Saturday, May 09, 2009

Special Writers' Weekend Interview with Barb Meyers

Welcome to a special author interview! Fellow Samhain author Barb Meyers is here to chat about her latest release...enjoy!

Hi Barb! Can you tell us a little about your background?

Originally, I’m from Southwest Missouri, but I moved around a lot growing up. I’ve lived in Southwest Florida for thirty years. I’m married and have two grown children. Since 2003, I’ve worked part-time as a Starbucks barista. It’s a nice way to break up the lonely life of a writer and it’s given me at least one interesting story idea as well.

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

My first attempt at writing novel-length fiction was in the late 1980’s. The event that triggered it? Not terribly original, I’m afraid. After reading a horribly written romance novel, I threw it across the room when I’d finished it and declared, “I can write better than that.”

LOL...sounds like the same way many an author has been inspired! So tell us about your latest writing project or published title...

My romantic comedy, A MONTH FROM MIAMI, came out in print in February. I’m currently working on a sort of whimsical urban fantasy—the story idea inspired by working at Starbucks as well as another romance featuring the twin brother of A MONTH FROM MIAMI’s hero.

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

Read. Read. Read. Then read some more. Study the books you read to see how stories develop. Analyze them for characterization, goal, motivation, conflict, style, etc. It takes a while to develop your own voice. For a long time no one could explain to me exactly what “voice” was. When you develop your own voice, you’ll know it. It’s more than a writing style. It’s the unique way you convey a story that is yours and yours alone. Beware sabateurs which can come in the form of critique partners, family, friends, writer’s groups, sometimes even yourself. Not everyone wants you to succeed. In the end remember it’s your story and no one else’s. Listen to your gut.

What kinds of books do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?

I love well-written romantic suspense and a lot of women’s fiction. Not sure I have a favorite author, but a few that spring to mind are Susan Elizabeth Phillips (no one does romantic comedy as well); Isla Dewar; Patricia Gaffney; Elizabeth Berg; Lisa Gardner; Tami Hoag. I just read Karen Robards’ GUILTY. She is one of my all-time favorite authors.

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

I’ve always been challenged by the business end of writing. I’m not focused enough and I tend to jump from one project to another when a new idea presents itself. A new idea is exciting to me and I can’t wait to get started and strike while the iron is hot, and often before I’ve completely thought it through. I don’t recommend this to anyone. It’s entirely frustrating.

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

I don’t call it writer’s block, but if I’m struggling with something writing-related, I walk the beach which is 3-4 miles from my house. Or I walk my dog or bike ride. Get up and get away from your computer or notebook and do something entirely unrelated to writing. Personally, I think exercise pumps the blood back to your brain and not having any other distractions allows your mind to wander and/or focus on the block and helps you come up with a solution or a new direction.

I think if the beach was 3 miles from my house I might not have writers' block either!! What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book(s)?

That the characters become real to me. I recall an idea I had for a book I’ve not yet written. The heroine was a songwriter. I composed lyrics for a song and tried to explain to my daughter that I hadn’t actually written them. The character had.

What is your favorite movie? Did it inspire your writing in any way?

It’s hard to pick one movie. As Good As It Gets is a wonderful example of “show don’t tell.” It demonstrates phenomenal character growth. I loved Something’s Gotta Give. So clever and fun. Terms of Endearment, Beaches and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off come to mind. The first two because they can really touch me emotionally. Ferris because it’s just pure fun. I think that’s what good writing does—entertains and touches the emotions. Moonstruck is another one of my favorites.

Barb, thanks for being here today. Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

Only that my goal as a writer is to write the absolute best book I can write and never to offer anything to my readership that I am not personally satisfied with. I stand behind my books and would personally offer a money-back guarantee to anyone who is disappointed in my work.
Thank you!

Friday, May 08, 2009

A Friday Quickie

Just a quick post today:

2 signings for My Mom is my Hero this weekend:

Friday night from 5-8 pm at Waldenbooks in the Oakdale Mall, Binghamton (NY)


Saturday afternoon from 12-3 pm at Waldenbooks in Rye Brook (NY)


I'm giving away a signed print copy of One Night in Memphis this Sunday, over at The Romance Studio. It's easy to enter, so swing by and leave your name if you'd like a copy (before it even officially releases to the rest of the public!!)

Happy Friday!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Do You Twitter?

"It has become exceedingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity." ~Albert Einstein

Twitter is the new Facebook.

So I hear, anyway. I don't Twitter, mostly because I can barely keep up with my blog and my Facebook page and - oh, yeah - my day job that pays the bills.

But a friend sent me an invite to Twitter the other day, and at the conference last weekend, one author said she had met Angela James (Executive Editor at Samhain) on Twitter. Hmm. I suppose I'm missing yet another promotional opportunity...but really? Do I have to Twitter now, too?

I'd like to hear from anyone who does: what do you/don't you like about it?


And I had to share this link with you: it's an article by best-selling author Lisa Gardner about her anal retentive approach to outlining. It's pretty hilarious. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Craig E. Chaffin

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! Today I'm chatting with poet C.E. Chaffin, a well-known poet, (especially on the net) who has been publishing for 40 years! His new book, his first since 1997, includes a section of over 20 love poems, based on the miracle of his falling in love at 45. He's been in love ever since—almost ten years!

Welcome, Craig! So tell us, why did you call your book “Unexpected Light?”

In a fallen world where we're often surrounded by darkness, as if in answer to prayer unexpected light often leaks through just at the moment when we fear we can no longer go on. It can be sunlight on a leaf or a late phone call from an old friend, but that's how most light comes in my life.

Furthermore the actual title is mentioned in the last line of the poem, “Prayer to la Virgen,” detailing how Christ was lucky enough to receive a donated grave. But more so, when I fell in love at 45 for the first time (and it has continued ever since), I was shocked out of my mind. It was truly unexpected light! Trained as a medical doctor, I had always been rational about love, thinking (in C. S. Lewis's words) that love should be the result of, not the reason for, marriage. All that changed when I met Kathleen. And right after I met her my second wife e-mailed me that she was leaving—such synchronicity!--leaving me a perfect opportunity to experience romantic love for the first time, a gift I wish for everyone.

How did you come to write “Unexpected Light?”

I've been publishing poetry for 40 years, and this is my second book. My first was published in 1997. This book was 12 years in the making. It deals with many themes, including the usual four in poetry: God, Death, Nature and Love. The last section of the book, in fact, is devoted to love poems. And that was a main impetus for the book. I had compiled a manuscript entirely of love poems but no publisher showed interest, so I limited the love poems to my very best 20 or so and added poems on other themes, and voila! I had a publisher go all the way for me, including royalties—for poetry, imagine!

Terrific! So as an English teacher, I have to ask: Who are your major poetic influences?

T. S. Eliot, Robinson Jeffers, Robert Frost, Theodore Roethke, Mark Strand and Pablo Neruda, to name a few. None of these except Neruda is truly a love poet, and he has been the most influential on my romantic poetry. One of the poems in the volume is entitled, “To Kathleen, after Neruda,” for instance. As for poets in English, I like John Donne's love poems bests, though they are so intellectually dense one must assume the object of his love was some kind of a genius to consistently unravel his metaphysics.

LOL...Does poetry have a chance in this day and age?

Yes, for man does not live by bread alone, but by every word... There may be a smaller audience for poetry today, given the competition, and more poets publishing than ever. The 'Net has caused a proliferation of literary journals that is more democratic and participatory. There are probably more serious poets writing than ever before. And poetry is the miner's canary of the culture, in my opinion. It records the travails of the time and tries to connect them with eternity and history. Love is one of the four enduring themes of poetry and one of the most difficult topics to undertake.

Where can readers get a copy of “Unexpected Light?”

It's available through and all the usual suspects and any bookstore will order it for you. Best to order it directly from the publisher. There's a page on my website where you can do that:

It comes in hardback for just $20 and paperback for $12. Seven reviews have already been published, and I can say without embarrassment that they have all been glowing.I

If you join the Facebook group, “Unexpected Light,” you will automatically be updated regarding readings and new reviews.

Here's a short excerpt from one of the love poems, “Valentine 2008,” where the speaker imagines his love as a waterfall:

Inside the moss-lipped haven of your granite
I hide behind your thundering skirt of water.

Your clarity dissolves all self-deception.
I would not recognize myself without you.

The shelter of trees is never so generous
As your pouring and thinning of yourself

Into the forest air. I kneel and drink
And like the alder rise up satisfied.

C.E. thanks so much for being here and sharing your story today! Readers, you can find out more about this author at his website.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Weekend Recap, Continued...

So after a busy Saturday, it was nice that Sunday's book signing was pretty low key. It was a small Waldenbooks in a pretty large mall, but there weren't a ton of people in the mall as a whole (sort of weird for a rainy Sunday, but oh well).

I made flyers up and sent them to the store ahead of time, and the manager had them hanging up in a few places, which was nice. She set me up at a table right by the entrance, so everyone literally had to walk right by me. I sold/signed 6 books -- not a lot, but I put my One Night in Memphis bookmarks and excerpt booklets in every single one, and most people seemed interested. One woman said, "Oh, I love romance! I'm going to get your book as soon as it comes out!"

Interestingly enough, though, the majority of shoppers in the store were women, most with kids -- so they weren't really looking for a Mother's Day gift. One actually said to her kids, "Oh, this book looks nice. Tell Daddy about it." But she didn't buy one, of course.

Overall the day was more about networking than anything else, since I don't get royalties from this book (just a check once they accepted my story) but hey -- if it gets my name to a few more people, I'll spend 3 hours sitting in a bookstore. I have 2 more of these signings coming up this weekend, and every little bit counts!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Weekend Recap

"We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face... we must do that which we think we cannot." ~Eleanor Roosevelt

(This is one of my top 5 all-time favorite quotes, by the way)

So here goes...

Fiction Fest 2009 on Saturday was a terrific experience! There were about 100 attendees, I'd say, mostly unpublished authors and many who were quite new to writing in general. There was a continental breakfast with 2 speakers (a "life coach" who talked about keeping balance in your life, and a book doctor who talked about the common errors she sees in manuscripts). Then 2 Breakout Sessions with 2 workshop choices each.

I went to "Creating Unforgettable Characters" with Kristan Higgins (I knew her from a book signing back in the winter, so it was nice to see her again). She talked a lot about how to give your characters history/hobbies/scars/jobs/past relationships/etc to make them "pop" off the page.

Then I went to "Avoiding Common Manuscript Errors" with Toni Andrews. She focused on issues with POV/head hopping and poor character development/dialogue as keeping new writers from getting contracts/agents. She has a great, "larger than life" personality and is quite funny to listen to...but she stood in front of the screen during her entire Power Point presentation, which was a little frustrating.

Then lunch, during which we heard "cold reads" from people who had sent in pages and listened to what the agents and editors had to say about them. (click here to see who was there). Over and over again, we heard the same thing: too much backstory and too much irrelevant description when there should have been conflict and forward movement in the opening pages. I tell you, though, those people were really brave to send their pages in! It was anonymous, but still. A couple of the agents/editors got kind of snarky by the end of it, which wasn't really cool in my book.

Then the 2 afternoon Breakout Sessions: I went to "Getting on the Query-Go-Round" which was given by Jackie Kessler. She showed us her query letter which get 11 requests for fulls and 5 offers of representation. She shared a lot of good info, though I'd say she downplayed the difficulty of finding an agent (though for her I guess it wasn't difficult, so...).

Then my Workshop, last session of the day: Cutting Deadwood:Trimming and Tightening Language. It turned out to fit in really well with all the luncheon discussion, and I used a lot of examples that the agents/editors had pointed out. Mostly, though, I shared my own experiences with One Night in Napa, and the revisions I had to make before Samhain would accept it.

It seemed to go really well (I was nervous at first, but I got over it). Afterwards, quite a few people came up and told me they really liked it, including one woman who said it was "the best of the day" for her because I seemed really genuine and shared my own frustrations and difficulties, which gave her hope.

Afterwards there was a cocktail hour and book signing, and I ended up selling 8 copies of One Night in Memphis, all to people who had been in my workshop! So it was a really great day and a terrific opportunity to network and also give back to people who are newly navigating the writing/publishing biz.

Phew...I'm worn out from typing, so I'll share the Sunday book signing tomorrow. Less to say, but I still learned a couple of things, so... see you back here Tuesday!

Oh, and here's a picture of me and my author friend Stella Price, at the signing on Saturday:

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Book Signing Today

Still on the I'm doing a book signing at the Waldenbooks in the Danbury Mall (Danbury, CT) today -- specifically for My Mom is My Hero.

Details about the signing and yesterday's conference coming up tomorrow...