Saturday, April 28, 2012

Introducing Cindy Keen Reynders

Today it’s my pleasure to introduce Cindy Keen Reynders, author of three books in the “Saucy Lucy” series.  Cindy will be talking about her new release, 7 Year Witch, from her second series, “Wisteria Hedge Haven Clan.

Product Details

Synopsis of 7 Year Witch:
     Novice witch Miranda Rose’s seventh and final task for the Supreme Witch’s Council, is to find the legendary Philosopher’s Stone. Once completed, she’ll reach her lifelong dream - High Witch of Wysteria Hedge Haven. In a last ditch effort to locate the precious gem; she travels through time to 1877. In a dilapidated castle tower a powerful wizard refuses to relinquish the stone. In a fit of pique, the wizard, Balthazar, zaps her in a field just outside of Merry Olde London.
     Sir Maxwell Chadwick is the sole witness to a fiery ball of light streaking across the midnight sky. Curious, he investigates. Surprised to find a beautiful young woman among the smoldering ashes, he cannot deny his instant attraction to the alluring stranger. While Miranda appreciates the handsome duke’s assistance, she finds him annoying as his well-intentioned interference delays her mission.
     It doesn’t take Miranda long to realize the handsome duke holds the key to her heart, as well as her future. Fate, magic and the Seven-Year Witch disease takes the lovers on a rollicking, star-crossed adventure!

Alethea:  Where did you get the inspiration for your heroines?

Cindy: I love to write spunky, self-assured, optimistic, problem-solving women with a few quirks thrown in.

Alethea:  Why write series?

Cindy: I never started out with that intent in mind, but when the opportunity arose, I pitched the idea and publishers expressed interest. So I went for it. Always be ready to make your own luck!

Alethea:  Why did you begin a new series?

Cindy: I wanted to do something different from the mysteries, which I loved! It just seemed like time to move on, so I created Miranda Rose, a novice witch from the Wysteria Hedge Haven clan, and her sisters.

Alethea:  How do you go about writing?  Do you outline each chapter or just sit down and write?

Cindy: It’s kind of weird; I live with my characters 24/7. They are always with me, and every once in a while, they’ll “tell me” what needs to happen in the next scene, chapter, etc. I take lots of notes all day long, which litter my desk. I’m a firm believer in pre-writing, or using an outline to work from, and I take notes each evening about where I think the next scene should go. When I sit down to write the next morning, new ideas may pop into my head as I go along, and I’m flexible with that. But I at least have a roadmap of ideas to start from. There’s nothing worse than the blank page.

Alethea:  What is your favorite part of the writing process?  Your least favorite?

Cindy: I love the brainstorming part, where I sit down with a writing partner and throw out all sorts of ideas. My sister is great at helping me dream up ideas, which we do on our lunch break at work. We’ll usually eat our lunch in the car, and if people could hear us giggling and snorting with laughter at the outrageous things we think of, they’d think we’re off of our rockers. My least favorite part is marketing my work to editors, agents, etc. It takes so much time and editors/agents are often unresponsive to things writers send out (I know they’re buried with submissions.) Sometimes they are straight up rude and unprofessional. I hate that. It’s awesome to finally have a fantastic publisher, Angelic Knight Press. They are great to work with.

Alethea:  Your heroines are lovably humorous.  Does humor help you in your life as well as in your writing?

Cindy: If I didn’t have humor in my life, I wouldn’t have made it through some of the rough emotional patches I’ve been through. For example; after my divorce, my youngest son, 13 at the time, decided to live with his dad and new step mom. I was in Wyoming and he moved to Indiana. It didn’t take long, especially with the ex’s manipulation, for the kid to decide it wasn’t “cool” to know his mom anymore. We stay in touch a little on Facebook these days, but that’s about it. It’s been heart breaking. Thank goodness humor keeps me optimistic about the future. Smiling and laughing is healthy! And while there are tense moments in my writing and characters get scared, sad and apprehensive, I can’t keep it that way for long. I want them to buck up, stay positive and be proactive about solving the trouble. That’s the way we need to be in real life, I believe.

Alethea:  Besides a good story, is there anything you want readers to retain from your writing?

Cindy: I want to take them on a journey of laughter and love, where they can leave the real world behind and become immersed in a whole new dimension with beautiful characters and settings. Characters in my books experience sadness and trouble, along with happiness and joy. These are all things we experience in real life, but in the end, I want to leave readers with hope and joy in their hearts, along with determination to overcome their personal difficulties.

Alethea:  Give us one fact about the author Cindy Keen Reynders or her writing that nobody knows yet.

Cindy: Every time I finish the first draft of a book I’m excited. I let it sit for a while and when I go back to it, there are often many things I hate, along with things I really like. I’m often overcome with self doubt and wonder if I know what I’m doing. I’ll fix the book up and polish it so I like it again, then start the process of sending it off to editors, agents, etc. Then I get afraid I’ll never be able to write anything again, that no more good plots and characters will come to me. I feel like I should call it a day, quit writing, and be glad for what I’ve done…that sort of thing. Luckily I do come up with new plots and I’m able to write new books.  I usually stew about it for a while, though. Lack of self confidence is my biggest cross to bear!

My Photo
Cindy Keen Reynders

Alethea: Thank you, Cindy, for a great interview letting us get to know you and your characters.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Fiction About Willow Vale

          There is a legend growing around my novel, Willow Vale.  While I’m flattered that readers think Willow Vale is a true story, the fact is that my fictional account of Francesca Sittoni’s adventures of coming to America is truly just that: fiction.
            Question from Sheila Nelson:  I do have a question about Willow Vale. In reading it I couldn't help wondering just how much of it is really fiction—things you invented to punch up the story—what is factual information—as much as family stories can be factual—and what things you guessed just to fill in the blanks and using historical information you uncovered.
            Fact: That’s my grandmother’s passport picture on the cover of Willow Vale.  Even without makeup ever touching her face, Nona was a beautiful woman, remarkably pretty even into old age.  Willow Vale is dedicated to her memory.  My grandmother immigrated to America after World War I, the new bride of a Tyrolean immigrant coal miner in Wyoming, just like Francesca.  From there, my grandmother’s real story and my character Francesca’s entirely made-up story share a few basic facts common to all immigrants.
            Willow Vale’s coal mining town of Hawk Point and the nearby railroad town of Rock Creek are fictitious, a useful amalgam of historic coal camps in Wyoming.  Because I don’t speak or read Italian, it was difficult to find the information I needed on the war’s crushing effect on the tiny communities of mountainous Val di Non, a gateway in the war’s path between Austrian and Italian armies.   I had better luck finding useful information on European immigration to America, the Union Pacific’s coal mines in Wyoming, and dry farming and homesteading in Wyoming in the wet years preceding the later drought and Great Depression.
            Comment from Sheila Nelson: I didn't realize that Francesca was so far removed from your grandmother; I'd imagined that many of the things in the story really happened to her. Well, that's good. It shows you made her realistic. And as for all the historical details, it must have been hard, if not impossible, to get them all correct. It seems difficult to get details from people who were there at the time to match up because everyone experienced them differently and memories tend to alter with age.
            Fact: One of the reasons for writing Willow Vale was the search for answers to the why of my grandmother’s immigration to America.  The language barrier between grandmother and grandchild yawned wide, and then there are just things adults find excruciatingly frustrating to try to explain to an otherwise loveable tot asking over and over again, “But why?  But why?”   Nona could not explain why her father owned land and yet they were so very poor or why her mother could not afford to give her even a penny for candy when she was a child.  She hadn’t the words to make me understand the lack of nutrients in Val di Non’s soil, the inability of the valley’s poor farmers to afford seed and fertilizer, the lack of railway or other rapid means to get a farm’s produce to market, the dead end of small plots of land and the many sons to divide it among.  After the war, while Val di Non struggled to rebuild new markets for its produce in Italy because its developed Austrian avenues were cut off, cheap foreign food began to compete on the European market.
            I want to stress that my grandmother’s verbal skills in English never quite caught up to her reading ability.  She read American newspapers every day.  A falsehood surrounds the education of European women of her era: she used to say she had reached the third grade.  As a kid, I was shocked.  As an adult who has done my homework, the answer to whether she was well educated is more complex.  What she had reached was the third level of education, such as the American primary school, middle school, and high school.  Austria at the time of Nona’s school attendance was proud of its educational system under the auspices of the Empress Maria Theresa.  Nona spoke proper Italian in addition to the Nones Blot dialect of Val di Non.  I wouldn’t be surprised to learn she spoke German as well.  She knew American politics and kept up with events here and in Europe, and I’m saddened that I didn’t make her fictional counterpart Francesca’s educational attainments more clear.
            Fact: My grandmother was married to a difficult man named Cesare, just like Francesca.  But where the fictional circumstances of Francesca’s life lead her to marry three times, my grandmother was married once, for about 45 years, to the same man.
            My heroine Francesca agrees to a contract of one year as housekeeper to Wyoming rancher Kent Reed.  Fact: My uncle worked on a ranch near Jackson on the Snake River, and I’m glad that my description of ranch life is so real readers think my family actually owned a spread in Wyoming.  But my grandpa worked in a coal mine.  My dad was a railroad man.  My family lived in a small house in a railroad town.  The nearest my family got to a ranch was visits to my aunt and uncle when I was a child.  
            I am thrilled with the attention Willow Vale is getting, and reviews help spread the word.  But thanks for following along as I try to clear up the fiction starting to grow up around my fiction.

See also: allthingswriting.blogspot.com’s “5 Reasons Bad Book Reviews Can Be a Good Thing.” 



(Posted with thanks to Sheila Nelson and Kaye George.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Historical Novel Review of Willow Vale

Willow Vale reviewed by Anita Davison on historicalnovelreview.blogspot.com :

The narrative is well crafted as a portrait of the changing attitudes of two people thrown together in a situation they are unprepared for, and I soon stopped being frustrated with Francesca’s unreasonable behaviour as she slowly came to terms with her situation. Their guarded relationship eventually turns to love on both sides, and glides nicely to a satisfactory conclusion.

Read entire review.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Willow Vale reviewed on Lilibet's Book Blog

Review of Willow Vale by Lilibet King on "Lilibet's Book Blog":

Well-Written Novel of an Immigrant in Wyoming

I have visited South Tyrol in Italy, which is the area of Francesca’s birth.  Alethea Williams brings across both the beauty of the land and the attitudes of its residents after the war.   She ably describes the frustrations that Francesca faced dealing with a language barrier and uncertainty over American customs.  This book is definitely worth reading.

Read entire review of Willow Vale here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Chain Bookstore Adventures

I didn’t have a historical blog column ready, so thought I would catch you up on my latest adventures in publishing a first novel instead.
Willow Vale is set in southwest Wyoming.  My daughter tried twice to get Willow Vale on the shelf in the local southwest Wyoming chain bookstore.  Sixty highway miles, a lot of waiting around, and two months later, the only answer my daughter has been able to get from the chain bookstore is, “Call corporate headquarters.”
            Publicity for Willow Vale in southwest Wyoming has been good: a big story on me and my novel by Connie Wilcox-Timar with my picture in the Rock Springs Daily Rocket-Miner.  Just this last weekend Willow Vale made the cover of the Sweetwater Guide in southwest Wyoming: a nice, informative article with a nice, big picture of the book, distributed free all over the county. 
My friend Marcia, author of Staking Her Claim: Women Homesteading the West, went in to the chain bookstore on my behalf on March 23.   One perk of being a published author: Marcia got to talk to a back-room person, who said Willow Vale didn’t show up on Ingram’s distribution list on the store’s computer, so therefore the store couldn’t order my novel.
I started trying to follow up on why a southwest Wyoming chain bookstore couldn’t order a novel of southwest Wyoming interest that was getting good southwest Wyoming publicity.  I called twice on March 23, once on March 24, and once on March 26 when I finally got to speak to the same back-room person who had so rashly given Marcia her name.  The back-room person said the book wasn’t showing up on the store’s computer and that I should call my publisher and see if there was a problem.  Another phone call on March 29 revealed that the problem wasn’t Ingram’s or my publisher’s.   This back-room person apparently employed part-time by the chain bookstore couldn’t order just any book.  Willow Vale had to show up on an approved list on her computer from corporate headquarters’ computer.  But she would e-mail corporate headquarters and find out why a novel of southwest Wyoming local interest wasn’t on the approved list of southwest Wyoming local books on the company’s corporate computer.
I tried on April 5 to see if the part-time back-room person at the chain bookstore had gotten an answer from corporate headquarters.  She wasn’t in, but I got to speak to another person.  I told once again how I was trying to get a novel of southwest Wyoming local interest ordered in to their southwest Wyoming store.  She said Willow Vale wasn’t showing up on the computer, but she would talk to the store manager and I would be called back.  Uh-huh, this story is certainly starting to sound familiar.
The morning of April 10, I called to follow up with either of the two persons I had spoken with about Willow Vale.  By this time the first one had quit and didn’t work at the chain bookstore anymore, and the second wasn’t available.  (All the employees of this particular chain store must be part-time on a nightmare schedule because they’re the very dickens to reach on the phone during what I thought were normal business hours.)  But I patiently went through the whole saga about trying to get my novel of local interest on the shelves of their local store with yet a third back-room person.  This third person said Willow Vale wasn’t showing up on their computer.  When I asked about maybe consigning a couple copies of the novel as I had good local publicity and people asking me where to buy the book locally, she said, ”Oh, you want the sell-back program where you can sell us used copies of books you bought from us?”
I said, “Forget it,” and hung up.
I wouldn’t be one bit surprised to see this chain follow Borders into bankruptcy.
Support your indie bookstore!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Willow Vale on Midwest Book Review

From Margaret's Bookshelf, April 2012 Midwest Book Review:

Circumstances can throw us into peril after peril, but they can also bring us a chance at joy. "Willow Vale" is a novel of an accumulation of tragedies from Alethea Williams, writing the story of periled immigrant Francesca Sittoni, a woman struggling to get by, widowed, pregnant, and already a mother. Taking a job with a Wyoming rancher who has his own pile of problems, she finds hope may not have abandoned her yet. "Willow Vale" is a moving read of the pains of immigrant life and the woodchipper that life can be.
http://midwestbookreview.com/rbw/apr_12.htm#margaret