AuThursday – Janet Walden-West

MeCC3 (1)Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I live in the southeast with a couple of kids, a pack of show dogs, and a confused but supportive husband.

Fun fact—I never considered myself creative enough to be a writer. There’s a professor out there with a chronic eye-twitch thanks to The Great Thesis Crisis of 20-mumble-mumble. I only picked up a pen thanks to a newborn. Who. Would. Not. Sleep. I multi-tasked while also not-sleeping, and caught up on a favorite show. Where the writers killed off my favorite character.

DED, dead.

I’m blaming it on the sleep deprivation because my (very fuzzy) thought process went something like ‘What? WHAT??? Are you kidding me?’ I could come up with a better ending.” 

Yeah, not really. But that drunken moment led to my debut coming out this year. 

How do you make time to write? 

I’m lucky in that I can write anywhere, and in spurts—in the grooming area at shows, medical waiting rooms, sports’ practices, in the parent pick-up line.

 That also means plot breakthroughs scribbled on the back of receipts, and notes on Starbucks sleeves. Everyone in my household has learned to ask if random wrappers and bags are book outlines or safe to go in the recycle bin.

What are your current projects?

I always, accidentally, have multiple projects going at a time. Right now, I’m working on another contemporary romance, and an urban fantasy romance. Watch my website and newsletter for deets.

Do you ever get writer’s Block?

Is there ever an answer other than yes? 

As a reformed pantser, I don’t hit as many walls as compared to when I first began. When I do stall out, I turn to my Coven crit partners. So named because tossing around ideas and brainstorming with them is magic. Shiny, sparkly, save-my-butt magic.

How did you deal with Rejection Letters if you received any?

Laughs until tears ruin my latte 

I have enough to wallpaper my house. And car. Maybe do the front and back porches to tie the look together. 

No lie, those first rejections as a baby writer hurt. But they also kinda felt like a badge of honor. I was sending my work out in the world. I was in the game. This is where my writing community was priceless though. It’s always cathartic to vent to people who get it, and are willing to cheer-lead and send Jason Momoa* gifs. 

*Dwayne Johnson gifs also work.

Can you tell us your story of getting “the call” (or e-mail)? 

My path was more like a labyrinth. 

I had stacked up rejections for SALT+STILETTOS. There were still agent queries out, but let’s just say they’d been out there for… a while. After a heart to heart with Brighton Walsh, my Pitch Wars mentor, I had the option of shelving yet another story, or querying imprints and publishers accepting un-agented work.

Critically, my manuscript had been through several in-depth revisions, and was sound. Emotionally, thanks to an anthology, I’d had a taste of the fun side of writing, and wow, was it tasty. Like, Samoa Girl Scout cookies tasty. I wanted more of that, so January 1st 2019, I queried every publisher I was interested in. It was one and done. Either someone gave my story a chance or I had to move on.

At the same time, I entered the Golden Heart as part of a pact to get my crit partners to enter. I’d sent in a different version of SALT+STILETTOS in 2018 so didn’t hold out any hope, but wanted to see my girls shine. I was just there as a cheering section.

Then I got the call that I had finaled. At Brighton’s urging, I updated my queries with “GH Finalist.” 

Things blew. Up. I got multiple publisher offers. Updated the outstanding agent queries, only to be polite, while I angsted over which publisher to go with.

Then multiple agents asked to be upgraded to fulls or promised to read by the deadline. Many passed, because this is real life. But I ended up scheduling several calls. Ultimately, I signed with the fabulous Eva Scalzo, who seemed to get the story and my career hopes, dumping the publisher offers in her lap five minutes later. 

 What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

The writing community has its issues, but when it comes through, it comes through big time. 

I was blessed with Brighton Walsh and JC Nelson, both amazing mentors during my Pitch Warsstints. Some wonderful contest judges reached out post-judging to an obvious newb writer, as well as the ladies from The Ruby Slippered Sisterhood. I won a random draw during Mentees Helping Mentees before Pitch Wars, and Jen DeLuca’s encouraging notes came just as I was ready to trash this story. Laura Threntham, my TGN mentor, has been invaluable since. 

I’m also lucky enough to have the best ride-or-die crit partners evah—Anne Raven, Gia De Cadenet, and Megan Starks.  

Have you written in collaboration with other writers?

Not yet, but the idea is intriguing.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

My website: https://janetwaldenwest.weebly.com/

Twitter: @JanetWaldenWest

Instagram: janetwaldenwest

Facebook

Goodreads

Amazon

The Million Words Blog

BookBub

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?

I hope you enjoy Brett and Will’s first meeting in SALT+STILETTOS.

Brett turned to Will and that softness evaporated. He froze while her gaze tracked over him.

When she pulled a phone out—from where in that tight outfit, he had no clue—and her fingers danced over the screen, he breathed again, one thankful wheeze.

Right. “I’ll be in the kitchen. It was nice to meet you, ma’am.” And by nice, he meant terrifying. Like looking at a tiger in the zoo. Gorgeous, but strictly hands-off.

He bobbed his head at the seemingly oblivious woman and scouted a path out.

“Don’t move.” The command snapped out though she didn’t put away the phone.

He shot Richard a look, begging for help.

“Don’t you dare let him leave.” She used some creepy sixth sense in place of vision, flicking away on the phone.

“You could start tomorrow,” his friend said, but rocked back on his heels, gaze on the rafters. Avoiding Will’s silent plea.

“With forty-five days until opening? I think not.” She continued a conversation Will didn’t get.

“Um—”

She closed the screen and her gaze pinned Will in place. “Let’s begin immediately. Either stay silent or state what you have to say. No ums, likes, qualifiers, or upticks at the end that turn statements to questions. None of those engender trust in listeners or viewers. The absolute first thing you must do is establish that you’re an authority.”

Anxiety settled in, turning the sweat on his skin clammy. “Man, what’s—”

“Ahht.” Brett’s sharp noise shut him up. “No questions.”

This was a waking nightmare he couldn’t escape, where he was destined to never get the right answer.

Richard slapped Will’s shoulder. “Breathe. We talked about Brett.”

Betrayal replaced the last of the confusion. He’d trusted Richard. “The makeover thing? You said we’d discuss that. I don’t—”

“Oh, you do.” Brett tapped the phone on her chin, eyeing him again.

Will’s stomach lurched, swirling chimichurri, eggs, and distrust together.

Like she felt it, Brett sighed. “Let me explain. ‘We’ll talk’ is Richard-speak for the topic being a done deal.”

“I never agreed.” Will pulled up to all six and a half feet, which usually intimidated people whether he meant to or not.

Brett just did that eyebrow thing again. “You signed a contract with Richard.”

“Yeah, but only with him.” Will gave up and slumped, hands in his pockets since the attempted intimidation didn’t do anything but make him feel like a bully. 

“Richard’s standard Fleur de Lis Hospitality contract language states that you are committed to any and all modifications necessary to further the FDL line and brand, in a favorable light. The clause was originally my idea.”

“But—”

“FDL has a standing contract with me for my company’s services. Which means you are mine for the next forty-five days. I assume you’re testing at The Coop with Richard since Khalli isn’t completed yet. I’ll meet you there.” She crooked a finger at Will, then slid through the crowd, slick as a shark through a wave, clearly expecting him to follow.

AuThursday – Laura Brown

Laura Brown author photoPlease welcome author Laura Brown to the Clog Blog, I’m so happy she could join us.   Laura, your tagline is “Romances full of heart, heat and hearing loss”, can you tell us more about you and your stories? 

As a Hard of Hearing person I grew up without many role models, and felt I was less deserving of love because of my disability. In my stories, I put characters with hearing loss front and center and give them their happy endings! I love stories with complex characters, where the reader roots for them to find love and other ambitions, and I do my best to create characters worthy of this.

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?

As a mom with a day job, I feel like I steal time to write wherever I can! On my days off while my son’s at school I write, slow moments at the day job I write, weekends at home. I used to write at night but that time is now reserved for unwinding from the day and watching something with my husband.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Titles. Hands down the titles. I always struggle with them and so many of my titles get changed before publication.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

From start to finish, it takes me about three months to write a book. I tend to “word vomit” my first drafts, so they roll out quickly, revising often takes much longer.

Do you believe in writer’s block? 

Definitely. I hit many walls along the way as I write and revise. Sometimes it’s because I haven’t figured out the right direction the scene needs to go. Other times it works out to be that I know where it needs to go, but I’m fighting with myself because it doesn’t feel like the right direction just yet. I’m working on trusting those ideas more.

How did you deal with Rejection Letters if you received any? 

Rejection is part of being a writer. You get rejections from agents, editors, readers, etc. I don’t always have the thickest skin, but I expect to get those rejections. When I was a querying author, I took those agent rejections and turned around and sent out another query. I also find that you can learn things in rejections. My first main character with a hearing loss came from a comment in a rejection letter. For those rejections that sting more than the others, I reach out to my close group of writer friends and they hold my hand through it.

Can you tell us your story of getting “the call” (or e-mail)? 

I’m on my second agent, and it really is just as exciting the second time around! Different, because the experience was not brand new, but a good different. We get conditioned to the rejections, so when I saw the email I thought it was going to be a pass, but it turned out to be a request to chat. I’m super nervous on the phone, and with my hearing loss I have a caption phone to help me understand, so I scheduled some time when I was home to use my caption phone. Connected with my agent right away and then was on cloud nine when it turned into an offer!

Where do you see publishing going in the future?

Good question. Things are shifting more digital in many ways, but die hard book lovers still love the feel of a paper book. I think we’re going to continue seeing digital and paper mixing together.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Connect with other writers. I wrote in my own bubble for years and it wasn’t until I ventured out and met fellow writers that I truly expanded on my craft. That’s where I learned all those little rules and tips and tricks. And where I gained critique partners to help show me where my writing needed to be stronger, and point out where it already worked! I would be nowhere without my fellow writers.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

https://www.laurabrownauthor.com/

https://www.facebook.com/LauraBrownAuthor/

https://twitter.com/AuthorLBrown

https://www.instagram.com/a_laurabrown/

https://www.pinterest.com/LauraBrownAuthor/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7829692.Laura_Brown

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?

Not an excerpt, but I can share my latest blurb:

MatzahBallSurprise_1600Gaby Fineberg just wants to get through Passover Seder without her “well meaning” family playing matchmaker. She needs a date, just for one simple meal—that includes singing, the history of her forefathers, and not one bit of yeast. The hot guy at her gym would be perfect. He probably hates bread, anyway, with a body like that. But when she finally works up the nerve to ask him, he doesn’t hear a word she said…

Levi Miller is Deaf and happily single. He doesn’t know why this beautiful woman is talking to him, but it’s clear she needs help—and suddenly so does he. When his bad-news ex shows up trying to rekindle their romance, pretending Gaby is his new girlfriend is an easy decision. But to return the favor? He has to convince her family they’re the perfect couple, when they can barely communicate without writing every word.

This Passover is starting to feel like the ten plagues might be coming back to haunt them before the weekend is over…one hilarious misstep after the next.

 

AuThursday – Seelie Kay

As I will be running a Spotlight with Seelie Kay tomorrow I wanted to share an interview originally posted July 7, 2019.  

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?

When I write depends on my work schedule. I also ghostwrite and edit for clients, and their needs have to come first. So, I write my books around those assignments. I keep a regular work schedule, though. I am at my desk at 8 a.m. and work until 5 p.m. unless I have appointments out of the office and need a break. 

Where do your ideas come from?

I find inspiration everywhere. A news story, a conversation with a friend, a Tweet, the grocery store, a funny sign. As a journalist, I am a natural observer. Wherever I am, my mind is recording and cataloging ideas. 

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

I start with an idea and really have no idea where it will go. The stories just seem to flow and when they don’t, I know I’m headed in the wrong direction. 

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

I have a lot of colleagues I am touch with online, primarily those associated with my publisher, eXtasy Books or the Marketing for Romance Writers group. I have found my fellow authors to be exceptionally helpful in responding to questions, providing assistance with marketing, and just generally serving as cheerleaders.

How did you deal with Rejection Letters if you received any? 

The only rejection letter I received was for a book I wrote many years ago. It wasn’t very good and I didn’t know what I was doing, so it was a kick in the butt. After that I decided to get serious and learn about writing books, actually following the rules for submissions. eXtasy Books was the second publisher to offer me a contract for my first book. The first sent me an incredibly one-sided contract and as a lawyer, I knew it was unacceptable. We haggled, then I began to submit to other publishers. So, I guess the answer is that I took the rejection to heart and learned from it.

Do you believe in writer’s block? 

My problem with that term is the definition. For example, sometimes I get stuck in a story, so I take a break and work on something else, or shut down my computer and head into the kitchen to bake. But I have never taken more than a day off, so I’m not sure that was writer’s block. I know people who, for various reasons, have been unable to write for weeks, months, even years, but again, I’m not sure if they were actually blocked or simply distracted by other things. To me, writing is pretty instinctual, so it is hard for me to imagine that part of my brain shutting down. However, if someone else claims to have writer’s block, who am I to doubt them?

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I think I care much less what people will think about my books now. I am not self-editing my words and thoughts anymore. When I first started writing, I got some negative feedback about the fact that some of my stories were erotic. I finally realized that if I was going to enjoy writing, I had to write for me and hope that I could find an audience. 

How do you relax?

Many years ago, I participated in a study about how people relaxed. I was required to wear a “mood dot” 24/7 and record the color and what I was doing at certain times throughout the day. Guess what? I was most relaxed while I was writing! However, my fingers would fall off if that was all I did, so I also enjoy cooking, reading, gardening, live theatre, light opera, and just chatting with friends.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

Website: www.seeliekay.com

Blog:  www.seeliekay.blogspot.com

Twitter: @SeelieKay https://twitter.com/SeelieKay

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/seelie.kay.77

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Seelie-Kay/e/B074RDRWNZ/

 

AuThursday – Sofia Sawyer

Sofia Sawyer HeadshotPlease welcome Sofia Sawyer to The Clog Blog.  Sofia, can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I’m a contemporary romance and women’s fiction author based in Charleston, South Carolina. I write about independent women who take control of their destiny.

I was born and raised in a small New Jersey beach town before fleeing to Charleston with my best friend a decade ago. Since then, I’ve lived in Boston for about three years before migrating back to Charleston with my husband and dog.

I work as an employer branding and recruitment marketing program manager for my day job (I’m in the process of leaving my employer to become a consultant and freelancer). When I’m not working, I travel as much as I can. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have gone to so many beautiful places these last few years and I’m looking forward using these trips as inspiration for upcoming books.

When I can’t hop on a plane, I’m usually taking advantage of everything Charleston has to offer. The beaches are gorgeous, and the food scene is hard to beat. Also, as an amateur photographer, the historic buildings downtown give me a lot to work with. 

And, of course, I read a ton.

How do you make time to write? 

I’ve gotten serious about my writing these last few years and work to protect my time. Rather than set daily goals, I focus on weekly goals because it offers more flexibility to account for the unexpected things life throws at me. My goals could be hitting a specific word count, getting a synopsis to my agent, taking an online course, drafting a book outline, creating a freebie for my newsletter subscribers, building a launch plan for a new release, and so on. 

Every Sunday, I identify my top three goals for the week and look at my availability, slotting in chunks of time to dedicate to them. I also wake up an hour earlier before work to write because it’s easier to let the words flow first thing in the morning before my brain turns to mush from my day job.

Where do your ideas come from?

They pop up at the strangest times. Usually, while I’m trying to escape the mundane tasks of everyday life like going to the gym or washing dishes. However, music is the most consistent source of inspiration for my stories. If the lyrics are just right, my mind makes up a “music video” that goes along with the song. From there, I develop a full story from the little snippet of inspiration.

For example, I’m starting to plot a friends-to-lovers romance that was inspired by the song “Blinded” by Third Eye Blind. It popped up on my Pandora station one day at the gym and a clear vision of a story filled my mind. I just knew I had to write it.

Do you believe in writer’s block? 

I did for a bit but realized it’s something that can be overcome. When I lived in Boston, I couldn’t write a word. Nothing worked and I felt incredibly uninspired. Later, I realized my writer’s block was caused by some sort of challenge rather than lack of skill or inspiration. I found that taking courses, getting involved in the writing community, plotting, and generally building writing skills helped solve those problems. Now, if I feel like I’m hitting a wall, I take a step back and try to uncover what’s really causing the issue and tackle it head on.

Since looking at it that way, I’ve been writing consistently for more than three years after my Boston hiatus. I’m confident this approach will prevent me from running into that issue again.

So, what is you most recent project? 

I’m juggling a few different projects right now. Typically, I try to stick to writing one manuscript at a time but because I have a couple with my agent and a couple that I’m self-publishing, I need to incorporate time to manage the process for all of those too. Here’s a quick run down of what I’ve been working on:

  • Finished edits for a forced-proximity romance that my agent is putting out for submission
  • Started working with an editor for my frenemies-to-lovers romance I plan to self-publish
  • Just completed the first draft of a contemporary romance (a modern Cinderella retelling)
  • Starting to plot my friends-to-lovers romance

Where can we buy or see it?NO PLACE TO HIDE KINDLE EBOOK COVER

My frenemies-to-lovers romance will likely be released in summer 2020. You can subscribe to my newsletter for updates on its release date. Otherwise, my debut novel came out this past October and is available to purchase on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and iBooks. It’s a romantic suspense based in Portland, Maine. You can read the blurb for No Place to Hide here (the links to purchase are also on this page).

What is your writing Kryptonite?

Probably social media or my phone in general. Because I’ve worked in marketing for years, I’ve had multiple corporate social media accounts on my phone. Even if I turn off the notifications, my habit to pick up my phone and check if I’ve missed anything leads me to mindlessly scroll for several minutes. I started to put my phone in another room when I write, but even then, my computer distracts me with email alerts and what not.

I just finished reading a book called Digital Minimalism that had a lot of great advice about how to manage digital tools in a world where they’re working to grab your attention and keep it there. Although I won’t nix social media altogether because it’s been valuable to connect with readers and writers, I want to be mindful about how I use it. That might mean creating more meaningful posts even if that leads to posting less frequently. I need to put aside some time to think through my approach. I’m really curious to see how taking the social pressure off transforms my writing. Will it allow me to write more openly if I don’t compare myself to others or worry about letting readers down? It will be interesting to find out.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Get involved in the writing community ASAP. For years, I was terrified of putting my work out there. I finally found the courage in October 2018 and started author-focused social media accounts. It opened up a whole new world for me. Not only did I connect with other writers who I could relate to, I joined a writing association, found helpful writing resources, and even discovered Twitter pitch contests that ultimately landed me a literary agent. I wish I had done this back in 2013 when I finished my first novel-length manuscript. I can only imagine how much further along I would have been in my writing career had I done it then.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

I’m present on most of the social media channels but I’m mostly active on Instagram and Facebook. Additionally, my newsletter is a great way to get a look behind-the-scenes and exclusive details that I don’t share elsewhere. Subscribers can reply to my emails too, which is a great way to connect.

Here’s where you can find me:

 

AuThursday – Stephanie Patel

Please join me in welcoming my fellow North Dakota author, Stephanie Patel. 

Stephanie, tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I was born in a little village in Alaska, the ninth of fifteen children, and moved to North Dakota with my mother and remaining siblings when I was nine, after my father and brother died while fishing. I lived in Jamestown, Kathryn and Valley City in North Dakota, graduating from VCHS.  I went to college at the University of Missouri, Columbia and at Moorhead State (now University of Minnesota at Moorhead). I graduated from the University of North Dakota School of Law and practiced law in Alaska for 35 years, minus about seven years creating an alternate junior/senior high school for youth falling through the cracks. I have been writing for many years; however it was only after I retired that I could focus full-time upon it.  My book, Born in the 20th Century: A Novel of the Midwest, was released in eBook form on November 1, 2019 and is now available in print, on Amazon.  

How do you make time to write? 

 I am currently retired and can work 8-12 hours per day if I am motivated. I tend to be obsessive when I am on a project and everything else will fall away. Although I had been working on this book off and on for years, I spent about six months working 6-12 hours per day to get it completed and in final edited form. 

Do you believe in writer’s block?  

Well, I have no reason not to, although I don’t really experience it myself.  I write when I feel the compulsion to do so, and if I don’t feel it, I don’t write.  It’s as simple as that. If I am not writing, it is because I have other things on my plate to which I am giving attention. I have a number of books and other works in progress.  

Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it.  

My current book would fit into the “coming of age” genre.  I consider it Literary Fiction. I try to hit all the notes when I write—the entire scale of physical dimension, emotional expression, psychological patterns, intellectual ideas and spiritual context. I love to make people laugh, and so if I can bring humor into what I write, all the better. I like to stimulate thought, assist my reader in getting different perspectives on issues, and most of all give them something that will be interesting and satisfying.

How are you publishing your recent book and why? (*e.g. Indie, traditional or both)

I decided to publish my current book myself because I’m a bit of a control freak. Also, it is a long book (almost 225,000 words) and I realized it would be difficult to find a publisher who would take on such a long book, since most traditional publisher’s like to stay in the 150,000 word realm. Finally, although I’d had professional interest in the book while working on it, I did not want to take the time to shop it around.  I did submit the book to Beta readers to test reactions and had such enthusiasm from them that I decided to plow ahead and self-publish, which I did through Kindle Direct Publishing, a branch of Amazon. It’s a pretty simple way to go, involving no expense except for the author copies. 

My current book is  

Born in the 20th Century: A Novel of the Midwest

Are you an Introvert or Extrovert?  How does this affect your work? 

I don’t know that I am either. I like my alone time very much. However, I am not too shy to take the floor when there are issues that are important to me.

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

You will know which path is yours because nobody else is on it. 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Read and write. Write about what you know. Yes, you can use your imagination and should—however, bring alive your own experience and perspective. Learn the rules of good writing, absorb style from your favorite authors, and then go beyond them. Create your own unique style. As I say, average writers know the rules; good writers know them and when to break them. 

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

I am on Facebook under Stephanie Patel.

My book can be found at Amazon under the following link.  https://www.amazon.com/Born-20th-Century-Stephanie-Patel/dp/1698865740/ref=sxts_sxwds-bia?keywords=born+in+the+20th+century&pd_rd_i=1698865740&pd_rd_r=f80c4a4f-b53a-4949-b906-05f57c085dc8&pd_rd_w=ymPaK&pd_rd_wg=uzz6A&pf_rd_p=1cb3f32a-ccfd-479b-8a13-b22f56c942c6&pf_rd_r=06K081K9DES9ZC45NDV3&psc=1&qid=1574191303

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?

Cover half of full 11-9-19-page-0By the time we reached Fargo the predicted snow flurries had arrived, along with a good wind. North Dakota highways had a Midwestern personality like their human counterparts: they were straight as arrows, not so bad, and open to the next kingdom. These characteristics did not combine well with wind and snow. Even when there was little of the latter falling, the wind could kick up what was already on the ground, so that often in winter we seemed to be driving through continuous streams and rivulets that ran across our path. It was not a big step from there to whiteout conditions. In fact, visibility was very poor for the last ten miles or so into Fargo, not an unusual occurrence in that part of the country, and Mother kept both hands on the wheel, her eyes focused in front of her. She hated interruptions when driving through difficult weather events. When Yippee tried to get her to take his side on some dispute with me, she barked, “Play nice. I can’t be distracted right now.”

Once we were in the city proper, driving up South University Avenue, visibility improved along with her attitude. She pulled into the K-Mart parking lot to get some aspirin, and gave us some dimes to ride the mechanical horse in the lobby. Then we all had to use the restroom.

When we emerged, the snow was thicker, the flakes bigger. The temperature was still in the high twenties, which meant that the main roads, where there was heavier traffic, were slushy more than slick. We drove up University Avenue to King Leo’s Drive-In, where Mother purchased us each a fifteen-cent hamburger and a ten-cent fries, which was always a treat when we were in Fargo, and always a condiment fiasco. Two hamburgers had to be sent back to be rectified.

Then it was a stop at a gas station to fill up.

The attendant cleaned all our windows and when the tank was full came around to collect payment. “I hope you’re not going far,” he said when he brought back the change. “They say they’re closing down I-94 past Jamestown.”

“We’re going north,” Mother said. “Only about forty-five minutes.”

“Well, I wouldn’t delay then. You can probably still make it.”

“We’re leaving right now.”

“Drive careful.”

Mother put the Bonneville in gear and headed for US 81, which paralleled the Red River north into Canada.

“Maybe we should turn around,” Myra said worriedly. “I don’t want to get stuck in a blizzard.”

“What good would that do?” Mother asked pointedly. “If it’s coming from the west, it’s going to be as bad going back as it is going forward. We’re more than half-way. We should be able to outrun it.”

As soon as we got out of town, however, the visibility dropped precipitously. Approaching cars materialized a hundred feet in front of us; buildings and sign posts alongside the highway appeared ghostly. I was, however, not worried. It was North Dakota in the winter. Snow and fog were part of the season. In fact, I was too busy eating to pay much attention until I heard Mother exclaim in frustration, “Darn it! I can’t hardly see the road!” My attention captured, I looked out the window at the passing scenery, only to discover that it had disappeared. We were floating in a sea of white.

The wipers were going slip-slap, and with each swipe they cleared snow from the windshield and left rivulets draining down the glass. I could see that the snow was falling even heavier now, the flakes clumping together on the glass so that everything but the half-moon scraped by the wipers was opaque. Mother was hunched over the steering wheel, which she held tightly in both hands, her knuckles white. I could see that the speedometer needle was hovering between twenty and thirty miles-per-hour. It was impossible to judge our speed or location by landmarks, which had disappeared. We were flying on instruments.

“How do you know where you’re going?” I asked Mother curiously.

“Blind faith,” she hissed from between clenched teeth. And then she added more kindly, “I look over to the side of the road. I can just see the ditch. However, I have no idea what’s twenty feet in front of me. Or behind.” She opened her window and stuck her head out to the side to see if she could get more visibility without the slapping wipers, the scudding snow and water on the windshield.

The good part about North Dakota roads was that if we went into the ditch, we went into the ditch, not over a sixty foot cliff or into a close encounter with a tree. The not-so-good part was that we might be covered in the ditch by a snowdrift twice our own height and they might not find us until spring—or until the next strong wind blew us clear. Drifts were forming even as we drove—Mother swerved suddenly to skirt the high point of a snow bank that stretched across our lane, like a white seal basking on the road. Our progress slowed slightly as she churned through the tail of it, and then for the length of two Middleton blocks the highway was swept clear as if by a giant broom. The wind was so strong that it rocked our car, unprotected by anything except the wind’s own caprice as it created and swept away drifts.

Occasional cars approached, going south, their headlamps appearing dully out of the maelstrom, passing us with a swish! Once a car overtook us from behind, trailing in our wake until Mother pulled over toward the shoulder and slowed even more, allowing it to pass on our left, throwing snow. “Arggh. Some people,” she muttered. 

At Mother’s suggestion, Myra dug out one of Nonie’s bottles. Sitting on her lap, alternately sucking and chewing on the nipple, he stared fixedly out the window, stunned into stillness by the whiteness, whether through fascination or disorientation.

Yippee curled up in his corner with a couple of his little men, occasionally talking quietly for them as they hiked up his bent leg or over the driveshaft hump in the floor. “I’s berry steep. Keep goin’, you ken do it.” His plastic people were very encouraging to each other, at least until they encountered the enemy in battle—then they slaughtered each other with joy and abandon, rarely leaving more than one or two survivors, and sometimes none at all. He did not bother to look up at the maelstrom outside the car, as secure in his personal safety as his three-inch plastic alter-egos might have been devoid of hope in theirs. 

Myra and I both kept our eyes on what was happening around us. Perhaps nothing so much represented the differences between us as our individual reactions. Myra was clearly troubled by the possibilities and kept glancing nervously at Mother. I, on the other hand, was pumped up with excitement. In fairness, she was two years older and therefore more aware of the downside of death, mayhem and suffering in general. I fell somewhere between her and Yippee, who acted out death, mayhem and suffering with such glee. I wasn’t playing war, but I was drawn to imagining adventure. Whether it was encountering space aliens with ray guns, alligators in the creek behind Gramma’s house, or a tornado on the horizon, it relieved the monotony of 9:30 bedtimes, waking up in the same bed every day and passing the same houses on the way to school, every one of which I could have described in detail, along with the names of the dogs who lived in them. I had, in fact, no experience with being on the losing end of space aliens, alligators or tornadoes. No one close to me had died, the only maiming with which I was familiar was the mangling of Yippee’s hand in the fan—which he didn’t even remember—and suffering was a stubbed toe or being sent to my room when Saturday cartoons were on. My interest in such matters as the orphaning of the Monsen children was more curiosity than compassion.

In order to reach Sheverak we had to turn off US 81 and head west into the maze of dirt and gravel roads that ran like dikes between rippling seas of wheat and corn in the summer and frozen snow clogged stubble in the winter. Mother was searching through the flying snow for the turnoff, certain it was near—if indeed we had not passed it. The wind let up for a moment, enough for her to see one of the mile markers. “Dang nab it!” she exclaimed. “We’ve come too far. I’m going to have to turn around.”

The problem was that there was no obvious place to do that, other than right in the middle of the two-lane highway in the middle of a blind snowstorm, with the potential of getting t-boned by oncoming traffic. 

“Is that a side road?” Mother asked suddenly, peering through the windshield. The defrost was running full blast, siphoning the heat from the spacious car interior, so that I had to curl my feet up on the seat so they didn’t get cold. “Myra! Look! Isn’t that a road?”

At that moment Mother jerked on the steering wheel, determined not to miss the turnoff. The car spun in a semi-circle and came to a stop with a dull thud. We all sat still for a moment. Then Mother pressed on the gas pedal. The back tires spun. The car remained where it was. 

Mother thumped the steering wheel. Yippee stuck his head up over the front seat back. “Are we der?”

“No, Stupid, we’re stuck,” I informed him. I put my face up against my window to try to see.

 

AuThursday – Danielle Teigen

Please join me in welcoming fellow North Dakota author Danielle Teigen.  Danielle, Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background? 

I’m originally from South Dakota, but came to North Dakota to attend college at North Dakota State University, where I earned bachelor’s degrees in journalism and management communication and a master’s degree in mass communication. While in college, I fell in love with the rich history of Fargo. 

How do you make time to write? 

I have two young children and am expecting another, so I write after they go to bed, in the morning before they’re awake or during my lunch hour in the daylight hours. 

Do you believe in writer’s block? 

I do believe we get stuck sometimes when we’re trying to get to the next part of our story or move on to another facet of the storyline. I think we often get so excited about moving on or making progress that we forget we have to finish telling the part of the story we’re on. 

Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it. 

As a journalist, I enjoy researching and telling intriguing, true stories and that’s what nonfiction writing is. The biggest challenge with nonfiction writing is being able to weave together the facts while still telling a story people want to read, a story that comes alive not only because it’s true but because of how it is recounted. 

How are you publishing your recent book and why? (*e.g. Indie, traditional or both) 

Traditional. Arcadia Publishing/The History Press reached out to me to publish a hyper-local history book about Fargo, and then I pitched the second book about the Fargo Fire of 1893. 

Are you an Introvert or Extrovert? How does this affect your work? 

I’m actually both. I would say this serves me very well because I am completely content holing up somewhere to research or write for as long as I am able to, but I also really enjoy giving presentations about my book or talking with people about the research. Both are satisfying in different ways. 

What is your favorite motivational phrase? 

Done is better than perfect!

I actually do use that phrase when I’m trying to get words on the paper or the facts all in the right order and then I go back in during the editing phase to polish and refine the story. 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers? 

Make time to write whenever or wherever you can. When I was writing my first book, I thought I’d block off huge chunks of time to write and make monumental progress every time I sat down. In reality, I had to make time throughout the day or week to make what felt like small steps toward completion, but they all did add up to one finished manuscript. I also encourage writers who believe they have a good story to tell to sit down and actually outline their work. Yes, things may change, but I think having a general framework for where you want to go and what you want to cover in your story can be extremely beneficial, especially when it comes to staying focused and having good direction. 

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

You can read more about me and my work at https://danielleteigen.wordpress.com/

Do you have a blurb you’d like to share with us? 

Fueled by ambition and pipe dreams, Fargo’s earliest residents created an entire city out of the dust of a flat, desolate prairie. Roberts Street might not exist if it weren’t for Matilda Roberts, a resourceful pioneer wife who encouraged her husband’s cousin to set up his law firm on that important downtown thoroughfare. O.J. deLendrecie generated so much success through his retail store that he was able to buy President Theodore Roosevelt’s ranch in western North Dakota. Oliver Dalrymple may have been the bonanza farm king, but the better manager was his rival, Herbert Chaffee of the Amenia and Sharon Land Company. Author Danielle Teigen reveals the intriguing true stories behind many of the most engaging characters and what continues to make the “Gateway to the West” unique. 

AuThursday – Justin Cancilliere

FB_IMG_1573480310475Please join me in welcoming my fellow North Dakota Author, Justin Cancelliere, whom I met at October’s ND Library Association Meeting.  Justin, Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I was born and raised in Cleveland, OH. As far back as I can remember I’ve always loved writing and had a passion for the arts. In 2017 I took the plunge and self-published my first book, “The Legendary Creature Project: The Gryphon.” In Feb. of 2019, I decided to create the BisMan Writer’s Guild in an attempt to bring together local writers to uplift them and be helpful to them and their work.unnamed (2)

How do you make time to write?

In between working full time, helping my wife with her business, and podcasting it can be difficult to make time for writing. But I try my best to make at least an hour in the day, it usually ends up being an hour a week but… 

Do you believe in writer’s block?

I do, especially when you can’t get behind a story. 

Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it. 

I write in science fiction, for the most part. But I love science fiction because it delves into the horror that can come from the advances in science and technology.

How are you publishing your recent book and why? (*e.g. Indie, traditional or both)

As of now, Indie. I love Indie publishing because there are no deadlines except for the ones you set for yourself.

Are you an Introvert or Extrovert?  How does this affect your work? 

Believe it or not I’m kind of a combination, but for the most part introvert. I’m not quite sure how it has affected my work.

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

I really don’t have one.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Whatever you do, never stop writing. It’s very easy to fall into the mentality of “my writing isn’t going to go anywhere, so why bother.” But I beg to differ, if you’ve reached one person with your writing, then that’s one more person that has read your work.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

www.justincancilliere.com

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?

From “The Legendary Creature Project: The Wyrm”:

It had been a week since he had injected Steven with a new DNA sequence. It wasn’t too soon after that Steven began to develop scales and large, razor-sharp claws which now protruded out of his fingers. His face had also begun to transform, taking on reptilian-like traits. All of his hair, nails, and teeth had fallen off and laid at the bottom of the tank.