Spotlight on Writing

Interview with Editor and Author Christina Herrera

You recently started up an editing service, what made you take the leap?

It’s something I have always wanted to do. Holding a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and serving as an intern with a publisher helped me feel more qualified. 

Since you read and edit for a living when it comes time to read for fun, are you able to read without analyzing the books?

It’s hard to find a read that I truly enjoy. I’ve always been a picky reader. However, attending all those classes at university helped me look at books with a more critical eye. 

What are some of your “not so well-liked” genres and why?

I am not a fan of horror stories or stories with a lot of language or graphic scenes. I believe that there are many ways to make a novel interesting–and it shouldn’t have to involve indecent content. When a novel is published, anyone is able to read it. I can’t even imagine putting out a book that wasn’t clean because I wouldn’t ever want to pollute the minds of others. Especially since children and younger teens now have access to the internet. 

You live in Tennessee, what is the reading and writing community like there?

I was more involved with it while I was at university. I’d like to become more integrated into local activities, but time never seems to permit me to do that. There are local authors around, but I believe we are very few in numbers. I know there are local RWA meetings in Nashville and Atlanta. I’m about two hours from both of those locations. Someday I would love to attend one of their meetings. 

Is there a book that you wished was made into a movie but has not been done?

I’d love to see my sister’s books become a movie. Her name is Cindy Ray Hale, and she’s the writer of the Destiny series. 

Since you’re also a writer, is it easy to catch your own mistakes in your manuscripts?

At first, it was a struggle to edit my own work. But over time I became better at fixing whatever went wrong. I used to not be able to notice plot holes in my stories, and sometimes, I still don’t. However, I have become better over the past several years at revising, editing, and applying feedback to my work.  

Do you listen to music while you edit, or do you have to have the room quiet?

I love to make YouTube playlists dedicated to the theme of each story. I have written a couple of scenes while I listened to music, but I prefer to write in a quieter environment.

Is their one genre you wish you could write in, but know it will never happen?

I started writing a fantasy with strong romantic elements a few months back. But I wrote it during a busy semester at school, so I only got through the first 40 pages or so. Sometimes it feels like it will never be finished. And yet, at the same time, I really believe that if I did finish it that it could truly be good work. Only time will tell. 


You can follow and contact Christina regarding her editing services by checking out her:

Newsletter, Blog, Author Facebook Page, Editing Facebook Page, and Twitter.

Book Reviews, Spotlight on Writing

Release Day for Winston Versus the Snow

It’s here, it’s available!

What do you do when you don’t like something? When you don’t like the texture of something? You avoid it!!! And that is exactly what Winston does because he HATES snow! Find out if Winston can move past his sensory issue in Winston Versus the Snow. You can listen to my podcast interview where I discuss the book here. And read about it here.

Advance Reviews:

While snow might not seem like a big deal to some, it’s cold and wet and not okay to Winston. A gentle and cute little story about a child with sensory-processing issues and his eventual ability and bravery to take on a snow day with the help of a dear old grandpa and a furry friend. – Meg Raby, author of My Brother Otto from Gibbs Smith Publishing

I love how the answer to Winston’s troubles were inspired by a dog! – Chris Robertson, author, and illustrator of Harry and the Hot Lava from Xist Publishing

A sweet story about facing your fears one step at a time. – Nina Crittenden, author, and illustrator of The Three Little Pugs from Little Bee Books

Hendricks pens a delightful tale of a boy and the snowy world that surrounds him. Readers will surely want to grab a cup of cocoa and cuddle up with this wintry and charming story. – Heather Macht, author of The Ant Farm Escape! from Pelican Publishing

Winston Versus the Snow is a tender story of creatively overcoming one’s fear. – Amanda Jackson, author of My Shape is Sam from Page Street Kids

Pick up your copy at Target, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or Books-a-Million 

The Life of Dogs

Living Your Best Life by Ransom

It’s been a while since I’ve taken over Mom’s blog, and about time if I do say so! Ransom, aka, Menace here, hopefully at least some of you remember me. Mom is busy doing more author stuff so I wanted to share some non-writer stuff with you because frankly, you all might enjoy something different for a change. Today’s topic is about living your best life.

I, Menace live my best life every day. It’s hard not to when you’ve roped your mom into treating you like the king.

I spend as much time as I want sleeping and Mom gets up when I say it’s time. This is important when living your best life because you don’t want to waste time waiting around on others.

Fetch is the most important thing in life, outside of human food and naps. If you want to make it a priority you must do whatever it takes. I like the bark, whine, and stare approach and it gives me my desired results.

The hardest thing to obtain, when living your best life is human food. They say lots of things like, “it’s not for dogs,” “it’s not safe to eat,” and simply “no.” Which is not a reason why I can’t have it. Your best option is to take your chin and push it on their lap, really let them know you’re there and need what they have. In addition, I go for sad eyes, but look distant too, like you’re pondering what life would be like if you ran away. This usually gets their attention, because they don’t want to lose you.

The best thing about living your best life is getting to do it with your human, snuggling with them, making them laugh, and hearing them call your name.

5 Minute Fiction

Hallmark Publishing’s Tracy Gardner ~ Author Interview

Please welcome author Tracy Gardner, to the blog. Her first book with Hallmark Publishing, Out of the Picture releases September 3rd!! This is Hallmark Publishing’s first-ever cozy mystery release.

Tell us why you decided to write Out of the Picture?

I’ve always loved mysteries. As a kid, I read every Nancy Drew book I could get my hands on. When I began writing several years ago, I found that the intrigue and suspense that hooks me when I’m reading holds the same appeal when I’m creating a story. So when my agent (the truly wonderful Fran Black of Literary Counsel) mentioned pitching an idea to Hallmark Publishing, I immediately started thinking of a storyline and setting that might be a good fit. Main character Savanna Shepherd popped into my head, followed shortly by her two sisters, Sydney and Skylar. Characters tend to drive the story for me, so then it was just a matter of figuring out what sorts of interesting situations former art authenticator Savanna might find herself involved in, having just returned to her small Lake Michigan hometown after a painful break-up.

As an author, what was the most surprising thing about the publishing world (that you can safely share)?

Honestly, I think the most surprising thing was learning that the writing is the easy part. I grew up writing short stories and poems, and began writing my first novel after my second child was born in 2002. In between working and being a mom, I began querying agents in 2009, was picked up several years later by Literary Counsel, and am now, in 2019, I’m finally fortunate enough to have my debut cozy mystery coming out with Hallmark Publishing. I’m not saying my experience is the norm, but I think the road to publishing is long and twisty and filled with potholes. There were many times I was ready to take the nearest exit, get off the road, and attempt to turn off the writer part of my brain for good. I actually did that in earnest once, about a year and a half ago. Or at least I tried. But my agent wouldn’t let me quit, and she probably saved my sanity by pushing me to stay the course and keep going.

Your first book, The Fall of our Secrets, was published back in 2014, how has this process (working with Hallmark Publishing) been different?

I published The Fall of Our Secrets with a small start-up publisher, but things didn’t work out very well and the book reverted to being published in my own name. The publisher was very helpful and provided a gorgeous cover, great editing and lots of support, but I think the company was just too new and too small. That book is available online, but I’m focusing attention on my current project with Hallmark and a couple other stories in the works.

Publishing with Hallmark has been a dream come true. Editor Stacey Donovan is an amazing, talented person and has been a valuable resource for me throughout this process. For cover design, she made sure she understood my vision when it came to the small town of Carson and the mansion where much of the mystery events take place. She has been very involved every step of the way, and I also couldn’t be happier with my editor Rhonda Merwarth. Stacey, Rhonda, and Fran were instrumental in bringing out the best in Out of the Picture. The support, information, and patience I receive from the Hallmark team and my agent makes this process pretty seamless.

Can you tell us how many more books you plan to write for the Out of the Picture series?

I’m currently working on book two in the Shepherd Sisters Mystery series, Behind the Frame.  Savanna’s ties to the art world and the smart, fun team of Savanna and her sisters, paired with Detective Nick Jordan and handsome town doctor Aidan Gallager, make it a breeze to dream up new scenarios and potential trouble in and around the small town of Carson, Michigan. I have exciting futures planned for the Shepherd sisters. I think the possibilities are endless for more escapades!

What types of music do you enjoy listening to and is the music different when you’re writing?

I love almost everything. I have different playlists on Spotify depending on which book, scene and character I’m writing. The words don’t flow as easily if I try to write without music. Right now, I have a lot of Twenty-One Pilots, One Republic, Lumineers, Vampire Weekend and Jon Bellion on constant shuffle, but there are definitely scenes that call for Panic at the Disco, My Chemical Romance, Green Day, The Fratellis, All-American Rejects, and my local favorite musician, Dan Tillery. And in the middle of all that are occasional tunes from some of my favorite musicals (a trait I share with Savanna), including Michael in the Bathroom from Be More Chill, Cecily Smith from Fly By Night, and anything from Hamilton.

Who are some of your favorite authors or books at the moment?

My taste in books is pretty eclectic. Stephen King is probably my all-time favorite author. His characters seem real to me, and when I’m reading his books, I forget I’m reading at all. He has a way of just drawing you into the story. If I had to name a favorite, it would probably be 11/22/63 or The Gunslinger in the Dark Tower series.

Aside from King, one of my favorite books is Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain. And I absolutely loved the movie adaptation, though it did cost me a lot of tissues. Other favorites are Jo-Ann Mapson’s The Owl & Moon Café, Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park, and Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. John Steinbeck’s East of Eden is an all-time classic favorite just for the complex relationship dynamics. I also love anything John Green or Jennifer Weiner. So … as I said, eclectic!

How much time a day do you spending writing?

I always envy those authors who have set blocks of writing time every day. The truthful answer for me is, sometimes not at all. And sometimes two hours, or seven hours. It depends on life, on my family, on my job, and sometimes, even though I try not to let it, it also depends on my mood. Sometimes I can’t wait to sit down and get ideas and characters out of my head and into the story, and sometimes I am lazy, and choose to watch Sherlock on Netflix when I know I should be writing. I write best under deadline, which is a brand new thing I’ve learned about myself with Out of the Picture.

What do you hope readers take away from Out of the Picture?


I hope readers fall in love with Savanna Shepherd and her sisters. My goal was to create a compelling, clean cozy mystery with relatable characters, enough suspense to keep the reader guessing, and the hint of a blossoming romance. Savanna’s personal journey in the book mirrors her quest to solve the mystery, as she works toward closure and resolving feelings about her past in order to move forward toward a bright future.

I hope the end of the book leaves readers feeling fulfilled but wanting more!

Visit Tracy at her website, or on Twitter and Facebook
Purchase Out of the Picture on Amazon and Barnes and Noble
5 Minute Fiction, Life, better known as blah, blah, blah

The Thing About Hallmark (not the cards)

I said it a while back, Hallmark’s new movie Saturday takes me back to Sunday’s Wonderful World of Disney. Hallmark takes me away from where I am, like a memory from childhood.

Hallmark movies are fireflies to a first-timer.

Hallmark television is a best friend’s favorite story.

Hallmark movies are a cozy cup of hot chocolate on a winter’s night.

Hallmark television is a relaxing breath.

Hallmark movies are a glass of lemonade on a smoldering summer day.

Hallmark mysteries are a pondering question you can share with the dark.

Hallmark movies are a reminder of love.

Hallmark is what we need, and what we want.

Book Reviews, Spotlight on Writing

Author Discovery ~ Mini Interview with Haleigh Wenger

Please welcome the author of The Art of Falling in Love – a YA story just released this month. At the end of the interview, you can find a blurb about the book. Be sure and add it to your Goodreads list!

What author do you compare your book(s)/writing style to the most?

I’d like to think that my style is a mix of Sarah Dessen and Morgan Matson, but those are two of my favorite authors, so it feels ambitious just to say!

What is your favorite book genre? Why?

I love contemporary YA. It highlights such an important time period, right when teens are making choices about what kind of person they want to be and why, and they’re still so vulnerable but are also discovering real-world truths.

What is your favorite television show? Why?

My favorite show right now is “The 100”. It has it all! Teen drama, romance, sci-fi suspense. My favorite thing about it is that the storyline dramatically changes every season, so the story always feels fresh and interesting.

If you could have written a popular, well-known book, what would it have been and why?

Any of Judy Blume or Sarah Dessen’s novels. They were all I read growing up, over and over again. I loved the way the stories about girls like me made me feel.

Using your most recent book, who would play your main character(s) in a movie?

In The Art of Falling in Love, I always imagine Shailene Woodley as my MC Claire. And for LI Foster, I think Ross Lynch would be a pretty good match.

Why should your readers pick your book over a well-known author’s book?

If you like YA contemporary that’s heavy on the romance, my book would be a great fit! I think the best part of discovering new authors is that you’re just adding to your stack of great books, and who can be mad about that?!

What is your go-to snack?

Anything chocolate! And always paired with cold water. LOL!



Twitter: @haleighwenger

Facebook: Author Haleigh Wenger


The Art of Falling in Love – blurb

Seventeen-year-old Claire Haynes always spends summer vacation at her family’s beach house in Florida, sketching and dreaming of art school with her biggest fan—her Opa. But when Opa dies right before summer break, all Claire has left besides her memories is a sand-sculpting contest application with her name on it and the lingering question of why Opa filled it out in the first place. Claire has never even made a decent sandcastle, but she reluctantly turns in the entry forms, hoping the contest will help her navigate the grieving process by honoring one of Opa’s last wishes.

When she meets Foster, a teenage boy with a talent for turning recyclables into abstract sculptures, the two join forces to win the contest and salvage the Summer of Art. They spend the humid summer days shoveling sand, devouring ice cream, and exploring Florida’s art scene. Just like Opa, Foster understands Claire and her overwhelming need to create, but he has a secret that threatens to ruin everything: he’s homeless and hiding from an abusive brother who would have him believe family trumps all.

When Claire’s parents find out about Foster’s homelessness, they offer him a home along with their hearts. But even picture-perfect families like Claire’s can harbor an ugly side, especially in the aftermath of Opa’s death. When someone close to Claire spills Foster’s secret, they’re both forced to choose between love and familial obligation. If Claire can’t break through long-held beliefs and prove family is more than shared DNA, she could permanently lose Foster and a chance at the sand contest to honor Opa.

Buy the book – Amazon and Barnes and Noble

5 Minute Fiction

The Library – 5 Minute Fiction

Six months and four days ago, I followed him into the library for the first time. He never noticed me. His walk alluded confidence and pride as his shoulders arched up and back. As he made his way to the hold section, I couldn’t help but follow. Something drew me to him. What would he check out? Fiction, mystery, mechanics? Maybe college research books? He appeared in his mid-twenties with a thick part down the middle of his crow black hair.

Soon, I fell into his schedule. He never browsed books, only went to the hold shelf, removed his items, checked them out, and drove off in his blue Nissan. I didn’t need to wait for the library to open, but I wanted to be courteous. Once inside, I’d scan the hold shelf searching his name. If it was missing, I’d leave and come back the next day. If his name appeared on a scrap of paper, rubber-banded to a book, I’d jot down the title. I read every book he requested after he did. At first, the books were from the New York Times bestseller list. Then they grew darker and to less popular titles.

With each new visit, his stride shortened, his shoulders hung lower. Stories about true crime and brutal nonfiction occupied his list. In the last month, self-help books and poetry became his new norm. As I followed in his reading path, I felt his life shift. I knew something was wrong, as it had been with me. Some time ago, the self-help books didn’t work.

On a Saturday morning, I noted he placed another self-help book on hold. With trembling hands, I took a scrap of library paper, a miniature pencil, and wrote a name and number down. I placed it in the book and slid it back on the shelf. As always, he entered the library, went to the holds, and checked out the book. I hoped he would call the number if he needed it. I never did. And today, I’m just as invisible as when I was alive.

*National Suicide Prevention Line (1-800-273-8255)