Saturday, July 14, 2012

A One of a Kind Gal: Behind the scenes with Keli Gwyn

Please welcome guest blogger Lacie Nezbeth, who has graciously agreed to share her interview with Keli Gwyn, author of “A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California.” Please feel free to visit her blog for more of her insightful writing.

First off let me say, Keli holds a very special place in my heart. She’s one of those rare friends that genuinely wants to help and support other people. I feel very blessed to know her, not only as an author, but as my friend. She’s been a true cheerleader…which is one of the reasons I’m thrilled to share with everyone about her debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado!
Today we get to go behind the scenes and peek into Keli’s life. I think you’ll find from her answers that she’s as good as it gets!
LN: How would you describe yourself? How would Gwynly describe you?
KG: Wow! Talk about starting with a challenging question, Lace. Lemme see. I could tell you what others say about me. They use words like sweet, encouraging, and organized, but I’m guessing you want me to answer for myself. In that case, I’d say short, detail-oriented, tenacious, generous, and—I’m being honest here—a bit high maintenance.
I asked Gwynly, and this is exactly what he said, “Energetic, caring, creative, and a bit OC.” Not to worry. Since my guy is also a bit OC, he can get away with pointing out that I am, too.
LN: You blog about your real-life romance with your husband. How do you find ideas to keep the spark alive?
KG: Hmm. I’d say I put my creativity to work. My marriage is very important to me, so I’m always on the lookout for things that will add a special spark and be fun for my guy.
For example, I know Gwynly wants to see the new Spiderman movie because he replied to a mutual friend’s Facebook update about it. Guess who’s going to pop by the theater on her way home from Curves and snag two tickets to a matinee as a surprise for her fellow? And, yes, you can look forward to a blog post about “Romance Super Hero Style.”
A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, CaliforniaLN: You write historical romance novels. Tell us what you find so appealing about that genre?
KG: There are those who might think historicals are appealing because things were simpler in the “olden days.” I think the opposite is true. We have so many modern conveniences we take for granted. They didn’t.
For example, Gwynly Skyped with a friend from Germany just the other day. A person in the Victorian Era would have had to send a letter by ship that could have taken weeks to arrive. I throw a load of clothes in the washing machine, and half an hour later they’re ready for me to toss in the dryer. A Victorian housewife would have spent an entire day doing her laundry. Computers make modern engineers’ calculations quick and easy. Those who built the Transcontinental Railroad did so with nothing but slide rules, pencils, and paper.
I marvel at how hardworking, determined, resilient, and strong our forebears were. Reading stories that showcase them and their many strengths encourages me to be more grateful for what I have today—and to appreciate those who made what I have now possible.
LN: Tell us about the agented/contracted part of your life. What’s it like? Do you just get to sit every day in your forested backyard with a cup of tea and a laptop writing the stories of your heart?
KG: The words that come to mind are full and fulfilling.
My plate is full, even more so than it was in my pre-contracted days. I’m no longer able to write only when I feel like it or to write just what I want. At any point in time, my agent is eagerly awaiting another story to shop. But I can’t write just any story that captures my mind. I have to get Rachelle’s nod before beginning so I don’t waste time on stories she doesn’t think will be marketable.
Being contracted and having a book out is every bit as fulfilling as I thought it would be—and then some. The outpouring of support from my family and friends has been incredible. I’m hard-pressed to keep up with the well wishes and offers from those eager to help spread the word about my book. And I must say, it’s pretty neat to hear from readers who loved the story and my characters.
LN: You’ve spent a lot of years building your online tribe. How have they made a difference in your personal and professional life?
KG: For starters, I don’t think of myself as having a “tribe.” That term strikes me as impersonal and kinda self-focused. I don’t want to interact with “the masses.” I much prefer one-on-one interactions that enable me to get to know people and what is going on in their lives. I have oodles of awesome friends who bless me in countless ways, just as you have, Lacie. I treasure each one and wish I had more time to cultivate the relationships the way I did in my pre-writing days.
LN: The video of you seeing your book for the first time was worth a thousand words, but can you describe what was going through your head as you held A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California for the first time?
KG: I was doing a lot more feeling than thinking, but I do remember wondering if I’d been wise to have Gwynly tape the moment. Why? Because I’m a charter member of the Weepy Women’s Club who was sure to shed some tears of joy, and when I cry, my face tends to get all splotchy. LOL
Seeing my book for the first time made everything real. That was way cool!
(Want to see Keli’s reaction to seeing her book in print for the first time, here it is: Keli Gwyn’s Debut Novel Delivery.)
LN: Give us some information about your upcoming book launch party. Where? When? What can visitors expect to experience?
KG: I know the party is billed as a book launch, but I prefer to think of it as a celebration. It’s not as much about the book as it is about sharing my joy with the many wonderful people who have been there for me and helped me reach this milestone.
I’m very excited about the party, which is an Old-fashioned Ice Cream Social that just so happens to be taking place on National Ice Cream Day. There will be gallons and gallons of Dreyer’s cream and oodles of tasty toppings, along with some awesome entertainment.
The Gold Rush Barbershop Chorus, a talented group of 18+ men, will be singing some love songs. Music is an important element in A Bride Opens Shop, so I’m delighted to have a string quartet performing some of the classical pieces from the story and my very own Gwynly and some of our friends adding a few of the folk tunes.
I’ll be dressed in my Victorian gown, and Gwynly will be sporting his frock coat, brocade waistcoat, top hat, and more. The El Dorado Chamber Senior Ambassadors are planning to wear their Victorian finery as well. Guests are invited to come in Victorian costume or Western attire if they’d like.
LN: Thank you so much, Keli, for taking the time to share with us! I hope you all have a chance to attend Keli’s book celebration this weekend! See you there!
Keli Gwyn's LaunchHere are the details…
Book Launch and Old-fashioned Ice Cream Social
Sunday, July 15, 2012
2-4 p.m
Discovery Hills Church
4270 Shingle Springs Drive
Shingle Springs, California
The church is easy to find. Take Exit 39 on Highway 50, head south, cross the railroad tracks, and you’ll see the church on your right. It’s only half a mile from the highway. For those who know the area, Discovery Hills is the church next to Buckeye Elementary School.
Keli will be happy to sign previously purchased copies of her book, but there will be books available for $12, sales tax included. Cash or check only please.

Keli Gwyn strikes gold with debut novel

 "Placerville author Keli Gwyn recreates the changing world of post-Civil War California with her new romance “A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California.” The newly released novel features Elenora Watkins, a widowed mother and storekeeper from Omaha. Mrs. Watkins and her young daughter come to the town of El Dorado to become partners in a general mercantile store run by Miles Rutledge. Sparks fly when she arrives and learns he expected a man.

Gwyn has filled her story with wit and adventure. Mrs. Watkins forges a path into a male dominated business so that she can care for her daughter. Rutledge fights her every step of the way under the influence of previous relationship. Young Matilda Watkins charms everyone with her precocious chatter."

Read more of my review here.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

'Vivaldi's Muse' Gives Readers a Look into 18th Century Music World

"A priest who writes music, a little girl who wants to sing opera and the political world of 18th century Europe come together in a rich novel of people and music. “Vivaldi’s Muse” presents the story of baroque composer-priest Antonio Vivaldi and Anna Maddalena Tessieri from a fictional perspective. Vivaldi’s hair inspired his nickname “il prete rosso,” the red-haired priest. Anna was the woman he took into his life as a student.

The delightful book covers the period from 1719 when they first met until 1741 when his death ended the relationship. Anna, also known as Annina Girò, became the constant in his changeable world of opera and intrigue. Vivaldi trained Annina as an opera singer, wrote music especially for her and managed her career."

Read more of my review here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

An Interview with Author Bob O'Connor

Bob O’Connor lives in Charles Town, West Virginia. He writes non-fiction and award-winning historical fiction set in the area, based on real historical figures. His first novel reached publication in 2006, and he is at work on his fifth one now.

Take a look at these titles: “The Perfect Steel Trap: Harpers Ferry 1859” dealing with John Brown; “The Virginian Who Might Have Saved Lincoln” about Ward Hill Lamon, a close friend of Lincoln’s; “Catesby: Eyewitness to the Civil War” introduced blacksmith Catesby, a slave to George Washington’s great grand nephew Lewis Washington; and most recently, “A House Divided Against Itself,” the story of the Culp brothers of Gettysburg. (Read my review here.) O’Connor brings a strong appreciation of history and a gift for storytelling to his fiction.

His non-fiction titles include “The U.S. Colored Troops at Andersonville Prison,” “Ranson, A Centennial History” and “The Life of Abraham Lincoln as President.” O’Connor finds little-known or under-distributed documentation and shares the find with readers.

While his website contains a lot of information about him, I had a few questions of my own for O’Connor. Join me on this brief interview.

Q. What was it about the Culp brothers' story that caused you to choose them for your book over other sets of brothers fighting on opposite sides?

A. They are a very rare case. Even though the expression "brothers fought against brother" is a common theme, and brothers did fight on opposite sides, but these two brothers fought against each other in two battles -- that is extremely rare.

Q. You told the story from a first person point-of-view most of the time. What advantage (or disadvantage) do you feel this gave you?

A. It let the characters each tell their own story. Since I had many of their letters (over 90 in total) I was able to get a good feel for what was bothering them and how they were handling the war situations.

Q. What contributed to your decision to use colloquial language in the book?

A. One of the characters was almost illiterate. He could not spell the same word the same way twice in the same sentence. I tried to show that throughout his sections.

Q.  Did you write the story in total for one character at a time or for each character along the timeline before progressing to the next scene?

A. I wrote the story within the context of the timeline of their actions.

Q.  As a researcher, do you have a favorite resource or does it vary for each book?

A. I go wherever the story takes me. For this book I used the Library of Congress, the National Archives, the Carlisle War College Research Center, the Adams County Historical Society to name a few.

Q.  Have you selected your next project yet? What should readers be looking forward to in your next project?

A. My next project is a sequel to “Catesby: Eyewitness to the Civil War.” Many of my readers say this is their favorite book and are really excited about a sequel.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Guest Posting from Bob O'Connor, Author of 'A House Divided Against Itself'

As a historical fiction writer, my basic style is taking real characters, researching their lives, following an actual time line and then writing a story around that.

In my book “A House Divided Against Itself” the story centers around four characters, all real people who grew up in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It is based on a true story. The historical fiction part is the dialogue I fabricate.

In this story, every character even if only mentioned once, is a real person and in a real situation.

My hours and hours and hours of research have led me to the discovery of over 90 letters from the participants. I also have detailed regimental histories. I peruse the military files of the individual soldiers.

 The combination of all the materials allows me to track daily where the troops were and what they were doing, in the military sense. The letters let me know what they were thinking or feeling, and how they were handling the war as individuals.

Persons familiar with Gettysburg and the Jennie Wade story will already know the ending of my book. What many Civil War enthusiasts will not know is the beginning of the story, which has never been told.

The beginning of the story contains the details on how two brothers, Wesley and William Culp, end up facing each other on the battlefields.

While most everyone has heard the expression “brother fought against brother”, it is quite rare to find two brothers who literally fought against each other. And for these particular brothers it happened not once, but twice.

The war definitely split their house in two, both during the war and long after the war.

Readers of A House Divided Against Itself will receive the satisfaction that radio announcer Paul Harvey described when he said “and now you know the rest of the story.”

A House Divided Against Itself is available on line at or at It is also available on all e-book formats. The author may be reached at

In Defense of Moderation - my guest blog for Jennifer Walker

Jennifer Walker has made the mistake of turning me loose on her blog ( That may be a little bit dangerous because I have a lot of strong opinions!

Today I’d like to use this soapbox to address the issue of moderation in writing. In fact, I’d like to argue in its defense. As a reviewer, I read dozens of books each month. Few things can numb a reader faster than overuse of any tool. From language to brutality to yelling in all caps in email, extensive repetition lessens the impact.

Writing, like science, can be a balancing act.

Remember Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind” and the uproar over Rhett Butler’s final line? If Butler had been cursing throughout the book, his parting shot would have been weakened to triviality. Mitchell’s moderation made the line a devastating slap in Scarlett O’Hara’s face. In my opinion, she made the right decision.

Gore falls into the same situation. I recently finished Bob O’Connor’s Civil War novel “A House Divided Against Itself.” Much of the action takes place at Gettysburg-a bloody, gory day if there ever was one. O’Connor handles the event with great discretion. He focuses on a handful of characters and what happens to them. The reader can better absorb the horror on the personal level; his moderation allows the reader to feel throughout the book. 

SEX! That got your attention, didn’t it? Human beings engage in sexual behavior on a number of levels. Not all of those levels end up in tangled bodies. If every encounter your characters have ends up in bed, you’ve lost some sexual punch. Try thinking “sensual” as an alternative to “sexual.” Throwing in a bedroom scene every few pages doesn’t make up for a poor storyline. A little discretion about sex can change the impact the act delivers.

Ask yourself these questions about the language, violence and sex you’re putting in your story:
  1. Is this a natural progression for the character(s)?
  2. Does this advance the plot or slow it down?
  3. What else might I use in this situation?
  4. Is this appropriate for the audience I’m trying to reach?
Even descriptions can go overboard. If you’ve just spent three full pages describing a flower, your reader may have given up on the book unless you’re writing a botanical guide. Find a good editor or critique group to help you stay on track with your narrative. “Show, don’t tell” doesn’t equate to “Beat them over the head with it.”

As writers, we have freedom of self-expression. Some writers use that as an excuse for excess. The good news about freedom-that we have the freedom to moderate our own writing-gets lost in the discussion. I’m in favor of expressing. I’d just like to encourage you to get the most impact for your expression by using moderation.