Friday, January 31, 2014

Kay LaLone, Ghostly Clues

AUTHOR: Kay LaLone
BOOK TITLE: Ghostly Clues
GENRE: MG Mystery
PUBLISHER: Muse It Up Publishing

Please tell us about yourself.
I’m Kay LaLone. Ghostly Clues is my first middle grade novel published by MuseItUp. I live in Michigan with my husband and teenage son (two older sons and a daughter-in-law live near by) and two dogs and a cat. I love to get up every morning and write about ghosts, the paranormal, and anything that goes bump in the night. Or anything that interest my characters. Making my characters come to life for readers is important to a good story. I’m an avid reader of just about any type of book. I do reviews on the books I read and post them on my website and blog.

Please tell us your latest news. 
I’m finishing revising, Family Secret, a YA mystery novel.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time? 
I’m a full-time writer because I am always thinking about new stories, but I also sell items on ebay and flea markets. Also I blog and do book reviews. I find it very hard to organize my writing time, but I am learning I need to plan out my day and make sure I schedule in writing time.

When and why did you begin writing? 
I started writing in grade school. I remember sitting down at the kitchen table writing a short story and asking my mother how to spell words. I didn’t get serious about my writing until my youngest son was born. I took a writing course and started getting short stories published in magazines.Writing is just something I love to do.

What inspired you to write your first book? 
Ghostly Clues is based on a ghostly experience I had when I was a kid. Just like Sarah Kay, main character in Ghostly Clues, my grandma passed away when I was young. One night I saw a ghost hand crawl up on my bed. That memory has haunted me until I came up with the story, Ghostly Clues.

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing? '
I love to read, blog, and watch movies. My husband and I spend a lot of time at auctions, and then there is family time, playing games or going out to eat.

Do you ever have writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it? 
Yes. I do get writer’s block. I think that is something every writer faces. There are just some days no matter how hard you try, the words just don’t flow out. Usually I’ll take a walk, read, watch a movie, anything so that I’m not thinking about writing.

Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it? 
Yes I learned that it is hard to market your book. It takes a lot of time away from my next project. So I have learned to organize my time.

Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them? 
My publisher is Muse It Up Publishing. I connected with them through a critique partner who had just gotten published by them.

What are your current projects? 
Currently I am revising, Family Secret and plan to send to MuseItUp soon. I have a couple other projects in the revising stage and a few that are in the beginning stages.

What do you plan for the future? I plan to have more books published and I am thinking about self publishing.
How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?
My website

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

The sweet scent of lilacs permeates the air around Grandma’s gravesite. Only Sarah Kay can smell Grandma’s favorite flower, and they’re not even in bloom. 
Sarah Kay and her best friend, Mary Jane, believe the lilacs are a sign from Grandma’s ghost. The girls follow one ghostly clue after another, uncovering a secret that Mom never wanted Sarah Kay to know.
Grandma makes sure Sarah Kay gets the message even from the grave. As the evidence piles up, Mom still refuses to accept the possibility Sarah Kay’s father is alive.
Sarah Kay finds Dad’s parents. A set of grandparents she didn’t realize existed. They make it clear her father is alive but days and miles separate the father and daughter reunion because Dad is a truck driver on a long haul. 
Sarah Kay waits. The news reports a fatal car accident involving a semi and Sarah Kay fears the worse. She runs away which leads to Dad and the truth, Mom wanted Dad to remain dead.
Dad had faked his death so why not just stay dead.  The ghostly clues of Grandma wouldn’t allow Dad to remain dead to Sarah Kay.

What genre do you write in and why? 
I have always loved mystery books. Growing up I read Agatha Christie books and Nancy Drew. Later I became interested in ghosts and the paranormal.

What influences your writing? 
My kids, nieces and nephews, and books that I read.

Is this your first published children’s work? What other types of writing have you done? 
This is my first book. I have had short stories published in magazines before getting my book published.

Do you outline before you write?  If not, what’s your initial process? 
No, I don’t outline first. I come up with an idea and free write. Later I’ll plot and outline and figure out where the story is going.

What comes first: the plot or characters? 
Usually the character comes first.

Did your book require a lot of research? If so, what kind? 
Just a little bit of research about ghosts.

Do you have any tips for writers who are new to children’s literature? 
Read a lot of children books in the genre you want to write in.


What do you look for in a book when you sit down to read for fun?
Interesting characters. I like to be able to connect with a character. I want to immerse myself in their world.

Describe your writing space. 
Sitting in front of my laptop, on the couch in the living room with the TV on. If I want to be alone, I’ll take my laptop to my bedroom. One of these days I would like a space I can call my writing space.

What has been your favorite part of being an author? What has been your least favorite? 
Seeing my name on a book cover. Least favorite is figuring out ways to get my book noticed by readers.

The house was blanketed in a quiet slumber. I snuggled under the sleeping bag with Allison, trying not to think about ghosts, as I drifted to sleep.
Random pictures floated in my mind like ghostly images.
I tiptoed among tombstones and my heart ached as if I had lost something or someone. He had to be here, somewhere. The gravestones rose like stone walls. No names engraved on them. No dates. No R.I.P. Nothing. Just smooth, flat stones. Ghosts—grayish, smoky forms with black eyes—floated over the tombstones.  I shivered, suddenly cold, freezing. My breath visible like a little ghost. I didn’t want to look at the ghost anymore so I looked down at my feet. A tombstone with Grandma’s name appeared out of nowhere. The earth moved. The dirt around the headstone broke away and gnarled fingers clawed their way into the air, searching, grasping. Shriveled fingers clutched my leg.  
Something grabbed at my leg—the hand, I screamed and frantically wiggled out of my sleeping bag, bumping MJ as I tried to get away from the hand I thought I felt grab at my leg. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Dakota Douglas, ANTics

AUTHOR: Dakota Douglas
GENRE: Children
PUBLISHER: Self published

Please tell us about yourself.

I’m like a butterfly flitting from one thing to another. I’d love to be more organised and productive. Sadly, there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to share my time between family, friends, writing, reading, playing golf, playing bridge, keeping fit, learning Lakota Sioux and dabbling in jewellery making. I’m retired after a 30+ year career as a full-time journalist – how I ever found the time to work, I don’t know.

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

Part-time. I’m afraid my writing is very haphazard in between all my other interests. I play golf around three times a week. I enjoy it but it’s like a monster that munches away a huge chunk of my day. On the days I play golf, I use the few hours left to play catch up with my emails, readers and social media connections. On the days I don’t play golf, I write, edit, research and read. But, in a way, I’m always writing – mostly in my head and scribbling down notes on the many notebooks I carry around with me. Even on my bedside table – because you never know when inspiration will strike. It has no respect for where you are or what time of the day it is. Isn’t that great!

When and why did you begin writing?

So far back, I can’t remember. My imagination has always been vivid. I had lots of imaginary friends when I was small and I would gaze out of the classroom window day dreaming a lot. One of my earliest memories is being bought a toy typewriter for Christmas when I was eight and writing my own “novels” inspired by my favourite authors.

What inspired you to write your first book?

A dream. Since a child, I’d always wanted to be a writer: I suppose that’s what drew me to journalism. But I never got around to sitting down and doing it – apart from those early childhood efforts. Then one day, I caught sight of a group of ants carrying a potato crisp. The crisp was 20 times bigger than a single ant but that didn’t stop them. They all worked as a team to take it back to their nest, including hauling it up a six-inch kerb. One big guy ran around directing operations and several others dashed off and came back with reinforcements. That night, I dreamt about ants. They were like little kids and were involved in a big adventure. The dream was very clear in my mind when I woke and as I lay snuggled under the covers, the idea for ANTics blossomed.

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

As a journalist, I’ve been used to editing my own work. But editing a book is an entirely different ball game. I’ve learned a lot of new skills from a variety of sources that hopefully will help me grow as a fiction writer. I find I now read books differently: I analyse them as I read studying characters, plot, grammar and layout. I’ve also picked up invaluable tips from fellow authors from around the world I’m linked to through social media.
How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?

Any other news you’d like to share?
Someone, who has just read ANTics, said they loved it and thought it would make a great animated movie. They urge me to contact Disney or Steven Spielberg. Wouldn’t that be wonderful. I expect they get thousands, perhaps millions of requests. If you snooze – you loose. So perhaps I better get in touch. If anyone has a hotline number either, I’d appreciate it.

Tell us about the current book you’re promoting.

My second children’s book is called WOOF. I’ve just turned the ebook into a paperback. I’ve very excited about this. It looks great. The story is about a shy schoolboy who struggles to fit in. When he befriends a stray dog, things happen and change his life. Reviewers have told me they would like to see more WOOF stories, so that’s on my writing agenda.

What influences your writing?

I’m influenced by the world around me. I’m a sponge that soaks up ideas from everywhere. My job as a newshound on a busy daily newspaper trained me to sniff out interesting story ideas. I get inspiration from lots of sources for book ideas and jot them down. Ideas leap out from a word or phrase I overhear, something I read in a newspaper, on a leaflet or see on TV. Sometimes, I’m daydreaming while out walking when an idea drifts into my head or slams into me like hitting a wall. Whatever the source, I’m grateful.

What do you hope your readers will take away from this book?

I hope they had fun reading the story because I had fun writing it. My research gave me a greater understanding of life from a tiny ant’s point of view. I would like to think it encourages young readers to think about the natural world around them.

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

I find fiction writing to be an evolving process. I’m not a big outliner, I prefer to go with the flow. When the initial idea pops into my head, I jot it down in my ideas' book and on my computer. I may be busy doing something else and don’t dare rely on my memory. So I get it down in as much detail as possible and squirrel it away until I’m ready to start writing the first draft. When that time comes, I begin my research. That often gives me ideas for story lines. As I write, my characters are buzzing in my head, talking to each other. They give me ideas for characters and plot twists further on in the book. I get this all down. When I get to that part, I make a decision to use it or not. Sometimes, they’ve given me another idea by then. It’s a meandering road. I know where I’m heading but the excitement of the journey is which route to take. I get to a crossroads and make the decision to turn right or left. It’s thrilling to see where that choice takes me on the way to my final destination.

What comes first: the plot or characters?

That’s a tough one. After a bit of thought, I would say a bit of both. When an idea hits, it’s like an animated movie in my head. I see images, characters and a storyline all rolled into one. As I write, I develop the plot and characters. Neither is set in stone. Some authors know everything about their character before they start, from their shoe size to what their favourite meal is. My characters take shape and deepen as I write. It’s almost as if they develop themselves.


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

I want to be entertained, surprised and to learn something new.

What books have most influenced your life?

The books I read as a child helped fuel my imagination. By authors including Enid Blyton, C S Lewis, J M Barrie, Lewis Carroll.


Three young ants are chased by the world’s craziest, smelliest spider - an evil monster with magic powers who has vowed to turn them into ant soup.

One is a fun-loving scamp, one is clever and the third is
scared of his own shadow. Can they outwit the beast and save themselves, their families and friends? An exciting fantasy adventure that builds to a dramatic end. ANTics is for ages 7+ in ebook and print. It’s a fun way for children to learn about ants with some interactive suggestions at the end. It’s a story of courage with lessons about the
importance of friendship and teamwork. As well as lots of
funny moments, the story is a good way for young readers to learn new words, as all the characters have names that
describe their personalities and end in ANT.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Lisette Brodey, Mystical High

AUTHOR: Lisette Brodey
BOOK TITLE: Mystical High
GENRE: YA Paranormal
PUBLISHER: Saberlee Books

Please tell us about yourself.

I was born and raised in Pennsylvania. After high school, I moved to New York City, where I attended Pace University and studied drama. After 10 years in New York, several of them working in the radio industry, I moved to Los Angeles, where I held various positions at Paramount Studios in Hollywood and CBS Studio Center in Studio City, CA. Back on the East Coast, I worked for many years as a freelance writer, specializing in PR and the entertainment industry. To make a long story short, in 2010 I returned permanently to the Los Angeles area.

Please tell us your latest news.

My most recent book, Mystical High, was just published in October 2013. It’s the first book in my new YA paranormal trilogy, The Desert Series.

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

I think I’m somewhere between the two. It all depends on what’s going on at the time. I’m a part-time writer when I’m promoting a new book. It’s pretty much impossible to do that well and write full time. I’m a full-time writer when I’m free of promotional obligations and able to focus on my story. When my story is solid in my head (and in my notes), my writing time seems to organize itself.

When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing as soon as I learned how to and I did so because it was the most natural thing in the world for me.

What inspired you to write your first book?

My first-written book is a 1970's coming-of-age novel called Squalor, New Mexico. This odd-titled story actually takes place in East Coast suburbia, but the idea for the novel came solely from my reaction to the word “squalor.” Every time I heard someone say something like, “He lives in squalor,” it sounded like the name of a place to me. So I thought I might start a book with the first line “My aunt lived in Squalor.” As it turns out, the first line of the book is “My aunt Rebecca lived in Squalor,” and then I go on to tell a dysfunctional family saga from there.

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

I’m probably thinking about something I’m going through or something that is happening in the lives of my friends. Sometimes I’m just thinking about what movie to see next.

What are your thoughts about promotion?

My first thought about promotion is that very few people enjoy “overnight success.” Most of us have to work long and hard, and there are no guarantees that success will come.

I believe that it is important to build and maintain relationships within the writing community and to have an account on Twitter, where we have the potential to meet people from the world at large. I also think that the time we spend on promotion should be balanced with other obligations and that social media should help but not consume us.

I’m a big believer in cross-promotion and in helping others. But I’m very against using Twitter (and other venues) as nothing more than free advertising spaces to scream out, “Buy my book!” or send direct messages with links to one’s product to new followers. That is such a huge turnoff. Judicious self-promotion is fine, but you have to show a genuine interest in others if you expect people to care enough to spend money on your work, especially if you’re an indie author.

I’m startled by people who send me a DM (direct message) on Twitter upon meeting and say, “Don’t forget to like and share my FB page with your contacts.” Say what? Really? You expect a total stranger (one whom you have zero interest in) to like and share your Facebook page with others? On what planet? This kind of thing blows my mind and will usually result in an unfollow, depending on my mood when I read it. So promotion is as much about what not to do as it is about what to do.

What was the toughest criticism given to you? What was the biggest compliment?

I don’t remember specific comments that I’d classify as “best” and “worst.” I do know that opinions are extraordinarily subjective. I will listen to criticism and change what I was doing if I agree with it—and more than not, coming from my editor, I do. I also believe that if I hear something consistently, then it’s important to consider what people are saying. But I believe that criticism can be all over the map and that a writer should listen but not try to please all of the people all of the time, because we all know: that is impossible. A group of 10 experts in any field can often produce 10 different opinions.

What are your current projects?

Right now, I’m focused on finishing my YA paranormal trilogy. So far, I’m about 27K words into Book 2, and I have notes for Book 3.

What do you plan for the future?

After I finish The Desert Series, I’m going to return to a book I started writing last year. It began as a short story when I was 17. It then became a one-act play, a two-act play, and in a year and change will become a novel. The most interesting thing about writing this novel is that I’ve known the characters most of my life. One of them is so nasty that I found myself shouting expletives at my computer screen as I was writing her.

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

What genre do you write in and why?

I’ve published four novels so far and haven’t written in the same genre twice. I haven’t planned it this way. Most of the time, I think about the story I want to tell, and the genre comes second. Even though my books are technically classified as general fiction, women’s fiction (romantic comedy), young adult, and YA paranormal, they’re all written in my particular style: character-driven with multiple story arcs and the revelations of secrets at the end.

Tell us about the current book you’re promoting.

My newest book is Mystical High, Book 1 in a YA paranormal trilogy, The Desert Series. It’s set in the Southern California desert, in a dying town, and focuses on two teen girls, their family issues, and life at school. This novel is about real life first and the paranormal second. I classify it as “realistic paranormal.” The paranormal elements are a big part of the story, but it’s not fantasy, and I’m afraid there’s a distinct absence of vampires and werewolves, too.

What gave you the idea for this particular book?

I’ve had a lifelong interest in the paranormal and have heard many amazing stories from people over the years. I’ve also experienced some interesting things myself. I wanted to write a story about how real people react when the unexplained happens. We all have our own beliefs about what is possible and what is not, but in the end, no one of us really knows.

Also, every time I would visit a desert area outside Los Angeles, where I live, something nagged at me to write about it. And that’s how I came to set the story in a desert town.

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

Absolutely. It’s pretty difficult to write the kind of book I write, where characters come together in unexpected ways and secrets are revealed at the end, if I have no clue where I’m going when I begin. I write an overall outline, but I don’t micro-plot from the beginning. As I go along, my original idea always evolves and develops into more. I count on that happening, too. As I move through the story, I tend to plot the next few chapters that lie ahead.

What comes first: the plot or characters?

The answer to that is not set in stone. What comes first is always the spark of an idea that just won’t go away.

How long does it take to write a book, and what is your process?

That’s a tough question to answer because it is the distractions and responsibilities of everyday life usually prolong how long it takes me to write a book. The actual time spent writing a book could be anywhere from two to eight months.

What, if anything, bugs you when you read a novel?

I often have a lot of trouble reading books written as if they’re happening in the present: “She lays the book on the table and hurries to the door.” I know some authors don’t want to write in a passive voice, but it is sometimes jarring to me when it sounds as if the story is happening as I read it. I get especially nervous if a character is drinking red wine and worry that she might spill it all over my lap.

I also have trouble with books that are overwritten. I don’t enjoy reading a book where the author describes in detail how every line is spoken. For the most part, I think well-written dialogue explains what the character is trying to say. Judicious use of adverbs always makes for a more pleasant read.

What was your most embarrassing moment as an author?

Back east, a small book club (four women) read my novel, Crooked Moon, which is set in a blue-collar neighborhood in Philadelphia. I met with these women at a local Barnes & Noble. The woman who had set it up began the get-together by saying, “I’m going to open with a criticism.”

First, that’s not the way you host a get-together with the author. It’s just not. Second, she mentioned something that bothered her. It was not a criticism that I’d ever heard before or since about the novel.

Okay, she was entitled to her opinion. But then, she turned to her three friends and said, “Don’t you all agree?” Her friends looked positively mortified. I don’t believe they had a clue what she was talking about, and if they did know and happened to agree with her, it would have felt like a public stoning of me to say so. I was not only embarrassed not only for myself but for these three women. It was really an awful moment.

As I hate to end an interview talking about an unpleasant experience, I’d like to end by thanking you for having me as a guest on your blog again, Penny. I’ve really enjoyed it. Hope to see you at my writers’ chateau one of these days.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Holly Schindler, The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky, plus #giveaway

Please tell us about yourself:
I’m a sixth-generation Missourian, a music junkie, coffee fanatic, art freak, animal lover, and a fan of classic movies.  A nail polish and lipstick addict with a new hairdo every time I walk out of the house.  An admirer of beautiful skies.  A writer.

Please tell us your latest news:
My third novel and first MG, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, releases from Dial / Penguin on February 6, 2014!  (My first two novels, A BLUE SO DARK and PLAYING HURT, were YAs; my next YA, FERAL, is also in development with Harper Collins.)

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
I’m full-time.  I have been ever since the spring of ’01, when I got my master’s.  Having been witness to my love of writing for years, Mom encouraged me to stay home and devote full-time attention to my writing.  I’m really lucky—because of my family’s support, I didn’t have to divide my time between a nine-to-five job and writing.  (I did pay my bills by teaching music lessons for a few hours each afternoon.) 

The thing is, though, nobody, not even a full-time author, has distraction-free writing time.  You have to learn to write even when the situation isn’t perfect—when you’ve got a headache and you’re tired or worried about a sick child or pet.  You have to learn to plot your next chapter while mowing the lawn or painting the front porch.  That’s the key, whether you’re full-time or part-time: you’ve got to make progress on your writing every single day, no matter what other situations are making demands on your time or attention.

When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve always written.  I was a painfully shy kid (I actually cried when my parents took me to playgrounds, because other kids were there).  Sometimes, I wondered if (in the beginning, at least) writing was an easier way to “talk.”  But then again, even in the beginning, I wasn’t writing about myself.  I was making up stories with fictional characters.  There’s something about storytelling, about fiction, about making stuff up, that just fits me like absolutely nothing else.

What was the toughest criticism given to you?  What was the biggest compliment?
In many ways, the toughest criticism was the entire seven and a half years it took to land my first book deal.  I’d published some short pieces in college (poetry, short stories, literary critique), and when I graduated, I had it in my head that the only thing standing in-between me and a published novel was the time it would take to get my novel on paper.  (Very FIELD OF DREAMS: “If you write it, they will publish it.”)  In reality, it took drafting a floor-to-ceiling stack of novels—and well over 1,000 rejections—in order to get that first yes. 

I’d have to say the biggest compliment came when I was seeking blurbs for my first novel, A BLUE SO DARK.  I’d been a fan of Catherine Ryan Hyde’s for years; she graciously agreed to read the manuscript, and after a few weeks, sent me an email to tell me a blurb was coming.  I remember the email said, “I read it.  It’s really good.”  And I remember thinking that in itself was the blurb of a lifetime: “I read it.  It’s really good”—Catherine Ryan Hyde.  It’s something to get a compliment from a writer you’ve long admired.  That, more than anything else, made me feel like I’d really gotten the stamp of approval.  Like I’d “arrived.”

Did those change how or what you did in your next novel?
Reader response always has an impact, I think.  I’m one of those gluttons for punishment that reads her reviews—trade reviews, blog reviews.  All of it.  And while I’m not thinking specifically of those reviews when I write, I do believe it all goes into the “file folder” in my head, has an impact on the next thing I write.

For example, when PLAYING HURT (my second YA) came out, I learned that many reviewers feel they have to like a character in order to like a book.  This came as an utter surprise to me—it’s completely outside my own reading experience.  I definitely think that’ll have some impact in creating main characters from here on out…

How can we find you?
I’m on Twitter: @holly_schindler and FB:  I can also be found on my website:, and on one of the group blogs I administrate: Smack Dab in the Middle (for MG authors):, and YA Outside the Lines (for YA authors): 

Young readers can interact with me on Holly Schindler’s Middles, the site I created just for them:  I’m also going to be featuring reader reviews from the MG crowd on that site!  Be sure to get all your young readers to send their reviews through the “Contact Me” page on Holly Schindler’s Middles. 

Tell us about the current book you’re promoting.
The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky

“Beasts of the Southern Wild” meets Because of Winn Dixie in this inspiring story of hope.

August “Auggie” Jones lives with her Grandpa Gus, a trash hauler, in a poor part of town. So when her wealthy classmate’s father starts the House Beautification Committee, it’s homes like Auggie’s that are deemed “in violation.” Auggie is determined to prove that she is not as run-down as the outside of her house might suggest. Using the kind of items Gus usually hauls to the scrap heap, a broken toaster becomes a flower; church windows turn into a rainbow walkway; and an old car gets new life as spinning whirligigs. What starts out as a home renovation project becomes much more as Auggie and her grandpa discover a talent they never knew they had—and redefine a whole town’s perception of beauty, one recycled sculpture at a time. Auggie’s talent for creating found art will remind readers that one girl’s trash really is another girl’s treasure.

What genre do you write in and why?
Contemporary fiction.  I switch up the subgenres a bit—in my YA work, I’ve written a problem novel and a romance, and my forthcoming YA is a psychological thriller.  But there’s just something about realistic fiction…as a reader, I always feel closer to books that take place in my world (as opposed to a dystopian fantasy, for example).  So those are the books I find myself drawn to as a writer.

What is your experience working or being around children or teens?
While I was seeking publication, I taught music lessons in the afternoons.  It was the perfect setup: I’d write all morning, then start teaching music in the afternoons, when the kids got out of school.  I wasn’t very old when I started teaching, but I expected my students to be different than the kids I’d known in school—after all, there’d been sort of a technological revolution since I’d graduated.  When I was a high school freshman, we didn’t even have an answering machine.  I typed my papers on a typewriter.  Somehow, I expected the teens to be…savvier.  Older. 

But they weren’t.  My students reminded me very much of the friends I’d had in school.  Their struggles hadn’t changed.  At all.  They were so familiar, in fact, that I decided to try my hand at writing for children and teens.

What was the process of creating this book from the first idea to the final published book?
THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY started out as a picture book, actually.  Auggie didn’t even have a name in the original book.  She narrated the story of her grandfather, a folk artist.  When I submitted it, though, editors told me the idea of folk art was too advanced for the picture book audience.  I plunged into the task of turning a 1,000-word story into a roughly 45,000-word novel.  Once I’d turned it into a novel, I subbed to a few agents; Deborah Warren of East West picked it up.  After several rounds of submission to editors, we sold it to Nancy Conescu at Dial.  Even after the sale, it took a few rounds of global rewrites.  From beginning to end, the book was drafted in ’05, and will be published in ’14…What I’m finding now is that it’s really tough to let go of a character I’ve loved for so long!

Which comes first: the plot or characters?
Each book is different, actually.  This time, the characters came first.  I saw Gus, every bit as clearly as I’ve seen any person in my life.  It was as though I were staring through Auggie’s eyes, straight at her grandfather.  From there, the words just started pouring out…

Describe your writing space:

My brother’s an antiques dealer, and I go on buying trips with him…which means my office is absolutely brimming with collectibles and tchotchkes.  In addition to writing in my office, I also spend plenty of time writing on the couch next to my dog, and when the weather’s good, on my deck.

What has been your favorite part of being an author?  What has been your least favorite?
I think that in the pursuit of ANY dream—to be a musician, an artist, own a shop, become an MD, etc.—there comes a point at which it feels as though the dream is really beating you up.  There will inevitably be times when you feel like you’re never going to scale the wall that’s blocking you from your goal.  (That, of course, was my least favorite part…)  But when you push through it, get to where you want to be?  Seeing a dream begin to come true?  There’s absolutely nothing like it…

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

DJ Swykert, The Pool Boy’s Beatitude

AUTHOR: DJ Swykert
BOOK TITLE: The Pool Boy’s Beatitude
GENRE: Quirky and offbeat romance
PUBLISHER: Rebel e Publishing

Please tell us about yourself.

1.     I am a former 911 operator writing fiction. I have published a couple of crime novels, but I don’t write entirely in this genre. My latest release, The Pool Boy’s Beatitude, I would categorize as a quirky and offbeat romance, or perhaps literary.

When and why did you begin writing?

2.     I like writing fiction because, unlike reality, a story ends the way I want it to.

What inspired you to write your first book?

3.     This sounds a bit strange, but a old tough looking character sitting on a chair in front of a house trailer at a garbage dump. He was the man in charge of running the dump and lived in the trailer. He became Raymond Little, my antihero, hero, in Children of the Enemy, which was the first book I ever finished. The first draft was completed in the early 1990’s.

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

4.     I spend time with my girlfriend. We watch a little TV, ride our bikes, or just hike. We also like to just wander about town.

What are your thoughts about promotion?

5.     I hate it. I don’t like to ask people for anything, which would include asking them to read my book, or worse, buy my book. But, unfortunately, publishers, even the Big Five, won’t do it for you, promoting your work is the only way to find readers.

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

6.     I don’t like the term writer’s block. But I struggle sometimes to move a story forward. The best way out of it is to write your way out. Everything in the universe is derivative. If you just keep writing, whatever strikes you, new and better ideas usually will evolve from the writing, and eventually you end up with a first draft. The real shaping of the story comes through editing the draft, kind of like how a director edits the film they’ve shot into a movie.

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

7.     Rebel e Publishing, Detroit, London, and Johannesburg. I found them on pre-editors and editors and submitted the book to them. They did original artwork for the cover, which I really think is unique, and the editor I worked with, Jayne Southern, did a terrific job helping to shape the story.

What is your marketing plan?

8.     I’ve been doing some blog interviews, and I entered The Pool Boy’s Beatitude in the Faulkner competition, it made it to the semifinals. I’m going to enter it in another competition this winter. I also have a publicist, Monica Paul, who does some twitter, Facebook, articles and I have a page on her website.

What are your current projects?

9.     I’m working on a novel with a tentative title of Counting Wolves. It’s a story about a retired soldier/cop whose wife has died and he’s lost his zest for living. He retreats to a mountain cabin and while there begins caring and feeding a pack of young wolves.

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


Tell us about the current book you’re promoting.

1.     Jack Joseph is an alcoholic physicist who drops out and is cleaning swimming pools, or as he calls them, infinite ponds, to support his lifestyle. In space, science believes the expansion of the universe exceeds the speed of light. So, why don't we live in the dark? Jack's darkness is of a different kind, addiction. Jack may understand the God particle, but his own particles remain a mystery. His life is a human orbit around alcohol, broken relationships and trying to stay out of jail. He finds himself caught between two women, one that he loves, and one that he needs, in a constant struggle to redeem his life

What gave you the idea for this particular book?

2.     It’s a little autobiographical, built around some of my own tribulations. I’ve always believed, like Carl Sagan, that we are made of “star stuff.” This leads to an interest in particles, quantum entanglement and the fine structured constants of the universe.

What comes first: the plot or characters?

3.     The characters always come first. I begin with doing a story built around a character I think will be interesting. Then I look to put him into situations that create the conflict for the story, and from there the chapters all lead to the resolution of the conflict. In a nutshell, that’s how I write a book.

Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?

4.     I probably fear Jack Joseph in the Pool Boy’s Beatitude the most, perhaps because I am an awfully lot like him. We share some of the same personal struggles. But my favorite character is Maggie Elizabeth Harrington, from a book titled with that name, and Alpha Wolves, which is a sequel that takes place ten years later. They are both written in first person female, and it was a real chance to explore themes about animals and the environment as well as her personal thoughts on love and her belief system. They were the most enjoyable to write. I intend to write a third and final story about Maggie, who is a real historic character, a recluse who lived alone in a former mining village that became a ghost town.

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

5.     They say write what you know. I worked in law enforcement, so I had a background to write police investigative procedures, and of course I had a lot of case histories I could draw on to fictionalize a crime and criminals. I raised a pair of arctic hybrids, which is how wolves entered into the two stories built around Maggie Elizabeth Harrington. I also did a lot of research on wolves, and copper mining. My parents came from mining families in the copper country of northern Michigan. A lot of my knowledge of mining was first hand from my father and relatives and friends. The physics knowledge of Jack Joseph, physicist turned pool boy in The Pool Boy’s Beatitude came from the Internet. I’ve always had an interest and simply asked a lot of questions on the web.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

6.     The hardest part of writing any book is the discipline to not let a lot of time go between writing periods. When you get a story rolling the way you want it, you need to maintain the stamina to get the idea down on paper. You can take your time editing, but the first draft you want the emotion of the story to carry onto the page while you still have it in your head and your heart.

How long does it take to write a book, and what is your process?

7.     I can usually write a first draft in anywhere from two to about six months. I usually edit the story at least twice, and this takes close to another six months to a year.

What are your current books out right now, and what are the books coming up for release?

8.     The Pool Boy’s Beatitude from Rebel e Publishing
The Death of Anyone from Melange Books
Children of the Enemy from Cambridge Books
Maggie Elizabeth Harrington from TL Bliss Press
Alpha Wolves from Magic Masterminds

What advice would you give a new writer starting out?

9.     Look at rejection and criticism with an open mind and work to improve. But never lose faith in yourself. Keep typing and submitting.


What do you do when you’re not writing?

1.     That’s what girlfriends are for. But I also am very fond of animals, feed every feral cat, raccoon and possum that comes to the door.

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

2.     I look for stories that are character driven. There are only a handful of original plots in all of literature, so, everything is derivative of one of them. It’s the characters that make a book interesting.

What books have most influenced your life?

3.     All of Hemingway’s books. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard. I think Elmore’s ten rules of writing are about the best writing tutorial I’ve ever read.


In space, the expansion of the universe exceeds the speed of light. In a jail cell the speed of light slows, time ages and deteriorates slowly to a crawl. Jack Joseph understands physics. He understands the nature of quarks, leptons, dark matter and the desire to find the God particle. What Jack doesn’t understand is Jack. He has a Masters degree in particle physics, an ex-wife, a sugar mama, a passion for cooking and chronic dependencies he needs to feed. He cleans pools to maintain this chaotic lifestyle. Spinning about in a Large Hadron Collider of his own making, the particle known as Jack is about to collide with a particle known as Sarah.