Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Michelle Pickett's Concilium Series Will Delight Readers

Today I'm pleased to introducce Michelle Pickett, author of the sci-fi romance novel series Concilium. Book Two, Concilium the Departure, was recently released, and Michelle is here to discuss the book and her journey to becoming an author. Welcome, Michelle!

When did you discover you had a “sense of fiction?”

Since a young child, I think. I've always told stories or immersed myself in other's stories. I can't remember a time that I wasn't reading. My grandma used to take me to the library nearly every weekend and we’d load ourselves with books to read throughout the week.

As far back as I can remember I would make up little stories in my head to pass time when I was bored. It wasn't until I was much older that I actually started writing them down, but they've always been bouncing around in my mind.

What was your favorite book as a child? As an adult? How did those influence you as a writer?

My favorite childhood book was Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. My favorite book as an adult is Olivia and Jai by Rebecca Ryman. Both stories touched me in a way that I couldn't stop thinking of them long after I'd finished reading them. And I find myself going back to them even now. I reread them both at least once a year.

I knew when I first read them I wanted to write—that's all I wanted to do. They made me want to entertain people and pull them into new worlds and experience adventures with characters that feel real and genuine, like I do when I read those books.

I do have to mention that although Olivia and Jai is my favorite book, I have read many good books that have stayed with me long after reading them. One in particular is Easy, by Tammara Webber. It has made my very short "all-time favorite" list.

What inspired you to write this book?

Concilium: The Departure is the sequel to my debut novel, Concilium, so most of the inspiration of the book came from the first book. I wasn't ready to say goodbye to my characters; they still had a story to tell. I'd like to say I had a great epiphany, or a dream or something extraordinary that gave me the idea for the Concilium Series, but I didn't. It started as a "what if" game from something small and snowballed into the story. I just kept asking myself:  What if this happened and then what if this happened, and this, and then this…and so on. Eventually I had a sketch in my head of the story.

How would you describe your writing process? What must you always have while writing?

My writing process is erratic. I can't write on demand. I do set aside a time to write and my family tries to respect it, but that doesn't mean I'm always able to get a lot of writing done during that time. Sometimes I spend it working on my blog, editing, or writing in my journal. But creativity doesn't keep to a schedule so I might not get anything written on my work in progress. Those days are so frustrating!

So I write whenever I get an idea. If I'm not at home or near my laptop, I record my thoughts in a digital recorder I carry with me so I don't lose the thought. Then I type up the notes as soon as I'm near my laptop. I've gotten some very odd looks from people in the grocery store when I'm talking in my recorder as I shop or standing in the checkout line!

What has proven to be your most successful marketing tool?

Oh, I suck at marketing. Really, I'm the worst. I'm very shy, which is probably why I've chosen a solitary profession. Even doing a blog interview gives me the sweats! So far my marketing strategy has been blog interviews and using websites such as Goodreads to connect with readers.  If anyone has any suggestions for me I'd LOVE to hear them!

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?

The best advice I've received is simple but so important: Don't Stop. Keep Writing.

Please provide a favorite excerpt from your book.

This particular scene is from the point of view of the male main character, Miller. We don't get to hear from him much in the two books because they're told from the female protagonist's, Leslee, point of view. So I like this excerpt because it gives us a glimpse of what was going through his mind as he left her behind…

I was stopped at the stop sign at the end of the road. The turn signal clicked over the sound of my ragged breathing. I wanted to turn the car around and drive back. It would have been so easy; I could still see her house in my rearview mirror.

I slammed both my hands against the steering wheel and yanked on it, yelling a streak of profanities. Slamming my hands over and over against the wheel, trying to appease my anger, I felt two fingers break on my left hand. It didn’t hurt nearly as much as it should’ve—not nearly as much as I’d hurt her.

With one last smack against the wheel, I jerked the car back into drive and squealed onto the main road. I sped thirty miles over the speed limit, maybe more. I don’t remember. I just knew I had to get as much space between us as I could, as fast as I could. Otherwise I was going to swing the car around and go back.

Screw the Concilium.

But I didn’t go back. I couldn’t. The Council already thought Leslee knew too much. That meant her life could only go two ways.

First, if the Council felt she couldn’t be trusted or controlled, she would be killed. They protected their privacy fiercely, and the life of one person wasn’t too high a price to keep their secrets.

The other option was to join the Council—a lifetime commitment. She’d have no possibility of a normal future, just a life lived in limbo waiting for the next hunt, the next time she’d be ordered to search and kill Imbibo, which was a death sentence in and of itself. I wasn’t letting them have any part of her. Not one single hair. Because once a person was bound to the Concilium, there was only one way out. Whether it was the Council, the Imbibo killed them, or—by some miracle—natural causes, the only way out was death.

I didn’t want that for her. She deserved better.

So, in a final act of love before I broke her heart, I made a third option and argued for the Concilium to spare her life. It took everything I had, every ounce of persuasion, to convince them she wasn’t a threat. She wouldn’t tell anyone what she knew, what she saw, what she lived through.

She didn’t know I went to the Council on her behalf. She would have argued, been angry. She’d wanted to go with me, and would have tried to convince me to take her, tell the Council she wanted to join. Selfish as I am, I might have given in. If she’d pressed the issue I might have let her throw her life away just so I could keep her with me. So instead I didn’t tell Leslee anything.

I’d never denied myself much in my despicable existence. And that lack of self-control is why I was bound to the Concilium.

But this time, with Leslee, I made myself think of someone else. It wasn’t too hard to think of her wellbeing, to put it before my own wants and desires. I guess a person’s outlook changes when they find someone they love. And I loved Leslee.

She didn’t care about the Concilium’s secrets, and she never wanted to hear the name Cruor Imbibo again. She was lucky to be alive. I wanted to keep it that way.

So I left.

Where can readers find you and your book?

I LOVE to hear from readers and other authors!

Links and Contact Information:

Buy Links:
Muse It Up Publishing               

Great excerpt, Michelle! I enjoyed learning about your journey and thank for being here today!

--KSR Writer

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Favorite Middle Grade Reads of 2012

If you know a middle grader who loves to read, you'll definitely want to check out this giveaway! MotherDaughterBookReviews is giving away copies of their 13 favorite middle grade reads from 2012! I'm so excited that one of the books on their list is TALL TALES WITH MR. K! (check out the review here).

The giveaway is part of the Hoppin' for the Holidays Giveaway Blog Hop hosted by MamaNYC. There are more than 60 blogs participating, so head on over to MotherDaughterBookReviews, enter the favorite middle grade reads giveaway, then scroll down and hop on over to the other blog giveaways!

Here's to all the great children's books published in 2012!

--KSR Writer

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Children's Author Mindy Hardwick Weaves Her Writing Magic

Today I'm excited to host children's author Mindy Hardwick, who has two books currently available--YA novel "Weaving Magic" and MG novel "Stained Glass Summer." Welcome, Mindy!

When did you discover you had a “sense of fiction?”

I’ve been making up stories since I was five. I loved playing with the Fisher Price yellow dollhouse and making up stories for the little, round, wood people. But, it wasn’t until I began working on my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College that I truly began to discover my sense of fiction.  

What was your favorite book as a child? As an adult? How did those influence you as a writer?

My favorite book as a child was Dicey’s Song by Cynthia Voigt.  Dicey strongly influenced my character Jasmine in my upper middle grade novel, STAINED GLASS SUMMER (Musa Publishing). Both Jasmine and Dicey have a parent who abandons them. Both characters go to live with an extended family member and both find a way to start over in small communities. I always loved Dicey’s strong, survival spirit. I like to think Jasmine has a little of the same.

My favorite author as an adult is Jennifer Donnelly. I love the historical fiction worlds she creates in her stories. I hope I bring a little bit of that description and depth to my contemporary stories. 

What inspired you to write this book?

I was inspired to write my YA, WEAVING MAGIC, by the teens in the juvenile detention center where I have run a poetry workshop for five years. You can see some of the teen’s poems on their blog:

Many of the teens in detention are battling drug addictions.  It can be very hard for many of them to stay sober when they return to their friends and family. I’ve read a lot of YA novels about teens who are getting off drugs, but I’ve never read a YA story where a teen is already sober and the story is about their sobriety. I wrote WEAVING MAGIC to explore the idea of how a teen lives a life clean and sober.  

How would you describe your writing process? What must you always have while writing?

I am very much a character writer. I begin the process by getting to know my characters. This can involve character interviews, writing monologues, and looking at character monologues. Next, I sit down and sketch out a brief outline with the major plot points of the story. Then, I write that ugly, ugly first draft. I write fast and try not to edit as I go. After the first draft is finished, I set it aside for before I dive back in for multiple drafts in structure, edits, and polishing and shining the story.  While my drafts are “sitting,” I work on a lot of other smaller projects such as short stories and articles.

For example, I’ve recently been writing some spin-off stories to STAINED GLASS SUMMER. My holiday YA short story, ELF SHOES is a part of the FREE December stories at Musa Publishing. You can find ELF SHOES here.

My short story,  FIRST DRIVE, is another spin-off story to STAINED GLASS SUMMER. This will be published in Musa’s upcoming YA anthology about first experiences.

But no matter what I’m writing, I always need to have coffee with flavored vanilla creamer!

What has proven to be your most successful marketing tool?

I’ve done a lot of blog tours, interviews, and postings. But, my most successful marketing tool has been word of mouth.  My favorite word of mouth story happened last spring. My Grandpa was in the hospital and my Mom handed out postcards and talked to the nurses and staff about my stories. She sold quite a few stories for me!

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?

Keep writing. There is so much we can’t control about publishing a book and there are numerous things that can derail a book from sales. But, what we can control is to keep working at our craft and writing more stories.

Please provide a favorite excerpt from your book.

This is my favorite excerpt from my YA, WEAVING MAGIC. This scene is the first kiss between Christopher and Shantel. Christopher has just stopped by to return Shantel’s bracelet which she left in his truck. Shantel’s loom broke and he offers to take a look.

“Gotcha, Superstar,” Christopher said as he stood up beside me. He wrapped his arms around me the way he’d done in the bakery.
“Umpfh.” Seemed the only word I could manage.
“Shantel,” Christopher murmured.
“Mmmm.” I enjoyed the way my name sounded on his lips.
Slowly, he began to rub small circles on my back before he reached up, and cupped my chin. Lifting my face, Christopher lowered his mouth to mine and time seemed to stop. Softly at first, we moved our lips, and then, hesitantly, I parted mine just a bit. Christopher’s tongue quickly moved inside my mouth and swirled gently. Christopher pressed his hands against my lower back and drew me closer to him.
 Thinking fast about what the romance heroines did, I moved my fingers softly into his hair. The kiss deepened, and Christopher’s hands moved slowly down my sides, and then up under my shirt. I knew I should tell him to stop. We were alone in my bedroom. Dad could come home at any minute. But a part of me didn’t want him to stop. I wanted him to keep going. I wanted to see what happened.
Christopher’s fingers played with the edges of my bra. “Want to take it off?” he murmured.
  In a bit of a haze, I stepped away from Christopher. I lowered my hands to the edges of my t-shirt and then froze. What was I doing?  Everything was moving so fast. So fast, I could barely think. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw myself in the mirror. My face was flushed. My shirt was askew, and I looked like I was terrified.
This wasn’t how I was supposed to look. I was supposed to look like I was enjoying it. I looked like a fright show was happening.
I stepped away from Christopher and straightened my shirt. I combed my fingers through my hair and ran my tongue over my lips. But, I couldn’t look at him. I was so confused. I wanted him to keep going. I wanted to see what it would be like to be with him. But it all seemed so out of control. And out of control was scary. When people got out of control, bad things happened.

Where can readers find you and your book?

Readers can find where to buy all my books including WEAVING MAGIC and STAINED GLASS SUMMER at my website:


How interesting that "Weaving Magic" is based on your personal experiences--it sounds like a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing with us today, Mindy!

--KSR Writer

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Children's Author Maggie Lyons Delights with her Whimsical Stories

Today I'm excited to host a fellow children's author, Maggie Lyons, who has two novels available, "Dewi and the Seeds of Doom" and "Vin and the Dorky Duet." Welcome, Maggie!

When did you discover you had a “sense of fiction?”

Many years ago I fiddled with a series of short stories for adults, based on experience that, at the time, was sharply felt—funny how time dulls the edge of experience. The stories were—quite rightly—put in a drawer, where they’ve gathered a venerable veneer of dust. I’ve been writing and editing nonfiction as part of making a living for decades, but it was just five years ago that I started to write fiction in earnest, only this time, for children. I’ve always loved the humor and escapism that bubbles out of children’s literature, and I wanted to see if I could add my two cents’ worth to it, especially if I could motivate reluctant readers to turn a page or two. Besides, calling myself a children’s writer means I can sneak into the children’s library and borrow great reads by masters of the craft and not have to explain to myself, or anyone else for that matter, why I read children’s literature. I only have to brave the suspicious stares of children, wandering the same stacks and not being taken in by my grandmotherly smile.

What was your favorite book as a child? As an adult? How did those influence you as a writer?

I loved the classics, but the one book I remember adoring when I was very small is Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings, a perennial classic. I don’t think the ducklings influenced my writing in any way, but I loved the sentimentality of the tale. As an adult, I still read a lot of children’s books—more children’s books than adult literature, in fact. My current favorite reads for children are Jerry Spinelli’s Maniac Magee and The Wringer, and for adults, Jane Gardam’s Old Filth. They are favorites and inspirational for the same reasons: the authors are masters of the English language, and they write well-crafted stories.

What inspired you to write your books?

Vin and the Dorky Duet was born from my love of music and challenges. I was trained as a classical pianist and my love of music has never diminished. The main character, Vin, is a seventh-grade trumpet player. His sister sets him a challenge, which he reluctantly sets out to meet, with all the concomitant surprises, disasters, and ultimate benefits that any quester can expect to confront. Dewi and the Seeds of Doom is my small contribution to putting Wales on the global map. Most people know a few things about Scotland and Ireland, but far fewer folks know much about the other Celtic region in the British trio: Wales. Dewi is a Welsh dragon, the red dragon, or y ddraig goch, as he’s called in Welsh. The red dragon is a symbol of national pride, so Dewi can’t go around toasting everything in sight. He has to do good deeds, and since he’s young, he’s got to have fun doing them. All of that gave me the perfect excuse to write a lighthearted, rambunctious romp around the countryside in a historically dubious Wales.

How would you describe your writing process? What must you always have while writing?

Fits and starts. I have fits trying to think how to fill a blank page and starts when I realize I’ve actually written a few words. And of course, I have to swing on a vine across the creek while eating blood pudding before inspiration shuffles up. Seriously? I don’t have a process. I write when I have moments in between editing projects and trying—desperately—to keep up with social media and promoting my books. The only thing I must have while writing is a stable flow of electricity to keep the old computer chugging.

What has proven to be your most successful marketing tool?

I wish I knew the answer to that. My books were published this year, one at the end of June and one at the end of October. I think it’s too soon to know what works best. I’ve written several guest blogs, done a number of author interviews, taken out a couple of inexpensive ads, and gone on a virtual book tour with World of Ink Network. My next venture is to approach regional libraries and schedule book signings and Meet the Author programs. I have a feeling that legwork—meeting my readers and their parents face to face—will prove to be the best way to go. Next weekend I’m off to sit next to Santa Claus and wave my books at the kids in the line.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?

There’s no one magic piece of advice I can give. I’d love to hear from anybody who can come up with one sentence that encapsulates the best advice. I’ve read a great deal of useful material about writing for children, which is not hard to find online. I belong to a marvelous critique group that has helped enormously, and I’ve learned quite a bit from my publisher’s editors. Children’s author Dan Gutman gave some of the best in-a-nutshell advice in his foreword to the 2012 edition of the Renaissance Learning report, What Kids Are Reading. The element of humor should be added to this advice. It’s incredibly important. You can download the report at

Please provide a favorite excerpt from your book.

Here’s an excerpt from Dewi and the Seeds of Doom:

Peering from side to side and looking over his shoulder every now and then, Dewi trotted on tiptoes down a corn row to the back of the greenhouse, where he found two boxes of corn kernels. One box was labeled “Cornus normalus picked today” and the other was labeled “Cornus ghastly messus picked today.” Dewi scooped up a few kernels from each box and put them in his knapsack. He was halfway back to the door when he heard footsteps coming toward the greenhouse. One foot dragged along the ground and the other clunked in a weird tango: sch—schlep—schlep—clunk, sch—schlep—schlep—clunk. Dewi crouched behind the corn. A lopsided shape lurched through the doorway. It belonged to a hunchbacked dwarf who was talking to himself.
“Peegor, fetch that test tube. Peegor, did you throw that dead rat out? Peegor, did you fan the corn? I swear that old fart will be the death of me. I’ve a good mind to quit right now. I don’t care if his royal pain-in-the-neckness threatens to stuff me full of rat tails. I wish you’d rot, Baron Snot. Ha-de-ha-ha!” The dwarf raised a leg as if he were about to kick someone in the rear end, or worse. Then he wobbled and fell over.
After muttering a few fantastically rude words, he picked himself up, limped to a faucet, and filled a watering can. He began to water the first row of corn, hobbling down one side and up the next. Still crouching behind the second row of corn, Dewi breathed in to make himself thinner. The dwarf was getting closer. Dewi held his breath. This wasn’t easy, because a bee had landed on his nose. He crossed his claws and tried not to sneeze.
The dwarf was only seconds away when the bee flew off the dragon’s nose. As he followed the bee out of the corner of his eye, Dewi noticed a plant pot right behind his tail. Quiet as a snowflake, he picked up the pot and threw it as far from the greenhouse door as he could. It smashed through a pane of glass at the end of the building. The dwarf dropped his watering can and schlep-clunked at top speed down the corn row toward the broken glass. He was so close when he rushed by that Dewi could smell three-day-old blood pudding and onions on his breath.

Where can readers find you and your book?

I love that book excerpt--what fun! Thanks so much for joining me today, Maggie!

--KSR Writer

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

31 Days of Book Prizes and Special Offers!

There are a lot of holiday specials going on between  now and Christmas, but Muse It Up Publishing has decided to do something different--they're celebrating 2012 by hosting 31 days of book specials and door prizes!

Beginning Dec. 1st, simply "Like" the Muse It Up Facebook page and share your favorite memory from 2012. Each day one person will be chosen to win a door prize, and everyone will be offered free reads and other book specials.

Then, on January 1st, 2013, one lucky winner will be chosen from all the comments to receive the grand prize, which is 31 ebooks that were published by Muse It Up in 2012! What a great way to fill your e-reader with awesome books to read all year long!

Check out the Muse It Up blog, and join in the Facebook event here. Here's to celebrating a great year!

--KSR Writer

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Amazon Gift Card Giveaway!

Congratulations to Gary T., the winner of the Amazon gift card! Thank you to all who participated and I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

It's that time of year again--a time to be thankful for all the wonderful people in our lives. As a thank you for all your support, I'm participating in the Gratitude Giveaways Blog Hop hosted by I Am a Reader Not a Writer.

The prize is a $5 gift card to and all you have to do is pick one way to follow me--either via this blog, twitter or facebook (follow buttons are located on the right side of this blog). It's that simple! Just fill out the form below. The winner will be announced on Monday, Nov. 26th.

Be sure to check out all the other great giveaways in the list below! Happy Thanksgiving!

--KSR Writer

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Insight Into the Middle Grade Market

Last weekend I attended the SCBWI Kansas chapter's annual conference. Titled "Let's Make Magic," with faculty that included editor Arthur Levine and authors Mike Jung and Jay Asher, it certainly lived up to its name.

While many of the presentations were very informative, I found one especially interesting. Literary agent Mary Kole gave an overview of the middle grade and young adult markets. Her information is included in her new book WRITING IRRESISTIBLE KIDLIT (which I plan to purchase). But I want to share some of the highlights from her presentation (mainly because I'm a middle grade author!)

Overview of the Middle Grade Market:

  • A book's protagonist should be age 13 and under. Although the term "tween" books has become popular, a "tween" bookshelf doesn't exist. The market still divides it into middle grade and young adult. Middle grade readers read "up" so by having a 13-year-old main character, you will appeal to readers as young as age 8.

  • The average length for middle grade books is 35,000 words and shouldn't go higher than 60,000 words. While some kids at this age are voracious readers and can handle the higher word counts, many readers are reluctant (especially boys) so keeping word count shorter will help capture more readers. Both boy and girl readers fall into this age group so it's good to have characters of both genders. 

  • Fantasy and adventure books are the most popular in this market. Literary books do exist, but many agents/publishers are still looking for the commercial appeal that will sell. Series are extremely popular, but a first book that stands alone is a necessity. The story can have loose ends, but it needs to resolve itself emotionally at the end of the first book.

  • Middle grade language should not be edgy--it needs to be appropriate for the age especially since parents, teachers, and librarians still act as gatekeepers for this age group. Romance should be portrayed simply as sweet.

  • Historical fiction is welcome in middle grade, and "historical" now includes anything from the 1980s and prior! However, historical fiction only works if the time period is necessary to the story (if the story could be told during any time period, then make it contemporary).

  • Middle grade is a world of contrasts--kids feel the pull to have some independence but want to remain kids. Major changes are happening both physically (puberty) and emotionally. They worry about how others will perceive them.

There are just as many tips for the YA market, all of which can be found in WRITING IRRESISTIBLE KIDLIT. Some of the information may seem obvious, but I think it's a great reminder of what middle grade authors should strive for when writing.

If you have additional helpful tips for middle grade authors, I'd love to hear them!

--KSR Writer

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

BLOOD TIDE by Holly Stacey: YA Tale of Slavery, Pirates, and Freedom

Today I'm excited to host a very talented writer and fellow team member with knowonder!, the online children's publication. Holly Stacey is the author of the YA historical fiction novel BLOOD TIDE, which is a fascinating tale of a slave girl from the Caribbean and her perils of finding freedom among a ship of pirates. Welcome, Holly!

Tell us a little about your background and how you became an author.

I started writing when I was old enough to hold a pen and I’ve been telling stories for just as long.  I always wanted to be a writer, but for some reason, ended up studying archaeology at university.  I suppose I felt that it would be good to have a day job that I loved too!  My grandmother was an English teacher, first at Wilson High School, then at Long Beach City College.  She used to take me to author’s talks and give me fiction books that were given to her by authors.  I read everything she gave me. 

I didn’t start seriously writing until I moved to the UK, long after I finished my MA in Medieval Archaeology.  My first novel is still in my bottom drawer and needs some serious re-working. My second novel, The Faerie Conspiracies, was much better and received good praise from editors, but no takers, so I self-published it.  It’s done okay, but I do long for the big break and a contract from one of the larger publishing companies.

After writing Faeries, I needed something a little more grounded and went from writing urban fiction/fantasy to historical fiction for teens.  The wet UK weather was making me long for blue sky adventure and pirates were on my mind.  Blood Tide took me years to write and research, but I still don’t tire of re-reading it when it’s cold and wet outside (especially the bits about the gold coins found at the base of a waterfall).

Writing short children’s stories for knowonder has been a boon as it helps my writing get out there and keeps me on track and keeps me positive between novels.

What is one of your favorite books and why?

I love A Wrinkle in Time.  I must have read it ten times as a child, I couldn’t get enough of the science fiction adventure, well I suppose it was just Madeline L’Engle herself!  I also love Treasure Island, Skullduggery Pleasant, The Hobbit and well, the list and genres go on…

What inspired you to write this book?

The main character.  Amber needed a tale told about her.  At my grandparents’ house, there is a portrait of a woman – a sketch really, and it felt so warm. The woman in the portrait jumped to life and it reminded me so much of Amber that I suppose the story had been at the back of my mind for some time.  I also wanted to write a book for teens.  Black History Month is filled with good books and historical facts, but as a teen, I think it’s easy to just get blasé with it all, especially when dates and events are bashed into your brain.  I wanted a historical tale with people they could relate to and learn a bit of history on the way.

How would you describe your writing process?

A labour of love.  With a small child at home, I’m not at liberty to do all-nighters any more, but write when it’s her afternoon nap time (really, I should be cleaning house, but why dust when you can be writing adventure?) I start with the characters, an introduction for me to get to know them, and before I know it, the story writes itself – I type as I write and as a touch typist, I can get a good flow of words as quick as they come to mind, so it’s easier than talking.  As I write, the entire events unfold in front of me and it’s very much like watching a film.  The tough part is going back to edit – then it’s just words on paper with a few grammatical mistakes.  I usually do three edits of a novel before sending it out to editors and readers to make suggestions.  Then it’s edits all over again.

How have you marketed your book?

I’ve set up a writer’s page on facebook (!/pages/Holly-Stacey/338509066242606) and keep followers informed on my progress and book releases, I’ve also contacted some friends who are editors to write reviews.  I also try to update my blog as much as possible:          
Goodreads has a good community of historical writers (all genres, really) that support each other too, which helps get the word out.
There is always more marketing that can be done – but the angle is that it’s a blend of slave history and pirates.  People who are missing Pirates of the Caribbean can read Blood Tide and feel like they’ve had another adventure in the aquamarine waters near Port Royal.
Really, it’s a long slog of e-mailing the right people to get interviews like this J

Please provide a favorite excerpt from your book.

They found their groups and began making their way to the steps when Hans appeared at the top of the exit, a dark figure outlined against the dawning light.
            ‘They’re coming this way!’  His breathing was laboured and his eyes slightly wild.  He stumbled two more steps, lost his footing, and tumbled head first into the sea below.
            A scream erupted from Amber’s throat and was silenced by E’s large hand.  Hans floated face down – a dagger protruding from his back.  One of the men dove in and pulled him to the ledge.  His body flopped lifelessly as it was hauled out of the water.  No one made a sound.  It was as if time had stopped from mere shock.
            ‘To arms!’ shouted Captain Emerus, turning red around the ears.
            The men’s voices merged into one freighting roar as they scrambled up the steps to take revenge.  Treasure was no longer on their mind… only blood.
            Amber watched them go, aware that Peep was standing next to her, his mouth slightly agape.  He was in shock, but Amber knew she needed to see to Hans first. She scrambled awkwardly down the rope and dipped her lower half into the water.  It was incredibly cold, but she took a deep breath and leaned back, looking up at the cave ceiling as she kicked.  She didn’t think about looking down into the deep blue beneath her or what could be swimming underneath and in a few moments, her back scraped along the ledge.
            Han’s body was still warm.  His eyes were glazed, but when she felt for a pulse, she found it.  ‘Thank da Lord,’ she whispered.  But he wasn’t breathing.  She rolled him over, and looked at the knife still sticking out.  She was sure it wasn’t in a vital spot.  Father Harold had taught her basic anatomy from one of his many books and the knife’s blade was in a fleshy area.  She took a breath and pulled it out.
            Hans’s body shivered and like a miracle, he coughed up some of the sea that he must have swallowed when he fell.  His eyes fluttered open and then shut again, his breathing raspy, but strong. 
            ‘Amber!’  Hans had managed to scrape out her name before losing consciousness.  There was a harsh laughter from the top of the steps.
            Her head whipped up.  There was an eastern-looking man with long plaits and a bright red sash filled with at least four muskets.  He grinned at her and pulled out a long sword.
            She stared.  She had nothing to defend herself with.  Her mind raced as the man came closer, chatting to her in his native tongue.  His grin made her think his mind wasn’t on a quick death.  Her hands scrambled to find something – a rock maybe.  The dagger reflected the pale lighting and she snatched it up, painfully aware that there was no way it could compare to a sword.
            He came closer, slowly descending the steps.  His teeth were shiny black as if he’d coated them with soot and grease.  He stopped speaking his language and tilted his head.  ‘Francais?’  He shook his head, mockingly.  ‘English? You speak English?’  His voice was high and he said the words awkwardly as if he hated the way they rolled off his tongue.
            But Amber had reacted enough for him to know she understood.
            ‘I will enjoy you,’ he said, coming closer.  ‘I speak English for you.  I like hear you scream.’

Where can readers find you and your book? 

I love the fact that your main character was inspired by a painting! BLOOD TIDE is an intriguing historical fiction novel and I definitely recommend it to both teens and adults! Also be sure to check out many of Holly's great short stories for children at

--KSR Writer

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

YA Fantasy Author Marva Dasef Let's Her Writing Genie Out of Its Bottle

Today I'm happy to introduce Marva Dasef, a Muse It Up author with a number of books for teens. Her latest is a compilation of fantasy stories about a young girl's adventures with her genie called "Setara's Genie." Welcome, Marva!

When did you discover you had a “sense of fiction?”

I’m still wondering whether I do. I spent many years writing technical documentation, so I’m still learning (even after five years!) how to write fiction. It’s deeper, more complex, but must entertain. It’s harder to do than it looks.

What was your favorite book as a child? As an adult? How did those influence you as a writer?

I loved Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series, so I’ll put that at the top of the Kid-Read list. I was the horse-crazy girl and was owned by my first horse when I was ten. I learned to ride on a 16-hand, black saddlebred. I could easily pretend he was the Black Stallion in the Farley books.

What I got from Farley and other writers of young adult fiction was the ebb and flow of a fictional story. You have to include lots of excitement, but you need quiet pools of introspection to give the reader a chance to think about what’s going on in the story.

I got hooked on science fiction and fantasy as a teenager, and that’s been my go-to genre since. I write fantasy because I can do anything I darn well please in a story without worrying about the changes to the teen experience. I couldn’t tell you what a modern teen does, says, or thinks in a real-life setting, but give me a fantasy world, and I’m all set.

What inspired you to write this book?

I’m really not sure what inspired the original short story titled “Cadida and the Djinn.” I just thought it would be fun to turn a mythology upside down and sideways. I wrote a follow-up story about the girl and her genie, “Cadida and the Cave Demon.” After that, five more stories developed.

To sell it as a whole book, I added the frame story of the old story teller in the bazaar relating tales to a young spice seller. This is conceptually straight out of 1001 Arabian Nights. Scheherazade left her violent husband in mid-story every night so he wouldn’t kill her in the morning. Maybe readers don’t know this, but the stories in 1001 Arabian Nights are from multiple sources. Whoever puts together the 1001 stories (actually less than a hundred) can pick and choose between many traditional tales. The trick is to make all the stories come from a single voice. I hope my storyteller, Abu Nuwas, does this when he relates the seven adventures of Setara (changed the name when I decided to have all the character names to Arabic or Persian names).

How would you describe your writing process? What must you always have while writing?

I’m a plotter and have a fairly complete outline of the story which may be a short description of what will happen or be a fully developed scene. Then I go at it, changing the outline to fit where the story takes me. The end product bears some resemblance to the outline, but I have come up with entirely different endings on more than one occasion.

I couldn’t live without the internet for research. I like to use existing legends, fairy tales, and myths as a basis, then twist them however I please.

What has proven to be your most successful marketing tool?

That’s something I have yet to discover. I rarely market my best selling book. It just seems to sell on it’s own at a steady pace. I’m looking forward to the Christmas sales running through November and December. I always get a big bump in sales. I guess, then, the best marketing tool is to have an appealing book.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?

The importance of point of view. I learned that lesson from several terrific writers who’ve kindly read my work in draft stages. It’s a common mistake of beginning writers to “head hop” even within a paragraph! Just don’t do that. I’ve even seen some stories written in first person suddenly jump out of the consistent POV into another character’s head. Resist the urge to change POV. If you’re writing in first person, never leave that POV. It’s too personal to suddenly hop to another character. That’s why I write 3rd person. It gives me a little distance from the character, even if I’m using close POV (showing the character’s thoughts).

Please provide a favorite excerpt from your book.

I like this excerpt because it has several of the characters from the book working together in a battle.

* * *

The pirates looked up, pulling out knives and swords. Setara thought maybe she hadn’t planned this out well enough but drew her own small knife and hoped for the best. A scimitar appeared in Basit’s hand. The two demons bared their claws and fangs. Hasib puffed real flames with every leap. Sheik barked furiously as he ran. Setara hoped they looked fearsome as they dashed toward the thieves.

The thieves also had a formidable array of sharp weaponry and did not appear afraid of the strange group attacking them. The two groups met in a clash of swords, knives, howling demons, a diving eagle, a leaping dog, and a flame-throwing horse.

“Let go of those horses!” Setara screamed and leaped at a pirate. She slashed her knife downward, cutting a long rent in the thief’s sleeve. He rounded on her with a sword, and she held her knife up to block. The sword slid off her knife blade, but the man immediately drew back his arm again. She was not ready with her knife, so she ducked her head, hoping to evade the sword slash. She heard a scream and looked up to see the thief flying away from her. “What the...”

A snort that sounded much like a laugh came from her left. She turned to see Hasib with a horsy grin on his long face and his powerful hind legs hitting the ground where the thief had been a mere second before.

All around, her friends were struggling with the thieves. Those confronted by Azizah and Kairav lost their will to fight and went running down the beach as fast as their legs could carry them in the loose sand. Setara thought it was a wonderful thing to have demon friends.

Sheik had bitten down on the arm of one of the thieves and was shaking the man back and forth. Basit laid about with swift strokes of his scimitar, forcing the men back toward the ocean. Unfortunately, another skiff had just come ashore with several more pirates. The thieves now outnumbered them nearly three to one.

“Basit! You must do something,” Setara shouted. Basit didn’t seem to hear her as he beat off the attack of one of the thieves. She wondered why he didn’t use magic but had no time to think about it. She saw a thief slash down on Kairav, sending the pool demon staggering back with a deep cut, blue blood pouring down his brawny arm. Another smacked Azizah on the side of the head, sending her reeling. Sheik yelped in pain, but Setara could not spare a moment to look while she fended off a muscular thief wielding a heavy club.

Things weren’t going very well at all.

* * *

Where can readers find you and your book?

I hang out in Facebook and on Twitter (@Gurina). I keep my website current with what’s new and I blog quite a bit. I’m doing a Halloween is for Witches series of posts about characters from my Witches of Galdorheim series. I’ll be giving away paperbacks (not just ebooks) to people who show up at my blog on Halloween and answer a few simple questions. Cheating is allowed. 

Setara’s Genie
A girl, a genie, a few demons. Would could go wrong?

MuseItUp Bookstore


Abu Nuwas sits in the bazaar telling stories to the passersby he can tempt to pay. He relates the adventures of the bored daughter of a rich merchant, Setara, and her genie, Basit, as they encounter the creatures of legend and folklore: a lonely cave demon seeking a home; a flying, fire-breathing horse who has lost his mate; a dragon searching for his family; an evil genie hunting for the man who bottled him; and a merboy prince cast out of his undersea kingdom.

I love that you were able to weave a number of short stories into one book, and the concept of a woman and her genie going on fantastical adventures together sounds so entertaining! Thank you for joining me today, Marva!

--KSR Writer

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Real Talent: Children's Author Kai Strand

Today I'm incredibly pleased to introduce a very talented children's author and colleague (fellow staff writer at knowonder! children's magazine), Kai Strand. Her latest middle grade book SAVE THE LEMMINGS is a fun read with a great premise. Welcome, Kai!

Tell us a little about your background and how you became an author.

I spent a number of years in corporate America keeping customers of the emerging technology world happy. I also got married and had four kids during that time. I turned in my letter of resignation on January 2, 2000 and became a stay at home mom to concentrate on raising our kids. The first day I was home, I was baking cookies (because that’s what stay-at-home moms do, right?) and my husband called to say he’d just been laid off. We had nothing keeping us in Southern California anymore, so we stuck a ‘for sale’ sign in the lawn and moved to Bend, Oregon. A few years later, when my third child started Kindergarten I started writing during the day. Heck with only one kid at home, it felt like I had all the time in the world! I wrote my first novel in 2 months and figured, “This is easy!” Yeah…well, can’t always be right.

What is one of your favorite books and why?

Thank you for saying “one of”. Cassandra Clare’s, City of Bones, captivated me. I actually read her novel, Clockwork Angel, first and loved it. I’d heard about her Mortal Instruments series and thought I’d give it a try since I’d enjoyed the first Infernal Devices book. I devoured City of Bones, and then plowed through the next two immediately. After reading the fourth in the series, it became my second favorite of her books (so far). The dynamics between Clary and Jace are explosive and compelling. I love that there is just enough mystery in the plot that I have to read to the end to figure it out. One day (in my spare time – grin) I’m going to go through that first book and highlight all the words/phrases/sentences that draw me in so I can dissect why it works so well.

What inspired you to write this book?

Save the Lemmings came to me while I slept. I didn’t dream it, but I woke before the sun one morning with a fully developed story in my head. Unfortunately, I was sleeping on the couch in a hotel room I was sharing with my sisters! I had to quietly slide my laptop out of my bag and power it up so I could type out the outline of a young female inventor whose invention, the Texty-Talky, goes nationwide and makes her an overnight sensation. Fame is exciting, but also can be pretty encroaching and sometimes downright ugly. Her reputation is dragged through the mud and she has to figure out how to regain control of her fate.

How would you describe your writing process?

Kind of jerky. Nothing like that first novel that just flowed out of me. I often work on a couple novels at once. Plus I write blog posts and interview guests for my blog. When I’m lucky, I get to visit other blogs, like this. And I write short stories. I try to do a little of each every day. Or at least most days.

How have you marketed your book?

I’ve had several generous bloggers, like you, who have hosted me on their sites with guest posts, interviews or a book feature. I have another middle grade book that published just a couple weeks after Save the Lemmings, so I’m taking both of them on a virtual book tour through World of Ink all this month (October) and November.

What advice would you give to other authors?

Whether you are a full time or part time writer, be a professional author. Writing can be a hobby as long as you aren’t pursuing publication, but once you decide you want your work out there, respect those you work with by always treating your writing as a career.

Read a lot of books written for your target audience. Read the popular titles, the lesser-known titles, books by the big six publishers, small presses (like mine) and self-published titles. Determine what you think works well and what makes you cringe.

Please provide a favorite excerpt from your book.

This excerpt is special because it is when main character, Natalie, discovers the SAVE THE LEMMINGS! Foundation. She and Jayne (one of her three best friends,) are working in Natalie’s lab, trying to come up with a design for the case of Natalie’s Texty-Talky invention:

Excerpt from the copyrighted work Save the Lemmings:

“Cardboard and construction paper?” Natalie asked. She nudged Jayne’s hand away from the thigh it was scratching before picking up the dustcovers, folding them and putting them in a drawer alongside alphabetized CDs, anti-static clothes, banded, bagged and labeled USB cables, hand tools for emergency computer repair which Tamilla usually used, a hot glue gun, and a coil of wire.
“I think it needs to be sturdier. What’s that floor stuff?” Jayne asked as she typed in the search bar: yellow lemminant. She hit enter.
“Are you thinking of laminate?” Natalie asked.
“Oh yeah!” Jayne started to type again.
“Wait!” Natalie said. She reached forward and brushed Jayne’s hand away from the computer mouse, then directed the pointer to a search result: SAVE THE LEMMINGS! She clicked on it and the screen filled with a close-up shot of a Yellow Steppe Lemming. The caption read: Thousands of lemmings a year commit mass suicide during their migration. You can make a difference! Join SAVE THE LEMMINGS! today and help us fence the cliffs of the Arctic.
Natalie’s breath caught. “They’re so cute!”
Jayne snorted at her friend. “Are you serious? It looks like the pet hamster I had when I was seven!”
“Oh, I remember Fuzzy. He was such a cuddly-bun!” Natalie whined on key. “I can’t believe these adorable little creatures commit mass suicide. That is so sad.”
“Oh my gosh, you have tears in your eyes. Natalie, we’re working on your invention here. Don’t get distracted by the gross little rodent.”
“He’s not gross; he’s cute. Look at his whiskers and all the colors in his fur. Doesn’t his fur look soft? Oh, it’s so sad that they die.” Natalie gently rubbed the monitor in a petting motion with an anti-static dust cloth.
“You know what?” Jayne said, springing into action. “I’ll bookmark this page for you. You can come back to it later when I’m gone, okay?”
“Oh yeah, that’ll work,” Natalie said. “Don’t you think he’s cute?”
Jayne finished typing the correct spelling of laminate into the search bar and clicked the enter key. “No, I don’t.”

(End of excerpt)

Where can readers find you and your book?

Readers can read blurbs about my books, find buy links and downloadable documents and links to my published short stories on my website:
They can get Save the Lemmings through their local bookstore or they can order print and electronic copies at:

Thanks, Kathy, for letting me visit with you and your readers today! I appreciate it.

About Save the Lemmings: 8th grade inventor, Natalie Isabelle Cailean Edwards is the N.I.C.E. girl who finishes last with the kids in school. Sappy inspirational phrases and monochromatic outfits have all but her best friends wrinkling their nose at her. When Natalie’s invention, the Texty-Talky, goes nationwide, she becomes an overnight sensation. Suddenly her days consist of photo shoots and interviews with little time left for her friends. A local reporter shatters her good-girl image by reporting a graffiti incident and the media launches into a smear campaign. It is so bad, even her friends start to believe the stories. Will Natalie be able to overcome the lies being printed about her?

About the author: Kai Strand writes fiction for middle grade and young adult readers. Her debut novel, The Weaver, was a finalist in the 2012 EPIC eBook Awards. The Wishing Well: Another Weaver Tale is set in the same storytelling village as The Weaver. She is a (very lucky) wife and the mother of four amazing kids. The most common sound in her household is laughter. The second most common is, "Do your dishes!" She and her family hike, geocache, and canoe in beautiful Central Oregon, where they call home.

To find out more about Kai’s books, download companion documents, find links to her published short stories and discover all the places to find Kai both virtually and in person, visit her website: She loves to hear from readers, so feel free to send her an email or visit her facebook page, Kai Strand, Author. 

Thanks for visiting today, Kai! It's a joy working with you and I wish you lots of success!

--KSR Writer 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Meet Paranormal Author Margaret Millmore--THE BEGINNING: THE FOUR

If you love paranormal novels and especially love a series, then I'd like to introduce you to Margaret Millmore's story about the "Dark Ones," Volume 1 appropriately titled: THE BEGINNING: THE FOUR. Welcome, Margaret!

Tell us a little about your background and how you became an author.

I was born and raised in Southern California and moved to San Francisco in 1991. I currently reside there with my husband.  I am the grandniece of Irish author Benedict Kiely and the second cousin of Irish author Sharon Owens. I’ve always loved books of all kinds and hoped that one day I would have the time to sit down and write one (I’ve been making up stories since I was young, jotting them down and filing them away). When the opportunity arose for me to dedicate myself to writing full time, I jumped at it.

What is one of your favorite books and why?

Honestly, I don’t have just ‘one’ favorite. Stephen King’s Dark Tower series and his book The Stand are only equaled by Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes (and honestly almost all of the books these two have written could be squished into my top ‘five’ favorites….)

What inspired you to write this book series?

Oddly enough, I don’t actually recall what inspired this book (it started as just one very long book and my publisher asked me to split it up, thus it became a series). I can say that I drew on the dynamics of friendship that I’ve experienced throughout my life to develop my characters and their relationships, but other than that, it just sort of came to me one day. I’m a big fan of fiction and paranormal fiction is just fun stuff as far as I’m concerned and I have to admit I do love vampires and werewolves.

How would you describe your writing process?

I guess I would say its jumbled… the idea comes to me and I get started like a racehorse leaving the gate, but then things peter out and I have step away for a while. After a few days or even weeks the ideas begin to flow again and I make notes, write chapters and then piece it all together later, eventually a book is born.

What has proven to be your most successful marketing tool?

I’m not sure to be honest. I use as much social media as I can, I know that’s important and the way of the ‘new’ world. But I haven’t actually sat down and charted what’s working and what’s not.

What advice would you give to other authors?

It sounds like a cliché, but don’t give up! Write, re-write and do it all over again. It’s not easy, in fact it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it’s worth it.

Please provide a favorite excerpt from your book.

‘Kate came to first and said, “Are you saying they’re going to change into these monsters?” She looked horrified. He shook his head, “No Kate, they are not monsters and will not be monsters.”’

Where can readers find you and your book?

The Beginning on Amazon
Twitter: @MMillmore
Doppelganger-Experiment on Amazon

Thanks for visiting today, Margaret! I'm sure fans will be anxious for Book two to come out!

--KSR Writer

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Suspension of Disbelief in Writing: Guest Post by Madeleine McLaughlin

Today I'm pleased to have fellow Muse It Up author Madeleine McLaughlin return to my blog for a guest post on the logic (and importance) behind establishing a sound suspension of disbelief in writing. She is the author of the dark fiction novel THE MOUNTAIN CITY OF BRONZES. Welcome back, Madeleine!

One of the first lessons for any writer is to make the reader suspend disbelief. This is especially important if you're writing science fiction or fantasy fiction because in all cases there will be a lot of things happening that just aren't possible.

So you have to use logic and a good knowledge of human behaviour and reactions. If a character is in a house and someone scary is coming for them, the first question is: why don't they call someone? And so it is true in all genres. Why doesn't the man floating in hyper-thermal space call his friends for help?

It's important then to build the fiction world to answer this question. Maybe his hyper-thermal space communicator doesn't work or he lost it; it floated away. You can easily build this because the reader knows that in space there is no gravity. Logic plus the human making a mistake. The man in space will have to take the next logical step, even if there is a make-believe idea behind it. Like the extra hyper-thermal space devise that you've already introduced to the story, just so the reader will know the logic of what your character is doing.

In fantasy, all you need is magic for explanations of why something happens. How, will depend on your human characters, which all your readers will know about. If you have gnomes, for example, you will have to make up their traits so if something humanly illogical happens, they can always say, “It's because he is a gnome.”

Although these are simple, easy words—logic, psychology—It takes a lot of hard work to make an alternate world that will interest and hold the reader with all its twists and turns. Keep writing!

The Mountain City Bronzes continues to be enjoyed by 100% of those who read it. It is consistently given four or five star reviews by readers and the sales continue. Get in on the fun of horror.

Available from Amazon and Muse It Up Publishing.

Madeleine, you are absolutely correct--even in fantasy writing, everything that's done must be done for a logical reason. As long as authors understand the "rules" of the world they've created, then it makes it easier for their readers to follow along and believe those rules, too! Thanks for the great advice!

--KSR Writer