About Debra Shiveley Welch:
Debra Shiveley Welch was born in Columbus, Ohio and has lived in the Greater Columbus area all of her life. She now resides in Central Ohio with her husband, Mark, and their son, Christopher, also a traditionally published author.
Debra is an Amazon Best Selling Author of 14 books and the recipient of the FaithWriter’s Gold Seal of Approval, Books & Authors Award of Excellence recipient, Books & Authors Best Non Fiction Book – 2007, AllBooks Reviews Editor’s Choice 2010 and Books & Authors Best Native American Fiction 2011.
Her books include: “Cedar Woman,” her solo novel, made its debut in December of 2010 and recounts the story of a daughter of the Lakota Sioux who opens the first Native American restaurant in Central Ohio and won Books & Authors Best Native American Fiction 2011; four time award winner “Son of My Soul – The Adoption of Christopher,” released during November, National Adoption Month in 2007 and a Best Seller on Amazon within the first week of its release and soon to be available in audio; “A Very Special Child,” an award winning Best Seller on Amazon America and in English at Amazon Japan. “Jesus Gandhi Oma Mae Adams,” Debra’s first novel, co-authored with Linda Lee Greene, an Amazon Best Seller as well. “Christopher Meets Buddy,” a children’s book about the proper care of a pet bird, is the second book in the Christopher Series. Printed in full color, it is an excellent guide if you are considering buying a pet bird.
All are available through Amazon in Kindle or paperback and your major book stores.
To view her other works, visit her author page on Amazon.
Currently Debra is working on “Spirit Woman,” a sequel to “Cedar Woman,” “Christopher’s Family Table,” a companion cook book to “Son of My Soul – The Adoption of Christopher,” which she is co-authoring with her son, “My Cousin My Son – A Story of Adoption, Motherhood and Kinship,” a sequel to “Son of My Soul,” and “Heads Are Gonna Roll,” an ambitious tale weaving English history, reincarnation and murder.
What inspires you to write?
I have been writing since age nine. A third generation poet, I have always enjoyed the beauty and flow, the cadence and flavor, of words.
I remember lying upstairs in the old farm house, snuggled down deep into a feather bed, buried beneath layers of homemade quilts. Fully awake, I would listen to my mother, father, Mawmaw, Pawpaw, aunts and uncles talking, their voices drifting up to me through the heat vent in the floor. I enjoyed the music of their speech, the meter: the up and down patterns and the various inflections and tones of each individual.
Many of the patterns were the same. They were from the same family, after all. But some had moved away, as my mother had, to the “big city” and her speech had changed – evolved. I found this fascinating!
Mawmaw would say, “Well, I’ll red up the table then,” her voice deep, resonant and rich. Mom would answer “Okay, Mother. I’ll help you clean up,” this said much lighter and higher in the throat. Aunt Louise would respond with, “Fetch them dishes on over here then, Mam-aw.” Like Mawmaw, she speaks deep within the larynx, emitting the same sonorous sound. Beautiful! Exhilarating! It was difficult to drift off, in spite of the caressing feathers and quilts. Who could sleep with this verbal lullaby just one floor below?
With this wealth of dialect and poetry surrounding me throughout my childhood, it was no wonder I became a writer. What else could I do but scribe the music of my family’s voice?
Tell us about your writing process.
Please allow me to share an instructional book I’ve written about this exact subject:
Writing Your First Book
I have had so many people say to me, “I don’t know where to start! How do you do it?’ How do you manage to write a book?” Well, it may not be as difficult as you fear. The “doing” simply is in the knowing how.
Let’s start with the basics. Just as you prepared for doing your homework as a child and young adult, you must prepare for writing your manuscript. This isn’t something you can just jump into without preparation.
First of all, most publishers want your work written in Microsoft Word. Documents must be single spaced, with no spaces between paragraphs; each paragraph with a five space indent.
This may vary from publisher to publisher, so do your homework. Go to their website and read their guidelines for submission.
Today’s publishers want submissions to be in pristine condition with:
Correct grammar, and
If you’re trying for traditional publishing, most houses these days have their word count limits set to between 65 and 100,000 words.
Get an editor on board!
Find a writing/editing partner to work with, whose strengths do not mirror your own.
For instance, let’s say that you are very good with dialog, and they are weak – but they are very good with punctuation, grammar and verb tense agreement. Well, you can help each other a lot. In the end, however, a professional editor can be invaluable. The publishing world is not what it used to be. An editor will most probably not be provided, and many works are rejected on bad-editing alone.
Invest in a good writing guide such as Harbrace College Handbook or Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. They will be invaluable to you as you edit your work.
Start out with a good outline
Eternal beauties have “good bones.” Your book has to have “good bones” to be a good book. That is, good organization, a good outline…a good “skeleton.” Create an outline for your book to keep you on track. It doesn’t mean that the outline can’t change, but if you write out a “road map” for your work, you won’t get lost before you reach your destination: the end of your book.
Join a writing group
Many writing groups are set up so that, in order to be critiqued, you must reciprocate. So if you are active with other writers, you will get feedback on your work. This is all done with respect and a desire to help each member become a better writer. This is also an excellent place to find your writing/editing partner.
Learn to take criticism
It’s nice to hear someone say “Oh, I just love your work!” But does this help you? Maybe a little, but honest, constructive criticism is your best tool for improving your writing skills. However, sometimes, the people around you, friends and relatives, for instance, are the worst ones to listen to. They will either tell you that you are brilliant, when you are not, or not talented – when you are! Some may even tell you to give up. Only you can decide if you want to go on, and if the need within you to write is great, go for it.
Write, write and then write
Write every day. If you are blocked on your current project, write a practice exercise. Keep the juices flowing and your creativity active. Writing is not like riding a bike….if you get lazy and don’t practice, you will lose a lot of your skills. The more you practice, the better you will get, but if you don’t use it, you will lose it.
Practice – indulge yourself in writing exercises.
For instance, pick up a piece of fruit. Smell it, feel it, taste it. Now write about it.
Make your reader smell, feel and taste that piece of fruit.
Step outside. What do you see, hear? Describe it so that a reader will feel like they are there.
And, you’re off!
Now you are prepared to begin your first book. Word is loaded on to your computer. You have your writing manuals, you have a writing/editing partner, and your keyboard is dusted off and ready to go. Now what do you do?
Well, we will talk about:
Writing about what you know
Getting your reader’s attention
Setting the Scene
Fleshing out your characters
Dialog – It can make or break your book
Following are some examples taken from the novel Jesus Gandhi Oma Mae Adams.
Write about what you know
If you write about what you know, places you’ve been, and draw on your own experiences, you will bring to your writing a unique quality and a reality that will truly speak to your audience. Sci-fi and fantasy novels are fun to write and read, but even they must be based on some reality unique to the author. Draw on your history, and your book will ring true to your readers.
Get their attention
Any work, whether it is an article, an essay, a novel or a poem, must start with a first paragraph that is a “grabber.” If you don’t get your reader’s attention immediately, you will more than likely lose them. Be creative, think about your story, and give them all you’ve got with your opening:
Mortified and with shoes in hand, Oma Mae paddled flatfooted to her office door, her burning feet, swelling and smacking heavily on the tiled hallway floor. “WOMEN DO NOT HAVE HOT FLASHES! THEY HAVE POWER SURGES,” flashed across her brain, the words throbbing in her head like a strobe light on the set of Saturday Night Fever. What in the hell would Gail Sheehy know about hot flashes! I’ll lay odds she was popping estrogen pills like they were M&M’s when she wrote that one, Oma Mae blustered hotly, her breath so hot she quickly sipped it back in to keep it from scorching the tender insides of her feverish lips.
Set the Scene:
Where does a particular scene happen? Your reader must “see” what you “see,” “hear” what you “hear.” Each scene should be carefully crafted so that your reader can follow the story with ease:
Later that evening, Oma Mae went topside after the rest of the party had settled in their berths for the night. She made herself comfortable, lying down on a deck chair and placing her hands behind her head. She laid there watching the stars and enjoying the soft listing of the ship and the slap, slap, slap of the waves against the schooner’s wooden hull. The evening was a little cool, pleasantly so, and there was a slight wind carrying the scent of salt, a briny perfume she found enticing; delightful for someone who was used to the green smell of land-locked Ohio.
Flesh out your characters, but don’t go overboard:
When you introduce your characters, flesh them out. Describe them: color of hair, eyes, height, attitude, perhaps a brief history. Make them real – a living and breathing character, but don’t go on forever. I once read a book where it took 20 pages to introduce a character. By the time I got back to the plot, I’d lost interest. But your readers have to care about your characters, whether it is to love or hate them. Ambivalence doesn’t work in successful writing:
Sylvie Musser stood a mere five feet tall, her height diminished by a pronounced dowager’s hump, forcing her head and shoulders forward in a classic osteoporosis slump. Hazel green eyes, sunk deeply in their sockets, peered beneath gray brows and above high cheekbones, her facial structure reminiscent of her Native American great grandmother. Her hair, straight and iron gray, was worn in a simple bun nestling atop her curved spine.
The old woman was thin to the point of gauntness, her frail frame clothed in a simple summer dress of the kind Oma Mae had not seen since the early sixties, consisting of a simple sleeveless shift under a bibbed apron, tied at the waist and pinned at the shoulders. She wore terry cloth carpet slippers, their outline stretched and molded by the arthritic toes encased inside them.
Dialog – It can make or break your book:
Your dialog should make the reader feel that they are there, in the moment, eavesdropping, as it were. Stilted dialog can make a book drag to the point where your reader will eventual put the book down, and possibly never pick it up again.
Listen to the following dialog…first without description and then with:
“You know, evolution is impossible.” Ray said.
“Impossible?” Oma Mae said.
“Yes. Well, more accurately I guess, is that it is a miracle. I suppose nothing is impossible; it’s just that we haven’t come to fully understand evolution yet.” he said. “It goes against natural law.”
“Yeah, it would be like reversing the flow of the tides of the ocean, if I’m understanding what you are saying,” Oma Mae said. “Or the breeze kicking up now and swirling across the water,” she said.
Now, note the difference:
“You know, evolution is impossible.” Ray scanned the horizon of the vast ocean with a slow contemplative sweep of his head and rested his gaze fully on Oma Mae.
“Impossible?” Oma Mae slanted a disbelieving look at his statement.
“Yes. Well, more accurately I guess, is that it is a miracle. I suppose nothing is impossible; it’s just that we haven’t come to fully understand evolution yet.” He turned sideways toward Oma Mae and rested his elbow on the railing. “It goes against natural law.”
“Yeah, it would be like reversing the flow of the tides of the ocean, if I’m understanding what you are saying,” Oma Mae contributed. “Or the breeze kicking up now and swirling across the water.” She raised her hands to her hair and smoothed the tendrils dancing in the wind across her face.
Ever watch a good movie where the transitions are so great, you can’t help but notice them? Take for instance, “Avalon.” Released in 1990 and directed by Barry Levinson, it is a story of three generations of immigrants who try to make a better life for themselves in America. The first scene ends with 4th of July fireworks. There are the bright lights, the booming, and then the smoke…fade to black, with smoke drifting across the scene, fade in to the grandfather, blowing smoke from a cigar, and telling his grandchildren of when he came to America in 1914 on the 4th of July. Now there is a transition. Your viewers know that a scene has changed, but there is a connection.
The same holds true with a novel. Each paragraph should lead into the next. More importantly, each chapter should end with a transition which leads to the following one. This keeps your reader interested, and keeps them turning the page: picking your book up again and again, until the finish.
Chapter ends with:
I feel prepared to take this giant step away from the comfort and security of my mother’s loving arms, and Patrick’s brotherly protection, and Joy’s sisterly companionship. Even Mother Mary Claire, as with the others, must be left to pursue, her own soul development and growth. These wise and wonderful and loving people have honed me, and if I am to do anything of good or service at all, it will be to them the credit will be owed. Therefore, it is those four most precious loved-ones to whom I devote my life, even as I say goodbye.
The lonesome faraway echoes of a braying burro were the only sounds Oma Mae Adams heard as she disembarked the bus transporting her to the Terminal in the city of Cuenca, located in the southern highlands of the Andes Mountains in the south-central region of Ecuador.
Edit, edit and then edit:
Clean up your work! You wouldn’t send your child to a party with mud on his face and his clothes torn, would you? So why would you send your book, your “child” out into the world filled with errors in punctuation, grammar or spelling? Take the time to edit and then edit again. This is not the time to be lazy.
So, now you have written your book. You’ve made an outline to help you stay on track, you’ve written a killer first paragraph to get your reader’s undivided attention, your scenes and characters are vivid and believable, and your dialog is visual and interesting.
You’ve edited and edited to make sure that your punctuation, spelling and grammar are absolutely correct, you’ve used a writing/editing partner to read your story and help you with every aspect of your work, and now you are ready to submit your “baby” to a publisher or agent.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
Absolutely! I always have someone on board who is reading my work as it progresses. We discuss the characters, what is going on with them, how would they react to this or that.
I’ve spent many an hour with a friend in a restaurant talking about my characters. It’s not unusual for the server to finally ask if everything is all right with our friend. That’s how it should work.
What advice would you give other writers?
Write with integrity. Your name, your art, and your colleagues deserve nothing less.
Research everything. Not long ago I watched a movie where the actress was describing the death of the conjoined twins she was holding at the time. She said, “First I watched the boy die, and then the girl.” What? Conjoined twins can only be of the same sex. Dumb mistake. On that same line, “Douglas and Dianna, being identical twins…..” Obviously, the author started out with the twins being of the same sex, at some point in time decided that they should be fraternal, but somehow missed this very important reference.
Research, edit and after that, edit.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I have always gone to my publisher. I wanted to be traditionally published and I was thrilled when my publisher picked up my first book, “A Very Special Child,” an children’s book about adoption. She has accepted every manuscript submitted since that time.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I like the fact that people who heretofore could not be read, can now publish their books on their own. However, this also poses a problem.
I can’t begin to count the number of new authors who have expressed their surprise to me because they didn’t become rich over night. It just doesn’t happen that way. You must write to be read, not to be fed. Yes, it comes down to that.
Consequently, so many books are being published which have not been cared for, polished, edited, fussed over. It now behooves the reader to research before they buy, and that can be quite overwhelming.
What do you use?: Professional Cover Designer
What genres do you write?: Children’s, Murder Mysteries, Romance, Memoirs, Thrillers, Cook Books, Anthologies, and Poetry
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print