Category : Author Interviews

I’m always on the hunt a good read and always up for supporting indie authors. So when I heard that a fellow SCBWI board member’s daughter had independently published her adult historical fantasy novel, I asked for an email introduction right away.

Monica was gracious and happy to connect. She very kindly sent me a copy of her book for review, along with a postcard from the time period of her book’s setting. She also set up a very generous giveaway for the Friday portion of our Spotlight Week, which I’m sure all readers will be excited about.

Without further delay, I present the author of THE APOCALYPTICS series, Monica Enderle Pierce.




The Generous Monica Enderle Pierce

1. Tell us three random, unique, or weird facts about yourself.

a. I know how to juggle, though not very well.

b. I have one less vertebra than most people.

c. I laughed for 30 minutes straight after my wisdom teeth were removed. (My brother, who’d had his teeth removed that day too, did not find the experience as amusing.)


2. When did you know you were going to be a writer? What prompted you to take your writing seriously?


As you know, my mother is a published children’s author, so writing was always a part of my life. However it was a struggle for me until my daughter was born. Then something just clicked. The fact that I’m pretty good at writing and have produced something that my child can inherit prompted me to pursue this as a career rather than a hobby.


3. THE APOCALYPTICS SERIES is essentially about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the important characters who stand in their way. What inspired you to write this story? Did you always know it would be a series?


Originally conceived as vampire fiction, I switched gears after two full rewrites still left me feeling dissatisfied with the book. I wanted something different, unusual. So I started looking at alternate mythologies. The Four Horsemen was an “ah-ha!” moment. Yes, it was always meant to be a series, even in its earliest versions.


4. FAMINE: BOOK ONE OF THE APOCALYPTICS, is set in the late 1800’s, when the Victorian was giving way to the Edwardian era. How did you go about researching this historical period?


Many, many sources. Wikipedia, the local library, historical resource books, online historical map collections, historical groups. (You wouldn’t believe how many types of horse carriages existed.) Pinterest is a great resource for visual material and can lead to subject matter experts. The one resource I didn’t use (surprisingly) was the Bible; I didn’t want to become locked into someone else’s interpretation of the Horsemen.


5. Your main character Bartholomew Pelletier is a fifteen-century old Roman centurion, and his nemesis is Famine, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. How did you come up with your very intriguing cast of characters?


Bartholomew has been in my head for a long time, but I can’t really say where he came from. Placing his age was tricky, but he’s always seemed timeless to me. Once I’d settled on the Four Horsemen, the idea of making Famine raised too many opportunities for conflict with Bartholomew to be passed up. I love including unexpected elements in my books, and she certainly fits that bill.


6. Some of your chapters begin with old Western Union Telegraphs, which are supposed to be messages from Bartholomew’s allies. What was the inspiration behind these old time telegraphs and why did you decide to use them for your book?


The telegraphs were a last-minute addition and serve as a framework both for the passage of time and the movement of Famine and her cronies. I opted for telegraphs because they’re emblematic of the turn of the century. They harken to a time when communication was slow and imprecise. (And that helps build tension.)


7. Did you employ any particular techniques or methods in order to make the action sequences and training scenes in your book more realistic and visual?


Absolutely. (I love writing action/fight scenes!) I watched krav maga training videos for hand-to-hand combat reference, video demonstrations of Balearic slingers to understand how that weapon is handled, consulted a group of gun owners and enthusiasts for information on early Colt pistols, and studied reports of Roman warfare, weapons, and tactics to get a feel for how Bartholomew thinks and moves in combat. (Thanks to Youtube I can watch footage repeatedly to get moves and pacing right.)


8. If your series was optioned for film, which scene from FAMINE would you be most interested in seeing live on the big screen?


Oh, that’s impossible! Bartholomew catching the Overland Express? No, wait. The earthquake. Or crashing through the Sutro Baths glass roof? Maybe meeting Famine in the woods for the first time? Ack! Can’t decide!


9. Tell us about your path to publication. What would you say are the pros and cons of being an indie author?


I chose to self-publish my first novel, Girl Under Glass, because I knew a majority of the marketing would fall on my shoulders whether I went traditional or indie. And because I’m a control freak. The pro of self-publishing is total control of your product from start to finish. That’s also a con because you’re not just writing, you’re producing the book — procuring vendors (editors, designers, etc.), choosing distribution, setting price, choosing formats (and often doing the formatting, too), and then marketing and handling PR. All the production and marketing steps are necessary evils and take away from your writing/creating time. On the other hand, self-published authors keep a much higher percentage of their earnings that their traditionally published counterparts. I know many authors making a good living from sales of their self-published books. (I’m not there yet, but I plan to be.)


10. What’s your typical day as a writer like? Do you have any writing-related rituals or quirks?


I’m not very ritualistic when it comes to writing time; the only thing I require is relative quiet. Typically, I write in the day while my daughter is at school then take the afternoon and evening off to spend time with family, run errands, and do housework then I’ll return to work on my writing at night after she and my husband have gone to bed. (I’m trying to break out of the 1am bedtime habit. Five hours of sleep per night just isn’t sustainable.) On the weekends, I’ll often do ten to twelve-hour marathons on Saturday while my daughter and husband have “Daddy Day”. Sundays are reserved for family time and I only work if I’m on a deadline.


11. What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies, sports, or crafts you like to spend time on?


Spending time with my family is the priority when I’m not writing. We love movies, reading, and going out for walks with our dog.


12. Are you a plotter or pantser? Are there any specific writing tools (books, software, a specific pen ) you use to work on your novels?


Both! I’m a plotster. I have a general idea of the beginning, middle, and end of a book and major plot points when I begin. Then I start writing and let it all flow. (I usually deviate from the original points, but I get where I need to go and, often, following a much more interesting route!)


13. Are you currently working on any other projects?


Several. I’ve been struggling with the sequel to my first novel (Girl Under Glass) and finally feel that I’ve broken through the roadblocks with that book. I’m about to release a new short story as part of that series (the Glass and Iron Series). I’m working on a fantasy/adventure short story to be included in an anthology which I was invited to contribute (very exciting!). I’m in the early stages on Death, the second book in the Apocalyptics Series. And I’m developing a short story (or two or three) to support that series, as well.


14. What tips or techniques can you give writers who wish to write in the Historical Fantasy Genre? How about writers who wish to write a series?


Like all historical fiction, accuracy is important, unless you enjoy being called out by readers. Take the time to research and do so deeply; all aspects of society will impact your setting and your characters’ interactions. However, the wonderful thing about historical fantasy is that the fantasy aspect permits you to take liberties. Knowing your historical period will allow you to bend and break the rules in ways that can further both plot and characterization. And that’s where the fun really begins.


15. What advice would you like to give to writers on the road to publication? What advice would you give to writers who wish to follow the indie path?


Don’t compare your path to other authors’. This is your journey and you cannot get to your destination by following in someone else’s footsteps. Nor should you compare your successes and failures to others’.


Pay for an editor and don’t be cheap. Same with a cover designer. (Poor quality in either aspect will kill your sales.)


Remember that writing is a long-tail process. The more good work you have on the market, the more chances readers have of finding you.






Thank you, Monica for sharing your wisdom with us!

Tune in this Friday, as we end our Spotlight Week with a FAMINE GIVEAWAY!

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I stumbled upon TIMEBOUND this April, 2014 and immediately fell in love with the story. I listened to the audiobook during my daily commute and found myself so immersed in the story that I would sometimes linger in my car long after I’ve gotten to my destination just to listen to it a little longer.

As soon as I finished TIMEBOUND, I immediately contacted the author Rysa Walker, to let her know how much I loved her book and to invite her to be featured on my blog’s Spotlight Week series. Knowing how busy authors are, I didn’t expect her to respond until way later. To my delight, Rysa responded the very same day and we began our e-mail correspondence. She not only agreed to do an author interview, and offered to provide the awesome giveaways to end the Spotlight Week, she also sent me a signed copy of TIMEBOUND and an audible credit to listen to TIME’S ECHO. Sufficed to say, Rysa Walker is one of my favorite authors–not just because of her generosity, but because of her amazing writing style. I simply love her stories and am more than happy to recommend the CHRONOS FILES series to anyone!

Without further ado, I present the generous and amazing Rysa Walker!


rysa walker

The Amazing and Generous Rysa  Walker


1. Tell us three random, unique, or weird facts about yourself.


  • I once worked in a melodrama theater, playing the role of the heroine running from the mustache-twirling villain. It was a fun summer!
  • I am a reformed college professor. When a character in my books chides Katherine for slipping in “professor mode,” they’re reminding me that (most) readers really don’t want to hear every single historical detail about the Chicago World’s Fair.
  • As a teenager, I worked on the family cattle ranch, where my primary chores were bottle-feeding baby calves and scrubbing their milk buckets once they graduated from the bottle. The knowledge that those cute little babies were only a year or so away from the butcher block is a huge part of the reason I don’t eat beef.


2. What inspired you to write TIMEBOUND? Did you always know it would be a part of a series?

One inspiration was the fact that so many of my college students started out with a strong dislike for history, only to discover an interest in the subject once they connected with some of the quirkier, real-life stories from past eras.  I thought that if younger readers could be introduced to that type of history in a fictional setting, they might be less inclined to shun the subject as a whole.

And yes, The CHRONOS Files was planned from the beginning as a three-book series, with novellas in between.


3. TIMEBOUND, TIME’S ECHO and TIME’S EDGE are all exciting, action-packed, character-driven novels. Which of the three books did you enjoy writing the most? Which one gave you the most trouble?

That’s a difficult question for me.  In each case, there were parts that I really enjoyed writing and others where the words were a struggle.  Time’s Echo, the novella from Kiernan’s perspective, was fun because I’d been spending a lot of time inside Kate’s head, and it was nice to go visit with someone else for a while. In terms of which gave me the most trouble, I’d have to say the final, still-untitled third book is by far the most difficult.  That’s partly because there are more timelines to address by this point, and partly because I know that this is the final book and I’ll need to wrap everything up with a nice, neat bow.   And the final novella, which I’ll be writing after the final book due to the stricter publishing deadlines for the longer works, will be a special challenge, since it’s from the point-of-view of someone who is gradually going crazy.  My family will probably be ready to pack me off to a hotel when I’m writing that one!


4. The CHRONOS FILES series features characters with the Chronos gene, who are able to time-travel with the use of a Chronos Key. How did you come up with the (very cool) time-travel concept?

I knew from the beginning that the events would be set in motion by time travelers from the future, who end up stranded in the past.  I also wanted a scenario where Kate had an ability she didn’t know about that was shared with those future historians.  The most logical method that fit the storyline was to have Kate inherit that ability from her grandparents.


5. Some time-travel stories leave my mind reeling with the constant time-jumps and setting changes, but TIMEBOUND, TIME’S ECHO and TIME’S EDGE were all easy to follow (and very, very exciting to read). How do you keep the chronology of the whole series straight? What methods or tools do you employ to keep the various timelines and events in order?


I frequently joke about “time travel headaches” in the books, and that’s the author’s voice coming through loud and clear.  Having a storyline where younger and older versions of characters can overlap with other characters at different times, and even with different version of themselves, can sometimes result in conundrums that hurt the brain.  It sometimes feels like trying to untangle lights for the Christmas tree, something that I’ve always found a bit frustrating.


A timeline helps, and I do have several of those on my computer.  I also have a family tree for the Cyrists, although it’s a very misshapen tree, since you have individuals from the 2030s having children in the early 1900s.


6. In TIMEBOUND, you make use of actual events such as the 1893 World’s Fair, and real people such as famous serial killer H.H. Holmes. What made you decide to include them in your novels, and how much research did you have to do for your books?

One of my key goals from the beginning was to entertain with real history.  I do a lot of research for my books, but some of it was done long before I began writing.  One of the key reasons that I set most of the time travel in the United States after 1860 is that my Ph.D. focused on modern political history and that’s what I usually taught.  So the vast majority of the real characters in my books are ones that I pulled into lectures as a professor or included in my academic writing.


One key exception was the Koreshan Unity group, led by Cyrus Teed.  Even though I grew up in Florida, I’d never heard of this odd little commune that eventually settled down near Fort Meyers.  I first noticed the group in a newspaper article when I was researching the World’s Fair for Timebound, since they initially formed in Chicago in the 1890s.  The fact that they were led by someone named Cyrus caught my eye, and I couldn’t resist pulling them into the story, since they are exactly the type of small religious cult that Saul’s Cyrists would have gobbled up in order to form a base for their new religion.


If readers are ever wondering which elements in my books are factual and which are not, I give a general overview in the Acknowledgements at the end.


7. If your books were to be made into a movie, which scene would you be most interested in seeing live on the big screen? Do you have any actors in mind who might portray your main characters Kate, Kiernan and Trey?

The scenes in Timebound that are set in 1893, both at the Exposition and at H. H. Holmes’s hotel, have always played out in my mind almost like a movie.  The same is true for the scenes in Time’s Edge that is set in the village of God’s Hollow.


In terms of actors, it’s kind of tough for me to cast, especially those key roles. I’ve had very vivid images in my head of each of those characters, especially Kate, for nearly a decade now, so none of the current batch of teen actors come to mind.


If, however, I had a CHRONOS key, I can tell you who I’d cast as Kiernan and Trey.  When I was writing Timebound, I watched a lot of the series Chuck, because my youngest son is a huge, huge fan and we have binge watched that show more than once.  Trey is very much linked in my mind with a teenage version of the character of Devin, played by Ryan McPartlin, so I’d probably go back and cast him around age 18.  And Kiernan would be Robert Downey, Jr. from the early 1990s.


8. If you could use a Chronos Key, where and when you like to travel to? Is there a famous person, or a favorite author you’d like to visit perhaps, or an event in history you’d like to witness?

Definitely 1893 Chicago.  I’ve a World’s Fair geek for many years.  I’d just set up camp for the full nine months so that I could meet many of my favorite late 1800s authors (like Mark Twain and L. Frank Baum) and reformers (such as Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, and Ida B. Wells) when they visited.  I would not, however, be staying at H. H. Holmes’s World’s Fair Hotel.



9. Tell us about your path to publication. What is the coolest thing about being a published author?

My path to publication started out with the typical hunt for an agent to open the magic gates and let me into the kingdom.  I’m not very patient, however, and after about six months of that special sort of hell, I decide that I’d just skip the gates and take my story straight to the readers.  It was going fairly well—I had about sixty reviews, mostly strong, about six months in, when I won the ABNA and got a traditional publishing contract with Skyscape.


One of the very best things about being a writer is talking to readers about my books or just books in general.  It’s really cool to hear their different perspectives on stories that I’ve written.


10. You were the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award winner. Can you tell us a little bit more about that experience?

Surreal, to say the least.  I entered with the goal of making it to the quarterfinals, where the prize is a Publisher’s Weekly review of the manuscript.  My hope was that there would be a nice, tweetable tagline.  I got that – “Kate is the Katniss Everdeen of time travel”—and then the book kept going, taking the YA prize and then winning the votes of readers to take the Grand Prize, which was a $50K advance on royalties and the contract with Skyscape.  That allowed me to quit teaching and focus on writing the sequels, which were also contracted by Skyscape, so it was a real game-changer for me.  And I’ve been really, really happy with Skyscape as a publisher.


11. What’s your typical day as a writer like? Do you have any writing-related rituals or quirks?

My day varies a LOT, depending on what’s going on with the kids.  In an ideal world, I wouldn’t need sleep, or else the kids would go to school from 10pm to around 4am, because I am, by nature, a night-owl.  But here in the real world, they have to be at school at 7:15 and my brain doesn’t get moving until around the time they walk in the door in the afternoon.


I do try to maintain a daily word count, but reality has pushed me toward making it a weekly count.  That way, if I get sideswiped a few days, I can go into the writing cave (no social media, no email, noise-canceling headphones) until I catch up.


12. What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies, sports, or crafts you like to spend time on?

Reading.  Binge-watching my favorite TV shows.  My life would also be a lot calmer if I managed yoga every day, instead of only several times a week.


13. Are you a plotter or pantser? Are there any specific writing tools (books, software, a specific pen ) you use to work on your novels?

I am a pantser.  Some things, obviously, must be plotted when you’re dealing with multiple timelines and even multiple versions of the same character.  But my best writing comes when I get my characters in a room and just let them have at it.  They often go in directions that I never expected, and usually I find that they are right.


I’m using Scribner for book 3, but haven’t decided whether I like it better or worse than plain old MS World.  (It has a lot of tools that would probably be more useful for a plotter than a pantser.)


One odd tool that I use is my old Kindle with the keyboard, which I use for editing, often while riding my exercise bike.  It helps me to envision the manuscript as a book, and since I usually read on the Kindle, sending the pages there to jot down notes, catch errors, etc., seems to work for me.


14. Are you currently working on any other projects?

I have a book for another potential series partially written.  It has been waiting not-so-patiently in the “drawer” until this series is completed, and I’m looking forward to diving back into that world.  I also have two other ideas for series in various stages of “hatching.”  I suspect that I will always lean toward series, rather than stand-alones, both because I like the larger canvas to tell the story and because I generally prefer to read series.


Finally, I’ve been putting the finishing touches on setting up The CHRONOS Files as a Kindle World—creating a “world guide,” fleshing out the descriptions of minor characters that have been mentioned, etc.  I’m looking forward to seeing what sorts of stories other writers will tell within my “sandbox” when they come to play.


15. What advice would you like to give to writers on the road to publication?

My advice would be that you have to make it happen.  Success can occasionally be based on luck, but no matter how lucky you get, it won’t matter unless you’re in position to capitalize on that luck.  Get the book written, and then get started on the next one.


Most of all, don’t assume that agents and publishing houses are the only way to reach readers.  If you’ve written a book that you believe in and it’s not happening on the traditional route, invest a little money in it.  (You wouldn’t expect to start any other career without a financial investment.)  Get a good editor and a professionally-designed cover.  Study the self-published writers who’ve “made it” to see what they did when they were where you are now.


And then take the plunge and get that book that you believe in out to the only people who really matter—the readers.  You don’t need the validation of an agent or a publishing house to say you’re “good enough.” They pick authors all the time whose books bomb.  Readers are the final arbiter, and we now have a system that lets writers skip the middle-men.


Be bold. :)


16. What would you like to say to your young readers? Is there any advice that you would like to give them?

Follow your dreams.  Don’t think that you can’t accomplish your goals, even if others around you aren’t offering much encouragement.  If they are too discouraging, seek out people who won’t drag you down and who will believe in you.  Most of all, don’t give up.



Thank you, Rysa for sharing your wisdom with us!

Tune in this Friday, as we end our Spotlight Week with a CHRONOS FILES GIVEAWAY!


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I’ve been very curious about THE WRITER’S COMPASS ever since I’d seen it on display at a local bookstore. Little did I know that a year later, the author of the said book would leave a message on my blog and give me the chance to read her book and interview her.

Of course, as soon as I saw Nancy’s message, I jumped at a chance. And ever since then, Nancy and I have been emailing back and forth. Last month, she showed us her workspace and shared writing tips on my Wednesday Writer’s Workspace series. Nancy is one of the most generous authors I’ve encountered. She graciously sent me a signed copy of her book for review, and even sent another signed copy for this spotlight week’s giveaway. She’s also agreed to do a writing workshop with my group, CBW-LA, next February!

This month, I’m so pleased to feature her and her awesome writing book on my Spotlight Week.

Without further ado, I present the ever generous Nancy Ellen Dodd!


nancy-dodd1 modified

The Generous Nancy Ellen Dodd


1. Tell us three random, unique, or weird facts about yourselves.

 I’ve been married three times (which I’m not proud of by the way, but you asked). I love love and romance, in fact, I was fortunate enough to officiate at a close friend’s wedding. I love watching people who are in love. However, I finally figured out that I’m no good at it and finally retired my veil.


2. When did you first realize your passion for writing?

 Even as a child I told myself stories and had a lot of imagination, but in junior high I wrote part of my first novel. In high school I wrote a play called “The Hero” that one of my teachers said that if I didn’t do something with it, he would. The play became a short story about Vietnam, which I temporarily sold as a kindle book. My good friend Kevin Sizemore produced is as a short film a few years ago and we updated it to Afghanistan. It won a couple of film festival awards. It can be seen here: Every time they update their website the count starts over, but I know that tens of thousands of people have watched it from previous counts. Seeing something important enough to be produced from your early work is very gratifying.

3. If you were stranded on an island, what three books would you love to have with you?

First of all The Bible; Swiss Family Robinson (the original version by the storyteller’s son Johann David Wyss, not the one where the French writer added fantastic stories) or Robinson Crusoe, hopefully I’d get some survival tips; and probably the complete works of Sherlock Holmes to sharpen my wits.

4. What do you think makes a good story?

 I think that a good story is one where we are inspired to be better than who we have been in the past, both personally and collectively.

5. Where did you get the idea to write THE WRITER’S COMPASS?

 For decades I have been taking notes and compiling questions for writing. I created a hand-printed workbook using some of what I’d learned and sold it to local writer’s groups. It became one of the early self-published books on Amazon. Then I stopped publishing it while I was getting my university degrees in writing. I created a much broader program with the questions on about 50 5×8 cards and developed a story map. Other students in my program paid me to teach them what I was using because they could see that I had figured out some things that they hadn’t.

When an agent called me at the university on another matter, and I learned she also represented books on writing, I sent her my idea. She took it straight to Writer’s Digest and after several revisions to the proposal, they bought and published the book.

6. One of the things I really found very useful in THE WRITER’S COMPASS was the section on the Story Map and the 7-Stage Process. How did you go about developing this wonderful process for story creation?

The story map came when I was in a playwriting class in the master’s of Professional Writing program at USC. It’s like a light bulb went off. The professor was teaching the 3-act structure, which of course I’d read about many times, but watching him diagram it on the board, it occurred to me that if I could go through all of my books and notes and put all the “words” used for the elements of writing on the 3-act structure chart, I’d never missing writing important information again. I have my original diagram, which I did on PowerPoint. I quickly discovered that everyone was pretty much saying the same thing using different words and adding in their own variations of method. I then simplified the diagram and chose words that made sense to me.

When I started teaching advanced screenwriting at Pepperdine, one of my students said, “You use the same diagram that our playwriting teacher gave us.” It turned out that she graduated from the MPW program at USC and that the diagram I gave to my professor he was giving out to subsequent students. So she was also using it to teach from and had no idea she was using the diagram I developed. Of course, all of this knowledge is built on Aristotle’s dramatic principles and Freytag’s pyramid.

The 7-Stage process was all the notes and questions I had been collecting and developing over the years that I’d put on the 50 index cards, and which I had already arranged in stages for more efficient revising.

7. The Structure Chart and the Story Tracking Sheet are just two of the many useful tools you share with readers in THE WRITER’S COMPASS. Have you come across or developed new writing techniques since then that you would love to have included in the book?

Currently I am studying many of the newer methods and techniques that authors have developed over recent years to see what I can add to my knowledge and teach and lead the students to. I’m also looking at how to incorporate the hero’s journey, which is a mythic approach while my approach is based on Aristotle.

 In fact, I just taught a Webinar on “Winning Sci-Fi/Fantasy Story Structure” through The Writer’s Store and I encouraged the students to learn the hero’s journey for this because it is all about the mythic quest, which is usually basic to this genre.

8. In the book, you recommend using notebooks and index cards to keep track of story ideas. What other tools do you use aside from these? Do you also use voice recorders, or other software programs?

I sometimes use voice recorders if I’m driving, only I don’t like listening to the sound of my own voice, which I find many of us don’t, so I sometimes don’t play them back and rely on memory. If I’m on deadline, I use Word. I often use Excel to capture notes because I can use it as a database and sort my notes in various ways and can include all of my notes for everything I do and all my projects in one file. I’ve tried Access, because it is a database, but find I can’t see it all and I need to be able to lay everything out and see it.

I’m also trying something new both as a portable storyboard and to organize myself. I got the idea from Save the Cat, and Blake Snyder got it from Mike Cheda the script consultant. Use a large sketchpad, open it flat and draw 4 even lines across both sides, then use post-it notes for your ideas and you can move them around like you would index cards on a story board. I have a large monthly calendar and I’m using it to organize my “To Do’s” and the unused pages inside as a storyboard. I love the concept and it’s really helped me in organizing because the size gives me more room to organize my work. Of course, I’d read a book years ago on organization that suggested Post-It notes as a way to move to do’s around, rather than lists, but didn’t realize the problem was the size of my calendar.

9. Aside from THE WRITER’S COMPASS, you have written numerous blog posts, screenplays, plays, short stories, short films and novel-length work. Which of these genres are you most comfortable with? Which genre do you find the most challenging?

I always say that my favorite form is the one I’m currently writing in, as well as the most challenging. I love every form of writing. Right now I’m going back to finish all the novels I was waiting until I knew enough to finish. I’m also starting some new work on a new screenplay. (Shhh don’t tell my agent, he wants me to stick with finishing the novels.)

10. You are a university instructor, an editor and a writer, among other things. How do you go about juggling these different aspects of your life?

Very carefully. Refer to portable storyboard above. And juggle is the correct word. One of my daughters and my granddaughter live with me. If it weren’t for my daughter insisting on making vacation plans, I probably would work nonstop. I am constantly in pursuit of new ways to organize myself and keep myself motivated. I always look at what’s due next, but then I have to keep in mind that what’s due in a couple of weeks make take more time than I’ve allotted for it and I have to start it now. So I try to prioritize by the amount of time I need to finish a project and what is the next thing due.

I have to be careful because whenever I slow down and get bored, I start looking for new projects, then suddenly I find I have half-a-dozen things due at the same time. Yikes. But I love it. God has blessed me in so many ways and I waited so long and worked so hard to get to this point, I plan to enjoy every minute of it.

11. Tell us about your path to publication. What is the coolest thing about being a published author?

Hmmmm. I guess just being a published author is the coolest thing. Really, once you realize, “Oh, the whole world didn’t change, I still have to keep on keeping on,” then you settle down and go back to work.

Truthfully, getting published opened doors for me to have more teaching opportunities and to meet people like all of you, which I really love.

12. What’s your typical day as a writer like? Do you have any writing-related rituals or quirks?

I try to get up around 6:00 am, write out my prayer, read from the Bible and do some devotional reading, this starts the day right and helps me set my priorities and gives me peace that God is in charge and I’m just trying to see what He wants me to do today.

After that I either write or I work on projects with impending due dates or I do the notes on my student’s work. I drink lots of hot tea and eat burnt toast during this time.

My writing rituals change and morph, the one I had a few weeks ago I’m not doing right now, maybe that’s why I’m writing less right now and finishing projects instead.

Then I get ready for work and go to the office and handle all the stuff I need to do that day. I come home around six and spend time with my family, eat dinner, and/or work on more projects.

Okay, I confess! In the evening I watch “The Young and the Restless” on my computer. I know, it’s a soap opera, but as a child we watched soap operas. We only got like three stations during the time we had to watch. So, while we were shelling black-eyed peas or snapping green beans or cracking nuts, soap operas were what was on. After decades of not watching, I was getting my car serviced and Y&R came on in the lobby and I was fascinated because it was the same actors from all those years ago. They felt like old friends. I got hooked again. Anybody got any peas I can shell?

13. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?  Any hobbies, sports, or crafts you like to spend time on?

I love to read or mainly listen to audiobooks, watch movies, I’m a big TV buff, only we don’t have cable any more. And we like to go camping. Disneyland is one of our main play attractions—I mean so much imagination and exhilaration and childlike play.

14.  Are you currently working on any other projects?

Yes, but I don’t think your blog is that long.

Actually, I’m seriously considering teaching a Skype class. I just had a Skype meeting with some of my online students and we really liked the personal connection and I like seeing my students’ faces.

I’ve also been approached by a publisher to write a specialized book for them on storytelling, so I’m working on the proposal.

Plus I’m making notes on a magical realism series of history books for students that I’m excited about. And I have a play I’m turning into a YA novel, and the screenplay I’m storyboarding and …. well that’s enough.

15.  What advice would you like to give to writers on the road to publication?

 Accept where you currently are and then grow from there. You don’t have to be a genius or a literary icon. You don’t have to start out knowing everything. You can find an audience, even a small one, while you are learning.

Find out your writing triggers and use them to establish a discipline.

Read lots of different writing books and see what works for you. Don’t get discouraged if something doesn’t work, read another one, take a different class—you’ll learn and you’ll grow and you’ll develop and you’ll find how to approach writing in a way that works for you. Not everything is right, nor is everything wrong, it just may not work for you.

You might find out that instead of writing, your passion is for editing or publishing or teaching and you might be able to help someone else. If you have a passion to write, then write.

Sometimes the writing hibernates while we are involved in the urgency of our day-to-day lives, give it a chance to come alive again. Do what you can to stimulate your imagination, then put your pen on the paper and push.



Thanks, Nancy!

Come back this Friday for the final part of the Spotlight Week, where I give away a SIGNED COPY OF THE WRITER’S COMPASS

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Aaron Paul Lazar


Aaron Paul Lazar wasn’t always a mystery writer. It wasn’t until eight members of his family and friends died within five years that the urge to write became overwhelming. “When my father died, I lost it,” he says. “I needed an outlet, and writing provided the kind of solace I couldn’t find elsewhere.”

Aaron lives in the Genesee Valley in Upstate New York and works at KB America, in Rochester NY as an applications engineer and quality manager.




Q. Were you a writer before? Why mysteries?

Fran, I’ve always loved to write. But it wasn’t until my father died that I felt the need to do something creative to help with the pain of the loss as well as to honor him. I began writing in 1997, then stopped for a bit, then picked it up again in 2001. My first of 22 books was published in 2004, and I’ve been on a roll ever since! I’ve transitioned from mysteries to romance to thrillers – and have two new books coming out in the next month. The first is The Liar’s Gallery – book #7 in LeGarde Mysteries (you can read these books in any order, btw!) and the second is Devil’s Lake, a romantic thriller.


The Liars Gallery E-Book Cover modified


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Q. What are the commonalities between engineering and writing?

 At first thought, you might imagine that there could be NO connection between engineering and writing. After all, electrophotographic engineering involves the science behind the digital presses, the physics behind the toner, developer, imaging cylinders, and the hardware that delivers the print when you send the job. One might be hard put to understand how such work – data, science, formulas, and hardware – could be even remotely related to writing. When I’m on a project, whether it’s the development of a new toner to meet incredibly stringent standards, or whether it’s solving a problem in a complex system, there’s always a mystery to needs to be solved. It’s that challenge, that incredibly exciting contest that gets my blood pumping.

And of course, no matter what one’s profession, there’s always the human drama that occurs in real life to stimulate a writer’s emotions and imagination. My colleagues have experienced appalling trials, and these traumas spark fears.

What would I do if I lost any of my grandchildren? How would I deal with the sudden death of my wife? What if I experienced a life changing heart attack? How would I handle it if one of my daughters was being abused, or was in danger? Those are the fibers that make up the cloth of everyday life. As in news stories, they generate a germ of an idea that may blossom and grow into a storyline or an entire book Most of the themes I’ve used had come from my own life, but the influences of those around me cannot be denied.


Q. You don’t seem to have any problem coming up with ideas. You’ve said: “It seems as though every image ever impressed upon my brain finds its way into my work,” says the author. “Whether it’s the light dancing through stained-glass windows in a Parisian chapel, curly slate-green lichen covering a boulder at the edge of a pond in Maine, or hoarfrost dangling from a cherry tree branch in mid-winter, these images burrow into my memory cells. In time they bubble back, persistently itching, until they are poured out on the page.”

You got the idea for the Moore Mysteries, otherwise known as the green marble mysteries after finding a green cat’s eye marble while gardening.  

But how did you come up with the idea for your first series – Gus LeGarde Mysteries? 


Although I always loved mysteries, thanks to the books my parents introduced me to over the years, this specific series was borne of loss.

There were eight of them. Eight family members and friends who died in five short years.

I was a neophyte in this death thing, having been blessed with a life yet untainted by such losses.  My grandmother died when I was forty-three. It crushed me. I’d always dealt with death from afar. It had been a real possibility to face some day – in the distant future. Easy to put off. Impossible to imagine. When it happened, the shock of facing it head on was overwhelming.

Guilt clobbered me. I should have visited more. Called more. Written more.

But the three baby daughters we’d had in two years had consumed every ounce of our energy. We’d fallen into bed each night exhausted and awakened tired, yet happy, each morning. The thought of a ten-hour trip home seemed insurmountable with three little ones in car seats and diapers. So we delayed visits home for too long.

The next death came in a single, whooshing blow. My colleague at work, with whom I’d shared an office for eight years, suddenly died of a heart attack. Next came my father-in-law, my grandfather, and so on. I struggled to make sense of it. People were disappearing rapidly.

The unthinkable happened in 1997. My father was diagnosed with cancer in the same month that his mother died of Alzheimer’s Disease.

We had a summer of hope, but the disease hit again, and he was gone. Gone for good. Gone for real. In six short months, he was diagnosed, treated, and then he vanished.

Completely shattered, I walked a lot, trudging through the autumn woods as the crispy leaves eddied around my feet. I heard his voice whisper in the breeze, imagining words that weren’t there.

The need to write was insistent. Urgent.

I’d return to my office and madly type poems full of gaudy words that painted my grief. Each time I walked and mourned, I’d return home and write. Again. And again. And again.

Getting the words on paper was immensely comforting. Although I’d always known I would write a mystery series someday, I thought it would be when the kids were grown and I’d retired.

Then it hit me. I’d write a book and model the protagonist after Dad. It would be a tribute to him, a testimony to his life.

I began to write Double Forté.  My hero was a music professor, like Dad. He gardened with a passion, like Dad. He embraced the arts, like Dad. And he assiduously tended to his musical spirit, like Dad. He played Chopin etudes with wild abandon to clear his mind and feed his soul. And he cooked magnificent feasts for his family from his gardens that burgeoned with exotic vegetables.

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As the book began to take shape, so did the characters. Gus LeGarde’s secretary, Maddy, became the reincarnation of my Grandma Lena. Oscar and Millie Stone were near replicas of my maternal grandparents. I found consolation in the creation of scenes, as if I’d found a way to “visit” with them. And as the process of writing one book became easier, the next, and the next, and the next flowed effortlessly from my fingertips until I stopped to breathe. I written twenty-two books in 13 years. And the pattern continues. I’ve written ten books in this series. Here is a complete list. A few books are yet to be released, but they’ll all be out by end of this year.


LEGARDE MYSTERIES – in order of chronology












Q. Why have reviewers dubbed your books as “literary mysteries?”

I think it’s because there is much more than the element of mystery in each story. There’s love, love lost, unrequited love, and more. There’s living in the country, from gardening to walking in the woods to riding horses. There’s a complex level of plot and details to accompany it. And although the writing is usually simple and easy to get down, there is also a bit of poetry infused within the pages. That’s my guess, anyway!


Q. One of your talking points is selling books in wineries. Did you think that wine enthusiasts are mystery readers?

 Wine enthusiasts seem to love all genres of books, but mystery is a very popular category. I love selling at the wineries because folks who come on the tours are almost always jovial, expecting a great day, full of good humor (or wine), and flush with cash. I’m also the only one there with books to peddle, so it’s much better than being in a books store, to tell the truth!


Q. How do you market your books? Do your books sell best in the Genesee Valley?

I do my very best these days with eBooks and audio books, although my local sales tend to be print books. I use emailer promotions like Kindle Books & Tips, BookBub, Book Gorilla, BookSends, etc. and find them the most effective.



Aaron was interviewed by Francine Silverman, editor of Book Promotion Newsletter, an on-line publicist, compiler of 16 ebooks of talk radio shows and host of a weekly radio show, Fraternizing with Fran – where interesting people come to chat. and



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G LLoyd Helm


G. Lloyd Helm is a philosopher, poet, novelist and short story writer whose short storyA Tale of Segovia’s Guitarwas awarded first place in 2006 by the Antelope Valley Literary Coalition.


Q & A with Author G. Lloyd Helm

by Book Promotions Newsletter Editor Francine Silverman


Q. Aside from the above, you write political columns, novels that have ranged from science fiction to anti-war fantasy to history and philosophy. You also wrote a literary romance, memoirs, cover religion in Design (PublishAmerica 2006), and produced an anthology made up of short stories, poems and essays by past and present residents of Antelope Valley, California. I read your novel, Other Doors, a fantasy of good and evil, and it was a real page turner. That book, I would guess, covered fantasy, philosophy and history. Needless to say, you are hard to categorize!

Glad you liked Other Doors.  I am very proud of that little book. It came out in 1997 and since its publication my little book about peace has gone to every war zone in the world. That’s because, being retired military, I sold hundreds of them on military bases.  I know for sure that there are at least two of them in Afghanistan right now because I sold them to a couple of Marines who were on their way there.

You wrote that you spend weekends at craft fairs and art shows, selling your books.


Q. Do you take a table every weekend or walk around peddling your wares?

Yes. I take a table/space and set up my book store.  I have a table and display racks for my books and those of others I also sell. I keep my whole store in my little silver bullet car and can set up at a moment’s notice.


Q. Given all the different fields you cover, how else do you market your books?

I also market on line and via mail. But mostly I am just always on about my books. So much so that I sometimes see people cringe when I walk up.


Q.Other Doors has been banned by the Federal Bureau of Prisons and your literary romance, Sometimes in Dreams has been removed from Federal prison libraries. Why?

That whole thing has been a goat rope from the beginning. At one point the prison authorities decided that all fantasy books should be pulled from the shelves, so it wasn’t just me.  It was some Psychologist’s idea that reading such books made the prisoners live in fantasy rather than reality, which is BS as far as I’m concerned. They pulled Sometimes in Dreams along with any other “romance” that had any sexual content. Same reasoning as with the fantasy novels and just as stupid.


Q. You live in northern Los Angeles County in the Antelope Valley. How large is the area of some 475,000 residents? There are so many writers within its bounds, that your small publishing company, Mouseprints Publishing, has produced anthologies of works by residents for nine years?

Antelope Valley, as we defined it for the sake of the Anthologies, is quite large. I can’t even guess how many square miles, but many. It took in everywhere from Barstow to Frazier Park (east to west) and Acton to Ridge Crest (north to south)

There are lots of writers up in this area. I tell people that between Lancaster and Tehachapi we are about the third largest literary arts community in the country. We get lots of people up from LA/Hollywood who like to live in the desert.  The Anthologies never lacked submissions. Our last one, “9” had 285 author submissions and some of those were multiple so we had to comb pretty hard to get the number down to the usual 20-25 authors.  We grew every year and got better every year. The first year the book was so crude it didn’t even have page numbers. The last two,Darkness Visible, and “9” were both up for international small press prizes.

Mouse Prints has also published several things besides my first novel and the AV anthologies, the main one being a beautiful compact guide book for a local Indian Museum—that one had eighty-eight color pictures in it which was a new experience.

All these, the anthologies, the guide book, all five of my books are available autographed from me via e mail at  Or electronically


Q. Despite your prolific output, in order to make a living you have held a variety of jobs, such as ditch digger, brick layer, carpenter, cabbie, cook and clerk.

 Do your fellow workers know you are a writer and have you ever sold any of your books to any of them?

You left out a bunch such as a US Post Office Dock Walloper, Stage Actor, and Musician. I could go on and on. And yeah, I was never shy about being a ne’er-do-well scribbler. Sold quite a few books to quite a few people with whom I worked. But truth be told I could never have kept writing without the support of my wife Michele. She has been my patron since the beginning. I tell people that my epitaph will read “He married well” and I am only half joking. Without Michele I don’t know where I would be.

Q. Tell us about your new novel, which is more literary than the others.

My new novel is more straight ahead literary than anything I have written so far. Sometimes in Dreams was more literary and it has been compared with a Hemingway novel Across the River and into the Trees. Wasn’t one of his best but hey, someone compared me with Hemingway. I said all that to say this, my new novel Serpents and Doves, of which I just finished the rough, is Hemingway-esque in style in that it has a lot of dialogue and details real world situations. Serpents and Doves is a novel of the mid-1960’s. It is about a young man who has been fairly sheltered all his life suddenly being tossed into a world he didn’t really know existed. He goes to college thereby avoiding the draft, and finds himself enmeshed in the civil rights struggle, church struggles, homosexuality struggles and even the pre-six day war Arab–Israeli struggle.  It is fiction, but it connects with my own life in many ways. I am hoping to have it tightened up and out for sale within the next year.



Gary was interviewed by Francine Silverman, editor of Book Promotion Newsletter,
an on-line publicist, compiler of 16 ebooks of talk radio shows and host of a weekly
radio show, Fraternizing with Fran – where interesting people come to chat. and



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I love the UNEARTHLY series. I’m not incredibly fond of angel stories, but the story just hooked me from the beginning.

I took a chance and emailed author Cynthia Hand to tell her how much I loved her books, and to ask if she’d agree to do an interview for my Spotlight Week series. I was ecstatic when she graciously accepted my invitation.  Cynthia Hand is one of my favorite YA authors and after reading my  interview with her, you’ll discover why.

Here’s a bit more about Cynthia, from her author bio on

Cynthia Hand is a native of southeastern Idaho and currently lives with her husband and two small children in Southern California, where she teaches writing at Pepperdine University. She has graduate degrees in creative writing from Boise State University and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Instead of a muse, Cynthia has a guardian angel named Buster. He wears a Stetson in place of a halo, prefers a beat-up pickup truck to flying, and loves to correct Cynthia’s grammar.

I’m very excited to have her here today! Without further ado, I present the amazing Cynthia Hand!


Cynthia hand

The Amazing Cynthia Hand

1. Tell us three random, unique, or weird facts about yourself. 

  1. I learned to ski when I was 5 years old. As a teen I was on a ski racing team.
  2. I obsessively collect movie scores. I have hundreds of them, and I can usually pick out who the composer is within a few minutes of seeing a film.
  3. I have two cats: Stella and Frank.

 2. What inspired you to write UNEARTHLY? Did you always know it would be a series?

This is a tougher question because the inspiration, as it always is for me, was a bit mysterious. I heard Clara’s narrative voice, and started asking questions about what that voice seemed to want to tell me, and the story unrolled from there. But there are a number of things from my life that ended up inspiring parts of the books: first, that series of questions: what is my purpose in this life? Can I mess up that purpose, or is it fate? Do I want to believe in destiny, or would I rather make my own choices? As a child I also loved Madeleine L’Engle’s book, Many Waters, which has the Nephilim in it, and got my wheels turning about what that would be like, to be the child of an angel and a human. And I loved C.S. Lewis’ description of heaven and hell in his book, The Great Divorce, which is an influence you can clearly see when Clara goes to those places.

 Yes, I always knew it would be a series, although I didn’t always know how everything was going to turn out.

3. UNEARTHLY, HALLOWED, and BOUNDLESS are all wonderful character-driven novels. Which of the three books did you enjoy writing the most? Which one gave you the most trouble?

This is a tough question, too! I think I definitely enjoyed writing Unearthly the most. Back then I was writing just for me, and I was discovering these awesome characters and this wonderful, multi-layered world that they live in, and that was so much fun. Every day was an exploration. The second book was much harder, because I had a lot more on my plate as a writer by then, and also because Clara experiences a loss in that book that was close to my heart, which was emotionally tough to write.

 But the third book was the hardest to write. Ugh. I get stomach pains just thinking about it. The big problem was, about ¾ of the way through writing the third book, I was informed that there wasn’t going to be a fourth book. Paranormal romance was taking a steep dive in sales across the board, and I totally understand, from the business side of things, why my publisher wouldn’t want to buy another PR-my original book deal was for 3 books, although I always thought of the story in 4 parts.

So. I had to reevaluate everything. Book three as I originally intended it ended with the night at the Pink Garter (mild spoiler alert!) and Clara and Christian (and one other special character) running off into the night, on the run. I had already written a little novella from Christian/Angela’s POV to go between book three and book four. And now.

 (stomach pains)

 Basically I had to rewrite the book to be the end. Which meant that I had to condense a whole lot, and totally abandon some other parts of the story. It was the worst form of torture.

 But it turned out all right in the end. I was able, through a lot of sweat and a LOT of tears, to make Boundless something that felt right and I was proud of. I was maybe even more proud of Boundless than my other books, because I had to work so hard to accomplish it. And it is definitely a tighter, more action-packed story than it would have been if I had stretched it over two books.

4. The UNEARTHLY series features characters with angel-blood. How did you come up with the (very cool) angel classifications such as Dimidius & Quartarius? Did you have to do a lot of research?

Again, it was kind of mysterious, but yes, I did do a lot of research. I had about a week in the beginning where I was keeping a OneNote file full of notes about the different types of angel-bloods and angels and all of their powers and limitations. Fun stuff.

5. Clara Gardner’s story spans both the rural town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming and the more urban town of Mountain View, California. Why did you choose these particular settings for your trilogy?

I chose them because I knew both of those towns pretty well. I grew up within an easy drive of Jackson, and it was one of my favorite places to go. The mountains there, the Tetons, are my favorite mountains in the world—they have such an awe-inspiring beauty. Also, I liked Jackson because it is this cool juxtaposition of Old West and high end, a tourist town. It’s rustic but it has a regular-sized high school. I thought it would be a good place to put Clara.

I chose Mountain View because I wanted a Bay Area city, somewhere near to San Francisco, because I thought of Maggie, Clara’s mother, being connected to that place. And so I chose Mountain View, where my son was born.

6. Clara, Christian and Tucker are characters with very distinct personalities, and their love triangle throughout the series kept me guessing until the end. How did you make your characters so three-dimensional? And if you were a character in the story, would you prefer to date someone like Christian or Tucker?

Ha. Okay, first question first. I don’t make my characters three-dimensional. I just kind of uncover them that way. Actually, I deliberately left Christian a bit two-dimensional in Unearthly, because I wanted him to be the kind of guy you like from afar but don’t actually know very well. And then she would get to know him better and better throughout the books. But I’ve always seen my characters something like Michelangelo saw his statues, like they are already there in the marble, and only need to be released.

As to who I would date, gosh. Probably Tucker, because I think it would make me nervous that Christian could read my mind. . . But then Christian is . . . Christian! Gah, you guys, I can’t choose.

7. If your books were to be made into a movie, which scene would you be most interested in seeing live on the big screen?

The moment between Clara and Tucker in the barn from Unearthly. Because aw.

The scene where she meets Michael from Hallowed.

The journey to hell from Boundless.

8. If you could spend a day with a favorite author (living or otherwise), who would it be,and what do you imagine your conversation being like?

Jane Austen, I think. Then I would tell her about all the movies that have been made from her work and it would totally blow her mind.

9. Tell us about your path to publication. What is the coolest thing about being a published author?

I took a kind of unconventional path to get here—the go-to-school path. When I knew I wanted to commit to being a writer, I went for an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) degree, in literary fiction. I studied hard for three years (and I didn’t even attempt to get published in any of that time) and then went to get a PhD, where I studied hard for another three years. In my first year of my PhD I met my future husband, and he was all like, “So, what have you published?” and I was like, “Um, nothing,” and he was like, “Let me read one of your stories,” and I was like, “. . .okay,” and he was like, “This is really good, you should publish it,” and I was like, “okay,” and so I sent it out and it was accepted for publication in a great literary journal, and I was a published author!

I did it all to impress a boy, is what I’m saying.

Then a few agents called me about that story, and I ended up connecting with my lovely agent, Katherine. And that’s where it all began.

The coolest thing about being published is that you and your readers get to know the same people. We all know Jeffrey and Maggie and Tucker and Wendy. The people who, up until the moment the books hit the shelves, only existed in my brain (and the brains of a select few) can suddenly come alive for thousands of other people, who will love them or hate them or form all other kinds of opinions about them. That is so cool.

10. What’s your typical day as a writer like? Do you have any writing-related rituals or quirks?

My writing life changes from book to book. But ideally I would write every day for a few hours, in the morning, I would aim for 1500-2000 words. I can’t really afford rituals these days because my schedule is so crazy that I just have to make it work in whatever situation I’m in. But I do like tea. I drink a lot of tea when I write.

11. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?  Any hobbies, sports, or crafts you like to spend time on?

I read a lot. I am a television junkie. I am a recovering video game addict (I just started Elder Scrolls Online and realized immediately that it was too dangerous for me and had to cut it off before I stopped writing books to run around shooting arrows at monsters all day. I also knit and crochet and play piano and snuggle with my kids.

 12. Are you a plotter or pantser? Are there any specific writing tools (books, software, a specific pen J ) you use to work on your novels?

 I am both, honestly. It depends on the project. Sometimes I just jump in with very little preparation and see where it takes me. And sometimes I plan, although I almost always deviate from my plan when the characters have other ideas.

Again, how I write depends on the project. I have a type of pen I like, and I will often write longhand into a special set of identical notebooks that I have picked for the project. It usually takes me about five notebooks to write a novel. Then I revise as I transpose it all into my computer, where I used Word. I am trying to learn Scrivener, which is cool, but it’s slow going.

 13. Are you currently working on any other projects?

Right now I am getting ready to submit a project to my publisher that I have had SO MUCH FUN working on. I’ve been writing a funny fantasy (think: teenage Princess Bride) with two of my author friends. It has been the most fun I’ve had writing in ages. We work on Google Docs so we can always see each other’s work. We laugh until our sides hurt. It’s so fun. I really hope it sells so we can finish it.

I have a book coming out in February, called THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE. I am really close to having the cover and book description ready to share, so keep watching my social media or my blog for that. It is very different from Unearthly, as it is a contemporary YA, but there are definite connections between this and Clara’s world that my readers will be able to recognize. It’s about a girl who is trying to figure out her life after her brother’s suicide.

 And I have a book due in September that I am currently writing, another contemporary YA. So I have to get cracking.

14.  What advice would you like to give to writers on the road to publication?

Well, there’s the usual: read, write, study. I found the study part especially helpful. I don’t mean you have to go get an MFA or study formally, but that you should take your education as a writer seriously and seek out form and theory and practice these ideas and play around with writing as a craft.

15.  What would you like to say to your young readers? Is there any advice that you would like to give them?

 To thine own self be true.

 Okay, so that’s Shakespeare, that doesn’t count.

 The great thing about being a teenager, in my mind, is that you still have so many choices ahead of you, so many possibilities. Find some kind of middle ground between not taking those choices seriously enough and taking them TOO seriously. Be mindful. But also let yourself explore, let yourself play, let yourself discover who you are and what makes you happy and what makes you smarter and what makes you kinder. And then go after those things.

Sheesh. That’s a lot of deep thought.

Read good books. They don’t even have to be my books. Just good books, books that make you think and make you laugh and make you want to be brave. There you go.


Come back this Friday for the final part of the Spotlight Week, where I give away a SIGNED COPY of BOUNDLESS.

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Q & A with Tina Howe by Francine Silverman

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Author Tina Howe

Tina Howe is the author of the first two sci-fi books in a series and a children’s picture book.  The audio version of Alysa of the Fields, the first book in The Tellings of Xunar-kun Series, won Mom’s Choice and Reader Views awards (2011) and a Readers Favorite award (2010).

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The second book, The TrailFolk of Xunar-kun, won The Written Art (2009) and Readers Favorite (2010) awards. The children’s book which she also illustrated, Snailsworth, a slow little story won Readers Favorite awards in 2013 for both the book and audio book. Tina has been writing screenplays for the last few years and has won or placed in several competitions.  She has also outlined the third book in the sci-fi series but hasn’t yet begun the real writing.

You can learn more about her at


Q & A with Author Tina Howe

by Book Promotions Newsletter Editor Francine Silverman

Q – How often do you write? Articles? Essays? Or Books?

I’m an extremely visual writer. I’ve been working more on scriptwriting these days and work on a script every day which includes various aspects of story creation – concept, character development, outlining, dialog, rewriting, and rewriting.


Q – What inspires you?

The need to tell a story that both I and others will relate to inspires me. It’s often things in the news that bother me that are a springboard. My stories can be based in fantasy, dramatic, or comedic situations. Mostly I like the “what if” of a story, creating characters and situations that will play that out. “Snailsworth,” a story about believing in yourself, was inspired one evening as I sat on my back steps. The scene in my book is nearly identical.


Q -What do you do first? The writing or the illustrations?

When I’m working on a story, I work on several versions of an outline first. It’s in this stage that I get ideas for illustrations and create a storyboard that offers more than the literal depiction of the story and goes beyond the words.


Q – Which is harder?

When I was creating the picture book, I worked back and forth between writing and illustrating. I don’t think that one is more difficult than the other. Switching off does the other side of my brain a rest and also brings story enhancements to mind. Writing and illustrating are never “easy” but then I don’t gravitate toward easy.


Q –Do you have a vision of what the characters will look like?

Yes. When I’m writing either a novel or a screenplay I try to place either A-list actors or people I know in the character roles. If I need a character that nobody, including myself, has seen before, I make them seem as realistic as possible to fit the role and work at them until they’re clear. In Alysa of the Fields, I created a type of monster I’ve never seen before.


Q -Your first sci-fi book won first place in an art award contest. Did it propel you to greater heights?

Yes, but I think the cover for the second book turned out better than the first. Doing the covers for both books helped me see the world more clearly.  Possibly working for other writers who need artists, marketing your book differently? I don’t have time to offer illustration work to other authors but I wouldn’t rule it out. I did learn from the first cover that had only Alysa on it that people thought it was a girl’s book; although a girl’s in the lead role, there are many important men, including her love interest. So I put both him and Alysa on the second book’s cover.


Tina was interviewed by Francine Silverman, editor of Book Promotion Newsletter,
an on-line publicist, compiler of 16 ebooks of talk radio shows and host of a weekly
radio show, Fraternizing with Fran – where interesting people come to chat. and


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I first heard of Mary when I fell inlove with her Jenna Fox Trilogy. I found her on one of her social media sites and left her a message telling her how much I enjoyed her book. I was so happy when she replied back.

Mary graciously accepted my invitation to be featured on my Spotlight Week and I’m very excited to have her hear today.

Here’s a bit more about Mary, from her author bio on

Mary E. Pearson is the award-winning author of The Jenna Fox Chronicles, The Miles Between, A Room on Lorelei, and Scribbler of Dreams.  She writes full-time from her home office in California where she lives with her husband and two golden retrievers.

Without further ado, I present the amazing Mary E. Pearson!



 The Amazing Mary E. Pearson

1. Tell us three random, unique, or weird facts about yourself. 

  1. I look all the way under my sheets for spiders every night since I once found out the hard way I was sharing my bed with a black widow.
  2. I can roll my tongue into an O but can’t roll my R’s.
  3. I sometimes tell my wrong age because I REALLY am bad at remembering numbers.


2. What inspired you to write THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX?

Two questions fueled the story. How far will medicine advance in fifty years? And, how far would a parent go to save their child?

I asked myself both of these questions when my own daughter was diagnosed with cancer, and I witnessed not just what we went through, but what other parents with hospitalized children were going through and the tough decisions they had to face.

Luckily, my daughter had a choice of treatment with a good success rate. Just fifty years earlier she would have died of this cancer. I was infinitely grateful for the time and place we lived.

Of course, I didn’t know that these questions would be the impetus for a story years later, but they niggled at me long after my daughter was well.

When my second daughter was diagnosed with the same illness 3/4 of the way through writing this story, it at first turned my world upside down as it would any parent, but then, I think, deepened the story–especially the secondary characters.

(Note: Both of my daughters are well and healthy, and have agreed, under the threat of eternal-mother hovering, not to give me any more inspiration.)

3. Did you always know it would be a trilogy?

No. The Adoration of Jenna Fox was written as a standalone to explore the questions I had. But as it turned out, my questions weren’t fully answered with one book and the second one, The Fox Inheritance, was born from it. In Adoration the technology basically went really well—what if it went really bad?  What if there were people who used it for their own gain? And maybe especially I wondered, did Jenna really have the right to destroy “something” in Book 1.

The Fox Inheritance was also intended to be a standalone!  But this time mid-way through I already heard the third and final book come knocking which became Fox Forever.  Now it truly feels complete to me and that’s what I hear from readers too.

4. THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX, THE FOX INHERITANCE and FOX FOREVER are all wonderful character-driven novels. Which of the three books did you most enjoy writing? Which one gave you the most trouble?

 I enjoyed them all for different reasons but maybe the most challenging one was the last one, Fox Forever—trying to address all the threads of the prior book and create something satisfying.  And perhaps the last scene that I had envisioned way back in the first book was one of the most satisfying ones I’ve ever written.

5. The JENNA FOX series features characters with altered bodies and minds stored in computers. How did you come up with such cool scientific bio-engineering concepts?  Did you have to do a lot of research?

LOTS of research because I am not a science whiz by any means.  But research is a great procrastination tool too! If you’re a writer you know about procrastination. We are geniuses at it. And who doesn’t love to go to the library?  It was challenging though—basically I reviewed tons of science research journals, learned what was on the cutting edge and being experimented with in labs, then bumped it up several notches.

6. Aside from the JENNA FOX trilogy, you also wrote DAVID vs. GOD, A ROOM ON LORELEI STREET, THE MILES BETWEEN, and SCRIBBLER OF DREAMS. All of these books feature such amazing YA voices. Why do you love writing Young Adult, and how did you go about developing such a great YA voice?

I love writing YA for so many reasons but especially the freshness of the conflict.  I like writing about teens who are encountering choices for the first time and all that entails.  When I am writing about a character I try to “listen” to their voice.  It takes me about fifty pages in to really get in their heads and then I just try to be true to the things they would say and do.

7. If you could spend a day with any character in any of your books, who would you hang out with?

Zoe from A Room on Lorelei Street because she needs a friend, and Lily from The Adoration of Jenna Fox because I think she’s my fave secondary character I’ve eve written.  Maybe I should get Zoe and Lily together.

8. If the JENNA FOX trilogy were to be made into a movie, which scene would you be most interested in seeing live on the big screen?

Oh, the final scene in Fox Forever!

9. Tell us about your path to publication. What is the coolest thing about being a published author?

I submitted my first book to the slush pile.  It was rejected many many times but I did get some rejections that were “nice.” One of those editors invited me to submit another manuscript to her. I did and she bought it!

The coolest thing about being an author is I get to do what I love.  (I get to work in my jammies too : ) which is a nice fringe benefit.)

10. What’s your typical day as a writer like? Do you have any writing-related rituals or quirks?

I work long days, beginning with answering a few emails while I have my coffee.  Then I begin writing off and on, all day, usually until about 7:30 or 8.  I take breaks, go to lunch, run occasional errands, but when I am in draft mode, I am pretty religious about writing EVERY day. I keep a chart of word counts which keeps on target.  It is really easy to come to a hard part in a story (usually in the middle) and walk away, but I find the more I am away from a story, the harder it is to get back into it.  Discipline works for me.

11. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?  Any hobbies, sports, or crafts you like to spend time on?

Spend time with my family, read, travel, walk, shower ; )  Seriously, when I am in cave writing mode, I don’t get out much.

12. Are you a plotter or pantser? Are there any specific writing tools (books, software, a specific pen J ) you use to work on your novels?

I am both.  I have dabbled with every method on earth—I love writing process books and have just about every single one.  Then I mold them to fit my brain.  I use parts of Save the Cat, but I find if I try to follow any one method too closely it just won’t work for me. I think we all need to try things out of our comfort zone to add crafting tools to our repertoire, but then we need to settle in use the ones that click with our creative brains.

13. Are you currently working on any other projects?

Yes! I have a new series coming out July 8, 2014, The Remnant Chronicles. The first title in the series is called, The Kiss of Deception. I am very excited!

14.  What advice would you like to give to writers on the road to publication?

I will already assume they are reading widely and also writing regularly, which are essential, so one thing I would recommend is moving on if one book is not getting anywhere.  I have several unpublished novels.  They were not a wasted effort by any means.  I learned so much from writing them, but they didn’t have the *umph* they needed to get published.  One in particular, I loved, but if I had continued to rewrite it over and over, I wouldn’t have grown in the way I needed to from attempting new kinds of books. No writing effort is wasted as long as you learn from it! Stretch those wings.

 Thank you for having me at your blog Nutschell!








Come back this Friday for the final part of the Spotlight Week, where I give away a copy of THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX.

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patspicturePatricia E. Canterbury is a children’s book author, award-winning poet and short story writer,  novelist, philanthropist and political scientist.

 Her first adult mystery novel is Every Thursday (Willow Valley Press 2009). The Secret of St. Gabriel’s Tower (Regeje Press 1998) is the first of a proposed five book middle-grade historical mystery series, A Poplar Cove Mystery. This is a historical mystery set in the late 1920s in a fictionalized “colored” town in Northern California coast.

Read about the adventures of three eleven year old best friends nicknamed, The Triplets, by the townspeople who solve mysteries in and around their small town.


Carlotta’s Secret (Rbe Pub 2001) is the first of her eight chapter book contemporary mystery series, The Delta Mysteries, and has been optioned by a small independent motion picture studio.  Carlotta’s Secret introduces the reader to the small fictionalized town of Willow Springs, California, and to Carlotta Stevens, a newly transplanted New Yorker, her mother and father and the six neighborhood friends who call themselves the Webster Street Gang. In the first novel we also meet Miss Simon, a woman with an unusual past who also plays a part in some of the future novels.

Carlotta’s Secret has been optioned by a motion picture studio for some time.


Q & A with Author Patricia E. Canterbury

by Book Promotions Newsletter Editor Francine Silverman


Q – Any news?

Unfortunately no news on the movies front.


Q –  You were the assistant executive officer of the Board for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors. Another mystery author who was an electro photographic engineer at Eastman Kodak says there’s a link between engineering and writing. Do you see any commonality between the two

No, I’m not an engineer. I’m a political scientist who has been writing since I was 10. I always have a dozen stories in my head.


Q – You have said that as an African American writer, you “believe that it is important to show African-American children in natural settings doing real things and engaged in childhood play.” As author of books featuring African American children is your marketing directed at schools and communities with high percentages of AA students, or do your books transcend ethnicities?

My marketing is to the Greater Sacramento School District. I have been the only AA author speaking at assembly in many of the rural schools. I believe my books transcend ethnicity especially my historical Poplar Cove Mysteries.

It’s one thing to write for adults, children and middle school children but surely you have different ways of marketing all three.


Q – Please explain how you do this.

All of them have a “sense” of mystery to them so I attend Left Coast Crime, Bouchercon and other mystery conferences and speak on panels aimed at Childrens’ Authors, Midgrade Authors or Adults.


Q – You have received awards and won contests for your poetry and short stories – the hardest things to sell of all writingsDo you have any special ways of marketing poetry and short stories?

Sacramento is a very active poetry town. There is Open Mic somewhere almost every night. When I have something new I go to an Open Mic event. For the short stories I participate in various anthologies, Capitol Crimes (mystery), wrote one story edited both anthologies; Seasoned Sistahs (a women of color, mostly African American) submitted and was accepted in three of the anthologies, ZICA Creative Arts & Literary Guild’s two anthologies, submit and was accepted in two anthologies. I’ve been in over a dozen anthologies.


Patricia was interviewed by Francine Silverman, editor of Book Promotion Newsletter, an on-line publicist, compiler of 16 ebooks of talk radio shows and host of a weekly radio show, Fraternizing with Fran – where interesting people come to chat.  blog:

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Lydia Kang is one of my bloggy buddies, and a fellow member of the Write On to Build On group.

I stumbled upon her amazing blog The Word Is My Oyster and was immediately hooked by her Medical Monday series, where she writes posts to help writers create more realistic medical scenarios.

Lydia is not only an author, she is prolific blogger, a medical doctor, wife, and mom of three. I am in constant awe of how she juggles all the roles she has to play in life. She is a total rockstar in my book.

Here’s a bit more about Lydia, from her author bio on

Lydia Kang is an author of young adult fiction, poetry, and narrative non-fiction. She graduated from Columbia University and New York University School of Medicine, completing her residency and chief residency at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. She is a practicing physician who has gained a reputation for helping fellow writers achieve medical accuracy in fiction. Her poetry and non-fiction have been published in JAMA, The Annals of Internal Medicine, Canadian Medical Association Journal, Journal of General Internal Medicine, and Great Weather for Media. She believes in science and knocking on wood, and currently lives in Omaha with her husband, three children, and a terrarium full of stick bugs.

Lydia is represented by Eric Myers of the Spieler Agency.


Without further ado, I present the amazing Lydia Kang!




 The Amazing Lydia Kang


 1.    Tell us three random, unique, or weird facts about yourself.

I used to be a fan of mixed-martial arts fighting. George St. Pierre was my favorite.

I went through a grunge phase (like the rest of my friends in the 90’s) and crowdsurfed the mosh pit at Lollapalooza.

I can crochet itty, bitty snowflakes out of white thread.


2. You are an internal medicine physician by trade. What prompted you to take the leap into the wonderful world of writing?

I always wanted to write, but didn’t know how. I got involved in a writer’s group that combined doctors with poets and writers, and the spark went from there!


3.    What inspired you to write Control? How did Zelia’s story come about?

Zelia’s disability, Ondine’s Curse (or Congenital Central Hypoventilation Syndrome) was rediscovered when I was studying for my Internal Medicine board recertification. Also, I wanted to write about kids with mutations, but in a more scientifically sound way than imagined in the X-men mythology.

4.    CONTROL features characters who have modified genes that give them special abilities. Which of these special abilities did you enjoy writing the most? And what “superpower” would you love to have if you were given the chance?

Wilbert’s is my favorite, because I would get so much writing done if I didn’t have to sleep! I had a lot of fun imagining his trait.

 5.    Zelia’s story is set in Neia (the combined states of Nebraska and Iowa) in 2150. How did you come up with this particular setting for your novel? Magpods and styling wands are pretty cool, but what particular element of your futuristic society did you enjoy writing the most?

I came up with the idea of the clustered states by watching a lot of the news. Politics have always divided our nation, so I considered a country where everyone with the same beliefs just clustered together in particular states. My favorite fictional technology are the efferents—they’re like microwaves where you preload food, then punch in what you want and get it immediately.

6.    If your books were to be made into a movie, which scene would you be most interested in seeing live on the big screen?

Probably the scene under the agriplane towards the end of the book—I’d love to see what the cityscape looked like!

 7.    What books and movies inspired your love for Sci-Fi? Would you ever consider writing in another genre?

I love sci-fi and was influenced by movies, like Blade Runner, and current YA sci-fi, like Beth Revis’s novels. Yes, I would, and I do write in other genres! I’m having fun writing fantasy right now, but I’m thinking of doing more historical and gothic stuff.

8.    Tell us about your path to publication. What is the coolest thing about being a published author?

Control is my third book. I suffered through a lot of agent rejections before I landed an agent and a publishing deal. So yeah—I had a lot to learn and learned it during every spare moment of my time for the last several years. The best thing about being an author is getting my book into the hands of people who don’t know me at all—perfect strangers. That is a trip! Also, I love being friends with other authors. It’s one of the best perks of being an author.

 lydia kang omaha magazine modified

Lydia Kang, photograph by Bill Sitzmann, as featured in the Omaha Magazine

9.    What’s your typical day as a writer like? Do you have any writing-related rituals or quirks?

I check all my email and forums and social media before I can sit and write. Also, I have to listen to music.

 10. You were many hats: author, physician, blogger, wife, and mom among other things. How do you manage to juggle all the responsibilities of each role? Do any of these roles influence your writing?

My doctor work definitely influences my writing, but overall, I’d say just living to my ripe old age (not going to tell you how old!) gave me some life experience that I needed for my writing. How do I juggle? Well, I’m a part time doctor, which allows more time for writing!

 11. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?  Any hobbies, sports, or crafts you like to spend time on?

I used to play piano, draw, knit, crochet, but most of that has been gobbled up by writing now. I love yoga though. I do that to keep in shape.

12. Are you a plotter or pantser? Are there any specific writing tools (books, software, a specific pen J ) you use to work on your novels?

I’m a plotter for the major events of the story, but I pants my scenes. I use Scrivener and love it.

 13. CATALYST, the sequel to CONTROL is scheduled to come out in 2015. How far along are you in terms of writing CATALYST? Are you currently working on any other projects?

Catalyst is in edits right now with my editor. I’m brainstorming my next book right now.

14.  What advice would you like to give to writers on the road to publication?

Read a lot in your genre, and be open to criticism.

 15.  What would you like to say to your young readers? Is there any advice that you would like to give them?

Here’s advice that I need to take myself, given that we’re inundated with electronics and social media. Don’t forget to live. Take a few minutes of every day and just see the world around you, without filters, without hashtags. Just…be.


Find Lydia Kang on the Web:




And follow her blogs:

The Word Is My Oyster

The League of Extraordinary Writers

The Lucky 13s

The Class of 2k13



Come back this Friday for the final part of the Spotlight Week, where I give away a copy of CONTROL.

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