SPOTLIGHT & INTERVIEW: Author Eve Culley

Hello, all! And welcome to my blog! Fridays, as some of you know, are Author spotlight/interview/guest post day. And today is no exception. I have author Eve Culley with me today, talking about her book, the second in a series, released earlier this month. It is a children’s book, most suited for ages 7-12, but the reviews say that children as young as 5 have enjoyed it. I am eager to nab a copy for my own youngsters. As you read more about the books below (and visit the reviews for yourself, you’ll surely see why. What an imaginative story! But I detract from the interview…so I’ll get to the good stuff:

Welcome, Eve! First, can you tell us a little about your novel.

Further Adventures in Barn Town is the second book in the Barn Town Series. It is a clever book of hilarious anecdotes, written in feline narrative by a life-long resident, Ol’ Stripe (Deputy of Barn Town) who shares with the reader the highlights of life in Barn Town – a barn situated on a large farm.

I know that authors can get inspiration from many places. What about you? What was the inspiration for Further Adventures in Barn Town?

The inspiration for the Barn Town Series are the animals that live in our barn and that visit with me every day. I watch and listen to them as they talk to one another and their stories emerge from there.

I can only imagine! I am an animal enthusiast – both domestic and exotic (I was an educator at a zoo for over 17 years!). And I know that’s true – animals have a sense of communication between them that is unique. Maybe it takes a writer’s imagination to see it. Did you always want to be a writer? If not, what did you want to be when you were a child?

I have always had a vivid imagination and loved to tell stories. I thought that because of this I would be a teacher and did teach for a while in private schools.

We are of the same heart. I have a passion for teaching. Though I have a science degree, I went into the field of zoo education before my passion for writing took over. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

In 1997 I self-published a book of poetry on my family history and gave copies to my mother and mother-in-law. I think that is when the writer bug got into my blood and I became a “writer”.

Poetry! Now that is an art I really do appreciate, but must admit I don’t truly “get”. But I admire those who do and can write it. Since you have been writing for a while, you must already know that there are things about the process that different writers don’t love so much. What about you? What part of the writing process do you dread?

The part of writing I dread is the editing process. The initial process of putting ideas on paper flow almost faster than I can type. Editing is like pulling teeth without Novocain.

I like that metaphor. Too funny. Around here, we say “like pulling teeth through a wall”. Doesn’t make much sense, does it? Focus, Sara, focus! I always take hold of every opportunity to learn. Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer?

I hesitant to suggest to any writer how he or she could be a better writer. I feel I am still very much in a learning mode and gleaning all I can from anyone willing to help me. However, I will share with you what works for me and that is jotting down everything that I find of interest. I write notes about anything and everything that catches my interest. I will also say that a lot of my notes end up in my writing and I religiously keep a notebook with me at all times.

That is interesting. I do carry a notebook with me with my “to do” list and to take notes if I need to, but never thought to jot down things that I notice or that inspire/interest me. I’m going to try that!

You’ve probably heard, as many of us have, that writing is somewhat intuitive. That we pick up a lot of what we know from reading. So, it is a good idea to keep reading…in your genre, out of your genre, etc. And it’s just fun! I have yet to meet a writer who wasn’t a reader first. What are you currently reading?

Morgan Le Fay Small Things and Great by Jo-Anne Blanco, Sense of Touch Love and Duty at Anne of Brittany’s Court by Rozsa Gaston, and When You Wish Upon A Fairy by Melody Delgado.

I have heard good things about Rozsa Gaston’s book. And it’s in my genre. You’ll have to let me know what you think.

Now let’s get a peek into your writing environment. I have to listen to music when I write. Do you? What kind of music, if any, do you listen to when you write?

I listen to Pandora – Christian and Country.

Here’s where we part ways, my friend. Though I grew up near Nashville, TN, I am NOT a Country fan. But I am alone among a sea of dedicated fans here. To each his (or her) own!

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

I write any time of the day or night. I have a T.V. tray set up in the living room with my lap top that way my hubby and grandson can at least look at me and me at them. (grin)

Love that! I prefer to share space with hubby while I write too. I just have to bounce each scene and idea off someone. How long does it take you to write a book?

Somewhere around 9 months I guess but that includes my wanderings and talking to my animals and forming the stories in my head. I build back stories for all the characters in my book. This helps me to write about them more completely.

How intriguing! I’ve learned in my writing journey just how vital character development really is. Three dimensional characters makes them real, doesn’t it?

Just a couple more questions…and these may be prying questions, but I’d love a peek behind the curtain, as it were. Can you tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.

This book is longer than the first book; there are more pictures and they are all in color this time. I also had a hard time finding a good stopping point.

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

Since my third book has been submitted for contract, I am working on a stand-alone story that goes with the Barn Town series about Stripe’s (my main character) early life.

Sounds fascinating! Thank you so much for being on my blog today and answering all my crazy questions! Now, I’d like to introduce everyone to the book:

Further Adventures in Barn Town

Written in feline narrative by a life-long resident, Ol’ Stripe (Deputy of Barn Town) shares with the reader the highlights of life in Barn Town – a barn situated on a large farm. Deputy Stripe does all he can to keep his eyes and ears open in order to maintain peace and order, with a hilarious outcome.

AGE LEVEL: 7-12

Enjoy an Excerpt

Cogburn stayed just out of the staff’s reach and taunted the Sheriff with cat calls of crow while dancing across bales of hay. I stayed up in the loft after my search and burrowed back down into the hay. I was ready to go help the Sheriff again if he called, but I hoped he could manage without me. After all, it was very cold out there, out of the warmth of the hay. No need for both of us to be popsicles, I thought.

Then it happened. Rooster Cogburn made a mistake. He zigged when he should have zagged and was cornered behind an extra door leaning against the east wall. It had been put there for storage and made a great place for me to catch a snack. With no way out he was trapped like the “rat rooster” he was. The Sheriff yelled in triumph and grabbed that sorry excuse for a rooster and held him tight.

The Sheriff’s wife, Honey, who had earlier ventured out into Barn Town, adorned with a coat, hat, scarf, gloves, and shoes to watch and lend vocal encouragement to the Sheriff, was presented with Rooster Cogburn by a very triumphal but tired, cold and limping Sheriff. I peeked over the loft edge to watch. The Sheriff’s wife held the culprit tightly while the Sheriff applied the no crow collar to Cogburn’s neck according to the instructions. I watched as the collar was checked again to ensure that it fit properly. Cogburn was released to the ground and promptly fell over. I snickered.

“I can’t breathe,” Cogburn whispered. I could barely hear him. “I can’t move. My legs, I can’t feel my legs,” he gasped. I watched as he lay limp as a wet noodle. I saw the Sheriff pick him up gently. I could tell that all anger was forgotten as the Sheriff readjusted the collar making it a little bit looser and placed Cogburn back on the ground. Cogburn jerked, flopped, and jerked some more.

I started down from the loft as Cogburn gasped and muttered, “I’m dying,” and then dramatically flopped around on the ground, twitching, jerking until finally laying still and not moving. By this time I was beside the Sheriff as he picked him up and again checked the collar. I could tell that it was not tight.

“It is placed as the instructions indicated,” the Sheriff muttered, “but something is definitely wrong.” The Sheriff looked at me and shook his head. It seemed the rooster had died or was dying, unable to breathe or to walk.

Not knowing what else to do, the Sheriff very reluctantly removed the collar. Then the Sheriff placed Cogburn on the ground in hopes he would revive. The very instant Cogburn touched the ground, he was gone. The blur from that rooster would have done the Flash proud as he disappeared into the darkness. It had all been an act by a crafty and tricky villain.

The Sheriff stood there shaking his head. Turning toward Village House, he said, “I’m done.”

A Peek at the First in the Series: Adventures in Barn Town

Welcome to Barn Town where the residents are friendly and there is mischief and mystery around every corner. Things are changing in Barn Town and Ol’ Stripe is keeping his eye on the new arrivals and the current residents in an attempt to keep the peace.

Buy Links (Amazon)

Further Adventures in Barn Town – Book 2

Adventures in Barn Town – Book 1

 

More About the Author

In the middle of the 1970’s and 80’s, my husband and I were missionaries working in the United States. We worked in different church print shops where Bibles, New Testaments, and individual books of the Bible were printed in different languages and shipped to different countries around the world. We traveled across the U.S. to other churches and businesses to raise money for paper, ink and shipping cost for the Bibles. To gather the necessary money needed, a lot of travel was required and as we traveled I would tell stories to our two young sons of adventure, heroes, and villains.

As our sons grew into adulthood the stories to them became less and less until they stopped. When our grandchildren would visit, the stories were requested again until the stories, too, were a thing of the past. But the storytelling refused to die and go away. Instead, a hunger grew in me to put my stories on paper and books grew out of them. I write, of course, adventures for children to read, believe in and take life lessons from them.

Story-telling is as much a part of me as breathing is to my body. I have found that, as I tell stories, as I put them on paper, it makes room for the other stories that are building and will need to be told soon.

Connect with Eve and her books

Barn Town Children’s Books: https://wordpress.com/posts/barntown.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/barntownculley

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BarnCulley

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Eve-Culley/e/B072FLGKP5

The Overcomer In Us All

Hello, everyone! I hope you are all well and having an excellent week. I have had the roughest and most exhilarating week. What? I know…I know…I frequently talk in circles. Two things hit me this past week that have left me joyful and thinking…

I went to one of my favorite writers conferences of the whole year – the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Conference. I always enjoy it so much. I learn, network, and see some of my friends that I only ever see at this conference. But I had an interesting experience this year.

I started not feeling well the day we got to Texas. I progressively got worse. By the third day, we were looking for an urgent care. I figured it was strep, or allergies. The clinic was wonderfully thorough. Hear me when I say THOROUGH. They tested me for EVERYTHING. Strep, flu, UTI, ectopic pregnancy…everything was negative. But when they drew my blood, my white cell count was through the roof. My pulse was high. And my exam proved that my abdomen was tender. So, the doctor is thinking my appendix is inflamed…at the very least I have a couple of signs that point to SIRS (Systematic Inflammatory Response Syndrome). So, my body could become septic. Not good.

On to the ER.

Some tests later, they determine I’m in the safe zone, but I am definitely harboring some kind of serious infection. So, they dose me with an antibiotic there and send me home with prescription antibiotics and pain meds.

Why am I telling you all of this?

Because this kind of thing is soooo typical of me. I’m on a vacation of sorts, at my favorite conference, and I end up in the ER scaring my friends and family.

Not to mention all but ruining my time away.

But all is not lost.

If there’s something I’ve learned from my many, many…many experiences like this, it’s that I have to seek the good, the silver lining, if you will. Because it’s there.

God does not waste our hurts, our less worthwhile experiences…He is always reaching toward us, teaching, loving.

So, what did I walk away with?

I ended up being able to attend only two classes from the whole conference. That may seem like a reason to grumble. But, that allowed me to really focus on what I was being presented with in those two sessions. And the second facilitator said something that struck me. Though she was talking about craft and focusing our writing goals, she asked if we had a verse or word from the Lord we had been focusing on.

I have never been one to have a “word for the year”. I actually don’t care much for new year’s resolutions or anything to do with stuff set up during the new year. I am big on goal setting, but I do that throughout the year.

But, I was struck. Was I missing out on something important?

So, as I have been processing this, I have taken the time to quiet my heart and allow God to speak into my life. There is a verse that has been important to me since my battle with postpartum depression (the second round):

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

Talk about overcoming! This verse totally spoke into those insecure places…and still does. He has given me confidence…a sound mind. He is at work in me.

This would be my over-arching verse. He also gave me a verse for this season of my life as I look into the ministries He has placed me in right now and the challenges I have before me:

“You didn’t choose Me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using My Name.” – John 15:16

So, when I am up against a barrier…when life rains on my parade…this verse reminds me that it’s not about me. It’s about Him. And Him in me, producing fruit. That, as I seek Him, He will answer my prayers. (Not always the way I want Him to, mind you.) But I can be confident that He hears me and that He works all things together for my good (Romans 8:28)).

Overcoming and persevering are not easy. Quite the opposite. And whoever said that “God will not give you more than you can bear” was crazy. But when He does give you an overwhelming burden, it’s because He intends to carry it with you.

SPOTLIGHT: Author Melody Delgado

Hello, all! I am pleased to introduce you to another clean Historical Romance author: Melody Delgado. I know Melody as we are both published through Clean Reads. I ran across her book, Royally Entitled, and found it to be a very delightful read. And I eagerly anticipate the next book in this series.

Welcome, Melody! As a fellow Historical Fiction/Romance writer, I am hoping to bend your ear about the more historically significant events behind your story. Care to share any of these details?

The merchant class had guilds in Europe during the early Renaissance and the aristocracy was powerful as well so I’ve featured both in Royally Entitled, as well as conflict between the two groups. The invention of the rifle or caliver came at that time also, and it also plays a significant role in the story.

Neat! I always like to ask authors about that nugget, that spark that started gears turning for what would become the novel. What about you? What was the inspiration for Royally Entitled?

As I was researching the customs of European royalty during this period I was shocked by the fact that some royals would pick their spouse based merely upon a miniature portrait of them. I knew this historical detail would have to play a major role in my story.

How interesting! I never miss an opportunity to grab some advice! Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer?

Start small and then go from there. My first publications were short stories in magazines, then picture books. Writing a 40,000 word middle-grade came next and then I was better able to write an 84,000 word novel.

Good advice. While I’ve got you here, would you mind telling us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb?

After turning in the galleys for Royally Entitled I realized that I had met an actual European prince years before. I did not purposely base Prince Valdemar’s personality on his, and I’d forgotten about this interaction. But then I wondered if I’d unconsciously done so because this prince was outgoing, friendly and approachable just like Prince Valdemar. At least Valdemar’s personality is realistic for a real-life prince, but it was formed entirely by accident, or subconscious. [ And no, I’ll never tell…. 😉 ]

Neither will we 🙂 Do you have any current projects your working on? Care to share?

The follow-up to Royally Entitled, book #2 in the Brides of Brevalia series, Royally Scheming.

Thanks, so much, Melody, for chatting with us! Now, let’s get into Melody’s wonderful book!

Royally Entitled

When her family’s cider business is ruined and other local businesses are vandalized, Anika Pembrie wonders if the recent bout of unrest is merely a result of rivalry between local merchants and noblemen or if something more sinister is at the root of the recent crimes. Along her journey Anika befriends Prince Valdemar, future king of Brevalia but their relationship hits many twists and turns along the way. Lady Winifred Paxel Flemming pursues the prince relentlessly. His grandmother, Queen Marguerite, expects him to wed whoever she thinks is suitable, even if it means marrying a foreign princess he’s never met. Anika’s mother, Lady Sarah, wants Anika to help ease the family’s financial burdens by marrying Erland Riccats, National Chairman of the Merchants’ Guild. Lady Sarah also harbors secrets regarding Prince Valdemar’s mother, Princess Karin, who met an untimely death years before. In the end, will both Anika and Prince Valdemar be forced into loveless mar-riages, or will they be able to outwit their enemies?

Enjoy an Excerpt

For a brief moment, it seemed as if every noise went silent. The sounds of the chickens clucking, the horses neighing, the geese honking in the pond … Only the crackling pops of the blaze echoed in her ears.

No. This cannot be happening.

Anika’s breath caught in her throat. She stared at the fire in disbelief until the putrid scent of burning leaves caused her to gather her wits.

She rushed to the barn and grabbed a milking pail. “Finn! Help me!” she shouted. No sign of him. Where was the dratted boy now?

Running to the pond in front of the house, she filled her pail. Back and forth from the water to the fire she trudged, with bucket after bucket, as fast as her arms and weighty petticoat would let her. The banks of the pond became so muddy she lost her balance, almost falling headlong into the murky waters. Growing tired, she mustered all her strength, filled another bucket, and lumbered back to the spiraling flames. But it was no use. The fire had spread too far for one person to manage.

How she wished the entire household hadn’t left for the day. If the orchard were destroyed … But no, she wouldn’t think of that now. Instead, she sent up a short silent prayer for help.

“Finn!” she shouted once more to no avail.

A moment later hooves pounded behind her. Half a dozen men had ridden up on horses. At the sight of them, relief washed over her like the bucket of water she’d just tossed on the flames. Help at last.

She hurried towards the men as they dismounted, recognizing Lord Karlsyn and several other noblemen she knew only by name. Then her eyes rested on the tallest gentleman. Prince Valdemar.

“More milking pails are in the barn!” she shouted.

The men ran to get the buckets then filled them in the pond and rushed to the orchard to douse the trees. They scrambled to and fro from the fire to the water for several minutes, almost bumping into each other in their efforts.

Though everyone worked like oxen, they all rushed about frenzied and haphazard. “Let us surround the fire and come at it from different directions,” Anika hollered out to them. “We must contain it before it spreads any further.”

Sir Ian jumped back from a burning leaf that was falling to the ground. “The fire isn’t dying down fast enough,” he shouted. “Do you have any rags or cloths to pound out the flames?”

“There are tablecloths in the dining room,” Anika said, trying to keep her balance amidst the mud forming at her feet.

Before she could rush off to the house to grab the linens, Finn ran towards them holding up her wet laundry for all to see. “Would these help?”

“Good work, lad.” Sir Ian grabbed a wet sheet, rolled it up, and began beating at the flames.

Lord Lindholm dropped his pail and reverted to attacking the blaze with one of Anika’s frilly nightgowns. Sir Fritzer began beating down the fire with her yellow bed coverlet.

Lord Karlsyn attempted to pour another bucket of water over the flames but slid on some mud, splashing most of the precious liquid over his boots. As he fell into the mire, a branch that had ignited fell towards him. Anika rushed up, placed a wet sheet over him then flicked the branch into the mud surrounding them. Once he was on firm footing again, he grabbed an item from the pile of wet laundry and began whacking at the flames.

The article of clothing he was using caught Anika’s attention. Her dress for the ball! Anika’s heart felt heavy as she glanced at her ruined gown, but it was too late to do anything about her loss.

Prince Valdemar, still dousing the fire with buckets of water, worked close to the remaining flames. Sir Ian snatched the last piece of wet laundry and draped it over the prince’s shoulders. The prince wrenched the item off then used it to help the others pound out what was left of the fire, since only a few flames remained.

When the blaze was extinguished Anika seized the opportunity to rest for a moment, stepping away from the gray smoke and placing her foot atop an overturned pail.

The men were so hot and exhausted, they dunked her laundry back into the pails of water, and used the wet items to cool themselves and wipe away the soot from their faces and hands.

As Anika stood near them, she noticed the item of laundry Prince Valdemar was using. It was edged with lace and pink ribbon. Goodness gracious, he was cooling himself with her freshly washed knickers!

Prince Valdemar caught Anika staring at them. He let out a laugh, before immersing the garment in a bucket of water and continuing to use it to wipe the soot off his hands.

Drat! If she thought having Una wash her personal items was uncomfortable, having a stranger touch them was mortifying. It was just her luck that none of the older married men with daughters had gotten stuck using them. No, an unmarried prince had to be the one to view her knickers up close.

Perhaps she could try to distract him. She grabbed her pail, and rushed over to him. “Thank you so much for all your help. Everything seems to be under control now. ”

“Not quite.” Prince Valdemar strode closer to some burning embers that still littered the ground. He tossed her knickers over them and poured the remaining water in his bucket right on top of her most private piece of clothing. Then he swept his blue velvet cap from his head and bowed. “Happy to be of service.” He stifled a giggle as he stole one last look at her charred and muddied knickers.

Buy Links

Amazon

More About the Author

Melody Delgado has been a published writer since 2000. Her novel, Royally Entitled, won a 2017 Readers’ Favorite award in the category of Historical Christian Romance. It is the first book in the Brides of Brevalia series. Her humorous novel for children 8-12 was also recently released by Clean Reads. She lives in Florida with her husband and children, where she enjoys taking long walks along the beach.

Connect with Melody and her books, including her new middle grade work Oops-A-Daisy!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Melody_Delgado_

Website: http://www.melodydelgado.com/

Oops-A-Daisy

Who wants to be stuck wearing a shaggy dog outfit or a chicken suit on television? Twelve-year-old aspiring singer, actress, Daisy De la Cruz, that’s who. She’ll do and wear just about anything to get ahead in the entertainment industry. But will all her embarrassing moments pay off and land her a spot in her arts magnet school’s coveted master class where she’ll be rubbing shoulders with top professionals in the entertainment industry? Or will she be doomed to play the role of an animal, vegetable or mineral forever?

Platform: What are you aiming for?

Hello, readers! Today I want to touch on PLATFORM. It is a buzz-word that is all too familiar in the writing world. And some of you may know a lot about it and some of the newbie writers out there may know very little. And in between, there is a spectrum. So, I want to try to answer some of these questions to the best of my ability. What is it? How does it affect us as writers? How important is it? What can I do about it? And why am I blogging about it today?

Please understand that I am not an expert, nor am I ever intending to say that I am. I am simply an writer on this journey, trying to be transparent and share what I am learning as I go along.

What is PLATFORM?

Let’s look at what Merriam-Webster has to say:

1plan, design
2a declaration of the principles on which a group of persons stands; especially :a declaration of principles and policies adopted by a political party or a candidate
3(1) a usually raised horizontal flat surface; especially :a raised flooring 
(2) a device or structure incorporating or providing a platform; especially :such a structure on legs used for offshore drilling (as for oil)
b a place or opportunity for public discussion
4a a usually thick layer (as of cork) between the inner sole and outer sole of a shoe
b a shoe having such a sole
5a a vehicle (such as a satellite or aircraft) used for a particular purpose or to carry a usually specified kind of equipment
b operating system; also :the computer architecture and equipment using a particular operating system
No where does it talk about the kind of platform that an agent or a publisher refers to when they ask a writer about their platform. No wonder it is a confusing thing to newbie writers!
When you search for “writer’s platform”, the search engine yields a much more helpful answer. Like this one from Writer’s Digest:
Platform, simply put, is your visibility as an author.

The definition of platform, broken down, is your personal ability to sell books through:

Who you are

The personal and professional connections you have

Any media outlets (including blogs and social networks) that you can utilize to sell books

 

So, your reach socially through speaking, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and any other social media outlets, your e-mail list…that is your platform quantified into numbers. And agents and publishers like to be able to quantify your platform.

How does it affect us as writers?

The existence, non-existence, and size of your platform is becoming more and more important to publishers and, therefore, agents. They want to know that you are doing what you can to expand your reach, and therefore, increase your readership/audience/those who will buy your books. It all goes into marketing. How many people are you able to market to? How many loyal followers do you have in that market who are liable to buy your book? Your next book?

How important is it?

As you can imagine…if it is becoming more important to publishers and agents, if you want to be traditionally published, it should be important to you, too. Even publishing through a small press may depend on your platform numbers. It’s just becoming more competitive. The market is so saturated.

What can I do about it?

Start a website/blog today. If not yesterday. Even if you haven’t completed the book. You can start building your following now. And should. Post/tweet about your writing. Or about gardening. Or about whatever interests you. Blog about it. Start a newsletter and grow your e-mail list by encouraging people to sign up on your website. You can offer something of value to encourage them to sign up. A short story related to your hobby you are blogging/posting/tweeting about, recipes, something that they would find value in. And become more active on social media. Engage with your friends and followers. Comment, like, post/tweet regularly.

Why am I blogging about it today?

I have reached an impasse in my blog. As most of you who have followed my blog know, I have primarily blogged about writing, my journey, and the writing industry, falling back on my experience and sharing what I am learning. And I appreciate all of you who have been following along.

However, I have come to a place where I realize that the audience I am growing is an audience of WRITERS. But I need to take my own advice and seek more my TARGET READERSHIP of my books. Not in an underhanded way. Just to shine more light on that part of my personality and connect them with that side of me. So that they can see more ‘behind the curtain’ when they seek out my blog. And understand the author behind the books.

My books are primarily about women overcoming some real issues. Many of those are issues that I myself have dealt with. And I know that others have too. Some of these things I have blogged about in my “A LITTLE OFF TOPIC” series. So, I will be switching my focus to be more about those topics and less about writing. There will still be blogs about writing, but the frequency will be switched, if you will.

There is more in me to share and more to see about how my books will connect with these serious issues. So, I hope you will hang in there for this, the next part of my journey!

So, as always, Happy Writing!

SPOTLIGHT & INTERVIEW: Author Jennifer Froelich

Good day, everyone! Friday author spotlight today is on fellow Clean Reads author Jennifer Froelich. She has recently released Stealing Liberty and has agreed to stop by and answer a few questions and share some info about her book (and an excerpt!). She has received high praise for her work and I, for one, am very intrigued by what I am reading about this book.

So, without futher ado, let’s welcome Jennifer Froelich. Jennifer, I like to start off with the beginnings of the novel: that nugget, that spark that starts the whole process. What was the inspiration for Stealing Liberty?

Thanks for hosting me today, Sara. I came up with a concept for this dystopic world years and years ago, but the story of the kids and the heist came together more gradually. I love history and when I read or watch something historical, I always wonder what it would be like to live through it. With Stealing Liberty, I basically grabbed a lot of historical truths and sewed them together like a patchwork quilt and set it in the future. Religious persecution? It’s happened? Kids locked up for their parents’ beliefs? That’s happened too. People stealing something as an act of patriotic pride? Yep, that’s happened too. I’m really happy with the way it all came together – history, but set in the future to create a completely original story.

Sounds really intriguing…historically inspired dystopic future. Interesting. I bet your reading list is equally fascinating…gotta keep feeding that muse 🙂 What are you currently reading?

I’m very slowly slogging through an M.M. Kaye biography called The Sun in the Morning, and I’m also rereading 1984 by George Orwell. I also just finished Ready Player One.

I also feed my inspiration with music while I work. What kind of music, if any, do you listen to when you write?

I listen to a very eclectic mix of music when I write. Everything from Josh Groban, Simon & Garfunkel, the Beatles, U2 and the Police to more contemporary bands my kids love, like Twenty One Pilots, Foster the People, Kaleo and Gorillaz.

I love several of those, but I need totally instrumental myself. One of the questions I frequently get asked is about the speed of my writing. It gets faster over time. But I know everyone is different. It’s about the art, the craft, everyone’s individual process…how long does it take you to write a book?

A long time! I don’t think I can put a time on it. My first one took a decade, the next was more like half that. Then my latest took a couple of years. This is one of those things I wish I was better at, but I’m trying to accept the beauty in this limitation of mine. My fiction is very character-driven, and my characters are like friends I’m making. You don’t rush some conversations with friends. You’re just there with them, listening to the day to day for a long time before they’ll share the more intimate details of their lives, their history, their upbringing. My characters are like that. But when they finally tell me something big, I think: Wow! Okay, that’s what I was waiting to know about you. It takes time. I hope my readers are patient. I hope wait will be worth it.

I agree…I have found that character development is key. And you’re right, you can’t rush that. Before I let you go, I always have to ask: Do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?

I’m about a third of the way through writing Weeping Justice, which is a sequel to Stealing Liberty. I’m still in the nervous is-this-going-to-be-any-good? stage, but feeling more pressure than usual. My readers are ready to find out what happens next, so I better be able to deliver.

Thank you so much for sharing with us today. I look forward to hearing more from you in the future! But for now, we’ll dig into Stealing Liberty!

Stealing Liberty

My new novel, Stealing Liberty, is a dystopian story for young adults set about 100 years in the future. It’s about a group of misfit teenagers who meet at a detention school for kids whose parents are deemed enemies of the state. When the teenagers find a secret cache of books under the school, they learn that everything they’ve been taught about American history is wrong. Then, they find out the government is planning on secretly selling the Liberty Bell to pay off debt – so the teenagers make plans to STEAL it, to take back a bit of the freedom that’s been taken from them.

Enjoy an Excerpt

My escort pushes me. “Pick up the pace, kid.”

I stumble on a sharp rock and cut my toe. It hurts more than it should and I pull up to face him, fists curled at my side. I’ve grown about a foot since my sixteenth birthday, which means I can stare him down, eye to eye. He just smirks.

How about I smash your nose?

For a minute the urge is so powerful, my pulse pounds against my throat and red spots blur my vision.

Don’t do anything stupid, Reed. Pick your battles.

The voice in my head is my dad’s, so I listen.

We climb aboard a rusty hybrid bus parked in front of the bombed-out terminal. “Welcome,” says the autopilot. It’s one of the retro models, formed like a human, with LED eyes and every-thing. When magnetic tracks were first installed, citizens didn’t trust computers to maneuver vehicles safely along roadways. At least that’s what my grandmother told me. Humanoid pilots were designed to make them feel safer.

Pretty soon, people had more important things to worry about.

My escort takes a seat behind the pilot, but I keep going. Only one other passenger is on the bus — a girl with long blond hair who sits in the fifth row, pressed against the window. Bruises swell on her left cheekbone and along her jaw. Her lip is crusted with blood and her right eyelid is swollen shut. Nausea washes over me, along with fresh anger.

“Sit!” our escort barks.

The girl flinches. I take a seat across from her and shift toward the window. The door squeaks closed and the bus lurches forward.

We travel on an old freeway so desolate, we don’t encounter a single other transport. I wish I was calm enough to sleep — so numb to the government’s strong-arm tactics, they no longer get to me. Instead I stare past the landscape and try not to shake. Try not to relive my nightmare or think about how it felt to wake up with a gun to my head. I imagine a different outcome. Fighting back — or breaking out of the state home before they showed up.

If only.

Buy Links

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Barnes & Noble

Kobo

iTunes

More about the Author

Jennifer Froelich published her debut novel, Dream of Me, in late 2011, which reviewers praised as “well-orchestrated with outstanding imagery.” Her second novel, A Place Between Breaths, published in 2014, was called “a roller-coaster ride with enough twists and turns to keep everyone interested” and won an Honorable Mention in Writer’s Digest’s 23rd Annual Self Published Book competition. A graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University, Jennifer worked for many years as a freelance editor and writer before publishing her own work. She lives in beautiful Idaho with her husband, two kids, and a rescue cat named Katniss.

Connect with Jennifer and her books

Twitter: @jenfroelich

Instagram @jennifer.froelich

Facebook: @jenfroelich

Tumblr: jenfroelich.tumblr.com

Website: www.jenniferfroelich.com

INTERVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Author Shannon L. Brown

Welcome to today’s blog. I have another guest on today. Author Shannon L. Brown is joining us today to talk about her An Alaska Dream Romance Series. I met Shannon through our local ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) chapter. I strongly encourage writers/authors to join local writing groups that will provide support, encouragement, ideas, and instruction on craft. Our ACFW chapter will even meet as a critique group from time to time.

Shannon is not only here to talk about her series, she is also offering a copy (paperback (only in U.S.) or ebook) of the first book in this series (Falling for Alaska)! Please read below for details. I will stop rambling now, and let you meet Shannon:

Good day, Shannon. Welcome to my blog! I am always interested in where other authors come up with their inspiration…that kernel, that initial idea…what was your inspiration for Falling for Alaska?

I had discovered HGTV’s series Flea Market Flip and recorded a bunch. As I was binge watching them, I began to think about a character who remade old furniture. Jemma’s story soon came to life.

I love HGTV! It’s one of those “safe channels” with my young kids that is NOT Disney Junior 🙂 They have a lot of neat shows. As you know, everyone’s journey into writing is different. What about you? When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

After changing majors several times, I got a degree in Journalism/Public Communications. That’s where I found my happy place. I wrote my first novel a few years later, but set aside fiction to write articles. After becoming an award-winning journalist, I switched back to fiction so I can play with imaginary worlds and characters. But sometimes they seem real.

I know that’s the truth! We spend so much time developing those characters, making them three dimensional, that they become so real to us. Character development is one of my favorite things about writing. But there are things I don’t enjoy as much…such as writing proposals. What part of the writing process do you dread?

The first edit. I write a rough first draft, so polishing it the first time is a big task. But I enjoy editing on the whole because I like making something basic sing.

Editing can be a necessary evil, as you well know. It seems to come in seasons for me. I’m either writing, writing, writing…or editing, editing, editing. No happy medium. I am always eager to get tidbits of knowledge from other authors. Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer?

Never assume that your first draft is a finished product. (see my earlier comment) Never stop learning. Try new ways to work until your find what works best for you. Then keep learning.

I echo that sentiment. I am sold on conferences hook, line, and sinker. And I try to alternate reading: fiction book, non-fiction (usually craft) book, fiction, non-fiction, etc… I just finished Gloria Kempton’s “Write Great Fiction-Dialogue”. And am about to start Melanie Dickerson’s Regency Series. How about you? What are you currently reading?

I’m reading a sweet Harlequin Romance by Marion Lennox called Christmas at the Castle. It’s a 2013 book that I got at a used bookstore. I’m enjoying it and may have to search for more of her books.

I love discovering new authors to enjoy! I am catching up on my new favs though. One of them is very prolific and I’m only about halfway through her collection.

One thing about my writing atmosphere…I have to have music. Instrumental music. Something that won’t distract me. What kind of music, if any, do you listen to when you write?

When I’m home, I like it quiet. The odd thing is that I can write elsewhere such as in a Starbucks and music is okay.

The Starbucks I go to plays the strangest music, while the one on the other side of town plays really nice, easy to write to music. I don’t quite understand that. I have tried writing at various times of day, too. I used to be a night owl, but find that late evenings don’t really work for me as well as mid-morning and early evening. Do you have a favorite time of day to write? What about a favorite place?

Morning is usually my best time to write. I’m learning to dictate my writing with my current book, so my favorite place to write is a nearby park.

Neat! I used to dictate scenes when I drove a lot. I never quite got used to it. One of my works in progress is about the Cherokee Trail of Tears. I actually walked a portion of the trail and dictated while doing so. It was such a moving experience.

This next question is just for sheer curiosity’s sake: how long does it take you to write a book?

It took two months for me to write a book in the past, but I’m working to speed that up.

Wow! That is fast!

This question is for my readers: Tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.

Crazy About Alaska, the final book in the Alaska Dream Romance series, is my latest release. It’s Holly and Adam’s story and I love Holly’s character. She’s a mother and real estate agent who’s willing to do whatever needs to be done. Readers will notice her can-do attitude on the first page.

And, finally, do you have any current projects you’re working on? Care to share?

I’m writing the third book in the Crime-Solving Cousins Mysteries for ages 8-12. Sophie and Jessica get into danger again in The Chocolate Spy which should be out before Christmas.

Thank you so much, Shannon, for being “here” today and for the giveaway! Stay tuned, readers, for more details about Falling for Alaska and the giveaway!

Falling for Alaska

 

Jemma inherits a house and moves to small-town Palmer, Alaska. As she begins her business of flipping furniture, her gorgeous but unpleasant neighbor gets in her way. Sure, she’s making some noise. A little sawing. A bit of drilling. Her dream’s at stake. And she’s not sure about living in Alaska.

Nathaniel loves Alaska and moved here for peace and quiet. That’s been shattered. He’s terrible with relationships. But when a stray puppy enters his life, his heart begins to heal. Could Jemma and Nathaniel have a happily ever after?

Falling for Alaska is the first book in the sweet and clean Alaska Dream Romance series. If you like wild destinations, real struggles, fun stories—and a dash of Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy, then you’ll love Shannon L. Brown’s heartwarming series.

Buy Falling for Alaska and begin your journey today!

Book 1: Falling for Alaska
Book 2: Loving Alaska
Book 2.5: Merrying in Alaska – A Christmas Novella
Book 3: Crazy About Alaska

Each book has a happily ever after ending and stands alone, but it’s most enjoyable to read them in order. This ebook also contains a preview of Loving Alaska. The author was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, so she really gets Alaska and you’ll see the difference in what she writes.

Enjoy an Excerpt

“Bench or bookshelf? Which do you want to be?” Jemma Harris walked around the beat-up old dresser sitting in the garage next to the house her great-aunt had recently left her in Palmer, Alaska. She removed the drawers and stepped back. Nodding once, she said, “Bench.” Jigsaw in hand, Jemma began the transformation.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Mr. Gorgeous from across the street open his front door. He wore his usual neatly pressed chinos and dress shirt, his dark, wavy hair adding the only element slightly out of control. Refocusing on the blade in her hand, Jemma cut off the dresser’s top, then started a curve on the right side.

Something poked her shoulder. When she reached out to brush it away, her hand met with warm skin. Jumping backward, Jemma stood with the jigsaw in front of her like a weapon.

“What are you doing?” Mr. Gorgeous shouted over the sound of the saw.

Gorgeous but none too bright. She pushed the off switch and removed her protective glasses. “I’m sawing wood.”

“No.” He sighed with obvious frustration. “What are you doing making so much noise?”

“Um, creating a bench?” She pointed at the half-altered dresser. Seeing it in her mind in a fresh yellow with white trim and a matching padded seat, she knew it would be beautiful.

“A parent will happily buy it for their daughter’s room—at least I hope so.”

Her neighbor’s mouth dropped open. “This is a business? The noise I’ve put up with for weeks isn’t temporary?”

“Yes. No. Yes, I’m planning to open a store.”

“So you won’t continue making noise here and being a general nuisance?”

Now he had her hackles up. “A nuisance?”

His hand swept over the area. “Noise. Grime. Chaos.”

Focus on patience. He was her neighbor, so they needed to get along. Forcing a calm note to her voice, she said, “I’m Jemma Harris. It may appear chaotic to you, Mr. . . . ?”

“Nathaniel Montgomery.”

“But I can assure you everything is under control.”

With a little too much eagerness, he asked, “Will you be gone soon?”

As soon as I can make this pay, she thought, wondering how someone so attractive on the outside could be the opposite on the inside.

Buy Links for Falling for Alaska

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2qOapQL

Nook: http://bit.ly/2s1BIf5

Ibooks: http://apple.co/2rjli0j

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2qOintn

More about Shannon

Shannon L. Brown has been a real estate agent, an administrative assistant, in retail, and more. When she began writing, she knew she’d found her happy place. After becoming an award-winning journalist, she moved over to fiction so she can make everything up.

She has two series. The sweet and clean, contemporary Alaska Dream Romance series revolves around three sisters. The Crime-Solving Cousins Mysteries are for the 8- 12-year-olds in your life. They will enjoy these fun page-turners best described as modern Nancy Drew–type books.

Connect with Shannon and her books

Website: www.ShannonLBrown.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/shannonlbrownauthor/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/shannonlbrown1/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/shannonlbr

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2tFvEJB

The Giveaway!

Author Shannon L. Brown is giving one copy of Falling for Alaska (paperback (only in the U.S.) or ebook – winner’s choice), the first book in her An Alaska Dream Romance Series. To be entered in this giveaway, please post a comment below or answer this question:

What inspires you?

***UPDATE: ENTRIES FOR THE GIVEAWAY WILL BE TAKEN THROUGH THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2017 AT 11:59 PM CST***

AGENTED: My Journey

When I started my writing journey, I really, really, really wanted an agent. It just seemed to me that it was the right route to go. I mean, wasn’t that what every author did?

Nope.

There are authors who get published and have good careers without agents. Still, my question remained – was this the exception or the norm?

Don’t know.

Well, I (my husband really) started querying my first manuscript to publishers and agents. And I had a publisher interested. So, here we go, without an agent.

I had a wonderful experience with Clean Reads (the publishing company I went with). And I continue to.

Now that I am going to be published, I joined a local writers group and found out the benefit of writers conferences. Well, I’ve got to do that!

First conference, I pitched to an agent. He was very interested in work in progress. So I sent him what he requested. He sent back that my writing was “too tight”. How does that happen? To this day, no one can explain that one to me. The best I have gotten is that my writing tends to be “concise”, but not in a bad way.

Second conference, the agent I pitched to, was likewise intrigued, requested manuscripts and whatnot, but never got back to me. Curious. But it happens.

I continue to pitch, to very interested agents. Every single one requesting more materials from me, some I’d get feedback from, some I would not.

At this point, I am starting to wonder “do I even need an agent?” I have, by now, published 7 books – some with Clean Reads, some self-published. I am enjoying what I am doing, not exactly rolling in the big bucks, but I am writing and people are reading my books.

Fast forward to this past summer. I met with an agent at a conference I was facilitating at. I sat with him, not to pitch, but to ask this question: what can an agent do for me at this point in my career?

We talked for a while, he talked about career planning and marketing – working smarter, not harder. He did mention that I was doing a lot of things well, just probably not in the right order, that an agent could help me with these things. Then he said that he would like to work with me. (Color me surprised…I hadn’t even pitched, just shown him copies of my published works.) He gave me his card, told me to send him my sales numbers and platform numbers and said we would talk the next month.

After some back and forth with the numbers, and a formal proposal, I was offered a contract!

The moral of the story?

Don’t stop believin’

If you dream of being an author and you have one path in mind, you might should be more flexible. There may only be one Oz, but there are many ways to get there. The yellow brick road is just the most popular.

For certain, you need to have a website, and e-mail list, social media…

You need to go to conferences…

…when you even have the thought to write a book.

Happy Writing!

 

GUEST AUTHOR: Krysten Lindsay Hager

How Working in News Prepared Me for Author Life

By Krysten Lindsay Hager

Before I ever got a book published, I worked as a journalist. I began doing internships at TV stations before I started working at newspapers where I would cover everything from news, politics, sports, entertainment and other features. I also did book reviews and wrote a column as well as getting published in magazines. Even though I wasn’t writing fiction, all of this prepared me for being a writer.

First, working in any kind of news whether it’s TV or print/online, you deal with deadlines. You learn how much time you need to get a story done, how to research fast to become a mini expert, and how to work under pressure. Often times you are racing the clock to get something done and you might not have the luxury of getting another pair of eyes on the script or piece, so you need to learn how to edit your own work and be extra vigilant about it. Very often we think our work says exactly what we intended to put down, but often we write fast and make mistakes. So dealing with deadlines helps you to learn those editing skills and perfect them. Deadlines are also great to help you get the work done. In creative writing we often don’t have a “hard deadline,” so there are times we wait and keep trying to make something one-hundred percent perfect and the work never gets submitted. So approaching your creative writing with a set deadline helps make sure that you will get the project completed.

One of the most important things journalism did for me was provide feedback from the public. I got a lot of comments and heard back from readers when I had a column. Even at the TV station, we often got phone calls about what we wore, so there was always someone commenting on something. I remember one anchor getting complaints about her nail polish color!

Hearing comments from strangers really prepares you for dealing with readers, critics, and book reviewers. I’ve seen so many authors just meltdown over a negative review. I have an author friend who had only dealt with some lukewarm comments at a critique group at the very worst, so when an online book reviewer questioned her ability to write her genre, it devastated her. I saw how it crushed her spirit and now I always tell people who want to write books about the importance of getting work out before the book to prepare yourself. It can be shocking to get public criticism from a stranger for the first time on a project that feels like your baby.

Journalism also helped me come out of my shell more. I had to cold call (and email) people for stories, which really takes you out of your comfort zone. Having to ask questions at press conferences and even ask uncomfortable questions (like after a big game loss) or deal with confrontational people, gives you skills that come in handy when you need to set up interviews and other things in the book world. You learn how to be professional under pressure and it helps in so many instances.

You don’t have to get a job at a newspaper, magazine, or TV station to learn all these things. Instead, you can write an Op-Ed piece for a newspaper, submit an article to a magazine (print or online) or write for a public blog to get your feet wet and get used to having your work out there. Even blogging more on your own blog can help if you have a big reach that brings in an audience outside your own circle.

Dating the It Guy

Emme is a sophomore in high school who starts dating, Brendon Agretti, the popular senior who happens to be a senator’s son and well-known for his good looks. Emme feels out of her comfort zone in Brendon’s world and it doesn’t help that his picture perfect ex, Lauren seems determined to get back into his life along with every other girl who wants to be the future Mrs. Agretti. Emme is already conflicted due to the fact her last boyfriend cheated on her and her whole world is off kilter with her family issues. Life suddenly seems easier keeping Brendon away and relying on her crystals and horoscopes to guide her. Emme soon starts to realize she needs to focus less on the stars and more on her senses. Can Emme get over her insecurities and make her relationship work? Life sure is complicated when you’re dating the it guy.

Book Trailer

Enjoy an Excerpt

“By the way, did you hear Lauren got into Senator Agretti’s old school?”

“Seriously? I wonder if she applied there because Brendon did,” I said.

Margaux snorted. “Duh, of course. Seriously, she might as well just pee on him to mark her territory.”

“Margaux, shut up,” Kylie said.

“Whatever. Anyway, the important thing is if Brendon knew she was applying there,” Margaux said. “Em, do you think he knew?”

I hoped Lauren was just trying to follow Brendon, but what if they had planned this whole thing while they were dating? What if he convinced her to apply there so they could go to college together, wear matching American flag sweaters with big scarves while drinking hot chocolate, and jump into leaf piles just like a preppy clothing catalog. At least now I didn’t have to worry about them reciting poetry to one another in South Bend, but still, what if they had made plans to go to school together?

“Don’t worry about it,” Kylie said. “She was probably trying to follow him—like she always does. She’s so pathetic.”

Kylie was trying to make me feel better, but Lauren was far from pathetic. After all, she was pretty much the “Most Likely to Succeed” poster girl. While she was out overachieving and saving the world without messing up her perfect, bouncy hair, I was trying to get through each day. I tried to push away the image of Lauren and Brendon holding hands and drinking hot chocolate under a stadium blanket.

Buy Links

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XBFRX47

Amazon paperback: http://a.co/hBydoYm

Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/2m5y9OC

​Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/2n8vULZ

itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/dating-the-it-guy/id1208876011?mt=11

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/dating-the-it-guy

Smashwords: www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=Dating+the+It+Guy

More about the Krysten

Besides mining her teen years and humiliating moments for her novels, Krysten is also a book addict who has never met a bookstore she didn’t like. Krysten 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 and the Dayton Book Expo Best Sellers award. Krysten’s work has been featured in USA Today, The Flint Journal, the Grand Haven Tribune, the Beavercreek Current, the Grand Blanc View, the Bellbrook Times and on Living Dayton.

Connect with Krysten and her books

Website: http://www.krystenlindsay.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/krystenlindsay/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KrystenLindsayHagerAuthor

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/krystenlindsay/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KrystenLindsay

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClIQCsRcKc97-25oXvabZ8A