Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Author Bio Mad Libs, Going Dark in December (But you can still find me on Operation Awesome)

I'm in the homestretch on the second draft of my current WIP, and will be undertaking some newer writing projects in December, so The Writer Librarian will be going dark until New Year.

I'll still be on Operation Awesome every other Monday (December 15 and December 29) so feel free to find me there. And in the meantime, here's some Author Bio Mad Libs I borrowed from Operation Awesome's newest contributor, Wendy Nickel. 

 Step 1: Jot down a word or phrase for each of the descriptions below:

    Full name:
    Plural noun:
    Gerund (non-finite action verb, usually ending in -ing):
    College major:
    2-3 random letters:
    Famous author:

Step 2: Scroll down and fill in your answers in the author bio below!

(your name) is a (genre) author who has written about everything from (noun) to (adjective) (plural noun) and has won a (award) for his/her nonfiction book, "The (occupation)'s Guide to (gerund)." S/He lives in (state) with his/her family and (number) (adjective) (animal)s. S/He is a (college major) graduate of (2-3 random letters) and has enjoyed (gerund) in (place), (gerund) (beverage), and playing (sport) with his/her close friend and mentor, (famous author). S/He aspires to someday be the first full-time author to (verb) on the moon.

Here's mine (some is true, most is fiction):

Karen McCoy is a YA speculative fiction author who has written about everything from shoes to exciting eyes and has won a Darwin Award for her nonfiction book, "The Librarian's Guide to Playing." She lives in California with her family and five beastly goats. She is a Creative Writing graduate of WER and has enjoyed moving in bookstores, jogging lemonade, and playing golf with her close friend and mentor, Douglas Adams. She aspires to someday be the first full-time author to fly on the moon.

Happy December, everyone!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

TAKEN BY STORM by Tamara Mataya

I featured Tamara Mataya last year, and I'm excited to announce that her new book, TAKEN BY STORM, will debut December 2.

Check out the pretty cover:

And here are Tamara's answers to some updated interview questions!

TAKEN BY STORM is a great title. Does it involve a peek at Malcolm and Jayne or will it showcase some newer characters?

Thank you! It's a new stand-alone. The blurb:

Leilani’s plan was simple: Return for her father’s wedding, housesit for the happy couple while they went on their honeymoon, then get the hell outta dodge. She’d thought the worst thing would be returning to the town she grew up in (and despised). She was wrong.

A flashflood hits the small town, stranding Firefighter, Ryan, and a few strangers at the local bar. Worst of all, Leilani, his old high school rival – and last night’s scorching one-night-stand – is one of the people stuck in the bar. With waters rising, they need to stick together and wait for rescue.

The power grid’s knocked out, and cell phones aren’t working.  When the others panic and leave, Leilani and Ryan are left alone in the dark. Fortunately, words aren’t necessary to keep the former rivals warm. But when they’re forced to leave their refuge, they must cooperate to navigate the flood ravaged town and reach safety.

Rising waters bring them closer together. Rising tempers might tear them apart.   

Definite intrigue! You write in multiple genres. What do you like most about each genre you write in, and what advice (if any) do you have for writers writing in multiple genres?

I like weaving serious issues into everything I write, but without being preachy about them. Bullying in The Best Laid Plans. Synaesthesia and coping in Just Breathe. Taken By Storm is based on what my town went through in the 2013 flash flood. Make Me (coming March 31/2015 from Random House) has two characters who have dealt with war torn countries and how those experiences have shaped them. I try to work substantive issues into everything I write.

Advice? You have to write what sells if you're looking at writing as a career. The book that got me my agent was an Urban Fantasy, but the market isn't looking at that from debut authors, so I switched focus to contemporary romance. There are books of our hearts that we need to write, but if you're looking at it from a career perspective, you have to look at what's selling. Or, bide your time until the market turns around. It always ebbs and flows. Will I write more spec fic? Damn right! But I have deals in contemporary romance right now. Writing in multiple genres can be tricky as well because you've got to focus on your brand. If you gain readers for a science fiction, those readers might not appreciate your sudden switch to erotic romance. My muse needs a bitch slap because I literally have ideas in all genres and categories. But, again, it's focusing on what's selling, and trying to keep to that brand.

Blending art and career is a really smart idea. I'm also interested in how you blend writing and library life. What are some of the challenges you face when managing your time?

My hours are part time and I have no kids. I'm lucky that way, in that I have more time to write. I don't know how many of my Critique Partners do it, especially those with multiple kids. They're frigging heroes in my book.

Mine too! Your Goodreads bio mentions that you are a musician with synaesthesia, which has been described as a merging of the senses. Does your music inform your writing, or vice versa?

It's a part of who I am, but I don't think one has much bearing on the other, except when it comes to listening to music while writing. If I haven't heard the song before, I can't write to it - I'm too focused on listening :)

Thanks Tamara, for another great interview!

To pre-order TAKEN BY STORM for yourself, feel free to click the link below:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I BELONG TO YOU by Lisa Renee Jones

Lisa Renee Jones is a New York Times bestselling author, and her new book, I BELONG TO YOU, the fifth in her Inside Out series, just came out yesterday! Have a look:


Being that person, that man is how I define myself, how I allow the rest of the world to define me as well. And now, with a terrible loss shredding me inside out and someone trying to destroy my family to punish me, control is more important than ever. It is everything. It is what I need. It is all I need. Or maybe I just need…her.

Here are Lisa's answers to some questions:

According to your website bio, your publishing journey began in 2007. How did you know that writing was something you wanted to pursue?

I did acting in some independent films when I was young and then started secretly doing that with some success again. But I owned a business and had teen kids. I grabbed a book one day and rediscovered my love of reading. I knew immediately that was my creative outlet.

Sounds like you've dabbled in a lot of creative mediums. I love the premise of I BELONG TO YOU, the fifth book in the Inside Out series. Where did the idea come from, and how did the characters develop as you wrote them?

I'd know what I BELONG TO YOU would be for a very long time. I'd just been waiting and leading everyone there. Everything starts with the journal found by Ella and given to Sara. And that idea came from a journal I found when auction hunting to pay the bills while waiting for my writing career to take off.

Fascinating. You also have a YouTube channel--what do you enjoy most about vlogging, and what have you learned from doing it?

It's been a fun thing for Diego and I to do together. Learning about lighting and editing and sound are challenges and a work in progress. But I learned Diego and I love trying these new things together. It's great to have a husband who shares these things so eagerly with me.

Indeed it is! The Inside Out series is currently in development for Cable TV. What advice, if any, do you have for authors considering television deals?

You need a good agent. The right agent who makes the right deals happen. I'm fortunate that I've had that through this process. Really, not one but two. I have a literary and film/tv agent and they are both very interactive with each other and me. I'm also fortunate that I'm involved with the producers and know what is happening. Often that just isn't the case. But AGENT. The right one/s. That's what is critical.

Excellent advice! Thanks, Lisa, for being interviewed!

To grab Lisa's books for yourself, click the links below:

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

THE BURIED by Shelley Coriell

I was fortunate enough to meet Shelley at an RWA event in Arizona, and at a few subsequent writing conferences where she conducted workshops. Not only is she a great speaker, but her writing is fantastic. Her latest novel, THE BURIED, is the second in The Apostles series and available now (and it's also a contender for best Romantic Suspense of 2014 by RT Book Reviews!):

Secrets from the past.
Voices from the grave.
Because nothing stays buried forever...

Cypress Bend, Florida, is a small southern bayou town filled with long-buried secrets. It's also the home of successful, fiercely independent state prosecutor Grace Courtemanche, who's pulled into a world of terror and self-doubt when she receives a phone call from a young woman buried alive.

In a race to stop a revenge-seeking killer, Grace unearths skeletons from her past along with feelings for the one man she swore she'd never need again, Theodore "Hatch" Hatcher, a rootless, smooth-talking FBI crisis negotiator who's back in Cypress Bend to deal with a secret of his own.

Here are Shelley's answers to some questions:

According to your website bio, you used to write restaurant reviews. How did this segue into writing fiction, and can you tell us more about your path toward publication?

SHELL: A woefully practical writer, I knew that it was hard to make a living as a fiction writer, so I worked as a journalist for more than twenty years. My first job: covering high school sports at age sixteen for my local paper where I got paid $2 an inch. Since then I’ve worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor, speechwriter, and when my kids came along, I picked up freelance work, including a cushy assignment as a restaurant reviewer for a national on-line entertainment guide.

And while I was paying my mortgage with non-fiction work, I’d spend early mornings and weekends writing fiction. It took me five manuscripts and five years before I got my first New York offer. There’s nothing sexy about my journey: Write. Edit. Repeat. (And show gratitude along the way!)

Gratitude is definitely important! 
THE BURIED has a great villain called The Gravedigger. How did the character come to you, and what suggestions do you have for making villains memorable? 

SHELL: As a child I had reoccurring nightmares about being buried alive. Horrible, huh? Makes a soul long for those anxiety dreams about forgetting your locker combination or showing up to work in your underwear. Writing THE BURIED and creating the Gravedigger was an exploration of one of my deepest terrors. But by tacking the fear through story, I controlled the terror and guaranteed myself happily ever after.

As for what makes a villain memorable, three things. The best villains are passionate and willing to die for their causes, 2) have some redeeming qualities that allow us to relate to them, and 3) are smart enough, strong enough, and motivated enough to battle our heroes and heroines.

It's great when we can confront fears through writing. And I loved the voice in your YA book, WELCOME CALLER, THIS IS CHLOE. What do you like most about writing YA, and how does it differ from crafting Romantic Suspense?

SHELL: All of my books feature relatively strong, independent women not afraid to speak their minds and live their truths, regardless of age. In YA, I love the raw truth and hope that defines the genre. Interestingly enough, crafting YA and romantic suspense is the same process. One character. One life-changing moment. One transformational journey.

So true! In your "Dream, Dare, Do" workshop, you offer some excellent tips on how to create an effective business plan. In your experience, what are the key advantages to having a business plan?  

SHELL: Crafting a business plan makes most of us better business owners. It forces us to think ahead, set goals, determine strategies, anticipate challenges, and define opportunities. Ultimately, business plans keep us on course and on fire about our writing. Here’s a simple business planning template for your readers.

Thanks for having me, Karen! Joy & Peace to you and your readers! 

And thank you, Shelley, especially for including the business plan template!

To grab THE BURIED for yourself, and its predecessor, THE BROKEN, click the links below:

And click here to get WELCOME CALLER, THIS IS CHLOE:

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Reassessments, and an Author Interview Next Week

I've slowed down with blogging here for a bit because I'm in the final throes of revisions for my current WIP, and I'm devoting more time to building my craft through short stories, scripts, and other types of media.

I'm also taking some time to reassess the scope of this blog, especially after reading Jane Friedman's post, "What Should Authors Blog About?" It's made me rethink my platform and what I want to be saying with it.

As of now, I dabble in what Jane calls "The Literary Citizenship Model" because I'm interested in promoting authors and their books. Any part about my writing life, known as the "Behind the Scenes" model, has migrated to the group blog I'm a a part of, Operation Awesome.

As an example, here's some stuff I've posted over there in the past few months:

Plot Running Astray?

What's in Your Toolbox?

Edited Prose Falling Flat? Check Your Inner Critic

Lemonade from Lemons: Filling the Creative Well During Rough Periods

How All Work and No Play Kills a Manuscript

And author interviews will continue to be posted here. Stay tuned next Wednesday, when I'll be interviewing the awesomely talented Shelley Coriell.

Food for thought: Do you find author blogs useful? Do you think blogs will eventually be replaced with something else? 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

THE WHATNOT, by Stefan Bachmann

Back in 2012, I interviewed Stefan Bachmann about his debut novel, THE PECULIAR. I'm happy to report that the sequel, THE WHATNOT, just came out in paperback. Have a look:

"Oh, the Sly King, the Sly King, in his towers of ash and wind."  

Pikey Thomas doesn’t know how or why he can see the changeling girl. But there she is. Not in the cold, muddy London neighborhood where Pikey lives. Instead, she’s walking through the trees and snow of the enchanted Old Country or, later, racing through an opulent hall. She’s pale and small, and she has branches growing out of her head. Her name is Henrietta Kettle.

Pikey’s vision, it turns out, is worth something.Worth something to Hettie’s brother—a brave adventurer named Bartholomew Kettle. Worth something to the nobleman who protects him. And Pikey is not above bartering—Pikey will do almost anything to escape his past; he’ll do almost anything for a life worth living.

The faeries—save for a mysterious sylph and a mischievous cobble faery or two— have been chased out of London. They’ve all gone north. The army is heading north, too. So Pikey and Bartholomew follow, collecting information, piecing together clues, searching for the doorway that will lead them to Hettie. 

Here are Stefan's answers to some updated interview questions!

In our last interview, you were drafting the companion to THE PECULIAR, now available as THE WHATNOT. How has THE WHATNOT expanded on the world you've built?

It's basically twice the size. The world, not the page-count. The first book was set only in the steampunk-y, magic-infused England, and the second one is only partly there, and partly in the mysterious faery world, which I loved writing. I could go a little bit crazy. No rules. Curtained windows for eyes. Clocks that tell the mood of the house-mistress, instead of the time. It was fun.

Sounds amazing! Pikey Thomas is different from THE PECULIAR's protagonist, Bartholomew Kettle. Did Pikey come to you fully fleshed, or did you discover him as you wrote?

Characters are definitely the hardest for me to write, and in this book the characters (mostly Pikey and Bartholomew) came really slowly throughout the revision process. Pikey's pretty simple in some ways. He's a hardscrabble orphan who lives in constant peril after having one of his eyes tampered with by a faery, and under his rough exterior he's longing for a home and other people. I knew all that about him when I started the book, but sometimes my brain knows things and doesn't bother telling me, and so it can take ages for me to be able to consciously express them and bring it out in the book.

I'm the same way--some characters come fully formed, others are tougher to crack. 

You contributed a short story to THE CABINET OF CURIOSITIES: 36 TALES BRIEF & SINISTER. What do you enjoy most about writing short stories? 

We each contributed 8 short stories! Cabinet of Curiosities ( is a fun side project that I do together with three author friends where we post an odd/creepy/whatever-we-want short story every week. We were not expecting it to be turned into a book at all, and I think what I love most about the project is just being able to get away from whatever longer thing I'm working on and write whatever comes to mind. I also think it's great practice for me. I've learned a ton about writing in general from doing these short stories.

Sounds like a great way to learn! Thanks, Stefan, for another excellent interview.

To grab THE PECULIAR and THE WHATNOT for yourself, click the links below:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Last year, I featured A.S. King's book REALITY BOY, which I loved. I was excited to meet her again at this year's American Library Association Conference, where I found out about her new book. The premise is knock-your-socks-off amazing:

Would you try to change the world if you thought it had no future?

Graduating from high school is a time of limitless possibilities — but not for Glory, who has no plan for what's next. Her mother committed suicide when Glory was only four years old, and she’s never stopped wondering if she will eventually go the same way... until a transformative night when she begins to experience an astonishing new power to see a person’s infinite past and future. From ancient ancestors to many generations forward, Glory is bombarded with visions—and what she sees ahead of her is terrifying.

A tyrannical new leader raises an army. Women’s rights disappear. A violent second civil war breaks out. And young girls vanish daily, sold off or interned in camps. Glory makes it her mission to record everything she sees, hoping her notes will somehow make a difference. She may not see a future for herself, but she’ll do everything in her power to make sure this one doesn’t come to pass.

In this masterpiece about freedom, feminism, and destiny, Printz Honor author A.S. King tells the epic story of a girl coping with devastating loss at long last—a girl who has no idea that the future needs her, and that the present needs her even more.

And here are her answers to some updated questions:

GLORY O'BRIEN'S HISTORY OF THE FUTURE has one of the best openings I've ever read--I was immediately hooked. What is your process for building openings, and what, if anything, guides that process?

My openings come to me pretty organically and they guide the rest of the book, really. I hear a character in my head and I write down what they tell me to write down. In the case of Glory O'Brien, I was in a school in Omaha, Nebraska and I had to come up with something quickly to use an example of my own writing during a writing and revision workshop. What I wrote that day is still the prologue to the book. In many ways I finished the book because the students said, "That's mental! What happens next?" But why did that idea come to me--drinking a bat? The fast train? I have no idea. I just wrote the first thing that came to me and then went with it.

Sometimes that's the best way to go. You always create sly, witty characters that readers want to hang out with for tons of pages. If you could have lunch with one of your characters, who would it be and why? (And what would you have for lunch?)

This is such a super hard question. And thank you. I'm so glad you dig my characters. I'd love to meet a lot of my characters. But if I could have lunch with anyone from any one of my books, I'd have lunch with Gerald from Reality Boy. I think I just want to tell him that he's going to be all right one day and hug him. I want to be his hockey lady. :) We'd probably eat Chinese food right out of the cartons with plastic forks.

I'm so glad Gerald has a hockey lady, both in the book and in real life. In our last interview, you mentioned that your favorite book is usually the one you're working on. What about this book made it your favorite while writing it?

Wow! Now THAT'S a question. Because I'm two books into the future, I have no idea. I think I loved that I got to revisit my 2004 (unpublished) book WHY PEOPLE TAKE PICTURES and find out what happened to that main character, as sad as it might have been. I also probably liked the angle of Glory's narration--from the present and the future. Wow. This is such a hard question to answer. But you know what? I kinda think I liked being unapologetically real about the nature of Glory's question about what a woman really looks like in our society and what that question does to all of us. That same thing scared me sometimes too. But I think being scared of what one is writing is probably a good thing in the end. If we don't take risks in life and art, then we're just making products. I'm here for art. I know this makes me look weird, but much like Glory, I really don't care if I look weird as long as I'm me.

And we're certainly glad you're you. Thanks for another excellent interview!

To snatch GLORY O' BRIEN'S HISTORY OF THE FUTURE for yourself, click the button below:

And here are more books, in case you haven't read them yet:

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

FALLS THE SHADOW by Stefanie Gaither

I contacted Stefanie after I read her fantastic Fiction University post on hooking readers. Her debut novel, FALLS THE SHADOW, is a unique YA science fiction thriller, and the premise grabbed me immediately:

From Goodreads

When Cate Benson was a kid, her sister, Violet, died. Two hours after the funeral, Cate’s family picked up Violet’s replacement. Like nothing had happened. Because Cate’s parents are among those who decided to give their children a sort of immortality—by cloning them at birth—which means this new Violet has the same smile. The same perfect face. Thanks to advancements in mind-uploading technology, she even has all of the same memories as the girl she replaced.

She also might have murdered the most popular girl in school.

At least, that’s what the paparazzi and the anti-cloning protestors want everyone to think: that clones are violent, unpredictable monsters. Cate is used to hearing all that. She’s used to defending her sister, too. But Violet has vanished, and when Cate sets out to find her, she ends up in the line of fire instead. Because Cate is getting dangerously close to secrets that will rock the foundation of everything she thought was true.

In a thrilling debut, Stefanie Gaither takes readers on a nail-biting ride through a future that looks frighteningly similar to our own time and asks: how far are you willing to go to keep your family together?

Here are Stefanie's answers to some questions:

According to your website bio, you are repped by "ninja" agent Sara Megibow. How did you connect with Sara, and what do you like most about her as an agent?

I connected with Sara through a cold query--no prior contact, no referrals, nothing like that. She requested a partial from my one page query, and then a full almost instantly after that, and then a week or so later, I got "the call". You can read more about my query here:

And there's lots to like about Sara! Aside from the fact that she's one of the sweetest and most optimistic people on the planet, she's also super communicative and informative; my emails are always answered quickly and thoroughly, usually before my crazy writer mind even has time to stress about her reply :) She's really good about letting her clients know what to expect too, whether with submissions or otherwise. The list could go on, really--basically, let's just say she keeps me sane (ish) and leave it at that. 

Sane (ish) is definitely important. And I love the premise of FALLS THE SHADOW. Where did the idea come from, and what do you want readers to take away when they're finished?

The idea came from a combination of a quote I saw on the internet, my own experiences losing family members, and probably a multitude of other things and experiences I'm forgetting about. As far as what I want readers to take away, great question! I guess that ultimately, for me, this is a book about family--all different kinds of family, with all their different kinds of complications, sci-fi related or otherwise. So, I'd hope FALLS might make readers think about that, and maybe question what they would do if given a choice like making their loved ones, in a sense, immortal. What might that mean for their relationships? Would it be worth it in the end? It's a fascinating, terrifying, complicated possibility to think about.

It is indeed! You also work as a copywriter for an advertising agency. In what ways does this supplement your creative writing, and what sort of balance (if any) do you find between both?

I think this background was most handy when it came to pitching the story; with copywriting projects, I'm usually trying to sell a product or person, and that's essentially what query letters and synopses are doing. Having this work on the side also helps me to remember to consider the business side of publishing when I'm crafting a story, which sounds totally anti-creativity or whatever, but to me, it's really not. The most successful businesses are creative businesses, after all--and I think success in publishing these days requires a happy marriage of creativity and business sense. 

So true--and definitely something all authors should think about. Your recent post on Fiction University discussed hooking readers. What elements hook you the most when reading, and why? 

Aside from the initial spark of conflict and questions that I talked about in that post, I'll follow a strong voice/good writing and an intriguing character a long way into a book, even well past the point where the plot or worldbuilding elements stopped making sense or holding my interest (though it's nice when everything keeps working, of course).

I agree--science fiction and fantasy writers often rely on worldbuilding, but more often it's the characters who carry the story. What are some of your current projects? Will FALLS THE SHADOW have a sequel?

Can't say anything at the moment, but I will be sharing some exciting news about this in the near future :)

Can't wait! Thanks, Stefanie, for giving such fantastic answers!

To snatch FALLS THE SHADOW for yourself (I know I'm going to!) click the link below:

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


I connected with Tim through SCBWI, and his unique take on food trivia for kids intrigued me. RUDE DUDE'S BOOK OF FOOD: STORIES BEHIND SOME OF THE CRAZY COOL STUFF WE EAT is now available, and looks like a great addition to K-12 school libraries. Here's more information:

It's actually true that Mongol warriors rode with slabs of raw meat under their saddles then ate them that night in camp! It's actually true that Chinese archaeologists found 4,000-year-old noodles in an overturned cup. It's actually true that Americans buy $1 billion worth of chocolate each Valentine's Day. You think food is just stuff we eat!? Come on! There's a world full of great food stories out there—and Rude Dude's going to tell them!

Here are Tim's answers to some interview questions:

According to your website, you are a writer, songwriter, storyteller and teacher. How do all these creative mediums feed one another, and can you tell us more about your journey toward publication?

I can't imagine not working in multiple genres; I'm very much a generalist.  For one thing, I love the variety.  One day I'm writing poetry, the next researching a nonfiction piece, and the next at my keyboard or guitar.  But what appeals to me most is that I can find a proper home, so to speak, for different ideas that come to me.

I began writing, in grade school, with poetry.  (I also began writing songs in upper grade school, but song lyrics are, after all, a form of poetry). Poetry became habitual to me--it was my normal, and exclusive, form of literary expression.  As a senior in college, though, I began to notice a certain artistic constriction in my life.  I was a young adult, and my horizons were expanding rapidly; the more I learned and experienced, the more varied my inspirations became.  And I began to sense that, while some things are best expressed in poetry, others aren't.

One day I was driving down a neighborhood street and saw a dead squirrel, one that had clearly been hit by a car.  I felt a great pathos for that creature in that moment; a squirrel, just like a human being, is simply trying to live its life in the world.  But a poem about a car-flattened squirrel?  That just didn't feel right.  Suddenly, but rather quietly, it occurred to me that it could play a part in a short story.

But it was a huge shift for me, an opening up, and it allowed my artistic life to expand in a significant way.

My path to publication, at least to some degree, was unusual--I wrote for decades without the slightest thought about publication.  It never entered my mind.  And then I got married and started teaching, and then we had kids, so I was way too busy to work in a comprehensive way on a career in art.  During those years I stole whatever time I could for writing and songwriting.  Being an artist was always at the heart of me, always who I was. After many years I began to seek publication.  I began with children's books simply because they were short enough that I could finish them with my schedule.  My first picture book was published in 1993.  I've just kept on from there.  And today, with my kids grown up, I have more time.

Your story definitely shows the importance of infusing art in all stages of life. THE RUDE DUDE'S BOOK OF FOOD has some great stories about food and food history. How did it come to you, and what do you want readers to take away when they're finished?

I was a high-school and middle-school teacher for 14 years, then a university teacher educator for 20, and I now teach in the English department at Santa Clara University.  I know kids and I know pedagogy (I learned a tremendous amount about teaching from my amazing wife, Dr. Priscilla Myers, a reading specialist, and also at SCU). One of the biggest problems in education, it seems to me, is that so many students are so often bored.  And it doesn't have to be that way.

What makes lifelong readers?  I know many such readers, and they don't read because they think they should.  They read became they want to.  What have we as educators accomplished if a kid goes through 12 years of education (or more)--and at the end of that time says to himself or herself, "Thank God that's over--now I don't have to read and write anymore." Many high-school graduates feel this way--and it's  the opposite of our goal!

I'd written a picture book called The History of the World from a  Hamburger Lover's Point of View, which I wrote mainly for the humor of it.  An editor who rejected it suggested it might make a good full-length book.

It seems to me that helping young people learn to love books is even more important than teaching them literacy skills.  Because if they love reading, they'll give themselves far more reading experience than we can ever give them, and that in turn will profoundly improve their skills.  I want readers to enjoy Rude Dude so much that they learn from it without realizing it.  And I want them to take on smarter and healthier attitudes about food and food history, as well as more openness to the fascinations of history in the larger sense.

In helping college-age students with research, I'm always amazed at how bored some of seem. I'm glad that you, and other teachers, are striving to light fires under your students. 
According to your bio, you have numerous pieces in children's magazines. What advice, if any, do you have for writers interested in submitting to these kinds of publications?

I love children's magazines, and I love writing for them.  Seeking this kind of publication can be very helpful for a writer, since it gives you publication credits, and publication experience (which can be more complicated than some people realize), and it can bolster your confidence.  There are drawbacks, in the sense that it doesn't pay much, and of course it isn't easy to be published in magazines, especially the best ones.  But all this, ultimately, is beside the point.  Because publishing is publishing, and for a writer, being read is the completion of the work.  There's profound fulfillment in that.  I don't write for children's magazines merely as a stepping stone to book publication; appearing in Cricket, for example, is a thrill and an honor in itself.

An additional advantage is that some magazines will take work that won't make it as, say, picture books, and that's allowed me to express myself publicly in a more varied way, which I deeply appreciate.

As far as advice goes, I'd remind writers to do their homework.  You need to know something about the magazine to begin with, and you certainly need to know all the details about how to submit, what kind of thing they're looking for, etc.  And then all the normal advice for the writing life kicks in:  being patient--being organized--being persistent--taking rejection in a positive way.  And of course the single most important advice:  But your main effort into the quality of your writing.

Excellent advice. What are some of your current projects?

I'm always working on a million things, which is how I like it.  I've recently published a number of adult nonfiction pieces on some great websites like the Los Angeles Review of Books and Electric Literature and in some magazines.  I plan to finish a picture book soon, and want to do pieces on some new terminology for issues of racism and for science fiction and fantasy literature.  My main project is a realist-fantasy novel for young adults and adults, which I'm still doing research for.  It's thrilling to work on, because I get to build a whole world!

Sounds great! Thanks, Tim, for being interviewed!

To purchase a copy of RUDE DUDE'S BOOK OF FOOD, click on the link below:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

DEAD OVER HEELS by Alison Kemper

Earlier this year, I interviewed Alison Kemper about her book DONNA OF THE DEAD. I was excited to learn that her new book, DEAD OVER HEELS, debuts September 29th. Check it out:

From Goodreads:

Glenview, North Carolina. Also known―at least to sixteen-year-old Ava Pegg―as the Land of Incredibly Boring Vacations. What exactly were her parents thinking when they bought a summer home here? Then the cute-but-really-annoying boy next door shows up at her place in a panic…hollering something about flesh-eating zombies attacking the town.

At first, Ava’s certain that Cole spent a little too much time with his head in the moonshine barrel. But when someone―or something―rotted and terrifying emerges from behind the woodpile, Ava realizes this is no hooch hallucination. The undead are walking in Glenview, and they are hungry. Panicked, Ava and Cole flee into the national forest. No supplies, no weapons. Just two teenagers who don’t even like each other fighting for their lives. But that’s the funny thing about the Zombpocalypse. You never know when you’ll meet your undead end. Or when you’ll fall dead over heels for a boy…

And here are Alison's answers to some updated questions!

DEAD OVER HEELS expands on the universe you created in DONNA OF THE DEAD, but with a different character. Did Ava come fully fleshed, or did you develop her as you went along?

I keep joking that the tagline for DEAD OVER HEELS should be "Not a sequel!" You don't have to read DONNA OF THE DEAD to understand my new novel. The main characters couldn't be more different. Donna is snarky and matures a lot over the course of the story; Ava is a smart city girl who has to survive in the woods during a plague. Ava has many of the misconceptions about rural people that I had when I first moved to North Carolina. That part of her character was definitely "fully fleshed"--and easiest to write!

It's great to know each book can stand on its own. How else is DEAD OVER HEELS different from its predecessor, and what do you want readers to take away when they're finished?

When I was working on the first novel, I had an agent, but no publisher. This time, I knew I was writing for Entangled Teen, and that readers would be fine (even thrilled) if I dialed up the romance. So I let the love story drive the plot of DEAD OVER HEELS. Plus it's a bit, um, steamier than the first novel! ;-)

Awesome! As well as "steaminess," you intertwine humor and horror really well. What advice, if any, do you have for people writing horror (or humor)?

Thank you for saying that! So many people in this business give discouraging advice--horror won't sell, humor won't sell, zombies won't sell, blah blah blah. I've had a great time creating this series. My advice: write what you like and the sales will follow.

Very well said! DEAD OVER HEELS releases just in time for Halloween--what marketing tactics do you plan to use, and do you have advice for writers seeking to promote their work?

I love Halloween! I BEGGED for a Halloween release date. Readers can expect posts about horror movies and spooky reads--and lots of candy in every giveaway pack! For authors, I think promo works much better when it's not really promo--when you're genuinely having a good time and enjoy interacting with readers.

I'll have to tack that to my wall. Thanks, Alison, for another great interview! 

To snatch up a copy of DEAD OVER HEELS for yourself, click the link below:

Monday, September 8, 2014

More on Overworking, and the Scourge of Ear Infections

Apologies for the brief blog lapse. I should blame Hawaii, but I'd rather wreak havoc on the ear infection I got while I was there.

Either way, I needed the break. I'd relapsed into my old habit of working too hard. To find out more, see my post on Operation Awesome this week.

And hopefully, by next week, this infection will have said Aloha and Mahalo. Until then, I rest.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

CROW'S REST, by Angelica R. Jackson

Long ago, Angelica was kind enough to critique a novel of mine that wasn't ready for prime-time--and her feedback really showed me where it needed work.

In exchange, I got to read CROW'S REST in its earlier stages, and when I did, I knew it would reach publication one day. That day will come in May 2015, but until then, here's a premise and some pretty cover art to entice you:

Avery Flynn arrives for a visit at her Uncle Tam's, eager to rekindle her summertime romance with her crush-next-door, Daniel.

But Daniel’s not the sweet, neurotic guy she remembers—and she wonders if this is her Daniel at all. Or if someone—some thing—has taken his place.

Her quest to find the real Daniel—and get him back—plunges Avery into a world of Fae and changelings, where creatures swap bodies like humans change their socks, and magic lives much closer to home than she ever imagined.

Here are Angelica's answers to some interview questions!

According to your bio, you dabble in a lot of creative mediums. What originally drew you to writing, and what about it gives you the most joy?

Hmm, I have to go back pretty far to think what originally drew me to writing—I was nine when I wrote and illustrated my first book for a fifth grade assignment. But even though it was schoolwork, I quickly learned I was onto something fulfilling. I was already an avid reader who had left behind chapter books in favor of novels (sci fi, fantasy, animal stories, and classics like A Wrinkle in Time) and wanted to take part in the storytelling I found in books.

I enjoyed writing from then on, even crafting some stories for the school literary magazine in junior high. Those were an interesting collaboration (battle?) between my partner's determination to write the gritty story of a troubled war veteran—and my enduring belief that every story is better with smart-aleck shapeshifters. In high school, a few other geeky girls and I formed a tight group where we exchanged artwork (mine was heavily of the unicorn variety) and stories (again, unicorns figured prominently—along with werewolves).

But those sharing sessions were where I first became aware that despite me having a very clear story and picture in my head, how I put the words down on the page determined what story and picture the other person actually received. That was a revelation to me—that even words like "tree" and "red" don't mean the same thing to each person.

If I could put on one of those science fiction helmets to let me experience other people's dreams and points of view, I'd likely never take it off. Instead, I'll have to settle for living in my characters' heads.

So I'm going to say that's what gives me the most joy—when I get the words right and I'm able to show what's in my imagination to other people, and yet it's still transformed and complemented by their own vision.

You do it really well! I loved CROW'S REST when I read it, especially the characters. What tips, if any, would you give to writers looking to improve their character development?

Thank you! I wanted all the characters—major or minor—to feel like genuine human beings (or Fae beings). It was originally the Fae who gave me the most trouble because their morality can be so fluid. As a race, they are inherently selfish and narcissistic, so having a Fae character who has become somewhat humanized made me think a lot about how his actions would differ from a less "enlightened" Fae. And how those differences might exhibit themselves in ways that seem contradictory to an observer, but make perfect sense to him and his worldview.

Once I started thinking in those terms, I realized that this doesn't just apply to one Fae character—humans are full of contradictions too. So I would advise spending some time thinking about places where there may be contradictions in the character's own belief system. What lies do they tell themselves to rationalize these breaks from their values? Or are they even aware of them? If another character "calls" them on a seemingly-hypocritical act, how do they react—with soul-searching or blame-shifting? These questions can help you round out your characters in unexpected ways.

I'll have to try that. And I love your book cover! What was the design process like?
Thank you, I love it too! The design process was, in a word, complicated. But you probably won’t let me get away with a one-word answer, so here’s a longer version:
My editor, Owen Dean, and I had talked about what we envisioned for a cover before we even started formal edits. We agreed that we wanted it to have a fantasy feel, with some tension or suspense also in the mix. The first cover mockup we saw was a compelling design but not quite a match for the book.
So I gathered some examples of covers I liked, along with artwork and models on Shutterstock which captured the feel of Crow’s Rest and Avery. We even got permission for me to do a test photoshoot with some models to see if they would be suitable for a custom shoot at Preston Castle (the real-life castle which inspired the setting of my book).
Then I submitted all those images and…waited. It should not be news to any of you, but publishing involves a lot of waiting! But on a day where I needed to feel like I was doing something, I stumbled upon NataliaMuroz’s artwork and the lush, surreal-looking forest with a dark bird flying through it. I was so excited—it was perfect!—that I created a mockup utilizing it as the backdrop for a seated girl.
Well, the higher-ups loved my concept, and for a while it looked like I was going to be able to do the complete design myself. But once I found out about the very tight timeline we were working with (one for me that also included appointments and commitments I couldn’t get out of, copyedits on the way, and work on the sequel that has its own schedule) I had to admit that I wouldn’t be able to come up with a cover we would all be happy with by that deadline. It was a hard lesson in acknowledging my limitations, but I don’t regret it—much better to fess up than cause delays.
Fortunately, I’d been in contact with Kelley York, another author who also has a visual-artist side with X-Potion Designs, and she let me know she could squeeze my cover into her schedule. We worked very closely on getting the main elements right (such as, it turned out the bird in the original backdrop was a vulture and not a crow—but it was only discovered once we downloaded the hi-res version, lol). So I ended up with a cover which I love—and like a new mother I find myself just staring at it, eclipsing the memory of the labor that came before!

What a great learning process--thanks for sharing! Speaking of sequels on their own schedules, what are some of your current projects?

I’m starting to compile video footage and photographs (some from my first-ever visit to Ireland and the UK) to use in the Crow’s Rest book trailer. I’ve already written the music for it, so now all I need to do is find the time to put it all together into a coherent whole. I also have some ambitious plans for a Crow’s Rest book launch at Preston Castle—anybody up for a tour of an abandoned reform school while they wait for me to sign their copy?

The sequel to Crow’s Rest, with the working title No Man’s Land, is coming along and I’m loving the opportunity to get back into Avery’s head. The events page on my website has some upcoming dates, including a spot on a fantasy-writing panel in January that I’m really looking forward to. Joining me on the panel will be some writers who might sound familiar to your blog readers: Jessica Taylor, Heather Marie, and Christina Mercer.

Thanks so much for having me, Karen, and for spreading the cover love for Crow’s Rest! And thank you too, Angelica! *Raises hand for abandoned reform school tour*

Author Bio:

Angelica R. Jackson, in keeping with her scattered Gemini nature, has published articles on gardening, natural history, web design, travel, hiking, and local history. Other interests include pets, reading, green living, and cooking for food allergies (the latter not necessarily by choice, but she’s come to terms with it). Ongoing projects include short fiction, poetry, novels, art photography, and children’s picture books.

In 2012, she started Pens for Paws Auction, which features critiques and swag from agents and authors to raise money for a no-kill, cage-free cat sanctuary where she volunteers, Fat Kitty City.

She’s also been involved with capturing the restoration efforts for Preston Castle (formerly the Preston School of Industry) in photographs and can sometimes be found haunting its hallways.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

We Must All Keep Our Lights Burning

Like many, I was shocked and saddened when I heard about Robin Williams' passing. I'd only met him once, and when I did, I was so in awe I barely spoke. And even though he didn't know me from a hole in the wall, I felt like I'd lost a kindred spirit--someone who understood what we all face.

It's even harder for his family, particularly his daughter, who, adding insult to injury, had to deal with these asshats on Twitter. I hope wherever she is, and whatever she's doing, she's able to do what she so eloquently stated here:

She's right. In the darkness, we have to find the light. Build. Create. Renew.

While I've been knee-deep in edits, I've wrestled with a maddening shroud of darkness that tries to convince me there's no point to it. It's a voice that gets even louder when tragedy occurs. It laughs, and says, "See? Look how awful things are."

But there is a point, in everything we do. If we nurture our own lights within, and shine them brightly on others, we can perhaps keep the brightness burning. Interrupt the sadness, as Russell Brand so eloquently put it.

So that is what I am going to try to do. Find the good, the poignant, the important, and try to share it. And hopefully, in the process, make someone's day a little brighter. It's what all us writers do, whether we know it or not.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

SERVANTS OF THE STORM by Delilah S. Dawson

There's a possibility I'll be going dark for the first few weeks in August. We planned a trip to Hawaii, so barring any hurricanes, hopefully I'll be on a beach somewhere then.

But now, to business...

Long ago, Delilah S. Dawson was one of my first blog interviews. And after I saw her at Phoenix Comicon, I knew I had to interview her again, especially since she has a new book out, SERVANTS OF THE STORM. And speaking of hurricanes, the premise is fantastic:

From Goodreads:

A year ago Hurricane Josephine swept through Savannah, Georgia, leaving behind nothing but death and destruction — and taking the life of Dovey's best friend, Carly. Since that night, Dovey has been in a medicated haze, numb to everything around her.

But recently she's started to believe she's seeing things that can't be real ... including Carly at their favorite cafe. Determined to learn the truth, Dovey stops taking her pills. And the world that opens up to her is unlike anything she could have imagined.

As Dovey slips deeper into the shadowy corners of Savannah — where the dark and horrifying secrets lurk — she learns that the storm that destroyed her city and stole her friend was much more than a force of nature. And now the sinister beings truly responsible are out to finish what they started.

Dovey's running out of time and torn between two paths. Will she trust her childhood friend Baker, who can't see the threatening darkness but promises to never give up on Dovey and Carly? Or will she plot with the sexy stranger, Isaac, who offers all the answers — for a price? Soon Dovey realizes that the danger closing in has little to do with Carly ... and everything to do with Dovey herself.

And here are Delilah's answers to some updated questions!

Since our last interview, you've finished two other novels in the Blud series: WICKED AS SHE WANTS, and WICKED AFTER MIDNIGHT. How have the characters developed throughout the series, and did the overall story evolve in ways you expected?

Well, since Pocket wanted a different romantic couple in every book, Tish and Criminy haven't evolved as fully as one might see in a series that follows the same two main characters. But the series does follow a universal timeline, so you get to see what happens to Casper, first at a low point in The Peculiar Pets of Miss Pleasance (an e-novella), and then in Wicked as She Wants. The third e-novella, The Damsel and the Daggerman, takes us back to Criminy's caravan, where Wicked After Midnight starts.

As I'd originally planned a 3-book arc for Tish and Criminy, I had to change modes and explore the world in new ways. It's been such fun, designing strong heroines and the men perfectly designed to sweep them off their boots--and, in many cases, frustrate the heck out of them first. Luckily, I just sold Blud 4, WICKED EVER AFTER, which will follow Tish and Crim to their inevitable conclusion...

Sounds like you've really expanded on the world you've built! Your forthcoming YA novel, SERVANTS OF THE STORM debuts August 5. Where did the idea come from, and what do you want readers to take away when they're finished?

The idea came from the photo set of Six Flags New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.  But I had never been to New Orleans and didn't want to dishonor the victims of a real tragedy, so I made up Hurricane Josephine and moved the story to Savannah, a place I know well. I wanted to write a creepy Southern Gothic that was a paean to the darkness of the South, but the story is just as much about the friendship between Dovey and Carly and how love makes Dovey willing to fight. I want readers to come away satisfied but wanting the next book. :)

Very intriguing! Your new website,, looks fantastic. What recommendations do you have for authors wanting to build (or rebuild) an online platform?

Aw, thanks! With my YA debut this summer, I wanted to make a site that highlighted the whimsical darkness that connects all my different genres… um, because I'm too lazy to keep up with separate sites for adult and teen work. I did what I always do when I'm stumped: went straight to Twitter and asked for recommendations for someone who wanted a simple way to build a sharp-looking site without a lot of fuss or fees. My dear friend Karina Cooper suggested Squarespace, which has worked wonderfully.

Seems like a great solution for writing in multiple genres. In our last interview, you mentioned were-narwhals as a possible "trend". What do you think a were-narwhal would do in its spare time?

I imagine they work as they hired muscle for were-walruses too bulky and lazy to do their own dirty work.

I bet they would! If stuck on a desert island, what books (or devices) would like to have with you? 

Definitely my iPad Mini with the Kindle and Nook apps utterly stuffed with books. And a solar panel to charge it. And my gigantic leather Jane Austen compendium for reading and crushing coconuts. And also my laptop. And… well, I'm glamping now, aren't I?

To grab SERVANTS OF THE STORM for yourself, click the links below.

And for more of Delilah's books, click these:

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

BLIGHTBORN by Chuck Wendig

A few years ago I stumbled on a wonderful blog, Terribleminds, and it totally shifted the way I thought about writing. Especially this post. And this one. And this one. And hell, there are just too many.

I finally had the chance to meet Chuck at Phoenix Comicon, where he predicted my death--crushed under books (judging by the overflow I cleaned out of my office last weekend, this is probably accurate).

I'm happy to announce that his newest book, BLIGHTBORN, the second in the The Heartland Trilogy series, is now out! Have a look-see:

Cael McAvoy is on the run. He’s heading toward the Empyrean to rescue his sister, Merelda, and to find Gwennie before she’s lost to Cael forever. With his pals, Lane and Rigo, Cael journeys across the Heartland to catch a ride into the sky. But with Boyland and others after them, Cael and his friends won’t make it through unchanged.

Gwennie’s living the life of a Lottery winner, but it’s not what she expected. Separated from her family, Gwennie makes a bold move—one that catches the attention of the Empyrean and changes the course of an Empyrean man’s life.

The crew from Boxelder aren’t the only folks willing to sacrifice everything to see the Empyrean fall. The question is: Can the others be trusted?

They’d all better hurry. Because the Empyrean has plans that could ensure that the Heartland never fights back again.

Here are Chuck's answers to some questions:

You are a self-admitted pen monkey. When and how did the pen come to your monkey fingers?

I was born with a pen in my hands. My hands actually are pens. Just don’t put an i between ’n’ and ’s’ there, because that’s a whole different thing.

More seriously: I had my first short story published when I was 18 — and it was all downhill for the literary world from there.

I'm amazed at what you've been able to achieve with pen-hands (how do you drive?). And I love the premise of the Heartland trilogy. How does BLIGHTBORN expand on the world you've built? 

Blightborn takes us out of Boxelder, the town from the first book. So, we see a lot of what else is out there in the corn — depots, twisters, other towns. But we also are afforded a chance to go up, up, up, and spend a lot of time on one of the Empyrean flotillas! Plus: we get glimpses of what waits outside the Heartland, as well.

Definite intrigue. As mentioned above, I'm a huge fan of your blog, Terribleminds. How did the blog come to be, and how has it changed over time?

Terribleminds was a site I started Many Moons Ago as a place for me to basically rant at myself about writing. Back then it was just an HTML site with no metrics, no comments, nothing, so it was me (presumably) shouting into the void. Over time, it grew into a thing much bigger and wackier than all that, something that is hopefully useful to the writing and reading community and also useful for my own audience. ALL FOUR OF YOU.

Speaking as an audience member, it definitely is. Your online portfolio shows that you write everything from novels, to scripts, to short fiction. What do you like most about dabbling in multiple forms of media?

The greatest thing is that with other forms of media, you start to go beyond individual format and see the Matrix code behind it all — meaning, you start to see the architecture of story itself.

Very well put (and much less convoluted than the actual Matrix architect made it out to be). What are some of your current projects?

I am presently working on ZEROES, my “hackers versus an NSA hive-mind” book. I also just turned in the third Heartland book, tentatively titled THE HARVEST.

To get BLIGHBORN (and the first in the series, UNDER THE EMPYREAN SKY) for yourself, click the links below.

And for Chuck's other awesome books, click these: