Today’s Featured Author: Stacy Juba

Today I am pleased to have author Stacy Juba on my site discussing her book, Twenty-Five Years Ago Today.

Interview

What or who inspired you to start writing?

I was an avid reader as a child and was hooked on mystery series such as Nancy Drew. By fifth grade, I was writing my own mystery stories. I enjoyed writing and seemed to have a knack for it so I wrote more and more. I was very introverted so writing became a way for me to express myself.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I think I’ve considered myself a writer since childhood. I won a few local writing contests in elementary school so the teachers and other kids always spoke of me as “a writer.”  I wasn’t entirely comfortable with that label in high school as it made me feel too different from other kids. I stopped writing for about six months after I graduated. In college, however, I discovered that I wasn’t happy unless I was writing.  Getting a book published at 18 reinforced the feeling that I was supposed to be writing.

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

I inject my interests or knowledge into various books. For example, I once had the same job as Kris Langley from Twenty-Five Years Ago Today – a newspaper editorial assistant who compiled the 25 Years Ago Today column. Cassidy from Sink or Swim is a personal trainer and fitness expert. I have a degree in exercise physiology and briefly worked in a health club. Dark Before Dawn reflects my interest in psychics and the metaphysical and Face-Off reflects the passion I had for hockey back in high school.

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

The best advice was to join professional writing organizations and author networking groups. The worst was from an editor who suggested that I rewrite my mystery novel Sink or Swim and have the entire book take place during the reality show taping rather than afterwards. That wasn’t the story I wanted to tell and I felt that the premise had been done multiple times before. I wanted to write about the effect that getting famous, but not rich, had on the character’s life, which I felt was a more unique storyline. The book has gotten positive reviews so I think I made the right decision.

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

The best thing is getting paid to entertain other people and make up stories. Writing the stories is entertainment for me, so it’s a fun career to do something that I love while helping people escape the stress of their daily lives. The worst is that you need to develop a thick skin when you get a negative review or a rejection from a publishe

What fuels you as an author to continue to write? 

I like to challenge myself both creatively and professionally. By creatively, I mean that I like to experiment with different genres, characters, and storylines. It’s rewarding to spread my wings and delve into the stories that I want to tell. Right now I’m finishing up a romantic comedy, and I never would have thought I’d write in that genre, but the dry humor seems to come naturally. It’s fun to let that lighter side of my personality come out to play. Professionally, it fuels my ambition to set goals and reach different milestones. Recent goals that I met were having my books available as audio books,  making the Amazon Kindle Top 100 Paid List, and making the Nook Top 5 list. Now I’ve set additional goals, such as making the USA Today list and Audible bestseller lists.      

Please tell us about your current release.

All of my books have recently come out as audio books for Amazon, Audible and iTunes, including Twenty-Five Years Ago Today, about a newspaper editorial assistant who stumbles across an unsolved murder on the microfilm.

How did you come up with the title?

The character, Kris Langley, comes across the murder while combing the microfilm for small news tidbits for her 25 Years Ago Today column, hence the title of Twenty-Five Years Ago Today.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

I interviewed a police officer about what type of penalty the killer might receive 25 years later, given the circumstances outlined in the book. Readers are often surprised by the ending, but it was based on research and what might really happen.

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

My favorite character is Kris as she’s an underdog and I think readers will root for her. She’s trying to find her niche in life and rid herself of some emotional baggage. My least favorite is her editor Jacqueline, who I describe as Corporate Barbie. She treats Kris unfairly and doesn’t consider the feelings of those around her.

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

I have a stash of miniature chocolate candy bars in the cabinet. I try to avoid it, but there are times when I need a pick-me-up after a long day at the keyboard!

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

I’m trained in Reiki, a form of hands-on energy healing, and have completed three levels of classes.

Book Description

25 YearsFrontCover web version

For twenty-five years, Diana Ferguson’s killer has gotten away with murder. When rookie obit writer and newsroom editorial assistant Kris Langley investigates the cold case of the artistic young cocktail waitress who was obsessed with Greek and Roman mythology, not only does she fall in love with Diana’s sexy nephew, but she must also fight to stay off the obituary page herself.

About the Author

Thousands of readers have been captivated by the books of Stacy Juba. Stacy published her first book, a young adult novel, at age 18 and she hasn’t stopped writing since. She has authored books for adults, teenagers and children. Stacy has written about high school hockey players, reality TV contestants targeted by a killer, an obit writer who solves a cold case, teen psychics who control minds, teddy bears learning to raise the U.S. flag, and lots more. Her titles include Twenty-Five Years Ago Today and Sink or Swim for adults; Dark Before Dawn and Face-Off for young adults; and The Flag Keeper and the Teddy Bear Town Children’s E-Book Bundle for children.

Find out more about Stacy on her website.

You can get Twenty-Five Years Ago Today at Amazon or Barnes & Noble or as an audio book at Audibles.

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Focusing on Writing: Cutting out time wasting activities

Surprised woman in front of clock uid 1271830I will be the first to admit it – I am not always the best at managing my time. I too easily get sucked into time wasters. You know what I am talking about – those tasks such as checking email and Facebook or surfing the web take up more time that you realize. Unfortunately, those time wasters are stealing my writing time.

Here are some tips to help avoid those time wasters.

1.) Set limits on time suckers

Facebook, Twitter, email and the Internet easily can take up a lot of your time. Now I am not saying you should not work on building relationships with other writers or fans, or you shouldn’t market your other books but you need to set aside a certain time to do it – preferably after you have met your writing goal for the day.

It may help not unplug your network connection if you can’t resist the temptation to surf the web. And while you are at it, turn off your phone.

2.) Write when others aren’t around

The best time to write is when you are alone. It may be during lunch at your empty office or early in the morning before everyone gets up. But people – especially children – can be a great distraction. If you can’t write when no one is around, work on finding a time to write where you can hang a Do Not Disturb sign on your door. If your children are old enough, they can be taught to give you some alone time to write.

3.) Focus on your goal

Know what you want to accomplish when you sit down to write. It could be writing a set number of pages or words, editing a chapter or two or developing a character. Refuse to become involved in anything that doesn’t move you closer to accomplishing your goal. If it helps, let others who will hold you accountable know of your goal. (Next week I will cover how to set realistic writing goals.)

4.) Be Prepared to Write

Authors often talk about finding time to write, but really it isn’t about finding time as much is it about making time to write. Finding time means you are squeezing writing between other activities. The problem with this is that depending on how busy your schedule is you may or may not actually get any writing done.  I am so guilty of this.

Making time to write is proactive. It means you build your schedule around your writing. Knowing that you are going to sit down and write needs to be a conscious choice. Knowing that you are putting writing first makes it easier to ignore things that pop up to interrupt your writing time.

Remember that your writing time should be just for that – writing. You only have a limited amount of time for writing so get to it!

Should we lessen disappointment and rejection for our children?

I read this blog recently about why your kids being left out of things is good thing. It focused on that kids were not learning to handle disappointment and rejection because we, as parents, have become too worried about hurting their feelings. Invitations have to go to everyone so no one is left out. We give second place trophies or all participants get a medal. I don’t recall any of that while growing up, but I do recall the horrible feeling of being left out and of course as a parent I want to minimize that as much as possible for my kids.

Both Jase and Lexie’s schools have policies that if you are sending birthday party invitations through the school, you have to invite everyone or at least all of one gender. I know this is done so you don’t exclude someone and hurt their feelings. So far, we have been inviting the whole class but that means larger birthday parties. Since we usually do them at a party place, more invitees of course means more money. For Jase, we have told him that next year when he turns 9, he can only invite a select few friends. By this age, I expect the other kids to be a little better equipped to handle not being invited than at the kindergarten age.

left outI know kids have to learn about disappointment, but it is hard to know you are being left out of the fun. My daughter Lexie idolizes one of Jase’s friends who lives in our neighborhood. Emily likes playing with Lexie but there is a two year difference in age. One day, Emily had an all-girls play date, and she didn’t invite Lexie. We walk with them daily and the play date never came up. Lexie found out about it when Emily and two other friends were talking about it on the day of the get together. Lexie was crushed not to be invited. She cried all the way home. And no amount of explaining that her friend might want to play with girls her own age would make it better. I know this won’t be the last instance of heartache, but it was hard to watch. If I had known what was coming, I would have avoided the situation by not walking home with the neighbors that day as Lexie was after all only four at the time. There is no way she would understand not being included.

2nd placeAs for the sport organizations giving out trophies for all participants, Jase’s karate group does that. They have a tournament each session and everyone either gets a first or second place trophy. Jase has come in second place every time. Not once has he been excited about getting a second-place award. He knows it isn’t first and is disappointed. This actually has inspired him to train extra hard for the next tournament which was this month. He came in second place again though he did do much better this time and only lost by one point.

In the case of sports and trophies, I am fine with them not giving out awards to everyone. I know that my kids need to learn that they will not be the best at everything. But as for being left out, I am torn. Yes, I know it will happen but gosh is it hard to watch, or as I remember it, it is hard to endure. I don’t know that it makes anyone better to feel unwanted for whatever reason.

Today’s Featured Author: Cinthia Ritchie

Today I have on my blog author Cinthia Ritchie discussing her debut book, Dolls Behaving Badly. And after the interview, check out an excerpt from her book.

Interview

Where were you born and where do you call home?

I was born in Pennsylvania but call Alaska my home. I’ve lived in Anchorage for the past 25 years and can’t imagine living anywhere else. The winters are long, dark and brutal and summers are often wet and cool but the twilight is like nothing else, the sky dimming but never darkening so that often I hike past midnight. Nothing compares to running down a mountain at 1 a.m., no one else around, the air hushed, the shadows tinted lavender. Sometimes I think that Alaska is in my blood.

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 worked as a journalist for over 13 years and now freelance and write almost full-time. In the summers I often pick up seasonal jobs for extra money. As for finding time to write, I think that if someone wants to write, he or she will find the time. I wrote Dolls Behaving Badly as a single mother while working two jobs. I wrote segments at work, at my son’s soccer games and even jotted notes at the supermarket. It wasn’t easy but it was the only way I could write. After a whle, it became second nature.

What fuels you as an author to continue to write?

I can’t imagine my life without writing, it’s so much a part of who I am and how I see the world. I can’t stop. I have characters inside my head that need to speak. Sometimes I think that I am simply a medium, that there are energy currents around us that use me to tell their stories. I don’t know if this is true. Sometimes I become discouraged and stop writing for a few days and mope around, feeling lonely. It’s almost as if I’m lonely for the sound of my own writing voice. When I sit down and begin to write again, I feel so strong and pure that I sometimes weep.

What inspired you to write this book?

I was a single mother working two jobs, always tired, and at night after my son went to bed I’d sit in the bathroom and read novels. One night I realized that there were very few books with strong, single-mother heroines, and the few that did usually supplied fairy tale endings that left me, as a reader, frustrated and depressed because I knew by then that life wasn’t a fairy tale and endings were rarely clean. So I decided to write a book about a single mother, and I wanted her to be funny and warm and flawed, the way we all are, and I wanted her journey to be messy and real, and I wanted the book to include food and recipes and correspondences, and I wanted the love interest to be part of the story but not the whole story. I suppose I wrote Dolls Behaving Badly because it was the book I had been waiting to read.

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

No, the story didn’t stay the same but then again, does it ever? One of my creative writing professors once said that the moment your characters begin to dictate their next moves is the moment you know that you’re truly writing a book. That happened to me early on, by about the third chapter, and after struggling for a few nights I turned my book over to my characters. I wrote recklessly and without a plan. I had no idea what would happen next, where my characters would go, if or when the plot developments would intensify. I loved writing this way, loved the mystery and the wonder. Strangely enough, it all worked out. My characters carried me through the book. 

What book are you reading right now?

I read multiple books at a time. I always have three or four going at once. Right now it’s Standing Up to the Rock by Louise Freeman-Toole; Drinking in the Rain by Alix Kates Shulman; and advanced review copies of The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Café by Mary Sims and Shorecliff by Ursula DeYoung.

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

I have a tattoo on my right forearm, a blue dolphin, because I love to swim. I got the tattoo about nine years ago when a man I loved dearly moved away from Alaska, and I stayed. I wanted (needed?) to etch a permanent reminder into my skin, to alter myself, to feel pain and then watch it transform into beauty.

Excerpt

Thursday, Sept. 15

This is my diary, my pathetic little conversation with myself. No doubt I will burn it halfway through. I’ve never been one to finish anything. Mother used to say this was because I was born during a full moon, but like everything she says, it doesn’t make a lick of sense.

It isn’t even the beginning of the year. Or even the month. It’s not even my birthday. I’m starting, typical of me, impulsively, in the middle of September. I’m starting with the facts.

I’m thirty-eight years old. I’ve slept with nineteen and a half men.

I live in Alaska, not the wild parts but smack in the middle of Anchorage, with the Walmart and Home Depot squatting over streets littered with moose poop.

I’m divorced. Last month my ex-husband paid child support in ptarmigan carcasses, those tiny bones snapping like fingers when I tried to eat them.

I have one son, age eight and already in fourth grade. He is gifted, his teachers gush, remarking how unusual it is for such a child to come out of such unique (meaning underprivileged, meaning single parent, meaning they don’t think I’m very smart) circumstances.

I work as a waitress in a Mexican restaurant. This is a step up: two years ago I was at Denny’s.

Yesterday, I was so worried about money I stayed home from work and tried to drown myself in the bathtub. I sank my head under the water and held my breath, but my face popped up in less than a minute. I tried a second time, but by then my heart wasn’t really in it so I got out, brushed the dog hair off the sofa and plopped down to watch  Oprah on the cable channel.

What happened next was a miracle, like Gramma used to say. No angels sang, of course, and there was none of that ornery church music. Instead, a very tall woman (who might have been an angel if heaven had high ceilings) waved her arms. There were sweat stains under her sweater, and this impressed me so much that I leaned forward; I knew something important was about to happen.

Most of what she said was New Age mumbo-jumbo, but when she mentioned the diary, I pulled myself up and rewrapped the towel around my waist. I knew she was speaking to me, almost as if this was her purpose in life, to make sure these words got directed my way.

She said you didn’t need a fancy one; it didn’t even need a lock, like those little-girl ones I kept as a teenager. A notebook, she said, would work just fine. Or even a bunch of papers stapled together. The important thing was doing it. Committing yourself to paper every day, regardless of whether anything exciting or thought-provoking actually happens.

“Your thoughts are gold,” the giant woman said. “Hold them up to the light and they shine.”

I was crying by then, sobbing into the dog’s neck. It was like a salvation, like those traveling preachers who used to come to town. Mother would never let us go but I snuck out with Julie, who was a Baptist. Those preachers believed, and while we were there in that tent, we did too.

This is what I’m hoping for, that my words will deliver me something. Not the truth, exactly. But solace.

Book Description

dolls_behaving_badly_proofCarla Richards is many things: an Alaska waitress who secretly makes erotic dolls for extra income; a divorcee who can’t quite detach from her ex-husband; and a single mom trying to support her gifted eight-year-old son, her pregnant sister and her babysitter-turned-resident-teenager.

She’s one overdue bill away from completely losing control–when inspiration strikes in the form of a TV personality. Now she’s scribbling away in a diary, flirting with an anthropologist, and baking up desserts with the ghost of her Polish grandmother.

Still, getting her life and dreams back on track is difficult. Is perfection really within reach? Or will she wind up with something even better?

About the Author

Ritchie PhotoCinthia Ritchie is a former journalist and Pushcart Prize nominee who lives and runs mountains in Alaska.

She’s a recipient of two Rasmuson Individual Artist Awards, a Connie Boocheever Fellowship, residencies at Hedgebrook, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts and Hidden River Arts, the Brenda Ueland Prose Award, Memoir Prose Award, Sport Literate Essay Award, Northwest PEN Women Creative Nonfiction Award, Drexel Magazine Creative Nonfiction Award and Once Written Grand Prize Award.

Her work can be found in New York Times Magazine, Sport Literate, Water-Stone Review, Memoir, Under the Sun, Literary Mama, Slow Trains Literary Journal, Sugar Mule, Breadcrumbs and Scabs, Third Wednesday, Writer’s Digest, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Cactus Heart Press and over 30 other literary magazines and small presses.

Her debut novel, Dolls Behaving Badly, released Feb. 5 from Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group.

You can find out more about Cinthia on her website. Feel free to follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Her book, Dolls Behaving Badly, is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and IndieBound.

 

Authors thrive on reader feedback

As an author and a blogger one of the things I love most is reader feedback. It is nice to have someone comment on your work. After all who doesn’t like a compliment? (OK – all reader feedback isn’t positive, but you take the good with the bad.)

Blog

At the end of most blog posts is a place for readers to comment about the post. It is awesome when someone mentions they not only liked the post but learned something. It could be as simple as “Good advice. Thank you.” Or they can add their own experience or story. This happens most often for me when I write about parenting (every Monday).

Recently, I also received an email from a mom who read my blog about Lexie’s birth. It was nice to connect with someone who had a child with similar medical conditions. In fact, it inspired two additional posts. One ran on Monday about Situs Inversus and an Interrupted IVC, and another will run in a week and a half about Polysplenia.

Books

The best compliment you can give an author is to write an honest review of their book. But in lieu of that, I also love to receive email messages from readers. I love when they tell me what they loved about the book and how they couldn’t put it down.

Recently, I had one reader say that her love for cats drew her to my short story, The Search. She loved it so much that she went on to read my trilogy. Another reader even suggested I do a follow-up  trilogy or at least one more book with those characters. (And I am now considering doing just that because I too love them and have an idea for a new adventure, but that will have to be after my current work in progress.)

But you don’t have to email an author or do a review to show your support. Even sending out a tweet about the book or passing along one of my tweets is greatly appreciated. So if you don’t normally write reviews or have never considered emailing an author, I encourage you to do that. You just might make someone’s day.