15 February 2011

Author Interview and Giveaway - Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz

This interview with Author Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz is part of her A Past and A Future blog tour.
Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz has published more than 100 articles, 75 stories, two e‑books, a chapbook, and her stories have been included in two anthologies. She writes for both adults and children. Her fiction has appeared in numerous genre and children’s publications and non‑fiction work has appeared in a variety of writing, parenting, and young adult print magazines and on line publications.  She edits for three small independent publishers.

Welcome, Penny. Thanks for visiting Vivid Sentiments.
Hi Su, thank you for the opportunity to talk about my recently released collection of short stories, A Past and A Future.  This book is published by Sam’s Dot Publishing, and is available through Genremall at http://www.genremall.com/anthologiesr.htm#pastfuture
  • Tell us a bit about yourself.
I retired from my position as Office Manager for our County District Attorney in 2008.  Since then, I have been able to write full-time.  I am also an editor for MuseItUp Publishing, Damnation Press, and 4RV Publishing.  When I’m not reading as an editor, I enjoy reading for pleasure and primarily read fantasy and science fiction.  My husband and I live in rural Oregon on six acres, and while we’ve had numerous animals in the past, we’re now down to two small dogs and three cats.  We have two grown married children with one 3 year old granddaughter and a grandson due in June.  I also enjoy gardening, crocheting, and water aerobics. I’m trying to learn to knit, but that’s not coming along too well.
  • As a child, what did you want to do when you grow up?
This is an easy one!  I wanted to be a writer.  It’s something I’ve always known I wanted to be from the time I started to dream of life after childhood.  It’s nice to finally be a grown up and get to do what I enjoy doing…telling stories and entertaining people.
  • When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I always thought of myself as a writer, even when I wasn’t published.  It was hard however to introduce myself to people as “Hi, I’m Penny. I’m a writer.”  Now that I’m retired and writing full time, with several book contracts signed, it’s easier to identify myself as a writer.  I’ve been writing stories for my own enjoyment since I was a child.  If I wasn’t writing stories, I was writing letters to friends, relatives and pen pals.  I still have some of the stories I wrote as a child. It’s fun to read them to school kids when I do an author’s visit.
  • Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I would say the most challenging thing in writing is marketing.  Telling stories is easy, but selling the finished product is hard for me.  I’m not an outgoing person and knocking on doors and asking people to buy my book is difficult.
  • What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
When I start to write, I tend to write every day. Since I’m retired, I have the luxury of being able to write whenever I want to and for as long as I want to.  I find my stories play in my head like a movie when the scene is being played out on the computer screen.  Sometimes, I close my eyes, see what’s happening and then start writing.  I like being able to pick and choose when I write, since on beautiful days (which happen only on rare occasions here in Oregon), I like to be out in my garden.  I have found, though, with my recent laptop purchase, I can now take my writing work outside with me.  This is a plus.
The one thing I have to try not to do when I’m on a writing binge is get side-tracked with email, Facebook and Twitter :-)
  •  Where do you get your ideas for your books from?
I get my ideas from a lot of different places.  Sometimes, it’s a story someone told me.  For example, my middle grade novel, Ghost for Rent, got its start after a friend told me about ghostly apparitions in the house she was renting.  Other times, I get an idea when I’m reading a newspaper or magazine article.  Ashley of Ashland, in the A Past and A Future collection, came from an article I read in a newspaper.  Rebels with a Cause was prompted by my work as a secretary in our county juvenile department.   My picture book, Boo’s Bad Day, came out of a true life story of our black cat that, during a severe ice storm, climbed up a 75 foot tree and didn’t know how to get down.
  • What does your family think of your writing?
I think they have mixed emotions, although they are supportive.  I started my professional writing career when my youngest was ten years old.  At the time, she didn’t believe I was a “real” writer because I focused on non-fiction articles and short stories.  She said I couldn’t be a writer until I had published a book.  That was the beginning of my first  children’sbook, Ghost for Rent.  Now, as a grade school teacher, she has invited me to her classroom to talk to her students and read from my book. My husband is thrilled with me each time I see my name in print. My daughter-in-law is perhaps more excited about my writing than my son, but he also thinks it’s great. My mother, of course, is immensely proud of my writing accomplishments, but isn’t that what moms do best?
  • How many books have you written?
My first book was an eBook, Then and Later, which had a short life since the publisher went out of business about a year after publication.  My next book was Ghost for Rent, published by an eBook publisher but also available as a POD.  I’ve written over a hundred short stories for both adults and children which have appeared in a variety of genre and small press magazines and online.  Now that I’m retired, I am more focused on the books.  I have two novelettes coming out from MuseItUp publishing this year and four children’s books coming from 4 RV publishing over the next four years. The recently released A Past and A Future is a collection of some of my favorite short stories.  Some of these were in the original collection, but many are new to this book and a couple have never before been published.
  • What do you think makes a good story?
For me a good story needs to entertain me, and I hope I do that when I write my stories.  I’ve had a number of jobs where I dealt with nasty things…working for a women’s crisis center, working at the juvenile department, and working at the district attorney’s office.  So, when I pick up a story to read, I want to be transported to another realm.  I guess this is why I write fantasy and science fiction.  I like good strong characters who also have their flaws.  I tend to include relationships in my stories because I believe those interactions are important to my stories.
  • Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?
I have definitely had dry periods.  I’m not sure they would be considered writer’s block.  When I think of writer’s block, I think of someone sitting at her computer screen unable to think of what to write.  I tend to write in spurts.  I’m not a writer who has to sit down every day to write, although I’ve read in numerous writing manuals that’s what I should do.  When a story idea hits me, I’m ready to go.  If I don’t have an idea in mind, I don’t worry about it.  One will come along.  One thing I have found useful is being able to vary what I write.  If a fiction idea isn’t coming, I can turn to non-fiction. I have had success with writing parenting articles, teen self-help articles, and writing tips. Also switching genres helps…thus my fantasy, science fiction, romance, and children’s stories.
  • How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
I don’t use a set formula.  I’m what is called a “pantster.”  I write from the “seat of my pants.”  When an idea comes along that I want to pursue, I tend to sit down and start writing. Sometimes a character comes to mind first and then has to tell his or her story. When I wrote Down So Low, The Ground Looks Like Up, I had the concept for someone so down on her luck there seemed like no options for her.  The story went from there.  I would have to say that each story develops differently based on what story I want to tell, or what story my character wants to tell.
  • What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
My tools, besides my computer, are my collection of writing reference books.  Although my computer has a dictionary, I rely on my good old Random House Webster’s Dictionary.  I also have both the Roget’s Super Thesaurus and Roget’s Thesaurus of Phrases.  I often refer to my Strunk and White, Elements of Style, and The Craft of Writing by William Sloane.  Finally, I’ve become fond of The Writer’s Digest, Grammar Desk Reference.
  • Do you look to your own phobias to find subject matter? Are your stories the products of nightmares, childhood experiences, fantasies?
I think most writers do, and I often include things which are either my own or my children’s experiences.  As a woman writer, I like my female characters to be strong, not necessarily physically, but able to find ways to defend themselves.  Sometimes they use magic, sometimes they use their intellect, but I want them to win.  My dad died when I was a child, so I definitely have a fascination with ghosts and the afterlife. 
  • Where do you as an author draw the line on gory descriptions and/or erotic content?
I tend to write more PG-13 material than gory descriptions or erotic content.  I think the imagination of the reader is so much more vivid than anything I would want to put on paper.  I will write about sexual relations without describing the act.  I will also write about physical violence but not give graphic descriptions.
  •  What are your current projects?
  1. A Past and A Future – my latest release, is a collection of sixteen short stories, half are fantasy and half are science fiction. 
  2. Ghost for Rent – is a middle grade paranormal mystery. 
  3. Dragon Sight – is a young adult illustrated chapbook. 
  4. Love Delivery – is a contemporary romance, coming August, 2011.
  5. Lady in Waiting – is an historical romance, coming November, 2011.
  6. Funny Dog –  is a picture book, coming May, 2012.
  7. Ghost for Lunch – is a middle grade paranormal mystery and sequel, coming September, 2013.
  8. Many Colored Coats – a picture book, is coming October, 2014.
  9. Boo's Bad Day – is a picture book coming June, 2015.
  • Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Stories included in A Past and A Future are:
1. Flight of the Roc: What would you do if your master told you to collect a roc's egg?  What would happen if the egg you collected hatched?
2. Blurred Vengeance: Temur's father is murdered.  Will his journey to avenge his father's death bring him what he wants, or will it destroy him?
3. Who Will Heal the Healer: Marzan teaches Niane to control the winds, but what about the winds of fate?  Will Niane be able to save her mentor when the underworld claims him?
4. Ashley of Ashland:   Ashley, a young magician covets his brother's fiance, but what are her feelings?  Can Ashley's magic be enough to save him and his true love?
5. The Watcher: Zerelda is a watcher in a world of women.  When a prince comes to impregnate her ruler, will they find a forbidden love instead?
6. Enchantress:  Merlin knows his fate, but he struggles to stand against it.  Will his powers be stronger than his apprentice’s, or will he find himself a victim of love?
7.Drakoni: She is from this world.  He is from another.  A dragon draws them together.  Will she look beyond his pointed ears and see the man of her dreams? 
8. Heshe: Lyda runs, hiding her identity from her abusive stepfather.  Her rescuer has a secret of his own.  Will they both find happiness or will their pursuers stop them before they find their paradise?
9. The Baby Makers: How far would you go to have a baby if you can't conceive on your own?  Would you accept a clone?  Would you fight for that's child's rights in a world unprepared for it?
10. 3-D Pictures:  Avery's boss thought he was crazy, but was he?  When he stared into the 3-D picture, he saw a land others couldn't.  Will he enter the picture, or accept the doctor's diagnosis?
11. Screen Saver:  Clancy is used to strange people.  His boss represents them.  But when the bullets start flying, will the screen saver save him?
12. Isolation:  The world has died, except for small pockets of isolated communities.   But what if you are tired of the isolation?  What if you wanted to find somewhere to be free?  Would you take the chance?
13. Love in a Different Hue:  Chiri's father is a scientist who invents artificial life.   What should she do when the robot her father created looks better to her than her husband?
14. Down So Low The Ground Looks Like Up:  Sylvan is sensitive to others feelings.  It drives her crazy, so she drinks to dull the pain.  Will Dev, the police officer who finds her, rescue her from her demons?
15. Rebels With a Cause:  Shahleena is bored with her existence.  Will volunteering to help juvenile offenders help her or help them?
16. Clockworks:  John lives in Structured.  His ancestors came from Upheaval.  On a whim, he decides to visit.  What will happen to him when he cannot leave fast enough?
  • How did you come up with the title for your book?
Since the collection is half fantasy and half science fiction, I wanted a title which reflected the past and the future.  An earlier collection, which also included both fantasy and science fiction, was Then and Later.  Since I couldn’t use the same title  again, I went with A Past and A Future.
  •  Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Again, since this is a collection, rather than a novel, I don’t think there is any one message.  I write to entertain and allow readers to move outside the present world in which we live.  I think, though, that all my stories have a message of hope.  No matter when, no matter where, things can get better,
  •  Are there parts of the book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I would say my characters are composites of people I know or have met or seen somewhere.  No one character is exactly like a real person or completely based upon a real person.  However, each character might have a trait or physical resemblance to a living person.
  • If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No.  I like the stories I chose to include in the book.  People who have read it, tell me they are enjoying it.  This is always pleasant feedback for an author to hear.
  •  What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Above when I answered a similar question, I said the marketing of the book.  But I would also say the discipline to sit down and actually write and not get distracted by a sunny day or a household project that needs doing. 
  •  Where can we find you online?
My blog is http://pennylockwoodehrenkranz.blogspot.com/

Su, I want to thank you for the opportunity to be here today.  You asked some great questions.

Thank you, Penny for stopping by. Your books sound interesting and worth checking out. Good luck!
The Giveaway

Leave a comment below with your email address if you would like to win a copy of Crash Landing, a free story not part of the anthology. The author will email the book to one lucky winner.
Giveaway ends Wednesday, February 16, 2011.