Calling All #KICKASSGIRLSOFYA

This month, I’ve been honored to participate in a promotion sponsored by my publisher, Fire & Ice, to celebrate strong female characters in YA books–including my own Brynlei Leighton! I posted the calendar of events a week or so ago, but today I’m posting a reminder about a few exciting things…

SaleFirst, the epic 99-cent eBook Sale is happening now! This is such a great opportunity to try out some great new authors and their books in a variety of YA genres. The full list of books offered in this sale is HERE. (Note: Trail of Secrets is on the list!)

Not sure which books to buy? Eight Fire & Ice authors (including yours truly) have written short stories featuring our kickass female characters! Download our FREE Kickass Girls of Fire & Ice anthology on Amazon, B&N or Smashwords, and test the waters with a variety of characters, genres and authors.KickAssGirlsOfFIYA

Second, there’s an exciting Rafflecopter Giveaway also happening now! Just click HERE for your chance to win and eBook bundle from Fire & Ice (you choose which books you win!)

Next, please join the Kickass Girls of YA Facebook Party on Saturday, April 22nd. I’ll be hosting between 10-10:30am, but the party lasts from 10am-2pm with different authors hosting every half hour. Check it out to win entries for great prizes and swag, including autographed print books!
Finally, don’t forget our Twitter chats on Friday nights from 9-10pm EST. Use the hashtag #kickassgirlsofya to connect! Good luck and have fun!

TwitterChat

 

Author Spotlight: Carly Kade

Today, I’m thrilled to welcome fellow equestrian author, Carly Kade, to my blog! Carly is one of those people who bursts with positive energy (interact with her on social media and you’ll see what I’m talking about). Although she resides in sunny Arizona, she’s actually a Michigan native (like me!) I read her romance novel, In the Reins, last year and recommend it to anyone who enjoys gorgeous horses, western riding or handsome cowboys.

Carly_Kade_Author_Photo_Web_ITR_Sequel[2742]About the Author:  Carly Kade is an author of equestrian fiction. Creative writing makes her spurs jingle! She writes fiction about horses, horse shows, western pleasure and a handsome cowboy or two! Her books are for people just like her…crazy about reading, horses and cute cowboys! In her free time Carly enjoys competitively showing her registered Paint Horse and works on her next novel. In the Reins, Carly’s cowboy romance novel inspired by the equestrian lifestyle has been an Amazon equestrian bestseller for more than 10 weeks and is an EQUUS Film Festival literary award winner for Best Western Fiction. The novel is available now in paperback and eBook.

Connect with Carly Kade Creative on Facebook or Twitter, or on her website: www.carlykadecreative.com.

3D Book Cover All[2744]From the back cover:

McKennon Kelly. McKennon Kelly. McKennon Kelly.

Cowboy McKennon Kelly was the last thing Devon Brooke wanted to focus on after finding herself suddenly single. Looking for a fresh start to life, city girl and journalist Devon just wanted to go back to her country roots and focus on building a relationship with her newly acquired equine partner Faith.

Devon finds companionship in handsome bull riding ranch hand JD and delicate Green Briar horse farm owner Sophia, both who advise Devon to keep her distance from McKennon and “mind her p’s and q’s” around the quiet and eerily peaceful stables. Devon thinks it shouldn’t be too difficult to avoid the Adonis cowboy, but after noticing his skills and expert ways with training horses, she figures it couldn’t hurt to get to know him a little bit … right?

Devon follows the guarded cowboy to a horse show, where she is unprepared to learn she may not be the cowgirl she thought she was. After a near-tragic incident, Devon begins to realize that the more time she spends with McKennon, the less she really knows about him (or horses, for that matter), and his mystery just keeps getting bigger. Who is he really, what is it that everyone doesn’t want her to know, and why is this tight-shirted, spur-jingling, weather-eyed cowboy all she can think about now?

Interview with Carly Kade:

If you could spend the day with any character from your novel, who would it be? Why?

If I could spend the day with any character from my novel, I’d take a riding lesson from my horse training cowboy McKennon Kelly. McKennon Kelly came to me (like lightning) in the form of a poem.  I vividly remember the day I furiously scrawled him in my journal.  I didn’t want to miss a thing, a thought, or a moment of his inception.  Thank heaven that I always keep a journal with me.  That poem ended up being the intro to the book.  McKennon Kelly comes from the part of me that is in love with love.  My imagination had so much fun creating him.  As I turned my words into a man, I took the best from the ones I once knew (and those I still know), the ones I’ve read about in my favorite books, all the ones I’ve imagined, and mixed those qualities with all the things I wish men could be then sprinkled in a little of what I imagined a cowboy who can make the eight on the back of a raging bull would be like …  McKennon is the best little pieces of everything and everyone I’ve experienced in life.  My heart was a flutter as I created him.  I am proud of McKennon Kelly.  I hope he sparks a smile across readers’ lips as they turn the pages of In The Reins. He certainly makes me smile as I continue to write his story in the sequel.

What attracts you to writing in the equestrian fiction genre?

I am happiest when I am in the saddle so it’s probably no surprise I was interested in writing a story about the bond between horse and human.  Also, I knew I wanted readers to feel like they were falling for the leading man as they turned the pages of my book.  Generating that kind of feeling was my goal – what I wanted to create for readers – so In The Reins naturally became an equestrian romance.  I’ve always loved reading and have been riding horses since I was seven. I know that I sure wouldn’t be able to resist reading about a handsome cowboy who knows his way around horses so I wrote about what I knew … horses and cowgirl culture.

What time of day do you prefer to write?

I write in the morning before life has an opportunity to get in the way. I get up at 5:30. My husband and I start the day by walking our dogs then return home to meditate. Quieting my mind really prepares me for creativity!  After I pour my first cup of coffee, I settle into my home office for my scheduled morning writing session. I am not a morning person but the commitment to my morning routine keeps my creativity alive. I made the rule to “touch” my story every day.  As long as I stay engaged with what I’m writing, the world I’m creating is never far from reach.  It’s when I’ve been away from my words for extended periods of time that I find it hardest to get back to writing it so I try not to let that happen.

What are you working on now?

McKennon and Devon’s story continues. Currently, I am working on the sequel to In The Reins and planning its release in 2017.  The crazy thing is that the third book featuring the characters is bucking up a storm in my mind and already taking shape on paper!  I am writing the second and third book simultaneously. I have having so much fun with the journey that this series is taking me on! I’ve learned that there are a lot of JD McCall fans out there so I’m already developing a novella that tells the tale of my bull riding heartthrob too!

What has been the highlight of your writing career so far?

There is so much research that goes into finding the right category for your book.  I loved that Amazon had a section for equestrian books.  I was happy to be able to categorize In The Reins alongside other horse books that I had read and fell in love with.  These are the books that helped me realize I could write my own horse book.  When I learned that In The Reins had broken into the top 100 (and then the top 12) my heart grew a thousand times its size because it meant that my writing was resonating with the audience I wanted to identify with and write for.  I put together a promoted post celebrating my readers on Facebook to acknowledge their contribution to helping my book get there.  I couldn’t have done it without them. Since then, In The Reins has gone on to be an Amazon equestrian bestseller for more than 10 weeks and has won the Best Western Fiction Literary Award at the EQUUS Film Festival in New York City. I’m so grateful and my spurs couldn’t be jingling more over my book’s success!

What subjects do you enjoy writing about most? Why?

I love writing equestrian fiction. I am a horse lover and a horse owner. When I am not riding a horse, you’ll find me writing about one. I was inspired to write In The Reins because I wanted to read a love story themed around the type of horse shows I liked to compete in. There are a lot of equestrian novels out there focused on dressage or jumping or rodeo but I haven’t found many that focus on competitive horse showing at breed shows like the Quarter Horse, Paint, Pinto or the Palomino Horse Circuits.  In my writing I am particularly interested in showcasing the western pleasure discipline and creating stories that provide an honest depiction of the bond between horse and human.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Carly. It’s been great getting to know more about you and your books!

Stay tuned for my April Author Spotlight with YA thriller author, Nina Mansfield!

 

BARN SHADOWS Release Day!

Today is the Day for my Book Release!

barnshadows42737The second book in my YA mystery “Dark Horse” series–BARN SHADOWS–is now available in PRINT and KINDLE and on KOBO!

While BARN SHADOWS can stand alone, I recommend reading Book One–TRAIL OF SECRETS–first because the second book gives away the ending of the first book.

BARN SHADOWS Back Cover Blurb:

A year after her tumultuous exit from the prestigious Foxwoode Riding Academy, seventeen year-old Brynlei returns determined to confront her demons and win Foxwoode’s elite Top Rider Award. When she stumbles over an antique doll at the construction site of a new barn, a series of inexplicable occurrences force her to question whether her condition as a “Highly-Sensitive Person” is to blame or if something more sinister is at play.

As Brynlei becomes consumed with discovering the history of the unearthed doll, the bizarre happenings escalate to dangerous levels. She soon realizes that someone close to her is lying. But who? Could a decades-old tragedy and the threatening events at Foxwoode be more closely entwined than she ever imagined?

Watch the BARN SHADOWS Book Trailer on YouTube!

Thanks for stopping by and supporting my books!

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The Real Life Horses that Inspired My Writing

One of the most fun things about writing my Dark Horse series has been bringing to life the horses on the pages. While some of the equine characters in Trail of Secrets and Barn Shadows are purely fictional, others are based on actual horses I’ve met, ridden, known or loved over the years.

Louie
Louie

Let’s start with the leading man…er, gelding, Jett. During the time I was writing Trail of Secrets, I was half-leasing a wonderful appendix named Louie. Louie was a beautiful dark bay/black gelding full of personality and spunk. He wasn’t always easy to ride, but my riding improved dramatically during the year that I rode him. Saying goodbye to him was so difficult that I actually took a year off from riding after I stopped leasing Louie. He was THAT special. Jett is based on a combination of Louie and the horse I owned as a teenager, Snowman. While not black (obviously), Snowman was about as full of personality as a horse could be. Owning him was the culmination of all my childhood dreams. Whenever I write about Brynlei’s bond with Jett, I find myself reaching back into my memories of my love for Snowman.

Snowman 1988
My Snowman

Anna’s feisty mount, Rebel, is also based on a few spunky chestnuts I’ve known. Before

Edoras Wall 4.13
Edoras

Louie, I half-leased a mare named Edoras. She gave me a run for my money alright. Edoras taught me how to ride a “Whooa!” horse (Elbows bent, shoulders back, bend her in!) I’ve known other horses like Rebel, too. There’s currently a horse at the barn where I ride named Zara. She’s a sweetie, but has an accelerator that can take even the most experienced rider on an “exciting” trip around the ring. What is it about chestnuts?

In Barn Shadows, two new horses are introduced into the mix–Patches and Amigo. Patches is a beautiful Paint pony ridden by a new character, Bethany. The pony is based on an actual pony named Patches owned by my friend and her daughter (pictured below). The real-life Patches is a wonderful teacher, as is the Patches in the book. And both ponies are easy on the eyes…Don’t you agree?

An odd new girl named Grace joins the cast of Barn Shadows, along with her equally unusual mount, Amigo. Amigo does not possess the confirmation of the fancy hunters at Foxwoode so everyone is surprised when they witness the stocky horse’s natural jumping ability. This side storyline is loosely based on one of my favorite non-fiction books, The Eighty-Dollar Champion:  Snowman, The Horse that Inspired a Nation by Elizabeth Letts. Those of you who have read the book might see a few parallels between fictional, Amigo, and real-life, Snowman.

Sadly, I met my new favorite horse at the barn, Abby, after I’d already finished writing Barn Shadows. I’ll have to incorporate this special bay mare into my next book! Isn’t she cute?

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Abby

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the real horses behind many of the horses in my books. Until next time, happy reading, writing and riding!

Mystery Thriller Week Author Spotlight: Judy Penz Sheluk

 

Today I’m pleased to welcome Canadian mystery author, Judy Penz Sheluk, to my blog. Although I haven’t read her books (yet!), I’m a fan of any novel with characters fighting to preserve a small town’s historic district from big box stores. I think Judy and I are on the same wavelength! Here’s more about Judy…

judy-penz-sheluk2158Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose: A Glass Dolphin Mystery (Barking Rain Press), was published in July 2015. Skeletons in the Attic (Imajin Books), the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series, was published in August 2016. Her short crime fiction appears in several anthologies and collections. Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers and the Short Mystery Fiction Society. Find out more at her website/blog, www.judypenzsheluk.com, where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life.

noose2161Back Cover Blurb From The Hanged Man’s Noose:

Small-town secrets and subterfuge lead to murder in this fast-moving, deftly written tale of high-stakes real estate wrangling gone amok.

Journalist Emily Garland lands a plum assignment as the editor of a niche magazine based in Lount’s Landing, a small town named after a colorful 19th century Canadian traitor. As she interviews the local business owners for the magazine, Emily quickly learns that many people are unhappy with real estate mogul Garrett Stonehaven’s plans to convert an old schoolhouse into a mega-box store. At the top of that list is Arabella Carpenter, the outspoken owner of an antiques shop, who will do just about anything to preserve the integrity of the town’s historic Main Street.

But Arabella is not alone in her opposition. Before long, a vocal dissenter at a town hall meeting about the proposed project dies. A few days later, another body is discovered, and although both deaths are ruled accidental, Emily’s journalistic suspicions are aroused.

Putting her reporting skills to the ultimate test, Emily teams up with Arabella to discover the truth behind Stonehaven’s latest scheme before the murderer strikes again.

View all of Judy’s books on Amazon.

Interview with Judy Penz Sheluk:

Thanks for joining me today, Judy! When did you first know that you wanted to become a writer?

I’ve always wanted to write. As a kid, I wrote stories in my head, on the way to school and back again. I thought all kids did that! In 2003, I left the corporate world to try life as a freelance writer. I’ve never looked back. In late 2011, after taking some courses in Creative Writing, I decided to start The Hanged Man’s Noose. It was an instant addiction.

If you could spend the day with any character from your novel, who would it be? Why?

I love Arabella Carpenter. She owns the Glass Dolphin, an antiques shop owner and the sidekick in The Hanged Man’s Noose, the first book in my Glass Dolphin Mystery series. She’s going to be the protagonist in the sequel, and she has a small role in Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in my Marketville series. Arabella is smart, feisty, loves shortbread, chardonnay, and cognac. She’s also loyal to her friends—even her ex-husband, Levon— wears her heart on her sleeve, and firmly believes that authenticity matters in people as well as the antiques she sells.

If your book was made into a movie, who do you envision playing the leading roles?

Jennifer Lawrence for the protagonist in Skeletons in the Attic, Callie Barnstable. Bradley Cooper for her next-door neighbor and possible love interest, Royce Ashford. Chris Noth in the role of Leith Hampton, lawyer.

What attracts you to writing in the mystery/thriller genre?

It’s what I read, and I’m an avid reader – about a book a week and at least 3 or 4 mystery anthologies or collections a year. I try to write what I’d like to read. People ask if it’s difficult to separate the books I read by other authors from my writing, but the reverse is true. A well-written or clever mystery inspires me to try harder. Reading is the best teacher.

How do you deal with rejections and/or negative reviews?

I won’t lie. Rejection hurts, but there isn’t a writer, alive or dead, who hasn’t experienced rejection. When I was shopping for a publisher/agent for The Hanged Man’s Noose, I wrote a heartfelt and honest blog about the experience titled The First Cut is the Deepest. It still gets a lot of hits, as does the series, My Publishing Journey. I’ve also blogged about Learning from Rejection.

Both Noose and Skeletons have primarily good ratings, with an average of 4.18 and 4.34 respectively on Goodreads. When I received my first 1-star review (after a string of 5-star reviews on Amazon) for Skeletons, I was crushed. I went to my fellow Sisters in Crime Guppy group and lamented. I was congratulated for finally making it “into the club.” Apparently readers are leery of a book that only has 5 star reviews. Then I went and looked at the reviews for Gone Girl, and sure enough, among the 5 stars there were a few 1 stars. I felt comforted by that: I should be as successful as Gillian Flynn!

Thank you for sharing your insights, Judy! I know many of us wish we could be as successful as Gillian Flynn. It’s been a pleasure learning more about you and your books.

Check back on February 5th for my next interview with environmental thriller author, Pamela Lazos!

 

 

BARN SHADOWS COVER REVEAL!

I’m so excited to share the cover of my new YA Mystery, BARN SHADOWS (Dark Horse, Book Two) which will be released March 14, 2017! Many thanks to Caroline Andrus who is a cover designer with my publisher, Fire and Ice. Her design captures the essence of my story while tying it in perfectly with the first book in the series–TRAIL OF SECRETS. I also love, love, love the color scheme! So without further ado…

 

barnshadows42737

 

Does the cover make you want to know more? Here’s the back cover blurb:

The darkest secrets can be found in the most innocent places…

Brynlei returns to the prestigious Foxwoode Riding Academy determined to work through her condition as a “highly sensitive person” and win the Top Rider Award. When she stumbles over an antique doll near the construction site of a new barn, a series of inexplicable occurrences force her to confront another one of Foxwoode’s long-buried secrets.

Meanwhile, swirling rumors of Foxwoode’s strained finances, the arrival of a strange new girl in her cabin, and a brush-off by Brynlei’s former love-interest contribute to the troubled atmosphere and distract her from her riding. After a suspicious fire threatens her life, Brynlei realizes someone close to her is lying. But who? Could a decades-old tragedy and the dangerous happenings at Foxwoode be more closely entwined than she ever imagined?

For those of you who haven’t read Book One yet–don’t worry! There’s still time… In the meantime, thanks for stopping by and let me know what you think of the new cover!

The Emotional Stages of Editing

heart-touching-feelingsRecently, I’ve been working with a copy editor to put the finishing touches on my YA mystery, BARN SHADOWS (Dark Horse, Book Two). Our mission:  to identify and correct all typos, grammatical errors, inconsistencies, and overused words/phrases in my novel. Thankfully, we’ve almost reached the end of this back-and-forth editing process which has been successful (yeah!), but also a roller coaster ride of emotions. Because I experienced a similar set of emotions when editing my first novel, I’ve outlined my own Emotional Stages of Editing below in order to help other writers going through this harrowing ordeal–or at least to make them laugh.

Emotional Stages of Editing:

  1. Fear–Your publisher notifies you that the copy editor has your manuscript. She’s probably reading it right now. Will she like it? Will she hate it? Will she understand your jokes? You break out in a cold sweat and lie down in the fetal position while repeating positive phrases in your head.
  2. Anger–A few days later, you click open the Word doc entitled, First Round Edits, expecting to see a few extra commas and comment proclaiming “WELL DONE! BEST BOOK I’VE READ ALL YEAR!” but what you see instead is a blur of red typing and strikethroughs. As your eyes focus on the specifics, the heat rises to your face and your hands shake. Why has the word “that” been added to the third sentence of the opening paragraph? Why have those two short sentences been combined into one long run-on sentence? Where is the joke about the baby llama who works at the cheese factory? This editor is trying to ruin your book! You’re sure of it!
  3. Despair–After exchanging a livid email voicing your displeasure with the suggested changes, the editor sends you a point-by-point outline of why she made each change. You slump into your chair and suck in your breath as you realize she was right–an em dash does work better than a comma in that sentence, and the word “that” is sometimes grammatically necessary. How could you have made so many mistakes? Your book must be horrible. Once again you curl up in the fetal position, only this time no positive thoughts pop their way into your head.
  4. Determination–After several martinis and a good night’s sleep, you open your “motivational phrases” Pinterest Board and realize that no mountain is too tall to climb and everything worthwhile is worth fighting for. You determine to get through these edits, one by one, word by word, sentence by sentence, chapter by chapter. You sit down at your computer and start re-reading your book for the 803rd time.
  5. Hope–The editor looks through your responses and sends you round two edits. Hey! There are only a few comments this time. And she added that joke back in–the one about the baby llama and the cheese factory! She probably realized how funny it was the second time she read it. You can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
  6. Joy–All edits have been approved by both parties. The work is done! You jump up from your chair and wish you had a co-worker to high-five. Your dog will have to do. Soon your publisher will present you with the most dazzling cover ever created. Oh, the joy of all this hard work coming together! Editing isn’t so bad after all…o-book-wrapped-gift-facebook

A Night to Remember

As I may have already told you, I was shocked and elated when I found out Trail of Secrets had been named as a Finalist in the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards (First Novel). I read about the upcoming award ceremony at the Newberry Library in downtown Chicago, but wasn’t sure I wanted to take the time to attend. My husband, on the other hand, REALLY wanted me to go. He convinced me it was important to be recognized for my hard work and even took two days off work to go with me. The event also happened to fall close to our eleven year wedding anniversary, so we decided to make a weekend out of it. I’m so glad we did.

We dropped our kids with grandma and drove five hours to Chicago where we spent a whileBook Awards 3 shopping on Michigan Avenue and visiting our old haunts. (We lived in Chicago for many years before moving back to Michigan.) After cleaning ourselves up, we walked to the Newberry Library for the ceremony. Having never attended a book award ceremony, I was nervous and had no idea what to expect. The people who ran the event did a terrific job making us feel welcome as we walked through the front door. A smiling woman handed me a name tag and goody bag filled with extra award stickers and information on all the other winners and finalists’ books. Someone else escorted us into the room and introduced us to several of the judges. Dozens of authors and their guests mingled, each author holding a copy of their book. Waiters and waitresses circled the room with glasses of wine and champagne and appetizers. It was like being at a wedding where the books were the stars.

My nerves subsided, as I fell easily into conversation with a group of authors and judges. Everyone seemed genuinely interested in everyone else’s books, and with seventy categories of winners and finalists, there was a quite a variety of books. I was amazed by how far people had traveled to attend the ceremony and what a big deal being there actually was.

At last, the Awards Chairperson began announcing the Finalists and Winners in each category. Only the people who attended the ceremony had their books announced. When it was my turn, I walked up on the stage (focusing very carefully on not tripping) with my book cover on the screen behind me and lowered my head to receive the medal. I shook hands with Awards Chairperson and Coordinator and exited the stage. That was it–my fifteen seconds of fame!

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The top three winners gave short speeches and there were a few more photo opportunities. I left the award ceremony feeling happy and reinvigorated by all of the positive energy. After two hours of conversation, speeches, and clapping, my husband and I were ready for a quiet dinner in the big city. We caught a cab and made it to our eight o’clock dinner reservation right on time.

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Trail of Secrets is an Award Finalist!

IndieBookAwards2Several months ago while searching online, I happened to come across the website for the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. I perused the site, checking out the categories and last year’s winners. A category for First Novels under 80,000 words caught my eye. I had a first novel under 80,000 words! I thought, “Why not?” A couple of hours later I was standing in line at the post office to mail off a few copies of Trail of Secrets to Seattle, Washington. Then I got busy with life and completely forgot about this book award competition.

Fast forward to yesterday. An email from the Next Generation Indie Book Awards waited inCover with Sticker my inbox, promising “exciting news.” I still didn’t let myself get my hopes up. Perhaps the exciting news was only to let me know who the winners were. It didn’t mean anything. Then I read the first word- “Congratulations!” and I started to realize maybe this really was “exciting news.” As I read further, I realized Trail of Secrets had indeed been selected as one of five Finalists in the First Novel (under 80,000 words) category!

For all of the lonely, depressing, and frustrating moments that writing can bring, it can also provide the highest of highs. I know because that’s how I felt yesterday after reading that email. I’m so glad I took the chance and entered my book. I’m not sure if I’ll attend the award ceremony in Chicago in May. Regardless I am basking in the glow of unbiased validation of my book. There’s no better feeling!

Writing Inspiration is Everywhere

Please stop by fellow Fire and Ice author, Nina Mansfield’s, blog today to read my guest post on writing inspiration and to enter to win a digital copy of Trail of Secrets! Nina is the author of Swimming Alone (Fire and Ice YA, 2015), a fun and suspenseful YA mystery. I read it a few months ago and highly recommend it to any mystery-lover!

CLICK HERE to visit Nina’s blog – NOT EVEN JOKING

Not Even Joking

Please stay tuned to this blog for an exciting announcement related to the imminent release of my children’s picture book, Henrietta’s Hoof Polish!