Interview with erotic romance author Nicky F. Grant

Nicky F. Grant

My author guest today is a woman who knows who she is and what she wants out of life, and she goes after it with gusto. She writes sizzling hot erotic romance about love, sex, power and control. In 2019, she received a Stiletto Award in the erotic/BDSM category, from the Contemporary Romance Writers of America for her first novel, Beyond the Masks. She loves life and she loves what she does. It is my pleasure to have her with us today. Please join me in giving a warm welcome to Nicky F. Grant.

Kaye: Can you tell us briefly about your own author’s journey?

Nicky: It happened by accident, actually. I was (and still am) a huge reader of romance. I’d devour an erotic romance book every two days and it got to a point where they became the same. Different character names, but the similar formula. My husband and I were kicking back with a few drinks and came up with a plot idea for Beyond the Masks. One where it focused on a strong CEO heroine and her professional and personal challenges with two alpha men. An angsty, love triangle. It was supposed to be something to tinker with, but I soon found myself swept up in the story. Now, I can’t get enough.

Kaye: Why do you write in the romance genre? What draws you to the power world of your Beyond Surrender Romance series?

Nicky: Erotic romance seems to have a bad rap in the “real world”, unfortunately. And some books with BDSM can come off a little over the top, in my opinion. Fun to read, but unrealistic.

My passion for this genre comes from a deep understanding of the emotional connections to love, sex, and BDSM. My goal is show each reader that there’s a profound connection between these things well beyond floggers and obedience that’s usually present in these books. BDSM exists in my world of Beyond Surrender, but as a “third character” between the heroes and heroines. It’s catalyst to spark their inner desires and understand why it’s okay to feel what they do.

Also, I want my readers to relate to my powerful female characters. I try to lift up women in all capacities and having fun in the bedroom while owning one’s sexual prowess is one of them.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge to writing romance for you? What is your favorite part?

Nicky: A huge challenge is starting a new book. It takes me time to let go of past characters after I’ve written their Happily Ever After. Also, my confidence wavers with the thought of a new story. What if I don’t do it justice? What if readers don’t understand my twisted brain? It’s nerve-wracking!

On the flip side, my favorite part comes about halfway through writing a new book. It’s the moment where I truly understand the characters, their bond, emotional limits, chemistry, pasts, and futures. This does cause a whole re-write of the first half of the book, but it’s my process and I’m learning to embrace that!

Kaye: Your romance novels are about power “in the boardroom and the bedroom” and they contain erotic sex scenes. How do you know how high to turn up the heat?

Nicky: I’m chuckling at this question, because I’m a touch embarrassed. Man, I love a good “peel the paint of the wall” sexy scene! My scenes are explicit, which I still can’t believe my mother has read. Anyway, I let the characters tell me how high the heat should be. Usually, it’s scorching, but sometimes I may “fade to black”.

As the author, I’m very aware that each love scene must serve a purpose. It must bring the Hero and Heroine closer together or cause a ripple in the love story. Trust me, I’ve had to cut out scenes that lacked in moving the plot forward. It hurts to cut those darlings… but my duty as an erotic romance author, is to help the story along. I hate to admit it, but I get exhausted with my characters falling all over each other. 😉

Kaye: How do you develop a female character who is strong and confident, but still make her feel human?

Nicky: Great question. I take from my own experiences and that of other strong women in my life. I feel fortunate to be a woman with strong views in business, life, and sex. But the true beauty reveals itself when I embrace my own vulnerability.

My heroines are a reflection of that. For example, Shane Vaughn in Beyond the Masks is a female CEO in the music industry. Even though she’s challenged by the men in the field, she’s still vulnerable. She’s open and honest with her past flame, current lover, friends, and family. Somehow, she’s not jaded by keeping up a tough exterior. She’s human with real emotions. I strive to be her in ways, maybe that’s why her story found me. Swoon….

Kaye: In 2019, Beyond The Masks was a finalist for the Contemporary Romance Writers of America‘s Stiletto award in the erotic/BDSM category. Tell us a little about book 1 in the Beyond Surrender series and what receiving such a prestigious award means to you?

Nicky: I was with an author friend when I got the email. There was a shriek, a smile, and tears. Later, I did accept the Stiletto for best erotic romance in New York City. Dreamy, right?

I was incredibly moved to have experienced this among my incredibly talented peers. Especially when I pretty much drop-kicked my entry on the last day to enter! I never thought I stood a chance. That evening put my dreams into reality.

Kaye: What techniques do you use to draw your readers into the story and immerse them in it?

Nicky: Not sure if I have any specific techniques…but I’m attracted to angst, secrets, suspense, and alpha men. So, my stories have elements of these throughout. The one thing I keep on top of mind is, if I’m not enthralled in the story then my readers won’t be.

Kaye: What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

Nicky: Wow, there has been so much! The romance community is incredible when it comes to helping others.  If I were to pass along any wisdom to a new author, I would tell them to find their voice. Don’t compare yourself to every other author on the market and don’t get wrapped up in, “I should be doing what they’re doing!”

Writing is a personal journey. All the voices in our heads (yes, there are voices) are rare and unique. If you write without fear, the muse will find you. And your characters will tell you their story when we listen.

Kaye: What is your favorite part of the story, beginning, middle or end? Why?

Nicky: I love the middle! This is where all the “fun and games” happen! The sexy times are heating up, the characters are falling in lust, and a “romp in the sheets” make for a happy writer. But the middle is where things really start rolling. Secrets are revealed, the antagonist works their evil, and the characters doubt themselves. Also makes for a happy writer…I’m a bit of a sadist when it comes to causing them misery, just to fall in love. It’s a tough job. 😉

Kaye: What is your favorite time of day to write? Why?

Nicky: First thing in the morning. My brain is fresh. Also, anything I’d been working through (tough plot points, etc) have a way of working themselves out as I sleep. I can spring out of bed with a hot cup of joe and tap out some words for an hour or two. It’s a strange meditation for me.

Kaye: What is next for Nicky F. Grant? Are you working on anything now?

Nicky: I have two books lined up this year. Hers to Protect, a part of the Girl Power Romance Collection and Dirty Talker, a book for Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward’s Cocky Hero Club series!

Link to Hers to Protect: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50656136-hers-to-protect

Link for Dirty Talker: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/51008222-dirty-talker

Also, Beyond the Masks is coming to audiobook late February/early March! More on that at www.nickyfgrant.com. Readers can also sign up for my VIP newsletter with all the upcoming news on my website.


I want to thank Nicky F. Grant for sharing with us here on Writing to be Read. I love how enthusiastic she is about what she writes. It’s been a fun interview, Nicky, and I really enjoyed having you as my guest. Readers can learn more about Nicky and her books on her Amazon Author page, or at her website, above.


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Meet poet and writer, Sally Cronin, and a review of her latest book

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Today is the start of a new poetry appreciation series here on Writing to be Read where I will be introducing you to a number of wonderful poets in our blogging community, discussing well known poets and their poetry and reviewing poetry books. I hope you will participate in the discussions and enjoy meeting and greeting the poets, both new and known to you, and discovering new books of poetry.

My first guest is accomplished poet and writer, Sally Cronin, of Smorgasbord Blog Magazine blog. Sally has recently published a new book of poetry, 99-word flash fiction and short stories called, Life’s Rich Tapestry: Woven in words which I have reviewed below. Before we get there, however, Sally is going to share her thoughts about her favourite poem, The Law of the Jungle by Rudyard Kipling. 

Over to Sally

What is your favourite poem?

That is an extremely tough question and had me stumped for a couple of days as I wanted to revisit the poems that I have loved since childhood to make sure that this really would qualify as my favourite poem.

The Law of the Jungle by Rudyard Kipling

(From The Jungle Book)

Now this is the Law of the Jungle — as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back —
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.

Wash daily from nose-tip to tail-tip; drink deeply, but never too deep;
And remember the night is for hunting, and forget not the day is for sleep.
The Jackal may follow the Tiger, but, Cub, when thy whiskers are grown,
Remember the Wolf is a Hunter — go forth and get food of thine own.
Keep peace with Lords of the Jungle — the Tiger, the Panther, and Bear.
And trouble not Hathi the Silent, and mock not the Boar in his lair.
When Pack meets with Pack in the Jungle, and neither will go from the trail,
Lie down till the leaders have spoken — it may be fair words shall prevail.
When ye fight with a Wolf of the Pack, ye must fight him alone and afar,
Lest others take part in the quarrel, and the Pack be diminished by war.
The Lair of the Wolf is his refuge, and where he has made him his home,
Not even the Head Wolf may enter, not even the Council may come.
The Lair of the Wolf is his refuge, but where he has digged it too plain,
The Council shall send him a message, and so he shall change it again.
If ye kill before midnight, be silent, and wake not the woods with your bay,
Lest ye frighten the deer from the crop, and your brothers go empty away.
Ye may kill for yourselves, and your mates, and your cubs as they need, and ye can;
But kill not for pleasure of killing, and seven times never kill Man!
If ye plunder his Kill from a weaker, devour not all in thy pride;
Pack-Right is the right of the meanest; so leave him the head and the hide.
The Kill of the Pack is the meat of the Pack. Ye must eat where it lies;
And no one may carry away of that meat to his lair, or he dies.
The Kill of the Wolf is the meat of the Wolf. He may do what he will;
But, till he has given permission, the Pack may not eat of that Kill.
Cub-Right is the right of the Yearling. From all of his Pack he may claim
Full-gorge when the killer has eaten; and none may refuse him the same.
Lair-Right is the right of the Mother. From all of her year she may claim
One haunch of each kill for her litter, and none may deny her the same.
Cave-Right is the right of the Father — to hunt by himself for his own:
He is freed of all calls to the Pack; he is judged by the Council alone.
Because of his age and his cunning, because of his gripe and his paw,
In all that the Law leaveth open, the word of your Head Wolf is Law.

Now these are the Laws of the Jungle, and many and mighty are they;
But the head and the hoof of the Law and the haunch and the hump is — Obey!

Robbie: This is a wonderful choice of poem, Sally. I also love it. Interestingly enough my favourite poem is also by Rudyard Kipling and I will share it later in this series.

What is your interpretation of this poem?

This is about living in harmony within a society whether it is a wolf pack or amongst a human pack. Having social etiquette and respect for others is essential if all are to avoid conflicts, get enough to eat, be accepted and to thrive.  There is a natural order to things and if you learn that when you are young, when you leave your pack you are well equipped to survive on your own with the skills to begin your own pack. And whilst is sounds draconian, those rules are there to protect the young as well as teach them manners.  It applies to both wolf cubs and man cubs….

Robbie: A wonderful interpretation of this poem and of life in general. I have similar thoughts on how societies can best achieve success and one of my favourite key words in this regard is the need for discipline. 

What emotions does the poem invoke in you?

When I first read the Jungle Book I was too young to really appreciate the undertones in the story about life, survival and the human and animal parallels. But I loved the book and this poem was rich in both words and intent, and when I was ten or eleven and read for the second time, I could see how this philosophy of life in the pack, related to life in a family. It made me feel secure to think of my father as the Head Wolf, and it also made me very protective of my other family members including my younger brother, who probably did not appreciate all the attention I lavished on him as I would like to believe!  It also brings back memories of our time with Sam [Robbie: Sam is a lovely dog who was part of Sally and David’s family for many years before he passed. He has his own book called Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story] as our own small pack and how interestingly he adopted his own social rules of etiquette that run parallel to those in the poem. For example he considered us his alpha male and female and he would not start his own dinner until we were eating our own.  He was very protective of any young family members who visited and also the elderly, sticking close to them. If he spotted something that he considered might be dangerous to us, he would always put himself between us and the threat. Whenever I saw him exhibiting these kinds of behaviour it always bought this poem back to me and made me so proud.

Robbie: Isn’t it wonderful the powerful emotions and associations a poem can invoke in a reader. Sam was a wonderful dog. You can read my review of Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story here: Goodreads review

If you could choose to write like any well-known poet, who would it be?

That is another tough question Robbie as there are many poets who have stirred my emotions and also my imagination. And whilst I would love to be able to write like Rudyard Kipling both in prose and verse, I am always drawn to the young and sometimes short lived war poets. They conveyed the reality of war, stripping it bare of glory but telling a story in a few short lines.  Their legacy is that we never forget those who died, even if we might not always learn the lessons we need to from their passing.

Rupert Brooke for me is one of the finest examples of these poets, and if I could convey the depth of emotion, intent and storytelling in my poetry, I would be very happy indeed.  Whilst The Soldier is the most often quoted poem, certainly at military funerals, it is one of his peacetime poems that always resonates with me especially as I get older and celebrate married life.

Kindliness by Rupert Brooke

When love has changed to kindliness —
Oh, love, our hungry lips, that press
So tight that Time’s an old god’s dream
Nodding in heaven, and whisper stuff
Seven million years were not enough
To think on after, make it seem
Less than the breath of children playing,
A blasphemy scarce worth the saying,
A sorry jest, “When love has grown
To kindliness — to kindliness!” . . .
And yet — the best that either’s known
Will change, and wither, and be less,
At last, than comfort, or its own
Remembrance. And when some caress
Tendered in habit (once a flame
All heaven sang out to) wakes the shame
Unworded, in the steady eyes
We’ll have, — THAT day, what shall we do?
Being so noble, kill the two
Who’ve reached their second-best? Being wise,
Break cleanly off, and get away.
Follow down other windier skies
New lures, alone? Or shall we stay,
Since this is all we’ve known, content
In the lean twilight of such day,
And not remember, not lament?
That time when all is over, and
Hand never flinches, brushing hand;
And blood lies quiet, for all you’re near;
And it’s but spoken words we hear,
Where trumpets sang; when the mere skies
Are stranger and nobler than your eyes;
And flesh is flesh, was flame before;
And infinite hungers leap no more
In the chance swaying of your dress;
And love has changed to kindliness.

Rupert Brooke

Robbie: An amazing poem, Sally, thank you for sharing it with us. The war poets certainly know how to highlight the best and worst life has to offer.

Thank you so much for inviting me over today to share my love of poetry and thank you for your wonderful reviews for my work which keep me motivated.

Robbie: Thank you for your contribution to Treasuring Poetry, Sally. Your thoughts and input are greatly appreciated.

Life’s Rich Tapestry: Woven in words by Sally Cronin

What Amazon says

Life’s Rich Tapestry is a collection of verse, microfiction and short stories that explore many aspects of our human nature and the wonders of the natural world. Reflections on our earliest beginnings and what is yet to come, with characters as diverse as a French speaking elephant and a cyborg warrior.

Finding the right number of syllables for a Haiku, Tanka, Etheree or Cinquain focuses the mind; as does 99 word microfiction, bringing a different level of intensity to storytelling. You will find stories about the past, the present and the future told in 17 syllables to 2,000 words, all celebrating life.

This book is also recognition of the value to a writer, of being part of a generous and inspiring blogging community, where writing challenges encourage us to explore new styles and genres.

My review

This new book sees author, Sally Cronin, delving into new genres in the form of a variety of styles of poetry and 99-word flash fiction pieces. It also includes a number of her delightful short stories, although those differ from others that I have read by this author as many of them feature an animal as the main character.

The poetry is beautiful and is split into sections, namely, Seasons of the year; All things human; Fairies and other folk; The natural world; Remembrance, Celebrating pets and Random thoughts. The poems included in the sections entitled Season of the year and The natural world largely feature the natural environment, including the various seasons and the different creatures that inhabit it, and makes use of all the senses to wrap the reader in the specific joys and pleasures of the flowers, the light, celebrations, birds and and other natural phenomena including drought, snow and frost.

The poetry sections entitled All things human, Remembrance and Random thoughts as well as some of the flash fiction and short stories utilize the writer’s amazing ability to invoke great emotion from her readers towards her characters and their circumstances and situations, while being easy to relate to and highly believable.

The poems and stories that feature pets and animals showcase the authors love of the animal world and convey the special relationships that frequently develop between people and their pets.

I appreciate the undertone of happiness that is generally present in this authors books and stories. It is a wonderful thing to be able to read a book that makes you feel great emotion and still come out on the other end with the impression that life is a wonderful and great journey. This is definitely a skill that Ms Cronin has and uses to its best advantage in all her books, poems and stories.

Purchase Life’s Rich Tapestry: Woven in words

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Life’s Rich Tapestry: Woven in Words Kindle Edition

About Sally Cronin

I have been a storyteller most of my life (my mother called them fibs!). Poetry, song lyrics and short stories were left behind when work and life intruded, but that all changed in 1996. My first book Size Matters was a health and weight loss book based on my own experiences of losing 70kilo. I have written another twelve books since then on health and also fiction, including four collections of short stories. My latest book is a collection of verse, micro fiction and speculative short stories titled Life’s Rich Tapestry: Woven in Words

I am an indie author and proud to be one. My greatest pleasure comes from those readers who enjoy my take on health, characters and twisted endings… and of course come back for more.

As a writer I know how important it is to have help in marketing books.. as important as my own promotion is, I believe it is important to support others. I offer a number of FREE promotional opportunities on my blog and linked to my social media. If you are an author who would like to be promoted to a new audience of dedicated readers, please contact me via my blog. All it will cost you is a few minutes of your time. Look forward to hearing from you.

My blog is https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com
And for more information on my books listed here at Amazon please visit
https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books/

You can connect with Sally Cronin on the following sites.

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/sgc58
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sally.cronin
LinkedIn: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/sallycronin1
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.ie/cronin1423/


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Chatting with the Pros: Interview with award winning author Diana Raab

Chatting with the Pros

My author guest today on “Chatting with the Pros” is someone who focuses on helping fellow authors to find and harness their positive inner energies and let them shine through, both in their writing and in their lives. She has written memoirs, poetry, written and/or compiled writing resource books, and she offers workshops focused on healing and transformation through memoir writing. Her works have won numerous awards, including Best Book Award, Feathered Quill Book Award, Mom’s Choice Award, Eric Hoffer Award, and Allbooks Review Editor’s Choice Award. Please help me welcome creative nonfiction author, Diana Raab, PhD.


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Kaye: You have a PhD in Psychology with a research focus on the healing and transformative powers of memoir writing. Can you explain briefly what those powers are?

Diana: My research examined how pivotal experiences encouraged individuals to write memoirs as a way to transform, grow, and become empowered. I interviewed esteemed writers about the role writing their memoirs had in their lives. Poet Kim Stafford said that writing his memoir transformed him, in that it helped him come to a new understanding about his brother’s suicide. Another writer said that the writing experience relieved him from the pain of his past. And another writer who lost a son said that writing helped her look at life in a much larger context and also helped to keep her son “alive.” Writer Maxine Kingston said that she was transformed by penning her memoir because she was finally able to tell the stories from her past, which for a long time had been a secret. Thus, in most cases, the writers were liberated from the demons of their pasts.

Kaye: How can writing facilitate transformation and empowerment?

Diana: Transformation is a dramatic change in one’s physical or psychological well-being. It’s about becoming more aware of and facing our thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Writing down our feelings can lead to self-realization and a sense of empowerment, because we’re moving our feelings from inside of us and onto the page; and like therapy, it can help us work through our challenges. Writing can also be transformative because it helps us gain a better understanding of ourselves. With that understanding comes deeper reflection, and consequently a more profound sense of harmony.

Kaye: What is your biggest challenge of being a writer?

Diana: That’s a great question. In my earlier years, while raising children, my biggest challenge was carving out the time to write. These days, I would say that my biggest challenge as a writer is finding inspiration.

Kaye: What time of day do you prefer to do your writing? Why?

Diana: When I was younger, I used to love writing in the wee hours of the night, but now that I’m older, my preference is to write early in the morning. That’s when my mind and thought processes are most clear. I like writing just after my morning meditation, as sometimes thoughts emerge during this time that can move me into a highly creative and inspirational zone.

Kaye: Besides writing, what are your favorite things to do?

reginas closetDiana: I love being with my adult children (ages 36, 34, and 30) and playing with my grandchildren; and I love hiking and going for beach walks. I meditate every day, and like most writers, I love to read. I also love cooking, especially soups and desserts. I love doing needlepoint, a craft I learned from my maternal grandmother, Regina, who committed suicide when I was ten. She was my caretaker, and this was a huge loss for me. Her story is the basis of my first memoir, Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal.

Kaye: How does memoir writing differ from other writing forms? Don’t most forms of writing “unleash the true voice of the inner self”?

Diana: I don’t believe that most forms of writing “unleash the true voice of the inner self.” It might start out that way when writing fiction, but soon the imagination comes into play. Memoir writing is a first-person account chronicling a slice of life, not an entire life. It is a subjective recollection from one’s own perspective. Typically, there is a theme or thread running through a memoir. What sets a memoir apart from other forms of nonfiction is that it weaves the story as it happened, but also includes reflection. It’s much more than a journalistic telling. Compelling memoirs definitely unleash the true inner self.

Kaye: Tell me about your writing workshops. What can I expect to come away with if I take a workshop with you?

Diana: What you will come away with will depend on the nature of the particular workshop. Each one is different, depending on its focus. I usually revise my workshop format accordingly. For example, I’ve taught high-risk youth, bereaved adults, hospice workers, and those battling with drug addiction. My regular workshops are related to memoir writing, where participants of different writing levels come together to work on their personal stories.

I limit these groups to ten individuals so that I can offer individualized coaching. Participants learn by hearing my comments about their memoirs, and we also discuss published memoirs. They’re grateful to hear about all the tidbits of information I’ve gathered during my 40-year writing career. I stress the idea that writing is a process, and like any other process, patience is necessary. Those who take my workshops say that they leave them feeling very inspired to continue their memoir-writing journeys.

Kaye: What lessons do you want readers to walk away with from reading Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life?

Diana: There are many lessons within those pages, as I weave my story into a how-to book on personal writing. I want readers to understand the transformative powers of memoir writing and be aware that writing is a journey. I stress the idea of truly enjoying that journey and not becoming focused on the destination. People have called Writing for Bliss “instructive, inspiring, healing, and a blueprint for writing for healing and transforming your life.”

Writers and Their NotebooksKaye: You put together a book project that was quite innovative with Writers and Their Notebooks. I thought it was a really cool idea, and apparently others did too, since it became a Best Books award finalist with USA Book News. In fact, I’d bet there is an abundance of valuable information for aspiring authors. What inspired you to compile an anthology of author essays about the value of an author’s notebook?

Diana: As I mention in the Preface, “As artists have sketchbooks, writers have notebooks.” My inspiration for creating this anthology originated from my own experience and the joy that journaling has brought into my own life. For more than five decades, journaling had helped ground and center me. My passion began with my mother giving me a Kahlil Gibran journal when I was ten to help me cope with my grandmother’s suicide.

This book is a celebration of well-published writers who use their notebooks to inspire, record, and document anything and everything that nurtures or sparks their creative energy. Many of the essays in the collection are confessional in nature. This year celebrates the book’s tenth anniversary. The project is even more meaningful for me now, as many of the writers in the anthology have passed away, such as Sue Grafton and Michael Steinberg.

Writers on the EdgeKaye: Another valuable anthology which you put together is Writers on the Edge, a collection of 22 authors being brutally honest about their own battles with addiction. Was it difficult to get so many authors to open up?

Diana: Great question. Addiction is defined as the obsession and compulsion to self-destruct. Author James Brown and I co-compiled this anthology because of our passion for the subject. We contacted writers who we thought would be interested in writing about their journaling practices. We were honored when Jerry Stahl agreed to write the foreword. A number of authors said that they didn’t know if they could write so intimately and honestly, but they did. Some had never written nonfiction before, so it was a huge challenge for them, but in the end, they felt a huge sense of satisfaction. As we said in the preface, “These battles are not fought alone, and perhaps these stories will also provide insight and hope to all those and their loved ones struggling with some form of addiction and its inevitable consequences.”

Healing with WordsKaye: You’ve written two memoirs yourself. Why did you choose to share with others your inner thoughts and feelings during a difficult time in your own life, with Healing with Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey?

Diana: After my first cancer diagnosis in 2001, I decided, as a gift to myself, to enroll in graduate school for my MFA in writing. My two memoirs were a part of my creative thesis. In actuality, I had no intention of writing a memoir about my cancer journey. I was the type of person who believed that I got breast cancer, had a mastectomy and reconstruction, was healed, and that it was over and I’d be okay. I didn’t want my cancer diagnoses to define me.

During my recovery, I did a lot of journaling, but with no intention to publish a book on the subject. Five years later, to my surprise, I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable form of bone marrow cancer. Supposedly, it’s not connected to breast cancer. I was devastated, but the silver lining was being told that I had smoldering myeloma and wouldn’t yet need treatment, just regular blood work.

My friends and colleagues encouraged me to write about my cancer journey because they thought it would help others. To make the book a little different and more universal, I decided to create a self-help memoir where I provided journaling opportunities for readers to share their own cancer journeys.

Kaye: You won the Mom’s choice award for your first memoir was Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal. What kind of revelations does it contain?

Diana: During the writing process, I learned a lot about my grandmother. I began writing the book about the time of my first cancer diagnosis. I wanted to study my grandmother’s life to see if she’d committed suicide in 1964 because of cancer, but that wasn’t the case. I learned that at the time of her death, she was very depressed, and her doctor had given her a prescription for Valium, which she eventually overdosed on. By studying my grandmother’s life, I learned that she held on to the demons of her past, such as being orphaned during World War I and marrying an abusive man. All this inner turmoil eventually got to her, so she took her own life.

Kaye: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?

Diana: I don’t want to think about it. I love writing, whether it’s journaling; or writing poems, articles, letters, or blogs. It’s where I find my peace.

Kaye: What is next for Diana Raab? What can your readers and authors look forward to in the future?

Diana: Last year I turned 65 and felt that there was a huge shift in my vision. While I’ve always practiced mindfulness, I find that I’ve been living more in the moment. Also, in recent years, I’ve lost a number of loved ones, which is another reminder to enjoy the present. Thinking a little farther ahead, I hope to give more workshops and maybe create some short inspirational books. I’m currently working on my fifth book of poetry. I also have an unfinished novel that has been sitting in my drawer. Maybe one day I’ll be inspired to get back into it, or perhaps I’ll become inspired to write a children’s book for my grandchildren. Time will tell!


I want to extend my thanks to Diana Raab for joining us today and sharing with us. I have to agree with her philosophies, as I’ve experienced the healing powers of writing in my own life. I believe many of us have. If you’d like more information about Diana, her books, projects and events at her website: dianaraab.com.


You can catch the monthly segment “Chatting with the Pros” on the third Monday of every month in 2020, or you can be sure not to any of the great content on Writing to be Read by signing up by email or following on WordPress. Please share content you find interesting or useful.


Interview with authors Mark Todd & Kym O’Connell Todd

Todds - Copy

I am so excited to have these two authors, Mark Todd and Kym O’Connell Todd, as my guests today. They are both really great people and our conversations are always interesting, to say the least. Although I’ve never met Kym in person, Mark was my professor and mentor, and later my co-worker at Western State Colorado University. They also were a part of one of my 2018 “Ask the Authors” blog series and will be featured authors in the anthology of the same name, which is taken from that series and is planned for release in 2020.

You’ve heard of those couples who have been married so long and know each other so well that they can finish each other’s sentences? Well, these two really do that, both in speech and in writing, and they have co-authored several books together. We’re going to talk today about their nonfiction collaboration, Wild West Ghosts, which documents their paranormal research, (which was of course, carried out as a team). Let’s welcome them now and see what they have to share with us today.


Kaye: You’ve written both fiction and nonfiction. What are some of the major differences that you see between the two types of writing?

Kym-n-Mark: We both began as journalists, so we cut our eyeteeth writing nonfiction. Lots and lots of straight news stories.

Kym: For years my job as a newspaper features editor gave me plenty of practice at bringing out the lives of interviewees to readers by applying creative writing techniques such as scene dramatization, dialogue, setting, and “character” description.

Mark: This may sound flippant, but my favorite description of the difference is this: nonfiction is writing that pretends it’s true while fiction is writing that pretends it isn’t! Okay, that even sounds flippant to me. But I think there’s a kernel of truth in there.


smallghostsKaye: In Wild West Ghosts, although the material is nonfiction, describing ghost hunts that you have been on, the historical characters which inhabited the locations in the past were very real and they had lives. How did you help those characters come to life for your readers?

Kym-n-Mark: We did a lot of research for each hotel and often found first-hand historical accounts either by the people we wrote about or about those folks by others from the time. During and after our paranormal investigations, we tried to be mindful the entitles we seemed to contact were once real people and respectful when we told the stories they had to share – or at least our encounters with them.


Kaye: What is the most unusual ghost hunt you’ve ever been on? Why?

Kym-n-Mark: We’d have to say the Norwood Hotel really stands out for all the things that happened. A cup flew off a table in front of us, we encountered a cold spot, and multiple pieces of equipment reported the same readings. In one room, there seemed to be a pathetic presence who identified herself as “Leah” who asked us to help her, and when we reviewed out digital recorder later asked us to remember her. In another room at the hotel, all our equipment red-lined and then shut down at the same time. We decided it was time to go.


Kaye: What time of day do you prefer to do your writing? Why?

Kym-n-Mark: Ha! As journalists we learned to write to deadline, so any time is good. But we also pick whatever time we’re both free to write together.


Kaye: You’ve been a college professor and Kym is a graphic designer, in addition to being authors. If writing suddenly made you rich and famous, what would you do?

Kym-n-Mark: Probably what we’re doing right now. We write because we enjoy it. Besides, we’ve turned a number of hobbies into businesses through the years, and it somehow kills the joy. We’d never want that to happen to our writing if that’s all we had to do.


Kaye: What is the biggest challenge when writing with a co-author?

Kym-n-Mark: For us it’s never been a challenge. But we’ve talked to other authors who found it hard. Most use “over the transom” writing, where each writes drafts and passes it to the other  to revise back and forth. But all a matter of compatibility – in writing style, in work ethic, and in commitment.

Kym: Writing style and values are important. If either one of us had large egos, we’d either stop writing together or else we’d be divorced.

Mark: Yes, dear.


Kaye: What is the best part of writing with a co-author?

Kym-n-Mark: We’re sure there are others out there who do it like we do, but we can’t name anyone.

Kym: I start a sentence…

Mark: …and I finish it.

Kym: Or vice versa. Then before we finish a session, we reread and rewrite until –

Mark: — until we can’t tell who wrote what.

Kym: You’d think were married or something. Oh wait, we are!


Kaye: What is your favorite channel for book promotion?

Kym-n-Mark: That’s a toughie. We’ve tried most of them, and we ended up taking the sage advice to focus on just a handful that seemed to fit us best. Like you, Kaye, we like blogging, and have had a fair amount of success with that channel when cross-promoting with FB and Twitter.


Kaye: What’s the best piece of writing advice you were ever given?

Mark: I’ve always liked Natalie Goldberg’s advice from her book, “Writing Down the Bones: “Always give yourself permission to fail.”

Kym: I’ve always liked this: “Just start writing. If you don’t like it, that’s what the delete button is for.”


Kaye: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Kym: Don’t quit your day job. Until you make it, the electricity still needs to be paid.

Mark: I agree. I usually takes time to break in to publishing. Don’t put the pressure on yourself or your family. You’ll either find yourself blocked or you’ll crank out something that’s a waste of your time and your readers.


Kaye: Are there more books in the future for Mark and Kym Todd? What are you currently working on?

Mark: We’ve both really gotten into genealogy – we even have a blog dedicated to the more interesting skeletons we’ve each discovered in our closets. I’ve also always wanted to finish a memoir  (one of those drafts-in-a drawer kinds of thing) about growing up in in a family mortuary business. A comedy, of course.

Kym: Our last book about ghosts happened because we were celebrating with our publisher the publication of our the third book in the Silverville trilogy. I never drink but had two Cape Cods that night. When our publisher asked us what was next, I blurted out a book about haunted hotels. Two days later, he called us and said he’d publish the ghost book. Maybe we’ll plan the next one when I get drunk again.


I want to thank Kym & Mark for joining us here and sharing today. As always when talking with them, the conversation was unique and entertaining, as well as being informative. I, for one, can’t wait to learn what that next book will be about, so I think Mark should take Kym out more often. You can learn more about Mark & Kym and their books on Mark’s Amazon Author page or on his Goodreads author page. To learn more about their paranormal investigations, visit their blog, Write in the Thick of Things.


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Interview with children’s author & illustrator Judy Mastrangelo

Judy Masrangelo Framed

My guest today is an author and talented illustrator of children’s fantasy books. She seems a bit shy, but I was able to coax a few answers out of her, regarding writing for children and creating beautiful illustrations. Because, after all, at least half of writing for children is creating visual images, so an author who can do their own illustrations comes into the game a step ahead. Please help me welcome author and illustrator Judy Mastrangelo.

Kaye: When did you know you wanted to be an author?

Judy: I’ve always enjoyed writing, ever since I was very young.

Kaye: Would you share the story of your own publishing journey?

Judy: As a child I would write little stories from my imagination, or about my everyday experiences.

Coming from a fine art background, I’ve always loved the wonderful artists of the “Golden Age of Illustration”, who illustrated books from about 1850 to 1925.  I like to think that I continue along this line in my own small way.  I enjoy writing stories that I illustrate, and also love illustrating classical stories in the public domain.

Many of my paintings have been licensed for various markets, such as art prints, wall murals, greeting cards, jigsaw puzzles, oracle cards etc.  I have written and illustrated several published books.  And I have both illustrated and written the text to a new inspirational Oracle Card Deck which will be on the market next year, published by “RED FEATHER MIND BODY SPIRIT”, a division of Schiffer Publishing.

You can see and hear podcasts about my artwork on Youtube.

These include some radio interviews, plus several teaching podcasts about the steps I take in the creation of my Art.  To learn more about my Art and products, you can visit: www.judymastrangelo.com

Kaye: What’s something most readers would never guess about you?

Judy: I am a “movie buff” and enjoy many genres of film.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge of writing for children?

Judy: I try not to “talk down to children”.  Just having fun at writing is what I enjoy doing, and making my stories come from my heart, expressing how I feel. My books are really intended to be appreciated by all ages ~ the young and the young at heart.  I attempt to appeal to the “Child in all of us”, and to rekindle the wonderful feelings we have all experienced in our youth, of the awe and beauty of the world around us.  As we grow older, life seems to become more mundane, with all the everyday things we have to do in order to survive.  The realm of art certainly plays an extremely important part in everyone’s lives, so that we may feel uplifted and inspired to higher worlds.

Kaye: What is the one thing you hope to teach children?

Judy: I like to impart the wonder and beauty of the world around us; sensitivity to nature and to all living beings, including animals, plants, and trees, as well as humankind are excellent lessons to understand.  I feel that developing creativity as an art form, and one’s imagination, are very important aspects of life. Many people seem to place imaginative painting and literature more in a children’s category, although I’m sure you’ll agree that the genre of fantasy art is appreciated by all ages.

CINDERELLAMany adults also enjoy themes, such as fairy tales, and other types of fantasy. I’m sure no one will dispute the fact that great authors such as William Shakespeare, Hans Christian Andersen, Robert Louis Stevenson, James Barry, etc. wrote memorable outstanding fantasy stories. And that’s why I feel that my writing and paintings can also appeal to any age person.

One just has to “let go” of their preconceived notions that fantasy, fairies, fairy tales, etc. are just for the young. It will keep us all “Young at Heart” if we believe in the magical power of art to unleash our imaginations.

Kaye: Your books are illustrated in bright, vibrant colors. What medium do you work with?

Judy: Acrylic paint on canvas is my medium of choice.

 

Kaye: What is the most challenging thing about illustrating your own books?

Judy: The art of illustration is very dear to my heart, something I have been developing my entire life. It is a labor of love for me, and I paint because I enjoy doing it so much. I usually paint slowly, because I am somewhat of a perfectionist, and as a result my paintings aren’t created very quickly. This can sometimes present a problem. But I do enjoy illustrating my own books that I also design. Many of my books I have written myself, and others have stories or poems that are in the public domain which I illustrate. It’s all great fun to illustrate, and I relish every moment I spend doing my paintings!

Kaye: What is the most important quality in a children’s story for you?

Judy: Delight, imagination, and fun.

Kaye: What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given?

Judy: Be true to my heart, be myself, and enjoy the process of creating.

Kaye: Flower Fairies is focused on the characters. What comes first in your mind, the character, or the story?

Judy: I’m a very visual person, and often I first get images in my mind of a painting that I would like to create. Often this “germ” of an idea or image leads to a story, or a series of paintings. So I would say that the story as a whole comes first.

Kaye: As a children’s writer, what kind of research do you find yourself doing for your stories?

Judy: I often research period costumes for my characters to wear, and I also consider other art forms which portray the ideas I wish to develop in my stories. I love all forms of great art, and often music, drama, dance and other literature is a great inspiration to me, as well as great painting of course. So I immerse myself in art that I love, as part of my research for a specific project. It brings me great joy to do this.

Kaye: Tell me a little about your Portal to the Land of Fae series?

Judy: The world of nature spirits has always been fascinating to me. I love the realm of fantasy. And the tiny folk, such as fairies and elves are of particular interest. For many years I’ve done paintings of these lovable spirits, and have enjoyed writing about each painting I create.  I love writing poems to go with my artwork, and have enjoyed describing my feelings about the fairy world. The idea of making a series of books incorporating these works was an intriguing one for me, and four categories developed from them:

Flower FairiesFLOWER FAIRIES: This book tells about the precious Elves and Fairies who live amongst the Flowers, such as: the graceful ROSE FAIRY, and the comical little SWEET PEA ELVES.  I often depict Flower Fairies to appear as graceful ballet dancers. In this genre of art, I have been inspired by the Flower Fairy paintings of British artists Cicely Mary Barker and Margaret Tarrant.

 

 

SECRETS OF THE FAIRIES COVERIn my SECRETS OF THE FAIRIES, I portray the secret life of elves and fairies that I imagine to exist in amazing places.  There are many delightful things that i depict these creatures doing.  They often enjoy frolicking and playing in a garden.  These secrets tell of the hidden world of elves and fairies, little known to mortals. I’ve also written and illustrated depictions of the four seasons with the fairies, and their beautiful romantic lives.

 

FAIRY TALE FAIRIES, various forms of fantasy have always been the closest to my heart.  They include fairy tales and myths.

The world of fairies has often inspired the arts of other great literature.  Some excerpts from classical literature for this FAIRY TALE FAIRIES book are included in this volume. You will see some of my illustrations from Hans Christian Anderson’s Thumbelina, Cinderella by Charles Perrault, Peter Pan by James Barrie, and many others. Sometimes authors and painters depict elves and fairies in a darker way, but I prefer to focus on depicting the lighter, more cheerful and spiritual side of the fairy realm.

MYSTICAL FAIRIES COVERMYSTICAL FAIRIES:  In this volume, I want to share my feelings of Spirituality and Goodness, Love for Life and Nature, and the Healing power of Art. I feel that Elves and Fairies, are beautiful, Magical, and Spiritual Beings which can inspire and uplift one to higher realms.  I often depict them as radiant beings, which glow with an inner light, with radiating and sparkling auras, glow like spiritual Angels.

 

Kaye: Your Come Play with Me series includes bonus features. Would you like to tell us about the series and bonus features?

Judy: My Come Play With Me book series is designed to give readers high quality illustrated storybooks in full color.  They also include some delightful interactive bonus pages.  These books include fun filled things, such as How to Draw pages, coloring pages and recipes, etc.

THE STAR COVERMy first book in this series, THE STAR, illustrates the entire famous TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE STAR poem, written by Jane Taylor.  I’ve interpreted this beloved poem, as a fanciful, Dream-like adventure.   I’ve included a delicious bedtime snack recipe, some “how to draw” pages, a creative writing section, coloring pages, and some decorative gifts to cut out, etc.  An Audiobook of my book THE STAR is also available, where people can listen to this song being beautifully sung.  If the kindle ebook, or paperback versions of my book THE STAR are purchased also, along with the audio book, people can sing along with the audiobook as they read it interactively.

Two other books in this series have a Bunny theme: The first one, entitled WHAT DO BUNNIES DO ALL DAY? is my original story of a little Bunny’s first adventure.  Some interactive pages include Mama Bunny’s recipe, coloring pages, creative writing and drama ideas, and decorations to cut out from the book.  An audiobook of this story will be available soon, to be listened to interactively along with reading this book in kindle or paperback.

 

The second Bunny book in this series, LEARN TO DRAW BUNNY AND HIS FRIENDS, is a companion book to my book WHAT DO BUNNIES DO ALL DAY?  In it I show easy to do, attractive, and fun ways to learn to draw little Bunny’s animal and flower friends that he meets in the book about his first adventure.

 

Some of the animals I show how to draw are rabbits, frogs, butterflies and turtles. Then daffodils, daisies, and buttercups are several of the flowers I describe drawing, all in three easy steps.  It’s a delightful interactive book, which also includes special pages for people to draw their own pictures, with small border decorations for inspiration.

Kaye: Which character is your favorite? Why?

Judy: One of my favorite characters is Little Bunny in my book WHAT DO BUNNIES DO ALL DAY? He is a sweet innocent little rabbit who is delighted and excited at the opportunity of investigating the big world all by himself for the first time.  I’ve modeled this little animal on our own dear little Netherlands Dwarf pet rabbit, who is very loved by my husband and me.  He gives us both a lot of Love in return.  Knowing this adorable Little Bunny intimately was a great inspiration to writing and illustrating my story.

Kaye: Where does your inspiration come from?

Judy: My inspiration comes from many things: my love for nature, for instance.  When I am in a flower garden, I imagine delightful Flower Elves and Fairies living there.  I visualize them wearing costumes made of leaves and flowers, acorn caps, etc.  I collect things such as leaves, pine cones, berries, ribbons, and scarves, to give me ideas for their fanciful clothing.

I take photos of beautiful places that I visit, to give me ideas of backgrounds for my paintings. Great art of the past and present is always an inspiration to me, such as: wonderful films, great literature, beautiful music, ballet dancing, and beautiful paintings. They always kindle my enthusiasm.

Kaye: Is there anything unique or unusual about your creative process?

Judy: I have developed a method I call “Mind Painting”.  This is my own personal way of capturing ideas and images for my paintings and writing, which develop in my mind.  This is a procedure used by many creative authors, composers, painters, poets, choreographers, etc. throughout the ages. I just close my eyes and “visions” appear in my head.  I do this during the day, or at night before going to sleep. These images often develop into stories which evolve into my books. It’s a delightful process.

Kaye: What is your greatest achievement to date in the literary world?

Judy: Reading and hearing the wonderful and appreciative compliments from people who have read my books, and who have seen my illustrative paintings, has always been very encouraging to me.  I receive these compliments from all kinds of people, worldwide, and of all ages.  I feel that these wonderful responses have been the greatest achievements in my literary and artistic world.

I want to thank Judy Mastrangelo for sharing with us here today, both her wisdom and her fabulous illustrations and book covers. You can learn more about Judy and her children’s books on her website or on her Goodreads Author or Amazon Author pages.


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Chatting with the Pros: Interview with Y.A. author Carol Riggs

chatting with the pros

My “Chatting with the Pros” author guest today writes young adult fiction in the fantasy and science fiction genres. Her debut science fiction novel, The Body Institute, is currently being developed into a television series by NBC, which I think, is pretty cool. I met her when I reviewed Bottled three years ago. Since then, I’ve reviewed her science fiction novel, The Lying Planet, and she was a member of the author panel for the first round of the “Ask the Author” blog series in 2018, right here on Writing to be Read. Let’s find out what she has to share. Please help me welcome author Carol Riggs.

Carol Riggs author_smaller

Kaye: Please begin by telling us briefly about your author’s journey?

Carol: I began writing in the 1990s, took a 10-year break, and started up again in 2009. I met my agent at an SCBWI retreat and signed with her in 2011 for my 2015 debut, THE BODY INSTITUTE. Since then, I’ve published 7 more books.

Kaye: Why do you choose to write for young adults? Why science fiction and fantasy?

Carol: I enjoy writing about teens as they experience the road to individual growth and becoming an adult—navigating independence, romance, tests of courage, etc.  Sci-fi and fantasy appeal to me because I love making things up. Speculative genres give me the most room to be creative and use my imagination.

Kaye: What is your biggest challenge in writing for a young audience?

Carol: Keeping in touch with how a young person thinks and talks, sounding like a teen. My editor at Entangled Teen nails me on that, and makes me rewrite things that don’t sound authentic.

Kaye: Is there anything unique or unusual about your writing process?

Carol: Nothing too unusual. I don’t listen to music or other distractions. I draft novels moderately quickly (3-5 months), and I write 1 or 2 books a year. I also keep my novels “clean,” with no profanity, gory violence, or sexual scenes. I prefer to make up my own slang and swear words, which don’t become outdated like modern teen lingo/slang/cussin’.

The Body InstituteKaye: NBC is developing your science fiction novel, The Body Institute, into a television series. That must be exciting. Tell us a little about the story.

Carol: THE BODY INSTITUTE is a dystopian sci-fi novel where the main character gets a job losing weight for other people—by having her mind downloaded into their bodies. It’s set in the near future where society is ultra health conscious. The TV series is using the book as a jump-off point rather than being a direct replica of the novel, which is okay with me. It’ll be fun to see where their creative minds take it.

Kaye: How much say do you have in the development process of the television series? Are you involved at all?

Carol: I don’t have any say at all, but that honestly doesn’t bother me. I’d rather spend my time developing new novels! Readers have the book if they want to explore what I’ve developed; the TV show will be a different experience entirely.

Kaye: Do you have a date yet for the series premier for The Body Institute to air?

Carol: As of yet, I don’t; the filming of the pilot show hasn’t begun yet. I’ll announce on my newsletter, Facebook, and Twitter (@CRiggsAuthor) as soon as I find out any developing news.

Junction 2020

Kaye: Most of the books in your Junction 2020 series have scary sounding titles: The PortalNightmare RealizationVanishing FearsSilent Scream, and Future Terrors. Is this fantasy series scary?

Carol: Some people consider these books “horror,” but it sort of depends on your tolerances. If you can’t stand spiders, for instance, don’t read THE PORTAL. Nothing is hyper-bloody in the series, though…no slasher-type nightmares or anything overly gory. I chose each characters’ fears to manifest in a way that would lead them to personal growth, a challenge to overcome rather than sheer horrible nightmares.

Kaye: How do you approach scary subject matter when writing for young adults?

Carol: I try to keep it emotional but real to each character, and I don’t make things gory. Depending on the teen, that could be totally un-scary, or it could be very unsettling. I try to hit somewhere in the middle, for the average reader.

Kaye: Are there certain subject matters that you wouldn’t tackle for a young adult audience? Why?

Carol: I don’t write sex scenes, gory violence, or profanity. I think there’s plenty of that going around nowadays in society (books, movies, etc.), and not having those things in my novels jives with my personal morals and my feelings about what I would want to (or not) read in a novel. I wouldn’t write about demons or the occult, either—too creepy and real.

BottledKaye: My favorite book of yours is Bottled, which I reviewed a few years ago. It is a fun and entertaining fantasy story. What was your inspiration?

Carol: Long ago, I used to watch “I Dream of Jeannie.” While BOTTLED isn’t that similar in plot to the show, I was inspired by the fun, magical atmosphere of the TV series. It’s my tribute to the show.

 

The Lying PlanetKaye: I also reviewed The Lying Planet. Tell us a little about this science fiction story.

Carol: I was lying in bed one night years ago, and heard a noise in the living room (it was probably the refrigerator). That became the germ seed for TLP, a teen boy on the planet Liberty who one night hears a noise in the living room and gets up to investigate…and then wishes he hadn’t. He uncovers an evil that rocks his world in the worst way possible. I’ve found that teen guys really seem to like this novel. It has lots of danger, adventure, and a degree of creepiness.

Kaye: The other thing I loved about Bottled was the fantastic cover. And the vibrant colors used for Lying Planet cover and those used in the covers your Junction 2020 series are eye catching, as well. The colors are wonderful and the designs fit what the stories are about. Do you design your own cover art or hire it out?

Carol: I’ve been incredibly lucky to get awesome covers for my traditionally published books. The JUNCTION 2020 series covers I developed myself in Photoshop, with the tips and suggestions of a writer friend who is also a graphic artist. I have a BA in Studio Arts, so I think that helps me have a bit of an eye for what looks good.

Kaye: What do you enjoy doing when not writing?

Carol: Walking, reading, working jigsaw puzzles, watching sci-fi and fantasy movies, going to the beach, and listening to all kinds of music.

Kaye: Writing organizations can be of great value to writers of all genres. You’ve been a member of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for many years. Would you talk a little about the organization and how you have benefited through membership?

Carol: Back in the 1990s when I first joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), it was super helpful. Submissions were sent to editors at publishing houses by postal mail rather than email (talk about slow!). There wasn’t the wealth of information on the internet that there is now, so the SCBWI was invaluable for honing one’s work to make it ready for editor eyeballs. I learned a lot.

When I returned to writing in 2009, an agent was almost mandatory to submit your work, and the SCBWI retreat I went to offered manuscript critiques for a fee. I actually met my agent-to-be during one of those brief, one-on-one meetings. SCBWI conferences are also great places to network with other writers, learn about the craft of writing, meet industry professionals, and talk about books all day. Some regions offer scholarships to attend if finances are tight.

Kaye: What is your best piece of advice for aspiring authors of young adult fiction?

Carol: If you love it, never give up. THE BODY INSTITUTE was the 13th book I wrote, after 350+ rejections and 11 years of writing and trying to become published. Surround yourselves with supportive writer friends to share the ups and downs. Keep learning your craft, persevere, and enjoy the journey!

Kaye: What can your readers look forward to in the future? What’s next for Carol Riggs?

Carol: A deal has just been signed for THE BODY INSTITUTE for an audiobook version, which is cool. I’m also working on a sequel to the novel, called SPARES. Ideas are springing into my head for a fresh YA novel, and I’m excited to begin imagining a whole new world for readers to explore.

I want to thank Carol for sharing here and answering all of my many questions. And thanks to all of you readers for joining us. You can find out more about Carol Riggs and her young adult science fiction and fantasy books on her website, her Amazon Author page, or her Goodreads Author page.

Next month, there will not be a “Chatting with the Pros” segment. In December we’re wrapping up 2019 and giving you a rundown of what’s in store for 2020. I plan to run this blog series again next year, so check back after the New Year for the first 2020 segment in January. I hope to see you all then.


You can catch the monthly segment “Chatting with the Pros” on the third Monday of every month in 2020, or you can be sure not to any of the great content on Writing to be Read by signing up by email or following on WordPress. Please share content you find interesting or useful.


A Farewell Tribute to Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture

Last week, we lost a dear friend of mine and a member of the Writing to be Read author family, Tom Johnson. Tom was a multi-genre writer for most of his life, mostly pulp fiction in the traditions of the classics, but in recent years, he dedicated himself to children’s fiction, with the intentions of creating stories for today’s children which reflect old fashioned values and morals in the traditions of the stories his mother read to him as a child. Tom took part in Round 2 of my “Ask the Authors” blog series, (which will become a published book by WordCrafter Press soon), and I interviewed Tom about his children’s stories back in 2018. He had some great things to say about writing for children that may be relevant here, since the Writing to be Read theme for November is young adult and children’s fiction. With that in mind, I’m reprinting that interview in part here, (you can read the full interview here), as we remember our friend and fellow author. Tom may be gone, but his wisdom lives on. This is what writing for children meant to him.


Kaye: Although in the past, you’ve written and published many different genres, you are currently writing only children’s stories. So, let’s talk about that. Tell me a little about your stories.

Tom: My children stories are about 1k and meant as bedtime tales, and to be read in classroom or library settings. They are short stories with little morals to teach children something about life.

Kaye: Are they a series or stand alone?

Tom: They are a series, and published in anthologies about once a year. There have been four anthologies so far. I was invited to participate beginning in volume #3. The anthology is called Wire Dog Storybook. Here is the background. True story. A young girl, Ellen Walters, asked her father, David Walters, if she could have a dog, and he said, “No.” So she found an old wire hanger and shaped it to resemble a dog, and called it wire dog. David Walters was fascinated by her ingenuity and created the Wire Dog storybooks. So the stories usually feature Ellen and Wire Dog, but always Wire Dog. Five of my stories have been published so far, and I’ve written three more for the 2018 yearbook when it comes out at the end of the year.

Kaye: What age group are they aimed at?

Tom: I feel that we should begin reading to our children by age one. With that in mind, my stories are aimed at the age group of 1 to 5. However, older children will enjoy the stories, as do adults.

Kaye: What differences do you see between writing for children and writing adult fiction?

Tom: Adult fiction usually means, “no holds barred”, while writing children stories you want to stay away from violence, horror, and adult themes. Keep in mind, young children absorb what they hear quickly, and some themes could have an adverse effect on young minds. When writing for children we must keep this in mind.

Kaye: What appeals to you about writing for children?

Tom: Do you remember the old radio show for kids, Let’s Pretend ? It produced shows for children that acted out fairy tales and light adventures – nothing as harsh as today’s cartoons that are aimed at our youth. Well, I have the chance to import my love for adventure in tales easily understood by young people; children who some day may also experience that same love to pass on to their children. Stories that give our children a moral to live by, not “It’s clobbering time!” Or Pow! Bang! Boom! It’s something my mother did for me when I was little, and now I have the same opportunity, and I’m not going to pass it up.

Kaye: You have wanted to write for children since you were little and your mother used to read to you.

Tom: Oh, yes. I hope that mothers are still reading to their children. They learn at such a young age, and we’re missing an opportunity if we fail them when they’re young. They will never forget what they learn as children, it’s when their minds are growing and grasping at everything. I think one of the first words they learn is, “Why?”

Kaye: What were your favorite children’s stories?

Tom: Really, I would have to look them up in the book of fairy tales on my shelf. There were so many she read to me. Knights saving young damsels come to mind. I remember one particular fairy tale where the princess was on a glass mountain, and the young knight had to save her. She watched each day as a knight riding brown horse attempts to scale the glass mountain, then a knight on a white horse, and so on, until the final day when a knight riding a great steed scales the mountain, and we find out that he was the knight on the brown horse, the white horse, etc. It wasn’t the color of the horse, but the persistence of the knight that finally achieved the goal.

Kaye: In what ways do the stories you write emulate those favorites from your childhood?

Tom: Like the fairy tale I mentioned above, my stories will also have a similar moral – it’s not the color of the horse, or the knight’s armor, but his persistence that wins the hand of the princess. Do the right thing, for the right reason. Persevere. If you don’t succeed today, try and try again.


The stories that we hear and read in childhood often stick with us into our later years. Even though Tom wrote other fiction through the years, as he grew older, it was the stories that his mother read to him as a child that inspired him. That’s what writing children’s fiction is all about.

Tom Johnson Books

Tom’s other works included pulp, crime and science fiction stories right up there with the best, and many may be familiar with his promotions for them on Facebook. His covers seem to reach out and grab your attention.  He published over eighty books during the span of his career. In that previous interview, Tom claimed that Alien Skies was born from his most unusual inspiration and the Guns of the Black Ghost was written as a homage to Walter Gibson’s The Shadow radio drama. You can read my review of Pangaea: Eden’s Planet here.

Tom Johnson and wife Ginger

Writing was a big part of Tom’s life. It was important to him. But, Tom was more than just a talented and dedicated writer. He was also a loved life partner to his lovely wife Ginger. She was supportive of his writing, and I believe she edited some, or perhaps all of his work. With Ginger at his side, Tom lived a life doing what he loved – bringing his characters to life.

Tom, farewell. You will live on through the plethora of books and stories you’ve left us with, but you will still be greatly missed.


Are you a Tom Johnson fan? If so, feel free to leave a few words in the comments telling us what Tom meant to you, or share a memory, or just tell me which of his books is your favorite.  Thank you all for joining me in saying good-bye.