September 29, 2014

Meet Some #UtopYA2014 Lovelies (Unofficial): Christina Mercer

In Cupertino, CA
I first met Christina in my neck of the woods, California, for an author panel organized by fellow utopYA-attendee and Californian, Allyson Gottlieb. It was such a treat to see a familiar face in the hotel lobby in June—especially such a warm and friendly one.

Thanks for hanging out with me today, Christina.

C: My pleasure! The author panel was fun and seeing you again in Nashville was such a treat J

I just downloaded your novel, Honey Queen—a Young Adult Fantasy Romance where a girl is turned into a Honey Queen—because it sounded so interesting. Then, I saw on your website that you are a beekeeper. What fascinates you so much about bees?

Oh, and a little birdie told me it's ONLY 99 cents until 10/2/14!

C: Yay! Thank you! Since I was a little girl, the idea of bees creating honey fascinated me. I attended a beekeeping class a little over ten years ago and connected with the only other woman in the class. She’d been keeping bees for a couple of years and offered to mentor me, which started me on my path. Honey bees are the most amazing creatures and the only insect on the planet that not only creates a food fit for the gods, but keeps our gardens, crops and orchards growing the foods we love.  

Wow! You've given me a newfound appreciation for bees. Oh, and I loved Arrow of the Mist (please check out the review here -- and it's only 99 cents for a limited time as well -- don't miss out!). It also has a heavy nature theme.  

By the way, we have so much in common. I am a finance major who writes fiction, and you are an Accountant who writes fiction. What aspects of left brain thinking help you with being an author, which most would consider a right-brained activity?

C: We do! I’ve met a few of us left/right brainers and I think it helps to be ambidextrous in many ways (I also happen to be ambidextrous with my hands!). The artistic side gets all those fantastic ideas and imagination juices flowing, and the logical side helps to refine, revise and edit once all those ideas are put to paper. Authors are business owners and engage in many tasks requiring left-brain-stuff, so having a knowledge base in business and money management is very useful.    

Amen! This was your second UtopYA. What do you think makes this conference so special?

C: I just did a blog post on this (see Christina's My #UtopYA2014 Experience Unoffical Blog Hop and Giveaway post here), and UtopYA offers YA/NA authors/aspiring authors, Freelancers, and Readers of YA/NA a place to come together amid the fabulous city of Nashville. The energy is awe-inspiring, and the connections made/nurtured at this event are truly priceless. I hope to attend every year as long as it continues, and at the astounding rate it’s grown, I believe it will go on for many years!   

And I plan to be there as long as it does! I noticed on your website that your great, great uncle was Frank Capra, a force behind many movies in the 30s and 40s. Was there something he taught you? 

C: He passed away before I actually met him, but other relatives spoke of him often. What I find super inspiring was his ability to climb a huge mountain of success from the struggles of being a poor immigrant, and that he created masterpieces that the world still enjoys today. Every December when It’s a Wonderful Life airs, I watch it with pride and am glad a bit of that creative blood flows inside me.

I wanted to share another great picture of you from UtopYA14...

Carlyle Labuschagne, Christina, Victoria Faye & Chelsea Starling
Pretty cool to have such an amazing inspiration like him touch your life. What manuscript are you currently working on? When can we expect to see more from you?

C: I am currently working on two projects: one is a co-authored light-hearted/humorous Science Fiction and the other is a YA Paranormal about a (very unique) nowadays-teen-witch.  

Please share your social media links: WebSite | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads

Quick Questions…

Favorite Punctuation Mark: The ? because we humans strive to answer those ?s
Ocean or Mountains? Ocean
Favorite Alcoholic Beverage: Patron (one clean shot) Or a Cosmopolitan if I want to sip
Favorite Dessert: Frozen Yogurt with whatever toppings my mood desires
Shower or bath? Shower (bubble bath in winter)
Sweet or Sour? Honey Sweet

I hope to see you before next year’s utopYA since we live so close!

C: YES!! Most definitely! 

Christina Mercer is an award-winning author of fiction for children and young adults. Honored titles include Tween/Teen Fantasy ARROW OF THE MIST and its sequel ARMS OF ANU, and YA Fantasy/Romance HONEY QUEEN. In addition to writing, Christina holds a degree in Accounting from California State University at Sacramento and a Certificate in Herbal Studies from Clayton College of Natural Health. She resides in Northern California enjoying life with her husband, two sons, four dogs, and about 100,000 honeybees.

To learn more about her and her writing, visit

Please come back for more #UtopYA2014 Lovelies (Unofficial), and check out the announcement post to see the schedule.

September 26, 2014

Meet Some #UtopYA2014 Lovelies (Unofficial): Toni Lesatz

Please welcome Toni Lesatz, an author and a blogger at My Book Addiction, to the blog today. *applause*

--Shushing the audience—

It was such a treat to meet you and hang out at UtopYA. You’re one cool chick! I love this picture of you, Ginny Gallager (Gin's Book Notes), Jo Michaels, and me in the lobby.

Photo by Victoria Faye
Toni: Thank you, Tia. It was awesome meeting you as well. That's one of my favorite pictures. I miss you girls!

I have to take a second and congratulate you on winning both Best Blog of the Year (My Book Addiction) and Blogger of the Year at the 2014 UtopYA awards. What did this mean to you?

Toni: Thank you so much. I never in a million years expected to win. I am still trying to find the words to adequately express my feelings about it. Three months later and I still get teary-eyed every time I think about that night, or glance over at the awards on my bookshelf. I'm so blessed to have such an amazing literary family in my corner!

You looked amazing that night, and you were glowing with appreciation. It's so obvious how much you were enjoying every second of the conference. You shared your thoughts about the UtopYA experience here. In a few short words, what would you like to tell people who have not attended and are on the fence?

Toni: Thank you, Tia! I have to admit, I felt a little princess-like standing up there. It was like being in a Disney Princess movie. Do you Want to Build a Snowman? NO! I don't mean Frozen!

To answer your question, I was that person on the fence. Even with my event tickets, my hotel room, and my plane ticket paid for, I was beyond nervous. I considered backing out until about a week before I was scheduled to leave. I'm so glad I didn't sprout feathers and start clucking, though, because UtopYA was an experience I will never forget. It is a MUST ATTEND event! You may arrive alone, like I did, or with only a handful of friends, but I promise you'll leave with a family of hundreds. Going to UtopYA provided the kick in the pants I needed to get my rear in gear!

Preach it, sister! This was my first UtopYA and I felt terrified going in. Now, I can't wait for 2015! Plus, I'll get to hang out with you again. Okay, back to the interview... You love zombie books. What draws you to this genre?

Toni: I’m not an adrenaline junkie. I don’t want to jump out of a plane or leap off the side of anything with a bungee cord attached to any part of my body. Heck, I don’t even like roller coasters. But the rush that the zombie genre provides is comparable to what I imagine an adrenaline junkie gains from those types of activities. Imagining the zombie apocalypse really happening scares the bejeezus out of me... but I like it. I know I'm twisted. It's okay. 

I noticed on your blog (in your review policy section) you don’t review Erotica. What if a really good zombie erotica book came out? (See, I'm twisted, too!)

Toni: Ha! I would still have to decline. It’s just not my thing. Reading a story that focuses primarily on sex just doesn't interest me. I prefer the slow simmer of a sweet romance.

I'm so with you on that. I miss the days of the big movie kiss followed by a fade-out. Back to being serious, I know you completed June’s Camp NanoWriMo. Congrats! Would you mind sharing with us some details about what you are writing?

Toni: Thank you! This the first time I’ve hit my goal in NaNoWriMo. I haven’t written a synopsis for the book yet, but here is the gist of it.

It’s a young adult dark fantasy about a teenage necromancer. With the help of her dead mother and a new friend, Elodie begins to unlock secrets from her past. When she learns about a coven of witches that destroyed her family and still has plans to come after her power, she has no choice but to fight… and she’s bringing an army with her.

UPDATE... Since my original response to these questions, BIG THINGS have happened for me! I wrote and submitted two short stories to publishers this month, which were both picked up for anthologies. I'm going to be published soon!

My first submission is a story titled Ashes to Ashes and will be featured in the Happy Little Horrors: Freak Show anthology published by MD 20/20 (Monica Lewis Happy and David Reuben). It's available for pre-order on Amazon here and will officially release on October 4. There will be a Facebook Release Day Party with prizes and the whole shebang. You're all invited!

My second story is titled Dead World, which will be featured in the After Tomorrow anthology published by Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing. The release day for that is December 10. The cover reveal isn't until late October, but here is a banner specifically designed for Dead World.

In addition to the dark fantasy novel mentioned above, I'm also writing both short stories into full-length novels, if not a series for each.

Congrats! I can't wait to read all of them. One last question... what common elements do you find in 5-star reads?

A book has to blow my mind to get a 5-star rating from me. In order to do that it needs to have remarkable characters, flawless pacing, and vivid imagery. Most importantly, the story has to make me FEEL. Whether it’s through fear, love, anxiety… whatever... it has to leave me curled up in a corner with a huge book hangover.

Want to have some book fun with Toni? Join her for her zOctober 2014 event next month (in just a few short days).  Check it out on My Book Addiction or the Facebook event page

Oh, and one more amazing picture to share...

Michele G. Miller, Toni, Sarah Ashley Jones, & Tess Watson at UtopYA
Quick Questions…

Favorite Punctuation Mark: A period, because there’s no question about where it goes in the sentence.  ;)
Ocean or Mountains? Mountains
Favorite Alcoholic Beverage: Margarita on the rocks with salt
Favorite Dessert: Crème Brulee
Shower or bath? Shower
Sweet or Sour? Sweet

Your period answer is the best response EVER! 

Please share your social media links with my readers:

Thanks so much for hanging out with me today (and at UtopYA). I am so looking forward to seeing you again next year in Nashville!

Toni: I can’t wait to see you again, Tia! It was so much fun hanging out with you. Let's time travel to June 2015, shall we?

Toni Lesatz is a wife, mother, author, blogger, gamer, and lover of the culinary arts. Her short stories, Ashes to Ashes and Dead World, are both being published in fall 2014. She is currently writing her debut dark fantasy novel, which she hopes to have in reader's hands by spring 2015.

Toni's book blog, My Book Addiction, won the UtopYA Blog of the Year award in 2014. She enjoys promoting fellow authors and because of this passion she has recently taken on the role of Editorial Director for the Book Hub division of Indie-Visible: Literary Justice For All. If she's not curled up with a book and a cup of coffee, you'll find her playing with her kids, baking cupcakes, or killing zombies.

Please come back for more #UtopYA2014 Lovelies (Unofficial), and check out
the announcement post to see the schedule.

September 22, 2014

Meet Some #UtopYA2014 Lovelies (Unofficial): Devyn Dawson

Next up in my Meet Some #UtopYA2014 Lovelies (Unofficial) series is Devyn Dawson. I was fortunate to meet Devyn at a North Carolina writer's conference. She's amazing!

Devyn, thanks so much for popping by the blog today. And, just in case I haven’t told you enough, thanks for all the knowledge you pass my way. It has been invaluable. Oh, and it was so great seeing you at UtopYA and in New Bern, North Carolina. I appreciate you inviting me to do a book signing with you. It was so much fun! 

Tia, Devyn's Light Tamer model, Devyn Dawson
We have to talk about your new book, Killing Me Softly. It came out July 15th, and I was thrilled to read an advanced copy. (Check out my review here).

About Killing Me Softly
(from GoodReads)

When Tate was stationed at Tinker Air Force Base, he never imagined he'd meet anyone who understood him.

Holland's best friend, Andy, died six months ago, leaving her alone and friendless. Her father is bi-polar and takes six pills twice a day to keep it under control. Life is complicated and her dad is too needy for her to go out and have any fun.

One night her co-worker convinces her to go out to see this new musician, a guy in the Air Force who's amazing on the guitar.

He walked on the stage and sang a haunting song that touched her soul. From the way he held the guitar, to the way he flashed her a crooked smile, she knew she had to know him. Without warning, music will be the thing that ties their lives and their hearts together.

This story is about heartache and love. Holland finds her heart beating again in the arms of Tate. This book is a CLEAN New Adult - No Hard Core Cussing - No Sexual Scenes.

What do you love most about the main character, Holland?

Devyn:  Holland is strong, she has to be to handle her daily life with her father.  I love that you start to see the hidden girl in her, the one who flirts and enjoys having the door held open for her.

My daughter loves your Light Tamer series, and I am a fan of Cry Me A River (my review) and Killing Me Softly. You have a gift for crafting memorable characters who emotionally engage the reader. What do you draw from to infuse your characters with such richness?

Devyn:  All of the women/girls in my books have bits and pieces of every woman/girl in my life.  In the Light Tamer series, the sarcastic loud mouth Amber is very much like I was in high school after my own brother died.  The grandma is much like my mother.  Holland is a menagerie of every strong woman in my life.  I needed Holland to be real.  There’s a scene about suicide, and Tate’s answer is hopefully one that will ease the minds of those who’ve had the same question.  I try to make the dialogue real and deep, especially in Killing Me Softly.

You definitely have a gift with dialogue! Who has been your favorite character to write so far? Can you choose?

Devyn:  I love Abel from The Legacy of Kilkenny Saga.  It starts out with him being an immature sixteen year old boy who grows into a man and alpha.  He is loosely based on my son, at least some of his mannerisms.  My son isn’t a werewolf though.  Ha!

Good to know. As I mentioned above, you have been so wonderful to share what you’ve learned about indie publishing with me. Who was influential to you early on?

Devyn:  Tiffany King is hands down the biggest help as far as showing me the ropes.  Another person who helped and still helps me is the amazing Quinn Loftis.  She has been kind enough to share an excerpt of my books at the back of her books, and I can’t tell you how many people have bought my books because of that alone! 

Thanks for paying it forward! I was so thrilled to finally meet your daughter, Paris Rieske, at UtopYA. She is your editor and appears on the cover of Killing Me Softly. I worked with my mom on Depression Cookies, so I know how special mother-daughter relationships can be. With three daughters of my own, I’d love your advice on how to maintain a close relationship.

Devyn:  Be sure to take some Dramamine for the roller coaster ride!  The one thing I’ve tried to be for her is one she can open up to about anything and not be judged.  I know much much much more than my own mother ever knew, but I’m glad she’s comfortable enough to share with me.  My mom and I were close, and I adored her, but I always wanted the mom I could go to for certain things, but she was too old school to understand.  

Quick Questions…

Favorite Punctuation Mark: DOTS …..
Ocean or Mountains? Mountains
Favorite Alcoholic Beverage: Grey Goose Vodka
Favorite Dessert: Anything chocolate
Shower or bath? Love both
Sweet or Sour?  Sweet

I’m already looking forward to the next time I get to see you. Enjoy the rest of your summer. Oh, and I’m looking forward to hosting your daughter soon as well. She’ll be chatting about editing and her cover model work.

Devyn: Thank you so much for having me on your blog!  It was so nice to see you again!  Your daughter and mother are so amazing, I hope to see you again next summer.

Oh, and Devyn and I worked on a project together...

I'm so excited to be a part of Destiny Calling, a boxed set featuring works by Michele G. Miller, Devyn Dawson, Tressa Messenger, Brea Essex, and me. 

There are SIX books for $0.99 and 100% of royalties will be donated to Love is Louder. 

For more information and buy links, please check out my post here

More about Devyn

I've thought of myself as a writer for as long as I can remember.  I played grown-up with my family, until everyone grew up and left me to figure out what I really wanted to be.  Jumping over the cliff, I took a leap of faith and wrote my first full length novel, The Legacy of Kilkenny.  My love of young adult books, helped mold me into the writer I am today.  The books I write, reflect the types of books I enjoy reading.  Every story I write will have a huge twist at the end, one that often leaves the reader in shock (no pun intended, if you know me, you know why I say that, LOL).  Thank you for considering to read my books.  Happy reading!

Find out more about Devyn: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Blog and Bublish.

Please come back for more #UtopYA2014 Lovelies (Unofficial), and check out the announcement post to see the schedule.

Almost Missed It: ROW80

Whew! I almost missed my Sunday A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80) check in. I haven't checked in for a while. It's not that I don't have anything to report. I just don't have the write things to report. And, no, that was not a typo.

Editing is running my life right now. It's something I love, but I have a hard time jumping back and forth between that and writing. They take very different energy. As do my children and my life, and they have all been very needy lately. 

I will finish Chasing Forgiveness before November's NaNoWriMo, because I have plans for November and they don't include a novella. I have a lot of projects I need to get completed so I can have a clear writing brain available for my favorite (and most productive) writing month of the year.

Is anybody else doing NaNo this year? I know it seems early to ask, but November really isn't that far away.

Plus, the next round--and final one of 2014--starts October 6. I plan to make my goals very specific and very doable to round out my year. 

September 19, 2014

Meet Some #UtopYA2014 Lovelies (Unofficial): Ginny Gallagher

Please welcome an amazing blogger and friend, Ginny Gallagher of Gin’s Book Notes. You'll definitely want to check out her blog this month, because she's having an awesome Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall giveaway all month! You can also checkout the giveaways on Facebook

Ginny, it was so amazing to finally meet you at UtopYA in June. You were the first person to walk up and introduce yourself, and it set the tone for what would turn out to be a stellar event. First things first, I have to share two pictures from our time together.

Below is a picture of you, Jo Michaels, Toni Lesatz (My Book Addiction), and me from UtopYA taken by the lovely Victoria Faye.

And, of course I have to share this great one of our shoes from the awards night.

Now, for the fun part…

First, I know we both love animals (I have two puppies--Lab/Terrier mixes--and two rats). What do you have and how old are they? Oh, and I’d love a picture!

Ginny: I have 5 dogs and two cats so a lot of my days are spent vacuuming and cleaning. I’m a little OCD about making sure my house doesn’t smell like a kennel. Let me introduce you to my fur kids.

  • ·         Henry (Pug #1. He is 13.)
  • ·         Daisy (Boston Terrier. She is 11.)
  • ·         Zac Morris (Pug #2. He is 8.)
  • ·         Lizzy (Collie Mix. I found her running down the highway when she was 6 weeks old. She is now 5.)
  • ·         Walter Bishop (Lab. He found me at the gas station, and we think he is about 3 years old.)
  • ·         Abbie (Gray Cat. She is 14.)
  • ·         Jr. (Cat. He is 12)
Whew that’s a lot. I’m tired just thinking about them. ;)

Right after I sent the interview, another sweetie joined her brood. Finley (an Australian Retriever, an Australian Retriever and Golden Retriever mix)...

That is just too much cuteness! 

By the way, I love your book blog. What inspired you to start it?

Ginny: I wish I could say something profound here, but honestly it was my awful memory that inspired the blog. I really expected it to be a place that I could just keep my thoughts on the books I read and help me to remember the things that I loved about them. It is still that but it’s also so much more. I had no clue that there was this whole community of people that loved books as much as I did and loved talking about them too! Eureka!!! I found my people!!!

It's an amazing feeling to find your people. Is there a common theme in your favorite books?

This is a tough one for me. I really love to read and enjoy many different genres. I guess the biggest thing I enjoy is a book with layers. You know, the ones, that make you think and look a little deeper. The ones have cleverly hidden moral or social messages that you wouldn’t notice unless you took the time to really think about what the author may have been trying to tell you with their story.

You are also a writer. Can you share some details about your current manuscript? (I already know you have a vivid imagination thanks to your ghost on the side of the road story. Wink!)

Ginny: LOL…is vivid imagination another way of saying “liar, liar, pants on fire”? J Oh boy, that imagination used to get me into a lot of trouble as a kid.  I actually have several stories that I want to tell which I suppose is a great problem to have if I want to be a writer. Right? I will admit that I’m having commitment issues on which one I want to tell first so I will have to get back to you on this question.

Can't wait to hear about it. Imaginations are a gift! We finally had a chance to meet at UtopYA. The link to your wrap-up post is  here (#1) and here (#2), but can you recap in a few words what the event meant to you?

Ginny: UtopYA was amazing. For me it meant validation. You will have to take a look at my No Fear Wrap Up post to understand but it was such a wonderful and validating experience for me and truly reminded me that with determination you can change things about yourself or at least make them better.

I came away with a lot of the same feelings. It was powerful! 

So, when you aren’t reading or writing, what is your favorite thing(s) to do?

Ginny: Oh, I’m going to need another list for this one. I have lots of things I love to do. Which I suppose is the reason I have never been bored; that and my vivid imagination. ;) I will name my top five things that I do when not reading or writing.

·        * Enter giveaways – I love to enter giveaways. I don’t win a lot but when I do I get really happy! J
·        * Sew- I love to make things. I’m teaching myself so it’s a slow process but I enjoy seeing the scraps of fabric come together into something that can be used and enjoyed.
·        * Photoshop/ Digital Scrapbooking/ Graphic Design- Another thing that I am self-taught at. I love to design book covers, quote graphics, etc. There is a lot that goes into really learning the design process and I have come a long way but still have more to learn.
·        * Organizing
·        * TV- I love to learn new things so I enjoy watching all those dorky documentaries that they have on the History, PBS, and the Discovery Channels. On the flip side of that I’m also a big kid at heart so if you popped over for a visit during the day you might find my TV on Sponge Bob Square Pants.

And now, quick Questions…

Favorite Punctuation Mark: Exclamation Mark !!!
Ocean or Mountains?  I guess I have to pick Ocean but to be fair I’ve never been to the mountains so that may change one day.
Favorite Alcoholic Beverage: LOL…I honestly don’t really enjoy alcoholic beverages. When I was at UtopYA I mentioned to Author S.M. Boyce that I hadn’t drank in five or six years, she responded with a concerned look on her face: "Oh, honey then maybe you shouldn’t have anything." I couldn’t help but bust out laughing and I let her know it wasn’t because I was a recovering alcoholic and I didn’t need to check in with my sponsor. LOL…If I do drink anything it is a Corona.  Whew…you knew I wouldn’t be able to keep my answers short. Right?
Favorite Dessert: Lemon Meringue Pie…YUM!
Shower or bath? Bath
Sweet or Sour? A little of both please. I’m complicated. ;)

Thanks so much for hanging out with me today! I can’t wait to see you again next year in Nashville. We should coordinate our kick-butt shoes next year. Hugs!

Ginny: Thank you so much for having me. Sorry I was such a motor mouth but you should know by now that short answers aren’t my thing. ;) You are so dang wonderful, fun, and just truly amazing! I can’t wait to see you in June 2015 and yes we will totally talk shoes before then. Big HUGS and puffy hearts to you and your readers! 

I love your answers! To find out more about more about Ginny, check her out on social media:

Please come back for more #UtopYA2014 Lovelies (Unofficial), and check out the announcement post to see the schedule.