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.
amychoice_front-smaller
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.

workspace 2 - Copy

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.

seal four pic

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.

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Prepare for an Epidemic…

22 05 2014
Yvonne Ventresca Author

Yvonne Ventresca

I recently had the pleasure of connecting with Yvonne Ventresca and discovering that we both wrote nonfiction books on singers for Lucent Books. Mine was about Rihanna; hers was on Avril Lavigne. But that wasn’t the only similarity. We both had YA fiction titles debuting in May.  So what better way to celebrate our joint book birthdays than hosting her on my blog.

Yvonne’s latest release, Pandemic, has been called “riveting and terrifyingly real” on Goodreads.

Welcome, Yvonne! It’s great to have you here today. I’m so glad you were willing to answer some questions for our readers.

When did you start writing?

I have old poems from around sixth and seventh grade. I was always an avid reader, and wanting to work with words seemed like a natural extension of that. I took my first formal creative writing classes in college.

Are there any fond memories you’d like to share that relate to your writing?

Yvonne at her Hofstra graduation

Yvonne at her Hofstra graduation

My dad worked during the day and received his MBA by attending Hofstra University (Long Island, NY) at night. One Saturday when he needed to research an assignment, he took me to the university library. I couldn’t believe how many books there were compared to our small local library! I managed to amuse myself for hours while he finished his work. I later attended Hofstra as an undergraduate and received a Bachelor of Arts in both English and computer science.

In school, what was one of your worst moments?

Not exactly a moment, but my lowest grade of all my college courses was in a basic freshman English. Luckily, the professor wasn’t successful in discouraging me from studying literature and writing.

What hobbies and interests do you have?

I love genealogy and tracing my family’s history. The research is fascinating and I’ve learned some great family stories.

Yvonne's officeI see from this picture of your office that you have old family photos on the wall. How awesome. I love family history and genealogy too.

What made you write Pandemic?

I’ve always been fascinated with disaster and survival stories. For example, I loved Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. I wanted to create a story where the main character is in a difficult place at the onset, even before the disease strikes, so that she must find a way to heal and become stronger during the crisis.

Can you share a brief blurb about Pandemic?

In Pandemic, only a few people know what caused Lilianna Snyder’s sudden change from a model student to a withdrawn pessimist who worries about all kinds of disasters. After her parents are called away on business, Lil’s town is hit by what soon becomes a widespread fatal illness. With her worst fears realized, Lil must find a way to survive not only the outbreak and its real-life consequences, but also her own personal demons.Pandemic cover

Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? If you’d like to buy a copy of Pandemic, it’s available here:

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Powells
Book Depository
Chapters

What are you working on now?

I’m writing a psychological thrill about a teen girl who fears she is either being haunted or losing her mind.

And just for fun…

What super power do you wish you had?

I wish I needed less sleep and less caffeine – a super-energy super power!

That sounds useful. 🙂

What is something most people don’t know about you?

Throughout my life, I’ve had five dogs, one cat, three parakeets, two hamsters, numerous guppies, and a dwarf rabbit who lived in my college dorm room for a year.

Yvonne at age eight with her pet parakeet

Yvonne at age eight with her pet parakeet

Where can readers find out more about you?

Visit Yvonne at her:
Website
Blog
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Pinterest

Even better, you can meet Yvonne in person at the following venues:

June 1, 2014, Sunday from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm
Somerville Street Festival
Book signing and sale
Somerville, NJ

June 3, 2014, Tuesday
NJ Library Association Annual Conference
Atlantic City, NJ

June 3, 2014, Tuesday from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
Otto Bruyns Public Library
Author talk and book signing
Northfield, NJ

June 26, 2014, Thursday from 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Scotch Plains Public Library
Author talk and book signing
Scotch Plains, NJ

June 28 and June 29, 2014, Saturday and Sunday
New Jersey SCBWI 2014 Conference, Faculty
Workshop: What To Expect When You’re Expecting a Novel
Princeton, NJ

September 20, 2014, Saturday, 11:00 am to 7:00 pm
Chapter by Chapter BookRave
Book Signing and YA Bowling Party
Larchmont, NY

October 11, 2014, Saturday, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Collingswood Book Festival
Collingswood, NJ

And here’s a brief bio about Yvonne:

Before becoming a children’s writer, Yvonne Ventresca wrote computer programs and taught others how to use technology. Now she happily spends her days writing stories instead of code. Yvonne is the author of the young adult novel Pandemic, available in May from Sky Pony Press. Yvonne’s other writing credits include two nonfiction books for kids: Avril Lavigne (a biography of the singer) and Publishing (about careers in the field).





What If You Were Cloned?

15 01 2012

Replication by Jill WilliamsonWhoot!! So excited! Got a copy of Jill Williamson‘s latest book from Zondervan. It came when I had stacks of work to do, including major writing deadlines, so my plan was to read the first page or two, then save it for later. OK, so I read the first chapter, and the second, and… I’m sure you get the picture. Several hours later I’d read the whole book and still can’t get it out of my mind.

I’ve included a synopsis below, but that doesn’t do the book justice. So much of the heart-pounding excitement is left out. And it doesn’t capture the humor or the poignancy. I don’t want to include any spoilers here, but suppose you were a clone who had been isolated in an underground facility and had never experienced life? And what if you escaped for a brief time? Wouldn’t you have a lot of questions? So does Martyr (or J:3:3). And his naïveté leads to many humorous situations.

So often Martyr’s innocent questions leave you torn between wanting to laugh and cry. Williamson is a master at defusing sadness with deft touches of humor. But the humor never detracted from the more serious message: Do clones have souls?

Kudos to Zondervan for being willing to tackle the cloning issue from a totally different point of view. Not whether cloning is right or wrong, but what would happen in the future if cloning humans becomes a reality. Williamson has dealt with this topic in a fun-to-read thriller that raises many thought-provoking questions. Questions that are sure to haunt you–the same way her carefully drawn characters will–long after the book covers are closed.

If you aren’t already a Williamson fan, after reading Replication, dip into her award-winning Blood of Kings trilogy (Marcher Lord Press), which has been compared to Tolkien. She also has stories in the anthologies, Spirited (Leap Books) and Ether Ore (MLP). All well worth reading!

BOOK BLURB

Martyr—otherwise known as Jason 3:3—is one of hundreds of clones kept in a remote facility called Jason Farms. Told that he has been created to save humanity, Martyr has just one wish before he is scheduled to ‘expire’ in less than a month. To see the sky. Abby Goyer may have just moved to Alaska, but she has a feeling something strange is going on at the farm where her father works. But even this smart, confident girl could never have imagined what lies beneath a simple barn. Or what would happen when a mysterious boy shows up at her door, asking about the stars. As the reality of the Jason Experiment comes to light, Martyr is caught between two futures—the one for which he was produced and the one Abby believes God created him to have. Time is running out, and Martyr must decide if a life with Abby is worth leaving everything he’s ever known.

LINK TO SAMPLE CHAPTER

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jill Williamson is a novelist, dreamer, and believer. Growing up in Alaska led to a love of books, and in 2010 her first novel, By Darkness Hid, won the Christy Award. She loves working with teenagers and gives writing workshops at libraries, schools, camps, and churches. Jill lives in Oregon with her husband and two children. Visit Jill online at www.jillwilliamson.com.