07.29.2014

My Goodreads Interview

Enclosed are a few questions I answered for Goodreads. If you would like to ask me any other questions, feel free to ask them here, or go to my Goodreads page and scroll down to Ask The Author.

0Ask the Author: Cathy Lamb

“I love books. I love reading and writing them. Ask me anything…” Cathy Lamb 18 days ago

How do you deal with writer’s block?

Cathy Lamb I don’t get writer’s block.

What I do suffer from is, “I Would Rather Play Than Work Disease.” It’s a real problem. These things are distracting to me, in no particular order: My kids. Innocent Husband. (I call him that because I don’t want anyone to blame poor Husband for crazy things I write or say). Girlfriends. Walking. Running. Daydreaming. Reading. Being outside. Being in our drift boat on a river fishing. Falling down a ski slope. More daydreaming.

So many fun things to do.

If I do feel stuck in a book, I journal. I work it through. I don’t let myself go to bed until things are figured out. I work the problem, twist it around, think it through.

And I write. Even if I know the writing is going to be poor, I write. I can’t fix a blank page but I CAN fix poor writing.

What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Cathy Lamb The best thing about being a writer is that I love writing.

From the time I was sixteen, I knew I HAD to be a writer. I wanted to write a column, write for a newspaper or write books – preferably books. I worked for years to publish, with many rejections and crushing disappointments.

I just couldn’t see myself doing anything else so I kept going. Except for teaching school (I was a fourth grade teacher for almost eight years) there is really nothing else I’m skilled to do and teaching school is exhausting.

I love that I can day daydream and put those daydreams on paper. I love telling stories. I love creating characters and relationships. I love living in my head. I love hearing from readers and how my books have effected their lives.

And, frankly, I have loved being a writer while raising my kids. They probably want me around the house less, though…

What are you currently working on?

Cathy Lamb: I am currently working on my eighth novel.

Here’s a hint: Friendship. Letters. Scotland. Lies.

Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?

Cathy Lamb: Ah ha…

Where did I get the ideas for my most recent book, What I Remember Most, out in September 2014…

Grenadine Scotch Wild is my main character’s name. As soon as I had her name, I felt like I was on a roll, writing wise. Why that name? Whose idea was that? Who likes Scotch?

Grenadine is a collage artist and painter. I decided to make her an artist because I have always wanted to be an artist but have zero talent.

Grenadine is also on the run. Her husband was an “investor” who lost his clients’ money. She was implicated in his schemes, though she had only been married to the jerk for a year and was completely innocent.

A Different Kind of NormalI was interested in what it would feel like to have your whole world collapse, to be arrested and jailed for a weekend, to lose your home and have your bank accounts locked up.

Where would you go? How would you survive? How do you start over? How do you avoid jail for a crime you didn’t commit?

And, I was interested in Grenadine’s back story. When she was six, her parents disappeared on a foggy, scary night in the woods. She was put in foster care and never knew what happened to them.

Though the story is written first person, through Grenadine’s eyes, I tell her back story through children services reports, police reports, a court transcript, police reports and letters. I was interested in writing through a different structure.

Hope you like it!

What’s your advice for aspiring writers?

Cathy Lamb: My advice for aspiring writers is to read. Read fiction, historical fiction, memoirs, non fiction, thrillers, etc. Read all over the place. Also read in the genre in which you wish to publish.

Julias chocolates (1)Then STUDY what you read. WHY did you like the book? Was it the characters? Was there someone you related to or did you sympathize with their journey? Was the pace smooth and gentle or did it grab you by the throat? What did you like about the structure? Why did the plot or setting interest you? What about the language and word choice? Simple or complex? Did you laugh or cry or get angry? How did the author pull out your emotions? Did she make you think?

Conversely, if you did not like the book, why NOT? Study that, too. Was it boring? Were there no characters to grab onto? Was the writing non descriptive?

My second piece of advice is to write. Write all the time. Think about writing when you’re not writing. Plan on writing time. Stick to your writing goals.

I write 2000 words a day when I’m in the first draft of my book. If I don’t write 10,000 words a week I don’t go to bed on Saturday night. I edit my books eight or nine times before I even send them to my agent and editor. I edit them 12 times altogether.

So, write like your hair is on fire the first time around. Don’t worry about making the word choice and sentences perfect. Just write. Then edit the hell out of it.

the last time I was meMy third piece of advice involves a bit of my own story. Many years ago, for years, I tried to break into category romance writing. I would write a synopsis and mail it to the publishing house. They liked the synopsis and asked for the first chapter. I sent it. They liked it. They asked for three chapters. I sent it. They liked and asked for the book. Then they rejected it. This happened four – five times.

Terrible.

After a rejection when the editor waited about two years, after asking me for many edits and after implying they were going to buy the book and then she REJECTED it, I called it a day on category romance. I was so unhappy I could not do it again.

I then wrote about forty pages or so of Julia’s Chocolates. I sent it to four agents. They all asked for the book. I told my favorite agent, the one I’m with now, that I had to do a “little editing.” It was a tiny white lie.

I then wrote from ten at night until two or three in the morning. I had three young kids at the time and I was freelancing for The Oregonian. I was busy but desperate.

My agent loved the book, I signed with him, and Julia’s Chocolates sold within a couple of weeks.

The First Day of the Rest of My LifeHere’s the moral of that story: If you keep getting rejected in one genre, switch genres. I went from category romance to women’s fiction.

Don’t quit too early, don’t quit when you get a few rejections, don’t quit when you’re having a temper tantrum, don’t quit unless you have done your best and are now unhappy with what you’re writing and want to bang your face against a wall.

BUT, keep in mind that the first genre you attempt to publish in might not be best suited for you. You may well be better suited in a whole new place.

So, read, write, and live life. Have fun. Have adventures. Meet new people, go new places, travel.

Good luck. Truly, I mean it. I hope you publish.

 

07.29.2014

Author to Author Interview: Lesley Kagen

Hello everyone,

One of my favorite books of 2014 is Whistling In The Dark. 

I HIGHLY recommend it. I read the first two pages and felt like I’d been gripped by the neck. I could hardly put it down and only did so to feed my children and meow back at my cat.

Fortunately, the author, Lesley Kagen, now has a new e-novella out called, The Undertaking of Tess, which I have read and also loved, available on Amazon, ibooks, and coming soon to B&N, Kobo, etc. I just had to interview her…

So, Lesley, tell me about The Undertaking of Tess.

lesley 2Thank you for the kind words, Cathy! So glad you liked Whistling in the Dark and The Undertaking of Tess. It means so much when a writer we admire loves our stuff as much as we love theirs, don’t you think?

The novella is a prequel to a book that’s coming out in October—The Resurrection of Tess Blessing. After I finished the novel, I really wanted to further explore the girls’ childhood, so voila! The story is about the Finley sisters, and how each of them cope with loss during the summer of 1959.

Tessie, the ten-year-old narrator, is attempting to come to grips with her father’s death and the guilt she feels after she witnessed his drowning, but her kid sister, Birdie, refuses to believe that their beloved Daddy is really gone. Tessie needs to make sure that Birdie accepts his death before their mom gets wind of how much “weirder” her sister’s getting. Stronger, and more down to Earth than ethereal Birdie, Tessie’s always watched over her, so it’s only natural for her to come up with a plan that she jots down on one of her never-ending TO-DO lists.

If Tessie can’t achieve her goals, she’s desperately worried that their beautiful, but self-occupied mother, might send emotionally fragile Birdie to the County insane asylum.

I loved Tessie and Birdie, my heart ached for them, and Tessie’s voice – I felt she was in front of me telling me her story.  Just her and I. Can my readers have a sneak peek?

Yes! Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter:

We’re bobbing under a sky the color that I always tell my sister is named after her—Robin’s egg blue. We are also sweating a lot because this is a summer that will go down in the record books for being so hot. Usually Daddy and me fish off the banks of the cemetery pond, but today at the breakfast table he leaned over and said to me, “Let’s beat this heat. Feel the wind on our faces this afternoon. Whatta ya think, Tessie?” I thought that I would do anything to make him happy, and it really is steamy, so I told him that sounded like a great idea before I knew that he was gonna borrow the white motor boat called The High Life offa Joey T, his buddy at Lonnigan’s Bar on Burleigh Street, which is where Daddy works.

Maybe my kid sister would be out on the Lake with us this afternoon if Mother only woulda let us nickname her Minnow—birds of a feather and all that—but she always stays away when Daddy and me go fishing because she despises any creature with gills in a way that doesn’t seem normal. Especially crappie, but who doesn’t?
Because Robin Jean Finley was so small when she was born, my fisherman daddy who is a BIG jokester started calling her Minnow after we brought her home to the cemetery house, then that turned into Minnie, but then Mom told us to cut it out because we were going to give her an inferiority complex, so that’s when my father thought it over and said, “How ‘bout we call her Birdie? That good by you, Tessie?” A course, Mom hated that idea too, but I gave Daddy a thumbs up because with her fluffy hair, big eyes, and little bones, that really was a good nickname.

lesley 3You’ve written about sisters twice, in Wisconsin, and the voices are so true, so real for me. I also love the multi cultural neighborhood, filled with people’s problems, quirks, worries, and odd and endearing personalities from a child’s perspective. Tell us about your childhood. Did it influence both The Undertaking of Tess and Whistling in the Dark?

Yeah, the setting for both stories is the blue-collar neighborhoods on the west side of Milwaukee where I grew up during the 50’s. Like the O’Malley and the Finley sisters, I lost my father when I was four. That kind of profound loss traumatizes a child forever, and I find myself writing about it often. I still miss him.

Setting is extremely important to me and the neighborhood functions as a character in both stories because it really was! There were so many kids on our block alone—over fifty! Primarily of Irish, German, and Polish descent, we may have had different cultures backgrounds, but the unifying force of the Catholic church brought us together. Unlike now, we were free to roam, which took us all into some interesting and sometimes scary situations.

I’m very sorry about your father. What a terrible loss for you and your whole family. I, like you, was raised Catholic, in a multi cultural neighborhood outside of L.A. for my first ten years and we roamed some, too. I can relate to your childhood.

Tell everyone why you wanted to write about sisters in the same general neighborhood again. 

First off, I absolutely love children, and their perspectives. How they see the world is endlessly fascinating to me. How they deal with problems, how theymanage to navigate through life. Secondly, I do A LOT of book clubs. And
when I visit to chat about Whistling in the Dark, the ladies always tell me stories about their own sisters and their childhoods. That got me to thinking. (Always dangerous.) What if I set The Undertaking of Tess in a neighborhood similar to the one in Whistling in the Dark, but with two other kids? How different would their stories be? Both set of sisters have lost their fathers andhave distant moms because I wanted to write about how the same circumstances can affect kids in differently, but Tess and Birdie Finley are wildly unlike in personality and circumstances than Sally and Troo O’Malley. Except for the mischief they get into.

Mischief can be fun, you know this Lesley, you do.

So, tell us, what’s a normal day like for you?

Lesley 1Writing is one of my two passions—my kids and g-babies are the other—but it’s also my job, and I’m a hard-work-it-pays-off kind of gal. Because I like to stay in touch with my subconscious as much as possible because I believe that’s where the stories live, I’m up early, like 5 a.m.

After I put on my lucky writing jacket, I head downstairs and let The Amazing Gracie, my cockapoo out, make the first of a million cups of Earl Grey tea, and the two of us head over to my computer. I write a minimum of 5-6 hours a day. When my brain begins to melt, I head upstairs for a shower, which serves as a re-entry point into the real world.

The rest of the day, I babysit the grandkids, read, chat with Facebook friends, walk, pray, meditate, garden, goof around with Gracie, and get all my errands done. At night, I watch television or go to the movies. I’m also an actress, so I love both. I hit the hay at 10 p.m.

And your writing process? Mine is sometimes a torture. Tell us about yours.

I try to step aside and let the story do its thing. Writing without an outline or any clear direction is wonderful fun to me, but can also get quite crazy. I can be three quarters of the way through a story and it can take an unexpected turn in a snap, which means I have to go back to the beginning and change anything that needs to be changed to suit the direction the story shifted to. Needless to say, I do a tremendous amount of rewriting.

Me, too. Rewriting and more rewriting and slashing and editing and blah blah blah. It’s endless.

The publishing industry is changing rapidly. Can you discuss your thoughts on this topic? What are the challenges that you see ahead for writers? What are the positive aspects?

I spoke to my agent last week and asked her, “So, what’s up?” She replied, “Do you mean now or five minutes ago?” Publishing is not like it used to be and it never will be again. I was in the record business for many years and what went down in the music world is very similar to what’s going on in the book world now.

I remember standing on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and LaCienega in L.A. in the 8o’s and three record stores stood on the corners. Now there are none. Sad to say, because I absolutely adore independent book stores, I believe that might be the fate in store for many of them. For writers, this means that there are fewer ways to get your books into readers’ hands. But as hard as change is, there’s always a silver lining. Many authors who have felt stifled by the demands of big publishers now have the opportunity to publish themselves. To explore new frontiers. To create other exciting opportunities.

Rose Garden July 2014 060There are many options now and many writers are making a great deal of money self publishing. 

What are the three things you like best about being a writer?

1. The deep satisfaction I feel when I’ve gotten down exactly what I was hoping to.
2. The opportunity I have to positively affect readers with my words.
3. Meeting readers at events. So fun.

 What’s next after The Undertaking of Tess?

The Resurrection of Tess Blessing, the continuing story of the now middle-aged Finley sisters, will be released mid-October.

Oh, I can’t wait!

Now a few shallow questions….What three countries do you most want to visit…favorite things to do on a Sunday…Three TV shows that are your guilty pleasures…

I’m a homebody so my idea of a great trip is watching the Travel channel. Favorite thing to do on Sunday is hang out all day with my family, eat a wonderful dinner together, and a long bedtime book and cuddle with my g-babies, Charlie and Hadley.

I enjoy so many shows, but I am a complete sucker for reality TV. So You Think You Can Dance, the Amazing Race, and The Voice are real favorites.

Thanks so much, Cathy!

Visit Lesley on her website at   http://www.lesleykagen.com/

Buy the Undertaking of Tess on Amazon for $4.99.

Bio:

Lesley Kagen is an actress, voice-over talent, former restaurateur, sought-after speaker, and award-winning, New York Times bestselling, author of five previous novels. Her work has been translated into seven languages. She’s the mother of two and grandmother of two. She lives in a hundred-year-old farm house in a small town in Wisconsin.

07.25.2014

Inside A Writer’s Messy Mind

I thought you might like to see a glimpse of my writing process.

I wrote my next manuscript, due in December, in non – chronological order.  In other words, I wrote any scene whenever I damn well felt like it, no matter if I was writing the last scene of the book in the middle and the first scene at the end.

I also wrote people’s relationship scenes one right after the other. So, all of the scenes that my main character, Charlotte, has with her Scottsman, well, they were written straight down for twenty or thirty or more pages.

Because of this ridiculousness, I had to print the manuscript out, then cut it apart with scissors, label every scene, highlight the labels, staple the scenes together and put them in order in a messy pile. I then had to cut and paste the document on my computer so it would be a story instead of a literary catastrophe.

What’s that? You hear me screaming? Really?  Does it sound like this, ARGGGHHHH!!!

 

 

07.11.2014

Excerpt From Henry’s Sisters

I grabbed my lighter with the red handle from the kitchen, lighter fluid, a water bottle, my lacy bra and thong, and opened the French doors to my balcony.  The wind and rain hit like a mini hurricane, my braids whipping around my cheeks.

One part of my balcony is covered, so it was still dry. I put the bra and thong in the usual corner on top of a few straggly, burned pieces of material from another forgettable night on a wooden plan and flicked the lighter on. The bra and thong smoked and blackened and wiggled and fizzled and flamed.

When they were cremated, I doused them with water from the water bottle. No sense burning down the apartment building.  That would be bad.

I settled into a metal chair in the uncovered section of my balcony, the rain sluicing off my naked body, and gazed at the sky scrapers, wondering how many of those busy, brain – fried, robotic people were staring at me.

Working in a skyscraper was another way of dying early, my younger sister, Janie, would say. “It’s like the elevators are taking you up to hell.”

Right out of college she got a job as a copywriter for a big company on the twenty ninth floor of a skyscraper in Los Angeles and lasted two months before her weasely, squirmy boss found the first chapter of her first thriller on her desk.

The murderer is a copywriter for a big company on the twenty ninth floor of a skyscraper in Los Angeles. In the opening paragraphs she graphically describes murdering her supercilious, condescending, snobby boss who makes her feel about the size of a slug and how his body ends up in a trash compactor, his legs spread like a pickled chicken, one shoe off, one red high heel squished on the other foot.

That was the murderer’s calling card.

No one reports his extended absence, including his wife, because people hate him as they would hate a gang of worms in their coffee.

Janie was fired that day, even though she protested her innocence. That afternoon she sat down and wrote the rest of the story, nonstop, for three months. When she emerged from her apartment, she’d lost twenty pounds, was pale white, and muttering. At four months she had her first book contract. When the book was published, she sent it to her ex boss and wrote, “Thanks, dickhead!  With love, Janie Bommarito,” on the inside cover.

It became a best seller.

She became a recluse because she is obsessive and compulsive and needs to indulge all her odd habits privately.

The recluse had received a flowery lemon – smelling pink letter, too. So had Cecilia, whose brain connects with mine.

The rain splattered down on me, the wind twirly whirled, and I raised the Kahlua bottle to my lips again. “I love Kahlua,” I said out loud as I watched the water river down my body, creating a little pool in the area of my crotch where my legs crossed. I flicked the rain away with my hand, watched it pool again, flicked it.

This entertained me for a while.  Off in the distance I saw a streak of lightning, bright and dangerous.

It reminded me of the time when my sisters and I ran through a lightning storm to find Henry in a tree.

I laughed, even though that night had not been funny. It had been hideous. It had started with a pole dance and ended with squishy white walls.

I laughed again, head thrown back, until I cried, my hot tears running down my face off my chin, onto my boobs, and down my stomach. They landed in the pool between my legs and I flicked the rain and tear mixture away again. The tears kept coming and I could feel the darkness, darkness so familiar to me, edging its way back in like a liquid nightmare.

I did not want to deal with the pink letter that smelled of her flowery, lemony perfume.

 

07.01.2014

What’s On Your Bucket List?

I asked my Facebook friends: What are three things on your Bucket List? 

Mine: One, travel extensively, but not to the usual places in the world, and talk to people. Honest talk. Interesting talk. Two, spend more time on our drift boat on different rivers watching Innocent Husband tease the fish while I eat chocolate chip cookies. Three, write in a different genre, or two.

You?

  • Elaine Donoughe Allen I have to think on this, Cathy! lol I am pretty satisfied right now. I use to have a job and didn’t have much time for doing things I love, like reading, so now I read every chance I get, and that’s a lot!
  • Sherie Nash I really don’t have one…just let it all unfold…
  • Geneva Prince I don’t want to give myself aTime .
  • Joan Croxton Carder I’ll have to think on it too. Recently I read in a book “abandon perfection, welcome reflection, nurture connection
  • Janet Castillo 1. Go the Hawaii and swim with the dolphins. 2. Go to Alaska and see the aurora borealis – or however you spell it. 3. Win the lottery so I can retire early.
  • Joan Croxton Carder Good choices Janet!
  • Dusti Douglass 1. Eat *real* Italian food in Italy. 2. Go back to CA and put my feet in the Pacific so that I will have touched all of the waters surrounding the US. 3. See either the Mayan ruins, the pyramids in Egypt, or both.
  • Barb Dowdell MacKenzie Ireland to kiss the Blarney Stone (wanted to do that since I was 9), go to Boston to see a ball game, ride a horse on a beach.
  • Iris Harrison 1.Write my wild radio memoir. 2.Finish my paintings. 3.Travel and visit places and friends that I love and miss.
  • Elyse Sorkin Visit England and tour all those places that I read about in books. Drive through the country side in Italy. Eat all the carbs that I want to in Italy.
  • Cynthia Dix One, finish the next draft/edit on *that* novel! Two, visit Australia and my Down-Under cousins. Three, oh dear, right now Three would be attending Worldcon 2015 in Spokane.
  • Lauren McNeal Zorn 1.) Go to the Kentucky Derby. 2.) Go to the The Price is Right in L.A. & at least be in the studio audience if I can’t get on stage & 3.) go the Isle of Barra in Scotland because that’s the seat of the MacNeil’s & I’m a member of that clan….maiden name McNeal…different spelling but still….& I want to see the Clan castle if at all possible. :o)
  • De Hansbrough Move somewhere amazing, such as Provence. One man art shows.. Publish my book of fairy tales.
  • Tale Thomp Write and publish a series. Go on a vacation with no time limit of when I’m coming back… Just come home when I’m ready. Establish a boarding school for young mothers.
  • Jaime Pommerening 1) Adopt a golden retriever. 2) Get my own home. 3) Find a real/true friend.
  • Jessica Morrell Love your list. Must ponder a bit.
  • Gillian Dorrance Fish not sure if these are possible but am hoping….1) watch the Canada flag raise at the olympics with my daughter on the podium; i would settle for just being at the olympics if she doesn’t achieve her dreams….2) take a year off work and write, 3) learn to paint to see if i can actually channel some of the talent my other family members have
  • Cathy Lamb Wow. So many thoughtful responses. I may have to revise my list….I’m going to do something daring in a minute: I’m going to Zumba class with my daughter. Just to be clear: It is not on my bucket list. I look like an electrified octopus with bad rhythm in Zumba, but I’m going anyhow.
  • Gillian Dorrance Fish zumba was my try something new project last fall. so humbling and truly embarassing but i survived and actually liked it, unless i looked in the mirror. this girl has no rhythm.
  • Andrea Schlegel Kershaw Adopt a dog………..inherit a cottage beach house (ok……I read too many books like that)…………I’ll revise that and stay at the beach for a summer…….and I like what Jaime said, find a true / real friend. Some have become fake and users. Tired of that.
  • Rose Lynn Beyke 1) Move to the country in a tiny house, go solar and become self sufficient 2) Just jump in the car and drive for a month on back roads, the best things and people are found on the side of the road 3) Visit Goblecki Tepe
  • Terri Johnsen Dive the great barrier reef, take a cruise with the women in my family, have another event that you said you come to if I had!
  • Amy Downer 1. Travel to Poland 2. Visit Stonehedge 3. Play the tambourine or cowbell on stage with a blues band.
  • Barb Dowdell MacKenzie OKAY! Should not have read this list–I really want to add France to see the lavender fields, and Eat my way through Italy, shop for Italian leather shoes in my size-or heck, have them made for me!
  • Jaime Pommerening Cathy Lamb:  your post about going to Zumba with your daughter! Hmm, maybe use the octopus and Zumba in an upcoming book?! Lol!
  • Joan Licker Carsten Ride on a motorcycle! Teach spinning classes at the gym! Travel with my family to Europe!
  • Maria Ulery 1. Move to the Beach
    2. Travel – someday a cruise, travel more in Italy see France too
    3. See my son become successful and way later on have a family I hear grand kids r awesome
  • Michelle Maxwell Lisenbee Take an entire summer off and drive cross country in an RV with my husband and kids, take an Alaskan cruise to see the aurora borealis and whales, live on acreage in the mountains and have lots of animals, (I know this is four, but…vacation somewhere tropical and swim with dolphins…I could probably keep going. There’s lots of stuff I still want to do!)
  • Misty Pickering-Eliopoulos Watch the final game of the World Series in a sky box when the Chicago Cubs finally win it……I think I’ll have better luck taking a ride in a hot air baloon which is also on my list
    • Cathy Lamb Sheesh. After reading all of these, I’m definitely going to have to add things to my bucket list. Especially a cruise in Alaska, seeing the aurora borealis, (sp?), and, of COURSE, hangin’ with the grandkids when they come. (But not yet, kids!! Not yet! That’s not an invitation from mom! No grandkids at the moment, please.)
    • Amy Yeager 1. Become a Mom. 2. Travel to Italy and London (Ireland gets crossed of this year :)) 3. Write the book that I’ve been playing with for years and close friends keep encouraging snd pushing me to just do it already
    • Marleen Hoogendam I’m from Holland and went to Italy in May, with the citrustrees blooming and scents of rosemary everywhere, and the paintings of Botticelli and DaVinci inFlorence, oo, and the fabolous leaning tower of Pisa, good choice ladies ( and the teenagers in …See More
    • Jennifer Cramer-Hughes Be happy
      Feel love
      live without fear
    • Rachel Journey Marry the love of my life and have his children. Travel to Egypt and see the pyramids.

06.16.2014

A Humorous Blog Roll For Authors….

montana October 2013 012The term “blog roll” is a new term for me.

Apparently it’s like the game “Telephone” we all played when we were younger where we sat knee to knee in a circle and one person whispered something to another person, then another person and at the end it came out as some crazy – ass garbled sentence.

Only with a blog roll, it’s author to author, asking each writer to answer the same set of questions, then send them on, and there is, hopefully, no crazy ass sentences at the end.

Oh, wait.  That’s what authors are known for.

Some are known for just being plain plum crazy, too.

In fact, I feel semi crazy today.  I have recently started writing another book. I am sure it will come together at one point before I become a raving hermit and move to the backwoods of Montana with a herd of cats. At this moment, I can’t see it and am wondering which cats I should take with me.

I digress.

montana October 2013 013I was asked to be a part of a blog roll by my new friend and fellow author, Lesley Kagen, who wrote, among other books, the wonderful, Whistling in the Dark.

Here’s her website. http://www.lesleykagen.com/

Thank you, Lesley!

At the end of this blog roll I’ll recommend the writer that I am handing off this Blog Roll to next…

 

1. WHAT I AM WORKING ON

Cathy Lamb: I am working on staying sane.  Yep. Summer. Kids home. Lots going on.

And I’m trying to write another novel.  Here are a few hints: It’s set in Scotland.  Men in kilts, flowing gardens, The Lochness Monster, bagpipes, cobblestone streets, all that.  My main character is … well, a bit like me.

The story is about best friends with one best friend not being honest about what is going on, and has gone on, in her life. So is the friendship still true and real?  Do the lies lessen the quality of the relationship? How do you define friendship? How important are girlfriends and best friends?

Can I eat chocolate EVERY day?

montana October 2013 0042. HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?

Oh, I don’t know. I know lots of excellent fiction writers who write for women audiences, and about women, like me. On a side note, if I were to list the fiction writers who I think are better than me I would have to go hide in my closet with a nice, fuzzy pink blanket over my head and rock back and forth in a pathetic fashion. Let’s do move on here.

3. WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?

I write what I do because I have a wild imagination and stories in my head.  I like writing about issues, problems, and challenges that women face. I like writing about real life, with a whole ton of humor and funny antics thrown in.  I like developing quirky characters and giving them friends and family and men that you want to hug/strangle/kick/cook with/laugh with/tie up and send to Pluto. I like giving my characters full lives and watching those lives go up in smoke and then settle down into something lovely.

4. HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?

Well, currently my writing process isn’t working. I have, for the first time in my life, written the ending FIRST of this next novel. I have then worked backwards from the end.  Last night I started to fill in the middle – end.  I suppose I will write the beginning one of these days, after I cut and paste the book until I feel like I’m putting together a brain numbing and stupid puzzle.

I do write 2,000 words a day, 10,000 a week when I’m writing a first draft, which is what I’m doing now. I am up very late.  I edit every book at least eight times before it goes to my editor. I edit each book twelve times total.  Why? Because that’s how long it takes.

By the time it’s done, well, it’s done. I don’t want to read it again. Not in this lifetime and not in the next one, either.

5. AND THE OTHER PART OF THIS QUESTION, HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS NOT WORK?

Oh gee. I think I just answered this. My advice: Do not write the ending first.  Ever. It’s ridiculous. I am ridiculous.

PASSING THE TORCH of this blog roll.

Please. Read Cassie Selleck Dandridge’s The Pecan Man.  I loved it. She is a smart and depthfull  (did I just make up a word?) writer and she self published the book on Amazon, that literary daredevil. Only $4.99. Trust me on this one.

Cassie Selleck Dandridge

http://thepecanman.wordpress.com/

 

Happy reading to one and all.

PS The horses are my sister’s. I put them in this blog because I think they’re smiling.

06.01.2014

For Writers: How NOT To Write A Novel

1. Write only the scenes that you “feel like” writing, as if you are some zen loving hippie and will do what the wind calls you to do, what the rainbow requests, what the chirping birds inspire you to write.  You will then have a giant mess, in non – chronological, senseless order, that you will have to cut and paste and cut and paste until you want to bash your head through a wall, like me.

2. Spend all your time daydreaming about other things that are pleasant and delightful and not writing your book, and then tell yourself that you were doing “research.” When your deadline is looming like a sharp toothed pterodactyl, you will be working sixteen hours a day, chugging coffee and ice cream. It’s ugly.  Avoid it.

3. Convince yourself that you should hang out with fun girlfriends instead of work so you can get more ideas for your book. Soon you will have gained ten pounds because your fun friends like to eat fun food at fun places and you go along with all this fun – ness because you are a sap who is dragging her ass instead of writing.

(DO REMEMBER, friends, this is an article on what writers SHOULD NOT do!)

4. Change your mind about your main character mid way through so you have to go back to the start and “fix” her.

How Not To Write 0175. Decide in the sixth edit that you are sick of one of your other characters for an inane reason and delete him or her out along with 20,000 words. Now you have to go through the whole blasted novel, yet again, and make sure not one single hint of that character is in the book, always a brain splitting job.

6. Become addicted to the New York Times. Pretty soon you’re composing letters to leaders of far off, primitive countries of the world detailing exactly what they need to do to advance into the 19th century, what are they, stupid? and you’re actively engaged in debating with YOURSELF OUT LOUD what YOU would do if you were president. It’s ridiculous. I’m ridiculous.

7. Spend an inordinate amount of time debating, with your Invisible Friends, what book you should read next, then after that, and what should be read after that? Download more books than you can ever read. Cackle crazily while you do it.

How Not To Write 0158. Write an enormous 152,000 word book, knowing you’ll have to edit that sucker twelve times, and ask yourself if you want to be sane at the end of it, or not.  If not, then go ahead and write it. If you treasure sanity, don’t do it. Become a florist. Roses are calming.

9. Decide that everything in your life has to be settled and done before you start writing. It is a good way to start writing by midnight EVERY SINGLE *(&%&U*(& NIGHT.

10. Take time off like I did. I took weeks off recently. Weeks. I have never taken weeks off work in my entire life and I am 47 years old and started working when I was fifteen. Usually I wait four days between finishing a novel and starting another one.  I grew up Catholic, with an “idle hands are the devil’s play things” mentality, so laziness didn’t go over well in our house. In fact it was forbidden, so work is second nature to me.

But, oh no. I had to go and take a Cathy Sabbatical. Now I know what retirement is going to feel like. I currently want to retire immediately and watch my hydrangeas and rhododendrons grow, but I can’t. Woe is poor me and my twisted imagination.

Back to work, dear friends! Cheerio! Bon chance, tra la la, adios and all that.  Good luck to you, you crazy people, I’m going to have a melt down.

05.30.2014

Maya Angelou, Brilliant Writer, Brilliant Person

We will miss you.

 

‘Still I Rise’ by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

 

 

Beach June 2013 146

05.29.2014

Author to Author Interview: Cassie Dandridge Selleck

Pecan_Man_Book_CoverCathy Lamb:  Cassie, I just loved The Pecan Man. It was one of the most  honest, heartbreaking -yet – hopeful books I’ve read. You captured the time period, with the rampant racism and discrimination, so well. I felt like I was there, in Florida, living with Ora Lee Beckworth.

(Friends, it’s only $4.99 on Kindle and please, take it from me who reads like a fiend, it’s worth it.)

Please tell everyone here what The Pecan Man is about.

Cassie Dandridge Selleck: The Pecan Man is about a woman, Ora Lee Beckworth, who sets out to clear her conscience by clearing a man’s name. In doing so, she learns much more about herself than she thought she knew about everything and everyone else. It is also about Ora’s relationship with her maid, Blanche, and how Ora’s life changes when she starts making decisions based on love rather than tradition.

One thing I loved is how Ora, a white woman, steeped deeply in her societal traditions, changed in her feelings towards Blanche, her African American maid, and how she realized the error of her own thinking, and of her own behavior towards, Blanche. She was able to look at her past, her present, and change her future based on her new, more compassionate, intellectual, and open minded insights. She even gained a whole new family.

What do you see, Cassie, as the overriding themes?

Cassie_Headshot_2013I would say the overriding theme of The Pecan Man is redemption and restoration. Sometimes we all do things that we wish we could take back. We make choices with painful consequences, for ourselves and for others. What defines our character is what we do to atone for our sins, what sacrifices we will make, and how we go about setting things right if given the opportunity.

As Ora finally, finally did. (One more note, readers…If your book group needs a story that will provide interesting discussions, this would be it. Ora’s choices can easily be debated.)

What sparked the story?

In 2001, on the 45 minute trip from the grocery store to my home on the Suwannee River, an old black man rode his rumpled old bicycle out of the woods just in front of me. Two blocks away, another old man was picking up pecans in his front yard. I have always been intrigued by real characters in life, so these two men sort of morphed into one character I called The Pecan Man. By the time I got home, I had three characters, Ora, Blanche and Eddie and I knew only that Ora would sit down on her porch to tell, in traditional storytelling fashion, the story of why The Pecan Man died in prison for a crime he did not commit.

Like I said in my opening…heart breaking.

Your book is selling incredibly well. How has the success of the Pecan Man changed your life?

Wow, in so many ways. I have been working for others, raising children, mentoring students and volunteering since I was seventeen years old. For the first time in my life, I am completely self-sufficient and able to do whatever I want to do. The funny thing is, the first two things on my bucket list were: Get a college degree and publish a novel – in that order. The second now makes the first possible and I am working on a BFA in Creative Writing through Goddard College’s low residency program.

Good for you. I always thought a degree in Creative Writing would be so much fun to earn. Going back to school, writing, reading…I’ll have to live vicariously through you now. 

But back to the book!  The Pecan Man is about 50,000 words, correct? How long did it take you to write it?

Honestly…almost ten years. But that was off and on, while working full-time, raising children, building a house (literally and personally), suffering from undiagnosed carpal tunnel syndrome and a host of other “I’m too busy to write” excuses. I’m working on another novel now. I pray that it does not take another ten years!

It better not. You will be in big trouble with me if it does. I want to read the next one right away.

Did you self publish it? Traditionally publish? Was it published only as an E – book?

log_benchI was not in a position to devote real time to seeking a traditional publisher, so I was just sitting on this mostly finished work. I decided to publish through Amazon’s Kindle program, just as an e-book, thinking that the worst that could happen was that it didn’t sell or got widely panned and I could pull it. What’s that new insurance commercial? “Like it never even happened.” Well, that didn’t last long. Too many people were complaining that they wanted a “real” book, so I put it out in paperback as well.

I was getting tired of being asked when I was going to publish my novel, so when I read an article about a woman who successfully self-published through Amazon, I figured it was a good way to shut my family and friends up! In all seriousness, though, I felt like I had nothing to lose, but I honestly did not expect it to be as successful as it is. I can’t even tell you how many book clubs have contacted me saying, “This is the first self-published book we’ve chosen.” I am humbled and grateful and overwhelmed by the outpouring of love for my characters from readers all over the world.

I understand you now have an agent. Why did you decide to hire an agent after such a successful debut?

Well, I wasn’t looking for an agent, but a couple of them came looking for me, and I chose one who is really excited about The Pecan Man and future work as well. There are a lot of things an agent can do, including securing foreign rights, getting a movie deal (crossing fingers), and possibly selling it to a major publisher. My jury is still out on that, but I think every author wants the legitimacy of a big publishing house. She did sell the audio rights, however, and The Pecan Man will be available as an audio recording in August. I was allowed to help choose the narrator and I have to say that I am thrilled with our selection. She absolutely brings Ora Lee to life.

What are the jobs you have had in your life? Do you have a day job now and what is it?

I’ve been working since I was 19, so the list is long: drug store clerk, bank receptionist, photo lab technician, Emergency Medical Technician, payroll/accounting clerk at what is now The Villages, Florida, Operations Controller at Merrill Lynch, Library Outreach Coordinator (my favorite), Sales and Marketing Manager for bridge access company. The Pecan Man has allowed me the financial freedom to go back to school and work as a writer.

That is just thrilling to hear.  I love being a full time writer.  Trying to work a job outside the home, raise kids, and write at night is just exhausting.  Even my bones felt tired when I did that. So much easier to be able to focus on one job only. Plus I’m a lot less cranky.

Besides writing, what are your interests and hobbies? (The photo of the carved log, above, is one of Cassie’s and her husband’s projects. They have many! The hawk is in her front yard.)

Reading, scrapbooking, mixed media art, painting, quilting and sewing, music, photography, and grandbabies! My grandbabies call me YaYa (my choice), and my son-in-law dubbed me the Yayarazzi because I am constantly chasing them around with a camera in my hand. I don’t have much time to do most of those things these days, but I still love doing them.

Ya Ya, if you were given two weeks of vacation, all expenses paid, where would you go, who would you invite to come with you, and what would you do?

Hands down…Ireland. I’d take my husband and we’d probably be typical tourists, roaming the countryside and hanging out in the pubs. In the meantime, we are working towards retirement so we can travel the U.S. in an RV.

Thank you for the interview. Let us know when your new book is out because I will be first up to buy it. The Pecan Man was a literary gift, Cassie.

 

www.thepecanman.wordpress.com

Facebook: The Pecan Man

 

05.16.2014

20 Things I’ve Done Since Finishing My Latest Novel

New What I Remember Most1. I read a ton of books. Only one was awful. I put it down. Now it’s stuck in my head. I hate that.

2. I learned to love gardening. My late mother would be delighted. She had 23 fruit trees, a geometric patio, and a burgundy clematis that now climbs up my trellis.

3. I cleaned off a wood bird house my late father owned. He used to watch a daring squirrel trying to eat the bird seed out of it when he was resting from chemotherapy. He always laughed at the squirrel. That man knew how to appreciate the smallest things in life, even when his life was ending.

4. I spent many hours running (slowly) in the woods. I had a lot to think about.

5. I walked on the beach.  Why does the beach make me cry sometimes? I just don’t know. It’s like the waves release the emotions.

6. I loved and laughed with my kids. That’s the most important. Laughing and loving.

7. I hugged my husband more.  After 23 years, he’s still huggable.

8. I solved problems. Some big, some small. Some quite  painful, some irritating.

9. I continued to build my relationship with my cat, KC, by meowing back at her. She is strange. Or maybe it’s me.

Josh H KC Cat 01110. I had lunch with my girlfriends. I do not hang out with groups of women, they make me nervous. But I do have really close girlfriends and one or two of them and I will go to lunch or a play together. I think God gave us girlfriends because he knew that our men would sometimes drive us out of our minds, as would life itself.

11. I had long cups of coffee. You know what I mean.

12. I threw stuff out. I can’t stand clutter. Clutter in the house, clutter in the head. My characters take up enough space in my head, ain’t no more room in there for anything else.

13. I decided that I will be a really good retired person.

14. I encouraged my sister to name her new horse Cathy and the new baby horse Marie. I don’t think she’s going to do that. Darn it.  What I have learned from the horse loving sister: A life spent giving to others – even the ‘others’ with fur and feathers – is a life worth living.

OCtober 2014 06615. I skied. I ingloriously fell multiple times. I didn’t break anything.  I am a terrible skier.

16. I daydreamed.

17. I dealt with a couple of not so nice people. Surely there’s an island where not so nice people can go and live together and be not so nice together and leave the rest of us alone?

18. I decided I really do need to work on being more patient. I’ve got about ten seconds of patience. That is not good.

19. I saw a couple of Van Goghs. You can see his troubled mind so clearly in his paintings. I relate to him.

20. I scribbled in a journal. Finally an idea for a story came to me. Now I have to begin the torture of writing it.

*** What I Remember Most is out in September, 2014.


Cathy Lamb
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