Author Platform Advice

One of the best ways writers can learn the ropes of writing and publishing is by reading blogs. There’s a wealth of information out there. True it takes time to search out the good ones, but it’s time well spent. Think of it as an investment in your writing career.

Years ago, when I first started writing, I had a go-to blog, the site of former literary agent turned author/editor, Mary Kole. You can check her blog out at

The information you’ll find there is a goldmine. Many people used to ask how I found the time to read her posts three times each week. My answer was always the same. I made the time to read them because little by little, post by post, the information helped me to learn the craft of writing. I looked forward to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings when her new posts came out. Not just because of the writing stuff she blogged about but the way she blogged about it. Now, all these years later, I still read it. It’s that good!

And I still read many other writing blogs as often as I can. I still have much to learn when it comes to publishing and also when it comes to writing. All writers do. In fact, we can all learn something new, we can all improve…with each and every manuscript.

This morning, I stumbled across a post from another super-helpful writing blog that I follow, written by author Kristen Lamb. The post was so amazing that I wanted to share it with all of you today. She discusses the ever popular topic of author platforms in a way that I had never thought of it before. It hit home with me and I’m guessing it will hit home with all of you too. Click here to read it.

So happy reading all! I hope you find the information helpful and I hope you’ll do what Kristen suggests in terms of cultivating your own author platform in a way that works for you.

Have a fantastic week!

Jackie ❤

Monday Bliss

Hurray it’s Monday, and I have cause to celebrate. My weekend consisted of more than cleaning, cooking, and sporting events!

First, on Saturday, I spent a the morning working out which is something I’ve missed over the past few weeks. (Yes, that’s a cause for celebration, guys!) Then I spent an enchanted afternoon with my home-from-college daughter at the theater watching Beauty and the Beast. And it was simply spectacular! The costumes, the songs, the actors, the story… are all very much still stuck in my head. 🙂

Then, late Saturday night, after a week of almost non-stop writing… I finished my WIP! Yes, it’s true! I finally completed this draft, and it only took me 18 months. Yikes! But the sequel to The Crimson Five: Spin the Golden Light Bulb is now an actual finished story and I am overjoyed! (Title to be shared soon). Needless to say, there was much cheering and celebrating in the Yeager household late Saturday night.

On Sunday, I spent a quiet day with the whole family under one roof. Even though everyone had work or homework to do, it was fantastic to be together. It gave me the opportunity to work on the Writers Around the World series for the blog and connect with another amazing writer, Kellie Doherty. Reading through her answers to my interview questions, while drinking tea, and listening to the buzz of my family’s chatter was pure bliss. Plus, because she has so many writing projects going on, it motivated me to get writing today, so there’s that! To read the Q & A with Kellie, click here.

There’s nothing like family, a bit of writing success, and the muse of creative works to make a weekend.

But now what? Well now comes my favorite part of writing…revision.  Revision is like a do-over, a chance to turn your draft into what you actually imagined your story to be. Not the mess that it is now. So off I go into my revision cave. I’ll let you know when I make it back out. By then I’ll divulge the title and everything!

Have a wonderful week! You keep writing too and keep polishing those words. Oh and enjoy some fresh air also. That usually makes everything so much better.


Meet Kellie Doherty

Hi Everyone,

It’s time for our latest Writers Around the World Interview…a Q &A with the lovely writer, Kellie Doherty. I had a fantastic time on Sunday, drinking tea, and catching up with her. I think you’ll like reading what Kellie had to say…enjoy!

Hi Kellie! Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by the site. First things first. What name do you like to go by, and do you use a pen name for your writing?

Hello! My name is Kellie Doherty. I don’t use a pen name for my writing.

Where are you from and where do you live now?

I’m originally from Eagle River, Alaska, where I grew up, went to school, and landed my first full-time job. I moved to Portland, Oregon, in 2014 to obtain a master’s degree in book publishing from Portland State University, and I still live in Portland today.

That sounds like an adventure in and of itself! So, how long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing since I was a teenager and dabbling in fanfiction. Fanfiction was a great tool to craft my basic writing skills since you’re using already created worlds. Doing so, you can focus more on plot and create original characters. After a few years of writing fanfiction, I decided to create my own worlds and transitioned into fiction writing.

What age group and genre(s) do you write in? The same one all the time or have you written in more than one?

Back in my fanfiction days I wrote for teenagers and young adults, because I was growing up and I wanted to have characters I related to. I generally stayed in the cartoon realms—like Digimon and Pokemon—since I was obsessed with those shows. Nowadays, I write for adults in the science fiction and fantasy genres, usually adding in a romantic twist and staying in the LGBT sphere.

We know how important it is to read widely in the age group/genre you write for. What’s a book you’ve read and loved?

I’ve recently become a hardcore fan of Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles. It’s an older adult fantasy series, with the first two books out in 2007 and 2011 respectfully, but I hadn’t really heard of it until last year. The fantasy aspects in it are amazing, I enjoy Rothfuss’ descriptions, and Kvothe is a complex—if a bit too love struck—main character. I’d highly recommend it if you’re into fantasy, though you’ll have to join in on the long wait for the last book in the trilogy.

With so many great books, it’s hard to resist them all! What’s a book out of your genre/age group you’ve read and loved?

I will forever and always say Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling. It’s a YA fantasy…have you heard of it? (Joking, who hasn’t?) It defined so much of my teenage and young adult years that I still re-read it, listen to the audiobooks, and watch the movies to this day. Really, it’s the series that transitioned me from writing fanfiction into writing original fiction, stuck with me over the years, and inspired my dream of becoming a published author. If you somehow haven’t read it, you really should.

Writing is the greatest profession there is—obviously! If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be? Don’t hold back. No limits on this one!

I would love to be a full-time editor for genre fiction like scifi/fantasy/romance. I currently work as a freelance editor at my own company Edit Revise Perfect, but it’s certainly not a full-time gig. I just love books, so being an editor would be the dream job for me. Outside of the publishing sphere, I’d want to work in event planning—it’s a passion I discovered at PSU while organizing Ooligan Press’ Write to Publish 2016—or, if I was true to my job-dream of my youth, I’d want to work at the zoo taking care of the fuzzy animals. (I wanted to be a tiger trainer when I was a child.)

All of those professions sound fantastic to me too…well maybe not the tiger training one!

Sure, it’s possible to like both, but which do you like better—drafting or revising?

Drafting for sure. It’s the freedom of it that I enjoy. I can write literally anything I want on the page in that first draft, anything I think would or could work, because I know after that draft is done, I’ll go back and pare it down until it actually works. I enjoy the creation of the drafting stage, too, simply because it’s fun to world-build and create characters and spin plotlines. Revising is key, of course, and I enjoy doing that as well, but drafting is more fun for me.

Do you plan first or write as you go along?

I used to be the fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type of writer. It’s how I wrote the first draft of Finding Hekate, the first book in the Cicatrix Duology, but I definitely planned out Losing Hold, the second and final book, because I had to make sure all the lose threads of the first book were dealt with. I’m currently working on a new fantasy series, and I’m going to plan the hell out of those books because they’re all intertwined so tightly together that I need a plan of attack or I’ll get overwhelmed by all the details. I do fall back on my non-planning skills when I write short stories, flashes, or poetry, though, since there are less details to keep in place and it’s fun when you don’t actually know where the story is going or how it’ll end.

What’s your favorite day of the week? How come?

Saturday! It’s the best day of the week for two simple reasons. First off, it’s my splurge day, a day off from my super-healthy-eating where I can eat unhealthy things. (I usually go for cookies, pizza, donuts, or ice cream.) Secondly, it’s a relaxing day, where I write, read, take walks on the waterfront, go see a movie, or hang with friends.

Where do you usually write? At a desk? Outside? In the car? Be honest. Where does the magic usually happen?

I usually write in my apartment on my couch, usually under a blanket with my cats sleeping next to me, a mug of tea (or cider or water) within easy reach, and Lord of the Rings fantasy music playing in the background. I’ve written in cafes, but the music and buzz of conversation distracts me too much to be productive.

I have that problem writing in cafés sometimes too. Are you a morning person or late night owl? What time do usually write?

I’m a morning person in the fact that I like to wake up early and start my day, but I usually write at night. In my most dedicated of mindsets, I find it’s easier for me to set aside time in the evening before bed to write than first thing in the morning, though I do carry around a notebook/pen in case inspiration strikes during the day.

What made you write your story in the first place?

I decided to write my science fiction adult novel called Finding Hekate and then the follow-up Losing Hold because I had originally written a short story titled “Silence” that my college writing group fell in love with. My college friends were fascinated with Mia Foley and wanted to know more about her. At that time I had only penned short stories, so making the leap into novels was a huge deal for me, both terrifying and thrilling. I wanted to know what made Mia tick, though, and transforming the short story into a longer duology seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so.

What’s your favorite food(s)?

Oh goodness, my favorite foods? I love food! If I had to narrow it down (without narrowing it at all, ha!), I’d say Japanese, Italian, Chinese, and my family’s cooking. Like, I love sushi and katsudon and udon soup, but I also love pasta and wine and garlic bread, but I also love broccoli stir-fry and pork buns and mu shu, but I’ll always love my mom’s chicken and my dad’s stir-fry and my sister’s s’more bars. So I have a lot of favorite foods! Oh! And I must have cookies, hence the splurge day.

What’s your favorite drink to drink while writing?

I’ll always gravitate to black tea with a splash of milk and honey, but once that mug is done, I’ll just have water.

How about hobbies? Do you have any besides writing?

I have a few hobbies like reading everything I can get my hands onto, playing tabletop and role-playing games (like D&D), and walking.

Do you have a job other than writing?

I work as a freelance editor for Edit Revise Perfect and I’m the Assistant to the Editors for Cirque Literary Journal, but those are very part-time jobs. I’m currently looking for a full-time job with a bit more stability.

Tell us about your family…

My parents and older sister currently live in Eagle River, Alaska. My parents are retired so they get to do all sorts of fun things like volunteering, engaging in a variety of hobbies, and taking lots of vacations. My sister works for the state and is getting her master’s degree in public heath.

Who’s usually your first reader(s)?

For Finding Hekate and Losing Hold my first readers were my college writing group and my café writing group. Since both groups are located in Alaska, I’m working on finding some new readers for my upcoming fantasy, though the first book is still in it’s first draft stage so I won’t be needing them for a little bit.

What has been your biggest writing accomplishment so far?

My biggest accomplishment thus far has to be having my first novel published. Finding Hekate came out in April of last year (2016) from Desert Palm Press. While getting your writing published isn’t necessary to be called a writer, it was a dream of mine since I was little, and I’m so happy my work is out there in the world. It’s one of my proudest achievements.

Congratulations! I’ll have to add Finding Hekate to my TBR pile. 🙂 So we know getting published isn’t easy. Why do you keep trying, even after you’ve already achieved that goal?

I keep trying to get published—by submitting to various journals and zines and contests and such—because I love my work! Like any writer, I put my heart and soul into what I do, and I want to see it out in the world. I want to know what others think of it! Plus, I include LGBT+ main characters (where the queerness isn’t the only thing about them) and I feel like it’s important to show this diversity in the literary world.

Absolutely. What’s your biggest struggle when it comes to writing?

Sitting down to actually write is my biggest struggle. I don’t know why, and it’s super frustrating. I know once I start writing I’ll enjoy it, and I also know once I finish for the day, I’ll be pleased with myself. I know I’ll have fun! I lose myself in it for hours at a time once I actually start writing. But the actual sitting down and opening the Word document is hard for me because I get distracted by other things—YouTube, TV, games, etc. I’m trying to overcome this by setting a specific time to write, but even then I find reasons not to do it. Honestly, I just need to shore up my resolve, turn off all the other distractions, and give it a permanent place on my daily To-Do!

I can totally relate to that. What’s your next step? Revising? Writing a new book? A sequel?

I’m currently in the process of proofreading Losing Hold. We’re nearly done, and I’m super excited for the pub date in April. I’m currently working on my next series, a five-book fantasy, and I’m actually on the last few chapters of my first draft. The first four books will introduce a main character and the fifth book will have them all come together. It’s something that’s been germinating in my mind for a few years now, so working on it has been rewarding. (Once I actually sit down and do it.) It’s been a fun adventure, though, diverging from science fiction to fantasy, shifting gears from tech to dragons, and I’m enjoying every step of it. I can’t wait to go back to the beginning to revise it. Once I let it breath on it’s own for a little while first, of course.

Wow! That sounds amazing! Do you have any advice for writers still in the query or sub trenches?

Keep at it. Love your work enough to keep going. Build a support system around you of other writers. (If you’re on Twitter check out the #amwriting hashtag; there are so many lovely writers out there to build an online community with and will keep cheering you on.) Remember, Harry Potter was turned down twelve times (and I bet those agents and publishers are kicking themselves) but Rowling kept at it and so should you! Also, remember to take time for yourself: take a walk, read a book, spend time with your family. Self-care is vastly important for overall health. It’s hard to be in the trenches, but keep going. Your characters, your plotline, and your story is worth the struggle.

That’s great advice for all of us. What will you do when you reach your writing goal? Who will you tell first?

Currently my writing goal is to finish the first draft of this fantasy novel and when I do finally write “The End” I’ll treat it as a splurge day: get some wine, make a fancy meal, and eat some cookies. Probably take a nice walk on the waterfront, too, since the flowers should be blooming soon. The first people I’d tell would be my mom, my dad, and my sister…followed up by EVERYONE ELSE on social media.

If you could travel to any place in the world, and experience any culture (for inspiration of course!), where would that be?

Hmm, I’ve been lucky enough to travel to many different places already—Ireland, England, France, the British Virgin Islands—but if I could go to anywhere and experience any culture, I’d probably pick Japan. I went there in 2014 with my family and the experience was absolutely amazing. The food, the people, the sights…it was all eye opening, and I’d love to go back. Plus, now that I’m working on a fantasy series that has quite a lot of unique magical creatures, it would be wonderful to go back and learn about the different creature myths of the Japanese culture and pull inspiration from them.

Japan would be amazing. I hope you make it back there one day. Congratulations on your soon to be released novel, Losing Hold as well…another one to add to our TBR piles!

Thanks, Kellie, for taking the time to share your writing life with us. We wish you the best on all your writing adventures!

And so you we can say hello to Kellie if we run into her in person one day, here’s a pic…Author Photo Kellie Doherty

To connect with Kellie or to learn more about her books, you can find her at the following places:

Twitter –

Facebook –

Instagram –

Websites – and

Blog –

Thanks for reading, guys! Have an amazing day!



Meet Kathryn Lee Martin

Hey there everyone!

Thanks for stopping by the site today. I recently had the pleasure of getting to know the sweetest person, writer Kathryn Lee Martin, through the Writers Around the World series. We had a nice “chat” and I learned so much about her life as a writer. So, grab a coffee, tea, or latte…and enjoy!

Author Photo Kathryn Lee Martin

Hi there, Kathryn! Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by the site. First things first. What name do you like to go by, and do you use a pen name for your writing?

Hello and thank you very kindly for having me, Jackie.  My name is Kathryn but please call me Ryn.  It’s the nickname I’ve adopted over the years after some friends had trouble spelling my name and it stuck from there.  At the moment, I have not yet had a chance to adopt a pen name so for now I just write under Kathryn.

Okay Ryn, ( I love that name BTW!) where are you from and where do you live now?

Does the middle of nowhere count?  That’s what I’ve heard plenty of people refer to it as over the years, among other less pleasant things that aren’t fit for print when they have to drive the whole way out here to visit.  Despite being somewhat remote from civilization, I’m blessed to have grown up in and still call the outskirts of a small town rural area near the Blue Mountains of South Central Pennsylvania home. 

That sounds like bliss actually and a perfect place to write. 🙂 So, how long have you been writing?

Oh wow, that’s a tough question because I’ve been stumbling around and learning to dance with words through trial and error for most of my life and tripped over my own feet so many times it’s not even funny.  But if I had to put a rough number on it for serious writing in general, I buckled down and started honing my craft through practice and getting kicked around quite a bit back in early high school, so I’ve been at it for about 13 years at this point with the past few years actively submitting the manuscript, though I still have so much more to learn.

What age group and genres do you write in? The same one all the time or have you written in more than one

I am a farm girl at heart, so I saddle up the literary horses and take young adult readers on one heck of a “what if” themed trail ride that often involves science fiction, fantasy, and westerns.  There’s just something I love about being able to tell some of the grittier, darker stories for that particular age group.  Most of what I write explores impossible odds and dire futures, falling into a fusion of post-apocalyptic science fiction (with a fantasy bend) meets the gritty lawlessness of the old west with some historical World War II undertones.  In addition to dark sci-fi westerns, I do have a whimsical side and love to tinker with fantastic kingdoms, swords, time-travel, mythical creatures and steampunk-themed fantasy on the side.

We know how important it is to read widely in the age group/genre you write for. What’s a book you’ve read and loved?

Whereas I have far too many books to name that I’ve enjoyed reading over the years in both sci-fi and fantasy and an ever growing stack of great new stuff I’m working my way through, (we would be here all day if I listed them all) the series that stole my heart and lured me into wanting to become a writer was easily Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain series.  I’ve always had a soft spot for coming-of-age fantasy stories and I can recall so many wonderful days spent getting caught up in the quest Taran and his companions were on. 

With so many great books, it’s hard to resist them all! What’s a book out of your genre/age group you’ve read and loved?

Again, there are way too many to list in one spot but hands down the honor goes to The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien.  This was a book that had a profound impact on me since first reading it and I’ve always admired not only the writing itself, but the subject matter it handled in general.  It’s one of those books that I highly recommend you read in your lifetime if you get the opportunity.

Writing is the greatest profession there is—obviously! If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be? Don’t hold back. No limits on this one!

If I wasn’t a writer (and my eyesight wasn’t so poor,) I would absolutely love to be in the specialized trade of restoring old books by hand, or be a certified tradeswoman in the art of customized book binding (the old school way, by hand with the artisan tools and everything.)  There’s just something intriguing about seeing old books being salvaged and restored to as close of an original condition as they can be brought back to so they can be passed down through generations and preserved.  That and I love working with my hands, so crafty things are up there with farming. 

That’s really neat. Restoring old books by hand seems like it would be so difficult, but amazing!

Sure, it’s possible to like both, but which do you like better—drafting or revising?

I’m passionate about the process of drafting and capturing my imagination on paper almost as much as revising, but if I have to pick between the two, revising just narrowly edges drafting out for the win.  I love to tinker with things by nature and being able to sit down with a completed draft allows me the freedom to get lost in the story and fall in love with it all over again, only this time, I can alter some things that aren’t working, keep some wayward characters in better check (or let them run wild even worse) and then pretty much destroy most of it in spectacular fashion and rewrite it all over again just because I need an excuse to brew another pot of coffee.

But in all seriousness, I enjoy being able to improve the work itself and take it to a new level through revising.  It can be a very humbling experience to hear both the good things and the not so good things through the feedback I receive, and I often enjoy returning the favor with looking over other people’s works as a CP as well because you never stop learning little ways to improve upon the craft.

Do you plan first or write as you go along?

Yeah…about that (insert nervous smile here.)  It’s really neither here nor there on the planning part sometimes because with me it changes depending how I feel about it at the time.  In the past I used to try to plan every single little detail out on paper but no matter how much I thought I had it down each time, (or thought I knew about my own story) there was and still is always that one character or event that just decides to take my carefully constructed outline and just torch it right in front of me because why not.  That and it drives me in circles if I get too worked up over figuring out all of the details upfront and feels too mechanical and scripted for me personally which ties up time that could be spent just writing the story.  I do try to at least write a somewhat detailed, long synopsis of how I envision the story arc overall as well as some key scenes, foreshadowing, and so on that I want to see happen, and run from there.  It also allows me to really get to know my characters and their world better so adjustments can be made along the way and I can turn it over to them at some point.

I do keep a loose series overview for books that have series potential which I use to connect things along the way and to set up future story points from early on to make things easier in the long run.  And while I do try to keep it close to the outline when I actually write the story, sometimes, things just happen and you have to roll with it and see where it takes you.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it’s the worst choice made in a long time.  I never really know until I get it down on paper and can look at it better.

What’s your favorite day of the week? How come?

I don’t really have a favorite day of the week in all honesty since I just take it one day at a time as it is and am thankful for each one. 

Where do you usually write? At a desk? Outside? In the car? Be honest. Where does the magic usually happen?

I am pretty sure that at this point my cluttered desk sits at the center of what should be the South Central Pennsylvania equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle.  (It’s not half as mysterious or as cool as the actual Bermuda Triangle.) So much coffee, tea, and hot cocoa has gone missing at this one location that it might as well be classified as one though.  But when I’m not hoarding coffee cups at my desk, I’m usually setting up shop wherever I can get some quiet.  Sometimes it’s outside, sometimes I’ll just build a blanket fort.  It largely depends on how I’m feeling. 

Are you a morning person or late night owl? What time do usually write? 

I’m definitely a night owl.  A significant part of my writing time usually happens after dark but it varies sometimes to daylight hours depending on the situation and when I can actually get the time to write.  I’m way more productive at night because it’s quieter around here and I can focus better. 

What made you write your story in the first place? 

An innate love of writing drives most of it, but the characters and a need deep in my heart to tell their stories sets the journey.  I’ve always been one to play the “what if” game when it comes to writing and well, these particular characters just wouldn’t leave me alone, so I decided to run with it and see where it took me.  It’s funny in a way because no matter how much I tried to put this project aside and talk myself out of it, something just kept me working at it and before long, I got to know these characters like old friends and I wanted to know how their story ends.  It’s like that with most of my projects.  I love the characters too much to let them down by not writing their stories and sharing them with the world. 

What’s your favorite food?

I’m pretty much fueled by coffee and marshmallows at this point, but I am also rather fond of good ol’ fashion homemade PA Dutch chicken pot pie, shoefly pie, shepherd’s pie, teriyaki chicken, sesame chicken, sugar snap peas and anything with potatoes in it.

What’s your favorite drink to drink while writing? 

Coffee with hazelnut creamer.  I’m pretty sure I’ve helped keep a local Amish canning company/coffee shop in business for the past few years at this point with the amount of bagged local ground coffee bought from their shop each week.  And when there’s no coffee, Irish breakfast tea, hot apple cider, hot chocolate, water, or apple juice are just as good. 

Do you have any hobbies, besides writing? 

I’m probably pretty boring when it comes to hobbies, but I enjoy spending time outside with the animals as well as sitting quietly by a window while getting lost in my own little world daydreaming about fantastic worlds and the characters in them.  I also like to keep a small garden each summer, tend my roses, spend time outdoors just enjoying nature, and sometimes play a few video games when the weather is too bad to be outside for long.  Other than that, spending time with my family. 

Do you have a job other than writing? Being a stay at home parent counts in case my question isn’t clear! 

Promise not to laugh?  Before deciding to pursue my dream of writing after some significant health issues blindsided me and forced me out of it, I worked with gourds.  I worked at a small town gourd crafting company as a part of its seasonal field crew as a hand pollinator, harvester and sorter depending on the season, was a specialized parts maker, worked part-time in their finishing department (basically putting final touches on the gourds themselves like parts and stuff,) and from time to time helped out in their retail store when they needed extra people for open houses.  Basically, I was a professional master of the odd jobs.  At the moment though I’m a stay at home “critter mom” helping out around the homestead and trying to get everything back to some semblance of normal.

I promise, I’m not laughing at that at all. In fact, I find it fascinating! Tell us about your family. 

My family is relatively small but extremely close-knit, now more than ever.  I’m not married yet and have no children, but I do play the role of “critter mom” to a border collie, two cats, three goats, and a donkey.  I can’t say enough about how thankful I am for my family.  They’ve been incredibly supportive with all that has happened the past few years health wise and with my desire to pursue my writing.  We’re pretty much simple, God-fearing folks who are quick to turn to our faith over fear when it comes to things and too stubborn to give up no matter what the circumstances.  My father works with sheet-metal, my mother loves to play music and is also a stage three breast cancer survivor, and I have a younger sister who is an artist working towards her own dreams of eventually being in a gallery with her paintings.  So we’re a pretty artsy group across very different mediums. 

Who’s usually your first reader(s)?

I have been very blessed to have befriended quite a few people I would consider to be first readers for my work over the years.  I always run my earliest drafts by them before I build up the confidence to send the novel off to wherever it needs to go.  Three are the kindest young ladies from the west coast I have the privilege of sharing my work with and the others are three brilliant gentlemen and an equally brilliant lady who make up the small town, local writer’s group I am a part of. 

What has been your biggest writing accomplishment so far?

My biggest writing accomplishment so far aside from actually writing the book is being blessed to join Golden Wheat Literary and having Rebecca Angus as my agent.  Up until that moment, I’d only ever dreamed of reaching this point with my writing.  Being out on submission is a dream come true because for the longest time, I had trouble believing I would even reach this point.

Seeing as Rebecca is my agent too, that makes us agency sisters. So cheers to that! Rebecca is a great person to have in our corner, that’s for sure! But as we all know, getting published isn’t easy. Why do you keep trying? 

Because I’m far too stubborn to quit chasing this dream.  I have not worked this hard and crawled my way through the dust this far to give up and go home just because it’s hard.  If anything, that only encourages me to keep moving forward because in the end when I do eventually reach that point in being published and am able to share my story with the world, I will be able to look back and know that every setback, every disappointment, every test of faith, every moment good and bad of this journey was worth it in the end and that nothing is impossible.  

What’s your biggest struggle when it comes to writing? 

Crippling self-doubt and a severe lack of confidence overall at times are the thousand pound beasts in the room at any given moment with me.  There are days when I look at my project (or anything I write in general) and wonder if I’m the right person to be writing this book, if I’m just wasting everyone’s time, or if I’m even meant to be a writer at all.  There have been days where it gets so bad I just want to quit writing altogether and destroy everything I’ve ever written and not look back, but then I look at the project and remember why I started in the first place and remind myself that yes, I can do this and it will all work out.  I’ve come too far to quit.  It’s a rough road out there sometimes but that’s some of the roughest terrain for me personally to navigate on any given day. 

Many writers struggle with those same thoughts. I think it helps us to know we’re all in the same boat.

So what’s your next step? Revising? Writing a new book? A sequel?

I’m still on submission with my initial debut project as of writing this, so my next step involves a few things to keep me busy during the wait.  At the moment I’m tinkering with a sequel to that project, drafting out some outlines for its overall series and getting ready to tackle working on an unrelated project. 

Do you have any advice for writers still in the query or sub trenches? 

Absolutely.  It’s tough out there folks and is a difficult, heartbreaking (and very much humbling) journey.  You will need to bring your patience and determination for this.  My advice is that when you feel like giving up, remember why you started and keep pressing on.  Never give up on your dream.  You never know when that request is going to come in or what good things may be right there in front of you.

Remember that you will be rejected at some point, many times even, (everyone is at some point so you’re not alone) and some of those rejections will hurt and some may also be constructive.  Learn from them and keep going.  Every “no” is one step closer to a “yes” so don’t let rejection be something that makes you stop writing or makes you give up on your dream.  You’re a writer.  You will make it no matter how long it takes.  Just keep going.

If you haven’t already, find yourself some good critique partners to chat with about writing and your projects.  Also be open to being a good critique partner to others.  Feedback is a valuable tool so keep an open mind and be open to hearing it, even if you take your project in a different direction in the end.  Keep working at it and improving your craft because no matter how good you think a project is, it can always be made better in some small way.  I also suggest investing in some good coffee, tea, hot chocolate (or whatever your favorite beverage, comfort food, and so on might be) because they can make a rough day feel better and can make a really good day even more amazing.

Above all though, have fun and keep that passion for writing alive on your journey through these trenches as you navigate them.  You’re a writer on the journey to publication and are amazing for doing so.  Don’t ever forget that. 

I love that advice so much…What will you do when you reach your writing goal? Who will you tell first? 

When I pick myself up off the floor after hearing it’s happening and realize that I’m not dreaming, I have a few people to tell once I stop crying long enough to do so.  (I’m pretty sure I’ll cry when it happens.)  My CPs and family especially, but I’ll probably call my younger sister first.  And once that goal is met, I’ll set new goals to work toward all over again.

If you could travel to any place in the world, and experience any culture (for inspiration of course!), where would that be?

Let’s see.  If I could travel anywhere in the world, it would have to be to Wales and Ireland.  I’ve always loved castles, history, and reading about the culture and cuisine of these two countries in particular.  Having the opportunity to experience it all in person would be an amazing dream come true.  For now though I’m an armchair traveler. 

Thanks so much for your answers, Ryn. I wish you the best of luck on your journey, both towards publication and in the every day. Please stay in touch. We look forward to hearing your publishing news one day soon!

So thanks for reading everyone…To reach out to Ryn, you can find her on Twitter: @RynSageQuill.




Small Change, Big Deal

You may have noticed a slight change to the site. Or maybe you didn’t. Like I said it’s kind of small, just a change of phrase, a change to the tag line of the site. But though it may be small to everyone else in the universe, it’s a major huge big deal change to me.  Go ahead look up. You’ll see it. 🙂

Swirl and Spark is now my author site!!

I’ve toyed with the idea of creating a brand new separate author site, or even one that links back to this one. But…I just couldn’t do it. This is my website. This is the one I’ve put my heart and soul into for almost four years. This is the one that has allowed me to connect with so many great writers and I am just not ready to let that go. Not yet. Maybe one day I’ll branch out, but for today creating a whole new author site feels almost like a betrayal, like I’ll have to abandon all the hopes and plans I’ve had for the site through the years.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of having an author site. I’ve been working to be able to do that for much longer than I’ve even had this site. I love the idea of having a home base for my books. But Swirl and Spark is a part of me and so for now I want this to be the home base for my books and my author doings as well as a place for the writing community to gather. I know this site is not perfected yet. I have a lot of work to do to get it where I want it to be. Some of the tabs here are in dire need of updating (Hello Book Nook and Scribble Tips!) But just because I have a book coming out next year, doesn’t mean I won’t still strive to bring something to the writing community through Swirl and Spark. I want my author site to be more than a place where people can learn about my books and author events. Sure I’ll be adding that stuff at some point. But I want it to be more than that too. Who knows what it will look like down the road but that will always be my goal.

Does anyone remember Critique Corner? Back when I started this site (in 2013!) it was a periodic critique round where brand new writers (even kids!) could submit their work and get feedback from other writers. It was great fun and I loved hosting that series. But at the time there were other places writers could go for that, and over time it lost it’s popularity. So I phased it out in favor of other things. Some worked, some did not. Today, that spot is occupied by the Writers Around the World series. Although it’s only been up for a few months, the page views tell me that you like reading the interviews—and so do I! So I have every intention of increasing the frequency of those posts and seeing just how many fantastic writers (and people!) we can connect with.

I’ll continue to post about living the life of a writer too because that’s what I do. It’s fun for me to post about what it’s really like and hopefully something I say may inspire you along the way because I still believe that if this publishing thing can happen for me…it can definitely happen for you—if you are persistent enough. 🙂

So onward and upward! It’s time to get back to work. Time to draft, time to revise. Time to stay strong when any of it gets tough. If you get stuck for an idea or on a plot point, go for a walk. Fold the laundry. Take out that work from your day job. Watch Once Upon a Time on Netflix. Think about something else. The solution  will probably come to you eventually. But if it doesn’t, write something. Anything. Usually it takes nothing more than fingers tapping on the keyboard it get the ideas swirling.

Have an amazing day, everyone! But before you leave, check out the Q& A’s at Writers Around the World. There’s great stuff in those interviews, and some lovely writers to connect with.

I’m off to make some coffee and see how much of this next chapter I can write. Wish me luck!


Meet Michelle Barry

Hey everyone,

It’s time once again for a Writers Around the World post…This time, I’d like to introduce you to the lovely, Michelle Barry!


Michelle was sweet enough to answer my questions and here’s what she had to say…

Hi Michelle, thank you so much for taking the time to stop by the site. First things first. What name do you like to go by, and do you use a pen name for writing? 

Michelle Barry  – and no pen name at the moment!

Where are you from and where do you live now? 

I grew up in Western Massachusetts, went to school in Newport, Rhode Island and now I live in Connecticut. So I guess that makes me a New Englander through-and-through! 

It definitely does! So, how long have you been writing?

For as long as I can remember. My mom recently dug up an old box full of stapled-together books I wrote as a kid. I first started writing professionally after I graduated college and took a job as a reporter for a local newspaper (which was a really, really fun job). I started writing fiction (again) about five years ago.

What age group and genre(s) do you write in? The same one all the time or have you written in more than one?

I bounce between Middle Grade and Young Adult in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres.

We know how important it is to read widely in the age group/genre you write for. What’s a book you’ve read and loved?

There are so many! The Harry Potter series will always be a favorite. I recently read Soman Chainani’s The School For Good & Evil series, which I loved. I’ve read The Hunger Games series more times than I can count… I could go on for a long time so I’ll cut it there. 

Oh my gosh, the Hunger Games series is in my favorite too!! With so many great books, it’s hard to resist them all! What’s a book out of your genre/age group you’ve read and loved?

I thought Gone Girl was fantastic and that’s about as far outside my age group and genre as you can get! Like many, I am also impatiently awaiting the next book in George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Writing is the greatest profession there is—obviously! If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be? Don’t hold back. No limits on this one!

I’m very interested in politics and I think being a speech writer would be a really cool job… but I suppose that still counts as writing so… as a kid I always wanted to be an astronaut, which actually ties in nicely with my love of science fiction so I’ll go with that!

Sure, it’s possible to like both, but which do you like better—drafting or revising?

I like to say whichever one I am NOT currently doing is what I prefer, but if I had to pick, I’d say revising. 

Do you plan first or write as you go along?

I usually see the beginning and end of the story initially and fill in the middle as I go. I try to outline but that doesn’t always happen, especially if I’m participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I’m short on time (which is often!). In that case I’ll just wing it and fix it up later.

What’s your favorite day of the week? How come?

Friday because it’s… well… Friday!

Where do you usually write? At a desk? Outside? In the car? Be honest. Where does the magic usually happen?

Either very early in the morning in my living room or in a coffee shop on my lunch break. 

Are you a morning person or late night owl? What time do usually write? 

Definitely morning! My writing alarm goes off at 4:30AM because it’s the only quiet time I can reasonably count on with two little kiddos that are prone to be up early! Plus, what better way to start the day than writing?

What made you write your story in the first place?

When I first got back into writing stories I was working in the Marketing department of a manufacturing company. It was very dry and tedious work and I really needed some sort of creative outlet. An idea fell into my head and I just started writing – mostly on my lunch breaks, which was a great way to break up the day. That book is currently buried at an undisclosed location, never to be seen again, but it was a good learning experience and gave me back the writing bug. 

What’s your favorite food(s)?

That list could also go on forever so I’ll just pick one… pizza.  

What’s your favorite drink to drink while writing?

Definitely coffee!

Do you have any hobbies, besides writing? 

I was a dancer from preschool through college but since have retired my dancing shoes and am now a proud Dance Mom (with an occasional zumba class here and there).

Do you have a job other than writing? Being a stay at home parent counts in case my question isn’t clear!

I handle the communications for a small insurance company, which I honestly love. I enjoy the work and my coworkers are all great people – can’t ask for much better than that!

Tell us about your family

My husband and I recently had our five-year wedding anniversary and we have two bubbly, funny, wonderful kiddos. My daughter is four (and a half – which is a critical distinction to her) and my son is two (and a half – because fairness is also crucial).

That is so cute!! Who’s usually your first reader(s)?

My wonderful, amazing and talented CP’s, who I am grateful for every day.

I agree. There’s nothing like great critique partners! What has been your biggest writing accomplishment so far?

Signing with my seriously awesome agent (Pete Knapp of Park Literary).  

Congratulations! Signing with a literary agent is a HUGE accomplishment!! Speaking of which…getting published isn’t easy. Why do you keep trying? 

I guess because I have to. Not writing isn’t really an option. It’s what I do. And as writers, I think we’re all committed to that dream of seeing our novel in a bookstore someday. It’s not something I could ever imagine walking away from. 

What’s your biggest struggle when it comes to writing?

Breaking away from my original vision. Sometimes the original arc I imagine isn’t the best path for the story to follow, and I need a nudge to try and see the potential for a different direction – which is why having talented CP’s (and an editorially-eagle-eyed agent) that you trust is so important.

What’s your next step? Revising? Writing a new book? A sequel? 

I’m currently revising an old project, and revising a new project, and I have a half-written WIP that I’d like to finish one of these days… plenty to keep me busy!

Do you have any advice for writers still in the query or sub trenches?

Just keep going and be open to the fact that it may be your next book, or the book three books after your next book, that’s going to hit. My first offer of representation was on my fourth novel, but I would never have been able to write it without the things I learned from the first three. Also, don’t get stuck staring at a blinking cursor. Even if you know the words aren’t quite right, just keep going. Keep putting one word in front of the other. Sometimes you don’t know what the beginning should look like until you write the end.

What will you do when you reach your writing goal? Who will you tell first?

Definitely my CP’s. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a good circle of writer friends around you. Not only will you learn from their feedback, and from reading their work, but the friendships of people who understand what you’re going through, who “get” the whole querying/submission thing, is beyond vital.

If you could travel to any place in the world, and experience any culture (for inspiration of course!), where would that be?

I would LOVE to go to Egypt to see the pyramids. 

Thank you so much, Michelle, for sharing a bit about your writing life and so many words of wisdom. We wish you the best in your journey towards publication and look forward to reading your books someday soon!

To connect with Michelle, you can follow her on Twitter at @MichelleABarry.

Have a great day, everyone! Hopefully it’s filled with words, coffee, and well more words!

Jackie ❤ 




Meet Caitlin LaRue

Hey guys! I have a fabulous writer to introduce you to today in our Writers Around the World  Q & A series. Meet Caitlin LaRue…


Caitlin, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. I’m having a blast in this series hearing from writers from all over, and hopefully our blog readers are too! So first of all where are you from and where do you live now?

I’m originally from New Jersey, but now I live in Maryland.

Ooh, an East Coast Girl, just like me! How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing since sixth grade. I decided to do it seriously about three years ago when I decided to write my first novel.

What age group and genre(s) do you write in? The same one all the time or have you written in more than one?

I tend to write young adult contemporary novels, although my current WIP is ya magical realism. I’ve also written middle grade and new adult, but I feel like I fit best in ya.

We know how important it is to read widely in the age group/genre you write for. What’s a book you’ve read and loved?

I loved Kiera Cass’ Selection series. I’m currently reading Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me series which is phenomenal.

With so many great books, it’s hard to resist them all! What’s a book out of your genre/age group you’ve read and loved?

I read Warrior’s Don’t Cry by Melba Patillo Beals. It’s her autobiography about the Little Rock nine. Absolutely horrifying and such an important read. A fantastic book.

Writing is the greatest profession there is—obviously! If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be? Don’t hold back. No limits on this one!

I’m actually an English teacher as my first profession, but if I could be anything else I would own a huge horse farm. I love animals and I love to be outdoors doing manual labor.

Yes, it’s possible to like both, but which do you like better—drafting or revising?

I love to revise. Though it’s a lot harder, the book really grows and becomes beautiful during the many, many revisions it has to undergo.

Do you plan first or write as you go along?

I always do character sketches and a rough outline of where I want the book to go. Normally, I write down the major scenes for the book and then go. My outline is typically nothing like my actual book by the time I finish.

What’s your favorite day of the week? How come?

Saturday because I get to spend time with my girls and we go to the library to get new books.

Where do you usually write? At a desk? Outside? In the car? Be honest. Where does the magic usually happen?

Typically, I write at my desk at work before the day starts. When I get time to write at home, I write either at the kitchen island or upstairs at my desk in the office. I jot down ideas in the most random places though. My brain likes to get brilliant ideas in the car or the shower.

Are you a morning person or late night owl? What time do usually write?

I normally write in the morning because by the time I’m done teaching and then being mommy at night, I’m exhausted. So it’s better if I try first thing in the morning. The words don’t always come, but I definitely have a better shot at it.

What made you write your story in the first place?

I had a group of boys in my first class of students who hated to read because they didn’t see themselves in books. They told me books were “for girls.” So I set out to write a novel for them. It turns out, it was not my best work, but it sparked my writing and passion for words again. I may revisit that manuscript and try to salvage it now that I’ve learned a lot more than I knew when I started.

What’s your favorite food?

MACARONI AND CHEESE! I could eat it every day for the rest of my life.

Oh my gosh, yes! Me too:) What’s your favorite drink to drink while writing?

Definitely coffee. The warmth in the morning always helps to wake me up.

Do you have any hobbies, besides writing?

I love to run when I have time. I also love to garden.

Do you have a job other than writing? Being a stay at home parent counts in case my question isn’t clear!

I’m a middle school English teacher, mommy, and wife. I have lots of jobs and I love them all.

Tell us about your family…

I have a husband and two little girls both under the age of five. I write the stories I want them to read. I also have two dogs that were my first babies.

Who’s usually your first reader(s)?

My critique partners always get first reads. They always catch my stupid mistakes before I send it to my agent. I try to clean up the draft as much as possible before sending it to her.

What has been your biggest writing accomplishment so far?

Getting an agent was huge for me. I’d almost given up and then the next month I got the call. It was the ray of light that I needed to know that I’m on the right path and I need to keep going.

Congratulations on signing with your agent. That IS a huge accomplishment! We all know that getting published isn’t easy. Why do you keep trying?

It’s what I’m meant to do. It’s one of those things where it just feels right. It’s a passion I have and it just fits. It’s definitely hard and a long road, but the people around me from my husband to my critique partners have been so supportive. Good people are crucial to being able to keep going.

What’s your biggest struggle when it comes to writing?

My biggest struggle is always finding time. With two little ones and a full time job, it’s hard to fit everything into a day.

What’s your next step? Revising? Writing a new book? A sequel?

I’m in the process of writing a new novel. I’m about halfway through and my goal is to finish by the end of January.

Do you have any advice for writers still in the query or sub trenches?

Just keep going and take a break if you need to. If agents give you feedback, listen and consider before revising. I got some feedback that was amazing, but I also got some that didn’t fit the concept of my book at all. You want to find your perfect match, so be patient and just keep going.

What will you do when you reach your writing goal? Who will you tell first?

The day I get a publishing deal, my husband and then my critique partners will be the first people I tell. I will be a crying, weepy disaster (and I’m not a crier). But that is my ultimate goal and I’ll keep trying until I get there.

If you could travel to any place in the world, and experience any culture (for inspiration of course!), where would that be?

I would love to travel to England, Ireland and Italy. My family is very Irish and I still have relatives who live in Belfast. I also took Latin in high school so I love Italian culture and history.

Caitlin, thank you so much for “chatting” with me. It’s been great getting to know you! Good luck with all of your writing adventures. I look forward to seeing your books in print one day soon!

To connect with Caitlin, go to Twitter…you can follow her at  @CaitlinLaRue.



One Year and Counting…

It’s official! THE CRIMSON FIVE: Spin the Golden Light Bulb has a release date, and it’s one year from today…

January 2, 2018!               

YAY!!!!!!!  (and YIKES!)

I apologize in advance for the non- stop posts on this subject. I’m sorry, I just can’t help it. I’ve dreamed of this whole book debut thing happening for far too long not to give my it a BIG countdown this year! Don’t worry. I promise no daily posts or anything. 🙂

I’m not sure really what it will be like waiting out these 365 days but I have a feeling that they will probably fly by—and I’ll be busier than I’m prepared for. But I’m planning to take it all in stride and be as organized as I can about the whole thing. Lol I’ll let you know how that’s going.

For this month I plan to work on my draft for Book Two whenever I can. However, my main focus will be the first round of revisions on Spin the Golden Light Bulb. I’m excited (and very nervous) to receive my revision notes from my new editor at Amberjack. She’s lovely by the way, and I’m so excited to work with her!

Beyond that, I’m not quite sure. But I promised to bring you all along on this journey, so I’ll definitely keep you posted.

On a separate note…

January is a month when many writers make resolutions and set new writing goals—in fact I’m one of them. But be sure your goals are something that you can control. Getting an agent is not something you can directly control and neither is getting a publishing deal.

One method that I use when setting a goal is the SMART method. I didn’t create it. In fact, many of you may already do the same thing. But for those of you who haven’t heard of it, here’s how it works:

When setting a goal, make sure that it is…

S…Specific. Be very specific about the goal you want to reach. Getting in shape is not a great goal. Losing ten pounds is better because it’s specific.

M…Measurable. Be certain you can measure whether or not you actually reached the goal.

A…Attainable. Goals should push you, but be sure yours is something within the realm of possibility.

R…Realistic. A goal must represent an objective toward which you’re both willing and able to work.

T…Timely. Set a date you want to accomplish the goal by. With no date set, you’ll have no sense of urgency.

For a more detailed explanation of this goal setting method, just google “smart goal setting.” You’ll find tons of information on it.

One of my writing goals for this year is to complete my 65,000 word Book Two draft by March 1, 2017. I’m not too far from reaching that already, but with a busy few months ahead, I want to be sure I stay on track. In order to do that, I need to structure my weekly word count goals accordingly.

How about you? I’d love to help you stay accountable and cheer you on this year too. You’ve all been so great encouraging me so I want to do the same for you.

Good luck and cheers to the New Year. May it be productive and full of motivated writing days for all of us!

Have a great week too guys, but stop back again for another addition to our Writers Around the World Series. I’ll be posting my next interview in the next few days. 🙂


2016: A Year to Treasure

I’ve never written an end of the year post. But this year was a bit different for me so I thought I’d give it a try.

As some of you might remember, I signed with Rebecca Angus, my literary agent, in August of 2015. By spring of 2016, we had been through the first round of submissions on my middle grade, THE CRIMSON FIVE: Spin the Golden Light Bulb, with a bit of interest from editors. It was a gut wrenching time though and to say my hopes were sky high during that period would be an understatement. The waiting was torment and I fluctuated everyday between being sure that I’d get an offer, and then positive my dreams would be crushed to the ground the next time I opened my email.

This ping pong of emotions went on for some time… back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Some days, I really felt like a basket case, pinning my hopes and dreams on the opinion of these editors. But instead of letting that emotion take over, I made a conscious decision to hope for the best and sit myself down at my computer. I had a new story to write and that wasn’t going to happen by refreshing my email! I worked myself ragged planning and drafting, and somehow during 2016, the sequel to THE CRIMSON FIVE slowly grew into a story of its own. I breathed life into THE CRIMSON FIVE characters once again, and as I did, I found myself less and less concerned with what was going on with my sub round, became more confident in my writing, and positive that one day an editor would love both THE CRIMSON FIVE books, not just one.

In fall of 2016, Rebecca sent the manuscript out to another round of editors, even though several editors from the previous round were still considering it. By then, I had learned that all good things take time, and when publishing is involved, good things take a really long time! So, I just kept drafting and revising because that’s what I’m good at and more importantly, that’s what I could control.

However, if they say that good things take time, really great things happen in the blink of an eye. And that’s exactly how the offer on THE CRIMSON FIVE: Spin the Golden Light Bulb and the sequel felt to me. Like a blink. A full on eye-twitching blink! One moment I didn’t have an offer, and the next moment I did.

I promised a post about how the Amberjack Publishing offer came on a random fall day in 2016, but I’m not quite ready to write that one yet. I guess I’m still floating ( and blinking) from the fact that as 2016 closes this week, I actually have my first book deal…a two book deal!

It’s funny though how sometimes it takes a dream come true to put all things into perspective.

This year, for me, was so much more that my book deal. It was the small family moments that happened each day, the ones that made my year. So in no particular order of importance, here are some of my memorable moments from 2016…

We celebrated my daughter’s 18th birthday. Yikes!

My son and daughter competed for the first time ever on the same sports team…indoor track! To see my children compete as teammates, siblings, and friends—cheering and pushing each other to do more than they thought they could, meant more to me than I can say.

My husband (the marathon runner/ triathlete) suffered a broken nose and a concussion from a wayward golf ball at work—he’s a golf sales rep. Weeks later he suffered broken ribs too while coaching our son’s hockey practice…proving that none of us are invincible—even my superman husband. It was heartbreaking to watch though and I prayed for his speedy recovery so he would feel like himself again.

My son competed in DECA (a business competition) at the state level, showing me that all his Odyssey of the Mind hard work was totally worth it. Those spontaneous problems are like gold.

My daughter set a high school track and field record in pole vault ( by 12 inches!) at sectionals and was recruited to vault in college. Being witness to her hard work and dedication after many, many setbacks through the years in both gymnastics and pole vault was true a inspiration to me.

My son ran at the track and field sectionals for the 3,000m steeplechase…and started driving!

My daughter met the boy of her dreams and their whirlwind romance throughout this year has been something out of a fairytale. Yes, he’s a sweet boy and yes, he opens the door for her—every single time!

She graduated from high school, and I’m officially old.

We had a BIG dessert themed party for the occasion, complete with a messy chocolate fountain and EIGHT Pinterest worthy posters filled with her life in pictures. I remember about five minutes of the whole whirlwind evening, but I do remember every single family member and friend who was there and how much they have impacted her childhood in amazing ways.

I took my son on his first college visits, just him and I. The two of us. So fun!

I had a birthday over the summer…the last one before that BIG birthday. Yuck.

Our family took a quick vacation to Boston for my son’s sixteenth birthday and while we were there reconnected with tons of extended family for my aunt and uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary aboard a yacht in Boston Harbour. Sure it was only for one night, but still. A yacht!

I tried paddle boarding for the first time in Cape Cod. Now I want  to live on the water—and buy a paddle board.

My daughter and I shopped along Newberry Street in Boston and discovered our new favorite shop…Jack Wills. So cute and so British! Do stop in if you’re in Boston sometime.

We dropped our daughter off at college. I didn’t think I had that many tears in me. But I do. Even when you know your child is following their dreams and is at the perfect college for them, it’s still difficult when you realize they aren’t going to be home everyday anymore. Drop off day is just plain hard. But we’ve all adjusted, and she stops home a lot. So yay!

My son ran cross country in the fall and had recruiters and coaches from his two top colleges watch him race. Watching his face as he realized they were there to watch him was priceless. Watching him get fit for an ankle boot and crutches weeks later was not so great—especially for him. But he’s all healed now, so there’s that. 🙂

My husband recovered from his injuries too and slowly but surely is getting back into race shape. That makes him happy so it makes me happy too.

We celebrated his milestone BIG birthday this year with a few small parties-one that even included a shocking surprise visit from my sister-in law and niece from Florida. That was so fun. So now he’s officially old, and I am not! My milestone birthday isn’t until next summer. But seriously,  instead of us being like whoa is me or bummed out now, we realize that our adventure is definitely just beginning.

I signed a contract with the amazing team at Amberjack Publishing for my middle grade book—and it’s sequel…and it will be published on January 2, 2018!

We celebrated my son’s 17th birthday. My baby is 17. OMG!

I took another quick trip to Boston with my husband for his work Christmas party. It made me realize that I miss spending time with just him. Him and I. The two of us. Just us. I’m so grateful we still love each other and LIKE each other after all this time.

We celebrated the holidays with both our parents, and extended families, and KNOW how lucky we are to have all of them in our lives.

We surprised our kids with a 2017 summer trip to Disney. And if you know our kids you know that they are still smiling about it and will be until this summer. It’s great to have something so amazing to look forward to. It’s been a long time since we took an elaborate family trip like that and we decided that life moves so quickly we need to take advantage of the time we have together now.

I hope all of you reading this post don’t walk away thinking my life is all roses and sparkles though because it’s not. There were tears and fights and frustrations sprinkled in with these memorable moments too. But like anyone else, I worked through them. Every day is a choice and every day I choose to look for the wonder. Because it’s there.

So what’s my takeaway from 2016? Well, if you blink…something wonderful just might happen.

Happy New Year everyone. May 2017 be all you wish it will be, and maybe even filled with a few amazing surprises. Thank you for being a wonderful part of my 2016. You’ve all helped to make it so very memorable in the best way, and I look forward to hearing about all of your memorable 2017 moments soon!



Meet Maura Jortner

Hi there, everyone! We have a lovely writer to catch up with today in our Writers Around the World Q & A series. Meet Maura Jortner…


Hello Maura! I’m so happy to “chat” with you. First of all, where are you from and where do you live now?

 I am originally from Salem, New Hampshire, but I now live in Waco, Texas.

So, how long have you been writing?

I began writing in 2012.

What age group and genre(s) do you write in? The same one all the time or have you written in more than one?

I started writing because I was telling my daughter stories at bedtime, and they were getting more and more complex. I finally had to start typing them out. She was around the age for Middle Grade at the time, so that’s where I began. I soon found my real love was YA, and I’ve been writing for that age group ever since.

We know how important it is to read widely in the age group/genre you write for. What’s a book you’ve read and loved?

The Fault in our Stars and Paper Towns by John Green, The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer, Blood and Salt by Kim Liggett, Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins… There’s a long list.

Those are some of my favorites too. With so many great books, it’s hard to resist them all! What’s a book out of your genre/age group you’ve read and loved?

I’m a big fan of… well, about anything well written. I loved The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Wreckage by Emily Bleeker, The Drowning Game by L.S. Hawker, The Giver by Lois Lowry, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. …and that’s just off the top of my head.

Writing is the greatest profession there is—obviously! If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be? Don’t hold back. No limits on this one!

Professionally I’m also a professor, so that’s what I’d want to be. J

Yes, it’s possible to like both, but which do you like better—drafting or revising?

Drafting. Absolutely.

Do you plan first or write as you go along?

Before I start drafting, I have at least a beginning, two turning points, and the end in my head. Next, I write the query letter to see how it sounds. Once I have those aspects in place, then I’m ready to begin.

What’s your favorite day of the week? How come?

Friday because my official work load (being a professor) is light and I can sneak in extra writing time.

Where do you usually write? At a desk? Outside? In the car? Be honest. Where does the magic usually happen?

At my desk (in the office) or kitchen table (at home).

Are you a morning person or a late night owl? What time do usually write?

Morning, but I’ll make due with whatever time I have when push comes to shove. I write whenever I can sneak a few minutes… so I set my alarm for 4:45 to get a little less than an hour of writing in before my kids wake up. Then I write during the day if I have a bit of time. Later at night, I will write from 9:30-10:00, or, if I’m on a roll, I keep going.

What prompted you to write your story in the first place?

Oh, oops. I answered this question above!

What’s your favorite food(s)?

Shrimp. No, chocolate. No, shrimp.

Do you have any hobbies, besides writing?

Does driving my kids around town count as a hobby?

Do you have a job other than writing?

Ooops. Also mentioned this above. I teach writing and literature at Baylor University.

Tell us about your family…

I have a patient husband, two amazing daughters, and one unruly cat.

Who’s usually your first reader(s)?

My CPs (Critique Partners) that I found through Twitter.

What has been your biggest writing accomplishment so far?

Getting my first YA published.

Yay!! Congratulations!! We know getting published isn’t easy. Why do you keep trying, even now?

Sometimes I honestly don’t know. *bangs head for a while, finally snaps out of it* Oh, right. I do actually have a real answer. I’m a writer. It’s what I do. That’s what makes me happy. So I know I’ll keep going, and my writing keeps improving with every book, so I might as well keep trying to get published, right? 

What’s your next step? Revising? Writing a new book? A sequel?

I have a new novel in my head right now… so I just need to make sure I have the kinks worked out in the plot and then I’ll start writing it.

Do you have any advice for writers still in the query or sub trenches?

Two things:

Just keep going. Be that tenacious bulldog that won’t give up, that won’t release the yummy bone it found no matter what its owner says. You’ll make it if you just keep going.

Fill your writing world with positive people, but also those who can help you get better. Look for CPs that are better writers than you are. They’re the ones who will push you. And they’re the ones who can help you make it through all the rejection.

What will you do when you reach your next writing goal? Who will you tell first?

I will tell my CPs, first, of course. Did I say that? I mean my husband. Definitely my husband David.

If you could travel to any place in the world, and experience any culture (for inspiration of course!), where would that be?

I’d go anywhere there are ruins. I love them. All of them. For instance, I’d love to visit the abandoned Incan citadel, Machu Picchu.

Thanks so much, Maura for taking the time to answer my questions and share a little bit about your writing world with all of us. Oh…and good luck to you on your soon-to-be-released debut YA novel!  (Available January 9, 2017 by Lakewater Press)

To get in touch with Maura or learn more about her book, here’s how you can reach her:

Twitter: @maura_jortner

Facebook: MauraJortnerBooks