About My Book

Learn more about my first book, Six Pack: Emergence.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Two Days Until Launch!

Hard to believe the launch date for my first novel, Six Pack: Emergence, is just two days away.

It's amazing to see how far my journey has come ever since I started writing my first draft more than two years ago. When I started writing that draft, I had no idea where it would lead. After sending it to a friend and getting a lot of feedback, I rewrote the draft, researched the world of publishing, joined the Kansas Writers Association, got more feedback and, after multiple revisions, got a draft that I believed was ready to submit to agents.

After not finding an agent, I ran across the Pit2Pub pitch party on Twitter. I refined some pitches, a few publishers were interested, and that fateful day that Clean Reads wanted to publish my book arrived.

And in peeking at my Amazon author page, I saw some pre-orders have already been placed, which makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside!

So now that the book is set to be released this Tuesday, now what?

I've planned an online launch party at my Facebook page for April 8, in which you are free to stop by and ask questions about the book or just say hello. And if you like the page by that date, you will be entered into a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card.

And I've lined up a few blog tours and promotional posts in the coming weeks. I'm still interested in doing more and am happy to do an exchange with my Twenty Questions sessions for those who are interested.

One question I have to answer is what to do locally and much of that, I believe, might not become reality until I reach the point the book will be published in paper format. But that means I'll likely have to be creative in terms of my promotional tactics.

Meanwhile, I want to thank everyone who has followed me along on this journey and those who have provided feedback or help in any form. And to think this is just the start... my second book is entering its fourth draft and I just started writing the third book (already 8,000-plus words in a week).

In other words, this journey is far from finished!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Twenty Questions With SM Ford

My guest for this week's Twenty Questions session is fellow Clean Reads author SM Ford, the author of Alone, which was released June 30, 2016. She focuses on inspirational fiction for adults and enjoys helping other writers perfect their craft.

You may learn more about Ford and her writing at her website. And I have to give a shout-out to her because she's providing me feedback on a novel I have in the works!

Let's hear from SM Ford and learn more about her book and her interest in writing.

1. How did you get interested in writing?

I’ve been a reader as long as I can remember and would carry as many books from home from the library as I could. I played with some short story writing in high school, but never considered it as a career or as something ordinary people could do. It was after I had my children, that the desire to share my own stories made me get serious about writing.

2. What inspired you to come up with this story?

One day I got to thinking about it being difficult for celebrities to meet people and have honest relationships—to have someone love them for who they are as a person, not just as a celebrity. (I have another story that needs rewriting inspired by this idea.)

3. Tell me about the main character, Cecelia Gage, and what inspired you to create her.

If a young woman enjoys some traditional “housewife” duties, but is not ready to be married, I started speculating about the opportunities she might have. Traditionally “housekeepers” are older women, but what if it was a young woman…  Plus, I liked the opportunity to share a love of cooking good food.

4. What characters, other than Cecelia, did you find enjoyable to write as you progressed with the book?

I enjoyed writing about Mark and Simon a lot because although they are friends they have contrasting personalities.

5. What are some of the themes you explored in writing the novel?

Surviving the loss of a loved one, being comfortable with who you are, recovering from abuse, dependence on God.

6. What were some of the things you learned along the way as you wrote and edited the book?

This book went through so many drafts and at one point I described way too much—furniture, what rooms looked like, etc. When cutting all that, I cut too much and had to go back in to add some pieces to make the setting clear and to introduce the cat in the story.

7. What is it about writing inspirational fiction that you find so rewarding?

It’s a chance to share my faith in a nonthreatening way—just showing a character living her life and trusting in God.

8. I see you’ve contributed to other books – tell me a little bit about them.

When I wrote my piece on “Going Back to School: Domestic School Visits,” I felt like I had to learn a lot of the “how to”s on my own. So I wrote the piece and submitted it to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ monthly magazine. It was a nice surprise to have them use it in their book, SCBWI Publications Guide to Writing & Illustrating for Children instead.

I had been teaching for the Institute for Children’s Writers (still do) and had written for their newsletter, so got a call to sign up for topics they needed for market books. That’s how I ended up being a contributor to Guide to 2012 with "Website Creation and Design" and Magazine Markets for Children’s Writers 2011 with “Spin Science Facts into Gold!”

9. What do you find is the right environment for you to write?

I can write on my laptop at home in my recliner—often with my cat taking too much of my lap—or in a coffee shop with other writers. I used to do more writing on my desktop in the shared office with my husband, but he’s on so many conference calls these days, it’s harder to write there. Like many writers I’m an eavesdropper. If a coffee shop is too loud and I can’t tune out conversations, I put on headphones and listen to music.

10. Are there specific programs or tools you find useful to help you with the writing process?

I just use MS Word—I’m a quicker typer than a hand writer, so prefer working on a computer. And I like the easy of editing onscreen.

11. What have you found to be useful methods for promoting your writing?

Promotion is harder than writing, I think, so I feel I’m still learning. I’d say my biggest method is blog posts, but whether that amounts to purchases? Hard to say.

12. Tell me more about Mary Stewart’s books and how they inspired you.

Mary Stewart wrote romantic suspense. Many were set shortly after WWII or when I was very young. I loved the romance, the danger, the satisfying endings. I loved how she made me hungry for food, made me want to see and smell flowers I didn’t know, made me want to travel to places I’d never been. I read other romantic suspense books that didn’t match up to Mary Stewart’s skills which meant she became my favorite. Her characters felt so real and I wanted mine to feel that way to readers, too.

13. What can you tell me about other authors you enjoy?

A recent author I discovered is Katherine Reay. The books I’ve read have tie ins to Jane Austen stories, but are very modern stories. They’re romance, but more literary.

14. Any aspiring or independent authors whose books you’ve read that you liked and want to mention to others to check out?
I’m just now reading J.L. Salter’s book Duchess of Earl and am really enjoying the humor. Somewhere I read the description that this is not a Regency, but she thinks it is, referring to the heroine. As a Georgette Heyer fan, I was intrigued.

15. What advice would you give to those who want to write a novel before they actually get started?

Make sure you are reading the kinds of novels you want to write. Get involved with a writer’s group where you can learn about the craft of writing—although there are many resources on the internet these days, too—but connecting with other writers is invaluable.

16. Any plans in the future to visit those six states you haven’t been to yet?

Nothing planned, but I’m very tired of rain in the Pacific Northwest at the moment.

17. What is so special about visiting the Pacific Ocean?

When I was a child, my family took annual vacations to northern California where we spent time in the redwoods and at the ocean, so I have a lot of good memories from both places. My husband and I and daughters spent a week a year for quite a few years on the Oregon coast. I love the rocks, the sand, the waves, driftwood and other gifts left by the sea, the sound of the sea gulls.

18. Do you think cats are better or dogs? Or would they be about equal?
One better than the other? Depends what you desire from a pet. I’ve had cats all my life, so they were my first love. But to cats you’re more the servant. Although I admire their independence. Dogs on the other hand adore you. Recently, I made an unscheduled trip and my husband said my dog kept wandering around the house looking for me. Dogs are obedient—cats, not. But both can be very comforting.

19. Is there a particular reason you want to play with a red panda?

They are soooo cute! And they play like a cat.

20. Who would win a battle of superhero skills: Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman?


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Author Interview

Pamela Morris, who I chatted with for a Twenty Questions session a few weeks ago, asked me a few questions for an author interview. Here is the link to my chat with her.

Thank you to Pamela for hosting me!

Twenty Questions With Wendy May Andrews

This week's Twenty Questions session is with fellow Clean Reads author Wendy May Andrews, whose newest release, Sweet Surrender, came out March 7. Andrews has written five books with Clean Reads

You can visit Andrews' website to learn more about Sweet Surrender and her other works. For any authors who want to know more about Twenty Questions, here are the details.

Now let's hear from Wendy May Andrews about her new release.

1. How did you get interested in writing?

While I had loved writing in school, it wasn’t something I pursued after I graduated. I was too busy reading whatever I could get my hands on. Writing actually evolved for me after my husband dared me to try it. I didn’t think I could do it but, lo and behold, I’m hooked now.

2. What inspired you to come up with this story?

While most of my stories are about fresh relationships, I am also fascinated by the challenges love faces. What would happen if a new relationship was torn apart and they come face to face years later?

3. Tell me about the main character, Lady Julianna, and what inspired you to create her.

Julianna is great. She is all about her family. That is what motivates her. She rarely thinks about herself. But she is forced by circumstances to reevaluate her future as well as her past. It’s a challenge she tries to run from but manages to sort it out in the end.

4. What characters, other than Lady Julianna, did you find enjoyable to write as you progressed with the book?

Sweet Surrender was a fun story to write. I love all the characters, even the very minor characters like a cute, elderly couple who are fellow guests with Julianna and her niece at a house party. The supporting cast is often the most fun to write.

5. What are some of the themes you explored in writing the novel?

Forgiveness is a major part of this story. In our lives we all face pains and challenges from others as well as ourselves. If we cannot forgive, we cannot move forward.

6. What were some of the things you learned along the way as you wrote and edited the book?

I have a serious comma weakness :-D Since I write mostly in the Regency era, there are many things that need to be researched to ensure period accuracy. Thankfully, there are reams of references to choose from.

7. Tell me about that first book you wrote, Tempting the Earl… it says on your website you wrote it on a dare from your husband.

Yes. I am an avid reader, like most writers. If my nose is stuck in a good book, the house could implode and I might not notice. Since my husband is NOT an avid reader, this isn’t so fun for him. In frustration, he challenged me to write a book before I could read another one. I really didn’t think I could do it, but I fell in love with writing. It exercises a completely different aspect of the mind than reading, but they are definitely interrelated. Tempting the Earl took me a couple of years to write and was a learning experience. I didn’t even know how to divide for chapters when I wrote that story! I’ve come a long way since then as a writer, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for Emily and Phillip J

8. What more can you tell me about the Sweet Regency Romances you have written?

They are all stand-alone stories which means you don’t have to read one to understand the other. The Duke Conspiracy and The Countess Intrigue are related to each other but still stand alone. None are truly a series. This is a challenge I am just starting. I have just started two separate series. I’ve written the first of one, my first book NOT set in Regency England. And I’m right now working on the first of a new Regency series. I love Regency era England and can’t seem to stay away from it.

9. What do you find is the right environment for you to write?

I need it to be pretty quiet. I am not one of those authors that have a playlist of what they listened to while writing each book. I have a desk and desktop computer, but I also have a laptop and can comfortably work anywhere, the only thing is I need it to be fairly quiet. Although, that being said, I HAVE written on a plane when I just HAD to get the idea written down…

10. Are there specific programs or tools you find useful to help you with the writing process?

Not really. I’m not too technologically advanced, unfortunately. And I write linearly – from beginning to end – rather than jumping around from scene to scene. So I sit down, open Word, and I’m good to go. But I’m VERY goal oriented so I LOVE National Novel Writing Month in November and the lovely charts and graphs they have to track your progress. I really need to find myself one of those for the rest of the year…

11. What have you found to be useful methods for promoting your writing?

The next book. Whenever I have a new book out I notice a bump with my other ones. I haven’t yet hit on anything else that I was really satisfied with in connection with promotion. It’s the age old question for writers, unfortunately. We would all rather stay in our writing caves and write instead of doing promo. Which is why email lists like BookBub are so popular. But I think anything you can do that cross-promotes you with other similar authors is a good idea. I’ve done some InstaFreebie group promos and found that to be a good way to find new readers. Hopefully that will subsequently transfer to more sales in the future.

12. What are some of the famous books or authors you have enjoyed or inspired you?

I fell in love with the written word at a young age. The first full length books I read were by Lucy Maud Montgomery and Louisa May Alcott. Even though it is MANY years later, I still think of those books and how those writers created another world for me to enjoy.

13. Any aspiring or independent authors whose books you’ve read that you liked and want to mention to others to check out?

One of my very favorite indy writers is Liwen Ho. She writes sweet, contemporary romance and really knows how to draw her readers in.

14. What advice would you give to those who want to write a novel before they actually get started?

Be prepared to learn a LOT! Read as much as you can in the genre you think you want to write in, but also be inspired by others as well. And read craft articles avidly. I can guarantee you do not know all there is to know no matter where you are in your writing career, but especially if you haven’t yet started. But enjoy it! If you don’t enjoy writing you better find something else to do because it is a challenge.

15. Tell me about this place in Toronto where you love to curl up with a good book. I imagine other readers might be interested in checking it out!

Ummm…usually my bedroom, or living room, or backyard, or basement, or the subway…I love to read and can happily do it pretty much anywhere.

16. The next few questions will be about some of the places you’ve traveled… let’s start with Blenheim Palace.

Blenheim Palace was spectacular! It was built for the first Duke of Marlborough as a thank you for his war accomplishments. It is massive. While most of my characters are usually a little lower on the social scale than the Duke of Marlborough, they might visit for a special occasion, so I was really excited to see it with my own eyes. Also, the d├ęcor at Blenheim, at least some parts of the Palace, are in keeping with my time period so it gave me some great ideas for descriptions in my own writing.

17. What about Rome… what places that you visited there did you find fascinating?

Every single place we saw in Rome was fascinating!! It’s one huge museum! Rome was our first time to try the hop on, hop off bus. I thought that was a wonderful way to get an overview of the town. But then I love to explore so it was fun to walk down tiny little side streets that might be slightly less travelled than the main thoroughfares and get a taste of real life, rather than just the tourist hotspots.

18. And what was it like visiting Paris?

I am in love with Paris. I studied Parisian French for three years as a young teenager so it made a real impression on my heart and mind. But I’m always surprised by how dirty it is. The architecture blows my mind. And the food. Ach! This question makes me want to start looking for a flight deal…

19. What can you tell me about the conferences in Chicago and the chance to meet other writers?

Going to a writers’ conference is amazing! It feels like finding your tribe. There is so much to learn! The workshops are inspiring. Writing is so often a solitary activity. It’s wonderful to spend a few days with other people that truly get it.

20. Who would win a battle of superhero skills: Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman?

Wonder Woman, of course ;-)

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Twenty Questions With Krista Wagner

My guest this week for Twenty Questions is fellow Clean Reads author Krista Wagner. She has written four books and her latest release is Indigo. Here is the synopsis:

When emotionally driven Indigo falls for flirtatious Brian, her senior year quickly spirals out of control. Faced with the afflictions of her cruel peers, Indigo is quickly becoming numb to the world, and if she doesn’t start to care about herself soon, she will be dead.

So let's hear more from Wagner and, when you are finished, you may visit her website for more about her works.

1. How did you get interested in writing?

I started writing at the age of seven; it was just something that came to me naturally.

2. What inspired you to come up with this story?

A lot of teenagers experience issues, like depression or bullying, that they tend to internalize. I thought it was important to address those difficult issues in a fictional world, where it is safer to do so.

3. Tell me about the main character, Indigo, and what inspired you to create her.

Indigo is, I think, representative of a lot of teenage girls who lack confidence for one reason or another. In her case, her biological dad took off once her mom was pregnant and her stepdad left them during her middle school years, so she is searching for a male figure who loves her and will commit to her, but the problem is she believes her happiness will come from another person, as so many people believe.

4. What characters, other than Indigo, did you find enjoyable to write as you progressed with the book?

Brian, Darlene, and Jason. They all have such layers and are intriguing in their own ways.

5. What are some of the themes you explored in writing the novel?

Bullying, Depression, Suicide, Sexual Sin, Secrets

6. What were some of the things you learned along the way as you wrote and edited the book?

How relevant these issues are, even today, not just when I was younger, especially with bullying.

7. What were some things you learned about writing this book when compared to other books you have written?

How personal it is to me. I, too, experienced bullying (not the same degree Indigo does) hiding my sexual activities and suffering from doing so.

8. I see you’ve written screenplays of your novels, too. How is writing a screenplay different from writing a novel?

It's a very different way of thinking, namely with pacing. The more white space, the better. So, scripts focus on lots of action and dialogue, unlike novels that can add stream of consciousness and go into specific details of events.

9. Take me back to the days when you were writing for your school’s literary magazine and how that experience helped you as a writer.

I was one of the contributors and editors for my high school's Avocado Press. I was able to contribute a number of poems and some short stories for several editions and my input was highly regarded, so this experience boosted my confidence to continue writing creatively.

10. What do you find is the right environment for you to write?

Late at night, when the kids are asleep.

11. Are there specific programs or tools you find useful to help you with the writing process?

Not usually. I just jump right in and go!

12. What have you found to be useful methods for promoting your writing?

In person conversations. People need to get to know you first.

13. Tell me more about Dean Koontz and what you like about his writing.

I started reading his novels when I was 14. His were the first thrillers I read and I fell in love with his deeply complex writing style, his relatable and fascinating cast of characters, and the way that he always ended his stories on a positive note.

14. What other books or authors inspired you to become a writer?

Classics from George Orwell to Mary Shelley.

15. Any aspiring or independent authors whose books you’ve read that you liked and want to mention to others to check out?

RJ Conte--an amazing writer whose love for others and God is evident in all that she writes.

16. What advice would you give to those who want to write a novel before they actually get started?

Start writing. Let your thoughts flow.

17. Tell me about your work as an English instructor (what students you teach, where you teach, etc.). 

I teach all English-level courses, from Developmental English to Composition to Critical Thinking with Literature. Currently, I am an adjunct instructor at two Christian colleges and a public college.

18. What are some of your favorite suspenseful films?

Jaws and Scream.

19. Tell me what you’ve learned from reading the Bible, whether it’s from the spiritual, inspirational or historical perspective.

Honestly, all three. God's Word has guided me, protected me, and anchored me.

20. Who would win a battle of superhero skills: Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman? 

Batman. He's just dark and edgy enough.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Book Review: The Energy Crusades

Valerie Noble's The Energy Crusades explores a relevant theme in today's society: the value of energy sources and how they impact our lives. In Noble's book, energy is the only currency and visitors from another planet come to Earth with ideas about how to save it, but the question is whether those visitors have Earth's best interests in mind or if they have a bigger agenda.

The book focuses on Kaia, a young girl considered one of the best students, who trains for her own Energy Crusade, one in which she is reunited with childhood friend Ajax. Along the way, though, she learns more about what the Crusades are really about, along with exploring questions about her own past and whether the people she thought had her best interests in mind can be trusted.

Noble's greatest strength is her world building. She certainly had a lot of ideas in mind for how this future world would take shape and how the role of energy sources in society could have a greater impact over time. She takes her time to introduce new elements into the story and does a good job of pacing them throughout the book. And Noble's love of tennis is evident throughout the story!

I did find some of the shifts in viewpoint to be a bit jarring at times. I find the novel works best when told through the eyes of Kaia. Some of the characters whose viewpoint Noble chooses to use are ones I didn't find myself relating to as well.

But those weaknesses are more than made up with Noble's strengths in building a world, her knowledge about energy resources coming through in her writing, and making Kaia a complex and relatable character.

The Energy Crusades is the first book in a planned series. Noble has already released the second book, The City in the Mountains.

You can learn more about The Energy Crusades at Noble's website or order the book through Amazon.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Three YA Thumbnail Reviews

As I've been working on the second book in my planned series, I've read a number of young adult titles in recent months to get ideas on how to make characters relatable and the situations they face.

It also gives me a good reason to read more books, a requirement for anybody who wants to get better at writing.

I'll do a few thumbnail reviews of some of the books that I've read in recent weeks and look at what I thought each author did well.

The Eye of Minds: James Dashner's first book in his Morality Doctrine series focuses on a young gamer named Michael who is tasked with tracking down a rogue hacker named Kaine who is causing mass destruction and death in the VirtNet. Dashner does a good job with world building, using the virtual reality concept to create many different settings and put Michael and other characters through different challenges. Dashner is also good at building tension throughout the novel. The ending was a bit unexpected.

The Infinite Sea: The sequel to The 5th Wave, a book I enjoyed. Once again, Rick Yancey narrates through several different characters in a first-person viewpoint, with a few instances of third-person viewpoint. It was kind of jarring, though, to be thrust into the mind of Ringer to start the book -- she was a minor character in The 5th Wave. I thought the book worked better when told through the viewpoint of Cassie and was disappointed I didn't get much insight from Ben, whose viewpoint was shared frequently in the first book. After a strong first book, the second book was a bit disappointing.

H2O: The debut novel by Virginia Bergin, in which Ruby, a teenage girl from England, tries to survive amidst a lethal rainfall that has left most sources of water unsafe to drink. Bergin's biggest strength is the voice she gives to Ruby... there's no question you're dealing with a teeanger who's desperate for company and really wants to find her father. You do have to get used to Bergin's decision to use all caps at certain points, but it does give the impression of a teenager writing in a diary and getting upset at certain points. The ending came off a bit flat, though.

There are some other novels that I read from my fellow Clean Reads authors, but I'll try to sit down and do more detailed reviews of those in the weeks to come.