Monday, April 26, 2010

Where Do You Like to Write?

All writers have their favorite writing place. Some prefer to churn out stories in a quiet, peaceful room in their house, away from the chaos and noise of everyday life. Yet others thrive on commotion and have their own styles of tuning out the noise and focusing on the work at hand. They might find inspiration in these unexpected places,in the midst of people yet still a bit distant from the goings-on.

What about you, writers? Where's your favorite writing place?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Writing It Right


The first annual Write It Right conference is in the books, and what a day it was!

A huge THANK YOU goes out to everyone who attended or participated in the success of the day in some way, shape, or form. It's hard to pinpoint the highlights, since there were so many, and different for everyone. Our committee worked hard to bring in interactive, knowledgeable speakers who could talk about things that affect ALL writers, and we worked hard at keeping the day on track and running smoothly. All in all, we really couldn't have asked for a better day. We got lots of compliments on the venue (a renovated Victorian mansion with history and character galore), the lunch offerings, the speakers, and our author book fair was a nice way to end the day (plus our authors did some brisk business!)

But our blog continues, as we post info about the Black Diamond Writers Network, our members, speakers, and writing in general!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Interview with Stephen Pytak

Stephen Pytak is a full-time reporter for the REPUBLICAN-Herald newspaper in Pottsville, PA and the author of several novels. He sits down with us to talk writing, comic books, and the connection between the two.
BDWN: Thanks for speaking with us, Steve. Can you tell us a little bit about your books?

STEPHEN: Sure. To date I’ve written three novels, all thrillers: "The .40 Caliber Mouse (2003)," released by PublishAmerica; "The .40 Caliber Mousehunt (2008)," released by Mazz Press; and "The Wild Damned," to be published by Mazz Press in December 2010. They all take place in a wonderfully dark universe I created a few years back. There are continuing characters, in particular, "Corinn," the anti-heroine of "The .40 Caliber Mouse" series. When I write fiction, I enjoy developing characters who are driven by the Furies, so to speak. In other words, they’re fueled by anger, vengeance and dark desires.

"The .40 Caliber Mouse," for instance, is about low-rent mercenaries who sell their services online. The leads all have different motives for getting involved with it. Corinn’s involves a personal vendetta.

BDWN: How do you get your ideas?

STEPHEN: I’ve always had a passion for writing about the dark side of human nature, in fiction that is. I have this real love for novels, comic books and movies, thrillers and the horror genre. If I come up with an original idea with a similar thread, I pay close attention. I think fiction writing should be fun for the most part. So I look for things I think would be fun to write about. I think if the writer’s having fun, theoretically the reader will too. So I try to develop storylines I’d enjoy exploring myself. For instance, I love "Corinn." Writing about her inner demons and plans to iron them out is always a pleasure. She’s intriguing, always fun to spend a Saturday afternoon with. I recently gave her a skateboard. It will appear in her fourth novel, which I’m currently writing. Ideas can come from anywhere. It’s good to keep a pen and a slip of paper handy. I’ve scribbled on dozens of napkins over the years. Some of my best come out of conversations with my wife on long road trips.

BDWN: How long did it take you to write your books? Do you use an outline or just go where the story takes you?

STEPHEN: After writing three books, I’ve learned a lot about myself as a writer and the process I employ. On average, it takes me about three years to put out a novel. I always use a basic outline in my head. I use a lot of the skills I picked up in a college screenwriting class, in particular the three-act structure (even though "The Wild Damned" has four acts). It keeps me on track. It’s good to know where you’re going. It’s good to write your last scenes first, at least rough drafts, so you know where your characters will end up. These scenes might change. That’s fine. One of the reasons to write them first is so you can hone them and make them the best you can. While I will always use an outline, I do allow my characters to stray a bit if that’s what they’re inclined to do. But what they do must fit our story. If they take me somewhere interesting that doesn’t fit our current project, I’ll save the material and perhaps use it on another one.

BDWN: As a reporter, you obviously cover a huge number of stories every day. How has your day job influenced your writing? And how do you fit in time to write around your unpredictable reporter’s schedule?

STEPHEN: Loaded question. You can get ideas from anywhere, even work. I work as a staff writer for a daily newspaper, The Republican-Herald, Pottsville, Pa. Every now and then a police report will come in that I’ll find interesting. Or sometimes I’ll get the opportunity to tour a factory or farm, a place I normally wouldn’t have access to. And I’ll make note of the sights and sounds. While "The Wild Damned" takes place in Columbus, Ohio, I got some of my ideas for scenes from locations here in Schuylkill County. The former Yuengling Creamery is one. How do I find time to write fiction around my unpredictable work schedule? I write whenever I can. If I get an idea for something, I’ll immediately jump onto my home computer after work and start pounding it out. Usually I write fiction on my days off. Saturday mornings are the best. Now that my wife and some friends are editing "The Wild Damned," I started work on my fourth novel.

BDWN: What’s next for you?

STEPHEN: I intend to publish "The Wild Damned" through my independent publishing division, Mazz Press, by December 2010. Meanwhile I’m writing the fourth novel in "The .40 Caliber Mouse" series. Meanwhile I am always setting up author events. Norm Breyfogle, famed comic book artist known for his work on DC's “Batman,” did the art for “The .40 Caliber Mousehunt” and “The Wild Damned.” Because of that, I also do events at comic book conventions. The best way to see what I do is to stop by my table. We're hard to miss. You'll find not only bookmarks and posters featuring my characters, but T-shirts and, our most interesting item for sale, a full-head mask I designed for the villain of “The Wild Damned.” The mask of “The Carrion Crow” is now available for order. It's made by KreationX Inc., New York. For more information about my work, log onto

Monday, April 12, 2010

Local Authors to Participate in our Book Fair

The Write It Right conference is quickly approaching! We're very excited to have a number of local authors participating in our local author book fair at the end of the day. As you can see from the list, the authors span all ages and genres.

The authors participating include:

Vincent Genovese, The Pottsville Maroons and the NFL’s Stolen Championship of 1925; The Angel of Ashland; The Remarkable Discovery of Manny Faber; Billy Heath: The Man Who Survived Custer’s Last Stand

Stephen Pytak, The .40-Caliber Mouse: A Modern Tale of Vengeance

Patricia Rowe, The Other Side of the Desk: A Teacher Remembers.

Patricia Klatch Shenyo, GOD?

Tisha Tolar, Gen-X

Jodi Webb, Pennsylvania Trivia: Weird, Wacky, and Wild.

Susan Wisnewski, Owner, Lazy Dog Café and Coffeehouse (venue for authors and artists)

We'll feature one last author interview this Wednesday!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Why I Write

by Rafael Figueroa

One day I was standing in the back of a C130 cargo plane at the end of the retractable ramp with a drogue parachute line secured to my harness. A smiling airman, who would not be jumping today, assured me that they had simulated this kind of emergency drop countless times and that the jumper almost never died. Was he kidding? There was no way to be certain.

With one last nod in my direction, he pulled the two red levers, one up and the other down. The relative quiet of the cargo hold gave way to a roar better measured in its fearsomeness than in decibels as articulating hydraulic pistons forced the rear end of the plane to open. I was quite sure that the aforementioned airman was looking to me. He would generally need a signal of readiness from me in order to deploy the small parachute in his hand, the very parachute that was fastened to my harness via a sturdy hook. Once he dropped this drogue parachute, nothing short of the hand of god himself could stop it from dragging me out of the plane and into the skies high above enemy territory.

The airman looked to me to give him the signal, but I couldn't stop looking out at the dark emptiness beyond the end of the plane's cargo ramp. Years of training prepared me for this moment, but the most fleeting spark in my brain overcame my training, the spark of fear. In a panic, I reached for the clip on my harness that attached me to the drogue line. This motion must have approximated the signal that the airman anticipated because, in that same moment, he pitched the parachute out into the night.

Time slowed as the line tethering me to the night itself pulled taught. Have you ever ridden in a glass elevator? If you do it often enough, you notice a brief moment as the elevator begins to accelerate wherein it almost seems like the world outside begins to move rather than the elevator itself. In much the same fashion it seemed like the cargo hold around me suddenly accelerated to 300 miles per hour in the blink of an eye. In that moment I paused to reflect on the fact that none of this had ever happened… not to me at any rate.

You see, I made up every word of this story out of my imagination. I did take a ride on a C130 once, I've ridden in glass elevators, and I once saw a movie where people were deployed from a cargo plane in a manner similar to what I described here, but that's about all the truth there is to this little story. Though none of this really happened, I now own a little piece of what it would be like if it had, and so do you. That is why I write.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Interview with Patricia Rowe

Patricia Rowe is a retired teacher who has taught in schools in Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania. Her first book, The Other Side of the Desk: A Teacher Remembers, relates stories shared by her students throughout her teaching career. It is her hope that her book encourages readers to make the most of their public school system, and to hold them accountable for the material they teach their students. Patricia sat down with us to talk about her experiences writing her first book.

BDWN: Thanks for speaking with us, Patricia! Can you tell usa little bit about your book The Other Side of the Desk: A Teacher Remembers?

PATRICIA: This book relates memorable moments that a teacher shared with her students during her lifetime career. Days in school can be happy, sad, sometimes funny or exasperating, but never boring . I see teaching as a serious and important opportunity to assist students to build productive lives and good citizens.

BDWN: How long did it take you to finish writing the book?

In 1957 I began to save stories of classroom happenings. I just wrote them up briefly in longhand (no typewriters) and stuck them in an envelope. In 2008 my husband was placed in an assisted living facility so I had extra time on my hands. I became aquainted with a person who was skilled in computer technology who needed some work so I told her I would pay her to type it up for me. Then I discovered she knew all the computer language and was set up to actually upload, download and she actually got me hooked up with the publisher and was willing to do the editing etc. In the meantine, I also moved to be with my husband. So the end of March, I was connected and by September it was published.

BDWN: We're always interested in learning about other writers' processes and work schedules. What kind of writing schedule works best for you?

PATRICIA: Personal discipline is very important . I schedule in a bit of writing daily and keep an eye on the deadline. I did not grow up in a family that pushed education; we were just common, hard working folks. I believe that God put it in my mind to save the stories. Later I wanted something to share with my family and someday, maybe would share it. Then at this particular time, I was motivated to write up the stories. Then the thought came to me that I can not just tell stories, but must have an introduction and a summary, or conclusion. Then my computer friend showed up and she filled the need for a computer programmer type person. At 75, I had only basics. I found an ad that I tore out of a Sword of the Lord newspaper in the 80's about "Have You Thought of Writing a Book?" That is where the interest ended. Then when I found the ad, we talked about it and I sent for information and before I knew it I was under contract, with the publisher. The initial typing , which I did, took about 6 months with no direct plan. Then when my friend began to type the work, edit and we moved ahead with specific direction, from March to September - 6 months of a rewriting- editing, pattern until published.

After I had determined to get it published, a personal discipline was needed to keep at it and work with my computer person as a team and we stayed with it. To accomplish this task there should be a daily amount of writing/editing to maintain a proper level of interest and passion for the message.

BDWN: What was one of the most important lessons you learned in your teaching career?

PATRICIA: The important message that I learned began with my undergratuate education which was that you must establish a purpose, keep your eye on it, use a system to fulfill it . That need for a purpose will probably be the guide for your life. If you do not have a purpose then your direction and outcomes are questionable and unsuccessful. You can not be successful if you do not know what it is that you want to succeed it. That focus is essential.

BDWN: What have you been hearing from your readers?

PATRICIA: The mentor who referred me for a scholarship in 1952 has read it and said,".. your book is one of the best educational books i have ever read and I believe every educator should read it." She is an author , in the Education Hall of Fame in Illinois and Professor Emeritus,Retired. I cherish that review.
All others have said how much they have enjoyed it and one young father just Sat. night told me that he sat down after work at about 10:30 and started reading the book. He said "the next time I looked it was 2:30 - I couldn't put it down." My mentor also said that each of the stories " is like a mini novel". I am thrilled with the positive responses I am getting.

BDWN: What do you hope readers will take away from this book, and from your teaching experiences?

PATRICIA: It is my hope that the readers will understand that just because children are in school, they are not necessarily in a safe place, are not automatically being educated, and the parenting must not stop when their children are in the hands of someone else- even if it is the public school. It has to be a partnership. Children are in school- away from the values of their home every day, all day for 180 days among all kinds of children, beliefs, behaviors which are influencing their children. Be a full time parent. Teachers- think about what it is you are doing with other peoples children who will be tomorrow's citizens.They get one chance at each grade.

BDWN: What's next for you?

PATRICIA: I am trying to move along with my life story for my children to have because we have not been together except for a week or 2 a year, and I must pass on to them how good God has been to me and to share His blessings with them so they can pass those values along to all generations. Also I want to do my part to help get our country back on its feet . I believe that the school must get back to its purpose and leave the family values to the family. The parents must once again learn to discipline their children, teach them the values on which our country was built , enforce them and LIVE THEM!! If in the years I have left I can have a part in this I will have achieved my purpose.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Pre-Registration Now Closed

Pre-registration for the BDWN Write It Right Conference is now closed, but that doesn't mean you'll have to miss out on the region's first writers' conference! Walk-in registrations will still be accepted on April 17, so don't worry if you lost your registration form or are still undecided about attending. We'd still love to meet you!

We have 2 weeks until the big day!


Kudos to our friends at the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group, whose "Write Stuff" conference was held on March 27 at the Four Points Sheraton in Allentown. Our keynote speaker, Kathryn Craft, was this year's conference chair. She and her committee did an outstanding job! Jodi Webb and I (Sara) attended, and as always, we got a ton of great information from the sessions we attended. The highlights for me (Sara) was Molly Cochran's session on "Finishing Your Novel" and Maureen Sangiorgio's talk on writing magazine articles; Jodi spoke highly of Jordan Sonnenblick, and we both attended sessions with their keynote, author and creative writing teacher James (How to Write a Damn Good Novel) Frey. Jodi and I both made agent appointments (my first time doing so) and despite a case of the jitters, we both received encouraging responses from our respective agents. For those who have never attended GLVWG's conference, make it a point to try to get there next year--you'll be glad you did!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Interview with Patricia Shenyo

EDITOR'S NOTE: As part of our Write It Right conference, the Black Diamond Writers Network will be holding a local author book fair at the end of the day. Over the next few weeks, we'll be introducing you to some of the authors participating in the book fair and talking to them about their writing projects. First up is Patricia Shenyo.

Patricia Klatch Shenyo is an ordinary person like most of us – a wife, a mother, a grandmother, and by profession a high school Business Education teacher, now retired. She taught in William Allen High School, Allentown, PA, Woodbridge School District, Woodbridge, NJ, and Bishop Hafey High School, Hazleton, PA. She has been involved in Church ministry as an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, teaching religious education classes to high school juniors, and serving on various committees for over thirty years. First-hand experiences with God’s healing power has solidified her convictions in God’s great love for each person, His willingness to do what is best for each, and His burning desire to bring each to eternal happiness in heaven.

As a high school Business Education teacher realizing that high school students, college students, and sometimes adults seldom have a clear vision in determining which direction to take their lives, Mrs. Shenyo developed a highly successful project for her students to help them realize their ambitions. This project was later written and published in the form of two booklets, Making Wise Career Choices and Getting The Job You Desire. Both booklets have been recently rewritten to give the most up-to-date information. They will also be available on the Website along with her newly published book, GOD?

BDWN: Thanks for speaking with us, Patricia. Can you tell us about your book, GOD?

PATRICIA: Most people have questions about God. This book gives insight and answers to perplexing questions regarding God. Is there a God; can we prove His existence? What is He like? Is there a spiritual realm – heaven, hell, purgatory? Has anyone ever seen them? Are there truly miracles; do they occur today? . . .and so much more is contained in the first section of the book.

The second section deals with what does God say. It goes through the ten commandments and gives Bible references as to what God expects. It also explains God’s goodness, His love, and His willingness to forgive our most grievous offenses.

The third section explains what kind of help God offers to us, His great love for us and His desire for each person to have eternal salvation. It gives insight as to why God allows good people to suffer and why it is important for a person to forgive someone who hurt him/her.

The fourth section tells the reader what’s in it for you and for me – what God has in store for those who love Him.

The book “carries on a conversation” with the reader. It is interspersed with charming anecdotes, stories of great hardship and courage, tales of terror, of human suffering and healing, of forgiveness, and stories of trust in God. All the stories are true. It is a book of great hope and encouragement to everyone, even the most abject of sinners.

BDWN: Religion is such a delicate subject. How did you treat the various beliefs that are out there?

PATRICIA: Each person is treated with the greatest respect from the devout Christian, Jew, Muslim to the agnostic, atheist, and everyone in between. I believe that there are many paths to God and each person has the right to worship or not to worship at all as he/she so chooses.

BDWN: What drew you to writing this type of book?

PATRICIA: Many people have a hunger for something or someone that can give them happiness not only in this world, but in eternity. I believe that someone is God. Each person needs to know that there is a God Who loves him/her unconditionally and is willing to do whatever it takes to grant salvation. The secret is in the choosing.

BDWN: How long did it take you to complete the book?

PATRICIA: The book was completed in seven months. I began writing in March of 2009 and finished in September. There were a few little changes and insertions that I made after that.

BDWN: What kind of response have you been receiving from your readers?

PATRICIA: I have had the book for only two weeks and have already sold 60 copies and have given out 11 complimentary copies for a total of 71. In addition, there are others who have told me that they want to buy a copy of my book. All this is by word of mouth. People are coming back to me and telling me how much they are enjoying my book. I am amazed at the wonderfully positive comments coming even from those I don’t know very well as well as those who are not of my own religious affiliation.

BDWN: What other projects do you have in the works?

PATRICIA: At present my focus is to get my book up on a Website and hopefully to sell it over the Internet; then see where it will go from there. Since this is my first book, there is much that I need to learn. So, I am taking things slowly – one step at a time.