Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Wednesday Women: Maggie Anthony by Sandra Moran

Good morning! We have a Wednesday Women blog this week, and I'm happy to present Sandra Moran who will give us some insight in how she creates her characters. Find a character profile for Maggie Anthony--and thank you, Sandra, for bringing your leading ladies to the Wednesday Women table.
 
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In preparation for this guest blog, I took about an hour to read some of the previous contributions to Word Affair and let me tell you ... I was a little daunted by so much rich and beautiful writing by such thoughtful and lovely women. I fear my contribution will pale in comparison. That said ... deep breath ... here I go.

 
My name is Sandra Moran and I am the author of Letters Never Sent, Nudge, The Addendum (a companion piece to Nudge), and my most recent offering, All We Lack. By day, I teach anthropology to undergraduates and as such, am fascinated by what makes us not only different, but also alike. I find people endlessly fascinating and when I create characters, I work to make them as multi-faceted and complex as possible.



 

One of the questions I often get asked is if my characters are based on real people – particularly the characters of Kate and Annie in Letters Never Sent. The answer to this question is “no.” There may be mannerisms or certain quirks that I steal from real people, but the characters themselves are entirely fabricated. What makes them seem real (I hope) is that I spend a lot of time on character development. I create elaborate profiles about who these characters are ... what motivates them ... what has happened to them in the past that informs why they make the decisions they do.

 
I do all of this on the front end (before I even sit down to write) fully recognizing that most of what I build into their back-story doesn’t even make it into the novel. And that’s okay. Most readers don’t care that Annie (Letters Never Sent) was fascinated with/had a crush on Amelia Earhart. It didn’t figure into the story. But knowing that about Annie, I was able to take that sense of adventure and fearlessness that she loved about Amelia Earhart and incorporate that into her own bold and assertive approach to the world.


 

I do that with all of my main characters. And since All We Lack was released April 1, I thought I would share (for anyone who is interested) a portion of the character profile for Maggie Anthony, the closeted, lesbian funeral director in Seymour, Indiana, who is going to meet a woman with whom she had a brief relationship the year before.

 

As background, All We Lack is the story of four characters who are on an express bus from New York City to Boston. Maggie is a funeral director from Indiana who lives a double life. Bug is a ten-year-old boy in the Pennsylvania foster care system who is being sent to live with an aunt he doesn't know. Jimmy is a former paramedic and prescription drug addict on his way to meet a woman he met online who thinks he's a successful doctor. Helen is a Chicago insurance investigator who is leaving her marriage in search of the woman she wants to be. Seemingly, they are strangers. But in actuality, they’re not because they are tied together in ways they don’t even realize.

 

So, Maggie ... what do we know about her? Well, in the spirit of full disclosure, I’m going to share the first part of the actual character profile notes. This is the exact profile from which I worked and I have left any errors in place. If you’re read All We Lack, you might learn some new things about Maggie and if you haven’t ... well, then maybe you will find her interesting enough to want to know more.

 


Maggie Anthony:

·        Maggie Anthony is 31 and, despite being an introvert, is very successful in her career as a funeral director. She derives satisfaction from helping people through one of the most horrible times of their lives.

·        She is terrified of flying, though not because her parents died in a plane crash – which is how she inherited the funeral home in Seymour, Indiana – but rather of being trapped in such a small space. She prefers being able to see the scenery and being able to open a window and escape if need be (telling characteristic). Usually, she drives wherever she needs to go, but in this instance, she’s presenting at a Professional Women’s Conference as part of the NFDA and needs the travel time to work on her presentation. She was going to take the train, but the times didn’t work with her schedule.

·        Though she is travelling to a conference to present, that’s not really why she’s going. She’s going so she can see Sarah, with whom she had a weekend fling a year before. That fling was very out of character because generally, Maggie only has anonymous, one-night stands. The reasons why she does this are complicated. She lives in a small town where reputation is everything and being a funeral director is kind of a turn-off for many women. Also, she has an aversion to relationships. Her father, Franklin, cheated on her mother with his office manager, Betty Jo.

·        She had her heart broken by Rachel (a girl in high school to whom she couldn’t commit because she wouldn’t come out. NOTE:  Rachel later kills herself after they argue.) Also, Maggie doesn’t want the pain that she sees every day when someone has to bury their spouse. It’s too hard. She cannot commit to anyone or anything aside from her career and sees these meaningless trysts as close to intimacy as she can allow herself. She goes to Indianapolis to pick up one-night stands and never uses her real name.

·        She keeps people at a distance because she’s scared of being hurt, but also because she doesn’t understand people – not really. Her experience with Rachel proved that. And then, Sarah. The fact that Sarah looked so much like her first love is part of what draws and scares her so much.

·        She chooses her clothing for the trip carefully, planning both for the conference activities and for seeing Sarah and going to the bars. She has spent the last year obsessing over Sarah and she has no alternative but to come to some resolution regarding her obsession with her. She has, over the past six months, followed Sarah online, Googled her, etc. She finds herself following  her on Facebook even as she tries not to care.

·        Her favorite color is black and her least favorite is yellow (which she thinks makes her look sallow)

·        She didn’t want to be a funeral director, but when her brother refused to take over the family business, she went through a funeral sciences program and got her license. She did it to please her father. She is unsure if she made the right choice, but accepts that it’s the choice she made and that she has to live with it.

·        Maggie has a challenging relationship with her brother, Ben. He is a “tortured” soul who struggles with his dark side and has trouble finding his way/place in the world. Despite being younger than him, Maggie is the responsible one – the caretaker. She sends him money when he needs it and is always prepared to learn of his death (months after the fact). She envies him in that he did what he wanted instead of kowtowing to societal expectations. 

·        Usually, she wears dark, somber suits and exudes a quiet sophistication. She has perfected the “soft, consoling” tone of voice to the point that she finds herself occasionally using it when not counseling the grieving. For the trip, she wears jeans, riding boots and a simple top. Her dark, shoulder-length hair is pulled back and her fingernails are French manicured. She likes wrist watches, not bracelets or rings. She likes white rather than yellow gold. She prefers black to brown leather. She carries a purse, but not on this trip. Rather, she is using her leather briefcase.

·        She fears getting old and losing her figure. She works out (running) and does yoga. She tried Pilates, but prefers yoga.

·        She eats organic and has tried several times to be a vegetarian. She likes sushi – particularly sashimi, but is scared to have it in the Midwest. She likes to get up in the middle of the night and eat almond butter and honey sandwiches, though later she feels guilty for the calorie/sugar bomb.

·        She prefers vodka – upper end (Ketel One or Gray Goose). She likes martinis but not sweet drinks. Dirty or filthy vodka martinis are her favorite.

·        She has a scar on her inside left wrist, but won’t tell anyone how she got it. (It was when she and Rachel had climbed a fence to go skinny-dipping in a pond outside of town.)

·        She considers herself an honest person, though she knows she lies to herself.

·        She can only dance after a few drinks.

·        She once stole a tube of lipstick from a department store to just see if she could do it. It wasn’t even really her color but she made herself use all of it as punishment.

·        She hates the smell of eucalyptus and lilies.

 

There are actually two more pages of notes that include her birth date, astrological sign and characteristics), the fact that she’s right handed and all her vital stats. But I think, for sake of space, I’ll stop and simply sum up by saying that I hope this illustrates about how I write and how I create characters. I’m not sure it’s helpful, but perhaps it does shed light on the character of Maggie and her relationship with Sarah and the other characters in the novel

 

For the first four chapters of All We Lack or to see examples of my other work, feel free to go to www.sandramoran.com. I always love getting emails, so also, feel free to drop me a line or ask any questions.

 
Thank you for the opportunity to visit Word Affair. It’s been an honor to be included. Thanks for reading.


 
About Sandra:
 
Sandra Moran is an author and assistant adjunct professor of anthropology at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas. 
A native Kansan, she has worked professionally as a newspaper journalist, a political speech writer, and an archaeological tour manager. In her novels, she strives to create flawed characters struggling to find themselves within the cultural constructs of gender, religion and sexuality.  
She is the author of "Letters Never Sent," "Nudge," and “The Addendum,” a companion piece to “Nudge.” Her most recent novel, “All That We Lack” was released April 1, 2015.
 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

LGBT Push Back Charity Giveaway:

By now, you have probably heard about the controversial law in Indiana, and others proposed in other states. This huge book giveaway is meant to raise awareness and funds for LGBT organizations. Check it out here:



DiverseReaderBlogspot.com <-- Link to the blog and all info you need.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Cover Reveal: Familiar Places (Jayce & Emma II)

Coming this May! Jayce and Emma have already been in the Wednesday Women once. Many readers have enjoyed their first story, Halfway Home. Thanks to all who send feedback! Since it's my birthday, I have a little treat for you today, the cover of the next J&E story:


 
With a job, an apartment and not to mention, Jayce in her life, Emma feels lucky, but she finds it hard to trust that all this good fortune can last. An unexpected phone call seems to confirm her doubts, especially when she thinks she can’t tell Jayce who asked her a favor. The truth always comes out…Fear and doubts take Emma back to familiar places—will she be able to move beyond them?
 
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Official release date is May 7th. Like Halfway Home, Familiar Places will be part of the Kindle Unlimited program.

But, wait, there's more...This summer, I'll also introduce Detective Ann McCoy in Amber Alert (this will be my next Eternal Press release) and another pairing, rookie officer Ellie Harding and Detective Jordan Carpenter (Indiscretions) whose story is a bit darker and edgier than the sweet romantic suspense of Jayce and Emma.

Get ready. It's going to be a "criminal" summer! :)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Wednesday Women: Jade by Skylar Wood

Good morning, Wednesday Women fans! This week, I present to you Jade, leading lady in Skylar Wood's erotica novel, a woman who has everything money can buy--but can she find love, too? Let's find out, and don't forget to check out Skylar on the world wide web (links below).

Thanks Jade & Skylar for visiting!



Jade is a rich girl meets poor girl love story. It is similar to "Pretty Woman" but with two females in the starring roles. The sensual element is firmly entrenched throughout the story. It is highly erotic and explicit so it is for 18+ only and some adults may find it offensive.

Jade is a high powered entrepreneur who should have it all but lacks real connection in her life. In a world ruled by superficiality she has lost herself. Seeking to escape, she becomes immersed in a secret sexual fantasy world to alleviate the stresses that occupy her daily life. She develops an intense online relationship with a young escort by the name of Twylla Star. One thing leads to another and Jade arranges to meet Twylla for an unfettered sexually free weekend in Las Vegas. What she didn’t expect to do was to fall head over heels for the lovely Twylla.

Twllya Star, whose real name is Stacey Jackson, is beautiful but that’s the only thing she feels she has going for her. Exploited at a young age by those she trusted and then later by those who purchased her services, she is weary of the lifestyle and all its inherent ugliness. Lacking any skills to move beyond it she feels trapped and sees Jade as a way out of it.

Jade too is weary of the life she leads and even with all the trappings of the ‘good life’ she is far from happy. Not satisfied with only a weekend in Stacey’s company she decides on a whim to leave it all behind and spend three weeks travelling on the road with her.

As the two women spend more time together a deeper more profound relationship grows that is beyond what wealth or beauty has to offer. They connect to each as soul mates and their journey together now becomes one of self-discovery and hope.

Jade realizes how trite and meaningless all her material wealth is without having true love in her life. She has been emotionally empty for a long time. Now with Stacey she is content in a way that she’s never been before.

As she spends time with Jade, Stacey realizes she is more than a beautiful face and body. Her intelligence and innate goodness is what will last far beyond her physical attributes that will fade over time. Growing in confidence with Jade’s belief and support in her, Stacey knows she can move beyond the tawdry life she had come to loathe. She now believes she can leave it behind once and for all.

Jade is a story of sexuality but it is also a story of love and discovery. Two people from very disparate worlds can come together and connect at a level that gives real meaning to their lives.
http://www.amazon.com/Jade-Skylar-Wood-ebook/dp/B00O971VBC/ref=la_B00OW54BMC_1_1/179-3776339-3979828?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1427771394&sr=1-1

https://www.facebook.com/sierowworlds/posts/328836507288495

https://twitter.com/Skylarwood623



 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Wednesday Women: Girls In Ice Houses by Linda Morganstein

For this week's Wednesday Women, you get a chance to chat with author Linda Morganstein who's presenting "Girls In Ice Houses." Join the conversation in order to enter the giveaway, for a chance to win an autographed copy! The giveaway ends next Tuesday, and please leave some contact info so we can find you. Enjoy!

Thanks Linda for visiting!




WEDNESDAY WOMEN SPOT WITH BARBARA WINKES

LINDA MORGANSTEIN

 

TITLE: "JUST BETWEEN US: COFFEE TALK WITH LINDA MORGANSTEIN"

 

For those of you old enough to remember (or have watched on reruns) the well-known Mike Myers skit On Saturday Night Live in which he played a Jewish middle-aged housewife, Linda Richman, from Long Island who idolized Barbara Streisand and gave very funny advice and skewed opinions. Linda Richman could have been my aunt. I grew up with skewed humor and VERY lively conversation, much of it screamed, with interruptions, much love and a yet quite a bit of heated disagreement.

Today, I'd like to have a discussion. I'll put out the questions, give you my opinions and you, I hope, will give me yours. For those responding, I'll put you in the hat for my giveaway-- an autographed copy of my latest novel, Girls In Ice Houses. You can't lose! Voice your thoughts, get a conversation going and possibly win a book. Let's discuss!
 (Graphic provided by author)
 

Q1: What do you think the place is of lesbian fiction in the general world of books? Should it be a distinct genre or should lesbian fiction be a part of the mainstream?

A: I write books I hope will be of interest to a wide audience. I truly prize the lesbian audience, but I aspire to communicate to as many readers as possible. I read mostly "literary" fiction by anyone that can write a book that both touches me and makes me think. If that writer is a lesbian or the book features lesbians, I'm thrilled! How about you?

Q2: Do you like books that make you think or are deeply emotional or do you prefer a lighter read?

A: I prefer books that make me think and feel deeply. However, I'm not opposed to lighter reads. However, I want that lighter read to be carefully constructed and have great characters. Admission: I relax my brain though television shows and movies, some of them "trashy" and some of them not--Grey's Anatomy, The Good Wife, Transparent, Looking, Breaking Bad, to name a few. How about you?

Q: Do you choose books through reviews, recommendations, a favorite author or prize winners? Some other ways?

A3: All of the above. I have favorite writers whom I'll read no matter what they write. I talk about books with my lovely partner and our friends. I read reviews, although I tend to avoid a lot of this, since I am very sensitive and I put myself in the writer's shoes.  Word of mouth is the best, I think. What are your choice methods?

I look forward to your responses! After one week, I'll announce the winner of my book.

Linda Morganstein is an award-winning, overeducated writer of who also happens to be the product of a Borscht Belt childhood in the Jewish hotels of the Catskills. In the seventies, she dropped out of Vassar College and drove a VW van to California, where she lived in Sonoma County for many years. Later, she studied with Jane Smiley in Iowa. She currently resides in Saint Paul, Minnesota with her understanding spouse Melanie and her exceptional dog, Courage. In addition to writing, Linda is avid golfer and sourdough bread-baker. In short, she has a phobia for boredom. Due to her Borscht Belt background, she has a distinct interest in humor as an antidote to the complications of life. This includes an arsenal of jokes supplied by her late father, a master comedian.

For more about Linda and her books, check out her web site: http://www.lindamorganstein.com

Girls In Ice Houses is available for order from your local bookstore and at:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=linda+morganstein

 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wednesday Women: The Girls et al. by Sunny Alexander

The theme of Women banding together to fight injustice is a personal favorite of mine, so I had to invite Sunny Alexander to talk about The Girls. Not only she's giving a glimpse of her other works, but one lucky winner will walk away with a copy of The Girls! Please leave a comment in this post between now and next Tuesday noon EST to enter, but first, enjoy:
 
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I am excited to be here and am looking forward to sharing my journey from housewife and stay at home mom, to psychotherapist/author. I am looking forward to your questions and to add a bit of encouragement, if you ask a question or make a comment, you will be entered to win an autographed copy of The Girls.



 I come from a family of storytellers and you’d be surprised about something as simple as grocery shopping can be turned into a riveting, spellbinding adventure. As a child, I entertained my younger brother and cousins with tales about fairies living in a magical land with rivers made of lemonade. During adolescence, I began to write stories filled with age-typical dreams and longings.

 There was a period of time when I turned away from writing and focused on raising my children. I was one of the many women who returned to school in the 70s; what a time of revolution and revelation that was! You’ll read about that historic time in The Girls. For me, it was a huge change from being a stay at home mom. I developed a career as a therapist but most importantly I opened the closet door and acknowledged my identity as a gay woman.  

 My return to writing began in a most unusual way after a sixteen-year relationship ended. I was not only grieving a personal loss but had volunteered to counsel veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. I kept thinking about the number of troops returning with PTSD and my thoughts began to focus on what I saw as a forgotten group: the medical staff that treated the wounded. On one of those sleepless nights, a name came to me: Kathleen Moore. I began to see an image of a woman with long dark hair and freckles. As if I was being guided, I went to the computer and began to write. I’m not even sure what I wrote; at this time there was no form... just words pouring out. After two years of research and many drafts, the story of Kathleen Moore, frontline Army physician was told in Flowers from Iraq: Book 1 in the series: The Storyteller and the Healer.

After I had published Flowers from Iraq, I began to write The Girls.  The book opens in 2020 when President of the United States, Julia Moorhead has signed the Freedom to Marry Act into law. Gathering together to watch this historic event is a group of women in their late 70s, who have been friends (family) for many years. They are a tight-knit group that has worked silently and relentlessly not only for marriage equality but also to rescue women from abusive situations. As they watch the event unfolding on TV, they are witness to the excitement and happiness of many, as well as the hatred of a few. They decide to help the people understand and embrace equality by revealing their secret past to a curious, perhaps snoopy reporter, who has heard about The Girls.

 As the story unfolds, we travel from 2020 to the past where we meet each of the Girls and share in their lives. It’s my pleasure to introduce you to The Girls:

 Char, a psychologist, is more than familiar with keeping dark secrets... including her own.

Em, the storyteller, has written a series of novels about a group of women who risk their lives to rescue the abused.

Iris, a United States Senator, finds romance on both sides of the gender aisle.

Les, a wunderkind, discovers a love far greater than her passion for medicine.

Max, the mechanic, can make the human heart purr as sweetly as any engine.

Frankie and Bobbie pack up their dishonorable discharges from the military and hop onto their Harleys for the freedom ride of their lives.

 I will share with you how Iris painted a picture of her childhood.

One morning while I was walking, I began to see a broken-down trailer park. I then saw a tall, thin child. I could see the tattered dress she wore, the hopeless expression, the way her mouth turned down, and the snot running from her nose. This was the beginning of my relationship with Iris and her incredible journey from poverty to the United States Senate.

Because of my background as a therapist my novels have a psychological bent to them. I also have an intense interest in social issues; the pain that comes from them and the healing that can follow. My novels are character-driven which means the emphasis is on inner conflicts and relationships. That doesn’t mean there is a lack of romance and humor. After all, don’t they go hand-in-hand with relationships? And most of us have lots of inner conflicts around them!


(graphics provided by author)

 Some readers have asked me how I get the titles of my books. Flowers from Iraq came to me after I had written most of the book. Flowers kept showing up as metaphors in different scenes. I began to think of the wounded and fallen troops as flowers. And there is a dream sequence in the book that resonated with the title.

 The title for The Girls came directly from my mother’s Friday night group of card-playing friends. They always called each other, “The Girls.” They met every week for a friendly game, and then on Saturday, the phone would begin to ring as they dissected every play— and I must add, every player! The subtitle of The Girls: A Different Kind of Love Story came about when I thought of how many types of love there really are. And through thick and thin, The Girls do share a very special love.

 Claire’s Song—Book 2 in the series The Storyteller and the Healer— began as God Laughs and I went so far as to have a book cover designed. Then as Kathleen and Claire struggled with dark secrets that they had kept from each other, I thought, this really belongs to the lover of music—Claire— and so the title became Claire’s Song.

 I do work with one goal in mind: to have the reader identify with the characters... to laugh with them, cry with them and most importantly to enjoy a good story. I hope that my books show that even though life can be difficult and painful, there is always hope. And, by the way, I believe in a happy ending.

 I am getting ready to begin a new novel. All I know at this point is it will be about a group of Holocaust survivors who hide their identity and deny their experiences from the world. I am starting to get flashes of characters and scenes and so another adventure begins.

 I would like to share a favorite quote of mine from The Girls. In this quote, Em is musing about her life, the many twists and turns it has taken.

Being gay is not the only closet, she thought. So many closets in life, as she had discovered over the years.

Please visit my website http://www.sunnyalexander.com for some thought provoking blogs or contact me directly at sunny@sunnyalexander.com

 

 

 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Happy International Women's Day!

What better way to celebrate than getting to know your favorite characters and authors?

Here's a complete list of the authors who introduced their leading ladies to the Wednesday Women table! We'll continue soon with Sunny Alexander, Linda Morganstein and Skylar Wood. All genres, all women.

Wednesday Women blogs

Find the books online