Monday, November 15, 2010

Meet C.A. Verstraete author of The KillerValentine Ball

C.A. tells us a little about herself. I grew up with my nose always in a book, so it seemed a natural progression that I wanted to be a writer. A prophetic wish, it seems, judging from my favorite baby photo as seen on my website of me with a newspaper and a pencil behind my ear. I studied journalism and continue to do freelance writing for newspapers.

I also enjoy writing all kinds of fiction, with stories appearing in several anthologies including the recent Steampunk'd from DAW Books (coming out Nov. 2).

My kid's mystery, Searching for a Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery, was #1 on Kindle for Miniatures books and was a 2009 EPPIE Award finalist for best YA/children's ebook by the Epic Foundation.

Here's an Excerpt from The Killer Valentine Ball:

As they walked into the shadows, Jess noticed that things weren't quite as they appeared. Sections of the room lightened for a moment before being cast again in deep shadow. What Jess thought she saw in that split second made her heart race. On the dance floor, the same three couples stood, clasped to each other. Jess stared. She swore they never moved.

The music played quietly in the background. When the shadows brightened, Jess caught a quick glimpse of one of the couples. The young man's mouth gaped open. His partner's gown glistened with streams of dark ribbons. The light flashed again and Jess gasped. Those weren't ribbons! The girl's dress shone with dark glimmers. Like-like blood, she thought. No, it can't be! She looked back at Dylan, who shook his head and urged her on.

"Light tricks," he whispered. "It's not real. It's Halloween stuff, like the movie. Don't worry."

I asked C.A. a few questions about her writing.

  1. How long have you been writing?

Forever? Ha! For years. Being trained in newspapers, I'm used to writing every day so the real question is probably when am I not writing?

  1. What is your favorite genre?

I confess to split personality writing. I'm drawn to mysteries, horror and kid's books, so I seem to write about the same as what I like to read. I love a good scare.

  1. What's been the hardest thing you've written so far?

I'd have to say that learning more about science fiction-type writing has been interesting and a great challenge. I learned about a whole new category when writing my story for the Steampunk'd anthology and had a lot of fun doing it. Some of my stories had some magical and supernatural elements already, so I hope to try my hand at more of that.

  1. If someone walked into your office, what would they see?

Stuff! (Or what others call junk! :>)) Being a collector and crafter, as well as a writer, you tend to collect a lot of supplies, projects and materials, besides the books and other "writerly" items.

  1. Is there a particular author who influenced you?

I have several favorite authors, though I think Stephen King and Dean Koontz rank at the top. I also enjoy reading mystery authors like Margaret Grace, Elaine Viets, and others.

  1. What made you decide to sign with Muse It Up Publishing as people are generally leery of new houses?

It sounded like an interesting venture and I have to admit I am impressed with how thorough and professionally it's being run. The openness is also refreshing. Publisher Lea Schizas has a good reputation and runs a tight ship.

7. What has been your worst experience since you became an author?

I'm sure just about every author has horror stories and bad experiences to share. A few things I learned along the way are the value of openness, open accounting, especially where fundraising and royalties are concerned, and the importance of checks and balances.

8. What has been your most positive experience?

Growing as a writer. Seeing my work published in new anthologies and working with new publishers has been a fun experience for me.

9. What constitutes a good book, in your opinion?

A good story. Nothing is more enjoyable than spending time with characters you like (or sometimes even hate!) and want to know better.

10. Which of your books is your favorite?

I've learned something different with each book or story I've written, so in that respect, they all are special. I've enjoyed writing, and trying new things with each one, whether it was delving into past history and fantasy as I did in my story, The Dream Child (Dragons Composed), developing a friendship (and conflict) between pals Sam and Lita (Searching for a Starry Night), learning about time travel (Timeshares), or writing horror with a macabre sense of humor (The Killer Valentine Ball).

11. If you were asked by a new author for advice, what would you tell that person?

Write every day. Writer's block is an excuse. If one story isn't working, write something else.

12. What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I enjoy crafting and working in miniature. I collect dollhouse miniatures and like to make many things myself. (Click miniatures on my website for some samples.)

12. What can we expect from you in the future?

More! Haa! I'm continually working on new projects. See my website and blog for updates.




Book page:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Meet Myra Calvani

My books ISBNs: 1606192299, 1933353228

Mayra Calvani is an award-winning multi-genre author for children and adults. Her work, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, was a ForeWord Best Book of the Year Award winner. She's had over 300 reviews, interviews, articles and stories published online and in print. How to Turn Your Book Club into a Spectacular Event is her first nonfiction title for middle graders. She's a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and the Children's Writers Coaching Club. Visit her at and

What got you into writing for children?

Ten years ago, I’d never have guessed that I would be writing children’s books today. I was into horror and the supernatural. I think my love for children’s literature began when I had children of my own and read to them at night. I wanted to make reading a priority for my children so I read to them every night… and I fell in love with picture books. I don’t remember the moment when I thought, “I want to try writing one of these,” but I guess the thought came one day and I just sat down and decided to give it a try. I also read all I could about the craft and joined a picture book critique group. I learned tons in the critique group. I think a good critique group is vital for a writer, especially one who is just starting. I also began reviewing lots of children’s books, and this also helped me improve my craft.

Tell us a little about your latest book, How to Turn Your Book Club into a Spectacular Event?

How to Turn Your Book Club into a Spectacular Event is a 50-page chapbook for girls ages 9-12 on how to start and manage a book club from start to end. It also includes an explanation of the various genres and a resource section with a list of popular authors who write for young readers, including the titles of one of their books and website links. The book encourages a love of books and reading and also social and leadership skills.

To find out more about it, readers can visit my website at:

The second edition of The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing was released this last August. Why should an aspiring reviewer read your book?

The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing offers practical, specific guidelines on how to write a thoughtful, intelligently written review. It also discusses the value of reviews within a wider spectrum as to how they relate to librarians, booksellers, publicists, authors, and publishers. Some of the book’s topics include the five most important keys of a book reviewer, the basic elements of a review, how to rate a book, how to start a book review site, how to differentiate the various types of reviews, and how to prevent amateurish mistakes, among others. The book also has a resource section that lists dozens of sites (by genre/paying/nonpaying) and publications where reviewers may submit their reviews.

What do you do to market your books?

I spend a lot of time on marketing. I’d say about 7-10 hours a week. Naturally, I do the basic things, such as updating my websites and blogs regularly, posting fresh content on my Facebook and Twitter pages (news & announcements of my books, reviews, interviews, articles, etc). I also post links to interesting writing and publishing related content I discover on other sites and blogs.

For my book club book, which is for middle graders, I’ve been doing various things:

I requested reviews from top mom bloggers and I got a great response from that. Some of these mom bloggers have an amazing following. All in all, I think I’ve sent about 50 requests to mom bloggers and other reviewers combined. I’m also doing the one-month Children’s Author Showcase at your National Writing for Children Center—which I think it’s an awesome opportunity for children’s authors. I’ve also booked several radio shows and I’ll go on a virtual book tour this October. Eventually I plan to contact teacher and librarian bloggers.

It’s a never ending process and authors should keep up their promotional efforts month after month. I really think this is the secret to successful promoting.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

Writer’s block is an elusive and even controversial term. Some writers swear by it; others claim such a thing doesn’t exist. I have suffered from writer’s block in the past, but over time I’ve learned to control it. Every time I face the blank page, I experience a little of writer’s block. I know because I’ll immediately become nervous and feel the urge to get up and inspect the fridge. It’s a bit like a dog turning this way, then that way, trying to find the perfect spot to sit down. I have learned that there’s no such a thing as a perfect moment to write. I just have to dive into it, like closing my eyes and jumping over a cliff. I tell myself, “Jump and the net will appear.” Most of the times, it’s true. But you can’t expect to feel the net right away, after a sentence or two. You have to insist and persist and keep writing for a little sustained period of time. That’s when everything starts getting easier, when the waters start to calm down. It’s like first diving in a feral sea, then, as you keep swimming, you reach a place where the waters are calm and peaceful. You just keep swimming, one lap after another.

It’s at times like these when I reach the ‘zone,’ that marvelous place where you lose sense of place and time and you’re totally immersed in the world of your characters. That’s the best place to be as a writer.

How do you approach the blank page?

I say a writer’s affirmation each time I sit down to write. I close my eyes and say the affirmation out loud, meaning each and every word. Then I start writing. This is one of the tricks I use to make my mind do whatever I want it to do. It works wonders!

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?

That you can’t write only when inspiration strikes. Writing is a job like any other. You may not always feel like getting up and going to work, but you have to do it, no matter how you feel. If I had been fully aware of this back then, I would have been a hundred times more productive.

What advice would you like to convey to aspiring writers?

If you have a dream, never give up, no matter what other people say. If you don’t keep going in spite of obstacles, you may reach the age of seventy and ask yourself ‘Why didn’t I try?’ If you don’t make it, at least you’ll have the satisfaction of having done your best. Chances are you’ll make it if you keep at it, though.

And of course, read as much as you can in the genres you enjoy writing; keep submitting; join a good critique group.

Above all, write, write, write.

Tomorrow visit Janet Anne Collins at

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Meet VS Grenier Children's Author and Magazine Editor

VS Grenier is an Award-winning

author & editor with over 30 short stories, articles, and crafts for children along with newsletter articles for writers. She also has multiple titles published in the Best of Stories for Children Magazine Volume 1 anthology. She learned how to hone her writing skills at the Institute of Children’s Literature. She’s also the Editor-in-Chief of Stories for Children Magazine (http://storiesfo A California girl at heart, she currently lives in Utah with her husband, their three children, and the family’s big fat cat Speed Bump and miniature schnauzer Taz.

Babysitting SugarPaw is her first picture book. Find out more about VS Grenier and SugarPaw

A little bear named SugarPaw hopes to get rid of his babysitter, Bonnie Whiskers, by getting her into trouble after making changes to his rules chart. As the story unfolds, SugarPaw learns about honesty and friendship, in this fun loving story. Babysitting SugarPaw, with its child-centered plot on getting to know others, is the perfect book for little ones scared of being left alone with a babysitter for the first time. This book will delight three-to-eight-year-old readers, especially those who like to create mischief.

So we could get to know her a little better, I asked VS some questions about herself and her writing:

How long have you been writing and what inspired you to write?

I’ve been writing for almost five years now. I never thought I would be a writer, it just sort of happened. After the birth of my second child, I decided to stay home and quick working. At first, I was okay with being home all the time, but after awhile . . . well let’s just say you can’t go from working 50-hour weeks to not working. So that’s when I decided to write for a hobby and took a course at the Institute of Children’s Literature. Of course, my hobby became more than that.

What is a typical writing day like for you?

I don’t have a typical writing day. Maybe it’s just me, but with children in the house, I find it hard to stick to a schedule. I write and check email when I can. I find I do most my writing when the older kids are in school and the baby is taking a nap. The other time I write is late at night when everyone is sleeping. I tend to run on about five hours of sleep and so far, I’m okay with that. However, I do look forward to the day with I can sleep in and longer.

What was the first thing you ever had published?

A short story about my father as a kid called “Flying Upside Down”. It was published in the Ezine Fandangle Magazine back in 2006. I had a lot of fun writing this story and never thought it would be published because so many people told me your first manuscript never sees the light of day. I guess I was just lucky and a good thing too because seeing my story published only encouraged me to keep going.

Have you had any training to become a writer?

Yes and no. I say no because I never went to college to become a writer and didn’t major or minor in anything related to writing. The only classes I’ve taken is the general course at The Institute of Children’s Literature, some workshops at conferences—both online and in person—and from being in critique groups. I have also being learning a lot being on the editor side. One thing I’ve learned about writing is you never stop learning. No matter how long you’ve been doing it.

Do your children inspire any of books, characters, or plots?

My children have inspired some of the short stories I’ve written and I do have one picture book based on my five-year-old. But, most of my writing is based off my own childhood, family members, or friends. It’s not that my kids don’t give me ideas for stories. I just haven’t used it yet. I guess I just need more hours in the day so I can write more.

Can you share with us a little about your most recent book?

My most recent book is Babysitting SugarPaw. This is also my first picture book. Babysitting SugarPaw was published in the late summer of 2009. It’s a picture book about a little bear named SugarPaw who hopes to get rid of his babysitter, Bonnie Whiskers, by getting her into trouble after making changes to his rules chart. As this loving story unfolds, SugarPaw learns about honesty and friendship.

Babysitting SugarPaw, with its child-centered plot on getting to know others, is the perfect book for little ones scared of being left alone with a babysitter for the first time and is endorsed by You can read the review at

Kevin Scott Collier, who has won awards for his illustrations, did a wonderful job. Each illustration really brings the story alive for children ages 3 to 8, especially for those who like to create mischief.

Your readers can find out more about Babysitting SugarPaw at

What do you enjoy most about writing?

Sitting down and just letting my mind wonder. I love going back and reading what I wrote. Sometimes I love it and other times I hate it. Either way, I’m creating something that my family can look at after I’m gone. I guess you could say my writing is my way of leaving a bit of myself for future generations.

What is the most difficult part of writing?

Finding the time to write all the things I hear in my head. I find it hard sometimes to sleep because a character will be talking to me about a new scene or storyline. It’s crazy I know. I’m worried that if I don’t ever get it all down on paper . . . my family will lock me away in my old age because of the voices in my head.

What is the best writing advice you ever received?

Only you as the author know what’s best for your manuscript, and to look at critiques and criticism as a learning experience to help you hone your skills. You don’t always have to revise based on suggestions, however, if more than one person points out a problem area . . . then it’s time to take a workshop to help you fix it.

And here is some writing advice I give writers. The rules of writing are like the Pirates Code . . . meaning their more like guidelines and it’s okay to break rules if you break them in a way that only enhances your manuscript.

Do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?

I have two picture books and two YA novels I’m working on in whatever spare time I get throughout the week. One of the picture books is almost ready for submission. It’s about a little girl who can’t whistle. The story is based off my childhood. The others are still being fine-tuned so I don’t want to say anything about them in case I make some major changes.

Tell us about your writing space?

I have pretty big area compared to what most of my writing friends have. I’m lucky to have a bonus room in my house where my office is. Of course, that means the whole family likes to join me from time to time or I get to listen to the play by play of my son’s computer games. LOL. I have an L-shaped writing desk with drawers for all the SFC files, contracts, etc. Then, to my right is another computer desk tucked into a wall of bookshelves. This is where my kids do their homework, play online, and where my sisters or brother come to get their high school/college work done as well. Even my dad pops in to use the extra computer from time to time. It’s funny, hardly anyone, besides myself, my mom and husband, touch the books.

Behind my writing/computer desk is a futon couch, the TV with the Wii, my daughters’ dollhouse, the toy box with Thomas the Tank Engine stuff, and the air hockey table. You can say this office gets a lot of action and not all of it is writing! It’s also how you access our backyard.

The world of children’s book publishing is extremely competitive, with many authors hesitating between trying their luck with a traditional publisher or self publishing. What advice would you offer writers who are oscillating between these two publishing venues?

Virginia, what tips can you give parents looking to share the love of reading and writing with their child(ren)?

Here are some tips I’ve written for Stanley Bookman to share in Stories for Children Magazine each month.

  • Visit the library often. Let your child pick out her own books.

  • Ask your librarian to suggest favorites.

  • Make book time a special time just for you and your little one.

  • Let your child see you reading.

  • Stop for a while if your child loses interest or gets upset. Reading should always be enjoyable.

Children who enjoy books will want to learn how to read and write!

Children learn new words by doing things with you, like talking with you about what is going on around you. Talk about how things work, feelings, and ideas. Reading together every day and talking about the story also helps your child learn more and understand words from their context.

Reading informational books on subjects your children like helps increase their vocabulary. Children with bigger vocabularies become better readers and can more quickly understand the meaning of words in context. Remember, children learn best when they are in a good mood.

Early literacy comes from knowing about reading and writing before a child can actually read and write.

The first words children learn to write often have emotional content. Ignore the niceties of spelling and penmanship . . . for now, at least. The mechanics of writing are taught in elementary school and if your little one isn’t learning this in school yet, don’t worry about it. If they are, then get a children’s dictionary and look up a few of the words together. However, keep in mind a child writes with a lot of personal feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Pointing out mistakes may make a preschooler or young elementary student self-conscious and reluctant to write.

Young children should learn that writing is a useful and enjoyable way to express oneself—and the rest will follow in good time.

What would we be surprised to learn about you?

I went to college to be a fashion buyer and did that for just over 10 years before giving it up to stay home with my children. I’ve worked for some really interesting places like Motherhood Maternity, Frederick’s of Hollywood, Hot Topic, Inc. (I opened the first 5 Torrid stores and helped design them.), L’Occitane, and Brighten Collectibles to name a few.

Also, in high school, I took freshman English three times and my highest grand in English was a C. However, when I did take exams and my S.A.T’s, I scored in top 10 for my class. My problem was I just didn’t want to do the work or go to class. The lesson I learned . . . If you don’t do it right the first time or really hate a subject in school . . . you just might find yourself doing it for a career.

To learn more about Stanley Bookman, the SFC mascot in the World of Ink visit us at The magazine is on hiatus until April 2011, but we have book reviews, tips, fun links, and some other free stuff currently on the site.

For those who love to write and want to learn, they can visit our newest site Stories for Children Publishing, LLC at Your readers can also sign up for our FREE newsletter, SFC Newsletter for Writers which is sent out monthly and is full of articles on writing, markets, contest, workshops, conference, and much much more. It was voted one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers in 2009 by Writer’s Digest.

If your readers would like to learn more about me, my writing services, school visits, and my books . . . they can visit me at

And lastly, there is the SFC: Families Matter blog. Here families can get information on just about anything. We talk about vacations on a budget to helping children in school. Visit us bi-weekly at

It was a pleasure sharing Babysitting SugarPaw and my writing with you and your readers. Thank you again for having me on your blog.

Tomorrow please visit Margaret Fieland's blog Margaret Fieland is featuring Robert Medak

Friday, September 3, 2010

Meet Robert Medak

Robert is a multi-talented writer. I thought his interview would be a good way to introduce him.
Be sure to visit Robert at

What did you first read? How did you begin to write? Who were the first to read what you wrote?

Dick and Jane books as a kid. I had to write in Senior Composition in High School. I wrote some How-Tos while working for Pacific Bell. I began writing poetry and prose when I met the woman who is now my wife. She, and facilitators at Writers' Village university (WVU) were the first to read my writing. I continue taking writing courses at WVU, when I have time.

What is your favorite genre? Can you provide a link to a site where we can read some of your work or learn something about it?

I don't really have a favorite genre, I like them all.

Look at my website Stormy Writer at

What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?

This is a hard one to answer, because the process is different, at different times. I have been on the way to work and something will trigger a thought and out comes a poem. I was taking out the trash one day and a sight started me thinking, out came a poem. I was recently tagged to write a Christmas story, while laying in bed, I was thinking and had most of the story created in my mind before falling asleep. I woke up the next day and wrote the short story in less than an hour.

It also helps to put your fingers on the keyboard and your butt in the chair. If you keep your eyes and ears open, there is so much in the world to inspire a writer. Reading a good deal also helps your writing.

I try to read and write something every day. That is what a writer does.

What type of reading inspires you to write?

Asimov to Zola. I have read everything I can get my hands on, from the classics to Science Fiction.

As to what I like, it is subjective in my case. I don't like authors that tend to be wordy. My Favorite author is Edgar Allen Poe. But I also read poetry, inspirational, self-help, philosophy, magazines, eZines, and more.

By reading everything, you can see how the writing affects you, and you can see what works and what doesn't, this will help your own writing.

Read pages per day of books.

What do you think are the basic ingredients of a story?

Good writing.

There are many ingredients that make a story.

1. Plot
2. Believable Characters
3. Realistic Dialogue
4. Setting
5. Pace
6. POV
7. beginnings, Middle, and Endings that make sense
8. Consistency of theme

This are some ingredients that will make a story that people will want to read.

What voice do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?

Personally I like first person, which is the hardest to write without a bunch of I's and Me's.

I have been told numerous times that publishers want third person. I am working on third person.

It is really a matter of through who's eyes you are seeing the story. It is really the POV that makes the story work.

What well known writers do you admire most?

Edgar Allen Poe, Ray Bradbury, Issac Asimov, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Robert Louis Stevenson, Orson Scott Card, Aristotle, Plato, Khalil Gibran, Eudora Welty,
Emily Brontë, Charlotte Brontë, Mary Shelly, Ian Fleming, and many more.

What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?

Someone the reader can identify with. Someone with the same characteristics that the reader may know personally. A person that you love, hate or causes a reaction or emotion in the reader.

By being open, and observing real people in real situations and their response to it.

A writer should always carry a notebook, pad of something to write down items they observe in daily interactions with people, animals, or just the place they live. These are all ingredients to creating a living breathing character in stories.

Are you equally good at telling stories orally?

I would like to think so. I don't have much of a chance to tell stories orally.

I am a bit of a hermit because I like it that way at this point in my life. I would rather read and write than interact with groups of people. A small few people is what I like. I am uncomfortable in groups where I don't know the people.

Deep down inside, who do you write for?

I write for myself first. I find writing to be like tranquilizers in a way; if I don't write I start feeling depressed, writing keeps me sane and creative. I like the feeling of creativity. There is something special about creating a story, article, or web content that make a writer feel satisfied and creative. If you don't get something out of writing, why write at all?

Is writing a form of personal therapy? Are internal conflicts a creative force?

Writing is my psychiatrist. When writing there are always internal conflicts.
It is what the writer does with conflicts, that can make him/her a better writer, or it can cripple their creativity.

I am still working on shutting out the negative voices and write my story. It takes time to learn how to shut out the crazymakers.

Does reader feed-back help you?

All feedback helps the writer, not just readers. Critique groups, a spouse, a friend you trust, people in general you trust.

Feedback from any source is good. It will help you see what is and what isn't working in a story or article, or whatever you happen to be writing.

Do you participate in competitions? Have you received any awards?


A writer has to be very careful with competitions. Many are nothing more than scams to ensnare the unsuspecting aspiring writer.

If you have to pay to enter, I would walk away.

Do you share rough drafts of your writings with someone whose opinion you trust?

Yes. I run most of my writing past my wife, and avid reader. Also, critique groups and others whose opinion I trust.

Do you believe you have already found "your voice" or is that something one is always searching for?

I do have a voice, but I also believe that my writing voice changes depending on what I am writing.

When ghost writing, you must emulate the voice of the person you are ghosting for.

What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?

I am a very informal person. I have to deal with distractions and family commitments, and mundane things of life. I write when I can.

When writing an article or a series of articles and given a deadline, I work on them until they are complete and submitted. I have never missed a deadline as a freelance writer.

I am more of a night person, so I usually writer in the late afternoon or evening.
I have also been known to work from late evening through to early morning. Probably because I worked from Midnight to 8am, and, also from 4pm to 12am for many years.

What do you surround yourself with in your work area in order to help your concentrate?

Animals, books, reference books, reference software, TV, music, something to drink.

I have to feel comfortable and connected to life to write. Just me.

My mother always wondered how I could do homework in front of the TV. I couldn't tell you what was on, but i can't work in silence. I need some kind of noise to break the silence.

Do you write on a computer? Do you print frequently? Do you correct on paper? What is your process?

I do write on the computer. I do not print frequently. I do not correct on paper, unless I am editing a manuscript that comes to me that way.

I write and edit on my computer.

I write the piece I am working on, let it percolate for as long as I can, then come back with an editors eye, fix my typos, and anything else I see that needs to be fixed.

What sites do you frequent on-line to share experiences or information?

Twitter, MySpace, FaceBook, DIGG, Flickr, LinkedIn, my blogs, and sites that you need to register and join groups.

What has been your experience with publishers?

Most of my writing to date has been freelance writing for various companies. I either submit the work or post it to a blog as instructed by the client.

I have numerous projects in the works. I will be submitting my work to publishers in the near future, I hope.

What are you working on now?
I have a children's book, a YA-Adult, Adult, eBooks.

The YA-Adult is Science Fiction, the adult is about alternative lifestyle, the eBook I am currently working on is to answer some questions I have been asked in regards to freelance writing. I will be offering an eBook about freelance writing to writers that sign up for a specific online writers conference in 2009 where I plan on being a presenter for a freelance writing course I will be creating. I created a course for writers at Writers' Village University that I facilitate; I have also facilitated other courses.

What do you recommend I do with all those things I wrote years ago but have never been able to bring myself to show anyone?

Look them over. Edit them or have someone edit them; show them to people for their feedback. If enough people say the same thing, look at it change it if you feel like it, then start the process over. If they like it, submit them to publishers.

Read more:

Robert is also working on a book about freelance writing and is a guest blogger. Check out these links for more on Robert. He also edits and does book reviews.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Selecting Character Names

The main characters in my novel, The Ride, are named Barbie and Ken. I’m often asked if I chose those names intentionally or if it’s simply a coincidence. The answer is—intentional. The dolls, with their shapely bodies, flawless skin, matching accessories, nice houses, and fancy cars represent perfect people and an ideal life. My characters, Barbie and Ken, couldn’t be more opposite in appearance or lifestyle. They were also aware of the irony of their names. In one scene, when speaking about her husband, my protagonist says, “Our appearance may not resemble the dolls but our relationship is as plastic as they are.”

Deciding on a name for each of my characters is an important step in my writing process. After all, I can’t help but wonder if Rhett Butler of Gone with the Wind fame had been named Joe Smith instead, would the character have had the same impact? If Hannibal Lecter had been called, John Davis, would we feel the fear run down our spine at the mere mention of his name? If the Great Gatsby had been the Great Jones? Or if Sherlock Holmes…well, you get the idea.

For advice on naming characters, I’d recommend the article by Linda Schab of Wow! Women on Writing. How 2 Choose Character names for Your Novel, If you’re writing a novel set in a certain era, you may also want to check out the Social Security site Here you can find a list of the most popular names for any year after 1879. It’s a fun site to visit even if you’re not looking for a character name.

As a writer, how do you come up with character names? As a reader, how important are the names of the characters to you?

Jane has had several articles published and has won a couple of short story contests. Her first novel, The Ride, received an honorable mention for best first chapter of a novel. Her second novel, Reigning Cats and Dogs, (due to be released later this year) was a finalist in the 2009 Royal Palm Literary Contest.

Jane lives in Florida where she’s an active member of the Gulf Coast Writers Association and the Florida Writers Association. When taking a break from writing, she enjoys walks along the beach or in the park, bicycling, kayaking and playing with my grandson.

The Ride is available in hardcover or Kindle on It is also available through other online bookstores or can be ordered by your favorite brick and mortar store.

To find out more, please visit her blog or her web page

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Meet Janet Ann Collins - Newspaper Columnist and Children's Book Author

Janet Ann Collins used to write feature articles for a newspaper in the Bay Area, is a columnist for the Antique Auction Explorer and her work has appeared in many other publications. She is the author of two fiction books for children. The Peril of the Sinister Scientist is about a middle school boy who thinks he was cloned from the blood on the Shroud of Turin because a scientist who had worked on that experiment is stalking him. Secret Service Saint is a picture book about Nicholas, who discovers the fun of doing secret good deeds and eventually becomes known as Santa Claus.

Collins is a retired teacher, enjoys public speaking and often teaches workshops at conferences. With her husband she raised three deaf foster sons with special needs in addition to their birth daughter, and has one grandson. They live in the beautiful Sierra foothills of Northern California. To learn more about her please visit her website,

Janet's latest book, The Peril of the Sinister Scientist, is a tweener, or middle grade, novel about a boy who thinks he was cloned from the blood on the Shroud of Turin because a scientist who had worked on that experiment is stalking him. It is available to local bookstores and on many online sites, including Amazon where it can be seen at The U.S. price is $7.95.

Here are some reviews of the book posted on Amazon:

Joshua Davidson, like any other kid, asks the eternal question.

"Who am I?"

But he has more reason than some to ask. He believes he was cloned from the scrapings of blood on the Shroud of Turin.

With an active imagination he sets out to prove he is the clone of Christ. Or, is he the son of a criminal? That can pretty much be verified - in his mind.

But in the end, whatever his genetics, he finds himself a hero.

His travels to reach a satisfying conclusion take many twists.

Janet Ann Collins puts the reader in the reality of a young person's world while she weaves the mystery of Joshua to a satisfying conclusion.

Any Tween will relate to the trials of fitting in at school and the special world of the educational environment they live in. The setting rings true as does the peer pressure and personalities of the young characters in The Peril of the Sinister Scientist.

The Peril of the Sinister Scientist is a fast paced, exciting, enjoyable read any young person should like.

Reviewed by: Mary Jean Kelso


In a moment of panic Joshua's Mom sets into motion a series of terrifying events that have Joshua on the run and questioning his real identity. As Joshua attempts to live up to what he believes is his genetic makeup he learns valuable lessons about life.

This suspenseful book will have kids on the edge of their seats as Joshua runs from a sinister scientist and tries to figure out why he is being chased and who he can trust. What about Mom, has his pursuer controlled her mind? Joshua angers friends and enemies alike as he tries to avoid being captured.

This is an imaginative tale kids are sure to love to the very end.

Review 9/08/09 - Shari Soffe

I asked Janet a few Questions:

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing with your life?

Since I’m officially retired I could just sit around and read, but, much as I love books, that would get old fast. I’d probably do some part time teaching and maybe get involved in a drama group in addition to the volunteering I already do. But it’s hard to imagine a life without writing.

Can you describe the time you realized you were indeed a “real” writer?

Oh, yes.

When I was in college I told my roommate I wanted to be a writer and she asked me to show her my rejection slips. I had none, but finally submitted something unpublishable so I’d get one and showed it to her so she’d stop nagging. It was years later that I tried to get published commercially and my first story was accepted immediately. Then came the rejection slips. When I got the first one it reminded me of what my college roommate had said and I realized it did, indeed, show that I was a real writer.

What is going on with your writing these days?

I have a book for young readers and I’m working on several things, including a middle grade fantasy about a girl who can communicate with animals by thought language. She and her Deaf brother travel to a foreign land trying to find and rescue their kidnapped mother. I’m also spending lots of time learning how to do marketing and publicity for my published books, write a column for the Antique Auction Explorer, sometimes write articles for other periodicals, and have two blogs, and

Where did you get the idea for your book?

I was a substitute teacher back when the What Would Jesus Do? (WWJD) phrase popular and wondered how a middle school student would answer that question about his daily life. I grew up without a father (Mine died of polio when I was six years old) and have always sympathized with kids in single parent families. Combining those things gave me the idea for the book.

What sort of marketing is easiest for you? (If none of it is, tell us a little about what you do.)

None of it is very easy. I enjoy public speaking and school visits, but not asking for opportunities to do those things. However, I do it anyway.

I consider myself a techno-idiot, but have developed a pretty good internet presence with my blogs, website, and social networking. I'm active in several Yahoo groups, have over 800 Facebook friends, and participate in other sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. It seemed like getting involved on the net required learning as much as I did in a whole year of college. If it's true that learning new things helps our brains improve I should be a genius soon. ;-)

Seriously, it's difficult to tell if being active online helps to sell books, but I understand the results are usually gradual.

What tips would you give to people writing in your genre?

Get to know lots of kids, read plenty of other books in the genre, and do everything you can to learn the craft of writing and understand the publishing industry.

Janet Ann Collins usually reviews books on her blog,

Her website is

Books reviews and interviews for, by, or about people with disabilities are occassionally posted on her other blog,

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Dana Donovan Discusses his novel "Resurrection"

Hi Nancy. Thanks for hosting me. Today I thought I would set aside my focus on the Detective Marcella Witch’s series to talk about a book that will forever remind me of my cat, Luke. You see, a couple of years ago, my beloved friend of eighteen years succumbed to a terminal kidney disease. In the difficult days after his passing, a bizarre idea hit me; what if I could bring him back? Born was the premise for Resurrection.

Witness Alex Payne. Alex would do anything to bring his wife back from the depths of her watery grave. But when a voodoo mambo offers her help, he soon realizes that turning back the tides of life comes not without its repercussions. Somewhere between the living and the dead, there lies a murky middle. Can he walk the tightrope between the two and bring her back, or will he lose everything including his own life trying? In this excerpt, Alex brings a special pakët of his wife’s personal affects to a voodoo mambo to use in her resurrection ceremony. Thus starts the beginning of Alex’s nightmare.


© Dana Donovan 2008, 2010

She didn’t answer, and instead palmed my chest, pushing me to one side. I stepped back and watched her prepare the kwi for the ceremony. Most of the candles she needed were already lit: the red, white and purple ones in particular. She blew out the only three yellow candles and lit the remaining four black ones. Next, she cleared a spot on the kwi to set out the items from Angela’s pakët, arranging the objects from large to small around the strangely adorned chicken bone stick figure, which took center stage. The last thing she did before turning on a music clip of Congo drums and clanging rhythm sticks was set out an earthen bowl about the size of a small kitchen wok, which she filled with shredded coconut husks, dried palm clippings and chips of common cordwood. I smiled at the hokey set up, thinking how clumsy it might appear if duplicated in some silly made for TV movie. But Mambo Ella took it very seriously. I could see it in her eyes as she prepared the kwi that something mysterious was already happening. Even as I looked around, I noticed how smoke from the candles had begun gathering over her head in lazy loops like spider silk. It followed her around the room, spiraling in a halo and collecting like storm clouds. Only then did I feel the chill of doubt blow down my back, raising the hairs on the back of my neck. I pulled my collar up and shuddered, and as I did, Mambo Ella looked over at me and smiled.

Guédé Nibo is here,” she said.

I shook my head. “Who?”

He gives voice to the dead whose spirits have not yet been reclaimed from below the waters. That is a good sign.”

Is it?”

Yes. It means that Papa Guédé has not yet found your Angela.”

That’s great,” I said, though already the seed of apprehension had begun gnawing at my will. I cleared my throat and swallowed, thinking that now might be a good time to call things off. But as I opened my mouth to speak, she flicked a light into the wok, sending the kindling ablaze in rush of air. I fell back from the heat, and by the time my eyes readjusted to the light, I saw that she had already started dropping items from Angela’s pakët to the fire, all the while chanting, dancing in circles and calling out to Guédé Nibo to guide the lost one back to this earth.

Nancy, thanks again for hosting me today, and as a special thanks for everyone who stopped by, here is a promo code for a free download of Resurrection at (promo code BQ36H) expires 04/13/10

Resurrection, available in paperback at Lulu and in multiple E-formats at Smashwords

Visit for more info on this and other books by the author.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Cowgirls Compete With Men

A petite young woman mounts a 750 to 900-pound steer, and hangs on to nothing but a rope tight-wrapped around one hand. That she stays on this bucking, twisting, snorting beast for ten seconds, eight seconds or even two seconds, seems a miracle.

This is the intriguing picture of my grandmother I have carried in the back of my mind since I was a little girl.

My grandmother, Olive May “Tootsie” Bailey, grew up the daughter of homesteaders during the early 1900s in the Sunburst-Cut Bank area of Montana, near the Canadian border and east of the Rocky Mountains.

Although she no longer rode in rodeos when I came along, “Gramma” was an avid horsewoman and ranch wife, equally at-home on the back of a horse as she was in a dress and heels. She and my grandfather, Otto Gasser, were partners in rural Montana ranching as well as an urban family of friends.

The 1920s were the heyday of rodeo, where the cowgirl was as much a part of the festivities as the cowboy. The first cowgirls learned to ride out of necessity to help on their family ranches. At an early age they learned to ride horses, rope cattle, and stay in the saddle atop an untamed bucking bronco.

In 1885, Annie Oakley, a diminutive sharpshooter in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show, paved the way for other women to be recognized in the rodeo arena.
Two years later, Bertha Kaelpernick was allowed to enter a horse race in Cheyenne’s Frontier Days only because the arena was so muddy the cowboys refused to participate. To entertain the crowd, she was coerced into riding a bucking horse.

Despite the terrible conditions, she managed to stay in the saddle, and put the men to shame. She continued to compete and often beat such legendary cowboys as Ben Corbett and Hoot Gibson.

Following in Bertha’s footsteps years later, Prairie Rose Henderson of Wyoming forced the Cheyenne organizers to allow her to ride. She went on to become one of the most flamboyant cowgirls of the era, dressing in bright colors, sequins and ostrich plumes over bloomers.

Lucille Mulhall, whose father, Colonel Zack Mulhall, ran a Wild West Show, was described in a 1900 New York World article as “only ninety pounds, can break a bronc, lasso and brand a steer, and shoot a coyote at 500 yards. She can also play Chopin, quote Browning, and make mayonnaise.” Both Teddy Roosevelt and Will Rogers have been credited with giving Lucille the title “cowgirl.”

Between 1885 and 1935, many women proudly wore that title and competed with men, riding broncs, steers and bulls. They also roped and tied steers (usually wearing long divided skirts) alongside their male counterparts.
In early rodeos, women and men competed in the same arena, drawing from the same stock. Women rode broncs, steers, bulls, and did steer roping as well as trick riding, Roman races and relay races.

I know that my grandmother, Toots Bailey Gasser, rode steers in small Montana rodeos. Other cowgirls, such as Marie Gibson, also from Montana, rode steers, bulls and broncs throughout the US, Canada and even London. While each cowgirl had her specialty, most participated in multiple events.

Vera McGinnis, Tad Lucas and Fox Hastings were probably best known for trick riding. This demonstrated numerous types of stands and vaults, performed while the horse was galloping at top speed. Other maneuvers included crawling under the horse’s belly, hanging just inches from the mount’s pounding hooves.
In the Roman race, the cowgirl would stand with her right foot on one galloping horse and her left foot on the other. (The horses would have had to be very well trained to stay together, and the rider obviously had great balance and strength.)

The relay race required three laps around a track, and the rider had to change horses, and sometimes saddles, after each round. If they weren’t required to change saddles, many cowgirls perfected the “flying” change, leaping from the back of one horse to the other without touching the ground. Vera McGinnis is credited with inventing this move.

After Bonnie McCarrol and Marie Gibson were killed and several other women badly injured in rodeo accidents, cowgirl bronc riding became increasingly rare in the West, leaving only relay racing open to women competitors. But women’s rodeo gradually eroded nationwide for several reasons:
• Small, local rodeos were no longer financially lucrative and livestock was in short supply in the 1930s, leading to the demise of the Wild West shows.
• Men held the central control of the sport.
• Many well-known women rodeo stars retired.
• World War II, with tire and gas rationing, did not allow travel as in the past.

From the mid-1930s until the late 1940s, cowgirls became mere props in rodeo, “glamour girls” whose beauty and attire were emphasized instead of athletic skill. In 1948, 38 women formed the Girls Rodeo Association (GRA) to give women an opportunity to compete in calf roping, barrel racing, and trick riding. In 1968, barrel racing finals were finally included in the men’s Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) National Finals.

In 1981 GRA changed its name to Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) and today has more than 2,000 members. It sanctions 800 barrel races a year in conjunction with men’s PRCA rodeos. But women still do not compete with men.
As an entity of its own, Professional Women’s Rodeo Association (PWRA) puts on events in women-only rodeos that include bareback riding, breakaway and tie-down calf roping, bull riding, and team roping.

It’s been a long time coming, but as Rene Mikes, a corporate accountant from Denver and a bull rider, says, “It’s not a guy sport anymore.” But despite the heroic efforts of many women, including Cowgirl Hall of Fame and world champion bull rider Joni Jonkowski of Montana, women for the most part still do not compete with men.

Cowgirl Dreams is available at (for autographed copies) or from

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Oky, here's the truth!

The truth is, that like many horse people, we spend the winter in Florida. It's easier to train and get the horses in shape, not to mention the owners.

As for the other posts, I have one brother, and four sons. I'm not afraid of horses, but I do have a tremendous respect for these big animals. The are very loving and smart, but when threatened, they can be quite dangerous. Always remember, that they are prey animals and can be spooked!!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I received a Creative Writer Blogger Award

Such fun!! Kathy Stempke honored me with a Creative Writer Blogger Award. Kathy, thank you, way cool!!

First the rules:

1: Thank the person who gave you the award and link to them.
2: Add the award to your blog
3: Tell six outrageous lies about yourself and One Truth.
4: Nominate six creative liars... I mean writers and post links to them.
5: Let your nominees know that they have been nominated.

Six lies about me and one truth! They lies are easy, now about the truth!

1: I have six children.
2: I live in Florida part of the year.
3: I have two sisters.
4: I'm a wonderful gardener.
5. I'm afraid of horses.
6: My cooking is right out of the French Connection (or do I cuisine?)

Here are my nominees:

5: Carolyn Howard-Johnson:

Please check out my nominees blogs! I'll post the answer to my truth tomorrow! Good luck! Shouldn't be hard to guess!


Nancy Famolari

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Write with Your Senses Wide Open


I don't have trouble putting down a book. I can do it for an hour, a day, a month, a year, or never pick it up again. Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger (available from Simon and Schuster in February) is different. I couldn't put down, not because of the tragic love story, the spunky heroine, or the honorable hero. Monniger's strong sensory images drew me into that world. I felt the fine spray of paddles dipping in the racing river, tasted the first bittersweet sip of hot coffee on a brisk morning, saw sunlight filter though the pines to awaken iridescent colors from a black bird wing.

To show rather than tell, we must use all five senses to draw the reader into the story. I love camping, so the images in Eternal on the Water, appealed to my senses stimulating emotion. Emotion drives the story. The more our senses are awakened to the emotions we once experienced, the more we feel a part of the story. Senses not only connect us to the story, they announce the emotion. Slimy things crawling on the floor hint at something unsavory afoot. Champagne bubbling on the tongue telegraphs happiness and celebration.

Fit the images into the story. Long paragraphs of description are unnecessary. The trick is to pick the exact image to bring the story to life. A shower of sparks erupting from the campfire when a pocket of sap in a pine log bursts, the murmur of the river drifting through the pines, the smell of bacon frying over a campfire on a windy morning, streams of water twisting like dark rope in the current: these images tucked into the movement of the story bring us into the world and make it ours.