Author Gail Kittleson: From Haphazard to Determined

Today I welcome Gail Kittleson to Jubilee Writer. I love hearing how other novelists got there start. Especially those who are in their jubilee years like me. Let’s get started.

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Tell my readers a little about your writing journey.

To be honest, uphill and haphazard describe the first decades of my writing journey. Without the self-confidence or sense of direction to apply myself to writing full-time, my journey barely existed at times. And yet, when I tried, I did experience some success—a few poems published in magazines, some short non-fiction books for current-issues classes, and a few professional teaching articles … even a co-written workbook for ESL learners.

But sporadic success wasn’t enough to motivate me to faithful attendance at my computer. About 15 years ago, I participated in a university writing retreat, and my journey’s adjectives switched. Now, determined and exciting are more accurate.

Somewhere along the way—maybe about a year ago, I finally became comfortable calling myself an author. Before that, it seemed too audacious to believe I really AM living my lifelong dream.

What is your latest published project.

With Each New Dawn, my third WWII novel, and the second in the Women of The Heartland series, took me deep into the heart of London during the relentless Nazi attacks. Researching this era parallels attempts to totally understand ourselves and the people around us—an endless saga. Click here to buy. 61gD-uoWs4L

 

How do you research for your books?

It’s a good thing I thrive on seeking information and connecting the dots. That’s what my research entails—studying timelines of the war and figuring out where certain situations or battles fit into my characters’ lives. First, I read textbooks. I’m quite old-fashioned about this, and a textbook account far outshines anything I find online. But if I do discover some tidbit online, it’s so fun to read more about it.

I also enjoy speaking with individuals who experienced the war. They’re becoming rare these days, but recently I met a woman who actually worked in her local rationing office. Talk about thrilling … somebody else in the group ran home to get their stash of little red “coins” given out as change when a rationing coupon was worth more than the purchased item.

And then another individual said, “I’ll be right back.” She returned with one of the missiles manufactured in a nearby factory. This, I’d say, is the most delightful type of research!

What inspired you to write With Each New Dawn?

The steadfast attitudes and actions of the Greatest Generation inspired me to write this book. People made-do with what was handed them, and that happened to be a very nasty war. They sacrificed time, talents, finances, and their husbands, sons, and daughters for the war effort. I focus on how women contributed, in a vast amount of roles. I don’t necessarily choose the most glamorous or exciting jobs—for example, one of my heroines works hard on the family farm, one becomes a grease monkey in her father’s shop when her brother is drafted, and one works at the Hormel plant, making SPAM for the troops.

Nothing glamorous about any of those jobs, but they’re taken straight from everyday women’s lives.

When did you realize your calling to create words on paper to share with the world?

This vocation came to me in adolescence, as clear as could be. If I could go back in time and give advice to that fearful girl, I’d say, “Use your gift—whatever it takes, use it!” Not that I didn’t want to use it—I did, passionately. But my fears blocked me for many, many years.

What is your favorite genre to read for fun?

Believe it or not, I read WWII fiction for fun. Let’s just say I have a one-track mind, and I can’t get enough of learning about the Greatest Generation. Right now I have two books going, and one I’m about to start. This never gets old!

Favorite verse…

So many verses have instructed me throughout life, but the poignant promise in Isaiah 63:9 has touched me over and over. In all their affliction He was afflicted, And the angel of His presence saved them; In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, And He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.

Our Creator doesn’t just stand by when we’re distressed—he embraces our troubles. My heroine in With Each New Dawn discovers more about this very present God during her worst times.

Bio:

A late, bloomer, Gail Kittleson writes from her northern Iowa home. After instructing English as a Second Language and expository writing, she published a memoir, and now focuses on women’s historical fiction. She also facilitates writing workshops/retreats.

She and her husband enjoy their grandchildren and in winter, Arizona’s Mogollon Rim Country. You can count on Gail’s heroines to ask honest questions, act with integrity, grow in faith, and face hardships with spunk.

Connect with Gail :

http://www.gailkittleson.com/
http://www.facebook.com/GailKittlesonAuthor

http://amazon.com/author/gailkittleson

http://www.twitter.com/GailGkittleson @GailGkittleson

What fun finding out about Gail.

Readers, leave in the comments what was the most interesting or inspiring thing you read.

 

 

 

Three Favorite Reads for February

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Writers should be readers.

We often hear, “Writers should be readers.”  And I love knowing it’s okay to do so. It helps stimulate my brain when I take a break from writing my own novels. In the last month, I’ve read three books. One was a collection of seven historical romances, a contemporary romance, and a humorous romance.  They were all page-turners that kept me engaged. Maybe you’d like to check them out as well.

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Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

The historical novella collection, Seven Brides for Seven Texans has all seven Hart brothers scrambling to find brides before years’ end. Their father has a heart condition he is keeping from his sons. All seven are content to be bachelors but Pa wants to see grandkids before he dies. If these handsome Texans aren’t married before December they forfeit their inheritance.

Each story is clever and the couples involved are very different. The only common denominator is the inheritance. I loved the premise and the creative of all seven authors: Amanda Barrett,Susan Page Davis, Keli Gwyn, Vicki McDonough, Gabrielle Meyer, Loma Seilstad and Erica Vetsch. Their scenarios are so believable scenario while blending characters from the other books into the story line. As each brother finds his bride the womenfolk population grows on the ranch. By the time, Bowie the lone holdout marries life as the bachelors knew it is drastically changed.

At times, I laughed out loud and other times my eyes misted with tears. You’ll love the Hart boys and their feisty brides.

51ogzyn6ixl-_sy346_Dance Over Me

The next novel Dance Over Me  by Candee Fick has a wonderful premise. A musical theater major finally finds a job performing in Dinner Theater. We often forget Christians pursue many different career paths.

Dani is a product of foster care and was adopted at 10 by her dance instructor. Her one main goal in life is finding her baby brother who was adopted shortly after her parent were killed in an auto accident. Her childhood promise to look after him still haunts her. Now she Is pursuing her dream of being and entertainer while calling every Wilson in the Fort Collins Colorado white pages in hopes of finding Jake.

Alex the hero, trumpet player and band leader in=s content in the family business. His parents own the Wardrobe Dinner Theater. The first musical performed is 42nd Street. The plot of the novel loosely follows the storyline of the musical. It’s fun and faith-building. Dani comes to realized various truths about her relationship with God and people. I loved the title Danced Over Me based on a scripture verse declaring God dances over us with joy. What a wonderful reminder.

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Every Bride Needs A Groom

The last of the three was Every Bride Needs a Groom by Janice Thompson. So funny. Told in first person through the eyes of small town girl Katie Sue. She loves her hometown Fairfield Texas. She never wants to leave. Her entire life is one big rut of sameness. Not until she enters a contest to win a free designer wedding gown from Cosmopolitan Bride does she begin to discover the rut she’s in. Her longtime boyfriend never proposes and leaves her with the embarrassing dilemma of truth vs lies. While spending time in Dallas trying to sort the no groom mess out she meets Brady James, a pro basketball player on medical leave working alongside his mother at Cosmopolitan Bride. Katie’s zany family and close-knit small town upbringing colors the basic plot with lots of funny twists. Including three brothers, an aunt and a crazy cousin who can’t stay out of her business.  Everything works out in a deliciously entertaining way by the last page.

Read for inspiration

All three of these books a total of 9 stories in all inspired me. The words are honed to perfection and I found myself experiencing Texas in the past and present and Colorado’s musical theater lifestyle. I love the you-are-there feeling in novels.

Writers must make time to read. Maybe you don’t read as many books a month as I do. But even one in two months can make a difference in your writing.  I read in my genre and out of it. It keeps my creative juices challenged. And there is a certain amount of writing technique we learn through the osmosis of reading others people’s works.

Check out these books by clicking on the covers.

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What have you been reading this month?

 

 

 

An Interview with Jake Marcum Hero of Secrets and Charades

s-c-jakes-quoteSecrets and Charades has a very interesting hero. Jake Marcum, rancher, Civil War veteran and doting uncle. I corralled him long enough to do this interview.

Thank you so much for stopping by.

Well, ma’am, Evangeline insisted it was my turn. Not so sure how interesting I’ll be but go ahead and ask your questions.

Tell us a bit about your childhood.

I had two brothers and a sister. Our family headed west when my Pa got gold fever in ‘49. Our wagon broke down near Ben Mitchell’s place. He talked sense into Pa and taught him all he knew about ranching. Our small spread adjoined Ben’s property.

What happened to your family?

My sister run off with some no count drummer. That’s a traveling salesman. Then Clevis went back to Kentucky to attend college. He wanted to be a lawyer. I’d rather ranch. When the conflict broke out Clevis planned to join the Confederate Army. Pa sent me to Kentucky to bring him home. My older brother persuaded me to join the cause instead. He died six months later. My little brother Robert died from an injury falling off his horse. My Ma had died before I went to get Clevis and Pa died while I was away.

herd of horses

photo by morguefile.com

What was it like when you returned from the war?

Tougher than the battlefield. There was this gal, Nora. I thought we had an understanding. While I was gone, she’d married my brother and expecting their child.   Well, I ain’t proud of my action at the time. Nightmares from the war made me unfit to be around. Ben Mitchell invited me to join his outfit. He helped me dry out and introduced me to the Lord. He’d lost both his sons in the war so he kinda adopted me. I inherited his ranch when he passed. A year later Nora died in childbirth. They buried her newborn son with her. My brother and I were working out our differences when he died. My niece, Juliet come to live with me. She was six. Having her in my life helped heal the rift between Robert and me.

After your conversion, did you still have nightmares?

Sure. God changed me and helped me be a better man. But when the responsibilities of running this spread make me lose sleep—the nightmares come. And worrying about Evangeline coming gave me a few doozies. I still have them. Not as often. I reckon it’s a cross I must bear.

What challenges did you encounter taking over a ranch the size of the Double M?

Yeah. The neighbors looked at me as a gold-digger. But  I think you mention it in your book. Anyway,  Ben was a real Duke or something back in England. He called the ranch the Royal M. I think his surname was something different before he came to America. Anyway, the Double M stands for Mitchell and Marcum.  Several of Ben’s crew have stayed on with me over the years. Cookie Slade was Ben’s old foreman before he got gored by a steer. He stays on helping where he can. Don’t know what I’d do without him. He’s the one who encouraged me to take in Juliet and get me a mail-order bride.Brides71

What were you looking for in a bride?

Let just say, I think God was laughing when I made my request. He knew the kind of wife I needed even if I didn’t.

What was your biggest challenge before Evangeline came into your life?

There were two. Too few cowboys to run the ranch.  My wealthy neighbor kept stealing my men by offering them huge wages. The loyal ones stay. Sides they don’t like that Farley character much. He thinks he’s King of the county.

The second, I had to juggle teaching Juliet to read and cipher around chores. So, her education was sketchy. I felt like I’d betrayed my sister-in-law when I saw how much of a tomboy Juliet was becoming. Nora wanted her daughter to be the bell of the ball, not a ranch hand. So, finding an educated wife to teach my niece was my number priority.

Thanks so much for spending time with my readers.

My pleasure, ma’am.

If you missed my interview with Evangeline, the heroine of Secrets and Charades click here.

Jake and Evangeline’s story Secrets and Charades is available for preorder on Amazon.

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Authors and Book Cover Creation

Creating a cover design is a fascinating process. My publisher provided a questionnaire for me to fill out. It gives the artist clues into my story world. Up until this point I had no idea what I wanted. The questions help get the creative juices flowing. The first few questions are basic: Title, author’s name. taglines, theme.

The next set of questions delves into specifics about the main character. What does your hero look like? Any distinguishing marks? Same questions for your heroine. This is where I get to give a clear description of the physical features of my characters. I had the option of adding photos of my ideas about the characters.

Who do my characters look like

The question about what actor or actress do you see playing them in a movie sent me to the internet to find photos. Did you know if you type in red-haired actresses with green eyes that you’ll find a large selection of photos? Evangeline’s hair is burgundy rather than carrot colored. I already had a picture of a model with burgundy hair but looking at more faces really helped narrow down an idea.

I have pictures of Tom Selleck, John Cusack and Sam Elliot all in cowboy garb that give me a feel for Jake. Evangeline looks a bit like Maureen O’Hara or Lori Loughlin (she’d have to dye her hair.)  I found a wonderful picture of Emma Stone. So I am adding photos of these actors to the form.

A fun exercise for you and your story, search the character description: cowboy, regency, blond soldier sees what comes up. If you’re a plotter and an outliner, you have probably already picked out your pictures before you started writing. What you want on the cover may be clearly define in your head. But, if you’re like me and lack artist know-how, you’ll be relying on the designer to bring your idea to reality. FYI: The publisher usually gets the final say on your cover. This is a good thing because they know what sells.

More details

I couldn’t find a picture of my ranch so I settled for writing a description. I got to choose whether I want people on the cover or a landscape. There is lots of room at the bottom of the form for more notes to further clarify.

Note all the covers of fellow-authors I’ve added to this post so you can get a better idea of cover design.

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Mystery Cover

 

Mercy Rains

Historical landscape cover

Genre and time period are important questions as well. Secrets & Charades is set in 1870s so costumes on the cover need to resemble the period. The hoop skirt was no longer in fashion but bustles were popular.

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Fantasy Cover

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Police thriller/ fantasy cover

A fantasy cover might have someone dressed like Star Wars characters. The focus might be on an object that is key to the story line. Perhaps a space ship, a sword or a dragon take center stage in the story.

Comparing covers

There is a place on this form to add comparables. So, books with similar themes (remember that part in your proposal?) can now be used as examples. Those covers show what’s selling.

 

Not good ideas

If the hero is very tall, then he shouldn’t be the same height as the heroine on the cover. Unless of course she is very tall, too. I actually saw this on a cover. Until I read the story I didn’t realize the hero was well over six feet tall. Once I knew this, the cover was a bit disappointing.

If the story takes places in the winter in Florida, it will look different than winter in Alaska. That also goes for trees not native to the area. This will date me, but the movie Wayne’s World was supposed to take place in Aurora, Illinois. One scene in the movie had palm trees in the background. I suppose comedies can get away with that. Book covers not so much.

If your genre is horror you wouldn’t want a sunny sky.

A romance—unless it has vampires or some violent fantasy theme—is not going to have blood and gore on the cover.

Capturing emotion

The form asked me to describe the tone, mood, and attitude. One or two word descriptions can make a big difference in helping the designer get a taste of my fiction world. I had to google these terms to get a deeper understanding of the literary significance. I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer so I don’t always have a tone or mood in mind until my characters speak to me.

Defining the tone and mood can make a difference in a novel’s content so it should reflect on the cover. A romantic comedy design is going to look different from a romance with a broken-promise-restored theme. The same with a thriller with a sullen cast of characters versus one with a hopeful mood.

Photo sites give lots of options

You may prefer symbols or settings for your cover. My fellow-writer Gloria Doty has a modern-day cowboy romance series. She opted for boots and a Stetson on the cover of Bringing  a Cowboy Home. She wanted her readers to enjoy their own images of her characters. Photo websites have lots of these sorts of images.

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Publishers purchase the cover art and, if you self-publish, you’d do the same. Linda Yezak has a great cover for The Final Ride. She created it herself using pictures of a model she found online. She purchased the rights to use her likeness. This helped her create her cover.51jgIj4jqfL

Being sure your cover reflects your story means more sales. So, I am taking extra time to fill out this form. Hopefully the designer will get me. If the cover catches the reader’s eye, then they will pick it up. If you’re self-publishing, spend the money on a quality cover. I can’t wait to see what my cover will look like. I’ve been impressed with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas cover designs. The reveal of my design is some months away. But the process begins now.

The back cover is just as important as the front cover. I’ll talk about the process in the next post.

Anyone like to share their experience with cover designs?

 

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Blood For Blood A Surprisingly Satisfying Read

Blood for Blood CoverBlood for Blood the debut novel of Ben Wolf is not the sort of book I would normally read. But its unusual premise intrigued me. Psalms 23:3 He restoreth my soul is the theme verse for this new adult novel. (Adults in their 20s). This novel set in the 1800s isn’t focusing on any old body’s soul but a vampire. That part gave me pause I don’t read horror and never followed Twilight or any of the TV shows available today that feature vampires. But in the pages of Blood for Blood I found so many wonderful examples of the redemptive work of Christ. Reminders of how Christians judge the validity of someone’s salvation based on the level of sin in their former life.

Evangelist Zambini believes God can restore anyone’s soul and when he draws the soulless vampire Raven Worth toward the truth of God’s word interesting things happen. This author researched the folklore of vampirism and used his findings as a great foundation for the struggles of his protagonist. Those struggles parallel our very human Christian walk as Raven grows in faith and out of his vampire life.

There were surprise plot twists and the villain was not who I expected. Well-written and captivating. If you enjoy D L Koontz and Ted Dekker you will enjoy Blood for Blood. Even if you are an anti -horror reader like me you will find this story compelling and entertaining. If you are paying attention you’ll probably find a few choice nuggets of truth to meditate on as well.

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Author Ben Wolf

Coming soon

Because this is so out of my wheelhouse when it comes to reading preference I wanted to pick the brain of this debut author regarding the creation of this story. Look for an indepth interview with Ben next week.

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