While on a brief family holiday in the North Woods of Wisconsin I find myself blessed with another award from fellow writers JI Rogers and Ann Marie Swaim. I do hope you will check out their stories and sites—they never cease to amaze me!
Let’s settle in around this campfire, well stocked with boxes of crackers and chocolates, marshmallows and cider, and talk as the cedar’s smoke soothes us from a long summer’s day in the water.
Do me a favor—keep Bash away from the extra kindling, please.
What’s your favorite water sport? To play and/or watch.
Apart from kid-watching, you mean?
Look, my son Biff’s over there in the yard now. You hear him with that soccer ball? He’s throwing at the campsite’s sign and yelling, “I tackled it! Home run points!”
That should tell you how involved we are with sports in my family.
What book would you recommend that everyone read?
My answer hasn’t changed in years: Diana Wynne Jones’ Reflections on the Magic of Writing. There is so so so SO much here to unpack. She’s got lots to share about craft in the way only Jones can: with firm experience and wicked humor. She’s also open to sharing her thoughts on the stickier points of being an author, like conflicts with publishers and horrible school visits. But what I love the most is her openness about her life. She had a nasty childhood during World War II, and learning how she battled such dark years with stories made me feel like I could battle my own depression with stories, too.
What book do you wish you never read?
The fourth and final book of the Twilight saga, Breaking Dawn.
And that’s all I’m going to say about that, because if I start, I will not stop.
What can move you more, images or words?
This is a tough one. Often I daydream in words, but I find myself more often moved by images around me. I can see something—a peculiar clump of trees stranded in a corn field, for instance—and a story just, well, comes. I wonder what’s in the trees, and can imagine a long-forgotten cabin, walls cracked and falling in, mold creeping in from every side, bat scat and raccoon refuse littered about…save for one corner, where a trap door remains, pristine and perfect, waiting for just the right curious hand to open it…
Who in your life (living or dead) provided you with the best inspiration?
You know, a year ago, I’d probably have said my dad. After all, he and I spent hours together going over my stories, polishing them to perfection for school.
Now, I answer: my children.
It’s not so much because of the yarns Bash spins—just as he does now, turning his chocolate into a superhero to save his marshmallow from falling into the fire. The stories he spins have certainly inspired me in the past.
No, it’s that I have children. My children need me sane.
I am their caregiver. I am their lap, their hug, their kiss goodnight. I am their maker of macaroni and cheese. I am their bedtime reader. I am their music finder, movie player. I am their clean underwear finder and silly face laugher. I cannot be any of these things unless I have a clear head and steady heart. How do I get these? By dumping all the nastiness of me onto the page before it infects them.
Biff, Bash, and Blondie are my drive to write on. I write to be what my kids need me to be.
What I need me to be.
What has been the hardest struggle to overcome to keep on blogging?
So often I worry that what I’m writing isn’t worth reading. Why should anyone care what I think about this composer/author? Who really wants to read m’ramblins’ about raising children?
Speaking of which, mind Blondie doesn’t eat another hot dog, that crazy little carnivore. Biff, stop throwing marshmallows into the fire!
In the Writer’s Digest article “Bare Your Soul,” Maria Walley makes an excellent point about the power of vulnerability:
Your writing will make you vulnerable. After all, we’re taking the innermost parts of ourselves—our ideas—and translating them into words intended to provoke thought and, in some cases, emotion. It can be painful to do, but it’s also what makes good writing worth reading. It’s what make stories resonate.
Over the course of three years, I’ve learned that artists don’t just struggle with craft, but with Life. They’ve got their own issues with kids. Their battles own with grief. Their injuries with abuse, with depression. When I feel like I have nothing to say as a writer, then I write as a parent, a child, victim. There is always a part of me that has something to say. It’s just a matter of finding that part.
What do you feel is the best blog post you’ve written to date and why?
Oh man. Um…let me get the kids into the cabin first. I need to move my chair, too…the smoke always finds me, draws tears from my eyes.
“The Machete and the Cradle” is the very first post I published on Jean Lee’s World, and it deals with just how dangerous my postpartum depression became during my children’s early years. It’s a time I cannot think upon without cringing from myself. I look at my sons now, poking each other with a koala and a bunny while nestled into their Planes: Fire and Rescue sleeping bags, and to think how close I came to abandoning one of them…
But I overcame that shame in the shadows, and managed to find the words to cast those shadows into the fire. This burning is one of the most difficult things I ever did, and considering where I and my family are now, it is most definitely one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Do you plan your blogs in advance and schedule their release or just blog by the seat of your pants? Or a combo?
It’s a combo. Sometimes I get a fire of ideas I want to share and I whip out a month’s worth of blogs in one afternoon, while other weeks (especially this past summer) I’m up late Wednesday night typing for Thursday’s post.
When you’re being creative, do you prefer quiet or some form of sound (music, audiobook…) in the background?
Always music, always! I get frustrated when I don’t have the right music to write, so much so the story gets muddled in my head. 95% of the time I use instrumental music, but every now and again a song with lyrics hits the atmosphere just right, especially when the words speak to the characters’ feelings.
Favorite composers include Alexandre Desplat, Mychael Danna, Ennio Morricone, Hans Zimmer, Daniel Pemberton, Peter Gabriel…obviously, I can go on.
Cat, dog, or other?
If your home was on fire and you could only save one book, which would it be?
I wouldn’t go for a typical book. I’d grab whatever creations my children made: the boys’ drawings, Blondie’s stories. Those will always mean more than any other book. There could be a signed copy of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe in my house, and I’m still goin’ for the kids’ work, because THOSE can never, ever be found anywhere else.
If you had to choose one of your current projects to tell a group of strangers about, what would it be?
As the stars take hold of the sky behind the plume of fire’s smoke?
Campfires are the perfect place to share the darker stories. Be they the fantasies of my childhood, like Dark Crystal or Witches, or the epics beloved by my father like Highlander and Dune, we sit here with the dying embers surrounded by countless dancing shadows of tales. Anyone, anything could be prowling around out there, beyond the fire’s reach, just waiting for its moment to sit, be seen, be heard.
My Fallen Princeborn Omnibus dances among such shadows. It comes from the hidden lands of magic, escaping from shapeshifters cursed and gifted, wielding weapons wicked and beautiful. Not only do these stories come for the thrill of the spirit and heart, but to help define what it is to be a family.
I hope that, after all is packed back into the truck and we’ve returned to civilization’s plumbing, you’ll stop by for my cover reveal and ARC giveaway.
I’m giving away 1,000 copies of Stolen through BookFunnel and Instafreebie starting September 1st. Yup. One THOUSAND. That be a whoooole lotta copies! But this is my first novel, and I’m keen to hear how readers see the world I’ve seen in my head for years. Next week, as I sit us all down in the cluttered living room for punch and a slide show from my vacation, I’ll start the countdown to the cover reveal of Stolen and the giveaway. Don’t be late, now!
If you’re like me, and you need stories to survive the long drive home, I’ve got three short stories from the Omnibus available for free download:Story #1: “The Boy Who Carried a Forest in his Pocket”
Rural Wisconsin. A warm lazy Sunday after church. Perfect for goofing off with friends, comic books, and lemonade under a big shade tree. But something’s off at Blair farm—stay away from the old stone wall. And whatever you do, don’t talk to strangers walking in from the woods. Welcome to the magical world of River Vine, where things are not what they seem.
Rural Wisconsin. Eight-year-old Millie loves to play make-believe with her new friend, a cat from the woods. But something’s off about Captain Whiskers…. Not all strays should be rescued.
When does the hunter become the hunted? When the hunter fails in her hunt. Ember was sent into the human realm to select the choicest prey for her Master. But she set out to teach him a lesson instead, and now she must pay for her defiance.
Three more stories will be published in the next couple of months, with Stolen hitting online bookshelves this Halloween.
Now, before I look into the cabin to see who’s jumping on top of whom for a comy circus show, I’d like to nominate 11 more artists for the Liebster Award. Wander this endless campground and stop by their sites sometime. Their fires each burn with unique passions in art, photography, music, writing. Rekindle your own creativity with a shared s’more and smile.
Questions to pick my nominees’ brains on creatin’ and stuff:
- What would you consider to be your earliest creative work that foreshadowed the passion to come? Be it taken on a disposable camera, doodled in a school book, or tooted on a kazoo, those school-day scribbles count for something!
- If you could gain you favorite living artist’s permission to create an homage of their work (for example, writing a fan fic story with your favorite character), who would you approach and what character would you write with?
- I’m always looking for strategies to fight back the distractions. How do you focus yourself in the sea of Life’s Noise to create?
- What are the three most inspirational places you’ve ever visited?
- Time for the dead artists now! If you could sit down for a cuppa or a pint with any dead artist, who would it be and why?
- What’s one stereotype people always apply to you because of who you are/where you’re from? Just for an example—I grew like a corn stalk when I was a kid, so EVERYONE assumed I was really good at sports like basketball. Guess what I suck at? ALL SPORTS. Because I live in Wisconsin, people around me just assume I’m a fellow Green Bay Packers fan. Guess what I hate watching? FOOTBALL.
- If there’s one book on craft in your passion you’d recommend to every fellow artist in your field, what would it be?
- Favorite grilled food? The answer should be bratwursts, but because you’re friends, I’ll try to keep an open mind. 🙂
- Okay, I’m not, I repeat, NOT, a huge Disney fan, but even I’ve got a few favorite Disney films, like Something Wicked This Way Comes. What’s your favorite Disney film? No, Pixar doesn’t count.
- And speaking of films, what’s one movie you’re kind of embarrassed to admit you like, but you just can’t help yourself? (Krull, since we’re sharing.)
- Share your current endeavors! C’mon, you deserve a chance to plug your work. 🙂
I hope to inform my nominees over the next few days.
Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!