Author Interview: Sandy Bruney

SandyBWho doesn’t enjoy reading interviews about other writers and what they reveal about their process? We all come from such diverse backgrounds, embrace words and tell tales. I’ve also throughly enjoyed the Q&A James Lipton asks on the Inside the Actor’s Studio TV show; so, I thought I’d add these same set questions from Bernard Pivot to the end of the Interview. The questions were originally asked on the French series: “Bouillon de Culture” hosted by Bernard Pivot and James Lipton added them to the end of his show. What the answers reveal can be insightful, amusing, intriguing or simply brilliant.

I met Sandy in Charlotte, NC in a writer’s group over four years ago. Sandy is also my blog partner. She is hardworking, disciplined and reliable –traits I have lost over the years and I appreciate her always enjoyable Sunday posts. This week Sandy is on a well-deserved vacation and her Interview takes the place of her usual post. Enjoy! More

A sneak peek

I thought you might enjoy a little preview of my  novel, Riverbend. It is scheduled for release May 1 from Amazon.  I hope you enjoy it, and–hopefully–are intrigued.

Chapter One

In spite of her shaking legs, Damaris Tilghman stood her ground as the High Sheriff approached. She longed to wipe her sweaty palms on her skirt, but dared not make any movement that he could interpret as fear—or guilt.

The sly smirk on his lips belied the coldness of his gaze as he tipped his hat. “Sale’s nearly over, Miss Tighlman. Sorry the auctioneer couldn’t manage to get a better price for Twin Oaks. It was a grand plantation in its time.” He didn’t sound at all sorry.

“Enough to cover my father’s debts, I hope.”

“Well, Miss, as to that I have to say it didn’t. He owed a great deal of money to a great many people.” The man shook his head in mock sympathy. “Gambling’s a terrible vice—”

“And suicide is a sin. Yet neither of my father’s faults seems to have kept people from coming here and gawking, poking through our possessions….” Her voice began to tremble and she stopped, her heart beating so loudly she was afraid he would hear it in the sudden silence.

“Possessions.” The amiable leer disappeared. “Seems some of your family’s possessions didn’t turn up as part of the sale. Would you know anything about that, Miss Tilghman?”

“I have no idea what you mean.” She jutted out her chin.

“I think you do.” He looked down at the small wooden trunk sitting at her feet. “Maybe I ought to take a look at what you packed to take with you.”

“How dare you suggest such a thing! I won’t have you pawing through my shifts and stockings!”

“I can get a woman to look. If you claim all you have are shifts and stockings, you won’t mind me making certain.” He turned as a boy ran up, calling in urgency. “Sheriff! They’s a fight behind the barn. You need to come quick—one of ’ems got a knife!”

Cursing under his breath, the sheriff lumbered after the boy.

Damaris’s shoulders sagged in relief. She had been given time to think of something—but what? She willed back tears of frustration. If anything, the past few years had taught her the futility of weeping.

She watched the buyers as they lugged their purchases to the line of wagons parked along the winding drive, horses and mules stomping in impatience to begin the journey home. Home! She no longer had a home. Because of her father’s weakness, her dream of marriage and children had shattered like a fine crystal goblet dropped on a tile floor. Her past was irrevocably gone and her future a mystery.

She jerked her thoughts back to her present dilemma. The fight would soon be over. She needed to get away before the sheriff returned.

One of the buyers, better dressed than most in a black suit and embroidered waistcoat, saw her and nodded politely. “Miss Tilghman.”

She recognized him as the man who had successfully bid on the last of her father’s wine cellar. A friend of her father’s—when he still had friends. What was his name? Price? Polk? No, Pope. “Mr. Pope.” She smiled and held out a hand. “Well met, sir. I wonder if you could do me a favor?”

“Of course. If I can be of any assistance…”

“The sheriff promised he will take me to the inn in Wadesborough where I can purchase a seat on the coach in the morning. I fear he will not leave here until the last nail is sold, and I really cannot abide watching this auction any longer.” It wasn’t hard to add a quaver to her voice. “To see my life dismantled, piece by piece….”

“I understand. I would be happy to take you, if you are not embarrassed at traveling without a chaperone.”

Chaperone! I need to get away from here now. She brushed away an imaginary tear and offered a tremulous smile. “I don’t think there would be any gossip. After all, you are a dear friend of Papa’s.”

An eyebrow raised at this, but he lifted her trunk without commenting on her claim. “My wagon is this way.”

He stowed the trunk in the back of his light wagon, assisted her to the seat, and then climbed aboard and sat beside her. He had just picked up the reins when a meaty hand grasped the edge of the wooden plank that served as a seat. “Miss Tilghman. I believe we have some unfinished business.”

Pope stared down, his hands tense on the reins. “Miss Tilghman is my care. What do you want with her?”

“I need to look at her trunk.” The sheriff winked as if they were conspirators. “Just in case.”

“In case of what?” Pope’s tone was as cold as his dark eyes.

The sheriff dropped his hand and stepped back. His voice was curt as he said, “I believe she may be holding on to some jewelry that should go in the sale.”

Damaris stiffened at the accusation. “All Mama’s jewels went to pay Papa’s gambling debts years ago.”

“So you say. I still—”

“Are you doubting the lady’s word?” There was something dangerous in Pope’s voice. He raised the whip. “How dare you, sir!”

“Now, Mr. Pope, no need to get all riled up. I believe her, yes, I do. Good day, Miss Tilghman and good fortune to you.” He tipped his hat fawningly.

Pope jerked the reins and the horse started down the dirt path that led to the road.

“Thank you,” Damaris managed to mumble through a dry throat.

“My pleasure.” Pope glanced sideways at her. “If you did get away with something out of the forced sale, I congratulate you.”

She answered quickly. “He made certain I didn’t. He even sold my personal slave, Pearlie, who’s been with me since I was a child. Everything I held dear is lost.”

If she expected sympathy, Pope failed to offer it. “What will you do now?” he asked briskly.

“I have been offered a position as a companion to a distant relative of my mother’s. She lives in New Bern.” The letter she had received from the lady had been neither courteous nor welcoming, but hinted strongly of duty and God’s will.

“Being at some old lady’s beck and call doesn’t sound like much of a life for a young girl.”

“I am not young, and I have no other choice. I wasn’t raised to earn my living. My parents fully expected me to marry well.” She took a deep breath.  “The problem is, no one has proposed marriage since I celebrated my seventeenth birthday. I should have accepted the offer then. Instead, I have spent the past six years nursing Mama until her death, and then trying to keep house for Papa while he.…”

“Gambled it from under your feet and then shot himself.”

“You put it quite succinctly.”

He shrugged and chirped to the horse, which pricked its ears and began to trot.

As they jolted along the rutted path, Damaris struggled to remember what she knew of Matthew Pope. He owned Riverbend, one of the biggest cotton plantations in North Carolina. He was reputed to be wealthy. No wonder the sheriff toadied to him. He wouldn’t want to offend one of the most powerful men in Anson County. But none of that answered the question of why he had played along with her pretense of acquaintance or took her part against the sheriff.

As she studied him under her lashes, she decided he was not bad looking if you liked dark hair and eyes. She noted a ridged scar over one eyebrow and a bump on the bridge of his nose where it had been broken, spoiling an otherwise perfect profile. His teeth were good for a man of middle years, very white and straight. Not a common asset among her acquaintances.

The horse stopped at a crossroad and she looked at him in question.

“Everyone has choices, Miss Tilghman,” he said as if minutes and miles hadn’t passed since her declaration. He pointed with his whip. “This road leads to Wadesborough and this one to Cheraw.”

“I am aware of that.”

“I am offering you a choice.” He shifted in his seat until he could meet her eyes. “I have a proposition.”

She blinked under the intensity of his gaze. “What is it?”

“Two propositions, actually. One, I need a housekeeper. From what you told me, I gather you have some experience.” He waited for her response.

“Yes,” she said guardedly. “And the other?”

“What? Oh. The other is, I need a wife.”

A touch of amusement lightened her countenance. “And am I to choose which of these delightful occupations I might wish to pursue?”

“I had thought them to be one and the same.”

Damaris intended to reply with the disdain he deserved, but then she thought again of spending the rest of her days caring for elderly invalids.

“I need an answer, Miss Tilghman.”

“Is it to be a marriage in name only? I mean, you mentioned housekeeper first, but I could not accept that, a spinster residing in an unmarried man’s home. But if we were married, gossip would be put at rest.”

“I suppose I should have mentioned the third thing. I am also in need of an heir.”

Her pale cheeks blazed scarlet. She blinked once, slowly.

He waited.

She shut her eyes and drew a breath. “I accept, Mr. Pope.”

He nodded and guided the horse on the road that led to South Carolina, where a marriage license could be obtained in one day. “I see you are very like your father, Miss Tilghman.”

“Why do you say that, Mr. Pope?”

“You are a gambler, too.”

 

How deep is enough?

For the second day in a row I woke before 5 a.m.

I try to fall back asleep, but it’s useless and I know it. This phenomenon happens every time I am halfway though a story. After dutifully plodding through the opening chapters, setting up the plot and characters, the book suddenly comes alive.  My mind goes into overdrive. Ideas flow like lava, igniting my imagination.

My main character, Greg, is an actor on a popular nighttime drama. As such, he has to dig deep into himself in order to bring the character he portrays to life, to make him believable. When his lover on the series “dies” he draws on  his grief he felt after his father’s suicide, and the subsman-cryingequent scene catapults him from mediocrity to fame. And that fame makes him a target…but no more about the plot. That’s not the point.

What I’m saying is that we, as writers, also have to dig deep within ourselves to find the emotions we want to portray. I’ve been in love and I think, old as I am, I can still remember what first love felt like.

I’ve been betrayed, and I can draw on that anger and denial.

I’ve felt deep and devastating loss. And I can draw on that.

It’s hard to bring these emotions to the surface and relive the grief, anger, loss. It’s hard to remember that first love, because now I know how  it ends. But in order to write about these emotions honestly, I have to remember and relive those experiences. It isn’t easy. And sometimes it doesn’t work because I am afraid to go too deeply.

So it isn’t just the overflow of ideas that keeps me awake. It’s the surge of empathy I feel toward these cardboard people, an empathy that will breath life into them. Is Greg afraid his career,  now that he’s achieved success, will end? How does that feel? How does he feel? How did I feel?

I lost a job I loved because I had to make the choice to walk away or be sucked into a pit I didn’t think I could climb out of. So I know a little about his fear and anger.

My job now is to translate that into his actions and words.

And that is what writers do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Young Adult, New Adult…Old Adult?

Young Adult as a genre isn’t really all that new. In fact, it isn’t even a genre, because books aimed at readers from age 12-18 are composed of every genre from Dystopian (“Hunger Games”) to Sci-Fi (“Maximum Ride”).

Way back when I was a teen, we had Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Cherry Ames, and more. The books weren’t shelved as “YA” but we knew they were written for us because the protagonists were teenagers and their problems mirrored ours. Except Nancy Drew, because neither I nor any of my friends had her freedom or fancy little car.

Then along came New Adult, literature aimed at the 18-25 age group. Sort of like “Friends” only in a book form.

I’m proposing a new area of interest: Old Adult aimed at readers age 55 and up. Okay, the gentleman pictured here is only 54, but …a1622ff0109351a99914cd91b245e3a5

Why not? The baby boomers are retiring in hordes and what are they going to do with all their free time? Like my husband, some of them who never picked up a book during their working lives will suddenly discover the pleasure of reading. Especially since to their dismay and chagrin, they will also discover that their bodies have begun to rebel against bouncing around the tennis court. And how many cruises can a person take? All right, as many as they can afford, but it’s nice to be able to relax on the lido deck with a good book when all there is to look at is miles of ocean.

I think there is a market for Old Adult. I’m one, and I prefer reading about people my own age who have problems similar to mine rather than some 30-something, gorgeous blonde finding romance with a 17th century Scotsman. Because it just makes me jealous, and that’s not a good feeling.

An Old Adult novel could be a mystery, a romance (yes, even old people fall in love, sometimes to their utter amazement), or even science fiction. We did see the first man walk on the moon.

Only I guess we shouldn’t call it Old Adult. Young folks like the idea of being called adults, so YA and NA work for them. Maybe we need a different title for this demographic such as Mature Adult. No, that sounds like it is X-rated.

Granny Lit?

I need a little help here. Who has a suggestion?

I’d love to hear it.

 

 

Useless information — or a goldmine?

Have you ever been writing and suddenly realize “Hey, I don’t know much about this subject” and stop to look up something?

As writers, we often find ourselves scrolling the Internet or running to the library to get the details we need to make  scene read realistically. Or we may talk to an expert. I remember one time going to a pawn shop and asking to hold an automatic rifle so I could describe it in my story. I never published the book, but by golly if I had, no one could argue with my description.

But sometimes information is handed to us and we don’t know quite where to put it. I attend numerous workshops and not all are related to what I write. But I take notes anyway, because you never know. For example a few years ago I was at a workshop on how to write realistic fight scenes. I remember thinking, “I’ll never use this.” You guessed it. A fight scene was critical in my next book, and when I dug out my notes I was glad I had saved them. I also have notes from a workshop on hostage negotiation. I have a sneaking suspicion I may use elements of this information.

Saturday, the workshop at the monthly Carolina Romance Writers was about a S.W.A.T. (Special Weapons and Tactics) team and the men who chose to serve in such a dangerous job. The workshop leader geared his talk to romance writers and the Alpha Hero. Will I ever write a book about a man who puts his job above family, who has learned to subdue his fears and emotions, and whose first loyalty to his brothers? Probably not. But I could write a book with a hero who has at least some of those qualities. So I tucked the information away until that time comes.

It’s annoying to have to stop in the middle of writing a scene and look up a fact or description. But it’s pure heaven when you are writing a scene and you have those facts that you filed away, never thinking you’d need them, right at your fingertips.

 

Wednesday Spotlight

Today we are putting Debra Holt in the spotlight.

   Born and raised in the Lone Star state of Texas, Debra grew up among horses, cowboyDebra Holts, wide open spaces, and real Texas Rangers.  Pride in her state and ancestry knows no bounds and it is these heroes and heroines she loves to write about the most.  She also draws upon a variety of life experiences including working with abused children, caring for baby animals at a major zoo, and owning a wedding planning business (ah, romance!).

Debra’s real pride and joys, however, are her son, an aspiring film actor, and a daughter with aspirations to join the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (more story ideas!)  When she isn’t busy writing about tall Texans and feisty heroines, she can be found cheering on her Texas Tech Red Raiders, or heading off on another cruise adventure.  She read her first romance…Janet Dailey’s Fiesta San Antonio, over thirty years ago and became hooked on the genre. Writing contemporary western romances,  is both her passion and dream come true, and she hopes her books will bring smiles…and sighs… to all who believe in happily-ever-after’s.

Debra, here are a few questions we would love to know the answers to.

What does your writing area look like?

 My office has a roll top desk with lots of calendars and sticky notes and notebooks with more story ideas stacked around it. The bookshelves are full of favorite books. The window overlooks my rose garden and huge weeping willow. All that being said…when it comes to actual writing…I can be found with my laptop balanced on my knee anyplace I have the urge to write! LOL

I love the rose garden and willow tree, but I’m afraid I’d be tempted to look outside all the time.

How do you come up with titles and character names?

 The titles come to me almost immediately as the story idea comes along.  Character names come soon afterward.  The inspirations come from a myriad of places.  For instance, for my contemporary western romance, Three of Hearts, the whole idea came from a twenty-second glance at a passing billboard.  I saw the picture, the title flashed in my mind, and then by the time I reached my destination five hours later, I had three chapters dictated into my little recorder in the car.  What was the billboard?  A cowboy dad and a cute little cowboy…hiding flower bouquets behind their backs as they were about to surprise the mom for Valentine’s Day. 

Sweet! I think you must be open to inspiration. Most of us would have seen the billboard and forgotten it a few minutes later.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Write what you love to read. It is something we all hear but sometimes we get away from that and then the writing becomes more difficult. Write everyday…seven days a week. Don’t ever give up on your dream. Use each rejection to make you a stronger writer.

Good advice, and we can never hear it too often.

What author (dead or alive) would you most like to meet?

 Margaret Mitchell. I would love to share some sweet iced tea with her and pick her brain as to how she wrote such an incredible book with such strong characters that has withstood the test of time. It would be a great afternoon on the veranda!

Give her enough tea and I bet she’d share her secret!

What is something unique about you that others don’t know?

 I usually produce a complete manuscript in three weeks. Once I begin a manuscript, I cannot rest until it is done.

Oh my gosh, that is incredible! I take a  year on one story. I’m trying to get faster, though.

What do you love that most people don’t like and wouldn’t understand why you do?

Cold pickle juice, strawberry ice cream, and cheese enchiladas….together. Enough said.

Hmmm – and I have nothing to say to that.

Favorite Things

Animal…….Horse

Places I have visited…..Rocky Mountains

Season….spring

Okay, we’re ready to learn about your newest book, “Under Texas Blue Skies.”

 

Book Blurb

J.D. Sterling, country music’s sexy superstar, has come home again.  He has achieved his wildest dreams and did what he set out to do when he shook the dirt of the small Texas town from his boot heels a dozen years before. Now, he’s returned for the final piece of the puzzle to completing his life….the girl who holds his heart.  Mandy.

Amanda Lawson has grown up. From sheer heartbreak to struggling to survive to becoming a shrewd businesswoman, she has taught herself to never look back. She survived once before the wild, green-eyed cowboy with only a guitar to his name and a pocketful of dreams. He took her heart and so much more when he left her behind with his hollow vows.

Mandy was his muse…J.D. was her dream.  Despite tragedy, can they find their way home to each other again?

Excerpt….

  J.D. Sterling’s heartbeats were thumping loud as a bass drum at the sight of the red sedan as it pulled into the circular driveway, stopping just behind the other realtor’s Hummer. He had purposely seated himself in a corner of the wide porch, away from the glare of the noonday sun, where climbing vines and shade would enable him to be concealed from the woman’s line of sight. He didn’t want her to know he was there, at least not right away. J.D. needed to see her first, to get his feet under him. At least, that’s the excuse he’d given himself. For someone who always planted his feet solidly in the middle of any situation, this was one tCoverime the spotlight was not what he sought. His pulses were racing as he saw the driver’s door swing open, and two slender ankles encased in gray high heels became visible as they touched the ground.

The woman stood up, one hand pushed her sunglasses further up on the bridge of her nose, and then she closed the car door behind her. She slung the straps of her leather bag over her shoulder and moved around the hood of the car, her heels making soft crunching sounds on the pea gravel along the drive. In the early afternoon stillness of the ranch, those sounds seemed to be amplified.

The eyes in the shadows drank in the features of the woman as she moved toward the house. Nowhere in sight was the country girl he had last seen. The vision that approached was confident in her stride, her head up and shoulders resolute. The girl he used to know was just short of being painfully shy and always hesitant to stand out of any crowd. Sunglasses concealed her eyes from view so he couldn’t see if they were still the amazingly vivid blue he remembered and had even immortalized in song once. They had filled his dreams on many a night and gotten him through some really hard times. It was those eyes he would see when he closed his own as he sang across the bright lights into the dark recesses of some huge arena, packed with screaming fans and loud music. He would sing to the girl in his dreams… the one he had left behind but never left out of his heart.

“Hello, Mandy,” he spoke softly from the shadows.

Amanda’s head swung in its direction. Her eyes sought to focus on the tall figure that stepped from darkness into light. She went to take a quick breath but found she couldn’t. In fact, for some reason, the light was receding, and the darkness was swallowing them all up.

I can see there is going to be a lot of tension in this story before they get together — they do get together, right? I love a Happy Ever After.

Debra, tell us where we can find your books.

Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.

And before you go, I want to share what you have in store for us.

The Seymour Agency represents Debra and she is soon to have two more contemporary romances published by Spencer Hill/Tulip Romance and by Bling! Romances. Debra invites you to visit her website at www.debraholtbooks.com.  She loves to hear from other aspiring authors or readers via email at debraholtbooks@gmail.com. Follow her on twitter @debraholtbooks and like her author page on facebook.  Her blog can be found at debraholtbooks.blogspot.com.

 

The thrill is… not gone

I’m late posting today because it has been one heck of a week. I got the final book cover and a few days later the galleys. And a release date (August 26).

This isn’t my first time around and you would think the thrill would have worn off. I can tell you, it definitely hasn’t! To see the finished product and to know that in less than a month my book will available — well, it’s just as much a thrill now as it was the first time.

Maybe authors of 20 or 30 books view the procedure as humdrum and yawn when they see the final cover, or sigh when they sit down to do the final  proofreading. Call me naive, but I don’t think so. There has to be that little glimmer of self-satisfaction, the little voice that whispers “You did it” no matter how many times they’ve done it before.

As for proofing, I’ve read the manuscript so many times my eyes glaze over. I wouldn’t catch a typo if the word were spelled backward. So I asked Jim, who is a good proofreader. Typos leap off the page specifically to annoy him. So I was thrilled that he agreed to help.

He was reading yesterday and looked up with a frown. “I just read chapter nine, and now it’s chapter seven.”

So, okay, I printed the book out in fits and starts. Every time there was a paper jam or I forgot to load more paper, the printer’s computer forgot where it left off. Unfortunately, so did I.

“That’s okay,” I told him. “They recommend reading from the last page to the front so you see the words and don’t get involved in the plot.” Then, I couldn’t help asking, “How do you like it?”

Now, this is a guy who reads James Patterson, Clive Cussler, David Baldacci, Lee Child — and my book is a romance set in an alternate history and includes shape-shifters and other paranormal characters. Not his preferred reading at all.

“It’s okay,” he said.

You have to know Jim. That’s a least a four-star review. And in case you are curious, here’s the cover: And If you are curious enough to want to read an excerpt, you can here: http://www.sandrazbruney.com

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