—I didn’t have the inclination or the opportunity to talk about things I wanted to, and I didn’t feel I would be heard. Writing allowed me to say what I wanted to say. Maybe more to the point was that I HAD something to say.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? The most challenging part of my writing process is accessing the “zone” when it eludes me. The “zone” is when I am so fully present, relaxed, and patient that the writing flows and my thinking is energetic, clear, and accurate. When the “zone” is not available, it reminds me of what it is like when you enter a room that smells good. As you stay in that room, you no longer smell the aroma because the olfactory sense goes numb for that scent. Interestingly, when you leave the room for a bit and come back, you can smell it again. So, when I can’t get in the zone, I leave the writing and come back another time.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow?  I write in my office at a stand-up desk on an iMac. I look out the wide window to the neighborhood. My dog, Paris, is at my side. I write throughout the day, every day, for a couple of hours total, on various projects.

I have a strong ability to focus and block out distractions. However, if the distraction is overpowering, I simply stop. I know from experience that trying to write when I am not fully present is not worth the time spent.

How long did it take you to write your first book? How long to get it published? My first book, Natural Skin Care: Alternative & Traditional Techniques, was published in 1996 by North Atlantic Books under my name at that time: Joni Loughran. It took me a year and a half to write it. When it was finished, I submitted it, and it was published. The same was true for the three books that Ruah and I wrote.

I feel fortunate about having had such an easy time getting published. It came about because I had met the owner of North Atlantic Books in a doctor’s office waiting room. We were chatting. I told him that I wrote for natural health magazines. He said he was a publisher and told me I should write a book. So, I did, and he published it. Now, I am self-publishing.

Tell us about your writing process. This George Orwell quote makes me laugh: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

I have experienced that sentiment. After each one of the first few books I wrote, I told myself that I wouldn’t do it again. Yet, fifteen books later, I know now that writing is a part of my lifestyle and one that I will likely continue. I haven’t run out of ideas yet.

The first tenets that I embraced when I started writing were 1) write about what I know and 2) include facts, quotes, and anecdotes. When I begin a project, I first lay out the table of contents, knowing that it may change. Then I start one chapter at a time. I also keep a document of random notes. When I am writing a book, it is ever on my mind, and ideas pop up when I least expect them. I will jot them down anywhere I can and then transfer them all into my “Notes” document. Periodically, I go through those notes to ensure I include everything I thought would have value in the book. I have found that this makes the finished book much richer than it would have been.

How can our readers contact You?

Website: www.jonikeimbooks.com

Email: contact@jonikeimbooks.com

2 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    I found this blog post to be a very interesting one. I was reminded of that old saying about taking the time to stop and smell the roses. You seem to have a tremendous amount of drive and talent. Good luck with your writing.

    Reply
    • Joni

      Thank you Michael. Wishing you a happy holiday season!

      Reply

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ELLEN KIRSCHMAN, PhD. – Public Safety Psychologist – Author

Ellen Kirschman, PhD. is an award-winning public safety psychologist and author of I Love a Cop: What Police Families Need to Know, I Love a Firefighter: What the Family Needs to Know, lead author of Counseling Cops: What Clinicians Need to Know, and four mysteries, all told from the perspective of police psychologist Dr. Dot Meyerhoff. She blogs with Psychology Today and is a member of Sisters-in-Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and the Public Safety Writers Association.

Thanks, George, for inviting me back just in time for the December 12th launch of my latest, never-before-published fourth Dot Meyerhoff mystery—The Answer to His Prayers—and my first venture into the world of independent publishing.

Poor Dot is in trouble again. She’s trying to plan her wedding to Frank when a 911 dispatcher takes the worst call of her young life. As Dot helps track down the possible arsonist, she proves herself a sensitive yet doggedly persistent sleuth—even when ordered to mind her own business. The case drags her through the seedy underbelly of her small town and finally to the local prison where she meets the imprisoned puppet master Badger, who is an unexpected acquaintance from her past. Badger believes Dot is the only one who can help him get what he wants most in life—contact with a son he’s never met. Stopping at nothing, including kidnapping, his efforts to bend Dot to his will endangers Dot and everyone she loves.

Crime is not the only thing on Dot’s mind. Her anxiety about getting married is causing rifts in her relationship with Frank. Memories of her family and her first marriage are overwhelming, prompting Dot to start therapy with Dr. Philipp Rogoff. Their relationship is contentious. Dot thinks Rogoff doesn’t know what he’s doing. Rogoff thinks Dot is resistant to his advice and only pretending to want help.

I had a good time writing this book, especially the dueling relationship between Dot and Dr. Rogoff. Therapists make the worst clients. Ask me; I’ve been on both sides of the couch. I loved writing about Rivka Meyerhoff, Dot’s plucky widowed mother. Rivka’s rants about anti-Semitism are timely, given the recent rise in hate crimes against Jews. Even though I am Jewish, writing and thinking deeply about what it means to be Jewish in the modern world is a first for me. I have written about religion before. Buddhism is at the heart of The Fifth Reflection, as the mother of a missing child cloaks her pain with kindness, frustrating the police who need her cooperation to catch the abductor.

What I’m Working on Now: Moral choice and moral pain are themes in many of my books, including my WIP, a standalone that is taking up a lot of my time. The provisional title is Call me Carmela. It’s the story of a young girl searching for her birth parents. What she discovers will destroy one family and heal another. The theme is courage: The courage to let go of someone you love, the courage to overcome trauma to help someone who needs you, and the courage to pursue justice, no matter the cost.

For the first time ever, I joined NaNoWriMo with my buddy, Anne Gelder, author of much short fiction and the enchanting, off-beat novel, Bigfoot and the Baby. Another first, I joined up with a NaNoWriMo sub-group of the NorCal Sisters-in-Crime chapter. About ten of us, including our blog host George Cramer, met online almost every day for a short chat and shared writing time. It was more helpful than I anticipated. It helped me stay on track, kept me accountable, and reduced the isolation that is part of any writer’s life. These groups will continue after NaNoWriMo. I intend to keep on going.

Another first is the entrance into the world of independent publishing. When my traditional publisher rejected The Answer to His Prayers, I decided to get my rights back so that I could publish the series all under one roof. I am working with an online marketer. All four books are now available as eBooks on Amazon, with a boxed set coming in January. So far, so good. The first book in the series, Burying Ben, was a #1 best seller in the Kindle Store, Literature & Fiction, Women Sleuths, Police Procedurals, and Jewish American Fiction. The others are also doing better than ever before. Stay tuned to see where this heads.

Thanks again, George, for the opportunity to vent, crow, and indulge in SSP. I am happy to assist my fellow writers with any questions they may have about police psychology, PTSD, psychotherapy, self-publishing, etc. Your readers can follow my occasional blog on Psychology Today or sign up for my occasional newsletter at www.ellenkirschman.com. New signers get a copy of my mini-memoir about my short-lived career as a dance hall hostess.

28 Comments

  1. Lisa Towles

    Great interview, George and Ellen, wonderful to hear more about your milieu and your forthcoming projects! #inspiration

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Thanks Lisa. Good luck with your launch of 95, it’s really a good read.

      Reply
  2. Vinnie

    Good books. I look forward to reading the fourth, Ellen.

    Reply
  3. Thonie Hevron

    I’ve read all your books and am eagerly awaiting the new one! Happy Holidays, Ellen. Hope to see you next year at PSWA.

    Reply
  4. Marilyn Meredith

    This was a wonderful post. So glad to see what you’ve accomplished. I too hope you can come to the next PSWA conference. Also wondered about your independent publishing experience and your online marketer. Would be a great panel topic.

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Hi Marilyn
      I am waiting to see how being an indie works out. So far, so good. Fingers crossed we’ll both be at PSWA.

      Reply
  5. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    I’ve read I Love A Cop and Burying Ben. That means I’ll be reading more of your books because I enjoyed those two so much. I Love A Cop was very insightful and made me see things I hadn’t seen before in my 41 years in law enforcement. Keep up the great work you do as well as your writing.

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Hi Joe- what a compliment coming from you, such an experienced LEO. I’m blushing.

      Reply
  6. Ellen Kirschman

    Hi Vicki: thanks for reading and writing. So nice to meet new readers.

    Reply
  7. Ellen Kirschman

    Hi Margaret: Thanks for your wishes. I do hope our paths cross in person some day.

    Reply
  8. Heidi Noroozy

    Ellen, your WIP sounds intriguing! I’ll look forward to reading it. I’m also glad you will continue with the SinC Norcal drop in writing lessons. They help keep me on track!

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Hi Heidi
      Our online writing groups are fun and helpful. See you soon. I’ll miss all next week, but I’ll be back.

      Reply
  9. John G. Bluck

    Thank you for the interesting write-up about your books. I’m wondering if in your writing process you purposely pit different psychological types of persons against one other. Or do you just rely on your inner muse to guide you when creating characters?

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Hi John- interesting question. A combo of experience, inner muse, research, and an eye for individual differences.

      Reply
  10. John Schembra

    Congrats on your new release, Ellen! I’ll be checking our your books!

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Hi John
      Thanks so much. Hope to see you at PSWA next year.

      Reply
  11. Vicki Batman

    So interesting to learn about you.

    Reply
  12. Vicki Weisfeld

    She manages to weave current issues into these books in what sounds like a most effective way. Her WIP also sounds fascinating! The whole “birth parent” question is becoming increasingly complicated!

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Thanks Vicki. Things are getting more complicated every day.

      Reply
  13. Margaret Mizushima

    Ellen, congratulations on becoming a hybrid author. I know this transition has been a lot of work, and I wish you all the best. I hope we get a chance to meet at a conference sometime, and I look forward to reading your new book! Happy Holidays, blessings, and peace.

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Hi Margaret: Thanks for your good wishes, I need all those I can get. Hope our paths cross in person in the near future.

      Reply
  14. Michael A. Black

    Good to hear about your latest writing ventures, Ellen. I hope to see you at the next PSWA conference. Good luck with your new one.

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Thanks Mike. I share your hopes to meet up again at PWSA. Good luck with your new book as well.

      Reply
  15. Donnell

    My goodness, there are so many books I would love to own as a result of reading this blog. Thank you, George, for hosting Ms. Kirschman. I plan to look over her long list of books.

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Thanks Donnell. All four in the series will be available as ebooks on 12/11. Some may even be free!

      Reply

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SARAH CORTEZ – Award-Winning Author and Law Enforcement Veteran

ATSNStop the ThreatChuck Thompson

Sarah’s latest crime fiction thriller is The Carlucci Betrayal.

Here is a glimpse into Sarah’s award-winning career:

Sarah Cortez, a Councilor of the Texas Institute of Letters, Fellow of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, and Fellow of the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She has poems, essays, book reviews, and short stories anthologized and published in journals, such as Texas Monthly, Rattle, The Sun, Pennsylvania English, Texas Review, Louisiana Literature, The Midwest Quarterly, Southwestern American Literature. Winner of the PEN Texas Literary Award, her debut poetry collection is How to Undress a Cop. Her books have placed as finalists in many contests, such as the Writers’ League of Texas Awards, Los Angeles Book Festival Awards, and the PEN Southwest Poetry Awards Latino Book Awards, Border Region Librarians Association Award, Press Women of Texas Editing Award. She has been both a Houston and Texas finalist for poet laureate; she is a law enforcement veteran of 28 years. Her memoir entitled Tired, Hungry, Standing in One Spot for Twelve Hours: Essential Cop Essays brings the reader into the patrol car as it reveals America’s most dangerous profession.

The Carlucci Betrayal takes readers deep into the Mississippi Delta during Prohibition to witness the founding of a criminal empire, and not since The Godfather has a Mafia family captivated readers the way the Carlucci brothers do in Robert Wilkins’ and Sarah Cortez’s rollicking novel of love, lust, and naked ambition.

Michael Bracken  – Anthony Award-nominated editor of The Eyes of Texas

 Genres in Which I Write: I write in more than one genre, and I love seeing how the interaction of skill and intention translates and doesn’t translate across genres.

I began as a literary fiction writer, then to poetry, then to memoir. At this point, I think I’ve been published in almost all popular and literary genres and subgenres. I love all kinds of writing and edit all genres.

Writing Process: In terms of my writing process, I don’t have much leeway to choose a particular set of locations or circumstances to write. As a full-time professional writer/editor, I write when and where I can. I always seem to have deadlines breathing down my neck, whether for writing or editing. I am also an editor for a large international Catholic online journal of the arts. Those deadlines keep me very busy. www.catholicartstoday

First Publication: My first book came out within less than three years of beginning to write poetry. I now have 14 books—all traditionally published. For quite a few years, I had one or two books published per year. I have been very fortunate to work with publishers who really believed in my book projects.

Characters: In the popular genre of crime fiction, there are usually two strong-willed characters: the criminal and the sleuth. They must be fairly evenly matched in order to have a drawn-out conflict that is sufficiently interesting for a reader to read the entire novel.

The process of creating a 3-D character, particularly a main character is involved and mysterious. Tomes have been written about it. Curiously enough, it is the one critically important step that most fiction writers, particularly beginning fiction writers, don’t spend enough time doing. All the hours of research, imagining, taking notes, thinking through personality and choices, and personal history of the character pay off. Yet, most fiction writers either skip this step or do it quickly—a fatal mistake to both plot and the possibility of writing a book that readers enjoy.

Writing Characters of the Opposite Sex: Due to police work and my corporate career before policing, most of my life has been spent working with men. I do not find it a particular challenge to write from a male’s POV. In fact, most of my literary and popular fiction is written in a male’s POV.

Do You Base Characters on Real People? As a freelance editor who has been privileged to work with many writers, I think that basing a fictional character on a real person is an absolute no-no. Fiction that does this results in erratic character motivation and is often boring. Characters must be free to act according to the psychological and emotional dimensions based on the imagined history and personality that the writer has given them. So, you can see from this line of thought that I never base my characters on real people and certainly never on myself.

How To Raise the Stakes for Characters? Especially in popular fiction, but also to a lesser degree in literary fiction, the author’s “job” is to apply stress on the main character. These stresses of circumstance create conflict, and conflict creates plot. The way the stress is applied to each character will be different since each character has a different personality and history.

Does a Protagonist Ever Disappoint You? As an author, I am not thinking about my reactions to characters in a book. I am always thinking, however, about what the scene needs to be of interest to a reader. Sometimes a protagonist needs to fail, whether that failure is of his choice or imposed on him. If the writer is writing a protagonist that changes throughout the book, the protagonist will make mistakes. Some characters, like James Bond, do not change over the course of a book. But even this type of character does experience failure of action and choices.

vintage Italian mafia gangster in 1930 in New York

What Kind of Research Do You Do? I research what I need to research. Sometimes that involves an entire era with its cultural artifacts of music, dance, clothes, attitudes, disasters, politics, etc. Sometimes research is very specifically related to a particular scene. For instance, in The Carlucci Betrayal, I had to find out how a young male below the age of military service would get to Europe in 1938 to volunteer to fight against Hitler. Since 1938 was before the U.S. declared war, I had to see which avenues were open to this young man. This only affected a couple of sentences in a phone conversation between two main characters, but it had to be historically accurate.

Also, for The Carlucci Betrayal, I had to research Mississippi law regarding homicide and manslaughter in the late 1920s for a courtroom scene and for the lawyer’s arguments to be accurately based on the law.

A Writer You Admire: I greatly admire Megan Abbott, a wonderful noir writer. She successfully combines what’s best about crime fiction with exquisitely styled prose. She is so successful because so few writers write with her precision and energy in such gorgeous prose. My favorite title of hers is Bury Me Deep.

Advice for New Writers: I’ll pass along some wise advice from a professional saxophone musician: don’t choose anything but your horn. In other words, writing demands a serious commitment to practice and learning. When the others meet their friends to go bowling or drink at the bars, you must be reading, learning, revising, drafting, studying, etc. If you’re going to be a good (highly skilled) writer, then writing isn’t a hobby. It is your job.

Anything Else You’d Like to Mention: Getting to work on The Carlucci Betrayal was tremendously hard work and also tremendous fun! I’ve always wanted to write Mafia-era fiction. This gave me an opportunity to research plus create three-dimensional characters that acted according to a different era’s pressures in a society that was both more constricted and more free-wheeling than today’s.

I also relished my research into Mafia fashion. Not only for the men but for the women. Holsters, spare magazines, stilettos, razors, cigarette lighters, etc. Types and calibers of guns. Several PWSA members helped me out with these questions. For me, becoming conversant with places of concealment, fashions for men and women, mobsters on different coasts, and what they wore—fascinating! It was a delicious peek into the psychology and practicality of why the mobsters and their ladies wore what they wore.

Readers can contact me at: cortez.sarah@gmail.com or at carluccibetrayal@gmail.com

Our website,  carluccibetrayal.com – Search Results | Facebook, also has a “Contact Me” button.

Phone: 713-331-9342

I am available for virtual book readings and presentations on Mafia Fashion.

Follow us on Facebook at   The Carlucci Betrayal | Facebook

 

 

17 Comments

  1. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    Sarah, great post, your Advice to New Writers should be the Pre-amble to any book about writing. I am totally intrigued with The Carlucci’s Betrayal and will add it to my reading list.

    Reply
  2. Madeline Gornell

    Sorry I’m late to the party, Sarah, but what an interesting post. Very impressed by your accomplishments and inspired! Especially awed by your writing in so many genres. Continued success!

    Reply
  3. Ana Manwaring

    What concept–Mafia Fashion! Thanks so much for your interview. Thank you too, George!

    Reply
  4. sarah cortez

    Thank you, John Bluck, for your positive comment. I appreciate it!
    Sarah

    Reply
  5. sarah cortez

    Hello, Michael,
    It is good to remember how you gentlemen (and ladies) of the listserve helped me with research.

    We all need to stay strong . . . you are so right.
    Bless you,
    Sarah

    Reply
  6. sarah cortez

    Oh, Holli,
    I’ve thought of you during the years since Gabe and I attended you and your husband’s opening in NOLA. Email me sometime and let me know how and what you’re doing these days!!

    Reply
  7. sarah cortez

    Oh, Marilyn,
    It always makes me happy to see your name! I have an entire “Marilyn Meredith” section in my bookcases.

    I hope to make it to another conference soon.

    Reply
  8. sarah cortez

    Thank you, John, for your comment. You’ve always been so great to me.
    Sarah

    Reply
  9. Lynn Hesse

    I found another author’s work with law enforcement experience I want to read. Thanks, Lynn

    Reply
  10. John Schembra

    Great post Sarah. Interesting to
    Learn other author’s writing process, and how they plan/organize their characters and plots. Best of luck with your new book!

    Reply
  11. Darlene Record

    Congratulations on your new book. Just purchased it and look forward to reading it. Really enjoy your work.
    Thanks for your helpful advice on writing.
    Darlene Record

    Reply
  12. John G. Bluck

    I like your comments about building strong characters. I look forward to reading your books!

    Reply
  13. Marilyn Meredith

    Great post, Sarah, with so many valuable tips. I was so glad to see at the recent PSWA conference and catch up with you some. Hope you’ll come again soon.

    Reply
  14. Holli Castillo

    Sarah, loved learning about your writing process. I find it more difficult to write from the male perspective so I envy your ability to do it so easily. I also find the idea of mafia fashion fascinating. Your thorough research is evident in your work as it always rings authentic.

    Reply
  15. Michael A. Black

    Hi, Sarah. Great advice about writing and the dedication to learning one’s craft. I loved the saxophone allusion. Your new one sounds interesting. I’ll have to check it out. I remember when you were researching the holsters and such. Good luck and stay strong.

    Reply

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ROSE OWENS – Author and Professional Storyteller

Rose Owens writes middle-grade fiction, short story, essay, and memoir.

As a professional storyteller, she often tells stories that she has written. The name of her blog site is Rose the Storylady: Making a Difference through Storytelling and Writing http://www.rose-the-storylady.com. That title explains her motivation for blogging. She is a past vice-president for the Tri-Valley Branch of California Writers. She currently serves as the Newsletter Editor. She edits the Toolbox column in that newsletter, which provides other members a place to ask questions and share information. Rose has become somewhat of an amateur Zoom expert. She hosts storytelling, family chats, a cooking club and art club for her family, and online meetings. Zoom links for her two storytelling programs (Storytelling for All Ages and an Interactive Storytelling Program for preschool and lower elementary students) are posted on her website. Http://www.rosethestorylady.net

Rose is the author of the Maryalise Trilogy (middle-grade fantasy novels) that are available on Amazon. She has also authored a picture book: Who Was There: A Nativity Story for Children. She has been published in the Las Positas and Tri-Valley Writers’ Anthologies. Rose’s essay, “We Live in a Mobile Home,” contains family stories about the process of recovering from a fire that destroyed the interior of her home. It was published in the BYU Alumni Magazine. A BYU Family Recovers from a House Fire with Humor and Help 

The Poemsmiths of the Mojave High Desert branch of California Writers have selected two of Rose’s poems, “How Far to Bethlehem” and “They Pity Me in the Village,” for inclusion in the anthology, From Silence to Speech: Women of the Bible Speak Out. Rose recently attended the online Surrey International Writing Conference, where she participated in an Author Showcase and had the opportunity to talk about her books.

Rose lives in Livermore, California. She arrived fifty-five years ago and has settled in nicely. She is the mother of seven children and the grandmother of twenty-five. She finds inspiration for her writing as she crafts, cooks, gardens, walks, and participates in other activities.

Tell us about your recent release and other books. Maryalise and the Snatched Fairy (published 2020) is the third book of my Maryalise trilogy. Maryalise is a fairy child hidden in the mortal world with no memory of her previous life. In Maryalise and the Singing Flowers (2019), she discovers her identity, learns to use magic, and ultimately goes down into an underground cavern without magic to rescue her father, who the evil fairy, Villiana, has imprisoned. In Maryalise and the Stolen Years (2019), she must discover how Villiana has stolen years of magic from the people who are buried in an old forgotten cemetery. William (another fairy) and Cuthelburt (a ghost) help her in this quest. In Maryalise and the Snatched Fairy (2020), she goes into the Fairytale Dimension to rescue William, who has been stolen by Villiana. She interacts with the Cheshire Cat, Snow White’s stepmother, the Hansel and Gretel Witch, the Chicken House, and Baba Yaga. Blackie (who is actually a dragon in disguise) helps her. All three books have been self-published on Amazon. She has also published a picture book: Who Was There: A Nativity Story for Children, available on Amazon.

What brought you to writing? I have always enjoyed writing. As an elementary school student, I wrote poetry and an impossible fairytale story. When I was in junior high school, I wrote very mushy, sentimental love stories. Fortunately, none of these early writings have survived. I wrote poetry and essays during my child-rearing years. In 2007 I registered for a creative writing class. Since that time, I have written essays, poetry, stories, and novels. The idea for my Maryalise trilogy happened because my teacher gave her students a prompt to write on in class. Maryalise emerged from my imagination, and her adventures have been chronicled in three books.

Tell us about your writing process I have learned that when I get an idea, I should write it down—even if I don’t have time to develop it fully. Otherwise, that idea disappears into the void. The Idea for Maryalise and the Snatched Fairy came in a dream. The sensation of being snatched and carried away into the void woke me in the middle of the night. I wrote the details down and went back to sleep. When I looked at my notes in the morning, I realized that I had the idea for my third Maryalise book. When I am working on a book, I start my writing time by reviewing the previous chapter and making minor edits. Then, I am ready to begin the next chapter. After I finish writing, I think about what needs to come next. I process that information during the day and before I go to sleep at night. When I am writing shorter pieces, I usually wait several days before I edit them.

What are you currently working on? I am writing a non-fiction piece about the Bank of Vernal. The 80,000 bricks for this bank were mailed from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Vernal, Utah via the US Postal System. I am using the same research to write The Outlaw Trail, a middle-grade historical fiction novel about the son of William Coltharp (the man who built the Bank of Vernal). Butch Cassidy and Josie Bassett are two of the historical characters who appear in this novel.

There have been a lot of versions of The Three Little Pigs published. But one day, I thought, What About Mama? I am working on telling her story.

How long did it take you to write your first book? It was about three years from the time I created the character of Maryalise until I finished the book. However, it took about ten years to write the Maryalise trilogy. I waited until I had finished all three books before I published them. This turned out to be a good decision because I was able to make minor changes in the first books based on what happened in the third book in the trilogy.

Do you have any advice for new writers?

  • Keep a notebook or computer file of ideas.
  • Write regularly.
  • Edit and edit again.
  • Save the pieces that don’t fit into your current project. They may be useful later.
  • Find a compatible critique group, listen to the other members. But don’t change your work just because someone else has a different idea.
  • Organize your computer files. (I’m still working on this)
  • Save backups of your work in 2-3 different places. Save a hard copy. Email a copy to yourself.
  • Don’t be afraid to try a new genre.
  • Search with your planned title on Amazon or Google it. You want to know what other books have similar titles.

Where do you write? Distractions? I usually write on my computer. Sometimes I am sequestered in my storytelling room, and sometimes I write in the family room. I’m able to tune out the distraction of the television noise and just write. Having a regular schedule for writing keeps me from procrastinating my writing to a time later in the day that never seems to arrive.

How do your readers contact you?

My readers can contact me through my blog http://www.rose-the-storylady.com.

Book links on Amazon:

Maryalise and the Singing Flowers Maryalise and the Singing Flowers (Maryalise Trilogy Book 1) – Kindle edition by Owens, Rose. Children Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Maryalise and the Stolen Years Maryalise and the Stolen Years (Maryalise Trilogy Book 2) – Kindle edition by Owens, Rose. Children Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Maryalise and the Snatched Fairy Maryalise and the Snatched Fairy (Maryalise Trilogy Book 3) – Kindle edition by Owens, Rose. Children Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Who Was There: A Nativity Story for Children Who Was There?: A Nativity Story for Children – Kindle edition by Owens, Rose. Religion & Spirituality Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

8 Comments

  1. Peggy Schimmelman

    I’ve long admired Rose’s writing and storytelling, as well as her work ethic. The above tips for writers are worth noting. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  2. Larry Pope

    If anyone is considering becoming an author of any type of book, this information would be helpful as a guide. One must be genuine in their interactions with others, particularly with children, and Rose does this very well. Her voice changes can be very subtle, but catching.

    I have followed Rose’s storytelling for many years and sincerely believe that she gets better as time goes on.

    I wish her the very best.

    Reply
  3. Ruby Regnier

    It’s been very rewarding following Rose’s development as a professional storyteller and writer.

    I’ve known Rose all my life and she has shown amazing dedication in all her research in the quest to be authentic.

    Not mentioned in the interview is her ability to do healing storytelling to help students process their thoughts after a traumatic public occurrence.

    Onward ho, Rose!

    Reply
  4. David

    This is Rose’s son, I have heard my mom tell many stories on zoom. Some she has adapted and some she tells with permission. She has told me a good story needs a teller and a listener for the experience to be complete. I remember in schools she would sometimes get permission to come into my classes and tell stories. She had a skirt with bunches of pockets and in each pocket would be something which would mean something to a story. She would let us kids pick a pocket and she would tell the story. It was fun. I did not choose much, but my class mates did (And I still got to listen 🙂 ) My class mates had a good time listening to the stories that were told. I think this is enough for now.

    Reply
  5. Sharlett Durfee

    We love all of Rose,s stories
    And her talent of telling stories to the public

    Reply
  6. Julie Orvis

    Great article about Rose. My grandkids love her storytelling, but are still too young to read her books. I know they’ll love them when they are old enough to read them. I’m glad you included her advice for writers (good advice for all writers, not just new ones). Thanks for the article.

    Reply
  7. Sandra Tayler

    So fun to see you featured!

    Reply
  8. Michael A. Black

    Wow, Ms. Owens, your story and your work ethic are enviable. I particularly liked the advice you listed for new writers. Those comments were excellent. Best of luck to you on your new book.

    Reply

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