Writer Wednesday with Gail Pallotta

Portrait shot  Gail PallottaWhen did you decide that you would be an author? Was it something you fell into, felt called to?

I can’t remember not writing. My first published work appeared when a friend and I put out a newspaper in grammar school. I didn’t think about it as a career until I attended a small college. An English professor who was also an award-winning poet and writer started a creative writing program, and I enrolled. Then I decided I wanted to be an author. After I graduated I worked as an editor of magazines. After I married I helped my husband with his business and wrote freelance articles. Now the family’s as settled as a semi-retired husband and grown daughter can be, and I’m writing books.

What’s your pet peeve?

In regards to writing, it’s hassling with the computer.

What was your most embarrassing moment as a writer?

When my daughter was a baby, a magazine editor I’d contacted called and asked me to come for an interview. I agreed on the spot to an afternoon appointment that day. I found a babysitter with no problem and fished out clips of my published articles. Then I realized I had no briefcase. I rummaged around the house and found a small picnic basket my husband’s friend had sent us for Christmas. I pulled out the napkins and glasses that came with it, packed my articles and left.

When I arrived at the editor’s office, I sat the basket on my lap.

A distinguished looking man about ten years older than me, he leaned forward and peered at it. “Are we having a picnic?”

(Note: I ended up writing many articles for him in spite of my makeshift briefcase.)

What has been your most difficult challenge as a writer?

Finding the right advice for my writing and the right place for my work.

How do you process rejections and / or negative reviews?

Unless a rejection comes with a nice note or recommendations for how I can improve the manuscript, I just throw it away or delete it and tell myself it was the wrong market for my book. I remind myself of all the articles I’ve seen about some great books being rejected numerous times. When I receive a nice note, I’m grateful. I’m also thankful when an editor sends recommendations. I take them very seriously and put them to good use.

I’ve heard lots of discussion about negative reviews. I hate to revert to something so simple, but I was raised to either say something nice, or not anything. When I see a negative review of someone else’s work I place no value on it. If it’s my work, it’s upsetting, but I tell myself it’s only one person’s opinion. As far as conversations I’ve heard about writers learning from negative reviews, I’ve learned from editors, conferences, seminars, co-workers, critique partners and critique groups.

What do you feel is the best success so far in your writing career?

I wonder if I’m supposed to name a particular accomplishment, such as recognition for some of the articles I’ve written, a contest won, or finding a good publisher—all of which are successes in my mind. But I believe the biggest one is knowing I’ve mastered a particular aspect of writing I’ve been trying to learn, and then mastering the next and the next, so on and so forth.

What would be your top three pieces of advice to newer, up and coming authors? Learn all possible about the craft. Write from your heart and never, never give up. Learn to be bold about promoting.

As a Christian author, what would you like your legacy to be?

I wrote entertaining stories that shared slices of life affected by faith that inspired others.

Jackcover two best Mtn of Love and DangerWhat is your current work in progress?

I have a contemporary romance, Barely above Water, releasing soon with Prism Book Group. In the book an illness comes out of nowhere and strikes Suzie Morris. Her boyfriend dumps her. She has no living family, and her physician can’t diagnose the malady. She turns to a renowned alternative doctor in Destin, Florida, and takes a job coaching a county-sponsored summer league swim team. She’s determined to turn the fun, sometimes comical, rag-tag bunch into winners. Her handsome boss renews her belief in love, but learns of her mysterious affliction and abruptly cuts romantic ties. Later he has regrets, but must overcome his fear of losing someone close then regain Suzie’s trust. She relies on her Christian faith as she faces the uncertainty of the disease, financial burdens without permanent employment, and heartbreak.

Social Media links:  Web site – http://www.gailpallotta.com

Blog – http://www.gailpallotta.blogspot.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AuthorsandMore

Twitter – https://twitter.com/Hopefulwords

My latest book release is Mountain of Love and Danger.

 

Inquiring Minds Want to Know (Part 4 of 4)

This is my fourth post answering questions friends have posted on Facebook. Enjoy!

Steps are really popular these days- for example- 21 steps to becoming a super model. How many steps would you give the process of publishing?

That could be an entire blog post on its own. I think that the journey is unique for every author. But here’s my generic attempt.

1) Write, write and write some more. Whether devotionals, non-fiction, poetry, articles, short stories, flash fiction, novels, and no matter what age group you are writing for. Write.

2) Read. Read other books, read about writing. A writer can’t write well if they are not also a reader.

3) Revise, edit and have others read and critique your writing.

4) Connect with a writer’s group of some kind (I’m with ACFW, American Christian Fiction Writers) for support, resources and networking.

5) Attend writer’s conferences You can network, meet others, learn and ask questions and to pitch your story to editors or agents.

6) Get into social networking even before you have a book written. It takes time to build an audience and people need to like you before they will buy your book. Agent and editors will check this.

7) Don’t quit. And remember that God uses the journey as part of your ministry and impact, not just a published novel. Don’t lose sight of the work he is doing because you are so focused on that one goal.

There are plenty of people out there who think or even say out loud, “I should write a book” and then don’t. What do you think the biggest obstacle to writing is, and how did you overcome it?

Most people will give the excuse of time, but I think the real reason most people don’t do it is fear. That’s why I’m a huge champion of National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org) because it becomes a community endeavour and the encouragement of others it’s easier to take that step. That’s what got me started but I don’t need it now to write fast or complete a novel.

Do you have particular music that you listen to while you write?

Usually I listen to nothing. When I write the Regency time period I sometimes listen to classical. My last three novels the soundtrack was a compilation of songs by Burlap to Cashmere and Steven Delopoulos.

What’s your biggest pet peeve while editing?

Pet words: that, then, have, feel, look . . .I’m always having to reduce and eliminate those in my writing.

If you could only pick one, who would your favorite author be and why?

God. Only he could write a book filled with drama, romance, crime, poetry, imagery, parable, prophecy, history, biography and then combine them in sixty-six separate stories that are unified throughout the whole. I’ve read the Bible more than any other book.

It’s probably safe to say that most writers have goals and dreams. What’s your ultimate goal as a writer? When will you know when you’ve “reached” your goal?

I would sweet to sell a ton of books and have validation as a best-selling author. I would like it if I could support my family with my writing. But knowing that my stories encouraged someone, helped them when they needed it, or encouraged them to hold tight to their faith in difficult circumstances would be the sweetest thing. It’s an ephemeral goal at best, but when I get that kind of feedback it warms my heart.

How do you get your ideas on what to write about?

My God-given imagination and dreams while I sleep. Two stories in my Orchard Hill series sprung out of a real life (but majorly changed) situation I had read about.

That’s it! Any more questions that haven’t been answered – go ahead and ask and I’ll try to get to them again at a later date.

Inquiring Minds Want to Know (Part 3 of 4)

This is the third installment of answers to questions from Facebook friends. Enjoy!

What is your relationship with your characters and how do you hope your readers will relate to them?

I adore my characters. I never write “the end,” because I love these imaginary people and I miss them when the story ends. Writing the last sentence of a book is bittersweet. Happy that I finished the story but sad to let them go. I’m happy people are loving Renate and Tony so much.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Write, write, write. Write short, write long. Flash Fiction. Short Stories. Novellas. Write long. Read a lot.

Learn what you can about writing. Attend a writer’s conference! I also recommend On Writing by Stephen King and The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell. There are so many more wonderful books out there on the craft. Connect with the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) or some other writing group to find other writers who can help you grow.

Some people live a hundred years, and some people write novels. Is there a particular food that keeps you going strong? lol…

Right now, Wild Cherry Pepsi is the beverage of choice but food changes. Occasionally chocolate. Right now my fave is Lindt Strawberry Cheesecake chocolate stick but sometimes I only need one small square to satisfy me. It’s good stuff!  Having said all that, my great-grandmothers lived to be over 100 and my grandmothers are in their 90’s so there’s hope for me yet, regardless of diet and sedentary occupation.

How many books do you have in the works?

Thirteen, if you include the one published and those already contracted.

In the Orchard Hill (contemporary romance) series there are five written and one in my head waiting: Pesto and Potholes, Salsa and Speedbumps (Dec 2015), Feta and Freeways (2016), Root Beer and Road Blocks, Bratwurst and Bridges and Donuts and Ditches. 

In my Rose Hill (Regency romantic suspense series) there are five novels: The Virtuous Viscount, Lord Phillip’s Folly, Sir Michael’s Mayhem, Lord Harrow’s Heart and The Captain’s Conquest. My agent has this series.

In my Lady Warriors (contemporary romantic suspense) there are two: Madi’s Secret and Whitney’s Redemption (incomplete).

I also have a Christmas novella (historical) releasing out as part of an anthology this December.

Besides explicit sexual content, is there anything you wouldn’t write about?

As for content? Beyond swearing or romanticizing sin, I don’t know that anything is off limits.

As for genre? I refuse to write Amish fiction. I won’t contract them either. That’s more for theological reasons as I think there are some cultish aspects to that faith and I don’t want to romanticize that. I also don’t write Biblical Fiction. I don’t want to mess with Scripture. I don’t despise anyone who does choose to write or read those genre’s but they are not for me.

What/who has been your biggest support?

My Grandmother, Doris. My first content editor and dear friend, Elisabeth. My pastors David and Ken. Other writers and mentors especially Lisa and Beth.

If you could describe yourself using only three words, what would they be?

Silly, encouraging, weird.

What percentage of your books reflect your own personal story?

I’ve never been very good at math. My heart bleeds all over the pages but I’m not going to share what parts are right out of my own personal life.

What kinds of subjects/topics have you researched while writing your stories?

Football schedules,restraining orders,  medical issues, how to disarm a bomb, oil carriers, geographical data, weather reports, cancer types and treatment, rape laws, human trafficking, FBI, fetal sizes, burn injury and recovery, medications, foreign and/or cultural foods, car repair, and maps, among other things I can’t think of right now.

Any other questions you have? Leave them in them in the comments below!

Patriot’s Pride (Book Review)

Patriot's pridePatriot’s Pride is author Penelope Marzec’s fabulous sequel to Patriot’s Heart

It is now post war and America is a free nation, but Margaret needs to travel to England for the reading of her grandfather’s will. Although they never knew the Earl of Bancroft, she is eager to learn more of her mother. And she carries with her a deep grief. As a simple baker who clings to her faith, she learned healing arts through the struggles of war.  Confronted with the puffed up consequence of Doctor Fortune aboard ship, attraction and conflict over their opposing belief systems keep them at odds.

Dr. Derrick Fortune can’t understand why anyone would doubt science but even he struggles with the cost of his limitations in understanding how to heal the human body. On ship to further his education as well as to hopefully heal his wounded soul, the feisty milkmaid fights and tempts him at every turn.

Tragedy forces them to band together to ensure the successful conclusion to their trip and in spite of their differences they form a bond that continues once they dock on England. But can the Earl’s granddaughter ever really love a man like Derrick? And could Derrick ever humble himself enough to recognize that God is the greatest healer of our hearts and win the hand of Margaret?

This tale is filled with adventure and conflict and woven well with history. The high seas and British society challenge both characters to grow in ways they never imagined and a far greater gift awaits both Margaret and Derrick. Faith is handled well and it is fun to see Margaret, a secondary character in Patriot’s Heart, get her own story and see her lost dreams redeemed in surprising ways.

Inquiring Minds Want to Know (Part 2 of 4)

This is the second installment of answering questions from Facebook.

How is your writing different from others? What is it similar to?

I’m not trying to write like anyone else no matter how much I admire other writer’s style.

I’m a bit more honest in my writing about sexual tension while keeping my stories clean. I think in our culture the reality of sexual promiscuity and the fall-out of that is very real so trying to encourage purity in the midst of a culture that doesn’t value that, is a core part of my character’s struggle. I love romance, but I don’t want to downplay the very real physical attraction and desire that can be part of a relationship. I push the envelope while keeping it clean. My characters struggle with the temptation of desire but not always acting on it because of a higher principle of seeking to honor God.

When you have spare time (just kidding) who do you enjoy reading? Who’s your favorite author? What type of books do you like to read other than your own?

Sometimes I go back to previous books I’ve loved and enjoyed. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade, Healing Grace by Lisa Lickel, The O’Malley Series & Uncommon Heroes series by Dee Henderson. The Discarded Heroes Series by Ronie Kendig. And then there are always new books coming out by authors I contract that I have the privilege to read first.

I have so many authors I enjoy for a variety of reasons, so it rather depends on my mood at the time, the reason I need to escape.

Where do you get your ideas for characters? 

Tough question. They are not usually based on specific people although sometimes a composite although not intentionally. I’m not really sure I know where they come from except for my God-given imagination.

Do you already know what the ending of your book will be when you start it or does it develop as you write?

I write “happily-ever-after” endings so that’s all I know when I begin. My guy and gal will be together, married, and happy by the end of the book. Some books they marry earlier on but that doesn’t mean they’ve hit the “happy” part until the end. It’s all about the journey to that destination, that happy moment in time.

What is a typical day like for you?

I have no “typical day” except that it starts early with a cup of chai, and often time with God, then at my computer, checking social media, writing or editing. When the Hobbits are in school, I have to stop to get them out the door and pick them up later. Right now it’s summer so they get up when they want to and harass me for food when they are hungry even though they are old enough to get their own food.

If you could spend a day with a character from your favorite novel, who would it be, and what would you do?

I spend weeks at a time with my characters. A writer friend told me that my relationship with my characters is unusual because to me there are so real. They are! I enjoy being with them.

Now if you were asking about another author’s work? Ponyboy Curtis (The Outsiders), possibly Darcy Fitzwilliam (Pride and Prejudice) or Fanny (Mansfield Park). They would be fascinating to spend time with. I’m sure if I thought long enough I could come up with soooo many more!

Any other questions you have for me? Or do you have your own answer to any of the questions above? I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below!

Inquiring Minds Want to Know (Part 1 of 4)

I asked some of my Facebook friends to ask me questions . . . so the next few weeks, I’ll be answering!

Why romance fiction? How long have you had the passion to write?

I’ve always enjoyed sweet romances. In my late teens early twenties, I was enamored of Georgette Heyer and Marion Chesney’s Regency romances. Clean stories without the explicit sex. I guess you could say I’m a romantic at heart and I long for that. My characters get the love and romance I don’t.

What made you choose writing? What keeps you writing? What motivates you?

I believe God led me to writing by telling me in a dream to do write for National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org) in 2009. I think I had always been afraid to try and once I started the dam broke and I found out how much I love the process of writing a story. I haven’t stopped. Once the characters start forming in my mind and that first scene or general story concept and I start writing, I can’t stop until I’ve come to the end. It becomes like an obsession for me.

Which writers inspire you?

I admire the wit and whimsy of writers like Jen Turano, Mary Conneley and Karen Witemeyer, Brooke Williams, Sandi Bricker and Jan Thomson. I love the characters that Dee Henderson, DiAnne Mills, Ronie Kendig paint in her writing. Combined with suspense it is amazing. Becky Wade, Melissa Tagg, Loree Lough, and Lisa Lickel . . . I wish I could write like all of them, but I’ve had to learn that I have my style and I need to be okay with that.

How is fiction writing a reflection of your Christianity?

I love to encourage others. Jesus told parables and there is power in telling stories that can show the process of sanctification which I hope my characters will go through. I also believe we need to grow emotionally as well as spiritually. I hope I encourage others to persevere in their own journeys, spiritually, emotionally and relationally. And hopefully the reader will see biblical truths in a new light based on the journey of the characters to motivate them to persevere through the trials that come their way.

Pothole road damageWhat inspired the idea for this story?

For Pesto & Potholes I actually started with the concept of the potholes based on something I learned in my undergraduate studies. The idea that healing—whether emotional or physical—can be a rocky journey out of the pit and not necessarily an upward smooth trajectory. I labeled it potholes, my prof was a little surprised but to me, it stuck.

For the entire Orchard Hill series, for which Pesto & Potholes is the first book, I wanted to explore one of the things I didn’t understand early in my faith journey was why the church was so important. Especially when so many young adults walk away. Beyond worship and teaching, I realized it was about the relationships. While I agree that the theology of origins and understanding how science supports Scripture is important, but I believe the disenfranchisement of younger adults is deeper than that.

Peter Scazzero wrote a book called Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and he posits that when we come to Christ we are born into a new family and need to learn the new rules. Not the “do’s and don’t’s” but how to relate to others in a way that honors God and His other image-bearers. Many times the way we’ve been raised has not been as healthy as the design God has for us in relationships. We are not mature if we only grow spiritually and not emotionally. So . . . I hope that my stories show the value and importance of the new “family” how valuable those relationships are for us to grow up in Christ as well as cope with the ups and downs of life.

More questions will be answered in the weeks to come. If you have some, please write them in the comments below!

When Joy Takes Over

I’ve meBird in cagentioned on this blog before that I struggle with depression. I learned early on to put a good face on my inner darkness because I was told that to tell anyone I was depressed was manipulative and a lie.

Way to validate my reality, huh?

And I fought the first therapist who insisted this was my struggle. So I charted my emotions, and I was shocked at what I saw. I really was depressed.  Since then I’ve taken medications on and off over the years and have one that works well for me now. I tried the natural methods to no avail. I defeated Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (an autoimmune disease of the thyroid for which depression is a side effect). Having been educated and worked in the mental health field I’m very aware of my symptomatology and the kinds of things I need to do to stop myself from sinking further into the pit of despair.

That’s why sometimes when joy breaks through it is a remarkable thing for me to take note of, to savor and to hold on to-because it’s rare.

Some of my circumstances do limit my expression of the good in my life because not everyone in my world appreciates all the aspects of who God created me to be. Not everyone supports or cheers me on in my writing and publishing pursuits. Because of this I’ve had to develop a more extended circle of support. So my cheerleaders are not physically close but they are there when I need them.

Flying Dog

But joy. It breaks through like a dog let off his leash, gate open and free to run in wide open spaces, ears flapping and tail wagging. Unhindered by expectations. Free to be fully who he is.

The filters come off, the darkness slips away and bright light shines from inside as I let loose to live more fully who God created me to be. That’s a high energy thing though and can’t be sustained for long. It happens in places were my gifts and calling are validated and my wacky weird personality is appreciated and not condemned.

A place where I can set aside any thoughts of how overweight I am or be self-conscious about my appearance.

It’s a place where people around me appreciate and love me for being – me. Imperfections and all.

That sometimes happens at church and I’m blessed to have people there who love me like that. But there are still some barriers because there have been those who have condemned me for my high spirits and effusive personality when it’s been expressed. Not everyone likes the bubbly, silly, sassy, “high-spirited” side of Susan.  Or maybe it threatens them. Joy at fully living one’s purpose can make others jealous.

Dee Dee and Lori laughingA few weeks ago I had several moments of uninhibited joy. I was in the beautiful Rocky Mountains at a YMCA at Estes Park for the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference where I served as faculty. I enjoyed my entire time there. It was work. I taught classes which I enjoy and encouraged writers. I willingly poured out love and encouragement to others and was glad to be able to do so.

Dee Dee and I met last year and a friendship was born. The picture above is of Dee Dee and another new friend, Lori at dinner in town. I love the expression on their faces and only wish I could have caught Megan in there too as she sat next to me. A dinner filled with deep conversation, belly laughs and love.

A writer’s conference is about writing, but more than that, it is about relationships and that night at that restaurant is a treasured memory of joy. It was later that Dee Dee and I sat and talked in the lobby and our relationship grew deeper. Dee Dee hasn’t led a perfectly wonderful life and has suffered her own share of struggles too. But together we laughed and cried and out of that is born joy.

Why? Because Dee Dee accepts and loves me just as I am. Wild, silly, weird, authentic, wounded and seeking to follow God imperfectly in my own circumstances. And I love her that way too. There will be many wonderful reasons to return to Colorado – but Dee Dee would top the list. And I’m grateful that with computers and phones the distance doesn’t have to be a barrier to our friendship.

Today as I write this, it’s raining and gloomy. Even as I type, tears roll down my cheeks, not out of sadness, but gratitude for those brief moments when the sun shines through the cloud and God has given me the opportunity to live more fully as “me”and be loved and accepted for that.

Praying you find safe places for joy to break through too.