Mar 6, 2023 | Uncategorized, Young Adult |
MARISA FIFE holds a BS in Pre-Veterinary & Animal Science from the University of Massachusetts and a BSN in Nursing from Johns Hopkins University. Her work experiences have led her from monitoring songbirds for biological surveys to rehabilitating wildlife to caring for Oncology patients on bone marrow transplant floors.
Her first fiction short story, The Woman in Brown, was published in 2022.
The Woman in Brown is a historical suspense short story set in America in the 1930s about two damaged people on the run trying to escape the clutches of a cold-blooded killer.
Do you write in more than one genre? I like exploring many genres, my favorites being mystery, suspense, fantasy, romance, and westerns. I also love a good horror-comedy. I also enjoy writing for different audiences, such as adults and children. Everything’s fun to explore, really.
What are you currently working on? A quirky contemporary fantasy/mystery novel and a historical mystery novella. Then revisions, revisions, revisions on my 2022 writing projects.
Who’s your favorite author? Laurie R. King, author of the Mary Russell series, the first of which is The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. I’ve been hooked on this series since I was a teen and can’t recommend it enough.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I do a little of both as needed. When I first start writing a story, the planning stage involves a lot of brainstorming and organic free writing. I add in structure with an outline, but I’m not afraid to switch up that outline as needed, depending on how the story is proceeding. This allows me freedom while also keeping my feet on the ground.
What kind of research do you do? If I’m writing about a real-world place, I try to go there and take in how it is and what perceptions I have while I’m in it. Then most of my research moves online. I review newspapers and magazines and try to keep to verified historical sources when seeking facts about a particular time or place. If it’s a story set in contemporary times, I’ll watch news clips from the last few years to see what’s going on in that area or read first-hand accounts from people who live in that location if they are available.
If it’s not a real-world place, I base my fantasy settings on a mashup of actual places in the world or someplace made up that pops into my mind based on my experiences. Movies are also a fun place to find possible fantasy settings, characters, and storylines. Lastly, I read a few current books in whatever genre that I’m writing in to get a feel for what’s trending out there and why it trends.
What is the best book you have ever read? Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I think it holds a warning to humankind that is still relevant today in our age of ground-breaking scientific and technological innovation.
Groups I belong to:
Mystery Writers of America
Sisters in Crime
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
How do our readers contact you?
Readers may contact me at www.marisafife.com.
My short story, The Woman in Brown, is available on Amazon as an ebook, audiobook, and paperback here.
Feb 27, 2023 | Uncategorized |
If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It
G.P. Gottlieb is the author of Charred: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery (D.X. Varos Publishing 2023), the third in her culinary mystery series. She is host for New Books in Literature, a podcast channel on the New Books Network, and has interviewed over 170 authors. You can read more about her at her site: https://www.gpgottlieb.com/, on Facebook: authorgottlieb, and Instagram: WhippedSipped.
In the first draft of Charred: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery (DX Varos 2023), I just wrote whatever popped into my head. I created superfluous back stories for nearly every character, including a few of protagonist Alene Baron’s many employees in the café. I included details that nobody cares about, mentioned the protagonist’s run-in with a mean girl in middle school even though she’s a grown woman with children of her own, and went on for pages about her sister.
I let my imagination go wild. I also covered memories of Alene’s mother who died of breast cancer, her post-graduation trip to Greece, and her thoughts about several previous boyfriends. There were pages and pages about her ex-husband. None of it was important to the story, which takes place during the summer of 2020. You might remember that was when a highly contagious and poorly understood virus was galloping across the globe, killing millions, and forcing many of us to hide in our homes.
The pandemic is one of several struggles my protagonist faces. It doesn’t play a leading role, but rumbles in the background like a volcano about to erupt. I remember those months of worrying about homeless people and those forced to beg on streets that were empty of cars or pedestrians. We could walk for miles (in sweet home, Chicago), and see very few other people braving the possibility of crossing paths with the virus.
The characters in my book were frightened, like all of us. I wanted to tell those stories – it didn’t matter if they were going to be cut later because they helped me get into the characters’ heads. The pandemic was like a simmering evil presence, sitting in the corner holding a weapon – everyone was afraid, but we all went about our business because there is a limit to how much time any of us can spend staring at the walls before we go mad.
In ongoing chapters, my protagonist struggles with a decision about admitting something important. In my first draft, she flashes back to missing her cousin’s funeral while she was traveling in Greece with her best friend. She remembers the sun, the history, and that her guilt boiled down to disappointing her parents. When she finally faces her current dilemma, the reader understands that she’s conscious of all the wrong decisions she’s made, even though I cut those early travel scenes.
After I’ve filled extraneous pages with a myriad of unnecessary details, and the first draft is achingly long, I start the process that will turn it into a readable novel. My goal is to focus on telling a story in which each chapter moves the action, and the combination of all the chapters form a forward thrusting arc. I make sure that the pandemic is tucked behind a wall – still there, but not pounding on the glass to be let in.
Each time I’ve completed another draft, I’d show it to my editor/teacher, who has a gift for striking out what can go unsaid, and highlighting what needs more attention. This is the third book she’s helped me pull together with ideas for re-ordering chapters, adding missing information, strengthening the climax, and polishing the ending.
Sometimes I wonder if I could save time and effort by avoiding my propensity for long, blabby explanations and my need to tell you everything I know about any given person or situation. That happens both in writing and real life. But my method has worked for three books now, and as we often say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it*.”
*The phrase has been attributed to a government official during the administration of President Jimmy Carter, but there are enough earlier quotes to keep it solidly in the, “It is said” realm of aphorisms.
Feb 9, 2023 | Poetry, Uncategorized |
Welcome – What book would you like to tell our readers about?
Don’t Leave Yet, How My Mother’s Alzheimer’s Opened My Heart (She Writes Press, 2015) recounts my journey toward understanding our complicated mother-daughter relationship as she struggles through the early stage of dementia-type Alzheimer’s, and my ultimate discovery of compassion and love that goes beyond familial duty.
Do you write in more than one genre? I enjoy the challenge of poetry, creating, and recreating experiences to connect with readers. Finding a precise image or metaphor and using concise and descriptive language engages my mind in sometimes unexpected ways. The discovery can be exhilarating.
What brought you to writing? I was an English major at the University of Wisconsin -Milwaukee. I admired twentieth-century novelists and poets and wondered if I had it in me to create my own work. It wasn’t until after my father died that I began to explore poetry as a way to express grief. A decade later, when my mother was diagnosed with dementia-type Alzheimer’s, my teacher, the terrific poet Ellen Bass, suggested I might explore my experiences further if I went beyond the parameters of poetry. It was then that I turned to prose. It allowed an expansiveness I needed to convey all that I wanted to say. I started by writing vignettes, followed by full scenes with characters, dialogue, and description. Soon I had pages of material with a sense of connectedness.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I write in my home office, where morning light provides a calm atmosphere and from where I can observe a yellow rose tree and a bevy of finches on the thistle feeder. I don’t tolerate distractions. But I don’t mind my Shih Tsu, Cody, who snores ever so slightly on his bed directly behind me.
Tell us about your writing process: I usually begin writing with a black ballpoint and a Mead notebook. I wrote most of my memoir in notebooks. When I had enough material, I transcribed it into a document on my laptop. I labeled each draft so as not to lose anything interesting or significant. Now I use the same process when writing poetry.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Revision is the most challenging. Yet, it’s the part of writing that I enjoy most. I revisit each image and metaphor. When a metaphor doesn’t do its job, I make a list of ten others and then choose the one I think works the best. I also read a poem out loud to gauge the effectiveness of line endings and stanzas. I admit I’m a perfectionist.
What are you currently working on? I’ve recently discovered some old poems that go back several years. I’m trying to revise them but often find myself starting over. I hope to also return to blogging in the near future.
Has an association membership helped you or your writing? The poetry critique group of California Writers Club Tri-Valley Branch, which I lead two times a month, has offered much-needed support as I labor with some of my poems. The members are careful listeners, and they offer critique with enthusiasm. I’ve found the structure and discipline necessary to keep on writing.
Who’s your favorite author? It’s hard to choose just one. I always look forward to reading Jack Kerouac, John Irving, and Jennifer Lauck. My favorite author of all time is John Steinbeck.
What is the best book you ever read? The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I’ve read it at least three times. I admire its structure, honesty, and intense feeling.
How long did it take you to write your first book? It took five years to write Don’t Leave Yet. I belonged to a writing class in 2004 with Ellen Bass, reading pages each week from my notebook for critique. My mother passed away in 2008, and I was uncertain as to whether or not I could continue to write our story. Ellen, and my fellow writers, were instrumental in my effort to bring the manuscript to its completion a year later.
How long to get it published? Don’t Leave Yet was a finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference writing competition in the memoir category in 2011. One agent from San Francisco who attended the Conference found the book interesting, but that was it. I pursued other agents with no luck. Then I heard about Brooke Warner, the publisher of She Writes Press. I worked with an editor she recommended. She Writes published my memoir in 2015.
What authors did you dislike at first but grew to enjoy? When I read Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, I thought I might cross her off my list. But when I discovered Truth and Beauty, I was hooked.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I began writing Don’t Leave Yet without an outline. By the time I completed the third chapter, I had decided an outline was necessary since I wove together scenes of the present with those of the past. It was a way of keeping characters and events clear in my mind.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I plan to continue placing my poems in literary journals if I’m lucky. I will also enter my chapbook, Treading Water, in more literary competitions with the goal of publication. It was recently named a finalist in Blue Lights Press writing contest.
Do you have any advice for new writers? First and foremost, be true to yourself. Write what’s meaningful and what you love. Observe the world. Read widely. And don’t ever let others tell you that you can’t write.
How do our readers contact you?
Jan 23, 2023 | Uncategorized |
Late last year Denise and I were chatting at a California Writers Club – Mt. Diablo Branch meeting about the challenges we writers face. She gave me some advice that worked for me. Recently I was able to convince her to write an article for the blog.
Before we jump in to that, here is a little about Denise..
Denise P. Kalm, BCC, was trained as a personal/executive coach at John F. Kennedy University and as a creativity coach by Eric Maisel. She has been practicing as a coach for over 10 years; her client base includes many IT professionals, engineers and scientists. Her 30+ years of experience in IT, as well as her experience with numerous life transitions informs her work. She earned her MS in Biochemical Genetics at the University of Michigan, and though she hasn’t worked in the field, keeps up on the latest research.
Where I Started – Just like many of you, I loved the idea of writing and seeing my name in print. I wanted to see what people thought of my work and to keep creating it for the rest of my life. But then, there’s that blank page staring at me. Whether you still enjoy writing on paper (I do, when not near a device) or prefer to write on a device, the emptiness of an unfilled page is intimidating.
I tried a variety of tricks. If I didn’t finish a story or a chapter, I could come back to a non-blank page. I tried writing prompts, no success. Even when I had a clear idea in my head of what I wanted to say, once I sat down, my brain said, “not today.” I’m a big Natalie Goldberg fan, but couldn’t seem to get the words to flow on demand.
The only exception came when I did some writing for newspapers. The challenge is that news has a short shelf life. If you want to respond to an issue, you need to get it done quickly. It also has to be short. All writers know the truth of Blaise Pascal’s famous words, “I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.” Writing tight is tough and often takes more edits. And yet, when I worked on these kinds of pieces, writer’s block simply didn’t happen.
The Great Insight – I confess I didn’t analyze or understand why the newspaper work just flowed. As my career shifted from being a super-techie, I found a niche doing a variety of writing for software companies. White papers, articles, public relations, customer success stories, product briefs, etc., became a staple of my workday. At work, there’s always a deadline, so I didn’t have the luxury of sitting around for days, simply thinking about it. I had to write.
Some of the pieces were easier, because they were based on templates. You just followed the “script, putting in the specifics of a product. But most of the work was highly creative. Part of the competitiveness of a software company is in the attractive reading on the website or in print to hand out at conferences. If people don’t read about what you sell, you aren’t going to sell as much of your software.
At first, I struggled a little. But whenever I got stuck, I would take a short walk, just to clear my head. I never focused on what I was working on and just let my mind drift. But inevitably, I would come back with a clear idea of how to construct the piece. Often, I would come up with a great title at the same time.
In a shorter time than you might expect, I could get to work and just start writing. Even when I was crafting a long article or a talk, I had begun to craft ways of approaching it. Who’s the audience? What’s the message I need to convey? Have I narrowed it down to fit in the allowed word count?
As I got better (and faster) at this kind of writing, more assignments came my way. The fun part is I could swap writing for something I didn’t want to do.
When asked to take on blog writing for the company, I felt the same way I did when I wrote a short story that turned out well. Exhilarated, happy, in flow. And the numbers of readers slowly increased, giving me immediate feedback and reward.
Writing ALL the time makes a difference. You need a deadline. You need to craft rules for each type of piece. Just like with cooking, it matters if you’ve done your mise en place – your preparation. Even if you aren’t writing for an employer, you can define those rules and ask the right questions upfront. This serves to get you grounded. If you struggle with your “assignment,” go for a short walk. It has to be outside, in nature. I’ve found a treadmill doesn’t spawn the same creativity.
I hated hearing that the best writers write every day. It seemed too tough an obligation. But they’re right. Just as Malcolm Gladwell noted, it can take 10,000 hours to achieve excellence (and we can all get better). If you only write a few hours a week, you may find it hard to keep improving.
Challenge yourself to write something every day, even if it’s just some of the planning and strategy for your writing. Letters, fleshed out ideas, stories—it all counts if you put in your best effort. I NEVER have writers block anymore! You can do it too.
She is a published author
Lifestorm, – A novel
Career Savvy – Keeping & Transforming Your Job,
Tech Grief – Survive and Thrive Through Career Losses (with Linda Donovan)
First Job Savvy – Find a Job, Start Your Career
Retirement Savvy – Designing Your Next Great Adventure
All are available on major sites as paperbacks and e-books.
Web site: www.denisekalm.com
Blog site: Right on the Left Coast | Denise Kalm | Substack
Jan 5, 2023 | Uncategorized |
Not long ago, Vicki published the tips below in the Public Safety Writers Association’s newsletter. She previously posted the tips on her blog (https://vweisfeld.com). The purpose is to help all of us in “reader relations.” I can’t think of a better way to start the new than by sharing her words.
Readers may be quite willing to help an author but may not know how or may need to be reminded (possibly more than once). You can use these tips in your own promotion—take copies to readings, put them in your own blog or newsletter, etc., etc.—or, if you’re a reader who wants to give a boost to your favorites.
I developed this list around the time my mystery/thriller, Architect of Courage (reviews are great, btw) was published. But I saw it could be a generic product others could use—just a small Thank You for all the support the writing community has given me.
I hope you find it useful—reprint it freely! And customize it with a picture of you or your book (instead of the blue box), and links to your content in #s 8, 9, and 10.
Friends and family members can be incredibly patient when they ask an author solicitous and innocent-sounding questions—like “How’s the book coming?”—and are met with blank looks, or, worse, groans and sighs.
Most authors today—OK, James Patterson’s an exception, and so’s JK Rowling—find that reaching “The End” is just the beginning of their work. Now they have to let the world know about it.
If you have a sense of how much time and effort authors invest in their books, maybe you’ve wondered “What can I do? How can I help?” Yes, indeed, there are things you can do that will help! And, whatever you find time to do, you can be sure it will be greatly appreciated!
Ten ways you can help promote an author or book you admire:
1. Buy your friends’ books. They may have written it with readers like you in mind.
2. Don’t be too quick to pass around a book; instead, encourage others to buy it. Amazon (or book stores), and the author’s publisher keep most of the price of the book. If a book sells for $16, the author receives $2 to $4.
3. Remember, books make great gifts! Maybe a friend or family member needs a thank-you or has a special day coming up.
4. Word of mouth is the most powerful form of book marketing. So, tell people about a book you’ve loved. Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. Marketers say it takes 13 to 15 repetitions before a message “sticks.”
5. What you say about the book in an Amazon or Barnes & Noble review will influence other would-be purchasers. No need for cringy flashbacks to high school book reports. Just say the two or three things you’d tell a good friend who asked, “Read any good books lately?” Reviews are vital to a book’s success.
6. Share a few words about what you’re reading on social media—GoodReads, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.
7. If you enjoyed a book, your book club might too! Many authors are willing to participate in book club discussions in person or by Zoom, etc. People who’ve read my book have invited me to their book clubs, and it’s a fun change-of-pace for me.
8. You can “follow” your favorite authors on Amazon. Search for one of their books, click on the author’s name, and if they have an author page, it will come up with a big “follow” button.
9. If your author has a newsletter, sign up! Author newsletters often include interviews, reviews, and favorites.
10. An author’s blog and website are other ways to keep track of new releases and to learn more about the authors you like to read. Remember, they create them for you.
Many thanks, and happy reading!
Vicki blogs at www.vweisfeld.com
Nov 10, 2022 | Historical, Memoir, Uncategorized |
Dr. Eve Sprunt is a prolific writer and consultant on diversity and inclusion, as well as the transition from hydrocarbons to cleaner forms of energy. She is passionate about mentoring younger professionals, especially women struggling to combine parenting and professionalism and those facing cross-cultural challenges.
Her over 120 editorial columns addressed workforce issues, industry trends, and cross-cultural challenges. In addition to authoring 23 patents and 28 technical publications, she is the author of four books: A Guide for Dual-Career Couples (Praeger), Dearest Audrey, An Unlikely Love Story, A Guide to Career Resilience (Springer Nature) as co-author with Maria Angela Capello with whom she authored Mentoring and Sponsoring: Keys to Success (Springer Nature).
During her 35 years in the energy industry, Eve acquired extensive experience working for major oil companies on projects around the world. She was the 2006 President of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE), the 2018 President of the American Geosciences Institute, and the founder of the Society of Core Analysts. She has received high honors from SPE, the Society of Women Engineers, and the Geological Society of America. Her bachelor’s and master’s degrees are from MIT, and she was the first woman to receive a Ph.D. (1977) from Stanford in Geophysics. She speaks and consults on women’s and energy issues and is an active member of the California Writers Club Tri-Valley Writers Branch.
A Guide to Career Resilience (with Maria Angela Capello), 2022
Mentoring and Sponsoring, Keys to Success (with Maria Angela Capello), 2020
Dearest Audrey, An Unlikely Love Story, 2019
A Guide for Dual-Career Couples, Rewriting the Rules, 2016
Do you write in more than one genre? Yes, self-help and memoir/biography
What brought you to writing? It runs in the family. My mother (Ruth Chew) wrote and illustrated 29 children’s fantasy chapter books. Mother’s first and best-selling book, The Wednesday Witch, sold over a million copies. My maternal grandfather was also a writer.
As a female scientist, when technical women were rare, documenting my work in writing (both within the company and in industry publications) improved my odds of getting credit for my work and enabled me to build my reputation.
I volunteered to serve as Senior Technical Editor of the Society of Petroleum Engineers for three years because the role included writing a monthly editorial column. I authored “edgy” articles on workforce issues. After my term ended, I continued writing bimonthly editorial columns for another seven years. I began writing books when I retired and was no longer subject to corporate censorship.
What are you currently working on? I am polishing a memoir/biography of my mother, Ruth Chew, who became a successful children’s book author/illustrator after I left home. Passionate Persistence is based on Mother’s 67 years of daily diaries and my memories. The Tri-Valley Writers critique groups and Lani Longshore (as a beta reader) have been tremendously helpful.
When the leader of my hiking group learned that I was receiving the 2022 Curtis-Hedberg Petroleum Career Achievement Award for outstanding contributions in the field of petroleum geology, she urged me to write a memoir about my career. I was astounded to be selected for that Geological Society of America’s award because my degrees are in geophysics, and I usually impersonated a petroleum engineer. However, my most significant technical contributions involved convincing the engineers that they had overlooked critical aspects of the geology.
How long did it take you to write your first book? The first book I wrote was the one I self-publishing in 2019, Dearest Audrey, An Unlikely Love Story. I found an agent for that manuscript, but in hindsight, I suspect she took me as a client because she was a fan of my mother’s children’s chapter books, which were out of print. Shortly after I signed agreements with the agent to represent both my work and my mother’s, an editor at Random House approached me about the republication of my mother’s books. The agent received a sizable commission on the agreement with Random House but never found a publisher for Dearest Audrey, despite representing it for several years.
That agent didn’t like my manuscript for A Guide for Dual-Career Couples but recommended that I go through the submission process for Praeger, which asked for an outline and sample chapters. Praeger accepted my proposal, and the agent spent months working on the contract, leaving me only about six weeks to get the manuscript completely revised if I wanted to have A Guide for Dual-Career Couples included in Praeger’s spring 2016 catalog. I realized that since I was working for myself, I could work 7-day weeks and long hours, and I met the deadline.
Eventually, I concluded the agent would never find a publisher for Dearest Audrey, so we agreed to dissolve our agreement. I hired a developmental editor through Reedsy, who guided me through the self-publication process. Dearest Audrey was published in 2019.
Self-help books like A Guide for Dual-Career Couples and my two books published by Springer, Mentoring, and Sponsoring, Keys to Success (2020) and A Guide to Career Resilience (2022), are accepted based on an outline and sample chapters. The writing and publication process can be very swift.
Passionate Persistence, The Life of Ruth Chew, which I hope will become my fifth book, may be a tough sell. I asked the developmental editor I used for Dearest Audrey to edit it and advise me on whether I should seek an agent or pursue self-publishing. After I left home, my mother was so focused on her successful career as an author my younger siblings ran wild. She wrote children’s chapter books, but her life was not a story for children.
About twice a week, I go hiking with a group of ladies. When the leader learned I was selected for the Geological Society of America’s lifetime achievement award, she said, “Who’s going to write your story? You need to do it.”
In A Guide to Career Resilience, my co-author and I share examples in which we successfully challenged the system. Both of us consider ourselves to be shy, but I don’t know anyone else who would. Our author at Springer objected to the concept that “forgiveness is easier than permission.” We included the concept and the examples but refrained from using the forbidden phrase. In our careers, my co-author and I leveraged that concept to surmount barriers.
My mother (the title character in Passionate Persistence) was an ambitious woman. She thought her older sister, Audrey (the heroine of Dearest Audrey), was afraid of her own shadow. Ironically, before writing Dearest Audrey, I accepted my mother’s assessment of Audrey despite ample evidence to the contrary – Audrey went on sabbatical to Pakistan in the mid-1950s, not knowing exactly where or what she would teach, and was traveling alone near the Khyber Pass when she met her true love.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? All the time. I always disguise their identity if I use them as a bad example.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I plan to write about my life experiences but will weave them into a self-help book because those are easier to market than memoirs.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Join a writing group.
How do our readers contact you? Please contact me at www.evesprunt.com or email me at email@example.com
Marisa, it came as no surprise to me that you ‘explore’ so many genres in your writing after reading your bio. You have ‘explored’ so many professional careers in your professional life! This post was great fun to read. Are you thinking of expanding the WOMAN IN BROWN to novel length?
Thank you for your kind words! And yes, I was thinking of doing a story with the same characters following THE WOMAN IN BROWN, or it could be a full novel. I will think about that! 🙂
It sounds like you have a lot of really cool ideas about subjects to write about. Bless you for caring for the ill and for the injured animals. I’ll have to check out the Woman in Brown. Good luck.
Thank you so much! I’ve been very fortunate to be able to work in these fields. I hope you enjoy the story 🙂
What a fascinating career Marisa Fife has had! And her book “The Woman In Brown” sounds equally fascinating. I will add it to my TBR list.
It has been fascinating! Thank you very much, and I hope you enjoy the story. 🙂