Welcome Back, C.A. Szarek

Welcome Back!
C.A. Szarek

I'm so excited to have my friend and NTRWA chaptermate, C.A. Szarek with us again today! We're going to talk about her latest release and she has a swag to share! Be sure to scroll to the bottom for an excerpt of Sword's Call.

Welcome back, when we last hung out (almost exactly a year ago!) your debut Sword’s Call had just been picked up by Gypsy Shadow Publishing. It’s out now. Tell us about your journey from then to now. What’s been the best part? What’s been the most surprising? 

Well, wow. The whole thing has been a plesant surprise. I was really nervous about edits, being since I had never been through a professional editing process, but my editor, Denise (who is AWESOME) really put me at ease, and the process was good. I dreaded for nothing. The journey is a learning process. You sign your contract, do your edits and then it's "Hurry up and wait" for your book to come out. The fun part is the cover, of course!

And, you’ve got another series coming out with Total E-Bound Publishing, how did that come about?

Collision Force is the first book of my romantic suspense series called Crossing Forces. Wow, the story, the book and even how it came to be at TEB is an adventure in and of itself. I had actually written the book for another publisher after a positive critique at a conference with one of their editors only to have it ultimately rejected by them. Then I was working with another publisher who asked me to restructure/rewrite the whole second half of the book...which I did. Only to have them ultimately reject it as well. I took it really hard. But after I picked myself up off the ground and told myself it was an even stronger story that before, even if they didn't want it, I re-shopped it. I ended up with THREE contract offers on it. So, I guess it really was stronger! I picked Total-E-Bound and so far my experience with them has been steller. I am so glad Collision Force and the Crossing Forces series has a home there. It will be available for pre-order May 20, will pre-release on June 3 and be general released on July 1. I am very excited.

Collision Force:
Badboy, married to his job FBI agent Cole Lucas always gets his man. So when the unthinkable happens and one gets away, Cole grits his teeth and hunts human trafficker Carlo Maldonado all the way to Antioch, Texas, where he collides with Detective Andi MacLaren.
Cole doesn’t do small towns and he doesn’t get involved with women he works with, but Andi tempts him in ways he doesn’t want to acknowledge.

Two murders, her partner shot and leading the investigation on her own, the last thing Andi needs is a cocky FBI agent that sees her as no more than a tagalong.
Widow and single mother Andi is used to being on her own. When Cole gets stuck without a place to stay, crashing on her couch puts them in dangerous territory.

Attraction and passion bring Andi to a place she left behind when her husband died.
Her three-year-old son quickly wiggles his way into Cole’s heart, and he starts contemplating things—family, love—that he’d never planned for himself.

Can being forced to work together make them stronger or will their differences jeopardize their case and their hearts?

Unlike Sword’s Call, this series is romantic suspense.  What was it like switching genres? Did you struggle with it at all? 
Switching genres isn't a big deal for me. I write what occurs to me in a way. But I am more comfortable in the fantasy world I created than having to write in the real world...rules! I have to follow rules that I wasn't the maker of.

So, what’s next for you? 
I just finished Love's Call, which is the 2nd book in the King's Rider Series, and I am working on Crossing Forces book two, Chance Collision. I have a few other stories swirling around in my head, too. So we'll see!

I understand you have a treat for our readers! Tell us about the giveaway! 
I do! I will giveaway an ecopy of Sword's Call or a Swag pack (containing a T-shirt or tote bag...US ONLY) Winner's  Choice! Just comment and tell me what you like to read! Make sure to leave your email so I can contact you! I will pick a winner from one of the comments!

Thanx for having me, Dawn! It was fun!

Want to know more? Connect with C.A. 

And here's where you can find her books!

For generations, the Ryhans, ruling family of the Province of Greenwald have been keepers of a sword rumored to possess enough magic to defeat kings. Lord Varthan, a former archduke and betrayer of the king, covets the sword and invades Greenwald.

Lady Ceralda Ryhan, daughter of the murdered duke, gains the sword and flees, trusting only her white wolf, Trikser—magically bonded to her. Cera needs nothing more to aid in her fight. 

Jorrin Aldern, half elfin and half human, left his home in the mountains of Aramour to find his human father who disappeared twenty turns before, but finds Cera with Varthan and his shades on her tail instead. His dual heritage and empathic magic will tempt Cera in ways she never thought she’d desire. But can he convince her trust and love can pave the path to redemption or will the epic battle end in tragedy and evil conquer them all?

Heart pounding and fists clenched, Cera sat in the Dragon’s Lair’s darkest corner. By choice, the candle on the table was unlit. The bowl of stew half eaten, food the last thing on her mind.
The door to the tavern swung open. Her white wolf growled low and deep beside her. Cera glanced up, squinting in the sudden flood of sunlight. As the door slammed shut and her eyes adjusted to the renewed murkiness, she took in the newest arrival.
Then she focused on Trikser. She couldn’t have him going for anyone’s throat.
“Shhh, Trik, it’s okay.” She ran a hand through his fur, smoothing his hackles along the length of his spine. The big wolf looked up at her and licked her hand. One corner of her mouth lifted and she bit back a sigh.
The only reason the owner of the tavern, Marshek even let him in was because no one else was allowed to enter the Dragon’s Lair if she was inside without him. No one according to Trikser, that is. He’d almost taken the hand off the last guy who’d tried.
“What’ll ya have?” Marshek barked, revealing his instant dislike of the newcomer.
She fixed her eyes on the bartender. Then she took a closer look at the man sitting in front of him. His pointed ears betrayed his heritage, but his height suggested he was not of pure blood.
Marshek was known to be tolerant of elves but he hated what he called half-breeds. Cera could imagine what the grumpy, middle-aged tavern owner was thinking, and it wasn’t friendly.
She rose, Trikser also immediately rising, awaiting her move. The white wolf was her bondmate and had been since he was young.
Relax, she thought-sent.
Trik sat, but his body was tight, tense. He didn’t respond to her mental order.
Moving to the bar, her wolf followed, slinking close to the floor, moving in a slight crawl. His belly probably touched the filthy planked flooring of the tavern.
Cera made a face but forced a breath. Detached control. Sliding onto the stool next to the half-elfin man, she was just in time to hear his order. His voice was clear and deep.
Marshek filled a mug with ale and started to put the jug in its place on the shelf.
“Wait, Mar,” she said with a wave of her hand, “I’ll have some of that, too.”
With a curt nod, the older man poured her a mug. She brought it to her lips, glancing nonchalantly at the stranger. His coal black hair brushed the collar of his hooded gray cape, giving him a rather unkempt look, but rugged rather than messy.
Cera couldn’t see the hue of his eyes from her seat but his high cheekbones made his profile appealing, his sleek tapered ears adding to the attraction. His powerful jaw line was clean shaven, an oddity in these parts. She could tell he was aware of her perusal. He was young, not much older than her, and had the stunning beauty of the elves.
His chest heaved as if he’d taken a breath, and he finally glanced at her. Blue. His eyes were a deep, sapphire blue. Her heart skipped a beat but she ignored it. The man said nothing, not that she’d expected him to.

Jody Hedlund: Secret #11

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday


Jody is awesome and I am so excited to have her sharing secrets with us today! Before we get to the juicy stuff, I absolutely have to recommend her latest book: 
I may or may not have devoured this book in basically one setting. I read the first two chapters on the treadmill and had every intention of only letting myself read it in the mornings while I was working out. Yeah, that night I stayed up until my eyes wouldn't focus getting it finished. So much for my reading-to-improve my thighs plan. 
But, the book was just that awesome! 
Enough about me!
Today is about Jody.

Secret #11: The area in my life I'm the most inconsistent.
By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

Overall, I count myself a very self-disciplined person. I  water my plants every Monday. I set my coffee maker every night before going to bed.  I always get up early. I write a certain number of words per day.  I pay my bills on time. I respond promptly to emails. 

Yes, I'm consistent and self-disciplined with most of my life.

But I'm terrible at being self-disciplined in one particular area. And that is exercising regularly.

I have good intentions when it comes to exercising. I always tell myself I need to exercise more and come up with plans. But for some reason, I can't seem to stick with those plans for very long.

Last winter, my goal was to walk with my Leslie Sanone DVD each weekday morning for approximately twenty minutes. I started out walking most mornings. But then occasionally I skipped because of an early morning headache or because I had too many emails to respond to. 

And once you get into the habit of skipping occasionally, it becomes all too easy to skip more regularly, until you're hardly doing it at all anymore.

Then I went in for a yearly doctor's visit and discovered that my blood pressure is borderline high. As I evaluated ways I could work on getting it down (without having to take meds), I learned that exercise was one way to work on lowering blood pressure. 

So, once again, I vamped up my efforts to be more consistent with exercising. Over the summer, I tried to take a twenty minute power walk every weekday morning before the kids woke up. And I realized it's a beautiful, cool time of the morning, with very few people out—mostly just me and my dog.

I realized it's easier to stay consistent with something if you plan it into your schedule for the same time every day, eliminate excuses, and just do it whether you feel like it or not.

Even with all my resolutions, I still find myself missing days now and then. But I'm getting better at becoming more consistent at this area in my life where I've always been completely inconsistent.
Maybe one day, I finally get there.

How about you? In what area of your life do you struggle to be consistent?

Publisher's Weekly calls Unending Devotion " A meaty tale of life amid the debauchery of the lumber camps of 1880s Michigan . . . exciting and unpredictable to the very end."

To celebrate the release of Unending Devotion, Jody is giving away a signed copy. Leave a comment (along with your email address) to enter the drawing. Valid only with US or Canadian addresses. Giveaway ends Friday, Sept. 21st. A winner will be chosen on Saturday. 
For more secrets about Jody and additional chances to win her newest release, visit her Events Page to see where she'll be next in her "Fun Secrets About Author Jody Hedlund" blog tour.
Also join in the Pinterest Photo Contest she's hosting. Find more information about it on her Contest Page.
Jody would love to connect with you! Find her in one of these places:

Interview with an old friend

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday

 My friend,

Sean and I go way back. I mean, big-hair-and-blue-eyeshadow kind of back. Talking about me, of course, not him. He never had big hair. In fact, we had a serious discussion about what pictures would and would not be shared for this post. You see, there was this play where he played a priest and I played, well, a ditz basically. My best line was "I like his hair...so much." What is that? 

Anyway, Sean is now an entertainment reporter as well as a writer-in-waiting novelist. Of course, I had to have him for Tell Me Your Story Tuesday. 

Let's get to know my friend, Sean. 
 Ah, the glamorous life of an entertainment reporter. It's all free movies, champagne and prestige, right?
 Being an entertainment writer is a great gig if you can get it.  I am published in the Moore Monthly and I am read by literally dozens of people every month…dozens! Sure, I see movies early and for free but there is a downside.  People don’t know about the pounds that I have packed on eating extra-butter theater popcorn two to three times a week, do they? I suffered the worst of Adam Sandler for my readers. I saw “Jack and Jill”. I watch those bad films so you don’t have to. It is a public service.

 How did you get into this?
 A friend of mine once gave me the advice, that when you are in a meeting where you clearly do not belong then just act like you do. I took this advice when I was asked to meet with the editor of the Moore Monthly. We had made an acquaintance in social media and he had been impressed with some freelance writing that I had done for a site called OKC.net. I had written a story about taking my young children to the annual Flaming Lips New Year’s Freak Out and titled it “The Family Who Freaks Out Together”. 

My unique angle on covering the show impressed him and I found myself having lunch with him. I was terrified at the prospect that this was a sort of job interview veiled as two guys eating sandwiches. Now, I had published freelance but this was a possible regular gig. I was nervous but took my friend’s advice and acted like this was the sort of thing that happened to me all the time. It worked out and I am now a professional entertainment writer. I have parlayed that in to becoming a member of the Oklahoma Film Critic’s Circle, a recognized professional society for film criticism.  Which, I have used to get more freelance writing work.  I just keep having meetings and pretending that I belong there.

 What do you look for in the movies you review? Do you take notes or rely on your own memory?  Do you like to have company for a discussion afterward or do you prefer work alone?

 Movie studios and promotional companies offer free screenings for the press and for “word of mouth” hype. Usually, these screenings are a few weeks before the actual release of the film and are used to build a buzz around a production.  These screenings are for the press but also for an audience of people who win tickets on the radio or receive them through some other promotional source. When I see a movie, it is in a crowded theater of people so I can gauge their response and measure it against my own. I don’t take notes. I do varying amounts of research beforehand but go see the films the way that any movie-goer would. I bring a friend or my children if it is a family film.  I get popcorn and candy.  I experience the movie.   
My work starts once I am walking out of the theater and I start to distill from my immediate impressions that recommendation of what to expect from a film. I relate my biases upfront and then try to present as balanced as possible a review. I am not picky when it comes to which films I will see. I keep a calendar of all the screenings I can possibly attend and then attend as many as I can. If I do not write about a movie for my regular column then I will usually write something freelance for another outlet about the film. I will see anything because every movie that I see is potential income for me.

 What is it like to leave the theater knowing you are going to write a negative review? Do you feel guilty at all or is all business? 

  Too many critics seem to me to be professional contrarians. I try to be balanced in my criticism of a film. In the end, I am such a fan of film that there is very rarely a movie that has nothing redeeming in it to me. If there is only one worthwhile performance then I will not fail to mention it. Movie-making is a marvelous thing to me and as a critic, I can be like someone watching prestidigitation at a stage show and trying to guess at how the tricks are done and pointing out the wires. In the end I still want to be amazed. I still want it to seem magic.  I still appreciate the art of making-believe. I mean as a writer, I appreciate the magic behind the creation of worlds from whole cloth.  I have such a reverence for film and every part of the process.  I hope I show that in my criticism.

 You also write fiction. What genre? Tell us about one of your work in progress. 

 I am not sure. I call myself a speculative fiction author. I am writing in the genres that I am drawn most to read. My fiction is some combination of horror and sci-fi, maybe the horrors of science (although my science is as much psychological and social science as anything else).  Hanging a name on a story and categorizing it is limiting it to follow certain tropes or expectations. It has been suggested to me that I write slipstream fiction. I am not quite sure what slipstream as a genre really is exactly but I like what Bruce Sterling wrote about it: "...this is a kind of writing which simply makes you feel very strange; the way that living in the twentieth century makes you feel, if you are a person of a certain sensibility”. I get that.  Out of place or out of your mind is sort of what I am shooting for in the atmosphere of my writing.

 What authors have shaped your vision of what you want your writing to be? 

I am currently reading through everything in our local library written by Philip K. Dick. Immediately before that, I was rereading the short fiction of Lovecraft. I have very few books as I tend to pass them on quickly but I am literate and an autodidact so I consume the resources of my library voraciously.  I would probably say Philip K. Dick and Kurt Vonnegut are huge influences on my thinking and writing right now. However, my overall vision is colored by piles upon  piles of yellowed pulp  science fiction and fantasy novels that my parents had collected.  My first advice to anyone who likes to write besides ‘Just write’ is to read. Just read.

 As of now, you are unpublished in fiction. How do you keep yourself motivated and writing ? 

 I have published very little in fiction (a few short stories in independent small press magazines). I have written however quite a lot. I spend most of my week working on freelance journalism.  After the freelance journalism work is written, I take time every day for my fiction.  The time varies on my workload. I am starting to feel a pull in the direction of submitting my fiction work and investigating places to publish (and self-publishing options) especially as I get close to finishing my novel.  I really feel like it isn’t hard to get motivated to write, it is hard to do the work of getting that writing seen by others and making a living from that writing. That is daunting. The writing is the easy part in comparison. The process of submitting that writing and getting it seen is what takes motivation. 

 Where do you see yourself going in your writing path? Five years from now, what do you hope to have accomplished? 

Writing. I want to be writing. A few years ago, writing was a hobby for me. I was a retail manager for a big box store. I hated my job and I used writing as an escape. I was stuck in a profession that I found tedious and I was absolutely “adequate” at. I decided not to settle for being mediocre and feeling trapped. There was better money in retail but my heart was in writing. That sounds like a bold choice and may be the best move of my life if I can somehow make writing my career. I am a freelancer. There is a certain grind to freelancing but it doesn’t pay a lot and you have to really work it to make it work. The five year plan is to make the most of every freelance opportunity that I have and to start taking more “meetings that I don’t belong in” with fiction editors.  Keep working on my craft and keeping my fingers on the keys. If I am really living the dream, then I am going to combine this freelance journalism gig with a fiction writer gig. Ultimately, to be a working novelist and write to support myself would be the dream fulfilled. Any way that it happens, I am going to keep writing.

Thank you so much for doing this, Sean. It was such fun. 
You can find Sean at his blog:   http://verynovel.wordpress.com/ or like his Author page on Facebook.

You can also ask him questions in the comments here. Feel free to ask him about me in high school. He may know where some of the bodies are buried, but I've got pictures, so I ain't scared! 

R.J. Thesman

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday

It is a pleasure to have R. J. with us today to discuss her new release  
The Unraveling of Reverend G
 and a special topic dear to her heart. 
Let's get to know R. J.!

Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.
As a bi-vocational writer, I work part-time at GateWay of Hope Ministries. My title is Program Director for this incredible women’s center that focuses on counseling, groups and prayer. Then I come home, have a bite to eat, exercise and write.
Since the time I first opened my Big Chief tablet and scribbled my first story, I have been a writer. But it wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I attended a writers’ conference and learned more about the business side that I became a professional freelancer.
I am constantly writing – whether it is observing people for future characters, using the experiences of life in personal experience articles or unloading my soul in my journal. I can’t NOT write.

Your current release is 
What is it about?
This is my first novel, and it is about a woman minister who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She struggles with forgetting part of the Lord’s prayer and losing an entire gallon of Chunky Monkey ice cream. She has to retire and goes to live in assisted living where she meets a colorful cast of characters. The greatest fear of Reverend G is that she will forget how to communicate with God and thus – lose her faith.

You have deeply personal experience with Alzheimer's. How did that influence your writing process for this book? Did it challenge you more in anyway?
Because of my father’s trauma-induced dementia and my mother’s Alzheimer’s – I wondered what they were thinking about while they dealt with gradually declining health.  What was really happening inside those damaged brains? So I wanted to pursue that question by writing about Reverend G from her viewpoint, in first person.
Many of the experiences that Reverend G has are similar to the ones I have lived with and observed with my parents. The challenge was that in writing the book, I lived it so closely that I grieved for my parents all over again.

This is not your first book. Tell us about some of your other writing experiences.
Most of my writing has been in the nonfiction genre. My first book was an autobiography of my missionary experiences in Honduras, “The Plain Path.” My next three books were curricula for teaching English to international students, using the Bible. Except for an occasional short story, most of my articles have been nonfiction. So it was a great surprise to suddenly wake up with this novel in my head.

Does your process for writing fiction differ at all when writing non-fiction? 

I have always been an outliner and a planner, but with Reverend G – I just sat down and let her write the book through me. And it was so much fun! I think I have discovered my true calling.
With nonfiction, I always did research at the beginning, outlined, wrote the first draft, queried a publisher, then continued to rewrite until it was polished.
With Reverend G – I wrote the entire thing in 6 months, then did some additional research and went back to add it to the text. After the final edits, it was completed. Currently, I have enough characters and plot ideas for another two books in the series.

You also do public speaking and workshops. What message do hope those who hear you and/or read your work take from it?
I absolutely love teaching about writing – especially for the Christian market. I believe it is so important that we keep the message of Christ’s love alive with our words. Whether I am speaking about the Reverend G book or teaching a workshop, I hope to convey the joy of writing and the importance of keeping the message clear and readable.
When I speak specifically about the Reverend G book, I hope to share encouragement and hope with caregivers. Their role and their burdens are incredibly difficult.

What do you like to do when you aren't writing or speaking?
I love to read, read, read and I love nature. My favorite place is out on my deck with a good book. I also love to watch the sun set and praise God that He chooses different colors and textures every night.
I like to cook, but often don’t have time to do it justice. I also love to eat out with my son – especially great Mexican food.

What's your next step?
The 1st draft of the second book is completed, so I am now editing it. I’ve titled it “Intermission for Reverend G.” The third book will be “Final Grace for Reverend G.” After that, I’m already working on ideas for another novel – a secret!

How can our readers get to know you better?
My blog is on my website at: www.rjthesman.net. I’m on twitter: @rjthesman. On FB, my author page is RJ Thesman and I also have a group for caregivers and those dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia: Facebook.com/SometimesTheyForget. I’m also on LinkedIn as Rebecca Thesman and I have an author page on Amazon: RJ Thesman.

Thank you so much for being with us today.
 Do you have a question for R. J. about her writing journey or experience as a caregiver? 

Writer Round Up

Thinking about Thursday
Writer Round-Up
Since I am in California at RWA,
I thought I'd give you the opportunity to get to know a few of the 
SUPER-COOL people I get to hang out with this weekend. 
In no particular order:

 and many, many, more. 
I hope to come back with lots of new friends for author features and Tell Me Your Story Tuesdays. 
Let me know if there's anyone at RWA 12, I should say HI to! 

Lipreading Mom

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday


I am very excited to have Shanna with us today. She and I went to college together, um, a few years ago. Her life has changed infinitely since then. Today, she's sharing with us about her debut release, Lip Reader, as well as her hearing loss and a cause close to her heart.

Let's get to know Shanna!
Your blog is Lipreadingmom.com
Tell us about what led to your Deafness and how you chose to face it.

At age 27, I had just given birth to my first child, a healthy boy. While sitting at home with him, I noticed in quiet rooms that my ears rang uncontrollably. Conversations became distorted, and I had difficulty hearing voices on the phone. When I was diagnosed with tinnitus (ringing of the ears) and progressive hearing loss in 2001, I attributed the loss to hormonal changes from pregnancy. Later, I investigated my family history of hearing loss and discovered that genetic deafness went back several generations on the paternal side of my family. Exploring this family history and journaling about it helped bring me out of the initial denial, anger, and funk of having hearing loss.

What has been the biggest challenge of losing your hearing while raising three children?

My children---ages 11, 8, and 4---have adapted by speaking to me quite loud. When they can't get my attention, they also tap me on the shoulder (best case scenario) or scream (worst case). My daughter took baby sign language classes with me and seems to be more proactive in speaking clearly, facing me when she speaks, and using sign gestures so I can understand her. The challenges are there. My home is filled with loud voices, but also laughter. I remain concerned for their safety. At the swimming pool when I can't wear my hearing aids, I pay close attention to them. My eyes are my ears.

You focus on lipreading, but you also use sign language. How do you decide which communication mode to use in each situation?

My daughter is likely to use her hands while she speaks to me. My oldest son speaks clearly and has a deeper voice, so he is easier to lip read. My youngest son has quite a loud voice and is more inclined to place his chubby hands on my cheeks to get my attention.

At church, a woman and I sign the worship songs, and I teach Bible verses in sign language for my daughter's Sunday school class.

Tell us about Lip Reader. What was your inspiration? Which character did you enjoy writing the most? What do you hope your readers take away from the story?

Lip Reader is a novel loosely inspired by the genetic hearing loss in my family. The book takes place in Oklahoma where I was born and raised. My intention with writing Lip Reader was 1) to explore the history of my family's hearing loss and 2) educate and entertain readers with a compelling story about a special abled family. The main character, Sapphie, is a 12-year-old girl coming of age when she first meets her deaf family. The lesson she receives is one of inclusion, tolerance, and compassion. Sapphie also learns sign language from her warm-hearted Grandma Bebop. There is an unexpected surprise about secret-keeping that readers must discover for themselves.

What led to your decision to self-publish? What would you tell someone thinking of taking that step?

From start to finish, the book took just under two years to research, write, and publish. I felt a sense of urgency to share this book with others because it sheds light on hearing loss. More than 34 million Americans face hearing loss, and that number grows annually due to aging baby boomers with age-related hearing loss and noise exposure. After researching self-publishing options, I found an independent editor who proofread my manuscript two times before I submitted it for publication.

Self-publishing isn't for everyone. There is a cost involved, and the writer must pay for copies of the book to sell at signings. For the determined writer who can market the published book and has the financial means, self-publishing is very rewarding. It can open doors to speaking opportunities, media coverage, and community networking. A self-published author must take on these responsibilities: 1) hiring a professional editor to proofread the manuscript before publication and 2) setting up a marketing plan and following through with it. Social media, blogging, and online book events open up plenty of marketing possibilities. It's hard work to promote my book, but I like the sense of control and creativity that come with being a self-published author.

What has been your favorite moment while speaking about your book?

At speaking events, I use some sign language and plenty of drama! One of my favorite events was bringing by oldest son and daughter on the stage during a college speaking event in Missouri. They acted out a typical day with me as their hard of hearing mom. My son was shy, but my daughter stole the show with her honesty and smile.

You are also passionate about captioning services. What have you accomplished in that battle and what challenges are still ahead?

Captioning is vital to all people with hearing loss, as well as individuals learning to speak English as a second language. I became involved with captioning advocacy after repeated trips to the movie theater with my family. None of the movies were captioned. While watching Toy Story 3 at the theater, I sat stone-faced while my husband and kids laughed at Woody and Buzz's antics. What were the characters saying? I relied on my kids to repeat missed dialogue. That wasn't fair to them or me. After that trip, I partnered with the Hearing Loss Association of America  in contacting theaters about the importance of movie theater captioning. Since then, AMC Theatres, Cinemark, and others have begun showing first-run movies with captions.

I became concerned about the lack of online captions after watching YouTube and Disney.com videos with my kids. What could my kids hear that I couldn't? My responsibility while my kids are at home is to guide and nurture them in their choices. Without the ability to understand the videos they watched online, I wasn't fulfilling that job. I partnered with the Collaboration for Communication Access via Captioning  to inform websites about the importance of captioning all online video content. The 21st Century Video and Communications Accessibility Act of 2012 is a landmark ruling by the Federal Communications Commission to ensure that news websites and other sites caption their videos. The challenge is with captioning individual videos on all websites, particularly YouTube. How is it possible to enforce the captioning of so many videos? Yet it is important, and the CCAC and I continue to work together through the Lipreading Mom Captions Campaign  and other efforts to promote universal captioning.

When do you manage to write? What is your writing routine like?

During the school year, I write when my kids are at school---usually mornings. During the summer months, I tend to write more at night after the kids are in bed. Occasionally I can grab a few minutes during the day to write a blog post or work on a book chapter. While writing Lip Reader, I waited until my kids napped or had afternoon quiet time to write. My goal was 20 minutes a day, five days a week.

My new book, Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom, is my true story of juggling motherhood, hearing loss, and the unexpected twists of life. It will be published by CrossRiver Media  and should be available in 2013. I spent four months writing two hours a day on the book while the kids were at school. Much of the fodder for Confessions came from my blog . Besides hearing loss and parenting, I deal with family depression and two unexpected deaths of loved ones. There is a lot of humor mixed in with the serious subject matters. Plan for a few laughs, tears, and shocking twists.

How did your stories in the A Cup of Comfort series come about ?

Writing true stories is cheaper than hiring a therapist! I love to share stories and inspire people from my life. One of my stories, "Signed, Scared, Delivered," was about delivering my daughter without the ability to hear the doctor or nurses. Once I began working with two different A Cup of Comfort editors on projects, I gained the confidence to repeatedly submit my short stories for publication.

If you had a week to do whatever you wanted with no consideration to cost, what you do?

My husband and I would have unlimited babysitting and would stay in a bed and breakfast way out in the middle of nowhere. The innkeeper would provide all the luxuries of home without all the chaos of home! 

Thank you so much for visiting with us today, Shanna!
Would you like to know more about Shanna? 
You can connect with her at her blog, Facebook or @lipreadingmom on Twitter.

Welcome Katie Ganshert!

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday


I had the pleasure of featuring Katie when she first got Rachelle Gardner as an agent. You can read that post here. I am thrilled to have her talking about her debut release:

which I will be reviewing next week. 

Let's get to know Katie!

I love the story of how you met your husband. Can you give us a quick version of that? 

Ha! I love it too. He was the extremely good-looking delivery guy and I was the enamored receptionist. He’d come in once and day and we’d pretty much say hi and how are you? Then one day, as I’m walking out for lunch, he’s walking into our office. I expected him to go on in, but he did an about-face, walked with me to the elevator, and asked me out. My suave response was, “Do you even know my name?” Of course, I’d been signing for the packages every single day. Only my signature is perpetually messy. So he thought my name was Kate, even though I’d always been Katie. I didn’t correct him. I wrote “Kate” and my number on a gum wrapper and the rest is history. (Ten years later and he still has the gum wrapper.) 

You left your teaching career to write full time. How scary was that? Do you miss the classroom? 

Super scary. Especially since most industry professionals would advise against it. But I felt pulled in way too many directions. I was trying to be a wife and a mother and a teacher and a writer, and all the while, I felt like our son was growing up way too fast. I felt like God was asking me to step out in faith. Ryan did too.  After a whole bunch of prayer, we took the step, knowing we would lose half our salary and the great benefits that come with being a teacher. On paper, it didn’t seem like it could work. But God is faithful. He never leads where He won’t provide. It’s been the best decision for our family. One of the reasons I know is because as much as I loved teaching, I don’t miss it.

What has been the best part of this journey for you?

Oh boy, lots and lots of things! Getting to know so many amazing writing friends (like you!:)). Working with my agent. Working with my editor. Working with my marketing director. The people at Waterbrook/Multnomah are a dream team. Seeing a lifelong goal come to life. 

And getting to connect with readers! But, since you asked for the best, which implies only one thing, I’d have to say how keenly I’ve felt God’s presence throughout. This journey has drawn me so incredibly close to Him. It’s shown me that as wonderful as dreams are, ultimately, my hope and my joy and my worth are found in Him.  

What has been the most surprising (good or bad) part of the journey? 

The insecurity! I totally thought getting a book contract would take care of that for me. But I promise, it doesn’t. I feel like the further along I get in this journey, the more severely insecurity attacks. Which is why the further along I get in this journey, the more and more I have to put my hope in God. I’m such a people-pleaser. I want everyone to be happy with my work and happy with me. God is teaching me some (tough) lessons about letting that go. 

How is the adoption process going? Can you talk little bit about your decision to adopt and what the response has been? 

Good! We’re getting super close to sending our home study over to the Congo. Once it’s over there, we’ll be put on a referral list and the waiting begins.
We decided to adopt because God says to take care of orphans. He’s so clear about that command. It’s non-negotiable. That doesn’t mean everyone has to adopt to do so, but for us, that’s what it meant. We wanted more kids. It wasn’t happening the natural way. We didn’t feel pulled to go the infertility treatment route, and our lives kept intersecting with people who were either in the process of adopting or had already adopted. 

Then one day, the whisper in my heart was undeniable. It was as if God were saying, “I have a blessing out there for you, Katie. Don’t miss it because you’re too scared or too lazy.” God was working on my husband’s heart too. When he came home from work, I said, “I think we should adopt.”  And he said, “Me too.”
So here we are.

What's next for you as a writer? 

Book 2, Wishing onWillows, which releases March 19, 2013. It’s the continuation of Robin’s story from Wildflower. Readers don’t have to read the first book to follow the second, but I do think it’ll be a lot more meaningful if they do. I’m hoping readers will enjoy seeing familiar faces and places. 

Where can we connect with you? Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter
My blog
Twitter : @KatieGanshert 

Thank you so much for sharing with us, Katie.

So, what else do you want to know about Katie? Jump in and ask!

Author Feature: Cynthia Simmons

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday

Cynthia L Simmons and her husband, Ray, have five children and reside in Atlanta. She has taught for over twenty years as a homeschool mother and Bible teacher. Active in Christian Authors Guild (CAG), she conducts writing workshops and has served as president, vice president, and conference director. In December 2009 the membership granted her Life Time Membership for her numerous contributions to writers.  “Cindy” is fond of history and writes both historical fiction and nonfiction. Her writing appeared in CAG publications, NATHHAN NEWS, Chattanooga Regional Historical Magazine, Georgia Right to Life Newsletter, Chattanooga Times Free Press, Catholic Exchange, and Christian Devotions.us. Her first book, Strugglesand Triumphs, came out in 2008. While promoting her book, she had interviews on radio and TV across the nation and was nominated for 2008 Georgia Author of the year. She also conducts monthly podcasts called CAG Spotlight in which she interviews authors and VIPs in the writing industry. Her twelve week Bible study using the stories in Struggles and Triumphs releases April 6, 2012.

You can view the book trailer for it here.

Let's get to know Cynthia!
What made you decide to write?  What did you do before becoming a writer? I’ve homeschooled my five children for about twenty-five years. My husband and I shared teaching responsibilities and taught them through high school. Words have always fascinated me, and I tried to write a novel in elementary school.

Tell us Triumphs and Struggles. I found the premise of woman of history grappling with issues of faith to be fascinating.  What inspired you to pursue that aspect? I’ve always enjoyed reading material on women in history. Typically I look for their letters and diaries so I can get a sense for how each lady thinks. The stories I unearthed demonstrated various aspects of Scripture, and I complied them so I could use them to teach. You’ll notice certain stories contrast others. For instance, Princess Alice doubted her faith, but came back. Her sister, Princess Victoria, abandoned faith. I wanted the reader to see the outcome of their choices.

You are very involved in Christian Authors Guild (CAG). Tell us a little about that. How has that community been beneficial in your development as a writer? Christian Authors Guild is wonderful. I’ve made good friends and learned so much there. Aspiring writers need the encouragement and support. If they can’t find a local group, I recommend they start one.

You also have a blog where you are regularly interviewing others and producing podcast. What has been the best part of that experience? I love interviewing writers and connect with them as I listen to their zeal. Also it’s wonderful to see how God moves his people to impact the world.

Is the life of a writer what you thought it be? What is different? Today a writer needs to be a celebrity of sorts, which means you must do other things besides write. I’ve always been shy and while I enjoy people, I dislike promoting myself. Instead I prefer to think about offering a ministry.

Do you have any special time management tricks for working in writing time and living a normal life? This question makes me smile. I used to assign my kids all sorts of chores while I did other things. We got a lot done in a short time because everyone worked. Four of my five children are out of the home now, so I’m learning a new way to organize myself.

 What do you do to fight burnout? Do you ever worry about "running out of stories"? How do combat that? Writing has made me aware of how finite I am. I often need to ask God for words. His supply is limitless.

 What do you do when you aren’t writing? Over the years, I’ve dabbled in all sorts of things, particularly music. When the kids were little, I played piano duets with my girls and sang duets with my oldest son. Currently, I grow orchids and often share the flowers with my church. I also arrange cut flowers.

 Tell us a bit about your work in progress. I saw on the website you are creating a study guide for Triumphs and Struggles. What is your hope for that? In the study guide I explore all sorts of issues that emerge from the stories. I hope that students who use the study guide will grow deeper in their faith in Christ.

What is next for you? I’m working on a novel about a bank during the Civil War that will probably have a sequel. And I’ll probably write another book about women in history and create a study guide to examine the pertinent issues.

How can we find out more about you? Blogs? Facebook? Twitter? I have a website www.clsimmons.com and a blog http://blog.clsimmons.com. I’m also on Facebook. I co-lead Catch the Wave Writing Conference, which is a ministry of Christian Authors Guild. 

Thank you so much for visiting with us, Cynthia! 


Author Feature: Zeke Lam


From Zeke's website:

ZEKE LAM is the founder of SUBMISSION Ministries—a ministry devoted to seeing lost souls encounter God and live lives fully surrendered to the risen Christ. A graduate of Liberty University, Zeke’s deep passion for following Christ’s will has led him through many years of youth ministry and itinerant evangelism. Both of these experiences have enriched and fueled his desire to hand others the keys to a Christ-centered life. Zeke resides in Virginia with his beautiful wife, Kathleen, and a growing family of future world-changers. 

Let's get to know ZEKE! 
What made you decide to write?  What did you do before becoming a writer?  
 The passion or call to begin writing was orchestrated by the Lord. Having never had ambition to author a book, this task certainly took me by surprise. Although I have enjoyed writing all my life, the reality that it may go beyond mere school assignments was faint. By trade, I do carpentry and concrete work. In addition to this, I have spent many years in youth ministry and evangelism. Although I currently remain in the trade and ministry, it seems obvious that writing is becoming a part of my life. In short, the decisions to write stems from the fact that it allows the chance to minister in places that I may never get to stand in a physical sense.

Tell us about the journey that lead to your current release. 
This journey had been incredible. It all began with a season of life that brought my family to our knees. It was here that the Lord began to instruct me about true submission. Immediately upon finishing my degree, I committed a few weeks strictly to writing. As I penned from an over flowing heart, the words seem to come faster than I could write. Next came a truly divine appointment with Burning Lamp Media and Publishing, and here we are today embarking on a journey to impact the world through writing.

Do you have a writing routine? What does it look like? Where do you usually write? 
I enjoy writing when it is quiet, but not necessarily in a secluded location. Most of my writing therefore takes place at the kitchen table during my children’s nap time!

Is the life of a writer what you thought it be? What is different? 
Being a writer is exactly what I pictured it to be. There is a considerable amount of work to do after release in terms of marketing and getting the message out. This part has taken me a bit by surprise, but I am thoroughly enjoying ministering in this fashion, and excited to see where the Lord will take it.

Do you have any special time management tricks for working in writing time and living a normal life? Since I have to juggle both work and writing, time management is critical. The last thing I want to see is my family suffer from trying to fit both in. With this in mind, I make it a priority to write during times where it does not take away from them. This means that either early morning or nap times are going to be my writing slots.

 What is the best advice you have received about this journey? 
“Don’t write it out unless you can walk it out”- God

What advice do you wish someone would have given you when you were starting out? 
Probably just a little insight into proper formatting and things of editorial nature. Lack of experience in this department created a little more work than was probably necessary.

 What do you do to fight burnout? Do you ever worry about "running out of stories"? How do combat that? I usually do not begin writing until I have something very strong on my heart. Up till now in my short writing career, I have not had to worry about running out of stories. However, I usually fight burnout or writers block by simply putting down the writing for a day or so.

 Do you ever write material based on your close relationships, such as a best friend?, and how do you balance that material with the need to tell an interesting story?  
I make certain to be respectful of the person’s privacy. If the story is important enough to be included in the writing, it will not lose its significance by altering the name and place of the event. Most of the writing I do however involves stories that serve more as testimonials for ministering purpose.

 What sources do you use for inspiration?
 Music and movies can certainly offer inspirational thoughts to provoke writing. Most of what I write generally flows out of life experience and my relationship with the Lord Jesus.

 What do you do when you aren’t writing? 
 When I am not writing, I am doing one of three things. Spending time with my beautiful family, ministering through discipleship/preaching, and working in my concrete business.

 Tell us a bit about your work in progress. 
I am working on getting the word out about our first release. In addition to this, I am about to begin work on the next book in the SUBMISSION series!

What is next for you? 
My prayer and vision in terms of writing is more books in the SUBMISSION  series. In addition to this however, our main focus as a family is to be an instrument of revival to this nation in any way the Lord sees fit.

 How can we find out more about you? Blogs? Facebook? Twitter? You can check us out online at www.submissionministries.org or on Facebook! Hope to meet you there.

Thanks for stopping by, Zeke! Best of luck with your new book! 


Happy Release day to RONI LOREN!

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday
Crash Into You
Go ahead and stare at the cover a little longer. I'll wait.

*Throws confetti*

Happy Release day to my friend,

Roni is just awesome. I have truly enjoyed getting to know her through NTRWA and have been waiting anxiously to be able to throw her a release day virtual party.
Also, you should check out her blog because, well, she puts really hot guys on there! 
Roni has visited us a few times most recently with this post about the craziness of self-promotion.
But, she also weighed in on my struggle with writing sexy scenes. You can check out her advice here

So, celebrate with me! 

Grab some confetti and a virtual glass for the toast.  
Congratulate Roni or hop over to her blog and leave her some love. 

Welcome Candie Campbell

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday


Candie was one of the wonderful group of writers I connected with at DFWCon this year. She is an amazingly sweet person and a great encourager. 
Candie is the one in the middle.

   What made you decide to write?  What did you do before becoming a writer?

Though, I have always been a writer, there was a moment in my life when I said, “I need to write a book.” It was because of a dream, not the proverbial kind, but the “wake up groggy and wonder what the heck that was all about,” kind.

I’d been sort of running this play in my mind for years (about 12 I believe), sometimes I’d dream about it. Other times I would imagine the characters doing something extraordinary. Until I dreamed the end … period … all of the sudden the story was done.

It was such a shock I had to write it down. That was three years ago and I’ve been writing fulltime ever since. The last career I had before that was Salon Owner/Nail Tech. I don’t miss it.

  Do you have a writing routine? What does it look like? Where do you usually write?

I do have a routine, I wake up and write until the words are blurry, go to bed, wake up and do it again.

My goodness - that sounds dull. It isn’t to me, I’m in heaven. But my family and friends think I’ve lost my mind. Egh, I’m happy with my insanity.

Where I write changes, when I’m home I have an office. But my husband is currently on deployment at Fort Gordon Georgia and I’m down here hangin out in our 5th Wheel with him. Now I write at the dinette set or in the gazebo, if it’s not too hot.

    Is the life of a writer what you thought it be? What is different?

It is exactly what I thought it would be, its magical, its compulsive and its engaging. Writing digs its hooks into me and captures my mind endlessly. Whether my fingers are moving or not, I am always writing and I love it.

  Do you have any special time management tricks for working in writing time and living a normal life?
I don’t think I am capable of being “normal” anymore. I have the utmost respect for writers who write while raising children or working another fulltime job, that is true talent.

 What is the best advice you have received about this journey?

It wasn’t advice given to me personally, it’s my favorite quotes that inspire me to keep writing. Here are a few…

"What you write becomes who you are…so make sure you love what you write!" J.K. Rowling

And my favorite…

If you love to write, then write. Don't let your goal be having a novel published, let your goal be enjoying your stories. However, if you finish your story and you want to share it, be brave about it. Don't doubt your story's appeal. If you are a good reader, and you know what is interesting, and your story is interesting to you, then trust in that. If I would have realized that the stories in my head would be as intriguing to others as they were to me, I would probably have started writing sooner. Believe in your own taste.” Stephenie Meyer

 What advice do you wish someone would have given you when you were starting out?

Don’t rush it, slow down and enjoy the ride. If writing truly is what you want to for the rest of your life, then take the time to grow your skill and make your characters live through your words.

 What do you do to fight burnout? Do you ever worry about "running out of stories"? How do combat that?

I hope and pray I never have to find the answer to this question. I have taken breaks from writing, but they were intentional and quite frankly almost painful. I cannot finish one book without the next great idea formulating in my brain.

What kind of scenes do you have a hard time writing?

I don’t find that one type of scene is harder to write than the others, for me I struggle with the transaction from one BIG scene to the next. I see the book like a storyboard in my head first. Half a dozen big events that push the plot, those are easy to write, filling in the gaps with necessary information without boring the reader to tears, that’s my challenge. 
   Do you ever write material based on your close relationships, such as a best friend? And how do you balance that material with the need to tell an interesting story?

I do not model books off my relationships, but I do borrow aspects or personality quirks if they lend themselves to the characters believability. So if you have a funny saying you use repeatedly, look out - it might end up in a novel.

  What sources do you use for inspiration? (Music, movies, people watching)

My inspiration comes from unexpected places. Sometimes it just takes one word and whole story jumps to life, other times it may be a strange situation or even the pattern in linoleum that looks like a weird mystical creature.
What do you do when you aren’t writing?

I love the outdoors, boating, hiking, camping and motorcycling. I’m also a HUGE nerd. I love movies and books (obviously). I am a midnight release junky. You’ll find me in line with every other Potterhead and Twihard in costume probably. I’m also a Disney freak and I just got my first (real) tattoo. It covers half my back and is of Snow White, because she was my first true love, until Star Wars, when I turned into a geek.

  Tell us a bit about your work in progress.

I’m so excited to share SEEK with you. I actually just finished my first draft yesterday and now I’m editing and getting ready to send it off to beta readers. Here’s a blurb…

SEEK is about seventeen year old Keira who poses as her older sister to join the secret governmental agency Search.Evade.Extract.Kill, as a huntress of shadows known as, khayal. Every khayal seen from the corner of her eye, every feeling as if someone is watching her, every whisper of wind in the trees that's a khayal and it's her job to kill them. She's good at being a SEEK agent, her life is focused and controlled and she's working toward her goal. Until Jonathan Steed saunters in, with his brilliant green eyes and shows her what the khayal really are and that SEEK's true identity and motivation are not honorable. Bitten by khayal or bitten by love, either way, her heart isn't safe and neither is she, now she's her own enemy. SEEK has kidnapped her family and every government agency is after her, teaming up with Jonathan and the khayal is the only way she'll survive. 
What is next for you?
Next I am going to try something different, until now I’ve written only YA and MG, but I’m going to write a crossover.  WHISPER’S CURSE will hold something for both male and female 15-80 years old and should be a lot of fun to write. I’ll keep my website updated.

How can we find out more about you? Blogs? Facebook? Twitter?

Twitter: @candiecampbell

 Thanks Dawn for my first interview! It was great fun! I’m usually on the other side, but I really enjoyed answering your intriguing questions. 

Candie, thank you for stopping by!

Author Feature: Bianca Swan

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday

Bianca Swan!
Bianca lives in Houston, Texas with her Z3 and baby grand piano.  She has been writing all her life and loves to tell stories about hot heroes and the sexy heroines who love them.  Her favorite things:  Her two sons, music, sports cars, symphony, theater, the ocean, mountains, horses and travel.

Her latest release 
Celestial Sin  
is now available from
Wild Rose Press

I have saved the cover pictures for the end of the post. They are HOT!


     Do you have a writing routine? 
  I work full time to support my habits, but I try to reserve weekends (or at least one day per weekend) to write.  I wish I could be like those people whose muse shakes them out of bed, and they write furiously for an hour then dash off to the office, but I get into my book and don’t want to go to work! 

 What does it look like? 
 Whatever I can greedily fit in – which means my social life suffers.   

Where do you usually write?  
 My condo is small.  I write facing the corner fireplace.  To the left are sliding glass doors with shades which let in the light.  In the bedroom to my left is the piano in its red palace with hardwood floors.  The rest of the house is marble-tiled.

 Is the life of a writer what you thought it be? 
I haven’t achieved what I thought would be the life of a writer.  I’m still writing and working.  What is different?  I wanted the success of Anne Rice!  Why not dream big?

    Do you have any special time management tricks for working in writing time  and living a normal life?  Unfortunately no.  I’m lucky that my children are on their own now, but the job is still there.  I write when I can and when my muse (and I have to be inspired or I can’t write a parched white word) allows.

 What is the best advice you have received about this journey?   
The same as everyone else.  Perseverance.  My own personal experience would be to advise getting a really thick skin.

 What advice do you wish someone would have given you when you were starting out?   
Writing for me is therapy, an escape into the worlds I build rather than those built on TV.  But in a way, I wish someone had told me to write for myself—not for the public.  I’ve had an agent, won contests, and still I doubt my writing because of the rejections.  I don’t know if this is common amongst writers but suspect it is.  After all, we are spilling our emotions onto the page.
     What do you do to fight burnout?  
 I stop writing until I have to write again. 

Do you ever worry about "running out of stories"? 
Oh, yes, constantly.  Then a character walks on stage, whispers in my ear, and bang, I’m doomed to months at the keyboard.  How do combat that?  I wait.

     What kind of scenes do you have a hard time writing?  Action scenes, but I enlist the aid of my son.

      Do you ever write material based on your close relationships, such as a best friend? 
  No, though sometimes I blend my friends together to come up with a character. 

  How do you balance that material with the need to tell an interesting story?  
 I let the characters take on a life of their own.  This sometimes leads me to write pages and pages of material that I will never use. 

     What sources do you use for inspiration? ( Music, movies, people watching) 
The ocean inspires me.  Music is an inspiration.  The Prophecy movies inspired me to write about angels.  I love people watching, especially in airports, but they aren’t an inspiration, more characterization.

     What do you do when you aren’t writing? 
I love to drive.  I compete in rallies.  I go to the symphony, theater and I like to find really good restaurants, especially seafood or good country cooking on which I grew  up, but the latter can add inches to the waistline.

    Tell us a bit about your work in progress.  
 I’m converting a romantic suspense to erotica. 
Cardinal Desires was a semi-finalist in the first Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest and won the Georgia Romance Writers’ Magnolia award.  A vampire and a forensic psychiatrist team up to catch a serial killer.  My editor at The Wild Rose Press asked for something else, and this one was prime for changing.
    What is next for you?  
 My fallen angel story Celestial Sin  
released May 20 from The Wild Rose Press, The Wilder Catalog.  For a sneak peak at the trailer, blurb and excerpt, please visit me at Bianca’s blog.

You can also check out her other release:

Thank you for being our guest Bianca!