Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Lori Benton Interview



The long awaited sequel to THE WOODS EDGE is finally out!



A FLIGHT OF ARROWS
by
Lori Benton




 Twenty years past, in 1757, a young Redcoat, Reginald Aubrey stole a newborn boy—the lighter-skinned of Oneida twins— during the devastating fall of Fort William Henry and raised him as his own.

No one connected to Reginald escaped unscathed from this crime. Not his adopted daughter Anna. Not Stone Thrower, the Native American father determined to get his son back. Not Two Hawks, William’s twin brother separated since birth, living in the shadow of his absence and hoping to build a future with Anna. Nor Lydia, who longs for Reginald to be free from his self-imposed emotional prison and embrace God’s forgiveness— and her love.

Now William, whose identity has been shattered after discovering the truth of his birth, hides in the ranks of an increasingly aggressive British army. The Redcoats prepare to attack frontier New York and the Continentals, aided by Oneida warriors including Two Hawks, rally to defend it. As the Revolutionary War penetrates the Mohawk Valley, two families separated by culture, united by love and faith, must find a way to reclaim the son marching toward them in the ranks of their enemies.


 Lori was kind enough to agree to an interview so here she is.


Besides the time period that your books take place in, which time period would you most like to visit?
I’ve long been interested in the pre-Roman Iron Age Celtic cultures of Great Britain (BC to first century AD). While I would never want to live during that time, I’d like to see what the people looked like, dressed like, to walk through their hill-forts and crannogs and brochs. One day I’d like to visit some of these sites in Wales and Scotland. Perhaps Ireland too. 


Do you have a favorite character that you’ve written? Favorite character someone else has written?
I tend to feel closest to the characters I’m currently writing. But it’s impossible to pick one of my own as a favorite.
Time was I’d have said Hadassah, from Francine Rivers’ Mark of the Lion books, as far as a favorite character someone else has written, but I’ve read many great characters since then so that’s a hard one to answer as well. I’m also partial to Brother Cadfael of the medieval mystery series by Ellis Peters. And Father Tim in Jan Karon’s Mitford books. 

How much research is associated with your books? A lot, I know, but how much time do you spend researching vs writing?
How much time isn’t something I’ve kept track of. I research in snatches (because unfortunately I’ve reached the age where reading can put me to sleep in 10 minutes flat), anywhere and everywhere, some of it for a few weeks before I start writing. I keep reading stacks of books while I’m writing, even during the editing stages. Some books I know I need to get through and they wait in a pile by my desk. Some are around for looking up key subjects. Sometimes I’ll come across something that needs researching on the day while I’m writing the current scene. For instance, with the current work in progress, I’d never have thought ahead of time I’d need to know the technique of paddling a canoe upriver for a long stretch of miles until I decided to have a character do just that. I have to write more than I research or the book would never get finished, but I do a lot of both.
Did you travel to this area and visit the forts there? Are they preserved, or are they just memory?
I would love to visit Fort Stanwix and Fort William-Henry, both of which are preserved (or rebuilt near their historical location) in New York and welcome visitors with interpreters and reenactors. I’ve had to content myself with photos, videos, and written descriptions.

Do you have a hard time transitioning between the world you’re writing about and the real world?
I’m not one of those writers who can write anywhere, and just block out the world around me. I need quiet and long uninterrupted blocks of solitude. Being interrupted makes it hard to get back into the story world, but I can be jarred out of it instantly by a phone ringing or a dog barking.
What I find more difficult is trying to write one novel while editing or promoting another. Switching between two story worlds, two casts of characters, can get a little confusing. My head might be full of the themes and characters of the book I’m writing but I still have to keep all of those things about the story I might have last seen months ago fresh in my mind too, to talk about them in interviews. I find it hard to hold that much in my head with the kind of focus I used to have before I was published and I could work on one novel at a time, but I think this will grow easier with practice. 

You’ve set part of the book during a battle. Battle scenes can be confusing, so much is happening all over the place. Can you share any tips for writing actions scenes and keeping them detailed and clear, but not so overburdened you lose tension?
Yes, they certainly can be confusing. But like any good scene, a battle scene is about your point of view character (the one you are “seeing” the story through), what he wants and what he’s doing to get it. Once I know that, it’s a matter of reading every account of that particular battle I can get my hands on, or enough to feel I have a good handle on how it unfolded. Then I create a timeline of the battle, including every detail I can find, down to the weather and what every significant historical player was doing and when, and weave my characters through it all, making them wind up in the right place and time to notice or participate in enough key historical details so the battle isn’t too confusing for the reader. But as Two Hawks notes at one point during the book, He’d heard his father say that to judge a battle when you are in the midst of it is hard to do. Mostly a battle is what happens an arm’s length away. So a little confusion is reasonable. I attempted to show the battle in A Flight of Arrows from as many different viewpoints as possible, so each would contribute to a (hopefully) understandable whole. There’s always the device of having someone sum up events of a battle afterward if the viewpoint I’m writing from was too busy staying alive to have perceived the shape of things happening around him. 

Was it harder writing a sequel, knowing you had to stay true to not only the book you were writing, but the previous book also?
In this case not too hard, because I originally conceived these as one book. So I knew while writing The Wood’s Edge what the main plot line of the second book would be. I’d say the hardest part was finding the balance of jumping straight into the second half of the story while never assuming all readers would have read The Wood’s Edge first. I had to think long and hard about how to catch readers up on all that happened in the first book without bogging down the opening of the second book for readers who had read the first and didn’t need catching up.

Writing is your career, do you have any hobbies?
I do. Right now it’s mainly baking and cookie decorating. Since I began volunteering with the grounds crew at my church one day a week, I found a group of hard-working young people who are willing to eat what I bake (something I’m not meant to be doing too much of, sadly!). While I decorate or bake I like to listen to audio books, so I’m filling that creative writing well while finding an artistic outlet in the baking. I also love to hike our Oregon mountains with my husband and dog, in the hopes of seeing wildlife (a bear and a wolf are my most exciting sightings thus far). We sometimes take our bows with us for target practice. I’m also attempting to learn to play the cello.



Thanks, Lori!

I have some bookmarks to give away to some lucky people so leave a comment below!


I've interviewed Lori before and you can find those interviews about an earlier book THE PURSUIT OF TAMSEN LITTLEJOHN, and THE WOODS EDGE, which is the first book in the pathfinder series.


You can find Lori at her website
her pinterest board  
Or you can find a flight of arrows here on Amazon.



Tuesday, April 12, 2016

book home

Cynthia over at Read is the New Black has been blogging about books that she read as a child/teen.  She's reminded me of a few books I used to love as a teenager and it's put me in a contemplative mood.  There were many books that influenced me, many that made me want to write, to create, and to inspire the same things I felt when I read.  Two of them stand out to me.

Now, I started writing books by the time I was four, so I know I was writing before this, but, THE SECRET GARDEN is the first book that I remember that made me want to be published. It sparked something inside of me, gave me a story idea that I have carried around with me ever since. I don't yet know if the idea will blossom into a full length novel. To this point is hasn't, but maybe someday will be the right time to write that story. THE SECRET GARDEN will always be special because it opened a door for me.

The second book was JANE EYRE. I first read this when I was twelve. I often pestered my mother to take me to the library for more books. She didn't always have time to drop everything at my whining complaints that I had nothing to read. Besides that, she wanted to introduce me to the classics, to teach me about literature, and probably to give me really long books so I would stop pestering her.  She'd been after me for awhile to read this book, and since she wasn't chauffeuring me around as much as I wanted I finally gave in. And I was blown away.  This book taught me what a book could be. JANE EYRE will always be something I strive to emulate. Not the plot or language, but the scope of the novel, the depth and complexity, the fact that after all this time it can still speak to readers and blow them away.

What books influenced you? Did you have a single book that influenced your desire to write? That helped you find your home in a certain genre? Or was it a string of many books that created a home for you?

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Contests

What do you think of twitter and blog contests?  Miss Snarks 1st Victim is doing another round of secret agent critiques. People submitted their first 250 words and she posts them on her blog. At first anyone can critique them. After that agents come through and comment on entries they like, ask for submissions or whatever.

She was going to post 50 but only 40 people submitted. Now, I know not everyone has a ready manuscript that fit the qualifications, still, it was a little sad not more people took advantage of it. I think she has a form to submit entries so it shouldn't take more than 10 minutes either. That's less time than it takes to get a query ready to go. 

Are these type of contests the way of the past? Or are people just not hearing about them? I should have posted or tweeted some sort of link or reminder to help spread the word but honestly, I didn't even think about it. And that's a problem.

If you want, you can head over and read some entries, and read the critiques of any in your genre or that you think you can learn from.  Maybe, you'll be ready to submit next time around.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Colorado spring

We were having a nice spring, enjoying the warm, balmy days, getting outside. Now the other side of a Colorado spring has sprung.

Yesterday was 60 degrees.

Now it looks like this



Last I heard we were supposed to get around 3 inches.

We have at least 12 with more coming down. It's spring break so the kids were already out of school. We're just hunkering down, enjoying a TV day, with a pot of chili on the stove and fry bread rising. 

I hope that wherever you are, and whatever the weather, you're safe and content.

Happy spring.





Wednesday, March 16, 2016

learning to fail



Last year, before we moved, we had a yard sale. Mini-Engineer decided he wanted to sell something and earn money, too, but he didn’t want to sell any of his own belongings. So he drew a bunch of pictures and offered them to people who came to the sale. For $3 each. Yeah. His belief in his drawing skills may be overrated.

I could have stopped him. I could have told him no. Instead, I let him. Before the sale we talked about how people would be looking for cheap prices, and that they would bargain. Then I stood back and let him try. I knew he would be turned away and rejected. I knew that he would have disappointments, but I also hoped he would have victories. He approached the people on his own, negotiated on his own, though I kept a watchful eye. Some people did buy his pictures, not for $3, but they were sweet and nice and those good points got him through the rejections. Even better, he learned what he can do if he tries, that he can live through rejection, and that he can keep trying after failing.

It was hard to stand back and let him do this on his own. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But I know it was in his best interest. I also know it’s a necessary part of his growth. I try to keep this in mind through the query process. This is an important lesson, and hard as it is for me, no matter the outcome, I know I’ll be better at the end of it.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

writing...sort of.

My blog used to have a bio and picture of me to the side. I don't know where they went, or when they left. I don't know how they were removed or why.

I do know I didn't do it. I know because it would have taken me awhile to figure it out. Just as it will take awhile to figure out how to put them back. If I can even find a picture.

Once again I am reminded that writing isn't just about writing. Writing is the most important part of writing, but it's not the only part. There's marketing, promotion, research, networking, studying the craft, and tech support. If you use a computer at all this last one is pretty important.

What do you do that's part of writing, but isn't actually writing?



Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Day Off

I've often heard that if you want to be an author, you need to treat writing as a job. I know that many writers push themselves, feeling that if they're not writing they're not making progress, not getting paid.  And to a certain extent that true. We do need to take writing serious if we want to do this professionally. We can't treat it like a hobby.

However, professional doesn't mean 24/7 in most cases. The Engineer has weekends off work. When he comes home he doesn't agonize over blueprints and obsess over airplane parts. Generally, that is. Farmers let fields lie fallow sometimes so it can regain nutrients and produce better crops.

As writers, we need to take time off. We need to let our minds lie fallow for a bit. And we need to stop beating ourselves up about it. If we push too hard, we face burnout. Just like anyone in any profession. Take care of yourselves, and remember that you need time off work every now and again.