Monday, August 29, 2011

Interview with YA Author Tracy Marchini

Tracy Marchini is a freelance writer and editorial consultant. Before launching her own editorial service, she worked at a literary agency, as a children's book reviewer, a newspaper correspondent and a freelance copywriter. She may also be known as the worst kickball player to ever grace her schoolyard. More information about her and her critique services can be found at

Hello Tracy. Please tell us about your new book, Hot Ticket.

Hot Ticket is the story of Juliet Robinson, the only sixth grade in John Jay Jr. High (Triple J for short) who doesn’t have a hot ticket. When one of the dorkiest kids in school, Crammit Gibson, gets a hot ticket before she does, she knows that the only way to salvage her middle school reputation is to stop the mysterious ticket dispenser once and for all.

With the help of her best friend Lucy, a Daria-esque Madeline and her semi-crush Crammit, Juliet is determined to catch the ticket dispenser and climb a few rungs on the middle-school social ladder. Unfortunately for Juliet, things don’t quite go as planned…

You list your book as a middle grade mystery, meant for ages eight to twelve. What makes this a mystery novel?

The sixth graders of John Jay Jr. High have been receiving hot tickets for cool things they’ve done all year, and shame tickets for doing something embarrassing, like falling asleep in class or making a bad joke. Juliet hasn’t even received a shame ticket, which is even more frustrating because she does more embarrassing things in one week than most people do in their lifetime. Juliet decides to unmask the ticket dispenser, knowing that solving this mystery could make the ticket system completely pointless. It’s a risk she’s willing to take, especially since she feels she’s being deliberately ignored by the person giving out the tickets.

Juliet’s list of suspects is short, but when the yearbook committee decides to find the dispenser, and the Students for Ticket Preservation start to work against Juliet, it’s only a matter of time before someone else solves the biggest mystery Triple J has ever had.

This sounds like a fun story for the youth. Where did you get your inspiration for this book?

I was working at Curtis Brown and my colleague Amelia said the phrase “Hot ticket” to me one day. I’d never heard it, but I realized that the equivalent when I went to school was to say “Points” when someone did something cool, or “Negative points” when someone did something uncool. So I asked myself, “What would happen if hot tickets were physical things, and someone actually handed out hot and shame tickets?” I became excited at the idea of a physical representation of the “cool points” system, and how one anonymous person could change the whole social hierarchy of their school if they were able to make their system stick. I wrote the first chapter during my lunch break, and sent it to Amelia, who encouraged me to continue. Thus, HOT TICKET was born!

You also wrote another YA story called Effie At The Wedding. What is this book about?

Effie At The Wedding is a funny, contemporary YA short story. Effie has a million reasons why she's not thrilled to be at her sister's wedding -- and the monstrously pink bridesmaid's dress isn't even on the list. When Effie finds herself locked in the bathroom, she thinks she might just stay there. After all, it's better than hearing from her mom about how often she's been to the buffet or how beautiful Ophelia looks in her wedding dress.

As the bouquet is tossed and the cake is eaten, Effie will have to find a reason to celebrate... or get used to her porcelain throne.

Both books sound intriguing to me. I think the youth would enjoy them. Now it’s time to tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

Juliet’s favorite book and movie series is Bailey Bean, Girl Detective, which is modeled after my love of Nancy Drew stories. When I was Juliet’s age, my friend and I tried to read all of the Nancy Drew Case Files that the school library had. (It had to be over 100, and that’s how I earned most of my Accelerated Reader points!) Nancy herself does slip into the book once, when Madeline is trying to convince Juliet to let her help with the case. Juliet wants to work solo, like her icon Bailey Bean, but Madeline says, “I’ll be the George to your Nancy” and is eventually allowed to help. 

So you put a little of yourself in this novel. That’s awesome. I think a lot of us do that in our stories. We put a little of our self in one of the characters, giving him or her something that we love or enjoy or even a phobia that we have. It makes the story come alive. Thank you very much for this wonderful interview, Tracy.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Interview with Romance Author Celia Yeary

I'm Celia Yeary, a romance author who is drifting into Women's Fiction. My life revolves around my husband, our home, grandsons, the community, and our church. Before early retirement, I taught biology to high school students in a private military boarding school. I loved my job, but decided to try something new.

This is Celia's second time back and guess what I found out about her? She is a seventh-generation Texan. Wow! Now how awesome is that? Welcome back to my blog, Celia. Please tell us about your new book.

Thank you, Linda. I'm very happy to be here, once more. My newest book is titled Wish for the Moon, a novel that does not fit any exact genre. It does have a sweet love story, but the center of the tale is 16-yr-old Annie McGinnis who, in 1901, lives on a farm with her family in North Texas. Her life changes when a stranger, Max Landry, walks to their house and asks for work.

During the 3-year span of the story, Annie becomes the caretaker for her big slow-witted brother, her mother until she dies, her widower father, and a local blind man who has no place to go. She even attempts—and succeeds—at rescuing Max from the hangman's noose. Eventually, grown-up Annie gets her wish, the one she asks for every night of a full moon, the one her mother always told her: "Annie, girl, you might as well wish for the Moon."

I love this title and the book cover. Where did you get your inspiration for this novel?

Partly from a coal-mining ghost town in North Texas. When I researched the town, I knew I wanted it in a story, but what kind of story? Instead, I created Annie who wished to see the world, or at least see what lay just over the county line. Then I created Max, who entered her world, and would become the instrument for her to see the next county when he is arrested for murder by the Texas Rangers and taken back to the coal-mining town.

Your website and blog says, “Romance...and a little bit o' Texas.” Are all your stories set in Texas?

Yes, all my stories, historical or contemporary, are set in Texas, the place I know best. My family line goes back seven generations to when Texas was a Republic. And I've lived in several areas of the state. I can't imagine trying to write a story set in, say, Baltimore, or Ogden, or San Francisco. I've visited many, many places, but that doesn't mean I know enough about any of them to use as a story setting. I simply stick with what I know.

That reminds me of Anne of Green Gables when Gilbert told her to write about people and places she knew about. She didn’t like his suggestion at first but eventually realized he was right. What kind of research did you do for this book?

Mainly, I researched Thurber, Texas, the unique coal-mining town in Erath County. It's one county over from Palo Pinto County, where I was born and returned to visit grandparents. I still return to that area because of family. The farm Annie lives on is my grandparent's home, my daddy's birthplace. The house, the well, the orchard and garden, and even the outhouse all come directly from my memory bank of those days gone by. I even used my Granny's rose garden, and the screened-in back porch. That part was very easy.

I love it when authors add real life situations to their stories. Do you usually put real experiences in your books?

Not very much. However, in WISH FOR THE MOON, as I said, I used my grandparent's house for Annie's. They never had running water, and one died in the forties, the other one in the sixties. I use many details in this story from my memory--Granny's big wood-burning stove, the well that had the tin tube to fill with water, and the front porch where Max looks into the front room.

I also mention the "healing water baths" over in Mineral Wells, where my Mother was born and now lives in a nursing home. That entire area is so familiar, and perfect for details in a story.

In MAKING THE TURN, I also use that same house, but updated it a bit in my head so I could use it in the year 2011 for Sara's old homeplace, where her mother remains.
Only these two involve any of my real life experiences. All other stories are completely fictional, although I do know the areas in which I place my stories very well.

Thanks, Celia, for this interview. I know my readers are more enlightened about what kind of author you are. I hope you come back again.

BUY WISH FOR THE MOON at: Willow Moon Publishing and Amazon

Celia Yeary - Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas

Monday, August 15, 2011

Interview with “Sweet Romance” Author Ruth J. Hartman

Ruth Hartman is a published romance author and licensed dental hygienist. She lives in rural Indiana with her husband. Ruth’s “furry children” are her cats Maxwell and Roxy. She’s pretty sure Max is German. He likes eating sauerkraut out of the pan.

Hello Ruth. Please tell us about your new book. What happens when a dental hygienist falls in love with her patient?

Grace Hart meets Bruce Gardener when he shows up in her office as a new patient. She’s a smitten kitten from the get-go. But doesn’t think anyone as good-looking as Bruce would take a second look at her.

This sounds like a fun book to read. Where did you get your inspiration for this book?

I have a friend who used to be a dental assistant. She met her husband when he sat in the dental chair where she worked. I thought it was such a cool story, and used a hygienist instead of an assistant.

With the rule of no dating patients, the couple has to find creative ways to meet. A Reviewer wrote, “This brings a lot of humorous scenes to the story. Ms. Hartman keeps Flossophy of Grace flowing with a quick wittiness that made me laugh out loud several times.” Is it difficult to come up with humorous scenes?

Not usually. My imagination is pretty vivid. Weird stuff happens to me all the time, and I use that in my writing. My husband says I find the most unusual things amusing.

So your sense of humor is natural, I take it. What does your family think about your writing? 

My husband just shakes his head and calls me a “sap” because I love writing stories with goofy humor and happy endings. My family always tells me they’re proud of me. 

Hey, "goofy humor" with happy endings is what makes me laugh. I love it. Okay, now it’s time to tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

My whole house is decorated with stuffed animals. Mainly cats. Anymore, my husband will often get me those instead of flowers for my birthday or anniversary, because he knows I love them so much!

Thank you, Ruth, for such a fun interview. Now we know the real you: The cat lover who writes humorous romance stories! I love it. I would like my readers to read a few paragraphs of chapter one from your book. I love it:

Chapter One


That was the fourth time she’d been bitten since lunch. She hoped they weren’t doing it on purpose, but sometimes she wondered. Maybe it was a pint-sized conspiracy. It was fall break for the elementary schools. All the elementary schools. That meant her dental hygiene schedule was crammed full of little people. There were kids yelling in the waiting room. Kids squirming in her patient chairs. She even heard a little girl loudly warbling her ABC’s in the bathroom. She felt like Mr. Rogers. She needed a cardigan sweater. Won’t you be my neighbor?

Grace loved kids. She really did. They were funny and sweet, and loud and annoying. They asked the most interesting, offbeat questions. And she normally looked forward to doing their prophies (cleanings) since their tiny mouths had less square footage than most adults’. But sometimes the little people tended to tell her too many intimate details about their parents she’d rather not know. Ever. And they all seemed intensely hyper today. The hooligans who weren’t bouncing like pogo sticks were playing trampoline on the waiting room chairs. Had their parents given them all ultra doses of Mountain Dew before their appointments? That would be wrong on so many levels. She’d had enough of the little guys for today. It was usually a nice reprieve from a day full of adults, but enough was enough. They had worn her down to a frazzled nubbin. Where was that cardigan sweater?

Since she’d arrived at the dental office at 8:30 a.m., she’d done twelve patient prophies, taken seven sets of tiny x-rays (that’s when the unfortunate biting incidents took place), given ten grape-flavored fluoride treatments, and instructed (or tried to) all of the little darlings how to remove the ick from their teeth with a toothbrush. She also dutifully handed out what seemed like 5,092 stickers. Whether the kids behaved like lambs or hyenas, they all got stickers. Unfortunately, she noticed several of the sticky handouts found their way to the recently painted waiting room wall. In between all of the patients, she cleaned her patient chair areas and helped with getting her instruments ready to be cleaned and sterilized. All in her spare time. She was pooped.

She looked at her yellow cat-face clock on the wall. It was almost time. In forty-five blessed minutes, she’d be finished with her last patient of the day. Thank goodness! It couldn’t come soon enough. Whoever it was, she wanted them done and scooted out the door, toothbrush in hand, as soon as possible. The only thing she knew about her next patient was that it was a man, and that he was fairly new to town. Other than that, she had no clue what to expect. Grace desperately hoped he wasn’t one of those men who thought he was good-looking in his plaid pants, white belt, and bad toupee. She always had a hard time holding back a snicker in those situations. She grabbed the last, lonely chart from the pink plastic holder on the wall and wearily called out the name.

“Bruce Gardener?”

As Grace looked up to greet her new patient, the sight that entertained her eyes nearly knocked her on her size-twelve backside. Good grief, he was gorgeous.

What happens when a dental hygienist falls in love with her patient? Visit Flossophy of Grace.
You may also visit Ruth at her blog: R J Writes.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Interview with Christian Author Janet Perez Eckles

Janet Perez Eckles writes with no eyesight but with insight to help you “see” the best of life. Her passion for life shines through the stories, included in 15 books and in 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul titles, in the two books she authored and numerous magazines including Guidepost as well as in her keynote messages.

With a bit of sassiness, a touch of humor, and an amiga-to-amiga style, Simply Salsa encourages women to accept God’s call to dance!”

During tough times in our lives, God will be there for us and comfort us. Blindness and other trials made this author the person she is today. Hello Janet. Please tell us about your new book, Simply Salsa: Dancing Without Fear at God’s Fiesta.

Each insight is drawn from examples from my life, other women today and from biblical times. Grounded in Scripture, they provide practical steps to live a life of freedom from insecurities, confidence to face tomorrow, and joy to savor each moment.

Could you please share one experience from your own life that you used in your book?

Excerpt from Chapter 6 from Simply Salsa:
“…But that night, as I faced the torments of an abandoned wife, Jesus saw my plight. How did I know? Because in order to survive, during the day, I began to soak myself in God’s Word through an audio Bible. Every chance I got, I listened to verses, insights, prom¬ises, instructions. I listened till my ears smoked. God’s truth pene¬trated my very soul. That’s how I knew the Lord was close enough to hear my softest whisper.

“Chicas, I put aside my pride, and Jesus in his tender, gentle way gave me some answers. Not because he found me to be extra wise or cute, but because I was desperate. But, as is often the case, he began by asking me a question: Who is the man you think should fill that spot in your heart?

“Being the quick chica that I am, I responded that it was my hus¬band. The man I wanted to win back. He was the person I loved most. He was the man…”

Wow! That must have been a difficult time in your life. Where did you get your ideas for this book?

The ideas bubbled up in me with each episode I faced and from each triumph I savored. And the topics came from hundreds of women who contact me through my ministry.

My blindness taught me to see beyond obstacles. The murder of my youngest son showed me God’s healing power. The financial setbacks proved God’s immense provision and many others. Colorful examples from other women also add richness to each illustration.

What does your family think about your writing?

They are all very supportive, although I think that when I began writing years ago, they were a bit surprised as I quickly learned to use technology for the blind to write. But the support I value the most is that of my husband. He gave his permission to share intimate details of our marriage, hoping to help other struggling couples.

This book sounds like it can help many women in times of despair. Thank you very much for this wonderful interview. Now it’s time to tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

When it comes to adventure, I’m there! Not long ago, I went parasailing, the view wasn’t impressive, but the thrill was worth blogging about. The fun side of me loves to salsa, to dance the cumbia or move to any rhythmic Latino tune. I dance because it’s in my blood. And I love, love to cruise and savor exquisite cuisine much like I delight in the flavor of God’s Word that feeds my soul. 

Thanks, Janet. I know that you will touch many lives with this book. Your life proves that no matter what trials we go through, we may overcome them. The secret is to never lose faith.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Interview with "Sweet" Romance Author Jordan T. Maxwell

Jordan T. Maxwell always loved to write. One of his favorite authors is Stephen King and this influenced him so much that his first attempt at writing a novel was a horror story. He said, “It was a horror, but not in the way I intended!” Other than that Jordan is a mild mannered paramedic who has spent the better part of the last 25 years “bouncing around in all types of ambulances.”

Dandyflowers made me laugh, cry, broke my heart into a thousand pieces and by the end had managed to rebuild it completely.” ~ Faith H. Tydings, Author of A Little Yellow Star.

Hello Jordan. Please tell us about your books, Dandyflowers and Dandyflowers - Laura's Diaries.

Dandyflowers is the story of a young woman named Erin who gets engaged. On the following weekend she goes back home so her father Jerry can give her what he calls his “love talk”. During those four days she learns about Laura, his first love and his first wife. Erin also finds out they had two children and the reason why they are no longer together.

Dandyflowers – Laura’s Diaries begins about five and a half years after Dandyflowers ends. In this part of the story Erin has read and reread Laura’s diaries, they were given to her by her father, in an attempt to answer the multitude of questions she has regarding Laura. Then on an unexpected trip to Chicago Erin encounters the two people who can answer the questions the diaries and her father can’t; she meets Laura’s parents. They, like Paul Harvey, tell Erin “…the rest of the story!”

There is a slight overlap between the first and second book. You get to experience Jerry and Laura’s first kiss from both of their perspectives. I actually had a reader tell me that a woman had to have written Laura’s take on the kiss as, “No man can write like that!” I assured her that when I write, I write alone and I did indeed write every word in both books!

Hahaha! That’s awesome! In other words, you feel what the character feels. Is your story considered a romance?

They are considered “romance”, but I hate having that term associated with them. When people hear the term “romance novel” they immediately picture those Fabio laden pulp paper novels found only on a grocery store’s impulse aisles that lead to the cash registers. I prefer the term General Fiction with a romantic twist!

I love your answer about the romance issue. I had the same problem as you. When I wrote my 5 historical romances, I was afraid to list them as such because of the same reason. So I listed them as historical fiction. I have since found out there is a new term called “sweet” romance. Your book would be in that category. I’m curious. Where did you get your inspiration for these books?

I suppose the seeds for these novels were planted sometime in 1979. It was then I began writing my pen pal, Robin. I still have every letter she wrote to me and after nearly 32 years we still keep in touch! I stumbled across some of those letters one afternoon several years before I began writing what would become my first two books and I remember thinking as I reread some of them, “There’s a book in here somewhere.”

There are several incidents in the books that are based wholly or partially on real events. For example, at some point in Dandyflowers Laura cooks Jerry supper and fixes him some beets. Did you know that if you cut the tops off of beets before cooking them all the purple will “bleed” out? Laura didn’t and neither did my mother who did this the first year she and my dad were married!

That's so funny. I bet she was surprised when she saw the pale looking beets. And yes, my mother taught that to me, too. A Reviewer wrote, “I've read many books, but rarely has one moved me the way Dandyflowers did.” What makes your story moving or does that spoil the plot of the book if you tell us?

What makes Dandyflowers and Dandyflowers – Laura’s Diaries so moving is their simplicity, their innocence, their inherent hope that love is all we really need. They are the story of two ordinary people who experience an extraordinary love that many can only dream of experiencing. It is because of this that the reader gets swept up in their story.

I had a co-worker who was so taken by the story and a certain highly emotional part of it that when she returned the draft copy I had asked her to read, she threw the binder at me. She indicated, using just two words, that it was her belief my parents were not married when I was born... then stomped away. It was at that moment I knew I had something people would like to read. It is also the reason why I adapted Dandyflowers into a stage play. I think it has wide appeal.

This has been a fun interview. What does your family think about your writing?

The best compliment I have received regarding the books came from my children when they saw the first book on the shelf at a well known book retailer. When they saw it, they gasped and said, “Daddy, we’re proud of you!” I walked quite a bit taller after that!

My dad is a Depression Era farmer who keeps his emotional cards very close to the vest. After he read Dandyflowers I asked him what he thought about it. He said, “Well, it would bring tears to your eyes if you let it.” High praise indeed!

Wow! What great compliments! Okay, now it’s time to tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

As I said in the bio portion I am a paramedic & have been in EMS for over 25 years. In that time I have delivered (or more correctly “caught”) only one baby. Big deal, right? Well, I saved the best for first as the baby I caught was my son! He came a little faster than his sister had and I had to take off my daddy / husband cap and put on my paramedic hat! I was scared to death, but I survived. That baby just celebrated his 11th birthday in April 2011! I know a lot of dads who play “catch” with their sons, but I guess I am just an over achiever!!! 

What an awesome experience! Not every dad can say that. This has been a fun and enjoyable interview. Thanks, Jordan. If this book hasn’t peaked everyone’s interest by the end of this interview, I would be surprised.

My Review of Dandyflowers by Jordan Maxwell

Dandyflowers is a delightful story told by a father to his daughter about his very first love, something he has never talked about before. The story begins at the age of fifteen in high school and tells of Jerry and Laura’s meeting, the many antics in their teenage life, and how they fell in love. It’s a story of innocence, humor, romance, family values, and their courtship and marriage.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I laughed at the jokes they played on one another. I sighed at the romance. I smiled at the beautiful and modest description of their wedding night. I giggled as they bantered with one another… and I wept.

Jordan Maxwell did a wonderful job with this story. But my advice to all readers is to make sure you have a handkerchief handy toward the ending of the book. You may need it!

Written by Linda Weaver Clarke, author of historical “sweet” romances.