Guest Spotlight: Lois Winston

As a member of Sisters in Crime, I get to rub shoulders with some amazing writers. One that I’ve really enjoyed getting to know is Lois Winston, and I can hardly wait to read her new book. It has Scrapbook in the title – I know, right?! Mystery + Scrapbook = AWESOME! So, I asked Lois if she’d be willing to answer a few questions for me. Welcome, Lois!

In what genre did you begin writing?
LW: I started out writing romantic suspense. Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception, was the first book I ever wrote. It became the second book I sold. Before I sold that book, though, chick lit became popular, and since I wasn’t getting offers on any of my romantic suspense books, I decided to try my hand at chick lit. Talk Gertie To Me, a fish-out-of-water story about a mother and daughter, became my debut novel.

How has your writing/genre evolved from that time?
I’m not a funny person in person. I’ve been known to flub the punch line of every joke I’ve ever tried to tell. However, in writing Talk Gertie To Me, I discovered I had a talent for writing funny. Who knew? So when my agent told me of an editor looking for crafting mysteries and suggested I try writing one, I decided on a humorous amateur sleuth series. I created Anastasia Pollack, a crafts magazine editor and widow who, along with her two teenage sons, lives with her communist mother-in-law, her self-proclaimed descendant of Russian nobility mother, and a zany menagerie of pets, including a Shakespeare-quoting parrot.

How long did it take from beginning to write seriously to seeing your book published?
Ten years, almost to the day.

What prompted you to write for publication?
I didn’t grow up yearning to be an author. I’ve worked most of my adult life as a designer in the consumer crafts industry, creating craft projects and needlework for craft kit manufacturers and craft magazine and book publishers. One day a story popped into my head and took up residence. Eventually I decided to write it down. Before I knew it, I had written a book. The next logical step was to see if anyone thought it was worthy of publication.

Tell me about the moment when you realized you were a “real writer.”
That would have to be the day I received the phone call from my agent, telling me she had an offer of publication for Talk Gertie To Me.

What book (that you wrote or read) had the biggest impact on you?
I’d have to say Talk Gertie To Me, the first book I sold, because it proved to me that I could write a book people would want to read, showed me I had a hidden talent for writing humor, and paved the way for all the other books I’ve written.

What book are you the most proud of, and why?
That would have to be Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun because it received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist and was dubbed, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum” by Kirkus Reviews. Being compared so favorably to Janet Evanovich is an incredible honor!

If you could take a vacation with any of your characters, who would you choose and where would you go?
I hope my husband doesn’t read this because I’d definitely choose Zack Barnes, Anastasia’s love interest in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries. The guy’s genes cavorted in the same primordial pool as Pierce Bronson, George Clooney, and Antonio Banderas. Aside from that, Zack would make a great tour guide. He’s been just about everywhere. So I’d suggest a yearlong world tour. Nothing wrong with dreaming big, is there?

You suddenly find out that you have an entire day free – what are you going to do?
If I won the lottery or the day came with tickets to see Hamilton, I’d go to the theater. I’m a huge Broadway fan. I just wish I could afford to feed my addiction more often. I’d have to mortgage my home to afford tickets to Hamilton!

Anything else you’d like to tell me about your writing?
Scrapbook of Murder is the sixth novel in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series. Other books in the series include: Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, Death By Killer Mop Doll, Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, Decoupage Can Be Deadly, and A Stitch To Die For. In addition, there are three mini-mysteries: Crewel Intentions, Mosaic Mayhem, and Patchwork Peril.

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me, Lois. Readers, read on for a bit about the newest book on my TBR list!

Scrapbook of Murder
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 6

Crafts and murder don’t normally go hand-in-hand, but normal deserted craft editor Anastasia Pollack’s world nearly a year ago. Now, tripping over dead bodies seems to be the “new normal” for this reluctant amateur sleuth.

When the daughter of a murdered neighbor asks Anastasia to create a family scrapbook from old photographs and memorabilia discovered in a battered suitcase, she agrees—not only out of friendship but also from a sense of guilt over the older woman’s death. However, as Anastasia begins sorting through the contents of the suitcase, she discovers a letter revealing a fifty-year-old secret, one that unearths a long-buried scandal and unleashes a killer. Suddenly Anastasia is back in sleuthing mode as she races to prevent a suitcase full of trouble from leading to more deaths.

Buy Links:
Kindle http://amzn.to/2ffIMgy
Kobo https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/scrapbook-of-murder
iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/scrapbook-of-murder/id1286758416?mt=11
Nook https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/scrapbook-of-murder-lois-winston/1127145157?ean=2940158851896
Paperback http://amzn.to/2y2Omhl

Bio:
USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry.

Website: www.loiswinston.com
Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog: www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/anasleuth
Twitter at https://twitter.com/Anasleuth
Newsletter sign-up: https://app.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/z1z1u5

RONE Awards Finalist: Karla Brandenburg

I was over-the-moon excited when my book Diamond in the Rough was announced as a finalist for the RONE award. One of the cool things about the award is that it has introduced me to new authors, so I invited some of them to share some info with my readers about their own books. Join me in welcoming Karla Brandenburg today!

In what genre did you begin writing? I was aiming for action/suspense with my first novel, but it turned into romantic suspense. I’ve always been a sucker for a good romance and I couldn’t seem to keep it out of the story.

How has your writing/genre evolved from that time? Now that I’ve embraced my genre, I take aim solidly. I write in two genres, romantic suspense and romance with paranormal subplots. My current series has ghostly supporting characters.

How long did it take from beginning to write seriously to seeing your book published? For the first book? I started writing it in 1998. I didn’t actually publish until 2002, but I also went through a divorce and then met and married my present husband during that period.

What prompted you to write for publication? It was one of those moments when you read someone else’s book and say “I can write better than that.” And then the “million dollar idea” (ok, so it wasn’t worth a million dollars, but you get the gist) struck.

Tell me about the moment when you realized you were a “real writer.” I’d say it was when I finished that first book. I’d been writing stories all my life, but I’d never put in the time and energy to organize them or do more than put pen to paper. With that first book, I dedicated the time to learning the craft, following a theme, writing and editing to make it right instead of just letting my imagination out for a walk.

What did you do with your first royalty check? Well, this goes to who I am. I’m a penny pincher, tight-fisted tightwad. I banked it.

What book (that you wrote or read) had the biggest impact on you? The one I read was Dragonfly in Amber, and then Outlander after that. Those books moved me to travel to Scotland, in spite of the cold and the icky food and all the rest of the negatives. It was a very dark period in my personal life and those books reached out to me as a means of escape from my everyday life (which I needed at that time.) Later, when I wrote Heart for Rent, with an Option, it was a way of letting go of some pent up emotions of my own. It probably isn’t my best work, but that was a book that helped me work through some personal demons.

Tell me about the inspiration for your RONE finalist book. I had so much fun writing Cookie Therapy! It is one in a series of a family of friends (the Northwest Suburbs series). In the second book in the series, I introduced two somewhat unlikeable characters. People had such a visceral response to one of them, that I knew I had to redeem in her in the third book, and because I had so much fun with her, Cookie Therapy was my attempt to redeem the other unlikeable character from that book, a cheating boyfriend. I paired him off with a klutzy victim, someone with secrets of her own.

Tell me about the moment you found out your book was chosen as a finalist for the RONE award. There must be some mistake! This is a popularity contest! Except it isn’t. I actually had to double check how I’d made the finals, and it was because of the fabulous review I’d gotten (5 stars!) that qualified me. Cookie Therapy was also nominated for the Booklife Prize for Fiction and I made the finals there, as well. Glowing with pride that I was able to create something other people enjoy reading!

What book are you the most proud of, and why? Cookie Therapy is one of my favorites, to be sure. I was able to create multilayered personalities for my main characters, and give them a worthy supporting cast. The fact that it has received critical acclaim helps, and I have another book that won an award, but yeah, Cookie Therapy is probably the one I’m most proud of.

If you could take a vacation with any of your characters, who would you choose and where would you go? A lot of my stories stem from vacations, so technically, I’ve already traveled to places with my characters, or I created them from those places. One of my favorites was Heart for Rent, strolling through a French market in Aix-en-Provence (I’d go back there in a heartbeat), and another is New Orleans. Although Jared (The Twins) isn’t from the city, he did give me a deeper appreciation for Southern Louisiana by appearing in my book.

You suddenly find out that you have an entire day free – what are you going to do? Write. Or Read. I’ve scheduled vacations just for these purposes. I also like to walk to ruminate on ideas. Then, of course, there is the “visiting” thing. I feel guilty if I don’t use free time to catch up with those people I care most about, so if I have the entire day? I’ll run out to visit people who can’t get out to see me.

Anything else you’d like to tell me about your writing? My latest book came out in July – THE MIRROR is the third in the EPITAPH series and I’m busily working on the fourth one, which will probably have a January/February release date.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Karla! I enjoyed our chat.

Readers, if you want to know more about Karla, pop over to her website: https://www.karlabrandenburg.com

And if you want to check out Cookie Therapy, you can find it at any of these retailers:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Cookie-Therapy-Northwest-Suburbs-Brandenburg-ebook/dp/B01CBW4J56

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/cookie-therapy-karla-brandenburg/1123476014

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/cookie-therapy

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/cookie-therapy/id1088691848?mt=11

 

Vacation, a/k/a Fodder for Writing

Courtesy of Photo Morgue

Some mystery/thriller writer friends and I have challenged ourselves to blog once a month about a topic related to mysteries and/or thrillers. Join us each month on the 13th for the #Lucky13MysteryBlogHop!

When you’re a writer, you never take vacation. Everywhere I go, especially in new places, I enjoy watching people, and (yes, I know this is a bit twisted) thinking about how to kill people and dispose of bodies. That urge to create and solve a mystery follows me everywhere.

Fatal Impulse was inspired by a story I heard when I was 10 years old. My family vacationed in Colorado, near Salida. At some point, Mom talked to a cashier (or a waitress maybe?) about the mountain roads, the steep drop-offs, the dangers of driving. I remember that woman telling a story about a car that went off Highway 50, somewhere near Monarch Pass. The woman said the woman’s body wasn’t recovered until the next summer because the ravine was so steep and rugged that it was too dangerous for rescue crews to go down. The car was left there, a mangled mass of steel. The idea of someplace being so rugged that a body couldn’t be recovered stuck with me. I thought, what a great way to get rid of a body! (yes, even at 10, I thought that way – is it any wonder that I devoured Stephen King novels in my early teens?)

Tell me about a vacation you’ve been on – where would you suggest as a good setting for a mystery?

 

RONE Award Finalists: Debra Erfert (part 2)

I hope you enjoyed my interview with author Debra Erfert yesterday, who is also a finalist for the RONE awards. I asked her to share a little info about her book, Changes of the Heart. Read on for a blurb and excerpt:

Changes of the Heart: Buying the 1920s farmhouse south of Phoenix, where the rumors of John Dillinger’s gang hid out in the 30s, is supposed to be accident-prone Grace Evanheart’s way of escaping an old romance. When she finds an ancient diary with a map under the bedroom’s floorboard, the rumors solidify into fact. She doesn’t know who to trust with the news; Micah Stevens, the handsome deputy and the great grandson of the original landowners with whom she’s attracted, or Jerry, the young historian who seems too intent on learning about her new home?

Micah seems convinced their paths cross exactly at the right time and in the right place for them to fall in love. Now he just has to convince Grace of the same thing before suspicions of his real motive have her running again.

EXCERPT:

Strawberries slid down the stark white wall, juices dripping in thin bloody ribbons toward the broken bowl near the baseboard. If I’d aimed six inches to the left, I’d have hit my boyfriend’s head as he left.

Correction—my ex-boyfriend.
Three soft, confident taps on the door preceded my neighbor’s entrance. I knew who it was before I saw Chelsea Vanderbilt’s short, rainbow sherbet tips and blonde roots. She made my brown hair seem dreary and bland.
“Hey, Grace. I take it David’s gone.”
“He’s gone.” I followed her gaze to the newly redecorated wall. “I missed.”
Chelsea knelt down and picked up the largest chunk of ceramic bowl. “Well, lady, it’s probably a good thing you missed. He is the litigious type.”
I fell onto my hide-a-bed sofa, sighing loudly. “He told me he’s not ready to commit. That we should just be friends.”
Chelsea picked up a smaller bit of broken bowl and dropped it into the piece in her hand as she snorted. “I thought you were already friends.”
“I thought he was going to ask me to marry him. Instead, he dumped me.” I turned on my side and bumped my head on the worn-out arm of the couch. The brief pain only solidified my anger. “I’m going to be thirty next month. Alone forever! What am I doing wrong?”
“You’re not doing anything wrong,” Chelsea said, dropping the broken bowl into the trash, “except for maybe putting your trust in a man who never earned it.”
“I probably shouldn’t have dated someone younger.”
Chelsea turned and rested her skinny hip against the cabinet. “Five years isn’t that much of a difference. David’s a grown man.”
“Apparently he thought I was too old for him.”
“I don’t think your advanced age has anything to do with it.” I threw a tiny accent pillow at Chelsea’s head—and missed. Either I needed to stop throwing things or take better aim.
I stared at the many rings on Chelsea’s fingers, including the ones on her thumbs, and said, “Or I just wasn’t exciting enough.”
“Maybe now you’ll learn not to fall instantly in love with the next guy to look into your baby blues.”
“They’re green.”
“You know what I mean.”
“I wish I didn’t.”
David Sullivan had asked me out about five minutes after running into me—literally. I was out for a rare morning jog, went around a bend, and ended up in a tangle of arms and legs with a bloodied lip. That was two short years ago.
“What are you going to do now?”
I gazed around my apartment. None of the beat-up furniture was mine. I barely had room in one corner for my six-foot easel, and most of my cabinet space was taken up with my art supplies instead of dishes. I needed room. And I needed to get away and forget about David.
I sat up and put both feet on the worn-out carpet. “Start over. I know how. I’ve done it before.”

Want to read more? Grab your copy of Changes of the Heart today!

RONE Award Finalists: Debra Erfert

I was over-the-moon excited when my book Diamond in the Rough was announced as a finalist for the RONE award. One of the cool things about the award is that it has introduced me to new authors, so I invited some of them to share some info with my readers about their own books. Join me in welcoming Debra Erfert today!

When and why did you begin writing? In 2003 I watched Pirates of the Caribbean Curse of the Black Pearl about 2 dozen times—in the theater. I wanted a sequel, so I wrote one just to see if I could. I was so impressed with that novella, that I continued to write, except I wrote a full-length novel, and then another, and another.

When did you first consider yourself a writer? I actually considered myself a writer after I had my first contract with a real publisher. I was inexperienced then, and I don’t use that marker anymore. I think anyone who has the desire to write a story is a writer—period.

What inspired you to write your first book? After finishing that first novella, I think I caught the writing bug. My first book was inspired by a dream I had. The only part I can remember is one scene of a woman jumping off an outdoor staircase in Paris, trying to get away from someone chasing her. I used that feeling—that scene—and wrote an 800-page manuscript around it. I published that story in 3 parts entitled Window of Time Trilogy.

What books have most influenced your life the most? Several years ago I met a woman named Kerry Blair, who is a mystery writer. She encouraged me even though my writing was less than professional. I’ve read everything she’s written—multiple times. “This Just In”, is one of my favorites. “Ghost of a Chance”, Mummy’s the Word”, I’ve also read every Sarah M. Eden’s historical romance novels: “Seeking Persephone” plus the others in that series. A more mainstream novel that influence me into creating more complicated novels is a book called “Lucifer’s Hammer” by Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournelle. It’s a comet, end-of-civilization book.

What authors do you like to read? I read Joyce DiPastena, Donna Hatch, Sarah M. Eden, Marsha Ward, Sariah Wilson, Teya Peck, Heather (HB) Moore, Liz Adair, Donna K. Weaver, HB Moore, Dean Koontz, (some of) Steven King, and Ray Bradbury for when I want to be creeped out.

What book are you reading now? I’m reading Solstice by Jane Redd (Heather B. Moore’s pen name while writing for Kindle Press). This was a Kindle Scout winner!

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? I just finished See Me For Me, by Teya Peck, and Don Carey’s Into The Wind.

What are your current projects? I’m currently working on my first historical romance set first in England 1888 and then in the wild west of 1888 Nevada, US. It’s Pride and Prejudice meets Bonanza.

What was the hardest part of writing your book? The hardest part of writing Changes of the Heart was letting the characters be themselves. In it, Grace isn’t so… um, graceful. I’d have to say that she really is a lot like me. Or, I wrote myself, my life, onto the pages of this book. I’m a natural klutz. I’ve sprained my ankle, several times, and all my toes one time or another tripping over stuff, and I drop things all the time. While I may have exaggerated things just a little with Grace, it wasn’t by very much—sadly.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it? One of the biggest things I learned with writing this story came while I wrote the scene about Grace having the epiphany about her mother dying. My mother died when I was only 24 years old, not much older than Grace when her mother passed. My mother had been sick with cancer since I was 6 years old. I essentially wrote about my mother’s illness and death in this story, but while I did it, I realized that all the innocent prayers of a child that I’d sent up to Heaven to heal her, they didn’t go unanswered. She’d lived—she’d lived long enough to raise her four children and see them all married before she finally died. That was my epiphany.

Do you have any advice for other writers? Write what you love! Write what you can’t get out of your head.

What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing? Kerry Blair’s mystery books have had a big influence on my writing. She’s kept them very clean yet so intriguing that I can’t put them down. While I like reading other books, I can’t say that they’ve influenced me, necessarily.

How many hours a day to you devote to writing? Sometimes I write for only a few minutes a day, but when I’m “on a roll” I can spend up to 12 hours at a time—if I can get away with it. My kitchen suffers for it, though. So does our diet. And the laundry…

Do you write a draft on paper or at a keyboard? I mostly write on my laptop. But there have been times when I’ve used spiral bound notebooks, like when I don’t have access to my computer and I have ideas for my story. I know better than to delay writing them down. With my memory, I sometimes forget what I walk into another room for.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing? I draw. In fact, one of my portraits I entered at our local county fair just won two ribbons: “Best of Class”, and “Outstanding”. Can’t get much better than those. Well, maybe a little better. Last time I entered a portrait, it won “Best of Show” and I received a nice check. Money is always nice. Here’s a link to my blog’s painting page: http://debraerfert.blogspot.com/p/my-paintings.html

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books? I was surprised that I could actually write a book. You know, that had a beginning, a middle, and an end, and they all fit together with a nice cohesive story arch. I surprise myself each and every time I write “The End” on a story.

How many books have you written? My first book, the one that was over 800 pages long, I overhauled and rewrote 4 times. They had the same characters in them, but they were essentially different books. In all, I’ve written 13 books. Maybe 14, not including several short stories and novellas.

Which is your favorite? My favorite book is the Window of Time Trilogy. It’s that 800-page monster that morphed into a 3-part series. Main character CIA Agent Lucy James is my alter-ego—my super-ego. I’m her in my dreams.

Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they? We’re all still trying to become better writers—always! I’m going to writers’ workshops, and writers’ conferences, taking copious notes, and absorbing anything and everything that is involved with writing a better story. If it sounds good to me, then I take it to heart and use it. I encourage every writer to attend these conferences and workshops when they can. Even being around other writers can be good for the soul.

What was the hardest part of writing your book? The hardest part of writing my books comes after typing “The End”. That’s when the real work begins. Finding unbiased beta readers to take on the challenge of reading your manuscript, and give you good feedback. And then, and painful as it is—paying a professional editor to edit your book. AND… then, once, twice, and even three times, having good proofreaders go over the edited book to find those typos that inevitably slip by. Even after it is published, don’t take offense when a reader finds even more typos or missing words. Thank them, and, if it’s in your power, correct those mistakes.

Debra, thanks so much for stopping by!

Readers, I hope you enjoyed this chat with Debra. Stay tuned tomorrow for an excerpt and information about her newest release, Changes of the Heart.

 

Eclipse 2017: Visiting with Astronaut Linda Godwin

Please join me in offering a warm welcome to Dr. Linda Godwin, who served as an astronaut and currently teaches at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Personally, I’ve always been fascinated by space, so I couldn’t resist the opportunity to chat with her. If you want to hear more about Linda, check out the Ted Talk at the bottom of the interview.

I understand you majored in math and physics in college. What influenced you to follow the STEM path?

I always like Math and Science in high school and I give a lot of credit for that to my teachers.  My parents were also encouraging.

When I was young, I dreamed of becoming a lab technician, because I wanted to do research in a lab. Obviously, I didn’t follow that path. I know you grew up in a small town in Missouri, likely not surrounded by astronauts. What did you dream of being when you grew up?

I never did have a big plan.  I was very  interested in NASA when I was growing up as we followed the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo flights.  NASA seemed a very long way from where I lived however.

Who encouraged you to follow your dreams?

Somehow I just went through life selecting the next thing to do, which had me getting my BS in Physics and Math at Southeast Missouri State and then on to Mizzou for my PhD in physics – I guess I didn’t feel like I was done.  During that time I had no thought of being an astronaut until near the end of my graduate school time at MU.

You joined NASA in 1980. What made you decide to join the program? How did you end up on that path?

While I was in grad school at Mizzou, NASA announced they were going to hire astronauts for the space shuttle program and for the first time they intended to include women in this astronaut class.   The educational background requirement specified some field of science, engineering, or medicine, so I was eligible.  I did apply then but was not interviewed that year.  It turned out I needed another two years to finish my PhD anyway, and during that time I managed to scrape together some money by doing tutoring to take flying lessons.  When there was another change two years later, I applied again and made it to an interview week with NASA.  I did not get the astronaut job, but was offered a job with Flight Operations supporting missions in Mission Control which I accepted.  That work was good experience and I was accepted into a later astronaut class.

What was the culture in NASA like in 1980 for women? Did you have mentors? Have you served as a mentor to younger women coming into the program?

I cannot identify a mentor.   The culture was ok, probably better than many other places.  Women were also just started to work in mission control, but I had many female colleagues.

I’ve visited Johnson Space Center a couple of times, and am always awed by the campus and, in particular, Mission Control. Can you give us an idea of what it feels like to be in Mission Control during an active mission? (i.e., do you live on caffeine? what are the hours like? do you experience depression when it’s over?)

I began to develop my coffee habit in grad school and I would say that it carried over to the shifts in mission control.  Mission Control has many positions, but I only worked in the area that supported the payloads on the missions – the unique part that changed every time.  We would be assigned to work specific shuttle missions, and that include getting familiar with the payloads/experiments, arranging and scheduling operation working groups, plus other meetings -so lots of meetings, and were the interface to work on the crew procedures and get them published prior to missions.  We participated in the many hours of simulations from either a front room position in mission control or from a back room support room.  The actual mission support was always very busy and it was great to be a a part of the team.  I enjoyed the fact that there was a conclusion to these individual missions and there was always another one coming up.

Where were you and what were you doing when you found out you were going to be an astronaut on the Space Shuttle? How did your family take the news? Did you ever have any doubts or second thoughts?

I was in a meeting at NASA when I got a call I was selected to be in an astronaut class.   I’m sure my parents were a little worried about it but they supported me.  I did not ever have any second thoughts.

I’ve seen video of you on the Space Shuttle and I can’t even imagine what that would feel like. Can you give us mere mortals a glimpse into that life? Is there a particular memory that stands out?

A shuttle flight was very busy.  Each day was carefully planned.  Obviously the primary difference in working in a free-fall orbit around the Earth, where the space shuttles went and where space station is, is that everything seems weightless and floats which means tasks are a little more challenging and its as easy to lose items as they floated away.  Floating was awesome and there was a learning curve to moving around gracefully.  Looking at the Earth is one of the best memories.  Orbits were about 90 minutes so in that time, if there was a chance to look out a window, one would see a lot of water along with land masses and a sunrise and sunset every time around.  Often we were too busy to look out, but it was the best thing if there was time.

Some people are savers (me, included). I have souvenirs from every vacation I’ve ever been on, I think. Do you have any souvenirs from your astronaut days that are particularly meaningful?

There are many photos and video from all the missions – that is the best way to recapture those moments.

Ahem, that brings me to my next question – I understand your husband is also an astronaut? Were your dual demanding careers ever an issue? Any competitiveness between you?

It was very special that Steve and I both shared these NASA experiences together.  by the time we married he was finished flying on the shuttle and finished his NASA career continuing to fly as a research pilot in the Aircraft Operations Division in T-38’s and Gulfstreams.  I had two more missions on the shuttle after we married.  We each had 4 flights.   I lost him 3 years ago to cancer.

You participated in many experiments during your missions. Are there any that stand out in particular, perhaps that you think might have the biggest impact on the scientific community (or humanity, for that matter)?

I can’t pick just one.  Each was different and special.  STS-37 had Gamma Ray Observatory which we deployed on orbit and remained in orbit around the Earth for 9 years collecting gamma ray data, the more energetic wavelengths of light, providing information about intense astrophysical phenomenon in the universe.  STS-59 was a mission to learn about our own planet, STS76 went to the Russian Space Station which was extremely interesting and my last flight STS-108 docked with the International Space Station which I’m very glad I got to experience.

Now that you’ve retired from NASA, I understand you are a professor of physics. What do you think we can do, at the college level and beyond, to encourage women who want to work, research and teach in STEM fields?

I hope to encourage everyone to see that science is very interesting, even if it is not going to be their career, and we all need to understand the physics of our world.  I want young women to know they are equally capable to compete in these fields.  I use many of my NASA experiences to make this as interesting as possible.

There is talk about us returning to the moon, or preparing for a trip to Mars. What do you think the future holds, in terms of the space program?

This is very difficult to predict.  We can solve the technical problems, but budget and political issues are much more challenging.  I hope we go to Mars some day.  It will be very expensive and the Moon is much more achievable.

The eclipse is just around the corner and is being talked about everywhere. I’ve heard that NASA will be in Jeff City for the event. Do you keep in touch with folks at NASA, or ever go back for a visit?

I keep in touch with some and there are periodic reunions which I try to attend.

Last, but not least – Was it difficult returning to Earth, both literally and figuratively, after being an astronaut?

Literally, with missions of about a week, readapting is not too bad upon return.  It is, I am sure, more difficult for the astronauts returning from a 6-month stay on the space station.  I miss some of the experience of participating in the astronaut program, but life moves on and I like what I am doing now.

A lot of my readers are women, many who are struggling, clawing and digging to make their dreams come true (whatever those might be). Do you have any advice for a reader who may be gazing into the distance at that dream that calls to them?

Just keep going and take a step at a time.  As you can see from my story I had to apply several times before I became an astronaut.

Inspiration: Widows, Mobsters and the Secret Service

Writing is an integral part of who I am. Very few days pass that I do nothing writing-related. As some of you know, I started a new project recently – intended to be the third in the Widow’s Web series, about widows who overcome challenges when they are facing the most difficult time of their lives. I’m about 10,000 words into the story, about a woman who finds out her husband is cheating on her.

But my muse seems to have other ideas. For those of you who are unfamiliar, my muse is a fairy named Jennie. She sits on my shoulder and whispers in my ear. While I’ve been trying to write Morgan’s story about her cheating husband, my muse is obsessing about the Secret Service. At the library recently, she directed me to choose In the President’s Secret Service as the audiobook to listen to during my daily commute. Last weekend, I decided to flip on the TV and see if anything good was on. What was on? The Clint Eastwood film, In the Line of Fire. This morning I turned on Netflix, thinking I’d play something in the background while I was writing. Netflix suggested Vantage Point.

My muse hasn’t stopped there. She’s given me a character. A woman named Mackenzie (“Kenzie”) Egan. Her great grandfather was an Irish mobster in Kansas City (moved over from the St. Louis crime family). I cannot stop thinking about this woman, and the Secret Service . . . those agents who dress sharply, with white shirts and dark suits and dark sunglasses, with the ever-present curled wire disappearing under their collars.

So, tell me . . . what would you rather read about? A woman with a cheating husband, or a mob princess who joins the Secret Service?

Why do you write?

That’s a question I get asked all the time. Of course, there’s the simple answer – I write because I must. It’s who I am.

But there’s more to it than that. I write because I want to create a lifestyle. My day job is awesome. I love what I do, love the people I work with, and am fortunate to work in a supportive, energetic environment where I am challenged every day. My salary is enough to almost make ends meet (note the “almost” – right now our dryer and dishwasher are limping along, threatening to quit). The benefits are decent.

Rich Mountain RoadBut I am never going to have freedom with my day job. I will always work Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm. I will always schedule vacation time around others’ schedules. My paycheck goes into the bank and bill payments come out. Frankly, I want more than that out of life. I want to be able to make enough to pay our debt down. I want to be able to travel every now and then (yeah, we travel some, but rarely and are always budget conscious – like our trip to Gatlinburg last year – on the right). I want to be able to pay for the vet bills for a stray Beagle hit by a car. I want to be able to donate money to a friend who is rescuing horses from a kill yard.

All of those things take money. And in order to make more money, I need to do something beyond the day job. It seems natural to honor the talent I have been blessed with, and write. Hopefully, I can make enough money off of that talent by entertaining people, letting them escape into another world for a bit, so that I can do some of those things that I want to do.

If you want to help me do some of those things, and you like to be entertained by a well-written book with twists and turns, consider buying one of my books.

Thanks for listening. And comment below about what YOU want out of life.

Guest: Joanne Guidoccio (and a giveaway!)

Too Many Women in the roomI’m happy to have Joanne Guidoccio with me today (psst . . . take a peek at her new book cover and you’ll know exactly why I was drawn to her!). I asked her to tell me a little about her writer’s journey and her new book. Make sure you read to the end for info about her giveaway!

All About Freedom 53

In 1984, London Life Insurance came up with a uniquely Canadian slogan – Freedom 55.

Each time I saw the commercial of the middle-aged couple walking along the beach, enjoying a sunset, or engaging in water sports, I imagined my own retirement: extended holidays as a snowbird, launching a non-profit, starting a counseling practice. A little different but compelling enough to keep me dreaming of my own freedom years. Why not leave the workforce at age 55 and devote the remaining 25 to 30 years of my life to my passions.

Five months before my fiftieth birthday, a diagnosis of inflammatory cancer brought everything to a standstill. I survived, scarred but happy to be alive and appreciative of the many gifts cancer had brought.

I returned to my teaching position, with new determination. I would not wait until age 55 to retire. Instead, I aimed for Freedom 53, a very early retirement, possible because of a generous teacher pension program.

As 2008 neared, I felt flutters of trepidation but remained committed to Freedom 53. For the most part, family and friends were supportive, but I could see flickers of doubt in their eyes. A few ventured to ask: “What on earth will you do?”

While some of my earlier dreams no longer fit, I did have a vague idea of what life on golden pond would look like. Sleeping in each morning. Leisurely breakfasts. New hobbies. Volunteering. Traveling.

These were my pat answers whenever anyone asked about my future plans. And at some point in the conversation I would work in one of my favorite quotations from Eckhart Tolle: “When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life.”

I kept my writing dream, concocted at age eighteen, tucked away, fearing to even speak the words: “I want to write.” It sounded a bit pretentious and a definite stretch from my 31-year career as a mathematics and co-operative education teacher.

All that changed when I returned from a trip to Newfoundland. I put pen to paper and wrote an article about my adventures. To my surprise, it was picked up by the Waterloo Record and published two months after my retirement. I took that early publication as a sign from the universe and announced my intention to write.

I started journaling and filled large blocks of unscheduled time with workshops and online courses. Slowly, a writing practice emerged. At first, I focused on the nonfiction market and wrote book reviews and articles about careers, money management, wellness, personal growth and development. While I was delighted with the response from newspapers, magazines, and online publications, I wanted more.

“More” translated into a novel, and in my case, three novels—Between Land and Sea, A Season for Killing Blondes, The Coming of Arabella—released over a two-year period (2013 – 2015) by Soul Mate Publishing and The Wild Rose Press.

On May 19 of this year, The Wild Rose Press released Too Many Women in the Room (Book 2 of the Gilda Greco Mystery Series).

Right now, I’m polishing the final draft of A Different Kind of Reunion (Book 3 of the Gilda Greco Mystery Series).

So what’s Too Many Women in the Room about?

When Gilda Greco invites her closest friends to a VIP dinner, she plans to share David Korba’s signature dishes and launch their joint venture— Xenia, an innovative Greek restaurant near Sudbury, Ontario. Unknown to Gilda, David has also invited Michael Taylor, a lecherous photographer who has throughout the past three decades managed to annoy all the women in the room. One woman follows Michael to a deserted field for his midnight run and stabs him in the jugular.

Gilda’s life is awash with complications as she wrestles with a certain detective’s commitment issues and growing doubts about her risky investment in Xenia. Frustrated, Gilda launches her own investigation and uncovers decades-old secrets and resentments that have festered until they explode into untimely death. Can Gilda outwit a killer bent on killing again?

Excerpt

“I’m a nobody here,” David said, glancing down at his plate. “And with my credit rating, none of the banks would endorse a loan. I’m screwed.”

“What if I backed you?” I couldn’t believe I was speaking so casually, all the while my heart beat at an alarming rate.

David rubbed a hand over his chin and flashed a grin at me. “Gilda, darling, you’re sweet to offer, but I don’t think you know what’s involved here.”

Susan nodded in agreement.

Were they playing me, I wondered. Since winning nineteen million dollars in Lotto649, I had encountered many sharks who hoped to prey on my easy-going nature. A quick Google search would have revealed my three-year-old lottery win. Old news, but still there on the second and third pages.

“Would one hundred thousand dollars be enough?” I asked. “In case you don’t know, I won a major lottery several years ago.” Since winning, I had received many proposals from across the province and had backed three local ventures. In each case, I had chosen to remain a silent partner.

David’s right hand trembled as he poured himself another glass of wine. Susan’s mouth dropped open, and she gave a little gasp.

“I take it that’s a yes,” I said.

More mild protests followed, and another bottle of wine disappeared. We were all a bit tipsy when we shook on the agreement. And so Xenia was born.

Book Trailer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CORaCadAnbA

Buy Links

Amazon (US): https://is.gd/NRjAXT

Amazon (Canada): https://is.gd/1pX3Bn

Kobo: https://is.gd/5VwbTf

Indigo: https://is.gd/o3ZKRW

The Wild Rose Press: https://is.gd/1mns8Q

Barnes & Noble: https://is.gd/NFHdlS

Bio

In 2008, Joanne took advantage of early retirement and decided to launch a second career that would tap into her creative side and utilize her well-honed organizational skills. Slowly, a writing practice emerged. Her articles and book reviews were published in newspapers, magazines, and online. When she tried her hand at fiction, she made reinvention a recurring theme in her novels and short stories. A member of Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, and Romance Writers of America, Joanne writes cozy mysteries, paranormal romance, and inspirational literature from her home base of Guelph, Ontario.

Where to find Joanne…

Website: http://joanneguidoccio.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/joanneguidoccio

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorjoanneguidoccio

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joanneguidoccio

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/jguidoccio/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7277706.Joanne_Guidoccio

Giveaway:

Click on the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/628069205/

WriteScouts: Promotion – Building Your Email List 2 (MailChimp)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last time, we talked about the overview of an email list. Getting started was a challenge for me – for some reason, it scared the bejesus out of me. So, I thought I’d share what I learned when I started with MailChimp.

Getting started:

  • Login to MailChimp
  • Click on the Lists tab
  • Click on the Create List button
  • Follow the instructions to create your List

Okay. You have a list. It’s an empty list, but you have a list! And now it’s time to fill that list. To do that, you need email addresses.

Click on the Lists tab > Click on the little down arrow on the right.

 

 

 

 

Click on “Signup Forms” > Choose Embedded Forms by clicking the “Select” button.

You can choose between several embedded forms, such as Classic, SuperSlim, etc. To begin with, let’s just go with Classic. You can see what it will look like in the Preview window. The default collects your subscriber’s email address, first name and last name. These are the basics – that’s enough to communicate with subscribers.

Just below the Preview window is a section of code (conveniently labeled as “Copy/Paste Onto Your Site”). Click in the box and press Crl-A to highlight all of the text. This is what you will insert in the code of your website (for instance, at the end of a blog post, or on the front page of your website, or perhaps in the sidebar).

Other options that’ll be covered more in-depth later are pop-ups on your website, and Facebook integration.

Something to think about for next time – lead magnets. What can you offer your readers to entice them to give up their email address?

As a reader, what do you want from authors?