Friday, December 30, 2011

Artist Spotlight: Interview with Joe Chisholm

Today I'll be starting a new inerview thread that I hope will become as popular as my Author Spotlight interviews: Artist Spotlight interviews! 
For quite some time, I've been wanting to find some artists out there who would like to talk about their work here on my blog.  Being an artist (of sorts) myself, I'm curious about others out there like me, especially those who write AND illustrate. 
So, without further ado, here is my first interview with Joe Chisholm:

A book cover for Chris Northern. 
Hand painted in acrylic.
1.  Tell us a little bit about yourself: What got you interested in art?  Have you taken any art classes?

I'm a freelance illustrator who lives with his family in Plymouth, England.  I spend my life drawing as it is much more fun than being a proper grown up!
2.  What is your preferred medium and why?

It's very hard to select a favourite medium as I enjoy a wide range of techniques.  I really love working digitally as it provides a great deal of freedom of expression but then there is always something to be said for the joy of picking up a paintbrush.

3.  Do you have an online portfolio or a blog where we can view your work?

At present I only have a portfolio for my children's illustration at but I will soon have another for my book covers and design work.

4.  Do you have a favorite artist?  If yes, what draws you to that person’s work?

My all time favourite artist has to be Paul Kidby, His illustration work for the more recent Terry Pratchett books combine playfulness and superb technical skill and always make me smile.
A sketch commissioned for a roleplaying game rulebook. 
The subject is in fact a good friend of mine!
5.  Can you remember one of the first things you drew/sculpted/painted/photographed etc.?  What makes it memorable? 

A picture of my family when I was about 2... it must have stayed on the kitchen wall until I was at least 15!

6.  This being primarily an author’s blog, I would like to ask if you’ve ever designed any artwork for an author (cover image, maps, interior art - including font styles - etc.)?  Do you have a favorite genre (fantasy/sci-fi, thriller, romance etc.) you like to design for?  If not, would you be interested in designing a book cover?

I have designed the covers of my own self published books and I was recently commissioned to create some covers for my friend and author Chris Northern.  So far my work has been for children's and fantasy books but I'd love to branch out!  

A bear in a tree . . . one of my sillier illustrations.

7.  Where do you gather most of the inspiration for your works? 

When illustrating a cover you can find no better inspiration than the book itself.  A good author creates such a strong image in your head that you can almost see the artwork before you start.

8.  Have you ever stepped out of your comfort zone and discovered a whole new genre of art?  How did it turn out? 

I recently exhibited at a major design show in London, to try something a bit different I wrote and illustrated a pop-up book which proved to be a mammoth feat of engineering before I even began the artwork.  I was very happy with the result though.

9.  Do you have any other interesting hobbies or maybe a fun story about an experience involving your artwork? 

A page from my pop-up book!
Too many to list but they include playing the piano, reenactment and computer games.... anything a little geeky in fact, much to my wife's despair!

10.  Where can we reach you if we are interested in commissioning you for our own projects?
11.  What, in your opinion, is the hardest step in creating a masterpiece?

Starting... and knowing when to stop.

12.  And finally, is there anything else you'd like to say?

One thing I'm fast learning is that the worlds of literature and illustration are both changing.  More and more authors are turning to self publishing rather than using a traditional publisher and illustrators are beginning to follow suit.  This can only be a good thing as it allows a level of freedom of expression which can rarely be attained through traditional publishing.  I look forward to seeing this unrestricted creativity continue to thrive!
The front cover of the roleplaying game rulebook.  All illustration, design, logo, text etc. created by me.

  * * *
Thank you Joe for taking part in my Artist Spotlight interview!  I hope your artwork continues to flourish and we hope to see more of you in the future!
If you or an author/illustrator you know is interested in being interviewed, feel free to send me an email at

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Why You Should Appreciate a Bad Review . . .

Whenever I’m considering spending big money (when I say big money, I mean more than five dollars; let’s face it, in this new and glorious world of ebooks and indie authors, I’ve become a little spoiled with the lower prices for novels) on a book that looks interesting, I always do a few things first.  Right off the bat, I check out the tags to see if the novel contains the elements I am looking for in a good story.  If it does, then I read the synopsis (if it is offered).  Finally, I check out some of the reviews - the worst ones and the best ones.  I’m sure all of us read at least one bad review, because we want to know what was so awful about the book.
I was lucky.  My first bad review (one star) wasn’t really all that bad at all.  It was only a few sentences long, and the only negative thing the reader had to say was that my story was more for a ‘very young teen’.  They were absolutely right.  My first book is definitely geared more towards the middle-grade demographic. 
Often, the ‘bad’ review points out something I myself wouldn’t enjoy.  But sometimes the reviewer didn’t like a certain character trait and maybe that is just what I’m looking for in a character.  More often than not, I’ll steer clear of books with too many one or two star reviews, but occasionally I’ll keep coming back if the other elements prove tantalizing.  In fact, this happened with a book series I now consider one of my favorites.  I had read the bad reviews, telling myself in the back of my head that the book would be terrible and I would regret buying it.  But I looked over the reviews again and realized that what this particular reviewer considered horrendous was really no big deal to me.  Boy am I glad I went ahead and read the books!
So, if you are a writer, here are a few things to consider when those one and two star reviews pop up (and I’m sure you’ve heard some of this before, but it never hurts to hear it again):
1. Don’t panic!  Yeah, it stinks to get a bad review, but not everyone is going to love your books.  If you do a search of your favorite books, you will find at least one person who absolutely loathed them.  When you get that dreadful review, carefully read what that person had to say and decide if it is something you can use to your advantage in your next book projects.
2.  I know this is going to sound crazy, but: be grateful!  What I try to do when I get those negative reactions to my books is to thank the person (if possible) for giving my book a try.  It’s not always easy to write a negative review because you know some feelings might get hurt, so try to keep an open mind (after the sting passes, of course).
3. Move on.  Don’t dwell on the negative review and convince yourself you cannot write (and I know I fall victim to this all the time, just on my own).  If your story comes from your heart, and it is where you want it to be, don’t let the naysayers get you down.  Push on and get to the next book that is waiting to be written.  We are writers, and for most of us, we cannot exist without writing, whether our stories make us millionaires, bring us fame or become the next great American novels.  We write because we must, and we will not let someone else’s opinion influence us otherwise.
Now, if you are a reader, here are some reasons why you should not consider a one or two star review necessarily bad:
1.  A review is the reflection of another person’s opinion.  Just because I think mushrooms taste awful, doesn’t make it true (though I’m pretty sure I’m right here . . .).  Maybe you think mushrooms are the most delicious food ever (ewww . . .).  Well, I think you get my point ;).  Just because someone else thought a book was the worst piece of literature ever written, doesn’t mean you will feel the same way.
2.  One person’s trash is another’s treasure . . .  Like I said before, negative reviews can be packed full of tidbits that might actually appeal to you.  Maybe they didn’t like the book because the characters were too wordy (hey, I love dialogue!) or the female protagonist was too independent (I love strong female characters!) or that they relied too much on magic to defeat the antagonist (magic is okay by me) . . . I’ve found quite a few good books this way: by reading the negative reviews and recognizing the elements that I liked.
3.  Effort.  Yes, effort.  I can count on two hands the number of times I’ve browsed through the negative review section of a book, only to have my brain trip every time I spotted a grammatical error in someone’s review.  And I’m by no means a grammatical genius.  I make spelling errors and the like just as much as everyone else.  However, when someone writes a review and it is absolutely riddled with missing punctuation and spelling errors, I reconsider their worth as a legitimate reviewer. 
Also, I’ve read reviews where the reviewer simply goes on a tirade about how terrible the book is, dropping insult after insult about the author.  In my opinion, that is just rude and uncalled for.  It is perfectly possible to write a negative review without attacking the author’s character (their characters maybe, but not their character).  I’m a big believer in common courtesy, even in the written world, and reviews that show none at all get ignored in my book.
 Hopefully this brings some encouragement to my fellow indie authors, and perhaps the readers out there will give those negative reviews a second glance.  In conclusion: writers, keep on writing no matter what is said about your books and readers, keep on reading and don’t let those one star reviews make up your mind for you.   

Monday, December 26, 2011

Author Spotlight: Interview with J.M. Pierce

1.  Quickly, give us the title and genre of your book and a 30-word or less tagline:
Before & Gone is the first book in my new series titled “The Chosen”. It is an Apocalyptic Science Fiction/Fantasy.
In the blink of an eye, everything that was before is gone. The human race struggles for existence. Are those that have been chosen really the lucky ones?
2.  How did you come up with the title of your book or series?
It came to me while writing a scene for the book. One of the characters said something that struck the right notes and there it was!
3.  Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
My favorite would be Shiloh. He is a stand-up kid who gets dealt a tough hand to play.
4.  How about your least favorite character?  What makes them less appealing to you?
Matt would be my least favorite. I don’t know that I can say why without giving something away. ;)
5.  If you could change ONE thing about your novel, what would it be?  Why?
That would have to be the cover. Don’t get me wrong, I like the cover, but it just isn’t quite right. Hopefully I can have something new within the next few months.
6.  Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book or series:
It is set in Tennessee. It turns out that one of my readers is from the same town where the main character goes to college! I have to think that would be fun for her.
The word “OBSOLESCENCE” is of major importance and may just be the longest word I’ve ever used in any of my books! LOL!
7.  Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?
I am an amateur herpetologist with an extremely understanding wife. I have nearly one-hundred snakes living in my basement at any given time.
I am also a musician, though admittedly I play very little since I began writing. Music used to be my one creative and emotional outlets. Writing has now taken over!
8.  How can we contact you or find out more about your books?
I would love to hear from those that read my books! You can email me at:
I do have a blog that I am attempting to be more active with, and you can visit it here:

And here is another blog that encompasses everything that I do:
9.  What can we expect from you in the future?
I just started writing the third installment of The Shadow Series (titled The Reverence of One) which I hope to have published in the spring of 2012. After that, I plan on writing the second book in the Chosen Series!
10.  Do you have any tips for readers or advice for other writers trying to get published?
Tips for readers? Just read what you love. Don’t fall into a trap of only reading things that others say is good or what some say is bad. Sample the work and decide for yourself. I am a big reader and one of my goals this year was to read in as many different genres as possible. I am having a blast achieving that goal!
Tips for writers? Read as much as possible and in as many different genres as possible. It can do nothing but help. Write every day. Make sure that your book gets as many eyes on it as possible before you publish. Listen to those that critique. That doesn’t mean that you have to change anything, but you shouldn’t dismiss it automatically either.
11.  Is there anything else you’d like to say?
I guess I’d just like to mention the other books that I’ve written and invite folks to give them a try.
Failing Test: Book One of The Shadow Series
You know him, but you can't remember his name. He is the one that is always there, in the background, all but invisible to those roaming the hallways. What if he had a secret? What if it was a secret that even he didn't know?
Test Davis has always been a blur to those around him. He's a shadow like a million other kids--not smart enough for the academic team, not beast enough for the football team, not extroverted enough for the drama crowd. In all things Test is just...not, which is why no one ever notices him.
But what happens when someone does notice him-- Nicole Paxton, a cheerleader, no less? What happens on the night that Test finds out there's nothing average about him and that a powerful gift has been hidden within, secretly waiting to be set free and alter his life forever? The question is, will that power save him and those he loves or tear them apart?
A Shadow’s Light: Book Two of The Shadow Series
After fleeing his home in Lincoln, Test Davis settles in the small town of Saratoga, Wyoming, where he hopes to slip into obscurity. But when his boss’s niece, Alyssa, draws him reluctantly into a relationship, he’s afraid he won’t be able to hide who—and what—he really is.
When a horrific confrontation with two co-workers forces Test to go back on the run, he reunites with an old friend, discovers that Alyssa has a secret of her own, and finds the answer to the question he’s been too afraid to ask:
What am I?
The Memoirs of Clifford T. Johnston: A Shadow Series Novelette
I was one of the fortunate few who got to know Clifford Johnston. Cliff placed this manuscript in my care, and in doing so, has given us a brief glimpse into his life. Though his words were written with the hope that a select person would someday read them, I’m sure you will find that reading this piece will give you a deeper sense and understanding of the man that many of us have come to love and admire.
Marcy Jackson
WARNING! This novelette contains mild spoilers for the first two books in the Shadow Series. It is recommended that you read this after A Shadow’s Light.
The Memoirs of Clifford T. Johnston is approximately 14,000 words.
Can the damned be saved?
Kurt Lavine is at the end of his rope. Having buried his wife and eldest daughter, his grip on reality begins to fade. The loss of his loved ones, as well as his job, sends him into a downward spiral filled with alcohol and self pity. Inevitably, his mother has reported him to DHS, resulting in the loss of his two remaining children. Desperate and capable of anything, Kurt has nothing to lose...or so he thinks.
The day comes when, in a fit of anger, Kurt kills a man. In his attempt to flee, his tumultuous life comes to an abrupt end. For some, death is a blessing, but for Kurt, death is a name, or more specifically, his new name: Gavril--Satan's newest demon servant. Though his life was filled with pain, his death is tormented with the memories of the destruction his days above Hell purchased. Having successfully harvested the soul he's desired, Satan sees him as an easy mark; however, he's not counting on the fact that Gavril retains his faith. Even among the damned, Gavril knows that there is only one name that matters in both Heaven and Hell, but is his enduring faith, combined with the love of his children, enough to save him?
Duality is a Dark Christian Fantasy Novella.
12. And now, before you go, how about a snippet from your book that is meant to intrigue and tantalize us:
Amy’s parents lived only a short distance away. Dark clouds continued to hang low in the sky, though the fury of the storm seemed to have passed. Tree limbs littered the road, several of them large enough that they forced me to go around them.
The ride had been filled with silence until we pulled into the driveway. As I put the truck into park, Mom hesitantly began to speak.
“Are you ready for this?”
Her question struck me wrong. I looked at her with disgust and a furrowed brow.
“How the hell could I be ready for this?” I barked.
She cowered in her seat.
“I’m sorry, I just mean…,” she paused, choosing her words carefully. “Amy and Jess could be….” She stopped herself.
Staring to the front door of the house, I took a deep breath and gripped the steering wheel with both hands.
“Dead?” I asked.
From my peripheral vision, I could see Mom shaking her head slowly.
As my swollen lip quivered and my chin dimpled, I replied. “Amy said that Jess was okay.”
Mom stared at me with her eyes opened wide, her eyelids bulging with tears. “And Amy?” she asked.
I turned from her and looked at the house. Without a word I opened the door and got out of the truck. I was halfway to the front door before Mom even stepped out. I should have run, but the fear of what I could find inside held me back.
The doorbell chimed inside as I depressed the button. I waited for a moment as Mom walked up the steps and stood behind me. I pressed it a second time and followed it with a loud knock on the door. No one answered.
The door had a narrow, yet tall, window centered on it, but the glass was etched and blurred the visibility of the room inside. I began to pound on the door violently.
“Amy!” I shouted. “Amy, it’s Shiloh ! Let me in!”
The house remained still. Forgetting that Mom was behind me, I backed away from the door, nearly knocking her down the steps. She gripped my right arm to keep from falling and nearly pulled me down in the process.
There were no apologies; the intensity of the moment prohibited anything other than getting through the door. Regaining my balance, I squared myself to the door. With a couple of steps, I kicked it near the handle. I could feel the door jamb give slightly, and my body ached with the vibration from the impact.
Suddenly, from inside, I could hear the whimpering of a child. It sent a charge of adrenaline through me as I reared back, throwing my foot into the door once more. As if shot by a cannon, the door flew open, smashing into the wall perpendicular to it as it swung. I leapt through the doorway and stopped to process the nightmare that unfolded before me.
There, in the recliner across the room, lay Amy’s dead body. Her eyes, like my father’s had become, were sunken back into her skull, with dark heavy bags beneath. Her face was swollen with red welts, and her hair was soaked with sweat which made it cling tightly to her scalp. Her mouth was agape, and a drying stream of blood ran from her nostrils to her neck, ending in a pool that had collected on her shoulder and collar bone.
On her lap sat my daughter, clinging to her mom’s blouse and whimpering softly. Blood from Amy’s nose covered her tiny hands and face. Upon seeing me, she hid her face in her mother’s chest, intermittently checking to see if I still stood across the room. When Mom came in behind me, her gasp of horror caused Jess to look up. Recognizing her grandma, Jess pulled away from Amy and reached out for her. I took a step, but Jess immediately turned away and let out a scream. It was something out of a horror movie; my daughter covered in crimson, screaming while huddled against her dead mother.
* * *
Thank you J.M. for taking part in my Author Spotlight interview!  I hope your writing continues to flourish and we hope to see more of you in the future.
If you or an author/illustrator you know is interested in being interviewed, feel free to send me an email at

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Marketing Tips for the Financially-Challenged Indie Author: Fliers

Here is the front of the flier for my first book,
The Finding.  I have included the cover image,
the title, a very short excerpt and a few reviews.
Fliers are one of the most basic forms of advertising, but let’s face it: they aren’t the most graciously accepted form of advertisement either.  If you’ve ever had the misfortune of standing in the middle of a busy crowd while trying to get people to take your leaflets, then you’ll know what I’m talking about.  And how often have we returned to our cars in a parking lot, only to scowl when we see neon pink or green papers pinned under our windshield wipers? 
Regardless of their general nuisance, fliers still give an author one more chance to get their name out there, and if these fliers are made with a little creativity in mind, then all the better.  And let’s face it, although we generally shun them, we do still read a flier if it is handed to us.  So, why not harness that potential and use these little sheets of paper to advertise our own books? 
I have used fliers before at book festivals and farmers’ markets.  I have yet to try them in other places (I haven’t yet got up the gumption to leave them under windshield wipers or post them on telephone poles).  For now I’d like to share with you the process (or at least the process I follow) of making fliers to help promote your own novel and yourself as an author.  It might be easier than you think, and it will save you more money if you can do it yourself (at least the designing portion). 
Fliers can be single or double-sided, full color or black and white, and large or small.  I prefer double-sided, full color (at least on one side) and of a smaller size.  Not only will smaller fliers save you money in the end, but they are easier to put in a pocket (I’d rather have someone take a flier from me and put it in their pocket, then throw it in the next garbage can they pass.  At least if the flier is in a pocket or a purse, it has a chance to be viewed once again later).
Here is a full page with four fliers on it.  I left the outline of some of the text boxes so you can get an idea of how I use them.  I kept the design the same as for my first book, but as you can see I changed the colors to match the book cover.
With that said, here’s how you begin: start out with a blank, 8 1/2” x 11” document with the margins set at 0” all around.  From there you can pick your page color (I went with black because it matches the theme of my book covers).  Once you have the page set up, draw in four text boxes of identical size (I made mine 5.2” x 3.9”, that way I have spare room on the sides).  If you split your page in this way, then you’ll have four fliers per page instead of one.  If you need more room for images, book excerpts, reviews or a short biography, then you can always split the page in half and only have two fliers per page (this all depends on your budget and how many fliers you wish to hand out).
After you have your text boxes set up, you can start adding images (your book cover, your own portrait, extra artwork from your book or series etc.).  Personally, I prefer a very colorful flier, but simple might be better for others, depending on the genre of the book.  Adding images is rather easy: simply copy and paste them into the text boxes (you might want to insert a smaller text box into the one that represents the border of your flier).  Once the image is inside the text box, you can re-size them to fit with everything else.
Here is the flier for The Finding split on one sheet of paper.  It may be hard to read, but you can see how I set up the excerpt on the with a review and my website, therefore leaving the front to display everything else.
After you have your images where you want them, you can add text (taking the same steps as before, inserting text boxes and placing them wherever you wish).  With these new text boxes you can add a book excerpt, a quick, one or two sentence describing your book, reviews from your readers, a short biography, your email and/or website and maybe even a book giveaway or author appearance. 
If you want to use the back of your fliers as well, set up the same template as the front (four boxes to match the dimensions on the front or two if you want more space).  I used most of the space on the back of my fliers for a book excerpt, adding my website and a quick review in the space that was left.  You might have to experiment with font sizes and types (some fonts are a lot smaller than others when set at the same size).  I do my best to use all available space in order to include as much information as possible.
Once everything is complete and you’ve checked for spelling errors and such, save your final draft (I save mine as a PDF, that way the fancier fonts don’t change on me), and take it to your local print and copy store and have copies run off.  Again, you can choose whether or not you want black and white or color copies, single or double sided (color and double sided copies will cost more, but that is why I went with the four mini fliers per page).  All you need after that is a paper cutter (I believe most stores that offer print services have them on hand) and soon you’ll have plenty of small, medium or large fliers to hand out the next time you find yourself amid a large crowd.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Author Spotlight: Interview with Dawn McCullough White

1.  Quickly, give us the title and genre of your book and a 30-word or less tagline: 

My series is called The Trilogy of Shadows, books 1-3 are:  Cameo the Assassin, Cameo and the Highwayman, Cameo and the Vampire and it's genre is Dark Fantasy.
Tagline- ~Sometimes the anti-hero is the only hero you can find.

2.How did you come up with the title of your book or series? 

Well, I wanted the first book to be strong and direct- Cameo the Assassin.  At the time I had no idea I was going to write two more, but when I did I just decided to keep them consistent, so then the second and third books are “Cameo and the Highwayman” and “Cameo and the Vampire”.  David Dalglish named my series “Trilogy of Shadows”. 

3. Who is your favorite character from your book and why? 

Cameo.  I guess I like that she is all the things a heroine is not supposed to be: stronger than the male leads both mentally and physically, not beautiful, and at times evil.

4. How about your least favorite character and what makes them less appealing to you? 

Avamore.  I find him downright dull, though a necessary component to the story.  Don't worry he isn't in too many scenes due to me finding him dull.

5. Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book or series: 

Well, okay... Black Opal's looks are inspired by how Johnny Depp looks at the very end of the film “The Libertine”.  In that movie he plays John Wilmot and he's dying of syphilis.  That was kind of a big secret, but now you're the first to know.

6. Do you have any unique talents or hobbies? 

Yes, I do.  My unique talent is that I can tell what year a movie came out... without googling it.  And, by this I mean from the beginning of movie-making history until present day.  Not a very useful unique talent.
7. How can we contact you or find out more about your books?

I have a Facebook fanpage that I update all the time, it's:
My website is:
I also have a book trailer which can be seen on YouTube

8. What can we expect from you in the future?

I have a story coming out in an anthology in Feb 2012, it features one of the characters from my trilogy, and there are plenty of other great writers involved. The anthology is called- “The Gate 2: 13 Tales of Isolation and Despair”.  I'm also currently writing the first book in a second trilogy that will take place in Faetta (the same world my original trilogy transpires) fifteen years later, and some of our favorite characters from The Trilogy of Shadows will have a part in this series as well.

9. Is there anything else you’d like to say? 

Huge, huge, huge thank you to my cover artist Kurt Hanss, who always comes through with a fantastic cover for me.

10. And now, before you go, how about a snippet from your book that is meant to intrigue and tantalize us:

From Cameo and the Vampire~

Cameo knocked her to the floor.  "You turned me in?"

The woman turned over, her lip was bloodied, "No.  No, it wasn't me."
"Oh?"  She slammed Peg's head against the floor.  "Who did?"

Blood trickled from her victim's ear, ebbing in one long, exquisite ribbon onto into her hair.  For a moment Cameo hesitated, transfixed ... and then, when she realized the woman was unconscious and broken, just the same as she was when Haffef had smashed in her skull, she was repelled by her own actions.

One of the soldiers kicked the door open, and Cameo swung around.  Immediately she seized the pistol from his hand and buried her dagger into his side.
"C'mon," she cajoled her next opponent to enter.  This was no time for bravado, but still this was becoming old, and she was growing tired of killing people.  She was getting too good at killing humans.
* * *

Thank you Dawn for taking part in my Author Spotlight interview!  I hope your writing continues to flourish and we hope to see more of you in the future.
If you or an author/illustrator you know is interested in being interviewed, feel free to send me an email at

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Twelve Days of an Indie Author's Christmas

So I got up early and went into Starbucks this morning with every intention to work on one of my books.  Really, I did.  But they had Christmas music playing and I came up with this re-written Christmas classic instead.  I hope my fellow indie authors find it amusing, and all you readers out there as well.  Feel free to pass it on or change the wording to fit whatever holiday you are celebrating this winter season :).

The Twelve Days of an Indie Author’s Christmas

On the First Day of Christmas, my readers gave to me:
A fan letter with a smiley :)

On the Second Day of Christmas, my readers gave to me:
Two blog members

On the Third Day of Christmas, my readers gave to me:
Three website views

On the Fourth Day of Christmas, my readers gave to me:
Four questions on my series

On the Fifth Day of Christmas, my readers gave to me:
A five star review!

On the Sixth Day of Christmas, my readers gave to me:
Six books shared with friends

On the Seventh Day of Christmas, my readers gave to me:
Seven likes on Facebook

On the Eighth Day of Christmas, my readers gave to me:
Eight Twitter followers

On the Ninth Day of Christmas, my readers gave to me:
Nine brand new readers

On the Tenth Day of Christmas, my readers gave to me:
Ten adds on Goodreads

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas, my readers gave to me:
Eleven friend requests

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, my readers gave to me:
Twelve ebook sales

Monday, December 12, 2011

Author Spotlight: Interview with Kathryn Meyer Griffith

1.  Quickly, give us the title and genre of your book and a 30-word or less tagline:

Which book? I’ve had eleven releases and rereleases in the last fifteen months going back twenty-eight years.  Oh, all right…my latest release on November 7 was The Ice Bridge from Eternal Press.

Book Trailer:, a ghostly romantic murder mystery set on carless Mackinac Island. It’s about a heartbroken woman who returns to her aunt and the quaint island she cherished as a child only to find herself entangled in a murder mystery and danger, even as she’s falling in love again.

2.  How did you come up with the title of your book or series?

My husband and I went to Mackinac Island, which allows only bicycles and horses and no motorized vehicles except snowmobiles in the winter, for our 25th wedding anniversary eight years ago and while chatting with the locals about its history found out that every winter the straits freeze over and they get to use the ice bridge (on foot or on their snowmobiles) to go to the mainland without having to use the ferry or airplanes. It intrigued me, this ice bridge idea, and the murder mystery formed around it. What happened if someone crossing in their snowmobile one snowy night fell into the icy water…and disappeared…or died?  Thus the book was born.

3.  Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

The main character, Charlotte, of course. Probably because she’s a lot like me. A writer, an artist…someone fascinated with ghost stories. Someone who’s been hurt by love but, in the end, never gives up looking for it.

4.  How about your least favorite character?  What makes them less appealing to you?

That’s easy. It’s a murder mystery after all. The killer. A young man who’s damaged in so many ways from his deprived upbringing, his own selfishness and cold-heartedness, that he thinks it’s okay to kill someone just for what they have. He’s not totally an evil person, just someone who’s too weak to fight the envy he feels towards others who have more than him.

5.  If you could change ONE thing about your novel, what would it be?  Why?

Nothing? I’m happy with the way the novel turned out and I love the way it celebrates the loveliness and simplicity of Mackinac Island and the Grand Hotel. The book is partly a tribute to the Island itself and the people who live on it. I loved it so with its bicycles and clomping horses. The water, the boats and the friendly people. 

6.  Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book or series:

There’s humor in it, too, in the person of a spunky old neighbor woman named Hannah; in a few of the quirky town characters. I always try to throw a little levity in my books. It balances out the darkness of my usual themes of horror, suspense or murder. 

7.  Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?

Well, I’ve always been an artist (I was a graphic designer in the corporate world for 23 years as well as working in the ad departments of a few newspapers) and I used to sing with my singer/songwriter younger brother when we were teenagers in the days of folk singers and classic rock bands. He went on to become a musician and a computer networker and I went on to…draw pictures, write novels and short stories.

8.  How can we contact you or find out more about your books?

I have quite a list of websites and social websites…the three best ones being,  and!/profile.php?id=1019954486 .  

9.  What can we expect from you in the future?

As soon I get all these 2 new and 10 older books released and rereleased by July 2012, I plan on perhaps beginning a (fictionalized) novel about my family. Finally. I grew up in the 1950’s and 1960’s in a large poor family with six brothers and sisters. I have almost a whole life behind me now. Some of it good and some of it bad. Life, you know. Before I get too old I’d like to put those memories down on paper.   

10.  Do you have any tips for readers or advice for other writers trying to get published?

I hate it when I’m asked that question…because my writing career has had a lot of ups and downs over the last forty years since I first began writing and dreaming of becoming rich and famous. Ha, ha. I’m still dreaming. It isn’t easy, I’ll tell them that.  The publishing world has changed so much since I started. Back then there wasn’t an Internet, computers, e-mail or Track Changes for editing. No e-books. There were fleeting moments when I’d thought I’d made it; I know now I haven’t. I had books all over the world out from Zebra and Leisure Publishing in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I lost my editor and then my agent…but I never gave up. I’ve written and had published another seven novels since then. I can tell a beginner these things though: Have a day job…write because you cannot not write…enjoy the journey more than the destination because the journey is all you might ever have …don’t ever listen to critics or reviewers about how good your stories are or aren’t because liking or disliking a book is so subjective (some people will love your stories and some will hate them)…write only what you want to write, what excites you…and never, never give up. Don’t expect to get rich or famous. Just try to be a better writer and a better person. Enjoy the ride.

11.  Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Nah, I think I pretty much said it all. Oh, yeah, except I’m proud that I’m a 2012 EPIC  E-BOOK AWARDS FINALIST NOMINEE for my romantic end-of-the-world horror novel The Last Vampire-Revised Author’s Edition (  and YOU TUBE BOOK TRAILER:, which originally came out from Zebra paperbacks in 1992, and wasn’t given much of a chance at that time, but last year was rereleased from Damnation Books. Hey, you have to enjoy these little victories when they come along.

12.  And now, before you go, how about a snippet from your book that is meant to intrigue and tantalize us:

Sure – and thank you, Jenna, for having me here today! – and here’s a blurb and an excerpt of THE ICE BRIDGE by Kathryn Meyer Griffith:


Charlotte returns to her Aunt Bess and Mackinac Island, a quaint retreat that welcomes summer tourists and allows no cars (just horses and  bicycles) to renew herself and write about the island’s ghosts. She’s come to help Bess with her heartache, an ended love with Shaun, and to renew a friendship with neighbor Hannah.

In winter Mackinac closes down and everyone looks forward to the ice bridge that freezes across the Straits of Mackinac.  Until Hannah disappears into the icy waters crossing it.

Everyone says it’s an accident. But Charlotte and her admirer cop friend, Mac, don’t think so. Something isn’t right. Hannah was too smart to go off the safe path.

So it’s murder…but why…how…by whom?

In the end, it’s Mac – and perhaps Hannah’s ghost?– that saves Charlotte and Bess’s lives when the killer decides they’re too close to the truth and tries to kill them, too.


By the time they crossed the ice bridge Charlotte had to struggle with the wind to stay on her machine. She was sick they hadn’t found Hannah, and she was frightened, tired and freezing. Her body had lost all sensation. She thought she had fingers in her gloves, but she wasn’t sure.

The ice bridge was eerier returning than when they’d come, if that was possible. An early night had descended, though the snow illuminated their surroundings enough so they could see. It almost made their headlights unnecessary. The ice was lit up as if there were lights glowing beneath it. Strange noises, sounding like distant moans and cries for help, rushed by her head.

She remembered what Hannah had said about the ice bridge ghosts. In her state of mind, she could imagine misty shapes flitting around the ice behind and around them, trying to tell them something. Did they know where Hannah was? If she looked quick enough she thought she saw them with their hollow ghost eyes in their transparent ghost bodies. It seemed they were closing in on her and Mac.

Hannah believed the ice bridge ghosts appeared when someone was about to die—or had died.

She panicked as her snowmobile sped over the ice, the wind behind shoving her along, faster and faster, as if it was trying to escape something. She was practically on top of Mac as a wave of vertigo hit her. She slowed down before she rammed him.

Her machine went into a skid and barely avoided hitting one of the evergreens. She took a couple of deep breaths to push the dizziness away. Out of the corner of her eyes, she thought she saw something standing on the ice to her right, lost in the particles of drifting snow. It looked like a shadow of a woman with her arms outstretched. Then it was gone. Yet for the split heartbeat it was there, it had scared the heck out of her. It had looked like Hannah. Impossible.

Charlotte wanted to get back to her aunt’s house where it was warm and safe—where there were no spectral shapes to taunt her. She’d never been out in a pre-blizzard before. She was beginning to understand what Mac had meant when he’d said that a whiteout could be disorienting. She wondered if it could also make a person see things that weren’t there.

She kept her attention on Mac’s silhouette when she wasn’t looking for a lost snowmobile and its rider. She didn’t want to see anything else. About three-fourths of the way to the other side, with land and trees in front of them, her eye caught unevenness in the snow a little ways off the secure path. Something in the air behind her, or was it in her head, whispered to stop. Look.

After honking the horn and blinking her lights three times, she swerved closer, but not too close, to the rough patch. She cut the engine and dug out a flashlight from the saddlebag to examine the irregularities. In the glow, she saw there were spikes in the blanket of snow covering the ice.

Had something gone through the ice there?

She was on her knees, with her face in her hands, when Mac joined her with another flashlight. He gently brought her to her feet and guided her to her snowmobile. He walked back to the rough patch. He examined it, getting as near as he dared. He directed his flashlight at the mound. Charlotte could tell by the way his shoulders slumped that he’d found something he hadn’t wanted to find.

He returned to her. The wind had died down to a whisper after the roar.

“Something’s gone through the ice in days past. It’s been broken and refrozen.”

“Hannah?” she breathed.

“Could be. It’s too early to know. Sometimes something goes through and crawls out, wet, scared and cold—but alive. It happens. Maybe a deer or a bear. There are bears on the mainland; did you know that? Every once in a while they wander onto the ice. Anyway, the unevenness doesn’t necessarily mean something is down there...doesn’t mean it’s Hannah, either.”

Mac put his arm around Charlotte’s shoulders. “Let’s go before the storm gets any worse and we get lost, too. When it passes I’ll get men out here to see if there’s anything down there. Come on.”

He drove beside her to shore, both of them staying so tight to the evergreens they clipped a few. She wanted to reach the woods, the solid ground of the island. She wanted to get off the ice bridge and leave what she feared she’d seen on the ice—the ghosts—behind them.

Thank you Kathryn for taking part in my Author Spotlight interview!  I hope your writing continues to flourish and we hope to see more of you in the future.
If you or an author/illustrator you know is interested in being interviewed, feel free to send me an email at

Friday, December 9, 2011

Besides Writing . . . Archery!

Nothing like archery on a foggy, Autumn day
This week, I'd like to start a new kind of post that veers away from my writing side.  Yes, writing does take up about 60% of my time and existence (okay, maybe more like 80% of my existence), but there are other activities I enjoy that help me get away from the computer screen.  One of these activities is archery.  And no, I don't mean the modern kind where you have all the fancy do-dads to help you hit the target (which would probably help me due to all the time I spend staring at my laptop screen, slowly growing blind . . .).  Nope.  I'm old-fashioned, and so is my bow (well, as old-fashioned as I could get it with my limited funds and resources).

A close call
Anyways, every now and again I need to get away from one of my book projects and get out into the fresh air and focus on something else.  In this case, the bull's eye of a hand-painted target on a piece of burlap secured snugly to an old, moldy hay bale.  So, why archery might you ask?  Well, it all started back when I was a young 'un.  Very early on I became fixated on the story of Robin Hood.  Adventure, hiding out in a forest, shooting arrows and helping bring justice to those in need . . .  What's not to like?  One year I even got my very own bow for Christmas.  And I still have it.  Of course, it's one of those basic fiberglass models with a very limited range.  Luckily, most of the arrows I used when I was younger were homemade: fashioned from a sturdy plant that grew in my yard.  I even fletched them with the feathers from the turkeys and chickens we kept (I grew up in a rural area and yes, I had an interesting childhood).  I spent my days pretending I was a hero of old England, shooting at imaginary foes and retreating into Sherwood Forest (the small copse of Eucalyptus trees growing in the very back of my yard). 

My best effort of the day
Time passed and I moved on, occupying my time with more school-appropriate athletics.  I grew out of my bow and seldom found time to make arrows and such.  But I never forgot my love of archery, and I always told myself that one day I'd like to pick it up again.  After college I moved back to my hometown and started my writing career.  I met up with some old friends from high school and we started spending our weekends finding things we all enjoyed doing together. 

One activity that surfaced during our many discussions was archery.  I mentioned my life-long fascination and love of the sport while my other friend, Laura, offered her knowledge of the English longbowmen (she has a great love for British history).  I went online, looking for directions on how to make a longbow, and before long we were ready to take the first step in becoming serious archers. 

Laura, my other friend Niño, and I spent some time doing research, learning that yew wood worked the best for longbows and that it had to be cut and carved in a specific way.  We searched the local lumber yards but no one had yew available in our area.  Finally, we went into a local rural supply store and visited the archery section, hoping someone  might have some information.  To our great surprise and delight, it turned out their archery expert gave workshops on the weekends, instructing people on how to make their own longbows.  We signed up right away.  

Creating your own longbow is a thoughtful process
For this particular workshop, we used a 2" by 4" red oak board purchased at a local hardware store.  Our instructor cut out the basic bow shape (we didn't want to make any mistakes) and about eight hours later, after much filing and smoothing and planing, we had our very own longbows.  After the bows were complete, we learned how to make a Flemish knot (the braided style of our bowstrings).  And of course, what is a semi-traditional longbow without a name?  I christened mine Tellhariahn (what self-respecting fantasy enthusiast wouldn't make up a name for their bow?) and got to work sewing some archery gloves to keep my arm from being skinned alive by the string. 

The next few weeks consisted of my friends and I finding some hay bales and painting some targets to go with them.  I even designed a few flags to fly while we were out in my back yard to signal we were shooting that day. 

Recently, we haven't found the time to practice our skills as often as we'd like (and when I say skills, I mean it very lightly . . .) and we still haven't taken any classes on arrow making, but perhaps someday we'll get around to it.  I'm by no means an expert archer and if I had the chance to shoot with Robin Hood, I'm positive I'd soon be put to shame.  But there is always room for growth and I don't plan on giving up this new (or should I say resurrected) hobby of mine any time soon.  In fact, a few months ago Laura, Niño and I visited a local range that invited archers from our area to come and test their skills.  Of course, we didn't participate this first time around since we are very much out of practice, but the appearance of my hand-made longbow caused a delightful stir among the other participants.  I have a feeling we'd be welcomed back, even if one of us might be prone to missing the target more often than not . . .

Time to call it quits for the day!  Hey, I got
   one arrow kind of close to the bull's eye . . .

When the three of us started out on this venture of ours, we had great dreams of making our very own, genuine yew wood longbows from scratch and becoming expert marksmen and women.  Of course, our bows aren't made of yew and we had some help in creating them, and we are far from being confident enough in our skills to display them in public.  But we came out of the experience with the knowledge of how to make longbows and the bowstrings to go with them (I actually snapped my string several months ago and had to put those skills to the test when I fashioned another string). 

Hopefully someday we'll stumble upon some favorable pieces of yew wood, and perhaps we'll get a chance to make some more bows and host our very own archery competition.  And maybe, just maybe, I'll be shooting like Robin Hood by then ;).