Friday, August 24, 2012

Real Life

The author dreaming up a story a few years ago...
Sometimes when you read a book, you get so involved in the story and the characters portrayed, you forget that there was a real person with a whole different life who wrote the story. It is living a real life with all its hiccups that creates compassion, understanding, sympathy, perceptiveness and insight in a writer. Without some sort of experience, it is very hard to write in a way that others will be able to relate to. 
I remember trying to write a love story when I was about twelve and I gave up in frustration when I realized that I wasn't wise enough in the subject to write about it. Well, can I say it has been a few years since then? Life has confronted me in so many levels and in ways that I never planned.

Today, my youngest daughter is packing up for college. We take her in the morning to  a campus within an easy drive of home, but the poignancy is still there. When I was young, I only focused on finding a great guy to love and share a life with, then having kids - but never on packing them up to leave home. Don't get me wrong - I am very happy for each of my kids (all four in college now!) and the choices they make; moving out of home is such an exciting and wonderful time for them. But from my perspective, it means that my involvement with them is reduced to when they need me.
So, as I continue on this journey of life, I realize just how little I really know and how much I still need to learn.Onward....

Monday, August 20, 2012

An Interview

I recently was approached by a fellow writer, Frank Zubek with a few questions about my latest book, The Meanderings of a Pen as well as few of my other single short stories. 
He is the author of the blog, What Brick Wall? as well as the writer of Guarding Andrew Gates, an eclectic collection of short stories. His newest publication, Almost a Dozen is now available on Amazon. The collection features common people dealing with real problems and shows how the author adeptly captures the emotions and characters of regular folks that make up the fabric of our lives.

Here is a copy of his interview concerning my stories:
An Interview of Heide Braley in The Meanderings of a Pen by Frank Zubek, August 2012.
Why don’t we begin by you telling us a bit about yourself?
            I am just starting to get involved in the business of writing short stories, although I must say that I have been writing and telling stories since I was a child. I grew up in a large family that moved all across the United States starting in the late sixties and through the next two decades. This proved to be a wonderful source of inspiration for many of my stories. After working various jobs over the years, I landed a job of writing commercially for five years. I learned a lot and realized that I wanted to be more creative in my work and branched out to start writing my own books in January of this year, 2012.

What is it about the short story form that attracts you?
            I enjoy being able to tell, develop and then finish the story within a short period of time. Most of my life’s experiences that I have really enjoyed were just short periods of time. I think that most of the sparks in life are that way and therefore I don’t need the space of a whole book to write about them.

I wanted to focus on your story collection, The Meanderings of a Pen. First off, I really like the title. It’s as if a pen has a mind of its own. Were there other titles to the collection you considered?
            I am glad you like the title. Once I picked it, there were a few times I wondered if I had done the right thing, thinking maybe I needed something more exciting or more creative, but I left it. I am sure there were plenty of other titles that flew through my brain, but nothing that stuck in my memory. I felt like my pen was just meandering along. I would just start each story with a blank slate and a simple idea. As I let myself imagine the settings, the story would take off and I was there to chronicle it as it formed.

How did you pick the order of the stories?
            I listed them as I finished writing them. There is no real order.

Had you considered having fewer stories in there - maybe doing it in such a way so that you could sell two collections with ten stories each instead of a larger collection with twenty?
            Yes, I did consider that but I wanted to have a book that looked like a book, not too thin, like I ran out of stories. Twenty seemed like a good round number as I want people to feel like they are getting a good value for their money.

I must tell you that I found a few of the stories particularly well written. A Walk in the Park, for instance, was a terrific story about a woman who gets lost in the woods. That story wasn’t based on experience at all was it?
            Thank you for the kind words and I am glad you enjoyed it. Sometimes I wonder after I write a story if other people will enjoy it as much as I do, so it’s nice to hear. No, this was not based on experience, but I did write the story after my husband and I went to the park for a day of fishing. I had a clear picture in my mind of the trail and the hazards and could easily imagine something going wrong.

The Sitter was a scary story as well with the babysitter losing the child under her care. What was the inspiration for that one?
            I have two daughters who babysit from time to time and can remember my own times as a teenager. I think I developed the story one evening after my youngest daughter was out late watching some kids and when she came home, I asked her if everything had gone well. Of course, it had, but my mind wandered…

I think The Empty Cabin is my favorite and it has a very ironic ending. How long did it take to write Cabin?
            It’s funny that you should say that because I have had several negative comments about that story specifically that they thought it was too short and it ended prematurely. Maybe they are reading it too fast and don’t catch the irony of the ending. However, I took a couple of days to think through the story, adding little bits as I thought of them to add variety. I had been up to the park in Pennsylvania where the story goes and then a few days later, our mailman walked by so he seemed like a good character to add, and since we live in a small town where everyone gabs to each other…so the story developed. My one son is always telling me not to be too predictable or the stories get boring, so I tried to mix it up a little in the end.

I also noticed that a few of the stories in Pen are sold separately. Have you gotten much response to any one particular story on its own merits?
            I do list single stories online to increase the exposure of my name as a writer. Snow Dog has had amazing success and also Abandoned Unknowingly. I offer free downloads at least once a month and that has worked very well to distribute my works internationally. It takes time for the public to access my stories and then to remember my name takes even longer. Since I have only been publishing stories for a little over eight months, I expect to take at least a couple more years before I have enough exposure to make much money.

I noticed that one of the single stories on amazon is not included in Pen. I thought A Bullet Does Change Things was very powerful and unique from the rest of your work. I don’t want to give too much away but the story is about guns and focuses on the victim’s point of view during a shooting incident. I also admired the way you went back and forth from the past to present during the incident and it all worked very well.
            Thanks! I started that story shortly after the movie theater shooting incident in Colorado. I wasn’t sure how to format it but knew that I was going to write about a victim of a bullet wound. Somehow they had to die, but I don’t like bad/sad endings so it took me a few days to just let it ferment until I could wrap my brain around it. I actually have several stories available online that will be part of my second book, coming out this fall.

Have you gotten much feedback from it?
            Feedback is slow from the public. Although I have many thousands of readers, there are few that take the time to write a review. The response I have received from this story is very good, especially from my social circles. It was a story I was proud to write.

Do you have a set writing schedule?
            I tend to write in the afternoon after I have finished all the other things that weigh on my mind. I need to be able to focus without distraction. After two or three hours of writing, I need to get out of my story and take a break with real life by going somewhere, cooking or gardening, etc.

Do you use the computer more than pen and paper?
            Yes, I have tried both but the time it takes to transfer the story from paper to keyboard is not efficient for me. I will write on paper if I am away from my laptop or away from a power source for a long time. Both ways are equally cathartic to me because once the story starts, I only think within the story, not about my actual surroundings. The keyboard just lets my fingers fly so much faster.

Do you get any fan mail from the stories?
            No, and I must say that I have never even thought about that source of feedback. That would be quite pleasant.

Are you on twitter?
            Sure, although I can’t say that it proves to be very valuable yet for my line of work. Each time I finish a story, I post it on social media sites with links to an online way to read/purchase it.

Are there any unusual marketing tools you use beyond tweeting or posting on your blog?
            I live in a small tourist town on the Chesapeake Bay where a storeowner in town keeps a shelf for local authors. I sell books through her, so I never know where the tourists are coming from and where my book might go. I also list stories on Smashwords online. They format them to be available to all the electronic forms of reading, not just the Kindle like Amazon does.

Can you tell us a bit about any new stories you may be working on and are you planning a second collection?
            Sure, I am currently writing a mystery about a couple where the husband goes missing after leaving for a short bike ride. Ironically, in our local news, a real incident just emerged about a local judge who disappeared and then just showed back up at home. I might have to research what happened to him to see if I can borrow some details… Yes, my next book of twenty stories is nearing completion. I hope to have it ready by October.

Do you have any short story writers who inspire you?
            I have been reading avidly since I was a child and would read everything that came my way. In school, when we were given our English Literature books for the semester, I would read it overnight since I couldn’t put it down. Unfortunately, I have a terrible memory for the titles and authors of books or movies so I cannot rattle off all the important folks who have molded my personality over the years. The greats like Louisa May Alcott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jules Verne, Samuel Clemens, Jane Austen were always on my father’s bookshelves and I lived my childhood with their imagination feeding my mind.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions and best of luck with your work!
            Thank you for taking the time to format this interview. You had some great questions for me and I appreciate your encouragement and thoughtful remarks. Best wishes to you as well.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Staying Inspired

Free Downloads on Sunday 8/12!
Sometimes when you work on a large project like writing a book, your inspiration can lag and discouragement or just a lack of interest can slow down the whole process. I like to take the time to read about other folks' successes to remind myself that I can keep going. 
Nathaniel Hawthorne started writing anonymously when he, as a young writer wasn't sure his work was very good but eventually went on to be friends with Longfellow and Holmes among several other prestigious writers.

Henry Longfellow started writing poems as a six-year old but his focus was soon turned to learning languages and teaching. He taught in Harvard for years before resigning to write poems full time when he was 47 years old.

Louisa May Alcott started writing to help her family beat poverty when she was 15. Her short stories were published in magazines but it wasn't until she was 22 that her first book was published. Seven years later, she wrote Little Women after her publisher asked her to write something for girls that was based on her own reality instead of the stereotype of the time. She didn't want to but at the urging of her father and her publisher, she "just plodded away"...and the book was an immediate and long lasting success.

Jules Verne, the father of science fiction, didn't write his first book until he was in his thirties and that was after he spent years traveling and then studying law. His father cut off his support while he was in college when he learned that Jules was writing instead of studying law. Eventually Jules learned to combine his love of traveling with his imagination and wrote the wonderful stories like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, and Journey to the Center of the Earth among so many others.

On another note, don't forget that this Sunday is Second Sunday where I give away all my eligible digital stories as a free download!

Enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mysteries, Plots and Storylines

This morning, I have been daydreaming about a new story. I know it is a mystery but developing it into something intriguing is challenging. I think about it as I do my morning chores, wondering how many simple routines I could add to the story to make it seem down to earth and real. I wondered as I walked if I should use characters liked the ones I passed on the street to play a part. When my husband, Eric gets ready to run an appointment, I wonder if I should use him as a lead person. 

All of these kind of questions are going through my head as I develop what I want to use. I watch Tom Hanks and the types of stories made into movies that he chooses to play in and wonder how the writer developed such a fantastic storyline.

When I like something, I jot it down as just a word or two and then keep adding things as they fall into place in my imagination. By the time I start, I already have a pretty good picture in my mind of the setting, but have to be careful to remember that my audience doesn't and so I have to set the stage for them. Sometimes, this might change my story a little as it starts to take on a life of its own. Often , when I reach the finishing sentence, I go back and look at the words I jotted down in the beginning and realize that usually there are one or two details that I forgot to incorporate. Sometimes it matters, but usually, I leave the story alone, as if I had read it in a magazine or a newspaper where it is now part of history.

So, now I want to get started... Bike ride, disappearance, worry, police, distrust, blood on pavement...

Friday, August 3, 2012


Have you ever wondered what it like to live through something like being shot? I do - all the time. By what I have read in books, seen on television and in movies as well as real life, I can come to some kind of imaginary explanation. 

I just finished a story, A Bullet Does Change Things where I try to imagine what it is like to take a bullet and the feelings that the victim must go through. I am sure there is not one set of emotions but I like to think that maybe I come close to what some people go through. Hopefully, I will never have to experience it in person!

Here is a short clip from the story: 

I was angry at the noise that hit my eardrums, silencing everything else around me. No voices, no birds, no wind in the trees, just a large force that wiped out any ability of my body to collect more information. Everything was internalized in that instant. It was as though I was experiencing a bomb on the inside of my chest that wiped out all sound waves in my general vicinity, leaving me in a vacuum of silence, but a very loud silence. I was instinctively angry at the bullet for interrupting my normal level of hearing and wanted to turn time back and rid myself of the oppression of the great deafening silence.
         My eyes seemed to ache with the pressure of the blast, losing their ability to focus as time seemed to have stopped. Although I could see myself being thrown through the air, it was not something that I was involved with... (Read more here)