Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Meet the Author: Anne Louise Bannon

Today, Anne Louise Bannon releases Death of An Heiress, Book 4 in her Old Los Angeles historical mystery series. This fascinating story takes us back to 1895, a time when women doctors were not easily accepted, tensions between landowners and workers ran high, and dead bodies kept showing up in unexpected places. 

Anne kindly answered a few questions for your enjoyment:

--Can you tell us a little about yourself? Not much to tell. I've been writing most of my life, starting with my first novel at age 15. It wasn't necessarily a good novel, but I wrote it. I've worked as a journalist and TV critic. My husband and I write a wine blog, He makes wine and bread. I make soap, bread, and sew clothes. We like to joke that we make the things most sane people buy. We live in Southern California with our basset/beagle mix TobyWan, and cats Medusa, Xanax, and Benzedrine.

Anne's cat, Xanax

--When did you begin to write stories? Well, apart from the novel I mentioned above, I wrote my first story in fourth grade as part of a classroom assignment. It was about a jungle expedition and had knives falling out of trees and all sorts of ridiculous stuff. But then, the summer I turned 15, I realized that if I was going to get away with doing all the daydreaming I was doing, I should write it down. So, I did.

--How would you describe your writing process? Ever-evolving. Everything starts in my head, though. Usually, the characters start talking to me (it's very noisy inside my head). Or I'll see something weird and think, "That's interesting. Maybe useful . . . ." It's a lot harder for me to write if I haven't had significant time to think about it. That's one of the reasons I spend so much time walking. Once I've got a story, I'll find different ways to organize it, depending on my mood, and what toys I have to play with. 

Yes, I'm a geek. If there's some new bit of software, I'll play with it. Right now, my fave organizing tool is Aeon Timeline (love the new upgrade!!). I also love "handwriting" my notes on my iPad with GoodNotes. That has been an amazing experience - being able to take advantage of the neural benefits of handwriting while still being able to take my notes everywhere without having to haul around a file folder or worry about bits of paper getting lost.

Finally, I apply my fanny to the seat of my chair and start cranking. Once the characters are talking, things usually go smoothly. Sometimes, they're a little more reticent. But I keep going. That's how a book gets done.

--What brings you joy in writing? Dorothy L. Sayers in Gaudy Night has her character Harriet Vane talking to someone else about how it feels when she writes something. It's absolutely right, and she knows it to her core. I forget the exact quote, and Google didn't help me just now. But I remember reading that and thinking. Yes. Hell, yes! That is it! That is the moment. There is nothing better than writing a bit of narrative, a really good turn of phrase, and knowing that you have nailed it. And I generally have.

-- How do you connect with other writers? with readers? I connect with other writers through various writing groups, such as Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and the Historical Novel Society. It was actually a smaller group that connected me with two of my best friends, but it was for writers. As for connecting with readers, I do everything I can. I give talks at the drop of a hat. I hand out cards every so often. I sell books to my husband's home winemaking club. All sorts of things.

--How did your blog evolve into what it is today? It started with a novel I wrote in the late 1980s, a romance between a U.S. president and his aide, that never really ended. So, in 2007 or so, when blogging was just happening, I decided to turn that novel into a blog - hell, blogs don't end, right? That became White House Rhapsody, which is currently only available as an ebook on Smashwords. As time went on, I folded my TV blog, then decided that for my personal blog, I'd write about the stuff I was really interested in. But then, I had this series of novels that I'd written in the early 1980s that never went anywhere, and while they needed re-writing, they were still pretty good, and since I had one fiction serial. Next thing I know, I'm putting those on the blog. 

The wine blog,, happened as a joint project with my husband, and we featured the kinds of wines no one had ever heard of, such as negrette and blaufrankisch. But then we realized that winemakers who were women and/or people of color weren't getting any press, and that profiles and wine education got us more readers than tasting notes. So, that's the current focus of that blog.

--What is the best writing advice you’ve received? Best?? Hmm. I've gotten a lot of advice in my time, but not much that really sticks out as good advice, for some reason. I'm always willing to learn, don't get me wrong. I do remember this one incident. In my novel Fascinating Rhythm, there is a scene where author Freddie Little is telling his new friend and editor Kathy Briscow about how his book had been with several other editors, and no one could offer any suggestions that made sense to him until he got Kathy's letter, and it was as if Moses had come down from the mountain and said, "This is the way thou shalt go." 

Well, I'd polished and re-written Fascinating Rhythm. Re-written and polished. Then sent it around to the editors and agents, and got lots of good comments and lots of things that they thought needed fixing, but nothing consistent. Then this one editor said, "It needs more urgency." Bing! Bing! Bing!! It was exactly like the scene in the book. Moses had come down from the mountain. And that's what I fixed.

--What would you tell other writers on how to improve their writing life? Develop persistence. You'll need it at every phase of the process, from getting your novel together and written, to putting it out there, to selling it after it's published. 

Secondly, try everything. I was at a talk once where the speaker was proposing this very time-intensive, nit-picky, and formulaic process for editing. I remember watching her and thinking that there was no way in hell I would get anything done if I did that. And yet, when I got stuck on a scene a few days after that talk, I looked up her acronym, and it got me out of the scene. That's why my process is ever-evolving. There's always something new to learn and you can learn a lot even from what doesn't work for you.
Anne with TobyWan

Thank you, Anne, for sharing your story-telling background and giving us such excellent writing advice. Your passion for writing, your energy, humor, and curiosity come through clearly.

I first met Anne as part of Sisters in Crime. She is a prolific writer. In addition to the Old Los Angeles series, you can check out her Kathy and Freddy 1920s mystery series, the Operation Quickline (romance/espionage). All of Anne's books are available on Amazon.  I can promise you intriguing characters, realistic settings that immerse you in time and place, and a really good read. And, don't forget her blog!

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

And what's next?

In two weeks, we leave for a car trip through Canada, already looking forward to summer, blue skies, and driving through the wilds from Banff to Vancouver, where we'll stay a month in an apartment with a nook for writing.

My laptop is ready, but I am not. Doctor appointments and news a dear friend has died, as other dear friends stuggle with Covid mean I'm looking forward to a respite, a time of healing.

I haven't been writing.

Or I write a little one day and nothing the next.

This morning, I gave myself a shake and settled down to make that pros/cons list for I have two projects simmering away. 1) to finish Scattered Stones, the fourth and final book in my historical fiction series that's percolating away with notes and edits from beta readers, hopefully close to completion, and 2) to start on that next new and shiny story: The Last Sarcophagus, a mystery set in Egypt.

And then I noticed a new review from MAR, an anonymous reviewer on Amazon. She reviewed four of my books in under a month -- and gave extraordinarily helpful feedback on story strategy, character development, and (aargh!) typos! On all four books! I can't even say thank you because I don't know who she is!

Thank you, MAR, wherever you are, for helping me see what's next. I'll finish Scattered Stones and then dig right into those changes you suggest. I'm packing my notes, laptop, and we're ready.

May your own summer bring you flowers, moments of peace and celebration, and if you write, may you discover many good words.

Lilacs in Manito Park (June 2022)

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

IWSG June 1: Why do we write?

 How did we get here to the first of the month so fast? You probably already know that the first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. 

On this day, we post on our blogs to talk about writing. Some of us will reveal doubts or discuss struggles or triumphs. We try to visit at least 12 others in in the group and offer words of understanding or encouragement. For on this day, we writers are a unique online community of support. As our fearless leader Alex Cavannaugh says, "Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!"

This month's optional question: When the going gets tough in writing the story, how do you keep yourself writing to the end? If you have not started the writing yet, why do you think that is? What do you think could help you get started?

Setting aside the horrific news that shapes and saddens our world, this month has brought unexpected twists -- and not plot twists! 

First, I followed that tried advice to put my rough draft aside while waiting for beta comments. As those comments slowly trickled in, I was reluctant to start again with revisions. Perhaps part of me truly longed to be finished! I doubted my ability to do justice to this story I loved. Another week passed with no progress. And then, another. I met with a trusted writing friend who said, "You have to tell your story. No one else can!" Just like that, her belief pushed me back into a writing routine.

A friend confided he was losing his sight, and he just wanted to finish his book. Could I help him? Sure, I could and did. Only sheer stubborness kept me working on my own writing -- and copy editing his. Do you realize how much we take our sight for granted? How many typos, extra spaces, or lapses in story telling we might make if we can't see? How difficult is it to accept what has changed and to ask for help?

An e-mail brought news that a dear friend we've travelled the world with suffered a stroke and now is in hospice. At our age, such news is not unexpected, and yet, I feel helpless. Our only recourse is to persevere with our beliefs and actions, in hopes of making our world a little better.

I am grateful for every moment with those I love, for writers and readers, grandchildren, family dinners (regardless of how chaotic), for friends near and far. This moment, this now, is what we have. 

Our favorite dogwood tree,
taken on a daily walk (May 2022)

Consider joining the Insecure Writer's Support Group: Just go to the IWSG's home page and sign up! Post your thoughts on your blog and visit our co-hosts for the June 1 posting: SE White, Cathrina Constantine, Natalie Aguire, Joylene Nowell Butler, and Jacqui Murray!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

Thank you for stopping by. I hope you feel supported in your own creativity -- and that the coming month brings us all healing, strength, and the ability to cherish each day.