Friday, August 31, 2012

The Next Big Thing: Mission Accomplished

Here’s the plan:
***Answer the following ten questions about a current WIP (Work In Progress).
***Tag five other writers and link their blogs so we can all hop over and read their answers. It’s that simple.

My plan was to answer one question per week with the best intentions of having my novel published by the time I posted the final question. It was necessary to miss a couple of questions to complete the editing, format the manuscript, and upload everything in ebook format to Kindle, but I am pleased to say that on Tuesday, August 28:
Mission Accomplished! 

Here is Question #10 of The Next Big Thing:

TNBT: Can you tell us anything else that might pique our interest in your book?

GAIL: From the book synopsis: By the time she figures out what her cousin's missing high-top pink sneaker has to do with a letter written by a fifteen-year-old nun in Paris, the loaded revolver is cocked and aimed at Pepper’s heart. 


Available at

 (A Pepper Bibeau Mystery)
And now, 15 awesome writers whose novels are up next - in alphabetical, not reading, order - on my TBR Kindle list - authors whose work you want to watch (and follow on Twitter):

 1. Adam Sydney - My Heart is a Drummer @AdamSydney1

 2. Ann Charles - Optical Delusions in Deadwood (Deadwood Mystery) @AnnWCharles

 3. Cristyn West - Plain Jane: Brunettes Beware (Police Procedural) @craftycmc

 4. Darcia Helle - No Justice (A Michael Sykora Novel) @DarciaHelle

 5. D.A. Graystone - Two Graves (A Kesley City Homicide Novel) @dagraystone

 6. Derek Blass - Allegiance, a Thriller @DerekBlass

 7. Faith Mortimer - The Bamboo Mirror (Short mystery stories) @FaithMortimer

 8. Gary F. Vanucci - Wothlondia Rising 3: Maturation Process (Fantasy) @AshenclawRealm

 9. Jerry Labriola M.D. - Murders at Brent Institute @PaulDArneau

10. John Betcher - The Covert Element - A James Becker Thriller @JohnBetcher

11. Kaye George - Shipwreck (Dark fantasy/horror short story) @KGeorgeMystery

12. Maria Savva - Coincidences (Following Your Dreams) @Maria_Savva

13. Michele Drier - SNAP - New Talent (The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles) @MicheleDrier

14. Rachel Thompson - The Mancode: Exposed @RachelintheOC

15. Stacy Juba - Teddy Bear Town Children’s e-book Bundle @stacyjuba

Full set of questions for The Next Big Thing Interview: 

What is the working title of your book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?


Thursday, August 23, 2012

FAST FIVE Author Interview with Elizabeth McBride

Elizabeth McBride & David Thompson
My guest today is Elizabeth McBride who, with David Thompson, writes under the pen name E.D MacDavey. They are the authors of Prey for Zion (An RV Travel Mystery with Max & Isabel). It is difficult to pass up a title like that!

FAST FIVE: Elizabeth is a member of the Wisconsin chapter of Sisters in Crime. Welcome, Elizabeth, and thank you for joining us today. It appears you and David have taken the research aspect of writing to a whole new level. Going beyond the 140 characters of Twitter, can you tell us something about the novel and your research for Prey for Zion? 

ELIZABETH McBRIDE: Our protagonists are a retired couple who have just bought a small fiberglass trailer with the intention of visiting the country’s most spectacular national parks. Max Berkeley is an ex-ornithologist with ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder). He's a natural explorer--curious, restless, and eager for adventure. However, his more cautious wife Isabel, a former schoolteacher, thinks traveling in their new trailer is like stuffing two whales in a sardine can, one of whom is constantly wiggling. Their first destination is Zion National Park. On Max's first hike, he discovers a, let's say, unusual item on the trail. One thing leads to another, and soon they join an alliance of misfits intent on stopping the election of a powerful Mormon candidate with a secret life in an isolated desert compound. His goal: to spread his own brand of evil throughout Utah and the nation. 

Polygamy, condors, drones, provocative Mormon tales, and one of the most beautiful parks in the country--we poured all that into 90,000 words! We bought our own trailer for the first-hand experience, took two extended trips to Utah, huddled over reference books, wore our eyes out on the Internet, and discovered a few unusual blogs, including one called Feminist Mormon Housewives. We even corresponded with an expert on mummies. Every inch of ground mentioned in the book we saw, and we turned all of our trailer mishaps into plot devices. The explosions and dead bodies are, thankfully, imaginary. 

FAST FIVE: Polygamy and condors and drones, oh my! (Sorry, Elizabeth, I couldn’t resist.) Is “the job” the most important part of your protagonist’s life? 

ELIZABETH McBRIDE: As retirees, Max and Isabel are not supposed to have a job. But retiring doesn’t mean you’re giving up your smarts, your social conscience, or your ability to hike 10 miles on a rocky trail. As Max and Isabel shed light on a century-old mystery, rescue women from the clutches of polygamy, and claw themselves out of a few jams, they discover that having a sense of purpose gives meaning to life. 

FAST FIVE: The Mystery/Suspense genre is the focus of Fast Five interviews, but what unique twist makes your novel stand out? 

ELIZABETH McBRIDE: Our novel, though fiction, has an unusual grounding in both history and current events. There are two historical mysteries--never solved—that would be sensational if they saw the light of day in 21st-century America. One of these involves the first draft of the Book of Mormon, which was stolen before it could be published. The second is the story of the greatest foe of Mormon polygamy--Ann Eliza Young. She was the 19th (some say the 27th) wife of Brigham Young, the leader who oversaw the vast migration of Mormons to Utah in 1846. Ann Eliza divorced Young, wrote an autobiography, and lectured to huge crowds around the country. In fact, she was one of the biggest box-office stars of her time, and her crusade is credited with bringing polygamy down. But she disappeared. Nobody knows when or how she died. No record. No grave. 

Now that we’ve mentioned Mormonism, the current event is obvious. One of the main characters, Jesse Cage, is a rich Mormon businessman, running for high political office. When Max finds one of Cage’s female employees naked and dead in a canyon, Cage struggles to shield from the public what’s going on in his desert compound. As his desperation grows, he realizes that the answer to what happened to the Book of Mormon--and Ann Eliza--will provide what he needs to prevail. (We saw Mitt Romney’s candidacy on the horizon when we began this project a few years ago. But, as we keep telling the Secret Service, any resemblance to the circumstances in our book is completely accidental!) 

Another unusual aspect of Prey for Zion is that two people (Elizabeth McBride and David Thompson) wrote it. A few famous authors have said that collaborating with a significant other is a bad idea, even suicidal. But despite the keen odds, we had a great time traveling around, learning interesting things about national parks, reading articles in the paper about slimy characters, and trying not to strangle each other. And here we are, still together, fingers curled over the keyboard. 

FAST FIVE: Our Sisters in Crime/Hawaii chapter has as members a married couple, Rosemary and Larry Mild, who sit back-to-back in their office writing all day and they are still alive and well with several mystery novels under their collective belts! Not a bad idea at all. 

How does your main character’s profession draw her into suspenseful situations, murder, for instance? 

ELIZABETH McBRIDE: Max has ADHD because coauthor David has ADHD. David has a nose for trouble and the daring to get out of it, which we figured were fine attributes for a character in a mystery novel. Since Max is constantly roaming and sleuthing, it’s not surprising that he stumbles upon dead bodies--one of which is a hundred years old. Think Miss Marples on amphetamines. 

Isabel is his foil--steady, deliberate, and thoughtful. She's also a former schoolteacher, which gives her a wealth of knowledge to draw upon, the smarts to figure out puzzles, and the people skills to develop relationships and pry clues out of suspects. 

FAST FIVE: Is this book part of a series, and are you working on a sequel? 

ELIZABETH McBRIDE: Prey for Zion was conceived as part of a series. As Max and Isabel drive around the country with their little trailer visiting the iconic parks, Max’s restlessness draws them into one scrape after another. Isabel brings him down to earth, dusts him off, and cringes at the prospect of still another misadventure. We’ve sketched out plots for about five books. In book two, when Max and Isabel set up the trailer in Isabel’s hometown—Jersey City, N.J.—so she can attend a high school reunion, they uncover her family connections to the Mob and a plot to set off a radioactive bomb next door to New York City. 

FAST FIVE: This last isn’t a Fast Five question, more an “if/then” scenario: If Paris is not an option, then where would you most like to spend your time writing and why. 

ELIZABETH McBRIDE: We love to spend our time doing research and writing in exotic locations—including anywhere in the U.S we can bring our trailer. For us, writing a novel is the perfect way to explore a place. You examine all of its quirks--the things no one else notices. While taking our trips to Zion National Park, we looked not only into the park’s history and geology, but also the dusty ghost towns, polygamous villages, and eclectic countercultural hangouts tucked away in the backcountry. We go everywhere we can and some places where we shouldn’t. Liz completed her first hike in a dry suit, wading up the Virgin River in thigh-high waters where it cuts through a thousand-foot slot canyon. David nearly got arrested by a nervous ranger while too closely examining the graveyard of deceased picnic tables.
We both do background research onsite and take notes on our experiences. Liz specializes in character development, plot details, and the overall writing. David comes up with the premise and drafts the action scenes and the chapters that are told from the perspective of Max or one of the various male villains. He also exhaustively explores the locations (including picnic tables) and documents everything with photos.
Bringing different talents to the project makes it a fruitful collaboration. But that doesn’t make it easy. David always wants to add one more twist to the plot, way past the deadline of “no more details” set by Liz. He also provides the rollicking unpredictability that gives Prey for Zion its humor, while Liz brings the insight that infuses the plot with universal emotion and the craftsmanship that gets the project done.
Where readers can follow you:
And here's a link to Amazon:

Friday, August 17, 2012

Meet Author Cynthia Meyers-Hanson (Part 2)

Today’s guest is my good friend, Cynthia Meyers-Hanson. Cindy is a school teacher as well as the author of several amazing books that can be found on Amazon Kindle. When I read Cindy’s non-fiction book, Mom’s on the Roof and I Can’t Get Her Down, I couldn’t help but appreciate the courage she demonstrated while caring for her mother, and then sharing her experiences for the benefit of others. When I asked Cindy to participate in an interview, she readily accepted. I compiled my questions based on her first book Mom’s on the Roof. She graciously responded with answers straight from the heart. I presented the first half of her interview in July when I asked the question, Your favorite phrase is “I am surviving!” Cindy, what gave you the strength to cope and to recover? You will find her amazing answer here: 

Today is a presentation of the second half of Cindy’s interview. 

GAIL: Cindy, at one point, you asked yourself, “How can I die someday in an accepting manner when she (Mom) is rejecting God so loudly?” Your story is a study in acceptance, your mother’s and your own. How did you learn to accept? 

CINDY: Above all, once I admitted that I am 1% unsure of ‘life after death’ or that a ‘master mind’ exists- then, the higher probability (of 99% sure of a God controlling my fate) kicked in.  Plus, my mom eventually allowed the very short conversation that she was truly dying to occur between us.  God supplied the rest through the things He orchestrated before, during, and years after my mother’s death.  Still, admittedly, as a human, I have my doubts.  In fact, when my book was abandoned by the original small publisher, I put it to rest.  It didn’t rest in peace; God reincarnated it after the new millennium.  Strangers that knew some of the people that had copies of my first printing called, wrote, or e-mailed me to buy copies; this all happened in a few months span.  With the beginning of online indie publishing and PODs, I found and researched a few ways to get that book back in print.  God forced my hand; He pushed me to accept my fate as the writer because I’d developed a ‘love hate’ relationship with that title.  WHY?  I’m human, and I was disappointed that the book only sold 1,000 copies or less in 1994-95. 

What revived interest? It started with a call from my electrolysis’s secretary.  He son died tragically in a car accident, and my book was recommended to her.  I had NO copies left expect my personal one.  The media I used to write the tale was very out of date and on the wrong computer devices as well as in a format way before Word Perfect or MS-WORD.  I manually retyped one chapter at a time e-mailing the sections to her.  Other people got forwarded copies until the demand built beyond my e-mail capability.   At that time, I found a POD with good reviews and low costs to the indie author, and that book went indie.

Again, the sales were dismal and fleeting.  However, when my ‘human will’ remained stubbornly against reentering the writing field, God had His say.  He sent people with incredible stories.  I felt compelled to help those souls compose their books as well as more and more of my own stories.  My desire was to spread His good news but I hoped to carve out a living as well.  To date, I am still as poor as a church mouse.  However, I write because I am driven- mostly in the spirit.  Most of my books, even my fictions, are based on facts and ‘the moral of this story’ ideas.   

My most compelling thought that keeps my stories alive follows.  ‘If I had not copyrighted my first book in 1994, how could the book prove itself even without my help?  God had a plan much larger than I understood in 1991 and 1994-95.  Or, even today!’  Like my readers, I want to see how my story ends (in Paradise?) and whether or not John ever arrives to my life! 

GAIL: The captivating title of your book, Mom’s on the Roof and I Can’t Get Her Down, has an equally charming history that had me laughing and crying each time I read the passage (I just reread it to refresh my memory, and there I go again!) Your father’s sense of humor shines through in this passage. With the tragedy and loss in your family, how has the maxim ‘Forgive, Forget, and Love’ helped you, and how can it help for others? 

CINDY: Another thought I have ‘over analyzed’ follows.  Anger, revenge, grudges, and any temperamental thoughts are slow versions of suicide.  They waste precious time and consume your soul.  Thus, I try to reset my bad feelings when they occur!  Its self-preservation! ‘Don’t worry (too much); be happy!  I strive towards that ideal but I fail, some days.   In the end, only kindness matters! I love that song by Jewel, “My hands are small I know but!!!” Where there is someone without a voice, there I will proceed….to tell their or my relatable story as well as listen for their and God’s feedback!

Meanwhile, my first book’s title or Mom’s on the Roof and I Can’t Get Her Down is based on a joke; dad used to tell it.  It is an old, recirculated one.  It means the best way to tell you mom died is slowly so you can adjust to that idea and then see the miracles.  However, it can mean other things such as mom shouted or babbled her message of God and love from the rooftops.  It can mean that I could not stop the inevitable, so I let go and let God guide us to my mother’s death. I love layered meanings!  

I learned jesting from dad but I learned coping with life by employing humor from my mother.  She had a tough life and never blamed it on God.  She was so much like Job.  For example, she used to joke that she married dad for better or worse, and she got the worst!  Mom told me that she stayed married to my father to give him a normal family life- as much as humanly possible.  Dad was bipolar and a hard soul to live with but dad prospered with mom’s help.  He committed suicide once his helpmate left for Heaven.  My mother warned and God prepared me for his bad decision; I survived it all as a result!

GAIL: Your story deals with death, afterlife, and Heaven. You must have met skeptical people in your life who say that no one knows what comes after, whatever “after” means to them. The word MIRACLES also has many interpretations. What does A MIRACLE mean to you? 

CINDY: Soon after publishing my first book, I did a book fair at the library in Helen, Florida..That is the town next door to Cassadaga, Florida- which is a spiritualist town.  Some people looked at the cover of my book and went for my throat.  That was one of two times that I came face to face with vampires; I’m joking, maybe.  Even so, that day, I sold books.  However, that experience made me wonder about people that tell you their minds are open or they are spiritual but go immediately after you in an attacking manner if you have an alternative point of view about the nonphysical world.  I asked myself, ‘Are they really all that open to others’ thoughts or just their own?   Why do they feel the need to attack before completing a civilized conversation?’ Time taught me NOT to argue with people with closed minds.   

Besides, I didn’t write my first book to prove anything! I wrote it to tell the amazing tale of mom’s terminal death.  I believe she spoke with God, and He is proving His Theory that He exists- with or without my help. 

Meanwhile, to me, miracles are events that might happen arbitrarily but the pattern is so vivid that you know there is an order- a higher order- and a source for their randomness.  The timing is so precise that even if it’s a natural event it’s unbelievable that it happened as precisely as it did.  It can only be expressed in the word Miracle! There are small miracles and larger ones; they happen all around us.  An individual just has to open their eyes to the smallest random events and see their intricacies in their timing. 

For example, I was born legally blind in the right place at the right time.  A doctor asked to experiment on my eyes; now, I see.  Was it random?  I discuss my miracle story in The Vision.  In hindsight, all these well-timed events in my life from my blindness to vision, from my mother saying God cares and loves us to my near arm amputation, and so on help me see and understand how random events are well-planned.  They are for lack of a better description MIRACLES. There has to be a Higher Source orchestrating it all.

By the way, my book reveals that even Death is a miracle.  For an example of this logic, you’ll have to read Mom’s on the Roof and I Can’t Get Her Down. 

GAIL: I am curious about another of your books, The GNAW Project. What does the acronym stand for and how did this project come about? 

CINDY: The book entitled The GNAW Project is not about vampires!  It was a high school class project.  The picture book came about because I taught ‘At Risk Kids’.  Due to that life experience, I totally get the movie The Blind Side; I taught many students like the main character, the street boy.  As a teacher, I decided to show my kids more than how to read. I tried to teach them how to fish.  They wrote a book; and their classes read it to pre-school aged children on their campus.  The book sold but mainly to me. I bought copies for everyone involved.  My wealthy friends donated to their cause as well.   In spite of meager sales, the students had pride in their stories.  I paid for the copyright for the student’s work so that local charities may earn from their efforts one day. 

By the way, GNAW stands for ‘Granola, Nuts And Water’ or ‘Granola, Nuts, Apples, and Water’ depending on who you ask.  The title has dual meaning!  We are so hungry it GNAWs at our stomachs, or we want to help others in poverty so badly that it GNAWs at our souls.  Meanwhile, those teens imagined raising money to feed home pantries or other students’ book bags with those nonperishables.  The students felt empowered instead of needy even though their book never turned a true profit. 

Years later, I still give to their cause via two local churches in town; I feed their kin.  In other words, proceeds from that book and my personal cash still fund their idea.  I believe that even if it inspires other communities or people to pitch in and help that the book served its purpose.  Meanwhile, I have gotten feedback and helped others weave blankets in their towns as well as heard that others are writing books with their students.  That’s encouraging because we are teaching the poor how to fish. 

GAIL: One of the questions in my FAST FIVE Author Interview is: If Paris is not an option, then where would you most like to spend your time writing and why. Cindy, you were given the opportunity to visit France and wrote of wanted to return. Has Paris remained a dream vacation spot for you? 

CINDY: Funny you should ask about Paris. I’ve been there twice in my lifetime.  The first time, I lost my luggage.  The airline got my clothes to me just as I was heading out to London.  The second time, due to ‘Euro Chip’ issues, I rode the rails like a starving hobo because my plastic cards would not work to get me cash, food, or accommodations.  I already owned a month of rail passes so I had a place to legally sit and stay out of the elements.  Meanwhile, my sense of humor, about my two disastrous forays into Paris culture, is in a work in progress called My Warped Tours.  Now that I am home safely, it’s a comedy of sorts! Recently, I wrote that manuscript to use up some notes.  Plus, I wanted to write a feel good book or my fiction based on facts.  I unleashed my sense of humor in that work in progress. 

In spite of my problems, part of me belongs to Paris.  My grandfather was French Canadian Indian; so I have blood ties.  I speak broken French.  PLUS- I always wanted to be special; so I used to say I was born July 4 quietly adding the ‘teenth’ part of 14th of July.  When I took high school French, I gave up my birthday in French, and the teacher began dancing while chanting Independence Day or their Bastille Day.  I knew I gave her the 14th date, so it dumbfounded me.  I was born on Independence Day- just in the wrong country?  Much later in life, I got to share my birthday in person on that second trip to France.  It was fun to see their fireworks on my special day but they shut down their world for a week!  Thus, I could not get into a bank to explain my ‘Euro Chip’ issues; that made me a hobo!  All the misadventures are categorized in my future book where I poke fun at my traveling misadventures in France as well as other places in this world. 

In spite of it all, I’d go back to that country.  I want to get to Lourdes; cash flow and time constraints cancelled that side trip during my hobo daze and days.  Now, I have a reason to go back to France; I need a full arm healing!  Plus, I’d love to see the land between Italy and France as well as Monaco and Nice.  If I had time and ready money, I’d go to my roots or Le Harve as well.  Plus, I’s love to see my other ‘blood line’ countries a well; I need to win the lottery or sell some more books! 

As far as where to write?  I love island life; the balmy breezes call my name.  I’ve been to some Pacific Islands such as Hawaii as well as Atlantic ones such as Puerto Rico.  I’d like to see the Greek ones with the white building such as in Santorini.  I’d get my travelling pants on and visit there if money was no object.  Would I write book two of My Warped Tours or anything while touring, again?  It depends on what happens! 

For now, I get to write in Florida.  It’s a bit muggier, and there are no mountains to climb to speak to the Heavens.  But- there are rooftops left to explore! It is almost Paradise, which brings me back to my first book.  I write when the spirit moves me; I write to tell my side of the story.  If I prove something in the process, my goal is more than accomplished.   

Speaking of journeys and where I might go before completing my ‘bucket list,’ I have had a couple near death experiences but didn’t kick the bucket, yet.  I had an ‘out of body experience’ at age 16 while sick with pneumonia and one more recently.  Also, God sends me personal visions in dreams and other messages.  In fact, one or more of my dreams centered on Hawaii or The Big Island.  I had a vision and then saw the actual place at Disappearing Sand’s Beach.  Plus, I told a friend I’d leave her cliff messages then saw the pumice greetings on that island.  How did I know that culture before arriving? God only knows! 

In my opinion, ESP or to know something ahead of schedule can be mystifying but it may drive you insane.  Believe me that second guessing all of mom’s prophecy from Her Marker has been a juggling act.  Trying to make sense of images, dreams, visions, and messages can rack your brain!  Sometimes, surprises are better!  Either way, God is the good news in most of my writing especially my nonfictions.  I hope you’ll take a peek at my fifteen or more books and come on buy. 

My author name for nonfictions and children’s literature is: Cynthia Meyers-Hanson

My pen name for fictions or novels and so you know when I’m fibbing or embellishing is: Sydney S. Song


Book Sale Sites:

OOPS I think I forgot my YouTube Book Trailer link in that document. It is

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Week #7 of The Next Big Thing and Triple 7 Challenge

Possible e-Book Cover
Welcome! Here’s the plan:
***Answer the ten questions (below) about your current WIP (Work In Progress).
     (I’ve chosen to answer one question per week with the best intentions of publishing my second novel by the time I post the final question.)
***Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.
It’s that simple. When you post, please tweet me @GailMBaugniet so I can follow you!     

My friend, Ken (Author Kenneth Hoss, also invited me to join in a Triple 7 Challenge. Since this is Week #7, it fits in well here so I will answer the question and follow the rules for Triple 7: Share 7 lines from page 7 of your current novel or 77 words from a WIP.

Here is Question #7 of The Next Big Thing:
TNBT: How long did it take you to write the first full draft of your novel?

GAIL: I have the Pepper Bibeau Mystery Series loosely laid out with settings and story lines. When I get an idea for a story, I write a three-thousand to eight-thousand word shell of the story. For my WIP, Different In Degree, I wrote outline chapters a couple of years ago. After self-publishing my first novel, For Every Action, I dug out my notes in June, 2011, and started working on Different In Degree. I completed the first draft in January, 2012.

For the Triple 7 challenge, I am sharing 77 words from my WIP:
Different in Degree:

The temperature dropped . . .
Typical of Lake Michigan, the storm had built in a matter of minutes. As the ferry approached the entrance to Death’s Door, heavy gusts rocked the vessel. The corridor between the tip of the Peninsula and Plum Island’s coastline captured the howling winds. Each time the ferry lurched, more water sprayed the deck. My stranglehold on the rail slipped as I struggled for purchase, staring out at the open water and waiting for rescue.

AND NOW, a total of seven awesome writers/blog sites to visit:

1. Judy Harper

3. Eric (SpitToonsSaloon)

4. The Indie Exchange

5.Virginia Lee

6. The Independent Author Network

Full set of questions for The Next Big Thing Interview:

(Judy Harper suggested that for those writing The First Big Thing, unpublished authors modify the questions accordingly. I look forward to following her posts!)

What is the working title of your book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
How long did it take you to write the first full draft of your manuscript?
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

FAST FIVE Author Interview with Adam Sydney

It is my pleasure to host Adam Sydney, author of Yolanda Polanski and the Bus to Sheboygan. By mere chance, I discovered Adam’s novel while researching a very specific topic on my Kindle. Adam is a screenwriter, having completed his Masters in screenwriting at the University of London and also trained at The American Film Institute. Recently, though, he took time off to write novels, including the one he discusses today. In one of the Kindle reviews of Yolanda Polanski, the reviewer writes, “It’s impossible to dislike Yolanda and her joie de vivre, to not want to be friends with her.”
GAIL’S FAST FIVE: Welcome, Adam, and thank you for taking time for an interview today. In this fast-paced world of social media, we’ve grown accustomed to the 140 character comments, but can you share with us a more detailed account of the novel and your research for Yolanda Polanski and the Bus to Sheboygan?
ADAM SYDNEY: I'd be glad to, Gail. And thank you so much for the opportunity to join in your blog and connect with your visitors.

As some of your readers already know, I did woefully little research on Yolanda Polanski and the Bus to Sheboygan. I'm originally a screenwriter, and over the course of my experiences writing for the screen, I discovered that the more I outlined, the worse my work became, so after fifteen years or so of studying and following the rules and struggling to write something -- anything -- good, I finally decided just to write whatever came to me, whenever it came to me. Astonishingly, that first screenplay, which was an experimental comedy, was the first time people seemed to genuinely like my work. The whole experience of writing it was subconscious, and so in a way, anti-outline, and I've continued in this subconscious way of writing ever since.

Another element of deliberate writing is, of course, researching, so when I started to write Yolanda, I did the opposite: I had no idea what I was going to write or in what setting it was going to take place. I just started. When the time came, I made up the name Two Rivers, Wisconsin-- or so I thought! Only after writing quite a bit of the story did I decide to check and see if there really is a Two Rivers-- and lo and behold, my subconscious had dredged it up from somewhere! At that point, I did do a bit of retro-research, but it was very minimal. In fact, an important element of the story is the ice-cream sundae, and it was there that I finally made the connection: I'd seen a TV show years before about Two Rivers and its dispute with Ithaca, New York, as the birthplace of the sundae. Weird, eh, that it would pop up in a novel?!

I might have also been a little more comfortable writing about a small town in the Midwest, as I was raised in small towns in the Midwest. So even though it didn't feel like it, perhaps I was writing what I know-- a central tenet to many writers that has never really felt all that crucial to me. Well, at least consciously!
GAIL’S FAST FIVE: I love your story about how you subconsciously chose Two Rivers, Wisconsin as the setting for your novel. Of course, you already know that my home town is Two Rivers, Wisconsin and this is why I can relate to Yolanda! Is “the job” the most important part of your protagonist’s life?
ADAM SYDNEY: "The job" is absolutely at the center of Yolanda Polanski's life during her time in Two Rivers. Remember, I come from screenwriting, where my professors drilled into my head that every major beat (and most of the minor ones) had better be generated by the pursuit of the main character's goal. I know that reading a novel is a much different experience than watching a film, but I still believe that keeping narrative tension taut is at the core of a good story. So even though I was just letting the characters do whatever they wanted to do, they had to be swept up into Yolands's incredibly strong desire to reach her goal, which naturally leads them to generate goals of their own. 

Yolanda's central purpose also gives us a good insight into her character. The bizarreness of this goal, in fact, lets us know that she's maybe a little crazy right off the bat. But her generosity towards others comes through in that she attempts to befriend a very odd group of people and ultimately never stops trying to recruit them to her team until they befriend her back. 

There is perhaps another element of Yolanda's relentless striving to attain her goal that helps us understand her better as a character. She's constantly trying to get smaller goals accomplished in pursuit of the larger one, but because she seems to misinterpret basically everything that everyone else does or says, she's in many ways her own worst obstacle. I think this situation is often at the heart of a lot of great comedy-- maybe because it reminds me of myself a little...

GAIL’S FAST FIVE: Adam, your basic screenwriting goal of having every major beat (and most of the minor ones) generated by the pursuit of the main character's goal, is also a major tenet of novel writing. What unique or suspenseful twists make your novel and protagonist stand out?
ADAM SYDNEY: I think many of the twists in the book that might help Yolanda stand out among comedic heroines are not actually surprises to the audience, but rather surprises to her. As I mentioned earlier, she misinterprets pretty much everything that she experiences. Hopefully, what's funny to the reader is that juxtaposition between what's obvious to us but isn't to her. I haven't seen this situation much in novels-- and especially novels told in the first-person point of view-- so I thought I'd give it a shot. 

Of course, a major series of twists show up at the end of the book. Here, we discover that some of Yolanda's misinterpretations might not have been as far off the mark as we thought, and we also find out that what she's been telling herself (and us) about her past and present might not be 100 percent accurate. 

GAIL’S FAST FIVE: What draws Yolanda Polanski into the novel’s suspenseful situations?
ADAM SYDNEY: The beauty of character-driven stories, I think, is that the main character often generates the suspenseful situations herself, rather than being dropped into them. I hope this is the case with Yolanda Polanski. Basically, she comes to a little town on the western shore of Lake Michigan that's minding its own business and proceeds to create over-the-top scene after over-the-top scene. There is no suspense before she shows up because there's no real conflict, but because we see how important her goal is to her, hopefully readers care about all the hot water she lands in-- and voila, suspense! How did she get herself in this situation? And how on earth is she going to get out of it?! Stories with this kind of suspense always engage me, so my goal was to engage readers in the same fashion.
GAIL’S FAST FIVE: Is Yolanda Polanski and the Bus to Sheboygan part of a series, and are you working on a sequel?
ADAM SYDNEY: One of the nicest compliments I got on this book was that a few people wanted the story to keep going. That meant a lot to me. But I'm one of those restless writers who wants to keep moving forward. I started off with a serious literary fiction novel, My Heart is a Drummer, and then I wanted to try my hand at a more comedic story, hence, Yolanda. Now, I'm getting a little more experimental and am presently revising a semi-narrative horror novel called Something's Wrong. I know it's not very bright for marketing purposes, but I keep jumping around genres. So after the third one, who knows what I'll be writing next...
So to sum it up, I have a feeling that Yolanda's main story has been told in this novel, so there's probably not a sequel in me-- but you never know!
GAIL: Along with many delightful tales about Yolanda, your interview today reads much like a tutorial in novel writing. I’m sure many authors looking for helpful hints will find your responses enlightening. Adam, this last isn’t so much a Fast Five question as an “if/then” scenario: If Paris is not an option, then where would you most like to spend your time writing and why.
ADAM SYDNEY: Darn, because I just love Paris, Texas. 

Okay, so a second option... Well, I'd have to say the countryside of Essex in England. I lived for a while in the northern suburbs of London and would often drive up into the ancient villages of Essex, which had a particular appeal to me. Besides being beautiful, the area seemed very peaceful, which I think would foster good writing. And Central London would only be 45 minutes away, so when I needed a little sensory overload to goose my faculties, I'd have that option. But then again, I've discovered that places where you really want to be often can be detrimental to getting any writing done, so maybe I should have said Fulsom State Prison or something.
Is it too late to change my answer? 

Where readers can follow Adam Sydney and his books:
My publishing company's website:
My blog:

My Twitter account:
My company's Facebook presence:

Friday, August 10, 2012

In the SinC/Hawaii Spotlight: Lori Tian Sailiata

In the spotlight for today's SinC/Hawaii interview is Lori Tian Sailiata whose writerly alter ego is Lara Britt. Lori is Vice President of Sisters in Crime/Hawaii and an enthusiastic blogger. She has developed a new website for SinC Hawaii, Facebook SinCHawaii Group and Facebook Page. She is also moderator of Tweet Chat for our group under the hashtag #SinCHI.

GAIL: Lori, you have mentioned something called “Whirled Peas Cafe.” I would love to hear the story behind the name. What inspired you to create the name, and does such a cafe actually exist?

LORI: For a couple years my girls and I lived in Spokane, Washington. I ran a small espresso bar/deli near the courthouse. The hours were perfect for me as a single mom. I would bundle the girls up ready for school, cook them breakfast at the deli while I was roasting the turkey for that day's sandwiches and whipping up three featured soups, then put them on the school bus. At two o'clock I went to volunteer for the last hour of their school day. We'd walk home together. After the normal nightly ritual of supper, homework, playtime and baths, it would be story time.

At that time Spokane was part of a program that gifted books to both school libraries and the public library. We read lots of books as per normal, but we also wrote reviews and in doing so earned dozens of books for both libraries. If you ever go into the Main Library in Spokane and flip open a jacket, don't be surprised to see our names inset. Whirled Peas Cafe was our small family's daydream place. The name came from a t-shirt shop that had on one side "Stop the Violins" (Stop the Violence) and Visualize Whirled Peas (World Peace) on the other. Whirled Peas Mysteries is a synthesis of our dreams, our experiences, and our sense of humor as well as our taste in art. The series is set in the Whirled Peas Cafe. Maybe if I'm lucky, it will be a brick and mortar that smells of great coffee, locally-sourced soups, and intriguing characters. (

GAIL: Any setting with the name Whirled Peas Cafe could draw only intriguing characters! You are active with a group that uses a Twitter hash tag of #MNINB and #WSChat. What is the focus of this internet group?

LORI: #MNINB was the hashtag we devised when we joined our first Twitter chat as part of The 2012 April Platform Challenge developed by Robert Lee Brewer for his My Name Is Not Bob (MNINB) blog. Robert is an editor at Writer's Digest, but this was an effort of his personal blog.

His rules were that we needed to comment by at least posting a "done" after we completed a daily challenge for the month of April. By the middle of the month, the participants had bonded and had spun off activities to supplement Not Bob's material.

At the end of April, we declared ourselves "done but not over." This became the tagline of our "#MNINB April Platform Challengers." ( Our ambitions to help each other with our writing outstripped what we could accomplish on this WordPress site and we are currently transitioning to our more permanent home, Wordsmith Studio. ( Each Tuesday, we hold two separate Twitter chats. Our moderator, Khara House, also uses Spotify to transcribe them and posts to our FaceBook fanpage. (

GAIL: Hawaii is home to you, but you lived on the Mainland for awhile. Which states were you in and did your experiences there spark any ideas for future stories?

LORI: I've only been back in the Islands for a little more than a year. My history goes back many decades. My mother was stationed at Hickam Air Force Base back in the 1950s. (Well before I was born, thank you!) I grew up visiting the Islands multiple times throughout the years. I went to public school in suburban Chicago. My family is from Southernmost Illinois which is also known as the Appalachia of Illinois. The Cherokee Trail of Tears runs through my father's farm, land that my ancestors owned as the Cherokee made their way to Oklahoma. I grew up on old Indian tales. My grandfather's mother was Cherokee, born in Georgia and raised in Oklahoma. Also heard the settler's tales. From an early age I was interested in borderland places, places where folks from different backgrounds interact.

GAIL: What type of research is necessary for your writing and where is most of your research done?

LORI: A writer's archive is the whole of life. Research is in taking notice. Taking notice of the word choices and mannerisms of the Microneasian woman who works graveyard at the Waikiki 7-Eleven is as important to me as the information I find on the internet. I also have my favorite hangouts at University of Hawaii/Manoa, a handful of Hawaii State Library branches that I haunt, and of course, the Bishop Museum. I'm a docent at the Bishop. I always say I learn as much from our visitors as from anyone. There are no end of experts and wonderful archives. I have a series titled Writerly Nooks ( on my blog where I show some of my favorite places to write and research.

GAIL: Of all the locations you have visited, where would you most like to spend your time writing and why?

LORI: The Big Island or Hawaii Island, as it's more frequently referred to these days. It is remote and has a slower pace than O'ahu. I can hole up and not be distracted. But if I'm looking for inspiration, there is plenty of that as well. International scientists do their research high atop Mauna Kea at the observatory, but others study the volcanic data spewing from Mauna Loa. Oceanographers study the local sea life. Physicists study geothermal and solar energy sources. Then the botanists and agriculturalists who are expert in local vanilla, coffee, cocoa, macadamia nuts, citrus, orchids, and regional teas...horses and cattle, lamas. So much going on and yet the pace is so wonderfully mellow.