Yeah! I'm back and delighted to welcome Niki Lenz to the blog. Past Pitch Wars mentor, middle grade author, and all around lovely person, Niki answered some of my questions to find out where it all began and how she reached the title of published author.
Check it out!
When you're a Buttman, the label bully comes with the territory, and Bernice lives up to her name. But life as a bully is lonely, and if there's one thing Bernice really wants (even more than becoming a Hollywood stuntwoman), it's a true friend.
After her mom skedaddles and leaves her in a new town with her aunt (who is a real live nun), Bernice decides to mend her ways and become a model citizen. If her plan works, she just might be able to get herself to Hollywood Hills Stunt Camp! But it's hard to be kind when no one shows you kindness, so a few cheesy pranks may still be up her sleeve...
Bernice Buttman is tough, and she is crass. But if you let her in, she'll serve up some laughs, a lesson or two about empathy, and plenty of cheese balls in this delightful debut.
Where did Niki Lenz - author begin?
Well, I have always been an avid reader, and when my babies were born I started blogging about our adventures. I always got comments like, "You have such a funny way of telling a story!" and "Oh my gosh, you make the dumbest incidents seem like a whole thing..." And so, while my children took naps, I sat at my computer and told myself stories. I remember Googling, "How to be a published author" and "How to write a book." And in those (somewhat futile) Google searches I found out about Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) and thought I would try it, just to see if I could. My first outline was just a list of ten things I thought could maybe happen. Oy.
What's one of the first things you ever wrote?
The first full novel I wrote was a dark and twisty YA set in an insane asylum in the 1920s. Not exactly on brand for me! I tried writing middle grade a few books later and fell in love with the freedom, honesty, and humor there and never looked back.
Did you share it with anyone - what did they say?
Yes, I made a bunch of my friends read it. They were all very supportive, but it makes me cringe now, ten novels later, that they saw my first attempt. I'd like to think I've gotten better since then!
Do you have a day job? Can you tell me about how you balance that and all the other arms of life with writing?
I do have a day job now that both of my kids are in elementary school. I am a substitute teacher. I love getting to interact with kids, plug my books, and help teach writing! And, bonus, no after school meetings to attend! I taught kindergarten for six years before I had children, so it is nice to be back in the classroom but on my own terms. I usually only sub three days a week and try to squeeze author stuff in on the other two days.
What did you do to hone your craft?
Well, some valuable advice I got when I Googled "How to be a published author" was to watch what real authors did and then do that. So I did! I joined a writer's group at the library. I signed up for SCBWI and went to my first regional conference. I read the entire "writing" section at the library. Basically, I was in full on "Fake it til you make it" mode!
What steps have you taken to grow as a writer?
The very very best thing anyone can do to become a better writer is to get some CPs who are better than you. I am serious. My CP, Jennie, is amazing and insightful and she reads all my terrible first drafts and I love her to pieces. But don't just stop at one! Keep switching manuscripts with as many people as possible, because you will learn new things each time.
Have you a team of cheerleaders behind you?
My family is super supportive of me. My husband worked hard to pay for laptops and memberships and conferences when publication was such a long shot. I will be forever grateful to him for that. My kids think it's really cool to have a mom who is an author. And they all work extra hard at staying out of my hair when I am on deadline, so that is immensely helpful.
When did you make the decision to pursue publication?
I went to my very first SCBWI conference in the middle of drafting that first novel, and I knew I was going to query it, at least for practice. I remember hearing statistics at the conference about how hard it is to get your work published, and instead of being discouraged I thought, "Why not me, though? I mean, they have to publish somebody..."
Can you tell us about this journey, from sending that first query to getting that call from the editor?
I queried my first three novels and wracked up three hundred rejections within a few years. But when I was ready to query my fourth novel, I knew had something special. I only queried my top fifteen agents for that one, and when Kate Testerman of KT Lit emailed to set up a call to "talk about my book" I was like "Wow, I've never had an agent call to reject my book before! Progress!" But it turned out that wasn't what the call was about at all. Kate offered me representation, and I was over the moon. We went on submission with that book for about a year before Kate read my next novel, BERNICE BUTTMAN, MODEL CITIZEN. She decided to put novel number four on the shelf and send out BERNICE. It was only a few months before it found it's home at Random House with my amazing and talented editor Caroline Abbey.
If you could pass on one piece of wisdom you've collected during your journey, what would it be?
I think my advice would be to just try to enjoy every stage of the process. It is such a privilege to find an audience for your work, and I don't ever want to take it for granted. If just one kid loves my story, I will be super duper excited. And the rest is just the gravy on top.
And for fun...
Mayo or Tomato ketchup
BOTH ON ALMOST EVERYTHING
Cats or dogs
Paperback or e-book
Day or night
Indoors or outdoors
Beer or wine
Run or walk
Mountains or beaches
Sweet or savory
Niki Lenz is an author living in Kansas City, Missouri. She is married to a handsome and brave police officer and has two adorable children.She studied elementary education at Southwest Baptist University and taught kindergarten for six years. She enjoys reading, travel, glamping, polka dots, red lipstick, and oldies music. Bernice Buttman, Model Citizen is her first novel.
Pre-order Niki's book now!
I LOVE supporting authors, whether they are multi-published, traditionally published, self published, or going to be published one day. And today, I'm helping out a dictionary of writers (I I made that up!) from Tasmania!
DO YOU LIVE IN OR NEAR LAUNCESTON, TASMANIA?
DO YOU LOVE MEETING AUTHORS AND BUYING BOOKS?
DO YOU LOVE NIBBLES?
Why not pop by the Stories Bookshop on St John's Street and meet not just one, but a bunch of terrific authors!
In Dunstan and Theodore, two friends drive to Western Junction where they plan to have a picnic after Dunstan flies his plane. Why can’t Dunstan land his plane? Who comes to the rescue? In other adventures, Theodore goes to Bridport and sails from Low Head to Flinders Island.
In Sea Monsters, explore the pages and use your imagination to discover images within the shadows and shapes in the photos. How many Sea Monsters can you find? The book provides an opportunity to engage in conversation about the environment and discover an imaginative world outside. Create your own monsters using natural objects, write, draw, paint, photograph and share experiences. Teachers Notes are available.
Sharon lives in Launceston with her family. Sharon has been a creative Visual Merchandiser and Window Dresser for forty years.
Paul Richardson & Amanda Walker
When accepted by the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service volunteer program as caretakers for Maatsuyker Island, Paul Richardson and Amanda Walker were well aware they had chosen to live in isolation in one of the windiest places in Australia at a time when the weather is at its wildest.
This remarkable book chronicles their preparations, first impressions and then the daily caretaking tasks needed to look after the lighthouse, the light keeper’s quarters, outbuildings and island infrastructure. It tells of ocean swells, driving rains, lightning strikes, mist and drizzle, calm and sunny periods, bitter cold and record winds. All this is accompanied by Amanda and Paul’s lavish photographs and Amanda’s exquisite artwork which provide a striking visual record of their six-month stay.
There are still days, as I am returning home from a shoot, when the light gets that special quality that you see nowhere else in the world, when I feel a certain smugness. Next year marks 30 years since Vicki and I packed up our lives in Sydney and moved to Tasmania. Not once have we regretted our decision, and we still marvel at the clarity of mind that our younger selves had about the move all those years ago.
After 4 books devoted to the amazing produce grown in Tasmania and the talented people who turn it into world class food, it was time to look at what else this island had to offer. The food is important, and the wine has been well known around the world for decades now, but all of a sudden, it’s the single malt whiskey, the hand crafted gins and the experiences that are woven around these fabulous products that has been bringing more and more people to visit us.
A field guide to an awesome trip around Tassie! If you get to experience, taste and enjoy half the things in this book you will have a trip to beat all others.
A delightful tale of four horsey friends by new Tasmanian author, Vanessa Beaumont, with illustrations by Tabitha Osztreicher. The perfect gift for children who love horses.
Four horsey friends live peacefully in their field...
three of them docile and one strong-willed.
One windy day all goes astray...
which of the horses would save them that day?
Greg Ray & Jenny Miller
Greg Ray is the proud owner of a ‘bitser’ called Bremer who is a cross between a Border Collie and a Boxer. Bremer wandered into the Ray household as a stray and has been successfully running the family ever since.
Jenny Miller provides the beautiful illustrations for the Why Dogs series of books. She is the proud owner of a rescue dog called Sasol. Sasol bears a remarkable resemblance to Rastus Ramier, the pup who features in the first book of the series Why Dogs Circle to Lie Down.
The Why Dogs series of beautiful children’s books currently comprises 5 titles – Why Dogs Sniff Bums, Why Dogs Don’t Bark at Santa, Why Dogs Circle to Lie Down, Why Dogs Chase Cats and Why Dogs Bury Bones.
Owl and Echidna feel sick and sad that so many of their friends and family members are hurt and killed on the roads in their neighbourhood.
Owl and Echidna come up with a clever plan that involves planting a very special seed in a special place. This proves to be quite a tricky task so they ask their human friend, Fergus Fleegelbaum, to help
Kathleen McLaren lives in a lovely spot at the foothills of Mt Wellington. She enjoys illustrating and writing stories, hiking in Tasmania’s beautiful natural areas and working as a primary school teacher.
There Be Dragons is a collection of short true-life stories of growing up in Tasmania in the late 1940s and early 50s. The stories are light, whimsical, told from a child's point of view, but with some adult layers.
Heather Donaldson grew up in Launceston. She is a nurse, wife, mother, grandmother, lover of animals, wild places, beaches and books. Her Tasmanian childhood provides her with wonderful memories and endless ideas for stories. She has travelled widely but always comes home to Tasmania. She continues to live in and love this beautiful place.
‘Ghosts Royal’ is a fictional account of Abdication Day 1936, the day that changed the life of one ten-year-old princess forever. More poignantly, the story is told through the eyes of the princess, portraying all her hopes, fears, memories and misgivings.
This unique blend of fact and fiction is a portrait of one day in history from a young girl’s point of view, rarely considered in such intimate detail. You are shown glimpses of the Queen she will one day become.
Author and illustrator Brian Harrison-Lever has used his years of experience to give a voice to some of history’s voiceless: transported convicts.
Harrison-Lever is the drawing hand behind the illustrations of books such as In Flanders Fields, and Photographs in the Mud.
Originally from Western Australia, where he also worked in television and performing arts, he moved to Tasmania about 20 years ago.
It was here that he found the inspiration for his latest book: Transported: Tales of Misfortune and Roguery.
Dianne Snowden was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, for services to heritage. Dianne is a professional genealogist and historian based in Tasmania and she is President of the Australasian Association of Genealogists and Record Agents (AAGRA). AAGRA is the accrediting body for professional genealogical researchers throughout Australia and New Zealand.
Dianne is a regular visitor to Ireland for research purposes. With the Wicklow historian Joan Kavanagh she wrote Van Diemen’s Women – a History of Transportation to Tasmania, published in 2015.
Mr Peter Mercer, class of 1952, is a prolific author and historian.
In late 2017 Peter published two new books titled A Brush with the Past which details childhood experiences of growing up in Launceston and being educated at the Launceston Church Grammar School during the 1940’s and 1950’s.
Peter has also written Happy Holidaying at Low Head about childhood experiences at the Tasmanian seaside in the 1940s and early 1950s.
Both books are a fascinating recollection of living, holidaying and being educated in Launceston in a golden era to be a child.
Dr John David Paull
Retired after 40 years practising anaesthesia and engaging in research, teaching, administration, and more recently the history of anaesthesia in Australia, in 2013 John published his biography of Dr William Russ Pugh.
Now he has turned his attention to the Log and Journal which Dr Pugh compiled on the long voyage from England to New Holland as a 28 year old ship’s doctor in 1835. After a seven-year search, the missing journal was found in the safekeeping of a great great grandson of Pugh’s sister, living in Bristol, England.
John has transcribed and annotated the hand written journal to reveal the exciting tale of Pugh’s five month journey from England to Hobart, on to Sydney and return to Hobart and then a month long walk to Launceston.
Rick Smith was born in Launceston, Tasmania in 1955.
He is a former A Grade cricketer, writer and photographer. He is the author or co-author of 24 books and numerous articles on various aspects of cricket history, including Australian Test Cricketers, Great Days in Test Cricket and Cricket’s Enigma: the Sid Barnes Story.
Rick’s book Blighted Lives – the Story of Harry and Albert Trott won the Australian Cricket Society’s Literary Award in 2010.
Since 1990 Rick has been Cricket Tasmania’s match photographer. His photography has won honours awards from the Australian Photographic Society and the Photographic Society of America.
Queenstown is below, stitched into the bottom of the valley, the dark geometric shapes of the Mount Lyell headframe away to his left and the vast sail of Mount Owen on the other side of the town, opposite him. The summer sky is clean and clear, vast and high, an endless cathedral ceiling. This is where he comes when he wants to hide.
Cameron Hindrum is a writer, poet, playwright and teacher, based in Launceston. Since 2003, he has coordinated the annual Tasmanian Poetry Festival, and for nearly 20 years he has organised spoken word events, readings, literary events and poetry slams. He has published two volumes of poetry, Private Conversations Volumes 1 and 2.
Susie R Harrison
Susie was born in England but has spent most of her life in Australia, currently living in Tasmania.
She loves to travel, particularly in Scandinavia, and her trips have included the UK, Europe, Egypt and Asia. However she had always wanted to go to America and a recent visit to New York and New England was love at first sight. She cannot wait to return – hence, the American setting for this story, her first novel.
Susie holds a Bachelor of Education and has worked a wide range of jobs, including Community Ambassador, Tour Guide, Bank Technical Officer, Fashion Consultant and Office Manager.
Wife, mother and now alpaca farmer, Fiona Stocker captures the trials, adventures and euphoria of living in a place of untrammelled beauty – Tasmania. Wry, humorous and gently reflective, this is a modern-day wife’s tale, an everywoman’s story and a paean to a new, slower age.
“Apple Island Wife is both heart-warming and hilarious. Filled with raw, honest real-life accounts of trying to attain the good life fuelled with a pioneering spirit and a positive attitude. Compulsive reading for anyone who has ever thought they are not living the life they should!”
Steven Lamb, River Cottage
Besides partnering in the farm, Fiona writes freelance and works as a ghost writer and editor on books. She writes a blog, also called Apple Island Wife, and was a judge in the Tasmanian Short Story Competition in 2016. Her first book A Place in the Stockyard, was commissioned by Tasmanian Women in Agriculture and published in 2016.
Apple Island Wife, a travel memoir, is published by Unbound in August 2018.
Fiona Stocker lives with her husband and two children in the Tamar Valley in northern Tasmania.
When social worker Aimee blows into the mining town of Kalgoorlie for a fresh start, she unwittingly uncovers a web of lies and a heartbreaking tie with her tumultuous past in this compelling family saga where the personal and political collide.
Her colleagues Lori and Paddy seem friendly, and she is also drawn to one of her cases: the Steele family, whose future looks particularly bleak. But Aimee has a dark secret, and as the past reaches out towards her once more, she realises that somehow her secret is connected to this harshly beautiful town and its inhabitants.
Shirley Patton lives in the Tamar Valley, Tasmania. Her career includes social work lecturer, published researcher, television newsreader and television chat show host.
Prue Hutton taught Art to schoolchildren and adults for many years. In this book she interprets colours, textures, patterns of the natural environment of Maria Island off the East Coast of Tasmania. Using a range of printmaking and drawing techniques, Prue has illustrated her story of a four day walk on Maria.
Sally Ord has designed original knitting patterns (included) that reflect the story, and included images so that readers can knit the garments she designed.
Parenting the Next Generation: A Journey of Life, Love and Learning.
Marg Cruickshank (BA/DipEd) grew up in the Huon Valley. She is a parent, grandparent and senior secondary teacher with more than 30 years classroom experience. Parenting the Next Generation: A Journey of Life, Love and Learning recounts conversations between Marg and her students about how they were raised, the values they were taught and the values they want for tomorrow.
This book creates a space for laughter, love and honest reflection in a market that shouts perfection. A refreshing contribution that speaks to the heart of anyone stepping out on the parenting /teaching/grandparenting path.
Harry is tired of being the tall new kid with red hair, big feet and freckles; the one with the dead sister whose voice follows her wherever she goes
When Harry’s wish for a horse comes true and Marksman comes into her life, she isn’t sure that the impressive horse is the one for her. She doesn’t need another challenge. But could he be just what she needs to learn the difference between standing out and standing up? This fantastic story for middle-grade readers will tug at your heartstrings.
Jackie has lived in Tasmania for 16 years. Presently, Jackie lives in Harford, Sassafras with her horses. Her love of horses extends from her childhood when her parents bought a riding school. Horses proved a cure when she was carsick: she would imagine horses galloping by the car, and thus calm her sickness. These childhood experiences have inspired her debut novel ‘The Promise Horse’.
I'm delighted to welcome a super dooper special friend to the blog today as she celebrates a super dooper special day! Over to you, Sarah...
Kate, thanks for hosting my cover reveal! Especially since your twitter-pitch-drafting and editorial services helped me land my agent in the first place!
Now, without further ado . . . After five years of work, I’m so excited to officially reveal the cover of my debut novel, ALL THE WALLS OF BELFAST, to the world!
About All the Walls of Belfast...
The Carnival at Bray meets West Side Story in Sarah Carlson’s powerful YA debut; set in post-conflict Belfast (Northern Ireland), alternating between two teenagers, both trying to understand their past and preserve their future. Seventeen-year-olds, Fiona and Danny must choose between their dreams and the people they aspire to be.
Fiona and Danny were born in the same hospital. Fiona’s mom fled with her to the United States when she was two, but, fourteen years after the Troubles ended, a forty-foot-tall peace wall still separates her dad’s Catholic neighborhood from Danny’s Protestant neighborhood.
After chance brings Fiona and Danny together, their love of the band Fading Stars, big dreams, and desire to run away from their families unites them. Danny and Fiona must help one another overcome the burden of their parents’ pasts. But one ugly truth might shatter what they have…
ALL THE WALLS OF BELFAST will be released by Turner Publishing Company on March 12th, 2019.
Check out my book trailer: https://youtube/K3i5YSUL5Gk
What was your path to publication?
I queried two manuscripts before ALL THE WALLS OF BELFAST with absolutely no requests at all. To be fair, when I started querying eight or nine years ago, I had NO IDEA what I was doing. At all. Like my YA sci-fi was 240,000 words. EEK!!!! There were years where I just gave up querying altogether, but I didn’t give up writing because I can’t. I love creating stories and have since I started walking basically. I kept pushing myself to improve. I attended writing conferences, researched effective query letters, learned more about HOW to write a book, wrote new books. Worked with a few writing coaches. Found critique partners. Joined writing groups. Kept pushing myself. Kept writing.
With ALL THE WALLS OF BELFAST, I was very reluctant to even start querying, but I worked hard on compiling a list of agents. Then in 2014 I discovered the joy of the YA writing Twitter community. The first contest I participated in (and it was with ALL THE WALLS OF BELFAST) was Pitch Wars. I was one of those hopeful mentees who read all the signs and was SURE I would be picked. I wasn’t. But my query materials were in much better shape and I’d amassed many new, skilled writing friends I still talk to. Like Kate 😊 Then I participated in a few more Twitter-based writing contests and didn’t get picked.
Just as I was preparing to (finally) traditionally query, Kate told me about a Twitter pitching contest called #Pitchmas, right before Christmas. I was almost like, what’s the point, but she helped me prepare a few 140 word tweets, so I went for it. And . . . my agent Claire Anderson-Wheeler of Regal Hoffman & Associates liked one of my tweets! Kate provided some line editing services, then I sent Claire my materials. I made a point of telling her I’d planned on querying her anyway. I sent the full, and I think THE CALL came in late January 2015. I reached out to other agents who had my query, got a few more full requests, then gave them a week to read them. In the end, I decided Claire’s vision for my novel, and her enthusiasm, was the perfect fit!
I spent three years revising with Claire. There were several seven page, single-spaced developmental edit letters and lots of other feedback that forced me to find the heart of my story. In the end, I completely re-wrote the entire novel one point of view at a time. And then did more revisions to really boil the story down to its essence. ALL THE WALLS OF BELFAST went on submission in February 2018 and then was picked up by Turner Publishing Company in mid-March 2018.
How long was your writing journey for All the Walls of Belfast?
It took about five years, largely because of the research that went into it: taking three trips to Belfast and visiting all setting locations and exploring history and different perspectives, recruiting Belfast readers, studying the Troubles and the long history leading up to them, daily tracking of current events in Belfast and Northern Ireland, researching both British English and specifically Northern Irish dialect through mediums such as novels/movies/shows, Google Maps streetviewing everything, among other things. It also took some time (and many re-writes) to find the heart of Fiona’s story, as well as her voice. Which is kind of ironic, since she’s the basically American character. And then there were the many, many re-writes.
Who will All the Walls of Belfast appeal to?
Readers who enjoy being challenged by complex themes like forgiveness for egregious past mistakes, rising above the burden of the past to forge a new future for yourself, and challenging the notion of “other” ingrained in you by adults. And anyone who might enjoy a dash of star-crossed romance.
If All the Walls of Belfast had a theme song, what would it be?
For me, music is essential to my writing process. I create ever-evolving playlists for every novel I write to help me set the mood for setting, character, and scene. If I had to pick one theme song, I think I would pick “Mess is Mine” by Vance Joy.
You can check out my playlist here. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLB_UMsWd2O9aC5c5h5Y0AHxWs024H2r3u
And now a few random questions...
What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?
Definitely hiking the Routeburn Track on the south island of New Zealand. It was a three day hike through a mountain pass where we faced both freezing temperatures and flooding. They shut down the trail and started evacuating people after we finished! In addition to the steep hike carrying a thirty pound pack with all my stuff, I had to climb up a water fall and may have almost fallen off a narrow path with a hundred foot drop off. But the whole hike was absolutely beautiful in a way that words and pictures cannot capture, and the feeling of pride and accomplishment when we reached the end was absolutely intoxicating. I felt completely alive.
If you could tell your teenage self one thing, what would it be?
Study Spanish instead of German. Seriously, after studying it five years, I’ve only used German like twice. I could be using Spanish daily. I know you said one, but . . . also, do things that scare you. Force yourself to take risks.
Chocolate or gummy bears?
Gummy bears every time.
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I ABSOLUTELY FREAKING LOVE BEAUTIFUL BOOK COVERS, and I have been known to stare longingly at those in book stores for long amounts of time, drawing strange looks from other browsers probably wondering if I'm some kind of cardboard cut out. I'm not. I'm just fond of lovely powerful images that adorn books. So, naturally, today I'm super excited to be a part of a very special person's cover reveal.
My lovely friend and editing partner Rebecca Carpenter writes an incredible YA contemporary science fiction series called THE METAMORPHOSIS SERIES, with her debut BUTTERFLY BONES winning an award (OH YEAH!) and book 2 BUTTERFLY BLOOD coming out in August (and it's one heck of a sequel!). Well, the series has had a face lift, courtesy of the awesomely talented Emma Wicker, and OH MY WORD IT'S GORGEOUS!
Check it out...
HER BONES. HER FUTURE. HER SACRIFICE.
“I wish I was a normal fifteen-year-old. I have dreams that I am.”
Fifteen-year-old Bethany Keatley’s life is anything but perfect. Yet despite a rare bone disorder cursing her with the body of a ten year old, a dead mom, and being a target for the school bullies, things could be worse.
She owes her life to her scientist father and the butterfly hormone racing through her blood.
But the discovery of unexpected and horrifying side effects means her dreams of leaving the small-minded town of Springs, Georgia to become a scientist have all but shattered.
Her world becomes a prison and her existence a life sentence.
The only thing keeping Bethany fighting is her true love, football star Jeremiah Wright—if only he felt the same way. And now, with the clock ticking and her future uncertain, courage and the determination to survive must drive her decisions.
But nature has other plans, a sacrifice for Bethany’s life.
In this award-winning incredible debut, Rebecca Carpenter brings to life the “haunting and twisted story” of one girl and an ending that will blow your mind.
BUY NOW ON AMAZON.COM
CHECK OUT THE REVIEWS ON GOODREADS
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HER BLOOD. HER LOVE. HER FREEDOM.
“How many of my sins will have to be paid for in blood?”
Sixteen-year-old Bethany Keatley finally has the healthy body and looks she’s always desired. But the price she’s had to pay has left her traumatized.
The only thing making her battle on is the memory of that kiss with Jeremiah.
Now miles from him and living in Florida with an aunt she's never met, shocking revelations about her parents are too much to bear. After collapsing from exhaustion and shock, Bethany wakes in a hospital bed awaiting test results—results that might lead to the discovery of her unusual butterfly blood.
But that’s the least of Bethany’s concerns when the doctor informs her she’s infected with a parasite and without immediate treatment she’ll die.
Too young to refuse and too weak to fight back, Bethany’s life once again hangs in the balance. Yet her scientific knowledge and suspicious nature lead her to unravel a horrifying web of lies.
Will nature intervene again, demanding another payment?
In this stunning sequel to the award-winning BUTTERFLY BONES, Rebecca Carpenter raises the stakes and offers up an intense and heartbreaking ride that will leave you shocked to the core.
BUY NOW ON AMAZON.COM
READ THE REVIEWS ON GOODREADS
I love these books so much. Rebecca is such a talented writer and this series offers you so much more than a lot of the YA on bookshelves. It has science, it has romance, it has creepiness, horror, shocks, twists, and courage. And it's jam-packed with so much beauty. I highly recommend you get your hands on this series if you love something a little bit different.
Can you hear that? No, seriously, listen hard ... Yep, that's the sound of me crying. I'm bringing you my final author interview in my best and worst series and I'm gutted! All the fab people I've gotten to know through this has been absolutely awesome and I'm going to miss it. But, it's time to say goodbye and for a change, of course.
But, I'm ending the series on a fabulously high note as I'm delighted to introduce you to not only a superbly talented young lady (and trust me, I've read her words and wow!), but also a wonderful, supportive, and upbeat soul.
Sage Webb spent over a decade writing legal briefs in the field of federal criminal defense before turning to fiction. Her debut novel, The Unremarkable Circumstances of Inmate 17656-090, won the Permian Basin Writers Workshop 2017 manuscript contest for general/literary fiction.
For short stories, her piece "Queen" won second place in the 2017 Hackney Literary Awards, her story "Rings" earned semi-finalist status in Ruminate Magazine's 2018 William Van Dyke Short Story Contest, and her work "Dispute" was the overall winner of the Wild Words 2017 Winter Solstice Competition (based in the U.K.).
In nonfiction, she writes for a Gulf Coast health-and-wellness magazine and her essay "Mahogany Pilgrimage" received honorable mention in Flyway's 2017 Notes from the Field Contest. She is a member of International Thriller Writers and Read Local. Sage and her husband live on a fifty-year-old wooden trawler in Galveston Bay with a ship’s cat named Ines and Jackson, the boat dog.
In this modern-day twist on the idea of the Good Thief, an abused young man fights for a new life and falls in love with two adventurous itinerants on a small sailboat only to face an indictment for receiving child pornography and become federal inmate 17656-090.
Before his conviction, the young man leaves Michigan and the abuse of his childhood in search of a new life on Galveston Bay. Serving sandwiches beside the tourist boardwalk, he meets failure-haunted Grayson and affection-seeking Blair, who invite him into the world of the little sailboat on which they live. The threesome builds the family none of them has ever known, and will-be inmate 17656-090 believes he’s just about made it to the mythic “beach in California” of his dreams—until Blair starts dating another man and Grayson makes a confusing romantic overture.
When a federal agent knocks with an arrest warrant based on an indictment for receiving child pornography, the world of the little boat crumbles and the will-be inmate must answer charges for looking at the pictures that had helped him make sense of all he’d suffered. Speaking with his crusading public defenders and the psychologist who declares he presents no danger of a “hands-on” offense, he begins to hope for the best in the face of the mandatory five-to-twenty-year sentencing range until Grayson appears at the U.S. Attorney’s Office with another laptop.
Buy it now on Amazon!
An Excerpt from Sage's Novel ...
Mr. Donaldson rises, steps to the podium, places his legal pad in front of him.
“Your honor, my client is twenty-four years old, and these twenty-four years have not been very good to him. But this young man has done just about everything in his limited power to dig out of the hole into which he was born, in which he found himself through no fault of his own. He’s worked, he’s tried to provide for his sister and her children, he earned a high school diploma. And probably most remarkably, he’s stayed optimistic. He has cultivated some deep, pro-social relationships, and he likes to read. And something that stood out to me markedly: he moved to the Galveston area and learned to sail sailboats. Now, I know nothing about boats. I don’t even fish, even though I love my summers in the Upper Peninsula. But this young man, from very, very humble circumstances, somehow found his way onto a sailboat with a woman, a platonic friend, who knows how to race these boats. And he learned to sail. When he talks about it—and that isn’t often; he’s quiet, humble—he lights up. One afternoon at the jail, he told me a story about driving—sailing—a boat from the north end of Galveston Bay down to Galveston Island. He told me how he and his friends anchored the boat and rowed to shore and went to the beach. He told me how they returned to the boat and barbequed and told stories and spent the weekend anchored on this boat.”
Mr. Donaldson pauses, and the courtroom uncurls, stretches. It pays attention to what it seems to consider an unlikely tale.
“I tell the court this story because it strikes me that this young man is more than what the indictment and the presentence report describe. Yes, he suffered terrible—unspeakable—abuse from the time he was five years old. He has been beaten, raped, humiliated, and tortured. But he hasn’t stopped. In fact, I’d say this young man could teach each one of us some lesson about living. He has kept on living, and I daresay has enjoyed parts of his recent past, namely some friendships and the sailing.”
The room quiets, hollows out. I feel the table under my folded hands melt, flex, ripple. Sucking at the air, I drop softly through space out of the wood-paneled nave—down, down—to land on the deck of Narwhal. Grayson and Blair cast off the lines one last time, and I point the little boat toward Cuba one last time, and I am free one last time.
"The sights, sounds, and smells of the Texas Gulf Coast come to life in this unusual but captivating work. Regardless of which side one takes, Sage Webb courageously dwells where few have dared, and boldly questions public policy and basic notions of justice. Webb crafts a subtle tale of a wounded protagonist who gets in well over his head vis-à-vis perplexing laws and persistent attitudes. We are drawn into the colorful lives of a group of close-knit but lovably flawed friends. What started off as the protagonist’s act of self-medication, an attempt to heal from abuse, turned out to be a profound mistake that forever changed not only his life but those of everyone around him. Prejudging aside, this work will provoke obliging discussions about a topic best left undiscussed."
Jaime Salazar, Author of Legion of the Lost and Escaping the Amazon
THE BEST & WORST OF SAGE
Best Book - My favorite book (look at my terrible American spelling!) has long been the Iliad. It’s so fundamental in many ways: fundamental human frailty, fundamental human longings, fundamental plot lines. . . . It’s all there. I also love The Sun Also Rises. I didn’t “get” Hemingway as a kid, but he really speaks to me now.
Best Band - Oh, that’s tough. I like Latin dance music, especially bachata. But if I had to pick one band, maybe it’d be Gypsy Kings. Before I moved to Texas, I couldn’t do country at all, but it’s grown on me and I’d recommend John Baumann to writers: the man has a real gift with lyrics—his songs are bite-sized short stories.
Best Song / Worst Song - Aaahhh! Another tough one. I’d say “Timing Is Everything.” A country song by Garrett Hedlund. My husband plays guitar and that’s “our song.” He strums that one and I melt. Guilty pleasure: “Vivir Mi Vida” (Marc Anthony). Get my pumping: Orff’s “O Fortuna.” Worst?! Yikes. “Pour Some Sugar on Me”—not because it’s a bad song, but because it’s the only song I karaoke to and I’m a HORRIBLE singer.
Best Holiday / Worst Holiday - Best holiday?! The one you “sneak”: when you play hooky from work and go surfing. Also America’s Memorial Day. I lived in Michigan for over a decade and winters there are killer! Memorial Day ushered in summer! Worst . . . well, I’ll get serious. My family had some biggish bumps in its road when I was a kid (and maybe that comes out in my writing in a couple places). I’ll just say I haven’t had to celebrate Mothers’ Day in a long, long time. It hasn’t been a big thing since I was quite young, but every once in a while, I feel that “hole.”
Best Animal - CATS!!!!!! We have an awesome ship’s cat/pirate kitty and a wonderful boat dog. But I’m a cat person all the way.
Best Item of Clothing - Rash guard for watersports! Worst: winter clothes!!!!
Best Food / Worst Food - Best?!?!?! Ice cream? Pizza? Crepes? Gelato? Don’t make me pick!!! Worst: olives . . . and cucumbers.
Best Drink / Worst Drink - Best: my husband’s special virgin Margaritas!!!! Da bomb! Worst?! I don’t do coffee. My husband’s an addict. I never touch the stuff.
Best Alcoholic Drink / Worst Alcoholic Drink - My drinking has been very limited. I just don’t have a taste for it. But for book research, I tried Sunny Delight + Vodka. Ya know? It worked. Worst?! Beer!!!! My husband loves his IPA. I don’t get it.
Best Friend - Husband, sister, and an amazing woman/dance friend/singer I lost to colon cancer a couple years ago. I miss her tons.
Best Writing Moment - It’s also the scariest: having people buy my book!!!
Best Childhood Memory - I’ll skip the worst here. Best . . . hmmmmm. I had a pony when I was a kid. That’s hard to top. And I rock climbed a lot, and I used to lead multi-pitch stuff and aid climb. That was pretty cool.
Best Word / Worst Word - Antidisestablishmentarianismist and pusillanimous. Because they are just darn fun. Worst: can’t. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas spoke at an event I attended and reminded us that “Old man Can’t is dead . . . and I helped bury him.”
Best Shop - Little book shops with cats!!!!!
Best Sport - Sailing? Diving? Worst: running!!!! I hate to run.
Best Job - I’d like to be a mascot/character in a suit. Worst: lawyering when the deadlines are crushing you.
Best Saying - See above: “Old man Can’t is dead and I helped bury him.” Justice Clarence Thomas (and his grandpa).
Best Teacher / Worst Teacher - Same for both: Experience. You really learn from her, but she beats the tar out of you at times.
Best Time of Day / Worst Time of Day - Worst: I’m not a morning person. Best time: when I’m with my husband and/or on the water.
Best Room - The cabin on a boat!
Best Day Ever / Worst Day Ever - Best days: involve the beach. Worst days: when you don’t get outside!
Best Smell / Worst Smell - Best: plumeria flowers and magnolias. Worst: fish offal stink in the harbor of Kona, Hawai`i, on hot days when I was in college!
Best TV Show - OK, I got a little addicted to Breaking Bad. My husband did Shameless. I did NOT!
Best Gadget - Those weird circular apple slicers that you push over an apple to slice it!!!
Best Sound / Worst Sound - Best: ocean sounds, silence (we don’t get enough!), my husband playing guitar and singing. Worst: the ding of MORE email coming in. My life and work involve too much email!
Best Restaurant - There’s this cute local chain in West Michigan called Russ’s. Homemade food cheap. Not low calorie. Good for feeding sweet teeth (plural of sweet tooth?!)
Best Movie / Worst Movie - Best: Cool Runnings about the Jamaican bobsled team. Worst: anything horror! Plus I don’t do the blow-‘em-up ones.
Best Time of Year / Worst Time of Year - Summer rocks. People just seem more chill in summer. Summer means boats and boards and beaches. Winter is kinda sad. Staying inside is sad.
Best School Subject / Worst School Subject - I was pretty good in English and with languages and, in law school, I loved jurisprudence and legal theory. Worst: do not ask me to do math or tax!
Best Body Part / Worst Body Part - Your eyes—to read and see the world! Worst: my, ahem, girth when I get a little liberal with the sweets.
Yes! I am there with you hiding from the math questions! But probably not when it comes to watching horror! Thanks for being my final victim, Sage. Good luck with the book. :)
I'm back today with one of my final Best & Worst author interviews *cries* but I don't think you'll be disappointed with my guest. Here, celebrating May, her book birthday month, please meet...
MIRIAM SPITZER FRANKLIN
Miriam Spitzer Franklin has been sharing her love of reading and writing with her students for years as an elementary and middle school language arts teacher. Her debut novel, EXTRAORDINARY, was published by Skypony Press in 2015. She has published two other middle grade novels, CALL ME SUNFLOWER (2017) and EMILY OUT OF FOCUS, which comes out in Feb. 2019.
Miriam's hobbies include coaching her daughter's Odyssey of the Mind team, figure skating, and being passionate about environmental and animal rights causes. Miriam spent her childhood in New Jersey but currently lives with her husband, two daughters, and two pampered cats in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Follow Miriam on Twitter here!
Last spring, Pansy chickened out on going to spring break camp, even though she’d promised her best friend, Anna, she’d go. It was just like when they went to get their hair cut for Locks of Love; only one of them walked out with a new hairstyle, and it wasn’t Pansy. But Pansy never got the chance to make it up to Anna. While at camp, Anna contracted meningitis and a dangerously high fever, and she hasn’t been the same since. Now all Pansy wants is her best friend back—not the silent girl in the wheelchair who has to go to a special school and who can’t do all the things Pansy used to chicken out of doing. So when Pansy discovers that Anna is getting a surgery that might cure her, Pansy realizes this is her chance—she’ll become the friend she always should have been. She’ll become the best friend Anna’s ever had—even if it means taking risks, trying new things (like those scary roller skates), and running herself ragged in the process.
Pansy’s chasing extraordinary, hoping she reaches it in time for her friend’s triumphant return. But what lies at the end of Pansy’s journey might not be exactly what she had expected—or wanted.
Extraordinary is a heartfelt, occasionally funny, coming-of-age middle grade novel by debut author Miriam Spitzer Franklin. It’s sure to appeal to fans of Cynthia Lord’s Rules and will inspire young friends to cherish the times they spend together. Every day should be lived like it’s extraordinary.
REVIEWS OF MIRIAM'S BOOKS...
"An endearing story of friendship, heartache and triumph proves extraordinary things can happen when we least expect it."--Jennifer Murgia, author of Forest of Whispers and Castle of Signs
"Readers will be both heartbroken and warmed by the way Sunny views the world and her attempts to change it. A relatable heroine with a noble cause that readers won't soon forget." --Erin Entrada Kelly, Newberry Award winner of the book, Hello Universe
For more information and to purchase EXTRAORDINARY, visit: here and here and here!
For more information and to purchase CALL ME SUNFLOWER, visit: here and here and here!
THE BEST & WORST OF MIRIAM
Best Book : Soooo hard to pick, but one of my all-time faves since I was a child is CHARLOTTE'S WEB. It never fails to amaze me, now matter how many times I've read it. A newer favorite? THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson. This book is pure poetry and is a story about things that matter: family, friendship, music, nature, joy, love, dealing with loss, and finding your best self.
Best Band: The Beatles
Best Animal: Cats, elephants, whales, otters, and Esther the Wonder Pig (if you don't know who she is, Google it!)
Best Food / Worst Food: One of my favorite treats is Cadbury Eggs but I can only eat them for a few months of the year! My worst choice is meat since I've been a vegetarian since my early teens.
Best Drink / Worst Drink: Diet Coke with Lime- a must-have when I'm writing / regular Coke
Best Alcoholic Drink: It's hard to choose a favorite but I usually drink red wine!
Best Friend: I've been lucky to have Liz as my best friend since college! We're very different but she's always been there for me and seems to know what I'm thinking before I put it into words. <3
Best Writing Moment: When I finally saw the email saying my debut novel, Extraordinary, had sold! It had been out with the last publisher for 8 months and my agent and I had parted ways so it was totally unexpected!
Best Childhood Memory: Going ice skating on Thursday nights at the outdoor rink in NJ with my friends. My dad, an engineer who wrote plays in his spare time, would sit on a bench in the warming area with the latest scene he'd written and a pen. When we finished skating, I'd find him there, reading his words and laughing at his own jokes. He always bought me a Milky Way and a hot chocolate before we headed home.
Best Word / Worst Word: I'll state the obvious here: Peace/War
Best Shop: Street Fair—my favorite hippie shop in Asheville, NC where I can find all my favorite skirts, barettes, earrings, and bumper stickers.
Best Sport: Ice skating
Best Saying: "The only way to guarantee failure is to quit."
Best Teacher: The best teacher I had was in 1st and 2nd grade. She encouraged me to write and asked me to go to the upper grades and share my stories. The worst teacher I had was my 8th grade history teacher who gave me a zero when she fell asleep during my presentation. She'd also stand behind students while they were taking one of her challenging quizzes, cackling. Yes, she actually cackled. A real witch of a teacher! When I modeled a teacher after her in one of my manuscripts, I was told by everyone to tone her down because she wasn't realistic.
Best Time of Day / Worst Time of Day: Afternoon/morning
Best TV Show: Current favorite: This Is Us. Full of amazing writing and people you wish were family members. Each episode is a work of art. Bring a box of tissues.
Best Restaurant: Ben Tanh Vietnamese
Best Movie: HAROLD & MAUDE—I first saw this back in college and I will always remember how I walked out of the screening and it was raining outside, and while I'm usually not a fan of rain, I wanted to stop and feel the rain against my skin, feeling the joy of being alive. (Really! this movie will do this to you)
Best time of year: Fall
Best School Subject / Worst School Subject: Reading/Math
Yes, yes, yes. I promised this blog would go out on Wednesday last week. I failed miserably, I know. I had other blogs scheduled plus work and edits and kids, so I have valid excuses! :) Anyway, here's part two as promised.
I shared some insight on Monday as to why I've been celebrating lately and you can read about that right here, but there have been other goings on behind the scenes, and I made a big ol' decision earlier in the year that I wanted to talk about.
It still pains me to think about this and to share my decision brings on triple tears, but a few weeks back, I decided to hang up my Pitch Wars mentoring hat.
Ugh. I'm so sad. Pitch Wars has been one of my most positive, exciting, and satisfying experiences of the last few years. I HAVE LOVED IT. Loved my fellow mentors, my mentees, and I loved Brenda and Heather with all my heart. I still love them all. Being part of this opportunity for new writers gave me so much and became something I missed and anticipated in each off season.
Having the opportunity to read so many upcoming writers' queries and first pages has been an honour. Honestly. I know people say that, but I really do mean it. It's a weird feeling, that you've been trusted with one person's words, that they've already put their faith in you as a mentor to guide them and help them polish their craft. And I got to work with a handful of INCREDIBLE people. I will be forever indebted to those I chose as mentees each year...
... the other writers I connected with via the contest (you know who you are!), all the people I chatted with via Twitter, and all the new friends I've made. You have given me so much and actually kept me going through some hard times. When my dad passed a couple of months before the contest opened in 2016, the focus on Pitch Wars and the support of my friends held me up.
So, yeah, it's safe to say that this annual contest is a blessing and I know it will continue going from strength to strength, offering opportunities for new writers to hone their skills, make new friends and build their communities, and maybe even launch some more sparkly careers.
But, because I know I am going to miss the whole mentoring experience too much, added to the fact that I'm cutting back on my editing services this year (though Rebecca, copy editor extraordinaire, definitely won't be!), I have decided to offer something special. Later this year, of which the details of entry will be shared via one of my next newsletters, I would like to offer a one-year mentorship to one writer. The writer can have a manuscript already written or they can be at the idea brainstorming pre-writing bit. I don't mind at all. I just want to continue paying it forward. All I will ask is that the writer is committed and enthusiastic to learn - that's it.
So, if you think this is something you'd like, please do sign up to my newsletter to find out the details of how to enter, as well as all the editing and writing advice that comes with it. It won't be right now, more likely something that will commence in the autumn. I really haven't settled on the details yet.
But, in the meantime, goodbye Pitch Wars. A part of my heart will always belong to you. And thank you so much for everything you've given me. It's now my turn to be the writer - of course with some editing in between!
I'm back! And absolutely delighted to help celebrate a lovely friend's book birthday with this very special interview. Please meet...
As a child, Kendra wrote her first books on construction paper and bound them together with ribbon, though she can’t remember even one of those early stories. Once a teen and young adult, she jokingly referred to herself as Queen of the First Five Chapters, as that’s where every story seemed to fizzle out. It wasn’t until she was in her mid-thirties, when her family relocated to the West Coast, that she got lost in libraries again and finally managed to type “The End.”
Since finishing that first manuscript, Kendra hasn’t been able to stop new characters from talking to her.
Her fascination with all things abnormal comes out in her writing, whether it’s steampunk freak shows, vampires, or ghosts – if it has fangs or goes bump in the night, she’s writing about it.
Kendra now lives back in Chattanooga, Tennessee with her husband, Tim, who’s responsible for making her believe all her writing dreams will come true. Together they have two daughters, Savannah and Tabitha, who both enjoy art and writing as well. By day, Kendra teaches eighth grade English & Language Arts in an urban middle school where she shares her love of writing and dreaming “big dreams” with her students.
"I am my father's daughter, and I am terrified of that fact."
Seventeen-year-old Josilyn is the city’s rumored Cardboard Princess.
Living in a crumbling cardboard castle under the park bridge and struggling to care for her mentally ill father, Josilyn’s life has been anything but regal since her mother’s death.
But when a former friend discovers Josilyn's secret and leads Child Protective Services directly to her, her father’s visions of dragons and dark knights become the least of Josilyn’s problems.
Now separated from her father and terrified for his safety, Josilyn begins to see the world of his imagination for the first time, forcing her to consider the possibility that he’s not insane, and that someone may be desperate to see her father dead—and her in chains.
In a stunning twist of reality, survival may not be a matter of sanity, but who to trust, and who to kill.
DOWNLOAD THE FIRST FIVE CHAPTERS HERE
Father paces in the shadows as we approach, his face set in a stern scowl. “You might have told your father you were stepping out with a beau.”
I let out a disdainful snort while Brice feigns offense at my reaction. “It’s only Brice, Father. Not a beau in sight, I swear it.”
Father tips his plastic goblet in Brice’s direction. “Keeping my princess safe, I assume?”
Brice bows, doubling nearly in half at the waist.
“Spot any rogue dragons, whilst you were about?” he asks.
“No, Father,” I sigh. “No dragons, only a local homeless man in need of medication for his stomach. Do we have anything?”
Brice clears his throat, stepping into character for my dad. “Still, I didn’t chance allowing Josilyn to travel too close, King.”
Father nods, running his index finger around the rim of his goblet.
“Care to fence a bit before I depart? A show of our sword prowess might deter the fiends from attacking.” Brice rests his hands on his hips, tilting his head back as if he were posing for a photograph at a cheesy renaissance fair. Brice manages Father’s delusions as well as I do without missing a beat.
Father’s chest expands in approval before asking me to get his fencing swords, but as I pass the rough cut wooden swords to him, he shakes his head. “On second thought, Daughter, you are getting out of practice. Brice is not as good as I, but he is a capable sparring opponent.”
Brice’s smile swallows up the better half of his face as he takes the sword from my hand. If I ever question why I put up with the agony of being so close to him, I’m reminded of it at times like this.
Anxious to put on a good show, Brice’s grin widens as he advances, but I’m not new to this. Father insists on regular training sessions, even demanding I study other fencing forms in old library books. We circle, assessing each other before our swords meet a second time.
I avoid Brice’s jab easily, returning several strikes of my own. Loud clacks split the night air as our wooden blades clash again and again. He parries, anticipating my next attack, but isn’t quick enough to recover himself when I feign right and lunge again. It’s my favorite series of steps, but before long we’re both nearly ready to collapse.
Father, ever attempting to be regal, bows, his broad smile beaming in the moonlight. “Knighthood would serve you well, Sir Brice.”
“It does have a nice ring to it,” I add.
Brice repays our compliments with one of his best half-tilted grins, his eyes dancing with mischief. We say our goodbyes, with Brice assuring Father he’ll be on guard for any dark knights. Brice doesn’t break character for a second, not even to exchange a silent glance with me.
The stars are bright tonight, like a brilliant sea stretched out before me. I bring out an extra blanket to sit on and gaze at the constellations, my back resting against the strongest part of the castle. I pull up one corner, wrapping myself in it, and divide my attention between trying to identify my favorite constellations and listening to Father’s critique of our performance, which is mostly favorable.
My world is small, but it’s mine, and I love it despite all the reasons I shouldn’t.
As if in a show that the heavens themselves approve, a falling star streaks across the sky.
Before I can think, my heart makes a wish my mind wouldn't have agreed to if it had been given a chance to argue. Brice turns back, his eyes lock with mine, and I am at peace.
Unfortunately, peace never lasts long in a castle, especially if it’s made of cardboard.
"CARDBOARD CASTLES is by turns introspective, heart-wrenching, brilliant, and daring. I adored Jos, the desperate and supremely unreliable narrator whose cynical yet world-weary voice evokes Bogart at his best. K.L. Young's prose seized me like a dragon's talons, never letting go..." -Keith W. Willis, author of the Knights of Kilbourne series.
"Loved this book! Beautiful writing, great premise, and characters that I rooted for and cared about all the way through! I didn't know I was a fan of dragons until I met Falcon. Now he has my heart." -Carmen Erickson, Editor
"An absolutely brilliant and touching story. The characters made you feel everything in the storyline that was happening. I enjoyed this so much I would read it again and again." - Amanda Williams, Goodreads
“I loved this book. Such a heart gripping story of homelessness and mental illness, which many people experience in society today. I couldn't put this book down as it was written so well that it kept you glued to the pages right till the end. Highly recommend you read this book." -Anne Kinslow, Goodreads
THE BEST & WORST OF KENDRA
Best Book – Harry Potter
Best Band – Def Leppard
Best Song / Worst Song – Best: “Best Day of My Life”/ Worst: “Does That Make Me Crazy”
Best Holiday / Worst Holiday – Best: Halloween / Worst: New Years (I can barely make it to midnight) LOL
Best Animal – dogs and Beluga whales J Yes, there’s a story behind the belugas.
Best Item of Clothing – yoga pants for the win!
Best Food / Worst Food – Best: Pizza / Worst: Anything gritty (pears, seafood with sand, etc -- shudders)
Best Drink / Worst Drink – Best: Sweet tea! / Worst: Sodas. I rarely drink them.
Best Alcoholic Drink / Worst Alcoholic Drink – Best: Margarita! / Worst: Beer. Gross.
Best Friend – my husband, hands down.
Best Writing Moment – hmmm. I can’t pick just one. It’s the moment when a story or character really comes to life. I start giggling. That’s when I know it has to be written.
Best Childhood Memory – Best: Sitting on my grandmother’s sink and talking to her while she cooked or did the dishes.
Best Word / Worst Word – I can’t just pick one best word. I love them all. Except for seepage. Seepage is always bad.
Best Shop – Target!
Best Sport – None? I’ll say football or baseball for my husband though.
Best Job – Not sure?
Best Saying – “It’s always about the reader.” I say it to students all the time, especially when we’re talking about grammar.
Best Teacher / Worst Teacher – Me? And also me? LOL Seriously, Best: Janice Payne from my elementary years / Worst: My geometry teacher, Mrs. McClintock. When I think about what kind of teacher I don’t want to be, I think of what it felt like to be in her class.
Best Time of Day / Worst Time of Day – Best: Either early in the morning, when I can watch the sunrise with a cup of coffee / Worst: When everyone is running and busy.
Best Room – Does my back porch count? It’s screened in and it’s my favorite place to be.
Best Day Ever / Worst Day Ever – Both are too hard to choose
Best Smell / Worst Smell – Oh this one’s easy. Best: Honeysuckle or my husband’s cologne are the absolute best / Worst: Spoiled milk or Doritos.
Best TV Show / Worst TV Show – Best: Stranger Things / Worst: is hard to say. I don’t watch a lot of television anyway.
Best Gadget – Corkscrew? Haha!
Best Sound / Worst Sound – Best: Laughter / Worst: A high pitched/whiney voice. I can’t take it.
Best Restaurant – Alleia in downtown Chattanooga. My absolute favorite.
Best Movie / Worst Movie – Best: The Princess Bride / Worst: Napoleon Dynamite. We still make fun of that move in my house.
Best Time of Year / Worst Time of Year – Best: Fall. Love the Fall / Worst: I like Summer for about two weeks, then I’m ready for Fall again.
Best School Subject / Worst School Subject – Best: Science and English / Worst: Always math.
Best Body Part / Worst Body Part – Best: Eyes? / Worst: Legs. Definitely legs.
YES! Honeysuckle is my absolute favourite smell ever too! Reminds me of my childhood. Thanks for joining me, Kendra, and good luck with your fantastic book!
So thrilled to help celebrate the release of the lovely K.T. Hanna's new book! SOMNIA ONLINE: INITIALIZING is here and it looks freaking amazing. I haven't read this one yet but have read some of K.T.'s other work and her writing is tense, sharp, and exciting. I highly recommend you head out and grab a copy today. I know I will be!
Discover the class you were born to play.
Wren, a seasoned healer, is dismayed when Somnia Online automatically assigns her character, Murmur, to the Enchanter class. Determined to overcome the unexpected setback, she assembles her guild, intent on the coveted #1 spot. Twelve keys stand between her and victory, but finding them is only part of the puzzle.
Armed with telepathic abilities, Murmur rises to the challenge. However, old rivals have followed her to Somnia Online desperate for revenge. Intricate quest lines become more dangerous as NPCs absorb powerful artifacts, and Murmur begins to wonder just what sort of AI controls the world.
Murmur questions her sanity as the real and virtual worlds mesh together. Everyone is keeping secrets from her, even the AI, and Murmur’s determined to uncover them.
Available through AmazonExcerpt:
A skeleton shambled to the left, its bones creaking softly as it jangled about. Straight ahead was a spider with ridiculously long legs, and off to the right was a cluster of so mething she couldn't make out. All of the mobs she could see were yellow, probably at least level three. But if she didn't try, she'd never know.
Feeling reckless , she cast minor suffocation and pulled the skeleton toward her. The fact that the spell manag ed to convince an undead creature it was being strangled was quite amazing. It let out a cackle and jangled over to her as she backed up, hoping to let a third tick hit before it reached her. This time her spell was hitting for five and four. A slight incr ease was at least something. The skeleton flailed a wooden staff in the air and Murmur hoped against hope her hit points would outlast it.
Then it was upon her, three ticks of her Damage Over Time down. The thing was tall and gangly and she realized these skeletons had to be locus , too. Even its empty sockets glowed, like some type of magic possessed it. Considering it was a walking skeleton, that probably wasn't far from the truth. It swung at her, and barely missed when she managed to dodge. She could fee l the heaviness of her body, and the unwillingness with which it made the movement. That was probably her one dodge for the next twenty. She'd better make it count.
Killing a skeleton was far more difficult than a beetle. For one thing, it was already bloo dy dead. That blasted staff hurt too, though not as much as the pincer claws had. It made Murmur wonder if locus could bruise. Finally, after what seemed like an age, she managed to hack its skull off. She leaned forward and looted the mob. It had twelve c opper on it. Maybe skeletons were a good idea for a while with or without her quest. Not only that, the staff it had been wielding was hers as well.
“Score," she muttered to herself, aware she was probably grinning like a loon. Sure, her staff skills were n't up to par but she was sure it wouldn't take too long. It's not like melee did most of her damage or anything.
KT Hanna has such a love for words, a single one can spark entire worlds. Born in Australia, she met her husband in a computer game, moved to the U.S.A. and went into culture shock. Bonus? Not as many creatures specifically designed to kill you. KT creates science-fiction, fantasy, and LitRPG like it’s going out of style, with a dash of horror for fun! She freelance edits for Chimera Editing, plays computer games, and chases her daughter, husband, corgis, cats, and snake.
No, she doesn’t sleep. She is entirely powered by the number 2, caffeine, Chipotle, and sarcasm.
K.T. can be found in the following places:
How are you all doing? I hope well. Selfishly this blog today is going to be all about me! Though I sparkly promise the next one on Wednesday will be more for all you guys (definitely don't miss it). But what a few weeks it's been. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook then you might have seen the massive announcement I made at the end of last week. It went something like this...
I have accepted an offer of representation from Colleen Oefelein at the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency.
It feels so good to have finally found myself a partner in crime. Someone I can trust with my words, with my writing career, and to hug my horrible anxiety when it rocks back and forth in the corner. Colleen is that person.
Here's a brief rundown of how it all came about.
I haven't queried much, and when I have, I am THE SLOWEST QUERYER OF ALL TIME. I can't confirm this, obviously, but I reckon I'm up there with some of the best snail queryers in history. It's not that I don't enjoy the process (I don't much), but it's more that I suffer major anxiety and doubt every single time I hit send. Probably just like so many of you, I'm sure. I also love editing - as you might probably guess. I love feedback and I love taking ideas on board and revising my work. So, when I send one or two queries, I like to wait for replies. Is that laughter I hear? Yeah, it's okay, I'm laughing with you. Currently, even a form rejection is something to celebrate when so many agents offer nothing but radio silence. But, forever hopeful once the anxiety fades, I keep my fingers crossed an agent might offer their reasons for passing so I can then reconsider my opening chapters or my query.
Anyway, I had an agent a few years back, which didn't work out sadly, (and let's not mention the fallen-through offers of publication and the disastrous publication ordeal!) and in the wake of our separation I lost a whole bunch of confidence in my writing for years to follow. I didn't stop writing - I doubt that will ever happen - but I was afraid and reluctant to share my stuff. My decision to end the querying break came when I thought I'd take a serious shot at Twitter pitching contests. #PitDark was the first, if I remember correctly, followed by a few others including #PitMad. I did pretty well with favourites coming from some dream agents. Yet, in typical me fashion, I decided to embark on a major rewrite, so held off on sending my manuscript. Nuts, I know. But, the manuscript improved tenfold due to this revision and I added some confidence blocks to my core. Here's one of the pitches I used that resulted in some favourites:
"Kids fall sick. The dead rise. Black smoke lingers. Boy teams up with asylum patient who predicted the end to save humanity."
Still, when I started querying my MG horror, HALF DEAD, my expectations were super low. So, cue the surprise and buzz when I started receiving partial and full requests! In fact, I had an almost 50% success rate with my query and opening chapters. AMAZING! For those who like studying query letters, here's mine (although I tweaked and personalised it often!)...
"THE SKELETON TREE meets STRANGER THINGS meets SERAFINA AND THE BLACK CLOAK. HALF DEAD is an upper middle-grade light horror with paranormal elements and plenty of emotional depth, and is complete at 42000 words.
Thirteen-year-old Charlie Oaks wants his old life back—a dad who doesn’t shout, a mom who hasn’t abandoned her family, and a sister that isn’t dead. He tries his best to avoid dealing with his new reality, but it’s getting harder each day. And now that a nasty flu epidemic affecting only children is forcing schools to close, Charlie will be stuck at home with his depressed dad, which might just rob him of all the hope he has left.
When visiting his sister's grave, Charlie sees skeletons roaming the cemetery. Tendrils of black smoke rise from the earth and drag him towards the town's derelict asylum. Rescued by Molly Denton, the most unpopular kid at school, Charlie is both terrified and desperate. With a new goal to become a disease research scientist, he wants answers. He needs to find out why he—and Molly—aren't sick like all the other kids. It seems one person has the answers—Molly’s demonologist dad. Only problem is, he's an ex-asylum patient who was locked up for having a mental breakdown.
With the epidemic spreading quickly and the living plotting ways to take down the walking dead, there's a darker evil at work. It’s not the skeletons who are the bad guys, and now the professor believes the last of Charlie’s profound hope might be enough to restore belief in humanity and save the sick children—if there’s still time."
(I ended with a paragraph about me and some writing-related things that I thought might make me sound attractive. Meh, who knows if that worked!)
Yeah, of course, the rejections still came (and they tend to hurt a heck of a lot more on a full than simply a query) but eventually so did an offer. And what a feeling that was! Okay, so I have been there before, but this time it felt so different. It's what I can only describe as right. I am ready. And yeah, my excitement could be premature, but I am a creature that trusts my gut and this time it's pretty darn calm.
So, now came the chasing the outstanding queries and a flurry of full requests. Plus, a few more offers! AMAZING! I couldn't believe it. And, when I made my decision that Colleen was the agent for me, turning these agents down HURT LIKE CRAZY. Not because I experienced any concern or regret for the decision I made, but because I loathe letting people down. And that's how I felt. Ridiculously, I wished Colleen had been the only agent who'd offered so I could have avoided that part.
And here I am. Agented and feeling pretty validated and pumped for my next steps. The positive words I received for my writing through this experience will always mean everything, no matter what comes in the future. I learned that I can write - and quite well. It might not be to everyone's taste but I'm okay with that. Subjectivity smiles its cheesy grin on everyone!
I also have to go public with my thanks to a certain few people that supported me, beta read, and critiqued HALF DEAD at various stages. My mum, J.S. Roberts, Stacey Goldstein, Lynn Leitch, J.C. Davis, and Rebecca Carpenter. These guys...LOVE THEM! There are others who helped as well, but we'll stick with these guys for now.
And that's it. I have another blog coming on Wednesday, entitled NEWS, and this one isn't just about me, I promise. In fact, it's my way of celebrating and sharing my good news with you. But, I hope there are some helpful things in today's blog at the very least, and please feel free to ask any questions in the comments.
Until Wednesday, thanks for reading!
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