Thursday, December 13, 2012

Author Interview - F. Sharon Swope and Genilee Swope Parente


Today is a wonderful day! I finally had the pleasure of interviewing my sister and mother about their newly released mystery/romance fiction novel Twist of Fate. It was published by Spectacle Publishing and is the first in the Sam Osborne detective series.

We've waited a long time for this to come out and they have worked their butts off to make it happen. I hope you enjoy finding out a little bit about them and their book.

Here goes:




What inspired both of you to become authors?

Sharon: I have always wanted to write and have had stories and characters running through my head all my life. In college, I majored in radio intending to write scripts for that medium. However, it was my daughter Allyn who actually inspired me to begin by pursuing her dream of writing children’s books and actually getting published.

Genilee: I’ve been writing creatively all my life, but my everyday job got in the way of trying to publish fiction. Once Allyn got started with her writing, she inspired me to be serious, and I began taking classes. Then when mom started writing books, I decided if she can do it in her 80s, surely I can pursue my dream in my 50s.

Why did you team up to write Twist of Fate? Who is doing what in the process of creating this book?

Sharon: I’m not very good at writing description, and I know my writing needs to be edited. I have only written plays and columns in the local paper. Genilee has been editing all her life, and she’s talented at putting the words down so others can “see” what’s happening.

Genilee: It’s always been my job to edit – I’ve done so for magazines and newsletters and just about everything. And a lot of my creative writing has been short stories or creative passages that have a lot of flair, but need a backbone. Mom’s creation of this series of detective plots gave me that backbone. It’s teaching me what goes into putting a whole book together.
 
Was it hard working with each other on this project, especially since you are so closely related?



Sharon: It hasn’t been hard for the most part, though it’s always difficult for the person who creates the story to accept that someone else wants to make changes. But I’d say it’s been no different than any team effort. It’s give and take, and usually, a lot of fun!

Genilee: I’ve had to get over the daughter-always-eager-to-please impulse and try to put on my professional hat. We’ve had quite a few discussions that could have turned into arguments over book details, but they never did. Once you start looking at a project as a collaboration and once you both start liking the result, the back and forth becomes easy. And we’ve had some great lunches together coming up with ways to kill off people!

What do you think readers will enjoy most about Twist of Fate?

Sharon: I think they will like the love story. It’s two people who normally would never meet thrown together in unusual circumstances.

Genilee: The characters that mom has created are what I think people will love about this story and our next two books. She’s really good at coming up with people that are different, but believable as hero/heroine.

What were your biggest obstacles in getting Twist of Fate written and accepted for publication?

Sharon: I think we’d both say first that it’s ignorance of the process itself. Even after we submitted the manuscript and it was accepted, neither of us realized the work that goes into rewrite – catching errors or parts of the plot that need to be strengthened.

Genilee: For me, the biggest obstacle has to be time. I have a job that is sometimes more than full time so I’ve given myself an hour every day before I do anything for my job to work on something creative. But since I’m rewriting/editing/researching/submitting manuscripts, that doesn’t move the process forward at the speed we’d both like.

How did you come up with your characters in the story, Sharon?

My main character, Danny, has been in my head since I was in junior high. Everytime I sat down to write, he was there. But he is a homeless man, and I didn’t want him to appear pitiful or weak. It wasn’t until I created his mentor Gus that I could put him down on paper. Casey, his romantic interest, didn’t come to me until I sat down to write the story.

Who is your favorite character in Twist of Fate and why?

Sharon: Gus is my favorite character in this first book because he’s such a strong motivator. He has had a hard life but is determined to do right by the boy he takes under his wing—Danny. Also, as I’ve written these books, I’ve become quite fond of Sam, the detective.

Genilee: I loved Gus from the very beginning. Even though we’ve changed the book so that he appears gradually, he is so much a part of the plot. And mom’s right about Sam, the detective. As people read these stories, they will grow more and more fond of Sam.

Can you give us a little “tease” about what Twist of Fate is about?

The heroine Casey Lewis lives in a mansion with her servants as caregivers. She lost her mom and dad in the same accident that took away the use of her legs. When she turns twenty-one, she will inherit a company and a fortune; but someone has been trying to kill her. Danny Jones also lost someone recently—the man who taught him how to survive with dignity on the streets of the city. Through a twist of fate, Danny gets caught in a winter storm and fights his way through the blinding snow to an open window in Casey’s home. Inside that window unconscious is Casey. Danny rescues her and the two spend the next few days snowbound and finding out that despite their different backgrounds, they share the same passions. They pursue finding out who is trying to get to Casey with the help of Detective Sam Osborne.

Is this going to be a stand alone book or a series?

Twist of Fate is one of four books that features Detective Sam Osborne, who plays progressively more important roles as the books go along.

How long have you been working on the process of getting Twist of Fate ready for publication?

Genilee: Mom’s initial draft took about four months to write. My first rewrite took another four months. Then we started sending it to friends and family for a first read, which took a couple months. Locating a publisher took four months and we’ve been working on our first rewrite with that publisher since we signed a contract in October 2011. So in all, about a year and a half.

What has the process been like working with your publisher, especially since they are fairly small and new?

Sharon: Spectacle Publishing is a group of writers who are pursuing getting other writers into print. We have worked with a great romance editor – Tammi Albright – on our rewrite. But the firm’s greatest strength is that it holds mini-workshops for its writers to help move the process along. We have had two such workshops and they’ve kept our momentum going strong.

How are you both going to celebrate now that the book is finally published?

Sharon: I’m going to tell everyone I know what we did – share our happiness with family and friends. We’ve had a great support system throughout this process and they deserve to share in our celebration. Then I’ll start telling people where to go to buy a copy!

Genilee: I’m already celebrating. We’ve come a long way since those initial days of wondering whether we could do this. Next up: work on book number two!
 
I'm so proud of both of them and wish them all the success in the world! The book is available on http://www.amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com and is in both print format and kindle.
If anyone would like to order an autographed copy please contact Genilee at gsparente@verizon.net. And don't forget to check out their new blog at http://swopeparente.com/.



 



Thursday, December 6, 2012

HOLIDAY PREPS



Ok, ok so I took an extra week off from what I expected to do but I'm glad I did. I am finished with all my Christmas shopping (except for my husband) and have almost everything wrapped and shipped. What a relief that is! Now I can use the next couple of weeks to do other fun Christmas stuff like baking cookies. Yum... christmas cookies is the one thing I make for myself every Christmas. I can do without everything else if I have to, but those frosted cookies are a must have!

I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't done a lick of writing since before Thanksgiving. I've been too busy with other things and decided I needed this break. I'm jealous of all the other writers out there that continue to write, shop, wrap, ship, bake, decorate and don't even take a break. I've been able to fit all of that into my schedule except the writing part!! But I'll get back to writing full speed after the holidays. I want to be able to write again with a fresh, rested mind, and be more creative than ever!
At least that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!

Thanksgiving was great for us this year. My parents came down to visit the week before and then we drove them up to Texas for our actual Thanksgiving. My two oldest nieces live there and their parents came down from Wisconsin so we got to see them as well. So we had lots to be thankful for.

Here's a couple photo's of the decorating I did around our house. Don't ask me why I go to all the trouble since we are having no company and it's going to just be myself, my husband, our two dogs and cat this year but I just have to decorate with all the lights or it just isn't Christmas to me.

This is our tree. The photo doesnt do it justice. It really is gorgeous but it looks a little skinny and needing more presents here!!



Here is the fireplace mantel.


This is a the top of a cabinet I decorated.


And here is a photo of my christmas village. You can't really see it well but the house you see is a Children's Book house!


And here is a full view of the village.


My village isn't very big but I just love looking at it. We don't get much snow down here so looking at my village covered in fake snow, kind of brings me back to home in Ohio.

Ok, that's it! I have other spots decorated but these are my favorite. How about you, have you finished your decorating?

Next week, I'll be posting an interview with my sister and mom about their newly released book Twist of Fate. The ebook is available now at amazon http://www.amazon.com/Twist-of-Fate-ebook/dp/B00AFRSZYG/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1354805198&sr=8-7&keywords=twist+of+fate and the print book should be available any day now. Stay tuned!



Saturday, November 10, 2012

Guest post by Pearce Corbin

Today I have the pleasure of featuring a freelance writer Pearce Corbin who has generously agreed to be my guest today.
 
But first here is a picture of the winner of  our $100 Visa Card Giveway that Deborah Lynne and myself offered to one lucky winner at the recent LA Book Festival. She was a very happy winner! We met her for lunch and she not only was an appreciative, avid reader, she was so personable. We felt like we'd known her our whole lives. Congratulations Catherine and we couldn't have picked a better winner! Have fun shopping!


Allyn Stotz, Catherine Rasberry, Deborah Lynne

                                                                    




Now on to my guest writer. I hope you enjoy his post. Thank you Pearce for taking the time out of your busy schedule to enlighten us with your five best children's books!


BIO:

Pearce Corbin is obsessed with interior design. He frequents furniture shops, flea markets and eBay for bargain-hunting.  When he’s not busy ogling at house furnishings he writes freelance for companies like MyProjectorLamps.Com. In this guest post he shares his best children stories of all time.
 


The Five Best Children's Stories of All Time
 
Though there are thousands of children books out in the world, there is only an elite few that become classics and are read generation after generation.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate factory author Roald Dahl knew what he was doing when he wrote this all time favorite children's book. What better way to get the attention of kids than to write a book about a little boy named Charlie who gets to visit the chocolate factory of world famous chocolatier Willy Wonka. Anything that has to do with candy will get a child's curiosity. Write a great story about candy and you will get their full attention. Simply an all time classic that is loved.


Cat in the Hat

The Cat in the Hat has been a favorite children's book ever since it was first published in 1959. Dr. Seuss really blew minds away when he wrote this book showing off his genius and poetry. Such a short book with only 1629 words, yet so genius as it only uses 236 distinct words that are aimed at small children to learn. It is a book that will immediately catch the attention of kids. Rhymes play a big part of this book and what kid does not like rhymes. “My tricks are not bad,” said the Cat in the Hat. “Why, we can have lots of good fun, if you wish, With a game that I call UP UP UP with a fish!” Simply brilliant and a book that will live on for more generations.

Tom Sawyer

Tom Sawyer is a book that has been enjoyed for many generations as it was first published way back in 1876. Mark Twain's great writing talent keeps readers really anxious to find out what Tom is going to do next. Mischief and mayhem are two characteristics that sum up the things that Tom and his friends continually get in to. Huckleberry Finn, Becky Thatcher, Joe Harper and many others are all characters from the Tom Sawyer books that are unforgettable. For today's older readers who are reading this book to their children or grandchildren, it will remind them of how life used to be for kids who played outside and got in to mischief before children started spending their days playing video games and watching television.

Sleeping Beauty
 
Sleeping Beauty is a staple bedtime story that doesn’t fail to leave a lasting impression to kids, I’m sure all of us will agree on this. Later in life we end up reliving our joy of this book by reading it to our children and grandchildren. The main character in this book is Princess Aurora, who is cursed by an evil witch named Maleficent. The curse on Aurora is that she will die once she reaches her 16th birthday. The king hides her and puts her in the care of three goodhearted fairies named Flora, Fauna and Merryweather. Merryweather tries her best to undo the spell of the witch by allowing Aurora to wake up from an ageless sleep when her true love kisses her. Truly a fairytale classic.

Robin Hood
 
The stories of Robin Hood are ancient and unforgettable. The stories of Robin Hood depict a good guy in green clothing who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor. When any little boy reads Robin Hood books he is surely thinking of how cool it would be to be Robin Hood. Robin Hood was a skilled archer and swordsman who people loved. Unless he was robbing them of their wealth of course!
 
 
Thanks again, Pearce. What about you? What is your favorite children's book? I like Pierce's choices but I'd have to add Cinderella to that list!
 
Now that Thanksgiving is right around the corner (so hard to believe!!) I wanted to let everyone know that I am taking a short break and won't repost until after Turkey Day. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and I'll talk to you later!








Thursday, November 1, 2012

Goblins, Goobers, and real Monsters

Happy day after Halloween everyone!

We didn't have as many Halloweeny Goblins as usual last night and now I have tons of candy left. This year I did try to not buy as much as I normally do because since I got laid off from my job I have no office to share my leftovers with. I also tried to buy candy I wouldn't be that tempted to eat. Like gooey bugs, ring suckers, and sour whatevers. I hardly had any chocolate at all. But now what do I do with all those leftovers?

I miss being a kid at Halloween. It was so much fun dressing up and running the streets gathering up candy. My favorite was the big candy bars and the homemade things we sometimes got. Times have changed though. Now you NEVER get homemade goodies unless you go to a party or something. And the candy bars are more like candy bites.

Halloween is so commercial nowadays right down to the costumes. I saw barely a costume that was made by "mommy." They were mostly very clearly, store bought. However, my favorite of the night were two little boys dressed up in astronaut suits. They were store bought all the way, but still adorable.

Anyway, goodbye Halloween... until next year!

Now I'd like to express my sympathies to all those effected by Hurricane Sandy. Boy can I relate to what you are going through. Living here in Baton Rouge, LA we have seen our share of disaster. Baton Rouge didn't fare too badly during Hurricane Katrina but we witnessed first hand the devastation of New Orleans and the sadness from the people living there. I worked for an insurance company at the time and cried for weeks as I dealt with people who lost everything.

The people of Baton Rouge made out a lot worse from the next Hurricane which was Gustov (I think). Most people lost electricity for weeks. At my house we lost it for 2 weeks and let me tell you, it was no fun at all. We did finally wait in line for 2-3 hours to buy a generator and then 2-3 hours more for gas, but it was worth it. The generator saved us to where we didn't suffer too much. We also have a gas stove and hot water heater so we had it much better then some. I know alot of people who had trees destroy their roofs and much more damage.

But the good thing about these horrible monsters called hurricanes is that we do rebuild. New Orleans has been back up strong for many years now and New York will get there too. It will take lots of time, strength, courage, and working together but it will happen. And you will probably come out even stronger.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Work - In - Progress - Blog Hop (or an interview with myself)

Hi all my lovely followers! Hope you've been having a good week.

I had a great day last Saturday at the Barnes & Noble Book reading and signing in Mandeville, LA. That bookstore sure does stay busy. There were people in and out all day.
 

This weekend is our big Louisiana Book Festival so I'll be selling and signing my book there as well. I'm really excited for that! Now everyone put your palms together, close your eyes, and pray for good weather and no rain, please!

Today I'm going to have a different kind of blog post. I will be interviewing myself about my current work - in - progress! But first, I'd like to thank Deb Hockenberry http://thebumpyroadtopublishing.blogspot.com/, one of my wonderful critique partners, for nominating me to do this. Thanks, Deb!

There are two rules to this. (1) answer all ten questions about my work - in - progress; (2) Nominate five other writer friends who you know that have blogs or websites so they can join in the fun! However, I'm cheating and nominating just three. See my nominee's at the end of this post.

Drum roll... here are the questions:

What is the title to your work - in - progress?
I'm working on a bunch of different picture books right now but probably the most prominate one is Wacky Wednesdays.

Where did the idea for your book come from?
I was talking one day to an ex-coworker and he was telling me his daughters school had different days of the week where they did fun stuff like one day they dress up, one day they all wear a certain color etc. etc. So I grabbed that idea and started creating!

What genre does your book fall under? Children's picture book, ages 4-8.

What actors would you choose to play the characters in the movie rendition? Well since all the characters are circus animals, I'd have to say whatever the illustrator can come up with! But they'd have to be cute!!

What is the synopsis of your book in one sentence? Nelly the horse, Squealy the seal, and Jumbo the elephant are frustrated because circus school just isn't fun anymore. They try to come up with something to change that. (that's two sentences, oh well)

What other book would you compare this work - in - progress to in your genre? It's an original so none! Well none that I'm aware of. I'm sure there is something else out there similar to it.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? The first draft was quick. However, I've been editing and redoing it for a year now! And it's about to go to my critique group for one more final "pick apart" session. Plus it's one of my advanced ICL class submissions so by the time I actually finish and tighten it to where I feel confident enough to send it out, it will be as good as it gets!

Will this book be self-published or represented by an agency? God willing, it will be picked up by a publisher.

What inspired you to write this book? As I mentioned before, my ex-coworkers class. Plus I thought circus animals would really add some fun to it.

What else about your book might pique your readers interest? Here is one of my favorite parts of the story which is repeated several times:

Off they went. Nelly trotted, Squealy wriggled, and Jumbo thump thumped.

Now it's time to announce the three people I've nominated. I hope they have some fun with it!

Courtney
Genilee Swope Parente & Sharon Swope
Deborah Lynne


Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Twist of Fate

This post is going to be short and sweet. I am here to BRAG today!

I have fantastic news. Well it's great news for my family and all the mystery readers out there. As some of you know, my mother and sister have teamed up to write a novel. This has been a life long dream of theirs. So one day, they just decided to do it!

My mother is turning 85 next month and has macular degeneration so this is no easy feat as she can barely see the computer screen she is typing on. My sister is editing my mother's words and filling in the blanks. And trust me, this is no easy job either. I'm sure you can all relate on just how easy it would to be working side by side with your own mother's! Stubborn brains do tend to butt each other once in awhile. But they have made it work and are loving every second of it. They've had a few bumps along the road, but each bump teaches them something new.

Anyway, the first book of their series is titled Twist of Fate and is being published by Spectacle Publishing. It fits in the romance/mystery genre and should be out by the end of this month. As soon as the book is released, I will be posting an interview with my mom and sister so you can get a big taste of what it's all about.

For now, I'm only giving you a tiny morsel. However, I would like to share their blog link with you. My sister and mom are fantastic writers (yes I'm double bragging) so I think you will really enjoy their blog. I'd appreciate anyone who'd like to sign up and follow them. Remember, we all have been where they are today and just starting up. Where would we be if no one had followed us? So here is their link: http://swopeparente.wordpress.com/

Stay tuned!!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Meaning of Fall

Fall is finally here! Yay!! No one is happier to see it come than this hot, sweaty, Lousiana girl.
I’ve decided Fall is my very favorite season. Finally, I can wake up in the morning without being drenched in sweat from the horrible humidity of the south.

 
 




And if I’m lucky, I might be able to find an orange leaf somewhere here in Louisiana. It’s not easy though. So instead, I just dream about all the beautiful colors blooming up north. When I lived in Ohio, I remember driving around for hours just oohing and aweing over all the gorgeous colors. It makes me happy to know that at least somewhere, the colors of orange, red, and yellow are popping out everywhere!
 
Here is a short, beautiful, and accurate description of autumn leaves.

 
 
Autumn Leaves
Autumn by Grace Paley
What is sometimes called a tongue of flame
 
 
 
 
Some other reasons I love fall are:
Going outside and feeling the crisp, fresh, cool breeze in the air.

Getting that feeling in the air that tonight would make a great chilli night!
Finally going on long walks again with the dogs. I refuse to do it during the summers down here.

The anticipation I feel knowing that soon, very soon, I’ll be able to throw on my sweats and cuddle under a nice soft blanket without having the fan blowing on me full blast.
The realization that soon, I can put on the boots that I love wearing so much! I love wearing sandals too but nothing makes me feel like I’m looking good more than a “hot looking” pair of boots!

 And although it irks me at first to walk in the stores and the Christmas and Halloween decorations are already out, I love shopping for those decorations. I always decorate for Christmas but have just started decorating for fall the last few years and am loving it!
I love this time of year because of everything coming up. Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Yes it can be a rat race and a lot of hard work preparing for all those holidays, but it’s a time for families to be together. Just thinking about it all makes me feel happy and giddy inside. I just love it!

And yes, I’m one of those that has already gotten a good start on my Christmas shopping so that is a big part of why I get excited this time of year. However, I’m also one of those very impatient people who can’t stand shopping after Thanksgiving and dealing with all the crowds. That just makes me grumpy, tired, and wishing it was all over! So I try to do as much as possible beforehand.
So I’ll leave you all with something to think about. The following is something I found when I asked “Google” what does Autumn symbolize? I thought it was beautiful and interesting.

The trees sap returning to the base....our spirits turning from outward needs to inward reflection.

The colors change as our bodies change from young and vibrant to character lines and scars.

The winds swirling the leaves as life swirls around us ever changing.

The chill in the air is the chill of loss of love, dreams, direction.

The animals storing food radiates self preservation and a promise of tomorrow.
 
 
So do you have a favorite season other than fall?

 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A future illustrator - Jody Labauve from Walker, LA

The other night I attended a very special Book Festival at our local Walker Elementary School in Walker, LA. I read my children's picture book The Pea in Peanut Butter to four different groups of kids. They were amazing! While the kids waited for my reading, they colored some coloring pages from my book.

Below are some that a little girl named Jody Labauve and (I think) her sister Mady Labauve colored for me!! It meant so much to me that I promised Jody I'd post them on my blog. She is an excellent colorer and so is her sister! I think we may have our next illustrator in the works. Look how she highlighted the hair and the hands in all the right spots and even textured the walls! I am truly impressed. Thank you Jody & Mady, I will treasure these forever!

What do you think?





Thursday, September 20, 2012

WRITING HOLIDAY STORIES


Can you believe it? The Holidays are almost here! Don’t run and hide, it won’t do you any good.


They will be here before we know it. I actually love this time of year not only because the weather finally starts to cool down, but I love all the excitement of what the holidays bring. I love the smells, the colors, and the fluttery feeling in my stomach I get knowing that it’s fall and soon I can put on my sweats!
So, now that the holidays are coming up, have you thought of writing a holiday story? I’ve often wondered if there was an advantage to writing a holiday story or a disadvantage? Holiday stories are somewhat rare so if a publisher is particularly looking for one, you might have a great chance of getting it published. However, if they aren’t, then how good are your chances? Plus most publishers ask that when you send in a holiday story, you do so at least 12 months in advance. So that means waiting forever to actually get it published. But that really should be no hindrance since most of us writers have to wait forever to get a story published anyway!

I ran across an interesting article with tips on how to write an effective holiday story so I thought I’d share. I couldn’t find an author's name but it did say it was edited by Lucas Halbert and 7 others.
Here is the article:
When we write stories  with the purpose of sharing them with others, we enter into an agreement where we allow our reader to see a glimpse of our heart, our souls and our memories. If we truly want them to be immersed in the tale, we actively immerse ourselves in those memories so that a glimmer of what we saw, heard and felt comes through.
This is especially true with holiday tales. The best way to convey a holiday scene is to take a trip back in time through the wonderful world of our unconscious. Here are some great ways to delve back into your childhood memories and incorporate them into your holiday tales.
Sit in a darkened room and close your eyes.
Allow yourself to go back in time to the very first Christmas that you can remember. Take a deep breath and relax. What are the scents, sounds and feelings that come up? What is the first picture that pops into your mind? Is it the sound of children racing down the stairs that comes to you first? The feel of your heart pounding when you awoke and found that Christmas was really here? The sweet sugary smell of Christmas cookies baking in the oven? The warmth of your parents’ blankets as you bounced on them, anxious to wake them up?

Recreate the scene
1. If a scent triggers your memories, you can either bake the cake or cookie or brew the eggnog. Or you can get one of those scented candles and simply light it.

 2. If the feel of sweaters immediately transports you back to your snow throwing days, slip one on. If you are like me and live in Florida, turn the air way up first. Close your eyes and hear the sound of children shouting as they try to nail each other with snowballs. Picture their fresh flushed faces.

3. If there is a particular holiday character that sparks your memories, rent holiday movies. Some of my favorites are Frosty the Snowman and Miracle on Thirty fourth street. Watch one for a while, until you get the holiday feeling, then turn the sound off. Watch the pictures and let your mind go. 

Put yourself back in that period time

If you are writing about a little girl in a big family, think back to what holiday dinners were like for you. Did everyone talk at once? Does your character like this or does she feel overwhelmed? What is it like to be the smallest one in a room full of adults? Is there a cousin or neighbor that is constantly picking on her? Do the children get bored and decide to explore the forbidden attic? Once you have a scene in mind, write down all of these questions. Don’t worry about answering them until you have run out of questions. Then think back to the picture, sound or feeling that you associate with and answer the questions.


Myself, I've actually only written one holiday story and it was Halloween. I didn’t want to scare the little ones so I picked a pumpkin as my protagonist. I have yet to get it published, but have to admit it was one of the funnest stories for me to write so far! I guess I need to revise it again and start resubmitting.
How about you? What holiday stories have you written?
 
 


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Back to life!!

Well darn! I'm back from vacation and life is back to normal. Why is it that vacations are so short and go by so quickly but real life seems to drag on forever before another vacation comes along.

Although my vacation wasn't very relaxing, it was fun. Our trip home to Ohio went really well, we saw lots of old friends and all of my husbands family. I even got to have dinner with my best friend and she brought some surprise friends with her. What fun that was!

Our stop in Tennessee to check out possible retirement homes was also a lot of fun. Although we didn't really find our perfect house, we did narrow down the area we will probably retire at. It's a lake and golfing community called Tellico Village and is about 20-30 miles south of Knoxville depending on what section of the village you live in.

But houses can be so deceiving from the online photo's!! Either we saw houses with gorgeous views but the inside was a gut job and really outdated, or we saw gorgeous houses inside but no view. And a view of the water, golf course or woods is a must have on my list. I tried to download some pictures for you to see but my computer has decided to take forever and I don't have that much patience today. So no pictures this time.

As far as my writing, I did absolutely nothing towards it for those 2 weeks. It felt good but strange. Not sure I liked it at all! But now it's time to get back into the swing of things. I'm working on 4 or 5 new picture books to submit so guess I better get cracking! Goodbye vacation... hello life!!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Finally... A Vacation!!!


Finally a vacation is near!! Since being laid off from my job in January, my husband and I haven’t gone anywhere, just been stuck here in our little cocoon. So we are really looking forward to getting away. Unfortunately, ours will not be a restful, blissful, romantic vacation.

First off we’ll be visiting my husband’s family back in Ohio and attending his oldest nephew’s wedding. We are so excited for him but it’s a bit “unbelieveable” in our eyes. We still remember the little goofy boy who was always laughing, telling stupid jokes, and was always wanting to play cards. We don’t remember him ever having a girlfriend. But finally he has found a wonderful girl and boy has he grown up. It’s wonderful to see.

I’ll also be hooking up with a few high school buddies while I’m there and seeing lots of old friends at the wedding so it should be lots of fun.

After we leave Ohio we’ll be heading towards the Knoxville, TN area to look for retirement opportunities. We live in Baton Rouge, LA now but it’s not home to us. My husband’s job has transferred him many times around the south but no place has really felt like home. I suppose for me it’s the heat!! The summers here are unbearable to me. If you know me at all, you know how I hate to sweat! And especially when I hop out of bed first thing in the morning drenched in sweat which happens for about 6 months out of the year down here. It does nothing but make me grumble and I’m twice the grumpy morning person as usual. Plus down south, we don’t see the four seasons which I miss terribly. We see about 1 orange leaf in the fall and maybe two snowflakes every 5 years.
Tennessee is about halfway between our families so we’ve pretty much picked it as a great place to retire. The weather is great there, they have awesome lakes and mountain views, plus there is no state tax!! My husband loves that part.

Gorgeous!!



I want this view while I'm drinking my coffee on my deck!


Anyway, we are going to tour a few areas, house hunt and hopefully narrow down the exact area we want to focus on. My husband and I have house hunted what seems like a gazillion times in our life so it’s a good thing I love it. And I really do. It’s one of my favorite things to do! However, my husband and I have differences in opinions so pray for us that we don’t end the trip in some kind of fight!!

We are the kind of house hunters who want to start as early as possible and don’t want to quit until there is not one more house available to see that day. So it won’t be relaxing but I’ll still have fun!

So this post is to let everyone know that I won’t be updating my blog for a few weeks. I probably won’t get one bit of writing done because the days are going to be filled with other things. Hopefully I won’t go into “non-writing” convulsions !! Anyway, have a great few weeks everyone and I’ll be back up to full speed again after labor day.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Author Interview with Harri Romney


Today I’d like to introduce to you a fellow children’s picture book author, Harri Romney whom I had the pleasure of interviewing. She has just released two new picture books titled CLUNKEY MONKEY and A DOG CALLED DOG. Harri not only writes the stories she is also the illustrator.
                                                                                         ABOUT HARRI
I’m an English author / illustrator of children’s picture books only. Although having had a varied career, I’ve worked with children for quite a few years, spending most this time employed within Early Years and Primary education. Her stories are children’s fantasies, mostly written in narrative verse. She considers rhyming verse to be one of those cherished characteristics, that modern children should be given the opportunity to enjoy.


First off, could you give us a little teaser about what Clunky Monkey is about?
Clunky Monkey is on her way back home when she discovers a picture of a beautiful dancing couple.  She goes to visit the wise gazelle, in order to find out exactly who these strange dancers are.  Fascinated by what she learns, she wants to learn this ‘ballet way’ too, but Clunky Monkey’s family are a funky disco dancing troop, therefore it will not be easy for her to break from tradition to becoming a ballerina instead.  The accident prone monkey tries to follow her dreams, even though most of the jungle creatures ridicule her.

What made you write a story about a monkey?
I honestly can’t remember...   I remember the inspiration came to me one morning. I can even recollect where I was standing too, but cannot recall exactly what trigger inspired that picture book.

How did you come up with your cute title?
I do remember that a book about a funky monkey seemed too cliché; this is how I deviated from writing about this.  I recollect changing the original storyline from a monkey that should have been funky, into an accident prone monkey instead (while she was trying to learn ballet).

What process do you use to do your illustrations?
Examples of my illustration work can be found on the link http://www.harriromney.com/gallery-4/ .  I’m what you’d call a technophobe, so I just prefer to use pencils and paint pens rather than Wacom technology.  My husband enhances colours and removes smudging using a computer, before publishing the pictures. 

Which is more of your passion, illustration or writing? How long have you been doing each?
In reality, I haven’t been doing either of them for very long.  Sadly, it was the death of my brother in law a few years ago, which inspired me to fulfil my ambitions (one was to write a children’s book).  I really don’t mind whether I write or illustrate… they’re both necessary in order to get my work done.  Sometimes I need a break from one; but at other times I prefer to do the other.  After sending off quite a few manuscripts to agents (and receiving just as many rejections back), I decided to publish my work on Kindle instead – but I needed to get the illustrations done first (I’d not drawn anything for 20 years).  After joining some networking sites, I had an unpleasant experience with one illustrator who tried to hard sell me his work (after I’d complimented him on it).  Anyway following this incident I decided that if I was ever going to get my work published, I’d need to have a go at illustrating myself… so I did.  I never intended to illustrate; in fact I was scared stiff at the mere thought of doing so. 
Do you have a goal with your writing that you want to achieve? If so, how long do you think it will te you to achieve it?
I don’t really have a goal … I achieved the initial goal to get one children’s book published.  I’d always had an ambition to write a book since I was around seven years old, which never seemed to fade.  However, after completing my first story, I was emotional; I felt a real sense of achievement because of the little manuscript I’d created.  Afterwards my head was buzzing with so many more ideas or quirky titles, and I had to start keeping a notepad nearby at all times. 
That very first story became part of the series ‘Winston and Fairy’s Adventures’, which has been dedicated especially to my brother in law.  For this reason, when the first paperback from this series ‘Winston and Fairy: A New Sleigh for Santa’ is published in 2012, some of the proceeds will go towards supporting the ‘National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society’, which researches the condition that my brother-in-law tragically died from. 
Presently, I’m in the process of illustrating any remaining books that I’ve written right now (as there are about twenty books), but I’ll see what happens afterwards… Whatever life does next is what’s meant to happen.   Away from the writing and illustrating life, I really want to concentrate on my academic studies.
Clunky Monkey is written in Rhyme. Are all your stories written this way?
Most of them are written in verse.  Out of twenty stories, there are only three that aren’t, but they’re lovely stories too.
What inspired you to become a children’s book writer?
I’m told that I’m like Peter Pan, refusing to grow up.   It’s the experiences that children and I share a love of such as celebrations, fairy tales, mythical characters, snowy scenery and nature and so on, which inspire me.   Additionally studying childcare, working with children or being a mother, has partly helped me to understand children’s likes, dislikes, or their thought processes and capabilities.  Plus  I’ve read countless picture books to my own children every day, since they were both only weeks old, so perhaps picture books are the genre that I’ve been the most exposed to (apart from academic literature).
What are you working on next?
I am finishing off the illustrations to my remaining stories right now, which will take me at least another year or two.  Although I have actually written (and edited) the first two books from my next series, but that really is a long term plan.
What is the single most important thing you have learned from your writing to publication journey?
Writing and illustrating is not my main job; it’s more like an interest.  I’ve learned that within this journey, you need to have a great deal of stamina to accept plenty of rejection, and always have an alternative plan to help you move forward, if you really want to be published.  Don’t take things too much to heart or you could walk about feeling quite despondent; writing/illustrating is so competitive.  The flip-side is that, it can be extremely rewarding too – just through finding out what you can achieve on a personal level. 
My personal experience (as a published author), began on Kindle.  I found that picture books which are only available on Kindle or iPad, don’t seem that popular among parents yet (I’ll be the first to admit that I’d not let my children free with these gadgets either).  I believe that for this reason and other reasons, paperback or hardback books remain the preferred presentation for picture books, hence why I made the decision to get my work published in paperback earlier this year.
I am not with a main publisher.  I’m actually using a micro-publisher who prints on demand, and being rather shy, I’m far more comfortable with this strategy anyway right now.  However, marketing the work yourself is extremely difficult; that’s the downside ( I firmly believe that confidence is essential for marketing).
What is your definition of success as an author?
Being a successful author is achieving what you set out to achieve on your own personal level.  That answer would vary according to who you asked.  I wrote one children’s book and then got it published (the fact that I illustrated it myself, and then went on to write many more stories has been a real bonus – and a confidence boost).  Hence even though I’m not famous, I’d consider myself to be successful … Others would disagree with that.   How would you define success Allyn – I’ll bet your answer will be vastly different to mine?
Where is Clunky Monkey available for purchase?
My books are available to purchase from the main online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones and more…
What else have you written and where can readers find your work?
‘Clunky Monkey’, ‘A Dog called Dog’ and more recently ‘Lord Tarquinius Snout and the Vacuum of Doom’ are now available to purchase online in paperback, through most main retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Waterstones.  Details regarding my publications can also be found on www.harriromney.com.

                                                    Review of Clunky Monkey by Allyn M. Stotz

Who doesn’t love a Clunky Monkey! Well this Clunky Monkey wanted to change from her families’ way of funky disco dancing. She wanted to dance like a ballerina. So she finds her graceful giraffe friends and asks them to teach her. But, it wasn’t so easy for this Clunky Monkey. She had to practice day and night!
This story is told in rhyme with a good message about going after what you really want. The repetitive line “your ballet dancing nonsense is spoiling the day!” really added a charming touch to this little story. The ending has a very satisfying conclusion and will leave readers with a chuckle.
The illustrations are cute and will have the little ones laughing!

Thanks to Harri for giving me the opportunity to interview her, it's been a pleasure! I wish her much success with everything she does.