Author Spotlight: James L. Weaver

Name: James L. Weaver 

Author of: Poor Boy Road; Ares Road; Blackbird Road (Lakewater Press)

Jack & Diane

From: Olathe, Kansas (a suburb of Kansas City, a mere 250 miles from the geographic center of the United States)

 

Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing?

The first story of any real length was a handwritten tale of a monster versus a knight that I did for a high school English class – Sir (something or other) and the Gorgon, I believe it was called. I still have it in a box in the basement and it is pretty horrible. Maybe when I become a New York Times Best Selling author, I’ll auction it off for charity. Maybe. It’s pretty bad.  Though, I did get an “A” on the assignment!

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?

I’ve always had the thought it would be “fun” to be a writer. I’d written a lot of short stories and a couple of novels, and I tried to unsuccessfully land an agent. I didn’t really have an inkling that it could be a possibility until I finished the first draft of Poor Boy Road. I still didn’t have an agent, but I had a vision of a series featuring Jake Caldwell that might just get me to where I wanted to go. I still can’t quit my day job, but I’d love to be able to write full-time.

Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?

Number one above anyone else is Kate Foster at Lakewater Press. She’s the one who came to me and said she loved Poor Boy Road and wanted it. She guided me in carving and polishing that lump of stone into an award winning novel I’m very proud of. She’s a fantastic cheerleader and I’m so glad she took a chance on me.

Do you exclusively write crime thrillers or have you written in other genres?

I love crime thrillers, but I had an idea years ago about a coming of age love story between a boy and girl in Kansas City. I wrote the manuscript and went through the agent hunting process with no success. I let it sit in a drawer for a number of years and discovered it again when I was looking for tax records or something. After I read it again, I decided it was too good a story to just sit and rot in the bottom of a drawer. So, I polished and went agent hunting again. About that time, my mom was diagnosed with cancer with a bleak prognosis. She’d always encouraged my writing and I could think of nothing she’d love more than to have my book in her hands, so I decided to self-publish it. Unfortunately, the cancer was vicious and she died three months from diagnosis, so she never got to see it. It’s gotten great reviews and I’m proud of it. I have someone sniffing around for a movie option of it, so I reworked it and had professional editor Rebecca Carpenter work her magic on it. So, the new and improved Jack & Diane is now available on Amazon. It really is a sweet story and anyone who grew up around the 80’s will love the references.

What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance?

I have a full-time job, a great wife and two active teens involved in sports and other extracurricular activities. As such, I don’t really have a set schedule, but write when I can squeeze it in – most typically between 10 pm and midnight when everyone else goes to bed and a few hours squeezed in on the weekends. It really depends on what stage of the writing process I’m in and if I’m binge watching anything on Netflix or Amazon.

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions?

First draft has typically been about five to six months and then another month on the first round of revisions. It depends on how hung up I get on the plot. The plot for Poor Boy Road crystallized in my mind in a fifteen minute car ride. For my upcoming Jake Caldwell novel Blackbird Road, I got really hung up on a few of the plot points and it took me much longer to work through those road blocks.

Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?

The process has grown. With Poor Boy Road, I didn’t outline the book at all. I just wrote it because I had a clear line of sight of where I wanted it to go right from the get go. Ares Road was a more complex plot and I made it a little more than halfway through it before I realized I was confusing myself and mucking the story up. I sat down and plotted it out and the story flowed much better. Blackbird Road was even more complex with Jake going up against two different villains, each with their own plotlines and I got seriously locked up trying to work through things, even with a formal outline. The book Mastering Suspense, Structure and Plot by Jane Cleland really helped me burst through the roadblock and provided me with a different methodology to map out the entire book. I’d highly recommend the book and her process if this is something you struggle with.

Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)?

Not that I can think of. I’m a pretty regular, down to earth guy.

Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list?

My books are set in Kansas City and around Warsaw, Missouri which is a small town in Benton County around the Lake of the Ozarks. It’s an area where my dad and his family grew up and I spent a lot of time in the area as a kid. While I was writing Poor Boy Road, my dad and I hopped in the car and he drove me around the area and told me a lot of stories about the area and his life, some I’d heard and many I hadn’t. We hit the nice areas with sprawling ranches with pretty white fences, and some areas with trailers and houses in such shambles that you’d think they were abandoned until you saw someone moving about or laundry hanging on a clothesline. I don’t know if you’d call that a literary pilgrimage or not, but it spurred my writing and is one of my favorite memories with my dad.

Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects?

I had the character of Jake Caldwell mulling in my head for months, but couldn’t come up with the right setting to place a leg breaker for the mafia who wanted out.  When I traveled back to Warsaw for my grandmother’s funeral, the beautiful setting of the area mixed in with the seedier aspect of the county’s drug problem seemed a perfect setting to establish where Jake came from. The inspiration and the entire plot literally developed in the car ride from the cemetery back to my dad’s house.

Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites?

I love thrillers, but am evolving to other genres. There’s really three authors that I will immediately buy anything they write – Stephen King, Lee Child and John Sandford. Give me a good supernatural King tale, or an intense ride with Child’s Jack Reacher or Sandford’s Lucas Davenport and I’m on cloud nine. A few other authors that knock my socks off are John Hart, Jonathan Tropper and Fredrik Backman – my Lord can those guys write! They make me feel like a kindergartner with a crayon and a Big Chief tablet.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for? There’s some nuggets hidden in that only a select few will catch. The fun part is when they call you out on it.

Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life?

You can’t craft a character out of thin air that doesn’t take on some semblance of real people in your life. You pick a trait here and there from different people and mold them into a relatable character. As a tribute to friends and fans, a lot of the character last names in my books are based from real life people. The characters themselves are not, but people seem to get a kick out of seeing their name in print. The bad part comes when you have to kill off their “character”! I had two friends whose last names I used as FBI agents in Ares Road and they actually were arguing over a beer one night about which character was better. That was a really cool moment.

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure.

The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. It’s a teenage love story of vampires and werewolves, but Meyer wrote a really compelling tale. I read them all.

Be honest: Do you Google yourself?

Google myself? Maybe once a year. Check my reviews on Amazon or Goodreads? Probably twice a day.

Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with?

Scene setting. I think I’m really good with dialog, but setting a scene is sometimes a challenge. That’s why writers like King, Hart and Backman blow me away – their scenes are so incredibly vivid and I turn green with envy reading them. I’m working on it, though!

What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?

TRUTH. Find someone who will tell you what sucks and what they love (and they need to do both). Early on, I had beta readers who would hand a draft back and say “That was really good” and that was it. THAT DOESN’T HELP ME! I want someone to tell me they laughed out loud because something was so funny in one part and they laughed out loud at another point because a plot point was so ludicrous. Does it hurt to get that blunt feedback? Hell, yes! But, I’d rather have them tell me so I can fix it, than to have the novel rejected, or get a one star review on Amazon or Goodreads. Find someone who will tell you the truth!

What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author? MARKETING. Unless you have an agent who is going to do it for you, you’d better figure out a marketing plan. It’s taken me a while to get that through my thick head, but establishing a social media presence and marketing yourself will be key to your success. I still struggle with it, but am getting better. There’s so many great and unknown writers out there – how are you going to make your voice heard through the noise?

In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers?

I’m happy to talk with someone or give a critique of a sample of their work.

Want to know more about James?

  • Visit James at his website
  • Like his Facebook page
  • Follow James on Twitter
  • See what James is posting on Instagram
  • Check out what he’s reading–and writing–on Goodreads  (look for Jack & Diane, Poor Boy Road, Ares Road, and Blackbird Road as there’s a couple other authors by the same name whose books keep showing up on my profile)

 Poor Boy Road (Jake Caldwell, Book 1)

ONCE YOU START RUNNING, IT’S HARD TO STOP.

Mob enforcer, Jake Caldwell is in the dark business of breaking kneecaps and snapping bones. But each job sends him one step closer to turning into the man he swore he’d never become – his violent and abusive father. Leaving the mob is easier said than done, so when his boss offers a bloody way out, Jake has no choice but to take it, even if it means confronting ghosts of old.

Arriving in his Lake of the Ozarks hometown, Jake has two things on his mind: kill ruthless drug lord Shane Langston and bury his dying father. What he doesn’t expect is to fall in love all over again and team up with his best friend Bear, the Sheriff of Benton County, to take Langston down. Racing through the countryside searching for Langston, the web of murder, meth and kidnapping widens, all pointing toward a past Jake can’t escape and a place he never wanted to return – Poor Boy Road.
An AWARD FINALIST crime thriller! Book one in the Jake Caldwell series.

For fans of Jack Reacher and The Prey Series by John Sanford, this “great suspenseful read” is “more truth than fiction” that you won’t be able to put down

Get Poor Boy Road on Amazon or Barnes & Noble

 Ares Road (Jake Caldwell, Book 2)

With his days as a mob enforcer behind him, Jake Caldwell’s trying to go straight.

But it seems his past won’t let him go.

His first job working as a private investigator turns up a teenage girl screaming down a dead man’s cell phone, and Logan, his mentor and the only man with answers, beaten into a coma.

Now Jake’s taking it personally.

The only clues Jake has to unravel the mystery are a Russian with a stolen, silver briefcase and three names: Snell, Parley and Ares. Teaming up with his best friend Bear, the Sheriff of his home town, and an attractive FBI agent, Jake quickly discovers they’re not the only ones looking for the briefcase and its deadly contents.

It’s no longer about seeking revenge.

The “thrilling second book in the JAKE CALDWELL series” is a “heart-stopping ride” that won’t disappoint fans of Lee Child’s JACK REACHER and John Sandford’s THE PREY series.

Get Ares Road on Amazon or Barnes & Noble

 Blackbird Road (Jake Caldwell, Book 3)

With his wedding day fast approaching and his PI boss heading out of town, ex-mob enforcer Jake Caldwell decides to take one more job before a much needed vacation. But in a matter of days, his client is assassinated and her six-year-old son kidnapped.

With just a few clues, Jake calls on old friends to help track down the person responsible. Only this time his fiancée Maggie, desperate for Jake to leave his violent history behind, can’t guarantee she’ll be there when, or if, he comes home.

But Jake can’t turn his back on those who need him. It’s in his blood.

A perilous plot of lies and secrets unfolds, and Jake encounters criminals more brutal than ever. And when a threat to thousands of innocent lives is uncovered, Jake once again dives back into his past, requesting favors from some unexpected and unsavory contacts.

Jake needs to stay one step ahead of the bad guys if he’s to have any future at all.

The third book in the award-winning JAKE CALDWELL series is an intense, complex, and frantic race against time. Weaver has done it again in this raw and riveting read set in the Ozarks.

Get Blackbird Road on Amazon or Barnes & Noble

 Jack & Diane

When his best friend moves away, nine year old Jack Phipps is sure nobody can replace him in the house across the street…until Diane Riven moves in. Their friendship and romance takes us on the journey of their lives, to the sweet places where they learn to love and trust, and the dark corners where bullies terrorize and hearts break. It’s the coming of age story of a boy and girl who discover that together they can accomplish anything, but that even true love has its limits.

Get Jack & Diane on Amazon or Barnes & Noble

 

CTP Fall Book Sale & Giveaway

We’re one week away from Fall and CTP wants to celebrate with their Bring On Fall Free Book Sale and an Author Sponsored $50 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway! For one weekend only, they have selected a handful of titles throughout their different imprints that will be listed as free on Amazon from 9/14 to 9/16. This is a limited time promotion as the price will go back up to $4.99 on Monday. Take advantage of this exciting sale this weekend and Fall in love with some new books to cozy up with while you drink your Pumpkin Spice Latte, or tea, or wine, or whatever you love to sip on while reading. Enjoy!

FREE BOOKS AVAILABLE 9/14-9/16:

From YA to steamy romance, witches, queens and everything in between, there is sure to be something for everyone!

This group promo runs from 09/14/2018 to 09/16/2018 ONLY.

Some of the authors listed below are also offering Kindle Countdown Deals on their sequels, which means you can snag sequels or even a few series for the low, low price of $.99 each during this sale!

Get your Kindles ready, or download the Kindle App on your tablet or phone and prepare for an amazing FREE reading extravaganza!

HAPPY READING! LET’S BRING ON THE FALL Y’ALL!!!

Unspeakable - Michelle Pickett Vampires Rule - K.C. Blake The Woodlands - Lauren Nicolle Taylor

Skin And Bones - Susan HarrisResurgence - Sharonlee HolderThe Second Window - Erica Kiefer

Never Forgotten - Kelly RisserPrelude - Nely Cab

Queen of Someday - Sherry Ficklin

Minutes Before Sunset - Shannon A Thompson

Milayna - Michelle Pickett

Lady of Sherwood - Molly Bilinski

Dating An Alien Pop Star - Kendra L. Saunders

Dreamthief - Tamara Grantham

Extracted - Tyler H. Jolley & Sherry D. Ficklin

Crushed - Kasi Blake

Catalyst - Kristin Smith

Broken Fate - Jennifer Derrick

Bait - K.C. Blake

Aftermath - Sandy Goldsworthy

Bad Bloods - Shannon A Thompson

A Shine That Defies The Dark - Jodi Gallegos

 

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!

Enter to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card sponsored by our amazing authors!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Can’t see the Rafflecopter form? Click HERE to go straight to the form. Best of luck!

Bloodthorn - Tamara GranthamSpellweaver - Tamara GranthamRiven - Sherry Ficklin

Smoke And Mirrors - Susan HarrisCollateral Damage - Susan HarrisSilverwitch -Tamara Grantham

Afterlife - Sandy GoldsworthyNever Back Down - Susan HarrisNight Of The Hunter - Susan Harris

Aftershock - Sandy Goldsworthy

CoverThumb

Milayna's Angel - Michelle Pickett

The Innocent - Michelle PickettCreatura - Nely CabFinding Willow - Michelle Pickett

A Message For My Spammers

I’ve just devoted way too many minutes to cleaning up my comments and deleting spam. It’s a bit out of control.

I know, Spammers, you spend a lot of time trolling the interwebbie thing, and you hate for your work to be in vain. I thought I might offer you some tips so that your efforts can be better targeted and all the silly, mundane spam can quit being such a burden to both of us.

  • “Assess far on minuscule the flabbergast” doesn’t mean anything to me. Please consult your American translation dictionary and try again.
  • I do not read Russian.
  • Or any of the Asian languages.
  • Nor the Middle Eastern ones.
  • I’m neither located in Melbourne, nor do I own a car there, so I have no need for a car removal service in Melbourne.
  • Opening with “Howdy” doesn’t make the rest of your super-shady comment any less suspect!
  • I am not following that link.
  • There are far more educated people than I, who can make recommendations about plug-ins, web servers, etc
  • If you found duplicate information on my blog, it’s because I’m human, and forgetful, and probably have no idea what I blogged about a week ago.
  • I will not call you daddy.
  • Also, I will not spank you.
  • I am definitely not following that link
  • However miraculous that pill may be, it will not give me guaranteed penile growth. Mother Nature determined that in advance.
  • Posting the exact same comment to each and every one of my posts is just lazy, lacking in creativity and is the mark of a spammer who isn’t truly invested in his/her future with the spamming company
  • What can an online casino tell me about the topics I blog about (books, writing & parenting)?
  • I am by no means “truly a webmaster” and the “sheer velocity of the loading time” has more to do with your internet provider than anything I’ve done.
  • I don’t believe, based on your generic comment, that you really do think I made “good points”, that you’ve bookmarked my blog, or will be coming back frequently. (Nobody is that interested in a post about pink eye!).
  • And for the rookie spammer: You were supposed to copy & paste ONE of the spam comments. I don’t think you were intended to post all the possible variations of spam comments! I hope you’ve been fired for your lack of attention to this deplorable career path you’ve chosen.

And finally, why are you trying so hard to invade my pitiful web page? Don’t you have a country or multi-million-dollar corporation to topple? There’s much more glory there! Dream big, my Spammer friends.

Blog Tour: I Do Not Trust You by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz

 

Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz, authors of Sanctuary Bay and the Edgar-nominated mystery series Wright and Wong, are back with a story that features their signature plot twists and uneasy ever-changing alliances. I DO NOT TRUST YOU (Wednesday Books; September 11, 2018) is a thrilling journey at every turn that asks – what would you do to save the
ones you love?
Memphis “M” Engel is stubborn to a fault, graced with an almost absurd knowledge of long lost languages and cultures, and a heck of an opponent in a fight. In short: she’s awesome.
Ashwin “Ash” Sood is a little too posh for M’s tastes, a little too good looking, and has way too many secrets. He desperately wants the ancient map M inherited from her archeologist father, believing it will lead him to a relic with the power to destroy the world. M obviously can’t trust
him.
Equally desperate to find the relic for reasons of her own, M forms an uneasy partnership with Ash. From the catacombs of Paris, to a sacred forest in Norway, to the ruins of a submerged temple in Egypt, together they crisscross the globe in their search. But through it all, M can never be sure: Is she
traveling with a friend or enemy?

In their latest collaboration, Burns and Metz prove once again the magic that happens when two talented mystery authors work together. Going on M’s journey will have readers’ hearts race with every page. With its dangerous secrets and dark mythology, I DO NOT TRUST YOU is irresistible to any fan of YA thrillers.

Excerpt from I Do Not Trust You:

“You should’ve seen Miss Memphis here get into it with Nick last period,” Brianna said, squeezing in between M and Inez at their usual spot in the cafeteria. “She shut him down with her crazy ancient cultures voodoo.”

“He’s an ass. He’s lucky he’s hot,” their friend Ayana commented, waving her spork in Nick’s direction.

M shrugged. “I wouldn’t try to debate him in Physics. I just know more about Rome than he does.”

“What about AP Chem? Would you debate him in that?” Inez asked in a fake-serious voice. “Would you debate him in German class?”

“She’d debate him in German, in German,” Brianna joked. “And if he tried to fight back, she’d switch to Greek.”

M threw a French fry at her. “I can’t help it. I grew up speaking different languages.”

“And learning about pharaohs. And becoming well versed in the history of the Etruscan people,” Ayana said, putting on a fake accent that was probably supposed to be British. “Oh, and setting broken bones in the bush.”

“That only happened once,” M muttered. Her friends laughed.

“Anyway, it was epic. Thanks,” Brianna said. “I can’t stand fighting with people, and Nick always goes after me.”

“He knows you hate it,” M pointed out. “That’s why he does it.”

“An ass, like I said.” Ayana shrugged.

“You think he’s coming to the party tonight?” Brianna asked.

“Probably. Everyone else is,” Inez replied. “Even Memphis.” M made a face. “Anything to get out of the house. Bob and Liza would expect me to play board games with them otherwise.” Her friends exchanged a glance. M winced. “No offense.”

“Oh, were you offending someone?” Nick piped up from behind her. “Good girl.”

Immediately Bri looked down, while Ayana rolled her eyes. Inez just smirked, glancing back and forth between M and Nick.

“I was not offending anyone. I only meant I don’t like parties,” M said. She didn’t bother to turn toward him. It didn’t matter; he inserted himself onto the bench next to her anyway. A little tingle ran up her spine as the scent of his co- logne hit her nostrils, spicy and warm.

“Mmm, they’re boring. Everyone talking about the prom or the senior trip or whatever. I’m over it,” Nick said.

Me too, thought M, wishing she didn’t agree with him. She loved her friends, but even they were all about high school. M just didn’t care. High school was nothing more than what she had to get through before she could leave. After the crash, after the shock of Bob and Liza becoming her guardians, she’d asked if she could go off to college early, either Boston University or the University of Sheffield in England. Both had the kind of archeology program she wanted and would’ve let her in with no questions. They knew her father. They knew high school was a waste of time for someone like her.

But her guardians said no. They said she needed stabil- ity and normalcy after losing her dad. Never mind that traveling the world and taking care of herself was normal for her. While she and Dad technically lived in Boston, she’d never spent more than a few months there during the school year. They traveled. Half the year spent on digs. She missed it.

“What’s with this thing, anyway? Is it to fight off bad guys?” Nick teased, finding an excuse to touch her. He reached for M’s collapsible bo staff, tucked in the inside pocket of her jacket like always. But before he touched it, be- fore his flirty smile registered in her mind, M had already grabbed his hand, twisted it back to the breaking point, and used the pain to push him off the cafeteria bench and onto the floor. With her other hand, she whipped out the stick and shoved it up against his throat.

M froze. Hes just hitting on you. Her friends were aghast, and everyone nearby watched, openmouthed. Nick’s eyes were wide with panic.

“Sorry.” M stood up, leaving Nick on the floor. “I’m really sorry.”

“Freak,” he muttered, climbing to his feet. He glanced around, noticing the barely concealed laughter from onlook- ers. “Jeez, I just wanted a fry,” he joked, as if he hadn’t been humiliated, then hurried out of the cafeteria.

“What. The. Hell?” Inez asked. “He was flirting with you and you beat him up!”

“I know.” M groaned, shoving her staff back into her pocket. “I didn’t mean to. It was just reflex.”

Her friends were silent. She’d freaked them out. Should she explain the years of self-defense and martial arts training? That she and Dad ended up in some rough places? Her friends lived in a city, they understood danger. Sort of. In a nice, upscale Boston kind of way.

M sighed. There was no point in trying to explain. No- body understood her life.

“You kinda push all the guys away,” Brianna pointed out quietly. “Maybe not like that, but still . . .”

“I don’t do romance,” M replied. She was done with love, period. She’d loved her parents, and they were both gone. Love hurt too much. It was better to steer clear of it.

They all ate in silence for a minute.

“I mean, he is an ass,” Ayana said finally. And everybody laughed.

M: You up?

MIKE: It’s a 12 hr time difference. Of course I’m up.

M: Like you never sleep in on weekends.

MIKE: Fine, your text woke me.

M: I don’t think that glyph is a lotus. It’s bending the wrong way.

MIKE: It has to be a lotus. If it’s not, the whole phrase is wrong.

M: The rest of the phrase never sat well with Nefertum anyway.

MIKE: Your dad said it was a lotus.

 

About the Authors
LAURA J. BURNS and MELINDA METZ have written many books for teens and middle-grade readers, including Sanctuary
Bay, Crave, and Sacrifice, as well as the Edgar-nominated mystery series Wright and Wong. They have also written for
the TV shows ROSWELL, 1-800-MISSING, and THE DEAD ZONE. Laura lives in New York and Melinda lives in North
Carolina, but really they mostly live on email, where they do most of their work together.

Author Spotlight: Wendi Silvano

Name: Wendi Silvano

Author of: Turkey Trouble; Turkey Claus; Turkey Trick-or-Treat; Just One More; What Does The Wind Say?; Hey Diddle Riddle; Counting Coconuts. (Upcoming book: Turkey’s Eggstra-Special Easter, Two Lions Press, January, 2019)

From: I was born in Salt Lake City and grew up there. I lived for two years on the coast of Oregon at ages 7-8, and I lived in Peru for 18 months at 21-22. I have now lived in Grand Junction, CO for 19 years.

 

Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing?

I don’t remember for sure if it was the very first “story” I wrote once I decided to try and write a children’s picture book, but Just One More, was certainly one of the first. When I lived in Peru I was fascinated by the crazy bus rides I took (since drivers cram their buses as full as they can get them, and people bring animals of all sorts aboard). I knew that multicultural stories were something publishers were looking for and I thought I could make a funny book telling the tale of a young boy who is so crammed in he can’t get off the bus. Just One More ended up being my first published picture book (after 7 years of submitting and after 24 rejections).

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?

I was an elementary school teacher for 11 years, until my 3rd child was born. I quit teaching to stay at home with my kids. I didn’t really like so many of the domestic things stay-at-home mom’s often do (cooking, gardening, sewing, crafting, etc.). I started looking into how to write teacher resource books, as I thought that might be something I could do to earn a little money. The more I looked into that the more I realized that I really wanted to write fiction picture books. They were something I had always had a passion for reading… so why not help create what I loved to read most?

Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?

When I first began writing, I pretty much began on my own. As there was no internet to use, I checked books out of the library on “how to get published” and purchased a copy of the Children’s Writers and Illustrator’s Market Guide. I joined SCBWI, and began sending away to publishers for the author’s guidelines. Since I had three tiny children, I wasn’t really able to attend conferences often (I only went to one during the first five years of my writing career. I didn’t have a critique group or anything at that point, so SCBWI was probably my best source for help. However, once I moved to Grand Junction, I found a group of three other writers who became my critique group and their help was absolutely critical to improving my writing and helping me get published. Cherie Winner, Linda Armstrong and Penny Stine hold a very dear place in my heart. We laughed a lot, and learned a lot and I credit their help for my success. Years later, Diane Hower moved to town and revitalized the local SCBWI members (and we formed another critique group here in town which was amazing). There’s nothing more helpful than having a good critique group!

Do you exclusively write  picture books or have you written in other genres?

I write everything from ages 0 to about 8. (I think my brain quit growing after 3rd grade!). I have written board books, early readers, picture books and young chapter books. I have also had numerous stories in children’s magazines. (I have absolutely NO ideas for middle grade or YA novels). I have done considerable writing for the educational market, which has included writing reading passages that are used for standardized tests from Kindergarten to Grade 12 levels, and a number of teacher resource books for middle grades. I did the puzzles for the puzzle spreads in OWL Magazine for two years, and have done a variety of work-for-hire assignments of all sorts. I will try almost anything.

What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance?

I will admit that I go through cycles in my writing. There are times when I can write every day and be productive, and other times when my family has greater needs and I am lucky to get in any writing time for weeks. There are also times when I have a few hours to work on my writing and nothing comes out right. Those are the most frustrating days because my available time is so limited I hate to not be productive. I have learned that is just the nature of the process and I have to live with that. I do try to do something writing-related EVERY day. If I can’t write or revise something I try to research or send out queries, etc. I read, on average, 25-30 picture books per week. I request so many picture books from the library (that are shipped in from all over the area), that they have given me my own reserve shelf. I think there is nothing that helps more with my writing than reading the wonderful writing of others. It gives me a feel for what works and why. It generates new ideas and shows me new ways to structure or approach a story.

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions

Once I figure out what it is that I want my story to be, and know how I want to approach it the first draft usually doesn’t take long (maybe a few hours to a day or two). But, it can take me many tries at starting a story to figure out what execution might work. Once a draft is done and I start revisions it will usually be many, many months (or even years) of getting feedback, revising, putting it away for a while and getting it back out to take a fresh look, then revising again, over and over, before I feel a book is ready to go on submission. It’s crazy, but most of my books that have sold have taken at least a year to get “right”.

Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?

I have numerous notebooks full of possible ideas for picture books. When I choose one to start working on I might look for other picture books on similar topics/themes to see what is already out there. I brainstorm every idea, word or notion that comes to mind on the theme and try to think of a unique approach. If a book has science elements or some character that is an animal, I will, of course, get as many books from the library as I can find on the topic to learn more. I love reading other children’s books about a topic (i.e. the states of matter, hedgehogs, etc.) because they explain things so simply. It’s the easiest way to learn about something.

Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)?

I don’t know if it is quirky, but I find that every time I am sitting at the computer writing, I get a craving for gumdrops. I try to resist the temptation, but often cave and eat a few… just for inspiration!

Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list?

I haven’t gone on a trip specifically to do research for a story (although that sounds delightful!), but when our family went to Peru to visit relatives in 2008 I was taking good notes for future story ideas. We visited the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu (where a current story is set) and the Amazon Rain Forest (where several older stories have been set). Anywhere I go I am watching for inspiration for stories.

Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects?

Not so much an exact moment… more like a general time frame. As I said before, I have notebooks full of possible ideas. I might think of a title or character or plot idea and write it down, and then later work on it over time to see if a whole story comes of it. For example, I saw a facebook video or a person in a tyrannosaurus costume wearing a tutu and visiting some office somewhere. It gave me the idea for a character who is a tyrannosaurus who desperately wants to dance ballet, but struggles because she has those itty bitty arms that can’t reach the barre and clunky legs and a long tail that gets in the way. But it took some time after seeing the video before the story idea came around.

Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites?

Of course I read picture books by the hundreds (as that is my preferred genre, and there are SO many wonderful ones being published lately I could never choose a favorite. When I read adult stuff I find I tend to lean towards thrillers because they keep me from falling asleep as I read (or drive if I am listening).

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for?

I haven’t done that yet… but what an intriguing idea!

Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life?

Sometimes. In fact, my Turkey character was inspired by a “pet” turkey that a family had that I lived with for a time in Peru. This turkey acted just like one of the family dogs. He would come running when leftovers were scraped into the feeding trough, and would follow people around, wanting attention. I never knew turkeys had so much personality!

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.

There is a wordless picture book called The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher by Molly Bang. It has to be one of my all-time favorite picture books. It was published in 1996, and was actually a Caldecott Honor book, with truly incredible illustrations (the grandmother in the story is depicted in negative space… so clever and fun). However, I hardly ever hear anything about this book, or see it on recommended reading lists, or anywhere. Every child deserves to know about this book. My five children and I have received such delight in reading it.

Be honest: Do you Google yourself?

Once in a while. It’s sort of scary to see what comes up!

As a writer, which animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus?

A Llama or alpaca. I fell in love with them in Peru, and have a fascination for them now.

Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with?

Yes. I struggle with critiquing the work of other writers. I can tell you if a manuscript is working and if I like it, or if I feel like there’s something amiss, but I struggle to be able to put my finger on exactly what is right or wrong sometimes.

What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?

Be patient and persistent. Even great work can take a long time to get published. You have to hit the right editor or agent with the right thing at the right time. Keep learning how to better the craft and don’t give up!

What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author?

Do what you can to market your own work. Publishers often don’t do that much, and it is up to you to create a buzz.

In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers?

I love talking to aspiring writers. They are so enthusiastic and anxious to learn. I am the local area coordinator for the Western Slope Area of the Rocky Mountain Region of SCBWI. I help organize and coordinate writing “Connects” in our local area so writers have a chance to get together and learn from each other.

Want to know more about Wendi?

 

Turkey Trouble 

Turkey is in trouble. Bad trouble. The kind of trouble where it’s almost Thanksgiving… and you’re the main course. But Turkey has an idea- what if he doesn’t look like a turkey? What if he looks like another animal instead? After many hilarious attempts, Turkey comes up with the perfect disguise to make this Thanksgiving the best ever! This delightful book is a Children’s Choice Award winner!

Get Turkey Trouble from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

 

    Turkey Claus

Turkey is in trouble…again. He made it through Thanksgiving without becoming a turkey dinner, but now it’s almost Christmas, and guess what’s on the menu? Turkey decides the only thing to do is to ask Santa for help. He sets off for the North Pole, but getting in to see Santa on Christmas Eve isn’t as easy as Turkey expected. It’s going to take all his ideas- and his clever disguises- to find a way into Santa’s house. After many hilarious attempts, Turkey comes up with the perfect disguise, and Santa has the perfect solution!

Get Turkey Claus from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

 

Turkey Trick Or Treat

Everyone loves Halloween candy—even Turkey. But how can he and his barnyard friends get any when the farmers give it out only to children? With a costume, of course! As his pals look on, Turkey comes up with one clever costume after the next. Each trick gets better and better…but will Turkey and his friends end up with any treats? This hilarious companion to Turkey Trouble and Turkey Claus is filled to the brim with holiday fun.

Get Turkey Trick or Treat from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

 

Just One More

Hector doesn’t know what he’s in for when he climbs aboard a bus high up in the Andes Mountains. He watches in disbelief as the driver lets MORE people and MORE animals on the already swaying and bouncing bus until it’s ready to burst. “There’s no more room. This bus is packed.” said Hector. This bus is piled and stacked up to the roof and out the door!” But the bus driver hollered, “Just one more!” Come along with Hector as he learns a valuable lesson. There’s always room for just one more.

Get Just One More from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

What Does the Wind Say?

A rhyming picture book for 3-5 year-olds that poses playful questions about some of children’s favorite things, like the moon, clouds, frogs and raindrops. From whish-a-woo to peek-a-boo! the answers to the questions make for lively poetry. Warm, charming illustrations depict familiar scenes for little ones.

Get What Does the Wind Say? from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

 

Hey Diddle Riddle

Enhanced with gatefold flaps and bold illustrations, a silly book will challenge kids to guess the answers to simple riddles featuring the dish and the spoon, the three kittens, and other classic nursery rhyme characters.

Get Hey Diddle Riddle on Amazon

Counting Coconuts

Help! Monkey is hungry. But before he can eat his coconuts, he must find the fastest way to count them. A trio of tapirs, a slithering boa, an oh-so-slow sloth, and a wickedly wise jaguar are among the rainforest animals that suggest various counting methods. Learn to count by sets and help Monkey complete his comical, ever-changing, arithmetic task.

Get Counting Coconuts from Amazon

                                      

Book Blitz: Hiro Loves Kite by Lauren Nicolle Taylor

 

Hiro Loves Kite
Lauren Nicolle Taylor
(Paper Stars #2)
Published by: Clean Teen Publishing
Publication date: August 27th 2018
Genres: Historical, Young Adult

We offer our wounds and scars. Understanding that’s part of what makes us beautiful.

Nora finally has her beloved sister Frankie back but that’s just the beginning of their struggles. She must now become Kite. A stronger, more independent version of herself. A King. A guardian.

And Kettle has Kite’s heart. She gives it freely. But as he holds it, dear and close like a lost treasure, something holds him back: A feeling that he doesn’t deserve good things. A looming shadow that threatens to separate them. Kettle must accept that he is also Hiro: A Japanese American with every right to happiness and freedom.

Because Hiro loves Kite. And Kite won’t wait forever for him to tell her.

But they’re standing on icy ground. As the leverage they had on Kite’s abusive father wavers and life on the street affects Frankie’s health, the challenges threaten to break their bond.

Snow is gathering at the station doors and doubts are piling high. They must rely on each other. Believe in the magic that got them this far. If they don’t, it’s not just their future in jeopardy but the fates of all the street kids in their care. All the Kings.

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EXCERPT:

Frankie Comes Home…

Paying for a hot dog in pennies and dimes is embarrassing. Being two pennies short and having the hot dog stand guy take pity on us was completely humiliating. We’re skinny. I just hope the Kings haven’t eaten everything we had stored away.

Without Kin and Keeps, there’s been a little more to go around. My shoulders sag. Now there are more mouths to feed. My fingers scrape the insides of my pockets, searching for a coin that maybe got snagged in the seams. If I turn them inside out, I really will look like a street urchin. I’m the pirate who opens the treasure chest, finds he’s been beat, and opens it again just to rub it in. I snort.

We wait for a large crowd to head for the subway and melt in. Frankie’s eyes are as wide as a sliced moon as we weave and duck. Eyes on each other, hands gripped tightly.

Kite pushes Frankie’s head under the turnstile as I pay with our last coin. She presses her back into me. The smell of faint perfume, the last of her old life, and salt, the new, coming from her hair. As I reach around her to push the stile, a two for one, her breath catches. I let my hand rest on her waist for a second. Let myself imagine we’re a couple on our way home from a shopping trip, and then it falls like so many un-granted wishes into a fountain.

Leaning close to her ear so she can hear me, I hold my breath, thinking inhaling any more of her sweetness may actually kill me. “Ready?”

She nods. Her cheek brushing my lips.

We take our route to the secret door. To the home we now share like kids playing house, only far too real.

Frankie, to her credit, rolls with the punches. Punch one: Hot dogs instead of roast beef and gravy for dinner. Punch Two: Cheating our way through the subway. Punch Three… I knock on the King’s door, and Krow answers. He looks us up and down, slick and distrustful for a moment, then breaks into a grin. “Kettle! Kite!” he shouts. “Kettle and Kite are home.” He stares at my hands. When he sees there’s no food—only a suitcase—he quickly looks away. But there’s no hiding his disappointment.

Frankie squeezes her way through the doorway into the vast, abandoned subway tunnel. My home. My refuge. And now hers. Blinking, she stands on her tiptoes. Lip in teeth. “Holy hell!” she shouts, and several Kings look her way.

Kite flushes pink, then taps her sister’s shoulder. “Frankie!” she chastises. “Language.”

We step inside, and Frankie swings her head from side to side. “I mean tank you, holy hell.”

We both chuckle, eyes connecting over the top of her head.

Punch three: “This is where we’re going to be staying for a while,” Kite’s voice chases after a galloping Frankie as she jumps from bed to bed. She is the spokes of a traveling star. She is the light you can’t catch.

Frankie doesn’t hear her, and Kite runs to catch her sister. I drag the case inside, plonk it on Kin’s bed. Now Kite’s to share with her sister.

Finally, Frankie stops running and presses a palm to her chest as she wheezes. Kite rushes to her, and she puts both hands on her sister’s shoulders. “Are you okay?”

Punch four is for me, and I feel it sock me right in the guts. As I watch them, I know. Like really know that I would do anything to help them. They are instantly and permanently part of this family. And it scares me.

Author Bio:

Lauren is the bestselling author of THE WOODLANDS SERIES and the award-winning YA novel NORA & KETTLE (Gold medal Winner for Multicultural fiction, Independent Publishers Book Awards 2017).

She has a Health Science degree and an honors degree in Obstetrics and Gynecology. A full time writer, hapa and artist, Lauren lives in the tucked away, Adelaide hills with her husband and three children.

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Author Spotlight: Rebecca Carpenter

Name: Rebecca Carpenter  

Author of: The Metamorphosis Series: Butterfly Bones (Book 1), Butterfly Blood (Book 2, Available 8/28/18, Lakewater Press)

From: Fruita, Colorado

 

Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing?

I began writing as soon as I could form a sentence on paper. But the first piece that brought attention to my writing was a poem I wrote in the third grade entitled, “Love Is…” My poem won a contest, and I was placed in a creative writing course with other winners. That’s when I knew my words had power.

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?

I think I have always wanted to pursue writing as a profession, but until my kids were raised, I just didn’t have the time. But I didn’t begin with novels. After watching one-too-many poorly written movies, I told my husband I could write a better script than that, and so I did. I bought the software needed for screenwriting and went to town. My first two screenplays won Honorable Mention in the Colorado Screenplay Awards. But after realizing how hard it is to break into screenwriting, I decided to switch to novels.

Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?

My SCBWI critique group was amazing. And after I used a professional editor, she hooked me up with a local writer to help me learn the “craft” of writing. We have been weekly critique partners ever since, and she has taught me a wealth of writing tips.

Do you exclusively write young adult or have you written in other genres?

I write screenplays, drama and Rom-coms, and I also dabble in picture books and middle grade.

What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance?

I write any chance I can: at work during rest time for the children in my prekindergarten class; in the evenings after supper; early mornings on weekends, and sometimes all day in my pajamas on weekends.  It is quite difficult to balance my writing and family time. My husband complains often of my lack on involvement with him. So I try to shut off the computer and give him quality time as much as possible. This is a challenge when I work sixty hours a week, copyedit part time, and copyedit for Lakewater Press as well.

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions?

A first draft can take me anywhere from six months to a year, depending on how much time I have to devote to writing and how much research I have to perform.

Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?

I use a general plotline, as well as write my premise and goals for my point-of-view characters. I use characterization sheets in the beginning to make sure I stay true to facts and personality traits unique to each character. I typically research as it comes up in the script. This way I can be writing and putting my ideas onto paper as they come to me instead of finding myself bogged down in research.

Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)?

Not that I know of. I do have to be surrounded with noise, so I write in the front room with the television on. And if I talk to my hubby on occasion, I can usually get away with it.

Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list?

I wouldn’t call it a pilgrimage since I only traveled a few miles. But I visited our local butterfly house and asked lots of questions about raising butterflies and the laws surrounding that. Interesting to find out butterflies are categorized by the government as a pest, and special permits must be obtained to keep and breed them.

Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects?

Inspiration comes in spurts for me. Either feast or famine. So I’ll be flooded with fifty ideas, and I write them all down, or I can go months with nothing. But Butterfly Bones came from a song by The Cure, called “Caterpillar Girl.” It started as a horror, but ended up being a soft science fiction. Darn characters think they know the story better than the writer. J

Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites?

I love to read thrillers, but I also will read anything that’s well-written. Don’t care the genre. Since I work with children, I also love picture books.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for? I use family names as well lots of foreshadowing, but nothing all “cloak and daggery.”

Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life?

Sometimes, but not always. I try to give each one a distinct personality by drawing off people I know, but sometimes they are purely made up from my imagination.

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.

I loved Defending Jacob by William Landay. The twists and turns in that book and then the climax were so unexpected that I still think about them, even after years of reading the story. I hope to see it made into a major motion picture someday.

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure.

Twilight series.

Be honest: Do you Google yourself?

Nope. But my hubby does.

As a writer, which animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus?

A butterfly, of course.

Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with?

Promotion. Promotion. Promotion.

What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?

Never. Give. Up. Keep reading. Keep writing. Join a critique group.

What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author? It takes time to write the story, and it takes time to build your audience. Keep at it. Keep at it. Keep at it.

In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers?

I offer free critiques, Beta reading, and give as much advice as I can on my blog. I am always open for questions or general writing advice.

Do you want more information on Rebecca and her books?

 

 Butterfly Bones (Metamorphosis, Book 1)

HER BONES. HER FUTURE. HER SACRIFICE.

“I wish I was a normal fifteen-year-old. I have dreams that I am.”

Fifteen-year-old Bethany Keatley’s life is anything but perfect. Yet despite a rare bone disorder cursing her with the body of a ten year old, a dead mom, and being a target for the school bullies, things could be worse.

She owes her life to her scientist father and the butterfly hormone racing through her blood.

But the discovery of unexpected and horrifying side effects means her dreams of leaving the small-minded town of Springs, Georgia to become a scientist have all but shattered.

Her world becomes a prison and her existence a life sentence.

The only thing keeping Bethany fighting is her true love, football star Jeremiah Wright—if only he felt the same way. And now, with the clock ticking and her future uncertain, courage and the determination to survive must drive her decisions.

But nature has other plans, a sacrifice for Bethany’s life.

In this award-winning incredible debut, Rebecca Carpenter brings to life the “haunting and twisted story” of one girl and an ending that will blow your mind.

 

Get Butterfly Bones on Amazon or Barnes & Noble 

 

 

 Butterfly Blood (Metamorphosis, Book 2)

HER BLOOD. HER LOVE. HER FREEDOM.

“How many of my sins will have to be paid for in blood?”

Sixteen-year-old Bethany Keatley finally has the healthy body and looks she’s always desired. But the price she’s had to pay has left her traumatized.

The only thing making her battle on is the memory of that kiss with Jeremiah.

Now miles from him and living in Florida with an aunt she’s never met, shocking revelations about her parents are too much to bear. After collapsing from exhaustion and shock, Bethany wakes in a hospital bed awaiting test results—results that might lead to the discovery of her unusual butterfly blood.

But that’s the least of Bethany’s concerns when the doctor informs her she’s infected with a parasite and without immediate treatment she’ll die.

Too young to refuse and too weak to fight back, Bethany’s life once again hangs in the balance. Yet her scientific knowledge and suspicious nature lead her to unravel a horrifying web of lies.

Will nature intervene again, demanding another payment?

In this stunning sequel to the award-winning BUTTERFLY BONES, Rebecca Carpenter raises the stakes and offers up an intense and heartbreaking ride that will leave you shocked to the core.

 

Get Butterfly Blood from Amazon or Barnes & Noble 

Book Review: Sadie by Courtney Summers

My first thought about Sadie was “DAMN!” That’s it. That is, quite literally, the only word I could find that effectively describe what I felt when I finished the book.

This book quickly shot to the top of my favorite reads list!

Sadie, by Courtney Summers, is an intense novel about love and vengeance.

“And it begins, as so many stories do, with a dead girl.”

Sadie lived a hard life. At the age of six, when she held her baby sister Mattie in her arms, Sadie felt her purpose in life: to love and protect Mattie. Sadie survived her hard-partying, emotionally manipulative mom and the succession of men that she brought home. She also endured verbal and sexual abuse at the hands of some of those men. But, as long as Mattie was happy and safe, Sadie felt a sense of accomplishment, pride in a purpose higher than herself. When their mom left town without a word Sadie assumed responsibility for raising Mattie

Then, a passerby found thirteen-year-old Mattie’s lifeless body in a field. The police have failed to find her killer and now, Sadie has gone missing.

Sadie is determined to avenge her sister. Armed with few clues, she follows a series of isolated roads through anonymous towns looking for the man who killed Mattie.

West McCray is a podcaster working on a series about the decline of small-towns in America. He was filming a segment for his show when he heard about Mattie’s death. A year later he receives a call that the girl’s sister Sadie has also disappeared. The only clues are a missing photo and the girl’s abandoned car. West, initially hesitant, begins an urgent search for Sadie in the hopes of finding her before it’s too late.

Sadie is told in alternating viewpoints. Sadie’s experience is raw as she journeys through a series of small towns, and is off set with a professional, detached reporting style in the transcripts of West McCray’s episodic podcast, The Girls.

Courtney Summers’s writing propelled me through the pages. Even as my heart splintered, and my stomach sickened at what has happened to this girl, I kept turning the pages to see what other revelations awaited me. Be forewarned, this book deals with some deep, dark issues (for those who prefer trigger warnings, the topics are sexual assault, rape, pedophilia, abuse, and assault). However, I was completely submersed in this book, and my mind is just blown!! Highly recommended.

*I received an ARC of Sadie from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Get SADIE from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

Author Spotlight: Tiffany Brownlee

Name: Tiffany Brownlee  

Novel: Wrong in All The Right Ways (Macmillan)

 

Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing? 

The first story I ever remember writing was when I was in the second grade. It was something about a taco pocket (a common food that we ate in the cafeteria) and how it didn’t want to be eaten so it ran away from the table. Much of my writing from when I was a child had to do with food, which I find hilarious.

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?

I’ve wanted to be an author since I was in grade school, but it wasn’t until I was in high school that I began to think about writing professionally. My good friend, Brad, and I would daydream about becoming professional writers and we’d trade off stories. But then, senior year happened, and I realized that I needed to get serious about college. So, I put my dreams away until after I graduated college, and when I picked writing back up, the first novel I wrote, which landed me an agent and ultimately a book deal, was Wrong in All the Right Ways.

Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?

Yes! Once I got my book deal, I joined a group called the Electric Eighteens. It’s a group of debut authors who have novels coming out in the year 2018. This group, collectively, has been so helpful on my journey to publication. Anytime I had a question about something—be it book swag, author events, the struggle of writing book 2, etc.—they’ve been there to advise me. My agent and editor have been really helpful and supportive as well, and without either of them, I’d be so lost. So, I’ve kind of gotten advice and support from a number of people during my journey; I can’t say give all the credit to one person.

Do you exclusively write contemporary YA (young adult) or have you written in other genres?

So far, I’ve only written in the YA romance genre. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a good romance—or “kissing books” as I sometimes call them. However, I have written pieces of novels in other genres, but I have yet to figure out how to write a good action scene. Maybe one of these days, I’ll figure it out and pick up one of the half-written novels I’ve started and work on finishing it.

What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance?

I’m an English teacher, so for most of the year, my focus is on making sure I can deliver high-quality lessons to my students, and unfortunately for me, that makes it difficult for me to get an adequate amount of writing done. However, whenever I’m on vacation from school (especially summer vacation) and I get the opportunity to I write for extended periods of time, I crank out

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions?

When I wrote Wrong in All the Right Ways, it only took my twenty days to write the first draft of that novel, and maybe three months on revisions before I began to query for an agent. I’m not sure how I did it, and I wish I could go back in time and write down my exact process because now that I have one novel out already, I feel so much pressure to repeat, and because of that it’s become more and more difficult to finish the first draft of my next novel. It’s getting there, though.

Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?

When it comes to preparation for writing a novel, I’m definitely a plotter. I love making outlines for the entire project before I begin writing. This helps me reveal every possible twist and turn, so I can write with those things in mind. For the most part, I try to stick to my outlines, but occasionally, I’ll get an idea in my head that throws the outline off a little bit, but I always know that it won’t be long until I’m back on track with the way I’ve planned the novel to go.

Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)?

 I’m kind of an open book, so I don’t have anything I wouldn’t want anyone to know, but one of my habits is that I listen to Disney songs while I write. And I’m talking all kinds of Disney music—from the animated films, DCOM soundtracks (High School Musical is my personal favorite), and even from albums that past and present Disney stars have put out (Hilary Duff, Bridget Mendler, Miley Cyrus, etc.). I don’t know, there’s just something about Disney songs that put me in the mood to write.

Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list?

I wouldn’t say that I do any interesting research to write a novel because a lot of what I write is pulled from my own life experiences. When I do research something, it’ll be to fact-check something medical-related or get a little more information about the setting that I’ve chosen for the novel. Surprisingly, what I spend most of my research time on are names of characters. I will scour through baby name websites for days until I find the perfect one.

Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects?

My inspiration for Wrong in All the Right Ways came when I reread Wuthering Heights a few months after I graduated college. But today, most of my inspiration comes from interacting with my students at school. They’re middle schoolers so they have plenty of daily drama for me to draw inspiration from.

Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites?

I love anything in the YA contemporary or YA romance categories. Reading those books remind me of when I was a teenager and was experiencing love and meaningful friendships for the first time. Some of my favorite novels are Jenny Hans To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series and anything by John Green. Occasionally I’ll try a YA fantasy, but it’s not really my style so it takes a very interesting premise for me to pick up a YA fantasy novel.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for?

Yes, there are some secrets that only a few people will know about, such as my first kiss, that made it into the novel. There are two instances where I wrote about first kisses in the novel, and I’ve told readers that my first kiss is written in there, so readers will have to guess which one is from my life. But unless I or the guy it happened with spills the beans, no one will ever know which one is the real one.

Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life?

Some of the characters are inspired by people in my real life, but one in particular is a mash-up of people I’ve met across my lifetime, and that character is Karmin Ortega. Karmin is Emma’s best friend in the novel, and she was inspired from every best friend I’ve ever had in my life. When I was younger, my dad was in the military and we moved around more than I would have liked to. Because we moved so frequently, I was never able to keep a best friend for very long. 

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure.

I have two, actually. One is the book Holes by Louis Sachar, and the other is the Delirium series by Lauren Oliver. Holes is a book that made me fall in love with reading at a young age, and the Delirium series was one of the first book series I read when I just started getting into the YA dystopian genre. I will never get tired of reading those books.

Be honest: Do you Google yourself?

I used to Google myself a lot more prior to publication, just to see what people are saying, but I’ve tried to stay away from that because it gives me anxiety. I don’t want to know what people are saying about me or about my book, so I’ve stopped. Maybe one day, I’ll resume Googling myself, but today is not that day (haha).

As a writer, which animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus?

My patronus is some kind of rodent (a possum or a ferret or something along those lines), and I don’t think that fits me very well, so I like to think that my mascot would be a dolphin or something fun like that. They’re so playful, which is SO me.

Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with?

I feel like I should be better at writing authentic dialogue, but I find it difficult to do sometimes, especially when I’m attempting to write dialogue for a male character. I’m always second-guessing myself, like “is this what a guy would say?” Usually, I seek advice from my boyfriend or brother when I start to feel self-conscious about the authenticity of my male characters’ dialogue.

What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?

1) Don’t give up! And 2) do your research before deciding to get into the publishing business. There are a number of different routes that aspiring writers can take to publish their novel—self-publishing/traditional publishing, small press/large press, etc.—so be sure to do your research and choose the path that works best for you.

What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author?

Here’s the greatest advice I can give any newly published author: Whatever you do, do not check your book reviews on Goodreads. I wish someone had told me this earlier, but I fell in the Goodreads trap early on my journey to publication. I think ignorance is bliss when it comes to reviews. I don’t want to know how many people are reading it, and I don’t want to know what they think about it. The second you realize you have a one- or two-start review, you’re going to start doubting yourself, and enough self-doubt can really hurt your future. So, one more time for the people in the back row: DO NOT CHECK YOUR BOOK REVIEWS ON GOODREADS! You’ll thank me later 🙂

In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers?

I try to help other aspiring authors by giving them as much advice as possible about what I learned from my journey to publication. Aspiring writers are always looking for advice on querying/publication do’s and don’t’s from an experienced author, and I try to help them out any chance I get. I’ve gotten messages from writers asking about my process and what they should do, and I don’t mind answering questions or telling them how I did it, but I always give them the disclaimer that just because I did things a certain way doesn’t mean that they have to do the same. Every author has a different publishing experience and they should choose the route that works best for them.

Would you like to know more about Tiffany?

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Wrong In All The Right Ways

An attraction between foster siblings sets fire to forbidden love in this contemporary reimagining of Wuthering Heights.

Emma’s life has always gone according to her very careful plans. But things take a turn toward the unexpected when she falls in love for the first time with the one person in the world who’s off-limits: her new foster brother, the gorgeous and tormented Dylan McAndrews.

Meanwhile, Emma’s AP English class is reading Wuthering Heights, and she’s been assigned to echo Emily Bronte’s style in an epistolary format. With irrepressible feelings and no one to confide in, she’s got a lot to write about. Distraught by the escalating intensity of their mutual attraction, Emma and Dylan try to constrain their romance to the page―for fear of threatening Dylan’s chances at being adopted into a loving home. But the strength of first love is all-consuming, and they soon get enveloped in a passionate, secretive relationship with a very uncertain outcome.

Tiffany Brownlee’s Wrong in All the Right Ways marks the exciting debut of a fresh voice in contemporary teen fiction.

 

Get Wrong In All The Right Ways from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or IndieBound

 

 

Book Review: Butterfly Blood by Rebecca Carpenter

“Nature demands payment. And nature demands balance.”

With the events of Butterfly Bones barely behind her, Bethany Keatley has just begun to settle into her new life when mother nature rears her ugly head again.

Cured of her bone disease and still reeling from her father’s last act, Bethany is now living with her aunt Denise in Florida and trying to adjust to a “normal” life. But the secrets from her past are threatening to rise up and destroy her chance for a new life.

First Bethany discovers a dark truth about her father. And then her miraculous cure, provided by the butterfly DNA that now courses through her veins, may actually prove fatal. But is the danger in the cure, or in the doctors who seem far too invested in studying her further?

In a parallel story line, Jeremiah is also dealing with the events of that last night at the Keatley house. He is not only grieving Bethany, but with losing everything he knows about himself. And there’s also that dark monster in the corner of his mind that’s demanding to be set free.

Butterfly Blood (book 2 in the Metamorphosis series) is an intense, action and emotion packed follow up to a truly unique novel and I couldn’t out it down.

 

*I received a copy of Butterfly Blood from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Butterfly Blood (Metamorphosis, Book 2) 

HER BLOOD. HER LOVE. HER FREEDOM.

“How many of my sins will have to be paid for in blood?”

Sixteen-year-old Bethany Keatley finally has the healthy body and looks she’s always desired. But the price she’s had to pay has left her traumatized.

The only thing making her battle on is the memory of that kiss with Jeremiah.

Now miles from him and living in Florida with an aunt she’s never met, shocking revelations about her parents are too much to bear. After collapsing from exhaustion and shock, Bethany wakes in a hospital bed awaiting test results—results that might lead to the discovery of her unusual butterfly blood.

But that’s the least of Bethany’s concerns when the doctor informs her she’s infected with a parasite and without immediate treatment she’ll die.

Too young to refuse and too weak to fight back, Bethany’s life once again hangs in the balance. Yet her scientific knowledge and suspicious nature lead her to unravel a horrifying web of lies.

Will nature intervene again, demanding another payment?

In this stunning sequel to the award-winning BUTTERFLY BONES, Rebecca Carpenter raises the stakes and offers up an intense and heartbreaking ride that will leave you shocked to the core.

Get Butterfly Blood from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble

 

About Rebecca Carpenter

Rebecca Carpenter is a native of western Colorado. She is married with two grown children and has been blessed with five amazing grandchildren. She owns and directs a large childcare center where she shares her love for books. She also works as a part time freelance copy editor and interns as an assistant to the editor for a small press, helping others attain their writing dreams.