Happy New Year

Rig copyWow it’s new year’s eve already!!! 2012 was quite a year for me and my family. My big kid started school, my little one started kindy. We went on a super holiday to Sydney, managed to get a few things done around the house and went to the Zoo a lot. I had my third book – The Homework Goblin approved for publishing, completed the NaNoWriMo, two blog challenges and launched my Stitch Says blog for interviews and reviews. On the work front I went to Melbourne for the Labrador national (quite an experience), Goldcoast for the Youth Mentor Conference and managed to secure TAFE RPL’s for our students. Personally I achieved the writing goals I set, played heaps of volleyball, and enjoyed spending times with my family.
So what does 2013 have in store. Well it’s really anyone’s guess, but here are some things I am looking forward to:
Lots more family time (more zoo visits and a holiday later in the year)
Getting The Homework Goblin published
More organised marketing of Ghostnapped and Obi the Super Puppy and the Mystery of the Red Mist
More interviews and reviews on the Stitch Says blog
More blog challenges
Finally getting the TAFE / SACE stuff worked out for Labs ‘n Life
Hopefully another book on the publishing line!!!!
Chapter book challenge in March
NaNoWriMo in November
and lots lots more – I certainly have a busy year planned. I look forward to sharing it with you all and making new connections through my blogs. Remember to email me if you would like an interview or a review on Stitch Says (ashley@ahowland.org). Have a fantastic new year’s eve and bring in the new year in a positive and excited frame of mind! 2013 is set to be a great year, so until then – have fun!!!!

Interview with Roger M. Woodbury

RogerWhen did you decide to become an author and what impact has this had on your life?
This is a surprisingly difficult question to answer and I have thought about this for years. I decided to become an author when I was in the fifth grade. As far as I can recall that was when I wrote my first story which was about a woman named Carol Carlisle. She was a “space girl” and was involved with a hero named Buzz somethingorother…I don’t really recall him much. The story was written in school as a classroom project and I don’t remember what it was about, other than Buzz and Carol were on a hazardous mission in a space ship. All I remember now is that Carol was a beautiful blonde girl and wore a short skirt. Undoubtedly the story was prompted by my favourite Saturday morning television program which was called “Space Patrol” and the hero and heroines were similar characters. Of course there was no “romance”…I was just ten or so at the time but everyone in the class liked the story so much I thought I should write more like it.
Obviously to make this interview story perfect, it should end that I went on to publish my first novel at sixteen and the rest should be history. Nothing like that is the case. Life turned out quite differently although I would write all the time from then on, but only to fill certain squares on my road through life.
I fought with writing in college. For example, I remember one English professor for whom I had to write one essay a week. She gave each paper a grade for technical merit and for content. One week one of my papers received a failing grade for technical merit and a top mark for content. It so infuriated me that the next week I wrote a paper that got an “A” for technical merit but a failing grade for content. In that particular paper I used the term “ergonomics” which she said was a word that didn’t exist! That whole experience was did not help my interest in writing and for a while I did as little as possible.
But from the time I was through college though, I was writing at something all the time and soon I began to submit short, non-fiction articles to newspapers and magazines and like all aspiring writers began to accumulate a nice fat file full of rejections. But a few got through the sieve and were published. Still my writing was very much in the “back seat” to the driver of whatever else I was doing to make a living. I could have written a great deal more, but then the war in Vietnam came along and the only writing I did in the years I spend in uniform had to do with my job. When I left the service I was always building something…a family, a “real” career, and becoming a serious writer wasn’t anything I could really do, except to fit it in wherever I could. I had a career in the insurance business and found that my ability to write letters was a very effective means of furthering my efforts at selling and servicing my clients. Fiction was a means to an end, rather than an end of its own. My writing continued that way for some years.
I sold my insurance business in 1990 and retired. That meant that I was no longer in the insurance business but merely moving on to something else in life for my needs financially were still great as I had two children still in university. I had moved away from the city to the more rural area of Maine and began to buy and restore old houses and buildings. I was painting and carpentering and running electrical wires in the day and doing a little writing at night. All I could write was short pieces and in that period, I wrote many letters to the editor of area newspapers about many different subjects of current interest. I worked very hard at those letters, trying to make strong statements in as few words as possible, and most of those letters were published. Many people would call me on the telephone or stop me on the street and comment about my letters. Often they would tell me that I should “become a writer.”
Once I enrolled in a creative writing course at the local college. The instructor was a retired newspaper columnist and the first day he wrote in big letters across the chalk board in the front of the room, “A Writer Writes”. I never forgot that and have those words in front of me in a banner still.
In 2004, having completed the last of the antique building restorations, I decided to open a granite quarry. I had sold some real estate and wanted to reinvest the profits in a local industry and I provided the capital to support a young stone worker who had always wanted to have a quarry. We cut the trees and hired an excavator to dig away the topsoil from a granite hump, and the next spring launched the business cutting the stone with a hugely powerful and dangerous cutting torch, chopping the resulting blocks into smaller pieces with eighteen inch long steel wedges driven by eighteen pound sledge hammers swung manually. I can tell you that I learned that when you are sixty-one years of age, at seven o’clock in the morning in the quarry, an eighteen pound hammer weighs eighteen pounds. At one in the afternoon, that same hammer weighs eighty-seven pounds! Still, I survived the experience and after a couple of years we had some good commercial momentum, selling large blocks of granite for piers or landscaping retaining walls, custom formed steps and posts. I didn’t do much writing as a granite entrepreneur though. Then the recession came along and the business failed in 2008. We had bought quite a lot of heavy equipment to replace that terrible torch that sounded like the ass-end of a jet fighter and cut channels into stone with a foot long, three thousand degree flame and to lift five ton blocks of stone and carry them to load onto trucks, so the business had some business debt. It was all wiped out by the global recession: one moment we had a business and customers and the next there was no market at all for our little business.
So, I decided that it was time to retire in reality. I was just past sixty-five but still possessed of an enormous amount of energy and many ideas. My wife was totally against my becoming a mercenary or a fisherman on a long line tuna boat, and it seemed perfectly logical right then, for the first time in my life, to actually become a writer and actually do what I had been told to do many years before, and just write.

Tell us about your latest work and what motivated you to write it:
My latest work is a novel entitled “The Mists of Adriana”. The book has its origins in my life-long interest in automobiles and I began to write what was to be a serialized blog for an Internet publication about the Porsche 928 automobile. I owned one of those wonderful cars and began the story which then was called merely, “Driving Every Day” and was supposed to be a sort of short fictional account of meeting a woman while I was driving my car. I was single at that time in my life and my readership was primarily early, middle aged males. I think there were two editions before the publication ceased. But the principal character, Adriana Barrows had been created and she and the protagonist had met, that was all. I was going through some old papers cleaning out a filing cabinet, and came across a printed copy of the first chapter. I sat down and read it, and decided that I would take the story and push it along further although I had no particular idea of what I might end up with. I had sold my Porsche and perhaps that alone is what prompted me to develop the story.

What are your future aspirations as an author?
Right now I am in the middle of the second book in the “Adriana” series and I intend to finish this second of what I think will be three books about her, sometime before June, 2013. Incidentally, “The Mists of Adriana” is going to be produced as an audio book this spring. That’s a project I am very enthusiastic about.
I am also about to publish a book of short stories. In this collection are stories that will tell the reader the real truth about Christopher Columbus discovering America and there is also an interview with Adolf Hitler just after the surrender of France at the outset of World War II. In this book of short pieces is also a story about a particularly aggressive and unpleasant cat, called “Psychocat”. The is actually a true story and one that happened to me.
As time rolls by, unfortunately entirely too rapidly, my overall aspirations as an author are to write and finish a novel each year. I have outlines for enough work to keep me writing novels for at least three years at this point…this is material I have accumulated over the year against the day when I could have the time just to sit and write. For me, that time finally, is now.

Where do your ideas come from? What experiences or aspects of your life influence your writing?
I guess one might describe my life as being a “work in progress”. I came from a very traditional New England family. My father was a school administrator and when I was small, my mother was strictly a stay-at-home mom although she had been a teacher herself prior to marriage. We were a pretty tight family, taking vacations together to the family summer cottage in Maine, although we lived in a suburb of Boston. I assumed my life would be pretty much like that and I had aspirations of being a college professor in American History. But like most, events on the larger stage of life altered all of that.
I taught in the inner city under a special Federal program called “The National Teacher Corps” after finishing college. Then two years later, I went into the Air Force and took part in the war in Vietnam. I was married at that time and had one child. My son was born not long before I left the military service and went into the insurance business managing an office owned by a family friend.
My wife of that time decided she rather preferred me to live a long way away from her, and I moved to Maine after the divorce. That was an enormously difficult transitional period in my life, but it also was an enormously fruitful time in terms of experiences that would provide great ‘grist’ for the writer’s mill that lay buried inside of me.
Maine was pretty primitive in comparison to Boston in those days, and I did all sorts of things to make a living and provide money to support my children. There really wasn’t a regular job for me in rural Maine in those days. I either had too much education to fill positions or not enough education. If I had been an engineer I could probably have found work building roads or something of that sort, but a history graduate was in a kind of no man’s land as far as work was concerned. So I did odd jobs and sometimes had to spend hours in the library reading books to figure out to do this or that project. Looking back on that time I realize I was lucky sometimes not to have gotten hurt, but the end result was lots of experiences, meeting lots of different sorts of people that I never would have known about had I not been there.
After a couple of years of hard labour, I started my own commercial insurance agency business and the next dozen years were spent developing a clientele and growing the volume of the business. I travelled a great deal in this big state…Maine is larger than all the rest of New England put together, yet never has had more than about two and one half million people living in it. There were three offices and a total of eight employees at one point, plus myself working outside the office primarily. After a decade or so, I sold to a larger agency and then retire to antique building restoration as I said earlier. It was hard traveling, sometimes driving six hundred miles per week for instance, since my clients were so spread out. But it also gave me the opportunity of seeing how different so many people in one general community could be one from the other.
I was also able to travel more widely in that time. One vacation I remember was to Venezuela where I went scuba diving off Margarita Island. I had been diving in many locales around the western hemisphere but that trip was very different for a lot of other reasons. Some of that trip appeared in “The Mists of Adriana”. There is a story in the book about Adriana, in charge of a trade delegation to Venezuela, finds a young man in her office one morning. He is talking with the secretaries in the office and had a salesman’s case open on a desk. He is selling to the women in the office and his product line is ladies under ware. Outraged, Adriana assuming she is asserting the rights of liberated woman, throws him out of the office. At that point she doesn’t understand that such traveling salesmen actually exist and his presence in her office was a normal part of commerce in that place. That entire episode is based on a true story. I met a guy who actually did this traveling salesman-debit sales method selling ladies under ware in rural areas in Venezuela. He was carrying his samples case and opened it, showing me little plastic packages of bright colour panties. He took orders one week, and delivered the next, often running accounts where his customers paid him in instalments.
So I very much draw on my varied experiences, some good, some much less than good, for ideas and episodes to write about.

What do you do to improve yourself and a writer?
I approach writing much as I approach my health. I keep working my body every day doing some sort of physical chore or exercise each day. My wife and I moved to this antique farm house a couple of years ago knowing full well that it was a major fixing-up project. Some of the work involved has been very strenuous and I have done all of it myself. Much of that is done now, and I will continue to spend time in the gym to keep my body in as good physical condition as possible.
So also I have a regular excise program for my writing. I spend quite a lot of time writing specific types of things to improve my ability to handle certain types of situations. For instance, a few years ago, I wrote a whole series of very short stories. The object of that exercise was to tell a whole story in just two hundred words. Not one word more and not one word less. It is enormously hard work writing within such strict limitations. It is very useful to do that though as it keeps me focussed and away from merely throwing words onto paper. Last August one of my two hundred word pieces was published in “The Goose River Anthology -2012” which is available here on Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Goose-River-Anthology-Deborah-Benner/dp/1597131334/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1355820600&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Goose+River+Anthology) or directly from The Goose River Press (http://gooseriverpress.com/)

Watch out for the Stitch Says Review of The Mists of Adriana later in the week!
Thank you for dropping by on Stitch Says! Best of luck for your future aspirations.

Christmas Traditions

P1000454OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI love Christmas time and now it’s even better because I get to share it with my girls. It’s funny as a child I don’t really remember too many traditions, but there were a few things I enjoyed. I have brought them into my family and hope when my girls grow up they will continue with their families. Each year we put the tree up onn pagent day. This is usually on the second weekend of November, so that give us plenty of time for other fun things. The Sleigh Landing Area goes up on the first weekend in December, as do the outside decorations. Lots of Tinsel and some homemade pictures. Once the tree goes up it’s time to get started on the crafts for other decorations. We also take our Christmas photo. The girls and the dogs dress up and we use this photo on our cards.
We also have are annual baking day. We make a Gingerbread house, a cookie tree, chocolate marshmallow truffles, shape cookies and lots more. The girls have lots of fun doing this, we also invite a friend over to help, which means they can take some home as well!
From the first week in December we get out all the Christmas books and read them each night. The girls love singing and know all the words, it’s lots of fun. On Christmas eve we read The Night Before Christmas and leave Santa some chocolate chip cookies, carrots for the reindeer, a bucket of water and a beer. The beer is of course not opened because Santa can’t drink and drive.
We have lots of fun, see Christmas lights, wrap lots of presents, wear our Christmas shirtsm hats and costumes. Make lots and enjoy doing things together as a family. The girls love Christmas time and I hope the will humour me for a lot longer, there is something magical about this time of the year.
From all of us we’d like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!!

Drabsville

Drabsville front cover1Drabsville
By Jan Clifton Watford
Matthew John Paul Abernathy lives in Drabsville, where everything is gray. He dreams of a bright colourful home. Can his dreams come true?
Jan Clifton Watford delivers a story where colour changes everything. Drabsville is a simple picture book that children will enjoy.
Stitch Says give it three woofs!
You can check it out here: http://www.Drabsville.com

Roland’s Stupendous Imagination and the Native Americans

RNAcover
Roland’s Stupendous Imagination and the Native Americans
By Jan Clifton Watford.

Roland’s stupendous imagination can lead him into trouble. It can also take him on amazing adventures. This time it takes him to a Native American Village, where he gets to experience their tribal dancing rituals. Roland also finds out about their regalia, love of nature and faces one of his own fears.
Roland’s adventure is both informative and interesting. Historical fiction like this eBook is a great way for young people to learn about other cultures. Jan Clifton Watford had developed a chapter book full of great information that is a pleasure to read.
This book contains some great information in a story that children will have fun reading about.
Stitch Says give it three and a half woofs!
You can check it out for yourself here: http://www.RolandsStupendousImagination.com

Christmas Lights

DSCF4269DSCF4265I love Christmas Lights, although they look much better in the snow. It’s also easier if you don’t have to wait so long for the sun to go down. Anyway we always check out some lights. It was time last night. Some people go all out which is amazing. We just have a few solar lights for the sleigh landing area, still it’s all good fun.
Tomorrow it’s off to the magic cave. I haven’t been there since I was a kid and can hardly remember it anyway. I just remember wanting to go there. It will be my girl’s first trip there and I can’t wait. The best thing about having kids is doing all the things you wanted to when you were young. Later in the week we are having our annual Xmas baking day – lots of goodies to creat. The girls have ordered a cookie Christmas tree, shape cookies, choc marsh truffles and lots more. I will post some photos later! Until then – have fun!

My Third Book

Just got the good news – The Homework Goblin has been accepted for publishing!!!!! Sooooooo excited, it’s funny but I actually think it gets more exciting with every book. Maybe because I really didn’t expect the first one at all, then the second was also hard to believe. The third is amazing, I can’t wait to get started.

Ashley Howland So I guess I just received an early Christmas present!! Now for some plugging of my other two books that would make awesome Christmas presents! You can get Ghostnapped via:

http://www.strategicbookpublishing.com/Ghostnapped.htmlGhostnapped

or

http://www.amazon.com/Ghostnapped-Ashley-Howland/dp/1608601455

You can also purchase Obi the Super Puppy and the Mystery of the Red Mist via:Obi The Supper Puppy

http://www.amazon.com/Obi-Super-Puppy-Mystery-Mist/dp/1612042783/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1355099758&sr=1-1 or

http://sbpra.com/AshleyHowland/

Check them out today!!!! Now I have to go and celebrate!!! Until next time – have fun!

 

Rudolph With Your Nose So Bright

Ahh it’s time to sing Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. Always a favourite of my girls. They love the whole reindeer thing. We always put out a bucket of water. Last year they wanted to put our eight, so each one had their own. I reminded the girls that at work over eight labradors can share one bucket, so the reindeers were okay with the one!!! We did how ever leave eight carrots. It’s not fair to ask them to share their food. When the girls were asleep I emptied the bucket and broke up bits of the carrots to look like the reindeer had eaten them. Of course no one mentioned to Stitch and Obi that the left over carrots were not for them. I think my boys almost polished off the lot!!!

578012_10151574849499676_1657918650_nLast week we had the Christmas concerts, always a lot of fun. My girls know all the words and love to sing. They also love to dress up in their Christmas gear. Of course you have to make some cup cakes each time to sell. So this year I made Rudolph!!!! Very yummy.

Dressing up often means the poor dogs get involved. Stitch doesn’t care – he was a lot younger in this photo, but he’s still cute if you can get a pair of antlers big enough for his boof head!

Reindeer StitchNow for some writing news. I have started a great marketing campaign for Ghostnapped: http://www.strategicbookpublishing.com/Ghostnapped.html

and Obi the Super Puppy and the Mystery of the Red Mist: http://sbpra.com/ashleyhowland/

So will hopefully be seeing the results soon – will post any news as it happens. I also submitted my third book – The Homework Goblin last week. Looking forward to getting that out there if they decide to publish it – fingers crossed. Watch this space, until next time have fun!!!!

Introducing Jan Watford

Stitch Says would like to introduce you to Jan Clifton Watford, the author of Drabsville and Roland’s Stupendous Imagination and the Native Americans.

JanWhen did you decide to become an author and what impact has this had on your life?

I have always loved children’s picture books and read them with admiration to my children when they were young.  I feel that reading to a child is their first introduction to literature and very important to start their learning and education off on the right path.  I had always wanted to try to write a book myself.  When I was taking an art education course in college, one of the options for a project was to write a picture book that was educational and based on one of the elements of art.  I jumped at the chance to write my first book, Drabsville.  I received a good grade on the project and my professor encouraged me to see about getting it published.  When I retired a year and a half ago, I started going to workshops with SCBWI and decided to make revisions to the text and illustrations and my dream became a reality.  I published it in September of 2012 with Createspace.

 Tell us about your latest work and what motivated you to write it:

I have an additional book that I have finished and published.  This one is a historical fiction chapter eBook for young readers, Roland’s Stupendous Imagination and the Native Americans. It was conceived from my life long interest in Native Americans and their culture, and traditions. I also have a couple other books in the process of being created including one about Lucy the ladybug, and Pablo, the preying mantis and their adventures creating a bug garden.

What are your future aspirations as an author?

My aspirations are to have my stories, books advance further digitally into storybook apps, a field that I am very interested in.  I also want to further explore educational writings and stories for children.  I am very interested in creating stories/books that not only entertain but also educate.

Where do your ideas come from? What experiences or aspects of your life influence your writing?

My ideas come to me randomly but spurn from my love for young children.  Sometimes my ideas develop from seeing how my grandchildren or other young children respond to things that interest them.

What do you do to improve yourself and a writer?

I am a member of SCBWI and also a couple of critique groups, one of which is online.  I also attend workshops with SCBWI and writing and illustration courses online.  Exploring new books and storybook apps is also beneficial.

Thank you for dropping by on Stitch Says! Later in the week Stitch Says will post a review of Roland’s Stupendous Imagination and the Native Americans. Until then you can find out more about Jan and her books on her website:  http://www.jancwatford.com/books

http://www.Drabsville.com

http://www.RolandsStupendousImagination.com

Best of luck for your future aspirations.

As always keep reading, keep writing!

The Countdown has Begun!!!

Yeah our Christmas countdown has begun. This means each night a drawer is opened and a new decoration is placed on the tree. This year we have also added a smurf lego advent for some extra fun. So far we have Hefty and a wall of lego! The girls love this time of the year. They get to listen to their Christmas songs, read their Christmas books and make lots of Christmas goodies. The Sleigh Landing Area is also up – very important. We have bo chimney, so Santa doesn’t land on the roof, but he likes the lawn. There is also a magic key for him to use so he can get in. Ahhhh my beautiful girls certainly have it all worked out. I hope they continue to keep the magic of Christmas well and truly alive for many  years to come.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The Christmas tree has been up for a while, but now actually has some presents under it! This makes the girls pretty excited. They naturally know which ones are theirs, but also like to make sure everyone has at least one under the tree!

2012-12-01_13-35-48_845Whar Christmas would be complete without Frosty the snowman??? Okay we don’t have snow and most probably it will be boiling hot on Christmas day, still the family of snowmen look very cool!

DSCF4181There are lots of versions of Santa in out house, this was a favourite and he also has a friendly Elf to keep him company.

Elf And the last for now, the Sleigh Landing Area Sign. Which actually took me most of the year to make for my girls. They have big ideas for me over the next twelve months too! Good grief. Still it is all worth it for the smiles on their faces. We also started the Xmas baking as such. Although not much baking this weekend. We made chocolate marshmallow truffles – very yummy and I made some special ice cream cakes. Now it’s off to make more cookie dough for later in the week – until next time have fun!

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