Thursday, December 30, 2010

Interview with Historical Fiction Author Laurie C. Lewis

Laurie was born and raised in rural Maryland where she and her husband, Tom, raised their four children. She is the proud grandmother of five beautiful children. Oh, Say Can You See? is her sixth published novel. Her other novels include Unspoken, Awakening Avery, and the historical series FREE MEN and DREAMERS: Dark Sky at Dawn, Twilight’s Last Gleaming, and Dawn’s Early Light. Dark Sky at Dawn and Twilight’s Last Gleaming were finalists in the 2008 USA Best Books competition.



Hello Laurie. Welcome back to my blog. Oh, Say Can You See? is the fourth book in this series. Please tell us about this novel.

Thanks for having me again, Linda! I’m extremely excited to have this opportunity to discuss Oh, Say Can You See? This volume takes readers right in the middle of the incredible events that surrounded the writing of the Star-Spangled Banner. The battle Francis Scott Key witnessed occurred in my back yard, so-to-speak, and that proximity has allowed me to visit Baltimore and Fort McHenry, and to speak to experts on the battle, on Key, and on the flag itself. It has been an amazing, illuminating experience.

Our beloved Willows characters are in the thick of the action, so we get a tender, intimate view of how Britain’s campaign of terror affected families as well as the nation. For instance, the tender information I include about Key and his family helps us understand the reasons he was in a ship in the harbor the night Baltimore was bombarded, and the risks he assumed in undertaking his mission. But the most important thing I want readers to take away from this novel is an understanding of what stirred the passionate patriotism in this pacifist-religionist lawyer.

I set out seven years ago to celebrate the looming bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the 200th birthday of our national anthem with this series, but the parallels between our day and these events is staggering. Every American would benefit from the lessons this period has to offer. And though Oh, Say Can You See? is a continuation of my Free Men and Dreamers series, like volume four, Dawn’s Early Light, it was written as a stand-alone read as well. I hope readers will at least read these two volumes. They are packed with incredible, timely American history wrapped within a lovely, tender story.

While writing Oh, Say Can You See, tell us what touched your heart the most as you wrote about our beloved country and what we had to do to get our freedom.

I was on the phone speaking with the man who is probably the foremost authority on this battle, and he agrees with my assessment about what it was that not only caused Key--who was previously opposed to the war--to write his poem, but what seared it into the hearts of Americans, as it did. You have to look beyond what was happening in Baltimore. You have to consider what had happened in Washington . . . put yourself in the shoes of Americans who saw Washington City burned, their president’s home destroyed, their Capitol razed, their president and his cabinet forced into hiding. Once you relate to that despair and hopelessness, you can begin to understand why this previously insignificant red, white and blue banner suddenly became intensely revered. It wasn’t just a real estate marker anymore. It was the only remaining symbol of America. It meant hope. It said that as long as we could raise our colors, we were still a nation.

Thanks for sharing that with us. It helps us to realize why the patriots fought so valiantly for their country. What kind of research did you do for this book?

I’ve done everything but go on an archaeological dig! I’ve read books, traveled to forts and battlefields and museums. I maintained a two-year correspondence with one historian who raised the bar on my research and set me off on a path to study, study, study. I’ve added a shelf of research books and spent hours on the phone with docents, US Park Service people, and librarians searching for original documents. It’s been a blast, but I’m looking forward to spring when this project is finished and the characters are not constantly in my head any longer. 

I totally understand. When you get close to your characters, they tend to be on your mind a lot. That's how it is with me, too. Out of all the books you’ve written, which one did you enjoy writing the most and why?

I think I enjoyed writing Awakening Avery the most because it was pure creative pleasure. It’s the story of a fifty-ish author who finds herself utterly unprepared when her husband dies suddenly after a lingering illness. She seeks a healing place for herself and her family through a summer house-swap that takes her to Anna Maria Island in Florida. The man with whom she swaps homes, and the quirky people she meets, help pull her from her malaise and reawaken her desire to live again.

I conducted research on the locales, but the characters were my own creations, and the dialogue was all original, meaning I didn’t have to match historical records this time. Also, the story was the most biographical of all my books. My father was the basis for one of the characters, and I wrote it after my husband suffered and survived a heart attack, so it was also a cathartic experience. 

This interview was great. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot. Watch Laurie's book trailer below. I love it. Visit Laurie’s website or her blog.
 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Interview with Author J. Steve Miller

J. Steve Miller - educator, investor, entrepreneur, and speaker - has taught audiences from Atlanta to Moscow. He’s known for drawing practical wisdom from serious research and communicating it in accessible, unforgettable ways. This is an award-winning book, geared to 16 - 30 year olds. Steve is happily married to Cherie and has seven sons.

"Had I read this book in my 20’s, I’d be financially independent today. It’s a remarkable blend of fabulous research with clear and lively writing. You’d pay an expert quite a sum for this caliber of counsel. That’s why I say that the best investment you make this year just might be this book. Your second best investment will be the copies you buy for your children." (Dr. Dwight "Ike" Reighard, Former Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer of HomeBanc) 

Hello Steve. Wow! Seven sons and no daughters? Now that’s quite an accomplishment. My husband and I did quite the opposite. We had six daughters and no sons. Okay, tell us about yourself and why you wrote this book.

Six daughters? That had to have been more challenging than raising seven sons!

My life circumstances motivated me to write the book. I’m not the guy who worked a big time corporate job all his life and just needed to learn how to choose between the best investments for retirement. I’m the guy who worked high impact, low-paying jobs that were very fulfilling, but didn’t bring in much money. In fact, I worked my way down the corporate ladder from pastor to youth minister to missionary to writer. I’ve had to constantly struggle with how to make it on small salaries.

Then, while we were living in Slovakia training youth workers, my wife was diagnosed with cancer. She died four years later, leaving me with four young boys to raise. I later married Cherie, who was raising three boys on her own. I quickly realized that if we couldn’t get all these boys independent, we would all sink. So I began to study personal finance in depth – reading all the respected gurus of personal money management, plus adding the wisdom I’d gleaned from a lifetime of reading biographies of remarkable people. So I can identify with people who are struggling, both emotionally and financially.

Today I help with my mom and grandmom (104 years-old), who live next door, so I understand some of the challenges of caretaking for the elderly as well.

This sounds like it would help my children in their lives. Where did you get your inspiration for your book? Did you get your ideas from your own experiences?

It’s actually written more like a screenplay, which gives it more white space, making the story move along faster. With five or more characters constantly interacting, it became tedious repeating “said Akashi,” “said James,” etc. The screenplay format solved that problem. Most readers seem to like it. None of the characters are patterned after any specific people, but aspects of people I’ve known are all over it.

My parents were huge role models for me in personal finance and life in general. So much of the wisdom of the eccentric mentor, Mrs. Kramer, comes from my parents. My dad worked hard during the week, but didn’t make his vocation his god. My mom was very frugal, but generous with giving.

I think the main thing my parents did right was to resist adult peer pressure – the pressure to wear the right clothes and drive the right cars to show off your success. They were counterculture in that sense, which gave inspiration to calling the group of characters “The Counterculture Club.” To this day, although she retired well, mom buys her clothes from resale stores. It’s not that she’s so disciplined that she can resist the urge to spend; she relishes saving and can’t stand to overpay.

I know how your mother feels. I hate to overpay. A reviewer wrote, “A fast, fun read with practical and often remarkable insights. Should be required reading for every high school senior and every young adult who has landed his or her first full-time job.” (Robert Martin, Lecturer of Accounting, Kennesaw State University) Tell us, how do you make a finance book become a fast and fun read?

Most people hate reading financial books. I mean, who’s waiting with abated breath for their favorite financial author to release his new book so that they can snuggle up with it on a cozy couch for the weekend? For me personal finance is more about people than accounting. People have wildly different personalities, different life goals, different strengths and weaknesses. By telling a story with diverse characters, I could bring out those differences and allow readers to see bits of themselves in the characters. In the process, readers can envision how wise financial principles can apply differently to different people’s lives.

It’s also made interesting by the counterintuitive insights that my research brings out. It’s not just the same old stuff you hear on the radio. Thomas Jefferson was one of our most brilliant presidents, but spent his retirement worrying about his huge debt. The manager of the hugely successful band, Led Zeppelin, ended up their last tour broke. What can we learn from their successes and failures? Often, we find that the answers aren’t what you’d first expect.

What’s the story line?

Four diverse students meet in “In School Suspension.” They’re from different parts of the school culture, so they assume they have nothing in common. But as they talk to avoid studying, they discover that their parents are all hopeless at personal finance and it hurts their families. They want to do better. So they meet Mrs. Kramer each Saturday morning for breakfast. She tells stories of interesting people and encourages wide open discussions with the students.

While it targets 16-30 year-olds, I get great reviews from people in their 50’s and 60’s who love the wisdom and format. Parents read it, then pass it on to their children or give it away for Christmas, New Years’ goals and resolutions, and graduation/weddings. 

What does your family think about your writing?

My wife’s a writer as well, so it’s incredibly fun running stuff by each other. She and my mom are my first-line editors. I also run ideas past my children.

Writing has allowed me to be a stay at home dad and caretaker for my grandmom, while Cherie works in a Masters program at Kennesaw State University. I think the kids appreciate having regular meals and having me around. I’ve certainly enjoyed it. Plus, I’ve kept them from burning down the house, which could have happened on more than one occasion.

This was fun getting to know you, Steve. You have a great sense of humor, but then I guess you have to with seven sons! Okay, tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

Three things:

•I’m scared of heights but I love hiking in the mountains and rappelling. I went zip-lining with the kids last weekend.
•I’m claustrophobic, but I love caving. It’s always an incredible adventure, but I often freak-out at least once on a trip and my kids have to talk me through.
•Our lives got so crazy with seven boys and their friends constantly in and out, that one day I discovered a homeless guy who had been living with us for a couple of weeks. Cherie and I had never noticed. Seriously. 

That is sooooo funny! You must have a lot of kids running around your place to not notice a stranger for two weeks. Okay, now we know the real you: The Acrophobic and Claustrophobic Author whom unknowingly houses homeless friends!

Steve's Website: http://jstevemiller.com/blog/?page_id=578
Check out his book at Amazon

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Interview with Authors Dave and Lillian Brummet

Dave and Lillian Brummet have been writing professionally as a team since 1999. They have written 3 published books, as well as drum lesson and music CD’s. The Brummets are also the hosts of the Conscious Discussions talk radio show and have two blogs. The main focus of their work is to inspire hope in individuals, helping them realize the value of their efforts and encouraging them to become more positive, proactive in life.

Make your book stand out in the crowd! For the average author the marketing and promotion of their own book is a mystery in itself. All the tools and marketing plans you need are here in this great resource tool.”

Hello Lillian. I have many authors on my blog and I know this book will interest them a great deal. Tell us about your book.

Thanks so much for inviting us to be here on your blog – I’ve visited the site often and have really enjoyed what you offer here, so it is a real honor to be here. Purple Snowflake Marketing is basically a 195-page reference guide for self-marketing authors who are working with a limited budget and are looking for a way to stand out like a purple snowflake in a snowstorm. There are 19 chapters, and 26 appendices with about 900 resources that they can access with just a click of a mouse. People can find more info about this book via www.brummet.ca.

Like a purple snowflake? So we authors want to stand out, right? Where did you get your inspiration for this project?

Oh there are so many inspirations behind the book, the first being purely selfish – you see, this e-book really is the same guide that Dave and I use to develop a marketing plan for every single book we release. Having been business owners in the past and having taken business courses, I was familiar with business plans and the importance of structuring a business based on how one wishes to be known. (i.e. being known as a gardening expert). With that in mind I gleaned every resource I could find and took notes of the procedures and marketing opportunities we might want to consider.

During this note-taking process I kept in mind that our career could involve many genres, and have many different marketing projects. Which is exactly what happened. So over the last 11 years of our career as writers, these notes became files, which became chapters and then became a guide… for ourselves. Through the research process, the one thing I did notice was that no one source had a complete overview of each step, and that some books were poorly organized. All too often I found tips shared on sites that one “should” do, but no outline or guide as to how it should be done. And then later, as I became known as a writer’s guru on forums and began getting emails from others in the industry asking the same questions over and over – it was at this time that I realized that this book had to be released to the public and at a price that writers can actually afford. We could not justify charging a high price, since as writers ourselves we know the struggles that our peers go through first hand. We also have a big passion for the world of writing, the power of literacy and it is a lovely thought that because we published this one e-book others are getting their messages out to a larger audience.

You wrote, “It does not matter how well established or how large a publisher you are working with - unless you are already a well-known author, no publisher is going to invest money in promoting your work until the sales start coming in.” Please tell us why this is.

Well, let me clarify that a publisher will invest in the book – they purchase ISBN#’s and pay staffing and printing costs… so they do indeed invest in the book. Some will go as far as offering online e-cards that authors can send out to their mailing lists or offer a limited number of review copies for the media… but as far as dipping into their pockets for some big bucks to back an author with ads and promotions - they need to see big sales within the first three months. If the book gets big sales after this time line it will not necessarily get their attention since their eyes are now on the latest release numbers.

In fact, publishers will want to see the outline for an author’s intended marketing plan and the author’s budget for promoting the book right away during the query and book proposal process. If the author has some name recognition, a basic marketing plan in place, and shows an understanding of the promotional work required, then the author has a greater chance of being accepted by publishers. Now, one of the reasons publishers must be choosy is simply related to budget. They are working with a limited budget. So as book proposals come in they are looking for the ones that will be the least likely to drain their budget and the most likely to bring in revenue. Therefore a proactive author will have a greater chance of getting approval and considerations for any other programs they might have in place.

Is it possible for an author to become successful through the Internet, without leaving their home? Please give us an example.

Sure, we can see e-book authors, for instance, who are making a living from just one or a few e-books. We also see authors in print format reaching out to the Internet audience all the time. The reason? That is where people are. They are not attending events in the numbers they used to, they are not going into bookstores and libraries in the numbers they used to… and so we have to go where they are. What do the readers want? What formats do they like? This boils down to knowing the audience for each book or article that is about to be released.

The Internet is a great place to network and build name recognition. In fact about 90% of our promotional efforts are divided between the Internet and radio interviews. Only 10% of our time is put into in-person events or are through print publications. Blogs, e-zines, e-newsletters and other publications online are great resources to start a writer’s resume as well through content contributions. Once authors have a resume of published work we can approach a publisher and show that others have risked working with us with positive results.

Thanks for all the info, Lillian. We authors really appreciate it. Don't forget to check out their website at http://www.brummet.ca. Now for the not-so-serious side. Please tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

Out of 11 years in this career, with the last 5 years being in 6-12 interviews per month, this is one of the most difficult questions I have been offered. (She laughs)

I think people might find it surprising how dedicated I am, to the point that I have a hard time relaxing and have to actually discipline myself to take time off from things. Here’s an example of what I mean – During an outing with a few other people and their pets, I’ll see a few invasive weeds… and then a piece of garbage… and before I know it – instead of enjoying the walk in a meditative state I’m working and holding everyone else up! Or while watching a video I’m making bookmark displays and running laundry machines. …So my struggle in this stage of life is learning to relax and let go at times, and being my own worst judge and critic (who is awfully hard to please, by the way) I find I have a lot to live up to.

Here’s another thing you might find interesting – while loving the outdoor experience, I’m terrified of meeting up with a bear. We’ve encountered a few on the trails and they’ve always run away after, at most, a curious glance. But those encounters have me very wary so as Dave and I do our regular hikes or bicycling trips, you might hear some squeaky hollers that I put out every once in a while echoing down the mountains… something you’re supposed to do in bear country so they know you are coming. Dave (after stifling some laughter, I’m sure) supports me with a manly voice or loud whistle once in a while.

I love it. I can just imagine the two of you bicycling down the trail and making noises as you go. A whistle here and a squeaky holler there, alerting all bears to beware: The Brummets are coming! How comical! Thanks for this fun interview, Lillian. By the way, you’ve just got to relax.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Interview with Author Cameron Gunn

Cameron Gunn is a father, husband, and prosecutor living in Canada. A history buff and reluctant self-improver, he took on Franklin’s virtues against his better judgment. He decided to name his book: BEN & ME: From Temperance to Humility — Stumbling Through Ben Franklin’s Thirteen Virtues, One Unvirtuous Day at a Time.

Benjamin Franklin would adore this book! He’d chuckle and nod all the way through. Like Franklin’s Autobiography, this is an insightful self-improvement guide wrapped in a delightful tale.” (Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life)

Hello Cameron. This book is a “heartfelt, funny, and fascinating diary” of your journey to self-improvement by using the 13 virtues of Ben Franklin. Please tell us about your new book.

Hi Linda. Thanks for the interview. I like to think of BEN & ME as a humorous journal of failure or a self-improvement guide for people who don’t want to improve.

It came out of what I describe in the book the Triple T syndrome. First, my hair is Thinning (that’s T No. 1). As my hair goes I am reminded that my time on earth is finite. Second, I am Thickening. As I age I am not the man I once was (or maybe I am more of the man I once was). Finally, I am a Thirster. Despite the first two T’s (or maybe because of them) I still have the desire to be a better person (I think we all have it). It was this last T that led me to Ben Franklin and his 13 virtues.

When Franklin was a young man he developed a course of virtues to make him a better person. He would concentrate on a virtue for a week, trying to master it, before moving on through all of the 13 virtues. I decided to use the 13 virtues in my own quest and, despite Franklin’s success with the course, I failed on a number of levels. I don’t think doing the course made me a better person, but I hope it makes for some funny reading. 

I understand that you decided to tackle all 13 virtues: temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility. How did you accomplish this?

First, I read as much as I could about Franklin and his virtues. Next, I copied the book of progress that he had used to track his failures and successes and finally, I recruited an ethicist, Chris Levan, to provide me with a modern explanation of each of the virtues. I used this to guide me through the course and I tried, as best I could as a citizen of the twenty first century, to emulate Franklin’s very eighteenth century virtues.

One thing I attempted to do was to make my journey through the virtues relevant and replicable for a modern, average, ordinary person. For example, in Silence I tried to avoid office gossip (I didn’t last a morning), for Chastity I tried to be a better husband (my wife didn’t notice any difference) and for Industry I cut my TV viewing to an hour a day (I was banished to the basement). Unfortunately, even these small attempts at improvement seemed too much for me.

What was the hardest virtue to accomplish and why?

They all had their moments but I think that the clear winner was Temperance. My biggest vice is overeating (my wife says that I am a stress eater, but the truth is that I eat whether I am stressed or not), my nickname in Junior High school was “Fat Chance” and my kids used to call me the “Big Fat Teddy Bear”. I knew that Temperance was going to be difficult.

I decided that I would try to avoid snacking and to adopt a healthier eating style for the week. Unfortunately, I had a difficult time overcoming my love of food. I was like a drug addict going through withdrawals for the entire seven days. Eventually I fell prey to the siren call of some high fat cheese and late night snacking. It was probably a good virtue with which to start since there was nowhere to go but up. 

What did your wife think about the change in your life?

She was skeptical at first. I had begun the course with a survey of some friends and family and when I interviewed Michelle about how I ranked on Franklin’s virtues, I ended with a silly question: “If I were an animal, what would I be?”

She answered, “Sloth.”

She refused to participate in the exercise (she made it clear from the beginning that this was not a couples activity) and as I progressed through the virtues, she regarded my efforts with some well-considered suspicion (not to mention banishing me to the basement for a brief period of time).

When the course was over, I interviewed her again to see if she noticed any difference in me. After I went through the virtue rating, I repeated my animal question.

“Still a sloth,” she answered.

This time, however, she explained that she thought of my being a sloth as a positive. She envisioned a sloth as happy, satisfied and taking life one day at a time. I learned to live with being thought of as a sloth.


This interview is so hilarious. I laughed all the way through it. Okay, now it’s time to tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

I am like a less successful Forrest Gump. I’ve had a number of near misses with history. When I was nine years old I was arms length from Queen Elizabeth the Second during her tour of Canada and I shouted to one of her bodyguards to ask her to turn so I could take a picture. Remarkably she did. Unfortunately, she turned the wrong way and I now have a grainy photo of the back of her head.

In 1989, I was backpacking around Europe and while my cousin and I were on a train in (West) Germany we heard a news report that the Berlin Wall was going to fall. We discussed going but decided that it wasn’t that big of a deal and there was no reason to pay the extra price for a train ticket to Berlin. Years later my wife gave me a piece of the Wall she obtained from a friend of ours who had also been in Germany at the time and was slightly more historically attuned than I.

Earlier, on that same trip my cousin and I decided to visit the Vatican. As we entered St. Peter’s Square, the number of visitors astounded us. When I saw, over the thousands of heads, the very tip of someone’s miter moving across the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica I thought we might have just missed some sort of Papal address. Only later did I realize we had indeed missed “some sort of address”: the canonization of two Italian men by Pope John Paul the Second in front of a crowd of 30,000 people.


Wow! What wonderful stories! Well, it seems that you missed two great historical events and the queen’s photo. If you would have only known the importance of the other two events… Oh man! You were sooooo close, too. Now we know the real you: Forest Gump and "sloth" rolled into one! Thanks for this fun interview, Cameron.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Interview with Fantasy Author Brian Rathbone

Brian was raised in New Jersey on a Farm where his family raised and trained racehorses. He then went from the farm to Corporate America in an air-conditioned office. After a while, he knew he had to make some changes in his life. When he began working at home, he took the time to write the story that hadn’t been told, his story, a story of fantasy and goddesses, a story of adventure. He is happily married to Tracey and the author of three novels.

Legend says that a Herald will be born who will save the land of Godfist from invaders. This Herald will fight for their freedom. To some it is only a legend but to others it is a prophecy, waiting to be fulfilled. The Zjhon are ancient enemies and are planning an attack but no one takes heed of these warnings until it is too late. Now it is up to the Herald to save them. The question is...who is the Herald and will she eventually realize her destiny in time to save Godfist?” (Linda Weaver Clarke)

Welcome to my blog, Brian. Your books are fantasy, which is a very popular genre. Please tell us about your trilogy and what each book is about.

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview and a big hello to all of your readers. The Dawning of Power is the first in a series of fantasy trilogies. Each trilogy contains a complete story with what I hope are satisfying endings, and at the same time, each trilogy sets the stage for the next and leaves some doors open for the future.

I often wondered about the origins of Greek and Roman mythology, and I found the possibility that strange and magical things were made possible for a brief window in time fascinating. I asked myself what it would be like if a normally mundane planet experienced periodic ages of power, which shaped beliefs and customs that would hold sway for thousands of years.

It occurred to me that comets were an example of periodic visitors to our planet from deep space, and since they are luminous, it's feasible to think that they might radiate energy. In my imagination, a large planet drifted in close to the Oort cloud, its gravity sending a colossal stream of comets soaring through the solar system on an elliptical orbit. When I thought of how our ancestors might have viewed a storm of comets that lasted 150-years, Istra, Goddess of the Night, was born.

The Dawning of Power tells the story of Istra's return to the world of Godsland after a 3,000-year absence. In book one, Call of the Herald, we meet Catrin Volker, a teenage horse trainer. While trying to protect a friend, she inadvertently fulfills the prophecy of the destroyer, which claims she will destroy the Zjhon nation. Catrin's quest begins as she must face those who believe she is out to destroy them.

In book two, Inherited Danger, all of Godsland is at risk as massive weapons left over from the last age of power become once again viable. If left to charge in Istra's light, the weapons will detonate. Catrin and her friends set out on what seems an impossible quest to save even her enemies.

Book three, Dragon Ore, Catrin must journey to the fabled Firstland to stop the Zjhon form gaining access to immeasurable power. There, she must face mankind's ancient enemies, and her only hope may lie with an age old alliance.

Wow! I love the fact that a young teenage girl is the heroine of your book. As an author, I many times work certain things into my books that I love. I, too, was raised on a farm so it's easy to insert those experiences into my books. I understand that you are very fond of horses. Do you work this love of horses into these books?

I definitely did. They say "Write what you know," and the fact that fantasy and horses go hand-in-hand gave me a lot of inspiration to draw upon. Little things like shoeing horses, and working at an anvil and forge are much more real to me, since I've been involved with these things as part of the family business. The most significant way that my love of horses enters the books is through the horses that are characters rather than props. Much of Catrin's horse Salty's behavior can be traced back to a standard-bred racehorse named Vic Quinton. Vic was a crotchety, biting, kicking, squealing piece of work. Some of his exploits would make for great fiction, such as the time he bit a guy in the paddock at Brandywine Raceway. He managed to pull the guy's shirt off, and ate part of it before we could get it away from him. Vic finished second that night, and those who witnessed it gave him a bit wider berth from then on.

How fascinating! It shows that horses have their own personality. Where did you get the inspiration for your novel? Do you get any ideas from real life experiences? If so, give us an example.

My primary inspiration for writing fantasy is my love for reading fantasy, but that is bolstered by my experiences growing up on a working horse farm. There is no doubt that those experiences shaped my work and were in some cases the direct inspiration for a scene.

For example, there is a scene where several old men are about to shoot a horse because no one can catch him. The horse is still wearing its yearling halter, which is now much too small, and if it is not removed the horse will be ruined. Catrin catches the horse by sitting in the grass and ignoring the colt. Eventually, the colt's curiosity gets the better of him, and he puts his head in Catrin's lap, which is all the opportunity she needs to get a rope on him. This scene was directly inspired by my mother, who used this technique to catch a horse that had evaded my father, my uncle, and my grandfather. I admit that no one was planning to shoot the horse and I might have given it a bit of dramatic flourish. My books are filled with repurposed bits of my life, which makes them a lot of fun for me to read.


J.K. Rowling used a young boy as her main character but you chose a girl with magical powers. It’s about time we had a young girl be the hero of a book! What does your family think about your writing?

I've gotten a huge amount of support from my family and friends. I assume this is partially because I didn't use any of them as the primary inspiration for any of my characters. I have a bad habit of killing my characters, and that could be a little tricky to explain.

Oh my! Yes, that would be tricky. This has been a fun interview, Brian. Okay, now tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

I've been outsmarted by birds, cats, horses, and the occasional squirrel. I think mornings are evil and should be banned, and my wedding band was inspired by a fantasy series--it's white gold.

I love your answers to this question. You are so comical but the wedding band is quite romantic. I believe the real reason for banning mornings is because you’re an author who stays up late at night, either writing to his heart’s content or watching a movie to help relax your busy mind.

You are correct about me writing into the night. I've worked night shifts for years and have just found that I do my best work in the evening. I've always had trouble falling to sleep, and I actually think about plot lines as a way to prevent myself from doing things like writing code in my sleep (that's exhausting).

Now we definitely know that you're not a "morning person." Thanks, Brian, for this awesome interview. I read Brian's book and it was great. My review is below:


The Dawning of Power
By Brian Rathbone

Legend says that a Herald will be born who will save the land of Godfist from invaders. This Herald will fight for their freedom. To some it is only a legend but to others it is a prophecy, waiting to be fulfilled. The Zjhon are ancient enemies and are planning an attack but no one takes heed of these warnings until it is too late. Now it is up to the Herald to save them. The question is... will the Herald realize her destiny in time to save Godfist?

But that’s not all…the Zjhon believe in the prophecy and have given the order to search for the Herald and do away with her. This is an intriguing fantasy and is hard to put down. The description of scenery is so well written that I could imagine it in my mind. The characters are believable and well developed. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The Dawning of Power is a trilogy, which includes Call of the Herald, Inherited Danger, and Dragon Ore. I would recommend this book for all ages.

Written by Linda Weaver Clarke, author of the new mystery series “The Adventures of John and Julia Evans.”





For those who don't win, you can grab a free copy of the Call of the Herald ebook at Free Fantasy Ebook.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Interview with Author Shirley Raye Redmond

Shirley Raye Redmond knew she wanted to be a writer when she was only 12 years old. After reading Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, she made up her mind to be just like Jo March. She even tried eating apples while she was writing her stories…just like Jo! Shirley earned her Master’s degree in English from the University of Illinois. She is the author of 16 children’s books and one novel.

Thousands of European treasure seekers scoured the New World in search of untold riches. Some were lucky beyond their wildest dreams!”

Hello Shirley Raye. You are offering two books for give-away this week. Please tell us about Cities of Gold.

This title is part of Thomson Gale’s “Mysterious Encounters Series.” Kingdoms of power and great riches have long sparked the imaginations of people around the world. Over the centuries, adventurers have sought the lost city of Atlantis and the mysterious kingdom of Ophir, where King Solomon is said to have obtained the gold, gems, and ivory for his temple in Jerusalem. This book takes a look at both the fictional ones, such as Prester John’s legendary city and the real ones too, like the Aztec and Incan cities conquered by Spanish explorers Cortes and Pizarro. Both men became millionaires overnight—even after sending the required one-fifth of all the booty to the King of Spain. Pizarro also rewarded each of his foot soldiers with a bounty worth 90 pounds of gold and 180 pounds of silver.

Is this book fiction or non-fiction? What age would enjoy this book?

The book is nonfiction aimed at young readers in 5th through 8th grades. However, I’ve had adult readers tell me they really learned a lot about long-lost treasure cities, and the men that hunt for them, including famous archeologist and explorer Percy Harrison Fawcett. He is said to be the real-life inspiration for the Indiana Jones character. In 1925, Fawcett led an expedition into the uncharted jungles of Brazil looking for what he called the lost Incan city of Z. He and his travel companions disappeared under mysterious circumstances. No one has ever seen or heard from them since.

Wow! This book even has a bit of mystery. Where did you get the inspiration for your book?

Actually, my editor suggested the topic, and wanted me to be sure to mention the Seven Cities of Cibola, El Dorado and Gran Paititi. Once I started researching, I realized there are many legendary cities of gold and treasure hunters still seeking them. In fact, when Hiram Bingham discovered Machu Picchu in Peru in 1911, he was hoping it was the long-lost Incan treasure city of Vilcapampa, but it wasn’t. Savvy seekers are now using satellite imaging from space to help them locate lost cities in the jungles. It’s really quite amazing.

You also have another book called Write a Marketable Children's Book in 7 Weeks. Tell us about it.

This is a workbook that contains material I’ve presented at writing workshops for the past 15 years. It’s aimed at those who have always wanted to write a children’s book and get it published, but don’t know where to start or what to write. The seven-week plan works! My co-author Jennifer McKerley and I have used this method dozens of times to sell our own manuscripts to publishers such as Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Thomson Gale. The key word is “marketable.” Several of our titles have won awards—for instance, my Pigeon Hero! (Simon & Schuster) was an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Book Award winner in 2004. A couple of my other titles have sold close to or more than 200,000 copies each. The handy workbook, which we use now when we do our writing workshops, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. For more information, visit http://writechildrensbook.com Let me also invite your readers to visit my personal website too at www.readshirleyraye.com I have a book about the Cottingley fairy hoax being published by Random House in 2012 and one on the Oak Island Treasure Pit being released next year by Thomson Gale’s Kidhaven Press. I’ll post the covers as soon as they become available.

Those interested in her writing book, make sure you mention it. Now it’s time to tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

I’m embarrassed to say that I often make social blunders. Once I went on a tour of Greece many years ago. One evening, I slipped away from the group to explore a fascinating open-air food market in the city of Athens. I saw very few other women at all—mainly men. They were all so very friendly, talking and smiling and tugging at the sleeve of my bright red trench coat to get my attention. Some even pulled money out of their pockets and offered it to me. I thought they recognized that I was a foreigner and were suggesting that I exchange my American dollars for their Greek currency so I could buy stuff in the market. Not understanding a word of Greek, I just smiled and shook my head and kept going. Later, when I got back to the hotel and shared my adventure with our Greek tour guide, he laughed and said the men thought I was a prostitute, because only prostitutes would go out in public alone in Athens, wearing brightly colored clothes and hair uncovered. Boy, was my face red!!! As red as that bold red trench coat I’d been wearing!


Oh man! How scary! I bet you never went out alone again while in Greece. You’re a very independent and adventurous woman, aren’t you? This was fun getting to know you, Shirley Ray. For those who may not know, this author doesn’t go by Shirley. It’s strictly Shirley Ray. She had to remind me two times. I finally learned.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Interview with Children’s Author Sherrill S. Cannon

Sherrill Cannon has been a poet ever since she was four years old. She has written eight rhymed children’s stories and eight rhymed musical plays for elementary school students. She was a teacher and coach for ten years in the Washington DC area, and then became a “stay-at-home-Mom” with several varied careers in her spare time. She is the author of two published books, the mother of four children, and a grandmother of nine. Sherrill said, “My friends and family ask me if I think in rhyme and meter, and I have to admit that sometimes this is true!”

Hello Sherrill. I’ve never met an author who thinks in rhyme. How interesting! Can you give us an example of thinking in rhyme?

I have been writing poetry for years, and whenever I want to “put a feeling into words” or think of a plot for a children’s story, my mind immediately starts translating these feelings or stories into rhyming lines. I love the sound and cadence of words, and enjoy fitting them neatly within a poetic stanza. Here’s a short fun poem about writing – how my mind “thinks” in verse (I suppose most authors can relate!):
Words, words, words, words,
Fill my mind like a flock of birds:
Flying, dipping, soaring, twirling,
Keeping my mind always whirling;
Singing, chirping in my heart,
Helping all my feelings start.
Bound within my heart they rage;
Gliding, diving in a cage.
Winging, darting everywhere,
For there is no way to share.
Until, finally, my heart is loosed:
I put them on a page to roost.
…Sherrill S. Cannon

Fantastic! I love it. The way you express yourself seems so natural. Okay, tell us about your children’s books.

Both of my books are relatively new. Santa’s Birthday Gift was released 11/03/09. The book begins with the basic story of the Nativity, and then skips to Santa who sees the star at the North Pole and travels to see the Baby. Since he is a toymaker, he brings his bag of toys - and offers them to Jesus, and then to all the people of the town. His birthday gift to Jesus is a promise to bring gifts to all good boys and girls each year on the Christ Child's birthday.

I love this illustrated page. (My illustrator for both books, KJ and her team of illustrators at Kalpart, is awesome.) Here are a few lines from the story:
And kneeling before Him, with a sack full of toys,
He offered his heart to this dearest of boys.
He leaned toward the Christ Child and blew Him a kiss
And promised to Jesus what would be his gift:
Each year on Christ’s birthday, he’d deliver his toys
To all children everywhere, good girls and boys…

Peter and the Whimper-Whineys was released 04/09/2010. Peter is a small rabbit who does nothing but whine and cry. Here are the opening lines:

In a house in the forest all covered with vines,
Lived a very small rabbit who did nothing but whine.
He'd whine and he'd cry from morning till night,
And nothing that anyone did would be right.
He'd cry and he'd whine, and he'd whine and he'd cry,
Till his mother said, "Peter, I want you to try
To stop all that whining and unpleasant noise.
Go take a nap, or go play with your toys;
If you can't stop that whining, I very much fear
That the old Whimper-Whineys will look for you here.
You'll go live with them in a land far away,
Where you'll join them in whining and crying all day."

Peter’s adventure continues as he later on finds lots of frightening Whimper-Whineymen in the woods and discovers that the Whimper-Whineys are very ill-mannered and rude, and that everything is sour in Whimper-Whineyland. Will Peter learn to stop whining?

What a great idea for a book! Wow! I wish I could have had this one to read to my children when they were young. Where did you get your inspiration for your novels?

Santa’s Birthday Gift was written in response to a granddaughter’s question. After I read to her the story of the Nativity, she looked at me and asked, “But where’s Santa?”

Peter and the Whimper-Whineys is a rhymed version of a story my mother used to tell, not only to her children and grandchildren but to lots of her elementary school students. I often wonder if one of her former students might recognize the story…at least the main character!

Isn’t it something the way our family inspires us in our writing! I found that to be true as I write my novels. Our life experiences can influence us a great deal. What do your grandchildren think about your writing?

My grandchildren love all my stories – and I use them to help me decide which to submit next! The last vote was to submit The Magic Word, so that is now under contract for release in early 2011, and is the story of a little girl who learns to say “Please”. The runner-up was, My Finger-Paint Print, so that one is now with my agent and is a story of a child who paints a finger-paint print in school which ends up in an art gallery. I have four more waiting for another voting session!

Now that’s what I call real support. Your grandchildren even have a say about which one is the most fun to listen to. Okay, now it’s time to tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

I grew up in the Willard Hotel in the center of Washington DC, a block from the White House (my Dad was the manager) and there are lots of things about living there that “Eloise” never thought of – including learning to ride my small two-wheeled bicycle down the 5th floor corridor (watching out for guests coming out of their rooms, of course), sliding down the brass banister to get to the coffee shop, commandeering the elevator when the operator wasn’t looking and taking astonished guests for a ride, and practicing my roller-skating on the ballroom floor (which was a lovely wooden polished floor that my poor father had to have refinished!)

What a fantastic story! I can picture you on your bicycle pedaling down the hall and sliding down banisters. I can imagine you taking the patrons on a ride in the elevator. Do you know what? You’ll have to write a poem about it and have plenty of pictures to go with it. Now we know the real you: a mischievous Ballroom Skater who thinks in rhyme!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Interview with Historical Fiction Author Jeane Slone

Jeane Slone has a B.A. in History and enjoys researching pieces of the forgotten past especially involving female heroines and multi-cultures. She self-published She Flew Bombers, a novel based on the true adventures of the Women Airforce Service Pilots known as WASP. The Sonoma County Arts Council awarded her a grant to organize and moderate an oral history panel of six former WWII women pilots. Jeane has four daughters, one son, and one “brilliant” grandson!


Hello Jeane. You are the author of three books set during World War II. The first is called She Flew Bombers and is based on the true adventures of the Women Airforce Service Pilots during WWII. Your second book is She Built Ships During WWII. The third one is called She Was a Spy During WWII. When will the second book be released?

She Built Ships During WWII will be out in January. It is about a woman welder in the Richmond Shipyards. This historical fiction weaves a Tuskegee Airman, a black sailor hurt in the Port Chicago explosion, an airplane riveter, and a Japanese American mother interned in a horse stable and the first day care center in Richmond, California.

I love historical fiction because I learn so much about history and at the same time be entertained. How much research did you do?

She Flew Bombers took a lot of research since the women pilots were kept as a “secret weapon.” I did three years of research. I read many true stories about these brave women pilots. One WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) performed tow targeting. Tow targeting is flying a plane and towing a cloth sleeve behind 15 hundred feet of cable. The Army men practiced their infantry skills by shooting the target. This one WASP got her toe shot at by accident. After a medic removed it she had a jeweler in town make a necklace out of it! This is only one of the many hilarious adventures these brave young women had. Of course there are sad accounts in the book about dying. After I wrote my book, more information has come out about these brave women pilots. Since then, they received the Gold Medal this past March from the President. 

Who are the Soviet Night Witches?

The Soviet Night Witches are another group of little known women heroes during WWII. The WASPs would deliver Pursuit airplanes for these women to fly into combat. Unlike American women pilots, they were in combat. There were 400 soviet women pilots who flew 23,000 combat missions, and 15 - 18 missions a night bombing the Nazis. 

This is so interesting. Where did you get the inspiration for your novels?

I love to write about the forties, especially the values back then. Both my parents were in the Army during WWII and that is all they ever talked about. I read the history and then simply put fictional characters into it to make it personal and come alive.

All three of these books sound wonderful. I love learning about female heroes in history. Thank you for this interesting interview, Jeane. Now it’s time to tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

To balance out all my sitting in order to write, I love riding my cruiser bicycle into town to run all my errands. (I have two big baskets!) I also have the Russian River right outside my window and am an avid kayaker and swimmer.

Awesome!!! I tried kayaking once and it was so much fun. And having the Russian River in your own backyard? Wow! That’s heaven. Jeane has a blog in which she interviews authors about their newly published books and a blog about females during WWII at www.jeaneslone.com. Visit her website, discover new authors, poke around a bit and see what you can find. And by all means, have fun while doing it!

She Flew Bombers is available through paypal on her website: www.jeaneslone.com.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Interview with Regency Romance Author Jaimey Grant

Jaimey Grant has been studying the Regency time period for nearly ten years. She is the author of five romances set in Regency England. She enjoys research and says, “My Regencies are similar to the more traditional, non-graphic Regencies from years ago.” But there is one difference with Jaimey's writing. Her romances “contain a little more controversy, a little more drama.”

Jaimey’s Website: http://www.jaimeygrant.com
Jaimey’s Blog: http://jaimeygrant.blogspot.com
Deception's blog: http://regencydeception.blogspot.com

A lady with a dangerous secret deceives the man she loves, desperate for protection from her encroaching past.”

Hello, Jaimey. I love this cover. Tell us about your book, Deception.

Deception is the love story of Lord Levi, Earl of Greville and Miss Aurora Glendenning. He is a gambler with a title and many properties who decides to quit gambling and find a rich bride. (While this seems mercenary and a bit heartless by our standards, it was common for the Regency.) Aurora is rich but hides that fact because she wants a man to love her for herself and as she says, "Men do not tend to fall in love when there is money clouding their vision." These two meet and the attraction is instant and strong. Despite their efforts to resist, they find themselves obliged to marry.

Obliged to marry? Already this story is intriguing to me. Since your books are all connected, can I read them separately or do I need to read them in order? Also, what is the order?

The chronological order is Betrayal, Deception, Spellbound, Heartless, Redemption. They're not so connected that they can't be read alone but they have recurring characters.

You once said, “Despite all the depravity of the era there is still an element of absolute romance attached. The kissing of hands, the gentle courting, the manners and charm are all things that appeal to my shy nature. What woman would not want to be treated as a princess, her permission sought before being introduced to a gentleman, her every comfort seen to? It is in our nature to desire to be cherished and adored.” I love this quote. Can you briefly tell us what Regency Romance is?

The Regency was a time of ladies and gentlemen, manners, breeding, Society, social upheaval, and war. While this time period technically fell between the years of 1811 and 1820, the trends in fashion, architecture, literature, politics, and culture began before 1800 and extended until Queen Victoria began her reign in 1837.

As for the genre itself, it seems to imply a certain gentle type of romance novel, one that the reader can just sit back and enjoy without too much emotional turmoil involved. While I have nothing against such romances—they have their definite appeal—my Regency romances tend to contain a little more drama, a glimpse into the darker side of the Regency era. One reader made the comment that my books are "traditional historical romance with meat!" I couldn't have said it better myself. :o)

I love drama. It makes you sit on the edge of your seat, wondering what’s going to happen next. Where did you get your inspiration for your novel?

Deception came about after I wrote Betrayal. Levi first appeared in Betrayal as the heroine's cousin and the only person in her life who didn't want her fortune. He was fun-loving, jovial, a big bear of a guy, and the exact opposite of my typical heroes. As Betrayal's story developed, I came to like Levi more and more and decided he needed the chance to share his own story. Then I “met” Aurora and the seeds of Deception were planted.

Real life rarely inspires my novels. At least, not directly. As writers, we often add certain aspects to our fictional characters that we've observed in those around us. I'm just not one of those writers who meets someone and thinks, "What a great character she would make!"

On the other hand, all of my heroes have aspects of my husband in them. He's the quintessential tortured hero, misunderstood and judged. It makes marriage difficult but never boring. I laugh when he recognizes himself while reading my books.


Ha! I tend to do that, too. In fact, my husband once said, “My life is like an open book.” Why do your books focus on negative aspects of this time period?

There is something about "lost causes" that strikes a chord with me. I am a firm believer in redemption and I believe that everyone deserves a second chance. There were so many things going on in the Regency, beyond Society and even within it. I like to write about someone rising above their circumstances, learning to love, trust, and feel again. Even if those circumstances seem privileged to someone on the outside, none of us can know what goes on in another's shoes.

What a great answer! Just that alone makes me want to read your books. Tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

I'm scared of frogs. I mean, TERRIFIED. Dead ones more than live ones. I scream like I'm about to be attacked if one gets near me. It's pathetic, I know, and it gets worse the older I get.

Hilarious! Now we know the real you! The author who will never create a frog for a hero! There will be no frog prince in your stories.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Interview with Suspense Author Nichole Giles

Nichole Giles has lived in various states in the Midwest. Her future aspirations include adding a tropical island to her growing list of locations. For now, she plans to travel to as many tropical locations as possible, scouting for her future home in paradise. Her early career plans was to become a rock star, but she decided to have a family instead and then become a writer, in that order.

Nichole, please tell us about your new book, The Sharp Edge of a Knife.

When Mel Petersen leaves for work on the morning of February 7, he has no idea what awaits him. A few miles from his house, Mel picks up a pair of young men who appear to be college students, hoping to prevent them from having to walk in the cold. What Mel doesn’t know is that the men are actually convicts on the run from the law who are desperate to get away by any means necessary.

When one of his passengers holds a knife to Mel’s throat, he has no choice but to submit to the demands of the criminals. Mel hopes he has what it takes to talk his captors into letting him live so he can return to his wife and children, but fears they will kill him before he has the chance.

Your book sounds intense. I understand that your story is based on a true event. Please tell us what inspired you to write this story.

You're right. It is a true story based on an experience my grandpa had in 1958. One year for Christmas, my grandma gave all the grandkids a booklet about my grandpa's life history, and there was a short two page entry about this event. When I read about it, it sparked an interest and lead me to do more research into the whole thing. I thought I'd write an article, and ended up with a book.

Oh my gosh! This really happened to your grandfather? So this story is personal, then. Wow! A reviewer wrote, "Author, Nichole Giles, weaves a gripping story that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat, wishing you could read in super speed so you can find out what happens next.” Is it difficult or does it come natural to pull your reader in with this kind of suspense?

Um, yes, it's difficult. Definitely doesn't come natural. Ironically, effortless reading is the hardest kind of writing. As far as the review goes, I think I should thank that reviewer. (And probably pay whatever I promised to pay. Kidding!)

All kidding aside, what does your family think about your writing?

You know, I'm not sure. You'd be better off asking them than me. I'd imagine they think it takes way too much of my time, but then the result turns out to be pretty cool. But that could also be wishful thinking on my part.

Hey, aren’t all authors wishful thinkers? Okay, tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

Writing is my passion, but I also love to travel, spend time with my family, drive in the rain with my convertible top down, and play my music at full volume while I sing along.

Okay…now we know the real you! If I ever pass a woman singing to her heart’s content in a convertible with the top down while it’s raining, I’ll definitely know it’s you. The singing author!

For those interested, Nichole's book is available as an e-book for only $6.95 at LDS Bookstore.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Interview with Romance Author Donna Hatch

During her sophomore year in high school, Donna wrote her first full-length novel, a science fiction romance. She wrote her second novel, a fantasy romance during her senior year. She writes most often late at night instead of sleeping. She is a native of Arizona, enjoys writing Regency Romance, and is the author of four novels. She has been married for 21 years and is the mother of six children. Who does she pattern her heroes after? You guessed it. After her husband “who continues to prove that there really is a happily ever after.”

"Believe in happy endings..."

Hello Donna. Tell us about your new Rogue Hearts Series. Anything that has to do with a “rogue” really intrigues me. What is The Guise of a Gentleman about?

It's about a proper English lady secretly longing to break free of the confines of her English Aristocratic world, and it's about the handsome rogue with secrets that will either set her free, or destroy them both.

Where did you get your inspiration for your novel?

It started as a random line that came up when I was working on book 1 of the same series where the hero mentioned he had a brother who was a pirate, and book 2 evolved from there. Whenever I sat down to write this book, it was like trying to write about a movie playing in my mind and I had to rush to keep up. I even dreamed about this hero. 

Wow! If you dreamed about him, then he must have been real. That would make him come to life, for sure. Jennifer Ashley wrote, “Combining Jane Austen with swashbuckling adventure, The Guise of a Gentleman is a fine specimen of pirate romance!” I love Jane Austen and Robin Hood stories, so this book would appeal to me. Tell me your thoughts about this review.

I really loved Jennifer Ashley's pirate trilogy (and besides she's a NYT best selling author!) so this comes as high praise from her. And even though there is a lot of swashbuckling, and a couple of intense ship battle scenes, it's first and foremost a tender Regency romance. 

I’ve always loved Regency romances. They’re usually clean, too. That’s a plus! What does your family think about your writing?

At first they found it annoying. Then they tolerated it. Now they proudly tell all their friends. My seven year old asked her teacher if she wanted to buy my books. 

Now that’s real support, if you ask me. Tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

I'm snarky, disorganized, obsessive, and I have a weakness for sweets. Oh, and I'm the mother of 6 children. (Yes, I did that on purpose) 

So now we know the real you: The Candy-loving, Disorganized Author of 6 children. Hey! That sounds familiar! Oh, yeah. It sounds like me!!! (I have 6 kids, too.)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Interview with Children's Author Cheryl Malandrinos

Little Shepherd Virtual Blog Tour Contest
November 8 - December 17: International

Cheryl Malandrinos lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and two young daughters. She also has a son who is married. Little Shepherd is Cheryl’s first children’s book. She is a freelance writer, a founding member of Musing Our Children, Editor in Chief of the group’s quarterly newsletter, a Tour Coordinator for Pump Up Your Book, a book reviewer, and blogger. That’s quite a list!

"If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." ~Toni Morrison

You are one busy woman, Cheryl. Please tell us about your new children’s book, Little Shepherd.

Thanks for having me here today, Linda. Little Shepherd is the story of Obed, a young shepherd boy in the hills outside Bethlehem on the night of Christ’s birth. After the angels appear, Obed is hesitant to follow the others to see the newborn King. He’s afraid something might happen to his flock while he’s away. His father convinces him to go, but Obed spends much of the time anxious over his sheep. After a visit with the Holy Family and some surprises upon his return to the field, Obed discovers it is a night of miracles. This book is geared toward readers ages 4 to 8.

I love the idea that you’re teaching children about the birth of Christ. What inspired you to write about a shepherd boy?

It’s an unusual story really. I sing Christmas songs all year round, using many of them as lullabies for my children. One of my favorites is “The Little Drummer Boy”. I would often sing that song and end up thinking about a story of a young shepherd who visits the child on the night of Christ’s birth.

When God first planted that idea in my heart, however, I didn’t think this would be a children’s story. I felt drawn to write about an adult Obed who is searching for the apostles after the Resurrection of Jesus. Obed wishes to find them to ask if Jesus was the Messiah he once met as a boy.

As I was sharing this idea with my pastor one Sunday, he asked me if it was a children’s story. That got the gears in my brain moving. Why shouldn’t I tell Obed’s story from the very beginning and help young readers understand the miracles of Christmas at the same time? I moved forward and Little Shepherd was born.

Wow! I love the idea of an adult Obed who is trying to find the apostles years later. You just might have to have a sequel to this story. How did you go about the process of finding an illustrator?

My publisher, Guardian Angel Publishing (GAP), works with several artists. After I had signed my contract, I was asked to select three potential illustrators from those listed on their website. Having reviewed several titles from GAP, I was familiar with the work of many of their artists. It was a tough choice, as they all do lovely work.

When Eugene Ruble accepted the contract to illustrate Little Shepherd, I was thrilled. I sent him some suggestions for potential cover art and interior illustrations and then I stayed out of his way and let him do what he does best. He did a superb job of bringing Obed’s story to life through his artwork.

What a wonderful publisher! I found out that many authors don’t get a choice. They have to take what is given them. You were very lucky…no, that’s not the word. You were very blessed to be allowed to choose your own book covers. I, too, was able to have a choice and tell them what I wanted. To me, that’s very important. What does your family think about your writing?

All three of my kids are very supportive. My nine-year-old and I would like to work on a book together that I write and she illustrates. Our youngest has been interested in books since she was old enough to hold them. They’ve turned me into the latest local celebrity at their schools. Our son is married, and he’s always been very supportive of my dreams, reading many of my works in progress.

My husband is supportive in his own way. I’ve been spending money on marketing since the book was released in August and he keeps paying the bills without commenting too much. He takes the girls to the park or the movies when I’m on a tight deadline. While he doesn’t understand why I would want to work in an industry where my performance, no matter how good it is, may not turn a profit, he’s very proud of my accomplishments.

Your husband sounds like a very special person. You are blessed to have that kind of support. Okay, now for the last question. You notice, Cheryl, that I ask this question to all my authors. I love it because I get to know an author’s innermost feelings. So please tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

I haven’t always been happy with the person I am. I lost my mother to cancer when I was only 14. That paved the way for me to make several bad choices growing up. I had to give up on college when I became pregnant at the age of 18. I was a single parent for 11 years and there were days when I wished I could crawl in a hole and never come out again.

Meeting my husband changed my life. Returning to church also changed my life. I don’t recognize that angry, frustrated young woman I used to be. I feel so blessed by my family and friends—in person and online. God has a way of working in our lives behind the scenes and it can be months or years before we realize the good work He’s done in us. I think I’m finally getting to the point where my heart, mind, and soul are more in tune with His gifts and guidance. In telling Obed’s story, I hope that kids remember God always keeps His promises. 

Thank you, Cheryl, for sharing a part of your life with us. This shows how important it is to have a loving Heavenly Father in our lives. It changes us for the better and we tend to be happier. Thanks for being my guest this week. 

To participate in Cheryl's virutal book tour, follow the directions below:

GIVEAWAY #1 (for people who comment on this blog or Cheryl’s blog. Don't forget to leave your email in case you win.)

An autographed copy of Little Shepherd
Angel figurine printed with the Serenity Prayer
A Little Shepherd sticky note pad
Little Drummer Boy 2010 Hallmark Keepsake Ornament
Gift of Peace 2003 Hallmark Keepsake Ornament

GIVEAWAY #2 (for those who purchase a copy of Little Shepherd between August 21 and December 17. Proof of purchase must be submitted to Cheryl via email, mail, or fax at cg20pm00@gmail.com.)

A ”Sparkling Angel” scented jar candle from Yankee Candle
An angel gold and silver lid topper for the candle
An angel tea light holder from Yankee Candle
A Little Shepherd sticky note pad
A Jim Shore Nativity Star hanging ornament
A Jim Shore Holy Family hanging ornament
A $25 Amazon.com gift card

Little Shepherd is available at the Guardian Angel Publishing website, Amazon, Barnesandnoble.com, and at indiebound.org. Good luck to all who enter!


Monday, November 1, 2010

Interview with Young Adult Romance Author Angela Morrison

(Book Give-Away November 1 - 8: for those interested in Sing Me To Sleep, leave a comment about this interview with your e-mail. U.S. and Canada.)
As a child, Angela dreamed of being a veterinarian, having ten kids and a hundred cats. None of it came true. She did marry the man of her dreams from Ontario Canada, but ended up with only four children and no cats! She plays the piano and is a licensed scuba diver. Angela said, “I’m a compulsive reader and have to ration myself or I won’t do anything else, including eating, sleeping, and interacting with other humans in any way.” She claims to be a vagabond, moving from place to place such as Switzerland and Singapore, etc, and now lives in the desert lands of Arizona. 

Hello Angela. My oldest daughter is named Angela. I understand that you write Young Adult Romance. Please tell us about Sing Me To Sleep.

SING ME TO SLEEP is about Beth, who is the ugly girl at school. All the guys call her "The Beast." She's got one friend--a short nerdy boy named Scott. But Beth can sing. When she gets the solo part in the elite girls choir she belongs to, her choir friends decide she needs a massive make-over. They’re off to Switzerland for the choral Olympics and Beth gets swept off her feet by the gorgeous and talented tenor soloist from the Amabile guys choir just across the border in Canada. Derek makes her feel like she's never felt before. Loved. Cherished. Valued. When she gets home, though, Scott tells her he's always loved her. And Derek starts acting suspicious. He's got a secret he won't let Beth in on that threatens to tear them apart.

Your novel sounds like it has a bit of mystery to it. Where did you get your inspiration for your novel? Do you ever use real life experiences?

For me, writing a novel is like a tidal wave hits my life. It takes everything I've ever done, seen, read, sung, watched, imagined, dreamed, and breaks it all up into tiny little pieces. When the wave retreats, all those pieces are lying on the sand. It's my job to fashion a story out of those pieces.

When we lived in London, Ontario, my daughter sang with the Junior Amabile Singers--a competitive all girls choir. I always wanted to write a novel using that unique setting, but I didn't have a story. A few months before my editor decided Razorbill wanted me to write a new novel for my second book, something happened to one of my daughter's best friends in the world-famous Amabile Young Men's Ensemble. You should hear these guys sing. They are so amazing. You'll find them on my website.

Anyway, she was still hurting--in fact the whole Amabile family of choirs was still dealing with a heartbreaking tragedy. That inspired me to start writing. My editor loved the idea and got it approved. The young man's mother and Amabile Choirs got on board and were fantastic support. It was the most intense artistic experience I've ever had. I wrote the first draft of SING in a single month. I know I had help from unseen hands. I feel blessed to have been the tool for it's telling.

I listened to the CD on your site. It's wonderful. I encourage all my readers to go to Angela's website and listen. It's so beautiful. What does your family think about your writing?

They think I've become an insane hermit, but they are all patient and supportive. My sons think it's weird that their mom writes romances that are kind of on the steamy side. (I love to write romantic kissing scenes--what can I say? My books aren't explicit, though. Just achingly romantic.) My daughter lets me pick her brain. And my husband paid for my MFA. If that's not love, what is?

So you’re a romantic at heart! Please tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

I wear pink ballet shoes instead of slippers and write all my novels on pale pink paper.


Pink? Hey, I should have known since you’re a romantic. Now we know the real you, who sits around in pink slippers and writes novels on pink paper.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Edith and the Mysterious Stranger - Historical Romance and Halloween!

Have you ever wondered how Halloween got started? Did you know that the Irish immigrants brought the tradition to America in the 1800s? All my books are “sweet” romances for teens and adults. Listen to the video and read the sample chapter below and list one thing that grabs your attention. By the way, the excerpt doesn’t reveal who the mysterious stranger is. Happy Reading!

Edith and the Mysterious Stranger
A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho

With mysterious letters, cattle rustlers, a spunky woman, the liar's fire, Halloween, and young love, there is always something happening. Edith has wonderful qualities but never gives a man a second chance because her expectations are so high. However, all that changes when a mysterious stranger begins to write to her. For the first time, she gets to know a man's inner soul before making any harsh judgments. Whoever he is, this man is a mystery and the best thing that has ever happened to her.
Halloween Day

Edith finished brushing her wavy black tresses and allowed them to fall gracefully down to her shoulders. She would dress up as a Spanish señorita for Halloween. She grabbed a red flowered skirt and pulled it on. It had three gathered tiers with a wide ruffle at the bottom. Then she pulled on a simple white peasant blouse that tied at the neck. Next she hung a dangling gold earring from each ear and slipped on her black shoes.

Halloween was one of Edith's favorite times of the year because family and neighbors would get together and dress up in festive costumes, eat foods of the season, and play games. The custom of Halloween started in Europe during the harvest season. The Europeans would celebrate the end of summer by having a harvest feast the last day of October. They would build bonfires to cook the feast and also to keep the ghosts away. They were a superstitious people and believed that ghosts roamed about on the last day of October. Hallow meant holy and e’en was short for evening. Because this celebration was the evening before All Hallows Day or All Saints Day, they decided to call it Halloween.

Smiling in the mirror, she pinched her cheeks for color and then carefully placed a red silk flower in her dark tresses just above her ear for decoration and color. The red flower and skirt brought out the beauty in her olive complexion. She truly looked like a lovely Spanish señorita.
Edith felt pleased with her costume. Her heart beat a little faster this afternoon and her spirits were high. She was not sure if her mysterious stranger would appear, but she had high hopes.

As she walked into the kitchen, her mother turned to look at her. Martha’s eyes widened, and then she smiled. “Oh my! Edith, you look radiant. I’ve never seen you look more beautiful.”

“Why, thank you, Mama. I appreciate that.”

“This young man is going to be knocked out of his shoes. I know that, for sure. He’d better be holding onto something when he sees you.”

Edith laughed. Her laughter was light and cheerful, and Martha laughed along with her.

“Mama, what if he doesn’t come?”

“Don’t worry. I know he’s coming.”

“How do you know?”

“Just a feeling.” Martha smiled and then held up an envelope for her to see. “I have a letter for you that was dropped by today.”

She grabbed the envelope, tore it open, and pulled out the note. As she unfolded it, Edith held her breath. Staring at the words on the paper, she slowly let her breath out, and read, “Seven-thirty tonight.” Those were the only words on the note.

Edith swallowed and then looked up at her mother. Martha already knew that he was coming, but she asked, just the same. “Well? Is he coming?”

Edith nodded, not able to say a word. When it was seven o‘clock, she realized that her excitement had turned to nervousness. And then she became pale as she started to question herself and her feelings for this man. Doubts were coming in all forms and directions. She was getting cold feet. The old feelings were coming back. When she doubted the man’s ability to rise to her expectations, she would not give the man another chance.

As she paced the floor, questions gradually invaded her mind. What if he was not what she expected? What if he was dull in person and exciting only in his letters? What if he had a long nose and bulging eyes? What if he was way shorter than she? Heaven forbid! That would be awful. Most men she met were shorter than she was, and this dismayed her. Oh my, this was not going well!

Edith shook her head. “No, if he had a long nose, I would love it. If he had bulging eyes, I wouldn’t care. The person in those letters is whom I care about, not his looks. Besides, we’re only friends.” Then her eyes widened as she asked herself, “But what if he doesn't like me in person?”

A knock sounded at the door, and Edith’s eyes widened as she gasped. She stood frozen to the spot. Another knock came from the door and she tried to move, but her feet were not obedient. Nervousness had taken over, and she tried to overcome it by taking a few deep breaths. Her hands were trembling with anticipation, and her heart pounded furiously. When she noticed that her deep breaths were making her faint, she decided that deep breathing was not such a good idea after all. After a third knock, she let out a puff of air and then walked toward the door and opened it.


Standing before her was a Spanish bandido. He looked just like a desperado, and he fit the part perfectly. He was dressed all in black. He had on black boots, pants, shirt and hat. His black mask covered part of his nose and eyebrows, and all she could see were his soft blue eyes gazing at her. Between her uneasiness and her delight in seeing him, she was not sure how to greet him. Should she extend her hand for a handshake or what?

The bandido walked in with a grin on his face. He shut the door behind him and then stood where he was as his eyes swept over her. She was a vision of loveliness—breathtaking with her rich, black hair hanging softly to her shoulders and a red flower next to her cheek. Her dark eyes sparkled with happiness and her olive complexion glowed. He couldn’t help but notice how her dress enhanced the gentle curves of her figure.

When Edith saw how he was looking at her, she blushed and lowered her eyes. The way he was gazing at her made her feel beautiful.

Seeing that he had embarrassed her, he quickly spoke with a Spanish accent, “Señorita, como estas?”

Just hearing his voice sent her spirits soaring. It was low and gentle. Edith raised her eyes and smiled. She knew just a little Spanish and replied, “I’m fine. And you?”

Afraid that she would recognize his voice, he tried to avoid speaking English. If he really needed to, then he planned to whisper. He took her hand in his and said, “Señorita Bonita.” Then he bowed, tenderly lifted her hand, and pressed his lips intimately against the back of her hand, sending a tingling up her arm and to her heart.

Edith’s eyes widened as she blushed. “Señor, do you kiss the hand of every señorita you meet?”

Solamente tu.”

“Only me?” Edith’s eyes lowered once again and she blushed a second time.
The bandido smiled as if amused by her shy mannerisms. Still holding her hand in his, not wanting to let go, he whispered, “Señorita, you surprise me. Why are you so reserved with me? We have written to one another for several months now.”

Edith shook her head and took a deep breath. “I don’t know.”

The bandido smiled. His blue eyes studied her intently, searching for an answer. Edith’s attitude was enchanting and she looked so appealing to him. Not only that, her coy manner was refreshing. As he gazed warmly upon her, he realized this woman was very special—special to him. A strong desire to kiss her rose within him as his eyes trailed to her rosy lips. With an impulse of tenderness, he took her by the shoulders and placed a gentle kiss on her luscious lips. He was surprised at the depth of his emotions. Her closeness and tender kiss had their effects on him, causing his heart to pick up speed and turning his senses to mush. He had not planned to be so forward, but he could not help himself. He had fallen in love with Edith.

For Edith, this was completely unexpected. She was not only unprepared for what was happening at this very moment, but she was surprised at the emotions spreading through her. She felt happier than she had ever been in her entire life. And she knew this was what it felt like to be in love and to be cherished by another. This man had magnetic charm, and she instantly responded to it. His hands were strong, and his gentle touch made her heart sing. Her spirits rose, and a warm glow filled her heart as he squeezed her shoulders tenderly. His lingering kiss had made her heart skip several beats and she realized she was falling in love.

When the bandido released her lips and gazed into her eyes, delicious warmth filled his inner soul. A rush of love spread through him. He was smitten and he knew it. He ran his hand down the softness of her dark tresses, feeling the thick curls beneath his fingers. The scent of it smelled like rose water. She smelled so delicious. He gently touched her face longingly, feeling the smoothness of her skin beneath his palm. Unable to help himself, he cupped her face in his hand and slightly lifted her chin, and then gently pressed his warm lips to hers once again. He slowly enfolded her in his arms and held her close, feeling the softness of her in his embrace, caressing her back, and falling deeper in love than ever before. Warmth began to envelop him as he realized his true feelings for her. It was definitely time to go. He had lost his heart and had overstayed his visit.

He slowly stepped backwards as he gradually slid his hands down her arms, took her hands in his and squeezed them lovingly. When he gazed into her eyes, he noticed that his touch had taken her breath away. This made the bandido grin. He quickly backed up, bowed, and then turned on his heels and walked toward the door.
He gave a wink over his shoulder and said with a charming smile, “Adios, Señorita. Vaya con Dios.” Then he closed the door behind him.

Edith was dazed and her breathing was shallow. She swallowed and then drew in a breath, feeling a little lightheaded. What had just happened? She knew what had happened. That kiss had not only sent her a message of his adoring love, but it completely changed their relationship. He had actually sealed his love with one simple kiss. That was what had happened. In fact, it was more than just a simple kiss. That kiss definitely had its effects on her, causing her heart to beat erratically.

From now on, she would not think of him as just a friend. She knew that much. Not after that kiss. Not after it had made her feel wanted and needed. Their friendship had instantly changed with that one delectable kiss. Edith collapsed upon the sofa. As she tried to relive what had just happened, she realized that his voice was low and pleasant sounding. She liked it a lot. She was not disappointed in him at all.

Vaya con Dios,” she thought to herself. She knew what that meant. She smiled to herself. He had told her, “May God be with you.”

That was such a nice thought. She relaxed into the comfort of the sofa with a smile playing at the corners of her mouth. Her eyes closed as she recalled the evening and the softness of his lips once again…and again…and again.
 
(To find out why this mysterious stranger is writing to her in the first place, click on the book cover on the right side bar and read the excerpt from the book.)