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MEET THE AUTHORS: Richard and Mary Rensberry


“MEET THE AUTHORS”

Authors Richard Rensberry (GOBLIN’S GOOP ) and Mary Rensberry (I AM SPIRIT, the ABCs of an Ideal Spirit) are with us today to share a bit of their personal story and to tell us about their latest books. So, let’s get ready to meet the authors! ~Bette A. Stevens, Maine author http://www.4writersandreaders.com

Welcome Richard and Mary Rensberry. It’s a pleasure to have you with us today. Tell us a little about your family life how it fits into your writing life.

Our lives have always been rooted deep in family. I was one of nine children born and raised on a farm in Northern Michigan.  I am an uncle, great uncle and great, great uncle many times over.  Mary was born and raised in Texas in the city and also on a ranch in the country. She is the mother of two morally sound and positive adult children.  Family values was one of the integral connections that brought Mary and I together. We now have three thriving grandchildren and can’t wait for more. Both of us believe that strong family values is one of the major driving forces in building strong and ethical communities. You will find strength of family inherently woven throughout our collaborative children’s books as well as our own individually authored books.

How long have you been writing and how do you work together OR do you?  

I (Richard) began writing at the age of twelve and had created my first poetry chapbook by the age of fourteen. Later in life my poetry appeared in small journals like the Midwest Poetry Review and Touchstone Press.  In 2013, Mary and I formed QuickTurtle Books®. We have since collaborated on writing and publishing several children’s books as well as offering editorial advice on each other’s independent works. Both of us value and respect each other’s critical input and helpful insight. Mary is definitely my muse and inspiration. For her, I am her editor and often times, color coordinator. She knows how to work the internet more than I and I know how the smaller parts fit into the whole, if that makes sense.

While we are both authors, passionate about writing, we draw from different backgrounds for the materials in our books. Mary’s background for years was teaching children and she tucked away her desire to write so that she could help others with the basics of learning. Her writing career began around 2009 with ideas of writing followed by a book self-published on Blurb entitled, Fowl Art in 2010 then Listen: Listen to YourSelf  in 2011. So Mary has been writing for a shorter length of time but is definitely just as passionate about the works we do not only together but on her own.

Can you give us a brief synopsis of the books we are featuring today? 

Mary’s current book, I AM SPIRIT, the ABCs of an Ideal Spirit, made its début the first of this year. It is about being “spirit-filled”and the capabilities and potentialities we all have as the divine lives within us. This was written on the heels of Christmas Christmas Everyday published in 2016 for children of all ages with the simple message that giving and sharing can be done each and every day of the year and not only during the Christmas season. Mary is actively following up the Everyday Series book with a children’s version of I AM SPIRIT for 6-9 year olds due to be out in less than a year.

Mary was prompted to write  I AM SPIRIT, a spiritual book with universal messages, due to the prevalent attitude in society that we are at the effect of life itself, that we are only a body. She adheres to the viewpoint that television and the media have capitalized on this erroneous idea of being a body with their prescription drug advertisements, sexual innuendoes & escapades, all materialistic in nature.

My brand new children’s picture book GOBLIN’S GOOP is a modern-day take on the Battle of Jericho. It is an environmentally friendly book swarming with bugs and goblins from the Evil Empire of Monsanto. Like most of our children’s books, GOBLIN’S GOOP, is thoughtfully illustrated and written in verse and rhyme. It is for children five years old and a bit older. Mary formulated the idea and I ran with it, being prompted by the GMO grains that have polluted our organic seed bank even here in the Amish Country. I guess I should add that adults should and could benefit greatly by reading it, too.

Can you give us a favorite line from each of the books? 

A favorite line from Mary’s book I AM SPIRIT, would be “I AM observant,”

This line is chosen out of the 26 simple messages because ‘LOOKING’ and being observant is a lost art in today’s world. People see what they want to see verses what is really out there in the environment. When you are able to really look and confront the environment, then that ’s when something can be done about it.

One of my favorite couplets from Goblin’s Goop, is “Crickets came screeching with fiddles and bows. Mosquitoes came blowing their notable nose.”

The rest of the book follows the same lively pattern and rhyme.

What’s the hardest part about writing?

The hardest part for Mary is writing words upon words. She likes a simple message as life  to her is simple and can be put down in simple language. Other than that…the hardest part about writing is the marketing aspect. It is difficult to get our books in front of enough people to create the effects we are trying to create. This interview is an opportunity and promotional avenue to help do so and we thank you, Bette and the readers, for the privilege to be here.

How can readers get copies of your books? 

Readers can find and get copies of all our books from Amazon by just typing one of our names into the search box. Links to our books are also available at:  http://richardrensberry.com and http://maryrensberry.wordpress.com. Autographed copies can also be ordered directly from us by contracting us at: maryandrichard@quickturtlebooks.com

What’s the best piece of advice you can give to new authors?

The best piece of advice we can give to new and unknown authors is to understand that writing is just a small part of being a successful author. We write for about three months out of the year and the remainder of the year is spent on the marketing and technical aspects of the business. Be prepared for not being well enough prepared to sell your books.

The best piece of advice Mary can give to new authors is don’t give up: Be persistent. Find out what you are passionate about and then find the audience for the topic being written about. Develop relationships with your family, friends, and those online, too.

What’s next on the agenda for authors Richard and Mary Rensberry?

I just completed my new adult travel book called CITY SLICKER’S GUIDE TO THE AMISH COUNTRY. It is a look into the nature and commerce of North Eastern Michigan’s Amish Country of Fairview, Comins and Mio, our home. I am currently at work on a new children’s book about the AuSable Railroad built and operated locally by a couple just down the road. I am seeking the help of a local illustrator to begin the project. We are also looking for someone to take over the marketing aspect of our projects.

What’s next for Mary is putting I AM SPIRIT into paperback and Kindle format while continuing with the children’s book on that subject. Look for our latest books at the beginning of 2018.

Richard and Mary, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you better and to learn more about your writing and your books. It’s been a pleasure!

FIND THE BOOKS

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Author Spotlight—Meet Stephanie Collins


Happy Love Month! I can’t think of a better way of spreading love than by sharing my love of reading and writing with you.  So, today, I am sharing with you a fellow author, hard-working mother of four, loving wife, and the unsuspecting author of a true medical drama/unconventional love story called With Angel’s Wings.  Stephanie is a member of Rave Writers – International Society of Authors (RWISA). Join me in welcoming award-winning author Stephanie Collins and learn more about this amazing gal in our interview. ~Bette A. Stevens
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Stephanie Collins, author of award-winning memoir With Angel Wings

Welcome, Stephanie Collins. How long have you been writing?

I began writing therapeutically in 1996. It was sometime around 2010 when I started seriously considering turning those writings into a book.

How many books have you authored?

I never intended to be an author at all. As I said, I wrote therapeutically through some rough times in my life, and later turned that into my one and only book—With Angel’s Wings.

Do you have a writing schedule?

I’ve been asked a number of times to write a sequel. That project doesn’t feel right to me, so I “compromised,” and write a monthly blog that acts as something of a continuation to the book’s epilogue. Writing once a month feels like a comfortable pace. It’s fun, it’s therapeutic, and the length of time between posts gives me plenty of time to find a new, interesting subject matter to focus on.

You’re a member of RAVE WRITERS – INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY OF AUTHORS (RWISA). Why do you think you were accepted into this exclusive group?

I was accepted into RWISA because I didn’t have a lot to do with the writing process. I am in awe of REAL authors. I wrote a memoir. I didn’t have to come up with a plot or a storyline. I didn’t have to worry about character development or believable dialogue. Someone with a much higher pay grade (and apparently a rather twisted sense of humor) took care of all that for me. I just had to play my role, then honestly and accurately document what happened. Now, living it…THAT was a challenge. Writing it down was a relative walk in the park. Heck, I didn’t even have to have good grammar; I had a great editor for that!

Modesty aside, what separates your writing from the millions of other writers in the world?

In all seriousness, what sets our story apart is the story, itself; not my writing. It’s all about the content. I’m not the star of my book (as a character or as the author), it’s the circumstances I and the rest of my family faced. Having a compelling, intriguing and thought-provoking story that demonstrates humanity (at its best or worst…or, better yet, a little of both) and touches the reader’s heart—that’s what can make a story great. Like I said, I am in awe of fiction authors when they can create that for us readers. As an author I was “lucky” enough to have all of that taken care of for me. I guess you could say I had the best writer of all on my staff! I WILL take credit for finding a great editor before I ever shared our story with anyone. That’s advice I’ll give to EVERY author. Find. A. Good. Editor!

If you could spend a day picking the brain of one author, who would that be? Why?

There are a number of authors I’d love to sit and chat with. I’m a romance junkie, and something of a history buff, so I’d have a particularly great time talking with any historical romance author who has done extensive research. One that comes to mind (off the top of my head) is Pamela Clare, who wrote a historical romance trilogy that had to do with the origins of the US Rangers. The love stories were great, but I was fascinated by the history of the Rangers, and would love to chat further about all she learned in her research.

Are you a die-hard INDIE writer who loves having complete control of your work, or, if you were offered a publishing contract today, would you sign on the dotted line?

I’m a fan of being an indie author. I’m a bit of a control freak (and by “a bit” I mean JUST shy of obsessive/compulsive), so I guess it fits my personality. I started off with a small publisher (who was also my editor). We were a great team, I learned a lot from her, and was happy to begin my publication journey with her. Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor about a year after we published, so she had to sell her business. The woman who bought the business was NOT at the same level as the woman she had bought the business from. To make a long story short, I fired her and went solo. I have LOVED being an indie author. I don’t know that I would have been so successful as an indie author without the lessons I learned from my publisher, so I’m thankful for that experience, but I can’t imagine ever accepting a publishing deal in the future.

As an author, where do you see yourself in 5 years?

In five years I hope to be pretty much where I am now as an author. I set out to educate people about some realities of special needs parenting. I think I’m rather successful in getting the message out there. If I’m still reaching new people in five years, I’ll be ecstatic.

What is the ONE tool that has been the most beneficial tool in the marketing of your books?

My marketing “plan” heavily relies on social media. It has been an AMAZING marketing tool…at JUST the right price! Twitter has been, by far, the most useful tool for me, but I try to keep up with multiple pages (mostly Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest).

Name one writer that you know of, member or non-member of RRBC, who you feel should be added to the RWISA Roster of elite members? Why?

I read Amie O’Brien’s “The Merchant’s Pearl” months ago, and I still find myself thinking about the story. It was a unique, memorable, and touching read. I can’t think of better qualifiers for mention, recognition, and addition to the RWISA library.

What is the one piece of advice that you could share that would be most valuable for those aspiring to not only be writers, but those aspiring to be great writers?

Write with your heart. If it doesn’t reach you it won’t reach your readers. Then find a good editor.

Do you believe that writers who churn out several books a year are really putting out quality work?

I’ve never paid too close attention to the publication dates of the series I’ve read (or multiple stand-alone books by a single author), so I don’t know that I’m qualified to answer that question. I’ve certainly read books that felt rushed (lack of editing, “shallow” plots, etc.), but I don’t know if that was due to rushing, neglect, or lack of writing talent (or some special combination of the three).

If you had promised your fans a book by a certain date only to find that your book wasn’t the best it could be, would you go ahead and publish your book just to meet that self-imposed deadline and deliver as promised, or, would you disappoint your fans and shelve the book until it was absolutely ready? No matter your reason, please explain why?

I wouldn’t want my name attached to anything that is less than the best I feel it can be. That has actually happened in the past, and I’m still horrified. I had my book translated to Spanish. It was a reputable agency and the translator had a good track record. The book was in Spanish, though, and I’m not fluent in Spanish. I just assumed it was fine and I published it. Not long after publication (and THANKFULLY before I made any sales) I had a friend from Madrid and another friend from Mexico City read a sample. Both women said it was a horrible translation. I immediately pulled the book off the market. After some legal intervention, the translation agency gave me the choice of a few new translators to re-translate the book. I chose a gentleman who I felt would do the best job. He finished the translation months ago, and—despite the fact both of the women who read samples from the previous translation have given it a thumb’s up, I hesitate to put it back on the market until I can find at least one more person to check it over.

In your opinion, what makes a book “a great book?”

A “great book” is one that the reader thoroughly enjoys reading. What might have been a “great book” to you last week might not be this week, because last week you were in a different mood. A book that you’re not enjoying today you may enjoy next month. There are things that, in my opinion, make books more difficult or frustrating to read (editing concerns, proofreading concerns, inconsistencies in the story, etc.), but I don’t think there’s anything specific that makes a story “great.” Reading is subjective—even to a single reader. I read “great books” as a kid that I’m sure I would roll my eyes through today, wondering what I was thinking to ever consider it a “great read.” So, I guess you could say what makes a book “great” is the perfect combination of content and current reader mindset.

If you received a review of your book which stated that there were editing & proofing “issues,” what’s the first thing you would do? And the second?

I have occasionally been alerted to typo’s in my book and I, of course, made the corrections as soon as I could. That process is much easier now that I’m independently published. With other issues mentioned, however, I carefully consider what is said. I recently received a review that suggested I get the book re-edited because the reader didn’t care for the amount of inner dialogue included. I respect and value the reader’s opinion, but I don’t think I will act upon that particular suggestion. I have received reviews that specifically commend the quality of editing, and others who specifically mention their appreciation for the inner dialogue. I think you have to balance out what is truly an editing issue and what is reader preference. Certainly, if you see a trend in reader feedback, you should seriously consider making adjustments. You can’t please everyone, though, so—to some extent—you have to follow your heart.

with-angel-wing-cover-for-rwisa-tourWhy You Need to Face Down the Fear of Publishing a Memoir by Stephanie Collins

In what felt like the blink of an eye, I went from being a young woman wrestling with a temperamental marriage to a single mother of an asthmatic, autistic toddler and an epileptic infant in heart failure. There was suddenly an overabundance of OMG moments, WTH moments, and “Hold my head in my hands in utter disbelief while I try to just breathe through it” moments. I began writing therapeutically.

Then other people (specifically nurses and therapists) began to read what I had written, and urged me to share our story, insisting it would be helpful to other special needs families. I wanted to help others if I could, but my heart was laid bare over those pages, and I feared judgement—as a writer, as a woman, and scariest of all—as a mother. After years of similar feedback, however, I decided to take a deep breath, close my eyes, and offer my exposed, bleeding soul to the world.

I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the generally supportive response from readers. Here is why I am thankful to have been talked into publication, and why others with important stories to share should work through whatever fears of judgement they may have: A mother in of a special needs, medically fragile toddler reached out to me via social media about 2 years ago. She said, “I recently stumbled upon your book. Reading it gave me hope that things will get better when hope is hard to come by. Also, before reading it, I never felt understood. I’ve ordered 3 more copies to give to family and friends. I’m hoping if they read about you, they’ll better understand me. Thank you so much!” Now, tell me; could there be any bigger reward for taking a leap of faith than that?

Find out more Stephanie Collins, take a look inside her award-winning memoir and follow her:

Thank you for supporting our RWISA (RAVE WRITERS-INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY OF AUTHORS) Members!  Please follow and support the entire tour by visiting 4WillsPub~Bette A. Stevens, Maine author

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A Letter to Fourth Grade Fans


Dear Mrs. Glynn & Fourth Grade Students,

How exciting it was to check my mailbox last week and find all of your wonderful Thank You Letters. They really made my day. Your notes and illustrations are fantastic. There is nothing that makes an author happier than hearing from her fans. I’m so glad that you enjoyed AMAZING MATILDA. I definitely enjoyed meeting all of you, reading my book and having a book talk. You had so many great questions to ask me about writing and you offered excellent insights into the book’s messages.

I took a picture of your letters and thought you’d like to see it. So, here it is!

MATILDAonAMAZON_20131106_99

Letters from fourth grade fans in Hartland, Maine. ~ Photo by Bette A. Stevens, Maine author/illustrator

I keep a file called MY SMILE FILE and all of your amazing letters waiting for me there. That way, on gloomy days when I need a smile, I can read your letters and think of ALL OF YOU—Mrs. Gynn and her amazing fourth grade students!

I included both of my children’s books in the photo. You’ll find copies in your school library. Yes, I will be back to read to you again. My favorite genre is historical fiction. Nature and human nature (people) are the things that inspire me to write my books. I’ll be posting this letter on my web/blog http://www.4writersandreaders.com

Happy reading, writing and all of those other amazing things that you all do,

Bette A. Stevens, MAINE AUTHOR ILLUSTRATOR

Inspired by nature BAS Dec 2015

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MEET THE AUTHOR: Christina Steiner (children’s literature)


CHRISTINA STEINER author picChristina Steiner is an award-winning writer of two illustrated children’s books The Sad Tree and Pronuba and The Fantastic Travels of William and the Monarch Butterfly (Outskirts Press 2013, 2015). As a nature enthusiast, she likes to introduce children to the wonders of the living world around them. Steiner writes fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

Other accomplishments include being featured in the Moorpark Review 2013, the West Winds Centennial, California Writers Club 100 year anthology in 2010, and an honorable mentioning in the 77th Annual Writer’s Digest Competition 2008.

Born and raised in Switzerland, Christina made Southern California her home and raised two daughters. When not writing or reading, she hikes with her dogs, rides her horse, makes wine with her partner and enjoys the beauty that nature offers.

It’s wonderful to have Christina Steiner with us today. I’ve fallen in love with both of her children’s books (outstanding children’s literature inspired by nature) and can’t wait to send copies to my youngest grandson to read and enjoy. Now it’s time to meet the author. Tell us more about yourself, Christina.

If I can be outdoors, I usually am. I prefer mountains to the ocean but living in California offers both. Nature in its bounty always amazes and enthralls me. A bad day gets whisked away after a walk on the beach or in the local hills.

How about your family?

My roots are in Switzerland. Growing up as the youngest of five, I learned from my siblings what was accepted and what not. Small town living has advantages and perils. Any misbehaving in the town usually reached my parent’s ear before I could make it home.

Living in America and raising my two daughters was different, everything seemed larger than life. I had the big advantage to live in a semi-rural area of Los Angeles at the time so I could instill the wonders of nature by exposing my children to the local wildlife and our domestic animals which included horses, sheep, goats, dogs, cats and even a llama. Now I live with my partner and four dogs in Ventura, California.

How long have you been writing and what type of writing do you normally do?

I always loved to write. My earliest competition was an essay for a newspaper in third grade. I did win second place. Later I wrote journals all through my teenage years which included poetry, at that time in German. My dream of writing my own book didn’t happen until much later when my children were grown. English became the language of choice as a writer. I joined local writing communities and profited a lot through critique groups and encouragements of follow writers. The dream became a passion.

SYNOPSIS OF BOOKS (Click cover images to find Christina’s books on Amazon  and take a look inside these beautifully written and illustrated children’s books.)

cover (1)The Sad Tree and Pronuba tells the story of the symbiotic relationship between the Joshua tree and the Pronuba moth.

The Fantastic Travels of William and the Monarch Butterfly is a chapter book. A North Dakota boy rides along with Anka, an eastern, fourth-generation Monarch butterfly to central Mexico and back. During the journey William learns the intricate life cycle of the Monarch butterfly, survival and friendship

What prompted you to write The Sad Tree and Pronuba

I visited the Mojave Desert and climbed Malapai Hill in Joshua Tree National Park. Fascinated by one of these strange Joshua trees, I wanted to know everything about them. The relationship of two different species, The Joshua tree and the Pronuba moth, show how exquisite and unique nature presents itself.

Favorite line: I must go—I’m so busy, I’ve got to blow. (Reminds me of our busy lives.)

Favorite character: Pronuba moth, she’s so upbeat and joyful.

William & the Monarch Butterfly CHRISTINA STEINERThe Fantastic Travels of William and the Monarch Butterfly was prompted by a suggestion from my partner. We live close to a grove that western Monarch butterflies choose for their winter quarters. Sadly the population of butterflies greatly diminished. After extensive research I decided to set the story for an eastern Monarch butterfly. For a small creature to fly the distance to the Oyamel fir forest and survive the winter in this unique environment to assure the continuation of the species is another example of the incredible natural world.

Favorite line: Anka speaking to William . . . “You and I share this world. We all have our purpose. I know mine from the get-go. You will have to figure yours out as you grow. But there is a reason why we’re here, why we’re alive.”

Favorite character: Anka, the Monarch butterfly. As she matures, she becomes incredibly sage.

What was the hardest part of writing your children’s books?

To write the stories so the readers, young or old, can see the grandeur of nature and be entertained while adhering to the facts.

Do you do anything in addition to writing books?

I assist my partner in making wine, two to four varietal per year. Together we take care of our dogs. In our household we have four large dogs, three champion Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Betsy, Harvard Girl and Boomer and Sentry, a 180 lbs. Hungarian Kuvasz. Every morning we take them to a leash-free park close by for training and exercise. Several times a week I ride my horse Xena, stabled in Moorpark. These outdoor activities balance out the time spent on the computer.

My two grandchildren, twins—a boy and a girl, spent most Sundays with me while my daughter is at work.

I attend a tutor-training workshop at the local library to become a volunteer tutor and help adults to achieve better reading and life skills.

My books are available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, outskirtspress.com and some local independent book stores.

What’s next for author Christina Steiner?

I finished a series of articles called Predators in the Backyard. Each talks about the intricate lives of insects or spiders commonly found in the backyard and the significance they have in mythology.

The first draft of a new novel is nearly completed. Untitled as of now. The middle-grade fiction deals with coming of age, loss, adjustment to inner city life and forming new friendships.

It’s been wonderful to have you with us today, Christina. I highly recommend both of your beautifully written and illustrated children’s books to our readers.

Visit author Christina Steiner and find out more about her books

Readers, thanks so much for visiting today. In invite you to join the conversation (comments below). Happy reading! ~ Bette A. Stevens 

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The #RRBC “Spotlight” shines on author Mark Aberdeen


Mark Aberdeen is the author of Knight and Dex (The Dex Territory Series). On today’s Rave Reviews Book Club “Spotlight Author” tour stop at 4writersandreaders.com , we’ll not only have the pleasure of meeting the author, we’ll get a peek inside Book 2 of the series. Welcome Mark, it’s great to have you with us today—I can’t wait to find out more about the authors you wish you could be. ~ Bette A. Stevens

Authors I Wish I Could Be

By Mark Aberdeen

Mark Aberdeen, author of KNIGHT AND DEX

Mark Aberdeen, author of KNIGHT AND DEX Territory (Superheroes/Detective) Series

Over the years and the course of many books consisting of many words of fantastic, interesting characters I’ve found a few stories that have really stuck with me. As a kid I gravitated pretty quickly to science fiction and fantasy. It was mostly due to my dad who was an avid reader and introduced me to the likes of Isaac Asimov, Victor Appleton’s Tom Swift series, Edgar Allan Poe, The Hardy Boys, Edgar Rice Burroughs both John Carter and Tarzan, I read the Time Machine, 20,000 Leagues under the Sea and the rest of the works of H.G. Wells. Later on my attention would turn to Robert. E Howard, Robert Heinlein, Philip K. Dick. These books as well as TV shows like Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, every 70’s and 80’s Saturday morning cartoon, a host of comic books and movies like Star Wars, Logan’s Run we’re all consumed with the voracious mind of a young boy and teenager. This set the foundation of my love of reading and writing. I wanted to create worlds like these. I wanted daring characters, dire situations and places that not only dove into the unimaginable but where six impossible things were done before breakfast.

As an adult I found my way over to new authors and some of them are so good that one can help but have physical reaction to it. For instance, when I read American Gods by Neil Gaiman it changed my world. Here was not just a book, but a piece of literature that was either something loved, or hated, but had a prose so beautiful it was painful. I would go on to read Stardust, Neverwhere and Sandman and everything Gaiman put to paper.

Stephen King is a grandmaster. While he has a difficult time sticking an ending, his use of description is unequalled. He can create paintings in my mind with just a few words. The man absolutely objects to adverbs of any kind. When a writer kill adverbs, it forces the author to use description. It’s the difference between a good writer and a great writer.

J.K. Rawling created a world like no other in her Harry Potter series. Here is world building at its finest. Even as fantastic and magical as her world is; it has rules. When those rules are broken there are consequences. She also filled her world with characters that one can’t help but love, or despise and she even created a character in Severus Snape was so utterly tragic that once his secret was revealed one couldn’t look at him the same way again. It was so elegant.

One hundred years from now when a future English literature class talks about books from this era; Gaiman, King and Rowling are the three who are going to be remembered. I’d love to see if this prediction holds true. I wonder if I combined their styles, would I be able to create a world that would have that answer?

Knight and Dex by Mark Aberdeen

Excerpt

Knight&DexEbookSnow settled over New London and covered the alley with a chilly blanket, which normally gave me a moment’s pause to reflect. I might have thought about tranquility, but there was nothing tranquil in the roundhouse kick I took to the face. Steam rose from crimson splatter as my blood hit the freshly fallen snow.

Minx’s claws flashed. I jumped back and narrowly avoided being torn open at the belly.

It was difficult to wax poetic while someone was doing their best to kill me.

Welcome to my life.

I swung my left fist. My intention wasn’t to connect with Minx’s jaw but to buy a precious second. The parry worked well enough and gave me the moment I needed to draw the pulse pistol from under my coat. I bellowed a triumphant, “Ha!”

My moment of glory was short-lived. Another kick connected with my right hand. The blow jarred the weapon loose and it sailed into a snow bank. Powdery snow swallowed it whole. The thing about being unarmed, it felt a bit like being naked in a crowd. No way to cover my ass.

I gripped my stinging hand. “Shit.”

A powerful arm, furry and itchy and stiff as a crowbar, hooked me around the neck. Minx had gotten behind me, and the momentum of her attack tore my feet from the ground. I cartwheeled, forcing her to detach and spring back, but I landed face-down in a heap. The snow with all its apparent fluffiness did nothing to cushion my fall. The impact rattled my bones and lights danced across my vision, swirling in loopy rings.

All I needed was another concussion.

Strong hands grabbed me by the collar and belt. My stomach lurched as I was torn from the relative comfort of the ground and flipped onto my back like a flapjack. Minx pounced on top of me and pinned my arms to my sides with her powerful thighs. Normally, I approved of such positions, but she wasn’t Pink Panther and this wasn’t foreplay. I feared she would crunch me like a walnut in a nutcracker. I gasped for precious air.

To any observer it would appear as if I were unprepared for this fight. That observer would have been correct. I’d seen her running down the sidewalk and duck into this alley. She was up to something and I’d interrupted her. Evidence suggested it was something she didn’t want the cops to know about. While my intent was to have a friendly chat with her, she’d decided to take our exchange in a different direction.

Minx had a reputation in underworld circles as an effective messenger. Our not-so-cozy encounter fell within the realm of her typical delivery method. While I didn’t feel like she took sadistic glee in her work, I thought she took pride in a job well done. I, on the other hand, found the work environment hostile, and already I was drawing up a complaint to her HR department.

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Readers, thanks for joining Mark’s Rave Reviews Book Club AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT TOUR today. Mark and I would love to hear from you (comments below): and if you enjoyed the post, I invite you to share it with your friends. ~ Bette A. Stevens

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Aside

MEET THE AUTHOR: Ann Morris (author of bilingual children’s books)


Ann Morris (bilingual children's books author)

Ann Morris (bilingual children’s books author)

I met author Ann Morris on Facebook; and being a former ESL (English/Second Language) teacher in middle-school as well as a teacher to students from diverse cultures throughout the globe myself, I’ve had an active interest in following Ann. Today, I’m delighted to have Ann Morris join. She’ll  fill us in on a bit of her personal history and tell us about her latest book, Everything is Different. So let’s meet the author!

It’s wonderful to have you with us to day, Ann. To start off, tell us a little about yourself.

I am a small town Iowa girl (USA) and always have the mentality that I like to know people and try to make a difference in whatever I do. I was encouraged to write by my mom, who had always loved to write. She guided me with ideas, resources, and encouragement. My dad inspired me to appreciate the beauty in everything. I have learned from and continue to apply both lessons.

I was first published in a poetry magazine called Wee Wisdom when I was 10 and 12 years of age. I always enjoyed writing papers and essays.

In college at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, I had the opportunity to travel, study, and live in Pamplona, Spain. I was in Spain twice studying and living during those years, and it changed my life. I learned to see myself and my country from the outside in and experienced being a minority for the first time in my life. That was eye-opening and a valuable experience.

I taught High School Spanish for about 18 years of my adult life, including tutoring and adult education classes. I created the curriculum for an eight-week Spanish for the Workplace class that I taught for Iowa Workforce Development that was well received.

After teaching, I did some freelance translating for local businesses and began working for Iowa Workforce Development as the only bilingual advisor in the Unemployment Division. There was a lot of telephone one-on-one with Latinos from all over the country, and I learned many accents and localisms.

During this time, as well as teaching, I began to express many opinions about acceptance, diversity and inclusion, and education that were published as Letters to the Editor.

From teaching English to some young friends from Madrid in the summers and from working in the New Iowan Center, where I worked with people from all over the world seeking work and community resources to aid their employment and educational empowerment, I became interested in writing children’s books as a way to promote literacy for native speakers as well as for language learners.

How about your family?

My immediate family is local now, and all of my stories so far have featured experiences and/or characters from my family. This includes my extended family, which is spread across the globe.

How long have you been writing and what type of writing do you normally do?

I was encouraged to write by my mom, who had always loved to write. She guided me with ideas, resources, and encouragement. My dad inspired me to appreciate the beauty in everything. I have learned from and continue to apply both lessons.

I was first published in a poetry magazine called Wee Wisdom when I was 10 and 12 years of age. I always enjoyed writing papers and essays.

I now write children’s picture books in English and separately in Spanish. The stories are based on memories with a lesson. The teacher in me is alive and well! I also write posts for LinkedIn and other short pieces. I always have several projects in the works.

Can you give us a brief synopsis of your new book?

EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT by Ann MorrisTOTO ES DISTINTO by Ann MorrisEverything Is Different was inspired by a short trip taken to the Midlands in the UK for a daughter’s wedding. Through our sight-seeing and observations, I knew immediately that it was excellent material for a children’s book with an important message. Using my nephew Brett and brother-in-law Scott as the characters, Scott takes Brett with him on a brief business trip to the UK, specifically England.

Brett is amazed at how many things are different in a country that speaks the same language, and asks many point-blank questions as to why? His dad explains patiently why, and Brett continues to learn that different can be interesting, and it may not even be wrong. This is a message near and dear to my heart and especially relevant today and every day.

What prompted you to writeEverything Is Different‘?

Everything Is Different was inspired by a short trip taken to the Midlands in the UK for a daughter’s wedding. Through our sight-seeing and observations, I knew immediately that it was excellent material for a children’s book with an important message. It has received an amazing reaction from fellow children’s book writers and friends from the UK.

Do you have a favorite line from the book?

I have several favorite lines, of course.

One I like it: “Brett got quiet whenever he was thinking hard, and this trip was making him thing very hard.”

Another is short conversation between the two: “I have another surprise for you, Brett…We’re going to eat at a pub.” Brett’s response is priceless: “You’re going to take me to a bar?

The spoiler to it all is a response later by Brett’s dad: “You will learn that not everyone does things the same way we do. But if it works for them, that is what is important. Being different does not mean they are wrong.”

Who is your favorite character and why?

Oh, Bette! I can’t choose! They are both my favorites and for different reasons:

  • Brett is open and honest about his observations, as children are. He begins in the book by being startled and befuddled.
  • His dad is patient and ready to explain answers to Brett in a way that makes sense and puts things in perspective for a child. He is the key to Brett’s learning experience.

What was the hardest part about writing your book?

There honestly was no hard part in writing the book. Everything depicted in the book was experienced or observed, albeit from an adult perspective. It lent itself perfectly to a children’s story.

Do you do anything besides write?

Yes, I do. I share what I read with others on social media, in bookstores, at book and arts fairs, I make school visits, I speak at events, and I review other children’s books. I also do professional translating, including other children’s books.

Where can readers find your books?

Six book covers Etsy ANN MORRIS

Several local bookstores have my books on consignment, and several book websites have them available, too!

On my personal website, there are photos, examples of my other writing, information about me and a list of links where people can learn more about me and what I do.

What’s next for author Ann Morris?

I had another book ready to go, but I needed to write about my granddaughters first. There are so many stories and fun things we have done that this is going to really be a work of love…as they all are. I have a large collection of partially completed books that are merely awaiting their turns…There will be more from me!

Find out more about Ann Morris

Ann, it’s been wonderful having you with us today. And readers, thanks so much for stopping by to meet Ann Morris. Ann and I look forward to chatting with you (comments below)! ~ Bette A. Stevens

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Aside

MEET #RRBC “SPOTLIGHT” AUTHOR Christa Nardi


Christa is our “SPOTLIGHT” AUTHOR for the week of October 11 – October 17

Welcome, author Christa Nardi. It’s a pleasure to host you on your Rave Reviews Book Club “Spotlight Tour.” I’m looking forward to finding out more about you and your mystery books, meeting some of your characters in today’s interview and introducing all of you to our readers at http://www.4writersandreaders.com.  On with the tour! ~ Bette A. Stevens, Maine author/illustrator

Author Photo CHRISTA NARDIA

“SPOTLIGHT” AUTHOR—Christa Nardi

The Characters of the Cold Creek Mysteries Series:

Book Covers CHRISTA NARDIA

Interview with Sheridan Hendley

Thank you for meeting with me today, Sheridan. We wanted to talk today about the recent murders here at Cold Creek College.

Not a problem. What can I tell you?

Can you tell me about your role in relation to the murders here at Cold Creek College? How did you get involved?

I’m the lead faculty member for the campus crisis response team. Last fall, when Dr. Millberg was murdered, the Department Head, Jim Grant, assigned me to help the State Police Detective gather information. He wasn’t familiar with the college or how faculty interacted.

I see. Was that your only motivation?

Honestly, that was how it started out. Then, my close friend Kim was the prime suspect. Add in a healthy dose of my own curiosity, and identifying all the connections and issues became a puzzle to be solved.

Didn’t that put you in danger?

I didn’t think about that at the time. I wasn’t following people or actively involved in the investigation. I asked questions of some and others, like the student involved, shared information with me. I connected dots but had no idea I would be in danger or the complexity of the problems and motive for the murder.

And the murder of Justin Blake?

Chief Pfeiffe was looking for a scapegoat and Mr. Johnson was convenient. It was evident to many of us that he was innocent. We needed to find ways to counter the mindset that because Mr. Johnson was there to discover the body, he was the murderer. Again, I kept asking questions and connecting dots. I was more aware of the danger but my curiosity got the better of me.

In both cases, you worked with Detective McMann? How did that work out?

(smiling) Very well. With both cases, Brett – Detective McMann – asked for my opinion and listened to what I came up with in both situations. We became “friends” after Dr. Millberg’s murder; however, he is always professional. Brett and Officer Hirsch offered self-defense classes after I got assaulted. Several of the faculty, staff, and students took the class. There will be refresher classes soon.

Do you think you will be involved in more murder investigations?

I never plan to be involved in investigations, but if someone I know is involved, like Kim or Zoe, or if someone asks me to help out … even if I’m not actively involved, I’ll be trying to figure it out.

Thank you for your time, Sheridan.

An excerpt from MURDER AT COLD CREEK COLLEGE:

From Chapter 1

I nodded and then checked the next open door. Unfortunately, it was Max’s office. I knocked. He swiveled around, his black hair somewhat uncontrolled and in need of a cut. I must have startled him. His brown eyes opened wide.

“Sheridan, you wouldn’t believe. I‘m ready to get this experiment going, and somehow the materials I ordered haven’t come in. Terra told me I didn’t have enough money in my account, and that’s not right! I don’t know what her problem is,” was his opening tirade. Max was the other experimental psychologist in the department. He was by far the one most interested in research .

“Yeah, well, Terra and Ali do the books. They would know. Maybe you didn’t figure right what you had in your lab account. I bet they can give you a full accounting,” I suggested. Max tended to have these tantrums a lot. He was relatively young and had come to Cold Creek straight from graduation the year after me. He had big dreams of doing enough research to get to a better university.

“You doing okay otherwise – you know with the rec center and all,” I asked.

“Oh, I gave up on the rec center last year. Too crowded. I joined a private club where I don’t have to deal with the students. At the rec center, they always tried to talk to me. Are you looking for a place to work out?” he asked, oblivious to the excitement on campus. But that was not unusual for Max. Unless it was going to directly affect him, he didn’t seem to know about it. Now, if he had wanted to work out today, he might have been more interested.

“Uh, Max, someone died at the rec center this morning,” I offered as gently as I could.

Jumping out of his seat, he proclaimed, “I knew it, I knew there were safety problems. I knew those students would wreck something! See what I mean?”

“Max, someone was murdered. It wasn’t an accident,” I added. I wondered at the fact that he hadn’t asked the obvious question of who? It was certainly the question I wanted answered.

“Oh. Well, it better not get in the way of my lab work. I’d love to chat with you Sheridan, but I have work to do,” he responded. With that, he sat back down and turned back to his computer. Good thing or he would have seen me shake my head in disbelief. It was also probably a good thing that he did research with rats or mice, examining their use of cues, learning, and such. He sure didn’t seem interested in people and didn’t always pick up on social cues. I made my way back to my office with a wave at Kim. I also quickly let her know that it wasn’t Jim, Doug or Max who was murdered.

Check out Christa’s books:

  • Murder at Cold Creek College (mystery, women sleuths, cozy)
  • Murder in the Arboretum (mystery, women sleuths, cozy)

Buy Links:

Follow Christa Nardi:

About the Author

Christa Nardi is and always has been an avid reader. Her favorite authors have shifted from Carolyn Keene and Earl Stanley Gardner to more contemporary mystery/crime authors over time, but mystery/crime along with romance and scifi/fantasy are her preferred choices for leisure reading. Christa also has been a long time writer from poetry and short stories to the Cold Creek series, Christa has joined many other reader/writers in writing one genre she enjoys reading – the cozy mystery. The series started with Murder at Cold Creek College; Murder in the Arboretum is the second in the series. Murder at the Grill is expected to be published in November 2015. Christa Nardi is a pen name for a real life professor/psychologist from the Northeast who is well published in nonfiction and technical venues.

Murder at ColdCreekCollegeBook Blurb:

Murder at Cold Creek College

on sale 10/12-17/15

Sheridan Hendley is a professor and psychologist at a prestigious college. Although she is not a sleuth, when her colleague Adam is murdered, her department head assigns her to assist the detective and help gather information. Unfortunately, her close friend, Kim, quickly becomes the prime suspect. As Sheridan draws connections between the people in Adam’s life, she realizes many women have a strong motive for Adam’s murder. Slashed tires are the first indication that her involvement is making someone nervous. The next indication is not nearly as subtle.

***

We invite you to follow Christa Nardi’s SPOTLIGHT Tour at https://ravereviewsbynonniejules.wordpress.com/spotlight-authors/

Dear Readers, thanks so much for stopping by my blog for a visit today. Christa and I would love to hear from you (Comment Section below). Happy reading! ~ Bette A. Stevens

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