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.

 

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Book Reviews, Spotlight on Writing

Interview with Cassidy Carter, Author of LOVE ON LOCATION

20190228_092505Please welcome author, Cassidy Carter to the blog!!! Her newest book, Love on Location releases tomorrow, March 12th from Hallmark Publishing!! Yet, Ms. Carter is not new to Hallmark Publishing. She also wrote The Perfect Catch (based on an original Hallmark movie). Please enjoy her interview!

You live far from any place like Cabins in the Pines, what brought you to write this specific story?

I grew up in the country, and I love the outdoors. And you’ll be familiar with the other inspiration for the setting, Savannah—Flagstaff, Arizona!

I struggled a bit with Love on Location at the start of the process, because I originally envisioned this tale of two best friends (who don’t realize that they’re meant for each other) set in a family-owned factory.  But there wasn’t much fun in that “location,” so the setting was switched to the Cabins in the Pines, a place that I hope the reader will find as engaging as the love story.

How much research did you have to do between the camping and TV production aspects of the story?

My family and I camp quite frequently, so the camp aspect of it is very familiar to me. I used some actual camp layout maps from places we’ve been to plan out what the Cabins in the Pines looked like. As far as the TV aspect, my husband and I watch quite a few business-makeover shows like The Profit and Hotel Hell and, of course, the business-investment show Shark Tank, so that inspired some aspects of Love on Location. And then I did do some research on these shows, but I also tried to keep the technical stuff pretty light in case I got anything wrong!

You are a professional editor, does that make writing easier?

In a way it does, but there are ways it makes things harder. It helps me write (hopefully) pretty clean first drafts, but it also makes me mortified when I miss something obvious. More on that below! That said, when I write, I try to put the words down as quickly as possible, without overthinking or being too critical. During my second draft is when I tend to catch things I wrote incorrectly. And I cringe! But on the other hand, it makes me very understanding of those whom I edit.

When you submit a manuscript and it’s accepted, do they send back edits? (Can an editor be edited??)

There are two types of edits you’ll see back as an author: story-level edits (some call these developmental or content edits) that basically critique and coach on the craft, plot, theme, details, all the nongrammatical aspects of a book; and copy edits, which come after revisions to clean up spelling, grammar, punctuation, and the like. And everyone can be edited. Sometimes, story-wise, you get too close to what you’re writing, and you don’t see a plot hole or a too-vague explanation or a comma splice. I love editors, and I love being edited. I am always grateful for a fresh pair of eyes. Stacey Donovan, the head of Hallmark Publishing, is really a master at this. She gives great notes, pointing out things I hadn’t considered or that I’d missed, and I really feel like she made this story much better than it would have been. (Thanks, Stacey!).

I must mention how jealous I am that you have the privilege of working with Ms. Donovan! Her blog posts are super helpful on many levels. Not to mention she is a joy to interact with on Twitter, and I loved her book, Sunset Cabin!!!

In your opinion, does being an editor make the odds of acceptance higher?

Really good one! I think it helps, because a clean-as-possible first draft is something that will stand out in a submissions pile, and having a publisher know that I have a background in helping others better their books might give me a slight edge, but anyone can have a similar chance. By that, I mean that any author submitting to a publisher can find something to set their query apart. For instance, if you’ve researched really well what a particular publisher is looking for, and you have knowledge or experience that helped you develop a character or write in a setting that fits what they want perfectly, use that! Let’s say you write a book about a plucky lumberjack in an all-woman lumberjack crew, and your book is about the heroine falling in love with the head of the competing all-male lumberjack team at the state logging competition. Adorable premise. But if this is the fictionalized version of how you actually met your husband in the same exact manner? That beats the rules that I can quote from the Chicago Manual of Style any day.

Tell us what drove you to write Love on Location?

Image result for the perfect catchI love Hallmark, and I love sweet romance. After I did the novelization of The Perfect Catch, I wanted to show readers a little more of my style, so I was so thrilled about Hallmark’s move to original fiction. I like exploring the emotional aspects of how two people can come together in the middle of life happening; not always perfect, not always on time, not always without friction—but just when it’s needed.

What has been your favorite place to see/visit?

So far, I’ve only ever traveled within the United States. But I’m so crazy about Northern Arizona in the summer, I’d have to say it’s my current favorite.

What place are you excited to visit but have yet to?

A lot of the big state parks that I haven’t been to yet! I want to hook up the camper and go see Yellowstone, Yosemite, Redwood National.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I don’t think you have the space for me to include everything! I typically get up early, try to wrangle a reluctant kindergartener to school, and entertain a very cheeky three-year old while I juggle editing and writing. I try to split my day between editing, usually during the day because that’s when clients are easiest to communicate with, and writing, which I do in the evenings and at night. I’m a definite night owl, so my day is fueled by lots of caffeine.

Are you the chef in the family? If so what is your favorite dish to make, if not what is your favorite dish to enjoy?

I do nearly all of the cooking. I love to cook, and my husband is not that keen on cooking himself, so we have an arrangement. I cook, and he does the dishes. It’s a great deal. And I cook a ton of different things! I make a pretty killer coconut curry chicken, but I also love to whip up a full-on Southern breakfast (biscuits, gravy, grits, eggs, and bacon).20190228_092521

What is your favorite Hallmark movie?

Edge of the Garden! Have you seen it? Oh my gosh. I don’t want to give the ending away, but I cried.

I have seen it! It is great. My personal favorite is the Vineyard series Hallmark Channel does!)

What’s next for you?

So much. I really want to continue the story of the Cabins in the Pines family, and I’m dying to start a cozy mystery series. I’ll update you when there’s anything new to report!

I’ll be looking forward to new news!! 

Visit Cassidy’s website

Purchase Love on Location from Barnes & Noble and Amazon

Book Reviews, Spotlight on Writing

Author Interview with Jane Haseldine – THE LAST TIME SHE SAW HIM

pix6Your writing comes off so well that several times I stopped reading and wondered, gosh did she really have this happen to her in real life! Do ideas come to you that you DIDN’T experience as a journalist?

First of all, thank you, Savannah! That’s a very kind thing to say. I definitely used my experience in the newsroom and on the crime beat to help shape my main character, Julia Gooden, and as background for certain scenes in the story.

But as a journalist, I never covered a child abduction case.

As a mom, the thought of something bad happening to my children is my greatest fear. So in this book, I wrote about what scared me the most.

The majority of the story was my imagination running away with itself (with a bunch of fact checking when I was done, of course). I’ve been a huge mystery, suspense, thriller, horror (with a touch of supernatural thrown in for good measure) fan for a long time. My mom, who was also a journalist, loved mysteries and read me, “And Then There Were None” when I was eleven, and I’ve never been the same since (in the best possible way).

So I think my experience as a journalist helped create a framework for the story, but most of the book wasn’t based on personal experience, and hopefully, years of reading mysteries helped spark a seed of creativity inside of me.

Do you find when you write powerful scenes, like many in this book, that you are exhausted afterwards?

Interesting question! No, I’d have to say that when I write an action-packed scene, I feel energized. Same thing when I was a reporter chasing a story. When you’re covering a breaking story, there’s a major adrenaline rush. My husband— who I first met at a newspaper where he was covering politics and I was covering the crime beat—and I used to talk about this after we got home to decompress about our day. Of course, if it’s a story where there are victims involved, you can’t desensitize yourself to that, and I would always have a hard time shaking what happened to them long after the story was written.

Where is your favorite place to write?

I’ve got two sons (Nash and Beck, both great little boys), and my writing desk is smack in-between the kitchen and our family room, so my “office” is located in command central of our house. That’s the only place where I write. Working in a newsroom helped me tune out background noise. A former city editor called it “being in the zone.” I’ve never gone to a coffee shop to write. My cluttered desk that has my kids’ homework piled to the side of it is my one and only writing spot. I have some treasures around it though: a black and white picture of my parents on their wedding day, and photos of my kids. There’s a bunch of clutter, but I love having those pictures around me when I write.

Is there anything you do to help spark your creativity?

No. I wish I had that magical formula though! Story ideas to me are like gifts. If I’m lucky, they come, and I follow their lead.

I do always draft a synopsis of the book (and man, I hate writing a synopsis, but in publishing, you can’t dodge that). For my own roadmap, I outline chapters before I write them. For me, sometimes the story will take a different turn as I’m writing it, and I just go with it. I just finished writing book 3 in the Julia Gooden series and the original synopsis I sent my agent and editor is going to need to be updated (ugh), because the story led me in a different direction.

If I ever feel stuck when I’m writing, I find that working out the scene in my head while doing mundane tasks (insert folding laundry here), helps. Just walking away from the story for a few minutes has always seemed to do the trick for me.

The last time she saw him revise comp#1The cover is rather peaceful, yet intriguing. Although it’s a great cover, was it the cover you had envisioned?

I love the cover, and thank God for my editor and publishing house because I’m horrendous at anything that is remotely art-related. Before the book came out, my editor asked me if I had any ideas for the cover. I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to give him one okay option, and truth be told, my ideas probably completely stunk. I’m not being self-deprecating. I truly lack any artistic skills. When my 10-year-old son Nash has an art project for school, he knows he better ask his dad for help, because everyone in my house knows I’m helpless in that area.

If you could have been the author of any other published book on the market, what would it be and why?

Oh boy. Tough question. Stephen King is, was, and always will be my favorite author, but I can barely put myself in the same sentence with him. As far as mystery writers, there are so many I admire, Michael Connelly, John Sandford, Robert Crais, Michael Koryta, Lisa Jackson, and Lindwood Barclay. But one mystery novel I truly admire, from one of my all-time favorite mystery authors, Dennis Lehane, is Mystic River. Gone Baby Gone, another of Dennis Lehane’s books, is also a favorite. He’s brilliant. And he’s from Boston, where I used to live, so he has my hometown vote!

Do you prefer your watch/read order to be: book, then movie based on book OR movie based on book, then book?

I’m a book then movie type of gal. Books rule!

What do you like the most and the least about the main character Julia?

When I first started writing The Last Time She Saw Him, I wasn’t sure if people would like Julia. She’s certainly a flawed character. She is ultra-paranoid about her two boys when it comes to their safety (which I hope is understandable since her brother was abducted when they were kids). She’s stubborn. And she’s tough, out of self-preservation, something she learned as a little girl, since her father, a grifter, and her mother, an alcoholic, abandoned her after her brother, Ben, was abducted. But I like the fact that Julia is a good mom, an ethical, yet driven reporter, a loyal sister who’s never given up on the memory of her brother or her pursuit to find out what happened to him, and she is fearless when it comes to doing anything to bring her child home. I think she’d be a very loyal friend. I’d like Julia to have my back if I were ever in a fight.

DuplicityTell us about book 2 – Duplicity – releasing April of 2017. Had you planned on writing a series when you first started book 1?

I first thought about turning this into a series when I was trying to land a literary agent. One agent who I queried asked me if the Julia Gooden story line would be a series. It got me thinking, and that’s when I started to come up with an idea for the second book.

Duplicity (releasing April 2017)

Detroit newspaper reporter Julia Gooden is up against the city’s most devious criminal and her own painful past.

Julia Gooden knows how to juggle different lives. A successful crime reporter, she covers the grittiest stories in the city while raising her two young boys in the suburbs. But beneath that accomplished facade is another Julia, still consumed by a tragedy that unfolded thirty years ago when her nine-year-old brother disappeared without a trace.

Julia’s marriage, too, is a balancing act, as she tries to rekindle her relationship with her husband, Assistant District Attorney David Tanner, while maintaining professional boundaries. David is about to bring Nick Rossi to trial for crimes that include drug trafficking, illegal gambling, and bribery. But the story becomes much more urgent when a courthouse bomb claims several victims including the prosecution’s key witness and leaves David critically injured.

Though Julia is certain that Rossi orchestrated the attack, the case against him is collapsing, and his power and connections run high and wide. With the help of Detective Raymond Navarro of the Detroit PD, she starts following a trail of blackmail, payback, and political ambition, little imagining where it will lead. Julia has risked her career before, but this time innocent lives, including her children’s, hang in the balance, and justice may come too late to save what truly matters.

You can find Jane at janehaseldine.com, Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook.

You can order The Last Time She Saw Him here Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Books A Million, Indie Bound, or Hudson Booksellers.

Spotlight on Writing

Ruth Clampett ~ Author Interview

Mr365I’m excited to introduce Ruth Clampett to my blog. I first discovered Ms. Clampett on Goodreads, and read Mr. 365. The book was such a delight! I soon scooped up Animate Me. Shortly afterwards she released Work of Art (Book 1). I am a forever fan of her books. I hope my readers not only enjoy the interview, but check out her books. The final book in the Work of Art series releases today!!

Your first two books (Mr. 365 and Animate Me) were stand alone novels, what made you decide to do a trilogy for Work of Art?AM

First of all Savannah, thanks so much for having me on your blog! Your first question makes me smile. Actually I wrote Work of Art before Mr. 365 and Animate Me but when I decided to publish the thought of starting with a trilogy was just too overwhelming. Plus I was anxious to get my books out and I knew the Work of Art editing would take a year so, I decided to publish Animate Me. It was a fun decision because I figured it was a unique story for a new writer to put out.

Book 1Your books are erotically written. Was it a challenge to write this way when you first started? Were you worried about what family or friends would think of the steamy sex scenes?

When a story develops in my head, the characters become very real to me. So if two characters are in love or have steamy chemistry, it is a given that there will be sex and it’s always easy for me to imagine. What I find difficult is the mechanics of writing a sex scene. It can easily sound too technical. I think a hot sex scene is really hard to do well but when you do people really appreciate it.

As for family and friends, at first I was horrified at what they would think of my steamy writing! I don’t use a pen name so it’s common knowledge in my world that I write sexy romance. At some point I just decided to not worry about what other people think. This is what I like to read and write, and this is what I enjoy.Book 2

Your late father was a legendary animator (Bob Clampett), what has he inspired within your writing career?

Dad loved all creative expression and he always encouraged us to try anything we were interested in. We didn’t have to stick with one medium. I’ve always loved writing but I had made my career in photography and design. Once I started getting my books out I thought how much Dad would love that I’m doing this. Without taking creative risks you can’t find all your possibilities and writing has brought me great joy.

How has your career as fine art publisher for Warner Bros. helped with your writing?

Book 3My career taught me to be professional and to avoid social drama…to keep the focus on the work. I pride myself on having really good relationships and I also know how to be a strong team player and it takes a team to bring a book to market. I want everything I do, from the writing to the promotion, to be the best of my ability.

Your fans, me included, want to know if you have another book in the works for release soon?

Thanks for asking! I’ve written almost a third of my next book, which is a stand alone, so it won’t come out soon but I hope to have it done by fall. It’s such a fun story to write because it’s the male’s point of view, and it’s sexy and funny, but heartfelt too. I’m hopeful that it’s something my readers will enjoy. Thanks again Savannah for welcoming me on your blog and asking such great questions!

Check out Ruth’s Amazon page and search her on Barnes and Noble.

Spotlight on Writing

Interview/Book Release Today with Kai Strand

Worth The Effort 300dpiI had the pleasure of connecting with author Kai Strand through social media after our stories made it in the same read aloud stories for children collections published by Knowonder. Today is the release date for Ms. Strand’s book Worth the Effort: Ella’s Story, and lucky to interview her for my blog.

Enter the giveaway for Worth the Effort: Ella’s Story HERE!

You have five ​books out, with a sixth ​coming out today!! What have you learned through the process of publication with book six, verses your first book and your third book?

Thank you for hosting me today, Savannah. So far the release of a new book hasn’t gotten any less exciting! I’ve learned so much with each release, but a couple of the more important things, I believe, are:

The journey to publication is unique for each book. Even within a series. Each book has it’s own personality and it is important to do your best to expose that to as many people as possible so they can decide if it is a book for them. That said, the best way to please readers, isn’t to obsess over guest posts and interviews, it is to write another book. I really enjoy a good new release ‘tour’ like I’m having with Worth the Effort: Ella’s Story, but I’ll soon be back to the writing side of things to create more books for readers to enjoy.

With your Super Villain Academy Series and Worth the Effort series what have you done differently to create those stories series verses your stand alone books?​

I also have The Weaver Tale series. I looked at my body of work one day and said, “Whose idea was it to start all these series?” Series are difficult, but each of mine is different from the next. The Weaver Tales are middle grade books all set within the same fictional village of Word Weavers, where everyone speaks in story. They also have a recurring character, Unwanted. He’s a funny little gnome-elf who grants wishes. Other than that each book is unique and there is no specific reading order.

Super Villain Academy is a traditional sequence series. You need to read the books in order. Each book has an individual story arc, but the series also has an over arcing plot that will resolve in the third book.

Finally, Worth the Effort are stories written in different point of views. The first book Ella’s Story, which released today, is in…Ella’s point of view. And because there are always two sides to every story, the second book will be in Ayden’s point of view. It was so much fun to write, though more difficult than I expected.

Why do you think King of Bad has done so well with readers?

Honestly, I wish I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt why. When I was shopping the book to publishers, I knew the book was going to be a game changer for me. Even so, I was pleasantly surprised when that became a reality. I think it is a combination of an intriguing storyline and timing. Superheroes/villains have been big and my book fills the niche in the less saturated area of young adult. There are plenty superhero stories for middle grade and adult readers, but for some reason, not as many titles in y.a.

How do you know when your story idea will work as a Young Adult book verses a Middle Grade book?

That’s a good question. It isn’t something I ponder over when I’m developing new book ideas. For me I think it fleshes out pretty quickly with the subject and the characters I want to use. Those tend to come to me simultaneously. As an example, when Worth the Effort was forming in my head, I knew I wanted a romantic element between a high school girl and an underage homeless boy. Definitely young adult. During the revision process, someone suggested I increase the age of the main characters and do a new adult title, but it was really important to me to show that there are underage homeless kids.

When and why did your writing career start?

I’m a mother of four. I became a full-time mom when my youngest turned one and we moved to Central Oregon. When my third child started Kindergarten and I was left home alone with only my youngest I felt like I had ALL the time in the world! So I wrote a novel (which is now Beware of the White). That same year my second oldest was diagnosed with double vision and tracking issues. Luckily both of those issues are relatively easy to resolve, but by the time he got it in order, he was woefully behind his classmates in reading level. Because reading had already become such a chore, I wanted to write stories he actually wanted to read (which are some of the stories published by Knowonder.)

What is your least favorite thing about writing and your favorite thing about writing?

Up until recently, my least favorite would have been editing. But struggling through the indie author process has temporarily changed that to a lack of confidence. Non-flagging belief in your work/decision making abilities/skills is always difficult, but when you are 100% the boss – way harder!

Favorite thing is most definitely the readers. When someone says they enjoyed my book or a character, it inspires me to continue writing. I love to get lost in the book I’m reading, and to hear I’ve provided that experience for a reader is the ultimate writing success for me.

With several new releases in 2014, how do you focus on one piece at a time when you are writing a manuscript?

I’ve always been a very compartmentalized person. My husband and I met at work, dated while we worked together and worked together again years later. It was never a problem to me because when I was at work, he was a co-worker, not my boyfriend/husband. So when I am writing a middle grade and editing a young adult or promoting one and/or the other, it is relatively easy for me to keep them all separate in my mind, since they are in their own box.

That said, there is a down side to having a compartmentalized personality. Such as when I contact someone (say through email) and dive straight into the topic I want to address, because a pleasant greeting isn’t ‘in the box.’ Sometimes I can seem abrupt. Or if I’m at a play or concert at the kids’ school and someone asks about my next book, I might stare a bit too long while my brain moves out of the MOM box and over to the author box.

​Tell us about your latest release, Worth the Effort: Ella’s Story​, as well as your other upcoming releases​ for 2014.

Worth the Effort: Ella’s Story

Ella Jones is a coward. There is a teen boy living in the alley behind her work and she is terrified of him.

Desperate to leave behind the stereotypical and judgmental world she was raised in, Ella forces herself to make a true connection with seventeen-year-old Ayden Worth. As their friendship grows Ayden’s quiet, gentle ways teach her true courage.

But there’s more to Ayden’s story than Ella knows. When their worlds collide in the most unexpected place, Ella feels betrayed. Will she find the courage to learn who Ayden really is, or will she determine he’s not worth the effort?

Polar Opposites: Super Villain Academy Bk 2 – June 2014

The supers are balanced. All’s well in the super world. Right? When dogs drag Oceanus away, Jeff learns the supers are so balanced, they no longer care to get involved. The only one who seems to care is Oci’s ex-villain, ex-boyfriend, Set. With Jeff’s own powers unbalanced and spiraling out of control, he wonders if they will find Oci before he looses control completely, and if they’ll find her alive.

Worth the Effort: Ayden’s Story (tentative) August 2014

This isn’t the first time Ayden has taken to the streets for comfort.

(I don’t want to say too much, this early and spoil some of the surprises in Ella’s Story. But there is a nice comprehensive blurb at the end of Ella’s Story for readers who want more.)

The Lumpy Duckling: Another Weaver Tale 2014

Wheezy’s one wish is for everyone to see her best friend, Lumpy, the way she does. When her wish comes true, will their friendship survive?

Thanks for having me today, Savannah, and for helping me celebrate my release day. I hope your readers will visit my website, www.kaistrand.com, to read about my books and see where they can stalk – I mean find me online. Good luck to those who enter the giveaway! Don’t forget to enter the giveaway HERE!

Check out the book on Amazon or/and Goodreads

Spotlight on Writing

Interview with Author Shannon Connor Winward

book shannonI had the pleasure of reading an advanced copy of the poetry chapbook, Undoing Winter by Shannon Connor Winward. It is published by Finishing Line Press and releases on June 21st, 2014.
Please find my interview with Ms. Winward below.

Did you have any say in the cover art, the title of the book, and the order of the poetry?
Yes, actually, I was fully responsible for the composition and the title. I sent UNDOING WINTER to Finishing Line Press as part of their New Women’s Voices Chapbook Competition in 2013, so when the manuscript was selected for publication it already met their guidelines.
After acceptance, I was given the opportunity to select the cover art as well. Finishing Line uses their own graphic designers, but they asked for my preferences and went from there. I’m pleased with the way it came out – “Moon Shadows” (the cover illustration) is a watercolor by artist/author Lisa Lutwyche, a mentor of mine and a dear friend. So not only does it suit the theme beautifully, it has personal meaning as well.

“Gravity” has to be my favorite from the book. Which one was your most favorite to write from the collection?
“Gravity” is one of my favorites, too. It’s a runt of a poem that always makes me smile because it never actually says what it means – which is kind of the point. But of all the poems in WINTER, I think “Session” was the most fun to write. I was chatting with a friend – another poet and Carl Jung fan – about psychology, anthropology and poetry. We challenged each other to write a poem combining the subjects, and “Session” came out of that.
Writing “Session” was like writing in a fever-dream; I found myself weaving together images from my days as an archaeology student with my own half-buried feelings and life events. It’s became one of my signature poems – quite a journey from a silly poetry throw-down between friends.

Do you feel differently seeing your poetry in book form verses in a magazine?
It’s always satisfying to find a home for a poem (or a story, or essay). It can take years, sometimes, and lots of rejection. That ultimate “yes” feels great, especially when where the piece ends up turns out to be a perfect match.
Seeing a collection published is particularly rewarding, because choosing and arranging the poems is a creative project in its own right. Having a publishing house see something worthwhile in your work, to the extent that they’re willing to represent you and turn your vision into something tangible, is extremely validating.

Describe your journey from magazine submissions of your poetry to book publisher submissions?
I had put my writing career on a back-burner for a long time, for various reasons – to finish school, to start a family. I finally started submitting in earnest several years ago, and was fortunate to see much of my poetry (as well as short fiction and creative non-fiction) accepted in dozens of venues, including some that pay professional rates. My work has also won awards and earned some small recognition. Needless to say, that’s been very gratifying.
Though this happened in a relatively short time, I have been writing seriously for almost two decades now. My style is evolving, my life is changing, and I’m looking towards new projects and ideas. So I had the desire to do a collection – something of a retrospective, a way of looking at the body of my work up to now and drawing it together in a meaningful way. I sent a version of UNDOING WINTER to a chapbook competition in my home state of Delaware and was a runner-up. That emboldened me to keep trying. I heard from Finishing Line Press a year later.

How has being a member of writing associations (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the Science Fiction Poetry Association) propelled your writing?
If nothing else, community membership is a credit to add to your author’s bio – but it can offer so much more. Networking is critical to a writer’s success. You can’t exist as an artist in a vacuum. Through groups like SFWA and SFPA, as well as local writers’ groups and online community forums, I stay informed of market trends and other issues impacting the genres that I work in. I also get to know other writing professionals. Expanding my circle of industry friends has helped me improve my craft, promote my work, and take advantage of opportunities I might not even be aware of otherwise.
“I Visit Your Heart” was incredibly visual to read. How do you envision each line of your poetry as you write? Is it all words flowing together or are you painting what you see in your imagination?
I love working with metaphors, particularly in poetry. The title poem, “Undoing Winter”, draws on several underworld myths as a metaphor for depression. The trophy heart on display in “I Visit Your Heart” is a metaphor for a past relationship, as is “Beansidhe” – I’m certainly not the murderous ghost of a young drowning victim, but, seen through the filter of poetry, maybe I am! Likewise “Warren” is a metaphor for a woman’s heart, the spider in “Weaver” symbolizes the urge to write, and so on. I don’t know that I visualize the lines of poetry so much as I feel intuitively drawn to metaphors that translate personal experience into something more universal – archetypal, even. The words tend to come from there, often of their own accord. Like stories writing themselves. And a good story brings pictures to the readers mind. I’m happy if I can accomplish that.

How does writing poetry help or hurt writing your literary and speculative fiction pieces?
I think I am a poet first, which can be both an asset and a burden when writing fiction. I’m told that one of the things that makes my prose unique is its flow of language. I’m also keen on imagery and detail. Those are stylistic things that can be challenging for many fiction authors. On the other hand, poetry is often ambiguous… a poem can tell a story or illicit an emotion even if it does not make literal sense. Poetry can be very impressionistic, and that’s ok. In fiction, however, impressionism is a hard sell. Particularly in genres like science fiction or fantasy, where storyline and momentum are everything. Literary fiction can be more forgiving of the stylistic choices I’m prone to, but then literary markets aren’t always open to the speculative (genre) elements that I love. The result is that my brand of fiction can be hard to place. That said, I rather like being “between” genres, hard-to-categorize, and unique. Just like with selling a poem, finding a home for unusual fiction can be a long and daunting process – but the satisfaction of finally making a good match makes it worShannonWinwardth it. That’s the payoff I’m working for.

Where can readers go to purchase a copy of Undoing Winter?
Undoing Winter can be preordered online at http://www.finishinglinepress.com. Click on “preorder forthcoming titles” or search for “Shannon Connor Winward” under “Bookstore”. The cost for the chapbook is $14 retail plus $2.99 shipping. All orders will be shipped after June 21st, 2014.