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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Welcome author Becky Lyles


Today, it is my pleasure to welcome author Becky Lyles to The Over 50 Writer. Becky and I met when I was invited to speak at the 2011 Idahope Writer’s Conference. She and her husband graciously hosted me in their lovely home. Let me tell you, the snow-laden mountains of Idaho appeal to me a lot more than the sweltering heat of the Colorado plains!

Welcome, Becky! Tell us about your new release, Winds of Wyoming.

Winds of Wyoming is my first novel. I’ve received great feedback from readers (some begging for a sequel!), and sales have been good. Here’s a brief overview of the book.
Fresh out of a Pennsylvania penitentiary armed with a marketing degree, Kate Neilson heads to Wyoming anticipating an anonymous new beginning as a guest-ranch employee. A typical twenty-five-year-old woman might be looking to lasso a cowboy, but her only desire is to get on with life on the outside—despite her growing interest in the ranch owner. When she discovers a violent ex-lover followed her west, she fears the past she hoped to hide will trail as close as a shadow and imprison her once again.

You have written short stories, novel-length work, and non-fiction. Which writing form is easier 
and why?

To be honest, writing is never easy for me, but for some crazy reason, I enjoy it. My two nonfiction books, “It’s a God Thing! Inspiring Stories of Life-Changing Friendships” and “On a Wing and a Prayer–Stories from Freedom Fellowship, a Prison Ministry,” are based on interviews. I love to hear and record other people’s stories. Fiction is fun because I can let my imagination loose and see what happens within 100,000 words or so.

You also have experience as an editor. Which do you prefer, writing or editing? What are your favorite elements of both?

I love rewriting/editing my own work and get a special joy out of eliminating unnecessary verbiage and finding better ways to say things. As E.B. White said, “the best writing is rewriting.”

Editing for other writers is a bit more challenging. I don’t want to crush their egos, yet I want to help them hone their stories, so I try to be encouraging as well as honest. One of my favorite elements of editing happens when I come across lines like “his eyes rolled up and down her body.” A good laugh in the midst of serious work is always refreshing.

If there were an aspect of writing you could eliminate from the process, what would it be?

That’s easy to answer—marketing. How crazy is it that we have to take time away from writing to promote our writing?

Your book On a Wing and a Prayer is a collection of stories about prison ministry. Your main character in Winds of Wyoming is a former inmate. Do you have special compassion for those who become incarcerated?

I helped lead weekly Bible studies at a women’s prison in another state. One of the first things I learned was that women behind bars are just like women on the outside. Ruined and doomed by our sin nature, we all stumble and fall, in one way or another, and suffer consequences. Some individuals suffer the consequence of incarceration.

In Winds, I wanted to first relay the fact that felons are real people and, second, show the struggles they encounter when they’re released. Men and women who attend Bible studies and prison chapel services love to sing God’s praises with other inmates. They pray together and support each other. Chaplains and volunteers encourage, teach and love them. However, when they’re released, they leave that tangible love and support behind and often return to the families and friends who enabled and encouraged their previous misdeeds.

Freedom can be difficult for ex-offenders. If they don’t quickly find a healthy support system, they can easily slide back into sin. Landing a job is often a struggle as is figuring out where they fit in society, which includes the question of whether or not they’ll be accepted in churches.

To highlight the challenges former inmates face, I created an ex-offender heroine who starts her life anew in a totally different environment, a heroine whose past refuses to release her. Plus, I added a great group of supporting characters to help her walk in the Light day by difficult day.

You became a novelist after age 50. What advice do you have to offer to those who feel their age is a hindrance to success?

Hang in there! I can now see that all the writing contests I entered and writing conferences and classes I attended plus all the writing books and articles I’ve read, along with daily writing and reading, plus life experiences have made me a writer I couldn’t have been even ten years ago. In fact, my sister just finished reading “Winds of Wyoming” and called to say how much she enjoyed it. Then she added, “I can’t believe how much your writing has improved.”

You said your readers are begging for a sequel. Are you planning to write one?

Glad you asked. I just finished penning the second book in the Kate Neilson series, Winds of Freedom. As soon as I input beta reader changes, I’ll send the manuscript to the editor, who will, I’m sure, suggest more changes.

Winds of Freedom is a bit more intense than the first book, has an even more sinister villain (or two), is set in the cooler months rather than summer, and involves the heroine’s struggle to not only deal with her own difficult issues, but to take care of her elderly aunt, who has MS and Alzheimer’s, and help her best friend, who’s in a desperate situation, plus encourage her husband with his ongoing ranching challenges.

Where can we learn more about you? 


Facebook: Rebecca Carey Lyles
Twitter: @BeckyLyles

Where can we order your books?



Though debut novelist Rebecca Carey Lyles grew up in Wyoming, she and her husband, Steve, currently live in the neighboring state of Idaho. She enjoys the creativity and beauty that abound throughout her adopted state as well as opportunities to hike, camp, snowshoe and cross-country ski in the midst of God’s grandeur. Favorite outdoor experience: While hiking in the Wyoming mountains one summer, she came nose-to-nose with (well, ten-feet from) a beautiful white wolf. Currently, she’s putting the finishing touches on a Winds of Wyoming sequel titled Winds of Freedom. 


Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Writer's Journey (Part II)

Please welcome back author Peg Phifer with the continuing story of her journey to publication. Peg will tell her story in a series of posts the third Thursday of every month on this blog. (Apologies for the error in my last post indicating the next installment in Peg's story would be posted on July 5th!) Leave a comment after any post in the series to be placed in a drawing to win a copy of Peg's debut novel, To See The Sun.

In my last post on The Over 50 Writer, I ended with: 

But another story took its place, this time with a female character named Tori, short for Victoria, and I titled it Totally Tori. “Tori” was the initial beginning of Erin in To See the Sun. 

Back to those days on my old 386 IBM clone I started a writers workshop on AOL's Writer's Club, along with two other writers. We'd meet online once a week in a dedicated chat room and talk about writing for an hour. Two of my very early members were authors Jack Cavanaugh and Alton Gansky. Honest. I was struggling with disappointment over having to give up on my rodeo-girl-with-leukemia story and trying to transition into a new story, new character, new plot, new setting, new everything.

One evening I mentioned my struggle and Jack asked for some details and we threw ideas back and forth for a few minutes. I was so thrilled! I still have part of that transcript. And Jack's willingness to take the time to encourage a fledgling writer was just the impetus I needed to send me down the road to eventual publication instead of giving up.

An aside note: During those years Jack was writing his American Family Portrait series and he was trying to find the right title for the final book which was set during the Viet Nam era. I immediately thought of all the PEACE signs, the Flower Children, sit-in protests, so I impulsively threw out "The Peacemakers." Jack liked it, the publisher liked it, and so it became. And Jack gave me credit for the title and I have an autographed copy of the book. How cool is that?

So, Totally Tori became my next WIP and I poured everything into it. As a seat-of-the-pants writer, I had no outline, no plot but I pressed on. Tori was a graduate of the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music in Milwaukee, and taught music in a local high school. For the junior/senior annual play, Tori decided she wanted them to do Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado. And here I got bogged down. 

Yes, I had been part of a community choir as an adult, and we did selections from The Mikado, but I wasn't a choir director, drama coach, or anything of the sort. Plus, I'd been away from Milwaukee far too long to remember much about it. Besides, much I was familiar with had drastically changed. 

So, I moved Tori up north into an area I was more recently acquainted with. 

To be continued . . .

Be sure to come back for more of Peg's story on Thursday August 23rd. 

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