Kids do not come with instruction manuals. Even with a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education, my friend Kris could not figure out why her children seemed so out of control. As so many of us do, she blamed herself. Others who should have known better agreed with her. Parenting was to blame. Or not. Her journey might offer answers you’ve been looking for as parents of young children. This one’s for you…
When I first read The Blue Bells of Scotland, I was immediately caught up in Laura Vosika’s fascinating story of two men, identical in looks, who suddenly switch places. Shawn Kleiner, a famous and spoiled musician, finds himself transported seven hundred years in the past. At the same time, Niall Campbell travels seven hundred years forward, to our present.
Laura develops her characters beautifully through all the books, including those surrounding the men and with whom they have relationships. I’ve read them all, and eagerly await the release of The Battle is O’er. In fact, I may have been first in line to pre-order it and cannot wait to read it.
Laura is as interesting as her books, and it’s my pleasure to have her with us. Thank you for joining us, Laura!
Tell us about your background. How did you get your start in writing, and how long have you been writing?
I grew up in the military—a great way to live if you look at the positives. You meet lots of people from lots of backgrounds. You learn about the world and other people and that there are a wealth of ideas and ways to live well.
On the down side, it’s easy to end up a bit rootless when you’re always the new kid in school. But there are always books. Whether I would have been a great reader anyway, I’ll never know, but there was certainly plenty of time to read in the summers we had just moved, before school started.
I started writing at a very young age. I tried a few poems when I was eight (and it’s probably just as well they’re long lost!) At nine, I was writing short stories and ‘binding’ them to put on the classroom’s book shelf. At ten, I was starting my first novel.
When was your first book published, and how many have you published since?
Blue Bells of Scotland was published on September 11, 2009—wow how time flies! Then came the second book, The Minstrel Boy, then The Water is Wide, and Westering Home, all in The Blue Bells Chronicles. The Battle is O’er is my fifth novel. I’ve also published Go Home and Practice, a musician’s record book, and Food and Feast in the World of the Blue Bells Chronicles: a gastronomic historic poetic musical romp in thyme, a collection of scenes from the novels that features over 200 recipes, the majority from medieval sources, along with history, stories, poems, and songs associated with the scenes.
How much does your background influence your writing?
A great deal, I’d say. I spent my earliest years in Germany, visiting castles and medieval towns, driving in the Alps, going down into the salt mines, camping in England where we once pitched our tent (with the sexton’s permission) just outside an ancient cemetery. When we lived on the east coast, we went to many historic sites. History has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, including medieval history.
Then there’s the music. The Blue Bells Chronicles centers on Shawn Klein, a famous classical trombonist. This is my background. I majored in music, on trombone, and for a time freelanced with various types of orchestras and chamber playing — so Shawn’s world is one with which I’m well-acquainted. Like Niall, the medieval Highlander, I also play harp.
What inspires you to continue writing?
The letters I get from readers, telling me how they love the books and are eagerly awaiting the next one, are very uplifting and keep me going faster than I might otherwise. But to me, writing is something I can’t NOT do. I’ve been writing stories almost since I was able to write. Niall and Shawn are, in a sense, very real, and I can’t NOT write their story.
I can attest to that, being one of those readers eagerly awaiting the next one! Aside from your fans, what is the best thing about being a writer?
Apart from the thrill of bringing worlds and people to life–the connections I’ve made with other people; the people I’ve met as a result of writing. I’ve met people literally all over the world whom I would never have known otherwise; and some I’ve become friends with, whether that be other writers or readers.
What is the worst thing?
It’s not exactly a steady stream of income and there are no benefits; like healthcare and paid vacation.
What is your single best piece of advice for aspiring authors?
Find a writer’s group to join. Get feedback on your writing.
Why do the events of the past matter to us today? Why do we keep reading about the past?
We learn from the past. Every age has its wisdom and every age has its follies. A recurring theme throughout The Blue Bells Chronicles is the contrast of eras. Niall thinks very little of Shawn or his time–and Shawn has equally negative views of both Niall and his century. But as the story progresses, Niall learns there are some good things to be had in the modern time, while Shawn comes to realize that his society also has its flaws, and that maybe, while we’ve improved many things, we’ve also thrown out some good ideas and some wisdom.
When we read about history, we’re learning–both from what an age did right, and from their mistakes. Apart from that, we’re learning some great stories!
Laura, it has been a pleasure chatting with you. I understand you have an event coming up. Would you share a little about that?
I’ll be doing an ‘author takeover’ on Facebook, March 24 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. I’d love to have you and your readers join me. Here’s the link: Author Takeover with Laura Vosika.
Thank you so much! And thank you for this excerpt from your new book The Battle is O’er. Click here to pre-order the book, and enjoy the excerpt. More of Laura’s links follow.
EXCERPT FROM THE BATTLE IS O’ER
“You know these tunnels?” the chief asked.
“I know them well,” Shawn said tersely.
You’re in your time. That had been Amy, as he led her, too, seven hundred years later, just months ago in July, through these same passages. A chill shot through him, wondering if Niall might be down here. He had seen just a glimpse of him, as he burst into the chapel, just a glimpse of his best friend, his brother, knife raised, looking at Simon, as he faded away. Yes, he, too, would be in these passages, searching for Simon in his own time.
“How do you know them?” Clive asked. His light played over the dirt floor.
“Watch carefully,” Shawn returned. “There’s a side passage opening up. He could be hiding there.”
“How do you know them?” Clive asked again.
“I told you,” Shawn said irritably. “I spent a good part of two years here.”
“You were only gone a year.”
In the close passage, Shawn spun. “Do you not get it? There’s a medieval madman down here—maybe—who will kill you. He’ll have his knife under your ribs and through your heart in the blink of an eye, if you’re not paying attention! Could we maybe have our coffee klatch later?”
In the shadowed light of the labyrinth, Clive’s face remained passive, his eyes dark. He nodded, and spoke to the chief. “Guard the exit. I’ll go with Kleiner.” Before his boss could object, he pushed ahead in the cramped tunnel, saying over his shoulder, “You’re needed at the precinct.”
WEB SITE: www.bluebellschronicles.com
BLOG on MEDIEVAL HISTORY: http://bluebellstrilogy.blogspot.com
The following article ( #15: And Then Along Came Twiggy… ) was written by a friend of ours, Sue Gannon. I reblogged it because she wrote it well and it’s important information. If you or anyone you know has ever struggled with self-image, this article is for you.
Ruth shares some unique insights of characteristics shared by both running and writing. Enjoy!
All By Myself
Remember that song from the 70s? It’s so tragically sad, but true. Nobody wants to be alone.
One of the many similarities between writing and running is that both can be lonely.
I run and train for marathons and even a few ultra marathons. I have also written 8 books. Writing and running can be lonely, but at least with running, you can ask friends to join you!
But with writing, it’s up to you and you alone to do the work. For me, that’s why I set goals for myself. Setting goals keeps me on task. I let others know about my goals so I am held accountable. It helps!
“Attend a conference or join a critique group!” some writers have told me. They explain how these two actions will help end the loneliness. But, as with running, you’ll still have many moments alone.
During the last ultra marathon race I participated in, I was hit with this realization. During the day, I ran alongside many runners, but once the sun goes down at mile 31, many runners leave or head to their tents to sleep. That’s when the race is at its toughest. The trail is dark, the air grows colder, and all you hear is the sound of your shoes on the gravel trail. At that point in the race, you’ll want to quit. Running is much easier with the cheers from spectators and other runners around you!
Yet, you have to keep going, putting one step in front of the other. Writing is the same way. Conferences are terrific! I love meeting other writers and attending workshops so I can learn more about the craft. Critique groups are so helpful. But once I return home from a conference or critique, however, I have to sit at my desk with the computer and work…ALONE.
Family and friends encourage you to write, as those race spectators encourage you to run and that does help. They patiently listen to you summarize your plot, describe your characters, and detail the setting, God bless them. Without them, you’d probably give up.
A race is a race, and there’s nothing like the feeling of seeing the Finish Line as you near the end. Same with writing. It is a race to the finish! We may have pending deadlines created by publishers or ourselves. These finish lines motivate us to stay the course.
Yes, as with running, writing can be lonely. Like training for a marathon, writing requires discipline and endurance.
Finally, as with racing, there is a prize at the end. A reward is needed to remind you why you set out to complete a grueling race or why you are determined to write a book. Make sure you have a reward set aside for yourself, whether it’s a release party, a dinner with family, or a vacation/retreat. Do something good for yourself, you deserve it!
After I complete a book, I throw a party. After an ultra marathon, my family and I usually go out to dinner so I have replace all those calories I burned off. All the pain and loneliness of training is worth it as I sit and celebrate with my family.
These are the lessons I have learned. I keep setting writing goals (I plan on publishing 3 books this year…) along with running goals (triathlons and a half marathon later this year) so that I am motivated to continue.
I stay motivated to endure to the end so I can cross that finish line with my head held high.
Keep running! Keep writing…
When Jewel Adams and her friends are needed in South America, they discover that something is terribly wrong. A malevolent enemy is zeroing in on Jewel, putting her in danger of losing herself, the people she loves, and her world. How can they stop him?
Watch the Voice of Viracocha trailer, and comment what you think of it below.
I’d love to hear from you!
I’ve had people ask me to critique their work, just as I ask my Beta readers to critique mine. For the most part, I’m happy to do it because it’s a valuable service if given and received in the right spirit. Any story born and nurtured in the writer, whether a life story or fiction, deserves to be brought to life.
I consider it an honor to be invited into that place of vulnerability in the writer’s process of giving birth to their infant work of art. It can be as frightening for me as for the writer, especially if the work is already published and I’m asked for my ‘honest opinion.’ Not all published works should have been released at that stage in their development.
If I had published my books before they went through the process of self-editing, beta-reading, professional editing and more self-editing, they would have deserved unbridled criticism, and I would have done one of two things: stopped writing altogether, or learned from the criticism. During the process, I learned, and wrote and re-wrote. If I hadn’t decided that enough is enough, I would still be re-writing.
No book is perfect. There is room for improvement in everything we do. It doesn’t detract from the value of the story we have to tell.
I ran across this article today, and thought it was something we can apply to anything we do in life. Any thoughts?
by Daniella Levy
It hurts to hear people say negative things about something you poured your heart and soul into. It hurts to recognize that you are not perfect at what you do and can always use improvement.
However, criticism–good criticism–is a very powerful raw material you can use to build yourself as an artist.
People generally react to criticism non-constructively in one of two ways: resistance (dismissing, arguing, or denying) or withering (collapsing in feelings of shame and inadequacy). Both of these reactions deny you the opportunity to learn and grow from the feedback.
To get the most out of criticism, you have to be humble enough to admit your work has faults, yet confident enough that you won’t wither. You have to push past the instinct to get defensive, and instead, get curious about how the criticism can help you improve your craft.
Let’s break it down into five steps.
Here it is! The cover reveal for Triton’s Call: Tetrasphere Book Two!
If you’ve read and enjoyed Terra’s Call, you won’t be disappointed in this second book, where Pax, Sky, Jewel and Storm face dangerous, life-threatening challenges and discover more of the mysteries of our planet and under our seas. What lurks below the surface of the ocean?
If you haven’t read the first book yet, visit my website, www.ptlperrin.org and see what this series is all about! If you like Young Adult Science Fiction as much as I do (your age has nothing to do with it!), you will like this series.
And now, on to more exciting research! Where will my characters take me next? I think a mysterious mountain…
Why do I write? A teacher friend of mine honored me by reading portions of my book Terra’s Call to her eighth-grade classes. She kept me informed about their continued interest and, in my excitement, I blurted out an offer to speak to her kids about writing. She accepted.
One reason I prefer writing to speaking is that my spoken words trip me up more often than not, and this time they trapped me in a commitment to speak to a group of kids who are, undoubtedly, going through the rigors of hormonal changes in addition to problems and issues that would fund a therapist’s villa in the Mediterranean, if they could afford a therapist. What words could I possibly say that would encourage them, engage them and keep their interest?
Why do I write? I could say it’s because I grew up without television, forced to read for entertainment and allowed to read anything I was able to understand, and much that I wasn’t ready for. How many of them would be able to relate to the world I grew up in, without electronics and in a land where I had to learn the language or flounder? Are there any military brats among them? Perhaps. Would I bore the rest with my accounts of a life lived long before they were thought of? Perhaps.
What if I turned the focus on them? Kids live inside their own skins. Life for some of them is all about self-preservation; survival. What gift could I leave them with? What do they need to know about themselves that they may or may not already know?
The speech formed in the middle of the night, in that realm of half-sleep where God sometimes speaks in a nearly-audible voice and ideas fall like rain, filling puddles with scenes and characters. This felt like a clear pool of light. Share my background. That’s a given. They won’t know anything about me. Why is this old lady talking to them about teenagers in her book?
Segue to a question that only they can answer. Each of the characters in Terra’s Call has a super power. What about the eighth-graders? What if they knew that each of them has at least two super powers? Can they guess what they are? If they would hang on until the end of my talk, I’d reveal the secret to them. Now what? I had a beginning and an end, so what comes in the middle?
I took a writing course where I learned that the active voice is better than the passive voice in most cases. With all the books I’ve read, you’d think I’d know that instinctively, and yes, the books I enjoy the most are written that way. The course defined my gut reaction in a way that I would later use in my writings. I passed that nugget along, with examples of the different voices. The speech was complete. What are the super powers that every young person in that room and in every room in every school shares? Stay with me and I’ll tell you at the end.
How do I define the drive, the need to express on my laptop what I can’t easily say? When the words come, the ideas flow and my characters play out scenes and conversations in my head, the pure magic of electric creativity shimmers through my fingertips. It’s happening, I celebrate and the keyboard clacks almost as quickly as I think. This is easy and I feel alive and vibrant.
And then, the crash. I’m stuck, held in a bog of a scene that goes nowhere and means nothing in the narrative. My feet, my mind, are held captive in viscous tar, and struggling only pulls me in deeper. Why do I write when I feel completely inadequate, even stupid with a void for a brain and my font of ideas runs dry? What do I do then?
I wait and pray. I spend time with my ever-supportive husband. I shop and visit family and go to the movies and meet with other writer friends for some quick exercises with prompts. I refill my empty tanks with life and love and laughter and people. And then, in the middle of the night, or perhaps while I’m driving or in the shower, the light comes on and my characters speak to me again, and I see them living their next scene. That’s how Terra’s Call happened. That’s how Triton’s Call is happening now.
When I entered my first contest with Terra’s Call, my first fiction work and the first book in the TetraSphere series, I had no expectations. I entered simply to try something I’d never done before. Imagine my surprise when I received an email informing me that Terra’s Call is a semifinalist in the published fiction for youth – young adult/new adult genre category of the 2016 Royal Palm Literary Awards competition. A semifinalist! I’m doing a happy dance right now. I can’t imagine how it would feel to be a finalist.
Why do I write? Because I share the same super powers those eighth graders have. You do, too. Here they are:
- Imagination. If you’ve ever spent a moment daydreaming; if you’ve invented anything or dreamed up a practical joke to play on someone or interviewed for a job or read a book or done something out of the ordinary, then you have it, too.
- The ability to choose your path. You can make good choices or bad choices. Your choices may be limited by your circumstance, or they might break you out of things that limit you. You have the ability to forge a path based on the choices you make.
Why do I write? I write because I have to.
Some amazing new kids have made themselves at home in my brain. Each one clamors for individual attention. They want to be recognized, commiserated with, understood and loved. They need to make sense of their world and how they fit into it.
They speak to me and to each other in my dreams. When I awake, I remember snippets, but have lost the richness of the interaction. I try to recapture it, with limited success. They’ll fill it in for me later.
As I drive, one interrupts with an observation, and another points out a unique color in the sky. I cannot write while driving. I ask them to remember, because I know I won’t.
While I’m showering, I see a scene as it happens. The action plays out in my mind and I forget to shave one leg in my hurry to get to the computer. Here I am, hair dripping wet, hurriedly dressed, no makeup, unwilling to move to the kitchen for some breakfast.
They have names, these characters, and personalities; histories, and gifts. In fact, they’ve given me their names. I see their faces. When I get an attribute wrong, they correct me. I’m their mouthpiece. My hands will craft it, but the story is theirs to tell. I’m only the reporter – the scribe.
Is this what it’s like to write fiction? I don’t know how it will unfold, but I now know that it will. The plot thickens, as they say, and I see obstacles and conflicts coming. My characters are smart and they will have help. The world needs saving, and they are the only ones who can do it. I believe in them.
The Creator of the Universe has given me this new family in my head, as if we don’t already have enough children and grandchildren. Truth be told, we don’t. There is always room for more.
My love of reading developed from the life God gave me as a military Brat growing up overseas. I started writing late in life, but now that the Lord has unwrapped this new gift, I can’t stop.
My characters are alive and growing. I can hardly wait to read their story.