Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Mikki Sadil, Cheers, Chocolate, and Other Disasters

AUTHOR:  Mikki Sadil
BOOK TITLE: Cheers, Chocolate, and Other Disasters
GENRE:  Contemporary Middle Grade/Tween story.
PUBLISHER: MuseItUp Publisher
BUY LINK:; also on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and most major ebook distributors.

Please tell us about yourself.
I’m a wife, mother, and grandmother. I’ve been writing off and on for most of my life, but didn’t really settle down to it full time until Christmas, 2005, when my daughter sent me a box full of books on writing for children, with a note that said ( to put it politely), ‘Mom, get off your butt and start writing for real.’ July, 2006, I began my first of three courses with the Institute of Children’s Literature, sold my first article to a national children’s magazine eight months later, and decided I was, indeed, “writing for real.” By the time I graduated from my last course at ICL, in 2011, I had published more than 20 articles and short stories, and to date, have published more than 70, plus my debut novel, The Freedom Thief,  an historical adventure for kids age 10-13, set in pre-Civil War Kentucky.

What inspired you to write your first book?
From childhood on, I have been fascinated by the Civil War. When I studied it in school, I couldn’t understand how a difference in philosophy could be so drastic as to lead to a war in which, literally, brother was against brother. Of course, as an adult, I came to realize that most wars begin over a difference in philosophy, but none has ever been so dividing as that which caused the Civil War. I always knew that some day, I would write a story about some aspect of the Civil War, and The Freedom Thief is the result. I also grew up in a “modestly” racial family…I say “modestly,” perhaps not the right word, but my parents were prejudiced people, just not to the extreme. I learned, not from them, but from the educational world I grew up in to accept people of all kinds and colors. I wrote about slavery during the Civil War because the way African Americans were treated then, and even since the days of slavery, have always been appalling to me.

What are your thoughts about promotion?
YUCK! Those are my thoughts in a nutshell! LOL Truthfully, I hate the promotional part of publishing. I’m not the social networking butterfly it seems that one needs to be. I don’t like putting myself and my family “out there” for the whole planet to see. I don’t like asking that one buy my book. Yet, it seems that is the way an author has to do it these days, as the time of the publisher doing most or all of the promoting of books is long gone. Promotion is the most difficult part of the publishing game: writing the book is the easy part. Even getting it accepted is easy, compared to marketing and promotion. I’m still trying, and I’m most definitely still learning about how to successfully market/promote a book, and maybe someday, I’ll actually be successful, but I’m afraid that day hasn’t arrived yet.

What was the toughest criticism given to you? What was the biggest compliment?
To be honest, I don’t remember ever getting what I would consider a “tough” criticism. I had great instructors at ICL, honest, open with their remarks and criticisms, but never tough on me. I’ve had the same critique group for seven years, and the same goes for them: they are very honest, very open in their opinions, but never hard or tough in any way. I truly have never received much if any negativity, but I have learned a great deal from the positive criticisms I have received in the almost eight years I’ve been writing for publication. My biggest compliment came from a professional reviewer, and I’ve pasted it below…it is the last part of her entire review of my debut novel.

THE FREEDOM THIEF should be required reading everywhere in the world...not just here in the United States. People are NOT possessions, and never should be.
FIVE STARS for this powerful children's book, and a

HUGE thank you for Ms. Sadil. Long may your writing voice be a beacon for the rest of us.

Do you ever have writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it?
Yes, I do have writer’s block, more often than I would like. It has only occurred in the last year and a half, and I think that is because of the trauma our family has gone through during that time. I get through it in different ways. Mostly, I try to let the work sit for a while, sometimes only a day or two, but sometimes it can take a month or more before I even want to get back to it. I want my mind to be completely away from the story, completely free from any little sniggling bit one of my characters is trying to get me to listen to. ( Sometimes, my characters and I just don’t get along at all.) By clearing my mind of anything related to the story for a period of time, I can then go back and start to work again with more of a clear idea of what to do, where I need to go from that point on, and how I’m going to get there.

I’m not one to outline, but I have found recently that by creating a “mind map” it can be very helpful in solving a problem or working through a situation that is blocking me. Using a mind map is helpful to me only when I do have problems, although I know a lot of writers use them instead of an outline to put the entire plot into perspective.

Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it?
Cheers, Chocolate, and Other Disasters is a book about bullying, but it is subtle. It doesn’t involve cyber bullying, or physical bullying. In doing research for this story, I learned a lot about the effect bullying has on kids today, both boys and girls. It is terribly disconcerting to read about all the things that happen in schools, on school buses, and on the Internet, and the total lack of concern about this situation that so many teachers and school officials exhibit. Mere children, 9, 10, 12 years old are driven to suicide, because no one, not even parents seem to believe that the bullying is that severe, that drastic, until it is too late. My story doesn’t involve that kind, that depth, of bullying, because I couldn’t bring myself to write something that dark. It is there, it is real, but it’s not in this book.

Who is your publisher, and how did you connect with them?
My publisher is MuseItUp Publishing. I submitted my query to them because I was referred by another author who is published by them. It has been a good relationship so far.

What are your current projects?
I am writing the first of what I hope will become a trilogy. It is WAY out of my comfort zone! It is a paranormal/historical/mystery. It doesn’t have the usual vampires and werewolves. It does have psychic abilities, gargoyles, and a few witches! The main character is a sixteen year old girl, whose parents own a traveling carnival in the year 1930. They come to a town in Iowa called Dead Man’s Crossing, and the entire carnival breaks down. In the meantime, MC Gabriela is hearing the voices of three little girls who have been brutally murdered in this town, it was never solved, and their voices beg her to find their killer. Don’t ask me why I had to write this novel…I don’t read paranormal books, nor watch paranormal movies or TV. But this young lady came to me in the middle of the night, and informed me she had a story to tell, and I had to write it. Well, you know you NEVER ignore your characters! So here I am, in the middle of a story called Beneath the Possum Belly: Night Cries.

How can we find you?
Facebook: Mikki Sadil
Twitter: Marienne Sadil @ Mikki Sadil

Tell us about the current book you are promoting.
Cheers, Chocolate, and Other Disasters is the story of thirteen year old AJ Devlin, who has two BFFs, a champion Quarter Horse mare, and who thinks her life is just about as perfect as it can get. Until the new girl, Celine Carroll, comes to town. From the moment they meet at the eighth grade cheerleading tryouts at West Haven Middle School, Celine seems out to destroy everything AJ holds dear. From the very first day, Celine insinuates herself into AJ’s life, taking over Jaime and Julie, AJ’s BFFs in every way possible. The two Js seem almost hypnotized by this new girl, who manages to insert herself into their cheerleading partnership with AJ, leaving AJ with two girls, Lisa and Amberley, the most disliked girls in school, who are now her partners. From day one forward, nothing goes right for AJ, and her life becomes one disaster after another.

This is the story of bullying, but the most subtle kind of all…a silent, indirect bullying that involves the hatred of one girl directed towards another girl, who has no idea of the reason for it or behind it…for the two have never met until now.

What genre do you write in and why?
I write historical and contemporary novels for middle school kids and tweens. I love this age kid…they are still wide-eyed about the world they live in, they still want to learn from books they love, and they are still innocent in ways that will be gone before very much longer. I think most kids this age are still willing to read stories about historical events that have never captured their attention before, and they are willing to learn lessons from them for the future. I think they know about certain contemporary events and situations that happen around them, sometimes to them, and they are willing and even eager to read about different ways of responding and reacting to those same events.

Is this your first published children’s work? What other types of writing have you done?
No, I have published almost 70 other short stories and articles for children. The very first thing I published was a non-fiction article about dung beetles. It was featured in the national children’s magazine ODYSSEY, and was from an assignment for my first of three courses at the Institute of Children’s Literature. I wrote short stories and NF articles for over a year for an online children’s school publisher. These were for grades 4, 5, and 6. I published a book of Haiku poetry while I was in college, but other than that, all my other writing has either been professional or for children.

Why did you choose to write a children’s book?
Children fascinate me. They are so open, so honest, so inquisitive. They are intelligent, sensitive, giving, loving ,and they ask only to be heard, to be listened to, and to be understood. Children are so far above adults in so many ways. When I decided I wanted to write with the hope of publication, it just never occurred to me to write for adults. I love to tell stories, and there is never a better listener than a child. It just seemed natural to me that I should write stories that…hopefully…children would love, understand, and accept.

Do you have any tips for writers who are new to children’s literature?
Yes! Learn your craft of writing, first and foremost. Listen to kids, talk to kids, hear what they have to say, and how they say it. Learn what interests them, and as important, what does not interest them. Listen to them talk about their daily lives, the situations they find themselves in, the life experiences they have and go through, whether they are elementary age, middle grade, or teens. Take classes in how to write for kids and teens…it is far different from writing for adults, AND it is harder. Many won’t believe this last statement but it is true. An example: an adult picks up a new book, reads the first few pages, thinks it might be an “iffy” kind of book, but goes ahead and finishes the chapter, maybe even the next couple of chapters before deciding if it holds their interest or they want to dump it. Take a kid of any age, give him/her a new book, and if the first few paragraphs or first page at the most don’t hold their interest, the book is dumped. Adults give writers a little leeway in deciding if a book is going to be read or not; a kid does not. Those first few sentences and paragraphs had better grab that kid’s interest, or the first page will never be turned. So again:1.Learn your craft; 2. Talk to and listen to kids;3. Take classes in how to write for kids and teens. In the end, you’ll never be sorry!

What, if anything, bugs you when you read a novel?
The first thing that bugs me is the way the book is written ,i.e. bad grammar and poor sentence structure. I don’t read to “find” those things, but they still jump out at me, and it shows me that no matter how interesting the story might be, it is poorly written and hasn’t been edited. A great many self-published books fall into this category. Another thing that bugs me is unsympathetic characters: the main character is shallow and not well-defined, often a “goody-two-shoes” in that she is rendered perfect with no flaws. The antagonist and/or villain are just the opposite, vile, evil, with absolutely no good qualities. No one is perfect and no one is all bad, so don’t make your characters that way!

What has been your favorite part of being an author? What has been your least favorite?
My favorite part is the writing itself. I love to write, I love to listen to what my characters have to say, I love to fight with my characters. Sometimes my husband thinks I’ve kinda sorta lost my mind, but that’s okay, he’s not a writer. My characters talk to me and tell me what is going to happen. Example: in my current WIP, from day one the killer has been Papa, the MC’s father. I have written from that perspective, that at the end, she will find it is her father. One day in the shower ( uh, yes, in the shower), another of my characters started yelling at me, telling me what a dummy I am. He kept saying, “I’ve been at every single event that has happened, even if in the background, every time anything has gone wrong, I’ve been there. YOU DUMMY! I am the killer!” Well, gollygeewhiz, he is right. HE is the killer. I tried to explain all that to my husband, but he just thought I had lost it…again.
The least favorite part of being an author is the promotion we all have to do for our books. It’s very frustrating, and I’ve found it especially difficult since my books are for kids, and come out as ebooks. This pretty much discourages school visits, as the teachers want a print book to share with students. So the promo stuff is hard, and frankly, I…er…”dislike” it. Immensely!

Thank you, Penny, for having me here today. These questions have been fun and way different from most interview questions. I’ve really enjoyed answering them.
Mikki Sadil, author, Cheers, Chocolate, and Other Disasters
MuseItUpPublishing, April 11, 2014

Monday, April 21, 2014

Christina Weigand, Sanctuary of Nine Dragons

AUTHOR: Christina Weigand
BOOK TITLE: Sanctuary of Nine Dragons: Book Three
GENRE: YA Christian Fantasy

Please tell us about yourself.

Christina Weigand’s a writer, wife, and mother of three grown children and a middle school daughter. She is also Nana to three granddaughters. She lives with her husband and youngest daughter in Pennsylvania, returning there after a short sabbatical in Washington. Currently, she’s working on fantasy novels and inspirational writing. Through her writing, she strives to share the Word of God and help people young and old to realize the love and mercy He has for everyone.

When she’s not writing, she’s active in her local Church as a lector, Bible Study, or with the church theater group, volunteering at her daughter’s school helping the children develop a love for reading and writing. Jesus fills her home with love as she shares Him through her writing. 

Please tell us your latest news.

The third book in the Palace of the Twelve Pillars trilogy: Sanctuary of Nine Dragons: Book Three was released on February 7, 2014.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?

I’m not sure how to answer this question. I don’t have another occupation outside the home. I chose to be a stay at home mom for my now 12/13 year-old daughter and my writing came out of that as well as a desire to have something creative to do. So while writing is my career, I am also a mother and a wife. Somedays I am a full time writer and other days a part time writer. Most days I write while my daughter is in school. I’d like to say I limit my writing time to then, but often it bleeds over into the time when she is home.  I also struggle with the facebook demons that suck up my time, but I am working on it.

When and why did you begin writing?

I’ve written pretty much since learning to put pencil to paper. When I was a child we played that we were a greeting card company and we used to put on little plays for my parents. Since there were six of us we had enough actors.

When I got to middle school I took a creative writing course which I loved and submitted an essay to a contest. I didn’t win, but that didn’t make any difference, because I had been bitten by the writing bug. In high school I wrote for the school newspaper as well as a small local newspaper. After high school I took a few years off from writing, to raise a family and support my husband while he finished his college degree. After going back to school and getting my own degree I finally returned to writing. Like I mentioned in the last question, I had a baby at forty one years of age and decided to be a stay at home mom. However after being so close to empty nest and being out in the world I needed a little more stimulation than only being a mom. I took a Children’s writing course. And the rest is history.

What is your marketing plan?

Marketing plan? You mean I’m supposed to have a marketing plan? Seriously though; My marketing is kind of done like my writing, by the seat of my pants. I try and have a presence on social media, and visiting blogs like yours because I believe that is the best place to reach my audience. Unfortunately since I am no longer a YA myself this is like traveling to someplace I have never been before and tends to be hit and miss. I am never sure if what I am doing is working and sometimes I just get so tired of it that I take a brief hiatus. I would much rather be writing than marketing.

What are your current projects?

I’m working on another YA series that will cover a lot longer period of time with a lot more characters. My dragons are travelling through the history of Christianity and showing up at crucial points to interact with the characters as well as some Biblical characters from the New Testament and beyond.

What do you plan for the future?

To keep on writing. I have submitted a middle-grade fantasy to my publisher, where a few of my dragons play a role in helping a ten year-old girl and her friends save the world from evil. And of course the younger generation introduced in the Palace of the Twelve Pillars, are angling to tell their stories. So I have no lack of projects. I just have to decide which one is screaming the loudest to be told.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?

Twitter: @CAWeigand
Email: palaceofthetwelvepillars at

Tell us about the current book you’re promoting.

Joachim banishes Brandan to prison island of Hyogo. His infant son, Prince Airyn disappears from his cradle. A chain of events is set in motion that will pit brother against brother, friend against friend, parents against children as Brandan and Joachim struggle for control of their sanity and their very lives.
With Brandan declared dead and his son missing Joachim sinks into despair and anger, where those close to him fear he may never return.

Is Brandan really dead and if he is, who is manipulating the Mantion and enemies of Crato?
Can Maeve save her country and her husband from the tentacles of evil pervading the land?

What genre do you write in and why?

YA Christian Fantasy. I tried writing for young children and found that my stories were too long  for that audience. Then I tried writing for women, and although I still do that, I discovered somewhere on the journey that the YA and middle grade audience was the best place for my message. They are our future and they need to see all the choices that are available to them. They need to see both sides, both good and bad before they make choices for their lives.

What is your experience working or being around children or teens?

I have raised three children and am in the midst of teen angst for the fourth time with my 12/13 year-old daughter. I also have a 10 year-old granddaughter who lived with us until the last year. I have volunteered in my youngest daughter’s school in the library and the classroom helping the kids with writing and reading.

What influences your writing?

First my faith in God; Secondly my desire to have my children and other children have something to read that has a good moral base.

Is this your first published children’s work? What other types of writing have you done?

Not counting the first YA novel that I published in 2010 the trilogy is my first. I also published a Bible study Women of the Bible: A Study.

What do you hope your readers will take away from this book?

That there are choices. And that the choices you make whether good or bad have consequences.

What book are you currently reading? What do you like or not like about it?

I just finished Dana Faletti’s Whisper and going to start the second book in the series Wake. These are YA books and like mine have a good moral message without preaching. So many books for YA have messages contrary to what we want our young people to hear and Dana’s book stands in the face of those books by offering a positive message. 

Describe your writing space.

The Dragon’s Lair. We recently moved into a brand new house, so my space has been a work in progress. I have gone from white walls to purple walls. The color goes perfectly with my wood and glass L-shaped desk. Besides my desk, my office is filled with my dragons in all forms, from the stapler and calendar on my desk to the stuffed ones as well as the figurines. I also have a few globes scattered through my office as well as a piece of my own art and that of a few artist friends.


King Brandan stomped into the room. “Why, Brother, have you no throne prepared for your poor, missing brother? I’m hurt. I expected more from you and my sister-in-law. Maeve, dear, couldn’t you have helped him prepare better?” He stepped toward her, quickly grabbed her hand, and kissed it.

Joachim lunged at him, pushing him from the dais. Brandan staggered then regained his balance and gazed at his brother. “Why such violence, especially when I am so recently injured?”

Stepping off the dais, Joachim stood eye-to-eye with his brother. “Enough! You’re no more hurt than I am. And you have no business touching my wife, or sitting on Crato’s throne.”

Brandan laughed, pushed him aside, and stepped up to claim his throne. Joachim grabbed his twin's shoulder, spun him around, and punched him in the mouth.

Rubbing where Joa’s fist had landed, Brandan smirked. “Well, my brother has finally developed some stones.” He raised his other hand to hit Joachim.

Matthias stepped forward, sword in hand and grabbed his arm before he could hit Crato's king. He pulled the king’s brother away, so Joachim could reclaim his throne.

Jerking himself free, Brandan straightened his tunic. “This has been fun; but as you seem to be in no mood to visit, I shall take my leave. Come to me when you’re in a better frame of mind.”

“Stop! You are going nowhere until I say you can.”

Brandan stopped and looked at his brother. “What did you say to me? Is that how you talk to a fellow king and brother?”

“Yes, it is. As of this morning, you are no longer a king, and I’m not sure I should even call you brother.”

“Why dearest brother, whatever do you mean?” Brandan asked.

“Ever since we were boys, you have done everything you could to make trouble. I was always willing to forgive you and hoped you would change your evil ways. But no more! You have pushed me—pushed this country—too far this time,” Joa thundered at him.

 “What are you rambling on about?” Brandan sneered and bit a fingernail. 

“Brandan, I should sentence you to execution, but there are two things keeping me from that. First: you are my brother, and I hold onto a hope, however faint, you can be reformed…”

Brandan chortled. “Not a good bet, brother.”

“Second, I strongly suspect you of making two attempts on my life.  Unfortunately, I don’t have enough evidence to prove it was you. I punished one innocent man because of the little evidence we do have. I do not wish to make that mistake a second time.”

Brandan laughed again. “So, if we’re finished here, I’ll be leaving.”

“As I said before, you won’t be going anywhere until I say so. I may not have what I need to sentence you to death, but after your actions toward the queen this morning, I have some recourse.”

“What are you talking about? I did nothing she didn't ask for.”

Maeve rose from her throne. Joa put his hand on her arm to stop her.

“Brandan, I suggest you remain quiet until I finish.”

“Brother, you do not have the authority to do this. We are equals.”

“Do you not see the Adept Council before you? We met and discussed this matter at length... They have given me the authority.”

“This tiresome group of old men?” Brandan laughed. “They have even less power over me than you do.”

Ignoring Brandan’s comments, the king continued. “First, I strip you of your title. You are no longer King Brandan but will henceforth be known simply as Prince Brandan.” He paused and swallowed. He didn’t know if he could continue. The lump in his throat felt as big as a koali fruit. He swallowed again. Maeve grasped his hand. Warmth and reassurance enveloped him. He knew what he had to do.

“When we have finished here, Rupert, Salochin, and Master Frederick will take you to Rupert’s tower. There, they will strip you of your magical powers. When they are finished, Matthias and Wilhelm will escort you to the Port of Wyrzburg, where you will be put on a ship bound for Hyogo, the prison island. There you will remain for the rest of your life. You are never to return to Crato or Mahorg. You will live in the mountain abbey with the monks and work side-by-side with them.”

“You’re a misguided fool.” Brandan sneered. “If you believe that by exiling me, you are saving yourself from evil—think again. You may have peace and rest comfortably for a short while, but don’t assume I won’t find a way to come back and destroy you.” He stepped up to the thrones and leaned forward, placing a hand on each. The guards on either side of the king stepped forward to stop him. Joachim raised his hand signaling them to stop.

Brandan glared at the guard and muttered, “Freisen!” The man froze where he stood.

Brandan turned back to his brother and sister-in-law. “No, Joa. This is not over and what I did to your guard is nothing compared to the evils you will suffer by my hand.”

While he was speaking, Rupert chanted a binding spell. Matthias came forward and placed his sword tip to Brandan’s back.

The king put his good hand on his brother’s shoulders and pushed him upright as he stood. “You have done enough! Matthias, escort him to Master Rupert’s tower.”

As the prince was escorted from the room, Joa slumped back into his throne. It was done, he thought as remorse washed over him. A tear crawled down his cheek as Maeve squeezed his hand.  

PUBLISHER: MuseItUp Publishing

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Nancy Kelly Allen, FIRST FIRE—A CHEROKEE LEGEND and AMAZING GRACE, plus #giveaway, #writing workshop

Ms. Allen is offering a special prize to readers today. She will  give a 20-minute SKYPE session or phone call to discuss writing. Since she conducts many writing workshops and has 30-plus children’s books published by traditional publishers, some might be interested. Topics can be about a particular manuscript the person is writing, marketing ideas, potential publishers—anything dealing with writing. The manuscript does not have to be a children’s book. Please be sure to leave contact information in your comment!

AUTHOR: Nancy Kelly Allen
GENRE: Picture book and middle grade novel
 PUBLISHERS: Sylvan Dell[First Fire] and The History Press [Amazing Grace]

Please tell us about yourself.

My route to writing children’s books has more twists and turns than a winding mountain road. I worked as a social worker and traveled many a winding road, uphill and down, around Hazard, Kentucky. Later, I became an elementary school teacher, and then a school librarian. After spending days introducing books to children, I spent nights writing books for them. At this point I have written over 30 picture books, one chapter book, and one middle grade novel. I have a master’s degree in Education from Morehead State University and a master’s in Library and Information Science from the University of Kentucky. Home is still in Kentucky in the log cabin in which I grew up. My husband, Larry, and I share our cabin with two canine writer assistants, Jazi and Roxi.
What inspired you to write your first book?
The idea of my first published book plinked and clinked its way into my brain. I  was downstairs in my kitchen. Upstairs, my husband removed some coins from his pocket and dropped them. The coins pinged and tinged on the hardwood floor. I looked at my two canine muses and said, “Listen, girls, the money tree is ripe and dropping its fruit. The words just popped out of my mouth. After dinner, I began playing with the idea of a story about a money tree. ONCE UPON A DIME became a book about two years later, in 1999. The book is still in publication and even has a Korean version.

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?
I don’t anything as exciting as participating in extreme sports. A skydiver, I’m not. But I love to read about such activities if they are all wrapped up in a cozy tale. Reading for pleasure is a daily must. I also enjoy music, and, of course, playing with my two canine muses. In warm weather, I piddle outdoors growing flowers.

What are your thoughts about promotion?
Promotion is part of our jobs as authors. It’s how we build a platform, a fan base, and introduce our work to others. There are many ways to promote. I enjoy face-to-face meetings with kids who enjoy my books so I participate in several book signing events throughout the year. I also use social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.

What are your current projects?
I recently received a contract for a picture book, FORTY WINKS, that will be published in 2015. I’m in the process of outlining the skeleton of a middle grade novel and gathering research for another picture book. I’m also conducting a few writing workshops for beginning writers. And I enjoy school visits.

What do you plan for the future?
I’ll concentrate on researching, writing, and revising a middle grade novel. Writing a manuscript to the point it spit-shines is labor intensive so that’s how I see 2014 unfolding: writing-revising-revising-revising-revising-writing-revising-revising-revising-revising…and so on. My long-range plans are to continue writing for children, both picture books and middle grade fiction. Kids are filled with wonder. Curiosity practically oozes out of them, and that’s appealing to me.  I love research and learning new and exciting facts. I package the discoveries, the cool and exciting ones, in the form of a manuscript and look for potential publishers.

I especially enjoy science and history and tying these subjects into the lives of children. If a subject resonates with me, I figure it will probably be interesting to others, as well. My goal with every manuscript is to write a book that’s fun to read and to bring science and history or a fictional character into the reader’s world.

How can we find you?

Tell us about the current book you’re promoting.
I’m fortunate to have two books released this spring. One is a picture book, FIRST FIRE—A CHEROKEE FOLKTALE and my first middle grade novel, AMAZING GRACE.

What was the process of creating this book from the first idea to the final.
AMAZING GRACE has had a long and meandering journey to publication. The story began as a picture book and was accepted for publication. Then, the publisher decided to stop publishing picture books. I submitted the manuscript to other publishers. Editors suggested the story was better suited for a longer book. I filed the story away. A few years later I reread the story and the letters from editors and thought I should give the story another try, so I rewrote it as chapter book. I received positive feedback, but again several editors suggested the story would work better as a middle grade novel. Back to the file, out of sight and out of mind. Same story, third verse. I decided to give the story yet another chance so it was back to the keyboard for this gal. About a year later, I finished the manuscript. A few months later, I had a publisher. The long and meandering journey was a mere 15 YEARS.

What is your experience working or being around children or teens?
I’m a retired teacher and school librarian, so I’ve been fortunate to spend my entire career with young people. I say fortunate because I enjoy spending time with kids. The time has been well spent because the kids teach me what they like to read. I encourage all writers who want to writer children’s books to read, read, read lots of children’s book…and to spend time with children.

Why do you feel qualified to write a children’s or teen novel?
I’ve had over 30 children’s books published so I guess one answer would be experience. I also have a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education, a second Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science, and a career teaching elementary students. I’ve introduced thousands of books by a wide range of authors to young readers. I have a vast knowledge of books in the marketplace and of children’s reactions to many of those books. Again, my job as a teacher and librarian was like a laboratory in which I learned how and what to write.

Did your book require a lot of research? If so, what kind?
AMAZING GRACE required a massive amount of research. The story takes place during WWII. I wasn’t born at that time. My father and his brother served in WWII so this book is dedicated to them. Much of my research was centered on D-Day and facts relating to the troops. Another even larger research effort was based on the Kentucky home front: what people ate, what they grew in Victory Gardens, common WWII phrases, newscasts, school activities, automobiles, and everyday life for families who were helping with the war effort. 

Do you have any tips for writers who are new to children’s literature?
Read a wide variety of books in the genre in which you want to write. If writing historical fiction is your goal, read that type of book. When you enjoy a book, try to figure out what the author did to draw you into the story. Read books that you don’t enjoy. Try to determine what the author did that made the reading boring or uninteresting so you can avoid that with your own writing. You can learn as much, maybe more, by reading books that you don’t like. Sometimes, I reread a book just to analyze how the author developed the characters and plot. 

Tell me a little about your latest nonfiction book.
FIRST FIRE—A CHEROKKEE FOLKTALE is a picture book that is a retelling of a Cherokee folktale. I spent twenty years as a children’s librarian and have long been smitten with folklore. I love creation stories. They unravel the mysteries of the origins of the world and/or that of animals and people. Many cultures have their own stories that are similar to the stories of other cultures half-way around the world where the tales developed independently of the other. The stories are sacred and reflect how the people and animals of the culture cope with everyday life. Young readers enjoy the tales and identify with the characters since the young readers are learning to cope with a world that is new to them.

What gave you the idea for this particular book?
I wanted to write a story to pay tribute to my Cherokee great-grandmother. As I began reading Cherokee and Native American folktales, I found FIRST FIRE and knew immediately that I wanted to retell it as a picture book. The story had all the elements I was looking for: a variety of animals, a conflict, a crisis, and an unlikely hero, all tied up with a happy ending. I wanted to stay true to the original story, but add my own storytelling imprint.

What types of writing do you prefer, and why?
I enjoy writing fiction for children. I love the freedom fiction allows. I can be in charge of the fictional world and completely control the plot and characters. I’m Top Dog. The characters say what I tell them to say and do what I want them to do. In the real world, I’m not Top Dog, and I don’t control anyone around me.

I also enjoy writing creative nonfiction. I’ve never outgrown the inquisitive child living inside me. I say “creative” nonfiction because presenting facts and only the facts can be dull and boring. I like to wrap the facts in a narrative that uses literary styles and techniques to make the reader want to keep on turning the pages.

What do you look for in a book when you sit down to read for fun?
I want a book to draw me into the story from the beginning; then I want the book to hold my attention through the ending.

What books have most influenced your life?
Bill Martin, Jr’s books have influenced my picture book career. His work has such rhythm, in addition to wonderful characterization and plot. The words practically zing in a cadence. Reading CHICKA CHICKA BOOM BOOM aloud is almost like singing. The same is true for BROWN BEAR BROWN BEAR WHAT DO YOU SEE. The words of his powerful writing linger long after the books are closed.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sara Jayne Townsend, Death Scene

AUTHOR:  Sara Jayne Townsend
GENRE:   Mystery
PUBLISHER:  MuseItUp Publishing
BUY LINK:  Coming soon

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?

Part time writer with full time day job.  And I spend three hours a day commuting to and from London to get to the day job.  It can be difficult to fit writing time in.  I have learned to be disciplined.  And sacrifice sleep.  I get up at 5:30am a couple of mornings a week to go into London early and I sit in a coffee shop near the office to get an hour of writing in before I go to work.  This seems to work well for me, and I get a lot done in that hour.  I think I’m tapping into my creative energy before the ‘internal editor’ wakes up, and I am able to write uncensored.

When and why did you begin writing?

A difficult question because I didn’t consciously start writing – it seems that it was always there.  As a young child I was always making up stories.  All of my dolls and toys had names, family histories and personalities and I would make up stories about them to tell myself at night when I went to bed.  From the age of six or seven, when I first learned how to write, I started writing them down.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I wrote many books (the first aged 11) before I got one published, and I am choosing to answer this question as it relates to my first published book. 

In the early 1990s I had a job in an office close to my home, and I used to walk to work.  My route took me past a ramshackle old house on a street called Nightingale Road.  The house looked empty and neglected, with dusty windows and overgrown plants in the garden.  It likely belonged to an old person, perhaps someone who’d gone into a care home or who’d died and there was no one left to care about the house.  But my imagination went into overdrive.  Who did live in the house?  I was inspired to write a story called ‘Kiddiwinks’, about a creature who lured children into her house by taking on the persona of a kindly old woman, and then she’d eat them – a sort of take on Hansel and Gretel.  I put the story to my writing group and they told me I should turn it into a novel.  So I did.  Eventually that novel became SUFFER THE CHILDREN (now available as an e-book).  Many of the details changed, but the old house on Nightingale Road still features.  As far as I know, its real-life inspiration is still there, too.

What are your thoughts about promotion?

Once upon a time writers could hole up in their garrets and never talk to anyone.  There’d be marketing people to sell their books for them.  Before the Internet you could go a lifetime without ever knowing what your favourite author looked like, unless you bought the hardback with the author photo on.  Now writers are expected to be much more proactive with the promotion.  The Internet can be a good place for promotion, especially for e-book authors, with Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads all providing platforms to promote your work and interact with readers.  Guest blogging can help you reach a new audience, as well.  I offer guest spots to other writers on my blog on Mondays, and most writers are more than happy to reciprocate.  Some writers argue that online promotion takes up writing time, but I would say that it’s just as important, and you have to make time for it as you make time for writing.

What are your current projects?

I’ve got a horror novel that is almost at final draft stage, and I hope to have that ready to submit later this year.  I’m also working on a collaboration with my husband.  He has an interest in 1960s music and thirty years of running table-top roleplaying games has made him quite good at plotting.  We are working on a crime thriller set in 1967, about a young woman who goes to London with dreams of playing bass guitar in a rock band, and who bites off a lot more than she can chew when she starts to investigate a friend’s disappearance.  We worked together on the plot, and I am writing the first draft.  It’s the first time we’ve worked together on a writing project.  So far it’s going quite well, but there’s a long way to go before it’s finished.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?

What genre do you write in and why?

Crime and horror.  I’ve never been a ‘happy ever after’ sort of girl.  I like exploring the darker side of human nature, and people generally die horrible deaths in my work.  I often use writing as a way of exorcising negative or difficult feelings – loss, insecurity, death, fear, isolation.  So generally happy feelings do not make their way into my writing because I want to hold onto them.

So saying, I am a fan of satisfactory endings, if not necessarily happy ones.  In my novels, the main characters reach the end of the story have generally moved on from where they were at the beginning, having learned something or resolved some issue.  Though I can’t say the same about my short stories.  If you like happy endings, you probably shouldn’t read SOUL SCREAMS.

Do you outline before you write?  If not, what’s your initial process?

I do outline, and this is something I have learned over time. I have too many half-finished manuscripts languishing in drawers because I got stuck halfway through.

Now, before I start writing chapter one I will start by writing a plot summary that usually ends up about three pages long.  I will then take that summary and expand on it a bit and plan a chapter-by-chapter breakdown.  Only then will I start writing draft 1.  Quite often I stray a bit from the plan, as I discover that an event in chapter 5 will actually take three or four chapters to play out, or some character gets distracted for a while by a side issue that I wasn’t expecting.  But as long as I have that chapter plan to come back to I know where my characters have to end up, and it means that whenever I sit down to write I know what’s going to happen next.  I know not everyone likes to be that organized with their writing, but it works for me.

How did you decide how your characters should look?

I generally try and think of a famous person my character resembles, and I keep that person’s image in mind when I write about them.  Sometimes I’ll even print off a brief ‘fact sheet’ containing relevant facts about the character’s appearance and personality, and include a photo of their famous look-alike which I will print off and keep by the PC when I write.

My amateur sleuth Shara Summers looks like the actress Jennifer Gardner.  Now, whenever I write about this character, this is how I picture her in my head.

Did your book require a lot of research? If so, what kind?

I had to do a lot of research into poisons to write DEATH SCENE – what sort of substance will poison someone slowly, and remain undetected?  I initially wanted to fall back on the old standards arsenic and cyanide, but a doctor friend of mine advised me that these substances are practically impossible to get hold of nowadays, and if I was writing a contemporary crime novel I couldn’t really use them.  She suggested to me a viable alternative, which is what I ended up using (though to avoid spoilers I will not reveal any more!).

I do have a book on poisons sitting on my bookshelf, which always worries people when they visit the house and notice it.

What are your current books out right now, and what are the books coming up for release?

I’ve got a supernatural horror novel, SUFFER THE CHILDREN, currently available as an e-book, and a collection of short stories (also horror), SOUL SCREAMS, which is available as print and e-book.

The first book in my amateur sleuth series, DEATH SCENE, is not currently available but it will be re-released by MuseItUp Publishing in the Summer, and the sequel, DEAD COOL is scheduled for release in Autumn.

What advice would you give a new writer starting out?

Write often, even if it’s initially rubbish. Anyone can form a sentence, but it takes practice to become good at writing.  Join a writing group – an online one if you can’t find a physical one that’s suitable – and put your work out for critique.  Listen to the comments you get back, even if you find them harsh.  It’s not easy to hear that your baby is ugly, but if you want to increase your chances of publication you have to learn where you’re going wrong.  Go to genre conventions as often as you can and start talking to other writers and industry professionals (starting conversations is much easier than you might think – they’ll all be in the bar, and offering to buy someone a drink is always a good place to start).  And then, when you’ve polished your manuscript as much as you can, submit it.  Rejection is painful, but it happens to us all.  You need to develop a thick skin.  Every time a standard rejection email drops into your inbox, you promptly send it out somewhere else.  And never give up.  No writer becomes an overnight success, and you have to keep picking yourself up and throwing yourself out there again.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I play bass guitar (rather badly – I’m still a beginner) and my husband plays electric and acoustic guitar so we do a lot of open mic nights together at local pubs.  I am also very fond of playing video games.  Currently my favourite series are Resident Evil, Silent Hill and Dragon Age.

What do you look for in a book when you sit down to read for fun?

Most of my reading is done on my commute to and from work. I have a couple of hours’ reading time every day and I am a fast reader, so I get through at least one book a week. I like action-driven crime novels and horror stories, with strong plots and courageous female characters. I get on the train at 7:20am and my brain isn’t fully awake then, so I like stories I can leap straight into, without having to think too hard – ambiguity and obscurity are turn-offs in books.  I also like short chapters.  I hate leaving a book in the middle of a chapter, and since most of my reading is done in half-hour bursts before I have to change trains, I don’t like starting a chapter if I know I won’t get to the end of it before I get to my stop.


DEATH SCENE (Shara Summers #1)

Poking around in family closets produces skeletons…

British-born, Toronto-based, actress Shara Summers turns amateur sleuth when her sister is stricken with a mysterious illness. Summoned back to England to be with her family during a time of crisis, Shara discovers doctors are at a loss as to what's causing Astrid’s debilitating sickness.

After her aunt is found dead at the bottom of the stairs the death is deemed an accident. Shara suspects otherwise. Her investigation unearths shocking family secrets and a chilling realization that could have far-reaching and tragic consequences that affect not only her own future, but Astrid’s as well.

DEAD COOL (Shara Summers #2)

Actress Shara Summers has settled in London and is “between jobs” when her Canadian ex-boyfriend David sails back into her life, begging to her to fill the backing singer vacancy in the up and coming band he’s about to go on a European tour with.

Short on funds and auditions Shara reluctantly agrees, but tragedy strikes at the opening night party when the band’s charismatic front man Dallas Cleary Anderson falls to his death from a hotel window.  It soon becomes clear that Dallas did not fall, but was pushed.  His arrogant and confrontational manner means there are no shortage of people who wanted him out of the band permanently – but who would resort to murder?


Sara-Jayne Townsend is a UK-based writer of crime and horror.  She was born in Cheshire in 1969, but spent most of the 1980s living in Canada after her family emigrated there.  She now lives in Surrey with two cats and her guitarist husband Chris.  She co-founded the T Party Writers’ Group in 1994, and remains Chair Person.