Wednesday, February 26, 2014


by Kathy Cannon Wiechman

I grew up reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books and credit them with leading me to become the history buff I am now. Everyday life in our nation’s early days intrigued me.

But the sensibilities in the days those books were published left a few gaps. We saw Pa dig a well and build a log cabin in LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, but we are left to assume that he also dug a pit and built an outhouse. And what about the chamber pot during THE LONG WINTER? How often was it emptied? Pa’s trips to feed the livestock likely included this smelly chore.

Lois Miner Huey’s book, ICK! YUCK! EEW! Our Gross American History, takes the mystery from those early days. She guides her readers back to the days just before the American Revolution and fills in the gaps. From lice and bedbugs to chamber pots and privies, she lets us in on all the dirt—and germs and poop.

I recently interviewed Lois, who is an archaeologist, a non-fiction writer, and a friend.
Archaeologist and Author Lois Miner Huey
Kathy: What first attracted you to the gross history of our founding fathers? And as an archaeologist, what discovery excited you most?

Lois: While excavating in the yards of many historic houses open to the public, I’d see the early occupation layers littered with trash. I’d look around at my surroundings to see lovely green lawns, interpreters dressed in spanking-clean costumes, and visitors wishing they could go back in time.

I knew the people who run historic sites can’t wear dirty clothes, have pigs running around threatening visitors, or have ground surfaces littered with broken glass, dishes, and oyster shells! People wouldn’t want to visit that kind of place. So I decided to present the real picture in a book.
Dead in the Devil's Den- Gettysburg
Dead at The Devil's Den, Battle of Gettysburg
Kathy: Which aspects of the gross early history are your favorite?

Lois: I admire how people then coped with all the problems of daily life. I couldn’t. I especially think of the brave souls who were willing to have smallpox placed inside their skin so they’d come down with it—but hopefully in a lesser form. It takes guts to do something that new and not well tested.
Man with smallpox
Kathy: Were there any juicy facts that were just too gross to include?

Lois: The 18th and early 19th centuries were very bawdy eras. I couldn’t deal with that in a kids’ book. It’s interesting to note that the straight-laced Victorian era was a reaction to all this promiscuity. I should also mention that although not “juicy,” slavery was a big part of daily life. It is such a big topic that I couldn’t deal with it with the kind of fairness it deserves in this book. However, my next book with Lerner deals with slavery in the North and what the study of skeletons in three burial grounds tells us about their lives.

Kathy: What kind of challenges did you face with a “picture book” intended for older kids?
William Hogarth. The Tavern Scene.
The Tavern Scene from A Rake's Progress by William Hogarth (1732-34)
Lois: I wanted to keep it real without being overpowering. Writing it in second person was a first for me (ha ha), but I think it put the reader into the past as a watcher, not a participant. Reactions like “Yuck!” told the story. Kids seem to like the book a lot; adults tell me it made them itch all over.

Kathy: What question that I didn’t ask do you feel the need to answer?

Lois: Some of the research I found points out that our modern times are perhaps over-reacting to the existence of germs and dirt. It would be ironic to have our way of life end because we’re too clean!
From the toothbrush holder in the bathroom to the stove knobs in the kitchen, the nine germiest spots are often overlooked during the weekly clean - leading to a hazardous build up of invisible dirt
And, in addition to the book on slavery that will come out in 2015, I’d like to point your readers to my first online story written for The New Netherland Institute. It’s also in second person and is worth reading just for the colorful illustrations!
Thanks, Lois, for sharing your thoughts on this interesting topic. I can’t wait for your next book.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Before You Break: Q and A with author Christina Lee

by Kim Van Sickler
Christina Lee is a fellow Clevelander who found her groove writing New Adult romance. Her second e-book in The Between Breaths series was released yesterday (2/18/14).  Read the Goodreads' blurb here:

I had the pleasure of reading this sexy, steamy, sensitive e-book last week and touched base with Christina to ask her a few questions.

Kim: You've written three books that stand alone, but all reference characters that star in the other books in The Between Breaths series. How difficult was it to link these characters and their stories together and then keep everything consistent through all the edits that writers always have to do?

Christina: It was definitely a challenge, but not a painstaking one. The important thing is to go back and read exactly what you wrote about the characters in the other books. Sometimes what you think you wrote is different from the reality.

 Kim: You've written some steamy sex scenes, but I think that some of the steamiest were the initial ones that oozed with sexual tension but not with actual sex. Take us through writing one of these scenes. (How about the car wash scene where Ella and Quinn run into each other in the basement of the frat house.) Tell us what you're thinking as you're writing it and what you're trying to accomplish with the scene. Do you think it might be harder to write a sexy limited physical contact scene than a sex scene?

Christina: Thanks Kim! I actually like writing the tension filled “almost” scenes even more than the actual sex scenes. In the car wash scene, I needed to show the reader that there was plenty of build-up, confusing emotions, and undeniable chemistry between these characters.

They are feeling things, but they don’t quite understand them yet and now realize contact is off limits. Ahhh, can you feel the tension? Love that. And hopefully the reader does too, and wants to keep flipping pages to find out what happens. J

 Kim: Speaking of sex, there is a lot of it, but it seemed appropriate to the story and the college-age of the characters. What are some of the considerations you factor in when writing to a new adult audience and how does that differ from writing for a YA audience?

Christina: Hmmm…well the first main difference is that in the NA age category, the characters are adults and (can) have active sex lives. In the YA age category, the characters are teens and sex is normally more covert, depending on how many adults are around.

 But there is definitely sex in YA novels. The difference might be that in those novels the scenes “fade to black”. In NA, the scene can be more explicit---depending on the genre you’re writing in. I write contemporary romance, so my scenes tend to be what’s considered sexy or steamy as opposed to erotic, which is another genre in itself.

Kim: Quinn, star catcher for his college baseball team, begins the story living his life for other people, and he's not happy about it. Ella is a survivor of family tragedy who's already coming to terms with her past. This story shows us Ella and Quinn's journeys individually and as a prospective couple. Tell us how your background as a clinical social worker influenced the story arc.

Christina: I worked in the mental health field for over ten years as a clinical social worker and knew the ins and outs of crisis intervention and therapy. In book one, ALL OF YOU, Ella was studying psychology. When I decided to have her work on a hotline in BEFORE YOU BREAK, that’s when I understood the kind of story I wanted to write. These two characters were on different journeys of tragedy and healing. I knew I wanted them to hurt and mend and grow—alone and together.

Thanks for having me, Kim!
Check out Christina's Pinterest board for pictures of Quinn and Ella!

Check out her blog for updates on her books.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Moonless Blogfest

Fantasy romance question below! Play along with us in the spirit of Crystal Collier's new book.

In the English society of 1768 where women are bred to marry, unattractive Alexia, just sixteen, believes she will end up alone. But on the county doorstep of a neighbor’s estate, she meets a man straight out of her nightmares, one whose blue eyes threaten to consume her whole world—especially when she discovers him standing over her murdered host in the middle of the night.

Her nightmares become reality: a dead baron, red-eyed wraiths, and forbidden love with a man hunted by these creatures. After an attack close to home, Alexia realizes she cannot keep one foot in her old life and one in this new world. To protect her family she must either be sold into a loveless marriage, or escape with her beloved and risk becoming one of the Soulless.

And here's a nice incentive. If you buy the book by February 14th, you can save $2. Go hereand use Coupon code: LQJM3F84

So here's the questionIf you lived in a society where arranged marriages were a la mode, whom would you beg your parents to set you up with? Why? (Literary characters and celebrities welcomed.) 

Kim's answer: When I was a freshman in college, so a nice marriageable age of 18, I had a thing for Clark Gable: specifically as Rhett Butler from Gone With the Wind. I loved his sense of adventure, his roguish ways, his devotion to his daughter, and the way he wormed his way into the heart of the woman he loved. I even plasti-taked a life-sized poster of him on my dorm door. I think life would always be exciting with Rhett as a husband, and he would do his utmost to protect and care for me and our family.  

Find the rest of the hop here!

And while you're at it, enter to win one of these great prizes!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


by Kathy Cannon Wiechman

See who else has posted for IWSG here

I try to write every day, but that can be tough. I began 2014 sick with a stuffy head that barely let me think straight. How could I write under those conditions?
I was facing a list of revisions and a deadline, but I had to put those on hold until my mind cleared. Still, I felt I needed to make myself focus on writing in some way.

Life throws distractions at all of us and puts obstacles in our paths. Monumental obstacles like weddings and funerals and car accidents. Distractions like meetings and lunches. Necessities like kids, grandkids, and paying bills. Mundane chores like grocery shopping and laundry. These things give life balance. Without experiencing Life, how can I write about it? (If one of my characters develops a head cold, I am well-equipped to describe how it feels.)

Yet, I am a longtime proponent of writing every day. Do I manage it? Of course not, but I try.

That doesn’t mean I write chapters every day. Or even pages. Sometimes, not even a paragraph, but if I get down a sentence or two, I’m heading in the right direction.

My sentence or two might not be for my current Work In Progress. I might just jot down a few ideas for future stories. Or make a few notes about the weather that day, the way the sky looked, or the way the wintry air felt on my face. I don’t consider that a waste of my writing time. I might need weather descriptions some day for a story. I might need to write a winter scene on a hot August day, and it helps to be able to pull out those sentences and remind myself more clearly how winter felt.

Even when I have a day where I don’t write one word, I try to find what Joy Cowley calls “percolating time.” Every story, every character, every scene needs to percolate in my brain before it can make its way onto the page. Ideally, my percolating time is while taking a walk, but I can also grab a few minutes while in the shower or emptying the dishwasher. It might be a stretch to call this “writing,” but it’s definitely a necessary part of the process.

I continue to keep trying. Do you try to write every day? Do you have any tricks to help you to achieve this?