Friday, October 31, 2014

Author Stop: Marcia Strykowski

1. If you could take your mc, Amy, out for a fun girl's day, what would you do?

Although Amy loves where she lives in Maine, she hasn’t experienced many other places, so I think I’d like to show her around a big city. We’ll zip down the coast to Massachusetts and start out at Quincy Market in Boston. She can pick out treats and see the sights. Then, we’ll wander over to the New England Aquarium and watch the harbor seals playing outside in their 42,000 gallon exhibit, which I’m sure will remind Amy of her favorite seal: Pup.

Next, we’ll walk over to check out the boats in the harbor, so she can compare it to her own tiny harbor back home. Then, we’ll track back and hop on a subway. We’ll have to skip the beautiful gardens because we’ll be on our way to the Museum of Fine Arts. In Amy’s Choice, Amy meets the artist, Finn. She loves to watch him work and is a big fan of his finished paintings. So, if I really could take Amy on a girl’s day out, I think she’d appreciate the massive MFA with its multitudes of gorgeous collections.

2. When you complete a book, do you set it aside for some breathing time, or start tinkering w/revisions right away?

It depends on what else is going on, but I definitely feel it’s good to put work aside for a while and then revisit it with fresh eyes. Sometimes I do this purposely and other times I do it as a means of procrastination. I do love to revise though and find it much easier than forcing that first draft out.

3. You grew up visiting Maine, where AMY'S CHOICE takes place. I've never been (it's on the bucket list!). For the yummiest seafood, where should I head?

Okay, you’ve found me out… I’m not a huge fan of ordering seafood, but believe me there are a ton of great places up and down the coast of Maine. If you’re way up north near Acadia National Park, then the Travelin Lobster or Stewman’s Lobster Pound in Bar Harbor are both highly rated. If you end up many miles south of those, Hurricane Restaurant in Kennebunkport, Maine might be a good stop.

4. Instead of a fav color, tell us one of your fav sounds:

To stick with the Maine theme, I’ll choose ocean waves crashing on a beach with seagulls screeching overhead. And if a lighthouse foghorn blows at the same time? Perfect!

5. What is a fav line(s) from AC?

Rather than trying to remember earlier lines, I’ll share one of the last ones I wrote: Snow continued to fall silently outside the window. I pictured it piling up on pine boughs, drifting onto boats, and coating buoys—gently frosting the whole port in a safe layer of white.

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Beautiful! A 'safe layer of white' is such a perfect way to describe snow. And speaking of perfect, we have not one but TWO giveaways today. Besides the $5 Amazon gift card, one lucky commenter will also have the chance to win a copy of AMY'S CHOICE, courtesy of Marcia! As always, simply follow Marcia at one or more of her social media links. Winners will be announced via comments and Twitter on 11/3.

Marcia Strykowski works at a public library. Along with assisting patrons at the front desk, she handles all the new purchases and installs them into the online catalog. Earlier, between earning her BS in Fine Arts and raising her children, she worked for seven years in textbook publishing. Marcia participates in writing groups and enjoys family, art, music, travel, and theater. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

After numerous magazine and anthology contributions, CALL ME AMY is Marcia’s first novel. It is for readers aged 8 & up and is published by Luminis Books, 2013. AMY’S CHOICE, a companion book to CALL ME AMY will be published in fall 2014.

Amy Henderson’s freshman year starts with a new best friend, Cat, and a newfound confidence. But she misses her crush, Craig, who has gone to live with his aunt in Boston. Craig has promised to write, and Amy checks the mail on a daily basis, but to no avail. There are plenty of distractions, however. Cat’s brother, Ricky, seems interested in Amy, but is she interested in him? And a new friendship with Finn, the lighthouse keeper, who Amy discovers is a talented artist, keeps Amy and Cat busy as they arrange for him to exhibit his work. But things get complicated when Craig returns from Boston and Finn is accused of arson. There are more questions than answers for Amy as life becomes as turbulent as the cold and stormy ocean of her coastal Maine town. Ideal for preteens, this novel is the sequel to the critically acclaimed Call Me Amy and touches upon issues of friendship, boyfriend troubles, and the power of believing in oneself.

Congrats, Marcia, on another wonderful book!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween Flash Fiction: Dead and Guilty

I wrote this several Halloweens ago. It's been filed away in my computer ever since then, so this Halloween I thought I'd get it out and shake the cobwebs off of it. Horror isn't really my thing, so it's not very scary. Feel free to read in the dark, heh.

Dead & Guilty

She is dead.

Guilt is the reason why I’m here at Rutherford & Sons to view Ashlynn Kenneth, wife on one, mother of two, lying stiff and waxy in her best clothing.

I ran over her. I didn’t mean to. I didn’t see her, but then… I didn’t stop. I can’t go to jail. I need the open sky over my head. As I wait at the end of the viewing line, staring blankly towards the front of the room I see movement where it shouldn’t be-- in the coffin. A hand curls over the edge, scraped and blackened with bits of gravel clinging to raw skin.

She is quick.

She scuttles over the side of the coffin and hits the carpet with a dry thump. Her legs won’t work; the fender of  my car had bashed them useless, bones cracked through skin. Dragging herself with her arms she writhes directly toward me, eyes still closed by the mortician's glue. But how did he miss fixing the side of her head? Part of it is collapsed in like a months-old carved pumpkin.

I run, too terrified to scream. Out the door, into the street. Tires squeal, and then I am spinning, around and around until I slam hard onto the pavement. I don’t care. All my focus in on the front door of Rutherford & Sons. I am certain she will be there, spilling over the curb in all her wrecked determination.

But all I see is the back of a young woman in a bright sundress. She walks away from me on creamy legs, feet clad in a pair of yellow flats. Her head is perfectly even, long hair free of matted blood and chips of bone.

She was supposed to be dead.

* * *

And as a bit of bonus Halloween fun, here are some images of white pumpkins. I adore white pumpkins!

Monday, October 27, 2014


I fully plan on self-publishing someday. I really don't have a time frame of when(2 years? 4 years? 6 years? Dunno!) but I know that I want to. But you've heard the saying that if something's worth doing, it's worth doing right, haven't you? When I self-publish, I want to hire an editor and a really great cover artist. And the coffers of Wallace just aren't up to supporting that right now. More pennies need to go into my white ceramic French bulldog penny bank first. =)

But with having these intentions, I am very intrigued when someone announces their intent to sp. I follow their journeys intently, making notes of what to do/not do. And I am super fascinated when it comes cover reveal time. I love covers. I mean, who of us doesn't? Covers are like crack to us book lovers. They give a glimpse of the world that's waiting within the pages. Covers are powerful. They either pull us in or push us back.

I cannot wait to one day craft my own cover. If I'm honest, this is one of the biggest draws for me when it comes to self-publishing. The thought of all that creative freedom...*shivers in delicious excitement* But then on the opposite end of the spectrum, I have to say the biggest detractor in sp for me is knowing that I'll be 100% responsible for my book finding even the tiniest of audiences. And it's scary to think that I could be investing money that I might not get back. Ack. But these worries are for another time and day.

Right now I'd like to turn your focus to several sp books recently released that I really like the covers for. These beauties definitely(for me)  fall in the 'pull you in' spectrum.

I love how the title plays in w/the police tape. And her blue polka dots! 
Goodreads | Kate's blog
I am a sucker for silhouettes & stars. Sucker, I tell you!
Goodreads | Maansi's twitter
Swords, knives, daggers- I love 'em. As well as clocky gear thingies. 
Goodreads | Corinne's website
Love the blue and the moonlit forest. Not to mention the tiger!
Goodreads | L.A.'s website
This feels so warm and inviting, plus there's a field of wheat. Like!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Writer's Workshop

Last Saturday I attended a writing workshop through the writers group I belong to at the library. The venue was at a youth camp, in a neat old house. There were three presenters, w/three workshops you could choose from throughout the day. After two workshops, we broke for lunch(taco salads and peanut butter cake, yum) and then after one last workshop, listened to romance author, Anna Kristell speak. She also had some funny things to say about writing spicy romance(under Isabella Kole), which she had never expected to do. Here are a few pics from throughout the day, though please forgive the poor quality as they were taken w/my dinosaur, non-smartphone phone.

Lovely, eh?

C.S. Marks teaching about blurbs. A very entertaining lady!

Some very neat larger than life shots of her covers. 

This lady knows how to market!

Ron Collins leading his first workshop of the day, Seven Point Story Plotting. Very good!

A charming room where the fun Deborah Bowden's workshops were conducted.

And last but not least, a big thank you to Debi Hurt, who organized and hosted the workshop. She worked hard to make sure we all had a great time, and it was much appreciated!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Author Stop: Lauren Sabel

Today I'm excited to welcome Lauren Sabel to the blog, whose book combines Hollywood and Mexico. Who could not be intrigued by that combo?! 

1. Did you eat a lot of Mexican food while writing VDID?

YES!  I love Mexican food. One of my most delicious experiences during the Day of the Dead was going to a trout farm/restaurant in the mountains outside Oaxaca City. They caught the trout fresh and cooked it wrapped in foil within minutes of catching it. And wow. That was by far the best fish I’d ever eaten.

A photo of Lauren's Los Muerto's wooden toy collection.

2. Who are your top three fav Hollywood actors(new or old)? And who would you pick to play Vivian, if your movie- star character were ever to star on the silver screen?

I adore Sarah Hyland from Modern Family. I would pick her to play Vivian because she has the attitude to pull off Vivian’s spicy personality. My other three favorite actors right now are Anne Hathaway, Ellen Paige, and Emma Stone.

3. What is at the main core of your story that you hope readers will come away with?

That it is possible to save yourself. So often we wait for someone to come along and tell us our lives are meaningful. But at some point we have to wake up and realize that our lives ARE meaningful already. Once we realize it and build positive habits around it, there’s no stopping us from becoming everything we ever wanted to be or do. 

4. Cats or dogs? Snow or rain?

 Dogs. Snow. Preferably dogs playing in snow.

5. What is a fav line(s) from VDID?

“I don’t need anyone to save me anymore. I can save myself.”

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I love that pic of the wooden dolls, so moody and cool(plus a little creepy!). And I totally wish I had some chips and salsa right now... Anyhoo, one lucky commenter will win a $5 Amazon gift card, so besides your comment, please remember to follow Lauren at one or more of her social media sites below. Gracias!

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Originally from the Rocky Mountains, Lauren Sabel has returned to the cool mountain air of Boulder, Colorado after living in several wonderful cities that she will always love and continue to visit year after year.

Lauren loves her husband, her family, her friends, and stories that end happily. (Unfortunately, hers never do.) She also loves digging into her mind and revealing tiny gems she didn’t know were there.
Lauren published her first novel VIVIAN DIVINE IS DEAD in June 2014. Lauren’s next novel will be released in Fall 2015, and is entitled OUT OF MY MIND.

When a death threat arrives with teen celebrity Vivian Divine's fan mail, Vivian has no choice but to go on the run to Mexico. She soon discovers, though, that her Oscar-nominated performance killing villains on-screen did nothing to prepare her for escaping a madman in real life. Some people say he's a hero, others tremble in his presence, but one thing is clear: he won't stop until Vivian is in his grasp. Why didn't she pay more attention during those judo lessons for her role in Zombie Killer?

Vivian finds an ally in the mysterious and charming Nick. He is everything Hollywood boys are not-genuine, kind, and determined to see Vivian for who she really is. But even he seems like he can't be trusted-what could he be hiding?

Beat up, hungry, and more confused than ever about who she's running from, Vivian is living in a real-life blockbuster horror flick. But there's no option to yell "cut" like there is on set....

Lauren Sabel's
Vivian Divine Is Dead is a creepy, witty, fast-paced adventure about family, fame, and having the courage to save yourself.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Meet My Character Blog Hop

My buddy, Beth, tagged me in the Meet My Character Blog Hop. I've done several blog hops in the past, and normally when I now see them making their rounds, inside I'm all- aagh, don't tag me! - but this one I did want to participate in. Short, sweet, and you get to talk about the made-up people in your head. I'm in!
1. What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?
Tam Sullivan. Yes, fictional.

2. When and where is the story set?
The Midwest, in the future after WWIII has happened.

3. What should we know about him/her?
Tam is a country girl and close to her small family: Mom, Dad, and cousin, Lo. Before tragedy struck, she was a friendly, do-anything-for-you type girl. She loves being outside and lemon pie.

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?
During a trip to the city, Tam's mother was killed and she's now being held captive as a perfomer in an aerial acrobatic show. Her heart's back at the farm, but she's stuck in the Megalith, the world's tallest skyscraper where the shows are held.

5. What is the personal goal of the character?
To escape, and get herself and her cousin back to the safety of home.

6. Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
Chain Gang. And no where to read more about it, though maybe one day! =)

And a few more things on this Monday:

Who doesn't love Paddington? Such a cuddly, adorable bear. I found this link through Publisher's Weekly, and at the bottom there's fun Paddington activities you can print out. If you have a few minutes, check out the movie trailer, so funny!   

Also, there's a new post up on Across the Board(the group blog I belong to) about Carrie's publishing journey. Fascinating stuff!

Have a great start to the week everyone!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A New Adventure

I am now part of a group blog! It's called Across the Board, and is made up of all types of writers. Today was our first post, so if anyone wanted to go check it out here, I'd be thrilled! Thanks! 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Author Stop: Caroline Tung Richmond

I'm a huge fan of alternate histories, so I'm hugely excited to welcome Caroline to the blog today! As always, our first question is an important one.

1. You are a professed cookie lover. Give me two of your can't-live-without favs:

Oh, tough question! Maybe this is boring but I do love the classic chocolate chip cookie—and they're even better if you sprinkle sea salt on top of them before you bake them. That little bit of saltiness makes a big difference! And when it comes to boxed cookies, you can't beat Girl Scout do-si-dos. OMG. I know thin mints get a lot of love, but have you tried do-si-dos?! Two peanut butter cookies with delicious peanut butter cream smooshed in the middle? I can eat an entire box in one sitting!

2. What was it that drew you to writing an alternate version of the outcome of WWII?

Is it okay if I have a longwinded answer? Haha.

Back in 2010, I was interested in learning more about North Korea and my husband—who spent a few years living in South Korea—recommended a memoir by a North Korean refugee called The Aquariums of PyongYang. It was a terrifying yet eye-opening read, and after I finished it I got a new idea for a book—about a girl living under a harsh regime who's determined to overthrow her country's dictator. (Oh, she also has these secret superpowers!) Originally I toyed with setting the novel in North Korea but then I let my mind wander. I've always loved alternate history and so I thought: what if I set the book in an alternate US? What if Hitler won WWII and conquered the States? I ran the idea past my agent and he gave me the thumbs up and I got crackin'!

I'd like to say that it was smooth sailing from there on out—that I banged out the draft and the book sold in days at auction—but it took me years of revising before I got this novel right. Then it was on sub for months before it finally sold. I suppose my publishing story is a lesson in Never give up! Never surrender! :)

3. Stripes or polka dots? Black or white? 

Polka dots, hands down! Funny story: just a few days ago I looked down at what I was wearing and then at what the baby was wearing and most of our clothing were covered in polka dots! Ha!

And I'll have to go with white. I love the crispness of it. It reminds me of summer too.

4. The need for diversity in kidlit has been a much talked about subject lately. Your mc, Zara, is of mixed heritage. Do you feel like THE ONLY THING TO FEAR would appeal to young adults(and the not-so-young) who are looking for more diversity in their characters?

Yes, that is my humble hope! Growing up, I yearned to find books with Asian-American characters but often came up empty. And so, I try to include diverse characters in all of my novels, like Zara in THE ONLY THING TO FEAR. I wanted her to be biracial in particular because my little daughter is biracial too. She's far too young to tackle TOTtF anytime soon but one day I'd love to hand her the book and tell her, "I wrote this for you, even before you were born."

5. What is one of your fav line(s) from TOTTF? 

I actually haven't looked at TOTtF in months because every time I peek at its pages I just want to start editing all over again but I'll look through it for you, Leandra! Aren't I a dedicated interviewee? Haha. Let's see... One line that I've always liked takes place in a scene where Zara reminisces about her mother, who died when Zara was a young girl. Zara really looked up to her mom, and she thinks to herself: "The ache of missing her never went away." This is a line that has personal meaning to me too because my sister-in-law passed away in 2011. She was the best person I knew—bright and funny and with the kindest heart—and the ache of missing her never goes away either.

* * * 

I love what Caroline plans to tell her daughter someday. What a special gift! And speaking of gifts, if you'd like to be entered to win a $5 Amazon gift card, just leave a comment and please follow Caroline at one or more of her social media links. Winner will be announced in the comments and via Twitter on 10/9.

Caroline Tung Richmond is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the BALTIMORE SUN, HIGHLIGHTS FOR CHILDREN, and, among other publications. The THE ONLY THING TO FEAR is her debut novel.

A self-proclaimed history nerd and cookie connoisseur, Caroline lives in the Washington, DC, area with her husband; their daughter; and the family dog, Otto von Bismarck named for the German chancellor (naturally).

Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest 
In a stunning reimagining of history, debut author Caroline Tung Richmond weaves an incredible story of secrets and honor in a world where Hitler won World War II.

It's been nearly 80 years since the Allies lost WWII in a crushing defeat against Hitler's genetically engineered super soldiers. America has been carved up by the victors, and 16-year-old Zara lives a life of oppression in the Eastern America Territories. Under the iron rule of the Nazis, the government strives to maintain a master race, controlling everything from jobs to genetics. Despite her mixed heritage and hopeless social standing, Zara dreams of the free America she's only read about in banned books. A revolution is growing, and a rogue rebel group is plotting a deadly coup. Zara might hold the key to taking down the F├╝hrer for good, but it also might be the very thing that destroys her. Because what she has to offer the rebels is something she's spent her entire life hiding, under threat of immediate execution by the Nazis.

In this action-packed, heart-stopping novel of a terrifying reality that could have been, Zara must decide just how far she'll go for freedom.

* * * 

Congratulations, Caroline! I hope you and THE ONLY THING TO FEAR take the book world by storm!