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