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