Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween! A special feature with Courtney Farrell

Happy Halloween! Although I don't own a costume for this spooky occasion (I outgrew my Princess Leia costume long ago, sadly), I DO have a lot of books to read. Today we're visiting with Courtney Farrell, author of the YA science fiction/fantasy novel, Enhanced. 

Hello and welcome, Courtney! Give us the synopsis of yourself as a writer. 
Hi! I started writing when I moved to a small town in the Rocky Mountains, and I couldn’t find a job. My hobby farm turned out to be the perfect full-time writer’s retreat. First I wrote nonfiction books for young people, and then, after a great deal of effort, I began to sell my fiction. It was a thrill to place my first novel with Crescent Moon Press.

Tell us about Enhanced. What's the story? 
At the Institute, doctors breed people like livestock. Every year, the lowest-scoring kids disappear from the class, and nobody knows what happens to them. Sixteen-year-old Michelle has survived every purge, and she’s about to win the ultimate prize: a luxurious life as a breeder. Then her brother and her boyfriend both disappear, and she throws it all away. Michelle goes over the Institute wall, into the crime-ridden slum, searching for the boys she loves. She’s in trouble until the handsome half-breed Dillon stakes a claim to her. Michelle is mortified by her attraction to this guy, because the Enhanced see Norms as little more than animals. But the doctor is using the missing boys in a twisted plan, and she needs Dillon’s help to stop him. Michelle and her friends must find the boys, but a plague is spreading, the doctor is after her and Dillon isn’t thrilled to help her find her lost boyfriend.

Where did you come up with the idea for this plot? It seems to be part science fiction, part fantasy. 
I once worked in a lab as a molecular biologist, where we genetically engineered bacteria. That’s when I started to wonder what would happen if scientists did that to people too.

How long did it take you to write Enhanced, from cover to cover? 
Since Enhanced was my first book, I was really slow. It took over a year, and then I ended up rewriting the second half!

What kind of stuff do you read (or watch) that gets you inspired to create? 
I love science fiction, and I enjoy classics like Heinlein and Asimov, but the most inspirational stuff I read is from writers in Fiction Foundry, my Colorado-based critique group. It’s fascinating to see a novel take shape from a sketchy outline to the finished product.

When you really think about it, the premise of ruthless doctors breeding "perfect" people like livestock is a rather terrifying concept, because of the realism of it. You're the author of a lot of other books, but this is your first YA novel. What prompted you to begin with a novel that was so gritty? 
All my nonfiction books are on dark topics like terrorism, environmental destruction, and child trafficking. Over time, that took a toll on me emotionally. (I swear I went through a whole box of Kleenex writing about child labor!) Maybe Enhanced is dark because I began it when I was thinking a lot about the world’s problems.

Tell us about the character creation of Michelle, your main character. 
I think supermen – or women – are boring, so I’d rather create a flawed character. Michelle embodies the idea that courage doesn’t mean you have no fear. Sometimes, real courage means going forward on trembling knees, doing what must be done even though it terrifies you. Michelle has a secret flaw, one that would get her culled if the doctors found out about it. She gets panic attacks. As the story unfolds, she learns to overcome her fears in order to help the people she loves.

Favorite writing snack? And by extension, advice to aspiring authors? *wink* 
I love fresh fruit! Mangoes, blueberries, strawberries, you name it. Mixed with vanilla yogurt, that’s my favorite.

About the Author 
I’m Courtney Farrell, and I sell my thoughts. I shine ‘em up first, like you would with anything you want to sell. And then off to market they go. My thoughts are powerful enough to take over my brain and make me stare into space while they play movies in front of my eyes. I hear you, wondering if you’re on the highway when I am. Watch out for the red F350 with a German shepherd in the back — that’s me.
Glorious daydreams, nightmares, worries and triumphs all spin together into the stories that feed my soul.  Luckily, stories also feed my kids (with a whole lot of help from my husband Shawn) and they buy some chow for the dogs, cats, and horses too.
My funny and sentimental thoughts found homes in parenting and ranching magazines. The worrisome ones became nonfiction books like Human Trafficking, Children’s Rights, and The Mexican Drug War. Outright nightmares morphed into dark titles with innocuous names like World Population. My nonfiction books are written for young people, mostly middle and high school age, but we tackle some serious topics. After all, kids are a lot smarter than most people give them credit for, and they want to know the truth.
Now I’m making the leap from being an established nonfiction author to being a newbie in the fiction world. My latest creation is a YA novel about genetically engineered teenagers and the doctors who breed them like livestock. It’s called Enhanced, and it’s coming soon from Crescent Moon Press. This story’s got some of my coolest thoughts yet. All shined up, and ready to play movies in front of your eyes. Only not when you’re driving, okay? One daydreamer on the road is bad enough.
Author Links 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Guest Post by Military Thriller Author C.N. Bring

You might remember C.N. Bring, the author of the military thriller Celia Kelly Series, which currently consist of The Pact and The Lie. In addition to being a writer, C.N. is also involved in a charitable foundation known as the Wounded Warriors Project, among other organizations that help veterans and their families. C.N. Bring is here today with a guest post about her passion for serving others. 

CN Bring

Do you ever feel like you wish you could do more to be a positive influence in the world? Chaos seems to be more prevalent every day. Sometimes it's easier to lock ourselves away in our own world and shut out the mayhem. How can we make a difference when everything seems to be a mess?

Many of us get up in the morning, get the kids ready for the day and head off to work, school or errands. It is easy to become overwhelmed with the laundry list of busy work and only 24 hours in the day. What if that was all stripped away? What if you were called up to drop everything and leave everyone behind? Military service provides certain clarity on when it comes to priorities and family values. We should all use this same "what if" logic in everyday decision-making and social interaction.

I write military mysteries and I also have a page on my website called CN Salutes where I interview those who serve and have served our country. I find myself in awe of every selfless story. Soldiers leave everything to protect all that we stand for as "One nation under God". While soldiers are over there they have families here serving on the home front. Those families sacrifice being with their loved one. They share their family with the entire nation. That's service! I am proud to say I have family who have served and currently serve in the military. One thing you learn in the military is to always put others first. I have been blessed by their example and this is what I've learned.

The truth is everyone has a responsibility to serve, whether it's an older neighbor who needs help with groceries, helping in your child's class room, or teaching Sunday school. These are just a few ways we can all make a difference. We don’t necessarily have to become a solider or superhero. There are small wars here at home that communities must band together and fight to make the world a better place every day.

We all have gifts given by God that make each of us unique and necessary to the world around us. There are many ways we can be an example to our peers and minister to others daily. When you feel compelled to help fill a need, you are being driven to serve. It's your responsibility. Serving others is what gives us purpose and direction.

You may think that your life is mundane and there is nothing you can do. No matter what your job or what walk of life you come from, it is your responsibility to serve others in some way and make a difference. We are connected to too many people to be completely self-involved. Always remember this: EVERYONE IS WATCHING! When someone looks at you, do they see an example of honor and compassion? Do they see a person of service?

Serve by making a difference one life at a time! You can be somebody's hero!

About the Author
CN Bring gravitated toward military intrigue and suspense coming from a military family. Many of her family members served in the Army and Navy and some are still serving today. She earned her Associates Degree in Criminal Investigation for Private Investigation and trained in hand guns. Bring's extensive research and life experience lend an authentic feel to her Celia Kelly Series (Military/Mystery/Thriller), as well as the Jack Sleuth Series (Crime/Mystery) for youth. Bring is also a member of Christian Motorcyclist Association, Military Writers Society of America, and Women's National Book Association. 

When Bring is not writing she is visiting children and grandchildren which takes her to various Army Bases, Los Angeles CA and Portland OR. Bring spent several years as a Motocross mom and she is also a football and hockey fan. During football season you can find her watching every game of The Green Bay Packers. Once hockey season hits, the team she cheers for is the Detroit Red Wings. Once summer hits, Bring connects with the Christian Motorcyclists Association.

Daughter Melissa suffers from Lupus so that is a cause near to her heart. Bring is also a big supporter of the military, with a brother serving and a daughter who is an Army wife whose husband flies Black Hawks. Her father was an Army Veteran, her brother serves as a Lt Colonel in the Army and her Uncle was a Navy Veteran. The support system needed for soldiers and their families who serve and have served is not just a need but a responsibility from those of us who benefit from the freedoms their serve provides. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Ian Anderson talks Greek Mythology

Greek mythology is one of those ancient things that we often study in high school and then forget by the time we're in college. Not so for Ian Anderson, the author of the Modern Disciples Series, novels which center around a group of characters stuck in a modern world riddled with the effects of Greek mythology. Because in these books, the legends are real. For this week's featured writer in the 2013 Fall Author Program, Ian talks to us about taking the old Greek stories and turning them...modern.  

Hello and welcome! Who are you, and why are you a writer? 

Hello, thank you for having me. My name is Ian Anderson and I am the author of Modern Disciples. I am a writer because I believe in the power of stories. They teach, they entertain, they are the life blood of our progression as a society. Plus it is fun for me and I can not see myself doing anything else in life.

You take Greek mythology and make it modern. How much research did you have to do to write this series?
I have been studying mythology from a young age. Most of my knowledge is based on Greek and Norse mythology. When I did further research I discovered the Japanese, Aztec, Egyptian and other mythologies. I do get most of my story ideas directly from the myths themselves so I do find I need to brush up on them. Most of my research though is done to compensate for little details that I don't know about. A good example of this would be the research for Volume 2. The characters spend time in Vegas. They had to do some gambling which I knew nothing about. I learned the basics of craps for that story. I just hope serious gamblers won't find that part of the story accurate enough.

Sum up the plot of the first book for us today. 

A man named Ryan Hunter leads a life with no direction and no plan on how to achieve his goals. He has an encounter with the furies from Greek Mythology and finds out that one of his parents is a Greek god or Goddess. Eventually he learns who that is and teams up with a group of people who are also children of gods, but from different Pantheons. They go on a mission to kill an indestructible beast in the Florida everglades. Their journey does not end though when they find the beast. They start to learn that sinister forces are always moving against them.

I know that there are Titans in the first installment of your series. What's the difference between a Titan and a god, strictly methodologically speaking? ;) 

Wow, there's a question you could write a whole thesis on, or at least a blog post. I guess in keeping with the myths: the Titans were the first beings that created the universe and gave birth to the gods. The Titans are essentially nature and the universe as a whole. The gods are not only their descendants, but they symbolize the will to control nature. In short Titans = Chaos, Gods = Order. As far as my story goes, the Titans are the bad guys because if they win they destroy the world. If the gods win they let us go back to our lives (hopefully).
How do you create? Music? Quietness? Pure inspiration?
I am a firm believer of staying at home in a quiet place to get your writing done. I have never been one of those guys who hangs out at Starbucks with a laptop. As far as inspiration goes, that is where it starts. Most of what comes out of my fingers though I have to research. I always have a dictionary/thesaurus and Google by my side.

Who are the writers that inspire you?
I have read all the Percy Jackson books, save "House of Hades," so I guess it is fair to say Rick Riordan has inspired me. We are both into mythology and we both do our homework. Stephen King was a great inspiration to me when I first started writing. I still see much of his influence in my writing today. As an independent writer though, I would have to say that I get much inspiration from Amanda Hocking. She has accomplished more than any other indie author out there and I hope I can replicate some of what she has.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Yes. Learn how the language works, and then learn how to market. I have a degree in Creative Writing/Journalism. If I could do it over again, I would drop the journalism and at least minor in marketing. These days even authors published through traditional means need and online presence. Unless you are the Stephen Kings and J.K. Rowlings of the world, you need to take direct action biting and scratching your way into the market place.

Thanks for your time! Happy writing!

Again, thank you for having me. 
Author Links

About Ian Anderson
Ian was born in New York but now lives and works in Florida. He has traveled to many different places throughout the US and has even been to Scotland once. Ian started studying Mythology at a young age when given a picture book of Greek myths. Since then he has become a student of Norse, Japanese, Egyptian, Irish, and many other types of Mythology. He has combined these different mythologies into his series entitled "Modern Disciples." He has published three books now and is currently working on the fourth.
Ian has a degree in Creative Writing.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Hey. I read a scary book.

The rumors are true. I recently read a book that, had I been in high school, would have never left my shelf. Don't believe me? When I was a Junior, my idea of a terrifying book was Neil Gaiman's Coraline or Max Brooks' World War Z. So reading a really scary novel, I thought, would be a great way to broaden my literary horizons a little. 
Just a tad. 

Anyway, here's my review on The House at the End of the Street by Lily Blake, which is a book that was based on a screenplay, rather than the other way around:

Elissa is a classic example of teenage angst. She's had a pretty crummy family life. Her dad left. Her mom is an irresponsible adult. And Elissa? She's just trying to live a drama-free existence. Unfortunately for her, dear old Mom decides to pull up stakes and rent a house on the edge of a field...right down the road from a house where a double murder took place. 
But hey. It's all about location, right? 
Too bad there's a lot more to that story than meets the eye, and Elissa finds herself entangled in a murder mystery that could very well end her own life. Because things just weren't bad enough. 

What I liked about this book is that it was a scary thriller and murder mystery - not a horror novel with some sort of demon possession going on. No thanks! Lily Blake has also authored the official novelization of Snow White and the Huntsman, and she did a great job of writing a fast-paced, scary novel based on a screenplay. I liked how quickly the tension began building. I also enjoyed how the mother-daughter relationship actually came to a satisfactory resolution, despite the fact that both mom and daughter were pretty much the ditziest duo this side of the haunted neighborhood. The House at the End of the Street has just enough of a thrill factor for October. Grab it on Kindle for about eight bucks. As for the movie version of this book, I have no opinion because I haven't seen it! If you have, feel free to let me know how it turned out. I hear it's a lot different than the book.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Jade Varden visits Writing Belle

Writing Belle's 2013 Fall Author Program officially kicks off today. So many great authors will be featured from now until Christmastime, and today we'll start with our first guest, Jade Varden. Jade is a Young Adult novelist. The first installment in her Deck of Lies series, Justice, is the book we will be featuring today. 

Hello! Thanks for kicking off the 2013 Fall Author Program. Tell us a little about yourself. 

Thanks so much for allowing me to participate! I’m about to release my newest novel, so I’m completely focused on the world of books right now. Fall weather makes me want to stay indoors and read.

You're a writer. What do you write? 

YA novels of mixed genres. Deck of Lies is a mystery series with some romance mixed in. My newest book is more dystopian...but there’s some romance there, too.

Give us a summary of Justice, Book One in the Book of Lies series. 

Justice is about a girl who knows exactly who she is. She’s got a good family life and she has firm plans for the future. Then one day, it all falls apart just like that. Rain discovers that she has no idea who she is, and her entire world is totally built on lies and deception.

How did you come up with the idea for this book? 

I started wondering what it might be like to be taken away from your own family and suddenly being forced to live with a totally different family. Everything built from there.

How long did it take you to write it from start to finish? 

Justice took about three months to write. I wrote the entire series in about a year.

I'm a writer, too, and I honestly couldn't survive the long days of work without hot tea. What helps you get through the day? 

Coffee! My Twitter followers know that I’m practically obsessed with it.

Favorite writing snack? 

Pretzel sticks. It might be the salt.

What's some advice you could offer aspiring authors? 

Write what you want to write. Think about the books you’ve read that made you want to be a writer, the stories that touched you the most, and draw your inspiration from here.

Thank you for stopping in. Best of luck!

Thanks so much! I look forward to seeing the rest of the Fall Author Program unfold.

About the Author 
Jade Varden writes young adult novels for teen readers. When she’s not working on her books, Jade also blogs practical writing tips for authors who self-publish. Jade currently makes her home in Louisville, Kentucky, where she enjoys reading and reviewing indie books by other self-published authors. Follow her on Twitter @JadeVarden. Visit Jade’s blog at for reviews, writing tips, self-publishing advice and everything else you ever wanted to know about reading and writing books. 

Author Links

Make sure you stop by every week to see what new authors Writing Belle is featuring during the 2013 Fall Author Program!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

State of Emergency goes on the Radio!

"...The President has declared a state of emergency..." 
This was a line uttered from the speaker of a car radio in the first installment of my Collapse Series. Since then, I've released the sequel to State of Emergency - State of Chaos - and I've gotten a chance to go on the real radio and talk about my books, my writing, and what it's like to be a writer. The interview was hosted by the Preparedness Radio Network, and by extension the show Media Preppers. Carolyn-Evans Dean was the host. 
And I promise, there are no declarations of a state of emergency during the show. 
At least...for now. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Halloween Time? Spooky Books for the Faint-Hearted (Or Not-So-Faint)

I don't know about you, but trust me when I say that I'm a big-time chicken when it comes to the creepy and terrifying. And since it's October, everybody is thinking about Halloween and all that it entails. 
Horror movies? 
Never seen one. 
I don't plan on it, either. Not unless you can supply me with a nice pillow to hide behind and, possibly, a pair of earplugs and a flashlight. I'll just read during the movie, thank you very much. That's what Kindles are for, after all. 

Fortunately for my temperamental scariness tolerance, there are some books that I will read that have a bit of a harrowing twist on them, and I'm not talking about novels centered on witches on broomsticks. I'm talking about the type of scary books I read, which consist of everything from YA novels to the timeless classics. This is not your typical spooky-inspired reading list, believe me. 

The Dead by Charlie Higson 

YA novels are pretty much my favorite things to read. This book takes place in London after a mysterious virus wipes out the world, turning anybody over the age of 16 into a crazy person. So basically all of the adults are zombies, and the kids are the only people left standing to save the world. It's scary, it's adventurous, and it's all about survival. I liked it a lot. Just don't read it before bedtime. Believe me. 
P.S. Another great book that you've probably already read is World War Z, by Max Brooks. Creepy, and the movie is great!

Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle 

I know, I know. This has nothing to do with the regular Halloween theme of ghosts. But trust me on this: this book is as equally terrifying as it is creepy. Apes taking over the world? Turning us into mere...animals? Not only is it a fantastic book, it really makes you think about the absurdity of humans believing that they're invincible. An absolute classic, and just scary enough for the month. 

The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo 

One of my all time favorites. We start with the deformed hunchback Quasimodo, the mysterious bell-ringer of Notre Dame. He falls in love with a gypsy girl named Esmeralda, but unfortunately for our hero, the evil Lord Frollo has a thing for her, too. What ensues is a lot of scariness, drama and adventure. A very intense book for its day. A very intense book for the present day! A gothic romance you don't want to miss out on. 

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley 

This was probably one of my top ten favorite books in high school, and to this day I adore it. When most people think of Frankenstein, they picture an old black and white horror movie, but this novel is actually a classic work of literature. Tragic love? Check. Scariness? Double check. Also, it's one of the earliest widely successful novels authored by a woman. It's a win any way you slice it. 

Lord of the Flies by William Golding 

You've probably never thought about classifying this as a horror novel, because it is officially considered a dystopian book. 
I consider it both.
This has got to be one of the scariest books on planet earth. A bunch of young boys get stranded on an island. Slowly, one by one, they lose their humanity and resort to savagery to survive. How is that not scary? It's so powerfully written that you can't help but feel a little spooked when you're done reading it. 

Halloween is not something I go all out for. If you're one of those people who decorate their houses with orange lights and dig "authentic" graves in their front yards to give their decorations more character, forgive me. I just don't feel like turning my front yard into a cemetery, nor do I understand the allure of smearing fake blood on the front door. I'm just that way. I'm the person that spends Halloween reading. Because I can. And because I love it. 
What more could you possibly need? 
Later, folks! Happy reading! 

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Dividing Line: Cover Reveal!

The Dividing Line
(The Space Between #2)
The next title in The Space Between series by Victoria H. Smith will be releasing February 14, 2014
Cover designed by Okay Creations
New Adult Contemporary
  A new love and a new life. Drake left Chicago with little more than the clothes on his back to be with his girlfriend Lacey. Though he has no regrets, he sometimes wonders if his time spent in Paris has put his life on hold. He’s overworked and underpaid at his dead-end job, and his employer sees him as expendable. His bright light at the end of the day is Lacey, but he finds himself slowly falling into the shadow of her newly-acquired fame. The city of love has found their new starlet in Lacey, but Drake is simply the man by her side. 

With all good things there comes a price. Lacey has been living the dream. She arrived in Paris with nothing but heartache and loss. Now, she’s the rising star of the city’s newest opera and dating the man of her dreams. When her performance contract is extended, she must decide if her new life of glitz and glam is what’s best for a future with the man she loves—or if it’s just what’s best for her. Paris brought Drake and Lacey together. But when their hopes for the future begin taking them in different directions, they must a find common ground or risk a line dividing them that may prove to be insurmountable. The Dividing Line is the sequel to the new adult multicultural romance,  The Space Between.
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About the Author 
Victoria H. Smith has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. She puts it to good use writing romance all day. She resides in the Midwest with her Macbook on her lap and a cornfield to her right. She often draws inspiration for her stories from her own life experiences, and the twenty-something characters she writes give her an earful about it. In her free time, she enjoys extreme couponing, blogging, reading, and sending off a few tweets on Twitter when she can. She writes new adult fiction romance in the sub-genres of science fiction, urban fantasy, and contemporary, but really, anywhere her pen takes her she goes.                              Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads   
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 Congratulations, Victoria! :)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

FAQ with a Writer

Making a career out of being a writer is one of those things that is said to be very rare. And that's true. Making a full-time living from weaving words is no easy task. It's nearly impossible, as a matter of fact. But it can be done if you really want it. 

I have noticed over the years that I get a lot of the same questions about writing from curious friends, eager fans and even family members. It's a novelty to be a professional storyteller, so I can't blame people for being interested in how writing works. Here are four commonly asked questions I get asked, along with my answers. 

Do you have, like, real work? 
Many people assume that because writers work from home, it  does not count as "work" and therefore we don't know what it's like to have a "real job." I liken this to telling a woman that being a mother isn't a "real job," when we all know that it very much is. It's simply a false assumption. A writer merely has an office in their home. Is it more convenient than driving in rush hour traffic to get to an incorporated building? You bet. But that doesn't mean it's not work. 

What's a typical day like for you?
I get up just like everybody else. I work for an hour, then I eat breakfast, then I work until lunch. After lunch I work until dinner, and then I'm done. But usually I end up working after dinner, too. Like right now. It's eight o'clock at night and I'd really like to watch Rise of the Planet of the Apes. But sometimes you just have to keep going! I have a full time work day just like everybody else. It consists of writing, writing, and more writing. Also publicity, interviews, organization, paperwork, editing and correspondence. I would make a list, but it could go on for a while. 

So do you plan out all of your books?
I plan, yes. I also like to write for the heck of it, so there's a fine balance that I like to find between these two approaches. The Collapse Series definitely has a game plan in mind.

Are you working on any other books?
 The true question here is, when you're done with the Collapse Series, what else will you write? My answer is this: wait and see! I am a storyteller, and I will continue to tell stories for as long as I can.