Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Kenneth Weene

Please join me for a peek into the mind of Ken Weene, a New Englander by upbringing and inclination who now lives in the Southwest. Ken is a teacher, psychologist and pastoral counselor by education but describes himself as a writer by passion. His short stories and poetry have appeared in numerous publications including Sol Spirits, Palo Verde Pages, The Santa Fe Literary Review and many more.
Welcome to Book Blather, Ken.

        1. As a former teacher and school counselor, my former students often appear in my books (identity changed to protect the innocent). You are an author and a therapist. To quote Stephen Colbert, will we find truthiness in your novels?
        Besides being drawn from imagination, my characters are drawn on former clients and students, my family and friends, of course myself, casual acquaintances and people about whom I have learned indirectly. I watch people and ask myself, "How can I use this one or that?"
The truth of a character is not, however, in its source but rather in the effect the character has on the reader. If the reader feels that they have met somebody and gotten to know that person, then the author has created true truthiness.
Just the other day I was in a roadside restaurant in Oklahoma. At the next booth was a fellow who helped me create a character I needed for my newest novel. 
Character study – Wade Quimby
Wade haunted Franklin’s for he had no other real purpose. Sitting three tables back on the left, always towards the door. The banquette’s bench had long known the outline of his seat. His tenor voice gave proof of local accent as he helloed those who came and went. They would set beside him and chat on cars, and trees, and this and that. 
“I bought three hens from Lucille. Made stew, potatoes, beans, some corn; whole thing in a tomato sauce. More tomatoes than I can use this year. Gave some to Judson for his wife to stew. Ever have her succotash? The best around. Always takes the county fair.”
After speaking, he’d work his jaw as if a dog worrying a bone. Wade worried conversation – never leaving just going round and round until he’d picked it clean. Then another friend and the topic could begin again. They came and went, but Wade remained, sipping coffee, expecting Carla to come by - round and round with her pot to top his cup of black. He never paid, seldom tipped. “Character,” Franklin said. Neither Tom nor Carla knew quite what he meant, but she filled his cup.
 “Use tomatoes in your chicken stew the acid tenders her right up. Those older hens, the one’s don’t lay no more, they’re tough old birds. Ey-yup.
 2. Your video trailer for Memoirs from the Asylum is creepy yet fascinating. Did you create it yourself?
I have three trailers for Memoirs, but I didn't create any of them. My son did one, Book Candy Studios did one, and I must admit I forget who did the third. I also have one for Widow's Walk which a friend and my son did. I have to admit that I can't even take a photograph properly - keep cutting off those heads. A few years ago I was at a family fun park with my at the time nine-year-old grandson. These folks asked if I'd take a picture of them. I said I was too kind to do that, but I'd let the boy do it instead. They were taken aback until they say the beautifully framed shot he came up with. Me? Like I said, no heads.
 3. All Things That Matter Press publishes you. In their mission   statement, they say, “We seek to publish a book that helps the author share himself with the world.” Do you feel your books reveal your true, authentic self?
I think my novels are good writing and good reading. They raise important questions, questions with which I wrestle and with which I think we should all struggle. Widow's Walk is about religion, spirituality, love, and sexuality. Memoirs From the Asylum is about freedom, choice, and fear - not just any fear, but the real terror that lies at the heart of bad choices.

My next novel, which will be out soon, is Tales From the Dew Drop Inne: Because there's one in every town. It deals with the notion of home and family. 

None of the three is autobiographical, but all three are certainly in part about me - about what I believe is essential and true in order to be human. Each is, however, a work of fiction, which means that the reader can take away (or add in) whatever works for that individual. 
  4. You’ve written novels, short stories and poetry. If you had to choose one form of expression, what would it be?
Words. They are my medium. The use to which I put them may vary, but the love I have for them doesn't vary. And I am obsessed with voice. The narrator of each piece (including the presumed speaker of a poem) is very real to me; I want to capture that specific voice. I’ve shared the poem below to illustrate what I mean.

I cut blue hydrangeas
and one white for your innocence,
left them by your door, and fled.
You did not know they were from me,
which didn’t matter as I imagined
you gathering them in your arms.
I envied the vase in which you placed them,
the table they graced, the window through
which the sun touched and warmed them;
for they were close to you. 

For those who prefer listening to reading, I have added two links below the story. One is to a chapter from Tales From the Dew Drop Inne and the second to a poem. Links to spoken words:
5. What’s next for you?
As I mentioned, Tales From the Dew Drop Inne: Because there's one in every town will be released soon. My agent is currently working at placing a conspiracy novel about New York City in the year 2000; it is called Times to Try the Soul of Man. Then there is the novel from which I shared the excerpt above. It is named The Stylite. Stylites were ancient Greek aesthetics who sat on pillars from which they preached and on which they fasted and meditated. As I write these comments I am at The Writers' Colony in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where I have come to work on that novel. Is it comparable to sitting on a pillar? No, thank goodness, but it is a great place to work.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Graham Storrs

I find our next guest fascinating for two reasons. He lives in Australia, a place I've always wanted to visit, and he writes time travel, something that remains on my to do list. Direct from Queensland, Australia, may I present science fiction writer, Graham Storrs. His debut novel, TimeSplash, the aforementioned time travel thriller, was first published by a New York small press as an e-book, then self-published, soon to be followed by an audio version of the book by a Canadian publisher. It will soon be offered in print by a UK/Australian small press. Graham lives in a quiet rural location with his wife and an Airedale terrier. To find how where to buy Graham's books, visit his blog. He's also on Twitter as @graywave.

Publishing fiction is not what it was in my grandma’s day. The images I grew up with of writers, publishers and literary agents have been more of a hindrance than help in finding my way around this ever-changing landscape. Now there are multiple fields to play in and each one has different rules, players and strategies.

To me, these guys are the heroes of the publishing world. Sometimes it’s just a handful of people publishing books they love. They don’t sell large quantities and they don’t pay big advances (if they pay them at all). They take risks. They publish material from unknown authors because they like their books and want them to succeed, not because the marketing department says they should. Best of all, you can approach them unagented and they will look at your work. There are a great many small presses out there. Whatever your genre, there will be some that suit you. Unfortunately, the small press publisher can’t give you the publicity and promotion your book needs to sell well. Their resources are often not much bigger than your own. But they do give you something very important: credibility. The fact that a publishing house, however small, has taken a stand on your book says to the world, “This work is good enough to risk our business on.”

As the weeks of waiting—for an agent, for a publisher, for even a single short story sale—turn into months and even years, many writers begin to wonder about self-publishing. After all, everybody’s doing it . . .aren’t they? Last year, more than twice the number of books were self-published than were commercially published. This year, it will be even more. The cost of doing so is falling. If you are publishing electronically, the cost can be zero. The choice of methods, business models, service suppliers and distribution platforms is increasing. The stigma is starting to fade away. Current wisdom is that there is definitely a place for self-publishing as long as you don’t mind that you won’t sell many books or make any money. I know there are famous exceptions, but they are exceptions and almost all of them are extremely good at marketing, not a skill many of us possess. The vast majority sells a few books a month and earn pocket money from them.

Publication by one of the major publishing houses is still the surest route to making a living as a writer. However, the odds against this happening are enormous. The large publishing houses and many of the mid-sized ones will not even read manuscripts unless they are submitted through a literary agent. Consequently, many agents are neck-deep in manuscripts and have no time to consider your work. It all depends on your query letter, a paragraph about the book, a paragraph about yourself and a hello and goodbye. Though it hardly seems fair to be judged on so little, the query letter is what keeps agents from becoming completely log-jammed. For this reason, agents are now as hard to find as hen’s teeth.

Sadly—and I mean that—I do have grand ambitions and I’m a lousy marketer. So I need the big publishers. Which means I had to spend a while finding an agent, something I only recently succeeded in. In fact, it feels like such an accomplishment, I don’t know if finding an actual big-name publisher would now seem much more of an achievement.  At least now I can relax a bit, hand my work off to my agent and get some writing done. As for that three-ring circus metaphor, I suppose that makes us all clowns, doesn’t it?

Monday, September 12, 2011

NY Times Best-Selling Author - Colleen Houck

I recently attended an author fair in the seaside town of Lincoln City, Oregon, an event sponsored by Bob's Beach Books, a fantastic independent book shop. Over sixty authors gathered on the plaza outside the store to sign books under newly-erected canopies. Then, as the tide changed, blustery winds began to blow in from the ocean. Wind. Canopies. Books. Oops. 
Husbands were recruited to anchor the framework in order to keep the entire structure from taking flight. Dodging assorted flying debris, I introduced myself to Colleen Houck, author of the best selling Tiger Series. Earlier in the day, I'd attended her presentation at a writers forum and was amazed by her incredible writing journey. 
Colleen, welcome to Book Blather.

·         What inspired you to write Tiger’s Curse? Was it your first attempt at writing a book?

Tiger’s Curse is my first attempt at writing a novel.  I’d previously compiled a family recipe book with my grandfather and I wrote two children’s books about my toy poodle that I intended to give to my nieces and nephews for Christmas but Tiger’s Curse was my first major attempt at writing.  I was inspired to give writing a try after reading the Twilight series.  I loved the books and after learning that Stephenie Meyer was just a mom who got up one day and started writing and knowing the same about J. K. Rowling, I decided to give it a try.

·        Why did you choose India as the setting?

India kind of chose me.  I decided to write a Beauty and the Beast themed book and picked a white tiger for my beast.  I began researching white tigers and learned that they are all descended from a cub caught in the jungles of India.  I studied tiger myths and found a story of Durga riding her tiger into battle.  The story grew from there.

·        How many books will be in the series? Do you have them outlined or are you a seat-of-the-pants writer?
There will be five books in the Tiger’s Curse Series and maybe one spin-off.  The fourth is called Tiger’s Destiny and the fifth is Tiger’s Dream.  I knew from the first how my story was going to end though I left myself open to how I got there.  I like to plan and do rough chapter outlines but I’m always open to adding if inspiration takes me in a new direction.
·         Why did you decide to self-publish Tiger’s Curse?
I was impatient with the slow process of getting published and at the time I just wanted to have an outlet for friends and family to read my series.  I strongly believed in my series and hoped that it would do well enough to eventually attract the attention of a publisher and an agent.  Nothing was going to hold me back once I caught the writing bug.
·         You’ve had an amazing journey from self-published writer to landing on the New York Times bestseller list. Before you acquired an agent and signed with Sterling, you had to negotiate movie rights and foreign sales, a daunting task for anyone. Could you share a bit of that journey with Book Blather readers?
It was a big daunting to try to negotiate without any knowledge of contracts and very little understanding of the publishing world.  China, Thailand, and Korea were the first to contact me after my self-published version of Tiger’s Curse shot into the top twenty on Amazon’s Kindle list. I had my father look over my contracts and a local lawyer but neither of them really knew what publishing contracts should look like.  Still we pressed forward knowing nothing ventured, nothing gained.  Around this time a movie producer contacted me and flew up to Oregon to take me and my husband out to lunch.  We talked about tigers for several hours and I told him my entire story arc.  He made an offer that week.  A short time later I landed an agent who sold the series a few weeks later.  It was scary but very, very exciting.  It was fun bringing my family along for the ride.
·         Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?       
I think it’s very important to write the kind of book you love and have the attitude that writing is the reward.  Everything that happens after that is just icing on the cake.  There is a saying that there are many roads that lead to Rome.  I never believed that self-publishing meant I wasn’t good enough to be on a shelf.  I just looked at it as an opportunity to prove my merit and that when I finally got my book into a publisher’s hands, I’d have a very interesting story to tell.

·         What’s next?   
I have no idea.  It will be very hard to let go of my tigers when the time comes.  In my heart, I’m a storyteller though.  There are many, many stories in my mind waiting to be told.  I’ll just have to figure out which one has the loudest voice.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


As a writer of young adult fiction, I try to keep an eye on the market. It doesn't take a genius to figure out the majority of YA authors are women writing books about and for girls. When I met Jim Devitt on LinkedIn, I knew I wanted him to do a guest blog. Not only is Jim a man writing young adult fiction, his baseball theme and protagonist, Van Stone in The Card are a winning combination for young male readers who have been largely overlooked in the marketplace. My librarian friend keeps saying, "Marilee, when are you going to write a book for boys? We need more!" In my defense, I have started one. Until it's finished, I plan to recommend The Card to parents looking for a good book for their sons to read. Welcome to Book Blather, Jim.

   1.    Tell us about your book, The Card.

Van Stone has it all, the perfect family, friends and the best job in the world. Suddenly, Van is thrust into a deadly plot masterminded by unknown enemies. Van is in a race against time to save those closest to him. As fresh as today’s headlines, this suspenseful ride blows the lid off scientific advancement, in a story of breathtaking action and suspense.

2.     What inspired you to write it?

Many people, even close friends, are surprised to find me publishing my debut novel. “I didn’t know you were a writer?” is a line I have heard hundreds of times in the past few months. Thinking back, I have gone through life writing, just not novels.

I completed my Master’s of Education degree in Exercise Physiology, not exactly the normal path of an aspiring writer. Honestly, writing wasn’t even a thought at the time, because I was so busy … writing! I wrote research abstracts and full-length peer reviewed papers while conducting research in everything from diabetes and end-stage renal disease, to low-back strength in Professional Basketball players.

After a couple of decades of writing everything from research to advertisement copy to company public relations pieces, I realized that I loved to write. Now it was time to write what I wanted to write.

Over the past few years, there has been an explosion of paranormal romance, vampires and other creatures, in the Young Adult marketplace. There seemed to be a dearth of mystery/action/adventure in Young Adult novels that happen in our REAL world. Therefore, my initial reaction was that I could help fill that void. The result is the Van Stone Novel series.

The market for boys looking for mystery and adventure is somewhat limited. I wanted to produce another option for the teen/young adult that isn’t focused on romance. There is a brewing relationship, but it is not the focus of the story. Some people have described the novel as The Hardy Boys on steroids.

      Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

First, I want them to have fun. The story is a true roller coaster ride. In the beginning, you spend some time getting to know the characters, but then, look out!

Beyond the fun, there is a message hidden inside. The growth that the main character, Van Stone, undergoes translates into some major life lessons that anyone could benefit from. My hope is that teens and young adults walk away with more confidence and a positive outlook in life.

4.     Is the book based on someone you know or events in your own life?

I spent eight years working in a Major League clubhouse. There are stories to tell about what goes on behind-the-scenes in that exclusive club. I combined my experiences working with the Seattle Mariners and my love for a good action/adventure, to develop a mystery that is set in Seattle, Washington.

Additionally, I have a strong science background and incorporated cutting-edge advancements into the plot. While being fun, I wanted to have readers walk away knowing a little more about the direction of science and technology in the world. It’s not too heavy, fun certainly wins out, but adding a bit “what if” hopefully inspires some young minds.

5.     Do you have any advice for other writers?

I always cringe at that question. By no means am I an expert. My advice, in its simplest form, is to follow that dream. Starting is the hardest part. Life, jobs and everything else always gets in the way. Once you put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, your passion takes over. Spend a little time every day, whether its 200 words or 2,000. Each day you get closer to that dream.

6.     What book are you reading now?

I’m currently reading Arctic Drift by Clive Cussler. My favorite authors include Stephen King, Randy Wayne White, Tim Dorsey, Cussler, and Dan Simmons.

7.     Anything new in the works?

The adventures of Van, Fred and Zoe are continuing. Currently, I’m deep into the next installment in the Van Stone Novel series. Originally, I had hoped to publish by the end of October, but the deadline looks to be more like yearend now.
The Card can be found at the following outlets:

Paperback edition             https://www.createspace.com/3585708

Kindle edition                     http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004UAVMS0

Nook and iPad edition     http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/50300

To find out more or to contact me: 

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Not long ago, I realized it takes me nine months to finish a book. That thought led me to ponder the similarities between writing a book and delivering a baby, both products of labor. The two projects have much in common.

1. Uncertainty. Mad, crazy excitement followed by stomach-churning nausea. Am I crazy? What was I thinking? Oh, right, I wasn't thinking. Maybe now isn't the right time. Names, I need names . . . stat! What? I have to do this for nine whole months? Can I change my mind? 

2. Acceptance. You started this journey, sweetheart, and you're not a quitter so get a grip and stop complaining. The body of words begins to grow and expand along with the waistline. Sometime during this phase, the book (and the baby) become real to you. You visualize cradling the product of your labor in your hands and murmuring, "Look at you, you're beautiful!"

3. Self Doubt. Miserable and impatient, we waddle toward the finish line. The end is in sight but it's so dang hard to get there. What if something's wrong? I took my vitamins every day. I built my plot scene by scene, chapter by chapter. I did my best every single day for nine months,but that's no guarantee everything will turn out okay. Dammit, I want a guarantee! 

4. Unbridled Joy. You did it! Both baby and book are done . . . well, sort of done. Revel in the moment! Feel the pride of accomplishment. Admire your handiwork. Share the news.

5. Trepidation. After the elation fades away, we look squarely into the future and realize what lies ahead. It's taken nine months to grow and deliver our unique creation and we want everyone to love it as much as we do. In the book world, it's called querying, submitting and dealing with rejection. In the family circle, it's called rearing a child to be a productive member of society. An unbidden thought flits in and out of our consciousness. OMG, what if the book (baby) turns out to be a stinker?
It's back to the drawing board. We're not quitters. We will revise our books to the best of our ability. We will never give up on our children. We will persevere.