Saturday, October 25, 2008

Featured Author Interview: Gayle Trent

I know, I know, it's Saturday - and I usually feature author interviews on Writers' Wednesdays. BUT today is a special's a stop for debut author Gayle Trent, who's doing a virtual book tour and was kind enough to choose Allie's Musings to visit today!

Author Bio:

Gayle Trent is a full-time author. She is currently at work on a new cozy mystery series involving her hobby, cake decorating. The series features Daphne Martin, a 40-year-old divorcee who has begun the second phase of her life with a new home and a new business venture--Daphne's Delectable Cakes.

Gayle lives in Bristol, Virginia with her husband, daughter and son. She previously worked in the accounting and legal fields, and her last such job was as secretary to a Deputy Commissioner in the Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission. Though she enjoyed the work, it was a long daily commute and she felt she wasn't spending enough time with her family. Now she writes while her children are at school; and thanks to a crock pot and a bread machine, can often have dinner ready when everyone gets home.

"I think it's important to be here for my take part in school functions and to be an active part of their lives," Gayle says. "I can certainly sympathize with moms who work outside the home--been there, done that--but I would encourage everyone to make time to visit their children's schools, to have lunch with them [at school] occasionally, to get a feel for who their friends are...little things like that."

Welcome, Gayle, and congratulations on your brand new book. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Murder Takes the Cake tells the story of Daphne Martin, a forty-year-old divorcee who returns to her fictional hometown of Brea Ridge, Virginia to start her life over. She has left behind an ex-husband who is in prison for an attempt on Daphne's life, a dingy apartment and a stale career. She has started fresh in a new home with a new career, Daphne's Delectable Cakes, a cake-decorating company Daphne runs out of her home. She is thrilled to be living closer to her beloved niece and nephew, although being close to other family members brings up lifelong resentments and more than a couple complications. Daphne is also reunited with childhood friend, Ben Jacobs, a full-fledged HAG (hot, available guy). Then Daphne finds her first client dead.

Ooh, sounds intriguing! So how do you go about developing your characters?

I try to empathize with each one. Daphne, of course, was the easiest because she's the main character. Other characters, such as Myra, were a little more difficult. Myra provides comic relief, but I didn't want her to come across as a caricature or stereotype. She's lonely. Her husband is dead, and her children have moved away. She tries to be helpful. She loves to talk, and so her character provides a lot of information as the story progresses. Even though Daphne sometimes groans when Myra comes to the door, I want the reader to understand each character's perspective and to see the friendship developing as the women get to know each other better.

Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?

I do suffer from writer's block. Often I'll write a scene and not know where to go next to get the characters where they need to be to advance the story. When that happens, I'll put a "What Next?" header at the top of my page and write possible scenarios. I let my imagination run wild, and sometimes the scenarios can get pretty bizarre when I have no clue what should happen next in the story. But, as I'm writing my A, B and C scenarios, usually something will click and I'll realize that's it. Other times it helps to talk it out with someone. When I was writing my novel The Perfect Woman, I discussed possible killers with my husband. I'd talk over the reasons Person 1 should be the killer, then I'd explain why, on second thought, Person 2 would be the better choice. When the book was published and my husband read it, he said he was really surprised by who the killer turned out to be. "Why?" I asked. "I told you who it was." "Yeah," he said, "but you kept changing your mind!"

Describe your writing space for readers.

Wow, what a mess, right? But everything has a purpose...even if it's just to keep me entertained. I write mysteries, so it's good to have "Nancy Drew's Guide to Life" on hand. Plus I have some serious writing books to my left and on a shelf to my right. The greeting card is one I bought when my husband used to come home for lunch every day. It depicts an old woman in a long black dress and an old man in a suit and hat on a bicycle. The woman is asking, "Coming back at lunch, Tiger?" And he's replying, "You know it, Baby." Beside that, I've printed out one of my favorite Bible verses, 1 John 4:4.

Atop my desk, I have a number of toys. I have an M&M decision helper. You ask a question and then pull its arm down for the answer. I have finger cymbals; a snowglobe; Chinese relaxation balls; a figureine of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus; two globes - one small crystal one and a larger one I bought at Target for $1 so I can figure out where those obscure foreign countries they sometime talk about on the news are; a "pupper-weight" which is a Chocolate Lab puppy because in the series before this one the heroine had a Chocolate Lab named Matlock; a chick which chirps when placed on your hand; a Pooh cross-stitch pic advising "Put it all off till mornin'"; a YoYo and Hoops Christmas ornament my son and I added just last week; a kitty mail holder; and two Madame Alexander dolls I got in McDonald's Happy Meals because they reminded me of the costumes my MIL made my children when they were 2.

On my tiny corkboards, I have a button I got at BEA in 2006 which says "Don't Even Think About It"; a candlewick Christmas ornament I made for an article earlier this year; a keyring; an Origami heart my son made me; the orthodontist's card; and a Valentine featuring Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. you wish you hadn't asked. ;-)

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I like to read, do cross-stitch and other forms of needlework, bake and decorate cakes, play games and watch movies with my husband and children, travel and spend time with our pets.

When you write, do you use the computer or compose by hand, oral dictation, or some other method?

I write in longhand in a composition notebook. After I've finished writing for the day, I transcribe that into the computer. It gives me a chance to edit and revise as I go along.

Gayle, thanks so much for being here today. Readers, here's a peek at the trailer for Murder Takes the Cake...and if you want to know more, hop on over and visit Gayle's website! She also loves to hear from readers who can contact her via e-mail at If you share an interest in cake decorating, please visit Daphne's website, available via click-through from either of Gayle's sites or at

P.S. - A special thanks today to WOW - Women on Writing for including me as one of Gayle's blog book tour stops. Look for another featured WOW author next month!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Speaking of Editors and Surviving Rejection...

After yesterday's post, I thought it was worthwhile to share the link to this author interview, over on Fumbling with Fiction. Talk about surviving rejection and living to tell about it! Here's an excerpt from the interview:

"Thanks for joining us, Mandy.

Prada and Prejudice is your debut novel, so a big congrats on that. But can you give us a little statistical rundown on how long it took you to get to this point? How many books? How many rejections? How many days, months, or years?

The log-line on my blog says “A published writer is an amateur who didn’t quit,” and sometimes that’s all that got me through the rejections. The first novel my agent sent out on submissions, in October 2006, was THE JETSETTERS SOCIAL CLUB and we racked up about 12 rejections. They were so short and vague; it was obvious JETSETTERS wasn’t doing it. But a few editors asked if I had anything else, and PRADA AND PREJUDICE started to go out on subs in January 2007. Over that summer, I came so heart-breakingly-close to selling that it was devastating when it didn’t happen. That editor even said she loved it and apologized for not being able to buy it.

By the end of the year I had revised it a few times for various editors and racked up 16 rejections. 2008 started up right where 2007 left off—three rejections within the first weeks. However, the third came in the form of a revision request. Even though I was already in my seventh draft, I decided to do it, and I opened up a shiny new (blank!) word document and started over. I never even opened up the old version. I spent a month writing 100 pages plus a new synopsis, and my agent sent it back. And I was rejected in about three sentences. But thanks to the shiny-new version of the book, my agent felt it deserved another round of submissions. (We were up to 22 rejections at that point). So she sent it to six new editors, and two weeks later, we had two offers.

In total, I spent 20 months on submissions, racking up 40 rejections from almost every editor in New York for two different projects, and PRADA AND PREJUDICE went through nine drafts."

So...never take 1 (or even 10 or 20) rejections so seriously that you give up on yourself or your work. This is definitely one of those inspirational stories to tuck away and pull out to read every now and then!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Moving Ever Onward

"A rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success." ~Bo Bennett

Update on Summer's Song submission to Samhain:

The editor who requested it (after my previous editor of 2 years there left) got back to me in 3 days, which was awfully nice of her. However, she had some concerns about the story and wrote me an incredibly long and detailed email explaining her concerns and making suggestions for improvement. While she said she'd be happy to work with me in revising the story, and would give it another look, the revisions she wants are SO extensive that for now, I think I'm shelving it.

I'm hugely grateful for the time she took, of course, and I may actually revisit the story in a few months. It's interesting, though: some of the things she disliked I could agree with, while others I really had a harder time seeing. I sent her remarks to one of my crit partners who had read the whole story, and while she also agreed in parts, she questioned the editor's assertion that the ending needed to be more emotional. Most of the beta readers who saw it before made similar comments.

So it's interesting: do I rewrite and address this editor's specific concerns? It is, of course, one person's opinion, but she's the person who holds the golden contract, so... Do I rewrite but keep the elements that I (and several readers) think already work? Do I submit it to another publisher? Do I just chalk it up to experience and not rewrite it at all?

Right now it's too fresh to think about, and discouraging, of course. I mean, I know rejection goes hand in hand with writing, no matter how long you've done it, but it's still a little disheartening to know as an established writer you can be turned down at the drop of a hat.

Live and learn, I guess.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Devon Gray

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! Today I'm featuring one of my good virtual friends and fellow Wild Rose Press authors, Devon Gray. Devon and I first "met" after she reviewed Lost in Paradise, believe it or not. Since then she's published one novella of her own with another on the way -- both of which I've had the opportunity to create trailers for. Enjoy her story!

Hi Devon! I'm so glad you're able to join me here today. Can you tell my blog readers a little about your background?

I have done a lot of different things prior to becoming a full-time writer. First and foremost I am a wife and mother. I have been married for twelve years, and we have two children, a boy (9) and a girl (6). They keep my busy and happy! As far as careers, I have kind of been all over the place. I have a degree in Psychology, but started out in Public Health. As a result, I found myself doing restaurant health inspections (gross) and teaching birth control classes for incoming college freshman for Planned Parenthood (gross…funny, but gross). I have also been a waitress, bartender, accounting clerk for a restaurant chain, personal trainer/lifestyle and weight management consultant and a regional vice president with an international network marketing company which sells natural skin products. Of all these gigs, nothing made me as happy and fulfilled as pursuing my passion for writing.

When did you first begin writing? Was there an event or moment in your life that triggered your desire to write?

I began writing poetry as a teenager. I can thank typical teenage angst for the birth of my creativity. It wasn’t until my late twenties that I attempted a novel, and when I got hung up I put it aside. I decided to tackle writing for publication two years ago, and eighteen months into the adventure I got the contract for “Addicted”.

Tell us about your latest writing project or published title!

“Addicted”, which is available now from the Wild Rose Press-The Wilder Roses, is a story of a woman who relocates to a small beach town for the summer to find herself; what she discovers instead is the lengths to which she’ll end up going to have one man. It is definitely the darkest story I have written, but it was very satisfying to write.

How do you go about developing your characters?

An idea for a character will come to mind and I will start the “what if” game. What if this character suffered through a painful divorce? What would she do? In my current WIP, the answer was get as far away from her ex as possible. She relocates to rural Georgia from Phoenix. But why? What if she purchased a dilapidated farm house from an ad on the internet? What if she was just that desperate? I will continue this process until I have motivation and conflict for both characters, and any secondary characters in the story.

What advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

Don’t quit! When things get rough, and they will, persevere. The last writer standing gets the book contract. Immerse yourself in the craft. Attend workshops, online classes, get a critique partner. Never stop learning. As your writing improves, so will your chances of selling your story. Decide that you will be published, and that failure is not an option.

What do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?

The most difficult thing for me, hands down, is the process of changing my natural writing style. I am a pantser all the way, and this approach is riddled with challenges if the writing is being approached as a long-term career. Since established authors can sell a book by proposal alone, being able to write a detailed synopsis prior to writing the book is vital. To be efficient with my time, I need to know where I’m going with my writing. I am missing snippets of time during the day where I could be writing if I had an outline. Staring at the computer for twenty minutes trying to figure out what I’m going to do with the story is a huge time suck. Luckily for me, my critique partner is a die-hard plotter, and she is a tremendous help.

The most exciting part to me is the writing itself. It is such a big part of who I am, so when I am able to work, I am very content. The most rewarding part to me, so far, is receiving an email or a review from someone who was touched by what I wrote. I remember the summer prior to starting to write again I read fifty Nora Roberts books. I loved the “literary trance” she transported me to, and I decided then that I wanted to try to do the same thing for others. I wanted the fruits of my efforts to make someone else happy. It’s very fulfilling.

How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

In the past, not well. LOL. I attended a workshop by Stephanie Bond at a recent conference and what she said really got through to me. It is because of her that I understand the importance of becoming more organized with my career, and that I understand how my diversion in my life affects my family. She pointed out that to most of us, our family was around before our writing career. This inspired me to become more organized with my time.

Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?

Yes! I find it best to just walk away from the project for a bit. An hour, a day, however long it takes. Of course, as a pantser this is a common occurrence. I am hoping with what I learn about plotting this phenomenon will occur less frequently. Oh, and there is a wine called “Writer’s Block”. I like to pretend it helps.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I love to take long walks. Our neighborhood is awesome, so I grab my iPod and head out for an hour or so. I am also a magazine junkie. Happiness to me is sitting on the sofa with a pile of magazines and TLC’s “What Not to Wear” on the television. My hubby doesn’t understand why I am so enthralled with the show. Me either, actually. I just love it!

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book(s)?

That I was able to finish them and they made sense! See why I’m desperate to plot? LOL

When you write, do you use the computer or compose by hand, oral dictation, or some other method?

I write on my laptop and obsessively back up the files to at least three places. I have a Mac, so my books are stored remotely somewhere in California as well. I am not a techno geek, so this concept completely baffles me, but knowing if disaster strikes I can retrieve my work from Cupertino helps me sleep at night. I also just purchased an AlphaSmart Neo, and I can’t wait to use it! It is basically a word processor that has no internet capabilities. You can take it anywhere, and it automatically saves everything you type into it. When you are done for the day, you simply transfer it to the word document on your computer.

Anything else you’d like to mention?

I think I’ve rambled enough! More about me and my books can be found at my website Thanks for having me!

And thanks for being here, Devon! Readers, this author has a new book coming out in November, and here's a taste for you:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What's Your Birth Order?

"Kids: they dance before they learn there is anything that isn't music." ~William Stafford

Stole this meme from Marianne, who featured it yesterday:

First Born Children

The first born child is usually the child with the most attention directed at him/her. This common event is part of the reason this particular child turns out the way he/she does. There are two typical types of first born children, compliant and aggressive. The first born in your family can be either one of these two types, and have these typical traits:

Compliant Traits

People Pleasers
Crave Approval
Team Players
"Grin and bear it" mentality

Aggressive Traits
Movers and shakers
Natural leaders
Always have things under control
Want things their way

These two types of first born children may seem very different, but they do share quite a few characteristics:

Common Traits

And oh yes, this is pretty accurate, as far as I'm concerned! What about you??

Monday, October 20, 2008

Naughty Paris

Have you ever been to Paris? Have you ever dreamed about it? Well, Heather Stimmler-Hall presents the colorful side of the city, specifically with the ladies in mind, in her book Naughty Paris: A Lady's Guide to the Sexy City.

Naughty Paris is an interesting collection of information: quotes, advice, travel guides, and gorgeous photographs taken by Canadian photographer Kirsten Loop. I knew little about the city when I started reading, but Stimmler-Hall gives a nice, if frank, overview of what to expect from Paris' shops, spas, hotels, restaurants, and nightclubs. She goes as far to include reviews, addresses, and telephone numbers too, so readers could theoretically plan much of their vacation using Naughty Paris as a guide. Be warned, though: this is a book about indulging one's hedonistic side, as you might guess from some of the chapter headings, and her focus is the woman who's looking for a fling with the city (and its men). Family travelers should steer clear:

Sexy You (French Beauty, Spas, Cosmetics, Hair & Nails, Body Art)

Get in the Mood (Sexy Culture, Naughty Shopping, Sensual Education)

After Dark Rendezvous (Wine & Dine, Dancing Diva, Sexy Shows, Naughty Adventures)

and so on...

Stimmler-Hall's writing is clear and appealing, and whether you're a single gal looking to treat yourself to a no-holds-barred foreign fantasy or a reader who's simply interested in the complex sexual culture of Paris, you'll likely come away from the book with some interesting tidbits. I do wonder how wide a market she'll find; it's not a book for everyone, obviously.

That reminds me: Stimmler-Hall is kicking off her East Coast tour next week, with more info about dates and places here.

Even better: she'll be the featured Writers' Wednesday interviewee right here on November 19 as she wraps up her tour, so make sure to check back to hear directly from the author herself!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Day of Rest (from Blogging, Anyway)

"Do not let Sunday be taken from you If your soul has no Sunday, it becomes an orphan." ~Albert Schweitzer

Just a quick pop in today to say that I'm taking a break from blogging 'til tomorrow.

Too many papers to grade.
Too many EPPIE entries to judge.
Too many chapters of One Night in Napa to revise.

But tomorrow I'll have a book review here for you - of Naughty Paris: A Lady's Guide to the Sexy City. In the meantime, check out the author's website. It's interesting.