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.

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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 

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!

 

Website: HaleighWenger.com

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

Book Reviews, Spotlight on Writing

Interview~Author Debbie Burns

Image result for love at first bark debbie burnsYou have two rescue dogs and a cat, how was introducing them to make sure they got along?

Thankfully, our dogs seemed to know from the start that cats aren’t the same as rabbits or squirrels, which I don’t think they’d ever stop chasing if given a chance. However, we made sure to introduce the dogs to our cat on leash at first and made sure to feed them in separate locations. For the first few weeks, we kept them apart unless we were in the room to supervise the dogs’ behavior. In very little time, the dogs seemed to understand the cat was “off-limits.”

The cat, however, is a toughie at heart and never seemed to care. He’s half Maine Coon and has zero fear of dogs. In fact, if we don’t feed him first, he will force one of the dogs away from her dinner and take first dibs. They’ve all three been together over three years now, and they’re buddies—sometimes they even sleep cuddled together—though they definitely follow a “leader” hierarchy: Hazel (the border collie mix) is in charge, Owen (the cat) is next, and Nala (the pit-bull mix) is at the bottom of the totem pole but too happy and playful to notice.

Follow Debbie on Instagram to see her pets! @_debbieburns

I read you love to garden, what are you growing in Missouri?

I do love to garden! No pun intended, but there’s something very “grounding” about digging in the soil and watching something you’ve started from a seedling grow into a fruit (or veggie)-bearing plant. For years it was something I wanted to do but couldn’t find the time. A few years ago, at the encouragement of my daughter, we dove in and created a fairly large garden and made lots of mistakes along the way. One of the big ones was planting too many similar vegetables too close together, which resulted in some crazy hybrids like watermelon/zucchini crosses. In my few years of gardening, I’ve learned just enough about it to know that I have much more to learn before considering myself a knowledgeable gardener.

My favorite things to grow are tomatoes and pumpkins, though I moved houses last year and now live in the city of St. Louis. I love my gingerbread house and neighborhood, but I do miss having a large garden. This year I’ve been experimenting with container gardening only, and my go-tos have been tomatoes, herbs, and peppers. This fall, my teenage son is going to help build a large raised bed in the side of our yard. I’m also excited to start a native plant flower garden this fall.

Image result for sit stay love debbie burnsDid you have a lot of animal rescue knowledge before writing the Rescue Me series, or was it something you gained during those stories?

This question reminds me of a mug I saw the other day: “Please don’t confuse your Google search with my medical degree.” I almost bought it as a reminder to keep by my desk while I’m writing, but I wasn’t ready to replace my current favorite mug: “Writers Block: When your imaginary friends stop talking to you.”

In all seriousness, every time I write a book, I try to do it with reverence for all that I don’t know about the subject matter portrayed in the story. The truth is no amount of research can ever really make up for hours in the field. I’m an animal lover at heart and have acquired a good amount of volunteer, conservation, and nonprofit experience. Over the years, I’ve worked or volunteered with shelter dogs, abused horses, and certain endangered species like wolves and birds of prey, and I was quite comfortable writing about the non-profit, shelter world.

On the other hand, I am not (by any sense of the means) a professional dog trainer. My two rescue dogs are well behaved enough to fit right into my chaotic life with teens in the house. My dogs know (and perform for treats) basic commands but can be a touch forgetful of them when they want to be, especially Nala, my three-year-old pit-bull mix. But her obnoxious works for us. She likes to sit on laps, shove herself into conversations, beg for food, and hog attention. So…yes, while I have the experience, when writing scenes from characters’ points of view who are great trainers like Kurt Crawford in Sit, Stay Love and Tess Grasso in My Forever Home, I feel like just a touch of an imposter.

What drove you to be a writer?

As a kid, I had an active imagination and was always daydreaming and making up stories. I also loved to read and was hardly without a book. It wasn’t until I was graduating college with a BS in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Conservation that I had the idea to write down one the stories that was going through my mind. After so much science and math in college, the idea of creative writing was appealing, but I had no idea how to do it. My first manuscript took years to complete, but I learned a lot about writing in the process. I also fell in love with creative writing. That first novel wasn’t sellable (by any measure), but I enjoyed the writing process enough that I kept on writing in my free time while raising my kids and, at times, managing a full-time job.

By the time I got serious enough about writing for publication and had learned what I needed to learn to produce something publishable, I had quite a few roughly completed manuscripts and had been writing for over a decade—not a quick or easy path to publication by any measure. But I have no regrets. Over the years, I honed certain skills that make writing at the pace I’ve been maintaining for the last few years easier. I also took long enough getting published that I had become very sure that it was what I most want to do with my life.

Image result for love at first bark debbie burnsDo you watch four-legged movies if you know they will tug at your heart, or do you simply avoid them?

I definitely watch them, and try to read the books beforehand, though sometimes I put off doing so until I’m in the mood for a good cry. Old Yeller was the first movie I saw as a kid that made me really bawl (who didn’t?) and a story I never forgot. I wanted that dog to live forever. Same with My Dog Skip. More recently, I loved reading Art of Racing in the Rain and can’t wait to see the movie, though Marley and Me is a personal favorite.

I love Marley and Me (both the book and movie!

You recently had an amazing announcement in Publisher’s Weekly! How exciting, but a lot of work. How will you tackle such a large project?

My recent four-book deal with Sourcebooks was split between two in the Rescue Me series (which was extended from the previously contracted six books to eight) and two stand-alone Women’s Fiction novels. I’m excited and thankful and a touch daunted! Over the last three and a half years, I’ve completed five Rescue Me manuscripts, and I now have writing contracts for five more that extend just beyond when my youngest child graduates high school in three years from now. And I have day job!

Gosh! I have a day job too! It makes our plates very full!

This pace has only been manageable because I love to write. I love to create fictional characters, create havoc in their world, and watch them muddle through to their happily ever afters. Writing at this pace can be a challenge, but not only is writing my passion, I also recognize it’s a tough business. I’ve been at it long enough to have seen several writers’ ups and downs in their careers, and I’m thankful to have this opportunity. I’m also energized by so many great fans who have been loving the series and are so supportive and encouraging as they await the next release.

Image result for love at first bark debbie burnsThen, too, I have other hobbies like gardening, hiking, and hanging out with my teens, friends, and dogs. Making time for things like this that don’t involve sitting at a desk or the use of a keyboard or monitor is essential for keeping burnout at bay. I’ve also gotten into the habit of meditating (almost) daily. Through this practice and a yoga class or two each week, I feel like my creativity and energy are refreshed enough after a day of work to be able to write a few hours several nights a week and the majority of one weekend day as well. I try to take a full day off from the computer each weekend, though when I’m tight on a deadline that’s not always possible. When it’s all said and done, the only way I meet deadlines is because, in each and every manuscript, I fall in love with my characters (two and four-legged) and get great satisfaction in completing the project.

Thank you, Debbie, it’s been a pleasure to learn more about you and your stories.

Be sure to add Debbie’s Rescue Me series to your Goodreads list. The fourth book in the series, Love at First Bark is available on Tuesday! (July 30th). Love at First Bark is a second-chance romance for humans and dogs alike that celebrates the beauty of love that’s meant to last forever.

 

Spotlight on Writing

Have You Missed an Interview???

I’ve been busy with interviews and articles on other blogs and completely forgot that many of my readers might have missed out on some interesting facts. (Right? You can never know too much about a person? Hmmm…maybe you can.) If you’re curious, check them out.

To Nature (and Nurture) Your Writing

Kai Strand’s Blog – Winston Versus the Snow

From Big Wheel to Kiddie Pool

The MS Factor

An interview translated into Greek!!!! (for a blog in Greece)

Rachael Bloome’s Blog

Shay Laurent’s Blog – Winston Versus the Snow

Jacqueline Seewald’s Blog

Shay Laurent’s Blog – Grounded in January

Kate Foster’s Blog

Spotlight on Writing

Sissy Goes Tiny – Interview with co-author Rebecca Flansburg

Please welcome Rebecca Flansburg, co-author of Sissy Goes Tiny, the latest picture book releasing from Audrey Press this July!
ABOUT THE BOOK: Eight-year-old Sissy loves her life. She loves her toys, her Big house, and her Big backyard. But when Sissy’s parents decide they are going to live in a Tiny House on wheels and travel around the U.S., Sissy isn’t sure that she will like the idea of “living tiny.” But as she and her mommy and daddy learn about downsizing, re-purposing, and how “stuff is just stuff” in a positive way, Sissy soon understands that living Tiny has BIG possibilities; possibilities for all sorts of adventures and learning.

Q: What was it like to co-author a book?
Writing Sissy Goes Tiny was kind of a happy accident! Even though I have worked for years in the children’s publishing industry, I was never motivated to write a children’s book myself until B.A. and I created the story-line for our book. B.A. is not a parent, but she brings such a level of authenticity and accuracy about tiny house living to this book via her insight, wisdom and personal experience. She was an amazing co-author and will always be a great friend.

Q: What one word would you use to describe Sissy Goes Tiny?
Timely! I think people are really starting to gain awareness that we are living in a very “stuff orientated” world and how much we own will not make us happy. Meaningful experiences will trump “stuff” every time.

Q: The illustrations for this book were partially paid for with an artist’s grant; can you tell us more about that?
We are lucky enough to have The Five Wings Arts Council (FWAC) in our area. Five Wings is a non-profit that encourages and promotes arts creation, appreciation, and education through grant programs and technical assistance. FWAC believes that everyone should have access to take part in the arts. They have an annual Individual Artist Grant that B.A. and I applied for to help with illustration costs. A quality illustrator can be a costly part of creating a picture book but also completely worth it. The staff at FWAC was wonderful to work with and B.A. and I were awarded a $2250 grant!
Q: Your co-author, B.A. Norrgard, lives in a tiny house … have you ever thought about doing the same?

I’ve always told B.A. she is a braver soul than me! I’ve been in her tiny house many times and it is truly tiny (around 78 square feet). I would gladly live in a tiny home if it was more around the 250-300 square foot range. And my kids and pets would have to live in their own home because I’m not sharing… 😉

Q: What inspired the story?
It actually started as a “what if?” conversation between B.A. and I over a “catch-up lunch.” She currently lives in Texas even though she is born and raised in Minnesota like me. We went to school together and reconnected around seven years ago when I asked if I could do a magazine article on her transition from traditional employment and lifestyle to tiny house living. The new chapter of her life was fascinating to me and I was (and still am!) so proud of her for becoming heavily involved in teaching people about going tiny and empowering them to downsize through leading by example. We stayed in touch ever since and see each other often.
That day in the summer of 2018 when we were lunching, the conversation soon turned to what was new and exciting in B.A.’s lifestyle of “living tiny.” It was during that conversation I wondered out loud what the process of “going tiny” might look like through the eyes of a child and how scary that could actually be. There are many books on the market and several TV shows geared towards helping people “go tiny” but they are all focused on adults. I put myself in the shoes of the kids that may be part of this transition and the perspective could potentially look very different to them. The more we talked about this, the more an idea for a children’s book kept percolating in my brain. I shared this idea with BA and the idea for an innovative children’s book was born.

Q: What makes Sissy Goes Tiny a diverse picture book?
Sissy is considered diverse because the family in the story is biracial. I remember seeing a family similar to the one in our book on TV years ago and was struck by what a beautiful family they were. When we were looking for an illustrator, I happened upon children’s book illustrator Penny Weber’s site and there was an illustration of a little girl in her portfolio that was perfect for the character of Sissy. Needless to say, we felt it was “meant to be” and Penny became the illustrator for our book!

Q: Future plans to write solo or another co-authored book?
I love the collaborative process of creating a book with someone and would do it again in a heartbeat. Even if authors live in different states, the Internet makes it so easy to work together and share ideas. I would like to do another Sissy book with BA about Sissy’s new life on the road in the future.

If you wish to purchase a copy, the pre-sale is going on now (link to buy at the bottom).

To learn more about Rebecca, stop by her website. You can follow her on Instagram: beckyflansburg

Spotlight on Writing

Selling Your House is Like Submitting Your Manuscript

Have you been through the process of selling a house before? Have you realized how similar it is to having your story on submission?

Let me explain.

black calculator near ballpoint pen on white printed paper

You decide you want to sell your home. Just as when you decide to submit your story. You do a little research, see what’s out there, what is selling, and then you take the leap.

You prefect your home/You perfect your story.

You’ve put your house up for sale/You’ve submitted.

Then you wait….and wait….

You check Zillow and Zip Reality, has anyone looked at the listing?/You check Query Tracker and writer forums for response times.

You wait and wait…

Oh, someone is coming to view your house!/Oh, you received a reply that your manuscript was received.

You wait and wait some more…

People have seen your house/People have read your story….

ballpoint pen classic coffee composition

BUT WHERE ARE THE OFFERS????

Ohhhh, look someone is making an offer, but first they need to have the house inspected/Ohhh, look someone requested a full!!

The inspector shows up/You submit the full manuscript.

You wait….and wait…AND WAIT….will they like it? What’s wrong with it? What do you need to fix? Sure it’s not perfect, but it’s yours. Will they accept it with some repairs? Maybe you shouldn’t have went with that bold blue/Maybe you shouldn’t have let your main character do that one thing he did.

A lot has caused you stress during this process, so make sure you don’t take the first offer without doing your research. Either way, at some point your house/your story will sell.

person giving keys on man

Happy submitting!!!