A Trip to the Maine Coast

1 11 2014

marcia-promo-final-close-upTo celebrate the start of a new month, I’m welcoming another friend with a book release, Marcia Strykowski. Marcia’s second book, AMY’S CHOICE, debuts today, so I invited her to tell a bit about herself and give some tips to aspiring as well as experienced writers.

So glad you could join us, Marcia. I have plenty of questions, so I hope you’ll settle back with a cup of tea and enjoy a long visit.
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Where are you from and how has that and/or where you have lived/visited influenced your work? I grew up in Massachusetts, but often traveled to Maine and New Hampshire. Most of my stories reflect my love for New England. Amy’s Choice definitely shows your love of the coastline. 🙂

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Many things…from a ballerina to a puppeteer.

Marcia at 6

Marcia at age 6

When did you start writing? As a kid, I was always drawing little comic strips and making storybooks. And then in high school I was thrilled when they offered a new class called Children’s Literature. I also took creative writing classes whenever I could in college.

What advice do you wish you could give to your younger self? Don’t worry about the future, everything will fall into place. Or, as the old saying goes: Most of what you worry about will never happen. So very true!

What hobbies and interests do you have? I dabble in many things—mostly art, music, and crafts. For example, I love paper-cutting, such as wycinanki and scherenschnitte as the craft is called in Poland and Germany. Beautiful!
wycinankiRed - Copy

What made you write your novel? For Call Me Amy, strong memories of my grandparents’ home on the coast of Maine gave me a setting that needed a story. After that book was accepted for publication, there were still ideas I wanted to wrap up, so I continued to write her story in Amy’s Choice.

What is one thing you hope readers will take away from your book? To stand proud and be that special you and to know that everyone has a voice worth hearing.

Can you give us an idea of your writing process? Rather than outlining, I usually have a small story with a beginning and an end. From there I plump up all the middle chapters. I repeatedly polish until it’s a full-size manuscript. Unfortunately, I am not at all consistent with my writing schedule, rather, it comes in spurts with great gaps in between.

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Marcia’s writing space

Which authors have influenced your work? A collection of my favorite authors would include Harper Lee, L. M. Montgomery, Richard Peck, Katherine Paterson, M. M. Kaye, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Willa Cather.

Any tips for new writers? There is no one way to write. Many authors are long-winded and later they have to chop a lot of words. Others, like myself, write first drafts sparingly and then have go back in and plump everything up. Do what works for you.

Any tips for more experienced writers? Don’t give up and try not to submit your work until it’s as good as your favorite book.

Do you have any secrets/advice for dealing with rejection? It’s important not to take rejections personally. Writing is subjective and is really, after all, just ink on paper. Because someone doesn’t like your writing, it doesn’t mean they don’t like you.

What are you working on now? I’m working on a YA novel about a boy, Mateo, who lives in a big city and has a unique hobby. Hmm…can’t wait to find out what that hobby is!

If you had three wishes, what would you wish for? World peace, health, and food for all. 🙂

What super power do you wish you had? The ability to slow down time. Now that sounds like one I could use too.

Have you ever climbed into or out of a window? Definitely. Both. Both, huh? I won’t embarrass you by asking about the circumstances, but I must admit, I’m definitely curious.

If you could travel anywhere, where would you choose to go and why? Probably Scandinavia to find my roots. Ah, so that’s where your love of the sea came from as well. Will you find you’re descended from the Vikings, I wonder.

Did you experience anything new while researching your book? I attended a seal release at the University of New England. They have a Marine Animal Rehabilitation Center where they nurture orphaned baby harbor seals back to health and then when they’re strong enough, release them back to the ocean. Five pups who started out at about 15 pounds and now averaged 50 pounds were set free on a mild day in August. How wonderful to see the healthy pups swimming out to sea as nature intended.

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Seals heading out to sea

Where can readers find out more about you?

Website/blog = http://www.marciastrykowski.com

Facebook = Marcia Strykowski

Twitter = MarciaStry

And here’s a blurb about Marcia’s latest book, Amy’s Choice, a sweet story that takes you back to the early ’70s,  followed by her booktrailer:

Amy’s freshman year starts with a new best friend, Cat, and a newfound confidence. But she misses her crush, Craig, who has gone to live with his aunt in Boston. Craig has promised to write, and Amy checks the mail daily, but to no avail. There are new adventures, even so. Cat’s brother, Ricky, seems interested in Amy, but is she interested in him? And a new friendship with Finn, the lighthouse keeper, who Amy discovers is a talented artist, keeps Amy and Cat busy as they arrange for him to exhibit his work. But things get complicated when Craig returns from Boston and Finn is accused of arson. There are more questions than answers for Amy as life becomes as turbulent as the cold and stormy ocean of her coastal Maine town. Ideal for preteens, this novel is the sequel to the critically acclaimed Call Me Amy and touches upon issues of friendship, boyfriend troubles, and the power of believing in oneself.

“Well-drawn, sympathetic characters and the developing spark between Amy and Craig combine to create a pleasant, satisfying read.”—Kirkus for Call Me Amy.





Just in Time for Summer

15 06 2013

So excited to see that Susan Gabriel’s wonderful, lyrical book, The Secret Sense of Wildflower, is now available as an audio book.

I’m posting Susan’s announcement here, along with some super reviews for the print book, including a Kirkus Reviews’  Best Books.

So here’s Susan’s exciting news:

Do you enjoy HEARING a great story? I know I do – it’s the original form of receiving stories, after all, from our parents, teachers and even our cavemen and women ancestors. Stories are how we connect.

So I’m very excited to announce that the audio book of The Secret Sense of Wildflower is finally ready to download to your computer or MP3 devices!

What I enjoyed most about the process was literally breathing life into the characters and falling in love with them once again.

Readers write

“The Secret Sense of Wildflower is a historical fiction novel that plays on themes of perseverance, kinship, grief, and the remarkable strength of Louisa May “Wildflower” . . . I am a true lover of historical fiction and I would recommend this novel for any reader looking for an inspiring, intense, and deeply thoughtful story. The Secret Sense of Wildflower is indeed a book that deserves recognition for its beautifully crafted prose, well written characters, and expertly descriptive landscapes.” — Samantha J. Moore, OneTitle Reviews

“Probably one of the best surprises this year almost slipped by me…It turned out to be one of my favorite reads this year… This is a story of family, loyalty, forgiveness and love…This is the type of book that I crave to read. It’s beautifully written in lyrical prose that I found myself slowing down to re-read. It has such a deep familial core, yet also has a darkness that makes you keep reading.. All of the characters are so true to the era and Appalachian culture and are all very believable. It is a true Southern tale. There are both great relationships and some very difficult ones that add even more layers to this story… What I really like is that Wildflower is telling the story from her own perspective. It brings such an innocent honesty that grabs your heart and doesn’t let go. I’m a sucker for a story told through a child’s eye and Ms. Gabriel interprets this protagonist beautifully. Though it has some disturbing moments, the story, as a whole, is wonderful and shouldn’t be missed. This is definitely a story that will stay with me for a long while and recommend it highly.”  – Lisa Evans, Southern Girl Reads

“…this story will move you as it twists and turns and eventually connects the dots left behind whilst developing into a work more than worth the read.  Yes…it’s THAT good… I found the story completely enveloping.  You laughed when the characters laughed, grieved when they grieved and sought happier places when the ugliness of the world presented itself front and center.  In some ways it reminded me of the infamous To Kill A Mockingbird; perhaps because of the young narrator and the strong voice with which she was blessed, perhaps because of the time and setting used, or perhaps simply because it was that striking of a work.  Whatever the reason, it left its mark on me and for that I can only extend my thanks to the author with sincerity from the bottom of my heart…a masterpiece; plain, simple, and resilient like the flowers the young lead is named for.Gina Reba, Insatiable Readers

“I was pretty blown away by how good this book is. I didn’t read it with any expectations, hadn’t heard anything about it really, so when I read it, I realized from page one that it is a well written, powerful book.” – Erin Beard, Quixotic Magpie

“The story is told from the point of view of Wildflower, which really makes the story even more powerful. I thought the author did a great job of capturing Wildflower. In some ways, she’s wise beyond her years, which makes her incredibly strong and resilient. In other ways, she is still very much a 14 year old girl. At that age, it’s easy to think that you’re really invincible and this is exactly what gets Wildflower into trouble, but her strength and resilience is what helps her find her way back . . . Bottom line: A great story about a strong character!” Meg, A Bookish Affair

The Secret Sense of Wildflower received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews 

Named to 
Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2012!

“In this novel, life turns toward a dark horizon for a precocious adolescent grieving for her father in 1941 Tennessee.

“It’s difficult to harbor secrets in a rural mountain town of maybe 80 souls, especially when adult siblings live within spitting distance of the family home. Most of the townsmen work at the sawmill, and most of the young women have been harassed at one time or another by creepy Johnny Monroe. But Louisa May McAllister, nicknamed Wildflower, knows that revealing her frequent forays to the cemetery, where she talks to her beloved late father, would only rile her embittered mother. She also knows to hide her “secret sense,” as it would evoke scorn from all save eccentric Aunt Sadie, who shares her tomboy niece’s gift.

“Those secrets come at a cost when, on one of her graveyard visits, Louisa May ignores her premonition of danger. The consequences—somewhat expected yet still horrific—are buffered by the visions into which the 13-year-old escapes. Sharp-witted, strong, curious and distrustful of authority figures not living up to her standards—including God—Louisa May immerses us in her world with astute observations and wonderfully turned phrases, with nary a cliché to be found. She could be an adolescent Scout Finch, had Scout’s father died unexpectedly and her life taken a bad turn.

“Though her story is full of pathos and loss, her sorrow is genuine and refreshingly free of self-pity. She accepts that she and her mother are “like vinegar and soda, always reacting,” that her best friend has grown distant, and that despite the preacher’s condemnation, a young suicide victim should be sent “to the head of heaven’s line.” Her connection to the land—a presence as vividly portrayed as any character—makes her compassionate but tough; she’s as willing to see trees as angels as she is to join her brothers-in-law in seeking revenge. By necessity, Louisa May grows up quickly, but by her secret sense, she also understands forgiveness. A quietly powerful story, at times harrowing but ultimately a joy to read.”

The worlds of family, friendship, mourning, courage and love are explored in this moving, often humorous, novel about healing and hope. A character-driven novel reminiscent of the work of Reynolds Price in its ability to create a truly original Southern voice, The Secret Sense of Wildflower is certain to be embraced by fans of Sue Monk Kidd (The Secret Life of Bees) and Harper Lee (To Kill A Mockingbird).

And for those of you who prefer a printed book, you can get an autographed copy here.