Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Author Interview: C. Maggie Woychik

Note as of June 20, 2011: Ms. Woychik has informed me that the book discussed here is no longer available, and will likely not be made available again. However, she did say I could leave this interview up. Thanks! --Liberty Speidel

Today I'm pleased to welcome cyber-writing buddy C. Maggie Woychik to the bits and bytes here at Word Wanderings! Please join me in making her feel at home.

Liberty Speidel: Thank you for agreeing to this interview! I'm pleased to have you here at Word Wanderings! First, how long have you been writing and when was your first book published?
Maggie Woychik: Well, first off let me say what a privilege it is to be here, Liberty! I enjoy your site and am honored you asked me to contribute. I've been writing for publication (primarily magazine articles) for 15 years. This will be my first published compilation (book).

LS: Tell us about your latest book.
MW: As the back cover states: "Thirty-nine rich reflections to savor during quiet times. I Run to the Hills is both a journey and a resting place - a collection of faith-musings draped in traveling garb."

LS: Why did you choose to write this book?
MW: It's based on my own spiritual pilgrimage. I think everyone seeks to make sense of their life, their world, and writers especially. Being a writer, I did what I felt I must.

LS: What would you like readers to take away from your book?
MW: I hope each reader will walk away with a clarity and strengthening of their own journey with Jesus Christ.

LS: What did you learn while writing this book?
MW: I learned that writing a book is hard work! We drain off a bit of our soul each time we finish a chapter, I think.

LS: How do you reach new readers?
MW: The best way in today's world is through the marvelous connections available on the internet: forums, blogs, networking sites (facebook, twitter, etc.). Of course, word of mouth is always very effective.

LS: What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?
MW: Well, the thought has crossed my mind that if I had started writing earlier in life, say, my early 20's, I would have more credentials to show-- but then I wouldn't know what I know now and I don't think I would have been happy with my writing, if that makes sense. Beyond that, I'm actually very happy with how things have progressed. I'm just where I want to be in space and time right now.

LS: What advice or tips do you have for writers who are just getting started?
MW: I love helping emerging authors! My advice would be: master the English language (assuming you're writing in English), don't just trifle with it; live life fully, but be disciplined at the same time; hew out a solid foundation of faith and continue to build on it/Him throughout your life.

LS: Which books on writing have been the most helpful to you and why?
MW: I learn best by example, so I've adopted a "read good literature" attitude. Good literature rubs off! The author who has probably influenced me most is Annie Dillard. For sheer writing prowess and brilliance, she is incomparable.

LS: What is a typical writing day like for you?
MW: I generally file through my Post-It-Notes from the day before, then hit "THE Notebook" - you know, the one that holds most of a writer's grey matter; the thing that once lost would send their spirits to the Land of Despondency and Despair. :) I network throughout the day with family and friends via email, facebook, and twitter. And in between all that I live life! I do farm chores and house chores and shopping, cleaning, and cooking. The realities of life keep my writing in balance.

LS: What kind of planning do you do before writing a novel, article or book?
MW: I usually don't spend hours in research, but I do tend to think things through a lot before putting down seed thoughts on paper. When I feel the seeds are plentiful enough, I begin to hoe, plant, and water. Hopefully the emerging vegetation is both fodder for the soul and beauty for the eyes. If not, I plow it under and start again.

LS: Do you edit as you go or wait until completing the first draft?
MW: Editing is the life blood of every worthy piece of writing. I do it continually and with abandon.

LS: What do you have within reach as you write?
MW: Always - a cup of water or tea. A notebook and pen.

LS: What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?
MW: I never try to sell anyone on writing -- BUT -- if I can get them to enjoy some genre of reading, then I've won, and more likely than not he or she will begin at some point to think about writing.

LS: Can you give us one “do” and one “don’t” for those aspiring to be a writer?
MW: DO begin. DON'T wait. Also, if you can find a writing mentor, DO it.

If you'd like to enter to win a signed copy of Maggie's book, please leave a comment or become a follower of this blog between now and Sunday, November 1 at 6 PM Central Time. A winner will be announced on Monday, November 2nd! Thanks, and good luck!

Maggie has over 70 published articles and poems in magazines including War Cry, Wesleyan Life, Christian Home and School, Woman’s Touch (Leadership Edition), Young Salvationist, Purpose, Christian Women Today e-zine, Seek, Women Alive!, Evangel, Cross & Quill, and others.

She has been a staff writer for, one of the most visited Christian sites on the internet with well over a million hits a month; has written dozens of teen and adult Bible studies; led a Christian writers group; and won a Roaring Lambs Award from the Amy Foundation.

Her first book, “I Run to the Hills: Reflections on the Christian Journey”, was released Fall, 2009.

Again, thanks for sharing with us, Maggie!

Until next time,

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What on Earth is NaNo?

For the uninitiated, you're probably wondering what on earth NaNo is, so we'd better start with that. NaNo is shorthand for National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo (to be referred to as simply NaNo for the remainder of this post) occurs every November. Per the organizations website

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.
Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.
This will be the 10th year for NaNo. I first learned of the contest when I joined back in 2006. I was too late to join the fray, but was enthusiastic enough that I attempted to do the same thing the following January. Due to a variety of circumstances, I was unable to meet the 50K goal, but I came close. I know several authors who have participated, successfully, in NaNo, and love it, and will be participating this November.

With NaNo, you write to help chase away writer's block. You don't edit. You just write. Every day. In order to write 50,000 words in 30 days, you must commit to writing 1,666.67 words a day. If you decide to take one day off for worship a week, than number jumps to 1,923.07 words a day.

Oh my gosh,
you're thinking. That's crazy! I can't do that!

Oh, yes you can. All you need to do is put your mind to it, tell yourself you WILL write X number of words a day. Start an outline, do a few character sketches. Read other novels (or even writing prompt books) for inspiration. What matters is that you put the effort in. You may not make it. But, as long as you try and honestly put the effort into it, it really doesn't matter if you write 10,000 words or 100,000. You still tried. You're that much closer to having your novel done!

As for your faithful hostess, I haven't decided yet if I'll participate this year. I want to. Desperately. But, with a toddler in the house, I kind of need both baby and daddy's cooperation in the matter. But, in preparation, I've begun an outline for my next project, and I know quite a bit about my main characters already. As the days dwindle down, I'll make my decision, and who knows? Maybe I'll try to fit 2,000 words in during naps. (I don't think I'm motivated enough to get up at 4 AM, and hubby probably won't let me stay up 'til 1 AM--heck, I don't even know if I could stay up that late if I wanted to--not without lots of caffeine and a nap!)

If you do decide to participate, leave a comment here and let me know what your handle is over at That way we can connect and help keep each other accountable. If not, be sure to check in here throughout the month. If I do decide to participate, I'll post periodic updates on how my novel is progressing, my word count, etc. (In other words, come here to cheer me on!!! I'll need it!)

To assist in making your decision, I've included the following links from I think may be helpful to you.

How NaNo Works
Using an outline
NaNoWriMo Blog

Until next time,

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Author Interview: K.M. Weiland, Part 2

Welcome back to our interview with author K.M. Weiland! Be sure to check out her new release, Behold the Dawn!

And without further ado, here's the second installment of our interview.


Liberty Speidel: Do you have any rituals when you write?

K.M. Weiland: Yes, I’m actually very ritualistic. My normal pre-writing routine goes
something like this: pray, scribble in my writing journal, outlining the scene I’m writing and addressing any possible stumbling blocks; read an article on the craft; proofread what I wrote the day before; glance over my notes from the character interviews I wrote in the outlining stage; and watch a thematically related music video on YouTube. Oh, and I eat craisins!

LS: What are your next projects?

KMW: I continue to edit my fantasy Dreamers Come, preparing it for publication. And I’m currently outlining another historical called The Deepest Breath, set during World War I in such far-flung settings as London, France, and Kenya. A writing buddy and I are also having fun with a story that answers the question, “What would happen if Robin Hood met Sleeping Beauty?”

LS: Do you have a trusted friend(s) who looks over your first (or second or third) draft for you?

KMW: I’m fussy about letting anyone read my work before I finish the first draft. Somehow, letting someone see or have any input on a story before it’s “finished” takes away some of the magic. However, once my first draft is completed, I have two very reliable critters, Linda Yezak and Adrie Ashford, who get to mark up all my mistakes. I rely on other people as well, but these two always get first whack at anything I write.

LS: How do you determine when a story is 'done' and you're ready to send it off to the publisher?

KMW: For whatever reason, I inevitably find that it takes me the time to complete a whole new project before I’m able to look at Project #1 with objectivity. So once I’ve finished a story, I toss the manuscript into the closet and let it sit there for the next couple years, while I’m working on something new. I’ll pull it out to edit it occasionally and run it past test readers. But not until Project #2 is safely finished will I pull the first one out and start buckling down to the task of discovering its worth as a
publishable piece of work.

LS: Growing up, did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

KMW: I started writing when I was twelve because I didn’t want to
forget the stories I told myself. But I never really considered it as a calling until much later. For most of my childhood and teen years, I was certain I wanted to train horses and barrel race.

LS: Who have been the person or persons who have influenced you most along your path?

KMW: Writing has always been a deep inner calling. I don’t think I could have helped but follow it, even if no had ever encouraged me. But my father was probably my most constructive guide. And, of course, everyone who ever took the time to encourage me is responsible for pushing me one step farther down the writing path.

LS: Which author(s) do you admire most and why?

KMW: Patrick O’Brian, Orson Scott Card, and Kristen Heitzmann top the list, for various reasons. O’Brian for his magic combination of subtlety, realism, and research. He’s one of those few and special authors who writes so seamlessly that you can’t even see through the cracks to discern his methods. Card gets props for his themes, his grit, and his fantastic afterwords, in which he explains his process in more depth than I usually dare to hope for. And Heitzmann continues to blow me way with her detailed prose. She’s a master of the “telling detail.”

LS: Is your family supportive of your writing career?

KMW: None of them are writers, or even necessarily readers of fiction, which makes me all the more blessed that they’ve never faltered in their support of my work. Even when they don’t understand all my crazy quirks, they still put up with me, love me, encourage me.

LS: When you're not writing, what do you enjoy doing?

KMW: You mean not writing is an option? I love being outside, taking walks with my black Lab, reading, horseback riding…

LS: What's the best piece of writing advice anyone's ever given you?

KMW: It’s not specific to writing and it wasn’t specifically aimed at me, but a Frank Wilczek quote jumps to mind: “If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not working on hard enough problems.”

LS: What kind of advice would you offer to new writers?

KMW: First and foremost: Just write! I see so many people wanting to put the cart before the horse. But revising, marketing, soliciting agents… practicing your autograph—none of that matters if you’re not consistently putting words on paper. I always encourage people to put aside a set amount of time (even if it’s only fifteen minutes) every day for their writing. And once you’ve set it aside, stick to it! What makes good writers isn’t talent so much as perseverance.

Thank you again for sharing with Word Wanderings! For all my readers, be sure to order a copy of K.M.'s books, Behold the Dawn and A Man Called Outlaw! I'm sure you'll enjoy both reads.

Until next time,

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Author Interview: K.M. Weiland, Part 1

Today, I'm very pleased to welcome my good online-writing buddy, K.M. Weiland. I frequently link to K.M.'s blogsite, Wordplay, so she's not a stranger to Word Wanderings. Please join me in welcoming her! We'll be having a two-part interview, and trust me, you won't want to miss any of it, so be sure to come back on the 14th for the second part! First, we'll be discussing her latest release, Behold the Dawn.


Liberty Speidel: Thank you for visiting Word Wanderings today, K.M. It's a joy to have you here! First off, please share a little bit about Behold the Dawn.

K.M. Weiland: Behold is an epic story of war, revenge, unexpected love, and the haunting secrets of a knight’s past. I think it has a little something for everyone, especially those who enjoy gritty medieval stories.

LS: Can you elaborate a bit on the characters?

KMW: The protagonist, a knight named Marcus Annan, is a sixteen-year veteran of the tourneys. After partaking in a tragic internecine war at an abbey where he was paying penance for the accidental deaths of his sister-in-law and her unborn twins, he retreats to the one thing he knew best: warfare. For the last sixteen years, right up until the story opens, he’s been on the run from his past, trying to blot it out in the violence and glory of the tourney fields. Along the way he becomes one of the most famous and feared tourneyers in Europe.

He’s a man who walks his own solitary path, and his only companion is a smart-mouthed, headstrong Scottish lad named Peregrine Marek, who became indentured to Annan after Annan saved him from prison and paid off a shopkeeper from whom Marek had been stealing. Marek was one of those characters that just popped off the page. He became a perfect foil for Annan’s grumpiness. I had lots of fun with their dialogue exchanges!

On his journey to and through the Holy Land, Annan also encounters a mysterious monk named the Baptist, who has both reform and revenge on the brain; Lady Mairead of Keaton, who is entrusted to Annan’s care after the death of her husband, one of Annan’s only friends; a Knight Templar named Warin, torn between his conscience and his duty; a very nasty Norman named Hugh de Guerrant; and Bishop Roderic of Devonshire, who was the abbot at the monastery Annan ran from sixteen years earlier.

LS: You set Behold the Dawn during the Third Crusade. What made you decide to set a book during this time frame?

KMW: Any story gets better when you put swords in it! Actually, the story was inspired by William Marshall, who is known as “the greatest knight who ever lived.” What originally caught my attention was his participation in the tourneys—the huge mock battles that were the predecessors of the slightly more civilized jousting tournaments. Tourneys originated in late 11th-century France as a form of heavy cavalry training and quickly evolved into a dangerous and hugely popular sport. It was surprisingly gladiatorial. I was intrigued by the violence and its effect on the men who participated. As I delved deeper into my research, I realized the Third Crusade would be at the story’s heart, since it would no doubt have attracted many of these tourneyers because of the Church’s promised of absolution to anyone who fought as a Crusader.

LS: Did you find it difficult to write a tourney scene? How did you go about trying to make it as authentic as possible?

KMW: I loved writing the tourney scenes, and I dearly wish I could have stuck more of them into the story. The book opens in the middle of a tournament in southern Italy, so I got to dive right into the strange world of the tourneyer. I researched tactics, setting, and such. I find it all so fascinating that it was hard to rein myself in!

LS: In doing research, what was one of or a few of the more surprising things you learned about this era?

KMW: I’m deeply fascinated by medieval history, so I found pretty much everything I discovered interesting. Perhaps what stuck with me most, however, was the general spiritual degradation of the period. Christianity, as a whole, was in one of the most benighted states in its history. Ignorance and superstition reigned among the people, while corruption and confusion undermined the Church. It was a very dark time, really.

LS: The history of the church in this area is also fascinating to me: to know where it came from to see it fall to the point it did. Do you have a favored resource or two you'd like to recommend for others interested in learning more about the era?

KMW: I highly recommend Jonathan Sumption’s The Age of Pilgrimage. Also Ermengard of Narbonne and the World of the Troubadours by Fredric Cheyette, The Crusades by Zoé Oldenbourg, The Story of Christianity by Justo L. González, and The Mediaeval Mind by Henry Osborn Taylor.

LS: Was there any point while you were writing this book that you really felt it wasn't going to come together? If so, how did you handle this quandary?

KMW: Oh, yes! I think I have this feeling in every story I write. The first fifty pages are always murder. I struggled with my beginning chapters for quite a while on this one, fiddling with story elements, throwing things out, only to drag them back in. I wish I had a magic pill for this, but the only solution I’ve found is simply to keep writing. Eventually, I always work my way out of the rut, and things start falling together.

LS: Do you budget your writing time? If so, how so?

KMW: I set aside two hours a day, five days a week for my fiction writing. It’s something I’m very religious about maintaining. If I don’t force myself to write every day, then nobody else is going to do it for me. I truly believe in the importance of regular writing. You have to treat it as a job and make a point of showing up on time every day. The really neat thing about this is that once you get in the habit of writing at a specific time every day, your brain accustoms itself to being creative—and procrastination and writer’s block are beaten before they even get out of the gates most days!

LS: How much research do you put into your books before you begin to write them?

KMW: Unlike many authors, I’m very regimented in the way I approach each story. I start by spending several months (or however long it takes) sketching my rough ideas, answering my “what if” questions, and filling plot holes as best I can. Then I interview my POV characters. Then I write an in-depth outline (usually at least one notebook’s worth). By that time, the story has pretty much taken shape, and I know what questions I’m going to need to answer in my research. I collect all the material I find and spend the next three months reading, taking notes, and filing my findings.

LS: You're primarily a historical novelist. So far, do you have a favorite era?

KMW: I’m admittedly a bit of a Mexican jumping bean when it comes to subject matter. I have so many things I want to explore that I have no intention of boxing myself into a particular genre or era. So far I’ve written about the 19th century Wyoming Territory (A Man Called Outlaw), the Third Crusade (Behold the Dawn), and a fantasy novel with a contemporary setting (Dreamers Come, yet to be published). But, all that said, I do have to admit to a special fondness for the Middle Ages. Its strange juxtaposition of nonchalant brutality and fairy-tale romance fascinates me endlessly. I’m sure I’ll write at least one more medieval story before I’m through!

LS: How about an era you would like to set a story in?

KMW: Asking me that is like turning a kid loose in a candy shop and telling him to pick just one sweet! However, I do have some tentative story ideas set, respectively in the early 20th century during the Dawn of Aviation, a contemporary time-travel fantasy, and a superhero story set roundabout the Regency era.

Thank you, K.M., for sharing today! Be sure to come back next week on the 14th for the second installment of our interview.

Until next time,

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Raising the Stakes

*** Schedule Note: As the author of Word Wanderings, I've decided to put the blog on a more regimented schedule where posts are concerned. Unless we're having a special guest interview or blogger, Word Wanderings posts will begin to appear on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of the month. And now, back to your regularly scheduled blog. ***

When I have readers critique my work, one thing I'm typically complimented on is my pacing. I'm not bragging, it's the truth, and I honestly don't know how I've managed it. Since I know I have many areas of weakness in my writing, I'm grateful to know what I'm doing well. At least it's one less thing to worry about!

But, that's gotten me to think about what makes a story that's paced well enough that it'll keep the reader hooked.

Personally, I think the biggest thing is to keep raising the stakes on your characters. They have to have some reason to keep moving forward, or your story's just not going to keep that reader hooked. It doesn't matter if you're writing a western, a romance, or a mystery. Raise the stakes


In J.R.R. Tolkien's 'The Fellowship of the Ring', everything is just going along peachy for Frodo. Then he gets the ring. (Raising the stake #1.) The ring has mysterious powers and is very dangerous to The Shire, so he has to get it out of there. (#2.) His stakes rise further when Sam, then Merry and Pippin, join his party, and he has to be concerned about their well being. Having to avoid the Ring Wraiths, then getting stabbed by one takes it up another notch. When he's healed--and you think he can go back to The Shire--Frodo does something unexpected, and takes on the burden of carrying the ring to Mordor to destroy it.

Insert dramatic music here.

Just in the first half of the movie (or book for you purists), Tolkien has raised the stakes a minimum of five times--probably more if you really want to get specific about it. Each time makes it less likely you as the reader will want to tear yourself away and stop reading (or watching.)

So, how's your story coming along where raising the stakes are concerned? Do you need to add a body on page 47, after your P.I. discovered the first one on page 32? Or maybe your cowboy needs to get kidnapped--or worse--shot! Maybe your leading lady is too focused on her intended, and needs to have a few irons in the fire to burn through--an ex-girlfriend wanting to get back with her old flame could be waiting in the wings for your Mr. Right.

As for me, I'm going to check my stories and make sure my characters have a few more hoops to jump through before they reach the end.

Until next time,

As an aside, I just wanted to make note of the fact that one year ago today, at 2:06 PM, my little girl was born. While I actually wrote this several weeks ago, anticipating I'd be a teensy bit swamped, I would be remiss as a mother if I didn't acknowledge this. One day, I hope she'll see Mommy's blog and know I thought so much of her to note this for her special day. So, Happy Birthday, Sweetie. I know you can't read this now, but one day, you will. Love you.

For more information on the topic of creating tension, please refer to the following blogs:
The Art of Frustration
The Necessity of Conflict

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