Wednesday, August 13, 2014

All About Choices - Interview With Beth Carpenter

This world is full of talented, fascinating people.  People who can take their abilities and their experience and make something of it that gives joy and value to others.  Some of them write, reaching back and touching their own experiences and bringing to the stories their own wisdom and interpretation.  Today I am featuring Beth Carpenter and two books in her Choices  series, Recalculating Route and Detour on Route 66, a short story that serves as a sort of 'prequel' to the stories of the two main characters.

The covers are crisp, evocative of the golden age of travel.  Mountains, distant rolling hills, the sort of vibrant blue skies we remember from our childhood, and an association that, for me, at least, has a touch of magic: Route 66.  They follow the stories of Marsha and Ben, who...  

But let me post the Publisher's Weekly review, which gives a wonderful summation that I can't hope to match:

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *  I

Widow and former home economics teacher Marsha Davison is still trying to recover from the death of her husband, Eric, 19 months earlier when she meets Ben Mayfield, a wealthy retired geologist who invites her on a road trip along old Route 66. The ex-husband of a dear friend, Ben's courtly manner and sense of adventure intrigue Marsha. Although initially she declines, Marsha decides to throw caution to the wind and she and her dog, Lindy, go along for the ride. After a nearly three-month jaunt on the road, Marsha returns to her home in Sedona, Arizona, and Ben to his in Texas, planning another roadtrip -- an East Coast one this time -- for the fall. But soon after returning to their respective homes, Marsha and Ben soon realize that their relationship is far from being a simple friendship, it's turned to love, and then quickly they decided to marry. It isn't all smooth sailing because both have grown children who object to the relationship for various reasons, and they live hundreds of miles away from each other. But can these obstacles stand in the way of true love? The author writes movingly of the mixed emotions that come after mourning a beloved spouse and then dating again in this sweet romance that targets a less-than common demographic: those in the later stages of life, who refuse to give up on love. A sweet treat.
Publisher's Weekly is an independent organization. Review was based on manuscript version, which combines Detour on Route 66 and Recalculating Route.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
Beth Carpenter was kind enough to share an excerpt:

This scene takes place on the second anniversary of Eric’s death. Earlier, Marsha’s son sent flowers and she thought of how many yellow flowers Eric had given her over the years.

Marsha leaned forward to pick up the silver frame holding their wedding photo. Eric managed to look outrageously handsome even in the silly white rented tuxedo she had chosen. What was she thinking? She smiled broadly in the picture, her poufy veil framing her hair, arranged in shiny wings on either side of her forehead. They looked much too young to be making solemn promises. They had kept their vows, though, their devotion growing throughout their marriage. Good times and bad, they had stayed together and loved one another.
“Hello, my love.” She reached to touch his face in the picture. “We had a good time, didn’t we? We promised ourselves to one another until death do us part.” She sighed. “And even then, I didn’t want to let go. But Eric, I think it’s time.”
She reached for a tissue from the coffee table and dabbed her eyes. “I love him, Eric. Not the same as I love you, but a different love, just as special. I wish you could meet him. You’d like each other. I can picture the two of you, sitting under the trees in the back yard with a beer in your hand, swapping stories.”
She laughed. “Ben would love your story about Nicky Flynn, trying to get out of a spelling test by putting an Alka Selzer in his mouth to convince the teacher he was having a seizure. I remember you had to send him out of your office to wait because you could hardly keep from laughing out loud when you tried to discipline him. I’ll try to tell Ben that story, but you tell it better.”
She traced the curving lines in the picture frame. “I’ll always love you, Eric.”
Her face began to grow hot. She sighed, set down the picture, and walked out on the back porch to let the breeze soothe the heat from her skin as the hot flash continued. Lindy followed her out. The climbing rose Eric had planted grew lushly over the trellis at the western edge of the porch, blocking the sun while letting the breeze through, making the porch a shady oasis. Every year, just before Mother’s Day, it covered itself with clusters of apricot buds that opened into extravagant sprays of pale golden roses.
She noticed something yellow on the trellis, and frowned. Once, spider mites had almost decimated the rose, leaving the leaves pale and spotted, but Eric had managed to save it. She went closer to examine the problem.
A single yellow rose blossomed bravely. It shouldn’t have been there, not in September. This rose always bloomed in May, and only in May. Yet there it was: a yellow flower. Each tissue-thin petal was a work of art, deep yellow at the base, shading to a paler tint and almost white along the curving tip, the innermost petals hugging the shaggy stamens at the center of the blossom.
She bent to inhale the lemony-sweet fragrance of this miracle, her hot flash forgotten. A single tear fell onto the leaves of the rose, but this time it was a tear of gratitude, that she should experience so much love in a lifetime.

What started you writing? 
I grew up on a farm with no nearby playmates, so I’ve been an avid reader since before I can remember. I’ve enjoyed thousands of books in my lifetime. About ten years ago, I decided to give the supply side of books a try. 

What do you enjoy most about writing? 
I like getting to know the characters, to get involved in their lives.

Would you like to share some things you do that get you going, (note: I mean tips, tricks, ways you might get in the mood, things you like to do – I read of one fellow who danced madly around his apartment when he was at a loss for a word.) 
I find that a bath or shower seems to let my brain float so it’s open to new scenes and dialogue. Maybe it’s because the tub one of the last places I can be alone with no outside conversation or stimulation.

What are your books about?  You can give a synopsis if you really want, or you can tell what it is inside you that is finding expression through the book(s). 
Detour on Route 66 and Recalculating Route are about Marsha, a widow, and Ben, a wealthy retired geologist with a poor matrimonial track record. He invites her along on a road trip strictly for companionship, but it grows into love. Then they have to convince themselves and their grown children that, in spite of their differences, they belong together. All the books in the series feature older than typical protagonists. There’s no upper age limit on romance.

Do you ever dream about your characters? 
The very first short story in the series, At The Turning Point, started that way. I woke up from a dream that was so vivid I couldn’t understand why the window was in the wrong place. It started me thinking about the classic Vegas comedy of waking up in a stranger’s hotel room. I thought “What if a respectable middle-aged woman like me found herself in that position?”

Do you have a routine? 
I try to grab pieces of writing time when I can get them. I need to establish a routine, but son, husband, and dog have this inexplicable desire to converse (or play fetch) with me, so when they’re occupied, I’ll run in and write. 

If you could do anything you wanted to for a year, without having to worry about making a living, what would it be? 
Read, write, and never worry about housework.

Quick:  Chocolate or peanut butter? 
Both. Reese’s peanut butter cups - yum. But dark chocolate if I have to choose.

What is behind your covers?  (I like them!) 
Thanks. The covers for Detour on Route 66 and Recalculating Route are from a stock image. I thought they felt like the area around Flagstaff on Route 66.
Beth Carpenter, Author
(From Diana: What caught my eye is the way they reminded me of the old travel posters pre-WII.  It helps that I used to live near the Rockies...)

What's in the works for the future? 
I just finished a romance/mystery called After the Fireweed that takes place in Alaska. I’m querying agents, but if that doesn’t yield results, I’ll self-publish and probably enter it into ABNA next year.

Finally, you have the microphone.  What would you like to say?   
Thank you. Thanks to you, Diana, for this interview and to all the readers out there who’ve spent their hard-earned money on my books. Whenever a reviewer says she enjoyed the story, I’m thrilled. Sharing my stories is what it’s all about.

Check these links (click the WORDS)  for Beth Carpenter's books and blog:

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Celebrating Mom and the beautiful lake


Today is the Celebrations blot hop by VikLit .  Come join us: the information is below.  Join us!

Today I am celebrating a visit to my 87 year old mother in 'Upstate' for which read 'northwestern' New York state.

The location is Keuka Lake, one of the glacier-born Finger Lakes of new York, famous for wines.

It is a stunning spot, as this photo shows, bordered by vineyards.

Keuka Lake, with a view of The Bluff, New York

Mom is handling her second year of widowhood with her usual courage and aplomb.  Dad probably found her a charming handful  She always loved him (exasperatedly) but recently she has said, "You know, Diana - he made sure I was provided for."

That he did.

So I'm heading to Penn Yan NY (so-named because it was settled by Pennsylvanians and Yankees, and the name was a whole lot better than its original, which was 'Hellzapoppin'.

What are you celebrating?

I hope yours is good!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

IWSG August 6, 2014 - Write! #IWSG

First Wednesdays come very quickly, far faster than other days.  It is now time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group post. This is the once-a-month blog hop started by Alec Cavanaugh . IWSG = Insecure Writers' Support Group .  We share our insecurities and support each other with empathy, sympathy and  practical suggestions. 

I was speaking recently with someone who is disheartened.  He is experienced, and while he is only recently published, he has written for years, and through the years has honed his craft.  He tells good stories.

But there are others that he sees, those who put out products that – to him, at least – do not have a whole lot of merit.  They crow of their successes, they flaunt what he thinks are fabulous sales numbers, while he has nothing to boast of.  He just does not fit in.

I replied that some of the great writers did not fit in.  They did what felt best to them and never lost sight of who and what they were, and the source of their joy.  He is a writer: he should write and follow his own path (taking advantage of the aid offered, of course.)

I sometimes break into (pretty bad) poetry, and for this post I decided to offer this bit of doggerel, which expresses my musings on my friend's questions:

What am I?  (With a nod to Jean Valjean and a bow to Shakespeare)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Alas, that I should take this wearying path
That windeth through such perilous wilderness,
And with this throng;

'Tis certain that my steps herein shall lag
Through many deserts without hope of aid
with choices wrong –

To follow my own heart, or heed the cries
Of those who claim to know the secret pass
That leadeth to the land of fame and wealth –
'Tis sure they lie and knoweth not their way –
...Or do they?

I fear that perils loom on ev'ry side,
My own heart tells me that they menace me
With thoughts of quick success, such as might wreck my gift -
And leave me with no hope.

So then, I think: what am I to do?

The urge within me says to simply write,
To let the words flow from me to be read;
To glory in the spate of thought and act
Capturing the joy of times long past
When telling tales held me in joyous thrall –
But is it right—?

But is it right?

The question still remains, and so I ponder it.
As I have pondered through all the passing years;
Who am I?

…And the answer comes:

What have you sought to be through years of waiting?
The glad times you sought words and let them dance,
The tales you spun,
The way your heart had sung
And you knew the path was true.
And all else to the side.

Tell your stories.
I have been rediscovering my gift, and the joy that using it gave me.  I think we lose sight of it, of the reason we are writers.

In A Chorus Line, Cassie, who had done some solo work, exclaims, "God!  I'm a Dancer!  A Dancer dances!"

We're writers.  All else is to the side.  Without the writing we are nothing.

…So let's write!

Check out the hop.  There are some fabulous posts to savor:

Friday, August 1, 2014

August 1 Celebrations

Today is the Celebrations blot hop by VikLit .  Come join us: the information is below.  Join us!

Today I am celebrating:

1.  The delicious continuation of a break in hot weather.  So lovely to be able to wake up with a quilt over me and a cat at my feet.

Cup with Agapanthus
2.  drinking my morning tea out of a cup decorated with agapanthus, which I call 'aspidistra' because 'aspidistra' has an almost Dr. Seuss-like sound.

Little Miss Mess with Photobomb

3.  A road trip to a cat show with Little Miss Mess (so-called because she takes no nonsense from the two big boys in the household) is scheduled for this weekend.  Probably her last since while she does love going into the public and flirting with children and passers-by and going up on judging tables and blowing kisses to the crowd, she is now ten years old and perceptibly slowing down, though she still whacks the males in the household on the backside.

4.  The weekend.

What are you celebrating?

I hope yours is good!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

'A Killer Serial' - Guest Post by Hart Johnson

I am delighted to host a guest post by Hart Johnson, familiar to bloggers from her delicious (and quite informative) blog:

Hart had the idea to write a serial. She speaks of this in her post, so I will not steal her thunder. I will, however, give a thought or two of my own on serials. In past centuries, many writers were published in serial form. Dickens, specifically, wrote in a format that lent itself for serialization. Typically, a family would subscribe to a publication and that publication would feature an ongoing story. Each issue would contain an installment, which would be read, exclaimed over, discussed at great length. The younger members would be on the lookout for the next installment. When the process was through, the book would be published in its complete, monumental form.

That practice fell out of use nearly a century ago. We are now seeing it again. Hart's is the first I've seen among writers I know, but there are others.

So... What does a serial have to offer over a 'brick', as we call non-serialized publications. I have my own thoughts on that issue, and they surprised me. I have The Pickwick Papers in serialized form, and it was impressed upon me when I read it that way that I was being drawn more thoroughly into the story. My enjoyment was deeper. If Mr. Pickwick at the end of the most recent installment was on a coach about to head to Dingley Dell for Christmas, I had a month or so to reflect on what he had been doing, what he was about to do, my thoughts on the character of the residents and visitors at Dingley Dell. Would Alfred Jingle (the cad!) be up to his caddish tricks? Would he charm, say, the maiden aunt? My thoughts would deepen my enjoyment, something that doesn't happen in these days of novels you plow through.

Is it working? I will say that my reading of the installments has made me ponder what will happen next, frown over what seems to be about to happen, and argue with others over what will happen.  It's a little more leisurely and (I won't hide the fact) annoying to some people.  But I think the format is back to stay.  I think it's a good thing. - Diana

...And now Hart, in her own words.

Serial Madness

First, I really want to thank Diana for hosting me! I'm happy to be here!  (It's good to have you, Hart...)

To give you just a bit of background so you know where I'm coming from:

For the last ten months I've been serially releasing a very long book—there have thus far been 11 parts (of 12) and they are about 100 pages each. I'm here to share my thoughts on the good, the bad, and what I would have done differently in relation to serial publication. 

Moth to Flame 
First:  why I was so DRAWN to this idea... I have always had a love for door-stopping stories (physical door-stoppers, I mean—the 1000+ pagers). When I began trying to publish the hardest thing I had to do was learn how to rein in a long, complicated tale. Then, almost two years ago I had a friend announce she was serially releasing a story and I fell in love with the idea... Heck, follow in the footsteps of Dickens and Dumas? I could tell the stories I wanted to tell—the LONG complicated ones! I had a nearly finished book that I was frustrated with because it needed more, but at 600 pages, it needed LESS, if you know what I mean, so I decided to take on the rewrite, not to TRIM it, but to fill it in—give it more points of view so the stuff I was having trouble getting across because of the PoV limitation could be told and a good ending would no longer seem out of the blue.

Man, talk about a project to keep a person on their writing pace. I have written SO MANY words in the last year. (the 120K thing I HAD became a 330K thing, and that doesn't even account for old version stuff I had to lose)

I have learned SO MUCH! It was trial by fire and I had to just get in there and do it. One of the BIGGEST things, and I think this is why I managed to be an Amazon semi-finalist with Parts 1-4, is having not just one climax, but regular mini-climaxes so each section was satisfying and the tension always remained high.

I think it worked to get a great story out there that was as long as I wanted it to be. 

The BAD 
I REALLY strained my first and second readers—it is too much to ask people to read 100 pages EVERY MONTH (which was the gap I ended up with between episodes after the first couple)

Readers, apparently, don't TRUST serials. I didn't know this because I thought it sounded so awesome, but I've heard this several times now—they will wait for it to be done. And no matter HOW up front you are that you are serially releasing, they grumble about SHORT or about 'is this all'?

I am REALLY worn out. The monthly marketing effort is GINORMOUS and I think I had either too long or short between to be really effective. If it was shorter, I could build momentum, if it was longer, I could rest up between. One month is the WRONG distance.

The REVIEWS are all on the individual episodes, but once they are bundled, the BUNDLES are what I have been focusing on selling because it is easier to talk about.... yet there they sit, reviewless...
What I would Do DIFFERENTLY 
The VERY most important is I would finish the full first draft AND get first and second reader feedback before I started the polish to publish cycle. I had a few life stress cycles that really stopped up the original writing end of things—I think 6 weeks is the longest between episodes, but I think 2 weeks may in fact be ideal. I REALLY should only have had copyediting left to do.

If I do it again, I will either try to go through Amazon's formal serial arm (they require a finished product before they take you, then they sell subscriptions) or I may just say, “Hey, let's make it a trilogy” (that is the version I am working with on my current book—three books with three acts each, to be published as a trilogy)

I would have self-published a standalone before committing to a serial. I've traditionally published, but the publisher does all the technical stuff, so part of my learning curve was THAT. I really should have mastered all that before I started shouting and creating expectations. And then I had to repeat it regularly, but there wasn't enough time between to master OTHER formats (Nook, iTunes)--I really felt like I scrambled a bit. (read:  a lot) 
Volumes 1 - 4
Volumes 5 - 8

I am happy with the outcome though. The LAST ONE comes out next week. If you are curious, the bundled first four are still just 99 cents—once all of them are out, I will figure out a pricing strategy. Volumes 5-8 are also bundled, and sometime in August I will bundle the last.

You can find the first bundle, parts 1 - 4 here, and the second, 5 - 8, here
...and here are the covers so far:

Hart Johnson is a social scientist by day and plots murder in her bathtub at night. If you want to learn more about her, you can find her at Confessions of a Watery Tart: 

Monday, July 28, 2014

#MyWritingProcess Blog Hop

Today I am participating in the #My Writing Process Blog Hop.  This  is an ongoing blog hop where authors discuss what we do and how.  We take four simple questions about our process, and we pass the word to two other authors.  Sarah Winter invited me.  You can read her excellent blog at                              . 

Her book, Snowbound, is out and available.  Another, I am glad to say, is in the works.

And now for the questions:


1. What am I working on?

At the moment I am working on three separate novels.  The first, The Orphan's Tale, Book II, is a continuation of the First volume in its trilogy, The Orphan's Tale, Book I.  The series is set in 1834 Paris, with a main character who grew up in a prison and walked away from the life of a ruler of the criminal world to join the Police of France.  The stories involve romance, action and, always, a mystery.


I am also working on a story set in ancient Egypt, part of a series called The Memphis Cycle.  The Cycle follows a family over the course of a century.  Mystery, romance, revenge, intrigue all make for a wonderful subject, and writing these stories had been enjoyable.  Currently, I am working on Kadesh, which tells the story of a famous battle, a clash between two of that age's super powers,  which led to the first international treaty.  The novel follows a main character who had been three years old in the prior story.


I am also picking away at a fable for children, which I have named The Thirty Cubit Crocodile.  A poor fisherman encounters a huge crocodile, which follows him home.  A cubit being 18", this beast is huge.  …And he isn't quite like other crocs.  Why do the children love him?  Why does he take a dim view of tax collectors?  And why does he follow the fisherman around like a dog and catch fish for him?  The mystery has been a fun one, and I love writing about children. 
You can see more about them at my website,


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


I notice that people tend to like to pigeonhole things.  Life is easier when you can put things in categories and know what you will be dealing with.  The genre of 'historical fiction, however, is one of those chameleon-like things.  Basically, it is a story set in the past.  You can have Historical Horror, Historical Romance, Historical Mystery, Historical Hardboiled Detectives (The Marcus Falco series, for example).  That gives a great deal of leeway to a writer.  My stories differ, to the degree that they do, because while my stories occur in historical times, they tell of people like any of us, with the concerns of people through time – the need for love, for shelter, for success and admiration.  I try to convey this reality in my stories.  One of them, Mourningtide, deals with a man, a soldier who became a great  king, who has lost his son unexpectedly and received the news late.  The story follows him as he comes to terms with his grief in anonymity.  It also tells of his second son and the heartaches and challenges he must face and deal with.  Can I tell that story in such a way that the common humanity of the characters is expressed even as the fascinating setting  serves to enhance the story?


3. Why do I write what I do?


I write what I do because I am a people-watcher, in the present and in the past.  There are so many stories to be discovered and shared, born of our common humanity, touching us in ways that are familiar.  We have brothers and sisters in history, people who felt our fears and shared our joys.  It brings a wonderful feeling of sharing and unity, and to convey that is both a joy and a challenge.


4. How does my writing process work?


I get a picture in my mind.  People in a situation.  Something I read, something I observed.  I jot it down, think about it, and as ideas come to me in the course of my daily work, I jot them down.  Sometimes they come to me in a torrent, and capturing them is crucial.  I carry notebooks with me, grab envelopes – anything. to remember the thoughts, insights, scenes.   I caught myself once  walking down a main street in a large city mulling over the best way for a villain to get his comeuppance.  I began to giggle when I thought how surprised people might be if they could read my mind.


As others have said, getting the thoughts down is crucial, however disjointed they may be.  Editing, polishing, thinking things through – all follow from that initial notion.  Which is most important?  I can't say, but I have to do something every day.


And now I refer you to…


Well…  I am supposed to pass on the baton to two other writers, but at the last moment they did not materialize.  I suspect I did not beg hard enough.  And so I am going to list the blogs of some wonderful writers (and great people) who can show in their works what they do.


Nancy LaRonda Johnson is a well-rounded person and excellent writer who deals with Christian Horror, among other things.  She is a delightful presence in the blogosphere, multi-talented and articulate:


Cathy Oliffe-Webster has written flash fiction and a novel.  Both reflect her sense of humor, her observations and a humorous outlook on life, even when it is hard: 


C. Lee McKenzie at is one of those observant, humorous people who touch difficult issues with a deft hand, and makes the reading enjoyable.


M. J. Fifield at has published Effigy, her first novel (check out its blog hop). 


The other participant on this blog is Jerrie Brock, author of Something Taken and Something Returned. Jerrie never finds life dull. Working, writing, landscaping, creating model railroads, building projects on her large lot, reading, and restoring old equipment keep her well occupied. Using her less than normal path through life, Jerrie draws on her own experiences to create her stories.

You can see more at


Friday, July 25, 2014

Celebrations, July 25, 2014 - Reading

Welcome to VikLit 's blog hop, celebrating the things we tend to overlook, that make our lives richer.

The information on the hop is below.  Why don't you join us? 

Today I am celebrating catching up.  The past four weeks have been too crowded to accomplish many of the things I had wanted to do, including keeping up with my blogging friends and holding up my end of a promise. 

So I am celebrating sitting back and reading.  And commenting.

It should be most enjoyable.