Vivian Zabel is today's visitor in the garden

Okay so what happened to spring? The garden has been cold and wet. Now it’s hot and dry and miserable. Find some shade to slip under and welcome Vivian Zabel. There is ice cold beverages for everyone, please help yourselves.

Mary: Before we begin on the writing, tell us a bit about Vivian the person. Where you grew up, etc.

Vivian: I was born under the flight path at Randolph AFB, Texas. However, I grew up all over the world. Even though I started school in San Antonio, Texas, second grade found me on Guam. Third grade I attended two schools in Enid, Oklahoma. By the time I graduated from high school in Limestone, Maine, I had 22 school changes, including almost two years in Morocco. For the past thirty-some years, I’ve lived in the Edmond, Oklahoma area

I’ve always been a story teller since I could talk. I entertained my siblings and friends with stories. When I learned to write, I began to put the stories and poems on paper.

I taught English and writing for nearly 30 years, with poetry, articles, and short stories published along the way. I attended writing workshops, classes, and clinics every year – not only to be a better writing teacher, but also to hone my own skills. After “graduating” (retiring) in 2001, I had time to write longer works, and my books began.

Mary: I see you wear many hats, not just an adult mystery writer. Tell us about all that you do, included 4RV publishing.

Vivian: What all do I do? I edit other people’s writing; I do some book design work, but little; I have final say over what 4RV publishes; I care for a disabled husband; I try to care for a disabled me; I travel to book festivals; I head a writing group; and then I squeeze in some writing every chance I get. My brain is always “writing” even if not my fingers.

4RV Publishing keeps me rather busy, and much of what I have to do has little to do with writing or book, except maybe accounting books. I had no idea how busy the business would keep me. Other than keeping books, the hardest part of the publishing business is rejecting manuscripts, knowing that someone will be hurt. That’s why when we do reject, suggestions go with the “We’re sorry but” message that will help the writer improve his/her work.

Mary: Tell us a bit about your hobbies—other than writing. Do you travel? Sing? Sew? We want to know it all.

Vivian: I used to sing in the church choir, but can’t stand long enough or climb the steps now. I read, read, read, read. I attend as many of my grandchildren’s ball games and activities as possible, and great-grandchildren’s, too.

At one time, my husband and I traveled every summer. We’ve covered most of the United States, including Alaska, and some of Canada.

Let’s take a stretch your legs break. Pour some more ice tea if you need some.

Mary: Everyone has something they’d like to do before they pass on to new adventures in the great beyond. However, is there something on your bucket list you need to do?

Vivian: Other than have enough time to finish the 30 books still in my head? One thing at the top of my list is to have all of my family together at least one more time, and I don’t mean at my husband’s or my funeral. I want to see all my children, their spouses, my grandchildren, and my great-grandchildren together with my husband and me, at least one more time.

Mary: Do you have a favorite food and would you like to share a recipe with us today?

Vivian: My favorite food any more is something someone else fixed. *laugh* One recipe that is soooo good and sooo easy is slow-cooker lasagna.

1. brown ground beef (and onions if desired) and add to favorite spaghetti sauce.
2. cover bottom of cooker with thin layer of sauce and about 1/8 cup water
3. place a layer of lasagna noodles on bottom of sauce layer, break into sizes that fit if necessary.
4. add layer of grated mozzarella cheese
5. add layer of noodles
6. add layer of sauce
7. add layer of cheese
8. at last, add a layer of noodles and then top with cheese
9. cook on slow heat for 6 – 8 hours.

Mary: I love Lasagna, I'll need to try it. What do you tell young writers who come to you for advice?

Vivian: First learn your craft and read as much as possible. Read good books. Read bad books. Learn the difference between the two. Don’t be afraid of criticism, learn from it. Know correct grammar and use it. Continue learning how to write even as you write. Don’t give up.

Mary: Please share with us a bit about Stolen.

Vivian: When my ex-son-in-law “stolen” two of my grandchildren, I had to do something with the pain, frustration, agony, and hopelessness. So, I began to write, giving all that emotion to characters, who became real people to me. It’s not a true story, because I fictionalized it, but the emotions and tears and heartaches are true.

About the book: When the joy is ruthlessly ripped from Torri’s life, she has two choices: dwell in torment and regret, or pick up the pieces and live. However, when a nightmare invades her world, leaving her battered and torn, she doesn’t know if she can continue – her children are stolen.

Vivian’s blog:
Vivian’s website:
4RV Publishing
Orders (other than from bookstores, online suppliers)

Thank you, Vivian, for joining us in the garden today. I hope you come back to visit often.


Hi, Vivian, you sound a lot like me though neither my husband nor I are disabled--just old. I also lost a grandchild to an ex-daughter-in-law, in my case and we haven't seen him since he was 3. He's an adult, old enough to get in touch with us if he wanted.

I've enjoyed every interview I've read about you. Good questions, Mary.

4RV Publishing said…
Thanks, Mary, for having me in your garden.

Yes, Marilyn, she did ask good questions, ones that made me think.

I blogged a "letter" to my grandchildren every year around the time they were last seen by anyone in the family. Finally, after they had been gone over 12 years, I received an email from my grandson. Now, he and his sister are "found." God is good.

Mary Martinez said…
What a fun post Vivian, I hope you come back to visit me often.
Anonymous said…
Ah, Vivian, there's SO much more to you than I ever knew. You have a wonderful background for writing your books now. I hope you do get to see all of your family together, that really struck a chord with me. Lovely interview, both of you. Congratulations!
4RV Publishing said…
Mary, I enjoy your garden so much, I will be returning.

Thank you for stopping by, Beth. You know, just living provides a pile of material for writing. Some of us just get more manure added than other. *grin*

Jean Henry Mead said…
Great interview and what a wonderful background to draw from, Vivian, although it must have been difficult for you to change schools so often as a child.
4RV Publishing said…
Glad you dropped by, Jean. Yes, changing schools so often left me feeling as if I never belonged, yet, I also learned to make friends everywhere. I'm a rather shy person, so it wasn't easy, but maybe I needed that push.

Life Defined said…

You are such an inspiration! Not only to aspiring writers - but to a greater population than even you may realize. Everything you have gone through - the good and the bad - you deal with by carrying a heart of solid gold. (Not to mention, you have an art for weaving masterful stories!)
I look forward for more of what your loving hand provides.

Take care,

marja said…
I'm so impressed and inspired by you, Vivian. You just keep going, no matter what life hands you. So many times our life experiences add to our writing, and I think that's you. Great interview!
4RV Publishing said…
I'm rather speechless. Thank you, Rachel and Marja. I just try to be the best I can be with what I have, whether physically, emotionally, or mentally.

Sharon Ervin said…
On the 4th, our family gathers at our primitive screened cabin here in McAlester. It was not a lovely garden this year. Mother and two sisters, cousins, nephews and nieces, children, grands, etc., were all here. There were 40+. Cousins paired off to swim and shoot firecrackers, adults milled around, ate, and a few bold ones donned bathing suits and swam. Not me. Not in front of people. Mother and I stretched out on a bed at the edge of the bedlam. We napped a little, then began laughing and reminiscing. We got along better this visit than we ever have. Two tots joined us, more wanted to, so we got rousted, even though there is a line of beds available. Fun, fun, fun. Not waiting on anyone's funeral. Glad of the reminder
4RV Publishing said…
Sounds so good, Sharon. I'm a bit envious.

Jackie King said…
Vivian, I'm going to try your slow-cooker lasagna. I love to cook things in my Crockpot. Since I live alone, I make enough to freeze for later meals.
Jackie King
4RV Publishing said…
I found the recipe to be easy and good. Of course the number of layers depends on the size of the slow cooker.

Anne K. Albert said…
Great interview, and a slow cooker recipe, too! WOW. Thank you!
4RV Publishing said…
It doesn't seem possible that another week as passed. Thanks for allowing me to visit your garden, Mary.

I'm so glad so many stopped by and left comments, too.

Mary Martinez said…
Vivian, you're welcome in the garden any day. It's been fun!

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