Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Leidich, Terri Ann_Thumbnail.jpg We all like to get “up close and personal” with our favorite writers and authors by finding out more about them and why they do what they do. This blog is a part of a virtual blog tour that is giving us the opportunity to do just that with people we know, and introducing us to people we might want to know.

I was invited to participate in this tour by Sarah Beth Jones, a dynamic, fun, creative business coach and blogger that I met at the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference in 2013 and then reconnected with again at the same conference in 2014. Sarah Beth and I delight in the fact that we are extremely different, yet delightfully compatible. We learn differently, approach the world from divergent perspectives, yet when our minds and approaches of life are put together on a project, a many dimensional, informative product emerges. 

Sarah Beth Sarah Beth has a casual, laid-back approach to life that truly comes out in her writing. Check out what she had to say in her contribution to this tour here.

As I mentioned, my part of this blog tour is to give readers a chance to get “up close and personal” with me, discovering things about who I am as a writer and author. And, the vehicle to deliver this sneak peek is a list of standard questions. So, here we go. 

1. What Am I working on?

As with many new writers who have not yet “made it” to the degree that they can devote their entire life to writing, I have a day job that keeps me extremely busy. Along with that, my debut novel Family Inheritance releases on October 1st so I’m learning how to go from being a writer, where all we think about is creating stuff, to being an author where we also have to put energies into promoting the stuff we create. So a huge part of my time is now being taken up with that.

But, writers are always working on something, and I am working on my second novel. I had written the basics of the novel in 1995 and had then shoved it into a file cabinet for some future time. Well, that future time is here. I’m not yet ready to reveal the title or a synopsis of the book, but hope to have something to my publisher by the end of the year. I feel a bit of pressure to get it done because of the wonderful comments some reviewers of my debut novel have made about “looking forward to reading more from this author.” Great words to hear, but if I don’t apply the discipline that writers need, I’ll be a “one novel” author. So, a little pressure can be a good thing when it comes to writers.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’ve been told that I write emotions well, pulling readers into what my characters are feeling. My books are often described as “requiring a tissue box before opening.” I blame that on the stories I choose to tell and my characters, who get a hold of me and then just “take off,” pulling me into their experiences. I often teasingly ask the question – “Am I a fiction writer or am I a schizophrenic?” Luckily, the voices only appear when I’m lost in the middle of creating a fiction story or novel. Whew!

3. Why do I write what I do?

I’m all about relationships, life experiences, and overcoming the obstacles that we all have thrown in our paths by this curious journey called life. The ideas for my fiction come from the stories of people I know, people I read about, or general trends or problems in our world. I like to read stories about strong, determined, unbeatable people that, while they may be battered by life or the experiences that are either thrown in their direction or brought about by their own choices, still beat the odds and figure out a solution, figure out a away to overcome or move forward. And those are the kinds of stories I like to write. 

4. How does my writing process work? 

 Ideas for stories come to me at various times and in various places. I write them down and keep a file of ideas that have been jotted in a notebook, on a napkin, on a grocery store receipt. Then, when I’ve finished a project, I dig into the file and the idea that grabs me at that time is the one I go with. I begin with an outline and an idea of who my main characters are, but after that, my first time through a story is what I call a “creative dump.” I just let the story flow and let the characters take over filling in the blanks. Once the first draft is done, that’s when I get busy with making sure the story has an arc, the characters are fully developed, and I’m “showing” readers, not “telling” them. Part 2 usually takes the most time. After that, I go back in and edit and hone to the best of my ability. Then it’s time for a professional editor to help me, guide me, show me where the flaws of my story are and what I know about the characters and story but am not relating to my readers. Creating a finished book takes a village, and I’m lucky to have a wonderful village of talented people who help me and teach me a lot along the way. 

Writing isn’t really a choice for me. It’s a part of who I am. The choice is in when I’ll do it and what I’ll do with it once I’m done. 

Thanks for reading to this point and being interested in who I am and why I do what I do. Now, I want to introduce you to three amazing authors who will be following me with their own stories. Check out their websites and follow their blogs so you’ll be sure not to miss what they have to say. 

 John Daly, author of From a Dead Sleep, Book 1 in the Sean Coleman Thriller series. (Book 2 is done and soon to be in the hands of John’s Publisher.)  Here’s a bit more about John. 

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 A lifelong Coloradoan, along with his wife and two children, John Daly graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with a degree in business administration and computer information systems. With a thirst for creative expression that went beyond the logic and absolutes of computer programming, John developed an interest in writing. His first novel, “From a Dead Sleep,” was released last year, and he’s currently working on the second book in the series. He writes political, cultural, and media analysis columns for BernardGoldberg.com and weekly parenting columns for GreeleyTribune.com. Check out his author website

Tamika Christy is the author of Anytime Soon, a coming of age, new adult novel that was published last year and this year won a Finalist Award in the African American Fiction category of the Indie Next Generation Awards.  

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A Bay area native, Tamika began writing at an early age, prompted by the gift of a journal one Christmas. With pen in hand, she continued writing throughout college where she realized her talent for creating intriguing plots and multidimensional characters. Tamika continued to nurture her love for writing while attending law school, where she gave birth to her first novel, Anytime Soon. Tamika describes her writing as urban prose — funny, warm, soulful with blunt dialogue and familiar realism. Learn more about Tamika on her author website.

Ameera Unveiled, the first novel by author Kathleen Varn, received an Honorable Mention in the 2014 Beach Book Festival in the general fiction category this summer. 


Kathleen Varn’s love affair with words manifested when she turned four and taught herself to read. As she grew older, books and reading were an escape from responsibility. Eventually, Kathleen dove into journaling, which helped her find solace when life through lemons. Throughout her journey to pursue personal growth as she raised her children and juggled a career. She explored the idea of freedom through allegorical short stories. Kathleen is now very happily married to her soulmate. She resides in Charleston, South Carolina, where she worked for an adoption attorney for twenty-three years. With her two children settled in adulthood, she is exploring a beautiful world, from scuba diving in Fiji or photographing in Alaska’s frozen tundra. Check out her author website


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Family Inheritance Cover Art Smaller FamilyYesterday I received my first negative review on my debut novel, Family Inheritance, that will release in October. I’m okay with the fact that somebody didn’t like the book because I don’t like every book I read. What I’m concerned about is the message in her review. Here’s part of the review:

Coming from a mental health career, the idea that these characters resolved major trauma so easily is insulting. No one opens up that easily or quickly and especially three women who haven’t seen each other in over 20 years. The dialogue was ‘cheesy’ and very predictable.

I agree, no one resolves major trauma ‘so easily’ but these women had been dealing with their individual trauma for those 20 years, and had each reached a crisis point. We’ve all gone through traumas in our lives, some of them very major, and those of us who have survived and thrived understand that there is a moment when everything changes — when our thought processes change because of something we read or something someone said, or people come into our life who help us understand that we are better than our circumstances. When those things come together, resolving past experiences and trauma can be that ‘easy’ to use the reviewer’s word.

I don’t often share private stories in public venues, but I will share one here to help make my point. I was married for the first time when I was just over 18 years old. I knew him for two years and he seemed kind and loving. But . . . two weeks after we were married, I had the audacity to talk to him while he was watching a football game and he proceeded to beat me and leave me curled up in a ball, sobbing on our bed. That was the first beating I endured, but it was far from the last. And all the while, I kept thinking it was my fault . .  . that I was saying or doing something that made him mad enough to beat me.

I stayed in that marriage for 14 years. My parents were both alcoholics so the culture I had grown up in taught me to not talk, to keep everything private, and put on a good front. And that’s what I did. No one had a clue as to what I was enduring at home, not even my parents or my own siblings. If I had a black eye, I covered it with makeup or blamed it on being clumsy. If my legs and arms were covered with bruises, I wore pants and long-sleeved blouses. I learned to cope because at that point, it’s all I knew how to do.

Then, during a coffee break at work one day, a co-worker was reading a book that caught my interest. When she finished reading it, she loaned it to me. It was Your Erroneous Zones by Dr. Wayne Dyer. His words began to open up new ways of thought, and the co-worker and I started sharing personal experiences. In that safe environment, at that time, it was ‘easy’ to open up and it happened quickly with this person because I was ready. My private hell had gotten to be too much to bear alone.

My thoughts began to shift. Then, more caring people started coming into my life telling me ‘cheesy’ things like: I was important, they cared about me, I made a difference in the world. My mindset started to change and with that new mindset came new ways of behaving and new choices. While life still had its challenges, things were ‘easy’ compared to what I had previously endured. I left the marriage, started caring about myself, surrounding myself with positive people, and making choices that created a good, safe life.

I rebel against people who want to continue the victim mindset that says things can’t feel easy and that solutions to our issues can’t be simplistic. Why can’t they be? There is a saying I use quite often in my life, “To change your life, change your mind.” I’m not sure where it originally came from, but it is one of the most powerful sayings I’ve every heard. It doesn’t mean you won’t be tempted to slide back to what you knew. What it means is that you now know a different way of being and you get to choose each day which way you’ll go.

Don’t let anybody or anything tell you that recovering from a past experience or trauma can’t get to a point where it feels easy and simplistic. That’s your choice. As for me and my life, bring on the ‘easy’ and the ‘cheesy’.

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I feel like I need a drum roll, or a curtain being raised as I wait in excitement and anticipation to see what the audience will think. After all, the cover for my debut novel which will release in October, is a big deal to me.

It always amazes me how things can be happening all around us, all the time, and we don’t notice any significance until we step into those shoes. I’ve been surrounded by book covers ever since I was a young child and began to love and be fascinated by books; and I still have that fascination to this day. But, until I started working with my publisher on my own book cover, I had no idea of the love,  patience, creativity, thought, and work that goes into creating a good cover for a book. Nor did I really understand the extreme importance of a strong cover that will draw the audience to the book and then to open the pages and want to take the book (or eBook) home.

When we first started creating a book cover for Family Inheritance, I had an idea and concept in mind. Yet, as the publishing team and I worked together, new concepts started to emerge, and the characters from the book began to make themselves known in regards to the cover. (I know . . . for those of you who are not fiction writers, I’m beginning to sound a bit nutty.) Then one day, it just fit. The book, the cover, and the characters all seemed to belong together in one solid unit. Now, I can’t imagine the cover being any different than it is.

So, this phase is done. The book is in its finishing stages of being polished and honed, my marketing plan is coming together, and stage fright is starting to set in. Ahhhhh, the joys of being of author. But, I’m loving every moment of it.

Imagine a drum roll as the curtain slowly opens. Ladies and Gentlemen, I’d like to present . . .

Family Inheritance Cover Art Smaller Family

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That’s a question I’ve started to ask myself on a pretty regular basis as my book goes through the processes of getting ready for the marketplace. There are millions of people who dream of becoming successful authors, and a good portion of them don’t sell more than a few hundred or a few thousand books, no matter how they’re published. Why? What makes the difference? And am I ready to do what it takes?

While it’s a good dream to think that my book will be published, get into the marketplace, and be a best seller without any effort from me, it’s far from reality, especially in today’s world when hundreds of thousands of books are entering the marketplace every year. As I began putting together my marketing plan, there were many pieces that I just wanted to skip over: contacting book stores is scary, networking is not my forte, websites are not my area of expertise, social media feels like a foreign language to me. I like writing and speaking . . . can’t I just do those things and forget about the rest?

It sounded like a good plan for about three seconds until I realized that it would be like planning to bake a cake and only wanting to beat the eggs and sugar together because I didn’t want to sift the flour, measure out the rest of the ingredients, or put the cake into the pan to bake. I might have a good time beating the eggs and sugar and they might look really good when I was done, but just that step and those two ingredients wouldn’t turn into the cake I wanted.

Sure, I can sit back and expect my publisher to make me a success. But then I look at authors like Nicholas Sparks and Anne Rice who have great websites, a constant presence on social media, do newsletters, make appearances, attend book signings, and all of the various things that an author needs to do to be successful. I’m sure these successful authors have people to help them, but they didn’t start out that way. I remember hearing a story that John Grisham sold his first 1,000 books out of the trunk of his car. Am I willing to do that and all of the other things that these well known authors have done and continue to do? How big is my dream and how much of myself am I willing to put into creating that dream?

“Creating the dream” is exactly what we are called to do if we want to become successful authors. Someone else can’t create that dream for us, no matter how much we want them to or how much pressure we might put on them to “make it happen.” So, I continue to ask myself “How serious are you about becoming a successful author?” And, the answer differs a bit from day to day because I’m human and life can emotionally and mentally punch me around a bit, but my overall intention is clear: to be a good writer and do everything within my power to create my dream and become a success.

Exactly what “success” will look like for me is yet to unfold. Not every author makes it to the New York Times Best Seller List and not every author makes millions on their books, even though I’d be happy to be a part of those numbers. Yet many authors touch lives, change hearts, and bring smiles to readers all over the world. That kind of success is definitely something I am willing to work for.

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Is fiction really fiction or is every fiction story based on an experience the author has had? I guess it’s different for every author, but for me, my really great fiction comes from “that space beyond the mind” where the story takes shape and the characters take over. My novel, Family Inheritance, that will be released in October of 2014 is about three women who endure a tough childhood, think they’ve escaped from it, only to find that their childhood experiences are tainting their present lives. The characters grew inside of my imagination yet they grew up in Minnesota on a farm, and so did I. One character now lives in Georgia and one in Texas, and I’ve lived in both places. One character has an obsession with chocolate, and I must admit that I love my chocolate. Yet each character that develops within my stories is unique, flawed, and taking their own journey through their fictional life.

As a writer, I watch people, observe situations, think about things (probably way too much), and then put all of that information into my imagination and let it take me where it will. Not all stories that come from my imagination are worth publishing, or even sharing with others, but the experience for me is always enjoyable.

I’m sure you’ve heard fiction authors say that sometimes the characters will take off and go in their own direction, surprising the writer, and that is often my experience, and one I absolutely love. When I’m in my creative space, the stories flow from my imagination onto the paper, not necessarily stopping in my mind to be analyzed. It is later, after what I call a “creative dump” that the analyzing, editing, and rewriting takes place to help shape the story into one that is worth sending in to a publisher for their consideration.

For me, writing fiction is much like being a potter. Potters start with clay, and each potter forms something different by using their imagination and their experiences to influence the end result. As fiction writers, we begin with words and each piece of fiction is crafted and influenced by our own imagination and our experiences.

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