The Heart of the Matter: Characterology

I have been in the practice of writing now for quite some time. I have been to numerous conferences and sat under the tutelage of very gifted authors, both at these live events and in my study of craft through books and blogs. One of the key things I have come to discover is that character development is pre-eminent in the novel. If the reader doesn’t care about your characters, they won’t hang in there for the story. So, your characters are what drives it all.

Discovering Your Characters

Every author has their own method for character development. I personally think it’s important to take time BEFORE you start writing the story (or even outlining) to get to know at least your main characters (at least those who will have scenes told from their point of view). Some writers “interview” their character. I have a profile sheet that has a list of things I feel I should know about my character (physical appearance, mental abilities, socioeconomic level now and as a child, sibling/parent relationships, etc.). Look up some character profile sheets, come up with your own. But I would recommend including Goals, Motivations, and Conflicts (External and Internal) on your sheet.

Digging Deeper

These are all sort of surface sort of things, however. I also LOVE Susan May Warren’s “Story Equation” (or “SEQ”) where you break down the character’s Dark Moment Story (something significant that happened in their past that made them who they are today). The Dark Moment Story will lead to character flaws, the lie the character believes about him/herself, the character’s competing values, and so much more. These deepen your understanding of your character which makes the character deeper for the reader. Something that is important to note here is that you may not want to put EVERYTHING you develop about your character on the page. It’s a “tip of the iceberg” kind of thing. Whereas you show the tip of the iceberg, but you (the author) know the entire iceberg that is under the surface. This makes the character more three dimensional and more real.

Having Fun With It

I always try to “cast” my characters too. It helps with visualizing my characters throughout the book and makes them more real for me, too. I keep a Pinterest board on each of my books with photos of who I would cast in each of the roles as well as a variety of other photos of places, food, and photos from that period/place that relate to the novel. It’s just fun to play around with. You can find my pinterest boards here.

At the end of the day…

Characters are people too. They are only as real as you make them. And they are only as real to your readers as you make them. It is worth the time and effort to put the work in on the front end (in my experience). Give it a go and see what you come up with!

Happy creating!

FEATURED GUEST & GIVEAWAY: Author Krysten Lindsay Hager

Hello again! I have another great blog for you today – a guest author, Krysten Lindsay Hager. She is here to tell us about the last book in one of her series, Landry’s True Colors Series. And she will be giving away a signed copy of a book from her other series, Competing with the Star. So, without further ado, let’s get to the interview…

Welcome to my blog! First, Krysten, tell us a little about your novel.

Landry in Like is about a fourteen year old girl who is dealing with frenemies, mean girls, anxiety, and having her first boyfriend. Landry is now getting the opportunity to do TV interviews because of being on an Internet reality show competition, but while it looks impressive to be doing those shows, she’s not getting a lot of modeling jobs so she feels insecure. High school is around the corner and that’s making her nervous as well—especially as she sees one of her best friends, Ashanti, hanging out more and more with a new group of girls on the cheer squad.

This is the 3rd book in the Landry’s True Colors Series and I have gotten such an amazing response from readers in my inbox. It’s so rewarding to hear from girls and mothers who say how Landry has helped them (or their daughters) deal with their anxiety or come to a parent with an issue their having at school or dealing with grief and stress. Just recently a grandparent told me her granddaughter was able to finally share how much her grandpa’s death had impacted her after reading about Ashanti losing her grandma in the book. This reader had internalized everything that happened at her grandpa’s funeral and for months she was acting different and her parents just chalked it up to growing up. She read the section where Landry’s own mother shares she gets uncomfortable going to funeral homes and saw that Ashanti and Landry were open about being uncomfortable and she finally felt like it was okay to admit that. She had been holding onto those feelings for months and it was like a weight lifted off her shoulders.

Wow! How wonderful to have readers responding so positively. And walking away with so much! What was the inspiration for Landry in Like?

In this book I wanted to show how Landry had grown as a character as she dealt with more challenges. In the first book, True Colors, it’s hard for Landry to stand up for herself as it is for many of us. As the series progresses, Landry is learning to appreciate her differences and accept who she is and not try to be someone she’s not. While the other girls are into this teen dance club, she realizes that’s just not her scene and she’d rather be at home playing video games with friends and baking cupcakes and sleepovers. At first she thinks she must be uncool to not be comfortable at the club, but she finally tells her friends and boyfriend that she’s not into that place and finds out one of her best friends isn’t either and that her boyfriend respects her more for being honest and being herself. I think this book really showcases how accepting yourself and being okay with who you are is so freeing.

Wonderful message. You seem so natural at putting out your themes and messages…that is, your readers are picking them up rather well. Did you always want to be a writer? If not, what did you want to be when you were a child?

When I was in first grade I wanted to create a soap opera—a whole world where I came up with the setting, characters, and plot. Looking back I realize that I knew I wanted to be a writer, but that I didn’t quite understand the relationship between creating these worlds and writing books. So I’m pretty much living out the dream I had since I was a child.

While I’ve always enjoyed writing, doing this as a career was not something I thought of as a child. I’m a bit later to the game. Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer?

Take literature classes, even as non-credit classes. It will help you so much in putting together a novel and learning about theme, etc. I took extra lit classes in college as both an undergraduate and as a grad student. I actually extending my time in school to do that because it was so beneficial in helping me write. I would recommend that more than anything.

Like those classes, I know that reading helps authors, too. So much of what we know about writing is intuitive. (Not that we don’t need to stretch those craft muscles in classes or at conferences.) What are you currently reading?

I just finished Autumn Falls. I’m reading Lysa TerKeurst’s Unglued right now with a group of friends.

I just finished one of TerKeurst’s books. She’s fabulous! I get in the mood for writing by developing/listening to a playlist. What kind of music, if any, do you listen to when you write?

I don’t listen to music as I write, but I listen to it before and during brainstorming and daydreaming sessions. I always post playlists for my books on my website. Here are 2 of my latest book playlists:

For Landry in Like:

For Competing with the Star:

Do you have a favorite time of day to write? What about a favorite place?

I like to write in the evenings and very early morning. I either write in my office or living room. I’m not the kind of person who can write in a coffee shop, but if I’m on a road trip, I can often write in the car. It’s weird, I don’t like music playing when I’m writing at home, but it doesn’t bother me if I’m in the car writing.

I’m the same way about writing in the car. Long road trip, here I come! But I do find, for me, I’m more productive in a coffee shop than in my office. Maybe I should rethink my office arrangement…

Do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?

In March I will have a young adult book coming out called, Dating the It Guy, which is about a teen girl named Emme who starts dating a popular guy from a very prominent political family and how it throws her life out of balance. It’s funny, sweet, romantic, and heartbreaking. I’m also working on a new adult novel and another YA one.

Again, Krysten, thank you so much for being on my blog today. Landry’s True Colors Series sounds great and I look forward to hearing more about it…

Landry’s True Colors Series


Then the most beautiful sound in the world came along—the final bell. I grabbed my bag and rushed out the door to my locker, where I ran into Reagan O’Hara, Nick’s gorgeous ex-girlfriend. “Watch where you’re going, spaz,” she said, glaring at me. “Exactly where are you in such a hurry to get to anyway? I can’t imagine that you’d have plans.”

I could have said, “Off to meet my boyfriend, you know, the guy you used to badmouth me to,” but no, I took the high road and said, “Excuse me,” and kept going.

“Whatever, loser,” she said. My shoulders tensed. As I tried to ignore her and tell myself it was just jealousy, I couldn’t pretend that her words didn’t hurt. I had been considered kind of a loser at my old school in Goodacre. I had had one super close best friend who I did everything with, Lexi Irvin, and when she moved to Dallas, it was as if I had been abandoned. So yeah, I had felt like a complete loser in Goodacre, but now I was here in Grand Haven, with new friends and a new positive outlook on life. I had a new best friend, Charlotte Lidstrom, and had become friends with former teen TV star Simone Hendrickson and her best friend, Asia Milanowski.

It could be intimidating hanging out with Simone since she was popular, pretty, and famous. Sometimes I felt invisible next to her, and unfortunately, hanging with Simone sometimes meant spending time with people like Reagan or Simone’s other friends, Pilar Ito and Morgan Kemp. Morgan was the ultimate mean girl. I swear, even if she told me she loved my outfit and was hooked up to a lie detector test saying she was telling the truth, I still wouldn’t want to risk it and I’d go home and change. But today I was not going to worry about Morgan, Reagan, or any of that. I was just going to focus on my first date with Nick…Until I rounded the corner and ran into Simone, who was waiting for me at my locker with Morgan and Pilar.

“Hey, Hadley,” Simone said. “Wanted to return your lucky bracelet. Let’s hope it helped me pass my math test.”

She handed me my heart and natural stone charm bracelet and I slid it on my wrist. Morgan looked down at my hands and made a face.

“Why are you wearing such dark nail polish?” she asked me.

My face got warm. “I thought the color was pretty when I saw it in the store. I’ve never seen this shade of purple with so much blue in it.”

“Guys aren’t into weird nail polish colors,” Morgan said as she fluffed her long curly blonde hair with her red polished fingers.
Great, so even my nail polish was wrong. Could I do anything right?

“Here comes Nick,” Pilar said, and the girls all got quiet.

“Hey, guys,” he said, coming up and nodding at them. I started to curl my fingers under so he wouldn’t notice my dark polish—the color that up until a few minutes ago I thought was unique and beautiful was now making me feel like a little oddball.

“Cool color,” Nick said.


“I like the blue. It’s very you,” he said, and then he reached over and intertwined his fingers with mine. Take that, you dark nail polish haters.

“So are we all heading over to Scoops together?” he asked.

Simone played with a strand of her long blonde hair, but didn’t say a thing.

“Yup, we thought we’d go over with you guys,” Morgan said, smiling up at him with her gleaming white teeth.

Wait, what? No, not cool. This was our first date and I knew I’d feel awkward talking to him around a group—a group judging me on what I said, did, and apparently even the colors I wore.

Buy Links

Amazon US paperback:
Amazon US ebook:
Amazon UK ebook:
Amazon AU ebook:
Amazon CA ebook:
Barnes and Noble:
Barnes and Noble Nook:

More about Krysten

Krysten Lindsay Hager writes about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, frenemies, crushes, fame, first loves, and values. She is the author of True Colors, Best Friends…Forever?, Next Door to a Star, Landry in Like, and Competing with the Star (The Star Series: Book 2). Her debut novel, True Colors, won the Readers Favorite award for best preteen book. Krysten’s work has been featured in USA Today, The Flint Journal, the Grand Haven Tribune, the Beavercreek News, the Bellbrook Times and on Living Dayton.

Connect with Krysten and her books


Now that you’ve been introduced to Krysten Lindsay Hager and her writing, she would like to offer a giveaway! A SIGNED copy of the second book in her Star Series, Competing with the Star.

Just comment on this blog post to be entered to win the book. The winner’s name will be drawn from that pool. Entries will be accepted until Monday, January 16, 2017 at 11:59 pm.





A LITTLE OFF TOPIC: Depression Hurts

I am starting a series called “A little off topic”. This is because my blog is primarily about writing, craft, and my own journey through the muddled waters of what it means to be an author these days. But there are other topics that are very personal to me that I think may be relevant for others, too.

Depression…a nice topic, huh? Well, I will say that I could be the poster mom for Postpartum Depression. I experienced Postpartum Depression after each of the births of my children. And, while my psychiatrist and obstetrician worked to do what they could to “head it off”, it became worse each time. (This is not to say that this will be the case for everyone. PPD (postpartum depression) has a recurrence rate of about 40%.)

I know what that darkness is like. I know those places that hurt so bad you can’t imagine continuing or putting your family through your illness anymore. But, friend, if you are in that place, I hope that there is a voice in your life that delivers TRUTH. The TRUTH is that your cognitive filter is messed up. You are not able to process emotions and thoughts properly. You need a voice of clarity at this time. And the TRUTH is that your life is necessary. You have a purpose. And there is a light at the end of this dark place. And it is beautiful.

First, let’s all make sure we’re on the same page…

What is Depression?

(borrowed from the National Institute of Mental Health‘s website)

Depression is a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working.

Some forms of depression are slightly different, or they may develop under unique circumstances, such as:

  • Persistent depressive disorder (a.k.a. “dysthymia”) is a depressed mood that lasts for at least two years. A person diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder may have episodes of major depression along with periods of less severe symptoms, but symptoms must last for two years to be considered persistent depressive disorder.
  • Perinatal depression is much more serious than the “baby blues” (relatively mild depressive and anxiety symptoms that typically clear within two weeks after delivery) that many women experience after giving birth. Women with perinatal depression experience full-blown major depression during pregnancy or after delivery (postpartum depression). The feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that accompany perinatal depression may make it difficult for these new mothers to complete daily care activities for themselves and/or for their babies.
  • Psychotic depression occurs when a person has severe depression plus some form of psychosis, such as having disturbing false fixed beliefs (delusions) or hearing or seeing upsetting things that others cannot hear or see (hallucinations). The psychotic symptoms typically have a depressive “theme,” such as delusions of guilt, poverty, or illness.
  • Seasonal affective disorder is characterized by the onset of depression during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. This depression generally lifts during spring and summer. Winter depression, typically accompanied by social withdrawal, increased sleep, and weight gain, predictably returns every year in seasonal affective disorder.
  • Bipolar disorder is different from depression, but it is included in this list is because someone with bipolar disorder experiences episodes of extremely low moods that meet the criteria for major depression (called “bipolar depression”). But a person with bipolar disorder also experiences extreme high – euphoric or irritable – moods called “mania” or a less severe form called “hypomania.” (There is a milder form of Bipolar Disorder called “Bipolar II”.)

The Stats

  • 9.5% of the population in the US (that’s roughly 21 million) are afflicted (and this is probably an under-reported number) – YOU ARE NOT ALONE
  • Women are 50% more likely than men to suffer from depression and other mood disorders (again, is it that men are less likely to talk about it with their doctor?)
  • Only 50% of diagnosed mood disorders are treated – and that’s diagnosed conditions…imagine all of those who suffer in silence!
  • 1 in every 5 Americans has first hand experience with depression, bipolar disorder, or another mood disorder

The Journey Out of Depression

This is my journey and how it looked. Yours will look different. But there are elements we have in common…the darkness that seems to weigh on your being, dragging you down. And that there is HOPE.

I have struggled with depression/PPD for 7 years. And for me, I found myself in a Behavioral Health Hospital…twice…before it turned around. But it did. This is where God met me and spoke into my heart. The light broke through. Was I instantly better? No. It was a slow process, with the help of medication and counseling, but I was determined that I couldn’t be in that place any more. Did I work hard every day? You know I didn’t. There are days, will be days even in recovery, where you take a step back. Those days a shower seems like too much. Days that life outside your bedroom seems to much to face.

It’s real. It’s hard. But it’s not forever. And you are not alone.

Ease the Hurt

  1. Lean on your support network. Your friends and family do care about you, no matter how it feels right now. Find at least one friend who is a good listener and talk to them. Your darkest thoughts only have power over you when they are in secret. Trust me.
  2. Find a good mental health provider/doctor and counselor (and follow their suggestions). Do the work.
  3. Plan something each day that you think you would enjoy. Even if you don’t feel up to it. Or you don’t enjoy the things you used to. Sometimes, action precedes a change in mood.

I would love to continue blogging about this in the future. There are many facets to my journey and to my depression yet to tell. My desire is to help others who are struggling. To share light and hope. And so that you know someone else has been there, too.



Happy Friday! I hope this blog finds you well and enjoying the end of the first week of 2017!!! I have a fabulous blog for you today – a guest author and a giveaway!!! Author Jane McGarry is here today to talk to us about her recent release, Unexpected Rewards. This is the second book in a trilogy. But if you haven’t read the first book, no worries. Keep reading and find more information about the giveaway at the bottom. It might be your lucky day!

Without further ado, let’s get to Jane McGarry…

Jane, first tell us a little about your novel.

Unexpected Rewards is the sequel to Not Every Girl. Now that Olivia’s mission is complete, she expects to be knighted. Instead, she is made a lady-in-waiting to the queen. Thrust into palace life where intrigue abounds, she must use her training and instincts to protect the King from a new threat, all while trying to ensure her love with the Prince Liam will prevail.

Interesting twist…what was the inspiration for the Not Every Girl series?

Many books I have enjoyed over the years have had a strong female protagonist. I wanted to write a feisty, resilient heroine who didn’t spend her time waiting to be rescued by the hero. Girls need positive examples of characters with strength and courage to help them feel empowered in life. Hopefully, Olivia achieves this in some way.

I agree. I enjoy writing female characters who have some spirit to them. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I have always loved writing stories for myself, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I actually gave the idea of publishing a novel any serious consideration. I had worked for 10+ years in the pharmaceutical industry before leaving to be a stay-at-home mom. Writing soon became an escape from the daily grind of child rearing. Then, I had the idea for Not Every Girl and things took off from there.

What a career change! I know there are things about writing we all enjoy, but there are also parts of the process we don’t like so much. What part do you dread?

Dread may be a little too strong of a word, but the most tedious process is when you get into the nitty gritty of editing. Writing the first draft is a very organic flow where I do not give much thought to the actual structure of the words. Then it is time to concentrate on the rules of grammar, which is a much less creative endeavor.

That is true, it is less organic, more tedious. I find that reading is an important part of writing. We intuitively learn from others. What are you currently reading?

The Beauty of Darkness (Book 3 of the Remnant Chronicles) by Mary E. Pearson. I have enjoyed this trilogy. The first book has a great twist that has kept me hooked for the series.

Do you have a favorite time of day to write? What about a favorite place?

My favorite time to write is when my house is quiet. Usually, this means my kids are at school. I sit in a big comfy chair in the living room with a nice hot cup of tea if possible.

Oohhh, that does sound nice! Tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.

Olivia is sure that she will not fit in at the palace or find any meaningful way to pass her time. However, through a series of events, she winds up meeting someone who teaches her a valuable skill and gives her life in the castle purpose.

Thanks for giving us that little insight! One more question…do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?

Right now, I am working on the final installment in the trilogy. Olivia finally discovers the true culprit behind the plot against the king. Now she must race against time to prove her theory is true before it is too late.

Jane, thank you again for coming on my blog and talking about your newest release. I know I’m certainly intrigued!

Unexpected Rewards

Olivia Davenport is looking forward to her future. After all, Prince Liam has professed his love and King William has promised her a reward for her role on a recent mission. She fully expects to continue her knightly training while enjoying a blossoming romance with her Prince. The King, however, has other ideas, appointing her as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Helen.

Thrust into unfamiliar territory and left to fend against the malicious women of court, Olivia feels awkward and confused. With the help of her new friend, Kat, and her sister, Anne, she tries to find her footing among the courtiers, their protocol, and the added complication of Jocelyn Crawford, a lady who has her eyes set on becoming Liam’s bride.

When, a disturbing prophecy puts the safety of the King in question, fear spreads through kingdom. Intrigue abounds at the palace with an enigmatic witch and a strict Friar at the center of the controversy. Olivia must use her training and instincts to unravel what is truly going on in order to protect the King. Through it all, she questions if she will ever be able to fit into Liam’s life and if, in the end, their love can prevail.

Enjoy an Excerpt

“Excuse me, Sir Davenport, Lady Davenport,” says a voice, and suddenly Liam stands beside us. “But I would very much like to have a dance with your daughter.”

“Of course, Your Highness,” Mother replies in awe, dipping into a curtsey.

My acknowledgement is a much stiffer bow of the head. The moments with my family had briefly smothered my worry, but now it hurtles back full force. He takes my hand and I follow him onto the floor, silently praying my knees don’t give out from the terror that rises in me like the tide. One hand fits on the small of my back, the other grasps mine. His palms are uncharacteristically sweaty.

Something is definitely wrong.

I look into his beautiful, blue eyes. They swim with misery. Now that I am going to find out the reason, I am not sure I want to anymore.

He clears his throat. “I didn’t want to have to tell you in public, but I can’t let the night pass and deceive you.”

Not good.

At my silence, he continues, “Somehow Jocelyn has influenced my father. He wants me to court her, to give her a fair chance, because he considers her a more suitable match.”

There she sits now, right next to King William, her usual smug expression in place. Our monarch absently surveys the room. The monarch I saved—who praised me for it—stabs me in the back without a second thought. I should have left him to die in that escape tunnel.

“And what do you think of that?” I ask pointedly.

“Naturally, I protested…abundantly, but…” He stops, won’t meet my eyes.

But? But cannot be good. But can only be disastrous.

I stop moving and we stand looking at each other like mannequins while couples rotate around us.

“But what?” I whisper, the cacophony of music and chatter turning into an otherworldly buzz while my senses brace for the impact of his answer.

“But…my father told me if I did not give Jocelyn a fair chance, he would not only send you from the palace, but ship you down to Prescott and arrange a marriage for you there. I don’t know what to do, Olivia. I don’t know how to fix this.”

A barrage of thoughts leap to mind, none of them in any way accepting of this information. Send me away? Ship me to Prescott? As if I were livestock? And arrange a marriage? So many protests, I hardly know where to begin.

The music ends and couples saunter off the floor. Liam and I stand alone in the center.

Eyes will be upon us soon if we remain here like statues.

With every ounce of composure I can muster, I curtsey and hear my voice say, “Thank you for the dance, Your Highness. I hope you enjoy the rest of your evening.”

Then, I walk away.

Buy Links


Barnes & Noble



Amazon Canada

More About Jane McGarry

Reading was always a big part of Jane’s life. Over the years, creating stories developed out of this love. Finally, she decided to try her hand at writing a novel and that was when Not Every Girl was conceived.

She lives in New Jersey in a house full of boys, including one over-indulged cat. When she is not running around with her family or writing, she can be found curled up with said cat and a good book.

You can visit her online at: .

Connect with Jane and her books

Author website







Interested? I know I am!! Haven’t read the first book and want to? Well, here’s your opportunity! Jane McGarry is giving a signed paperback copy of her first book Not Every Girl!!! Please click on the link to enter the giveaway!

Rafflecopter giveaway


My apologies. I understand that the rafflecopter isn’t working. So, if you wish to enter the drawing, just comment on the post. I will draw the winner from among those names. Entries will be accepted until Thursday, January 12, 2017 at 11:59 pm. Thanks!!!

It’s a New Year, Time to Set Goals!

Welcome to 2017, readers!!! How is the new year treating you thus far? For me, it’s been incredibly busy! Already. And we’re only three days in! (Today just so happens to also be my birthday.) But it’s important, I think, to take a step back and set goals for the new year. Where do you want to be in 6 months? In a year? What do you want for your career? For your writing? For your home?

Why even bother with goals?

I believe goals (not resolutions for change) are important because they allow us to chart progress. How do you know where you are headed, or how far you have progressed, if you don’t have goals? If not for goals, I image you must be living aimlessly, day to day, in some kind of rut…going through the routine of it all…now that must get old quick.

What kinds of goals should I set?

There is no set plan. But I think there should be goals in the different areas of your life: career/writing, family, home, personal, spiritual. And set goals not just for 2017. Set goals along the way as you feel they suit your situation. For my writing, for example, I set goals for each month to keep me on track. Then I set 6 month, year, 5 year, and “blue sky” (long term, dreaming sort of) goals with my other shorter term goals reflecting the steps to reach the longer term goals. My daily “to do” list even should reflect how I reach my set goals.


For my writing, one of my goals is to get my current novels published in the next three years, but I’m always working on something new at the same time. So my month goals look like this for now:


  • self-edit “The Lady Bornekova” sequel
  • gather feedback on sequel from beta readers
  • Develop characters for NOVEL Q (in planning stages)


  • fold in feedback from beta readers
  • submit sequel to publisher
  • begin self-editing “Trail of Fears”
  • Sketch out plot for NOVEL Q


  • fold in beta reader feedback for “Trail of Fears”
  • start writing NOVEL Q
  • professional edits for “The Lady Bornekova” sequel should come in sometime this month

And so on and so forth…

Now it’s your turn…

What kinds of goals do you need to set? Grab a pen and paper (or open a fresh word processor document) and get started!

My New Year’s Gift to You: An eBook copy of “Off to War”

I hope everyone survived Christmas and is doing well. Especially looking forward to 2017. I know I am. New possibilities and new routines. Perhaps a new normal. In some ways, I feel I’ve been in a rut. In others, I know I need to buckle down and nail down a better routine. All of which I hope can be accomplished in these next couple of months and set the tone for this next year.

But I do want to start off this year with a gift for my readers…I am offering my novel “Off to War” for free (on ebook) through Amazon! I am really excited about this and hoping many people take advantage of this offer!

What is that one about again?

What happens when a battle wages within a woman’s heart?

The impulsive Elizabeth is passionate about many things. Above all, her long time beau and friend, John. When he enlists in the Union army as a surgeon, she sneaks onboard his train. Determined to follow him through thick and thin, this high society woman joins the Sanitary Commission.

Constantly in fear of being discovered and sent back home, she keeps a low profile. Until she catches word that John has gone to the front to save some critically wounded soldiers. Despite the dangers of musket and cannon fire, she knows the decision she must make to ensure John makes it back alive.

Another interesting tidbit…

As some of you know, I use pinterest mostly for the purpose of building character and history boards for my books. So, you can follow this link to see who I would cast for the different characters in “Off to War” as well as some photos from the period:

And so…

Keep a sharp eye on amazon December 31st and January 1st. Be sure to secure your copy. I’ll do my best to share more tidbits about the creation and process behind “Off to War” along the way.

FEATURED GUEST: Author Debra Daugherty

An early very Merry Christmas to you, my readers! I can’t hardly believe it’s nearly here, can you? But it comes regardless of whether we are ready or not. So, I find myself reflecting on the season and what it means to me. And trying to take hold of the moments I can with friends and family to truly enjoy them. I pray the same for each of you.

Today I have author Debra Daugherty on my blog talking about her novel The Dragon’s Ring. It sounds like a really intriguing story. Let’s dive in and learn more about Debra and her process.

Welcome, Debra. First, tell us a little about your novel:

THE DRAGON’S RING is a romantic fairy tale. If the knight, Sir James Trueblood, captures a unicorn, the King will give him permission to marry his daughter, Princess Isadora. Sir James begins his quest, not realizing Isadora is following him in disguise. On his journey the knight is trapped by a witch and faces a ferocious dragon. He slays the dragon and takes the ring it guarded. With the dragon’s ring he captures a unicorn, but then learns the gentle creature will die if not set free. Now he has to make a choice, marry the Princess or free the unicorn.

That really intrigues. Especially my childhood love for unicorns. What was the inspiration for The Dragon’s Ring?

I love fairy tales for their happily ever after endings. I also love the idea that a mystical, magical creature like a unicorn might once have existed. For years I collected figurines of unicorns and displayed them in a glass curio. Wanting to write a story both my nephews and nieces would enjoy, I ended up with THE DRAGON’S RING. My story has a princess, a unicorn, and romance, as well as a witch and dragon, something for everyone.

You can say that again! Did you always want to be a writer?

Being a writer was on the top of my list, even as a child. I also wanted to be a teacher, airline attendant, travel guide, secretary and astronaut. In real life I was a waitress, clerk typist, beautician, café worker, caregiver and secretary. And while participating in all these professions, I also continued to write. That was the one constant in my life.

You’ve certainly done some interesting things. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

My grade school published a monthly newspaper with stories written by the students. I loved when my stories and poems were chosen to be in an issue. I found I enjoyed the attention and praise from my family when they read what I have written. So my desire to be a writer stemmed from an early age, third grade. It helped that my teachers liked my work and gave me encouragement.

I know from experience that there are things we all enjoy about the writing process and things we don’t enjoy so much. What part of the writing process do you dread?

I loved the writing process, how the words flow from my fingers to the keyboard and a story takes shape. Revisions are hard. Sometimes I have to “kill my darlings,” eliminate chapters, change scenes, even change POV’s, to make the story work. It’s hard to let go.

Once I am satisfied that my work is ready to submit, it is time to Query. Writing a query letter, finding the right words to pique an agent or publisher’s interest, is harder than writing the novel.

So query letters are another writing process I dread.

Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer?

Try to write a little bit every day, and read. To be a great writer, you need to be an avid reader. Join SCBWI, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Attend conferences. Read books on writing. Two of my favorite books are Harold Underdown’s THE COMPLETE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO PUBLISHING CHILDREN’S BOOKS, and Ann Whitford Paul’s WRITING PICTURE BOOKS. Connect with authors on Facebook and twitter. Join a writers group and have your work critiqued. Participate in workshops, in person and online. And don’t give up your dream, no matter how many rejections you have. Every writer can relate to rejections. I have a drawer filled with them. Treat rejections as a victory. They show you are putting yourself out there.

All wonderful suggestions…thanks! What are you currently reading?

I’d like to mention a novel I finished a couple of months ago. It’s a young adult fantasy novel, “Token and Omens”, written by a friend whom I met at a writer’s conference, Jeri Baird. We actually critiqued each other’s work at this conference, and hers were some chapters from this now published book. Her writing is amazing!

With the holidays keeping me active, I haven’t jumped into any new novel. I may reread “Token and Omens” again as I enjoyed it tremendously the first time. Come January, I’ll be heading back to the library for some PB mentor text reading for research and checking out the latest books by Philippa Gregory. I never tire of reading about Anne Boleyn and the Tudors.

For the time being I plan to devote my time reading, writing, and revising some of my works-in-progress.

I find I need to listen to music to “set a mood” for my writing. What kind of music, if any, do you listen to when you write?

I actually don’t listen to music when I write. I find it distracts me. However, I don’t write without some noise in the room. My dog, Honey, lies under my desk and snores while I work.

Do you have a favorite time of day to write? What about a favorite place?

I write when the mood strikes me. This could me at 6:00 AM, mid-afternoon or even 2:00 in the morning. My favorite place would be sitting on a deck overlooking the ocean, but as that will probably never happen, I’m content with sitting at my desk and typing on my keyboard.

How long does it take you to write a book?

It depends. I wrote THE DRAGON’S RING in three days. This was nearly 20 years ago. I sent it out to a few publishers, then tucked it in a drawer until 2012. After meeting Ilana Oster and her friend, Sarah Schoon, while touring England, I decided to return to writing. These ladies from my tour group happened to be writers, and while sipping tea in a quaint café in Grassmere, they encouraged me to join SCBWI and renew my writing. When I re-examined THE DRAGON’S RING, I found it outdated. My princess sat at the castle while her knight went on the quest for the unicorn. I decided Princess Isadora needed to be the heroine and rewrote the story. In this new version, she follows her knight and saves him, more than once and without his knowledge. It took months to revise, but this is the story my publisher liked. This is the story that was published, so all the hard work was worth it.

Interesting…I always let my manuscripts rest, but that’s quite a rest 🙂 Tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.

I don’t want to give away any secrets or the ending, but can tell you that I included a Dodo bird in this book. The Dodo bird is vital to the story.

Do you have any current projects you are working on? Care to share?

In November, 2013 I participated in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to write a novel in a month. My YA novel had over 155,000 words, so I divided it into three novels for a series. My teen sleuths travel to London, Paris and Rome, and in each city they encounter a mystery and murder. (I still find it hard to believe I wrote three books in one month.) Since then I’ve been revising, having my work critiqued and edited, and have been submitting the first novel to agents and publishers. In 2014’s NANOWRIMO I wrote a fourth book for this series. My teens head to Edinburgh, Scotland where a ghost sends them on a quest for the Holy Grail. Spoiler alert – they find it!

I also have several picture books and a few Middle Grade stories that I am continuing to revise and submit.

Thank you so much, Debra, for joining us to day!

With Christmas two days away, I know everyone is busy doing last minute shopping and baking. I’d like to wish everyone a happy holiday and a blessed and joyous new year!

Thank you, Sara, for including me on your blog. I enjoyed answering your questions, and am grateful for this opportunity to connect with your readers and to share with you, and them, my book and writing experiences.

The Dragon’s Ring

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More About the Author

Debra Daugherty is a Central Illinois resident who enjoys living in the country with her two dogs, a Chihuahua named CeCe, and Honey, a rescued American Stratford Terrier. Since 2012 she’s been a member of SCBWI, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Her publishing credits include a picture book, CALAMITY CAT, 2013, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; a young adult romantic fairy tale, THE DRAGON’S RING, 2016, Astraea Press/Clean Reads, and two short stories in Guardian Angel Kids’ e-zine. When not writing, she enjoys spending time with her family, browsing in antiques shops and traveling.

Connect with Debra and her books


Twitter –  or @dmddeb


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After #NaNoWriMo, I Propose #IReadDecember

An idea entered my brain today…and I thought I would share it. Yes, I do share most every idea that enters my mind, but that’s neither here nor there. So, this is the long and short of it: after the tons of hard work and intense writing sessions of November for NaNoWriMo, I propose an “I Read December”.

Isn’t it a little late in the month to be “starting” something?

Well, not for me. I’ve been delaying any editing…putting it off because of other things on my “to do” list and lack of time. My free time has actually gone to reading already. I have finished two novels this month. Both in one day each. I am a fast reader, I just rarely have the time to dedicate to my first passion. But I am prepared to throw myself wholly into it and give myself permission to not look at any of my manuscripts until January.

Are you not itching to get into editing mode?

A little bit. I am so excited about the next book in line to be published. And I’m excited about the novel I just finished during NaNoWriMo. But that book needs to “rest”. For those of you who haven’t heard of this process, let me expound on that idea. For a writer, it is important to step away from the manuscript between important phases in the life of the manuscript to let it “rest”. What we mean is really to let you give yourself some space from it. When you are “in” the work too much, you get so close to it that you can become blind to mistakes and weaknesses. Taking a step back for a couple of weeks or even a month can give you some better perspective on it when you go back to it.

So, what are you reading?

I just finished Melanie Dickerson’s “Silent Songbird”. It was wonderful, as have been all of her books. Her ability to write in deep point of view and engage the reader while keeping the work easy to read is amazing. Next I’m diving into something on craft. I think I’ll read “Revision & Self-Editing” by James Scott Bell. Because I think next month will be Edit-like-a-Crazy-Woman January.

What about you? Are you reading anything interesting?

FEATURED GUEST: Author Eli Celata

Hello all, are you done with your Christmas shopping? Are you tired of hearing that question? I am too. But I have decided that my top priority is to take moments each day to just rest and enjoy the season. My second priority is to enjoy my family. And, after those things, is the rest. There will be time for the other things. But I won’t remember who got what in 2016 five years from now or how well it was wrapped, but I will remember that I enjoyed my kids. And they will remember that mom was present.

Aside from the ongoing Christmas season challenges, I have the pleasure of hosting another Clean Reads author on my blog today – Eli Celata. Eli has stopped by to answer some of my questions and introduce us to her newest release. So, without further ado, let’s hop right in:

Welcome to my blog, Eli. First, tell us a little about your novel.

“High Summons” is my debut. It’s basically an ode to everything I love about my native city but also about YA literature in general. My main character, Jon Blythe, is a multiracial college kid from Boston who has relocated to Rochester for college. Raised by his mother, he has only one thing from his father – magic. Well, he has the monsters too. The dark and devilish figures that he sees out of the corner of his eyes. The ones who horrify his mother.

When Jon comes across a man setting one of the monsters on fire with his bare hand, he jumps in blindly hoping for the answers he’s been denied. However, the man – Jordan – might be a wizard, but he’s also a demon-hunter, and if Jon wants to keep his magic, he will have to risk everything and track down the rogue magic users set on burning Rochester to the ground.

Interesting. I love science fiction/fantasy though I write Historical Fiction/Romance, which means I read primarily in my genre. But I find the sheer creative genius of your genre so appealing. What was the inspiration for High Summons?

While the original drafts were an ode to my wanderlust, HIGH SUMMONS as it is now written memorializes the best parts of my home city of Rochester. From Rochester’s diversity and embracing of different cultures, there were so many nuances I only recognized once I was off at college. The fantasy came from my love of mythology, theology, and folklore.

Very personal inspiration for this novel. My debut novel was also very personal at it’s core. And it was a book I never expected the world to see really. I never thought I would be a writer until later in life though I have always written as a creative outlet. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Both my parents are avid readers, so I was a 3-year-old being read middle grade books at night alongside my siblings. My sister and I would spend hours telling each other stories which grew more and more complex, but it wasn’t until I realized we had a very different desire in the endings that I took to writing.

Fun. One thing that helps get me in the right headspace to write is my writing playlist. What kind of music, if any, do you listen to when you write?

My Twitter is a mass of music tweets. Each time I start a new book, I make a playlist. Currently, my main playlist is for a WIP for my WARLOCK OF ROCHESTER series titled #Gatekeeper. It’s a mix of symphonic metal, classic rock, and Sia. As I also have an unrelated adult dystopian bouncing around, Amber Run’s “I Found” joined the track, but it’ll get its own list soon.

How long does it take you to write a book?

The length of time depends on the type of book and my other responsibilities. Over the summer, I can probably get one done in two months from start and outline to submitting manuscript. Once I’m back at Binghamton working on my PhD, it can slow down to a full ten months.

Wow! Two months is amazingly quick! Even ten months is rather fast considering. Can you tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.

Jon’s multiracial. The cast is really diverse with Jon coming from a single parent household in Boston while his friends come from as far as you can get from a city in Puerto Rico to Midwest to well-off Rochester urbanite. That’s the wonderful part about writing a story set in a diverse “college town.” It also adds to the tension when Jon goes from this eclectic and accepting friend group into the demon hunting community which has its own prejudices and ideologies.

Do you have any current projects your working on? Care to share?

Weird dystopian novel involving a secret library and a twist on the classic soldier/pacifist romance – it’s been on my shelf for a while, but I’m caught on the ending. I can’t seem to keep my pacifist from reverting to her old – much more violent and megalomaniac inventor – ways, and that would definitely upend any chance of a Happily Ever After with the romantic humanist corporal.

Thank you so much for joining us today. And I am so eager to hear a little more about High Summons, are you?

High Summons

Jon Blythe is sick of waiting for his Yoda. After years of hiding his magic, he’s ready to retire from his mortal life, drop out of college, and jump into the world of demon hunters. He just didn’t really expect a bleach blond bookstore clerk with light up toys for weapons. Unfortunately, Jordan is Jon’s only hope. When rogue magic users come to Rochester with a malicious plan, the odd couple strikes out to save the day. Jordan might not be what Jon expected, but between demons and Econ homework, the demons win every time. Wild nights drag Jon further from normal into the world where his father vanished. Maybe he’s becoming an addict. Maybe magic just comes with a price. Either way, he’s hooked.

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More About the Author:

Eli Celata was born in Rochester, NY and currently attends Binghamton University as a doctoral student in Biological Anthropology. When she isn’t studying bones or working on interdisciplinary experiments, Eli writes science fiction and fantasy.

Connect with Eli:

Twitter: @Celata_E




Christmas: I Need A Silent Night

I find myself yet again this year in the midst of craziness. Is this what Christmas is for the parents of littles? I see the joy of the magic of Christmas in them. I love experiencing the wonder of the season through them anew, but this hustling and bustling is for the birds. December is halfway over and it seems as if I’m stuck in a time warp somehow. Christmas doesn’t seem real this year.


NaNoWriMo is a wonderful thing in my life. It has allowed me to complete two novels (one this year, one last year) in record time. But it’s difficult to explain what it does to my enjoyment of the holiday season. Every spare moment goes to writing. And things are ramping up for holiday festivities and families are enjoying Thanksgiving. As well, I try to spread out my Christmas shopping across November and December (really trying to be done with the bulk of it in November so I can enjoy December), but no more. There is no time to fit that stuff in with NaNoWriMo absorbing my spare time. These are all things I must consider before committing next year.

Gift Giving

Gift Giving is one of my love languages…most certainly. But I am one of those gift givers that likes to find something that a friend/family member would love/enjoy and get that for them. I don’t like this obligation or this tit-for-tat thought to gift giving. The social expectations inherent in the process is, of course, something I understand. But I’d rather give a gift because I saw it and thought of you and wanted you to have it. You know? It’s all become too commercial for my taste.

Taking Time

This is where I am ultimately lacking. I have been going here, doing that, making this, spending that…barely spending time just being. Or resting in the reason for the season. The family togetherness, the joy of humanity in harmony, and the coming of the Eternal Light to earth on one cold Bethlehem night. I fear this is true of so many parents, especially those of littles – stopping to just be in the moment and appreciate it for all it holds.

So, let’s make that our goal for the remainder of this holiday season…to stop, at least once each day, and just take it in – our children, our homes decked out in their red and evergreen glory, the laughter, the joy, and the eternal peace we have been offered.