Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


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Behind the scenes with . . .

better-meme Me! (Yikes!) As you can see, I’m not good at taking selfies. 😀 Here’s a tiny corner of my office. I especially like the thingy with all the drawers, because a dear friend gave it to me not too long before her death. deskish But I don’t write in my office anymore. Most of the time I write in my recliner in the family room. When I look up, I see this picture. viewI won this picture and I love it, because it reminds me of my Small Town World. (Funny how that works.) When I got my new hip, I wrote here– writers-couchand if you can see above the couch, those are my kiddos looking on. My first desk that I claimed all for myself was this one– 2nd-deskIf you think it looks like an old vanity table that’s lost it’s mirror, you’re right. Back then it didn’t have the game boards or the kids book on it, but it did have a big monitor and keyboard. Not an ideal place to write, but I learned a lot on that mini-desk. (Thank you, Grandma Reeves!) While I wrote there, I read through Deb Dixon’s Goal, Motivation and Conflict several times. And I still keep it handy. Now I want to introduce you to my muse. I don’t think any of the women I’ve interviewed have mentioned their muses yet, so maybe I’m the only writer with one. My sisters gave me Minerva for my birthday the month before we lost our mom. museMinerva is an Attic Baby. She’s wearing a housecoat and slippers and in her basket she has cleaning equipment and a mop and tucked in one corner is a Romance Novel called True Romance. I love her! Once in a while, Minerva just takes over and writes for me. muse-writesThat’s okay, too. 🙂 IMG_0724When the weather’s right and it gets light early enough, I like to take my laptop outside. And yes, Linda, I have that “Oh! A Squirrel!” problem, too. I’m trying to get over it. When I’m outside here’s my view– lakeWe live on Keystone Lake, and this is the prettiest part! So, the questions I make everyone else answer. (I’ve probably answered them already, but just in case . . .) Question: Do you write in your office? If not, where else do you write.

Me: Never.

Question: Why not?

Me: Don’t ask. It’s not pretty.

Question-Where’s your favorite place you’ve ever written?

 Me: We had a retreat once at a place on Grand Lake and I loved writing there. I don’t know why, either. I might have been because I was with other writers, it might have been because our speaker did a fantastic job, or it might have been because each time we had a few free moments, my roomie went straight to her computer and went to work. So I did, too.

Question-Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever written?

Me: I don’t think there is a weird place to write. I haven’t written at work (really! I haven’t!!!) and I’ve never written anything during a funeral, but I usually have stories going on in my head. I’m afraid I’ll never have time to write all of them.

Question-Do you do anything before you write? Light a candle? Talk to Minerva?

Me: I write best in the early morning, so I make coffee before I write. Wish I did something more interesting.

Question-Do you write every day?

Me: As much as possible, unless I oversleep. I have more time on weekends, so I love writing then. Sometimes I take Christmas off.

Question-What’s the atmosphere in your office?

Me: Easy going. The kitchen’s right over my left shoulder, so I refill my coffee as often as possible. My writing partner sometimes interrupts to go outside, then to come back in. But until G-Man wakes up, it’s pretty quiet.

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Bossy Writing Partner

Question: Do you play music while you write? If so, how do you choose the music?

 Me: I tried to. But I found myself singing along with the music instead of writing. Silence is best for me.

Question-If you could have your dream office, what would it be?

Me: I used to think I wanted an office off by itself, but I know better now. I’d never go out there to write. And I don’t play the guitar to get my juices flowing. (Wish I could, though.) Since the kids are all married and living somewhere else, I have the entire house to write in. So my dream office is where ever me and my laptop are.

Question- How did you get started writing?

 Me: Well, it’s not because I made straight A’s in English. The truth is, I’m a huge reader. If I don’t have something to read, I’ll go nuts. And when I can’t read, I’ve always made up stories in my head to entertain myself. I found out writing them down is even more fun than just thinking them, because you get to find out how the story ends. Good stuff!

Question- Are there any how-to books you recommend for writers?

 Me: Deb Dixon’s Goal, Motivation and Conflict and just about any of James Scott Bell’s how-to books.

Question- What’s your process for starting a new book?

Me: I wish I could say, I do this and this and this, but sadly, I can’t. Sometimes I play the What If game and sometimes a character takes shape in my head and won’t leave me alone until I write her story. That’s what’s happening to me this time. I wish I knew where this story was going, but I don’t. I do think it’s a Christian Suspense, though.  Maybe.

Question- Did you struggle as a new writer or were you blessed with sales from the word go?

Me: I wish you hadn’t asked that question. The truth is, I struggled. And I’m still struggling. I sold lots of short stories, but I can’t tell you how many novels I learned on before I started selling.

Question- I know you write in more than one genre. Can you tell us a little about that?

Me: My first book was To School a Cowboy, a straight romance. The second one was Blind Sight, romantic suspense, and the third one was Make Me Howl, which is a werewolf story. Those three were published by The Wild Rose Press and under my name, Susan Shay. I just finished a manuscript called Jordan Valley that I call Christian Women’s Fiction. The new one I’m working on is also set in Jordan Valley and is (hopefully) going to be a suspense. I plan to write those as either Susan Spess or Susan Spess Shay, unless someone changes my mind for me.

Question- What piece of advice do you have for a newbie struggling writer?

Me: The best advice I can give anyone is stick with it. Find a good critique group. And read. I met a guy once who had written a long, long book he wanted to get published, so I asked him what he liked to read. He told me he didn’t read. I was shocked. Writers read. Maybe not all the time, and maybe not in the genre they write, but if a person doesn’t like to read, why would he want to write? And don’t take yourself too seriously. Look for the glee in life and laugh as often as possible, especially at yourself. After all, you know the inside story. You know how funny you really are.

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Sweet Little Wild Child

Today I’m reintroducing you to a friend of mine with a ton of guts– Ashlynn Pearce. She’s a young-in-years writer who’s lived a lot of life! On the day her first book, Rough Edges, came out, she had a stroke.

Remember, from back in January?

Even though she thought she’d never write again, she’s made her way back and is now burning up the process. I thought I’d see how and where she does it!

I love this girl, so be sure you stop by the comments section and ask a question or just say hi!

Me: Do you always write in your office?

Ashlynn: Most the time, but not always. I have a Mac laptop hooked up to a large screen with full size keyboard- but sometimes I need a change. So I’ll take it into the living room with me. Especially if I’m doing edits.

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Me: Where’s your favorite place you’ve ever written?

 Ashlynn: I’d have to say my office. It’s a cool place.

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Me: Hm. Okay, where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever written?

 Ashlynn: Years ago, I would go to Panera Bread or Barnes and Noble and write there. I really enjoyed that. Since I’m not allowed to drive any further than the bank, which is two minutes away, I don’t do that anymore.

Me: Do you do anything before you write? Light a candle? Dance around the house?

Ashlynn: I kinda have a pattern. I do email, blogs, social media first and then hit writing.

Me: Do you write every day?

 Ashlynn: My goal is to write every day during the week but because of health issues, that doesn’t always happen. And life can sometimes get in the way. Laundry doesn’t wash itself. I don’t usually try on weekends. Family time and whatnot.

Me: So tell us about the atmosphere in your office.

 Ashlynn: It’s colorful. Bright pinks, blues and purples decorate my office. Hubs won’t let me paint the walls a crazy color, so I do it with nick-knacks, a very colorful rug and bright pink curtains.

That said, I love to write when its raining. It’s my favorite writing weather and I like my office dim. I realize that’s a complete contradiction, but it’s no secret I’m a li’l odd.

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Me: You listen to music while you write. How do you choose the music?

 Ashlynn: I have playlists for every book I write. And the music depends on the story. But I always have music playing. I can’t write without it.

If you want to listen to the music that inspired my books, you can follow all my playlists on Spotify here 12169150219. There is a wide range of music and it all depends on the characters.

Me: If you could have your dream office, what would it be?

Ashlynn: You know, this is going to sound weird, but I have it. There are two large windows in my office that face our waterfall and pond. I can’t see it, but I can hear it if I open the windows. I have my favorite gargoyle licking a pen on my desk.

I have a stuffed dog my son got me when I had my stroke and it went everywhere with me. It’s had MRI’s and all sorts of tests done on it. A picture of my hubs and the kids when they were little. A pen holder in the shape of a pink tulip. A replica time-turner from Harry Potter.

Me: So how did you come by this magical writing space?

 Ashlynn: This room was originally supposed to be a very open formal dining room. But, it was very important to my Hubs that it was closed in and double French doors put in before we even moved in.

That he made it so important, makes me love this room that much more.

Those things make it my dream office. 😀

Me: How did you get started writing?

Ashlynn: How did I get started? A dream. No, literally, I dreamed a story. And thought, why not? So I bought a good pen and a notebook and started writing.

I didn’t know anything about computers back then. I didn’t know what program you used to write or that there was a format that you needed to use.

All I knew was I’d read thousands (and I mean thousands-I started reading them when I was 13 and would read no less than 2 a week from there on out) and this story dream wouldn’t leave me alone. No, that one isn’t published, but I plan on releasing it one day.

Then I joined this amazing writers group. They taught me, encouraged me, pushed me and I absorbed as much as I could from them. (Ms. Susan is one of them, btw) I wouldn’t be the writer I am today without them.

I still love every single one of them. They were, and still are, super supportive. Even if they would laugh at my lack of grammar abilities. (still suck at grammar-but I keep trying and I have an editor— know your weaknesses!)

Me: I laughed because your grammar abilities are so much like mine!

What books to you keep close at hand while you’re writing?

Ashlynn: Writers books I use regularly— The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi (AWESOME book! Helps you really dig into showing the emotion and not telling), The Writers Digest Character-Naming Sourcebook by Sherilyn Kenyon (I love original names) and Thesaurus online. (I have a habit of getting stuck on one word and using it a lot. It helps me switch it up. Do NOT use it to find words no one has every heard of… Just a tip)

Me: Click on the title to check out those books!

What do you see when you look out that window?

The windows face the front of the house and I see the backside rock of the small waterfall, that leads into a short creek, which falls off into a bigger waterfall and large pond. There is a small bridge you have to walk across to get to our front door, so thats in my view.

In every season but winter there are all kinds of birds and squirrels that love to play in the creek and eat from the bird feeder. They are so fun to watch.

My puppies hang out with me in my office and they like to bird and squirrel watch, too.

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Me: What piece of advice do you have for a newbie struggling writer?

 Ashlynn: #1-The first draft of anything is crap. The second draft of anything is crap. If you can accept that and realize the editing and polishing are what make it a good story, you will quit worrying if you’re any good.

#2- You can’t edit a blank page. And I do know that blank page staring at you with the little cursor blinking at you is the most intimidating thing in the world. (I face it every time I start a new story) Grit your teeth, hunker down in your chair and just write.

#3-Don’t get caught up in the “right” way to do it. Not when you start out. Refer to step number two.

And the last thing, probably the most important, find one or two critique partners you trust. Not family if you can help it. People you can bounce ideas off of and read your stuff when your stuck. Believe me, they are worth their weight in gold.

Me: Do you have any advice for people who find themselves struggling through bad things that happen in life, such as your stroke?

Ashlynn: Life is short. Really, really short. So chase that dream, whatever it is. Make time for it. Don’t put it off. You never know when your number is up or when the ability might be snatched from you. Take it from someone who thought I’d never be able to write again after suffering a stroke. Don’t waste time worrying about what other people think or might say. Just do it. It’s your life and you only get one. Do it your way.

Thank you for sharing, Ashlynn! BTW all y’all–you can follow Ashlynn on Facebook , her website, and Twitter @ashlynn_pearce .

She has a new series called Dirtslap and the first book in that series is called Fuel (click the link to purchase) and another coming on May 7th called Wreck.

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Jennifer Adolph in the Wood Shed!

I know some of the nicest people in the world. And I want you to know them, too! Meet my friend, T.D. Hart aka Jennifer Mathews Adolph. Click on her name and it’ll take you to her website, tdhart.blogspot.com.

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She’s one of those people who just amazes me. She’s a large animal veterinarian (hard to imagine!) who retired and is now writing full time. She has three kiddos, one husband, rent houses she takes care of, she just sold one home and moved into another, and she’s still a prolific writer!

And even though she hasn’t published a book yet, it’s just a matter of moments before she does. How do I know?

Because I’ve read her work. And (in case you don’t quite trust my reading taste) she won first place in both categories she entered at the Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. contest last year.

three-of-usJennifer is the gorgeous blonde in the middle holding two (2!) first place certificates. Rhenna Morgan is the blonde on Jen’s left, and I’m not sure who the dorky photo-bomber on the right is. 😉

Me: So, Jen, where’s your favorite place to write?

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Jen: This is where I go every year–Longbeach, Washington–and where I hope to move when the kids graduate.

For me, writing is an immersive process. To write authentically, I need to slip into my character’s skin and see/feel/experience what she’s feeling, ask how she’ll respond to the situation I’ve put her in. For that, I need solitude.

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Me: Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever written?

Jen: Okay. The strangest place I’ve ever written is where I’m sitting this very minute–a plywood garden shed (not a wood shed!) in our backyard, surrounded by tools and paint cans and fertilizer. I’ve been spoiled up to this point, so I’m not complaining. But I’ll be glad when we get it cleaned out/insulated/painted/heated.

My old writing nook is now Chris’s home office, and that’s where my books are–Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing, Lee Lofland’s Crime Writer’s Handbook, Strunk and White. When we get the shed redone I’ll bring them out here.

(Click on any of the titles and they’ll take where you can buy your own copy!)

Jen: I always keep a guitar in my writing room. There’s something magical about making music with your left hand that frees up the creative part of your mind. I don’t understand it, but I’m glad it works.

Me: I wonder if a kazoo would work? That’s about the only instrument I can play. So, do you only use your office for writing?

Jen: I’d like to tell you I only use my space for writing. Um…yes, that’s what I’m going to say (wink, wink.)

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Jen: This is our template for remodeling a small shed in our new backyard.

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Jen: This is the view was taken from a balcony at Big Cedar Lodge in the Ozark Mountains, where I just spent four days grinding through the next Sam Benning story.

Me: I’m surprised the outdoor gorgeousness doesn’t lure her away from her writing, but like I said, she’s dedicated! So, Jennifer, do you have a ritual you follow before you write? Put on music? Sacrifice small mammals?

Jen: LOL. I’ve never considered blood sacrifice. Seems appropriate given my subject matter.

I do light candles. Usually I start my morning clearing the wreckage left by my family, then have a quiet breakfast and take care of the dogs. When my mind is settled, I fire up the laptop and get right to work. Around noon I take a break, eat lunch, and work until it’s time to get the kids.

I keep track of my words/hours on an Excel spreadsheet, and try to hit self-imposed goals. I don’t always hit them, but find I do a better job when I measure my results.

About once a month I take off for writer’s retreats at the lake, where I write like crazy–cranking out huge sections the book. I gain momentum and always come home feeling like I’ve caught the thread of my story.

Did I mention there’s no internet at the lake?

At home, I’m most productive in the morning. At the lake, I write until I get sleepy, then wake up and write more. Some of my best scenes have come at two in the morning.

Me: Aw, man, I want to be you when I grow up! What advice do you have for other writers to help them in their journey?

Jen: For the newbie, I’d say, “Just start writing–with the understanding that it won’t be as good as you think (yet.) Then, when you’ve written enough to recognize some of your craft deficits, seek feedback from a professional or group of published writers, and listen to what they say. Recognize it’s going to take longer to get good than you’re hoping. And read everything in your genre.”

Jen: If you’ve been writing for several years and haven’t sold, I’d again try to get honest feedback. If you’ve been getting great reviews and won contests, but just haven’t attracted a traditional publisher, I’d say hire an editor in your genre and self-pub. Or try some other form of publishing–say, putting your work on your website a chapter at a time.

Me: I can’t thank you enough for letting us have this peek into your writing life. I feel like I’ve been a fly on your office wall.

As soon as your first book is published, I hope you’ll come back for another chat! This was fun!

Hey, all y’all, you can find TD/Jennifer on her website, on Facebook  and on Twitter @theladyvet. Be sure and tell her Susan says hi!

So . . . any questions for Jennifer? Why’d she give up the glamorous life of a veterinarian to be a writer? How long does she take to write a book?

All you have to do is ask!

 

 

 

 


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Linda Trout’s Closet

Let me explain–

There’s this thing about me. I think people are fascinating . (ie: Everybody has A Story!)

I might have mentioned, I’m not only a writer, I’m also a reading knitter (or a knitting reader.) Naturally, I like to read about other people’s lives. I’ve suffered mightily because most knitting magazines only have patterns, nothing about the knitters who created them.

There is one TV show I watch about knitting. This past season, they advertised they’d changed their format to include a segment that was about studio to studio, I was so excited! I thought we’d get knitting area tours of their homes. I hoped they’d show us the whys and how-I’s of their lives.

Again, disappointment! Turns out, it’s just a segment done with the host in one place, the guest in another, but nothing about the guest’s home or knitting area or how they make life work while knitting.

Now that’s a real a bummer. 😉

So I started wondering, are there other people like me? People who like to see behind the scenes and inside the lives around them? Where people (writers) work, how they work and why?

Ummm, could be!

So I decided to take up the slack.

(♪♫ Fanfare! ♪♫) Let me introduce to  you to–

 Linda Trout’s Closet

linda-at-her-deskI’ve introduced Linda to you before. She’s one of those nice ladies who is really gorgeous and talented and writes tension filled books. She writes suspense and has two books and a novella to her credit!

Her most recent release is Last Hope Alaska.

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It’s a fabulous read! (If you click on the title, it’ll take you to the place where you can buy it, and I’ll get the credit!)

I’ve never been in Linda’s home, so I asked her where she writes.

Linda– “My office is a former walk-in closet that’s shaped like an L. The ‘L’ part is used as storage…has a set of shelves that are loaded down w/blankets, extra pillows, etc.

 

Me: Where are some other places you write?

Linda–“When I’m at home, my office is the only place I write. I make it a point to not write outdoors. I’d be too much like, “Ooh! A squirrel!” Soon the writing would be totally forgotten as I can find all sorts of things to do in the yard.”

Me: What’s the atmosphere like?

Linda– “It’s grand central station. Cats come in to bug me to pay more attention to them. One wants in my lap and another wants me to rub her belly. The credenza is packed full of writing stuff, a lot of which could be pitched so the drawers would open easier. As I said before, the ‘L’ is a storage area. Suitcases, old press kits that the lady from the Tulsa World brought to our meeting that time, tote bags from conferences, bedding, office supplies, table decorations for book signings, business and personal receipts. You name it, it’s probably stuffed in there. LOL.”

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“I always have a glass a sweet tea sitting next to the computer and a bag of cinnamon roasted almonds on the shelf for a ‘brain’ snack.”

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“You can see some of my contest certificates hanging on the wall as well as a couple of quilts. One, my MIL made for us as a thank you for putting a new roof on her house a couple months after my FIL passed away. The other is a Yo-Yo quilt top my maternal grandmother made for me when I was a teenager.”

Me: So, do you have a ritual or something you do to start your writing time? Light a candle, play your sound track, bite the head off a chicken?

Linda– “Sorry. No chicken sacrifices. Unlike a lot of writers, I don’t play music, either. I do my best writing at night when all is quiet, the cats have settled down-or gone outside, hubby has turned off the TV and gone to bed. All the lights are out except for the one in my office (we have a very open concept home). The office is just around the corner from our bed and even though the man is out like a light 90 seconds after his head hits the pillow, I still try to be quiet. I guess this helps to center me so I can focus. It’s amazing the plot points I get figured out after 10pm.

Me: That is amazing, because I’m out like a burned down candle stub after 10 pm.

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Linda– “Oh, and I always work in sweats in the winter, and shorts and a t-shirt in the summer. Comfort all the way! LOL.”

Me: Okay,  so where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever written?

Linda– “It really isn’t a weird place, but I once wrote several hundred words on a Dana on my way to Alaska for vacation. Then I wrote while sitting on the bed and looking out of the window of our B&B and watching a pair of Bald Eagles teaching their chicks to fish.”

 Me: That’s so cool! (Not sure I could stay in and write with all that going on.)

Linda adds: “I’m pretty plain Jane, I suppose, compared to a lot of other writers. Too bad I don’t dance around in colorful outfits, blaring music that could wake the neighbors 10 acres over. My quieter side (some would say my inner psycho, since I write suspense) seems to be where my stories come from. Hmm I write about killers and I do my best writing when it’s dark outside. What does that say about me?”

 

Me: It says you’re a darned interesting lady! I knew there was A Story there!

So, anybody else have a question for Linda? Anything you want to know such as how many hours she writes each week, how long it takes her to write a book, does she take her characters from real life or what her favorite part of the process?

All you have to do is ask! I’m sure she’ll be glad to answer. 😀

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Kisses, Sweeter than Wine

Most people think my dad is the boss at the office where I work.

Big!

Mistake!

Okay, maybe Dad signs the checks, but this little guy owns our hearts.

Wearing this hardhat, he might look like your average roughneck, but this guy’s special.

He has the ability to capture the heart of every adult in his range.

No one is immune to his charm.

Everyone who meets him is his.

When he sleeps, we tiptoe. 

When he’s cranky, we dance. Sometimes he’s joins us. 😉

And when he says your name (or you imagine what he babbles is your name) you melt.

One of his kisses is sweeter than wine candy. (Especially when we slip him tootsie rolls to munch.)

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