Friday, August 26, 2011

When Lightning Strikes

My guest today is author, Smoky Zeidel. She's a free-spirited writer she hails from the San Gabriel Mountain area in California. She's worn many hats in her life, wife, mother, teacher, book reviewer for several newspapers and magazines, author, and survivor. 

Smoky shares a bit with us about her writing journey and how an intriguing box of letters dating from the 1920's inspired her book, On the Choptank Shores.

I've wanted to be a writer ever since the fourth grade, when I first picked up the book, Harriet the Spy. I adored Harriet. I emulated her, carrying around a notebook and making notes on everything I saw going on around me. I think—no, I know—I annoyed my friends terribly doing this, so after a few weeks, I quit doing this.

But I didn’t quit writing. I acquired my first diary Christmas of that same year, and have kept diaries and journals ever since. That’s now almost forty-five years of writing something almost every day!

Life got in the way of my trying to write professionally until the day my life changed dramatically: July 11, 1989. At 10:17 that morning, I took a direct hit from a bolt of lightning. I nearly died. I guess technically I did die; I had no heartbeat when the paramedics arrived on the scene.

But, I lived, albeit with a rather broken body. I had heart damage, nerve damage, damage to the cartilage in my knees. My right ear drum vaporized. My jaw was smashed. Flash burns covered my body. Not a pretty picture.

My body was broken, yes. But my mind was as healthy and curious as ever! A few years after the lightning, I was at home, recovering from one of my now more than a dozen surgeries (I’ve lost count). I saw an ad in my local hometown newspaper advertising for freelance feature writers. I wrote the editor a letter, arguing that while my degree was in psychology, not journalism, anyone who took seventeen years to complete their BA degree because they tried to major in everything except physics obviously could write a good paper, and therefore would make a good feature writer. I got hired immediately.

My feature writing career flourished, because I could work when I felt well and turn down assignments when one of my health issues flared up. But deep inside, I wasn’t content. I wanted to write fiction, to follow the dream I’d had since childhood.

Then one day my parents came to visit. My mother brought me a box of love letters written between my favorite aunt and uncle during their courting days, back in the 1920s. They told a fabulous story of love, of struggling through hard times, of separation, of reunion. I somehow knew these letters were meant to be a book.

My first novel was borne of those letters, albeit not in the way I intended. They inspired me to sit at my word processor (this was long before I had a PC!) and imagine what life would be like, struggling to farm land with poor soil, to work with your hands, not machines, to truly survive, not simply exist. My first novel, Redeeming Grace, was borne of that imagining.

Unfortunately, my first publisher went under several months after my book was published. But that really didn’t matter. I quickly found a new publisher, and I’ve been writing books for them ever since.

I still have health issues, twenty-two years after the lightning. I had my third knee replacement only eight months ago (and yes, I have only two knees!); just last week I keeled over in a dead faint at my desk and was hospitalized because of some neurological glitch in my brain. I have chronic pain issues that make it impossible for me to write on some days; impossible for me to even get off the couch.

Yet, I persevere. I have a wonderfully supportive husband, Scott, who himself is an artist, a classical guitarist. He nurtures me when I’m sick and down, but as I heal, he has just the right way of nudging me back into my office to write. And my publisher, Kimberlee Williams of Vanilla Heart Publishing, has been more than fabulous. In fact, she just gave that first book of mine new life—it has just been re-released with a more appropriate title and a beautiful new cover, as On the Choptank Shores: A Love Story. And, to my delight, it is finally reaching readers, who have raved about it, I am happy to say.

I don’t recommend you stand out in a storm and get struck by lightning in order to get motivated to write! But sometimes life hands you a raw deal. You’re going to live through it whether you lie on the couch and moan and grown, and you’re going to live through it if you get up, greet each day with a smile, write your books, and live your life. 

Which life would you choose? I, for one, choose the latter!

ON CHOPTANK SHORES: A Love Story. Available now.

On the Choptank Shores is set on Maryland's eastern shore in the late 1920's. Happy endings, in novels as in life, sometimes come at a heavy price.
The tragic deaths of her mother and two younger siblings have left Grace Harmon responsible for raising her sister Miriam and protecting her from their abusive father, Luther, a zealot preacher with a penchant for speaking in Biblical verse who is on a downward spiral toward insanity. 

Otto Singer charms Grace with his gentle courtship and devotion to his brother, Henry, but is unable to share with Grace the terrible secret he has kept more than twenty years. 
Luther's insane ravings and increasingly violent behavior force Grace to question everything she ever knew. Then, tragedy strikes just when Otto's secret is uncovered, unleashing demons that threaten to destroy the entire family. Can Grace find the strength to save them all? Excerpt
Buy:  Amazon, Smashwords 

Smoky Trudeau Zeidel is the author of two novels, On the Choptank Shores (formerly titled Redeeming Grace) and The Cabin, and two nonfiction books on writing. She is also the author of Observations of an Earth Mage, an enchanting collection of prose, poetry, and photographs celebrating the beauty and splendor of the natural world. All her books are published by Vanilla Heart Publishing.

 In a Flash, where she recounts the story of how she was struck by lightning and how the experience has affected her life in the more than two decades following the event.
A popular book reviewer, Smoky wrote reviews for several newspapers and magazines before starting her blog, Smoky Talks Books. She specializes in reviewing books published by small and independent presses and by emerging writers.
Known to her fans as The Earth Mage, Smoky lives her life honoring Mother Earth through her writing, visual art, and spiritual practice. She lives in California with her husband Scott (a college music professor and classical guitarist), her daughter (a college student and actress), and a menagerie of animals, both domestic and wild, in a ramshackle cottage in the woods overlooking the San Gabriel Valley and Mountains beyond. When she isn’t writing, she spends her time hiking in the mountains and deserts, splashing in tidepools, and resisting the urge to speak in haiku.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


It's my pleasure to have author, Kathryne Kennedy, visiting Over Coffee again. I truly enjoy having authors visit, of course, but one the added benefit of this blog is being able to have those authors whose books I love to read. I love vivid worlds peopled by unforgettable characters and settings. Kathryne's books always provide me with an escape into a new place. Her stories are better than Calgon at taking away, lol!

I have to admit, I wondered about her writing process. She graciously shares with us her greatest challenge in telling her stories. 

Thank you so much, Sia, for having me here today. It’s such a pleasure to talk with you and your readers once again! I’m looking forward to responding to the comments.

Today I thought I’d share one of my biggest challenges in telling a story, and I hope both readers and writers find it helpful.

I often find that the biggest challenge I face in telling a story is in how I write. I admire writers who can write anywhere, under any circumstances. But for me, I have to have total focus on my story and characters, and distractions can make that difficult.

A reader once told me “You paint pictures with words.” It made me really look at how I sit down and write a story. I always have a general idea of the plot—where the story will take me—and I have a general idea of my character’s strengths and weaknesses. But the story itself unfolds as I write, and I have to see each scene in my head—I have to be in that scene—before I can get it down in words. If I can’t visualize it, I can’t write about it. I can’t pass along that vision to my reader.

It kinda works the same way with my characters. I have to get back into their heads before they can move forward in a scene. Their personalities grow with each page and any decision or action they take is based on their choices, not mine. So even something as minor as walking across a room, or as major as making love, has to be in their character, with their motivation and purpose.

So what happens when I can’t find my focus? When other issues (like life) cloud my thinking? I’ve found several things that help:

  • I read my last few pages, allowing me to immerse myself back into the scene or characters. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll go back even farther, until I truly empathize with my characters again, and am living back in their world.

  • I make a list of all the things that are demanding my time or mental energy, put it aside with the promise that I will get to each issue after I write my goal for the day. This helps focus my full attention back on my writing.

  • If I’m facing the end of a scene and am not sure where to go next, I go back to my original outline for the general plot, and that gives me back my direction.

  • I help myself the day before. When I’m immersed, the ideas start flowing. So before I stop writing for the day, I’ll put short notes right where I've left off, telling what will happen next in the scene.

  • If I’m having a truly difficult time facing the keyboard, I give myself permission to stare at a blank screen. I do not have to write anything. I will just sit down and stare at the screen. This relieves the pressure, and my mind and fingers have yet to fail to get something written for that day…even though I don’t ‘have’ to.

  • If you’re a writer and share my challenges, I hope you’ve found some of my solutions helpful, and I sure would like to hear any you might like to add.
  • If you’re a reader, I hope this post helps you to understand what my writing process is like, and I’d love to hear what you think.

Giles is bound to protect her...
In a kingdom viciously ruled by warlike elven lords, village blacksmith Giles Beaumont reluctantly swears to protect the half-elf, half-human Cecily Sutton, never dreaming that he will fall under her enchanting spell.
But duty soon turns to desire...
When Cecily's father disappears, Cecily and Giles set out to find him. But, as their journey unfolds, duty is quickly replaced by desire—and the search for Cecily's father leads to a magical destiny that could end the rule of the elven lords forever...Excerpt.  BOOK TRAILER

THE LADY OF THE STORM is a great read for those who love epic fantasy romance... love story between two strong-minded people set against the backdrop of intrigue, magic, 
and incredible danger.

“Fantastical creatures, magical spells, lengthy quests, angst, and passion will satisfy readers looking for a romance plot in a well-developed fantasy setting.”
Publishers Weekly

“Kennedy’s exquisite world building and terrific plotting make this a must-read.”
Booklist Starred Review

Buy: AmazonBarnes and NobleBordersBooksAMillion,
Chapters/IndigoKathryne’s Bookseller Directory

The publisher is giving away two copies of The Lady Of The Storm, to two commenters on today's blog. Limited to the US and Canada. IF you want to be entered into the drawing for her book, please contact me at with your contact info. Thank you!

Kathryne Kennedy is an acclaimed, best-selling, award-winning author of magical romances. She welcomes readers to visit her website where she has ongoing contests at She’s lived in Guam, Okinawa, and several states in the U.S., and currently lives with her wonderful family in Arizona, where she is working on the next book in The Elven Lords series, The Lord of Illusion (February 2012).

Monday, August 22, 2011

MONDAY MUSINGS: Endings The Good And Ugly

Ever read a good book or see a good movie with good characters and the ending sucks?

My husband and I watched Country Strong. Good actors, conflict, music and then splat. I thought, oh, come on. You can’t be serious—after all that, someone is going to walk away from a contract like this? Right. Wait a minute, a comeback like this and she goes into her dressing room and does what? Please.  I don’t care how good the rest of the movie was the ending ruined it all for me. It made me mad because it could have been excellent. I couldn’t figure out why it bombed at the box office—until the ending and then I understood.

My husband and I had quite a discussion regarding endings.

There are some movies I watch because I like the actor/actresses and usually they don’t act in crappy movies. Until recently any Nicolas Gage movie was one I watched. Now, I’m a bit more careful to look at the storyline first because of the next two movies.

City of Angels. Great cast, love Meg Ryan and Nicolas Gage, which is why I decided to watch it to begin with. Good premise. After all the two of them went through, she dies? Really? Major suckage. Had it been a book I would have thrown it across the room in disgust.

Then there was Knowing. Trailers looked good, actors were good, and lots of action (my kinda movie) and then the movie went to hell the last ten minutes. I felt robbed.

There are certain books that do the same. Nicolas Spark’s books. The Notebook was reasonable given the history and time frame. I’m not saying he’s a bad writer but I don’t like his style of telling a story. I really tried to read his others but ugh—ditto with the movies, excellent though the cast was. His books are not only no, but hell no. (Yes, I’m sure there are those who just love stories like his.)

The way I see it, and this is my opinion and my preferences only, when I see a movie or read a book, I want the bad guys get their asses kicked and the good guys win the day. If one of the main cast of characters has to die, make it count. Give me a reason. Even ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances can be heroic though they die. A good example of that, in my opinion, was the movie Independence Day. The Randy Quaid character died. Another one was Armageddon, Bruce Willis is a main character and he sacrifices himself for his daughter’s sweetheart. Okay, I would have preferred them to remain alive but their deaths were logical and in line with the sort of characters they were. Their deaths counted. The good guys still won.

Evil loses, good wins. Yes, I know it’s not always the reality in life, but if I want a heavy dose of reality, I’ll turn on the news or read a newspaper. And please, don’t give me an ambiguous ending—which happens in some movies and literary pieces I’ve read. I don’t mind drawing my conclusions but at least make the ending positive enough so I can at see the hero or heroine is on a better path after all they’ve gone through

For me, no matter how good the book or the movie if the ending doesn’t deliver and isn’t satisfying, why bother? No, it doesn't have to be all sunshine and butterflies, but I like a good finale. I don’t want it rushed and slapdash and I want it to fit the strengths of the characters the author/writer has created.

  • What about you?  What are your thoughts on endings? What makes an ending good in your opinion?