Forests of light, the trials of writing, and an interview of you (and me)

I completed the book that I wanted to submit in time for The Wild Rose Press Lobster Cove series. The ball, as they say, is in the other court.

I’m so glad I finished the book, and that I like it. That’s a good first step. I’m also glad that I made it outside last week to enjoy the Tahoe National Forest. Hopefully you will enjoy this collection of images from our hikes.

Wildflower meadow, Tahoe National Forest
Wildflower meadow, Tahoe National Forest

I would love to know if you had a goal over the summer, or any time, that challenged your ability to balance other things you like to do.

Log in water
Log in water

Did you reach your goal?

Trees with moss
Trees with moss

What did it cost you and was it worth it? Why or why not?

Dry creek
Dry creek

What motivated you to pursue that goal?

To be fair, I will answer for myself:

  • Did I have a goal over the summer that challenged my ability to balance other things I like to do.
    Yes, writing the sequel to Love Caters All in time for it to be included in the Lobster Cove setting, where it takes place.
  • Did I reach my goal?
  • What did it cost me and was it worth it? Why or why not?
    It cost me being able to relax more this summer, and it cost me anxiety, or I should say, it gave me anxiety! Yes, it was worth it because the book pushed me through to a new way of writing, one that I have dreamed of, but that I didn’t think I had in me. I feel that I became a more natural writer. It was also worth it because the book is meaningful to me, and it is amazing to create meaning. In addition to being about a romance, this book is about loving and caring for someone who is disabled. When my characters took up this meaning and told me their story, rather than letting me impose the story upon them, I was amazed and fulfilled. I was also, I think, changed as a writer. I hope it sticks! LOL
  • What motivated me to pursue that goal?
    This changed over time. First it was simply the next thing I planned to do. I set up a series with three sisters, not realizing how difficult series can be! Ah, the blind ambition of the ignorant. Then several readers wanted to know what is going to happen with the other two sisters, so the readers motivated me. I didn’t want to let down the people who took a risk and read my debut novel! Then my critique partners helped me so much that I didn’t want to let them down. I mean, they worked hard to help me pan the bits of gold out of the first draft. Finally what motivated me to push myself very hard, to push through moments of hopelessness when I was throwing out more words than I was writing with the deadline looming nearer and nearer, was my husband. He often is a bit of a writing widower. He also helped me a lot with the book as he always does. I simply couldn’t let him down. After I finished, I confessed this to him, and he said I wouldn’t have. Nice to know! One thing I learned about myself with writing this book is I care the most about my relationships with people. Oddly enough, that’s sort of what the book turned out to be about.

So now I am in waiting mode. This book might be rejected. Or it might not be loved by readers. This is what happens when we undertake to write stories for an audience. But you know what? Those things don’t matter as much as I thought. At least I hope I have the courage to remember this no matter what happens with the book. We have to look inward for our rewards. Yes, we create for others, but if we are satisfied with what we have created, then we must feel fulfilled and whole. And if we are not satisfied, then I think we need to be kind to ourselves, maybe set this aside, and try again. It is very often the case that later in our careers we will know what we need to know to bring that creation into being in a way that fulfills the vision we have, the feeling we have for it.

I’d love to hear from you if you would like to answer any of the questions or just describe a bit about an experience you’ve had of pursuing a goal.

Author interview, Cynthia Harrison


Today, we have author Cynthia Harrison.

Cynthia, welcome! Your background shows that you are a real book lover. You teach English, including creative writing, have written a manual on writing, and have written hundreds of reviews, features and short fiction. Have you written in other genres besides romance?

Cynthia Harrison: Yes, I started as a poet and short story writer.  I tried a few literary novels, a mystery, and a historical romance. They were practice books. Nothing felt right until I turned to contemporary love stories, novels of self-discovery, set in small towns.

NS: I know you also read outside the genre. What do you like about reading and writing romance?

CH: I like the parameters. I like working within a structure and twisting it for a bit of edge.

NS: Are you a pantser or a plotter?

CH: Pantser, to my dismay. I do begin plotting in earnest at about 30K words, but until then it’s whatever comes out of the fingertips that day.

NS: What is your favorite part about writing?

CH: I love losing myself in worlds that I can control, lol.

NS: What is the hardest part about writing?

CH: Finding the time and energy to keep going  when I really want to read a good book.

NS: How long have you been writing?

CH: 45 years. Junior high star journalist.

NS: What are your dreams for your writing?

CH: I love this series idea, because I love writing series. But, if I can finish and publish this one I’m writing now, the book of my heart, I’ll be satisfied.

Cynthia Harrison
Cynthia Harrison

To learn more about Cynthia:

Links blogging for 11 years on A Writer’s Diary.

facebook fan page: Cynthia Harrison

Twitter: @CynthiaHarriso1

Author interview Barb Han

Barb, welcome! Caught in the Crosshair was a terrific romance. The hurricane sequence was fantastic. Have you ever been through a hurricane or was it all research?

Barb Han:

Thank you so much for hosting me. It’s such a pleasure to be here. I’ve cruised around three hurricanes, all at a safe distance. Even so, the swells were large enough to make the ship sway. The captain joked that if we wanted to talk straight, we should drink.

NS: Can you tell us a little about your writing journey? How long have you been writing?

BH: Thank you so much. I’ve been seriously writing fiction for nine years. Before that, I worked as a journalist and a freelance writer for a number of years.

NS: No wonder you’re so good. That’s a terrific background. What made you want to write fiction? Romance?

BH: Great question. I love romance because it’s fundamentally about love. Love heals. If you want to see the effect of the absence of love in people’s lives, visit a prison. It’s filled with people who grew up without it. Love is powerful.

NS: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

BH: I’m a hybrid. Now that I’m writing under contract with Harlequin Intrigue, I pretty much have to plot my stories. But then, as I’m writing, the story takes over and doesn’t always stick to the plan.

NS: Congratulations on writing for Harlequin Intrigue. What is the hardest part about the craft of writing?

BH: Letting go.

NS: What is your favorite part about writing?

BH: When I first started out, I used to love the creating part of writing. I didn’t plot, so I’d just run with an idea and let it take me where it wanted. Editing was a nightmare and I’d end up cutting quite a bit later. That was painful. As I’ve matured, I actually began to appreciate the revision process. I accept the fact my first draft is going to be awful because I’m getting the big ideas out. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Once I get through that, I get to play with language, sentences, create nuance, etc. That’s what I love doing. That’s when the story really comes alive.

NS: That describes me as well. Do you have any tips about the writer’s life or craft that you’d like to share with us?

BH: I once heard an author say, “Discipline is more important than talent.”

I wrote it down and taped it next to my computer. It’s my mantra.


Barb loves to connect with readers. Connect with her at: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest.

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Party! Inside the artist’s mind interview series 3, Mercedes Webb-Pullman, Looking for Kerouac

Welcome to the party! Why a party? Because I feel like celebrating:

  • An enjoyable and thought provoking book
  • the amazing author and
  • YOU, my fellow blogger/bloggees. Like Listening to Kerouac, you have opened up the world to me.

Commenters and “likers” to this post will be entered in a raffle for a copy of Mercedes’ fabulous new book and/or some Mrs. Fields cookies. I’ll leave the raffle open for a few days.

Here’s my review:

Reading Looking for Kerouac lets you take a challenging and interesting journey the easy way. The author’s voice is so engaging that you can read some before bed one night, put the book down (that is, turn off your Kindle or other device), open it the next day and pick up right where you left off, speeding by train through today’s America and via the author’s mind through an America of a different time.

The realism and honesty throughout the book are deeply engaging. You learn a lot about the Beat Poets and the history “goes down easy” interwoven with the author’s vivid portrayal of America and her life, now and then. Looking for Kerouac is a Must Read.

Kerouac 2

Mercedes, congratulations on the publication of your stunning “travelogue, memoir, quest,” LOOKING FOR KEROUAC. Thank you for letting me read an advance copy and for being here today to talk to us. Beautiful cover, by the way!

Looking for Kerouac feels very stream of consciousness in the way the prose flows between present day thoughts and observations, memories of the past and history. Did much of the prose style happen as you were jotting notes while you traveled or did you write notes and then compose the draft to have that effect?

MWP: Thank you for the invitation, Nia, and for helping me by reading and commenting on the advance copy. It is almost exactly two years since I took the trip, and I’ve worked on the book since then, to the extent that I couldn’t see it any more! Your notes helped me with revision, and regaining perspective.

I took notes all the way through my trip, and saved the oddest things; tickets, menus, timetables, hotel bills, the ephemera of travel. When I was ready to start writing I brought these all out, sorted them along with my photos, and sort of recreated the places, went back into them all.

The style of writing is very much a choice – I wanted to emulate Kerouac’s style, using his method of ‘spontaneous prose’.

NS: There is so much detail I marvel at how you collected it all. Did you use a voice recorder or pad and pen?

MWP: I took notes, notebook and pen. I could have taken film with my iPad but just took still shots. When I started writing though, the scenes in my memory came back to life prompted by the pictures and the collection of ephemera.

NS: I also marvel at and learn so much from your honesty. Sometimes I want to write something true and when I read this work it has that feel of truth to it. But there is no one Truth; everything is filtered. Can you comment on the travelogue as memoir technique, using travel as a filter on your own memories and also on using Kerouac’s On the Road as a template?

MWP: Veracity is very important in my writing – but as you note, there is no one Truth. In the end all I can do is call it as I see it! I think Travelogue is a wonderful vehicle for memoir – have thought so since I first read Paul Theroux’s books. Maybe I tried to accomplish too much with Kerouac, weaving his story in with my past and present, so we all floated together in book time. I just know that’s the way the story wanted to be told.

NS: I don’t think you tried to accomplish too much, Mercedes, because you really pulled it off. The way you wove the story threads completely worked and was marvelously seamless and intriguing. In fact, it’s difficult to make one’s own travelogue interesting to others, because a chronological sequence of events can read like a phone book. What you did is the most interesting one I’ve ever read, including Travels with Charley (Steinbeck). I also applaud your veracity and hope one day to dip a toe a bit more deeply in that pool as a writer. Your book caused me to reflect on my own life and thoughts about our society. I found myself in your shoes exploring what my reactions might be and learning from yours.

You mentioned several times that you were no longer interested in having possessions. Can you tell us a bit about what this choice makes available to you?

MWP: I’ve studied Zen Buddhism – or rather, tried to live as an aware person. I acknowledge that attachment and desire cause suffering, and I try to remind myself of this. On a more personal level, I had to leave my home and garden in another country to come back to New Zealand and help care for my mother. Along with this loss I think I have gained in compassion and have learned a little more about the world and my place in it.

NS: Thank you for sharing yet another experience and insight. I agree about learning more compassion and about learning our place in the world. My heart wrenches for you having to leave your home and garden. I can relate to taking care of your mom (a journey in itself) and learning to hold things in life with an open palm instead of a clenched fist. Your sensitivity, wisdom and writing ability allowed me to examine these lessons in a new light and resonated not just with my mind but with my heart. Bravo! And thank you!

Looking for Kerouac is available as a Kindle e-book here:

You can also find out more about Mercedes on the new blog at Poetry Sans Frontieres. Here’s the direct link to Mercedes’ guest blogger post.

Thank you, blog readers! Say hello or drop a “like” to be entered in the cookies and book raffle.

Giveaway/Inside the Artist’s Mind: interview series 2, John Holland

UTDS Hammer and Anvil (1)

Today’s interview is with author/poet, John Holland, whose latest book, Under the Dog Star, has hit number one and stayed near the top in Amazon Books > Literature & Fiction > Poetry > Australia & Oceania. If you don’t win one of the five freebies I’m giving away today (or even if you do win and want to give copies away as gifts), you can buy it here:


Autographed print copies:

Welcome, John, and thanks for being interviewed for my Inside the Artist’s Mind series. Note to the audience: I’m giving away 5 copies of John’s new book of poetry today, to a random selection of anyone who leaves a comment or emails me by going to my website ( and clicking the “Email me” button. (I don’t post my email addy here in case of spam.)

Nia: John, you are another of what I call the “open spigot writers,” meaning your writing seems to flow out of you. You are a very prolific poet and I happen to know you are also working on a novel. Let’s start with the poetry. Can you tell us a little about your writing process?

John Holland: I find my methods difficult to explain.  In some cases I start with a line and just write whatever comes into my head as quickly as possible.  A brief revise, mainly line breaks.  Then leave it at that.

At other times I might spend a lot of time writing and revising a short poem.

Nia: Your new book, Under the Dog Star, has a mix of styles in it, something of a range between spare bites and stream of consciousness and shades in between. Another Helen struck me as an in-between one because it has a dream-like quality to it even as it alludes to the classic Helen of Troy story. (“day slides/slipping away/from under me…” Holland, John (2013-07-25). Under the Dog Star (Kindle Locations 113-114). Hammer & Anvil Books. Kindle Edition.) Can you tell us about your process in writing that poem?

John: Another Helen was written as “a stream of consciousness” poem.  Or more correctly, my version of that.  Almost automatic writing. I did have something in mind when I wrote Another Helen.  But still allowed it to flow with the “stream”.

Nia: On the further end of the spectrum, Wheels Within seemed very stream of consciousness. How did that come about?

John: Wheels came out of thin air.  Another Helen was written with a purpose in mind.

Nia: I can relate to different modes of writing. I’ve had similar experiences. Although I didn’t get anywhere near Wheels Within or Another Helen, I had those kinds of experiences in the spring when I was writing so much poetry. I love that kind of writing. And dream-inspired writing, even prose, is my best. But you can’t really decide to write that way, can you?

John: I can.  At least to a degree.  But it is probably not a good thing for most poets. The work does come out a bit disjointed and “jiggly” as your mind quickly reacts to the preceding line.  Of course you can revise when you are finished.  But I think any more than minimal revision destroys the whole purpose of the exercise.

Nia: I agree, don’t overdo the revisions. There’s a fluidity to the auto-writing that is powerful and beautiful. Thank you for sharing a bit about your poetry writing process. Now, you are also working on a novel and I’ve seen bits of it. Okay… for readers who’ve made it this far, you’re the first to know… John and I are co-authoring a series of novels. So, I’ve seen quite a bit of your writing and it interests me because we are opposite types of writers in many ways. I like to think through and do a lot of planning on plot. I tell you what I have up my sleeve and you’ll say, “That sounds good.” Then I don’t hear anything. Then you tell me you have a little time to write today. Then I get 2,000 fantastic words from you, with likeable characters, vivid scenery, realistic and individual dialog, all aligned with the big picture of the plot. Do you do the same thing as you did with Another Helen? Have an idea of what is needed (from the plot) then let it pour out of you?

John: Yes and no.  I do write fairly quickly while the thoughts are fresh in my mind, but I take a lot more time to revise.  With poetry you can leave more unsaid and allow the reader to put flesh on the bare bones.  With prose I try to add that flesh for the reader.

It has been a learning experience for me to work with you on our first novel of the series.  But I think our styles blend together well.

That we are both intensely interested in the metaphysical aspects of our perceived universe is a big plus I think.

Nia: Way to slip in a sneak preview of the theme, there, John! Writing with you has been a learning experience for me, as well, and a lot of fun. I can’t wait to finish telling this long saga with you and sharing a bit of our totally different backgrounds, Australian Outback and California Sierra Nevada, through the vehicle of this story.

Thank you for sharing a bit from inside your artist’s mind and best of luck with Under the Dog Star.

I’m sure John will answer questions if you would like to post one here and comments are always welcomed. Today they are also rewarded! So, do say hello.