Today’s Featured Author – Diane Munier

Today I welcome author Diane Munier to my blog. Her latest book, Finding my Thunder, was released earlier this year.

Interview

What or who inspired you to start writing?

Words were always interesting. I picked up reading very quickly and devoured books. I had my favorites and learning each page, and scrutinizing any accompanying artwork was the most pleasant pastime.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I tried to believe I was a writer for many years as my standard for knighting myself with the title was not ‘writing’ so much as getting published. I did features for a local newspaper and people began to say to me, “Oh you’re the writer.” That’s how I got used to the handle without feeling like a complete phony. I couldn’t have dubbed myself that, you see. But it was bestowed. Then I believed it. As far as wanting to be a writer, that came very early. Like grade school.

How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?

My books are saturated with my personality and experiences. None of it literal, of course. Well some of it is literal. But largely my life and soul are endless files to be explored.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

I have started my next project. I have not yet published Deep in the Heart of Me, but it is finished and I’m writing its sequel. It is a story about a boy growing up on a farm pre-WWII. The second book, tentatively titled A Young Married Man picks up after the wedding. There are some cruel events on the horizon.

Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

I have written full-time and after years of it I could no longer bear the isolation. I went back to school and my current career is out of that. Now I write in the nooks and crannies and they get more and more narrow. Like arteries filling up with cholesterol. (sorry) Writing being the blood trying to get through, of course. (really sorry)

What is the best and worst advice you ever received? (regarding writing or publishing).

Best advice: Don’t quit. Worst advice: Get a real job.

What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?

Best thing is developing a voice and an audience. Worst thing is the preoccupation. It’s hard on relationships.

What fuels you as an author to continue to write?

An inner desperation to be heard.

How do you conceive your plot ideas?

They are profuse. Crying babies all wanting a bottle.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I just plunge in. Always my style. I fear dying in preparation. Or losing interest before I start. So I just start. And I’m very prolific.

Please tell us about your current release.

Finding My Thunder is about a girl in high school in Tennessee, end of the sixties. She is treading the deep waters of her family’s secrets. To survive them physically and spiritually, she gets old enough to hear the call to save…everyone. She moves into the family’s murky truths, half-truths and lies with the thready hope of youth. She is willing to lay down her energy and will to chart a path that can keep them afloat. But they become the anvil tied to her ankle as she tries to swim. Can she survive them? Can she figure out who to cut loose and who to swim towards? One thing she has always been sure of is her love for Danny. But Danny turned away from her when they were children. Now he is back, looking for something new, maybe looking for her. But Vietnam is looming and Danny is determined to go. She can already feel him slipping through her fingers, like her family, like her life. How can she move out of being the victim of the people she loves? How can she love and yet find her own thunder?

What inspired you to write this book? 

The process of growing up and not being devoured by the very ones you are here to love.

How did you come up with the title?

It seemed to come to me. It dawned on me. Hilly’s mission is to find a way to be powerful for the people she loves. But the people she loves are uncontrollable. She is on that painful journey of realizing the limits of her power before she can even experience her power. So where does she turn? Will she be crushed before she gets out of the starting gate? Tune in!

What kind of research did you do for this book?

Wrote it more from a soulish level. Had to sharpen up on a few facts, but just tried to write from that honest place. I know when I’m there. Otherwise it sounds like B.S.

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

Yes. Loosely.

Which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?

I love all of them. Even the ones I hate.

Can you tell us a little about the black moment in your book?

This is almost a pun if you have read Finding My Thunder. For Hilly it’s her moment of truth. All of the truths she must grapple with in the story. They gang up on her and she needs to process. That’s a description of grief. The question is, will they go in, in her heart and soul, without crushing her. The question is, what will she learn, who will she become, how will she give.

What was the most difficult thing/scene to write in this story?

If you read the book that will be obvious. It is the scene that makes readers angry or afraid to read the book. I have had readers who feel I let too much happen to Hilly. That’s the same thing we say to God in real life.

Did the story turn out the way you planned from the beginning? If not, what change happened that you didn’t expect?

I wrote many versions of this story. I needed to take everyone to the darkest places so I wrote that. I feel I finally got to the truth. I don’t usually know how it will turn out until I write my way there. In this story, when Hilly cracks I don’t know how she’ll go forward. She surprises me.

If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why?

I would be a man! I love writing the male perspective. So Tom Tanner from My Wounded Soldier. He’s a Civil War vet and it’s so much fun to see that world through his eyes. He’s a no BS kind of guy but he’s such a softie. He’s also very jealous and prone to self-pity. What I love about him though? He deals with himself about his failings.

Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?

At my desk. This is almost nauseating in its cliché but I have an old rolltop desk my dad gave me. It’s over a hundred years old. I write there quite a bit. Also in bed.

Do you have a specific snack that you have with you when you write?

Anything salty and detrimental to your health. My lie of choice is that it’s better than a cigarette.

Do you have an all time favorite book?

Little Women

What book are you reading right now?

Just my own. I haven’t read anything in a longtime as it takes from my writing time.

Book Blurb

Finding My Thunder CoverThe story takes place in the late sixties. Hilly Grunier has been in love with Danny Boyd since she was a kid telling scary stories on summer nights at the fire hydrant while Danny pulled close on his bike. But when Danny is thirteen, their friendship ends when he and his brother Sukey have a vicious fight over Hilly. Years pass, and Hilly carries a secret and growing love as she watches Danny rise athletically to the top of their school’s food chain. He even dates the prom queen and rumor says they are engaged. Now Danny has graduated and shows up in her dad’s shop looking for some temporary employment until the army picks him off for Vietnam. He’s thrown aside his college scholarship and the golden girl. He seems to be searching for something new before he leaves town. He seems to be searching for her. Hilly can’t let him go overseas without showing him how she feels. But once he’s gone, her own battle intensifies. It’s a long road to finding her thunder.

About the Author

Living comfortably in the heart of America with the people I love. I live an extroverted life, but I’m a genuine introvert. An urban kid, I spent much of my youth running in various neighborhood establishments. There I met many colorful characters and I learned to love them and be fascinated by them. My love of story comes from them. I learned to sit on a bar stool or a kitchen chair or in a pew and hear story. Hear the voices telling story. See the mouths move and the hands clutching glasses or cigarettes. See and hear the laughter. There is no greater honor than to hear someone’s story. If you feel that way about the tales I tell…what more could I ask.

You can find out more about Diane on her website or Goodreads or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

You can purchase Finding my Thunder on Amazon.

Connecting with Readers: Goodreads Ask the Author

In the past, I have written about Goodreads, the world’s largest site for readers. If you need an introduction to this author tool, click here to read my introduction to Goodreads.

As much as I know it is a good place for authors to build their platform and to connect with readers, I hate to say I don’t spend a lot of time on Goodreads. But the other day, I received an emailed author newsletter from Goodreads. In it, Sarah McCoy, a New York Times best-selling author, discussed one of her favorite features on Goodreads – the Ask the Author section. She called this a stupendous opportunity for readers to submit questions and get answers in a safe, user-friendly environment.

“I approach Goodreads’ Ask the Author questions as if I’m sitting in my favorite café, having a good, strong cup of Irish Breakfast, and oh, hello, a reader pops in. “Hi, Ms. McCoy, I have a question about one of your books,” she says, and I invite her to sit down for a chat and sip,” she said. 

How it works

Readers go to an author’s profile page and can submit questions to the author in a box called “Ask the Author” (which is listed beneath the author’s books.) Authors then get an email alerting them to the question. Author answers will appear on their Author page as well as in news feeds of the author’s followers. You do not need to follow an author to ask a question. And if someone on your Facebook page or at another event asks a great questions that you would like to share with your Goodreads followers, you can simply ask yourself a question and use that question as a writing prompt.

Signing up

As an Author, signing up for Ask the Author is easy. Simply go to your Author Dashboard and switch the toggle from “off ” to “on.” All questions are private to you until you choose to answer them. This allows you to control which ones will appear on your author profile. If you don’t want to answer a question or are asked something offensive, you can simply “ignore” the question.

goodreads ask the author

Discontinuing this feature

If you change your mind about offering this feature, it is as simple as flipping the toggle back to “off.” You can still answer any questions that you haven’t answered but you won’t be receiving any new questions. And if you change your mind again, simple switch it back to “on.”

The Ask the Author feature is a great way to connect with readers. I just turned on this feature on my Goodreads Author page. If you have a question for me about my books, feel free to shoot me a question here on my blog or on Goodreads.

Recipe of the Month – Tony’s House Dressing

IMG_0129If you love Disney World, you might just love this recipe. Even if you aren’t, this is a great vinaigrette dressing from Tony’s Town Square restaurant in the Magic Kingdom. The recipe comes out of Mickey’s Gourmet Cookbook. It is tangy and sweet and oh so delicious. It does thicken up when refrigerated so be sure to take it out of the fridge before using on your salad.

Ingredients

2 T. Dijon mustard

3/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil

2 t. fresh chopped garlic

1/4 cup plus 2 T. sugar

1/2 t. Cajun seasoning

3 T. pimientos, diced

1/2 t. pepper

1/4 t. salt

Directions

Blend all ingredients well in a large bowl with a wire whisk. Store in a glass or plastic container. Keep refrigerated.

Yields 1 quart

Keeping the kids busy this summer

It is always a challenge to keep the kids busy during the summer so they don’t spend all their time squabbling or watching hours of TV. I usually try to have something planned most days. If you are looking for some ideas, here is what we have going on.

Free Activities

The best things are always free but there aren’t too many things nowadays that are free. We will spend some time at our neighborhood pool, visiting my parents or stocking up on books at the library (which sometimes offers a craft). If it isn’t too hot, we also may hit one of the parks on our way to the library.

Paid Activities

IMG_0022With season passes or memberships to a few area attractions, we will also be going to the zoo, Sea World and the Doseum, San Antonio’s new children’s museum. As a family we also finally made it to Natural Bridge Caverns in June. We also have a Groupon for an afternoon at Pump It Up, a local inflatable/bounce slide place, and Lexie is signed up for mermaid camp in July.

Home Craft Activities

What better way to stop the TV/iPad watching then a few afternoon activities. I have a few plans I have pulled off the Internet, including – sponge ball fights and chalk rockets. I found lots of great hints on this list for June and this one for July. Many of the activities are aimed for the smaller kids, so I am going to have to find those that will interest a 7-year-old and a 10-year-old. If I need more ideas there is always Pinterest.

School Work

Yes, I am one of the moms out there that makes my kids do some school work during the summer to avoid that summer slide (where kids spend 2 1/2 months forgetting most of what they learned.) We will be doing reading, math and writing each week to keep their minds active.

Home Projects

We have some projects we want to get done this summer. In June, we have been cleaning and organizing the kids rooms. All the broken and and unused toys were out and the rest of their belongings organized. This is all in preparation for July’s project of painting each kids’ room.

Lexie has chosen two different pinks (with sparkles, of course). The dark pink will be on the bottom half of the room and the lighter pink on the top. We have also bought an awesome Elsa decal for the wall.

As for Jase, he is going with just blue walls. His current walls are blue, but the paint job is 12 years old so time to freshen it up with a newer shade. His big thing will be getting a huge Star Wars wall mural. It will be quite the focal point.

Free time 

And it wouldn’t be summer vacation without some down time where the kids can play in their rooms, read a book or even perhaps just veg in front of the TV for a little while.

Not every minute of the summer needs to be planned, but it helps to have options to keep those kids busy rather than bored.

Looking for #authors to feature on my blog

Well, today is the day that I typically feature authors but my guest flaked on me. It seems to be happening more often lately. So if you are an author and are serious about being featured on my Featured Author spot (Fridays), please let me know. I have dates open in August and beyond.

I host any genre author and both those that are traditionally and self-published.

The post can take one of three formats: author interview, book excerpt or a guest post on any aspect of writing, publishing, and book marketing.

I fill spots on a first-come-first-served basis, though I do have a few Tuesday openings to accommodate special requests for dates related to promotions such as book tours or book releases.

If you are interested, send me a message along with any date requests, and we’ll take it from there.

Technology’s effect on writing

laptopWriting a book today is not like it was twenty or thirty years ago. Technology has brought us a long way. No longer are authors writing their novels out in longhand on notepads or typing them on a typewriter. Nowadays, most writers use a word-processing program on their Mac or PC.

Actually, you don’t even need a desktop computer. You can write your novel on a laptop or tablet which allow you to write not just at home but anywhere.

Having your novel in a digital format makes it easier to rewrite chapters or to edit. No longer do you have to type the whole thing over or use correction tape. You can just click your mouse and delete or add whatever you need.

In many ways, technology has helped authors.

If you have problems typing, there is voice-recognition software where you can simply dictate your novel. (Of course, there are companies that will transcribe your dictated work but to me this isn’t the same thing as being able to rewrite or change something right when you think of it versus waiting for your transcribed document to be returned.)

I even have used a voice recorder to take down ideas for my novel as I am working around the house or driving in the car.

But the biggest advancement (besides the word-processing programs would be using the Internet for research. Yes, you can still go to the library to do your research, but the Internet lets you do it quicker and from the comfort of your own home.

Simply type a few words into a search engine, and you can find huge amounts of information on pretty much any subject. So now instead of sifting through heavy books, you can spend hours reading different sites on the various topics.

This of course brings up a problem. There is a lot of misinformation out there. There is no filter for what is published here. You will have to decipher what is the truth about what is posted on the Internet.

But if you want to know how something works or view pictures of videos of a foreign location, it is quite easy to find these things on the Internet.

E-mail also is a big help with being able to converse with experts in the field quicker than sending a letter and without being as intrusive as a phone call.

The Internet through websites and social media outlets also allows readers to better connect with their readers. This allows for greater communication and feedback than ever before.

But being connected, also had its disadvantages. There are so many things that can distract you from writing – Facebook, web surfing, shopping, Twitter, Instagram, e-mail and YouTube. Each of these can be a huge drain on time.

Overall, I think technology makes an author’s life easier as long as you can stay away from those time-sucking other activities.