Monday, May 26, 2008

Make-Believe Mondays With David Schwartz

On this Make-Believe Monday I am pleased to introduce David Schwartz.

David, first, tell us a little bit about the manuscript you’re working on now.

David: Currently I'm gearing up to do revisions on a novel I'm calling Succession, which is sort of a cross between War and Peace and Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint, with a bit of the French Revolution thrown into the mix. It's got a lot of characters, a lot of story, a lot of world-building; wars and romance and political intrigue.

While I'm working on that I'll be working on short stories, and figuring out what the next novel will be. I love working in both forms, but I definitely need a break of a few months between novels, because they sort of take over my life. That can be a good thing--it's really helpful to have those characters and their story always in the back of your head, even when you're making dinner, or watching a band--but it's also pretty exhausting, after a while. I like short stories because you can work on them really intensely for a few days or weeks, and then they're done. Novels take a long time to feel done.

Debra: Yes, they certainly do. It's been a long while since I wrote a short story, but that's how I started with fiction. Maybe I should take it up again. The people in my novels do start to take things over.

Ray Bradbury said, “We are cups, constantly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.” How do you keep your creative cup filled?

Debra: In ways that I suspect most writers do; traveling (when I can afford it), socializing, watching DVDs, listening to music, and reading, reading, reading. I read as widely as I can manage: contemporary stuff and classics, fiction and nonfiction, kid's books, graphic novels, the news. I find a lot of ideas in history books; there are dozens of overlooked historical figures who could easily carry a book.

Another thing is that, for me, an important ingredient in the "creative cup" (to go with Ray's metaphor) is anger. I'm not saying that I write screeds--I think my fiction is humanistic and (most of the time) optimistic. But there are plenty of things to get ticked off about in the world, whether they are political or cultural or personal. I feel compelled to confront those things in some way, although I'm careful not to let that get in the way of a good story. When you get to that point, you might as well write opinion pieces!

Debra: I think emotion is at the heart of all good fiction, because its what moves us and what a writer feels passionate about is then transferred into the writing. So it is very interesting to hear you say that. Anger creates action. Well, most emotion does, actually, unless we bottle it up.

Is there a point when your characters begin to come alive and you can see and hear them?

David: It's interesting; while in my normal everyday life I'm very visually oriented, I don't really "see" scenes as I'm writing them. Or rather, I'm very aware of what the characters are doing, but less focused on their surroundings, or what they're wearing, or even what they look like. I always have to go back in and flesh out descriptions, because that's not where my attention is. I suppose I'd say that my experience of stories and novels is closer to that of a play than a film; sometimes with plays all you have is a stage and two actors, and what they do and say is all you need for a story.

That's not to say that my characters don't come alive for me. It's always the characters that drive my stories; even when I know where a book or a story is headed (and I often don't), I'm relying on my characters to get me there. I know that some writers see characters as servicing the plot, but I see it the other way. If I can't make a piece of the story work because I'm finding that it goes against character, I'll throw it out. I've done it before, and I'll do it again!

Debra: Yes and with plays dialog and action drive the story, while settings may be black and almost empty. Though I've always felt that place, or setting can also sometimes be like a character.

For some writers, dreams play a role in creating fiction. Has this been true for you? Have you ever dreamed a scene or an image that later wound up in one of your books?

David: I've used dreams as templates for short stories, but most of the time it hasn't worked for me. I think the trick may be to use the dream only as a departure point, and not try to transcribe what happened as if it's going to make sense. They call it dream logic for a reason; what we find affecting or unsettling in a dream will often seem banal or gratuitously surreal on the page. Maybe this is something like the old saw about truth being stranger than fiction. On the other side of the coin, I'm probably guilty of over-using dreams as a narrative device. They can be great shorthand for revealing character anxieties. They're also a great opportunity for humor, and for going over-the-top in a way that the core story may not allow me to.

Debra: Yes, and dreams can be so hard to capture on the page, so trying to copy them exactly would difficult and I suspect, frustrating. Using dreams as a device in a story can be tricky to handle, but I love it when its down well.

If there were no categories for books, no reader expectations to meet, and you could create the wildest work of imagination that you could think of what kind of story would that be?

David: I'd actually like to think that's what I'm doing right now. Part of what keeps me writing is that I always want to know how things turn out; if what I'm writing is not something I'd want to read myself, it all falls apart. I've been lucky enough to have sold a first novel with some fantasy elements to a mostly-mainstream imprint, and I'd like to be one of those people who can work across the lines between those strange categories we call "genres." As an author I'm resigned to being categorized in some ways--by marketers, at least--but as a reader I rebel constantly against being told what I'm going to like. I can love Jane Austen and William Gibson both, darn it! And I want to write books that omnivorous readers like me will love.

Debra: Yes, you can darn it! I wish more men would read Jane Austin!
Is there anything else you'd like to add or share with our readers?

Visit my website at, or come over to my blog at, where I post book news, talk about what I'm reading/watching, make silly polls, and tell weird stories with photographs.

Thanks for having me!

Debra: You're quite welcome, David. It's been a pleasure.

Debra's news/Debra is watching:

This week my book cover is posted on my publishers website, my MySpace and my Facebook. Soon it will be up on my website along with other changes.

I am hard at work on revisions to my second manuscript so it can go out and A Desperate Journey is currently with the line editor and should be done any day now.

Soon I'll be setting up a Yahoo group for my readers as well as planning some promotions.

Over on my MySpace page there is a countdown to the release of the book while I heartily enjoy checking just to see it getting closer.

Have a wonderful Memorial Day!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Make-Believe Mondays With Diane Craver

Today on Make-Believe Mondays our guest is Diane Craver.

Diane, first, tell us a little bit about the manuscript you’re working on now.

Diane: I’m writing an inspirational romance right now. I don’t have a title yet, so I just call it my Mallory book. The main character Mallory is divorced and wants to get her ex-husband back. She never wanted a divorce in the first place and was crushed when it happened. She does something drastic in hopes he will want to marry her again. She has two good friends and I have plans to write a book about each girlfriend.

A publisher just requested a full manuscript of my book, Whitney in Charge so I’m hoping to have good news about that soon. It’s about three sisters starting a business. Also two sisters will stop at nothing to get their widowed sister dating again.

Debra: Fingers crossed that you'll hear good news soon.

Is there a point when your characters begin to come alive and you can see and hear them?

Diane: My characters become real to me quickly. My books are character-driven so I’m constantly thinking about the characters as I start a new book and what big scenes I want them to have in the book. They inject dialogue and ideas to me while I’m in the shower, driving, cooking, or right before I fall asleep. I jot down their thoughts and dialogue on paper so I have my notes when I get time to type on my computer. I’ve learned I can’t rely on my memory to remember everything.

Also when I write it’s neat how the characters take over and the story line I have in mind changes. In my Whitney book, a new character popped in to become a main romantic interest for the one sister.

Debra: Don't you love it when you get great dialog or scenes while in the shower? I sometimes wish I had a bar of soap that could write on the shower wall so I wouldn't lose them before I get done washing my hair. :-)

For some writers, dreams play a role in creating fiction. Has this been true for you? Have you ever dreamed a scene or an image that later wound up in one of your books?

Diane: I’m usually thinking of my wip when I fall to sleep, so I do seem to dream about the characters and use these ideas in my writing. Bits of my dreams have wound up in my books. The funny thing is I’ve noticed I have some interesting dreams if I eat ice cream before I go to bed. Okay, I do have a weakness for Dutch chocolate almond or cherry cordial ice cream, but eating ice cream in the evening does inspire some great dreams for me. :)

Debra: Oh, I'll have to try that one night. I wonder what kind of dreams mint chocolate chip would lead to? :-)

As a child did any particular book or author pull you into their imaginary world?

Diane: As a child I read Nancy Drew books, so was thrilled when I saw my chick-lit mystery, A Fiery Secret, listed on the same page with Nancy Drew books on different online sites. I also remember loving Black Beauty and it definitely drew me into the whole world of cruel masters vs. the kind owners. The summer after 7th grade I was bored and read my sister’s copy of Gone With The Wind. It made a big impact on me and my desire to write.

Debra: Oh, that had to be extremely thrilling. Nancy Drew was one of my favorites too.

Is there anything else you would like to add about the role of imagination, and dreams in creating fiction? Any other message for our readers?

Diane: Please visit my website at
and my blog at I have excerpts of my three books published by Samhain. I also have book trailers, review quotes, recipes, website contests and monthly blog contests, and giveaways.

Debra, thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to tell about my books and writing. It was fun.

Debra: Thank you, Diane, for joining us here on this Make-believe Monday to share a little bit of the magic of writing with our readers. It's been a pleasure.

Debra's news/Debra is watching

I'm very excited this week because my book cover just went up on the Samhain website! Now I'll be able to post it on my website and blog, so stay tuned for it to appear here next week.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Make-Believe Mondays With Kelly McDonough

Today our guest on Make-Believe Mondays is Kelly McDonough.

Kelly, first, tell us a little bit about the manuscript you’re working on now.

Kelly: Well the working title is IT Girl. It’s about the owner and publisher of a wildly and worldly successful men’s magazine (not Playboy, think GQ). He happens to look at some photos his ace photographer shot for one of their clients in their amusement park. While looking at the photographs, he sees HER. He zeroes in on this incredibly beautiful woman in the background of the shot. It’s a totally candid shot and he’s amazed by her natural beauty and smile that would put Julia Roberts’ smile to shame. That’s when he decides he has to have her as his August IT Girl. It’s a feature the magazine runs every month. He hand selects each girl, but at the end of the year, the male readers get to pick the IT Girl of the Year. That girl gets to travel with him and his photographer from Paris to Hawaii. He takes out a full-page ad with the photo in America Today hoping for her to “turn herself in,” or a friend to do the same.

The heroine could care less though her interest is peaked. She’s too busy running Naughty & Nice Clothes for him and for clubbing – extremely successful among the famous models and actresses. And she’s engaged to an extremely wealthy developer that she doesn’t truly love. It’s her best friend who turns her in to what she considers an absolutely knock-out guy with a heart to match. Perfect for her best friend….I have to leave the rest to your imagination or I’ll give away the whole story! Let’s just say it’s a fun and sexy romp without being erotic. It’s an extremely sensual read that probes the characters deeply and has them living all sorts of lives that most people only dream of.

Debra: Love at first sight stories are among my favorites. I love this scene you've painted of him seeing her for the first time and just knowing she's the one.

Is there a point when your characters begin to come alive and you can see and hear them?

Kelly: Absolutely. The book I’m working right now is completely controlled by the characters – not me! I always say whatever I write, it’s just the angels beneath my fingertips. Most of the time, I don’t know where the characters are going to take me. But, in this book I’m working on now? I know exactly where I’m going. Just a little funny aside: While working on Love’s Magic Spell, that crazy, unconventional, wise-cracking fairy-godmother kept talking to me in my sleep and waking me up. Finally, I said to myself, I have to get this down on paper so she’ll leave me alone already! I’m very fortunate in that all of my stories came to me very easily. Writing each was fun not work.

Debra: And you know you're on the right path when work is fun. It's the most wonderful feeling.

As a child did any particular book or author pull you into their imaginary world?

Kelly: Oh, God, there were so many authors I loved in childhood including Dr. Seuss. But, I have to say it was Janet Daily that made me want to write romance. I was only eleven and even then knew what I wanted to do with part of my life. I say part because I knew there were too many other things out there to do. And I’ve done them all including raising a family.

Debra: I still love Dr. Seuss. LOL The utter playfulness in his work. Around the time my best friend and I were devouring the Nancy Drew books I dreamed of being a writer. But then I married straight out of high school and had babies right away. So I know exactly what you mean about there being so many other things to do.

Is there anything else you would like to add about the role of imagination, and dreams in creating fiction? Any other message for our readers?

Kelly: I’d just like my readers to know that I hope to take them away to a different world than their own so they can revel in the fantasies that actually could come true for some! Even if they only come true for them for a couple of hours… I’m a believer in happy endings. I’m also a realist and know the real world is tough which is why I’ve chosen to write happily-ever-afters.

You can check out my website at Feel free to leave me a note on my Vistor’s Page or enter my contests…I’m always running one! Thank you all for reading this and to Debra who has been most gracious enough to include me in her Make-Believe Mondays.

Debra: Thank you, Kelly. It has been a pleasure.

Debra's news/Debra is watching:

This week I'm making arrangements to attend the Heartland Writers Guild Writing Conference in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, June 7th, which also happens to fall on my birthday. So I'm doubly looking forward to that and to spending it with friends.

And I'm anxiously watching the Samhain Publishing website for my book cover to post because once it does, I'll be able to share it with you.

In the meantime it's back to work on the revisions of my second novel and getting those proposals ready.

One of the things I love about spring is all the colorful flowers. The plus side of all this rain we've been having is that everything will be lush and green and vivid with blooms. I have some beautiful pink roses on my kitchen table for Mothers Day and they are just starting to open. They smell so good.

Enjoy the beautiful spring day!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Make-Believe Mondays With Gail Barrett

Today on Make-Believe Mondays, my guest is Gail Barrett.

Gail, first, tell us a little bit about the manuscript you’re working on now.

Gail: I’m currently writing a miniseries for Silhouette Romantic Suspense. It’s called The Crusaders: Chasing legends, capturing hearts, and I am extremely excited about it. The series begins when a legendary, eleventh-century artifact shows up in a Spanish bank vault -- sparking murders and resurrecting rumors of an ancient curse. Each story takes place in a different country, and I’ve had a fabulous time doing the research -- I’ve gone to Spain and Peru so far.

Debra: Oh, yes, research in foreign places is one of my favorite things to do. How exciting!

Ray Bradbury said, “We are cups, constantly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.” How do you keep your creative cup filled?

Gail: It’s hard to pinpoint where my creative inspiration comes from, but I know I’m very influenced by setting. I love to study the interplay of light and color on leaves and trees, for example, or watch a flock of birds twisting and expanding in the sky. There are so many beautiful subtleties in our world, and I find it inspiring to really sit back and see what’s around me. I also love to listen to music. I do some of my best brainstorming while I’m driving in the car with the music on (I’m a Celtic music fanatic). Another thing I like to do is travel. Going to a foreign location can be uncomfortable, even grueling, but it yanks me out of my comfort zone, and forces me to grow and experience new things -- essential for creativity.

Debra: I couldn't agree more.

Is there a point when your characters begin to come alive and you can see and hear them?

Gail: Absolutely, but it’s not something I can plan or predict. It happens at different points in my work for different characters. For example, in the second book of my current miniseries (To Protect a Princess, October SRS), as soon as my hero began to talk -- out came a very sexy Texan drawl. That totally threw me because I had no idea how a Texan ended up in the mountains of Peru. I had to go back and figure that out. (It was hard, but no way was he losing that accent because it was exactly right for him.) In Heart of a Thief, the hero came alive as soon as he spotted the heroine, the woman who once betrayed him, across the room -- and man, was he was furious! As a writer, I’ve found that it’s vital to watch for those moments because they make all the difference in the book.

Debra: And what a magical moment it is, when they come alive.

Some very famous authors have played with language, creating words for people or places that no one has ever heard of. Have you ever played with words in that way and if so how?

Gail: I’ve never invented words, but sometimes when I’m writing, I’ll think of the perfect word in Spanish (I used to live in Spain and know the language). That’s particularly frustrating because I can’t insert Spanish in an English sentence, even if it’s exactly the word I need.

Debra: Yes, and so many times there is no word which in translation carries exactly the same meaning and connotation.

For some writers, dreams play a role in creating fiction. Has this been true for you? Have you ever dreamed a scene or an image that later wound up in one of your books?

Gail: That’s a great question. I’ve never actually dreamed a scene -- my dreams are always long and convoluted, usually involving me flying through the air or engaging in other bizarre acts. But I do have a lot of recurring dreams set in fascinating buildings that are just begging to show up in my books. One is a beautiful house on a cliff overlooking the ocean in San Diego. The view is amazing, the house has lovely, sun-filled porches and rooms -- but a dead body in the basement (very scary). Another is what seems to be an abandoned palace in Spain. The marble floors are cracking, the ancient pillars sinking, but every time I enter that place, I feel a huge excitement, an urgent need to discover what secrets it holds.

Debra: Thank you, Gail. I believe our dreams can point us in the right direction, if we listen to them. So I hope some day to be reading about this abandoned palace one day.

Is there anything else you would like to add about the role of imagination, and dreams in creating fiction? Any other message for our readers?

Gail: Yes. Allow yourself to daydream. Turn off the television and just let yourself think. I firmly believe that creativity occurs when we are forced to delve into ourselves for amusement. If we are too busy reacting to the world around us, we stifle our creativity. I cringe when I see children whose parents schedule every second of their days. I think it’s so important that kids be left alone to simply play. When my own boys were little we had a policy of no television during the week -- no computers, no Game Boys, nothing. The lack of stimulation forced them to read and play creatively, to invent characters and games. That’s where it all starts, I think. I was a huge daydreamer as a kid. I spent hours grinding glittering rocks into “fairy dust,” convincing my friends we were coyotes (and running all over the hills howling at the moon) -- and curling up with a good book when it rained, of course!

Debra: Yes, and we are surrounded by constant noise, which makes it harder to find that quiet time to think and daydream. Sometimes its nice when a storm knocks the power out because then the board games and books and candles come out.

Gail, thank you for visiting Make-Believe Mondays. It's been a pleasure.

Readers may visit Gail at

Debra's news/Debra is watching:

It was wonderful to attend the RT convention in Pittsburgh to meet up with old friends and make new ones. This is the event I look forward to all year and I haven't missed one since I first attended four years ago. I hope I never will. For all who were aware I'd hurt my foot that last day, it is almost mended and I'll be back to dancing at the end of this week. It's quite an adventure being wheeled through the airport in a wheelchair. Everything looks different from that vantage point.

One good thing about being off my feet for two weeks is that I was able to finish second round edits of my manuscript early and what a good feeling that is.

Now I have partials to prepare and send to the editors who requested them, and I'm back to the revisions of my second novel. It's rather interesting here, how my routine is working out. Our sons border collie has come to live with us and I have a new laptop, so I can now sit on the deck, throw the Frisbee, write a few lines and throw the Frisbee again. It's spring here in the Memphis area, everything lush and green and the birds singing.

Not a bad way to set up office, doing my dream job.
Spring is here! Enjoy the day!

And if you're rained in, my photos are posted of the RT convention on my MySpace page.