Author Spotlight: Jeri Baird

 

Name: Jeri Baird

Author of: Tokens and Omens; Curses and Warfare (Jolly Fish Press)

Upcoming:  Barnabas and Bird Run Away From the Circus

 

 

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

In grade school, I was obsessed with writing stories where I flew to Mars. But my first attempt at writing as an adult was a chapter book called Brother Rabbit, Brother Skunk where a skunk was adopted into a family of rabbits.

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

I’ve always loved reading, but I was in my 40’s before it occurred to me that I could write. I was in a group setting where the ice-breaker question was “What is your secret dream?” It surprised me that what came out was “I want to be a published children’s author”. It was few more years before I actually started writing.

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

Lots of people helped me become a better writer through workshops and critique groups. SCBWI has been instrumental in my writing journey.

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

I write young adult and middle grade.

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

It’s hard to achieve any kind of balance when writing a first draft. I’m either obsessed or too tired from work to do anything but think about it! I can revise in short time frames, but first drafts, for me, require time and energy. And I frequently have to go somewhere else to write, as home distractions keep me from being productive. I don’t want to know how much I’ve invested in local coffee shops!

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

Each book is different. I wrote and revised Tokens over a few years. Curses was done in a year (I had a contract to fulfill). Barnabas and Bird was written in two months and didn’t take much revising.

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

With Tokens, I read a lot about the middle ages and the Romani people. Eventually, I abandoned that setting in favor of a tribal one. I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on researching names!

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

Not a big secret – I always write by hand with a pencil and notebook. I don’t plot, so I seldom know ahead of time what’s going to happen. I usually “get” the end about 25% of the way in, and I write toward that. I’m often surprised at what happens. Sometimes I’m appalled at a plot twist, but I leave it in, thinking I can always take it out later. I’ve never taken one out. Poor Zephyr in Curses had one of those.

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 see England, Scotland, and Ireland in person!

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

When I’m close to finishing a novel, I always get an idea for my next book. Who knows where those come from? Not me. My novels have varied from contemporary to fantasy.

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

Fantasy is always my favorite, but I also read contemporary, especially in middle grade. You can check out my Goodreads bookshelf to see all the books I’ve read in the last few years. I often re-read my favorites. And here’s a quirk – I almost always read the end before I get there. Especially in a tense section, I need to know that things are going to turn out all right. It never spoils the book for me to know how it ends.

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

Yes.  🙂  What? You think I’m going to tell?

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

Nope, but there are parts of myself in each character I write.

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.

Stoner by John Williams. I loved it so much, I’ve read it twice. No one I’ve recommended it to has had anything good to say about it.

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure.

Fifty Shades of Gray

Be honest: Do you Google yourself?

Of course! I want to know what other people will see if they look me up.

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

A spider. Metaphysically, the spider is the guardian of language and the magic of writing.

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

Setting is something I struggle with – finding a balance between too much and too little.

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

Read.

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

Write the next book. (couldn’t do it in one word!)

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

I share my story of becoming a “published author”. It wasn’t quick or easy, and I hope I encourage other writers to never give up. I remain a part of my critique group, letting the others know that I still need help, and I’m always happy to meet with aspiring authors.

Where can people find more about you?

 

Tokens and Omens 

In Puck’s Gulch, sixteen-year-olds undergo a dangerous trial known as the Quest. During a time of magic, Fate hands out tokens and omens based on their behavior. Zander trusts Fate. Alexa only trusts herself. Now, Fate has given them each a special gift—Zander sees secrets he doesn’t want, and Alexa’s thrilled to find she can control events through her embroidery scenes. After Zander and Alexa each earn a omen that makes surviving the quest nearly impossible, they must break the rules and challenge Fate together. If they don’t, one will die. And Fate has made it clear—she won’t be cheated.

 

Get Tokens and Omens on Amazon or from Barnes & Noble

 

 

 

Curses and Warfare

The day twins Zander and Alexa became adults, Moira, the embodiment of fate, revealed that Zander would become a leader of warriors and Alexa would be a fortuneteller of great power. Moira instructed the twins to use their talents to prepare their village, Puck’s Gulch, to fend off an imminent invasion.

Now, six months later, Zander is struggling to convince the quarrelsome villagers of the impending danger and unite them in a single cause to protect the village. Meanwhile, Alexa struggles to get along with her mentor, the fortuneteller Melina Odella. As the battle draws near, the twins and their few allies are further than ever from their goals, and all the while traitors lurk in the shadows, taking every opportunity to bring Puck’s Gulch to its knees.

Get Curses and Warfare on Amazon or from Barnes & Noble

 

Barnabas and Bird Run Away From the Circus

In the tradition of timeless stories, BARNABAS AND BIRD RUN AWAY FROM THE CIRCUS blends humor and poignancy to create a story of friendship and loss.

Barnabas is self-centered and a bit too verbose. His best friend, Bird, loves him anyway. Devastated to learn he’ll never grow big enough to join his family in the world’s largest elephant act, Barnabas struggles to show Papa he can be big in other ways. Challenged by his older brother, Barnabas embarks on a quest to prove he’s brave. Of course, his tiny canary friend joins him.

With top hat, goggles, a map, and a lucky peanut, the duo fly across the country on a raft guided by a wind that whispers destiny, destiny. Barnabas encounters a whale, a herd of bison, crows, and cows, but they aren’t enough to make him feel brave. The duck, duck, and goose confuse him with their questions. And those s-s-s-snakes on the island in the Great Lakes! Shudder!

Then, Barnabas discovers Bird’s big secret. It’s almost too late before Barnabas learns that becoming a true friend might be the bravest thing he could do.

(coming soon)

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Author Spotlight: Victoria Gilbert

Name: Victoria Gilbert 

Author of: The Blue Ridge Library Mystery series

Book One: A MURDER FOR THE BOOKS (out now) Book Two: SHELVED UNDER MURDER (July 2018), Book Three: PAST DUE FOR MURDER (early 2019)

From: Crooked Lane Books

 

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

As soon as I realized that those marks on paper made words, I was writing little stories and poems. I don’t really remember the first one, but a short story about a girl who gets a black kitten as a Halloween gift sticks in my mind.

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

Even though I continued to write poetry and stories throughout my life – and I always wanted to complete a novel, although not necessarily for publication – I didn’t decide to pursue writing professionally until about six years ago.

I actually had a long career as a librarian before pursuing writing professionally.

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

I can’t list one person, but I will acknowledge my two wonderful critique partners, who have offered friendship and support along with advice. Both are published (or soon to be published) authors: Richard Taylor Pearson and Lindsey Duga.

I also received a lot of information and support from the other authors over on the writing website, Agent Query Connect. http://agentqueryconnect.com/

Do you exclusively write mystery or have you written in other genres?

As Victoria Gilbert I write only mysteries. However, under my other penname (Vicki L. Weavil) I have also written and published YA and adult Fantasy and Scifi

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

It was definitely difficult while I was still working full-time as a library director at a small university. However, I have been fortunate enough to retire a little early so now I am writing full-time.

I write for several hours a day. The rest of the day is devoted to maintaining my author social media presence and undertaking writerly promotional activities, as well as walking, cooking, and keeping up my house and garden. Once I meet my current deadline (on book three of my series) I hope to also add in some volunteer work at my local food bank.

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

Although I prefer a six month window, I can write a 80,000 to 85,000 draft in approximately four months – sometimes I’ve done it in three! I then spend about a month on revisions, although for my current book I’ll need to cram that into two weeks. (Life got in the way and put me behind schedule this time).

Of course, that’s just my original revisions. My publisher is great about doing extensive editing passes, so I often do much more revision later, based on my (very talented) editor’s suggestions. Then there are copy edits, proofing, etc. So the book undergoes a lot more editing and revision than just my initial pass.

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

It depends upon the book. As a former librarian, I am pretty well versed in research (and actually enjoy it). I do some preliminary research before I begin writing the first draft, but there’s always stuff that crops up while I’m writing so I never say my research is done until the book is complete.

I use a mix of resources – library books, online sources, and even original source material in archives.

I am a planner – I create character lists, family trees, age charts, and so on, and I outline each book fairly extensively. (However, I do adjust the outline as I write the actual book).

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

Not really. (But then, if I don’t want anyone to know them, why would I share them here, ha-ha?)

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 current series is based in the area where I spent a large portion of my life – rural northern Virginia, at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I have gathered some information when visiting family in that area to add to what I already know.

As for a dream destination – I have planned a future book in this series that (partially) takes place in the Tuscany region of Italy…

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

Yes, but for most of them it was just one little thing I saw or heard or read that formed the kernel of an idea. I tend to do a lot “what if?” thinking and that’s often how I take the kernel and grow it into a book.

Now, there was a very specific situation that inspired an important component of A MURDER FOR THE BOOKS but I can’t tell you what that was, because that would actually be a spoiler!

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

I love mysteries and thrillers – I enjoy everything in that genre, from hard-boiled detective novels to psychological thrillers, to cozies. I also enjoy some fantasy and science fiction, and literary fiction. Oh, who am I kidding? I’ll basically read anything if it is well-written!

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

Yes. There is a word I include in every book at least once. Only my husband and I know what it is. It’s our private joke. (And no, I’m not telling).

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

Not really. I do draw inspiration for characteristics, appearance, and behavior from people I know or have known. They are not necessarily people I’ve known well, though. I also collect information from simply “people watching” or other observations of strangers.

But none of my characters are ever specifically based on a real person. They are always their own unique selves!

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.

Anything by John Crowley, but especially LITTLE, BIG and his latest, KA: DAR OAKLEY IN THE RUINS OF YMR. I mean, he IS acknowledged as a master by many people in the writing world, but I think he should be more well known by the general public too.

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure.

INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE by Anne Rice. I really am not much into vampire stories (and don’t enjoy some of the later books in that series) but I do love that one.

Be honest: Do you Google yourself?

Rarely. I did that more when I started out, but I have learned (the hard way) that sometimes, especially when it comes to online comments and/or reviews, ignorance truly is bliss!

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

It would have to be a wolf. First – because I admire them and believe they are majestic, wonderful, but often misunderstood creatures. And second – in honor of Luki, my snow queen’s beloved wolf companion in my first published book (written as Vicki L. Weavil) – CROWN OF ICE

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

Promotion, promotion, promotion. I really dislike dealing with the “advertising” side of publishing, which is why – although I have tried it – I have not been very successful with self-publishing. Honestly, I do NOT look down on self-publishing and truly admire people who do it. Well. But I’ve found that I am happier – and more successful — when I’m simply assisting my publisher with their publicity efforts rather than doing it all myself.

Also – waiting. There is a LOT of waiting in this business, and sometimes I really struggle with my need for patience!

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

Experiment – don’t close your mind to other genres, ideas, age categories, or opportunities. Maybe you love speculative fiction and want to write in that genre, but for some reason your work keeps being rejected or ignored. Well, maybe it’s time to try something different. Write that picture book or middle grade contemporary idea that you think is just something you doodle on “for fun.” Jump into a new genre, or switch from YA to adult (or vice versa). Don’t think you’re funny? Try to write a humorous story anyway. Think you’re too cynical to write Romance? Throw aside all those doubts and spin the most romantic yarn possible. There is no penalty for experimenting with new things, and you never have to show your creations to anyone if you don’t want to.

But you know what? You may find that your true niche is quite different than you imagined. Your humorous middle grade contemporary may garner you the agent and incredible deal you couldn’t get with another genre. Expand your horizons and allow yourself the freedom to “play” a little. You may be pleasantly surprised!

I say this because it definitely happened to me. When I seriously started writing, I never thought I would end up as a cozy and light mystery author. But here I am, and very happy too!

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

Persevere – there are a lot of ups and downs in this business, and things can change in the blink of an eye. You may think you’re headed down one path but encounter a roadblock that propels you onto another road. It’s okay – change is okay. Being up one day and down the next is normal. Go with the flow and plan to be in it for the long game. Your career isn’t over if your first book (or books) don’t do that well. Neither is it guaranteed if you have one “hit.” Continue to write, to experiment, to hone your craft, and to expand your horizons. Over time you will find YOUR way, and that is the career you want.

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

I am a mentor for the Sun vs Snow writing contest; I offer presentations on query writing and finding the right agent to local writing groups; I beta read and critique manuscripts for a few people, including my critique partners; I share writing advice and support on social media; and I sometimes critique queries and first pages for aspiring authors who I’ve met via social media or in person at conferences and other events.

Where can people find more about you?

Find out more about Victoria on her website

Like Victoria and connect on her Facebook page

Follow Victoria on Twitter

Find out what Victoria is reading–and writing!– on her Goodreads page

See what has caught Victoria’s interest on her Pinterest page

 

A Murder For The Books

Fleeing a disastrous love affair, university librarian Amy Webber moves in with her aunt in a quiet, historic mountain 

town in Virginia. She quickly busies herself with managing a charming public library that requires all her attention with its severe lack of funds and overabundance of eccentric patrons. The last thing she needs is a new, available neighbor whose charm lures her into trouble.

Dancer-turned-teacher and choreographer Richard Muir inherited the farmhouse next door from his great-uncle, Paul Dassin. But town folklore claims the house’s original owner was poisoned by his wife, who was an outsider. It quickly became water under the bridge, until she vanished after her sensational 1925 murder trial. Determined to clear the name of the woman his great-uncle loved, Richard implores Amy to help him investigate the case. Amy is skeptical until their research raises questions about the culpability of the town’s leading families… including her own.

When inexplicable murders plunge the quiet town into chaos, Amy and Richard must crack open the books to reveal a cruel conspiracy and lay a turbulent past to rest in A Murder for the Books, the first installment of Victoria Gilbert’s Blue Ridge Library mysteries.

 

Buy Links for A MURDER FOR THE BOOKS

 

Shelved Under Murder

October in Taylorsford, Virginia means it’s leaf peeping season, with bright colorful foliage and a delightful fresh crew of  

tourists attending the annual Heritage Festival which celebrates local history and arts and crafts. Library director Amy Webber, though, is slightly dreading having to spend two days running a yard sale fundraiser for her library. But during these preparations, when she and her assistant Sunny stumble across a dead body, Amy finds a real reason to be worried.

The body belonged to a renowned artist who was murdered with her own pallet knife. A search of the artist’s studio uncovers a cache of forged paintings, and when the sheriff’s chief deputy Brad Tucker realizes Amy is skilled in art history research, she’s recruited to aid the investigation. It doesn’t seem to be an easy task, but when the state’s art expert uncovers a possible connection between Amy’s deceased uncle and the murder case, Amy must champion her Aunt Lydia to clear her late husband’s name.

That’s when another killing shakes the quiet town, and danger sweeps in like an autumn wind. Now, with her swoon-inducing neighbor Richard Muir, Amy must scour their resources to once again close the books on murder in Shelved Under Murder, the charming second installment in Victoria Gilbert’s Blue Ridge Library mysteries, perfect for fans of Jenn McKinlay and Miranda James.

Available July 10, 2018. Buy (preorder) Links for SHELVED UNDER MURDER 

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Author Spotlight: R.L. Martinez

Name:  R. L. Martinez    

Author of: In the Blood; Beneath the Skin (Lakewater Press)

From: Oklahoma

 

 

Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing? Yes, it was a story about a black horse that I also illustrated in this little white blank book my teacher gave me. I think I, or my mother, still have it around somewhere

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue professional writing? Umm.. not till pretty late. I never grew up wanting to be a writer. I guess around 2007 was when I really started to consider the possibility of selling my writing.

Do you exclusively write fantasy or have you written in other genres? I mainly write SFF, but I have also written literary fiction, contemporary romance, and poetry. I’ve also tried my hand at horror, but I’m not so adept at that.

What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance? It certainly is for me! I envy those people who have and maintain really strict writing schedules. I’m kind of all over the place, stealing bits of time here and there. If I’m really into a project, though, I will write an average of 2,000 to 2,500 words a day. It usually has to be done at night after my kids go to sleep or at work between massage clients.

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions? I like to get my very first draft of a book done in a month. Revisions are a much longer process. After writing the first draft, I usually put the book away from 1-6 months (sometimes longer). I drag it out, read through it, and do a near-total rewrite. Then I print the book, do a line edit. After that is all entered in there, I do another revision before sending it to my beta readers (one of whom totally tears it to pieces). I get those suggestions back, enter them in then send it on to my editor.

Can you describe the preparation/research—if any—you do for each book? I’m one of those people who simply cannot do a ton of prep work for a novel. If I do (because I actually really like to do that) I get so wrapped up in the planning phase that I kill any enthusiasm for actually writing the book. I do research as I’m writing (which people say you shouldn’t do), because that keeps me from getting too bogged down in thinking about details.

Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)? Hmmm… no, I don’t think so. I’m pretty boring 😝

Have you ever done a pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? Or do you have a research destination bucket list? I haven’t, but my ultimate bucket-list destination, for a number of reasons, is the England/Ireland/Scotland/Wales.

Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects? I can actually. It usually starts with a rather off-the-wall idea that morphs into a totally different product when all is said and done. For instance, In the Blood started as a retelling of the fairytale “The Twelve Huntsmen”

Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites? Well, I used to be much more into SFF but I find, the more I write it, the less I want to read it (shrugs). I’ve gotten more into nonfiction in recent years including memoirs. I also like historical and contemporary romance and steampunk.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find? I honestly don’t think I’m subtle or smart enough to do this well or consistently. But I think I tend to weave themes in there (like certain colors). I do it somewhat unconsciously. But I’ve never really had anyone mention it to me or in a review, so maybe it’s all in my own head ;P

Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life? In a way. I think I write parts of myself that are hidden or dormant. Or, I write characters I WISH I was like.

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated. The Forest of App by Gloria Rand Dank. Such a good book! Last I checked, though, it was out of print and not many people even know about it anymore. Which is really sad.

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure. The Master by Kresley Cole. So hot! I’ve got a bit of a naughty girl in me 😉

Be honest: Do you Google yourself?: Maybe once a year or so. I’m rather uninterested in finding out about myself like that. And I mainly go on Goodreads/Amazon to check my reviews because I feel like I SHOULD be interested in that.

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

A unicorn or horse.

Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with? Worldbuilding, for sure. I feel like I’m terrible at it. I get so wrapped up in creating my characters that physical settings and social structures often suffer.

What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer? Stay humble and hopeful. There is ALWAYS someone out there who is more talented than you and someone who is less talented.

What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author? Don’t expect to find happiness in publication. Publication is a fickle mistress and today’s triumph and joy grows cold in the wake of future rejections or poor sales. Keep grounded in real life things and people. Find happiness in the craft itself, not the glory that can (possibly) come from it.

Where can people find more about you?

 

In the Blood (Witchbreed Book 1)

A snake. A lion. A return.
In a time when magic is feared, Lady Oriabel Dominax has no choice but to conceal her healing powers while she cares for her father’s struggling estate. One

touch of the Witch’s Tree shows her visions of witches hung and burned at the very hands of the people for whom she cares, the people who love her. But with the arrival of a new lord, a man hiding secrets of his own, falling in love might be one wrong move too many.

Incarcerated for an unspeakable crime, fearless warrior Lady Ottilde Dominax is plagued by mysterious dreams of her sister’s death. When a hooded figure offers her the chance of escape, although untrusting, she does not hesitate. Racing across nations to reach Oriabel, her journey is cut short by an encounter with a wedowyn, a formidable beast which she has no chance to overpower alone. Though it is not death that greets her, but something far worse.

Blackmail, betrayal, and murder are only the beginning as a darker magic is awakened. And someone has plans for the Dominax twins, plans more terrifying than anything they could ever imagine.

For fans of THE THRONE OF GLASS and QUEEN OF TEARLING, the WITCHBREED SERIES is an upmarket saga that is “creative and imaginative beyond belief” and has “everything a fantasy lover craves.” Not to be missed.

Get In the Blood right now on Amazon or from Barnes & Noble

Beneath the Skin (Witchbreed Book 2)

Abandoned, betrayed, and wanted for murder.

Lady Oriabel Dominax is a witch on the run. The deadly magic now awakened inside her is hungry, and it is all Oriabel can do to control it. With no choice but

to trust strangers as her guardians, she quickly discovers not everyone is who they say they are and the very magic she fears might be her only weapon to protect those she loves.

Since rescuing her sister from certain death, Lady Ottilde Dominax’s only goal is to keep Oriabel safe and alive. Not an easy task when both the enemy and their so-called allies are hunting them. Placing all her trust in the very man who held her prisoner, Ottilde must open her heart and mind to a future she could never have predicted, a future guided only by love and survival.

Life, death, and tragedy lie ahead as the Dominax twins set out on a perilous journey to safety. But knowing they are mere pawns in someone else’s game means fighting for family is all they have left.

For fans of Sarah J. Maas and Juliet Marillier, The WITCHBREED series is a “magical and spellbinding” epic tale of witches, warriors, and “a sisterly bond like none other.”

Get Beneath the Skin right now from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble 

 

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Author Spotlight: Stephanie Eding

Name: Stephanie Eding

Author of: Unanchored (April 17, 2018; Anaiah Press)

From: Convoy, OH

 

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

In high school, I spent quite a bit of time writing short stories, skits, or fan fiction. It wasn’t until about four years ago that I wrote my first book. It was a young adult fantasy about a group of teens that fought off nightmares in the dream world. I had a blast writing it and still love that world, but it didn’t go anywhere.

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

I think I’ve always knew this was what I wanted to do—I just didn’t know how to do it. I began with writing for newspapers, and it just wasn’t for me. When I finally got brave enough to attempt a book, I truly thought that all you had to do was write it, proofread it, then send it off to a publishing company and it’d be on shelves within a few months! I have certainly learned a lot on this journey! This is definitely what I want to do for the rest of my life.

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

You know, I truly don’t think I’d have kept going without my writing group. I met them a few years ago for Camp NaNoWriMo, and we became friends right away. They’ve always been the first to dive into my stories and help me work out the kinks. I’d also say the editors from Pitch to Publication/Revise and Resub have been invaluable to me. I am always learning from them, and they are some of the kindest people on earth!

Do you exclusively write historical fiction or have you written in other genres?

I always thought you had to pick a genre and stick to it. If that were the case, I’d be doomed! I began writing fantasy, then moved to historical fiction (UNANCHORED), dabbled in MG, and am currently polishing up a women’s fiction.

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

This is such a tough one for me to balance. I’ve got two kids—ages 5 and 7—and I’m a freelance editor for a couple different outlets. My work time generally only happens while the kids are at school or in bed, which can make for a choppy workday. Most days, my editing takes up the entire time my kids are in school, and my only writing time happens at the tail end of the day when I have no energy left. It really is hard to balance, but oftentimes I find that diving into my created worlds gives me the most energy. Granted, there are also days when I can’t stand to stare at another word on the computer screen and have to just curl up with a bowl of ice cream and some Seinfeld. And that’s OK too. I’m slowly, slowly learning to allow myself some down time when my brain has had enough.

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

My speed has significantly decreased over the years. I wrote UNANCHORED in about 40 days—but spent a couple years editing off and on prior to publication. For my women’s fiction (my latest work), I worked on it off and on for over a year.

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

I definitely need an outline to write. Before I can begin a new story, I have to have at least my main plot points listed and a few chapters planned out. Particularly with pirates in UNANCHORED, and being a historical fiction, I had a lot more research involved than anything else I’ve written. I bought several books on the Golden Age of Piracy (which is soooo fascinating!), watched movies and documentaries, and, of course, Pinterest-ed all the things. I generally find the research phase to be one of the most fun parts of the journey. There’s not as much pressure to get it done, you learn so much, and you get to immerse fully in a world that you wouldn’t normally dive into.

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

Hmmm. Well, I crush hard on my love interests to the point that I become a giggly mess. Finn in UNANCHORED is my favorite to date. I also have a ritual for finishing a draft or final edit: I grab a glass of wine, crank up “Whoomp (There It Is)” by Tag Team, and have a dance party of one.

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. But, oh, do I desperately want to! My husband and I keep saying that we’re going to head down to the Caribbean one of these days to hit up Barbados (which is the main setting in UNANCHORED’s sequel). I also desperately want to head up to Wales and Ireland and explore the coasts where my pirates have traveled. There are some trips where you get to sail on these old ships and they teach you the ropes of ship life. THAT WOULD BE AN AMAZING EXPERIENCE! It would be so much more fun than watching cheesy videos about it on You Tube. J

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

I think a lot of them grow steadily. Usually, I’ll start out with an idea for a character I can’t live without and develop the story around them. With UNANCHORED, I vividly remember lying in bed one night and seeing a girl pass a biscuit through the cell bars to a prisoner—someone she once hated but now wants to save. That scene made it all the way to the final draft and will always be one of my favorites!

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

I really don’t think I have a favorite anymore. If I had to pick, I’d say light fantasy.

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

Ooooooooh yes! My favorite thing is when someone very close to me reads the book and finds a little nugget I hid in there that someone I don’t know would never catch. My contemporary stories have a whole lot more of those than the historicals, but I’ve got them in both.

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

Not usually. There are definitely instances of that in some places, though. My heroines are generally made up of characteristics I wish I had more of. For example, in my women’s fiction, Josie is quick-witted and sarcastic and not afraid to voice it. I think those things but never vocalize them. I wish I could!

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.

I don’t hear nearly enough about Ann Aguirre’s RAZORLAND TRILOGY. I couldn’t put those books down!

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure.

I really don’t know what I’d say for this one. Maybe bios by comedians? I thoroughly enjoyed (and laughed super hard!) when I read books by Jim Gaffigan, Betty White, Neil Patrick Harris, and Ellen DeGeneres.

Be honest: Do you Google yourself?

Occasionally—just to see what pops up first. I know there’s a science to Google searches and the internet, but my mind can’t wrap around it!

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

That would be a cat. I have three of them in my house, and I fully support that they do completely nonsensical things at random, find their greatest joy in eating, and sleep 18 hours a day.

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

Where to even begin??? For one thing, I’m a slow reader. You’d think after all these years I’d get faster—nope. I also struggle a lot of with making plots work. I had to shelve a young adult contemporary that I just LOVED and worked really hard on, because no matter how many times I edited it, I could not get my readers to connect with my plot.

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

Become a critique partner for as many other new writers as you can. The art of critiquing is one of the best things you can do to grow your own abilities.

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

Calm down. I spend so much of my day freaking out about what people will think of my book. It’s such a vulnerable thing to have it out there for the world to read! It makes it hard to enjoy the dream-come-true aspect. But it’ll be OK—I think. J

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

I feel like I’m cheating a little bit on this one. I’m also a freelance book editor, so I get to work with other writers all the time. One of my favorite things is to participate in Revise and Resub where I get to know hundreds of authors through interacting on Twitter and offer feedback on a variety of levels. I love working with fellow writers. It’s so great to be able to cheer each other on toward shared goals!

Where can people find more about you?

  • For more information about Stephanie please visit her website
  • You can keep up with Stephanie on Facebook
  • Follow Stephanie on Twitter
  • Get book updates, news, and ideas from Stephanie on Goodreads

 

Unanchored by Stephanie Eding

 

Cecily Hastings fails to escape her captor when he gambles her away in a game of dice. Now, instead of getting her first taste of freedom, she’s rotting in a cell on the Hellbound, a pirate ship under the command of Captain Finnigan Worley. Cecily, however, has no plans of sticking around with a captain known for his heartless deeds.

As soon as they make port, Cecily attempts to alert the Royal Navy. While trying to get away, she stumbles upon Captain Worley liberating people from a life of abuse and servitude, which makes her question everything she thought she knew about the infamous buccaneer.

Soon she’s recaptured and taken back to the ship, and Cecily vows to figure out the captain’s humanitarian angle. The more she learns, the more she believes in his benevolent mission. With the Royal Navy closing in, she must decide if she’s willing to fight beside Captain Worley or turn him over to the gallows for a chance at her own freedom.

Order your digital copy of Unanchored from Amazon

 

 

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Author Spotlight: Katerina Baker

Name: Katerina Baker

Author of: The Corner Office (Self Published)

 

Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing? When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession? I always thought I would be a full time writer in retirement, but until then I am managing to write in my spare time. As to whether I can call it a profession? I am definitely not the writer who has ambition to release many books per year. I prefer to let the books “stew” and grow, add on shape that can only happen when I take breaks from the novel I’m writing.

The first book I completed was started six years ago, which began my journey as an author. I remember sending my very first query letter to a New York City agent–only one because I did my research and I knew he was the perfect agent for me–and waiting for a phone call from him that same day. I think I even moved my meetings around so I would be available when he called.

Right.

That phone call never came, but I made another important one–to the editor who agreed to help me get the book into shape. Many revisions and almost three years later, that book did earn me my agent, which brings me to answering your next question…

Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author? God, too many people to count. But a few people did make a tremendous difference in my writing career. First off, my long-time writing buddy and an amazing author Camilla Monk. She was my first true fan who helped me see potential in my work. I remember how high I felt receiving her comments after she read my work in progress. I think all authors needs a few good cheerleaders, and Camilla was that person for me when I was just starting out.

The other people who really helped me are my agents. They worked with me on many gruesome revisions, relentlessly making me kill my darlings and pointing me in the right direction.
Do you exclusively write romance or have you written in other genres? All of the books I’m writing have strong Romantic aspect, but I’ve decided to not market all of them as Romance because some of them are not traditional romance. My latest novel Under the Scrubs, which will be published soon, will be marketed as Mystery, but there is a very strong romantic element and happily-for-now ending.
What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance? I am one of those writers who gets up at 5 am to get a few words in and then revise it on the bus to work. I also write at nights and on weekends while my kids are at various activities. Overall, I find myself more productive when I do a few dedicated spurts of writing rather than doing it continuously for many hours. I need my breaks to produce the best stuff.
How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions? The first draft might take 3-4 months but revisions could sometimes take years. The first novel in a series always takes longer, but sequels come much easier since I already have the special bond with the characters.
Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book? I prefer to write about a topic that I know about, and my pre-work is focused around drafting a few-page synopsis.
Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)? You mean the quirky habits I’d never want to tell anyone but your blog readers? None. Absolutely none. Just kidding. Well, when I get stuck, I like to play “what if” game with my kids. I give them a vague situation and ask them what would they do if they faced it. They win extra points if they find something absolutely ridiculous to resolve it. Under the Scrubs features quite a few of their gems, which is why this novel is that much more special for me.
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’ve extensively traveled in Turkey for a book I am writing. It’s about two Americans experiencing life in this beautiful country, and I wanted to make it truly authentic.

Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects? The inspiration for Under the Scrubs came when I watched a movie about an FBI agent rescuing a girl-next-door. The movie finished as they walked into sunset together, and I thought, wait a minute. Would it really happen in real life? Would the people like that really get their happily-ever-after and what would it look like? The idea was born: pair up the most different people imaginable and explore their relationship, throw the craziest situations their way and see whether they’d manage to come out together. Would it work out? Would they be able to move past all the conflict? Or maybe life doesn’t really work that way. That’s how the idea started, but it evolved into a really fun novel and some really unusual characters.
Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites? I love to read all sub-genres of Romance, particularly Romantic Suspense. In humorous mystery, Janet Evanovich is my hero.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for? I hide a murder mystery in my books, but you’ll need to read all of them to find out. Just kidding.

I don’t know if this is really a secret but I spend a lot of time making up the names of fictional places in my books. A few of my characters also love to give nicknames for things, and I spent quite some time making those perfect.

Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life? The female characters in my books are inspired by the women I knew and admired. I love writing about smart women: they are leaders, scientists, even hackers. They create their own destiny and make things happen. They show me the world I want for my daughters.

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated. There are so many undiscovered books that deserve more attention. I love Camilla Monk’s Spotless series. I think it’s a new classic that everyone should binge-read. How could you not love a hitman with an OCD?

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure. You’ll get me in trouble here. I could spend days binge reading Outlander. I am the type of person who can re-read my favorite books over and over again and never get bored. I do sometimes go to my favorite scenes on my tenth read, though.

Be honest: Do you Google yourself? Never. I don’t care nearly enough what people think of me. This is the same reason I rarely read book reviews. I always reply to any direct messages sent by my readers, though. Those are truly special.

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

It would be a pink pussy hat worn during women march.

Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with? I could improve my world-building skills, particularly when writing imaginary places.

What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer? Never give up. If you want something badly enough, keep at it. Be open to constructive criticism, no matter how hard it might be to hear. Constantly grow and learn from others, and eventually it will happen. If you never give up, it’s not a question of if, but of when.

What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author? Market your book would be the smart advice, but really, do what makes you happy. Write a new book.

In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers? I spend a lot of time reading work-in-progress by other authors and providing feedback. I would love to be able to do more collaborations on marketing, but there’s never enough time in a day.

Where can people find more about you?

 

The Corner Office                                                            

Tara Johnson’s sacrifices are about to pay off: a senior executive at thirty-five at a Fortune 500 company, she’s one of the two finalists in line for a Managing Director position. Unfortunately, her rival of fifteen years, the charming, infuriating Richard Boyd, is just as qualified, and unlike her, he’s willing to cross pretty much every line to get what he wants.
Of all the things Tara stored in the attic to make it to the top, it’s her personal life she misses the most. That is, until she starts a steamy affair with sex god Aidan, her direct report. Interoffice relationships with a subordinate can mean the end of a career, and when Richard finds out, it’s the perfect opportunity to take his high-heeled nemesis out, especially since he’s still nursing a grudge against Tara for rejecting him years ago.
But Tara’s increasingly domineering lover has his own dark secrets, endangering more than just her career. As her liaison spirals out of control, salvation will come from the man she always thought she hated, and perhaps the only one to truly understand her.

 

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Author Spotlight: Sam Boush

Name: Sam Boush

Author of: All Systems Down (Lakewater Press)

From: Portland, OR

 

 

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

The first “book” I ever wrote (as far as I can remember) was also the one that made me want to be a writer. Winnie-the-Pooh fanfic. Me, maybe five years old, making my mom transcribe my words onto six-or-seven sheets of paper. Then I drew horribly on it all and bawled my eyes out when the sheets came apart.

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

That fanfic. That was definitely it.

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

Well, dozens of people. I actually think about this topic a lot because there are so many people who have helped me, and sometimes I feel like one of those concert-goers who launch themselves into a crowd. Body surfing, they call it. Except I’m surfing on the outstretched hands of all the people who have helped me.

If you’re looking for names, Tracy Daugherty from my college days at Oregon State University stands out pretty marvelously. He was the advisor for my honor’s college thesis which was a long-ass novel that must have been pretty painful to read. If you listen to the literary agents I submitted it to, you’d come away with that idea, anyway.

I was twenty-one when he pored over this never-to-be-published historical fiction monstrosity. Read the whole thing and marked it up at least a couple times. No one paid him anything to help me out. And this was on top of running the English department, teaching a full course load, raising his kids, trying to pound out his own writing. Man, when I look back at what he did I feel both grateful and, if I’m being honest, kinda terrible.

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

Well… I exclusively write cyber thrillers in that All Systems Down and the next book in the series (working on it now, Lakewater Press, I SWEAR!) are both cyber thrillers. But I’m sure I’ll write more widely in the future. My guess is I’ll be sticking to thrillers, though. It’s a fun genre to write!

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

I’ve got a pretty good situation since I sold my business and am currently focused on just a few things. My kids are a top priority, and I’m kinda Mr. Dad right now, cooking, cleaning, running the kids around and writing in there. If I run into trouble it’s probably from creative juices squeezed out, not really from time.

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

Are you sure this isn’t just a ploy from my publisher to find out how I’m doing on book 2? Well, I guess I’ll come clean. It takes me forever. FOREVER. I’m such a slow writer and researcher. Sometimes I go down a rabbit hole and spend an evening learning the intricacies of how a building collapses, watching videos on YouTube and reading engineering papers. I’m not even a wonk, but criminy, I can definitely be a dork.

So, first draft? A year. I dunno. Wayyyy to long. If you’re reading this and thinking that’s normal, it’s not. I don’t know why I’m so slow. And revisions? Gawd, I dunno there either. My publisher had multiple editors looking at my last book, cutting tens of thousands (TENS OF THOUSANDS!) of words, making the thing bleed, you know the drill. Took forever.

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

No. I can’t. It’s a lot.

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

I drink three cups of coffee. Then I write. I’m like a Hemmingway without the alcoholism or talent.

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’ve got a buddy (I’m looking at you, Lee Corum) who implied he could get me on a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. I implied that I would kill anyone he needed me to kill to get onboard that baby. Still waiting for his hitlist.

 Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.

A Shine that Defies the Dark

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure.

See above

Be honest: Do you Google yourself?

Sure. Not too often, though.

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

A bat. I stay inside all day. Being a writer isn’t glamorous.

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

No, there are dozens of things. But most of all, probably focus. Sometimes I find things to fix around the house when I should be writing.

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

Write every day. I don’t do this, but it’s good advice.

Where can people find more about you?

 

All Systems Down 

24 hours.
That’s all it takes.
A new kind of war has begun.

Pak Han-Yong’s day is here. An elite hacker with Unit 101 of the North Korean military, he’s labored for years to launch Project Sonnimne: a series of deadly viruses set to cripple Imperialist infrastructure.

And with one tap of his keyboard, the rewards are immediate.

Brendan Chogan isn’t a hero. He’s an out-of-work parking enforcement officer and one-time collegiate boxer trying to support his wife and children. But now there’s a foreign enemy on the shore, a blackout that extends across America, and an unseen menace targeting him.

Brendan will do whatever it takes to keep his family safe.

In the wake of the cyber attacks, electrical grids fail, satellites crash to earth, and the destinies of nine strangers collide.

Strangers whose survival depends upon each other’s skills and courage.

For fans of Tom Clancy, ALL SYSTEMS DOWN is a riveting cyber war thriller which presents a threat so credible you’ll be questioning reality.

 

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Author Spotlight: Sharonlee Holder

Name: Sharonlee Holder

Author of: Resurgence; Renegade (coming in 28 May 2018; Changing Tides Publishing)

From: Johannesburg, South Africa

 

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

It was so long ago that I think it involved a stone tablet, hammer and chisel. LOL. I do, however, remember writing a short story for my girls when they were little entitled ‘Betty & Bumper Go Adventuring’. I printed it out, drew pictures for it and stapled its ‘spine’ together. I think one of the girls may still have it somewhere.

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

I have always written for my own entertainment and spent the last ten years writing characters and telling their stories with others in various collaborative roleplaying communities themed around the world of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern book series. I also participated in NaNo in both 2012 and 2014. It wasn’t until the April Camp Nano in 2016 (during which the first 50k words of Resurgence were written) that I began to dream about the idea of turning my storytelling passion into a profession.

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

My family and a couple of close friends. I know, that sounds so cliched. But were it not for their encouragement and support, I would never have had the courage to submit Resurgence in the first place. I must give my mom extra kudos for the hours and hours that she patiently listened to me blathering on about my characters like they were real people. She is still my number one sounding board when I need to brainstorm a plot twist or when I’m having a crisis of word flow.

Do you exclusively write paranormal romance or have you written in other genres?

I have a half-finished contemporary MC romance that is a stand-alone that I hope to complete this year and submit for consideration. NaNo 2012 I started but never completed a high fantasy novel, but even that has romance woven into it 😉

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

As an adult with ADD, maintaining any kind of balance and/or focus can be a challenge at times. This is where my passion for music comes in and helps to centre me during writing sessions. I am also truly grateful to be able to say that writing is my work. While I also design patterns for crochet toys and sell those through my Etsy shop on the side, I am determined to turn my writing passion into a sustainable career. Scary, nerve-wracking but altogether exciting too!

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

Resurgence took me four months to write, Renegade, five months – longer if you count the break I took when I began writing the MC Contemp Romance I have yet to finish. I’m hoping to get book 3 out in four and a half months.

 

As for revisions, I am a lineal writer that starts at Chapter 1 and writes straight through to The End, editing as I go. While this approach does to tend to slow me down so far, it has also served to lessen the need for hefty revisions. I am also a total pantster. While I may know the overall plot and how the book will end, my approach is very definitely that of discovery writing. My little ADD brain would get bored and disengage if it knew too much in advance 😉

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

Since I’m a pantster and revel in discovery writing, I tend to research as I go. Again, it does make for a bit of a stop-start approach but so far, it’s worked for me. That is, if you discount falling down rabbit holes that began with Googling: How long does it take to dig a grave by hand? And somehow ends with: Watching a Facebook video of someone making a three flavour swiss roll. I can’t even claim that I then went on to make said swiss roll for the family. LOL.

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

I feel like I should plead the fifth here. LOL. Coffee. There must always be coffee! Coffee and a short one-minute track from the band Thousand Foot Krutch called The Introduction that I listen to on my headphones at the start of each writing session. Not sure if it’s because I’m trying to invoke my muse, or it simply helps to clear the cobwebs from my head, but it seems to get me into the space I need to be in. The lyrics:

Welcome. You have activated all systems. Deactivation is not an option. You must find the truth. Remember, not everything is what it seems. If you don’t stand for something, you might fall for anything. The end is where we begin.

The link: https://youtu.be/azkL37-ipKU

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 have! Aside from visiting the local graveyard where Ross, Apollo, Ares and Keanu have their little showdown in Resurgence, my #HEA surprised me with a trip to Underberg in the Drakensberg mountains to the exact location that has inspired the compound that Eros and the resistance take over at the end of Resurgence. It was amazing! There is an old abandoned hospital that inspired the one in Renegade (book 2) that’s just down the road from where I live. However, since it’s listed as one of the top ten most haunted places in South Africa I am way too chicken to check it out myself 😉 There I cheated and relied heavily on Youtube videos taken inside the dilapidated buildings by paranormal investigators and Google Earth for a 3D external view. I’ll be sharing some of those links on my blog and Facebook in the weeks leading up to Renegade’s release.

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

With my #HEA being a patched member of the Hell Razors bike club, inspiration for my unfinished contemporary MC romance is taken directly from my and his involvement in the biker club life. The inspiration for Blood of The Custodians grew from a series of What Ifs after watching the delicious Henry Cavill in the 2011 movie, Immortals – What if the gods of Greek and Roman times still lived among us? What would they look like? What would their politics be? How would they integrate with us and what have they been up to for the past one thousand years?

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

Paranormal romance all the way with a brief tour here and there through high or urban fantasy as well as historical fiction as written by the incredible Ken Follet. When it comes to PNR, I will admit to having a mega fangirl crush on JR Ward, author of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series and would probably swoon dead away if ever I got to meet her. Ward writes PNR and vampires like no one I’ve ever read before – Edgy, fast-paced, steal-your-breath away, melt-your-bones stuff. Karen Marie Moning, author of the Fever series is a close second – Jericho Barrons is delicious! When it comes to contemporary romance, Lori Foster’s Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor is my all-time favourite series from her so far. In this series, Foster writes the perfect blend of hot alpha males working as white hat mercenaries with steamy romance all while dealing with the grim reality of the modern-day slave trade.

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

Haha. Yes. Yes, I do 😉 There is a scene in Resurgence where Antara encounters Tryston (The Dark Hunter) for the first time that was inspired by a recurring nightmare I used to have as a teenager living at the coast. In Renegade, there is a scene set in Chicago that briefly touches on a strange little house squished between two modern hotels. Back in March of 2013, during a trip to the States, I stood outside in the middle of a snowstorm opposite the real-life inspiration and told my #HEA that one day, I would write a book and put that little double-storey house in it. Total squee moment when finally, I got to do just that! I only wish I could have written more about it.

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

Oh, this could get me into trouble. LOL. One or two of my characters are certainly drawn from real-life inspiration. For instance, Hailey, Antara’s BFF, is a composite of the close friend of one of my daughters and a friend of mine from the Hell Razors all wrapped up in the bounce and charm of a Jack Russell 😉 The real-life sources of Hailey’s inspiration are aware of this. Except the Jack Russell who was more interested in chasing imaginary squirrels than hearing how she had inspired a character.

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.

Gladiatrix by Russell Whitfield. I received the first book as a gift from a dear friend back in 2011 and loved reading about Lysandra, a Spartan warrior priestess who fights her way from shipwrecked slave to fearsome victor in the gladiatorial arena facing many deadly foes and circumstances along the way.

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure.

Wheels Up (Out of Uniform) by Annabeth Albert. A m/m military romance I thoroughly enjoyed Annabeth’s exploration of the psychology and dangers involved when a pair of new lovers suddenly find themselves thrust into the forbidden territory of a relationship between a commanding officer and enlisted man due to an unforseen transfer. What an emotional rollercoaster! And…hot, hot, hot!

Be honest: Do you Google yourself?

Haha. Haven’t we all? My results are pretty boring though. It’s all book/author stuff and the various crochet and cross stitch patterns I’ve designed for magazines or that I sell on my Etsy shop.

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

Given how dragon obsessed I am, that would have to be it 🙂

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

Putting down more words in a day that by the end of it, will survive my daily edits. My greatest aspiration is to be able to achieve a steady flow of between 3,000 and 4,000 words a day that make it passed edits.

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

Read. Read, read, read! And I don’t just mean novels in the genre you want to write in but everything about the craft of writing and publishing that you can get your hands on! Sign up for newsletters that offer free advice, read articles by other authors, editors and publishers. Follow published authors, editors, agents and publishers on social media as they not only have sage advice to give but will often share articles on all things related to the craft of writing. Things such as the difference between ‘showing’ and ‘telling’, character growth, plot development, query letters, writing a synopsis etc. Angela Ackerman on twitter is a brilliant place to start. She’s always sharing amazing tips and hints.

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

Social media! That’s two. #mybad. Seriously though, get on social media, follow other authors, book reviewers, bloggers, like their posts, share their stuff, retweet. Reach out. ENGAGE! It’s not just about marketing your book. You need to network and build relationships too.

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

While I’m not as good about blogging as I should be, I do like to reach out one-on-one and share what I’ve learned in terms of what’s worked for me and what hasn’t, what info is out there for the taking and where to find it. I know how lonely and overwhelming the journey can be and how much just even the smallest bit of encouragement can help.

Where can people find more about you?

 

 

BLOOD OF THE CUSTODIANS 

RESURGENCE – Book one

It’s been a thousand years since the Fates destroyed Olympus, forcing the gods into exile among the humans. Now, led by Eros, the sons and daughters of the Olympians are preparing for war. They are determined to win their freedom, but the Fates will do anything to keep the status quo. A prophesied weapon—said to be able to destroy the Fates—is sought by both sides.  Eros and the resistance want to use it to win their freedom, while the Fates race to find the weapon first and destroy it.

 

Antara, a hybrid of human and Custodial descent, comes into her ancestral powers as the very Tracker Eros needs to find the weapon. Kidnapped, held hostage and forced to confront the hidden truth about her own heritage, Antara is drawn deeper and deeper into a world she never knew existed. Things would be a lot simpler if she could just hate Eros for bringing her here; if his fate weren’t now bound to her own—and if, despite everything, she didn’t already find herself falling in love with him…

 

Set in modern day urban South Africa, Resurgence is a fast-paced paranormal romance featuring rich, dynamic characters centered on a smoldering love story and timeless themes.

 

One Liner: Love has the power to move gods.

 

BUY LINKS: FREE

Amazon
Smashwords
Nook

 

 

 

RENEGADE – Book two

In the ongoing war between the Fates and the resistance, Colin Murphy, bastard son of Hades finds himself caught between his loyalty to Eros and a past intent on destroying him.

Pursued by Persephone’s bounty hunters with a pissed-off daemon to contend with, there is one thing that Murphy knows for sure – Hailey, the human he now shares his mind and body with, is the innocent in all of it. She is a firefly flickering in the darkness of his black existence and he will do anything to protect her light.

Groomed to be a socialite with a conscience and with her future mapped out for her, nothing could have prepared Hailey for the rude ending to life as she knew it. Or, for that matter, the impact of living in such close, intimate confines with a forsaken son of hell. He’s powerful, dangerous and her only hope of escaping the dark forces after her.

Boundaries will be tested, loyalties questioned, and hearts pushed to the limits in this action-packed paranormal romance that continues the epic Blood of the Custodians saga by Sharonlee Holder.

 

One Liner: He’ll risk his heart to save her soul.

 

PRE-ORDER LINKS:

Amazon Pre-order 

Nook Pre-order

 

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Author Spotlight: Susan Pape

 

 

Name: Susan Pape

Author of: (with Sue Featherstone) A Falling Friend; A Forsaken Friend

From: A village between Leeds and Ilkley in Yorkshire.

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

I used to make up a lot of stories when I was a child, and I’d tell them to my mother and her friends (getting into trouble once as I claimed in one story to have been attacked by a whale).

I don’t remember writing anything down until I got to school – but once there, with a supply of paper and pencils, I was off. I think my first ever written-down story was about an otter, because I’d seen a picture of one in a nature book.

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

From about the age of five. I remember telling my primary school teacher that I wanted to work for a newspaper. She didn’t think journalism was a ‘nice’ profession for a ‘nice’ girl (this was the 1950s) and didn’t offer any encouragement. She did, however, occasionally read out my stories in front of the class.

Do you exclusively write contemporary women’s fiction or have you written in other genres?

The first two books written with Sue (my co-author) were academic journalism text books. We had both completed degrees as mature students – and were both teaching journalism at different universities – when we saw the lack of good, practical books on journalism. The resulting books, Newspaper Journalism: A Practical Introduction, and Feature Writing: A Practical Introduction were both published by Sage of London and are still listed on university reading lists.

I also ghost wrote two cookery books which, if you knew me and my cooking skills, would make you laugh. But a publishing company approached me and asked me to do it – and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience (especially the lunches the chefs cooked for me).

 

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

It’s so hard to write as much as I’d like because real life gets in the way. It’s a luxury if I can block off two or three days in a row to concentrate entirely on writing. But the phone rings, the washing has to be hung out, my husband wants to book a holiday and needs my opinion (which is lovely, but…) it’s my turn to buy and make tea, and a hundred and one other things …

When I’m not sitting at my desk writing, I’m generally thinking about what I need to write next. I make little notes when I’m away from the office, and have plot ideas when I’m out walking or swimming. Churning up and down the pool is a great way of thinking about where your characters are going next.

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

Our first novel, A Falling Friend, took eight years to write because Sue and I were working full time and had family commitments. The follow up, A Forsaken Friend took eight months because we’d both given up full time work, and family problems had eased a little. The final book in the Friends trilogy, A Forgiven Friend, should be finished by the summer because we both feel more confident about where it’s going, and what we’re doing. I have to admit, though, that the original first chapter of the third book took only a short while to write as I’d composed it in my head while out walking one day. Trouble is, I had deep reservations after I’d sent it to Sue for her approval. We both agreed it was not in the same style as the two earlier books – and would cause us problems further down the line. So I scrapped it.

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

Preparation means coming up with ideas for characters and plots, which involves meeting with Sue (for coffee and/or lunch) to discuss our thoughts. We agree – or disagree – make copious notes, and go away to start writing. But you can bet that by the time we start sending each other our completed chapters, we’ve both gone off piste. It’s amazing how characters take over once you start writing, and how new plot lines develop as you go on.

Research is vitally important – especially if you’re writing about something you know little about. We might be writing fiction, but we don’t like ‘making it up’ completely especially if there are factual points to be made. I would hate to write about somewhere in Yorkshire – my home county – and get it wrong as there would be many dozens of people wanting to correct me. Both main characters in A Falling Friend and its follow-up, A Forsaken Friend, have travelled – but to places that both Sue and I have visited, so we know what we’re talking about.

Otherwise, our two novels feature academia and the media quite strongly. But that’s fairly straightforward for Sue and I because we’ve both worked in those environments, we know what goes on – and we’re happy to spill the beans!

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

One of my plans is to visit Spelsbury Church in Oxfordshire. It’s where John Wilmot, the 2nd Earl of Rochester is buried. He’s probably the most controversial poet within the restored court of Charles II, and a total libertine. He features in both A Falling Friend and A Forsaken Friend, because he reminds one of the main characters, Teri Meyer, of her one-time lover, Declan – a philandering rake. He will be making another appearance in the final book in the Friends trilogy, which Sue and I are currently working on.

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

The inspiration for my part in A Falling Friend was tripping over a ‘Cleaner at Work’ sign, conveniently positioned just inside the door of the Ladies’ loo at the university where I worked. I tripped and cursed, but there was something about that sign, put in a position where it would cause maximum inconvenience, that summed up my life at the time: ridiculous things were trying to trip me up. I couldn’t get the phrase ‘conveniently positioned’ out of my head and wrote it down… and suddenly there was Teri Meyer rushing into the Ladies’ loo, tripping and cursing as life conspired against her.

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

It’s difficult to pinpoint a specific genre as I have quite an eclectic taste in books. Of course, I enjoy intelligent women’s fiction but I also love well written novels – from the historic (Philippa Gregory and Hilary Mantel) to the contemporary (Joanna Cannon and Marina Lewycka); but I also enjoy books by Sebastian Faulks, Anthony Doerr and Fredrik Backman – to name but a few, as they say.

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

Some of the situations in the books are exaggerated versions of real events. But I couldn’t possibly divulge further!

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

Oh yes… but Sue says I mustn’t tell! However, I have a mental image of each of ‘my’ characters and they invariably start with someone I know, someone who caught my attention in the street, or an actor, for instance. One of our current characters, Duck’s Arse (or Richard Walker) is actually the actor, Greg McHugh. He doesn’t know it yet, but when the Friend trilogy is turned into a TV miniseries (I wish!), lovely Mr McHugh will be asked to play D.A.

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.

Australian writer Kate Grenville’s fifth book, The Idea of Perfection. The story brings together a plain woman with a broken past, a desperately shy man, and a bridge damaged in recent floods. It’s written in such meticulous detail that the reader can feel the heat of the sun on his/her back as the bridge shifts and creaks beneath their feet

Be honest: Do you Google yourself?

The first time I Googled myself I found I was a prominent member of the Law Society! I am now a chief financial officer at the San Antonio Express-News, and also something of a whizz with dressage horses. Clearly, I’m none of these important people!

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

A butterfly. I love their quiet gentleness.

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

Marketing and promotion, which might sound strange coming from someone who has a background in journalism and public relations. But I find it difficult promoting myself, and thinking of good things to say about me and my writing. It’s not modesty – because I don’t think I’m particularly modest – it’s more a case of, will people believe what I’m telling them?

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

Stop talking about it and do it. Any number of people tell me they’ve got a book ‘inside them’ or they’ve always wanted to write, but don’t have time. My advice: get some paper and a pen, or sit at a computer – and start writing.

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

Congratulations! Getting published is a huge achievement. Once that’s done, keep going – promote and push your book so that as many people read it as possible.

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

I ‘meet’ other aspiring and new authors mainly through Twitter and Facebook. I have also been mentoring a young writer who is writing an extraordinary memoir, and I encourage others by listening and making suggestions. But it’s only in exceptional circumstances that I’ll read someone’s manuscript. Let me see a chapter or two, by all means, but please don’t ask me to edit the whole thing.

Where can people find more about you?

 

Want more information on Susan’s books?:

A Falling Friend on Amazon

A Forsaken Friend on Amazon 

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Getting Back to Business

A few months ago things became quite chaotic.

I quit my job, started a new one, and then went on a vacation (one that had been planned and mostly paid for before I knew I was quitting my job!).

Now, I can happily say I am on the downhill slide from that unruly time period. I’ve settled into my new job and have started writing again. But, I realize how sadly neglected my poor blog has been. I realize that my blog cannot exist on reviews and cover reveals alone (though I love sharing cover reveals and book tours and will continue to do so!).

In an effort to do a better job of blogging, and to add some variety, I’ve reached out to some of the amazing authors I’ve met over the past several years. Beginning this week I’ll be posting author interviews with these wonderful authors. They come from a variety of backgrounds, regions and write across several genres. I’ve included self-published authors, those who work with smaller/indie publishers, and some whose books may be sitting on your store shelves right now.

So, keep an eye out for the interviews. You never know, you may just find your next favorite book…

If you know of an awesome indie author you’d like for me to feature, let me know and I’ll reach out them.

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My Path to Publication

As an aspiring author, I never passed a “How I Got My Publisher/Agent” article without scanning for a magic key. That one thing I was missing that would cast open the doors to the world of being a published author.

I cringed every time the interviewee said, “my journey didn’t come by traditional means”. I love a solid plan with clear direction. How could I possibly read, map and implement a plan of action based on happenstance? And so, I continued to query—and obsessively review interviews!

Then, one day, it happened. I received an offer of publication. How did it happen? Well…um, not by entirely traditional means.

My 2015 NaNoWriMo project was a young adult (YA) bootlegger novel. After revisions I began to query it and entered some on-line contests. In 2016 I was selected as an alternate and had the great opportunity to revise my manuscript and query letter with the help of two wonderful authors and an amazing editor. I’d become acquainted with one of the authors in online groups and the editor in another contest.

In the meantime, I met a local author who also worked for a small press. I went to her signings, asked endless questions at SCBWI events, and joined her book club (all of this was not nearly as stalker-ish as it sounds). Even though we became friends, I didn’t submit to her because I didn’t want her to feel I “expected” anything from her—except the information. During an online pitch contest she favorited my pitch and I submitted my YA bootlegger/romance to her. The publisher ultimately passed on my novel, but with good feedback.

A year later that publisher, Crimson Tree Publishing/Clean Teen Publishing, started a romance imprint. I was asked if I was still seeking publication for A Shine That Defies the Dark (I was!). I re-submitted my manuscript to the managing editor and—after a few changes to make my novel better suited for a new adult (NA)/adult romance—I received an offer of publication.

Getting the email of acceptance was a surreal experience. Although you dream about the moment, once it happens it really is like waking up from a dream.

So, for those of you skimming this article looking for the magic key, I’d say the important lessons I learned in my path to publication are:

  • Make real connections with people. Ask questions, support others, take an interest in their non-writing lives as well as their writing/editing/publishing/agenting.
  • Consider the advice/feedback you’re given. You don’t have to take it all, but you should consider it, especially if you’re hearing it from several people.
  • Reconsider your genre. With a few changes would your novel be marketable in another genre? I’d never considered my YA bootlegger novel to be an NA romance. And yet…
  • Query widely. Consider agents as well as small publishers.

The best of luck to all those who are still on their journey and a heartfelt “Thank you” to everyone who helped me along the way.

 

 

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