Joseph Falank’s “An Unexpected Visit” is coming soon…

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As an author of adult and young-adult fiction, Joseph Falank has had many of his stories featured in magazines and online publications. He has written and directed over twenty independent films and is a performing member and manager of The Puzzled Players Comedy Improv Theater. Since 2002 he has worked with children, young adults, and special needs kids in a classroom setting from pre-K through grade twelve. Joseph lives with his wife in his hometown of Binghamton, New York.

I recently read his latest release due out this October, An Unexpected Visit, which is a short book (also known as a novella) and is focused on an intense situation from the perspective of a middle-aged boy. Noah and his father are the only characters in the story, aside from a short appearance by the mother at the beginning and end of the weekend spent with his dad, who has been estranged from Noah and his mom for the last two years.

We find out early on in the story that Noah’s father has military and war related emotional issues from whatever special-forces unit he was (and perhaps still is) involved with. We do find out what has traumatized Noah’s father, and this is the catalyst for what, over the course of the weekend, nearly traumatizes Noah as well.

The story is captivating from the first paragraph and continues at a ‘hold your breath’ pace throughout the book. Mr. Falank does an extraordinary job of putting us into the hearts and minds of these two characters (as told through Noah’s perspective) and thus causing us to care deeply about the outcome of this ‘unexpected visit.’

It is excellent writing that exposes all of the emotional intricacies of a father and son torn apart for the last couple years through circumstances out of their control. The story unfolds glimpses of those years prior, which had been spent as a family, and the current realities of the present weekend in which they each try to find a pathway back to one another – despite the gapping wounds in their relationship, and in themselves.

Joseph shows us all of this through riveting description and action as seen by the eyes of Noah, rather than simply ‘telling’ us this fascinating tale as a narrator. An Unexpected Visit triggers many thoughts that continue to evolve long after the last page is read.

A peek into this father-son weekend is sure to open a window to better understanding of the complex relationships experienced by all of us. Ultimately we can, as a unified group of Falank fans, agree that his writing elevates the average read into something much more meaningful.

I asked Joseph a few questions about his story, which seemed so real to me in its rich detail that I had to wonder if it was not really fiction, but a situation he himself had lived through.

Why did you go this route of having a stand-alone novella grouped with micro stories relating to your last book (The Painted Lady) instead of perhaps grouping three novellas together? You obviously enjoy the reflective drama that sucks a reader in and then leaves them with a lot to think about when the story ends.

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When I got the idea for this story, I saw a boy (Noah) trapped in his bed, in the dark, in the middle of the night, in a house out in the middle of nowhere with only his father. The boy couldn’t do anything but cower under the covers, forced to listen to the endless wailing of his dad, who was experiencing some kind of night terror.

In developing Noah’s arc, I decided I wanted to stay with him for the duration – from the beginning of the story to its end – to maintain tension, and not add in relief in the form of subplots to deviate from the main story, which is the broken relationship between the two.

That choice made me realize the story would be much shorter than my first two novels (Seeing and The Painted Lady) and I was actually excited about that – to do something different. I adore novellas as a form of fiction, read a number of them in the lead-in to writing Visit to better hone my skills and understand the pacing. I’m thankful to be with a publisher (Winter Goose) who isn’t afraid to take chances on releasing novellas as stand-alone books.

The only thing keeping me from putting three novellas under one cover is that they’ll undoubtedly be compared to each other – readers will pick their favorites, deciding which one doesn’t belong, etc. It was out of my own guilt that I even added the “micro” stories that follow Visit; and that’s not to say I don’t think those stories are good (because I like them very much) but I want readers to feel that they get their money’s worth when they purchase a book of mine. It’s not a quality versus quantity issue, but if I can give more, I will. Still, the novella is the star of the show, hence why it’s not considered a collection – the “micro” stories are just Bonus Material.

When I originally set out with writing, my early manuscripts were in the flavor of The Twilight Zone, where a troubled person found themselves in the midst of a supernatural experience whereby they were forced to acknowledge something about themselves and change. In forcing myself to dig deeper, I became more interested in the character-study and how a family can be affected rather than put focus on the supernatural element. An Unexpected Visit is just a boy and his father, and hopefully a whole lot of tension, but nothing paranormal – that’s a first for me.

Is this a true story or is that too personal to ask? If it is true, might there be a memoir in your future? You seem to have a lot of interesting stories, which actually happened to you. I still remember the teacher that was encouraging about your writing, and then became critical about a piece you’d written. That had caused you a lot of self-doubt until realizing your potential as a wordsmith was not hers to make or break. 

When it comes to the actual plot of my stories, I don’t draw from real life. I do, though, like to include touches of real experiences to make the books more personal to me and immortalize those stories. For example, in Visit, the story of Noah being born – as told by his father – is actually the story of my daughter’s birth. In The Painted Lady, Miles’ proposal to his then girlfriend on a windswept beach in the midst of a blizzard mirrored my own proposal. Seeing had Jake become aware of a huge revelation in the presence of a butterfly, and butterflies had also caused a huge revelation in my own life.

I don’t think I’ve experienced enough yet in my thirty-three years to do a memoir, nor do I feel I’ve earned it. To me, memoir carries a weight of recognition. I feel they’re best suited for ex-presidents, soldiers, big time musicians, authors nearing the end of their careers, journalists, people who’ve made it to the top of their respective mountains and come back down the other side, ready to tell us all about it. I’m just getting started and have a long way to go, but I do hope to one day find myself in a position to tell my story. Till then I’ll just keep fitting pieces in each new book.

If the teacher who criticized me very early on taught me anything it’s that there will always be someone who doesn’t like your work – always at least one. It’s not their cup of tea. And that’s OK. I’ve learned to deal with that, knowing it’s inevitable with everything I write. That’s why I write for me, and my wife. If I write something and one or both of us don’t care for it, then I revise until I can solve the issue. If someone else doesn’t like it, well, I can’t know what he or she liked to begin with, so I don’t take it personally.

What do you want your audience to know about upcoming projects?

Much as I’ve struggled with the decision, ultimately, for my own sake, I won’t be publishing a book in 2017. I’ve done one book a year for the last three years, and while I’ve had a very (very) productive summer, I really do want to take time for myself, my family, and enjoy the accomplishment that I’ve had three books published (!!!). I want to work pushing what I have done rather than just concern myself with the next book and rush anything. Taking a year off from being on the publishing calendar will be a recharging of the batteries.

I will mention that there’re already two novels and another novella in the works for the years following – one of those novels is vastly different from anything I’ve done before, the other novel is a return to YA, and the novella is probably the saddest story I’ve ever written. Just have to stay tuned for more on those.

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On Twitter: @JosephFalank

 

 

Olivia’s Ghost

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“Like the ocean she paints perfectly, Mattingly crushes you with tragedy and keeps you turning the page with a glimmer of hope. In this raw tale she dissects the complexity of human emotion that is heartbreakingly relatable.”

Eva Hulett, author of Elidad

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Eva Hulett

 

 

 

 

EARLY REVIEWS FOR OLIVIA’S GHOST…

Early reviews are coming in for my third literary suspense novel, Olivia’s Ghost, which will be released this October by Winter Goose Publishing. Here is a synopsis beautifully written by the author of The Southtown Harbor SeriesSarah Reichert. Thank you Sarah!

“Haunting and beautifully written, Kathryn Mattingly’s Olivia’s Ghost follows complex and empathetic characters through the pain of unimaginable loss and the uplifting chance for hope. Mattingly writes with the deep notes of tragedy and a mother’s persistent belief, interweaving them through Olivia’s journey into a life without her daughter. The reader is taken, with matching optimism and despair, through the story; willing the unlikely survival of Olivia’s beloved Ava, and rooting for her fight for the truth to not be in vain.

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Sarah Reichert

Mattingly’s writing is a delicate tapestry, intertwining richly descriptive details and settling the reader beside her characters as they navigate through the realities of losing a child, the pressures that follow in their relationships, and the individual ways in which all humans approach and deal with loss.

The story builds in intensity as the parallels of the lighthouse ghost and the haunting feelings Olivia has for her daughter’s mysterious disappearance lock the reader’s attention and drive the empathetic understanding of the human condition. Olivia’s experience resonates with universal feelings of loss and survival.

Mattingly’s storytelling induces chills and enraptures the reader in this mysterious and sad tale of intrigue, intense in it’s journey through the shades of grief and the possibility of the otherworldly realm. The surprise ending does justice to the book in many thought-provoking ways that stick with you long after the last page.”

Thank you to Gabriel Valjan for his interpretation of Olivia’s Ghost:

“Literature is ripe with stories about the loss of a child; the theme of such grief ripples through many of John Irving’s novels. Where most authors would dwell on the simmering, if not open, hostility and recriminations between spouses, Kathryn Mattingly provides a twist by offering the reader two mysteries: the disappearance of one child, the daughter of Olivia and Jackson Porter, and a ghost associated with a lighthouse.

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Gabriel Valjan

Two mysteries become a pathway to redemption and renewal. Readers will experience a mother’s determination and unflagging belief that her daughter is alive, despite what others around her think and believe. It is Olivia’s unrelenting conviction that Ava is alive that threatens to make a ghost of her marriage.

The author, without judgment, also shows how spouses deal with pain. Jack sublimates his grief through a day’s work and a night’s swim in the bottle, whereas for Olivia, the maternal instinct becomes stronger and stronger. Whether Ava is alive or not, Olivia wants proof of life or death, at any cost.

It is not easy writing – and a remarkable accomplishment – that Mattingly conveys the loss of identity in motherhood. Olivia is driven, asking difficult and painful questions. It does not help that both spouses have temptations around them, but Mattingly’s parting note is that love triumphs and mends wounds. The writing is lush and lyrical, conjuring the sights and sounds of the ocean. When the seagull caws, it is a reminder that grief’s answer is in the language of hope and a mother’s abiding faith.”

 

MORE EARLY REVIEWS….

 

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Jim Campain

“With Olivia’s Ghost, Kathryn Mattingly once again shows her fans why she is an award-winning author. Within the first chapter, during a day that began with so much promise and ends with unimaginable heartache, readers will be captivated by rich characters and suspense that does not end until the final pages.” Jim Campain, author of The Mysterious Miss Snoddy

 

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Linda Berry

“Kathryn Mattingly has mastered the art of bringing complex characters to life and embedding them in a story that is both hauntingly tragic, hopeful, and tinted with wisps of the supernatural. Add a stunning beach setting and historical lighthouse on the Oregon coast, two tormented men who compete for her love, and you have an emotional roller coaster ride that will leave you breathless.” Linda J. Berry, author of Hidden

 

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Jesse Weiner

“Mattingly uses evocative imagery and stunningly beautiful prose to weave a deliciously tangled web of frustrated and conflicting desires. Livy’s maddening obsession with the quest to find her daughter, the latent sexual tension between Olivia and her first love, and the appearance of a lighthouse ghost keep the reader guessing what will happen next.” Jesse Weiner, author of Uncommon Blood

 

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Chuck Barrett

“From it’s tragic beginning to its gripping conclusion, Olivia’s Ghost takes you on a roller coaster ride of emotions. From never-ending love, to love lost, to rekindled love, Mattingly keeps you entwined in her character’s lives as they search for a meaning to their loss, and in which direction the future will lead them.” Chuck Barrett, Bestselling author of BLOWN

 

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Rene Villard-Reid

“From the first pages, Olivia’s Ghost plunges the reader into a maelstrom of powerful emotions and a heart-rending mystery.  Mattingly is a superb word artist, who paints the reader completely into the beauty and ruggedness of the Oregon Coast as well as into the lives of her well-developed characters. This is a thoroughly satisfying and enjoyable read with a great surprise ending.” Rene Reid, author of Finding The Magic

 

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JC Lynne

Olivia’s Ghost weaves a tale of sadness and hope in equal measure. You’ll find yourself holding your breath as you turn the pages while Mattingly skillfully pulls together the threads of two lives that explore the darkness and near madness of bereavement. Jackson and Olivia question whether they can recover their better selves in time to salvage their marriage, if not their daughter.” JC Lynne, author of The Esau Continuum Series

 

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Amy Rivers

“Olivia’s Ghost is the story of a mother pushed to her breaking point by grief, whose unrelenting hope and intuitive strength become the catalyst for untangling the wreckage of profound loss. An intricate story of determination, Mattingly has woven a tale with complex, relatable characters that you can love and agonize with.” Amy Rivers, author of Wallflower Blooming

 

 

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Cover art for Olivia’s Ghost is by Ladd Woodland @https://www.behance.net/laddwoodland

 

 

 

 

 

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Kathryn Mattingly

 

Visit Amazon’s Kathryn Mattingly Page

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Visit WGP author page at: Kathryn Mattingly

 

 

 

Key Elements of a Good Novel

429246_3369649207122_1691916516_nRecently I was a guest author on Patricia Stoltey‘s blogpost. Pat is a locally renowned author, blogger, and member of NCW. I feel honored to be the coordinator for the Northern Colorado Writers Top of the Mountain writing contest associated with the annual conference which will be open to submissions in September. It’s a pleasure working with the wonderful, expert judges and the inspiring entrants who never cease to amaze with their interesting and well-penned manuscripts.

Here is a repost of that article. I hope it helps both inspiring and seasoned writers everywhere either reach the winners circle or stay on top of their game, because whether entering a contest or not – these are the key elements of good writing.

REPOST:

To land you in the finalist’s circle of any contest and possibly win you the first place award, begin with examining your Viewpoint. Did you use a consistent, identifiable, and appropriate POV for the scene, and without any author intrusion? If point of view is confusing or unclear to you, be sure to study up on it because, like tense, it is the glue that holds your book together.

Next, scrutinize those Characters. Have you developed your protagonist and antagonist effectively? Are they believable? Are we sympathetic to your hero or heroine? This means regardless of the mistakes they are making we understand their motives and are rooting for them to eventually figure it out. We want them to succeed, or otherwise accomplish what they have set out to do. If we don’t care, then you haven’t endeared us to them, which means we are going to close the book somewhere before page 25. Not coincidentally, this is the same number of pages you submit to the contest.

10600484_627055100749424_5442419448206135148_nThis leads to Pacing. No matter how clear your point of view, or how consistent your tense, and regardless of our empathy for your main character, if your Plot does not have a compelling reason for us to turn the page – we won’t. Exactly why you must be certain every single scene whether action, narrative, or dialogue moves the story forward. Did the author use a lot of backstory? Did the sequencing of events make sense? Did the author ‘show’ and not ‘tell’ what is happening? Is the overall flow of the novel pleasing?

If the rhythmic and smooth effect of a well-orchestrated storyline isn’t there, it is often because you used too much backstory, and/or did not sequence your events properly. Either issue can cause your effect to be choppy and segmented, bogging your reader down as they struggle to keep everything straight.

If there is too much narrative (which means inactive telling rather than active showing) we are going to fall asleep, or at the very least not remember a word we just read. Which leads to the importance of Tension (or suspense). Tension and suspense begin with an opening Hook… something that fully invests us in whatever lies ahead. And let’s not forget Setting. No matter how surreal, it must be interesting and believable. Setting includes a timeline that carefully unfolds before us in a way that grounds the reader.

Are the action scenes clear and precise so the reader always knows who is doing what to whom? Is the Dialogue appropriate for the person speaking it? Can we be certain who is speaking whether a dialogue tag is used or not? Are you sticking with the standard dialogue tags ‘he said-she said’? Is every scene whether dialogue, narrative, or an action scene necessary to move the story forward?

Do the twists and turns of the plot move progressively to a Climax? Do those twists and turns show growth in your main character? Does the climax give us a clear and concise view of what they ultimately stand for? Do they win the day and if not, why not? Is the Resolution to the story satisfying?

This doesn’t mean you have to tie everything up with a bow, or have a happy ending. It means your reader, upon reflection, will be glad they invested the time it took to read your novel.

Finally, Mechanics do matter. Nothing disturbs a story more than poor sentence structuring, bad grammar (outside of character-appropriate dialogue) or typos. Improper use of punctuation disturbs the flow of your story as much as anything.

The last thought I want to leave you with is this: Who is your Intended Audience? The correct answer to that does not include ‘everyone’ unless your book is required high school reading (such as To Kill A Mockingbird). The rest of us need to define our target audience.

Choose the genre that best describes your work. Your entire stage presence depends on it. This includes your author platform, what section your novel is in at the bookstore, what time of day is best to have book signings, and who will come to your speaking engagements.

Be cognizant of your ‘fans’ (readership) with everything you do and say to promote your work, and yourself. Being true to the image you create as a writer, is key to success.

Consider entering your polished manuscript in the T.O.M. contest. There is no better way to monitor how successfully you’re achieved all of these important elements than to get expert feedback from accomplished wordsmiths!

Submission for the contest will open in September. You’ll find the announcement on the Northern Colorado Writers website and here on this blog.

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Kathryn Mattingly is a college educator, professional editor, award-winning author and public speaker. She has taught numerous writing courses in the English and Communications departments of several private colleges. Her literary fiction novels Benjamin, Journey, and Olivia’s Ghost (2016) can be found at all major booksellers. Five of her short stories have received recognition for excellence and are published in eight different themed anthologies through various small presses, and in her collection Fractured Hearts. Kathryn currently teaches courses she has created for the continuing Ed program at Front Range College. This fall she will be teaching novel writing, novel editing, and short story writing. Find the details regarding her July workshop through the college here.

Learn more about Kathryn and her writings on her webpage, her Amazon author page, and the Winter Goose Publishing website. She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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10 Hair-Raising Resolutions for 2016

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All of us have aspirations for a better coming year. We might write our goals down, or maybe not choose to admit what they are… even to ourselves. Unfortunately, some of the most important life changing things that could make us happier, better people are never on the countless to-do lists at year’s end. Here are ten I challenge you to consider:

1 – Dance in the rain. The very next time you have a downpour that could cause flashfloods grab someone near you and recreate your own flashdance- just like in the movie. Or if you prefer, pretend you’re in a ballroom or disco bar. Or just hold that other someone getting drenched on your behalf and sway ever so slightly. Savor it. Sear it into your soul. Spend time recalling the invigorating touch of nourishing raindrops, the titillating sound of splashing water on hard earth, and the smell of your immediate world being bathed in love raining down on you from God above.

2 – Kiss like young lovers. Hard. Long. Often. Purposefully. Stare into your lover’s eyes. Even if you’ve been married 50 years or more. Even if you’re exhausted from work. Or the kids are breaking things in the next room. Or you just burned dinner. One day you will be glad you did, and do, and always will until that opportunity passes and you no longer can… because one of you is gone.

3 – Marvel at the stars. Lay down in the grass at night and stare at them. Feel the lawn tickle your skin. Smell the rich earth. Sit out on the porch and watch them twinkle… while cuddling a loved one. Wonder what lies beyond those stars. Wish upon the brightest burning fire in that night-sky. Make note of each moon stage. Make-out in the dark. (Even if you’re 102!)

4 – Commit to a matinee day. Twice a month be inspired by what is on that big screen. Or be terrified. Perhaps angered. Maybe saddened. No matter your reaction, you will be MOVED emotionally. Then think about it all week. Let it fester and grow, and CHANGE you in some small way.

5 – Support the dreams of others. Listen and encourage. Applaud their accomplishments. Make a toast to little achievements. Mention their success, no matter how small. Buy their products purposefully- books they’ve published, CD’s they’ve recorded, produce they produce. Attend recitals of your friends’ children. Go to community plays. Ballgames. Neighborhood gatherings. Be a small part of something bigger. A unique little piece of the puzzle, without which, it isn’t complete.

6 – Converse with store clerks. Cheerfully inquire about their day. Have a happy comeback or an understanding look. Thank them for waiting on you. Even when they frustrate you; fade anger into forgiveness. Realize their significant other may have just left them. They might have recently been diagnosed with cancer, or simply can’t pay the light bill. Be their light for that moment your life touches theirs.

7 – Smile at kids in crowded places. You know, the ones hiding behind an adult but sneak a peek at you? Or the toddlers that toddle after mom while whining nothing translatable in sad little voices? (We can assume they’re hungry or tired, because toddlers are always hungry or tired.) Smile at the wild school-aged kids running down the aisles or trying on the nail polish. Find humor in these under-disciplined, out-of-control, what-is-the-world-coming-to pint-sized people. If you do, you will go more gently into that good night one day.

8 – Send cards to seniors. Not just any seniors. YOUR seniors. Grandmas (whether real or inherited), aging parents, the lady at church that sits alone in the back… the neighbor across the street. Put their birthdays in your phone. Take a minute from your busy day to choose just the right card at Walmart or Target. Write a note inside. Mail it early enough so they receive it by their special day!! (Or hand-deliver with cookies you baked yourself.) Seniors, more than any other age group, truly appreciate your thoughtfulness. Truly.

9 – Hug tighter. Hug tighter when you meet your friends for lunch, visit the folks in Ohio (or wherever they live), see that great aunt in the nursing home, greet your kids after school, or your honey home from work. HUG LONGER. WITH PURPOSE. Every. Single. Time. Let it be the first thing written in your Eulogy. You. Hugged. So. Tight.

10 – Make lemonade. No, really. Buy those lemons you have hand-picked, sniffed, squeezed and lovingly gathered. Measure out the grainy, white, pure cane sugar that is so-not the devil incarnate we have made it out to be. Add water and ice to dazzle the senses with pure delight in the clink and swoosh of it. Fill tall glasses proudly and share with someone you have chosen to honor with your presence and your handmade demonstration of love. Repeat often enough to feed your soul but not destroy your blood sugar levels. (This balancing act, by the way, is the secret to life.)

The resolutions on this list, my friends, will probably extend our time on this earth more than any new gym membership. (;

HAVE A HAPPY NEW Y.O.U. YEAR!

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Compelling and intelligent, Kathryn Mattingly’s characters are imbued with a timely sense of presence and emotional gravitas, which adds significantly to the plausibility of her well-constructed plots. …. Book Viral Reviews Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 10.10.54 AM

 

Tis the Season…

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I have a very mixed pallet this year for my splashes of color on the wheel of life. They range from bright pure hues of assuredness and joy to dark earth tones of uncertainty and sadness. But then, that is the cycle of life- is it not?

A highlight for me this year was spending 6 months in a mountain house overlooking the Cascade Range. I woke up to the sun reflecting off the Three Sisters every morning. Traveling to the town of Bend from our Eagle Crest home was an adventure in green pastures surrounded by stunning mountain peaks and filled with every type of domestic animal you can imagine.

To this day I see those fields of horses, lamas, and alpacas in my dreams- with a few mean looking bulls and scores of shiny black cattle. (Sometimes I think I never really lived there at all and it truly was just a dream.)

If winter and spring of 2015 was, let’s say, extended vacation, then spring was transition. Coming out of semiretirement to reestablish career expertise is no easy task. Fortunately, my husband (who could not turn down this dream job that awakened us from our Central Oregon dream)  has settled nicely into his position as the director of new business for Trans Aero Helicopters.

I spent the summer trying to remember my (yet again) new address, and how to translate the nuances of my new environment here in Colorado. The Rockies are as different from the Cascades as inland people are to those who live on either coast. If those peaks outside my mountain house were a sublime example of poetic serenity, then the Rockies are a perfect picture of majestic ruggedness.

The people, I think, reflect their mountain ranges. Once I understood these analogies, life got easier. I daresay the state is growing on me! How do I know? Well, for starters, I used to be proud when having to show my west coast drivers license. Now I feel a tinge of shame and remorse for not having replaced it yet.

By early fall I had moved through extended vacation, and transition, all the way to production. And it felt glorious to finally be too busy for much introspection about all of the above. My second novel Journey was released by Winter Goose Publishing October 1, and I taught the novel writing course I created for Central Oregon college at Front Range college here in Fort Collins. I traveled back to where I left my heart- in Bend, OR, to be a part of their Writer’s Guild Harvest Festival as a contest judge, speaker, and workshop host.

They even had a book launch for Journey!

I feel both honored and humbled by the response I am getting to my second novel, which by its very nature is risky, because (according to my reviewers) Benjamin set the bar high. Although I will always write in the same genre (I am listed under literary suspense, literature, and general fiction) the books are set up quite differently. Benjamin runs from top speed right out the gate all the way to the finish line, whereas Journey is a slow burn that suddenly ignites.

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Fall was quite a wild ride, but I think the biggest ride I take this year will happen in a Trans Aero helicopter on December 19th as part of their Christmas party. Hopefully there will be no plot twists and we will land safely!

I cannot write this post without sharing what I have been reading in 2015.

Let’s start with Harry Potter. Yes, shockingly enough, I never picked up a single book or viewed any of the films for that matter, until recently. My grandchildren were appalled that I hadn’t read this beloved series they all grew up with. What do I think of them now that I am waist high in Harry Potter?

I must admit they are addictive entertainment, and on a deeper level, they offer some wonderful food for thought, life-reflecting analogies, and well-worth-studying symbolism. (Not to mention helping me bond with my grandchildren.)

JK Rowling deserves every penny she has made off of them.

If I taught children (rather than adults) you better believe we would be reading and studying these books. I can’t think of any better way to turn children on to literature and reading, or to inspire them to have courage, character, and tenacity. As for those few Christians who think they are unsavory for young minds? I find that type of thinking much more frightening than anything on the pages of Harry Potter.

Tis the season… of Christ’s birth, despite 90 percent of our celebrations having nothing to do with that, even for Christians. Nonetheless I would like to say, on behalf of His birthday, that the Christ at the center of my faith is all about love, forgiveness, inclusion, not judging, not whining, not complaining, and not insisting that the world do as He did or said- rather that through His example of unconditional love and acceptance people would come to Him for sanctuary.

It saddens me to see all the negative press this year in which Christ is misrepresented to be a judgmental know-it-all determined to alienate everyone not willing to crawl into that very small, toxic, and suffocating box a few misguided people have put him in, including those who have picked on poor Harry.

The reputations of the Bible and Harry Potter series aside, two of my standout favorite reads for 2015 were Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (an older novel my book club chose, but just as riveting as anything written recently) and The Goldfinch by Donna Tart (a Pulitzer Prize winner).

Either of these books will transport you to someone else’s stress-filled reality (hence helping you forget your own) if you wish to treat yourself to a fascinating read when all the hustle and bustle of the season has deemed your need for a time out. (;

What does the New Year hold for this writer? Well, for starters, the college has asked me to create and teach a couple more classes since Novel Writing: Fiction & Memoir was such a hit. I will add Editing Your Novel or Short Story and The Art of the Short Story to their winter term. (These are evening classes through the noncredit Continuing Ed program.)

I am also working on my next novel, due out in 2016.

We will conclude the year by traveling back to our Illinois roots, to visit Dennis’s mom and sister. Our youngest daughter Anna is coming with us and we will stay at the Four Seasons in St. Louis (Anna is a sales manager for Four Seasons Resorts). We are looking forward to enjoying a few cultural experiences while there. It should bring back a lot of childhood memories.

Talk about reflection – I’m anticipating quite a bit of that on this last journey of the year…

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Compelling and intelligent, Kathryn Mattingly’s characters are imbued with a timely sense of presence and emotional gravitas, which adds significantly to the plausibility of her well-constructed plots. …. Book Viral Reviews

Journey Flat for eBooks

Website: http://kathrynmattingly.com 

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00EILN6YE

FB: https://www.facebook.com/kathrynmattinglyauthor

WG: http://wintergoosepublishing.com/authors/kathryn-mattingly/

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Garlic & Gauloises coming soon…

G&G Flat (1)Hemmie Martin began writing in 2008 and has since had five novels published, with the sixth coming out this month (Garlic & Gauloises). They include a crime series featuring DI Eva Wednesday and DS Jacob Lennox, a psychological thriller, and two contemporary novels – all through Winter Goose Publishing.

I am honored to call Hemmie a fellow goose in our gaggle. Considering her intense career choice as a community nurse for people with learning disabilities, we can only assume that her page-turning novels reflect a page-turning life.

Hemmie has also been a family planning nurse, and a forensic mental health nurse who worked with young offenders in the community and in young offender institutes. Altogether, I foresee a lifetime of book fodder, a lot of which has probably already spilled upon the pages of her well-penned novels.

Hemmie spent six years living in the south of France, and currently lives in Essex, England, where being a novel writing specialty nurse apparently wasn’t enough, since she and her husband also board guide dogs in training.

Really?

It has occurred to me that Hemmie could easily be the protagonist in one of her own novels. (And perhaps she is?) With her latest book coming out this month http://wintergoosepublishing.com/garlic-gauloises-cover-reveal/ I took the time to ask Hemmie a few questions about her fiction.

Mental health issues are a part of all of your novels so far. Is this something you intended to do?

Mental health has always been an interest of mine since my days as a student nurse. It is a complex subject, which is often misunderstood. I enjoy writing characters that suffer with mental illness, but also characters with a misconception of the subject, thus hopefully exposing more truth than fiction on the topic.

Your female protagonists tend to be strong women with flaws (similar to my own protagonists). We’re learning more about DI Eva Wednesday as the series progresses. Where do you see her headed down the road in this series?

When I wrote the first DI Wednesday In the Light of Madness I intended it to be a stand alone novel, but when I’d finished writing it, I realized how much I enjoyed being in Wednesday’s company. I knew more about her background than I divulged in the novel, so I had plenty to write about in the next novel. The fourth novel What Happens After is due to be published early 2016, and some readers have asked me whether Eva Wednesday and Jacob Lennox will get together. Understandably, I’m not going to answer that!

You write novels in two different genres, is there a reason for this, and is there one genre you prefer writing?

I started off writing contemporary fiction (The Divine Pumpkin) followed by a psychological thriller (Attic of the Mind). I realized that I enjoyed writing dark, tortured characters and toyed with the idea of writing crime, even though in my early days of writing I said I would never write crime (or a series).

I enjoy writing both genres as I feel it keeps my writing and mind fresh. Crime takes a lot of planning, what with the red herrings and false alibies, so it can be quite challenging at times. I like to take a break from that scene and explore more contemporary themes. Whichever genre I am writing in, I enjoy weaving mental health into the story -and I adore writing an antagonist.

As to which genre I ultimately prefer to write in– it really depends on my state of mind at the time. I may write another psychological thriller in the future. Who knows?

Apart from writing what else do you enjoy doing?

I enjoy reading, and I read a variety of genres, but predominantly contemporary fiction and crime. Another pastime is going to pubs with my husband, to listen to cover bands playing live rock music. The bands are amazingly talented, and it’s a truly wonderful way to pass an evening. And as you know, we board Guide Dogs in training for three months at a time. We become very attached to the dogs, but we console ourselves with knowing that they move on to make a person with visual impairment lead a more independent and fulfilling life.

All Winter Goose Publishing ebooks are currently only 2.99 on Amazon for the month of December. It’s a great chance to discover a new author.

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Here are the links to Hemmie Martin’s books, website, and Facebook author page…

Website: http://hemmiemartin.com/

Amazon UK: Visit Amazon’s Hemmie Martin Page         

Amazon US: Books:See all 10 items

FB author page: https://www.facebook.com/Hemmie-Martin-Author-Page-270022226396038/

WGP: Hemmie Martin

 

Compelling and intelligent, Kathryn Mattingly’s characters are imbued
with a timely sense of presence and emotional gravitas, which adds
significantly to the plausibility of her well-constructed plots. ~ Book Viral Reviews

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The Journey of Journey

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Here is the first interview regarding my next book release Journey on October 1, through Winter Goose Publishing.

How exciting is that?

I want to thank Joseph Falank, author of The Painted Lady and Seeing for having the interest and taking the time to interview me. As an author of adult and young-adult fiction, Joseph Falank josephfalank.com has had many of his stories featured in magazines and online publications. He has written and directed over twenty independent films and is a performing member and manager of The Puzzled Players Comedy Improv Theater.

Joseph asked some out-of-the ordinary questions regarding this second novel of mine. I think my good friend and fellow Author Eldon Thompson perhaps nailed the journey of Journey from a reader’s perspective in his review on the webpage Journey is Coming Soon…

I am grateful to have writer friends like Eldon, whom I met on the Maui Writer’s trip to Rome back in 2003. Walking around Rome for 10 days with a few other writers can certainly allow as many shared experiences and bonding time as, well, ‘your neighbors in the hood.’ Eldon and I had an instant understanding of and respect for each other’s work, which is odd if you consider how different our genres are. His fantasy trilogy The Legend of Asahiel is published through HarperCollins.

My friend Ginni Simpson drvirginiasimpson.com doesn’t write in my genre either. She recently penned a memoir The Space Between with SheWrites Press that will be released this spring. Her memoir is a poignant account of those last years with her mother. Ginni also nailed the essence of Journey in her review, and I want to thank her for all the support she gave me as a fellow writer.

Of course those who gave me back cover blurbs for the book are also writers whose work I enjoy and respect. James Benton is an award winning author in his own right. He teaches English and Writing for Eastern Oregon University. He recently signed a publishing contract for his poetry collection.

Naima Mora (Model Behavior) and I met at the private design college, where she first showed me her book. Naima was America’s Top Model in one of the earlier seasons of the reality TV show. She writes her memoir from the heart, and doesn’t mince words about how hard it is or how much discipline it takes to become top notch at, well, anything.

Here are those thought-provoking questions Joseph sent my way. He will have his own version of this article coming out in about a month. (I am shamelessly double dipping here.) I did answer as honestly as I could, which I confess was harder than writing fiction.

Tell me about the journey of Journey – from how the idea struck you, your process of writing it, any research, struggles along the way, beta-readers, all the way to the finished book. How many drafts did it take? Did anything change drastically (avoiding spoilers) from first draft to final?

This story has evolved quite a bit from conception. When the idea first came to me it was because of all the press about runaway teens. Like all writers with runaway imaginations I wondered about different scenarios and what-ifs surrounding circumstances that would cause a teen to runaway. That gave me my basic plot. What I really write about in all my books is what makes people tick, what drives them to do what they do leading up to and well beyond one action such as running away from home. The plot is just the glue to hold all those intricate psychological and emotional fibers together.

My writing process is simply spilling out the guts of the story onto paper. Then I slowly transform and finesse that raw unfiltered thinking and emotion into something (hopefully) refined. To me refinement is when it sings and dances on the page instead of trudging along clunkily amid too many adjectives and over-thinking. There should be an easy rhythm that allows the reader to seamlessly follow one scene and thought to another without ever getting confused, bored, or bogged down by bad mechanics, inconsistencies, and repetitions. This is not to say a reader will never take pause to ponder what has affected them along the way in terms of a new perspective or overwhelming emotion.

I have been fortunate enough to spend a fair amount of time in Maui and on The Big Island, which is where Journey takes place. My locations are always somewhere I have lived or travelled, and whatever my characters thought processes or emotions are, I have also experienced. This is not to say I have experienced everything my characters have, but only to say I have experienced something similar which allows me to relate to them. This keeps research about everything in my books to a minimum. Rule number one is to write what you know, and so I do.

I don’t use Beta-readers. Once I believe that the manuscript has evolved all that it can I send it to a few trusted colleagues for reader input. These are long time author friends whom I respect for their work, intuitiveness and insight regarding all written work. I soak up their suggestions for how the story may still need to evolve or could be made tighter, clearer, better. After I rework it using their input, I send it to a couple excellent line editors that I know and respect personally for their expertise in this area. This whole process from start to finish can take a year or 10 years depending on that particular story.

I have to be honest: In the beginning I felt a little frustration with Kylie – out of nowhere she became incredibly hell-bent on finding her niece and making this child she never knew a part of her life, even though she knew nothing of Alana outside of the letter she reads from her recently-deceased sister. My question is was I supposed to feel that way? You write complex characters and they’re not black and white, which makes me think I was supposed to wonder why she acts the way she does – of course through the book we gain a much greater understanding of Kylie and her marriage and life. Give me your take on Kylie, and what was her life like before the book begins?

All of my heroines have a Scarlet O’Hara from Gone With The Wind angst about them. You love to hate my protagonist for her need to control and manipulate the ‘floor has fallen out from under me’ environment she suddenly finds herself in. But then again, underneath your frustration with her obsessive-compulsive behavior toward a seemingly contrived outcome you find yourself loving her for the motives she displays, which are always about saving someone (or several someone’s) from what she perceives to be a disastrous fate and future for that particular individual.

Most of us can also relate to the bad choices made before good decision making, but we fully understand how this is the process to success- learning from our poorly executed and impulsive, short sighted plans. Watching and wondering how this process will unfold, I believe, is what draws you in and makes you turn the page.

As for what Kylie’s life and marriage is like before the start of the book and for that matter, after the last written page is up to the reader. I would take it one step further and say that everything Kylie was and is and can ever hope to be is something each of us must determine for ourselves based on our own personal relationships, world view, aspirations, frustrations, achievements and failures.

We writers all have piles of work that no one will ever read – it’s a sad truth that we spend a lot of time (months, years even) on work that doesn’t get beyond the first draft and ends up being a “trunk novel.” Tell me about one of your “trunk novels” and would you ever consider revisiting/revising it?

My ‘trunk novel’ is my first novel on which I cut my teeth… ALL of my teeth – one painful day at a time for what seemed like forever. After being consumed by a whirlwind of passion to pen the story so vivid in my mind, I soon realized it was a muddled mess. This realization came after taking it to writing conferences filled with best-selling novel speakers, and attending retreats where I had icon authors, masters at their trade, teach me what I thought I knew and yet didn’t have a clue about. I rewrote it numerous times and finally, a compassionate editor at a conference gently informed me that my plot was as uninteresting and ordinary as my characters and scenery were fascinating and extraordinary.

It was like a light went on in my head as he spoke. He was absolutely right. I had lost the forest for the trees. I put it on a shelf and never looked back, and immediately wrote a brand new novel that had been simmering in the back of my head. The very next year I won an award for that manuscript and landed a New York agent with the JC Literary Agency. That book was Benjamin – my debut novel.

I know writers don’t like the “what’s next” question, but do you have ideas down already, saved in a journal or notebook, or do you wait and let the ideas come organically?

I have a file of plots and characters, written when they come to mind- usually after just enough wine, but not too much wine. It’s a magical place where the imagination knows no limits – and for that matter, life has no limits in that moment of not completely sober but not inebriated either. I think every creative person on earth has been to the sweet spot of which I speak. It’s fleeting, but the mind does take flight in that space, where all my novels have been birthed. My next two projects are completed books that I will perfect before publication at one a year, and then my new work will see the light of day- a dark and scary thought, because like all good fiction- the truth is in the lie. Most nonfiction I read is more fictitious than the sobering truth of courageously crafted fiction.

That knowledge alone is reason enough for a fiction writer to keep a well-stocked wine cellar. (;

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Personal blog and website: http://kathrynmattingly.com 

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00EILN6YE

FB page: https://www.facebook.com/kathrynmattinglyauthor

WGP page: http://wintergoosepublishing.com/authors/kathryn-mattingly/

 

 

An Emotionally Haunting Tale

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I am pleased and excited that fellow Winter Goose author, Joseph Falank, has a new book coming out. ‘The Painted Lady’ is an emotionally haunting tale that beautifully builds suspense. You won’t be disappointed in this slow burning summer read that pulls at your heartstrings. It will be available for purchase August 5th.

Unlike my always-flawed heroines that must fight their way to correct decisions, Falank’s widower-protagonist is an achingly good man who experiences a horrific personal setback when his wife is murdered.

Need I say more?

As if the plot-line alone wasn’t enough to pull you into the fascinating tale, Joseph writes in a style that puts you right there in every scene with Miles, our grief-stricken widower. Thoughts and feelings this sensitive, highly creative artist experiences will be equally felt by you, the reader. It creates volumes of empathy and builds a deep desire to buffer Miles from the harsh realities he is slowly unraveling.

By the end, you’ll wish Miles were a neighbor you could chat with over a bottle of Sangiovese on a sultry Saturday night.

Joseph (our highly creative author) lives with his wife and daughter in upstate New York. He is also the author of SEEING, a quiet coming-of-age tale, unlike THE PAINTED LADY, which is a “fractured supernatural mystery involving strange happenings and an unusual woman, both appearing after the murder of Mile’s wife.”

I recently asked Joseph some questions and like a true storyteller, his answers are quite entertaining, as well as meaningful and moving – much like the books he pens.

When did you decide you wanted to become a published author? Like many writers, I’ve worked on my craft since a young age (I remember trying to write a zombie story when I was fourteen), and like some, it took the support of an English professor to make me see that getting published wasn’t an impossible goal to obtain as long as I just kept at it. Unfortunately, this professor – my biggest cheerleader at the time – was also the one to turn me off from writing when she gave a scathing review of a novel I was working on (this was back in 2008). Her comments were so harsh, and not even within the realm of being constructive, that I didn’t attempt another story for two years.

It was a conversation with my girlfriend – whom later became my wife – that rekindled my passion for storytelling. One autumn day we were talking about our futures and she asked me, simply, what I wanted to be. I answered, without hesitation, a published author. She bought me a spiral notebook and a set of pens to get me going, and in that notebook I handwrote the first draft of the novel that would, four years later, become my first published book – SEEING.

Have you received any awards or recognition yet for your writing? I don’t have any awards, as of yet, but the biggest recognition I’ve received in my short career as an author has meant as much as any award could. It came from Erik Weibel, who reads and reviews hundreds of books on his site: thiskidreviewsbooks.com. Last year he chose SEEING as one of his Top Books of 2014.

It floored me that out of the hundreds of books he read, out of the twelve he selected as being a Top Book that resonated with him, mine was on that list. I say it meant as much as any award because Erik was the target audience for the book, and that he finished SEEING in a single day and it stuck with him for so long afterward was affirmation for me that I had accomplished what I set out to do with the book.

Where do you get ideas for your books and do you have the next book in mind?  I write about things that scare me. Not always boogeymen or monsters or blood, but things in life we have no control over. For SEEING, I wrote, indirectly, about faith and the evidence of signs. When writing the book, I was constantly looking for my own signs from the world that would tell me I was on the right path – holding to the belief that what I was doing writing this story was what I should have been doing. THE PAINTED LADY is about a man struggling to overcome the loss of his wife and return his own life to normalcy. My wife, Rebecca, is my absolute best friend. I don’t know what I would do without her. Writing LADY gave me insight into how someone might cope with such a terrible, devastating loss.

I keep a journal of story ideas in my desk. Because ideas come all the time, I have a system to determine what the next story will be. I wait until the inspiration of an idea goes from being a few sentences on paper to where I’m outlining and it gets so embedded in my brain, cutting deep into emotion, and is so distracting it’s all I think about and feel, before I commit to it. I have the next two stories planned. Next year (2016) I’ll release a novella – a straightforward thriller about a boy trapped with an unstable father – titled AN UNEXPECTED VISIT, and then it’ll be two years before my next novel, which I’m planning to be a huge tearjerker. After that I have numerous ideas stockpiled if nothing fresh pops to mind.

How did you make contact with Winter Goose Publishing? I am very pleased to have Winter Goose be my publisher for SEEING, THE PAINTED LADY, and next year’s AN UNEXPECTED VISIT. I made the connection with them through their online submission manager during an open submission period. I sent them SEEING back in February of 2013 and heard from them a few months later, in mid-April, saying that they loved it and wanted to publish it.

The book came out at the end of June of 2014. I am very proud of the fact that I didn’t know anyone at WGP when I made the submission (didn’t really know anyone in publishing at that time) and earned my first book all on my own. So many writers believe you have to know someone to get a foot in the door, well, I can say that’s not true at all. Hard work and persistence – and sometimes a very long wait – will get you there. Eventually.

In regards to WGP, I cannot say enough wonderful things about them, and, primarily, Jessica Kristie. She has shown me so much kindness and trust and has been such a huge support as I grow into my role of Author. All of us authors at WGP are lucky to have Jessica in our corners.

What do you do for a living and how do you stay focused on writing with your job? For the last nine years I’ve worked in district classrooms assisting students on the Autism spectrum through the Board of Cooperative Education Services (BOCES). My job is to help prepare these students for the world beyond the classroom setting. I work normal school hours. This comes with the perk of having all holidays and summers off, including a handful of snow days sprinkled throughout. I’m quite good with the academics but I feel my sense of humor and overall quiet personality proves far more effective with my job. And while I love what I do, and the people and students I work with, I feel most “at home” in my other two roles: writing, and (relatively new) being a dad.

My busy life does make finding time to write difficult on some days but I take full advantage of my lunch hour at work, and my wife is always supportive of me sneaking off to my office on weekend mornings to write. When writing something new, I have a daily goal of 1,000 words, which, most of the time comes fairly quickly.

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Tales of The Painted Lady – Every Friday during the month of July, in anticipation of the novel’s release August 5th, Joseph will be posting an original micro-story that leads directly into the events of the book. Stories can be found on his website: (josephfalank.com)

 

 

Website: http://www.josephfalank.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJosephFalank

Twitter: @JosephFalank

Winter Goose: http://wintergoosepublishing.com/authors/joseph-falank/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Falank/e/B00LB1ED3M

 

Colorado Bound

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God is a better writer than me. The best fiction plot my imagination has come up with pales in comparison to his. Some of the twists and turns in my personal story are helping me to realize that change is the only constant in life.

Fortunately God gives us tenacity and courage with which to meet each and every challenge of our journey. He also helps his heroes and heroines develop persistence and humility as they stumble repeatedly while striving to reach their goals and dreams along the way.

Unexpected plot twists are what led my amazing husband and I up to, and through the California years of our marriage. Hopefully a lot of personal growth is what we have found on the other side. No better place to put all this in perspective than sitting (almost literally) on a mountaintop.

These past six months we have been living in paradise. Other than a roaring ocean in a tropical location, no where could be more inspiring than Central Oregon. I will miss the amazing drive from our mountain house to, well, anywhere. I have to admit I have enjoyed the time to think, while passing pastures speckled with alpacas, majestic bulls, and lately… half a dozen calves among the free-range cattle.

Daylight hours find the wide variety of domestic animals grazing lazily against a backdrop of snow-covered peaks that jut up into an endless blue sky. The smell of sagebrush and juniper entices an always open window in my jeep. Hawks, eagles, and Canadian geese occasionally soar overhead, and take my breath away with the sheer size of their wing span.

Why did God put six months of paradise midstream in our plot?

I have no idea, but that doesn’t make me any less grateful. It has been a revered time of reflection. In fact, leaving the mountain house for any reason has not been a priority for this reclusive writer.

Except to buy groceries, hike in nearby Smith Rock State Park, visit brew pubs and experience local cuisine, I’ve rarely ventured from our cozy mountain house other than to get the mail, which granted, is a 10-minute walk past a meadow of horses and a mountain stream.

The cat and I have spent many a lazy day by the fireplace. She napped while I wrote, or just stared at the glorious mountain range and rugged evergreens outside our window wall. I did manage to convince the continuing Ed program through the local college that they needed a novel writing course, which I had a lot of fun teaching.

I also did some guest lecturing. That led to being a judge for the Writer’s Guild short story contest, which is a part of their Fall Festival here. I am coming back for the Awards Ceremony. I will also be a guest speaker for the Guild and host one of their writing workshops while here. If all goes well, I am hoping to add a book launch to the rest of the festivities.

We move to Ft. Collins, Colorado right after Memorial Day, where Dennis has taken a Director of Marketing position with Trans Aero Helicopters. It is a dream job he has been pursuing for some time, and a pleasing surprise twist in our plot-line. The down side is that we will miss our wonderful family, not to mention watching the moods of a mountain sky change dramatically by the hour.

Parting is such sweet sorrow!

I will miss the peaceful, quiet nights observing different phases of the moon and constellations that feel close enough to touch. Etched forever in my mind is a dazzling rainbow that formed on one of the few days it dared to rain. Jack’s beanstalk couldn’t have been more magical, shooting up from nowhere.

I think we are two quite evolved people (my husband and I) that will be taking on this next chapter in our lives. The mountain we live on has moved us in many ways. It has helped us put a whirlwind decade in California behind us, and allowed us to let go of all the ghosts that had landed us there to begin with.

I have not regretted a moment of our sometimes rocky path. If you take out one domino, then everything beyond that point is disconnected. Which domino would we pull? Altogether they have fallen into quite a nice pattern, despite a few rough patches. This last six months has been especially in sync for a pleasing rhythm to our lives, our marriage, and our resurfaced dreams for the future; dreams we’d all but given up on.

In the quiet nights filled with dashing stars, in the wind off the ridge every afternoon, in the varied songs of native birds amid the sage brush of the desert floor… the dominos have fallen one by one in a unhurried pace this past half a year. You can almost see them heading to that curve, where the direction and momentum will change once again.

We are ready for it.

We both still have a lot to accomplish and the timeline of our plot relentlessly reminds us to make haste. So, we will wind down our mountain one last time and ride out of Oregon… Colorado bound. Hopefully the resolution to our story will be retirement in about 10 years, right back here in paradise!

 

get-attachment.aspxKathryn’s next novel, Journey, will be released September, 2015 by Winter Goose Publishing

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Personal blog and website: http://kathrynmattingly.com Edgy Words Unleashed

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00EILN6YE

FB page: https://www.facebook.com/kathrynmattinglyauthor

WGP page: http://wintergoosepublishing.com/authors/kathryn-mattingly/

 

12-Step Plan for Addicted Writers (last but not least…)

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In this last part of the Addicted Writer’s 12-Step plan I want to share with you what literary devices and components of novel writing we, as contest readers for a major literary contest, are asked to use when critiquing entries.

Getting high marks on the following elements is what will land you in the finalist’s circle and possible win you the first place award, beginning with Viewpoint. Did you use a consistent, identifiable, and appropriate POV for the scene, and without any author intrusion? If point of view is confusing or unclear to you, be sure to study up on it because, like tense, it is the glue that holds your book together.

Next, scrutinize those characters. Have you developed your protagonist and antagonist effectively? Are they believable? Are we sympathetic to your hero or heroine? This means regardless of the mistakes they are making we understand their motives and are rooting for them to eventually figure it out. We want them to succeed, or otherwise accomplish what they have set out to do. If we don’t care, then you haven’t endeared us to them, which means we are going to close the book somewhere before page 25.

I suspect this is why most contests have you send the first 25 pages of your manuscript. If you can’t hook a reader within those first few chapters (if not the first few pages) chances are you never will. 

This leads to pacing. No matter how clear your point of view, or how consistent your tense, and regardless of our empathy for your main character, if your plot does not have a compelling reason for us to turn the page – we won’t. Exactly why you must be certain every single scene whether action, narrative, or dialogue moves the story forward. 

Did the author use a lot of backstory? Did the sequencing of events make sense? Did the author ‘show’ and not ‘tell’ what is happening? Is the overall flow of the novel pleasing?

If the rhythmic and smooth effect of a well orchestrated storyline isn’t there, it is often because you used too much backstory, and/or did not sequence your events properly. Either issue can cause your effect to be choppy and segmented, bogging your reader down as they struggle to keep everything straight.

If there is too much narrative (which means inactive telling rather than active showing) we are going to fall asleep, or at the very least not remember a word we just read. Which leads to the importance of tension (or suspense).

Tension and suspense begins with an opening hook… something that fully invests us in whatever lies ahead. And let’s not forget setting. No matter how surreal, it must be interesting and believable. Setting includes a timeline that carefully (and cleverly) unfolds before us in a way that grounds the reader.

Are the action scenes clear and precise so the reader always knows who is doing what to whom? Is the dialogue appropriate for the person speaking it? Can we be certain who is speaking, whether a dialogue tag is used or not (he-said, she-said)? Is every use of conversation, narrative, or an action scene necessary to move the story forward?

Do the twists and turns of the plot move progressively to a climax? Do those twists and turns show growth in your main character? Does the climax give us a clear and concise view of what they ultimately stand for? Do they win the day and if not, why not? Is the resolution to the story satisfying?

This doesn’t mean you have to tie everything up with a bow, or have a happy ending. It means your reader, upon reflection, will be glad they invested the time it took to read your novel.

Finally, mechanics matter. Nothing disturbs a story more than poor sentence structuring, bad grammar (outside of character-appropriate dialogue) or typos. Improper use of punctuation disturbs the flow of your story as much as anything.

The last thought I want to leave you with is this: Who is your intended audience? The correct answer to that does not include ‘everyone’ unless your book is required high school reading (such as, To Kill A Mockingbird).

The rest of us mere mortal writers need to define our target audience.

Choose the genre that best describes your work. Your entire stage presence depends on it. This includes your author platform, what section your novel is in at the bookstore, what time of day is best to have book signings, and who will come to your speaking engagements.

Be cognisant of your ‘fans’ (readership) with everything you do and say to promote your work, and yourself. Being true to the image you are creating as a writer is key to success. 

Let’s review:

(1) SYNOPSIS OR BOOK PROPOSAL (depending on whether fiction or non)

  1. Show your plot arc.
  2. Show your main character arc.
  3. Explain the main theme of your book.
  4. Give the resolution.
  5. For a longer synopsis give twists, turns, and additional (less dominant) themes.
  6. Be straightforward with no self-promoting through glowing adjectives.

(2) AGENTS (for traditional publishing)

  1. Attend conferences and pitch to genre appropriate agents.
  2. Google genre appropriate agents online.
  3. Ask a writer friend to recommend you to their agent.
  4. Ask an author friend to recommend you to their publisher.

(3) PUBLISHERS

  1. Traditional (large)
    1. They write you a check upfront.
    2. You have little input into editing and cover design.
    3. They take a large percent of your profit.
    4. You have the most credibility with large publishers and will probably sell more books because they have a readership already in place for your genre.
    5. They promote your work (and have it reviewed), but you still are expected to be an active participant in your author platform.
  2.  Traditional (small)
    1. Small independent publishers do not write you a check upfront, but they pay for everything toward publishing.
    2. You are hands-on with editing and cover design.
    3. Small presses usually take a smaller percentage of your profit.
    4. You have credibility with small publishers although they generally rely mostly on you to build a readership, however, they are able to get your work into places where most self-published books are not accepted (like Barnes & Noble), and they generally will have your book reviewed by the traditional reviewers.
  3.  Self Publishing
    1. Hybrids expect your work to be of a certain caliber before they will accept it. You still pay them for editing, publishing, and promotional services but you are hands-on with cover design and other decisions.
    2. A self-publishing publisher has a full range of services and you make all the decisions. You also pay for everything and the expense equals the services you choose. The downside is that they won’t give an honest opinion about your work, as long as you can pay, so look elsewhere for creditability.
    3. Self-publishing on your own (for instance, through Amazon) means that you are, well… On. Your. Own. It is, however, the cheapest way to self-publish if you don’t count the therapy sessions you’ll need on the side.

 (4) AUTHOR PLATFORM

  1. Every type of publisher assumes or expects that you will actively (if not aggressively) maintain an author platform.
  2. Choose your social media by your readership and personal interests.
  3. Have a publicist if possible. Choose one compatible for your goals as an author.

Necessary writing elements to master (or else none of the above matters):

(5) PLOT (Do you have a suspenseful hook, interesting twists & turns, clear climax, and satisfying resolution?)

(6) POINT OF VIEW (Is it appropriate and consistent for the scene, and throughout the work?)

(7) SETTING (Is it interesting? Does it use all the senses? Does it ground your reader?)

(8) MAIN CHARACTERS (Are they relatable and well-developed?)

(9) DIALOGUE (It is clear who is speaking? Does it fit the character speaking? Is it believable and not awkward? Does it move the story forward?)

(10) MECHANICS (Did the writer use appropriate sentence structuring, grammar, punctuation, and tense for the story? It is free of typos?)

(11) INTENDED AUDIENCE (Did you define your genre and audience correctly?)

The final step?

(12) READ You must be a passionate (and if possible) prolific reader. How can you accomplish mastering a craft you do not frequently admire, appreciate, and study in its finest form? All great artists relish and revere their competitors intimately whether it be music, painting, theater, dance, or literary works. They do it for inspiration. They do it because they are obsessed and consumed by the art form itself as seen in current achievements and throughout time.

I leave you with this quote, not to confuse the issue, but to put it all in perspective:

“Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make. Good. Art.” ~Neil Gaiman

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Kathryn’s next novel, Journey, will be released September, 2015 by Winter Goose Publishing

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Personal blog and website: http://kathrynmattingly.com Edgy Words Unleashed

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00EILN6YE

FB page: https://www.facebook.com/kathrynmattinglyauthor

WGP page: http://wintergoosepublishing.com/authors/kathryn-mattingly/