Tag Archive | Tea and Biscuit Girls

A Hint of Celebrity?

Now that Ken and I spruced up our home with a few pieces of new furniture, a washer and dryer, and new kitchen chairs, I decided it was time for a little Barbara upgrading. Yup. I spent some coins on myself, and I didn’t do it at the thrift store. 🙂

The items I wanted included a pair of new glasses, some wrinkle cream and skin spot remover, along with a couple pair of new sandals. (I still think we may have at least a couple of days of summer in the near future.)

On Saturday, I went to pick up my new specs. For once the sun was shining, but little did I know in a few seconds it would shine on me. When the receptionist requested my name, I replied, “Barbara McCloskey.”

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One of the customers turned around with a surprised look on her face and said, “Barbara McCloskey? I know that name. Sure, there’s somebody by that name who is an author.”

I replied, “That’s me!”

The customer’s voice went up an octave as she said, “No kidding?”

I whipped out my business cards I got for such opportunities and gave  one to each customer in the store.

bus card

For a couple of seconds, I felt like a big shot. Fame shown it’s fickle light on me and I smiled in the illumination. Even though I hadn’t been facially recognized, somebody did recognize my name.

I’ve emblazoned this scene in my mind with the exception someday I will be facially recognized, and my “fan” will have read all of my books.

I truly believe this is the first step to fulfilling my dream–to become a successful author. This first step is simple, but necessary.

Here’s the bottom line to this tale. I don’t believe dreams happen. Having a clear vision of what we want to achieve is key, then we must share it with others. In the meantime, put your nose to the grindstone and work, work, work. In my case, I need to read and write everyday. Persistence is key–you can’t give up even when the ugly face of writer’s block crosses you path. Then grab opportunities when they come along. Do radio interviews. Get your name in the local paper. Pass out business cards advertising your genre and titles. Get your book reviewed. Don’t hide your light under a bushel basket — no one can shine hiding. Perhaps you might even get a little “luck” as you go through the actions of working toward your goals. No one can turn down good luck, right?

My only caution is to be careful what you ask for. . . there’s a good chance you will get it.

Incredible Stories

historyMy first love — after my husband and my pug dog Ernie — is writing. My second love is history. The best combination is writing about history.

I think I love history because I imagine what I would have done in a  particular situation. Of course, none of us really knows how we act. Will we be the hero or would we run away as a coward? Would we have been strong enough to stand up for our ideals with the threat of death or would we would hide our true feelings and go with the flow? When it boils down, no one truly knows. You have to be immersed in the facts and action of the time and space.

So much of true history is lost because people who write down the history we learn are usually the victors.

I’m not interested in the lives of the heroes that are celebrated.  I want to unearth the unsung heroes who are lost in time. That’s why most of my research is about ordinary women who have always risen to the occasion when their men go off to war. Because woman have been considered “the fairer sex” or even worse as “property,” their stories often get lost.

I would bet most of you didn’t know British women were drafted to work in the factories during WWII. I would also bet you didn’t know how Russian women pilots defended their country in combat in the battle of Stalingrad. Have you ever hear of the WASPs? How many nurses have you come across who landed with the troops in North America dressed as GIs with no weapon except a red cross on the sleeve of their uniform? Yet all of these situations actually happened.

All of these stories are out there, but you have to need a pick and shovel to find them. My novels, pay tribute to these women through fictional characters. I want to pass on these extraordinary stories because they are too amazing to ignore.

What is Writing Excellence?

writing excellence

When my first novel was published, I thought I had achieved excellence. My family and friends said they loved the read, but now as I study the book, I wish I could take another whack at it. Typos and other annoying things jump off the page and taunt me. The story is good, but I wish I had a magic wand to improve the novel with the help of my editor and my proofreader.

Book cover 1APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS hit the shelves in 2010, and I had visions of being as prolific and successful as Stephen King or William Paterson. So far, though, I’m hardly a household name, even though four more of my books have gone to press. With 40,000 books published everyday, I’m hardly a whisper.

Am I a failure in pursuing excellence because my books aren’t on the best seller list?

Yes and no. I failed to bring in royalties so far, but I achieved a childhood goal to be labeled an author. I failed to create a big national buzz, but I spoke at our local library’s “Breakfast with the Authors,” was featured in the local newspaper, and interviewed on the local radio station.

A writing career is a journey, not a destination. A writer is a life-long student of observation of  life. This self-education is then explored on paper and shared with other to inspire, inform, or entertain. To build a reading audience writers make themselves vulnerable every time they publish. Reviewers and critics of all kind have the ability to make or break them. What’s more, the public eye causes people to scrutinize not only your work, but you. Still, public exposure is a necessary evil.  Failure to advertise is fatal because without it authors will remain invisible.

Through this journey of writing, I have learned not everybody loves my subject matter. I write about what fascinates me. That’s why my novels are all set in the 1940’s, a time when the world went crazy and emotions of every kind were at a fevered pitch. Each story can stand alone,, but certain characters may pop up again and again from book to book. I wanted it this way because the novels can be read in any order, but cohesive links exist.  For example, the next release, STEPHANIA IN AMERICA, is a prequel to the second book, STRANGER IN THE SPOTLIGHT.  LOVE IMMIGRANTS is a sequel to TEA & BISCUIT GIRLS.

But let’s get back to the question—what is writing excellence? I believe excellence to be an allusive quality like perfection. I also believe excellence means different things to different people. Someone might find excellence in a book which keeps them turning pages. A good yarn to one is drivel to another. Something deeply thought-provoking to one person is hard work for another. Excellence boils down to personal preference, but critics get the last word.

My goal is to write the best story, article, or post I can at that particular time and space. As I explore and share my ideas, I hope to touch my reader with something they may remember, and hopefully, they will return wanting more from me.

So you see, true success for me is not quitting. Being willing to fall is not failing,; striving to improve is a constant challenge; and facing a blank screen day after day is courage. That’s true excellence in writing.

Grow Where You’re Planted is The Secret

Woman writerEvery morning, I give thanks I no longer have to wake up to the jarring noise of a blaring alarm clock, tear myself out from under the coziness of my bed before I’m fully awake, drag myself through showering, dressing, and then breakfast–only to fight traffic on the way to a job I hated.

My “retirement” came quite unexpectedly three years ago when I couldn’t find a job after I had asked my boss in the insurance business to fire me. I was burned out and disgusted by the whole scene. (Someday, I ‘ll tell you about it.)

My intention was to return to Marketing/Communications in some big company to live out my working years. However, there were two problems with this plan. First, the economy had tanked and these jobs were nonexistent. Second, because I had taken a left turn into the financial industry, nobody in marketing believed I still had what it took to be a viable talent. The situation became scary when the unemployment cheeks stopped, and I was forced to exhaust dip into my retirement savings to survive. But, we must go forward, right?

Looking back on the whole ugly mess, I think this happened because God wanted me to stay home with Ken and have a chance to do what I really wanted to do. Write.

So, after a month of  recovery, I embarked on a journey to produce my first novel. A  former client had a story she wanted to tell, but she didn’t have the writing talent to do it. It was a fascinating tale of a witch in a hospital. NO really, that’s what MercyLess Memorial Hospital is all about. It was Cindy’s story with my fictional twist. But when she decided to self-published the book with her name on it as the author, I was pissed annoyed. I thought we were co-authoring this book, after all, I did all the writing. If I had been smart, I would have charged her s ghost writing fee  and gotten paid. But being the sap nice person I am, I did it for FREE.

What this experience proved to me was I could write a decent story. Before I knew it,  my own series of novels started pouring out of me. I chose a time period when the world went crazy. World War II was a classic struggle between freedom and oppression. Good and Evil. The Devil and he Savior. If you watch the History Channel even a little bit, you get an inkling of what men went through during this time. But, like usual, the stories of the women are not told. It’s as if the opposite gender never existed, so I wanted needed to tell stories of my mother’s generation.

Apple Pie and Strudel Girls, Stranger in the Spotlight, Tea and Biscuit Girls, The Love Immigrants and now Finding Gessler have not blown the minds of any major market—YET. But things maybe a changin’.

Recently, I have hired a literary agent for the third and fourth books, and they are now being presented to publishers in Europe and across the United States. I keep telling myself it will only take one to buy the rights. And with the success of that one—I’ll be on my way to prosperity. I still have a vision of that writing room that looks out to the ocean, remember? And seeing the “experts” say, don’t quit your day job before you have written 10 novels, I’ve decided I’ll continue producing books until I fill my bookcase with  my work.

And until that day, I will grow where I’m planted and keep producing seeds of writing. After all, the good book says we all will reap what we sow.

The Value of Friendship Scrutinized

CircleOn Sunday Morning on CBS there was a piece about friendship. The reporter interviewed a group of women from Wisconsin and a group of men from another state (sorry, I can’t remember that part). Each gender group talked about how valuable their friendships were.

Then to back up the unscientific testimony, the reporter PROVED how valuable friends are with a series of medical and university studies–after all, it is a NEWS show. One medical study proved people holding hands with a friend during an MRI showed less anxiety and brain activity, while the patient received intermittent electric shocks, than they did when they went through the test alone. A university study showed when people were asked to estimate how steep a hill was without a friend standing next to them, the hill appeared steeper than when their friends were with them.

So, these studies prove we all do better when we have friends than when we don’t. Dah. That’s a no-brainer.

But remember if you want a friend, it’s like any relationship — there’s a give and a take, a symbiotic part to it. Experts on the program made the point that sometimes friends can become toxic and drain your energy. In such a case, it’s better for you to cut the cord and make a new friend who enriches you as much as you do them. Ending a friendship is hard, especially when you’ve put so much energy into making the friend in the first place. The last thing you want to do is cut them loose.  But sometimes, it has be done. Many times, a friendship gone bad becomes visible when you’re growing in a certain direction and they are not. Just like divorce, the process is hard but necessary. The good news is both parties usually come out stronger for the experience.

Like the women in my books, friendships are my life blood. The people who I have elected to bring into my life are precious gifts. They are my safety nets, my confidants, my helpers, and my companions. We laugh together, play together, cry together, support each other, share our fears, and express our love for each other. They fill my life with beautiful color. Without them, my life would be cold and gray.

My wish for all of you reading this is that each of you have at least one good friend you can always count on. A whole stable of friends would be even better  because life without friends is like an empty Easter basket or a Christmas tree without decorations. Where’s the joy in that?

Writing for Royalties?

Cover_immigrantsThe royalty reports are in from the publisher, and I’m sorry to say, two of my books, STRANGER IN THE SPOTLIGHT and THE LOVE IMMIGRANTS have not sold well, so no royalties. I tell myself I’m not writing to make money–which is only partially true. The biggest part of me wants my books to be read. So the news was a little disheartening.

What makes me mad is I think  THE LOVE IMMIGRANTS” is probably the best book I’ve written, so far. It’s a story about war brides leaving their European homes FOREVER.  They will most likely never see their families again, plus they are going to a world that is very different from the one they know.

Even though Americans and most of Europe speak English, that’s where the similarities end. Cultural differences can be overwhelming because the nuances of a culture are learned by being a member of that culture.

And if that wasn’t enough, the women only knew their men during wartime. War heightens every sense, and life is lived on the edge because there is a real fear that there will be no future. Now these same men, will be different–first because they have returned to their home and familiar surroundings, and second their lives will settle back into the mundane everyday things we all do, instead of offering excitement.

So, when I learned that I didn’t sell any copies of this novel, I was heartbroken because this is a good story! (Can’t you just see my humbleness.) 

Part of the problem is because this book was released sooner than I anticipated. Within a month of TEA AND BISCUIT GIRLS, it was out there, too. Those of you who follow my blog know that I have very limited coins for things like marketing my novels, but it is clear that I have to scrape some money together to give THE LOVE IMMIGRANTS a chance.

So, if you know any laid-off fairy-godmothers, send her my way. Or maybe good Karma will come –or maybe a teaching assignment for the summer. Somethings gotta give.

My Snow Job

Latest Novel from McCloskey

Latest Novel from McCloskey

Yesterday was a great day. I received my editor’s comments for FINDING GESSLER, and together with the horrible snow storm that was manifesting outside, my butt was planted in my writing chair all day. I had a big job to do and no procrastination route was available, so there I sat. No errand was important enough to drag me away from my task; nothing was worth taking a chance of sliding off the road and into a ditch. It was perfect!

I spent my day, sipping coffee–one cup after another–incorporating Heidi’s edits into what will be the final manuscript. (I’m also waiting for Linda, my proofreader to go through it, too.) I am bound and determined to make this manuscript  as close to perfect as possible. With all the trained eyes going through it, how can I miss?

As I wait for the proofreader’s corrections, I will be working on a different project. (I’ve got at least 6 WIPs, so I move from manuscript to manuscript to keep things interesting.) The latest project is a book several people have encouraged me to write. It’s about the journey Ken and I are traveling with  Multiple Sclerosis. They claim it will be a Best Seller, but I am reluctant to put my heart out there — which is ridiculous because I do THAT everyday on this blog. So I’m forging ahead — into a blinding snow storm of emotions– hoping I’ll live through the experience.

But hey, if it’s destined to be a Best Seller, I’d better get to it, right? 🙂

On another note — my literary agent through Publish America has presented TEA AND BISCUIT GIRLS to a larger publisher in Nashville, TN. Right now, that’s all I know — so stay tuned.

Who knows, this “writing thing” maybe turn into a “real job” after all!

The Review is In

Book cover 3       Cover_immigrantsAbout a month ago, I sent my two books, TEA AND BISCUIT GIRLS, and THE LOVE IMMIGRANTS to a reviewer in Canada. As it was my first time asking for a professional opinion, I was a bit nervous of the outcome. Here’s what she wrote:

 

 

Review of TEA AND BISCUIT GIRLS and THE LOVE IMMIGRANTS

by Barbara Celeste McCloskey,

reviewed by Ruth Latta

Barbara Celeste McCloskey is interested in World War II because her parents were of the generation who came of age during that massive conflict. Her interest has led her to write three novels focusing on young women’s lives in wartime: Apple Strudel Girls, (2011), Tea and Biscuit Girls (2012) and The Love Immigrants (2012).

Tea and Biscuit Girls presents two young British women, Katie and Jenny, who meet while working with the Land Army on a Scottish farm, and forge an enduring bond. The Love Immigrants, subtitled “Three War Brides Come to America”, a sequel which can stand on its own, shows Katie, Jenny and Heidi, a German war bride, starting new lives in the U.S. with their American husbands.

McCloskey’s young women characters go through typical rites of passage, including challenging work, romance, pregnancy, childbirth and loss of loved ones. Both Tea and Biscuit Girls and The Love Immigrants made me remember the stories I’ve heard from people who were young during the Second World War. By including Jewish refugee children and a German war-bride in The Love Immigrants, McCloskey broadens and deepens her story. Her research included histories, diaries and first person accounts.

Readers who enjoyed the late great Maeve Binchy’s novel, Light a Penny Candle, which begins with an English child spending the war years in Ireland, will be interested in Katie’s sojourn on a Scottish farm in McCloskey’s Tea and Biscuit Girls. I was convinced that the Scottish aunt and uncle were drawn from life, but McCloskey informed me in an email that they are fictional constructs. She consulted a friend who grew up in Scotland in the 1950s for details about climate, landscape and buildings and consulted a website of Scottish words, to achieve realism. Her ability to create such life-like fictional characters is one of her strengths as a novelist.

The young wives are surprised and pleased by the standard of living in America, but the one whose fabulous New York honeymoon seems to set the pattern for the future is sadly disappointed. The old saying, “Marry in haste, repent at leisure” applies here. Even those wartime couples who had time to get to know each other did so under atypical circumstances.

While a number of real-life war brides I met had a difficult time with in-laws, the fictional women in McCloskey’s novel are welcomed warmly, including the young German woman. The threat from the old girlfriend at home, however, is a plot element in The Love Immigrants.

Many works of fiction have been set during World War II. Two of my favorites are the TV Foyle’s War and the movie Yanks. It is a well-known fact, however, that if one assigned the same topic to a room full of fiction writers, each would come up with something unique. McCloskey’s novels show her flair for exploring women’s friendships and feelings and will attract and educate today’s generation of young woman readers about an intense, dramatic time in history.

Ruth Latta is the compiler and editor of The Memory of All That: Canadian Women’s Memories of World War II, (Burnstown, Canada, General Store Publishing House), available through baico@bellnet.ca

Now Class, Let’s Review

Tormented writer

I’ve recently sent out “TEA AND BISCUIT GIRLS”  for reviews. I’ve sent two copies to a gentleman in Oregon, Wisconsin who was recommended by a friend, and another copy to a woman in Canada. The woman in Canada also wants to read “THE LOVE IMMIGRANTS,” and then will review both of the books together because they are related.

As much as I want to word to get out there, having people review my books publicly is a bit scary. Of course, I want them to LOVE them–who wouldn’t? Good reviews are used to spur readers to buy the books and then make a judgment for themselves. More people reading means more book sales. More book sales means royalties. Then maybe I’ll make some money at this career I enjoy.

But what if the reviewers hate the books? Wonder if they consider them trite, badly written or worse yet, dull. Then what?Am I doomed? Do I have to go and flip burgers because of one person’s opinion? I shutter to think about it!

Putting a book out for review is not unlike going on a blind date. You don’t know anything about the person taking you out, and all you can do is hope for the best. You can see why I’m feeling so vulnerable.  After all, how many great blind dates have you had?  Me? Well. . . none.

So, as I hold my breath for a good review, I will also tell myself my parents were a blind date that worked well for over 60 years. Yeah, I’ll pin my hopes on that thought until I read the review for myself. Pray for me.

A New Addition

You’ve probably noticed that I’ve added a new image at the right of my blog page. Yup, that’s right. My next book has been released!

Don’t get me wrong. I’m just as jazzed about getting this book in print as I have been about the others–but I wasn’t expecting it to come out so soon. I’ve hardly had a chance to catch my breath because  TEA AND BISCUIT GIRLS was released September 18th! I haven’t had a chance to do any marketing or promoting of that book–not even with the local press! And now I have another one to think about! I guess it’s a nice problem to have.

I feel sad, though, because like all children, one should have their “alone” time with their mother. Tea and Biscuit Girls barely was out of the womb before her little sister THE LOVE IMMIGRANTS came along. I feel a little cheated that the publisher released the book so soon.

And don’t tell the other three novels that this latest one is probably my favorite. By the time THE LOVE IMMIGRANTS manifested, I’d known several of the characters for quite a long time through three other books. She was the easiest delivery, too, probably due to that one fact.

Because the “APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS” series has been published on a small press, I’m primarily responsible for investing in their promotion. With such limited funds for marketing, I keep praying some big publisher will magically come along and want to invest in me, and all I’ll have to do is show up for speaking engagements and book signings. (And of course, keep on writing more books.)

That’s my dream.

But the realist in me knows that any dream must be made a goal, and goals have to be broken down in steps, and steps have to be accomplished. The hard part is being unsure how to take the steps. All I know is, I can’t make the climb alone. I keep praying God will put that person in my path and I will have the foresight to recognize him or her.