Friday, February 21, 2020

Interview with G.K. Davenport, Dust of Lies








  








G.K. Davenport’s first novel, Dust of Lies, brings conspiracies of the past and mysteries of the present together in an engaging mixture of myth and fact. I met with G.K. over a glass of iced tea in my living room. 

I asked my first question. “Why do you use a pen name rather than use your legal name? Why did you choose this name?”

G.K. answered, “I use a pen name to honor my father. He gave me the name Gwendolyn Kay and   Davenport just came with the package. He said I reminded him of Guinevere in Camelot. I never really knew what that meant, but it made me feel special. So I chose to use GK Davenport.” 

I met G.K. when we taught at the same high school more years ago than most people have lived, and I didn’t know she had an interest in writing. Therefore, I asked, “How and why did you decide to write?”

            G.K. smiled.  “I have always loved writing and wanted to major in English in college. My dad had other plans and nudged me towards Chemistry. Marriage, a baby, and jobs that paid the bills crowded out all thoughts of writing. I loved the life I was given, and I never looked back.
            My job at Irwin Auto Co required me to travel. When I logged a lot of hours in a car with the same people, I got to know them well. This was the case with Cowboy’s grandson. He mentioned that his grandfather claimed to be the son of Jesse Woodson James. I found it interesting, but my curiosity needle did not move to any great extent. On one of the many trips from Oklahoma to Iowa, I suggested that we stop at the Jesse James museum. He emphatically said no. I pushed him a little harder. I wanted to learn about this famous outlaw. He looked me squarely in the eye and said, ‘They are not my people.’
            “How could they not be his people if Jesse Woodson James was his great grandfather? I quizzed, poked, and prodded until pieces of the story came out. But none of the pieces fit. I started my research and slowly things fell into place. The research began in 2007 and continued for five years. I read thousands of posts on ancestry sites and emailed any relatives I could find. This resulted in a huge collection of data, and I felt it should be shared. The sage flies in the face of conventional history, but I do believe that much of history is covered with the ‘dust of lies.' I asked Carolyn Leonard to take my work and write a book. She told me to write it myself and make it fiction. The story had to be told, even if only to preserve the family lore. So, I began to write in 2012.”


Family lore, history, research, I enjoy history myself. “All right,  please give the background to your book, Dust of Lies:  What sparked your interest?”

 “An intrigue with history and the truth.” 

An answer I understand but which led to my next question: “Does this book finish the story?”

G.K. shook her head. “The story is massive. I broke it into several parts. The first deals with the family lore of Cowboy. The second part will deal with John Wilkes Booth and the ties to the James people. The final will explore whether Jesse James died in 1882 or did he fake his death. It will also complete the search for the treasure.”

“Will there be sequels? If so, do you have titles yet?” I enjoyed Dust of Lies, so the idea of sequels caught my attention.

“I have plans for two sequels. The first, book two, Dust and Redemption will deal with John Wilkes Booth and trace him from Granbury, Texas to Enid, Oklahoma. It will connect Booth with the James saga.
            “The second sequel explores the character of J. Frank Dalton and his claim to be the one and true Jesse James. The title will be Dust and Deliverance.

Two sequels in the works means G.K. stays busy. “Please tell us about your hobbies, other interests, or activities during your leisure time, if you have any leisure time.”

“I used to paint quite a bit, both oil and watercolor. In fact, I have a watercolor I would like to use on a book cover if I ever write something that fits the image.  I haven’t painted in a while due to lack of time. I like to read to relax.”

I wonder if G.K. might like to paint the cover art for her next book or books? But, back to the questions, always more questions. “Interviewers often ask authors when they started writing or what triggered their interest in writing. I would like to know that, too, but I would especially like to know what triggered this book, what inspired you to write it?” 

“I answered a lot of this in the second question but I do have something to add. This family struggled with believing the words of their father and grandfather when everything seemed so contradictory. I felt a great deal of satisfaction in providing answers to many of them. There are still a lot of questions.
            "I have asked myself why I didn’t write a book sooner since I loved it early in life. The answer seems simple. I really did not write a book from scratch as many fiction writers do. I merely strung these amazing stories together in a fictional form. The story wrote itself.”

“Yes, I guess I do repeat myself at times.” I shrugged. “But, how did you feel when you completed your book?”

“I had mixed feelings. I hated to leave the characters after I became so immersed in their lives. I felt proud that I did it. I really, really did. I feared that others would not like the work, that it might appear amateurish or boring. I still spend a little time with each of these emotions.”

Now, I asked the age-old question. “What are your writing goals?”

G.K. shrugged this time. “My goal is to complete the sequels in a timely manner and leave the readers feeling that they made the journey with me.”

With a nod, I agreed. “I hope all authors have the same goal. Now, are you a member of a writing group? If so, how does being a member benefit you and your writing?” 

“Yes, I am a member of OWFI. Although new to the group, I am really excited to be able to interact with people that share the joy and excitement of writing. I can hardly wait for the spring conference.” 

A  side note: At the OWFI (Oklahoma Writers’ Federation Inc.) writers conference, her book will be available in the conference bookstore.

Back to the interview: “How did you come up with the idea for your book?”

“The more I heard about Cowboy, the more I became convinced that these stories must be preserved. From that point, it evolved into a book.” G.K. smiled.

My next question would be the most personal. “You dedicated Dust of Lies to your daughter. Will you share a bit about her and her influence on your writing?” 

            The author changed into a mother. “I thought long and hard about the words in my dedication. How do you express the beauty of a soul in a few short words? She was physically beautiful, but she was spiritually beautiful as well. Strong in will and soft of heart. She was truly my best friend. She believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. If you remember, she attended the OWFI conference with me in 2012. Her smile flooded the room when she heard my name announced for second place.
            “The next morning, I attended Sunday school with her. She stood up and introduced me. But she didn’t leave it there. 'My mother is writing a book!' she said, as her shoulders squared and her face beamed with pride. That sealed the deal. I had no choice but to finish.
            “She passed away in August of 2014. The book gathered dust, and I lost heart. When I stumbled upon the file in 2016, I wanted to delete it. But I remembered her words and called you instead. You know the rest of the story.
            “So you see, she was and always shall be the axis of my world. All of my thoughts and love still revolve around my precious Kim.”


            After a moment, I asked her if she had any other comments, and she replied. “I know that the readers might feel cheated by not having an ironclad conclusion to Dust of Lies. But, the journey is a process and not a destination. I think about the ending of Gone with the Wind. What did Scarlett or Rhett do after he walked away? Margret Mitchell did not know the answer. Each reader created her or his own ending.
            “I do not know the answers, and controversy rages among Jesse James buffs. Readers must decide for themselves if the Sentinels and Knights of the Golden Circle are real. I only provide the kindling to ignite the flame of curiosity.”

            I picked up my copy of Dust of Lies. “Would you autograph my copy, please?”


Dust of Lies can be purchased on the 4RV Publishing site and on other online stores such as walmart.com and amazon.com.
 


Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Advice & Inspiration for Writers from Writers



Back in 2010, my first book made it into the publishing world. Excited in so many ways, I embarked upon a virtual book tour to promote it far and wide. One of the questions asked of me in several interviews was, "What advice would you give to new writers?"

Here is how I responded:
You have the power to make your dreams come true. Use it. Don’t let self-doubt, naysayers, or an overcrowded schedule get in the way of making your dreams a reality. You’ll make the time to write if you want it badly enough. Track your time for a week so you can discover where time is wasted, and don’t be afraid to delegate chores to others. Use positive self-talk instead of putting yourself down. Those who haven’t been called to be writers may not understand your desires, but that doesn’t make them any less valid. Perseverance will go a long way.

I would probably share the same advice today. Too often, we allow outside influences to get in the way of our creativity. Too often, we let self-doubt steal our confidence. We, the wordsmiths, forget the impact of criticism on productivity.

I'm not sure if today is the day you are struggling to string together ten words to make a sentence or not, but my hope is to leave you with enough inspiration to keep you scribbling or typing away for the rest of the week.


"A word after a word after a word is power."
--Margaret Atwood

"Words are a lens to focus one's mind."
- Ayn Rand

"Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it's the only way you can do anything really good."
--William Faulkner

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
—Ernest Hemingway

“If a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood.”
—Peter Handke



Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of four children’s books including, A Christmas Kindness, released by 4RV Publishing. A blogger and book reviewer, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married. Visit Cheryl online at http://ccmalandrinos.com and her children’s book blog at https://childrensandteensbookconnection.wordpress.com

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Being a Writer – Learn the Craft of Writing


By Karen Cioffi

In the June 2010 issue of The Writer, author Jane Yolen discussed the need to learn the craft of writing in an article titled, “Dedicate Yourself to a Writing Apprenticeship.” She explained that the process is slow and long, but is necessary to being a writer, to learn the craft of writing.

If you’re wondering what the craft of writing is, it’s proper writing technique, grammar, and style. These writing elements include structure, formatting, clarity, and in fiction writing, plot, character development, point of view, and dialogue. Even knowing the particulars in the genre you write is important.

So, what exactly is the meaning of the word ‘craft?’

Wikipedia’s definition is, “A craft is a branch of a profession that requires some particular kind of skilled work.”

Merriam-Webster refers to ‘craft’ as an occupation requiring “artistic skill.”

And, TheFreeDicitionary.com mentions membership in a guild.

Between all three definitions we know that a ‘craft’ is a branch of a professional group or guild. It is a career or occupation, not simply a hobby.

Interestingly, there are various avenues that can be taken to become an accomplished or professional writer, but each one has the need for learning, practice, time, and commitment. Some writers may go to school and get degrees, others may learn from a coach or mentor, others from trial and error, failures and successes. But, whichever path is taken, there is a lot of work that goes into becoming experienced and knowledgeable, in being a writer. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect.

Today though, with the easy-to-do-it-yourself self-publishing explosion, writers may not be viewed as professionals. Certainly, most people have read a self-published book or e-book that lacks proper grammar, structure, and even clarity. These products are easy to spot, but yet they’re available for sale, and the authors consider themselves writers.

While it’s great that those who want to write have a vehicle to publish their own work, especially in this overwhelmed publishing market, those who don’t take the time to learn the craft of writing do themselves and others an injustice. They make the self-publishing book market murky and the label of ‘writer’ less professional.

This shouldn’t be the case.

Think of a professional musician. Imagine him playing an amazing piece, smooth, fluid, and beautiful – every note is perfect. Now imagine another musician; this one isn’t in tune, can’t read the music, misses notes, and sounds awful. Which musician do you want to be?

You should want to be the professional; the one who offers polished and experienced work; the one who earns a reputation for quality.

According to WritersHelper.com, it doesn’t matter what your experience level is, there is always room for improvement. Writers should strive to “study ways to improve their craft.” While this may take time and work, it is easy to find the needed help and resources.

To begin, do a search for online writing instruction; try the keyword “learn to write.” You can also check your local schools for adult education classes, or take some college writing courses. There is an abundance of writing information available, much of it free or very inexpensive; take advantage of it.

Being a writer means you need to learn the craft of writing, and continue honing your skills.
 

 
Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and successful children’s ghostwriter/rewriter. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move and as well as an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

You can follow Karen at:
LinkedIn  http://www.linkedin.com/in/karencioffiventrice
Twitter  http://twitter.com/KarenCV

And, get a copy of Karen's middle-grade chapter book, "Walking Through Walls."

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

How to Practice Intentional Writing




Have you ever seen the Christmas Spectacular starring the Radio City Rockettes in New York City? We have had the pleasure of watching it several times over the last decade. One thing that amazes me is that every time we have seen the Rockettes perform, each number is spot on. Each performer is right where she should be. They dance or sing in time with the music. I've never seen a mistake ... and, believe me, at this point I look for one.

As a former dancer, I appreciate and stand in awe of the amount of practice the Rockettes dedicate themselves to in order to pull off such an outstanding performance multiple times a day for two months. And, while dancing might come naturally to these performers, just like any athlete, certain moves or numbers may present challenges. Dance, like any sport, requires intentional practice.

Just like a dancer, writers can also be intentional with their craft. But, what does that mean, and why is it important?

Devise a plan to help you succeed

It's easy to just plop into your chair for 15 minutes and write something. It's not always easy to discipline yourself to do it regularly. It's also not likely you will go from writing sporadically to writing regularly as quick as snapping your fingers. Figure out a plan that works for your schedule to encourage you to write regularly. For example, the first week you could write with a prompt for two days. The second week you could write with a prompt for three days. The following week you could complete a short story over four days, and so on, until you create that regular habit of sitting down to write on a consistent basis.

Hone your craft

Just like a dancer practices over and again until she is satisfied with her performance, writers can be intentional about honing their craft. Choose a skill you wish to improve. You'll find plenty of online resources to help. You can also read a book on the subject or take a class. Then put what you learned to work by writing. A beta reader or an editor can help you gauge your progress.

Eliminate distractions

You can be intentional about eliminating distractions, too. How stellar of a performance would you expect from a dancer who stops in the middle of practice each time her cellphone rings? Trust me, it won't be pretty.

I'll be honest, this area is my largest struggle. Social media, household chores, and a litany of other things drag me away from writing all the time. Identify what distracts you and reduce or eliminate those distractions. Some days, I simply have to pick up my laptop and drive to a place without Wi-Fi so I can focus on writing.

When you sit down to list your 2020 writing goals, consider what you want your writing career to look like by the end of December. Approaching the new year with well thought out intentions will help you succeed.



Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of four children’s books including, A Christmas Kindness, released by 4RV Publishing. A blogger and book reviewer, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married. Visit Cheryl online at http://ccmalandrinos.com and her children’s book blog at https://childrensandteensbookconnection.wordpress.com