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Author Interview Books Writing

Kathleen Kaska’s Tips on Overcoming Writer’s Block!

[Now SCRATCH those last two words!]

Guest Blog! Five-Minute Writing Tips by Kathleen Kaska

Award-winning author Kathleen Kaska

Kathleen Kaska recently sent me her Five-Minute Writing Tips, and I had to share them with you this National Novel Writing Month! I’ve enjoyed several conversations with Kathleen during interviews about her latest books (she has many), and I hope you’ll enjoy the videos of our visits (see below Kathleen’s tips). And so, without further ado, her helpful tips! (Time to rewatch Throw Momma from the Train!)

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Don’t Be Like Larry Donner: Seven R’s for Removing Writer’s Block

Was the night . . . humid, moist, or wet? Is the right word on the tip of your tongue, but you’re tongue-tied? Do you have a great scene for murdering a condescending convenience-store clerk, but can’t get his body into the beer box without being seen? Have your characters developed minds of their own, barricaded themselves in a bank vault, and refused to make an appearance on your computer screen?

What do you do now? Start by deleting the words “writer’s block” from your vocabulary, then remember the advice of Larry Donner. “Who’s he?” you ask. Remember the movie Throw Momma from the Train, a spoof on Alfred Hitchcock’s 1951 thriller, Strangers on a Train? Throw Momma from the Train stars Billy Crystal as writing instructor Larry Donner and Danny DeVito as his overzealous student, Owen Lift.

The plot in both films is based on the theory that if you eliminate the motive, you can get away with murder. In other words, “You kill mine, and I’ll kill yours.” In Throw Momma, Larry wants his wife dead, Owen his mother.

The sub-plot in the spoof has to do with writer’s block. Larry has a severe case of it, which is magnified by the murder charge against him, but the basic lesson to his students is: “A writer writes, always.” So, take Larry’s advice if the words won’t flow and follow my seven “R’s.”

1. Resurrect: Work on more than one writing project.

If you hit a roadblock while working on a story, just move to another. Allow your creativity time to process what you have written. In the meantime, continue writing. I keep several projects in the works: a proposal, an article, a blog post, or even an old-fashioned letter to a friend. This allows me to log several hours a day of writing and feel like I’ve accomplished something.

2. Rewrite: Edit what you’ve already written.

As a writer, you may like to ignore the left side of your brain, but that petty and unrelentingly critical hemisphere is your friend. While the right side of your brain allows the creative stream to flow unencumbered by rules of the English language, you have to tidy up the result with the left.

I set aside my first drafts to let them settle. When the time is right, I let my left-brain do the dirty work.

3. Research: Spend more time gathering information.

Being at a loss for words might mean you’re out of ammunition. There is no better way for me to get those juices flowing again than to delve deeper into my subject, searching for facts and anecdotes that add dimension to the piece.

While working on my article “Digging for Ancient Treasure: Agatha Christie in the Middle East,” I read Christie’s book, Come Tell Me How You Live, a humorous account of her life with her husband, archeologist Max Mallowan. This autobiographical story gave me a new perspective and added a twist to my article.

4. Regroup: Join a writers’ critique group or enroll in a writing class or workshop.

I believe a good writer, like a good teacher, is always willing to learn. For me, groups and workshops increase my motivation and benefit my writing creatively and financially. Isolating myself with my thoughts and computer might be comforting, but I cannot live on my own words alone. I need feedback.

An effective critique group is made up of colleagues, not best friends, and objective criticism is the goal. Don’t go ballistic like Larry Donner did in the film when his nemesis (Momma) gave him the perfect word. “The night was wet” might be accurate, but “sultry” rolls off the tongue and adds more depth to Larry’s description, setting the tone for his story.

Learn from your peers. The day a writer feels that he/she has learned everything there is to know about the art and business of writing is the day that writer should hang up her pen.

5. Resolve: Solve problems that interfere with your concentration.

Well, at least make an attempt. You might not be able to convince your mother not to call during your writing time, or guarantee that your four-year-old won’t fall off his tricycle, but you can arrange and organize your day to ensure fewer distractions.

Maybe you can drop off your kids at your mother’s for the afternoon, turn off your phone, notifications, or even let your emails go unread. Just remove some obstacles so that your path is clear.

6. Read: Read your favorite author.

I have several books that I call my inspirational jumpstarts. They vary from the poetic prose of Beryl Markham’s West with the Night, to the comic dialogue of Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody mystery series, to my favorite poetry book, Nine Horses, by Billy Collins. Reading a great book or story inspires me to write. Likewise, if I am writing an article and am having trouble with that first line, I peruse magazines and read the first sentences of a few articles. This gets my mind off what is not working for me and allows me to focus on what works for other writers.

7. Relax: It might be time to let your mind wander.

Watch Throw Momma from the Train. While your conscious self-relaxes, your brain is still at work processing behind the scenes. As in the movie, everything resolves itself in the end, given enough time and a change of scenery. Larry’s wife is found alive, so the murder charges against him are dropped; Owen’s mother dies a natural death, giving Owen the freedom he needs to become himself; and both writer and student publish a book.

The moral of the story: whether you are running from the law or hiding from your mother, no matter if the night is humid, moist, wet, or sultry, a writer writes—always.

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Our most recent visit about “Murder at the Menger”
We talk about her “Sherlock Holmes Quiz Book” and more!
We discuss her murder mystery “A Two-Horse Town” and more!
Categories
Author Interview Books Writing

How to Make Friends with an Orca–and Other Adventures with Author Robert G. Williscroft!

Dr. Robert G. Williscroft at the Georgetown Christmas Market Book Nook, 2021
Visit with us here and learn about Robert’s amazing adventures!

I was honored to share a visit today with Dr. Robert G. Williscroft, a retired submarine officer, deep-sea and saturation diver, scientist, author of numerous books . . . and so much more!

Here is the audio-only podcast version link:

Alligator Preserves podcast episode of our visit!

Show Notes with Links:

  • How was MileHiCon?
  • I thought I’d done some cool things but YOU ! Tell our listeners what a saturation diver is, and then, have you ever wrestled an octopus?
  • I read Slingshot. In a nutshell and to a layperson, describe this transportation invention.
  • Will it be done, and who will do it (did Elon invest in the wrong venture)?
  • What was the most challenging physical thing you’ve survived, and how did it change you?
  • You met Jacques Cousteau! Impressions?
  • Did you know a Margo, and no spoiler here, but her discovery was awesome!
  • Slingshot has intrigue, danger, sabotage, science, leadership, redemption, love/lust (do they all?)

Robert reads a passage from Operation Arctic Sting!

  • Why do you write?
  • Robert tells us how to make friends with an Orca and how they are the smartest in the sea world (even though they still don’t have opposable thumbs)!
  • From Starman Jones (for youngsters) to Slingshot in 2018 to latest pub (SUBMARINE-ER, stories by Jerry Pait), how has your writing changed?
  • What have you learned that has surprised you?
  • How have your life experiences informed your writing?
  • Doing NaNoWriMo? Nope! (I am!)
  • Names mentioned: Dr. Sonny White, Dr. Frank Drake, Keith Lofstrom
  • Tips and advice to storytellers out there who want to share?
  • Robert and I (and many other authors) will be at this year’s Georgetown Christmas Market! Come find us!
  • Below, the push-up contest with author Todd Fahnestock (watch my interview with Todd here). Robert then showed us all up by doing push-ups on his fingertips! We were still wearing masks last year!

Laurel Stuff:

Meanwhile, I’m working on a new science fiction novel!
(Photo Credit: Elise Sunday)

Find my other work here!

Please subscribe to Alligator Preserves on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts, and tell your friends about it! I’d love it if you “liked” the episodes you listen to, and I’d love it even more if you’d post a quick comment!

Categories
Author Interview Books Writing

Kathleen Kaska’s Cozy Murder Mysteries!

Murder at the Menger . . . and MORE!

Visit with Kathleen Kaska here on YouTube or . . .
Listen to the audio-only version here!

Show Notes with Links:

  • I said it’s been 3 years since I last interviewed multiple award-winning author Kathleen Kaska, but I actually interviewed her in 2021 as well! Here’s proof: Kathleen Kaska Knows Sherlock Holmes.
  • Kathleen gives us an elevator pitch for her latest Sydney Lockhart Mystery: Murder at the Menger.
  • She talks about how her writing and habits have changed since the start of Covid-19, and how she interacts with her Muse.
  • We talk about her multiple fields of research (this novel is set in 1953) and some interesting things she learned that didn’t make it into her book.
Our fearless author at The Alamo!
  • Sydney Jean’s relationship with her mother (can’t we all relate, even if just a little?).
  • Keeping track of multiple characters and possible suspects (and “spoiler alert”–Taco didn’t do it)!
  • Kathleen reads a fun section about an interaction with Sydney’s crazy cousin Ruth (another wonderful character)!
Order all of Kathleen’s books on Amazon!
  • Kathleen tells us what makes a murder mystery “cozy”!
  • We discuss the challenges of having your 1st person POV character get amnesia!
  • The purpose of the recap in chapter 23 (so helpful)!
  • A most unusual twist ending!
  • We talk about our shared knowledge of Marfa, TX and a possible Sydney Lockhard Mystery set in the famous Hotel Paisano!
  • We talk about the many projects she has in various states of completion, and about her newly released Eagle Crossing, the 3rd book in her Kate Caraway Animal-Rights Mystery Series.

BONUS MATERIAL!!!

Here are some videos from Kathleen Kaska:

Metaphor Writing Coach: https://youtu.be/X8za4cdJpr8 

Trailer for Murder at the Mengerhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2Pi4nueFu4 

Laurel Stuff:

Meanwhile, I’m working on a new science fiction novel!
(Photo Credit: Elise Sunday)

Find my other work here!

Please subscribe to Alligator Preserves on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts, and tell your friends about it! I’d love it if you “liked” the episodes you listen to, and I’d love it even more if you’d post a quick comment!

Categories
Books Writing

QUACK!

My First Children’s Book!

The ducks I raised from day-old ducklings have inspired many stories, and I finally completed the first! In this colorful read-aloud children’s book, you’ll learn a few things about ducks . . . and sing along with the “Fuzzy Little Duckling” song!

Please purchase a copy (or more!) TODAY


As a bonus, when you email me (laurel@strackpress.com) to let me know you’ve ordered your copy, I will send you my latest love story poem “Laila and Leo” . . . AND . . . my new short story “Muscleheads in the Mirrors”!

dreSample page from my book!

QUACK is the first in what I hope to be a 3-book series! I’ve done all of the illustrations myself, and the song is one I sang to my “girls” every day!

This story will leave you smiling!

Would you please share this notice with everyone with young readers?

And order NOW for yourself and the wee ones in your life!!!
Thank you!

(the Kindle version is best viewed on an iPad for full color!)

:)
Laurel

photo credit: Elise Sunday

Categories
Author Interview Books Podcast Writing

Matthew Meagher’s Multi-Award-Winning Debut Novel “Irish Town”!

“Irish Town” is set in the town of Ashton high in the Rocky Mountains. Ashton has seen its struggles and faces many challenges particularly from its wealthy and powerful rival, Cherry Ridge located across Powder Valley. 

The novel’s protagonist, and first-person narrator, Jeremiah Connelly, tells us the story of his high school peers who hope to save Ashton from becoming a modern-day ghost town. The story deals with social issues, family problems, environmental challenges, and much more. The novel concludes with a high-stakes competition between the two towns.

Readers have enjoyed “Irish Town.” One saying, “This book is phenomenal. Very well written. Many characters that will blow your mind. You’ll love it.” Another said, “Irish Town engages the reader with a compelling setting and thought-provoking conflicts. The ideal book for independent-minded young adults looking for a cool plot and complex, relatable character.”

Visit with us here!
Listen to my interview with Matt and hear his writing tips!

Show Notes with Links:

  • Matthew Meagher gives us his “elevator pitch” for Irish Town!
  • We discuss inspiring individuals and Matt tells us about how his 5th grade teacher, Ms. Shoemaker, recognized his ability to write.
  • I ask him some personal questions about his teaching career . . . such a funny embarrassing moment!
  • How does he find inspiration for his characters?
So many wonderful awards!
  • He talks about rivalries and alliances and his opinion about if these things are inevitable.
  • He reads a passage from “Irish Town” and then talks about adding the “countdown” element.
  • Why does Matt mention The Great Gatsby more than once in his novel?
  • We both express how much we enjoyed reading The Hunger Games
  • He talks about his next novel (looking for an agent!) and his writing consulting company Marsmen LTD
  • I ask him 3 silly questions before his shout-outs.
  • Link to his short story “Ms. Baker’s Home

Watch for “Sweet Evil,” Matt’s follow-on novel to “Irish Town”–which is also on Audible!

Laurel Stuff:

Meanwhile, I’m working on a new science fiction novel!
(Photo Credit: Elise Sunday)

Find my other work here!

Please subscribe to Alligator Preserves on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts, and tell your friends about it! I’d love it if you “liked” the episodes you listen to, and I’d love it even more if you’d post a quick comment!

Categories
Author Interview Books Podcast Writing

Michael Kilman

A Most Eclectic Creator!

Michael Kilman: Anthropologist/Artist/Poet/Filmmaker/Teacher

My YouTube Interview with Michael!
Audio-only version of our interview!

Show Notes with Links:

  • Michael performs his spoken word poem It’s All Relative, which will be in his latest publication of art and poetry. Pre-order this sure-to-be stunning book soon! I’ll have a link to it soon.
  • We talk about mindreading, ESP, the senses (far more than 5!) and “Supernatural Agency.”
  • We discuss artificial intelligence and I ask when we might lose the “A” in “AI.” Listen to his wonderful response!
  • Michael talks about the troubles with communication today, and how not getting along with someone doesn’t mean you should actively hate them.
  • He suggests reading John Scalzi’s The Kaiju Preservation Society.
  • How does someone like Michael unwind?
  • Find Michael Kilman and info about his eclectic creations on his website at loridianslaboratory.com.

Laurel Stuff:

Meanwhile, I’m working on a new science fiction series AND a children’s picture book AND recently published my first coloring book for the Waterwight series!
(Photo Credit: Elise Sunday)

Find my other work here!

Please subscribe to Alligator Preserves on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts, and tell your friends about it! I’d love it if you “liked” the episodes you listen to, and I’d love it even more if you’d post a quick comment!

Categories
Author Interview Books Writing

Sasquatch Alert!

Award-winning author Linda (L.V.) Ditchkus has a series you’ll want to read!

Enjoy this fun video of my interview with Linda (and her Sasquatch buddy behind her)!
Audio-only version of our interview! Enjoy!
Linda Ditchkus at Salida Books event!

Show Notes with Links!

  • Author Linda (L.V.) Ditchkus tells us a bit about herself before I ask her questions about her unique 4-book Sasquatch Series!
  • She hosts the CCWE writing critique group.
  • Linda gives listeners her “elevator pitch” for the series, a brief and compelling sales pitch.
  • Her series won the CAL 1st place for science fiction!
  • She tells us how the idea of writing a sci-fi novel about Sasquatches captured her Muse and why she set the story in Salida, CO.
  • She talks about how the Sasquatch community she envisions (authors of fiction get to make their own decisions about this) differs from how most people might view them.
Linda at the 2021 FANEXPO Denver Halloween weekend! Everyone loved her banner!
  • Linda introduces us to her main characters and talks about how she was inspired to include them.
  • Her delightful settings are sometimes influenced by her world travels and adventures with her husband.
  • She talks about cultural differences one might find in a Sasquatch community, and how when an author is worldbuilding, there are many more things to consider and plan.
  • Will she continue after book 4? Listen/watch and hear her answer!
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo author Stieg Larsson influenced her series.
  • She talks about the importance of reading a lot, and highly recommends Steel Guardian by Cameron Coral.
  • Linda is working on a new sci-fi, and she will pitch it at this year’s RMFW Conference.
  • We talk about Andy Weir‘s work and how he crafts his novels. We would welcome Andy to visit our writing group in Salida!
  • She offers some wonderful advice to budding and established authors!
  • She also has a short story published in this year’s competitive RMFW Anthology! That and all of her books are/will be available on Amazon here: L.V. Ditchkus
  • Here’s Linda’s website, where you can sign up for updates!
  • If you’re in Salida, stop by Salida Books on F Street to find Linda’s books!
Read it! You’ll love it!

Laurel Stuff:

Meanwhile, I’m working on a new science fiction series AND a children’s picture book AND recently published my first coloring book for the Waterwight series!
(Photo Credit: Elise Sunday)

Find my other work here!

Please subscribe to Alligator Preserves on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts, and tell your friends about it! I’d love it if you “liked” the episodes you listen to, and I’d love it even more if you’d post a quick comment!

Categories
Author Interview Books Podcast

Saralyn Richard Makes Murder Mysteries FUN!

Saralyn Richard! Learn more at her website!
Visit with us here on YouTube!
Audio-only visit

Show Notes with Links:

Find all of Saralyn’s books (and follow her!) on Amazon HERE!
  • How have you / your writing process changed in the past 3 years?
  • Do you still love all aspects of the writing/publishing?
  • Character charts?
The “Door Prize”!
  • Did you know Who dun it from beginning?
  • Real people as references?
  • Great sensory details throughout
  • PLEASE READ A SECTION!
  • Any RESEARCH surprises? Police / mortician / karate!
  • “False summit” idea near end . . . we think we have the answer!

You didn’t like outlining for books…needs spontaneity, but how did you keep all of the sub-plots organized?

Saralyn with Galveston Island Elks Lodge Queen, Asta Timms!
  • Lessons for readers? Advice?
  • Next?  Shout-outs?

Check out Saralyn’s accolades!

  • First Place in SpeakUp Radio’s Firebird Awards for Mysteries 2021
  • Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Readers’ Favorite Award 2021
  • Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Readers’ Favorite Award 2019
  • Silver Medal Readers’ Favorite 2020
  • Finalist Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Best Investigator 2021
  • Finalist Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Police Procedural 2019
  • Finalist American Bookfest 2020
  • Finalist Chanticleer CLUE Award 2019

Laurel Stuff:

Meanwhile, I’m working on a new science fiction series AND a children’s picture book AND recently published my first coloring book for the Waterwight series!
(Photo Credit: Elise Sunday)

Find my other work here!

Please subscribe to Alligator Preserves on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts, and tell your friends about it! I’d love it if you “liked” the episodes you listen to, and I’d love it even more if you’d post a quick comment!

Categories
Books Laurel on Life

Wind? What Wind?

“…I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore…”

and we’re not quite “over the rainbow,” either! Dorothy had a spectacular dream–something I very much relate to–after being struck on the head during a “twister,” but the crazy winds we’ve been experiencing lately are real(ly irritating)!

Steinbeck wrote of drought, dust storms, and the resultant hardships on humankind. The Dust Bowl of the ’30s should be a reminder to us all that Ma Nature doesn’t really care about us and that–yes–our misuse/misunderstanding of the land can exacerbate natural climate patterns. But this newsletter isn’t intended to remedy anything. Rather, it’s a reminder that we generally get to choose how we will respond to inconvenient circumstances. 

Will we allow the wind to make us cranky, keep us indoors, and remain incessantly vocal about how really irritating it is? Or will we consider WWSD (What Would Stoics Do)? While I’m not espousing the “keep it all bottled up inside” advice some may suggest, after we allow our natural inclinations to vent, we might then remember A Stoic Response to Complaining, and then readjust our response! 


Catwalk at Bishop Castle (go ahead and experience how it sways in the wind…I dare you!) 

As spring slides into summer, let’s stay aware of local conditions as a way of preventing unnecessary disasters. Dry winds (and personal negligence) cause horrific fires, and it looks like we’ll have many “red flag days” in our future. Let’s do what we can to spare our first responders this year . . . while still finding ways to enjoy the great outdoors. 

Stay well, my friends, and take breaks from news and social media (except my newsletters!) every once in a while! 

Nothing stops the mighty Bagel from enjoying his hikes!
:)

Laurel Stuff:

Meanwhile, I’m working on a new science fiction series AND a children’s picture book AND recently published my first coloring book for the Waterwight series!
(Photo Credit: Elise Sunday)

Find my other work here!

Please subscribe to Alligator Preserves on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts, and tell your friends about it! I’d love it if you “liked” the episodes you listen to, and I’d love it even more if you’d post a quick comment!

Categories
Author Interview Books Writing

Let’s Remain Hopeful!

Nadine Collier and I (and photographer Sarah Collier!) at the Van Gogh Alive exhibit in Denver, August 2021

By now we all should understand that the novel coronavirus and its persistent variants will be with us for the foreseeable–and unforeseeable– future. When Nadine and I created our award-winning book Peace by Piece: 10 Lessons from a Jigsaw Puzzle!, we did not anticipate the political strife the pandemic would create. We did not assign the virus responses to tribes: Red vs. Blue.

Peace by Piece: 10 Lessons from a Jigsaw Puzzle!

We did, however, intend to help those struggling with every kind of “normal” challenge life throws at us, and our book is as relevant today as it was when we launched it into the uncertain world.

We are honored by The Colorado Sun’s SunLit Interview about how we came together to create our inspirational and humorous book, and we hope you might find reasons in it to be encouraged about our shared future despite the ongoing and often changing reality of this troubling pandemic.

Let’s remain hopeful and do what we can to return to living life in a sensible and less stressful way while remaining vigilant against the virus and protecting those most vulnerable.

Our book is available everywhere in paperback and ebook versions. Hope you’ll consider taking a gander!

Laurel Stuff:

Meanwhile, I’m working on a new science fiction series and just published my first coloring book for the Waterwight series!
(Photo Credit: Elise Sunday)

Find my other work here!

Please subscribe to Alligator Preserves on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts, and tell your friends about it! I’d love it if you “liked” the episodes you listen to, and I’d love it even more if you’d post a quick comment!