Author Spotlight: Sonia Hartl



Name: Sonia Hartl

Author of: Have a Little Faith in Me (Coming from Page Street, Fall 2019)

From: Grand Rapids, MI


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

The first thing I wrote was a book about penguins in the first grade for a school project, but I began writing more frequently in junior high, mostly poetry and short ghost stories.

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

It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I started out majoring in creative writing in college and had a huge stash of poetry and short stories I’d written over the years. I didn’t write my first novel until 2005 though (I was 25) because a lot of fear and self-doubt kept me back. My first novel started as a short story, but it begged to be longer, and one day I just sat down and forced myself to try.

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

So many people. The writing community is amazingly supportive and helpful to newer writers just starting to find their way. Dannie Morin picked my manuscript for Pitch Wars in 2013 and changed everything for me. She taught me so much about plot, character arcs, organic dialogue, evocative narrative, all the things I needed to take my writing to the next level. I also met my long-time CP Jen Hawkins on the Pitch Wars Twitter feed while we were both hopefuls and she has been a constant source of support and wisdom over the years. And my agent Rebecca Podos is the best. She’s always encouraged me while pushing my writing to the next level, she’s truly my partner in this business in every sense of the word.

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

I mostly write contemporary YA, but I’ve written in a few other genres and categories. My first manuscript was an adult dystopian, my second a YA ghost story, my third a NA romantic suspense, fourth and fifth were YA contemporary, sixth was a YA mystery, and seventh was HAVE A LITTLE FAITH IN ME, which is a YA contemporary.

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

When I’m drafting I try to squeeze at least two hours of writing time in a night, and if I’m really into what I’m drafting, I’ll write up to ten hours a day on the weekend. The work, life, write balance is tricky, but I’m fortunate to work at a job that gives me a reasonable amount of vacation and my family is really supportive. Most of my writing time is crammed into the two hours I have free at the end of the night though, usually from ten to midnight.

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

That varies so widely from manuscript to manuscript. I had one take six months to draft and a year and a half to revise, and I had another that took a week to draft and two weeks to revise. Both of those are the exceptions though. I’d say average, it takes me about one to two months to draft and about two to three months to revise.

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

It definitely depends on how knowledgeable I am about the story I’m going to tell. I’m a big fan of immersive settings that tend to have their own set of rules and norms, so that requires a certain amount of research to write well. I’ve done everything from spending hours reading blogs on certain subjects, to hiring experts to read over my manuscripts for accuracy.

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

I don’t know if this is quirky or not, but I have dozens of first chapters for different stories in my Dropbox. I’ll sometimes write five first chapters for five different premises before I find one I want to progress to chapter two with.

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

No, but I’d love to have an excuse to visit Ireland or Italy. I did set one manuscript on a remote island off the coast of Boston, and I’ve been to Boston, but I’m not sure if that counts. I’d really love to visit a small town with a quirky festival that the whole town puts their hearts into and write a story based on that.

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

A lot of my inspiration comes from things I’m feeling strongly about at a particular time. I tend to create stories based around settings I’m curious about or obsessed with researching, and pair them with themes I’m passionate about diving into and subverting. I wouldn’t say there is an exact moment I’m hit with inspiration, but it’s more a slow growing interest that I need to write when I get to the point where I can’t stop thinking about it

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

I mostly read YA contemporary, because that’s what I write, but I’m also a huge fan of YA thrillers/mysteries. I also occasionally enjoy contemporary fantasy, romance, and sci-fi, and historical. I’ll read across all genres and categories, as long as it’s a good story and can hold my attention.

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

Absolutely. I think all writers do.

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

No, all my characters exist solely in my head.

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.

LUCKY FEW by Kathryn Ormsbee is so criminally underappreciated. It was such a fun, warm contemporary, and it’s one of those books that just makes you feel happy while reading it.

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure.

I’d say maybe any book in Nora Roberts’ trilogies, but I don’t feel guilty about it, lol.

Be honest: Do you Google yourself?

Not right now, there probably isn’t much to Google, but I might after my book is released. Just out of curiosity.

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

Probably a penguin, for no other reason than I really like them.

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

Pacing. I’m constantly second-guessing and doubting my plot points and if they have enough impact to keep the reader turning the pages.

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

Keep going. It feels like the climb is so uphill and the odds are so long, but if you keep going, keep learning, and improving your craft, you will get where you need to be in your own time.

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

I’m in the same boat, but maybe try to enjoy the ride. There is a lot about publishing that is completely out of our hands, so try to enjoy the things you can control.

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

I would say the biggest way is being a Pitch Wars mentor. I’ve been a mentor since 2015, and it is absolutely the most rewarding way to give back to the writing community. As a former mentee, I know how much it meant to me to be given the opportunity to learn from someone who was a few steps ahead of me on the journey. Being able to do that for someone else means the world to me.

Would you like to find out more about Sonia?


Have a Little Faith in Me

(Coming Fall 2019 from Page Street)

When CeCe’s born-again boyfriend dumps her after they have sex, she follows him to Jesus camp to win him back, though she knows nothing about Christianity. But when he shows up with a new girlfriend—a True Believer—she must face the truth about her feelings, and about the night she lost her virginity. Publication is set for fall 2019

Add Have  A Little Faith in Me to your Goodreads list  

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August #Giveaway: Win 1 of 20 free critiques

(*Updated to reflect additional critiques)

My birthday is this month and I’ve decided to give, give, give! (Oh, and I asked some of my friends to help me give)

For my August giveaway I’ve decided to gear it toward those of you out there who are still writing away, editing and polishing your manuscripts, obsessively revising your query letters, and dreaming of the day your efforts are rewarded. That’s right, authors, this one is for you.

At the end of  the month 21(!) free critiques will be given away.

So, what do you do to enter? Click on the Rafflecopter link and follow the prompts. And yes, there are a lot of Twitter profiles that you can follow, but there were a lot of generous authors who volunteered their time to help out, so please show them some love.

Details (and the Rafflecopter link) are below. Best of luck to everyone.













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Book Release: Searching (The Fading Series, Book 2) by Cindy Cipriano

Cindy Cipriano
(The Fading Series, #2)
Published by: Clean Teen Publishing
Publication date: July 20th 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

A fast-paced fantasy romance with rich characters and immersive storytelling,Searching is the second book in theFading series by award-winning author Cindy Cipriano.

To say Leath is traveling light is an understatement. She’s only bringing three things on her trip. One is a silver heart locket—a gift from her longtime best-friend-turned-boyfriend Victor Santana. Next is a wedding token in the shape of a J, from James Turner. And of course, she’s packing her pistol. That’s it. She knows that when she leaves Woodvine, even her own mother may not remember her in the shifted reality that will be left behind. Bringing anything else would be pointless. But she’s driven now, by something that eclipses everything else, something she just got back: her memories. And now that she remembers James—she won’t stop searching until she finds him.

Goodreads / Amazon


One-liner for Searching?
How far would you search for The One?

More details?
Leath is packing light: just her two lockets (one from Victor, one from James) – and of course, her pistol. She knows that when she leaves Woodvine, even her own mother may not remember her in the shifted reality that will be left behind. But she’s driven by something that eclipses everything else: her recovered memories. Now that she remembers James—she won’t stop searching until she finds him.

Where did the idea come from for Searching?
Searching is the second book in The Fading Series. Searching takes up immediately where Fading left off, just as Leath puts her foot down inside Judaculla.

What genre is Searching?
Young adult.
But – the entire series crosses genres. It’s a paranormal, dystopian, young adult romance mash-up. Searching is also a crossover, appealing to young adults and up.

Who would enjoy reading Searching?
Fans of Fading who are waiting to find out if it’s Victor or James.

And, anyone who has ever been in love with two people at the same time.

Favorite lines from Searching:

  1. I wanted to touch him. So I did. (pg. 1)
  2. The first time I held hands with Victor Santana, it wasn’t romantic. Not at all. (pg. 3)
  3. Victor’s strong hand cradled mine, and he became my tether to reality. (pg. 3)
  4. His warm lips brushed against my ear as he whispered three little words. “I can wait.” (pg. 6)
  5. Name James Turner. Age 17. Parents Emancipated Minor. (pgs. 10-11)
  6. “I don’t usually get this close to a girl, unless I’m going to kiss her,” said the boy, giving me a playful grin. (pg. 23)
  7. When we were apart, it seemed as if all of eternity passed before I saw him again. (pg. 110)
  8. To one boy, I’d gladly give my heart. To the other, my life. (pg. 130)
  9. I wondered how long a person could live like this, so completely torn in half. (pg. 130)
  10. She could have any boy in the restaurant. Why was she falling all over mine? (pg. 147)
  11. But right now I had him. The boy of my dreams. (pg. 174)
  12. “I will never stop loving you,” he said. “Not even in death.” (pg. 268)

James is sort of a two-sides-to-one-coin kind of guy. Was it difficult writing his character?
Definitely, but so worth it!
He’s drop-dead gorgeous and funny, but he hovers over dark territory. It was a challenge writing him because I wanted my readers to see what Leath sees in James. In Searching, fans will see just how deep James’s feelings for Leath go.

And Leath’s other love interest, Victor, was it hard to write him?
Not a bit.
*sighs again*
Victor is the definition of the perfect guy. He’s good-looking, funny, confident and charismatic. Not to mention he has an exceptionally beautiful heart.

Who is your favorite character in Searching?
Ever continues to be my favorite character. She’s the girl you love to hate. I think we’re all hoping that in the end, she’ll do the right thing. The problem is we lose a faith in her each time she opens her mouth. As I continue writing the series, I’m currently working on book three and James is fast becoming a close second to Ever as my favorite character. I think readers will enjoy watching James’s growth from Fading to Searching to where I am now in writing the series.

Who designed the cover of Searching?
The talented Marya Heidel. Isn’t it stunning?!

How many books are in the Searching series? There will be at least 4 books in the series.

How can readers keep up with you and the Fading series?
Anything and everything about The Fading Series can be found at Clean Teen Publishing or


Author Bio:

Cindy Cipriano lives in North Carolina with her husband, son and their 27 pets.

Not really.

Just three dogs who think they are children and three cats who think they are raccoons. It only seems as if they make 27. When Cindy isn’t writing, she enjoys spending time with her family and the avoidance of cooking.

Cindy’s first novel, The Circle, Book One of The Sidhe won the 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Silver Award for Pre-Teen Fiction – Fantasy. Other titles in the series include The Choice, Book Two of The Sidhe (2015) and The Lost, Book Three of The Sidhe (2017). This seven-book series is published by Odyssey Books.

Miller’s Island Mysteries #1 The Case of the Toxic River (2017) is the first in her eleven-book science mystery series (Vulpine Press). #2 The Case of the Catalyst will release in 2018.

Look for Fading, the first in her young adult series, in April 2018. (Clean Teen Publishing). Fading is the tale of first loves and the consequence of dreaming up Mr. Right.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter


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Author Spotlight: Susan Harris

Name: Susan Harris

Author of: Shattered Memories; Jessie’s Girl; The Ever Chase Chronicles (Skin and Bones; Collateral Damage; Smoke and Mirrors; Night of the Hunter and Never Back Down)

From: Cork Ireland


Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing? I used to write a lot of poetry as a child and make up short stories. I wrote a poem for a local newsletter about my dad and how awesome he is!

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession? I’ve always wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. When I realized that acting, my other love, wasn’t meant for me, I continued to write despite not knowing if anyone would read them!

Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?  When Shattered Memories was selected to be published by the amazing Clean Teen Publishing, I met a wonderful person called Melanie Newton  or(NerdGirlVamp or Melanie’s Muses as she is also known) who has become one of my closest friends. She kicks my ass when I doubt myself, tells me straight out if an idea will work and is basically just an all round amazing person.  She has helped me out so many times and I feel truly blessed to call her a  friend.

Do you exclusively write paranormal romance/crime novels or have you written in other genres? I love paranormal books but I do go off when the story takes me there! Shattered Memories is a YA Dystopian and Jessie’s Girl is contemporary romance. I am currently working on a book that could be classed as Fantasy and Romance …I like to think I am open to writing anything, if inspiration hits.

What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance? Juggling a work life balance is extremely hard. I work full time, write as much as I can and sometimes venture out of the writing cave to do some fun things! I hate when I get into the flow of a story and have to table it to do non fun stuff like pay bills and socialize lol

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions? It takes me about three to four months to get the first draft done and then go over for revisions. Once the first draft is done, I tend to send it to my trusty beta reader who is way better at spotting my errors than I am.

 Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?  It does depend on the book. For the Ever Chace Chronicles, I did an online course in Criminal Psychology so that I could write true about profiling and the likes. I want it to be realistic even if the supernatural aspect isn’t. I spend hours creating playlists as music plays a very crucial part of my writing process. I’m also a very big outliner and spend a lot of time planning and preparing for each chapter…that is until one of the characters misbehaves and completely changes my entire story!

Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)? I don’t think so! I know I use the same kind of pens and notebooks for each story I outline, but then again, I do have OCD so the quirks I have are just really all me lol

Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list? Yes actually I have. Last year, while writing Night of the Hunter I went to Paris for a couple of days by myself. It was m=one of the best experiences of my life. I went to the catacombs, and Pére Lachaise Cemetery. All of those amazing places were written into the book and make it so much better than I could have imagined.

Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects?  With The Ever Chace Chronicles, I had been toying with an idea for a while and one night, I was watching Criminal Minds and suddenly thought, what would Hotch be like if he were a werewolf? And the Character of Derek Doyle was created!

Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites? I love paranormal romance and fantasy. I am a big fan of J.R Ward, Laurel K Hamilton, Nalini Singh, Sarah J Maas, Darynda Jones, Rachel Vincent, Ilona Andrews to name but a few…I know I am missing some of my favorites but there are too many to name. I am, first and foremost a reader!

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for? I do actually. When I wrote Shattered Memories, it was because I had just been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, OCD and depression and my CBT therapist thought it would be a good idea to use my conflicting emotions any convey it in a story. All of the pain, all of the isolation that Alana, the main character, was going through was what I was going through.             I also like to use funny things people have said and use them for certain characters.

Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life? Some are …Melanie from The Ever Chace Chronicles is based off of Melanie my friend. Alana from Shattered Memories is also based on the real Alana. Donnie from Ever Chace is based off of Tom Hardy, but that’s for purely selfish reasons lol

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.  Can I say my own? Lol No okay…I’m thinking, I’m thinking….Maybe any of the books by Cat Clarke…she is probably one of the only out of genre authors that I tend to read. Her first book Entangled was sooooooooooo good and A Kiss in the Dark is one of my all time fave books!

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure. The Fault in Our Stars…its john Green I have no other excuse.

Be honest: Do you Google yourself? Nope, not at all. I have no delusions of grandeur haha

As a writer, which animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus? Definitely a wolf…or werewolf to be more precise!

Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with? Being proud of my accomplishments, I once had a teacher in school tell me I would never be a writer, and now here I am, about to publish my 6th full length novel. I think I proved her wrong many times over.

What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?  I have a quote tattooed on my arm that reminds me everyday to stay humble and not forget why it is I have to write. It’s a Cyril Connelly quote that I also have above my writing space “Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”  I like to think it means that if you are writing simply to get published and not because you are writing for you the there is no point in it. You have to put all of you in your writing, or else the reader won’t feel it.

What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author? You are doing just fine. Breath, relax, and never, ever, take any reviews to heart!

In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers? I share links when asked. I’m also open to give advice though I feel completely unqualified to do so. And more than that, I am more than happy to be an ear or helping hand.

Want to know more about Susan?


Skin and Bones (The Ever Chace Chronicles, Book 1)

Being human in a world filled with supernatural creatures can give a girl a complex. Dr. Ever Chace wants nothing more than to be able to stand out in this crazy place she calls home. When she’s asked to consult on a case where teens are being brutalized, she relishes the chance to make a difference by helping to stop a monster. But when she’s teamed up to work alongside a sexy shifter, she ends up with more than she bargained for.
Derek Doyle has been a member of the Paranormal Investigations Team since the monsters first revealed themselves to the world. Considering he believes it takes a monster to catch a monster, he’s definitely in the right place. As a lone wolf not used to letting many people in, he isn’t prepared for the effect his new partner, consultant Dr. Ever Chace, has on him.
With a murderer on the loose, Ever and Derek will have to put their attraction aside while the hunt continues. Easier said than done… right?


Buy Skin and Bones from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble


 Collateral Damage (The Ever Chace Chronicles, Book 2)

When Derek Doyle wakes up next to a ripped-apart body, he’s terrified he’s about to lose everything he holds dear—Ever, his job, and his family. Dealing with his past has never come easy to Derek, especially since he’s too afraid of what people would think if they knew exactly what kind of monster he really is. But finding out who’s setting him up could be harder than the team thinks. As long as Derek has lived, there’s bound to be a long list of enemies.
Ever Chace has a lot on her plate. Confronted with the possibility that she is indeed losing her mind, Ever tries to push it aside as they deal with the ramifications of Derek’s past. Every new relationship has teething problems, but learning to deal with a mate who’s used to being a lone wolf has its own set of issues.
Can the team figure out how to save Derek from a swift execution? And just how much strain will the revelations put on Derek and Ever’s shiny new relationship?
Collateral Damage is the exciting sequel to Skin and Bones by Susan Harris.


Buy Collateral Damage from Amazon or Barnes & Noble



Smoke and Mirrors (The Ever Chace Chronicles, Book 3) 

Ever Chace is a Valkyrie, but not just any Valkyrie—she’s a Valkyrie queen in the making.
Torn between the past and present, love and obligation, Ever is terrified of saying the words that would break the curse she is bound to. Pushing Derek away hasn’t simplified things; it has only made her miserable. With her father waking, and her and Derek’s lives on the line, can she really shy away from who and what she is becoming? How long can Ever keep her past lives a secret?
Pushing thoughts of his mate aside, Derek tries to focus on the task at hand—tracking down a monster that leaves nothing but a husk behind. But Ever is never truly off his mind, even as two of his own become targets of the unsub. Can he set his personal distractions aside to keep his team alive?


Buy Smoke and Mirrors from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

Night of the Hunter (The Ever Chace Chronicles, Book 4)

Caitlyn Hardi is on a mission…a suicide mission. Driven by the pain of the past, she sets out to confront the monster deep in the Catacombs of Paris—the one who took everything from her. Caitlyn doesn’t care if she survives Paris. Her only concern is that the vampire who made her does not take another family from her. If dying means keeping everyone she loves safe—especially Donnie—then Caitlyn can accept that…as long as she can take her maker to Hell with her.
Donnie O’Carroll began to live the moment Caitlyn made him a vampire. Caitlyn gave him a family, a purpose, and he’ll be damned if he’s going to allow the darkness to overwhelm the woman he loves. He will fight to the end to prove to Caitlyn that love can conquer all—even if he has to die to do it.
Sacrifice, a supernatural assassin, and immortal love are on a cosmic collision course in this powerful fourth installment of the Ever Chace Chronicles.


Buy Night of the Hunter from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble


Never Back Down (The Ever Chace Chronicles, Book 5)

(Coming June 26, 2018)

Since the day that she was abandoned on the shores of Valhalla, and fought her way to be the fiercest Valkyrie, Erika has lived by those three words. There has never been a challenge Erika has backed down from; apart from Loki. But when Erika embeds herself in a supernatural fight club in the hopes that she can weed out Odin’s location, Erika will be put to the test. And when love and loyalty cause confusion, can this battle-hardened warrior finally let her guard down enough to see what’s been in front of her all along?

Loki knew the moment he clapped eyes on the beautiful warrior that she was meant for him. However, the Norse God of mischief hides a secret; he was once cursed and has shied away from his feelings to shield himself from hurt. Can he convince Erika that he’s the one meant for her, will he be forced to watch the woman he wants for himself spiral out of control?


Buy Never Back Down from Amazon


Shattered Memories

Shattered Memories is a stand alone psychological science fiction romance thriller perfect for fans of Hunger Games and Shatter Me.

A terrible tragedy forced Alana McCarthy to forget a year of her life. Now she is to be executed for a crime she doesn’t remember committing—the murder of her entire family. Lost and alone, Alana is terrified of unlocking secrets buried so deep inside her mind that she’s willing to forget the one person who could set her free.
Daniel Costello hasn’t forgotten about Alana, and he will do anything and everything to protect the girl he loves. But first, Alana needs to unlock her memories and find out the truth about what happened the night her family was killed.
The day of her execution is set. Together, will Alana and Daniel be able to uncover the truth behind her family’s deaths before it’s too late?


Buy Shattered Memories from Amazon or Barnes & Noble



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Writing A Second Novel

Writing a novel is so much pressure. You struggle to come up with a decent concept, struggle with world-building, develop interesting characters that will grow and evolve, make sure there aren’t any unresolved plot points and that you’ve reached the end you envisioned. Next you must edit—remove unnecessary commas, correct misspelled words, replace filtering words, hunt down the illustrious “show vs tell” segments. Then you dive into the submission pressure pool of writing a query and synopsis, researching agents/publishers and submitting. But once you’ve published that first book the pressure is a thing of the past, right?

Erm, in a word…no! 

Welcome to the Follow-Up Foibles, aka all the pitfalls that can make your second novel even more stressful than the first.


The fears and stressors that affect your writing during book two:

  • If you’ve got a contract/deadline for book #2 you’re under more pressure to complete your next book within a certain time frame. Luckily, I didn’t. My first novel was signed as a stand-alone and #2, though a companion novel, was developed after A Shine That Defies the Dark was contracted.
  • With your first novel you’re filled with optimism and still a blank canvas as an author. Nobody has preconceived ideas about your writing style or skill. With book 2 you have an established skill level, voice and marketability as a debut author. You can fall to the pressure of having to “prove yourself”—and the fear that each book thereafter will be used to gauge your skill as a writer.
  • With Book 2, you know now how much hard work comes after the novel is written. You know that after the soul-crushing, gut-wrenching work of writing your book is done you’ll be back in the trenches of promoting and marketing, not just one book now, but both.
  • There is an undeniable fear that you’ll disappoint your readers. What if everyone who loved book 1 are lukewarm about #2? Will you feel you’ve failed  them? Will you have failed your book? If book 2 doesn’t stand up will you have failed Book 1 as well?
  • After months (or years!) of reading, re-reading and editing book 1, you thought you were done with it, right? Well, if Book 2 is a sequel you’ll need to re-read book 1 (at least once!) for timeline, character growth, minor character reintroduction and plot line. Setting up a calendar, or event timeline that ties both books together can help so that you only must do this step once.
  • There is a great deal of stress in trying to make book #2 at least as good as the last and the paralyzing self-doubt that it isn’t even close. This fear can wreak havoc on your creativity and productiveness.
  • There is a degree of pressure in people asking when your next book will be out. While you’re happy they want more, the paralyzing self-doubt that “I’m a scam and the first book was a fluke” can impact your creative process. If I hadn’t finished my 1st novel, very few people would know. If I fail to finish book 2, well…more would know
  • Will my second book be as good a concept? Will my pacing and action balance well with the romance? Will my “steamy” scenes just seem like I recycled the ones from book 1? Will there be anything unique to the readers or will it seem like the same story with different character names in a different town?


The good news about the stress involved in writing book two:

  • Some of the stress is healthy for your writing. It shows you care, you aren’t taking it for granted that you’re a published author and don’t have to work so hard anymore.
  • If you’re obsessing over the details, it means you’re thinking about them. What sets this novel apart? How can I make it unique? You care about the quality of your work, which is good.
  • You don’t have to let the stress impact you in a negative way. Use it to fuel your productivity and creativity. There is nothing wrong with striving to do better. Just be sure to balance the inspiration with relaxation (take a walk, watch a movie, read a book!). Creativity is fueled in the quiet times a well as the busy ones.

When you’re done you’ll have a new book to be proud of. 

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Author Spotlight: Brenda Drake

 Name:  Brenda Drake

Author of: Analise Rising (coming January, 2019)

The Library Jumpers series: Thief of Lies; Guardian of Secrets; Assassin of Truths

The Fated series: Touching Fate; Cursing Fate; Seeking Fate (coming June, 2018)



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

I was eight, I believe, and it was a story about a rabbit looking for his lost carrots. It was horribly illustrated, but my grandmother loved it.

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

I always loved writing, but it wasn’t until I was home with the kids that I decided to give publishing my stories a try.


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

My journey to publishing started out without having anyone to talk to about writing. It wasn’t until I found Twitter and blogging did I find writer friends. I guess it’s been my many writer friends and my current editors who have read and critique my work that have helped and advised me on my publishing journey.


Do you exclusively write books with a  paranormal/fantasy twist  or have you written in other genres?

Currently, all my books have a paranormal/fantasy twist. I love being in the fantastical. I may try other genres one day, but for now I’m happy what I write. I think that’s the most important thing. You have to enjoy what you write because other parts of the publishing journey is difficult but writing should be enjoyable.


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

I’m so off balance when I’m writing a book. It’s all I concentrate on. I’ll write from morning to night, only stopping when I have to, when something needs to be taking care of. I keep trying to follow a schedule, but it never works. I’m just not good at being hemmed into a schedule. I write when the inspiration hits me.


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

It usually takes me four to six weeks to write a first draft and about a month for revisions. Then if I have time, I have a critique partner read it and revise it again.


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

Each book is different and has varying amounts of preparation and research. With fantasy, much of it is made up from your imagination and things come to me as I write. Mostly, I have to research real places that are in my books, maybe weapons and techniques for fighting and things like that. I do a plot graph of each book and it takes me several hours to only a few hours to plot out a story.

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

I have to have some sort of noise going while I write. Usually, it’s music. Sometimes it’s a movie that inspires me that I’ve seen so many times that I know what’s going on in it because I don’t pay attention to it while I’m writing. It’s weird, but I think it has to do with feeling lonely in the quiet.


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 done a pilgrimage. My dream is to do a tour of libraries around the world. That would be the best bucket list ever!


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

I can! With the Library Jumpers series it was in a book store and I came across a coffee table book on libraries. I thought how great it would be if I could jump into the photographs of each library to see them for real. For my Fated series, it was during a tarot card reading in New Orleans.


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

I prefer reading young adult fantasy. It’s my favorite, but I read in all categories and genres. For me, it’s about the story. If it interests me, I’ll read it.


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

Yes, I do. No one has pointed them out yet, so I may have hidden them too well. Ha!


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

They’re somewhat inspired by people I know in real life. I borrow traits and quirks from the people around me.


Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.

I can’t think of any one book. There are so many books I feel that don’t get enough marketing behind them that should.


Name one book that was a guilty pleasure.

I’ve thought and thought over this one and I don’t know if it’s a guilty pleasure or not, but I loved Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.


Be honest: Do you Google yourself?

Yes. And sometimes it’s sad. Ha!


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

I’d say an owl. They’re beautiful, quiet, and they look as if they’re always contemplating their next move.


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

Spelling and pronunciation. They’re my Kryptonite. After an accident, I had difficulties hearing sounds while growing up and it continues to this day. I’ll have my friends repeat a word several times so that I can get it. And I never mind being corrected because it helps me with it. I’m a little self-conscious speaking in front of large groups. I struggle, but I still do it.


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

Learn your craft. Read widely. The key to success is perseverance. If you give up, you’ll never accomplish your dreams.


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

Relax and enjoy the ride. Don’t spend too much on swag. And remember all authors get bad reviews.


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

I founded Pitch Wars and #PitMad as a way of paying it forward to others. I also mentor in Pitch Wars sometimes. Giving back to the community is rewarding and will make you life long friends.


Interested in learning more about Brenda or her books?



Stevie Moon is famous…at least to the subscribers on her comic review vlog. At school, she’s as plain as the gray painted walls in the cafeteria. So when Blake, the hot new guy at school, shows an interest in her, she knows trouble when she sees it. Been there. And never doing it again.

As the son of the god Thor, Blake Foster’s been given an important mission—to recover the Norse god Heimdall’s sacred and powerful horn before someone uses it to herald in the destruction of the entire universe. But while Blake is great in a fight, the battlefield that is a high school’s social scene is another matter.

Blake knows his only choice is to team up with the adorable Stevie, but she’s not willing to give him even the time of day. He’ll need to woo the girl and find the horn if he hopes to win this war. Who better to tackle Stevie’s defenses than the demi-god of thunder?

Get Thunderstruck from Amazon or Barnes & Noble


The Library Jumpers Series:

 Thief of Lies

Gia Kearns would rather fight with boys than kiss them. That is, until Arik, a leather clad hottie in the Boston Athenaeum, suddenly disappears. While examining the book of world libraries he abandoned, Gia unwittingly speaks the key that sucks her and her friends into a photograph and transports them into a Paris library, where Arik and his Sentinels-magical knights charged with protecting humans from the creatures traveling across the gateway books-rescue them from a demonic hound.

Jumping into some of the world’s most beautiful libraries would be a dream come true for Gia, if she weren’t busy resisting her heart or dodging an exiled wizard seeking revenge on both the Mystik and human worlds. Add a French flirt obsessed with Arik and a fling with a young wizard, and Gia must choose between her heart and her head, between Arik’s world and her own, before both are destroyed.

Get Thief of Lies from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble


Guardian of Secrets

Being a Sentinel isn’t all fairytales and secret gardens.

Sure, jumping through books into the world’s most beautiful libraries to protect humans from mystical creatures is awesome. No one knows that better than Gia Kearns, but she could do without the part where people are always trying to kill her. Oh, and the fact that Pop and her had to move away from her friends and life as she knew it.

And if that isn’t enough, her boyfriend, Arik, is acting strangely. Like, maybe she should be calling him “ex,” since he’s so into another girl. But she doesn’t have time to be mad or even jealous, because someone has to save the world from the upcoming apocalypse, and it looks like that’s going to be Gia.

Maybe. If she survives.

Get Guardian of Secrets from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble


Assassin of Truths

The gateways linking the great libraries of the world don’t require a library card, but they do harbor incredible dangers.

And it’s not your normal bump-in-the- night kind. The threats Gia Kearns faces are the kind with sharp teeth and knifelike claws. The kind that include an evil wizard hell-bent on taking her down.

Gia can end his devious plan, but only if she recovers seven keys hidden throughout the world’s most beautiful libraries. And then figures out exactly what to do with them.

The last thing she needs is a distraction in the form of falling in love. But when an impossible evil is unleashed, love might be the only thing left to help Gia save the world.

Get Assassin of Truths from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble


The Fated Series:

Touching Fate

One touch is all it takes…

Aster Layne believes in physics, not psychics. A tarot card reading on the Ocean City Boardwalk should have been a ridiculous, just-for-fun thing. It wasn’t. Aster discovers she has a very unscientific gift-with a simple touch of the cards, she can change a person’s fate.

Reese Van Buren is cursed. Like the kind of old-school, centuries-old curse that runs in royal families. Every firstborn son is doomed to die on his eighteenth birthday-and Reese’s is coming up fast. Bummer. He tries to distract himself from his inevitable death…only to find the one person who can save him.

Aster doesn’t know that the hot Dutch guy she’s just met needs her help-or that he’s about to die.
But worst of all…she doesn’t know that her new gift comes with dark, dark consequences that can harm everyone she loves.

Get Touching Fate from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble


Cursing Fate

There’s something strange about the Layne sisters, and Wade Diaz wants nothing to do with them. Especially the one who ripped his heart out and set it on fire before tossing it in the garbage several months ago. Iris. He can’t even think her name without unconsciously rubbing the spot in his chest where she left a gaping hole. But now her sisters are claiming some evil spirit is after his soul, and Iris is the only one who can save him. Well, at least his heart would stop hurting, right? Didn’t sound so bad.

Iris Layne has always been the sweet sister. She’s kind to everyone, including her best friend Wade… Until she makes a horrible mistake and breaks his heart. All she wants is to go back to before ‘the dumping’. Of course, Wade would rather see her in hell first. But then Iris touches her sister’s tarot cards and unleashes an evil curse intent on playing a deadly game where no one Iris loves is safe, especially Wade.

How do you convince someone they need your help when you’re the one who hurt them most?

Get Cursing Fate from Amazon or Barnes & Noble


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What Do I Really Know? aka- Queen of the Underqualified?

I opened my email and there it was. My first invitation to appear, as an author, and give a presentation.

My mind immediately filled with images of myself, microphone in hand, perhaps nestled into a cozy leather chair on stage as I gaze upon those who’ve come to listen intently to the carefully crafted bit of wisdom I have to offer them. That lasted about 3.5 seconds and then terror flooded through me. What wisdom?!

I’m finally comfortable calling myself an author, but what do I possibly have to teach others? What topic can I offer that won’t bore a group to tears (including my family, who I’m fairly confident would come just to ensure I do have an audience!). I’ve called all the authors that I usually badger with my neurotic–and endless!–questions (nobody answered, apparently they have lives!).

So my current list of potential topics is:

  • Pairing Snacks With Reading Genres
  • Reading To Escape Responsibility & Recreation
  • Writing: I Did It & You Probably Can Too
  • Hi, I’m An Author. Any Questions?
  • Ascertaining The Primitive Implications of the Transcendental Elegy on the Post-Modernistic Annihilist (but I think that’s for a very specific audience)


I’m still tossing these around, but I’m definitely open to suggestions.


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On Cocky Novels, Cocky Authors and #Cockygate

Something happened over the weekend. Actually the “happening” of it has been in the works for a while, it was the “blowing up” of the situation that happened this weekend.

As a disclaimer, let me say that I don’t believe I’ve read or typed the word “cocky” so much in such a short span of time as I did over the weekend (and then while writing this!).

Now, for those who didn’t hear about “Cockygate” let me offer you a condensed version (for all the dirty details you can certainly search the #cockygate hashtag on Twitter!):

Claiming Cocky

Romance author Faleena Hopkins apparently secured a trademark on the word “Cocky”. It’s not clear if her trademark is only on the word “Cocky” in a specific font or if she’s truly secured a trademark on the word in any font (which seems the case based on the registered trademark). What seems to be undisputed is that the word “Cocky”, because of her trademark, can no longer be used in any romance e-book title or series title.



Faleena Hopkins then took it upon herself to contact authors of books with “Cocky” in the title and threatened legal action (note, Faleena Hopkins NOT her attorney, sent out the threats):





The authors who were contacted were understandably upset. They’ve written books, marketed them, had them listed under the current titles for quite a while (and trust me when I say that marketing and promotion is a time-consuming endeavor!). Suddenly, this chick is contacting them, telling them they have to change the titles of their books or face legal action. Some of them reached out for support, or with questions, (I’m not sure where the actual spark came in) and an explosion erupted throughout the romance writing community, as well as the creative arts community at large. New hashtags were born (#cockygate, #ByeFaleena, #FreeCocky) and the outrage spread.

“Of all the Cocky and bull things…”

So, why is this a thing? Cocky is one word, right? Well, yes, it’s one word. One very big word (no play on words intended!) because of the implications…

First, let me say that I understand branding and that Faleena Hopkins has an entire series called The Cocker Brothers of Atlanta, and each individual book includes “Cocky” in the title. She claims that her readers were becoming confused by all the “Cocky” book titles and they were purchasing books they thought were hers, only to find out that wasn’t the case (which, a- maybe the readers can check the author name before purchasing a book they think is hers and b- you can always return a book if it isn’t what you thought you were buying…). Her claim is that she pursued the trademark to secure her branding and the integrity of her series.

Why the problem? Well, one person is taking ownership of a word. A word!! By pursuing a trademark on the word “Cocky” she has prevented any other romance author from using the word “Cocky” in their e-books. This is a big deal when you consider the genre and subgenres this affects. The romance industry, and specifically the more, erm…sexy works within that category produces a substantial number of titles every month! One of the things that draws readers in is the imagery the title creates. If you’re searching for a spicy romance novel the word “Cocky”, and its double entendre, leaves no doubt about what kind of novel you’re getting. The number of books with “Cocky” in the title is staggering. I just entered the word into Amazon as a book search. There are over 1,000 results!

Not only is Faleena Hopkins personally threatening authors, she’s involving Amazon and authors are having their book listings removed. This is an action that’s notoriously difficult and time-consuming to get reversed, even under the best of circumstances. 


The writing industry is, in general, one of the most supportive peer groups I’ve ever experienced. It’s full of cheerleaders, well-wishers, mentors, collaborators, and people who will, at any minute remind you that we’re all in this together. One writer (and I’m kicking myself for not saving this message!) said she was appalled to find out, upon the release of her book, that another with the same title had been released just before her own. She contacted the other author, explained what happened, and offered to change her title. The other author told her “No” and wished her the best of luck with her book.

There are a number of books in the world that share a title name: The Cloud Atlas (by both David Mitchell and Liam Callanan); Possession (by A.S. Byatt as well as Ann Rule); Forever (by Pete Hamill and also by Judy Blume); Elsewhere (by Richard Russo and again by Gabrielle Zevin) just to name a few. Imagine how quickly the word choices would dwindle if each book had to utilize unique words, or a unique combination of words.

This issue will have a strongest impact on book titles with 1-3 words, and specifically in the romance e-book trade. Though, if I were to re-title and release my own book as A Cocky That Defies the Dark (not that my publisher would go for that, lol!), I’d be in trouble.

Now imagine the implications of authors being allowed to trademark individual words.

What if a mystery author were to trademark the word “Murder”?

What if a sci-fi author trademarks the word “Space” for a title?

How long would it be until books were titled “Book #…” or “Book of…”, well at least until someone trademarks the word “Book” in a title.

This is all to say that to actually pursue the trademark of a single word in a title is a selfish move. It says that you put more value on yourself and your work than on anyone else in the world. To imagine that you’re entitled to the sole, proprietary use of a word–a word!!!!–is the most self-centered thing I’ve heard in a very long time.

And speaking of cocky….

And so, while the romance writing community was blowing up Twitter (and Facebook) this weekend, Faleena Hopkins, romance author and trademark owner of the word Cocky (which is now apparently under appeal with the US Patent Office), posted on Facebook about how she was being attacked online…while also posting this on Twitter. 


Doesn’t really strike me as someone who feels attacked, or even like maybe she misjudged herself a wee bit.

So, that’s the update, and my 2 cents worth, on the #Cockygate issue. The lesson I’d like to leave you with is that words are intangible things that we all use to express ourselves and to share our life experiences. Without the free use of language our ability to create and express ourselves is hindered.

Keep words free. Don’t be an asshole!


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Lakewater Press Holiday Blog Hop (Day 12): Susan Pape


For the holiday season, we at Lakewater Press thought it would be a good time to share who we are with a little holiday blog hop.

Between December 1 and the 24th we’ll share holiday interviews with our authors and the Lakewater Press staff. It’s an excellent opportunity for us to get to know each other a little better, and to give our readers a peek behind the scenes–or pages!

Perhaps you’ll even find a new blog to follow, or your next favorite book!

(Be sure to read all the way to the bottom for our holiday giveaway!!)

Today’s interviewee:

Name and LWP affiliation: Susan Pape, Author 

Your blog (url):

Where do you live? I live on the site of an old lunatic asylum (yes, it really was called that) in Menston, between Ilkley and Leeds in West Yorkshire.

What are your chances of having snow on Christmas Day? It’s possible that Ilkley Moor (behind our house) could get a light dusting…but I don’t remember ever having ‘proper’ snow on Christmas Day in West Yorkshire.

Do you have any favorite holiday traditions? My favourite Christmasses were spent with some really good friends who lived in a converted station near Saddleworth Moor. We played games, took part in a pantomime written by the host, tried to look serious during The Queen’s broadcast, and sat down for lunch and all the trimmings – that lasted from about 1pm until 9pm. I also love being away at Christmas – Florence was a wonderful place to be, and then Cambodia/Vietnam more recently.

Egg nog: Yes or No? Ergh…no!

Are you an artistic gift wrapper or a basic “paper & tape” warrior?  Basic, I’m afraid. I’ve tried to do those classy, neatly tucked corners, but they fail me every time.

Do you have any special holiday memories that include books? Are there any specific titles you remember? Christmas seems to be a time of giving ‘joke’ or ‘improving’ books. The joke books go straight on to the shelf in the downstairs lavvy and the improving ones (Shakespearian Tragedies; London Architecture and Tony Benn’s Diaries) get put in the pile for the charity shop.

What is your earliest book-related memory? My parents were not great readers (other than Reader’s Digest) but they did have a shelf full of Graham Greene so I worked my way through those until I was old enough to get my own library card. Not entirely sure it was suitable reading for a child.

Do you write/work during the holidays? Newspapers don’t stop for the holidays so a skeleton staff was always needed to be available on Christmas Day – and throughout the holiday period. When I worked on newspapers, it was usually down to staff without kids to work over the holidays – and that was usually me. I didn’t mind too much as I could take time off in lieu when life returned to normal after the Xmas excesses.

Sue and I at an author talk we did recently

Can you share what you’re working on now? Book Three in the Friends trilogy that Sue Featherstone and I are writing together. So many ideas are bubbling right now  – and I can hardly believe this will be the end of the road for the two main characters, Teri and Lee.

What are your goals for 2018? To finish writing the third book in the Friends trilogy and then complete the murder mystery that Sue and I have already started. It takes us out of our comfort genre, so please, wish us luck.


The decorations in a Cambodian hotel




me and hubby at a masked Christmas dinner









Continue reading “Lakewater Press Holiday Blog Hop (Day 12): Susan Pape”

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