Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Welcome to Three New Friends!
Tracy Ruckman
Amy Barkman
Debbie Roome

Tell us about your latest release. The cover looks fantastic!

TR: Thanks so much. We're rather partial to it ourselves. Board to Death is a trio of mystery novellas written by Amy Barkman, Debbie Roome, and myself, Tracy Ruckman. It centers on a theme of board games. Here's the back cover blurb:

Baby Boomers Polly Nichols, Lindsay Wilson, and Gretchen Anderson may live worlds apart, but they have one common hobby – a penchant for board games.

Polly’s serene Kentucky campground turns sinister when the manager is a VICTIM of murder. In New Zealand, Lindsay’s life is turned upside down when MIND GAMES and evidence drag her into a murder case - as a suspect. At the Kettle’s On Campground in Georgia, Gretchen matches wits with a murderous wordsmith intent on winning the latest game of SENTENCED.

You’ll love the games, the characters, and the stories – and we promise, you won’t be BOARD to Death!

Sounds unique and oh, so interesting. What was the hardest part to write?

TR: Well, the most challenging I think was to write three stories set in three different locations, and yet still have the stories sort of blend together. Amy's story, set in Kentucky, led into Debbie's story, which is set in New Zealand, then that led into my story, set in Georgia. New Zealand's seasons are opposite ours here in the states, so in the blazing hot summer here, she's going through winter. Trying to make that work was interesting.

Then, after Debbie and I finished our stories, we realized they were entirely too similar so I rewrote mine. Next time, we're doing much better brainstorming and plotting before we start writing. :-)

Wow. Sounds like a lot of work, but the results were good, I imagine. We all have choices of items that help us write. What’s yours? Can you give the readers a glimpse into your writing space? What’s your favorite writing reference tool?

TR: I love working out on my screened porch. I can get away from inside sounds, and the outdoor noise and even the traffic in the distance serves as white noise for me. The birds and squirrels occasionally get loud and remind me to take a break, too. My favorite reference tool changes from story to story. I do love the Flip Dictionary for writing in general, and then all of my crime reference books - those help a great deal.

DR: I’ve learnt to write anywhere – but one of my favorite places is on a plane. I fly frequently and always try and sit by the window in the back row. People don’t like the back so I’m normally on my own - and spread my stuff out and write furiously. Google is my favorite reference tool. It can generally tell me anything I need to know.

Love you gals' choices! Perfect. :) If you had to choose one person to go with you for encouragement to a secluded cabin, who would that be?

TR: My husband. He's my biggest supporter, sounding board, and shoulder to cry on. I read all of my writing to him – it helps me edit, and hear the flow of the words. He also takes good care of me when I'm on deadline, making sure I remember to eat, bathe, sleep. :-)

AB: I would probably choose Tracy or my daughter Virginia Smith if I had to take somebody with me, because they are both writers and understand the need for silence. Actually I go every other month to the Kentucky mountains and stay in a cottage Monday through Friday all by myself and write. They don’t have cell phone or internet connection access! I love it.

DR: My husband.

What are you working on now?

TR: A novel I started a few years ago - I'm ready to finish it and move onto the next one. I'll also be plotting and brainstorming with Amy and Debbie on our next book in the Dangerous Games Series. That book, Hands of Death, will release next summer. And I'm just fleshing out a new series.

AB: I’m working on a mid-grade fiction, second in the Fun To Be One Club series, a Murder Mystery Dinner Theater script, and a non-fiction “Walking in the Spirit for Amateurs.”

DR: I’m working on my second novel which is entitled Broken Shells. I’m hoping to finish it by the end of 2011.

All of them sound good. Hope to read them someday. How do you choose names for your characters? Do you do a lot of research on them?

TR: Names for my characters are so important. A setting normally presents itself to me first, as it did in that new series I mentioned earlier. Then, the characters start placing themselves into the setting. Once they do that, I have to know their names, and what they look like. I'll spend some time on some stock photo places, flipping through photos until I find just the right character and then I visit Social Security's website for most popular baby names in different years. I type in the year my character was born, and then I look through the list to see what appeals. I don't like ordinary names.

AB: Tracy’s way of naming sounds so professional. I just see my characters in my imagination and then search my own mind for names that fit. I have named a lot of characters after friends of mine who have died. It’s kind of like a tribute to them.

DR: The name has to fit the age and nature of the character and I sometimes change names two or three times before I’m happy. I usually settle for names that don’t remind me of friends or family with the same or similar names.

Choosing names is one of the funnest things in writing novels, I think. Any fun things about yourself that the readers might enjoy knowing?

AB: I’m in my late sixties but feel like a kid. I’ve quoted Psalm 103:5 for over thirty years that my youth is being renewed as the eagles. And when people talk about aging I say “Not me, I’m youthening.” I guess it must have worked because I’m busier than I’ve ever been in my life and have more energy than ever. I love Disney World and English castles. I collect castles and dolls and thimbles. I have fun with children.

DR: I’ve been a dog lover since I was a young girl. My current dog is a Jack Russell named Nelson. I call him my ‘hairy child’ and he goes all over with us. He loves popping balloons and sometimes I’ll blow a whole packet up for him. It’s hilarious watching him trying to burst them all.

Debbie, I love Jack Russells. Darling dogs. And Amy, I love your motto. Forever young! Yay! How long have you known that you were a writer? Did you receive a clear “call?” Or have you just loved writing all your life?

AB: I loved to read when I was a child - can’t remember when I couldn’t read, was reading by age 4. And some time in my teens I discovered that inventing stories and writing them was even more exciting than reading. I sold a few things, wrote a humor column, and won a few contests. But I didn’t do it seriously until a few years ago.

DR: I wrote my first book when I was six and sold my first story when I was eight. I’ve loved reading and writing since I was small but have only been able to concentrate on it since moving to New Zealand in 2006.

What is the genre you write in? Would you explain what it is?

AB: What genre don’t I write in? I’ve already mentioned the humor column and the dinner theatre script, Christian non-fiction books, and Christian fiction books: women’s fiction, mystery, mid-grade. I wrote a musical - script and 9 songs - that premiered in 2009, “Claus and the King.” I’ve written several other songs too. I also sold a Christian sci-fi short story years ago, and a 4th grade Kentucky historical fiction. I’ve won some poetry contests and sold a few poems. And I wrote forms and instructions when I worked for state government. Ah! I don’t write bonnet fiction or cowboy stories. I’m sure I’d sell better if I did but, it’s just not me.

How do you spend your writing days? Do you set goals to reach a certain number of words per day? Can you give us a general idea of how long it takes you to write a novel?

AB: I tried for a long time to set a goal but too many interruptions made me irritated at people so I just write when I can and trust the Lord to make the time for me. I wrote the first draft of one mid-grade novel (45,000 words) in 3 days - by going upstairs and telling everyone to pretend I was not home. I took several years to write another book before I found out about scenes. If I get stuck chronologically I write a future scene that I have clearly in my mind and then somehow it fills itself in. I usually have the first third and last chapter of a book clear in my mind. Since I’ve learned I don’t have to write chronologically, I have a much easier time getting from here to there.

What is the spiritual message in your book? What can readers expect to get from reading it?

AB: In my novella “Victim,” the spiritual message is compassion. I hope readers will take away a sense of God’s love for each of us just as we are and a realization that He can change us into His perfect plan for our lives.

TR: Overall, Board to Death shows compassion, as Amy said, but also, it reveals in a subtle way how we’re all so different and how we all live out our Christianity in unique ways. Polly is very vocal about her faith, Lindsay meditates on Scripture to get through trying times, and Gretchen prays silently. Their faith is no more or no less than any of the others, because there’s no “right” or “wrong” in practicing our faith – as long as we’re biblically-sound, and actively pursue our individual relationship with Jesus.

I love that. Compassion is such a needed trait in this world today. Do you ever feel like giving up? Most people don’t understand the stress, the work, and the joy of being a writer. How tenuous becoming a writer is. Do you care to share how it feels, what discouraging/encouraging times you’ve gone through?

AB: I have given up trying to interest publishers. The three books published this last two months are ones where two different publishers approached me.

DR: When you have a book published, people suddenly become literary experts and tell you exactly what is wrong with your work. I’ve found that much of this criticism comes from unpublished writers. I’ve learnt to accept this graciously, take note if they’re right and ignore the rest. (And be happy that I’ve got as far as being published)

Good advice. Do you mind telling us some of your likes and dislikes? Hobbies, interests? Where would you like to travel if you could?

TR: I’m an avid fisherman – but I don’t get to fish as often as I like these days. I love traveling – if money and time were no object, I would travel the entire world, staying long enough in each place to learn the people and the area, then move on to the next spot. Observing people in their every day lives is special to me, and seeing architecture with vast history just renders me speechless at times. I have a great appreciation for art and music, and the talents and gifts required for both.

AB: Likes: reading historical and cozy mystery novels, writing, directing plays, watching plays. Traveling to new places and back to England, Scotland, and Disney World. I used to like to oil paint and embroider but now that time is spent writing. Dislikes: TV and radio.

DR: I don’t like people taking advantage of the underprivileged and disabled. I enjoy music and play piano, guitar, and bass guitar. Travel is a large part of my life and I would especially like to spend some more time in Asia. I’ve been to Singapore and Hong Kong and find their culture fascinating.

Great likes. I adore some of the same things. Would you give us your blog or webpage so everyone can check it out? Anything else you’d like to share? Promotional information?

Board to Death is available in print and digital formats at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and a host of other retail outlets. You can also request autographed copies from any of us.

Board to Death book trailer -

Amy’s Which Witch? book trailer -

Thank you, ladies for visiting today!


Linda Glaz said...

Oooh, how interesting a concept. And I agree, names are so important for the characters.

Tracy Ruckman said...

Thanks, Linda. How do you choose names for your characters?

Break Time!

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