Welcome. Toss a blanket down, sit for a while under the willow, relax, and enjoy what's written below.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Annamarie and Magdalena Giveaway

Visit my Facebook Writer's page and join the book giveaway. Click HERE to be transported to my Facebook page and leave a comment. On New Year's Eve, I'll pick the winner of an e-book copy of my book for Kindle. While you're there, click the LIKE button to receive future giveaway and other news. Have a wonderful day.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Annamarie and Magdalena

Annamarie and Magdalena the sequel to Gypsy Spirits is now available as an e-book on The story begins where Gypsy Spirits ended. Daniel has joined the evil spirits and will try to steal his and Annamarie's baby girl. Will he succeed? Annamarie's great-grandmother Magdalena's spirit will battle Daniel. Who will win? 
You can purchase your e-book copy here: Annamarie and Magdalena

Here is the book trailer. I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks for stopping by and checking out my newest book.
Blessings, Marianne

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

Hi and welcome to my willow tree. I was tagged to be part of The Next Big Thing blog hop by the very talented author Jen Blood. If you haven’t read her Erin Solomon books, “All the Blue Eyed Angels” and “Sins of the Father,” I suggest you do. I have read both and loved them. I can’t wait for the third in the series due out this spring. Here I go, hope you enjoy the answers.

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:

What is your working title of your book?

I have two. I am working on the final edits of “Annamarie and Magdalena,” the sequel to “Gypsy Spirits.” Annamarie and Magdalena will be out next month. My second is my NaNo novel which I just validated at slightly over 50,000 words titled “Old Man Malone Returns.” It is the sequel to “THE LETTER”

Where did the idea come from for the book?

My idea for “Annamarie and Magdalena” follows the basic idea for “Gypsy Spirits” which I have been thinking about for quite a while. It is a supernatural thriller and approximately 5% reality. None of the supernatural scenes are real, but the first chapter was based on a personal experience and there a few smaller scenes that I pulled from my life. I thought I could turn it into a good novel.

What genre does your book fall under?

Both books I am working on would be considered supernatural thrillers.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

That’s hard. My main characters in Annamarie and Magdalena are teens when the book begins and I am not very familiar with teen actors today. I can see Dakota Fanning as Annamarie and Helen Mirren as her great-grandmother’s spirit, the gypsy Magdalena.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

After Annamarie pushes her husband, Daniel, off a bluff due to his cruel nature, his spirit returns to terrorize her, and her great-grandmother’s spirit, Magdalena, her guardian, begins a battle of the spirits fighting for Annamarie and her unborn child.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Self-published in December.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Approximately six to eight weeks.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I don’t think I would. There are several very good ghost stories, stories with evil spirits and gypsies in them, but I am not comfortable comparing myself to others. Maybe I am still a bit self-conscious.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The single incident in the first scene of “Gypsy Spirits,” and stories my mom told me about my ancestors and the traveling carnival they owned in Bavaria before WWII.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s fast-paced and has bits of history and folk lore weaved into the story-line.

I am now tagging the following five fabulous writers:

Rebecca Graf. Rebecca is the author of “Deep Connections.” It is a very well written and eerie book to be read with the lights on. Rebecca and I live fairly close and she is the first other Indie writer that I have met. She’s a sweet young woman.

Carolyn Arnold. Carolyn is the author of the Madison Knight series which include “Ties That Bind” and “Justified.” She is extremely talented. I have read the books and am looking forward to reading the third in the series along with her other books.

Barbie Herrera. Barbie is the author of “Portrait of Our Marriage.” She’s also very talented and her book is moving as you are pulled into a marriage shattered by internet porn.

Brenda Sorrels. Brenda is the author of “The Bachelor Farmers.” I found it to be a wonderful read and Brenda is one of the nicest people I have met on my Indie quest to fame J

Joanne Lessner. Joanne is the author of “Pandora’s Bottle.” It’s a novel inspired by a true story of the world’s most expensive bottle of wine. It’s an enjoyable read and Joanne is very talented.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Interview With Rebecca Graf

Today I am honored to have the talented writer, Rebecca Graf, visit the Willow Tree. I know Rebecca personally and know how much she loves what she does from honing an idea to publishing her book. I hope you will join me and enjoy her visit. Welcome Rebecca.


What are you currently working on and when do you plan to release your next book?
I’m working on a first draft of a fantasy novel that I’m co-writing with a friend as well as going on to the second draft of the last of the Deep Connections trilogy. My next book will be out by the end of the year: The Nightingale in the Garden which is a children’s religious book about the Garden of Gethsemane.

Do you have a favorite genre for your writing or do you write whatever moves you?
I’ve been told I have to stick with one genre. I might migrate to one, but for now I write whatever moves me. Sometimes my story morphs into one I didn’t expect and crosses entire genre lines. LOL That is a load of fun.

What is the best piece of advice you were given about writing?
Just do it. I heard that from several people, and I did it. I found myself loving it more than I realized I would. For years I shied away from it because I felt that you had to have this spectacular gift that your teachers noted in school. No one commented on my writing. When it came to creative writing, they patted me on the head and moved on. I figured I didn’t have it in me.

Do you have a special spot where you like to write or are you a “have lap top will travel” writer?
I’ll write anywhere, but I have to have quiet. I can’t write with noise around me unless I’m in a coffee shop or something where I know none of the conversation is for me. Then it is easy, but around home I have to have complete quiet which doesn’t happen often.

What is your favorite book and favorite author?
I don’t know if I have one favorite book. My latest favorite is The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton that I read for a book review. Authors? Oh, my. There is not one favorite. I love Amanda Quick, Tom Clancy, Clive Cussler, Aiden James, Angela Shelton, and many more. They are different genres and sometimes it depends on mood who my favorite is. Oh, Edgar Allen Poe has to be mentioned.

When did you discover your passion for writing?
For years I felt the urge to write. I would tell myself that I had stories to tell, but then I would remind myself that my talent didn’t lie there. Those thoughts wouldn’t leave me though. It was when I became a virtual assistant to an author that I found myself writing. The first stuff was garbage, but from there it advanced. I started getting paid for my writing. That was so cool.

Do you have a favorite beverage or snack you must have while writing?
I love to drink hot tea because most of the time I am in the cold basement working, but I commonly turn the tea into ice tea.

What inspires you?
A new idea, but most of all it is a feeling of accomplishment. I get into a rut and full uninspired. Then someone out of the blue tells me how much they enjoyed my book. That brightens my day and gets me wanting to write again.

Do you have a favorite vacation destination and do you write while vacationing?
I honestly hardly ever vacation. We’ve always struggled with finances with such a large family. A few weeks ago, I took a mini vacation with my mother-in-law and her sister-in-law to the lake. I spent the whole time writing and reading. They complained that I wasn’t relaxing, but it was relaxing to me. It was the best time.

Do you have any advice for other writers on any subject you choose?
The best advice I can give is to forget what others say and just write, but also don’t get so full of  yourself that you think your first draft is a masterpiece. It is probably garbage. That is why you have fun going back over it and turning it into something that others can enjoy. Also, be open to constructive criticism. It can be really helpful. On the other hand, if someone is mean, avoid them. Their opinion doesn’t matter anyway.

Any last thoughts you would like to add?
Don’t let anything stand in your way of writing. Don’t let the excuses you make derail you. Sit down and let your muse dictate.

Rebecca's Links:


Monday, November 5, 2012

Interview With Brenda Sorrels

Welcome to the Willow Tree. Today I have the honor of interviewing the talented writer, Brenda Sorrels, author of The Bachelor Farmers. Welcome Brenda.

            1. What are you currently working on and when do you plan to release next book?

I am currently working on a book entitled: The Way Back ‘Round. It is a story of family and friendship, of a boy who makes an innocent, but terrible choice that haunts him for the rest of his life.

The story begins in the summer of 1937, rural Minnesota, when twelve-year old Jake Frye breaks a promise to his parents that results in a tragedy that shatters his close-knit family. Unable to face his guilt he hops a freight train joining the thousands of other depression era men and boys riding the rails. Fate brings him together with another boy named Franz and they form a friendship as close as brothers.

As they journey through “jungle” camps pitched along the routes to picking fruit in California, cotton in Texas, a Roosevelt Conservation Corps Camp for itinerate men and WWII – they face the ultimate challenge. Will they survive the cold hungry life on the road or be killed by the brutal “Bulls” who patrol the tracks? Will Franz ever marry the red-headed girl he dreams about? Will Jake ever see his family again?

As challenges are met, Jake learns what it takes to survive in an uncertain world, what it means to forgive and ultimately what it means to love. Themes of friendship and family, loss and guilt weave through the story and reinforce the truth that our lives are shaped by the choices we make.

2. Favorite genre?
Both of my books right now are historical fiction. The first one, The Bachelor Farmers is an historical fiction love story also set in rural Minnesota, but in the winter of 1919. I didn’t set out to write historical fiction specifically, it just kind of happened. I wanted to write a love story involving two brothers and one woman and set it in the beauty of Northern Minnesota. When I started researching the area, the time, place, etc., I realized I wanted to write it in that era.

The Way Back ‘Round is also historical fiction, and again, it just worked out that that was the best time and era in which to tell this story.

Someday, I’d like to write a book set in the present time and I have a few ideas written down, but my third book will be a sequel to The Bachelor Farmers, so we’ll have to see what happens after that.

3. What was the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given about writing?

There have been several! I would say the first was: don’t send your work out too soon. When you’re think you’re done, you more than likely still have some work to do. Most first-time writers make this mistake. They are so enthusiastic and anxious to get their work out there, especially after all the time they’ve spent, that they send it out too early and it’s rejected. Even if you’re a self-published author, I would hold back which leads me to the second most important advice I’ve ever gotten. That is: find and editor to work with you. I might say that this is the MOST IMPORTANT thing to do. It could be a friend who knows writing, or a paid professional, but you must have someone who can critique your work and help you edit the manuscript. This person should be unbiased and non-threatening – someone who believes in you!

4. Special spots to write!

I believe that every writer needs a Sacred Space! I even did my first blog posting on it. The title was: A Writer Needs a Sacred Space! I have a nook that I have carved out for myself at home and that is where I do my writing. It is a small space, but it is mine and this is where I have the fewest distractions. Thus far, I have never written with a lap top, though I have taken manuscripts on planes and worked on them by hand when I’m traveling.

5. Favorite Book and Author?

This is a difficult question because there are so many! One of m y all-time favorites though, is Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. I have read this small volume many times and it was an inspiration when I was writing The Bachelor Farmers. Since then I’ve read some of her other stories and I love them too, especially, The Age of Innocence. I also loved The Old Man and the Seaby Hemingway and The Good Earth by Pearl Buck. These are phenomenal classic books. Some modern day books have been The Wifeby Meg Wolitzer (I’ve read others by her but this is my favorite), Bel Canto by Ann Patchett is great and recently I read Open House by Elizabeth Berg and loved that too –especially for dialogue. She does that really well. There are many others though too numerous to list!

6. When did I discover my passion for writing?

I’ve always been a big letter writer, reader and movie lover. I’ve kept journals, written stories, even a children’s book long ago. I attended workshops on books and literature long before I wrote a word of my own. I have always worked and been preoccupied with survival. My first husband died suddenly at a young age and I moved to Los Angeles and began to get into real storytelling there. I learned to analyze scripts, and took adult courses at UCLA. It was a writer-rich environment. Years later I remarried and moved to Dallas. I wanted to write full time and my husband was very supportive, so I’ve been doing it ever since!

7. Beverage or snack when writing?

Hmmmmm….. coffee or tea is nice … I don’t really snack much when I’m writing – I might take a break and grab something for lunch, then go back to work.

8. What inspires you?

Fantastic question and I had to think about this one! I’m visual and detail-oriented, so I love anything to do with nature. Beautiful landscapes, settings, the kind that almost tell a story in themselves and make you wonder what could have gone on there. Like trails that lead … where? What’s behind the grove or trees or on the other side of that mountain or around the curve on the beach? Who would be there – what would they be doing and why would they be there … I can make up a lot of stories just being in beautiful and interesting places. The sense of place in The Bachelor Farmers is very strong and is a huge part of the story. The freezing cold, winter landscape of Northern Minnesota is on every page.

I’m also inspired by stories of people and how they overcame certain obstacles, etc. A few weeks ago we were at a football game and an old friend showed up with his year-old grandson who he and his wife are helping to raise. It was a joy to watch them together. I thought it was truly amazing that this man (who used to be a jock football player) with this young child doing everything himself, the sippy cup, the snacks, the diapers – all of it. He was so good at it. It was heartwarming to watch them together.

9. Favorite vacation destination?

A big yes to this question. I have lived in Connecticut for over twenty-five years and when I married and moved to Texas we kept my house up there in a small, rural town. Since then it has become our family vacation spot. I go up there for several months a year – in the summers when it’s too hot in Dallas – and that’s where I do a lot of my writing as well. It’s beautiful and quiet – the New England landscape is truly inspiring and it’s a wonderful place for ideas to spring forth.

10. Advice for other writers? I write an article once called How I Wrote a Book and you can still read it on my blog at

It’s not long, but I cover what I went through in order to launch my first book, The Bachelor Farmers. Again the most valuable advice was what I’ve already mentioned – work with an editor and don’t send work out too soon. It’s important not only to be patient with yourself, believe in what you’re doing but to also protect yourself. You can do that by being careful who you show your work to, especially in the beginning. You want someone you can trust, who will be honest and objective but will never put you down no matter how bad your writing is! Writing can and will improve the more you do it!

11. Final thoughts?

I once heard a famous author interviewed on NPR and they asked him what he thought it took to become a successful writer. He said:

1. Do you like to work alone? Because writers spend LOTS of time alone …

2. Can you take rejection? There will be a LOTS of rejection, that’s the nature of any artistic endeavor, which writing is.

3. Do you have twenty years? This means – do you and are you willing to invest the time because writing is not something that happens quickly. There are always the over-night flukes, but for the majority of writers, it is a long process that becomes their life.

            If you're thinking about becoming a writner, these are worth contemplating!  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sharing Ideas For Book Advertising.

Welcome To My Willow Tree,

I was asked how to advertise your Indie book on a limited or nearly non-existent budget. I did what I saw others doing, posting on several different Facebook pages, Twitter, Goodreads and similar sites, but many times I saw that it was the same group of authors, especially on Facebook, that were trying to sell to each other. I needed a niche market that I know would like supernatural mysteries.

I came up with an idea and so far it has worked for me. I had two supernatural mystery short stories sitting in my files. I read them over to be sure they were interesting enough to sell and put them together in one tiny 47 page e-book. I made my own simple cover for $5 and added a friendly paragraph at the end of the second story asking if my reader had time to please go to Amazon and leave a review or click on the like button if they felt it deserved the click because it was the only way Indie authors have to find out if someone likes or dislikes what we are doing. I was also sure to add the link to my blog where I have all my other works listed. I self-published the book using Amazon’s KDP program and offered it at $0.99, but the big thing was I offered it free on a weekend. Several hundred copies were grabbed which meant the possibility that several hundred people read my little ad at the end of the book.

I received one review, and it was a 5 star review. I was thrilled with the comments made. I noticed increased traffic to my blog and an uptake in sales of my other books. How many of those sales came from my ad I’m not sure, but I know I will offer the book for free again soon. We need to find ways to get our books in the public eye and if offering a little something for free brings them to buy our other books we’re doing a good job. Not to mention that once they read a short story or two they know our style without an investment of money on their part. They are more likely to buy a novel next time. I found this worked better than offering a novel for free. It is possible that since they were short stories people read them quickly and didn't have to read several chapters before liking or disliking your style. A small thing can bring in big sales. You just need to find what works for you.

If you have any unique ideas you'd like to share about book advertising, please share in the comment section.

Have a blessed week,


Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Welcome to the Willow Tree,

My debut novel, Gypsy Spirits, was set in 1967. The slang, language, trends, popular vs. unpopular items such as cars and clothing used during that time wasn’t difficult to describe since I graduated from high school that year.

The sequel novel, Annamarie and Magdalena, also took place in the next few years. Fortunately, my youngest child was approximately the same age as my main character’s child. I was also able to utilize memory to write.

The third book in the trilogy will be titled, “Lena,” which is Magdalena’s nick-name. There will be a time jump of approximately fourteen years which is also helpful because my daughter was the same age at that time. Piece of cake, right? So far so good, but there will also be sections when Lena travels back in time to stop her father’s spirit from wreaking havoc on her ancestors. Now things become harder.

Research. I have to admit internet research beats spending hours in the library, after school, on a Friday night with a half-dozen books scattered on the table. It is faster and easier although no cute boys to flirt with.

Which brings me to the real topic of this post: realism. Since I haven’t decided how far back Lena must travel I have all of history to choose from, but the details have to be right. I have read books and perhaps you have, too which didn’t sound real. Maybe you know enough about that period in time to know there are errors. Don’t assume that since it was hundreds of years ago someone doesn’t know that period of time in detail. Although we call it fiction, we can only go so far.

If you are going to make up wild details to sell a book or jazz up a scene you should write a fantasy book. I might try one at some point to see how wild my mind can be when I let it go. My granddaughter made a very good point when we were discussing the third book. She told me to do detailed research and be absolutely sure my details are accurate. “Just because it is fiction, grandma, don’t assume everyone will believe it.” She’s right. Someone could call us on it and we could see the dreaded 1 star review for inaccuracy. No one wants that. Do the research. I am beginning mine and find it interesting. I hope you do, too.

Happy Writing.


Monday, September 3, 2012

Interview With Barbranne Herrera

Today I am interviewing Barbranne Herrera here under the Willow Tree. She writes under the pen name Martha Emms. This is Barbranne's first interview and her book has just been released. Let's give her a huge welcome and wish her well in her writing pursuits. Welcome Barbranne.

What are you currently working on and when do you plan to release your next book?

My book was just uploaded to Amazon, Createspace, Pubit, and Barnes & Noble today. So I’ve been researching marketing methods. I’m in the middle of transition, after a divorce I’ll be selling my home and moving to another state, so right now life is topsy turvy. I’ve already started my next book and I’m hoping within a year at the least to have it done.

Do you have a favorite genre for your writing or do you write whatever moves you?

I believe I will be writing whatever moves me :) Why limit creativity? I have ideas for family and adult stories. I am a dreamer and stories often play out like movies in my dreams.

What is the best piece of advice you were given about writing?

I think the best advice I received was if you’re self publishing to hire an editor. Regardless of how many writing groups or friends read your work a good editor can catch things and make you rethink some of your decisions. As the writer you get close and involved in your story and sometimes that’s too close because you already know it. An editor can make you see what you may have missed and question things as a virgin reader to your work. You don’t have to take all their advice but you should respect it and give it some serious thought.

Do you have a special spot where you like to write or are you a “have lap top will travel” writer?

I write in many different places but my favorite is in bed with the TV on. I write best late at night until the early hours of the morning.

What is your favorite book and favorite author?

Ugh, I can’t answer that so simply, LOL. I love too many of them. One of my favorite books is The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk, it was like watching a movie while I read it. His character descriptions and development were amazing. My favorite authors are many. I can’t pick one above the other because they each fill different needs when I read their work: Ken Follett, Robyn Carr, Jill Shalvis, Debbie Macomber, Tom Clancy, Lawrence Sanders, Stephen King, Nora Roberts, Jodi Thomas, Constance O’Banyon, and Bobbi Smith just to name a few :)

When did you discover your passion for writing?

I‘ve always liked to write but I’ve a love hate relationship with grammar and structure. When I was very young I would make up stories and scribble them down to tell my friends. In elementary school I would get in trouble for having “an overactive imagination” and so embarrassed, for many years, I stopped writing. In the 1990s I began working on a children’s book and a screenplay but never brought either to fruition. In 2009 my passion returned and thus my book.

Do you have a favorite beverage or snack you must have while writing?

I really enjoy tea, iced or hot. Most of the time I am more thirsty than hungry when I write. But if I have a craving it would be popcorn.

What inspires you?

I find animals, people who overcome hardships, people with patience, the human spirit, family, children, nature, gardens, farmers, the weather, books, and movies all inspiring.

Do you have any advice for other writers on any subject you choose?

I have four suggestions. First, learn about the business of writing for one thing. I’m learning now and I should of thought about this all before. Talk about a rude awakening. Second, try and keep abreast with technology. Third, keep learning and read a lot. Fourth, you’ll get plenty of advice along the way. Listen with an open mind but remember to stay true to the characters and story you want to write.

Any last thoughts you would like to add?

Don’t let anyone talk you out of going after your dream. No matter what it is, how old you are, what you look like, what your friends or family say, just do it. If you spend your life being afraid of failure you will have failed without even trying. So go for it and put yourself out there!

Portrait of Our Marriage, Memoirs of Love, Family, the Internet, and Obsession is a fictional memoir and I’m using the pen name Martha Emms in honor of my Mother and Aunt. Both suffered from brain tumors. My Mom, Martha, wanted me to be a writer and write from my heart. My Aunt Emma wanted me to stir the pot. I think my book does both. 

Friends have compared it to Revolutionary Road, the Ying to 50 Shades of Grey’s yang. The romance will seduce you. The story could be yours. Can one book make you smile, think, touch your heart, turn you on, see different sides, break your heart & twist your insides up? My book can!
This is not a story about the famous. It is not about hype, fame, or fortune, no headlines or big custody lawsuits. It is a woman's story that you don't want to miss. How does a wife compete with pornography? Some may call her a wimp, others will say she's a woman in love trying to hold her family together. Will porn consume her marriage and change the man she loves.

From the back cover:
Nicky led a sheltered life until she met Brett: An adventurous, handsome, smart, and exciting lover. She had never known this kind of love before, either emotionally or physically. She pictured her life with Brett as a partner, a friend, and a father to her future children. And when they married, Nicky knew she had found everything her heart and body desired.

But when Brett’s fantasy world of racy magazines, explicit videos, and disturbing internet porn becomes an obsession and affects their marriage, Nicky has to ask herself: What happened to the man I married?

Portrait of Our Marriage is the story of one woman’s journey to find herself and become her own person despite the legacy of a domineering father and an emotionally—and often physically—distant husband.

Amazon book link

I love and enjoy time with my family, which includes my cats. An avid reader I also enjoy movies, wine, good food, nature, and writing. Causes close to my heart - proper labeling of our food especially genetically engineered food, the safety and care of our military & their families, child/adult literacy volunteer programs, spay/neuter pet projects, pet rescues, and women’s issues.

Barbranne Herrera
(Martha Emms)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Today I would like to welcome you all to my Willow Tree where I am sitting and wondering about reviews. We all work hard on our books and want everyone to enjoy them, but not everyone will. It's a fact of life. My son gave me a book he raved about. I read two chapters and didn't care for it. It was my personal preference and if I were to review the book I might say I didn't care for the story line, but no matter what it was like I wouldn't attack the writer personally. I believe it is going over the line.  

I would like to suggest before you go crazy trying to figure out what one reviewer found so awful about your book that you read their other reviews. I recieved my first bad review and was devastated. I'm not sure they read the same book I wrote until I read their other reviews. Now I understand. I think we all need to take each review with a grain of salt and know that not all genres and books will suit all people. Much easier on the nerves :-)

This post is short because I don't have anything else I can say about these types of reviews. They happen, read them, glean anything good you can and ignore them. Happy reviews everyone.



Monday, August 6, 2012

Interview With Tom Hobbs

Today I am welcoming the very talented author Tom  Hobbs to the Willow Tree. Tom is the author of "Trauma Junkie." I read “Trauma Junkie” and I finished it in only a few days. It grabbed my attention and held it. I think you will find it a very good read. I look forward to the sequel. Welcome Tom.

What are you currently working on and when do you plan to release your next book?
I am currently working on a follow up novel to Trauma Junkie as well as a with a producer and screenwriter friend of mine to them into a cable TV series. I'm always outlining new stories, mostly as screenplays, but I use that framework to write the novels as well.

Do you have a favorite genre for your writing or do you write whatever moves you?
I would have to say real life action. I feel that I don't have to look further than across the street to find a good story. I kept a journal for 10 years as an NYC paramedic, so i drawn on that as well as the stories from my partners.

What is the best piece of advice you were given about writing?
Just write, and write about something you care about. The first draft is always going to stink. Writing is 90% revision.
Learn to write good dialog. My prose is the weakest part of my writing and I tend to rely on the dialog probably much more than I should. Then again my background is screenwriting.
The trick to dialog is not so much what is being said, but how it is being said. When people speak the do so with a rhythm. Nail the rhythm and you can get the words right. I always speak the dialog out loud immediately after writing it, or sometimes even before I write it. I cut no corners with the language for the most part, because most people don't do so when they speak.
I often write from the end backward or the middle out. That's just me, I like to know where I should end up and then fill in the space to get there.

Do you have a special spot where you like to write or are you a “have lap top will travel” writer?
I take my lap top everywhere and sync it to dropbox with my work computer and home desktop as well. I write at work (I can get 95% of my job done in the first couple of hours and fake it the rest of the day), at home, on the train, and where ever else I can. I will often come home with a pocket full of paper scraps that I have made notes on.

What is your favorite book and favorite author?
First and foremost The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I still have the copy I used in college and have read it well over 100 times, because I find something new every time I do. I'm also a huge fan of the old pulp fiction series "The Destroyer" by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir. That's the style I model my Trauma Junkie books after.

When did you discover your passion for writing?
When I was about 10. I rewrote the ending for "The Towering Inferno" for an essay in a 5th or 6th grade English class. I went on to revise episodes of "SWAT" and a James Bond movie or two.

Do you have a favorite beverage or snack you must have while writing?
No not really, I find that I get so wrapped up in writing that I seem to lose all track of that sort of thing (that's saying a lot for me.)

What inspires you?
I know it sounds corny, but I get all the inspiration I need from living in the world. For example, after I left the medical field as a paramedic I took a job as a door man at a swanky upscale building in Manhattan. When you are invisible to people like that they tend to show their true nature. That sort of thing writes itself.
I get a lot of my dialog straight from the source, My paramedic Brian, is based on several medics I knew over the years, and a lot of his dialog is simply transcribed. I ease drop on every conversation I can hear, on the bus, in Starbucks, on planes, where ever I can.

Do you have a favorite vacation destination and do you write while vacationing?
Hawaii, specifically Kauai or New Mexico. I also have a degree in Photography from the University of New Mexico, so it is great to go back. Yes, I take my laptop, and write there as well.

Do you have any advice for other writers on any subject you choose?
Choose a subject you are passionate about, and know really well. It goes back to the first rule of writing "Write what you know." One of the worst books I ever read was "Dog Soldiers" by Robert Stone. Yes it won a lot of awards, yes it was very well written, but totally unbelievable to me as an ex-soldier because none of the jargon was right (on the first page he referred to a soldier of the rank Spec-1 and anyone who has been in the military knows that there is no such thing.) The only reason I finished the book was because it was required reading for a class.

Any last thoughts you would like to add?
Nothing other than thanks for taking the time to check out my books and I welcome any and all feedback.
Like Trauma Junkie on Facebook (Excerpts and links to Amazon there as well): Tom's "Trauma Junkie" Facebook link.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Free and Inexpensive Kindle Books

Hi and Welcome to the Willow Tree,

This week I am honored to be the spotlight author on KOTC.
Check out their great page for free and cheap Kindle books!
I have found some very good books and excellent bargains.
Click here for their page: KOTC

Monday, July 23, 2012

Interview With Leanna Palermo

Today I am welcoming the very talented author Leanna Palermo to the Willow Tree. Leanna is the author of "Swallowed-A True Story." I read Swallowed and found it difficult to put down. Leanna's honesty about her life and the happiness and tragedy she endured touched me. I think you will find it a very good read. Welcome Leanna.
What are you currently working on and when do you plan to release your next book?

Currently I’m compiling a couple of decades worth of poetry destined to become  “Before They Knew.” This is a book that I always knew I’d write but whose name and specific goal “came to me” while having my very first Reiki session, almost a year before the main character came into my life.  That whole story I wrote about in Swallowed: A True Story, so this book of poetry is a bit of a prequel/sequel to Swallowed. And you can read the excerpt by clicking here.

Do you have a favorite genre for your writing or do you write whatever moves you?

Both, really.  I write what moves me, which is typically in the form of poetry.  My first book is a spiritual memoir covering the topics of child abuse, children of lesbian mothers, bullying, cutting, teen suicide, all culminating in a love story that transforms a heart and soul to believing in life after death and the true nature of our beings.  My most enjoyable reads are usually historical fiction or non-fiction, but I often stray outside generalizations…

What is the best piece of advice you were given about writing?

I joined my first writer’s group one summer, and in September I found a website, NaNoWriMo.  This is an (inter)national “competition” where you are challenged to write 50,000 words in 30 days, held each November.  My momentum just kicked into overdrive.  I just knew this was my time.  I reached the goal in 19 days, completing the first draft of Swallowed: A True Story, after a 16 year gestation period.  I found this group of people most encouraging and just knowing they were “out there,” struggling or not to finish the month’s quota, I felt supported.  Their presence at that time in my life, via emails and regular website motivational excerpts, was the best “advice” I could have received. 

Do you have a special spot where you like to write or are you a “have lap top will travel” writer?

I love my home, my home office and my computer.  (She may be listening and I’ve found sweet talk is better than my Sicilian tendencies)

What is your favorite book and favorite author?

My favorites change as I change, but as long as there is good dialogue, good scene setting and a skill on the part of the author to be genuine and make me feel the characters, I’m thrilled and will likely buy everything they write!

When did you discover your passion for writing?

Not sure exactly what age my passion made itself known, but I remember writing a deeply profound poem on the qualities of love resembling a young kitten when I was in third grade.  That was about when I started journaling, too, which I am convinced kept me sane during my darkest times…

Do you have a favorite beverage or snack you must have while writing?

Teeccino or Kombucha, depending on the temperature outside!!  I never eat while writing though, because She despises crumbs and sticky things, preferring to be clean…She being the computer, once again.

What inspires you?

Life!  That pull that I feel when I am in the flow, instead of stressing out over some minutia of my day.  Reading a great poem, a great story, and…love!

Do you have a favorite vacation destination and do you write while vacationing?

I had my first outline of a novel drop in my head while sailing for the first time.  A real momunmentus event, as if a switch was thrown and I was so utterly relaxed, it all formed seemingly right in front of me!  Took notes and haven’t touched it again since, but it’s there, waiting…

Do you have any advice for other writers on any subject you choose?

Wow, this is a tough one.  First, being in a position of giving advice on this topic seems premature and surreal.  Second, I think our best advice comes from within, ultimately.  I guess I would say, just keep writing, and never toss anything until you’ve distilled every last morsel from it. (which may take a lifetime!)

Any last thoughts you would like to add?

This is the life, “every juicy and jaundiced morsel,” and I’m thrilled to say I’m a published author now, and I just know that everyone out there loves my first book, can’t wait for the next, it’s just that they don’t know it yet! (quote from Swallowed: A True Story
Leanna Palermo, D.C. is an energy healer, author and poet.  Traditionally trained as a chiropractor, she became a holistic therapist through clinical practice as a Network Spinal Analysis Practitioner.  After a decade of studying nutrition, she went on to become a raw food enthusiast and a Natural Eyesight Educator.
Leanna wrote Swallowed: A True Story after grieving the loss of a spirit partner, when she experienced multiple paranormal events, after death communications and dream like visits from those who had passed to the afterlife. Further, Swallowed emerged as a message of inspiration and ultimately, as a way to stimulate thought on the true nature of our beings.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Interview With Joanne Lessner

Today I am welcoming the very talented author Joanne Lessner to the Willow Tree. Joanne is the author of The Temporary Detective and Pandora's Bottle.  Welcome Joanne. 

Joanne Sydney Lessner is the author of Pandora’s Bottle, a novel inspired by the true story of the world’s most expensive bottle of wine (Flint Mine Press), which was selected as one of Paperback Dolls’ top five books of 2010. The Temporary Detective (Dulcet Press) introduces Isobel Spice, aspiring actress and resourceful office temp turned amateur sleuth. No stranger to the theatrical world, Joanne enjoys an active performing career in both musical theater and opera. With her husband, composer/conductor Joshua Rosenblum, she has co-authored several musicals including the cult hit Fermat s Last Tango and Einstein s Dreams, based on the celebrated novel by Alan Lightman. Her play, Critical Mass, received its Off Broadway premiere in October 2010 as the winner of the 2009 Heiress Productions Playwriting Competition. She is a regular contributing writer to Opera News and holds a B.A. in music, summa cum laude, from Yale University. 

What are you currently working on and when do you plan to release your next book?
I’m coming into the homestretch on the second Isobel Spice novel, Bad Publicity, which I’m planning to release early next year. I also just finished an Isobel short story for an anthology edited by Jen Blood to be published by Adian Press in the fall. Besides that, I’m working on the book to a musical I’m writing with my husband on commission for the Signature Theater in Arlington, Virginia. It’s an adaptation of the Wilkie Collins novella The Haunted Hotel. Gothic, spooky fun!

Do you have a favorite genre for your writing or do you write whatever moves you?
I always try to let content dictate form, so I bounce back and forth among novels, plays, musicals, and screenplays depending on which medium I think will be most effective for the story I want to tell. I love writing with my husband—we’ve written five musicals together—but there is something I cherish about the solitary craft of novel writing, or noveltry as my ten year-old daughter calls it.

What is the best piece of advice you were given about writing?
From fellow writer Marc Acito: it’s amazing how much you can get done in five-minute bursts. It’s absolutely true. It’s very freeing to realize you don’t need to carve out a huge chunk of time to write. There’s less pressure to produce brilliance, because, hey, it’s only five minutes! At the same time, you can’t use lack of time as an excuse. But that’s how books get written, even if you do block out an entire afternoon: bit by bit. I wrote my first novel, Pandora’s Bottle, in three months, largely while the pasta water was boiling.

Do you have a special spot where you like to write or are you a “have lap top will travel” writer?
I write at my desk. My husband sits three feet away from me at his keyboard, composing or practicing with headphones. It’s very companionable.

What is your favorite book and favorite author?
Oh, that’s so hard! I will say that the book that influenced me most as a writer was Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men, which I read in AP Lit my senior year in high school. The funny thing is that I almost didn’t take the course because of that book! A friend a year ahead of me was reading it, and I scanned the blurb and thought, “A slog about southern politics? I’m just going to hate this!” Boy, was I wrong. It changed my life.

When did you discover your passion for writing?
I’ve always written. In fourth grade I wrote a seven-page murder mystery play for my class. I came across the script recently in my parents’ basement, and my daughter and I read it aloud in English accents. We had a good laugh over it—it was pretty bad! But I really got hooked in eleventh grade when my father brought home an electric typewriter for me to type my term paper. I finished the paper, but was having so much fun typing that I kept going and wound up writing a novel—also recently unearthed in my parents’ basement, but significantly better than the play.

Do you have a favorite beverage or snack you must have while writing?
I’m currently addicted to Celestial Seasonings Peppermint Tea. I also like Trident Layers gum in strawberry/citrus. So I guess that makes me equal parts little old lady and tween girl.

What inspires you?
Seeing great theater, hearing great music, reading great books. Not only do they inspire me to act, sing and write, I find that witnessing other people’s accomplishments tangibly makes me better at mine.

Do you have a favorite vacation destination and do you write while vacationing?
We’re big cruisers in my family. It’s the ultimate relaxation vacation. I never write while we’re away, although my husband and I do enjoy bouncing ideas around. We often use it as a time to take stock of our projects, which can be easier at a distance. That said, we did scribble down ideas for our very first musical on a napkin while drinking hot chocolate at Demel in Vienna on our honeymoon.

Do you have any advice for other writers on any subject you choose?
James Thurber put it best: don’t get it right, just get it written. Try not to judge yourself every step of the way. I’m pretty self-critical as a performer, but for some reason, when I write, I’m able to get out of my way and let the ideas flow through me onto the page. A lot of times I feel like I’m channeling. It can be a real leap of faith, but you have to give up control to get control. It’s true of performing as well.

Any last thoughts you would like to add?
I’ve been very fortunate in my life to be able to juggle all my creative pursuits: writing, singing, and acting. Sometimes I get frustrated when I see other people shoot to the top, but I honestly don’t think I’d have been as happy having to choose one career over the others. I think you have to do what fulfills you creatively, whether it’s one thing or ten. 

The Temporary Detective
An Isobel Spice Novel
By Joanne Sydney Lessner
Publisher: Dulcet Press, April 9, 2012
ISBN: 0615605818
ISBN-13: 978-0615605814

Phones, light typing…and murder.

Think breaking into show business is hard? Try landing a temp job without office skills. That’s the challenge facing aspiring actress Isobel Spice when she arrives in New York City, fresh out of college and deficient in PowerPoint. After being rejected by seven temp agencies for her lack of experience, Isobel sweet-talks recruiter James Cooke into letting her cover a last-minute vacancy at a bank. New to his own job and recently sober, James takes a chance on Isobel, despite his suspicion that she’s a trouble-magnet. His misgivings are borne out by lunchtime, when Isobel stumbles across a dead secretary in a bathroom stall and discovers an untapped talent for detective work—a qualification few other temps, let alone actresses, can claim.

Pandora’s Bottle
By Joanne Sydney Lessner
Publisher: Flint Mine Press, June 12, 2010
ISBN-10: 0982520824
ISBN-13: 978-0982520826

What happens when you pin all your hopes on a single event and it all goes terribly wrong? When that event is the uncorking of a fabled bottle of 1787 Chateau Lafite once owned by Thomas Jefferson, the repercussions are emotional, financial, theatrical and, in every way, unexpected. When Sy Hampton purchases this legendary bottle, which, through a quirk of preservation, may yet be drinkable he shocks the wine community by choosing to uncork it privately with a female companion, rather than at a special public event. Sy intends the evening to be a quiet reassertion of his virility in the throes of middle age, but for ambitious restaurateur Annette Lecocq, the event offers an irresistible opportunity for much-needed publicity. Their competing agendas are not the only things to collide on the fateful night. Caught in the crossfire are Tripp Macgregor, a waiter on the verge of his long-awaited Broadway debut, and Valentina D Ambrosio, the beautiful but unworldly working girl from Brooklyn Sy hopes to impress.

[There are excerpts from both books on my website in flipbook format]

Follow me on Twitter: @joannelessner