Wednesday, July 22, 2020

We Celebrate Ramona!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: How many of you have had a guardian angel? A mentor, a guide, a muse, a cheerleader- teamleader-guide?  For oh-so-many of us, the answer is: Yes! Ramona!

Ramona DeFelice Long –well, let’s talk about her. Personally? My book THE OTHER WOMAN  would not be what it is without her brilliant editing. But that’s just me.  Just the beginning. She’s the iron fist in the velvet glove (she’d tell me that’s a clich√©, gently but firmly) for all her grateful authors n her daily writing sprints. She’s a generous and brilliantly reliable presence in her beloved Pennwriters, and every organization she’s has blessed with her presence. She’s a dear and treasured friend of the Reds, and of  all of us.

Plus. What a rock star. She’s hilarious, and wry, and knowing --and so many writers, like me, rely on her every word. We have shared many a glass of wine. Yes, Ramona.

Okay, and listen—that’s not even the point. Her new book is out! The Murderess of Bayou Rosa. Go right out—okay, not OUT, you can stay inside,  and not RIGHT NOW, because now you need to read this interview, but after you do, click click click and get Ramona’s book.  

Yes, Ramona.

HANK:   When was the first moment you knew you wanted to write? Or wait--did loving to read come first?

RAMONA: In 5th Grade, I entered a patriotic poem contest sponsored by the VFW. This is how my poem began:

The grand ol’ flag of the USA
Flies in the wind of the windy day.

Clearly, poetry is not my wheelhouse, but my poem won the contest. “Grand Ol’ Flag” was published in the state VFW newsletter, and I was presented a $25 Savings Bond at a ceremony at the local VFW chapter. (Named, incidentally, after the first American soldier to die in WWII, Freddie Falgout lived one town away from where I grew up. He died one day before his 21st birthday.)  After the presentation, the  VFW president handed me the original hand-written poem and asked if I’d like to read it. I was too surprised to be terrified, so I walked to the mic and read to an audience of foreign war veterans. Walking back to my seat, I was stopped by a man who whispered, “I could never read in front of people like that. You are braver than I am, young lady, and I fought at Guadalcanal!”

Add this up, and this is what you get: On a single night when I was twelve years old, I was published and paid, I gave a public reading, and was praised by a fan. I was young, but I had enough sense to realize I’d found my place in the world.  


HANK: Where did you grow up? What books did you read as a child that you remember now?

RAMONA: I had two childhoods. From birth to age seven, I lived in a neighborhood full of family: my grandmother, three aunts, one uncle, and nineteen cousins lived on my lane in Golden Meadow, Louisiana. The town was so named because fields of wild goldenrods grew every summer. It’s about 60 miles southwest of New Orleans. I spent summer weekends at Grand Isle, an island beach on the Gulf of Mexico that is also the setting for Kate Chopin’s The Awakening.

After a particularly nasty hurricane flooded our house, my father and a professional carpenter built our future home out of flood zone. It was in the middle of sugar cane fields. Our closest neighbor was my great-grandfather. I was eight; he was eighty-eight. The name of the closest town was Larose (ahem). My siblings and I spent summers in the middle of nowhere all summer because my mother, a nurse, always worked. I rode my bike, watched TV, fought with my brothers, and read. My mom took us to the library once a week. We were allowed to get 10 books. I usually read my 10 books in two days, so I read my sister and brothers’ books, which is why I know a lot about the U.S. space program and baseball.

My favorite books were Rumer Godden’s doll books, The Secret Garden and The Secret Language. I devoured all the brave girl books: Pippi, Anne with an e, Donna Parker, Katie John. All wonderful role models.


HANK: Donna Parker! Seriously. We have to talk. I learned SO much from Donna Parker.  Anyway. You have helped so many writers--including me. How did you come to be an editor?

RAMONA: I owe my career to my Great Friend and mentor, Nancy Martin. When Nancy started her Blackbird Sisters mystery series, we were in a critique group together. Brainstorming the Blackbirds was heavenly, because in between all the brave girl books I’d read thousands of mysteries, I had a knack for understanding characters and mystery plots. I must have absorbed how mysteries were supposed to work by reading so many at a young age. After critiquing Nancy’s first couple of mysteries, she asked if I would read a mystery manuscript from a friend, then another, until I realized I had a marketable skill. I decided, with no experience in business at all, to open my own editing service. I got my first big break when I was asked to edit the first Guppy anthology. Since FISH TALES was published in 2011, I had steady work as an editor.

Before anyone sends me a manuscript, I retired earlier this year. Working as a development editor, teaching online courses, and presenting workshops were an excellent way to spend the last decade.


HANK: What's the biggest mistake new authors make?  (Tell us as many as you want. Sigh.)

RAMONA: Without a doubt, the most common error is front loading the first few pages of a manuscript with background instead of action. “Action” does not need to be a car chase, but a telling event or a character in an intriguing situation.

Others, in no particular order:

Too many characters introduced too quickly. IRL, it’s tough to go to a party, meet a bunch of new people, and remember their names and how they are connect to the host. The same thing applies to fiction.

A character driving/waking up/making coffee, etc., ALONE. Unless isolation is a theme of the story, you are asking the reader to watch a character perform mundane acts. If the car breaks down or the windshield shattered by a gunshot, that’s a story.

Weather. There is weather everywhere, all the time. Unless it directly affects the story, weather is weather.

Misleading first impressions. IRL, we form instant impressions of people when we first meet them. Those impressions can be hard to shake. This means, if you introduce your protagonist in a compromising or weak or silly situation, will I believe it when she’s suddenly competent enough to solve a mystery?

HANK: LOVE this. I am printing it out. Now, you.  We are so thrilled with your new book! Congratulations! Give is the elevator pitch for  The Murderess of Bayou Rosa. . (You made us learn to do it--now it's your turn.)

RAMONA: In 1920, in a small bayou town, a free-spirited women shoots her lover in the back, sticking her hometown with a legal and moral dilemma: Can a jury of twelve men vote to hang a woman they’ve known since birth?

HANK:  Ooh.  I love justice stories. Where did the idea come from?

RAMONA: A couple of years ago, I needed a story to donate to a charity anthology. I was in the habit of walking every night after dinner, and I loved seeing the changes in the moon. It reminded me of a Louisiana saying: “Marry a man by the light of the  moon and he will be true to you.” 

That saying led me to a story about a moonlight wedding that goes awry. That story, “Light of the Moon,” was published in Into the Woods. It had an open ending, because I love open endings. (Others do not.) I was asked several times to write a sequel. Not until Sister Jean, who manages the retreat houses where I went 4 or 5 times a year, asked if I was writing a sequel did I really consider it. I went to Catholic school. I can’t say no to a nun.

HANK: Smiling. How was it to write? I mean--how long did it take to write THE MURDERESS OF BAYOU ROSA, what did you learn, how did it change you?

RAMONA: The first 2/3 were a snap! The short story gave me setting, characters, inciting incident, antagonist, voice, etc. It was like a summary and all I had to do was fill in what happened before the short story began. I did that, and made some significant changes, but writing it was a breeze. Took me six months to write 220 pages. (I hear you book-a-year folks laughing, but this is lightning speed for me!) The final one third took me a year and a half. It began where the short story ended, and the reason I’d left it open was because I had no clue what happened next. I wrote about ten endings (seriously). The last 100 pages took 18 months because I was never happy with the ending. Then I found Carl (who is sorta-kinda based on a real person) and the right ending showed itself. My first draft was 104,000 words. I got it down to 95k.

What did I learn? That I was not immune to some of the mistakes my clients made!

How did it change me?  I had to keep reminding myself that women had different attitudes in 1920. I did not want to write a false protagonist—a woman whose actions or ideas were unrealistic for the times. The lasting impression from this book is an acutely awareness of how very much we owe to the women who came before us, who fought for the vote, fought for women to serve on juries, fought to own property and not be property, fought to work outside the home, fought to hold public office, and fought to be educated, all the while cooking every meal from scratch, washing clothes by hand, and raising a family with no safety nets. I hugged my refrigerator and memories of my grandmothers many times while writing the book.


HANK: Aw. Like I said.   LOVE this. And yes,  open endings are so difficult. Just like life. Reds and readers--tell us someone who—like Ramona for me—has changed your life.

Yes! Ramona.  And TWO lucky commenters will win a copy of her wonderful new book! 



THE MURDERESS OF BAYOU ROSA

In the summer of 1920, in the town of Bayou Rosa, Louisiana, a free-spirited woman named Joelle Amais shoots her lover in the back but won't tell anyone why. Joelle is a woman with a checkered past, and as the weeks stretch between her arrest and a delayed trial, her defiant silence threatens to blow Bayou Rosa apart.

Joelle’s only ally is her daughter Geneva, the town schoolteacher, whose demure demeanor hides the stubbornness she inherited from her mother. Geneva is determined to see her mother get a fair trial, but now the town is faced with a legal and moral dilemma. With rows of new graves in the cemetery from a devastating world war and influenza epidemic, can a jury of twelve men vote to hang a woman they’ve seen grow up since birth?


Ramona DeFelice Long writes short fiction, essays, memoir and one novel about family, women, and quirky things that come her way. Her work has appeared in numerous literary and regional magazines. She is a Louisiana native now living in Delaware.
Website: www.ramonadef.com Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ramona.d.long Ramona’s Sprint Club: https://www.facebook.com/groups/270472177602954/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/ramonadef

115 comments:

  1. Congratulations, Ramona . . . I’m definitely looking forward to reading your book and finding out what happens to Joelle . . . .

    I’ve had several friends who’ve changed the direction of my life . . . one introduced me to John, another gave me an unexpected opportunity to work in education program development . . . where would we be without friends?

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    1. Thank you, Joan. Joelle will keep your eyes hopping (figuratively, of course.)

      Where, indeed? Friends are keeping me sane this summer.

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    2. SO amazing how that works. We all do it for each other!

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  2. Congrats on the book!

    And, I was nodding my head at your list of mistakes new writers make. Of course, the few times I tried to write fiction, I found myself doing them, too. Especially front loading all the history into the beginning of the story.

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    1. Thank you, Mark. Here's something to think about: If you *must* fill the beginning with back story, do it. When you've completed a full draft, you can go back to the beginning and move it. You will know your characters better after writing a draft.

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    2. True! It might feel reassuring to have it there at the beginning--but when you've finished the first draft, you realize you don't really need it!

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  3. Ah, the indispensable (to the writer) disposed (by the writer) first chapters. Those first chapters are perfect for the author to flex the story muscles and lay the background for the book, but it's rare that they belong in the finished product.

    Guppies has been my game changer. The camaraderie, the classes, the safe place to question and learn. I remember when you edited the first anthology, Ramona. I may still have the original contract. So glad you have expanded into novel writing. I'm looking forward to meeting Joelle.

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    1. Kait, that first Guppy anthology was one of the best experiences of my life. We were so pumped! It was the first publication and experience with the process for quite a few of the writers. I am still thrilled to have been part of that.

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    2. You made the first anthology happen. And you were a dream to work with. Sorry you are out of the editing biz, but so glad you took to novels.

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  4. Ramona KNOWS she has changed my life. She inspires me to get started every morning with the Sprint Club (for which, ack, I am late today because I slept in). She so much improved every one of my Quaker Midwife mysteries - four of which were nominated for an Agatha Award, one of which won it. And she's a truth-speaking, kick-ass commenter on life, with humor always lurking. I love you, my friend!

    Also, people - read the book. It's evocative, intriguing, delicious, and you won't want to put it down.

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    1. Back atcha, Edith! (This is my sprint today.)

      Rose Carroll was a delight to see grow, and the books deserve to be recognized for the brave stances on issues that are as timely now as in 1888. Congrats on the Agatha!

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  6. Ramona, congrats on the new book!

    You said in your list of things not to do, that you shouldn't have a character waking up alone. So, a character waking up (after a late night) to what they think is an alarm clock going off but it is really the door buzzer being rung by police wanting to talk to them would be a bad idea or acceptable?

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    1. Jay, your question proves there are no absolutes. A person waking up alone, taking a shower alone, making coffee alone, checking into Facebook alone - boring. The scenario you describe is a different kind of person waking up alone if the late night is significant. The walk from bed (or sofa or floor) to answer the door is full of opportunity to reveal info about the character. Does he wake up wearing pants, but before he answers the bell he puts on a t-shirt and slippers? Is he sleeping in pajamas or in the nude? Is he hung over--or hung over again? Or was his late night because of a project he had to finish because he never misses a deadline, or a plumbing disaster in this cursed old house? As he walks, can he feel grit or sand in the carpet, is he kicking aside the family dog or tripping on a baby toy? Waking up alone and walking to the door can be made informative and/or interesting if you spice it up.

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    2. Thanks Ramona. This is informative and helpful.

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  7. Hello everyone. I am back, and delighted that Ramona is here. Your book is splendid, it was so carefully written, and full of surprises. I feel like I know both you and LA a bit better.

    The person who changed my life was Catherine Macklett. I was a shelver at the University of Washington library. We would talk about books. She said one day that I should go to library school. I applied and was accepted. Ms. Machlett was going to library school, but died before she graduated. Some days I felt I was studying for both of us.

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    1. Coralee! It looks like the sprinters are decamping here this morning. Thank you for the lovely words about Murderess.

      Ms. Macklett sounds like a wonderful influence, but what a sad ending for her. I am glad you remembered her.

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    2. YAAAYYYY~ You're back! And yes,indeed you were..xoo

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  8. How wonderful! Congratulations, Ramona, I'm putting your book on my list!

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  9. Loved your book, Ramona and this interview especially the details of your childhood(s). Thanks for sharing and everything you do.

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    1. As a fellow storyteller, Martha my friend, you know that every answer is helped by an anecdote!

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  10. Good morning, Jungle Reds! I am pleased from head to toe at this tribute, Hank! In addition to enjoying the work of being an editor, it allowed me to make so many friends in the writing community. That's a good place to be when you publish a book!

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  11. I just read it! I loved it! Yay, Ramona! And thanks,always,for Sprint Club.

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    1. Another sprinter on the loose! Thank you, Triss. I'm so happy you enjoyed it.

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  12. Congrats Ramona, so glad to have you here celebrating! The book is on my nightstand waiting... Question, do you have any moribund book manuscripts in your drawers?

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    1. Thank you, Lucy. I hope you enjoy the book.

      I have one practice novel that is probably a step above practice novel. but several steps below acceptable to publish. Maybe in all my free time now that I'm retired, I'll resurrect it.

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  13. Ramona, I was so excited to start reading The Murderous of Bayou Rosa that I plunged right into it on Monday. Until I got a reminder email yesterday morning about book club this Thursday--for a 499-page book. (Who does that to a book club??) So I have reluctantly set it aside until Thursday night. I had to tear myself away, honestly, I was so caught up in your vividly drawn characters. (I've read 220 pages of the other book, so far.)

    What a great way to find your best path, to have all that recognition so young. Encouragement makes such a difference. I had warring influences when I began writing: a nonsupportive partner, but a group of women who had nothing but praise. And an author friend who introduced me to publisher after publisher, each of whom rejected me. When I told Claire Shaeffer I was going to self-publish my first book, she said, "Then promise me I get the first copy."

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    1. A 499 page book club book? Wow. Is this the brainbusters book club?

      I'm so happy people are enjoying the setting and learning about Louisiana. One of my great regrets is not learning the Louisiana/Cajun French my parents grew up speaking. I still can't speak it, but the voice of the book--which includes drops of French words and phrases--is exactly how my parents spoke. Their native language did not want to die.

      Your comment about one naysayer vs. numerous encouragers is so common. That one bad review, that one negative voice--ignore it! Listen to the majority that supports you.

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    2. It was a test of wills to ignore the most persistent one, who lived in my own house!! But I was vindicated. Ha.

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    3. WOW! What book? And yes, to the most persistent goes the victory. xoxoo

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  14. Congratulations on your book release. I am learning so much here about the process of getting a book into print. It is exciting to have an idea and to be able to make it into a story that people will love to read, to develop characters that will be remembered and sometimes loved.
    Several of my friends have been huge influences in my life in different ways and I am grateful to them every day for the happy changes they inspired.

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    1. Thank you, Judy. Getting a book out is arduous but thrilling.


      Hurrah for your wonderful friends. I think it's pretty obvious that a person who has great friends is a great friend herself.

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  15. Ramona! Any clones of you around?? Look at you, sound advice just pouring out in response to off-the-cuff questions, statements here. Hank's right, you are a rock star! Love the cover of your book--I'd pick that up/check that out even if I weren't familiar with your name. Thanks for sharing your journey to this book--it's going on my TBR pile (and maybe I'll jump it up to the top, too!)

    As for mentors in my life, looking back, there were people who came into my life right when sorely needed. I've tried to be that person myself--and I know in some cases, my presence made a difference.

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    1. Thank you, Flora. Would it great to be cloned, younger but with all the knowledge you've gained?

      I'm glad to see you acknowledge yourself. I understand that, as an editor, I helped people. I'm not sure they understand how much that helped me.

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    2. Yes, it really does make a difference--and we never know when!

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  16. YES! Ramona! I'm proud and honored to have been the author of one of those short stories Ramona edited in that first Guppy anthology. I also count Nancy Martin as a mentor! And I adore Sister Jean!

    Ramona, I'm so thrilled about this book. I started it the moment it arrived in the mail and was sucked right in. Unfortunately, I have another "required reading" project with a deadline, so I've had to put The Murderess on hold until that deadline is met. But I can't wait to get back to it!

    One more thing I'm proud to say is that, along with Ramona, I survived the Great Flood and Writers Retreat. We've shared some amazing times, have we not?

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    1. Hello, Annette! We have had some adventures, indeed! You didn't mention the many Pennwriters conferences and Saturday night SinC chapter dinners. Such fun. It's been so great being along for the ride as your wonderful career blossomed.

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    2. Ramona, there have been too many to mention! There was the dinner in New Orleans with you, the Other Annette, Karen in Ohio, Kim, Martha Reed, Liz Milliron, and Susan Thibadeau! The picture we took on our way to the restaurant is one of my all-time favorites.

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    3. That is one of my favorites, too! What a fun night!

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    4. One of my favorite memories, too!

      And I still have that Guppy anthology, and at least one more of them. Fishies!

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    5. Aww..these reminiscences are so wonderful... xxoo

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    6. The book I wrote in 1994, Sew Up a Storm: All the Way to the Bank!

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  17. I only wish I had met you sooner. You are a force of nature and your sprint group keeps me motivated. I can’t wait to read your book. Went with Kindle now but will want a hard copy when I can bring it to be signed!

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    1. Jane, I'll be doing book plates sometime soon. (Note to self: find book plates.) I'm so happy you found Sprint!

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    2. Yes yes, find book plates! Add it to the ever growing list...xxoo. And YAY for Sprint!

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  18. Congratulations on book publication!

    And thanks for the memories of your hero's journey (the archer shooting an arrow) and (drum roll), query, synopsis, and pitch classes!

    Not forgetting the morning sprit gang.

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    1. Margaret, I think the whole sprint gang has come over here! I miss teaching those classes, especially that Necessary Parts one. Sigh.


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    2. Necessary Parts was an online class I taught for the Guppies and other SinC chapters. Over two weeks, we worked on a log line; a paragraph describing the book for a query letter; a book summary (back cover copy); and a synopsis. The first week was log line, paragraph, summary; the second week was the synopsis. It was crunch time every day for two weeks, but it was a great class. My usual class size was 24. One year, through a registration snafu, I had 54 students. That was a memorable class!

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  19. Congratulations Ramona! Love the book cover!! And I second every one of your observations on how NOT to start. So tricky ...

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    1. Thank you, Hallie. I so appreciate being a guest here!

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  20. Congratulations on the book, Ramona, and thank you for leading the morning sprints. My mentor is Edith Maxwell. She brought me into my first critique group and has been ever so helpful with advice, notes on my drafts, and otherwise shepherded me into Sisters in Crime and New England Crime Bake. Those influences have been tremendous. I can see how Ramona has served the same for others (and even in this post, with her response to Jay!).

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    1. Sprint has brought so many people together. Edith will be a wonderful mentor. Don't let her go!

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    2. Aww, thanks, Claire. I learned from the best, especially the New England Jungle Reds!

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    3. Beware of Edith! :-) She sets a HIGH bar to emulate! xoox

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  21. Congratulations on your new book, Ramona! I didn't even know you were writing this, you sly woman! I saw Edith mention it on FB and immediately bought my copy. I'm just plunging in now, and I'm loving it!

    And Hank--this is a great interview of Ramona. I LOVE the VFW story :). Hank recommended Ramona to me when I was seeking a developmental editor. Hank used the same term--iron fist in a velvet glove--and I immediately knew that Ramona would be a match made in heaven for me, and she was. I've got an iron fist myself although my velvet glove is crumpled somewhere in the back of my underwear drawer. It's hard to find the right editor. I liken it to finding the right therapist. The approach that works for one writer doesn't necessarily work for another. I can never replace Ramona. I only hope to muddle through with a different type of help. Enjoy your retirement, Ramona. And enjoy the praise you'll receive from readers of MURDERESS of BAYOU ROSA.

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    1. Thank you so much, Susan! I loved the Frank Bennett books in their first go-round, so it's been extra special to get first crack at the draft. Audrey and the crew in the Estate Sale mysteries are a lot of fun, too.

      I am still new to the idea of being a novelist, though I've written enough short stories and essays to fill several collections. It is such a different, and deeper, experience. No wonder you are hooked.

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  23. Congratulations on the book, Ramona! Your writing advice is spot on. (No surprise.) As to who has changed my life, I would say Karen Cantwell. We were friends but not close friends. She lived about a mile away, and one day I was at her house to pick up something for Sisters in Crime (I think), and she encouraged me to open my own editing business. Other close friends (Donna Andrews and Sherry Harris) had done the same thing, but when someone who isn't a really good friend says it, it feels more real, not like when your mom says your book is great. I'd edited a short story of Karen's for a Chesapeake Crimes anthology, so she knew my work. Karen's encouragement is what really turned my life around.

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    1. Barb, how lucky for everyone that Karen made that comment to you!

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  24. I can’t wait to read your book, Ramona! Most of my in-laws were/are from Louisiana. Thibodaux in the south to Marksville in the northenmost French parish. Such stories they could tell!

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    1. Pat, here is a small world story: Bayou Rosa is (loosely) based on the city of Thibodaux, which was three towns over from where I lived, in the same parish. Bayou Rosa was smaller, but the courthouse, some of the street names, I pulled from Thibodaux. We must be cousins!

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  25. Congratulations on this book! I'm so happy for you. And what a great interview. I love you, Ramona. You've been so supportive and inspiring. Your writing advice over the years has been priceless.

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    1. Cindy, thank you for always bringing a different, more business-minded perspective to our publishing discussions. You are one of the most daring people I know!

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  26. Ramona,

    Congratulations on your new book and what a great interview! As a child, did you read Ramona and Beezua?

    Diana

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    1. Diana, yes I did! And Henry and Ribsy, too. Being a Ramona is special, though I was complaining on Facebook recently after being asked "the pest or the brave?" for the millionth time!

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  27. How fantastic! Your book sounds like a wonderful read and I love your advice to writers. Info dumps are the worse. Congrats on the new book, Ramona! I'm so looking forward to it.

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  28. Congratulations on writing such a beautiful book, Ramona! I devoured it. I loved so many things about it: the sense of place, the voice, the characters, the ending, which I appreciate all the more knowing how you labored over it. (Well done, because it's perfect.) Thank you for your devotion to the craft of writing, your body of work, your brilliant editing and sage advice, and for your Daily Sprint Club that provides support and encouragement to so many writers. You are truly an inspiration!

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    1. SO great to see you here--isn't it a fun celebration?

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    2. Meredith, you are a sweetheart. Thank you for coming to my celebration! I worked on the book at the last Mindful Writers retreat I attended. The endings...I am serious about having writing 10. I could do my own Choose Your Own Adventure and let people choose different endings. See you in sprint club!

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  29. Congratulations Ramona! I LOVE this book. It's a warm, soulful, tribute to a time in rural Louisiana where life was hard but family meant everything. It's all that I would expect of you and then more. Big Southern HUGS!!

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    1. Thank you, my wonderful friend. I send those big Southern hugs back to you!

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  30. Hi, Ramona! So great to see you here! Huge congratulations on the book!! And, Hank, great interview!!

    As for someone who changed my life, I would have to say Warren Norwood, writer, teacher, mentor, and the late husband of our JRW friend Gigi Norwood. When I was trying to write my first novel, I took a semester writing course from Warren. I was terrible, he was tough. I kept trying to improve, and at the end of that 17 weeks, he said, "This is publishable. You should go for it." Without his encouragement and continuing mentorship, I'm not sure I'd ever have had the courage to finish and submit a manuscript. And knowing Warren brought Gigi into my life, a great and inspirational friend for how-many-ever years now.

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    1. Oh, I did not know that origin story! Fabulous!

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    2. Sometimes it takes one person to validate your efforts, and a little kismet to make things happen. Have you ever told Warren how much he helped you?

      They're great questions from Hank, aren't they? I had such fun answering.

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  31. Congratulations, Ramona! I couldn't wait. I had to stop in the middle of reading this blog so I could go buy a Kindle copy ASAP. I can hardly wait to read it.

    My grandmother, lovingly called Mama by all who knew her, inspires me to this day. I am gobsmacked when I think of all the things she saw in life and all the hard times she lived through. She was born in 1899 in Alabama to a poor farming family, long before the days of indoor plumbing or electricity in that part of the south. They didn't even have party line telephones. By the time she died in 1991, she'd seen the invention of the airplane and men walk on the moon. She lived through the Titanic, the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, two World Wars, the Korean War, and Vietnam. She went from no electricity to a life of modern conveniences. It literally boggles my mind. She never forgot what it was like to be poor and was thrifty all her life, never trusted banks, and made everything from scratch until she could no longer cook. Whenever I spent the night with her, we always said our prayers kneeling next to the bed; then she'd cuddle in bed with me and tell me fairy tales until I fell asleep. I will miss her to my dying day. Now there are SO many questions I wish I had asked her. One of the things that keeps me going now is reminding myself that COVID is nothing compared to what my grandparents lived through and how lucky we are. I've had several special teachers in my love, but no one compares to my loving Mama.

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    1. Darn typo! In the last line that should be "teachers in my life."

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    2. Oh, so agree..so many things we might have asked. I have a pal whose grandmother was in the 1918 pandemic, and said she'd mention it from time to time. "What did she say about it?" I recently asked her. My friend shrugged. I nver asked, she said, It just seeemed like long time ago.

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    3. Cathy, thank you for buying the book! I love grandparent stories. Mine was born in 1905 so she witnessed the same things as yours. I don't know when she got a phone but her husband died in 1933, and they had just had electricity run to their house. Cars were still scarce in some Deep South towns in the late 1930s-early 1940s.

      But I am burying the headline. She lived through the Titanic?! Wow. Did she ever talk about that night? She must have been about 12, old enough to remember.

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    4. Ramona, she never did talk about Titanic and I never thought to ask her. I'm still kicking myself about that. I should clarify that she was not a passenger, just someone who was old enough to remember it. It was a national tragedy, similar to the way my parents responded to JFK's assassination or 9/11; the kind of even where you never forget what you were doing when you first heard about it.

      My Dad told me about how he and his dad installed the first electricity in their house so that they finally had radio. He remembered all those good old radio shows.

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  32. Congratulations Ramona, on your new book! I have it waiting on my Kindle. I have a few books to read ahead of it, but I’m excited about it being a read in my near future. Your name is so synonyms with excellence that I know your book is going to be a great read.

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    1. Kathy, what a lovely compliment! I hope you enjoy the book. And, psst, there is now a glossary available on my website if you find the French words to be challenging.

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  33. Congratulations Ramona. I read the book and it is a wonderful tribute to the Cajun culture of south Louisiana. Ramona is a natural storyteller.
    Great interview Hank, thanks.

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    1. Are you "the other Annette" mentioned in the other Annette's comment? Welcome--and aw, thank you! xx

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    2. Yes, she is, Hank. Although I believe each Annette thinks the other Annette is "the other Annette."

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  34. I love the synopsis of THE MURDERESS OF BAYOU ROSA! And I can't help but think Ramona led the ideal childhood for creating a writer: first, a great deal of interaction with people, stories, travel and special places, and then afterwards, a lot of time alone that can be filled with reading.

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    1. Julia, my childhood went from drama every day to long, long days of entertaining myself.

      After reading many English mysteries, I concluded that any man who drove a dark green Jaguar was a bad guy. There seemed to be a man in a green Jaguar in every English mystery for children. I thought back then that someday I'd write a mystery, and you'd find out in the end that the guy in the green Jaguar was the hero. I didn't know it, but I was already thinking about red herrings!

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    2. OH! I always thought they should be the good guys, in the British racing green.

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    3. I could be wrong here, but isn't a Jag what Adam Dalgliesh drives (drove)? Anyway, the book sounds great and I've had the anthology on my TBR suggestion pile for ages. Many congratulations on the new pub!
      -Melanie

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  35. I have both the short story anthology and the book on order. I am so looking forward to reading them. I really miss Ramona on the list of SinC teachers. You had great classes and gave wonderful feedback.

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    1. Thank you, Karen. I really miss teaching classes. I knew a few teachers who helped me write lesson plans and I'd taught many face to face workshops, but those 2-week intensives were something else! I hope you enjoy your time in Bayou Rosa.

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  36. Congratulations on your book, Ramona. The one person that changed my life was my neighbor, Sandy. We were just neighbors who would talk occasionally and when I was recovering from surgery years ago, she started checking up on me and we developed a close friendship. We are now more like family. I am so lucky to have them in my life.

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    1. What a wonderful discovery--a good friend close at hand!

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  37. Looking forward to this one . . . and this purchase seems to have tipped the scales. I can post reviews on Amazon again. ;-)

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    1. Hurrah! I hope you enjoy the story, Mary.

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  38. YAY Ramona! What a wonderful day! She will choose the winners a random, and we will announce asap! LOVE you, Ramona!

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  39. Ellen Byron/Maria DiRicoJuly 22, 2020 at 11:55 PM

    Ramona, Ramona. A beautiful woman with a beautiful name and fascinating background. AND a woman who changed MY life with a simple note on my first synopsis. Don't enter me in the contest. I already have the book - and can't wait to read it!

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    1. Ellen, thank you for always treating my home state with such love and respect. I hope you enjoy Murderess.

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  40. Congratulations, Ramona!! I have just ordered your book and can't wait to read it!

    You changed my life, by the way! You agreed to edit my nonfiction article, which led to my being published for the first time. What a thrill!

    Thank you so much!!

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    1. I remember that, Jen. It was your accomplishment. I'm honored to have helped.

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  41. Ramona! I had no idea FISH TALES was your first "big break" in editing. I remember vividly how kind you were about my story, and you know I have ADORED working with you as my editor on other books and short stories. You've taught me so much, and not just about writing. And I so love how brave you were -- not just at the VFW, but in turning a short story into a novel.

    (Don't enter me in the giveaway -- I'm about a third of the way into the book right now and can hardly wait to get back to it!)

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    1. Leslie, it was a break because I pulled in a lot of new clients from working with them for the anthology. After FISH TALES, I had steady work--sometimes too much--until I retired.

      Turning a short story into a novel was an experience. I think it helped (or maybe hurt) that my SS was the middle of the novel. I had to write a prequel and a sequel to it to tell the full story.

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