A Chat With Freddi Gold

Freddie Gold

One of the great joys of speaking engagements with writers’ groups is not only making new friends but also hearing about their personal journeys to publication. This time around I’m happy to welcome Freddi Gold, the inventive author of a trilogy she defines as, “Soft Sci-Fi in an adventure, thriller, romantic setting or Romantic Suspense in a science-fictional, adventure, thriller setting.” Fasten your seat belts and enjoy the ride!

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Tell us what inspired you to write Dimension Norræna.

A: I had written and published a non-fiction book and except for the leeway I took by inserting scenarios to hold the attention of the reader I found it a lot like writing a thesis. Consequently when I had completed the book I didn’t want to write another in that category. Because the fictional vignettes were a lot of fun to do, I thought I would try fiction. I didn’t prepare much, just started with the idea that I was interested in metaphysics and really enjoyed dystopian novels. I guess you could say that I was inspired by the lure of a new adventure.

Q: Did you always envision this work to be a trilogy or did you reach the end and decide you simply couldn’t let go of your characters?

A: I had just finished reading Hunger Games, followed by Divergent, then Red Rising, 50 Shades of Grey and a host of single dystopian novels so I planned from the beginning to write a trilogy. I didn’t really know how to go about it so I just plunged in. For the first book, I used Al Watt’s, The 90 Day Novel and was motivated to write every day. The characters however, came alive for me and the length of the books gave me ample time to get to know them exceptionally well. At the end, in truth, I hated to leave them. I’d learned so much during the process though, that I looked forward to writing my next book with more discipline, time spent and in a much more studied way.

Q: What are some of the positives and negatives you’ve encountered in penning a series versus a stand-alone title?

A: I’m a very positive, optimistic person, so the negatives mostly seem like learning to me. I tend to turn them around into something beneficial. I realized at the onset that I needed to entice the reader to come back to the story when it ended in the first and second books while I was writing the next one. Because I was so interested in the book, I assumed everyone who liked the first one would be happy to dive right back in—much like how we wait for our favorite series on TV to return for the next season. Waiting a year in between each of them was an extraordinary request. In retrospect, that was asking a lot. If I ever do it again, I’ll release the trilogy once all the books are completed and ready for promotion. Since the romantic suspense aspect was included, I had to find a way to give the reader some satisfaction, without letting them know how things would end. I had to do this again in book two. Some people didn’t want to wait. A positive was that writing each book was exciting because I had to come up with adventures and twists while still heading for the eventual finale. I was able to languish in developing the characters, dreaming and fantasizing about directions to go in. I’m a “pantser” obviously, so I had no idea how the story would end and I found that both alluring and challenging.

Q: You define your book’s genre as “Soft Sci-Fi in an adventure, thriller, romantic setting” or “Romantic Suspense in a science-fictional, adventure, thriller setting.” Why did you have difficulty narrowing down to one genre?

A: Because the story is about a young woman who teleports to another dimension, my critique group and I originally thought the genre would be science-fiction. Once they learned, though, that this happened without the use of a vehicle, it flew in the face of physics. I was using bits and pieces of astrophysical terminology while introducing U.S Intelligence and criminal cartels, a sociopath and a romance or two. Add to the recipe the human-like species on Norræna and another more frightening class of aliens from Møhrkhavn, transhumanism, kidnapping, murder and a dog and soon it was labeled as a fantasy-thriller. Although it’s listed on Amazon under Sci-Fi, for many readers their main enjoyment is the romance and adventure. Verbally I like to say it’s soft sci-fi with a healthy dose of adventurous romance. I do like the term science-fictional which I read in one of the other interviews on this site, though. I think I may use that more.

Q: If your book were to be sold in a traditional bookstore, the obvious question to be posed is what shelf would it go on so that prospective buyers could find it?

A: Good Question! I’ve been looking at reviews and listening to verbal comments from the readers and I was surprised that both men and women really liked the romantic suspense aspect. I was sure most of the women would but surprised by the men. Many of the men sided with one of the males being chosen over the other. Interestingly, many of the women chose the other male. That prompts me to consider including it in the Romance genre. However there isn’t a sub-category for other-dimensional romance and it’s not alien or ghost romance or sci-fi erotica either. Is there a Metaphysical Romance shelf?

Q: Norræna means Nordic and you borrowed most of the Norrænder language from Iceland. How did that play for your readers?

A: I needed a language for the Norrænders. My own efforts looked like gobbledy-gook. I went to Google Translate and looked at translations of some of my lines from the book in a number of foreign languages. I was drawn to Icelandic. It was so unfamiliar to me. I thought it might be to others also. Initially I sought help with the syntax from a wonderful friend in Norway with an Icelandic neighbor to get the syntax right, more so than you could get from Google. I did realize since it was the language of a fictional people, that it did not have to be a hundred percent correct, so I took some liberty to leave out letters or add some or in some cases make up my own words just because they came to me as I was writing. Happily the readers found it both plausible and realistic. I will say it drove some of my critique group-members crazy trying to pronounce some of the terms. I used Dragon Naturally software to convert from audio to type and after a while Dragon learned to spell all the names and words correctly which I found quite humorous.

Q: Do you have a personal connection with Scandinavian countries or ancestry? In other words, what governed your decision to choose that orientation for the storyline?

A: No, I don’t. But I’m drawn there in a kind of mystical way. I’m sure I might have initially lingered in the stereotypical, romantic lure of Viking warriors and it fascinates me archaeologically, but the fact that the novel just poured out of me and leaned to the far north was as much a surprise to me as the next person. The more I wrote, the more natural it felt.

Q: Like many authors, you have gone the self-publishing route. What have you learned from this DIY strategy that you didn’t know when you started?

A: Everything! Being a member of the High Desert California Writers Club and having had the opportunity to listen to a wide selection of authors as invited speakers, I learned that the traditional publishing route was fraught with disappointment, long waits, and rejection. Like the way I wrote the series, I was eager to get the books published. I read The Fine Print of Publishing, by Mark Levine which provided a list of self-publishers in categories from Outstanding to Pretty Good, to Just Okay to Publishers to Avoid. I went right to the “Outstanding” publishers, read their reputations, fees, royalties, printing costs, contracts and other services. I selected Dog Ear Publishing for all of my books.

I found that my out-of-pocket costs could range from roughly $1100 for the least expensive package to $9,000. The packages were very attractive—so many areas to publishing I knew nothing about: interior and cover design, registration with online booksellers and national distributors, Books in Print, ISBN numbers, Library of Congress control number, a webpage for the book. There were add-ons, all for a cost, of course, like, e-book distribution, return policy options, integrated blogs and optimization for Google and others.

Some of my friends were using Create Space, but at the time it not only seemed too technical to me, but as I was teaching college courses every semester and summer classes as well, I just didn’t have the time or the inclination to do all the work it looked like it would be. I spent a lot. While I always had a very attentive author representative and have been more than happy with Dog Ear, I am re-considering the Create Space option to see how much effort might really be involved as the cost is far less, but there are sacrifices to consider as well.

Q: What are you doing to market your work?

A: Looking back there is much I could have done, but didn’t. First I think I should have celebrated the achievement, but I didn’t. I think everyone should reward themselves after writing their first few books, or heck, after any book is published. It’s a Big Deal! I never did a real book launch or did a tour to promote and sell the books. I might still do that. I used some social media, like Facebook and Twitter, but I didn’t keep the latter up. I had a website and I included it on any and all online work I did. I did publicity releases, was in the local paper several times. I did public speaking for a variety of organizations. My non-fiction book was used as a supplementary read for one of my classes and other instructors used it as well. The college bookstore sold it. I do as many book signings as I can work in. I’ve been on panels and been interviewed for blogs. I taught the Artists Way and promoted it there. I have a blog for Dimension Norræna (http://dimensionnorraena.com) and a Facebook page. I have run advertisements in the club state bulletin and locally.

Something new for me is to increase my reviews on Amazon and I plan to try advertising there also. My mind is geared to look for promotional opportunities. It’s a learning process.

Q: It’s rumored that you have an eclectic background. Tell us about it and how this background has influenced your interest in exploring a multiplicity of genres.

A:  When I was twelve I lived in Puerto Rico. TV had not been introduced so I read a lot and one day decided to write a book.  It was very short, about a group of kids who survived a plane crash, completely unscathed on an island in a vast sea, who set up a Robinson Crusoe-like existence and were rescued by page fourteen. I was quite proud of my achievement and wish I had kept it for a good laugh today. As a freshman in high school, I wrote an essay on my desire to become the first female Special Agent for the FBI. My teacher said it would never happen until I learned to spell special. My father wanted me to go to college to find a man who would support me. I majored in Drama my first year in college because my high school drama teacher was very cute. Imagine my surprise when my first instructor was in his eighties. I made my heroine in Dimension a college theatre instructor.

I stayed with my major. It was fun. I hadn’t a clue about how I would support myself or what to do with the degree. I became a flight attendant after my sophomore year, then finished my degree and moved to California. Coming from a long line of teachers, I became one and simultaneously picked up a Masters in the same field. Metaphysics drew me to a Psychic Research Society meeting one night in Los Angeles where I listened to a speaker talk about hypnosis. This led to my taking several years of training in the field of clinical hypnotherapy. I opened up a private practice and soon took an interest in psychology. All of these elements supplemented my character descriptions.

Earning another Masters in Clinical Psychology and a PhD in Human Behavior enabled me to leave high school teaching and become a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. With these credentials and my experience as a Clinical Hypnotherapist, I spent a lot of time doing public speaking, offering classes training other professionals in the health field and giving seminars related to hypnotherapy. A local radio station invited me as a guest on a talk show. This resulted in my having my own radio talk-show until I segued into having my own television talk show.

During all this time I continued with private practice and teaching college classes. I was published in several journals, and magazines and often cited in newspaper articles.

I travelled a bit to Europe, South America and most states, married, had kids and ultimately decided to write the nonfiction book. Joining the Writers Club encouraged me to pursue becoming a writer. I used all of my experience to color the events used in the series.

Q: Your first book, Adultery is Universal But I’m Getting Married Anyway, was nonfiction. What caused you to segue to fiction?

A: Almost all of what I’ve written is from an academic or professional perspective. I wanted to explore other possibilities, but I didn’t think I was creative enough. I also didn’t think I could generate any ideas for a story. I actually dreamed about an out of body kind of experience, and wrote the feelings and visual imagery down. Later when I began the book it occurred to me that it could be an interesting beginning. I altered it as ideas flowed and used the actual memory for another chapter later.  Honestly, it was much more fun to write fiction. I felt excitement to write every day, to create characters, to let my imagination roam free. I still write academic stuff daily. I teach all my classes online.

Q: Was there a purposeful shock element in giving this book a controversial title and incorporating vignettes to illustrate points made throughout the chapters?

A:  Yes. I took a two year program from a company called Mission Marketing Mentors. Among many wonderful ideas and valuable training in marketing a book related to a field I was in (Marriage Counseling), they provided a formula for creating a title that would attract attention, draw in the target audience and provide something that others in my field were not providing. The complete title of this book that was about the evolution of marriage and women’s roles, couple communication, infidelity and statistics was: Adultery is Universal, But I’m Getting Married Anyway: What to Know Before You Do or Already Have. It’s still selling after six years.

The book contains historical information, biological aspects of human beings, belief systems, gender orientation considerations, digital relations and statistical information. So it wouldn’t read like a straight textbook, the writing is casual and the vignettes help to paint a visual for the areas being discussed. My target audience was actually other therapists, but the general population buys it.

I should mention something that crushed me when the book first came out on Amazon. The day after it appeared, someone on a global website called Reddit, wrote that his girlfriend had cheated on him and wrote a book. Then he listed the name of my book and indicated it was on Amazon. A hoard of people then jumped in on the post promising to bash the book so nobody would buy it and they did—about fifteen of them. I didn’t understand what was happening and was devastated. My first book and it was receiving these horrible reviews. After a day or two, a subscriber to Reddit from England e-mailed me to tell me what had happened. I didn’t know him— he just thought I should know. I called Amazon and told them about the situation, but they would not remove the negative reviews. It was incredibly disappointing and frustrating.

Q: Have you been published in other formats besides books?

A: Yes—a little, in clinical journals, magazines on a variety of topics, business newspapers. I wrote for AOL on alternative medicine, and created a booklet for a Parks and Recreation Department for an Arizona city on Creative Drama. I wrote online communication courses for two different colleges and professional courses for the California Board of Behavioral Science and the Board of Registered Nurses. I’ve been published in three anthologies and recently wrote the prologue to a short book of women’s poems.

Q: As still a “newish” writer, where do you aspire to take your writing in the coming years?

A: I plan to focus only on writing novels. I might write a few speeches.

Q: What are the five most recent books you’ve read and how have they contributed to your knowledge base and skill set as a writer?

A:  The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood: Interesting formatting and revealed a different style of writing.

Stephen King/On Writing, Stephen King: I’m in progress-have read the memoir portion so far. Wonderful down to earth, solid advice on improving skills and the crucial importance of reading all the time.

Scotland Forever, Bonnie Watts: a lengthy historical novel set in the highlands of 1600s Scotland. I relished the detailed descriptions of the land, the characters and the story of everyday life in those times. It featured an emerging powerful woman. I learned more about the value and art of story-telling. (I can’t wait for Outlander to return).

The Hunt for Red October, Tom Clancy: My own books include CIA and FBI characters and operations. I wanted to read about earlier events and operations that would give me insight for my scenes. I did learn about roles and chain of command and a lot of technical terminology relative to that story’s situations.

The Kommandant’s Girl, Pam Jenoff: I enjoy historical novels from a wide variety of time periods and countries. Again the art of story-telling, this one about Poland and the Jewish community during the Nazi occupation. I feel that it broadens my intercultural knowledge and understanding.

Q: Besides reading, what else would you suggest to new writers to get them to take the plunge?

A: I believe that if you’ve thought about it, or if people have ever said to you. “You should write a book,” it means you have a story to tell, people like what you are telling them, find you interesting and think you should share it. If you have the itch, the dream, the desire—just do it! Give yourself permission to write badly, too. You can re-write later. A good way to start is to write every day. From more than one source, I learned to write three pages every day. It does not matter what you write about; just write. Write about a dream you had the night before, write about what you have to do and did instead, write about how you feel—about anything. But write every day. Join a writer’s group, a book club. Visit blogs on writing and also the blogs of authors whose books you’ve read and like. Read this blog site! Write a letter to an editor of a paper. Write to a magazine about an article you liked. Write letters or keep a journal. The key thing is to write. Read about or go to meetings to learn about writing and publishing and promoting and if you can, join a critique group. Don’t be afraid—it’s your story or book—other people just make suggestions from their perspective. Use what feels good to you and let the other advice go or keep it for future reference.

Q: What interests or pursuits have you added to your own writing skill?

A:  I like to add a number of different locations in my books and if I can, I use it as an excuse to go there. In addition to using many locations in California and Arizona in my books, I’ve taken the Amtrak Coast Starlight from LA to Canada, gone on a petroglyph tour and another to underground Seattle by Pioneer Square and stayed in the Ecuadorian mountains for a week. I visited an archeological dig there and travelled to different cities. I’ve been to Cabo San Lucas and utilized Google Earth to provide me with imagery for several different descriptions. Not sure if I’ll ever write about the early days of the West, but I subscribed to a couple of magazines (Cowboys & Indians, Wild West) that illustrate a variety of info in case I try that. I plan to get into sculpting again and use it in a scene. I try to stay current on science and new technology and rely on Discover, National Geographic and Archaeology magazines and news stories a good deal. I’m exploring a wide variety of writing aids online, utilize other writing blogs and learn from reading many club member and speakers books.

Q: Tuning out distractions when one is in the midst of wordsmithing is one of the biggest challenges that writers deal with on a regular basis. What’s your own secret for successful coping?

A: Well it’s not music. I tried that, but found myself too involved with the rhythm of the music and the imagery it created—even when I tried different kinds of melodies to help with a scene.

I write when my mind is most active and I am energized which is the first thing in the morning. I feed the dogs and myself, curl up on the couch or sometimes sit on the patio surrounded by trees while the dogs take a second nap. For me—it’s quiet. I don’t look at my cell unless there is a call, which at six am is seldom. I have a loosely constructed map in my mind re how to break up the day to take care of obligations so I’m not worrying about getting other things done while I’m writing. If I need to let the dogs out, or answer the door, I do it and get right back to writing. I try to write at least a chapter at a time. I use the re-write time to edit my work so when I’m writing, I’m just focusing on using my energy to pour out the story, the characters and tone that I want to keep intact.

Q: What are you currently working on?

A:  I’m about 150 pages into a new novel: Name of the Game. It centers around an intuitive-sensitive roughly ten years in the future who assists the CIA with her gifts on a case that includes a covert alien presence among the human population. (I’ve had the good fortune of working with UFO researchers and alien abduction). I’m “pantsing” it, but taking my time to work on the craft in greater depth as well. As soon as summer session classes are over, I’ll start a blog for this book. I’ll likely try writing in other genres as time goes by and I look forward to seeing how I transition to that. I’m also embarking on launching more specific promotion for the Dimension Norræna series. The website is http://freddigold.com. I can be reached at freddigold3@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Chat with Mary Langer Thompson

Skink

As we go through life’s journey, there’s no shortage of lessons to be learned. Further, we never know who the messenger will be that’s going to deliver the advice and guidance we need to become our better selves. Sometimes it’s a parent or teacher. Sometimes it’s a total stranger. And who knows? Sometimes new wisdom comes to us in a completely unexpected form. A skink, for instance. Mary Langer Thompson, author of How the Blue-Tongued Skink Got His Blue Tongue, introduces us to her intrepid reptilian protagonist, Dinky, and shares insights on how her own journey as an educator and a writer first began.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Many an educator I’ve met chose to follow this particular career path because of a longstanding family lineage in academia or the influence of a favorite teacher when s/he was growing up. Who or what made you decide that becoming a teacher was what you wanted to do?

A: My mother was an elementary teacher, but it wasn’t until my 12th grade high school English teacher, Carroll Irwin of Hoover High School in Glendale, California, made me fall in love with English literature so that I became an English major in college and wanted to be a high school teacher like her. I corresponded with Miss Irwin before she passed away last year.

Q: As an adolescent and then a teen, was writing always your best subject?

A: No, some of my former English teachers used to read my papers aloud about what not to do, so it wasn’t until I mastered the five-paragraph essay and learned to give support for everything I said that I was any good at writing. Miss Irwin made us rewrite every single paper, and taught me that writing is rewriting.

Q: What books/authors might we have found on the nightstand of your younger self?

A: Nancy Drew books until I started sneaking into my older brother’s room when he wasn’t there to check out his bookshelf. I was in fifth grade when I discovered Lawrence Ferlinghetti (this was poetry? Wow!), Allen Ginsberg, Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye and authors like James Baldwin.

Q: Do you have a favorite children’s book?

A: When I was about 5 or 6, I got Scarlet Fever, which was serious in the early 1950’s. My mother and I were quarantined. She read her childhood favorite to me, Alice and The Teenie Weenies by William Donahey, now out of print, about characters three inches tall. She found and gave me that book not so long ago.

Q: Is there a famous author (living or dead) you’d most like to have dinner with?

A: I was asked this question before I was selected for jury duty once, and my answer is the same: Helen Keller. Although deaf and blind, her achievements in writing and speaking were incredible, and I’d love to ask her about her memories of her teacher and later friend, Annie Sullivan.

Q: In what ways did teaching (high school English) influence your writing and vice versa?

A: I was privileged to return to teach for a time at my alma mater in the 70’s, the days of the electives and so broadened my reading.  I taught Science Fiction, Mystery and Detective, Mass Media, Short Story, and because the curriculum was new, I wrote articles for English Journal, Media and Methods, California English and other educational journals. That’s when I started writing for publication.

Q: You moved from being in the classroom to becoming a public school principal. Although the latter still gave you access to and interaction with students, what were some of the transitional challenges of overseeing the activities and ethics of teachers versus the daily responsibility of assigning and reviewing homework?

A: I had been an assistant principal and thought I was well prepared, having worked closely with principals, being their right-hand person. By the time I became a principal I think the challenges with teachers were mainly generational. The teachers dressed more casually, some had nose piercings, purple hair, tongue rings, and many of the parents, even the ones their age, objected. Plus, we were opening a brand new school!  I had to have a lot of kindly talks and many times felt I was more a mother than a principal. One union rep told me I had “crossed over” (from being a teacher) and the teacher didn’t have to listen to me. However, I was in a new-to-me, poverty area, so I sympathized with the teachers because their job was hard in many ways and I didn’t want to lose them. I believed I was there to help them grow and develop but some of my bosses didn’t agree! The district was low-scoring and they didn’t feel we had time for growth and development. There was a lot of pressure. I believe it’s one of the reasons why California has a teacher shortage now.

Q: Your impressive list of publishing credits is primarily in the arena of poetry and essays. What made you decide to write your first children’s book?

A: When I retired, I joined the California Writers Club, High Desert Branch, and no one claimed to write poetry, so in order to stay in my critique group, I brushed off a children’s story I had been toying with. The club was going to have a reading at our local Barnes and Noble and approached me. I said, “Sure, I can read some poems,” and the answer was, “We don’t want your poems, we want you to read that children’s story you wrote!”

Q: Dogs, cats, horses and rabbits have long been popular stars of children’s literature. Centerstage in your book is a skink. Though it sounds like a made-up word, it’s a real animal native to Australia. When did the story of Dinky the Skink first take shape for you?

A: Quite a long time ago, in the 90’s, a friend having financial trouble called and said they had sold a pet skink to make that month’s house payment. I had never heard of a blue-tongued skink, Googled it, and up popped one in a picture with its blue tongue aimed right at me. I remember I had visited Australia on one of my husband’s business trips in 1980 and shopped all the book stores in Sydney for Australian children’s books to bring home to my then 5-year old son. I used to read to him every night. There weren’t that many Australian children’s books. One I brought back about a dingo dog scared him silly. An animal having a blue tongue is exotic, and so I tried to imagine for a long time how a skink might have gotten a tongue that color.

Q: Tell us about the story’s setting and why it works effectively as Dinky’s adventure unfolds.

A: Skinks are reptiles which led me to think of snakes. Snakes may not be liked by everyone, but they are fascinating. I remembered how I was teaching John Steinbeck’s “The Pearl” to a tenth grade Honor’s class once and the author refers to “The Garden” in the first paragraph. My Honor’s students didn’t get the allusion which I couldn’t believe because they knew all about other mythological stories. How were they going to understand American Lit in eleventh grade? So I decided to set my story in The Garden with a “Know What’s What Tree.”

Q: What do you want your readers to take away from your book?

A: Dinky the skink is bullied in all the ways kids and even adults are bullied—shunning, physical violence, name-calling, and more, yet he stands up to the bully, becoming a hero, and in the process obtaining a blue tongue. Dinky warns the bully that choices can go two ways, so I want to leave kids with the message that they can stand up to bullies and our choices in life are all-important.

Q: The title was recently made available in Spanish. Any particular reason? And are there any plans for future translations of a story with such a universal—and timeless—theme?

A:  In the second year of my principalship, I opened a Spanish dual-immersion school, a school within a school, that is now going into its 12th year and is the only elementary dual immersion school in the high desert. I translated the book mainly for Spanish-speaking children learning English. Because I taught in Glendale and was an English as a Second Language specialist there for a time, I am looking for someone to translate the book into Armenian as well.

Q: On your website you have a short list of favorite quotes. Among them is one by Carl Gustav Jung which states, “The reason for evil in the world is that people are not able to tell their stories.” How and why does this quote personally resonate with you?

A: I think it is frustrating to the point of agonizing to have moments of grief or joy or even entertaining things happen to a person and for them not to have someone to share their story with. It can even lead to anger. My essay for Christina Hamlett’s anthology, Finding Mr. Right, was the result of someone contacting me after 40 years to tell the story of our time together years before. He had led an adventurous life and was looking for people with the skills to help him write it. Within my writer’s club, I am the director of the Dorothy C. Blakely Memoir Project, which is going into its third year this fall. We help high school students tell the stories of the lives of people over 50, and then publish the stories. We have a book launch party at the end of the year and the “Memoir Stars” are so happy their life stories are so valued.

Q: Retiring from a day job and becoming a full-time writer obviously has an impact on one’s self-esteem, outlook, time management, creativity, etc. Family members, though, certainly aren’t immune to the ripple effect of a loved one suddenly spending copious hours at a keyboard and engaging in conversations with the characters in her head. How has your own family responded to your full-time career as an author?

A:  Striving for balance can be difficult. However, with the publication of my children’s book, my husband became a publishing partner and began Another Think Coming Press, and my grown son, Matthew, suggested kids eat blue raspberry Tootsie Pops while they read so their own tongues turn blue. Some kids have sent me pictures of their blue tongues. He also bought me a skink cookie cutter. So now the whole family’s involved with suggestions for future Dinky stories and we’re all feeling a part of Dinky’s success.

Q: When you’re not at the keyboard, what do you like to do for fun?

A: If I’m not writing, I’m reading or traveling with my husband, Dave. We’re planning a trip to Yellowstone this year. We traveled to Arizona to the Tucson Book Festival earlier this year to sell books and to see friends and family on the way.

Q: Tell us about your participation in the California Writers Club and how it supports and nurtures the wordsmithing of its members.

A: When I joined the high desert branch in 2009, we were about to lose our charter at 15 members, the minimum. Since then we have built it up to over 100 members. I have been on the   board, led critique groups and salons, and taught writing workshops in schools, colleges and the federal prison, in addition to directing the Dorothy C. Blakely Memoir Project. We meet once a month and have wonderful outside speakers like Christina Hamlett come and give us tips for writing and publishing. We support each other, and always have someone to call when we need advice.

Q: Any savvy advice for new writers whose journey on the road to publication is just starting?

A: Find a supportive critique group, don’t give up your day job, and get connected on social media.

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: I have another children’s book, another poetry book, a young adult novel and a memoir in the works. I’ll continue to write book reviews for Middleweb, an educational website for middle school educators and San Diego Book Review and Amazon.com.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: If you want to help authors of books you love, there’s no better way than to write a review on Amazon.com. Of course I appreciate this interview, as well. Thank you!

Q: Where can readers learn more about you and your work?

A: You can find me on Facebook and learn more about my poetry on home.earthlink.net/~ml_thompson/.