Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Moment with Smoky Zeidel

Tell the readers a little about yourself.
I’d be happy to! But first, Lynn, thank you so much for having me as your guest today! I appreciate the invitation.
I’m the author of two novels: On the Choptank Shores and The Cabin; Smoky Trudeau Zeidel’s Short Story Collection, Vol. 1, which has just been released in a print edition;  the new Writer’s Workshop Combo Set containing my two books for writers: Front-Word, Back-Word, Insight Out and Left Brain, Write Brain, 366 Writing Prompts and Exercises;  and a photo/essay collection about the beauty of the natural world, Observations of an Earth Mage. All my books are published by Vanilla Heart Publishing. 
I taught fiction writing workshops for many years at several community colleges in Illinois, and was a frequent guest speaker at writing conferences throughout that state. But I never really liked the flat plains of Illinois, despite living there for fifty years!. In 2008, I finally succumbed to my bohemian spirit and need to live near the mountains and the ocean, and I moved to Southern California. It was a good decision; I met my husband and soul mate, Scott, shortly after moving. We now live in a ramshackle cottage in the woods overlooking the San Gabriel Valley and the San Gabriel Mountains beyond. I’m an ardent outdoorswoman with a deep reverence for nature, so when I’m not writing, you can find Scott and me hiking in the mountains, camping in the Sierras, splashing in tide pools, and fighting the urge to speak in haiku.
What one piece of advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Can I give three? Based on my years of experience both as an author and as a writing teacher, this is what I tell novice writers who come to me for advice.
First, study your craft. People tend to think they can just decide to write a book and sit down to write one. But writing a book is an art, just like playing the piano and painting a masterpiece are art forms. Yo-Yo Ma didn’t sit down at the cello one day and decide to play, and produce exquisite music. Picasso didn’t decide one day to paint and produce The Guitarist. They studied their craft. Writers need to do that, too.
Second, get your book professionally edited. I’ve seen so many books full of errors because writers had their Aunt Frieda or their next-door neighbor edit for them, even though neither had a bit of editing experience. Editors know things your aunt and your neighbor don’t know about what a good manuscript looks like. They can find mistakes you probably didn’t even know were mistakes. Don’t skimp on this step.
Third, don’t give up just because your book isn’t accepted at first. I used to tell my students, publishing a book is like running into a wall at full speed. When you hit that wall, you knock yourself out and bloody your nose in the process. But if you pick yourself up, wipe the blood from your face, and say, “Gee, that felt good! I think I’ll do it again!” you’ll eventually knock that wall down. The same goes for getting your book published. If you’ve studied your craft and had your book professionally edited, and if, of course, your story is any good, you will find a publisher.
As an author, do you take time to read? If so, what do you like to read and who is/are your favorite author/s?
Yes, I take a lot of time to read. Any writer who doesn’t also read is missing out on a valuable learning experience. My favorite book of the past few years is Jose Saramago’s Death With Interruptions, a difficult, but so worthwhile read! I love Elizabeth Cunningham’s Maeve Chronicles, which is three books at the moment; I believe she is writing a fourth. I love Susan Vreeland’s The Forest Lover, a fictionalized account of the life of Canadian artist Emily Carr. Malcolm R. Campbell’s Sarabande, which was just released by my publisher, is a fabulous read, as is Melinda Clayton’s Appalachian Justice, also from my publisher.
If you could go anywhere in the world on a romantic getaway, what would you do and where would you go?
I’d go with my husband to Greece, to the Greek Isles in particular, to see the sacred sites of antiquity. I’m very interested in Greek mythology and lore of ancient times, and would love to lay eyes on the sites I’ve read so much about: the Delphi, for example, where the famed oracles made their prophesies, and Crete, where so much mythological stories took place. On the same trip, I’d like to go to Northern Italy and send my husband to cooking school for a week. He loves to cook and is a fabulous chef; I think he’d get a kick out of taking a class there.
If you could live the life of one of your characters who would you be?
That’s a great question; no one has ever asked me that one before! I guess it would be Grace, in On the Choptank Shores. Grace lives a simple life, gardening, caring for her family, reading. She’s a deeply spiritual person. I adore Grace.
The tag line on my blog is ‘Indulge Your Inner Romantic.’ What do you do to indulge?
I indulge in my love of exploring. My husband and I frequently hop in the car with no particular plans in mind and go exploring in the mountains, or the deserts, near our Southern California home. We love watching wildlife, or sitting by a mountain stream or on a rock out in the desert, just reading, watching the birds and lizards and coyotes or whatever else we see, maybe taking a few pictures. We live in such a beautiful place; we are surrounded by wilderness. There is always something new to see. And, as a writer, everything I see is fodder for another story.
Where can people find you on the Internet?

The best place to start is at my Wordpress site, at www.SmokyZeidel.wordpress.com. That’s the site of my “Smoky Talks…” blog, and you can find information about all of my books, my editing services, and more about me there. You can also find links to my other blogs, “Smoky Talks Books” (book reviews), “Smoky Talks Authors,” (author interviews), and “Observations of an Earth Mage” (reflections on nature).
My Facebook author page is www.facebook.com/Smoky.Zeidel.Writes. I invite everyone to come and “like” me there.
Finally, you can find me on Twitter @SmokyZeidel. 

He was mucking out the stalls when Grace found him in the barn.
“You will never, ever, hit Miriam again, or lock her in that frightful closet, do you hear me, Papa?” she said, never raising her voice yet nonetheless unnerving Luther with her cold tone.
Luther put down his shovel and picked up a pitchfork. “‘Whom the Lord loveth he correcteth, even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.’” He tossed a forkful of straw into the stall. “‘He that spareth his rod hateth his.…’”
Stop it, Papa. I’ve heard the speech before, and I’m tired of it. There is no excuse—none, do you hear me?—for beating Miriam until she’s a bloody mess.” 
Luther continued pitching straw to the horses, not bothering to look up at his daughter. “ ‘Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding. I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths….’” 
Grace yanked the pitchfork out of his hands and sent it flying across the barn. “What have you taught Miriam other than to be afraid of you?” She spat the words at Luther as though they were bits of rotten meat in her mouth.
“What I am teaching her is to respect the authority of her father, something you attempt to thwart at every opportunity.” Wiping a trickle of sweat from his brow, Luther brushed past his daughter and headed for the barn door.
Who does she think she is, talking to me like that? His mind raced, a jumble of thoughts pounding him as unmercifully as floodwaters pound a dam. She is my daughter. I am the head of this household. I am the authority. I make the rules. I enforce God’s laws. I am the authority. I… am… the… authority…
He stopped cold in his tracks. Shaking with anger, he turned back to face Grace. The dam burst, unleashing a rage he had never known.
“Perhaps the problem here is that I spared you a few too many whippings for your own good, you impudent wretch,” Luther roared, lunging toward his daughter.
The first blow to her face sent her reeling backwards, and she hit the side of the stall with such force the horses reared up in fear. Luther grabbed her by the wrists, yanked her to him and struck her again. The awareness that Miriam had come into the barn and was now standing in the doorway, screaming, enraged him even more, and he raised his arm again.
This time, it was Luther who went reeling. A force stronger than his own grabbed his upraised arm, jerked it painfully behind him, then slammed him into the wall. His spectacles slid from their perch and shattered, piercing his left cheek with shards of broken glass.
“Take your filthy, pious hands off of my wife.” 
“She’s not your wife. She’s my daughter. And if beating her is the only way to knock sense into her, that’s my right and holy duty.” Luther winced, as Otto tightened his grip and gave his arm a sharp twist.
“She’s not my wife at the moment.” Otto leaned heavily into Luther, his breath hot in Luther’s ear. “But she will be by sundown, if she’ll have me that soon. I came here today to ask for your consent, but I’ve reconsidered that idea. You’re not fit to ask. And judging from what I’m seeing here, I don’t think there’s any question she’ll come with me right now, do you, brother Luther?”
 “Take your hands off of me. Grace will not consider going anywhere with you without my blessing.”
“Oh yes I will.” Grace struggled unsteadily to her feet; Otto loosened his hold on Luther to assist her. “I’ve already consented to be his wife. Furthermore,” she glared at Luther, the red handprint on her cheek glowing like a flame, “we’re taking Miriam with us. That’s what I came out here to tell you—you will never lay one hand on her again because she’s coming with me, with us.” She turned her attention to the sobbing child, pulling her into the protection of her arms.
“Fine. Go on then,” he snarled, picking a shard of broken glass from his cheek and hurling it to the barn floor. “You’re no daughter of mine; you’re the spawn of Satan himself. But Miriam stays, you hear me? Miriam stays right here where she belongs.”
He redirected his verbal barrage toward Otto. “Mark my words, Otto, you’ll regret this some day. ‘A foolish woman is clamorous: she is simple, and knoweth nothing. Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.’ That’s from Proverbs, Chapter Fi…”
“ ‘A gracious woman retaineth honour: and strong men retain riches.’ I can quote scripture too, Luther.” Otto helped Grace to her feet, never taking his eyes off Luther. “Go pack a bag, and one for Miriam, too, Grace.”
“Not the little one. Miriam stays.” Luther made a lunge toward Miriam, but Otto was quicker, stepping between Luther and his daughters.
“I don’t think you want to do that, Luther.” Otto slammed him against the wall a second time. “Go on Grace. I’ll be right behind you.” 
Luther watched as Grace shepherded Miriam out of the barn, murmuring soft words he couldn’t quite make out as they disappeared into the bright sunshine.
“Don’t you move from that spot until we are packed and away from here, do you understand me, Luther?” Luther nodded, understanding the implied threat in Otto’s words. “Good. We’ll be out of you way shortly. Good day, brother Luther.” 
Ten minutes later, Luther heard the pickup truck doors slam, then the crank of the engine. He stood in the barn door and watched until the truck disappeared down the dusty road.
They hadn’t even said goodbye.

You can purchase a copy of On the Choptank Shores here:

Print edition:             http://amzn.to/oNfhgk

Kindle edition:       http://amzn.to/roJQ5x

Smashwords:          http://bit.ly/nze7G6


wlynnchantale said...

Hi Smoky. Thanks so much for being here. Help yourself to the full buffet and open bar. There may even be a chocolate cake lurking around too.

The excerpt for On the Choptank Shores, really got to me. It was vivid, emotional, real. And the advice for aspiring writers is priceless.

Smoky said...

You're welcome, Lynn; thank you for hosting me! And yes, this particular excerpt is very emotional. And guess what? Some scenes get even more so as the book progresses!

Melinda said...

Great interview! LOVED Smoky's "On the Choptank Shores," and am really looking forward to reading "The Cabin."

Sun Singer said...

You'll like "The Cabin," too, Melinda.


Smoky said...

Thank you, Melinda and Malcolm. I can always count on you guys to read my interviews, and I appreciate it!