Author Interview: Helen Ross

Last day of Authorpalooza, folks. I didn't think this day would come so soon, and then, next week, we start the madness that I call Giveawaypalooza. Can you imagine how time passes us by faster and faster? It's already April in my part of the world. Didn't we just welcome the New Year? Anyway, while I puzzle over the Space/Time continuum, let's get to know our author for the day.

About the Author:

Born in Melbourne, Australia (nee McKenzie) Helen has always loved drawing, arts and crafts but since her teens, had always felt that there was something in her trying to get out. A passion. And in her search for ‘that niche’ Helen has tried most things.

But it was a gorilla named Lulu that set her on the path of a poet/writer. As part of a drama assignment, Helen had to perform a piece about a gorilla. So she penned her first poem, ‘Lulu the Gorgeous Gorilla’. Helen has been writing ever since.

In 2006 Helen self-published two children’s picture books, Ten Yellow Bananas and Santa is in Our Chimney.

Her latest releases include Bubble Gum Trouble and other Giggle Poems (2009) and 10 Yellow Bananas (2010 - rewrite of 2006 edition) – both published by Little Steps Publishing, Division of New Frontier, and illustrated by Dee Texidor.

Helen has also had giggle poems for children published in a book for the kids at the Namara District School in Fiji (2009).

She has also written giggle poetry for Cherububble (Primary/Early childhood education on-line resource), written articles for Australia Bookseller and Publisher magazine, and had a number of self publishing articles published online. Published material also includes articles, and poems published in anthologies, magazines and online websites.

About the Novel:

This charming reverse counting rhyme of teddy bears that are stolen by ten bananas goes hilariously down the number chain, through all types of fruit A colourful and creative tale ending in cooperation and friendship. (synopsis by Dennis Jones & Assoc. Distributor)

The Interview:

1. When did you decide to start writing?

As a primary teacher, in my early twenties, I enjoyed making up stories with my pupils.

But my love of writing really began in my mid twenties (over 25 years ago now). As part of acting classes I was attending at the time, I had to write and perform a piece about an animal, as selected by a ‘lucky dip’. My animal was the gorilla, so I wrote my first poem, Lulu, the Gorgeous Gorilla. I really enjoyed the process and received rave reviews.

Then, sometime after, due to a change in personal circumstances, I started neglecting my drama classes and spending time alone writing ‘heart felt’ poetry. Then humorous children’s verses literally began somersaulting into my head, and the writing bug well and truly hit.

2. What is your genre and why did you decide to write a novel in it?

At the present time, most of my writing falls into the picture book category. I first wrote a poem titled ‘Ten Yellow Bananas’ around 1993/94, as part of a collection of giggle verses. When I decided to self publish, to start the ball rolling and get my work out there, I thought that ‘Ten Yellow Bananas’ would work as a stand alone picture book. It was a quirky reverse counting poem that appealed to children’s quirky sense of humour. After its release in 2006, and subsequent excellent sales, positive feedback, and my growth as a writer/poet, I wanted to make Ten Yellow Bananas more commercially appealing. So in 2010 it was published by Little Steps publishing, Division of New Frontier, a well respected Australian publishing company. The title changed to 10 Yellow Bananas with new illustrations, verse changes, and inclusion of a moral (forgiveness and co-operation). But I also write short stories (children and adult fiction), articles for community and children’s magazines, as well as articles for online resources.

3. Were you worried about the word count of your work?

Writing text for a picture book is actually harder than a lot of people realise. Every word is important, especially working within the standard 32 page picture book format And because this is a rhyming text, the rhyme and metre were also of utmost importance.

4. Do you have any writing quirks and what are they?

Like many writers/poets I have pads and pens everywhere. I always have a pad or two, and pens in my handbag and often stop in shopping aisles jotting down ideas, little rhymes, or expressions that tumble into my head, or that I might hear from people passing by. Pads and pens are also beside my bed, in my kitchen, in the toilet (not the toilet bowl) and in my car. Ideas can tumble in my brain at any time.

5. If you can describe your novel in one word, what would it be and why?

In regards, to my latest children’s picture book - Quirky.

6. How did you decide on the title and what does it mean?

The book was easy to title, as the book follows the trail of ten naughty bananas. However, the original version was titled, Ten Yellow Bananas but it was Dee Texidor, the illustrator for the latest version who designed the cover as 10 Yellow Bananas. I think this works better as it is a counting book.

7. What do you hope your readers will get out of reading your novel?

My readers are primarily young children, teachers and parents. I hope that the children will enjoy the bright, bubbly and quirky pictures, and the story. It has educational value (reverse counting book), and great for teachers and parents to discuss healthy eating, colours and the importance of co-operation and forgiveness. But if it brings a smile or laughter to the readers/listeners whilst aiding in their literacy development and a love of books, then I am very happy.

8. Tell us a little about your road to publication.

In 1989/1990, after moving to Brisbane, I began a correspondence Diploma in Writing course with ‘The Writing School’ (formerly NSW Writing School). I began entering competitions and had some of my ‘heart-felt’ poems and humorous children’s poems published in poetry anthologies. In 1993, I won first prize (Children’s poetry category) in the OZ waves Award and University of Queensland Press Book Prizes for my humorous poem, Magpie Mania (under pen name, Jean Ross).
Then around that time, within a period of about three months, I had written approx. 120 humorous poems, and some short stories.

Not wanting the possibility of spending months or years sending manuscripts to publishers and receiving rejection slips in the mail, I published my first book, Ten Yellow Bananas in March 2006 and followed up with, Santa is in the Chimney in September of that year.
My subsequent networking, appearances at Writers’ festivals and growth as a poet/writer brought me into contact with Little Steps Publishing, Division of New Frontier and they published Bubble Gum Trouble and other Giggle Poems (2009) and 10 Yellow Bananas (new version, pub. 2010).

Other Published works include:
 Giggle poetry published in Cherububble (Primary/Early childhood education on-line resource),
 Early 2009, five of my giggle rhyming poems published in Books For Fiji, presented to the children at Namara District School in Fiji
 Articles in Australia Bookseller and Publisher magazine,
 Heart-felt poetry published in anthologies.
 TAFE telemarketing and course module writing (Medical terminology and Call centre telemarketing).
 Assessment writing for OLI (Open Learning Institute) Medical terminology Distance course
 Freelance education module writing for Education Resources (Int) P/L
 Articles for international self publishing websites.
 Magazine article writing for community and children’s reading magazines.
 Blog at:

9. What advice can you give other aspiring authors out there?

Work at your craft, and enjoy the journey. Write because you love to write, and don’t focus on wanting to be published. That will come. Look at entering competitions, courses, and writing regularly.

Children's books are just as important as novels. They are the cornerstone that teaches our kids a multitude of things, chief among them the love for reading. So, a big hug and thanks to you, Helen, for allowing us into your life as a writer. You are always welcome here at Reads, Reviews, Recommends.

If you want to know more about Helen Ross, you can click on the links below:

Web: (showcases her children's books)

Author Interview: Kris Sedersten

Welcome to Authorpalooza Day 3!

About the Author:

Kris Sedersten is a Registered Nurse with a degree in Human and Social Service Administration. She has held credentialing in both Gerontological Nursing and Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing.She is currently employed as a Nursing Home Administrator and RN Consultant in her home town of Harvard, NE. where she lives with her husband, Paul. Kris has a passion for the paranormal, writing fiction, and sharing her faith in innovative fourms so combining the three has led to a series of books she is working on. If you've go Mojo, look for upcoming releases in 2011.

About the Novel:

The Interview:

1. When did you decide to start writing?

There was never a time when I consciously decided to start writing. Once my children were grown and I found myself with extra time on my hands, I started to write a short story. It was supposed to be a little shout out to my friends who liked to explore haunted house in high school. It was just a goof and I never planned to publish it. But, once I started writing, the ideas kept coming, and the story took on a life of its own. It ended up going places I never intended! I discovered, quite by accident, that I love to write and I thoroughly enjoy the creativity. It sparked my fiction addiction and now I am hooked on writing.

2. What is your genre and why did you decide to write a novel in it?

I have always loved the mystery-horror genres. I love a good ghost story. I have a passion for the paranormal and exploring unexplained phenomena. Since it’s one of the things that interest me most, I guess, it would follow that the paranormal would be my genre of choice. It’s wildly popular right now, which makes it even more fun. I’m not into the whole vampire craze but I love the paranormal. Writing and researching the topic does not feel like work if you love what you are doing. I started a web site to market my book, Mojo, invite others to share ghost stories, and write about paranormal adventures. It’s only been up a few weeks but thus far it has been so fun! Everyone is invited to stop in and check it out! If you have any personal ghost stories you would like to share, please feel free! We’d love to hear them.

3. Were you worried about the word count of your work?

No. In the first place, I did not know enough about writing to give it a thought! I just wrote the story as it came until it was finished. I now realize that publishers want novels of certain length, and I have learned to pay more attention, but it’s not a high priority for me. Telling the story the way it needs to be told is the main concern. As I grow in the profession and continue to learn the ropes, I’m sure I will! I feel like I’ve learned so much in the past three years but there is still so much more to learn.

4. Do you have any writing quirks and what are they?

I don’t know if you would call them quirks but I have some bad habits! I tend to repeat myself in my writing if I get interrupted too much during the creative process. When I proof read later, it can be a mess! I tend to write for long intervals if the ideas are fresh and flowing. I can spend twelve to fourteen hours lost in a story if the world leaves me alone long enough. That does not happen often, however! Since I work a full-time job, I write on week-ends and during the evening hours for the most part. I drink a lot of coffee!

5. If you can describe your novel in one word, what would it be and why?

BOO! Mojo is dark and edgy, maybe more so than I first intended. Like I said, the story goes where the story goes. It is pretty intense and fast paced. There are unexpected twists and turns that keeps the story moving. If you scare easily, don’t read it too close to bedtime. (lol)

6. How did you decide on the title and what does it mean?

“Mojo” was the natural title since the story is all about the mojo! It takes place in the mojo-city of New Orleans, Louisiana and encompasses all the cultural and religious diversity of the area. “Mojo” itself is a term that brings a number of definitions to mind, depending upon the context. It can be a whimsical, fun-filled term that rolls off the lips or it can invoke visions of terrifying curses and voodoo zombies! It has evolved over time and demographics to suit the slang and terminology requirements of those who use it. As far as I could determine; the word root of “Mojo” comes from Africa and perhaps first came to the American south with the African slaves. The word source is probably “mocos”, which means conjure doctor or priest. In its original sense, mojo came in the form of magical charms filled with recipes from conjure doctors. They were filled with any variety of special ingredients designed to invoke spiritual powers, enhance good fortune, or to serve as protection from evil spirits. The mojo bags were worn around the neck by practitioners of Creole hoodoo or voodoo religions and their followers. Of course, in current times, ‘Mojo’ is used in a more light hearted sense to describe an extraordinarily bewitching personality, supernatural charisma, or sexual prowess. The characters in Mojo certainly have their own kind of mojo! At any rate, the term encompasses a mysterious and unexplainable concept that I thought was perfect for the novel. I’ve decided to use it as the title for the series as well. I am planning four books in the series so stayed tuned!

7. What do you hope your readers will get out of reading your novel?

First and foremost, I hope they will be entertained. For those who like novels with intrigue and excitement, combined with elements of the supernatural, I hoped to keep them engaged and guessing. I try to be descriptive so the reader can imagine they are involved every scene, experiencing the haunting along with the characters. And, without ever being preachy, there is an underlying spiritual message. I hope to show the reader that having faith in a higher power will help get us through even the most unexpected challenges in life. God is bigger than the boogey man!

8. Tell us a little about your road to publication.

Initially, I queried a few agents and traditional publishers, but not many. The information on the internet, in the news, etc., painted a bleak picture for the prospect of new fiction authors being picked up by traditional publishers. I decided pretty early on to pursue the route of self publishing. I chose Booksurge because it was affordable and offered everything I thought I needed. I had my book professionally edited and received a lot of good advice from my editor, Cliff Carle. He has twenty plus years of experience in publishing and he was very generous about sharing his knowledge with me throughout the editing process. I am also working with Author Marketing Experts to help market my book. Again, I have learned so much from the team at AME. They are a pleasure to work with, and a fledgling author can always use all the moral support they can get, right?

9. What advice can you give other aspiring authors out there?

My advice is to learn from others who have the knowledge base and experience that a new author lacks. Do your homework and chose your team wisely! Once you have done that; listen and learn. I believe God will always send us the right people to help us through adversity but we have to pay attention! Another word of advice—patience! Everything takes time so be prepared for the long wait ahead! Keep busy with other projects once you’ve submitted your manuscript and don’t get discouraged! Even when you can actually envision your skeletal remains at the computer with one hand on the keyboard and the other still clutching a half-full cup of coffee—waiting—have faith! It helps to network with other authors and bloggers, too. We all experience the wait.

Thank you, Kris, for being a part of Authorpalooza 2011!

If you have any other questions for Kris, don't hesitate to ask in the comments section. And don't forget Giveawaypalooza. Mojo is on the list!

Author Interview: Emjae Edward

Welcome to the second day of Authorpalooza!

About the Author:

Emjae considers herself a professional romantic, but don't call her work romantic fiction. Like everyone else around Inknbeans, she prefers the term contemporary relationship fiction. She started writing fiction for her grandmother more than twenty years ago, and only recently decided to pick up quill and ink and begin again, after toiling far too long as a technical writer.

She lives in a little castle on a hilltop in Southern California with the demanding and indifferent Lord Mogwollen, her collection of tea pots, crochet hooks and coffees from around the world. She is the last living Dodgers fan.

The Lady Must Decline:

Kendra Carew is a schoolteacher and she runs her life the way she runs her classroom; routines, boundaries, calm and courteous are the rules. She knows everything there is to know within the sheltering walls of her small world. Sent out of her safe and small world to retrieve a wayward brother, she finds out just how little she knows about the world at large, and about herself.

Whit Southwell is an enigma to everyone; despite derogatory nicknames which suggest that coworkers and cohorts know him well, he's unpredictable and unstoppable. When confronted with an obstacle he either finds a way around it, or busts right through it - and Kendra just became an obstacle.

Learning To Be Irish:

Daire Arlen's grandfather left her a house in Northern Ireland, but it was far more than just four walls and a hearth, it was passage back to her heritage, a chance to pull the curtain back on her past, to see more than just the roads and hills and shops in the country where her father was born. It was a chance to dip her soul in the magic of her homeland.

Sitting upon that family stone was another gift from her grandfather, perhaps the one man in the world who could teach her to appreciate the house, the country, the magic, to teach her what it means to be Irish.

The Interview:

1) When did you decide to start writing?

I probably decided to start writing in the womb. I wrote my first story, a murder mystery, when I was eight. I copied it out on the lined paper they gave us in school, and shared it with my classmates. I suppose I was self published! This seemed to upset my teacher, though. For some reason, Sister Alberta took exception to the idea.

2) What is your genre and why did you decide to write a novel in it?

I write what I like to call contemporary relationship fiction. The rest of the world will insist on calling it romance. I started writing it for my grandmother when she had difficult finding titles she liked, or printed books she could see. In the process of transcribing books into large print for her, it occurred to me that I could write a few that were tailored to her tastes.

3) Were you worried about the word count of your work?

Since I wasn't writing for a publisher with what our Boss calls a cookie cutter mentality, where quantity and format far outweighed content, I could make my stories as long or short as I liked, and introduce themes which, at the time, were serious genre 'no-no's.

4) Do you have any writing quirks and what are they?

Quirks? I'm not sure. I insist that my quills be hand sharpened by blades which have never been used for any other purpose and my papyrus must be no less than six hundred forty years old. I need a choir of virgins, with stringed instruments, singing Eurovision entries four to six hours a day, and...the Boss says I have to stop now. Seriously, I just sit down at the keyboard, turn on some music and let my mind wander while the characters continue their journey. The next day I come back and pick up all the dangling participles and fragments of sentences.

5) If you can describe your novel in one word, what would it be and why?

For Learning to Be Irish the word would have to be green. Not as in environmentally friendly, but a color that can only be found in Heaven and in Ireland. For The Lady Must Decline I would say the word would be tension.

6) How did you decide on the titles of your works?

Learning to Be Irish had several different titles that were all just a bit cliche. I had written it and rewritten it and was reading it aloud when it occurred to me that story really was about a girl learning what it meant to be Irish. The Lady Must Decline was one of those titles that predated the actual story. I don't know where it came from but one day it was in my head, and the next I'd written three chapters.

7) What do you hope your readers will get out of reading your novel?

A good journey. One wonderful review said my books are more about the journey than the destination. I love that.

8) Tell us a little about your road to publication.

I had a very easy road to publication. The Boss and I have been friends for years, and she has had a vision for Inknbeans as long as I've known her. She always said when technology caught up with her vision she would publish my books. It did and she did.

9) What advice can you give other aspiring authors out there?

I don't know that I have the right to give advice, but I think one piece of advice that is good for all aspects of life is: Believe in yourself.

Thank you, Emjae, for answering my questions for Authorpalooza 2011! And I would also like to extend a special thanks to Maaijo for being the bridge between Emjae and Reads, Reviews, Recommends. We salute you for all your hard work!

Stay-tuned for the giveaway of this particular interview. You stand a chance to win coffee! Yes, that's right. Coffee!

Author Interview: India Wilson

Welcome to the first day of Authorpalooza! Remember, this is five days, five authors. And next week, we'll have Giveawaypalooza, which will feature six giveaways over six days! Please make sure to share your thoughts about each interview in the comments section. I'm sure all our authors will be glad to interact with each and everyone of you. If you have other questions not covered in each interview and I'm sure our authors will be glad to answer them. Let's begin Authorpalooza with a mysterious author. As you have noticed, we don't have an author photo because India Wilson wishes to remain anonymous. Adds to the mystic, don't you think?

1. Please state your name, occupation, and cocktail of choice for our readers.

The name I use is India Wilson, which is a pseudonym. I cannot tell you what my other occupation is besides being a writer because I am remaining anonymous with this book, for the sole reason that the racy nature of a book with a dominatrix as the heroine could interfere with my "respectability" in my other career. My favorite cocktail is a Tequila gimlet - made with gold tequila, Roses's lime juice and a wedge of lime. I find tequila the most mellow of alcoholic beverages - being made from the mescal plant rather than grain alcohol is probabyl a good reason why!

2. When did you decide to start writing?

I think most writers will tell you that it may feel like a decision to start writing – or taking yourself seriously as a writer – when in truth there is some inner engine or motor which drives that impulse or desire. I think of it as similar to horses who jump: you cannot force a horse to jump who does not want to as they have an innate desire and ability that you can tap into. I think there’s a natural proclivity to write in some people, which they either nurture or ignore and sooner or later they tap into it. And, as with performance horses, while you can train a talented horse to jump in better style, or faster, or more consistently, you cannot make a basically untalented horse do any of those things.

3. What's the one book that you keep coming back to time and again? Why?

BIRD BY BIRD by Annie Lamott is a life-saver for writers when you get bogged down, lose confidence, or feel overwhelmed. It's one of those precious books that you get something different from every time you dip into it - but always something that makes you laugh, gives you insight and frees you to do the best writing you can at that point.

4. What is your genre and why did you decide to write a novel in it?

This book seems to span genres and I since it started out as a psychological portrait of a very strange character, a first person interior monologue– or so I thought. Then it turned into a thriller – it morphed on its own, it wanted to have a bigger palette, a larger world, so to speak, and then became a political thriller. So once again, I did not experience it as my decision – but rather the character and material, which led me down a different path. There are some people who mistakenly think this book is salacious, or erotica, when it absolutely is not. The main character happens to be a dominatrix, and her comments and activities about her world are surprising, odd and intriguing, but the book is in no way arousing or erotic as most people think of erotica.

5. If I peeked into your closet (assuming you hadn't hit me with a bat yet) what would I find the most of and why?

You would find a mind-boggling proliferation of pink in every part of the closet - from pink camouflage shelf paper to pink suede boots in three different styles and shades, to every sort of pink shirt, sweater, socks - even a hot pink leather jacket and cowboy boots. I have found myself more and more enchanted by the color pink and feeling so much happier when I am wearing it (even in rare circumstances where there is no pink in my outfit, I'll still have on pink underwear). I feel only partially dressed if I don't have pink prominently in my clothing choice every day.

6. If you can describe your novel in one word, what would it be and why?

PROVOCATIVE – the subject is racy, forbidden, fascinating or repellent, but once a reader allows herself to go with it, the book is provocative on many psychosexual levels in unraveling what inspires either mainstream or deviant sexual desires. Our society is pretty uptight and Puritanical about sex, so I knew it would be a challenge to get those people with knee-jerk negative reactions to give it a try- and find it provocative in ways they had not imagined.

7. If you could be inside the head of any writer other than yourself, who would it be and why?

Andrew O'Hagan just wrote a book about Marilyn Monroe's dog Maf, and it was my introduction to his writing. What a brain! What a depth of general knowledge and wisdom! What inventiveness! What an ear for dialogue and an eye for the re-creation of already famous people into characters you feel you know! What a broad-thinking writer, who sees the bigger picture and ties together Big Themes about being human along with the particulars of the story he has created. I'd love to have a brain that stuffed with knowledge that I could access and put to good use in creating fictional worlds. I cannot wait to read more of hiw work.

8. Tell us a little about your road to publication.

It has been a short and surprising road: I knew I had to publish with a pseudonym and also remain anonymous, so self-publishing was out of the question because too many people in the process would have to know my true identity. I had the humbling experience of sharing the book with a dear old friend, an author herself – Tracie Hotchner, who husband Edward Jaffe is an investment advisor (and “serial entrepreneur” as he calls himself). Tracie was disenchanted with the traditional publishing model for herself – and they were considering starting their own imprint for her next books. Then I am still amazed- and grateful – to say, they were so excited about THE KNOT ARTIST and what they believed its prospects were for success, that they asked whether they could launch Lightning Strikes Press with my novel and the rest of the planned trilogy.

9. What advice can you give other aspiring authors out there?

Write because you feel you must – write for the process, not the end result. Don’t worry who will hate it, who might love it, who will accept or reject it. Push all thoughts of success or failure, acceptance or rejection, out of your head on a daily basis (Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is essential for achieving this quieting! And I think should be required reading for all writers, veterans or newcomers) The central issue in writing is to do it for yourself- considering a possible audience, but mostly writing a story you have passion about and feel the creative juices flowing once you quiet those external pressures and concerns. And I would urge people to NOT write memoirs or journals which I think are too narcissistic and don’t demand discipline and taking yourself seriously. Come up with characters, plot, and a story that someone else might care about – or that triggers your imagination – and you can give your personal memories, thoughts, and feelings to some of those fictional characters.

10. At the end of the day, what is the last thing you worry about and why?

Every day I worry that I could have written (on days I do not), or that I could have written more if I did get to work. I try not to be self-critical about being productive - I try to tell myself that the subconscious is always at work and writing is being done on the inside of my skull that will come out before long - but I usually cannot quiet the judgmental voice (BIRD BY BIRD deals with this brilliantly in the chapter "K-Fucked")

Thank you so much for being a part of Authorpalooza, India! It's a pleasure having you visit Reads, Reviews, Recommends. I'm sure everyone is curious about Knot Artist and can't wait to win a copy. 

Watch out for that giveaway to be posted next week!

John Hancock Giveaway Winners!

Another giveaway, another post for the winners. Thank you so much to everyone who participated in the John Hancock Giveaway. To those not on this list, don't fret. I have another giveaway coming up that you might want to be a part of. Now, for the winners:

Kerry-Ann McDade




Kim M.


Sasha Oliver






Katie O


Carolyn Hittle




Ashley Holt


The Dynamics of Writing Young Adult Fantasy Fiction

One of the things I love about being a member of Book Blogs Ning is I get to meet amazing authors. I boldly introduced myself to Amy about a week ago and I immediately asked if she would grace Reads, Reviews, Recommends with her radiance. She has obliged with a Guest Post. The title speaks for itself. But before we get into the nitty, I would like to give you some background information on Amy. Here's her profile on Blogspot:

I am a 1993 graduate of The University of North Carolina at Greensboro where I received a Bachelor of Science degree in Dance Education. I have seventeen years of experience in education and currently teach Dance and Theater Arts to high school students in southeastern North Carolina. Dancing, acting and writing are all forms of communication. Each form requires exceptional creativity and passion to inspire and impress an audience. I have enjoyed a passion for reading, writing, and the arts since I was a child. As an adult I’ve enjoyed having the opportunity to share my passion for the arts with children. It only seems appropriate that delving into the world of teen fiction would be the next logical step in my life.

Now that we're all better acquainted, I present to you Amy's Guest Post...

The Dynamics of Writing Young Adult Fantasy Fiction
By Amy Jones, author of Soul Quest

Recently, I designated a portion of my blog to highlighting books I most enjoy. As I set out to make my personal recommendations, I realized it was necessary to categorize the suggested repertoire. The Young Adult Fantasy Fiction genre is a very broad spectrum, encompassing many different fictional elements and personal tastes. There was much to consider. How should they be categorized? What makes them similar? What makes them different? You get the drift…

I began by perusing my list and mentally noting brief descriptions like: zombies suck people’s brains out, vampire seduces young girl, and tween’ slays mythological creatures. I continued in this fashion only to discover that my list of reading recommendations became even more difficult to categorize. I quickly shifted gears. Clearly, characterization as a method for categorization was out. I had to simplify my efforts. I returned to my list and asked myself, who wants to read this book? What kind of reader would like this book and why?

The first book I focused on was Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. Shiver is about werewolves, but not in the traditional sense. The wolves are real people who have been infected with a virus. This is the science fiction element of the book, but the story itself is about two young lovers struggling to be together. Immediately, I recognized another book in my list that I would categorize similarly: Wings by Aprilynne Pike. The fantasy element in Wings is a journey into an enchanted world of fairies and trolls, but the storyline is the same. Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, and before you know it, their stuck in the same conundrum as Romeo and Juliet. I affectionately named this group of books the Twilight category, named for Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga series.

Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series is another one of my favorite reads. In this series, Shadowhunters police Downworlders in an effort to maintain the balance between good and evil. Shadowhunters are humans with angel blood ancestry. Downworlders are vampires, werewolves, warlocks and fairies. In this series, there are some elements of romance, but they are not overly mushy gushy. The main attraction is the action and mayhem that ensues. Cassandra Clare can really paint a vivid picture of combat with her words. Another book series I really love in this category is The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. The Hunger Games Trilogy takes place in the future, in a dystopian society. The hierarchy exploits the lower class districts for entertainment while playing it off as discipline and an attempt to keep order. The main characters are supposed to kill each other but end up allying themselves as a tactic to stay alive. Along the journey, they gain a great deal of affection for each other. The action and violence in this series is unending. You will literally be sitting on the edge of your seat, devouring your fingernails with this read. I’ve designated this group of books as the Vampire Academy category, named after Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series.

Last, but not least, I can not forget Rick Riordan. First, let’s talk about his Percy Jackson and Olympians series. Percy Jackson learns that Greek Mythology is not mythical. He lives in a world where Greek Gods still rule and one of them is his dad. There is some romantic tone to this series, mostly your average tween/teen crushing. Likewise, in Rick Riordan’s The Red Pyramid, Carter and Sadie must face the awakening of the Gods of Ancient Egypt. Both book series set out to present the main character with a challenge or obstacle to overcome. Mr. Riordan’s books are suitable and enjoyable for middle grade readers as well. I’ve designated this group of books as the Harry Potter category, named for J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

In summary, Twilight category books are romance novels with paranormal elements. Vampire Academy category books are violent action and suspense novels, which may or may not have romantic tones.  Harry Potter category books are action and adventure quest driven books which may or may not have mild romantic tones. These books are entirely appropriate for middle graders. So, where does Soul Quest fall in this process of categorization? Soul Quest is a Vampire Academy category book. Hala, the Great Spirit, empowers four human children with charms and gifts in an effort to defeat the Daevas and Aengels. Daevas are fallen spirits and Aengels are their mutant progeny. There is some romantic interaction among the main characters but overall the action takes the main stage.

Soul Quest by Amy Jones
Available for purchase at Smashwords


Liv Glyn is torn between two worlds, Earth, her home and Arcadia, a world unknown to Liv. Never the less, duty calls for Liv and her companions of Spirit, Laith, Brayan and Meena, to take action. What ensues is a supernatural showdown at Forest Hills High, corpses mysteriously surface in the Hudson and a Valentine's Day Dance turns into a murder investigation. A quest for humanity begins.

Books vs. Movies

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Chronicles of Nick: Invincible

Here's a first look at the Book Trailer for Invincible, the second novel of the Chronicles of Nick. For fans old and new, mark your calendars. The release of this anticipated novel is March 22, 2011. If you've read the first book, and you can't get enough of Nick, then here's what you need to know about his latest adventure.

Just when he thought things couldn’t get any worse...

Nick Gautier’s day just keeps getting better and better. Yeah, he survived the zombie attacks, only to wake up and find himself enslaved to a world of shapeshifters and demons out to claim his soul.

His new principal thinks he’s even more of a hoodlum than the last one, his coach is trying to recruit him to things he can’t even mention and the girl he’s not seeing, but is, has secrets that terrify him.

But more than that, he’s being groomed by the darkest of powers and if he doesn’t learn how to raise the dead by the end of the week, he will become one of them...

Coffee and Nonsense by Noey Pico

A friend of mine composed the song and lyrics of Coffee and Nonsense. And last night, I was hit by inspiration to make a story slideshow for it. Can you tell me the story that plays out in the video?

For more on Noey's music, you can visit Chasing Kites.

Author Interview: Michael and Kathy Gear

There are many reasons to love Fridays, chief among them is the weekend that follows. And it is with that sense of celebration that I welcome Michael and Kathy Gear, co-authors of Dawn Country, to Reads, Reviews, Recommends. Let's get to know them:

Bestselling authors and award-winning archaeologists Kathleen O’Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear are renowned for their novels on North American prehistory, a series that melds the latest archaeological findings with sweeping dramatic narratives and strong Native American tradition. The “North America’s Forgotten Past” series educates readers about our continent’s more than 15,000 years of prehistory and brings to life its natural and cultural heritage.

Beginning with People of the Wolf (Tor; July 1990), and continuing through to People of the Thunder (Forge Books; January 2010), the series provides a vital understanding of the history of North America in a way that is entertaining, full of cultural detail, and intelligent. One of the more recent novels, People of the Raven, won the Spur Award for Best Novel of the West in 2005.

Bringing more than 50 years of combined archaeological experience to their writing, Michael and Kathleen have written over thirty-three novels dealing with historical or anthropological themes. They have between fifteen and sixteen million copies of their books in print worldwide and their books have been translated into twenty-one different languages.

W. Michael Gear has a master’s degree in anthropology from Colorado State University, and has worked for twenty years as a professional archaeologist in the western United States. Kathleen O’Neal Gear has a master’s degree in history from California State University, and studied for her Ph.D. at UCLA. She received two special Achievement Awards from the Department of the Interior for work as an archaeologist in the Bureau of Land Management. Both Michael and Kathleen are principal investigators for Wind River Archaeological Consultants, a cultural resource firm in the Rocky Mountain region.

As archaeologists and novelists they have made appearances on CNN, NPR, and have been featured on “Greenroom” on PBS, as well as local network features. They currently live in Wyoming, bordered on two sides by the Wind River Reservation, and raise registered North American bison.

This is the first time I'm playing host to archaeologists and novelists. A sense of intimidation fills me. But I'm excited, too. Aren't you? Well, let's get this interview started, shall we?

Please state your name, your occupation, and your cocktail of choice for our dear readers.

We’re Michael and Kathleen Gear, archaeologists, buffalo ranchers, and, yes, writers. Mike’s cocktail of choice is the darkest beer that can be found on earth. The more it resembles crank case drippings, the better he likes it. Kathleen favors really hoppy India Pale Ales. If microbrews aren’t available, a reposado tequila will work in a pinch.

Here at Reads, Reviews, Recommends, we aim to please. Take your pick, dear readers. One dark and one light, enough for everyone. Barkeep, distribute the beers! While everyone is taking a sip, I'd like to know, what's the one thing you argue about the most and why?

We engage in vigorous discussions about buffalo nutrition. Bet you thought we were going to say something about our writing? Nope. If one of us doesn’t like something in a book, it gets rewritten until both of us are happy with it. But buffalo nutrition is a different thing. You see buffalo are still wild animals and need to be treated as such, which means you want to give them a high quality diet that matches the native grasses of the region in which they live. In drought-stricken regions like ours, however, you occasionally have to feed them hay to keep them healthy. So, here’s the question? The protein content of native grasses varies with the time of year. So, do you feed 7% protein hay, or 14% protein? After a few spirited debates, we generally compromise. As a result, we agree on native grass hay that ranges around 11-12% protein. (Was that more than you cared to know about buffalo nutrition?)

If I ever decide to write a book that features someone feeding Buffalo, you just gave me the kind of information I would need. I love to learn something new everyday, and Buffalo nutrition is certainly a welcome lesson. Now, for a little home invasion. If I walk into your kitchen (that's if you haven't called the cops yet) what would I find in your fridge?

Well, let’s take a look. Okay, two buffalo ribeyes defrosting, a half-empty can of green chilis, a bottle of kalamata olives from the last pizza Mike made (his specialty is buffalo pizza), and a variety of veggies: bok choy, green onions, broccoli, brussel sprouts, spinach, tomatoes, and, yes, (Mike strikes again) a really vile looking container with something so moldy you can’t see what’s in it, but from the fuzzy tips sticking out it’s probably burrito mix. There’s also, what? Let’s see, two squeeze bottles of mustard, one with horseradish (Katheen’s favorite condiment). Finally, in the side door, there’s a selection of ales: Sierra Nevada pale ale, Longhammer IPA, Black Butte Porter, Moose Drool…no, really, great stuff…and an almost empty bottle of our favorite wine, a Petite Sirah from McNab Ridge, which is made by Jim Lawson at J bar S buffalo ranch in Ukiah, California. If you’ve never had it, you should go down and find a bottle immediately. It’s excellent.

I have to put that wine on my wish list. Although, I must confess, I'm not much of a drinker, but I do like to taste something new now and again. Take note of the wine too, dear readers. Let's move on to writing. This is the first time Reads, Reviews, Recommends has had a husband and wife co-author a book. What made you decide to team up?

Kathleen read Mike’s first book and said, “Your female characters should all be murdered in the first chapter. You don’t really think women act like this, do you?” Since he wanted a third date, he opted to let her rewrite them.

Any men in the audience tonight? Michael's got it right. So, please describe for our dear readers what your writing dynamic is like.

We wake up, walk the dogs, toss the buffalo some hay, then over breakfast we discuss the plot of our current book, and talk about what the characters are going to do that day. At night we read what the other has written and discover that the characters didn’t want to do any of the things we’d decided, and took the story in an entirely different direction. That’s the true joy of writing--finding out you are not god, your characters are.

I totally agree! Sometimes you start thinking of a certain scene but the character then takes it into a whole different direction. It's quite liberating. Speaking of characters, tell us a little bit about The Dawn Country and the character of Young Wrass.

The Dawn Country is set at around 1440 A.D. in the northeastern United States, and follows the story of several children who’ve been captured in a war raid and sold into slavery. Young Wrass, who has seen eleven summers, decides that he and the other children can’t wait to be rescued. They must rescue themselves from Gannajero, the evil old woman who trades in child slaves. It’s not going to be easy. Gannajero surrounds herself with a group of outcast warriors who profit enormously from the sale of children. No child has ever escaped their clutches. Wrass must organize the children and pick the right time to escape. Even if it costs his own life, he will make certain the other children get away.

One of the most interesting things about Wrass is his real identity, which readers won’t discover until the third book, THE BROKEN LAND, which comes out in January of 2012. For now, let’s just say that he will become one of the greatest heroes in the history of America.

See, now, I want to know more! You can't tease me like that and not expect me to want to know more. Do you agree, dear readers? I want to see what happens to Young Wrass. It's certainly such an interesting story. In terms of writing, what's the best advice you can give authors who are thinking of teaming up to write a novel together?

Check your egos at the front door. Your goal should be to create the best story possible, even if your partner has to rewrite it fifty times to get there.

That's a good one. I think having an ego can hinder the process since writing is so creative. Can I hear pencils scribbling down that nugget of wisdom? I sure am. For the last part of this interview, let's get metaphysical. What country would you like to visit and why?

Turkey. The archaeology is fabulous, and we’ve never been there. Actually, we’re going to Turkey in May! Can’t wait to see Ephesus.

Can you feel my envy? One of my young adult novels actually feature a character who came from Turkey because his parents are archaeologists on a dig there. Have a safe trip and take lots of pictures. So, what's the one event in your life that inspired you to be who you are today?

Michael: At the age of eight, I watched a National Geographic special where they reconstructed the face of a 3.2 million year old Australopithecine. When they turned the face around and I got to stare into the eyes of Lucy, I shrieked and crawled under the couch. It left an indelible impression of the mystery of the past. That TV special is the reason I became an archaeologist.

Kathleen: In the summer, my family always visited archaeological sites around America, and my mother had a unique way of teaching. She would find an artifact, like a potsherd, hold it to our ears, and say, “Can you hear the people talking?” I swear, when you’re four years old, those voices are crystal clear. I never forgot them. That’s what led me to study Native American religions, and archaeology.

Sometimes, it's the smallest events that really shape us, whether it's an episode of National Geographic or visiting an archaeological site. For me, it was a compliment from my sophomore high school English teacher. Last question: If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be and why?

There would be more buffalo peacefully grazing across North America. Why? Well, mostly because they deserve it. They’re amazing, intelligent animals who were almost hunted to extinction. But also because Americans deserve a healthy, hormone-free meat that’s low in calories, and high in Omega 3s. Having more buffalo in the world would make the world a better, healthier place for all of us, buffalo and human.

Thanks, Kate! It’s been a pleasure talking with you today.

The pleasure is all mine, Michael and Kathleen! I've learned so much about your lives as writers and as buffalo ranchers. Before today, I never knew there were ranches just for buffalo. Thank you so much for visiting Reads, Reviews, Recommends.

Have a great weekend, everyone!
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