This week on Author on the Couch,
(the story behind the storyteller)
I’m conducting a session with
Sandy is giving away an ebook of SONG OF THE ANCIENTS. I’ll tell you how to be eligible at the end of the blog.
Me: Tell me about an experience that had a profound impact on your life.
Sandy: I think I’d have to say the birth of my son, Ian. My marriage and his birth are jammed together in his mind, into one big event, since I was six months pregnant and about to turn 40 when he was born. I’d been stressing about that birthday, and had decided I would live happily as a single working woman. I owned my own house. I had a good job. I was happy.
Then a mutual friend set me up on a blind date with my husband. We slept together after about three months. Boom! I was pregnant, despite being on the pill. Plus, my doctor had told me I had a tipped uterus and might never conceive. His mother liked to tell me, “You just hadn’t met the Mason sperm.” Ha! I guess she should know.
Anyway, I feel like my second life began at 40. After much discussion and debate, we got married, and Ian was born. We moved from the Midwest to Arizona, built a new house (On a prayer and good credit history. Neither of us had found a new job in Phoenix yet), found a new job. All in that one year, the year I turned 40. After that year, I gained the confidence to feel I could do anything.
What personality trait of yours helps you most an author?
Sandy: Curiosity. I drive my family crazy, and I suspect they would be less kind. Probably say I’m nosy, not curious. But that’s where I get my ideas. For instance, at my stepson’s high school graduation, we sat next to a lady who started to cry quietly during the ceremony. The rest of my family turned away to give her privacy. I turned and hugged her instead, and asked, “Would you like to talk?” She told me she was so grateful her son was walking in the graduation ceremony. “He attempted suicide last weekend.” After the ceremony, we sat outside and talked until our boys changed clothes and came out to meet us. I took a picture of mother and son together. I’m convinced they will, someday, end up in one of my stories. This happens to me so often, my family has coined a phrase to describe my behavior: “Oh oh. She sees a story here.” In my defense, I majored in journalism and worked as a reporter, so I’ve been trained to ask questions.
Me: What personality trait of yours hinders you most an author?
Sandy: Procrastination. To counteract this fault, I am a “plotter” when I write. I outline thoroughly. It’s much easier to push my butt into the chair and write when I have a detailed map to work from.
Me: What was your high point as a writer? What was your low point as a writer?
My high point—and my low point—came with my first contest. I entered the Pacific Northwest Writers contest. They called and said I was a finalist, so I immediately registered and attended their conference. I had a blast, got to wear my “finalist” badge the whole time, and collected requests for partial manuscripts, even a couple of fulls, from a half-dozen agent and editors. At the final banquet, they announced winners, and my picture went up on the screen for the Fantasy category! I could barely breathe.
Turns out, the contest judge was one of the agents who had requested a full manuscript, with a six-week exclusive read. Sounds like every reader’s wet dream, right? There was just one problem: The novel wasn’t finished. I had pitched it as finished, figuring I’d have plenty of time to write those last 100 pages when I got home. Don’t ever do this, folks. I begged the agent for some time to “polish” the novel. I’m sure she saw through my ruse. The bad news: I rushed through the final third of the book in a panic, and submitted that part in its first-draft state. She took three months to read it, while my other agent requests grew colder and colder. Then she rejected me. As she should have, by the way. The manuscript wasn’t ready.
There was a silver lining, however. It was a cash prize contest. The $600 eased the pain a bit.
Sandy: I have two. The first is: “Be a Warrior, not a Worrier.” The second is from Carlos Castaneda and his philosophy of the warrior: “Act impeccably. Treat each day as if it is your last on earth.”
Me: Who is your book boyfriend? Why?
Sandy: Severus Snape, in the Harry Potter series. He haunted me in book 6, The Half-Blood Prince. Good and evil, yin and yang. Then J.K. Rowling killed him off in book 7. I thought he’d been a fascinating, complex character, and…poof! Done in by a snake without even a decent fight. Of course, he is redeemed after the final pensieve scene. And Harry names his son after him. But still, I didn’t feel complete. Fulfilled.
So, when I began my own book, SONG OF THE ANCIENTS, I started fiddling around with that personality type for my main male character, Nicholas Orenda, a man who is infinitely talented, but flawed. A character who will consider bending any moral code to accomplish his goal. Is he a villain? No. Can you depend on him unconditionally? Well, you tell me. Have you ever loved a bad boy and been disappointed? Nicholas is Samantha’s nemesis, a thorn in the protagonist’s side. In her eyes—and maybe the reader’s eye also—he appears to be the bad guy. He acts like the antagonist, ferreting out Samantha’s inner weaknesses. But later, when he’s satisfied that she is worth saving, he will switch sides and be her staunchest supporter. Just like life. Because really, is love ever easy?
Me: Okay. You’ve convinced me. Going to Amazon to buy SONG OF THE ANCIENTS right now. Tell me more about this book.
What would you die for?
Samantha Danroe doesn’t believe in magic. Her husband cured her, by having his first affair three days after putting a wedding ring on her finger.
She doesn’t’ believe in ghosts. Then her dead mother’s ghost rises from a Halloween bonfire and warns that soon someone will try to kill her.
She certainly doesn’t believe in witchcraft, until she becomes the prey in an ancient war waged between good and evil waged in Sedona’s magical vortexes—a war whose rules she must learn quickly to stay alive.
To protect herself she turns to the mysterious Nicholas Orenda, a sixth-generation witch on the trail of a creature who is systematically killing off his family. According to his family’s prophecy, three will be sacrificed to the dark. His mother and grandmother are already dead. He doesn’t have time to play by the rules, even if Samantha lands in the path of his deadly hunt.
What would you die for?
Can Samantha find the strength to defeat a supernatural killer and prevent the third sacrifice? Or will she be the catalyst that opens the gate to the Underworld?
Readers interested in witchcraft, shamanism—or just the dark side of the supernatural world around us—will enjoy this paranormal suspense, Song of the Ancients, written by a real-life Wiccan high priestess.
Me: Share with us a favorite paragraph or two from your newest release.
I leaned against the boulder to wait in silence. As soon as I quit my restless stirring, I felt the soul of this sacred place, a primordial energy lodged deep in the rocks beneath my feet. It pushed and swelled here, swayed and gave there. I felt the water deep inside the earth, saw the bones embedded in her striations. The love of the ancestors pushed its way toward my feet on the surface. I put my hand on the rocky soil and felt a heartbeat beneath my palm.
And something else, something heartless and unnatural which didn’t belong.
My eyes filled with tears. What was the emotion? Fear. Anger. Hate. The feeling wormed its way into my mind, a creeping presence of steam and dark. It felt as though something was festering inside the earth, a rotten writhing thing caught in the crevices of sandstone. I opened my mouth and from somewhere deep within me a sound emerged. My strangled wail rolled down the butte and resounded through the canyon.
The shaman stopped carving to watch me. He looked as surprised as I felt by my sudden outburst. “Hollow bone,” he muttered, “and a white woman.” He shook his head, and the raven flapped away with a guttural chuckle. Watching the black bird disappear below the plateau, he shrugged his bony shoulders. “Guess my guides were right.”
I shivered, shaking off the feeling of darkness pressing down on me, despite the late afternoon sun. “Pardon me?”
“Don’t mind this old man. Talkin’ to myself comes from livin’ alone so long.”
“I doubt you say anything without a reason.”
He narrowed his eyes. I knew he was measuring me, assessing my spiritual core. Though Nicholas had felt me lacking, Sinclair seemed satisfied with what he saw.
He shrugged. “It is an old saying of my people. Ohlo-geca hohu.Hollow bone. It means being in tune to the earth, being a channel for energy. You felt it, didn’t you?”
I shivered. “I don’t know what it is, but I felt something.”
“Sure you did,” Sinclair said. “This is a sacred site. The bones of my wife’s people are in this ground. You felt them reactin’.”
“Reacting to what?”
Sinclair closed his knife and dropped it in his shirt pocket. “Don’t know exactly, not yet. But somethin’s here and it don’t belong.”
Sandy: I chose this passage because I love the Lakota concept of being a hollow bone: A conduit for pure energy. At this point in the story, Samantha is just beginning to realize that she has abilities that other people don’t possess. The old medicine man, Sinclair, recognizes that she is special. He really doesn’t want to work with a white woman. He especially doesn’t want to teach her his sacred ways. But his guides have told him he must, whether he likes it or not. I love it when Fate grabs a character by the short hairs and demands compliance.
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