Category Archives: Uncategorized

Get to Know Me

After seeing the always amazing Mercedes Prunty post this fun questionare, I decided to snag it from her and do it myself. I’m a sucker for this sort of thing, and they’re a relaxed way to get to know a blogger.

Feel free to take this and do it yourself!

1. Favourite smell – This is probably my weakest sense, but I love the smell of dusty attics, rain after a dry spell, wet forests, my husband’s cologne and of course, old books.

2. Last time you cried – Last night, while watching a rescued baby donkey video. I might not be a big cryer but donkies are so damn cute.

3. Favourite pizza – Supreme.

4. Favourite flower – Lavender.

5. Favourite animal – It’s too hard to pick one. Let’s say birds, donkies and snakes.

6. Did you go to college – Yep.

7. Untie your shoes when taking them off – Nope.

8. Roller Coaster – Love them.

9. Favourite ice cream – Mint Chocolate Chip or whatever has the most chocolate.

10. Shorts or Jeans – Jeans.

12. What are you listening to – Rain outside my window, but I’ve been obsessed with Tupperware Remix Party, Florence + the Machine, and as always Bastille.

13. Dancing on ice? – I…don’t even know what this is asking me.

14. Tattoos?– Nope. I love them, but never felt the pull to get one.

15. Hair colour? – Brownish blonde.

16. Eye Colour? – Brown.

17. Favourite food to eat? – As opposed to drink? Ha. No, I like salad with goat cheese, apples and pecans.

18.Favourite holiday? – Halloween.

21. Beer or Wine? – Neither if I can get away with it.

22. Night owl or morning? – Night Owl.

23 Favourite day of the week? – Wednesday. I don’t know why, but I’ve always loved it.

24. Do you have a nick name? – Andie or if you ask my uncles Andieroonie.

25. Favourite season? – Fall

26. Favourite place to get away? – A bookstore, anywhere outdoors, or anywhere I can be alone.

27. Missing someone? – My bestie/sister from another mister.

28. Dream vacation? – To take a stealth camper van cross country and visit as many national and state parks as possible.

30. Regrets? – That I didn’t learn how to stand up for myself sooner.

31. Would you Go back to school? – Maybe. I went back to a trades school, but I wouldn’t mind getting a degree in something art and/or writing related.

32. Ocean or lake? – Lake but really I love huge rivers.

33. Who do you think will do this? – Someone like me who’s procrastinating writing.

Holler at me if you do this!


Urban Fantasy Genre Guide

This is a great list for writers and readers a like! It’s no secret, if you’ve been following me for a while, that I love Patricia Briggs and almost everything she’s done for the urban fantasy genre, but these other authors have also contributed so much to the literary world.

If you’ve read some of these, drop me a line and tell me what you think!

wrapped up in books

We’ve started a new kind of book club at my library: a genre book club. Each month, staff selects a sample reading list for a genre, patrons sign up for a book from the list, and then staff facilitate a discussion where each participant can discuss the book they read and how it relates to the genre as a whole. Ideally, everyone leaves with some books that piqued their interest, whether they were an avid reader of the genre or a total newbie.

Instead of having just one staff responsible for each meeting, the responsibility rotates and everyone is leading the discussion and compiling the genre guide book list for a genre they actually read and enjoy.

Even though I already lead a YA for grownups book club and my teens’ top ten book club, I couldn’t resist when I was asked to partner with staff from readers’ services to do…

View original post 2,130 more words

What I learned – January Goal Update

January is over, and I must say I feel like I kicked off 2018 with a bang.

I’m hoping I continue this into February, a month that’s always given me a hard time over the years, but before I jump forward, it’s time to look back.


  • Try at least one new thing a week. 
    • I’m pretty excited about this one! This month, I learned how to use a sewing machine, finished crocheting an afghan, baked a cake from scratch, learned how to find my way from my small town to San Antonio, Texas, and started gardening. I learned way more than I thought I would, and it’s been an amazing experience.
  • Start a writer’s Group.
    • This one was technically accomplished, even if group attendance has an abysmal. The next meeting will take place on Saturday, so I’m crossing my fingers that people show up!
  • Host a giveaway. 
    • This one wraps up today, and I hosted it over on Twitter. There’s still some time if you’d like to jump on board.



  • Do a January writing challenge.
    • This kind of ties in with the next one, but when I’m working on a novel, I tend to ignore challenges. Because I started two big projects this month, doing a challenge didn’t seem as important as starting to write my next book. Not a great way to handle challenges, but I’m glad I got my next novel started.
  • Complete an Instagram or Twitter Challenge. 
    • I’m not sure why I’m having such a hard time with these. I really enjoy them, however I push them to the back burner whenever another project pops up.
  • Limit my social media time to an hour a day. 
    • My online life goes one of two ways. Stay on it all day every day, or avoid it completely for days. The first one isn’t good for me, and the second isn’t good for my writer’s platform. I need to be more consistent and focus on the quality of what I’m posting, not the quantity.
  • Write and read for one hour a day.
    • While I accomplished this about half of the month, I still didn’t consistently write and read every single day. I have faith that my February will be better though.



  • Sent more queries for “Flightless” and got a full manuscript request. 
    • After a handful of rejection letters in early December, I took a break for three weeks before I started submitting again. On my third email, I got a full manuscript request about an hour after I sent the query, and it really renewed my faith in my writing.
  • Found books to cover my “2018 Reading Challenge”
    • Reading challenges are completely different for me than online challenges. I started a writing list on Instagram, and my stack is piling up. I’m going to have a blast knocking out all these books.


Did you finish any goals? What were you happy to have finished, and what do you wish you had done better?

Is your author platform shareable???

What a great informational post about engaging with your audience. I definitely could stand to do more when it comes to the interacting with other authors and bloggers. Thanks for such an amazing post Mercedes!

Mercedes Prunty Author

Are you not getting much action or shares, are people ignoring you and not engaging in your posts? Maybe its time for a social media clean up…

  • So it’s time to look through your social media platforms and see if there is anything we need to clean up. Do your pages hold anything that some of your readers might find offensive? E.G. Political views, Religious posts, and even some personal posts might be seen as offensive, even if you don’t mean them to come across that way. Yes ‘you’ like everyone else has their opinions and it can sometimes make for a good debate on certain topics but its normally best to leave them to you personal pages that your readership, fans and maybe potential publishers and editors can’t see. You don’t want to tarnish your author platform before you’ve even got started on becoming a brand name. (Unless it…

View original post 500 more words

5 Books That Changed My Life 

With Flightless being sent out to agents, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about books I’ve read that influenced my life as a writer. There are almost too many to pick from, but here are five that I still have on my bookshelf because of how they impacted me.

Most of the books on this list are from my childhood, or changed my life not because of what they said, but because of where I was when I was introduced to them. I believe that some books don’t have to have a powerful message, they just need to be in your life in the first place.

1. The Giver by Lois Lowry
This was the first book I read more than once. I was in sixth grade when I first got my hands on it, and Lowry’s writing captivated me in a way no other book had. Not because of the world or the characters, but the ideas. It made me think about who I was, and opened my eyes to themes in novels such as standing up for what was right and choosing the right path over the easy one. To this day, The Giver makes me want to not only write well, but to have my books mean more than just words on pages.

2. Full Tilt by Neal Shusterman
This book from my childhood, and its author if you’ve read my previous post about him, had a profound affect on my writing life. Full Tilt was the first book I read where the hero was reluctant to be one, and it showed me that not every protagonist needed to be excited by the aspect of being a hero. It shaped how I’d create my future characters.

3. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
I had to read this for a project in my high school English class, freshman year. I was a quiet high school kid with a fly under the radar type of attitude, but this book, like The Giver, taught me that I needed to chase after my dreams if I was ever going to achieve them.


4. Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
Back in 2008, as a quiet high school senior, I found a website dedicated to the Patricia Briggs series. I hadn’t read them, but the community was welcoming even to a newbie like me. I jumped on board and got to know fellow high school students obsessed with a world of vampires, werewolves, witches and then some.

It was here that I met someone who’s now a sister to me, who’s been my cheerleader when I’m down and an editor when I needed tough love. I want to meet, and sometimes surpass, her high standards and I hope to one day be half as creative and well spoken as her. If Patricia Briggs never wrote her Mercy Thompson series, I never would’ve found her, so I will always be grateful for her work.

5. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
This wasn’t the first book I read by Neil Gaiman, but it was the first time I was introduced to Terry Pratchett’s work, and wow, I was blown away. I read it only two years before his death, and when he passed away, I was crushed. Up to that point there was yet to be an author I enjoyed reading who died while I was only just getting introduced to their work and it reminded me to cherish the writers who are still alive.


Interviewing for Novel Information

If you have questions while writing your book, chances are the answers are online. For writers, the internet helps us create more believable worlds, shaped our characters to sound more realistic, and given us enough information to become textbook experts on a number of topics.


That being said, one of the most important tools in a writer’s skill set is the face to face interview.

Over my years of writing, I’ve spoken with a number of people regarding my writings. From a woman who lived at a Hindu temple in Texas, to a Wiccan priestess, to even people who trim trees for a living; I’ve contacted a number of individuals to speak with to help me create my novels.

Here are some questions I get asked from my fellow writers as to how I go about my interview process.


How do you find the people to interview?

I’m a wanderer. I like to go for drives to see where I end up, and often times it’s in the most interesting places with interesting people. If I’m not lucky enough to find a place, however, I check with friends and family to see if they know of anyone who’s associated with the topic I’m needing information about. And last case scenario, I check online for people who come recommended in their field.

What type of questions do you ask?

Anything that could possibly pertain to your novel. From personal opinions, to politics of that lifestyle, to what it took to get them to where they are today.  Most people are willing to share it all.

What should I do if I don’t use the information?

There have been a few interviews where the information I gathered wound up not helping me for my novel at all. In most cases, I don’t do anything. I log the information away and see if I can use it in the future. I do, however, keep track of who I interviewed so I can credit them, should I ever use the information they’ve given me.


Anything else?

Be up front – Not everyone will want to be interviewed for a novel. If you’re not honest with them, and later on they find out you used things they’ve said in your book, that’s a bridge you could potentially burn for future questions.

Have your questions written out ahead of time – No one wants to spend 45 minutes of an interview fumbling through words, or trying to come up with questions. This is especially important for phone interviews as the interviewee can get bored very quickly, and lose interest in what you’re asking.

Be polite and professional – This should be a no brainer, but keep in mind that this person is taking time to talk about their personal life or work. They don’t want to feel like they’re wasting that time or you don’t know what you’re doing. Again, you don’t want to burn bridges with people you might need in the future.

Be aware of scams/Be safe – This is another thing that should go without saying, but don’t feel like you should have to pay your interviewee. If you’d like to take them out to coffee or lunch, that’s one thing, but if someone’s demanding payment or is asking you to follow them to a location where you don’t feel safe, don’t do it.

Be grateful – I would recommend putting a mention to your interviewees in the acknowledgement of your book. Even if you only use a little bit of information from them, it’s important to show gratitude as a courtesy.


Best of luck on your interviews!

Author Interview #6 – Claire Brown

Time travel, war, and a dog named Hero. Claire Brown’s social media caught my attention the instant I saw it, and since I’m a sucker for all three of those things, I spent hours panning through her pages. With three books under her belt, and more on the way, I hope to be able to do a book review for her work soon. For now, enjoy her interview, and keep an eye out for more from her in the future.


Q.  As always, I like to do an introduction before we get to the writing questions. Tell us a little bit about yourself, outside of your writing life.

I don’t think I’m ever outside of my writing life!  I’m one of those writers where there is always a story in my head playing like a movie in the back of my mind.  

That aside, I’m an avid reader, movie goer, theater lover, baker and dog walker.


Q. I already mentioned this to you, but your dog, Hero, looks like such a sweetie. IMG_1598What are the joys that come when working with a close animal companion?

Thank you, Hero is as his name suggests a ‘hero’.  He’s a four year old Golden Retriever.  I’ve had Retrievers most of my life, Hero came in to my life when he was four weeks old and I was looking for a companion for my mam while I was at work.  We’d lost my dad the year before, while he was ill we couldn’t have pets but without him and without a dog there was just something missing.  From the moment we met Hero and he decided to chew my shoe we knew he was meant to be with us. 

HeroSo since the day we brought him home at 9 weeks he’s been a joy to be around.  Even as I write this he’s sitting beside me trying to close my laptop so I will take him for a walk.  He’s the kind of dog that makes you move, he never leaves your side and he makes you laugh everyday. 

He is the inspiration behind Captain in The Poppy Garden because he is in his own way a service dog to us.  He’s just a very naughty one!


JonahAxe_SMASHWORDSQ. Your Jonah Axe Series looks filled with action, adventure, and time travel. What inspired you to write this series, and how many books are you planning on writing for it?

Like most people there are times in life when something happens or you do something and wonder what if I’d done it differently, would things be better, worse or just the same?  I decided if there was a way to change things in life how would that work and how would it impact the lives of the people given that power to change things. 

I think the opportunities for the series are endless, I have drafted out a second novel which would look a little deeper in to the background of some of the main characters, after that I  have considered going back in time to the Tudor court, to Jack the Ripper and so on. 



Q. Being from Sunderland, England, what made you want to study American history?

I always had an obsession with America from childhood, I’m not quite sure where it came from.  When I applied for University and was talking to advisers about courses one recommended Joint Honours and since it gave me the opportunity to go to the USA and study there as well as in the UK I jumped at the chance.  I studied at Western Washington University for part of my second year and made some great friends.  


ThePoppyGarden_iPADQ. As a military spouse, I’m always grateful to writers who capture how war affects not only those who fight, but those they come home to. When writing The Poppy Garden, were you able to speak with multiple veterans, or was it inspired by solely your grandfather’s experiences?

I lost my grandfather when I was 16, and I always feel that the book of his life has so many blank pages. I tried for a long time to fill in those blanks but there is a lot of information on what happened to him that it’s just not possible to uncover. I couldn’t tell his story completely and that always frustrated me.

I was working in my garden one day trying to restore it from the manic digging of Hero when it dawned on me how much my grandfather relied on his garden and that it wasn’t just a hobby  for him.   When I started to think about it in a different way I found that there was another story I could tell. Initially I was able to speak to my grandfather’s brother who could tell me what happened once my grandfather got home. 

As part of my research I have spoken to a lot of ex-service personnel from forces and other uniformed services and I also managed to contact a member of my grandfather’s crew who told me what had happened to all members of the crew after WW2 and how they had coped or not as the case may be. 

I also looked to the women in my family who had coped with extremely stressful situations and how they were able to support their partners they became the inspiration for Sky. 


Q. Authors from all walks of life it seems has an opinion on one very controversial topic. Writer’s block. Do you believe in it, and if so, how do you get out of these slumps?

Oh yes I believe in it and I have had periods where I just haven’t been able to write.  I think for me it’s when real life outside of writing becomes too stressful or there is too much going on and your mind is just too tired.    I usually try not to beat myself up about it, I’ll try other things to relax be it go for a walk, go to the gym, read a book.  I think it’s about giving myself permission to have a break, not feel guilty about not writing and allow my mind and body to relax, then when I’m ready the ideas will start coming back. 


Q. Looking back on the past three novels you’ve written, what advice would you give to not only your younger self, but writers just starting to put out their books?

Write, just write anything and everything, don’t get hung up on the end goal whatever that is for you.  Write whatever your imagination inspires you to write.  Not every idea will become a book, maybe you’ll have an idea but you don’t really expand on it for a year or so, the main thing is you sit down, make time for writing to be part of your life because it makes you happy. 

When you have your framework or even finish your book, don’t be disheartened by those who criticize you, not everyone will love everything – it would be a rather boring world if that were so.  Pick your reviewers carefully, family and friends are great but if your friend is a horror fan giving them a romantic drama probably isn’t the best idea.   

At the end of the day as long as writing makes you happy that’s the most important thing. 


Q. With your extensive knowledge in history, what time period do you find yourself drawn to the most, and why?

I think it would have to be either Tudor England or WW2.  

When I was around six or seven I remember getting a magazine on Queen Elizabeth I and since then I’ve always loved the Tudor period.  I’m constantly watching documentaries about it and reading up on the dynasty from the War of the Roses through to the Gunpowder plot. 

Obviously my interest in WW2 stems from my grandfather, I used to spend my weekends with him and my Nan watching old movies, listening to Glenn Miller.  I also think my personal style suits 1930’s/1940’s dress – just as some people love the Boho look or goth look I tend to love that Old Hollywood style. 

I think everyone has some time or something that they harken back to as almost a golden age, looking at it through rose tinted glasses and that’s probably how I look at both these time periods.


Q. The editing process can be a long road if you don’t know where to start. When it comes to make adjustments to your first draft, what’s the first thing you look to improve on?

Initially once I’ve completed a work, I give myself around two weeks away from it so when I go back to it it’s with a fresh mind.  I then tend to work on grammar, layout and story edits as I go.   I think once I have it in almost the right format it’s easier for me to work through and spot the errors, omissions in the story.  I can then work on expanding where I need to or cutting out what’s no longer necessary. 


Q. From your blog, you say you have a love of baking. What would be your favorite pastry to make, and your favorite pastry to eat?

I’m love making a steak pie – I do have to be careful with some foods so I tend to make it how my nan taught me as a puff pastry top rather than a full pastry base.  There’s nothing better than having that golden crispy top to slice through and hear crack and crumble. 

On the sweet side at the moment I’ve been making a lot of Jam twists and spirals which are so simple to make and taste great.  Or there is a recipe I came across on Goodfood to make an almond biscuit which is like a cross between a meringue and a macaroon which are completely addictive. 

If I’m buying a pastry I’m a sucker for an almond croissant.  I love anything with almonds and/or marzipan. 

Q. What made you decide to do the independent route when it came time to publish your books, and how has it been the most rewarding?

I had tried from the age of nineteen to go down the traditional publishing route with a few projects including a screen play and radio play.  I took some time away from writing during my dad’s illness, after I lost him I decided life was too short to wait for someone to believe in me and if I wanted to be a published writer there were now ways and means that weren’t available when I was nineteen. 

It was a great moment for me to finally see my work in print – as a paper back and as an ebook, it did boost my spirits and help me in darker times to focus. 


Q. In Chapter 9 of your blog is all about the right visual for book covers, and I agree with you that Jeanie Henning’s work is eye catching and beautiful. While many authors don’t even get to speak with their cover artists, let alone have a say in what goes on said cover, what’s your favorite part about building your cover with a fellow artist?

I was really lucky to find Jeanie when I did, she’s a great artist where as my artistic talents are probably more like a two year old with colouring pencils.  I’m creative just not artistic!  Jeanie is great as she has a way of working that really works for me.  For my first two novels we work on a Q&A basis from which she draws out the major points of the novel and works on creating images to match that.  Once she has a draft we discuss it and make minor changes.

For The Poppy Garden, it was a slightly different process as I knew the visual I wanted – I put in to words what I was looking for provided some images and Jeanie expanded on that.  The first version we discussed and tweaked before we got to what is the cover now. 

I think for me its vital to get a cover I love as it represents me and my work so I have to really connect with it. 


Q. What genre do you love to read the most, and who’s your favorite author in said genre?

I can be pretty eclectic in all things, books, movies and films. 

I do love Agatha Christie, so when I want something familiar and reassuring that I know I’ll love I tend to go for a cozy mystery, I love the Agatha Raisin Series and recently I’ve been reading some of the British Library Crime Classics which are brilliant.

History wise I love reading Lucy Worsley, her book The Art of British Murder is a favorite.

Romantic Drama’s are great and I’ve really enjoyed books by Fiona Harper, Samantha Tongue, Holly Martin and Lisa Dickinson. 

I’m also a Christmas obsessive so any Christmas book is good for me.  I love classics like A Christmas Carol each year I have a stock of Christmas themed novels to read from the beginning of October. 


Q. Novel writing and blogging can be two completely different animals, but it looks like you’ve tamed them both. What’s the most enjoyable part of blogging that you’ve found to be different from writing novels?

I think for me blogging has become a bit like keeping a diary, while I’m not going to reveal any deep dark secrets it does help me clear my mind.  It’s like having a conversation with a friend over a cup of coffee and piece of cake. 


Q. Holidays play a big part in your blog. If you could spend Christmas with any author, alive or dead, who would it be and what would you get them?

It would have to be someone like Charles Dickens for Christmas – he created the imagery of Christmas for me, the snowy Victorian streets with the carol singers just make me feel all warm in side. 

I think as a present for him it would have to be a leather monogramed notebook and fountain pen – I’m not so sure he’d appreciate an ipad! 


Q. My favorite topic to talk about with other writers are when it comes to their antagonist. Even if it’s a “situational” antagonist, the relationship between the writer and their villain has always fascinated me. Which antagonist do you find yourself enjoy writing the most, and how do you relate to them?

For me as a child I was bullied severely from around 5 to 16, as anyone who has been bullied will probably tell you those experiences stay with you.  I think for me my villains take on the worst elements of the bullies, I’m not sure if I enjoy writing them or whether it’s just become a way of me addressing something that shaped my life. 


Q. You’re very organized when it comes to your creative process. What would you say is the best part about the way you work?

I think for me love the whole process of writing be it making notes in a not book because I’ve had a great idea in the most ridiculous of places, or walking with Hero and looking like a right idiot as I dictate ideas in to my phone. 

There’s nothing better for me than sitting by the fire with my laptop writing away it’s like dictating a movie that plays in my head only if I don’ like a scene I can quickly rewind and change it. 


Q. What novel would you say is under-appreciated that you’d suggest the audience to go out and read?

One of my all time favorites is Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Lerox, I think the musical outshines the book in peoples mind and while I love the musical the book to me is a darker exploration of what makes a complex monster and the social constructs of the time. 


Q. To end, tell us a little bit about what you’re working on right now and when you hope to have it finished.

Currently I’m working on an idea for a romance with a hint of fairy tale about it. 


IMG_0760Want to find out more about Claire Brown? Check out her websites and social media below.

Blog:     &

Twitter: @CLBrown_author
Draft to Digital;

Author Interview #5 – Cristina Tarantino

Cristina Tarantino is one of the first memoir authors I’ve had the privileged to interview and wow, does this woman get around! Not only a writer, Cristina does photography and creates journals as well. She’s filled with creative and spiritual insight and I hope you enjoy looking through her work as much as I have.


All of the pictures, besides my “Author Interview” picture above, are works of Cristina Tarantino. Enjoy.

Q.  Let’s start off the way I always like to. Tell us a little bit about yourself, outside of your writing life. 

My name is Cristina Tarantino, and I am 35 years old. I am married and have two boys. I am originally from Spain, but was born and raised in Germany. I thought growing up with two cultures was fun, until I married my American husband, and added yet another culture to my life. Being immersed into so many cultures is a blessing, since it has enabled me to be a very accepting and open person. I am also a very spontaneous person with lots of hobbies. Adventuring and traveling is one of them, which came in handy during my 13 years as a military wife, and is still a big part of my life today.


dsc_0072Q. Along with writing, you also draw and take part in photography. Which of your creative outlets do you find yourself more competitive than the others?

I would say that photography is the outlet I find myself more competitive in, since I most often compare my work to other photographers, and often forget that just like in writing everyone has their own style. I had to remind myself that to stand out one has to be different, and not the same as everyone else. This mindset helps me a lot when I am being creative.


Q. Judging by your twitter and blog, you travel quite a bit. Which location do you find yourself most inspired by?

I have to say that I feel happiest and most inspired when I am surrounded by nature, preferably mountains. We usually try to take trips every weekend, if it’s not to a neighboring European country, than to a neighboring town. Nevertheless, cities and their old architecture can also be an inspiration for me; however, I would go extremely early in the morning as to find it empty. During the day the city is just a bit too busy for my mind.


Q. As you say on your websites, English is your third language, with your parents from Spain, and having been born and raised in Germany. How have these many cultures influenced your writing and do you find yourself drawn to one more than the other?

Surprisingly enough I find myself most drawn to the American culture and the English writing. As far as being influenced, I think all three cultures have influenced my writing in different ways. Nevertheless, I feel that the political state in these countries have influenced my writing more than the culture has.


Q. You said you were creating a memoir based off your life while your husband’s been deployed. What do you find is the most difficult part of writing about your past?

Actually I find writing about my past extremely liberating. I feel as if I have bottled up all the stress, worries, and struggles I faced growing up, as well as before, during, and after my husband’s deployment, and can now finally let it all out through my writing.


Q. Many writers have to find a balance between family and their work. As a mother, how do you make time for your craft while working on your novel?

When my children were little I used their nap time, and the evenings, after they went to bed, to pursue my interests. Now that they are older I use the time they are in school to write and market my work. When I am busy with the kids, or my daily routine and something pops in my head, I just take out my phone record my thoughts for later when I have more time, and move on with what I was doing.

For my photography, I use our family weekend trips to take my pictures. Usually it’s a family affair where I propose a location, and my sons and husband either agree or disagree. If they disagree we just find another location. Beauty can be found everywhere in nature, so I am not very picky, and of course I am trying to make it fun for everyone.


Q. What do you find is the best part as a writer living the military lifestyle? 

Well my husband separated from the military five years ago; however, when we were still living the military lifestyle I think the best part is getting to know new places and new people. I find meeting new people inspiring, since everyone has a unique life story. I think there is much we can learn from each other, much that could possibly influence our writing positively.


Q. You live a very active lifestyle. Hiking up mountains, taking long walks with your camera, and of course keeping up with your sons. What advice do you give to writers who are trying to spend less time in front of their computers and more time outdoors?

Spending time outdoors is extremely important for our mental well-being, and not to mention for our eyes. Sitting in front of the computer for hours, sometimes frustrated because of writers block, cannot be healthy. I would say set a goal for the day and stick to it, then go outside find a nice path to walk on or bench to sit on, and reflect. You can even bring a pen and paper, just in case that the fresh air and new scenery will inspire you.


10. Do you find yourself inspired by your boys’ interests when working on children’s books?

Although my boys are a bit too big for the children’s book I published, they were my inspiration. My children are growing up as American Muslims, and that in itself can be a bit of a challenge today. With them as inspiration, I wanted children of different faiths, race, and ethnicity to know that it is great to be different. I titled it “I Belong Here” because that pretty much sums it up.


dsc_0012Q. You created a journal for first time Muslims, titled My First Ramadan Journal. Tell us a little bit about it and what would you say is the hardest part in today’s world to live a more spiritual life?

My First Ramadan Journal is a journal I published for people to record their own experience when they fast 30 days for the first time, during the month of Ramadan. It can be fun and entertaining to read later on in life.

As far as the difficulty of living a more spiritual life goes, I think life as we live it today it quite distracting. We are constantly bombarded with the latest gadgets, cars, and brand names that we seemed to sometimes forget all the blessings that we already have. I think we just have to lose the feeling of entitlement, and become thankful.


Q. What made you want to write memoirs, and what part of your writing process do you take the most joy in?

Before my husband deployed I bought two journals. My plan was for my husband and I to write in them, and then send them to each other every other month. With such a long separation, 15 month, I figured that the small things would not come up in our phone conversations. So I wanted the journals to catch all those small things that we were missing in each other’s lives while he was deployed. Somehow we only sent the journals to each other ones, and after the deployment I kept writing into mine. With all those journal entries I thought it might be interesting for other people to read what I went through in my life, not just the deployment, but also my conversion, and other things that happened to me throughout my life.

As far as the writing process, I would say I enjoy the prewriting the most. Being able to read my old journal entries, and remember certain life experiences while writing them down is nice.


Q. Many writers have said the hardest part about the work would be the rewrites. What’s your editing process, and how much time do you spend reworking your novels?

My memoir is the first big project I have written. Although I have edited some parts, I have not officially finished it so the editing process that fits me is still to be determined.


Q. Who would you say has been the biggest help in realizing your dream as a writer?

I would say all the authors of all the books I enjoyed reading have helped push me into the direction of writing. (My favorite author would be Jane Austen, and I like the works of Bronte, just to name a few).


Q. On top of all your creative works, you’ve also designed “My Panic Journal”. How
do you hope this journal helps others, and what advice would you give to those who suffer from panic attacks?

In Jan of 2015 I had a panic attack while picking my son up from school. Since then I have been struggling to gain my independence back. Writing has helped me cope with this, and I thought I would provide a journal to possibly help someone else coping while writing.

My advice is to stay strong and let this experience in life make you stronger. Stay positive and try to get out of your comfort zone on a daily basis, this will make you more confident, thus more your old self.


Q. To wrap things up, tell us a little bit about what you’re writing next, and when you hope to accomplish it?

I am trying not to start any other big writing projects next to my memoir, since I think it would just delay the editing process and publishing date. Nevertheless, I am always trying to publish my picture e-books of my latest adventures, so stay tuned and follow me on Amazon.



Want to know more about Christina? Check out some of webpages and social media below!

Facebook: @imagesthroughmylens @tarantinoc @tarantinosart
Instagram: @tarantino_C  & @tarantinosbooks
Twitter: @tarantinocristi
GoodReads: Cristina Tarantino

5 Reasons to Join a Writing Group

Back in 2015, I decided it was time. Time to get more serious about writing. Time to get published. Time to BE a writer. My first step? Join a writing group. I’ve been out of one for about six months now, and here’s what I miss.
1. Community
Writers tend to be solitary animals. I’ve never met a person who enjoys writing, who also loves spending hours upon hours of time around others. That’s not to say they don’t exist, this is just from personal experience.

That being said, I also believe that having a group of people you can share your experience with is a relief. Knowing that other writers are having the same struggles, are climbing the same uphill battles, and who can relate to long nights with lots of coffee makes you realize you’re not so alone. You can also make long lasting friendships that reach across states. Even if you’re pretty solitary in your writing life, it’s nice to have people who know what you’re going through.

You can also make connections and network. I met everyone from editors, published authors, and even a past agents who could give tips on how to get published. I learned more from them in two years than I could’ve learned on my own.

2. Build a Habit

You see it a lot in the “up and coming” writing crowd. People who say they would be writers if only they had the time, or if only they had the inspiration. What’s really missing is habit. It’s the sitting down and actually writing, on good days and bad. A writing group, at least a good writing group, will help you build a routine . The first group I joined had two very strict rules. Submit ten pages a week, and submit in the correct format. Not only did this force me to have ten pages done, it also taught me the importance of a submission format.

If I didn’t have my group expecting pages week after week, I would’ve just given excuses for why I couldn’t plug out one or two pages let alone ten. Even if I had days when the work wasn’t good, at least there was something there. As bad as some of it was, I was still writing. That drive pushed me through my first book, and is getting me along in my second, as well.

3. Learn writing rules, and how to break them.

My writing was sloppy when I first joined the “Harker Heights Writing Knights”. There were only five of us who showed up regularly, but the four other people in my group kicked my butt to get my work presentable for the public. Grammar problems were brought to light, story structure was built rock solid, and sloppy dialogue was whipped into shape. Now, I know my writing isn’t award winning, but I learned the rules and why they were important.

And I learned how to break those rules. I realized sometimes style is more important, and that if done right, style and the rules to writing can learn how to coexist. Sometimes it takes experienced writers to show you this.

4. Get out of creative ruts

This was my favorite part of the writing groups I took part in. The sessions that ended in us comparing notes on how we could get over the mythological “writer’s block” were often the ones that brought us closer together. We could borrow techniques on how to get through a tough writing day and hopefully learn something about our own processes, as well.

5. Read outside your genre

I’m a fantasy and science fiction fan, to my core. Give me dragons, urban werewolves, and aliens over realistic fiction any day. I can enjoy a good suspense novel, or action adventure, but try to get me to sit still long enough to read something about realistic people and realistic problems, and I run the other way.

Being in a writer’s group forced me to open up to this genre and a few others that I’m not well read in. When you read with unbiased eyes, you begin to see genres you previously disliked in a new light. I realized that while I might not buy that type of novel on my next trip to the bookstore, I could appreciate them.
Still on the fence about joining a writing group, and want to ask some questions? Maybe you were in a writing group and you want to share a positive experience? Comment below and let me know!

(Please save your worse experiences for my “reasons not to join a writer’s group” post, coming soon!)

Looking for a writing group near you? Try or checking on facebook. Writing groups also like to frequent coffee shops, cafes, and libraries, so check your local online or on location bulletin board to see if there’s anything posted. If you’re still a student, check with the English department and ask if they know of any open groups looking for members.

Disclaimer :: Please exercise caution when jumping into new groups. Always meet in a public places with people you don’t know.

Author Interview #4 – Lissa Dobbs

When looking for authors to interview, I’m always excited to find an author with a high fantasy universe and well developed characters. Lissa Dobbs’ “never ending story” is just that. As I looked through her website and blogs, it became clear she doesn’t mess around when it comes to her world building.
Check out my interview with her, and swing by her websites all about her world of Shadow Walkers.
Q. Let’s start off by getting to know you a little bit. Tell us a little bit about yourself, outside of your writing life.
There’s really not too much to tell. I enjoy reading, of course. I work a day job that, while not overly stimulating, does give me time to pursue my writing. My youngest son is about to graduate high school, so we’ll be getting into college mode soon. I’m hoping that will give me time to return to some of my other passions, like making dollhouse miniatures and crocheting.
Q. I noticed you also do work as an editor. What’s your favorite part of working with other authors?
I like getting to know them and getting to know their worlds. Besides, it gives me a great chance to read some new books before anyone else gets to.
Q. While reading your website, I noticed you’re heavily influenced by folklore and fairy tales. Which fairy tale you do you find yourself drawn to the most, or what trope do you notice showing up in your writing?
Oh gosh, there are so many fairy tales. I love all of them. I can’t really think of a favorite one, though I do find it fascinating that so many of the tales have parallels in multiple cultures. It’s as if the same story is written and rewritten over and over again. You find the same thing in mythology. Carl Jung did a lot of work on that with his idea of archetypes.
Q. As a Tolkien, Rowling, Lewis fan myself, I have to ask. What Middle Earth race do you relate to the most? What house would you be grouped in? And if your wardrobe was a portal to any magical world, which world would it be?
I’m a big fan of the wizards, especially Gandalf, though I find the elves and dunedain fascinating as well. I’m a Ravenclaw at Hogwarts and a Thunderbird at Ilvermorny. My patronus is a wild boar. As to the wardrobe, Raymond E. Feist’s Midkemia all the way. Let me go there, please!
Q. After looking through your books, I was most intrigued by your novel Wolf in the Shadow. What inspired you to write this novel?
This was actually an exercise in working out character history. Two of the main characters play large roles in my trilogy, the one I call ‘the story that never ends’ because I’ve been working on it for two years and can’t seem to settle into completing the revisions on the first one, and I wanted to explore their history a bit, to get to know them. I knew the two would be connected, but I wanted to know more about that connection and the dynamics of it. I knew from the beginning how it was going to end, but I won’t mention that.
Q. Every author has their own habits and rituals. Some write for hours, at a slow steady pace, and others hammer out words in less than thirty minutes. How much time do you find makes for your “ideal writing day”?
When I’m off work, I can write for twelve to fifteen hours in a day. If it’s going well, I’ll keep going as long as my eyes are able to look at the computer screen. I get tired, of course, but I never get tired of doing it.
Q. Which of your antagonist did you find yourself connecting to the most when you wrote them? Which protagonist did you connect with the least?
The antagonist I connect with the most is one that is an antagonist in ‘the story that never ends’, but he’s a protagonist in one of the others. I can’t say too much about that without a spoiler alert for those who haven’t read the books.
As to the protagonist I connect with the least, I think that one is Gwennyth Grimsbane in Aradia’s Secret. She just flat out gets on my nerves. I get that she’s scared, and I understand why, but…suck it up and go on. Please!
Q. You have many drawings of fantastic beasts on your site, as well as links to crochet blogs you recommend.  How do these other creative outlets inspire you when you sit down to write?
Well, some of the critters come from mythology (my son draws them for me), but others come to me at odd times. I like the world I’m working with to be a complete world. The creatures help me get a feel for the world and how it operates.
The crochet patterns are also my books. I’ve been crocheting since I was thirteen, but we won’t say how long ago that was, and I love doing it. It’s peaceful. One of the best parts, though, is creating patterns, whether they’re something simply like a washcloth or more complex. I have a partial pattern for a fall tablecloth, but I simply haven’t had the time to sit down and make one. If I ever do, I’ll probably publish that pattern as well.
Q. Richard Bach once said, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” Who or what kept you writing at your low points on your road to be an author?
Mostly the people in my head. The ideas come whether I want to sit down and write the stories or not. It keeps me going when I feel like it isn’t worth the effort.
Q. Your work is filled with rich, vibrant cultures. Do you find yourself basing these off of any culture we see in today’s world, or are they whatever comes to mind?
Some of them may have tidbits from our cultures, but none of them are copies. I like to toss in different elements to make things original. A lot of the cultures develop on their own, and some of them are just coming to mind. Now that Aradia’s Secret is finished, I want to take some time and do some heavy-duty world building, even more so than what I’ve already done.
Q. When working on cover art, what inspires you the most?
I’m not the best at cover art, so I go with what I can make that I think might look all right.
Q. Ethan Grimley III is a Shadow Walker whose books, A Walker is Born, Cronos Attacks, and Revenge of Cronusare written for the early middle grade reading level. What do you hope inspires your young audience the most about your novels?
I’d like more than anything for some of them to slow down and spend some time with the old stories, the myths and legends. I think we’ve lost a lot of our love for those and the lessons they can teach. Sure, technology may make us more efficient, but myth and legend help us to be more human. We need more of that.
Q. If Ethan’s story were to be picked up for a movie or tv show, who would you hope to have play his lead role?
I have no idea. I don’t watch too much TV, and movies are mostly background noise for me. Just someone who could get to know Ethan and portray him realistically.
Q. I loved the imagery you put into your short story, How I Came to Experiment With Bonded Humans, especially how you described the demons your main character Professor Valedihr comes into contact with. What inspired the way these creatures looked?
I read a LOT of mythology and folklore, plus I read a lot of fantasy. Some of the images came from the woodcuts in old books (check out Internet Sacred Text Archive); others came from documentaries like Blue Planet, the ones that show the sea creatures that look like they could’ve come from the third hell.
Q. Some writers like to work alone, others need a “tribe”. Do you surround yourself with other authors, or do you prefer to figure out your plots on your own?
A little of both. Most of the people I bounce ideas off of aren’t authors. Since some of them have the same interests I do, it’s easy to get into a ‘what if’ kind of discussion. Most of the time, though, I work alone.
Q. What made you decide to self publish vs. the “traditional” route?
I chose self-publishing just because it seemed like fun. I have complete control over my work and can pretty much do what I want to with it. I like that.
Q. Writers, like all artists, collect ideas from their childhood and use their experiences in their stories. What place or person from your youth tends to show up in your work the most?
You know, I don’t think there really is one. Not a person anyway. I read a lot as a kid, and I’m sure some of my favorite characters may shine through, but I can’t think of a character or situation that really comes forward in my books. I’m sure someone else who read them and knew me then might could pick some out, though.
Q. What do you find is the most enjoyable thing when writing for children, and the least enjoyable thing when writing for adults?
I love writing for all age groups. There really isn’t a preference for me. All of the stories, the ones from Grevared anyway, actually link together, even if that isn’t obvious. Even The Chronicles of Ethan Grimley III has bits that will matter later, even if they don’t matter in a children’s book.
Q. If you could spend the afternoon with any author, alive or dead, who would it be?
Raymond E. Feist. He’s always been my favorite.
Q. To end, tell us a little bit about what you’re working on right now and when you hope to have it finished.
I want to go back through ‘the story that never ends’ again and maybe get it ready to publish. I also want to take some time to visit the world and maybe stay there for a few days, write out a bit more about the flora and fauna, the subcultures, etc. I’m not planning on putting out another book until fall or winter.
Please feel free to list any of your webpages and social media below. If I left one out, you’re more than welcome to add it.
Facebook: @shadowwalkersofgrevared
Twitter: @LissaDobbs