Friday, July 24, 2009

Welcome special guest author Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter!

Cate: Please welcome Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter. Sandy, will you please share a short bio with us?
Sandy: Thank you for having me, Cate. I went into the Air Force in 1971 from my hometown of Muncie, Indiana, where I lived with my grandmother since 1959 and loved reading and writing. I met my husband at Scott, AFB, married in 1973, went to Ohio, got bitten by the adult writing bug in 1989, had 2 sons in there, got an English degree from Ohio State, sold 2 books to the Wild Rose Press and White Rose Publishing in 2007 and 2008, had 2 granddaughters, and here we are.

Cate: Tell us about The Winds of Fall and where it's available.
Sandy: Winds is based on 2 dreams I had as a child and I started the rough draft in 1990. I took many years to actually get it in its present form because I didn’t know what I was doing back then. Winds is a The Stranger Within meets Men In Black, fish-out-of-water tale. Skye’s an artist/astrophysicist and an alien though she doesn’t know it—yet. Joe’s an alien and recognizes what Skye is immediately when he sees her arm imbedded in his painting at an art gallery. Winds is a psychological study of a man’s defiance against his family’s Mafia-like rules, and a woman’s slipping sanity due to torment from a creature no one can see and her horrifying dreams, set against an impending invasion only she can stop. It makes an emotional read that those who’ve read it say they can’t put down. We’re all held back by and struggle against societal and familial rules that keep us from learning and growing into what we truly should be. It’s available through me for an autographed copy, through Wild Rose Press’s website, Barnes & Noble’s website, or

Cate: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
Sandy: I actually started writing in 3rd grade when I turned my dreams into short stories. The adult writing bug bit me in October, 1990, when I wrote an article about a family trip to an animal auction in Kidron, Ohio, and it was published by a local weekly paper. The novel bug bit me that same year with a comment from my oldest son when we were sitting in the driveway beside a car I’d recently wrecked. The call wasn’t a call but an e-mail from The Wild Rose Press and it came when I was in intensive care because I had stopped breathing. That didn’t matter compared to the news my DIL gave me when she checked my e-mail on December 8, my birthday, and saw THE e-mail. That, and breathing again, made my birthday in 2007 the best ever.

Cate: Wow, that's quite a story, Sandy! I'm glad you had a happy ending as well!
Are there any other writers, published or not, in your family?
Sandy: My father was doing some writing before he died in 2001, mostly poetry. My brother teaches college and is working on some writing projects as his landscaping business, teaching, and being a preacher allows him. Several members of my immediate family just tolerate my writing and being published--to each his own I guess! My ex-SIL is an unpublished romance writer, and she’s finally working consistently on a suspense novel located in Ohio’s Amish country set against upheaval and the collapse of America’s political system and the effect on one family.

Cate: Describe your writing in three words.
Sandy: Unexpected romantic fiction OR Oddly unexpected romance.

Cate: How many hours a day do you write?
Sandy: I’d say about 1½-6 hours a day. In the winter, I substitute teach many weekdays and have about 1½ or more hours free during the teacher’s lunch and planning time. I come home, have supper, then before I go to bed for the next day I try to type in the changes I made to the printed pages during the day, sometimes I can’t. I take my MIL to her hairdresser appointment/shopping every Thursday, run my oldest son around on days he doesn’t feel well after kidney dialysis, teach English 101 in local male prisons and grade their papers, watch certain shows with my hubby after he gets off work, and a ton of other things. In the summer, there’s gardening and yardwork; I’m my MIL’s landscaper and my own. I think I average about the same 1-6 hours a day but I spend at least 2 hours a day doing promotional work and a few art projects I can’t get done in the winter.

Cate: Do you have a writing routine?
Sandy: When I get home from subbing I decompress with the hot tea and check the e-mail accounts and handle any business they may need. If my husband isn’t home, I enter new text, research, or make changes on a chapter in the computer until about 6, eat supper, then go back to the writing until he gets home. I check e-mail just before bed. On my days off, I write about 6-10 hours with time for answering e-mails as needed.

Cate: How do you pick the character’s names?
Sandy: Oh geez, that’s a good one, hum, I use many family and friends names, in fact, my grandmother and grandfather, Lona and Edward Resler, are the grandparents in my first novel, Cottonwood Place. Then I use names I like or make up from objects around me. The 200-year-old shape-shifting secretary, Mrs. Euncer, in one of my WIPs got her name from the bottle of Eucerin lotion on my desk. I always put my brother Greg, my high school friend, Rita, and my husband’s best friend and his wife, Dennis and Cindy, in my novels. Almost all my heroines’ names start with S, and my heroes seem to start with J, though I change them sometimes.

Cate: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest?
Sandy: Lately, the most challenging is finding a quiet place to write without interruptions because too many people live with us (youngest son, his wife, their two children, and our oldest son) until my DIL graduates from college. It’s very frustrating, but I do get to see my granddaughters daily, something many grandparents don’t have. Easiest aspect...hum...I’d say coming up with the basic plotlines and story ideas, I thrive on that!

Cate: What’s the most rewarding aspect?
Sandy: There are so many I can hardly list them all. For me, the first is the chance to research, I drool over researching, get excited about odd tidbits that add authenticity and accuracy to the setting and other important parts of a story, and to learn many new things, anything to ward off Alzheimer’s! Secondly, there’s the writing itself, I get lost in the story as I write, just like we hear so many other authors say, and time stands still. The last most rewarding aspect is what we hear many other artists say about their craft, the journey of doing the work, the daily writing, the rush of coming up with a plot breakthrough.

Cate: Do you feel as if the characters live with you as you write? Do they haunt your dreams?
Sandy: Well...yes and no. They do haunt my dreams in one sense because that’s where I get many of the ideas for my stories. I woke up at 4 the other morning plotting out the sequels for Cottonwood Place and couldn’t shut it off and go back to sleep-ack! No, in that they don’t live with me like you hear other authors say. I mostly think about the book I’m working on 24-7 until I finish it, not quite to the obsession level but almost.

Cate: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
Sandy: Years ago a publisher who published paranormals rejected The Winds of Fall saying it was “too weird for their readers,” and in almost all the reviews of Cottonwood Place, the reviewers all say they want to go stay in the Cottonwood Place Bed and Breakfast Inn and have their problems solve by Megan and Ian—that’s just plain weird!

Cate: That certainly goes against the lovely comment by Anne Seymour, your editor for The Winds of Fall: "Ms. Wickersham-McWhorter makes writing an artwork, painting beautiful characters that vividly glow like Monet’s Impression, Sunrise."
So who are some of your favorite authors and books? What are you reading now?
Sandy: That’s an easy one! Anything by Deborah Simmons, Flora Speer, Phyllis Whitney, Jules Verne, Robert A. Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Andre Norton, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clark, Mary Stewart’s King Arthur series from the ‘70s, and Conrad Richter’s trilogy about the settling of Ohio-The Trees, The Fields, and The Town. I’m reading Lori Foster’s Servant: The Awakening and Mary Janice Davidson’s Fish out of Water right now.

Cate: What's next for you?
Sandy: Finishing The Winter Road (readers, you can download Chapter 1 here) and Orion Comes in Winter and getting them to my publisher so I can hopefully have a new book out next year. That will leave me free to write a sequel to Cottonwood Place that has been nagging me to get it written.

Cate: Where can you be found on the web?
Sandy: on my website at, every 3rd Friday of the month on the Central Ohio Fiction Writers Ohio Romance Authors blog on MySpace-, and I’ll soon be blogging at least monthly the White Roses in Bloom blogspot regularly

Cate: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Sandy: Of those who answer my question I’ll pick the best answer for an autographed copy of either of my books-Cottonwood Place or The Winds of Fall. I was raised by my grandmother and she made me a nature nut. I feed birds year-round and recognize many species by sight and their call, have a dog I’d die for, 7 very old goldfish in my outdoor pond that I treasure, and many favorite tree species, especially my 85-foot female cottonwood in my backyard and the mulberry tree across the road that’s as big as a three-story house. I have many treasured memories of being outdoors both as a kid in the ‘50s and ‘60s and as an adult. The question to you is what is your one most treasured memory of being outdoors?

Cate: Readers, you heard Sandy. She's giving away a book to a random commenter... so start commenting. She'll pick a winner on Sunday, July 26, so be sure to check back!

Below is the blurb and excerpt for The Winds of Fall.

Unknown to Skye Worthington, the people most important to her are keeping unearthly secrets from her. If not revealed and faced, these secrets will cause death for untold billions of people, Skye included. Rebelling against his family and their deadly, but necessary, secrets which kept him a recluse in a Caribbean paradise, Joe Allen meets Skye. They fall into a love forbidden to Joe. Can two people with unimaginable secrets—and more in common than either know—overcome a force capable of entering dreams and taking humans through outer space without life support to other planets? This is the dilemma facing Skye and Joe as she fights to keep her sanity, and her identity as a human being.

Powerless to resist, Skye Worthington watched her hand rise to the huge artwork in front of her. Her fingers played in the blades of blue plastic grass swaying in a soft breeze from tiny fans in the artwork.
Though she didn’t want them to, her fingers caressed the little wooden people’s silken clothes. Green ceramic hills next drew her hand to them to enjoy their enameled smoothness. From somewhere in her mind, she knew these small hills represented real hills she’d seen some time before.
She heard the people of the real hills pleading to her mind, Return home to fly with us on your green hills.
Skye hated the feeling of aloneness flooding her mind because she couldn’t fly over these familiar slopes, as she’d done many times before.
To be free you must join the people in the artwork. Her inner artist thought.
No, that’s not a true statement. Her inner scientist thought back.
Her face started moving toward the artwork, and she couldn’t stop it. Fans in the hills blew her hair around as she got closer. Tears flowed down her cheeks as a nauseating homesickness overwhelmed her.
The inner-scientist panicked, silently screaming, This isn’t logical! Artworks can’t talk. Fight!
She willed her gaze to move from the canvas. It didn’t.
She tried to scream. She couldn’t.
She tried to back up. Her foot hit the wall in front of her instead.
She wanted her fingers to leave the artwork.
They didn’t move.
The painting’s people shouted to her mind, Return home, or you will die!
Nothing could break the magnetic bond between her hand and the white-capped acrylic ocean.
Joseph Allen liked the St. Louis’s gallery’s open arrangement. The main room’s partitions only went up eight feet of its fifteen-foot height. Three or four artworks hung on each partition’s sides, giving private settings to ponder the art; the part he liked best. Skylights, and the room’s shape, reminded him of a room he didn’t see much since he became vice-president of his family’s company.
He’d decided to check his contest entry before going to his hotel for the night, and he’d waited until the gallery was almost empty. The gallery’s owner had hung his entry in the best place, the back. Joe could let his guard down there. He strolled around the partitions, looking at the other contest entries.
When he turned the corner to his entry’s area, he saw a woman near his canvas. She was touching it. Wasn’t she aware of art gallery etiquette? “Hey, get your hand off my painting.”
“Leave me alone. I want to go home. I must go home.” She said in a monotone voice.
He stepped closer, and his heart jumped into his throat. Her left hand had entered his artwork, and her forearm slid in as he watched! Joe moved closer and said, “Get away from my canvas.”
He could hardly breathe as he prayed no one would see them. The consequences would be unimaginable.
The woman slowly turned her head toward him. Like in some nightmarish horror movie, she looked at him with vertical cat’s-eye pupils instead of human pupils. A gasp escaped his lips. He wanted to run, to hide from what he knew the future would now bring, but horrified fascination glued his feet to the floor.
A cobalt-blue emptiness gradually replaced her green irises and the cat’s-eye pupils. He’d never seen human eyes do anything remotely like this. He blinked away his shock and regained enough control
to say, “You must get away from my painting! Now.”
She didn’t respond.
Fear of being seen made Joe close the short distance to her and shake her shoulder. “If anyone sees what you’re doing—”
“Leave me alone. I want to go home. I must go home.” She replied in the same monotone. Her elbow slid into his entry as she spoke.
As her face turned back to his artwork, a knife of horrendous loneliness sliced through Joe’s mind. He had to find out what made her feel that empty and alone. People can’t survive such loneliness.


Sue C. said...

I don't have just one outdoor moment that's my favorite. I live on 8.5 acres of hardwood, and not a week goes by without some sort of critter encounter. Comming face to face (about 8' separation) with a whitetail is still a thrill, just like the baby racooms and the Phoebe's nesting on the rock wall of my house. So if I had to choose a favorite type of outdoor experience, it's when one of nature's fabulous creations walks, flies, or crawls up to me and reminds me that I'm the guest here. Thanks for writing wonderful stories.
Sue C.

Anonymous said...

I think my favorite outdoor memory is the day I discovered beavers live in the Clark Fork River in the middle of the city of Missoula.

I was walking me dog and we stopped for some necessary business when I heard the plop of what I assumed was a large rock splashing into the small channel near us. I looked across the channel, but no one was there. I looked down and spotted the beaver with his tennis racket tail--just like in the cartoons. I realized that what I'd heard was this beaver splashing that tail on the water.

Emma Lai said...

Great interview ladies! Sandy, what an intriguing story premise! I'm with you on finding the one tidbit of research that makes a story more of the best feelings in the world!

A favorite outdoor moment? I spent many hours outside as a child...not so many as an adult. As a child, I'd spend hours rollerskating, trying to do tricks like ice skaters. Those were the best moments...getting completely lost in the activity. As an adult, I'd have to say the day my husband and I spent kayaking on our water, creatures below, cool ocean breeze, and the man of my dreams.

Nancy Naigle said...

Like Sue C., I live in the country on just under 100 acres where my husband raises South African Boer Goats, so it's never a dull moment from an outdoor perspective.

I think the most interesting OUTDOOR MOMENT I have is from the 1980 Blizzard in the Virginia/Carolina area. I was with my fiance in the tiny town of Aydlett, NC. It was snowing, but it never snows big in these parts -- like ever!! But that evening at about 9pm a huge burst of thunder rattled the house and then the craziest blizzard started. My fiance and I decided we better walk back to his parents house which was only about 1/2 mile away.

Walking through that blizzard is something I've never forgotten. The snow had drifted and we were trudging through nearly thigh-high snow. Ice crystals hung from his moustache and the air stung your nose when you tried to breathe. Our eyelashes felt heavy from the freezing flakes, and stung our faces.

I swear, the wind was so loud, it was like background music.

I've never forgotten that chill or that loud whooshing music-like sound.

Needless to say, if it's butt stays inside!!
Thanks for sharing this great interview with Sandy!!

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

You have phoebes nesting on your house? That's just toooooo cool! I'd love to pet a wild deer. I get so many emailed pictures of people who have and ache with jealousy. I have 2 birdfeeders by my livingroom window and they provide many hours of pleasure and new species to mark off in my 2 bird books. I agree with your kind of experience; we have a bald eagle on the huge hill behind our house and I saw it soaring overhead one day with a blackbird chasing it. I sat for 20 minutes in the road watching it and almost cried because it was so majestic. Thanks for your comment, Sue.

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

Hi Teresa, I've never seen a live beaver but saw a show on them recently on National Geographic. The babies are sooooooo cute! I think they're one of the most industrious of all animals. Did you have a camera with you, a picture would have been a good memory. I noticed the name of the river; here in Ohio many of the rivers have Fork in their name, I live a mile from the Black Fork River, about 10 miles away there's the Clear Fork River, and a ton of others in between those two. That must be a popular naming convention nationwide.

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

Hi Emma, thanks, glad you like my wierdness. If it's a book of your heart like Winds was for me nothing deters you from finding a publisherdoes it? I was a rollerskater as a child, too, but not outdoors. I skated at the Gibson Skating Rink and still remember the hotdogs and candy I bought there with money from pop bottles I found on the roadside. The hotdogs were cut to make them circle around and fit a hamburger bun! Never have been kayaking, but because I've been outside so much by myself with theonly sound being the birds and wind, I totally understand the feeling you must have that day on your honeymoon.

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

Oh my gosh, Nancy, that must have been scary! I've heard of thunder snow but not like your encounter. That walk would make a good story suspense scene because of the eerieness of the wind music and the darkness. the blizzard story brought back some memories for me! We had a blizzard in central Ohio on 1978 that made national news. My oldest son wasn't quite 2 yet, they talked of loosing heating gas and electricity service and no one could get in or out on the roads due to about 8 feet of snow and 15-20 foot drifts. Some had to shovel out of their houses. My MIL tried to go to work in that and my husband found her car abandoned under an underpass. She gave up trying to drive and had walked 8 blocks in the worst of the blizzard to a gas station. We had some long scary hours before we found her because the phones were all dead!

Terry Blain said...


Best outdoor moment? It's a tossup between catching a foul tip hit by Willy Mays when the Giants were playing the Dodgers.

Ok, really, I was in Coco Beach, Florida, staying a few days with my aunt, uncle and cousins waiting to set up an apartment as my Navy husband's ship was coming home in a week. My cousins took me seining for mullet in the Banana River - so all three of us are wading waist deep in the river, when, right in front of us, not fifteen feet away, a manatee popped up, looked at us, and turned and swam away.

The manatee would be #1 with no problem, except I while in the river, I got bit by a mosquito and I'm really allergic so there is a negative to this memory.

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Sandy -

I have many wonderful outdoor memories, but I'll share a special one for me. I grew up in Maryland. My parents had a primative log cabin in Pennsylvania that we would use for occasions. One year we went up there in the winter. I was maybe 9at the time. I remember sitting on one of those round metal saucers, a bumpy alternative to a sled, and sliding down a hill that was actually the road up to our cabin. The road had deep ruts from tire tracks on either side that eventually trapped the saucer. But when I stopped, I just laid there - looking up at the circle of tall evergreens overhead touching the clear blue sky, feeling the crisp clean air kiss my cheeks. So quiet. So peaceful.

I experienced that simple moment with every fiber of my being and burned it into my memory so much so that I can relive it at will. Which is really handy on stress filled days (grin). Have a good one.

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

Terry, yours is another story that makes me jealous! I never knew manatees existed until about 15 years ago when I saw a TV show about them. They are so innocent, unassuming, and the look of wisdom in their eyes touches me in a way I can't describe. My stomach flipflops and I want to cry when I hear one is killed by a careless boater somewhere. To see one as close as you did...

Helen Hardt said...

Sandy, Winds of Fall sounds so intriguing! Thanks for sharing so much about yourself here on Cate's blog.

Favorite outdoor memory? I'm not sure I could pick just one. Riding on my husband's Harley would be right up there!

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

Hi, Donna, sledding is such fun! We didn't have hills where I grew up so I couldn't get the big slide like you did. Your moment and many of the others here today bring to mind a Star Trek movie where Captain Picard and a lady talked about living in the moment so much that time slows down. I've felt that very feeling when out working in my garden before so many noisy neighbors moved in. No sounds but the birds, the creek beside me, and me. Such an unnatural feeling of calm and peace, I think that's what heaven must be like.

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

Hi, Helen, glad you like The Winds of Fall's premise. If you get to read it, let me know what you think. Motorcycle riding is a peacefulness all its own isn't it? I rode on the back with my husband a lot years ago and the feeling of the wind on your body and the feeling of flying along is very similar to what I experienced in the dreams that lead to Winds and that I describe in it. I think we all have a feeling of wanting to fly sometime in our lives and those flying dreams let us do that, don't you agree?

Kathy said...

I have a bunch but nost are of outdoors at my grandmother's playing in the sand on the north side of her house and mixing it with Mimosa Blossoms and seed pods that dropped off in the back yard. There was a bunch of different types of Pecan trees around their house. When they were picked and bagged don't mix those up those were one kind those were another all looked the same to me. BUt the days were long and we spent all day outside from breakfast to lunch in for lunch rest for a while then back out until time for bath and bed. No aircondtioning, no tv to watch all day, the radio was on for the news in the morning then turned off. They even had a timer for it lol. But I never really noticed the lack of tv there because I was busy outside playing. THanks Sandy for a great interview and telling us about yourself today. Kathy

Cate Masters said...

Ooh, I love these memories! I grew up in the country, too - literally, if my mom could tell you. I spent every day outside with my dog Tippy. One of my greatest childhood memories is of seeing a herd of probably 30 deer running past our house. It was amazing. More recently, when we moved into our new home, the local hummingbirds grew very curious about us, apparently, and hovered in our faces for seconds to check us out!

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

OMGoodness, Cate! 30 deer and hummers in your face? I'm drooling jealously over all the stories I'm reading. I'll add one of my own; a house wren has been flitting around the clematis vine and the screen on my front porch and the bird feeder just a few feet away much of this morning. I think it's a female cause she's very drab. She went to the feeder and posed down low and practically hissed at every bird who tried to land to eat. She even scared off male cardinals! Her chattering was what alerted me to her presence. I think I'll have a Dickens of a time chosing a winner from all the comments; I may just have to assign a number to each and have one of my sons draw a number out of a hat.

Mary Ricksen said...

A very large lizard regularly comes to my back door begging for hamburger. My best outdoor moment? When I finally learned to swim.

I enjoyed reading about your journey Sandy. Good luck and may the force be with you!
Great blog Cate.

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

Hi Mary, glad you liked the blog. Now I'm dying to know what kind of lizard it is and where you live? That's absolutely amazing! I see you're a Star Wars fan. Which movie do you like best?



I spent many days outside in my childhood. We would ride our bike, went to camp every year for 2 weeks, take walk with our mothers, and just sleep out under the stars. I remember the days with fondness.


Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

Hi, Loretta, sounds you had a care-free childhood basically. I'd ride my bicycle with my best friend for hours and miles every day in the summer, also. Does any one adventure on one of those vacations stand out in your mind?

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

Well everyone, I'm going to bed. I've been trying to figure out my son's taxes and making my computer copy Cottonwood Place onto disk for the last 5 hours and both were a pain! I'll check the blog again tomorrow for new comments. I've had fun reading your comments, see you tomorrow!

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

Good morning everyone! I'll monitor the comments today to see if anyone new posts then decide on a winner tonight. As we've been discussing our most favorite moments in nature, I have a worst mement happening right outside my livingroom window. A tufted titmouse, a gray bird a bit smaller than a robin with a small crest, is dying. One eye is shut for some reason. He or she never leaves the area around the two feeders even to crack open a sunflower seed between her 2 feet. He or she stays in the feeder's protected shelf that doesn't get wet when it rains like it is now. The poor bird fluffs out all his or her feathers to stay warm or sleep in the evening. I so highly value the life of animals, especially dogs and birds, that I want to cry every time I look at the feeder. At least he or she is eating well and I have to think maybe that may help him or her recover.

Cate Masters said...

Oh Sandy, how sad. A few weeks ago, a baby hummingbird flew into my hubby's workshop and stunned itself. My son picked it up in his cap and we set it by the fuschia bush, where they like to feed. It took awhile, but it did recover. Hope your little bird does too!

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

Thank you, Cate, I hope he or she does recover or doesn't suffer very long. I know only the strong survive in the animal kingdom, but that doesn't take away the sorrow when a living thing dies. We have birdies ramming into our windows all the time and most do recover, but that awful "THUMPPPPPP" is very frightening when you aren't expecting to hear it!

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

Hi everyone, will announce the winner tomorrow, today was my writer's club meeting here in town and had to type up the miutes from last meeting, put them on the e-mail loop, type a list of jobs for our conference, and then I had to run the meeting because none of the other officers were there. I'm bushed!

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

Cate, my son chose Teresa out of a hat because all the stories were so good and I'm giving Mary Rickson a PDF of her choice because her lizard story is just tooooo cool for words!

Cate Masters said...

Congrats, Teresa and Mary!
And thanks for being my guest, Sandy. This was such fun!

Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter said...

Thank you for having me, Cate, the stories were wonderful, especially the manatee, lizard, and Donna's winter ride. I couldn't decide so that's why I let my son draw names, but I just had to include Mary, too.