What Kind of Tree Are You?

As it happened, the guest I was to have interviewed today became very busy with synopses and proposals that she really underestimated the time and would have had to rush her answers to me. I would not let her stress-out, so we’ll have her visit next month. However, without the planned post, I was at a loss until I decided to talk about interviewing in general.

I never expected to do interviews, but I found that I truly enjoy them. I enjoy doing research on the interviewee, I enjoy reading new works, I enjoy coming up with the questions and learning more about people whom I know and those whom I do not know well.

I do enjoy reaching out to those I have met through this blog or my fellow bloggers here at 4F,1H. Often I will ask someone I have met through other writers’ blogs, especially if I have won their books through contests. Or, I find it’s someone whose work seems interesting and I will read their books so I can interview them. Once I met someone through The Hound and she asked online for a beta reader; I jumped at the chance. Then I asked her to come here as our guest.

I hope that I do interesting interviews. I tailor-make each one to fit the writer and their work. There are other interviewers who ask each of their guests the same questions. There is something to be said for that tactic; it not only saves time but the interviewers’ regular readers/listeners can compare the different answers and different personalities of the varying guests. The problem starts when return guests have to answer the same questions again about their pets, their first date, if they are vegetarians and when they first knew when they wanted to write Believe me, it gets old for the reader and interviewee.

Often, especially with formula interviews, the questions and/or answers are redundant; what the interviewee added in previous responses sometimes answers questions that come afterward. Most interviewees don’t dare mess with the questions and many interviewers would not stand for it. I, on the other hand, always ask my guests to please feel free to omit or combine questions if their answers are covered by other replies. I will not let my ego get in the way of a better read for those who are kind enough to drop in to read my posts. I know that for the most part they come to read the guest anyway. It is obvious that the interviewer has not paid much attention to his/her guest or the job if they insist that their questions be re-answered in the course of one interview.

Many years ago Barbara Walters interviewed Katherine Hepburn, who said that she was like an old tree. Barbara asked her, “What kind of a tree?” Everyone thought that was the most clever question ever asked and for several years many, many interviewers asked many, many interviewees what kind of tree they were. It was taken completely out of context and it was just ridiculous. Barbara Walters begged and begged for it to stop, since she never started out to ask Kate what kind of tree she was. I find that many interviewers find certain questions ‘clever’ or ‘in’ when they see a question or answer from another celebrity and ask the same of many guest; it’s boring for all concerned and just plain lazy of the interviewer.

I have never done a ‘live’ interview, not as the interviewer. As a guest and listening to others who have had the same problem, I would advise anyone who is going to be interviewed or who is going to interview to Be Prepared. If you are going to interview, know the guests’ works, learn something about them beforehand and make sure that you have enough questions or comments to fill the time. Have more than you think you need, because not every guest is scintillating and they just may be having an ‘off’ day. Make a list of ‘have-to-ask’ questions and then secondary ones. If you are going to be interviewed, be prepared to fill in with information, material or excerpts from your work. Be ready with background of yourself or your story, or even with personal anecdotes, because not every interviewer can be a Tavis Smiley or Charlie Rose, and there can be very awkward silences if you don’t take the initiative. With such pauses you can come across as boring to your readers, who won’t be your readers for long. That is a real no-no:

Don’t be boring!

Do you have any observations from interviews? Is there anything that you particularly like or don’t like that you have seen and heard? Is there any way you think that I can improve when I interview for here? Please feel free to comment. I appreciate it.

Posted in authors, blogging, Guest, Random thoughts, Tonette Joyce | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

New Release: One Simple Favor

One Simple Favor
A novella
By J. L. Salter


Sometimes one simple favor changes everything.


Tricia Pilgrim reluctantly agrees to pick up a sort-of cousin she’s never seen at a distant bus station and drive him back to Verdeville. She might as well. Everything’s already gone wrong with her mini-vacation weekend, there’s an emergency at her job, and things can’t get any worse. Right?

Wrong. Her twice-removed third cousin-in-law turns out to be a hunk with moves like a special forces ninja. And one of them is a magnet for trouble… of the wrong kind. The sort of trouble that has her running through the woods at midnight, terrified and confused. The sort with bad guys and guns.

It’s the wrong way to feel about a cousin, even one by marriage. But she feels safe with Mike. And if they both make it through this long, troubled night, she’ll take a really close look at Aunt Mary’s family tree.

One Simple Favor-med


Already 11 Amazon reviews in the first 13 days — and nine have FIVE stars!
Only $1.99 in digital formats. Paperback is $7.95.

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My post is short and sweet again this week. Sorry.

Given my choice of a Free Week, a Guest Spot, or a Review; I’ve chosen to use this week’s post as a free week. Well, actually, it’s going to be another spot of self-promotion. :) What can I say? :)

I’ve got nothing new, yet. I’m still working on my as yet unnamed Halloween Vampire release. My self-promotion is about the Boxed Set of my CONNECTIONS Series! Coming Soon to an Amazon near you!

I don’t yet have a picture of it to show you. DARN! It’s still in production. I do plan to have it ASAP and on Amazon in about a week! God willing. I see they still have a picture of the 2nd novella in the 1st edition up (CONNED), but it is no longer available.  All 3 of the 2nd edition are up and available in both E” and paperback formats.

God Bless Our Troops!!

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How I Learned to Write


This month the Mid-Michigan RWA group met in Grand Rapids.

We have another free week here on the blog, so I decided to write about another one of my many groups. I belong to two different “in person” writing groups, and one of them is my local RWA (Romance Writers of America) chapter. The Mid-Michigan chapter covers much of the lower peninsula of the state. Meeting locations rotate between four different cities: Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing, and Jackson. I’ve belonged to this group for almost twenty years, and I’ve learned so much from the people here. We have many published authors – several with the major publishing houses – and many who are self-published, along with writers who (like me) have chosen to stick with smaller publishers who focus on putting out ebooks.

I mentioned in my post on May 4 that I got hooked on romances while I was a busy working mom. I read romances to escape into someone else’s world, and when that character overcame her hardships and conflicts and settled into her happily-ever-after, I was able to set aside my the stresses in my life and go to sleep. I became a regular at our local library.

One day I picked up a romance I thought I would enjoy. It was part of a series – one hero from each of the fifty states. I found the book with the hero from Michigan and settled in to read. Three hours later I closed the book, sorely disappointed. Not only was the hero NOT a native Michigander (yes, Chicago is close, but it’s in Illinois!), most of the action took place in Wisconsin (again, just across the border from the northwestern point of the upper peninsula, but not Michigan), and when the heroine was hurt she was flown from northern Wisconsin to a community hospital in a rural part of Michigan’s lower peninsula (if you check a map you’ll see that makes no sense). I was so angry I actually wrote a letter to the publisher asking them to please find an author who was either more familiar with the locale or willing to do the research. Of course I got no reply.

Like many others before me, I figured I could do better. After discovering the national organization (RWA) I went on the internet and found a local chapter. I even found the name and phone number of the president, so I called that person and got meeting information. I started going to the meetings and in between meetings I wrote. And I discovered what a major undertaking it was to write an entire book. But this group has been there, teaching me, challenging me, and cheering my successes. We meet monthly, but thanks to social media and email we can connect regularly – sometimes daily! Some ladies who live near each other meet bi-weekly at a coffee shop and just write.

IMG_1180 Once a year we have a weekend retreat. This year it was at a beautiful resort about a forty-minute drive south of my home. We have a headline speaker (this year it was Rita Clay Estrada, the woman who started RWA!) and we gather in small groups to discuss different issues in writing and publishing. We have fun, and The peaceful lakeside setting, well-planned and superbly led workshops, and the fellowship with other authors always make me leave inspired and eager to get back to my keyboard.

I feel so fortunate to have found a group to help guide me on my path to publication. Romance Writers of America has 145 chapters – both face-to-face and online – so there’s a group for almost anyone who wants to write romance. It’s been almost twenty years since I first said “I could do that.” I really feel this group helped me to change that to “I did that.”

Posted in free week, Local writing group, Patricia Kiyono | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Double Vision

No, not crossed eyes…two people’s visions!

This week’s topic of what we read with our loved ones really strikes a chord with me. I was read to quite a bit when I was little, so my mother and aunt chose books that they cared for, since I wanted to hear them over and over! I remember discussing certain storybooks with my mother when I was quite young. She didn’t influence my reading later on, except that she did have me read “The Naked and the Dead”, by her one-time pal, Norman Mailer. While I was reading she pulled a very bad spoiler on me, (asked me if a character had died yet; he hadn’t), and I never discussed books with her at all after that.
My older sister wasn’t much of a reader because she was the victim of experimental reading programs. She did like a few Nancy Drew and Nurse Cherry Ames books, Little Pear and a few others, which she had me read and we talked about. I became a veracious reader while she slacked off. When she was in her late 20s, her mother-in-law introduced her to a couple of pretty good romances which they both asked me to read. At that time the woman gave her a book that made a big change in her life: “The Mysterious Affair at Styles”. My sister braved her way through Hercule Poirot’s first mystery and made herself learn to read well to enjoy the rest. We both read most of Agatha Christie’s works and discussed them at length.
When I married, my husband’s book collection and his profession as a history teacher influenced my reading material. He asked me for my [second] opinion on a number of historical novels to judge their suitability for his students. These are not my favorite genre. His taste runs more towards historical/ military works and religious books, all of which can overwhelm me. I have read more than several with him over the years and although he isn’t one for most novels or mysteries, I can persuade him to read a really good story now and again. When my niece had me read the Harry Potter books, he read them, too, and we still discuss them. I have indulged in “The Hobbit” for him, but he hasn’t gotten me to dip into the “Ring” series, which he is willing to discuss. I will in time. We both read a bit of nonfiction together.
My sons and I read many books together when they were younger. I continued to read TO and WITH them long after they were able to do so on their own so that we could discuss them at the same time at the same level. Sometimes, we switched-out reading aloud to one another. Shakespeare, historic biographies, (such as great explorers), and good fiction were the most frequent. “The Necklace”, “Beowolf” and “Lilies of the Field” also come to mind, but there were many others that were not as ‘heavy’. Case in point: “Thomas the Ship’s Cat”, which is really cute.
Now I read books with my grandson. “Harry Potter” was the first series we read. More recently it has been “Artemis Fowl”, “The Chronicles of Egg”, the “Wimpy Kid” books and a few others, along with some mysteries. I will check out a series or a book and recommend it to him; he’ll hand me a book that he has bought, checked out or liked reading at school; and that is a real thrill, having the kid recommend a story to me! We have found that we can usually recommend Newberry Award winners to each other. Last year he asked me to read “Walk Two Moons”, while I had him read “The Westing Game.” Then we discussed them. (He asked me today to  start on a trilogy he is just finishing.)

My niece has started me on a few series that she likes which we read together and discuss, such as the “Stephanie Plum” , “Betsy the Vampire Queen”  and the “Puzzle Lady” series. One series introduced me to an author whose online interviews I went looking to read. That started me reading the interviewer’s blog, and that young author took me up on the offer to hand out excerpts of another author’s work that I had been given to distribute. That introduced me to The Hound, who invited me to check out this blog and it all snowballed from there! I began my own cooking/entertaining blog and started writing and submitting and getting published again, which I had not done in a while,( except for a bit of poetry). Good Heavens! I have a ‘romance’ in the works, plus I do many reviews and interviews, which I never expected to happen.

So you never know how a loved one’s suggestion of a good book just might rock your world!

Have you read any of the books or series that I mentioned?

Posted in authors, book review, Books, childhood, Family, favorite books, inspiration, Random thoughts, reading preferences, romance, Tonette Joyce, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Sharing Books & Stories

By Jeff Salter

As sometimes happens, my take on this 4F1H weekly topic may veer a bit. In discussing books (and stories) I’ve shared with friends or family, I’m not taking the “share” part too literally. In other words, with three exceptions, these are stories I’ve read either right before or right after the friend/relative read them. So we shared them in the sense of each reading them while we had the titles available… but in most cases we did not read them “together”.

Let me begin with the three exceptions:

First is that my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Josie Hyde, read a novel to us when class time remained and all other scheduled work had been completed. So all [ ? 30 ? ] of us kids heard the story as she was reading it. There may have been more than one, but the title I remember was “Miss Minerva on the Old Plantation.” It was probably dated even then and now many readers would object to the racial stereotypes. But in the late 1950s we just saw it as the comical adventures of a diverse assortment of small town kids who played together (and often got into mischief).

Secondly, after the popular musical “The King and I” came out, my mom (briefly) read to us three kids from the book, “Anna and the King of Siam,” (on which the movie was loosely based). However, it was so unlike the film, we all lost interest after a while.

Lastly, I frequently read books to my own two children. My specialty was doing different voices for the various characters’ dialog. Don’t remember most of the titles and there were too many to list, though some got read over and over (of course). And for several of my grandkids, I’ve read children’s books. [I remember a time when I tried reading a story to my own young kids and some visiting cousins (slightly younger)… but they were way too fidgety and just wanted to bounce off the walls.]

Beyond those exceptions, as best I can recall, reading (for me) has been a solitary – and thoroughly enjoyable – life-long experience. But here are some of the things I’ve read in close association with others reading the same titles.

Comic Books

As a kid, my brother and I read each other’s comic books. I knew what he’d just gotten and as soon as he finished reading it, it was my turn. And vice versa. Sometimes we actually traded, but more often we just borrowed and returned. With friends, I think there was more trading than borrowing. Superman and Batman were my favorites, along with Uncle Scrooge, Donald Duck, and Bugs Bunny.

Before Television

That is to say, when I was a young one-stripe airman at Cannon AFB NM and my wife and I didn’t own a TV. So we had plenty of time to read. She’d go to the public library in Clovis NM and check out books for herself… and would also pick out some I would like. Occasionally, these tastes crossed over, as in the case of Nathaniel Benchley’s humorous novels. As best I can remember, we both read every book Benchley had written to that point. The story you’d be most familiar with is “The Off-Islanders” which was made into the hit movie, “The Russians Are Coming… the Russians Are Coming.”


Another set we read during that pre-TV period were the first three or four of Walker Percy’s novels… which I partly discussed a few weeks ago. The one Denise most remembers is “Love in the Ruins.” James Dickey’s Deliverance came out during that period and we each read that.

This book came out after I’d left the Air Force and returned to college. Peter Benchley, son of Nathaniel and grandson of humorist and actor Robert Benchley, published a novel about a shark. Denise says we both read Jaws at about the same time. I remembered the book, of course, but had forgotten she read it also.

Matt Helm

I had read all of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels by the time I was a high school freshman, and my brother and father were reading them around that same time.

Donald Hamilton’s Matt Helm series came along around that same timeframe, but Hamilton lived longer and was still writing them at least until I was in my mid-20s. I remember, during my Air Force hitch and the few years afterwards, I’d spot the newest Matt Helm at the newsstand and would buy it. After I read it, I’d loan it to my dad, who’d gobble it up. We both thought the Helm books were better than the Bond stories. Wiki says there were 27 Helm novels, but I believe the last one I saw was # 17 or 18. Not sure why I stopped at that point. [By the way, the awful Dean Martin movie versions of two or three of the Matt Helm stories are ludicrous and share hardly more than the title and characters’ names with the actual books.]


Band of Brothers, by Stephen Ambrose, was another book my dad and I shared — though decades later than the others mentioned.

Library Years

I’m sure there have been other books Denise and I have “shared” but the series which sticks in my mind was popular during the time we were at my first public library job in Catahoula Parish LA. James Herriot, a Welsh veterinarian, had a hit book called “All Creatures Great and Small.” Denise got me hooked on it by reading some of the funniest parts. We both read that one and at least two which followed it. [We also enjoyed the PBS series inspired by these books.]


There are likely other tiles, or authors, or series which I’ve read in association with either family or friends, but these are the main ones I recall.


Have YOU enjoyed sharing books or stories with others?

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Reading together

Books are something that you can share with anyone. I do share a lot especially with my family and friends. Here are some books I have read with family and friends.

My older sister is probably the person I share with the most. She is ten years older than me but books and movies are something that we can talk about. It was what brought us together when we were younger and something that we still talk about now. Even though now we have a lot more in common.

Eragon trilogy and the Divergent trilogy. These series came out years apart from each other but they were ones that my sister and I read together. We will read a book and talk about things we likes and what we found disappointing. Then if a movie is made based on the book we will watch that together. Usually through the movie we talk about how the book was so much better.

I read to my children a lot. I have read them the books by CS Lewis, The Borrowers, The Secret Garden, Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry, The Little House on the Prairie series and so much more. I love seeing how they react to books that I enjoyed as a child. It is even better when I see my older two pick up a book we read together to read it on their own.

A dear friend of mine called me one day to tell me about a book by Kathleen Morgan which she had read that she thought I would enjoy. While we did not read the book at the same time, I did read it and then we talked about it. Both of us read the book through in a day. I went on to buy the rest of the books by that author and was not disappointed in any of them. My friend also read some more by her and enjoyed them as well.

Then there are a few groups on Facebook that I belong to. One of them is a virtual book cub. We will vote on a selection of books and the one with the most votes is what we read. Then we’ll meet and discuss the book. What we thought of the plot, the characters, the general feel of the book. It is a lot of fun.

Do you belong to any book clubs?

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