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

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!