Monday, November 24, 2014

Susan Blackaby, The Twelve Days of Christmas in Oregon

Photo credit Jone MacCulloch

AUTHOR:  Susan Blackaby
ILLUSTRATOR: Carolyn Conahan
BOOK TITLE: The Twelve Days of Christmas in Oregon
Tell me a little about your book.

It is part of the Twelve Days of Christmas in America series.  The text in part follows the structure of the traditional song but features landmarks from all around the state.
What gave you the idea for this particular story?
The format is the same for all the books in the series. The premise is that a cousin has invited an out-of-state cousin to visit Oregon for the holidays. Each day the cousin receives a gift, starting with the state bird in the state tree, and writes a letter home to tell his parents about his experiences.
Is there anything in your story based upon a real life event? If so, tell me about it.
I spent my childhood criss-crossing Oregon on car rides and camping trips. When I had to sit down with a map and create a day-by-day tour, I revisited a lot of familiar places. In addition, I featured one of our neighbors in the role of the main character, and it was fun to incorporate him and his family into the text—and a crazy big treat when I finally could hand him the book.
Why did you choose to write a story with a Christmas or winter theme?
Sterling selects an author-illustrator team from each state to create the books. I was pleased to be asked to take this on and delighted to collaborate with Carolyn. She is a close friend and a brilliant artist—her work appears monthly in Cricket magazine.
Do you see special challenges to marketing a book with a seasonal theme?  If so, what are they?
It is a short and busy season with a small window of opportunity that one needs to squeeze through, competing with lots of other events and outings that keep people preoccupied when it comes to attending book signings. And this particular book has an even narrower audience because of its provincial appeal.
How long before December did you submit to your publisher?
My first deadline was in October 2012 with final manuscript due in the spring of 2013. Carolyn had about 8 months to do sketches and complete the final art, so a quick turnaround for her.
How and why did you choose this publisher?
I have worked with Meredith Mundy, my editor at Sterling, for a number of years on other projects, including Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox and Brownie Groundhog and the Wintry Surprise. She and the art director approached us to do this project and we were happy to oblige.
What about your book makes it special?
The rompy song features local fare that Oregonians of all ages can appreciate—barking sea lions, Portland food carts, windsurfers, bucking broncos, and thunder eggs (to name just a few of the gifts). The letters include a lot of interesting and surprising information about Oregon’s geography, history, folklore, and natural history that will appeal to older kids. And Carolyn’s exquisite artwork is masterful—filled with beauty and whimsy and many, many hidden charms that perfectly capture the ring of the season.
What does Christmas and/or winter mean to you?
As a writer, I look forward to quiet, distraction-free winter afternoons to work once the new year rolls in. And in the rush and crush of the holiday season, I think recalibration is imperative—slow down to linger around the table or around the fire with family and friends to rekindle and share traditions.
What is your favorite Christmas or winter memory?
In January 1961 it snowed in Palo Alto, where I grew up. Pretty memorable!
What was your favorite stocking stuffer?
A blue music box that plays a little tune by Handel. I got it when I was about 3 years old.
What was your favorite Christmas present?
One year as Christmas day hit that changeover from festive to frazzled, my dad gave my mom a strand of pearls. It had all the very best elements of pure surprise.
Where can people learn more about you and your work?
My website is currently under construction:
But I am easily reachable in the meantime:

The Twelve Days of Christmas in Oregon pairs amazing and amusing artwork with a happy blast of geography, history, science, folklore, and—of course—snowboarding as cousins take a holiday tour of the Beaver state. Epistolary, entertaining, and lyrical to boot!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Rosemary Morris, The Captain and The Countess


First of all, thank you for inviting me to be your guest.


AUTHOR: Rosemary Morris
BOOK TITLE:The Captain and The Countess
GENRE: Traditional Historical Fiction
PUBLISHER: MuseItUp Publishing
BUY LINK: Amazon kindle and all reputable vendors.

Q. Please tell us about yourself.

A. I am the author of Sunday’s Child & False Pretences set in the Regency era, Tangled Love, Far Beyond Rubies and The Captain and The Countess which are set in Queen Anne Stuart’s reign – 1702-1714. My love of historical fiction & non-fiction led to writing novels. To research, I read non-fiction, visit museums  and other places of historical interest. To view book trailers and read extracts from my novels visit I would be happy to hear from you.

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

A. I write full time. I begin writing at 6 a.m. and continue until 10 a.m. or later, with time out for breakfast and cups of herbal tea. If I am not going out or socializing I work for an hour or two after lunch and for several hours in the late afternoon and early evening.

Q. When and why did you begin writing?

A. From earliest childhood my world was peopled by imaginary characters. I can’t remember a time when I did not compose stories. As soon as I learned to write I wrote stories.

Q. What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?

A. I am as passionate about my organic garden, in which I grow fruit, herbs and vegetables, which are put to good use in my vegetarian cuisine, as I am about writing, reading historical fiction and non-fiction and visiting places of historical interest. I also enjoy knitting and dabbling in various crafts. Above all I treasure time spent with my family and friends.

Q. What are your thoughts about promotion?

A, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand I have met so many people through promotion and, of course I enjoy hearing from and replying to my wonderful readers; on the other hand, promotion is very time consuming and eats into the time at which I would prefer to be writing a novel.

Q. Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them?

A. My publisher is MuseItUp publishing an excellent Canadian small press publisher that I connected to through networking.

Q. What are your current projects?

A. I am writing Monday’s Child which is a follow on book from my traditional Regency novel. I am also revising the first novel of a trilogy set in the reign of Edward II.

Q. What do you plan for the future?

A. At the moment, I am making notes on Tuesdays Child, a follow on novel from Monday’s Child, which I have nearly finished. I’m also playing with the idea of writing a follow on novel to Far Beyond Rubies. I would also like to write a novel about Vikings, with a very strong hero and heroine who are not stereotyped.

Q. How can we find you? Website, Facebook?

A. You can find me on my website where you can view my book trailers, read the first three chapters of each of my novels and some of the reviews.

Q. What genre do you write in and why?

A. I write traditional historical romance, by which I mean I do not open the bedroom door wide.

There is a gigantic canvas to select from. I chose England in the reign of Queen Anne Stuart, 1702-1714, the ever popular Regency, and (for an as yet unpublished novel) the reign of Edward II when it is said that ‘the flower of English chivalry was lost at the Battle of Bannockburn.’

I chose these periods to set my novels in because each of them affected the course of history. If the Duke of Marlborough had not won The War of Spanish Succession and The Duke of Wellington had not defeated Napoleon at The Battle of Waterloo the history of Britain and that of Europe would have been very different, and also had far-reaching consequences for other countries. If Edward II had won the Battle of Bannockburn, Robert the Bruce would have probably been killed. It is feasible that the king would most likely have conquered Scotland and, perhaps, as it is claimed, he would not have been murdered.

Q. Tell us about the current book you’re promoting.

A. I am promoting the Captain and The Countess set in the reign of Queen Anne Stuart 1702 – 1714. The novel is romantic but also, in the words of one of my reviewers: “the book describes well the lack of power women had in those times, showing the distress and frustration Kate (the heroine) suffers when, as a woman, she is denied by a man's ignorance and another's greed, that which she most ardently desires and should have by right."

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

A. I don’t write a detailed outline but once I have an idea for the plot and theme I spend a long time considering them. Before I begin writing I know what the beginning, middle and end of the novel will be.

Q. What comes first: the plot or characters?

A. Before I begin the novel I complete detailed character profiles for the main characters. By the time I write the first word I know them as well as I know members of my family.

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

A. Yes, it did. My overcrowded bookshelves and the library from which I order innumerable non-fiction bear testament to that.

I study the period which I am writing about in order to capture the attitudes, beliefs, class distinctions, fashion, meals, and superstitions which divide the age in which I live from times past.

Q. What advice would you give a new writer starting out?

A. First of all, unless you are fortunate enough to have a submission snapped up, regardless of how many rejections you receive don’t give up. As well as writing, take some courses, participate in a face to face writer’s groups and online critique groups which offer constructive comments; and read books on how to write.

Q. What do you do when you’re not writing?

A. I enjoy visiting the local leisure center to swim and enjoy the sauna, steam room and the Jacuzzi.

Something else I enjoy is visiting charity shops and car boots to see if I can find items for my home. Over the years I’ve collected blue and white china which I display in my dining room. None of it was expensive but all of it is attractive, and one of my granddaughters is fascinated by a tiny teapot.

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

A. Something interesting that compels me to read on even regardless of what I should be doing.

* * * *

The Captain and The Countess

Why does heart-rending pain lurk in the back of the wealthy Countess of Sinclair’s eyes? 

Captain Howard’s life changes forever from the moment he meets Kate, the intriguing Countess and resolves to banish her pain.

Although the air sizzles when widowed Kate, victim of an abusive marriage meets Edward Howard, a captain in Queen Anne’s navy, she has no intention of ever marrying again.

However, when Kate becomes better acquainted with the Captain she realises he is the only man who understands her grief and can help her to untangle her past. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Mary-Jean Harris, Aizai the Forgotten, plus #giveaway, #free, #ebook

NOTE: There will be a giveaway of an e-book copy of the novel Aizai the Forgotten, which will be emailed to one person who comments and leaves contact information.  

AUTHOR: Mary-Jean Harris
BOOK TITLE: Aizai the Forgotten
GENRE: Young adult fantasy
PUBLISHER: Muse It Up Publishing

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

I write part-time, and hope to continue to do this for the rest of my life. Currently, I am also a student at Carleton University in physics and philosophy, which takes most of my time. Although sometimes I think it would be nice to be a full-time writer, for me, I enjoy doing lots of other things too, and these all give my inspiration for writing anyways. As for organizing writing time, I write mostly during the summer or on holidays, though do a bit during the school year as well. I am working on putting more time in to write though!

When and why did you begin writing?

The first story I wrote was an adventure story about Neopets (online pets) when I was about 7. When I look back at it, I’m surprised at how much I wrote. I never finished it, and I don’t think I had a plan of where it was going, but it was a neat story in any case. I also used to write a lot in a journal, and I really like reading my entries now. I started to write more short stories and a novel in high school, and have continued with that since, and later on I published my first novel Aizai the Forgotten.

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?

During the year, that would be mainly school. It’s quite busy, but I really enjoy it, and am hoping to do something in particle physics and cosmology when I’m finished. I also enjoy travelling, especially to places with ancient buildings like castles and with places I can go hiking and exploring. Someday I hope to live in the country or (ideally!) on an island in Scotland. I’ve been to the Isle of Skye last summer and it was beautiful there and very remote. The perfect place for a writer, actually.

What are your thoughts about promotion?

It’s a necessary evil, and I’m terrible at it. There is a lot writers can do online for promoting themselves, which is good because you don’t have to go out anywhere, but it also is challenging to be seen above millions of other websites and blogs. Though I’ve found that people are more likely to read your book if they’ve met you in person, or if they have something you give them, like a bookmark. So it is good to do a mix of promotion online and in person. But I don’t overdo things, because what I like to do is write, and it wouldn’t make sense to hog up my time with promoting my work if I don’t write anything new.

Do you ever have writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it?

I usually get writer’s block when I don’t know what’s going to happen next in the story. I sort of poke forwards and don’t really get anywhere, and the characters just do boring things. I don’t know what to do and they don’t know what to do, and so I don’t even want to write. I think the best way to overcome this is to plan your story better and introduce neat elements that will come up soon so you have something to work towards getting to. If I know there will be a dragon at the other side of the hill, then the journey there somehow becomes easier, and more fun.

Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it?

I did some research on things about Renaissance magic and philosophy, because although my book is set in a later time period, it was influenced greatly by the Renaissance. One neat thing was talismans, which are magical objects that a magician infuses with some power to make them do a certain task. Although I didn’t use it in my book, I read that the famous painting Primavera by Botticelli was supposed to be a talisman to bring down the cosmic energy of Venus, which I found really interesting.

What are your current projects?

I am currently writing the sequel to my first novel Aizai the Forgotten, which is the second in what will (hopefully) be a trilogy in my The Soul Wanderers series. It is more challenging than the first book I wrote because it takes place in two time periods: in 17th century Spain and 12th century Scotland. I don’t do much research, because although it is historical, it is also fantasy, so I make up a lot of things that never happened. But I have read a few books about the Druids and monasteries in medieval Britain, which I’m going to use in my book. But it’s been fun so far, and I’m about 60% through the first draft.

Where can we find you? Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?

What genre do you write in and why?

I write fantasy, and I like to combine the style of fantasy with a more old-fashioned style in my writing. The magic and exploring other places is one of the highlights of fantasy for me. It also seems more “noble” and truer than other fiction, especially in books like The Lord of the Rings.

What influences your writing?

People I see, places I’ve been, but largely just things I make up. Other books and movies certainly influence me more indirectly, because I read a lot of fantasy books and classics mostly. I also include a lot of things from philosophy I’ve read, especially ancient philosophy and esoteric traditions, and change them a bit to incorporate magic.

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

For my novel Aizai the Forgotten, when I first started it, I hadn’t intended for it to be a novel. It started with me just speculating about a lost world that had come into existence and then had vanished, so I decided to write about it. I added a boy who had read about this world and was trying to discover what it was and if he could get to it. I was also trying to discover what Aizai was, but after a while, I figured it out, and at that point, I started plotting the story instead of just writing it. For the sequel though, I had a more definite initial plan, though the plot is still forming as I write it.

What comes first: the plot or characters?

I think it depends on the story. For me, I had a loose plot first, and then added a character, but often characters inspire the plot, and they have to go on a certain path just based on who they are, so the plot will form out of them. They really go hand in hand, and if you don’t have a character that fits the plot or vice versa, then it will be hard to match up the inner journey of the character with the outer journey that they go through as the plot progresses.

How did you decide how your characters should look?

I usually base characters on pictures of people, or people I know partially. I find it difficult to imagine someone from scratch, so I “snatch” someone I’ve seen (though not very well, because I don’t want to be influenced by how they are “supposed” to act), or a picture. I also have an enormous fantasy character inspiration board on Pinterest (, which is fun, but it’s also becoming ridiculous because there are more characters on there that I could write stories about in my lifetime!


With an otherworldly horse borrowed from an astrologer, and armed with a strange magical device, seventeen-year-old Wolfdon Pellegrin sets off through seventeenth-century France and Spain to fulfill his dream of finding the forgotten realm of Aizai.

One obscure book, by the philosopher Paulo de la Costa Santamiguero, has given him a lead to start his journey—go to the northern coast of Spain, where a portal to Aizai supposedly exists.

Though death and danger loom ever near, nothing can dim the longing for Aizai kindling within Wolfdon’s heart. Yet even as he strives to discover the mysterious realm’s secrets and fate, a frightening truth becomes clear—one that may cost Wolfdon everything, including the future.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Barbara Ehrentreu, After

AUTHOR: Barbara Ehrentreu
PUBLISHER: MuseItUp Publishing

Please tell us about yourself.
I was a Reading teacher, but I am now retired for several years. I live in Stamford, CT with my family. I am the author of two YA novels. When Im not writing novels I sometimes write short stories and I always write poetry, especially in April. Some of my poems are published in anthologies and I have a few short stories online.

Please tell us your latest news.
My second YA novel, After, is being released October 24th.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
I would say I am a part-time writer when I am not in the middle of a novel. If I am working on a novel then I work on it full time. I usually write when I am inspired. Since I have a lot of time during the day I try to write then, but mostly I write at night. The best time for me for writing is either the afternoon or late at night. Other times I try to spend with my family.

When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing poetry when I was younger, but I didnt really write anything until I took a workshop course for my Masters degree. I wrote this story I called Geshtumble that I had told to my brother and then to my children as a bedtime story. While we were in between homes and living in a hotel, I wrote it as a book. I sent it several places, but I never pursued it.

What inspired you to write your first book?
As part of my Masters degree I needed to attend Authors Week at Manhattanville and I saw a workshop headed by Paula Danziger. I had to write three pages to get into her workshop. I decided to write it based on my daughters own experiences and Paula liked it. She helped me by reading and cutting it and showing me how to write for YA and children. She inspired me to continue writing it.

What do you do when youre not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?
I like to cook and also I exercise every other day. Also I like to watch TV and spend time with my daughters. We also like to go to the movies when we can and when there is something worth seeing. Now that the weather is getting cooler I might start walking along the shore.

What are your thoughts about promotion?
I think this is probably the most important part of writing. People need to know about your book and where they can find it. I dont like it, though, when there are too many messages about your book. Some authors do this and it only makes me want to delete the messages and not read their book. I think the best way to promote your book is by telling your friends and also getting it out there to your audience. Joining groups that will be interested in your book is a big plus. Putting it everywhere there are readers is also important. I am still learning how to do this and probably should have done it a little more for my first book. Now I understand how important it it to let people know as soon as possible about your book. I am trying that this time.

What was the toughest criticism given to you? What was the biggest compliment?
When I first started writing I was told I needed to cut my words. My biggest compliment came from reviews that said I really got the teen voice and that my book was a must for all teens.

Did those change how or what you did in your next novel?
Well, I did try to be in the mind of a teen. Also, I have learned to write a much more spare prose due to the constant editing and rewriting needed.

Do you ever have writers block? If so, how do you get through it?
No, not really. If I am writing a novel the only time I get blocked is when the plot doesnt work. Then I have to go back and actually diagram what I want to happen in the scene. I had to do that in After and I was stuck until I got the plot right. Otherwise, I can usually write whenever I need to write. If I ever did get a block I would probably go for a walk, because that always helps to get me started writing. Usually I will write poetry during or after a walk.

Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them?
My publisher is MuseItUp Publishing and I connected with them during the Muse Online Writers Conference. I pitched my story to them and they accepted it. I knew Lea Schizas from the conference and also from being in one of her Muse critique groups online.

What are your current projects?
Right now I am working on another YA novel called Footsteps on the Sand, which I am taking to the Childrens Novel Workshop in Santa Cruz, CA. There I will meet with an agent and an editor who will critique my work. There will be teens there too and they will get to read my story too. I am excited to do this and hope it will enrich my manuscript.

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

Tell us about the current book youre promoting.
After is about a fifteen year old girl named Lauren Walstein whose father calls home while having a heart attack. The story is about what happens after the phone call and how his illness and bypass surgery affect her relationships both within her family and with her friends. There is also a romance as well as a mean girl, of course.

What genre do you write in and why?
I mostly write YA, but I have written some MG and one very young story for a picture book. I also have written an an adult story and an adult romance/adventure/mystery which I still consider a WIP.

What is your experience working or being around children or teens?
I was a teacher for the elementary grades full-time for 12 and a half years. Also I have been a middle school teacher too. My experience also includes being both a Reading and a Writing teacher and supervisor. I have also worked as a Camp Head Counselor and I have two daughters whose teen years are great for my writing.

What do you hope your readers will take away from this book?
I would like my readers to understand the experience of having a loved one become very ill. For younger readers whose parents or grandparents might be in this same situation I would like them to be able to see how someone dealt with it. Also, I want them to enjoy the story of a budding romance.

What was the process of creating this book from the first idea to the final published book?
This was started during NaNoWriMo in 2006 while my own husband was in the hospital after having a heart attack and undergoing bypass surgery. However, I couldnt finish it due to the constant back and forth from home to hospital. Originally it was called When My Life Changed. So I left it alone and didnt even work on it until 2010 after I reread it. Then I left it another two years and worked on it in 2012. In 2013 I decided to revise it again and thought maybe I might be able to publish it. It was accepted for publication in November of 2013 and then while editing it I decided to change the title to After.

Do you outline before you write?  If not, whats your initial process?
No I dont outline before I write. What happens is a sentence will come into my mind. After maybe a week of this sentence rolling around in my mind I finally decide it is right and then I usually go to my computer and write it down. Usually this starts an entire story that usually is at least 2000 words. Sometimes this becomes a novel, although not always. If it is becoming a novel I stop at a certain point very early in the story and I develop the characters so I can see where the plot will go. Usually the characters motivations move the plot and I dont usually have to stop and outline. Except during After when one scene did not go as I wanted and I actually needed to storyboard it to see how it should go. Mostly it was the sequence of actions that werent right and outlining helped to fix that. So you can see I am basically a pantser.

What do you look for in a book when you sit down to read for fun?
I look for strong characters and a good and fun story to read. I read all kinds of books, but I love romance and mysteries. I also like urban fantasy if it is done right. I usually read the first couple of paragraphs and decide if I want to read it after reading the blurb and seeing the cover. The story has to catch me right away and usually its the writers voice that will do that.

What, if anything, bugs you when you read a novel?
What I really hate is when I have read a novel and gotten invested in both the characters and the story and then the writer just ends it without tying up the loose ends. I always feel like Ive wasted my time when the ending doesnt make sense at all or doesnt bring any kind of solution. I also really dont like when I find too many typos, because that means it was poorly edited by the author. Every author reads the final galley and they should be able to find the little typos that might occur. This also might be because I am also an editor and I proofread almost everything.