Author Spotlight: D.G. Driver

I’m pleased to welcome Donna Driver (writing under the name D.G. Driver) on my Author Spotlight this month. I met Donna through our mutual publisher, Fire and Ice, and read the first book in her Juniper Sawfeather series, Cry of the Sea, last year. While fantasy books usually aren’t my genre of choice, I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone with Cry of the Sea. I found it to be a fun YA read featuring real and likeable characters, a suspenseful storyline, an ever-important (and timely!) message about the importance of protecting our planet, and–of course–mermaids. Like the first book, the second and third installments are sure to appeal to fantasy-lovers and environmentally conscious teens and adults, alike. As it just so happens, TODAY IS RELEASE DAY for the third book in the Juniper Sawfeather trilogy, Echo of the Cliffs!

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In addition, Donna and I both have short stories included in the Kickass Girls of Fire andKickAssGirlsOfFIYA Ice (April 2017) anthology compiled by our publisher. Her story, Beneath the Wildflowers, is great and provides a sample of her writing. The best part? The anthology is FREE!

Now, here’s more about Donna and her books…

SAMSUNGD.G. Driver loves writing about diverse characters dealing with social and environmental issues. She has been writing and publishing for 22 years and has won awards for her fiction and nonfiction books for young readers. She mostly writes contemporary fantasy like the Juniper Sawfeather Novels and her romantic ghost novella Passing Notes. However, she has also written a middle grade contemporary novel about bullying and autism called No One Needed to Know, and she has short stories ranging from romance to horror in several anthologies. When she’s not writing, she can be found teaching or performing in a community theater show somewhere around Nashville.

Learn more on D.G. Driver’s WEBSITE and BLOG.

echo[7605]Back Cover Blurb for Echo of the Cliffs:  The mermaids are back, and they’ve got a message for Juniper Sawfeather.

Juniper knows American Indian mythology connects the mermaids she rescued from the oil company to the ancient spirit trapped forever in a tree. The third part of that myth is about a man turned into stone, but where could he be and what will he be like? While on a quest to find the answers, her boat is attacked by a killer whale. It appears to have been led by mermaids. So, are the mermaids trying to tell her how to find them? Or are they warning her to stay away?

Once again, June is on a heroic mission, the most frightening and magical adventure yet. A thrilling ending to this award-winning young adult fantasy trilogy.

Author Interview:

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

I guess I’d like to spend the day with Juniper herself. She’s kind of lonely, and her best friend Haley never really gets her. I’d like to just hang out with her at the beach, taking nature photos and drawing pictures together while talking about big dreams and adventures we’d like to go on.

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

I’d like to see Chloe Bennet from Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. play Juniper. I think Dylan Massett from Bates Motel would be a gorgeous Carter if he grew his hair out a little. It wouldn’t hurt my feeling to see Lou Philip Diamond as Peter Sawfeather and Julia Roberts as Natalie Sawfeather.

Great choices! What attracts you to writing in the contemporary fantasy (or urban fantasy) genre?

I’m a sucker for plot-heavy books. I know a lot of my author friends cringe at that, but I like adventure stories, whether they are fantasy, historical, mystery, contemporary or what-have-you. I do like character-driven stories – I just like to see those interesting characters do stuff and not sit around having feelings. I also like it when unusual things happen to normal people. These are my favorite kind of fantasies. I enjoy them much more than epic or high fantasies set in other worlds.

Is writing your full-time job? If not, what else do you do?

No. I work full-time as a teacher at a learning development center in Nashville where we help special needs children alongside their typically developing peers. I’ve been there 12 years.

What are your hobbies outside of writing?

I love reading and watching movies and TV. I also am a singer/actress and try to get on stage at least once a year in a community theater musical or play – usually alongside my husband or one of our kids. I used to perform a lot more (my degree is in theater), but I’m trying to devote more time to writing.

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

Rejection has been harder for me than negative reviews. So far (knock on wood) the criticisms I’ve had of my published books have all made sense to me. I mean, there are trolls who give one stars for no reason, but usually a person who takes the time to write something has a valid point to make. I don’t always agree, but I understand what they’re saying. Rejection is harder, and I’ve dealt with it all my life as an actress and author. The thing that hurts the most about it is that I often never know exactly why my work has been rejected, just that it wasn’t “what they were looking for”. I often get very ‘nice’ rejections complimenting me on my skill but not loving the story I’m telling.

What time of day do you prefer to write?

I usually write on the weekends in blocks of time. My weeknights tend to be about marketing, as I have less time to get anything done because I have to feed my family and spend time with them. When I’m under a deadline, my family eats a lot of fast food and is ignored to a certain extent.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on two YA projects right now. I’m cleaning up an old manuscript to get it ready for submission. It’s an adventure/ghost story. The other project I’m working on is adding 2 related stories to my novella Passing Notes in order to create a full-length book. Fingers are crossed that Fire and Ice YA Books will like both of these projects and take them on.

Is the setting of your novel based on a real place? Tell us about it and why it inspired you.

Yes. I set this series in Washington. I wanted the oil spill that starts off the first book, Cry of the Sea, to be in the Pacific Northwest, similar to the Exxon-Valdez oil spill of 1989. I used real cities and places in that book. In book 2, Whisper of the Woods, the forest is set in the location of a real American Indian reservation, but I purposely never gave the name of the reservation.

A large part of book, 3, Echo of the Cliffs is set at the very top corner of the continuous United States. I knew that I needed a magical stone or rock or cliff for this book to go with the legend, and I researched a few different places. What finally won me over were these magnificent sea stacks, the tallest among them called Fuca Pillar, that exist right where the Strait de San Juan meets the Pacific Ocean at the most northwestern point of Washington State. The Fuca Pillar, at the right angle looks a bit like a big face. I knew the story had to wind up there, but I won’t tell you why or what happens.

Sounds like the perfect setting for your story, Donna. Thanks for being a part of my blog, and best wishes on your book release!

 

What is a Thunderclap?

Secret confession:  I sometimes find marketing my own books tedious and frustrating. (Shocking, isn’t it?) I’ve made full use of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to get the word out, but my reach is limited and I’ve had to face the cold truth that not all of my friends and family want to read my books, much less help me with marketing. I decided to try something new with the recent release of my second YA novel, Barn Shadows. Enter Thunderclap

You might be wondering, what is a Thunderclap? Basically, it is an online crowdspeaking platform that allows you to connect with other people’s social media accounts in order share a message. First, you have to create a campaign. (For example, my campaign was the Book Launch for Barn Shadows.) Within your campaign, you can post photos, write some backstory, and link to a website. Next, you invite people to join your Thunderclap. They will receive a message informing them of the date and time that your Thunderclap message will go out and they can choose whether to authorize their social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr) to share the message. I timed my Thunderclap to go out on the day of my book release. It’s fun to watch your social reach grow as each person joins your Thunderclap.

Here’s what my Thunderclap page looked like a few days prior to my set date…

Thunderclap photo

Thunderclap is free, as long as you reach the required number of supporters (100). There are also paid versions for people who can’t reach up to 100 supporters. I joined a Facebook group where people supported each other’s Thunderclap campaigns. Between the Facebook group and my friends, family and writing colleagues, I easily reached 100 supporters by my end date. Here’s what my final numbers and social reach looked like…

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So I reached 230,672 people, instead of just 3,000 of my own Twitter followers and 250 of my Facebook followers. I was happy I took a chance on Thunderclap. It worked out for me, as I saw a big spike in sales on the first day my book was released. I have to assume at least some of those sales were generated by the increased exposure from the Thunderclap campaign. It was easy to use and FREE. I recommend giving it a try to any of my fellow authors who have a book release coming up. What do you have to lose?

Author Spotlight: Nina Mansfield

I’m so pleased to feature Nina Mansfield on my blog for this month’s Author Spotlight! Nina and I share a mutual publisher (Fire and Ice), and her YA mystery, Swimming Alone, was released on the SAME DAY as my YA mystery, Trail of Secrets. It was an instant connection! I read Swimming Alone last year and recommend it to anyone looking for a fun and mysterious read that will transport you to a quaint, New England seaside town. Now here’s more about Nina and Swimming Alone

NinaMansfield2016[2854]Nina Mansfield is a Connecticut based writer. Her debut novel, SWIMMING ALONE, a YA Mystery, was published in 2015 by Fire & Ice YA. Her short mystery fiction has appeared in ELLERY QUEEN MYSTERY MAGAZINE, MYSTERICAL-E, KINGS RIVER LIFE MAGAZINE, and anthologized in FAST WOMEN AND NEON LIGHTS: EIGHTIES-INSPIRED NEON NOIR. Her graphic novel FAKE ID: BEYOND RECOGNITION (illustrated by Leyla Akdogan) will be published in installments online by PlumeSnake.com soon. Nina began her writing career as a playwright; she has written numerous plays, which have been published, and produced throughout the world. Visit her website at: www.NinaMansfield.com.

SwimmingAlonefrnt (2)[2855]Back Cover Blurb:  The Sea Side Strangler is on the loose in Beach Point, where fifteen-year-old Cathy Banks is spending the summer with her aunt (who happens to be mystery writer Roberta McCabe). Although thrilled to be away from her psychotic, divorcing parents, with no cell phone or internet access, Cathy is positive that her summer is going to be wretched. Just when she begins to make friends, and even finds a crush to drool over, her new friend Lauren vanishes. When a body surfaces in Beach Point Bay, Cathy is forced to face the question:  has the Sea Side Strangler struck again?

View Swimming Alone on Amazon.

 

Author Interview

When did you first know that you wanted to become a writer?

I wrote and illustrated my first “book” when I was five years old. It was called CINDY AND SALLY IN POLKA-DOT LAND. I wish I knew what happened to it! So I guess I’ve wanted to be a writer for almost as long as I can remember, but I started to take my writing seriously about 12 years ago.

What attracts you to writing in the mystery genre?

I write mysteries because I have always loved reading mysteries. I am intrigued by the criminal mind. I also believe that all human beings are capable of both tremendous evil and tremendous good, and I love delving into what might motivate that evil side to come out.

What are your hobbies outside of writing?

I love seeing theater. I also write plays, and I was in actor once upon a time,  so I try to see as much theater as I possibly can. Luckily, I am a short train ride from New York City. I see everything from thought-proving dramas, to experimental theater, to Broadway musicals.. Lately, since I have a toddler, I have also been enjoying a lot of children’s theater.

What are you working on now?

I have a couple of short mystery stories in the works, and I have been revising and rewriting a young adult paranormal romance/thriller for quite some time. I hope to finish it soon! I also recently had my graphic novel FAKE ID: BEYOND RECOGNITION start coming out in installments at PlumeSnake.com, and I am working on promoting that as well!

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

Last year I attended a number of writing conferences and met so many wonderful people. One of the most amazing things I got to do was participate in Malice Go-Around at Malice Domestic, which is like speed-dating for authors. I got to “pitch” SWIMMING ALONE to over 200 mystery fans. It was so much fun!

Is the setting of your novel based on a real place? Tell us about it and why it inspired you.

SWIMMING ALONE is set in Beach Point, Rhode Island, a fictional location inspired by my childhood memories vacationing in Rhode Island. Every summer, my grandparents would rent a cottage near the beach. There’s something about being near the ocean—that salty sea air, the feel of sand on my skin, the sound of the waves—that has always relaxed and inspired me. Luckily, no serial killers were ever on the loose when I was vacationing there!

Yes, that’s a good thing! Thanks for participating, Nina. We look forward to reading more from you in the future.

In the meantime, stay tuned for next month’s Author Spotlight with YA fantasy writer, D.G. Driver!

Courageous Heroines of YA! (Blog Hop)

Courage QuoteAs part of April’s Kickass Girls of YA blog hop event, I’m writing a post about what I love in my favorite YA heroines. So many admirable traits make for strong female characters in YA fiction: cunning, intelligence, physical strength, empathy and loyalty, to name a few. But for me, one trait stands out more than the others, perhaps because there are so many varieties of it. I’m talking about courage.

I enjoy reading and writing about courage because it first requires knowing the character’s vulnerabilities. Ambrose Redmoon says, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” John Wayne stated it more simply when he said, “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.” That quote always makes me smile because it reminds me of my main character, Brynlei. (Literally!) She is terrified of breaking promises, drawing attention to herself and disappointing people, yet she abandons all decorum when she gallops her horse into the off-limits forest in the middle of a horse show in the name of something “more important than fear.”

Few things make a reader connect more with a heroine than knowing what terrifies her. When a character then has to face those fears, the reader is left with no choice but to pull for her. The recipe for a courageous heroine is simple–the main character possesses a weakness, fear or phobia, and then is placed in a situation where she has to choose between letting the fear overtake her, or facing down her weakness and doing the right thing. Obviously, she’s going to take the second option because she’s a kickass girl of YA!

I also love courage because–just like our favorite heroines–it comes in many varieties. Of course, there’s the high-action courage we all love–the female dragon slayers and the girls who try out for the all-male football teams who risk their physical health–or even their lives–by taking on opponents much larger than themselves. This kind of bold courage is exciting and fun to read, not to mention empowering.

There’s also the “taking a stance” kind of courage–the girl who sacrifices her social status by standing up for the new kid who’s getting bullied by the popular crowd, or the girl who finally walks out of an abusive relationship, or the one who organizes a rally to save the dying whales. Often these characters know they’ll be judged harshly by their peers or society, but they find the strength to stay true to themselves and their values. Who wouldn’t want to root for these heroines?

Quiet CourageThen there’s a more subtle kind of courage:  the girl who has never spoken out in class before decides to raise her hand. The introvert who feels insecure in front of others tries out for the school play. Or the one whose parents tell her she’ll never amount to anything resolves to focus on her studies every day, quietly charging toward a better life. I love this kind of complex and understated courage, too.

Ultimately, kickass heroines are courageous in their own ways. No matter what type of courage they embody, they all decided that something else was “more important than fear.” This is what makes them #kickassgirlsofya to me.

Who are your favorite YA heroines? What fears did they overcome in order to demonstrate their courage?

Now visit the other bloggers in this BLOG HOP!

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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

 

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!

Trail of Secrets Audiobook #Giveaway!

Audiobook Giveaway!

To celebrate Mystery Thriller Week, I’m hosting a giveaway on my blog. Five lucky winners will receive a promo code for a free download of my YA mystery, Trail of Secrets (Dark Horse * Book One), audiobook on Audible! The second book in the series (Barn Shadows) is being released on March 14th, so there’s never been a better time read–or listen to–Book One!

The Giveaway runs February 12th-21st, 2017. Click below to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And after you enter, be sure to stop by Mystery Thriller Week to discover more great edge-of-your-seat reads and giveaways!

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…

 

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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