Tag Archives: Children’s writing

Interview with Susan Hughes

Tell us something about yourself


I’m a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary and historical romance. I live in Ottawa, Ontario, with my husband and three children.

Tell us something about your new book

My new release is A Baby for New Year’s. Since my first holiday romance, A Baby for Christmas, has been my best seller, I decided to write a sequel where Meg, the heroine’s single coworker and friend, gets her own second chance at love. More than a love story, A Baby for New Year’s is the story of a fractured family struggling to put aside their differences for the sake of a girl who needs their help. A Baby for New Year’s is an independent story, so you don’t need to have read the first book in order to enjoy it.

How did you get your start as a writer?

I have been writing stories since I was a little girl, always with the goal of being a novelist someday. I started writing romance about 15 years ago.

Which is your favorite, contemporary or historical romance?

I like reading and writing both equally, but historical is more challenging to write.

Do you use real places in your stories, or do you make them up?

I have used real places and fictitious ones. So far all of my settings have been in Canada.

If you could meet any writer, alive or dead, whom would you pick and why?

William Shakespeare, so I could settle once and for all whether he really wrote those plays (LOL).

I notice from your website that you do copy editing. If you pick up a book with a large number of grammatical errors, what do you do?

I probably wouldn’t finish reading it and wouldn’t buy another book by that author, but I’d never write a negative review. I just wouldn’t have the heart to do that to another author.

What is your favorite among your own works?

I am fond of my historical Music Box series because I used elements from my own parents’ lives to round out the details of life in the 1940s and 50s.

Who is your favorite romance writer, and why?

It’s too hard to pick a favorite! Recently I have really enjoyed Alice Orr and J.M. Maurer.

If you had to be marooned on a desert island with only one book, what would it be?

Probably some kind of survival manual.

What are you working on now?

I’m trying to finish off a Christmas novella with a tight deadline!

And do check out Sue’s latest novel, A Baby for New Year’s:

A Baby for New Year’s buy link for Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/jenoagy   New Years cover.indd


After an emotionally destructive marriage, Meg has settled into a quiet life as a single mother. When her pregnant teenage niece arrives at her door, seeking shelter, Meg finds herself caught in a family drama between the girl’s parents. She hasn’t seen her estranged sister Kelly or her former brother-in-law Evan in years, but she hasn’t forgotten her secret crush on him when they were teenagers. Now that he’s single again, he still makes Meg weak in the knees. As the New Year brings complications she never thought she wanted, should she listen to her heart and take a chance on love?


Evan stood waiting at the top of the stairs, a small smile hovering on his lips. “They’re great kids,” he whispered.

“Yeah, they are. And you’re going to be an awesome grandfather,” Meg added with a quiet chuckle. “You know, before Julie was born, I couldn’t picture you as a dad. But you were a natural with her right from the start. And right now, I honestly can’t picture a kid calling you ‘Grandpa.’ But I know you’ll be wonderful.”

His smile widened. “Thank you, Meg. That means a lot to me.”

She meant to walk past him and head downstairs. But she paused beside him, overcome with feeling for him, and lifted her hand to touch his face. She caressed her fingertips across the coarse day’s growth on his cheek, her thumb grazing his soft mouth. The dim light from the living room glittered in his beautiful eyes.

“You’re a wonderful man,” she murmured.

Evan’s lips parted slightly. His warm, intent gaze tangled with hers, while his hand covered hers and he pressed a gentle kiss to the tip of her thumb.

Awareness quivered from Meg’s hand straight to the pit of her stomach. Her heart slammed against her ribs with a blow that made her catch her breath.

She knew she ought to suppress her feelings. She should walk away and send him straight back to his hotel. But she stayed rooted to the floor, only letting her hand fall from his mouth as he bent to graze his lips against her temple.

“You’re wearing that rose scent again,” he whispered. “That fragrance haunts my dreams.”

Meg closed her eyes as desire for him spiraled through her in a heady rush. Tilting her face upward, she leaned into him and brushed her lips against his mouth.


Website: www.susanrhughes.weebly.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Susan-R-Hughes/150348171749025

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Susan_R_Hughes



Guest post by Brinda Berry: Talent is Cheap

Talent Is Cheap

Stephen King said, “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” From a man who has published 49 books thus far, these words speak for a lot of writing experience combined with more hard work. You may or may not be a Stephen King fan, but the truth of his commercial success lies in the sales numbers, devoted fans, and bestseller list status. I believe what Stephen King says about talent being cheap. It’s abundant out in the world. There are countless writers who craft eloquent and mesmerizing stories…and they never make it. Here’s what I believe to be the magic formula for becoming a successful author: Talent + Hard Work + Opportunity = Success.

Writing is hard work. I’m not just talking about the act of putting words on paper. There is much more to the business than turning a blank page into a great story. Most of the writers I know study craft, write numerous drafts, critique for others, discuss techniques, attend writer meetings, and work a job that pays the bills.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called Outliers, The Story of Success, where he talks about the 10,000 hour rule. One of my favorite lines in the book is, “Achievement is talent plus some preparation.” Then Gladwell begins to talk about how small the role of talent is in relation to the bigger role of preparation. In Chapter Two, he mentions the names that we all know: Bill Gates, the Beatles, and Mozart. Gladwell says that research shows us a common component to the success of these individuals. They all worked hard pre-success by practicing for many hours- 10,000 hours at the very least.

Although talent and hard work are necessary in the beginning, you must then find an outlet for the story and people who will travel on the journey with you. Query letter writing and the pursuit of an agent or publisher are a must. This is the best way for opportunity to “drop” into your lap.

I have talked with quite a few people who say, “I’ve written an unpublished book.” The problem is that no one else knows about it. A book stored on your computer is about as useful as singing in the shower. You only did it for the recreation. It fulfilled you in some way. There’s nothing wrong with that if that makes you happy.

If you didn’t write the story purely for the act of writing itself, then you must take the next step and find your opportunity. You can seek opportunity by networking and research. Engage in activities where work can be submitted. The internet makes it impossibly easy to find the people who can guide, advise, critique, and discover you. Believe me when I say that opportunity is out there. The difficult part will be selecting the best resources. You might find that some hard work helps someone discover your talent.

Summer Blog Tour Contest rules: http://www.brindaberry.com/summer-2011-blog-tour.html

About the author: Brinda Berry has always loved reading about the
adventures of others. She also believes there’s a little romance in
every story ever told. Brinda lives in Arkansas with her family and a
couple of terribly spoiled cairn terriers.

Her debut YA novel, The Waiting Booth, released on July 15th, can be
found at various online bookstore links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Waiting-Booth-Whispering-Woods-ebook/dp/B005D7F7US/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1311039388&sr=8-5

Barnes & Noble:

All Romance ebooks: http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-thewaitingbooth-581654-140.html

Etopia Press: http://www.etopia-press.net/shopping/pgm-more_information.php?id=51&=SID

Blurb: A missing boy, government agents, an interdimensional portal…

Mia has one goal for her senior year at Whispering Woods High—find her
missing older brother. But when her science project reveals a portal
into another dimension, she learns that travelers are moving in and
out of her woods in the most alarming way and government agents
Regulus and Arizona are policing their immigration. Mia’s drawn to the
mysterious, aloof Regulus, but it’s no time for a crush. She needs to
find out what they know about her brother, while the agents fight to
save the world from viral contamination. But when Regulus reveals that
he knows Mia’s secrets, she begins to wonder if there’s more going on
than she thought…and if she was wrong to trust him…

Writing Focus, Determination, Perseverance, and Positive Thinking By Karen Cioffi

Focus, determination, and perseverance are essential to just about every aspect of your life. Each characteristic is unique and together create a synergy.

Focus is one’s ability to concentrate exclusively on a particular thing through effort or attention.

Determination is an unchanging intention to achieve a goal or desired end.

Perseverance takes determination a step beyond by using steady and ongoing actions over a long period of time to ensure its intention is accomplished. It continues on through ups and downs.

These elements combined with positive thinking and projection can be an unstoppable force.

I’m a huge fan of positive thinking and projection. I believe our mind has a great influence over our well being and the direction our life can take. Granted, it’s not always easy to harness that influence, but there is enough content out there, including The Secret, to at least strive to think positive and project.

For example, Jack Canfield and co-creator Mark Victor Hansen, of Chicken Soup for the Soul, were rejected 144 times from publishers. Finally, in 1993, their book was accepted. Since they were in debt and couldn’t afford a publicist, they did their own promotion. In 1995, they won the Abby Award and the Southern California Publicist Award.

In a teleconference I attended with Jack Canfield as the speaker, he said he and his co-author created vision boards of what they wanted. They even took a copy of the New York Times Best Selling Page, whited out the #1 spot, and replaced it with Chicken Soup for the Soul. They put copies of it everywhere, even in the toilet. They had focus, determination, perseverance, and they envisioned and projected success. The rest is history.

On a much smaller scale, my daughter and co-author of Day’s End Lullaby, practices the philosophy of The Secret. For ten years she dreamed of being in the audience of the Oprah show. She actually got tickets twice, but for one reason or another she was unable to attend. It didn’t stop her though; she persevered and kept trying; she knew one day she’d accomplish her goal.

Well, the weekend of May 8th, 2010, Oprah had her Live Your Best Life weekend in New York City. Robyn got a ticket for the weekend event and ended up being photographed. Her photo was up on Oprah’s website. Then, in May of 2011, through amazing circumstances and a friend who works for the Discovery channel, she got to go to the next-to-last Oprah show.

So, what has this to do with you and me as writers . . . plenty . . . the elements for obtaining your goals are the same whether for business, pleasure, or writing. Just about every writer has heard the adage, it’s not necessarily the best writers who succeed; it’s the writers who persevere. Be focused and determined on your writing goals. Project success, and don’t let rejection stop you . . . persevere.


Karen Cioffi is an author and ghostwriter. Her new MG/YA fantasy book, Walking Through Walls, is based on an ancient Chinese tale:

Longing to be rich and powerful, twelve-year-old Wang studies the legend of the mystical Eternals. Certain they are real, he journeys to their temple and begins an apprenticeship with the Eternal Master. There he enters a world of magic where not everything is as it seems, and where he learns the magic formula to ‘walking through walls.’

Walking Through Walls should now be available through online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and book stores. If it’s not yet listed, it will be very soon!

You can also order the book today at:

To learn more about Walking Through Walls, its touring schedule and contest, and purchasing information visit: http://walkingthroughwalls-kcioffi.blogspot.com

To learn more about Karen and her books, visit:

Please be sure to stop by Magdalena Ball’s site (http://www.magdalenaball.com) on July 25th for the next stop on the Walking Through Walls Tour.




There will be drawings at the end of the tour from those who comment or answer a superhero trivia question on this or any other site during the tour from June 13th-July 5th. Please include your email address in a safe format: dancekam1(at)yahoo(dot) com
The prizes include:
• $10 Amazon gift certificate
• Mozart in the Future by Tania Rodriges-Peters
• “The Wild Soccer Bunch” books 1 & 2 by Joachim Masannek
• “30 Days to a Well-Mannered Dog” by Tamar Geller
• Superhero figurines
• “The Green Bronze Mirror” by Lynne Ellison
• “The Face of Deceit” by Ramona Richards

Download a coloring page from http://educationtipster.blogspot.com for the book, “Sh Sh Sh Let the Baby Sleep.” Color it, and email a picture of it to Kathy Stemke at dancekam1 (at) yahoo (dot) com for a chance to win one of the prizes below.
• “Small Gifts in God’s Hands” by Max Lucado
• Superhero figurine
• “Making Memories” by Janette Oke


CHECK OUT REVIEWS OF THIS ACTION PACKED BOOK educationtipster.blogspot.com

Guest Post: Alliteration in Literature

Today I’m delighted to host Jennifer (J.R.) Turner on my blog.

Award-winning author J.R. Turner lives in Central Wisconsin with her husband and three children. She began writing in high school, and after a decade working as a commercial artist, started her first novel in 1999. Aside from crafts, camping and cooking, she loves holidays. A favorite is Halloween, a combination of spooky supernatural fun and chocolate. Visit her at http://www.jennifer-turner.com to learn more!
Alliteration in Literature

Writing is a journey—and often this journey takes us places we never thought we would go. I enjoyed poetry in my teens and played with the different forms and variations over the years. In fact, the very first time I wrote something I was proud of, (in 2nd grade, bless you Mrs. Sanders!) turned out to be a poem:

1-2-3 Birthday wishes go so fast
Like the breeze in the willows
Dancing among the grass

As you can see, I never forgot those three lines. Of course I used slant rhyme and my meter was way off, but this began my love affair with alliteration. The way words can come together, sounding so similar, intrigues me to no end. When I write, I often fall back on alliteration to heighten the pace or the sense of place. There’s a difference between the lines:

The farmer struggled to control the tractor and steer it away from the derelict henhouse.

The farmer fought for control of the tractor, turning to avoid destroying the derelict henhouse.

For me, the more the words slide together, the less intrusive they are. My mind can melt into the story and forget I’m reading. You’ll find tons of this in all my books and short stories, and yes, even in those few poems I still write today. Just look at the title of my new series:

Delbert Dallas and the Dragon Diaries: #1 Voyage to Viking Island (link: http://www.omnilit.com/product-voyagetovikingisland-527701-228.html )

#1: Voyage to Viking Island—Release Date: March 22nd.
When the new guitar Delbert Dallas got for his birthday turns into a dragon named Barbecue Bob, the adventures are just beginning. First stop—Viking Island where Prince Rolloff is running away from his wedding—at the age of twelve. A Viking afraid of a girl? Even more shocking is Rolloff’s new best friend.

Walter Wheeler, a bully held back two grades, has discovered his own time-traveling dragon, Firebrand. When the prince offers a bag full of gold to get him off the island, Walter happily accepts, once he hears the plan is to escape on the royal longboat. Not only will he take Rolloff’s gold, he’ll take all the treasure on board.

Can Delbert convince Prince Rolloff that Walter Wheeler is no valiant Viking in shining armor? How do you explain a dragon named Bob to a Prince? What will happen when the rival dragons meet snout to snout? Find out in the first adventure of Delbert Dallas and the Dragon Diaries.

Each story in the series will be released on the 22nd of each month:

#2 Civil War Skirmish
#3 Viva La Francine!

The first in a series of once-monthly releases for reluctant readers, part of the Electric Shorts program for middle-grade kids, is just the beginning of the fun I have writing with alliteration. So what do you think? Do you enjoy reading or writing with allitearation?

Thanks so much for having me here, Margaret!


Guest Post by Nancy Famolari: Romance Novels as an antidote for Tough Times

My guest today is Nancy Famolari. She enjoys reading and writing romance novels and tells you why.

Romance Novels an Antidote for Tough Times

We live in tough economic times. Unemployment is upwards of nine percent. Taxes are high; prices are high. People worry about the future. You see it in the news every day, Yet, book sellers and publishers report that romance novels sell very well, perhaps better than in more affluent times. So, why are we reading romance novels?

Romance novels are cheerful. The characters face serious, or not so serious problems and come out winners. In the best romance novels, they give us examples of how to solve out own problems. The people are generally attractive. The men are handsome; the women, beautiful. In our daydreams, we’d like to be like them, or have them for friends

The settings are charming, often elegant. In times like these most of us want to get away from our dreary routine for awhile. Romance novels let you visit pleasant places: resorts, estates, and quaint villages. It’s a cheap vacation.

The characters have interesting careers. When we’re toiling at boring, uninteresting jobs, it’s fun to revel in the challenges faced by fashion designers, politicians, and business leaders. It might even give you a vision that leads to an exciting career.

My personal favorites are romantic thrillers. I love solving puzzles. True crime stories and detective fiction with their focus on serial killers and assassinations make you face the ugliness in the world rather than getting away from it all. It’s fun to read a cozy mystery, or romantic suspense novel and just disappear from all the ugliness for awhile.

Like to read romance? Perhaps you should write one. Several authors have written a book because they were bored or couldn’t find anything they wanted to read. Dorothy Dunnett, author of the Lymond Chronicles and The House of Niccolo, complained to her husband that she couldn’t find any good books to read. He suggested she write one. It was the first Lymond book, The Game of Kings. Rita Mae Brown started writing Riding Shotgun when she was stuck at her Virginia farm in an ice storm with no power and no phone.

I write cozy mysteries: Murder in Montbleu and The Lake House. If you’d like a vacation in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania, come visit Police Chief Chess Devon and Inspector Bartlett Thomas in Montbleu. There’s always a scandal brewing.

Nancy Famolari’s Bio:

Nancy Famolari splits her time between her farm in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania and a smaller farm near Ocala, Florida. Her five horses are becoming seasoned travelers. The Endless Mountains is a lovely rural area with many small town datingfrom the early 1800’s. This beautiful region provides the background for all the novels in the Montbleu Murder series, including Murder in
Montbleu and The Lake House.

Meet Author and Editor Margo Dill

Tell us something about yourself
Like my Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/Margo_L_Dill) account says, “I wear many hats.” I am a children’s writer, writing instructor, freelance editor, book reviewer, blogger, and freelance writer.  I have run an editing business since 2006 where I edit and revise any written document. It’s called Editor 911 (http://www.margodill.com/editor911.html), and I love helping people improve their written work and also working on resumes! I also love going to schools and writing groups and presenting programs as well as teaching online classes and telecourses.   
Your historical novel, “Finding My Place,” has recently been accepted for publication. Can you tell us a bit about your book?
Finding My Place is the story of 13-year-old Anna Green and her family’s struggles throughout the Siege of Vicksburg (Mississippi) in 1863 during the War Between the States. Anna lives in caves, eats rats, works in an army hospital, experiences her first love, and strives to keep her family together through this horrible battle. Anna learns where she belongs in more ways than one while Grant’s cannons shoot over Vicksburg day and night, causing misery and grief for Vicksburg’s citizens.

How did you become interested in writing historical novels for kids, and why this particular subject?
I actually came up with the idea while I was teaching fifth grade social studies in 2000. I was a classroom teacher in Missouri back then, and we read about the Battle of Vicksburg. This battle was particularly fascinating to me because the citizens were the ones being bombed. The Union Army hoped the citizens would convince the Confederate Army to surrender, but the citizens held on for over 40 days, living in caves and eating anything, including rats, they could get their hands on. The people showed an amazing strength, and I wanted to write about this for kids.

How did you go about doing your research? Any particular pitfalls you encountered in researching this book?
Well, one pitfall was that I was scheduled to fly to the south from St. Louis on September 14, 2001 to start my research. Obviously after September 11, 2001, I wasn’t going to be flying anywhere right away, and so I rented a car and drove to Vicksburg. Going there was the best research I could have done. I highly recommend visiting the place you are writing about. The people in the town were very helpful and led me to wonderful resources, including the vertical file at the library.

What are your favorite historical novels for middle graders? What appeals to you about them in particular?
I really like the Little House on the Prairie series–what girl doesn’t, right? I also think that Gennifer Choldenko is writing amazing historical fiction books right now about Alcatraz such as Al Capone Does My Shirts. A great historical fiction novel about slavery is Trouble Don’t Last by Shelley Pearsall.  I think historical fiction for kids is so great because it teaches them about a time period while allowing them to get involved in characters’ lives. Half the time, kids don’t even realize they are learning history when they are reading these books.

You also review books, have an editing business, and teach workshops. How do you balance all of this?
That’s a great question! Well, I’m pretty disciplined and work just about every day–even on the weekends and when I don’t feel like it. I have a calendar where I schedule what I need to work on each day, and I just work until I get it done. I also have a family and friends; and so sometimes, I am working into the night or early in the morning in order to get everything finished.

Any particular place you write?
I write mostly from home in my office, but I really enjoy going to coffee shops. When I am feeling a little writer’s block coming on or a poor attitude regarding my work, a change of scenery really helps. The public library is also another great place–and you don’t have to feel like you have to buy anything to use their free Wi-Fi either!

Do you have a writing schedule?
As I mentioned before, I don’t really have a schedule per say–it sort of depends on the day. If my stepson is here and out of school, I usually write in the mornings and at night. In the afternoon, we do activities. Otherwise, I try to write mostly in the morning and afternoon and then use the evening time for other activities, chores, spending time with my husband, and so on. All of this is about to change, however, when I have a baby in December.  Then my writing schedule will be determined by her!

What are you working on now?

I am always working on freelance articles and book reviews. For my creative projects, I have a YA novel that I am just about finished revising and a few picture book manuscripts that I take to my critique group–they tell me what is working and what is not–and then I take them back. Soon, they will be sick of these, but hopefully, they will be ready for publication. I am one of those writers who is always working on a ton of projects at the same time. I just can’t help it!

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten? The worst?

The best writing advice I’ve ever gotten is that persistence is what leads to success. Talent is important, and so is perfecting your craft. But the most important thing is definitely persistence. As writers, we can not afford to give up on our dreams. The worst advice–hmmm? That’s a hard question. It’s probably just a comment or two that I’ve received at critique groups that didn’t do my manuscript any good. I’ve probably heard bad advice, but I guess I tuned it out because I just can’t think of any right now.

How did you get started as a writer?

I have always liked to write as most writers have–creating “novels” as a young teenager. Then when I was in high school and college, my creative side took a back burner until in 1999, I saw an ad in Family Circle magazine that said, “You can write for children!” This was an ad for the Institute of Children’s Literature. I wound up taking their beginner correspondence course, found a local critique group, and the rest, as they say, is history.

If you could be any character in any book, who would you be, and why?

Interesting question, and I think I would have to say–Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series. These books, in my opinion, are brilliant. I’ve read them all a few times, and I just can’t get enough. I love Hermione because she is smart, does magic, wears her heart on her sleeve, and is a loyal friend and girlfriend. You can’t ask for a better character than that. Not to mention, I would have LOVED to go to wizarding school!

Any advice for aspiring writers?

Figure out your writing goals, and figure out a way to achieve them. We all have busy lives and distractions. Don’t let your distractions get in the way of your writing dreams.

Where can readers find you on the web?
I have a website that tells about me and my editing and speaking services: http://www.margodill.com. I also have a blog where I write about children’s books, and I also have a special section on books and organizations that help women and children around the world. I have a lot of author interviews, book giveaways, ideas for parents and teachers to use with books, and some lesson plan ideas, too. That address is http://margodill.com/blog. I also teach online classes for WOW! Women On Writing. I currently teach three different classes: Social Networking for Writers, Writing Children’s Short Stories and Articles, and Blogging 101. You can find these classes at: http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/WOWclasses.html. Finally, I am an instructor for the Children’s Writers Coaching Club (http://www.cwcoachingclub.com/).

Any last words?
Thank you so much for having me as a guest on your blog. Good luck to all the writers out there–go get ’em!