Halloween Book #GIVEAWAY!

Halloween Graphic

Trail of Secrets Goodreads Giveaway!

Have you noticed the darkness falling earlier, the wind howling louder, and the mysterious creatures moving in the woods…right behind you? BOO! I love Halloween. It’s one of my favorite times of the year for so many reasons:  silly costumes, delicious candy, and (of course) terrifying ghost stories!

I’m celebrating Halloween with a Goodreads Giveaway of the first book in my Dark Horse Series–Trail of Secrets. If you’re a horse lover or mystery lover (or both!) there’s no better way to get in the Halloween spirit than by reading this thrilling tale about sixteen year-old Brynlei who, while away at horse camp, hears a ghost story about another girl who went missing on a trail ride four years earlier. When Brynlei starts seeing glimpses of the girl (or her ghost) in the woods, things really get creepy. Sound intriguing? Visit the series page on Amazon or enter the Goodreads Giveaway, which ends October 20th.

Good Luck! And, feel free to share this giveaway link with your friends:  http://bit.ly/2fnMDvg

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A New House and Other Updates

New homeI haven’t posted in a while due to my family’s move this summer. Nothing interrupts a writer’s flow quite like selling one house, buying another, and relocating a family of four (plus our dog) and all of our stuff. It was a huge undertaking. Our new house (originally built in 1931) remains a work-in-progress, but we are all unpacked and my home office is set up. We now live in Ann Arbor, MI, where my husband and I both went to school at the University of Michigan. After living in a small town for the last seven years, it has been amazing to return to a city with so much to offer, especially when it comes to the arts. Just yesterday, I participated in the Kerrytown Bookfest where I got to mingle with readers and fellow writers while selling and signing my books. Sitting next to me was none other than Jack Cheng, author of See You in the Cosmos. So cool! I got to chat with him about writing and publishing, and bought a signed copy of his book for me and my kids to read. Obviously, he was selling way more books than me, but seeing his success and the way readers flocked to his book inspired me to keep going.

 

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A few scenes from the Kerrytown Bookfest

Now that we’re all moved in and our kids are back in school, I’m finally getting back to writing. What’s next? The idea for my newest project has been percolating in my brain all summer:  an adult suspense/thriller novel involving a woman who lives in a tiny house, her dead husband, a missing hotel worker and lots of secrets. I’ve developed the characters and written a general outline to give me a roadmap to follow. Now all I need to do is write the darn thing! I was going to wait until November (NaNoWriMo), but I may not be able to wait until then. There will be many updates to come…

 

Speaking of updates, it’s time for me to check in with the results of my Summer Reading List. Here we go…I read 8 of the 12 books on my list (plus two that weren’t on the list):Summer Reading Images

The Girls by Emma Cline, Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty, All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda, Into the Water by Paula Hawkins, The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman, Ride Every Stride by Amy Maltman, Showdown by Brittney Joy, and The Dogs Who Found Me by Ken Foster.

The two extras were:  The Lying Game by Ruth Ware and Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica.

Oddly, the last two that weren’t on my list were my favorites, but I also devoured Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty. I found all of the books I read to be enjoyable. There weren’t any major disappointments, but I didn’t love The Girls by Emma Cline as much as I thought I was going to. While it was beautifully written, the subject was too disturbing for me. As for the four books I didn’t get to yet, I’m still going to read those, too. I ran out of time! For more on what I’m reading, feel to friend or follow me on Goodreads. It’s always fun to see what others are reading.

Until next time, keep reading (and writing). I’ll be checking in a lot more often in the coming months!

 

Author Spotlight: D.G. Driver

I’m pleased to welcome Donna Driver (writing under the name D.G. Driver) on my Author Spotlight this month. I met Donna through our mutual publisher, Fire and Ice, and read the first book in her Juniper Sawfeather series, Cry of the Sea, last year. While fantasy books usually aren’t my genre of choice, I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone with Cry of the Sea. I found it to be a fun YA read featuring real and likeable characters, a suspenseful storyline, an ever-important (and timely!) message about the importance of protecting our planet, and–of course–mermaids. Like the first book, the second and third installments are sure to appeal to fantasy-lovers and environmentally conscious teens and adults, alike. As it just so happens, TODAY IS RELEASE DAY for the third book in the Juniper Sawfeather trilogy, Echo of the Cliffs!

EntireJuniperSeries new covers[7606]

In addition, Donna and I both have short stories included in the Kickass Girls of Fire andKickAssGirlsOfFIYA Ice (April 2017) anthology compiled by our publisher. Her story, Beneath the Wildflowers, is great and provides a sample of her writing. The best part? The anthology is FREE!

Now, here’s more about Donna and her books…

SAMSUNGD.G. Driver loves writing about diverse characters dealing with social and environmental issues. She has been writing and publishing for 22 years and has won awards for her fiction and nonfiction books for young readers. She mostly writes contemporary fantasy like the Juniper Sawfeather Novels and her romantic ghost novella Passing Notes. However, she has also written a middle grade contemporary novel about bullying and autism called No One Needed to Know, and she has short stories ranging from romance to horror in several anthologies. When she’s not writing, she can be found teaching or performing in a community theater show somewhere around Nashville.

Learn more on D.G. Driver’s WEBSITE and BLOG.

echo[7605]Back Cover Blurb for Echo of the Cliffs:  The mermaids are back, and they’ve got a message for Juniper Sawfeather.

Juniper knows American Indian mythology connects the mermaids she rescued from the oil company to the ancient spirit trapped forever in a tree. The third part of that myth is about a man turned into stone, but where could he be and what will he be like? While on a quest to find the answers, her boat is attacked by a killer whale. It appears to have been led by mermaids. So, are the mermaids trying to tell her how to find them? Or are they warning her to stay away?

Once again, June is on a heroic mission, the most frightening and magical adventure yet. A thrilling ending to this award-winning young adult fantasy trilogy.

Author Interview:

If you could spend the day with any character from your novel, who would it be? Why?

I guess I’d like to spend the day with Juniper herself. She’s kind of lonely, and her best friend Haley never really gets her. I’d like to just hang out with her at the beach, taking nature photos and drawing pictures together while talking about big dreams and adventures we’d like to go on.

If your book was made into a movie, who do you envision playing the leading roles?

I’d like to see Chloe Bennet from Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. play Juniper. I think Dylan Massett from Bates Motel would be a gorgeous Carter if he grew his hair out a little. It wouldn’t hurt my feeling to see Lou Philip Diamond as Peter Sawfeather and Julia Roberts as Natalie Sawfeather.

Great choices! What attracts you to writing in the contemporary fantasy (or urban fantasy) genre?

I’m a sucker for plot-heavy books. I know a lot of my author friends cringe at that, but I like adventure stories, whether they are fantasy, historical, mystery, contemporary or what-have-you. I do like character-driven stories – I just like to see those interesting characters do stuff and not sit around having feelings. I also like it when unusual things happen to normal people. These are my favorite kind of fantasies. I enjoy them much more than epic or high fantasies set in other worlds.

Is writing your full-time job? If not, what else do you do?

No. I work full-time as a teacher at a learning development center in Nashville where we help special needs children alongside their typically developing peers. I’ve been there 12 years.

What are your hobbies outside of writing?

I love reading and watching movies and TV. I also am a singer/actress and try to get on stage at least once a year in a community theater musical or play – usually alongside my husband or one of our kids. I used to perform a lot more (my degree is in theater), but I’m trying to devote more time to writing.

How do you deal with rejections and/or negative reviews?

Rejection has been harder for me than negative reviews. So far (knock on wood) the criticisms I’ve had of my published books have all made sense to me. I mean, there are trolls who give one stars for no reason, but usually a person who takes the time to write something has a valid point to make. I don’t always agree, but I understand what they’re saying. Rejection is harder, and I’ve dealt with it all my life as an actress and author. The thing that hurts the most about it is that I often never know exactly why my work has been rejected, just that it wasn’t “what they were looking for”. I often get very ‘nice’ rejections complimenting me on my skill but not loving the story I’m telling.

What time of day do you prefer to write?

I usually write on the weekends in blocks of time. My weeknights tend to be about marketing, as I have less time to get anything done because I have to feed my family and spend time with them. When I’m under a deadline, my family eats a lot of fast food and is ignored to a certain extent.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on two YA projects right now. I’m cleaning up an old manuscript to get it ready for submission. It’s an adventure/ghost story. The other project I’m working on is adding 2 related stories to my novella Passing Notes in order to create a full-length book. Fingers are crossed that Fire and Ice YA Books will like both of these projects and take them on.

Is the setting of your novel based on a real place? Tell us about it and why it inspired you.

Yes. I set this series in Washington. I wanted the oil spill that starts off the first book, Cry of the Sea, to be in the Pacific Northwest, similar to the Exxon-Valdez oil spill of 1989. I used real cities and places in that book. In book 2, Whisper of the Woods, the forest is set in the location of a real American Indian reservation, but I purposely never gave the name of the reservation.

A large part of book, 3, Echo of the Cliffs is set at the very top corner of the continuous United States. I knew that I needed a magical stone or rock or cliff for this book to go with the legend, and I researched a few different places. What finally won me over were these magnificent sea stacks, the tallest among them called Fuca Pillar, that exist right where the Strait de San Juan meets the Pacific Ocean at the most northwestern point of Washington State. The Fuca Pillar, at the right angle looks a bit like a big face. I knew the story had to wind up there, but I won’t tell you why or what happens.

Sounds like the perfect setting for your story, Donna. Thanks for being a part of my blog, and best wishes on your book release!

 

What’s on my Summer Reading List?

It’s Memorial Day Weekend, and you know what that means… It’s time for SUMMER READING! The same excitement that comes from my childhood memories of summer reading has carried over into adulthood…maybe because I picture myself devouring books while lounging by a pool, sipping a glass of wine and completely uninterrupted by kids (yeah, right!) Before checking out my list below, please note that it comes with two BIG disclaimers:  #1–I’m constantly (everyday) finding new books to read, so this list is likely to evolve and expand, and #2–My reading lists are usually over-ambitious, meaning it is likely I may not actually read every book this summer, but it’s good to have goals!

The-Girls-Emma-Cline1. The first book on my list is one I’ve been wanting read all year — The Girls by Emma Cline. It tells the story of a 14 year-old girl who gets drawn into a Manson-like cult in 1960’s California. It promises to be a mesmerizing read involving cult psychology, teenage insecurity and murder. The book has received rave reviews and was named an Amazon Best Book of June 2016. Sounds like the perfect beach read to me!

2. I love everything by this next author, Liane Moriarty. Her writing style is Truly-Madly-Guiltyfast-paced, humorous, and suspenseful– all of my favorite things. I was so thrilled when her novel (and one of my all-time favorite books), Big Little Lies, was recently made into an HBO mini-series. I haven’t had a chance to read her latest book, Truly Madly Guilty, and I can’t wait!

These next two books fall into my favorite reading (and writing) category–Psychological Thrillers!

All the missing girls3. All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda has been calling my name for a few months now. The premise of a suspenseful tale told backwards intrigues meThis book has received tremendous reviews and was named as A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice. I’m excited to read it.

4.  Because I enjoyed Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, I look forward into-the-water-678x1024to reading her new novel, Into the Water. While I see it has received mixed reviews on Amazon…frankly, I don’t care. Just from reading the back cover blurb I want to know why a single mother was found dead at the bottom of the river and what she had to do with the teenage girl who was found dead in the river before her. I’m eager to read this best-selling story of psychological suspense written by a talented author.

And in the Historical Fiction category…

Two Family House5. The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman has been sitting on my Kindle for months. I’ve heard great things about it and I’m going to make time to read it this summer. I love historical fiction because it transports me to another time and place. This family saga is set in post WWII Brooklyn and follows the lives of two brothers who share a house with their wives. It promises to be an emotional page-turner featuring vivid characters, life-altering secrets, lies, love and redemption.

Now I’m moving on to one of my favorite categories–  Equestrian Fiction!Ride Every Stride

6. Ride Every Stride by Amy Maltman appears to encompass everything I love in a great book–horses, dark secrets and plot twists! This novel is set against the backdrop of a prestigious stable and one man’s quest to earn a spot on the Canadian Olympic equestrian team, despite the personal demons that threaten to destroy his dream. Bring it!

Showdown7.  Showdown (Red Rock Ranch, Book Two) by Brittney Joy I read the first book in the Red Rock Ranch series, Lucy’s Chance, and very much enjoyed it. I found the first book to be a fun and quick YA read that transported me into the world of Western riding and contained just the right amount of suspense, romance and, of course, horses. I look forward to escaping into Book 2 on one of my beach days.

Continuing on the YA Theme, I’m eager to read…

8. The Art of Holding on and Letting GoArt of Holding on and Letting Go by fellow Michigan author, Kristin Bartley Lenz. This Fall 2016 Junior Library Guild Selection tells the coming of age story of a teenage competitive rock climber who is forced to take a year off after tragedy strikes on an Ecuadorian mountaintop. I love learning about cool sports and enjoy journeys of self-discovery, so I’m beyond excited to read this highly acclaimed book.

Fault in our Stars9. Because I’m the last person on the planet who hasn’t read this book, I’m adding YA bestseller The Fault in our Stars by John Green to my list. I’ve been hesitant to read it because it just sounds so depressing, but millions of people can’t be wrong…right? I’m not going to bother telling you what it’s about because you’ve probably already read it. And, no, I haven’t seen the movie either.

I also love reading Non-Fiction books, and have several on my summer reading list, including…

10. The Dogs Who Found Me: What I’ve Learned from the Pets who were Left Behind by Dogs who found meKen Foster. I’m a sucker for animal rescue stories, and I’ve already got my box of Kleenex ready for this one. Animals can teach us so many things about ourselves if we would just pay attention. This tale of multiple rescues is bookended by the tragedies of 9/11 and hurricane Katrina. I can’t wait to learn how this author was touched by a loveable array of abandoned dogs.

Edible11. Edible: An Adventure into the World of Eating Insects and the Last Great Hope to Save the Planet by Daniella Martin has peaked my interest. As if my mostly-vegan diet wasn’t “crazy” enough, now I’m going to learn about eating bugs? Absolutely! Hey, I didn’t say I was actually going to eat insects, I’d just like learn about the people who do. And because I believe in science and I’m all for saving the planet, I’m reminding myself to never say never…

12.  Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance is Hillbilly Elegyanother non-fiction read that sounds timely and fascinating. This book is described as a passionate and personal analysis of poor, white, working class Americans, and how one man achieved upward mobility while the rest of his family was left behind. I’m hoping this book will delve deep into another way of life–one that I know little about–and might help offer a new perspective.

Because the next novel I’m going to write is an Eco-thriller/Suspense story, I’m trying to read as many similar-type books as I can. Here are a couple that are at the top of my eco-thriller list:

Open SeasonTipping Point

13.  Open Season by C.J. Box

14. Tipping Point by Simon Rosser

 

 

Finally, (although I won’t be reading my own books this summer) I have to give a quick darkhorse[3612]shout out to my Dark Horse Series. These YA mysteries set against the backdrop of a summer camp in northern Michigan make the perfect beach read for anyone who loves fast-paced mysteries, creepy ghost stories, and/or horses.

That’s it! What’s on your summer reading list? Now please excuse me because I need to start reading…

What is a Thunderclap?

Secret confession:  I sometimes find marketing my own books tedious and frustrating. (Shocking, isn’t it?) I’ve made full use of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to get the word out, but my reach is limited and I’ve had to face the cold truth that not all of my friends and family want to read my books, much less help me with marketing. I decided to try something new with the recent release of my second YA novel, Barn Shadows. Enter Thunderclap

You might be wondering, what is a Thunderclap? Basically, it is an online crowdspeaking platform that allows you to connect with other people’s social media accounts in order share a message. First, you have to create a campaign. (For example, my campaign was the Book Launch for Barn Shadows.) Within your campaign, you can post photos, write some backstory, and link to a website. Next, you invite people to join your Thunderclap. They will receive a message informing them of the date and time that your Thunderclap message will go out and they can choose whether to authorize their social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr) to share the message. I timed my Thunderclap to go out on the day of my book release. It’s fun to watch your social reach grow as each person joins your Thunderclap.

Here’s what my Thunderclap page looked like a few days prior to my set date…

Thunderclap photo

Thunderclap is free, as long as you reach the required number of supporters (100). There are also paid versions for people who can’t reach up to 100 supporters. I joined a Facebook group where people supported each other’s Thunderclap campaigns. Between the Facebook group and my friends, family and writing colleagues, I easily reached 100 supporters by my end date. Here’s what my final numbers and social reach looked like…

Thunderclap photo2

So I reached 230,672 people, instead of just 3,000 of my own Twitter followers and 250 of my Facebook followers. I was happy I took a chance on Thunderclap. It worked out for me, as I saw a big spike in sales on the first day my book was released. I have to assume at least some of those sales were generated by the increased exposure from the Thunderclap campaign. It was easy to use and FREE. I recommend giving it a try to any of my fellow authors who have a book release coming up. What do you have to lose?

Author Spotlight: Nina Mansfield

I’m so pleased to feature Nina Mansfield on my blog for this month’s Author Spotlight! Nina and I share a mutual publisher (Fire and Ice), and her YA mystery, Swimming Alone, was released on the SAME DAY as my YA mystery, Trail of Secrets. It was an instant connection! I read Swimming Alone last year and recommend it to anyone looking for a fun and mysterious read that will transport you to a quaint, New England seaside town. Now here’s more about Nina and Swimming Alone

NinaMansfield2016[2854]Nina Mansfield is a Connecticut based writer. Her debut novel, SWIMMING ALONE, a YA Mystery, was published in 2015 by Fire & Ice YA. Her short mystery fiction has appeared in ELLERY QUEEN MYSTERY MAGAZINE, MYSTERICAL-E, KINGS RIVER LIFE MAGAZINE, and anthologized in FAST WOMEN AND NEON LIGHTS: EIGHTIES-INSPIRED NEON NOIR. Her graphic novel FAKE ID: BEYOND RECOGNITION (illustrated by Leyla Akdogan) will be published in installments online by PlumeSnake.com soon. Nina began her writing career as a playwright; she has written numerous plays, which have been published, and produced throughout the world. Visit her website at: www.NinaMansfield.com.

SwimmingAlonefrnt (2)[2855]Back Cover Blurb:  The Sea Side Strangler is on the loose in Beach Point, where fifteen-year-old Cathy Banks is spending the summer with her aunt (who happens to be mystery writer Roberta McCabe). Although thrilled to be away from her psychotic, divorcing parents, with no cell phone or internet access, Cathy is positive that her summer is going to be wretched. Just when she begins to make friends, and even finds a crush to drool over, her new friend Lauren vanishes. When a body surfaces in Beach Point Bay, Cathy is forced to face the question:  has the Sea Side Strangler struck again?

View Swimming Alone on Amazon.

 

Author Interview

When did you first know that you wanted to become a writer?

I wrote and illustrated my first “book” when I was five years old. It was called CINDY AND SALLY IN POLKA-DOT LAND. I wish I knew what happened to it! So I guess I’ve wanted to be a writer for almost as long as I can remember, but I started to take my writing seriously about 12 years ago.

What attracts you to writing in the mystery genre?

I write mysteries because I have always loved reading mysteries. I am intrigued by the criminal mind. I also believe that all human beings are capable of both tremendous evil and tremendous good, and I love delving into what might motivate that evil side to come out.

What are your hobbies outside of writing?

I love seeing theater. I also write plays, and I was in actor once upon a time,  so I try to see as much theater as I possibly can. Luckily, I am a short train ride from New York City. I see everything from thought-proving dramas, to experimental theater, to Broadway musicals.. Lately, since I have a toddler, I have also been enjoying a lot of children’s theater.

What are you working on now?

I have a couple of short mystery stories in the works, and I have been revising and rewriting a young adult paranormal romance/thriller for quite some time. I hope to finish it soon! I also recently had my graphic novel FAKE ID: BEYOND RECOGNITION start coming out in installments at PlumeSnake.com, and I am working on promoting that as well!

What has been the highlight of your writing career so far?

Last year I attended a number of writing conferences and met so many wonderful people. One of the most amazing things I got to do was participate in Malice Go-Around at Malice Domestic, which is like speed-dating for authors. I got to “pitch” SWIMMING ALONE to over 200 mystery fans. It was so much fun!

Is the setting of your novel based on a real place? Tell us about it and why it inspired you.

SWIMMING ALONE is set in Beach Point, Rhode Island, a fictional location inspired by my childhood memories vacationing in Rhode Island. Every summer, my grandparents would rent a cottage near the beach. There’s something about being near the ocean—that salty sea air, the feel of sand on my skin, the sound of the waves—that has always relaxed and inspired me. Luckily, no serial killers were ever on the loose when I was vacationing there!

Yes, that’s a good thing! Thanks for participating, Nina. We look forward to reading more from you in the future.

In the meantime, stay tuned for next month’s Author Spotlight with YA fantasy writer, D.G. Driver!

Courageous Heroines of YA! (Blog Hop)

Courage QuoteAs part of April’s Kickass Girls of YA blog hop event, I’m writing a post about what I love in my favorite YA heroines. So many admirable traits make for strong female characters in YA fiction: cunning, intelligence, physical strength, empathy and loyalty, to name a few. But for me, one trait stands out more than the others, perhaps because there are so many varieties of it. I’m talking about courage.

I enjoy reading and writing about courage because it first requires knowing the character’s vulnerabilities. Ambrose Redmoon says, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” John Wayne stated it more simply when he said, “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.” That quote always makes me smile because it reminds me of my main character, Brynlei. (Literally!) She is terrified of breaking promises, drawing attention to herself and disappointing people, yet she abandons all decorum when she gallops her horse into the off-limits forest in the middle of a horse show in the name of something “more important than fear.”

Few things make a reader connect more with a heroine than knowing what terrifies her. When a character then has to face those fears, the reader is left with no choice but to pull for her. The recipe for a courageous heroine is simple–the main character possesses a weakness, fear or phobia, and then is placed in a situation where she has to choose between letting the fear overtake her, or facing down her weakness and doing the right thing. Obviously, she’s going to take the second option because she’s a kickass girl of YA!

I also love courage because–just like our favorite heroines–it comes in many varieties. Of course, there’s the high-action courage we all love–the female dragon slayers and the girls who try out for the all-male football teams who risk their physical health–or even their lives–by taking on opponents much larger than themselves. This kind of bold courage is exciting and fun to read, not to mention empowering.

There’s also the “taking a stance” kind of courage–the girl who sacrifices her social status by standing up for the new kid who’s getting bullied by the popular crowd, or the girl who finally walks out of an abusive relationship, or the one who organizes a rally to save the dying whales. Often these characters know they’ll be judged harshly by their peers or society, but they find the strength to stay true to themselves and their values. Who wouldn’t want to root for these heroines?

Quiet CourageThen there’s a more subtle kind of courage:  the girl who has never spoken out in class before decides to raise her hand. The introvert who feels insecure in front of others tries out for the school play. Or the one whose parents tell her she’ll never amount to anything resolves to focus on her studies every day, quietly charging toward a better life. I love this kind of complex and understated courage, too.

Ultimately, kickass heroines are courageous in their own ways. No matter what type of courage they embody, they all decided that something else was “more important than fear.” This is what makes them #kickassgirlsofya to me.

Who are your favorite YA heroines? What fears did they overcome in order to demonstrate their courage?

Now visit the other bloggers in this BLOG HOP!

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