See you Saturday!

Saturday, August 18, is the DeKalb Library Local Author Fair.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 309 Oak Street, DeKalb.

I will be there hawking my books, A Stranger’s Child and Pocket Money.
I will be meeting and greeting and selling and signing.
(One can hope, lol.)

Author Fairs are a risky commitment.
Sometimes people attend.
Mostly they don’t.
Sometimes they stop to chat.
Mostly they don’t.
Sometimes they actually buy a book!
Mostly, they don’t.

But local authors need all the exposure they can get! (Thank you DKPL)
So we keep showing up.
Support a local author. Show up.

In addition to tables with authors, the library is offering a series of presentations.

  • 10:00 a.m.: Patrick Parks, “Tucumcari: A Reading”
  • 10:30 a.m.: Mary Lamphere, “So, You Want to Write a Book…”
  • 11:00 a.m.: Bambi Harris, “Death and Other Inconveniences”
  • 11:30 a.m.: Rania Zeithar, “From a World to Another One”
  • 12:00 p.m.: Carol Hegberg, “For the Love of Words and the Reader’s Smile”
  • 12:30 p.m.: Heather Bentley
  • 1:00 p.m.: Geralyn Hesslau Magrady, “A Writing Journey: From Historical Vignettes to Award Winning Book”
  • 1:30 p.m.: Edward Bedias, “How to Survive Life’s Hardships and Thrive”

As you can see, I am leading a session called, “So, you want to write a book…”
I hope you will make time to stop by! Please, fill a seat!
Spoiler alert: How to write a book–WRITE.
I will be milking that for twenty minutes. Should be fun.
If you are unable to attend, it better be because you are WRITING.

The DeKalb Public Library recently expanded with an addition (at least twice the size of the main structure!) and also updated the original building. It was listed in USA Today as one of the “25 must-see buildings in Illinois”. You can read the excerpt here.  With plenty of parking and walking distance to downtown with a variety of restaurants and shops, this library event is totally worth a visit.

Or, you can just come for me.









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U is for Unique

Yes, the story has probably been told before.
But not by you.
Tell YOUR story.
Your voice is unique.

We’re getting close, folks…
U is only five letters from the end and the 21st entry of The Writer’s Alphabet!

Once I get through the alphabet in order, then I can start adding definitions willy-nilly!
(note to self: W is for willy-nilly)

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As promised, the next Chat–on time!

Welcome to the July Literary Mary Chats, happily posted in July.  This month I am pleased to introduce you to a prolific author I met through Facebook. 

K. J. Gillenwater has a B.A. in English and Spanish from Valparaiso University and an M.A. in Latin American Studies from University of California, Santa Barbara. She worked as a Russian linguist in the U.S. Navy, spending time at the National Security Agency doing secret things. After six years of service, she ended up as a technical writer in the software industry. She has lived all over the U.S. and currently resides in Idaho with her family where she runs her own business writing government proposals and squeezes in fiction writing when she can. In the winter she likes to ski and snowshoe; in the summer she likes to garden with her husband, take walks with her dog, and try her hand at gold panning and huckleberry picking. She has written several paranormal suspense books and plans on writing more.

Literary Mary Chats

K.J., you have traveled a lot and lived in several locations. I’m wondering if those experiences affect your style and voice? How does the exposure inform your writing? 

I think having lived in many parts of the world—California, Texas, Indiana, Maryland, Virginia and now Idaho as well as studying abroad in Mexico—I have a lot to draw on when it comes to setting and the differences in social norms and perceptions. Also, my experience with Spanish as a student in a foreign country opens your mind to different cultures as well. In my book ACAPULCO NIGHTS I had a lot of fun exploring the difference between how divorce is perceived in Mexico versus the United States.

I also was in the Navy for six years, and this has influenced my creativity and where my mind goes when I am looking for that next bit of writing inspiration. My background is what makes me unique and drawing on that background to use as a foundation for my writing will only make it easier to market. The publishing world is always looking for an ‘angle’ to sell an author’s work. So if my experience as a Russian linguist in the Navy or as a student in Mexico will help portray me as an ‘expert’ in one area or another, it can be a wise move to use those experiences in your writing.

Your bio mentions that you run a business, work on freelance contracts, and squeeze in writing. What is your squeezing routine? Describe your ideal writing schedule.

Because I run my own business and create my own work schedule, I’m pretty lucky as an author. I can set aside my serious, workaday projects and spend a little part of my day on my creative pursuits. However, there are times when I get incredibly busy in my business – working six days a week sometimes for a month or two – and then my books get put on the back burner. It can sometimes kill my muse and make it hard to finish a project that has been interrupted.

I recently started using Scrivener (an author-created word processing software) to help me better manage my writing time. You can set goals for yourself and the software keeps track for you. For example, I currently want to write 5 days a week (Monday through Friday) and want to finish my book by a set date. Scrivener will calculate how many words I need to write on that 5-times-a-week schedule to meet my self-imposed deadline. It really has helped me push out the story more quickly. Last summer, I think I was writing about 1200 words per day. At that rate, I could finish a book in about 3 or 4 months. A record for me! But then my day job got in the way and ruined my pace. Which was really a bummer. Hard to get back on the horse after you’ve been bucked off.

My ideal would be to have a couple of hours a day to devote to my creative writing. I can only write so much before I run out of gas. But because I am a fast typer and don’t dither too much over my words, I can get a lot done in those two hours.

I love that you write short stories! And I love that you publish your collections. How do you handle your ever accumulating ideas, inspirations, and brilliant tidbits jotted on the back of sales receipts? 

Years ago, I thought I would only ever be able to write short stories. I never seemed to have a big enough idea to turn into a novel. So that is my first love in many ways.

About 3 years ago, I found a fantastic app called Wattpad. It is an app that allows writers to publish their stories free and readers to read them free. I was attracted to Wattpad for the wealth of ideas and contests that exist, plus you get feedback from readers all over the world. I LOVE to have writing challenges, and I found some great ones in the science fiction area of the app. They had a new challenge all the time, so I would pick and choose the ones that inspired me most. Every single one of my short stories is connected to Wattpad in some way. Funny how creative you can be when there is a challenge thrown and a short deadline. I won a couple of these contests, so it only fed my addiction to write more.

After I figured out how easy it is to self-publish on Amazon, instead of letting my short stories disappear I decide to group them together into mini short story collections. Why not try to make some money off of my work? You also never know who might stumble across my writing and go looking for more. I also ended up meeting other great writers on Wattpad, and we’ve collaborated on a couple of short story collections: NEMESIS and UNDEATH BY CHOCOLATE.

As far as organization, I have 3 ways that I keep track of ideas:

1) In my own head. I will have a sudden inspiration for a book. I ruminate over this idea for a while and let it stew. I come back to it again and again and get the basic beginning, character sketches and ending. Eventually, I open up a file and start going!

2) News clippings. I will run across a news story that inspires me in some way. I will save that news story in a folder and possibly come back to it in the future. My upcoming release, THE LITTLE BLACK BOX, was inspired by a news clipping!

3) An “ideas” folder. If I have a breakthrough idea that I just can’t seem to shake, I will start jotting my thoughts down in a Word file and then save it to my ideas folder. I have lots of partially-started things in there. Who knows if I will ever pursue these ideas, but I can’t help but keep track of them.

Looking back over your career, what is the most important piece of advice you would give aspiring authors? What do you wish you had known/done sooner?

Keep writing. You can’t edit a story until you finish it. One of the hardest things for any writer to do is to turn off her internal editor. Your internal editor tells you that your story stinks, that you used the wrong word, that the paragraph you just wrote is totally wrong and needs to be reworked over and over and over. Ignore that dumb internal editor! That is the hardest part of writing. But once you can silence the internal editor and let the words flow, you will be amazed at the results. What can kill a book the quickest is too much reading and tweaking and fixing rather than just finishing.

Trust me, you can repair any part of your book that doesn’t make sense, any ugly sentence, any problem in the editing phase. But if you don’t finish the book, you have nothing to edit. Completing the book is NUMBER ONE.

What are you currently working on and what are some publication goals for your future–if you had an Author Bucket List, what would be on it?

I am currently working on another romance about dredging for gold in the Bering Sea in Nome, Alaska. For those who love tv shows about Alaska, I’m sure they know where I got my inspiration! I am going on a Writers’ Cruise in February 2019, so my goal is to have the draft finished by October with time to edit and tweak before I have the opportunity to pitch my book to some of the industry people who will be on the cruise.

I have several publication goals:

1) I want to write a new book every year. I’ve been WAY too slow in producing new material, and I know that the best thing I can do for my writing career is keep writing. You never know when a book might ‘hit’ with an audience.

2) I really want to finish a science fiction suspense about a Navy linguist that I’ve been trying to complete for quite a few years. It is next on my list after the Alaska romance, as it is about 1/3 written already. I think I can crank it out using Scrivener’s organizational tools and goal setting features. It has series potential, which is all the rage these days.

3) I would love to find an agent or publisher who ‘gets’ me. I am not a cookie cutter writer. My ideas are a bit off the norm, or so I’ve been told by reviewers. THE NINTH CURSE was one of those books…one professional reviewer said: “A romantic paranormal thriller, this one is unlike any other paranormal romances I’ve come across.” This kind of review is very typical for my books.

I think I create some surprises in my writing because of the unique nature of my writing, which may make it hard to stick me in a single genre. But I’m all right with that. I write what I love to write, and if the industry can’t figure out where I fit, I’ll just continue to self-publish.

Thank you, K.J., for your time and insight! I downloaded several of your publications as research for this interview and I find it interesting how much of our writing styles, practices, and goals overlap. Maybe we’ll meet in the pages of an anthology some day. 🙂

Readers, pre-order THE LITTLE BLACK BOX by K.J. Gillenwater now! Release date August 14. #OrderReadReview

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Facebook Notes (Part 4)

Hard to believe, considering my weekly blogs, but I only posted four Facebook notes! Here is the last of them.


Printer’s Row

June 7, 2011 at 9:55 AM

My time in Chicago was brief, but I still enjoyed the event immensely. I attended the New Author Panel, featuring Deanna Fei, Samuel Park, Belinda McKeon, and Rebecca Makkai, moderated by Patrick Sommerville. The four ‘new’ authors all had some sort of history in the writing field– journalism, teaching, MFA, poetry, short stories… but a full length novel was truly new to them. They talked about how forgiving novel writing can be. You have the time to tell a whole story, really develop characters and events, and they each felt that novels have a way of naturally adapting to many styles. Each admitted to spending years working on developing some nugget of an idea they just couldn’t shake. I could identify with much of their discussion, but I also felt like I learned a lot from them.

My second seminar featured Marcus Sakey, “in conversation with Sean Chercover.” That’s how it read in the promotions, and it was very true– this was just two guys, old friends, sitting in front of a group of people, shooting the shit. They covered the requisite new publication promotions, but mostly they just chatted and entertained. I don’t know that ‘crime fiction’ is a genre I’ve much experience with, but they made me want to read both of their new books. Sakey also talked about his new TV show on the Travel Channel, featuring cities and their famous crimes from a writers POV, first stop, Chicago. and

I always enjoy walking through the stands, perusing old books and meeting new people. I bought (another) Get Lit shirt (five bucks, can’t beat that!) and I signed up for the Go Do Good campaign, It was a hot day, but it wasn’t raining! Until it rained, :), and I headed for the train. Wet books make me sad. I was happy to meet up with Pamela for lunch, a session and a walk in the rain, but I’m sorry to have missed the other In Printers in attendance! I’d love to hear about the Applegates’ adventures with their time at the CWA table! (nice location, btw!)

I wish I had had more time, but since my day was nicely filled, I really can’t complain. Besides, there’s always next year. 🙂


Wow, this was a blast from the past! I’ve come a long way, baby. From eager attendee to published author. For the past two years, I’ve sold MY BOOKS at Lit Fest.

Very cool.

So, that’s it for my Facebook notes. I hope you have enjoyed my meander down memory lane. It’s amazing how quickly the time passes. And also, how much of it I waste on Facebook.

I’m pleased to say that all of the authors listed above are established and continuing to publish! Check them out. Click on the names to go to the website.
Deanna Fei
Samuel Park
Belinda McKeon
Rebecca Makkai
Patrick Sommerville
Marcus Sakey, Hidden City on the Travel Channel
Sean Chercover
The Applegates
CWA (Chicago Writers Association)
Chicago Printers Row Lit Fest
In Print Professional Writers Organization

Also, out of curiosity, I looked up that Go Do Good Chicago campaign. Here is a (dated) update. Rather disappointing on many fronts. 😦 Please consider that we don’t need a campaign–or art installation. Just go do good because you can.

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Facebook Notes (Part 3)

A Facebook Note from well before “busy” was a bad word, lol.


Busy, busy

I submitted three different short stories this past week to two different contests. How will the stories fare amongst the competition? I honestly don’t know, but as my status reads, I’ve a sweet little sense of accomplishment and I like it! Makes me want to write and submit some more! 🙂

Also, I’ve attended a couple of enjoyable events recently. First, I drove to a Chicago Tribune sponsored Author Talk featuring Alexander McCall-Smith. I have not read any of his (five!) series, most popular of which I’d guess is the Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency. It was at Elmhurst College, he was 40 minutes late, and well worth the wait. An older gentleman, white haired with a Scottish accent, he was absolutely charming. He told wonderful stories, answered questions, and most importantly (in my mind) held his own against one of the least impressive interviewers I have ever seen. (Yes, Elizabeth Taylor, I’m referencing YOU.)

Next up, I went to the Taste of Home Cooking School event at the Egyptian Theater in DeKalb. It was a lot of fun! The demo-chef, Eric Villegas,  and the guest emcee, Gavin Wilson (owner and chef of the Hillside restaurant in DeKalb), had a wonderful rapport. The show was informational, entertaining and quite humorous. Made me want to start cooking again!

Friday I spent the day in Chicago– which I love doing– hanging out, people watching, and walking, walking, walking! I was in town to see Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, also through the Chicago Tribune Author Talks series (and also with that twice-makes-it-real-not-just-a-fluke horrible interviewer Elizabeth Taylor). The ‘interview’ was painful but the guest was wonderful. Kathryn Stockett is a waif of a woman, slight and gorgeous, with the most delightful southern accent. She speaks in hushed monotones which makes her peppered commentary absolutely unexpected. She told some fabulous stories about growing up in the South, writing this book, the publication process and the movie (opens Aug. 12, 2011). Following the ‘interview,’ was a reception with a tasty variety of appetizers as well as beer and wine. I’m very glad I attended!

In addition to Alexander McCall-Smith and Kathryn Stockett, I have also attended author events featuring David Berner and Gary W. Moore. These two amazing authors, both memoirists in their own right, were available through ‘local’ outlets. Their discussions were every bit as valuable as the Chicago offerings without any of the distractions of a terrible host. (Ask me how I feel about that woman? I’ll tell you!)


Oh, man, I remember that interviewer, lol. Awful. Made the audience uncomfortable. I also remember the days when I was busy going to the city instead of too busy to get there! What a difference seven years makes.

Because you can’t (yet) add multiple links to Facebook posts, here are the connections you need to follow up with the authors and their work referenced in the note.
Alexander McCall
Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency (books)
Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency (TV series)
Kathryn Stockett
The Help (book)
The Help (movie)
David Berner
Gary W. Moore


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Facebook Notes (Part 2)

In sequential order, here is the second Facebook Note I posted. Enjoy.


My attention is a wild animal

I attended the Literary Road Show last Wednesday with Kristin, my partner in crime, er, I guess we’re partners in writing now. It was our first visit and we really did not know what to expect. There were three readers– the first read poetry, the second from an historical novel and the last was an original piece. What I liked about this group was that they encourage reading aloud whatever inspires you. There is so much out there, already written, and written beautifully, that it’s nice to have an opportunity to appreciate the ‘classics.’ Of course original work is what we strive for– but, how cool to think that someone would enjoy ours enough to read it aloud somewhere down the line?

The experience reminded me of a poem I read in college (the first time), called, Pet Panther.

I’m terrified of public speaking and don’t really have a mind/ear for poetry, but I love this piece. Maybe some day I’ll work up the courage to share it with The Literary Road Show. Or maybe you’ll beat me to it?

Pet Panther
A.R. Ammons

My attention is a wild
animal: it will if idle
make trouble where there
was no harm: it will

sniff and scratch at the
breath’s sills:
it will wind itself tight
around the pulse

or, undistracted by
verbal toys, pommel the
heart frantic: it will
pounce on a stalled riddle

and wrestle the mind numb:
attention, fierce animal
I cry, as it coughs in my
face, dislodges boulders

in my belly, lie down, be
still, have mercy, here
is song, coils of song, play
it out, run with it.


I was very excited to see this old post because I love the poem. I had forgotten about The Literary Road Show, an inspired idea I’d wanted to adapt for In Print at the time. So much has changed in the seven years since we attended the LRS. Both Kristin and I have moved (although she moved out of state and I moved up the street), are multi-published, and we have each done public readings of our own work!

What ‘classic’ piece of literature still inspires you?
And should we organize an event where you can read it?!

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Facebook Notes (Part 1)

How’s this for a fun flashback? Going through my Facebook Mary Lamphere-Author account, I recently came across a couple of old posts. These “notes” were a way to blog before I was blogging. It was interesting to read them after ALL THIS TIME! Here is the first one.

(Did you check the date? This one was posted in March of 2011. 2011!)


Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Neverwhere is one of my all time favorite books. I ‘read’ it on audio and was an instant fan of Neil Gaiman. I’ve since seen him live (thanks to Anderson’s Book Shop in support of his award winning, The Graveyard Book) and he is as engaging in person as he is on the page. I’m pleased, and surprised, that Chicago selected this novel for it’s One Book program. I hope you’ll join the city of Chicago and me in (re)reading it.

One Book, One Chicago
One Book, One Chicago seeks to cultivate a culture of reading in our city by reinforcing the importance and fun of reading and highlighting the benefits of reading together as a community. Twice annually—once in the spring and again in the fall—a book is selected and promoted to all of Chicago. Discussions of the selected book take place in more than 50 library locations as well as outside locations, and several public programs are created to further enrich the experience of reading the book.

In fall 2011, One Book, One Chicago will celebrate 10 years of bringing Chicagoans together around a great book! Reading great literature provokes us to think about ourselves, our environment and our relationships. Talking about great literature with friends, family and neighbors often adds richness and depth to the experience of reading.

Selected Spring 2011


I didn’t make any changes or updates. Please note, the link posted is no longer available. It HAS been seven years…for more information on the program, click One Book, One Chicago.  A list of previous titles for OBOC can be found here.

Anderson Bookshop continues to host fabulous authors. Check out their website for upcoming events, including Jodi Picoult.

Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book can be ordered from Amazon. Of course, your copy will probably not be autographed. 😀

And, in a particularly timely coincidence, The Lifeline Theater in Chicago is performing Neverwhere through August 12th! Click here for more information.

I hope you “liked” this Facebook flashback. Stay tuned for another tomorrow!

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