Author Angela Moody: You’re never too old

BetterLateThanNeverWritten.memeWhen I meet another mature author like myself with a debut YA novel, I want to break out the tiara and present her with a bouquet of roses. Or whatever a male author would like, I want to do that.

Today I interview Angela Moody, author of No Safe Haven. I remember when her manuscript was up for critique on the main Scribes loop of ACFW a few years ago, and I am tickled that she remembered me. I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as I have.

nosafehaven-moody-ebook

Angela, welcome to The Scriblerians blog!

Thank you, Cynthia. It’s a pleasure to be here.

We don’t often interview authors of historical YA fiction. When and how did you decide to write it? 

I’ve always loved historical fiction. Even as a young reader if it had to do with history, I was reading it. There are always those who say that writers like Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, etc., were not historical writers because they wrote in their contemporary time, but they were historical to me, and I loved all of those writers. As I got older, I read John Jakes, Anya Seton and countless other historical writers, including historical romance writers.

Did you always want to write about the Civil War? 

This may sound geeky, but yes. I remember in eighth grade writing a story for our social studies class and setting it in the Civil War period. The assignment was that we had two pieces of historical items that we had to research and find out what they were, and then write something about them. Everyone else did you standard essay, but I wrote a story. I remember my two items were a butter mold and a spittoon (which I originally thought was a chamber pot!) My story was about a young woman whose husband was off fighting for the Union Army and how much she missed him. She would often clean the spittoon that his father had given him as a wedding gift. Something like that. I do remember getting a good grade for the assignment because my teacher loved the story and its strong emotional content.

As I got older, I wanted to write a story about the Civil War set in the North, specifically Vermont, because I’m a Vermonter and all the stories I read seemed to center on the war as it affected the South. Unfortunately (or should I say fortunately), only one incident of the war reached Vermont, and that was the great St. Albans Raid. No battle was fought here though, so I never could think of a story compelling enough to set here in my native State.

How did you come to write a story based on a real girl in her teens during the Civil War? 

My daughter went to Gettysburg College for her undergrad years. After her first year was over, my husband and I decided to travel to Gettysburg a week early, while she was taking her exams. We would be tourists for a week and then bring her home. As we were coming back from the battlefield one afternoon, I happened to see a museum that had a line waiting at the door. On impulse, we decided to stop and actually found a parking spot right in front of the building! If you’ve ever been to Gettysburg, you’ll know that’s next to impossible. We got in the back of the line, thinking we could just wander through, but the man at the head of the line told us it was a paid tour and if we wanted to pay at the end, we were welcome to join the tour. We agreed and went through the Shriver House Museum. The Shriver House is located two doors down from Tillie’s home. The owners restored it back to its 1863 appearance to tell the story of the plight of the townsfolk. That was a revelation for me. Throughout the tour, I bombarded the man with questions, which he patiently answered. My brain was whirling with ideas about how to turn this into a story, and my husband leaned forward and whispered in my ear, “I smell a novel.” At the end of the tour, as I was paying him, he led me to a bookshelf and started pulling books off the shelf, saying I might be interested in reading them. As an afterthought, he tossed one more book on the pile, a slim little thing that turned out to be Tillie Pierce’s memoir of her experiences. When I read the book, she just jumped off the pages at me and I knew I had to write it.

How did you write the story to appeal to both northerners and southerners even though the girl and her family were Yankees? 

Research, research, research. I read everything I could get my hands on about the Civil War, mostly first person experiences. They aren’t hard to find. A great many soldiers kept diaries, as did a number of civilians. They seemed to have a sense that they were living a period of important historical impact and wanted to record everything they could. What stood out to me the most was that they were all just people who had the same dreams and desires we do. They wanted to go home, back to their wives and children, to live their lives as best they could, but knew they needed to do this terrible work first.

Interestingly, I found myself very disappointed with the abolitionists. We all think they wanted to end slavery and elevate the blacks from their social position. I do believe that we northerners have elevated the abolitionist almost to sainthood, so I was disappointed to realize that while they wanted abolition, they never thought past the end of slavery and what that meant, for the former slaves, or themselves. Really, in their minds, they felt that blacks should still be servants, but they should be paid servants. Even William Lloyd Garrison wanted to free them and send them back to Africa. As far as race relations goes, I wondered how much progress we’ve made, which helped bring those people down to the human level for me.

How did you feel about writing your first novel at a mature age?

I feel great about it. I don’t regret the time spent not writing. During that time, I married and raised a family. I did what was on my plate to do. I did write a novel back in the early 1990s that, Lord willing, will never see the light of day! That novel, however, taught me that I could write one. But, I’m a firm believer in the Lord working things out in His own timing to glorify Himself, not us. He needed me to go through things and to come to faith before He would open the door to writing my first published novel. I’m just humbled and honored He found me worthy.

What advice can you give authors who did not start writing straight out of school but may have been homemakers or had a completely different career for decades? 

I would say if you want to write, if it’s your passion, then do it. Don’t let your age stop you. You’re never too old until you’re dead, as my father likes to say. I have always wanted to write, even as a kid. I knew that was what I wanted to be when I grew up. Now that my kids are grown and out of the house, I can follow my passion. If that’s where you are, then I say, “Go for it.”

angela-photo

Angela Moody lives in Vermont with her husband, Jim, her daughter, Alison and their two cats. Their son, Stephen and his wife, Amanda live nearby.

Angela has been writing short stories and novels from an early age, always in the historic fiction genre where she feels she shines.

One of her passions is crochet. From the time she learned the craft, she was “hooked”. She loves reading, writing stories and spending time with her family. One of the items on her bucket list is to visit every civil war battlefield site at the time of year each battle took place.

No Safe Haven is her first Christian novel and she has plans for two other historical fiction novels as part of a three book set entitled “Young American Heroines.”

Angela is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. You can find her at:

http://www.facebook.com/AuthorAngelaMoody

Twitter: @AngelaMoody

Goodreads: https://goodreads.com/AngelaMoody

Blog: http://Grnmtnwrtr@wordpress.com

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7 Sites where authors can list books FREE

BetterLateThanNeverWritten.meme

So your book is published, but you’re in charge of marketing it. It’s listed on the retail sites you or your publisher chose and on the reader review site Goodreads. Where else can you list it for readers and reviewers to find without spending your advance (if you received one) or your royalties before any are earned?

Here are some sites that allow you to list free at least one book, and some allow as many as you have published! Do check out their particulars thoroughly on your own, including any book-deal email subscriptions as well as requirements and rates for advertising on those. For some of these sites, it’s been a while since I listed my first—or first two—books. Their criteria or features may have changed.

Readers Gazette is for Kindle authors only and requires you wait to be accepted after you apply. Books must be at least 20,000 words and 80 pages. Novels, children’s books, books of poetry, and cookbooks are acceptable. No erotica. The great thing about Readers Gazette is that they Tweet my books’ listings regularly each week. Then other authors RT those tweets, and I RT theirs.

Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews and Award Contest allowed me to list both my books, and the first book was reviewed at no cost. When I did not pay for a review of the second book, that listing was eventually removed. Although the site lists some celebrities as award contest winners, I’ve read mixed opinions about the contest’s overall validity. The 2016 contest claims 650+ winners and finalists in 120+ categories. The contest is not free but boasts cash prizes and “chances” at other recognition. I’m going to keep my eye on Readers’ Favorite until I’m more sure about it.

YA Books Central describes itself as “one of the largest professional book recommendation sites targeted towards tween and teen readers.” List your books free, and then hope that one of the many teen reviewers on the site will want to read and review your book. If you would like to review a book, you must join the YABC Community to do so. I plan to email YABC and pitch one of my books for a review. An author can also request an ad kit containing advertising information and rates.

Clean Indie Reads does not take non-fiction except narrative non-fiction that reads like a novel and only takes clean novels for middle grades and up.  Take a look at their listing for my Bird Face series to see what’s included in a listing. The site states, “As long as your FB identity shows something to do with being an author (and it’s “clean”), expect to be approved within about 24 hours.” Information about submissions is there and on their group Facebook page, which also has cross-promotions info. Clean Indie Reads has members who are active Tweeters and RT other members’ tweets.

You can also get free listings on BookGorilla, UndergroundBookReviews, and Ripley’s Booklist, which offer reasonable prices for spots on their email lists and other advertising, last I looked. Ripley’s Booklist is rather new and specializes in Young Adult and New Adult, which I appreciate.

This is certainly not a complete list of all the sites where I’ve listed my books free, but these are sites that I will likely continue to use and may even be willing to spend money with.

Note: If you happen to be a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), look into adding your books to their Fiction Finder. Criteria for indie authors and for authors whose publishers are not on the recognized publishers list have recently changed.

If you’re an author, which are you favorite sites for listing your books? If you’re a reader, where besides the retail sites do you go to search for books and read reviews?

How to Come Down from a Conference High

Tim, Lisa, Kathrese, & I just returned from Realm Makers. Next month a couple of others will be attending the ACFW conference. ‘Tis the (conference) season. So what do you do when you get home to come down from the conference high?

If you’re lucky, your firstborn will start football and junior high while your second born starts the “big kids'” elementary school. Bonus if it’s the junction of first of the month (status reports) and critical project milestones. Nothing like the outside world to pierce your enthusiasm like an arrow through a hot air balloon.

Even if your week is a bit nuts and especially if you have time to ease back in, do a few things to keep the spirit alive.

1. Post pictures on social media

You get to see the conference all over again. Also it allows you to tag people while your memory is fresh. This helps keep you in the loop.

2. Post highlights on social media

Same reason and purpose as above. If time is limited, set specific times or do this when you have down time.

3. Blog about it

Yes, everyone and their mascots will be writing them too. You may not get many views but then again you might. If nothing else, you have a record of your time there.

4. Make a to do list

Did you have appointments? If so, follow up with the materials each person requested. If the person you met with wasn’t interested, send a thank you anyway. They took their time to meet with you. It never hurts to be gracious.

Gather the business cards you received and enter them into your contacts list. Correspond with anyone who might not have your information. Organize your class notes.

You’re all rejuvenated and ready to write. Set goals and get to work. That’s why you spent the money to go.

Now I’m off to fill out permission slips and emergency contact forms.

God’s Purpose for Fiction

“Hey.”

(Sidles onto stage.) “How are you? Ahem.

(Waves nervously.) “Hiya, my name is Kathrese McKee, and I’m the newest Scriblerian.”

Stage Fright

I was asked to introduce myself, and I came so close to complete writer’s block. Let’s call it stage fright. Should I write the standard Ten-Things-About-Me post? Should I just pick one thing, like Army brat or Texan?

A Message About Timing

Fortunately, I read a Facebook post by C.W. Briar (Chuck) in which he told the story of how he became an author. Specifically, he wrote about his journey to where he is today, “It wasn’t a crisis of faith, but rather a search to find where I belong and how to use my gifts and talents.”

Along the way, with prayer and the Spirit’s help, Chuck decided to take writing seriously and publish by age 33. He set to work, learning and practicing his craft until he finished his book. According to God’s perfect timing, then, he received the first proof copy of his book three hours before he turned 34.

Individualized, personalized timing is normal with God. My story is similar to Chuck’s. My search took longer, but all those years while I was doing other things, God was preparing me to write fiction (and other stuff).

God's Purpose for FictionOur Reason Why

In the parts of the world where technology is readily available, we are consumed by a thirst for entertainment. We binge watch programs on Netflix or YouTube or Amazon Prime. We read ebooks all day long; there’s a never-ending supply. We float on a sea of amusing infotainment, and we only return to shore for the kids’ soccer games and work. Even then, it’s hard to put the mobile devices away and just be human for a few hours. Don’t think I’m being self-righteous about this; I include myself in that number.

Based on what we see happening around us in the growth of Christian writing support groups like ACFW and Realm Makers, it seems that God is calling authors out from among believers in increasing numbers to write fiction. I think God is calling us to reach out with His message to our blind and deaf generation, a generation of people who won’t meet Him any other way than through the pages of an entertaining story.

Meeting This Generation on the Page (or the Screen)

In a few weeks, I get to join a group of other authors at the Realm Makers  conference. This isn’t your usual writing conference where lots of genres (and belief systems) are represented. This is a meeting of Christian authors who write speculative fiction. How oddly specific!

Here’s my theory: God wants us, the science fiction and fantasy authors He has called out, to meet speculative fiction lovers on the pages (and screens) where they spend their time. If they want entertainment, then our job is to (stay with me here) provide entertainment. To be present where they are. To hold out truth. To entertain—absolutely—and while we have their attention, to prompt them to blink out of their blind trance. To think for a moment. To consider Someone bigger. To know Him better.

I am a speculative fiction author who currently writes for young adults, so my assigned audience is young adults who enjoy epic fantasy adventure. Authors of other genres and sub-categories have different sets of readers to reach. Some audience overlap may occur. Personally, I enjoy reading a well-written Regency romance followed by a political thriller with a space opera for desert.

[Brace yourselves; we are entering personal opinion territory.]

Is there such a thing as Christian fiction?

In my opinion, the answer is no. A Christian is a person who is in Christ, and his or her message is Christ crucified. I know you want to argue for the existence of Christian fiction, but keep reading.

We have turned “Christian” into an adjective for the stuff we create, but the Scriptures only use the term in reference to believers. Go ahead, check out this search for “Christian” on BibleGateway.com . These days, “Christian” has become an imprecise shorthand for “a big ball of wibbly-wobbly . . . timey-wimey . . . stuff.”

My apologies, Dr. Who fans; I couldn’t resist. “Christian”—as a descriptor for stuff we create—is a dumbed-down, wishy-washy, amorphous concept that has little to do with God’s precious gift to mankind. To me, it makes more sense to label so-called “Christian art” as “Christ-inspired art.”

Can art be Christian?

Again, my answer is no. Art can be inspired by Christ. Art can point to Christ and glorify Him. Art can be offered to Christ in love, like the crayon drawings of a three-year-old. Such art, in God’s perfect time, can inspire non-believers to take Christ seriously, but only because God works on its audience through the Spirit by using the artist’s creation as a meeting point.

All art communicates a spiritual message, whether for good or evil. The massive sculptures and friezes created at the direction of the USSR’s government sent a spiritual message. Atheists’ art sends a spiritual message, whether they wish it or not. The art created by Christians, then, is important for the spiritual messages it communicates. That is why it is important for a Christian’s work to agree with God’s Truth.

Okay, I know I’m fighting a losing battle on the whole Christian-as-an-adjective-for-stuff thing. The publishing industry is deeply entrenched with the idea of a secular, “mainstream” market versus a religious market, some of which is “Christian.” The labels Christian music, Christian books, Christian jewelry, and Christian so-forth are here to stay. I just wish that we had settled on the term “Christ-inspired” instead.

[That wasn’t too bad, was it? And now you know how convoluted my thinking gets.]

A Light in a Dark Place

Our stories are one of the mediums through which God acts. The funny part is that our books don’t have to preach about Christ or contain an “altar call.” Christian authors don’t have to write allegories in order to glorify Christ or communicate Truth. The book of Esther contains no mention of God, yet the story is all about God’s power to save His people.

I think it is important for Christians to write fiction if they are moved to do so. Our “job” is to attract an audience and offer our best, most thoughtful, stories written from a Christian perspective.

When we meet our readers and fans in person or on-line, we must wear the name of Christ proudly and without shame. We must not shy away from being His witnesses. We must be Christians and walk the walk that we talk. Christians who write fiction can be a light in a dark place, and God will do the rest.

Wrath and RuinOur search, to paraphrase Chuck, is to find where we belong and how to use our gifts and talents. Our mission is to work conscientiously at our craft and present our best work to the reading public. We are called to meet non-believers (and believers too) on the page and on the screen through the medium of storytelling.

Chuck wrote this:

“I won’t say this is some God-ordained book. I won’t say this is the greatest thing I will ever accomplish (in fact, I hope to write many books and to improve with each and every one). I don’t know where this writing journey is leading, what stories I will tell, and whose lives I will impact. But I do know this: tonight I received the first copy of a book I wrote, a tangible confirmation of a journey started in earnest 4 years ago.”

My thanks to C.W. Briar for giving me permission to hijack his Facebook post. His first book, Wrath and Ruin, is on schedule to be released by the end of July, 2016. Love the title, by the way.

Do you agree or disagree?

Jeri Massi

As most of you realize by now, I’m a great fan of Jeri Massi’s novels for tweens having posted two book reviews: Derwood, Inc. a year ago, and Hall of Heroes earlier this week. Jeri graciously agreed to an interview. After all, how could any author resist my enthusiasm?

Hall of Heroes

 

Whenever possible, the Scriblerians invite our honored authors to “sign” our slam book.

Nickname (in childhood or now or both): Jeriwho

Genre: I prefer to write fantasy and SF but rarely get a chance to do so. I’ve written across many different genres: Westerns, mysteries, adventures, historical, fantasy, SF, etc.

Favorite scripture: Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

Isaiah 53:10-11

Favorite quotation: All warfare is based on deception. – Sun Tzu

In high school, I was… loud, and tall.

 

 

Jeri blog
Jeri, welcome to the Scriblerians.
Thank you, Linda. It’s an honor.

 

 
As you know, I love your Peabody Kids series, especially the first book, Derwood, Inc. The humor is timeless. In fact, I recently spoke with a fifth grade teacher who still uses Derwood in her classroom. She shared with me that the book is her kids’ favorite choice in the curriculum. How have you updated your characters since the Derwood Series was published about – what – 30 years ago?
If a character works in a story, he or she should never need to be updated. Jack will always be the charming leader, and Penny the loyal companion. Scruggs will always be the person in transition. Humor and mysteries alike tend to be built on certain familiar character types, so while their clothing or jargon may change over time, they remain essentially the same whatever the time setting of the story. We see the same characters clearly in Hall of Heroes, which is an exact mirror of the characters from Derwood, Inc.

 

 
While Derwood was fun and adventurous with lessons for the Peabody Kids in each book, Hall of Heroes strikes deep. I took in such themes as: “Love God and enjoy Him forever,” and “Heaven completes our creation.” Have I nailed it, or would you add another theme dear to your heart.
“The Christian life is built on humility.” The humor of the story is built on the fact that the “good guys” think they are always going to be victorious, just because they are the good guys. They’re actually pretty arrogant and full of themselves. In short order, the bullies overthrow them and steal their club house. There is a thematic link to Martha Jenkins, who has done so much good in her life, but is facing certain death while still too young for it. Both groups have to accept their lot with humility. Jean herself notices that Digger seems much more heroic when he is helping around the house for Martha. He fulfills the role of a manly Christian effortlessly when he forgets about acting like a hero and simply offers his work to a suffering person.

 

 
Many of the readers of the Scriblerians blog are also writers, so I’d like to ask questions in relation to how you write your novels. Do you consider yourself a plotter or a pantser? When I think of Derwood, Inc. I assume it had a bare skeleton which you fleshed out with twists and turns that might have surprised you as you were writing. But did Hall of Heroes need a stricter outline?
All of my stories are outlined. I always think of the plot first, then complete it in outline form, and then start writing. If I decide to throw in a new twist, I usually outline it into the main outline.

 

 
While you had several comical moments with the villains in the story, the mature spiritual issues caused my chuckles to subside as I contemplated eternity and how God sees our mission on earth. When your readers finish the last sentence of the book, what do you want them to come away with?
Well, first, that nothing is as it seems. Martha Jenkins had a lot to offer, but she was pretty much ignored by her church. And nobody meant to be unkind to her; they just didn’t look hard enough to realize their Christian duty towards her. The real Hall of Heroes meets in Martha’s living room, three overlooked people who love each other and have fellowship in the face of a great tragedy. Christianity today is blinded by grandeur, and that’s a horrible blindness. We will find the power and the fellowship of Jesus Christ with the least of His brethren, always.

Second, we all die, and yet we all must live. Digger’s joy over regaining the club house is not misplaced. Martha herself had a full life until close to the end. We ought to live joyfully and make our boast in God, and we ought to approach death with humility and willingness to go where He leads us, even there.

 

 
I always enjoy teen and tween fiction when the main characters have GOOD parents, intact families with Mom and Dad loving each other and watching out for their children. Jean experiences growth as she makes her own decisions, and her wisdom comes from the example of her parents. Am I in the minority of adult readers today, or do you find the reading public does want wholesome material for their children?

I think the best readers want the truth, whether that truth is couched in a conventional story with a home and a hearth, or whether it’s couched in science fiction, or fantasy, or talking animals, etc. The reality is that many children do lose one parent, or both parents, and so fiction should also reach out to them. I have given up on figuring out what most readers want. I write what I believe makes a good story. I assume that if it keeps me and my spot readers entertained, it ought to entertain others.

Jeri Massi

Jeri and Ben

 

Want to know more about Jeri Massi? Read her Blog on the Way (www.jeriwho.net), follow her on Twitter (@jeriwho), or like her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jerimassi).

Hall of Heroes

Hall of Heroes

Just over a year ago, I posted a review about Jeri Massi’s Peabody Kids Series, in particular, Derwood, Inc., my favorite title to teach in fifth grade reading classes. I recently found out she has a new book – also set in Peabody, Wisconsin – Hall of Heroes. While she employs a style of humor similar to Derwood, Massi’s latest title goes far deeper than the surface plot of a club of middle-schoolers battling a new gang of bullies.

The ongoing war of pranks between the two groups keeps the mood light even when the gang manages to steal the the Hall of Heroes’ clubhouse, a broken-down old shed. The club members  lose more battles than they win, but “right is on their side,” and they press on toward victory.

dilapidated-wooden-shack

publicdomainpictures.net. photo by Karen Arnold

Meanwhile, Jean, the youngest member of the Hall of Heroes, experiences a serious adventure of her own. She volunteers to help Martha Harris, a reclusive lady in her church. What begins as a do-gooder project grows into a beautiful relationship, and Martha teaches her what it means to be a real hero.

Jeri Massi is able to communicate Biblical truths on a kid’s level of understanding. As Christians, we all know we ought to love God. Massi starts with this taken-for-granted cliché and guides her readers to a clear understanding that loving God brings the beautiful experience of enjoying Him forever.

enjoy God forever

Jeri isn’t content with the standard “Heaven is a beautiful place where Christians go to live after they die.” No, heaven is much, much more. Not only is its beauty incomparable to anything on earth, heaven completes us as creatures made in God’s image.

Jeri Massi has continued to write nonfiction over the years, but I believe this is her first new fiction title since the 1980’s. I love it when a favorite author creates new work, especially after a long hiatus. Welcome back to the world of novels, Jeri!

The Hero Stands

shelob

credit to periannath.com

 

Nothing rings epic like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy. While I am not a fan who follows every bit of trivia regarding the movies or the books, particular scenes thrill me. One is the battle in the spider’s lair. Frodo the Hobbit lies helpless, wrapped in a cocoon of spider silk. Sam, his friend who sticks closer than a brother, defends him from the spider with light and sword. Bruised and exhausted, Sam does not give up, but presses the fight until he wounds the evil arachnid badly enough to force her retreat. Sam is willing to give his life for his friend. He refuses to desert Frodo even as Frodo is driven toward madness in his the obsession with the ring.

frodo and sam

art by Josi Fabri

Although Frodo is the main character given the responsibility to destroy the ring, Sam is the true hero. In spite of all the magnificent battles and the courage displayed by elves, dwarfs, mythical creatures, and men, Sam loves Frodo and will not turn back, will not abandon him to failure. He can’t force Frodo to give up the ring, but he remains nearby pleading for him to do the right thing.

Ephesians 6:13 tells the Christian soldier to put on the whole armor of God in order to withstand evil, and when you have done everything you can, you stand. Do not retreat. Do not give up. Sam exemplified that soldier. He did everything he could, he refused to retreat, refused to give up. He stood at his friend’s side, and he faced evil even when he was helpless to stop it.

spiritual-warfare 2

credit to nightshade130.wordpress.com

Am I as faithful to my friends? Do I hold up the light of Christ as I pray for a friend who has turned away from truth and has been captivated by the world? Do I wield my sword of the Spirit to battle evil that would dare touch someone I love? Do I exhaust myself in defending him? Do I remain at her side no matter what? Regardless of my friend’s decisions, have I done everything possible to plant my feet and face the Enemy? Oh, may I, like Sam the Hobbit, be the hero in service to Christ!