A teen writer publishes against all odds

For her high school senior project, Kendra Stefan wanted to write, illustrate, and publish a children’s book, and I agreed to mentor her through the project. As writers out there know, a book is a lot of work. For Kendra, the challenge was over the top. She was suffering from heart failure.

We got an early start, working on the book between her other studies, her numerous doctor’s appointments, and rising fatigue. As we got her story down, her condition declined and her position on the waiting list for a donor moved up.

When the story was essentially done, but the illustrations just started, Kendra got the call. In July, she received her new heart.

Kendra’s work on the book continued while she recovered in the hospital – between rehab sessions, medication adjustments, and the hard and painful work of building up her strength.

When she was released for visits home, we worked on the book. Still unable to return to school, we inserted the artwork. Between her follow-up doctors’ appointments, we formatted. Between her naps, we uploaded and worked through the myriad of glitches that plague even seasoned authors.

And then Kendra hit PUBLISH. Jackie Moves to Bunsvill is live in print and ebook.

She’s running a sale today and tomorrow – the ebook available at the low price of $.99.

If you feel like giving this young writer a big smile, click this global link:

Amazon ebook or Amazon paperback.

Now back to Kendra. She was kind enough to do a mini-interview with me.
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Hi Kendra, so you hit the publish button on your first book! How does it feel?
It showed me that I really did write a book. I was so surprised that I actually wrote a book! It was an adrenaline rush.

 

 

What did you enjoy most about writing a children’s book?
I think the thing I enjoyed most was drawing the characters for the first time and coming up with their personalities and how all of those different personalities would mesh together. It gave me so much creative freedom… there was no limit.

What did you like least?
Working with [the formatting program] and fixing grammatical errors. Just because it was so tedious and time-consuming. Diana and I spent three hours just to fix two words.

 

 

Was there anything that surprised you about the process?
Yes. There was a lot that surprised me. I never knew it would take so much time and so many computer programs. I was surprised by how easily I would make mistakes.

What might you do differently next time besides not having a heart transplant in the middle of the process?
I would work more at lining up dates and setting up plans to do readings instead of doing it at the last minute.

 

 

Any advice for other young authors?
As soon as words start flowing through your head, write it down because you can always organize those ideas into stories.

Any other books in your future?
I think so, but I don’t know when. I think that my books in the future will be more targeted towards teenagers and adults.

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Thanks to everyone for stopping by to learn about Kendra’s journey and her book! I was so honored to play a small part.

Now get busy writing!

The Fifth Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest

Every week, Chelsea Owens offers a prompt for her Terrible Poetry Contest. The submissions are all unequivocally terrible… soooo terrible that I eagerly await them, knowing that I’m going to laugh myself silly. This week’s topic should offer up some side-splitters. Want to try your hand at some terrible poetry? It’s harder than it looks!

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From Chelsea:

1. The topic is ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. This is my LEAST FAVORITE poem in the entire world – whenever it’s parodied. Therefore; I normally feel that every idiot who goes about with “‘Twas the night before Christmas” on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart; but this week you’re getting a pass. Strangely enough, I love the original. I have at least three favorite stanzas in there.

2. What’s the limit? For the love of my own sanity and yours, please keep it to eight or nine stanzas, maximum. That’s about the point of the original where we read I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

3. It’s gotta rhyme. At the end of the line. Make it fine.

4. Remember, remember: the poem needs to be terrible… 

(For the rest of the rules, the deadline, and to read some terrible poetry entries: The Fifth Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest)

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And here is my terrible entry for this week:

Tis the afternoon that comes just before Christmas Eve
And I’m rushing around like you wouldn’t believe
The dog’s barfed up tinsel, my tree lights are dead
I couldn’t find any clear ones, but the minimart had red
Just like Trump’s hall of fiendish stalactites
Or with the points up, does that make them stalagmites?
I burned a batch of cookies for jolly old Saint Nick
Defrosted some corn dogs from July that even then tasted ick
No carrots for the reindeer. No veggies! I’m out.
January better hurry up, cause I’m all tuckered out.
Fa la fella fa, dee da dee da
Fifi folly duh, ta da, ta da!

Ani’s Advent Calendar 2018! Talking Turkey with D. Wallace Peach

I’m fowling around with Ani and her four-legged, Sue Vincent, today with a short story called Talking Turkey. Ani also shares some tips on foods that aren’t safe for dogs. 🙂 Hope to see you there.

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

I always hate this bit. With all the nice things to eat that you two-legses will be making for Christmas, and the whole spirit of sharing, Christmas can be a wonderful time for pets. Trouble is, most of the things we would like to eat, we can’t. Or, if we can, we can’t have anywhere near as much as we would like.

Take turkey, for instance. Really nice…and good for us too… but only if you cook it without anything added… no oils, butter, and definitely no stuffing…and we shouldn’t have much at once either. (We won’t mention the ‘borrowed’ turkey episode…)

Chocolate. We almost all love chocolate. Not allowed. No nuts. No fruitcake or mince pies. Nothing with onions. No gorgeous, greasy sausages and bacon. We shouldn’t really have ham either, becuse it is salty. (We won’t mention the ‘borrowed’ ham episode either…).

And, in the interests of interspecies…

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Nano result: A first draft

My smarty-pants muse was right… again. I needed to write and pelted out 62,000+ words and a sketchy rough draft of the first book in a new series.

To celebrate, I thought I’d share the opening scene. It’s unfinished and undoubtedly will change as the story unfolds (bobs eyebrows mysteriously). I hope you enjoy it.

Kalann il Draak, the First of Chaos, aimed his cannons at the Veil. From the eastern sun to the western moon, the curtain of light spanned the mountains, banishing him to the forsaken waste that stretched north beyond the known lands. The silver wall shimmered, undulated with elemental power, the essence of matter. Its energetic core bound the illusory world together with the strength of goblin steel.

He would destroy the rippling wall that divided him from his kingdom, shatter the balance of creation, and wreck chaos on the myriad patterns of the world. The First, the sacred gods worshiped by of the mortal races, would vanish from the land.

His sword crackled, spat veins of lightning that illuminated the roiling clouds and fractured the rock beneath his army’s heels. The tortured earth swallowed slaves and soldiers alike, their screams lost to the grinding rock and the wind’s keening howl.

“I will destroy you!” he roared up the barren slopes.

The First, his brethren, stood sentinel along the ridges, hands raised in silent defense, feeding the Veil’s mass with heat harvested from the mountains’ core, light stolen from the dawn. A blizzard of snow swept into the air, blew sideways in the skirling winds, blotting out the sky.

Draak’s sword swept down, sliced a rift into the Veil that the First snapped shut with a thunderous clap. The mage laughed at the feint as cannons strung along the foothills belched pulses of disruptive power, stripping matter of its binding force. The white-hot blasts generated surges. Waves bulged along the Veil’s magnetic lines like sound along an instrument’s string. Veins of power tore and reconnected, releasing eruptions of unbound light.

The Veil fractured. Seams burst open where the energy splintered. Like a stone through a mirror, shards of light flung outward, and Draak ordered his army through, secreted in the shattered wedges that pierced his enemy’s land. Another volley of fire penetrated the weakened wall. The bulk of his vast horde stormed up the slope, eager for the final rupture.

But the power of the cannon proved unstable, uncontainable, carried along the frayed curtain by sheer winds. His foes threw up shields like patches on torn cloth, stitching up the gaps with new manipulations of heat and light. The Veil began to cool. Snow transformed into steam as the mountains burned and the elements bound into new matter, altering the foundations of the world.

The First, guardians of the wall of light and the civilization within, gloried in their victory. Below them, trapped in the barren desolation of the north, Draak shook a curled fist at his brethren. But hubris was their flaw and his fury a ruse. The cannon had briefly unraveled the fabric of matter, not enough for an entire army to slip through, but sufficient for chaos to hook its curved claw. The mortals would see to the rest.

3 Fiction-Writing Terms: Data Dump, Filter Word, Head Hopping

While some of us are pushing through the last week of Nanowrimo, noses to our keyboards, an editing-monster looms in our future, packing on problems like a glutton.

Kathy Wagoner wrote a great post clarifying three different writing terms that carry a lot of unwanted calories. These are often newbie problems, and I’ll confess that they gave my early writing serious indigestion. The good news is that after fixing them thousands of times (literally), I do a better job of avoiding them in the first place.

Are these important? Yes. All three of these can knock a reader out of the book or reduce a reader’s engagement by distancing them from the characters and story. For me, head-hopping will usually result in an unfinished read.

Even after years of vigilance, I still have to put my monster on the editing treadmill to trim away the fat and give my writing more muscle. Kathy did a thorough job of explaining the terms and providing examples. It’s worth clicking over for a look. 🙂

via 3 Fiction Writing Terms: Data Dump, Filter Word, Head Hopping

Book Review: Heir of Ashes

Jina Bazzar’s debut fantasy novel Heir of Ashes reads at a pace that left me breathless. The action is non-stop, and if you enjoy a powerful female protagonist, you’ve found her in Roxanne Fosch. The book was just re-released by Creativia Publishing (congrats, Jina!) and I’m delighted to share my review.

But, of course, I had to learn a little more about Jina first. She was gracious enough to answer two questions. The first focused on her writing style and how she went about developing a plotline that’s so rip-roaring fast-paced and full of action! The second question was more personal. Jina is visually challenged, and I was curious about how that hampers her as a writer, as well as how it’s made her a better writer.

Here are her answers:

I’m a fan of anything fantasy. I also enjoy adventure/action-packed books. Add a little fairy magic and you get the perfect mix. So when I decided to give writing a try, it was no surprise I got the fantasy/action/fairy combination. I knew who my protagonist was, I knew she would be fighting for her freedom. I had the introduction, a vague notion of the middle, and the ending in mind. That’s as far as planning went.  

When I type, I let the story flow. Yes, I do lots of revisions but the pantser style feels somewhat gratifying.

As for my blindness, let me first say that being blind isn’t as hard as people believe it to be. Picture this: I see by touch, smell, sound (I don’t lick things, though I’ve been told I eat lunch while cooking). It’s a lot slower than just focusing your eyes at a point and sending that image to your brain. On the plus side, because I depend on my other senses to see, I’ve developed a sharper focus. I don’t have stronger hearing, I just pick up on the smallest nuances.

I can’t say being blind interferes with my writing, though I feel like I have an advantage other writers don’t: when I’m done typing, I turn on the automatic reader, lean back and listen to the flow. Most times, I can tell when the reader needs to take a breath – I add a comma here – or when the words jar, or when I need to add/delete something.

I do have a few peeves I believe I could manage if I could see:

Book formatting. No matter how many word tutorials I go through, I can’t get it right. Last year I thought I had it, but then a beta sent me an e-mail asking about the weird format.

Another peeve is the spell checker. If it doesn’t agree with my word choice, it highlights and suggests a similar sounding word. By and buy, cant and can’t, seize and cease, its and it’s… you get my point. Before I became aware of this evil plot, I’d correct and move on. But on the umpteenth revision, I realized some words sounded different, depending on where they fell in a sentence (remember, I pick up on small nuances).

And so I started checking some words letter by letter before correcting or not. That’s when I learned I had another foe: auto-correct.

And now, on to the review of Heir of Ashes.

If you’ve been looking for an electrifyingly fast-paced, paranormal book with a kick-ass female protagonist, this is it! Hold on to your seat and get ready for the ride. Never a dull moment and no mushy stuff in this book. She’s saving men more than they’re saving her.

Roxanne Fosch had preternatural abilities, but she doesn’t know the extent of her power and has only a sketchy idea of her past. Her adolescence was spent in a government research facility as a test subject, a place she escaped from a year before the book’s opening page.

Roxanne dreams of a normal life, and she wants to understand who and why she is, dreams and questions that will have to wait. The book is basically a chase as the morally corrupt researchers and their paramilitary goons try to recapture Roxanne. But the book is much more complex than that as other factions and interest groups help and hinder her. She has little trust for anyone, and the reader is left to question motives as well.

The story is told in 1st person from Roxanne’s point of view, and therefore the reader gets to experience some of the vulnerability that she rarely shows on the outside. She’s one tough cookie when baring her face to the world. This dichotomy makes her interesting and thoroughly believable. All of the characters are well-rounded and the dialog is natural and effortless.

A world full of preternatural beings is a given in this book with minimal backstory as to how this came to be, though Roxanne’s ancestral origins are eventually revealed. There are parallel worlds, werewolves, vampires, shapeshifters, Celtic fae (called the fee), and other monsters. The range of powerful abilities covers a wide spectrum where some, like Roxanne’s, are yet to be fully defined.

Above all, the action is non-stop, and there were plenty of times when I had no idea how Bazzar was going to get her protagonist out of the mess she put her in. Not all of my questions were answered about Roxanne’s journey, the other characters, and the factions at play, but this is the first book in the series, and I could see the preparation for book two.

I highly recommend this book to readers of speculative fiction, and anyone who loves high-action, fast-paced stories, and powerful female protagonists.

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Happy Reading!