Category Archives: Interview

A strange barometer for success?

Spam. We all get it, and it seems blogs are the target of choice. Spammers know that most internet traffic goes to blogs, so it’s only reasonable that’s where they go. Luckily many blog hosting sites have tools available to keep spam from building up, either in our email boxes or as comments.

My WordPress blog actually puts all the spam in a folder which I have to clean out every once in a while. The last time I logged in was three days ago, and I just removed 128 spam comments.

Should I take that as a compliment? Do they plant their little poops for my readers to step through, because they think their chances are good someone will go to their sites? My ego would like to think so. My more logical brain center puts things in a different perspective:

Spammers send out little bot programs to plant spam comments. They sneak around the internet 24/7 and when they find a blog without CAPTCHAs, they leave their little presents. It’s nothing personal, and it certainly isn’t because I’m popular. I’m just easy to reach.

So much for success *rolls eyes*.

There ain’t nothing more profound to add to this entry (I know bad grammar, but it’s my blog and I can do what I want. So there). I’d apologize, but I’m not sorry. I just felt like writing, and this is what I came up with.

Oh! I do want to add that four interviews I did with Ashford Radio are now available for your listening pleasure (as my ego giggles and my logic center scoffs) on my website at www.almarquardt.com/interviews. All but the first one focus on writing. I’m doing another on Saturday at 9am CDT if you want to listen in (www.ashfordradio.com). It’ll center on writing again, with some discussion on copyrights. I believe they will also give out a phone number you can call if you want to talk to me live.

Part Two

I know I promised to talk about faith in my next entry, but right now I have no motivation to do much of anything but sit in front of the air conditioner.

However, I did want to point you to the second interview with Ashford Radio I did on Saturday. You can find it at www.ashfordradio.com. Click on the second microphone (Studio B) and scroll down to the On Demand Episodes.

This time I talked about my books, why I wrote them and writing in general. I tell you, those 30 minutes really flew by. I did stumble a bit at the beginning, but I again think I did well.

I’ll be doing three others, each on Saturday morning at 9am Central. I will continue to point you to the archives when they’re out if you miss the live feed.

Later and Happy Sunday. Stay cool.

The Interview

First of, to listen to the show I did on Saturday, go to www.ashfordradio.com. From there click on the first microphone that says “Radio Studio A”. From there scroll down until you see my name. Click on that and the show will start playing.

Overall, I think it went well. I didn’t stutter too much. At least I don’t think I did. Just over halfway through, they accidentally cut me off and had to call me back. It was a good experience, and I wasn’t as nervous as I anticipated. Many a prayer was whispered as I waited for the show to start, let me tell ya.

Turns out I needn’t have worried about whether or not I would be more open about my faith during the interview. The subject never came up as the interviewer focused on my job and what Land Surveying entails. My biggest concern was that I described what land surveying is without talking over people’s heads. As with any technical occupation, there is a tendency to techno-speak. I tried to stay away from it, but I’m not willing to listen to the interview and find out. I never did like the sound of my voice (although I’ve never heard anyone else complain about it). I prefer blissful ignorance and believe I did okay. Why listen to the show and discover I sucked? Yeah, when it comes to this, I prefer delusion.

Since I received such good feedback so far, I’m doing another four half-hour interviews over the next four Saturdays staring at 9am Central time. These will focus more on my writing and photography. A perfect venue to talk about my faith since it’s such an integral part of my writing. As with the first one, it will be archived. I’ll provide a link should you miss it.

But it’s hot, I have a cold (when I just got over one two weeks ago), and I’m tired.

I think my next entry (should I have more mental energy) will be about the definition of faith, and why it can be such a struggle at times.

Later!

It’s Time

When I started writing my first book, I couldn’t wait for it to be published. I wanted to see my name in print right now! That was ten years ago. Sure my name has seen print with three short stories, as many articles and a self-published novella, but my novel is still in limbo. I’m not concerned about it. In these last ten years, God has taught me patience.

But it is patience I’ve finally gained, or is it complacency? A bit of both?

I haven’t written much of anything since my last entry in March. Four months! Hard to believe. Where did the time go? Admittedly I wasted a lot of it catching up on favorite tv shows and movies (Netflix and Hulu can be quite addicting).

Over the last few weeks, my fingers have been itching to write. But write what? Sure I submitted two articles to AUGIWorld, but each one took less than four hours to write.

Two of my books need serious edits, and I’m about a fifth the way through the first. Not something to brag about, because I’ve been working on that since January. I’d also like to rewrite “Traitors,” or at least the first three chapters. I went through the comments for the Genesis Contest last year, and realized the first part needed work.

My first draft started with an assassin right before she entered the house to kill her victim. I had since changed it beginning with the assassination itself while in the mind of the victim.

Based on the comments, I decided the story would be better the way I had it originally. Funny, that. My instincts were right to begin with. It’s a good thing I keep all my major drafts, both on computer and hard copy.

I also need to come out of the shadows a bit. I’ve been in hiding, mostly because I’ve let my faith stagnate some. Okay, a lot. I haven’t gone to church since January, and I’ve barely picked up my Bible since then. My only communion with God in any capacity is when I say bedtime prayers with my son.

A few weeks ago, I received a phone call from Ashford Radio. They wanted to do a half-hour radio interview of me. I was ambivalent at first, but finally agreed. Partly it was due to cost. They wanted $2000. Not happening. After saying no about three times, they took away features such as a plaque and travel vouchers, and lowered the price to $500.

I figured if I want to come out of my shell,and start promoting myself more, a half-hour interview live-streamed on the Internet would be the boost I need. Even if I do have to pay for it.

They called me this afternoon for a pre-interview, and one of the questions they asked was, “Who was your biggest influence on your life?”

On the tip of my tongue was, “Jesus,” but I instead said, “Mostly my parents.”

That’s when I realized just how far I let my relationship with Jesus falter. Didn’t he say, “those who acknowledge me to others, I will acknowledge in heaven, and those who deny me, I will deny in heaven?” (Paraphrased because I’m too lazy to get off my bum and look it up). If I were to split hairs, I could say I didn’t deny him outright, but I sure didn’t acknowledge him either.

Luckily I have another opportunity during the actual interview to say what I wanted — and needed — to say. Hopefully I won’t chicken out then.

I also focused more on my actual job as a land surveyor and less on my writing during the pre-interview. Mostly because writing has taken a back seat to other priorities. But, we’ll see what happens during the actual interview. I may just have to sit down with God for an hour or two beforehand and discuss with him what I should say. He’s never let me down, even when I’ve let him down so many times. God’s kinda great that way.

You can listen to the interview on www.ashfordradio.com, on Saturday, 7/23/2011 at 12pm EST. You can also read the press release HERE.

Author Interview: Becky Levine

Becky LevineFor the last six months or so, I’ve been reading Becky Levine’s blog about writing, publishing and critiquing. I highly recommend it; it’s informative and funny, and you feel like you’re conversing with a friend in every entry.

In January, 2010, her book “The Writing & Critique Survival Guide” published by Writers Digest Books is scheduled to be released.

I hope you enjoy the following interview as much as I did.

1.      First, tell us a little about yourself:

I’m a writer and a speaker, and hoping to stretch into some teaching in the next couple of years, as well. I’m a native Californian–grew up near Pismo Beach, lived in Southern California for a few years off and on, then settled happily into the bay area, where I’ve been for–oh, man–20 years! I live in an old (for California!) house in the Santa Cruz mountains with my husband and son, a cat and a cockatiel.

2.       Did you always know you would be a writer, or did a specific event urge you to hone your craft?

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to write, although I can connect most of my young writing with the second house my family lived in, so that would have happened after I was 9 or 10 probably. The first time I remember really thinking, "THIS is what I want to do," was when I read Phyllis A. Whitney’s young mysteries. She wrote about girls like me and pushed them out to their limits to do things I probably wouldn’t have dared. I think that’s when I saw how much you could do with words. I asked for all Whitney’s writing books for birthday and Christmas presents.

3.       Tell us a bit about the process you went through to pitch "The Writing & Critique Writer & Critique Group Survival GuideGroup Survival Guide" to Writer’s Digest books.

I had a pretty lucky path. I was doing freelance manuscript editing, and a writing friend–Lee Lofland got me invited to speak at the Mad Anthony Writer’s conference in Ohio. I was on a panel with an editor from Writer’s Digest, discussing what makes us stop reading. (I’m also a book reviewer.) We all kept going back to how a critique group is such a wonderful tool for working through all these weaknesses. Finally, someone in the audience asked, "So how do we do that? Is there a book?" The editor said they didn’t have one. Afterward, I pitched the idea to her, we talked about the fact that the book would have to be a how-to, something really useful, and she said I could send her a Table of Contents. After that, I did a sample chapter and worked with an acquisitions editor a bit. Writer’s Digest even ran a survey with their readers to see if there was enough interest in the book. It was all very exciting–especially when I got the "Yes." 🙂

4.       Who or what are your biggest encouragers?

I am so surrounded by family and friends who give me so much support. My husband thinks it’s "cool" being married to a writer, and my son tells me how good I am. He reads everything I write (okay, sometimes I have to bribe him, but not often!). I have friends who listen to me in the good times and the bad, and I have the best circle of writing friends anyone could ask for. I have been critiquing with several writers in my area for over 10 years, and–since I started blogging–have met so many incredible writers online. One of my friends talks about finding her tribe, and I think it is SO important. Nobody else really knows what this writing thing feels like.

5.       Who are your biggest influencers?

The critique "thing" started over 20 years ago for me when I went to UCIrvine for college and took writing classes from Oakley Hall. He taught his workshops like critique groups, and I discovered the huge benefit of writing within a community, where a critiquer’s job was to help a writer make THEIR book the best they could, and a writer’s job was to listen carefully and respectfully, then filter out the ideas they needed to revise their project. The other influencers are my critique partners–who take the time and thought to dig deeply into my work and help me make it better, who exchange ideas with an energy that can create sparks–to help each other grow our writing skills.

6.       You’re also writing an historical YA novel. How did you come up with the idea?

In the past, I read very little nonfiction. Then my sister gave me a nonfiction book that looked intriguing, and I dug in. There were a couple of stories about the suffragette movement in the early part of the last century and–in particular–the march on Washington, D.C. in 1913 that hooked me, and I saw a picture of my hero having a very specific role in that march. Then I started reading about the period and fell in love with the Settlement House movement, especially Jane Addams’ Hull-House in Chicago. The story started developing from there, and is turning into a much different book than I
‘ve ever written before. M
y hero’s life gets very grim, and she has some incredibly tough choices to make.

7.       What are your other writing goals in the near future?

I want to start stretching myself a bit in the different children’s genres. I have completed a Middle-Grade mystery, and am working on the YA novel. I also have a couple of ideas for picture books–one fiction and one nonfiction–and for a young chapter book. I’m not sure where I’m going to find the time to work on everything, but it’s a wonderful change from how I used to work–with only one idea ever coming to me at a time! And, of course, if I get the chance to do more nonfiction–like the Survival Guide, I’d love to do that.

8.       How long have you been blogging, and why did you start?

I’ve probably been blogging for almost three years now. I first started blogging at my LiveJournal blog for the fun of it, and to connect with other writers–mostly kids’ writers. LiveJournal has a great community of children’s and YA writers, and I’d been reading their blogs for a while. Some of my comments were starting to get a little long, and I thought–well, time to set up my own blog & put my thoughts out there. Then, when I got the contract for the Survival Guide, I decided to do a new website, with another blog–one that would, hopefully, offer writing thoughts and tips that would help other writers, and to talk more about critiquing and critique groups.

9.       Has its original purpose remained the same, or evolved over time?

Oh, I think I answered that above. I’d say that I started the second blog so that my first COULD stay the same. I tend to share more about my own writing worries on the LiveJournal blog and also just chat about life stuff there, and I didn’t want to give that up–but I wasn’t sure it was appropriate for the writing blog I wanted to start.

10.   Do you have a favorite place to write and/or come up with new ideas? Describe it and anything else such as the music you play to encourage creativity.

This is another place I am incredibly lucky. When my husband and I went house shopping–about 15 years ago, we found this incredible house in the mountains. The original owner had been a carpenter and had built it himself with, I think, all the leftover wood he got from his other projects! It had a huge dining room upstairs (who needs a dining room?!) and an enclosed area under the house that might have been a canning room–you have to walk outside the house, around, and down some stairs to get there. My husband said, "Can I have the canning room?" I looked at the dining room and pictured all the bookshelves I could put in it, and said, "Um…you bet!" I have two big windows that look out into our courtyard and at the oak and eucalyptus and bay trees (and a couple of redwoods!) Every now and then a deer wanders by. My music varies. I can’t really have lyrics on when I write, but I’m not a big fan of classical or jazz, so I don’t have a lot of options. At the same time, music really does get me going. I tend to listen to Yo Yo Ma a lot, and some folk singers who kind of mumble or sing in French, so I can’t understand what they’re saying! When I’m revising or doing marketing work, I listen to a lot of electric blues and Motown!

11.  If you were to change any aspect of writing, what would it be?

Oh, gosh, I’d probably like to have my fiction published! 🙂 Other than that, I can’t think of much. I guess I’d like to be more confident and sure of what I’m doing, but I don’t think that’s really a possibility. I think writing IS putting ourselves out there and doing as much thinking and planning as we can, then just writing and hoping/believing that we will be able to say what we want in a way that will make others want to read it.

12.   Other than writing, what’s your passion?

Someday, I’m going to have to think of a good answer to this question–then I’ll have something to put in the Hobbies section at the doctor’s office, too! I really do one thing in life, and that is words–either writing or reading or critiquing. Other than that, I think the most important thing is balancing all this word stuff out with making sure I’m doing the best job "raising" my son as I can, being there for my husband, and supporting my family and  friends–writing and otherwise–as they look around and try to figure out what they want from their own lives. Sappy, I know, but that seems to be the right place for me!

 

Interview with Amy Deardon

Amy DeardonAmy and I first connected through Randy Ingermanson’s blog. Since then we’ve talked via her blog and email. She has a passion for writing and Jesus, and is eager to share her knowledge of both.

Following is my interview with her about writing, publishing and faith. I know you’ll enjoy the conversation as much as I did:

1.     A little about yourself:

I’m married and fortunate enough to be able to stay at home with our two children, now 15 and 12. In my life B.C. (before children) I did bench science research and taught anatomy and physiology at an undergraduate level.

I undertook a personal quest to investigate the claims of Jesus’ resurrection with the goal of destroying them. To do this I studied biblical and extra-biblical accounts of Jesus and numerous commentaries by believers and skeptics alike, listed the facts agreed upon, and began to explore scenarios that could explain what was known. To my surprise and considerable dismay, the evidence kept pointing away from naturalistic explanations and eventually formed a virtually certain case for the resurrection of Jesus. Finally I admitted defeat and became a Christian.

2.     Did you always know you would be a writer, or did a specific event urge you to hone your craft?

I was blown away by the case for Jesus’ resurrection, and decided to write a book. Easy, huh?

3.     Your bio says you came to Christ by attempting to prove the fallacy of the Resurrection. What spurred you to disprove it in the first place?

Short Answer: The Hounds of Heaven.

I grew up in a nominally Christian home, but didn’t want to be tied to ethics and rules. At the same time, I knew that, if on the off chance Christianity WAS true, then I was truly hosed. Christianity rises or falls on the resurrection (1 Cor 15:14-19), so I focused here.

I studied Biblical and extrabiblical accounts, plus commentaries, of the life and death of Jesus for the better part of a year. Months after I’d started, I remember reading the transcript of a debate between Gary Habermas and Antony Flew entitled *Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?*. I was surprised at Flew’s only position that we couldn’t know what had happened. Habermas rebutted with a list of historical facts that were established, and I knew from my own studies that they were established, but seeing them bang bang bang hit me with a sledgehammer. I suddenly saw clearly that naturalistic theories just would never work to explain what happened after Jesus died. Although I was angry I bowed my head at that moment and admitted Jesus was Lord. Later, I got in touch with Dr. Habermas and told him this story, and he kindly gave me permission to use his list of facts in "A Lever Long Enough."

4.     Who or what are your biggest encouragers?

I think ultimately the encouragement must come from within. I am driven to write.

5.     Who are your biggest influencers?

My *Role Model*, the person who comes closest to what I want to do, is Dr. Randy Ingermanson. He has a PhD in theoretical physics, designs computer software, writes on the subjects I’m interested in (Jesus, space, time), and has built a wonderful platform of encouragement for writers and marketing.

6.     In speaking to new writers seeking publication, what advice do you give on how to best start out?

Don’t expect to produce perfect prose off the bat – just as you wouldn’t expect to play a Beethoven Sonata for your first piano lesson. Just believe in yourself, and persist.

7.     Why did you choose self-publishing over traditional?

A few years ago I was able to sign with my first-choice agent. For various reasons things didn’t work out, but not until after all of my CBA contacts had been blown. No other agents wanted to touch Lever. I had three choices: change the name of my manuscript and go through the agents again; write another book; or give it a go on my own. I believed in this book, so figured what the heck? I’m very proud of how it turned out.

8.     How did you learn to market your books?

I’m playing it by ear, since I have no contacts and no one to advise me. I read a lot about the biz, and am willing to try anything. So far I’ve had most success with blog interviews such as this one – I’m so grateful for people like you who are willing to allow me to visit! My biggest coup so far is being selected for the March ACFW book club, an internet loop with over 700 members. I have given this book to God, and am content whether it sells two or two million copies. I want this to be a book that God can use to open the mind/heart of a skeptic.

9.     What do you recommend for people who are also considering self-publishing?

This is not a decision to be taken lightly, so carefully consider the positives and negatives of your publishing options (traditional, vanity/subsidy, your own company). First, recognize that nonfiction is much easier to sell than fiction. Make very sure that your manuscript is ready. If you decide to go ahead with self-publishing consider forming your own publishing company, since in my opinion you will never be able to competitively sell books using a vanity/subsidy publisher. (these are the companies that produce your book for a fee). Be ready to invest resources (time, money, sweat) into the process.

10.     Did the idea for the “A Lever Long Enough” develop over time, or did it arrive at a single moment of clarity?

The kernel came quickly; the rest didn’t. I’d read two novels with a similar premise (Og Mandino’s "The Christ Commission"; Alton Gansky’s "Crime Scene: Jerusalem") but didn’t want to have a long list of character interviews. It was fun to imagine a story that grew organically from the events surrounding Jesus’ death.

11.     Most writers add a piece of themselves in each character. Is there one who you relate to more than others?

I love all of my characters, but if I had to choose a favorite, I’d pick Sara. She is very much like me—focused, quiet, but beneath her calm exterior a seething mass of turmoil. Her faith journey also parallels my own—she didn’t want to become a believer, but was pulled in by the strength of the evidence.

12.     What are your writing goals in the near future?

I have two half-finished projects. The first project is my prequel, entitled "Nest Among the Stars" from Obadiah 1:4, that follows Sara’s space station disaster. This one is really shock and awe, with a deep theme of forgiveness. The second project is nonfiction, entitled "The Story Template," that is a practical guide for a writer to develop a resonant, complete, compelling story from vague ideas. It’s based on an algorithm I’ve developed during my story studies, and it really works with students I’ve coached. It’s not a formula, more like a description of proportions and guidelines that work with any genre, sin
ce I’m a great belie
ver in the uniqueness of each artist’s vision. You can see a tutorial for preliminary story organization that I’ve put on my website under *resources.*

13.     Do you have a favorite place to write and/or come up with new ideas? Describe it and anything else such as the music you play to encourage creativity.

My *office* is the dining room table. I write on my laptop, and right next to it is my little spiral notebook into which I jot thoughts, reminders, or information I want to keep track of. I listen to music when I’m on a writing roll, but if I’m just engaging in a project it’s too distracting. Some artists I like are Maire Brennan, Michelle Tumes, Twila Paris, Fernando Ortega, Mark Schultz, but many others as well. I love Handel’s Messiah. I’ll perseverate on a playlist for a few weeks, and then move on.

14.     If you were to change any aspect of writing, what would it be?

Just, that I could manage distractions a little better.

15.     Other than writing, what’s your passion?

I greatly enjoy my family. It’s so fun to help coach and guide our kids, and watch them becoming such unique and interesting people. They won’t be home for TOO much longer, so I’m trying to enjoy every minute.

Thank you so much, Amy!

Be sure to check out her website and read her blog. They contain excellent information, and I’m sure she’d love to hear from you.