Thursday, December 19, 2013

Robert DiBella in Cuddle Therapy

Robert DiBella Tense Thriller Writer
After reading a bit of Robert DiBella’s book, Memoir of a Variable, I realized here was an author who needed some fluffy fuzzy cuddle time. I took him to the petting zoo complex at The Blog Mansion.

Johnny: It’s five layers of every increasing cuteness.

Robert: Why?

J: To soothe your troubled soul. I saw Memoir of a Variable. It’s trouble. Here have a cat.

R: It’s a thriller. There’s supposed to be –

J: Shhhhh. Hold the cat.

R:  You’re lucky I’m a cat person, I have two lovely cats at home named Trixie and Alice.

Trixie and Alice
J: Alright, now isn’t that better?

R: Ouch. It scratched me.

J: Yeah, that’s what they do. Now, with you soft indoor voice, tell me about your book.

R:  Memoir of a Variable tells the story of X, an assassin for the secret CIA subsector Grey Sector. After years of cold, ruthless, professional killing, X doubts that what he’s doing is for the greater good. When X is tasked to kill Samantha Freedman, the outspoken lesbian daughter of a conservative senator, he cannot pull the trigger. Instead he saves the girl, and they are on an international chase through Western Europe.   

J: Awesome. International intrigue, action, lesbians. Awesome. Next is the bunny room. Less scratching there.

R: I don’t trust bunnies, their ears are too big and they’re always hopping around.

J: I have to assume that since your main character is from New York, as are you that the story is autobiographical. How old were you when you killed your first target?

R: Ha Ha. That’s confidential… naw I’m not an assassin for the CIA, but ever since I was a kid spy stories have always inspired me. I have always admired authors like Tom Clancy or Ian Fleming, it’s always been a dream of mine to create the next James Bond or Jack Ryan hero. Memoir of a Variable is written in first person so some of my one liners and mannerisms do come out in the text. I have had family and friends who read the book come up to me and say ‘I could see you saying that.’  

J: Hold back on the negative energy. The bunnies are soft goodness. Hold the bunny. Feel the bunny.
R: It pooped on me.

J: Yeah, that’s what they do. Where’d you get the idea for the book if not your own secret assassin life?

R: When I first got the idea for writing X, gay rights was a big topic in the news and I thought it would make a provocative back drop for a thriller. My friend was entering a short film competition, so I wrote him a three minute screen play about a hitman who kills a lesbian, and then I thought what if he saved her instead? So I wrote a forty-five page screenplay which then, somehow, I transformed into a novel. 

J: How’d you get into writing?

R: I started taking writing seriously in High School. Mineola High School has some amazing teachers who encourage their students to be creative, I used to write short stories for my twelfth grade English class. Than in College I took a playwriting class where I really got hooked on storytelling.   

J: This is where we either go to the poo-flinging monkeys or kittens.

R: How do we choose.

J: Answer wisely. Who are your favorite authors?

R: Well there’s you and your debut occult thriller, BEATRYSEL, now available from Amazon.

J: Kittens it is.

R: Didn’t we already do those?

J: No, those were cats, these are kittens. More mewing, less scratching. More cute. Who else are your favorite authors?

R: As I said before I love Clancy and Fleming, I’d also have to add Brendon Dubois, Sharon Shebar, Barbara Novak and Jefferey Deaver to the list. That’s a lot of kittens.

J: Tell me about the research you did for your book.

R: I looked into different clandestine units of the CIA, and other intelligence organizations such as MI-6 and Mossad, because X is a worldly character I wanted to make sure my descriptions of the settings were spot on. I spent a lot of time on Google Earth mapping out X’s locations and roads that he would actually take to reach his target.

J: Are you feeling the calm of the fuzzy fluffy cuddle rooms yet?

R: Yes, I feel very calm indeed. Kittens will do that to even the craziest of authors.

J: Next stop puppies. It’ll be loud, so I’ll ask this before we go in. How did you go from writer to author? How’d you land a publishing deal? How hard was it? Okay, got it? Good. Here we go.

R: Ugh, I’m not a fan of dogs.

J: What?

R: [Inaudible speech, deafening barking and licking sounds]

J: What?

R: murblewup

J: How's that?


J: Cuteness overload. Good. To the last room!

R: That was terrifying. I’ve never been mauled by puppies like that before. I’m covered in puppy spit.

J: Yeah, they do that. What was your answer about getting published?

R: This was my first novel I knew nothing about how to write a good query letter or anything, I was just sending out to anyone I could find. Then a friend of mine and fellow writer Pat Shands got a short story of his published in a Rainstorm Anthology, he told me to give them a try. I sent it in and after three weeks of review they accepted it. 

J: That must have been stressful. Now to remove the last of your tension.

R: Is that an airlock?

J: Yep, but this is the best room yet. After the five rooms of fuzzy fluffly cuddletime, you’ll be writing children’s poetry.

R: I don’t think I’m cut out for that.

J: Tribbles!

R: Really?

J: Yeah relax on that big one there.

R: That’s not a chair?

J: No, that’s a tribble. They get big if you don’t eat them.

R: It is soothing.

J: Feel all that violent tension slip away.

R: Yeah.

J: Before we lose you forever in bliss, tell me where on the internet my people can find you?
J: Thanks for coming. I hope I didn’t ruin your career by taking the edge off you.

R: No I... hey wait. This tribble just gave birth on me. And that one too. They’re all having babies all over me.

J: Yeah, they do that.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christine Haggerty is a mutant author

Christine Haggerty
Mutant Author
Christine Haggerty is still fresh from the release of her first novel, The Plague Legacy: Acquisitions, last Friday. She dropped by the Blog Mansion to compare mutants and talk books.

Johnny: Congratulations on your book. Pretty exciting isn’t it?

Christine: It’s definitely better than being transmogryphied into an intergalactic mutant with an insatiable hunger for human flesh.

J: Yeah.... I was thinking the same thing. Good thing that kind of thing never happens. So, tell me about your book. Give us your pitch.

C: The Plague Legacy: Acquisitions - Cameron Landry is a plague orphan shipped across the ocean to be sold as a slave in a new civilization. Of course, he’s not one of the cool guys—the kids who have mutated into superhumans because of the plague. Cam’s supposed to be one of the immunes, but things are more complicated than that as Cam discovers something special about himself.

J: Have some tea?

C: Oh, my God! What the hell is that?

J: That’s Luna. My Metaluna mutant. She works for me.

C: Where’d you find it?

J: Her. She has feelings. I don’t know what they are, but I’m sure she has some. Or one at least. I’ve seen her hungry. And I told you, She comes from Metaluna, the distant planet from This Island Earth. Surely you’ve seen that.

C: I’ve never seen one this close before. Is that spaghetti on her eyes?

J: Mutant cataracts, I think. Just don’t hit her exposed brain, okay. She’s very vulnerable there. I thought you’d like her because she’s a mutant.
Luna, Beauty Shot

C: I’m not biased, I’ll give her a shot. Of course, my mutants are still mostly just human beings from Earth, more like enhanced humans that mutants. Here, Luna, how ‘bout a hug?

J: Immune, mutant, no-code. You have a complex situation of engineered plague in Acquisitions. How’d you come up with it?

C: (Face turning red.)

J: Oh, ooops. Yeah, take it easy, Luna. I need Christine to breathe so she can finish the interview. I’m sure she will give you another hug before she leaves.

C: (Gasping.) She’s quite a lover. Anyway, you were asking about my inspiration for the premise of The Plague Legacy. I’m a history minor and always had a fascination with early European history, particularly the Black Plague and the Crusades. This is my version of history repeating itself.

J: Who’d you model Cam after? And Tara? Is there a Devon in your life?

C: Cam is modeled after my somewhat moody and temperamental teenage son, Liam. Of course, Liam still has two living parents and goes to high school instead of fighting off mutant bullies. Tara and Devon, and many of the other characters, are both formed from the residue of my years teaching at a residential high sch—.

J: Sorry about that. Luna’s claws don’t do well with china.

C: It’s only tea.
J: And mutant spittle.

C: What?

J: Luna drools sometimes. You always have to consider that when she’s around.

C: What will it do to me?

J: Did you drink any tea?

C: Yes.

J: Well just have a cookie. There’s antidote in them.

C: What cookies?

J: You didn’t get any?

C: You ate them all.

J: Well, uhm, you’ll probably be fine. Luna get some more cookies.

C: It’s eating through my clothes.

J: Here’s some baking soda. That’ll stop it.

C: Now it’s eating through the baking soda. Is this your plan to get me naked?
Luna being Sassy!

J: What makes you think any of this was planned? I mean, past the cookies and the tea and the mutant who drools acid?

C: (Glare.)

J: Tell me about your journey to get published.

C: My journey mostly involved being in the right place at the right time. I had decided to ditch my career in education to be around more for my kids and to give the writing thing a real shot. I went to a conference and learned the basics of building a fan-base, joined a writing group, and started making connections. I suppose it helps that I can write, too.

J: Tell me about working with Fox Hollow Publications. Are they nice?

C: Fox Hollow Publications has been amazing to work with. I think altogether I really lucked out becoming connected to them.
Luna sad –  
fetching more cookies.

J: How many books do you foresee in The Plague Legacy?

C: The Plague Legacy will be a trilogy. Each book will have its own plot arc as well as the arc for the series. I know it drives some people crazy to deal with uncertainty at the end of a book, especially when you have to wait until the next one comes out to continue the story, but I promise I’ll only do it to you twice.

J: I know the first one just came out, but when can we expect the next installment?

C: The Plague Legacy: Assets will be released Fall 2014.

J: The mutants in your book don’t have exposed brains. Why not?

C: I thought exposed brains would leave them too vulnerable. The mutants in Plague have weaknesses, but they are more emotional than physical.

J: Who besides me and my newly published debut occult thriller, BEATRYSEL, now available on Amazon just in time for the holidays, do you find inspiring? I was inspired by classics like the Lord of the Flies and Brave New World and by modern young adult dystopian fiction like The Hunger Games.

J: Where can my readers find out more about you?
Fox Hollow Publications
Twitter: @chaggerty99
J: Great, here’s Luna with more cookies.

C: I can’t pick them up.

J: You’re just not used to your new claws. It’ll come to you.

C: I feel funny.

J: I can see your brain. Wait a minute – Luna, are these antidote cookies? What do you mean we're out? Don't blame me. They were delicious. Now look at lovely Christine. She's mutating. Don't just stand there Luna, get the exoskeleton polish.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Teresa Joseph-Franklin is a poet and I show it

Today is special and you should I know it
For the first on The Blog Mansion, I bring you a poet

To vex my guest
And please the rest
We shall converse
In only verse

Teresa Joseph-Franklin is a poet of some renown
I met her on the internet, not actually in my town
She writes free form in England, cozy in her home
Where she bundles up her poems and binds them into tomes – O! Teresa, O Teresa!
How many books have you written?
I own Simply Magically Beautiful
And let me tell you I am smitten!

TERESA – To write each would be a very long verse, so a brief response would be absolutely free!
That soars with the wind
Light as the breeze
Gentle and soft
Their colours so beautiful
Beautiful as everything that lives and breathes

J – When do you write your verse?
During your good times or your worst?

T – Time is of the essence
And there is nothing like the present
When the moments of inspiration come with content
Filled with words, images, with no pretense

The words just happen in good times and bad
There is no plan, just a fixture my lad
Now that cannot be all bad

J – When your muse sits upon your arm,
And whispers in your ear
What subjects does it make you write,
What themes do you hold dear? – It all depends on the mood
The theme, the topic of day
But this day holds dear as ‘Love is for Real’
Is so special in everyway

J –
I just might bring a tear
But since I have you here
I have to ask
It is my task
Why chose you this career?

T –
I stumbled, rumbled
Rummaged through the career
Deep, deep down inside was bud
Waiting to blossom, just like a flower waiting to bloom
Even though at times there was so much gloom and doom
But I made it through and shone a light on the darkest of glooms

J – How came you first to print?
Was is easy
Was it hard
Was it slow or a just a sprint?

T – My first endeavour to print came with a poetry competition
With loads of renditions
Commendations as a great poet of the great but not late England
It was easy peasy to get into print
But by jove it was a sprint
I’d never known such hurried dots and dashes
Sign here, sign there, oh and over here my dear
Sadly I am more cautious with the sprint
As there is a dog eat dog out there and they do not really care
When this poet writes and composes there upon her certain pose
With heaps of love, tenderness and flair
It’s all there
For all to read, enjoy – Bleed and write and worry, share
To put your soul and thoughts on paper
For what?
For whom?

For what awards have you received? 

T – Oh this is so, so embarrassing, 
There are loads which I have listed below
Of which I am not going bellow
Or sing.

Top Ten Female Poet of UK 2012

United Press UK, March 2012

What Lies Within a collection of poetry
Forward Poetry UK, March 2012

Top Ten Poet of UK

United Press, June 2012

Through The Eyes Of A Poet

United Press UK  - July 2012

Poets of 2012

The UK Poetry Library, August 2012

Best Poets And Poems Of 2012
World Poetry Movement, August 2012

Poets of 2012

 The UK Poetry Library, August 2012

End Of Days a collection of poetry
Forward Poetry UK, September 2012

International Who's Who In Poetry 2012 

September 2012

Into The Shadows a collection of poetry

Forward Poetry UK, October 2012

Who's Who In American Poetry 2013
September 2013

Poet Of The Year 2014

United Press United Kingdom, November 2013

J – Tell me in Haiku
Your current project’s progress

T –
oh no not Haiku !
that is the worst to write

J –
Perchance, pray tell, of where upon the net
Such able clickers might seek thee out anon
And share upon this humble page the links
Of glory and acclaim that art of thee

Teresa's BLOG
Teresa on FACEBOOK 
Teresa on TWITTER 
Teresa's author page on AMAZON &

Heartfelt Baring All (volume one) kindle ASIN: B00COSI5W6
Paperback edition below with ISBN
•    ISBN-10: 1484878388
•    ISBN-13: 978-1484878385

Heartfelt Baring All (volume two) kindle  ASIN: B00CO9QPV8
Paperback edition with ISBN
•    ISBN-10: 1489549269
•    ISBN-13: 978-1489549266

Heartfelt Baring All (volume three) kindle  ASIN: B00DI8MG6C
Paperback edition ISBN
•    ISBN-10: 1490492151
•    ISBN-13: 978-1490492155

Sunburst and Flames kindle edition ASIN: B00D9TXNEY
Paperback edition
    ISBN-10: 1490491104
•    ISBN-13: 978-1490491103 Beautiful kindle edition ASIN: B00CK8DL4W
Paperback edition
•    ISBN-10: 1489505105
•    ISBN-13: 978-1489505101

Simply Magical kindle edition ASIN: B00E2UU2LQ
Paperback edition
•    ISBN-10: 1491059443
•    ISBN-13: 978-1491059449

Living Under The Same Sky kindle edition ASIN: B00DQYAA1Q
Paperback edition
•    ISBN-10: 1490909281
•    ISBN-13: 978-1490909288

J –
Thanks for visiting
This blog is a hit
You’ve been more than patient
To put up with my shi – enanigans

T – Thank you for having me Johnny honestly

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Online Author Chat this Tuesday!

I interrupt the usual silly fare of the Blog Mansion for an important announcement:

Join me, Johnny Worthen, this next Tuesday at 7 pm PST / 8 pm MST at the Omnium Gatherum website for a live author chat.

I will be discussing BEATRYSEL, writing, publishing, Magic and future projects. But I will take questions about anything. Want to know how to make a fantastic Chickan Masala? Ask and I'll tell you. Want to know my feelings about the NSA? They know, but I'll tell you too.

Plus - we're giving away free books! how's that for a slice of greatness?

It's really easy, just set an alarm for Tuesday evening, turn on your computer (like it's ever off, amirite?) go to the OG site (see below) and join in. It's that easy. Win a book. Ask a question. Hang out.
WHAT: Live Online Chat and Book Giveaway

WHEN: Tuesday November 26, 2013 @ 7 pm PST / 8 pm MST

WHERE: <---click here Tuesday

WHO: Everyone's invited, Johnny will be there

HOW: The magick of the internet
Please come!

More (same) information at: My web site,  Facebook & Goodreads.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

10 Things I learned at the 2013 Tony Hillerman Writers Conference

I spent my forty-fuggin’-seventh birthday in a car driving down to New Mexico, Santa Fe to be precise to attend the Tony Hillerman Writer’s Conference, also known, for some reason as “Wordharvest.” I’m unsure why they need two names, but whatever. I went last year and it was great. I went back this year and dug it again. It’s limited to like only a 150 people so you probably didn’t get to go. As a public service, here is a list of what was buzzing in my head while I drove home after the conference.

Anne Hillerman, our hostess
(photo quality: potato)
1 – It’s good to have an agent.
    Agents are so helpful. They get you published by the big five and make sure your subsidiary rights are addressed. Though there are bad ones, the good ones are worth every penny of their commission.

2 – Writers are good people.
    The best thing about the Hillerman Conference are the people. No doubt about it. It’s small enough to mingle with everyone, big and small, thin and fat (me there) and actually get connected. I handed out business cards to everyone with fingers, and except for the guy in the buffet line who had a conniption when I tried to pass him the pasta tongs but dripped a drop of sauce on his cowboy boots, everyone was wonderful. That one guy was a complete prick though. He can die in a fire. That’d be alright. I mean, it was an accident and I even wiped it off. Jerk. Fire’s too good for him.

3 – Westerns are coming back, if they haven’t already arrived.
    It was a western writers conference so what else are they going to say? Westerns and western mysteries, procedurals and such, are celebrated there. Remember the name Hillerman Conference. Like Tony Hillerman. Actually, it’s not like Tony Hillerman it is Tony Hillerman. If you don’t know him, go get acquainted.
    Nevertheless, it’s true I think that westerns are coming back. There were plenty of writers there to prove it, Steven Havill, Margaret Coel, Anne Hillerman (debuting at #10 on the NYT best-seller list, I might add) and Craig Johnson who’s books are now the basis for the A&E Longmire series. I hung out with all these folks, by the way. It was cool. If by no other metric than Craig Johnson’s success, I’d have to say that Westerns are alive and well. Too bad I don’t write any (yet).

4 – Don’t spend more than three months on a rough draft of anything.
    Writers conferences are always full of advice. Yep, they’re always full of it. You’ll get a bunch of rules and ideas from author and then the next one will effectively contradict everything the previous one said. There aren’t really rules to writing. No one can tell you precisely how to write your book, outline or freeform, characters or plot first, start at the end or the beginning. It’s all subjective. However, when I hear another author say something that I agree with, that will actually help my personal writing process, it’s wonderful confirmation. Such was this twice echoed direction to blaze through the rough draft as fast as possible. Put the black on the white, edit later. Three months sounds about right.

5 – It’s good to have an agent.
    Once you have an agent, you can offer your manuscript and they will accept it. If it’s not perfect your agent will offer professional editing to get it ready for publishers who’ll either snatch it up or edit again for you before snatching it up.
Think these agents are hard to catch? Try a literary agent.
6 – Social Media is important if only to make a presence so the first thing Googled about you isn’t a mugshot of a toothless Memphis meth-dealer with your same name.
    That kind of sums it up. It’s also useful for promotion and getting in touch your fans (when you get them). There’s a lot of it and it’s a pain in the ass and will suck up all your time from now until the end of your career if you let it, but unfortunately, unless you’re already somebody, it’s necessary.

7 – It’s good to have an agent.
    Agents will get your newly acquired book reviewed in all the right places. Publisher’s Weekly comes to mind. Does Oprah still have a book club? Let’s call her and find out.

8 – The best place to write is from your private ranch studio loft overlooking a majestic western landscape, mountains, horses, and deer (elk optional).

    I’m of two minds on this advice. It was repeated twice maybe not as advice but as personal preference. First, it’s coming from authors who’ve made it, who’re living on the proceeds of their writing. Gentleman writers who don’t Twitter or FaceBook. For the beginning, intermediate, or modern writer, this “advice” is not much help. However, I took it as a challenge. It is a goal, an ultimate measure of success to strive for. While I’m eating Top-Ramen every night, stealing WiFi from coffee shops and begging free refills, I can envision myself watching a sunrise over the Rocky Mountains through a wall of windows, knowing my next book will find a home, my agent’s on it, and I have all day to crank out five pages before turning my attention to the mounds of fan-mail the postman threw his back out carrying up to the door every day.

9 – Write every day.
    Another rule that was repeated. It’s a luxury to be sure to write every day and hearing it from authors who write full time, with no other job, is a little biased, but it’s still great advice and another one I believe in, but of course, I write full time. Poverty sucks.

10 – It’s good to have an agent.
    It is pert near impossible to reach the top echelon of publishing without an agent. Touted aberrations aside, the gates are still guarded by agents who are human and busy, selective and political. With the right connections they line up at your door. Without them, welcome to the wilderness, where on a clear morning we can look out from the weeds, over the meadow and see the sunrise reflected off the glass windows of a private study in the loft of a stately mountain ranch.
The Herd

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

ELEANOR Cover Reveal

Today is a big day at the Blog Mansion. A rare event indeed because today, for the briefest moment, since the wind is still and the neighbors not looking, we may glimpse Eleanor, my beloved Eleanor. Don't look too long or too hard, she scares easily.

I proudly present to the world the first cover for my upcoming young adult/paranormal  series - ELEANOR.

Eleanor is a modest girl, unremarkable but extraordinary,
young but old, malleable but fixed.

She is scared and confused.
She is a liar and a thief. 
Eleanor is not what she appears to be.

ELEANOR Coming Spring 2014 from Jolly Fish Press.

And one for the mobile readers.

<<< >>>

Thursday, October 31, 2013

My Six Favorite Things about Halloween!


This is my favorite holiday and not just because I wrote BEATRYSEL, a fantastic literary horror novel perfect for Halloween reading now available on Amazon. No I've loved this holiday my whole life.

Six things I love about Halloween:

1 - THE SEASON: Autumn has always been my favorite season, probably because of Halloween. I love the colors and the smells, the change in the light and the cooling temperatures. I love fresh harvested apples and pine-nuts in the stores. The moon has a special brightness in the fall, made magic when full and seen between high racing clouds.

Yeah.... this is where i live. (Utah)

2 - COSTUMES: Halloween drags us out of ourselves. We are encouraged, if not required to imagine ourselves as another thing, be it a pirate, ghost or a toad-stool. What a cathartic exercise to imagine ourselves not ourselves.
Okay, you don't have to be these people, but you get the idea.

3 - JACK-O-LANTERNS: Like costumes, pumpkins bring out the artist in Halloweeners. For at least one night a year, we all designers and sculptors. Every year I am impressed with what my family and neighbors manage to do with an orange vegetable.

Look! He's eating a little pumpkin! Can you believe that!

4 - THE OCCULT: Halloween is the last truly Pagan holiday. There is no white-washing it; on All-Hallow’s Eve, the Devil gets his due. If only for fairness, it’s nice to have a holiday that celebrates the darkness, revels in the macabre and supernatural.

Blessed Be!

5 - CANDY: Like the nuts and apples that are the season, Halloween is chocolate and candy-corn, caramel squares and “fun-size” snacks. I love handing out the treats at the door and sneaking them between visits. 
Caramels - the best Halloween candy ever. EVER!

6 - TRADITION: I love the ancient ritual of sharing, a throwback to the times of raiding bands: at a time of harvest, strangers demand a tribute at my door. Woe to me if I refuse. Trick or treat. The dead are near.

Coming soon.... ELEANOR.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cinderskella – Mom, Daughter, and aggressive industrial food-products

Bethanie and Amie Borst
In a first for the Blog Mansion, we have a mother daughter team, Amie and Bethanie Borst co-authors of Cinderskella, a young adult book about anorexia.

Amie: It’s not about anorexia.

Johnny: But look at the cover. Isn’t this about eating disorders?

A: No….well except that one scene when Cindy is forced to eat chicken livers. And the one where she has to eat pickled pigs’ feet <gag>.

J: Please not on the carpet. The rats have sensitive stomachs. What’s your book it about?

A: Cinderskella is about a girl dealing with the loss of her mother while learning to live with a skeleton curse. She also has some awful step-sisters and a horrible, terrible step-mother…not to mention a crush on the cutest boy at school. While facing such perils as pickled pigs’ feet, a wacky fortune teller and a few quick trips to the Underworld, Cindy’s determined to break the curse—even for a single night.

J: Well I assumed it was about eating disorders, so I made this fat-filled buffet to put some meat on you guys.

A: Have you seen me lately? Trust me, I don’t need any more meat on my bones!

J: Is Cinderskella meant for young adult or middle grade? What’s the difference anyway?

A: Cinderskella is a middle-grade book. There’s a pretty big difference, actually. For starters middle-grade is usually intended for a younger audience (8-12 year olds) while young adult is geared for 13 and up. Also the themes, characters, challenges, plot and content is toned down a bit from their YA counterparts. Basically no kissing in MG.

J: Its your debut right?

A: It sure is! Bethanie and I couldn’t be more excited about it!

J: Is it a series?

A: It is! Book two in the Scarily Ever Laughter series is Little Dead Riding Hood, due out fall 2014.

J: Not that it’s remotely out of place, not with all the weapons hanging on my walls, Zulu spears, water-cooled machine gun, Sting, but what’s with the bow, Bethanie?

B: I’m an avid archer. Maybe I’ll even make it to the Olympics someday. In case you didn’t know, my bow’s name is Stormy because she’s black and white like a storm trooper.

J: So you’re ready for the Hunger Games.

B: I AM the Hunger Games.

J: Warning taken. When did you guys start writing Cinderskella?

A: Bethanie came home with the story concept when she was 9 years old, so that was 2010. We wrote a very basic first draft and I sent it through my crit group. From there the story grew and Cinderskella was ready to send to publishers in 2012. Jolly Fish Press was one of three to offer a contract. You can read the full story at Ann Marie’s blog.

J: How is it to write as a team?

A: It definitely has its challenges. The hardest part for me is trusting Bethanie’s ideas. They’re so wild and out there I worry that they won’t work. But as we plot and create, draft and write, I learn her ideas really are a home run. I need to trust her instincts and learn to just roll with it. My ideas are safe. And lame.
Better living through chemistry.

J: Here’s the lovely Janette with some snacks. Mmmmm, some lovely Dow Corning Pizza-like Pocket Samplers®. Have one Amie.

A: What’s a Dow Corning Pizza? I’ll stick with Ray’s New York pizza. But thanks.

J: Oh, would you prefer some deep-fried Twinkies? The Deep fried HoHo’s melted.

A: Got any twix? I’m a chocolate gal.

J: I thought you were a gourmet?

A: Me? A gourmet? LOL! I do love to cook, but I’d hardly call it gourmet.

J: I’ve got some re-hydrated MSG derivative frozen treat®.

A: Fantastic. That’ll go great with the lyme-scaled water laced with ecoli we have here in our county.

J: Try and be friendly, see where that gets me. Okay, so tell me about Cinderskella’s illustrator?

A: Oh that’s Rachael Caringella. She’s super talented. Plus she has a blog. And pink hair. I think if we lived close we’d be great friends

J: I always ask my author/competitors, how did you get started? What was your break to get published?

A: Beat you to the finish line! Kidding. I’ve always been a writer (your audience can read that story at Sherry Gammon’s blog – ) but it all started in 2008 with a YA paranormal romance I’d written. Obviously that book isn’t published. But I kept writing. While Cinderskella is my first published book, I’d had a few articles published, one with Catholic Charities. That was probably one of the most rewarding articles I’ve ever written and I’m glad it’s helping so many families. (

You can follow Amie and Bethanie on Facebook at

You can find Amie at her blog, Twitter, and Pinterest

J: Well I feel dumb. I was told that you had a big good food/bad food thing going and I can't even rattle you. No need to keep trying. Better clean up.

A: What the...!

J: Okay Bethanie, see that moving pile of processed cheese over there? Not the one on the left that just burped, but the other one. The one on the right that just gained sentience? Yeah, put an arrow in that for the good of all humanity. I doubt we’ll be able to make it to the door if you don’t.

J: You missed. I can’t believe you missed!

J: And now it’s gotten Janette. Great. It’s so hard to keep employees.

She's used to this kind of thing by now.

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Kim Williams-Justesen ties books, family and yarn together

Kim Williams-Justesen
tying it all together
Kim Williams-Justesen and I are neighbors. We met downtown for a pleasant walk as while she worked out some of her stress with having a new book launch.

Johnny: What is that?

Kim: Knitting needles. I knit. I like to knit when I'm stressed, and I'm stressed a lot these days!

J: You have many talents.

K: Well thank you!  I do. I write mostly, but sometimes I just have to knit.

J: What’s in the bag?

K: Yarn. A few dozen balls of it.

J: That’s a lot.

K: I knit fast.

J: Are you nervous about your new book The Deepest Blue coming out?

K: I'm nervous about the release event. The book is all done, so I'm not so nervous about it.

J: What’s it about?

K: Mike hasn’t spoken to his mother in years, and what few memories he has of her are painful. When Mike’s dad is killed in a car wreck, Mike wants to stay in his hometown and live with Maggie, his dad’s girlfriend, who has been like a mother to him for the last five years. But Mike’s mother reappears in his life and demands that he return to her custody and live on the other side of the country with a family he doesn't know. The law is on his mother’s side, and Mike will have to grow up quickly and take on the legal system to have the life he wants. This deeply moving story of a young teen's difficult family relationships reflects the reality of many children and teens with strong emotional ties to adults who have no legal rights in the instance of death or divorce.

It's about standing up for yourself when you know what's best for you. It's about how we make families for ourselves and understanding that blood is not necessarily thicker than water.
J: The Deepest Blue has some pretty adult themes in it. You go into custody and legal machinations. How do you temper that for a younger audience?

K: I had to be sure that I kept the story in the point of view of Mike, the main character. I had to make sure that I stayed faithful to his perspective on all the issues. He doesn't understand the ins and outs of the legal process, so he just talks about his experience from an honest place and he doesn't pretend to understand all the legal craziness.

J: Did you just knit a sweater for that tree?

K: Absolutely! Notice I make the stripes horizontal so it has a more widening effect around the trunk.

J: Uhm. Okay. never mind. Boy books. There’s supposedly a stigma about having boys as the main character of a YA book. What do you think of that.

K: I think that's ridiculous. Boys need books told from their perspective. They need stories about their experiences. There are some awesome YA books which feature female main characters, but there are also amazing stories featuring male  characters, too. Ultimately, what matters most is a solid, well-written story, not necessarily the main character's gender.

J: That wasn’t your bike.

K: So? Bikes have a right to be warm too, don't they?

J: Where did you get the idea for The Deepest Blue?

K: When my oldest daughter was 15, she asked my husband (her step-dad) to adopt her. It's a long story, but basically, she knew that her step-dad was a healthier choice for her. Her biological dad wasn't happy, but he ultimately went along with it. His second wife, however, was pretty nasty about it for a long time. Then later, when my step-son turned 15, he asked me to adopt him. I don't think I spent more than 1/10th of a second thinking about it. Again, there is a long story as to his reasons why, but ultimately, I adopted him as well. After watching my two oldest kids go through the process, seeing their strength and dedication to what was best for them - well, that was pretty darn inspiring, and it led to The Deepest Blue.

J: Tell me about Motherhood in The Deepest Blue.

K:  You've hit on a key issue in the story. What makes a mom? Or either parent for that matter? In my family, adoption is a big word. I was adopted as an infant. So was my husband, my sister, my sister-in-law, and several of my closest friends. While I have met members of my biological family, my "real" family are those people I was raised with. I've always looked at the "nature vs. nurture" argument with curiosity. Then having gone through two step-parent adoptions in our family, I began to take a very close look at who nurtures, how we nurture, and what that means in terms of defining family. I had been my son's full-time mom since he was two, and my husband has been my daughter's full-time dad since she was four. But the role of step-parent is different, and has legal limitations. I didn't need a legal document to tell me that my son was mine, and I didn't need to give birth to him to love him. Likewise, it's true there are biological parents who don't fully accept the seriousness of that job or are not able or willing to do it.

Nothing is safe
J: You’ve worked with a few publishers. How’s that been? How’s Tanglewood Press?

K: Some publishers are amazing to work with, and others - well, not so much. Tanglewood is among the amazing publishers. They have been delightful to work with, supportive and professional and easy to work with. Interestingly, they rejected The Deepest Blue almost two years before they accepted it. When they rejected it, I put it away thinking I would work on revisions later. I had several other projects going on at the time, and a year and a half after the rejection, I had sent another manuscript to Tanglewood. A few months later, Peggy Tierney from Tanglewood called and said "I have some good news and I have some bad news." The bad news - she was passing on the other manuscript I had sent her. Then she said, "Where is 'The Deepest Blue'?"  I said, "It's on a thumb drive." Peggy said, "No, I mean, is it under contract? Have you submitted it elsewhere?" I said, "No, it's on a thumb drive."   She made an offer to buy The Deepest Blue, and here we are, 22 months later, celebrating the release of my novel!

J: I alway want to know how authors get their break. How did you first get published?

K: I started by building writing credentials. I wrote for magazines, I wrote for one of the early internet success sites, CitySearch, and I wrote for local publications (Wasatch Parent magazine, now called Utah Parent). I wrote for anyone who would let me! My first real publication came through a woman I met online. She was looking for help with a workbook she was writing on Borderline Personality Disorder. I had personal experience with the disorder, and after exchanging a few emails, she hired me to coauthor it with her. While I think many writers find success with a book right away, I served an apprenticeship, built credibility, and really learned my craft from the ground up.

J: So was The Deepest Blue an easy sale after that?

K: The Deepest Blue collected almost 40 rejections before Peggy offered it a second chance. I don't think there is such a thing as an easy sale. If it was easy, everyone could do it, and I don't think that would be good for books or publishing.

J: You don’t have an agent either. Do you think we need one?

K: There are so many publishing options these days that I don't think an agent is as necessary as it used to be. I have worked with an agent before, but the chemistry wasn't there. Of the eight books I've sold, I've sold them all myself. That being said, I do believe an agent can do things that are difficult for us as authors to do. For example, many large publishers offer foreign rights contracts, but you can't get into the larger houses, and therefore get to those foreign markets, without having an agent. I am actively looking for an agent currently, but I'm not waiting on that agent to sell my work.

J: Someone going to upset when they see that.

K: It’s art. I think every Mini needs an angora sweater.

J: Okay. What are you doing to promote your book? There was your book launch, which was great, but else are you doing?

K: Wasn't that party great? And did you see all the book cozies I crocheted that night? Besides the signing, I have promotional events on my website, my Facebook page, and my blog. Every time I get a new review, I promote it. I've also signed up for events through some of my local writing organizations. I'll be speaking my League of Utah Writer's chapter meeting, and I've been asked by the Utah/So. Idaho chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) to speak at an event called The Inside Story at The King's English Bookshop. I'm also sending out informational packets to schools and libraries for workshops and signings. I've done book marks, post cards, and posters as well, so I'll pretty much do anything, including knitting a cover of my book, to promote it.

J: Where on the internet can people find you?
TWITTER - @kwjwrites
J: This is really getting out of control. You have to stop knitting.

K: I crochet a little too. See here’s a picture.

J: I hope your book is a great success.

K: Me too. My yarn budget is off the chart!