Blog Sharing – On Editing: You May Be Doing It Wrong

Guest post on Fight for Your Write today from TC Slonaker, a Martin Sisters Publishing author. TC offers her own story about publishing and how she discovered the importance of having an editor – even though she’s been an English teacher.

via On Editing: You May Be Doing It Wrong.

Blog Sharing: The Benefits of Small Press Publishing

David J. Kirk, dear friend and author of Particular Stones, stopped by Fight for Your Write today and said a few words about small press publishing. Go check it out and join the conversation!

via The Benefits of Small Press Publishing.

Blogger Book Fair: Welcome Back David Kirk!

Blogger Book Fair Features Something a Little Different with David Kirk

Dave is one of my favorite people in the world. In addition to being a fantastic author, he’s also been incredibly supportive and helpful – not to mention encouraging. His novel Particular Stones is one of the best books I read last year. Since he’s already answered my usual questions, I asked Dave to give us some insider information on his forthcoming novel Cornerstones. Because he’s a good guy, he said yes. First, let’s have a refresher on Dave and Particular Stones.

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About David J. Kirk

David, an honorable discharged veteran of the United States Navy, earned his master’s degree in personality psychology from Rhode Island College, Providence, Rhode Island, in 1980. He worked as a counselor and a Human Resources Manager. David then became an instructor at Rasmussen College where he taught psychology and sociology for four years.

An avid writer since 16 years old, he enjoyed elective college courses in creative writing, poetry, and drama. He has written over a dozen poems and the short stories “Stranger on the Beach” and “Blue Men.” After completing Particular Stones, he is currently finishing up his most recent novel, In the Big Flood. He also enjoys vegetable gardening, fishing, book discussion, geography, science, and philosophy. He lives with his wife in Indiana; they have two children.

About Particular Stones

Bothered by nightmares regarding his beginnings and trapped in an unacceptable situation, Dan joins the Eagles, a group of similar misfits whose only connection is their assignment to the same wing of their orphanage hall.  Together, the boys at first use brute force to defend themselves against a group of bullies harassing them and fellow orphans.  After a brief period of popularity for their bravery, opposing interests in the community plot to turn public opinion against them.  The Eagles soon realize their strategy is beginning to fail.  Facing incarceration and expulsion from school, they pull a strategic retreat into the wilderness where thing are seen more clearly.  Realizing a more rational plan, redemption begins to unfold.

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Amazon | Martin Sisters Publishing | Smashwords | Barnes and Noble


And Now for the (Other) Good Stuff

Dave is currently putting the finishing touches on his next novel, Cornerstones. I asked him for a sneak peek, and he said “Sure!” Instead of an excerpt, because the man does like his secrets, he sent a special message full of insight, just like the Dave himself. In his words:

I am the author of Particular Stones (Martin Sisters Publishing, 2011) and its sequel Cornerstones.  While the books have different plots, they are about the same things.  The stories take place in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic world, but readers may not be familiar with the type of apocalypse.  There are no flying cars, radiation diseased zombies, or death ray machines about.  The dystopia here is an exaggeration of what I feel is wrong with civilization today.

            I can almost summarize reviews with “This is a story about some orphan boys who band together to fight the bad guys.”  While this is basically true, they about so much more.  The Stones stories are about:

  • Family.  And what better way to explore the functions and rolls than with a group of young people without biological parents to show how these are formed.
  • Spirituality. We appear to be in two camps today:  faith and science.  Also, purists on each side claim that belief in one excludes belief in the other.  I attempt to show that both not only can work together but must.
  • Personal responsibility. Can we blame our shortcomings solely on genetics?
  • Champions. In regard to the latest Nobel Prize winner, Miss America, and Super Bowl champs, one of my characters put it best with “why do we celebrate a status that ninety nine percent of the population will never reach?”
  • Progress. I’m all for it, but what were we doing right before that for some reason we stopped doing?

I invite all types of readers to enjoy the Stones stories, but particularly those close readers.  I hope you will sit back and consider my different way of looking at things.


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(Photo by Nicole Ruby, used by permission, all rights reserved)

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Win Particular Stones

Dave is giving away Particular Stones on Goodreads. All you have to do is go sign up and keep your fingers crossed!

Blogger Book Fair: Welcome Kimberly Gould

Blogger Book Fair Continues with Kimberly Gould, Fellow Martin Sisters Publishing Author

I was lucky enough to be one of the first readers of Kimberly’s debut novel, Cargon: Honour & Privilege, a Young Adult dystopian novel unlike any other out there. Cargon, a game where social status is gambled away like pennies, is the central feature of the book, but the real star is her heroine. She’s just released the follow-up Cargon: Duty & Sacrifice, and I can’t wait to see what happens to Eve.

Kimberly gamely answered my usual questions, so take a moment to meet and greet, and then enjoy the excerpt.

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About Kimberly Gould

Oldest of three girls, raised in a small city surrounded by family, Kimberly was well acquainted with her imagination and started writing novellas in High School. She took a break while attending University, but returned to it soon after the birth of her daughter late in 2006. She has been married for 12 years, a mother for 5 and a published author for 1. She is looking forward to her future releases and new ideas.


As my husband always says, “What’s your book about?”

A servant turned princess who is enlightening a second age.

Was choosing to publish independently something you always wanted, or an option you hadn’t considered before?

I started out looking for an agent the traditional way. A writing friend suggested an indie publisher and they were my first yes.

Are you working on anything new at the moment?

I have an erotic penname and most of my WIP are part of her body. I am brewing a third Cargon book and have two other YA manuscripts in various states of completion.

Have you ever based a character on someone you know?

Not more than looks. George looks like my Dad, Adam looks like my cousin, things like that.

What color is your umbrella?


Who is your favorite character and why?

Bianca is probably my favourite character. She’s smart and fun at the same time. She’s a mother, but she doesn’t smother. She is a leader, but she’s willing to be proven wrong.

What was the last book you read?

A Memory of Light, the last Wheel of Time book.

Do you write about locations you’ve visited, or do you rely on research?  Or do you make up entire settings in your head?

I like making places up, part of the reason I write fantasy. Other than that, I usually write about places I’ve never visited, but that I imagine as ‘cities’ and therefore, at the core, similar to where I live. They all have neighbourhoods and shopping districts, a downtown. If I need particulars, Google maps is usually all I need.

After the last word is written, then what?  Do you have pre-readers and editors who take over?  Do you begin query letters immediately?

The first book, I didn’t have pre-reader, and when the edits came back with very small suggestions, I thought that was good. Upon rereading my first manuscript, however, I wish I’d gotten more people to read it. Now I have everything read AT LEAST twice before submitting. Usually I can find 3-5 people to pre-read. So far, almost everything comes back with superficial edits.

What song would be on the soundtrack for your book?

Something orchestral, with a good bit of winds to give it a haunting feeling, like you can see the ghosts of the fall waiting to be rediscovered.

Where can people find your book?

Martin Sisters Publishing has links to all the different formats, so it is easiest to go there. There is a link to Honour and Privilege on that page as well. Here is the link for Thickness of Blood (not YA).

Can we read a little excerpt?

Of course:

Her meeting with Vanto Albert was to discuss her plans to travel to Augustia and assist the neighbour with an internal conflict. Trade with Augustia had failed in recent months when the common class had risen up against their elite. The lapse in trade had disrupted Fontive although some goods were still coming through—only as much as the commoners allowed.  The Ambassadorial Vanto continued to encourage her to make the trip.

“Suggesting raising commoners to the elite should come from a person of high standing, a Vanto at the least. Also, I believe you will be perfectly equipped to deal with any questions regarding cross-class relations, don’t you?”

Eve had to chuckle at her uncle, Bianca’s brother in law. As the first and only servant to be raised to the elite, it did make sense to send Eve. “I expect I am,” she agreed. By playing and winning Cargon, the game ranking elite in Fontive, Eve had made the unprecedented shift.

“Well, let’s prepare you for it then.” Albert scratched at his short brown beard for a moment. “Eric is High One in Augustia, with his wife, Rosa, as second.” He presented her with a list of the highest elite and their portfolios, which they reviewed together.

“Ducat and Ducati are called Ambo and Amba in Augustia,” Albert explained. “Clarence,” Fontive’s Ducat of Augustia, “will of course answer to both, but you would confuse others there.”

Eve nodded, thinking she would most likely confuse herself. She should be able to mingle with the Vanto and Vinca, avoiding any misnomers. She read the list over again but was interrupted when Albert began discussing some of the differences between the cultures of the two kingdoms. “They do not rank themselves by Cargon.”

“What?” Her voice seemed to squeak in her own over-sensitive ears, making her cringe. Cargon was rule, it was law, it was…

“They pass rank through heredity, as we do when no one wagers,” Albert explained, placing a hand on her shoulder. She must seem very disturbed for him to touch her. Physical contact was strictly proscribed among the elite in Fontive.

Albert pulled his hand back, using the action for another example. “They are also less reserved about contact. You may see open displays of affection.” He said it with distaste, but Eve merely nodded. Although she had seen none since being raised, servants showed affection quite often. It wasn’t something that bothered her as it would one born into the elite.

“That isn’t a problem for me,” she explained. “Servants show affection when they aren’t on duty.”

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About Cargon: Duty & Sacrifice

In a post-apocalyptic world, Eve has discovered power of more than one nature. In Honour and Privilege, Eve became heir to the throne. In Duty and Sacrifice, she explores and defines the power of the elite. At the same time, electricity is being harnessed for the first time in centuries, providing the first glimpse into the ancient people who left the world as it exists. The horror of this revelation could shake their society as much or more than a servant becoming monarch.

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Blogger Book Fair: Welcome Allison Blanchard!

Introducing Fellow Martin Sisters Publishing Author Allison Blanchard for Blogger Book Fair

I’m so excited to introduce Allison Blanchard of Martin Sisters Publishing and her book, Forget Me Not. She’s been kind enough to answer my usual questions with her wit, and I know you’ll love meeting her. After answering my usual questions, some silly and some serious, Allison provided an excerpt from her book. Enjoy!

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About Allison Blanchard

Allison Blanchard is currently a student at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, Georgia where she is pursuing her bachelor degrees in English Creative Writing and French. She is an active sister in Sigma Alpha Omega where she continues to grow as a woman in Christ. She writes everyday, drinks too much coffee, and is looking forward to the next adventure her characters will take her.


As my husband always says, “What’s your book about?”

Forget Me Not is a unique love story that digs at the deeper questions of life & death, illusion & reality, with an interwoven thread of Native American culture and legends.

Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?  Can you tell us about it?

I’m pretty sure it was a badly written poem when I was in middle school. Not the deepest and most meaningful piece of literary merit.

Do you prefer plaid or stripes?

Plaid, but damask is my FAVORITE pattern!

Was choosing to publish independently something you always wanted, or an option you hadn’t considered before?

It sort of just happened. I like the freedom my publisher gave me. It really felt like I was apart of a family, not just some client.

Are you working on anything new at the moment?

The project I am working on now is the second book in the Forget Me Not Trilogy, Morning Glory. It picks up where Forget Me Not left off. There are new characters, new twists and turns, but it is definitely a little darker than the first. SPOILER ALERT: There are some character deaths. It’s a pretty intense read.

Do you have any rituals before writing?  Music or silence?  Coffee or tea?  Twizzlers or M&Ms?

COFFEE! And some good music! My all time favorite bands are The Civil Wars and Paramore!

Have you ever based a character on someone you know?

Um, guilty. Usually, the person might not want to know who they inspired. It’s never usually good. But there are a few good characters in my current project who were inspired by some pretty awesome people I know.

What color is your umbrella?

It is black and white hounds tooth!

Who is your favorite author and why?

Marianne Curley! She inspired me to not only read more, but to become a writer. Her beautiful books got me through a really tough time in my life. I am forever grateful to her.

What was the last book you read?

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

Do you write about locations you’ve visited, or do you rely on research?  Or do you make up entire settings in your head?

I do a bit of both. For Forget Me Not, I had to do A LOT of research. I had never been to Great Falls, MT, but I was excited to write about a new place.

After the last word is written, then what?  Do you have pre-readers and editors who take over?  Do you begin query letters immediately?

Usually there is a victory dance which may or may not include crumping. I then go back and read through and edit like a crazy woman. Then there are my trusty pre-readers (Thanks Mom and Courtney!), then comes the query letter process. The dancing is my favorite part.

What song would be on the soundtrack for your book?

“Forget Me Not” and “I’ve Got This Friend,” both by The Civil Wars.

Where can people find your book?

Here are the links to buy my book!

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords | Paperback

Can we read a little excerpt?

Chapter One

I almost lost my breath when he walked through the door. Here, in the small town of Great Falls, Montana stood an angel in the front of my geometry class. His very presence gave the whitewashed room a certain glow. His skin was a dark, rusty copper. His onyx hair stopped at his neck, curled, and hung close to his face. I finally looked into his clear, blue eyes, but found them looking down to his feet. He was standing awkwardly at the front of the class, never meeting anyone’s eye as Mr. Holman read his note from the office. He was very tall, about 6’2”, with long legs that couldn’t seem to stay still as he swayed side to side.

Something about him caught my attention the moment he walked through the door. Like some magnetic pull. Nothing I could possibly explain, not even to myself. He looked strong, but seemed so unsure, nervous. But that wasn’t the only reason it took so much self-control to look away.

It couldn’t be that he was from the Indian reservation. Plenty of students had transferred from the reservation school. Although, most of them had transferred back for one reason or another. I never cared enough to take much notice.

I’ve never really taken much notice to any of the other students that attended my high school for that matter. That might be one of the reasons no one took any notice of me, either.

I was never the most social person in my grade. I didn’t see the point of befriending people when in two years we would lose all contact because we were thousands of miles away trying to figure out what we were going to do with our lives. It seemed kind of pointless.

I heard Mr. Holman mutter something about finding a seat. The beautiful boy kept silent and sat down quickly, avoiding eye contact with everyone.

The thought flew across my mind about trying to befriend him, showing him around the school. But the thought left as quickly as it came. There was no way I could show him, whoever he was, around. I barely had any confidence left to take myself to class. And that was thanks to Lily.

One of my first, and very few, friends was Lily Shelton. We had been best friends all the way through middle school. But when we started high school, Lily changed. Suddenly, boys and the desire to be accepted were more important than me, than our friendship. Ever since our friendship crumbled into oblivion, I have kept to myself. Out of both pride and self-preservation.

I glanced to my left, simply curious to see how he was holding up. He turned at the same moment and our eyes locked. I instantly looked away, completely mortified, keeping my eyes glued to either the board or my book. However, I could not shake the feeling that he was still staring.

Thankfully, the bell rang. I stood up, shoving my books into my bag. I began to leave the room when a deep, rustic voice stopped me.

“Excuse me, but can you tell me where I can find room 102?”

I looked over my shoulder, and time seemed to stand still.

“Uh, it’s down the hall,” I replied awkwardly, vaguely pointing out the door.

“I could show you! I know this school like the back of my hand!” Interrupted Sasha, her fire red hair framing her striking, magazine worthy face.

I saw the triumph in her eyes and cringed internally. There was no denying she was beautiful.

I decided to end my embarrassment and leave the room. Sasha would show the new boy around. I was sure he had already forgotten the small, average girl he had asked where to find his next class.

Once I made it to the hallway, I could finally take a deep breath and steady my pulse. I wasn’t sure why this particular boy was suddenly making me feel and act the way I was. The boy and this strange connection to him was unfamiliar territory. And being the coward I was, I was going to run from change. Not allow it to grow or continue to have any more influence on my life. So all I had to do was avoid him like the plague and life would hopefully return to normal. It wasn’t too hard to avoid people, especially when half the school didn’t even know your name. I was almost to my history room when I felt a warm hand grab my shoulder.Blogger Book Fair

About Forget Me Not

Cole Dyami is a mysterious boy with a dangerous secret. Adeline Jasely is a typical teenage girl. Living in the seemingly normal small town of Great Falls Montana, Adeline is confronted with everyday teenage problems by a not so normal beautiful boy. As Adeline and Cole’s worlds collide, the line between illusion and reality is blurred. According to a tribal legend, Adeline and Cole are no longer two friends, but two pieces in a complicated mystery. Suddenly, Adeline finds herself in a world she never knew existed. Along side Cole, she attempts to unravel the mysteries of the small Chippewa tribe in order to not only find out who Cole Dyami truly is, but who she is as well. As Cole and Adeline begin to uncover the secrets behind the legends of the Chippewa tribe, illusion slowly unravels into reality and friendship gradually melts into a mutual need of survival.

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The New Cover!

Check out the new cover for the edited, expanded, new edition of The Kingdom, coming VERY SOON (like, maybe even tomorrow). Special thanks to artist Tali Pryor and designer Melissa Newman. Let me know what you think!

Side Effects Reaching Kids at “A Place Called Home”

This past Saturday, forthcoming Martin Sisters author Sandra Gluschankoff presented Side Effects to four separate workshops at A Place Called Home in Los Angeles. The focus of the workshop was relationships, and Sandra asked me to prepare an introduction for the event. Because the relationships in Side Effects are extremely important, I thought I’d share that introduction here. I hope the words will help you take even more from the book.

Everyone says that your young adult years are supposed to be the best of your life, but any teen will tell you that notion is ridiculous. Kids are mean; there’s just no way to get around it. Unfortunately, adults can be mean, too. It’s important to note that the picture doesn’t always tell the whole story, no matter how many words it’s worth. We can’t know what’s going on in someone’s daily life just by looking at them.

If you take a look around you, you’ll probably come to some form of judgment about each person just by his or her appearance. Don’t actually take a look around, unless you want to see the eyes of everyone else staring at you. Think for a moment about what they would see if your insides were painted on your outside. How would the person next to you perceive you if he or she knew the troubles you have at home? What would your teacher say if he or she knew you have a learning disability that prevents you from keeping up with the rest of the class? What would that guy on the bus think if he knew the dark circles under your eyes and your dirty clothes aren’t because you’re a drug addict, but because you work two jobs in addition to school to help your mom?

As you can see, it’s easy to overlook the internal struggles and come to our own conclusions. This is what Isaac Matthews deals with in Side Effects.

Isaac suffers from Anxiety Disorder, which leaves him exhausted during the day and unable to interact with other kids his age. He forces himself to stay awake at night to avoid the night terrors, but that just means he falls asleep over his desk at school where all the other kids can witness him screaming when he’s jolted awake by dreams. He’s laughed at, mocked, bullied, and all because he’s severely misunderstood. It’s easy for the other students to ignore his pain, because then they don’t have to feel it, either.

Things change when the biggest bully in school stops to wonder just what causes Isaac’s withdrawal from society. It’s a beautiful thing when one person asks, with wholehearted sincerity, “What’s going on?” Whether you want to answer the question or not, the important thing is that someone cares. When David Brooks takes an interest in Isaac, it’s easy to gloss over his concern. After all, this boy has everything–at least according to popular belief. Of course there’s room in David’s heart for his new friend. He can’t possibly hurt when he’s the star quarterback, chick magnet, and overall king of the school.

There is no way to know. Maybe David is the luckiest guy to ever live, and maybe he isn’t. When you see the most popular guy or girl in school, do you ever stop to wonder if life might be rough for them, too? Maybe they cover their pain with bravado, and that’s why they’re so terrible to those around them. Maybe they really do have it all together, but that doesn’t mean they can’t learn from someone who’s hurting.

David Brooks learns from Isaac that he can’t be quick to judge, while Isaac learns that stereotypes aren’t fair. It’s through David’s concern that Isaac gains the confidence needed to handle Grace, the beautiful new girl.

She’s gorgeous, bubbly, funny, and…a cheerleader. She can’t possibly see Isaac for who he is, can she? What Isaac doesn’t know is that Grace’s brother also has anxiety disorder, so she knows exactly what Isaac deals with on a daily basis. She also looks right past the dark circles under his eyes, wrinkled clothes, and awkward conversations to see the real Isaac inside–the Isaac who is easy to love.

Side Effects isn’t just a story about dealing with anxiety disorder, even if the main focus is to remind sufferers they’re not alone. What we can also take from the book is that everyone is crying out for understanding and love. If we take the time to see who they really are, underneath the rough exterior or the shining armor, we may find someone who knows exactly why we hurt and how to make it better.

Sandra also gave away four books—one to each workshop. She was kind enough to send photos of the winners. I hope you’ll keep an eye out for her book through Martin Sisters Publishing. I’ll be sure to let you know when it arrives.

The Winners

A Moment with RJ Burroughs

RJ Burroughs is one of the newest members of the Martin Sisters Publishing family. His book, The Boys of 58, is a coming of age story told with RJ’s unique humor and insight. No matter when you were a kid or what kind of trouble you got yourself into, you’ll see a bit of yourself in The Boys of 58.

RJ was nice enough to answer my usual questions, and he even gave extra attention to those originally designed with women in mind. He’s a good sport, and his answers will make you laugh. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to get to know him better, and then head over to one of the many places The Boys of 58 is available to take a look.

As my husband always says, “What’s your book about?”

The Boys of 58 is about 5 twelve-year-old boys growing up in the much slower time of 1958–all the trouble they seem to get into and the way they get out of trouble.  It’s not one story, but a combination of several stories.  When I wrote this novel, I did my best to make each page different and funny.  I tried to put a little something in it for everyone–if you can please everyone that is.  From a fainting goat to the zombie, or the boy and girl killed fifty-years before the boys were born.  A person would be hard pressed to read The Boys and not laugh out loud several times.

Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?  Can you tell us about it?

That would be to a girl named Rita in the 3rd grade.  Rita was the fastest runner in our elementary school, and she was going to represent our school in the 100-yard dash at the city-wide elementary track meet.   I thought Rita was about the prettiest girl I had ever seen. Of course, I hadn’t seen all that many girls, living on a farm and being nine years old.

I saw a senior boy and girl kissing at the Big Burger one afternoon when my uncle took me to get a cherry limeade. The look on that senior boy’s face after he finished with that kiss was something I had never experienced before–kind of like the look people get today when OU beats Texas.  I though kissing must be something special, so being who I am, I decided the only way to find out would be to give it a try.  That’s when I wrote Rita a one-page note expressing my desire to find out what it feels like to kiss a girl.

She wrote me back, stating if I could catch her at recess she would let me kiss her.

Well, as I said before, she was fast–darn fast. I spent almost all of the fifteen minutes chasing that girl, and I finally trapped her between the monkey bars and the old slide.  I will give her this–she was a girl of her word. She let me kiss her square on the mouth just like that senior boy. However, I didn’t have that look he had when I finished. It was more like the look people get when Texas beats OU. From that day on, I gave up on girls for good–or until I first saw Pam in her cheerleader outfit in junior high school a few years later.

Do you prefer plaid or stripes?

Well, that is a tough question for me. The only thing I can say is, I don’t have a clue. I guess if Sally Field was wearing a long plaid dress or a pair of shorts with stripes on them, I would have to say stripes.  On the other hand, if Sally Field was wearing a long dress with stripes on it or a pair of plaid shorts, I would have to go with plaid.   To me, it doesn’t matter the material or the color, but what a person does with it.

Was choosing to publish independently something you always wanted, or an option you hadn’t considered before? (Independently being defined here as NOT one of the Big Six.)

I have written a lot of different stories in the past and tried several times (several times being a heck of a lot) to find an agent and or publisher.  I don’t know for sure if my material was ever looked at, much less read.  After hundreds of attempts, I just stopped trying. I have a lot of family members and friends that enjoy what I write, be it horror, sci fi, mystery, or humor, so I wrote just for the enjoyment of writing and the pleasure my friends got out of it.

After I finished writing The Boys of 58, I sent out several queries to agents/publishers. Still nothing.  I just happened to be checking the spam on my computer when I found an answer from Martin Sisters. To make a long story short, they loved the novel, and now it’s in print.

If it hadn’t been for the Sisters I would still be writing for family and friends. Still, it is hard to get the word out about a new book, but I just keep plugging along in hopes that people who do read it enjoy it and pass the word along.

Are you working on anything new at the moment? 

Yes, I am just about finished with The Boys of 59, the sequel to The Boys of 58. I won’t be sending it off until The Boys of 58 has been out awhile. I am also about 3/4th finished with a mystery novel called Marriage, as well as a fiction novel about how the names of creeks in Oklahoma came about. I have several others planned as well.

Do you have any rituals before writing?  Music or silence?  Coffee or tea?  Twizzlers or M&Ms?

No, I just write when I feel like it–just walk into my office, sit down, and write.  I always carry a small pad with me, just in case I happen to think of something I want to write about or something I would like to add to a novel. Then when I get to the computer, I take out the pad. Otherwise I would forget my thoughts.  This is something I believe all authors should do, as I can’t ever remember all the things I have thought of and forgotten before I could get to the computer.

The only other ritual that helps me write is when my wife gets upset with me about something or she happens to cook liver. Either one of those send me to my office quick.

Have you ever based a character on someone you know? 

No, I haven’t based any characters on anyone I know. I have used the names of some of my friends, however.  As for places, yes. The Boys of 58 takes place in a small Oklahoma town called Verden, a little town my grandmother lived in and where I attended the second and third grade.

In The Boys of 58, one of the boy’s names is Sonny, and my nickname is Sonny. Now I kind of wish I had given Sonny a different name, as people seem to think the story is about me, and it is not. It is pure fiction.

The grandmother in the story does have some of the traits of my grandmother. The snuff and flyswatter came from her.

I enjoy making up the last names myself.

What color is your umbrella?

Jen, I don’t have an umbrella. If I did, I am sure the wind in Oklahoma would be more than happy to take it away from me.  Being a young lady as you are, I am sure you have no idea what runs through a man’s head about being macho. It is something we men strive to be.  I can’t speak for all men, but it seems kind of hard to run into Wal-Mart, or Rexall Drugs holding an umbrella and still feel macho.  Ok, if I had an umbrella, it would have Sooners on it. 

Who is your favorite author and why?

I guess that would have to be Stephen King.  I wrote a book called Unholy Ground a few years ago. A lot of the people that read it thought it was something from Stephen King.  I have a little part in The Boys of 58 about a boy and girl that were murdered fifty years before the boys were born. The head of the young girl was never found.  As I said before, I tried to put a little something in it for everyone.  By no means is The Boys a horror novel or is the murder part scary; it’s all humor.

As for what I like about Stephen King: when you read his novels, there is always a part a person can relate to in it. Some of it is even funny.  He is very different from me, however. He taught English; I flunked English. He is from the north (Maine); I am from the southwest (Oklahoma.)  If I had to bet, I would say his wife doesn’t cook liver mine does.  I think he talks funny, but I am sure if he were to hear me talk, he would think the same thing about me. The only thing we have in common is he has been in a lot of movies same as myself. The only difference is that he was acting, and I was in a chair eating popcorn with butter and drinking a small coke.

What was the last book you read?

That would be Huckleberry Finn. I have read it several times.  I enjoy Mark Twain’s writing.  That just happens to be the last one I read. However, I am waiting on Side Effects to get here. You know about Side Effects, don’t you?

Do you write about locations you’ve visited, or do you rely on research?  Or do you make up entire settings in your head?

As I said before, I used Verden from my childhood. However, I make up 99% of the locations in my head. That way, if I need a fire station down the block or a Dairy Queen across the street from something, I can always add it in.  Again, I like to make things up in my head. As I write about it, I make notes. If I didn’t, I would end up with a fire station on each block and four or five Dairy Queens in the same town.

After the last word is written, then what?  Do you have pre-readers and editors who take over?  Do you begin query letters immediately?

I really don’t do anything other than send it to my editor.  I type so fast (or at least I use the excuse of typing so fast) that I have to have someone edit it.  If it hadn’t been for sports and girls in school, I might not have passed.  My spelling leaves something to be desired.

After the military, I did try to go to college, but it was in the 70s and the students were all protesting Vietnam. Since I was ex-military, I was given a cold shoulder by most.  I dropped out and went into the pipeline field–something I still do to this day.

So yes, as soon as I finish a story, it’s off to my editor.

What song would be on the soundtrack for your book?

Red River Valley by Stevie Nicks. Why, I have no clue, other than I like the fire out of that song.  I guess that is the southwest coming out of me.

Where can people find your book? 

Amazon, Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Martin Sisters Publishing, or it can be ordered at any bookstore.

Can we read a little excerpt?

When I reached the store, I saw Sally Majors coming out carrying a large sack of groceries. That wouldn’t have been much of an inspiration before, but Sally had been the talk of the town a few months back. She ran off with the high-school French teacher and got married. She was seventeen and Mr. Baxter was thirty-seven. That was about the biggest thing since the Bible salesman came to town and stole the cash box from the Baptist Church. Seeing Sally’s large stomach that day, I just knew she was going to have a baby.

She wasn’t pregnant, mind you, saying that word was another no-no. Sally was either in the family way, with child, or just going to have a baby. Pregnant was only used for bad girls that lived out of our little town or by the doctor.

Seeing her ‘in the family way’ gave me the perfect idea for paying Miss Mary Sue Bailey back. It came to me in such a flash I forgot all about the Garrett Snuff. I turned on my heels and, in a dead run, started for Charlie’s house. About halfway there I remembered the snuff and thoughts of flyswatters and yardsticks came to mind, but there was no turning back now, and the respect I’d get from the guys was worth more than just a couple licks.

Reaching Charlie’s house, I banged on the door till the usual greeting came.

“Stop that banging, you little fart,” Charlie’s mom said.

Everyone was a fart to her. Dumb fart. Old fart. Young fart. Stupid fart. Young, no-account fart. That was my favorite.

“Is Charlie home, Mrs. Shaffer?”

“Yes, the little, no-account fart is here,” she said, turning to fetch her son who was already headed up behind her.

“What you want, fart-head?” he asked, sidestepping the slap he knew would be coming his way.

The fart word was used a lot in his house, but only from his mother. When she heard Charlie or one of us use it, you could bet a slap across the top of your head was soon to follow.

“Have the guys meet at the depot after supper tonight. I think I know a way we can pay Mary Sue back for all the trash she’s been spreading about us.”

“What you thinking?”

For a second, I was going to tell him, but when you get an idea like that, you can’t just waste it; you got to tell everyone at once so they can all talk about how brilliant it was.

“Just get the guys together, Charlie.”

Be sure to leave a few words for RJ. You can also visit his website and “like” The Boys on Facebook.


Taking Your Requests

I feel like a radio DJ, taking requests for blog topics, but the truth is that I just didn’t know what to blog about. To my utter disappointment, Liam has followed his beer-making instructions step by step, so there have been no major mishaps. With nothing else to talk about, I had to ask on Twitter what people might want to read. My first request was to discuss some of my upcoming projects. This makes me happy. I love talking about what I’m working on.

First of all, I know that some people may be waiting to hear some news about The Kingdom and The Morning Star. There will be official news very soon, but I can tell you that the series will now be published through Martin Sisters Publishing. The first book has gone through a total re-edit, complete with some additional content – though not so much that anyone who has the first edition will miss out.  While reworking the first book, I’ve also been working on the edits for The Morning Star so that the quality carries through the series. I hope people are still eager to learn more about Rioghan an Lily, and I’m so glad I have a chance to do this right through Martin Sisters.

There is also a follow up to Side Effects in the works. I’m seventy-five percent through with the first draft of Soundtrack. As with Side Effects, this novel will deal with teenagers who have very real problems. Though it’s not exactly a sequel, Isaac and Grace lovers will get to read some more about them through the eyes of new characters in the same universe.  Becky Honeycutt and Travis Robinson, who were both mentioned briefly in the first novel, are teens from different social circles who take the time to learn more about each other. Travis, the popular, basketball-playing bully, suffers from ADHD–

We interrupt this program to bring you the news of a triumph in the kitchen. Jen Barry managed to create Chicken Parmesan for the tenth time without burning it. Her husband announced that it was “delish.”

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog, already in progress.

–and Becky, the invisible girl, learns how to help him through his studies using music therapy. It’s been a lot of fun researching the disorder and getting to know these characters. I think people will love these new characters as much as they love Isaac and Grace, if not more.

I’ve also completed the first book in a new series, which will be called The Oracles of St. Ambrose. This series will focus on three teens with extraordinary powers and how they learn to trust their abilities and each other to solve mysteries. There’s already a page for it here on the site, so you can learn more about the first book, Going Under. I hope people will love Chase, Cinnamon, and Bryan as much as I do.

I’ve also got a few books for adults in the works, though these are moving a little more slowly. Jinx is the story of a ridiculously unlucky girl and how she learns to live with her misfortune and love in spite of it. I’m also constantly writing and rewriting a book set in my hometown of Oakdale. With factual elements and a fictional plot, the lines keep blurring too much for comfort. It’s a labor of love, and I won’t put it out there until I get it just right. Finally, there is a collaboration with an author friend, but that’s a secret.

With so much going through my head at any given moment, I often just spend my time with the character who is speaking the loudest. Sometimes I take six months to a year to finish the first draft of a project, and every once in a while, I sit down and write straight through one in a month. One thing is for sure; I have plenty to be going on with. I don’t imagine I’ll stop writing any time soon!

A Brief Moment with David J. Kirk

Any day now, a new book will be released by Martin Sisters Publishers.  David J. Kirk, the author of Particular Stones, took some time to answer a few questions for me.  I humbly submit these answers to you, so that you might learn a bit more about this fun, intelligent, and supportive author.  Take some time to read what Dave has to say, and then check out his information at the end.  You’ll be ready to snap up Particular Stones the moment it’s released!

As my husband always says, “What’s your book about?”

Thanks for having me on, Jen.  To answer Liam’s question, Stones is about a young man growing up in a strange place.  Without the guidance of family, he must gather allies and fight off threats.  He is disillusioned, unable to figure out why society is doing what it does.  Deeper questions, related to his origin and existence, nag at him.  While fighting off the bad guys, he and his group of friends begin to realize the futility of using the tactics of their enemies.  Slowly, the elements of the good fight, the right way to do things, begin to emerge.

It is a fairly classic theme, but with some twists and turns.

Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?  Can you tell us about it?

I started writing when I was sixteen.  I don’t recall the particular document, but I’m sure it was an essay regarding some unrequited fascination with a girl.

Do you prefer plaid or stripes?


Was choosing to publish independently something you always wanted, or an option you hadn’t considered before?

It was never a concern how I got published, only that I did.  I tried submitting to large publishers, medium publishers, small publishers, contests, and so on.  I considered self-publishing and partnering with another author.  Sending out proposal after proposal, I not only knew the names of the staff at the local UPS store, I knew their kids’ names.  Fortunately, I connected with a really great publisher.

Are you working on anything new at the moment? 

While making the rounds with the first one, I wrote a second novel in the setting of the 1997 flood in Fargo, North Dakota.  Other than polishing up a couple of short stories for contests, I plan to concentrate on marketing Particular Stones.

Do you have any rituals before writing?  Music or silence?  Coffee or tea?  Twizzlers or M&Ms?

I like silence and coffee.  I may play some mood provoking music to get myself in the right mindset.  Never setting goals, some days I could put out ten pages, some days half a paragraph.  I wrote Stones during a long North Dakota winter.  I couldn’t believe how much fun it was.

Have you ever based a character on someone you know? 

Through randomly selected names and physical descriptions, I try to keep characters as fictional as possible. However, I doubt if it is ever totally possible.  Take “goodness” for example.  You can learn about good people from reading, but one’s experience with goodness probably came from being associated with a good person at some point.  I sometimes find myself borrowing traits from one or more people I have known and combining them into one character.  The characteristics of the villains in my book were borrowed from famous bullies I knew in my youth.

What color is your umbrella?

I don’t own one.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I have read many great authors over the years.  However, I will have to go with J.D. Salinger as an all-time favorite.  I first read Catcher in the Rye when I was seventeen, and at least twice a decade since.  It’s interesting how the book changes depending on what stage of life one is at.

What was the last book you read?

I am currently finishing up House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski.  Horror, not my usual cup of tea, but presented in an incredibly unique style.

Do you write about locations you’ve visited, or do you rely on research?  Or do you make up entire settings in your head?

I will take your question a degree further and say that I usually write about locations where I have lived.  I find it difficult in describing a scene looking at Google Images.

After the last word is written, then what?  Do you have pre-readers and editors who take over?  Do you begin query letters immediately?

I engaged the services of a past co-worker, Linda of TC Expert Editing, for manuscript preparation.  She did it chapter by chapter via email, and then did the final review of the entire book as a whole.  She was great to work with and a valuable asset to this project.  She even laughed at my email jokes! (Well okay, just one of them, but it was really funny.)  Then I just started researching and writing to markets.

What song would be on the soundtrack for your book?

Gosh, Jen, I could name every track on the soundtrack CD.  But if I had to pick one song, it would be Springsteen’s “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy).”

Where can people find your book?

The book will be released later this summer.  Please check for availability at the publisher’s web site Martin Sisters Publishing or my site David J. Kirk

Can we read a little excerpt?

“Good,” his smile fading, “now I want to tell you why I wanted to see you.”

“You wanted to see me, sir … I mean, Tom?  I had no idea you wanted to see me.”

“I know.  Dan, I need a new student, I’m afraid I need you a lot more than you need me.”

“Why?  I thought Candolene was your student.”

“Don’t get me wrong, I love Jimmy, but he’s been with me a year now.  I think I’m at a wall with him.  Jim’s lost, lost as a person, lost in that stupid alcohol he drinks.  They got to him.”


“Them.  That wretched society machine we got operating in Centura, those self-perpetuating morons who want to mass-produce plumbers and chemists and soldiers.  I’m on the faculty, Dan, at the university.  Do you have any idea how many doctoral candidates we have in philosophy right now?  One!  And he’s draft age.  The master’s program has three.  Pickin’s are slim.”

“Tom, I don’t know a darn thing, other than your book, about philosophy.  I took the intro course in seventh grade.”

“Heard about you, Dan.  You have qualifications.”

“I’m an electrician.”

“It’s not the field you’re in; it’s the character.”  He leaned forward, “You look and wonder and are curious, Mr. Kelley.  You have a lot of questions.  You can both question God about why he puts clowns like Bus Quint in the world and yet see heaven in a young French girl’s eyes.  And I’m not trying to recruit a disciple, nor am I feeling sorry for the poor orphan boy.  This is all for purely selfish reasons.  We need thinkers, Kelley, there aren’t many left!”

You can learn more about Dave by visiting his profile on the Martin Sisters Publishing website.  He would also be thrilled if you found his Facebook page or his Twitter.