I’m excited to host an interview with author Loren Rhoads here today.
Most writers I know were starry-eyed readers as children. What do you recall about the first stories that captivated your heart?
My mom used to read books to my brother and me at bedtime. The first one I remember falling in love with was Peter Pan.
I’m not sure what about the story intrigued me initially, but when I was four, my family moved to a brand-new house built in the middle of one of my grandmother’s fields. There wasn’t any yard, then, just piles of dirt dug out for the basment. All around the house rose these little hillocks, covered in willows and weeds and wildflowers.
Everything seemed feral, like something out of Neverland. My brother and I acted out our own Neverland adventures. We were so disappointed when the steamroller finally came and smoothed everything out for a yard.
When did you start writing your own stories?
I’m not sure when I first started writing things down, but I remember when I started to tell myself stories.
My mom was a firm believer in naps. She was in her 20s, working full-time as an English teacher, with two kids under 5. She may have needed a nap more than we did.
In order to get us to settle down, my mom made my brother and me get in her big bed with her. I had to hold still so they could sleep. I passed the time making up stories. They were about mermaids, like the puppet Marina in the Stingray show on TV.
What made you keep going?
When I was in junior high, I met some girls who actually wrote their stories down so they could pass them around. We didn’t think of ourselves as writers, really. We just wanted to share the stories we had in our heads. Sharing stories was a revelation for me.
I loved that I could create pictures that would live inside someone else’s imagination. I took my first creative writing class in high school. After that, I took every writing class I could find.
What was the path to publication like for you?
It’s been a long road. I published my first stories in the 1980s, after I went to the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Workshop.
Soon after that, I had a teacher who discouraged me from writing science fiction, so I turned to horror. The horror community was so much more welcoming.
Since then, my short stories have ranged from erotic horror to science fiction to urban fantasy, while my novels have been space opera and a succubus/angel love story. I’ve written a couple of nonfiction books about cemeteries, too.
What was the best writing / publishing advice you ever received?
Years ago, I met Ray Bradbury, my writing idol, at a book signing in San Francisco. I told him I was struggling with my first novel because I felt like I had to know everything before I could write a word. I felt like I needed to be an expert.
He told me not to think about it so much. “Just write,” he said. “You’ll find out what you need to know as you’re writing. Don’t think so much.” He was so very right. I’ve been a pantser ever since.
Was there any unhelpful or bad advice you can steer hopeful writers away from?
I hate “Write what you know.” What you know can be boring. Write to find out what you think. Write to discover things you want to know more about. Write what you’re interested in.
What would you like readers to know about your work?
My latest project has been a series of short stories about a witch who travels the world to find monsters. Her stories combine my love of travel with the old “psychic detective” stories. I’ve released three short collections on Amazon and plan an omnibus paperback edition of them for the fall.
Here’s the link to the first collection: Alondra’s Experiments
What question do you wish I would have asked that I didn’t?
What am I working on now? I’m glad you asked!
I’m editing a charity anthology for my local Horror Writers Association group. The book is called Tales for the Camp Fire. We’ll be selling them to raise money for survivors of last year’s devastating wildfire, the most devastating natural disaster in modern California history. The book should be out in May. I am really excited about the caliber of the work in it.
To learn more about Loren Rhoads online,check out her site: lorenrhoads.com/
Thanks for stopping by! Happy writing & reading all.
So now what? That’s what I am asking myself.
My first ever novel is a fait accompli. Saturday, July 7th was the official release day for my romantic time travel adventure novel, Time Flash: Another Me.
Truth is, I should have known the answer.
I’ve had 9 poetry collections published to date–6 full-length and 3 chapbooks.
And each time, I was thrilled. And my friends were thrilled. And there was incredible buzz.
I gave readings and shook hands and sold a few books.
But then, there was this huge sense of deflation–the post book release blues.
This giant now what?
How could I keep the excitement for marketing my books alive after the first couple of weeks?
How could I keep telling people my poems are something they should care about?
Well, the first thing I needed to do was remind myself that the words I put together in those books arose out of my deep passion.
And that passion to create remains alive in the words.
And those passionate words are meant to be shared, to connect, to embrace, and hopefully inspire others to create as well.
So with the novel, as with the poetry books, I need to stay impassioned, stay positive, keep believing.
And I do believe in the magic and power of books.
Books by others have transported me and transformed me.
I need to believe my own words can do that too, for others.
(Yes, I truly believe my novel can bring delight!)
And I need to stop feeling like a failure because my book isn’t instantly flying off the shelves or getting hundreds of 5-star reviews.
Putting a book into the world is always a long haul.
The words will be there for others when they need or want them.
They just might not want them right now.
The marketing part of being a writer is the hardest for me.
I need to say in various and creative ways that my book may be a wonderful book for the reader.
And I may need to say it more than once for the reader to notice.
But I also need to keep to writing.
And keep believing the next story, the next poem, the next words matter too.
It can feel like an impossible balance–the marketing and the writing and the believing.
But living a creative life is such a gift.
Being able to metamorphose your imaginings into something that truly exists for others to experience in the world is wonderful, indeed.
As long as I remember that wonder, I can stop feeling disheartened, and keep on going, one word after another.
Patricia Fargnoli is simply one of the finest poets writing today.
And Pat’s an important person in my life.
I’m honored to host her on my blog.
Patricia Fargnoli, a former New Hampshire Poet Laureate, has published five award-winning books and three chapbooks.
Awards include: The May Swenson Book Award, The NH Literary Book Award, The Sheila Mooton Book Award, Foreword Magazine Silver Poetry Book Award, a runner up for the Jacar Press Prize, and a residency at Macdowell.
She has published over 300 poems in such journals as Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Harvard Review et. al.
Pat is a retired social worker and psychotherapist, a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.
I had the good fortune to become a student in the poetry classes she taught in New Hampshire.
Pat was not only a marvelous teacher, but she took an interest in my work, and became my mentor and supporter and cheerleader.
And ultimately, Pat became my dear friend.
I will never be able to truly express the depth of my gratitude.
Pat’s belief in me is a part and parcel of every success I’ve had with publishing my work.
Without further ado, Patricia Fargnoli:
Thank you to Lana Ayers for featuring my book, Hallowed: New & Selected Poems on her blog.
This month is the one-year anniversary of its publication.
Health issues and issues of aging (I am 80) have prevented me from doing readings or publicizing the book the way I would have wanted to.
So I am so grateful to Lana for her interest in this feature.
How did you come to poetry?
Poetry became an important part of my life very early, largely because of the wonderful Aunt Nell who took care of me after my parents died.
She had been a kindergarten teacher for 40 years and loved children.
Each night, before bed, she would read to me: all the children’s classics, and books of poetry –“Silver Pennies,” “Peter Patter’s Owl,” “The 100 Greatest American Poems.”
Thus, the rhythms and images of poems became part of me…as did the love of poetry.
I wrote my first poem at age seven on Mother’s Day.
It was for my mother and I asked Aunt Nell to somehow send it to her.
Then, in high school, I wrote (very bad) poems for the school newspaper.
I don’t remember writing during most of the years of my marriage and motherhood, but I never lost interest in poetry.
It wasn’t until my mid-thirties that I began to write seriously.
I somehow fell into a graduate poetry class with Brendan Galvin at Central Connecticut College and took it several times.
Brendan, who is a remarkable poet, and not easy to please, taught me to write well. I was determined to become a good poet and worked hard.
There were seven other women in that class; we all became friends and, after we stopped taking the class, we continued to meet and critique each other’s work.
Still, the group is meeting, 35 years later.
For financial reasons, I’ve never been able to get an MFA (though I wanted to).
I did, however, attend The Frost Place Poetry Conference and the Bennington Summer conference both of which brought me into contact with well-known poets and expanded my poetry knowledge and world.
Most importantly, I studied at Bennington with Mary Oliver who recognized the value of my work
and became a mentor and supporter of me.
Her belief in me has been a lifelong motivator for me
and I am enormously grateful to her.
My first book was published when I was sixty-two.
[I can’t help but interject here folks — First book at age 62!
Winner of the May Swenson Award!
This fact uplifts me greatly coming so late to fiction.
There’s still hope for me & for all of us late bloomers.]
What is the process like creating a new & selected works? Has your relationship to the earlier poems shifted? Have you discovered anything new in the process?
This is the one year anniversary of the publication of Hallowed: New & Selected Poems
so it is a good time to reflect on the process of creating it.
I knew that I wanted to have a volume that recognized my previous books while it also included the new work I’ve written since Winter was published.
And I wanted to do it by my 80th birthday so as to recognize that scary (to me) landmark.
I contacted my previous publishers for permission to use poems from those books and Jeffrey Levine at Tupelo Press said that they wanted to publish it since they had published two of my previous books and considered me to be part of “The Tupelo Family.”
The process of putting the manuscript together was quite easy: I simply chose the best of the new poems I’d written…24 of them, and then arranged them as I would arrange the poems in any book… paying attention especially to the first and last poems but also to the arc of the them and how they connected to each other.
Choosing the poems from previous books was even easier. I knew that I wanted a representative sample from each book, but didn’t want a lot of poems from each book…so I went through each front to back, choosing poems that seemed to encompass the themes of that book and that had gotten recognition through audience appreciation and/or publication…plus those that were personal favorites.
A friend pointed out that I left many strong poems behind and I guess I did but I didn’t want the book to become too long.
What I learned was that some of my themes are lifelong themes: especially grief and loss, how to find meaning and beauty in nature and life, those consolations.
I also recognized that the poems of the first book, Necessary Light, tend to be more narrative than those of later books which tend first toward my lyrical and later to more and more meditative as I aged and began to be more concerned with issues of aging and with the search for spirituality and meaning in a world where there are no (for me at least) certain answers.
Amazingly, when I had finished the choosing and arranging, the poems from all the books seem to become a cohesive book….something that both surprised and delighted me.
Could you share a poem from the new collection?
To an Old Woman Standing in October Light
Better to just admit it, time has gotten away from you, and yet
here you are again, out in your yard at sunset, a golden light draping itself
across the white houses and mowed lawns,
the house-tall maple, green and rust in ordinary light,
has become a leaf-embossed, gold globe, the brook runs molten,
the clouds themselves glow gold as the heaven you used to imagine.
Do you know that your own figure, as Midas-touched as a Klimt painting,
has become part of that landscape falling around you,
almost indistinguishable from the whole of it–
as if eternity itself were being absorbed into your mortal body?
Or is it that your body, out of time, is merged into eternity?
You have been looking for a reason for your continued existence,
with faith so shaky it vibrates like a plucked wire.
Such moments of glory must be enough. As you search them out again, again,
your disappearing holds off for awhile. But see how, even in this present,
as you stand there, the past flies into the future seamlessly,
the way, above you, the crows are winging home again, calling to each other,
vanishing above the trees into the night-gathering sky.
How did this poem come about?
This is the first poem of the book.
The “you” in the poem is, myself as I stand at the precipice of old old age, but also it reaches out to the reader who may be also dealing with issues of aging and meaning.
I wanted to write a poem that used beautiful language and light and spirituality.
I don’t remember much of how I wrote it but I think I must have been in that poem-space where images and words come almost unbidden.
What advice were you given that was the most helpful when you were first showing your poems to others (in classes or workshops or critique groups?
It’s been 45 years since I first began showing others my poems and my memory is not that long.
I think the most important advice I could have been given is to be quiet and listen without getting defensive but, at the same time; to consider carefully all that is said.
Always remember that the poet is the final authority (and decider) about their own work.
Any really bad advice that didn’t help at all, and if so, how did you overcome it?
As for bad advice: negative critiques especially when given forcefully by someone who is sure their opinion is “right” have only left me upset afterwards.
These are not supportive and can be very difficult to shake these off.
I have left critiquing workshops where this happens frequently.
Fortunately, I have been a member for many years of a very supportive and helpful in-person workshop and also an online one where I trust the feedback I receive.
I know this is said often but it is so true: read, read, read…all the poetry (both American and International) you can get your hands on.
And study the poems that you are most drawn to, not just as a reader, but as a student learning from their techniques and moves, their language and strategies.
Also read fiction and non-fictions, read magazines, let all that you read become food for your own imagination.
Make writing a priority in your life, make time on a regular basis to do it even if you think you have nothing to say.
Study the journals before you send work to them in order to decide where you own work might fit.
Build a poetry community.
Some poets are loners, I, myself, am an introvert, but I have found that it’s important for me to have a tribe of poets, people I can turn to to talk about poetry, share successes, even moan about failures.
Thank you, Pat for bringing your beautiful, wise, and enlightening words to my blog.
Thank you readers for coming along.
Please check out more on Patricia Fargnoli here: [Patricia’s website]
I’m so excited to have my favorite Cozy Mystery author
and now dear friend
V. M. Burns visit me here on my blog.
She talks about how she came to write such wonderful mysteries
and gives fellow aspiring authors the wisdom of her experience.
Why cozy mysteries?
I’ve loved cozy mysteries for as long as I can remember.
From Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew to Agatha Christie, I love reading and figuring out whodunit.
How did you come to write cozies?
The transition from reading cozies to wanting to write them was subtle.
I don’t recall saying, “one day, I’m going to write cozy mysteries.”
However, there were two glaringly obvious clues which pointed to career as a writer.
First, I mentally altered book/movie endings.
For as long as I can remember, I indulged in what I called, “my imaginings.”
If I finished a book and didn’t like the ending, I changed it.
If I watched a movie and thought the characters should have behaved differently, I “imagined” an alternative.
Or, if I read a book and wanted to know what happened next, I imagined the sequel.
At the time, I had no idea this would lead to a life as a writer.
I thought everyone came up with ideas for books/movies or thought out alternative endings and sequels.
Didn’t everyone standing in a crowded elevator imagine how someone could be murdered?
In addition to an active imagination, I also kept a mental “I wish there was a book” list.
I wish there was a book about a woman who owned a mystery bookstore who solved mysteries.
I wish there was a book about a policeman and his godmother who solved murders.
I wish…well, you get the idea.
One day, I told a screenwriter friend, one time too many, that she should write a screenplay about…
That’s when she suggested I should write it myself.
Once the seed was planted, I couldn’t dig it out.
I got every book I could find about writing.
Initially, I wrote screenplays and children’s books. I attended conferences and workshops and I wrote.
I completed four screenplays and two children’s books.
Unfortunately, no one was interested in producing my screenplays or publishing my children’s books. I got a lot of rejections.
I still read cozies and decided to write my first cozy screenplay, “Agatha and the Mysterious Museum Murder.”
Yep, no one was interested in that one either.
Hollywood is hard to break into, especially from Indiana.
A series of events led me to the Maui Writer’s Conference where I met book authors and publishers.
At the conference, I pitched an idea for a book to a big five publisher and guess what?
She liked it.
The only problem, I hadn’t finished the book. So, I went home and wrote my first cozy mystery.
Thankfully, I write quickly. So, I finished the book and thought, my road to publication was secure.
Uh…no. The publisher only accepted manuscripts submitted by an agent.
I sent queries to agents and got rejection after rejection.
Eventually, I got an agent who sent my manuscript to the big five publisher, who rejected my manuscript.
How did you keep going in the face of rejection upon rejection?
At this point, I knew what I wanted to do with my life.
I wanted to be a mystery writer.
So, I continued to send queries.
What was your road to publication like?
“I revised my manuscript and I wrote the next book in the series.
Years passed and I racked up a lot of rejections.
Obviously, I needed to do something different.
One day, while glancing at the bio of one of my favorite cozy mystery writers, Victoria Thompson, I noted she was an adjunct professor at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, PA.
Ever heard of it? Me neither.
A little research showed that Seton Hill had a low residency MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction.
I applied and was accepted. That’s where I found my Tribe.
I learned how to write and I rewrote my book.
Since I write quickly, I even started a new mystery series (Mystery Bookshop Mystery).
MFA degree in hand, I sent queries to agents, editors and publishers and guess what?
I got more rejections.
Nevertheless, I kept writing.
Eventually, I got an agent who sold the second manuscript to a publisher who asked if I’d write a proposal for another mystery series.
I also sold my first book to a different publisher.
When all was said and done, I was under contract to write fourteen books!
Yes, you read that correctly, 14!
What advice would you give other aspiring writers?
So, what’s the key to my publication success?
I kept writing. I didn’t give up because of a rejection or two or three hundred.
My road to publication was long and rocky with lots of bends, but persistence pays off.
My advice to aspiring authors, don’t give up and no matter what happens, just keep writing.
V. M. Burns author page — check out V. M. Burns’ author page to see all her books!
And check out her own blog here V. M. web site
My sweet husband decided that the publication of my very first novel deserved to be celebrated.
In grand style!
So my husband rented a small function room at our local golf course.
And we invited our neighbors and friends here in Tillamook to come share a delicious salmon dinner.
My hubby even had this nearly life-sized blow up of my book cover made up to decorate the room for the celebration.
It was going to be a wonderful celebration.
And for once, I wasn’t even nervous about having to be the center of attention–like I always am when I have to stand up in front of a room full of people.
When my first poetry collection came out, I seriously considered hiring a stunt double to give the readings for me.
(okay, I don’l look like Bowie or Tilda, but you get the idea)
But this time, I was genuinely excited and wanted to celebrate, even if I was going to read a snippet from the book.
I picked out a polka dot dress to wear because it seemed fun for the occasion without being too formal.
And a purple lace bolero to wear over it.
But you read the title of this post, so you know something went awry.
The party went off without a hitch. People had a lovely time. So what went wrong?
Well, only the fact that I couldn’t attend my own party!
My body decided to betray me in the wee hours of the morning the day of my party
with excruciating pain.
I ended up in the hospital.
I’m doing better now, after a couple of days in the hospital getting test after test after test.
Diagnosed with an intestinal blockage, I’m recovering slowly.
I may need exploratory surgery if things don’t completely resolve on their own. Hope not.
But for now, I’m okay.
Except I’m completely, totally, thoroughly bummed
that I missed my own book celebration party.
My first thought was I didn’t deserve a celebration, anyway.
My second thought, too.
That’s my mother’s voice in my head talking. It’s nearly impossible to shut her up.
My next thought was The universe hates me.
The universe isn’t out to get me. That’s just silly.
I am just an insignificant speck in the scheme of things.
The Universe doesn’t care a whit about me.
So, here I am feeling pretty sorry for myself.
How lame is that?
What I should really be feeling is grateful.
Grateful to have people in my life who wanted to celebrate with me.
Grateful to be alive.
And I am.
I am grateful to be here, for however much more time I am granted.
Guess, I am just going to have to do something else worth celebrating.
Maybe write another book?
Or another half-dozen books?
I better get started, huh?
Wish me luck!
“Do you really want to write a beach book?”
was the question posed to me by an international best-selling crime fiction novelist in her writing workshop where participants read a few pages of their works in progress.
Her tone was accusatory.
Honestly, I felt like I’d just been slapped.
Hard. On both cheeks.
I’ve no doubt my face colored.
I was crestfallen. Every writer hopes for approval from authors they admire. Or at least, constructive criticism.
I felt judged as lacking.
I felt publicly shamed.
I don’t even know if I answered her.
I was just doing everything in my power to keep from bursting into tears.
I tried very hard to hear what she was saying as meaningful feedback.
But she wasn’t critiquing my writing, but the content of my writing.
What I hadn’t realized at the time, was I was running into the great divide, previously unknown to me–
Literary versus Genre Fiction.
And genre fiction, like my romantic time travel adventure novel, according to her was not worthy of wasting time writing.
(And isn’t crime fiction, genre fiction too? Well, not hers I guess.)
I’ve been writing poetry since I could hold a crayon. But that was okay, because poetry is considered literary?
Call me naive, but I didn’t realize there was such animosity between literary writers and genre writers.
To me, good writing is good writing.
And I’ve always read both literary and genre fiction without placing any value judgment on the worthiness of either.
I like what I like. And I like a good story.
I like books that transport me to other worlds, other lives, other experiences than my own.
Books that make me think, and feel, and understand something new.
Books that take me out of my own mental anguish and bring joy.
Both literary and genre fiction can do those things.
So why decide one type of writing is better or more worthy than the other?
Why is only “literary” worthy or merit
who defines what is literary and what isn’t?
I wish I had stood up to that author.
I wish I had said, “All writing matters.”
I wish I could go back in time, and say to that author who shamed me,
“Yes, I really want to write a beach book.”
And now I have.
I wrote the book I needed and wanted to write.
And I’m glad I did. Hopefully, some readers will be too.
Growing up, we were a one TV household.
And believe it or not, until 1980 or so, that TV only had a black & white picture.
When my parents weren’t home or weren’t watching, my older brother was in charge of the TV.
He loved science fiction. So I learned to love it too.
Saturday mornings meant
and space adventures like
But of all the movies my brother and I watched,
this one fully captivated my imagination–
The 1960 film version of H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine.
From that moment on, I was hooked on Time Travel.
I borrowed the book from the library and devoured it.
And of course, my brother and I watched science fiction TV shows too!
And you can probably guess my favorite episode–
City on the Edge of Forever —
a time travel episode where Kirk must chose between love and saving history.
So why do I love time travel so much?
Because time travel is an opportunity to
learn from the past
maybe even to right wrongs,
as in my favorite time travel movie so far
Back to the Future!
Marty makes life better for his entire family–
after almost screwing it up that is.
Time Travel lets you see possible futures
And time travel can help a person learn to become his or her best self,
as in my new favorite time travel book,
11/22/63 by Stephen King
(and the book is way, way better than the show–give it a read!)
Time travel, for me though, is mostly about regret.
The choices we regret making
and the chances we didn’t take.
That’s why in my time travel novel, Time Flash: Another Me
Sara Rodríguez Bloom García gets lots more chances to make things right.
But like most heroines, she’ll make things lots worse before they get better.
Hopefully readers will enjoy the adventure of it all.
And feel happy when they read how the story ends.