Long and Short Reviews welcomes Toni Noel, whose latest book Rising Above, has just been released this month. Also released this month is To Feel Again and the print version of Toni's very first published work, Law Breakers and Love Makers.
To Feel Again is actually the first book that Toni ever wrote. When she was in school, she loved to do research and write term papers. She didn't know how to write fiction, however, and had no story ideas floating around in her head. She raised her family (four daughters), completed a business degree, and launched her career.
"Then one of those daughters introduced me to the escape from reality possible while reading a good romance novel and I was hooked. I finally had my next goal firmly in mind: retire and write romance," she told me. "When the owner shut down our company I did retire, but soon realized I didn't know how to write what I wanted to write, so I enrolled in a creative writing class at a local community college. Half-way through the class one rainy afternoon scenes for a novel to write flooded my mind. I sat down at the computer to make notes and soon had written two full chapters. Needless to say that first novel, To Feel Again, went through countless revisions as I perfected my craft. The MS eventually found a permanent home under the guest bed and I started a new novel. Last spring I again loaded the file onto my computer, polished it some more and submitted it to my publisher, Desert Breeze, who offered me a contract. To Feel Again will release on November 11th."
Currently Toni is working on a book, Homeward Bound, she sold on proposal—and faces a fast-approaching deadline. It's about a stager hired by a wealthy but disillusioned businessman to assure the successful sale of his estate. The stager is a product of foster homes and longs for a home of her own.
"I know how the story will end, I just have to find time to write it," she said. "Social media is both a blessing and a curse. I find myself faced with too many deadlines -- commitments to promote my other releases -- that take up far too much of my writing time."
Toni usually gets an idea for a story setting and a character's name follows shortly after. And, she finds inspiration for her stories everywhere--To Feel Again is set on a rapidly flowing creek in the eastern Sierras, a place she often camps. Fairy Dusted was inspired by a network newscast.
Then, because she's analytical and needs a clear roadmap of character arcs leading straight to the resolution before she starts, she plots her books, depending on the fifty scenes method of plotting. She'll make notes for those scenes on sticky notes and arrange them on a story board so she can see where the turning points fall and can picture the satisfying conclusion.
"It doesn't take all that much time, and the results make it all worthwhile," she assured me. "Before the temptations of social media, I could write a first draft from those stickies in six weeks."
All of Toni's novels are centered in the home—with many being inspired by a dwelling that intrigued her. She also loves reading books about finding safe havens for the heart, so it's not surprising that she loves to write them as well.
"Whether a boarded-up brick mansion or an old Victorian farm house, these houses shelter stories just waiting to be told, and I love telling them," she explained.
When she was small, for a while she wanted to follow in Shirley Temple's footsteps, but writing won out.
"In college I planned to major in journalism, minor in P.E. and teach while I wrote fiction. Falling in love changed my plans," she admitted. "My fiancé was already teaching P.E. and wanted me to stay home and raise our children, which I did until the last one left for college. By then computers fascinated me. I wanted to learn to program them and earned a business degree in Information Systems with special emphasis in Systems Analysis. This knowledge and my experience in accounting helped me land a position as senior accountant for an R&D company under contract to build underwater vehicles. Thanks to my classes in data base management and a working knowledge of software conversions I became the system manager of the accounting department software, prepared W-2's and W-4's electronically and supervised the conversion of the company payroll to direct deposit, then gladly walked away from those stressful duties to write romance."
"If you could do it over again," I asked Toni, "what would you do differently on your road to getting published?"
"You've probably already guessed the answer: start writing sooner. I lost so many good years of writing because I thought I had to wait to start writing. Actually I did join a critique group when my youngest was still in diapers, even submitted a humorous article to Writer's Digest Magazine, unaware their publication did not publish humor. Unable to see then that my writing was not ready for publication, I became discouraged, and wasted thirty more years when I should have been submitting, piling up rejection letters, learning from the experience and honing my craft. I repeat, if you have the urge to write, just do it. Practice makes perfect. Even born writers learn what works and what doesn't through rejection."
Finally, I asked, "What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"
"Don't wait to start writing. Beginning writers have so much to learn. Enroll in on-line classes. Join RWA and a critique group. Write something every day. Like a concert pianist, a writer has to practice for many long hours learning to get things right. I went away to college planning to minor in journalism and support my writing habit by teaching. I met my future husband the first week on campus and by the next weekend we had decided to get married in the spring. During the next forty-five years I could have been perfecting my craft as well as raising my children, returning to college to complete my degree, then working eight to five, I should have been taking writing classes, too. There is so much a writer needs to learn. Start learning today."
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When modern-day tomboy Wilda Stone is blown back through time to 1874, her hot air balloon crashes above the Owens Valley. Stoic undercover agent Hal Grantham comes to her rescue, promising to take her to the silver mining town of Cerro Gordo. A severe sand storm keeps him from keeping his promise and forces them to seek shelter overnight in a cave, compromising her reputation and forcing Hal into a marriage of convenience.
Wilda is a misfit in Cerro Gordo, too, where their turbulent marriage is filled with adventures, adjustments, and above all else, loving. Then a diphtheria epidemicsweeps through the silver mining town. This same disease felled Hal's first wife and child, so to guarantee Wilda a long life Hal secretly repairs her balloon, and then sends her back to her own time, shattering Wilda's heart. Is her love for her terse husband strong enough to bring this headstrong Caltrans flagperson safely back to Hal's time?