Books by Melissa Bowersock

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Author Interview: Victoria Clark

Today I’m sitting down with my good friend Victoria Clark to talk about her wonderful new collection of short stories called Chipped But Not Broken: Baby Boomer Romance. Victoria, can you give us a quick overview of the stories in your collection?

VC: My five stories put my characters into a variety of situations common to Baby Boomers, such as being lonely after the death of their spouse, pining for a lost love, being stuck in a bad situation but unwilling to change, wondering what it would be like to be young again, body angst, and a willingness to take a chance on a new love. The stories all contain an element of humor and the positive view that even with age, a new sense of beginning again is always possible.

MJB: Sounds like the full gamut of situations many of us face. What’s the story behind the title?

VC: A Baby Boomer friend of mine, who was also a member of Questers, a history group that I belong to, made the surprising announcement that she was getting married to a man that she had met on the Internet and would be moving out of the area.  While Internet romance is common place now, it was fairly new in 2003 and we were shocked because she wasn’t normally impulsive.  Several of us quizzed her about her choices and what was an almost instant decision to change so many things in her life.  She wasn’t swayed by our concerns and her last statement was, “We may be a little chipped, but we are not broken.”  To my knowledge, they are still enjoying their romance and life together.

MJB: Great story! Sounds like your friend had/has a great attitude and appetite for life. Good for her. As we said, you cover a wide range of situations in your stories; did you set out to do that? Or did you just write them one by one as you were inspired by each individual story?

VC:  I wrote Call Me Lucky first, just for the fun of creating a story about a Baby Boomer who was reflecting on the old Las Vegas of the 1960s and the current Las Vegas. I like to think I would be as forward thinking as Brandy in her circumstances. Then several months later, I began thinking about a book of stories where Baby Boomer characters would experience romances that were not experienced in the usual romance writing “formula” of guy meets gal.  There are so few books about romance for older lovers.

MJB: So the collection evolved organically over time, spurred by that first story, and the lack of stories for our time, our age. It’s interesting that we’ve been the driving demographic for decades, and yet now we’re getting into that shadow time when we’re less seen and heard. Are you hoping to reverse that trend?

VC: Yes, I would like to see more older people in books, films and even advertising that isn’t about pills and adult diapers. We hear a lot about diversity and acceptance, and still older adults are often ignored.  At one point, I was busy writing letters to clothing companies whose clothing was geared to women over fifty, but whose advertising was done by models in the 25-35 age range.  I maintain that grey hair, no hair, and bodies over size 6 are a natural part of maturing and not a disease.  For example, when I was ready to choose a cover design showing older adults who looked like they were romantically involved, I searched a number of image websites that almost excluded the over sixty crowd, and I finally decided on a cover that was created for me by an illustrator.

MJB: I hear you on that loud and clear. It irritates me to see commercials for face cream that melt the years away, yet the model is all of 25 years old. So the cream will take her back to her teens? Really?

I’m curious if any of the stories in your book are autobiographical, or are they all pure fabrication? Where does your inspiration come from?

VC:  I always am inspired by places I’ve been to, so in that regard, I’ve been to all of the places where the stories take place, if that can be considered autobiographical.  I’d been visiting Sedona since childhood, and the people I’ve seen and met since we moved there are incredibly interesting.  The mix of artists and writers and those seeking spiritual advice or giving it, and the tourists from all over the world could fill volumes of material.  Like Beth in The Misplaced Mind, I’ve sat through many boring planning meetings and many of the characters in Sedona that I described in the story are real.

 The Last Outpost was inspired by Nowhere Arizona, one of the few places for a cool drink or a restroom on Arizona Highway 93 between Wickenburg and Kingman.  Nowhere was never an official town, but the store there was pretty much as described in my story and the restrooms were always clean with outrageous sayings written on the walls.  It was always intriguing to imagine who had built the store and the type of person who would live in isolation out there. A few months ago, one of the Phoenix TV channels did a segment on “There’s nothing in Nowhere, Arizona.”  They presented some facts on Nowhere in an interview with our Arizona historian Marshall Trimble, and then interviewed motorists who stopped to take photos of the Nowhere sign, even though there isn’t anything left but a crumbling building and the sign.

In The Wait, I combined my love of Old Mesilla, New Mexico with the romance of yearning for a “lost love.”  Old Mesilla is one of the most romantic settings with its church, gazebo and quaint shops. It is now a National Monument.  The legends of the lover ghosts who inhabit the Double Eagle restaurant are the forerunners of Delia and Robert whose young romance was also doomed by outside forces. I think most of us Baby Boomers think of a lost love, the one that we didn’t marry or just lost track of, in a romantic sense of wondering how our lives would have been different if we were still with them.  During the writing of The Wait, I took a hard look at the Baby Boomers I know who have found each other again after many years.  In one case, the couple reunited and have been happily married for eleven years, and in another, a couple who had been sweethearts in high school, reconnected, divorced their respective spouses and then broke up after several months.  The romantic vision of their youthful selves wasn’t the people that they had evolved into.  While Delia and Robert are fictional, I really expect them to have a happy life together.

Sally Ann’s character in Finicky Fred was based on a friend of mine who has MS.  She has been “chipped” by her disease but has maintained her zest for life and love, and her spirit remains unbroken.  Fred is an oddball character who is “saved” from never knowing romantic love when he reunites with his childhood friend Sally Ann.

Brandy, the main character in Call Me Lucky, is close to being autobiographical when describing herself and her experiences in Las Vegas.  I love dogs and charm bracelets and the shows in Las Vegas, but Brandy’s friends Ann and Joe and the excitement of the slot tournament, are purely from my imagination.

MJB: I think for most of us fiction writers, we mix in some of our own personal quirks along with a big dose of imagination for our characters.

I know you’ve done other creative projects before this. Tell our readers what kinds of books you’ve produced before.

VC: I have free lanced articles on antiques and postcards for collectors’ magazines for the last fifteen years.  Then my first book, How Arizona Sold Its Sunshine:  Historical Hotels of Arizona was published on early tourism in Arizona and sixty- two of Arizona’s early hotels.  Some are long-gone, some have been repurposed and others still exist as hotels today. I have continued to collect information on them, in case I update the book at some time, and I care very much about the preservation of them. This was my most fun writing project to date as I drove all around Arizona to take photos and gather information. My next two books, A Journey Through Northern Arizona and A Journey Through Southern Arizona, were part of a series by Schiffer Publishing which combined postcards across America with the history of each place pictured.  Their art editor did an amazing job, and the books are beautiful.

MJB: Sounds fascinating, and a lot of fun to research. What turned your attention from non-fiction Arizona history and travel books to fiction?

VC: I wanted to try something different and challenge my imagination, but also to create some stories about romances that were about people my age.  I believe it’s a largely untapped market for writers.  One of the books I enjoyed reading last year was A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman which is a novel about a Baby Boomer, his former life, and how he changed and grew when he met new people and was willing to set aside his old prejudices.  The success of the book, which was also made into a movie, should alert writers to the fact that people of all ages are interesting.

MJB: Having now written both fiction and non-fiction, which do you think is easier to write? And why?

VC: Writing non-fiction, such as writing about Arizona history and Arizona places, requires time-consuming research and then cross checking information and putting the research into a fresh perspective. There is a certain validation that if a reader asks a question about the material, a writer of non-fiction can cite sources. Writing fiction, it is great creative fun to create characters and situations, but I think most writers worry about whether their material will appeal to readers.  For me, writing non-fiction is easier, but writing fiction was more fun.  I do believe that it is easier to sell non-fiction.

MJB: I have a feeling you’re right. I have eighteen novels and one non-fiction, and guess what? The non-fiction outsells all the rest. But I agree, writing fiction is so much more fun.

Are you working on any new books? Any other ideas rattling around in your head?

VC: I’m glad you asked that Melissa, because over the last ten years I’ve been working on a book that I have titled At Night I Go to Tucson in my Dreams.  The book will be a collection of short stories about growing up in Tucson in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.  The stories reference places and events that are gone now, combined with my personal memories of them.  My first story titled Three Bad Birthdays and One Good One moves from my anguish of thinking my life was over after I vomited on a birthday cake to believing that I could create an American Bandstand party when I turned thirteen.

MJB: I have a feeling this book could spark a lot of memories for a lot of us “mature” folks. Now let’s have a little fun here. Tell us something about you that most people don’t know and would be surprised to learn.

VC:  The fact that I love collecting items with historical significance is something that most people know because I sometimes give talks and write about collecting and caring for antiques as well as displaying my collections in our home.  However, in my closet, I have an Elvis collection that I cherish.  He was my teenage crush that I’ve never gotten over, even after I realized that he had “feet of clay” just like the rest of us.  I listen to his music often and love re-living the times I saw him in concert.

MJB: I actually think that whatever music was popular as we were growing up is the music that touches us throughout all our lives. My husband loves 50s music, when he was growing up, while I love the 60s. Of course we both think our music was the best, and neither of us will ever concede the point!

Thanks so much for sharing your new book with us today, Victoria. I hope it does really well, and that it sparks a new interest in the baby boomer mystique. Now, if people want to read more about you and your books, how can they do that?

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Finding Your Voice

How do you know when you’ve found your true voice? I write multi-genre, and I discovered a long time ago that the genre, or the story itself, demands the voice. I write softer, more descriptively, when I write romance. I write more directly and tersely with an action/adventure. I also write more directly when my protagonist is male, and more effusively when my protagonist is female. Back in 2013, I wrote more extensively about changing voices here.
But beyond the story suggesting a voice, how do you craft that voice? You do have choices, you know.
Most books (I would think 90% or more) use a past tenseHe ran up the hill. Whether due to this majority usage or my own proclivity, I feel like past tense is a logical mode for telling a story. I believe most of us use it when we tell our own stories, like recounting our trip to the grocery story.
“I was driving along, minding my own business, when this guy pulled out right in front of me …”
To my mind, this is a natural way to tell a story, since we are recounting something that happened in the past. There are some, however, who choose to use a present tenseHe runs up the hill. To tell you the truth, I have no idea why anyone would choose this method. I find it awkward and annoying. Perhaps these authors think the present tense lends an immediacy to their words or adds to the tension. Whenever I see it, the first thing I think of is a ten-year-old boy telling a whopper.
“So I’m just sitting there, you know, doing the reading assignment, and this guy behind me jams the corner of his notebook into my back and I yell. The teacher doesn’t see it, so she gets all mad at me…”
Just to round things out, there is, of course, future tense, but you hardly ever see He will run up the hill. Thank goodness.
First person means speaking from the narrator’s viewpoint. I ran up the hill. This establishes early on the single point of view for the entire story (unless your protagonist has ESP and can read minds). It’s a good device for delving into the emotional condition of your protagonist as it makes sense to describe and explain what s/he is thinking, feeling, planning. I used this in one of my books, and was happy enough with it, although it’s not what I use generally.
Second person is less about speaking from and more about speaking to. You ran up the hill. I believe this would be an awkward choice for a book, since every time you wrote something like, “You heard a sound outside and went to the window to see what it was,” your reader might easily be thinking, “No, I didn’t.” I’ve never seen anyone use second person throughout a book, but I do see it sprinkled in here and there, and I think that’s a mistake. Most of us primarily use third person (he ran, she ran), but will sometimes drop in something like, “He’s what you would call a geek,” or, “There were more of them than you could shake a stick at.” In movies, this is called breaking the fourth wall. This is when the character in the movie turns and faces the camera and speaks directly to the audience. At this point, the story-telling is interrupted and the feeling changes abruptly. The viewer or reader is suddenly pulled into the story rather than watching/reading from the outside. It can be effective, but it can also be annoying. In the above examples, I would use, “He’s what most people would call a geek,” or “There were more of them than anyone could shake a stick at,” in order to maintain the third person tense throughout.
Third person is what most of us use most of the time. He ran up the hill. This gives the author the ability to enter into the point of view of any of the characters at any time, providing more latitude to the story. That can, however, be overdone. If you’ve ever read a book where the point of view seems to change from one character to another paragraph by paragraph, the author is doing some serious head-hopping. As with any tool, this can be effective at times, but should be used in moderation. You don’t want your readers feeling like they’re watching a tennis match. See more about viewpoint basics and getting your PoVs right at each respective link.
Beyond these two prominent aspects of voice, the nuances are up to you. Match your voice to the characters, the location, the time, the feeling of the story and you’re on your way.
Originally published by Indies Unlimited on 11/4/2014.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Author Interview: Nancy Safford

Today I’m sitting down for a chat session with my friend Nancy Safford to talk about her new book. The book is called A Magdalene Awakens: Hidden Temple Secrets, and it’s quite a journey. Nancy, give us an overview of this very personal story.

NS: My journey began when I moved from the Northeast to the Southwest, to Sedona, AZ, aware my life was changing. Here I encountered, and learned, to navigate other realities as I stepped into shamanism. I soon became a “vortex” guide to help those wanting experiences in the famous energies of Sedona, before I was called to look into the deeper mysteries of my lost feminine self. Soon I was facilitating journeys, pilgrimages to southern France, to places where legacies of Mary Magdalene had long  ago been left. I began making discoveries of hidden thing, secrets, I could identify through my other visions. Being able to step between worlds, I made, what feels to be, several valuable discoveries. After years of being silent about them, I feel that it is now time for them to be revealed, in my book. 

 MJB: Sounds like time, indeed. What was your intent on writing this book? Was it to simply record your own experiences or was it to share your insight with others? What were your hopes for what this book could become? And did it succeed?

 NS: First, my intention in writing this book, was to reveal the secrets that I discovered hidden deep within an ancient temple in Southern France. But then I thought it might be important to tell my story, what I had to learn and experience along the way that would lead me to make my mystical discoveries.  Yes, I believe my book has succeeded in accomplishing what I wanted. 

MJB: I’m guessing this was quite a therapeutic journey, as well. Did you find that? Did the process of writing your story lead you to new discoveries?

 NS: Well, yes, my journey led me to a place where I had to surrender and  be vulnerable, a place no one wishes to stay long. This book helped me to see everything the way it was, record it, honor it, so I could then step out of it, knowing that I was complete with this part of my story. 

MJB: I've found that writing very often does that; puts everything into perspective. What would you consider the most challenging aspect of writing a personal story like this?

NS: Getting all my emotions into it and being honest with myself.

 MJB: I know you’ve got a lot of other interests. What else do you have going on?

 NS: I continue to facilitate sacred journeys to southern France, or take  private clients there, for those who want to explore the legacies of Mary  Magdalene, the Knights Templar or the Cathars. Each wants to discover What feels real to them his or her truth. I also have private clients who come to Sedona for a retreat with me, I offer women’s circles and  trainings, I do Shamanic healing work and  teaching and I offer  clairvoyant readings and past life regressions for people. 

MJB: Are you working on any new books? Any other ideas in your head, or down on paper?

 NS: Yes, I have another book. There is more to my story and more mysterious inner temple secrets to be revealed about the Rennes Le Chateau area of southern France, the same area that the “DaVinci Code” movie talks about.

MJB: And if people want to read more about you and your journey, how can they do that?

 NS: Yes… check below