FRESH FROM THE INKWELL

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR SARAH SANCHEZ

August 21, 2018

Tags: Nightwalker, The Portal Keeper, fantasy, writing life, motivation, trilogy, getting into writing, Ajax, series, writing advice, first book, print books vs ebooks, writing process, novel excerpt, work-in-progress, Texas, Utah

MY GUEST THIS WEEK IS SARAH SANCHEZ, AUTHOR OF "NIGHTWALKER" AND "THE PORTAL KEEPER." (FOLLOW LINKS AT TOP OF RIGHT-HAND COLUMN FOR DETAILS.)

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF.

I was born in Dallas, Texas. I love Texas. The weather is crazy, but the people are friendly. I graduated from the University of North Texas with a BA in Spanish. Mexico is my second home. My husband is from Mexico, and I have family down there. I love the culture, the people, and of course the food. I have three wonderful children and I love hiking and spending time outdoors when I am not writing.

Fantasy is my preferred genre to write in. There are no limits in fantasy beyond my own imagination.

WHAT GOT YOU INTO WRITING?

I was never a huge reader when I was younger. I guess I just didn’t find anything that really grabbed my attention. It wasn’t until my early 20’s that I really started to love reading. I would go through series after series.

I never thought of myself as a writer. Term papers were hard to stretch out to the ten or twenty pages required. The thought of writing a book didn’t really enter my mind.

My first book began on a whim. I just wanted to see how long I could write for. This resulted in a completely juvenile story that will never see the light of day. It did teach me that I had the capability to write. I just needed practice and a better storyline.

IS THERE SOMETHING YOU LEARNED FROM WRITING YOUR FIRST BOOK?

Just to persevere. Keep working at it. Don’t be afraid of rewrites. Take your time and don’t rush into publication.

WHICH DO YOU PREFER? PRINT BOOKS OR E-BOOKS?

I probably read about 50/50. Ebooks have their advantage but I still enjoy having a physical book in my hand occasionally.

SHARE A SHORT EXCERPT FROM YOUR NOVEL

It was dark all around him as he struggled to catch his breath. He couldn't make out his hand in front of his face and had no idea which direction to swim in. Suddenly he was roughly pulled out of the water and tossed onto a hard surface. He coughed a few more times and tried to sit up. The floor rocked beneath him, and Ajax realized he was on a ship of some sort.

“Well, what have we got ourselves here?” a grizzly voice asked. “Spots, shine a little light over here, will you?”

Something buzzed by Ajax's ear and then a small but exceptionally bright light shined in his face.

He put up his hand, attempting to shield the beam from his eyes.

“It's a man,” someone called out.

Someone prodded him with a stick.

“Hey!” Ajax exclaimed, swatting it away.

"What were you doing out in the middle of Death Lake at this hour?”

Death Lake, that sounds promising, Ajax thought to himself.

“I'm looking for my friend,” Ajax answered. “Have you seen anyone else? Did anyone else fall?”

“Shut him up,” another voice called. “Get him down below.”

Something covered Ajax's face and then he was grabbed forcefully and carried to another location. He felt as if he were going down stairs. He was flung unceremoniously into a chair, and the hood was yanked off his head. He rubbed the back of his arm, where he had been gripped too tightly. It was dark in this new place too.

Slowly a lamp was lit, giving a little light to the area.

A rhinoceros stood at the head of a table, wearing a pair of striped trousers and suspenders without a shirt. He leaned forward. “How did you come here?”
Ajax scooted back in his chair, looking around the table. He must have really experienced a lot in the past week because the talking rhinoceros didn't amaze him as much as he felt it should.

THAT SOUNDS INTRIGUING, WITH A TOUCH OF THE ABSURD - A TALKING RHINO IN SUSPENDERS! AS YOU SAY, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE IN FANTASY. TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR MAIN CHARACTER.

Ajax is just about to turn fourteen. He is a dutiful child who is taking on a responsibility that was never meant.

IS THIS A STAND-ALONE NOVEL OR PART OF A SERIES?

The Portal Keeper is book 1 in the series.

CURRENTLY, WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON?

I just finished up the second book in my YA Vampire trilogy. Nightwalker was just released in May. I am also working on the sequel to The Portal Keeper, I don’t have a title yet.

DO YOU HAVE PEOPLE READ YOUR DRAFTS BEFORE YOU PUBLISH? HOW DO YOU SELECT BETA READERS?

Definitely. I am still looking for more. Some authors don’t want too many eyes on their work. I am the opposite. The more eyes the better. It is hard to find good beta readers who will point out your flaws. But I have a few really good ones.

WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE WHEN WRITING? DID YOU HAVE ANY WRITER'S BLOCK? IF SO, HOW DID YOU WORK YOUR WAY THROUGH IT?

I find working on several projects helps keep my mind flowing. I try to keep the number to three projects. I have found that if I get stuck I can jump to another project and then when I come back to it, I usually don’t have a problem finishing it.

WHAT WAS YOUR WRITING PROCESS LIKE?

I need background noise. Whether it’s the tv or good music. Then I usually just try and hammer out a couple of chapters based on an idea that struck me. If after that I think it's good, then I will start making up an outline and doing research if needed. Once I finish the first draft, I will reread it, make changes and then send it out to my beta readers.

WHAT ARE YOUR HOBBIES ASIDE FROM WRITING, IF ANY?

I enjoy hiking, not that there are many places to do that in Texas, but I recently got to hike some of the parks in Utah. There is some gorgeous scenery. I also enjoy baking, which probably doesn’t help my chocolate addiction.

A GIRL AFTER OWN HEART - TEXAS, HIKING, AND CHOCOLATE!
THANK YOU FOR SHARING WITH US, AND BEST WISHES FOR YOUR WRITING SUCCESS.

Guide to the Blog Archives

May 13, 2018

Tags: writing life, blogs, year in review, writing process, seasons, holidays, poetry, short stories, Prairie WRiters, homework, exercises, writing assignments, plotting a novel, looking forward, looking back, writing journey, motivation

August 2010: Somewhere over the Rainbow
January 2011: New Leaf in a Writer’s Notebook
February 2011: Kindred Spirits
July 2011: Library Fines and Fine Libraries
November 2011: Bugsy, Slug, the Beatles and Me
December 2011: Do You Know? A Carol for the Family
February 2012: Top Ten Reasons to take up Stained Glass
March 2012: Ode on the Color Green
April 2012: Take me to your Leader
July 2012: For You, Dad
September 2012: A Song for Irene; A Poem a Day Keeps Detractors at Bay
October 2012: Oklahoma Fall
December 2012: Not This Christmas; Janus at the Crossroads
January 2013: Kansas Voices
March 2013: Marching Forward in March
April 2013: A Muse Named April
May 2013: The Desk
June 2013: I Don’t Do….
July 2013: A Literary Cruise; Ballad of Captain Jack Scurvy
August 2013: Yolanda’s Uniform & other School Poems
September 2013: Four Poems in my Backpack
November 2013: Remembering Penny
December 2013: The Joy Jar
February 2014: Three Poems for Valentine’s Day
March 2014: Ghosts of the Midnight Oil; Eviction Notice to my Inner Critic;
Cancelelation
April 2014: Crabby’s Classroom
August 2014: A = Art; B = Bibliography; C = Calvin; D = Danger; E = Exercise; F = Friendship
September 2014: G = Gospel; H = History; I = Immersion; J = Jewels; K = King;
M = Meshki; N = Nuts; O = Obstacles; P = Phyllis; Q = Queen of Hearts
October 2014: R = Rose Garden; S = Seventies; T = Tammie Traylor; U = Unity; V = Vandergriff; W = Wonderland
November 2014: X = Xylophone; Y = You; Z = Zoroastrian
December 2014: Joy Jar
June 2015: Catch a Falling Writer
August 2015: Tuscany, O Tuscany!
September 2015: Relocation, Dislocation & Discombobulation
October 2015: Random Encounter at Random House
March 2016: Two Poems for Easter
June 2016: Two Poems about Fatherhood
September 2016: The Way to the Town Hall
May 2017: Curse of the Dampeners
December 2017: Tia Lynn’s Midnight Ride
March 2018: Marching Forward in March

MARCHING FORWARD IN MARCH

March 6, 2018

Tags: March, Sousa, band, spring, writing, the writing life, discipline, persistence, motivation, words, books, daffodil, Whiteley Village

MARCHING FORWARD IN MARCH

From “76 Trombones” on the radio, to our hometown band’s rousing rendition of “Blaze Away,” to the bagpipes of the Grenadier Guards at Windsor Castle, to the Sousa tunes of my adopted country—I’ve always loved a good march. It’s in my blood.

Today I march forward, not in lockstep with anyone, but to the beat of a different drum. I look back only to see how far I have come, and to glean material for stories.

Though I camp out frequently for spiritual refreshment, or to help a fledgling writer, the movement is ever forward, never in retreat.

Along the way, I leave touchstones to celebrate victories large or small—reminders of why I set out on this crazy venture. Fan mail from students. My first royalty check. A napkin from Cherilyn’s launch party. The blue star Miss Downer gave me in kindergarten for my retelling of “I Saw a Ship A-Sailing.”

Single-minded as a foot soldier along a straight, solid Roman road, on the
foundation laid by writers who marched before us, I keep marching.

Step by step, word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page after page, chapter after chapter, to completion of another book.

And another. And another.

I’m a writer. It’s what I do.

I: IMMERSION

September 8, 2014

Tags: taking the plunge, immersion, swimming, languages, fictional world, writing process, imagination, writing tips, mindset, motivation

With my sister and brothers, I spent many happy hours by the sea. As soon as our picnic lunch had been digested, we would run down the beach to splash, dive, swim, jump the waves, do handstands underwater, toss a beach ball, and gather seaweed - hardly noticing the temperature after the shock of that initial plunge.

"Come on, get in!" we yelled, as our mother hovered at the edge and shivered in her swimsuit. "It's warm when you get used to it!"

At last, Mum would make her decision, take the plunge, swim non-stop for ten to twenty minutes, and go back up to get dry and dressed, leaving us to play.

In high school, my friend Marie spent the fall trimester in France, living with a French family. I wished I'd had the courage to do the same; foreign languages were my forte , but my oral proficiency lagged below the reading and writing. Having to speak a language all the time would have built vocabulary, fluency, and confidence.

Whenever I've taken part in a play, a parade, a book fair with a theme, or a week-long Bible school with kids, the whole world of that event has taken over. Last July I lived and breathed Agency D3; May was all about Fiesta; this month at school, it's Sir Read-a-Lot's Castle.

Total immersion. That will be the key to finishing my work-in-progress. I've hovered too long on the edge. When I set aside other projects (even writing tasks, if not directly related to RIDDLE OF THE SAMOVAR), and surround myself with Texan/Persian/seventies/Alice books, artifacts, pictures and music, each writing session will flow more easily.

Jump in, Hazel. The water's fine!

MARCHING FORWARD IN MARCH

March 1, 2013

Tags: march, writing life, motivation, purpose, forward, touchstones, chapter, book

From "76 Trombones" on the radio, to our hometown band’s rousing rendition of "Blaze Away," to the bagpipes of the Grenadier Guards at Windsor Castle, to the Sousa tunes of my adopted country—I’ve always loved a good march. It’s in my blood.

Today I march forward, not in lockstep with anyone, but to the beat of a different
drum. I look back only to see how far I have come, and to glean material for stories.
Though I camp out frequently for spiritual refreshment, or to help a fledgling writer,
the movement is ever forward, never in retreat.

Along the way, I leave touchstones to celebrate victories large or small, reminders of
why I set out on this crazy venture. Fan mail from students. My first royalty check.
A napkin from a launch party. The blue star Miss Downer gave me in kindergarten
for my retelling of “I Saw a Ship A-Sailing.”

Single-minded as a foot soldier along a straight, solid Roman road, on the
foundation laid by writers who marched before us, I keep marching.

Step by step, word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page
after page, chapter after chapter, to completion of another book.

And another. And another.

I’m a writer. It’s what I do.
.........................………………………………………………………………………………………………
Hazel Spire

A Poem a Day Keeps Detractors at Bay

September 30, 2012

Tags: time mangement, writers, book promotion, the writing life, balance, discipline, motivation, focus, intentional, writing practice, rejection, publication, markets, retirement, empty nest, baby boomers

When I retired from teaching and moved to rural Kansas, I needed a routine in order to pursue my second vocation, freelance writing. Over the years I had saved enough pretty letterheads from rejections to decoupage two trashcans, but also published magazine pieces, two poetry chapbooks, and two middle-grade mysteries. In theory, with so much extra time at my disposal, it should be possible to submit even more manuscripts and widen my audience.

On the other hand, it was tempting to sleep late, take craft classes, read all the books on my bucket list, and make new friends in the community. If I wasn't careful, writing and writing-related activities would be squeezed out of my schedule. So, I bought a colorful, user-friendly planner and wrote the acronym POEMS down the left margin of each day for the coming week.

P = Promotion:
Whatever puts my name and book titles out there in the public eye. Update my web site. Post news and evites on Facebook. Contact a store or school. Print bookmarks.

O = Overarching:
Sentence by sentence, chapter by chapter, add new words to the current work-in-progress. Do background research. Plot. Create character bios. Ask "What If?"

E = Exercises:
Clustering. Word Association. Writers' group homework. Prompts from poetry. Pages in Write-Brain Workbook. Nature walks with pocket notebook.

M = Markets:
Read Writers Digest. Send for magazine samples and guidelines. Look at online
catalogs online. Browse children's shelves at the library. Mail mss and queries.

S = Scripture:
Meditate on Daily Bread devotional. Prepare Sunday school lesson. Jot ideas for themes to write on. Pray my writing will reflect God's truth and enrich readers' lives.

Whenever I complete a task, large or small, in any order, I check the appopriate category in my planner. An overview of the past week shows me which areas need more attention. Often these activities overlap with other areas of life. Over lunch with friends I pass out brochures for my next book signing (P). Reading for pleasure counts if related to my work-in-progress (O). Catnaps can be productive if I write down my dreams (E). In the doctor's waiting room I study Highlights magazine (M). God's Word informs my words and nourishes my soul (S).

This simple acronym silences the voices in my head that tell me I'm not a real writer!

FOR YOU, DAD

July 5, 2012

Tags: father, tribute, mentor, writing, manuscript, poems, seaside, carnival, motivation, encouragement, journalism, childhood, death anniversary, fiction, poetry, short stories

4o years ago this week my father went ahead of us to Heaven, at age 55. I feel as if I've been living on borrowed time ever since I too passed that double-nickel birthday, all the more determined to make every day count.

Daddy worked hard on the Isle of Wight County Press, covering court cases, the arts, and community events. We kids accompanied him to carnivals and ag shows, enjoying fresh meat pies and dairy ice cream. As I humbly follow in his literary footsteps, I'm thankful for his enouragement and guidance.

It was Dad who showed me how to prepare a manuscript for publication. My first rejection was from Blackie Books for a children's adventure during my first year of teachers' college. Had he lived to retirement, my father would've had time for his own writing, such as WWII memoirs, poetry, and short fiction. Among my prized possessions are 2 dozen or so of his parodies and twist-in-the-tale stories, both published and unpublished.

In tribute to Roy Longhurst (1916-1972) I will post 3 poems from my chapbooks,
TAPESTRY OF TIME and HOMEWARD TRACKS:

DISCOVERY

Hands trembled,
heart beat faster,
when I found Dad’s
magazines in a dusty
cupboard under the stairs.

A couple of ads,
no pictures.
But I pored over
those pages nightly,
worked my way
through every issue,
nurturing a secret desire.

Satisfy the itch,
one article urged.
Satisfy the itch
with the scratch of a pen.

I just couldn’t
get enough
of those magazines
for writers.

ISLE OF WIGHT CHILDHOOD

We jumped the waves that pounded Sandown Beach,
mermaid-hair seaweed caught between fingers,
nostrils filled with the tang of freedom,
our salty lips re-shaping vanilla cones:
It seemed that summer would never end.

Locals and visitors flung open beach hut doors;
their kettles whistled on Primus stoves.
Mr. Earnshaw trudged through squishy sand
collecting deck chair money, while a megaphone
blared the times for trips across the bay.

Distress signals punctuated our pleasure: boom!
boom! Send lifeboat or chopper to rescue a tripper
who tried to beat high tide around Culver Cliff.
We dabbled in rock pools by lupine-lined shores,
hiked up the chalk ridge (island’s backbone)
strewn with bunny currants and golden gorse,
to picnic at the top, sharing the vista with ghosts
of Tennyson and Keats. No mainland in sight,
who knew what might loom on the hazy horizon?
Submarine, schooner, battleship, even a galleon.

Six weeks off school culminated in a carnival.
Crepe paper streamers all down the High Street
saluted grand floats to a heart-jolting drumbeat.
Daddy winked at me under the shiny black peak
of his Town Band cap, tootling into a horn,

We’ll Make a Bonfire of our Troubles. Up
to the fairground we followed in step, enticed
by hot dogs, a Ferris wheel, candy floss,
fireworks--eruptions of magical color that made
the crowd cry, “Ooh! Ah! Better than last year!”

A POCKETFUL OF PENNIES

My father never learned to drive a car.
His pockets rattled with loose change, not keys
Whenever he gave armchair pony rides,
Four giggling children on two jiggling knees.
Coins came in handy for his magazines,
Tobacco, tickets on the daily bus,
Occasional ice cream cones or Bounty bars
And favorite weekly comic books for us.
How could I then, how could I even think
Of acting on my friend Georgina’s dare
To help myself? She did it all the time,
Stole from her mother’s purse without a care.
I spied Dad’s trousers hanging on the door,
Dipped in and found a dozen pennies bright;
But guilt sank to my stomach like a stone.
I slid them back, and oh, my heart was light
When Dad came home; he twirled me, jingling loud,
Then after supper tucked me up in bed.
He told us made-up tales of Harold Hare
And slipped a coin beneath each pillowed head.





NEW LEAF IN A WRITER'S NOTEBOOK

January 18, 2011

Tags: writing, new year, resolutions, commitment, motivation, new leaf

AN EARLIER VERSION OF THIS POEM WAS PUBLISHED IN THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNICATOR. IT'S TIME TO RENEW THE PROMISE.

I solemnly declare before the Muses:
That 2011 is going to be a year
Devoted to pursuit of my career.
No longer dare I mutter lame excuses.

With schedule taped upon my office door,
I’ll start at 9 each weekday on the dot
To edit, brainstorm, query, write, and plot.
The dust and dirty dishes I’ll ignore.

I’ll take to heart the wisdom gleaned from pros,
Display their words above my typing table,
And, just as faithfully as I am able,
Rewrite, rewrite ’til every sentence glows.

If friends, assuming I have time to kill,
Entice with Tupperware or plead a favor,
From deadlines I shall just refuse to waver.
If I don’t guard my writing hours, who will?

Though organizing’s not my bag, I’ll try
To file all market tips efficiently,
For knowing where to find them is the key.
Can’t let a chance of selling work slip by!

Ideas shared are ideas multiplied,
So I should help our writers’ group to grow.
Who better than a fellow scribe can know
Rejection’s pain or publication’s pride?

I’ll thank my family for their loyalties
When rushing off to yet another workshop:
“Eat sandwiches or something, ’cause I can’t stop.
Some day we’ll dine out on my royalties!”

There may be times I need to make amends;
As skirts and shirts hang waiting to be pressed
And hampers overflow, I must not rest,
But keep the candle burning at both ends.

Before me I will hold the vision bright—
A pile of books, my books that I am signing!
Repeat these affirmations (quit that whining):
“It’s not impossible” and “Writers write.”