Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Welcoming Back Kathryn Meyer Griffith - Special Sale Coming

My return guest today is multi-published author, Kathryn Meyer Griffith.  Ms. Griffith has been quite busy the past few months re-releasing her out of print books.  Blood Forge, which she talks about today, is one of these books.



 NEWS FLASH 

Blood Forge-Revised Author's Edition by Kathryn Meyer Griffith will be on VARIABLE PRICING (starting at 25 cents and continuing on sale in increments of 25 cents until it reaches its full price) for the first 24 HOURS of its release day, March 1, 2012 from 12:00 AM to 12:00 PM from Damnation Books at: http://damnationbooks.com/book.php?isbn=9781615725908



 

AUTHOR: Kathryn Meyer Griffith
BOOK TITLE: Blood Forge-Revised Author’s Edition
PUBLISHER: Damnation Books
Please tell us about yourself?
Since childhood I’ve always been an artist. And I’ve worked as a graphic designer in the corporate world and for newspapers for twenty-three years before I quit to write full time. I began writing novels at 21 and have had fourteen (nine romantic horror, one historical romance, one romantic suspense, one romantic time travel and two murder mysteries) previous novels and eight short stories published from Zebra Books, Leisure Books, Avalon Books, The Wild Rose Press, Damnation Books and Eternal Press.
I’ve been married to Russell for thirty-three years; have a son, James, and two grandchildren, Joshua and Caitlyn, and I live in a small quaint town in Illinois called Columbia, which is right across the JB Bridge from St. Louis, Mo. We have two quirky cats, ghost cat Sasha and live cat Cleo, and the four of us live happily in an old house in the heart of town. Though I’ve been an artist, and a folk singer in my youth with my brother Jim, writing has always been my greatest passion, my butterfly stage, and I’ll probably write stories until the day I die – and I’m a 2012 Epic EBook Awards Nominee for my romantic horror novel The Last Vampire-Revised Author’s Edition.
Tell us your latest news?
I’m almost at the end of a long arduous journey because I’ve spent the last 24 months rewriting, updating, editing, proofing and promoting nearly my whole backlist of older novels and short stories for Damnation Books/Eternal Press….going back 29 years. And on July 1, 2012 I’ll rerelease the last and oldest of all my novels, Evil Stalks the Night-Revised Author’s Edition, the first novel I ever had published, though it was actually my second written book. The Heart of the Rose, an historical romance, was actually my first novel. So my over forty-year writing career will then have come back FULL CIRCLE, and I’ll be where it’d all begun so many, many  years ago. I can’t believe I’ve been writing that long. Where has the time gone? The years are smoke. I’ve learned so much over the time and, lately, have been writing essays on it and my writing, the publishing industry, my individual books and…life.

What inspired you to write your first book?
I started writing The Heart of the Rose (my first novel) after my only child, James, was born in late 1971. I was staying home with him, not working, and was bored out of my skin. I read a horrible historical romance one day and thought I can do better than that!  Yeah, I’ve heard that happens all the time. Ha, ha.
So I got out my old typewriter with the keys that stuck, my bottles of White-Out, carbon paper for copies, and started clicking away. I tentatively called the book King’s Witch because it was about a 15th century healer loved by Edward the Fourth who was falsely believed to be a witch. At the library (no computers or Internet back then) I did tedious research into that period of English history: the War of the Roses, the poverty and civil strife between the Red (Lancasters) and White Rose (Yorks); the Earl of Warwick and Edward the King.  His brother Richard the Third.  A real saga. Well, all that was big back then. I was way out of my league. Didn’t know what the heck I was doing. I just wrote. Reading that original version (a paperback released from Leisure books in 1985) now I have to laugh. It was pretty bad. All that archaic language I used (all the rage back in the 80’s). Yikes! But people, mainly women, loved it.
And so my writing career began. That was over four decades ago. It took me twelve years to get that first book published as I got sidetracked with a divorce, raising a son, and having to get a real job. Life, as it always seems to do, got in the way. The manuscript was tossed into a drawer and forgotten for a while.
Then one day years later I found it in my bottom drawer and decided to rewrite it; try to sell it. I bundled up the revised pile of printed copy pages, tucked it into an empty copy paper box and took it to the Post Office. Plastered it with stamps. I sent it everywhere The Writer’s Market of that year said I could. And waited. Months and months and months. In those days it could take up to a year or more to sell a novel, in between revising and rewriting to please any editor that would make a suggestion or comment. Snail mail took forever, too, and was expensive.
In the meantime, I wrote another book. Kind of a fictionalized look back at my childhood in a large (6 brothers and sisters), poor, but loving family in the 1950s and ‘60s. I started sending that one out, as well. Then one day an editor suggested that since my writing had such a spooky feel to it anyway, why didn’t I just turn the book into a horror novel. Like Steven King was doing. Ordinary people under supernatural circumstances. A book like that would really sell, she said.  Hmmm. Well, it was worth a try, so I added something scary in the woods in the main character’s childhood past that she had to return to and face in her adult life, using some of my present life (I had just gone through a divorce) and my childhood as hers. I retitled it Evil Stalks the Night and started sending it out. That editor was right; it sold quickly.  Then the publisher, Leisure paperbacks, that had bought the first book asked if I had any other completed novels, and I said heck yes and promptly sent them The Heart of The Rose…which they promptly bought and published as my second novel. Ta da! 

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?  (Has anyone ever realized it?)
Blood Forge, yes, as some of my first few novels, does have some of my real life, experiences, woven into it. The cop murder in the beginning of the novel was something that actually happened in my circle of cop friends and cop wives. My first husband was a police officer in a small town, and one of his cop friends shot his best friend (another cop) to death because his wife was leaving him for that other cop. I think I finally wrote about it all as therapy. It was quite a horrible scandal at the time; it affected all of us. The woman in the middle of it was one of my best friends. Oh, and as far as I know, no one has ever realized that connection….or no one has ever told me they had. Good thing. Now I look back at it and shudder that I put it all down on paper for everyone to see. The murder is in the distant past now (over 35 years ago), so no worry now for the rerelease.

What book are you reading now? What do you like, or not, about it?
A book of Stephen King’s short stories, Everything’s Eventual. I love the fact that it’s King, well-written and scary and that the stories are so varied; not all exactly horror. Pure dark fiction. Story telling at its best. What I don’t like is that it’ll end too soon. I’m quite picky as a reader now days. My standards are high. I can’t tolerate bad writing at all. Too many adjectives, adverbs, and clichés drive me insane.

What are your current projects?
Like I said, getting these last old books out and writing backstory essays. I’ve also been writing short stories and sending them out to magazines. I’m looking forward to July when I’ll be free to start working on a new book. I’ve purposely not begun one as long as I was getting these old ones out. But after July, I hope to either write that childhood novel (a sort of fictionalized autobiography of my growing up in a big, poor family in the 1950s and ‘60s) or another horror novel.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Truthfully, what started me off writing was simply this: As a child, about eight or nine years old (the same time I began to draw pictures in pencil and years before I began to dream about being a singer with my younger brother Jim), I began reading books, science fiction, historical romances, and scary books from the library. I had six brothers and sisters, and though I had a loving mother and father, a loving family, there was very little money. I can’t say we were poverty poor, but we were poor at times. Sometimes our meals were scarce and, we never had extra money for many toys or outside entertainment. I think in my whole young childhood my father only took us out to eat once. Try paying for seven kids and two adults. So we learned to entertain ourselves. Played outside. Climbed trees and hid in deep dirt gullies. Sang, howled really, outside at night on the swing set.
I loved to read. The library books were free and plentiful. I’d sit on my bed, especially during the long summer days and evenings (after chores were done, of course) and read one amazing book after another. If I was lucky, with a chocolate snack or cherry Kool-Aid nearby. Those books, those words on the page, took me away to other places, times and worlds. It was magical. I got lost in people-on-a-spaceship-going–to-some-faraway-planet science fiction books. There was this one horse book when I was a kid that knocked me out, made me cry, and laugh with joy at the end it was so real to me and so full of pathos because I loved horses so much. It was called Smoky. Loved that book. Sigh. I never forgot how those wonderful books made me feel…so free. So adventurous. So rich. Like I could be or do anything someday. And when I grew up I wanted to create that magic myself for others.  So…that’s why I began writing.  And when I get depressed over my writing at times, I remember that.
I remember vividly one day at school (I must have been about 10 or so) when a big box of Weekly Reader books were delivered, and we each got to pick one to read. The smell of those new books in that box as I looked at them, the excitement and awe of the other kids over the books and the reverence for those authors, and I thought: Wouldn’t it be something if someday a box of these books were mine…written by me? Oh, to be an author. People respect an author. That was the beginning.

Do you ever have problems with writers block?  If so how do you get through it?
Never. I only have trouble balancing the solitude of writing with wanting to live my life. Do I write today, all alone, in my own little make believe bubble….or do I go out and enjoy the day, the clouds, the warm air and sun on my face…do I mingle with live people or make up fake ones between the pages of my books? As I get older that decision seems to get harder and harder. We only have so many years given us. How do we want to spend them? Alone or with real human beings?

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?
I love to take walks, watch television dramas (I love those Channel 9 English series and their mysteries), read good books or be with my husband and family.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Oooh, I have to put my thinking cap on and look back through all those years. Blood Forge was written between the years of 1985-1989. I was working full time (as a graphic designer in the corporate world…twenty-three years of that), had a young child at home and a husband. The hardest thing back then, I do remember, was finding the time to write with everything else I had going on. My family, mother, father, sisters and brothers, were demanding and so was my day job. My son and husband. Housekeeping. Cooking supper every night, etc.
That and writing about events that actually happened, like the cop murder.   

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Well, at first and even later, you’d better have a day job that pays. Or a part time job. The publishing world is a roller coaster at best and a bottomless poverty pit at worse. Most writers never make a good living at it. I know, I know, everyone says that, but it’s true. The big boys like King and Koontz might make the big bucks, but the rest of us, the hungry pack, run far being.  Think of the writing life as a marathon, not a sprint. Love the act of writing and creating; never do it just for the money. I’ve always believed that an artist, a musician, a writer is born an artist, a musician, a writer. It’s a passion, second nature and we write because there’s something deep inside of us that has to produce the endless words. Tell the stories. A need. Write because you cannot not write. That’s my advice. Take it or leave it.

Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them?
Two years ago, while I was in another of my I’m giving up…I’m never writing again phases I saw a notice on some site – can’t even recall which one now – asking for horror novel submissions. The person wanted true horror, was starting a new eBook/print publisher from scratch that would fill the vacuum that she thought was no longer being filled for SF and horror. Her name was Kim Richards Gilchrist. Her new company was Damnation Books. Something made me send her my next book (a book I couldn’t seem to sell anywhere though I believed it to be the best thing I’d ever written…and the great reviews since its publication have proven me right) BEFORE THE END: A time of Demons (an apocalyptic end-of-days saga about a musician brother and sister who must fight demons with the help others like them and angels) and she loved it. She got it. We signed the contract, and she contracted my next novel, too, The Woman in Crimson, a vampire love story. Then she took over ownership of Eternal Press. Then she emailed me one day and said, “I notice you’ve got a lot of out-of-print books, a backlist, and I was wondering if you’d like to rewrite them and rerelease them with us? In print and in eBooks?” I was thrilled.  Most of the twelve novels weren’t in eBooks. It’d be a lot of work. I mean the earliest books hadn’t been done on a computer, but on a typewriter, and there’d be a lot of rewriting. But, always a glutton for punishment, of course, I said yes.  Kim offered to scan the old paperbacks in for me. So kind of her.  I started rewriting. She started rereleasing. Competent editors helped me polish the old books; some stories really needed it!  Dawne Dominique did most of my amazing covers. And here we are now…two years later and the work is nearly done! Blood Forge-Revised Author’s Edition is the second to the last one of twelve and it’ll be out on February 1, 2012. I’m dancing a jig.   

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc. - please share your public links.
My Websites:
http://www.myspace.com/kathrynmeyergriffith (to see all my book trailers with original music by my singer/songwriter brother JS Meyer)
http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/profile.php?id=1019954486
http://www.jacketflap.com/K.Griffith
http://www.shoutlife.com/kathrynmeyergriffith
http://www.goodreads.com/profile/kathrynmeyergriffith
E-mail me at rdgriff@htc.net  I love to hear from my readers. ***

Thank you, Penny, for having me here again on your lovely blog!
Warmly, author and 2012 EPIC EBOOK AWARDS FINALIST NOMINEE for her romantic end-of-the-world horror novel THE LAST VAMPIRE-Revised Author's Edition, Kathryn Meyer Griffith




 BLOOD FORGE-Revised Author’s Edition: An ancient evil lay trapped in the darkness of hell, enduring an eternity of pain and desolation. Then, suddenly, it discovered a pathway back into the world of men--forging itself into a .357 Colt Python, making itself capable of incomparable destruction.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

New YA Author, Jan Fischer-Wade

Today's guest is an upcoming author, Jan Fisher-Wade whose first novel was released February 10th: Veiled Virtues.








AUTHOR:  Jan Fischer Wade
BOOK TITLE:  Veiled Virtues
PUBLISHER: Muse It Up Publishing

Please tell us about yourself? Thanks for having me Penny!  I am a Nebraska native and live in the country with my husband, two wonderful kids, and a pair of Irish Setters who think they are lap dogs. Besides being an author, I work full time as an attorney for an insurance company and also run a children’s consignment sale. All in all, I’m a pretty busy gal!

Tell us your latest news? I am very excited about the release of my debut novel, Veiled Virtues!  It was just released on February 10th. This has been an intense past few months getting is ready for final publication!

When and why did you begin writing? I began creative writing a few years ago as a way to express myself. I’ve always been an avid writer – legal briefs and such – but I wanted to explore a different aspect of it. I’m glad I did!

When did you first consider yourself a writer? About half way through my first draft of Veiled Virtues and determined to finish it, I realized that, guess what? I’m a writer! And you know what? I was right!

What inspired you to write your first book? Honestly, I wondered what would be the next enticing topic of YA books for teen girls once vampires and wolves became oversaturated. I couldn’t shake the idea of modern day English knights – and not just the title of ‘knight’ – but real fighting heroes. What would these strong, upstanding guys (and some gals) with sexy British accents be doing? What would be their cause? My imagination just took it from there!

What books have most influenced your life most? I have to say that in high school, East of Eden grabbed my attention as to how a novel can be moving and powerful. I loved how it created a movie in my head of a whole different world and I couldn’t put it down. It was the first adult novel I read and from then on, I was hooked!

What are your current projects? I am currently finishing the sequel to Veiled Virtues. The tentative title is Latent Legacy. I am also working on two screenplays and some ideas for children’s books.

What book are you reading now? To be honest, I haven’t had the time to read for about a year now! Between putting the finishing touches on Veiled Virtues and trying to get the sequel done, I unfortunately don’t have the luxury to read anything else.

Do you ever have problems with writers block?  If so how do you get through it?  I do have small fits of writer’s block. To deal with it, I start writing a later part of the book. Often times, this helps provide solutions to earlier parts, and gives me some direction as to where I should take those parts.

What was the hardest part of writing your book? Finding the time to write! I have a full time job and two young children, so spare time to write is hard to come by. I try to fit my writing in as often as I can, but sometimes it is challenging.

Do you have any advice for other writers? Writing a draft is only half the battle.  Proper editing is so important and can really shape and hone your work. I wish I would have known this before I submitted my first novel for publication!

Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them?  My agent, Jeanie Pantelakis from the Sullivan Maxx Literary Agency, had placed another author with MuseItUp Publishing and submitted my book to them. She thought it would be a good fit, and she was right!

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc. - please share your public links.
My website is located at: www.veiledvirtues.com
I am @veiledvirtues on Twitter
Veiled Virtues on Facebook






Excerpt:
“Can I assist you with anything in particular?”
It was the sexiest British accent I’d ever heard.
“Um, no,” I answered, feeling a rush of blood shoot to my cheeks. I pretended to be seriously browsing through some things called smudge sticks.
“What brings you in here today?” He started around the counter toward me, smiling.
“Just, uh, checking out some shops in town,” I stammered, and gawked at his lips and teeth fit for an actor in a toothpaste commercial. The outline of his chest muscles under his lightweight fitted navy t-shirt made my already warm cheeks grow tingly hot.
Wow, no wonder all the girls have crushes on him.
“Are you on holiday from America ?” he asked, apparently noticing from my American accent or lack of an English one that I was not British.
He walked closer to me. “Um, no. I’m, uh, house-sitting this summer for the Cooks, Nigel and Stephanie. Do you know them?”
“Dr. Cook?”
“Yes, and, um, her husband Nigel is an administrator at the school place, uh, cottage — I mean college,” I responded, tripping over my words and undoubtedly sounding like a bumbling idiot. He grinned.
“Right, sure, I know the doctor. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting her husband, though.”
“I’m house-sitting for them while they’re out of the country this summer,” I explained.
“So, American?” he asked rhetorically. “Where do you call home?”
“ Virginia . Charlottesville actually. Have you ever been to the U.S. ?”
“Actually, yes — New York City a couple of years ago, and Washington D.C. , where every good foreign traveler is obligated to visit.”
He continued talking about things he’d done in D.C., but my mind fixated on his perfect face and his lips as they moved and spoke words I didn’t really hear. Could this demigod be any more desirable?
“Well, so…” he trailed off, and a slightly awkward pause hung in the air.
“Um, Magog’s. Where’d you come up with the name?” I shriveled inside at my lame attempt at flirting. I bet everyone asked him that.
“Magog is one of the two legendary protectors of London ,” he explained. “Gog is the other one. They were mythical giants.” Just then, the phone at the back counter rang. “Pardon me.” He walked off to answer the call.
On the wall above a display of daggers, a substantial silver sword hung mounted on a blue, velvet-lined backing. A sudden urge to connect with the smooth metal surface of the blade overtook me. I stepped closer to reach up to it, but quickly pulled my hand back and looked around to see if any other customers had come in, and to make sure Gorgeous wasn’t on his way back. My insatiable need to touch it made me feel foolish, but I couldn’t leave this place without first having done so. I yearned to make contact with it. Once again, I lifted my hand toward the blade. As my fingers neared it, a low buzz became audible, like ringing in my ears, but I could feel this vibration radiating from my fingers, down my arm, and into my chest. Just barely, but it was there.
When my fingers finally connected with the handle of the sword, the buzzing stopped, and my vision went black. Fighting panic, I blinked a couple of times, and soon a picture of a circle of men in black robes appeared in my head. The desire to join them mounted because my presence could help.
No.
I sensed they were dangerous. I shouldn’t go with them. My grip was firm on the sword, but I wanted to let go. I didn’t want to be a part of this.
A low voice whispered coldly, “You will stay.”
“No, I want to go,” I faintly insisted, desperately wanting to rejoin the real world.
“Stay,” it said again.
“No!” I shrieked, and wrenched my hand away from the sword, causing my body to involuntarily fly back several feet, where I landed with a smack on the floor. My mind went black when my head hit the concrete, but this time, no vision appeared.
“Hey, are you all right?” a man’s voice woke me.
I opened my eyes to find myself lying flat on my back in Magog’s. The clerk knelt over me, and gently shook my arm. His warm touch gave me butterflies in my stomach.
I looked at my fingers, then back up to the object of my sudden infatuation on the wall. What happened? The sword caused a clip to begin playing in my head through some unnatural force, and it seemed so real…absolute confusion then consumed me.
“Are you hurt?” he asked. I sat up and rubbed my throbbing head.
“Oh, my head,” I said with a groan. “I’ll be fine.” My pride, however, lay shattered on the floor. What a wonderfully horrible first impression.
He asked me what happened, and I came up with the lame excuse that I almost dropped my cell phone and then tripped over something.
“Let me help you up,” he said, quickly glancing around to see what caused my fall.
I grabbed the edge of a shelf to steady myself and blinked my eyes hard a couple of times, hoping I wouldn’t pass out in his presence. The sound of the door opening sent a shard of pain through my temple. A dazzling blonde walked, or rather glided, over to us and put her arm around his waist. She looked thin, poised, and flawless.
“This is Avery.” He gave her hair a tender tug. “And this…,” he gestured toward me, “is the new American in town?”
“I’m Paige Stewart.” I held out my hand to shake hers, expecting her to have a weak grip. Instead, she shook my hand very firmly. “And I didn’t catch your name,” I directed toward Gorgeous.
“My apologies.” He laughed. “I’m Nathaniel. Nathaniel Brightmore.”



Friday, February 24, 2012

Illustrator/Author Hazel Mitchell Has a Giveaway


Today my guest is Hazel Mitchell who has illustrated Hidden New Jersey, a book designed to appeal to both children and adults and written by Linda Barth.  Hazel's publisher is offering a free print copy of this delightful book to one person who leaves a comment.  Be sure to leave contact information, so we can arrange for a way to send this book if you're the lucky winner.




How much time does it take you to illustrate your books and what's your process?

Time depends on the amount of detail required in the illustrations. With Hidden New Jersey, I had to do a lot of research first on the places I would be illustrating, so that took more time. From start to finish this book took about 5 months. After I have done the research, I begin sketching and working on the layout. As this is non fiction, and there is no continuing narrative, each page was a kind of 'puzzle' that I montaged together. The M/S consisted of many different facts about each area of New Jersey that had to be illustrated -- it was quite a challenge! After the rough sketches (which were then approved by the developer), I did a finished drawing in pencil using my lightbox. Usually I work 50% larger than the finished page. Then I scan at high res. In this case I was using photoshop to colour the images digitally. Then it was back to the publisher for final approval. The images are sent as digital files for the designer to lay right up on the page. The main concern with digital images is that the colours and density will translate to the finished printing, as the only reference is really on screen, and that changes from computer to computer.

What comes first for you--the story or the illustrations?

The books I have in print are all illustrated by me and written by an author, so I usually just get to work on a manuscript sent to me. I AM working on my own stories, and it's hard to say which comes first. Sometimes it's a character that springs a story - sometimes a title or an idea. I will usually start with rough thumbnail layout of a PB with very sparse words, and then it kind of develops alongside each other. But it is always pictures that I see in my head.

Do you illustrate stories for other authors as well as your own books, and if so, how do you connect with these authors?

All my work comes through publishers, and so I have little contact with the author. It is nice to talk to the author afterwards and get together to do some publicity.  When I first began illustrating I thought this was odd and must be hard for the author, but now I understand the process and the need for the illustrator to do their job and have their own vision. I have worked with independent authors in the past, and it does cramp your creative vision when you are aware of what they want to see. So I much prefer to work in the traditional way with publishers -- or even better, on my own stories!

I also have a book trailer:









'Paddle your way through the various regions of the great State of New Jersey. This whimsical and magical book is your pass to learning and fun as you explore all that makes New Jersey unique and uncover hidden items on each and every page. Children, parents, teachers, librarians and anyone who loves New Jersey will become enthralled with all the historical, cultural, and just plain fun things to see and do in the 3rd state of the union. Each spread features a rhyme that helps bring the illustrations to life. Hidden New Jersey is a great stage to encourage children to learn more about this state.'






 The buy link is:
http://www.amazon.com/Hidden-New-Jersey-Linda-Barth/dp/193413323X/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1327325087&sr=1-1

http://hazelmitchell.blogspot.com
http://pixelshavings.blogspot.com
http://www.facebook.com/HazelMitchellSketchbook
Website


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fiona Page Talks About Being Blind and Bettina the Bold


Fiona Page is a children's author who could inspire us all.  Despite her blindness, she had a goal of becoming a published author.  Her inspiring story for children, Bettina The Bold, is her reward for patience and hard work. 



Please tell me how long you've been writing, and why you decided to become a writer.

I was speaking to groups all over Georgia and some eastern seaboard states when I had to give my vocal cords a rest—doctor's orders. I could not imagine not being able to talk for two months, so I decided it was time to write down my experiences since becoming blind. I wrote for six months. Forty-seven stories, then I tired of it and gave it to an editor. We sent it to one agent who let it sit on his desk. It wasn't his genre, so I got discouraged. Then seven years later, my editor is bugging me to do something with it. I picked it up again and got excited to finish it for my legacy to my grandchildren.

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

I am retired so I guess I am a writer when the creative thoughts come. I write early in the morning and late at night.

What influences your writing?

People and experiences

Is this your first published work?  What other types of writing have you done?

I have written articles as a speaker, which were included in books by a group of speakers. I have recorded and sold several collections of stories about my life and two recordings about the Okefenokee Swamp.

Why did you choose to write a children's story?

Late one night, it came to me that I needed to share my fear, frustration, and attitude through a creature. I wanted children to understand that making connections with other people meant we have to develop the right attitude no matter what we are faced with. It was ironic that I choose the name Bettina and to call her a queen. I later discovered Bettina is the name of a Peruvian species of butterfly, and that there is a Queen species in my hometown. That sealed the story's fate. It was meant to be written.

What was the process of creating this book from the first idea to the final published?

The story wrote itself. My grandchildren gave me ideas for improving it by their actions and words. They talked about making friends. My granddaughter needed to learn manners. A few months later, I met a visually impaired young woman who took an interest in the story and she edited it. Another friend of mine is a wonderful artist, and she was meant to create the vision book.

What are your thoughts on traditional versus self-publishing?

Times are changing. I was told not to self-publish. I was discouraged by one traditionally published author, but I didn't have the time nor the ability to find publishers on my own. I just picked up the phone and started calling printing companies because I knew I would have to market it myself anyway—what did I need a publisher for except to give it national recognition? I wasn't sure it was good enough for national recognition. I had to test it first. Now I know it is good enough. I have a book I am very proud of with the help of a great team. I think making a recording of it was important for students who are visually impaired. My goal is to put it out there for all who face challenges.

What is your marketing strategy?

I have had twenty-five years of telling stories in schools. I am using word of mouth which I believe is most effective. I call every day looking for a place to share the book. I am placing the books in nature stores, gift shops, and selling at festivals.

What are your thoughts about children's writers needing an agent or not needing one?

An agent can certainly help one find national recognition, and I have been told if one signs with a publisher, advice from the experienced is imperative. On the other hand, all that cuts into profit and control of one's vision.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing?

Please visit my website, www.fionapage.com, for more information about me and my writing.

Do you have any tips for writers who are new to children's literature?

I am so new myself that the best advice I can give is get a lot of opinions, but remember they are only opinions. Evaluate carefully. Join a critique group. I have not and wish I had. Now I don't have time.



Please give us a brief synopsis about your current book and when and where it will be available.

In the piney woods of southeast Georgia, a Queen butterfly named Bettina emerges from her chrysalis into a world of darkness. Wondering why it is so dark, she sets out to find the sun. What Bettina doesn’t understand is that no matter how hard she tries, her eyes don’t see. Bettina is blind.

Frustrated, Bettina pushes a hungry bee. She insults a friendly grasshopper. Feeling as though she doesn’t belong, she wishes she could go back to being a caterpillar.

Finding Bettina lost and lonely, a blind bat named Helen befriends her. Helen encourages Bettina to change her attitude. She instructs her on how to use polite behavior to attract friends as well as how to use her other senses to see. In an amazing transformation, Bettina sheds her unfriendly ways and becomes the social Queen butterfly she was born to be.

Bettina the Bold is available on my website along with my memoir which came out after the children's book. Both books are also available on Amazon and in the independent bookseller's catalog.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Barbara Ehrentreu Talks About Teen's Self Esteem

Today, my guest is MuseItUp YA author, Barbara Ehrentreu.  Barbara released her YA coming of age novel, If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor, last year through MuseItUp Publishing.  Having had the pleasure of being Barbara's line editor, I can highly recommend this book for young adults.







Self Esteem and Teens

I suppose every writer has to use some part of their own lives in their writing. I grew up with a mother who had very little self-esteem due to the way her mother had treated her. My mother was a little chubby when she was younger, and my grandmother used to punish her by not letting her have dessert. When my mother went to visit her aunt, the aunt gave my mother tons of candy and anything else she wanted to eat. She came home, and my grandmother couldn’t believe it. That was really when my mother’s problems with food started. All her life she tried to lose weight and she never felt happy about herself except for a few months before my brother’s bar mitzvah when she lost a lot of weight on Weight Watchers and looked gorgeous. That same year I got married, so she was able to look good in both places.

My mother’s lack of self-esteem didn’t show itself in her personality because she was lively and funny, and everyone loved her. No, but she would secretly eat and then hate herself later. She was incapable of feeling good about herself no matter what and this transmitted itself to me. Growing up, I was not stick thin. Though I did have a good figure for my age, I felt I was too fat. The whole idea of not looking good enough had been ingrained in me. My mother would always point out some flaw so I wouldn’t feel comfortable. At family gatherings, I would feel comfortable, and then something would happen, and people would tease me about things I did. I was three when I fell off a cliff and needed stitches. My family never let me forget that. I wasn’t the most coordinated person, and my family used to call me a “klutz”. I had a few moments in family situations when I wanted to dig a hole and bury myself.

I knew I was never going to look like the popular girls, and yet I wanted my curly hair to be stick straight and blonde, and I wanted to have a larger bosom and be noticed. I didn’t realize how I looked, because I had this ideal image in my head. As a teenager, men noticed me, and I just thought it happened to everyone because men did that to women. I got whistles and catcalls, and they only made me feel worse. When someone has low self-esteem, it doesn’t matter what anyone says or does. For teens today who feel like I felt this can be a very sad experience.

When I started writing my YA novel, If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor, I modeled my main character on my younger daughter, who had issues with self-esteem. My main character, Carolyn, doesn’t feel good about herself. Her self-esteem at the beginning of the book is very low. She doesn’t think she can be popular or that any boy would look at her. At least not Brad Morrow, the hot junior quarterback. She obsesses over almost everything and worries that she will run into Jennifer Taylor who has been bullying her since middle school. Jennifer is a size two, and she is the most popular girl in the freshman class. She is on the Olympic track for gymnastics, and she seems so perfect. But Jennifer is not perfect, and Carolyn finds out that Jennifer doesn’t feel so good about herself. In fact, Jennifer might have an eating disorder, which is affecting her health. Carolyn doesn’t know what to do when she finds out her secret. When a girl with Carolyn’s self-esteem has the opportunity to change herself with an offer from the most popular girl in the class, what can she do?

Today, there are too many teens who don’t feel good about themselves. They are the victims of bullies, and they have parents who don’t understand the feelings they are going through, though they might have felt the same way as teens. Many don’t speak up and go through their days thinking this feeling of unworthiness is normal. My daughter felt this way, though she had everything going for her. She never got out of her shell even though she was the lead in the senior play, and she had lots of friends. She didn’t feel good about herself. She couldn’t enjoy the moments. We need to bring our children up to feel good about themselves.

Barbara Ehrentreu Bio

Barbara, a retired teacher with a Masters degree in Reading and Writing K-12 and seventeen years of teaching experience lives with her family in Stamford, Connecticut. When she received her Masters degree she began writing seriously. If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor, Barbara’s first YA novel, was published by MuseItUp Publishing, September 16th and was inspired by Paula Danziger. In addition, Barbara has a story in the anthology, Lavender Dreams, also published by MuseItUp Publishing. All proceeds from this anthology go to cancer research. Barbara also writes poetry and three of her poems are included in the soon to be published anthology, Prompted, a collaboration of members of The Anthologists.  Her blog, Barbara’s Meanderings, http://barbaraehrentreu.blogspot.com/, is networked on both Facebook and Blog Catalog. She hosts RRWL Tales from the Pages (Red River Writers Live Tales from the Pages) on Blog Talk Radio every 4th Thursday. In addition, her children's story, “The Trouble with Follow the Leader” and an adult story, “Out on a Ledge” are published online She has written book reviews for Authorlink.com. and several of her reviews have been on Acewriters and Celebrity Café. She is a member of SCBWI. Writing is her life!

Blurb

Carolyn Samuels’ freshman year becomes a series of lies to cover Jennifer Taylor’s terrible secret in return for popularity.

Carolyn Samuels is obsessed with the idea of being popular. She is convinced that the only thing keeping her from happiness is her too heavy for fashion body and not being a cheerleader. Hyperventilating when she gets nervous doesn’t help. When she is paired for a Math project with the girl who tormented her in middle school, Jennifer Taylor, she is sure it is going to be another year of pain.With Carolyn’s crush on Jennifer’s hunky Junior quarterback Brad her freshman year in high school looks like a rerun of middle school. After Jennifer’s the only student who knows why she fell in gym class, Carolyn is blackmailed into doing her math homework in return for Jennifer’s silence. Jennifer takes on Carolyn as a pity project since she can’t be seen with someone who dresses in jeans and sweatshirts. When Jennifer invites Carolyn to sleep over to make her over and teach her to tumble, Carolyn learns Jennifer’s secret and lies to her own friends to cover it up. Will Carolyn become a cheerleader and become popular? Does she continue to keep Jennifer’s secret? Or will she be a target of this mean girl again?


Excerpt:
Chapter One
      I spot him walking toward my locker with a small box in one hand and a plastic fork in the other. My Crush! He hands me the box, and I open it. Inside is a piece of luscious chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. I look up into his blue eyes and give him the box so I can touch his cheek as I smooth his dark hair.
     “You always know just what I like.”
     He smiles and feeds me a forkful of cake. I don’t have to worry about eating it because I can eat anything I want and not gain weight. He places the cake box in my locker so he can put his arms around me.
     The first bell rings in my ears. I ignore it because I’m thin and blonde and floating in the arms of my dark-haired crush. The other cheerleaders run up to us laughing and kidding around, and I’m about to speak. The ringing gets louder.
     The dream evaporates, and I realize it’s the darn alarm piercing my sleep. Slamming my fist onto the snooze button, I get this nagging feeling. Then I remember. I have something to do. Worse luck, I have to do it, not as the slender blonde beauty in my dream, but as the real Carolyn Samuels with my brown curly hair hanging like shriveled spaghetti, mud brown eyes, and a body too large for fashion.
      I see my new book bag is packed and ready by the door with the initials C. S. in blue, my favorite color. Suddenly it hits me, and I get this dizzy let-me-plop-on-the-pillow feeling. Freshman year of high school— first day. My brain is ready, but my body isn't. Jennifer will be there. Math class and Jennifer; gym class with Jennifer. My body curls into a fetal position, and I throw the covers over my head. Don’t faint Carolyn, I tell myself, panting.
     Dangling over the chair are those size twelve jeans, clown pants— hardly a fashion statement. I groan. Paired with the red long-sleeved T- shirt, they looked so good on the mannequin; I’ll look like a stoplight. What was I thinking? How could I possibly go to school looking like such a freak?
     Actually, the real reason I can’t go is Jennifer, with her long straight
blonde hair, perfect body, and clothes from magazines like Teen andSeventeen.
     Yuck. I feel sick, sick with Jenniferitis.
      I hear Mom's footsteps on the stairs.
     “Why are you still in bed?” She comes upstairs and peeks into my
room with a puzzled look on her face.
      Moving the blanket up to my nose, I say, “Mom, I can't stop
shivering, and my stomach and head hurt.”
      She feels my head and looks at me with mother vision. “Carolyn,
did you think I'd fall for your tricks?”
      I cringe. Now my stomach and head ache for real. Defeated, I climb
out of bed and get washed. I slip the hated outfit onto my body and glance at my bloated reflection in the mirror. It's too late to change. I’m stuck with this. If only I could be like Jennifer Taylor.
      After picking up my book bag, I race down the stairs, take a couple of bites of a chocolate-chocolate chip muffin and a few sips of non-fat milk. I almost trip over a lump blocking the door. Max, our five-year old Newfoundland raises his massive bear-like head, sniffing like he’s never eaten a thing in his life when he sees my muffin. I glance at his empty bowl and throw the rest of the muffin into it. He sees it and licks my face; now I’m going to smell like dog food all day. Grabbing a paper towel, I wipe my face and lean to ruffle his soft fur. At least Max doesn’t care what I wear. Feed him and rub him under his chin, and he’ll cover you with slurpy kisses.
     Mom is already in our three-year-old silver Malibu that, like my jeans, doesn't quite make a fashion statement.
     On the drive to school, I'm looking forward to seeing Becky and Janie my two best friends from forever. Don't want to see Jennifer's face on the first day of high school.